About Me

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I'm just a stressed-out-perfectionist-not-so-average-cupcake-making-graduate-student-from-Kansas trying to find my place in this world.
Current Adventure: Interning for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Love With London

I am in love with London. Seriously, I’m never coming home. But we do have an extra bed in our flat, so feel free to visit me and send care packages to:

Emma Smith
Hampden House
2 Weymouth Street
London, UK

Just kidding. Well, kind of about the coming home part and definitely not kidding about the mail part. Send me mail. Please?

I don’t know if I can accurately describe how much fun I’m having, but I will try. I only have class one day a week, so I spend Monday night doing all the reading and homework for my two classes on Tuesday, go to class on Tuesday, and then our professor takes us all out for dinner (on the program’s bill) and gives us lots of wine and cider (again on the program’s bill—thanks for the scholarship, Dartmouth!). Then, Wednesday through the next Monday night, I have fun. Lots and lots of fun.

I’ve gotten plugged into an awesome church—All Soul’s Church—which has just been the biggest blessing. I’ve made so many British friends, who have been instrumental in my navigating life in London so easily. All Soul’s is Church of England, so I was skeptical about them at first, mostly because I’m used to really energetic Southern Baptist churches, but this church is so amazing. They have more than 1,000 people at each service, and everyone is really friendly and welcoming. I found my niche almost immediately, which is great since time is not a luxury during my short stay here in London. I spend so much time at church. Wednesday nights I’m there from 5:45 (for coffee with the college girls) until 10:00PM when the student Bible study and dinner ends. Then, I head to the Horse and Groom, which is a pub right down the street, for a pint of cider with all my friends from church until at least midnight. Then, on Sundays I go to both morning services because they are just so energetic and inspiring to listen to, go to lunch with the 20s and 30s group from church, and then head back for the evening service at 6:30. Then, there is free coffee, music, and cake for the college students until about 11:00PM, when we head to the pub for a pint of cider. I was definitely not expecting to find college students in London who were just so excited about Jesus, but I did, and it’s awesome.

School is good, too. You know, for that one day a week I have to go. We’re currently in midterms, so I will have a kindabusy weekend studying for those. We also have walking tours every Thursday afternoon, which I love. Yesterday our walk took us through the East End (traditionally the poorest area of London), down Brick Lane (home to rows and rows of Indian restaurants and Jewish “beigel” bakeries), through Spittalfields (the up and coming artsy district), and ending in Hoxton Square, which was the first public square in London. We had two breaks during the walk: one to get hot chocolate from a teeny tiny little Belgium chocolate shop ($6 well spent) and the other to get bagels from a bagel bakery. Both were delicious and as usual, we ended in a pub to warm up with some cider before heading back to the West End, where we live.

I’ve seen Kasia (my Polish friend from high school for those of you who don’t know her) twice already. Two weekends ago, I took the train to Leamington Spa where she lives (about a two hour train ride) to hang out for the day. Since we hadn’t seen each other in two years, we really just ended up having lunch and then chatting on the couch with a pint of cookie dough ice cream. Last weekend, she and her roommate, Louisa, came to London to stay with me. We had a grand time, and found a really nice Mexican restaurant on the Thames and then saw the musical Dreamboats and Petticoats. In order to get the tickets that we did—front-row Mezzanine, seriously discounted—I stood in line at a ticket office in Leicester Square from about 8AM to 10AM. It was a fun experience, but really, I just felt like I was intruding on seniors’ night out—it was a musical comprised entirely of 50s music (kind of like Mama Mia!, in that there was very little plot, but lots of cool music), and all the elderly people (seriously, we were the only people there sans gray hair) were singing and dancing along. So adorable.

Lots of other fun things have been going on, too. For example, I met a guy at church—Pele—who is a producer’s assistant for the show Jerusalem, a contemporary British drama. He let me and Zoe come see the final dress rehearsal. It was fabulous, even though there was a lot of strong (very, very, very strong language) and most of the British jokes went right over our heads. The next week, my friends and I all went to Ice Bar London, which is a bar made completely out of ice (the walls, the tables, the chairs, the bar, the cups, everything) for our friend Hannah’s birthday.

My favorite part of my week here in London is going to the senior centre on Wednesday morning to volunteer. Mostly, I just hang out and talk with the seniors there, but I’m also helping a nearby museum record oral histories and put together an exhibit on the seniors who come to this senior centre. Last week, I took Zoe and our friend Hannah with me, and we did manicures for all the ladies (and some men!). In a couple weeks, a lot of my group will be coming with me and they are going to do an acapella concert (I will not be performing, in case you wondering).

My research is going well. Sometimes it’s hard to make myself go out to the archives (about an hour ride on the tube) since there’s so much to do in London and so much fun to be had, but I still manage to do it. I’m still trying to synthesize all the information I’ve found and discern why what I’m finding is important, what my argument really is, etc. I had a moment of panic the other day when I realized that our program is more than one third over and I still have so much to write for this research paper. However, I think that everyone who pursues a project on this scale is also a little bit overwhelmed at times. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes—so far, though, so good.

Just two short weeks from today, my mom will be here! I’m so incredibly excited. I’m having a blast planning our trip, and it’s going to involve four countries, eighteen days, many, many reunions with friends, and tickets to see Wicked (my friend’s cousin plays Glinda, so we have to see it!). The rest of the details, though, you’ll have to find in one of my future blog posts!

Much love from London!