Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as 'Andrew R'

Cultural relativity: kicking ass and changing names so we can pronounce them…

September 7th, 2009 · No Comments

So, since we’ve all been given the post topic, I feel as though I don’t need to go into the simplistic description of our travels. We saw Sikh and Hindu places of prayer. They were both gorgeous. What is their differences and how are they reflective of the two cultures attempts to integrate into British culture? Looking at the Sikhs, I would say they were looking for acceptance, where as the Hindu guide was trying much more to impress. Both are devices used to gain positioning within a society.  I distinctly remember our Sikh guide saying something along these lines: I hope one day people will not stop us at the air port, rather they will say ‘oh hey, he’s a Sikh, he’s ok.’  Sikhism in general is a younger religion than Judeo-Christian faiths and Hinduism. With this, it is often forced out of public eye and understanding. For this reason, they are often left to get whatever cultural capital charity they are able to get.  the Naara Mandir was also looking for a piece of the British-cultural pie, but they have gone about attaining it in a very different way, despite the fact that they came to England initially around the same time.  Almost like the girl who punches you when she likes you, the temple seemed to me to be attempting to out do British structures in order to gain their respect. If I heard another comment about Italian marble or how amazing the whole thing was, I may have just laughed. Further, I thought the way that the temple was presenting Hinduism was simply a way to cater towards Judeo-Christian understanding. Hinduism comes from Vedic traditions, and by nature is not a singular religion. While they are all relatively accepting of each other, there are many distinct traditions far beyond what the Mandir was expressing. 

Possibly too bold: the Sikh’s looked to intergrate through submission (BBC mentions cutting their hair, putting down their sabers) while the Hindus looked to intergrate without compromise. Strangely enough, it has worked for the Hindus. Overall they have gained respect much more far reaching than that of the Sikh.   

The few other Hindu temples I have been to have been quite a bit less opulent. This may simply be because of the focal-point nature of the Mandir. Ali and I both went to a small Hindu farm where monks lived and worked together to live and pray. At the farm, the only sign of riches at all was a small pillar filled with donated trinkets. And even then the trinkets were out of sight.

The one thing I noticed about both religious groups, Sikh and Hinduism, is that have both been greatly affected by globalization (not necessarily from an English influence). Comparing the Mandir to an Indian village, where there may only be one TV for the whole community, is quite startling. Also, the concept of a global leader is also a fair new concept– relative to the existence of Hinduism that is. But I think the world requires that of religions these days; the Other needs a Dahlia Lama or Pope. The Other needs a hierarchy to categorize and compartmentalize. Even the name Hinduism, is silly. Hinduism was the name given to the people of the river valley, an umbrella term that described hundreds of tribalistic beliefs.

Onto the articles… Sikh’s using the Internet to find mates makes perfect sense. What better way to cut away the physical attraction than through having emailing dates.  You get all the perks of talking to someone and learning about them, without the issues of false attraction and dating. The concept of sexual abuse in a religion preaching sexual suppression is not unimaginable.  Look at Rumspringa in the Amish community. When you push and ignore any aspect of a person’s psyche, it just enforces a person’s need to let it out. Why do Amish kids go out and drag race, do coke and who know what else? I would wager it is because they know they can’t otherwise. In many conservative religions, people are more likely to go to extreme sexual lengths when they do actually go about having sexual experiences.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Old Friend

September 7th, 2009 · No Comments

So I’m a bit behind in the posts, and I actually have things I’m supposed to write about rather than just blab on about feet or other nonsense. Qualls wanted us to look at immigrant communities. By wondrous fate, Audrey and I came across a Jewish festival in Regent’s Park. The festival was called Klezmer in the Park, a Jewish music festival. The MC was fantastic and quite hilarious; he even sang a Yiddish rendition of  of New York, New York. He brought up an interesting point though: what would an English rendition sound like? With my humble German abilities, I was able to ascertain that he was not speaking in a direct translation, and I wonder how a song(in general) gets changed, either culturally or linguistically, when it comes to a different country. This seems to apply even more prevalent for a song like New York, New York, which is so heavily tied into the culture of a city and its lexical nuances. Back to immigrant communities. It was quite a sight to see, truly. Jews and non-Jews; British and non-British; all dancing and laughing together in Regent’s Park. Such a feet would not have been possible or even dreamable only a short time ago. And yet there it was, in all of its schmutzing glory. What I did find interesting though, was half way through the concert, the MC calls all the male bachelors too silly to avoid his gaze up on stage. While up there, they were bombarded with what I can only imagine were questions a Jewish mother would ask (I have no such mother, so I’m not really sure). What was sad was that no one liked the Jewish men, rather preferring a gardening British non-Jew (evidently Jewish men don’t do well with their hands, I’ll have to ask Barron).  But I think this brings up an interesting idea, and one we have touched on before: how do you maintain your cultural identity while continuing to integrate (thus attaining privileges like a festival in the park). How do you maintain a culture that is based around the maternal family line if people are marrying non-Jewish women? While the festival did not speak for the entire British-Jewish community, I would like to believe that it had some microcosmic properties. Next Audrey and I went to Queen Mary’s Garden; it was quite lovely, beautiful flower patches with little roads cutting into the wooded areas, very nice for intellectual conversations and peaceful walks of contemplation, recommended to all.

Now onto what I wanted to talk about: tourists. Bloody tourists. So buddies of mine arrived here a week or so ago, and it’s really startling how loud and boisterous they are. But in saying this, I have to laugh because I cannot be so bold as to say I have transcended the lines of tourist and Londoner–that would be absurd. How snobby does that sound? Quite. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m going native, but I think I’ve definitely fallen into a slot of participant observation.  But I mean, this is the dream. If I could do ethnographic work for the rest of my life, earning enough to eat and not get trench foot, I would die a happy man. Saddly I realize that isn’t the case, and I’ll just end up behind some desk. So I’ve got to play dress up for as long as I can before the bell tolls, hopefully not making too much of a fool of myself in the process.  Keep calm, carry on.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

McDonald’s Across The Atlantic

September 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

Interspersing our travels from pub to pub for our walking tour, we decided to take a much needed Americana break. And what better place to go for a greasy, cheap Yankee fix than good old Mickey D’s. Before we even entered the restaurant, the not-so-subtle differences between McDonald’s in America versus Europe were apparent. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of an American McDonald’s is the ever prevalent red and yellow coloring, clinically proven to be associated with hunger and increased stimulation of the senses. Billions and billions served, right?

Another key aspect of any McDonald’s is their uncomfortable seating and their open dining areas. The seating in American McDonald’s are intentionally uncomfortable because they want you sit, eat, and get out as soon as possible in order to accommodate the next wave of kids with the munchies. The open areas perpetuate this with feelings of nakedness and over-exposure. In stark contrast, the McDonald’s here in London has a greenish brown color and a much different architectural design. Instead of one big open space, it was split into two relatively cramped floors furnished with cushy chairs on the lower level and long tables, comfortable stools, and a relaxed, cafe style sitting corner on the upper floor. This is most likely done in an attempt to fit in with the chic surroundings of the European cheap eating market. The menu above the counter featured “The M,” which is essentially a glorified quarter pounder with cheese, except much pricier and on a ciabatta roll. But it was advertised in such a pretty font! They also had free wi-fi, which is sweet.

From http://snackspot.org.uk. So succulent. So overpriced.

From http://snackspot.org.uk. So succulent. So overpriced.

From http://snackspot.org.uk. So succulent. So overpriced.

This brings up an important difference between American and European eating habits. Fast food back in the States is called fast for a reason. Customers generally don’t spend hours on end sitting in a Burger King. Drive-thrus come standard with every establishment. I have seen literally one drive-thru since I’ve been here. It seems that the European equivalent of the American fast food burger joint is the cafe. Pret a Manger and Eat cafes, not McDonald’s and Wendy’s (although there are a surprisingly large quantity of KFCs) dominate the cityscape. Cafes go hand-in-hand with the laid back attitude so prevalent in this continent.

This is a photograph of a London McDonalds. The one following is American.

London McDonalds from http://coolboom.net/en/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/mcdonalds-london2.jpg


American McDonalds Interior


There is no way an American style McDonald’s could survive in London. The McDonald’s at St. Paul’s was sandwiched between two cafes. The decor and atmosphere of the restaurant effectively fit in with its distinctively European neighbors. The stereotypical American McD’s – bright, noisy, grungy, and crowded – would wither and die in the face of the far superior and definitely healthier European chain cafes.  And although the fatty, disgusting-but-oh-so-good food is exactly the same, the atmosphere makes us feel healthier, and thus happier.  Perhaps if the fast food places of the United States were more like the ones here they would not have such a negative reputation. Or maybe more cafes like Pret ought to pop up on our streets back home. Who knows?

Tags: Andrew B · Andrew F · Andrew R · Campbell

enjoying the show

September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

The Notting Hill Carnival was amazing; done. The smells were what did me. The blend of jerk chicken, sweat, and cannabis were overwhelmingly wonderful; a symphony for the nostrils. Each note sliding through your mind yet blending harmoniously. Needless to say, coming at 930 was not necessary at all, but it quickly picked up in volume and entertainment.  The scantilyclad women didn’t grab my time or attention as much as it seems others did, and I didn’t really even check out of the parade that much. What I did love was the competing food stands and street dancing. Each stand seemed to be family owned and operated, which is something I’m seeing more and more of in England.  It is also something that I didn’t see a lot of in America. Back to the Carnival.  I am still on the fence about one thing though: the overbearing shroud of alcohol.  Many of the parade groups had very overt sponsorship from alcohol companies, and it seemed like they were trying desperately to get people drunk. 

Then there was the play. Everyone looked so wonderful, and it was so great to get dressed up. Then we got to the Theatre. The seats were tiny and there were tons of people wearing jeans.  I will be the first to admit that plays often mean nap time for Andrew. But I’ve really liked the two shows we’ve seen and stayed awake for both of them (the globe was a tricky one to fall asleep in). Arcadia was really cool.  The story was ok, but I really liked the execution. The lighting changes and the minimalist scenery also tied things together well. I really liked the scene where the two time periods overlap at the end, neat effect to do on stage. The concept of historians getting something completely wrong because they are looking to become famous is a message that is often times downplayed.  We are lost in the pursuit of knowledge, allowing ambition and hope to guide us where discretion should.  But then again, that’s the trick about history: unless there are direct records, it’s all just speculation. And no matter how much research you attain, you can never get rid of you bias. Anthropology and Archeology are more slaves to this than other humanities. We look at a few sherds of pottery, and we “know” quite a bit about the culture but too often we forget the interpersonal stories.

The stark contrast between the theatre we saw Arcadia in and the Globe theatre is aparent the moment you step into each. The Globe is as some many have already said was quite “Disney” but you know what? I liked it. The open air and the huddling together– it worked really well, and it helped to blend the worlds of reality and play together. On the other hand, Arcadia’s theatre kept you firmly planted in your world. The boxed theatre and cramped seating as well as the drastic lightings were firm reminders of the wall between the actors and viewers.

Tags: Andrew R

Week’s wrap up: Dancing Shivas and Fitzgeralds?

August 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

This was initially a comment on Audrey’s wall, but I realized I hadn’t written my own blog post yet, and (more importantly) I was getting a bit preachy. So here it is:

I would first like to say that a city devoted to capitalistic endeavors is a beautiful thing. I look around and everywhere I see touristy traps– places trying to make you pay for restaurant seats and churches. Bath was no different, save for its own self recognition.  It didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t. You want to drink our fancy water, you bet your ass you’re paying money. So hats off to you Bath and your unashamed stance, don’t ever apologize!

I, like Audrey and fellow travelers, tried to find the quintessential “Bath.” Far beyond the wrenching grasp of the tourist industry. I wasn’t looking for anything beautiful though, on the contrary. I attempted to walk to streets further into the realm of residential. I found parks with no names, pubs with local patrons drinking at 2 in the afternoon, and shady alleyways with no pretty walls or paintings of any kinds.  It was no landscape shot, but there was a beauty in the simplicity. Sadly, I had no idea how to get home and wondered aimlessly for quite a while until like a beacon of hope I ran into Professor Qualls, who told me I was only a turn away from the church (I swear I had been wondering for a long time).

My love of Celtic heritage made going to Stonehenge cool. I mean the curiosity of the whole thing was pretty cool, especially seeing how the English lady on the head set phrased their speculation on its purpose. Honestly, I thought they weren’t very culturally relative: they kept applying a few modern ideas to the potential purpose. The thought that Stonehenge would be a symbol of power with other purpose seems a bit silly. Further, they kept bringing up concepts of hierarchy, which is complete speculation. Anyway

Next big thing was Borough Market, which was incredible. I have found my new love, sorry Planet Organic. How busy and hectic it was. The mushroom dip was especially delicious. Anything from Kangaroo burgers to a bottle of red wine can be found there.

I can’t exactly remember chronological order, but we saw Troilus and Cressida at the Globe Theatre, and I was quite happy with it. I felt they leaned a little too hard on the comedy side, but I was in a strange mood when I read the play initially. All the actors were fantastic and the visual aspects of the people were quite engaging.  It is always interesting to read works based around the Trojan War.  I remember when I was but a wee-lad, and my grandmother read the Illiad to me, thinking how amazing Achilles was and not really caring about Hector too much, but as I matured and read the work again by myself I began to sympathize more and more with him and less so with Achilles, which I think is the idea.  Both warriors are bound by a sense of honor and fate. After watching this preformance, I felt that Hector was almost more enslaved to his sense of duty than Achilles was to his pride.

The British Museum was pretty cool, and I think I finally get what everyone else has been feeling. When I was at the National Art Gallery, Paul stopped me to point out Sunflowers, by Van Gough, and I wasn’t really sure what to say. Cool? But when I was at the British Museum, I came across something called the Dancing Shiva (http://dustysojourner.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/shiva_nataraja_musee_guimet_25971.jpg). Last semester I had been one tequilla shot away from having the thing on my back (which doesn’t always mean it has any value to one at all but in this case it did). I’m not sure why, but it’s a symbol I have always connected with. The Nataraja is meant to represent the destruction of the universe through Shiva’s crazy dance moves, but it is also meant to show the oneness of the universe. So there I was, standing in front of this bronze statue feeling as giddy as a little school girl, awesome.

The Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. What to say? The Brits love their Churchill. One of the first lines in the head set was something along the lines of Hitler and Churchill both had a cabinet, but Churchill never overroad his. Why bring Hitler into this? The other thing that made me chuckle was when they were retelling the story about the hole punch. Churchill basically chews out this secretary because he uses weird words and she couldn’t figure out what he meant, and then the head set said: but he had a lot of pressure, so it’s ok. Not ok Churchill, not okay. Overall, the museum was a giant pat on the back for the Brits and their ability to live in small rooms for a long time. Seeing where they lived was neat, but it wasn’t incredibly informative and despite having creepy wax figures and listening to recordings, I never felt enveloped in the way, I think, they wanted to make the guests feel.

As a note, make sure you ask the ticket guy for a receipt because they don’t give you one otherwise, and there is no way to be refunded without it– your ticket isn’t enough, and the museum isn’t worth the ten quid.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Not gonna lie…

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

It seems appropriate to explain right off the bat that I slept through E.L.F in almost their entirety. I loved Phantasm, I thought the way the weaved in and out of pieces from phantom of the opera was incredible. Further, having played french horn since the fourth grade(stopping in college for lack of time and monetary excess), I absolutely love hearing one played.  He was probably the crispest played I have heard in a very long time outside of a philharmonic.  But yes, they were so amazing, they put me to sleep, which is something that happens with me around classical music–doesn’t matter where or who is judgingly starring.

Afterwards we went to the National Gallery where, as many others have noted, the only British people there were grumpy workers.  the art was neat though; especially one painting called A Girl at the Window, by Louis-Leopold Boilly.

A Girl at a Window

A Girl at a Window

  I really like how it played with illusion. The painting itself was meant to look like a mounted print. It is almost as if she has caught us spying on her, an intimately understanding, yet coy smile. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of art galleries. Now you’re saying to yourself: Andrew, you fall asleep in concerts and you don’t like art galleries; are you total rube? And I might be, but I must at least attempt to defend myself.  The art gallery was an interesting look into the distinction between American’s and the British.  Firstly, there were barely any British people in the National Gallery, despite it being free. This is quite the contrast from the Philadelphia Art Museum or the one in DC, which frequently has art students and locals visiting and checking it out. Even the British guards seemed unhappy to be there. This can very easily be chalked up to the fact that it was a week day and in the afternoon because it seems strange that a nation so entrenched in their history would not care for their renowned artists.  Further, I would wager that the National Gallery is far more maticulously organized. Comparing the websites(The American National Gallery and the National Gallery in London) shows this. The London National galleries website allows you to look up paintings by letter of artist’s name, period, and style– down to the exact painting. The latter gallery does not, instead only giving overviews. Everything was micro managed, down to the path you would need to take. Most galleries i have traversed have allowed for more free movement, and directional choice.

We left the gallery to peripatetically wander and instead came across an anti-zionist movement.  What I thought was amazing about this was how volatile it seemed–on both sides.  In America, for the most part, at least the cops remain calm (out of fear of being sued more than anything). Evidently the PM had returned from a vacation early.  I have liked in a college environment for a good many years, so politcal discussions are commen place, but I have heard people talk about how strange it is to see protests and then post-protest discussions.  People here just seem eager to debate, which I love. By that time Paul was in need of a Pasty, so we attempted to make our way back to tottenham court tube station (where it seems the best pasties can be found). While there, a brawl let out between an African fellow and an Indian fellow. They both seemed to speak english. There was evidently a problem with rolling over someone’s foot. It quickly escalated into a serious fight though. They tumbled into a carphone warehouse eventually. What was most interesting was the managers expression: he just seemed to annoyed by the going-ons rather than anything else. Like he was thinking ‘seriously? in my store?’ My two fellow travelers were thoroughly distressed by the situation, but it was startling how little anyone else seemed to care. In fact, the two fighting didn’t really seem to mind either. The Indian guy, hand on bleeding head, simply got up and walked away from the scene.

This post seems to be going a bit on the long side, so I won’t detail(and definitely should not) the clubing experience. But I will say it was interesting to watch the group dynamic, and our interaction with the Europeans, who seemed to not like dancing until American girls showed up.

There is no other way to describe Westminster Abbey other than ‘overwhelming,’ in every sense of the word.  But if anything, I would say Westminster Abbey is not really even a church at this point. It is more of a mausoleum at this point: both for dead face people and British power.  It has essentially become a 15 quid tour of the who is who of Britain passed, which is sad. It has very little to do with religion at all in fact. Don’t get me wrong, the building was glorious and unimaginably beautiful. Our tour guide was impecably brilliant and knowledgable. But I feel, the Abbey stands more in praise of England than in praise of God.  I was most intreged by the enormous amount of symbolism cramed into every ounce of work. Masterful wood and stone working laid out generation long stories about struggle and triumph. I would have loved to just sit at one of the memorials and break down eat of the images.  It also inspired me to pick up a life goal i had all but given up around the age of five: become a knight; we’ll see how that goes.

Afterwards we went to St. James park, which was full of tourists trying to feed bloated ducks. It even had an overpriced resturant in it. What was beautiful, howe

ver, were the flowers. They were exquisit. This is a very stark contrast from Hyde Park, which I had been to earlier in the week. Hyde park had much more local activity: children playing football, lovers and the homeless sleeping and runners running.  Evidently, people were being charged to sit in chairs at St. James park–honestly, what is that?

We had our own bout with swindly prices today though. We stopped at an italian place to eat, and I got to laugh as almost everyone fell for the old still-water trick. Of course the joke was on us all when we realized we were also being charged for the seats.  More and more I am realizing that pubs are the only safe place to eat or drink, everyone else just tries to screw you over.

Water Buyers


anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Looking at People's Feet(and other things no one wants to read about)

August 24th, 2009 · 5 Comments

I shall get to the stuff we’re supposed to get to shortly, I promise. But first:  The first group discussion was today. Both it, and the blog, seem to be the most efficient and fluid means of dealing with a scenario like this; however, that doesn’t mean they aren’t without bumps. Rather than being a free-flowing exchange of ideas, it turned out to be as muddled as the Thames.  Professor Qualls noted early on that those who were not used to speaking up should learn to do so, which i completely agree with, but at the same time this type of open forum(especially with such a large group) is not always condusive to the parry-repulse that I think we may have been striving for. 

Now for something completely different…I went to the Docklands Museum today. As I had come in the second group, I had already been given to preemptive notions of what the museum would hold. I do have to say the section of the museum about the enslavement was interesting, especially the video that played over the exhibit’s walls. The effect as a whole was unsettling, intrusive and disconcerting. But what shocked me was how much those feelings continued to come up in the museum. I have always felt the British a subtle and quiet folk, and yet the museum had many abrassive points where they were quite the opposite.  The transitioning in the museum was really cool and the models and simulated areas were incredibly well done. Sadly my camera died a few minutes before we were to leave, so I wasn’t able to document much visually.  At the very beginning to the museum they brought something up, which seemed almost too simple to be actually said. London was a fort, and the Romans the foreigners.  A people often attempt to harken back to their roots, their origins. But with the British, they really have two: they have either focus on the Romans, who were an opressive force, or the celtic tribes in the area, who were being opressed. This ambiguity seems to be at the heart of the Brits’ inner conflict.  They strive to be civilized, but the civilized people are actually the ones who are doing to the most uncivilized things. I am temped to say that the understated nature of the British stem from this historical insecurity. It could also be why so many people in Britain have trouble with foreigners.  The problem with this statement is that the British also maintain an immense pride for their country. My rebuttle for that is they incredibly outspoken about it. The poems today all seems painful and smugging of London, yet they maintain a sense of ownership of it. I’m trying to remember what Mrs. Fox said exactly, but the British are allowed to be prideful but not proud.

I have been thinking a lot about what differences lie between the English and the Americans. I would not be so bold as to think I am analyzing anywhere beyond the superficial, but the article about time got me to think about how the people of London move. There are most certainly cultural and class distinctions of leg movement– but not of foot movement.(Noted) In all likelyhood I am just not being observant; however, it seems like all Londoner’s foot placement and tempo is the same, relatively speaking.  I thought at first that it was just a human thing, but I found that our group had very little similarity in the way we placed our feet. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure to get a bombardment of corrections, so I’ll cop out by saying that I haven’t done enough research to make a judgement or analysis.

anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

The East Street Market

August 22nd, 2009 · 7 Comments

    We took the Central Line from Goodge Station and switched onto the Waterloo line to Elephant and Castle at Charing Cross. As we moved farther down the line, we noticed that the number of business suits diminished and were replaced by more eccentric garb and hairstyles. After getting off at Elephant and Castle, we started to head in the right direction (towards Walworth Street) only to be re-routed (due to a “fatal accident” involving a bus) down a rather sketchy alleyway, only to make one giant loop and end up where we started. We wandered around, getting even more lost, and after consulting A-Zed, we finally got our bearings and headed down Walworth Street towards the East Street Market. Once there, we were bombarded with a rush of people, wares, sounds and smells. Reggaeton blasted from a CD and cassette tape booth, women in burkas sat under a tent draped with pashmina scarves and the aroma of bangers and burgers hung heavily in the air over the scene. Middle-Eastern and African vendors sold seafood and exotic fruits and vegetables arranged in wooden crates, and women loaded the produce into their bags, bartering with the vendors. There were booths selling watches, clothing (suits, dress shirts, slacks and lingerie), shoes, belts, toys, Christian books and movies, hats, sunglasses, jewelry, bags, scarves, cell phone accessories, linens and toiletry and cleaning products. But more interesting than the wares being sold was observing the interactions between those selling and buying. Vendors, for the most part, kept to themselves and did not call out to passersby. Some left their booths completely vacant and vulnerable to theft. One vendor in particular caught our attention. One of the few white British fruit vendors angrily accosted a potential buyer. As we were passing, we heard the vendor say to the man, “Speaking bloody f***ing English, you f***ing Bangladeshi.” The man walked away from the booth, and responded in very clear English, “English c**t.” We were shocked by witnessing obvious racial tension for the first time. It has become such a common scene in London to see people of all ethnicities sharing common spaces and interacting amicably with one another, and the altercation took us by surprise. Finally, we took the 176 to Tottenham Court Road and headed back home. While tensions do obviously exist in England, places such as East Street Market represent, for the most part, the harmony and co-existence between cultures which necessarily occurs every day in London.

Tags: Andrew F · Andrew R · Anya · Markets

Andrew and Audrey's Amazing and Astounding Adventure to High Street Kensington

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

To get to High Street Kensington, we took the Underground (fondly referred to as the Tube) on the Central Line from the Tottenham Court Road station west to Notting Hill Gate where we switched to the Circle District Line to get to our desired High Street Kensington destination. This jaunt was approximately thirty minutes in duration and was made confusing by the indecisiveness of directional walking. Does one stay to the left or to the right when walking through crowds? Apparently no one knows! The locals like to stick to the left but when one finds oneself in more tourist filled locations the rules are discarded completely.

We came out of the station to find a busy street full of shops of all sorts and bustling with people. To get our bearings a bit, we ducked into an alley way that led to a quaint garden and church. Thinking this was where we had to go, we spent time looking around the cemetery, school, park, etc around there. Europe at its finest. You couldn’t even hear the busy street literally right on the other side of the buildings. This was an area in the middle of London that had a true small town feel to it. When we reflected on why we were sent to that area, we realized that we were looking at something that had nothing to do with the name Kensington at all. So, we pulled out our London A-Z maps and discovered that if we continued to walk a block or so we would arrive at Kensington Palace and Gardens. Righto. Still, this microcosm, we think, is representative of London itself. You find this encompassing environment but if you take a step back you find that that very environment is composed of smaller factions that are just as enveloping as the larger one.

Now onto the Kensington we were supposed to find! The station seems to be in place to allow for the public to have access to the gardens. The governing body appears to be Kensington. Never have I seen a prettier place full of not only plants and beautiful vegetation but also just people enjoying themselves in a most relaxed and respectful fashion. People from every race and age were present including the wealthy and those sleeping on benches but we saw mostly young people out enjoying a beautiful day in the garden.
We strolled around what could have been an entire park but truly was only a small fraction of the area. Some of the many sights we saw included Kensington Palace, William the II’s Palace (now a busy tea shop), a statue of Victoria R., and George Frederick Watt’s statue of Physical Motion. Attracted to a shiny, gold something in the distance, we headed to what we later found to be the Albert Memorial across from the Royal Albert Hall. This beacon was truly breathtaking! Prince Albert was the husband of Queen Victoria. A social activist and a financier of the arts and sciences, the hall and this statue are dedicated to his memory as well as Victorian achievement. Perched around a sitting Albert are representations of Africa, America, Europe and Asia, all of which were in some way connected to British imperialism. Above him rest figures of farming, engineering, manufacturing, and commerce. Then at the top of the memorial stand virtuous angels. The monument as a whole is also an acknowledgement of the many artisans that Albert had worked fiercely to promote. Prince Albert not only purchased the land of South Kensington as a means to create an educational and cultural institution, but he also worked to have the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. Both these events may have led him to be memorialized at Kensington Garden. People memorialized King Albert by sitting around the base of his statue smoking (a commercial endeavor indeed!). Mostly middle class people were around the statue and on the street; that is, those who had time to spend on a Thursday afternoon lounging around a statue and park. Tourists were around the more famous locations in the garden but as you ventured further away from statues and palaces, the local people used the gardens for their function as a recreational park.

As we were on Kensington Street, we thought the best way to return to the Arran House would be to either take the Tube or a bus. Confused by which side of the street we had to be on to take the bus, we opted for the former. Taking a different route this time, we took the Circle District line to Glouchester where we transferred onto the Piccadilly Line and went up to Leicester Square. From there we went up the North Line to Nottingham Court Road where we proceeded by foot to the Arran House. We might mention, we were a might bit late. The Central Line proved to have top marks in efficiency that day.

Tube stop

Tube stop

the happy accident

the happy accident

Albert Memorial

Tags: Andrew R · Audrey · Churches and Cathedrals

Like a Virgin

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Today started off with the most amazing breakfast I have possibly ever had.  Of note were the mushrooms, which were simply fantastic and attained an effect I have never been able to achieve in my many months(i would not be so bold to say years) of culinary inquisary.  The Orange Juice was a little odd, but it is what it is. When then hurried off to Embankment to catch a boat.  After taking a few pictures of Big Ben when got on the boat where we were bombarded with 80’s pop music and our own personal singer to boot, which was also amazing.  When we got off the boat we wound through a few streets, being mocked by a grandmother at one point, until we came to a park. The park, although hilly, seemed to be populated by several dog owners and surprisingly little else.  When we finally arrived at the top of this ginormous hill we had arrived at the meridian line and a few museums. 

     I had read the time article on the plane, and thus retension was not at the highest it has been. Nevertheless, it was neat to apply some of the ideas I did remember.  I’m sure this line will get old very quickly but as a cultural anthropologist in the making( in itself a paradoxical statement of anthropological perportions) I am always intreged to look into another cultures life– see how they view the world. There is no better way to do that than through the value people put on time and the control people try have over it.  The british are quite obessive when it comes to keeping time, and it has a lot to do culturally with what they consider as proper behavior.  As a whole they consider utility of human existance, I believe. A person who isn’t working with the machine is working against it. Londoners walk briskly whereever they go, and scaff at those people who prefer the more leisurely stride. Of course this is a hastey observation and one that needs more field research to verify. But it should also be noted that the pace at which people speak is also indicative of how they consider time and the importants they weigh on it. One example that comes to mind is that of the southern drawl: a slow methodic pace which is found in the agrarian areas of the South, a place(at least at one point) where time was based around harvesting.

But i digress. The planet show was amazing, much better than Dickinson’s and the guy was a lot funnier than my astronomy professor.  We went to a pub for lunch to get finger food, which i seem to be eating a lot of lately, and I had the Scrumpy Jack. On the whole I think I prefer the Scrumpy Jack to the Strongbow, but again further research is required.  I think a lot can be said about a cultures food and alcohol. If anything you can learn more sitting in a pub than sitting in a museum. In a museum everything is there for a reason, there are no blemishes unless they are put there on purpose. But in a pub or market, you get everything: you get the bad, the beautiful, the bacalonious. And I think that is more important than any historical thing, but then again I’m not a historian.

We traveled through the tunnel under water which uneventful for the most part.

Going along with two statements ago, we decided to venture into Camden Town to search out a proper english pub.  We ventured off the main road and into the Good Mixer, where we found much hussle and bussle. We also found Captain Jack Sparrow. I tried  yet another hard cider although i did not know the name of this one from all the noise– sadly it is my favorite thus far.  We chatted a bit on the different perceptions tied behind alcohol, comparing good old D’son to that of London. No Natty light, to my grave disappointment (I guess Guiness will just have to do). I also realized why there were less drunk people around in London than I was used to seeing in Philly was because alcohol was so damn expensive you couldn’t afford to get pissed.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R