So you know how people say that when you live somewhere, you never tour it? I generally find myself subconsciously extending that axiom into a second (and third and forth, apparently) sentence: But when you’re studying there for a temporary time, you DO notice it. You’re obsessed with noticing it. That is, after all, one of the major reasons you chose THAT city, out of all the cities in the world.
…for about 1 day. You get off the plane and you’re almost too overwhelmed to notice. All you can think about is looking at your empty dorm room in a building full of strangers and a flat with 5 (yet-unmet) flatmates that you have to eventually share bathrooms with, and think: “Wait, this? This is what I moved across the Big Pond for? This is why I gave up all of that Home I talk so much about?”
And then you wake up the next day, you’re a little less tired, a little less nauseous and you smell a little less like airplanes. And you slap yourself on the head. You basically bolt out of bed and say, “Self! you didn’t move here for empty depressing dorm rooms! Get up! Go outside! You live next door to the Tower of London!” And off you go.
And you walk around a little and promise yourself you’ll come back for a proper walk and tour as soon as you locate campus, and sign up for a bank account, and get your cell phone situation sorted. Turns out, these things take lots of time.
By the time you’ve managed to get a good grocery shop in so you can stop eating all your meals at the Starbucks in your building (Yes. Starbucks. In my building. In London. Oh, globalization/commercialization/all-those-other-tions.), and signed up for an Oyster card on the Tube to decrease the cost of those £4 rides, and attended orientation after orientation to make sure you truly are oriented… classes begin. And then comes the reading. As soon as you’re just remembering how to read like a student (apparently every word doesn’t matter after all, “focus on the big concepts”), they throw a couple of papers in the mix. They are all due. They all are loaded with lots of pressure – grad school is about networking, proving yourself, making those solid relationships with your professors that you promised yourself would be more meaningful than the ones in undergrad were. And suddenly, you’re more than half-way through the semester. And somehow, through it all, you forgot you lived in THIS amazing city. Out of all the cities in the world.
Kansas and I got off the tube today and she said, come on, we’re talking a different route. And we walked up a random street I’ve been on before and under the overhang of a local hotel’s taxi unloading zone, and onto their back patio, and BAM: There was that 2c Roman wall that runs through London, surrounding what was once its city limits. I mean, I know it’s there. I see a different portion of it everyday as I walk to the bus or the train. I take photos of it sometimes when the sun is pretty. But does that mean that I SEE it?
How often do we actually stop and smell those oft-discussed roses? Why do we end up too wrapped up to notice them, ever? What time frame does it take to force ourselves to stop/smell/see? Does it take a year in a city? A month? Or is it something we only can see when we’re around for a week or less? I thought we always talked about how you don’t actually know a city in a week. You can see it, but is that enough? You visit cities for extended periods of time to transgress seeing into knowing. But if you don’t see it in the first place, how close to knowledge can you ever hope to come?
This week, I’ll mark 2 months here/1 month left before my first trip home. I think 2 months is as good a time as any to lift my eyes from the books/chores/to-do lists and start really seeing. Hopefully by the time I get off the plane in Virginia and enter the loving arms of my family and friends, eager to hear the stories, I’ll know just enough to keep them entertained and excited for my 7 month knowledge-gathering mission second semester.
After all, this journey is about Cradling Every Spark, right?