Sunday, August 22, 2010

Final Thoughts from a World Traveler

The Tower Bridge

I left London from Heathrow Airport on a cold, typical morning. My primary focus was getting rid of my heavy bags––after that I would deal with my heavy heart. Suffering from a unique disease I call "travel depression," I found the morning was hard to get through and I bit my own quivering lip more than once. I was trying hard to relax as I sat in my terminal eating a chocolate croissant and staring at my boarding pass. Across the top it read, "ALISON AMORELLO, WORLD TRAVELER."

Less than 12 hours later I stood in my backyard on an 80 degree afternoon in Whitinsville, MA––sweating, trying to understand the difference between where I was and where I'd been. There were over 3,000 miles between the two places and that felt impossible to me. Wasn't it just yesterday I was walking Notting Hill in the rain? Hadn't it been only a few hours since I was singing along to the songs of the Elvis impersonator at the Oakwood pub? I could feel that rain and hear the music. I could still taste that chocolate croissant from breakfast and I wanted to know how, how could I be so far away from something that felt so close?

That was two weeks ago and the alienating confusion has since faded. I've kept busy with friends, family and sunshine. Time, as it always does, eventually pushed my mind through the 3,000 mile gap where it joined my body in Massachusetts. My new summer tan indicates that I've never even heard of England, though my empty bank account proves otherwise. I remember the smells and sounds and colors but I can't hear the rain outside my window. I remember everything well but I just can't feel London anymore.

I have very few regrets about my trip. I accomplished a lot of things I hoped to do––didn't run into Jude Law but I suppose that was never a genuine objective. I saw new beautiful places and I met new beautiful people and I did it all without obligation or assistance. I spent more time alone with my thoughts in 6 weeks then I had in the past two years. I conquered this one by myself and for myself.

But not all went according to plan. Nine weeks ago, I wrote my first blog entry about an "escape." For so long I'd been so tired and anxious and all the pressure seemed endless. I needed to get away from "the real world," I thought, I needed to hop on a plane and fly far away from the jobs, classes, friends and family––everything and everyone I couldn't remember why I'd once chose. I hate to admit it but I was miserable. I was scared. I was praying for a way out.

I wrote that first entry in the exact bed I lay on now, on a night not much different than this one. I was tired and worried then and I'm tired and worried today, about the same things, different things, too many things. My "escape" was unsuccessful because of one important truth: there is no where to run when you're running from yourself.

I couldn't run but I learned. I realized that its not my jobs or classes or relationships that make everything so hard, its simply part of who I am. In London I was not a Resident Assistant, Orientation Leader, CJC rep, Camp Counselor, desk attendant, full time student or obligated to anyone else. But I was still Alison. Optimistic, anxious, worried, excited, sarcastic. I was still me and I found that all the world is "the real world"––happy or sad, exciting or dull, calm or frightening.

And none of that matters. Circumstances will vary but all that counts is how we react. You can change your location, change your money and change your story a hundred times but the best and worst of who you are will never be too far away. I'm proud to say that I think I'm finally okay with that.

I miss London everyday. It was a truly great city and I know I barely scratched the surface of what it had to offer me. I may not be able to get back there anytime soon but I know it wasn't goodbye forever. Someday I'll spend another afternoon in Regent Park, avoiding the enthusiastic birds and smiling big at my own private thoughts and jokes. Someday I'll drink martinis in Leicester Square with the other girls for no real reason. Someday I'll get back to the Arsenal Football Club store and I'll pick up that ridiculous toaster I really wanted to buy. Someday I'll go back and I'll try something new and I'll remember how important it is to keep exploring, keep being myself, keep breathing and keep faith.

But for now I am here in Massachusetts. I have two days until I'm back in school––working, studying and most likely worrying about things beyond my control. But as always, I'll be trying to be happy and the best version of myself. All anyone can ever do is keep trying.

I didn't get a chance to exchange my british currency before I left so I have 18 pounds in my purse, mixed in with my American dollars. When I hold it in my hand it feels both foriegn and familiar all at once––like its a mysterious souvenier from an unlikely but vivid dream I once had, not evidence from any reality. And like many dreams, it seems wonderful and bizarre and unfinished and for a moment, I ache to get back to it.

But I remind myself that it wasn't a dream at all. My trip was real. I did live in London, I did visit Barcelona and Paris, I am ALISON AMORELLO, WORLD TRAVELER. I have pictures, scars and a blog to prove it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Heartache in Heathrow Terminal 5

Dear London,

I love you.

I'll miss you. Someday I'll come back to you for a visit. And when I do I'll bring an umbrella.


Where is the rewind button?

My Shakespeare final is over. My trip.. is almost over. This blog.. is almost over? And I don't know how I really feel about any of it but at the moment, I'm not sure its good.

The real world awaits me and I'm nervous to go back to it. Am I ready for it? What do you think, Eden Fine, loyal reader and blog inspirer? (Theres your well deserved shout out! I'll be seeing you soon!)

London in the rain.

My last theatre trip before coming home.

Oh, the places I went....

My first time eating Indian food––thanks to my Uncle Robert!

Tonight: Thames River Cruise. Tomorrow: Arsenal, Platform 9 3/4, Notting Hill & Portobello Market, and packing. Next stop, heartache in Heathrow Airport Terminal 5.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Its the Final Countdown.

6 weeks in London is not long enough.

Unless of course you are a poor college student at the mercy of your more than generous family. In which case, at least financially, 6 weeks is plenty.

But regardless, I will be truly sad to leave here. I feel like I'm just getting used to everything and Chrissy and I already can't stop talking about when we'll be back. But in the meantime, I won't waste the days I have left.

Whats on the agenda?
1. The Tower Bridge
2. Westminster Abbey
3. Abbey Road
5. Notting Hill/Portobello Market
6. One more trip to the theatre
7. The Globe
8. A final exam for my Shakespeare class? YIKES!

Don't worry everyone. My camera is charged and ready and pictures will surface soon. It will be just like you were there!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pictures to Brighton your day.

We took a two our bus ride to Brighton, the seaside of England, and the weather started out just as British as I imagined it would. And by that I mean it was rainy and cold and hard for me to understand that I was visiting this charming beach town in July, not October, despite the fact I was shivering in my jeans and sweatshirt.

But of course I enjoyed myself anyway. I walked around town, took some pictures, had lunch and then paid 8 pounds to get into a harness and be launched 20 meters into the air in front of an audience. So, you know, normal stuff.

In fact, that last bit there has to be the coolest thing I'd done in a long time. I was in better spirits than ever afterward and appropriately enough––the sun came out! And suddenly the beach was packed. You could pick the english people out from the tourists because they were the ones in bathing suits when everyone else was still a little too cold for that.
The Brighton Pier on a very grey morning.

I swear, these people must be CRAZY.

Urgh, I hate when I have to save Chrissy from drowning.
Thats right, I was the first one to brave this bad boy.

Marie, Katie and I after we got launched.

The pier after it Brighton'd up. Get it? Eh eh?



Friday, July 30, 2010

Talking the talk with the Londoners

Chrissy and I just returned from our journey to Covent Garden in search of delicous and inexpensive greek food. The mission was moderately successful but exhausting as I am already running on little sleep from last night. I decided that now would be a good time for a power nap.

Unfortuantely it seems I'm not on the same page as the rest of the Gubbay Hall residents. Some anonymous british guys seem to have decided now would be a good time for laughter and lively conversation outside my window, making it impossible for me to execute my original plan. An honest mistake on their part, yes, but I'm afraid that these kind of mishaps will reoccur if certain individuals continues making decisions without my consent. Frustrating to say the least.

However having no other choice but to listen to their banter (entertaining though sometimes indistinguishable) made me think about the pathetic state of the authentic British accent I planned to develope during my stay here. I have yet to really nail it and I'm running out of time! I can genuinely say I've improved––no longer mimicking the proper Queen's english that Americans imagine but instead acknowledging the regional differences that exist from borough to borough, but still, I am definitely no expert.

My friend Steve, an East Londoner, spelled out some of the local dialect for me and made it a lot easier for me to identify the patterns. For instance, East Londoners don't pronounce their T's, replace their TH's with F or V and add R's in places I still don't understand. And of course they use dozens of unique expressions that I must admit are sort of catchy.

SO! Lets try it, shall we? Now if I was talking about my little brother Anthony and say, assessing his atheltic abilities I might say "My little brother is wicked fast. Hes talented but a sort of jerk."

But in London I would say "My li'l brovah is quite farst. 'Ees got loads of talent but 'ees a bi' of a prick."

But I probably wouldn't say that either, cause I think Anthony is probably sort of slow and definitely not a jerk. Sorry Brotha Man! I miss you very much.

If Steve or any other local were to hear me or at least read this, they would probably make fun of me for a long time. But they might call it "having a bubble" which is cockney rhyming slang for having a laugh. Look it up.

Ok, so theres room for improvement. I'll work on it––after I get a nap in. 15 minutes! Thats all I ask!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The jokes on me, I think.

I've really enjoyed venturing around all the boroughs of London and checking places off my list. Exploring has generally been a low stress activity with few incidents that I'm aware of.

Though I have had one reoccuring problem. Despite my initiative to research places, locate their nearest tube and carefully examine the proper route from the tube to the final destination, I've got into a routine of taking an immediate turn in the wrong direction and ending up lost for quite sometime.

I'd like to say it's only happened a few times but looking back, I'm pretty sure its been everytime. Starting with me and Chrissy's trip to the Natural History Museum and Buckingham Palace, followed by my solo adventures to church in South Kensington, Regent Park, Notting Hill, St. James Park, Covent Garden and again, Buckingham Palace coming from a different direction.

Some people in my unique postion might consider asking for directions after leaving the tube station but I can't seem to accept that––partially cause I don't mind walking and partially because I suspect that this is an elaborate conspiracy that the entire city of London is in on.

Does that seem far fetched? Maybe. But I swear, its the only explanation. I have taken plenty if time looking at maps, reading signs and being patient yet everytime without fail I end up a mile in the wrong direction. So it must be a joke, right? Perhaps my life has become like "The Truman Show" and people everywhere are watching and enjoying my confusion, changing the direction of the signs just before I arrive and disguising locations to really throw me off. All the while, they're secretly routing for me to figure it all out on my own––to storm Big Ben with all my frustration and finally discover that its just cardboard and not the real thing at all.

Yes, I think that must be it. A conspiracy. A big joke at my innocent American expense. Definitely not just my own ignorance or poor sense of direction.

Good one London! You got me this time. But I'm not giving up just yet.