Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ello London!

We finally made it after hours of traveling and lugging 150 pounds of baggage with us. 

The Flight
As we went through airport security, we were all complimented on our new rain boots by one of the security men working there. Later, that kind man saw us naked when we went through the body scanner. Shortly after that, a security woman performed the last portion of my security clearance by squeezing my bun. I'm not really sure what she was looking for. Our flight left about an hour later than planned because there were high winds over the ocean and we couldn't land in the UK until after 6am. Take off wasn't so bad and once we
Location tracker
were in the air everything was good. We had an adorable baby two rows up that managed not to cry for a majority of the flight. They gave us a menu for dinner and dessert which consisted of things like beef with vegetables and penne with creamy spinach sauce. Whoever wrote the descriptions on that menu is extremely talented because they made the little airplane food seem like gourmet meals, which they most certainly were not. The bread roll and banana pudding were pretty good though. Allie and I watched "The Help," which turned out to be a really good movie, while Katie slept off and on. We barely slept at all for the flight. Everything was pretty peachy until the end of the flight, where it got really bumpy. I have never been more thankful for my strong stomach. All the lights were off and all your could hear were probably about 5 people throwing up. Even the little baby was throwing up! It was so sad... and smelly. 

The Flat
When we got off the plane we were so thankful to be in London, on the ground. Then we began the next part of our journey: to find the car service we scheduled to pick us up. This proved to be a lot more difficult than we anticipated. We walked around for a few minutes, reading all the signs with names on them, looking for "Katherine Shafer." After a few minutes we couldn't roll our bags around anymore so Allie and Erica waited with the massive amounts of luggage while me and Katie ran around the airport trying to find this man before he left after the two hour waiting limit. "Katherine and Katie Shafer" was then paged over the airport information system. Apparently our car service guy was looking for us as we were looking for him. We went up to the information desk and asked airport security what the man who asked to make that announcement looked like and he descriptively told us he was Asian.
Our flat
So we ran around looking some more for a sign that said "Katherine and Katie Shafer," held by what we thought would be a little Asian man. After about 30 minutes things started looking grim and I stopped in the middle of the airport. When I looked next to me there was a man holding a car service sign for "Katherine Shafer." I looked at him and went "We're Katherine Shafer!" A tall and dark man, he most certainly was not Asian. He helped us bring our bags to his car, load them in, and drive us around the Western part of London to Metrogate on Queens Gate Terrace to pick up our keys for our flat. And of course, it was raining. We picked up our keys and went over to Hyde Park Gate to finally see our home for the next 4 months.After watching a video someone made about the flat, I knew what to expect and knew I wanted floor 2, room E. Lucky enough, Allie, Katie, and I got a room together all to ourselves, on the second floor in the last room on the right: room E. The power of positive thinking! We also have our own bathroom and a lot of storage space (which I obviously love). I ran up and down the hallways for about 5 minutes but then got scared I was going to break the old floor boards. Our living area also comes complete with an exquisite non-working fireplace and a magnificent unusable balcony. The flat itself is pretty awkward and very old but I appreciate it's elegance and try to think about how nice it must have been when it was built... during the Victorian Era.

Living room
View from our living room
Our bathroom
Our bedroom
Pretty windows
Settling In
After this, we had a slew of things to do in order to check in. This included going to the Foundation House over on Cromwell Road and taking a walking tour of part of the South Kensington area of London. During this, we saw our school, Imperial College (which we're kind of a part of), a Wal-mart type of supermarket called Sainsbury's, and a few helpful places close by. And of course, once again, it was raining. To eat, we went to Starbucks, which we thought would be a safe choice. I still don't even know what food I bought or what was actually in my drink, but it wasn't so bad. We went over to Sainsbury's to buy some food and water for our flat and to see what type of things they had there. It seems like I'll be needing that store a lot. By the time we got home we were all some type of zombie versions of ourselves.We unpacked for hours, showered in our large and very high up bathtub, and went to sleep.

This weekend we have much more to do for our program here (or as they spell it: programme), such as orientations, walking tours, coach tours, and internship information sessions. We're also planning on exploring on our own and getting a few decorative elements to liven up this old place. And yes Mom, I will buy a cell phone (or as they call it: mobile phone) as soon as possible! Now it's time to have some breakfast and figure out how three girls are going to share one bathroom to get ready every morning. Wish us luck!

(Love, Lia)

P.S. - Here's a random clip of one of my favorite scenes from "The Help." 
"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

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