Picking up where I left off last post, I spent the Sunday after ringing in the Year of the Snake with a trip to Manchester. For someone who had never previously been to a Chinese New Year celebration, I would say I’ve done pretty well this year, tallying one festivity, and doubling that number the next day.
When I first arrived in Preston, I took a taxi from the rail station to my flat, partially because a full day in transit had made my luggage unbearably heavy, partially because I had no idea where I was.
I’ve realized since that the trains are a short 15-minute walk from my place. After a quick 40-minute scenic tour of grassy hills, covered in sheep and black spidery trees, I was in a real city.
I fell in love with Manchester the moment our train entered Victoria Station. Half of the buildings in the city are historic, weathered with age, and architecturally beautiful. The other half are modern, avant-garde compared to Vancouver standards. It’s almost like being in a miniature display one might find in a museum: The contrast inherent to the city is itself a form of art.
Had it not been a miserably cold and wet day, I would have brought along my camera. Unfortunately, I’m still in that new-purchase phase, where I’m extra cautiously trying to avoid subjecting my camera to the tiniest scratch or speck of dirt.
But there’s no doubt I’ll be going back.
I took the trip with two new friends who are studying at UCLan for the year, both of whom are from Spain. One had to take photos of the city’s Chinese New Year festivities for a class, so off to Chinatown we went.
We saw dragons, we heard music, we braved the crowds and the rain and eventually took a break to warm up in an English pub. I had the classic fish and chips, which came with the typically British “mushy peas” that, although looking like baby food, tasted not too bad.
After wandering around a bit more, we chatted about the differences between Spain and Canada, about education, and stereotypes, over coffees and cakes until it was time for the fireworks. It was a perfect end to the weekend.
The next day – back to reality. Well, my reality: A class I enjoy that starts at two in the afternoon, and a random eco-friendly rickshaw ride to get me there. Carpe diem.
PS – Hi Grandma.
Almost all of the shops close around 5 or 6pm in Preston. On Sundays, it seems like everything is closed.
I ventured outside yesterday afternoon, braving the bitter wind, in search of something less pathetic to eat than the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had been surviving off of. The campus and town streets were deserted. And as I took a right to explore a different part of town I hadn’t yet seen, I began passing closed storefront after closed storefront.
I’ve had a nasty cold since arriving in England, so my mission was to find a take-away as nearby as possible so I could hole myself back up in my flat, as soon as possible.
I passed a pub, and a 24/7 fish and chips and chinese joint, until I noticed a man walk into the tiniest little diner I would have otherwise completely missed. The place was cozy, served an all-day breakfast, and had lots of dishes that included sausages.
I settled on the tiramisu – probably the least English thing I could have ordered.
Noticing I had an accent, or perhaps taking pity on me because I looked like a wreck, the woman behind the counter and a man I assume was her boss began chatting me up: They let me try a bite, and it was one of the best desserts I’d ever had. Apparently the cook who makes the dish is authentically Italian.
Two colloquialisms I’ve had to adjust to hearing are “You alright” and being referred to as “Love,” the two often used one after the other.
The first throws me off the most: What is meant to be a simple “How are you?” gets me wondering how pale I must look if people keep asking if I’m okay. How do you respond? Do you say you’re fine, good, doing well, getting by, or simply by replying “Yes”?
Being called love is a term of endearment used, I’ve found, mostly by adults, and by both men and women. It’s kind of nice.
To my loves back home, hope you’re all doing alright.
PS – Hi Grandma.