Stumbling across Shakespeare

Shakespeare's church

The other day while the class was on its way to see a play, we stumbled across a lovely little church near the Thames, and decided to stop in, as we had extra time. What we didn’t know as we entered was that this pretty little chapel also happened to be Shakespeare’s old parish. It had his image carved in stone under a stained glass window. The church had a service going on, and the parish minister was giving a reading.

The timing was perfect, as I’d found out the night prior that my father was in the hospital, and so while we were there, I was able to light a candle for him and say a few prayers.

Afterwards, I thought about London, and what kind of a city this is. You can walk around, accidentally stumble in somewhere, and it just happens to have tremendous literary significance. That is such a foreign concept to most Americans, I think. For me, it was such a happy accident. I knew that I was standing somewhere that Shakespeare had stood. Now, I not only share my birthday with the Bard – I have been to his old church, passed through the same doorways, and stood in the places stood. Where he put money into the collection plate, I shelled out a few pounds for commemorative keepsakes. But money for the church is money for the church.

An Unforgettable Trip Indeed

When you think about it, the Thames River has been such an important part of London’s history for hundreds of years, and it still is today. It winds through the major part of the city, and from places like St. Paul’s or the Eye, you can clearly see its muddy-looking squiggle flow throughout. Quite unfortunately, however, I have had my worst experiences of this trip on the Thames, and both involved boats. Due to inner ear problems, I get intense motion sickness on boats, docks, or any up-and-down motion (so I’m definitely not the best person to go to an amusement park with). I felt somewhat guilty when the group wound up on a ferry, because I was pretty sick both times. I’m taking the time to mention my body’s somewhat gross circumstances for the sheer irony. On the most recent ride, there were dozens of tourists and several different languages to be heard on the deck, all of them taking in the beautiful views along the river – while I’m taking in the not-so-beautiful views of the deck floor. Despite the nausea, I actually found myself laughing. So many of the tourists were standing up and taking photographs, especially of London Bridge. It was lucky that we had already seen it the week before, because I couldn’t see it at all, even if I had wanted to! There were so many gorgeous views from the Thames (or so I’m told), but I spent the majority of the trip fiercely gripping the wooden handrail.

Every unfortunate story has a moral, doesn’t it? I think this story says that no matter how much you plan for a trip, even if you have every detail down to the wire, there will always be something that goes wrong. For me, it’s the inability to enjoy one of London’s most historic parts. We only have a few days left of this trip, and I must say I have enjoyed nearly every minute of it. Just don’t ever put me on a river tour of the Thames ever again.

Here’s a much lovelier picture from earlier that day at Greenwich Park, because obviously, I didn’t get one on the boat.


Food, Friends, and Culture

I love food. I go out to lunch all the time with friends at home, but London’s food is better than pretty much everything in Lowell. This week, we had two great lunch experiences. The first was at a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown London, and the second was a picnic Greenwich Park. While the two lunch experiences were quite different, they both captured the spirit of London.

London is an ever-diversifying city, and our trip to an Iraqi restaurant highlighted this. The overall culture in London is greatly affected by the various, smaller cultures within it. It was so cool to be able to experience authentic Iraqi cuisine, something I’d never experienced before (and was ridiculously delicious), in London. The food here is really more than just fish and chips. London’s culture is expanding and I think the vast array of restaurants featuring ethnic cuisine symbolize the growing acceptance of diversity in the city.

Our lunch in Greenwich Park was much more casual. We bought bread, cheese, and milk chocolate digestives (which are the most amazing little cookies, they’re called digestives because apparently they have a lot of fiber), and we sat in the park eating and chatting. While we were in a completely different atmosphere from the sit-down, Middle Eastern restaurant, our picnic lunch seemed very “London” to me as well. Parks are everywhere here as a way for city dwellers to escape the hustle and bustle of London and relax in a calm, green area for a bit. A picnic lunch in the park was our way of stepping out of the city and relaxing in the grassy oasis of Greenwich Park.

On a similar note, both our lunch outings brought together the entire group. I’ve always found that eating meals together is the best way to get to know each other. It is so nice to share stories with everyone. I hope we have the chance to have a couple more meals together before we depart on Tuesday!

Connecting the Dots of London

Yesterday we saw some of my favorite things so far in London. We got to go to the British Library and see all of the old manuscripts that they have on display. It was amazing to see so many things that I have read throughout school, but unfortunately I have no pictures to show because it’s not allowed. Seeing Jane Austen’s handwriting and some of Bach’s works on display was such an incredible experience. This isn’t a display just for English majors, anyone in the world can appreciate the original copies, or in some cases oldest known copies, of famous works for the sake of their age alone. Seeing a 4th century text is not something people see everyday!

Being in London and seeing the rich history has been an eye opening experience for me. Last week, during a Dickens walking tour, we learned that the Rose theatre was preserved underneath a building near The Globe Theatre. After leaving the show Antony and Cleopatra, I saw a sign outside of a building saying it was the preserved area of the Rose. Seeing the way London comes together all across the city in ways you wouldn’t have noticed without looking is really cool. The amount of history here is unbelievable. This study abroad trip has made me much more interested in the history of Boston.


Today was quite the mash up of cultures. We visited the British Library this morning, had Iraqi food for lunch, and visited the Tate Modern Museum to end the day.

The British Library was my mecca. It had all kinds of ancient and priceless texts and documents. It was amazing to see the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, and Shakespeare’s original works in the same room. It was like a thief’s dream. I was surprised at how many priceless objects were in the same room. Although I could hardly make out some of the authors’ handwriting, it was still really cool to see their notes firsthand.

One of my favorite objects in the room was Queen Elizabeth I’s prayer book. She is one of my favorite characters in British history. It brought our visit to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey full circle for me. Elizabeth was one of King Henry VII’s (the lustful, murderous king) children. Elizabeth was a much fairer ruler than her sister Mary, who was known as “Bloody Mary,” and her people loved her. I wish I could have held the prayer book myself.

Iraqi food is delicious. It reminds me of the Greek food my family makes, but it has slightly different flavors. Lamb is a common factor between the two cultures, however. Each neighborhood in London seems to have a different atmosphere. There are quite a few Middle Eastern neighborhoods, which adds to the city’s great diversity.

The Tate Modern Museum is verrrry different than the British History Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum. I couldn’t help but ask myself if some of the things I was seeing was actually art. I suppose art has a different definition for each person.

Paris in two days!



A day with history

In the morning, we visited V&A museum again. The main purpose of today was to find the meaningful content behind the “disobedient objects”. It was very shocked when you saw those simple but powerful objects. Those objects could be used rich bags to fight for plant freedom under a controlled economy. It could be handmade puppets to show the needs of democracy. I was silence when I watched the video related to the Tian An Men square event in China in 1986. I did not hear too much information about this event in my country. I think because it is a miserable history and because it is the habit of obeying the instruction of government. It is a history that shows the dark government controlling time. Until now, we do not have many books or documents to describe that history. I am moved the courage of the university students of that time. Even though they did not have much information about fighting for freedom without advanced technology, they used their way to show the spirit of being an independent minded Chinese university student. Until now, many of us only have one conclusion: that history made China 100 years back. I supported that. With such long history and such abundant recourses, China has its distinct culture. If that time we had good leading government, we could catch the tendency of times. The whole society would develop better if we did not impede the culture growing. The “close the door to make economy” and “text event” were bad history but we cannot avoid because it is history. I appreciate the better government now and I really support that education is very important. I promise to be a brave Chinese student taking the spirit of university students of that time. This is the only way I can use to memorize them.

We watched Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre after visiting V&A museum. I did not do the research before watching play. Without the background I did not understand too much. But this is the charming of theater, even I did not know the background, I got the story as a tragic love story. I enjoyed the whole active and affluent performance. It is classical Shakespeare’s style. The design of theatre is also very great. I enjoyed standing in the crowd under the sunshine in the center of the theater and nearby sitting a lot of other audience in different floors. This scene made me think of the old time. Theater as entertainment for British people has a long long history. In such afternoon, the old London people dressed imperial Wardrobe or Victoria style dressing, shake the ivory fan, and watched the play elegantly.

psbpsb (1)psb (2)

All the World’s a Stage

Before coming to London, unfortunately the list of live theatre performances I have seen was very small. I have never seen a Broadway show, and most plays I have attended were local to Massachusetts. As a result, I was rather excited to see that we had several plays lined up for this trip, and as our days flew by, I found myself comparing and contrasting everything we have seen thus far. For our most recent two, I have arrived at some fascinating conclusions that I think would be worth mentioning.

Last night, we saw Great Britain at the National Theatre, a recent satirical play centered around an issue the nation faced only a short time ago. The play mocks those involved in a scandal in which millions of British citizens’ phones were hacked, including one from a girl who was kidnapped and killed. For those who were around at the time of the scandal, it was obviously much easier to understand the context, but we as visitors managed, and still managed to pick up some of the references. Nevertheless, the play was hysterical to the point of tears. With its crude humor, foul language, and purposely making fun of others, there were only short periods of seriousness before the audience would be laughing again. The only real serious part of the play was the end, in which the true events of the scandal came to light. In addition to the easygoing dialogue, the play also had rather flashy set designs, but they were in fact quite remarkable. There were three large moving screens that acted as televisions, clear dividers of rooms, backdrop designs, and mirrors. I was impressed with how easily the scenes transitioned regardless of the many intricate details on the set, such as a casual “wet floor” sign in the main office scenes. Everything was carefully put into place, and I admired how real the play became.

On the other hand, today we were able to see Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and my what a difference it was. I was a “groundling” for the three hours, instead of sitting in a plush chair like the night before. Yet it made for a more enthusiastic experience, as the actors often interacted with the audience and rushed back and forth next to me (I accidentally trampled the man beside me a few times). Rather than watching a play, it was like being a part of it. And contrary to the National Theatre, the set decorations in the Globe were sparse, but somehow was perfectly fitting. There was occasionally a tapestry behind the pillars, or one or two large pieces of furniture, but overall the actors took up the majority of the stage. Even though these two plays were vastly different in setup and execution – for a variety of reasons, including location and time period – they had the same effect on the audience as a whole. Our other two shows, Wonderland and The Crucible, were all set up in a variety of ways, but each pertained perfectly to their overall message.

Phew, what a long post! I guess it just shows how much I really am enjoying theatre life here. I will definitely make it a point to attend more plays when I return home, because I’ve taken a real liking to them. It’s an incredible form of literature that is entirely new to me, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what else I can discover on my ever-growing theatrical journey.



V&A Part Deux

Today was part two at the V&A, and I’m really happy we went. We spent our morning in the “Disobedient Objects” exhibit, which displays protest art from around the world. I thought the fashion exhibit would be my favorite from the trip, but “Disobedient Objects” has taken that title. I’ve always been a fan of street art, and I am very passionate about feminist issues, LGBT rights, and would consider myself anti-war in most cases (I guess you could say I’m a liberal), but I have never been involved in an actual protest.

Something that caught my eye was the Occupy Wall Street art from America. Right next to it was the same idea but in England. There was a stamp they used on 5 pound bills to highlight the distribution of wealth in England that went right over the picture of Queen Elizabeth. I have noticed so many differences between our two cultures, but we both seem to have similar economic issues and both handled them in similar ways.

As a whole, the exhibit touched me. As I mentioned before, I have strong opinions on many social issues, but I have never participated in a protest. It is amazing to see how people have risked their lives to fight for equal rights, better treatment, and freedom in the face of oppression. “Disobedient Objects” inspires me to take a more active stance on issues I care about. It makes me happy that the V&A was able to bring together all of these various protests from different corners of the world. “Disobedient Objects” highlights how passion and creativity can become an effective protest.

IMG_1157 IMG_1161 IMG_1162 IMG_1163

The Blink of an Eye

The final count down has begun. We only have four actual days left of class meetings because of our free weekend. It seems like the time has gone by so quickly, but I also feel like I’ve been here for a long time. There is such a difference between studying abroad and visiting. Living in someone’s home has brought the everyday life of London into my own reality. Walking to and from the tube and walking through the station like I own it makes me feel like I’ve been here for a semester.

Today was a very important day in the history of London and of Europe in general. August 4, 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the day England declared war on Germany, which began WWI. I’m so glad we were here for that. A few days ago at the Tower of London there were thousands of ceramic poppies being placed around the outside walls to commemorate fallen soldiers, but tonight was “Lights Out London”. It was amazing to see the London Eye not lit up and to also see a big spot light shot up into the night sky. Trafalger Square was completely darkened, and is also a memory I will have forever. Reading about the history of a country is a far different thing than seeing where the old and new come together to form such a great city. Take has gone by in the blink of an eye as the old cliche goes!

learning on the way


Thinking about the symbolism of the Regent Park, the first thing coming into mind is that it is a park for the king. They build the park to show the nobility and respected social position of the royal status. The relative simple artifacts in Regent Park compared to Westminster Abbey or Parliament illustrates the order and balance for the hierarchy and history. I enjoyed the different rose. Rose becomes my favorite flower after I get older. Actually I like all kinds of flowers, but my name in Chinese means rose. I will use rose as my symbolism which is also easy for people to remember me.

The tour of The Sherlock Holmes Museum at yesterday afternoon was interesting. We know in reality Sherlock does not exist. He is the fictional person who made by Adolf Conan. But we visited his house where he lived in and worked as a detective consulting person. I only want to express my admiration to the great author who created such world-famous person. Now people still use Holmes to name the smart intelligent person.

Combined these days in London, my overall feeling is enjoyable from worried at the beginning. I have used to the tempo of London. I understand the lifestyle of being a Londoner. Even unconsciously I try to speak in British accent. I like the tube system of London, very logical and effective. After you know which station you want to go, you will never lost your way. And every station seems to have some special sites that need visitors to find. I said to my friends that everywhere is like a painting even the underground station. All kinds of beautiful posters and wonderful music have the magic to make people feel good when they miss their tubes.