Culture Wash

On Day #20 of backpacking alone, my sister and whitewater friend Tyler rang me on Skype.  Being that I don’t believe in Facebook and I had my antique of a cellphone for brief/emergency calls only, I hadn’t seen a familiar face in more than two weeks by the time we connected.  They inquired about my travels and I replied honestly that I had met so many amazing people, experienced many vibrant and diverse places, and I didn’t feel lonely at all! At the time, every part of the statement was true but not 12 hours after we hung up did inevitable loneliness creep.

In my journals, I referred to the following day in Amsterdam as breaking point. I dwelled in my mood for a few hours embracing a Hunter S. Thompson-esque flirtation with lunacy. When I emerged from my funk (literally — I left a dark, lonesome room smelling slightly of grapefruit to open air and sky HAHA) I took a seat on the bench in front of the eco-cabin.

It was then that a friendly neighbor, Tom, took a seat beside me for a FULL and fully hilarious English conversation. (What a treat!) We took up narrating “Duck Wars,” a show we imagined featuring the variety of animals on the green in front of our cabins. After this exchange I remembered the fantastic existence of British humor. We discovered that we are both from Essex County, his in England and mine in New England, and the majority of towns share the same name.  Twenty-four hours later, I was on a night bus and ferry to London.

I spent my first two nights in Britain at Old Seldon Farm recovering from a cold I had acquired in transit then took a train back to London on June 24th. Truth be told, I felt anxious there and wrote that I found it to be uncomfortably fast-paced and, of anywhere that I had been, housed the least free smiles and the most consumer culture. I coined the term “culture wash” in my travels to describe a city center void of grounded people-to-people interaction replaced with soulless money-centric and technology-driven rush. London felt culture washed.  After learning about how the monarchy won’t allow for any buildings in the city to have visibility over the castle walls (lest we discover we’re all equally human and the grand illusion crumble), I resolved that the world has seen about enough of outdated, artificial hierarchical structures.

Ahem, let’s observe a little map of economic inequality here for a hot second:

World Economic Inequality

Interesting. Moving on…

I wanted to leave as soon as possible and made my way toward the Eurolines station to comb my options for quick departure to anywhere else but fate dropped a friend, Sayed, in my path.  His kindness and generous offer of his couch compelled me to stay for a couple of days. In that time, I learned about his upbringing in Sudan and more about Islam.  We visited the London Zoo (cages too small), Tate Modern (stuffy “art world” conversation), and Platform 9 3/4 (bastardized)… all were not that cool but good company made it so.  We walked through the parks “all owned by the queen” and I visited the Natural History Museum, which was one of two museums I made time for and thus the best of all the trip. When I left, Sayed gave me a Qur’an to read and I’m forever grateful for his company ESPECIALLY because my brain now goes directly to real memories of him and the Turkish/North African neighborhood of Amsterdam, where I thrived for two weeks, every time I hear perverted, dehumanizing statements about the Middle East courtesy of American media…

Note: I didn’t get a ton of pictures because the scenery wasn’t that interesting. (Shrug.)

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