An Ode to London

Dear London,

I don’t know how long I’ve known you. I may have visited back in 2013 for two weeks, but you are constantly evolving, and I was more of a tourist back then. I feel like I need to start from ground zero with each visit, since otherwise I may overlook something. I’m not the same person I was back in 2013, and I’m not going to be the same person when I return in the future. So let’s pretend we just met two weeks ago.

I have a horrible tendency of judging a book by its cover. No matter how much I try to inhibit these judgments, they still happen and affect my initial thoughts and actions towards you. For one, you give the illusion of speaking the same language as me. Or I you. But I know that isn’t true. I’ve spent evenings with my flatmates where we try out each other’s accents and learned new ways to express similar sentiments in both American and English. Bollucks, knackered, jumper (aka sweater), toilet (aka restroom), peckish, fiver, tenner, quid (aka pound), lift (aka elevator), there are so many differences. It’s not fair to you if I allow myself to be lulled by the similarities. I need to keep myself aware of the differences, not to push ourselves apart, but so that I can understand how I can properly become closer with you. I need to know how you tick.

Thursday evening I actually stayed out late in your outskirts (Camden) and returned home via the Tube. I have learned that you don’t really chat on the tube. It’s not banned or anything, but Londoners tend to keep to themselves. However, when the 11pm Northern line pulled into Camden Town station, it was so alive inside. People were chatting, slightly rowdy, there was so much energy! However, the same wasn’t true for the Central line. Upon transferring I felt like nothing had changed. It was silent, everyone avoided eye contact, and we were all just looking forward to getting home. I don’t know how you function. I don’t understand how you change depending on the time of night, location, and underground line.

From my time with you so far, I am much enamored. But is that coming from a tourist or a friend? Who am I right now and through what lens am I seeing you? I may have travelled to the National Theater, eaten at a food stall in Brick Lane, explored Spitalfields market, gone to *many* different grocery stores to find a bargain, walked around Stratford Mall, wandered Oxford Street, and strolled along the Thames at night, but I don’t know if I’m on the path to assimilation or merely adjustment as an outsider. I love your culture, the pop up fruit and clothing stalls, the weather (yes, it can be cold and gray, but it reminds me of mornings back home), and how I can just walk everywhere if I don’t feel like taking the tube (ignore the fact that it could be an hour and a half walk, sometimes I just need the fresh air).

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m in a honeymoon period. I appreciate you thus far, but I’m cautious to not grow too opinionated without understanding where those interpretations are coming from. I am a foreigner. I may look similar to Londoners, I may speak a sister language, but I didn’t grow up in this country with this political, cultural, economic, geographic climate. I’ll tread carefully so that maybe one day we can see if this is the beginning of a long term relationship.

Love,

Nicole

(53)

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