So I’m back in good old Blighty. This will be my home for the next five weeks.
I flew into Luton airport on Wednesday afternoon and went to buy a bus ticket from the National Express office. Faced with the cheery smile and ‘How can I help you, darling?’ of the ticket seller, this hardened expat’s lower lip trembled and I had to fight the urge to break through the glass to hug the woman. That’s what three years of living in Latvia does to a person. A smile and a kind word from a stranger makes you want to weep and cling to their legs so they can’t get away from you – ever.
With over an hour to kill until my bus, I bought a cup of tea with milk (and no funny looks) and sat outside in the rare English sunshine. Soon afterwards, a middle-aged couple asked if they could share my table. He was giving out about the price of parking – at 15 quid, I didn’t blame him. The fact that his recently-purchased muffin was low-fat was the icing on the offensive cake in his book.
Thirty minutes later, they knew all about my life in Latvia, the languages spoken there, what Riga is like, what the rest of the country is like (forest), and how I ended up there in the first place. I found out that their son is also a TEFL teacher but living in Austria, how proud they are of their kids and their grandkids, what the husband does for a living and, of course, how he feels about low-fat muffins. Every Latvian’s worst nightmare, I’m sure.
For me, it was a breath of fresh air – how nice that total strangers can pass the time, share a little about their lives and put a smile on each other’s faces, while stuck in the ‘travel-dead-zone’. Meanwhile, a Latvian guy from the plane pulled a chair away from everyone else and sat staring at the EasyJet hangar…
But hey, katram savs as they say in Latvia. Each to their own.