I am writing these thoughts in the
midst of my flight home from an exhilarating experience in London, England. I
find myself hesitant to write my thoughts entirely; too many times have the
joys of travel been written about to provide much newness to it. Yet, I want to
document these thoughts in the hopes that one day someone might appreciate
hearing about what happened to me in June 2017.
years prior, I visited London for the first time. Though brief, the trip opened
my eyes to the wonders of cultures across the world and I swore to return to the
city during my years in college. Last summer I began to plan and prepare. A
family friend recommended a two-week trip she’d been on before; I emailed the
professor all of the Fall semester to inform him of my interest. Before I knew
it, I was flying out to the United Kingdom once again; this time with
confidence, determination, and independence in my back pocket. I arrived with
an itinerary full of things to do, places to see, and goals to accomplish while
I was there. I was back, as I had sworn to, and felt like I could control the
learned quickly, though, that the world was still very much in control. Within
the first few nights of my stay, the Grenfell Tower caught fire. Some of our
classmates were so close that they had to close their windows to keep smoke
from coming in. Tragically, I saw London become a place of mourning. Missing
Person signs walled the windows of businesses down the street, and the nearby
Underground station was closed a majority of our time there. I was thrown into
an adventure of constant flexibility; travel across London was especially
difficult. Yet there was beauty in tragedy; trauma was met with charity. Prayer
sessions, donation drives, and fundraising events blossomed on those same
streets. I felt great sympathy for the families affected by the event, in a way
I had never quite been exposed to at home.
Forced to adapt to messy traffic
and no Tube station, I became skilled with a map and did my best to lead my
peers with me. Many of my plans did not go as expected as a result; my
itinerary was worthless as I released my grip and allowed the city to guide my adventures.
I withdrew my expectations, letting the city and my fellow students take me
where I ought to go. I trusted instinct far more than a schedule. Often, I
decided my days last minute, if not just the night before. Some goals were kept
in mind, but otherwise what caught my attention would be where I went. I took a
boat ride on the Thames, visited marketplaces, and took walks through the city
– my toes were numb from all the walking I did. New friends led me to pubs,
stores, and restaurants; my passions led me to museums, dance classes, and a
wooded area of Wales that no brochure could have taken me to.
trip taught me the kind of traveler I could be, and the one I want to be. I saw
many a tourist bumbling in the street to see the big sites – Big Ben,
Buckingham, the London Eye. Yet my eyes led me to a more realistic view of
London. I wanted to see local attractions like the markets and hangout spots for
people my age. I also spent more time enjoying live performances than much
else; and London thrives in it. People everywhere are performing live music,
dances, or other amazing feats for just a few pounds in return. Artwork covered
the walls of the Underground, the sides of buildings, and storefronts all over
London. My artistic self fell in love with what I was seeing, and every corner
was a new surprise.
the greatest thing I learned on my adventures was how to rely only on myself
for the first time. It was especially true when I went to visit Wales all on my
own; I had to get to the station, on my train, and to my destination with no
help, and make sure I did so safely. Beyond that, I had to get to London and
back home by myself, and my flat had no one but me in it. Self-reliance became
vital to my experience all around, and I learned how I live when no one is
there to see. Having lived at home through college, the idea of being on my own
is intimidating yet necessary. My trip to London trained me for that, and I
believe that travel is no longer a scary unknown that I don’t know how to
handle. In a few months, I will travel to visit my boyfriend, and next summer I
hope to go do an internship out of town; all of this and more I feel ready to tackle.
Hopefully, I will be able to return to the UK again one day and feel all the more
prepared to see what it has left to show me.
I might wonder what exactly I did in London. I could say I saw Twelfth Night,
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Goat, Salome, even Lion King and Aladdin. I saw the
green land of Wales, felt the salty breeze of the Thames, and heard the hustling
life of the London streets. More than anything, I ventured alone and found myself
in a land far away. I believed in and trusted myself more than anyone else. I
took home more lessons than I would have learned sitting in a classroom at
home. I brought back a me that I hope to never trade away, and one I hope will
continue to grow and travel for a long time to come.
Never mutter about someone even if you don’t think they understand you.
So yes, my French accent sucks, and I’m still learning things about when stuff’s open. So i’m reading this sign and an old guy comes up and tells me when the shop will reopen, which was super-helpful, until I thanked him and he proceeded to baby-talk me and then turned to his wife and started muttering about foreigners right in front of me.
I was understandably outraged, because YES, I can read the sign, and YES, I can understand what you’re saying, and YES I CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE MUTTERING TO YOUR WIFE ABOUT ME.
And then I realized this is what hundreds of thousands of immigrants go through every day, and I had a giant “oh shit” moment, because in the US we don’t even bother to learn your mother tongue and then expect you to be perfect at ours. So I am sorry, and I will try to be a better human in the future.
The Final Days: Looking Back on a Semester in India
Today is my last day in Mother India. I have a 6:30 am flight tomorrow morning and after that who knows when I’ll be able to return. I’m pretty much completely packed, and I’m spending my last 24 hours doing my favorite Indian things. I had a delicious Masala Dosa from my favorite local hotel (restaurant)the South Inn, and am spending time with the people I love. I’m supposed to grab some beers at a local brewery, drink a bunch of Indian soda, and see a Bollywood movie with TERRIBLE REVIEWS. While I digest the 3 bowls of coconut chutney I had for breakfast, I figured I’d share some of the most important lessons India has taught me.
How to be alone: I moved to India by myself, and although I’ve made friends I’ve had to face myself quite a bit. I’ve learned to be a lot more independent and figure things out on my own. Going out to eat on your own isn’t nearly as weird as you think it will be.
How to not be alone: I’ve had to reach out to so many people in order to meet people here. I’ve had to use the internet, and meet up with strangers. I’ve asked for a lot of phone numbers. But despite some awkwardness, I’ve made some awesome friends.
How to take risks: The best experiences often come from some questionable choices. Sometimes you have to plan trips with someone you just met, or hop in an auto to go someplace you don’t really know where it is. India can seem scary, but sitting around in fear does no good. I’ve hopped on buses by myself headed to unknown cities and while it was somewhat scary, these experiences has been the most rewarding.
How to deal with the unexpected: “Anything can happen in India.” Plans never go as you expect, and sometimes you have to deal with crazy situations (Auto drivers trying to sell me drugs, my train being stormed by teenage boys, being completely lost, getting groped). I’ve learned to take things as they come. India has taught me that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Stand strong, use your head, and you’ll be fine (and sometimes punch a groper in the stomach).
How to communicate without words: Only 12% of Indians speak English. Although this number is higher in cities like Bangalore, I’ve come in contact with a lot of language barriers. Hand motions, head wobbles, and smiles help with these. After 4 months I’ve learned to understand a lot more Kannada and Hindi than I thought I would be able to.
How to ask for help: When in a foreign country you get confused. Most of the time if you ask someone for help or directions they will gladly help you. Going up to an Indian military man holding a gun is intimidating, but without his help I would have never found my train in Varanasi.
How to get over serious nastiness: My apartment in India is majorly infested with bugs and lizards. There are trash, rats, and stray dogs on the street. Walking over trash filled sewers is gross but you learn to get over it. No one likes a complainer. I’ve also used some of the grossest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in my life during bus stops (flooded floors, feces everywhere etc), but you just have to squat and do your business. Don’t let filth hinder you.
How to deal with Indian men: I could write a ton about this, but understand that there are serious cultural barriers between Indian and western culture. I have Indian guy friends who are great, but I have also had a lot of awkward situations: guys that won’t stop calling me, creepy guys obsessed with “easy white women,” and even a guy telling me he loved me A WEEK AFTER WE MET (my reaction was just to scream “AH DON’T SAY THAT”. Just be careful and think about how your actions are coming off.
How to barter: I never get a chance to do this in the United States. At first I was intimidated by the idea of getting ripped off, so I would always go to fixed price places. Then I learned bartering is a sport. Walking away, laughing at prices, and getting a good deal is great fun.
How to hand wash clothes: Bucket washing clothes isn’t particularly fun. I’ve certainly ruined a few shirts, but it builds character.
How to take cold bucket showers: See above example. Not fun, builds character.
How to eat with my hands: I can eat anything with my hands now. It’s a lot easier to eat rice with your fingers than one would think. Plus then you don’t have to wash a spoon.
How to fall in love with a home away from home: India is a beautiful country with amazing people. I love the chaos and the diversity. And then there is the delicious food… Even though India has a lot of problems, and lacks many of the comforts of the States, I’ve really fallen in love with the place. I would love to live here again and I will certainly return.
This one is going to be a lot shorter than my last fan account as it was the same performances, etc. It will be mainly about the different things they said this time around.
For his solo, Dongwoo sang the ballad “Try” by Asher Book and played the piano, which he also said was his first time practicing the piano in about ten years. For his second solo, his subunit INFINITE H featured a new song called “부딪쳐” with JIN, a trainee at Woollim Entertainment. Dongwoo and Hoya explained that the new song briefly summarizes their own youthful lives; the song is rated 19+ for lyrics pertaining to mild sexual behavior and alcohol. INFINITE H shared that their next album has been made.
During the ending ment, Dongwoo said he wanted to tell us something about his personal life; he said in the past, his father provided his sister with 12 years of studying abroad, and dancing lessons for his other sister, and he too learned various things such as swimming and piano. A little while later, they had to sell off his piano and he didn’t know why, but he found out it was because his family was accumulating debt after his father was laid off. Dongwoo said his dad is a cool/charismatic person and thanked his parents (who were sitting in the second floor of the venue) by doing a 큰절/huge bow to them on stage. He took a very long time standing back up as he had started to cry. Dongwoo said he wants INFINITE and Inspirits to be together even until 그 해 여름 100!
Sungyeol explained that he sold the blow up hammer he had used during his solo for 가슴이 뛴다 the previous night.
Fan comment: “Myungsoo, I would kiss you even if you don’t brush your teeth.” L became defensive straight away.
Fan comment: “Dongwoo oppa, I am getting married soon. Please have Sungyeol ready as my groom.” Sungyeol’s reply to that note was “I will reject it."
Fan comment: "Sunggyu, now that I see it, your eyes are pretty big!” Sunggyu began to open his eyes very big for the camera.
When one of the notes asked whether Myungsoo was “bigger” or if Sungjong was “bigger” Sungjong had to turn away from the fans and camera because he was embarrassed/laughing so hard. Dongwoo said everyone in INFINITE is big. (“bigger” = “크다” and could refer to something being big and both tall)
When the members were thanking the instrumentalists, chorus, staffs, and security guards, we were asked if the security guards were handsome. The fans screamed and Woohyun asked, “am I handsome?” We screamed louder and he laughed, commenting, “this [scream] was louder. I almost got upset! (삐질뻔!)"
Sungyeol said after crying so much the night before he feels a little embarrassed facing the fans and compared it to feeling exposed, like he’s completely naked.
Sunggyu said he had something to confess to the fans, and told us that his stomach hurt the whole concert because he ate too much before the show. He listed a bunch of foods he ate, including 2 bananas and 5 pieces of chocolate, though that wasn’t even half of the list. He said, however, after watching the other members perform so hard, he fought through the pain and gave it his all.