A begginers guide to being an immigrant (pt. 1)

London

A background story is in order before I set onto the immigrant’s 101.
Two years ago I promised myself to find a new profession. Seven years of post-production jobs at various companies and televisions kind of started flashing signals that – while I’m not that bad at it – this may not exactly be my cup of tea. So in September 2013 I told myself to find a new job. Which isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re working at a live broadcast TV station. Working for up to 12 hours a day with no such things as Sundays and state holidays one doesn’t have much time to become a master of any other profession. Well at least I didn’t.

Come May 2014 I still hadn’t come up with any bright ideas – becoming a self-taught ukulele manufacturer doesn’t really fall into that category – but luckily enough I received an e-mail from a friend with a link to an interesting opportunity. I’ve never heard of EVS before but it sounded interesting enough to apply. I’m pretty much an introvert and any ideas about moving to a completely new environment don’t ring any pleasant bells for me. At least they didn’t use to.
Knowing that one could imagine changing my small comfortable bubble of my cozy apartment, friends and local pubs for a never-before-heard city in Poland for nine months is like telling a bear to go jogging in the middle of January. I quite like my lair with all available honey and gin thank you very much. But a promise is a promise and a promise made to yourself is the last one you want to break – ok unless we’re talking about new year’s resolutions and “I’ll never drink again, ever!” kind of promises. Two months passed, I received a confirmatory e-mail, handed my resignation the same day and started packing for Kielce – a city juuust between Krakow and Warsaw.

Gdansk 17

Nine months can be quite a long period in Poland unless you meet new friends, work with children, hold loads of workshops, drinks gallons of beer and vodka and meet your new girlfriend. Come March we took four days off and flew to London. After months of conservative Poland a weekend on the island felt like a fistful of lime, mint and ice in a lukewarm gin and tonic. Greeted by Africans on the airport, sold bus tickets by lovely Spanish women, greeted by Indians at the café and offered fish and chips from old Englishman was enough to make us feel safe and welcome.
And since I had nothing that would gravitate me to any particular place after the end of the project and Magda’s work contract would expire soon after we bought tickets to London – away we went. Well, I flew alone at first and she joined me a month later; not a fact that would dramatically influence the whole plot though.

We had no English connections, didn’t know anyone on the Island – except for some friends who were in pretty much the same situation – or had any experience of working abroad whatsoever. A pretty bold move if I can say so myself. Not having any savings I sold my car – which turned out to have been repainted at least twice, has probably been under water at one point (!) and had it’s odometer rolled back – and left for Britania.

LondoniPhone 11

The trip wasn’t as romantic as one would expect. The thoughts about whether there was any sense in this move at all or everything is just the most insane thing I ever did and should just go back and admit that I screwed it up completely wasn’t really calming me through the gentle turbulences. The following four days of room searching didn’t offer me any more comfort either. Majority of flats, rooms, houses and areas I visited were places I’d never want to stay at unless I had a gun, a mask and a stunt driver waiting for me outside the pawn shop. Coming from a two million residents state one needs some time to adjust to swimming in a twelve million residents city.
The closest I came to quitting the whole idea of me living over seas was when I stepped off the bus in a very low-life looking area and the first guy that I bumped into was a shirtless skinny guy tattooed by a drunken sailor with an artistic flair of a Wall street broker. He asked me for a pound, explaining that he just came out of prison – showing me the building a block away – after seven months and is a bit stuck. I couldn’t really say that he was asking me in an extremely English-like manner. After my second rejection he left me cursing and swearing.
“Yes, London welcomes everyone,” a friend who offered me a couch crash for a few days told me.

Grabbing my hand while my head floated just below water level was a huge double bedroom with a garden in an area cozy enough I could imagine myself going for coffee and Saturday shopping. Following my settling down was a month of expeditions to the rabbit holes of my head. I managed to uncover uncharted territories in long valleys of depression, I stepped into the cold river that flows from the lake of childhood and pours out into the great ocean of How-the-fuck-do-I-navigate-this-thing and occasionally drowned the whole world in cheap lager. In short I was every psychoanalyst’s wet dream.

London 10

But I also stumbled upon a climber bivouacking on the ridge rising above uncomfortable valleys. Much to my surprise he had some strange will and determination to fight the shitty weather and more or less vertical mountain walls and leave his camp for higher grounds.

To be continued…

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