Monday, November 06, 2006

Tales of a Traveler

I'm home again, safe and sound. Here are a few pictures from my trip to Cambridge. I didn't actually get a lot of good ones, sadly. I struggled with the camera quite a bit, but I'm afraid I'm just not a natural photographer. If I had photographed everything I wanted to, I probably wouldn't have had much time to do anything else.

The day after I posted last, I came down with a strange sickness that reduced me to heaving up into the trash, and left me utterly useless. Great! It is just the WORST to be sick away from home and I felt bad to be endangering the household and inconveniencing everyone, although Karena was super nice and took care of me... I got over it by the afternoon but I was pretty miserable and desirous of death for a few hours. And then I was afraid to eat for a day- and subsisted on dry toast and gingerale. Poor Lexie came down with it a couple days later...You can just pray that it ends there and that nobody else in the house catches it!

It was fun to get to know Lexie and Arthur a little bit. Lexie is super creative; she will occupy herself by the hour drawing, cutting up paper, taping bits of paper together, and making things. I was the recipient of a gorgeous piece of paper jewelry- a bracelet of priceless green and white construction paper with an exquisite little clasp of string. Sadly, I think I left it in England, along with my sunglasses.

Arthur is extremely musical. He can really carry a tune perfectly; his repertoire consists mostly of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and variations on this tune. It is so rewarding to have him charge up to you and happily attack your leg like a little bear.

Karena and I spent some good, quality time together over the week and we went to all sorts of great places, including shopping at the outdoor marketplace, lunch at a tea room, visiting the Fitwilliam Musuem...etc. I loved the Fitzwilliam and ended up going twice- hurray for free admission. I skipped the Egypt stuff and the armor and ancient things and instead, spent most of my time on the European art: fabuloso. The incredible things I saw - in the museum and also around Cambridge- just fed a great, big beauty hunger in me.

We ate out at a couple interesting places - one was a Japanese noodle place- excellent,yummy food- and also at a vegetarian place, with great cuisine as well. The thing about the British is- their customer service leaves something to be desired. I almost fell out of my chair at one point when someone at the next table asked the waitress something about their bill as she was walking by, and she didn't even LOOK at them. She didn't even pause. She just kept walking and said, "It's on the table." The person had to get up and follow her to have their question answered. If that was in the U.S., her tip would have been mud! I was apalled! But Karena tells me that is pretty standard.

It seems to me that 95% of British people are above-average in ugliness. It kind of made me feel relaxed though. I didn't worry so much that I was having a bad hair day and that my teeth are crooked and my socks clashed with my shoes. I felt in a strange way that I belonged. I think I fit in well, on the whole. Although wearing the Red Sox hat may have made me stand out in a way. I felt like I was wearing an American flag on my head and it made me feel proud but it also felt as though I was wearing a sign: "Foreigner! Tourist! Alien!" The subject came up on my return trip to the airport, and I asked my taxi driver ( I had the same one from before) if he knew what my hat meant, and he said no. When I told him, he was puzzled as to why there was a B...I explained, and it made me smile, because I suddenly remembered being a small child and asking someone the same thing. I saw a man at Gatwick that had a Yankees shirt; there was a small second of recognition between us as he saw my hat and I saw his shirt and I smiled. It felt as though I had spent a week on a distant planet, surrounded by a different species of creatures and that suddenly, I saw a human again- maybe a pygmy or an albino, but a human nonetheless! Posted by Picasa


ljmax said...

I know--I loved that relaxed-about-outward-appearances sort of attitude over there...thanks for the pictures and report!

Aaron S. said...

Welcome back to the land of the beautiful! ;)

Kristi said...

Lexie is so cute! Glad you had a wonderful time!

Kim Kelley said...

Claire I was reading your post out loud while at work and I am training a new girl who just happends to be British. She just became a citiazen last year.
I was read this sentence "It seems to me that 95% of British people are above-average in ugliness." I stopped right before I said ugliness and just left it as 95% of British people are above average... I thought that it was very funny.

karena said...

You captured this place really well, Claire. Funny but true about the ugliness part. Makes me laugh. You don't see it after a while, but the reverse is so true that when I come back to the US, I feel shocked by the visual effect of '"white washed sepulchres":)haha. You find yourself wondering...what can possibly be inside of something so shiny. What are they trying to hide?

gretchen said...

Welcome home Claire! I'm so happy for you having had that wonderful experience.

Regarding your visit to the museum: "Beauuuuuty!!!" (You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?)

Regarding that fascinating remark and Karena's follow-up comment about British ugliness vs. American "veneer": It seems like a much healthier approach to life, rather than our American fixation with external appearances.

It's good to have an occasional outside perspective on it to re-orient us. It's almost embarrassing to consider how we must come across to other countries: how trivial! How childish!

Janzelle said...

Say what you want, but I'm still getting my brows waxed in the morning and will be fitted for my porcelain veneers in the afternoon. =) Welcome home, Claire!

Keith said...

Hold on, I can't let this insult continue unanswered. It's not that Americans are more shallow and vain and attempt to trick people into thinking they are more glamorous. It's simply that the British are just plain ugly. Even if they spent all day trying to hide this genetic fact, it would still be obvious that they are a country of wretched ugliness. For hundreds of years, the best and brightest in the world migrated to the US, leaving the stupid and ugly behind in the old countries of Europe.

kk said...

Eek! The truth hurts!

Keith said...

That being said, any country that produced both Shakespeare and Tolkien will have to churn out ugly people at a rate higher than 95% to lose my respect.