The jet stream that makes the trip from San Francisco to Atlanta about an hour and a half shorter than the opposite trip affects flights across the Atlantic as well. I’ve never really noticed this phenomenon before because normally I sleep on these trans-Atlantic voyages. I don’t know if it was excitement mixed with a twinge of homesickness that kept me awake, or if it was simply being in the middle seat that did it to me, but I stayed awake for the whole seven hour flight (it seriously only takes seven hours). It was morning when I arrived in London (6:30 to be exact--two hours before I would normally wake up or 7 hours if I were stateside). I didn’t quite realize what a bad thing this was at the time.
I navigated the tube (I love the tube by the way--I love most public transportation, but seriously, the tube might be even better than the NYC subway system for going anywhere and everywhere you want to be) to the hostel that I booked about ten minutes before I left home. When I arrived at the desk, they told me that I couldn’t check in until 2 PM, but that I could leave my bag, so I set out on my first completely blind adventure of the trip. I found a Starbucks and a free map of stuff to do. The map navigated me to the National Gallery. The art was seriously amazing. The art was organized by century’s. So on one wing, you had Giotto and Cimabue while in another Turner and van Gogh clashed. There were about ten or so paintings that I had seen in books, that I just happened to walk into. Including the van Eyck’s Arnolfini whatever it's called, van Gogh’s Sunflower, and Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed. I lost track of time, but my body did not. I almost fell asleep on my feet a couple of times. Unfortunately it was only noon. I walked around London for another couple of hours and returned to my hostel at 2 to crash not knowing that a tube or something runs right by my window. Regardless, I was able to sleep about an hour.
I woke up and met one of my roommates, a Lithuanian girl who was interning at a hotel in advertising and hated her job. I began to feel self-conscious about my language skills as she spoke six languages fluently and routinely used words like cliché and chutzpah that she had no use knowing in her non native tongue. I went downstairs to the dining room and met some Danes who invited me to play Risk with them, since I was the only person with dice (thank you Settlers of Catan). They were pretty hilarious and pretty bad at Risk (after the first turn around the board everyone had a continent and about eight men total). They kept critiquing the game--Denmark is in Northern Europe in the game instead of Scandinavia--and my Risk skills, by saying that obviously I would beat them at a game based on war since I was American ( I did, probably because I am).
After the game I went to supermarket down the street from us, which is seriously almost the size of a Walmart Supercenter. I bought some sandwich fixings and some beer at the advice of the Danes. After dinner, one of the Danes bought some cards so that we could play drinking games. Suffice it to say that we did some damage, but they apparently held back since they had gone out the night before. We taught each other games (I learned an awesome version of ride the bus--get ready friends who know what I‘m talking about), but surprisingly the games were remarkably similar although the numbers meant something different in circle of death as the rhymes don’t quite translate the same.
My only overarching observation so far is that Americanization is alive and well. I’m writing this while listening to a local radio station which has already played REM and Rebecca Black’s Friday (it’s Thursday), and I’ve heard Justin Bieber mentioned at least ten times so far (granted he’s Canadian, but come on). Also, within two blocks of me, there is a KFC, a Starbucks, and several SCRE4M billboards--at least they picked out the highlights of our culture.
More to come.