Guest Post: Carolina Baker’s Letter to London

Written by Carolina Baker who landed in London in November, a bit bleary eyed and nostalgic for what was formerly home. She’s Colombian American and loves Chai Lattes. During the day, she works in finance and at night she can be found blogging at GirlHabits or working out at Crossfit Thames.

Dear London,

The hardest thing for me upon arriving was feeling foreign.

Your baristas in Canary wharf didn’t know me, so they just took my order without smiling or even nodding. Your employee’s jokes I didn’t understand, so I just nodded my head and tried very hard to not space out. Your people’s wardrobes of grey and black didn’t match my own, so my pink coat and pink bag were very ill-matched. Your food was different and a bit bland, so I spent ages choosing what not to eat for lunch. Your General Practitioner made me go see him three times to get my blood test results;  Your people really like to say no; Your letting agencies took their sweet old time with our rental; Your people don’t really like to talk loud; You aren’t home to many Latins, so as a Colombian, I felt different in a loud and exotic kind of way.

But now, your baristas in Canary wharf are starting to warm up to me. Nobody can resist a smile, a “have a nice day,” a pink coat, or someone who orders an Iced Drink for long. We chat about how cold it is outside (really?), and how happy we are that it’s Friday, and that to me, is what I call, progress. Even though my wardrobe hasn’t changed and neither has your peoples’, they are starting to understand me as a bubbly and bright American. I found a way to get your people to talk and that’s by asking question after question, so that’s what I do. Your food hasn’t gotten better, unfortunately, but I’ve narrowed it down to having eggs for breakfast and an iced chai (no water!), a chopped salad for lunch (in which I’m only allowed one egg…), and cooking something from Waitrose for dinner during the week, and trying out random restaurants on the weekends; (Wahaca is a winner; Mestizo restaurant is…not). But your Crossfit Thames is quite amazing and reminds me of my brother every time I go work out; it’s like a home away from home. Your GPs I haven’t gotten used to, but they are teaching me the importance of patience, as there really is no better way to deal with a different medical care system. Your people respond well to being challenged, something that is completely unexpected. And I still talk loudly when given the opportunity. I smile whenever I hear Latin Spanish on the DLR, on the tube, or on random London Streets.

And while it’s important for me to have you feel like home, being here is more monumental than creating a routine that is fulfilling. You feel like an open door, inviting me in. You are a breath of fresh air; a brand new perspective. You are patient with me as I stop idolizing my past and start treading lightly on my present, and with more purpose on my future.  You are introducing me to people and situations that will alter the course of my life, and for that, I’m forever grateful. You are showing me that choosing different is better than not choosing at all, and that sometimes, it’s necessary to jump and feel what it’s like to free fall. Your ground is sturdy and its caught me quite a few times. And you know what? I’ve managed to brush myself off and get back up again.

So before I forget, I thank you. For taking me away from New York and for showing me a new way of life.

Warmly,

Carolina

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If you’d like to guest post about London for LLO, drop me a line: stephanie.sadler@hotmail.co.uk

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Guest Post: Dear London…

Words and photo by Ramble who has come from India to enjoy the little things London has to offer for a while. She blogs here and has allowed me to repost this entry to share with you because I loved it.

Dear London,

It is difficult not to fall in love with you.
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I came here expecting regimented routine where things never go wrong, where buses always run on time. But was relieved to find dug up railways, bank men who want you to come on another day because they want to go home [at 3.30 pm]. And bus drivers who will decide to just terminate the route because they felt like it.
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They said you were rich. But going through your secondhand markets where even the worst junk has takers, I doubt it. But in the infinite number of people from myriad cultures and countries who float through your streets, you are definitely rich. [I say that at the cost of sounding cheesy].
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While looking at the supermarket aisle and sharing appalling sighs over the price of a jar of peanut butter with an African lady, I feel a certain richness. In India, one never used to carry poverty on one’s sleeve with so much pride.
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In the hospital-like smell which emits from the silence in your tubes where crowds exist in negation of any sound, there could be a need to reach your tribe – your little China or Poland or Senegal or England or India or Egypt. Maybe when the tube drops you at your “country” the silence will burst open in a bottle of drink, a cup of tea or a prayer.
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I love asking people on your streets for the way. The stiff faces open up in a smile or a scratch of the chin. Every one of them tries their best to find out the way for a stranger. In that utopian state of mind of maplessness, one can ignore the helpful and not so helpful of your road signs.
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I hate the broken bits of beer bottles on your streets, wondering when will they break open my only pair of shoes. If you are anyway risking your liver, why not risk the intake of a little plastic? But since your shops sell alcohol cheaper than fruits or vegetables, my concern can only end up in the dustbin.
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Well, I am not looking for a happily ever after with you; though you are charming and mysterious, complicated and easy, rich and poor, beautiful and worn out, handsome and trampy. I need a bit more ownership of “my place” if I ever find it. Wouldn’t ever want to get into a “where did u come from” argument with you where my colour and attire might some day become stones around my neck. “My place”, if I ever find it, would have neither commitment phobia nor Othello syndrome.
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But while I am here, let me sit by your river sides, watch your crowds float by, sigh at the impossible prices inside your shops, wade through your unemployment scene, and whisper to you – that it is difficult not to fall in love with you.