Honestly, since I’ve been here, all I’ve done is walk. You walk everywhere in London, which is something I’m totally unaccustomed to since, at home, the closest place to me is about a 10-minute drive away. It was different, however, to walk around with a specific structure and specific things to look out for. Most of my walking has consisted of staring, awestruck, at the beauty of London and all of its amazing sights. What I liked about this exercise was that it reminded me to notice the little things, too. The subtle differences between life abroad and life at home are just as important as the massive landmarks. For instance, everyone moves so quickly. No matter where you walk, everyone looks like they have a real purpose. And, in addition to all the people, there are maybe twice as many pigeons. They. Are. Everywhere. They’re like squirrels here, they just run all over the place and don’t care how close to you they are (I’ve been here for 3 weeks and have already almost gotten my head taken off by a pigeon flying overhead maybe 5 times). It also smells. A lot. I don’t know if that has to do with the amount of pigeons, the plentiful garbage cans at the side of the road, or the general “city-ness” of the area, but it certainly smells substantially different than the woods I’m used to. This whole walk made me get a much better feel for the city I’ll be living in for another 4 months. I really do feel that, “With greater awareness of and sensitivity to the physical geography, patterns of social interaction, and norms of behavior (i.e., what is permitted and what is not), we can expect to participate more fully and effectively in the life of the place where we have been set down” (Slimbach 200). Homesickness has been setting in for me as everyone moved back to Quinnipiac, but orienting myself more with the place I’m living, learning the small things, and making it feel more like home taught me that I belong here just as much as I belong in America.
Walking around the area near me also made me realize the differences in currencies. I walked into a few different shops close by, and I would see things that cost, say, 10 pounds. Something that costs $10 at home is such a steal, but the exchange rate between dollars and pounds is really not ideal right now. Something that costs 10 pounds really costs closer to $15, and something that costs 30 pounds costs more like $45. It’s just something else that I have to keep in mind that’s different. In a way, living in a new country is like learning to walk all over again, because walking in an American town is a lot different than walking in an English city. As Slimbach said, “Every day something new or different is likely to happen” (Slimbach 186). Today, I went to the post office to mail some postcards to my family, and they had self-serve stations (like self-checkout in a grocery store, but for the mail!). It was something I had never seen before.
The travelogue that I chose to read, as I mentioned, is A Fine Romance by Susan Branch. The title of this book is based on a sarcastic love song from an old movie (which I didn’t realize until my mom mentioned it to me!). It is the style of a diary, which made it even more like a “walk” in her shoes for me. She described how she felt the English countryside was much like an arts and crafts session – she connected with how each cottage and pub was handcrafted by masons and woodworkers. The author’s experience was much different from mine because she spent her time in the countryside of England, where I’m in the city. However, she was so in love with the beauty of the countryside that it really motivated me to get out there. There is so much more to see about England than just London! She also dedicated the last section of her book to returning home – reincorporation. She stated, “Now I realized that an Anglophile [a person who’s fond of British culture] is not made, she is born – in the gardens of rural England, in a tearoom on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, & she can’t be held responsible for it” (Branch 242). She talks a lot about how she came home and felt changed, like a part of her will always remain in England. I think that I will feel that way when I return to America. She also mentions that part of the reason we have experiences like these is to share them with the world and extend our learning. This relates a lot to the concept of reincorporation that we discussed – that the transition needs to benefit our communities as well.
This photo describes my journey to date because it shows the beauty of London, which shows how much I love it here. However, the clouds in the distance look kind of ominous, which to me represents the looming feeling I’ve had lately of missing home. But, since there’s always a silver lining to every cloud, the slight hints of light shown by the setting sun remind me that being here is a happy experience. This best represents my walk because I really felt at home in this city after taking my walk, and it allowed me a lot of time to really think about my feelings about being here. As much as I miss home, I know that this is an amazing experience, and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to live in a city as incredible as London.