Perhaps you’ve heard people say “TMI” when someone shares “Too Much Information,” but the other day while on the train, my friend tried to say “TMI” and ended up saying “TMA,” which I immediately said stood for “Too Much American.” Because, let’s be honest, we were loud and obnoxious on the train. So… as I’ve now been out of the U.S. a month, I’ve found a somewhat subtle way to refer to instances when my friends and I sound utterly annoying and, well,… American.
This weekend was a bit of a “TMA” experience when I, along with my thirty classmates, headed up to Edinburgh, Scotland. Traveling with a large group of Americans made me appreciate my time in France by myself where I could do what I pleased, when I pleased and didn’t have to display my ignorant American-ness so obviously (only when people spoke to me in French, and then there was a problem!) I’ve been to Edinburgh before and loved it, but this time on an “educational” trip it was a bit different than my past experiences. We managed to pack a lot into the 2 days we were there with class (here we go, laundry list time): Edinburgh Castle, Royal Mile, St. Giles, Holyrood House, Scottish Parliament, Scottish National Musuem, Scottish National Gallery…) Of course, there was the classic drama the accompanied the trip now that our school group has been together for three weeks. I could have done without that, but was happy to leave them on Saturday afternoon when I could go and see some friends who are in Edinburgh. I bought a train ticket back to London on Sunday so I could visit. For those who may know them, I managed to see Nicola Stephen, Katie Shaiman, Stephen, Katherine Staples, Meg and Calum. It was fun to run around (using the train station as a meeting point for all my socializing, of course) Edinburgh with some old friends and catch up. At one point I felt like I could have been sitting at U-Village Starbucks just chatting it up on any old weekend. It’s nice to find little bits of home while abroad. And just for the record, I’ve only been to Starbucks twice since I have been away from home, and the second time was only because Calum and Meg suggested it as a convenient location!!
Discussing with some other Americans the differences we’ve encountered here was of course helpful. It may seem as though there aren’t any, but it’s when you live here and spend time living a daily routine that I think you begin to encounter subtle differences. For instance, Katie Shaiman (and I was so glad to hear her say this) said there is a certain amount of “translating” that she has to do while in school. Yes, people speak English in the UK, but… for instance, Jan (my host mom, or should I say “mum”?) kept talking about how she had a “rou” (I don’t even know to how spell it! pronounced like “ow” with an r in front) with some people at work. A rou?? Ohh… it’s like a fight, or disagreement. But she kept saying it, and while I was trying to figure out what it was, she kept talking, so I kept trying to listen and then had to have the awkward pause when she was done in order for there to be time for me to comprehend all she had said. So, no, it’s not a foreign language, but sometimes I wonder.
So the trip was successful, I managed to make it back on my own last night to London. Only two girls from our group missed the train in Scotland for the trip back to London with school… unbelievable!! (Those are the situations I’m happy enough not have to have to deal with.) 🙂 It did occur to me though, why isn’t train travel bigger in the U.S? It just makes so much sense! And if there were a better/more popular system it would be a nice alternative to getting back and forth from Seattle to Spokane every once in a while (though I do love Southwest!) I enjoyed being able to look out the window though, and when we came along the coast, it was beautiful!! COLD and WINDY, but beautiful. I didn’t realize how much I had missed seeing open spaces these last couple weeks in London, but a breath of fresh sea air was great! So, I didn’t get much work done on the ride up to Scotland because I was too busy soaking in all that was around me. While others pulled out their books and let their mouths hang open while sleeping, I was wide-eyed at the window and appreciating that it was a “typical” Thursday and I was headed to Scotland and somehow getting college credit for it!
So, Scotland was great. I was very happy to visit it once again, the magic never seems to fade! Otherwise I’ve been convincing myself that schoolwork is somewhat of a necessity when in school, so last week was pretty standard.
Two other quick reflections about my time here before I have to go and meet Liz Brown for dinner (she’s studying in Rome and is in London at the moment for her spring break – I’m very spoiled with all the people I’m able to see!). The first thought is that as soon as people find that I’m American they think I must have some deep political insight into the current election. They ALWAYS ask about Hillary and Obama, who I would rather have, is the U.S. ready for a black or woman president, what happens if they end up running against each other?! And so it goes… I tell them what little I can (like how Hillary and Obama can’t possibly be the two final candidates since they’re in the same party) and usually end up explaining the electoral college, but, honestly, I feel about the same here as I would at home… I care, but not that much. So I’ve talked more American politics since I’ve been here than I ever would have at home.
And lastly, upon my departure people told me over and over again that I should do things I wouldn’t normally do and try a ton of new things. So, just for the record, I have. Some of that includes trying a few of the British beers, getting a free a ticket to a play every chance I have and also going to Tesco (British Safeway) on the way to the tube station and grabbing a chocolate crossiant because sometimes that’s just what you need to make it home on the tube during rush hour without losing your mind. There are, of course, other things… I don’t consider my biggest adventure here going to the pastry aisle of the grocery store (though that is something I rarely do at home), but I can’t give away all the stories… there are more to come!
Prague this weekend with the girls from school – that will be an adventure for sure!! Must be off to meet Liz. There are a few more pictures posted on flickr that you can check out. Love and miss you all, thanks for all the emails, so good to hear from all of you!! Until next time…