Originally posted September 19, 2011.
Earlier tonight one of my friends said that “sorted” was one of her favorite British expressions. And I immediately knew that it applied to my current situation.
When I first arrived in London, I was very excited to be here. I had made it through the flights—nice old ladies to talk to, but I found out that babies laughing on flights can be just as troublesome as babies crying on airplanes—but then customs cooled my excitement. One hour wait just to get inside the border control room, two hour wait total. On the upside, making it to Paddington station was not as difficult or stressful as I had planned. And once I got there I met up with Virginia, one of my Rice friends studying in London. I thought it would be smooth sailing from that point onward, but things just haven’t gelled like I thought they would. I expected the tourist’s London that I had seen with my family, and as a student who is traveling alone, I see London from a different perspective. It’s like I want to assimilate immediately into the British culture, but at the same time, I want to see everything, especially the tourist-y museums and sites. Plus, I’m trying to set up a mini-life here so I’ve had to deal with things like getting a cellphone, towels, and travel adapters that work for the UK. With all these things, I’m so mixed up with emotion that as much as I am still over-the-moon about finally being abroad, all I feel is overwhelmed.
I have had some good times so far. On the first day, just sitting in a café and eating lunch was stupendous. The customers before us had left a paper on the table so we thumbed through it, reading articles about football (soccer, not American football, which I have happily escaped this year). Then we walked along the Thames over to the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. We didn’t get to see the Globe yet, but we did have time to see some Picasso, Braque, and Duchamp at the Tate. I loved it, but if I have the chance I’d love to go back and see the other three galleries when I’m not dead tired. Even better than the museum were the things we didn’t plan. For example, the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company was hosting a slam poetry performance right outside the museum so we had the chance to sit down and listen to some deep rhymes for half an hour or so. And then when we walked across the Millennium Bridge (which did not break because of Death Eaters swarming around it), we discovered that a free organ recital in St. Paul’s Cathedral starting in just a few minutes. I almost fell asleep, but it was beautiful and relaxing.
On the second day, we headed to the Camden Markets. At first we thought that everyone else had been exaggerating. The first shops we saw were all selling the same cheap tourist stuff and the only food shops were chains that we could find everywhere else in London. But once we got inside the stalls, there was too much to describe: the craziest, vintage fashions; clocks made out of beer and liquor bottles; bunches and bunches of cheap jewelry; and a bunch of ethnic food for great prices. I felt a little rushed so I didn’t buy that much. Hopefully I can find time to go back. But that night was the best. We went down to the West End to see if we could find student rush tickets. And we ended up finding cheap tickets on the floor for Priscilla: Queen of the Dessert. It wasn’t the type of show I would have picked on my own, but I was so glad we went. It felt great just to be in a theater. Even though it was halfway across the world, I felt the same giddiness I feel before shows in Houston. I suppose theatre is a connecting, universal thing for me. The actor that played Felicia was so talented. I didn’t care much for the man that played Tick/Mitzi, but it didn’t matter because I couldn’t stop watching the guy playing Felicia. Too bad all the guys in the show were gay. But by far the best part happened at the beginning of the second act. As the chorus sang a song about being country (Australian country, not American country), they came out into the audience and pulled people off the aisles to come dance with them. And Virginia was sitting on the end of our aisle. She didn’t dance too badly, but afterwards, my face hurt from laughing so much.
On the Tube ride home, I thought I was too exhausted for anything else to happen, but as I was leaving, my ticket got caught in the machine and wouldn’t let me out. The two British guys behind us started trying to help me, which made them realize we were American. And since they had been chatting about American politics all the way up the lift, they became very interested in us, especially when we said we were from Texas. One guy really didn’t like Rick Perry. It was great to chat with British students. It was nice to be noticed and to interact with them. I hope that’s what it’s going to be like when I start at Oxford. Only, I hope it’s more about literature and less about politics.
So, it hasn’t been perfect right off the bat. I’m still getting settled into not only visiting another country, but living here. I’m sure once I get out of the city, get my own little room, and start classes, I will finally feel “sorted.” And for the meantime, I’m going to have as much fun as possible. Even though I’m looking forward to classes, I know they will severely limit how much I will be able to travel during the semester.