Posts Tagged ‘London’

London in the Snow!

I woke up this morning to some serious snowfall outside of my window. The rooftops of neighboring buildings were laced in snow and cars were covered with inches of powder. After getting my morning workout in, I headed to the local Starbucks in Covent Garden to meet up with Steve, a friend of a friend who’s in town as part of a whirlwind tour of Europe (in true backpacking form). We spent the day touring around Central London and as I was showing him around, I realized how different (and beautiful) London looks when it’s covered in snow! It gave me a whole new perspective of the city. Check out our little tour through snow-covered parts of town:

Trafalgar in the winterAfter cutting through Covent Garden and checking out the Piazza, we made our way to tourist hot-spot, Trafalgar Square. Check out the water — frozen over!

National Gallery in WinterWhile we were there, we hit up the always amazing National Gallery. We were in and out in about thirty minutes, but we caught some great glimpses of Monet, Cezanne & Van Gogh. I always forget how pretty this place is inside!

After passing the Buckingham area, we made our way to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey to snap some pictures. So pretty!

Big Ben & the London EyeAfter checking out the sights (and before grabbing delicious lunch at Pizza Express), we took an alternate route back and stumbled upon quite possible the prettiest place in London! The bird-covered pond looked absolutely gorgeous with the snow all around, plus it made for some pretty incredible pictures.

We also made some cute new friends!

All around super fun day. If you haven’t been out in the snow yet, it’s a must! It’s definitely a chance to see everything in a whole new way.

Lots of love,

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The Aid Debate: Sachs v. Easterly

As of late, I have developed a minor obsession with foreign aid and its effectiveness. After reading Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, I became extremely interested in the topic of aid, looking at whether aid helps recipient societies or actually hurts them through engendering aid dependency, corruption, etc. (I think by now everyone has come to recognize my non-sexual female crush on Moyo). Easterly and Moyo both make poignant arguments about the lack of aid effectiveness, including the fact that (extremely) large sums of money (think $2.3T in the last half century or so) have been funneled into foreign aid with no real growth to show for it. Moreover, there are a number of aid recipients that are worse off now than they were before. Surely, aid has a direct effect on bettering the living standards of a certain number of individuals here and now, but in terms of long-term poverty alleviation/eradication (eradication’s probably an entirely too ambitious term), is aid really where it’s at? Sachs, who penned, ‘The End of Poverty,’ is the former director of the UN Millennium Development Goals and is super pro-aid; he sees aid as a large and beneficial factor in development and has continually pushed for a large boost in aid. I’ve continued to look into all of their arguments (plus arguments of Paul Collier) to figure out where I stand on the matter… as for now, I tend to lean towards the side of Easterly & Moyo.

I found this fantastic write-up done in 2007 that puts Sachs up against Easterly in a discussion about foreign aid and it’s effectiveness in the development arena. Check it out. Perhaps it’s just the idea of these two brilliant (and somewhat dichotomous) men having it out that makes me love academia (and academics). Even more, it makes me love that we live in a world where people can voice their opinions on these types of matters freely.

For anyone else out there that finds this debate interesting, here are a few fun links to help you stay connected.

– Check out William Easterly’s Blog

– Check out Dambisa Moyo’s Website

– Check out the Center for Global Development’s work on Aid Effectiveness

– Follow Dambisa Moyo on Twitter

– Follow William Easterly on Twitter

– Watch Moyo speak at LSE on January 26th!

– Watch the debate: Moyo vs. Alison Evans (ODI)

Enjoy!

Welcome to Lent Term!

I’m sitting in Cafe 54 on campus, sipping some coffee (only one cup — one of my NY resolutions is to cut back on caffeine consumption) and watching the hordes of people that are back on campus… it was so nice being here just a week ago when the majority of people were sleeping their lives away in their homeland. Now, once again, it’s packed and I have to use physical force to find an outlet. In any case, my first seminar of this term is done and though my brain was only 60% on, it was good to get back into the groove of things! I have a busy week ahead: on campus today from 930A to around 6P, with Tuesday and Thursday shaping up to be very similar. I’m still trying to decide on my last class for this term, so I’m sitting in on three lectures, hoping one will really stand out (Public Management of Development, African Development and Globalization & Social Policy — if you have insight, leave me a comment)!

This term is going to be a rough one, but now that I’m back in an intellectually stimulating environment, I feel much more prepared to take on assessed essays, dissertation proposals, exams, job applications and the like. I’ve also made it my goal to go to at least one LSE public lecture or partake in some cultural experience each and every week. Also, exciting (for you LSEers out there), my lovely flatmate, Lindsay, has her own radio show (‘Brunch Buffet’ on Pulse Radio) this term! If you’re an LSEer and want to show a peer some support, you can join her facebook group here!

In other news, I have a load of guests coming to visit in the next few months: my cousins are coming for a jaunt over from Malta next week; my sister & dad are coming in April (yay!) and my cousin from San Diego is coming over for a couple of months in the summer! My (overly ambitious) goal is to have my dissertation mostly completed by the first week of July so that my cousin and I can do a bit of traveling while I put the final touches on my thesis. Here’s to hoping! Send some positive energy my way <3.

Now back to work!

Super Saturday!

I finally went out last night for the first time in weeks now that everyone’s back in town! It was so great getting to see everyone again; highly reinvigorating and a good way to start Lent Term. Aside from the amazingness of seeing everyone again, I also discovered one of my new favorite places in London: Porterhouse! We started our night there yesterday and they have my most favorite strawberry-kiwi cider drink (they score automatic points for that), plus a great atmosphere and a live band! Here’s proof of happiness:

With classes beginning on Monday, I hadn’t had a great deal planned for today. My friend’s boyfriend is in town until tomorrow and we all planned on linking up for lunch today so I could finally meet him. After looking for veg-friendly joints around town, we decided to hit up Covent Garden’s Food for Thought. Now, I have been to FFT on one occasion, but it was for take-away late in the evening and the selection was super limited. Today, however, we were (literally) first in line when the doors opened and had a seriously delicious veggie meal! I was the only vegetarian in the group and the other kiddos (read: carnivores) loved the food, too! Super healthy, super affordable, super homemade and super delicious! If you happen to hit it up while you’re perusing Covent Garden (it’s on Neal Street), definitely opt for the Caribbean stew if it’s on the menu. It’s a bowl of pure deliciousness. I surmise it’s secretly laced with crack cocaine; it’s highly addicting. Side note: it’s cash only. Sad.

After our rendezvous in Covent Garden, P. and her boyfriend, A., had planned on catching a matinée showing of Les Mis at the Queen’s Theatre in Soho. Since I didn’t have any afternoon plans (aside from doing nothing and being holed up in my room), a small group of us ended up going together! We snagged tickets for a super affordable £15 each and ended up with a pretty decent view! I am a serious musical-lover and I definitely expected great things of one of the most renowned musicals of all times. Although the performance was great and the music was spectacular, I wouldn’t see it again. There are some musicals that I would see over and over (The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom), but this is definitely not one of them. It’s pretty depressing & the plot is semi-confusing if don’t familiarize yourself with it beforehand. That being said, it was still a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon & worth £15! Next on my list of musicals: Avenue Q. I’ve been dying to see it for months & I am definitely going before it stops playing (March 2010).

Now it’s 730P, I’m back at home after a fun-filled (and freezing!) day and am ready to sit in bed in my pajamas drinking hot chocolate (Wen, if you’re reading this — I DO like hot chocolate). Class is starting Monday and the reality is finally setting in. Gotta get a few readings done today and tomorrow so I can bring my A game this week!

Hope everyone’s weekend is superb!

A Day at the Museum

With my paper nearly finished, I thought today would be a perfect day to reward myself with getting out of my shoe box of a room before my break comes to an end (*tear*). I decided to embark on a rather cultural excursion after hitting the gym this morning. Mission: Explore the museums at South Kensington. There are three museums in South Kensington, all within ten minutes walking from the tube station: the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The best part is that they’re all free (donations encouraged, of course). In hindsight my mission was clearly too ambitious, nevertheless it still got me to the area to explore. I ended up only seeing the Natural History Museum, but it definitely inspired me to go back for more museum time. I tend to take for granted the fact that some of the world’s best museums are in my backyard; upon coming to this realization I have decided to make much more time for cultural experiences while I live in the epicenter. Duly noted: only in England do you run into museums that look like this (see the facade at left).

I had my doubts about my general interest in so-called ‘natural history’, but thankfully it ended up proving me wrong! It was such a cool experience and definitely lives up to its reputation. Plus, it’s definitely a great place to bring the kiddos – they have loads of interactive exhibits. Plus, they have this if you want to get out of teaching your kids about sex:

Does anyone else think this is a little too Rated R for a museum? They had an entire section dedicated to human biology and ‘how babies are made’. Literally, an entire section showing the birthing process with super-sized human models… it was a little aggressive for me; not entirely sure how a little one would take it. My guess is that they’ll be traumatized for life and never have sex. Maybe that’s the point?

Though that exhibit traumatized me a bit, I was elated when I got to the fossils, volcanos, solar system and the ‘earth’s treasury’ sections: all Grade A!

You definitely have to see this in real life to appreciate the magnitude of it, but the Earth section is seriously cool! There’s an escalator leading up into this massive globe, and then you’re inside of the earth where they have loads of goodies about the earth’s core, volcanoes, magma, etc. I’m not even that much of a geek (a point which I realize can be argued, but I digress…) and I appreciated every second of it.

The treasury… well, that was like shopping without the fear of spending. I think any woman could spend a couple of hours perusing the merchandise… er, I mean, enjoying the natural beauty of it all. They had case after case of precious and semi-precious stones. Gorgeous! I didn’t even realize how many amazing gems there are… definitely gave me some space to think about my engagement ring (*cough, cough, wink, wink*).

(Kidding.)


Plus, more importantly, I got to check out the diamond case and see what different weights look like; this display ranges from 1 carat on the left to about 1/8 of a carat on the far right. 1/8 of a carat looks like a nose stud. Seriously. So small. No offense to any newly minted brides showing off their 1/8 carat of bling.

After spending a few hours there (you could seriously spend the whole day if you’re into this kind of stuff… there was a whole dinosaur section that I sort of breezed by), I headed back home only to find that it was dumping snow outside! It had been snowing pretty lightly when I was on the way to the museum, but the skies started falling on the way back. Pretty crazy seeing London semi-snow covered!

Can you guys see the snow fall at Covent Garden?! So intense!

Despite the mini snow storm, or perhaps because of it, the museum was a perfect way to spend a few hours! Snow-free, free admission plus loads of cool stuff. Still on my list to check off: Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum, Tate Modern, and the Imperial War Museum!

Have you guys been to any of the museums in London? Any that you recommend?

Lots of love,

California to London: My Personal Case Study

This could also be entitled, “Why moving away from my homeland has been the best decision of life and why all human beings should experience the same thing: a case study,” but I thought that would be entirely too long. Also, let me define: by case study, I mean my personal experience which, herein, will be used as a case study and the base for this discussion/monologue. I suppose it’s primarily intended for those who are looking to move away for graduate school, work or study abroad, but anyone with input, please comment away!

—–

I spoke with a friend of mine who, rather abruptly, gave up her life in Northern California to pursue a Marketing/PR internship opportunity that had arisen in LA. She had never lived away from her family and there was no pay attached to the internship period (although there were hopes of a future job opportunity), but working in public relations in the LA area had been her goal. About a month after her move (a couple of months before my move to London), I asked her about her feelings on moving away and starting an entirely new life. The verdict? Hard at first, but ultimately the most fulfilling adventure.

Now that I’ve been living in London for nearly four months, I would tend to agree with her perspective on the move. Although I miss my family, my friends and the relative normalcy (read: monotony) of life in Northern California, I can positively say that the path that I chose was undoubtedly the best personal decision of life, to date. The move has given me new perspective on relationships, on other cultures and on life.

Tiff & I <3.

Chris & I at The Lion King!

I have had the opportunity to look intently at my relationships and realize that the connections built in life don’t need to fade away just because the distance between two individuals grows; that physical proximity and emotional proximity are not linked, even in the slightest (although I’m sure the advent of social networking sites has helped make this much easier than it would have been 25 years ago)!

National Gallery

I have also been able to experience life in a foreign country and soak up all the nuances that come with it. Living life in a cosmopolitan city (London, Paris, New York, etc.) grants one the ability to marinate and grow in an undeniable melting pot. Daily, I find myself running into people from France, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Canada, Nigeria, Ghana (and the list goes on and on). In one term of classes, my eyes have already been opened to the vast differences in culture and individual perspectives; issues that I had been dealing with at home seem ridiculous when compared to famine and $1.25 per day that my classmates are familiar with. Moreover, it’s not just reading about these far-off places (Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda) and theorizing about how life is lived there; it’s a chance for me to talk with new friends about how their lives are and how their personal experiences have changed their personal paths.

Perhaps the best part about the move, though, is the fact that I now know that I am fully capable of being on my own in the world. Despite having lived away from my family for the past five years, I was close enough to know that I could call if ever there were an issue. Now, I am in a completely foreign country with an entirely new set of people surrounding me and amazing new experiences every day and I absolutely love every second of it. I know now that I am capable of keeping my options open after graduating, and living/working abroad without feeling detached. Instead of being scared of things, I feel as though now I have fully realized that every day brings something new: new people to meet, new things to learn, new mistakes to make and new ways to be a better, more fulfilled person.

So, for anyone wondering whether a move is a good decision: what is there to lose? Really? A small bit of income that can be regained? Leaving behind some friends that you can contact via Facebook and Skype? On the flip side, think of everything that you can gain from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I think in this case the reward is definitely worth the risk.

Lots of love from London,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Forecast: 30 degrees and sunny?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around London weather. Even after four months, it continues to amaze me that the typical cues of the sky (sunshine, blue skies, etc.) do not work with standard thought processes. Being a California native, I typically assume that sunshine peering through my curtains is a sign that it’s going to be a semi-warm day (70°+). Here, however, sunshine means no such thing. It doesn’t in any way, shape or form guarantee warmth. Nor does it guarantee that sunshine will be the trend for the day. Like I said, four months after moving here, it still hasn’t sunken in.

I woke up this morning, ready to have a super-productive day and the sunlight was extra motivation. About halfway through my walk to campus, sunglasses on and Jason Mraz singing to me through my earbuds, I realized that I could no longer feel my hands. With fear of frostbite surfacing, I checked the weather on my iPhone only to discover that it was a crisp 30°. Seriously?! 30°? That’s literally freezing. Yet, the sun was shining. What a false cue, Mother Earth! Of course, one must have umbrella, sunglasses and proper layers to prepare for a standard London day. Sun can easily be outdone by clouds that appear from thin air which, in turn, may decide to pour rain/snow at any given point. In any case, I’m back in my warm room, my hands are finally thawed and I am slowly re-gaining my ability to type.

Does anyone get used to this crazy weather?
How can one little area experience all four seasons in one day? Also, why are there so few hours of sunlight in a day?… I wonder if LSE offers meteorology courses. They could be of interest.

Lots of love,