Yes, it’s still Lovecraft’s poem. God that man was hilarious.
Before this past week I had never flown before. My preferred method of describing the experience now is that it is like a roller coaster that turns into a bus ride after the first five minutes and then it keeps going for seven and a half hours. Unless, of course, there is a delay due to light snow and the bus ride lasts for eight hours. And then you arrive at Heathrow after midnight and your cab you reserved has left and so you have to spend an arm and a leg on a black cab to take you to your house. Well.
I have arrived safe and sound in foggy (or as it happens snowy) Londontowne. I’m sure you’ll forgive me for missing yet another Friday, as I was out in Kensington all day for completely useless orientations. That may sound petulant on my part but I mean it, they were pretty useless — my college is working in conjunction with an international education organization which provides its own dorms for students. However, each program is also tailored specifically to the wishes of each college, and my college in particular wanted us to stay with English host families rather than in dorms. It was made so.
Most of the orientations, then, turned out to be about how to live in the dorms, deal with neighbors, and so on. There was also a bit on our eventual internships, which start in about seven weeks, and how we will have to travel; we were warned quite solemnly that we could expect a daily commute of up to 45 minutes, which I suppose might be somewhat harrowing for all the students living in the dorms, but the entire group from my school has to take a commute of 45 minutes or more just to get to the damn classrooms, so it wasn’t exactly a productive evening for us.
Don’t misinterpret that as me not liking the host family situation. I’m actually enjoying myself so far — the family is very pleasant, and there are plenty of interesting shops nearby. Of everyone in our school’s group, my roommate and I actually have the shortest commute into Kensington for class (we’re the lucky 45-minute bastards) and while that’s pretty cool, it also means we have to work a little bit to meet up with the other people we know. Our first attempt at this was last night, when we all went out for drinks at a pub, and while the journey in was okay, on the journey back we ended up on the wrong bus line and rode in the completely wrong direction for a while before finally getting turned around and falling into bed at about 1:00 this morning.
Then we woke up at 8 today and, because it was Saturday and the tubes were running slowly due to weekend travel/closings we had to run about four blocks to catch a tour bus we were scheduled for.
The tour itself was neat enough; we briefly stopped by all the famous monuments, took some pictures, and nearly froze to death.
That strikes me as a good transition for talking about my strongest first impression of this city: the snow. There is not normally snow here, which is not a fact I was previously aware of, but which I have been informed ceaselessly since I arrived. An English friend of mine who I’ve known for a few years asked me: “Do you like how we all panic and flap our hands like girls when snow happens?”
Not only does this accurately describe the situation, I do in fact like it, in a weird way. I come from the Midwest, where we have horrific winters pretty regularly. I can remember missing more or less a month of school due to a sort of blizzard, and then a week (or a week and a half) one winter where the powerlines were so weighed down with ice they snapped. We regularly have subzero temperatures in Fahrenheit. So when I showed up with people completely freaking out about how this was the COLDEST WINTER IN 30 YEARS and it was ZERO DEGREES (in Celsius, these chumps!) I thought it was pretty hysterical.
During my first evening in, the snow came, and pretty much all hell broke loose. The tube was off schedule, buses were off schedule, people were having snowball fights in the street (and while walking past the hospital, I saw the paramedics were having a snowball fight in the ambulance dock). On the news that night some field reporter was completely freaking out over how much ice was on the pavement, then proceeded to stomp around on the few pitiful, brittle flakes of ice under her feet.
There is, of course, a downside to this. Since people here are so unused to snow, they’re actually very unprepared for it — meaning, basically, that people don’t know how to shovel their fucking sidewalks, or put salt or sand down. They simply don’t have the capacity for it, they don’t have the materials and the thought never occurs to them. This has ensured that, outside of central London where all the snow is spirited away municipally, the pavements have degenerated into horrible inch-thick sheets of ice and packed snow that are murderously slick.
Today, especially, has been a rather bad day to be out. It’s only about 30 F, which is of course a horrible shock to the Londoners, but the wind chill is ungodly; added to that, it was snowing last time I was out and for all I know it may still be going. What I am getting at, I guess, is that if the weather doesn’t clear up soon then I will be stuck in an unfamiliar city with a couple million people dealing with an unfamiliar weather situation and we will probably all die screaming before the month is out.
That seems to be enough for a first damage report, so I’ll cut myself off here. Classes start Monday; if I have time on Friday, I’ll write up my impressions of that, plus anything I’ve skipped over here. Also I don’t blog frequently enough to link every new thing I find to be awesome, and I know it’s already been all over the internet, but I cannot recommend Two Gentlemen of Lebowski enough.