Before I jump into telling you about my life in the Hendrix-in-London program, I should tell you what the program is! Twelve Hendrix students, ages 19 to 32, all take the same classes and live in the same apartment building. Think of it as The Real World: London, except less psycho and more intellectual -- and more fun! One of the central principles of the Hendrix-in-London program is to get the students out of the classroom and into London. And boy, have we been out in London!
Monday, for our British Art & Architecture class, we walked to the National Gallery, where we took turns explaining and critiquing the some of the most important European paintings in history. Tuesday, for our British Life & Culture class, we visited to the Belgrave Police Station to meet local law enforcement officers and get their insight into British law and crime. Wednesday, my Shakespeare class stood just feet from the stage at the Globe Theater production of The Merchant of Venice. With all these fieldtrips, it's like elementary school again, but better!
On one hand, it's certainly nice just to get out of the classroom and into the London sunshine. (Who even knew there was such a thing? It hasn't rained a drop in the 18 days I've been here!) But I'm also astounded at how much I'm learning.
In particular, seeing The Merchant of Venice after reading the play really revolutionized the Shakespeare experience for me. The live show was often rioutously funny and embarassingly bawdy, with the actors throwing in more than their fair share of hip thrusts and butt pinches. Our professor, Gene, makes sure to point out in class the innuendo we might have missed in the readings. (A far cry from my high school teachers' treatment of the issue.) She also encourages us to see Shakespeare's works merely as scripts -- and fallible, imperfect scripts at that.
Here we don't blindly worship Shakespeare's work, and we don't put needless barriers between the professors and ourselves. Lizzie, Susie, and Gene expect us to call them by their first names, which is suprising in the more status-conscious British world. In fact, this London experience is a rather paradoxical one. Although the city of London is a bustling one, and my walking speed has probably tripled since arriving here, there is a sense of European calm overtaking my life. I have time for tea in the morning, and I get eight hours of sleep ... unless I've spent the wee hours of the night before discussing the meaning of life with my new friends.
At the same time, I'm doing more. This weekend, I wrote a big blog post, watched a movie, took a daytrip to the town of Brighton, attended a political action group's annual meeting, and wandered around at the Thames River Festival. I packed myself onto a rushour Tube compartment and I ate British apple pie. I made pasta and I made friends. And in between, I even found time for a nap. This really is like kindergarten. Only so much better.
For a sampling of pictures from the week (including some gorgeous ones from Brighton beach), click here.