my journey to be my best self

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

pardon me. can you repeat that?

In travel, Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 10:45 am

As I navigate through London I am making learning how to speak English. You would think when you come to London there would no language barrier but that’s just not the case. I find myself asking people to repeat themselves or even spell out the word they are trying to say because I just can’t understand. Accent aside, there are words for things you never knew had could be described as something else.

But I am used to asking where the toilet is (which seems a bit crass).

I now ask for chips when I mean fries and crisps when I mean chips. I was only baffled when both fries and chips were on a menu. And when I asked for clarity the waiter told me, “You’re American. They’re like McDonald’s.”

They dont have oatmeal here.  I looked, trying to wean myself off crossiants, and all I could find is porridge. It actually tastes the same but it makes me think of Golidlocks and the 3 bears.

I explain that I want take away when I want my order to go. And I put all of my items in the trolley at the store (don’t they have trolleys in San Francisco?) and pay for it at the till.

You can hire anything here: a car, a chair, even a towel.  You can’t rent.  You can’t even rent an apartment.  You have to let a flat.

I am used to the announcement to mind the gap between the train and the platform and know it means watch your step. But what sounds silly to me every time I hear it is “alight here.

Some other things I just can’t get used to:

1. I don’t understand the word “nought.” Apparently it’s another word for zero. Why can’t just use zero? I don’t think I’m going to start saying nought point five.

2. And “full stop” instead of period. Maybe I should incorporate that into my vocabulary. Not for grammar. I won’t say comma, full stop, exclamation point but maybe I could say, “I’m not going to dinner with him, full stop.” Ok. No. That doesn’t work either.

3. So I understand saying half six when you mean 6:30. It’s pretty close to half past six. I guess.

4. Here I have to put my appointments in my diary rather than my calendar.  And all this time I thought a diary was a book filled with pages with boys initials inside a heart with mine kept under lock and key. Silly me.

5. Why say nice when you mean good.  Can you really ever call a peice of steak nice?

6. I will never understand when people say “It’s alright” or “It’s ok” after I say thank you. If I say thank you say you’re welcome! If you’re going to just keep saying it’s ok why do I keep saying thank you? Well, because that would be rude.

A few other things I just get a kick out of:

  1. Bloody
  2. To take a piss means you’re pulling someone’s leg.  Not to be confused with:
  3. Pissed, which means drunk, not angry.  And careful not to get caught drink driving.  I have said it over and over in my head to see who’s right – drink driving vs. drunk driving and drink driving sounds a bit off every time.

And how could I forget:

A man overheard me talking on the train and said he thinks it’s funny American papers say burglarize when they could just say burgle.  Say burgle a few times. It will make you laugh.  Promise.

You can read BBC’s Americanisms: 

50 things that make them cringe in our vocabulary.  I couldn’t come up with 50 but I could if I asked 50 people like BBC did.



black people ≠ black people

In travel, Uncategorized on July 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

London has managed to maintain a lot of its charm while boasting its status as England’s largest city.  It is almost impossible to compare this metropolis to New York but as many similarities I find there are as many, if not more, differences. But the most startling is the black people. Whenever I see a black person I’m baffled by how much they look like me but how little they identify with me.

I’ve subjected my friend Whitney (who I also call White Cloud) to my frustrations as I try to figure out the deal with black people abroad. It comes up most often in London because it is my home base, but I have wondered in Geneva and Berlin, “how did they get here?”

How did they? Not as part of the transatlantic slave trade. So did they come by choice? They know where they came from. So they can go back, even if they don’t want to. But where can I go? Back to Africa with Marcus Garvey. That would be about my only option.

I’m so fascinated by black people abroad. I talk to them about their experience as black people in whatever city I am in whenever I have a chance. It didn’t take long for me to ask Francis about being black in England and he quickly replied, “were just like black people in America, we listen to hip hop.” Well there you have it.

When I was talking to my new coworkers over tea I said I’m flirting with the idea of staying in London but I really want to get a sense of the relationship between black and white people and, more importantly, how white people percieve black people before I change my status from visitor to resident.  And they looked at me with blank faces.  I tried to explain America’s unique history and how it impacts perceptions of race and they looked at me as if I were speaking a foreign language and then one answered, “Here we don’t even think about race.  We all get on fine.”

Get on fine? Get on fine.  Stop it.  I went back to my desk with my tea and thought there are really only 2 explanations for her response:

  1. She doesn’t have relationships with black people or, if she does, the relationships she does have are not developed enough to allow for conversations about race.
  2. She just doesn’t care.  She’s not bothering black people and black people aren’t bothering her.  They don’t live where she lives or work where she works so she doesn’t have to think about race.

Well that conversation left me even more confused.  Black people don’t want to talk about black people, white people don’t want to talk about black people.  Damn.  I need Michael Moore to come out here because he’s so obnoxious (more obnoxious than me at least) and has no problem asking the tough questions.

I’m just so frustrated and I finally get to Boots (drug store) to pick up 3 oz. bottles for Whitney before we leave for Barcelona and the woman at the till (the register) asked if I was going back to America.  I told her I am headed to Barcelona and before you know it I told her I am absolutely desperate to know about black people here and she said, “I will tell you everything!”  Well, I wish I had more time but the queue (the line) was getting longer and longer but this is what I got from the conversation:

Black people came from countries in Africa and the Caribbean in the 1950s to help repair the city after the second world war.

  • Black people live in migrant communities (and if I really want to get to know black people in London I need to go to their neighborhoods).
  • And black people don’t get on with white people as well as everyone else would like to have me believe.

Even the other black man in the store tried to convince me everyone lived harmoniously.

What is England’s dirty little secret?  There has to be more than the (little) bit I know that explains black people’s place in society in England. They didn’t have the same institution of slavery or the great migration or the civil rights movement.  We all know what it was like in America.  But what was happening here?

I have so many questions.  I am determined to know more when I leave this place than when I came.  I can’t go home not knowing how my black brothers and sisters are faring on the other side of the pond.

can you keep a man on the backburner?

In relationships, Uncategorized on July 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Maybe.  But for how long?  A man will only take no for an answer for so long.  And then he will undoubtedly ask someone likely to say yes.  Then what?  We’re left saying damn, he could have been mine.  But if we were bound to be upset when someone else says yes why didn’t we just say yes long ago?

  1. We think he will always be there, waiting.
  2. We don’t believe his other relationships are serious and that if we decide we want to be with him he will make himself available.
  3. We don’t want to settle.
  4. No matter how many boxes we can check off with him he’s not the one.

Then why do we care when someone snatches him up:

  1. Because we’re still alone.  And it was more fun being alone together.

Lesson: treat relationships like everything else in life worth having – if you want it, go for it. If you don’t, don’t waste time thinking/talking about it when you could be figuring out how to get what you actually want.

Salty – for no reason.