This is day two of a new series: 31 Letters from London. In October, I’m doing something a little different and writing to you about the realities of life as an expat; finding the nearness of God through random experiences with new culture. It’s important to begin here and find the collection of letters here. We’re breaking for Sabbath every Sunday.
I didn’t get a card in the mail in time for my Dad’s birthday so I wrote an email instead. Does that seem impersonal?
It takes two weeks for the mail to reach the United States from London. I was visiting France during that two week time period. I couldn’t speak the language, much less, send a letter off to my father.
Sending mail in a timely fashion has always been an issue for me but living abroad means sending cards takes some real planning. Making time to go to the post office for stamps feels like climbing a mountain. I’m not sure why I make that errand monumental but I do love receiving letters, don’t you?
Receiving mail at our new house makes me jump when I hear it push through the metal slot on our turquoise door. It sounds like a cymbal crash when the hinge snaps closed. Envelopes and adverts slide through and drop on the floor, landing like the aftermath of a hurricane. No more walking to the end of the driveway to retrieve mail here in London.
Honestly? We really don’t receive much mail addressed to us. The previous tenants get more mail than we do.
Perhaps sending us a letter feels monumental for our friends at home too. When we receive birthday cards, I know they have been well thought out. An author copy of Amber Haines new book, Wild in the Hollow, fell through one day and I knew it was an extravagant gift of generosity. I’ll never again take that for granted.
Most of our mail goes directly into the rubbish bin. Oh, that means trash can for my American friends. And dumpsters are called wheelie bins. I admit I haven’t gotten used to saying that yet.
Rubbish is a whole nother topic when it comes to living in London. We have two wheelie bins but we don’t use them like we did in the US. If we leave them out overnight, they may get stolen. And apparently, the people who collect rubbish don’t want to bend over that far to remove the bags inside. Rubbish trucks don’t have those fancy automated hooks that empty messy bins. They rely on hands and feet to collect them.
Bags are piled in front of our house the night before or as we’ve come to learn, early on the morning of collection. In the US we have dogs and bears that dig into the trash but in London, we have sneaky red foxes who scavenge for scraps.
They look cute but they’re a nuisance. Like squirrels who get into attic boxes and make a nest from the beard of your Christmas Santa.
After a few mornings of waking up to empty containers and food decorating the sidewalk (pavement, if you are British), H now piles them in a heap before leaving for work. And I won’t even bore you with how rubbish has to be sorted into specific plastic bags or tell you about our bins with automated lids. Harrison is in charge of rubbish in our house.
In all of the little things that are different for us, I’m learning that how I respond to them is a revelation as to the state of my heart.
If I am sensitive and empathetic to my surroundings instead of angry about making an adjustment, I feel God’s pleasure in mundane tasks. Living in a new culture is a privilege not an imposition.
If we say we are sent by God to serve people, then preferring others and learning from them is a posture we humbly accept.
Tell me about what you would like to know about living in London. I don’t want to ramble on too much about things that don’t interest you. You might be saying, “That’s rubbish,” like I hear my British friends say often when things don’t work out well.
Your response (in the comments) really cheer me up.