31 January, 2011

S11 Scavenger Hunt #2: John's London

This week's installment of the scavenger hunt is from John Birk, a guest blogger.  John is a lover of London and and has spent much time here.  As an explorer of London, his favorite thing ever to do in all of London is to go mudlarking on the banks of the Thames.  Have a look at his link to find out what mudlarking entails- http://www.thamesandfield.co.uk/.  You may also recognize him from the IC library as the man who wears the bow tie.  This week you have another specific place to find.  Good luck!

‘Tis a monument you seek, to be sure, 
At least one tube trip but not fewer.
On its base "twas blamed on popery,"
SPOILER ALERT “twas by protestant dopery”.
Your quest may start with the underground
Head to the east from South Ken be bound
Look for Doric, not Ionic, or Corinthian
Up or down may ren-der you a tizzy- in
Walk thee round and round and round again if this is the monument you seek.
Mind be hale and hearty else your round and round may leave you pained and weak.
'Tis a flame you seek,
'Bove your pate not your feet.
Photo should show you “apostle-like”.
My favorite London view is worth this hike.

21 January, 2011

S11 Scavenger Hunt #1: Rules, Regulations and Routemasters

This is the first installment of the Spring 2011 Scavenger Hunt!  Throughout the term Elsie will post things for you to find.  This is just for fun and a different way to get out and see London.  This term Elsie has decided to theme the hunt.  It will have to do with transportation.  As the deadline for entries will not be until the end of the semester, take your time and keep your eyes peeled.  In no particular order, here are some guidelines for the hunt:
  • All entries must be submitted in photo form.
  • The back of the photo must have the location it was taken and the entrant's ID# (don't put your name on them).
  • All entries from an entrant must be submitted at the same time.
  • All entries are subjective and will be judged by Elsie on the degree of immersion that they represent.
  • Unless stated otherwise, all entries must be photographed within the UK.
  • Please make sure you have permission to photograph your entries.
  • You don't necessarily need to submit entries for every object in the hunt.  It's quality that's important.
  • Teaming up with a partner (no more than 2 working together) is allowed, or you can go it alone.
  • The entrant must appear in at least 5 photos, showing them interacting with the objects that they have found.
Your first mission, should you choose to accept:
London has an amazing history, both ancient and modern.  The Routemaster bus was produced for London Transport in the 1950's and 60's, but was taken off the road in 2005.  This classic design allowed passengers to hop on and off the bus from the opening at the back and was a double-decker.  It was operated by 2 transport personnel, the driver at the front, isolated from the passengers, and the ticket checker in the back.  Often, if you pick up a souvenir model of a bus, this is the one you find.  These days there are plans for a new, modern Routemaster that is more energy efficient, but they haven't been put into action yet.  For now, the route of the number 9 bus is partially operated with the old Routemasters as a Heritage Route.  Now that you have all mastered using your Oyster cards, try out one of the old Routemasters and get a photo from it.

Your second mission:
I'm sure by now you have found some really breathtaking views of London.  It's different from American cities where much of the skyline is often made up of skyscrapers.  London gives the impression of being much more wide than tall.  There are some exceptions, such as Canary Wharf and the Gherkin, but for the most part, London sprawls to the north, south, east and west.  Walk up to the top of Primrose Hill to look across Greater London, or go to Greenwich Park to take in the City.  Or hop a train to Richmond and look at St. Paul's.  Yes, I mean St. Paul's Cathedral in The City of London.  You need to find the right break in the trees in Richmond Park at King Henry's Mound.  The only stipulation for this one is that your or your teammate must appear in the photo (there are a lot of images of this view on Google, so no cheating).

Good luck!

06 January, 2011

What Fall 2010 said...

As with any Ithaca College course, students fill out evaluations at the end of the term here.  One of the most popular questions is, "Do you actually read these?"  Bill, Sarah, Heather and I always smile and answer yes to this question.  Fall 2010 students, if you thought this was an empty response, prepare to be wowed.

Dear Spring 2011 ICLC students,
One of the questions that we ask in the evaluation of the ICLC is "What 3 things do you think are essential for us to tell you when you first get here?"  Here are some of the most popular answers:

  • "Learn about buses"- Buses are part of the Transport for London (TfL) system.  You can use your Oyster card on them, and the fare is less than that of the Tube.  You only have to tap your Oyster when you get on the bus.  They are great for getting a sense of the geography of London, especially from the top of a double decker bus.  Buses run throughout the day and night (24 hr buses and night buses) so they are particularly handy after the Tube has closed for the night.
  • "How to set up internet"- You must have a BT landline in your flat and have it switched on to get broadband.  Though you only want it for the 4 months that you are here, the minimum contract is longer so build the cancellation charge into the cost of turning the line on.  You can get your internet from other providers (Be There does short contracts), but the BT landline must be on.  If your flat does not have phone access you can get a dongle (that's what they're really called here, I bet they might be called something else in the USA).  Dongles can be bought from mobile phone providers and work on the mobile phone network.  You can buy a pay as you go version that you top up in the same way as you do a pay as you go mobile phone.
  • "The deal with transportation"- One of the most user friendly public transport systems in the world is London's Tube (this is what we call the subway).  The different lines have names and are color coded.  The system closes around midnight each night and opens around 5am the following morning.  It can be accessed with paper tickets, but are more cost effective if you use an Oyster card.  You must tap your card on the reader to enter the barriers and then tap it again at the barrier to exit.  As students you are eligible for student Oyster cards, which give you a 30% discount on travelcards (travel passes for a week or a month).  You can also top them up with prepaid money on them.  London is divided into zones in concentric circles and prices vary depending on which zones you are traveling in.  TfL has a website with info about all the forms of transport they offer www.tfl.gov.uk.  On most weekends there is construction work on the Tube and many line and station closures.  You can check the website for updates on travel disruptions, or sign up through the website to have the weekend closures emailed to you.  
  • "How Tube strikes work"- This past fall we also experienced Tube strikes.  These are union strikes, usually scheduled for a weekday beginning at 5pm and lasting around 24 hours.  Tube strike days are usually good ones to have plans to take the bus or walk wherever you need to go.  Bear in mind that these strikes DO NOT CAUSE CLASSES TO BE CANCELED. We are all crossing our fingers that there are not more Tube strikes.
  • "Emergency numbers"- 999 is the main number for the emergency services in the UK.  112 is used through much of Europe and is also an option in the UK.  911 can also be used, but it is not the best.  I'm not sure how the different numbers are routed to the emergency services, but just to be safe use 999 or 112.
  • "Introduce the professors"- Most of our faculty are of British extraction, with a few exceptions.  They lecture for us part time, and many also work for other universities.  Courses are structured more towards the British system than American, so there is more focus on essay writing than quizzes.  
  • "Get rent money out for rent early"- Most landlords take cash payments that students either deposit into the landlord's bank account or the landlord comes and collects.  Most do not accept checks in US dollars.  It can be very difficult to set up a bank account when you arrive here, so don't rely on that.  Because you are most likely going to have a limit on how much money you can withdraw per day start taking out your rent money a few days in advance.  Also remember that you will also have to put down a deposit with your first month's rent, so allow for the extra days of withdrawing cash during orientation week.  Unlike the USA which asks at the ATM if you would like to withdraw from you checking or savings, UK ATMs will automatically take from your checking.  Make sure that your money is in your checking, NOT your savings account.
  • "Common real estate agency practices"- Different estate agents will offer different deals, but remember that they are all trying to sell you something.  We have copies of old leases that you can read to see what they are like here in the housing room during orientation week.  Some you will need to chase up for internet access if that was offered as part of the flat.  We want you all living in safe places so remember to check for things like the record that the gas boiler (if there is one) has had its annual check.  Get everything about the flat in writing and if you aren't sure, feel free to ask any of the ICLC staff about it.  Clarify how and when your deposits will be returned to you when you move out of your flat.
  • "Relax, you'll find housing"- In the same vein, someone also recommended a reminder to breath.  These two are pretty self explanatory.  Same with "We will find a flat".  This statement is a fact.
  • "British slang"- We have a small dictionary of this waiting for you in your orientation pack.
  • "Learn that your [fake] British accent just doesn't cut it"- I fear this led to an awkward evening in a pub?  Not sure.
  • "There are no trash cans here, beware!"- That's not strictly true, though you will probably notice that you can't find a bin when you are looking for one.  There are generally none in train and Tube stations.  London has much experience in anti-terrorism measures, of which this is one (bombs in trash cans), and I believe this practice goes back to the days of the IRA.  I'm not sure if this is a fact, and I'm open to being told I'm wrong, but there are nonetheless fewer bins in public areas than you may find in America.

The fall 2010 groups also says to the spring 2011 students:
See you all soon!
-Elsie (and Claire)