A Foggy Day - London, England

December 17-21, 2006












Culture shock! The contrast is huge. Stepping out of the airport and into the "tube" for the ride into central London we are ignored -- no offers to carry our bags, take a taxi, shop here, or stay in this or that hotel -- as we navigate through rush hour commuters with our backpacks slung over our shoulders. The sign on the pavement says "look left" as the cars stop, waiting for us to cross. Could it be that an automobile (much higher in the transport hierarchy than a lowly pedestrian) is deferring to us? Unbelieving, we dash across the street. After five months in Asia, we have been trained: buses give way to trucks, cars give way to buses, motorbikes yield to cars, rickshaws and bicycles yield to motorbikes, and pedestrians -- always on the bottom of the food chain -- run like hell whenever there's an momentary opening. But in London, vehicles traveling the same direction always stay only on one side of the road, obeying signs and signals, and people politely queue at traffic lights, waiting patiently for the green-man sign to light up before crossing. What a strange land we've wandered into! The streets are not piled with rubbish, cow dung, discarded betel nuts, mounds of dirt, and there aren't substances you'd rather not think about floating by in the gutters. There are sidewalks: sparkling clean, no gaping holes. So much empty space and so few people, all dressed identically in stylish but drab clothing, black is the color of choice.

Strangely, we find ourselves missing the colorful chaos, the press of humanity, and the vibrant street life of India. We think of all the humble, eager, hard-working people we've met, wanting to talk with us, tell us about their families, invite us to their weddings, help us in so many ways. Things seem too organized, anonymous, and a tad bland here in the First World. And it costs a fortune! A ride on the underground, two cafe lattes, and one muffin set us back 14 pounds, that's 28 dollars.

But we enjoy walking hassle-free through the city with no one demanding to know where we're from or where we're going, taking the incredibly well signed (in English!) public transport to see London's tourist sights, staying in a heated hotel room, with clean soft towels and a dry bathroom floor, eating salads (our first in months) and feeling free to drink water directly from the tap! Even though neither of us have been here before, London seems like a very familiar place, and we both have the odd feeling that we have returned home from the (American) colonies...








Delhi, India (plane) ► London, England