Day 12: The (Last) First Day of School

It’s that time again, that bittersweet time.

The first day of classes were today, and I don’t care what the weather people say, you can speak your equinox-this and solstice-that mumbo jumbo all you want, but the first day that my cheeks are reunited with an uncomfortable desk chair marks the official end of summer. These last 75 days without work or school were more than great, don’t get me wrong, but the start of school is a nice way of saying “Hey liver, I know our relationship has been a little unfavorable for you lately, but I promise I’ll make a conscious effort to try and be a better friend for the next couple of months.” So that will be nice. Right?

Good news though. My professor’s here speak English! Clear, beautiful, unadulterated English. I’ve had like two professors in the past 3 years at UR that don’t have a terrible, butchered accent of some kind. I’ve even had an professor who was off-the-boat Russian teach an English class. Such a joke. I swear, it’s almost like the teachers here in London are here to teach, not for some other agenda – go figure.

Sitting in class today, listening to my British professor speaking the kings with a silky smooth accent was just too entertaining. Kind of like watching a David Attenborough Planet Earth Documentary, where he was making even the most boring subjects sound fascinating, “The Morgan Freeman Effect,” if you want to call it that. Picture me just sitting at my desk taking notes; “CORPORATE FINANCE, ALL RIGHT! ANNUITIES! PRESENT VALUES! HELL YEAH! PREACH PROFESSAH’, PREACH!”

They do, however, take attendance. Uh, what? What is this middle school? I thought Europe was supposed to be progressive. Where is the faith, London? What’s that, is Eric here? Uh, that’s a clown question, bro. I’ve become accustom to my 4-day weekends back home, and I don’t think I’m ready to give that comfort up so quickly, even if you do have some golden pipes.

An even bigger bummer – my class schedule is two classes on Monday, and two classes on Friday. You don’t have to be a senior to know that a Mon/Fri setup is a bush league, rookie mistake. Those are prime traveling days too, so it’s inevitable that I’m gonna miss some classes… hope they cut me some slack there because I have priorities, and seeing the world ranks just a tiiiiiiny bit higher on the to-do list than go to class.

Sidenote: The walk to class is about .7 miles each way. For now I’m enjoying the exercise, but that’s gonna get pretty old pretty fast I’m sure. Once it starts getting cold that stroll is going to quickly become a hike.

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Day 10: Let’s Play A Game

Today we went to the Tower of London. It was a good time, not the most amazing place I’ve ever been, but there was a lot of interesting history, and I got to cross it off my “places to see in England” list.

The killer of the whole trip was that we were there for 4.5 hours, most of which was spent standing in lines moving at a snails pace to look at really old jewelry. It was packed. It is one of the bigger tourist attractions, split pretty evenly between both Americans and English alike. Those that I came with were much more into the tours than I was (most of them are poli-sci or history majors), and this stuff was their jam, so I didn’t want to ruin their good time by being a whiner, so I just went with the flow and stayed quiet. Instead, during this time of self-thought, I created a game:

How to guess if someone is American or English without them having to say a word.

The answer? Just look at their feet. You can tell an American from an Englishman (and vice versa) by their footwear. Allow me to illuminate:

British.

British.

American.

USA! USA! British 3 year olds would even refuse to wear these.

American, again. Especially the untied laces part.

Starting to get tougher. If you said an American trying to blend in with the Europeans, then you’re a natural, and I’m impressed.

British, trying to dress American. Probably also wearing a Brett Favre Jets jersey.

If you said a tall, dark, funny, handsome American exchange student then you’ve got a gift.

Doesn’t matter, who cares. What’s your name love?

Not too tough. And probably like 70% accurate.

PS: Totally random, but this might be the rarest spotting of all time. A Bills fan in Europe. Considering there are only like 15 in the United States outside of Upstate New York. Amazing.

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Day 8: The Day I Realized That My Diet Might Kill Me

Earlier I wrote how I noticed that everyone in London is skinny, and that there are no fat people. Well I’m about to eat those words. Literally.

Based on my diet the past few days, I’m pretty sure that if nothing changes, it is going to be impossible for me not to gain somewhere between 75 and 100 pounds over the course of the next 3 months. Food here is EXPENSIVE. Even the prices of things like deli meats are just through the roof. Our flat is really nice, and is in one of the nicest areas in London – and all of the prices at the surrounding stores reflect it. Just thinking about how much a trip to the grocery store will cost me for a week’s worth of food hurts my head.

My diet right now consists of Ramen Noodles and Beer/Wine. That’s it. I wake up and make Ramen for breakfast. A couple hours later, I’ll fire up the stove and treat myself to some more Ramen at lunch.  Come dinner, I’ll check the fridge, realize that there’s still nothing in there, but you know what? I still have some Ramen left so fuck it, YOLO, Ramen for dinner! Then I’ll go out to the pubs, grab a few beers with the flat mates, get a little tipsy, come home and fuel my munchies with a little late night ramen snack before bedtime.

It’s honestly the only food I can afford – or more accurately – purchase conscientiously under good will. I’m on a budget. I still want to save my money for trips to Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Amsterdam, Brussels… you get the idea.

It’s not even quality Top Ramen that you get in the US either. It’s dirt-cheap Grade 壞品嚐麵條 Ramen I bought in Chinatown. Actually I hope it’s Ramen, but I can’t read Mandarin so I can’t really know for sure. It tastes like ramen though, and luckily the only thing in English on the whole package is the nutritional information – and according to that it would appear the powder I’ve been pouring on my noodles is composed entirely of animal fat, Rosie O’Donnel, and birthday cake.  And while I’m not entirely sure what happens to the human body when you completely eliminate protein from it, and instead replace it with carbohydrates and saturated fats, I’m fairly confident that it can’t be good. Hopefully when school/my internship starts, I will find cheaper food on-campus/near work.

Luckily though I’ve been running in the mornings at the nearby park to somewhat counteract the damage, but it’s going to get super chilly soon, and there’s a better chance I pick up conversational Latin in my sleep than me getting my ass outside to run in the cold – so I need to find cheap food soon.

So at home if you’re starting up a death pool of how long I can survive on food that supposedly has “no nutritional value to speak of” – put me down for 5 weeks, cause I mean c’mon, not only am I an optimist, I’m a fighter.

PS: I saw Sweeney Todd last night at the theatre, and while it was insanely awesome, it also brings to the table some possible solutions to my “How to consume protein without spending any money” dilemma… First I just need to take up barbering.

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Day 6: Let’s Get Cultural

Throw the sweater over that button up. Put that drink down. It’s time to get classy and see some culture.  Ok you can bring the drink.

We went to the British Museum today, and my body went through what I can only guess is total nerd overload. Just unbelievable.

I know what most of you are thinking. In fact I wouldn’t be surprise if most people X’d out of this blog once they saw the word ‘museum’ and went back to Facebook creeping…  “Oh nice it’s another really old painting, who cares! Oh look, there’s a 300 year old spoon, yawn. Oh, that giant rock is in the shape of a half person/half eagle!? Excuse me while I go throw up from excitement!”

Couldn’t be more wrong. This museum was unlike any I have ever been to before, and after getting home, I did some quick research. It turns out the British Museum is actually recognized and ranked in the top 3 of the best museums worldwide. Well, there’s a reason.

First thing – you walk into this place and just freeze. There’s buildings within the building and the roof is entirely patterned glass. Rooms inside of rooms inside of rooms. It’s the Inception of museums.

This place is filled with human history from Ancient Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Europe, Asia, and more. Famous artifacts too. I’m no history buff by any means, and recognized names and pieces.

Today I saw the Rosetta Stone – the rock that inspired the software that inspired millions of people to learn other languages poorly.

The mummy of Cleopatra. My go to joke as a kid: “Who was the fattest queen of Egypt? CleoFATra!” – Money then, still money now.

The WORLDS FIRST BEER FUNNEL. We’ve been using plastic like assholes this whole time when we could be binge drinking from mammoth tusks like kings!

And a ton of other wildly amazing historical artifacts that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

I also engaged in the worlds oldest fist bump, and got to practice some of my poses for the inevitable day when the sculptor comes knocking at my door. From the looks it, I probably better get working on my abs.

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Day 4: Early Observations

Today was the perfect day, 75 degrees and sunny. We decided as a group (well, all of us but one who stayed back) that we wanted to take advantage of the weather and go out and explore London – during the day – with no plans. We just wanted to go out, walk in no particular direction, and see where we end up. We walked for almost 5 hours.

The following are some things I observed on our journey:

  • There are absolutely no crappy cars. Literally zero American made cars, or pickup trucks either. Everything on the road is either a bicycle, moped, tiny car (Smart car, Mini Cooper, Fiat) or Luxury sedan. I’d say about 60% of the cars on the road are made by Mercedes-Benz or Audi, and they are probably the cheapest ones you’ll see too. It is not uncommon to see Rolls-Royce’s, Bentley’s, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, and other $100,000+ “motor cars.”
  • I’ve touched on the style already, but it’s honestly the thing that stands out the most. So many people rocking fedoras, vests, tight pants, strange shoes, and interesting haircuts – even older adults. I would be nervous that I might start dressing this way eventually, but I’m pretty sure that nothing here comes in my size, as the average height here is about 5’5″
  • For a large, highly populated city, everything is extremely clean. Some places actually remind me of Times Square in NYC, except cleaner, and classier. There are no trash cans in public either. After doing a quick Google search, I guess it’s because it used to be a popular place for terrorists to put bombs. Instead there are tons of hired street cleaners keeping everything spotless at all times.
  • This clock was pretty cool. Like definitely one of the top 5 coolest clocks I’ve ever seen. Keeps time like a boss. There was a name for it I think.
  • Our study abroad group is pretttttyyy diverse. And by diverse I mean awesome. Everyone is a blast.
  • Dressing in black face can be socially acceptable, and even hilarious sometimes.
  • Table tennis isn’t easy when you have to play the wind.
  • There are statues of EVERYTHING. If it was important ever, there is a giant statue somewhere representing it. I saw a Freddy Mercury statue, a Jimi Hendrix statue, and another dedicated to “all the animals that have sacrificed their lives during war.” I’m hoping that maybe I can set a record for longest breath ever held, or something, so that maybe I can be immortalized in stone.
  • There are buses EVERYWHERE.
  • Lastly, there are no fat people. Lots of skinny people and nobody is overly obese, stuffing face with KFC like you see in the US. My guess is it’s because everybody here walks everywhere, and food is so expensive. That or because skinny jeans don’t look good when you’re pushing 300.

PS: According to some of the guys, at lunch when we were leaving the restaurant that we ate at I said “Thank You” with a British accent to the waitress. I didn’t mean to do it, and I didn’t realize I did it. So frightening.

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Day 2: Clubbing 101: What Not To Do

Our study abroad group consists of nine people. Of the nine, six of us decided that we wanted to go out to the clubs last night. In our head we were pumped to check out the crazy European club scene that you see in movies, and videos. I was ready for some smoke machines, lasers, and crazy people going absolutely wild to music that sounds like robots having sex on Adderall. Something kind of like this.

And so, here is my account of the events that transpired last night:

5:00pm – After asking around, we’re told that we should go to a club called Proud in Camden. Drinking age in London is 18, and some clubs are 21+, but because we have two kids under 21, we are limited to our club options, and Proud (an 18+ club) is apparently our best bet. We check out their website to see pics of the place. I am positive that a club called PROUD is going to be a gay bar – but it turns out it isn’t and looks pretty wild from some of the pictures. At this point I am stoked for a night of new and crazy experiences.

7:00pm – We go to the supermarket, and buy overpriced beer and liquor. I spend the equivalent of $40 on a 660ml bottle of the cheapest vodka and two 22.5 oz bottles of British beer. Despite the fact I’m being robbed shamelessly, I’m still excited and ready to cut loose with my flat mates for the first time and anxious to size up my new friends and see who’s going to be fun for the semester.

9:00pm – We begin drinking. I’m on DJ duty (of course) killing it on the 1’s and 2’s (my MacBook) selecting from the perfect balance of old classics and new hits. Everyone is the shit, lots of fun, and not afraid to have a good time. Life doesn’t get much better.

10:45pm – All purchased alcohol has disappeared. Time to go to the club to find more. But how do we get there? I don’t know look up how far it is. Two and a half miles you say? And you think we can walk there, and that it should take like 20 minutes because humans walk at a 1omph pace? I didn’t major in math, and don’t have a calculator, nor do I have time to hurt my brain doing dumb things like thinking, so yeah that seems logical. Let’s walk.

11:35pm – We arrive at the club. To get in, I have to get swiped with a metal detector to make sure I’m not carrying any weapons. I tell the bouncer he should swipe my feet, because they are dangerous on the dance floor. He doesn’t find my humor funny. Whatever, I’m going in there and starting a denim fire.

11:40pm – I realize that an 18+ club in Europe translates to a club full of only 18 year olds, and what has to be 16 year olds with fake ID’s. Apparently 21+ clubs exist so 22 year olds don’t have to feel like the creepy old guys. But hey I had fun in high school, why not re-live it?

11:41pm – I don’t want to re-live it nor do I want to dance with 18 year olds dressed like J Crew models. To me everyone around me looks like this. Where’s the bar? I need a drink, or ten.

12:30am – Drinks are super pricy, so I devise a genius plan with the other older girl in the group who is also turned off by the younger crowd as well to get free drinks. Basically she selects a random British guy and flirts with him, playing the role of the dumb American. It goes something like this: “How many beers can I get with 15 pence? It’s all I’ve got. What? None at all? I don’t understand how all this weird new money works, gosh! But I just broke up with my boyfriend, and am out celebrating and trying to get crazy! But how am I supposed to get two beers now without enough money 😦 ? I need one for me and one for my gay friend.” She points at me, and I smile and wave. My logic is that as a “gay friend,” I pose no threat to this guy and he may very well buy me a drink if it means him getting a shot with my friend. Then what happens next is the poor sucker buys us the two beers, she bails, and we repeat the process on someone new. Our genius plan works for her many times, and I only get a free drink out of it once, but I’m still happy with my marginal success.

1:30am – The bar begins kicking people out. Those in our group under 21 had a blast, some even got some phone numbers and I’m happy for them. Let’s walk back.

2:00am – We realize now that we were drunk when we left to go to the club, and some of the others are considerably drunker now than before. We have not the slightest clue how to get back. I wish I had my iPhone so Siri could give me directions and tell me everything is going to be all right, but everybody including myself now has these $2 piece of shit phones that can barely send a text let alone give directions. We decide to just guess a direction and walk, hoping we run into our flat. I have become marginally sober by this point.

2:30am – We have resorted to asking anyone and everyone we pass for directions. Everybody gives us different directions. The only thing they can agree on is that we are “really fucking far away.” Great, thanks for the help Govna’! Some of the girls are in heels and are complaining about the pain. All I want to do right now is head-butt my pillow and pass out.

2:55am – Everything around us is closed, and I haven’t seen another person for 15 minutes, except for some bums sleeping on the sidewalk. The thought creeps into my head that it could be hours until we find home.

3:00am – We spot a cab driver and wave him down, but he wont give us a ride because 6 is too many people, even though his car is big enough to fit 3 horses comfortably. But, “because he is a nice guy,” is willing to give us legitimate directions using his GPS. According to him, apparently we’ve been walking in the wrong direction, but not completely, and are only about 30 minutes away. Well thanks for the good news! What a bloke!

3:25am – We arrive home. Finally, after almost 2 hours of walking. Before going to bed I look at the itinerary given to us to see what the plan is for tomorrow… Oh sweet, I have to get up at 9am for a scheduled 3 HOUR WALKING TOUR OF LONDON.

I’m sure there are morals and lessons or irony or something to that story, but I’m too tired to try and figure them out.

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Day 1 – A Change Of Style

So last night I’m packing my bags with all the clothes that I’m going to bring to Europe; I’m throwing in t-shirts, gym shorts, sweat pants… pretty much what I bring to college every year. But then my mom walks in looks at my perfect clothing selections and out of nowhere freaks out, demanding that I can’t bring all my awesomely comfortable gear, because I would look “too American.” Like she thinks that’s a legitimate issue, looking too American.

Like how is that a bad thing? Listen, there’s a reason we’re the best country in the world mom, other countries want to be us – I took history classes in high school, I would know. So why should I try to blend in, when I can – nay, should – stand out? I think if I walked around Europe in my bro American clothes, all the preppy European’s will automatically recognize me for my natural Western greatness and want to be friends, right? Like I’ll definitely have British father’s sprinting out of their flats begging me to marry daughters’, and CEO’s offering me full-time jobs, in hopes that one day I might invite them back with me to the Land of Opportunity. “Yeah I personally know Snooki, and I love to wear sweatpants in public! USA! USA! USA! ‘MERICA!”

But anyway, after spending my first full day in London I can say that mom was right. It is very formal. VERY FORMAL. I saw more fedoras today than at any Jason Mraz concert, and everybody after 6pm throws on a scarf. Yes, a scarf. It’s 70 degrees outside.

Nobody wears gym shorts in public either. No sweatshirts, no sweat pants, not even really any nike dri-fit style T’s. Well newsflash, that’s about 97% of my wardrobe. Pretty much everything I own is made of some stretchy comfort fabric and says “University of Rochester” on it. AND NOBODY WEARS YOGA PANTS OR BASEBALL HATS! Well sorry, but that’s where I draw the line. No baseball hats? I’m not even sure what I look like without a baseball hat on.  And depriving the public of the #4 invention of all time – Yoga Pants – is just a slap in the face to the bros who invented them

Just some cultural differences, I’m truthfully having a blast, and people are really cool and friendly. All of my flat mates are super nice – but I’ll touch on that at a later date.

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