England, Europe

Easter Break, Part II

London, ENGLAND: Beefeaters and Frozen Pizza

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Thursday, 24 March 2005.

And so it began, with a miserable overnight twelve-hour bus ride to London. Upon arrival, my traveling partners – Amelia and Julianne from home (see “How Many University Students does it take…) – and I were greeted and served a full-fry British breakfast by Amelia’s cousin: a thirty-eight year old bachelor, former garbage-collector turned corporate-outsourcing firm owner and apartment entrepeneur, former soldier who served in NATO’s Bosnia operations, and soon-to-be pilot after three weeks in Australia. The cousin in question also admitted to sleeping only two hours a night. I imagine if I did that, I would have to go skydiving and flying helicopters, too, just to stay awake.

Our two days in London were tourist days: Shakespeare’s globe, the London Tower and Bridge, Hyde Park, Big Ben and the Westminster, Covent Garden, etc. I discovered very quickly that I am a city “wanderer.” I like to roam with a map and a predilection for turning down strange alleyways. My favorite site in London by far, however, was this:

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The man with the instrument (someone help me out here) is one of London’s homeless. The children, passing by with their parents and ended up with some music lessons. Our homeless friend, in return, likely had the most rewarding moments of his month, or year. The new band’s smiles spread their way even to the faces of the boys’ hesitant parents.

I will save thoughts on homelessness for an entry on Rome, where the contrast between “haves” and “have-nots” was most striking. For now, pictures, anyone?

Amelia’s cousin’s ridiculous flat

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The London Tower Bridge tourist picture

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My new friend on one of the Thames’ bridges

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Another shot of the music lesson

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And from somewhere inside the London Tower

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Now, on to Croatia, but barely – had Amelia’s cousin’s flatmate not informed me that Europeans celebrated the birthday of Saint Daylight Savings early, I might still be in London. “Must be living right,” my father might say.

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5 thoughts on “Easter Break, Part II”

  1. “Our homeless friend, in return, likely had the most rewarding moments of his month, or year.”

    I have to disagree. I know that societal contact and human interaction is a basic need that’s often denied to streetpeople, but at the same time, your statement strikes me as being congruent to proselytizing fundamentalists who diligently bring Bibles and tracts to homeless shelters, instead of food, clothing, or jobs.

  2. In response to Ryan: a fair criticism, and one that rankles particularly because of my disgust against the sorts of “ministries” you’re talking about. I would never suggest that a smile or a Bible is a substitute for real efforts at aid. When I wrote that sentence, however, I had in mind two things. One was a conversation Meghan told about which she had with David, her guide at urban plunge, who said that the lack of recognition as a human being was the most crippling part of being homeless. The other is a conversation I had with a homeless man in Toronto who, after watching people pass by without looking at him, said, “I’d rather have a smile than a quarter from that guy any day.”

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