It is a strange and wonderful feeling to be back in the city I called home for the first nine years of my life. ("Strange" and "wonderful" being two adjectives I find myself using together frequently, probably because I find that many strange things are often also wonderful.) Having lived those nine years in a pleasant little pocket of suburbia and never in the city itself I feel new and unfamiliar with my surroundings while still feeling very much at home.
I thought all the websites and emails were exaggerating when they said King's is in the heart of London, but it really is. After I arrived at my dorm yesterday I went for a wander which took me first to the King's Waterloo Campus and then up and down and across the Thames. Meandering through Southbank brought on that odd mixture of the joy of coming home to the familiar and the wonder of discovering new places. And Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day for wandering Southbank - ceaseless activity, rows and rows of old books and prints for sale, clusters of large crowds around street performers, children running and shrieking through water fountains, queues for ice cream vans and Mexican food (although the quality of the Mexican food here must be doubted until proven definitively yummy), a giant upside down purple cow (gotta check out Udderbelly if I can!), and a delightfully chaotic jumble of multilingual babble.
A walk across Hungerford Bridge brought me to a garden I cannot remember the name of, only that it was filled with happy couples and families lying on the grass, a monument to those who fought in the Battle of Britain, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and back across to the Big Eye. The last time I was in the Big Eye was 2009 and I remember being particularly grumpy and sullen that day. Happy memories! And then jet lag took over so I dragged myself through the streets, past Waterloo Station and the Old Vic and - home.
On the way back I stopped at Sainsbury's and had a friendly conversation with the cheery guy who rang up my purchases. He asked how my day had been and I told him I'd just flown in from California, I grew up here but moved to Korea, I go to university in Berkeley, and, sorry, what's that? which city do I like best? San Francisco, I said, and my reply came very easily without my really thinking about it. - What d'you like about San Francisco? he asked me. - Oh, I like the people and the atmosphere, it's free and it's fresh and it's ... mellow. - Relaxed, yeah? London is crazy, innit? he laughed, have a good stay, take care.
London is crazy, but Mad-Hatter-March-Hare-tea-party kind of crazy, the kind that makes you say, "Yes, please, I'd love some dubious-looking tea poured by a narcoleptic dormouse!" And San Francisco/Berkeley is the place I like best, but we'll see what my answer to the Sainsbury's guy is after six weeks. If every day is as happy as these past two have been, then this is looking to be the most brilliant of summers. And with every passing hour, every new person from a foreign country I meet, every glance up from my computer out the window to the night lights of London, I am increasingly grateful to be here. My hope is that as I discover more of this city and understand more fully the blessing of being here, I will through it all continue also to be discovering more of the one who holds this city in His hands and understanding more fully the joy of knowing Him. Please keep me in your prayers! I already feel the challenges of being away from the community I call my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I know He is with me in London as He is with me in Berkeley.