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Only From Afar

Diamond Jubilee Weekend!

I watched the pomp and circumstance – no one does this quite as well as the British.

A – M – A – Z – I – N – G

I watched the bunting, the street parties – everyone celebrating!  So much fun!

I even watched the British weather.  Oh dear…

I watched it all.  But only from afar.  Only on television.  And on Facebook.  I wasn’t part of it.  And that hurt.  A lot.

Most of the time, life just trundles along.  There are dramatic events (good and bad) in individual lives but for a nation as a whole, things just go on.

Some events hog the headlines for a while, but then they’re forgotten.

And then there are events that provide a focal point, that bring people together.  Reality with all its different facets will be back soon enough.  But for this brief moment, we celebrate all that is good.

These events become part of the national folklore, they somehow change a nation a little bit.  They provide a shared experience that otherwise we don’t have very often.

It seems the Diamond Jubilee is just such an event for the UK, my adopted home.  And I missed it.  Another step away from truly belonging there.

That made me very homesick.


PS The Queen agrees with me on the significance of the event: “The Queen has spoken of events to mark her Diamond Jubilee as a “humbling experience” which she hoped would “brighten our lives for many years to come”.”

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Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Or not???

Last month, CNN reported that apparently tourists find the French the least welcoming of all nationalities, while Brazilians are the most welcoming (you can read the full article here).  I have to confess to feeling a slight sense of relief that Germany did not top this particular poll 🙂 In fact, we only come in at number 4, behind Russia and the UK.

The UK???  Now they really had my attention!  I might be slightly biased but I’ve always found Brits to be incredibly friendly and welcoming.  And so encouraging and appreciative of even the tiniest bit of English visitors speak.  There are always exceptions, of course there are, but on the whole that’s always been my experience.

I wonder how people decide whether a place and its people are welcoming or not.  Is it dependent on whether or not things go their way?  Whether or not local people speak the visitor’s language, thus making things easy for him or her?

Particularly as tourists, we tend to come to a new place with so many expectations, and often with very little willingness to learn, to understand, to be challenged, to meet people on their turf.  No wonder things often go so very wrong!  A few things happen that confirm my preconceived ideas and suddenly I “know” that in [fill in appropriate country] people are rude/unwelcoming/arrogant/etc.

The article makes some very good points about differences in culture and values.

“The French are very protective of their language, and customers can get different responses for ordering in French or in another language,” said Lo. […] According to Yi, though queuing is a social norm in the West, it’s not a common behavior for Chinese people, “so [it] could be interpreted as being rude [by international travelers.] […] “[These waitresses] don’t have the confidence or language skill to handle foreign travelers. Sometimes, they’d rather avoid them,” said Lo.

So maybe the waitress I wrote off as being rude might just be feeling very insecure as I am making her speak a second language.  And the man in a shop in the Middle East might actually be showing me respect by not looking me in the face.

It’s not easy getting over my emotional responses to things but not treating people as just a colourful backdrop to my holiday experience (bit like a theme park) and instead remembering that I am visiting people in their home, as it were (even if I’m paying), is very helpful. There is so much fun to be had by adjusting my attitude!

OK, getting down from my soapbox now 😉

And yes, there definitely are rude people in each and every country!

However, I still don’t understand how the UK could possibly come in at number 3!

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Large chunks of my heart…

In the months before I left the ME, people kept urging me to disengage and transition back. And I made a conscious decision to “be all there, wherever I was.” And I don’t regret that at all—I’d do it again. What I do regret was that I failed to apply that rule when I started over in the States. I’m being taught to “be all here”even while large chunks of my heart are in another world, with another people. I think it’s a most excellent problem to have—the challenge to balance yourself, your interests, your relationships, your conversations, your love. I’m here for “such a time as this”—to engage with those who are right before me. This is a reality, too, and this American life is worthy of my full attention and energy, especially when I firmly believe that our Father is forever sustaining us, preparing us and directing our steps.

Large chunks of MY heart will forever be in the crazy country that comes up with things like this:

Can’t stand Marmite (or even Ma’amite) but love love love the humour!

Yup, never again will my heart be all in one place.  At times, I feel a huge need to cling on to “that place”.  To make my apartment a shrine filled with Union Jacks.  To listen to the BBC 24/7.  To not be all here, in this place and this life.  To not allow new treasures to be added to (and mixed in with) the ones from across the channel.  Most people won’t understand.  How could they (after all, there are many things about their lives I will never understand either).  But there are some who do and for those I am deeply thankful.

I long to arrive at the place where I am able to

engage in both worlds with a beautiful balance.

(Quotes are from the blog post “Back to Amreeka: They Don’t Know… “.  Click here to read the whole thing.)

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My life on my wall

I finally got round to putting up pictures in my hallway.  Hunting down just the right frame for each of the cards took ages.  But it was so worth it!

These images bring back so many memories and they make me smile each time I walk past.  Which is quite often, as all the rooms in my apartment are off this hallway!

Unsurprisingly, there are Union Jacks galore!  I just love that crazy country and am so thankful I got to spend 16 years of my life there!

Russia.  One year of living there, and a number of shorter trips.  Not very long, but I still seem to have left a bit of my heart there.  What a place!

Then there are the gorgeous  Indian shoes.  What a riot of colour!  I have never actually been to India but have spent many hours in Sparkhill, the “Little India/Pakistan/Bangladesh” of Birmingham.  Colour is what stands out, especially on a grey November day!  Amazing!

And then there is a fairly generic African picture.  I have only spent a few weeks on that continent but this picture does conjure up some of the atmosphere I remember.

And in between a world map – so I can dream about all the places I have yet to see!  I love maps 🙂