Friday, July 19, 2013

An Old Story

We had 75 kids and counselors leave this morning after a full week of camp. Tonight, we have a group of 30-something arriving that will only sort of be around -- Hills Alive is going on and they'll be there most of the weekend. By all means, it is as quiet as it can get mid-summer in the middle of the day.

After a morning that included a broken website, more rain, a bus departure, and a camp flip, I find myself at home not really wanting to move.

[Side note: Shout out to 44i, our web design folks. They've handled each and every thing I've thrown at them, piddly or important, and they've always done it quickly.]

In any case, as I tried to muster up the enthusiasm to do ... anything, I found myself staring blankly at a picture on my wall.

This picture, in fact.

... I had rather long hair then.

Once upon a time, I had every intention of giving you the blow-by-blow of a whirlwind trip I took to England. It was never finished.

I don't exactly intend to fix that now. But there is a story behind this picture.

I had been in England for the wedding of Anya, one of my awesome roommates from Russia.

With all of my awesome roommates
After a week of sightseeing in Bath, the wedding, wandering the English countryside with her new in-laws and a Swedish couple, and being referred to as "the American" almost nonstop, I was back in London. I had one full day to see whatever it was I could see before my return flight to reality.
It had taken less than an hour the day before for me to realize that I absolutely love London. It is unlike any other large city I've visited. It may have had something to do with the fact that, despite not being particularly posh, as long as I stayed quiet I could stay moderately anonymous. Heck, other foreigners even asked me for directions on the subway. Mostly, no one really stood out unless they made a point of it. It wasn't like traveling in Asia, where I may as well have been dressed in neon lights from head to toe. And it wasn't like Russia, where I just wasn't dressed nicely enough. It wasn't just me, really -- other foreigners were hard to identify unless they were gathered around a subway map, trying to figure it out. London is a gathering point for the world, and somehow that makes it much easier to travel.

The morning of that first picture, I had decided to follow in the family footsteps and make sure, above all else, that I saw The Bridge. Sure, there were other things I wanted to find -- Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Sherlock Holmes' statue -- but first and foremost, I had to find the Tower Bridge.

And so it was that after a hearty English breakfast (maybe the one form of English food that was genuinely tasty) I hopped on the Tube and made my way to the Tower Hill stop.

When you step out looking for Westminster, it greets you like a slap in the face -- you hit the bottom of the stairs to exit and THERE is Big Ben. When you go looking for the Tower of London, it takes a moment to realize that the old building over there is, in fact, one of the more infamous palace-prisons in the world.

Really, it doesn't look so threatening.

Okay, so it doesn't exactly look inviting, either. 
But the Tower, though fascinating, wasn't my main focus. I was looking for the bridge. Because I am my father's daughter, after all.
And just a little bit further down the road, it started to appear...

I was there.
It had been a fantastic but long week. I'd been mostly on my own the entire time; I hadn't seen another American since I'd gotten off the plane. I'd gallivanted through the countryside and gone to a wedding. I'd even been proposed to by a drunken Englishman. But now in the midst of the drizzling rain and bustling traffic, I was standing on the Thames staring at a bridge that had fascinated me for years. It was finally London.
Then a peculiar thing happened.
Two men passed me -- one in his thirties or so, the other appearing to be his father -- and I recognized their accents. As they paused to take each other's pictures, I finally stepped forward and offered to take one of the two of them.
They looked surprised and hesitated a moment.
"Sorry! I couldn't help but notice that you're Americans. I haven't heard a familiar accent all week."

Grins all around. "Would you? That'd be great." The younger guy handed me his camera. "Where are you from?"
"Wisconsin, actually."

Surprise. "Seriously? We're from Minneapolis."
A week by myself and the first Americans I meet live three hours away from me.
We razzed each other about our respective football teams, took photos for each other, and went our respective directions. I wouldn't run into another American until I got back on the plane the next day.
But hey, it was a great start to a haywire day of sightseeing.

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