We are leaving London within hours, and this is the first time we have been able to track down an internet café – not that they are not around, just that we have been busy with many other activities. Our London experience started with a hotel mixup that sent us on a quick misadventure across the subway system, from Victoria to the London Tower. Our hotel ended up being located on the Thames, with spectacular views of the Tower and the Tower bridge.
We did go to Westminster Abbey, and saw the grave of Livingstone. You are not supposed to take pictures inside the Abbey, so here is a picture of all of us outside it after seeing the graves of Livingstone, Darwin, Newton and many other less important British figures (Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, King Edward I, etc.).
Our second day in London continued our “Dead British White Men of Africa” tour, as we visited the tombs of Sir Richard Burton and Henry Morton Stanley. The Burton tomb was quite remarkable, as you can see – a cement tomb for both Burton and his wife Isabelle. The students seemed to be quite taken with the whole thing – especially the viewing window in the back of the tomb – a bit morose, but ce la vie (or ce la morte, I suppose).
Visiting Stanley’s tomb was also a grand time, although Stanley is perhaps not nearly the respectable figure that Burton was (or Livingstone was, for that matter). However, the highlight of the day was hanging out in the small town of Pirbright. [Both Burton and Stanley’s graves were in the countryside outside London, requiring adventures and misadventures on trains and buses and foot for a full day.] The highlight for the students was when we saw the Pirbright Cricket Club in action. In asking some of the small crowd of fans how the game worked, the students were immediately brought into the fold and were quickly having tea and pints with the criketers – even learning how to bowl and bat!
Yesterday (Sunday) we spent at the British Museum of Natural History, taking a tour of the Darwin Center – we got to see specimens collected by Darwin, along with “Archie,”, the pickled giant squid. That visit brought home to many of the students the deep scientific value of museum collections – one even said, “When I get back I am signing up for a class in taxonomy!”
Today we visited the Royal Geographic Society, seeing many artifacts of Livingstone, Stanley and Baker – like the hats Stanley and Livingstone were wearing when Stanley found Livingstone alive in Ujiji (after being missing from the world for nearly two years!). Plus a giant elephant gun used by Baker in his Africa explorations, the first map of the Zambia region (made and written by Livingstone himself!). It was fantastic.
All told, the London leg of the trip seems to have been a famous success. The hard thing for everyone to believe is that we now head into an even more foreign region – off to Zambia. By tomorrow at this time, we will be half way across the Zambian mopane on our way to Victoria Falls (staying at Fawlty Towers – see the link at right). We hope to post more there.
Everyone is in great health and spirits. I would like to report that they miss all their friends and family, but frankly, I really can’t tell!