I’m very out of place in Hampstead, as a student. It’s a lovely place to live but I feel very out of place. Most of the residents of Hampstead are bankers, as I’ve discovered being on the Metropolitan line during morning rush hour for the first time. The route goes straight to Aldgate, which is near the financial district.

Tina and I headed to Brick Lane in the search for some great curry. As a vegetarian, I don’t think it really met the expectations I had from hearsay, but the sweet stores are to die for. Anyways, I know East London in terms of its immigrant population while Tina thinks of East London as Shoreditch and financiers. In fact, Brick Lane is situated right next to the financial district. We both visited Queen Mary’s and on the side of the street I was walking, I saw lots of small Mulsim-owned restaurants, Wahabi women, etc. But Tina saw bankers.

It’s amazing how two completely different worlds just spill into each other like that. It’s just as true in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, especially Detroit where one street makes the difference between grinding poverty and grinding rich. Since central London is so small, this is all still in Zone 1 mind you, the disparity is far magnified. I don’t know if Tower of Hamlets is necessarily defined by grinding poverty, but from what I learned at a job interview with The Arbor, a non-profit working with the Banladehsi community near Queen Mary’s, their narratives are defined by their marginalization. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, I’ve read many studies showing this pattern around the world, but visually…You walk down from Brick Lane to aldgate and it goes from graffiti and small markets to these skyscrapers and polished streets and fountains and…wow.

Each little piece of London is so well self-contained. On the one hand, it’s slightly disturbing. But it also offers so much to explore, so many stories waiting to be discovered by me, as they have been by many people before me. I hope to come back and continue exploring London, some day.

(DC wins for the worst irony. I was living in GWU housing, five minutes from the White House, and I would always pass the World Bank and IMF on my way to the bookstore or something. Right outside their doorstep would be a line of bodies of the homeless. The parks seemed little more than a nod towards the homeless as outdoor accommodation. It was just incredibly awful.)

****

After a week of idyll sunshine, it’s back to rain again. Gloom.

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