Wrong Side of the Road
I should have posted this earlier than now, but I was in an epic battle with the UK Internet provider. I won't sully names, because I'm bigger than that, but let me tell you, some things are just easier stateside.
I landed at Heathrow at 4:10AM US time, with bright eyes and bushy tail run entirely on adrenaline. Right before taking off I realized, terrifyingly, that I had booked my airport pickup for the day before I landed. Silly me and the silly British tradition of formatting the day before the month when recording dates. We made a quick (expensive--hats off to you, Novartis for funding so much of this trip) international phone call, and supposedly, it was all worked out. But alas, I had zero cell service, so if my driver wasn't there the second I stepped into the arrivals hall, I had no way of contacting him.
But he was there--thank heavens for small miracles. And after a short snafu where I almost got in the wrong side of the car (I am a wonderful American cliche), we were on our way to my new accommodation--seriously, it's like they're speaking another language here.
I was trying to keep my eyes opened, so as I looked out the window, I recorded some of my first impressions of London. Here are the more interesting ones:
- There is a horse farm directly outside of Heathrow, which I cannot see very well because we are driving on the wrong side of the road. You know, it's a shame airports cannot be directly located inside of a city. Imagine coming to New York City and the first thing you see are the highways of Newark, NJ. And even if you fly into JFK, the view from the BQE isn't exactly what I would call worth of the title: "This Is The Center Of The Known Universe.: You Are Here."
- I wonder if they allow left turns on red lights here. Which is apparently a very stupid question as every single intersection I have yet to pass is a roundabout.
- I have been here only forty-five minutes and already I understand the tea obsession. My driver is drinking it and it smells so very cozy. What I would give to feel cozy right now instead of this chilly paranoia I'm harboring... The plane didn't crash. I've made it through customs and I have my visa. They barely glanced at all the paperwork I so lovingly prepared. I should be excited now. I should be talking to my driver more. I should ask to stop for breakfast. I should have peed at the airport.
When I finally reached the dorms, I stood on the check-in line behind a girl who really couldn't understand what the woman meant when she said, "Post Key."
The girl looked around helplessly, "I don't know what that is."
"Mail?" I offered, "A key for your mailbox."
The girl was wearing the same platform suede Oxford-looking shoes that boys and girls alike wear at Parsons. I've taken to judging people who wear those shoes as being unfriendly. I also have bitter memories about the first girl I spoke to at Parsons. Namely for the fact that she didn't immediately become my new best friend and I resented her bitterly for it. I've only seen her once since. She has fantastic red hair. I no longer resent her, but apparently I use her against new people all I want.
I dropped off my bags, looked up the nearest Vodafone location and set off out of the dorms for my first London adventure. And I went the wrong way, despite taking copious pictures of the Google Maps directions, and was immediately terrified I had made a huge mistake in even deciding to study abroad. It certainly couldn't have been this far to the Tube station. Everyone who knew I'd be living is Shoreditch had said it was the East Village of London. But there were nothing but horrible 70s style brownstones. It was all residential.
But then I told myself to stop whining. I must have gone the wrong way. My rain boots, though very very cute and very delightfully red, were scraping my ankles. I would go back to the dorms, change into some proper socks and re-evaluate.
South of here, where the actual Tube station is, and where I was supposed to be going, I found the East Village of London, I found the Tube. I successfully purchased an Oyster Card, (Remind me to look up why they've named their MetroCard after a mollusk) and using the convenient maps at the Barclays Cycle Hire stations, I found Vodafone.
All set with my UK#, I picked up a router on the way home, because I am serious about my internetting, and started a war with it when I couldn't figure out how to disable the DHCP access. I don't take kindly to technology that outsmarts me. When I gave up an hour later, I was hungry, so I ventured outside again for some food.
At the proper grocery store, which was depressingly lacking in garlic and other essentials, I found some pre-cooked pasta and headed back home, ready to veg out in front of my newly acquired (wink) episode of Breaking Bad, but when I got there, I realized I didn't have a fork.
I made my way through half of the pasta with my fingers before I found the tiny collapsible plastic fork tucked into the top of the container. The English are so thoughtful!
And after that first day, though I was feeling kind of down that I hadn't spoken to anyone aside from the great sales assistant at Vodafone, I was feeling more confident. I had a new SIM card, a pricey Oyster Card and some working knowledge of the Underground, decent expectations for the taste of English food (seriously, those of you who dissed it as hard as you did, bite your tongue. It's delicious.), and a very uncomfortable bed.
To find pillows, utensils and my first day of class tomorrow!