Thursday, October 13, 2011

The daily commute

Where I live in London, it takes me roughly 45 minutes to get to uni. My flat is in Langdon Park meaning that I need to catch the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) then the underground to get to uni. There is also a bus but I believe it takes longer than this. At the moment I have been trialling and erroring my way, figuring out the most economical (time-wise) and most uncomplicated free method of getting between east and central London.

Today I discovered my easiest route ever! From Langdon Park I get the DLR to Bow Church then the Hammersmith line to Euston Square and then walk to uni from there (5 min). Before that I was taking the DLR, the hammersmith line from Bow to Mile End and then catching the Central line to Holborn after which I would walk for about 10 minutes to uni. An alternative route would be to catch the DLR to Poplar, then swap and catch the DLR to Bank and then catch the centra line to Holborn - however the chances of waiting half an hour for a train when you get to Bank are quite likely!

Now. When traveling on the underground, there are rules. These rules are not to be broken except in certain circumstances. Trains that are stuck for whatever reason whether its a passenger alarm, or an electrical fault (because someone has pinched the copper wire - victoria line seems to be a favourite for this to occur) are one such circumstance. I'll share the rules that I have so far discovered. There are probably many more that are around that I am currently still ignorant to.

The Number One Rule is that you do not talk to anyone on the tube. Unless of course you already know them and you are already friends with them. This rule must only be broken in times when the train is stuck, or if someone has a cute baby or a cute dog on the train, then you can talk.

I broke this rule yesterday but it was in one of those circumstances. After missing the previous 3 trains at Mile End (because I'm too nice and not as pushy as other people were) I managed to get onto the central line which moved a little bit and then stopped with everyone stuck inside. So all of us passengers are there squished bumping into each other and feeling very warm. There was an Asian guy on my right who was listening very loudly to Michael Jackson. When the announcement came saying a passenger alarm had gone off in the train ahead the English man on my right laughed and muttered 'Tell me why we do this again?'. I took this golden opportunity to speak to a stranger, laughed and said 'I don't know, I've only done it for two weeks while I'm trying to sort out a bike'. This then turned into a bit of a random awkward-strangers stuck in a train conversation. Turns out he's been commuting for 12 years!!! Because of the guy on my other side's music, a couple other people got involved so that was cool. Something about expecting the train to break out in dance because of the music level, which was obviously only prevented by the fact that no one could move. Made my day, hopefuly made their day and made everyone else who was pretending not to listen wish that they were cool and brave enough to break rules. Or at least I'll comfort myself with that thought!! :)

Number Two. If the conductor guy says to let passengers off the train before getting on, ignore him. He doesn't know what a jungle it is out there that if you let someone off the train you won't get in. I have missed out on many a train because I am not as pushy or as demanding as other Londoners can be in the underground.

Number Three. If it looks like the train is full. Think again. There is always room for one more person to squish themselves into, even if it means that when the door is open their heads and bodies are technically outside of the train. I have seen heads being hit by the doors opon closing many a time!

However, perhaps London commuters have it easy after all! I read in the Readers Digest yesterday (kindly provided by the guy outside the tube who is always handing out random things) about the worlds worst or craziest commutes, and some of them really are crazy!!

For example, in Japan the trains there transport 8.7 million people daily with their trains currently operating at 199% capacity!!! The government hopes to reduce that to 150% capacity in the next few years. Not only that, there are staff employed at the train stations called oshiya who are basically paid to push and cram people into the trains. No gaps allowed! Japanese commuters actually have  meaning to the term commuter hell!

Alternatively if you prefer a more adventurous commute, perhaps you should move and try out the village of Los Pinos in Colombia for style. Rather than walking for 2 hours to cross a 1,200 foot gorge, kids travel to school in style at speeds of 40mph  to school using 1,300 foot zip wires using their own pulley, rope and a piece of wood for a brake! Adults can use it as well, and the wires have also been used to transport animals, furniture and who knows what else!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A student of (more than) life

So I am officially a student again, I got my student card yesterday and was excited today to  receive my first  lot of mail at my new place and find that my student oyster card had arrived (how sad am I?!!). The joy of this delivery means that I now can purchase a years worth of travel on the wonderful (slightly sarcastic tone...) London underground (and above ground) system for the mere price of 750 pounds. What fun! 

All that aside I am loving studying and learning again. It is only day two, and potentially this may change by the end of the year as the intensity of the course will steeply increase, but I am regaining my passion for knowledge and learning and starting to focus again (which I have to admit I was worried about) and define where I want to be and work in the future. 

I've been recently thinking about success and failure. I came across this story of Abraham Lincoln a few years back and thought it worth sharing because he overcame and succeeded despite consistent failure and opposition throughout his life. All the odds seemed against him, yet still he persevered.

Abraham Lincoln's Journey To Become The 16th President Of The United States!
He had to work to support his family after they were forced out of their home. 1816
His mother died. 1818
Failed in business. 1831
Was defeated for legislature. 1832
Lost his job and couldn't get into law school. 1832
Declared bankruptcy, and spent the next 17 years of his life paying off the money
he borrowed from friends to start his business.
Was defeated for legislature again. 1834
Was engaged to be married, but his sweetheart died and his heart was broken. 1835
Had a nervous breakdown and spent the next six months in bed. 1836
Was defeated in becoming the speaker of the state legislature. 1838
Was defeated in becoming elector. 1840
Was defeated for Congress 1843
Was defeated for Congress. 1846
Was defeated for Congress again. 1848
Was rejected for the job of Land Officer in his home state. 1849
Was defeated for Senate. 1854
Was defeated for Vice-President -- got less than 100 votes. 1856
Was defeated for Senate for the third time. 1858
Was elected President of the United States. 

Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again. Proverbs 24:16
Stumbling, falling down, getting back up and continuing on - that's a sign of righteousness. I think we often expect that life is going to be smooth sailing and that things will always go right and work out, but in reality life is rarely like that. I  bet that there were plenty of moments where Abraham Lincoln felt like giving up when he kept being defeated but he persevered, was patient and kept plodding on trying again and again and again, before eventually being a great man of history. 

I long for the sense of purpose and direction that he obviously had. I do have a vague sense of direction and meaning and purpose, but I am still develping that, shaping it as I grow learn and change. I wonder what sort of lessons we are learning right now through our successes and failures. I know that it has taken me a few failures and knock backs to get to the point of life that I am now. I am trying to get into the international nutrition development field, a place where there is great need but at the same time difficult to break into. I've had moments where I've felt that I'm wasting my time that I should focus on something else, and felt utter despair because I've just been going around in circle banging my head against the wall, hitting closed door after closed door. Yet at the same time, it is generally through these moments that I've also felt such a concrete sense that this is where I want to be what I want to do. I wonder if Abraham Lincoln felt the same when he was faced with another defeat.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. 
Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9.
Be strong therefore, and do not let your hands be weak and slack, for your work shall be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24