The metric system is a pain in the butt. Especially Celsius. Especially on ovens.
The windows here don’t have screens. Not sure if that’s because it’s rare to open windows here or if there aren’t any bugs around, but it feels odd.
Tuesday we spent getting over jet lag. Wednesday we spent visiting schools for the kids. Fascinating. The public schools are full so we’re forced to go private, and many private schools are converted houses, so they’re frequently skinny buildings, many stories tall. One included a converted (deconsecrated) church, which is sadly common since the church is dying here. A sign of how diverse London is: every school offers vegetarian lunches, and most don’t serve pork.
Thursday and Friday we spent looking for housing. I got sick. Sucked. I honestly thought it might have been West Nile since I got a mosquito bite in Houston. Terrible headache, sore throat, sore neck, aching muscles, fatigue. I’m still getting over it, but that day I slept about 14 hours.
There are these pockets of London where there are lots of Americans. Since we’ve been going all over this part of the city, we’ve been to a few, and the moms tend to congregate in parks, so we’ve seen them as I’ve taken the kids. I’ve been playing this game in my head – American or British? I can’t really tell until they talk. That goes for everyone, really. Meaning, at least as far as I can tell, Englanders dress exactly the same as Americans. For some reason I thought they dressed better, but no, tons of sloppily dressed natives all about. I fit right in.
The British are quite self-deprecating – we’ve been told this in various welcome materials and have experienced a little bit as well. At one house we were discussing the length of my commute via public transit and they said how their system doesn’t work, how it’s not like the Swiss or the Americans – they don’t know what they’re doing. They thought the American public transit system works. Clearly they’ve never experienced CalTrain.
For some reason, Jieun’s had a particular craving for Korean food, so we’ve been a couple times already. Based on that exhaustive research, here’s my assessment of Korean food in central London. First, it’s hip. In the states, it’s rare to find an upscale Korean place. Here, they’re all, not upscale, but nice, with modern decor, dark lighting. Also, the diners are almost entirely non-Korean, which felt odd. Like, it felt unnatural to order in Korean. Side dishes are not free. I’m not entirely against that. Means the prices aren’t especially expensive and also that I don’t have to automatically smell kimchee at my table. They have a peculiar obsession with random dishes, in particular bibimbap – there are several bibimbap-specific restaurants around here and based on Yelp reviews, it seems like many Londeners only ever get that. Food’s not terrible – I could live with it, but apparently the better stuff is in Koreatown in New Malden, which is about 45 minutes away.
In general, the food’s not that bad. I can’t say we’ve had a particularly bad meal yet.
People bemoan how McDonald’s has conquered the world, with good reason, but I have to say that there’s something comforting about it in a strange place, that no matter where you are, you can find a familiar (albeit unhealthy) meal. I felt that way in Korea, China, and here. Something about eating McDonald’s felt relaxing in its familiarity. So there’s that.
B3n H7r was in town so we met up for fish and chips (our first true British meal. My fish was incredible. The chips sucked) and had a fascinating conversation. Part of it centered around education. I was telling him about the hippy school all our friends are sending their kids to (and that we tried and failed to get Abby into last year) and the general philosophy against homework as articulated by Alfie Kohn, how it’s useless because if the kids already know the material it’s a waste of time, and if they don’t, it doesn’t help them learn it, it only reinforces that they don’t. Ben responded that that only made sense if we saw the point of homework as for learning, which he didn’t – he saw the point as discipline.
Jieun informed me that that’s the most common criticism of the Kohn philosophy, but I’m ignorant and did not know that, and I found that viewpoint really interesting. Homework being about discipline, not learning. I’d never even considered that. Thinking about it more though, I think that’s why I value music for my kids so much. There it’s discipline with a purpose. There are no shortcuts in getting better at playing, you just have to practice, and there’s a valuable lesson in that. Not that it worked – I resisted practicing pretty much my entire childhood. But I think the lesson still got internalized, and later in life when there was stuff I wanted to get good at on my own (e.g. guitar or Minesweeper) I understood that it took some level of work and discipline. So I think I’d rather have my kids learn about discipline from music than homework.