Hello (or Cheers) from London. I am here (and in other places in the UK and Ireland) for one month of my 6-month sabbatical. I am meeting with dementia experts to learn about their research into managing the behavioral symptoms of dementia. There are many parallels with our work at Michigan into finding ways to better integrate non-pharmacologic treatments and target medications for these symptoms. I suspect some exciting collaborations to come from these meetings.
But while that is the main part of the experience, there is also the experience of living and working in another country (albeit briefly). This experience has brought to mind the movie “Lost in Translation” where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson roam Tokyo and contemplate their lives in the jet-lag laden fog of operating in another country. While there is no language barrier here in the UK as in the movie, every day is a new experience.
Going to meet a colleague at a new place (while on one level involves simply going from one place to another in the city) exercises my brain’s executive function with multiple tube/other rail line changes. It sounds simple, but timing it right, and getting on the right train and right place in the midst of hard-charging crowds can be challenging. Not to mention that I am depending on wifi for internet, so don’t have the crutch of everpresent GPS. I have definitely had a “lost” feeling a number of times, but the feeling of accomplishment when I get to the right place is pretty nice.
Since I have been here with my 2 teenage daughters living in an apartment, we have also had occasion to experience grocery shopping and other typical daily living tasks. While the grocery stores and the foods in them are similar to what we are used to including self-checkout options, they are as a friend of mine put it “just a little bit different”. For example, I found out the hard way that what looked like a fruit smoothie was in fact a type of cream alternative. Learning to operate the combo washer/dryer in the apartment has been another growth curve. After a week, I finally seem to have mastered it.
Despite these minor challenges and the constant stepping out of comfort zones, what is found in translation are so many amazing experiences. I feel like the ruts of many years of routines have been washed away in such a brief time and it is a great feeling.