I’m sorry that I’m already a few days behind on blogging, but the last week (well, year) has been a whirlwind of activity. I left for London in the middle of the afternoon on Friday, the 16th. I arrived in London around 10AM on the 17th, but I did not get through customs until closer to noon. Because I look oh-so-suspicious, I was treated to a very thorough pat down in the Kansas City airport and an intense interrogation at customs in London. The customs officer and I actually ended up having a long conversation about my genocide research before he let me through. I spent a couple minutes wandering around the arrivals area (my luggage arrived just fine) before I found Mom’s friend, Bronwyn.
I stayed for two days at Bronwyn’s house with her husband, two sons, and their dog—Milo. They treated me so well! I had many cups of tea with them, a ride in their 89 Land Rover along the Thames, and a truly British meal of fish and chips and a pint of ale at a pub that was built in the 13th century. So delicious. The waiter was cute, too. I had not slept for more than 40 hours by the time that I got to sleep that night, so I slept like a baby. I even slept through my alarm, and Bronwyn had to come and wake me up in the morning. They fed me a sturdy British breakfast before we were off on public transportation to my flat.
To get to my flat from Weybridge Village where the Borghesi family lives, we just had to take a train for a few stops into Waterloo Station, where we jumped on the tube (no small feat with two bags, each weighing about fifty pounds) for several stops. There are two stops around my flat—Regents Park, which is on the Bakerloo (or Brown) line and Great Portland Street, which is a much larger station and the intersection of four different lines. We went to the Regents Park stop and then walked about five minutes to my flat.
My flat is gorgeous. I share it with seven other girls, all of whom I really like. We have four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a large living area (complete with fireplace), and a kitchen. The flat is long, with all of the rooms being located off of a single corridor. I share my room with Zoe Friedland, who is actually a senior at Dartmouth. I got lucky, because Zoe and I really click. We have the only room with hardwood floors, the rest of the floors are carpeted. The bottom floor of our building is a Starbucks!
While I was pretty much over my jetlag by the time we all arrived, the rest of them were not. So, we had an early dinner at Nando’s—a Peruvian chicken joint—before heading to bed.
Since Monday morning, I have been to the British Museum (which has everything—mostly things that the British stole over the years from their colonies. Still pretty cool, though); gone grocery shopping and unpacked; watched Dr. Faustus at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre (we had to stand for all three hours of the performance!); been to several pubs and tried many different types of ciders, ales, and lagers; worked my first shift at the Holborn Community Center, which is a senior center about one and a half miles from my flat where I’ll be volunteering this term; and I have now completed my first real day of research.
The highlight of my week was definitely volunteering at the senior centre (look, I’m spelling like a Brit, already). The seniors there are so sweet, and they call me “ducky.” There’s one little old Scottish man named George who tried for two hours to make his magic trick work, but by the end, he had just managed to light a balloon on fire and get himself in trouble. He spent the rest of the time doting on the little old ladies. I’m going to be working every Monday and Wednesday morning, serving morning tea, helping the seniors learn how to use the computers, and leading games like Bingo and Bunco. I became friends quickly with the cooks. Rose is a 65-year-old grandmother from Sierra Leone and Annie is 25 and from Nigeria. She has one daughter. Annie and I have plans to go out next week.
My first day of research went well, too. It was exhilarating to be sitting with all of the professional researchers and being able to call up my own documents and have them delivered to my assigned seat. I looked at papers from Raphael Lemkin (the man who coined the term “genocide” and lobbied the United Nations for the Convention on Genocide that occurred in 1948 after the Holocaust. Since the focus of my research is on how the British responded to this idea of “genocide,” I looked first at his letters to members of Parliament. Just for background information, I also looked at the notes and memos left by members of the Foreign Office who were present at the UN Genocide Convention and their recommendations to the British Home Office on how to deal with it. From secondary research, I'm already familiar with the general conversation between the two offices, but I thought that looking at the official documents would help me build a strong foundation. What was really exciting is that I found so many letters from organizations and individual constituents lobbying their members of Parliament to do something about the "UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" mixed in with the official memos! I was hoping to find evidence of public interest in the case, but I was not sure that it would actually exist. So exciting!! I’ll be working the next few weeks at the National Archives, which are quite far away from my flat. It took me about an hour this morning to get here on the underground, and then I had to go through an hour-long registration process to get my “Reader’s Ticket,” which will be valid for the next three years. After I finish up here at the National Archives, I’ll be working closer to home in the Metropolitan Archives and the British Library.
That last paragraph probably bored you, so congratulations if you made it to this one! Zoe and I are making dinner tonight at home tonight—ravioli and salad. Yum.
Lots of love from London!