The one where we pose with the 12 flag
“I HEAR IT’S FROWNED UPON,” Alex says, responding to my suggestion we take one of those #lutesaway ‘Twelfies.’ “Apparently, It looks like you’re conquering the place or something.”
We had this conversation early in our trip, sitting on a bus, looking at Instagram. I had forgotten about it, as I do about sportsball whenever possible.
A few short days later, we’re about two hours into our first London excursion. We’ve all climbed up on the lion-guarded Nelson’s Column, ready for a group picture.
It’s game day.
Alex removes his extraordinarily bright orange-and-red coat (immensely helpful for finding him in a crowd) leaving just his Seahawks jersey (immensely helpful for identifying us as tourists). He proudly stands on the highest step.
“It’s too bad we don’t have a flag,” mentions a member of our group.
Miranda quietly sits down on the step below Alex. She unzips her bag, and pulls out a twelve flag. “I have one,” she says, lacking the expected melodrama attached to coming in clutch in such a remarkable way.
It’s been six days, and we’ve already ‘conquered’ England.
WE HAVEN’T REALLY CONQUERED MUCH OF ANYTHING. We bumble around in large packs, we’re late to just about everything and we keep going to the damn grocery store.
That’s okay, because it gives us something to talk about, and we’re still brand new to this. Don’t tell us if we’re wrong, because we really enjoy rationalising this right after we complain all about it.
Alex, the conquerer, was the best example of how we haven’t conquered a single damn thing.
It was one of those street games, where a young man holding wads of cash would rearrange a ball underneath three cups, offering to double your money if you could guess which cup held the ball after quickly, craftily rearranging in a flash of silver.
Breanna, Alex and I were leading the pack. My phone has a UK wireless number, so I was navigating us down The Queen’s Walk to the pub our program director chose. Alex stopped us briefly to watch the game.
The person running the game stuck out £20 to Alex when someone guessed the wrong cup. “Which one is it?” he hastily asked Alex, who reached for his wallet.
“No, no, no, no. Don’t do it.” I said, repeatedly, as Alex pulled out two £20 notes.
“Yes! Do it!” said some old, white British man (he clearly enjoyed watching others lose money).
Before I know it, the notes have exchanged hands as Alex picks the wrong container. He reaches for more as the con says “Try again,” and I grab his arm to drag him away.
At least it’s a story.
Regardless of our lack of skills, London was an awesome time. We were silly tourists today, and that’s more than okay.
I had never had a chance to see this magnificent city before. I was simply blown away, and I can’t imagine a situation visiting that place where I won’t repeat that experience.
We wandered from Marble Arch (where we got off our less than two hour bus ride), through Oxford Circus, to Piccadilly, to Trafalgar, through Soho, down past Parliament, over a bridge or two, and in the underground.
IT’S NOT JUST A WALK IN THE PARK, but sometimes it is.
Actually, it feels mostly like a walk in the park.
So far, a day at Oxford looks like this.
1. Wake up in your room that has a beautiful view of this adorable town, then head down to make/eat delicious breakfast, waking up your friends as you go.
That, so far, has meant Siobhan and I wake up and get started on things, then take bets on who we can get down first. We’re pretty even.
2. Venture into city centre before class to drink coffee and/or shop and/or do some errand. (Money is spent. Beautiful views come on accident.)
3. Hang out with Professor Strum and feel your mind grow a little bit.
I know that sounds sarcastic, but he’s legitimately outstanding. It’s incredible how much learning is possible with him leading the discussion. We’re having a grand ole time.
4. Either eat dinner at home, or be lucky enough to take a walk with Strum and head to a pub.
5. Accidentally nap before starting homework.
Literally, we’ll all collapse into bed after an already full day. Slowly, we collectively rise from our rooms to do homework/watch a movie/what-have-you.
Then, you wake it up, and you do it all again.
It’s really rather incredible.
THERE ARE THREE PROMINENT NOISES AROUND ME. I can hear Sophia procrastinating with Criminal Minds on Netflix. Oliver’s upstairs singing along to some hip-hop. Siobhan is downstairs, making the dishwasher beep (I initially thought it was the smoke alarm — again).
This is the part that we don’t talk about much in our travel blogs. We often just sit at home, watch movies, procrastinate, just like living anywhere else.
It’s weird thinking this is home and we just live here now.
It’s beautiful thinking we get to say that. At some point, I might stop being enamored with all this, but I’m going to hang on for as long as possible.
This medium page contains short stories from my time abroad, like this one. The stories will be “creative nonfiction” as storytelling, not journalism. It will be honest, perhaps too honest, but quotes won’t always be verbatim and I will take some creative liberty.
It’ll include photos, but for a dedicated photo blog/journal, head tomattsalzano.tumblr.com.