Thursday, October 2, 2008

maybe i have the wrong passport

On Full Day in London (this go-around) #1, I started the day by sleeping. Until 1:30 pm. I’ve averaged about 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night since last Thursday, as a lovely lead-up to the all night flight to England. So, needless to say, I was bushed. And decided today was a good day not to set any alarms and instead sleep as late as needed. Also, I didn’t go to sleep until about 2 am or so. Not because I couldn’t but because I was doing things.

I awoke to lovely sun streaming in the sky-lightish windows on the angled-with-the-roof ceiling (I’m living in an attic, more poetically referred to as my English garret), but as I prepared for my shower I began to hear faint pitter patters on those same windows. Yep, a glance out the western windows confirmed that gray clouds were moving east into the territory of the sunny skies. Man, I should’ve woken up earlier to enjoy the sun I’m told is pretty shy here.

Eventually the sun sort of returned, but it brought along some very gusty wind. Finally around 4:30 or so I ventured outside to find the library and some internet access in case someone wanted to hang out tonight. I don’t quite know this place well enough yet to be initiating invitations. And the internet AND home phone went down today, the two means of communication I’ve distributed to the folks I’m hoping to hang out with most immediately. I’m glad I emailed my parents last night to let them know I’m here. Sometimes I feel like internet challenges follow me around. Surely that’s not true, but it really feels like it sometimes. For now, the only contact info people have for me doesn’t work. Lovely way to feel isolated in a new country. Oh well. Onward to the library to remedy part of the problem.

I had an enjoyable time getting a British library card. How great! Libraries suddenly take on greater value when you’re traveling, giving you access to all these books you couldn’t bring with you and making you feel like you’re part of the local community. The guy who helped get my card was very nice. Once I had the card in hand I was able to sign up for the queue for internet time. And was awarded a grand total of five minutes. Whoa. Generous. But then I chatted with a different nice librarian who noted wryly that the whole internet queue system is very complex (which is why I was somehow given only five minutes; they were very busy today) and that’s why they have to employ people like him to manage it. :-)

This same librarian also asked me if I was from Australia or New Zealand. I admitted that I wasn’t. He said I had a very unusual American accent and asked where I was from, then acknowledged that he really doesn’t know much about such things and probably mostly hears East and West Coast accents in movies.

Post-library success (the getting-a-library-card part not the five minutes of internet part) I moved forward in my next quest: getting my cell phone set up. I entered the local Lewisham Shopping Center and suddenly remembered that the shops there seemed to close fairly early (by 5:30 or 6) when I was there in February. I managed to collect a bit of information about my SIM card options but didn’t manage time to make a decision before they closed. Tomorrow. Hopefully.

So I moved on to Woolworth’s, whose window displays suggested they might have a couple of the things on my shopping list. Among other things I found a priceless light bulb for one of the lamps in my room. I wasn’t sure it would fit the lamp because the lamp socket looked like it wouldn’t accept a normal bulb. Maybe it’s an antique lamp or something. After all I am in Britain now. And everything here is supposed to be old. As I looked at the light bulbs, I slowly put 120 and 240 together and realized light bulbs that run on Britain’s 240 electrical current could probably reasonably be expected to have different-looking connectors from light bulbs for good ol’ American 120 current. The things you learn abroad: light bulbs aren’t the same everywhere. I guess I always have taken light bulbs a little for granted.

Then as the workers were trying to find a price for the light bulb (it was really priceless), I chatted a bit with one of the cashiers. She, too, asked me if I was from Australia. Again, I had to admit that I was not. She was surprised that I was American and told me I had such a lovely accent. How fun. And funny that in the US we always think it’s the Brits with the nice accents. And it has also humored me that to we Americans accents from England, South Africa and Australia all sound about the same. And it seems impossible that anyone could think an American sounds like an Aussie. So I never stopped to think before that perhaps other speakers from native English speaking lands aren’t able to distinguish the difference between all the other English-speaking accents besides their own.

And it also humored me that we tend to think of Brits and Europeans in general as being so cosmopolitan and world wise, especially compared to we backwoods Americans. Yet, librarian man reminded me that that’s probably not the case. Hmmm, stereotype in serious danger of being broken.

I’ve long wished I could, for just a little while, experience life as something other than an American. If I keep sounding Australian to people perhaps I could pull it off. And then I won’t have people asking me non-stop about McCain and Obama and bail-outs. I think the cover would be blown, though, the second they asked me anything about kangaroos or the outback.

I’ve only been out twice now, last night to the grocery store and this afternoon, but I’m loving walking places. The train station and its next-door-neighbor grocery store are probably 15-minutes-ish away. And they’re downhill on the way (but uphill on the way back, of course). The family I’m staying with is superb. Very friendly and welcoming. Great. I think the two boys (6 and 4 years old) think I’ve come just to play with them. I’m working to convince them they’ve got plenty of time to show me all their toys. Today the oldest said he can’t wait until the weekend when he can see me all day. :-) Yesterday they peaked into my room when they got home from school to see if I was awake from my nap yet (I hadn’t closed my door, which is at the top of the garret stairs, tightly). When I later got up, they excitedly gave me a full tour of T & J’s many enterprises, from hotels (which I’m staying at) to post offices and other Limited businesses.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Glad the library was a good experience! Those librarians are pretty friendly people sometimes. :-)