I’m sure I don’t need to state it but I want to – moving to London has been STRESSFUL!! SO. STRESSFUL. Unless you have a bottomless trust fund and/or hire someone to handle all the details for you, taking on a move of this magnitude will give you gray hairs (thank goodness for hair dye!). I still don’t have a permanent residence, a way to earn my own money, or a cell, I mean mobile phone, BUT I do have an Oyster card! Wait. You probly don’t know what that is; I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s rewind back to last Wednesday, the day I flew out…..
I purchased my flight through an online discount site I had never heard of. Lesson one: NEVER, ever do that – not even when pigs fly or hell freezes over. I’ll give you the name/website I used at the bottom of this post. It seems it’s ILLEGAL not have at least two hours for a layover if that layover is in another country. So when I was trying to check-in my bags it wasn’t allowing the airline worker to do it. After a few calls, she finds out why and advises me to call the online company; I do and proceed to wait on hold for over THREE HOURS. It gets really ugly and involved from this point, so I’ll just say after my roommate calling repeatedly on her phone, missing my flight, actually cussing out the rep from the company (I kinda lost it after he told me I needed to be patient after being on hold for two hours at that point), I FINALLY get on a plane. They tried to actually charge me $42 and some change for my suffering, but since I had already canceled that card I decided to let it go.
I really loved LAX; it was a lot of fun and a ridiculous amount of diverse people. We don’t even have to mention the Haagen Dazs shop, casue don’t think for a second I didn’t get a scoop. It almost made all the hassles and flight changes worth it. Almost.
Has anyone reading this ever been to Heathrow? It sucks. No, really. There’s hardly a place to get something to eat, it’s filthy, it’s HUGE, and it’s crazy hard to figure out where you should go. The seats in Terminal 3 aren’t that bad to sleep on, though. Yes, I had to sleep there. Why? Good question! Because my new flight plan put me arriving in London around 11 at NIGHT instead of 9 in the MORNING as originally planned. The Tube/buses don’t run after midnight except for on very limited lines. I couldn’t afford to take a cab to my hostel from the airport (it would’ve been over $100), and from the repeated PA warnings to ONLY take a certified cab driver I wasn’t too keen on taking one anyway.
The one piece of advice I didn’t listen to I wish I had was get GOOD LUGGAGE. I just went with some hand-me-downs I already had. Mistake! I tried to take everything I could, partly out of fear, and it was impossible to carry/cart around on my own. My medium luggage ended up breaking at the airport and I had to replace it (expensive). After tiresome rearranging, toting, pushing, and carting I finally left one of my bags there (at £9/day) and went down to the Tube to get my Oyster card so I could head to my hostel. By the time I got there, my other large suitcase had completely fallen a part as well.
An Oyster card is essential if you plan on using London’s public transit system and don’t want pay a semester’s worth of tuition to get around. It’s a re-loadable card and you get charged an extra £5, but you’ll get it back once you return the card; you’ll have to put on a minimum of £20 (trust me, you’ll use it up before you know it). The Tube map is a bit complicated but it doesn’t take long to figure out. One thing I was uber grateful for is it will tell you which platforms to take/not take if you can’t do stairs – like me with my three-elephant-weight luggage. If you have a smartphone I STRONGLY suggest you get the apps Citymapper and Busmapper. Citymapper is best because it will give you the routes/costs for anything, from walking to biking to buses to the Tube to cabs. It ROCKS! (Tip: Citymapper also works for New York City!)
I get to my hostel and even though it’s in the heart of the city it has a cabin-esque feel to it. It’s somewhat set off from the road, has a gated entry, wood floors, and is quite homey. Best of all – it’s cheap. I wasn’t very open to the idea of staying in a “mixed” room (guys and girls bunking together), so finding a female only place was important. This, of course, costs more, much more with some places. The place I chose, however, is extremely affordable, very clean, free wifi (thank goodness or you wouldn’t be reading this), a kitchen area, and includes breakfast that has fresh croissants every morning. I almost don’t want to leave!
This is what breakfast at a hostel looks like. There were so many languages spoken my first morning here I didn’t dare open my mouth! I did learn quickly that most everyone speaks a bit of English, but it still may not be enough to understand each other.
There are pros and cons to staying in a hostel, but I’d say it’s been quite positive for me overall. If you’re a social person and want to make friends quickly, this is definitely the way to go! If you’re like me and privacy is sacred, it’s still not a horrible option. My advice would be don’t stay in a larger room (they can get up to 28-32 beds, stacked 3-high) and bring earplugs/earbuds. Most people are respectful and will give you your space. Be sure the place is secure. As I said before, this place is gated, you have to be buzzed into the luggage room, and each room has its own card key. Not all places are like this so make sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
I’m still trying to adjust to the differences in food here. They have different names for the same things we have, like shrimp is prawn and ground beef is mince, and I’ve noticed they have some of the EXACT same things – they’re just labeled differently (yet eerily familiar). The one thing I still can’t get past is they don’t keep their eggs refrigerated. I don’t know about you, but there’s this thing called salmonella that I’d like to avoid. It does make me wonder what the crap America does to its chickens where their eggs have to be refrigerated…? Or maybe they don’t and we’re being lied to? Or maybe I just have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes those hard-shelled embryos. Still, it’s odd. Their prices are insanely better, especially on organic foods. Finding a loaf of organic bread for under a buck in the States will have you making sure it wasn’t used to make penicillin first.
Tomorrow I’m going out to see if I can establish more contacts, find a couch to crash on, sell most of my clothes because one, I’m not Captain American and don’t have the strength to lug them around, and two, I’m rapidly running out of funds. That’s one of the draw backs about being on a mission that isn’t official – getting funded. The whole reason for crossing the pond is to find my ancestors, especially since I don’t have any (blood) family left. I’ll be finding and doing their work for them, just as someone who was on an official mission with a name tag would go out and seek the living and baptize them. Being on the Lord’s errand is HARD, harder than anything I’ve ever done. Don’t think for a second I’m over here playing on the streets of Europe. It’s work, hard work, and only done one tiny step at a time. But as along as I’m taking a step, I’m doing ok! I miss my roommates and other friends more than I can ever say. I miss just knowing they’re there. I miss texting, making plans. It’ll happen here, I know, but I’m still in the grieving part fow what (and who) I left behind. Both of my roommates came to see me off, and I love them enough to share them with you.
Now that I’ve caught y’all up, my next post probably won’t be as long. I hope you’re having a good time and I look forward to when we get together again. I hope and pray I’ll have good news for you. I’ll leave you with a photo of a shop I passed by on my way to the grocery today. If you’re British, you’ll think I’m an idiot. If you’re American, you’ll find it hilarious. I don’t think a shop offering these services with this name in the States would do very well. In fact, it may actually tick someone off enough to sue ’em. But for now, it gave me a jolly right laugh. Cheerio!
Below is the website I was talking about to NEVER use! I’ve also included a screenshot of my “talk time” with them. Really, it was HOLD time! Grrrr