The illusion might be of an American girl with blonde bangs and a pony tail sitting in glorious yellow sunlight on the stoop. The triangular fronts of her black, fluffy mules match the triangular face of the little black kitten she is holding.
The reality might be me, an English girl in front of an ugly brown house on a street cut in half by an expressway in a depressed North American town. The sky is grey, the yellow light is overexposure.
And the stereotypes?
All I can tell you is the mules had a campy glamour in England - the word itself is American and reminded us of Mae West and luxury and excess - but here they seem to quite seriously signify trailer park. Both of which are stereotypes.
And I miss England, cups of tea and chatting and the normality of weirdness and the rebellion of squatting and chic rags. Here it is all do, do, do - run to class, to work, to study, to a meeting, to a work-out - as if leisure is a sin. Here if I wear my hair in 8 braids, the nearest reference is Boy George - and that is not what I mean at all.
Here everyone smiles at me, and hopes I have a nice day, and although we laughed ourselves sick about that expression in cynical old England, here it warms me. Here everyone loves my accent I get endless praise for just opening my mouth. Difference number one - here they try to build you up, there they laugh to cut your down to size.
So, although I am determined to remain true to myself - it becomes less clear daily exactly what is me, and what is English, and what is merely last year in London. Illusion, reality and stereotypes bump and churn. I, the alien, step among them seemingly free to chose what is, what I am.
And there is one area .... I am in a woman studies program and one of the most commonly unasked questions in my fellow students eyes is am I straight or gay? And here I hide behind a foreigness that they cannot really check, in my non-response that in London the demarcations seemed a little more fluid.
On Being a Foreigner
Photos in Chronological Order
Map/Diagram of Story Elements