In the spirit of thanksgiving, I wanted to share a snippet from a few moments in the past week. Cultural immersion is great, and the thing about England is that you not only get to learn the British culture, but you meet people from all over the world.
Fancy a tour with me through a few cultures this past week?
It’s a simple 20 minute walk into downtown Chelmsford and the train station where I wait on the long platform for the train into London. Along that route, there are several convenience stores and fish & chip shops – none of which, from what I can tell, are owned by British people. The one shop I have stopped in twice is owned by a Romanian family. A father and his two sons, with a couple extras, serve up fish and chips or chicken and chips for under 4 GBP. (About $6).
I went in last week for a second time, for a quick tummy-fill, and the one son recognized me from before. I’m sure he thought, “Ah, she’s the girl who burned her mouth on the chips even after I warned her they were hot!” Or he could’ve thought, “Ah, she’s the girl that likes to wear dresses!” Nonetheless, I went in and ordered the two-piece meal again. The football (soccer) game was up on the small teli hanging in the corner. I am certain every time I glanced up, the son was watching me. When I went to pay and the girl was at the till, she said “4 pounds.” And as I looked for my change, he retorted back quickly, “Two pounds fifty.” I looked back at her. “But its 4 pounds,” she said insistently. “Two pounds fifty,” the son said firmly without even looking at her. I smiled thankfully at him for the discount and was on my merry way. He just gained a repeat customer. 😉 Thank you Romania!
Another culture I popped into last week was the Arts culture of London. A friend of mine is a filmmaker and writer and invited me to this collaborative arts night in an older building in Notting Hill that he was helping coordinate. I am (almost) always up for new experiences and the location itself intrigued me. After a bit of a detour finding the place from the tube, the pain of attempted beauty had worn off as I limped up the steps in my brown peep-toe heels. After saying I was on the comps list, I immediately asked, “Where is the loo?” (Sidenote, I just can’t seem to get myself to ask where the toilets are, even though that is politically correct here!)
I hobbled down the spiraling staircase to the loo and found it was all in one room, with a door separating a urinal and a toilet. As I finished my business, the door closed, I hear a trickling sound coming from the other side of the door, and male voices. I opened the door a crack, and while it was visibly obvious there was a large man standing there with his back to me, I said, “Hello? Is anyone there?” “Ya mate, I’m just taking a wee.” I could hear him talking to someone else outside that this was the girls’ toilet too. He finished his business and said it was safe to come out. He thanked me for waiting! I went upstairs, hugged my friend, and after meandering the photo gallery and trying to talk with a few people, I left early. It just wasn’t the mold I fit into. I enjoyed yet another pastry on the train ride home. Thank you Arts for the learning experience. 😉
The next morning I had planned to stop into the church where I am attending, Elim Pentecostal, as they host an English class where community members can come and learn English throughout a period of several classes. Many of these people aren’t Christian or have ever heard the name of Jesus.
Since I think leadership is best learned by doing, I was put together straight away to work closely with a man and a woman from China. They were catching on quite quickly as the lesson, fiction versus non-fiction, was rather difficult. I felt sympathy for them. I know how lonely I’ve felt in a new country, and I speak the language. I can’t imagine moving to a new country and not being able to read, write or speak the language. Have mercy! I look forward to next week’s class with anticipation of what I can give!
At the end of this particular class, another English lady and I were speaking with a Pakistan lady at our table. She was covered head-to-toe in beautiful turquoise fabric. She said to me, “Your English is very good. Where are you from?” I blushed, thinking it had better be, and responded with a smile, “Canada.” She wondered why I would ever move from such a great country! She continued to ask if I was single. I said yes. And with a twinkle in her eye she shared that she had a son, a very big boy, 24 years old, who has a good job. He likes English girls and that she wants to find a good daughter-in-law. I tried to change the subject. She has been in the UK for 30 years and still doesn’t know how to read or write the language fully. Amazing. Thank you Elim for that cultural insight into what others go through!
Being that it is Thanksgiving weekend, a good friend and I are challenging ourselves to make a list of 365 things we are thankful for. I am about 1/3 done and have everything from the obvious answers of Jesus and family to hair straighteners and sunsets. Yesterday we hosted 9 for a thanksgiving meal as England doesn’t celebrate the holiday. It was a great chance to reunite with people I met in 2008. The main food item that was talked about were the yams with marshmallows baked on top and the carrot pie that was the pumpkin pie substitute. I must make a disclaimer though: the way I cook doesn’t mean it’s the way all of Canada cooks! But we had great fun and were exhausted and full by the end of it. Thank you Canada, for being such a great country to miss.
Learning other cultures is like learning other parts of creation. Seeing new places, is seeing other delightful beauties that only have been revealed in movies. I love it all.
But I must admit, at the end of the day, there’s no place like home.
Happy thanksgiving Canada! xo