Hello, friends and family! As you surely know, I'm in London now! Let me tell you how it's been.
Monday morning I arrived at the Buffalo airport. We flew to Washington, DC, had a two hour layover, and then had our 6+ hour flight over the Atlantic to London Heathrow Airport. As much as I knew I should sleep on the flight (to cut down on the jetlag -- it was 6pm at DC when we left, and would be 6am in London when we landed), and as much as I tried to sleep, it simply did not happen. Check out the awesome photo of the Thames (that's pronounced 'temz') River I took from the plane as we flew over the city.
I'm living in Kensington, which it turns out is one of the classier parts of London. Just look at the street I live on! It's quite a sight. I'm living in Ambassador House, so-named because it is right next-door to the actual French Ambassador. Apparently he hates us, and I don't blame him; the walls are paper-thin, and you know how loud university students on their way back from the pub can be. According to our RD, on the day that students move out every year, the ambassador and his wife sit out on their balcony and toast the wonderful occasion.
I'll admit, I was kind of grumpy my first day. I blame it on a combination of not sleeping for 31 hours straight and on culture shock. When suddenly cars are coming at you from the wrong direction and you're the one with the weird accent, it can be a bit much to take. Fortunately, that all passed after I slept the first night, and it's been an excellent time ever since! I love living in the city: being able to walk anywhere and do anything whenever you feel like it without ever stepping foot on a gas pedal. Being unique in a crowded city of unique individuals; it's a great feeling.
The school sent us on two great tours the first couple days here. First, a walking tour of the Kensington area, including Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived, beautiful Hyde Park, which NYC's Central Park was modeled after, and Kensington High Street, a shopping center to rival any mall I've been to. The next day we took a bus tour of the city, and were shown all of the major areas and landmarks. It was very educational and made me very excited to come explore these places on my own time. Both of our tour guides, native Londoners, were excellent. During the tours, I couldn't help but notice how proud they were of their culture and history. One thing in particular that I noticed was that the bus tour guide referred to Gordon Brown as "our prime minister", whereas as Americans we would refer to Obama as simply "the president".
This first week was Orientation Week, and as such, the school encouraged us to explore London by subsidizing some touristy activities in the city. For example, yesterday most of went to take a ride on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel-type construction that was originally built as the Millennium Wheel. It was so popular that they've decided to keep it around indefinitely, and it certainly does provide an excellent view of the city from above. The night before last, we went on an evening boat ride up and down the Thames, which provided an equally excellent view of many the city's landmarks, but from the viewpoint of low tide this time. (What you see on the right is actually quite a rare event; Tower Bridge barely ever opens up anymore, and if a boat wants it to, they have to request it at least 24 hours in advance. We were lucky enough to see it firsthand during our bus tour!)
Well, I think this is about enough for now. Congratulations if you've read this far! Maybe I'll send you a biscuit. My classes start tomorrow, but I don't expect any trouble from them. I'll write again sometime soon. You can always find me on Facebook; just remember that I'm 5 hours ahead of you!