A Hop Over the Pond

A Hop Over the Pond

Alyssa, the Anthropolgist: Taking a Closer Look at British Culture

Now that I have been living in the UK for about three weeks, I feel like a have a general grasp of the British culture, though I feel I would need to live here much longer to have a deeper understanding of the people. Through traveling and interacting with the British people over the last couple of weeks, I have actually been surprised by some of the behavior I have witnessed.

Before arriving at Harlaxton, we were told to keep our voices low and not make eye contact because the British people are very reserved and like to keep to themselves. However, I have been surprised by how similar they are to Americans. From their convenience stores to their shopping malls, much of British life seems very "American." When going into Morrison's in Grantham, I feel as if I am shopping for groceries in Dillon's in Salina. Two days ago, my class went to Nottingham, and I went with a couple of girls to Nottingham's shopping mall. The layout of the mall was nearly identical to the mall in Dodge City, Kansas, where my family shops when we visit my aunt and uncle in southwest Kansas. My friends and I often feel as if we never left the States because everything seems so "Americanized."

In examining the general behavior and actions of the British people, I feel as if they are not as proper and reserved as popularly portrayed. The British people are extremely passionate in their relationships, and they are not afraid to show the world they are in love. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen countless couples making out in public, whether it be in the park or in the theatre. During intermission of a production I was watching at the National Theatre in London, I went to the coffee bar to get a drink. There were about twenty kissing couples blocking my way to the bar, so I just gave up on getting a coffee and headed back to my seat. I don't wish to create stereotypes of the British people, but these are just a few of my observations.

The British culture has also become very diverse, with multiple ethnic groups from Asia and Africa moving to England to pursue more prosperous lives. Two weeks ago, my class traveled to Leicester, which has a large Indian population. We attended a Bollywood musical, which was a totally different experience for me, but I loved it. The United States is truly a melting pot, but I was surprised to see how racially and culturally diverse this island is. While so many individuals from other nations are flooding Britian's borders, it seems as if the nation is adjusting well to incorporating these multiple cultures within British society.

I have truly enjoyed interacting with the British people, and I am still in awe of their amazing accents. I'm looking forward to over two more weeks of traveling throughout the UK!




More Excursions

Hello, Friends and Family!

It is a beautiful Sunday morning, and there is not one cloud in the sky! We have literally been experiencing a "heat wave" in the UK as it has been in the mid-70s for nearly a week now! I'm not complaining because the gloomy weather was truly depressing. However, I think cooler weather is coming our way later this week, so I'll have to break out my cardigans and jackets once again.

This weekend, I was able to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. On Friday, I traveled to York, perhaps the most historic city in Great Britain. Before going to York, I knew very little about this charming town. Everytime someone mentioned York, I thought of the line from Braveheart, "Wallace sacked York!" However, I now have a deeper understanding of this town, and this line is historically inaccurate as I later found out. Once entering York, you are immediately "smacked" with history. Many of the shops located on The Shambles date back to as early as the 12th century. There is also a castle wall which winds throughout the whole town which is approximately 800 years old. Portions of a Roman wall still can be found. This once again emphasizes how truly vast the Roman Empire was, extending past continental Europe into ancient, "Brittania." Perhaps my favorite stop in York was the iconic York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. I was not only struck by its enormity, but by its architectural beauty. It is truly amazing how something so old can withstand so much war and turmoil. York is definitely a town I would like to return to visit!

On Friday, I made the jaunt south to Cambridge, known for its American cemetery as well as its university. The morning was spent touring the grounds of the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Over 3,000 American soldiers from World War I and World War II are buried there. Our tour guide told us stories of American soldiers who were stationed in Great Britian during World War II and gave the ultimate sacrifice as they left to fight in continental Europe. There is also a wall for those missing in action. Some famous names on the wall included Joseph Kennedy and Glenn Miller. The tour nearly moved me to tears and made me slightly homesick as I was reminded of my grandfather, who is a veteran of World War II. It was a great way to spend Memorial Day weekend in the UK!

After touring the cemetery, I entered the bustling town center of Cambridge. King's College Chapel was on the very top of my sight seeing list. This past Christmas, I watched the BBC broadcast of the King's College Boys Choir performing in this chapel, and I knew I had to see it. The fan-vaulted ceilings were breath-taking. I would almost say the celing was mroe beautiful than the ceiling of Westminster Abbey. The stained glass windows were also stunning. Each panel told a story of the Bible through images and of course, Latin, which I could not translate. It was truly an unforgettable experience! The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing shops and people-watching. Cambridge has so many posh types, and I felt as if I was being glared at by a few of the students there. However, I did what any American tourist would do and bought a Cambridge t-shirt.

By late Saturday afternoon, I was ready to head back to the manor. I have had so much sun these past few days, which has made me very exhausted. Today will be spent wrapping up a presentation over playwrights, which is due Tuesday, watching my church's online streaming of their morning service, skyping with my parents, and relaxing. Tomorrow, my class is headed to Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest! I'll be posting another update in a couple days' time! (Once again, photos of York and Cambridge are posted on Facebook, so check them out!)

Take care,


Weekend in London-Part II

Hello, again!

Today has been very low-key. My class lasted only 45 minutes, and I have no meetings or excursions planned for this afternoon. Though my theatre class is attending a play tonight, we only have to travel to Grantham, which is about four miles from the manor. We are seeing Grantham Dramatic Society's production of 39 Steps, a comedy, based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film. I'm very excited since I'm somewhat familiar with Hitchcock's work. After the show, my class will probably go out for coffee or drinks at local pub, so it will be a very relaxing evening.

If you read my post from yesterday, you are aware that I spent this past weekend in London. Today, I plan to give you a brief "synopsis" of the second half of my weekend. Saturday morning, after eating a breakfast that consisted mostly of carbs, my roommate and I headed to the Tower of London. If you have watched movies such as Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, Lady Jane, and Braveheart, you know the Tower was a place where traitors spent the last few days of their lives. Fortunately, we had an excellent "Beefeater" who gave us an indepth, but gruesome history of the Tower. We walked the path of traitors who were led to Tower Hill to be executed and were shown the very spot in which Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey were executed. Our Beefeater, Mark, told us some dreadful tales of clumsy axemen, praying lips of severed heads, and brutal torture. Though his stories made me terribly uncomfortable, I was just amazed to be in a place with almost a thousand years of history! Most of my knowledge of the Tower came from numerous films I had watched, but this tour made history come to life!

After completing our tour of the Tower and purchasing some panini sandwiches at Starbuck's, we wanted to catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. After a short ride on the London "tube," we were disappointed to find Buckingham Palace was under construction for the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics. However, we did get a few decent pictures of the palace despite the huge crowds of tourists and construction workers. I guess this experience only gives me an incentive to come back to London to see the palace in all of its glory! The rest of the afternoon was spent on the Embankment, which is a hip theatre district located along the Thames. We had excellent views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the London Eye from this area. My theatre class was attending Moon on a Rainbow Shawl  at the National Theatre that afternoon, so we stayed in the area, browsing through book stores and the international food market. While many of my classmates did not enjoy the play, I believe it had the largest impact on me in comparison to the other plays we have viewed. It dealt with a Trinidadian family, suffering under dire economic circumstances, with the leading male protagonist deciding whether or not to leave his family to obtain a better career in England. The acting was so passionate and realistic!

My theatre class decided to go to a pub located near the Embankment to have "real" English pub food. I had fish and chips and mashed peas. The fish was very good, although I think I accidentally swallowed a small bone. After dinner, my roommate really wanted to go to the market in Camden Town. In the back of my head, I was thinking, "This used to be a poor section of London. Charles Dickens labored in a workhouse in Camden Town. I wonder if it's still a little sketchy." My preconceived notion regarding Camden Town happened to be true. The streets were packed with mumbling homeless people and pickpockets. Carolyn was almost pickpocketed. Two men surrounded her and tried to reach into her front purse pocket, and I barely noticed. However, she was wearing a money belt around her neck, so their attempt failed! She was extremely fortunate, and after that experience, we decided to head back to the hostel for the night.

However, our "fun" for the night did not end there. Once in our beds at the hostel, many of our fellow European "hostel-mates" decided to hold a techno party outside at midnight. We made two noise complaints, and Carolyn yelled out the window, telling them to turn off the music. The clerk at the front desk said she would not call the police because that was a "last-minute" option. So, from midnight until two in the morning, I sat up in my bed, patiently waiting for the party to end. The next morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Despite feeling completely exhausted, Carolyn and I decided to take in some artwork at the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. While there, we saw paintings by Da Vinci, Degas, Cezánne, and Van Gough. It was so relaxing in comparison to our other experiences. We then grabbed lunch at King's Cross Station and headed back to the hostel to meet our coach. I was ready to leave London! Though I am disappointed I didn't get to tour the Houses of Parliament and see Kensington Palace, I've realized that you cannot possibly see everything in one weekend.

My very long weekend in London led me to one conclusion: While it is nice to visit London, I would never want to live there. I am most content living in a small, rural area away from smog and pickpockets!

P.S.-If you are my friend on facebook, I have just posted my pictures from the London trip. Once again, I am sorry I cannot post pictures on this blog!



Weekend in London-Part I

Friends and Family,

I can't believe it's been five days since I last posted. However, I did not have computer access for three days while I was in London, and I've been working on papers and a presentation for the last two. As I am writing this, I'm sitting under the shade of a cherry blossom tree near the Carriage House. There is a heat wave in England this week! It reached about 75 degrees this afternoon, so I am taking advantage of the beautiful weather before it goes away. The weather in London was absolutely dreadful, but the time I spent there was truly unforgettable.

Last Friday, forty students and faculty boarded the coach for London. After arriving at a our slightly sketchy hostel, I purchased my London Underground ticket, and a group of us headed straight towards Westminster Abbey. On the way to our destination, I spotted Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. I was completely enthralled by my surroundings, and I could not believe I was actually amidst the hustle and bustle of London! Once I stepped into Westminster Abbey, I was in complete awe. Exploring the Abbey by myself with a guided audio tour was so relaxing. The architecture gave me chills. The stained glass, mosaic floors, and glowing candles created an extraordinary ambiance. I could literally imagine monks chanting and kneeling in silent prayer, their words reverberating off the ancient walls. This experience was like a giant step back in time. I still cannot believe I saw the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer and Elizabeth I! It was heaven for a history nerd like me!

After exploring Westminster Abbey, a couple of my newfound friends and I boarded the London Underground and headed towards Piccadilly Circus to grab some dinner. While riding the "tube," we were rubbing shoulders with some of London's great financiers and businessmen who were headed home after a long day of work. Their suits were immaculate, and their shoes were polished to a high sheen. I felt underdressed in my flats and wrinkled dress. When we reached Piccadilly Circus, we found an Italian tapas restaurant. I tried my first calamari, which was absolutely delicious, despite it being fried squid. Vegetarian lasagna and tiramisu completed the rest of my meal.

Friday evening was wrapped up with the play, One Man, Two Guvnors, performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre. The story was set in 1960s Brighton and was packed with slapstick comedy. I was very impressed by the actor's endurance over the course of the show. Once the final curtain closed, I was completely exhausted, and instead of heading out to the clubs, like many other students, I headed straight to our hostel to catch up on sleep...

I think I will leave you with this first portion of my weekend in London for today. The second half will be posted tomorrow!



First Encounters

The last few days have been quite uneventful. Classes began Monday, and I have been searching online databases as well as the Harlaxton Library for sources regarding the English Renaissance. However, I do not mind researching this subject, since I've been passionate about this period in history since I was little. It has been a typical, dreary English day with rain coming and going, and this weather only encourages reclusiveness. I've decided to stick with research as well as updating this blog for "time-filling" activities.

On a lighter note, I finally left the manor to make a quick stop at Morrison's in Grantham to pick up some laundry detergent. This quick trip turned out to be the highlight of the last couple of days. My roommate, Carolyn, and I boarded the shuttle to Grantham at 8:10 Tuesday morning  We had great conversation with our driver, Tony, as he weaved through the narrow streets of Harlaxton village towards Grantham. Numerous times, I thought we were going to crash since we hit morning traffic. When I told Tony my name and where I was from, he said, "You Americans sure are adventurous with names." I really do not understand how the name, "Alyssa," is adventurous, but through staying in a country so steeped in tradition, I guess "Alyssa" is a strange name in comparison to "Catherine" or "Elizabeth." I guess my mother thought she was being creative when she saw the name on a bottle of perfume in a drug store over twenty years ago.

As our drive continued, Tony told us his 27-year-old son was in the British military police and had served two tours in Afghanistan. I instantly felt a connection with him as my father just retired from the National Guard earlier this month after serving 20 years. It's amazing to think soldiers from Britain as well as the United States are serving in Afghanistan, both defending their homelands from the threat of terrorism. It's amazing what you can learn in just a short 10-minute shuttle ride.

Tony dropped us off at Morrison's, the UK equivalent to Dillon's. Morrison's literally smells like a Dillon's and has a similar floor plan. I loved watching the people shopping in the aisles. Many high-school age kids were dressed in "Hogwarts-esque" uniforms, buying muffins and pastries before they headed off for school. Old blokes were perched on benches near the cash registers, reading the news and watching the school kids as they flew in and out of the store. I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright red coat. Everyone else was dressed in heavy winter coats in neutral colors to fend off the 40-degree temperatures. After snatching up my cheap detergent, I approached the counter. The cashier immediately asked me if I was studying abroad, and I told her I was at Harlaxton for the next five weeks. I nervously handed her 5 pounds, we wished each other good day, and then I headed to the shuttle stop.

While a trip to Scott's in Lindsborg seems so insignificant and uninteresting, I enjoyed every second interacting with the British in Morrison's. They are no different than Americans and have the same needs, worries, and desires. We just live on opposite sides of the pond and have different governmental systems.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow because I will be seeing my first Bollywood musical in Leicester, a city with a large Indian population. Talk about culture shock! I'm excited to learn a little more about Indian culture and perhaps mingle with the public. I'm also headed to London this weekend, and hopefully, Carolyn and I have everything planned out. There is so much to look forward to but so much to plan for!

(I hope to add pictures on here soon, but am experiencing some difficulties. If you are friends with me on facebook, I hope you are enjoying the pictures!)


Until next time,



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