Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Have Arrived! ...maybe not at the pinnacle of success, but I like this, too.

So the whole thing started on a Sunday.  Not my first choice of days, but I'd thought the program started on the 29th, so the 28th was the day to leave.  More on that later.  Well, I got my stuff in the van, we dropped my mom and brothers off at church, and my dad drove me off to the Houston International Airport.  That place is ENORMOUS.  By the way.  Had to find the C gate, then the international place, then the parking, which involved quite a loop, then finally got through the doors.  I dropped off my bigger backpack, said goodbye to my father, walked off to security--which I got through with a passport instead of a license!--and started hiking it off to the plane terminal.  I was a bit early, so I spent my time...doing very little, really.  I think there may have been solitaire involved.  Got on a plane, little jaunt over to Chicago-O'Hare International which was somewhat dull but at least I got a window seat.  Although there were interesting things in the plane magazine.  Did you know ghost peppers don't have any of their heat on the outside?  You can lick the outside and feel nothing.  (I feel an awful prank coming on.) There's also a touch of delay after you eat it.  And there's a lady in India who, among other ridiculous things, rubs the juice in her eyes.  Not for health benefits or anything--just because people pay to see it.  Fun stuff like that.  Then came landing time and a bit of a mental incident.  The time that I had (on the tv guide screen) was incorrect and made me start freaking out that I wasn't going to make it to the next gate on time especially when there was another plane at our gate and it wouldn't leave and then I got off the plane and discovered I had plenty of time until my flight.  I also realized I was hungry and wasn't entirely sure what or how much I was going to get on the plane, so after a bit of looking around I realized the cheapest, most filling food was McDonald's.  It was only after I finished that I laughed at the very American food I was eating on my way out of the States.

Boarding time finally came and I realized suddenly that that was also going to take forever.  So I got comfortable standing in the back, discussing purposes for heading to London with the other people.  By which I mean the girl and the guy standing near me.  I forgot the girl's reason, but the guy there was going to a conference for his school.  Or work.  Not sure which.  We finally were allowed to start boarding and as I walked up, I noticed some security officers standing on the sides of the economy class watching people walk by.  I wondered what their purpose was, so naturally I was the one they asked for the passport from.  Random security checks, I suppose.

I then actually boarded the plane and realized something else.  It was huge.  I mean, I knew these planes were big, but there's something about physically being in a place or seeing something that changes your perception. And that plane was big.  I think it was the staircase as I walked in that clued me in on that.  So I started walking back to find my seat.  51 H.  I hoped that meant it was a window seat.  As I saw the first seats, I thought "Hey, wow!  Look at all this space!  Great!"  Then I saw the economy cabin.  ...Not so great.  The seats were [ ][ ][ ]  [ ][ ][ ][ ]  [ ][ ][ ].  Joy.  Good news?  I was in the aisle seat.  So I settled in (hoping the empty seat beside me really was empty).  Then an elderly couple showed up.  "Where's my seat?"  Hers was 51 I, the empty seat next to me.  "Well, where's my husband supposed to sit?"  Um...I think they might have missed the part where their seats weren't next to each other.  She was getting slightly huffy.  So the flight attendant asked me to switch places with her husband, so I got to sit back two rows (no big deal) and in the middle (not so cool).  There was very little talking on my aisle during the flight--something about it being overnight, I guess, or 7 hours long.  The guy on the aisle on my right was noncommunicative, the two seats on the other side were a couple who weren't much talking anyway, and the couple in front of me kept snogging.  But before I act like the flight was a total disaster, I'll say it was all right for my first international flight.  I mean, sure, it could have been better and I wish they'd make the business and first class safety videos separate from the economy videos so I didn't feel kind of like a second-class citizen seeing their food and their copious amounts of legroom and the fact that they got to choose which videos they were watching instead of craning my neck over the bun of the much taller girl in front of me.  But the pasta they gave us for dinner was rather tasty and very warm, and the salad dressing was one of my favorite kinds, and the movies were fun. They showed us Kung Fu Panda 2, which was, I think, a good follow-up on the first one.  Not bad at all as sequels go.  (May I make a diversion here and say that I'm concerned for HTTYD 2?  I want it to be good so very badly.)  Then there was a movie about some guy who was in Paris and loved the city and romanticized about the 1920s in Paris and was engaged to a girl who I couldn't understand how he'd gotten engaged to in the first place and then started time traveling back at 10 at night to the 20s on accident and met the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway and Picasso and Gertrude Stein and saved his novel by talking to them and finally decided to stay in Paris forever.  But I don't remember seeing a title.  The end of this movie was about the time I realized that when my dad had told me to "stay hydrated on your long flight," he didn't mean drink quite a bit before getting on the plane, have another glass of orange juice during dinner and a glass of water after, then drink my entire water bottle about 3.5 hours into the flight.  Which wouldn't have been so bad...but then we hit the turbulence from Irene.  Most of the time I like turbulence--I don't know why, but the feeling of my stomach jumping around is kind of cool to me.  But with a bit too much in the bladder it got rather crowded for the jumping stomach and altogether entirely uncomfortable.  AND we couldn't stand up until we got out of the turbulence. Half an hour later.  Curse you, Irene!  (Please note:  If your name is Irene, I did not direct that towards you at all.)

Anyway, after that, they started showing Friday Night Lights (I think) but I wasn't too interested (hence the "think;" I wasn't paying too close attention).  So I tried to sleep.  Didn't work out as well as I'd hoped, despite the fact that it was late and I was tired and it was going to be morning when we landed anyway.  So I listened to music and read a tad bit.  Then they started playing Thor.  You know, if I completely ignore Norse mythology and let the Marvel people re-invent it for themselves, I think I'll enjoy the movie.  It's funny how utterly clueless a god like Thor can be when dropped into another culture.  "I like this drink," looking at his coffee mug.  *tosses violently to the ground* "Bring me more!"  *weird stares from onlookers*  But since they started the movie when we were about an hour out, and had to interrupt often for pa announcements, we didn't get very far.  (And okay, they didn't completely ignore *everything* about the Norse mythology; Mjolnir (insert umlauts) did return to his hand (but it was supposed to be burning hot and short-handled), and Loki was a (half-breed!) Frost Giant, and they did have the realms, and there was the rainbow entrance, but I mean, really, space-age Norse gods?  Really?  And Odin didn't lose his eye in battle, he traded it to a wise Jotun in return for wisdom (and then the Jotun's head got cut off and Odin used it as an oracle).  But oh, well. Although I did chortle inwardly at the "hammer in the stone" "He who removes this hammer shall be right heir of Asgard" or something.)

Anyway, first impression of England while walking through the airport:  It...looks like any other airport.  I can see tarmac and planes and baggage and sky...looks pretty norm...oh, look, it says toilets instead of restrooms.  And then there were the "Britain welcomes you!" people on the walls.  So I needed some English money, so I changed $40--got 18 pounds something back.  Ouch.  I think I'll hold on to my American money for now.  I retrieved my backpack with all my stuff and made my way to the tube, got myself an Oyster pass, and took the underground in to central London.  So many fun British accents around!  But the older people speak rather quietly.  I got off at Notting Hill Station and began walking the couple of blocks to the BYU center.  That's where I learned the first thing about British culture--there's a certain disregard for cross signs on roads. You find an opening and go.  So I dashed to the other side (I probably looked funny trying to run with a big ol' hiking backpack on and toting a smaller backpack over one shoulder).  Got to the center and, lo and behold, no one answered.  Something-something-it's-6-or-7-in-the-morning.  So I pulled out my handy-dandy tube map and...but that's a story for another day because it's late.

Oh, incidentally, the internet here is kinda low-capacity, so pictures may be few and far between.  I'll add a bunch sometime when I have really nice internet.


  1. Ditto on the curse Irene. I'm glad you made it safely. Sounds like the beginning of a very fun adventure!

  2. Wow sounds like an adventure already. Keep us posted.

  3. Ditto to Ruth! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

  4. ...and thus it begins :)