Everyone has an accent

Obviously my ears are doing extra work as I sort through British accents and the British accents mixed into Polish accents, Tamil accents, and French accents among so many others. Myself, I can have a bit of a Virginia drawl but mostly just at home in Fredericksburg.

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I grew up on Colebrook Road, so this felt like a good omen.

We walked into a bank to attempt to open an account (which is no small task as a foreigner), and the branch manager tilted his head to the side, “Am I getting a bit of an accent there?” It was the first time someone located me by my accent. Usually I have felt like an outsider on account of my politics, indigenous heritage, or non-Californian-ness, but never my voice. On the other hand, it also meant that I could blend into the mix that is London (so long as I was quiet). I’m secretly channeling Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady.

They think I have an accent; I think they have an accent. I felt less out of place when I remembered that everyone has an accent; no one is normal.

So, here’s a list of things this particular transplant has noticed:

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"Stay" atop the EU flag

(1)
Immigration is a hot topic here just as it is in California and the US. Here no one assumes I’m Mexican, so I’m getting fewer, awkwardly spoken “GRACIAS” and presumptive, fluently spoken Spanish language encounters. The UK will decide if it’s staying in the EU on June 23, and much of the discussion centers around immigration.

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Nescafe instant coffee

(2)
Beer, wine, and coffee is a sad affair. And I can’t bring myself to try one of these “real Californian” burrito joints.

I do recognize that I just made an exodus from the land flowing with beer, wine, coffee, and tacos. I hope to be reunited with my home brewing equipment and French press soon. In the meantime I am on a (Mexican food) hunger strike and surviving on Nescafe freeze dried coffee. (I know, right?)

I did find a new beer I’m in love with: Pentonville oyster stout. It’s the only beer that has been good, but I plan to spend the week hunting for the brewery.

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First Friday night: at the theatre with my oyster stout to see Boy

(3)
I am delighted with the produce and food here! British farmers know what they’re doing. We have been shopping at a tiny coop across the street from our apartment, and it’s all very affordable and fresh even though it’s local and organic. Butter, cheese, milk, eggs… I’m just sitting here imagining them.

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To Hogwarts!

(4)
Harry Potter is everywhere. They love him just as much as Americans do. While I have a lot of opinions about the new series J.K. Rowling just put out, I love what the Harry Potter series has to say about being different.

At Platform 9 3/4 they have two people working to take your picture, outfitting you with a wand and scarf from the house of your choice, coaching you when to jump, and letting you take a phone photo for free.

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Incoming rain in Islington, our current neighborhood

(5)
Ithaca, NY has prepared us well for London’s weather. In the 3 days we have been here, it has been gloriously sunny, pouring rain, hail, and snow. Most of those happened yesterday. I love the clouds, though I do miss the ocean and Karl the Fog.

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Islington at night

(6)
Everyone walks on the left. This makes sense given they drive on the left; but my natural inclination is to dodge right which has nearly bulldozed me into other pedestrians. I’m sorry, London! I am trying my best.

Walking is everything here. We don’t have a car, and London was made for walking. So, this is how I spend most of my day. I am getting so much exercise, however, and I’m really excited to start training for another race. Running makes me feel at home.

I find myself tensed up as I walk–I have no idea where cars or people will be coming from. It’s hard when you don’t even feel confidence in how you are walking, but we’re getting more accustomed.

This may be a good analogy for how I deal with new situations: I attempt to adapt perfectly to the new rules, afraid that I’m going to crash. I’m working on being aware of what’s going on around me, but giving myself some leeway to learn slowly and to be different. So long as a double decker bus doesn’t run over me, I am fine.

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We forgot to pack this one in our shipment, so we traveled with my painting. Makes it feel more like home here.

Celsius, grams, 220 V power, vinegar for your “chips”–that’s all been fine, maybe because I adjusted when I was in Banff in 2014.

I’m going to start painting again when David goes to work on Tuesday. My art practice is a constant, while everything else seems to shift. For me feeling like an alien is almost always a given, so being an ex-pat (ex-mat?) gives this a name that’s easily understood. However, it’s complicated when what makes you feel strange and “away” is spread among so many people and places like San Francisco, Ithaca, and Fredericksburg.

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Our Tube stop
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Regents Canal near our temporary apartment
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