Tag Archives: London

City Living

Busy, people, moving, purposeful, hustle, bustle, fast-paced, energy, rat race, concrete-jungle, green parks (an oasis), homelessness, innovation – these are some of the words I jotted in my journal when I spent time in a city I love, San Francisco, this summer.  Whilst in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city I experienced many sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, that got me thinking about city living.

During my twenties, I lived and worked in London – one of the most expensive, diverse, and populated cities in the world – and have certainly witnessed the pros and cons of city life.  I love so many things about cities: the energy, variety, architecture, people, culture, food, art. In the USA New York is the epitome of this for me.  Jay Z & Alicia Keys sing about it in their song Empire State of Mind.  The energy and lyrics in this song give me goose bumps.  As I sing the chorus aloud: “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do”, I relish in the optimism behind it.

When I visit my great ‘foodie’ friends in both New York and  San Francisco, I enjoy some of the benefits of cities.  They take my husband and I on culinary tours.  We visit their favorite delis, markets, restaurants, and cafes, and try some of the best cheese, meats, pastries, gelato, pizza, and sandwiches I have ever tasted.  I appreciate the variety and quality of unique food you can get in a city.  I do not feel stuffed after our tasty treats, because we walk from venue to venue.  Something else I love about city living – walking (a lot).

The sprawl of the suburbs makes walking between places hard to do.  While there are lots of walking opportunities in rural and suburban areas (on trails and paths, rather than sidewalks), it is a different type of walk.  Near my home, the open space, vistas, and quietness inspire me, but I do not get to pass the interesting people and places I would in a city.  In San Francisco, I saw schoolchildren crossing the streets linked together like a giant chain, cool sculptures gracing city plazas, unusual wares outside shops or on street stands, fashions, designs, colors, sounds, and smells – complete sensory stimulation.

I also love the innovation in cities.  We have several friends who are venture capitalists and it is exciting to hear the buzz behind new ideas, products, companies, and ways of doing things.  One such company I learned about this summer is TaskRabbit.  Originally founded in Boston, it is now in 17 major US cities (and growing). TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that connects neighbors to get things done.  Neighbors helping neighbors —an old school concept reimagined for today.  Another great idea is Local Mission Market, a unique grocery store experience with produce made on-site and fast digital check-outs, which according to Wired magazine is the next big thing.

I realize there are plenty of imaginative ideas and companies born from basements, workshops, garages, and even on chairlifts, in rural and suburban areas too, such as our very own Skullcandy in Park City.  However, it seems to me there are more opportunities for creative, forward-thinking, individuals to get together and ideas to come to life in cities.  I love the energy and excitement behind that.

Another thing that comes to mind when thinking about cities is the concentration of liberal thinkers.  There seem to be many more liberals in cities than in rural areas.  I believe this has to do with the diversity of culture, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and religion found in cities.  When people interact with those different to them, I feel they are much more likely to be open, accepting, and understanding of them.  Where this is lacking in rural areas I feel we need to make an effort to encourage positive responses and behavior, through education ourselves about others, and having an open mind and heart.

Despite the trend to be more liberal and accepting of others in cities, something I wonder about is segregation (often self-imposed).  As I drove through Chinatown in San Francisco, and admired the colorful signs and storefronts, I thought about like-people congregating together in communities.  There are districts in all major cities commonly known by the type of people, shops, and restaurants in the community.  I do not necessarily consider this as being a good or bad thing; it just makes me think.

Does segregating mean you are less likely to embrace people or lifestyles in other communities?  Does it make other people feel alienated or excluded?  Do like-people come together through familiarity, safety, comfort?  I, for one, live in a country different to that in which I was born.  I find I am drawn to people I meet from my original country (perhaps due to a shared background, culture, sense of humor, etc.).  However, I am not sure I would want to live in an enclave made up entirely of these people.  I enjoy diversity, and feel there is so much to learn and gain from others, especially those different to ourselves.

Something else that causes a reaction in me when visiting cities is homeless people.  Homelessness is prevalent in London and San Francisco, and exists in the nearest urban area to me, Salt Lake City.  However, in the suburban area I live in I have never seen a homeless person.  My locale sometimes appears to me to exist in a vacuum.  It is not diverse or representative of much of the rest of the world.  Visiting a city reminds me of the world beyond my own and how other people live.  It opens my eyes.

I passed numerous homeless people on the streets of San Francisco.  At first, I would look away, out of embarrassment and not wanting to stare.  How do local people react?  Do they just become used to it, immune?  Looking away did not feel right.  This situation is real.  This is life for these people.  I knew there were stories behind each face, under each blanket, in each outstretched hand or paper cup.  Ed Sheeran’s haunting song “The A Team” has had me thinking about homelessness and people on the streets (read the story behind his song here).  His lyrics and video helped to remind me of this reality, and humanize it.  Like all of us, these people have hopes, fears, and dreams, and are someone’s son or daughter.  People’s lives can take a turn.

Next time I came across a homeless person, instead of turning my gaze, I decided to meet their eyes and smile.  One sign I saw even read, “I appreciate anything, even a smile.”  I loved that.  (Check out the video of these kids bringing smiles to homeless people).  Jay Z continues in his song “Eight million stories out there and they’re naked. Cities is a pity, half of y’all won’t make it.”  The sad truth is that people will struggle, but we can help love, support, encourage, and respect each other along the way.


Some of my photos from trips to cities:

The London Eye

The London Eye

London's Big Ben

London’s Big Ben

New York

New York

New York Taxis

New York Taxis

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

Delicious treats from San Francisco’s Local Mission Eatery

Delicious treats from San Francisco’s Local Mission Eatery

Local Mission Eatery

Delights from Knead Patisserie

Delights from Knead Patisserie

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge

San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge

Downtown San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco


My heart goes out to all those affected by the events in Boston yesterday.  News reports state that about 2:50 p.m. (EST), while thousands of runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon were on the streets, two bombs exploded 100 yards and 10 seconds apart near the course’s end in the city’s crowded Back Bay section.  It is indicated that approximately one hundred and forty were injured, over a dozen critically, with three people dead.  What a heartbreaking and tragic thing to happen.

I heard of the tragedy in a telephone call from my husband about an hour after the explosions.  Like many others, my first response was to ensure any loved ones in the area were safe, and then check the news to find out more.  Throughout the remainder of the day images continued to flood in   – of injured people lying on a bloodstained sidewalk; of bystanders helping, tending to wounds, comforting others, pushing them in wheel chairs and gurneys; of people running away tearful and panicked; an abandoned camp chair with the pattern of the American flag (representing the very notion of liberty and freedom) lying on the ground splatted with blood.  The images evoked intense emotions – shock, sorrow, fear, anger, hatred.

You're not alone Boston (image from surfer Bethany Hamilton's Facebook page)

You’re not alone Boston (image from surfer Bethany Hamilton’s Facebook page)

The question resounding in so many people’s heads is why?  Why did this happen?  For what?  Is it the result of having evil people in the world?  Or did something provoke the attackers?  Is it perhaps America’s characteristics, such as their wealth and power, liberty and freedom, and willingness to stand up to others to fight for what is right, which incites people?

Dr. Ablow is one such person that feels this way.  He shared in a statement for Fox News today “Here is the irony:  We are vulnerable, because we are free and strong.  These qualities attract the ire of those who would have us shackled and weak, who are consumed by hatred for individual possibilities, rather than love for what a free person can dream about and strive for and accomplish.“

Perhaps this is true.  Perhaps this is why these villainous people attack this soil.  It could play a part in it.  But there are other countries that are wealthy (think China, Japan, Germany, and France for those with high nominal GDP); have strong military power (Russia, China, India, and the UK follow after USA according to http://www.globalfirepower.com/); countries who stand up and fight out against injustice and terror (troops from dozens of countries, all of NATO, went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan); and many developed countries experience similar levels of rights and freedoms to America (Canada, Australia, and those in Europe to name a few).   Are these countries attacked too?  Sadly yes, many other countries have experienced terrorist attacks.  Is it for the same reasons? Who knows?  And with America being a key global player, are they attacked more than other countries?

According to the Global Terrorism Index based on data from the University of Maryland (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/globalterrorismindex) countries such as American, Canada, Australia, and those in Europe, are actually attacked less than other parts of the world.  Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Yemen have been the most affected by terrorism in the past ten years.  (I think we sometimes relate less to tragedies in countries we feel less akin to, perhaps disassociate from it.  But there are still innocent lives being lost – regular people like you or I, going about their daily lives. Wherever it happens, it is tragic).  The data might help to reassure people in certain areas of the real risks though, and from their feelings of vulnerability and panic.

It is hard however not to feel vulnerable after an attack such as Boston.  Authorities yesterday urged people to stay inside and avoid large crowds, fearing more explosions or other events.  Cities across the country are on heightened security.  Indeed cities and events across the world, such as at the London Marathon, which is scheduled to take place this Sunday, and the Sydney marathon in September are on alert.  Many people believe this is what these wicked, cowardly terrorists want – to incite fear.  We have to stand strong.  We do not want them to win.

I know on a first hand basis these feelings of fear and vulnerability.  I lived and worked in London during the bombings on trains and buses there nearly eight years ago.  Four explosions ripped across central London on Thursday 7 July 2005. Fifty-six people were killed in the blasts and seven hundred were injured.  It was terrifying and tragic.  In the days following the explosions I chose not to take the bus or train to work (my usual modes of transport) but walk the four miles each-way instead.  People on public transport were nervous and especially vigilant of bags and back-packs.  But after several days I returned to my usual routine.  I chose not to let the terrorists affect my life.

This is one thing I hope people can find the strength to do.  To carry on.  To not let it scare or have a negative impact on them.  We must remember that while these events are tragic they are rare.   I also hope we can find strength in the brave and caring actions of those bystanders and uniformed crew who helped others.  This wonderful quote by Fred Rogers (American educator, minister, songwriter, author, and television host) speaks volumes:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Seeing the humanity and love in people is what can reassure us and power us on.  I also believe if we stop comparing ourselves to other people and countries, or evoking feelings of superiority (see my post on humility), and aim to show more understanding and acceptance of different ways to live, be, and do things, then this will help put an end to these acts too.

With prayers of peace to you all.


As of the current moment, 11 pm MST on April 16th, the authorities have not taken anyone into custody in relation to the attack.  They questioned a 20 year old man, but he appears to no longer be a suspect.  We are told that there are currently no claims of responsibility.  The FBI say the range of suspects and motives remains wide open.  Until we know for sure, I believe that pointing fingers and jumping to conclusions is futile and detrimental.  I trust that a full investigation will be done and hope those responsible are found and brought to justice.