14 July 2005

london bombings

Last Thursday it was dt day at school. We were in the middle of activity week, and had suspended our normal timetable. On Thursday, the students were divided into their houses (think Harry Potter) and were competing to create contraptions that would safely cushion an egg when it was dropped onto the sidewalk.

After break, the other teacher in Wellington came and told me that bombs had exploded on the tube. The senior students were talking about it so she'd managed to listen to the radio. No announcement was made to the students. A few had obviously heard something. I was fielding questions like, "Miss Christian, I've always wondered, just how far are we from London?" After first answering, "About an hour, S-----, so I'd guess about 60 miles," I called her back. I told her, "We're far enough from London to be safe where we are. Does that answer the question you were really asking?" All tension dropped from her shoulders and she grinned and nodded.

Parents called school with news to reassure students, but still we hadn't told them anything. I consulted with the other junior school teachers, but they didn't want to tell the students. I continued to have upset children, some in floods of tears. I reassured them as best I could. At the end of the day, when I had my own form back, I told them simply that there had been some explosions in London. I told them that there had been loads of parents calling in to say that people we loved were safe. I was able to tell one of my students that his mum was safe. Then, I told them that I didn't know what had really happened because I'd been with them all day. I encouraged them to talk to their parents about it. I didn't want them to be frightened by talk they might overhear in the carpark. They all left feeling safe that day. (Since we'd just finished a unit on life in England during WWII, a few were delighted by the idea that they might be evacuated. My denying any evacuation plans didn't damper their hopes.) On Monday, the head had a special assembly to talk about what happened.

I've struggled with the reactions in the media to this horrible event. There is a strong sentiment of "We did this better than the Americans." I heard several commentators commenting on how there was a feeling of panic during 9-11 that was conspicuously missing here. They talked about the war spirit that had returned. To my sensitive and biased ears, they seemed...proud and a little smug.

This is not only difficult for my patriotic heart to take (Ask anyone and they'll tell you that Americans are the most patriotic of all nationalities. Friends from abroad have marvelled at the number of flags they seen flying in the US. The number of patriotic songs we have-and that I can sing multiple verses of from memory-leaves them a little bewildered.) but it also confuses me. I was here in London on 9-11. I remember the outpouring of sympathy. Strangers, after inquiring about my accent, expressed their condolences. (Of course, there was also that Irish man who shouted at me that it was our own fault, that they had been fighting terrorism for years, that we, as a nation, were naive...) There was no mention at the time of how poorly we were coping.

I would like to point out a few things, merely to assuage my outrage and to fulfill my self-appointed role as ambassador to the world, repairer of reputations, defender of my country and plastic surgeon for the scars left by Ugly Americans. (That last title just came through. Rather chuffed with that one.)

  • This attack was not as visually gripping as the planes flying into the twin towers. Three of the four explosions happened underground. No one watched it. No one knew what had happened until it was over.
  • Far fewer people were killed and injured in this attack.
  • Since 9-11, we have been bracing for an attack. We've practiced what to do. On 9-11, no one expected anything like that to happen.

I am still sorting through all this. But, since so many have asked, I thought it worthwhile to share the bits I've sorted so far.

I'm safe. My friends are safe. The terrorists, home-grown by most accounts, have been identified on CCTV footage. Further terrorists are being searched for and arrested. The trains are a little slow and a bus driver did a quick walk-through of the bus before he let us board. I'm going in to London later this week and will ride the tube. Things really do seem to be back to normal.

So, that's the state of things here. Hope all is well with you!


07 July 2005

almost there...

My mind is already in Russia. As my students and I complete our last two weeks of school here in England, I spend my hours outside of class planning and dreaming of my next adventure.

I've recieved my class list for next year. The demographics are amazing. Of my 20 students,
* 7 are third graders and 13 are second graders.
*7 are boys and 13 are girls.
*1 is from the UK, 1 is from the US, and the rest are from Germany, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Israel, Korea, Japan, India, Estonia, Lithuania and Russia. What an international group!

I am so grateful for the warm, friendly welcome I've received from everyone at AAS. It makes me feel like I'm headed home! And speaking of home, the principal of AAS-SP e-mailed me this yesterday:

Now for housing, we have secured a three bedroom apartment for you. It is very nice. It is located just around the corner and down the street from our place. You will be about 20 minutes from the school, 3 minutes from the Field of Mars, 5 minutes from the Summer Garden, 5 minutes from the Hermitage, 5 minutes from the Church on the Spilled Blood, and one street from the Niva embankment. It is a very nice place.

You will have your own heating system as opposed to all of us who are on the city's heat. The only control we have is to open our windows. The apartment is furnished.

We have an official listing of things, but it is in Russian. Believe me, you will not be short anything when you arrive.

It's all pretty amazing, isn't it? Please join me in giving thanks for this opportunity that is set before me.