8 months ago I found myself standing in front of the airport in Johannesburg fighting back tears. The two week trip that was ending – my first to Africa – had left me stunned: overwhelmed with how beautiful and generous but also how brutal and unfair the world can be. The tears just snuck up on me.
8 months later, I found myself in my apartment in London, again fighting back tears at the news that the world has lost Nelson Mandela. And thoughts of South Africa are overwhelming me again.
Because I am still baffled by how complicated a country it is. You can’t fully grasp that kind of complexity on a vacation. Everything was amplified in South Africa: the countryside, the personalities, the politics, the pride, the divisions. I couldn’t ask enough questions when I was there. I couldn’t see enough to understand it.
Perhaps my tears are apprehensive, because I have listened to so much talk of what is at stake. Maybe they are tears of happiness – because I feel lucky to have come to love a country in such an amazingly short amount of time. Maybe I am sad because we need more Mandelas in this world.
For now, I will simply settle to let the tears come for an evening and remember a great champion and a beautiful country I wish I could go back to.
So… I’ve been absent for a month and a half.
Moving is exhilarating. Moving is hard. And I have found moving to a new city while starting a new job in a new industry to be a real challenge.
Not a challenge in the “why did I do this to myself” sense; I am completely convinced this was the right move to make. However for the first time in a very long time I’ve found myself constantly exploring. It is a wonderful thing after ten years in a familiar place to walk out your front door everyday and not know what to expect. To get stumped. To feel out of your depth. To feel inspired. Even in a grocery store or on an escalator on the way out of a Tube station.
The challenge has really been how to channel that inspiration. At first I wanted to tackle everything at once: rename the blog! Start over! Everything about London! You need to become an expert, Jess, right away now that you live here.
But that is just unrealistic. I still don’t know anything about this city. (Full disclosure… I got lost on the way to work AGAIN this morning.)
Truth is, during the two weekends I’ve been back to Brussels since moving, I have loved the familiarity of the city without having any of the responsibility of living there anymore. And then I get back to London and there is so much to do, I almost do not know where to start.
I hate the fact that I’ve put blogging on the back burner while I get the hang of things. So I guess this is a post just to say – I constantly have this blog on my mind and miss it more than I can say. It remains deceptively “JessinBelgium” because I haven’t uncovered the right name for it yet.
But I have an inkling that an idea might be just around the corner…
In the meantime, I leave you with some recent thoughts:
- See the Book of Mormon – HILAROUSLY INAPPROPRIATE. You laugh for all the wrong reasons… then realise they are actually the right reasons… but still so wrong… Just see it, its amazing.
- Everyone READS in London. It is wonderful. Getting on the Tube at 7pm to a train of silent people with their heads buried in books: it does not get old and also makes the craziness of the morning commute worth it.
- On Television and extortion: In Belgium, you end up paying insane monthly fees to get tons of channels you do not want, in languages you do not speak. Extortion. In England, Freeview is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. You pay your TV license of about 145 Sterling once a year and bam: you have TV channels. That includes all the lovely BBC channels and the one with the latest season of Homeland. And you can record things while you are away. AMAZING.
- Christmas has come way too early. Honestly people, it should not be a two-and-a-half month long holiday. (She says, grumbly admitting that Covent Garden lit up at night is magical.)
- I am petrified at the idea of flying out of Heathrow for Christmas. And despite being an experienced traveller and one who has practically lived at JFK for extended periods, I still feel like its going to be an ordeal. Any tips or tricks on how to survive the trip are welcome.
More thoughts and ramblings to come shortly – in the meantime, you can always find me on twitter and instagram: @jessinbelgium.
Friday was at first a tricky, then a lovely, last day of “unemployment/holiday” in London. Here’s how it went down:
A 6:45 am wake-up call – two failed attempts to install TV with an electrician – one failed attempt to put a nail in the wall, only to put a larger nail-less hole in the wall – fled from the apartment before I put an entire hammer in the wall – saw the gorgeous exhibit “Pearls” at the V&A (learned you have to open some 2,000 oyster shells before you find a natural pearl) – strolled through Kensington Gardens – gaped at the world’s biggest Whole Foods – searched for a portable aerial TV device – my Belgian card did not work – ran to a cash machine – card worked again – tried to figure out which bus to take – didn’t take the best one – installed a fore-mentioned TV device (third time is the charm) – made sure I recorded Strictly Come Dancing (yes, guilty) – gave in to buying super cheap tickets to sit at the top row of Dirty Dancing the Musical – listened to a pianist play a really lovely version of “You are not alone” (side note: a movie version of Into the Woods is being made with Meryl Streep) – saw another Whole Foods out the window of the theatre during intermission (be still, my future salary) – went bonkers with the crowd once this came on – amazed yet again at how good London transport is, when all theatres empty at the same time and you still manage to get a seat on the tube home…
Conclusion? Life in London isn’t too shabby when you aren’t working.
Even when you’ve put holes in your brand new walls.