Journals from England Fall, (University of Nottingham)
2010-01-26 England, fare thee well
Tuesday, 26 January
Salem, Oregon, USA
I've been home for three days now, and I find myself missing England a lot. Don't get me wrong, it's been amazing to see my friends and family, to spend nights watching playoff football on TV, to go to my favorite hangouts from high school. I just spelled favorite with a u in it, the English spelling, and had to go back and change it. I will miss that a lot. Spelling words like colour and organise. Putting the punctuation outside of the quotation marks at the end of a sentence. All those things.
The flight from Heathrow was terribly long, but I sat next to Katie at the back of the plane which was nice. We had strange guys to our left and right. The guy to the left spent the flight drinking $6 pints of English beer " I guess he wasn't ready to leave yet. The guy to the right was very annoyed every time I had to get out of my seat to use the bathroom or stretch my legs, and he spent most of the flight reading cheesy science fiction novels. The night before we departed we stayed at Katie's friend Portia's flat in Fulham, London, and we ended up not really sleeping because a bunch of her friends were there until the wee hours of the morning. So take our sleep deprivation and then compound that with a ten-hour flight to San Francisco, a three- or four-hour layover in San Francisco, and a one-hour flight to Portland. Needless to say, we were exhausted.
I know it's been a while since my last blog entry. On the day we were scheduled to leave Poland, there was still a lot of snow in London, and England was feebly trying to cope with the inclement weather. London-Gatwick Airport was shut down. Heathrow flights were delayed. We were worried that our flight from Krakow to London-Stansted Airport would be canceled or delayed, but thankfully we made it there on time. As we were flying to London, finishing up a one-month European odyssey that took us from Italy to Poland and four countries in between, I thought of all the things I missed about England. Orderly queues. Saying sorry every single time you bump into someone or someone bumps into you, the voices on the Tube in London asking you to please mind the gap between the train and the platform in their quintessentially English automated voices. I missed milky tea, beans on toast, full English breakfasts, train rides through the countryside with roaming sheep in the fields just visible through the fog. I missed England, for all the things that it is. I missed the gloom, the criticism, the stiff upper lips, the people mourning their lost empire without even realizing it.
But now here I am, at home, sitting on the couch while my mom watches The Bachelor on the DVR. What could possibly be more American? Last night Allyson, one of my best friends from high school, drove up from Corvallis to go out to coffee with me at my favorite coffeehouse in Salem, and the whole world, actually. My time in England feels more and more like a dream. Everything and everyone at home seems the same as when I left; it's as if I was only gone for a long weekend.
I printed off some photos of my trip yesterday, and I was amazed by the clarity with which I could picture every single scene I captured in a photo. Those photos took me back to the exact moment I pressed the shutter. The beautiful rooftops and the smoking chimneys from the top of the castle in Nuremberg where Tim and I ate our pack lunch with our German friend Chris. The horror and desolation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz, the red brick buildings and the glistening white snow. The endless pints of beer consumed with Tim, the delicious cellar-cool cask ales of England. All the people we left behind. The friends we made whom we may never see again. The random acquaintances, people whom we met and exchanged pleasantries with. The hundreds of people we shared the Tube with, destined to be in each other's company for 15 minutes without exchanging a word, catching only a glimpse or two of each other's wandering eyes, leaving the Tube without a word, as the faces we studied quickly faded in the rush of London, of Paris, or Rome.
I feel like a diver who has come up from the depths of the ocean too quickly, not letting his body acclimate to the changing pressures of the sea. The bends. I don't think I suffered from too much culture shock when I first arrived in England, but I think I'm feeling something of an American culture shock now. I was so used to English life. The soothing accents on BBC World News, the English students obsessed with Friends and Scrubs, enjoying those slices of Americana much more than any American ever has. I miss the butchers on the pedestrian streets in Beeston. I miss English shops: W.H. Smith's, Cafe Nero, Mark's and Spencer. Boots. Sainsbury's.
When you live in a country that's not your own, you realize that you are different. You have the accent. You pronounce words incorrectly. You use odd phrases. You are the other. We grow up thinking of everyone else as the other. We grow up thinking of home as the place we were born and raised. But England became home to me. I lived in a strange purgatory. I wasn't a tourist, nor was I a resident. I guess I was the foreigner, the traveler, the person who became a part of people's normal lives and then left. I am very thankful for everything I experienced while abroad. It's given me new perspective on my life, and on life in general. I think I am more aware of myself now. I realize I talk too loudly for European standards. I don't walk fast enough for European standards. I don't smoke enough or drink enough for European standards. I felt like the outsider trying to acclimatize himself for nearly five months, and now I am home, fitting in without even trying. If anything, I'm learning to stop changing my phrases and vocabulary from American English to English English. I have to say bathroom instead of toilet now. Chips instead of crisps. Dollars instead of Pounds. I have no need for my knowledge of metric and currency conversions now. Everything is normal. Normality is very bizarre.
I think it will take me a few more weeks to settle into being an American in Oregon again. I voted today. I guess that's a start. I'm off to go to an optometrist in about half an hour. I realized I needed glasses while I was in England. I guess it's all very symbolic. Roll your eyes if you want, but I am an English major and I can't help but analyze things in a literary context. I realized my eyes can't see as well as I thought they could. That's what England taught me. I saw things differently. I see things differently. Now I'm off to go get that fixed...
- Jordan Jacobo