30 July, 2012

One Year Later...

It's nice when blog posts appear in my inbox.  Here is one such occasion.

A while back I asked people to let us know what life was like one year after London.  I went further and posed the questions directly to the students who were preparing to come to London one year ago.  I asked, did coming to London change your view of your education? Of yourself? Of the world? What were you doing a year ago today? How has studying in London impacted what you're currently doing?

River Ferris, ICLC alum from Fall 2011 sent me this:
I thought that for my submission, I'd show you how London has affected me, rather than tell you.  Attached are pictures of the wall in my Brooklyn apartment.  Giant British flag, postcards from all the cities I visited, tickets to all the shows I saw, and of course, my diploma from ICLC.  This is just a portion of my London mementos hanging on my wall, but I think you get the idea.

I can't believe it's been a year!


Please continue letting us know how studying in London impacted you!


25 July, 2012

Nearly There...

The sun shone brightly on Hackney on Saturday July 21st when the Olympic torch – or one of them at least – reached one of the five ‘host boroughs’ of the 2012 summer games [London has 33 boroughs in total]. The Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park [what else could it be called in the summer of the diamond jubilee?]  houses the athletes’ village, the main stadium, the aquatic centre, the velodrome [nicknamed the ‘pringle’ because of its snack like shape], the handball arena, the water polo centre, the temporary basketball venue, the Mittel Tower and more. 

Four of the five Olympic boroughs –south of the river Greenwich is the exception -  share the Olympic park: (i) Newham has the biggest chunk, about 60%; (ii)Hackney, (iii)Waltham Forest [birthplace of David Beckham and Alfred Hitchcock] and (iv) Tower Hamlets have the rest. My borough, Hackney, has the huge media centre:  it is large enough for over 20,000 media personnel, twice the number of participating athletes. Irony of ironies, my home borough will also be hosting the IC students working for NBC.

On Saturday the 21st Hackney celebrated the arrival of the Olympic flame by organising a ‘Rio’ style party-carnival-parade. The parade started in Shoreditch, site of two Elizabethan theatres, the ‘Theatre’ and the ‘Curtain’ [archaeologists are busy on the site], progressed up the old Roman road through trendy Dalston to Stoke Newington. Hackney imported carnival experts from Rio, the site of the 2016 games, and the first Olympiad to be held in Latin America. There certainly was an air of Brazilian authenticity about some of the costumes. Unfortunately, the ‘party in the park’ was cancelled because the venue was waterlogged.

Inexplicably, the torch was not part of the carnival. But it did arrive, preceded by vehicles advertising three of the main sponsors [Samsung, Coca Cola and Lloyds Bank], surrounded by security, about 3 hours later, with jazz bands replacing steel bands.

So let the games of the XXX Olympiad begin. Who are we cheering for? The US women’s rowing 8 and the defending gold medal winning Canadian men’s 8 for starters.


23 July, 2012

Don't Get Caught Out!

It's the summer that Londoners have been talking about since July 6th, 2005.  It's the summer over which the British beat out the French, where Shakespeare came to London speaking so many languages and when the London Center got a new boiler. 

Yes!  The Olympics are here!  As part of my own personal build up to the Olympics, I read The Devil in the White City (by Erik Larsen, I recommend it), which is about the Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair) which Chicago held in 1893.  It shouldn't be much of a surprise, but I find it impressive that 119 years later, there are similar feelings in London as described in the book about what Chicago was going through- anticipation before showing off the city to the world, nerves about living up to expectations, excitement for the big event.  Many of the specific issues don't compare (I'm pleased to say that sewage and garbage in the streets of London are nothing like what Chicago was sorting through), but some do.  Recently the news has reported that the company awarded the security contract didn't hire enough employees for the Olympics- in Chicago there weren't nearly enough grounds keepers to pick up all the rubbish.  Another issue is that the UK has hired extra staff to work at the borders to keep the airport queues down at immigration.  But now they are threatening to strike the day before the opening ceremony, what is expected to be one of the busiest days at Heathrow.  The carpenters who built the Exposition were asked to work longer hours and work faster to get the fair ready in time.  They went on strike, asking for regular working hours and a minimum wage.

As with most large scale urban events, the transport system is one of the most obvious places to see the strains placed on the city.  Chicago extended the routes of the L to better reach Jackson Park.  London is giving free travel from zones 1-9 on the day of the event the spectator is attending.  They've built cable cars (it looks like a ski lift) across the Thames between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks.  And best of all, they've made this series of posters with advice for Londoners themselves.  Here are some of my favorites:

But my favorite bit of commuter advice comes from the Mayor's own voice.  Read the article in the link for the criticism that appeared on Twitter as soon as the message was released.  Each time I hear it, I wonder what the other takes must have sounded like for that to be the one they chose.  But it does what it needs to- it gets your attention.


12 July, 2012

Where's Your Head At?

The title of this post is a song title from the Basement Jaxx (they started out in South London, so they're good in my book).  It has nothing to do with Paul McCartney.  While I'm sad that he hasn't turned up at the front door of the ICLC to reconcile his differences with Bill, I'm glad that he hasn't sent me a cease and desist order.  There's always a silver lining.

Today I'm talking about getting your head into London.  This is most appropriate for the students getting ready to come over to London.  Unfortunately, the students who have recently left London are having the opposite problem.  I just hope everyone remembers which way to look when crossing the roads and that they don't get caught out calling the subway the tube.

Being strapped for cash before fall break isn't a position anyone wants to be in.  If you're interested in traveling, have a look at budget airlines (but remember that they charge for any and all 'extras').  I'm a fan of comparing flights on www.skyscanner.net.  Sign up to voucher websites (Living Social, Groupon, Voucher Cloud to name a few).  You may also have a look at www.moneysavingexpert.com, it's great for restaurant vouchers if you fancy eating out in London.

Pay attention to what's going on in London.  The Olympics will have ended and the Paralympics will be starting to get under way when the fall students arrive.  The House of Lords may be peopled by elected rather than appointed peers.  Bob Diamond and Jeremy Hunt may be in jail (however unlikely).  Sign up with Transport for London (TfL) for their email updates of the weekend tube closures (weekend closures email link on the right).  Look at Europe and the world more widely, too.  London is a heaving multicultural metropolis, so be aware of the issues.  Is Greece leaving the Euro zone?  How will that affect Germany?  Will there be a power change in Syria?

And finally, choose a side.  I mean a football side.  Choose Arsenal if you want to do well in Bill's class.  Choose Chelsea if you don't.
I'm wearing a Charlton Athletic apron, scarf and hair clips.  I have Charlton Athletic pens in my hair, and I'm holding the team mascot, Floyd the dog- all birthday presents from Bill.  Total cost- under a tenner.