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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Pergrine Bosler
London, England
Summer 2004

Old Man Coniston

I spent the summer in London. The first three weeks were dedicated to the Beatles class taught by Glen Gass. This trip was amazing; it gave us all a chance to listen to great music and learn about the society that surrounded us during the time period of the Beatles. Above all, this program gave its participants a chance to see parts of London we would have never ventured to see on our own. We were also lucky enough to explore Liverpool. After the trip was over I returned to London to take two English courses.

The biggest culture shock to me was the transition to a big city. Coming from Bloomington, Indiana, London is overwhelmingly large. However, after a couple months of taking the tube to classes I could hardly imagine my days without the people watching during my commute. I still have no expectations of topping a night out in London with the bar hopping of Bloomington. London holds so much culture. Within a short bus ride one can see a blues jam in a basement club, Les Mis done flawlessly, or the movie premier to Spiderman II.

I loved London, but I still found myself in need for a different kind of adventure. With the help of the staff at my IES center, I planned a solo trip to the Lake District. My destination was a small town called Coniston. I took the train to Windermere and spent hours in a lite, cold rain looking for a bus stop. I finally boarded a rickety tiny white bus to Coniston. It took two stops. On the second bus, I got a call on my cell phone. It was a boy that I had loved greatly and for years at one point in my life. His conversation led to his confession of loving a new girl. I would have not been able to get through this heart break in any other part of the world. I was surrounded with what looked like the set of "The Sound of Music." I spent the later part of the day surrounded with the dissonance of my beautiful surroundings and my inner heart break.

The next morning I awoke in a hostel and had breakfast with a couple who had come to run a mountain marathon. The woman was 47 years old and told me she had plans to visit a friend she had not seen in twelve years. Her friend's husband had been murdered, and she was left with three kids. This story put a lot of perspective to my own pain, and I decided would not let it ruin my trip. My attraction to Coniston had been, Old man Coniston, the largest fell in the Lake District. I only had two days and the weather was horrible. It was cold and raining very hard. Most were advised to stay off the higher paths, and the weather was rumored only to get worse. However, I knew I needed to find solace somewhere. I bought a map of the fell and a compass which I knew not how to use. I set off to meet Old Man Coniston.

I was wearing all of the clothes that I had packed. I had originally packed for a city in the summer, so none of my clothes were climbing appropriate and I was soaked before I had finished my hike to the base of the fell. Eventually, I found myself cold, wet, and lost with a compass I did not know how to use. When I was about to turn around, I saw three men of varying ages hiking a connecting path. Because of the weather, I had only seen one other group out. I asked for help reading my map. Brian, a hiker of 65 and in great shape, recognized my inexperience and my accent immediately and said: "You're a long way for the colonies, young lady."

Brian invited me to finish the ascent with him and his two friends. They were three Scottish men each representing a younger generation. They said I completed the age range by being the youngest. Brian had stories all over the fell of ice climbing in the 1970s. When there was a lapse in the stormy weather they decided to take a break for tea. They each had thermoses, sugar, and a coca cola bottle filled with cream. It was the most English scene I could have witnessed in my time abroad. In the mist of horrible conditions, half way up a mountain, we had stopped for a tea party.

The storm continued and so did we. Brian kept a slow pace, but good conversation. He told me on a good day the view of green hills and Lake Coniston goes on for miles. We pasted mine ruins and beautiful pond near the top called a tarn. Our final obstacle was what looked like the staircase Frodo, Sam, and Gollum climb in Return of the King. I could not see anything in front of me and was desperately out of breath, but we found the top of Old Man Coniston. Brain said our reward was unprotected wind, little visibility, and more rain. However, I got much more from that day. I found more than solace. I found great company and a growing confidence in myself. I also found that bad things happen in life, but sometime you are lucky enough to be in the only place that could heal your struggles.