Adiós, Estados Unidos
That’s right, my friends. I’ve finally said goodbye to the US and have arrived in London, England, UK.
I had a relatively easy journey except for a few minor but always to be expected hiccups. Like checking in for my flight in St. Louis with less than an hour to go before takeoff and being told I need a visa…
Turns out, countries don’t like it when you enter their borders and don’t tell them when you’re leaving. So, I booked a quick one way to my next destination, and all was resolved. (Seriously – what did we do before smartphones?!)
And of course, even with a year’s worth of research and planning, my suitcase was still heavier than I wanted it to be, so when I missed an exchange on the underground and had to retrace some steps, it was extra annoying.
But no matter! I’m here! And after a few days of being slightly disoriented and wrecked from jet lag, it’s finally all sinking in. And I can also finally sincerely answer that yes, I am beyond excited.
It’s not just the time change that caused the disorientation though, it’s also the little things about living in any new place, magnified by the fact that this place is – if not entirely dissimilar to the US – still foreign.
Things aren’t for rent, they’re for let. Forks, knives, and spoons aren’t silverware, they’re cutlery. You don’t go for take-out; you go for take-away. You haven’t nailed it, you’ve bossed it. And I could go on, and on.
I miss cream for my coffee, or not worrying that my flat iron would cause a blackout. And I can’t help wondering will I ever look the correct way when crossing the street or get used to not having a shower curtain?!
The space, however – or lack thereof – is what strikes me the most. We forget, I think, that the reason things are bigger in the US is often because there is more room for them to be. Not so on this tiny island and within the even tinier square footage of London.
You notice it everywhere.
The cars, the roads, the houses, the rooms, the storage, the restaurants, the public spaces. Even food containers and packaging are significantly smaller here – no five-pound bag of clementines to be found!
Among what it means is 1) ideas of personal space are very different here – you can’t get all hung up about someone sitting close enough to touch on the tube or in a coffee shop and 2) you must “pop to the shops” more often thus engaging more frequently with your neighborhood.
And what a glorious thing London neighborhoods are!
The sound of so many different languages, the sight of those distinctive red buses, and the smells – oh the smells! Yes, there is cigarette smoke and overpowering cologne, but there is also the food! The food of so many peoples and cultures, it’s hard to think where to start your experience of it. (I mean how many times in the US have you seen an Eritrean restaurant?!)
A riot for the senses.
And a chance for endless exploration.
Now, for a few of my first week's highlights in pictures...
The beautiful stone church I can see from my window.
My little home away from home - slightly untidy.
As you might expect, it's not all foreign.
The grand façade of St. Pancras railway station. St. Pancras shares an underground station with King's Cross - yes indeed, the famous site of platform 9 3/4! - and is next to the British Library, a.k.a. the destination of my first "real" outing.