Friday, May 14, 2010

Last Night in London

Wow. I simply can't believe it, yet I am happy to believe it--I'm leaving tomorrow! In about 12 hours, to be exact. Time has both gone slowly here (I feel like I've been gone forever, and barely remember what my apartment looks like or what it's like to drive a car!) and also, naturally, very very fast. I'm super sentimental by nature so of course the last few days I've done a lot of reminiscing about what it was like my first day here--dropped off by a cab, met at the door by Sylvia, and transported into my cozy room. Now, some 100+ days later, the cozy room is packed up, my bags are full to the brim, and the car returns in the morning to whisk me away to Heathrow, then Atlanta, then Tampa. I can hardly believe it!

This semester has been one of the most challenging, rewarding, and amazing experiences of my life. It has been a doozy in many, many ways, for sure--Sylvia's stroke, the volcano/ruined spring break, and lots of late nights and early mornings and long days with little sleep. I've been stressed, angry, worried, frustrated, exhausted and yes, sad many times this semester. Yet at the same time, I think it's probably sort of like pregnancy/childbirth--at the end of the day, that stuff all falls away and I *will* remember the fun, funny, and fantastic experiences I have had instead. To think that my 'class' experiences were doing things like going to the British Museum or Stonehenge or Tate Modern, or to think that I saw amazing places like Bath, Oxford, York, and Paris (ooo, yes, I went to Paris for ONE DAY last weekend, it was wonderful...that may have to come at a later entry!) and got PAID to do so, still seems to be a coup on my part! I have had lots of work (and STILL have grading to take home with me, joy) and lots of 'other' types of work (kitchen duty and cleaning, buying food, conflict management, disciplinarian, psychiatrist, etc.) here that have kept me busy beyond belief. But it has been extraordinary, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to do this, at this point in my life. I always thought I had the best job in the world when I was ON campus--and this was just icing on that cake!

Aw, obviously I am waxing too sentimental here (what has happened to my biting wit and sarcasm? Sheesh). I do have some other posts in me that will have to come back Stateside (sorry, not as original, but time is running out!), but on the Tube today I started jotting down a list of things I won't (and WILL) miss about London that I thought you'd maybe enjoy (or, if you don't enjoy it, feel free to jump to another blog now ;)

Things I WON'T miss about London:

--Bland food, and potatoes at just about every.single.meal.
--Queuing--with 8 million people, there are lines for everything! And lots of waiting.
--The crazy expense--seeing prices that seem a little high in dollars, then remembering they are in Pounds Sterling...take it times 1.6 or so, baby, and that's the real price. Ouch.
--Small grocery stores that don't have carts, and clerks that are annoyed when you buy a lot (huh?)
--Drunk 18 year old kids on the Tube
--The fact that NO ONE talks on the Tube...I like to chat, yo!
--The fact that the Brits don't get too excited about ANYTHING...except for soccer, of course.
--Expensive soda (though it's helped me mostly kick my Diet Coke habit!)
--Bad, bad US movies on BBC late at night (things like Mermaids, with Cher and Winona Ryder. Yuck. or that Demi Moore movie where she lives on the coast in Scotland...huh? Is that even a real movie?)
--Stylish dressers--they make me look bad!
--Having your life ruled by an Icelandic volcano
--Living with 18 college students 24/7!

Things I WILL miss about London, for sure: everything! I grew up in Iowa, hello? The idea of walking to about 10 coffee shops within 5 min, or the fact that there are truly world class museums, theatre, and shopping all within about a 10-15 radius of here still astounds me. I get now why people live in NYC--it's truly amazing to have access to the best of the best. And I simply LOVE walking everywhere, and having just about anything I need with an easy walk on foot. I'd give up my car any day, for real, if only!
--Tied to that is the amazing public transportation here. I totally get why people outside the USA look down on us--having your own car, to drive often with just yourself in it seems to be so indulgent. The Tube and bus and rail system here are simply amazing. And come in handy when you want to go to the pubs as well!
--The actually GOOD food of England: chicken curry, goat cheese, chocolate, and CRUMPETS. Crumpets are simply the single thing I will miss the most back home--I believe they are to be found back in the USA, but not this brand (Warburton's) I've come to love. Their crumpets are squishy and perfect, and I eat one every morning...until now. :(
--Really good beer
--The amazing gardens and parks here
--Fun words like 'stone' and 'alight' used in everyday language (I still laugh every time people talk about their weight in 'stones''s just too adorable!)
--Queuing--I'll give it to the Brits--I hate waiting in line, and so do they probably, but man, they are the best line-makers ever. It's the most orderly place I've ever seen.
--The wonderful, fantabulous, and delicious prepped food section at the grocery stores here (I ramble on about this in one of my first entries!) makes eating so easy, relatively fun, and the idea of going back to eating frozen, microwaved Lean Cuisines at work everyday makes me want to gag. Boo.
--Speaking of food (again)...I love the lax attitude about bringing your own food and drink places here. You can literally eat and drink just about anywhere in public here--including the theatre! They sell little cartons of ice cream at intermission, for crying out loud! It's just so great never to have to worry about you chowing down when you feel like it, or bringing your own yum food from the grocery store because there's little point in going to many of the restaurants here! That is definitely something I wish I could import to the States...
--British Politics--we were here for a historic election and it was great, particularly thanks to Muir Morton, our politics adjunct professor who got us the hookup to tour Parliament THREE different times (once for a formal tour, once for debates, once for the Speaker's Apartments, which are just some amazing state rooms on the Thames, no biggie). While I'm pretty sure I'm not too down with the Tories taking over power here, it was amazing to see what a multiple party system looks like (3 big parties, but several smaller ones) AND what civilized political discourse looks like as well.
--Stylish dressers! I never, ever get tired of watching the people of London kick ass in terms of fashion here (and yes, there are still leggings galore).
--The BBC--with the small faux pas of the stupid US movies aside, the BBC rocks--their news is perfection, and the no commercials thing just rocks. Love.
--Watching soccer fans in general is a great way to spend an afternoon (if you don't mind really loud guys with face paint cheering and/or wanting to kick other people's asses)
--And with 18 students 24/7 :)

Off on the plane tomorrow, I will be back again with another post or two on Paris, our last week here, and any and all Griswold-style adventures that happen on the way home tomorrow....see you on the other side (of the Atlantic, that is!)

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