Losing in Paisley

The sights, sounds, and smells of Paisley are now familiar. (We're still working on the tastes.) I've become accustomed to smelling smoke at every corner and listening to the indistinguishable Glaswegian accent while attempting to not look confused. As the days begin to get cooler (think late-October in the South East) I'm getting better at remembering a warm jumper (sweater) or, at the least, a rain jacket. We remember to take reusable bags to each grocery store visit, and even keep extras in our backpacks, just in case. We've sufficiently learned the supreme reign that busses have over the roads, and almost always remember to look right before crossing. Google maps has taught us when to take a bus and when to walk, and sometimes it's had me running unnecessarily to the bus stop only to arrive 10 minutes early, leaving me standing around looking like a fool. Other than the local asian pick-up, we've learned that eating at home is the best way to get delicious food--and by far the cheapest! I still find myself gawking at the prices of items in Aldi: sometimes less than half what I would have paid in the states. As our wee flat becomes more and more like home, I've found myself slowly replacing the words "back home" with "in the states." It's an odd thing to hear myself say. 

Here, with some exception, just about everyone walks or takes the bus to their destination; and if they do drive, there's still a good bit of walking to do. In the center of town, I see people of all types. Every social and economic class, every age, every profession, every family situation: A suit-and-tie or a track suit; jeans, skirts, slacks; heels, construction boots, sandals. Some carry umbrellas, others don't. Some are caught in the rain, others are well-prepared. It's surprising, sometimes, the array of "types" I can see in the short walk from my flat to Blend (about 3 blocks). In the states, we drive everywhere and can see only a sliver of the social or economic class system, depending on which shops we patronise. Here, my eyes have been opened to how differently people can live. The reminder of who lives in this community is ever-present, there's no escaping it, it's right there when we walk out our door every morning. I'm grateful for this constant awareness.

There's materialism for sure, but there seems to be a contentedness as well. Few are hurried. Rarely is someone agitated or impatient. Upon arriving here in Paisley and seeing our flat, we realised that--well--that it needed a lot of love. It was dingy, dark, and sad. Immediately, Michael and I were facing doubts and questions in our minds, we knew it would be different, but not this different. I found myself getting angry, and subsequently feeling guilty about that anger. I got through those days by reminding myself that I have running water, a roof--though it was the floor that really concerned me--and plenty of clothing to keep me warm. God had provided in advance the additional funds we would need to get the flat looking bright and home-y, and with help from friends, and our amazing Sarah, we got it ready for move-in within a few days. Still, the kitchen sink was leaking and causing water damage, making the kitchen essentially off-limits for weeks. Finally, we found that eating out was far too expensive and it was time to make the kitchen work. After a couple more speed bumps, we were able to start cooking in the kitchen and cleaning dishes in the tub upstairs. We were assured constantly that the work would be done on the sink. Slowly, the anger faded and my eyes were opened again. As an American, I felt an entitlement to be angry because things weren't working as they should. Over time I realised how silly that was and how different that is from the culture here. For the first time, I recognised that part of being an American, part of the American culture, is the right-to-be-angry when someone doesn't move fast enough. Allow me to explain.

After setting up a bank account, it took three days for us to get access to it. Two trips to our mobile phone provider to setup service. Two trips to the post office to get our UK Permits. Four weeks to get light bulbs changed in our flat (they didn't simply unscrew). Nine weeks (and counting) for the new sink (we're now washing dishes in the downstairs bathroom sink, which is much better!) And our teammates spent four weeks without hot water in their home. All of those experiences opened my eyes to a second option. Sure, I could spend weeks upon weeks being angry, or I could make the best of it; I chose the latter. Not because I'm better, but because the slow-and-steadyness of this culture demands it, and--honestly--I love it.

Allowing myself to lose the right to be angry when things take "too long" to complete, has given me so much freedom. Freedom to be grateful when something is completed. Freedom to find joy in what has been done. Freedom to allow myself to slow down because no one else is in a hurry anyway. Not in a lazy way, but in a less-stressful way.

I hope that this freedom, this absence of impatient anger, becomes a permanent part of my outlook. Paisley is changing me. I'm losing things I didn't know I had--and I surely don't need--and I am so grateful.