Thursday, April 25, 2013

FOOTball, not Football

Glancing nervously at the ticking clock, I sat on the painfully slow train as it crawled into the Manchester station. We had not prepared for our train to arrive late, and though 5 minutes doesn't seem to affect most people, we had a serious time crunch. The second the doors shot open, we were out and flying through the station platformsI fell behind, as I battled with a sticky candy bar wrapper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. It was a serious struggle and when I finally saw it fly off with the wind, a man hollered, "It's still there!" I looked down and sure enough, only half the wrapper had let go. I didn't even have the pleasure of saying it was my own wrapper; then I would have at least enjoyed its chocolaty goodness. 

Though I had just been in Manchester two days prior visiting a friend, I was completely stumped on how to navigate the cityit didn't help that we left the station through the wrong exit, wandering down some street with an unfamiliar name. "This doesn't match my directions!" we panicked. Three of us had prepared directions to our destination, and all three of our directions failed.

Finally, after much effort, we made it to the Etihad Football Stadium where Manchester City faced Wigan Wednesday night.

I don't think I've ever walked that fast and that far in my life, and after running the last stretch, we didn't even make it in time for the kickoff. All we heard was the cheering crowd from our spot in the ticket line, but that's something at least. Our disappointment wore off when we found that we had fantastic seats with a great view, and almost instantly we were wrapped up in the excitement of sitting a few yards from the playersin comparison to watching on the tele', the crowd screamed louder, the players ran clumsier, and the wipe-outs sounded harsher. The sport came alive for me, as I had never been a spectator at a British football game before, or as I say since I'm American, soccer—the guys beside us smirked, probably thinking, "crazy Americans calling it soccer."

"GO MAN CIT-AAAAAAYYY!!" the crowd cheered and roared, but no matter how loud the crowd hollered, the score remained 0-0. Beside our freak show in getting to the stadium, the most exciting thing all night happened with only 2 minutes left in the game: Man City shot the winning goal!

At the end of the night after 2 hours of football, we hopped back on our train and rode home. It was a short, sweet, and successful evening, coming home with sore calves and a win to celebrate. The things I love about England: football, trains, and city-hopping excursions. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home is a Complicated Subject

As humans, we've all experienced broken hearts, but a broken heart heals. It's a stretched heart that hurts the most, like walking a mile on a pulled muscle.

Living in England and traveling Europe has stretched my heart further than I ever anticipated, and I was completely oblivious until a week ago when I set foot back in England, walking through the Manchester airport. It felt like I was home. I knew the language and the routine, I could read the signs, and navigate my surroundings, and I didn't have to ask a question 5 different ways to get an answerI was home, back where I'm comfortable. 3 months ago, I flew into the same airport and walked through the same customs office, scared out of my mind and excited beyond explanation because for the first time in my life, I was out of my comfort zone. I was in a strange country where the people talk prettier and the signs are worded differently ("Way Out" = Exit). When I first arrived in England, I was a tourist, but when I came back from touring the non-English speaking continent, I fit right in with the Britishafter the customs guy approved my passport, of course. Apparently, the French didn't think to look at the page they slapped their ink on before adding another stamp; they just covered England's stamp right up. Way to go, France. 

Walking the homestretch back to my York flat that warm spring evening, I realized exactly how comfortable I've become in this country, and how terribly I'll miss it when I leave in a month. After 3 weeks of solid travel, exploring the boundaries of 6 countries, 5 cities, and 15 small towns, I've experienced what it feels like to travel with little communication and comprehension, making the culture shock I felt in England seem minor. Though I didn't want to leave France or Normandy, Belgium or Switzerland, and definitely not the motherland, returning to England became a whole new adventure, a whole new strain on my already torn heart because though I feel at home in England, I can't say it's my home. 

I have roots in the Netherlands, I have a heart for England, and I belong in Colorado, so where do I go from here? No matter where I call home, my heart will always be stretched across oceans. Traveling is an incredible adventure and though I envy World Travelers, I do not envy the daily strain on their hearts, falling in love with countries they can't call home. 

The Netherlands