Day Three: Wind and Water

Another early day! At 8:45, Professor Bell herds us out of the stay club like a spry young sheepdog might herd a bunch of freshly anesthetized sheep. The wind is blowing– heavily. The skies are gray, and it looks as though it might rain. As far as any of us can tell, this is in fact the only weather in London.

We head to the tube, and arrive at Shepherds Bush. We are immediately greeted by a large shopping complex. Though it might appear as though we are going to be studying the history of Prada, or perhaps the conquests of the Louis Vuitton empire, we are in fact getting breakfast. We head to Pret A Manger for our daily injection of caffeine and croissants, graciously provided today by the University of Maryland. Once we have eaten, it’s back to the tube, headed for St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s is beautiful, and we learn a bit about it from Professor Bell outside–the current church was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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We’re learning!

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

“You can see St. Paul’s dome from just about anywhere in London.” says Professor Bell, as we stand next to the cathedral, and are unable to see the dome. We head inside, and are greeted by a phenomenal view. We aren’t allowed to take pictures or video, but I did manage to sneak in one quick picture.

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One quick picture

Inside St. Paul’s we see a great deal of truly marvelous statues of dead British men. We climb the 8,452 stairs to get inside the great dome and take a seat in the whispering gallery. Supposedly, one can clearly hear people speaking if they are directly opposite each other in the gallery. However, we couldn’t quite get it to happen (I suspect you need a British accent for it to work).

We climb back down to the ground floor, and take a seat near the statue of Lord Admiral Hortatio Viscount Nelson, who is essentially a British, one-eyed, one-armed version of George Washington. Here we give a positively marvelous presentation on Nelson’s life. Professor Bell tells us it was “unquestionably the best student-led presentation on a naval officer he’s seen today” – high praise!

Onwards we go to the Docklands Museum in Canary Warf. We are immediately surrounded by a flood of small children. It was difficult to tell whether the children were on a school field trip to the museum, playing a variation of the popular game “Who can yell the most in a crowded museum,” or simply stampeding.

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Docklands Museum near Canary Warf

Here we learn about some of the history of trade in the British Empire, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We learn about the middle passage, the conditions of slave life in Jamaica and other colonies, and about the abolitionists working in London.

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Exhibit on Britain and the Slave Trade

Later, we discuss today’s readings in what we can only assume is a typical British college dorm room (it’s actually a replica of a World War II bunker), and conclude that, as in most of history, old white men get a bit too much credit.

Professor Bell leads us to a large shopping mall in Canary Warf. Now, surely, we will learn about the ancient civilization of Gucci, but alas we are only here for lunch. We split up to forage for ourselves; I (Joseph) end up at a fast food restaurant named Leon, which seems to be what Chik Fil A would be like if it were better than Chik Fil A.
I (Isabella) end up at a cafe where I buy a spinach pastry and a disappointingly healthy pudding cup (it turns out to be yogurt).

We take the tube again, leave the tube, and get onto a bus. We depart the bus near St. Paul’s cathedral, and take a short walk through a few narrow alleyways. Eventually, we reach a small square, at one end of which is Samuel Johnsons house.

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Exhausted Train-Goers

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Samuel Johnson’s House

We listen to some interesting talks by the museum staff about the life and times of Dr. Johnson. He wrote one of the first, if not the very first, complete and comprehensive English dictionaries, was a prominent abolitionist, and was a famous literary man in his time. Indeed, as a pale, sickly, literary, witty, owner of a cat named Hodge, he’s as British as they come.

It is around this time that we have our second student presentation of the day, which focuses on the lives of black Londoners. Though Professor Bell didn’t describe it as “the best student-led presentation on a naval officer he’s seen today,” it was certainly a top notch presentation.

We also hear a talk on Johnson’s black man-servant, Francis Barber. Johnson treated Francis much like a son, and when Johnson died he left all that he owned to Francis. Francis later went on marry a white woman and start a family. This was all, at the time, very unusual. However, neither Johnson or Francis were particularly “usual” for their times.

Before we leave, we visit a small portion of Dr. Johnson’s house dedicated to dressing up for pictures. “I don’t need pictures of this on the internet” says Professor Bell, as we take pictures of him to post on the internet. He is joined by a few other students, and a good time is had by all.

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Dress Up

We depart Dr. Johnson’s house and head for the stay club. Most of us are very sleepy, and grateful for the prospect of some much needed rest. After a journey on the tube and a quick stop at Poundland, a convenience store, we have arrived back.

The dinner for tonight is spaghetti and meatballs, though it’s been delayed for an hour due to some miscommunication. Ever eager to keep on schedule, Professor Bell sets up tonight’s entertainment- a 2006 movie called Amazing Grace.

About halfway through the movie, we pause to go enjoy our dinner. It’s a welcome break, as the movie proves to most of us quite tiresome, to say the least. We finish up the movie, and have a quick discussion about the day and the movie. At long last the day is just about over, and we all go our separate ways, and we await Professor Bell, that eager sheepdog, to bark outside our doors tomorrow morning.

By Joseph and Isabella

 

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