In September of 1988, I spent my twenty first birthday on a flight to England.
I was on my way to study abroad for a year, leaving my family and a serious boyfriend behind.
Despite being scared, I bravely set off... for the glamor, the dream...Europe!
I was immediately made acutely aware of my obviousness as a foreigner.
[And I mean foreigner in the "does not fit in at all" sense, not the "Wow! Isn't she exotic and exciting?!" sense.]
First, my clothes were all wrong.
[The good people of The Tea Sipping Land were blinded by the sheer brightness of my fashunz.]
Second, my accent was a liability.
When a Brit comes to the U.S. their accent makes them an instant celebrity.
“Like, OMG! Say something!” we swoon. “We just LOVE your accent!!”
It was the opposite for me.
“Oh, you’re American,” they’d say glancing around for a more promising conversation.
Third, I was way. too. loud. (and dorky).
Walking home one day, I saw my flatmate in our kitchen window.
When I arrived at our door, I kicked it open, closed my eyes, jumped in the room and, both trying to amuse her and fit in with the Yorkshire crowd, yelled, "A-UP, LUV!" at top volume.
Then I did a silly dance with booty-shakin' goodness.
I opened my eyes to see that she had her entire study group (including her professor) visiting for tea and scones.
My flatmate was mortified.
She turned to her classmates and, in a voice filled with disdain, said,
"Don't mind her, she's American."
In all honesty, I was incredibly lonely my first few months in England.
As the Christmas holiday approached, I grew increasingly homesick but I was embarrassed to ask my parents for an airline ticket home.
I worried that my parents would interpret my homesickness as a weakness.
I would never have been able to maintain my resolve to tough it out were it not for my friend Matthew and his family.
A few summers earlier I worked as a camp counselor in Maine where I met Matthew who worked at the camp on a Bunac visa.
Later that year, on his jaunt around the U.S., Matthew took a long break in my college town and during that period we lived together as roommates and became close friends.
Matthew’s home town in England was a short train ride from my study abroad campus and, thankfully, his parents (his wonderful, gracious parents) adopted me.
They asked me to spend that lonely, English Christmas at their house.
Their invitation was the single thread that held me steady and kept me from begging my parents for a ticket home.
In the end, their hospitality was worth far more than my reputation as a strong and independent daughter.
Had I traveled home that Christmas, I would most likely have held a ticket on Pan Am flight 103, the plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988.
This post was written as part of Catherine and Tracey’s “Where were you when…” writing prompt.
“Our parents' generation can recall exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot - a cultural moment that defined a generation. What big cultural or historic event occurred during your childhood/youth that you recall clearly? What was its impact on you?"
Feel free to join in and write a post on this theme. All you are asked to do is copy the list of participants and add it to the bottom of your post -- and don't forget to add yourself!
For more posts on the “Where were you when…” theme...
Her Bad Mother
Oh, The Joys
Somewhere In The Suburbs
The Bean Blog
The Super Bongo