Wednesday, 8 July 2009

View from the Other Side

It’s been just over two weeks since I crossed the pond back to the land of baseball and apple pie – and 90-degree days. I now have access to all the American beef and BBQ I could ask for, and my towels are warm and fluffy after coming out of the dryer. I can watch all the movies and TV shows I want without waiting an hour for them to load on the internet. I no longer have to walk over a mile to get to the grocery store, and when a price tag says $1.99 it means $1.99. No more multiplying by one and a half to figure out how much I’m really spending.
Yet despite all the American conveniences like a dishwasher or Velveeta, I find myself longing for England. Although I have my car back and can freely drive down the right side of the road, my daily commute no longer includes walking past a one thousand-year-old tower or smelling the aroma of Cornwall’s Pasty shop on Cornmarket Street. I can eat at Chipotle rather than Oxford’s meager attempt at Mexican fast food, The Mission; but I can’t bring my takeout to the Oxford Union just across St. Michaels Street. I can find places to get a good, fruity or chocolaty cocktail, but even the prettiest drink at the most upscale social house or lounge couldn’t replace a pint of cider with black currant at The Eagle and Child.
Now that I’m home, I find myself constantly referring to the way things operate in England. I’m sure it becomes annoying to my family and friends when I compare everything here to Oxford, and I’ve found they lose interest pretty quickly. They haven’t experienced punting down the Thames with a bottle of wine or watching the Magdalen College choir sing atop the college tower on May morning. They don’t know what the University Church looks like or what makes clotted cream so delicious. It’s all very fictitious and too far removed to really understand. I sometimes wonder myself if the past five and a half months actually happened. It tends to seem like an incredible, yet distant, dream. I slipped back into my routine here so easily that it’s hard to believe I spent nearly half a year in another country. I have to look through my pictures and old journal entries to remind myself that, yes, I really did go to England.
And I still have a few shortbread and jam biscuits left; they help jog my memory too.
During my time in England I learned very important lessons which I hope I will be able to keep with me. I understand more fully the importance of time spent relaxing with a cup of tea and acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I still have my white tea every day, and I’ve ordered some new books on Amazon to feed my reignited hunger for reading. I just started reading "Neverwhere," a fantasy about the London Underground. I can imagine myself walking down the street with the main character, Richard, and visualize Harrod's or the Marble Arch. (Perhaps my literature choice is only making my British withdrawal worse). And despite the fast-paced way of life here, I hope my European influence will allow me to dig me heels into American soil and slow me down when I become too caught up with dates and deadlines. As graduate school applications and test dates linger in the all-too-near future, I’m sure it will be quite the task. But I’m going to give it my best shot.
My European excursion also taught me a lot about myself. I know now that I can travel half-way around the world and figure out what to do and where to go on my own. I can book flights and hostels, catch a sleeper train, and read maps in French, Italian, and German. And I have the confidence and know-how to backpack across Europe again, hopefully sooner than later. I’m no longer a child being led by the hand of my mom or dad. I’m a woman; free to make my own decisions and responsible for the consequences of those decisions.
Finally, although I find myself pining for England – for cream tea and Indian food, Blackwell’s and Primark – my time away has made me aware of the blessings I have here in the U.S.: The girls on my hall at Jewell sent me cards for Valentine’s Day, my grandma sent me little notes throughout the semester, my mom and sister stayed up late or woke up early just to say hi to me online, and my dad sent me emails to encourage me or just to tell me about his day. And when I walked through the door at Tulsa airport, my step-mom literally jumped up and down…and then she cried. I was reminded that I have remarkable people surrounding me, encouraging me, and loving me - no matter where my life or my travels lead me.

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