Lisbon y Barcelona

Three weeks have passed since I moved to London.  The first was spent at my sister in laws house a little outside of London.  The second, traversing the cobbled streets of Lisbon and gazing at the impressive Gaudi architecture in Barcelona.  The third, acclimating to LSE, getting used to the London commute, buying the ‘new move’ essentials and getting to know my flat mates over a few pints.  Next week is the start of classes.  I’m feeling excited, nervous and anxious.  As I settle into my life here I keep reminding myself, living in London, attending LSE, meeting people from around the world, these are all once in a lifetime opportunities that I cannot, should not, will not take for granted.

My whirlwind international adventure started two weeks ago.  I left on a flight to Lisbon with an old friend, one who I’d thought the door of our friendship had sealed permanently!  Kazuki and I met at Senshu in Japan.  He was working on this PhD then and his friend worked in Senshu’s library.  When I left Japan I wasn’t sure if we would ever see each other again because that is often what happens with the international friends.  As amazing of connections as we have forged, they seem to stay locked in the country and the moment we made them.  As luck would have it, Kaz is in England doing a post-doc and now I’m here for a masters.  Our opportunity had not passed.  We met at dawn, both of our eyes slowly opening, exchanged greetings and hopped on a flight out of Stansted.

After passing out on the uncomfortable economy seats of one of The EU’s popular ‘budget’ airlines we awoke in a new country.  Life was slow, the food was delicious, and the wine was cheap.  That is what I remember about Portugal and Spain.  We spent our days walking the streets for hours.  Finding the most famous sweet or drink and tasting it all.  We stayed in places through Air b n b, cooked some meals in to save cash, and embraced our new nomadic, tourist lives.  For Kaz’s life as a post-doc, it was a respite from the life of an academic.  For me, it was a continued break before the storm of work from my school picks up.  I can’t characterize our travels by one event.  Even now it feels like a blur of events and moments.  A mosaic of so many beautiful things.  The pulse of that crowd at the Barcelona game as Messi scored a goal.  Burning the roof of my mouth eating Churros y Chocolate at a shop on the side of the street.  Laying on the beach all day in Cascais.  Seeing La Sagrada Familia, climbing the towers and watching Barcelona below.  Those are the flashes of a good memory.

Last week I settled in my new dorm.  My flat mates are from all over the world, a small sample of the heterogenous LSE landscape.  One guy and girl are from The Netherlands, one is from The US, and one from China.  Everyone is relaxed and convivial and I appreciate that I’ll be sharing a space with people who can cook together, laugh together, lament our papers and tests together and feel, perhaps for the last time, in this way, like I am a student.  It’s both a strange and yet familiar being a student again.  On one hand, it is something I know far too well.  I was a perpetually long undergraduate due to all the studying and internships abroad and essentially time i spent outside the borders of my home country.  Yet, despite being in a my comfort zone of a new land, I am very much in a foreign world academically.  This Masters will be more directed, more challenging, and hopefully more rewarding.

Surrounding the schools buildings is an old Sherlock Holmes shop, a pub with the name George, beautiful sprawling parks in the center of squares that everyone seems to migrate to around lunch time and traditional British buildings.  More beautiful than this though is my walk home.  Last Friday happened to be my b-day.  A fairly uneventful day by many standards.  And yet, I didn’t seem to mind the lack of cake or candles.  I left campus around 8pm.  The streets were filled with people, pretty standard of London.  As I approached the Thames river the moon was reflecting into water.  The giant ferris wheel known as The Eye, was in my gaze.  Big Ben sat next to it lit up in neon hues.  As I walked toward the bridge to get home, everything felt surreal.  I guess that was my b-day moment.  Taking in the beauty of everything around me.  Making time for myself now that I’m a little older and hopefully a bit wiser to appreciate my new adventure.  I wished I had a camera but decided to squeeze my eyelids shut and take a mental picture.

The festivities that didn’t occur on Friday, certainly happened Saturday.  In the evening, the next day I went out for the first time drinking with two of my flat mates. Kazuki came down for my b-day to hang out.  After walking around all day with Kaz, my flat mates congregated in the narrow hall of our shared floor and departed for a good local pub.  Although we live south of river, we are still in what is considered central London.  What that means is the buildings, the restaurants, the pubs, all have a little antique charm to them.  All around my dorm are the old historic-looking pubs with names like Edwin, George and Charles filled with people on most nights of the week.  We started our walking pub crawl to a place with Karaoke where I had fish n’ chips the week before.  And Karaoke there was.  After enduring the torturous sounds of people already completely smashed screaming into the microphone, something we were far too sober to hear, we needed a new location.

We settled on the closest pub of many to our dorm, one with a much more relaxed atmosphere.  The rest of the night commenced with just four of us sitting around, talking about what I suppose people in bars talk about.  Maybe a bunch of nothing.  Maybe something you get very passionate about in the moment but do not remember the next day.  Maybe a good laugh.  Kaz left to Italy for a conference today.  I stayed in and spent far too long working on my resume.  And while it was productive, my class reading are somewhat more urgent and now being attended to.  Tomorrow is the week again.  The rest of the weekend will leave me with the bustle of the morning commute!