I don’t think there is a diamond as hard as I slept last night. The morning light and traffic outside my window was a welcome help in drawing me from my bed, and it didn’t take much more convincing than the view of the London Eye from my window to get my day started. We began by running over to the Franklin-Wilkins building across the street to get our identification, meal card and then sit at our official introduction.
I was initially a little concerned at the haphazard and structureless nature of the program thus far, but after the formal introductions today, I am much more at peace. It turns out yesterday was hectic for everyone. Food was so expensive here in London that I was concerned that the 7.50 pound allowance for food from King’s would bankrupt me, but I was relieved to discover that meals at the cafeteria were heavily discounted for students. This, in addition to the spending money that the Fulbright commission has afforded us should ensure that I leave here without too much of a dent in my pocket. I also got a snazzy red backpack and notebook, both King’s themed.
After registering with the school and getting all of those details out of the way, we explored in pursuit of caffeine to kill the short time before our first class. In addition to finding the fantastic and equally hipster counterpart to starbucks about 4 blocks from where we were staying, we actually found a very welcome surprise – the filming of a blockbuster film! When we asked a very official looking man that was standing near the filming site what was going on, he very kindly and enthusiastically told us that he was filming a scene for an upcoming movie. We recognized an older looking actor, and when we asked the official looking man the name of the movie, he responded “if I told you that, I’d have to kill you!” with a laugh. He then said, “I can tell you though, it’s pretty big bananas!”. I’m sure he had legal obligations to respond that way but indications to what the movie was were all over the set. The movie obviously takes place in the early 20th century because the set had rolled in quite a few older looking cars for it, and it was being shot in a very old looking part of town. In these cars where notes saying that they were for the crew of the blockbuster movie “Legend”. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_(2015_film). After looking at the photos of the actors on wikipedia, I know that I certainly spotted what seems to be the main actor of the film, who actually plays both of the films main twin brother protagonists, Tom Hardy. Photos of all the events will be attached to this post.
After sobering from that amazing experience, we headed toward lunch and our class in the same building from this morning. After lunch with a very kind 27 year old Netherlands resident for lunch, we met our ‘tutors’ as they call them four our inaugural class. I was very excited for this moment because up until this point it was not very clear what we would be studying. I am happy to say that the interpretation of the course name, “Theatrical London”, is very literal. Our second day, we are going to the globe theater to watch Julius Caesar, after discussing excerpts that I am supposed to be reading right now instead of writing this blog post. We are also going to see The Crucible, Billy Elliot, and a tour at drury lane theater. The best part is all are at different famous theaters, and the tour is backstage! In addition to the shows we are going to see, we have to read an entire play every single night- not the worst homework in the world. One of our tutors is a Fulbright Scholar herself, hence why we were placed in the course, and they were both extremely excited to be hosting us. I can’t describe their enthusiasm and my optimism for the course a result of it. These tutors are positively spectacular, and we only met with them for just under and hour or so before we had to head off to a meeting with the actual UK-US Fulbright Commission, based right here in London.
The short trip across the Waterloo bridge to the absolutely magnificent Strand Campus (pictured in the bottom of the main photo for this very blog) was heavenly under a clear blue sky. We entered to far side of the building with very modern conveniences, and made our way through a literal maze of corridors to our meeting room. I cannot not over-emphasize how alike a maze this journey was. I suppose that is the result of several hundreds of years worth of construction on the same building. We met with all of our support at this meeting, and we received an extremely warm welcome. The King’s College institute, one of the nine UK-US Fulbright institutes, is only one of two actually based in London, so those waiting for us were very excited to. The office was beautiful and centered in that gorgeous building, and we were got a great debrief on London life and the next three weeks schedule. I won’t spoil it now as I’ll be blogging along. Amazingly, as we stepped outside from our meeting, the Tour de France was literally passing through London – on the doorstep of that very building!! We watched as the best cyclists in the world literally whirred past us, and I took a video of the event. Where else in the world could you casually stumble not The Tour de France! That tour was followed by another tour of the Somerset House, part of the aforementioned King’s Strand campus. On the top level was a lofted cafe, and next to it, the most beautiful and ornate cathedral I have ever seen.
The night ended with a formal invitation the Waterfront Grill and Pub overlooking the Thames. There, I met young men and women from the Ukraine, Russia, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the list goes on. All of these people were the friendliest and I taught many of them how to play pool. Games of pool take a very long time when everyone is new to the game and the person who taught them isn’t very good themselves by the way. We left early to get to work on our first homework assignment, and as we left for the library, a Russian girl asked us if we had any cooking equipment for her to use in her dorm. We regretfully didn’t, but as we parted, we heard as she and her less linguistically talented partner walked away discuss what the word equipment meant. “Equipment, it’s like um, utensils. No? Okay, so you know how when you play football and you need shorts and a ball? That is equipment.” “Oh, so is like meat is equipment?”