Asking for Open Borders

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Refugee UndergroundYesterday, when I was preparing for an overnight trip to London, the forecast called for rain. I packed a small umbrella and my raincoat in my backpack, along with a scarf and extra leggings in case it got chilly. London, though, like much of the UK in September, seems to be like Seattle in summer. They tell you the weather is bad to keep you away. Nothing but blue skies and gorgeous silver and white clouds scuttled across the sky today while I walked the streets of London. I was accompanied by thousands of protesters, all of us asking for open borders, thankful for the pleasant weather.

I spent four months in the UK a year ago, but this time is different. I’m staying for good. It’s odd how a time limit can make everything feel special, every sunset extra grand, every moss-covered stone wall ancient. Not that I take England for granted now, but it’s seeping in slowly, or rather, I’m wading in bit by little bit. I’ve got a dream job teaching creative writing at a small uni in Cheltenham. My colleagues are generous and kind, and my host family (as I like to think of the couple renting me a room while I search for a flat) are quintessentially English, which translates to hospitable, humorous, and considerate. Their dog Bessie is a Lurcher, part deerhound, and she seems to know when I’m feeling homesick and need a little cuddle. She’s a rescue dog, and I appreciate her sensitivity. I’ve left so much behind – family, friends, and lots and lots of books – and each day I understand just a little more how very far away the US is from me now.

Soon, I’ll be meeting one of my favourite authors, Robert Macfarlane. He’s coming to the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I’ve just started his new book about the loss of words describing the natural world, Landmarks. With this move to England, I’m especially aware of words, each conversation requiring just a bit of translation here and there. Such as a ‘hide’, which is a ‘blind’ in the US, and ‘diary’, which is also known as a ‘calendar’. And don’t get me started on all the new and strange twists on academic nomenclature. In the UK, MA students write a dissertation, and PhD students write a thesis, which is exactly the opposite of the States.

Did I mention it’s lovely here? One of my colleagues brought me hiking last week up her favourite hill. Ah, hills. I’ve missed them so much. Trees, too.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Bob Marley songs, ‘Exodus’. It captures the feeling of moving en masse with so many, on behalf of so many more, for basic human rights.

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