Sunday, September 27, 2009

Return to Blogging - and to London

Welcome back to the Constant Traveler! I'll be making a couple changes to how I do things on this website, but before I tell you about them I'll give you a brief update of my current adventure in London.

Landing in London was an interesting ordeal, to say the least. I wasn't used to carting around over 80 pounds worth of luggage (going to college in Los Angeles and traveling in Tunisia doesn't require wool coats, sweaters and shoes other than sandals) so I provided plenty of entertainment to people on the London Tube (the metro here) and making the 3 mile hike from my Tube stop to my new home in London.

Upon arriving I instantly made friends with my new housemates
--"flatmates", to be properly British-- at Number 12, Manson Place (see first picture). Most are from America, but some are from lands you probably have never heard of--Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, to name a few. Number 12 is situated in quite a posh neighborhood in Kensington, near the beautiful and famous Hyde Park, where I of course went for a run the first two days I was here. As you can see from the picture, the houses are old up-kept Victorian mansions--very nice!

Orientation has been paced quite nicely, with only two or three events each day with plenty of time to adjust to the time difference and British culture. On Sunday we took a sightseeing tour around London, driving by landmarks such as Westminster Abbey (see second and third pictures), Buckingham Palace, which is one of the places where the Queen resides (see fourth and fifth pictures), and the London Bridge (sixth picture). It served more as a tour to whet our appetites rather than fill them, but it was a beautiful clear day (something you better enjoy in a rainy place like London) and it was great to get a sort of road map as to what London has to offer.

Next was the tour and first class at the London School of Economics--which blew my mind away more than I expected. Located in the heart of London, the LSE is more of a Harry Potter-like town than a university, with winding cobblestone alleyways and looming, ancient, black-bricked buildings. Didn't get to bring my camera; but I have classes there once a week, and will have access to the library and union and will definitely be spending a lot of time there.

Today was our tour of Parliament--that magnificent palace of gold, sandstone, spires and gargoyles; my home for the next three months! (see seventh picture). Our tour was more detailed than the one I took last summer; most likely because it was deserted (Parliament is in recess at the moment). Cameras weren't allowed, unfortunately; otherwise, I would be showing off pictures of the golden throne where the Queen sits, the green-backed benches where Winston Churchill and Tony Blair presided over while they ruled Britain, or one of the original copies of the Magna Carta.

The rest of this week is a mixture of more orientation and classes. I've been incredibly impressed by the program and what it wants us to do. The Hansard Society was founded as a way to keep records for Parliament, and over the years it has evolved into a major political think-tank in Britain with an enormous amount of connections in UK politics. Already they've made it clear that whatever we decide to research (for our dissertation, due at the end of the three months), we have unlimited access to almost every piece of information, ever, in the modern British political system. The School of Economics library is one of the best in the world; and tomorrow, they'll be showing us how to use the Parliamentary Library.

Before I sign off, I'd like to give you an overview of what I'm going to do with this blog from now on. On the top right of the page below my "Constant Traveler" banner you'll see a link. Click on that and you'll come to my "homepage" to the current page you're on, and a new blog: "The Conversation". I have a new weekly Loyolan column that I'll be posting on my site for convenience's sake.

Also, if you're confused with the Google way of keeping track of my blog (the "Friend Connect" feature), there's an easier way to find out when I've updated my site. Scroll to the very bottom of this page and you'll see a link called "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)". Click and you'll arrive at a page giving you instructions on how to "bookmark" my site. Press "subscribe now" and you'll be putting my blog in your Bookmarks folder, which can be accessed by looking at your options next to File, Edit, View, etc.

Can't wait to have you all on my second adventure abroad this year!