Tales from Tooley Street

15 Mar

Happy Spring Break from across the pond!

I am currently sitting at my old kitchen table, in my old flat, while my friend cooks dinner for the two of us and I blog.

photo (6)

The lovely inside

As you may have guessed — I’m in London at the moment staying the apartment I lived in this summer, and I am the happiest camper imaginable. The two girls (well, now three) I stayed with and I became friends, and they are so wonderfully putting me up for the week while I visit. Even as I sleep on the couch now, it feels more like a home than my own apartment back at school does. This feeling most likely stems from my emotional attachment — I was living on my own in a foreign country and had to make it a home.

I know I’ve mentioned having lived abroad for a short while before, and to make a long story short: I took a course in June with Fordham, and then stayed through the summer so I could work on a small freelance team for BBC Travel (BBC Americas-Worldwide) and cover the Olympics. In order to stay for two months past the Fordham program, I had to find a place to live — and luckily landed myself in the flat I am writing from — just South of the Thames, and a few blocks from Tower Bridge. It’s a beautiful little flat — with three bedrooms, and an open style living room – kitchen that lights up so brightly during the day. I am so happy to be back it’s unreal.

I got off a train from Edinburgh yesterday around 2:50PM GMT, and I could have kissed the walls of Kings Cross Station, but I feared looking even more like a crazy American than I already did with the ridiculous smile I was carting around. My friends — the two girls I lived with who attend Kings College — picked me up from London Bridge, and could probably attest to said smile. And since then, I have consumed a lot of tea and eaten a lot of food.

Yesterday we just caught up for a short while, and then I went for a walk along the Thames between Tower Bridge and London Bridge — my favorite place in the world. And today, I met one of the women on my freelance team for breakfast in Islington, and then moved quickly to Camden, where in the summer I spent a lot of time. I also finally bought myself a nice, vintage looking tea cup that I have been wanting (I’d post a picture, but that requires unwrapping it).

And after that, I went to Holborn, where I walked to Twinings tea shop and bought myself three types of tea — including loose leaf Earl Grey in a special “2012” tin (keeping it forever). They added a tea tasting bar in the back, so I also tried three more types of white and green tea while I was at it. For the record — I did not dislike any of the greens or whites this time!

It was a necessary stop. Not only had I made the plan of going about a week before I got here so I could fill up on some teas, but I also started feeling a little panicky — which is not an OK feeling to have when I’m trying to get away and relax. At breakfast, the woman who was on my freelance team with me, asked me about my post-grad plans, to which I responded the usual “not sure yet…”. This is the woman who told me about a company called BUNAC, which helps grads get visas to intern in other countries. And ever since then, it’s been sitting in the back of my head for a really long time.

In the US, the conventional path does not involve leaving the country for a few months. Some kids do it — but usually to backpack for two weeks after graduation, and even that’s hard because the importance of getting a job has been pressed down on us so strongly. I’ve thought about every single way I can get back here and not disappoint or worry my family. Grad school? — But you aren’t supposed to go unless you know exactly what you want to study. What do I want to study? — No idea, and the thought of writing a dissertation makes me want to crawl into a hole. What do I want to do for a career? Something that involves travel? — I want to work as an online editor eventually. Are entry level positions leading in that career direction open? — Well, yes. But not a ton.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have all the student debt to pay off starting six months after May. And then I could do this program with no problem. However, I have quite a bit of  debt (also, Sallie Mae is the bane of my existence, and I haven’t even had to start paying off yet). And although one parent is behind me, the other one might not be so understanding toward what I actually want to do. Now that’s it’s coming down to the last few months, I’m starting to wonder: is it the right path for me to jump right into a career? Or should I be unconventional and go abroad for a little?

So, to clear my head I landed myself in a place surrounded by tea, and felt so much better. I don’t want to be depressing — it lasted about 30 minutes and then I was in a right good mood again, trying to decide which teas to buy, and what to do with the rest of my day.

Bea's of Bloomsbury

(Like the chipped polish? Haha)

I ended up walking a lot the rest of the day — about 5 miles, and landed myself in a bakery/cafe: the Bea’s of Bloomsbury (for the record, neither location is actually in Bloomsbury) near St. Paul’s Cathedral, where I had myself a Guinness Chocolate Cake and a pot of Earl Grey (and yes, I took a shameless selfie of myself there — although I took it full of shame as I tried to hide my actions from the cafe’s employees behind me).

I actually really love travelling alone, so sitting at a tea place solo for an hour was really lovely. Being alone while abroad is really spectacular — it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone the first few times you do it, and (as long as it’s not a gut feeling of danger) it helps you grow as a person. I’ve eaten alone a few times — breakfast and lunch are really easy, but the first time you go someplace to eat dinner alone can tough, but it’s easy to get used to, especially in a country where going to pubs is rather normal.

I walked back home as far as my feet would take me, hopped on the bus, and crashed at the kitchen table about three hours ago. What am I doing now? Drinking more tea.

photo (7)

(Walker’s Thai Sweet Chili Crisps anyone?)

It’s a Ceylon Earl Grey that my friend picked up in North London near a Turkish neighborhood. It’s strong, but really calming.We’re just waiting for her boyfriend to pop around — I get to finally meet him today! But as we wait, I’m trying to plan out my day tomorrow. I never made it to the Sherlock Holmes house on Baker Street this summer – the ‘queue’ was always far too long — but I’ll try and see that tomorrow. Maybe I’ll conquer the parts of the British Museum that I didn’t get to. I definitely need to sit in a cafe and work on some job applications. (That was the deal when I booked this trip.) 

But for now, off to the pub!

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