Safe and sound, ma cherie. I am in my dorm room, my feet and back aching, completely exhausted but essentially unpacked. I’ve chatted with a bunch of the girls in some of the programs, and they all seem very nice.
Flew in Saturday afternoon, with a long walk to immigrations, where I chatted with a British gentleman about his last visit to Boston, his running habit. Hopped aboard the Underground, where I listened amusedly to two incredibly obnoxious young girls entertain themselves, their mother stony-faced with exhaustion. Got off at Knightsbridge (the names here either sound medieval or obscene — Picadilly, Cockfoster) and wandered down a ritzy Boulevard looking for my BnB. Got a bit lost and a nice older couple, Olivia and Nigel, helped me out, although when I finally made it to the BnB the key didn’t work and I ended up staying with the couple for English Breakfast and Lapsong Souchong with milk, biscuits, and arriving relatives. Lovely home — old-fashioned but recently added on to, lots of white and blue and gold. One of the arrivals was a writer with several published books on the shelves, as low key, depressed and cynical as writers tend to be. He and Nigel reminded me, as those of Irish blood like to, that most great English writers are actually Irish writers — Oscar Wilde, for instance. I prodded him about what he was working on, and he gave me a dry look. “Do you have a few weeks?” He asked.
Anyhow, they were incredibly sweet and made me feel right at home. When my landlady, Margaret, finally arrived, she and her two dashunds greeted me and I carried my bags the long way up to the third story. Pale purple flowers on the wallpaper, and a whole floor essentially to myself, the bathroom prestocked with makeup sponges, lavender and magnolia talcum paper, multicolored towels in shades of yellow and purple and white. My room was small but very well-stocked, with a mini-fridge and TV in a cupboard and a closet that included two bathrobes, one thin and white like a slip and a longer, thicker one in dark green and gold. Two tea cups and a kettle with tea bags, hot chocolate mix, etc., as well as mixing spoons with writing on them. The one I chose (quite by accident) said “Sexy,” along the top. Spotty wifi, unfortunately, but after some effort I figured out how to use my universal charger. After lying in a weary daze for some time, I showered, dressed in a black sweater dress and my china blue scarf with a sweep of lipstick and went out in search of fun and food, perusing the boulevard and the Harrods (very fancy department store) until I came to a “Tea Room,” where I ordered the baked chicken penne and chose a truffle from the window display. I chatted a tiny bit with the presumably French waitress, telling her about Chocolat, which I finished on the plane (along with West Side Story, actually.) When I finished, I brought home the remainder of the truffle to work on, very slowly, for the next half an hour, and slowly curled into a ball on my pillow (beds are harder than rocks around here, by the way), telling myself I would only close my eyes for a moment. I woke up an hour after, convinced it must be morning. I perused the internet for a few minutes, chatted with friends in Boston about a possible skype and my first day, and then fell back to sleep, this time wish my face and teeth clean. I woke to my alarm at 8:30, packed and primped, and then went downstairs. I had a sumptuous breakfast of warm toast and various types of jam, English tea with milk, an egg sunny side up, raspberries and cut strawberries, and cereal with milk, all the while chatting wearily with my hostess and the new guest as the dogs vied for my affection.
Finding the program was more difficult than anticipated, as the labeling was especially bad. I found one program building but couldn’t get in, and finally ran into an acquaintance on the street who gave me some advice for finding the other. This door was also locked, but luckily manned from the inside, and I was let in by a lovely Brazilian man named Davi, my new RA. I checked in with Michel, my London contact, Allison, the program coordinator, and met my other RA, Rita. They asked for papers I had left with my things at the BnB, so I made my way back to grab them. It was quite a walk. I paid my landlady (please send cash for that — 120 pounds, so 182.03 dollars) and met her handyman of 20 years, Brian. We chatted, discussing his daughter, 20 years old, who studies art design and works with cloth from time to time, as well as dogs generally, London versus New York (I walked a good bit faster than most Londoners, even as more of a Bostonian.) Then I walked the seven blocks back, dragging my suitcases and slowly wilting into the pavement. I imagined myself a warrior those blocks, even as I stopped every half-block to pant, whimper, half-collapse. Finally I made it back, checked in, carried my suitcases up (note: second floor in Britain = third floor in America, and thank God Almighty there was an elevator.) I unpacked with great haste, as I had set the suitcases on the bed in a moment of motivational madness. My cell and a packet of introductory papers were on my bed. My roommate, from the writing on her bags, is certainly from an Asian country rather than Asian American. Either South Korea or Vietnam, we’ll see. She remains elusive,and I haven’t seen her yet, although her bags are open and her things spread mostly neatly around her side of the room. I said hi to Violet, who had to run, came up, looked around frantically to see if I had a similar meeting, finished unpacking when I realized I did not. I had a kitchen meeting where we discussed basics, relaxed a bit, went down to grab lunch (a salmon quiche, as well as an almond and apple tart). I ate them in the lounge, introducing myself to some Education students, as well as a few students interested in the walking tour. About 90% of the students are women, most with the internship program for COM or CGS. I went on the walking tour, enjoying chatting with new people, but my feet ached so badly that I ended up leaving early. Soon I will go out with Violet and Zoe to dinner, and tomorrow I will wake up at 7:30, as most of my days will begin at 9am. Grocery shopping and school supplies are as yet unpurchased, but I’ll have to put that on the list — we have a kitchen, but we have not yet divided up the space, as the RAs seem intent on making us divvy it up. Guests are not allowed, and very strictly — something about a woman being pushed off of a balcony? Sorry Kath.
(My room at the BnB)
Anyway, I’m off to get food, but I love you very much, I’m safe, and I’m loving London.