Another week has passed, and I find myself in the same daze of unfamiliarity as when I arrived. Well, sort of. No matter how many times I walk across the Waterloo bridge on my way to class, I still manage to find something I haven’t seen before. (Side bar: this bridge is also the best place for people watching. Between businessmen rushing to work, ladies in dress and sneakers for their daily trek across London, and adorable children in school uniform headed to class, the imagination cannot cover all of the possible backstories of passersby.) As we begin to venture outside of London, unfamiliarity breeds adventure; I can never tell if it is adrenaline or sheer power of will that keeps my tired feet trudging on.
I celebrate the Small Victories here: as a Girl With No Sense Of Direction, finding the way to class all on my own is very exciting. Even more exciting is becoming a Certified Pro at figuring out the Underground system. (With possible help from the London Tube app.) It was a goal of mine to manage navigation of city life in my time here, and I am pleased to inform you that I am not getting lost as often as before. Progress, people. Baby steps.
But besides all of this enthralling news, the purpose of this post is to highlight the things I didn’t expect to miss as much as I do, the things that are Very Much London but Only Slightly Charming, and the Small Victories. Think of this as a glamorized complaint filtered with gratitude (because let’s face it – there is nowhere else I would rather be than here, experiencing all that I am, despite the waves of homesickness and level of exhaustion I have reached), and tiny triumphs.
Victory One: Making The Absolute Most Of My Time Here. (I might be slowly dying of sleep deprivation, but dog-gone-it I have SEEN me some London sights!) In the Fulbright helpful-tip-guide, there were instructions to “Stay out late and get up early!” This has become a sarcastic motto of our group, as we cannot imagine staying up even a minute later than we already do, or getting up a second earlier than the fifth snooze of our alarms. We don’t waste our time, however; we squeeze in as much as we can in the time we can stand to stay awake. This sometimes means catching the tube immediately after class in order to make it Westminster Abbey before close, or grabbing the tram to Greenwich and running up the hill to the Royal Observatory to make sure we can soak up as much as possible within our precious, limited hours. And although our nights end earlier, our days are no less than jam-packed.
Victory Two: Managing To Talk To My Family/Friends Even With A Six-Hour Time Difference. (It is still weird to call my mom in the afternoon to catch her just as she is waking up.) Between trying to see everything there is to see, and also learning everything there is to learn, it is hard to find time to tell my family and friends about my adventures. Fortunately, I have been able to catch them before they leave for work or on lunch break to hurriedly gush about the events of the day. Some stories just can’t wait until I get home.
Victory Three: Finding True American Chicken Nuggets. (Under those glorious golden arches.) I am a picky eater, so finding food within budget that is appetizing has proven itself to be quite the challenge. One can only live so long on Tesco tuna and cucumber sandwiches, anyhow. As my favorite food is chicken nuggets and pizza, and pizza already having the hold on my diet, today I had the opportunity to devour those sweet, delicious nuggets. Let me tell you… I had forgotten just how much I missed those nugs, oh so salty fries (or chips for the Brits), and an ice cold Coke. My mood increased in happiness by (conservatively estimating) ten thousand percent. God bless Chicken Nuggets.
This city continues to challenge me, and with a new week approaching I am nervous, but excitingly nervous, to see what I will face next. I know that at the end of the day – no matter how many miles I’ve walked across this country, no matter how many times I’ve given a cashier a five pence instead of a ten pence, no matter how many times I end up on the Underground during rush hour – I will collapse on my bed in my flat, thankful for another day full of Small Victories.