Guest Post: Stranger in a Strange Land (Part 3 of 3)

One of the best things about sharing my scrappy travel experiences is that it invites others to do the same. As an expat, there is nothing more wonderful than hearing about other people’s similar challenges and adventures and how they handled them.

My aunt has been a respected oncologist in the northeastern U.S. for many years, and she recently shared with me her experience attending the Welsh National School of Medicine for six weeks in 1971. She has kindly allowed me to share her experience on this blog…though I fear that next to my daily worries about parking and peanut butter, her brief experience abroad seems much more profound! She notes that her account is a reflection of Wales as it was over 40 years ago, and that cultural attitudes toward nationalism and language may have relaxed since then.

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

As my mother had always wanted to visit her family in the North of England, I suggested that my parents join me at the end of my time in Cardiff to go to Barrow-in-Furness. My mother had never been out of the US, and my father had been all the way to Toronto a couple of times. I remember asking a colleague at the Royal Marsden when I was spending a summer in London, “What is the best way to go to Barrow-in-Furness?” He replied, “People don’t go to Barrow-in-Furness, people come from Barrow-in Furness.”

However, I could not communicate with Mom or Dad as there was still no post or telephone. It turned out that they would be arriving on Saturday of the four-day weekend for Decimalization (D-Day). My popularity among the locals improved when it turned out that I was quite facile with decimal currency. I would have thought it would be easy but apparently, for those raised on “2&6 and 2&6=5” and 21 shillings makes a pound, it was not.

I did, however, realize what a mess a four-day bank holiday would make. I cashed as much currency as I dared carry around and booked the best room in the local hotel, the only one with a bathroom and central heat. I didn’t know for sure that Mom and Dad were going to arrive, but I couldn’t take any chances. I took the Airport bus to Cardiff Airport at the appointed time, and there they were, mighty glad to see me!


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