London, England was the first of many. The first city I’d get lost in, the first hostel I’d lie awake all night in, the first conversation with strangers I’ll probably never see again, the first dinner at Nandoos, the first Friday prayer with an Arabic only khuthba (Islamic sermon), and the first time I would face fear like I had never before.
It was terrifying to be in a new city where I had no idea where to go, how to get anywhere, and no place to call home. I wasn’t just lost geographically but mentally as well. The first day I wondered what I was thinking grabbing my bags and rushing to an unknown place. My anxious thoughts were straining my tired eyes and weighing down my exhausted feet.
And then, I stepped outside of my hostel for dinner and saw this.
So I looked up and fell in love with the detailed architecture contrasting with the greenest trees on a perfectly clear, white sky. Instead of my thoughts, my eyes and feet wandered as we peered into restaurants and stared at the tall buildings around us. London’s enchanting architecture captured my full attention. Especially, the artistically crafted gates. The soft salmon and golden gate surrounding the Arnold Memorial was my favorite. It was whimsical yet symmetrical. It was structural, yet presented a spontaneous vibe.
The gates weren’t the only artistic work I came across in London. At Covent Garden, a table displayed dozens of handcrafted pop up cards. A tiny stall inside the market surrounded us with colorful, hollow candles. On our way to Big Ben, our path was interrupted by a chalk artist’s haunting and stunning work which featured a woman’s face. I loved that he chose a very busy and chaotic area of central London to create a piece on the ground. He generated a shield as every person slowed down or stopped to admire the fierce woman. It may have been his art or our tired feet but when we reached Big Ben, we stayed for longer than a “picture perfect moment.” My new friend, Delyla and I walked over to the park that looks over Big Ben and soaked in the culture around us. We talked about our expectations and excitements for the Semester at Sea program but mainly, we just watched. We watched the clouds over Big Ben and the people rushing by. We talked to the family, the recent business school graduates, and the foreigners in the park too. Without even realizing it, we spent two hours just soaking in our first time in London.
First= (verb) to leave your comfort zone and face your fears whether they’re small or big. 2014 mtk.