Ms. Frizzle, mock-Asian shows & reasons why I don’t do trains


The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. I love London most times, but other times, I can’t make heads or tails of this city. It’s sort of how I feel about Los Angeles; I love it, and I hate it, and I swear I’ll never live there, and yet I get homesick for it.

Being in London for university feels to me like a very long and busy vacation in which every part of my day is packed with museum treks or theatre tours or pub crawls or the occasional class. Again, I’m not sure what to make of it.

My crazy professors

Every semester I have a new set of them, and this semester I have a particularly British set of crazy professors (or lecturers, as they call them here), so naturally I’m going to unfairly (but lovingly) exploit their bizarre and wonderful personalities on the Internet.

My Gothic literature professor is… questionable. He speaks so softly that I usually find myself picking out key words in his lectures and hoping that they will somehow string together to form a coherent sentence.

Also, he may or may not snack on the happiness of small children.

Of course, anyone who willingly subjects himself to teaching a course on the principles of the Gothic is probably not the most cheerful of people. The most interesting part of this class so far has been this:

Gothic Prof. was lecturing away to a room full of about forty of us, when all of a sudden there came a huge BANG from somewhere in the building that shook the entire classroom. We all jumped and stared at him with wide eyes. He stared back.

Another massive BANG. We started whispering to one another, and he mumbles, “Well, I don’t know what—”

A third BANG. Someone’s pen rolled off their desk. Silence. Then from the very back of the classroom, a British girl shouts—


I laughed so hard I almost cried.

Me on the inside

I am also taking a class called Text, Art, and Performance in London, which basically entails going on field trips every week. But what’s most important about this class is that it is taught by British Ms. Frizzle (a la The Magic School Bus). From the wild red hair to her eccentric clothing to her semi-spastic personality, I would not be surprised if one day she whipped out a lizard and cried, “TO THE BUS.” She is a magical human being. I strongly suspect that she collects rainbows in buckets.

Janet Cardiff Sound Installation Walk

This was a crazy experience, and it was technically for British Ms. Frizzle’s class, but it was also really cool on its own. This past Sunday I went with a friend of mine to do this audio art walk in Whitechapel (famous for Jack the Ripper). We put the audio on our iPods and listened to the woman in our earbuds talking to us as she walked down the same roads we were walking down—the only difference was, she recorded this 15+ years ago.

This is not how it looked, because it was snowy and horrible. But this is where we were.

This is not how it looked, because it was snowy and horrible. But this is where we were.

Some of the scenery had changed. But because it was snowing pretty hard while we were walking down the streets for an hour, it was much more eerie than I had anticipated. It was like I was taking a tour with a ghost.

I loved it, up until we got lost. We couldn’t exactly ask for directions from a recording, so we just wandered until she mentioned the name of a street. At one point on the recording, the sound of an ambulance speeding by happened just as I was crossing a street, and trust me, if there had been a table around, I would have flipped it. I ducked (I don’t know why I ducked) and broke into a run and only when I was safely on the other side of the empty road did I look back and realize it was all in my head.

The Mikado

On Monday, USC took a bunch of study abroad students to see The Mikado at the London Coliseum for free.

My understanding of The Mikado

My basic understanding of The Mikado

That’s not to say that it wasn’t great. I was vastly impressed with the voices. But I had no idea if I was watching a melodrama or an absurdist operetta… or both. Thank goodness there was a digital banner above the stage that displayed the lyrics as they were being sung, because otherwise I would have had zero clue what was happening.

This was my thought process while watching:

  • oh look it’s a pretty white set
  • okay black and white costumes must be symbolic
  • people are singing
  • what are they singing
  • did that guy just mention Shrek and Lance Armstrong in the same solo…?
  • “three little maids from school are we……… otherirrelevantlyrics-yyy…….”
  • wait they’re singing in bad Japanese
  • is that guy supposed to be Asian?
  • why are they all so fixated on decapitation
  • who is this lighting designer I love you
  • I’m so hungry
  • seriously that guy is not Asian
  • where would one find a fat suit like that?

The Accidental Cambridge Adventure

Yesterday, I went on a spontaneous journey to Cambridge, where I discovered how quickly spontaneity can turn into expensive crying.

What happened was I went with my flatmates to the train station at Liverpool, where everything is made up and the platform numbers don’t matter. We were twenty minutes early, but our train’s platform number was not on the board, so we decided to wait.

We waited too long.

Long story short, I found myself with one of my flatmates staring through a locked train door at my other two flatmates who were still on the platform while the train began to slowly pull away. It was like a movie. Or a nightmare.

So my flatmate and I sat down, and 45 minutes into the hour-and-a-half-long ride to Cambridge, a couple of train inspectors came by to ask for our tickets. They looked at them, then back at us, and said, “Where are the other two people?”

Ticket issues

Turns out that our group tickets were only valid if we were still in our group, which we weren’t because we’d accidentally left half of our group on the platform at Liverpool. So the inspectors made us buy new tickets.

Later we rendezvoused with our two other flatmates at the Cambridge station, and we thought we were prepared for the journey back later that evening. We were in our group. We’d be fine.


We hopped on the first train to London we saw, which was going to King’s Cross. When a ticket inspector came by, he looked at our tickets and said the five words that I never want to hear ever again.

“You are on the wrong train.”

We were evidently supposed to take a train to Liverpool, not King’s Cross, even though both are in London, because different types of trains run to/from different stations. So even though we were in our group, and three of us were wide-eyed, bushy-tailed all-Americans, the inspector made the two of us who got left behind the first time buy new tickets.

On the bright side, I now know how to use the trains. Also, in Cambridge we bought the best fudge ever made in the history of the universe. So that kind of made up for it, and it was probably one of the most adventurous days I’ve ever survived.

The best fudge ever.

The best fudge ever.

Samantha Chaffin


8 thoughts on “Ms. Frizzle, mock-Asian shows & reasons why I don’t do trains

  1. deshipley says:

    I would make huge sacrifices — even unto the forgoing of ever tasting anything as delicious-looking as that picture of fudge again — to enroll in Ms. Frizzle’s class, British or otherwise. …so long as it legitimately comes with the magic bus and Ralphie.
    Oh, train woes… I’m getting San Francisco trip flashbacks. (Not the happy memories. The missed train memories. And then the SECOND missed train memories. I’d do it all again for a Frizzle field trip, though!)

    • samchaffin says:

      Haha we are missing a Ralphie, it’s true… but there is one redheaded guy in our class who apparently went on the audio installation walk and got propositioned by a businessman who thought that he was a male prostitute. Make of that what you will. 😛

      Oh San Francisco trains… I sympathize. Truly (and especially now).

  2. courtney says:

    I LOVE hearing about your adventures in London!! The fact that someone in your class yelled out a Harry Potter reference is pretty fantastic and I think I would have joined you in crying-laughing 🙂 Your Ms. Frizzle teacher (or lecturer) sounds like there should be a reality show about her and I would totally watch it. I loved your thought process while watching The Mikado, was very fun to imagine you in the audience thinking about what the heck was going on!

    you are hilarious and all sorts of awesome and I can’t wait to read more about London!!

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