Sunday, June 8, 2008

Some Great Questions...

So Tristan asked some fantastic questions in response to a post I made below and I felt like it would make sense to make a blog post about it. Remember, NO question is too odd or silly. I'm an old pro at living overseas, so a lot of the "simpler" things I don't even think about anymore. So here are Tristan's questions:

1) Is the kitchen fully equipped? I don't need to bring my Boy Scout mess kit with me, do I?

The kitchen is fully equipped with two stoves, a toaster, a fridge, and a microwave. As far as the things you'll need to actually cook... I'll check on that. I would assume most stuff (kitchen utensils, etc...) will be there.

2) How and where do we exchange currency? What about traveler's checks, where do I get those, and do I need them?

-- There are a couple answers to this question. First, it's always a good idea to try and exchange some money in the states before you get to London. Usually your personal bank will have a way to do this. Be aware though -- it could take a couple of days as usually branch banks don't have foreign currency on hand. Another smart idea is to make sure you have your ATM card with you. Using your ATM in England, you'll almost always get a better exchange rate than you would from an exchange place. The third option is that there are a ton of places in London (especially where you'll be staying) that have stores that will exchange currencies. Most of these places usually give an unfavorable exchange rate. But do some window shopping -- sometimes you can get good deals in these places. It also makes sense to ask questions at the banks and exchange rate centers, like what their exchange rate and commissions are. It takes 20 seconds but could save you some money. As far as traveller's checks are concerned -- they are nice to have for safety's sake. I don't personally carry them, but it might not be a bad idea to have some cash in traveller's checks.
***On the talk about banks -- make sure you let your bank and credit card company know you are traveling overseas. Many times these places will shut your card down as soon as it sees you have made a foreign purchase.

1) During our daily outings, will we be stopping somewhere for lunch, or bringing our own? What kind of stuff should we be carrying for our day trips?

-- If you look at the syllabus posted to the right on this blog it will tell you that there are three times we will have lunch or dinner together. Obviously, there will be times I'll ask you all informally if you want to go to dinner somewhere, but you are not obligated to do that. I will try to set most of the field trips up so they will happen between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, etc... If you all are famished, obviously we can make a pit stop if you need to while we're touring.

For the trips you should be taking a pen or pencil (or audio recorder) and a notepad. I'm not going to hold your hands through these exercises but I do expect you guys to talk to tourists, folks from the UK, etc... while we're there so you can get an idea of what London is all about. These interviews will obviously help color your stories. I'm also very much a visual person and expect you guys to create visuals in your stories for me. Whether it be describing a person, a place, a thing -- you want to set a tone and a mood for your story. Travel writing is ALL about description. So you should be taking notes constantly or at the very least taking in your surroundings in a meaningful way that you can write down later.

4) Shower sandal. y/n?

Shower sandals are a definite "yes". It is a dorm after all -- same rules apply as an American college.

5) You told me once that $500 for food would be enough. Still true? Also, about how much could we spend pubs, weekend trips and souvenirs? Maybe a high estimate and a low estimate.

-- I just went to the Sainsbury's website and created a grocery list for myself (I suggest you give it a try) and found that a week's worth of groceries came to about 120 dollars. So yah, I think you could do groceries for 3 weeks for 500 dollars pretty easily. As far as pubs are concerned, most meals range between £6 and £12. If you decide you want to imbibe, prices are fairly expensive for beers, etc... because it's a big city and our dollar is getting creamed by the pound right now. I'm not going to give a high and low estimate because it really is a person's personal preference.
*** Check out Sainsbury's website if for nothing else the really odd food combinations they have there. England is definitely interesting when it comes to food. Haggis anyone?

Keep thinking of questions folks! I'll keep posting and responding to them.

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