Abroad just long enough

One morning at my internship, Kartel Creative, an indie record company in Hackney, I was responsible for getting contact information for blogs and putting music into the air. Something to ease into – something lo-fi enough for a work environment but still something impressive. 

Tom Robinson’s show on BBC 6 is usually the easy choice, playing world music and a few great indie-rock tracks. I decided to find common ground in the best of U.S. radio – a West Philadelphia studio and British producer. I put on an NPR World Café broadcast of the Fleet Foxes’ Lillywhite Session. 

After the band opened with “White Winter Hymnal,” show host David Dye asked lead singer Robin Pecknold how his environment affected the creation of the songs on the record.

“Sometimes it’s good to get out of your element to write, but other times, it’s good to stay in your element and wish you were out of your element,” Pecknold said.

True enough. Three months and counting down, London represents both sides of that idea.

I can remember the summer preceding this journey – stuck at home with anticipation inflating my heart to my lungs.

Right now in London, Philadelphia is on my mind. Small, dirty, windy, sometimes shady, dollar-for-a-dollar, Yuengling drinking, cheesesteak-gulfing Philadelphia. 

London is the learning experience I can’t draw lines around. It’s where I don’t belong, where I sometimes fit in and where I fit in beautifully all the same. Big, clean, dripping damp, seemingly harmless, 60-cents-a-pound, bitter-ale drinking, chips-masticating London. It would do my soul well to stay here forever. But as I stand here now, I still wish to go back to a more fully-formed idea of home.

The truth is, London can be a lonely town, and without my Temple flatmates, I’m not so sure I’d get along so well. The confines of Temple students have been a blessing and a bane. When all you have is the people you live with and paradise versions of friendships turn awry, the ‘OK, I’m not dealing with this person for two weeks’ is suddenly awful discourse. Nice try, Philly kid – try being honest from now on.  

With less than two weeks left in this semester, haste is on its way. Haste to write unnecessarily long-winded papers and reach a finish line we’re hoping to push away for a few more memorable moments. 

This is a moment, if only for a moment. In a condensed space, this is where we begin. As time becomes polarized, our focus changes rapidly, and we start getting answers to questions like “What’s important to you?”

This moment is sentimental, idealistic and a part of every feeling I avoided heading into this trip. I’m thinking about sunsets outside of airplane windows, having a concrete direction and leaving everything about this place. These are the kind of moments in deconstruction where we have a choice in who we are. 

If this semester in a foreign land has taught me anything, it’s travel. Get out of Philadelphia. Get lost for the sake of fatigue and stagnation. Things about yourself will take form, and if only for a moment of clarity, we are in a garden state.

Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at chris.zak@temple.edu.

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