Hello London. This is officially my first post from this great island in the Atlantic (which inspired me to buy a new domain and rename my blog to "My Kaleidoscope Eyes" - if you don't get the reference, I'm sorry.)
The last week or so has been a fantastic, but otherwise emotional blur of events. Thank you to everyone who made my final days in Simi some of the most memorable days of my life. I cried a lot... and it was really difficult to say goodbye to you, as you know, but if anything, it proves that I'm blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.
I guess this is where I'm supposed to start writing about my first experiences in England. I've been here once before - 2 years ago to be exact. And let me tell you, it's just as awesome as I remember it. The weather is just how I like it - chilly, still slightly sunny and perfect for hats, scarves and sweaters (though I expect it will just continue to get colder and eventually I'll have the excuse I need to wear my new red peacoat).
I live in a privately-rented student house in Stamford Hill... on the corner of Linthorpe and Glaserton Roads. There are currently 9 of us living in the house - 3 guys and 6 girls... and somehow, there are still 2 rooms available. My room is on the top floor, overlooking the street in front of the house. It has two big windows, a high ceiling and two wall heaters - which has made sleeping feel like being a bun in the oven (in a good way.)
I've attempted to make it feel like home as much as I can - so I've put up some pictures and arranged my now-small collection of books and DVDs on this little white shelf. I also have a wardrobe instead of a closet, a sink and small medicine cabinet, a desk, 2 chairs, a small TV, nightstand and single bed. All very cozy and comfortable, I would say. And because my portable hard-drive is not working, even with an adapter (God, I hope I just need a converter and not a new hard-drive... because that's where ALL of my music and pictures are), my housemate Chris was kind enough to lend me some CDs... a nice choice of stuff including albums by We Are Scientists, Minus the Bear, Arcade Fire and Camera Obscura.
By the way, this is what I see when I look out the window:
So far, I've only met 6 out of 8 housemates. They are all very accommodating and gave me a super warm welcome. Within hours of arriving yesterday, they immediately invited me to have pizza (good thing too, because I was starving). So we took a 5 minute walk to Domino's and picked up some yum... which I think is actually (dare I say) BETTER than the Domino's back home. The pizza is thin and floppy and delicious... maybe it's because they don't use frozen dough. Who knows?? Still, I remember pizza and McDonald's tasting better than anything else here... so I guess it's consistent with prior observations.
There are two grocery stores, along with an entire string of shops within walking distance. This morning, I did a little bit of grocery shopping at Morrisons Supermarket. I spent exactly £15.85 for various food and stuff (including a half-size can of Spam, some rice, apples and a bottle of Oasis - my local juice substitute of choice for Vitamin Water.) Are you jealous, Nate?
Around 2 p.m. I met with my landlord - this funny, old Chinese man who laughs a lot and vigorously repeats things - like "I hev to raise ren by one poun becos I hev to pay one tousan poun for tax" and "you americken gerl are firs from los angiless" (misspelling are intentional, and imagine hearing the same phrase 3 or 4 times in a row, separated by very loud maniacal laughing). Still, he's a very sweet man - and maybe because he looks like someone's Asian grandpa, I feel somewhat partial to him.
Another thing I have to mention - Stamford Hill happens to have the highest population of Hacidic Jews in all of England. It's apparent as soon as you cross the city limit. They're freakin' everywhere... walking hurriedly down the street, riding bicycles with reflectors in the middle of the night... unsmiling, always seemingly in a hurry, the curls beneath their tophats and on either side of their heads waving in the light wind. And their young sons are exactly the same way, except without the tophats. Romantic, I know.
Still, I suppose this makes things very safe for my neighborhood. I don't have to worry about walking down the street and getting attacked by one of them... I hope. I'm sure this will be an interesting subject of observation for those of you planning to come visit me.
So besides all this, I dedicated my first full day in London to exploring my surroundings. I had to cross some things off my list of essentials, so I hit up Camden Town because I already knew where it was AND I had a hankering for a caramel macchiato. Luckily for me, Camden is the home of England's Starbucks Castle.
All-in-all, I spent just a couple hours, Oyster card in-hand, wandering around... and then I somehow found myself on the tube again headed for Picadilly Circus. Again, somewhere I've been before - but at least I came back home with a small travel hair dryer, a new umbrella and another giant bottle of Oasis that should last me a couple days.
I also discovered that walking is quite relaxing when there's an accompanying soundtrack. Both Camden Town and Picadilly Circus were so packed - maybe because I didn't leave my house until after 3 p.m., and it was around rush hour. Whatever - I felt the need to drown out the noise, or lack thereof in the tube, with my iPod. I think it seriously changed my outlook on moving from point A to point B, and instead made it really feel like I was watching scenes of my life in a movie.
In the end, even though all you people that I love can't be here with me, I highly recommend putting those little earbuds in your ears, turning on your favorite playlist, getting out of your car, and getting lost somewhere... on foot. I swear it'll make things much more colorful.