The hustle-and-bustle revelation.

With orientation sessions and induction ceremonies, Monday marked the start of my life regaining some semblance of structure.

Blog8 Oh, the joys a schedule can bring…  ❤

I think I enjoyed the two-month hiatus from any and all planned activities, but for those of you who don’t know me as well I am a very social and over-involved type-A routine-driven person. Consequently, not having any plans for eight weeks was surprisingly debilitating for me, especially because I found myself in a cultured, diverse, and very large city and I felt like I had to experience literally everything London had to offer but had way too many places to start. (Rough life, right? 😉 )

Thanks in part to my pretentious drive to be involved in too many things at once, it took me much longer than it should have to accept that it’s unrealistic to plan to participate in even a quarter of the activities happening each day in London. You’re lucky to make it to one or two. Maybe three, on a good day. And that’s okay. The “it’s okay” part is where I struggled most, but didn’t realize I was struggling until one of my orientation sessions for school this week. The very wise and welcoming chaplain on campus, Jenny from Australia, presented a lovely session on London and the local area around campus. She was informative and entertaining, but for all the relevant information she shared the thing that stuck with me most was her assurance that I’m not going to do everything, and that’s okay.

Prior to Jenny’s revelation (thankfully!), I was able to move past my physical debilitation and have  experienced and appreciated London as much as possible during my sabbatical. But it wasn’t until her comment that I realized I was still feeling guilty for not doing more, seeing more, traveling, eating, smelling, visiting more around my vibrant city.

With her three simple words, she helped me to reflect and realize that just because I moved from the US to London doesn’t mean I’m on a permanent vacation. I need a normal life too. I’m allowed to sit at home on a Friday because I need to do some schoolwork. The world will continue spinning if I don’t make it to the popup food market in Brixton on Tuesday. I don’t have to feel guilty for not trying to pursue everything. It’s okay.

Takeaway Tidbit: Take advantage of all the opportunities to experience life in London, but remember that it’s okay to have some down time too 🙂

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“Park”ing in the city

One of the most unexpected parts of living in London are the parks. They are everywhere, and they are lovely. I never appreciated all the green space I had in the Midwest, but walking around London you realize that “yard” when used to describe the green space around houses is a magical word used in far-off lands. Much further lands than the southern suburbs of London, anyway. Due to the fact that family houses are the size of two-bedroom apartments in the Midwest and stacked next to each other like sardines, the combined area in front of and behind any given house is about the size of a one-car garage, and that’s being generous. In my ‘burb-y neighborhood lawns don’t exist. The 1 x 3-meter front patios are usually paved, but even with the small size most owners do an impressive job of incorporating green into their shoebox patios. Potted plants, hedges, and tiny landscaped flowerbeds are the law of the residential land.  Although the shrubbery does a good job to keep neighborhoods looking residential, grass, room to run, and mature trees don’t stand a chance.

Enter: parks. Thank the Lord for whoever had the foresight to keep those intact. The parks here are almost overwhelmingly large, in a good way. The first few times jogging through my neighborhood park required GPS to figure out how to get back home. The trees are old and beautiful, the grass stretches for kilometers (okay, maybe just one or two. But that’s a lot when it’s the only grass around), and the benches are tastefully placed along the walkways to enjoy an evening and a view uninterrupted by buildings or buses. Usually I see at least 8 different workout groups in the park on a given evening, on top of all the sports practices and pick-up games happening during my jogs through the park. And just in case I ever get bored, there are two more parks to the South and West. I haven’t even begun exploring those.

blog5 (2)View from my evening jog through the park.

As you get closer to the city center the miniscule landscaped patios disappear, but residents compensate by keeping flowerbeds out of their windows. In my opinion, the window flowerbeds are probably one of the most picturesque parts of an urban city. Paris has them too and I become noticeably more happy walking down any floral street I find. As far as public parks in London proper, there are five Royal Parks which used to be royal hunting grounds but are now open for public use (there are eight total, but three are in the suburbs). I’ve only been to three of the eight so far, but it’s fun walking through them imagining royalty trotting through with their hounds. A lot of businesses in the city also create green space near their building to allow their employees a change of scenery. Those are much more frequent, but less picturesque.

801.jpg St. James Park (Royal Park)

8Green space as part of a business center in London.

One of the most sneaky things London city planners have created are small squares of greenery throughout the neighborhoods, which are landscaped and well-kept (perhaps as an oasis for cinderblock-weary travelers to revive them on their journey through the city). The first time I saw one I walked up to the gate and as I opened it I read the posted sign. Unfortunately, entrance to most of these squares is reserved for nearby residents only. There was no one inside so I defiantly walked in and sat on one of the benches for a bit, but then got nervous and left after a minute or two. I will appreciate them from outside the gates nonetheless.

Takeaway Tidbit: Enjoy your yards. If you don’t have one, find a park.