Wow! I have been so busy seeing the sights, smells and sounds of London, I haven’t had any time to update my blog…well for all you guys itching to hear what I’ve been up to, you are in for a treat! If you have 10 minutes, watch the video I made, if you have more time, go ahead and read the journal I’ve been keeping. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 16
This is the first day of the trip, and I am thrilled! I made a great friend of the lady sitting next to me on the plane. Alba Flores grew up in Honduras and at age 25 she moved to New Jersey. In order to prepare for Spain, I spoke Spanish to her and she would help me out, teaching me new words and correcting my grammar. She enjoyed talking about her family, and encouraged me to spend as much time with my family as possible. We shared some great stories and I can say I walked away with a good friend. The bus ride to Oxford was eye opening. First, we drove on the left side of the road and UK laws requires bus passengers to wear seatbelts. Faster traffic always was in the far right lane rather than the left like America. The whole hour long ride, we only saw one American car, but plenty of smaller vehicles. I noticed that most drivers went about 20 Km per hour faster thanGoing through roundabouts was interesting and made me a bit nervous, but upon thinking about the concept of the roundabout it makes sense because cars never stop which leads to a more efficient flow of traffic.
Next stop, Oxford! We toured the University and the town and it was absolutely delightful! The structure of the school system is very unique, and consists of thirty eight different colleges which were governed by the University. These colleges were all different and each had its own unique history, culture, living accommodations, church, and bar. We walked on the same grounds as many famous people including: J.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bill Clinton, the founder of the Methodist church, and countless other. Some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed at various halls and locations throughout Oxford. For food we visited the local covered market. Everyone in my group ordered cheeseburgers, but I was feeling bold so I went and bought a beef and ale pie from the pie shop. As I chowed down on the deliciously warm morsel, I couldn’t help thinking of the horrific musical Sweeny Todd and wonder what kind of meat I was really eating.
Sunday, May 17
Today I visited a supermarket and found some serious differences between UK supermarkets and American ones. The most evident difference was the lack of an efficient system to checkout customers. It took me the same amount of time to buy 10 items as it usually takes to check out 100. They do not regularly use plastic bags, and when I didn’t give the cashier a reusable bag like most other shoppers, he had to rethink his life in order to figure out how to bag my groceries. Their stores are stocked much more randomly and have shortages and excess of items and chaotic shelving is a bit more commonplace. We made some progress in our petty attempt to breathe in London’s scent as we practically ran from sight to sight.
Our tour began on a “coach” where we drove about in a treacherous fashion. I say treacherous because the streets of London were built long before cars were envisioned and as a result, there is often not even enough room for two cars to pass each other facing head on; one must pull into the parking lane. There are so many amazing details that I will have to spare you in order to keep this succinct and interesting. Next we visited the Queen’s Tower, former prison and current home of the crown jewels. I then convinced my group to walk about a mile and cross London Bridge, yes…THE London Bridge to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Museum of Modern Art. The Tate was enormous and the people visiting it were as different as the art itself. Among my favorites were pieces by Picasso and Andy Warhol. No photography was allowed, but I took some candid shots of pieces that I want to recreate or use techniques from. After the long walk, my group was exhausted, so we went to a pub where I tried authentic bitter ale known as “bitters” by the locals…not bad! Although we were tired, the night was still young. We made reservations to the “coolest” bar in town, The Absolut Ice Bar, which was made completely of ice and maintained a temperature of negative 5 degrees Celcius. The cover charge was high, and the line to get in was long, but well worth it. Before entering, we all were handed fur coats and gloves.
Monday, May 18
Wow! Today was quite a treat, the adventures are fast and furious. The day began at 6 am: Garrett and I went to a local coffeshop to sit and read our Bibles. After starting the day off right, we visited Parliament, the home of British government. We got to walk around in the actual rooms where politicians have met and discussed legislature for hundreds of years. Among the highlights of Parliament was seeing the grave of William Wallace and stand where Her Majesty The Queen has her throne when she is present. When we walked into Parliament, there was a small group of Indian people protesting their persecution in Sri Lanka. When we left, the group had grown exponentially into a mob that consumed the large city square. It was quite a sight to see thousands of protestors contained by a thick wall of police on all sides. After a picnic in a quaint park, we then visited Bloomberg, the world’s leading financial news reporting company. The building was gorgeous and the security was stringent. I was fascinated with their corporate culture and effectiveness at their trade. They have some of the best customer service in the world, and rightfully so, their customers pay through the nose for their “Terminal” and make decisions with millions of dollars based on what Bloomberg reports. Immediately after Bloomberg, we rushed to catch our showing of Les Miserables. The show was excellent and this beautiful story of grace and redemption brought me to tears as the curtains closed.
Tuesday, May 19
We began the day with a visit to the V & A museum filled with beautiful artifacts, fashion and relic from history all over the world. My favorite exhibit was the Raphael Cartoons, huge paintings which were used as templates to create tapestries. They beautifully depicted many Biblical scenes were particularly inspiring to me because I am currently striving to use Bible stories in my art, and he created these images so simply, yet they spoke volumes about the attitude and the atmosphere of the story it was portraying. A short walk in the subway, which is an underground pedestrian passageway, I toured the Natural Science and History museum filled with technology, dinosaurs and beautiful sculptures.
The famous Harrods department store gave us their best including a teddy bear and a phenomenal presentation by the man who runs their management training program. After taking silly pictures imitating the window models, Garrett Milner and I went to go have man dinner and talk about serious business. We went to a lovely little Italian place and ordered a seafood pizza that came with mussels, crabs, clams, and crawfish…all still in their shells. We talked about life, prayed for each other and made plans for tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 20
After all of these adventures, me and my roommate Andrew decided it was time to sleep in. Needless to say, we left for Westminster Abby around 1:00 in the afternoon. This church, where the royal coronation ceremonies occur, was the most beautiful building I have ever seen. The ceilings are high and there are marble and stone statues covering all of the walls. Kings and queens were buried throughout the halls and courts as well as Charles Darwin. Upon leaving Westminster Abby, Garrett, Andrew and I went deep into the crowd of people protesting injustice of native Sri Lankans. We interviewed a couple people within the group and took plenty of pictures and videos of the turmoil. Essentially, the protestors were known as the Tamil Tigers and they were creating awareness of persecution of the Tamil people by the recently overturned government. Everywhere we looked were people with brown skin and a dot in their forehead, and we began to realize that everybody here was a local Londoner taking off of work. Their story was captivating and I would be very interested in hearing other perspectives on the situation. For dinner we went to an authentic Indian place called “Memories of India” where I tried a spicy lamb dish.