Monday, February 27, 2012

Voyage in London: February 12th, 2012

     Every morning since I came to London, all the girls (including me) got up around 8 o'clock in the morning. My female classmates usually took a while to get ready for the day, where as the boys would wake up 15 minutes beforehand and be ready and out the door on time. We checked out of our hostel and left our luggage behind to allow us to travel around London for one last day. For breakfast, during the other mornings, we went to a grocery store nearby, however, the store would not open until later that Sunday. I translated the sign from englsih to french for the Belgians and the teachers decided to contiue our journey without breakfast.
     We went through the metro system and ended up at Buckingham Palace. By chance we came in time to watch the guards change. A calvary of men road in front of the palace and proceeded to perform a traditional ritual. A chinese woman standing next to me asked if I could take her photo. From that moment on we struck up a conversation about her work with master card and her country. I explained to her my position as an exchange student from Belgium traveling on a voyage with my Belgian class in London. When I turned to present my Belgian classmates to her, they were no were to be seen. Off in the distance, my group was walking away without me - again. I said a quick farewell and ran in the direction of my classmates.
    My group made their way toward the British museum. All the girls were driven to Starbuck: they could not stop thinking about their hunger caused by their breakfastless morning. The boys, teachers, and I were left to explore the museum. The group of boys and I rushed through the exhibits as our hour of free time passed quickly.
     Even though the girls ate and were full, we all went to Burger King for those of us who did not have the chance to eat that morning. It was satisfing to take a chunk out of a traditional American hamburger. The size of the hamburger must have been the same capacity of my two fists placed together.
     We finished our hamburgers then searched for an Abercrombie and Finch clothing store. No one knew the area so I asked a random pedestrian for directions. It turned out he was a traffic controller and he told me the layout of the whole of London. We had a long conversation in english until a toy store came into our view. The Belgians wanted to check it out, so I said goodbye to my fellow Englishman and entered the complex. This toy store must have had at least six levels of stuffed animals, action figures, games, and the sort. The workers had cheerful smiles and warm welcomes for all the customers passing by.
     After wandering around in this extravagant toy store we went to the Ambercombie store. I adjusted to the dark enviromnent and I couldn't believe my eye as I looked around. Half naked men were standing about talking, dancing, and taking pictures with customers. It was a dream come true for the Belgians. Our group took free pictures with the muscular guys for a souvenir. The Belgians did not want to leave, but we had to return to the hostel to collect our baggage.
     We were running late on schedule and everyone ran through the metro system to the main train station. Due to our rushing, we got in line for customs on time. I remembered that I needed to buy my host parents a gift and I proceeded to ask the teachers if I could buy some key chains in the store in front of us. Unexpectedly, all the students and teachers yelled, "No!" My simple question was not provocative in any way to the cause of their outburst......I asked a second time and explained my situation, nevertheless, the teachers refused. Anger, frustration, and gloominess overcame me and I turned my back on the group. I was full of so many emotions from their unjust bitterness toward me that I could not even look at them without breaking down. As I was calming myself down, the Belgians yelled my name to gain my attention. They wanted me to go to the front of the line because they believed it would take longer for me to get through customs (Europeans can travel between their countries with fewer precautions than non-Europeans like me). They made me feel embarrassed and I walked to the front in shame. I still helped them get through customs since the guards spoke english and the signs were not in french. Once on the train, I mended my relationship with the teachers as we talked for the duration of the train trip.
      When I got into my first host parents car I could breath easily. I felt relieved to go home with my family because I never feel unwanted, hated, or belittled. That night I slept soundly knowing that I was not a foreigner in my home, even if I was a foreigner in Belgium, England, or in any country.
     The finally of the London trip lead to Buckingham palace, burger king, and the british museum. It was also my first time seeing real half naked guys in an Abercombie store (instead of manicans). My group was able to experience the British culture and people as we roamed the streets and made new acquaintances. I was disappointed that I had to leave the english speaking country, on the other hand, I was overjoyed to rejoin my first host family. At times the journey was difficult when my Belgian classmates bullied me. It does not go without saying that this trip was an amazing experience and I would not exchange it for anything.

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