I’ll give you some context. Today we had our first (and only) intensive day of orientation with IFSA-Butler, the study abroad agency that helped me apply to The Slade. We met at the St. Giles Hotel Conference Rooms at 9AM for a talk with Charlotte Robinson (Academic Officer) about the best ways to navigate the difference between the UK and US academic systems. As she was talking I could not stop thinking about how doomed I would be if I were taking actual classes at UCL or any UK institution for that matter. All that self motivated paper writing stuff. I can barely finish them (but the bigger problem is actually starting them) when a professor is keeping tabs on what am or am not turning in on time. I feel so bad for everyone else. I think we all tend to forget about the “study” in study abroad. I’ve never been so grateful to have art as my course of study. The whole academic system here is crazy. Not in a bad way–just so different than what I’m used to. The other day, I was having coffee witha friend before I left and we were talking about how we’d get grades we obviously didn’t deserve but because the professor was understanding, points were generously added to our grades. Not so in this country. Not so. Here, you start with a zero and work your way up. There are also NO EXTENSIONS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES and if you fail and need to re-sit for a makeup exam, you need to return to the UK at your inconvenience. Basically, no sympathy at all whatsoever. But that seems to work for some. To each their own. I’m just glad I’m not subject to this.
After the academic talk we had a tea break (kosher cookies were provided!) and then Lord Taverne, a former Labour MP and former Treasury Minister. He left the Labour Party and helped to establish the Social Democratic Party. He was recently appointed to the House of Lords. Originally a lawyer and appointed Queen’s Counsel, he is now involved in Industry and specializes economic affairs. Lord Taverne was very amusing but I was also very tired and my sleepiness was more powerful than his command of my attention. I may have dosed off. I was also sitting in the first row, so I fought it as best as I could…
Then we had a meeting about student services. Lynne Alvarez, Oran McAllister and Cambria Minott-Gaines are responsible for coordinating all the IFSA-Butler events for us and shared what they have in store. One of these events is a weekend trip to North Wales. Unfortunately it’s really impossible to go because of Shabbos, but Lynne (she’s GREAT) said she’ll give us the cost of the trip so we can go somewhere at a more convenient time! Huzzah!
Before lunch I got a phone with a decent plan. Unlimited texting, free incoming calls, don’t need much more. And lunch was great! It was pretty much the same as yesterday and because I wasn’t famished I can objectively say it was very good. Following lunch, David Castle, a former policeman talked about safety and security precautions for living in London and the rest of England and travelling around Europe. He was hilarious. And he knew it, but that was okay. Oh my gosh so funny. I know it’s only a matter of time before I get pick-pocketed here. It’s basically a rite of passage in this country.
Last but not least, we were divided by program and heard from UCL representative Mark Pickerill and the landlord of our apartment building. Basically, you’ll get fined 7000 pounds for making a small mark on the floor of a darkened closet. Can’t even imagine how much you’d pay for breaking a window or taping a picture to the wall. After our marathon of meetings we had dinner (huge platters of lox, egg salad, and tuna wraps and mini-pitas, quiches and mini eclairs!!) No shame in asking them to wrap it. No shame. We ended our day with an evening at the theater. We saw Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, the New Wimbledon Theater’s 2012 pantomime. That’s a thing here, pantomime.
Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences, British pantomime is now a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, topical references, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo.
Thank you Wikipedia. That whole production makes so much sense now. Doesn’t really redeem the experience for me though. I found it insufferable and never-ending and unpredictable in a bad way (like, Gangnam Style performed by the whole case followed by three children from the audience dressed up as Snow White on stage pretending to play instruments followed by a random dance party that had nothing to do with the rest of the show). I like the concept of pantomime, but this wasn’t so great. Snow White couldn’t sing and Priscilla Presley couldn’t act. And I left both my iPhone and UK mobile on the bus and kept panicking they would be gone when I got back. They were both still there. Phew. On the drive home, the bus driver was making a really really close turn and got a little too close to a traffic sign post and knocked off his right mirror. Totally saw that happening. Then he had to pull over and retrieve the dismembered mirror. People were watching the incident from their windows. So awkward. Tried to get a picture but missed my opportunity. I can go on and on about the driving here, but I’ll let this story serve as my generalization for now.
Upon returning to our flat, I ate cheerios, uploaded those wonderful pictures for you all to see, ate chips, listened to On the Street Where You Live, learned that my Slade orientation starts at 3 PM on Thursday, ate more chips, made plans to meet Rosie Yadid (who lived in my neighborhood) at Marble Arch (oh hey Geraldine!) and go for coffee and then I’ll go to the National Gallery as per Rebecca Pollack’s recommendation. Other items on my to do soon list: Covent Garden, explore Kensington and go to the Ronchichi Gallery to see Berndnaut Smilde’s installation. I’m open to further suggestions and recommendations!
One last thing before I go to bed. Dana and I just learned that our flat has TWO microwaves and TWO ovens (one of the ovens is a 2 in 1 and we have a stand alone microwave). And they’re getting us some more kitchenware. Couldn’t be more thankful.
Sorry that there are no pictures today. I will certainly make up for it tomorrow!