Our days continue with a mixture of responsibility and wonder, sightseeing and bureaucrazy. First and foremost on our list yesterday was the bank, who are every bit as pleasant, helpful, and informative as one might expect a state-run institution to be (i.e. not at all):

“How long do wire transfers take?”

“Oh, I don’t know… a week? Ten days?”

“Can I just deposit a US check directly instead?”

“Oh, I don’t know… that might take a week? Fifteen days?”

GREAT, thanks guys. Perhaps we would’ve been better off going with a private banking institution, but probably not. I found banking to be the hardest part of living in London as well.

We then retraced my steps from the day before, walking down to the main metro station to see about buying monthly passes. We stood in one line for a bit, only to have some nice employee come out and tell us we were in the wrong line, we had to go to the next station down.

It was on our way, so after we had lunch at a restaurant in a spooky old stage theater complex near our flat, we stopped in at the other station. Along with about 150 students, all trying to get their discounted student pass for the month. The line wound back from the kiosk for about 25 feet, then all the way up the stairs to the entrance from the street. We took one look and said, “Fine, we’ll just pay for our tickets individually and come back next week.” Wow. As we found out later, I think that was the only kiosk accepting new applications, as one of the other ones had a sign saying “No applications accepted during the last two days and the first two days of every month.” Hmm. Efficient.

Our bureaucratic adventure continued with another trip to the same store where we’d gotten our mobiles, this time to arrange internet service at the flat. To Gabe’s horror, the guy said he couldn’t arrange a technician to come by til next Tuesday afternoon — a whole weekend without internet! Horrors!

In most places that would be fine, but as we’re not sure of the prevalence of internet cafes here, nor of their opening hours on the weekend, we opted to buy the little USB internet hub they were offering along with the service. So don’t worry, hopefully you won’t have to miss any daily updates due to technical difficulties! I know how much you anticipate them.

After dealing with that, we rewarded ourselves with a little sightseeing. Just up the hill (such a misleading phrase in this town) from the mall we were in lies a gorgeous quiet square, with cafes and a guy playing guitar on one side and the ruins of an old Carmelite convent on the other. We were both totally unprepared for the shocking, brutal beauty of the place, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 and then gutted by the subsequent fire. (The sign we read said that the fire destroyed all the building’s “stuffing,” a phrase I giggled over quite a bit.)

They started rebuilding it, but then the Victorians, true to form, decided that it would be trendier and more picturesque to leave it in ruins instead. Typical. Instead, they moved bits and pieces of other ruined churches and buildings into it, and it’s now an archaeological museum, with bits of gargoyles stuck to the walls, random baptismals, Hebrew gravestones, entire royal tombs, and display cases full of stone axes inside what’s left of the church. They even had two complete Peruvian child mummies, which creeped the hell out of me when I turned around and came face to face with them. Quite a random collection! The most spectacular part by far though are the remains of the convent itself, with the bare arches of the roof soaring like so many skeletal ribs into the sky above you. It was well worth the 2.50 we paid to get in.

We decided we couldn’t top that experience, so we headed home, or what passes for it til Friday. It wasn’t until we found the new place last week that I realized how much I miss having a home, how much I crave being in a space all our own. Being in this dorm living situation doesn’t help, between the Indian guy who cooks strong-smelling food every night and is desperate for company; the hot Italian chick next to him that attracts all the poor dorky guys in the building like ants to sugar; and the obsessive-compulsive guy next to us who spends literally hours every day washing his hands in the bathroom, using up all the soap and paper towels, and leaves his junk food wrappers on the floor for the ants to find.

Yeah. It’s time for us to have a home again. Two more nights!

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more about “Carmo Convent“, posted with vodpod

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