One Year in London- The Good & Bad

One year ago yesterday we boarded our flight out of Boise, and one year ago today we landed in London.  This last year has been more difficult than I expected and also more rewarding than I expected.  Now that I have some experience under my belt I want to write about the things I love about London, and the things that aren’t so wonderful.  (I got this idea from Tanya and I could totally give an AMEN to her [much more concise] lists as well.) 

Things I Love: 
– The People.  I have made the most amazing friends.  I don’t know what else to say other than that I feel so grateful for the friends I’ve made.  
– Diversity.  London is a microcosm of the greater world.  Recent census data has shown that there are over 300 languages spoken in the greater city of London, and over 100 languages spoken in virtually every borough.  And this isn’t just a statistic, it’s what I hear and see wherever I go.  When I sit down on the bus next to a person speaking on their phone, more often than not they are not speaking English.  In the course of a day I encounter dozens of people of different races and cultures.  In Simon’s class at school each  child made a poster about their home country and there were kids from China, Bangladesh, Jamaica, the Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Germany, Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. (And then of course the U.K and the U.S.)  We have experienced religious diversity, economic diversity, educational diversity, and of course culinary diversity! Which brings me to…
– The Food.  Britain doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to food.  I can understand how pie & mash and fish & chips can eventually seem dull.  (Although we haven’t tired of them yet.)  But London doesn’t just offer British food, it offers food from all over the world.  The street food from market stalls is as tasty as it is diverse and it takes very little effort to find quality Chinese, Mediterranean, Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Turkish and even American food.  (Sometimes a good hamburger or some BBQ just hits the spot.)  
– Public Transport.  There are obvious drawbacks to public transport, but for the purpose of this post I just want to talk about how convenient and ubiquitous it is compared to its general lack in the U.S.  We live just a short walk from a dozen bus stops, which will take us anywhere within a few mile vicinity in a short time, and the kids ride free.  We also live a short walk from a DLR station which will take us anywhere in East London easily and a National Rail station which will get us quickly into the heart of London.  I’ll write more about public transport in another post but it makes for easy exploration of the city without having to worry about driving and parking. 
– The hidden treasures.  The thing about London is that you can get dropped anywhere in the city, walk a few blocks and find something to see/do/experience. 
– History & Culture.  There are four World Heritage Sites in London, countless famous landmarks, and numerous museums, galleries and theatres.  The city has existed for over 2000 years and has so much of it’s own history, not to mention its exhibitions of international history.  
– The parks.  For being such a massive and densely populated city, London has miraculously and magnificently maintained its green spaces.  The Royal parks are all impeccably landscaped and each has unique features, and the local parks are expansive and offer both modern and classic playgrounds.  All the parks have gigantic trees. 
– Richard’s work schedule.  Americans love to talk about work-life balance, but the Europeans actually do it.  Richard has a standard work week of 35 hours.  Obviously during busy times he works more than 35 hours, but during the not-so-busy weeks that means he gets an extra hour each day to be with us.  He also has really fantastic holiday time, with the option to purchase more vacation days.    
– Walking.  I walk so much. I love it.  I love the chance it gives me to look around, to appreciate the sunny days, to explore, to see and smell and observe.  I have had some of my most treasured London moments while walking.  (The endorphins don’t hurt either…) 

Things I miss: 
– The people.  This might go without saying, but it can’t. We left behind really amazing friends.  We also moved from a city where grandparents were only 20 minutes away.  We used to see our siblings on a somewhat regular basis, even those who were far away were still on our calendar a couple times a year.  It has been over a year since I’ve seen any of our siblings with the exception of Jess & Preston. I have two nieces and a nephew (and two more on the way) I’ve never met, and won’t meet until they are toddlers.  This causes me a great deal of sadness.  
– My dryer.  But I’ve already covered that. 
– Driving.  Aside from people and my dryer, the thing I miss most is the feeling of getting in a car and driving without thinking about it, with confidence.  Driving here is not done while multi-tasking. It is not done on a subconscious level.  It is not done without anxiety and trepidation every. single. time. I get behind the wheel.  It has gotten better for me, and just recently I’ve started to feel a little less intense, but driving on the opposite side of the street from the opposite side of the car still messes with me, and the traffic here is terrible. 
– The traffic.  Richard and I laugh about how we used to complain about the traffic on Eagle Road if it took us more than 20 minutes to get to our parent’s houses, which were 13 miles from our house.  Driving 13 miles in London takes no less than 30 minutes if you are going away from the city, and closer to an hour if you are headed toward the city.  On a Saturday it can take 40 minutes to drive 5 miles.  It’s pure madness.  
– Open spaces.  We live in a city. A huge, crowded city. The houses are close together, people everywhere, things feel crowded all the time.  Businesses are always busy.  Even the parks, as big as they are, get crowded and driving in the countryside is gorgeous but the hills, trees and hedges make it hard to see much past a mile or two.  It’s a far cry from our little farming community of Kuna with its serene pastures.  
– The weather.  When people find out I’m from the U.S. they always ask me why I would ever want to move here.  The basis for their bewilderment is almost entirely founded on the weather.  London has a reputation for being rainy, but from my experiences it’s really just that the weather is so inconsistent and unpredictable.  Annual rainfall in London is less than Seattle or even Dallas, in terms of inches.  But it is frequently gray and drizzly outside.  It is also windy quite often.  London has gorgeous days, and usually even has gorgeous parts of days, but I really miss Boise weather.  I miss consecutive hot summer days for swimming.  London winters are cold, but don’t make up for the cold with fun winter activities like skiing and sledding, because there is no snow.  I remember people back home joking that “If you don’t like the weather in Idaho, just wait a minute.”  That was funny back home.  But it’s actually true in London.  When you lie on the grass in Idaho, and watch the clouds move across the sky, you have to watch for quite some time to see much motion.  If you lie on your concrete patio in London and watch the clouds blow by, they BLOW by.  
– Drive-Thrus.  For reasons I’m still sorting out, Europeans aren’t as obsessed with convenience as Americans are.  There are no drive-thru pharmacies or banks or fast food places.  (With a few exceptions.)  I really miss the Metro Express car wash with its super-powered vacuums.  

I suppose in another year I’ll have a new list, probably one that will be dripping with sadness about leaving and any negative thoughts I have about London will serve mostly to bring me consolation about saying goodbye to this truly fabulous city.  

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