Friday, January 25, 2013
Pinch Me So I Know it's Real.
Finally, after years of anticipation and hours of waiting in airports, I'm standing on the Queen's soil. It's like a dream—a crazy whirlwind of excitement and disbelief—and I thought maybe I would wake up the following morning in my Colorado bed. But I didn't. I woke up to the sweet sound of ringing bells chiming in glorious unison, the bells of the York Minster waking up the city.
But getting here wasn't easy. At 7 am on the 22nd, we set out on our first flight to Chicago. From Chicago we flew to Washington D.C where our 4 hour layover turned into 8 hours! By 10 pm on the 22nd, we boarded our final plane, England bound, and by 9 am on the 23rd (over 24 hours later) we touched ground in Manchester, boarded a coach to York, and made it to the uni just in time for our first orientation session, un-showered and jet-lagged.
The first day was the most exciting, the most intimidating, and the most stressful—a hurricane of emotions. Although I expected everything that hit me, I had not mentally prepared for these first encounters: they drive on the wrong side of the street in cars with steering wheels on the wrong side down streets the size of American sidewalks, the currency consists of about 8 complicated coins and I was laughed at for carrying paper money, and though their accents are thick and beautiful, I can't stop noticing how stupid my own sounds.
In the super market, I asked a clerk where the bathrooms were and she responded by squinting her eyes, probably thinking, do american's often bath in super markets? I had to correct myself to "toilets", where are the toilets. And at least four times the first day, I called pounds dollars and dollars pounds, sounding like a confused American who can't keep straight which country she's in.
I was warned about culture shock. But the shock rubbed off in a matter of hours and was replaced with amusement and giggles. I love this city. I love every weird piece of it.
Later the first day, I went pubbing at The GillyGate (pronounced JillyGate) and ordered my first alcholic drink, a shot of Sourz in Coke. It tasted like Jolly Ranchers. Before, if I had thought about my first night in England, I would never have guessed that I would pub with my professor and his wife. But that makes it more interesting, us students clinking glasses with our professor. Again I appeared as a silly American fumbling with my coins on the counter, asking if the coin I held was 20 pence or 50 pence. "Tha' ther' is a pound."
Oh well, I'll get it soon enough.
The city has an endless system of winding streets lined with historical buildings—some are so old they've begun to sink and lean and droop—and narrow alleyways leading to open markets and strange voodoo shops. But whenever we lose our bearings, we look up and find the spires of the Minster peaking over the roofs of the drunk buildings, and we know we'll never be lost in this beautiful city.
at 1:17 PM