February 15. Saturday. Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, LONDON.
What an adventure already! The flight to DFW was very turbulent and made my palms sweaty and I felt, for the first time since flying in PNG, that I might actually throw up. I didn’t, but felt rather sick and was glad to get on solid ground. Just super windy. My flight connections were smooth, but there was a 2 hour delay at DFW to get on AA80 for London, so I killed the time mostly at the Internet Carrel where I met three very nice men. The first one was from Ohio, a friendly young guy, and I was struggling to access the internet with my laptop and he was next to me. I said, do YOU have an Ethernet cable? Just out of curiosity to see if he was prepared for this obstacle. He said that actually he had an EXTRA cable and that I could HAVE it! I was shocked and pleased and SO grateful!! That meant that I got to spend my time catching up on Facebook at the airport, which is what I had hoped for. They made us change gates (from D27 to D36) because of trouble with an airplane part causing the delay, which was easy and only a few gates down. I had absolutely NO trouble finding any gates this whole trip. So grateful for that! Anyway… then I met this Nathanesque young German guy sitting on the other side of me, who had just been in Chile and is a student and wants to be a geography teacher for ages 13-18. He had good English, was so pleasant, and ended up giving me a little heart-shaped, pink, foil-wrapped chocolate for Valentine’s Day! That was Alex. Then there was an older gentlemen I ended up connecting with on my second round to the Internet Carrel and he helped guide me toward the process of Drop Box for getting my pictures off my phone. He was going to Buenos Aires with a group of 6 men to climb mountains, a yearly ritual. He had twin 23 year old boys so we got along famously.Will work on that at a later date. I ate a Cobb salad which cost $7.59 and a Diet Coke so lunch was $11 or roundabout that number. I got both of my phones charged up at the Internet station too, so that was great! I also got my article read and highlighted for 815 on the Future of Libraries. Productivity accomplished. I visited the bookstore in the terminal and found (see below) one for only 5 bucks that was small and lightweight and looked interesting. I had decided not to schelp any books around but at that point I need some mental stimulation that had NO audio connected to it. The constant TV news noise in the gate terminals was interminably annoying.
The airplane I flew on to London was GIGANTIC. The wing span just went on and on, and the cabin extended waaaaay back. I got a window seat, and as luck would have it the flight was not full, and the seat next to me remained empty. That meant that I got a pretty good night’s sleep by laying across both of them and snoozing away under the influence of Tylenol PM with sleep mask and ear plugs dutifully in place. Also had the privilege of two pillows and two blankets! YEAH! SCORE! Watched a bit of Finding Nemo, Thor, read some in my little book that I got at DFW (Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky) and napped here and there. That kept me busy enough the whole time. Dinner was chicken and rice and vegetables, Diet Coke (skipped the roll). I slept thru breakfast but the stewardess was kind enough to fetch me a tray when I mentioned it to her after using the loo, and I gulped down the croissant, yogurt and orange juice lickety split before returning my tray table and seat to their upright position to prepare for landing.
Approaching London was MAGICAL. Having a window seat, I was able to gape and marvel at the charming quality of the city from the air. It’s as if the city has a color scheme of brown, rust, cream, and white, with a bit of steely gray mixed in only occasionally. It has the appearance of a giant village, and it reminded me of Sweeney Todd and Angela’s Ashes and Oliver Twist but expanded out into a cosmopolitan space. It seemed like the neighborhoods were made up of Snow White’s wood cottage over and over in aggregrate charm.
Disembarking from the airplane, I decided to take the directions from Andrew literally one step at a time, since I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing or where to go. It was slightly daunting but I followed the signs to ARRIVALS, then to EVERYONE ELSE for Passport Control, cited the right words for why I was in the country (VISITING AND THAT’S ALL), got to BAGGAGE CLAIM, where it only took about 5 minutes for my red suitcase, well marked with my ESU tag and the red “I Love Baggage Handlers” tag dangling promisingly, to show up. I rolled right through NOTHING TO DECLARE, and easily followed the signs to the UNDERGROUND. I went through a bit of a back-and-forth time of confusion with which way to go at that point, and had to backtrack and re-think my position before coming to the conclusion that I needed to proceed toward TERMINAL 1 to find Andrew. I did so, and he was standing there faithfully RIGHT where he said he would, along with my roommate-to-be, Meagan. We were the first to arrive, as it seems most of the other people’s flights were delayed as well. He gave us our Oyster passes, which are pre-loaded with money, for all of our transportation needs. Also, we got International Student Identity Cards, which will qualify us for some discounts at some places, hopefully! He explained how to get to the Holiday Inn, giving us specific directions which included something about a zebra crossing that we didn’t understand, but he delightfully said, “You’ll see! You’ll see!” Riding the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square was fun. Listening to a Londoner family was enjoyable; the dad was a crack-up. At one point he said under his breath to his son, “I’m gonna need to find a loo!” and he also kept teasing his teenage daughter, Hannah. He was playing with a sound machine on his phone, which was the sound of screaming, and his wife chided him playfully and told me he’d gotten it for Christmas and he liked it even better than their son. Haha!! Oh, and phrases from the British Line announcer: “Mind the gap between the train and the platform,” and “Alight here.” After we got off the line, we went past the money exchange (probably should have stopped and done that but we wanted to dump our luggage and get settled ASAP) fumbled around on the street going back and forth in the wrong directions a couple of times and it started to spit from the sky and the wind picked up and it got miniscully miserable there for a bit, but we managed to locate the map on a street column and get turned in the right direction! I thought about buying an umbrella right then and there, but the choices at that particular vendor were limited, plus I have not changed out my money yet; and the rainy stuff did not last long til we were safely abreast in the hotel lobby. Elaine, our check-in hostess, blonde and lovely, showed us a map of where we were, and when she would point to a spot she would say “just there.” J I WANT TO SPEAK LIKE A BRIT.
We are to meet Andrew in his room (317) at 5:30 for our first meeting! Meagan and I are in the room (our room number is 425, which is also my anniversary, so that is serendipitous and easy to remember) taking naps and listening to the Olympics as broadcasted by the BBC. It has been good background noise by which to rest and recover. I figured out all the plugs with converters and they are all working like a charm. Unpacked, organized clothes and toiletries, mused over brochures of London attractions (the Dickens walk looks intriguing to me) and wondering what things to focus on/spend money on during our short stay. We are to have tomorrow free, as well as next Saturday, so there is definitely some freedom and leeway to galavant about the city! I am staying loose for now and seeing what everybody else wants to do.