Immigrating for love, and for the wide, open spaces
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Helen Anderson came to the United States from Great Britain in 2006. She works at the Bluebird Cafe in downtown Glenwood Springs.
Helen Anderson: I came to the United States as a tourist from the United Kingdom, specifically from England and Wales. While I was here visiting I met my husband, who is an American, and now we live here.
I had come to Los Angeles with my parents when I was 13 and had always loved America with all of its national parks. I dreamed about returning some day. So when I finished at university I decided to go traveling, but my mom didn’t want me to go on my own. I didn’t really have anyone to go with me, so she finally agreed that I could go if I went on an organized trip. I signed up with TrekAmerica, a company that does organized trips of different length.
I chose the six-week long trip from New York to Los Angeles and back. Along the way I got to see quite a few of the cities and national parks. The tour guide for my trip was Seth, who is now my husband.
There were 12 other people on the trip. Seth did the driving and told us stories about America along the way.
Gallacher: So was it love at first sight?
Anderson: Pretty much. He just seemed pretty cool and very funny, and I just thought “I have to get to know him better.” We pretty much hit it off straight away and spent the whole six weeks finding out about each other.
I didn’t expect to come to America and fall in love. It wasn’t part of my plan.
Gallacher: How did your parents react?
Anderson: They had always brought me up to be a free spirit and make my own decisions. So when I came back in August and told them I had met this really cool guy, they weren’t shocked.
I stayed in touch with Seth and he came and visited me for a week that October. I had started working on my master’s that year and was pretty busy with my studies. Master’s programs are usually just a year in England.
After our visit, he went off traveling around Europe. When he got back to the United States in February I came and visited him. Then he came and visited me in March. By then we were saying, “OK, what are we going to do? This is silly.”
I finished up my master’s and was beginning to write my thesis. By then Seth had decided to move to Glenwood Springs and enroll in CMC’s photography program. So we both moved to Glenwood at the beginning of June in 2006. It was an amazing summer.
Gallacher: What was your thesis on?
Anderson: It was on Woking, England, a town that was able to reduce its carbon emissions by 74 percent. I researched how they had done that and how other towns could use small-scale renewable energy systems and replicate what Woking had done. *
Gallacher: You said it was an amazing summer.
Anderson: Yes, I love the weather here, the national parks, the space.
Gallacher: Talk more about the space.
Anderson: You can go hiking and camping here and not see anyone for days and weeks on end. It is a lot harder to find that kind of solitude in Britain. That solitude is something I really love.
Gallacher: Tell me about growing up.
Anderson: I grew up in the county of Hampshire in England until I was 11, and then we moved to South Wales for my father’s job. I wasn’t aware of the rivalry between Wales and England until I moved there. The Welsh are very patriotic and don’t really like the English that much because of England’s dominance over the years.
I think the Welsh feel like the English act superior and put on airs. So it wasn’t an easy transition for me. But my whole family has stayed there. My older brother and my mother and father are still there.
Gallacher: I’m sure it was hard to leave your friends and your country when you were 11. That is a tough time in life to make that kind of move.
Anderson: Yeah, but at the time I thought it was going to be really cool. I thought to myself, “I’m going to be the new girl, people will be interested in getting to know me.” That had been my experience in school when new kids had come. They were always seen as the interesting new person.
But the reality was, “Oh, you’re English,” said with disdain. Kids made fun of me. I had no idea this resentment between countries existed. I had to learn to speak Welsh, it was compulsory.
Gallacher: What differences did you observe between the Welsh and the English?
Anderson: The Welsh are very patriotic. You will see the Welsh flag flying everywhere. The Union Jack is the flag of Great Britain, which is supposed to represent England, Ireland and Scotland. The Welsh are upset because they don’t feel like their flag is a part of the Union Jack. It doesn’t have a dragon or any of the colors of the Welsh flag. In England, the Union Jack flies on government buildings and churches and at soccer matches. It is only flown on special occasions.
I think it is almost frowned upon to be too proud to be English within the United Kingdom. The English don’t really celebrate St. George’s Day, but the Welsh heavily celebrate St. David’s Day and the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Gallacher: Why did your family move to Wales?
Anderson: My dad was hired as the national athletics coach for Wales and my mom was a geography teacher. My dad was responsible for selecting athletes for the Welsh athletic squad. These athletes were then groomed and trained to compete in the Olympics.
My dad was an athlete when he was younger and has always been involved in sports. The only sport in Britain that is well funded is soccer. All other sports are supported by volunteers.
The move to Wales was hard on my mom. She didn’t have an easy time of settling in, and I was having problems settling in at school. My dad was working all the time with his new job. Mom was depressed a lot, and my dad couldn’t deal with it very well. They just stopped communicating, and I think that is when it they started to drift apart. They stayed together for another six years and finally split up when I was 18.
For a while I felt like I didn’t really have a home. I didn’t fit in Wales and when we would go back to England to visit, it didn’t feel like home. It just felt like a place where I lived. The only thing that stayed the same was my nana and my granddad. Their place felt the same. They lived up near Manchester, and I loved it up there.
My granddad would take me camping and fishing. That was always amazing. I used to love going there because life seemed really simple. I think that’s where I developed my love of the outdoors.
Granddad had two big dogs that lived outside and a big vegetable garden. He was a schoolteacher who retired at a young age, so he had time to spend with me. We would take long walks in the morning in a little forest nearby and then after breakfast we’d go fishing or pick berries or plant things in the garden. We were always doing simple, practical things. It was always really fun.
My grandparents were very special to me growing up. Now I love hanging out and talking to them on the phone. They are two of my favorite people.
* The governing council of Woking is a leader in adopting green energy technologies in England. Combined heat and power stations provide district heating and electricity, and electricity is also provided by hydrogen fuel cells and solar cells dispersed throughout the borough. These are linked via an innovative private electricity distribution system operating completely off the public power grid.
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