To preface this post I will say right now this is a rant (a rant made while I am very tired and slightly homesick). So to be fair to England and its people this is probably not completely accurate of my feelings of my visit here or what is actually occurring in England. This is also not to say that United States does not have many failings as well because it certainly does and I could easily bombast about those as well. This is simply to let me get it out… because I am tired, miss my home (and especially my silly little puppy) and I do not have any close friends in England yet to talk some of this stuff through… so don’t judge this post harshly even though what is said is harsh. That being said, proceed if you want to hear me take issue with a place that I really don’t have too much of an issue with….
Yesterday I walked through two metro stations and took a 30-45 min over-ground train with chocolate on my face- some days are just like that. Instead of people having courtesy and informing you that you have chocolate on your face they let you walk around like an idiot. This whole country in my opinion, right now, has chocolate on its face and as an international traveler I feel compelled to not be a prat and let them know.
Now a nice gentleman on the underground told me that I simply came at the wrong time in the wrong year (this is undoubtedly true). Due to the election being held soon strikes occur with common frequency right now, but when your national gallery is striking- it’s a problem. When public transportation strikes- it’s a problem, when ambulances strike- it’s seriously a major problem. Instead of using democratic methods and electing those that they hope will make a change they create mass chaos and risk lives trying to make a statement, irregardless, or perhaps because of, the trouble they cause those around them. Sure, they inform you ahead of time that they are going to strike but I’m not sure how much that matters to the person who goes into labor or has a heart attack. “Sorry you should have planned your demise better” just doesn’t seem like a solid answer. On a less dramatic note the people in London for only a short period of time miss most of the national gallery as huge chunks are closed but… too bad if you really wanted to see that particular Rembrandt or Monet you will just have to fly across the ocean at a better time.
Some British (not all) look across the ocean and demean our government, our way of life, and yes, even our intelligence, yet I am not worried that if an emergency happens that an ambulance will come. In the paper a few days ago an article mentioned a petition to ask for enough money to acquire a second medical helicopter, only one currently exists for all of London and its outskirts. One! They are not even sure if they will get the money for a second and yet people are striking to try to suck more money out of a system that claims they cannot afford more than one emergency helicopter for a city of more than 8 million!
Try as I might to love London… I simply cannot. I like the people. Most have been kind aside from the crazy few who pre-judge me for simply being American and stick those noses up a bit higher than normal. As for the actual city of London as a whole- well let’s just say that it’s ‘not my people’ as my friend Melissa told me.
In my musings I discovered I am not a city girl as I once was. I loved living in DC and suffered from Potomac fever ever since I left. As age continues to grow on me though, I am not longer the girl that thrives on people and energy that cities give. Instead nature speaks to me more and provides my soul with what it craves. Cities tend to be dirty, dilapidated in places, with lots of suffering. London is no different. Homeless live at Heathrow airport, litter lines the rails roads complete with a graffiti backdrop of gang signs and profanity, and the endless clouds and rain complete the picture of despair. Taking the train home during rush hour shows me people whose faces are lined with worries and aged from too much tobacco and alcohol. This is compounded with that fact that as a rule no one smiles at each other, and to communicate with a stranger is a social faux-pas of the highest order. I decided today to smile at an older gentleman and comment on his ingenuity to put his newspaper on the seat in front of him so he could put his feet up- he looked up at me and literally grumbled frowned and then ignored me completely.
What kind of society dictates that to be kind is unacceptable?
A funny note stemming from this thought, I think it is finally time I told you about my mini miracle of over a week ago. Last Monday I bumped into, I believe, eight sets of missionaries. I met two wonderful senior missionary couples who treated me to dinner. Their kindness was God sent. When meeting the last set of missionaries I realized maybe they were a sign that I needed to be a better missionary, and because I talked to them, I missed my train home and had to wait for another to come. Once on the train I noticed an old man who seemed upset. I can’t tell you how I could tell expect his motions seemed irritated. However, having adopting the London attitude of wearing headphones to signal the inability to chat, I ignored him. Still, I felt the need to ask him if he was ok. I ignored that prompting until I felt it again. So I took out my headphones, turned to him, and said, “How are you today?” He turned and looked with a fascinating mixture of stunned shock and a small part mischievous smile and replied, “How do people respond when you talk to them like that? People around here just don’t do that.” I laughed as I told him, “Well, the moment I open my mouth they know I’m American and so I get away with it… and I also get away with it as a cute blonde girl.” He grunted and told me that, “Indeed, you do not appear to be very threatening.” When I asked again how he was he replied that he was just surviving that day and had been only surviving for a while now. I told I was sorry for that and his response was, “well surviving is better than not surviving.” One cannot argue with that I suppose. We chatted a bit. He was curious what an American was doing in England and I mentioned that my mission helped with my being able to talk to anybody (even grumpy old men on trains- though I didn’t say that) still I wanted to do something more for him. I had bought chocolate on a whim earlier that day. I offered him a piece. His response was priceless as he told me, “I can’t because of diabetes.” I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were a diabetic.” Him- “I’m not but that chocolate might make me one.” 🙂 (too funny) I told him I didn’t think that one chocolate would cause his demise and I really wanted him to have a piece so that it might help his day go a bit better and his tomorrow too. On his way off the train I again felt like I needed to tell him something more. At first I hesitated but thought… what the heck. I told him “God be with you. I pray He blesses your tomorrows.” He kind of waved that off as he exited but he stopped at my window…smiled… and waved goodbye. I knew in that moment that I did indeed bump into all those missionaries for a reason. That God needed me to let this man know that people saw him and cared. I knew that I am who I am for reasons like this- someone who can talk to grumpy old men on a train and laugh about diabetes with one piece of chocolate. I knew that I could be here in London and be a source of good because I am not scared to speak up. (More on this in tomorrow’s post)
(More rant…) It is frustrating that I missed sacrament this week because they closed the whole train station and an underground station which meant over an hour delay in my getting to London. And tomorrow is yet another strike. It’s the buses turn to strike and so if a little old lady needs to go somewhere she will have to brave ice and snow. I miss home. I miss my dog so much that I have dreamed about him multiple times and I miss the United States where we have issues- but they are issues I know how to deal with. I read in the paper about the 15th knife fight death that has occurred at parties this year in London and thought- yes we may have gun control problems but if you outlaw guns then people will simply find something else to use. There are problems everywhere. Perhaps the thing for me to get from this is to not idolize any country or region. Europe seemed so amazing (though I am and will always be a die-hard US citizen and staunch believer in the constitution) Europe seemed to have something we lacked. Now though I see it for what it is… a place that also houses the imperfect human race and is therefore- imperfect. Perhaps I can learn from the good but also see the bad and know more fully what it is that I truly appreciate and love about my country and what things we can change and improve. This will be my goal while I am here. To see the good and the bad so that when I come home I can more clearly see what it is that is in front of me.
Yes almost all of this whole post has been a rant. But as I finally took my laptop with me into the city today with the intent to find a painting that I love to inspire my writing, only to find out that the gallery is closed- well a rant is what you get…. Until next time. 🙂 Night everyone. May God bless you and may your tomorrow’s be better than your today’s.