Home Sweet Home

Saturday, October 15, 2005

  • Clerk not exactly as shown..but damn close.

    Clerk not exactly as shown..but damn close.

Written by Lauren Mead

My father calls it my “European vacation abroad.” I call it studying far away from home with the possibility of writing a few papers in between being scolded by badly dressed sales-clerks, taking wrong busses and wandering around countless museums. It’s been three weeks since I first wandered aimlessly through the winding, cobblestone streets of London; in some bizarre way, the cold and rainy afternoons and the ghostly sounds of opera singers in rehearsal across the street have become home to me. Even the double-deckers that were once a novelty have become just a means for transportation. I have not, much to my chagrin, adopted a British accent but I can give directions to foreigners without turning them around completely. (Foreigners!) It’s official. I’ve become a Londoner.

But with all of the amazing adventures that we have been having, we’re all starting to realize that home sweet home is still beyond the ocean. At week three, homesickness is spreading like the plague and one by one I see my new friends thinking more and more of home. I am no exception. I read an article a little while ago that talked about the psychology of people and their hometowns. It said that although most people believe that they will never return home when they are young, the majority of individuals end up migrating back home to their place of birth or somewhere similar later in life. There is also that phrase, “you can never really go home after you have left.” What I want to know is this: why do we leave home if we know that it will never be the same? And what makes us want to come home at all, once we’ve seen the rest of the world?

I’ve got another story for you. This one isn’t about my father; it’s about shopping. Portobello Road is a chaotic mess of people shouting, bartering and chattering; new smells waft through the air like the ghosts of exotic cultures and everything has its’ own colour. Everywhere there are exciting stalls and quaint little shops filled with dazzling new finds. It’s a shopaholic’s dream come true. Yesterday, one store caught my attention and together, Nicolle and I slipped out of the chaos of the market and into the empty little vintage clothing store at the corner of Portobello Road. I liked the store instantly. There was swing dancing music blaring from some hidden speakers and more importantly, every wall was covered with old shiny shoes and silk gloves. The man at the desk only nodded his head politely as we entered.

It was Nicolle who found the dress. The clerk, sensing a possible sale was on his feet and at our side immediately. “Can I help you with anything, ladies?” Nicolle asked to try on the beautiful teal silk dress and I followed her into the dressing room. She looked immaculate in it. If you have ever found your soul mate in an article of clothing, you will know just how Nicolle felt. That is, until we checked the price tag and saw that it was, in fact, two hundred and forty-five pounds. Needless to say, although the dress may have been a soul mate it wasn’t meant to be. So I whipped out my camera to take a picture of her and the sales clerk came over and started yelling at me!

“It is very, very rude to come in here to try on clothes and take pictures and not buy anything! Very rude!”

I could feel the tears pooling, hot and prickly as the clerk went on; there hadn’t been a sign saying “no pictures!” I felt shocked and embarrassed. So I did the only thing that I could to stop myself from crying: I yelled back. Nicolle and I took off while the clerk glowered at us darkly from under his over-slicked ken doll hair. We were so angry with the clerk for being so mean, that we got on the wrong bus and ended up in a strange part of town. It was then that I realized that I was really far away from home.

I felt homesick. I wanted desperately to go back to Canada where the store-clerks don’t yell and the busses are on the right side of the street. And then I thought of something. Instantly I was brought back to my first year of university. I had gotten on the wrong bus and ended up down town all by myself. I was terrified. It’s scary not knowing where you are; it’s even scarier when you don’t know how to get home. Maybe this is why we like to go home. Even if nothing is the same when we return, home is still home and as long as we know the way to get back, the journey ahead seems less daunting.

The moral of this story is this: every once in a while, everybody takes the wrong bus. You can even take the wrong bus far out of town, but you can always come home.

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