A Week in London- Still Only Scratched the Surface

Within a week of being in London, I have seen SIX performances: Wonderland, Nederlands Dans, King Lear, Shakespeare in Love, Adler & Gibb, and Enduring Song. Every week will basically be like this, so I really cannot believe how much theater I will get to see on this program! The tickets were covered in tuition, because seeing the shows is basically part of the curriculum itself. 

During my free time, I feel like there are usually three options: Hang out with my classmates and whatever they have planned to do (which would have to be similar to what I wanted to do in the first place), hang out with myself (which would usually mean I wanted to do something different than other people), or rest in my dorm and recharge my batteries.

This past week, much of my free time was spent with the other people on my program because everybody wanted to do all of the touristy stuff in London. One day we went to the South Bank, the other day we went to Hyde Park. Still another day we spend walking around Buckingham Palace and the Westminster area, and another day we explored Tate Modern. 

I feel like there are definitely both pros and cons to exploring with a big group of people (4+) versus a small group of people (1-3). In a big group, you’re definitely safer, you have familiar people to talk to, and you can bounce information off of each other. But sometimes big groups can get confusing when it isn’t clear who’s supposed to provide the directions, or when choosing a restaurant to eat at. Big groups can also cause unnecessary drama, which could be stifling and uncomfortable at times, especially if you don’t know other people in the group very well. In smaller groups, there is very little drama because you know the people better (or at least hopefully decisions are reached easier), less time is spent coordinating and more time is spent exploring, and there is more opportunity to meet new local people. However, smaller groups mean fewer brains, and depending on when and where you are, it could be less safe. My approach is whatever practical works: if I want to do what others also want to do, I might as well go with them. If I have personal plans, with a friend or two or by myself, it’s perfectly fine as well as long as I know where I am, where i’m going, how to get back, and that it is early enough for it to be safe. In either scenario with more or less people, I try to have as much fun as possible, and to take in London as much as possible.

Today I spent much of it on my own— reading in a coffee shop, a garden, and even a hair salon as I got my first perm ever (in Chinatown, in London!). I also met a young lady working in a bookstore, who told me that she’s been working in central London for a year now but STILL feels like she’s only scratched the surface of getting to know London. How much more, then, have I only scratched the surface—maybe even just TOUCHED the surface—of London…Well, I feel pretty rested to start a new week of learning, experiencing, and exploring!  

First Day and First Show

This morning, I woke up later than I had hoped— 9am instead of 8am, so I didn’t go to the bank before class as I had planned. Instead, I simply got ready and ate some Sesame porridge my mom had told me to bring from home and a peach. I was wonderfully satisfied.

During class today, we talked about the different aspects of theater (there are so many) and focused on one of them: acting. While we go see plays (almost) every night on this trip, we will be encouraged to notice things about all of these aspects of theater. Our professor said that the actors are what make a story into a drama. In theater, all of the acting is live as opposed to film, in which actors are captured at a specific time and place doing a specific action, and that single copy is kept forever. In my own opinion, neither one is better than the other as an art form because what you are doing is still the same— portraying a real experience through language and action—but either one could be better in different areas than the other. 

After class, I went to the Waitrose and bought some more groceries for lunch and dinner: pasta, quiche, green beans, artichokes, pasta sauce, and 1 tupperware. I really want to get better at cooking, but honestly I don’t feel like spending too much in London on a variety of ingredients and I want to do more exploring (and eating what they have here!). 

Then, I had my regret of the day—I took a 3 hour nap after lunch. This was way longer than I had planned, but I must have had one of those “oh, my alarm clock went off, turn it off, lie down again” moments and fell right back to sleep. 

When I finally got myself to wake up around 5pm, the Barclay’s bank closest to me had already closed, so I went straight to my next personally planned item on my itinerary—exploring around Green Park station, which is really close to Buckingham Palace. I rode the tube, got off, and started walking…then learned: Always bring an umbrella with you in London. Even if it’s sunny out early on in the day, you never know when the weather will change. 

I didn’t have an umbrella with me.

I kept walking for a little while on Picadilly, but then took shelter under a building, which (looking at google maps now) must’ve been St. James Palace right outside of Green Park. There was a cement part at the top of a window that stood out enough to create safety from the rain, so I stood there for 15 minutes. 

I stood there mostly people watching, but I’m sure many people watched me wondering what I was doing. 

One man with a family walked by and said, “Perfect!” smiling. His little children walked by smiling too. A woman walked past me with her nose in the air and her eyes seemingly closed (although that sounds really dangerous, but that’s what it looked like), as if she couldn’t be more comfortable walking in the rain, gaining energy from each drop that fell on her face. I must have seemed so pathetic to her, just standing there under some bulging cement, but I love being different sometimes. Another woman walked by and smiled genuinely at me, like we had a shared joke or something, and then I decided I should probably keep moving. I had a whole park to walk around back to the station, and I had a show to catch.

On the way back to the station, I finally found the park, and found Buckingham palace. I took some pictures of it as well as the Canadian memorial, in honor of the thousands of Canadians who came over to UK to fight in the two WW’s. 

Then I went to the show tonight with the rest of my class: Wonderland written by Beth Steele at the Hampstead Theater. This play was about the miner’s strike in the 1980’s in England, and the struggles that both sides—the miners and the government—had, in order to win. I was extremely impressed with the scene design. The stage was a box theater on three sides, and a proscenium theater on one side so that the main area of action was surrounded by the audience. Inside the box theater area (where I sat), a mine-shaft-like set with grated texture on most surfaces covered everything. I was essentially sitting in the mine with the miners. There was also a removable center and an elevator—the kind they use in mines, with the grated fencing as well. Besides the set, I was also very impressed with the acting—I was moved to tears when one of the miners told his friends that he had to kill his family’s dog because he couldn’t feed it anymore because of the strike. All I can say is, if every show we’re going to see on this trip is as amazing as tonight’s, this trip is going to be awesome!! 

First Blog Post Ever…from London

So…I’ve never written a blog before. And it took a while for me to figure out what I want to write about (hence the somewhat vague title “Sprinkles of Life”), but I have decided that I would like to give myself the freedom of writing whatever comes to mind, or sharing whatever seems worth sharing. Please feel free to read as much as you like, or never visit my blog again. I really don’t mind!

Today I arrived in London around 8:15am for a Theater Studies study abroad program starting tomorrow. After crossing the UK border and getting my luggage, I followed all of the signs to the underground Piccadilly Line and rode to King’s Cross, where I lugged my suitcase off the subway, up the elevator, and onto the street. From there, I walked about 20 minutes with both hands pulling my suitcase behind my back to the residence hall I am staying at. I asked three people along the way for spatial clarification.

Along the way, I also passed a church called 救恩会 at the London Welsh Centre and even chatted a little with the greeter there. I think I’ll go there next week to see what their services are like and if that would be a good option for me to go to while I’m here. 

After arriving around 11am at the dorm, which was a very nice single (with a private bathroom!), I took a short nap until 2pm when our professor for the program gave us a tour of the nearby area. Honestly, didn’t remember everything and I’m still going to need to do a lot more walking to get more familiar with the area, which I’m very excited to do!

Then we had an orientation at 4pm and dinner at 5:30pm at a restaurant in Brunswick Square called Carluccio’s, an Italian restaurant. Here, I had my first bit of wine on the trip, some Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. I hope I wrote that correctly. During the meal, a pigeon flew into the restaurant at one point and flew into two windows while trying to get back outside. Sorry, that was really random. But it happened. 

When I bought my groceries today, the cashier said that the old 20 pound bills my mother gave me aren’t in circulation anymore. I will need to go to the bank and get them exchanged tomorrow. Thankfully I had other cash I exchanged recently at the airport in Dallas. 

Before going back to the dormitory, I got my oyster card for the tube, so I can start exploring London! I can’t promise I’ll write something every day, but I’ll try to! :)