Friendless and Lacking Direction

The title sounds worse than my situation is, really.

The hardest part of getting to know London is that I’m completely turned around. In the U.S., I always have a general idea of whether I’m heading north, south, east or west. I think of everything in terms of the Atlantic ocean, which is unfortunate now that I’m on the other side of it. Whenever I used to head east, I knew I was heading towards the ocean. Well  now when I head east, I still hold on to that notion, although I’m actually heading west. Last night I thought I was walking south, but I was actually moving east. The lack of sun doesn’t help, nor does the fact that cars drive in the wrong direction. Fortunately, everyone here appears to excel at reading facial expressions, and I don’t go more than five minutes holding a map before someone asks me where I’m trying to go. It’s quite convenient.

Also convenient is London’s decision to remind London novices which direction to look before crossing the street. These instructions have already saved my life at least twice, and I imagine will do so many more times before I get the hang of Britain’s frustrating desire to be different. (I really think that if they’re looking to be unique in regards to traffic, then there’s more work to be done. People still stand right on the escalators and walk left. And trains move in the more traditional traffic pattern, as well. Driving appears to be at odds with all other modes of transportation.) And there is definitely an aspect of my personal life that needs improvement, as well.

Back in my glory days of childhood innocence, my parents always joked about my ability to make friends at the drop of a hat. My parents would hardly have our big blanket and umbrella set up for a day at the beach before I would come back with my best friend for the afternoon. Even in D.C., I miraculously made friends despite a challenging living situation and an affinity for going to bed early.

My orientation was yesterday, and I regret to say that I have yet to make any friends. Nearly everyone studying abroad at my school this semester is American, which offers a comforting sense of familiarity but makes me feel as though I’m still in America. I left the United States to gain new experiences, not to be constantly reminded of old ones. I feel fortunate that I’m living away from student housing. While living there would have provided me some initial camaraderie with fellow Americans, I imagine I would feel trapped in yet another American bubble, floating through London with my American posse and missing the intended immersion experience.

So instead, I will spend today touring museums alone. If anything, I am gaining a newfound independence that I would never have discovered had I stayed in the U.S. I’m finding that I like being a stranger in a strange land. I’m empowered to go out on my own and do only the things that interest me, for once. So perhaps I’m only lacking direction in the physical sense, and lacking friends is then serving as a remind that I am here for me. These five months are mine, to make my own, to find out who I can be when not defined by familiar surroundings or relationships or expectations. I like that.

I also like that I have not heard about Twilight once while I’ve been here. America’s obsession with vampires is really starting to bite/suck.

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3 responses to “Friendless and Lacking Direction

  1. Nice last line. My life is going to be lacking wit without you this semester 🙂
    Here’s my list of favorites:
    1. Ride the tube everywhere. It’s cheap and efficient – it’s what I miss most about London and one of my favorite parts of being there. But take a black cab at least once for the experience.
    2. Camden Market – Camden Market – not the Camden Market with the tacky green sign that’s there a little after you get off the tube but a little bit further of a walk down. I can’t quite remember where exactly to go but if you consult a map I’m sure you can find it. It’s so cool – a bunch of little kiosks and shops, some of which sell lame tourist-y things but some that have really cool finds.
    3. Oxford Street is a a big shopping street. Also, the street where Harrod’s is has all the high-end stuff, i.e. Burberry and I can’t remember what else.
    4. The Imperial War Museum has a really good Holocaust Exhibition, and lots of cool old cars and stuff. And a piece of the Berlin Wall.
    5. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also really interesting – I don’t know if this would be a museum you would normally visit so I thought I’d suggest it.
    6. Do this only if it’s free – go to Sir John Soane’s museum and take the tour (?) and ask to see the pictures behind the pictures. Really cool but the only thing that’s that exciting about the place, so if it’s like 6 pounds then it’s not worth it.
    7. Do not go see Shakespeare in Regent’s Park. I saw Twelfth Night and it was horrendous, and my friend Jordan (who also went to London) saw another play and said it was equally as bad. Not a great track record.
    8. Wagamama’s is a delicious Japanese/Chinese/Asian restaurant that serves a lot of noodles and stuff. It’s so good. Go. I order you.
    9. Pizza Express is also a good restaurant – single-serving pizzas for like 6 or 7 pounds each but they’re pretty big and very good. 🙂
    10. Marks and Spencer’s Food Store has a lot of prepackaged sandwiches, salads, pasta salads, and fruits that are actually pretty good for if you’re out and about and need a quick lunch.
    11. If you order tap water it’s free and you can get as many refills as you’d like.
    Congrats, I just wrote you a novel. 🙂 Prepare for me to come visit, because I’m still holding on to the delusion that it might happen. I hope you are having a blast – or are at least getting there. I love you! 🙂

  2. Hey did you know Christina from LeaderShape is in London right now?? Also my friend from home is at London School of Economics, let me know if you want her contact info, she’s awesome.

  3. Pingback: Understood « From Chapel Hill to Notting Hill

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