our good friends, Ben and Tim

“They were the creatures of history, whose coming together was of a nature possible in no other day—the day was inherent in the nature… The relation of people to one another is subject of each to time, to what is happening… The more imperative the love, the deeper its drafts on beings, till it has taken up all that ever went to their making, and according to what it draws on its nature is.”

Elizabeth Bowen, The Heat of The Day

*This is a continuation of London Ramblings pt 1, and pt 2, on Basic England and pt 3, Edinburgh, Scotland, and pt 4, Lost and Stolen in Amsterdampt 5, Brighton: Pier and Pride 

We spent our last night back at The Globe and reminisced about the full-circle we had made. While  my fellows conversed lovingly about the memories, I sat in bitter contempt about the literary-ness of this circle. How dare they allow this to have an ending? I felt we would leave and the glue of our shared homelessness would dissolve the second we exchanged the last of our pounds for dollars. I ached for the all-too-familiar feeling of uprootedness and I was angry with myself for falling back into the illusion of comfort.

I could have told you a story about how I learned the importance of experiential learning or that I came back a more cultured person, but that seems like a lie by omission. There is something human and essential about looking intently at historical and inward wars, and there is blessing in being able to do so alongside books and people. I’ve held these memories inside for safekeeping. I still haven’t gone through all of my photos and I can’t bear to open my journals or class notes. I think I am afraid of what I won’t find, or that maybe the associations and sentiments are only in my head. Maybe London wasn’t that awesome or maybe, by putting it on paper, it will crystallize and uproot. But ending a story is a worthy endeavor. Home is, indeed, in your head. The world is, indeed, an orphan’s home, and it is such an incredible thing to be able to see it and be in it and remember it.




Brighton: Pier and Pride

*This is a continuation of London Ramblings pt 1, and pt 2, on Basic England and pt 3, Edinburgh, Scotland, and pt 4, Lost and Stolen in Amsterdam 

On a Saturday morning I woke up early, walked to Borough market, and spontaneously decided to buy a train ticket to Brighton for a quiet day alone on the beach. I thought, I will get some reading done… perhaps catch some rays. I am wearing a sundress, after all. I bought some dark chocolate for the ride and promptly boarded the train. I only mention the chocolate because I have been unable to forget about it sense; it was the kind that doesn’t melt until it reaches your mouth even in the summer heat. It was the best part of my entire abroad experience.

It was early enough the morning that I found a good seat, but as the ride progressed I noticed that there was an uncanny number of passengers boarding at ever stop, forced to stand piled atop one another. I thought Brighton must be just a general weekend hot spot, no big deal. Won’t ruin my angsty day in literary loneliness. I distracted myself by observing (staring) at a couple sitting directly across from me. I shouldn’t say couple because they didn’t board together, but they most certainly left together. The woman was Spanish and trying to learn English and the man was English and trying to learn her. I don’t know how it all worked out, and try as I did, I saw no coercion in the scenario. Still they ended up holding hands and nuzzling noses and I ended up believing in romance novels.

After arriving in Brighton it became apparent that it would not be a calm day alone on the beach, given that it was pride day. Coincidentally half of my group also decided to come to the Brighton that day, unbeknownst to me. It was, therefore, a much more eventful and memorable day that I had planned.


London Ramblings pt 4: Lost and Stolen in Amsterdam

*This is a continuation of London Ramblings pt 1, and pt 2, on Basic England and pt 3, Edinburgh, Scotland 

The next weekend I got on a plane to Amsterdam with two people, Tatum and James, whom I had known for two weeks but had quickly become my best friends. I was originally determined to remain true to my angsty and contrived air of nomadish individualism, having gone to London knowing no fellow-students and only one of the professors. I vaguely remember Tatum asking me at one point how I had imagined my month would play out before meeting them. My answer had something to do with books and self-induced (and solitary) literary revelation. The whole group thing was an unexpected occurrence that felt equal parts new and old, as though this social being that I hadn’t known since Junior year of high school was being dusted off and, reminded of her actual age, brought back to life. Amsterdam was a wake up call, however, and reminded me of how irrevocably odd and incapable of blending in that I am. The time there can be recounted through a series of lost and stolen things, juxtaposed by deep and unexpected connections. This theme asserted itself the moment the plane landed, as we commissioned a cab to drive us to our hostile. I assured the guys that I had enough cash to get us to centrum, and they reluctantly acquiesced to the driver’s gesture to enter the vehicle. The meter quickly revealed that I did not, in fact, have the adequate funds. We communicated this fact the best we could our driver, who did not appear to understand the variety of English we were speaking

Us: “Sir, you can let us out here, we don’t have enough money”

Driver: “Ok.”

*Continues driving until I break out in nervous sweats at the thought of owing money to a Dutch man*

When he finally stopped relatively close to the hostile, we raced to find an ATM and eventually handed the crook (driver) an absurd amount of money. We walked into our hostile only slightly disheartened by the loss, still dreaming of ~adventure~. I noticed a bag they were selling at the front desk that read: “Home is in Your Head.” It was perfect, a motto, an answer to my conflicted state of being: am I a loner, homeless and orphaned, or am I just another person, looking for home and a people to share it with. This way I could be both, as soon as I bought this bag, of course. I was refused this purchase, however, because they did not accept my debit card as a form of payment and, as I mentioned, the cab driver had stolen all of my cash.

The memory of Amsterdam is one big blur, filled with fragments of horrible situations that accumulate into a beautiful regard of the city, and a desire to go back and redeem my time there. One fragment that I can extract from the blur is an image of a sportsbar we found and frequented. It served bottomless ribs and 10 shots of Jäger for 10 Euros, a steal that prevented visits to other, more historical, attractions of this city, renowned for it’s food and museums. One museum we did visit, however, was the Heineken Experience, where a tour guide teaches you about the brewing process and the high-cultural language of all things hops and malts. A group of about fifty people gathered around with an allotted glass of beer as the guide taught us, via a headset microphone, the correct way to drink it. He awarded extra pores to those who participated and answered questions correctly. James and Tatum answered the first and second questions correctly, making our small group the elite students. To maintain this status, All I had to do was answer a question correctly, or at the very least remain silent so as not to screw with the batting average. But of course, before he could ask another question, I dropped my beer and loudly broke the glass. The guide made a joke, all the people laughed, and James and Tatum looked down in embarrassment, determined to disassociate themselves from me. The guide gave me a replacement glass out of pity and we smuggled it out of the brewery to take home as a reminder of my failure to blend into the group. Any group. All groups.

Perhaps the pinnacle embarrassment and Thing-to-be-Redeemed from Amsterdam was stolen and lost on a pub-crawl. We underwent this ~adventure~ whole-heartedly and were in the life of the group from the start. We made many new friends from all around the world and one enemy from Australia, whom I wrestled for a drink coin he had stolen from me. However, this was not the worst thing that was stolen from me that evening. At the second or third bar I noticed that my phone was missing (along with a bus pass but nobody ever talks about that one). I wasn’t about to let this ruin my evening, so I opted to Stay Calm and Crawl on. When we got back to the hostile, I called my mother to let her know she should probably cancel my service. (I am, after all, responsible and foreword-thinking and coordinated). When she answered the phone she was sniffling and obviously upset: “Emma?!” she cried. Apparently, due to some crossed iCloud voodoo, my sister had received a phone call from a non English-speaking man from my number. Mother proceeded to call every phone number she could find affiliated with Belmont administration and abroad. We woke up the next morning to a phone call from one of the faculty members on the trip. James answered the phone: “Hello? … Hey Dr. Tiner … Yes Emma is alive.”

I deduced that my phone was indeed stolen when I found a photo of an unknown woman at the Schiphiol airport, which was obtained through the aforementioned iCloud voodoo. This was further confirmed by a notification on my computer that read: “iPhone Last Found in: Iran.” Some people  firmly believe that I first lost my phone and then someone found and took it. I stand by my telling of the story, which is adamant in clearly relaying the fact that my phone was first stolen and, therefore, lost. But, truth be told, taking an inventory of Amsterdam illustrates my inability to lay low and find a home in a group: 1) no cash 2) no tote bag 3) broken beer glass 4) stolen beer glass 5) Lost pub crawl Tshirt 6) Stolen flannel in lieu of lost pub crawl tshirt 7) lost and stolen cell phone. Whether it was lost then stolen, or stolen then lost, I was successfully disconnected from everything. I was lost and stolen, stolen and lost, in and by various countries, and into the journey to and from them, fragmented and scattered into America, England, Scotland, and, apparently, Iran. Amsterdam did a very good job of taking things from me and of reminding me that I cannot own anything without the risk of losing it or having it stolen. Home is in your head, and must be kept there for safekeeping, because the stolen glass was still dropped and broken five months later in America and the bag itself could not have carried every remnant of Amsterdam, alive and gleaming, back to America.