The British are known for loving their tea- not just in the afternoon, but at all hours of the day. However, did you know that the greeting cards industry here is actually worth more than the tea AND coffee industries combined, valued at about 7 million pounds? And the average person here will send 30-some greeting cards in a year. That’s a lot!
With that said, that is the industry I am interning in this summer. Clear Creations is a greeting card company that hand-finishes each lovingly-designed card with Swarovski crystals and glitter. My main task has been to help with online marketing and website support, but in reality I’ve been able to be involved with all the aspects of running a small business, and I’ve been LOVING it. From glittering cards (my favorite activity) to building up a following on Pinterest to writing to bloggers so that they can feature us, it’s definitely been an eye-opening experience. I wish that I could work a full week because I thoroughly love my job, although the class we take has been really fascinating as well.
Another random fact: the average commute time here in London is 50 minutes. That is how long mine takes, but I managed to find a route that saves me 10 minutes, which really helps in the morning. On the way back in the evenings though, I take a longer way so that I can have a seat. And it’s incredible just how much of a difference a few minutes can make; leaving at 9:10 in the mornings makes me 10 minutes early, but leaving at 9:15 puts me in the middle of the morning rush and makes me 5 minutes late. I think I’ll go with the slightly early route as opposed to fighting my way onto a train a few minutes later.
Now that we are halfway through the program, some of the novelties have worn off and become routine things taken for granted. I hardly notice the posters advertising various galleries and exhibitions anymore, or the musicians that can be found playing in Tube stations at peak hours. The beautiful architecture has become as ordinary as the mountains in Tucson, and the prospect of the Games coming in a few weeks fills me with more dread than excitement, since my commute to work involves the two lines that will be the most affected. Everyone seems to be regarding the impending arrival of the Games as a version of the Apocalypse; signs have been posted everywhere in the Tube stations encouraging people to “Get Ahead of the Games”, there are little signs in pink pointing out major areas, and some roads are being prepared to be transformed into Games Lanes, which will exclusively serve athletes and officials. 10 million people are estimated to visit this city, which already boasts a population of 8 million. Insane, much?
One of the best things about settling in and becoming a local is forming a relationship with the place around you and finding places that you won’t find in a tourist guidebook. These can be the most ordinary places, like the grocery store you stop by on the way home, or an amazing bakery (such as Hummingbird’s, which sells amazing cupcakes). For me, the Lido Café in Hyde Park is such a place. It’s the perfect place for a cup of afternoon tea, and every afternoon when the sun is shining and I’m not busy, I’ve walked there to sit by the Serpentine and enjoy the view. It has become my own special sanctuary, where I can sit and while away the time scribbling down a poem while sipping from a large cup of tea.
I’ve done more tourist-y things too, like visit Brighton, Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath. While I do enjoy being a tourist and traveling to different places, it is carving a life for myself that I enjoy the most, for it allows me to form a more intimate relationship with the city and the culture around me. On one hand, the last four weeks have flown right on by, but on the other, it also feels as though I have been here forever. I know that before long, I will find myself packing my bags and wondering where 9 weeks have gone by. Now that I am halfway through, it is time to stop, reflect, and think about how I want to spend the second half of my trip. It definitely has been the summer of a lifetime so far, and I am looking forward to it continuing onwards.