June 17, 2014
I had everything packed superbly for my trip this past January to Costa Rica: a two-person tent, stove, light sleeping bag, clothes, emergency food – all carefully coralled into water-resistant bags in case of rain. But England proved different. I needed clothes for all sorts of temperatures and weather and outings and FOR THREE MONTHS. After two unsuccessful attempts at being organized, I began to just throw random things into bags the morning of my departure. The two bags I wound up with must have been 90 pounds combined. And I do not believe in bags with wheels. So that’s 80% of my body weight deadlifted and then hauled on my shoulders. I was definitely on the struggle bus – or rather struggle tube – getting from Heathrow to my hostel.
Actually, the whole trip there was a struggle.
At the ticket counter in Norfolk, I was only issued one ticket from Norfolk to JFK, and not my ticket from JFK to London. When I asked why, the attendant gave me explicit instructions to get to JFK and then “tell someone you need help.” This sounded like a really solid plan, backed up with the cryptic sidenote that I may have to completely exit the terminal and re-go through security. Awesome.
My plane out of Norfolk was already 20 minutes late before we then sat on the tarmac forever in the stifling hot cabin. After 30 minutes the plane turned around and went back to the terminal so we could all get into the air conditioning. The captain grumbled something over the intercom that even the stewardess couldn’t interpret. A lady in the back yelled “Obama’s at JFK ya’ll, he’s holding us up.” (To fully appreciate this, please repeat it to yourself in your loudest accusatory voice, with that special emphasis on the ‘O’ in Obama – you know what I’m talking about). I rolled my eyes at how presidents get blamed for every little thing, most of which they have no control over. Hilariously though, she was right. Air Force One was at JFK, and apparently that means no flights are allowed to go out or come in. Including ours. I did eventually arrive two hours later, but had missed my connection. I arrived and asked for help, as originally instructed, and got a 10:30pm flight out – my checked baggage (amazingly) and I happily made it. I did have to re-go through security, but that was mostly my fault as I got turned around in a construction area and went through the wrong door.
I got almost no sleep on the red-eye. A 6-hour flight seemed like a legitimate opportunity to do so, but they kept you awake for two hours for dinner and then woke you up two hours early for breakfast, add a movie in between and you’re screwed. Before I left, my friend Tracee had mistaken Nottingham (the city I am doing research in) with Notting Hill (a suburb of London) and had proceeded to describe the wonders that awaited me based on the 90’s film of the same name. I had never seen the movie so that became my free, in-flight entertainment. Pretty sure I giggled awkwardly loud.
Despite the stressful circumstances, I knew I would get there eventually. I found myself humming “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine goes down” as I walked through the terminals. London, here I come!