I'm sitting here in Vancouver at 1:05 am desperately not wanting to go to bed I'm exhausted and have had a really terrible day and don't want to lie in bed thinking about it. It has taken THIS to propel me to my blog site in order to compose the last edition of my Morocco/Spain blog.
So now I'm here bleary-eyed and really just wishing I could huck my computer against a wall. But I won't. And that's really only because the music it's randomly selected to play is so nice. Songs from the new Pride & Prejuidice and Sense & Sensibility soundtracks. How fitting for this entry, because I spent the last of my days overseas in Jane Austen country right in the heart of Devon. Oh, see there we go, I can't crush my computer into a bajillion pieces, it's playing the song "Devonshire"...lol...
Mom and I flew from Malaga into Gatwick (I know, I know...every Brit kept telling me what a nightmare it would be but after Morocco...wow...smooth sailing...except that our bags didn't arrive for an HOUR) or wait, was it Stanstead...sigh...it's really been too long. Heck, maybe it was Luton. Nope, that was on the way there. But the great part was that when I went to buy a bus ticket to London, the GUY SOLD ME A TICKET IN ENGLISH for the SAME AMOUNT that had been POSTED ONLINE! To be non-scammed and in English to boot! I told the ticket guy that he'd literally just made my day because of it. He wasn't too amused. He was just doing his job.
We parted ways once we arrived in London's Central Station. She left me bawling my eyes out with over a hundred lbs. of luggage that I somehow managed to lug onto the bus. But I wasn't crying because of the bags...actually after three weeks of traveling with mom I'd become quite attached to having her around again. I'd been miserably sick throughout the entire time and like mom always told me growing up, "When you're in a foreign country and you're sick, it doesn't matter how old you are, you just want your mom". And she was there and now she was leaving. We'd bonded a lot over camel farts and bad Spanish food. We'd argued over whether or not she'd have to wear a traditional kaftan at a Moroccan wedding (I said yes, she said no but wore it for a little while) or if she could show her arms in Marrakech (I said no, but she won that one). I laughed when she refused to use certain roach-infested squatty potties and she got a chuckle out of my frustration with cold showers (I preferred the hammam to the cold hostel trickle). What more could a mother/daughter ask for???!!!! And so there I stood hovering over my bags, sniveling like a toddler...I should have sucked my thumb...it would have completed the sight for locals who stared in mock sympathy.
My computer is now playing Arabic pop...oh wait...now we're onto Michael Buble.
Those final steps onto the bus to Bristol were one of the most relieving I think I'd experienced within the whole realm of public transportation over the last four months. All because I got my very own seat. I made so stinkin' sure that my carry-on bags were going to take up the WHOLE FREAKIN' thing. A couple people tried to sit next to me but I did what all travel weary travellers do: I pretended to sleep. What a farce! When the bus filled up and pulled away, I conveniently 'woke up!'
And for the next few glorious hours we passed beautiful, grassy, unpolluted fields full of hedgerows and lacking in garbage heaps. Windsor Castle loomed, sheep frolicked, tractors uh, tractored. Just like they're supposed to do in pastoral England.
Mandee was the best sight for sore eyes...a friend my age, from HOME. HOME. And she was driving on the other side of the road which totally threw me because other than that fact, I really could have thought it was like old times back home. But it wasn't and I was going to be staying with her outside of Bristol while she was at a conference for a couple days. After that we'd head back to Dawlish where she lived.
We stayed at this Christian retreat centre called Hillhouse where the next day I experienced my first hot shower with blow-your-brains-out water pressure. I just about died. The water pressure was so strong that it hurt and I was in pain. I couldn't handle it and had to convince myself that THIS FELT GOOD. I was supposed to LIKE THIS! One of the other highlights was carpet. Real, live plush carpet. And outside, there was grass. Real, live grass.
I took a walk the day after I got there and spent three hours photographing an old church graveyard, (was reminded of 'Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard' by Thomas Gray) making faces at cows, and dozing in a field near alongside one of these great Public Footpaths that they have there. When I got back Mandee could tell that something was wrong and I just burst into tears (do ya sense a theme here??!!!). Through my sobs somehow I conveyed the fact that my walk had been the first time I'd been alone in four months except for on a squatty potty. I felt like someone was going to steal the moment from me or not let me be alone again and I was so frightened that I'd tasted something I wasn't going to have again. And that was the beginning of my readjustment to western life. Later on when I returned to Vernon I struggled with not being afraid of men that I didn't know. I was so leery of them and always wondered how they were going to accost me THIS time. It took a few weeks before I realised that the guy who passed me on the street would not make some lewd remark and that the gentleman ahead of me really had no ulterior motive when holding the door open for me.
Dawlish and the rest of Devon enchanted me. It was really one of the most beautiful places I'd ever visited. It was so peaceful, so quiet. Culinary highlights included a traditional pub dinner (roast and all the fixings) at the Swan's Nest, (where Mandee met Sam, her fiancee, on their blind date) clotted cream tea in Teignmouth (tried to replicate this concoction at Mandee's bridal shower this summer...not even CLOSE to a Devonshire cream tea!) which was really the most divine experience EVER, and a luncheon with the four British ladies who'd 'adopted' me on the ferry from Tangier to Tarifa. I had a blast with Laura, Jackie, Pauline, and Elaine...they wined me and dined me again and we talked about the Royals and Jackie showed me a couple of hats from her collection. I love hats...I want to go to a British wedding just so I can wear a hat!!! I had brought the women scarves from Morocco because they hadn't really bought anything on their not-so-pleasant experience in Tangier, and it was such a blessing just to see them so excited about such a small token of gratitude. They'd done so much for me and I'll never forget them. I'll always tell my kids about the "Four British Ladies at the Port at Tangier"!
Mandee also took me to the school and church where she worked and I met this amazing girl, Lydia, who is a beautiful artist and wants to go to art school. We really hit it off and it was such a blessing just to pour into her life even after I'd returned home. We visited Mandee's future inlaws, which was a blast, and we also spent a day in Dartmoore and at Powderham castle. I'd never visited a castle before and I'd also never really known what a moore was. All of the sudden "Hound of the Baskervilles" made sense! I loved being up on the moore and can't wait to return one day! The Dartmoore ponies, skinny roads, and beautiful pastures made me ache to stay in the countryside. Above all, some quality time spent with Mandee was the best part of my time in England...walking and talking along the Public Foothpaths made me feel like we'd stepped back into a Jane Austen novel (take your pick they're all the same! ha ha, just joking). The seaside in Dawlish, fish and chips (the REAL THING!!!) and the general quaintness of it all took my breath away...and believe me, you wouldn't have wanted cod-smelling breath to linger.
Mandee and I finished off our busy 5 days with a final drive to London Heathrow. It was a great last chance to talk until she came to Vernon for the summer, and we made a point of stopping at Stonehenge on the way. Impressive except for the stupid fence in the way!!! We didn't want to pay to go in, so Mandee hoisted me up so I could shoot a few photos over the fence!
The last few hours of my flight were insane. I could NOT sit still for the life of me! I knew that Laura and Jaclyn who had dropped me off would be waiting for me at the arrival gates and couldn't WAIT to bust off that plane. I literally RAN for the customs lineups so that I could get in line fast. I swear coming down that escalator in the Vancouver Int'l airport with the totem poles and native art and Beautiful BC parphenalia is one of the most relieving experiences anyone with a Canadian passport can have. You seriously want to kiss the ground and then get up and shout to all those in the 'other countries' line up how great it is to be Canadian and aren't they jealous!? I pretty much jumped up and gave the customs officer a big kiss I was so happy to be on CDN ground! And coming through those double sliding automatic doors...wow... Laur, Jaclyn and I started screaming...my cart was swerving, all hundred and five pounds falling off every which way, and Laura was ducking under the barriers before I knew it. We were all squealing and jumping up and down. Sigh...home.
And real home came four days later when I arrived in Vernon squealing once again as I burst through the doors of my house. That evening, mom, dad, Jacqui and I were finally, after four months, over a dozen flights, and five countries later, all under the same roof. And that deserves a final freakin' AMEN.