For much of our group, today was our first real day we were able to sleep in and significantly catch up on some much needed sleep. For a select number of students, this was not the case. A small group of four departed bright and early at 7:45am to catch their 9:30am tour of Harry Potter Studios. They did not eat breakfast. They were dying from lack of sleep and sore feet from the previous days excursions. But, it’s Harry Potter, so they continued on like the fearless Terps they are. It was amazing. Or as British people would say, BRILLIANT. From eating delicious Butterbeer ice cream to riding a broomstick through London(with the help of a greens screen)– the magic of Harry Potter came to life and it was definitely worth the money and the wait. Since Amanda, Isabella, and Matt both ditched me during the tour for taking too long (they finished about 45 minuets early), I only have pictures of me having the time of my life so here you go.
Everyone else, after sleeping in, many wrote their papers Professor Bell is making us do because he hates us, and some went to the tower of London to look at the crown jewels. We were suppose to meet at Paddington Station, and everyone made it on the train on time except for me (Alexis) because I had to go to the Lou and everyone ditched me (they keep doing that.). With the guide of sweet Emily’s voice over the phone I was able to make my way to the train everyone was on– jumping over suitcases, dodging angry Londoners who have important places to be, doing plenty of impressive acrobatic moves, I was able to make it on the train with 4 seconds to spare and was met by cheers from the entire group– they had little faith I would make it but I PERSEVERED.
The next phase of the day was a walking tour of Southall – a South Asian cultural hub in London. We met up with Monisha Bharadwaj, a notable Indian chef who taught us the ways in which Indian culture has grown throughout Britain. Monisha grew up in India and was trained to be a chef. She then came to the U.K. and has been here for 30 years. She has created her own business here and has written 15 books. Throughout the tour, she encouraged us to ask questions, especially ones that may seem “strange.” This led to the resurfacing of the question: how do ducks quack in Britain? Monisha informed us that they do indeed still “quack” on this side of the pond.
Monisha showed us various places in Southall and described their importance to Indian culture. She pointed to a Sikh Temple that we could see in the distance and told us that it was the largest of its kind outside of India. The Temple is big on supporting the community and they welcome any and everyone (they provide headscarves and coverings for guests.) We also visited a Hindu temple and Monisha gave us some fun facts about the religion. Did you know you can’t convert to Hinduism? You must be born into the religion. Many of the things she lectured helped break down stereotypes that many of us had about Indian culture. We visited an arranged marriage agency and Monisha explained that arranged marriages are still common in the Indian community, but they are not something that should be frowned upon or mistaken as a forced marriage. Families look for partners that would be compatible with their children by examining factors like religion and caste, all the way down to their favorite Netflix original. While talking about traditional aspects of Indian Culture, like arranged marriages, she also talked about how the new generations have adapted traditions to fit modern times (they have arrange marriage websites now.)
Next we ventured into a Quality Foods market, the largest market in Southall. This place catered to its large Indian population by selling lots of vegetables and spices. They had mangos, blueberries, even coconuts and bananas. Some of us tried some unfamiliar items, like some fudge-sweets and some nasty candy bought by Professor Bell that he so graciously passed on to the rest of us. (As stated by Matt “I cried and it wasn’t good.”) Monisha also took us into an Indian clothing store, where we learned that Indian people are the only people in the world with a true sense of fashion. The clothing was incredibly colorful and full of jewels and sequins. We were sad we could not bring any of the saris home with us, but we took many pictures to remember them once back in the States.
After the tour, we hopped on a bus to Monisha’s house. She graciously let us come over for a couple hours to help teach us how to make an authentic Indian dish. Before whipping it up in the kitchen, we (Alexis and Emily) gave a thrilling, gripping presentation on the factors that led to chicken tikka masala becoming the national dish of Great Britain. After our presentation, it was time to cook. *cue Breaking Bad music.* We made Chickpea Curry, Minced and green peas, and cucumber and mint raita salad. Our group divided into teams: the chickpea team, the salad team, and the lamb team. The chickpea team was forced to cut all the onions and were crying heavily.Through our collective efforts and the helpful guidance from Monisha, we created an incredibly tasty meal. As described by Alexis, the meal was “yummy in my tummy.” We also got to keep copies of the recipes and will show off our new skills when we get back.
After saying farewell to Southall, we ventured back into the heart of London for our activities. Amanda and Isabella saw the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” starring the boy who lived, Daniel Radcliffe. They said that it was excellent and hilarious, and they both were able to get pictures with Daniel at the stage door afterwards. The rest of the class stopped at a bakery for dessert, then attended a hilarious stand-up comedy set by Micky Bartlett, a comedian from Northern Ireland (or, as he described, the bad Ireland.) The whole class was bursting in laughter, especially Professor Bell– mostly because he was the only one who understood British Humor.
Peace out y’all
– Alexis and Emily