Archive | March, 2013

!kcohS erutluC

26 Mar

Nope, I didn’t fall on my keyboard. What I’m referring to is something I’d never heard of before tonight, something called reverse culture shock (get it?!). The reason I’m writing this is to try and piece together something odd I’ve been feeling these past few days, something I can hardly put my finger on and something that I think is fully explained by this term!
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So I have just returned to the UK for 10 days. I have been looking forward to this SO much! The past few weeks I have been so thrilled to see my friends and family, to be a Londoner again and to revisit all my old haunts. After arriving back in London I felt that familiar sense of madness that I felt last time I visited: Everything was moving so fast, more traffic than I remember, everybody’s accents sound so… so… ‘British’. Just like last time I decided I needed to sleep it off. The crazy feeling of dislocation was just the jetlag and strong painkillers (wisdom teeth and travel get on like a nerve on fire…). So I slept… and when I woke up, I still felt totally lost.

I met up with my friends, and seeing them all was fantastic. I couldn’t stop grinning, and after a few drinks I was convinced I had gotten over my weird unwelcome feeling of ‘otherness’. Then, after stepping into a nightclub it all felt so strange again. I had been there 100’s of times before, with these same people, but it felt so odd. Like a dream everything was a little ‘wrong’. The music was a little off (where was the cheesy country tracks?) and the drinks were incredibly expensive (What?! A Coors-, uh I mean Stella costs 5 bucks-, uh, I mean quid?). But there was something else, I just felt like a total stranger there.

This feeling of weirdness has persisted. Today whilst out with three of my closest friends, friends who I know like the back of my own hand, conversation and jokes kept slipping over my head. They were talking about things and places and people I had never heard of. Whilst I know that time has passed, that whilst I’ve been away things have happened (I’d be incredibly arrogant not to!) it left me a little lost for words. Seeing that I had withdrawn from the conversation (not like me) one friend asked if I was ok. I admitted that I had been feeling a bit out of it, a little bit like a foreigner in my own ‘home’ and that I wasn’t really sure what was up but that I’m sure it wasn’t serious. I left early and got the tube home in a daydream. I was not depressed or upset but definitely unsettled. I have always been very good at being a Londoner!

Now it’s clear to me. Travelling has changed me. Not that I have somehow ‘found myself’ or become some deep profound person. But, my view of the world has somehow shrunk whilst what I once thought of as normal and homely has stretched. I love London, but it doesn’t quite feel the same as it once did. I find myself constantly contrasting it with Denver in my mind, and in the end you feel a little untethered from both!

Don’t get me wrong. I am having an incredible time, and now I think I know what’s going on (and that it’s not just painkiller induced brain damage!) I think I will be able to relax back into being here. But as a brief word of warning to long-haul long-term travelers, don’t underestimate reverse culture shock! Fitting back into your own culture of origin after a long time adapting to a new one is definitely a bit of a shock to the system!

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A year ago today…

21 Mar

I was doing this…
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…drinking a glass of bubbly in the Heathrow lounge, just about to board a flight to Washington DC en route to Denver-comma-Colorado. I am now sitting in Denver International Airport eating a burger king… yeah not quite as classy, how the mighty have fallen etc etc. Still, it is a very neat situation, flying back to the UK for a 10 day holiday on the exact same day I packed my bags for America.

Anyway, I’ve been putting off this post for some time; the somehow obligatory ‘what I have learnt so far a year in’ post, where I flounder at trying to sum-up a year’s worth of experience into a  few paragraphs. I realise that one of the points of creating a blog is so that others may read what you write, and mammoth self-involved posts aside, this still makes me a little uncomfortable… A long list of all-the-stuff-I-did sounds pretty bloody tedious… a little like being forced to look through someone’s holiday snaps, or being told the plot of a film you have no desire to see. At the same time, I don’t want to get so self-analytical that I become too paralysed to write anything for fear of coming across as a royal bore. I guess I just have to live with the fact that by the very act of writing a blog I am (to all intents and purposes) doing the e-equivalent of standing in a busy supermarket whilst shouting my own list of groceries over a loudspeaker. So with this rather awkward preamble, I shall try and make this brief, I shall try and make it readable, and I will try and insert amusing photos.

(For those with a short attention span here is a short twitter friendly summary: IT HAS BEEN AMAZING, AND I MET PEOPLE AND DID THINGS!)

The Befuddled Beginning

To start with, moving abroad, uprooting yourself from all that is familiar is an incredibly strange and frightening experience. I had a lot of predictions of how I would feel when I landed in Denver, when I finally unpacked my suitcase, when I actually realised that this was to be my home for three years. But to be honest, I just felt very dislocated, detached and numb. Not unhappy, terrified or excited… at the most a little jittery, like I’d had a little too much coffee. In fact the first 2-3 weeks I think I was pretending to myself that I was on holiday, that this was just a little adventure and that I would soon be back in London.

Despite my detachment from everything during this period I was quite a sensitive soul. I remember two completely dichotomous experiences. Both occured whilst out drinking in those first few weeks. One was a thrilling blur of drag queens, friendly people and brightly coloured shots; I remember repeating to everyone I met ‘Christ, you’re all American, isn’t that weird? That you’re all American and that I am in America?!’. I felt euphoric.

The other night couldn’t have been more different; it was when I experienced my biggest moment of homesickness. Whilst out at a bar with a ‘friend’ (see previous posts on pros and cons of the British accent) I suddenly found myself feeling incredibly out of place. It was pretty much then, whilst inebriated on unfamiliar spirits in a noisy bar that I  discovered that I really missed my friends terribly. If there was moment where I honestly wanted to be back ‘home’ in London it was then. Luckily, that soon passed (along with everything else I ate that day…). The next stage was less schizophrenic and more stable but also difficult in its own way.

The Netflix Months

I spent a few months being a bum. I mean I did do some stuff: I traveled  I snowboarded a bit, and I felt like I saw a lot of Colorado and the surrounding states, but really I was still a bum. I didn’t work, I volunteered (a bit), I worked on some projects (Hardly at all. See post on ‘Lost Projects). After a month of this I started to feel a bit untethered from myself. Who was I without a job, without any real friends, without any purpose or aim? I watched Netflix, cooked chilli con carne and occasionally drank coffee. I started to look forward to grocery shopping simply because it made me feel purposeful.

Side Note: Here are my top 5 weird American food items (I say weird from the perspective of an English palate mind you)

1.Maple Bacon (Because sweet bacon is wrong)


2.Marshmellow and Sweet Potatoes (No explanation needed)


3.Riceroni (Rice, and pasta… hmmmm but also mmmmm!)


4.Mole (Mexican style meat stew… made with Chocolate and/or Pepsi and/or Dr Pepper!!!)


5.Tootsie Rolls (Chewy chocolate in a lolly… that is then removed from the lolly… and sold seperately…)

Finding Ones’ Feet
In the end I got a job. Not my dream job, but a job all the same. From then on my life started to become more cemented. Having a daily routine allowed my life to start to become more structured and more reminiscent of life back home. Both in work (and out) I also started meeting a group of awesome people. People who I could hang out with in an easy laid-back way, people who I could be myself around and not just be ‘Sacha the performing Brit’. Anyway I’ve since started to work in a position I love, and things really do feel settled now. Now, finally, I feel like a real boy!

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Now Denver does feel like home, and so does London. With the power of the internet I feel like I can live my life in both. I am SO excited to be going back to London, but I think I will also be excited about coming back to Denver. At the start 3 years seemed like an awfully long time. A year in, well it seems like no time at all.

To finish here’s a quick breakdown of my Top 3 moments in the USA!
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1. Winning the pedal boat race for the Museum of Nature and Science. Me and my coworker won NOT ONLY the race (pictured) but ALSO a prize for best costume. Dressed as the Mars Curiosity Rover and a Martian we had such an awesome time. It wasn’t the winning (although that helped) it was the combined joy of having a job somewhere I loved, feeling like I was making friends and doing something totally mental!
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2. Las Vegas. Well I wrote a whole post about this so it probably comes as no surprise! I loved my time in Vegas SO much more than I anticipated. It was thrilling, relaxing and totally memorable. My favorite part of the trip? That’s tough, but I would say wandering around the themed hotels on my last day and going on the New York New York rollercoaster!
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3. I’ve had my ups and downs with snowboarding, and a good few bruises too, but the ups have been awesome. Whilst I’m no pro, and learning hasn’t been easy, there have been some truly awesome moments on the slopes. One particular snowy day at Keystone and a fresh-powder day at Vail stick in the mind. Anyway I’ve spent almost $500 on a brand new snowboard so I’m committed to many more seasons to come!

And that’s it. There’s so much to say about the past year that I can hardly scratch the surface. And whilst I try and keep other people’s identity private on my blog I feel I have to say a BIG thanks to Terryn (I’m sure she won’t mind) but also to all the other AMAZING neighbors  friends, coworkers and randomers, for making Denver a home. HERE’S TO ANOTHER 2 YEARS!

Why Facebook terrifies me…

14 Mar

I use Facebook every day, I check it so many times that it feels like a reflex. Like looking at your watch or scratching your nose. I don’t feel ashamed of this, in fact I’ll be honest, Facebook has made moving to a different country a much easier experience. How else would I be able to stalk all my mates on a night out in Soho, comment on my mum’s new painting or share a hastily drawn Microsoft Paint birthday card with a friend?
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Don’t get me wrong, I do know Facebook (and all social networking sites) are mainly full of boring/regrettable drivel. I am happy to say I am very much part of this; I post a lot on Facebook, I average about 1 status a day, generally some small observation about my own inability to function in society or self-congratulatory posts on my own awesomeness. Admittedly, I do feel sometimes when looking at my Newsfeed that we should all go back to the days when we spent hours writing poetic letters to each other, rather than minutes blasting each other with Youtube videos of cats or badly-grammered brainfarts. (When I feel this way I also remember that this was the same time that people threw their waste out of windows and left-handed people were thought to be possessed … so yeah give me inane Facebook updates any day!) But all in all, this doesn’t bother me. I laugh at people on my newsfeed for their boring/awkward/embarrassing nonsense and somewhere further up the e-food chain I’m certain others laugh at me with equal derision. I can live with that.

Another very valid criticism leveled at Facebook is that it’s evil. You know that South Park episode where Stan’s Facebook Profile grows into a massive monstrous entity that owns his life? Well, that is a pretty fair representation.
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They own all your photos, videos, opinions and (perhaps most worryingly) your drunken 3AM rantings. Not only that, but they will happily use your face to sell all your mates diet pills… or so I hear. But to be honest that doesn’t bother me. My privacy isn’t all that valuable, I don’t really care who sees a photo of me drunk on my 19th birthday, or whether my face is being used to sell acne cream, or if a corporation owns my immortal soul. If that makes me morally shallow… sorry.

The thing that ACTUALLY scares me, the whole reason I wrote this blathering post is this: Facebook is making me get a bit Dorian Gray.
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To explain I’m going to ask you to do this for me. Open your Facebook profile. No really, do it.

Done?

Great, now look at your most recent photo. (My guess it’s one of 3 things. You standing in front on an exciting location designed to make you look well traveled.  You and your friend’s faces closely pushed together on some forgettable night out. Or you and your significant other looking so in love that you could be a Rom Com poster. Am I right? I’m right!) Now… take a deep breath… hit the lefthand back button…
WHAM!!! It’s way-back-machine time!
This is the first photo of you on Facebook. When you first joined.

….
Now some of you will be wandering what the big deal is, why should a picture of you from 8 months ago be such a horror? But most of you, who joined facebook 6, 7 or 8 years ago will know what I mean.

Just for verification, here’s what I get when I accidentally hit the dreaded back button.
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Me at the tender age of 18, leaning on a stolen shopping cart during my first term of university. (P.S. whenever you try and delete people’s faces for the sake of privacy it always looks like you’re some crazy jealous ex or serial killer!)

That was 6 years ago!!! In another 6 years time I’ll be in my thirties. (Yes I know I’m incredibly young and that 30 is not old at all blah blah blah) Facebook, I’m sure, will be alive and well, and I’m sure I will still be using it. There comes a point when Facebook will become a frightening testament to your youth. I’ll be able to look back and see myself age over time. I’ll see people who are no longer in my life for one reason or another. With every click I’ll see my life drift away like the pages of a calendar in a cheesy 80’s time-passing montage.

So, in a moment of obsessive compulsive clarity I did this. I took an image of my face from every birthday party (all of which are recorded on the Book’o’faces) and laid them end to end. Could I see a change? Would I feel anything looking at 7 different me’s from birthday’s past? So for your viewing pleasure here they are, my grinning mug on May 23rd for the past 6 years!
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Kind of disturbing isn’t it? One, seeing that many shiny drunk faces in a line. Two, that any sane person would spend 45 minutes putting something like this together… But there you have it, that’s me from 19-25. I really can’t say I’ve changed all that much, I was skinnier back then. I had slightly worse haircuts… but really there was no real revelation to be had.

So what’s all the fuss about? Why should Facebook scare me so? Well because one day it won’t look like that, one day I will start to see changes. Over 20, 30 years I’ll see myself growing older, my hairline recede, my hair grey and my skin wrinkle. So I’ve started to feel as if Facebook is the loading of a progress bar, with 100% being death. Yes this is vain, melodramatic and rather morbid, but that’s why Facebook scares the crap out of me. Facebook is a rather chilling reminder of my own mortality. One day, when I’m gone all that will be left will be photos of me drinking beer, posing in front of dinosaurs and giving thumbs up. (Along with insightful comments like ‘Just had the BEST sandwich’ and ‘I got banana in my laptop disk-drive.’)

Sorry for the downer folks!