Thursday, October 19, 2006

Look homeward, Anglo-American

For the first time since arriving, I felt ready to go home today.

I was crossing a road on the way to school and forgot to look right instead of left. A black cab reminded me that Angles sometimes turn unwary Yanks into angels.

I'm fighting a cold and that puts me in a sour mood anyway, but I heard my mind scream "I'm tired of this! I just want to sleep in my own bed and smell the trees in my own yard."

It was just a flash of homesickness, but it was a surprise. I quickly came to my senses and looked up at a building that was an old place when Jackson was president. Then I was given an honest English smile from the old bloke ambling toward me. If you can survive the traffic, London is a nice place to be.

Nice, but not always comfortable. I think the elation of just being here word off today and I stumbled into the realities of English life. The Brits, as I discovered on an earlier trip, are masters of putting up with minor discomforts. They can wait in a queue for hours without grumbling. They are unfazed when a huge fire truck roars down a barely two-lane street at 60 miles an hour late at night -- but then, pedestrians have no right of way here except at the infrequent-but-boldly striped "zebra" (as in Debra) crossings. Water meekly trickles from century's old pipes, the composition of which you just don't want to know. And a rush-hour ride on a bus or an Underground train is Neptune’s reminder of what we do to sardines.

But it is amazing how a good cuppa tea will make you forget that lumpy, narrow bed. Or how the bright smile and "cheers" from the newsstand agent blows away your complaint about the prices. And of course, a pint of Guinness or cask ale can even make the rain seem warm.

Next week is mid-term break. Cecile and I plan to explore another famous city -- Prague. It will do us good to take a break from students, computers, telecommuting and the other stress we put on ourselves without the help of England.

But the nice part is that the taxis try to run over you from the left.

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