Just a few weeks ago I was beyond fortunate enough to travel to the United Kingdom where I met up with McDonough’s own Arielle Jennings and Monica Short... Arielle, if you’ll recall, served as Director of the Office of Civic Engagement up until last year when she moved to England to take on a new position at Wellington College and be with her now-husband Jim. My other weekend companion, Monica, is just one country over from me as she spends her semester studying in the south of France. (Psst, check out her McDonough blog site at http://mcdonoughworldwidefranceaixenprovence.blogspot.com.es/)
So what grand occasion brought us all together? Why, a wedding of course! The 29th marked Arielle and Jim’s wedding in the charming and picturesque town of Crowthorne, England (about an hour outside of London.) Being reunited with two members of the McDonough family was truly wonderful beyond words. Even if it was only for a few days, seeing Rel and Monica reminded of the love and connections I have back home in Marietta.
|Monica, Arielle, and I at Wellington College in Crowthorne.|
So how did I fare in foggy, London town? Quite simply, I adored it. While you may be thinking that I loved London because they speak English, hearing English again was actually my biggest challenge (aside from crossing the street, that left-side of the road thing is confusing.) After living for three months in Madrid, my ears have become accustomed to the lyrical and rapid-paced flow of Spanish.
Being thrown into an English-speaking country again was something of an assault to my senses. For the first few hours or so, I couldn’t even tell if I hearing English… Thankfully though, Monica was by my side to serve as a translator. And after a bit, my brain did in fact start to understand English again. Once that problem was solved, the weekend was more or less smooth sailing (minus the sprinting to catch the many, many trains.)
|Some highlights from London.|
But of all my memories from London, one of my favorite ones actually happened at the train station about ten minutes before I was about to leave the city and return home.
|King's Cross Station.|
As I was purchasing my train ticket to take me to Stansted Airport, the clerk went to swipe my credit card. Before she could, I hastily stated, “Oh, sorry, it doesn't have a chip.” (European credit cards have a little section known as a chip that allows them to be read by the machine.) She slowly looked up at me, judgment written all across her face. She asked, “You’re from America, aren't you?” She said I more like a statement then a question.
I was thrown for a second at her blunt tone, but politely replied, “Yep, I am. I can’t figure out why American cards don’t have chips, I mean everyone else does!” She paused for a brief moment, and then chuckled, “I guess that’s The United States for you, always having to do things differently!”
We both laughed together and I breathed a sigh of relief that the tension had been removed from our conversation. Now wearing a smile on her face, the woman continued, “So the airport, huh? Where you headed, back to the States?” I merrily responded, “No, I’m actually headed for Madrid. I’m studying there for the semester.” She gave me a quizzical look and asked why an American would want to study in Spain.
I then explained to her that I think it’s important for people to see the world so that they can experience different perspectives and grow. I said that too many people never leave home and end up trapped in their comfort zones their whole lives, never knowing that there’s so much more out there.
As she stared at me in silence, I worried that I had said something wrong… But suddenly she aggressively nodded her head and exclaimed, “Yeah, exactly! That’s exactly right.” She then happily handed me my train ticket and wished me a good journey home.
And as the train whisked me out of the city, I couldn't help but smile... Some days, when I laugh too loud on the metro, or wear my mismatched socks, or butcher a phrase in Spanish, I am that stereotypical, annoying American that so many Europeans envision.
But some days, I am the exception. Some days, I have the chance to change someone’s opinion of me and where I come from. Some days, even if it’s only one interaction at a time, I get to change the world.