Whenever you travel to a new place, there are differences in the way people live there, especially when you’re in a different country. The road systems are different, the convenience store chains carry different products, and people behave differently. Different, different, different. But just because it’s not the same as what you’ve grown up with doesn’t mean this new place is bad. There are going to be aspects of this new place that you like and don’t like.
London took a bit of time to get used to, but after about a week, I got the hang of using the tube and stopped smiling at people I made eye contact with. There are a couple things I absolutely hated about London, like the distant demeanor people had in general.
I understand why nobody says hi to random people they pass on the street—there are just way too many people in London. It would get exhausting. But I come from a small town of 1200 people. I graduated high school with 53 other students. I’m not fond of terribly small towns, but I do like the small-town attitude. While walking five blocks to the state fairgrounds, you say good morning to the people sitting in lawn chairs, waving canes, trying to encourage cars to park in their yard for $10. In London, you probably wouldn’t even spare this person a glance. When I first arrived, I tried to make small talk and funny comments to people I met, whether they were working and I was buying something or if I was sitting next to someone on the tube. If they weren’t tourists themselves, the people normally didn’t take too kindly to me talking to them. I wouldn’t get glares per say, just disgruntled looks.
I also didn’t like how loud the city was. The noise would never stop. During the day, cars zipped by and honked their horns at inattentive pedestrians. When I woke up at four a.m., people would still be walking by our hostel window, talking about the bar they just came from and motorcycles would rumble on by every 15 minutes. You couldn’t even escape the noise underground. The tube is insanely loud, clattering down the tracks. The halls echo with the screeches of metal on metal as the train you just jumped off of pulls out of the station. When I got back home, I heard cicadas for the first time in three weeks and almost cried from happiness. There’s just something so peaceful about falling asleep to the sound of bullfrogs and crickets.
Along with constant unpleasant noise, London was also home to inconsiderate smokers. Brits are much more tolerant of smoking then we Americans are. We may have high rates of childhood obesity, but they are a society of lung-cancer patients. You’d be walking around, enjoying a brisk London evening, and then somebody in front of you would light a cigarette. Or you’d walk by a restaurant and there’d be a pack of smokers leaning against the building. Walking through clouds of cigarette smoke every day gets really disgusting, really fast.
London wasn’t all bad, though. There are some really amazing things about the city. Like the tube. Yes, it’s almost unbearably loud and also hot and humid all the time, but it is so fast and easy to use. London was never designed to be as big of a city as it is, so the roads are just absolutely bonkers and confusing to navigate. The tube doesn’t have to worry about any of that since it’s underground. I wish Minneapolis had a subway system like London does.
Another thing I loved about London was the endless entertainment. There was always something to do in London, no matter the time of day. You want to go spend a day walking around Hyde Park? Go for it—you could walk for eight hours and not see it all, it’s so big. You want to look at art? The hardest decision you’ll make all day is which free museum to go to. What if you want to go out and party? There are bars all over the city—there’s even a bar made entirely of ice. You make a reservation for an hour, and the staff gives you a fur coat while you’re there.
I’ll also miss being surrounded by tons of different cultures. I loved walking around and hearing people speaking French, Italian, English, and Indian in just one block. You could eat a traditional English breakfast with baked beans and eggs, then go next door and have Chinese for lunch. If you wanted Indian for dinner, look no further, because that’s right next to the Chinese place. A couple friends and I went to the Wallace Collection, a huge building that houses an equally huge stockpile of art. While we were there, we talked to one of the staff members there, Gualtiero. He told us he was Italian by birth, grew up in South America, and moved to London. Gualtiero is a perfect example of how multi-cultural London is.
There are plenty of things about London that I was happy to leave behind at liftoff. But I can’t lie to myself and say I won’t miss the convenient transportation, the beautiful parks, and the different cultures everywhere you go.
As our trip has quickly come to a close, I am a jumble of emotions. I cannot wait to get home and see my family and friends, but at the same time I already miss London. Just so you all know, we’re only about halfway through our flight on the way back to the United States, so there’s that. Talk about separation issues.
Anyways, this is the hardest blog for me to write. I have been staring at my screen for the past hour or so trying to decide what I want to talk about, there’s just much I’ve learned over the past few weeks. I’m pretty sure the question I’ll be asked the most is going to be, what was your favorite part? I honestly have no idea. So, I decided to write about what I will miss most about London:
I could go on and on about all the things I love about London, but I have a word limit. Also, it would probably be never ending and no one has that kind of time. So, I just picked my top three. Well London, It’s been real, it’s been fun and it’s definitely been real fun.
Until next time,
Comedies, histories, tragedies you name it- Shakespeare has written a play about it. Although, you might not even be able to tell which type of genre you are reading because of the ever so confusing Kings English he wrote in. Of course they have “No Fear Shakespeare” websites and learning tools to help you break down the message Shakespeare was trying to get across but sometimes you’re still left dazed and confused. Mainly you just get bored, put down the book and look up the summary on sparknotes.com so you don’t fail your high school English class. What you really should have done in high school was go see the plays at the Shakespeare’s Globe in London (if you could afford an international plane ticket every time you had a paper or presentation due). When you see the plays happening literally feet away from your face, you become encompassed in the obnoxious renaissance music, overly dramatic acting, and beautifully written timeless dialogue. Take it from me; I’ve been to two of these plays at Shakespeare’s Globe… basically an expert by now.
On July 28th we saw the comedy Measure For Measure at the Globe Theater, which was surprisingly hilarious. I went into the theater thinking it would be just like those dreaded novels we were forced to read in high school and I would not understand a word they were saying but I actually followed the entire play (besides the few times I had to ask my professor which character was which in disguise). The excitement of watching it live and feeling as if you are a part of the play helps you to understand Shakespeare’s writing better than the books ever could. Also, the on-stage fights and slight nudity made the three-hour play fly by, even though you were standing on your feet the entire time.
Shakespeare was interested in royal power throughout his history plays, especially in Richard II. This was the second play we saw on August 9th and the performance was a bit different and harder to follow along because there was more talking than action. Although this play was not as entertaining, the performance was very beneficial to my project on religion and the arts because of the theme of monarchy vs. religion. According to Richard II and his followers, kings inherit the crowd directly from their fathers and they have the right to rule because they are “God’s representatives on earth”. This caused a religious controversy on whether the king’s right to rule should be directly passed down to him or rather than a privilege he should earn. Power and monarchy are two continuous themes throughout the play.
Overall, the history play was not as entertaining for me as the comedy, which I expected, but I would highly recommend seeing both. Even just to see the change in scenery on stage or the different authentic, girly costumes the men actors have to wear is worth your trip to Shakespeare’s Globe.
As Americans, we’re all pretty used to seeing people in electric wheelchairs buzzing around the supermarket getting groceries or zipping down the sidewalk. We often wonder what happened and stare a bit, but most of us try to help them out if they’re struggling with something or make room for them as they go about their daily business. There are laws dictating that buildings need to have handicapped parking spaces near the entrances, ramps to doors, and elevators to every floor. American society generally makes an effort to accommodate the disabled, and we’re encouraged to integrate any disabled person into society as much as possible.
Since arriving in London, I’ve seen one disabled person. An older man in an electric wheelchair was crossing the street near our hostel. There are a lot of crosswalks that have platforms in the middle you can dash to since people here make jaywalking a second job. They’re not normally very wide—just small, two-feet-wide strips of concrete. This man had to go around the middle platform because his wheelchair wouldn’t have been able to drive up the ramp, turn, and drive down the other ramp (they weren’t directly across from each other).
All the sidewalks here are made of small slabs of concrete, about a square foot. Trees are planted along the edges of many of the sidewalks, and their roots grow out, causing the slabs to buckle and break. Able-bodied people have trouble with the sidewalks, let alone someone with a walker or wheelchair. The sidewalks are also very narrow at times and always crowded. Brits are also quite impatient and always get annoyed when others block their way on the sidewalk.
There are signs next to escalators in the Underground that say to “Stand on the right.” Anyone in a rush will walk or run up and down the left side. There isn’t even this semblance of order on the sidewalks—everyone darts about, weaving in and out of the crowds, stopping short when a slow person blocks the way. Everyone breathes down this person’s neck until they move aside or a space opens up. Then they quickly dart around and give a disgruntled snort. I’m not sure someone using a wheelchair or walker would be given much more courtesy than this while traveling down the sidewalk. There are just so many people.
The Underground is just as crowded as the sidewalks. While most stations have elevators that take people down to the platform, a disable person would have trouble getting on the train without help from someone else. There’s a three inch gap between the platform and the train and most of the time, it’s a step up.
If disabled people don’t normally use the Underground or walk on the sidewalks, how do they get around? There can’t be no disabled people in London. It makes me wonder if they stay in small communities that are more convenient for them, with aids to help them complete daily tasks if needed. Maybe they only take trips out of their neighborhood if absolutely necessary.
This just seems so foreign to me (as well it should be—this is London). We have a different mindset in America. Our cities are also newer than almost anything in London, too. We were able to plan the layout of roads, and the lack of historic buildings in most places makes for easy demolition of outdated structures. In places that weren’t previously handicap accessible, we can make accommodations, like smooth sidewalks and buildings with ramps and elevators. London was never planned like any American city—it’s just grown haphazardly around and over the square mile of the original Roman city. There could be protected historic buildings on every city block, from many different time periods. As a newer nation, we Americans have the ability to meet more transportation needs of the physically handicapped.
Graffiti? No, that’s for gangs. Street art? You mean the billboards on the highway, right? This is just an example of what you would hear Americans say if you told them you went on a walking tour to view street art and graffiti.
However, London’s east side is covered in street art. Not that these buildings need to be covered up because they aren’t “pretty” but it shows how wonderful and creative its citizens are!
Banksy, the poster man for street art is extremely popular and made himself a name by painting controversial art, or even art that made you think right there in the moment. Many people just want an outlet, and I find that in this world we tend to shut down creative minds and make them conform to the rest of society.
While street art is illegal, you can see that it doesn’t stop many. The tragic beauty of this is that you can paint something one day, and come back the next, and a new painting from someone else will be over yours. Art is constantly changing itself, and a person walking down the streets are constantly exposed to a different view, or one of your paintings. I find that to be fascinating.
So for all of you non believers out there, Google Bansky and take a minute to write down your first reaction. Then, of course if you can, walk down the streets of East London and expand your mind!
It was a morning just like any other in our tightly packed hostel room. The sun was shining through our thick pane windows, various ringing of alarm clocks traveled swiftly intertwined with the chilly breeze of the London morning air. I opened my eyes to see what today’s weather had in store for me, and that was when I was meet with an unfortunate start of the day. One of my eyes wouldn’t open. I put my hand up to my eye to pry it open, and knew that this day was meant for disaster.
I ran to the sink and stared in fear as I saw one of my eyes swollen shut. As I flushed it with water over and over, I knew that it was time to resort to the famous free health care Britain has in place. I went up to my professor, and told him the news. We found a clinic near by, and I travelled there with only seeing out of one eye!
Knowing that the health care was available to anyone because it is publically funded, walking into a British clinic was much like walking into a clinic at home. Beige white walls, hand sanitizer on the walls, and posters that are advertising screenings and what not, I then went to the receptionist and he could tell I had no idea what I was doing. Do I just walk up to him and demand my free health care? Do I tell him what my symptoms are? Do I tell him I’m from America and I usually only get care if I fan myself with money and an insurance card? No, my American accent and one-eyed stare probably got that whole “foreigner/ American” vibe across. While he was getting the paperwork for me to fill out, I noticed that there was a sign that said what they cover, and what they don’t. Thankfully, my eye fit under the “we can do that” column.
I turned in the paper work that asked my name and my symptoms, and sat in the lobby waiting with the rest of the patients.
I was called back, and went straight to the doctor, no nurse or anything! It felt a bit premature. All he knew about me was what the paper work and I told him it was possible pink eye. He did about a 5-minute exam, and determined it was indeed pink eye, only he said the medical name for it. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics told me to go to Boots, which is like a British version of Walgreens, and fill my prescription.
On the back of the prescription you could see all the qualifications someone needed to receive free prescriptions, I laughed as I thought of what would happen if America did the same thing. It would be extremely controversial! But over here, everyone pretty much agrees that free health care should be a right, what should be covered by the taxpayer’s money is a little different!
Many of our stops in the travel study were to museums, and as you can imagine, museums have tourist oozing out of the doors. Finding our way in and out of the mobs of people, our group finally arrived inside of the British Museum. If you are unfamiliar with this museum, it holds some of the worlds most treasured and sought after artifacts. You can find anything from money from 4000 years ago, to statues made by the Romans.
With my area of focus being race issues, I decide to go into the exhibit they have for Africa. The museum had a whole floor dedicated to Africa’s history, and some African customs. As I am looking around and taking notes, I see a lot of people making their way to the other side of the room, my curiosity kicks in and tells me to follow. What I see is a metal-looking tree sculpture. What’s the big deal? As I read on, I learned that the tree was made out of parts of machine guns. I looked up to it again in amazement because I have never seen a machine gun outside of TV and movies, let alone seeing all the parts.
As I read on, I found out that an organization in Mozambique called Transforming Arms into Tools (TAE) had an idea to help find peace after the civil war. Because they wanted to put the violence behind them, the people of Mozambique decided to bury all the guns under ground. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, the people of TAE wanted to have people dig up some of those guns in exchange for bicycles, sewing machines, and so on. TAE would then take them apart, and make it into the “Tree of Life.” This represented peace, hope, and a new beginning for the people of Mozambique.
I found it to be wonderful that the people of Mozambique took something so dark like the civil war, and turned it into something beautiful. Not only did it make the country safer by eliminating all those hidden weapons, but they found a new meaning of their country through the war.
In London, not only can you find black taxis, 500-year-old buildings, and loads of pubs- you can also find an enormous amount of stairs. It’s hard to find lifts (elevators) anywhere, and if you do find one, they have a sign that says to keep them open for the disabled. In the States, we usually see the stairs on the way to the elevator and perhaps walk faster towards the elevator in order to avoid the guilt of not using them. For Londoners, many take the stairs and escalator without question. For Americans, this is a killer on the quads.
There is one place in London that holds the record for the most stairs. I’m not exactly sure if that statement is true, but it surely puts your local gym’s stair master to shame. That first place winner is no other than St. Paul’s Cathedral. While St. Paul’s is absolutely breath taking, it is also very old (last renovation dating back to the 1660’s.) Which means there was no wiring for anything of the sort to put in an elevator, so a person could find stairs leading all the way to the top of the Cathedral dome. That’s exactly what we did! We first started by climbing up to the Whispering Gallery, 257 steps, which is roughly, 100 feet high. There we were on those steps, huffin’ and puffin’ only to be in awe of what we saw. Extremely detailed artwork and architect work, enough to make you stand still and try to focus in on every detail, and make you feel so small.
The next stop, if you had the courage, was the Stone Gallery, 376 steps up, and about 170 feet high. These stairs were a tad more intimidating. Also, just a tip, if you’re anything like me and think just because you conquered 257 steps already that you can do anything… save yourself the trouble and don’t get cocky, because within the first staircase you were put in back in your place. The employees working there warned people that the staircases were narrow, but goodness, you were in a beige concrete tunnel-like staircase that was shoulder width, and about 6 feet high!
The stairs finally opened up, and in the distance I could see a glimmering light of hope- a small bench. After I caught my breath, I finally arrived at the Stone Gallery where the city of London was handed to me on a silver platter. I could see all of London, all the skyscrapers, the London eye, Thames River, and every ancient building in-between. And, of course there was an option to go even higher. I got a little cocky, Only 152 more steps!? Watch out London, I’m coming up.
My stomach dropped immediately as I gazed upon the stairs. Climbing up made my legs and hands tremble, cold sweats blocked my vision, and I could feel my thick hair suctioned to my sweaty face. I had no control. For it was the spiral steps that were big enough to only fit my toes and the ball of my foot that set my fight or flight response in a frenzy. The see-through cast iron stairs didn’t do much for my crippling anxiety either. I look down and see my death! I look up and I see how far I have left.
I think that picture captured my pain.
So, lessons to be learned- great difficulties lead to unbelievable rewards, and also, don’t under estimate the quality of stretching.
While in London I decided to spice up my trip a little. I inquired to the Rihel lab of University College London and accepted an invitation to work with Dr. Sabine Reichert, and Ph.D students Ida and Marcus. In lab I have been doing research on zebra fish sleep/wake cycles, studying behaviors and injecting embryos.
Although this trip is an English class on British cultural class, originally joined the class so I could travel. I have never left the country previously, so what better than to go with a bunch of people group and not knowing a single person! If you ask my mother she would tell you I am crazy. All in all, I am having an amazing time and have made life long friends and am currently living in a culture very different from Winona, Minnesota. Cars drive on the left side, using the tube for transportation, and the six hour time difference. (Still has not fully sunk in).
In the Rihel lab, we use zebra fish as model organisms because their circuitry is very similar to ours making them ideal for studying sleep and wake cycles. In the lab, I have been rotating to various projects trying to see as much as I can. So far it has been an amazing experience filled with lots of knowledge. Mean time, I am just trying to soak up as much information that I can.
In a brief summary of what I am doing in lab……
We are trying to create a new genetic line of fish by targeted genome editing with CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR/Cas9 is used for targeting genome editing to create mutations in the fish. This week we injected the RNA and CRISPR solution into one-stage cell into the zebra fish embryo. The CRISPR will chop up the current double stranded DNA and leave tails so that the RNA will add a different complimentary sequence, ultimately creating a mutation in the genome. We were able to detect a mutation in the DNA with the use of high resolution melt analysis. If the high resolution analysis detects genome editing we will then repeat the injections to test consistency. If there is a mutation again we will then raise up the first generation of fish making it more efficient so injections won’t have to be repeated every time you want a mutated genome. Instead you can set up mating’s and use their embryos for more experiments. In this experiment the goal is to test sleep-wake cycles all with the hopes finding a preventive medicine for insomnia.
With the use of square 96 welled plate, we are able to look at the different movements and behaviors of each fish. A 96 welled plate is where we can put the fish into the wells to monitor each fish’s sleep and wake cycles. Zebra fish are able to soak up applied drugs through their skin making it very effective in targeting all cells. This technique will be helpful in finding what types of drugs prevent and induce sleep.
Dr. Sabine is whom I have mainly been working with in the lab. We have done PCR (polymerase chain reaction) which is used to amplify certain copies of a piece of DNA in a sequence. We have also done a lot of work with in situ hybridization where we insert the correct RNA probe which has a sequence where it can only bind to a specific size and sequence on the DNA strand. By making this reaction occur at a certain temperature, it will make it more favorable for central dogma (DNA—RNA—Protein) to occur. We have also done work with 5-day old embryos by “dissecting the brains”, which is when you remove the skull, jaw, ear, and skin surrounding the brain so the in situ probe can better target the brain. An in situ probe is a technique that allows the sites of expression of particular genes to be detected. The probes target specific mRNA sequences in morphologically preserved tissue or cell preparations by hybridizing the complementary strand of a nucleotide. Dissecting the tissues around the brain it is beneficial so the probe can better reach the desired area in the brain.
Despite all of this research, I have still had time to bond with my classmates. Although they joke…. “Watch out for Mandie, at night she will take your hair samples make zebra fish/human”!
In all reality is completely ridiculous because….
Never once in my life was I think I’d ever find myself pressed so tightly into a mass of people that my group and I actually had to hold on to hold onto each other’s backpack straps so we didn’t separate and completely lose one another. We were pressing through a tightly packed mass of people all congregating for the Brixton Splash, like four lost peas trying to navigate their way out of a treacherous and compacted bowl of spaghetti (because that’s definitely how people eat their spaghetti). With a new found sense of claustrophobia causing my anxiety to skyrocket, I immediately wished to leave. Though this was hardly an example of your usual urban environment, it made me long for the countryside.
Not more than a few days ago, we had taken a tour to Bathe and Stonehenge, a far cry from the packed streets of London. In Bathe, sidewalks were open, and it wasn’t more than a few minutes walk to one of the most peaceful and mesmerizing parks I’d ever been to. All around me, I could see an open field on the horizon, somewhere that invited me to hike, or have a picnic, or breathe (something I found next to impossible whilst attempting to get to the Splash! … Just Kidding).
It may sound like I’ve got some kind of distaste for the city, but I certainly don’t! The city of London itself had a lot to offer! It had the Tower of London, The Wallace Collection, The Wellcome Collection and many other unique places of the sort, but the countryside had and unending supply of curiosity, there was always another hill to go over or bluff to climb. In the city, if you wanted a map, you could find one. In the countryside, you almost had to forge your own. The clutter of people and noise that tend to barrage the senses at all hours really put proof behind the idea that the city never sleeps. While I loved exploring the different parts of London as the massive, lively, diverse city that it is, the countryside, where there we no mobs or masses outside of the more touristy areas, felt like a pleasant, well deserved nap.