A (somewhat unexpected) visit…
Since I first started working/studying abroad, I have always envied co-workers/fellow students who have been fortunate enough to enjoy visits from close friends and family. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in Japan (probably because the flight is too long/expensive for many people in the U.S.) or France (probably due to the relatively short time I was living in L’Hexagone).
While Genba and Clare have visited me in Leeds (it was easy for both of them to do so living in the country), I wasn’t expecting my time in the U.K. to be any different – well, in regards to people flying across oceans to see me. Or rather, not seeing me. However, last Friday (September 26), my father e-mailed me to say he was coming to visit me. Obviously terrific news. It’s just that he didn’t tell me until three days prior to his arrival what his exact plans were (I definitely had an idea he wanted to come so the visit wasn’t a shock). So I had to find my way to Manchester Airport…
Which was neither difficult nor expensive (£11 one way for a non-peak hour train ticket). But the wait for him was nervewracking – Dad told me he would be arriving on a British Airways flight, which means Terminal 3 at Manchester Airport. However, he didn’t arrival at eight a.m. and it didn’t seem like he could be on any of the British Airways flights arriving at Manchester Airport that morning. I was told by three different airport employees that I was at the correct terminal as the one flight departing from Philadelphia would arrive there. Sure enough, at close to ten a.m., my father came into my view.
One of my big concerns about his trip was how to entertain him in Leeds for several days. Fortunately, the two main museums in the city centre – the Art Gallery and the Leeds City Museum – are free. Although I’m not a huge fan of art museums and I’ve already visited the place, I figured I’d take my dad there first. Fortunately, he seemed intrigued by the artwork in the place. Better yet, the Leeds City Museum is home to an awesome new exhibit. For how long? I’m not sure – but if you’re in Leeds and interested in Asian culture, head down to the museum to see it while you can.
On ground floor, just left to the entrance, Voices of Asia can be found and it’s home to various items from several Asian cultures – such as a sitar and pieces of clothing from China. A video featuring aspects of Asian culture in Leeds was also part of the exhibit – the mosque that’s within sneezing distance of my first flat in Leeds was actually profiled.
The next day (Wednesday), Dad and I attended a trial in Leeds – the defendant was accused of sexual abuse. You might wonder why someone would go to a courthouse on vacation. Well, my dad was a defense lawyer for a long time so he was interested to see if there were any differences between trials in the U.K. and the U.S. Trials in the United Kingdom – like the United States – are free to the general public and I was astonished that we could walk into any of the courtrooms. As for what might be different between the two countries, Dad was surprised to see British judges still wearing wigs since he thought that judges had done away with wearing wigs. In addition, Dad said the case against the defendant wouldn’t go to trial in Philadelphia because the statue of limitations had passed.
As I much as I wanted to show him everything worthwhile in Yorkshire in a five or six day period, time obviously didn’t allow for that. However, a relatively short bus ride away was the National Railway Museum in York. I’ve already been there (and blogged about it) but it’s my favourite museum in the U.K. and it’s a good place to visit because it’s “free.”
Although a visit to the museum is advertised as having no entrance fee, museum employees beg and plead for visitors to pay £3 upon entry (Dad paid £6 upon entering the building). While there was really nothing super different about the National Railway Museum from my previous visit last December, banners featuring “Spotter stories” were placed throughout the building. They were basically accounts of enjoyable train-viewing experiences. While I would have to think long and hard about my most memorable trainspotting experience, Dad and I did watch a video about the 新幹線 (Shinkansen) inside the model of the super fast train – which was perfectly appropriate for that day as the Japanese icon celebrated its 50th birthday the day prior.
While the railway museum was the highlight of our day in York, I’d say the overall highlight of my time in Leeds with dad was Light Night. It’s an annual celebration with musical acts, art installations, light projections and street peformances held on an Friday night. Light Night is (probably) the biggest annual gathering of sober people in the Leeds city centre. In addition, museums such as the Art Gallery and the Leeds City Museum that would normally be closed on a Friday night are open for Light Night. Works of art that were sealed off to the general public two days ago were unveiled for everyone to see on Light Night.
While the steel pan drumming that entertained drummers last year was M.I.A. at this year’s event, there was certainly musical fun to be had. The first group Dad and I saw on Light Night was another drumming group – this one called the Songo Drumming Project, which did African music just in front of the Art Gallery. I always love the sound of djembe – although I can’t remember exactly how the Songo Drumming Project sounded.
But what I do remember most from that night is the throng of pedestrians in a never ending search for fun (and amazing light shows, such as the 3D images projected on the Civic Hall). Sometimes when you are travelling, you are lucky enough to arrive in time for a super fun annual festival. I’m glad Dad was able to do that and more in the U.K.