Home of the cockney accents, zillions of kebab shops, Halal markets, graffiti-covered everything - basically an entirely different world from where I've been the past 9 months.
It's like a Tale of Two Cities - but all in one city.
In Bayswater, there are police around all the time just in case there might be a problem. The buildings are grand and whitewashed and everything is very clean. Not so in Hackney.
So why am I here?
Part of me is wondering exactly that.
I decided that for my last three months in the UK, it would be fun to see whether or not I could survive in the wilds of "dodgy London". Well that and the fact that I can rent a large room in the house of somebody I know (fellow teacher from school) for 400 a month inclusive. That does kinda make things worthwhile... The room is really nice, with a shower and an un-working fireplace. It's done in blue and white, with a single bed and a really cozy rug. And a TV! Surprisingly I haven't even turned it on yet.
To be honest, I'm feeling very lost right now. Even though the flat I was in needed to be sprayed for bugs (ew), and the only sunlight that came in lasted for a half hour in mid-morning, I really loved living in that area. Also, my friend Eve was in the same house, so I had somebody right in the building to spend time with. Now, I'm living with a lady (let's call her "N") and her 15 year old son - very friendly people, but there are very clear boundaries set already: i will likely be eating alone all the time, and spending most of the time here in my room. This is fine, but I'm a little bit sad that it won't be more like living with the other roommates I've had. I'd pictured tea in their cozy kitchen and wine outside in the garden. I can still do those things, but it'll be a lot quieter.
It's only 3 more months though, right?
That's what everybody keeps saying. That time will go by very quickly and before I know it, I'll be back home.
Looking out the window (I'm up in the air now - on the 2nd floor), there are big, leafy trees blowing in the wind, gorgeous blue sky, and the sound of children playing and people walking their dogs. Everything seems so normal - like real people live here and not just tourists or bankers staying for a fortnight or two. Being around all of this makes me even more homesick for the places like this that I fit into.
Limited phone access is another issue I'm trying to deal with. The lady I'm renting from has made it pretty obvious that me using the phone daily isn't a good idea - and to keep my calls as brief as possible because she and her son use it a lot. Since I'm a total phone person this isn't going to be easy. That and the fact that I'll be using phone cards instead of a long distance plan... So those of you who want to call me - I'll have to depend a little bit more on you to make those calls for the next few months.
The good news is that I am already starting to warm up to the area - it's funky and different, and I love N's house. My class is doing great, and I've made friends with some work people who are lots of fun and like to go out often. Things are busy, the weather has been amazing, and I've got a hell of a lot to do.
So things should be just fine.
I just need to stop thinking about August for a little while...