So I got an internship in Cardiff, Wales for the month of June. So far, so good.
It’s not over-packing when you brought a pot, pan, duvet, and basically anything you need to live in an empty house on your own. I heave a massive, loaded suitcase, singing a song from Anastasia under my breath (“Heart, don’t fail me now. Courage, don’t desert me…”). I get to the letting agency where I’m supposed to get my house keys. Plot twist: Bank holiday. The place is closed. I linger outside the building, on a street of seedy takeaways and convenience shops, ready to cry, ready to quote Ron Weasley (“Can we panic now?”).
A letting agent who mercifully remembers me arrives like the magical person that he is, and takes me to the house.
Expectation: the house will be empty and fairly close to where my internship is located.
Reality: the house is full of tenants and it’s far, VERY far, from my internship.
Before meeting the tenants, I fantasized about having a house all to myself. In the previous weeks, I had surrounded myself with so many people – a lovely yet breathless experience – that I was looking forward to being me, myself, and I. Alone time, like my own personal holiday. But then I meet my fellow tenants and they’re all so extremely nice and welcoming that my attitude flips and I become grateful for them. Without them, I think I would’ve been immobile in this empty house, stewing in my travel nerves.
The challenge of my commute, on the other hand, still haunts me but I don’t have to worry about that until Day 3.
Didn’t have space to pack a pillow so going pillowless tonight.At least I have the Happy Crab. (Savvy gave me a happy stuffed crab for emotional support.)
Before leaving Norwich, I joked to my friends that despite saying how much I was looking forward to Wales, I would get here and feel homesick and want to go back to Norwich. I didn’t think that would actually happen.
I’m fine, really.
I feel like I just walked hundreds of miles today.
But in a good way!
I start my exploration of Cardiff by trekking through the neighborhood that surrounds my house. What seemed seedy yesterday turns out to be actually cool. You have to wander to find a Tesco but it doesn’t take long to find a halal butcher, a Korean supermarket, or an Indian sweet shop.
In the city center, I stumble into a photography exhibition called “#relayphoto2016.” I buy a pillow, towel, and a few other necessities. An hour later, I reach Cardiff Bay with its Millennium Center, Mermaid Quay, Roald Dahl Plass (Plaza?), and, of course, the beautiful bay. It’s so hot and sunny that hours later, when I get home, my shoulders are red.
At dinner, two of my housemates tell me how they got to attend the Winter Olympics in Russia because they won a competition which asked viewers to submit a video of them cheering for their country.
“We wrapped pillows around our asses and did a choreographed dance and shook our asses…”
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
So yeah, homesick to lovesick. Oh Cardiff, you sly thing, you.
So my long commute to the internship? Problem solved. Yesterday, I bought a bike off my fellow tenant’s friend for 40 pounds. The seat’s too high so she passed me the number to a bike repair guy. I went to meet him expecting that he’d have a garage or some sort of site for his repairs. Turns out he’s a civil engineer by day, bike repair guy by night. He hauled my bike into his foyer before shaking my hand tightly. After adjusting the bike seat in the corridor of his house, he then directed me to his lounge to show me a shelf of books about religion. We got talking about Islam versus Christianity which ended up with me asking him, “Do you believe there are good people and bad people?”
“Of course,” he said. When he started to explain why, he quickly asked, “Am I boring you?”
“No, I’m a writer,” I said. “I want to hear this stuff.”
When we said farewell, he invited me to his house if I ever needed anything.
“There’s a commandment in the Quran,” he told me, “that says to take care of travelers.”
I already feel taken care of.
At 8 in the morning, I glide through Cardiff on a comfortable bike. The city wakes up, streets filling with moving cars, like blood flowing through veins.
The internship’s office is very relaxed. I’m surprised by how many people speak Welsh to each other. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I must learn some words and practice it.
Croeso i Cardydd!