Saturday, November 17, 2007

Catching up!

I've fallen a little behind in the blog, for the two of you who may be reading it! Autumn is definitely here - it has gotten much colder, somewhat rainier (though not bad), and the sun is now setting a few minutes after 4 p.m. (and getting earlier by the day). Abby misses having piles of leaves to jump in - Wayne does not miss raking up all those leaves! She's a been a bit homesick the last week or so. She doesn't want to go home, exactly, but she wants her friends to magically appear here. I know what she means.

Today was a banner day - another parent actually spoke to me at a playground! Turns out he'd lived in the States for 7 years, which probably explains it. He lived next door to Madeline Albright. This has been something I find difficult about London - it is tough to strike up conversations with other parents at playgrounds or waiting outside school to pick up kids. I don't know how much of that is a cultural difference (the famous British reserve), how much is a language barrier (many, many people in this part of London don't speak English as their first language), and how much I would also find if I were in a new community in the U.S. Every time I travel for an extended period of time I'm filled with new resolve to reach out to people when I'm home. One English person I know joked that if an English person starts a conversation with a stranger they always begin with, "I'm sorry, but . . . " Perhaps this is why I am stopped nearly daily on the street for directions.

This week I went with Wayne's students to see King Lear at the New London Theatre. It was a great production, very well done. My complaints are the same as the last production of Lear I saw - Lear can be very hard to understand as his world disintegrates around him, and I wish Cordelia wasn't such a wimp. The production was 3 hours and 45 minutes, and walking home in the cold rain through dark streets at 11 p.m. fit the ending of the play perfectly (Death! Destruction! Despair!)

Also this week I had lunch with one of my classmates who is from Uganda. She is a social worker, interested in creating services for grandparents raising their grandchildren. In her town of about 2000, she could only think of three families where parents are raising their children. Most children are orphaned - a combination of accidents, AIDS, and death in childbirth taking their parents. We also talked about the difference in social work between Uganda and the U.K.

Another classmate is from Bangladesh - I don't know yet whether any of his family/friends have been directly affected by the cyclone there. The last numbers I heard were 1,700, but it sounds like it's going to go even higher.

On a brighter note, last weekend was the Lord Mayor's Show. The Lord Mayor of London is the leader of the City of London, a fairly small area home to the U.K. financial community. Every year they have a big parade, and pull out the Lord Mayor's coach (below) from the Museum of London. Abby & I went down for the parade, which was full of marching bands and floats, fancy coaches, and people in odd wigs. Since we won't see any Thanksgiving parades, this will have to do.
And, of course, no event in England is complete without fireworks! These were over the Thames - we stood on Blackfriar's Bridge to watch. This is one advantage of the fall - the fireworks started a few minutes after 5. Nothing like being able to see a fireworks show and make it home in time for dinner!
There was even a carnival. This is the view from the ferris wheel Abby & I rode right next to St. Paul's Cathedral. This week we'll be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for the students and also doing some special Thanksgiving activities with Abby's class. Hand turkeys, anyone?

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