Packing London and Bringing it Home [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Hi there,

I’m no longer writing you from six hours later time. I returned to the United States on Saturday evening to the welcoming arms of my parents and sister. Even though I’m back, I want to update you through my final days in the Kingdom.

Wicked: Right after I last wrote, I went to Wicked The Musical at the Apollo Victoria. The EUSA program provided us students with free tickets to random events across the City. I chose Wicked as my free event because I had heard a lot of good things about it, and why not see something that relates to the Wizard of Oz being from Kansas? Wicked is the preface to the Wizard of Oz and explains how Glenda (the good witch) and Elphaba (the bad witch) came to be, as well as the tin man, lion, scarecrow and Dorothy. Like the last musical I saw, the voices were outstanding and acting was spot-on. I still think that the original Wizard of Oz is better though.

  

Last day at M2M: Thursday was my final day at my internship with M2M. Most of the people during the day were packing up, much like me, although, they were heading to the floor above. The company has grown and expanded enough to add another floor. My last day consisted of pulling some final reports and chasing clients for documents needed to make deadlines. At the end of the day, the agency surprised me with a gift. Everyone had signed a card with nice notes. Along with the card were four movie DVDs, all Momentum Pictures productions, one of our clients. One of the movies was The Fighter, a movie that gained rave reviews. From there we went to a social at a park not too far away. Awaiting us was Pierre, a Frenchman who works in digital media. His job was to inform us how to play pentanquet, a game similar to boules. Each team alternates trying to throw a heavy ball near the “jack”. The closest team’s ball at the end of the round wins. My team did quite well to start out with, but was defeated on the last throw by the opposing team. It was a great time, and I got to know some people even better. Drinks were provided, and of course I had some Pimm’s.

Farewell party: From pentaque, the other intern Grace (from Buffalo, New York) and I went to our student farewell party located near King’s Cross station. The place was called Smithy’s, where we were served bangers and mash for dinner as well as free drinks. I spent the rest of the night watching British television at our place.

Friday’s class and field trip: I entered my last full day in Britain with a lecture about power and sovereignty. The final field trip was to Tate Britain, a modern art gallery. A lot of the modern items included objects, lighting, abstract art and perspective. One of the pieces was literally a trash bag with pink paint on it, although, the pink ‘paint’ was made of women’s products like toothpaste, cooking ingredients, cleaning materials, etc. My favorite item was an Native American headdress made of the metal from a wash bin.

      

Hyde Park picnic: Friday afternoon, Paige, Chelsie and I created a wonderful end to a great trip with a picnic in Hyde Park. The weather was near perfect, and the swans were out on the lake. Our meal included brie cheese, salami, baguette, English black grapes, beets, pasta salad, chocolate minstrels and boxed French wine. We all spent a while laying in the grass looking up to the British sky for a last time. For me, it was a time to collect my thoughts before the subsequent day of jet lag. From the park, you can also see Kensington Palace, an official residence of the Royal family.

    

Dinner in Soho: Not long after our picnic, it was time for dinner. We went to Piccadilly Circus and walked to Soho where we would find a nice Italian restaurant. I ordered a sausage pizza and olives with wine. After that, we went to none other than Snog, the recurring location for my late night frozen yogurt cravings. I needed to go home to pack, and so I did. I made a pile of what I needed to take home, things I needed to throw away and things I wanted to donate.

The day of departure: I woke up to finalize my packings and to clean up the room before I left. To be honest, I will not miss the room I stayed in because of its size, along with the bathroom for the same reason. I said goodbye to Chelsie, who was staying several weeks past the program to peruse Europe with her mother. My suitcase was quite heavy, but everything fit that needed to. Paige and I, who traveled together, made our way to our Gloucester station and headed to Heathrow Airport. We arrived in plenty of time and waited to board the plane to Minneapolis, our first and only stop. The nine-hour flight nearly drained me. First, the audio did not work on my screen, so I couldn’t watch the movie to pass the time. Second, I’m too tall to have sufficient leg room anywhere. I was able to doze off in 30-minute increments, but that’s about it. We arrived in Minnesota safe and sound, but goodbye in-shape people and British accents. The Minnesota airport greeted us with thick northern Midwest accents and unflattering clothing. There wasn’t much of a wait until we headed to Kansas City. The flight to KC seemed like a car ride across town, after surviving nearly half a day on the first flight. I sat near a baby once again, but the flight was short enough to keep my sanity. After walking off the plane, I was back home. My mom, dad and sister stood waiting for me, probably expecting me to look different. I don’t think I did, but I’m sure I looked a bit weathered. We left, got a quick snack, and after a while, I was back in my childhood home; back in my 6’5″-friendly bed; and back to rural life.

And welcomed by American debt politics on TV.

Lucky me.

Perusing the City Subdued by European Tragedies [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Heading into the last few days of my time here in London is a little bittersweet, but don’t worry, there’s still plenty to do. Since my big trip to Germany, I have embraced my current home in the UK’s capital.

Cricket: The week I returned from Germany, I planned an excursion to a cricket game at The Kia Oval south of Central London. I had heard about cricket from many of my Indian friends at KU, but had never seen or understood the game. So, one day after work, Chelsie and I made our way to the Oval to watch Surrey and Kent battle it out. I spent the first half of the game trying to figure out all of the 50 numbers on the scoreboard and why people cheered when a “batter” hit the ball on the ground past the oval markers. Kent ended up beating Surrey 181-166, but I really had no idea what happened. The atmosphere was very sophisticated with many people in suits and dresses. England recently played India in a multi-day match.

    

Imperial War Museum: Many of you older folks who are reading this blog would be thrilled to visit the Imperial War Museum in London. The museum, as part of our weekly class trip, includes artifacts, videos, facts and information from many of the main European Wars, conflicts and worldwide relations. When first approaching the museum, large cannons surrounded by a garden set the scene for visitors. My first look before entering the museum was a section of the Berlin Wall that says “Change Your Life.” I didn’t spend much time in the museum reading about every war, but the Holocaust exhibit drew my attention. While walking through the dark rooms watching video after video of survivors, my mood shifted swiftly. Leftover items from the concentration camps absolutely show the distress and anguish the Jewish people experienced. Helga, who I visited in my Germany trip, honestly said, “It’s our fault,” [‘Our’ referring to the country of Germany.] I don’t know if she as an everyday citizen should take so much blame, for the rise of Hitler was through public officials.

    

The National Gallery (again): The first time I attended The National Gallery, our class assignment was to look at the portrait portion of the gallery. Don’t get me wrong, the portrait gallery has a great collection, but the “beasts” are found in the main entrances. This was not a required trip, but I had studied several items that are located there, so I wanted to see them first-hand. My courses in Italian Renaissance art provided me with the knowledge to properly understand the items. Works from the hands of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Monet, Titian, Rembrandt and van Gogh amazed me. Unfortunately the gallery has a strict policy for taking pictures, so you can check the items on its website if interested. My favorite painting at the gallery was “Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli. Google Image the work if possible, and take a look at the ornery puti who are hypnotizing Venus and Mars. Below is van Gogh’s “A Wheat field with Cypresses” made with actual nature and a quick snap of Leonardo’s “Madonna of the Rocks.”

  

Portobello Market: I had been to the area once before briefly, but this time, I wanted to spend a bit more time looking through the quaint shops. On the way to the main market street, you can see George Orwell’s former home, a black door small home in Notting Hill. I didn’t get anything besides two things that I wanted to get in France and Germany. For each country I go to, I get a flag (ironically I need to get a USA flag when I get home!) Much to the displeasure of the local Brit clerk, I purchased a French and German flag at a British store. I’m surprised I made it out alive!

Last week’s pubs: One of Chelsie’s guy friends visited this week. Matt works in Canada at Archer Daniel’s Midland seed (competitor of Cargill’s). After work, we helped him become accustomed to London afterwork life at the pubs. We purchased Pimm’s, ciders, beers and food. Surprisingly, last week was the first time I had fish and chips. And many of you who know me, I do not like fish, although, the fried taste of the fish didn’t taste too bad! At least I can say I tried it, as I’m sure many locals will ask about it when I return home.

Victoria & Albert Museum: The past week’s slate included yet another art gallery, but I didn’t complain. The V&A Museum is a world-renowned gallery located near my London home. The class lecture before the trip was about the difference in sport, fashion, music and leisure between the U.S. and the UK. The lecturer criticized the U.S.’s inability to ‘export’ its sports. We took all of Britain’s sports and made them our own: Rugby > Football, Cricket > Baseball, Association Football > Soccer. It’s true, but it goes back to when we differentiated ourselves from Britain with anti-monarchy policies. Our sports were made our own, but they aren’t worldwide sports like soccer and rugby. In terms of music, a video in class highlighted the rebelliousness of British youth against a music swing in the U.S. And in fashion, it is said that Americans dress ‘down’ to show rebellion, but the British dress up to do so… The museum trip included many items like the British Museum. Again, I was most interested in works of the Renaissance period, including flattened reliefs by Donatello, Medician medallions, casts of Michelangelo and cartoons by Raphael. After a day in the museum, I spent a while in a central courtyard, where the sun actually felt warm for a change…

          

Spitalfields Market and Tower Bridge: Saturday I spent alone. Chelsie traveled to Italy for the weekend, so I spent time browsing my interests. I slept in after a long night out in Fulham Broadway. At Spitalfields Market, I browsed through neat stores and sat down to eat some Burmese food. It’s like Chinese and Indian foods combined. After that, I walked by Camden Town and then over to Tower Bridge. I had seen the bridge from distance, but wanted to get a few snapshots close-up. It’s a beautiful bridge with a lot of tourists. Adjacent to the bridge is the Tower of London, a Robin Hood-looking old stone fortress. I didn’t go inside, but it was neat to see the outside architecture.

    

I went home and heard the news…

Amy Winehouse dead at 27: I logged onto Twitter and saw the news that singer Amy Winehouse had died in her home at none other than Camden Town. A little bit eerie that I was in the area at the time she was found, but reports say that she had been dead for nearly six hours before being found. Tragedy in London. London had lost one of the most unique and famed female voices of all time. Her apartment in Camden Town later became the home of piles of flowers, pictures, alcohol and cigarettes. Unfortunately for Amy, drugs got the best of her. Her family was even aware that she could be dead in the next few years if she did not begin rehabilitation. She had started but later quit, leading to her recent demise. To celebrate her life, some of us went out in Camden Town that evening. “Here’s to Amy,” we said. RIP.

A day before in Olso: Tragedy hits to the North. I also caught this one when it was recently reported. Like most, I thought it could be another terrorist attack on innocent people. At first, I heard about the bombing in the city of Olso, Norway, but was surprised to hear more damage was done on an island with teenagers. The Prime Minister came out with a strong statement saying that Norway would not relinquish its democracy and government. I found it an unusual statement because no details had been given about the attacker. Recent reports of Anders Breivik in London shed light on his inability to admit guilt or remorse for his killings. One statement hurts the most: “It’s better to kill too many than not enough.” It was the headline of a daily newspaper in London. Think about this: The event is a complete dichotomy of the al-Qaeda attacks. This man is right wing, Christian Fundamentalist and anti-Islam. He warns the world of a Christian war in the future. I, like the rest of you, send my thoughts and prayer to the victims and families of the attacks. The weekend was a somber one with both the attacks and Amy’s passing.

Entering the last week abroad: Saturday marked a week before the return to America. Sunday, I organized some of my items and prepared for a smooth transition home. I wrote out an agenda for the final week to complete any last-minute events. To be honest, there isn’t much left on my wish list for London. I conquered this city, and I’m glad the last week won’t be rushed.

M2M work picking up: The past couple of weeks at the internship, I’ve been unusually busy with several projects occurring simultaneously. I’ve been doing a lot of Microsoft Excel work with trafficking and coremetric sheets for clients, social media monitoring, contacting clients and compiling creative files. I’ve been moving desks quite a bit, as people come and go from holiday. Friday, after my last day at the internship, the company is expanding to another floor and moving. Too bad I couldn’t be there to help, but instead, I’ll be packing my own bags. The job search is still in progress, as I’m just beginning conversation with potential employers. It’s hard to get too involved, as I won’t be readily available when I return because of my planned wisdom teeth extraction.

My five London tips/fun facts of the week:
1. To say five ‘bucks’, you say five ‘quid’.
2. Common words/phrases of English: “To be honest…”; “Basically”; “You alright?”; “Thanks, cheers, bye.”; “Wicked”
3. Almost all galleries and museums in London are free [and full of tourists!]
4. Public display of affection is very common in London. Couples will be quite intimate on transit, in stations, at restaurants, etc.
5. M&M World just opened in Leicester Square. Yellow M&M shopping bags are taking over London!

  

Hope all is well and that you are bearing the U.S. heat. You may think I’m crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. 1) because I want a summer tan and 2) because I want to wear shorts again!

MRF

Independence and Freedom in the UK [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Well, we’re now in July, and you know what that means. I’m coming home this month! Good news for you, bad news for me. Not that I don’t care to come home, but London and the other places I’ve traveled have been brilliant. I write this blog post less than 24 hours until my next big trip, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about within the next week. This week though, I stayed around these parts and did a few things on my bucket list.

Last Friday’s lecture and trip: The previous week’s lecture taught the topic of Britain becoming a world industrial power. Britain’s rise was split into two periods, 1945-1979 or post-World War II and 1979 to present day. Enough with the lecture, I was ready to go to the National Science Museum, which was only about a 10 minute walk from home. The museum, located in South Kensington, was our first modern technology museum, but it did include quite a bit of history. The first floor had old steam engines and machines that Britain used first as an industrial power. The floors progressed in time as you went up, the second describing how human anatomy works. Small peanut-shaped learning modules helped put science into simple terms. After checking out how the brain works, I made my way over to the ‘sex’ exhibit. No, not sex, but gender. One module had a sex change application where one takes a picture of himself and watches as the computer changes into the opposite sex. The only thing I gathered from that was that the computer made the male figures box-headed, and gradually got fatter and rounder when changing into female… After that I headed to the atmosphere floor, then on up to the future floor, which described futuristic events, such as men having children, global warming, etc.

        

Even though it was not a required trip, I had desired to go to the Natural History Museum next door. It is an absolutely stunning building from the outside, and it’s seriously as big as it looks. When you arrive inside, it seems as if you are part of the movie, The Night at the Museum. A long, stretched dinosaur skeleton elongates the entrance. Side hallways stretched to exhibits of prehistoric dinosaurs, birds and mammals. Most of the museum shows the evolution of life, and its father Charles Darwin sits as a statue in a chair on the way to the second floor. Despite the animals, I held more interest in the architecture of the building. Take a look at some of the images I snapped.

            

That evening I went out for some Pimm’s, my new favorite drink of choice. Pimm’s, native to Britain, is a ginger-tasting liqueur that is mixed with lemonade and fruit to make the special Pimm’s. A pitcher of it makes about five glasses, so it’s economical! After a few of those, I headed to a bar called Strawberry Moon, a laid back club with modern hits, classics and 1990’s tunes.

Saturday shopping: Dad, you might not want to read this as my bank account might have taken a hit on July 2, 2011. Ok, I was in need of a few pairs of pants. The jeans that I brought are outdated and ill-fitting, so I decided to spend a little on a few nice pairs. Oxford Circus is an area full of modern stores: River Island, Urban Outfitters, Zara and New Look. I bought a couple pair of chinos, or colored khakis as you might call them. They were only £29, or roughly $45. Not bad for a pair of nice pants. I also got some nice dark jeans that go well with work clothing. Needless to say, I was exhausted at the end of the day, so I spent the evening updating my resume to prepare for a job search the next week.

Sunday sports and worship: Because I was able to get some rest, I woke up early on Monday to do a few items on the bucket list. First, I headed to Emirates Stadium up north, where the football (soccer) team Arsenal plays its games. It’s a beautiful stadium in a rough area, and it was cool to see the jerseys and items in the store as well. I know my roommates in Lawrence would be jealous! It’s disappointing that football season here isn’t happening, but I hope to see a game someday. After that, Notting Hill was on the list. No, I was not interested in finding the door where the movie Notting Hill took place. The vintage shops and unique stores caught more of an interest at Portobello Market. I didn’t buy anything, but I had a great Moroccan and chorizo burger for lunch. Next on the list was a church service at Westminster Abbey. The evening service started at 6:30, and we got second row seats. The service took place where William and Kate got married and where Charles Darwin and Dickens were buried. Goosebumps covered my body as the small congregation alternated prayer with song. The bishop’s voice echoed through the height of the abbey and it was an unforgettable experience. I kept a program of the service, but I was not allowed to take photos.

      

Fourth of July: Now, how was I going to celebrate the independence of my home country in the country it gained independence from? Well, after work on American Independence Day, I found an ‘American’ bar in Chelsea where flags were flying. It had a beautiful garden in the back where we ordered burgers and chips, but unfortunately they did not have American beers. On to the next place. A couple of us found a rooftop where red, white and blue balloons moved with breeze. Then we stumbled upon a VIP section, where we met the cast of Made in Chelsea, a reality TV show about the lives of Londoners (sort of like Gossip Girl or the OC). We somehow ended up in a mini photo shoot with the cast. Maybe they thought our American-ness would boost viewership? Not sure where these photos ended up. Maybe a magazine cover? The photo below is us Americanos.

Internship: I spent most of my internship this week getting my required assignments done, and then searching for jobs online to apply for. I’m mostly looking into advertising agencies or marketing firms for a career in client or account service. My passion for sports could also play key in where I end up. I’m hoping to hear back from some contacts this next week, so I’ll keep you posted if anything looks good!

Wednesday at the theatre: Part of our program for KU included a trip to the Victoria theatre to Billy Elliot: The Musical. It’s about a young boy whose dad wants him to grow up as a boxer during the troubled time of mining strikes in Britain. Billy instead draws interest in ballet and has a unique talent. Because of unemployment, his dad is angry, and becomes angrier when he hears his son is involved in ballet. Through all the hardships, his dad helps him get to a famous ballet school in London with the help of his coworkers. It was all a dream for Billy, as he’d like his late mother to see his accomplishments. The play was absolutely fantastic, and I think it’s something London does best. I recommend seeing a show here if you ever travel to the UK.

It’s getting quite late here, but I couldn’t bear without writing a post for so long. Getting so close to my big trip!

My five London tips/fun facts of the week:
1. The ABC’s. We say the letter ‘z’ as “zee.” The English say “zed.” Don’t ask why.
2. Common welcoming and departing phrases are similar to ours but slightly different. Bye is sometimes changed to bye-uh, and hi is sometimes changes to hi-yuh.
3. The News of the World scandalous publication is closing after 168 years on Sunday, due to a phone hacking allegation.
4. Snog is a frozen yogurt place I like to eat at. ‘Snog’ means ‘kiss’ in British English.
5. Campers set up tents outside of Parliament (Big Ben) to protest top worldwide issues.

I’ll be back soon after my trip!

Best,

MRF

Stoned in History and Club Beats [England]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Just as I was about to write about the wonderful 85° weather the past few days in London, it started downpouring midday. I’m sure the folks out at Wimbledon aren’t too happy about this. Anyway, the past week has been full of nice weather, an unbelievable historical venture and the first use of my shorts. I hope all at home near the floods are staying safe and above ground!

Internship: Work has been going great, and they have me doing a lot of DFA research using AdRelevance, which measures the specific amount of clicks, impressions, costs and orders from advertisements and campaigns on specific websites. It requires a lot of Microsoft Excel input and formulas that calculate averages, sums, percentages and cost (£). The experience in digital ad research will give me a head start understanding how media planners and buyers work in an ad agency. I’ve started to browse jobs for when I return, but I’m torn between going the agency route or sticking on the corporate side. Like many professors and friends have said, one’s first job may not be the ideal one, but it sets a foundation for what you do later in a career. Oh, and we all went out for about an hour during lunch for drinks on Monday!

Early weekend: Thursday night a bunch of us went to Mrs. Q’s in nearby Earl’s Court. For those who know Lawrence, it’s a mix between Quinton’s and Tonic, a vintage-looking building with modern lights and music. A bunch of KU folks joined us, so it really did feel like Quinton’s. The place also had a few pool tables, so I was able to use my skills from the pool table back home. Oddly enough, when I went the restroom (toilet), I rinsed off my hands and there was a guy waiting there to squirt soap in my hands and provide me with a towel. I’m still unsure who exactly he was supposed to be to this moment…

Friday’s class and trip: The class lecture on Friday discussed political systems in Great Britain. The country has three main parties: Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. The lecturer discussed how our meaning of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ completely differs from theirs. Another major difference is the polarization of the parties. He said that Britain’s political parties work more together even though they have different platforms. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Dave Cameron were all of discussion as Prime Ministers. Let’s just say that Britain doesn’t spend as much money and time with elections as we do in the U.S. In the meantime, I’m receiving emails from the Obama 2012 campaign… The afternoon trip was to the National Portrait Gallery, which is part of London National Gallery adjacent to Trafalgar Square. The gallery included Tudor, Elizabethan, Stuart, Civil War, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, 20th Century and contemporary portraits. We were able to map the political evolution of figures. Old portraits include stern faces and emotion, good posture and elaborate clothing. As you move toward modern era, portraits become more emotional and relaxed with more of a focus on setting than bodily features. I saw artwork by Andy Warhol, the portrait of William Shakespeare and contemporary art of Susan Boyle, Tony Blair and nude beaches. Oh, and on our way to the gallery, I spotted a transit ad of a boy wearing a KU shirt. I forget what it was promoting, I think a charity or world fund, but it was a Kansas Jayhawks 2006 football t-shirt. Odd, huh?

                    

Saturday’s trip West: Early Saturday morning our KU group headed west about an hour and a half to the countryside, where sheep and cattle grazed the land. Over the hill stood a circular wall of rocks, one of the Wonders of the Middle Ages, Stonehenge. Before going to the rocks, I walked by a rock near the entrance known as a magical rock. I touched it of course, and seriously felt something surge through my arm. (No, I’m not crazy!) Walking up to the rocks, everyone receives personal audio guides for markers around the rocks. You can only get within 40 feet of the rocks, which is frustrating, but it’s still so surreal to see it. A manmade ditch still somewhat exists from prehistoric times (3000 B.C.), as it protects the rocks. Stonehenge literally means, “hanging stones.” Some sources say they were meant for sacrifice or hanging persons and animals, and the ditch served as the “burial” of the dead. The 360° walk under a clouded sky created a great experience. The site isn’t interactive, but rather an emotional, surreal experience for everyone. Druids were around to celebrate the summer solstice at the rocks.

               

After Stonehenge, the group traveled to Salisbury, a nearby city with a lot of history. We had lunch at a local pub and gathered to our next destination. In the meantime, some of us watched a wedding couple walk out of a cathedral as people waited to celebrate outside. It was interesting to see the dress of people. Women wore derby-like hats, much like Kate Middleton. After that, we headed to Salisbury Cathedral, a gothic style church constructed in the 1200’s. The outside is standard gothic, with the tallest spire in England. In the entrance, we could hear a choir and orchestra of about 200 practicing for an upcoming performance; goosebumps as I walk to a reflective fountain in the middle of the church. Next, I studied the gears of the world’s oldest working clock, dating back to 1386. The nave and transepts have enourmously-high ceilings with ribbed vaults and pointed arches, a signature to gothic style. Stained glass adorns the side chapels and tombs lie in any open side space. In some areas, one can see modern art combined with ancient, a great experience for artists and architects. On the way out, a courtyard with gothic arcades made way to a quite important room. The room included one of the four copies of the Magna Carta. THE Magna Carta. The document is beautifully scribed on lasting paper, and the lines were straighter than lined paper. After the cathedral, we wrapped up and headed back to Londontown. Stonehenge, the Cathedral and the Magna Carta in one day, unbelievable.

                                                  

Top-rated Saturday night: After returning from a long day in the countryside, a few of us wanted to enjoy more of the day. Late at night we had planned to go to Ministry of Sound, one of the top nightclubs in the world. We found ourselves not there, but at a nightclub called Fabric, the #2 nightclub in the world. The experience was amazing. The bottom floor contains the dance floor, the nucleus of the club. It is rated so great because it’s bass and subs are located under the dance floor. So, you seriously feel vibrations of the music flow through your legs to your torso. The music is electronic/house/techno genre, so no words, just beats. The above floors are casual drinking areas, and their balconies overlook the dance floor below. Unbelievable night, and yes mom, I made it home fine. 🙂

Sunday market: After resting up from Saturday, a few of us went to Camden Town, a large market full of food, souvenirs, stores and tourists. It was almost too crowded and touristy for most of us, but we enjoyed the unbelievably warm temperatures and Thai food. Later that evening, I made the best food I’ve had here with my friend Chelsie, a stir fry of whole wheat noodles, peppers, pork, teriyaki sauce, onions, brown sugar and spices. I haven’t talked much about the food here, but everything is bland. The carrot cake doesn’t taste like anything. The spaghetti doesn’t have any spice, the cookies have little to no sugar. Maybe it’s good to locals, but I feel like almost all the dishes could have been enhanced with some sort of spice, herb or ingredient. I can’t wait to have food in Paris and Germany.

Monday after work: I recently implemented some planned trips around London in my iCalendar in my MacBook Pro, and yesterday included one of those. After work, I went to Abbey Road to see the Beatles’ home. Had to take a picture of the crosswalk of course and of the walls in front of the studio. The studio is getting a bit of a facelift, but you can still see all of the writing and graffiti that lines the gates in front of the building.

          

Nothing is planned for this afternoon, as I might try to get some laundry done. Tomorrow I will try to go to Wimbledon, even though I know it will be packed. I really wanted to see one of the Williams sisters, but unfortunately they both bowed out on Monday.

My five London tips/fun facts of the week:
1. Gas prices around these parts are ~£1.35. Think cheap? Not so fast. That’s per liter, and there are 3.7854118  liters in a gallon, making a gallon of gas here about $5.11 USD.
2. Cell phone numbers here do not use area codes. Instead, they replace area codes with the cell phone provider code. Because I have an O2 phone here, my code is 776. If one has Orange or Vodaphone, they will have a different code.
3. You don’t have to tip at restaurants. Glory, right? Waiters are paid regular wage, and you only really tip at a nice place, but only 10%.
4. Brits sign text messages with an ‘x’ or two at the end if they are texting someone they love or are interested in. It’s similar to xoxo at the end of a letter, but now just one ‘x’ can symbolize endearment.
5. Cilantro is coriander. Detergent is non-/biological powder. Sketchy is dodgy. Ground beef is mince beef. Ovens are hobs.

Cheerio from the 2012 Olympic host city,

MRF

Climbing and Surviving [Scotland]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

It’s 11:11, make a wish! Well, I know at this time you are in bed (or at least should be), but I wanted to share my Scottish experience from the past weekend.

Before making a travel up north, last week was my first week at my internship at M2M. I’ve been working on clients like Estee Lauder companies, Historic Royal Palaces and Momentum Pictures. My coworkers are quite nice, and I enjoy the sarcastic nature of Londoners. Work for me begins at 9:30 and lasts until 5:30. I usually take my lunch break at 13:00, or 1:00 p.m., as most do. For those of you who struggle in the afternoon, try to extend the morning by taking a later lunch, which makes the home stretch not as long and drawn out. Most what I’ve been doing so far is making screengrabs of advertisements that have been placed online to prove to the client that the campaign is live. For a few days I also created URL links for parts of a website, advertisement links and images. This week so far, I’ve been working on a social media review of Estee Lauder competitors. – Friday class last week was about race and immigration in Britain. The lecturer was quite outspoken about America’s past of slavery, putting it in company of Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa. He praised Britain for banning slavery before it could start, and he suggested that America is still “race conscious.” I wanted to ask how western Europeans, including British, were excluded from the conversation in regard to settling in America and wiping out the Native American population (oh well). The afternoon trip was to the Museum of London, which included the chronological advancement of the city. Here are some snapshots of the museum.
                   
I spent early Saturday taking a bit to sleep in, and then walked around the Chelsea neighborhood for a while. In my first celebrity sighting since the queen, I saw Jesse Metcalfe, known most as the young gardener on Desperate Housewives and his role in John Tucker Must Die. After that, my friend Chelsie and I packed up and headed to Liverpool Station, where we’d catch a train to Stansted Airport north of the city. On the way to the airport, it was really our first view of abundant grass, and we saw sheep, horses and cattle on our way. Once arriving to the airport, we boarded a plane and headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. Why Edinburgh? Well, from the beginning I thought a trip up north would provide a better understanding of Great Britain than just London.

Once arriving north of Edinburgh, the weather was dark, rainy and quite chilly as expected. A busride took us into the city at about 9:30 p.m., where we saw Edinburgh Castle and the skyline in a mist, creating a mystical feel for the city. We headed up to the main street after briefly looking around to begin a search for a hostel to stay. Let’s just say that Edinburgh’s streets were not laid out like America’s gridpaper. One street diverges into four, then comes a roundabout that creates even more confusion. After finding our way around, we found a decent hostel, but come to find out, it was film festival weekend, one of the most busiest weekends for the city. We spent the next half hour calling about 12 places, all of which were booked. It finally set in that we would be homeless in Scotland. Neither of us really panicked, so we went out for a few drinks, first at Grassmarket then to Picardy Street. The places then closed, and we were hungry, so we found the only place open at 4 a.m., a quite busy place. I ordered a standard hamburger and fries to get me by. The eatery closed. What now? Well, my friend Chelsie had gone outside while I was using the toilet, and she started making conversation. I came out, met a couple of Scottish guys with her, and within 15 minutes, we had a place to stay. My analytical nature immediately questioned the situation, but the aura and nature of the guys seemed inviting and welcoming. We arrived at the apartment of Umberto, a Scottish-Italian 23-year-old who works at his dad’s Sicilian bakery and pastry shop. His apartment was quite nice, and much to my surprise, he had a massive wall banner of a Native American chief. He said he thought it looked cool, so he bought it and placed it in his dining area. We spent a while chatting, then he gave us blankets (and even his comforter off of his own bed) to sleep with…

Awaking in the afternoon, I opened my eyes and wondered where I was at and how I got there. Don’t worry, I completely remember all that happened, it just seemed unreal that we would find a place. On the kitchen table, two water bottles sat atop a note that said he had to go to work and that we were welcome to anything. Had this guy just left his apartment free to two strangers he had only talked to for an hour or so? Yes. And that’s when I started to get an understanding of Scots. Chelsie and I had a list of things we wanted to do, so we set out on a touristy quest. We walked to Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the city and then to a large kilt factory. From there, we split up for some alone time. I walked down the Royal Mile toward the Palace of Holyroodhouse and enjoyed street bagpipes and shops. I later made it to Parliament, a futuristic building next to the Palace. Arthur’s seat, a dormant volcano, is located near both buildings.
         

Later that evening, we met back up with Umberto and went out for some delicious pizza. He said that we were his first American friends, and he was impressed with our vocabulary, poise, politeness and demeanor. We asked why he opened up his place to us so easily, and he said he could just tell we were nice people. He certainly has something great coming for him for doing this great deed! We spent hours chatting about our experiences and thoughts about the United States and his comparison to Scotland. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve met someone as genuine and friendly as him. We later went out to a club for some drinks.

The final day, Chelsie and I had planned to get up and climb Arthur’s Seat, the dormant volcano. Little did we know, this landmark has a 360-degree lengthy path, but we made it to the top. It was one of the most breathtaking, rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Along the path you can see the whole city of Edinburgh, luscious golf courses, the shoreline and the ocean. While at the top, I took several photos and took a moment just to think and relax.
                             
The way back down was obviously much easier. Hunger set in and it was time to eat… haggis! I wasn’t sure how much of this I had preferred to eat, but I tried it. My coworkers said I must try them when I was in Scotland because they are a traditional Scottish food. I had a small haggi sandwich. Want to know what they’re made of? Definition: a dish containing sheeps heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Wow. Family, I can honestly say that it was similar to a Mutt&Jeff burger from Falls City. The texture was mushy, but it was not bad. – We waited around for Umberto to meet us for a more ‘normal’ meal, and we ate Mexican burritos for lunch. He wanted to show us his family’s pastry shop, so we went to meet his family. The shop makes and decorates cakes, pastries, sandwiches and coffee. They gave us a box of pastries to take with us, another generous offer from the Scots. Earlier in the day we had missed a scheduled Scotch Whisky Experience, so we went back to see if we could get in. Luckily we got there just in time, and we saw how scotch whisky is made and how different regions of Scotland provide different flavors. A test-tasting session with a free glass was given, and we got to see the largest private scotch collection in the world.

It was then time to leave. Umberto, being who he is, traveled with us back to the airport and hugged goodbye. We exchanged emails and Facebooks, and he might come visit us while we are still here in London. The whole experience in Scotland was phenomenal, going from nearly homeless to gaining a lifelong friend, seeing castles and climbing a volcano, and seeing small-town folk at their best. I traveled back the way I came, and then continued back at the internship again the following morning.

MRF

(P.S. – Take the polls under the Poll tab!)

Royal Sighting, M2M Begins [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

Hiya. Sorry it’s taken a bit to get my thoughts and news posted on here, but it really seems like I just posted a couple of days ago. Time seems to fly. By the time I’m done with work, browse around town after work, and go home to eat, it’s time for bed. I’ll update you from when I posted last.

On Fridays, as part of the internship program, we have to attend a class called How Britain Works. Last Friday’s lecture was about the rise of power in Britain and its history of colonization and remaining a world power. After class, we attend a museum or historical place that relates to the lecture. Last time, we went to The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which is a way east of where I normally roam. The museum included ship, treasure, painting, map and navigation artifacts that contributed to the exploration of England to the rest of the world. I think my view on England’s colonization is different from Brits, as I don’t think they see it as conquering a foreign land, but rather an opportunity to grow and exploit foreign resources. After the museum, a few of us stayed in Greenwich, where we found a market that contained world food, jewelry, vintage clothing, artwork, royal items and more. At the end of the day, I ended up buying a few gifts and a pair of black dress shoes that were only £29, or about $44 USD. Also for lunch, a cheap bowl of mixed Ethiopian dishes, a great way to save money and be cultural. I think more than anything, I will remember and take from experiences like that more than standard tourist routes.

    

The evening after the museum, I stayed home because I KNEW that I was going to see the Queen the next day at Trooping the Colour, informally known as the Queen’s birthday parade. Elizabeth II’s actual birthday is in late August, but because of tradition and colder weather in April, the UK celebrates in June. Running a bit behind, I thought finding a decent spot was impossible, as thousands gathered behind the gates of The Mall, the processional street to Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Wedding occurred as well. Well, I ended up about three people away from the gate next to the street, and thanks to my height, I was able to get some decent photos and videos of the event (see below; video of Queen). The royal family rode through the street and entered Buckingham Palace, where they went in and moved to the balcony. After it was finished, they let people flood the area around the palace and watched as planes and jets flew over to celebrate. It’s great to say I’ve seen the Queen, as men are the next in line to the throne.

                   

The end of the weekend was a bit of a shopping spree, as well as the first few days of the week. Some of the department stores like Selfridges, Topshop and Harrods are the most massive stores I’ve ever seen. It’s almost hard to shop because you feel tense with the numerous surrounding security guards, loud music and massive amounts of people. Some of the weekend though was spent in Hoxton, where several vintage stores are located. You’d never believe this, but I found a KU vintage sweatshirt! It was randomly stuck in a rack of sweaters but priced at £29. It was a bit overpriced, so I just took a picture with it. I also found it ironic in the department stores that they had many American shirts, even shirts that were just of the flag. In some instances, a rack had a line of UK flag shirts and a line of US flag shirts. I’m still on the lookout for jeans my size. The pants/jeans here are quite unusual: types called carrot and twister. Carrot pants bevel out so they scrunch up on the leg, while twister pants have stitching that wraps around the legs. I’ll keep looking.

Monday marked the first day of my placement at M2M, a media planning and buying agency. The people here are young, helpful, welcoming and casual. The first day I wore a dress shirt, tie and pants, only to see most everyone in jeans and a nice top, but I guess it never hurts to dress up the first day. The area is called Marylebone, an affluent neighborhood with Lebanese food down the road. The setup of the agency is open, no cubes, privacy or personal conversations. We sit at long desks facing one another, so there’s quite a bit of noise with phone calls, people talking, laughing and typing. As opposed to last summer at my own cube, it is nice to interact with everyone, especially the accents. So far I’ve been doing several things: monitoring social media (Facebook and Twitter), taking screengrabs of websites where our ads are placed, and creating URLs for website ads in Germany, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. Some of the clients I’ve been working on are Historic Royal Palaces, Net-a-Porter (online fashion), Estee Lauder and Momentum Pictures (film). If you’ve seen The King’s Speech or The Fighter, M2M has placed those advertisements.

A bit for grandpa: When you go in the grocery store, each item has a British flag on it that says ‘Made in UK’ or says ‘British pork’, for example. I’ve yet to purchase anything from the store that was not UK made. The sense of national pride is much higher here than I feel like it is in the U.S. Reasons for this could be the traditional monarchy or its history of being a ruler of the world, but I think of it as Brits working and making things for Brits. The U.S. should do something like this with packaging so consumers become aware of who they are buying from. I do feel as if Americans would buy products with American logos as opposed to China or elsewhere, but it is only located in small print so people don’t check. Food is like that here for sure, but clothing is still foreign and outsourced for the most part.

The living situation is going well, but the group has received several noise complaints from neighbors, so we are supposed to keep quiet and respectful during quiet hours. The building includes about 35 KU students and 10 students from Boston U., so taking the ‘college’ out of us is hard to do, especially when abroad! For food, I’ve eaten at several cafes, English pubs and Italian. At an Italian restaurant the other night, we sat next to Icelandic guys, who recognized our accents, as they had attended college in America years ago. They pushed Iceland as a place to visit, but I think I’ll stick a bit farther south… Plans for tonight? Laundry.

My five London tips/fun facts of the week:
1. In the workplace, it is common respect to bring people a cup of tea, whether they ask for it or not.
2. In London, it’s common to hear more foreign accents than English (lots of Dutch, French, German).
3. You don’t swipe a London debit/credit card. Cards contain a chip, and one simply sticks the end in with the chip.
4. London sports news only care about football (soccer), tennis and rugby, so I had no idea that Dallas won the NBA title.
5. Mealtimes here: Breakfast (when you wake), lunch (around 1PM), snack/tea (around 3/4PM) and dinner (8-9pm).

Happy (U.S) flag day yesterday. Oh, and I’ve posted a new poll under my Polls tab. Please vote!

MRF

Weather Bipolarism Meets Tourist Travel [London]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

G’day. Finally got a chance to sit down and write a bit after much walking. Let me tell you about the weather… It will be sunny for about an hour, rain the next, sunny, rain, rain, sunny. Whenever I forget my umbrella, it rains. Whenever I bring my umbrella, hello sunshine. Not the typical Kansas sunny half the day, torrential rain at night. I find often that I go from one station to the next with different weather patterns.

Recently I have been participating in some typical tourist travel. The walking tour consisted of many standard London sites including Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. (attached a few photos, click to enlarge).

                        

Next, we had a scavenger hunt that comprised two days worth of searching for London’s lesser-known monuments and history. Some included a site of 17th-century hangings called “Tyburn Tree Gallows,” the statue of Peter Pan, Harrods (a million sq. ft. department store), and several ancient statues. Here are a few photos of the hunt:

             

I also had my internship interview on Wednesday at M2M, which is located in the borough of Marylebone. It is about a 20 minute commute through the Underground (The Tube) transit. I met with a young fella named Chris who discussed what I would be doing and a little bit about the business. He mentioned that I will be working on the digital team with clients such as Momentum Pictures, Estee Lauder, Swatch Group, and Net-A-Porter. Sounds like I will be doing a lot of online research, social media monitoring, attending brainstorming sessions, etc. I also asked about potential future with me and the company, and he said they certainly have a network in both the U.S. and U.K. I will certainly have updates of the internship in the coming weeks.

Last night we had a welcome party at the Foundation, a bar in Covent Garden. I ordered a drink called Dr. Jack, which consisted of whiskey and pomegranate juice.  What was interesting was that the bartender had inserted a stick with a wide bottom into the drink. When I picked up my drink, it was bubbling and rumbling as I held it. Come to know, the stick actually was a bubble maker and made the drink a little more interesting! Tonight a few of us went to a nearby pub called The Blackbird, where I ordered a Guinness beer and bangers and mash, a traditional English pub dish comprising of sausages on top of mashed potatoes surrounded by gravy. The plate was delightful and filling.

My five London tips/fun facts of the week:
1. Bring a coin pouch or purse before you come here. Their coins are actually worth something.
2. Cookies are called biscuits and ‘digestives’ are sweet cookies, not antacid cookies.
3. Asians still don’t know how to drive, even in the U.K.
4. Bringing as many shorts as I did was a bad idea.
5. Most business entrance doors are push, not pull like the majority in the U.S.

Cheers from London.

MRF