Sunday, 20 November 2011

the london southbank

the london southbank is a great place to have a lazy stroll during the warm summer months.  this little strip of land gets its name from being on the southern bank of the river thames in central londonalong the southbank, you’ll find the shakespeare globe theatre, the royal festival hall, the national theatre, and the london eye.

london is definitely a great place to be if you’re a fan of theatre.  at the shakespeare globe theatre, you can see shakespeare’s plays in an authentic period setting.  the royal festival hall hosts concerts, while the national theatre is home to dramatic, artsy plays.  this past summer, i often went to the southbank, since i live within easy walking distance.  over the summer, the national theatre usually sets up giant green couches outside of its front doors.  these are fun to lounge around on and to take photos of. =)
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i also had the pleasure of going to the royal festival hall’s weekend food festivals.  the cheese and wine festival, as well as the charcuterie festival, were particularly memorable for me – it’s great to just wander around in the early autumn weather and munch on some free samples. =)  the southbank centre also hosts weekend food markets, every week, behind the royal festival hall.

if you’re still hungry after the food markets, then walk down to the river towards the london eye.  along the way, you’ll pass beneath the hungerford bridge, which is flanked by the beautiful golden jubilee footbridges – the view from the footbridges is spectacular, and it’s a nice place to take photos of the thames and parliament.  but before you start crossing the bridge, why not grab an ice cream?  in the summer and early autumn, london is flooded with classic ice cream trucks; there are usually a couple of them parked along the southbank, between the hungerford bridge and the london eye.  i usually get my ice cream from an old-school cornish ice cream truck, which serves up rich, creamy ice cream made from cornwall’s famous clotted cream.  there are many street performers in this area, so get some ice cream and take some time to soak in the sights and sounds.
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not far from the ice cream trucks is the london eye, an iconic landmark that offers great night views of parliament.  the best time to take a ride up the london eye is during sunset.  if you have a tripod, then definitely bring it with you, since you can get some magnificent night photos of parliament from atop the london eye. =)
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- golden jubilee footbridge, hungerford bridge:
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Saturday, 5 November 2011

anti-americanism

i first came over to england in 2005 when bush was still president and the iraq war was very unpopular.  and so, there was a lot of anti-americanism going around.  there were giant signs and graffiti in the metro stations, saying things like, “nothing good comes out of america!” (really? then why’re you all buying it up, then?  coca cola, starbucks, and all those american movies, etc. don’t keep themselves in business, after all.)  as for bush, it’s amazing how readily people indiscriminately associate every citizen with his/her government.  no, like many other americans, i did not support the bush administration and i did not vote for him, contrary to what terrorists seem to think.

like racism and other forms of discrimination, anti-americanism is based on nothing more than crude stereotypes that are only caricatures of reality.  the worst part is that, unlike racism, anti-americanism is considered to be okay and socially acceptable, even though it is based on the same level of ignorance.

at the end of the day, If You Have Not Lived In The States, Then You Do Not Know America.  and no, going there on holiday for a few days does not count.  america is like a worldwide celebrity that everyone hears about, but whom few people actually know in person.  nevertheless, because of all the gossip, everyone thinks they know everything about this celebrity, when really, all they have are bits of distorted truths.  for example, i heard people say things like, “but america’s so racist, they’ll never elect obama!”

surprisingly, living abroad makes you more patriotic.  in the states, you hear about anti-americanism, and for some reason, you become apologetic, probably because you’re at home, surrounded by other americans, and anti-americanism is just something far away, across the seas.  but when you’re living alone in a foreign country, encountering anti-americanism on a regular basis, you become very defensive, and no less because the discriminatory assumptions are so erroneous.

a lot of anti-americanism appears to result from culture clashes and a seeming inability to appreciate american culture.  you’ll hear people say that america has “no history” and “no culture”, which makes no sense whatsoever.  we might not have a long history that spans thousands of years, and we might be an amalgamation of a wide variety of cultures from around the world, but that in itself is american culture and identity.

americans are also seen as brutish and ignorant, but again, this results largely from cultural differences.  european culture values being an “artist” and an “intellectual”, while american culture values the “ordinary man” and being “real” and “down to earth”.  so, people here in england tend to talk themselves up, pretending to know things they don’t and trying to sound smarter than they are.  in the states, however, if you don’t know something, then you just say so, and even if you are ridiculously intelligent and accomplished, you play it down.  so when the two cultures meet, americans come off as “less intelligent”, when it’s mostly just outward posturing than the reality.  besides, how can americans be stupid when many of the world’s best universities are in america?

here in more socialist europe, you’ll also find an idealistic (and perhaps, na├»ve) contempt of capitalism and the american dream.  yes, we may be a capitalist nation, but we’re not without aid for the homeless, disabled, and unemployed, etc.  moreover, from what i’ve seen, a lack of competition decreases the quality of nearly everything, because, let’s face it, most people are fundamentally self-serving and lazy, disinclined to work harder when an increase in taxes with salary takes away a large chunk of pay and the incentive along with it.

thankfully, anti-americanism has drastically decreased with obama’s election.  hopefully, the future will be brighter – after all, things could only get better from here, i hope…

what do you think about anti-americanism?

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