Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week 6 - In Being Different, We Are The Same

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by
demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die,
it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other,
we may even become friends.
Maya Angelou 

Mile Post
Aberystwyth Train Depot
Travel, it is said, expands one horizons.  It does.  The train station at Aberystwyth transports one not only to parts north and then across the UK but it also pleases the eye and enlivens the imagination.  Yet those who live here, just see it as Aber with the glass-sided building being merely a second hand shop or Charity Shop as it is called here, rather than a repository of human stories.  I feel I've stepped back in time and would be unsurprised by a horse and buggy clip-clopping down the street.  It is becoming more than quaint.  It is becoming comfortable.  The sign post above, I pass by on my way to classes.

Language can be a bit of a barrier.  The neighbor referred the other day to a person being "turfed out."  Immediately golf course came to mind.  Must have been the look on my face as an explanation quickly followed that they had been evicted.  Teaching "your grannie to suck eggs" is to try to do the impossible.  I felt, however, that this expression translated pretty straight across when asked by a professor in class if I knew to what he was referring.  We all laughed.

What perhaps doesn't translate is distance.  In the US, at least in Oregon, we think nothing of visiting Portland and returning in the same day.  Approximately 90 miles away, it takes an hour fifty minutes to two hours each way.  This past Sunday found me on the way to Merthyr Tidfyl (Mur tha Tid vil), a journey of under 50 miles as the crow flies; however, crows did not design the roads.  Sheep did.  It was just over two hours when we arrived and it was said that we made excellent time.  There are A roads and B roads and motor ways.  It is difficult to upgrade to wider roads as porch steps often front the existing roads.  From Aber one must travel east for an hour so that one can travel north and south.  It is one of the prices for living in another place in time.  I for one enjoyed the ride and provided great entertainment to the others by exclaiming over hedgerows, sheep, and general terrain; and the fact that, when we arrived, there was actually a water cooler.  "Jan, you are hilarious."  "Well, it's the first one I've seen in Wales."  It was.  The Welsh do not have water coolers in their buildings.  The water comes in separate faucets sporting either frigid or scalding water (it actually steams coming out) and never the taps shall meet.  I can now wash my face but it is a process involving great timing.  When I asked about this, the estate keeper explained that having a joined faucet was a bit unsanitary; but that in the newer, posh homes, it appeared to be catching on.

 The first time I went to the market to get eggs, I couldn't find them.  When I asked, I was told to turn around for the eggs were right there on the shelf.  "Oh," I continued.  "I mean the real ones.  The refrigerated ones."  I consider myself moderately intelligent but that is not the look I received.  "Eggs are not refrigerated," I was told.  I wondered how all of the UK was not dead.  They don't refrigerate them when they get them home either.  They vaccinate their chickens against salmonella.  Clever.  After two weeks, the eggs were still quite good.  However, old habits won out and the new batch are now safely stored in the refrigerator.

Bacon is called rashers.  American bacon is called streaky bacon because it has so much fat in it.  The students, who have spent time in the US, love our crispy bacon and wish it was easier to purchase here.  I, however, love rashers.  Less fat and the flavor is amazing.  I've used it as a base for a bean stew as well as for potato soup and in a sudo-German potato salad.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Tonight I try to make a lamb stew.  Wish me luck for I've never done it before.

Outside my window there is a cacophony of gwacks each morning.  I've been trying to figure out how to reproduce/spell the sound of these birds and that is the closest I've come so far.  I've been told that they are crows but they don't really look like and certainly don't sound like American crows.  Can crows have accents?

Further research reveals that they are actually Rooks, a member of the crow family.  Many have left the area but when I arrived there were swarms  which worked like a perfect alarm clock each morning.  I was sorry to see their numbers diminish with the departing leaves.

Fall color, drifting leaves, wind singing in the eaves comfort and lull me to sleep each night.  I do miss my laundry at home but, in spite, of sore muscles, I'm beginning to enjoy the pace, the walking to do laundry, check out a book at the library, learning to read a bus schedule; but mostly finding that people are kind.  They want your stay at Aber to be enjoyable and go out of their way to help a stranger.  The bus driver is Barry.  The librarian is Joy.  I'm beginning to fit, to breathe, and to mentally unpack... which is a good thing.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien http://exploreforayear.com/inspiration/55-quotes-travel

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