Scale is an interesting thing. I remember when I lived in Yost junior year, basically no one ever visited, because West campus felt so far from East campus, even though it was like a 5 minute bike ride away. By almost any standard, it wasn’t that far, but psychologically, it felt it. Actually, I’m not even sure it’s a distance thing, because I was one of the only people who visited Kathy when she lived in that weird dorm that was just across Campus Drive from Stern. When things feel far, you don’t go, regardless of how far it really is.
So we’ve been eating what feels like a ton of Asian (here “Oriental” – “Asian” refers to Indian or Pakistani) food. I’ve been wondering why we’ve been eating it so much. What I realized is that we haven’t really been eating it more than normal – it’s just that it’s more of a hassle to get it here. It’s not that there aren’t a ton of Oriental places around. It’s just that most of them suck, and to get to ones you really want, you have to go out of your way. Even that out of the way isn’t really that far in absolute terms, but when you pass a hundred restaurants on the way to getting to that Oriental place, it feels like you’re going a long way. Which has just made me realize how much Oriental food we ate in Cupertino, and how easy it was to get. I knew that already, but now I really know, because now we’re eating it less but the hassle makes it feel like we’re eating it all the time.
There’s an aspect of being in this city that’s bad for my personality. I am by nature a completist. I read every article in a magazine, go through all the articles in my RSS feeds, just compulsively need to get through everything. This goes with stuff to do as well. I have these lists of TV shows to watch, movies to see, things to do, and I find it nearly impossible to delete anything from the list without having done them. That’s partly why my blogging has been so sparse in recent years. I’m spending all my time trying to keep up with my lists.
The problem with London is that the list of things to do is virtually infinite, and I find myself wanting to do them all. I want to see all the tourist sites. I want to go to all the festivals (which are constant – there’s a big RIver Thames festival this weekend). I want to watch all the shows. I want to do all the things here I can’t do in the U.S. Just walking around, I find my mental to-do list exploding and it’s overwhelming. In the end I need to pick and choose what to do, recognize that I can only do a fraction of things I find out. That’s really hard for a personality like mine.
I settled on a paper to read: The Evening Standard. It’s all serious news, and it’s free (but still a good newspaper). Based on reading it a week, I’m slowly getting a sense of what’s going on here. And frankly, I don’t understand it. So like, Cameron just overhauled his Cabinet. One of the main parts to the story is that the Transportation Secretary was sacked apparently because of her opposition to a 3rd runway at Heathrow. This 3rd runway dealio is, and has been, huge news. I don’t get why it’s such a big deal – it feels bizarre to me. I tried to do some research into the opposition and it seems to be entirely about environmental issues. Do these debates happen in the U.S? I can’t recall something like this ever being headline national news.
Conversely, there are U.S. issues that people here think are absurd also. Like, they can’t believe there’s a real debate in the U.S. about whether global warming really exists. I think I found the same to be true in Asia also. This is a debate? They can’t believe it. In general, people here seem to think that Romney’s a clown. Which is, to me, kind of ironic, because at least economically, the U.K. (and Europe in general) has pursued the types of austerity measures that the right in the U.S. proposes, and most people here seem to agree with that. (In my view, it’s no coincidence that the U.K. is now going through a double-dip recession.) So there appears to be a weird dichotomy where most people here are economically more like the U.S. right, but everyone prefers Obama.
One other thing I realized but didn’t really until I got here – there are other countries with soldiers in Afghanistan. In the U.S, I read about U.N. peacekeeping forces and whatever, but the national debate is framed entirely around the U.S. making decisions. Should we stay or should we go in Afghanistan is implicitly framed as whether foreign solders should be in Afghanistan at all. When they were debating the surge, I don’t remember there being any conversation about it being a multi-national decision. I’m not sure if it was. But yeah, British forces are there, and they’re getting killed also, and it makes the news here when that happens.
Abby finished 3 days of school this week. I can already see her accent changing. She busts out an English accent randomly, then reverts. But she’s aware how it’s different, not just in tone but in vocabulary. She got laughed at when saying something about putting on her pants (which mean underwear here). So she’s aware that there are different ways of speaking English. And I think she’s going to change how she does it soon.