When Manchester & Lima Collided

I was talking with a friend when he laughed at my pronunciation of the city Manchester. He made fun of the way I separated it like it was two words instead of one: “Man-Chester”. I had been telling him about my time in England, how I had spent three weeks there and never made it down to his home city of London. I had gone to help my friend Logan move to Manchester to continue her university studies, and while London may be the big city everyone else talks about, I fell in love with Manchester instead.

She and I became close only a few months earlier, after realizing that we understood one another in a way so many others didn’t. She was born and raised in Tennessee but felt out of place for so long. It wasn’t until she studied abroad in England that she felt truly at home for the first time. She came back feeling even worse than before, no longer able to be content in the States after tasting life in another place.

As we got to know each other, we found that we could vent about parts of American culture that frustrated us. She didn’t seem annoyed when I shared yet another memory from Peru, and I fell in love with England from her stories even though I had never been. When we graduated from University and she decided to go back to Manchester to get another degree, it was a no brainer that I was going to fly out with her to help her move in. I bought a one-way ticket with her and decided to think about my return later.

We landed in Manchester after a long day of traveling. Carrying her life in 2 suitcases and my things in a smaller carry-on, we piled into her friend’s car and went back to their place. We sat on the couch, they made tea and we all caught up up on life. I drifted in and out of sleep, exhausted from jet lag and travel, as I listened to their foreign accents and the happiness in Logan’s voice from being back with her friends. The first couple days were exhausting and emotionally taxing on Logan, dealing with getting everything sorted and the lease signed on her place. Her friends let us crash on their couch. We’d come home at night and watch movies and eat chips and curry sauce until we were finally able move into Logan’s flat. We made endless trips to Primark, Aldi and Wilko to buy the necessities for her new home. We purchased things like dishes, bedding, soap and wine. She had a terrace with the most amazing view of the city and spectacular sunsets, where we would sit and talk and drink. We could hear the trains coming in at night while going to sleep. The screeching of the wheels as they slowed into the station had become relaxing while I drifted off.

Manchester reminded me of my favorite city, Lima. Maybe it wasn’t so much the culture but just how at home I felt there. The sidewalks weaved and curved around the roads and there were trains and buses and cars and bikes everywhere. I wandered this foreign city while Logan ran errands and went to school to get registered. The days were overcast and cool with rain off and on almost every day. There was a tea room I frequented. It was small, fitting maybe 5 tables in it with a small loft upstairs that had pieces of artwork on display. The tea was warm and the cupcakes and muffins and breads were the best I’ve ever had. It was quiet and had floor to ceiling windows. I’d observe the world go by for hours, reading and writing and people watching.

In my last week there, the sun was out and we were wandering the city with no agenda. We happened upon a Latin American festival outside the town hall. Spanish music was blasting from the speakers, countless booths of aromatic food being prepared, specialties from El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and more were cooking. People mingled and laughed and danced. I taught my friends bachata in the middle of Manchester. My worlds were colliding and I had never felt more at home. I left my heart in that city. I fell in love with the food, the people I met, the gray skies and how easy it was to be myself there. I may not be able to pronounce the name of this city with a perfect British accent but my heart is in the right place.

Custard creams, tea and Greggs sausage rolls await me. Logan is moving back there this month, and I’m glad to have an excuse to go back to one of my favorite cities.