Stratford-upon-Avon and Manchester

While strolling through the Up-Market Craft Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon, I came across local artist, Mark Kaiser. As I walked by his table, he greeted me eagerly and began showing me various prints of his paintings. After flipping through a few of his prints, he paused for a moment and asked me if I recognized the image that he had stopped on. I replied, “Yes.” It was a beautiful painting of Holy Trinity Church from across the Avon. Mark then pointed out two couples in two little boats. He explained that one of the couples in the image was Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, while the other was Romeo and Juliet. Then, he paused for a moment and told me that he liked to imagine that maybe Shakespeare was inspired by other couples that he saw around him in Stratford-upon-Avon, maybe even along the nearby river. –Jessica

I too met artist Mark Kaiser. I was a little taken aback by his friendliness, but he seemed genuine and kind, and we found ourselves talking about art and traveling. He asked me about my studies in England and my initial impressions of Stratford. When I asked him about his paintings, he shared that part of his practice involves world travels—from Venice to Canada and beyond—during which he paints landscapes he sees, adding whimsical touches and playful hues. He offered me two greeting cards free of charge, one of which features Shakespeare’s original home and one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable characters—Bottom, the man with a donkey’s head from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. –Samantha

Max: I am from Australia and have lived in this town for over 30 years. Ha, but I have forgotten much of my Australian accent now. “Right, mate?” I would love to go the Globe, but unfortunately I haven’t been yet. I am an engineer, and I am really fond of theatre settings, especially the Globe—beautifully done wood structures. You are doing The Merchant of Venice? You need to go to Venice then! An Italian guy called Marco something made a documentary about his research on a mysterious English poet wandering around Italy. There is a seven year period that there is nothing documented about Shakespeare’s personal life. Google it, for your research.

Me: I came say hi to you because I admire the bold color choices of your dress.

Max: Ha, yes! Look how my shoelaces match my pants as well as my hairband! Go ahead! Take a picture of me – do you think I am shy?

This sweet dog is named Albert. I met him and his owner at a little store in Stratford-Upon-Avon called “Ladies Boutique.” It was a cute little shop. I had a nice chat with the owner. The conversation started with getting to know Albert. I asked questions about Albert, who Albert belonged to, and how long she had had him. I watched her play with her friend Albert and watched as Albert took her playful-teasing like a champ. Then the conversation quickly moved on to other things. We talked about what I was doing in England and where I’m from in the States. She said she loved the States and particularly enjoys the East Coast. She goes to the States for business, but also for vacation. She was very happy to talk with me. This was the easiest time I had conversing with someone. With a handshake we said goodbye. –Barbara

I met this woman at a perfume shop in Stratford-upon-Avon. She was very friendly and asked questions about where I was from and where I had travelled. She was also happy to share with me part of her own experience. She expressed great fondness for the Lake District when I mentioned that I had begun my study abroad there and said that while she was growing up, she visited the Lake District with her family almost every year when they went on holiday. Though she loves living in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Lakes are like a second home to her. –Genevieve

Marcus is a man who enjoys the finer things in life, specifically, grabbing a group of mates and traveling across the entire western coast of Australia. He is a man of adventure and a fan of a good joke. As an English resident, he spoke of his home country as if it were part of his family. Sure, it has its issues, but he stays because of the connections and memories found here. It’s family, and no rainy day (or year) can keep this lover of life away. Australia and Scotland may be great places for adventure, but only England can be called home. –Cole

To My Grandmother

These last words; these last few moments
I give to you,
because of all the humans of England,
You are my number one.

Because you are sitting next to me, here,
in the car on the way to Highnam
for our last family get-together.
Because autumn is upon us –
you need only ask the unbaked apple crumble in the back seat –
and in autumn, things change.

We wind our way through Cheltenham on multicolored roads:
Trees are red, yellow, green, orange and crisp.
I am smiling, thinking to myself
of the way you stood in your kitchen,
of your words when you banged your cane on the ground,
“I’m not going into hibernation,”
you said.


Susan, who I met at Anne Hathaway’s cottage, proved that she does not only work there, but she is greatly invested in the history of the place. Anne Hathaway is famous for being a dedicated mother and the wife of William Shakespeare. Susan thinks Anne is more than these things: she respects Anne’s position as a woman who stood by Shakespeare and who faithfully served at home when her husband was busy on tour. Susan is a proud human of England who rejoices in sharing the wonderful stories of Stratford-Upon-Avon, a small town where William Shakespeare was born, raised, and made history. Susan is a delight. —Hadassa

This is Denis. He is a local here in Stratford and is a regular theatre goer, sometimes on a daily basis. If he can, he will try and see the same play more than five times to see more of the director’s intention, things he may have missed before, etc. He even started to talk about The Merchant of Venice with Riley and me. He said that he went to the 2008 performance of it and had a blast. He talked about his view of the play and what it meant to him. He told us that he thought the play revolved around money and what it can do to people. He said that, “money controls everything in this world, so if you lose money, you essentially lose everything, your home, etc.” It was a pleasure to meet this man and to share our love for theatre! –Tyler

I met Marcello in the Encore, a restaurant by day and a pub by night in Stratford upon Avon, where he was performing covers of songs that old men could sing along to. After his performance, I went up with the two girls I was with to thank him for his performance and ability to keep up with the rowdy older crowd. He was very kind and asked where we were from and what we were doing in Stratford. We told him about our study abroad, and he shared with us that he has little knowledge of Shakespeare and had recently graduated from a university in Brighton with a degree in music. He is now traveling and playing at pubs for fun while he works on his own music and hopes to one day make it big. –Becca

Drunk Guys at the Pub: need I say more? Leigh Ann, Chrissy, Mark, and I were at the Lamplighter pub for the open mic night where Tyler was performing. It had been relatively quiet in the pub when, halfway through Tyler’s set, in stormed a group of maybe 15-20 guys who were all already drunk. Leigh Ann and I had been sitting with Chrissy and Mark, but they moved to get a better video of Tyler, which opened up the seeming floodgates for rowdy guys to come over. The first one came over and tried to demonstrate to us his ability to wink, then came another who, with the guy from before, pulled us from our seats to dance in the very small space while everyone else cheered them on. It was quite an experience to say the very least! —Kayleen

English societal norms are completely broken once you put a beer in an English man’s hand—their usually quiet demeanor completely disappears. As Kayleen noted, these men were already drunk when they arrived. This was clearly not their first bar of the night. Later we came to find out that they were a group of farmers, and they were celebrating someone’s birthday. One farmer took a liking to me and asked me at least six times how long I had been in England, and I had to find a different way to answer him each time. The picture included above says it all. –Leigh Ann


We met Kate unexpectedly on our last morning in Stratford-upon-Avon, and I could not be more glad that we did. We went downstairs for breakfast in our B&B, the Quilt and Croissant, and for the first time in two weeks we had a person from outside our group joining us! As we started talking, she told us how she is an architectural archeologist who has been working with the Stratford Guild Hall and how she is an active member of a Renaissance-style mercantile guild in York. As this subject falls exactly in line with my research topic for Merchant of Venice, she kindly shared some of her experiences, as well as information on a painting that used to be in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London titled, “Dance of Death.” She told stories of feasting and of merriment at the guild gatherings that made everyone in the room wish to instantly take up a guild membership and join the festivities. –Ashley

All throughout the abroad I found the English people extremely friendly and kind. Emma, one of our B&B hosts, was a great example of this. She warmly welcomed us into her B&B, which was also her family home along with her partner, a young son, and teenage daughter. I learned from living in her home how loving English families can be—this through her devotion to her children, the kind way in which she reacted to little crises with her son, her affection for her partner (I caught them kissing in the kitchen one morning when their son opened the door to the kitchen from the hall where I was standing.), and the way she and her mother (who lives next door) help each other with the daily chores. Our experience with Emma solidified for me at the end of our trip my opinion that the English have a kind and loving way about them both for visitors and their own families. It was wonderful to be in her home and a part of her family.—Mark

Our last night in England, a homeless man in Manchester who, for reasons of security, did not wish to give his name or have a picture taken, discussed at length the problem of gun violence in America with Ian and me. He was confused by the fact that Americans are so permissive with their gun sales, claiming such a thing would be horrifying anywhere else in the world. He discussed how he always was shocked and viscerally depressed when he heard the reactions of family members of victims, saying he couldn’t imagine such a thing happening in Britain. –Alden

When the homeless man approached us, I unfortunately didn’t have any change, but Alden did. He asked us where we were from. We said we were students from America. We then had a deep conversation about the terrorist situation that happened in Las Vegas. He said, “It’s really sad. There’s just no need for it.” What struck me was his care for another nation when there is a lot happening in England—some good, some bad. I was very grateful to have met him.

On our last night in England, Heidi, Mark, and I had some time to explore in Manchester. Many people were out on the lovely, cool Friday night, shopping, dining, or strolling along the pedestrian walkways. We came across Gnawa Manchester who plays Moroccan spiritual trance music on his hand-made guitar-like instrument. Before he played, he gave us a brief history of Moroccan music. Several people stood by listening to him, appreciating his joyous sharing of his culture and music. One man, swaying to the music said, “This puts a smile in your evening.” Indeed it did!—Chrissy

Waiting in a queue with the English and complaining about things that go wrong (a national pastime) is great fun—don’t knock it till you try it. Outside this window is Reykjavik, Iceland. This was my destination flying out of Manchester, England. When everyone at the airport was waiting for the baggage check counter to open in an orderly fashion, and all very patiently too, the airport neglected to announce that the counter had moved to the opposite side of the room. This meant the entire line was thrown off balance, and people not only lost their spot in the queue while everyone moved, but some people who were at the front were neglected and pushed to the back. We all contributed to the group complaining that followed this shift, using the classic English phrases of “Typical…” and “Of course!” –Riley

We had a wonderful seven and a half weeks traveling in England. We’ve met some marvelous people and learned so much about English culture. This group of sixteen energetic and enthusiastic students remain some of our favorite Humans of England. –Heidi

Esher, Surrey

The abroad spent two days at Claremont Fan Court School in Esher, England. We taught Shakespeare through theater to Year 4 students (ages 8-9) and Year 7 students (ages 11-12).
First day of teaching was with the Year 4s. At lunch after our workshop, I asked one of the girls sitting next to me, “What did you learn from today?”
She answered with bright eyes, “I learned more about the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I learned how to be brave.”
The next day was with the Year 7s. As I worked with my little group, I broke the scene into chunks. I asked them what one section was saying. One of the boys who was playing Demetrius raised his hand and explained what he thought. In genuine excitement I said, “Yes! That’s right. Good job.”
He leaned back among his classmates, putting both hands on his blazer and with a smile he said, “I’m a genius.” – Barbara

During our time in Esher, we worked with students at Claremont Fan Court School on a few scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One of the students that I had the pleasure of working with was a bubbly eight-year-old girl named Eileen. Eileen was enthusiastic during our scene work and eagerly shared her ideas. After everyone performed their scenes, Eileen and I ate lunch together, and she shared a bit about herself. She told me that science is her favorite subject in school and that she would like to move to the United States when she’s older. She also mentioned that she will probably live in New York, because she’s a self-proclaimed “city girl.” Once we finished our lunch, Eileen showed me around the playground and took me to her favorite spot- the treehouse!  (See the picture above)  – Jessica

Last Friday, I saw two folk musicians, Mick Ryan and Paul Downes, perform at The Ram Club, an acoustic music venue in Surrey. Nestled in a warmly-lit room with about 40 chairs, the event was very comfortable, a natural environment for both music and well-timed jokes. Not only were Mick and Paul musically talented—the host accurately described Mick’s voice as “melted chocolate,” and Paul accompanied with guitar, banjo, and an Irish flat back bouzouki, an instrument from the mandolin family—but they were incredibly funny, cracking self-deprecating jokes and bantering with each other. Once the concert ended, I wanted to purchase a CD and ask them if they would sign my copy. I felt oddly intimidated to meet and talk with such talented and witty individuals. Yet when I approached them with my request, they happily agreed to sign my CD and asked me about my travels in England.   – Sam

Alan and Lexi @Great Portland Street Station, London

Alan: Sorry to bother you Miss, but could I ask you for a favor please? Lexi and me are homeless. Could you spare us some change for food please?

Me: Could you do me a favor too? Would you like to sit down and use five minutes to chat?

Alan: Sure!

Me: So what happened?

Alan: My previous relationship didn’t end well, and my mother passed away……

Me: I’m sorry. I do not know this country very well, but is there any organization or facility that you could get help from?

Alan: Yes! There is a place where they offer us meals, free showers, and place to sleep sometimes.

Me: That’s wonderful. Why don’t you find a job to start with?

Alan: (sighs) I couldn’t. I am not able to be employed because of my mental problems. (He shows his left front arm with many cutting scars.) I used to hurt myself.. (pause) But I am a Big Issue vender! So I do have a job!

Me: (silence)

Alan: But Lexi saved me! He brought peace and happiness to my life!

Me: This is too sweet…. Can I give you some food I just brought?

Alan: Lexi loves apples for a treat. May we have an apple please? Just one is enough.          – Jintong

Ducky has lived in England all of his life. He was born to Israeli parents who immigrated here when Ducky was only 2 years old. He loves visiting Claremont Landscape Garden because it gives him a sense of peace and calm,  and it also allows him to breathe and pray. When I saw Ducky gracefully feeding a duck from his palm, I approached him. He later busted out in laughter explaining that he and Duck, whom he had nicknamed Ducky, shared a name, but he was not sure if his parents drew inspiration from watching the ducks as they too are fascinated by the birds.  – Hadassa

Last week our abroad had the opportunity to live with generous homestay families for four days in Esher. Another abroad member and I became a part of the Rider family, including their puppy, Todday! Our homestay “parents” went above and beyond to make us feel welcomed into their household. Timothy took enough interest in our home states to do his own research. He found old books in his library giving descriptions of Portland, Oregon, and Houston, Texas through the eyes of England nearly a century ago. He continued by showing us a map of old London and her landmarks running along the Thames River. On a Friday night, the three of us sat on the living room floor at 11:00 pm completely involved in his map. I am incredibly grateful for the effort Timothy put forth to learn about our homes, and in return he taught us more about his England.  – Leigh Ann

From the moment we entered the home of Pamela and Timothy Rider, I knew we would feel right at home. Pamela welcomed us with endless tea and cake, and their puppy offered slobbery kisses galore. Pamela went above and beyond my expectations of hospitality, welcoming us in, and making me feel as though I was one of her own grandchildren; every time we were with her, I was overwhelmed with a sense of family and home that I had been craving since we left the States. On Saturday night, we went to the cinema, and she exclaimed, “It has been a long time since I’ve been to a film on a Saturday night with my lady friends; I’m excited!”  Knowing that we could have as positive an impact on her experience as she did on ours only makes me more grateful for the opportunity to meet and get to know her.   – Ashley

Tyler, Ian, and I had an absolutely wonderful homestay with a lovely couple, Julian and Sarah. I got to know them both well, but especially Sarah. She was surprisingly open about her work and life. She works as a language teacher, teaching both Latin and Greek to primary school kids! No big deal. She also happens to teach a bit of French on the side! One afternoon Sarah showed us the school she works in, and it was an amazing venture into the life of a traditional English school teacher. She was very lackadaisical about her knowledge of language and her teaching, essentially being very English and not bragging. More often than not she would make self-deprecating jokes about her knowledge! Oh the English….  — Riley

I have taken 3 semesters worth of foreign languages, particularly French.  Unfortunately I don’t remember much, even after being in Paris and traveling to Normandy and Omaha Beach in France.  What I did not expect, and neither did Riley and Tyler who were my fellow homestay mates, was that Sarah, our temporary “mum,” taught Latin and Greek, as well as the occasional French, to 8/9-year-olds.  I proceeded not to mention anything about my knowing French during the whole visit.   — Ian

I have much gratitude for living with the Galls, an English family living in Godalming. In particular, Julian Gall was quite an interesting man. My first impression of him was that he took a day to get used to us guys living there. He and Sarah both fed us like crazy, and we shared much laughter every night at the dinner table. Something that surprised me the most was Julian’s taste in music. He had what seemed to be mountains of CD’s; with genres including blues, jazz, and believe it or not, punk rock. That’s right, he had a Green Day CD in his car. He was very humble and flexible about our desire to hear some American music. In fact he enjoyed it as well, despite the use of some explicit words. It was such a blessing to have been with this family.  – Tyler

Jaska hosted Sam and me for three days during the homestay portion of the abroad. Though he is originally from Finland, he might be the most kindhearted man in all of England.

On the final night, we had fish pie, carrots, and zucchini. Afterwards, as a treat, he pulled out a jar of crackers and a cutting board with three different cheeses, all distinct in their color and flavor: sharp British cheddar, Brie, and Époisses de Bourgogne. The first two cheeses were familiar, but the Époisses was extremely pungent in taste and scent. Each bite reminded me of horses, though it was so interesting a flavor that I couldn’t stop myself from trying it again and again.

I asked Jaska if he truly did enjoy the Époisses, to which he replied:

“Like I said; for me, the stinkier, the better.”            – Genevieve

Julian and Francesca Simpson have now been married since 1987,  enjoying multiple career changes, two children, a few cats, and each other. Their story began during a rowing competition on the River Thames. The two had hardly known each other when Julian’s mother invited Francesca to watch the event with the family. Not wishing to impose herself, Francesca took her time in choosing what she would like to eat before being interrupted by a boy telling her to “just pick something.” Her first thought was the immediate dislike of this person, and a reminder to herself avoid him.  As fate would have it, the two found themselves stuck together in several other situations including a trip to Boston, Massachusetts and a few social parties that they both attended. Both fondly remember the night they returned from a gathering only to find themselves lost in the back alleys of Ashton where they found each other.   – Cole

Francesca Simpson discussed an interesting trend in British culture– the idea of moderation. According to her, all topics of conversation and cultural/political trends tend towards the middle of the road, rather than extremes. She cited the location of Britain as a reason, saying that so many people living on so small an island tend towards some kind of agreement. She even cited the weather as influencing English thought, as it was not extreme but changed daily. She claimed extremes could start but would quickly vanish in British society.  – Alden

During my homestay in Esher this past week, I had the privilege of getting to know Frannie, the daughter of my homestay parents. During the Saturday that I was there, we went to the coast in Ferring, West Sussex, and the weather could not have been more perfect. While walking on the beach, Frannie and I got to know each other better; I learned that she was initially a geology minor at Principia College until the minor was no longer offered. So, as we collected shells and rocks, she told me about the different kinds of sediment that existed in the rocks and what different colors meant. We also saw a variety of dogs during our walk, and Frannie told me that she wants to get a greyhound one day and name it Iggy. I was very grateful for the experience and the opportunity to get to know one another.  – Becca

A Saturday night for Linda Cox is a night out on the town, but not quite in the way one would expect. Sunday morning I sat in her kitchen and listened to her talk about her night — a night that starts at 10:00 pm and ends around 4:00 am. Linda is a part of a Christian group called the Street Angels – dedicated to keeping their community safe by patrolling the streets of the small town of Guildford in the night hours, offering help to anyone who might be in need, distress, or perhaps has had one too many drinks.

“Yes, it was good,” she said. “It went a little longer than expected. It was certainly a productive night.”

One thing I’m finding in England is the remarkable emphasis on community. I can say with certainty that with Linda’s loving, strong hand of guidance, the nightlife of Guildford is well cared for.   – Elle

Jenny and I spent our Saturday exploring and walking around Brighton! It was the most beautiful day, and we decided to get lunch in one of the café/ restaurants that set up tables outside, located right next to the wide cobblestone paths running in between various shops and cafes. We had been talking and looking for a place to stop when we decided to sit down at a nice table in the sun. We ordered our food and tea and were talking about our families and recipes that we like to make, when a busker started playing near us. He started with Jenny’s very favorite song, one she had seen played concert in 2002 and still brought back happy memories. He then went on to play a Beatles song from my childhood. Exploring Brighton and the coast will probably remain one of my absolute favorite memories of this trip.  – Kayleen


The Remarkable Power of English Weather

Funny, the conversations that emanate in England from the weather’s remarkable capabilities. The asphalt paths of Regent’s Park were dotted with puddles and cold sleet was driving down on me as I ran alone, half freezing in a tank top and shorts. I passed two guys on the path, barely noticing as one gestured to me, then gestured to his shirt.

“Do you want my jumper?” he asked. “You look really cold.”

“Thanks,” I said, engaging in a mutual moan about the arctic temperatures of the day. Ten minutes later, these two strangers I had barely noticed revealed themselves as Ishmael and Salim, two circus performers from Morocco living in London. Our conversation ended with a real stunt performance and a promise to teach me to backflip. All this to prove that English weather really does have a way of starting a conversation.                                                                                                                    – Elle


I met a young man named Callum in a small shop (the name of which escapes me) who had just moved back to London with a few of his mates to study. He is a theoretical physicist with a taste for classical and jazz music. He also likes Shakespeare and has an unbridled obsession with Macbeth, specifically the line: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day.” He said he played brass, piano, and guitar, though not recently, claiming to have “lost the ability.” It was nice meeting a young person who shares similar interests, despite his main area of study being math, a subject I am not particularly in favor of. It is nice to know that there are young people close my age that are willing to share in a city so large.  – Becca


The first show we saw at the Globe Theatre was Much Ado About Nothing, which was excellent. We were in the very front and center of the stage, and right next to me was this older man – Philip Von Ruetter – who immediately started talking with Ashley and me.  We talked about various plays, and he shared that he was a director, CEO of a company in Mexico, the first non-Italian student accepted to the Cinematic school in Rome, and that his dream is to compose a musical version of The Merchant Of Venice.  The picture is of Philip in costume for the play he is currently working on.  It was so lovely talking to him and you could tell that he has a deep passion for theatre.  As we shared what we were doing with the Globe Theatre, he lit up and was so excited for us and our opportunity.                     – Kayleen


We met Philip at the Globe production of Much Ado About Nothing, leaning against the edge of the stage with the rest of the groundlings. He overheard us excitedly chattering about it being our first Globe production, and he shared how important the Globe has become to him. He recounted the highlights of his experiences, having several seasons ago seen As You Like It a whopping 14 times. He had already seen this production of Much Ado three times, so he pointed out specific things he thought we might like about the show, specifically the infectious music and dance. As an actor, composer, and writer of operas, he told us his lifelong dream has been to compose and write an opera version of The Merchant of Venice, and asked to keep in touch with our production. We ran into him again when we went to see Boudica, and plan on meeting a final time at King Lear.                                                                                                                           – Ashley


After a lovely Sunday church service, I introduced myself to the daughter of an old family friend. Even though she grew up in America, she has been based in England with work for many years (and has happily adapted to English ways). Over tea in a little Italian café, we chatted as if we had known each other forever. She informed me that in years past she worked for Pearson Higher Education. “Those textbooks you used in school? Yes,” she said, “I’m that horrible person who helped create online homework assignments.” Our overcast afternoon continued with a stroll through Kensington Palace gardens and a visit to the Design Museum. Incredibly enthusiastic about England’s historical monuments, she was eager to share with me Albert Memorial—made from Queen Victoria’s undying love for her Prince. I will always remember her immediate response to love and selflessly include me in her Sunday afternoon.  – Leigh Ann


Walking through the tube station in the morning, I walked by a sign that said, “Busking Station Number 2.” It was empty, but I thought how interesting it was that this is provided for people. That night I heard the instrumentals part to the song My Heart Will Go On. I looked down the tunnel where the music was coming from, and there was a man standing at “Busking Station Number 2” playing his violin.  I listened to the song and when it was done dropped some change in his violin case. The man nodded in acknowledgment of the money. He let me take a picture as he kept playing. After he finished the second song I asked him if people usually stop and listen. He shook his head, no. Then I asked if he does this for a living. He nodded and played another song.  – Barbara


Melvin Ashong is a local musician here in London who busks every now and then at Piccadilly Circus. He is heard playing old and new music, even some of his own works. This is a photograph of his CD which he gave to me. This song is amazing. We had got to talking about music and the industry in London. He told me, “You don’t want to make music here. America is where it’s at kid. They only care about the money. Music is not about soul anymore, the soul that you and I have is gone.” Some pretty wise words and powerful at that. Look him up on YouTube, Facebook, etc. He’s a great writer and singer.   –Tyler


Pieres Dashfield!!! If you are not lucky enough to catch up with him in the West End of London, don’t despair because like all up-and-coming musicians, Pieres is sharing his talent with the world on YouTube! He started singing at a very young age, and now he performs in the streets of London.  Even though he doesn’t make a lot from street performance, he is happy to share his talent with the world. Pieres has a way of getting to people’s hearts with his guitar and angelic voice. Find him on YouTube @ Pieres Dashfield, He agreed to a few pictures. – Hadassa


During a midday commuter rush, I noticed this man standing on the sidewalk and radiating a huge smile at everyone that passed him.  Intrigued, I kept staring and noted his gold-rimmed glasses and a stack of CDs in his hand. When he saw me staring at him, he smiled with all his teeth.  I maneuvered over to him and asked, “Is this your album?”

“That’s me!” he beamed, pointing to his stage name, “Handles TDBD,” on the cover.

He said that as a musician, he prioritizes his creative integrity and consequently has not signed with a major record label. Instead, he self-promotes in person and through social media. He handed me a copy of his album and said that people have compared him to Kanye West. (I listened to the album, and I agree!)  When I asked for a photo, he struck a pose.   – Sam


While walking along Trafalgar Square outside of the National Portrait Gallery I heard the rich, raspy voice of Andy John Jones, a local busker, who performs around London. I was immediately drawn to Jones’s incredible stage presence and soulful guitar playing, so after listening to him play a few songs, I decided to buy one of his CD’s. Although our interaction was brief, he managed to make an impression, as he was both genuine and gracious. Once I arrived back at my apartment, I found his Facebook page, which was listed on the cover of his album, and learned that he has been performing since he was just 17 years old. In his Facebook biography he explains that he moved from Birmingham to London, “…in search of a scene, an energy not stagnating, but thriving.”   – Jessica


A street performer discussed a little bit of his work. Playing on a corner by the Thames, he has bad days and good days, in terms of the money he receives. After receiving a 5-pound note, he explained he would have to hide it, as passersby would assume he was making too much and be less likely to give money. In terms of interesting things he sees on the streets, he once was playing and was accosted by a troupe of dancers dressed as ducks that danced to his music.  – Alden


As I waited for my sandwich to finish grilling, the chef of my meal was standing right in front of me. While there, I asked him about the market square we were eating at. Apparently the market is a relatively new development but has quickly drawn many sellers such as himself, and his brother from Scotland to serve their delicious Hagas burgers. The outdoor market was founded on the idea of creating an open space for producers of food and goods to be exposed to the public without high maintenance bills, and it has helped these brothers achieve their dreams.   – Cole


Ted’s Veg

There are all these wonderful stalls of fresh fruits and vegetables in the open-air market a few blocks away from the Globe Theatre. The people who run the stalls are from all over the place, and I have had many different interactions and conversations with people. Turns out, the English do like to moan.

“Hello, just this.” (Hands over Elderflower drink)


“Are you Ted?”


“Are you Ted? From the sign?”

“Oh!” Laughs. “No, I’m not. I’m just the guy who runs the stall. Ted’s the farmer. Lives about four hours north of here. The drive down is killer!”

“I can believe it! Do you do that?”

“Mostly him, but sometimes, he makes me do it too.” Smirks and scoffs. “I think he has a farm over in the States somewhere, not sure though. Is that all?”

“Yep! Thanks! Great stuff, by the way. Cheers.”

“Cheers.”                                                                                   – Riley


I first saw these men, Matthew and Lloyd, carrying a giant, inflatable banana down Shaftesbury Avenue. As we stopped next to each other at a crosswalk, a man behind me yelled, “Follow that banana!” At first I was horrified because I was wearing my t-shirt with bananas all over it, but, seeing my shirt, he quickly clarified that he was talking about the inflatable banana and not me.

I walked with them for a while, exchanging pleasantries with the banana men. They were not shy like people I had encountered during the daytime. I complimented their banana, and Matthew said of Lloyd: “He is so good carrying the banana in his arms. So gentle.”

It turns out, we were in the middle of Banana Pub Crawl, a self-described guided tour through London’s best music venues by people “who love to party” –if you’re into that sort of thing!        – Genevieve


I have been a lover of mechanical and automatic timepieces for a few years now. So when I heard there was a special “Watch Room” in the luxury department store Harrods, I was eager to check it out. It did not disappoint. In the Montblanc (a famous luxury Swiss watch company) section of the room, I was able to talk to a representative and learn a little about the history and gain insight into one of their particular collections.

“This is the Montblanc 1858 collection. These are Pilots watches inspired by the ones made by Minerva [a Swiss watch specialist] in 1858. They are a combination of simplicity and elegance.”

My favorite part about the interaction was the love that I had for beautiful but (almost always) expensive timepieces and his enthusiasm for Montblanc. I was actually able to hold a couple of the watches. I even learned about a finishing technique called “Côte de Geneva,” or Coast of Geneva. It’s when the inside plates of the watch are wavy, the inspiration coming directly from Lake Geneva itself.  – Ian

Timepiece: Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition (Picture courtesy of Montblanc)


Chewing Gum Man @Millennium Bridge

“I paint by their shape, sometimes a car, sometimes a cloud form – just play with one’s imagination and see what comes up, hehe. The environmental protection people did talk to me before, yes, then they realized I only paint where people spit their chewing gum. Now they don’t mind me anymore, haha. The government doesn’t do anything about this gum. So I’m helping keep the city of London clean in my little way. This is London you know, our home. We should all keep it clean, even just in a very small way. Oh of course you can post whatever you wanna write! My name is Ben Wilson, but call me ‘Chewing Gum man’ on your blog. Kids call me ‘Chewing Gum man’.”   – Jintong


Joseph “Poet Carpet” 

“I have been prosecuted by the government for years. Finally under the law of our great Kingdom here, we are allowed to make this happen. Because we are in front of this exhibition museum with some delicate art in there. Yea there is something about public and private art in this country you just don’t understand. 

You can pick any of these poems here on my carpet, I can recite them. The envelope colours are the poems’ moods.

This one is about a man I met who is from Cornwall. Cornwall is a special place in our Kingdom. It has its own personality. This one is a sonnet I wrote for a homeless guy I met the other day. I’m waiting for him to come next time so I can give it to him… This one is about Islam culture in the Middle Ages, when it was not allowed for them to drink wine, haha…

You know poetry doesn’t have national borders. It has its own language. It’s all connected….”             – Jintong

Below is a poem he randomly picked and gave to me as a gift:


Sept 16, 2001

             What can come of more blood spilled?

             Only new and worse terrors;

             For the enemy is subtle,

             And beyond reach of missiles.

             We should exercise restraint,

             Check the compulsion to war,

             Or stumble drown an abyss,

             Of accelerating chaos.

             Let the Lions growl quietly,

             And the gentle speak words of peace.



The Lake District

Humans of England Blog: This abroad, we are trying something new. We were intrigued by the blog by Brandon Stanton called “Humans of New York,” so we have modeled our blog after his work. As a part of our experience here in England, we are engaging  in conversations with people we meet here and  posting about those encounters. If those interviewed prefer not to have their pictures included, pictures that are representative of the conversation are included. We hope these posts give you a glimpse into the culture we are learning to love!



It’s hard to talk to people that you don’t know, but to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know in a different country is even more difficult. I didn’t want to scare someone by not having the right technique in having a British conversation, but this was something I had to do—and something I wanted to do. I saw a women sitting with her dog. The dog was so handsome that I had to go find out about him. With some hesitation I went to his owner and said, “Beautiful dog!” From there I was able to get a conversation going that felt natural and unforced.

“His name is Bronson. He’s 16 months. We got him in December. He’s sort of trained, not really, but he’s pretty good. He’s well behaved. He’s good. When he pulls he’s very strong, but otherwise he’s good. We like him. ‘Bronson the Bully.’” –Barbara

I met a man in front of the Grasmere ginger bread store. I initiated conversation by complimenting his two dogs.

I said to him, “What beautiful dogs!”

He thanked me, and I took the opportunity to ask to pet the dogs.

The man asked me where I was from. This question seems to be a staple for the English when they hear an American accent. I told him that I was from Florida, and he nodded his head. There was an awkward silence where we floundered for something to say, so I asked him if I could take a picture of the dogs and mentioned that the dogs in the United States are not very well behaved.

I never found out his name, and it felt like a very awkward interaction, but it was worth it to get my mitts on those pups!  —Genevieve

From the YHA: Sarah’s Shoes

“What was your favorite thing about today?”

“So much. This conversation is really lovely. Having your group in. Working with the kids, that’s really nice. I trained up a volunteer manager today. It was his first day; you could see how nervous he was, and at the end of the day he was smiling and saying what a wonderful time he had, high-fiving the team and really like, part of it. So I just had a really good day – you’ve caught me on a fabulous day! It’s all about people for me. That’s what makes my day, every day.”

The first thing I noticed about her was her shoes. They’re bright red, well worn, and covered in paint – and she only got them a few weeks ago. There is someone who loves her job, I thought—enough to wear new shoes to work and cover them in paint. –Elle

Mirioslaw Wroblewski, or Miri, as he introduced himself, comes from the noble land of Poland. He came to the U.K. twelve years ago and arrived in the Lake District three years ago. He currently works as a cook at the Bridge House Hotel and has a marvelous spirit about him. I met Miri while he was acting as a preacher so that his friend Kim could ‘officially’ marry her favorite tree in all the district. The ‘wedding’ was nothing new for Miri and Kim as the two have shared many such adventures together.

Miri says he loves his job for the amount of work it is and how busy it keeps him. He loves his new home for the beauty and splendor it offers him and wants to keep meeting anyone who passes through his life. –Cole


“I’m from Colombia but I am NOT from Bogotà. And NO I haven’t watched Narcos. I’m from a small town near Cali. I do like Salsa! Once in a restaurant, an English waiter asked me if I wanted salsa. I was so confused and amused when they gave me salsa sauce! I moved to London a year ago for my Masters. The thing I love about London is how organized it is and that people are gentle and polite. Public transportation is mostly on time—not like back home—so you can predict when you can arrive at your destination. Underground yeah, but locals call it the tube.” –Jintong

Last Thursday, we began our day by hiking up Easedale Tarn. While gleefully parading up the well-worn path, we came across an elderly couple. The man took a liking to our singing and boldly struck up conversation, asking if we knew “George Gershwin.” Being a music lover myself, we began talking and dropping old names like “Fats Waller.” He made the comment “I don’t understand what sort of music BBC is letting the younger generations listen to…. If you asked a child today who George Gershwin was, they’d shake their head.”

As the conversation grew, he proceeded to take out his “tin whistle” and played folk tunes, such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” etc. His sweet wife sang along with his playing, embracing his extroverted nature. At the end of his “show,” he introduced himself as Phil Lowe. Phil’s humor brightened our day and made us roar with laughter. –Leigh Ann

Grasmere is home to many nice people. One man that I had the pleasure of talking to was a man from Italy. We had talked about guitars and music and how his sister is in a band; we talked about politics in Italy and how poverty is starting to become a big thing as well as unemployment. We also talked about Trump in America. That was quite the conversation. He was very passionate about the subject; he said that countries are starting to have businessmen as presidents such as: America (Trump), Italy’s president, Spain, etc. He was a very happy bloke who loved England very much. –Tyler

Pam Twiss is the First Reader for the Christian Science Church in Windermere, England. We had the privilege of hearing Pam read twice during our time in the Lake District: once during the Sunday service, and again during the Wednesday night Testimony Meeting. Throughout both of these services, I was struck by Pam’s overwhelming sense of joy. She read each passage with great care and managed to captivate us all. Following the Wednesday night meeting, I had a brief conversation with her about the service, and she graciously explained to me that she was surprised to see all of us enthralled, sitting at the edge of our seats during her readings. –Jessica

It is the fifth day of our trip. We are gathered for tea after church at the First Church of Christ Scientist, Windermere. The place is filled to the brim by excited Principia students and our lovely hosts. Ann seemed fascinated about our visit. As she told me, she has lived in London, Norfolk, and finally Windermere, having moved to Windermere from London about two years ago. In London she taught music and English as a Second language for 15 years. Her favorite people to teach are infants [children], who, she says,are not only more excited about learning but also do retain the lesson learned much longer.

“This place is very close to my home and thus very convenient. It turned out to be one of the most profound right choices I have ever made,” she disclosed to me.

Ann has accomplished so much and feels quite fulfilled by her many achievements including having served as second reader. She is calm, kindhearted, and full of ineffable joy and a flawless love.  In her I have found a lifetime model; she has inscribed a permanent mark in my heart.–Hadassa

At Sunday School in Windermere, I got the chance to get to know Lydia Backshall, both from discussions in Sunday School and chatting over tea afterwards. She had just graduated from high school and is taking a gap year to go teach skiing in Austria, and then off to Uni. We talked about accents and the differences other group members and I had noticed. She was funny and forthcoming. After exchanging contact information to keep in touch, she invited me to a football match that coming Tuesday. Tyler, Ian and I went with her, her father Tim, and her boyfriend Jordan. We talked about the game and the reactions to the match (which were quite passionate and earnest, opposed to humorous, which I’ve found to be the norm outside football matches). All in all it was one of the most fun nights I have had yet.—Kayleen

While we were with Lydia in the Sunday School class, she told us about the UK based program entitled: “Focus.” Focus is a 10-day program for Christian Scientists to come together to have discussions about the practice and to build lasting friendships within the CS community. Lydia, having recently returned from the program, did not have enough positive words to say about it as she radiated light, energy, joy, and love for her growth and experience.—Ashley

After attending a Sunday morning church service in Windermere, I had the chance to chat with Tim, who currently serves as the congregation’s second reader. Together, we breached English culture rules: We talked about our work. Coincidentally, both of us started pursuing journalism through The Christian Science Monitor—I spent this past summer as a newsroom intern, and Tim was connected through the Monitor to a contact in Windermere, and he has since worked for ITV News, a local station, for 20 years. Tim’s balanced perspective invited me into English politics and cultural debates from Brexit to environmentalism and sheep. We also discovered that he and his family recently vacationed in an RV from San Francisco to Los Angeles, nearly grazing my home turf. His openness and warmth helped usher me gently into English culture, and I look forward to many more conversations during our travels. –Samantha

After service on Sunday, a group of us ran into Tim and his family and invited them to join us for lunch. During the meal we learned that Tim is a local news anchor for Cumbria.  He asked a few of us for advice on quickly memorizing lines, and we offered multiple methods. We then dove into a deep conversation about American and British sports and their respective similarities and differences. As a personal preference, I do not enjoy discussing sports; however, the discussion we had was so engaging that I enjoyed it very much. Tim told us about Polo, Cribbage, and Football; I am so grateful for his openness and willingness to share with us and engage with us. It was a truly wonderful experience.—Becca

I had the pleasure of sitting next to a wonderfully hilarious man by the name of Monty when our abroad group went to a Christian Science church member’s home for dinner. We started discussing the dining room in which we were sitting, and I asked him about the model plane enclosed in a glass box in the corner of the room. He proceeded to tell me about how it is the model of the plane his grandfather flew during WWI, mostly in protecting England. All of his medals in the case were from his time in the military. Monty took great pride in the legacy his grandfather left and has worked recently in the family estate to help run it. It was an amazing and enlightening dinner—and pretty funny as well. –Riley


World “Mum” 

Me: I felt so much at home when I came in this store!

“Mum”: Homesick, isn’t it? Where you are from?

Me: China. We have a very deep Buddhism culture there. I live overseas, so seeing these really touches me.

“Mum”: Ah! My daughter married an Australian man, and they live there now. My friends ask me how I could handle this! Well I just say as long as they are happy, and the flight is only seven to eight hours! Now the world is really getting smaller, isn’t it? I think nowadays kids in school, instead of learning those things they will never use in their lives, they need to learn about other cultures! How to respect other races, other religions! Because you know, it is not good to be ignorant! –Jintong