Friday, February 24, 2006

london once more

Hey all, I just thought I'd let it be known that I'm in London again for the weekend. I'm not sure why this might be pressing information for you were planning on stopping by or something. But in any case, I'm here, not in York, and I'll be back on Sunday night. Hopefully I'll have a computer shortly after I get back. We'll see how it goes. Aight, peace.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Ok, seriously, it's just been way too long without a post. I mean, the past couple have been pretty weak anyway. So here goes.

To begin with, I want everyone (both of you out there) to know that I had fully planned to update as soon as I got back from London, however my computer disagreed with that idea. It in fact vehemently disagreed and then went ahead and commited suicide. So right now, I am sans computer. I have to use the pathetic computer labs they have over here and let me tell you, technology hasn't quite crossed the pond just yet. I think I saw a steam boat the other day. Not really, but I think these computers were used along side Apollo 11 and then just shipped over here when we got done with them. It's pretty rough. So that was this week.

The weekend, though, was a pretty good time. I left for London at about 7:00 p.m. here in York. I walked for roughly 45 minutes because I'm just too cheap to take the bus to the train station. No big deal, I'm still ok with having walked for that long, and I'll probably do it again next time I take the train. So I made it to the station and bought myself a tasty-lookin BLT from the little convenience store there. Amazing how decietful they can make these sandwiches these days. It tasted like soggy mush with the occasional crunch of an un-ripe tomato or whatever strips of lettuce hadn't become saturated in the mayo. Not pleasant. But that was my dinner. I got on the train that pulled up and found a seat. Only after it started moving did I realize that I hadn't even taken the time to check and see if it was my train, I just got on. That was a fun little freak-out. Turns out I'm just that lucky, it was my train. So roughly 2 hours later I pulled into London, well I didn't personally pull in, the dude driving the train did, but I was on board...anyway... I got off and called Gina, the Study Abroad Advisor that was in charge of the weekend, but of course she didn't pick up her phone, so I just left a message. I knew where I was going, so that wasn't a huge deal. Although I don't have a cell phone, so the money for that call could have been used elsewhere, but whatever. I got on the Tube and headed toward the nearest stop to the hostel we were staying at. I didn't print off the map because I don't have a printer and I figured I have a decent enough memory, I should be able to find my way well enough. I didn't take into account (as I never do) the fact that English cities are not set up in the Roman style like we're used to, they're way older than that and the roads are still the original ones, so they go pretty much wherever they want to. Seriously, go find an online map of London and when you find yourself assuming that once you're on the ground it can't be as absurd as it looks just believe me when I say it is. In fact, it's worse. So, lucky me, I got to take a little tour of the area around my hostel before I actually got to the hostel. Actually, a big tour. I got to know the area fairly intimately. We go way back now, me and those streets. Well, after about 40 minutes I got to the hostel and got settled. I met my roommate a couple hours later when he came in (most of the people had been there since about 4 or 5 in the evening, so they had dinner together and most of them went out). Fortunately, he was very sober and a generally good guy. That was reassuring.

Day two was fun, and not only because it started about 3 hours earlier than had been originally planned. We found out the night before - or for me just hours before when my roomy came home - that there was a big change in plans and we were getting started at a little before 8 in the morning. Cool. We started out with the free "breakfast" from the hostel (it actually tended to encourage the fasting for a few more hours, so appetizing it was) and then a walking tour. The walking tour was really cool. Well, after I switched groups so that I could get away from the crazy lady with this strange parrot-head clicky thing that made a lot of noise so that people could find her (she was pretty senile, folks, a very strange woman) and got in with the normal tour guide, it was cool. We learned all kinds of interesting stuff about London like the fact that Churchill actually created a tunnel system under much of the city of Westminster (it spanned 2 miles or more) and he and roughly 200 people lived down there for the entirety of WW II using it as the British command post. This was kept secret until just a few years ago when somebody just stumbled upon the tunnels when I think they were expanding the Tube system. You can tour it, now, and it's all exactly like it was when they left, complete with Churchill's cigar stub in an ashtray in the map room - seriously, they just up and left. I didn't actually take the tour, but when I go back next weekend it will most definitely happen.

After the walking tour we went to the National Portrait Gallery. I wish I could tell you that it was really cool, but it really wasn't all that great. They do, however, have the picture of ol' George Washington that's on the $1 bill. So that's cool.

Free time after the gallery, so the four of us from York went back to Westminster Abby and found it closed. But, being brilliant resourceful young minds we went and had a drink and then came back for the Evensong service that started around 5:30. That was cool. Not every day you get to see a service in Westminster Abby. Did you know the kings and queens of England have been crowned there since 1066? Ten freakin sixty six! That's a long time.

Dinner was cool and then we went to a pub in Notting Hill. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts were both absent, so that's no fun, and the drinks were expensive, which made it a little worse, so we just went back to the hostel.

Day 2 saw another fantastic breakfast and a boat tour on the River Thames. That was very entertaining and if you're in London and have some time to spare, I would certainly recommend it. The commentary guy was very funny and knew way too much about all the old buildings. The boat went to Greenwich, so we saw the division of the east and west hemispheres and ate at a place where the special was stewed eel. Naturally, I went with the minced beef pie. A very tasty choice, and it has the bonus of not containing any eel. Score.

Then we went to a play that night, not much to talk about there, it was a little rough. But not a bad way to spend an evening. The highlight, though, had to be eating at a Japanese restaurant called Wagamama. That was cool. Wagamama. Come on. And it wasn't that bad, either so that's a plus.

On Sunday I met up with Andy for a couple hours, which is always a good time. We ran out of ideas for things to do after our first idea, though, which made it kinda rough. But we had fun anyway. Then I went back to the train station and read until I got tired and then watched football for about an hour and a half until my train left. It was a good time. Two guys got hurt. Cool. A two hour train ride and I was home again. Well, after another 40 minute walk, then I was home again. But all in all it was a pretty exciting weekend.

As if that wasn't enough, on Monday I went into town and came upon a magic show. I think entertainers like that have a knack for picking the American out of the crowd. That's right, I was the one who was asked to come up on stage "ALL THE WAY FROM THE UNITED STATES PEOPLE, COME AND SEE JOE!!!!" to put the straight-jacket on the guy. But fortunately he was really funny and it was mostly painless. Mostly. I suppose the good news is he got out. He was pretty good. And I got to be made a spectacle of. Every American's dream, right? I feel like I've failed the State Department, seeing as how after they issued a warning to all Americans abroad that tensions were high and we should maybe keep a low profile I get called up in front of a big crowd and some guy stands next to me and screams about how I'm "Joe-from-the-United-States" for 15 minutes. Yeah, I should be a spy.

Alright, on that note, I leave you. I hope you've enjoyed the update and thanks to everybody who has sent mail, it's really exciting. Hope things are well at home. Peace.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

just wandering around aimlessly...

Hey everybody! Sorry it's been a while since I've written, I've been pretty busy with a paper that was due on Monday and then my computer decided that it didn't like me very much, so I spent a lot of the past week trying to change its mind. It's cooperating a little better now, but you just never know with this thing.

So yeah, things have been going pretty well lately. I haven't done much of anything interesting, just hanging out and working on school work and stuff. Although last Sunday we had a little Super Bowl party. That was a pretty good time. The guys on my flat decided that the only way to throw a truly American sports party is to get those hats that you can put beer cans on and then drink them through a straw. So they ordered a few online and they were pretty pumped to use them. I opted not to get one, which turned out to be a pretty good idea, because they don't work all that well. Plus they're just weird. But it was a good time, even though we didn't get to see the great commercials because it was on BBC, and the guys that talked during time-outs and whatnot were Brits who generally didn't know quite what they were talking about. Anyway, it was fun and we all had a good time.

I also found a church to go to on Sunday morning, which was an ordeal all its own. I didn't know exactly where the church was, per se. So I set out from here with a general idea of where I was headed -- I knew the name of the road it was on and that it met in a 'gym' somewhere on the mystery-road. I got to a road on the north-ish end of campus which was pretty much the farthest I had ever been in that direction and I saw a sign for the 'Science Park' -- basically a science complex, kinda like where NCSA and Motorolla, etc are at U of I -- which I remember some of the guys arguing about whether or not they should tell me to take. Some of the said it would work but some others said it was more confusing. I went ahead and walked through the science park. I got to the back of it (north end) and I could see through a fence that there were a bunch of people playing football (soccer) on the other side and it looked like that might be the gym. But I didn't know how to get there, what with this freakin' fence in my way. So I started wandering around and found a sidewalk/path back across a parking lot in the science park (back the way I had come). I followed it to the right (east-ish) side of the complex and found that it went out toward a road that looked like it would go in the direction I needed to go, but I also saw a dirt path through a little forrest-y area that ran between the road and the field where the guys were playing. I took the path (come on, i grew up on a farm, you had to see that choice coming). It was pretty cool, I still have no idea exactly what it is usually used for, because just about 20 feet to the right was a road which surely had a sidewalk on it, but whatever. I followed this path through the 'woods' up and down a couple little hills and next to the football field and it came out onto the road to my right just a little way away from the road that the church/gym was supposed to be on. So I went in that direction and by now it was getting pretty late. I had about 8-10 minutes to find this place. I got to the road and decided I thought the place was to my left and went that way. I walked a little way and there was a little winding driveway that went toward a big complex, but I couldn't tell what it was. I was looking for a sign or something that said "G2 service" or something vaguely similar, but I got nothin. So with about 5 minutes left I decided I'd walk this driveway which looked to be about 75 yards long, give or take, and if the church was there, cool; if not, i'd find it next week. I got to the buildings and I was sure it was a gym, but still there were no signs or anything, except I saw some people walking in that definitely didn't look like they were gonna play squash or lift weights or anything (from the way they were dressed, just to clear that up) so I figured I'd check it out. I walked in and to my left was a little shop (shorts, water bottles, etc), in front of me was an info-lookin desk with a line of people standing at it and to my right a winding staircase. I figured nobody was gonna meet in the shop and I wasn't gonna stand in this line to figure out 15 minutes late where the church met (or didn't as the case may be). I went up the stairs and started looking around. Around a corner to my right there was an open door with a big room that looked like people were in it, so I went that way. Sure enough, that was the church -- still no signs or anything, but it was definitely the church. The service ended up bein pretty cool and I liked it a lot, but finding the place was pretty strange. I think I'll go back.

This weekend is the (semi)-legendary London Weekend for U of I students in England. I'm heading out in about 20 minutes to catch my train and then I'll get back here around midnight on Sunday night. I'm not sure really what exactly we're gonna do but I know it includes tea at Kensington Palace, so I mean come on. I assume the Queen will be there, naturally. If she's not I'll probably protest, but we'll see. Anyway I'm gonna finish getting ready for that. Hope things are going well back home. Have a good weekend everybody.