July 27 2:30 p.m. MDT – I say a tearful goodbye to my mom and brother at the Colorado Springs Airport. I made them leave before I got into line at security so I had a chance at composing myself before getting to my gate. Mom thought my tears were all due to having to pay $100 to check my second bag. I complained enough about it to let her think that. I didn’t want to try and tell her how much I was going to miss her. I’m constantly in a state of saying goodbye to family and friends. It tears me apart each time, but holding tightly to my freedom keeps me feeling whole. It’s a blessing that those whom I love enough to hold me back have never stood in my way.
8:42 p.m. EDT – I land in Atlanta, GA and make my way over to terminal F to catch my next flight. I’m returning phone calls as quickly as I can, while walking towards the inevitable “turn off all electronic devices…and all your communications to friends and family for the foreseeable future.” I board the airline, still talking on my phone, trying to get in all the last bits of warm wishes. I smack someone in the head with my carry on duffel. Ugh. I hate being that girl. I turn to apologize and drop my phone and boarding pass in the aisle, swinging the duffel of doom dangerously around once more. Ugh. I am so that girl. I end the call with, “Look, I gotta go. I’m hitting people right and left with my bags. Goodbye!” I make my way back to row 35 and sit in the middle of the middle row.
I’m sandwiched between a very polite businessman from Darby (somewhere in England) and a group of American exchange students. Since the Americans were also going to Edinburgh and all female, I’d hoped to tag along with them a bit. I’ve always looked out for my fellow countrymen and women when I’ve traveled internationally. I guess it was a bit much to hope for from the snotty group on the plane with me though. They made it very clear on no uncertain terms was I to assume a place in their clique. I chatted with the businessman and told him not to be shy about waking me up if I fall asleep and start drooling on his shoulder.
I ordered a glass of red wine from the flight attendant. Finally, something for free.
I get up twice to stretch my legs. I watch Les Mes and fast forward through all the boring parts. I watch all my favorite parts twice. I cry when Fantine dies. I fall asleep for the last hour of the flight.
July 28 11:00 a.m. BST – I land in Manchester, England. The first stop off the plane is immigration. The immigration officer laughs at my card, “You’re going to be here for 4 years, now?” I show her my student visa. She asks why I’ve chosen to study in the United Kingdom and I reply, “Well, I’m about to turn 29 and all my friends are pretty much getting married or married and having babies. Since I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, I figured the thing for me to do is just sell all my stuff and move to Europe before I turn 30.” She said that sounded like a brilliant plan and welcomed me to the UK.
The Manchester Airport has officially taken its place as my least favorite airport in the world, ever so slightly above LAX. After going through immigration, I had to go to the Flybe counter in terminal 3 to check in for my next flight. I was in terminal 2 and followed the airport employee’s directions to terminal 3. It was about a 25 minute walk and I had to walk through Terminal 1, which was confusing. Also, I think someone stuffed my bags with bricks when I wasn’t looking because carrying them almost killed me. I was just phrasing a letter in my head about wanting my money back since I had to walk halfway to Edinburgh from Manchester in a state of extreme sleep deprivation through a hot and muggy airport, when I arrived at terminal 3. I printed my boarding pass and lined up to go through Security again. Security has facial recognition stuff and possibly a retina scanner. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening to me, but I somehow made it through.
2:10 p.m. BST – I board the smallest plane I’ve ever seen. My backpack doesn’t even fit in the overhead bin without me taking out my computer, binder and book and holding them on my lap. The snotty American girls are watching me and judging. I don’t care. They are coming over for a few weeks, I’m moving here for 4 years. THEY DON’T KNOW ME. I read my book on the flight, deliberately ignoring the stares from the Nepalese man sitting next to me. I’m too tired and smelly to talk.
3:15 p.m. BST – We land in Edinburgh. I get off the plane and immediately realize I had left one of my reference books and my medical record in the overhead bin. I throw myself on the mercy of Flybe Customer Service. My items are located and returned to me about half an hour later. I want to shower. I want to chuck all those text books I bought in the US out the window. I just want to be horizontal for a minute!
I catch a cab from the airport to Masson Guest House. My driver was from Albania and had an interesting mix of accents. He warmly welcomed me to Edinburgh, offered to let me live at his flat, which I politely declined since it is about 10 miles out of the city and I can’t go accepting every offer to live with every random person I meet, and pointed out Arthur’s Seat, a “mountain” in Edinburgh to help me feel more at home when I told him I was from Colorado. I rolled down the window and started feeling immediately better.
4:15 p.m. BST – I check into my room, shower and decide to go exploring. The internet and phones are out in most of the city because of storms, so I’m unable to let anyone know I’ve made it. I know Mom is freaking out.
After wondering around for a bit, I decide to pop into a pub where I could get a glass of wine and some food. Unfortunately, they were not serving food. Alas, just wine, then, thanks.
As I was getting ready to leave, satisfied with the buzz of wine on my empty stomach, one of the local gents struck up conversation with me. We ended up talking for hours over several glasses of whiskey, or, as I’ve learned, since it was all Scotch, it is spelled “whisky.” One of the topics of conversation was a promotion for English whiskey. Everyone in the pub thought it was preposterous. They asked, “What would the rest of the world call English whiskey? ‘Glish?” They made comments about how it wouldn’t be aged longer than “aboooot 32 seconds.”
July 29th – I started my search for a flat. I was jet-lagged, hung over and anxious to find my new “home base.”
I got caught in the rain.
It was so worth it though because I found a perfect little one bedroom in a great location and will be moving in today. I’ll post pictures soon. It’s charming, old and exactly what I pictured when I imagined living here.
That night, I stayed up late to FaceTime with mom and Huckleberry.
July 30 – I spent the day walking around more and figuring out how to get a bank account and cell phone set up. It was confusing at first, and all very dependent on having proof of address (meaning I had to increase the amount I can take out on my debit card to pay for my first month’s rent and deposit in cash). Once I have proof of an address, I can set up an account through Royal Bank of Scotland. Once I have a bank account, I can get an iPhone (mine doesn’t have a SIM slot so won’t work on the networks here). The phone plans are very reasonably priced and I can get unlimited data and tether my phone to my computer so that I have internet at home.
July 31 – I’m sipping sparkling water at a wi-fi enabled coffee shop. I’m procrastinating pulling cash from the ATM because it makes me nervous to walk all over town with a wallet full of British Pounds Sterling, if you know what I mean.
Part of me still can’t believe I’m here, the other part of me feels like I’ve always lived here. It’s only every now and then when something happens and I’m reminded that I am a stranger in a strange land….like when I pay my bus fare with coins or see someone playing bagpipes on the street. It takes me aback for a second. Then, I smile and take a mental picture. I’m here. I’m doing this.