Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Arrival Woes

So. I have arrived in London. Yesterday, I left the only home I’ve ever known, boarded a plane, and crossed an ocean for a whole new adventure. This moment would probably have been much, much more momentous had I been able to stop crying. All day yesterday, I spent it with my mommy. I had some last minute things to pick up – like a medical alert charm for my bracelet (I’m allergic to penicillin) and then I just sat on the couch while we both worked on our laptops and watched TV. My brother had to go to court and testify about an accident he’d witnessed a few months back and my mom went with him. She hugged me before she left like she was never going to let me go and cried. I waited until she and JR left before crying myself. When my daddy came home, we ate supper together and then he loaded up the car and off we went. There was more crying. And I realized I’d left my Magic Jack behind which just made me cry some more – I won’t be able to call until my parents mail it to me.

At the airport, Daddy dropped me off at the door with my luggage and left to park car. When he came back though he had to return to the car again to get my cane. He wheeled the trolley up to the baggage check area and made dumb jokes to the British Airways attendant that made me laugh and the lady glare. My worrisome green back I was sure would be overweight turned out to, indeed, be overweight, but only by one pound so, yay, no charge. Daddy then carried my carry-on bag (incidentally, it was so heavy that its shoulder strap would later snap while I carried it to a seating area not ten minutes later)  to the security check point and reminded me that I’d be back. I hugged him and cried. I went through security in tears. The guard actually asked if I wanted him to get my dad to come back so I could a few more minutes. If he’d done that though, I never would have left so I declined and went on through. I missed Mommy and Daddy before I’m Daddy had even reached his car. I’m a Daddy’s girl. And a Mommy’s girl. Deal with it.

I flagged down the gate taxi instead and got a lift to my gate – a good thing since it was, literally, at the other end of the airport. Cried some more. Checked my e-mail and posted to Facebook. Then got to enjoy pre-booking status on account of my hip and visible cane. The plane had two cabins of weird sleeper chairs, one section of really comfy chairs and then the economy class took up the second half of the plane. On the right hand side of the plane, I sat in the second row and had an aisle seat. There was no one sitting in front of me, a rather nice Bulgarian girl next to me and an older black lady who slept the entire had what would been the window seat had there actually been a window there. I was actually worried I wasn’t going to be able to watch any in-flight entertainment with no seat in front of me, seeing as how screen are attached to the back of seats, but it turned out I had a screen that folded down under the armrest and a tray that folded out from the actual armrest itself so, yay, no worries!

Take off went smoothly – I actually love the feeling of lift off – and the flight itself went great with only a couple of turbulent patches. British Airways has it so passengers can select their own in-flight entertainment, rather than showing two or three movies themselves that everyone onboard watches. They had a ton of options too, so I watched Dark Shadows (which was boring with bad pacing) and The Avengers (which I’d seen before but was still awesome) and then in the remaining time watched Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Luckily the CSI episode was one I’d seen before because the last ten minutes was cut off by our approach to Heathrow. Landing was boring – with no window I couldn’t see anything outside and, unlike the steepness you have with takeoff, landing in more shallow. I managed to catch a glimpse out of the window in front of us though when we touched down and the first thing I saw on British soil? The Canadian maple leaf on the tail of an Air Canada plane. I found it incredibly ironic.

I gathered my stuff and left the plane. Went through Customs and, unlike with my trip to Italy, my passport was stamped! Or, rather, my visa but it’s in the passport so it still counts! Retrieving my luggage was easy – all three bags were one after the other on the conveyer. Several panicked moments ensued when I left the arrival area, however, and went out into the airport proper but could not find my promised lift. Someone was supposed to be standing there with my name on a sign but, guess what? While there were lots of people standing about with names on signs, none of those names were mine. I was just about to break out my laptop and e-mail my UK coordinator when a man walked through the door with “ENGAGE EDUCATION ” and my last name on his sign.

His name was Ian. Can I just say how very unsettling it is to be picked up by a total stranger in a foreign land you just arrived in? Ian was very nice, however, and he told me I was very fortunate that he was, indeed, British and not one of the many immigrant taxi drivers who wouldn’t know English if it leapt out and bit them on the nose. Naturally, the first elevator we tried to get down to the parking area was out of order and locked us in for a few minutes. Escape the elevator of doom and went to Ian’s van, only to learn that the address to the realtor’s office (where I had to go to collect my keys to the house I’d be living in) had been muddled in the transference between Engage and Ian. So I broke out my trusty laptop (who was apparently jet lagged and decided to be testy so, ergo, not so trusty after all) and locked at the address on the tenancy agreement.

We proceeded to get lost trying to get to the realtor’s office and the still-not-trusty laptop was needed again to find out her phone number. Finally found out way there. I went in, signed the contract I’d already signed again so it would be on the same hard copy as my roommates, got my keys and went back out to Ian. He drove me to the house without incident and I got to play with the keys while he got my luggage from the car. I came inside, Ian brought in my bags, I thanked him and off he went, probably to find a less complicated fare, the poor man.

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