Day 3’s orientation sessions were far more enjoyable and entertaining than their predecessors. I think this is largely because all the people who presented on Day 3 were Englishmen with great senses of humor, from the internship director to a local police sergeant.
We talked briefly about traveling through England, how we were finding the tube, and if we’d ventured the London night busses yet. My favorite part of this conversation was the discovery Londoners, to distinguish the tube trains from the above-ground trains, call above-ground trains “choo trains.” I think this is the most adorable term in the world, and I now plan on traveling on one of the “choo trains” just so I can tell everyone I rode a “choo train.” CHOO CHOO! So cute.
Of course we also discussed what to do in emergencies here in London, whether on the subway or in the narrow stairwells of the CAPA centers. While most of it was quite serious, given the relatively recent underground bombings and last year’s riots, our English program director did point out that we, as Americans, are 7% more likely to survive a disaster in London given the locals’ strong “queuing” tendencies. It really is quite true. They may not have any concept of personal space on the tube, but they certainly hold strongly to the traditional principles of a line. No “indian switching” in line for the drinking fountain in London!
Other winning quotes of the day included, “Our hearts stop beating if we don’t have our tea,” and, “If you’re lacking conversation topics with locals, go in and have a good moan about the weather. We love to have ourselves a good moan.” According to our internship director, English people are dying of heatstroke if the temperature climbs over 55 degrees, they are suffering of hypothermia if it drops below 55 degrees, and they go in search of a different thermometer if ever the red line lands just at 55.
Our talk with the police sergeant also proved quite interesting. He told us a story of two American students who were “getting to know one another better” in a flat’s kitchen one late night and decided to climb out the kitchen window to a platform there so they could look at the stars. The boy involved was gentlemanly enough and helped his girlfriend up out the window first. Unfortunately, there was a four-foot gap between the window and the platform, and the girlfriend fell four stories down to the flat’s basement. While she survived and went on with her life, the officer asked us to take three things away from his tale: 1. Romance is overrated, 2. Always let the ladies go first, and 3. People are really stupid. It was quite informative, I thought.
Something else the witty officer taught us: pepper spray is banned in the United Kingdom. Did you know that? The spray is considered a firearm here and, if caught with it, an offender faces up to five years in English prison. On the subject of firearms, the police in London carry none. Some in particular points of interest are armed with heavy-duty assault rifles, but the others only carry with them their biting sarcasm and traditional batons.
After my day in classes, I decided it was time to brave the London markets. Here, people do not say, “Excuse me.” Not ever. I have yet to hear it. Instead, they plow into whoever is in their way and accompany the motion with a “sorry” as though it was not premeditated. And the ones who just got plowed accept this as another part of life! I have yet to be plowed, but I don’t think I’ll be abandoning my “excuse me” and waiting habit any time soon.
I left the market with shampoo, peanut butter for lunch sandwiches, and a cookie my fried nerves felt they needed. They did. It was a delectable cookie.
Highlight of Day 3: Being asked directions by a tourist. I was mistaken for a Londoner! I answered, “Sorry, I’m not sure,” but I did so in a convincing British accent so as not to blow my cover. And then I ran around the corner and squealed with glee.
Other top moments included the “Baby On Board” underground-issued pin on a pregnant woman’s belly to let other passengers know she needed priority seating, the mini-versions of American magazines that would fit better in bags on the tube, and a police officer setting the example for hydration in the blazing heat by guzzling a bottle of Coke and wearing its remains in the holster on his belt.
I returned home from my big city day to find my host-mother’s daughter Natausha (Tash) and her son Ezra over for a visit. Tash is amazing and meeting her has been one of my favorite London experiences to date. She said she loved my American accent, something I’ve never before heard, and we had a good little chat before she went out for the evening. Having Tash around since I’ve been here has made me feel so much more at-home. I miss my amazing older sisters in the States a great deal, and, while it could never be the same, it’s like I have a little piece of them here with me. Only Tash has an English accent.
Friday night led me into my first night out in the big city! I met a friend at Leicester Square in the heart of London, where we essentially found the Times Square of London. After taking an appropriately immature tour of the massive M&M store in the middle of the square, we went down some side alleys and found the most amazing pubs. Our first stop was the All Bar One just outside of Leister Square. I grabbed another wheat beer and headed outside with my friend, Paige, to enjoy .It just happened that, as soon as we got out, there were three adorable Swiss men struggling with the concept of self-portraits on an iPhone. It’s certainly a good thing I was there to lend a hand!
Needless to say, we finished our beers together and then made our ways around the area to different locations. I suppose you could call it a bit of a pub crawl. Two of the men had relocated to London from Switzerland, while the third was just visiting for the weekend. We learned some Swiss German and exchanged musical taste casually. I think I had them believing I was a normal person until I found a cat in one of the pubs where we were stopped. In mid-conversation, I decided to run around the pub to play with this adorable orange tiger cat. Unfortunately, the cat got loose and ran down a back alley. I was first in the line to catch her, the adorable Swiss boy behind me, and the pub owner behind him. We eventually caught the cat and the pub owner let me hold her for a bit as a thank you for rescuing her from the London streets.
So, for my first night out, I found cute boys who bought me beer and took a healthy interest in the local felines with me. I do believe this is everything I’ve ever wanted in life. I Skyped my parents when I returned home, as it was still early for them, and went to bed with a huge smile on my face.