Is it possible? I think… I might be in love with a big city. Please let this honeymoon phase continue!
The sun shines, the streets are lined with leafy green trees, the snug-looking multi-storied brick flats have English flags hanging out of the windows. London is beautiful. At least, the part where I am is. (Does anyone else think of England as a three-syllable word when they see that red cross on the white flag? “Eng-uh-land! Eng-uh-land!”)
I can’t help it, I really, really like London. I never thought I would. It’s a big city with twice the population of the whole of New Zealand in a MUCH smaller space, but it’s just lovely.
I arrived on Tuesday morning and was met at the airport by a taxi driver that Pax Lodge had organised for me. After about an hour and a half of driving through who knows where, we drove up to Pax Lodge, and the flags were flying. The Pax Lodge flag, the World flag an18 or 20 country flags, including New Zealand’s. I was given a brief tour of the place (my second World Center), and shown to my room on the first floor.
Each room is named after the country or area that donated funds to build it. Mine is “Oxfordshire, U.K.” Every room and every person has a book. When a person leaves a room, they write in the book and leave photos and things. I was flicking through my room book last night and found a couple of pages by Michelle, a Canadian guider I met at Our Cabaña in Mexico in 2007! Awesome.
When a person leaves Pax Lodge, everyone (staff and volunteers) writes in their book, and they take it away with them. They also write in everyone else’s book before they leave. My book has one entry so far, although I’m not allowed to read it until I leave Pax Lodge myself. There have actually been two volunteers leave since I arrived, but Emily (from Canada) left the day after I arrived, so there was no time for me to buy a book and for her to write in it, and in any case, we’d only spent a couple of hours together. Yet, in just a few hours I got to know and like her enough that it was sad when she left. The second departure, Nour from Syria, was harder. Nour is possibly the brightest, bubbliest person I know (and I know a lot of bright, bubbly people), and we’d spent the whole day before she left together, as she showed me all the ‘housekeeping’ procedures. I hadn’t attended Emily’s farewell ceremony because I’d had to go to the BUNAC* orientation, so Nour’s was my first. It was the first time I heard the Pax Lodge song, and the first person I’d had to say goodbye to properly. It’s a sweet little ceremony and I was tearing up – after just knowing Nour a few days! I’ll be bawling my eyes out at the end of August when all the summer volunteers leave.
Anyway, my first day in the U.K, last Tuesday, I started my training, and didn’t stop until Saturday. It was a tough five days with early starts and long hours, but I really enjoyed myself. I feel as though I’m not quite making the right impression, as I don’t have the right (professional-looking) clothes, but otherwise things are going swimmingly. Sunday I relaxed, bought a few things for my room and finished The Chosen, which I really enjoyed, and wish it hadn’t ended quite so soon. Apparently there is a sequel, which I’d like to get my hands on. I found it an amusing coincidence that while reading a book about Hasidic Jews, I saw my very first Hasidic Jews. There were a few in line with me at immigration at the airport, and I’m fairly certain they were all American, though I can’t be sure. I had to force myself not to stare at their skull caps and curly ear locks and the boys’ fuzzy unshaven chins of bumfluff; and I found myself craning around other people to see the adults’ tassles or fringes or whatever they’re supposed to be called. It’s quite silly really, and probably offensive, staring at people just because of what they’re wearing, but I always look at what people are wearing anyway. Often people I’m with will say “Did you just check out that girl who walked past?” and I have to make excuses, because I kind of was, if you count watching the way her clothes fit her body as she moves as ‘checking her out.’ It’s even more awkward when it’s, “Did you just check out that 10 year old boy who walked past?” I’m not a paedophile, 10 year olds just wear cool clothes.
I wouldn’t count fashion as a hobby of mine, but I do count people-watching as one, and clothes are a big part of people’s message to the world when they’re out and about. I find it fascinating that someone can have beliefs that makes them wear their hair a certain way or only wear a certain type of clothing. I find nearly any kind of uniform interesting, and I can understand that some people might be worried when they see me watching a group of school children walk past, eying up individuals and watching the way they move. I’m just looking at their clothes!
The weather in London has been GORGEOUS since I arrived. Hot days full of sunshine! Yesterday I met a friend from high school, Jenny, near Hyde Park and we wandered around and had sushi for lunch and saw a scary swan and a palace that wasn’t really for everyone at all. I was back at work today after having two days off, and started getting into some of the admin stuff that’s specific to my role, which is somewhat of a relief, because there’s so much to learn, and I want to be good at what I do, so I want to learn it really well.
There is SO MUCH more I have been wanting to write about, but I simply don’t have the time.
I’ve been buying far too much plastic considering I’m having a “Month Without Plastic.” In fact, my plastic purchasing has probably not changed at all, because in my day-to-day life I am conscious of how much packaging the things I buy have and how much plastic I purchase or use. The only change, and the reason I’m not counting it as a fail, is that I’ve learned a lot more about plastic and the part it plays in our lives. For example, buying a bag of 4 or more apples pre-packed in a plastic bag actually uses less plastic than buying loose apples because of the amount of plastic that is used in transporting them from orchard to supermarket to keep them nice. And that, of course, is why buying local is such a good idea. I am too tired to find the exact link, but I read that useful piece of information on the blog of a woman from BBC who did a month without plastic a while ago. The blog’s somewhere in the extensive gardens (like nearly anything British, you can hardly call it a wilderness) of the BBC website.
To do: I need to purchase a second hand bicycle, some jandals or sandals, some formal navy trousers and/or a navy skirt and a watch.
Fun stuff: I joined a dance studio yesterday so I can go to zumba and hip hop and hopefully even swing dancing classes. Had my first zumba class since leaving New Zealand, and I feel great! This evening after work I went with Susan, who is one of my managers, to go kayaking on Camden Lock. It was a really nice way to wind down after work – kayaking on calm waters, getting away from work (important when you live and work at the same place), getting some exercise outdoors and forgetting that I’m in the middle of a giant city. It’s on twice a week, and may become a regular part of my routine, although the Tuesday session is competing with a two hour hip hop session at my dance place!
Okies, super tired and want to be in bed half an hour ago. That’s it from me.
*BUNAC is the parent organisation for IEP, the company I paid $NZ795 to get me a job and help with my visa and stuff to get over here. Totally not worth it. The contract they offered me was pretty miserable, and I was very glad when Maia, the World Center Manager for Pax, gave me a call and offered me the job here. Phew!