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October 10, 2012

A Book Before Breakfast, and One With Tea

The LSE Library is a massive building, as nearly a literal ivory tower as any one can be, and pulsing with activity.  Standing near the base of the enormous white spiral staircase that curls skyward, passing rows and rows of dark grey carrels as it ascends, you feel as if you’re somehow nested at the center of a great machine — a building filled, already, in the first week of term, with a feverish intensity that captures you and drags you along with it.

This is just the first floor computer area — there’s one on each floor, and I’ve yet to see two computers in a row empty, at any time of day or night.

You’ll need the intensity, too.  For just the lectures in this first week — the first lectures of the term — I’ve been assigned four full books, ten academic articles, and two primary source texts of approximately chapter-length.  Here’s a picture of the books assigned for just one class: Foreign Policy Analysis.  And don’t go getting any ideas.  People here do the reading.  

I’m not complaining, of course.  I do the reading too, as anyone at Clark who knows me can attest to.  I have a particular spot in the Academic Commons that I usually settle into for hours and hours on end, coffee in hand.  Until this week, I didn’t have such a place at the LSE.  It was a bit of a bummer, too.  I’d wake up ready to do work and didn’t have the foggiest where to go about doing it.

That all changed on Monday.  On Monday, I discovered this:

Which quickly became this:

It’s been such a thrill to be in such an engaged place.  The pace is quick, but the people are quicker.  I’ve read three books in the last day, and I’m going to have to read another one tonight if I want to be prepared for my lecture tomorrow.  And I do.

At some point in the next few weeks, I’m going to do a post with specifics about each of my classes (kind of like what I did last year, or what Stef periodically does on her blog).  Until then, let’s talk about one of my other favorite topics: FREE FOOD!

This week, I got free food twice.  Once was entirely by accident (the yummiest accident I’ve ever had).  Walking back from class, with Russell Square on my right and the University of London on my left, I noticed a long line of grungy kids my age beginning to form along the sidewalk.  In my experience, these sorts of lines usually mean something good, so I “queued up,” as the English would say.  Lucky me.  It was the Hare Krishnas, and they were handing out this:

I know it doesn’t look like much, but when it’s (a) hot, (b) free, (c) delicious, and (d) the first thing you’ve eaten for eight hours, after an apple for breakfast, it starts looking mighty tasty.  It was a potato / chickpea mix, which is darn good for free, and I enjoyed it on a park bench whilst talking to a Belgian lady who worked as a secretary in Birkbeck College (where, incidentally, a lot of Clarkies study abroad!).

The second instance of free food was more targeted.  Around 4:30 pm yesterday, reading in the library with my friend Natalie, I decided to take a short study break and hopped on the ol’ Facebook.  Imagine my shock (and awe) when, right there on the LSE Student’s Union Facebook Page, I saw two magical words:


That was all it took.  Natalie and I basically sprinted out of the library, across Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and to the intersection of Chancery Lane and High Holborn, where a little mexican place decorated in garish magenta sat on the corner.  Now, at this point I wasn’t expecting much.  There was, indeed, a promotion for LSE students, where between 5 and 8 pm we could get a free burrito, but I assumed we’d get handed a small little thing, light on the shredded  chicken and the guac, and then be told to go on our merry way.


“I’m here for the free burrito,” I announced, maybe a bit over-enthusiastically, to the man behind the counter.

“Right”, said he.  “What’ll you have on it?”

Churchill probably didn’t smile any wider when he heard that Hitler was dead.  Two minutes later, there I was, with the following beautiful steak, cheese, guac, and bean-laden burrito in my hand:

Two further minutes later:

Life is full of miracles.  Some days, I guess, those miracles are burritos.

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