Cambridge is where D began his brief visit to England and also where his trip ended. Because his friend is a postdoc at one of the thirty-one distinct colleges that comprise Cambridge University, D had a chance to peek behind the curtain and experience this venerable institution of higher learning as both a tourist and an insider.
Posts tagged ‘Europe’
Perhaps because England always seemed both familiar and easily accessible, D never really troubled to explore it. He had flown through Heathrow multiple times but only left the airport once – a short visit when S was pregnant with Munchkin and had to go to London for an antenatal screening. His visit this month was equally brief, but covered quite a bit more ground.
Our first Thanksgiving together very nearly caused some family strife. S’s parents had invited us to spend the extended weekend with them shortly after we had started dating – many months before the actual holiday – and when D’s mom got wind of the plan, she laid on a massive guilt trip, accusing D of sabotaging her favorite family holiday over “some girl he barely knew.” We wound up doing two Thanksgivings to mollify her, flying from Chicago to Connecticut and then driving to Maine, making sure to spend equal amounts of time with both families.
No matter how many trips one has taken or how long one has lived abroad, there is still something slightly surreal about stepping off an airplane in a country that feels completely different from the place one had departed earlier that same day. Sometimes it’s a foreign language, unfamiliar food, or a difference in culture that strikes one viscerally. At other times it’s something as simple as the weather. There was no surer sign than watching the frigid wind whisk away plumes of the passersby’s hot breath to confirm for D that he had left Rwanda’s placid clime far behind.
Right before S packed her bags for the cross-Atlantic journey with Munchkin, we went out for a rare night of rock-n-roll in Kigali. Several of our Embassy friends and colleagues play in a cover band, and the set list featured a number of 90s rock classics. It was a bittersweet show – a pointed reminder of the one thing D misses above all else while serving abroad: live music.
After a busy week together, our immersion group scattered to the four winds on Saturday. One colleague went to Normandy, another to Marseilles, and a third to Belgium. We also left Paris, taking a day trip with our host family to Giverny, before spending the rest of the weekend with our friends in the countryside.
As an international city with a large, diverse immigrant population, Paris offers a nearly limitless array of fantastic cuisine. We enjoyed spicy creole food with our French friends, sampled a bevy of mezes at a Michelin-rated Turkish restaurant hidden in one of Paris’s outlying districts, and compared the dishes at two excellent Moroccan restaurants on our classmate’s initiative, but one of the most memorable meals we had in Paris was one that we prepared ourselves.