How do I even begin to describe a place like London?
My first few days here have been a whirlwind of new information, and I’m trying to remember everything, the details of all of these firsts. Of seeing the red telephone booths, the Thames River, the twenty-five minute walk from Brick Lane to Liz and Peter’s flat in Shadwell.
Right now I’m looking out the window of my bedroom at the Vaughan’s; the silhouettes of pointed church steeples and brick buildings are resting against navy clouds. Walking London’s streets today felt brand new and I found myself trying to find some sort of familiarity, like in how the misty rain mixed with humidity reminds me of evergreen trees and rocky Washington beaches.
But the newness definitely outweighs the familiar. Cars coming from the opposite direction on the street, Muslim women wearing burkas, unfamiliar languages being spoken, architecture hundreds of years older than anything in the States on every corner. The library is called the idea store, band-aids are called plaster, and z is pronounced zed.
It’s one thing to study cross-culturalism, it’s a whole other to experience it. Culture is fluent, always changing, different from each person’s point of view. It’s fascinating.
Today I was walking alone to my host family’s home and got a bit lost, but finally found my way. And I was gripped by a small but pressing fear, not for my safety, but a fear of being inadequate, the fear of being in a new city in a new country and feeling as though everyone around me knew that I’m an outsider.
There is a lot I hope to learn this summer. I have so many questions about cross-cultural artistic collaboration and evangelism and the history and culture of East London. But I think this summer is also about even more than that. I think it’s about learning to trust that God hears my prayers and knows my heart and is near me even when I’m afraid, or self-conscious, or lost. That His presence is always, not sometimes.
More thoughts soon.