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9.24.2011

Coming "Home" to Esher

We spent the second half of Week Five in Esher, where we lived in homestays and spent a few days at Claremont Fan Court School, which is affiliated with Christian Science. My homestay family is connected to the school, although they are not Christian Scientists. My "mum" thoughtfully attended the testimony meeting at the Claygate and Esher church and then drove me home after it. Their house was built during the tudor period and has low ceilings and revealed beams. It was originally used as the servant's quarters (with horses in the backyard) when wealthy men traveled through the town and stayed at a nearby inn. The house was both cozy and historically rich, and the back garden was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL backyard that I've ever seen. I just GASPED when I opened the curtain on Thursday morning. It was something out of my daydreams. 
The back of the house from the yard


I cannot possibly articulate how wonderful it felt to be "welcomed home." I was working on a healing for the few days we were there, and my homestay family was so supportive. My homestay mum made me "hot orange" (squeeze an orange through a sieve into a mug, add two tablespoons of honey, add hot water, stir) which "works every time; and when it doesn't, it's still comforting." It was quite nice to have a cozy drink as I curled up in bed each night and enjoyed the first dependable internet I'd had in a few weeks.


SHOCKING NEWS TO FOLLOW: when my homestay family offered me some CHICKEN CURRY after church (my mum hadn't eaten yet), I SAID YES!!!!! And, people, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! I was amazed. I ate almost an entire portion despite the fact that it was my second dinner. The naan bread was really good, too, of course. The curry had medium heat, so we had some plain yogurt on it. Anyway, that was a life-changing evening for me. It was also fantastic to sit on an actual couch with my socks on a carpeted floor, watching BBC with my British parents. Delightful.


On Thursday, we had some time to prepare an "Acting Shakespeare" workshop (using Midsummer Night's Dream) that we put on for the nine and ten year olds at the school on Friday. At the end of the school day, I went with my homestay brother Henry (15) on the school bus that dropped us at the train station. It was kind of surreal to be buckled up on this little bus, surrounded by kids of all ages (many boys and one little girl). They were all bantering to each other, and eyed me occasionally, as if to say "lady, you are clearly too old for a school bus!" We had a pleasant train ride, including one change, and walked a block back to our house. 


Henry to me on Friday morning: "I didn't know how many pancakes you wanted, so I made all of them." Six pancakes with a little lemon juice and sugar. Not a problem.  


Later that morning, we put on the Shakespeare workshops. The kids were adorable, and participated with enthusiasm and a surprising amount of talent. We were all cracking up at the lovers' confusion (the scene where the men are both under Puck's spell and are in love with Helena instead of Hermia) and the casting and performance of Pyramus and Thisby. We could not have had a better time with it, and I overheard a number of the kids exclaiming "That was AMAZING!" as they frolicked away. When we went into the lunchroom a little while later, the kids all burst into applause and waved to us. Ben Frederick was especially popular, as they had an easy time remembering him as "Big Ben!" (he's quite tall) and a few of the little boys came to say goodbye to him multiple times. (***THE VIDEO IS LOUD, SO YOU MIGHT WANT TO MUTE YOUR COMPUTER - It's the tail end of the kids' spontaneous lunchroom greeting.***)
video

At the end of the workshop, one little girl walked by me and said, "I saw you yesterday!" I smiled and said "Yes!" although I didn't recognize her. A few minutes later, I realized she had been the little girl sitting behind me on the bus on Thursday. That afternoon, I sat across the aisle from her on the bus and tried to get her talking about the workshop, but she was really shy. We sat in silence for about five minutes, when suddenly she said, "My mom runs a drama school!" I responded with enthusiasm, and she started chattering happily, allowing very little response from me, all the way to the train station. It was sad to say goodbye so quickly after she had opened up to me! 
With Henry (middle) and his friend on the train


Henry and I grabbed pasties at the train station midway through our journey. I got one with bacon, cheese, and potato in it, which was delicious. No, they don't have pumpkin pasties, but speaking of Harry Potter, there is a lot about the books/movies that makes more sense to me now that I've been to England. You know the spello-tape that Ron uses to "fix" his wand in the second book? Well, they have sellotape here (similar to our scotch tape/cellophane). Pasties. The goodie cart on the train. School uniforms. Treacle tart/fudge. Millennium bridge. The tube. You get the idea. Yay, HP!


Back to my homestay story. On Friday night, I was taking it easy, so I stayed home with my family, ate some more chicken curry (different flavour, still yummy), and watched QI. To explain, here is an excerpt from the show's website: "Quite Interesting - or 'QI' to its friends - could loosely be described as a comedy panel quiz. However, none of the stellar line-up of comedians is expected to be able to answer any questions... Points are awarded for being interesting or funny (and, very occasionally, right) but points are deducted for answers which merely repeat common misconceptions and urban myth." It was a little bit inappropriate, quite entertaining and surprisingly informative. Did you know that the brazil nut is actually the seed contained in a coconut-looking capsule on a brazil nut tree? Neither did I. Now that we know, my distaste for brazil nuts no longer counts against me on my quest to become one of you nutty nut-eaters, okay?

I was sorry to say goodbye to my homestay family on Saturday morning, but we both offered to host each other in the future! 

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