Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mishaps and misadventures

The last I wrote, I was preparing to bed down in the London Stansted Airport. In other words, I was about to attempt to balance on a heating unit, cover myself with a smaller-than-usual towel, ignore the Portuguese family that sounded like a pack of snoring lions, and sleep….all at the same time; not an easy feat, but worth the £40 it was saving me in hotel charges. I woke up, stiff and cold, dodging a broom, inches from my face, sweeping away the debris of a long night of airport-squatting, and yet laughing, nonetheless. To say the least, the less than desirable night of “sleep” was nothing other than laughable, and a surprisingly fitting end to a week full of mishaps and misadventures.

The last time I was in London, I was one of 36 khaki-and-red-polo clad middle schoolers. Now, though eight years have passed and my khakis and polo have been replaced by a leather jacket and pashmina, not much has changed. It turns out that it is hard to maneuver a large group of American students around London, no matter what the age. And we’re not just talking about your typical Americans, but Americans who have been sheltering away from reality in Copenhagen; a combination that left plenty of room for error.

For example, a head count and leash might have been useful implements as we tried to cram 30 people on the rush-hour Tube. Our Canary Wharf hotel was at least 30 minutes away from everything, so more than once we lost someone, watched as our leaders were carried off on trains without us, took the wrong trains, and got held up by technical problems. Of course, this made us late for lectures, forced us to learn how to maneuver our own way through London transport system (including the night bus), and even made us miss our entire tour of Oxford.

And, to say the least, this chaos was not limited to the program-organized parts of the trip; being set free in a city like London was bound to have its consequences. Again, let me remind you that Copenhagen has had a sheltering-effect on all of us, sending us back out into the world more na├»ve than when we began the semester. In other words, it took us all awhile to remember that the world is not made up of honest and reserved Danes. But, it didn’t take us long to realize this as we saw people get their purses stolen, got scammed by ticket sellers who sold us tickets to Billy Elliot and then turned around and gave us tickets to Blood Brothers, and entered clubs full of girls who were trying to pretend that their tank tops were dresses and guys who had no problem taking advantage of this…a little bit shocking? Yes.

But aside from all of this, we managed to have a great number of adventures. For example, the place we had dinner one night turned out to be the number one most happening club on Monday nights, complete with two DJs, thousands of students, and four floors of dancing, and a foam party in the basement. Another night of wandering brought us to Zoo Bar, a club that was completely dead above ground and a raging techno party below.

Of course, we did do some things not by accident. I spent a lovely afternoon wandering down Portobello Road in the Notting Hill area of London; I had high tea with Jeff, Sarah, Rebecca, and Jenni; and I went to a typical British pub dinner and movie in Oxford. An though this list may seem short in comparison to the accidental one above, I’m ok with the fact that most of the most memorable experiences on this trip I just happened upon, that always seems to be the best way to go about travel.

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