In a sea of brownstone homes, rows of shops, brightly adorned signs advertising wares, beautiful fashion forward people were moving along life in a busy, important jovial way as I walked the streets of London. This is not my first time traveling abroad, it is my first experience studying abroad. For the first time “Study Abroad” took on an actual meaning that can only be experienced rather than described. Being an active duty service member in the United States Army, international travel is ordinary rather than extraordinary. What is extraordinary about this experience is how I am experiencing the people, culture and environment that is all inclusive to learning.
Today I learned that meals are made to be enjoyed, the egg and bacon sandwich (I had not previously had one before) was carefully crafted and presented as a masterpiece that should not be quickly eaten and washed down with the beverage of your choice. But at a minimum, appreciated for its culinary art and presentation. The wait staff were deliberate in being slow to interrupt what developed into a good conversation with my colleagues. While I have had many meals with them, this was the first meal that I I actually “heard” them. We without being asked, refrained from checking our phones, or occasionally texting while talking to each other and took our devices off of the table. For once, we were engaged, totally in each other and was being made a part of an international fabric that is both beautiful and peaceful.
Later in the evening, we rode the tube (subway) to attend Susan Hill’s “The Woman in Black” that was on tour at the Fortune Theatre, London. As I waited patiently to enter the small, dimly lit, historic theatre I could not help but have a childlike excitement. I smiled as I quietly thought “I am a long ways from home.” Home, not as in the United States, but further. I mean home, as in thirty years ago when I, a country girl from Clinton, NC used to look out of the window into the stars late at night and dream of fancy places, nameless people, theatres, shops and high style. I smiled as I heard a few impatient, folk hurrying to get a seat and shared a good natured laugh as I ordered a drink from the bar. I did not know what one would drink at such an event so I leaned over to my classmate Mike and said “Mike, what should drink.” He said Tonic with a splash of Gin. Well, I not being the drinker or accustomed to this scene ordered gin with a splash of tonic. I realized that I made a mistake when my Chris, my classmate told the bartender “She means tonic with a splash of gin.” It was at that moment that I realized being a member of the University of Alabama’s Executive Higher Education Program meant more than taking classes, turning in assignments and hoping to maintain good grades, it means family. Family knows what you mean even when you do not know how to articulate the words.
Needless to say, the play was excellent and the experience was priceless. As we took the tube back to Kensington Close Hotel, the loud speaker announced upon boarding “Mind the Gap!” The announcer meant the space between the tube and the landing. As we whisked though the maze of tunnels and I was surrounded by people who all seemed to have a place to go. I was reminded in life we are to “Mind the Gaps.” Not the gaps that are physically in our way but those that we do not see and are easy to fall into. The gaps that divide humankind and takes away the beauty of who we really are. Gaps such as socioeconomic statuses, class, race, gender sexuality, abilities and religion. Some gaps are notably wide and gaping while others are narrow and equally deadly. As I ride the tube of life I hereby promise to “Mind the Gaps” and I challenge you to do the same. Cheerio!