Realizations

“What is heard has to be pondered over.  What has been pondered over has to be put into practice.  It is only when all three are accomplished that the realization of bliss can be attained”–Sri Sathya Sai Baba
It’s been about a week or two since my last blog post.  This hasn’t been a consequence of any neglect.  Rather I have found that time is precious and sparse as a graduate student.  With that being said, there is much to discuss.
When I wrote my last blog entry (“waiting to begin” for those who don’t understand the chronology of this blog) I feel that I expressed a sort of frustration with the fact that I was already to dive into graduate school but had not yet been given the chance to do so.  That is certainly no longer the case.
For me the realization that things had gotten “real” came when I sat down with my fellow International Relations MA students, wearing a suit, at Chatham House to hear the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Mendez, address a symposium comprised of some of the best minds within the field of IR in London.  Attending lectures given by brilliant men and women is not what was new.  What was new was the company I was with.  Whereas previously during the question and answer period that is typical of such presentations I had to suffer through such insightful questions like “but I mean like, why can’t the Iraqis just get along?” this time the queries posed to Mr. Mendez were poignant and specific.  I was impressed.  I also realized that I have still so much to learn if I really want to succeed as an IR professional.
And this excites me.  I could not be more thrilled with not only the opportunities that membership to Chatham House entails, but also the quality of the students within my own program at Richmond.  I know some of them may be reading this (one of the inherent drawbacks of posting links on Facebook) but I do mean that in all sincerity.
Peering out from under the mountain of readings that have been assigned to the graduate students is certainly not what I would refer to as enjoyable.  But after having experienced my first full weeks as a graduate student I can at least appreciate the necessity of it all and I can understand how it is worth it.  To borrow yet another cliche, nothing that comes easy is worth having.
But enough with the heavy stuff.
After all I am in London.  A destination which many people who have not yet had the opportunity have fantasized about visiting.  It is only fitting then that I disclose some details about the fun this city presents.
What is freshest in my mind (as it was last night) is my recent adventure to Wembley Stadium.  A few of the MA students (not all IR) bought tickets to the World Cup qualifying match between England and Ukraine.  What an experience it was.  Walking off the platform at the Wembley Park Tube Station, staring up at the huge arch that scrapes the skyline above the stadium and being one of thousands of attendees arriving at one of the world’s most famous stadiums is a feeling that is hard to put into words. It’s something I last felt as I did the same in Cape Town entering Green Point Stadium for the 2010 World Cup (coincidence that that was also an English game?)  The difference this time was that it was actually a good game.  As some of you may know, the game I went to in Cape Town was a painful to watch 0-0 draw between England and Algeria.  Ugh.
Some other recent adventures that may be worth sharing are my travels to Stonehenge and Bath.
Here are my thoughts on these 2 “must-see” tourist attractions.
1. They are both indeed touristy.  I can’t stress this enough.  Tourists scurrying everywhere to try and capture the right light for their amateur photography.  Here I can’t be that hard because I was attempting the same.  What is indefensible to me is the one guy with his camcorder filming a podcast or video diary for 20 minutes in front of a neolithic monument.
2. Stonehenge to me was the more intriguing item on the itinerary.  It’s probably the reason why I decided to spend £20 for the day to visit these sites.  What strikes you the most about Stonehenge is its location.  I had kind of pictured it mysteriously hidden in a forest where only rugged footpaths could take you.  That proved to be incorrect.  Stonehenge, a World Heritage site, is surrounded by a major highway on one side and a sheep farm on the other.  We mused about what it must be like to operate a sheep farm with such a major world tourism attraction in the middle of your pasture.
3.  The itinerary for my day trip had our time at Stonehenge at around 1 hour.  I thought this was too little time.  Wrong again.  You can see all of Stonehenge in about 20 minutes.  You walk around it.  Take pictures.  Get back on the bus.
4.  Bath.  No we did not go take a communal bath (though that wouldn’t be entirely inappropiate).  Bath is instead the name of a town in Somerset which is best delegated to “Southwest England”.  It is a beautiful town.  No denying that.  In fact I think the best part about Bath was how picturesque it is.  The main attraction in Bath, according to tour guides, are the Roman Baths that are in effect the namesake of this town.  Again these baths are an interesting artifact in early English history.  It can also be seen in about a half hour.
I think this enough of an entry for now.  I know how hard it is to satisfy the insatiable appetite for my writing.  You will,  however, have to wait a little while longer for my next entry.
As is customary here…
Cheers!
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