“I fall in love with Britain every day, with bridges, buses, blue skies... but it’s a brutal world, man.”
Puppies, everywhere. They're very often off the leash and roaming free and excited but still ever-attentive to their owner. Every time I leave the house I meet a pup on the street. I LOVE IT. The beach is especially popular for dog walkers and it's honestly distracting -- How am I supposed to focus on the beauty of nature when new dogs are romping past in all directions?! The picture above might look like a stunning sunset, but really I was trying to capture the majesty of that little black dog attempting to tackle and chomp wave after wave; consistently the cutest thing I've ever seen is replaced every day by a different dog.
I love the linguistic regionalisms, I love getting to say things like "flat," "cheers," and "quid." My fellow Americans and I actually sat around and practiced casually saying "Cheers" one day early on -- As you're expected to thank the bus driver every time you get off a bus, that is a lot of opportunity to offer up a "Cheers." I've gotten pretty good at the jargon, not gonna lie.
I love being surrounded by accents. It's such a simple thing but being in a place where everyone sounds different than everyone back home is just exciting. It's new and different. I've always been fascinated by language and passionate about the written word but the History of the English Language class I took with Dr. Stallard last semester seriously changed my life a little bit. I love the history of language. I, being a total slacker loser, arrogantly shirked the foreign language requirement in high school, so I could've found out I love foreign languages, too, before I took French in college and came abroad and experienced immersion in a foreign language first hand. I loved being surrounded by unintelligible Portuguese and Spanish. I love hearing conversations in tones and dialects unfamiliar to me. It makes me eager to learn. The satisfaction of even just being able to communicate the most basic concepts is exciting enough to make me want more.
Relatedly, I love being the only American in a room! That is 100% a room I want to be in. I want to hang with people from different backgrounds, I want to hear their different perspectives. Of course, interactions very often begin with the question: "Who're you voting for?" Obviously I can't blame them for caring, everyone has stressed the unfortunate global impact of American politics. It only sucks when it becomes an uncontrollable political firestorm of passion and frustration and downright nasty rhetoric, which happens everywhere, but it is different here when I'm The American in the conversation. Otherwise, it's cool being the only one in the room with an "accent." It makes it super easy to start conversation; people have loads of questions, and I do, too. I love the American friends I've made, I love that we're so close, but I came here for international experiences, you know? I want to talk about what Welsh life is like with Welsh people, I want to find out what I should do and where I should go on my trip to Bath from an English person raised there, only Swansea-ians know the best cafes/bars/student discount hotspots.
The beautiful bookstore, Waterstones. I can't even walk by without popping in and doing a lap. It smells perfect, the mix of books and coffee from their cafe; they've squeezed so many display tables piled high with books that it's almost hard to navigate; it's all cream colored and warm and cozy. It's exactly what a bookstore should be and it's so hard to find back home with book shops closing at every turn over the years. I'm all about supporting independent bookstores, but you really can't beat the Swansea Waterstones atmosphere. They've had Christmas decorations out all month and I'm such a sucker for Christmas, always.
The rainy days, perfect for settling into a cafe or reading in bed. Perfect for cwtch. Not as perfect to get caught outside in, but that's not always a bad thing either! The atmosphere feels essentially British when it rains.
THE SUNNY DAYS! Today was the epitome of a perfect Welsh day, just over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (basically as warm as it gets here) and not a single cloud in the sky. Everyone's out and about in t-shirts and going tights-less in shorts and skirts. The bay is pretty magical sunny or cloudy, but it just feels right getting that vitamin D with your toes in the sand.
Traveling has always been my number one goal in life and it's hard to believe I'm finally doing it -- even still, two months into my trip. It really hits me sometimes the proximity I'm in to so much of the world I've dreamt of seeing. In the back of my mind I doubted whether or not I'd ever be able to make it happen, so to live on this continent, even temporarily, means so much to me in and of itself.
Potentially most of all, I love being in a place with so much history. Not just history, everywhere has history, but see-able, touch-able history. There is so much that is SO old here and still intact. It can be so easy to imagine the past as far gone and unfathomable but then you're stared in the face by a 600 year old building or a 5000 year old tomb and there's the past demanding to be remembered and felt and experience as something Real and Concrete. Plus, as one of the rowdiest former colonies, we never learned that much about British history, or at least we barely scratched the surface of it. This forces me to do a lot of googling as independent research in order to make sure I have my monarchy facts and timelines straight. Which rebellion happened under which monarch? Who came before whom? Who did they colonize and when? (The English Crown has existed for a VERYYYYY LONG TIME, Y'ALL. I don't even know for absolute certain the names and order of all the US presidents.) And, as I suspected, studying British history and politics is so much more fun in Britain. American politics is fascinating here, too, they literally have an entire American Studies department.
Next Tuesday, you know what it is, their hosting an all-nighter to watch the election results come through at the student union bar (I love that, too) -- which will definitely be a unique experience.