Monday, October 01, 2007

Notes from a small island, take 2

I realized this last weekend that I’ve now been over here for five years. That’s almost a fifth of my life. Living in this country has been both infuriating (Nothing is open on a Sunday in the countryside. NOTHING. Me being, well, me, I found this out the difficult way. Oh yes. And Bill Bryson? His book is so right, in ways that make you want to cry.) and wonderful (Matt, most specifically. Also, cool accents, old things, more beer than you can shake your fist at, cheese I didn’t know existed, and more old things.).

When I left Seattle on September 11th, 2002 (my mother really didn’t like my choice of dates, but it was cheap) I never thought that I’d be gone this long. Like so many large decisions in my life, I made a snap decision. I wanted to get away from Seattle, away from my family and the people there, and see who I was somewhere else. At the time, I couldn’t tell you why I was really leaving, except that I’d always wanted to live abroad and I saw this as my one, and possibly only, chance to do so.

So, in looking back, here’s how arriving here really was for me, five years ago, despite the fact that I told people it was wonderful and I loved it.

After a horrible flight and three great days in London, I found myself alone and on a bus to Wales. There was a guy selling sandwiches and potato chips and soda with a Welsh accent that was so thick that I couldn’t understand a word he said. When we arrived at my stop he helped me get my baggage out of the storage compartment on the bus, and turned to me with a hopeful smile and yet another sentence I couldn’t decipher. His face fell as I shook my head and apologised, saying that I hadn’t understood anything for the last three hours.

Getting off the bus, I’d arrived in the town my university was ‘in’ only to discover that the school was a 20 minute drive outside of the actual town. I got a taxi from the bus stop to the campus, and tried to tip the cab driver. He looked at it, said ‘I think that you’ve miscounted, love,’ and shoved his tip back into my hand. I dragged my suitcases all over campus, trying to find the people I was supposed to talk to so that they could show me my room. The place was deserted, except for a few security guards that stopped talking each of the three times that I walked past them. After about 45 minutes of walking between different buildings, carrying a huge backpack and smaller backpack and dragging a wheeled piece of luggage, I finally found the person that could take me to my room. They took me to a small, dark and dingy room in an ugly building, with fluorescent lighting and a shower that, if you hit one of the walls wrong, let out a cloud of mold spores. I almost started crying.

For the next week, it was just the international students on campus. There was me, a girl from North Carolina, two guys from Norway, and about 50 men from India who thought that being American meant being easy and constantly on the lookout for the next person we were going to sleep with. The lovely girl from North Carolina and I spent most of the week trying to find such things as: sheets! A supermarket that sold more than frozen dinners! How to take the bus into town! We also spent most of the week getting drunk with the Norweigians every night. We’d found the corner store, which over here sells all kinds of alcohol, the first night.

When everyone else moved in, it wasn’t that much better. My flatmates consisted of older woman from the north that complained constantly about the noise and from who’s room clouds of pot smoke billowed almost continuely, a very, very young girl who was having an affair with a married man 30 years her senior who eventually got her pregnant, a guy from India who liked doing strange and loud exercises at three in the morning while playing Indian pop music at ear-splitting volumes, and another guy from India who thought the unwashed kitchen countertops were a perfect place to cut raw chicken. It was an absolute nightmare.

I hated the university, I wasn’t very impressed with my classes (what there was of them, which wasn’t very much), and I didn’t like Wales. At all. But damned if I was leaving, as that would only prove my mother right when she told me that it wasn’t the best decision. The only good thing to come out of Wales was Matt, who I’ll have been with for five years in about two weeks.

It was an interesting beginning to life in the UK.

4 Comments:

Blogger .Wyle.E.Coyote. said...

Oo Ooo Oooooo.... I'm holding my breath in anticipation of part 3, "life after the university".

-----------------------------
"thought that being American meant being easy and constantly on the lookout for the next person we were going to sleep with."
-----------------------------
- If only life were this good

-T

9:07 PM  
Blogger ecogrrl said...

Good lord, does that sound like my intro to Cambridge!

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words like 'I'm sorry...I'm disgusted with how I chose to interact w/you' just doesn't describe my lament. I truly am compunctious.

You should check out Chris Cornell's solo albums, I think you'd like them.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Auglaise said...

Wyle: ^_^ Next time I see you, I'll be sure to update you. So when are you going to make it over here again?

ecogrrl: For some reason, it seems that no American student can arrive in this country with clear blue skies and a good trip. Maybe it's cursed?

anonymous: Jay-sus son, if you're going to be bitchy have the balls to leave your name. My very first hate-mail-thingy! w00t!!

11:16 PM  

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