I touched down on Tuesday afternoon. Through the haze of glass and jet-lag, to my right I could see my first views of the United Kingdom in 2016. There were busses and grey skies, Stand on the left and Left baggage. With the familiar was juxtaposed the strange, or strangely familiar. Why was everyone so pale, and so tall? Are those busses really driving on the left? Why is everyone speaking English (obvious) and why does it sound to me like double Dutch (less so)? Finally, why does everybody look so miserable? I attributed this last observation to the recent Brexit situation. Two days before I had been in Vancouver, and some English friends and I had watched the results be revealed to a stunned Europe. Given that we were eight hours behind the UK, we had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing all the action before we went to bed.
Back in June, while still there, I was thinking of Mexico. I dreamed about what I would miss here. One of my friends in Guanajuato asked me: but aren’t you excited to go back? – quite sincerely, and I agree with him now. I am quite happy to be home. There’s the sense of rediscovering the familiar. Here I have friends and family in abundance, and there’s no greater pleasure than falling into conversation with pals that you haven’t seen in a year, but with whom it appears only a day has passed; or to call a relative on the phone and hear their voice. I enjoy the small things too: the easy availability of crumpets and the ritual of tea at three o’clock, as well as being able to talk British English again, and say things like “o’clock”.
I still miss Mexico, miss Latin America, miss speaking Spanish. I suppose the novelty factor was still present. After four months in the country I was still a stranger in a strange land. Also, while I was exotic to Mexico, Mexico was exotic to me. London’s quirks are too well-known to me to be charming, and when the quirks are disagreeable, I find myself grumbling. For example: it is raining here intermittently, the cloud showers turning on and off like a leaky faucet. I am disgruntled. However, I know from friends’ Facebook that it is also raining in Colima, Mexico. Would this have upset me if I lived there? Not at all! I would have been fascinated. My thoughts would run wild (Perhaps the unseasonable rain could be attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon. Look at how the streets shine in the wet! And did you know the Spanish verb for drizzle is ‘chispear’?). Pessimistically, with a glass half-full of rainwater, you could say that I loved Mexico so much because its frustrations had not yet become familiar enough to me. (We hadn’t been in a relationship long enough to see each others’ flaws). However, I am an optimist. The sun has just come out in London, and there are so many things to enjoy here at home. In addition, I know that I have another home-from-home that is only six hours away across the Atlantic. Yesterday I took a shorter journey, and followed the Northern line from London Bridge to Chalk Farm. While looking at the Tube stops, a thought occurred to me, one so wonderful that it came with a rush of euphoria. I knew where I was and which stop I had to get off at. My time here in London was short, this visit and that feeling fleeting. No matter if things here were bad or good, they were temporary, and what my time abroad had given me was the marvellous knowledge that I could start over again anywhere else in the world, afresh and afraid and adrift with no friends as ballast, and in a matter of days or weeks, once again I would be fine.