Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The not-so-tourist syndrome

Going on 16 days that we've been here now, and I've realized that I've moved beyond the tourist phase. The trips on the Tube, at least for regular trips, are become much more routine - I automatically know which direction I'm going on the Northern Line without thinking about it, and know on which side the doors on the train open at stations I'm at regularly. I've also learned not to take the stairs at Russell Square, but to wait for the lift; they're not kidding when they say there are 172 steps. I did take them once, just to see what it was like, and trust me - you don't want to do it twice. I'm automatically looking right when crossing a street (warning: watch out for one way streets), and am no longer always increasing the price of everything by 50% to figure its price in dollars.

We're also getting to know the differences between shopping for food at Sainsbury's, Marks & Sparks, and Tesco Express. And also which restaurants in our neighborhood are the best values, though we're trying not to eat out very often. Even the best values are fairly expensive, so we're dinung in as much as possible, especially for dinner. Fortunately, our kitchen is very well stocked, and even though much smaller than our kitchen at home, very usable.

At dinner tonight while discussing how school was for the girls today, I was struck by the fact that Lena automatically talked about her "maths" class, rather than first calling it "math" and then correcting herself. And I'm not even surprised anymore to see she and Rosie in their uniforms as they commute to school - which, by the way, they now navigate on their own on the Tube without parental supervision.

We took in the inaugural festivities from home yesterday. BBC News had coverage from 2:00p to 10:00p GMT. I also streamed some of the CNN coverage over the Internet, which was an interesting comparison. During the ceremonies at the Capitol, both were showing the same video, so either it was pool or the BBC was broadcasting CNN's video. But of course the commentary was quite different. Much of the BBC commentary, not surprisingly, focused on what Obama would likely do in foreign affairs. They also spent time explaining things that Americans know and take for granted, such as who Dan Quayle is (well, at least most of us know who he is). In the end, I turned off CNN and concentrated on the BBC.

I broke down and purchased an Evening Standard (subtitled, "London's Quality Newspaper") for the first time coming back from work today. Normally I just grab one of the free papers they give out as you walk in the Tube stations in the morning (The Metro) and evening (The London Paper). But the same Evening Standard signboards that a couple of weeks ago were advertising record cold temperatures ("London Freeze as Temps Plummet Below Zero" - that's zero celsius, of course) were advertising a special pull out section for the inauguration. So I plunked down my 50p and bought one. The coverage included the activites here in London, including an "inaugural ball." It was interesting that Brits who didn't know me well enough to know my politics assumed that we were celebrating the inauguration, a sentiment that seems pervasive here. It's hard to find anybody who has a good word for the departing President Bush or a negative word for President Obama.

Today Anne came with me to Russell Square, as she was meeting a new friend there for a stroll and tea. So she decided she should pay a visit to my office, memorializing the visit with a picture of, as we've come to call it, my location in the Bowels of Birkbeck. Notice the safety feature of the fire extinguisher directly behind me.

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