That red and black kitchen was a summit of international friendship.
It was a summit that kept the peace by providing drinkage when academics overwhelmed. It waged many a Scrabble war. It formed deep alliances between comrades with each meal. And most importantly, it allowed an array of cultures to mingle and delegate.
It was my haven.
The taxi dropped us off in front of Tudor Court One on our first night out in England. The outside, like all the other buildings in Park Wood, was simple and austere. There was nothing appealing about these ashen brick buildings sprinkled about, and as I dropped my scarf outside of the cab for the seventh time I had all intentions of walking the 50 feet back to my flat.
I was invited in, however, and as one does when they are desperately trying to make friends, I obliged. We sat in the black plastic chairs around a tiny table and giggled at Cory already picking up a British twang. Blame the cider, blame the Brit to my left—whatever the cause, it set the precedence. We would continue to laugh, to ridicule and to seek solace in that kitchen.
Before I left the States, my roommate had handed me a disposable camera and said, “You can be reckless with this. So take crazy pictures with it.” Like a child finally about to open awaiting Christmas presents, I delved into my disposable camerawoman role.
Six photos were developed some six glorious months later, and I was reminded of the night when everything just fit. The people, though strange as hell and unlike anyone I’d ever met, became not just my best friends but integral to who I am as a person.
Furthermore, that kitchen became the hub of all matters.
The oddity of pre-drinking occurred here. My first meal with the British boyfriend would be made here. Dancing, crying, laughing, yelling and bad sportsmanship would all be felt in between the walls of Tudor Court One’s kitchen. Such a place remains sacred in my heart, mind and journal.
The kitchen, however, is more than just a place we spent our time—it was a place of international diplomacy. My Danish darlings, the lovely girls from Denmark, taught me the difference in American culture versus their rationality. I heard the absurd (and I’m convinced made-up) languages of Dutch and Danish. Even my country was well-represented with folks spanning from Massachusetts, New York, Kansas, Indiana and California.
The tiny Swiss girl from next door would pop her head in often, and the Californian that lived upstairs cleaned the kitchen even when we begged her not to. The gangly Dutchman would refer to me only as Princess and would astound me with his mastering of the English language. How I can be demolished in Scrabble by non-native speaker I’m embarrassed to know. The girl from the Bronx began to despise us as our volume seemed to be ever increasing and our fun demolishing any semblance of peace in such a small space. It didn’t matter though. We were absurdly happy.
The sounds of the radio would permeate the air with sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible music. Strange concoctions of food and drink, games that coated the floor with a layer of beer and conversations that I can still recall were a normal occurrence.
We would even prop the door and window open on the rarity that England had a gorgeous day, and I would listen to the harmony of a couple guitars while reading the latest issue of Time, one of my only direct connections with home.
The football field behind the house also embraced our presence. We would sprawl out on blankets, pretending it was warm enough to wear shorts and bearing our fluorescent legs for the world to see.
The intricacies of this kitchen run deeper though.
On my birthday last year, precisely 365 days ago, I was surprised in that kitchen. Twenty-one is a massive ordeal when you live in America, and despite only knowing these people for two weeks they rose, no they soared, to the occasion. Two cakes, balloons, champagne and dapper friends greeted me after I took my sweet time to get ready. They were even better when I discovered my wallet had been stolen as we pulled back up to Tudor Court later that evening.
The notion that you are loved and cared for when you’re so new and so foreign is renowned. Friendship, no matter the origin or kind, can change your life. I learned that here. This memory is a minute glimpse of the memories made in this kitchen.
I walked past Tudor Court One in October, four months after I had left my beloved home in fairytale England. The tears welled up in my eyes and my heart ached for what Tudor Court, Park Wood and even England meant to me. I realized behind that door in that kitchen there could be a group of people isolated and nothing like our crew. I realized that the void in my heart wasn’t for those walls but for those people.
Canterbury was magical because of the friendships I made. England stole my heart because it was there I learned who I am and who I want to become. Europe is calling to me now because it taught me how much more this world has to offer.
And Tudor Court One was a place where worlds collided without any intention of separating.