Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New to me!

Today I did a lot of British things for the first time:

1. I tried Marmite.

Verdict: To be honest, I'm neutral on it. For those of you who don't know, Marmite is this yeast by-product of the beer brewing process that British people either love or hate. Frankly, I find the idea that someone decided to use the by-product of the beer brewing process for a food substance more disgusting than the actual taste. But yeah, it was ok. It kinda was missing something. I bet you could make some yummy crudites with it, by pairing it with something really complimentary. My new mission!

2. I had a half shandy at lunch.

Verdict: Interesting. A shandy, for all of you who don't know in America, is the British beer-mosa: 1/3 lager, 2/3 lemonade. It's super sweet and bubbly. I think I might prefer the drink that is the next step up, 3/4 lager and 1/4 lemonade, whose name was equally as silly-sounding but I forgot it. A half means a half pint, which is good for lightweights like me who want to have a drink at the pub with co-workers but also want to be somewhat productive at work in the afternoon.

3. (from last night) I watched Eastenders.

Verdict: Totally rad. This is sort of a fake "first" because I watched Eastenders for the first time last weekend in my hotel room (along with Coronation Street), and I also watched it last night so it wasn't exactly today. ANYWAY. Eastenders is like the UK's "Guiding Light" or "General Hospital" in that it has been on the air for like 15 years and the characters keep coming in and out of plotlines. The best part, though, is that is based on people from a low-class white trash neighborhood in East London. So where Americans watch the daily dramas of people they aspire to be – wealthy, successful, beautiful - Brits, on the other hand, watch the people they are glad they are not - slightly ridiculous, poorly dressed, overly made-up people from bad areas of the city. The class system here is fascinating.

And now for an epilogue to the last post: rather than going home for another solo dance party, Ashley and I did some more apartment searching. We ended up getting some food and cooking at her temporary home, watching Eastenders, and pestering her very patient and obliging host. I left around 11:00PM for my trek to Weehauken (Willesdon Junction), and did the standard transfer at Baker Street. Until, at Baker Street, they announce there are no Bakerloo (brown) line trains at that station. They tell me to take the Circle (yellow) line trains to Paddington and transfer there for the Bakerloo. Only at Paddington, there are no Bakerloo trains running AT ALL. So I get back on the Circle Line to go back one stop to Edgware Road, where I was to get on the No.18 bus to Willesdon Junction.

Now. The bus system in London is quite efficient - clean, inexpensive, and surprisingly local. Except: when the bus stop is not right outside the station, but underneath an overpass, in the dark, in a part of town that I'd never been to in the daylight. When I finally found the bus stop (only because I saw the bus pulling up), after the short ride it dropped me off at the Willesdon Junction tube station - my normal stop - but only on the other side of the station. So the only way for me to get to the other side was to walk along a path that was (thank god) extremely well lit but bordered on both sides with chain link fence topped with razor wire. I walked fast, kept my eyes down, and clenched my fists over and over again, mentally composing the scathing letter that would go to my HR director this morning for placing me in a temporary housing situation that put a foreigner in such a vulnerable position. The problem was not so much that the tube broke down - this happened all the time in New York (thank you, fucking MTA New York City Transit) - because the tube system is pretty extensive and the buses helped. But only one line services the area where I'm being hosted, and apparently, judging from the grumbles around me as the London Transport representative explained why the subway wasn't running, this happens on the Bakerloo all of the time. So instead of being centrally located in an area where there were several other transportation options, I was placed in an area relatively isolated from the rest of London. And, I was wearing a shorter dress, and its was dark, and it was very intimidating. London is known for street crime, and the thought definitely crossed my mind that I was not in a great situation.


4. Stranded in London, forced to take a sketchy bus.

Verdict: That totally sucked.

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