Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My walk to the tube

I walk on a path through a cemetery on the way to the tube every morning. All winter it has just been part of the walk standing in the way between me and my destination. Now that it is Spring the once bare aspen trees that lined the path have created a walk though the dappled light of the woods. It has become a nice surprise every morning with all the birds chirping. It feels a little like it's out of a Disney movie with how good the weather has been lately.
The weird part though are these bugs that are trying to warm themselves. Normally I guess they fly around but along this path light only makes it through in random little holes. So as I walk down the path there are bugs flying, frozen in three dimensional space, glowing as they are lit up in the specks of sunshine. Dodging my head around them has become somewhat of a video game. It's pretty fun to do and even funnier to watch others.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Politically Correct

One of the cultural differences here is that for the history of Britain it was the majority of white people all the way back. There is less of a drive to be politically correct when you are not trying to dance around the fact that there were a lot of different cultures that became the melting pot. (That being said, this is of course England. Talking to people from Scotland, Wales, or Ireland will get a different answer.) So when filling out the census it was quite odd when I got to the question and the only two choices for white were: British-white, Other-white. Of course that being said apparently all the people I hang out with went to school during the time they were trying to introduce some diversity. So they mock fake story problems often using names such as "Ravfikki" and such.
There is also no ambiguity about religion. There doesn't need to be when the figure head of the country is also the head of the state religion. So they get a huge kick out of me calling it Spring break instead of Easter holiday. Even more so since everything they have associated with Spring break is from T.V. so basically girls in bikinis and wild parties.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I had vaguely heard about this tradition when living in the U.S. It did not prepare me for the fervor that I experienced. It is an annual TV show where each country in Europe has a group singing and dancing. For some reason though all the groups are notoriously bad. What passes for high fashion in one countries culture is laughed at in another and modern dance and singing has the same problem. So watching the show with people from different countries led to everyone defending their own country quite loudly. All this was happening as the same time as a birthday party I was at. So there was a group of people huddled around the TV screaming or cheering at it for 3 hours during the party. Then the voting starts.
The voting is a total sham because it is all political. Half the total score comes from each country has a judge that can vote for 12 different countries except their own. To give you an idea, Eastern Europe always votes for each other. Apparently the first year that the U.K. joined the Iraq war no other countries would vote for them. The other half comes from phone-in votes. Again you people can't vote for their own country so people have been known to cross country lines so their cell phone will register in a different location.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It's Just a Jump to the Left

An update on the whole getting used to traffic moving on the left side. I am not quite sure when it happened, but I switched over. It only took me three months here to look left first instead of right when crossing the road but that was just out of the need to preserve my life. The real change was when I realized I was going up and down stairs or walking down paths on the left. If I want to walk slow and enjoy the spring weather I caught myself naturally moving to the left of the sidewalk to let people pass me. I caught myself getting frustrated with tourists in the tube walking down their right side of the stairs while I was going up on my left side.
The only thing that has not changed over is my brain is still predicting which side the car will end up on when they make a left hand turn, or come out of a round-about. Hopefully that is the final step.

...and yes I realize my brain is going to have to go through the time warp again when I move.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A Royal Wedding

It has been interesting living here during one of the most British things possible to happen: The royal wedding. It has been interesting watching the dual over the top patriotism and apathy happening at the same time. According to the paper, about 80% of British people don't care or are annoyed by the wedding, and that is about the same as what I found. But the level of kitsch showing up in stores and the number of flags that have been up is off the charts so I think there is a disconnect what people say publicly and how they act privately. (I guess also very British). I do think that there I felt a higher level of interest from my American friends than here. Of course being here though, it was bizarre having someone's wedding day declared a national holiday. But a friend explained it to me as I get president's day every year; they get one day off every twenty years.
There is no way I wanted to go into the center of the city with all the people camping out in tents along the route so luckily the village I lived in decided to throw our own street party. I found a shirt that said "Thanks for the Day off" in the same script as "Keep calm and carry on" signs. (I got a lot of people telling me they liked it.) There was a barbeque (sausages), croquet, and British flags everywhere. They showed the wedding using the projector and everyone threw confetti on each other at the same time. It was a cool group experience and I liked being able to talk to all the British people about how they felt. The best part though was the renting of a bouncy castle. A huge group of us must have spent three to four hours jumping and flipping in there. By the end I was tired, sore, had a few friction burns, but very happy. It was very cathartic.
A group of friends and I decided to go out to a club afterward. We had wanted to find another dubstep night at a club. (A music genre that started here in London that I have enjoyed for dancing.) I got more comments about my shirt and enjoyed completely physically wearing out my body dancing. Getting up out of the seat of the night bus when we got home took some effort. As I write this two days later I can still feel it a little.