23 December, 2011

Celebrating 100 rather than 40 for a change

I've just spotted that this is our 100th post.  I'd like to say that my delay in putting this up has been because I wanted to attach importance to our 100th, but that's not true.  As so often happens, I have been a bit stumped for ideas.  And then our first student of the spring semester arrived (yes, already!), and I had an idea!

I'm going to make comparisons:
  • Last year at this time we still had Fall 2010 students stranded at the ICLC due to adverse weather conditions at Heathrow.  The Fall '11 students mostly left 2 weeks ago.
  • 53 students just returned to America.  125 will shortly be arriving.
  • Last year's Doctor Who Christmas Special had Catherine Jenkins.  This year it has Bill Bailey.
  • Last spring we had one visiting faculty member from the home campus teaching at the ICLC.  This spring we have 3.
I'm going to state some little known facts:
  • Keith Moon is posthumously developing an interesting relationship with the ICLC.
  • Kenneth Branagh is the ICLC's bizarre watchman.
  • We aren't sure, but there's compelling evidence that Bill may live in the ICLC.
  • Jack Hrkach believes in Elsie.  So do the rest of the staff.
I'm going to dispense some advice:
  • If you can't carry it, you've packed too much luggage.
  • Toiletries are heavy.  Buy them when you get here.  Similarly, so are peanut butter and mac and cheese.  Eat like a native for a few months!
  • Make sure your money is in your checking, NOT your savings.  If you are drawing from an ATM you will not get a choice to take from your savings.
  • Keep up to date on what's happening here.  bbc.co.uk
Spring 2012, we'll see you soon!  Fall 2011, I hope you're missing us already!  Spring 2011, the sandwich press is safe!  Fall 2010, what were you doing at this time last year?


15 December, 2011

In with the New, in with the Old

Claire Mokrauer-Madden: Hello Bill!  It's nice to see you again and catch up.
Bill Sheasgreen: Yes, it's nice to see you again, too.  I always look forward to being interviewed by you. 
CMM: These are pretty effortless for you, aren't they?  I wanted to ask you a few questions about the end of the fall semester.  To begin generally, how do you think it went?
BS: Our cricket results aside, I think the semester went really well.  One particular highlight was last Tuesday.
CMM: Why was last Tuesday special?
BS: We took our photo of group 79 to immortalize them in the vast halls of the ICLC.
CMM: Do you mean in the stairway?
BS: Yes, that's the one!
CMM: I'm glad to hear that the group photo went well.  Was there something about this photo that made it special?
BS: Yes, quite independently of my efforts to establish an ICLC uniform, one has begun developing!  Though I prefer plaid to sequins, in light of waning support of my uniforms, I'll take what I can get.
CMM: Wow! I'm impressed that this may be coming together for you!  Can you tell me more about the new uniform idea?
BS: It's a celebration of color bringing together traditional Britain with the Spice Girls.
CMM: I'm not sure I follow you.  Are you saying that group 79 had a particular affinity for the Spice Girls?
BS: As I mentioned, this design developed independently from my plaid campaign.  But that's an avenue of research I would like to explore.  If this is what youth culture these days prefers as a uniform, then as a man of the people I can bend to the requests of the masses.
The overall trend seems to be winter coats, but there is a small contingency sporting the sequined uniform option.
CMM: By my math 3 of 52 is not quite 6%.  Is anything more that 5% the masses?
BS: Well, the plaid campaign is at 0%.
CMM: Getting back to the design itself, what can you tell me about the burgeoning motif?
BS: The union flag represents the students really embracing their time in London.  And the overall form looks back to Geri Halliwell, or Ginger Spice.  Usually I just call her Ger.
CMM: Letting your relationship with a Spice Girl lie for the time being, I see that you only have female representation of the uniform.  Will male students be wearing something similar?
BS: Similar themes, represented differently.  Notice that Ian models the uniform over his casual attire.  Having experimented with the short cut of the smock, this seems best.  The length is the modern reflection of Ger's dress and the hat and belt give it a medieval feel that may have been seen in the Hundred Years War.
Ian wears a sample, so unfortunately Sam, Clay, Will and Emilio could only model hoodies.
CMM: Bill, I'd like to thank you for this quick analysis of the successes of this semester.  Perhaps next time we can delve deeper into your friendship with Geri Halliwell.
BS: Delve all you want, she's in my bad books right next to McCartney.

14 December, 2011

Some Thoughts on Getting Ready

I hope you don't find this cheeky, but where I would normally write a new blog post about getting our incoming spring 2012 students thinking about money (accessing it abroad, forms to carry it, paying rent, etc.), I'm going to direct you to a blog post I wrote on this very subject last June by clicking here.

Instead, let's take a quick look at the pile of things on your mind right now.
  • I got my visa!/I haven't gotten my visa yet!/I have my student visitor letter!/I haven't gotten my student visitor letter yet!
As I think I start most of my emails, that's great news if you have your visa!  If you haven't already let us know that you have it, please email the London Center.  If your visa is a work in progress, there's no need to start sweating.  Let us know if you have any questions about the process.  Student visitors, if you should have a student visitor letter and don't yet, contact International Programs.  They should have everyone's letters.  These are only needed for students who are not getting visas and do not carry an EU passport.  If you are getting a visa you should not have this letter.
  • I've heard about my work placement (internship)!/I haven't heard about my work placement!
Some people know where they will be working some don't.  It's the nature of the beast.  Some sites take longer to get back to our coordinators than others.  Some students' fields of interest are difficult to find placements in.  All I can say is that our coordinators want to find the best fit they can based on the forms you filled out on our website.  And our best advice is to be open minded.  Placements are easier to find, and often provide more work for students to do, at smaller companies rather than large.  Placements are also harder and harder to come by in the current climate.  Unemployment seems to be spreading like plague.  Work placements are part of the cultural exchange of studying abroad, so even if the work isn't exactly what you had in mind, there is always something to be learned from every experience, even if the lesson is that this isn't the kind of work you want to do.  For the most part our students are happy in their placements, though, so again, please don't sweat this.
  • What do I pack?
Very good question, start with the practical aspects.  What is the luggage/weight limit of the airline?   Research this so that you aren't surprised by surcharges at the airport.  What's the weather like?  If you ask me, it's a cold winter here in London.  It's not a snowey Ithaca winter, but it's chilly and windy.  How much should I pack?  You're coming over for 4 months and will have the ability to do laundry, so don't weigh yourself down with your entire wardrobe.  Bring what you wear to class (aside from pajamas, no one really wears those out of the house in London like they do in college towns) and bring something appropriate for your work placement.  Bring comfortable shoes (some people swear by their rain boots, some say they were a waste of luggage space), most classes utilize London and don't spend the entire semester in the classroom.
  • When do I register for classes?
I promise that's a work in progress.  It is a very busy time in International Programs and Rachel will let everyone know as soon as she can.
  • Where will I live?
Bill has sent out details for a couple student housing options which can be prearranged (Foundation for International Education and Anglo American).  Please drop us an email if you would like more info about these options.  Another option is a home stay.  This means living in a family home somewhere in London.  You often have your own room, and depending on the arrangements this may or may not also include some meals.  As usual, email the London Center if you would like more information.  If you plan on flat hunting during orientation week start thinking about a housing group.  Some students have already started posting on our Facebook group, this is a great forum to get in touch with most of your spring 2012 ICLC classmates.
  • What am I forgetting?
If you would like an ISIC card, do this through OIP as the one you get in America before you arrive comes with insurance.  Plan your budget before you get here.  Rent is advertised by week but usually paid by month.  To figure out your monthly rent multiply the weekly amount by 52 (weeks) and then divide that by 12 (months).  Your deposit is also about 4-6 weeks more of rent (this should be returned to you at the end of your stay).  During fall 2011 our students' rent ranged from about £110-170 per person per week.  Familiarize yourself with the terms Council Tax and TV Licensing.  You are full time students so you are exempt from paying Council Tax, but YOU MUST APPLY FOR YOUR EXEMPTION.  Anywhere that has a television has to buy a tv license.  This fee keeps the BBC commercial free, and not paying can lead to a fine in excess of £1,000.  It can be paid monthly, or the landlord/estate agent may have already paid it.  It is important to know where you stand, because TV Licensing doesn't care if you plead ignorance.  You can't do these things before you arrive, but they may be foreign concepts, so we are raising awareness early.

This on top of finals, and probably loads more thoughts are circling in the developing whirlpool of your mind.  Please don't stress about any of it!  Stay aware of everything going on.  Read people's Facebook posts on our group page, read our emails, read the news.  We want you to find your feet in London as soon as you hit the ground.


PS- The fall 2011 group wishes you well in their new adopted city and sends this message to you:

12 December, 2011

Photo Competition, Fall 2011

So many study abroad students spend what seems like the whole semester with their camera in hand.  With an impressive turn out of entries into the ICLC Fall 2011 Photo Competition, students, faculty and staff voted on their favorite student photos in 3 catagories- people, landscape and architecture.  The winners were announced at the End of Term party and are now being published on our blog.  Congratulations to Gabby Napoli and Ian Crawford for their winning entries!
People- Canterbury Bobbies, October 2011, photo by Gabby Napoli

Landscape- Sunset at San Marco, Venice, October 2011, photo by Gabby Napoli

Architecture- Venetian Canal, October 2011, photo by Ian Crawford

09 December, 2011

Travel Writing Competition, Fall 2011

As ever, semesters come to an end, competitions are entered and competitions are won.  Fall 2011's winner has words of wisdom for anyone traveling the world, including bravery in the face of octopus.  Congratulations on winning the travel writing competition, Sara Gardner!  Here's Sara's essay, and if you like her wit and want more of where that came from, she's got a blog full of it: http://a-girl-abroad.blogspot.com/

As I lounged leisurely on the white sand with a cocktail in hand, the rays of the sun warming each of my pores, I pondered the things I had learned since being in Europe, the relationships I’ve gained and the meaning of life.
    …Okay. That’s not exactly true, although at one point I was on a beach with white sand and a balmy sun, however the closest thing to a cocktail would have been the bucket of nuts that a man was trying to peddle to everyone and their mother, and the only thing I was pondering was why ladies slightly past their prime really feel it necessary to sunbathe without a top on. But in all seriousness, I have had some enlightening and wonderful experiences while traveling abroad, and me being the kind and generous person that I am, will share a few of them with you.

1.    RyanAir: A Blessing and A Curse.
The prices of the flights are heavenly; when I saw that I could get a plane to Italy for a mere $24, I practically choked on my own spit. But, what ensues afterwards is like a cruel sitcom. You’re guaranteed to have to travel to one of the obscure London airports (my favorite is Luton… mismatched warehouses in the middle of nowhere? Perfect!) You can be sure that you’ll have to travel at the wee hours of the night when the tube is closed. After navigating the night busses and taking some sort of coach or train, you’ve arrived! False. Now try and make your way to the ticket counter, where you will need to wait with your already printed boarding pass to get a stamp on it and have your passport checked the first of three times, just to be sure. After edging your way through the security line (and being behind incompetent Sally who leaves her belt and five necklaces on going through the scanner) you arrive at the gate! This would be joyous, except for the fact that now everyone will passively aggressively try and inch their way to the front of the gate, in hopes that they will snag that illustrious perfect seat. Even after being on the flight, you’re bombarded with buy this, buy that, get a lotto ticket, pay for the loo, et cetera. But hey, it gets you there and back. And it was $24.

2.    When In Doubt, Gesture It Out.
There were two things I was always guaranteed of when traveling: one, that the country I’m going to will have their own language and two, I wouldn’t be able to speak it. Sadly, I don’t know a lick of any other language besides English… and American English, at that. Usually I can get some sort of a gist of what words are referring to or communicate by pointing and nodding, but when it came to ordering food, well… That’s when things get a bit iffy. For instance, in Spain I asked the waitress for “tap water.” She looked at me as if I had a big, oozing sore festering in the middle of my face. “I do not understand,” she says. I replied, “Water from the faucet? The sink?” I then proceeded to mime turning on a sink. My sore must have been pulsating, because I got more horrified looks of disgust and confusion. Then she made a gagging noise and gaped at me some more. I gave up with my tap water endeavor after this and said “bottle” and made some bottle motions. She looked skeptically at me and walked away. (I did receive a bottle of water, thankfully.)

3.    Just Go With It…
Things don’t always go as planned. Actually, most of the time they don’t go as planned. The only real option is to simply roll with the punches and the quirks of traveling. If someone asks you to hold their baby while they take a picture on top of the Eiffel Tower, just go with it. Hold that baby, and try not to be too sad when they ask for it back. If you’re sitting at a table and two guys who speak little to no English approach you and want to buy you roses, just go with it. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you’re acting so uncomfortable it prompts one of the men who can hardly speak English to ask, “Why can’t you just be normal?” Or when you order something called ‘mixed fish’ on a menu and receive a plate full of octopus tentacles with the suckers still on, just go with it. Pretend like it’s the best octopus tentacles you’ve eaten since last week, and secretly pawn them off on the people who are eating at the table with you because well, let’s face it, octopus tentacles are disgusting.

Sadly – or awesomely! – all of these experiences are my own and completely true. Although I’m not sitting at a beach with a cocktail in my hand and the sun beating down on me, I can’t help but to reflect on how amazing my experiences have been and how truly awkward I have acted in every single one of them. But each place I’ve traveled to and each culture I’ve been exposed to has helped me to grow more as a person and enabled me to gain an understanding of other cultures that I wouldn’t have been able to learn had I not been put in some of the situations that I have been in. It’s been a crazy, wonderful four months in Europe that I’ll never forget. I will also never forget that I’ve eaten an octopus. Ew.

01 December, 2011

40 Things We've Learned

Combining my need to quantify anything I can with the end of the semester, here are 40 things we have all learned this semester.

1. Austrian radio IS a gangster's paradise.
2. It's really hard to find things with the number 40 in them.
3. Charlton is having a great season.  Arsenal's is just ok.
4. How to handle a legal drinking age.  Hopefully.
5. We were lucky to survive another Antony Gormley statue that won't be at the Olympic Park.
6. Elsie isn't a person or a poltergeist, she's a chair.
7. The London Center is highly trustworthy.
8. One person can actually carry the big table in the common room.  The London Center needs to recruit more wrestlers.
9. Bill may secretly be on Marks & Spencer's advertising team.
10. Ask Jack to show you how he ties his scarf...
11. Bill can be as vague on Facebook as he is in real life.
12. Carry an umbrella, even if it's sunny.
13. Never forget your Tesco Clubcard.
14. Will the taxi coming down the road stop before it hits you? You can never tell...
15. It's not getting any easier to climb the Glastonbury Tor.
16. Playing cricket in the Common Room is a lot of fun!
17. Everything you need to know about Westminster and the City of London can be learned in 5 hours.
18. The London Center staff have limited space in their stomachs for Jaffa Cakes.
19. Can we get a dog next semester?
20. Taking the coach to Paris is a lot of fun, right?
21. Kenneth Brannagh is really good at knitting!  And knitting is cool.  Just like a fez.
22. The jumping in front of Stonehenge thing remains a mystery...
23. We'll never be able to kiss Oscar Wilde again!
24. Songs at football games are both humorous and rude.
25. 4 months is not long enough in London.
26. Will Jack make a surprise appearance to next August's Edinburgh Festival?
27. Bill is EXTREMELY miffed that no one wants to dance with him at a ceilidh.  He would have worn a kilt, too.
28. American Thanksgiving in London is possible.  Even on a Thursday.
29. This semester's quizzers are few but very good.
30. Probably only a few people read the book of the term.  Probably no more than 39.
31. Mudlarking could become a mandatory class excursion.
32. You can pick up and move a cow's reproductive tract!
33. A Christmas Story is capitalist and It's a Wonderful Life is socialist.  Are our leanings determined by which we prefer?
34. What's still the number one way our students try to stay in the UK?  Find a Brit with a charming accent and get married, of course!
35. Who can say no to some lovely, homemade baked goods?  Not our students, not our staff, and not the guys who come to look at our gutters.
36. Americans can sometimes put their foot in it by misunderstanding slang.
37. Did you think you knew how Hamlet ended?  Micheal Sheen may just do your head in...
38. Sainsbury's may be further away than Waitrose, but pounding the pavement can save you pounds (that you can spend on baked goods).
39. A good chocolate Hobnob will never go amiss.
40. London is wonderful!


30 November, 2011

Look Mom!

Dear Mom,

Guess what?  You never will, so I'll just tell you.  I made a blanket!

I had a lot of help, and I'm really proud of it.  The students, faculty and staff who knitted made some amazing squares, and I wish I could learn to knit the intricate patterns that appeared.  I'm taking a lot of credit for this blanket, and I should probably mention that I was there as more of a moral support than anything else.  I spent a lot of time asking for help, and a lot of people came through.  The problem is that I don't have opposable thumbs, which it turns out are vital to knitting.  How could I have know that before?  In real life my thumbs are fine, but in my current situation I can't move them.

Anyway, I thought I would just drop you a quick note to thank you for your help making the blanket and to show it off to you.  If it were possible, I would suggest you stick it to the fridge, but it's probably more important that we donate it the local shelter that we have planned to send it to.  Until we donate it, though, I'm going to use it to keep myself warm.


21 November, 2011

I'll take "The ICLC" for 800, Alex

THIS site has been a college, a palace and a military center.
THIS is one of the most windswept places we traveled to.

Jane Austen really wasn't that fond of living in THIS city.

THIS service station is one of the nicest we stopped at this semester.

Birds of prey misbehave for their trainers at THIS castle.
The city that THIS photo was taken in was burnt to the ground by French raiders in the early 16th century.  (Need I say more.)

15 November, 2011

The Spies Amongst Us

There is nothing covert about this spy operation.  Gone are the days of the cold war and McCarthyism.  We take our spy duties seriously and we hang our laundry out in the open.
Spy in the background, acting like she doesn't see her photo taken and her cover blown.

Thanksgiving is approaching, and even though it isn't really recognized in the UK, it's a break for IC students on the home campus, and often a time when significant others come to visit.  And that's when our spying goes into high gear.  When it comes down to it, we need to know, is he/she/it good enough for you?
An example of stealth photography.  No one knew they were being photographed!

Here are some sample conversations that your significant other might expect to have at the London Center:

Bill: When did you arrive in London?
Boyfriend: Last night.
BS: Where did you fly from?
BF: Montreal.
Verdict- good enough for you.

Sarah: How long are you visiting London?
Girlfriend: For 5 days.
SD: Have you ever been to London before?
GF: Yes!  I loved it!  That's why I want to come study here next year!
Verdict- good enough for you

Claire: What are you planning on doing while you're here?
Boyfriend: I really want to see Manchester United play.
Verdict- NOT good enough for you

Heather: Are you planning on seeing any theatre while you're in London?
    If... Girlfriend: Yes, I'm planning on waking up early tomorrow, taking advantage of my jet lag, and getting day tickets at the National Theatre.
Verdict- good enough for you
    If... GF: I think I only want to see The Mousetrap.  I'm not really that into theatre.
Verdict- NOT good enough for you
    If... GF: I will be doing my one one-woman performance of stage combat with samurai swords in the Common Room on Monday for your entertainment.
Verdict- TOTALLY good enough for you

In truth, we like a bit of gossip around 35 Harrington Gardens.  Don't think of it as spying or prying into your personal lives (the staff already does pretty well getting you all to give us gossip on each other), but a bit of unsound parenting to see you through your time abroad. 
This has to be gossip caught in action!

And if the situation is serious, Bill and Lee White (our Irish Lit lecturer) can perform wedding ceremonies.

11 November, 2011

Niche Market

Many people spend their lives thinking of the idea that's going to make them rich.  I've just had mine today.  And here I am giving it away for free.

Sometimes I receive emails that I'm not sure how to answer at first glance.  Even though it's a short walk away, my instinct is often to call Bill and see what he would say.  It doesn't matter that many times I disagree, what matters is that I know what Bill would say in my situation.  I don't know how important it is to say that these are work related emails that I'm referring to.  When my friend asks me if I want to go running this evening I don't bounce those off Bill.  Although after thinking through what I'm about to write, that may not be a bad idea in future.

My wealth generating business involves asking, what would Bill say?  I understand that this is not a completely unique idea to have others ask what another person would say, but I think this could be especially good if they are Bill's responses imagined by me.  That's the new ingredient to this tested recipe that I'm copyrighting today.  Here are some examples:

Q: Can I volunteer if I don't have a visa?
BS: My office needs cleaning.  You can volunteer to clean it.

Q: What should I do this Friday night?
BS: Go to a ceilidh (that's a Scottish dance to most of us) and dance with a man in a kilt.  I'll give you £5 if you do it.

Q: Where can get a cat?
BS: In my kitchen.  Or my garden.  Sometimes they can be skittish.

Q: How much is the football game on Saturday?
BS: £5 for the ticket.  Plus a booking fee of £10 to me, and £15 each to Sarah, Claire and Heather.

Q: Are Chelsea or Manchester United playing tonight?
BS: Does anyone care?
Q: Did you see Doctor Who last weekend?
BS: Doctor what?

Q: Is it too late to get onto the Paris trip?
BS: No.

If anyone has any questions that they would like me to guess how Bill would answer, send them my way!


09 November, 2011

The British and the Poppy

On the college trip to Paris last weekend, the first weekend in November, it was easy to spot English people as many wore an artificial poppy whereas the French did not. It was curious to reflect on why the French never adopted the custom as thousands of each country’s soldiers were slaughtered in the four and a quarter years of the First World War for what seems, retrospectively, the most inane of reasons.

The British have long had the custom of wearing a poppy in the week leading up to ‘Remembrance Day’, the 11th of November. You can’t go anywhere in central London without a volunteer poppy seller politely encouraging you to donate money and to wear a poppy in remembrance. Yet the poppy-free French suffered  much more than  the English during the war. The stalemated western front, defined by miles and miles of trenches from the Belgian to the Swiss borders, pockmarked with millions of shell holes and destroyed property was mostly in France. Second, mortality was higher amongst the French, both military and civilian. Indeed so high was French mortality and so bleak were prospects of peace that there was serious insubordination amongst the ‘poilus’ [French soldiers], a situation not dissimilar to the reason why first Russia in 1917 and then Germany in 1918, withdrew. Hence, the ‘revanchist’ peace, the ruthlessness of the French seeking their pound of flesh - and more- at the Versailles Conference in 1919.

There are three answers to the mini puzzle. First, the British manned the northern sector of the front, including the wet lowlands  of Belgium, as it  was closer to their critical supply lines at the             channel ports. Second, poppies grew out of the fertile, churned up land on  this front. And third, it was a Canadian poet/soldier, John McCrae, who in 1915 wrote the immortal and moving poem that so many British and Commonwealth children used to memorise at school, ‘In Flanders Fields.’ The French were unlikely to adopt a symbol that had anglo-saxon scribbled all over it.

Here is McCrae’s poem, written after the death of a close friend, a 22 year old Lieutenant in the Canadian army, one of over a million useless deaths of the war.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky.
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amongst the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The first two stanzas are pacifist in tone, but not the third. McCrae died in January 1918, a victim of pneumonia.

This Sunday, Whitehall will be closed off for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony held at the Cenotaph. We are asked to respect the moment of silence at 11 o’clock of the 11th day in the 11th month of the year.


08 November, 2011

Employee Appreciation Month

At the London Centre November has three significant events that ‘FEED’ into each other. First, this month is ‘Employee Appreciation Month’.  At the ICLC, that means chocolates and other gooey goodies as we have no on-site store wherein employees can claim their rewards.* In the accompanying photo you see Claire enjoying the 2nd of her ‘appreciation’ appetisers, a delightful croissant from London’s best café, the Café Forum on Gloucester Road.
Is Café Forum even making appreciative bags?

Second, we celebrate Thanksgiving with an all-day smorgasbord of unadulterated plain and chocolate hobnobery that leaves bellies aching for the evening feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and chocolate mousse in Guinness [an old Puritan favourite]. Belts now loosened, we waddle right into ‘Bake Week’ at the end of the month, a week in which staff, lecturers, and students bake goodies for a worthy charitable cause. Claire can be seen in the photo well into her training for the excesses of November. She is so far, and today is just 8 November, ahead of her two EAM competitors, Sunshine Sarah in San Diego and Mother Heather, in the race to benefit from the charitable cause of the term, namely a three day spa recovery weekend in Buckinghamshire. Well into the lead, her points score almost insurmountable**, the only impediments to Claire winning the spa weekend are that she might blow up first and/or she won’t be allowed to wear her fashionable Charlton Athletic FC hair clips. Spas do have standards after all.

* At last week’s staff meeting the Director had to reject the staff request that jewellery be added to the list of ‘appreciations’. Police were summoned to disperse the staff sit-in at 11pm that evening.

** So waif-like that she is almost invisible, Elsie was disqualified from the competition.


04 November, 2011

Learning the Language

I know I've done a few blog posts on the language differences between the UK and the USA, and here's another!

Today's post is inspired by this morning's weather.  And my stomach.

"I looked out my window this morning to see that it was absolutely pissing down.  I knew that I would be wearing my wellies today, and was a little sad that I had forgotten to bring my brolly home.  It was one of those chilly mornings where a bacon sarny would really hit the spot.  Instead I settled for my usual yoghurt.  My thoughts turned to lunch as I passed the chippy in Gloucester Road, and then I rounded off my thoughts on what the day's meals would be by considering this evening's tea."

"I looked out my window this morning to see that it was absolutely raining cats and dogs.  I knew that I would be wearing my rain boots today, and was a little sad that I had forgotten to bring my umbrella home.  It was one of those chilly mornings where a bacon sandwich would really hit the spot.  Instead I settled for my usual yogurt.  My thoughts turned to lunch as I passed the fish and chip shop on Gloucester Road, and then I rounded off my thoughts on what the day's meals would be by considering this evening's supper."

So, to sum up today's lesson, words to do with rainy weather have endearing nicknames, I think so that the weather doesn't get you down.  Actually, the food words have nicknames, too.  I hope it's common knowledge that British spellings include more letters than American spellings.  Yes, we are two countries divided by our common language.  And yes, English is a complex, evolving language made of a composite of other older languages, showing its roots that come from abroad and using an alphabet that doesn't perfectly suit the language (pronounce 'dough', 'through' and 'enough'), but I'm still adjusting to the silent h in the word we all pronounce as 'yogurt'.

And finally tea=supper/dinner.  I once told a friend I was later going to eat dinner with that I had bought tea.  Let me tell you, when I arrived at his house and he asked what we were having for supper and I said I didn't know and he said that I should since I had bought it and I said I hadn't bought anything, confusion ensued.  I had literally bought a box of English breakfast tea (I think that's black tea to many of us).  I don't have an answer for why the meal that many people call supper is called tea by others.  I'm open to suggestions.

Also, to those in Paris this weekend, here's a bit of "French" that should see you through to Sunday: "Puis-je s'il vous plaît ont 53 croissants?" and "Frankreich ist nicht so gut wie Deutschland.  Wir sollen nach Berlin gefahren!"


01 November, 2011

6th Place is Even Better Than 12th!

I mention 12th place as a cheeky reference to Glee.  Apologies to those readers who find Glee annoying.  While I see how the show can elicit that reaction, there's no denying that it's funny.  And full of quotable quotes: Principal Figgins to Sue Sylvester "Sue, the dry cleaners here are just as good as the ones in Europe."

And thus Glee comes around to Elsie!  Why, yes, we do have decent dry cleaners here in Europe who are probably as good as the ones in Ohio.  Do you know what else Europe has (though Ohio doesn't)?  Elsie, the ICLC, the Ithaca College London Center- call it what you like, we are so delighted that our students gave us positive feedback on Study Abroad 101 and landed us in 6th place for Best Places to Study Abroad in the whole entire world.

As ever, this accolade brought about another opportunity for an interview with Bill Sheasgreen.  Sometime soon he will learn that it's best to turn up for these interviews.  Sometime soon I might even invite him to one.  Until then, here is what Bill "said" about our achievement.

Claire Mokrauer-Madden: Bill, congratulations to the ICLC on placing in the top 10!  How do you feel about that?
Bill Sheasgreen: Context- remember that the Beatles' first single 'Love me do' only made it to 27 in the Hit Parade!*
CMM: So are you saying there are bigger things in store for the ICLC?
BS: In many ways, yes, that is what I mean.  This year the London Center is 40 years young.  Before we know it Elsie is going to be at the top of the Hit Parade!
CMM: Umm, don't you mean the London Center will be at the top of the list of the best places to study abroad?
BS: Yes, we will do that, too, but I have big plans to take on the Beatles while we're in the business of topping lists.  And of course there's my history with McCartney...
CMM: Sorry, I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about.  Do you know Paul McCartney?
BS: Hmmm... does one ever really KNOW Paul McCartney?  This question has been lurking in my mind for a few decades now.  I thought we had settled that we would form a band together after the Beatles broke up.  Then he stopped answering my calls, and then all of a sudden he turns up in Wings!  And playing songs that I'd written!  I won't say which songs are mine, but let's just say that from there our relationship has been icy.  He tried to get back in touch in the mid '90's, but by then I had washed my hands of the man.  Even talking about it now I'm getting a little emotional.  We had better draw a line under that period of my life.
CMM: Ok, then back to placing 6th in the world and first place in study abroad programs in London, how do you feel about that?
BS: I'm really chuffed!  I've been pretty focused on the prospects of the cricket team this semester, so this took me by surprise, making it even more exciting!
CMM: That's great!  On a side note, how has the team been this semester?
BS: We needed a lot of work in the beginning, but I think the team will clinch the tournament.  And have I mentioned how good our uniforms look?
CMM: Yes, I think you have mentioned it before.  But thank you for bringing a photo of the uniforms to include in this blog post.  Jeremy must enjoy modeling it for you.  Thank you for your time, I should be getting back to work, but these interludes are always enlightening.
BS: You're more than welcome!  I really enjoy these interviews with you.  I would even say they're effortless.

To see some actual journalistic representation of the ICLC's making the list of the top 10 of best places to study abroad check out the Huffington Post!

*Interviewer's note: true fact, Bill did actually say this.

13 October, 2011

Repeat After Me...

I do solemnly swear
That while Bill's over there

The interns will turn in that missing questionnaire
Jack will return a multimillionaire
The director's office will be cleaned with care
The Paris hostel will say "Laissez faire!"
The Irish Lit class won't read Jane Eyre (or Voltaire)
Cris will look at a map and say, "I've been there!"
Tori and Grace will know how to pay bus fare
The tech and design students will engineer a Kangaroo-Bear
City As Text won't just sit in front of Sakai and stare
No one will pull Sara G's hair
Someone will catch the Hammersmith mouse in a snare
Sarah will sneak off on a flight by Icelandair
And the rest of the ICLC won't be in Rio de Janeir.........


11 October, 2011

Different Atmosphere at Coffee Talk

As many people on this side and that side of the pond know, Bill is in Ithaca this week.  His reasons are two-fold.  1. He is leading orientation for next spring's students.  2. He is there for Fall Splash to start celebrating the ICLC's 40th anniversary ("Elsie, you're 40?  I never would have guessed! You don't look your age." "Thanks, my trick for looking young is staying out of the sun." "No, I meant you look like a century old building.  Sort yourself out.")

As tradition dictates, as well as going to meetings and working and that kind of thing, Bill's also going to a special Coffee Talk in Ithaca to visit with alums and eat imported Hobnobs.  We in London don't begrudge Bill "extramural" Coffee Talks, but I'm just saying, it's not going unnoticed.

Here's the reaction I got when I told the current ICLC students that Bill wouldn't be having Coffee Talk here this week:
Dismay? Shock? Horror? Fear?  All of the above.

Sara and Mandy were close to tears.  They held it together in the end, though.  ICLC students are made of tough stuff.

"What?  Bill's not at Coffee Talk? Then I won't go either."

06 October, 2011

Mr Muscle and Ms Marketing

It is rare that the ICLC staff draws attention to the endeavour, initiative and commitment of its working students, the ones without whom we could not operate the programme and keep the building open.

But the week beginning September 26th brought two students to the fore, Cris Ramirez, Mr Muscle, and Melissa Frisco, Ms Marketing, who, I am convinced, could sell anything to anyone, including membership in the Democratic Party to the now non-presidential candidate in 2012, Sarah Palin.

Cris set up the Common Room for the AASAP [American Association of Study Abroad Programmes] conference on Wednesday last.  This involved physical tasks like moving chairs [6 at a time] into the common room and the heavy wooden table from the corner of the room into the hall. He also fixed the newspaper rack and restored them to their original positions after the meeting without prompting! He merits at least three chocolate hobnobs at the next Coffee Talk.

Meanwhile, Melissa volunteered to partner the Director for 8.5 hours at the Fulbright Commission’s annual ‘London College Day’ on Saturday October 1st at Kensington Town Hall. Merely being with the Director for that length of time merits a distinction. College Day involved her in wooing High School and Sixth Form students [and their parents] to choose Ithaca College as their university destination. She excelled in her role, out-Harvarding Harvard and out-Princetoning Princeton, and wiping the floor with Cornell who weren’t even there, possibly because they knew Melissa would be there, and east hill would never outshine south hill in her presence.

Claire, meanwhile, lost out when she spilled her yogurt on to her knitting needle which then nosedived into her printer, jamming it in the middle of a print job for Dr Kidd, whose students thereby missed the starting point of their Wednesday walk. On the Stratford trip, she further blotted her copy book by suggesting that her line manager was ‘prone to mischief’. Sarah betrayed the ICLC’s official sports neutrality policy by openly wearing her Welsh RFU scarf during the hottest week of the year on the feeble excuse that she was cold; this flaunting of her Welshness was deeply offensive at a time when Canada still had a chance to progress if they beat the New Zealand All blacks by more than 30 points. Heather too displayed her irreverence for her adopted country by travelling to France, who just happen to be England’s quarter final opponents this Saturday, and for forgetting item two in the staff code of conduct, that is, birthdays must be celebrated with chocolate cake.  And for the 315th week running, Bill was disqualified for failing to keep his office tidy and leaving the digestives out for the mice to nibble on.

Three cheers for two of our six work study students, Mr Muscle & Ms Marketing.

Ms Marketing, looking for someone to sell the Roman Baths to

Mr Muscle (far right), back when he only merited 2 chocolate hobnobs at Coffee Talk

04 October, 2011

Knit 1, Purl 1- For A Good Cause

I know that London was surprisingly toasty this weekend, but that anomaly aside, autumn is upon us.  There's nothing like the feeling of walking around in flip-flops and getting fallen leaves in your toes.  Nothing like it at all.

But now it's actually getting colder.  I'm not saying that to be the party-pooper in the room, it's just the way of the world.  And while many of us go home to our warm flats, not everyone does.  We did this a couple years ago, and again the ICLC is making a blanket to donate to a local homeless shelter.  There's no particular pattern, all we ask is that you knit 8" squares.  We have yarn that can be picked up in the front office, in shades of brown and beige, or you're more than welcome to use yarn and needles of your own choosing to add variety to the blanket. 
This year's color selection!
Here are a few thoughts to keep you going:
  • Whose fall break is complete without a bit of knitting?
  • Guys, knitting can be worked into any pickup line.  Try it.
  • Last time the ICLC made a blanket Bill put Digestives out to eat while we sewed it all together.
  • It feels really good to do something nice for strangers.
And finally, here's what our last blanket looked like!
Our blanket started out looking like a lot of pot holders.

I don't know if we could have finished without Digestives for energy!

Trimming the last bits off the finished blanket!

We'll sew this year's blanket together in November, sometime after break week!


03 October, 2011

Who Knows What Today Is?

On March 1st Sarah and I make Welsh cakes (not a far cry from fried cookies) and scones.  On July 1st I gave Bill a cake with a moose and a maple leaf on it.  On July 4th Heather and I took the day off work. That's how the staff of the London Center celebrated our primary national holidays so far this year.  Secondary national holidays haven't fared quite so well.  April 23rd went by with little notice, as did April 30th.  I will not let October 3rd befall the same fate today.

I had a few ideas for celebrating German Reunification Day.  I thought about making an apple strudel and bringing it to work, but by 9pm last night I knew that wouldn't happen.  Then I thought I would take a more subtle approach, but Birkenstocks don't go with the rest of what I'm wearing today.  I've got people speaking German in the background of my office, but alas, that's because it's an Austrian radio station.

I did a bit of research yesterday.  I had sausage and chips for lunch, I heard some classic Bavarian music and of course saw some men wearing lederhosen.  Today I phoned a German friend of mine.  It was a last resort, but I figured he's from East Germany, he remembers the wall coming down, he remembers the old East German marks (that I think might have been made from tin, they were so debased and lightweight!) and his accent is exactly what you would expect from a native German.  And do you know what he said?  He said it's a bank holiday in Germany any you can do whatever you want. 

So here's how I'm celebrating German Reunification Day: I've spoken a little German and I've eaten a cupcake.  The banks may all be open in London today, but at least I remembered what day it is today. 

How are you celebrating?


22 September, 2011

The Times, They Don't Change Much Around Here

I think it's fair to say that most people like a little bit of stability in their lives.  People like consistency as something that will always be there through thick and thin.  Certainly this generalization doesn't doesn't cover everyone, but I think more people than would like to admit it take comfort in patterns.  In preparation for the ICLC's trip to Stratford, here is a quick photo montage of consistency.

In approximate chronological order, from the mid 90's to the near present:
Black coat

Black coat

Black coat

Light blue jacket

Black coat

Black coat

Black coat

Blue coat

Black coat

Black coat

Black jacket

Black coat

Blue jacket

Blue jacket

Light blue jacket

Black coat


19 September, 2011

The Magnificent Seven

I'm not talking about cowboys, I'm talking about cemeteries.  Yes, this is another installment of What I did This Weekend.  My intent is to suggest interesting and free things to do, and hopefully not bore you (this has to be more interesting than furniture shopping.  Though that's also fun, this is much less expensive).  So, without further ado, I present Nunhead Cemetery.

In the 1830's and 40's London created 7 cemeteries that were meant to take some of the burden off the consecrated ground of London's parish churches.  Highgate Cemetery is perhaps the most famous, containing such persons as Karl Marx and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans).  Nunhead is in south London on a hill looking out towards Westminster.  Entry is free and it is open during daylight hours.  It is both kept up and a bit wild, giving it an air of mystery without the attached creepiness that can sometimes come with old cemeteries.  Though still in use, most of its 52 acres are full, 4 bodies deep in places and bodies only a few feet from the topsoil.  As my guide, Bob, aptly put it, you may not think you're standing on top of a body, but you are.  It's a strange thought.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful place and well worth a visit.  The other 6 cemeteries that were opened for the same purpose around the same time were Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Brompton and Tower Hamlets.  Bill does one of his walks in Highgate, and sometimes Abney Park for special occasions.
The sides of the paths are lined with burials.  The growth has been pushed back from the paths, but it also hides the majority of the graves.  The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery offer tree tours looking at the wildlife, as well as their cemetery tours.
Not much stands up straight in the cemetery.  I'm not sure which decade it was, but for 10 years no one was looking after Nunhead, so many graves have become broken or overrun.  The care that is shown to it now preserves some of the ruin, while maintaining the grounds.  It's as if it's in a suspended state of entropy.
Some of the tomb architecture is beautiful.  This is one of the most complete angels I saw.
The urn with the cloth draped over it was a big motif in the 19th century.  I'm sure it means something... (?)
It's always strange recognizing names on tombstones.  This is the tomb of Maggie, beloved wife of Robert Palmer?  His first wife that Wikipedia forgot to mention?  Possibly not the same Robert Palmer, Claire.
A bit of old and a bit of new.  Both tombs are of the same design- a long bed for flowers and plants and a book on the headstone.  It's amazing the difference a century can make.
As south London is not known for its techtonic plate activity, I'm struggling to attribute a reason for two diagonal graves to have settled to the right and the other two to have settled to the left.