I remember arriving in London seven years ago and looking out the train window and feeling this instant connection to the land and its people--almost like my heart knew it had come home. I really was taken back by the strong feelings that the first day and remember writing on my first night how surprise I was. Over the next four months my love for England continued to grow and my heart still aches for London.
While I had lived two years away from home, I really believe that my identity of who I was was formed over the months I was in London. While in England I found myself doing a lot of soul searching about who I was and what I wanted in life. It seems silly, but I had gone to London needing to know some things--mainly that the Lord had a plan for me and that he was mindful of me and what I needed. Those four months were almost a constant reminder that he did.
Over the next four months my love of that country just continued to grow. I felt such peace and comfort walking the streets or sitting at the park. I felt safe, independent, peace, and extreme happiness. I had my mo feeling this instant connection to the land and the people that spoke to my soul. I remember writing in my journal that first night about it as this instant connection shocked me. To this day my soul still aches for England.
I don't know what it is about English printing that makes the paper smell different, but it was something that I noticed when I was there and today when I opened my "study abroad container" and that smell hit me the memories, along with the tears, came flooding back. I then spent the next hour looking at pictures. Each picture had a memory attached. The pictures of 27 Palace Court reminded me of the the queues for the computer and telephone, or the see-through showers, going to class in slippers and a blanket (I was cold). It was twelve girls trying to get ready at the same time in the mornings and the see-through showers. It was the leak in the classroom from the bathroom above that we joked would one day lead to the floor collapsing as someone falling through in their birthday suit. It was memories of Sunday night cookies or gummies, the great meals Tony and Tina provided, and the watching of Sweet Home Alabama about 10 times (it seemed to ALWAYS be one in the classroom). It was reading in the library window seat and dreaming that I would one day have one. It was laughter around the dining room table and discussions in the front room. It was early morning coach times for excursions and coming home at the end of the day exhausted. It was multiple cups of hot chocolate to alleviate the bone chilling cold. It was getting used to seeing your professors in their pajamas and looking like a marshmallow every time you went out. And those are just the memories associated with the building!
There were those pictures that reminded me that I was able to see history in the making in regards to the Iraq war. The fear I felt in those weeks leading up to the Iraq war as whether or not we would be allowed to finish out our term was in limbo and praying that we wouldn't be sent home. It was sitting in Parliament watching Tony Blair give his speech to Parliament as to why England should support the United States in the war. It was being in Stratford-upon-Avon watching "As You Like It" and hearing that war had been declared that that we would be in lock down for who knows how long.
It was experiencing things I had head about. It was finding out that Stonehenge was a disappointment and really close to the motorway, or seeing first hand the Bronte sisters house and know exactly why their books had a dark feel (yours would too if you lived there). It was getting lost in old bookstores and joking with our professor that he always knew where each city's roman ruins were as well as the best pastry shop. It was hours spent traveling on the coach, and the sack lunches that always seemed to get eaten well before lunchtime. It was beautiful tour guides as well as the creepy ones. It was learning exactly how passionate the English are about their football and that a train full of drunks can provide some entertainment. It was coming to love the tube, except for when it was down, and reveling in the fact that I could totally pull off the whole "I don't act like an American tourist" act. It was being thought of as "English" and provide directions to Americans and English alike. It was people watching on the tube and in the parks and learning to always have a book with you (you never knew when you would get stuck on the tube). It was small towns with the charm that is quintessential English. It's getting confused over different words-- did I want chips (fries) or crips (potato chips). It was when I accidentally said the wrong word and ended up saying something I didn't mean to. It was coveting the British accent and thinking that the British were daft for wanting mine. It was sitting in stone coffins and ambling through fields of flowers. It was the hours spent in the V&A and walking the streets marveling at the wonderful mix of old and new. It was seeing first hand the famous "British upper lip" and learning never to call a Scotchman and Englishman. It was plays and movie premiers as well as exhibits and museums. It was getting credit for trips to Greenwhich, the British Museum, and Windsor. It was learning that the dollar really doesn't go that far in England and that McDonalds actually has good food (the McFlurries were one of my favourite). It was always being on the lookout for places that sold Cadburry hot chocolate and being thankful for Starbucks caramel milk steamers. It was eating way too much chocolate, but knowing it was ok because you walked everywhere. It was those times that I got caught in the split pea soup fog and or the rainstorms that appeared out of nowhere.. It was memories of strolling along the Thames with the lights sparkling on the river and the sound of Big Ben echoing through the night.
In the last email I sent home I mentioned that I would miss the following things:
1. Accents. We may both speak English, but they speak it better.
2. Use of different words such as lovely, dear, fancy, pence, mate, tube, and floppin nora.
3. The red phone booths, the unique post boxes, double decker buses (I was so disappointed when they got rid of them), and black taxi cabs since they are in my mind quintessential England.
3. Sheep. I know this sounds strange, but I've come to enjoy looking out the window and seeing the green landscape dotted with white dots--aka sheep.
4. Cobblestone streets
5. Parks and Gardens. The English know how to do parks.
6. Road signs on the buildings
7. Church bells ringing every hour
8. The pageantry of England. How it doesn't want to be brought into this century in a good way.
9. The beautiful architecture and the charm of buildings.
10.English cars. They are so small.
11. Colorful money where you can watch the queen age.
12. The way British men dress with their purple and pink shirts, their check shirts and plaid ties. The combination of checks and stripes together. The four button suit and cuff links.
12. Youghurts, chocolates, biscuits and Yorkshire pudding
13. Being able to say that my address is 27 Palace Court, London, England and everybody being like you live in a posh area.
14. The signs on the street telling you which way to look. I still to this day look right first when I'm crossing the street.
15. The 88 stairs to my bedroom.
And while I will never be able to go back to my study abroad time, I will always be grateful for my time there.
Bonte House with Melanie and Hayley.
Melanie and I stayed with Hayley and her family during our family stay.
Melanie and I stayed with Hayley and her family during our family stay.