09 July 2007

everything must belong somewhere.

Take note, this next sentence doesn't often roll trippingly off my tongue. I was wrong about England. It didn't really "speak to me" in January - I thought it was a nice place to visit, but nothing particularly special. After a chaotic week, however, I'm sold for the following reasons (disregarding the bomb scare at Heathrow the day I arrived):

1. Cider. Bulmer's, Strongbow, Kopparburg - I love it all. It's like apple juice with an adult-friendly kick.

2. Theater. I didn't realize how much I missed culture until I found it again. We saw The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which is hilarious. Three American men, who I am almost certain had their start in improv, in tights, striped socks, Converse high-tops, and a plethora of wigs, props, and capes, performing 37 works in 97 minutes. Unfortunately for me, the Cambridge Shakespeare festival starts today. Missed Hamlet in England by 12 hours.

3. Queues. They're indicative of a greater culture of politeness that is sorely lacking here in Jordan. We tried to hail a cab in the rain 100 yards in front of the taxi line (the Jordanian way), and they wouldn't stop because that would ruin the system of taxi stands. People bump into others and apologize. The attendant at the tube ticket line was nice enough to explain how I could save three pounds with a day ticket instead of the two individual ones I asked to buy. Such craziness would never happen here in Jordan - it's hard enough to get a cab driver to take the fastest route and then give you all your change. Stereotypes about the coldness of the Brits aside, the proper English manners are alive and well.

4. Conor. That's right, my favorite band happened to be playing two shows in London while I was there, and I got to spend my Independence Day watching one of them. Yes!

5. The Tour de France started in London on Saturday, right next to Claire's hotel (she was nice enough to give me a free bed and company for the weekend), so I watched the start of the world's largest sporting event. That was neat. Crowded though, and because of security concerns, there were no garbage cans (rubbish bins, to use the parlance of the region) on the streets. Fortunately, I'm used to that.

6. The food - Ha! Not so much. But the Indian and Thai was good, but not so much on the pub food. Except the desserts - no knaffa to be had in London, just plenty of custard.

7. Museums. There was a Dali in Film exhibit at the Tate Modern with 100 some-odd works, including the Persistence of Memory and Apparatus with Hand, two of my favorites. Also interesting, but not so artsy, was a section on Global Cities - for the first time in history, more people live in urban areas than rural ones, and the exhibit looked at how various metropolitan areas are dealing with unprecedented growth. Lots of frightening statistics - 20% of people in Johannesburg, South Africa have no income. Great photographs as well. The Imperial War Museum was also amazing - an exhibit on genocide, the Holocaust, covert warfare in British history, and great exhibits on WWI and WWII - particularly interesting from the British perspective, since I'm used to a mere paragraph for the bombing of London and rooms dedicated to the atomic bombings. Two interactive blitz and trench experiences, complete with accurate smells, were also fascinating.

8. England banned smoking indoors as of July 1. Yes.

Even though you can't walk on the grass at Cambridge and the pound is the world's strongest currency ($10 for a pint?!), I'm learning to love England. Only one real issue though - the CCTVs everywhere. Signs on every building, corner, monument, tube stop warning you that you're being watched. An amusing irony from the country that gave the world George Orwell and 1984.

But now, I'm back in Amman, out of the rain, and preparing to start another month of GRE class, journalism, and slaving for the upper class. Back in the states 21 August!

Barack '08!

1 comment:

Nick said...

I'm a bit intrigued by those CCTVs. There's been talk of installing red-light cameras in Orlando, but apparently the city government is letting Apopka do a test run to see if there are any lawsuits over civil-rights violations. Personally, I don't think I have a right to privacy while driving a 3,000 pound piece of metal down a state road, but that's just me.

Anyway, I think I'd feel relatively safe in London with or without CCTV's, mainly because guns are so rare. That'd be nice in Orlando too.