Saturday, February 7, 2009

September 25, 2008 - Roberto’s England - Vol. 2, Ch. 1

I present the first chapter of Roberto's second round of England adventures. Enjoy!


Greetings one and all!

I am writing to you from England! I just arrived after a long flight that consisted of many a movie and many a vodka tonic. But I'm here now, settling in, and....

Ok. That's all bullshit, except for the part about being in England and the many vodka tonics.

I have been absolutely horrible about updating everyone back home about my situation in London. In fact, it seems that I receive an email from my mother about every other day telling me to write her. I always respond with the same answer: "I'm sorry, but I will write you at my earliest convenience." The convenience has been there time and time again, but I much prefer to press refresh on Facebook until the wee hours than actually do something productive. Well, no more. I promise to get back to my old habit of writing daily updates.* I am undecided whether to post these recaps of my British adventures on my MySpace blog or to simply e-mail them. I'm open to suggestions.

So I guess I have several weeks worth of adventures to report. Hmmmm.... how to wrap it all up in one neat little package?

Let's start with my arrival. I had to take two planes to get to London. I normally abhor flights with layovers, but the BU-recommended travel agent told me that it would be the most convenient flight for me. If I chose the flight I ended up taking as opposed to the direct flight from LA, then I would save money (true) and not have to worry about transportation from the airport to my London apartment (FALSE!). Sounded like a good enough deal, so I went with it against my better judgment. It turns out that the booking agent was talking out of her ass because BU informed (at the last-minute) that I was given faulty information since BU does not provide transportation of any kind (GAAAHH!!). So I took a 7am flight from LA to Chicago. 5 hours after arriving in Chicago I took another flight from O'Hare Airport to London Heathrow. I arrived in London at about 8:30am the next day. The journey was a long and exhaustive one. I would not have survived if not for Virgin Atlantic providing me with a constant supply of free alcohol and coffee. That steady intake of uppers and downers probably did a number on my body, but I needed it.

At least I had something to look forward to upon arriving (the country of England aside), Priyanka and Ellen's plane (they flew in together) arrived an hour after mine. I waited up for them and had a nice little reunion with my Boston colleagues. The reunion was made even sweeter because the always charming Nabeela joined us at our terminal on her way back to Boston. We talked over cups of tea and then parted ways.

We somehow managed to cram all our bags (we each had two large suitcases) and ourselves into a taxi and made our way to our posh new home. If you don't know London geography, then let me tell you that South Kensington is one of the nicest and wealthiest parts of the city. Our apartment building is behind Royal Albert Hall and surrounded by embassies. We got a pretty sweet deal. We were hoping to all live together in one apartment or floor, but that wasn't possible. The building is set up like a dorm. Priyanka, Ellen, and Candy share a room on the first floor. Meanwhile, Brittany and I live on the fourth floor; I have my own room, as does she. Each floor has two kitchens, but no laundry room (BOO!). It sucks having to go back to a dorm situation after living on my own for the past year, but it's the way it has to be.

Alright, let's move on to my adventures. For our first weekend in London I organized a trip to my old stomping ground: Oxford. None of the girls had ever been, so I acted as tour coordinator and guide. I took them all around central Oxford. I showed them the different colleges, my favorite restaurant, city centre, the Ashmoleon musem, the Bodleian Library (couldn't go inside though because all the tours were sold out), the botanical gardens, the covered market, took them to eat the Eagle & Child Pub (where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein ate, wrote, and debated), and just walked around the city. The weather turned against us toward the end of our day trip, but it was great excursion nonetheless. I was glad to show my friends around, but even happier to be back where my love affair with England first started.

We haven't gone on any other day trips, but we have explored and revisited (Ellen, Pri, Brittany, and I have all spent time in London prior to this trip) various part of this amazing city. One of our little adventures took us to Burrough Market. It's a farmers' market with lots of amazing food (cheeses, wines, meats, vegetables, etc.). I experienced the glory that is an ostrich burger. It was the most amazing meat. I drool every time I think about that oh so delicious burger. *wipes drool of keyboard* At first I thought I loved it so much because I had been starving, but I passed the burger around and the group all agreed that it was indeed delicious. Oh my god, I want another one right now. I'm not even hungry, but I feel like I must have another. I think it may been laced with crack.

I don't think I have eaten anything else that is as interesting. Oh wait, I lie. There is currently a Festival of Food going on, and we went for free samples. I ate oxtail pate and venison sausage. The oxtail pate was interesting, but the venison was so good. I must try more of it.

What else? Oh, yes. As you know, I am a theatre junkie. I watched Zorro the Musical. It was soooo cheesy, but so much fun. The Gipsy Kings did all the music and the Flamenco was great. High art it wasn't, but entertaining it certainly was.

I then watched Les Miserables. They just put in a brand new cast, and they were incredible. It even featured some big names. Earl Carpenter, who I had previously seen as The Phantom, played Javert. Drew Sarich (extremely overrated big name American actor) played Jean Valjean; his American accent was distracting and I thought his voice sounded too young, but he was ok. The guy who played Thenardier was another actor I had previously seen in another show. But the girl who played Eponine was brilliant. She was the second understudy, but you would never know from her incredible performance. She had the grown men around me in tears.

I recently watched Now or Later, a play about American politics. The British actors' American accents were not the greatest (and one was particularly grating), but it was a thought-provoking and well-written piece of theatre. If I had had the time, I would have seen more so far. I want to go see Kenneth Branagh in Ivanov, Les Cage aux Folles, August: Osage County, Carousel, and possibly The Sound of Music.

And speaking of theatre, I will be starting my internship on October 13. I will be working with Blanche Marvin, the most well-known theatre critic in London. If you are a New Yorker or English and have any connection whatsoever to theatre, you know her. She's so influential that actors will perform in her living room should she happen to miss a performance. Also, she was responsible for Sweeney Todd being made into a musical; she called Sondheim and told him to turn it into a musical and that would make him a lot of money, which it did. She has connections everywhere, so this is going to be an AMAZING networking opportunity. First off, I'll be helping her organize the theatre awards she started. I'll get to work alongside all of London's theatre critics. I'll also be in charge of sending New York's Lincoln Center programs and reviews for all the West End shows; she maintains the Lincoln Center's West End archives. And finally, I'll get the chance to review as many shows as I can handle. She watches 8+ shows a week in London or otherwise. She's already told me that I'll be reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will get to travel to Liverpool and other English cities to review their productions. It's going to be really hard work (my love of theatre is going to be tested), but it is a pretty sweet deal for someone who wants to do end up doing this for a living. I'm going to have one hell of a portfolio and resume after this is all over. New Yorker, here I come!

Another thing we've been doing is having weekly theme dinners. It all started with Brittany making us dinner one night. We decided that we should each host a dinner, each with a personal theme (Brittany made Italian, I made Mexican, and Pri made Indian). So far each has been a tasty success. I had to trek all over London to get the necessary ingredients for my menu (enchiladas suizas, guacamole, quesadillas, and black beans). A lot of work went into that night, but it all turned out marvelously. I even brought my laptop into the kitchen and had Latin music playing all night.

This Thursday is Candy's turn to feed the group. She's making us a Chinese feast, which will surely be awesome. And last, but not least, is Ellen with her upcoming Polish dinner. Not going to lie, not terribly excited about that one. Hehehe... But, hey, I'm always up for trying new things (cf. ostrich burger).

As for future plans, I will be watching The Merry Wives of Windsor at The Globe on Wednesday. On November 1, my little posse and I will be taking a weekend trip to Cardiff. We have a mid-semester break and I am planning on spending time in Barcelona and some other Spanish city (tips, anyone???). I actually haven't booked anything yet, so I should really get on that ASAP. Also, we are planning trips to Amsterdam and Paris.

Let me conclude this very long entry with the following thought. I came to London feeling that this study abroad experience would be even greater than the last. I went to Europe for the first time with a few acquaintances (who became good friends) and had myself a fun and fine first experience. This time, however, I was coming to what then became my favorite country with a very different group. I was studying abroad with a good group of friends with whom I have had many a fun time with in Boston and who have all previously spent time here. It was going to be all the fun I had in Boston, but relocated to an even greater city. Well, I now know I was right. I have been having the time of my life. Living, studying, and working in England with friends is a dream. There is only one thing missing from this experience, and you know who you are. ;)

On the topic of missing someone, I find it curious that I don't miss people more than I do. Not to say that I don't, but I think it's because I've gone through the whole "leaving people behind" thing before. I've left the country for an extended period of time before. I have also temporarily parted ways with amazing people (a shout out to my old UCLA crew and you awesome COMsters in Boston). I'll be back and we'll meet again. But yes, I do miss you all.

But enough for now, I've rambled on for far too long. Serves me right for being too lazy to write sooner.


- Roberto

* Someone please remind (i.e. harass) me to do so!

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