Well, I’ve now been to a couple more British towns–Great Yarmouth on the coast, and Mountfitchet near London, to be specific. I’ve done no actual driving in England, thank God, because it’s disorienting enough for me to drive on the left side of the road and sit on the left side of the car, but I can’t even imagine having to deal with figuring out right-hand turns and those horrible roundabouts. My dad’s a good driver and he’s needed a lot of practice to get even halfway decent here. For me it would pretty much be like relearning how to drive all over again, and I wasn’t that keen on driving when I started in the first place (I didn’t get my license until I was 17, I think). Also British drivers are CRAZY. Not as bad as Turkish drivers by a long shot, but they are crazy, even on narrow streets made narrower by cars parked along one side, essentially turning it into a single-lane road, except people are still driving both ways in it.
For some reason, too, seeing all these European cars is making me homesick in a way that many other things here just haven’t. I mean, the weakness of the dollar is driving me crazy, and while it’s not a bad thing I’m intensely aware of the fact that my accent marks me as not British the second I open my mouth, but none of that has made me actually homesick for America. All this driving…well, maybe it’s just that I want to be on a real vacation, which is to say, probably somewhere in the U.S. and definitely not while I’m in school. It’s not a vacation if you’re still taking classes and worrying about reading and papers. I suppose that could be it. Still, I had a pretty good pang of homesickness every time I saw a type of car that looked more like what I’m used to, and I started getting sick of all the little European cars. There’s no logical reason for that, of course–things I’m familiar with aren’t better simply because I’m familiar with them–but there you go. Weird things make me homesick and I’m apparently more passionately devoted to minutia of my own country than I ever would’ve suspected. That or it’s just that people inherently like being surrounded by what’s familiar to them, especially in everyday things like road signs and cars. Something new and different is nice–as long as it isn’t too fundamentally new and different. Then it throws a wrench in your brain and it’s almost as traumatic as a worldview shift: “Hey, their license plates look funny and they don’t drive like we do and…that works for them? Weird.”
Which is to say, this semester will probably be educational in a lot more ways than just whatever I learn in my modules.
Anyway, yeah, lots of driving. Lots of English countryside. It’s…different from U.S. countryside and I’m not completely sure how. In some ways the fields in England look pretty much just like fields in the Midwest, except they just don’t. They’re generally smaller and a bit more uneven, and in some way I can’t really explain, they look like they’ve been fields longer. And they have, of course, it’s just very strange to realize that they look it. The other strange thing is looking around at the countryside and realizing that none of it is truly wild. That’s true of the Midwest too, of course, but I suppose I’m more used to other places where a good portion of it is wilderness or something similar that has looked pretty much that way for the last few millennia, barring really catastrophic geologic events. That’s not true here. I doubt there’s a single square mile of this island that hasn’t been touched significantly by man. That’s what happens when Western civilization inhabits a place for a long time, I guess.
You know, I really do have more to talk about, but I’ve got other things I need to do too, like this thesis proposal that I should’ve done months ago…and right now I just can’t be bothered. :p
mp3: Loreena McKennitt – The Mummers’ Dance (buy)