Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Second day of class - 6/29

Our day here had great weather. A nice breeze accompaniedrelatively cool wheather. There were occasional dark clouds, but they scudded away quickly. Enough with the weather report already!

This morning started well. I was still pleasantly elated from econcert last night. That gave me the umph to get through the rest of my preparations for the afternoon class. That took me up until lunch time, though there was a chance to get a cup of tea from a nearby coffee shop. It isn't Starbucks, though it's across the street from one. It is one of favorite little places to grab a quick coffee or tea when I'm on t run. It's called Caffee Nero. It's just one in a growing chain, but this one is quaint.

Lunch was nothing to write home about, so I won't.

Class started and it was a pleasure. The material being discussed today was Tennyson's "Idylls of the King." Actually, the discussion began with a quick overview of how the Arthurian legend reached the stage it was in when Tennyson wrote his Romantic version. It touched on et nature of an elegy, since Tennyson dedicated his poem to the memory of the then recently deceased Prince Consort, Albert (the beloved husband of Queen Victoria). We reviewed several of the sections of the poem, and explored how they seemed to emphasize teh roles of women from a Victorian perspective. We also discussed how Tennyson's work differed from its main model, Thomas Malory's 15th century work Le Morte d'Arthur. All in all it was an interesting class, despite the heat and stifling air of the classroom.

These are my students sitting in the classroom (actually a student lounge) that we are using. There are ten of them.

After class, the faculty gathered for a weekly sojourn into the sideroads of London to search out a place to enjoy dinner. This week, we settled on a Belgian restaurant. The specialty of the house is mussels in a variety of combinations and preparation styles.

Well, there is still some prep work to do to be ready to take my class to Winchester tomorrow. Again, I promise a lot of pictures.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In-between day - 6/28

Unlike yesterday, today was very good. I thoroughly enjoyed almost all of it. I'll explain that "almost" soon enough.

Let me also explain why I am calling this the "in-between" day. Since I am a half-time co-site director, I teach only one class. The rest of my time is available to assist the full-time site director with any issues that may come up - like escorting that student yesterday through the medical quandry that was required to get the necessary treatment. Let me also add that the student is doing well. There was nothing too serious, especially since it (an infection) was caught in time. Today is the day that morning classes went on their field trips. Since I only teach an afternoon class, the field trip day for my class is Thursday. Consequently, I had a day relatively free from academic duties.

I did man the office in the morning in case there were any needs to arise with students. Here's a picture of the office. And one of me in the office (you know, I look kind of like that monster that showed up at Hampton Court Palace).

Odd little hair-do there, Brian.

Anyway, after office hours, I headed across London to Waterloo train station to purchase the tickets for my class's first field trip to Winchester, on Thursday. That will be a fun time. I'll be sure to bring back a lot of pictures of that one!

When I left for the train station, it started to rain. It started off as a fairly easy rain, but that wasn't going to last! At the station, purchasing the tickets was a snap (it took me less than 25 minutes to get them - including standing in line - or "queuing" as the British say). Since I had more time on my hands than I expected, I wanted to go see something. I thought the British Museum would be a good afternoon diversion. Well, when I got off the subway (the "Tube"), it was raining quite heavily. In fact it was a downpour. At one point, a thunderclap sounded so loudly and so close, that I thought it had struck the building I was walking next to on Tottenham Court Road! Instead of going to the museum while soaking wet (I had an umbrella, but it didn't help much) I decided to head back to the dorm to finish my grading and work on class preparations for Wednesday's class. On the way back to the dorm, I stopped in to a pub for a bite of lunch. It was a pretty big bite, but it was oh, so good.

This is the way Fish & Chips should look! By the way, the green stuff at the back is "mushy peas," very nice. Once I drenched it all in malt vinegar, it didn't stand a chance. It was gone very quickly.

Later in the evening, I attended a concert at St. Paul's Cathedral. It was marvelous. Regrettably, photos are not allowed to be taken inside St. Paul's, so I can't share any with you. The concert was a part of the City of London Celebration of the Arts. It featured a new version of J.S. Bach's Partita #2 (for solo violin). It was new in that a choir was added to the performance. They sang Bach chorales in between the movements of the Partita and were involved in the final movement as well. The arranger of this version believed that Bach probably wrote this final movement as a requiem for his first wife. I must admit, that this version was beautiful, and the whole performance was very much like a requiem. I was moved to tears at one point. The emotional impact of the music was truly powerful - especially hearing it in the wonderful acoustics of St. Paul's Cathedral. The second featured work was Faure's Requiem. That is the requiem that the ABAC Chamber Choir sang when it was invited to sing at Lincoln Center last month. It was wonderfully performed. The soloists were excellent, and the choral parts were inspired. I can't say enough about it. However, I was moved, while sitting in that great cathedral listening to that great music, to appreciate what talented people have done to glorify God. The musicians, the composers, the arranger, the architect, the craftsman who contributed to the construction of the building all delivered a gift to me last night. It was truly awe inspiring.

Now, it is late here, and I need to get to sleep so I can be ready for class tomorrow.


Monday, June 27, 2011

First day of classes - 6/27

Today was the first day of classes, and it was one of minor setbacks and plans gone awry.

It started well enough. I set up a closed group on Facebook for the students and faculty here. Then I manned the office from 8:00 until 12:00. No issues or problesm there. Then at lunch, there were more students actually eating lunch than were planned for, so I ended up going to a nearby sandwich shop and getting a sandwich.

After lunch, my class was supposed to meet in a room at the dorms used for a music room. It was locked and it wasn't ready, and when the staff at the hall were notified, they seemed surprised that we were asking to use the room. They promptly got the room ready enough to conduct a class in it, but since the room had been closed up for two weeks, it was hotter than blue blazes. The students were sweating and falling asleep - not a particularly productive day.

Still, we discussed William Wordsworth's sonnet, "The World is too Much with Us; Late and soon," and his "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality." We also discussed Lord Byron's "Prometheus." This was a very interesting poem that I had never taught before. Last, for today, we discussed Percy Bysse Shelley's "Song to the Men of England." In addition to reviewing the poems, the contexts of the poems, and their connections to the ideals and ideas associated with the Arthurian legends, we reviewed the basic elements and types of sonnets, and of the classic ode form and the English Ode. Despite the heat, it was a good class meeting.

After class, I was asked to escort one of the students to the medical clinic. There were issues involved, so we needed to go to a second clinic to get a prescription. With one thing and another, I did not make it back in time to go to t Globe Theatre to see Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. There will be other opportunities to see it, so I will still go - jus not tonight. Instead, it will be a quiet night with my aching feet elevated, catching up on the blog and email, and watching English TV.

Until tomorrow then. Oh by the way, no pictures today. Sorry.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hampton Court Palace - 6/26

Our first Sunday in London started with a beautiful morning. However, before I get into any details about Sunday, I want to share with you a picture of a wonderful thing.

This was the second dessert that I was gushing about last night!

I don't know what else to say about it, except that it was delicious, and this picture will bring up memories of the pure delight tasting this tart brought to me. Yum.

Now, back to Sunday's events. Well, it started off again with breakfast, our last formal breakfast while we are here. The rest are on our own. Once again, I had a traditional breakfast, but this time I DID get a picture of it. So, voila!

After breakfast, we gathered almost all of the students together to travel to Hampton Court Palace. As you may recall, that is the palace that Henry VIII lived in when he reigned, and on which many of the scenes in The Tudors, the Showtime special, were based.

Here follow a series of pictures that describe and illustrate our adventure. First, after we arrived by train, we crossed over a bridge, and this is the first glimpse we got of the palace.

As we walked through the main gate to the grounds, the front of the palace came into view.

Aagh! This monster leapt out at us. Don't look!

Whew. Once we were safe, we went into the inner courtyard (actually the first of several - each more luscious and pleasant than the previous one).

While we watched, an odd character came strolling up and lo and behold, it was Henry VIII and a couple of his courtiers! That's one of our students on the right, and Henry couldn't help himself but he had to flirt with her. what would his wives (all six of them - but not at once) say!

We were entertained, along with the king, by several tales and other antics of his gentlemen. All in all, a good time was had ... by all!

After King Henry hurried off to his other appointments, we strolled through the palace itself and enjoyed many of its views, including the wonderful gardens.

No, those aren't the ladies in waiting of the queen. They are some more of the students who are participating in this year's study abroad adventure!

While we were enjoying a stroll through the lovely gardens, the monster popped up again!

It was at this point that we all decided it was time to return to London to find some dinner and for me, at least, to prepare for the first class meeting on Monday.

Thus, after a wonderfully enjoyable first weekend, the trip to London is about to get its real start - academically speaking. I hope you are enjoying our adventures. If so, return for more tomorrow. If not, come back tomorrow to see whether you like it any better then!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First full day - 6/25

Today was the first full day in London for the study abroad students and faculty. The agenda called for an orientation meeting to follow breakfast. Then, while the faculty met to go over some ground rules for conducting classes, the students grouped up to go out across London on a photo scavenger hunt.

At breakfast, I enjoyed a traditional English Breakfast (with one modification), but it wasn't to the liking of many of the students. A traditional English Breakfast consists of eggs, bacon (English "bacon" is basically thin slices of cooked ham), sausage (think grilled polish sausage links about the diameter of a quarter and the length of a dollar bill), baked beans (like pork and beans without the pork), grilled potatoes (today was actually hashbrown patties a la McDonald's), and tea. I substituted coffee - because I like coffee better. Sorry - no picture. I forgot to snap one.

After breakfast, we had the orientation meeting for the students. Here is a picture of the orientation meeting where the students received their travel passes for the London Tube (the subway and bus system) and other good information.

After the orientation, the students went on their way to search out the scavenger hunt items to take pictures of. It is an opportunity for them to explore London on their own and get used to using the transportation system. Many of them find other things too. For example, one group stumbled across a religious parade. Others took time to enjoy Hyde Park, and found some English teens who just found their (the study abroad students) American accents fascinating!

In the meantime, the faculty had a meeting to review policies and to discuss classroom management. Of course, we also found time to chat about the fun things WE want to do, too! One of those things is to explore the gastronomic delights that a cosmopolitan city like London has to offer. That is, we are going to try out a lot of different kinds of restaurants. Now rest assured that this isn't going to be a blog only about food. However, dining is an important part of the cultural experience here, so it will creep in to the postings at times. In addition, when you see my picture below, you'll note that I obviously enjoy food, so it should come as no surprise that food will be a part of this blog - along with the academic, historical, and general interest elements coming later on.

Here I am, enjoying a pint of cask ale before we head off to the restaurant.

We ate at a Thai restaurant. I really enjoy spicy curry, the break out in a sweat while you eat kind of spicy, so here is a picture of that!

After dinner, we all headed to a great little pastry restaurant that serves truly decadently wonderful desserts. Well, after the first couple of bites of heaven, I remembered to pause long enough to take a picture.

I couldn't resist the lure of another, yet wonderfully different delight, so I brought it home as a nightcap. I'll add a picture of it tomorrow. Too much of a good thing here might be too much!

Anyway, now it's time to head to sleep (while the students are out enjoying their first taste of London nightlife!). We are headed to Hampton Court Palace tomorrow. There will be plenty of pictures from there, I expect, for your enjoyment in tomorrow's posting.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A few airport pics to get started

Here are a few airport pictures taken while we were getting ready for our first leg of the flight, from Atlanta to Miami. Sometimes getting a block of tickets for reasonable costs requires some interesting layovers. Ours was in Miami. In this first picture, some of the students going to London are checking in with the European Council coordinator, Whitney Strickler (in the tourquoise dress).

In this next picture, we see several students, including one of the two ABAC students traveling to London - Rachel Huffmaster, waiting to get their boarding passes.

In this last picture, we can see that the line to check luggage quickly grew to great length. After all, Atlanta airport is one of the busiest in the world.

Regrettably, these are essentially the only pictures that I have from this first day. I packed my camera in my carry on bag instead of keeping it in a pocket, so I didn't have it handy for anything more than these shots. From now one, I will be wearing it on my belt for ready access.

Arrived! - 6/24

Well, I'm in London. The flight was long and uneventful. I was able to catch a couple of cat naps on the plane, But essentially I haven't slept for over 30 hours. I will post again in the morning (London time) which will be the middle of the night in Georgia. The time here is five hours ahead of U. S. East Coast time (i.e. 11:10am in Georgia equals 4:05pm in London). This is it for now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Preparation - 6/22

Well, the big day is tomorrow. Most of my bags are packed except for the last few things that have to get thrown into my carry-on luggage. All of the appropriate papers are gathered, and my passport is at hand. All that remains is to put it all in the car and drive to Atlanta. I'm on the earliest of the three flights taking students to London, so I get to leave my house by about 5:30 in the morning.

Reading material on the plane? I will be gathering my students' research papers at the airport, so I'll have those to read on the plane. I'm also bringing along one of my usual summer reading choices - a sci-fi novel. (Oh, those guilty pleasures!)

Anyway, my internet access in London may not get set up until Monday. We have a pretty full first weekend. Friday (that's when we get there - becauseof the time difference) is set aside for getting checked into our lodging, a brief meeting (as if such a thing is possible) and a quick orientation tour for the students and faculty to find all of the key locations in the vicinity of our dorms (like banks, restaurants, grocery stores, and possibly a pub). Saturday is set aside for an ice-breaking event - a photo scavenger hunt that gets the students into groups and lets them explore a little bit of London on their own - all the while becoming comfortable in the environment and with the subway system. Sunday is a group excursion day. We will all be going to Hampton Court Palace (of Henry VIII and The Tudors fame). Then, on Monday we have our first class meetings. Basically, depending on time, I'll post as soon as I am able to once we get there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Panic has truly set in - 6/20

Three days to go before I get on the plane, and I still feel like I have about three weeks worth of stuff to accomplish before I leave. Aagh. I guess that's par for the course for a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator like me. I suppose I should keep this posting short and get some packing done.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Countdown - 6/18

It seems that this sort of thing (a trip overseas) is supposed to have some sort of countdown. Well, here goes. Five more days until we leave for London.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Six Days and counting - 6/17

Today is one of the new student orientations on campus this summer. I am here to advise the Honors Program students entering as freshmen this fall. In the meantime, I am also getting things together for the trip to London. Today, I am printing out our guide for the walking tour of London filming locations for Harry Potter. One of our fieldtrips will be to find some of the locations that have been used in previous Harry Potter films. Of course, we will all get our pictures taken pushing our trolleys through the barrier to get onto Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station!

I'm looking forward to getting to the Atlanta airport next week and meeting all of the students who will be on my plane. It will only be a portion fo the total number travelling to London, but it will be good to get the thing started. Often times, the anticipation can be completely unnerving, and it takes the actual first step to put all of that into perspective.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

1 Week Away - 6/16

Well, it's just a week away from the start of the London study abroad trip. Of course, I feel totally unprepared. Then again, I know that I am just about as ready as I can be. That's the story of my life - a disconnect between what I know and what I feel. However, before I slide off into the bizarre psychology of my ramblings, I think I'll just stick with sharing the ramblings.

The London Program (which is what it is called within the USG-European Council) has about 85 students and 10 faculty members this year. That's a pretty good sized group. Let me tell you that I am VERY happy that I am not party to the logistical nightmare that means in terms of getting them all from Atlanta to London, to the dorms from the airport, and getting them settled during the first weekend. I, of course, will assist with the carrying out of the logistics, but I have not been involved with the planning. For example, we have blocks of seats on three different flights on two different airlines to get everybody there. Some of us have a layoever in Miami, others in Dallas, and the rest fly direct. We all arrive at different times, but within about a 5 hour window. We will be housed in different dorms (two of them) about 5 blocks apart on the campus of University College - London. Great location! It's near the heart of everything and smack-dab in the middle of three subway stations that connect us to the rest of the metropolitan London area within minutes.

It just struck me that I have almost no anxiety about travelling to London but I was crazy nervous about travelling to New York. Oh well.

I have a plan for packing, but I haven't actually started packing yet. When I do, I am sure it will drive my cats crazy. I think they already suspect that something is up. They're pretty smart after all. Here they are, with Uther on the left and Portia on the right. I am absolutely certain that I will miss them very much.

I will probably post a little more often now, as we come ever closer to the start date of the trip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Belated New York trip pictures

Remember that this was my first time to New York, so some of these may seem lame, but for me they were interesting. They aren't in any particular order either.

This first one is taken from Central Park looking at the interesting buildings visible beyond the trees.

This next one is of me in Battery Park with Liberty Island and Ellis Island in the background. It was a windy day, and this is the least scary picture that I have of me!

While in New York, much of our time was taken up with rehearsals and the performance of the Chamber Choir, but we did get the chance to see a couple of shows. This was the first one we saw.

This was the second show we saw.

In Central Park, we did get to see the John Lennon Memorial in Strawberry Fields.

I didn't see a taping of the show, but it was kind of cool to walk past the sign for the Late Show. For me, it is almost as iconic of New York as the Empire State Building - which by the way we saw, but my picture didn't turn out at all.

This last picture is just a quick take of my first view of Times Square.

This isn't all of the pictures I took, but many of them have students or colleagues in them. I don't post those unless I have express permission to do so though. Others turned out poorly if at all. Still, there are a few here to hint at what we did, and to whet my memory, where the best images are stored! All in all, it was a good trip. I have travelled to many large cities, but I had always had anxiety about travelling to New York. I think this trip made that anxiety go away. I would NEVER want to live there, but I can imagine another visit or two to see more of what I missed this time.

Whew - a whirlwind of days 6/14

Wow. It has been a confusing last couple of weeks. I have started working with the filming of the movie I am in. (See the link in the "Links" at the right.) I have been reeling with teh pain of an abscessed tooth - to be fixed tmorrow. I've been trying to get things ready for the summer course in London. Blah, blah, blah. Oh yeah, I also misplaced my camera, so I thought I had lost my New York pictures. Today I found it, so I will add some pics in a bit. Anyway, it's only 9 days until we get on the plane for England. If I were caught up with my preparations, I could take time to be excited. Now, I just get twinges now and then.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Back at work - Thursday 6/2

Well, it's been a while since I last updated. We returned from NYC on Tuesday, and I spent yesterday getting my cats to recognize me again! I also rested up from the constant go-go-go of the trip to New York.

Sunday was a good day in New York. After breakfast, I just walked around for a few hours looking at shops and basically sightseeing until it was time for our four hour rehearsal in the afternoon. The rehearsal went well. We had our first opportunity to hear our baritone vocal soloist, a professional hired in for our performance. After the rehearsal, all of the Chamber Choir students, Dr. Roe (our director), and I went to Mama Sbarro's on Broadway and had a very noisy dinner. It was noisy because we were seated next to a group of about 40 Australian middle school (or about that age) choir students who sang along to every song that came on. Not to be outdone, the college students with us joined right in. There were singing, dancing, and general mayhem for about an hour. That's not the way that I normally like to have dinner, but the students (ABAC and Australian) all seemed to have a very good time.

Monday was a mostly free day in the morning and early afternoon. I took the opportunity to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I loved it. Now I have another reason to go back to New York! After about 2 1/2 hours at the museum, I had just scratched the surface of what's there.

The afternoon and evening were dominated by the dress rehearsal and performance that we were all there for. We sang as part of a large choir performing Faure's Requiem at Lincoln Center. What an incredible experience that was! The performance was very well done, even if I do say so myself. It was a moving experience for the performers and the audience. Many of the students had a once-in-a-lifetime thrill that night.

After performance, the organizers sponsored a marvellous post-concert reception. This left all of us tired and ready to pack up on Tuesday morning and come back to south Georgia. The whole trip was exhausting, but it was well worth the effort and the expense in all regards.

Pictures will follow once I get them uploaded from my camera.