Sunday, January 09, 2011
I am missing my beloved “home” this week. I always do this time of year. I think it is because of the short and often very gray days. So, I have been watching a lot of BBC America, surfing http://www.bbc.co.uk/, listening to BBC Radio 1 on the Sirius Satellite Radio, and to Coldplay, Keane, and David Gray on my computer.
Eleven years ago this June, I first stepped foot on the “Motherland.” It was a surreal experience that to this day I can compare to no other. I was 20 years old and was on a high school tour as a chaperone. I do not remember the students’ names who were on the trip but I was with my high school Spanish teacher. I had been substitute teaching at my alma mater on my University holidays throughout the year and one afternoon I stopped in to chat with her on my way out for the day. I discovered that she would be sponsoring a trip to France and England over the summer and needed another chaperone. She asked if I would be interested and after discussing funding with my wonderful parents, I agreed to come. Actually, I did not just agree, I jumped for joy at the prospect of getting the privilege of participating in the journey.
After several months of preparing we were off. France was wonderful. I enjoyed my time there very much but much of it is a complete blur. It was not until we stepped onto the ferry in the English Channel or as the French call it, “la Manche” that things came into complete focus. The company was P&O Ferries and the vessel was The Pride of Cherbourg. On the boat I had a burst of energy that had me bopping around jumping with the high school kids to see if we would land in a different place because the boat moved (no) and actually allowing them to take pictures of me. The short journey seemed to take eons. I remember the smell of the sea air, the feeling of anticipation, and the feeling that all was about to be right with the world. I also remember the thought we would never land.
Finally, we landed in Dover and were marched to a coach bus. As we were corralled onto the coach, I remember being giddy to the point of annoyance to those around me. Everyone laughed at me because I had been so nonchalant the entire tour and now here I was jumping around like a sugar-buzzed 8-year old. My first impressions of the UK were on the A2 and then M2 motorways in the dark but I was completely blown away.
Once on the bus, I decided to listen to what I deemed true English music at the time. First, I popped in a Beatle’s CD and then a Spice Girls CD. For that time, it was quite spot on. While I rode along and my bizarre soundtrack played in my headphones, it was awesome trying to get my mind to wrap around the cars being on the “other side” of the road, the strange street and highway signs, the weird spellings of words, the interesting brick architecture of the suburban and country homes, and the tiny cars.
As we drove through the mist on that cool summer’s evening, I had this feeling of finally being complete. Here I was 4500 miles from my home, on a tour coach, surrounded by what were basically complete strangers, a little hungry, and very travel lagged but I had this feeling of energy and calmness combining to form an overall feeling of completeness. It is a feeling I have only felt when I was in England and have yet been able to replicate them any time or place else. From that moment on, I knew I had found “home.” Whether I ever got to return or achieved my ultimate dream of living there, I knew it would always be “home.”
The next few days went by too quickly but every second I savored, I relished, and I remember. Everything from the strange convenience store next to the hotel, the smell of the city, my short time with someone who would ultimately break my heart, the London Underground, to sitting on the modern London Bridge, I simply was just in awe and wonder of the history and beauty that surrounded me. It was like generations of my ancestors were coming to me resting inside of me and filling me with emotions of their time crossing through the magnificent city. It was like the universe finally sighing with relief that I had finally found my destination. It was wonderful, it was fulfilling, and it has been an impossibility to replicate anywhere else.
I ultimately did return “home” to go to school and to visit a few times. Circumstances, emotions, state of the world, and mental state different each time but ultimately that feeling of home always returned in a moment, be it on the Tube, taking in the people in the West End, gazing across the River Thames, or in the corner of a dark a pub it returned, that feeling of completeness, perfection, and of finally belonging. It is yet to be known if I will return on a more permanent basis or even to just visit again, but I know in my heart of hearts, no matter what, it is where I belong, it is where I am called, and it is where I need to be.