Sunday, January 27, 2013

Politics and Friendship: Thoughts from London So Far

Outside Buckingham Palace.
Hello, readers!  I'm here, in England, in London (specifically, the district Roehampton in the borough Wandsworth), and I'm going to be here until June.  I'm studying at the University of Roehampon and living on-campus with a bunch of nutty flatmates* and drinking lots of tea.

It's been a very interesting experience so far, because I'm in this strange situation where I'm more informed about social justice issues than I've ever been before, and I'm used to being surrounded by like-minded, sensitive people in my classes and clubs, and I've suddenly had to practically start from square one in making friends.  This has meant, unfortunately, tamping down my indignation, concerns, etc. in the name of getting along.

It sucks, because I feel like I shouldn't feel this way.  Part of me says to go all "To heck with pleasing people, there's INJUSTICE TO ADDRESS." At the same time, I know that it can be alienating, especially because I've spent so long talking about such sophisticated subjects, that if I were to gently correct someone, I'd have to dial it way back, sometimes into territory that's also problematic because of how simple it is.  For instance, when explaining to one of my flatmates what being a transwoman means, I reduced it to the simplest, most easily-understood, and really unfortunate way to put it: "She's got the mind of a woman and the body of a man, so she wants to change her body."


I'm also dealing a bit with the knowledge that, after a years-long avoidance of Walmart because of the treatment of their employees, I'm finding myself shopping at Walmart's UK chain, called ASDA.  I need the really low prices they have so I can eat enough without blowing through my money, but at the same time I know that those low prices come with some unfortunate side-effects.  I haven't quite worked out how to deal with that.

It hasn't all been awkwardness, fortunately.  I've been able to have some political bonding here and there.  A girl in my writing class and I go get drinks in the cafe at the library during the break in our class, because the cafe sells fair trade coffee, tea, and other things.  Just the other night, when a group of us international students went to see The Phantom of the Opera, I spent the train ride back to Barnes talking with our student guide about America's gun laws, and then discussed American politics in general (he was shocked to learn that until 2010, people could be denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions).  We agreed on almost everything and I told him not to worry about criticizing my country, because chances were I'd agree with him.  The lecturer for my Arguments for Comedy class is a feminist, so she'll bring up political understandings of comedic theory in discussion.  So yeah, it's been rough, but I'm finding my way through.

Anyway, about living in London.

It's great.  I already feel pretty at home here (though I get a bit nervous if I don't know how to get somewhere or if something goes wrong, but that happened in the US, too).  I get along well with the flatmates and I'm enjoying my classes (particularly the writing class).  If I spend enough time around British people, a strange mishmash accent appears.  It only goes away when I talk with other international students (or girlfriend) or when I'm really nervous and talking to strangers.

...I've run out of things to talk about, so I think I'll just dump in some pretty pictures and leave it at that. :)

Grove House, formerly an estate and now just another place for classes

Big Ben <3

Part of the fountain outside of Buckingham Palace

Me in front of the London Eye

The Tower of London

Standing in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres

*"Flat" in this case is referring to the entire hall.  We all have individual bedrooms, communal toilets and showers, and a couple of kitchens where we cook for ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. International travel provides growth in all sorts of ways, doesn't it? I love the pictures! Keep them coming!