Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Understanding the U.K.

from the diary: “Monday 9/5/88

“Mom & I went to Salmon Creek Beach this morning fairly early. I brought along my scarf and was grateful for it. Chilly – ooh. I picked up a small piece of driftwood and a particularly nice gull feather which I think I’ll take along to gift to my English family in lieu of the ‘plant or chocolate’ that the AIFS handbook recommends upon arrival.

“An interesting and helpful book I picked up, Understanding the U.K. (published ’87) recommends taking along some little American thingies to give to new friends in Britain. Yeah, any souvenirs I take along would be ‘made in Taiwan.’ I can’t think of anything to take, anything that wouldn’t uncomfortably drain my cash reserves or take up space in the luggage.”

I don’t know why I let spring & summer of 1988 pass largely unrecorded in my diary. I had been protesting that I was tired of hearing myself talk; I got tired of talking to myself in my journal, too, I suppose. I wanted a big change, something that would catapult me from the rut I was stuck in. I had $5000 saved. That was enough to purchase a car. A used car, but a decent one. But it was also enough to do something else. And the something else I decided on was a semester in London. Here was an opportunity to live somewhere totally different for three months, a place with lots of possibilities, abroad. Perhaps I could visit the continent at the midterm break. I knew when I got back that I would be poor again, that I would be stuck in Sebastopol as ever. Then again – I would have gotten away! Really away! The JC also offered a semester in Spain, I think, and Italy. I considered those. My Spanish was so halting that I didn’t want to have to rely on it, and I’m shy, I didn’t want any more barriers than I could help.

It was essentially an SRJC semester transplanted. We brought our professors with us. We had the option of taking additional classes at a college in London. I applied for a homestay with a London family. The family that took me was Anglo-American, the wife was American and worked for AIFS (the American Institute for Foreign Study), the company that put together the program. They had two young kids, a girl and boy. As a gift I brought a jar of Mendocino Mustard. I remember worrying that the glass might break in my luggage.

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