At the end of March, I went to London for the 21st birthday of my best friend since first grade, Malie. On my flight out of Madrid, I enthusiastically struggled through a conversation with a Brazilian student. Between my Spanish peppered with English and his fluent Portuguese and broken English, we managed to communicate in the general Romance language space.
In a collision of two normally separate worlds, Malie and I met with my Whitman friend Lizzy for high tea, a delectable series of finger sandwiches, mini-parfaits, and the best scones I’ve ever eaten all accompanied by rose tea. “I thought I wanted to date a British guy,” Lizzy said. “Now I’m not so sure.” She told us about how, by American standards, Brits don’t ever talk about their feelings (her OCS blog has photographic proof of a passive-aggressive note left by an anonymous peer in her dorm).
We had a jolly good time romping about London. Malie humored my desire to take blurry, “artistic” photos of the London Eye as we walked back to our charming Alice in Wonderland-themed airbnb. At the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, we enjoyed critiquing the merits (marching bassoons!) and downfalls (using sheet music—tsk, tsk) of the bands, hashing it out like the retired marching-band nerds we both are. One group played an especially well-arranged Adele medley. We even nearly avoided behaving like annoying Americans, with one glaring exception:
Having forgotten that changing countries involves going through security, we cut it a little close en route to Paris. An officer was calling for people on our train, so we told him we were on it. But he seemed not to hear us and kept walking. So, we repeated ourselves a bit more forcefully (as in, we panicked and started shouting after him). When he finally turned, he blinked as if it cost him considerable effort and drawled, “I heard you the first time.”
In a park in Paris we ate the best falafel of my life while watching three men, paddles in hand, duke it out at the public ping pong table. I was delighted both by the thrill of surviving an entire bakery conversation in French and by the sheer whimsy of stumbling upon Van Gogh’s house as we wandered back from the Sacré Coeur, a church where I lit a tea light and for good measure thought the only prayer I know: Lord, I thank thee for the abundance that is mine.
This trip began a period of unusual “abundance” that still amazes me. First of all, since when do I belong in the same sentence as the cosmopolitan pursuit of jetting over to London for the weekend? And secondly, when did this girl who lived in the same house for 18 years start having so many adventures? Three days after I returned from Paris, I rescheduled three tests to go to a volleyball tournament in Almería, and that weekend my parents arrived to visit for Semana Santa. After they left, two of my Whitman friends came to visit; the following weekend I went to Morocco and the one after that we bussed to the national tournament in León.
Maybe this chronicle sounds like the kind of social-media boasting that many of my contemporaries attempt to cloak as gratefulness with “#blessed.” I definitely relish the bragging rights that my semester abroad affords me, and I’m posting it here, so I’m not exactly #humble, either. Yet I also continue to genuinely marvel that the preceding paragraph pertains to me. As I contemplate the paths I have travelled, it merits affirming that I truly do thank the Lord, (or, as I imagine the universe, that greater author who is writing my life with a wry sense of humor and a wealth of generosity), for the abundance that is mine.