Oh right, I live here now.
I don’t know if you could call the past few days “settling in.” Namely because nothing has felt still. I landed. I was very easily let into the country by a delightful UK border agent (considering the passport fiasco, that was a relief). He stamped my book and wished me well. I waited for my roommates. We hugged each other as if we were old friends. We needed that. We are all in this together. The boys helped me lug my giant suitcases on the tube – a trip totaling about an hour and a half. Once we emerged out of our station, Seven Sisters, one of the wheels on my suitcase popped off. Needless to say it was a very slow and strenuous walk to our home.
Walking through our neighborhood, the smells of Afro-Caribbean cooking waft about and Middle Eastern music pops out of corner stores. It’s an international area, it feels like Queens. Our block is lovely, very residential and full of small homes with quaint gardens and lots of windows. I was so relieved when I stepped into our house. We only went on pictures and had no idea what we were actually getting into when we signed the lease. But my oh my, this house is just wonderful. Plenty of natural light, bigger bathrooms than anyone living in London would ever expect, two kitchens and a back yard. We’ve even got exposed brick in our kitchen. YES! It’s far less central than where I lived last, but that’s the thing about big cities…you’re expected to commute. Though I will say staying out late on the weekend proves to be daunting.
I’ve spent a lot of time doing all of the “I just got here!” stuff…like shopping at Tesco (there’s a strange class system associated with London grocery stores. Needless to say, we shop at the most inexpensive one) and doing what I can to get all of the essentials. I’ve also been re-visiting some of my old favorite spots – it’s a walk down memory lane. I can’t quite believe it’s been three years since I was here last. I’m amazed at how much has come back, how much I remember. And then there’s things like pub-restaurants close around 11 or 12 on weekends that my roommate Andres, who has also lived here, forgot. Whoops.
I’ve already been to two parties hosted by fellow Central students. The MA Music Theater folk have already been here for a month or so. It was encouraging to see how close many of them already seem to one another…and how open everyone has been to me. I’ve been making people laugh and slowly I’m finding people here get me. I translate. Phew. I sat last night and watched a handful of Greeks take over the music and put on traditional Greek folk songs and dance together. It was a beautiful thing. One of the best things I’ve learned is that talking about food is a great way for people to open up. My life has a cheesemonger has been my top part conversation point.
Almost everyone I’ve met from Central is far from home. It’s a strange thing being a grad student – I’ve already done the college thing…had the awkward freshmen year experience. It doesn’t quite feel like that, but there is something residual about it. The fear of feeling alone and the need to constantly be occupied and social in order to not feel homesick and scared.
Right now, I am both of those things. The weather in London has been unseasonably fabulous, I’m getting along with my roommates, we go do and see interesting things in the city, I don’t feel terribly foreign here…and yet, I still feel out of place. It isn’t home yet. And that’s the hard thing about grad school. I’ve already made a home, full of people I adore and support my every move. Then I went and uprooted all of that. I need classes to start. I need to feel connected to a community. I need daily routines. Breathe Rachel, breathe.
Tuesday I’m meeting with a fellow who runs an imrpov theater and then I’m going to check out some shows in the scene here. I can’t wait for that. I’m surprised at how much being a comedian has gotten me “in” with people. That’s the beauty of going to an art school, almost everyone gets what you do. So I’m excited to get to know comedy in London, get back on stage and get people laughing. Improv is what got me to really root myself in Philadelphia, so I have a feeling it can do the same for me here.
I’m in LONDON for Chrissake! I’ve been here for almost a week and it still hasn’t sunk in. I feel like I’m on vacation. I’ll sit in Regent’s park and fall in love with the way people drink wine and read books in the grass or hear a thousand languages spoken on the tube in one day or see plays advertised for 5-15 pounds and think OH GOD I HAVE TO GO SEE AND DO ALL OF THIS RIGHT NOW. And then I remember that I live here now and there will be time. I don’t have to rush like I did the last time. I can take my time with London. I will find new favorite spots. I will explore more neighborhoods. I will get what it means to live in Tottenham or Kilburn like I know what it means to live in Fishtown or the Italian Market. I will be a local.