I am happy to say that I am writing this blog post from my lovely English room on my lovely English bed in my lovely English village! Yesterday, I left you with a bit of a cliff hanger. Will she make it to London? Will she manage her trains to get to Felpham? WILL THINGS STOP LOOKING SO FUZZY?!
Yes. Kinda. Not until 9.30 AM the next morning.
My new flight from Dublin to Heathrow landed safely and promptly around 11.30 AM. It was an adventure on its own trying to lug around two big suitcases in a packed airport while figuring out where the darn Underground is. And then after figuring out where the Underground is, what darn trains I need to take to get to Barnham station. Luckily, I still have the stamp across my forehead that says I’M NEW HERE, OKAY? so I had a very helpful man assist me in finding the easiest way for me to get to my destination. I am honestly not sure if I would’ve gotten there without his help. I received lots of stares on the train, as I am sure I looked ridiculous with my huge luggage and obnoxiously blue backpack. I did have one man who helped me move my luggage from one train to another and give me the last seat left in our section. Writing that down, it doesn’t sound like much, but at that point in my day, his kindness meant so much to me. Therefore, he deserves a shout out in this blog.
My next obstacle was maneuvering the Victoria station. The volume of people rushing about catching trains was incredible, and I was moving a little slower than usual with my luggage. Half the time I felt like I was going to be run over, and the other half I just felt lost. I’m following the signs telling me how to get to my next train when I run into a new obstacle. Stairs. Thus far, I had taken escalators or elevators. But there, in front of me, were two flights of wide staircases. *Gulp*
I stretched my arms, took a deep breath, and picked up my two 50 pound bags and started to carry/drag/pull them up the stairs in the least graceful way possible (if you figure out a graceful way to do it, let me know). About halfway up the first one, I passed an elderly man struggling to make it up the steps, and I was again struck by the kindness of people as two men stopped, threw his arms around their shoulders, and helped him up the stairs. It made my heart happy to see such kindness (though I won’t lie, I also wished they’d made another trip down to help me out with a bag or two).
Once I made it to the top, I felt pretty proud of myself. I continued on and follow the signs. I tried to walk fast and move out of the way of oncoming traffic (they even walk on the other side, just so you know). And then it happened. Again. Stairs. *Gulp*
This time I had to take a second to just stare at them, sigh deeply, and say a little prayer. This staircase was jam packed wall to wall, and I did not want my first day in England to include making someone mad because they’re going to miss their train because I can’t carry my luggage at a fast enough pace for them. But then I was struck by kindness again as a young man heard my sigh, turned around, and asked if I needed help. I warned him it was heavy and he didn’t have to, but he grabbed my bigger suitcase and lead the way! Again, as I write this it may not seem like a big deal to many, but WOW I NEEDED IT AT THE TIME! My arms are sore today, just in case you were worried. You probably weren’t, but just so you know.
I was pointed in the direction of gate 19 (MY LUCKY NUMBER!) by a man who saw my I’M NEW HERE, OKAY? stamp and told me “Don’t worry! Life is too short for you to worry!” It was much needed advice. I hopped on the train, and it would take me straight to the station where my host family would pick me up. I thought, this is the easy part, right?
At this point, I had been awake for 26 hours. My adrenaline from stairs and dodging locals had run out, and now I was expected to stay awake to hear my stop called. I set an alarm on my phone, which was almost dead at this point, but I wasn’t confident when my stop was, so who knows if my alarm would actually go off in time. I tried everything to stay awake. I watched out the window, did a little daydreaming (which turned into sleep dreaming too quickly), got up, walked around, read the map, listened to a little kid tell his mom how fast the train was… We all know how hard it can be to keep your peepers open in these situations. So when I heard “Barnham station, next stop” I was so giddy and bounced up like I was the next kid in line for a rollarcoaster. I stepped off the train and exited the station and finally met my host family! As I was greeting them and getting my luggage packed in the boot (trunk) of their car, someone else at the station commented on my accent saying “Oh I like Yankees!” And the nicknames start!
My host family, Sue and Pat, took me to their house where I will be staying for the next 10 weeks. It is a lovely home, and they were extremely welcoming from the start. I have my own room and bathroom, and spent about an hour unpacking before joining them for dinner. We discussed music, traveling, their lives and mine, and got to know each other over a wonderful first meal, including dessert, apple pie (this is special to me because Apple Pie was my nickname when I was a 500 Festival Princess)! During our meal, Sue sprang on me that we’ve been invited to Sunday lunch with some of their friends and wondered if I would be comfortable doing that my first day there. She thought I might think it was too much or I might be too tired. On the contrary, I was ecstatic! Why just get your feet wet when you can dive right in?!
I said goodnight around 8 PM and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow (and after I texted my mom goodnight). I clocked in at about 32 hours awake, which is the longest I have stayed up in my 22 years. I found out how much more I am capable of on my own than I would’ve expected, and it’s only been one day! I ended up sleeping 13 hours. It was awesome. Stay tuned to hear about my day of laughs at Sunday brunch and my first full day in my temporary home!
Things I’ve Noticed:
- The toilets are a weird rectangle shape everywhere. I asked if all toilets are shaped like that and received an odd stare.
- Sue doesn’t like tea and I thought that was a requirement to live in this country.
- I was warned of this before, but I haven’t seen any ladies walking around in sweatpants. Even on a plane.
- I was on the train, looking at the English countryside, and wondered if castles just randomly show up in the scenery. THEN I LOOKED TO MY LEFT AND THERE WAS A BIG BEAUTIFUL CASTLE!!!!! IT WAS LIKE CINDERELLA MAGIC!
- Adrenaline is another bit of Cinderella magic and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Thanks Adrenaline for all you do during the times that I need you.
“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”