Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lady at the Hair Salon

"What do I think about London? I don't like it as much as I used to. It used to be so nice, now its just too expensive. The rates....they are just taxing the poor and giving it to the rich! Otherwise how are the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer?"

Friday, November 15, 2013

In a Souvenir Shop...

"Where are you from"
"Sri Lanka. I am doing my PhD here."
"How long have you been here?"
"7 years in UK. 2 years in London."
"Has London changed you in any way?"
"Yes, I think so. I have been able to increase my practical knowledge. I have access to so many more resources and lecturers in my field. It wasn't the same in Sri Lanka."
"Have you ever face anything because of your ethnicity?"
"No. Never. In fact I have faced worse back home because of the war. Here I have freedom to do anything I want."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homer and Brigadier

"Are you from London?"
"Yes. I was born here."
"What do you think of London?"
"It's a nice city. Beautiful. But it's like a carpet, you don't see a lot of things. I am homeless and I've been on this street for 17 years. They don't give us enough. Breakfast is a piece of toast. It's not enough. But otherwise, I like this city.

On the Strand

"Are you from London?"
"What do you think about it?"
"It's nice. A lot of cultures...different people."
"What's the best thing about it?"
"The best thing? That's difficult...I think the social life is good. A lot of clubs and pubs to go.It's very active."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stephen on Londoners

This is Stephen. I see him everyday on my way to LSE. He's always doing these poses to get people to buy his magazines. Today I stopped to talk to him and this is what happened-

"Hi! Can I take your picture?"
"You can do anything you want darlin'. "
"Are you from London"
"No, but I've been here for long. Since 2004. "
"What do you think about the people here?"
"Stressed out. They all are stressed out. It's probably all the money. Always in a hurry. Makes them full of themselves. They don't seem contented. They could be, I don't know. Of course I know good people too, but if you take a percentage, most of them are mean. "

Monday, November 11, 2013

The real stuff

At my lowest moments here in London, I keep dreaming of Malaysia. Malaysia was bright, sunny and loud. Always. England, on the other hand, likes to keep you on the edge. Nazreen was right, the initial high of London has worn off and I feel like all I have left are a pile of readings and lecture notes with no time to daydream or take an afternoon off to do nothing. And I keep asking myself, did life suddenly get hard or was everything else before this pretty easy?

I think it’s a bit of both. My life in Malaysia was so simple; all it took to make new friends was one handshake, all it took to relieve stress was walking across the road to knock on your friend’s door. And better yet, everyone knew everyone, because somebody you know will introduce you to the new kid who then turns out to be a friend of an old acquaintance back home who went for tuition classes with your best friend’s younger sister whose boyfriend will also be joining next semester. See what I mean? (Sri Lankans can relate)

But living in London is a whole other ball game. Every time I walk into campus I see a whole sea of faces that I did not see the previous day, people I have not been introduced to, who will never know my name. And suddenly I feel like a small town girl who went from knowing her whole community to being a speck among the crowd. To put it more accurately, a small fish in a very big, scary pond.

In the past few days, in between worrying about how I am going to finish all my readings for a seminar the next day trying not to fall asleep at 8pm from feeling exhausted, I realized what was so different about my life now. As cliché as clichés get, I think I have stepped into the real world. I know this because there is no one patting me on the back and telling me what a great job I’m doing. Nobody giving me a chance to speak unless I raise my hand and demand attention. Nobody guaranteeing me that if I do what I’m told, keep moving forward, everything will fall into place.

As much as this scares me, I am also thankful. Not only for the harsh realities I have to face in this big city now, but for everything that came before it. While Malaysia introduced me to so many wonderful things in life, London is teaching me how to earn it.

And lesson number one, it’s ok to be scared.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bursting the Bubble

I’ve been on an involuntary blogging hiatus. There are a lot of things I want to write about. What I lack is time and if there is time, I am usually in no state to string words together into a coherent form. Mostly, I've just been tired. After the initial high of living in London started wearing down, I was left with just a lot of questions that I wasn’t sure I  wanted to know the answers to.

The thing about going from a relatively small university like UNMC to a HUGE one like LSE (in terms of student population) is that you can just lose your sense of self completely if you aren’t careful enough. For three years I lived in the UNMC bubbIe. It was like a small community where everyone knew everyone else. Of course there was lots of drama, but I felt like I belonged there. Here I feel like a visitor (or a student tourist according to Chalani) most of the time. Maybe it’s the effect of the city or maybe I haven’t given myself enough time. Either way, I spent most of the time moping about how I am not fitting in and it’s just too tough to keep up with everyone else. I was really beating myself down to the point of a break down. And it did happen; at one point I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s tough (and embarrassing)to talk about it, but I guess it is important too- If there is anyone else who is in a similar situation, maybe it’ll help them! So yes, I had a small scene. Cried myself out and worried Chalani and my parents to no end. But finally, I am back on track!

I realize I was building up a lot of it in my head. Yes, living in a huge city is intimidating. Yes, studying in a competitive environment like LSE is taxing. But this was my choice.  I chose to come here. And I need to make sure that I do justice to that choice.

It’s not all been bad of course. I’ve somehow come to a point where I’ve, more or less, formed a routine. I am waking up earlier, reading more and even cooking more! 

I know the rule- Pictures or it never happened
The 15 minute walk to LSE is my self reflection time. I take my time, walking slowly,gazing at shop displays, jay walking every once in a while, skipping puddles and navigating myself through the sea of suits. I’ve made some unexpected acquaintances too, mostly servers at restaurants. Like the guy at this wrap place (halal!) near our hall, I go there almost every other day. The last time I went he had a loyalty card ready for me without even asking. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud.

The tourist in me has slowly begun to fade. I don't find everything alien. Now when I go to Trafalgar square I no longer take pictures, I just go there to sit and watch people (in a non-creepy way) be touristy. And I definitely find myself mocking people taking pictures inside the red telephones booths! Who does that? (Okay, I did. Once)

So at the end of the day, letting go of that bubble is painful. But I need that. I need to be propelled into reality and face life by myself. It’s difficult, but I think I’ll be okay.