By the end of my second year in England, life was getting better. Well, easier, perhaps is the more correct word. School was becoming more bearable ever since I found new friends and I was starting to get used to things that were alien to me. I found myself enjoying my classes, and I was so glad that after countless jokes made on my surname, my friends were actually getting better at pronouncing it. Some even took the liberty of simplifying it and called me only by the first four of the fifteen letters. I never objected. They had lightened the load for me.
However, I must say that the real turning point for me was the first day I took Art as a chosen subject. It was something I couldn’t do back in Indonesia, so you can imagine the thrill when I found out that I had the chance to finally study art. I became acquainted with Van Gogh, dreamed endlessly of Renoir’s paintings and spent most of my allowance on art books and supplies. I even met some of my closest friends in that class. Funny isn’t it? It turned out art was becoming a bridge between the gaps and I found myself finally understood for the first time.
Other than art, traveling became another highlight. My parents, who wanted to make the best out of things, decided that it would be good for us to discover as many places as we could while we were living abroad. London became our playground and the weekends were filled with visits to every attraction listed on the tourist guides. Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London and Big Ben were only the beginning. Lord, I even posed with the Queen at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum once! I was a tourist living a local’s life. It was really quite ironic, considering some of my English born friends had never even been to most of those places before. But as much as I objected to what seemed to me then as these ‘ridiculously uncool’ trips, I knew my parents were happy. So I endured it half-heartedly.
And then there were the holidays. As if gallivanting around London was not enough, every holiday that came along was turned into an expedition. We traveled to many parts of England, large and small, popular and less popular. There was Brighton. Then Bournemouth, Oxford, York, Cambridge, Portsmouth, even all the way up to Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland (of course, these are just some of the places I remember, I sort of got lost somewhere along the line). My father became attached to the map of The British Isles. He would plan the trips and did research on each destination. Then when the date was set and everything taken care of, we would set off on the road with me on the back seat, sulking most of the time because I would rather be with my friends at the mall. And as my parents’ spirits grew bigger, the destinations became more ambitious. France was next on the line. Then The Netherlands followed. We were literally making the most of our stay.
It’s funny how life can suddenly surprise you with the biggest, prettiest and the most delicious looking cake you have ever seen, and you’re left with a choice to either take a little bite or finish it to the last crumb. I guess when it comes down to it, I am now forever grateful that my parents had a dream to see the world and I was lucky that they took me along with them.