London? We need a word

What happened to you? You’ve become clamourous, and I’m not sure I like this new personality change all of a sudden. Or is the honeymoon period finally over? Do we call it quits now? I don’t want another ex, it was hard splitting up with Tokyo. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this break up.

The truth is we are getting irritated with each other, I can no longer stand your fast-pace lifestyle and I’m sure as hell you think I’m getting a little boring. I just can’t keep up; your cereal cafes, toilet bars are getting a little ridiculous and your schedule a little hard to keep with. You have good traits too, I mean for every porridge cafe, there’s a cat cafe.

But your quirkiness seems false, as if you’re trying to hard to impress the new guys. I’m kind of getting sick of you playing up all your good points and brushing aside your faults. We all have them and its okay. It’s okay to be a little misunderstood, at 27 I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be fully understood. And you’re what pushing 2100? Or something like that?

Let’s talk faults, you’re getting rowdy, a bit too big for your boots per se. There was the Olympics and you throw a good party I’ll give you that but you also overspend.  And you don’t delve into your own pocket enough, you borrow, borrow borrow and then spend, spend, spend. Sometimes I’m wondering when I’m going to get all this money back that I invested in all this glam.

I’m not trying to rub your nose in all of your faults. You do have good ones, remember that day when you held that shindig for William and Kate? Or when you made all your museums free? Score one for you. You’re multicultural, you have friends from all over. Unlike Tokyo you’re pretty accepting of all their cultural particulars as well. That’s awesome.

London: Liverpool Street

London: Liverpool Street

But London, this competitive streak you seem to be having with New York has to stop, your once beautiful face is full of craters, cranes and smoke.  It’s painful to see you go through this downward spiral, just because of a little insecurity. I know New York is your younger, more popular sister. But let it go, don’t try to keep with the youngsters; be who you are, be that beautiful crafted storytelling older sister, we love to have around for a pint. Not this pretentious overspending, sometimes obnoxious New York mannequin. You’re better than that.

I want to break free

February, 2011, Seoul, Korea

February 2011, Seoul, Korea

Mind of a traveller

I was 23 in Japan, living a life free of responsibility, every young 20 something dream. Yet there I was, residing in a cramped one-bedroom flat, wishing that I made different choices.

A mild state of depression slowly crept over me, causing me to reevaluate my current situation.  The tsunami hitting northern Japan,  causing a radiation leak at the Fukushima plant. The situation made me feel entirely helpless,  for a while I pondered about how my life had led me here, in this tiny bedsit, watching the walls alone. Wishing the time away; hoping something –anything that would come along and put me on the right path towards contentment.

The anxiety didn’t let up when my brother visited me that year, if anything I saw his freedom to explore the world and I envied it. During most March 2011, we were trapped in my flat too scared by all the fear-mongering of the British media about radiation poisoning to venture outside. A feeling of being imprisoned slowly took over, as trains were cancelled, flights delayed and food scarce.

Some might say that I was ungrateful, and looking back at it, maybe I was. But even after the threat of radiation had died down, I woke up everyday almost in tears. I went to a job I had no passion for only to increase my bank balance and secure my visa.

Flights out of the country became too expensive, the low job prospects back at home, promises made to friends I had to keep;  the chains were tight and every time I resisted it only toughened its grasp.

As an expatriate, friends come and go, and there is never a ‘forever’, only for those who have set up shop here with families and I had no temptation to follow, if anything there attitudes towards Japan only made me want to leave even more.

Two years later still miserable I knew I had overstayed my welcome.  Rather than book a ticket straight out of Japan, I opted to visit Fukuoka, costing me no more than a few hundred pounds.  After a brief romantic encounter with an Australian; I was in the air –literally (and figuratively).

Travelling is a life-changing event that affects people’s way of thinking, but you also find yourself appreciating home-comforts. Once I landed at Heathrow, I inhaled the multiculturalism of London and my first week passed in a blur of museums, long walks, and “good ol’ English pubs”. This was home.

The long job applications started and I was working within the first three weeks of being back home.  The job I had trained for and tried vainly to find in Tokyo. An ideal situation to most but it happened again; the stability had started to cause an unease. I was in a situation where I had total control, which ironically made me scared.

I was becoming an “everyday robot” and I ceased the opportunity to fly off again, this time to New York.

But it wasn’t enough, I was travelling to modern cities, while I had always thrived on the historical sites, nature reserves and mountains a country had to offer.  There was no stopping me from climbing mountains, visiting temples –seeing the world.

A few weeks ago, at my computer I scrolled through volunteer opportunities online. With the savings I had accumulated I booked my first expedition to Peru to help on an archaeological dig at Vilcabamba.  It did the trick, and settled my self-induced anxiety.  Jealousy still gets the best of me when I see tourists wandering through London, exploring the hidden  alley ways, or discovering that quaint little pub behind the promenade of shops in Holborn. But, I know its only a matter of time before I’m on the road (again.)

 

Oh London Town

Typical Londoner. (Myself)

London with all of its crime, pollution and lack of common courtesy from commuters nevertheless still remains one of my favorite cities in the world. Granted, you may think that’s typical coming from a born and bred Londoner, but that’s just it, don’t many people berate their own place of upbringing?  After two years in Bath studying for my Creative Writing degree I had dreamt of living in Tokyo to get away from the hypocrisy of middle-class life (though I am working-class South Londoner and proud), for those of you reading this on a whim; mission accomplished.

I know many people from the counties of England, detest the smoke and noise of London’s city limits, but honestly living in a place where urban and rural borders are so heavily blurred I admire the fact that it only takes 20 minutes to get some real greenery away from London’s city centre.  During my time traveling around Europe I noticed a real lack of live music and although Paris with all its artisans and poets it possesses actively prohibits busking on the streets (maybe  it’s time for a revisit, just to be sure). I’m not just talking about the common Underground busker either.  London has an array of street artists on every corner, pubs offer open-mic nights for free, every shopping arcade has at least one person playing a violin or guitar.

Of course after being away for so long, one might think that all I’m experiencing is a bout of home-sickness which one has after living almost 4 years abroad, but it’s not just that.  During my time in London, I never once appreciated the fact that I could easily see the remnants of Cleopatra of Thebes in The British Museum, nor did I truly acknowledge the fact that if I wanted authentic Indian, Jamaican, Mexican, Peruvian dining they were all accessible to me at anytime (apart from after 11pm).

I never look up, this bad habit was further instilled in me during my time in Tokyo, now come to think of it I think I know why my neck is always sore. Therefore, I decided during this visit to London that I would always (or at least partially) look up.  You might think that strange, but truthfully I wished I had done it sooner.  Georgian,  Victorian,  Tudor architecture can also be seen so readily if one just takes their eyes away from the chewing gum engrained pavements.  Unlike New York or Tokyo which is shrouded by a concrete jungle, London has a relatively open environment.

Now, what I truly admire about London is its diversity, nationalities from every corner of the world seem to congregate there.  British nationals from immigrant parents or an immigrant parent (much like myself) add variety.  Homogenous societies rather intimidate me, they make me feel slightly alienated, maybe that comes from my own insecurities, but I never felt that way walking the streets of London. Though London does have it’s fair share of racism, I doubt you’ll be ostracized for being the only one of your race in your company or class.

I’m not adverse to criticizing London, for all its culture, diversity and history, it could do with a decent railway system that runs on time and the price of a pint of Guinness could be reduced to at least £3. Also customer service seems to be deteriorating every time I go back (I’m looking at you Gipsy Hill Rail staff), though I’ve experienced much worse in other countries. I’m making comparisons (I know) though I know this is a sentiment I can’t avoid. My time abroad has matured me in ways that London probably could not have, but if maturing and growing a sense of self means falling in love slightly more with history, culture and diversity then bring it on I say.