Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!
Wednesday, I became impatient and frustrated with London. The weather got to my head, my academic week surpassed my sleep; I was exhausted, cold and rain-soaked and pushing through tourists who cannot move in a systematic way on the pavement during rush hour. I didn’t want to do anything, so naturally I booked a trip to Amsterdam and Bruges. It was just one of those days.
Thursday, I stood at the platform, watching my breath cloud in front of me and studying the architecture in a nearby borough. It really is quite drab and slummy in places, but there’s something so beautiful about it all. There may be broken appliances and unrepairable furniture strewn about, but the way the brickwork collides with peeling concrete walls and more mismatched brick of the neighboring flat, I’m mesmorized. The fog was settling over Wembley Stadium and I have really have no words to describe the things I have seen in my four weeks abroad. I do know the rush I get when I realize it is pure joy. My heart becomes full. Isn’t it strange how adventure can be fulfilling? Here I am all alone in a foreign place yet I’m completely full.
Teaching week three brought some more to my workload, but I can’t get my feet under me completely. I want to stare out the windows. Luckily my sketchbook research can take me to the streets and let my feet explore more. I was required to watch a miserable film in my Friday seminar so I took it upon myself to explore the National Gallery in its entirety after. I let myself wander among Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, Seurat, Van Gogh and Picasso for a bit. I was required to queue for quite some time to enter a room dedicated to Van Gogh’s London and Amsterdam Sunflower Collection, but I would have appreciated to enjoy the paintings amongst the rest of the galleries. Sure they are exquisite pieces of art, but they don’t need a pedestal or private gallery to distinguish themselves from the rest. Maybe I’m just bitter about waiting in line, eh. Or maybe it’s that I took out my journal to do a quick contour sketch and the guard told me “It’s too busy to sketch”, so here I am staring at one empty rectangle depicting the frame of the Amsterdam Sunflowers. My four hours there ended with the most sardine-packed tube ride I’ve yet to experience. Never go to Oxford Circus Station during rush hour. At least you won’t need to hold onto the tube itself, you can just peacefully sway amongst the bodies packed around you, reacting to the sharp curves in the underground. Eh, maybe you should try it.
Saturday took us to Chiselhurst Caves in the Southeast of London. We took the Overground and explored 22 miles of underground man-made caves that protected up to 16,000 people a night during World War II. The place was neat and maybe it was our paranormal-enthused tour guide or the monotony of tripping over your feet in the blackness while minding your head, but I wasn’t into it. Maybe I should have done research prior so as to not think that I would be seeing stalactites and stalagmites, but rather creepy wax figures pretending to hack away at chalk walls.
Mary, Kelle, Kaleo, Jordan and I took it upon ourselves to explore the pubs Saturday night. We, embarrassingly, happened upon TGIF in Leicester Square where we splurged to drink liquor from giant goblets, but we’ve decided Tom Cribb Pub is where we really belong. We stood outside on the pavement and had just about the best time.
Today has a lot going for it. Jordan and I made it to the Chinese New Year parade in Trafalgar Square this morning. Let me just tell you though, I grew up in a primary school that celebrated the New Year with parades and dragons and music so I was expecting the works to come out for London’s celebration. The parade was the dinkiest parade with the smallest dragon and the ending “act” was a street sweeper that threw dust into your eyes. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Then I was handed a free fortune cookie which I willingly accepted, willingly chewed and patiently waited to read my fortune that turned out to be an advertisement for an 18+ casino. THANKS! This year is going to be GREAT! I spent the rest of the day studying as much as I could as the sun shone throughout London. I ended up back in Chinatown for a Tiger Roll in the evening and taking in the last of the celebration.
I’m looking forward to finding a new way to campus this week as the tube has decided to go on strike for 48 hours. Conveniently, campus is 11 miles away so wish me luck. Cheers.