My blitz through London and Paris is now over, but after looking through and organizing all my pictures today, I know that this blitz will take up more space in my heart than the last five years of my life combined. Growing up in Christian circles, people would walk around saying, “I have a burden for the people in Cambodia,” “I’ve been called to go to India,” or “I want to share the gospel with those in Greece.” And I felt guilty for not feeling pulled toward any particular group. I wanted to share my faith, but I was content to love my family and friends and not venture outside my own neighborhood. Then I went to Europe, and that has become my neighborhood. I went to London and found a family. I went to Paris and found love. I came back to America and discovered the burden. Eleven days in Europe is not nearly enough time for me to say I know the culture or the people. But I can at least share with you and remind myself of what I did observe and what I have come to love about this place I hope to someday call my home.
1. There are more stones and castles in London and Paris than any place in America. My parents live in a quaint village in Pennsylvania where there are some cutesy stone buildings. But there are castles on practically every street corner in London. In Paris the roads are made of stone, and the walls are called flint walls (also made of stone). My home is my castle.
2. There is almost as much graffiti as there are castles. Graffiti is looked down on in America, but the graffiti in London and Paris is an artistic expression. I wouldn’t necessarily want it in my backyard, but I was happy to see it anywhere else.
3. Although the people know the dangers of smoking, they smoke anyway. As I mentioned before, I was offered weed my first night in France, and Sharon offered me tobacco several times. I was taken aback at first to be breathing that much second-hand smoke but also that people younger than I were smoking three or four cigarettes at one sitting.
4. Most of the men I saw in London and Paris were mightily good looking. One particular hair style I found quite endearing. Most of the guys have scruff, which makes them appear manly. But apparently the thing to do nowadays is to shave the sides of the head and leave the hair on top long and floppy. Then when the men would go running (which Europeans love to do), they’d put the floppy hair in a ponytail at the crown. And the ponytail would bounce around as they ran through the park.
5. Street signs are on the sides of the buildings. I’m sure I’m still not quite used to that, although I was getting there by my departure.
6. In London especially, most people use the public transportation. More people in Paris owned cars. Public transportation is convenient. It costs money, but it can take you almost anywhere you need to go. I could move to London and never have to get my driver’s license!
7. I learned the hard way to always say “hello” before saying anything else when you’re in France. I could get used to living in an extremely polite society.
8. The people love their liquor almost as much as they love smoking. Right next to the Chinese take away on every street corner was a liquor store.
9. This one is hard for me: no dancing in public. People wore their headphones everywhere, but no one ever sang out loud or so much as twitched. Sophistication is key.
10. Many people make their living by playing guitar or singing in the underground subways. Some homeless people just sit in the tunnels and ask for money. I heard singing, accordion, violin, and guitar while overseas.
11. French people don’t like speaking English so if you know ANY French at all, try to speak it even if you’re terrible at it. They will appreciate your trying.
12. The young people wear Michael Kohr, Calvin Klein, Chanel, and Banana Republic. Either they are all rich or they pretend they are.
13. Europe has no water fountains.
14. Iceland has no trees or water fountains. But I have been told that there are no trees because of the sulphuric earth and that Iceland has some of the purest water.
15. Washing machines are much smaller than in America and are usually located in the kitchen. Cute and cozy.
16. Recycling is a big deal. Everyone recycles.
17. The dogs run around in the English parks without leashes. (I was told that it is against the law to let your dog run around without a leash in the parks, but no one listens.) I’m just amazed because I don’t know any American dogs who would be obedient without a leash. Interesting philosophical concept of freedom right there….
18. The English are very good about picking up dog poop. The French…not so much.
19. The roads are much tinier in London and France than in America. When William Penn planned Philadelphia, he specifically planned for bigger roads. The roads were so tiny in France that several cars would park with one tire on the sidewalk.
20. As I already mentioned, the people wear headphones or earbuds everywhere–on the sidewalk, on the train, etc.
21. The French love listening to English music even if they don’t know what it means.
22. People in both Paris and London don’t like to make eye contact with you. The French are distrustful of strangers and don’t say hello to them. (Whoops.) On public transportation especially, no one makes eye contact. I saw a sign in the tube that said, “Proud supporters of eye contact on the tube”–just to prove my point.
23. French people honk their horns a lot more freely than Americans do. It’s like a game.
24. London people love glass jars. Sharon kept her milk and water in glass jars. Absolutely adorable.
25. The English love Chinese take away. Not take out. Take away. I love it too.
26. Trash cans are not trash cans. They are called “litter cans.” And they are more beautiful than any trash cans I’ve ever seen in America.
27. The English love to run. I saw an old man running one day faster than I can run. Put me to shame.
28. Customer service in London is notoriously slow.
29. Brighton (recognize that from Pride and Prejudice?) is the gay capital of England.
30. So much making out. Everywhere. Waiting for the bus. On the bus. In the train. On the sidewalk.
For all these reasons and more, I can’t wait to go back and learn more about these amazing people with their strength and vitality and great pride in who they are and what they do. I want to eat at 7:00 and drink tea and eat scones. I want to run everywhere and buy my milk in glass jars. I want to buy ginormous headphones and attach them to my ears. I want to wake up in the rain everyday and see the castle outside my window. I want to buy the fresh produce at the market. I want to ride the train every day as I go to work. I want to have a bubble that will occasionally intersect with other bubbles as I float about my day. I want to belong in that world.