Sunday, March 30, 2008

No Wonder It's Dark

Every day, several times a day, for the past week, I have walked these narrow stairs to my room:

I have passed the gold and platinum records several times, thinking they were some kind of decoration. The other day, I paused for a moment and read what was on printed on one of the records:

Presented To
To Recognise Sales in the United Kingdom
Of More Than 250,000 Copies of the

Wait a homestay's father's name is Ed....

I immediately Wikipedia'd The Vapors...the lead guitarist's name was Edward Bazalgette...further investigation revealed that he is currently working as an editor for the BBC.

Wait a homestay's father works for the BBC....

Thank goodness no one was home when this discovery was made, for Caroline and I made quite a lot of noise, and they probably would have either thought us deranged or that something caught on fire.

Caroline and I had to leave for Jenny's, so I left a note explaining how I accidentally printed my Wester Union receipt on the back of a paper that had already been printed on. I included:

Ed, are you the Ed Bazalgette? We need to talk.

When we returned, Jenny in tow ("Hey Jenny, you know that song, 'Turning Japanese'?"), we interrogated Ed and found out that yes, it was true, he had been the lead guitarist for The Vapors. Cue girlfan noises: "Omigod what why didn't you say anything that is so cool we YouTube'd your video Jenny shut up!" He was very nonchalant about it, the way you want any really cool rock star to be.

In the video below, Ed is the one who jumps up in the air and disappears:

And no, the song is not about what you think it is about.

Of Pubs, Churches, and Pubs in Churches

Friday's walkabout started out with the rain coming at us from all sides. Umbrellas were futile and taking notes were impossible. Professor Buckroyd planned our tour to be as indoor as possible. This meant touring a lot of old churches. I think God was paying attention to our accidental devotion, because halfway through the day, it stopped raining.

The first church we visited was the Temple Church, made famous by The Da Vinci Code. Due to its sudden popularity, the city closed the church on most days of the week. Our professor has tried for four years to tour it on the right day at the right time. We were very lucky.

If you look at the bottom left corner, you can see the facades of the Knights Templar.

The next church we toured was St. Brides's. At one point in history, this church stood next to a bakery. The baker used to look at the steeple every day, and one day decided that it would make a great shape for a cake. Thus, the tiered wedding cake was born!

The next church we toured has been used for both Four Weddings and a Funeral (although our professor called it Four To-Do's and a Funeral, which I found endearing) and Shakespeare in Love. I didn't recognize it from either film, though. [Disclaimer: For some reason, Photoshop won't open on my computer, and Preview won't save edits I make to photos. So if you really want to see this church, turn your head sideways.]

That night, like any good student studying abroad in the UK, a group of us went out to a pub. We decided on The Elephant's Head, a packed pub that played oldies music and featured everyone from the 17 year-old Brazilian student who came with us to an elderly biker sporting tattoos, a leather vest, and a very, very long beard.

A couple of us are living in East Finchley, and decided the following would be the gang sign for the East Finchley Homestays:

Last night, Jenny, Caroline and I met Jenny's friend James at O'Neil's, a pub inside of an old church. I didn't take any pictures because it was packed with young'uns, trendies, and tourists, and somehow didn't seem appropriate. Just imagine any old God's house (but one of God's larger, older, more imposing houses), bedecked with flyers advertising every type of Irish beer and Live Music Sundays.

Today's view is of Muswell Hill (right next to East Finchley) from the upper level of the 102 bus (or coach, as they call them here).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Northern Line Is The Loudest

Okay finally. After a brutal quarter and horrendous finals weeks (1 quiz, 2 final papers, 3 final exams), I somehow managed to get to London. Last Tuesday marked the official start of Nichole and Jenny's competition to find out Who Can Be The Most Awkward Foreigner.

And they're off!!

Jenny surges ahead with an impressive start when she asks her homestay's mother: "May I call you Lily?" Silence in the car. "Well, my name is Jill..."

Nichole makes up for it the next morning, showing up for family breakfast completely exhausted and the only one at the table in her pajamas.

Jenny currently holds the lead by dressing like a sunflower, while everyone else (including myself) was dressed in black:

And then atm card was hacked. Last night I received a desperate email from my mom who had received notification that my atm card had become "compromised". What proceeded was a lot of stressful listing of numbers, crying, trying to hold back my screeching/screaming
voice I usually preserve especially for over-the-phone customer service agents so as to not wake my host family, and more crying. When I went to bed last night, I kept rolling in my sleep, thinking, "I am in a foreign country and I have no money."

I woke up early (my first morning to do so, and this made me feel better), and went downstairs to prepare myself breakfast and yerba mate. I sat there, feeling sorry for myself, trying to figure out how much my hair would go for, thinking how people probably don't buy hair anymore, when my homestay's father came downstairs for breakfast as well. He was wearing his pajamas. He was entirely sympathetic and said the same thing happened to him while he and his crew were in Malaysia shooting a documentary for the BBC. Later he presented me with 20 pounds.

Today was our first day of class. After taking the northern line and a bus and walking up and down and up and down and updown we found the classroom in a lovely old building. After 2 hours of preliminary stuff, we headed out into London. And we walked. We walked a lot. We walked for five hours. Our guide was the professor of Art, Architecture and History Professor Brucknoyd. He pointed out various famous spots while enlightening the group on various architectural traits.

For example, the Hotel Russel was constructed during the Victorian era:

The mindset during the Victorian era was: "IlikeitI'lltake20giveittomeit'smine!!!!"

We also walked through the British Museum. At one point, this entire room was filled with books:

Can you imagine?!

And Westminster Abbey is an "architectural supermarket":

The two spires have several subtle differences between them. The picture probably isn't good enough, but can you spot them?

I'll leave you with this gorgeous view. Latersoon I will update about my homestay.