UK, Ireland and Us (Chapter 1)
‘I wanted to raise my children in an environment where they can see me and everyone around working hard. I wanted them to see their mother having the same opportunities as I have and learn to treat women as equals and not inferior. So I shifted to the UK.’ This is the reason our driver from Romania gave for moving to Britain even after having a flourishing job back home. It was one week before the official signing for Brexit and he being an economics graduate was trying to explain us Brexit’s repercussions not only on common man but the various major variables as well. He chatted on various topics from food to family values to Economics in this two hours journey from Nottingham to Manchester.
To understand UK’s education system for my sister, my mother, sister and I set out on adventure to explore the country and visit the universities. I with a little more help had applied for Schengen visa as well. So my trip was part solo.
We started with the royal metropolitan city of London. The weather like the people there is unpredictable. It rained, became sunny, and temperature dropped to single digits all on the same day. We decided to stay in the heart of the city and explored our neighbourhood of Chinatown, Leicester Square(more like a rhomboid), Trafalgar square, St Paul’s Cathedral, St. Martin-in-the-field church on our first day. Situated on the banks of river Thames, is the London Eye- we sat in this giant ferris wheel, and walked over the Westminster bridge to the Big ben and the beautiful abbey. They say it’s extremely touristy to do these things, but take my word, it’s extremely beautiful and picturesque as well. The crowd wont matter anyway.
Obviously, since my sister is a self proclaimed potter head, we visited the much hyped but beautifully maintained Warner Bros Studios.
As if like magic and on cue, the day we were supposed to leave London, the sun came out bright. My sister, Gauri and I got rid of our heavy fat jackets and basked in the sun. We might have fallen asleep.
Its funny that we claim to have seen a country after just visiting one of the major cities of the region and describe everything to our friends and family based on that experience. So now we took a road trip to see the lesser known cities and visit the universities of the Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester. En route we crossed many chocolate box towns and many a times found at least one Indian takeaway everywhere. We found it amusing.
Nottingham seemed like a major student town with a lot of young population and had a laid back vibe like most European cities do. Manchester, again home to a lot of students studying in city’s university had its signature red brick buildings with a newly renovated city library. We spent hours there.
We left the UK from Manchester, taking a short flight to Dublin, Ireland our next stop. One might connect Dublin being home to U2, the rock band, and Guinness, the dark beer but I’ll always remember the people. The lady at the immigrations apart from asking the usual questions, joked and listened to our travel plans and offered Gauri advice to help her choose between the two colleges in Dublin. It is in this city, that the taxi drivers gave us more information than any travel blog I had read before. They showed us U2’s guitarist’s Edge’s pick up point for gigs, Oscar Wilde’s hidden statue, best street to get vegetarian food and warned us of the slightly shady spots of the city. I think you’d like it here. Our extremely helpful taxi driver, Padraig said, ‘like any other big city, be careful here as well.’
The people here take time to listen and often within minutes, will be pulling your leg and joking around. They say for a first world country, Ireland has a pretty corrupt Government, but let it not deter from visiting it.
So, our adventure together was coming to an end. We had found our way in a big city like London, and had lost it again in the subway, seen a slice of racism, and chatted with an Afghani driver about his home. We had had disagreements on which route to take and had agreed to eat meals based on each other’s choice. Before the trip, like an archipelago of islands, it seemed that we were drifting apart constantly but slowly, but this adventure served as a life boat connecting each to the other.