Leaving and Settling in
Saturday 29 December 2007 8 °C
The final weeks leading up to my trip were short and fast. With every stroke of something completed on my “to do” list, the darn thing would only grow instead of shrink. I was overwhelmed with everything that had to be done. Preparing for a yearlong trip, packing up all of my belongings to move into storage, and getting ready for Christmas was a lot to take on all at once. Navigating myself around the apartment felt as if I was in a maze, I was living out of boxes, I was emotional, I was in resistance, and I was moving very slowly. My Mom’s unending help was a life saving boost of motivation that ended up being just what I needed in order to get everything done in the nick of time.
After leaving Mom and Dad’s soon after Christmas dinner, I arrived home at 9pm, had a short nap, and ended up pulling an all nighter on December 25. Packing, unpacking, and re-packing, each time regretfully eliminating one more essential item that I really wanted to bring with me. Eventually I got it all down to four very heavy bags - one large suitcase, one large backpack, one small carry on suitcase, and one small backpack. I tried to keep most of the heavy stuff in the small carry on suitcase, knowing that I was going to tip the scales with my checked in luggage at the airport.
On the morning of December 26, Mom and I were still scrambling around with last minute details, and we left my apartment at the very last minute to arrive at the airport just two hours before my flight’s departure. My friend Britta told me that if I dress well, I might be able to get bumped to first class, so I showed up at the airport looking very nice indeed. I strolled up to the check in counter and smiled in preparation to request to be moved to first class if it was not already full. Without looking up at me or even saying hello, the first thing the Air Canada check in attendant says is, “Your suitcase is overweight. Your backpack is fine. You need to transfer some of the weight from your suitcase over to your backpack!” I asked her if it was not a collective 100 lbs. together for both bags, and she coldly replied, “No Ma’am, each bag has to be under 50 lbs.” So my Dad and I moved aside and together we proceeded to open each meticulously and tightly packed bag in an attempt to re-distribute the weight. Out came little grey dresses, jeans, belt buckles, shoes, boots, Christmas presents, Lonely Planet guide books, bottles of Canadian maple syrup, stockings, toilet paper, toiletry bags, and even a bag full of home made muesli that I was taking with me to enjoy for breakfast while in London. The scene took place in front of the entire line up for check in, I am sure to the embarrassment of my parents. I on the other hand was more concerned about the bottle of wine that we were moving from my suitcase to my backpack and was becoming pissed off with the attendant every time she came over to ask us if were ready, when it was obvious that we weren’t even close. Forty five minutes later we were able to re-organize everything where both loads were of equal weight, and as we finally checked in (we were the last ones) I decided against asking if there was any room left up in first class.
I felt numb from exhaustion, lack of sleep, high emotions, and in shock that the day had arrived here and now (and so quickly I might add) where I was about to leave for a year. My body was moving around but my spirit was somewhere else, although I am not too sure where. A quick cup of tea at Starbucks with the folks to delay a tear filled goodbye, a fast hustle to my gate, and I made it just in time to join the line up that was boarding the plane. The guy in line behind me, Hugh, ended up being my seatmate. He was warm, friendly, sincere, and great company. He chatted just enough to make the flight feel a bit shorter, but he wasn’t overbearing and didn’t over talk the way some seatmates tend to do. I lucked out with him.
Dinner on Air Canada was so-so, breakfast left something to be desired, water pouring was minimal, and I finally arrived in London hungry and dehydrated but alas, in one piece. My dear friend Jen and her girlfriend Kim came all the way in from Brighton that morning to meet me. Originally the plan was that I would make my own way into London by myself. The night before I left however, I emailed Jen and asked her if she could meet me when I realized how much luggage I had. Jen and Kim cancelled their already made plans, and took an entire day out to catch the tube to the airport and accompany me into London. How grateful I was to have their help, because I really don’t know what I would have done had I been on my own. Between the three of us and my four pieces of luggage (five if you count my purse), we struggled onto the tube, into downtown, and over to my friend Rebecca’s flat.
Rebecca is in New York at the moment visiting family for the holiday season, but she and her husband Kevin generously have given me the use of their flat while they’re away. Bec and Kev live near Paddington station in a gorgeous tree lined neighbourhood with beautiful old white buildings rimmed with balconies and terraces. We followed the directions Bec gave me, and as we turned down a narrow cobble stone road, we were lead into a U shaped courtyard framed by a charming red brick building. Brightly painted red, blue, and yellow doors sat side by side around the inner edge of the building, and about half way down on the left hand side, we found a number nine neatly nailed onto a royal blue door. This would be my home for the next ten days. As per Bec’s instructions, I picked up her keys from Tom the neighbour, and together with Jen and Kim, we unlocked Bec’s front door, climbed the stairs, relieved ourselves from the heavy loads, turned around and walked straight back outside again in desperate search of food. Kim found us a great little restaurant that specialized in pizzas – we each had our own, we split a salad, and indulged in a cold beer. A little dessert afterwards with some hot coffee, and by the time we left, it was already 6:30pm. On the way home I did a little grocery shop before the girls dropped me off back at Bec’s. I walked upstairs, found my pajamas and toothbrush, and by 7pm I had turned off the lights and was crawling into bed. One failed attempt was made at phoning home before completely passing out, and I arose the next morning at 5am with the phone still clutched in my hand.
I spent my first day unpacking, re-organizing, and acquainting myself with the surroundings. I discovered a Bikram’s yoga studio just three tube stops away in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood, and so far it’s the cheapest thing that I’ve found in London – cheaper than food, cheaper than the tube, and definitely cheaper than a show. I get ten days’ worth of unlimited classes for 10 pounds! The floor’s a little uneven and a tad squeaky, and the practice isn’t half as hardcore as it is in Vancouver, but I’m thrilled that I can do some Bikram’s at the sweet deal that I’m getting. Today (Saturday December 29) is my second full day here, and I haven’t really done or seen much of London yet, but I am enjoying this time alone to take it easy, get back into my yoga, catch up on lost sleep, and do everything else that I didn’t have the chance to do during my last three weeks in Vancouver. I feel happy, content, well rested, and am looking forward to having lunch with my cousin Cathryn tomorrow, and to perhaps begin some sight seeing. The sky today was beautiful and blue, the wind was strong but warm, and life right now is peaceful.