Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Operation: Acclimation?

September 15th, 2009 · 1 Comment

This past week I have been reading ” Watching the English” by Kate Fox. Now I am not very far into it, but I am very intrigued with the topic. I feel as though I have found a way to observe a typical day for an average London tourist. This observation has led me to realize,  we don’t fall under this category, however we have succumbed to a few minor mistakes, making our nationality quite obvious. Now, my point in  this post is to address the American’s tendency to stick out. kinda?

One: The Tube
Depending on how large the group is, and depending on who is in the group, the moment the doors fly open we begin to fluster and annoy everyone on board. We, unaware of our high tones, are excited about what we’ve seen or where we are going, so why wouldn’t we talk about it? At this point I am unable to recall how many stares and glares our group of 27 have been flashed, and I personally have felt tense knowing everyone is horrified by our tones, but what is wrong with a little excitement? Why is it taboo to talk to each other on the train? Then again why are American’s so darn loud?

Two: Eating Too Fast (Food in General)
As of now, I have only sat down to eat about eight times. I enjoy my meal, even though it costs more when you choose to sit down, and then I leave. Why is it that they tack of a few pence and say “take away” every time you order? Why is it a different price? And why do all Americans say your dinning out and then sit anyways?  If your in a restaurant where you dine in, and have a waiter, it becomes a completely foreign experience for most Americas. I don’t know about you guys, but when we eat out at home, we go in, sit down, order right when the waitor comes up, eat, pay the bill, and leave. What is the rush? Here in London the service want’s you to take your time. When Amanda and I finished our meal at an Italian place down the street and asked for our check, we were asked a stream of questions including “did you not like it?”, “Are you in a hurry?”, “Why don’t you want dessert?” etc. Why do we rush meals, and why do the British dine leisurely?

And why do we have to ask for the check? I always forget about that!

Three: The Theater
This may be just a “me” complaint, but what happened to the glamour of going to the theater? Bright LIghts, fancy clothes, classy cocktails, beautiful people? As of now we have been to quite a few theatrical and musical performance and I can not help but notice how relaxed the event has come to be. When I was younger I remember every Christmas getting all dolled up to see the Nutcracker with family and friends. I also remember my first NYC Broadway performance, and feeling as though I needed to look beautiful just to enter the theater. Today the theater is the last event on a busy tourists agenda. So, dressed in jean shorts and cotton tank, shopping bags in hand they strut into the theater. Glamour-less? sad.

I guess I wanted to realize the obvious. As much as we attempt to fit into this culture, everyone will notice where your from.  We will always stand out. Our voices, our clothing, our eating habits, and our on the go attitudes; only to mention a few. We are different, and there is not way of hiding it. We cover this up, and ignore it, because were having fun and were happy, but think about it. Were foreign. We can judge the way the English think and act, but really, were the odd ones. I guess the question is, should we learn to conform in this upcoming year? Are we subject to lose our identities for the sake of fitting in?

All this talk of acclimating, now is it our turn?

Tags: Patsy

Starting to look back.

September 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I had the chance to attend the Feminist Literature tour in which I not only learned about women writers who resided in the Bloomsbury area, but also on how spaces affect who we are and everything that we do. I am intrigued with this notion. Recently I posted a blog on space, specifically focused on sacred/holy spaces, in this blog I will look back and focus on a few others others.


Green Green GREEN

Spaces of recreation, golden flowers and perfectly trimmed grass is what I think of. It is impressive to me how well kept they are. When we visited Regent’s Park during class for the first time, I was at a loss of words, for I had never in my life seen a space so beautiful. William Blake captures this beauty in his poem titled “The Lily:”

The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

Regent’s Park could not be touched, human hands could never be gently enough to handle a flower’s delicate body. So untouchable, the flowers arranged almost to perfection. Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said that “Earth laughs in flowers,” and I believe him.

Hyde Park, almost as magical, but words cannot capture the immensity of this park. The amount of green that surrounds you at any given moment is difficult to describe. This park in particular serves as more than just a space for recreation, it is also a place where history is preserved, where various neighborhoods unite and where kids grow up to later bring their own kids to play at Kensington Gardens or near the lake. Green Park, a sort of gateway to Buckingham Palace (if you get off at the Green Park Tube station), can never be compared to Hyde Park for it lacks in immensity. Even though the deck chairs are a nice touch to the park, the area I visited lacked some color (as in floral color); I was not impressed. (Buckingham Palace itself was not very impressive. I was surprise to discover that it actually isn’t an enormous, glorious and royal-looking mansion… I guess it’s a good thing that it isn’t after all!)


Let’s start the show!!!

Sometimes walking in for the first time takes my breath away, and sometimes the shows blows my mind, other times the idea of sitting there makes me wonder… wow. The three different halls of at the National Theatre, The Globe, Duke of York’s, the Phoenix and last but not least Royal Albert Hall! So here’s the list: “Troilus and Cressida,” “Arcadia,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “As You Like It,” “Pitmen Painters” and the not-so awesome musical “Blood Brothers,” oh and the amazing violin concerto at the Royal Albert. In London, I am never too far from New York City’s Broadway experience! The difference, the London experience always feels fulfilling no matter how horrible the play was. This is probably because Broadway shows are not exactly affordable, and while the National Theatre insists on having a wide range of prices (so that everyone can enjoy the theatre), Broadway just seeks revenue and to maintain it’s current status and popularity. I mean, to have Rick Fisher (who by the way is a Dickinson alum), winner of of a Tonny award, come to speak to us about his thoughts and experiences with London’s theatre scene, that within itself was enough to top all of the Broadway shows I have seen in my life! I <3 the London theatre experience!


Religious spaces.

Intricate architecture, imagination, creativity and grace is what comes to mind when I think of churches. I’ve written a blog about them but I wanted to look back at a few of them. Westminster, ridiculously sacred, marvelous, immense and glorious. The same can be said about St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Hindu Temple we visited. At Brixton (where I directed a tour along with my teammates), I learned that religious spaces play a huge role in the community, one that extends beyond any religious affiliations. One specific church we visited during our research, Corpus Christi Roman Catholic church was involved in the reconstruction of the Brixton area after the Brixton riots, when parts of the neighborhood where damaged/destroyed due to violent protests. It always brings joy to my heart when people come together to help each other, regardless of any religious/cultural boundaries.


Clubs NOT Pubs

Ooooh pubs…. I’ve heard that you can see London’s history evolve in these spaces, and although they are known as spaces of leisure and social interaction their walls can tell unknown stories of both know and unknown visitors. I am always intrigued by pubs, so intrigued I am intimidated by them. I now that sounds a little ridiculous but in pubs I feel pressured to consume alcohol (after all that is the main purpose of a pub: to provide alcoholic beverages) and to maintain conversation when really all I want to do is dance to the awesome music playing in the background. Rebbeca (who along with 4 others constructed a tour of London’s historic pubs) has attempted to both enlighten me as well as persuade me to engage in pub culture, but I have yet to fully explore the wonderful world of London’s historic pubs.

Clubs, on the other hand, I’ve also had a difficult time with. I’ve realized that there isn’t much dancing that goes on, but rather an attempt to dance, which actually means jumping around to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” (pop/techno song). Over all, I have enjoyed late hip hop nights at Metra (dance club a few street corners off the Leichester Square tube stop) only because I have shared that space with amazing people who can turn any floor into a dance floor. (Thanks Anthony, Jeyla and Patsy!)


Spaces, our everyday living takes place within them, whether they are churches, clubs, parks or theaters. We lack to realize their importance, we never stop to think of how a room may affect how we feel about ourselves and about the rest of society. A room can change our lives, like the reading room at the British Museum that the feminist writers group spoke of on their tour. This room clearly changed Virginia’s Wolf literature, among other authors, I’m sure.

Note to self: Whether this room is physical or mental, it is important. We must take more time to appreciate a rooms ability to change the way we exist in our own individual worlds.

The End.

Tags: Flow · Uncategorized

Ruminations on the Theater

September 1st, 2009 · No Comments

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I’ve never been a big fan of the theater. I’m the sort of person who will go see anything and be able to appreciate it or be critical of it for seemingly valid reasons, but I’ve just never really enjoyed live theater the way I do films: the choice of only one or two settings has always felt extremely limited for my wild and vivid imagination, I’m a bit hard of hearing and can’t turn the volume up on live actors, people don’t suddenly break into coordinated song and dance routines in real life, there’s a huge margin of error for mistakes and unwelcome variation between performances, and it’s much harder to blow things up and create huge messes on a stage. I’m a fan of realism and authenticity, and sometimes I just can’t suspend my disbelief with plays the way I can with movies.

All of this being said, I’ve always been fascinated by the production aspect of live theater. I was heavily involved with the production and tech crews at my high school, and I used to enjoy nothing more than Hell Week before opening night, sitting in the black box theater in the wee hours of the morning, flicking lights on and off, organizing props, and putting finishing touches on the set. After hearing Rick Fisher speak about his experience with the theater and taking the tour of the National Theatre today, I’ve started longing to go back to stage managing and tech production. I’m attempting to see as many plays as I can during our time in London in order to try to condition myself into enjoying being an audience member, but I think I will always prefer being a part of the action rather than watching it. I kind of wonder if this is a problem: enjoying working very hard towards an end product you don’t really care for.

I’ve never been an avid play-goer before this trip, but I feel as though the West End has a bit less glitz and a bit more pride than Broadway. Perhaps pride is the wrong word, and perhaps I’ve been seeing and hearing of the wrong plays, but I often think of many Broadway plays as being a good and expensive night out, but the West End seems to treat the plays as more of an art form and something that everyone should be able to enjoy and appreciate. If the advertisements on the Tube are any judge, the West End has its fair share of mindless plays based on popular movies, but the simple fact that there are cheap seats, student discounts, overwhelming amounts of Shakespeare, government funding, and seemingly many more British film and television stars on the stage as well as the screen (working for meager amounts of money) makes me believe that in England, the theater is more of a cultural institution meant for everyone rather than deep appreciation for few, or simple entertainment.

I grew excited last night upon learning that Arcadia was written by Tom Stoppard, who also wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and co-wrote Shakespeare in Love. I seemed to have forgotten, however, that his work, while usually hysterical and thought-provoking, is also very dense and requires a fine-toothed comb to find all of the hidden jokes, references, and subject matters. This, coupled with the fact that I was inexplicably exhausted and that my hearing can be likened to that of a seventy-year-old man’s made me unable to completely follow much of the play, but apparently I wasn’t alone. I think reading it would make things clearer.

I’m foregoing the next performance at the Globe simply because I don’t know if my back could handle another few hours as a groundling, but I’m attending All’s Well That Ends Well tomorrow night in its stead in a valiant effort to see more plays, learn to appreciate the finished product rather than just the behind-the-scenes work, and learn to like Shakespeare.

Tags: Chelsea · Theatre