Sunday, October 05, 2008

Kitenge in London

The move to London has been a contemplative transition. It’s prompted me to ask profound questions about the universe and the nature of life, such as: Do all the women in London live with feet that hurt? Or do they adjust to walking long distances at frantic paces in such high heels? Are all the people in London cold? They must not be. They must adjust, because when they are in short sleeved shirts on a pleasantly sunny autumn day I’m still fidgeting with my scarf and sweater (I think I’ll keep calling a sweater a sweater. I am comfortable with changing my vernacular from trash to rubbish, cilantro to corriander and a toilet to a lieu, and pants to trousers, but calling a sweater a jumper conjures images of myself in the eighties and dress-like things with huge arm holes I wore over turtle necks --I’m happy to leave that memory in the past) and occasionally shivering.

Tina met me at the airport with a housewarming orchid, a big hug and smile and all the makings for supper in her weekend bag. The next three days she gave me a crash course in shopping and public transportation in London. Yesterday when I picked Ben up from the airport I appreciated my progress in London geography as I tried to pass it on. I was even asked for directions inside the tube by an elderly Italian man and I was actually able to direct him. I missed my train in the process, but another one came a minute later and it was unquestionable worth the little delay to help him. He grabbed both of my hands and shook them and said, “bless you!” It is not easy being a foreigner in a strange place.

At least I’ve got the geography of my new kitchen down now. Our house-mate is out of town so we’re exploring on our own (though he left us such a thoughtful welcome in our room we felt warmly received). I know where the herbs, pots and pans and the plates are located. I even know where to go to re-stock the kitchen. There are small supermarkets and vendors with butchers and fruits and veggies in walking distance. Our neighbourhood (According to a friendly Indian shop owner who made me tea and chatted with me while fixing a broken pair of earrings he refused let me pay for) has about one third actual British people and the rest are mostly from Nigeria, Somalia, Ghana, India and Pakistan. I felt so at home yesterday in the supermarket when a woman used a piece of kitenge fabric and re-tied her baby on her back exactly the way Ugandan moms do. People in the neighbourhood have, so far, been friendly, they even say hello when you pass them on the street sometimes. Tina says that’s so not like London. When I told Ben about the old man in the subway he said the same thing. But it is characteristic of my experience of London in the first few weeks.

I spent the weekend in the country. That is what it feels like after this city just a short train ride away to mom and dad’s house. We went to the market in Hitchin and stopped by their local pub for strawberry beer. We caught up on life and they drove me in to London with some of our things we’d left at their house. It will be really good to live near them this year.

I registered at the London School of Economic & Political Science last week, so I have now officially re-entered the academic world. I expect studies to get more intense in the next weeks, but until then it’s a nice time to get settled in a new place. We will still blog, not just about our lives and musings in London. We will continue to focus on northern Uganda in both of our studies and connecting our thoughts and work towards building peace there.


Jodi said...

It is great to hear your stories of arriving in London. I can picture everything you are describing. Wish we were there to introduce to London from our perpective. Miss you loads. So many small every day things that I know you would appreciate have happened recently. Love your comment about the Kitenge. Hope you continue to enjoy this transition period and you feel at home soon. xx

Anonymous said...

Holly--thanks so much for our postings--I miss one from Colorado, though--how was that brief time at home? The wedding photos are great and it seems the Lord is blessing you with London transition experiences that keep you from being too homesick. Dale and Marika and the new SALTers are all at Aboke right now, at the commemorative prayers. We drove back from Kitgum to Kampala yesterday in order to have an office day before leaving for 12 days in Arusha (meetings) and Kenya (3 days rest). We miss you so much--we saw Mary at the CPA Kitgum office when we stopped by.
Please tell Ben we're looking forward to his blogs as well. Love to you both, Gann

The Stouts said...

Holly, so good to hear things are going well with you. I loved the pictures from Tina's wedding. She looks so much like you now that she's "grown up" ;). I love you.

Holly & Ben Porter said...

The brief time home was too brief! I loved it, and wanted it to last at least one more week. I spent time with friends and family. It was really nice to process with so many deeply caring people who always challenge me in new ways to grow. I had a great girls night out on my birthday and I got to do things that were long overdue-like visiting my grandfather's grave. He died while I was in Uganda. It was a significant moment to honor, remember and grieve him with my uncle and my grandma. (as a side note, I was struck for the first time by American loss in the Iraq war. It's an unbalanced perspective, I recognize, but I tend to think about Iraqi deaths. My grandpa is buried in a military cemetary and I was deeply saddened by all the new tombstones that stretched beyond his that had birthdays several years after my own, and all read 'Gulf War'.)

OlgafromBaku said...

I love Hitchin! I greatly enjoyed visiting your parents when being in the uk!Loved your stories on relocation to Europe.
Hope London is treating you well; it can be so busy, but still it got an amazing vibe!
Enjoy your weekend!