Since you haven’t heard enough from me about my day yet.
Hm. Where to begin? Picking up where I left off, the “walk through the common” to West End was unbelievable. I mean, the trail was beautiful. As one of our supervisors remarked, it’s not everyday that you find huge, winding nature trails available for public use in the US, but this one was open to anybody and everybody (and their little dogs too). There were hundreds of trees, and the range of species was crazy. Some of the hills alongside dropped off into hundred-foot ravines, and you could see through the forest to the sweeping landscape of striped fields and scattered farmhouses below. (My severe compulsion to pee during the entire hike was, unfortunately, somewhat distracting, but as I was blessed upon my conception with the bladder of a rodent, I have experienced many hours of training in the field of “holding it,” and was able to do as much.)
Once we made it to Winterdown Road, some of us clutching our crotches and frantically bouncing in place, the steeples of small churches and equestrians on whizzing bicycles (cycles, scratch the “bi”) had risen into view, and we crossed the street and split up for half an hour to explore Garson’s. It was a great site for photo-taking, a fact to which both the readers of this blog and followers of my Instagram feed can (begrudgingly) attest. So I spent my time walking around a glorified grocery store with my camera slung around my neck, shamelessly embracing my role as The Tourist, to the annoyance of a cashier and several jam enthusiasts. And it was pretty great. They had these Lindt truffles the size of my head, literally. I considered buying one before realizing that I a) had no money on hand (primarily to prevent myself from making terrible investments like this), b) did not yet have enough knowledge of dollar/pound equivalency to confidently make a purchase, c) did not need any more food, and geez, chocolate nonetheless, and d) could not transport it home without it melting/breaking/being confiscated by some well-intentioned uniformed authority/etc, etc, etc. Sorry, Anabel. It would have been for you.
Oh, while I’m making direct acknowledgments, let me say this: PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT text me while I am here in the UK. Believe me, your gluten-free-vegan cuisine buffet business proposals mean the world to me, but they rack up about 10 bucks per message. So please do not send them. (That means you, Sofie. Although the buffet idea sounds awesome. We should definitely discuss it when I get back.)
Anyway, after the walk back to campus, we had an hour and a half of free time. (And yep, I blogged.) Then it was time for dinner, which was followed by dessert–bread pudding, which I’d never tried, but liked, but would probably not pick out of a dessert lineup. And afterwards, we had orientation for tomorrow and a brief overview of future excursions. One supervisor (I promise I will learn all their names at some point!) recommended that we watch the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” in the television-furnished common room, but if the dated tale of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s love/hate relationship didn’t turn the group off to the notion, the length–an excruciating 300 minutes–certainly did. So I went outside and ran about three and a half miles on the track (on which the shepard’s pie I had for dinner seemed eager to join me), and then came back inside. Once I finish this post, I’m going to go throw on my pajamas, pour myself some tea in my complimentary British flag-printed mug, and curl up in the main common room with The Fault In Our Stars. I’ll be in bed by 11 at the latest, and up at 6:30, ready to run at 7, eat breakfast at 7:30, pack a lunch, and spend a day in–yes!–London!!!
…Which we heard plenty about this morning in our Geography and Economy lectures. These were actually really interesting, and NOT just because I’m a freak who likes lectures. The professors talked about things like why it doesn’t get as cold in London as it does in, say, Chicago–despite its location 51 degrees north, just south of the Hudson Bay and way north of Ottowa and Montreal, the Gulf Stream warms the region… which–fun fact–is so intensifying the amount of sugar in the grapes growing in places like Champagne that that the alcohol levels are becoming too high for marketing, and thus more land for orchards is being purchased in other places like Cornwall. Apparently, our generation might very well see a huge shift in the alcohol industry during our lifetime. They talked about the possibility of Scotland’s leaving the UK after only about 150 years of unity, and what that may mean for Great Britain: Should the militaries be separated? Should the use of pounds be continued or should there be a shift to euros? And what about the EU application process? Much of the focus of these information sessions was the global interactions in which the United Kingdom has participated. So, there was discussion of African revolutions which were rooted in London, the United Kingdom’s vision of Japan as a gateway to the Atlantic and the consequent treaties between the US, UK, and Japan that opened markets between the three, and then the consequent Boxer Rebellion. There was discussion of opium sales to the Chinese, of the integration of Jamaicans into the British economy, of the migration of Pakistani citizens into East End, of Communist conferences hosted in unassuming London businesses. The British sales tax–20%, value added–was mentioned, as well as the items exempt from this tax, including baby clothes, books, and newspapers. The economy professor even raised a few existential questions with his suggestion of the opportunity cost of contemporary American society. “America is moving toward gated communities,” he declared. “Is the trade off of affluent society a sense of anxiety?” I’d never considered this.
Okay. I’m being told to go to bed now. Wow, I’ve been sitting here forever. So I leave you tonight with this quote by Oscar Wilde: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”