Surviving My Worst Day Abroad – Part Two

Adia is Outreach Coordinator at World Endeavors.  This is Part Two of her story.  Read Part One.London-Street

In front of me was a sea of fast-moving people, automated gates leading into and out of the Tube, and long lines of impatient-looking people in front of a row of ten ticket machines that seemed to sport seven million buttons, aka seven million ways to screw up and hold up the line.  My face must have visibly crumpled, because a man on his way out of the Tube walked up, held out his ticket and said, “Here.  You can have this.  I’m done using it.”  I looked down at the ticket and back up at him, blinking back more tears.

“Thank you so much,” was all I was able to get out as I took the ticket.  He smiled and moved on.  I looked at the ticket more closely, and it was even more than I needed: a 1-day pass for all zones.  That man saved my sanity.

After a hot, crowded rush hour ride, my 60-pound bag and I made it to Euston Station and spilled off the escalator onto the street level.  I stood in the middle of the station again, turning around and around, looking for some sign that would point me in the right direction to get to my dorm.

I had no idea which way to go.

My directions from the University guides didn’t say, “Walk to your right when you get off the escalator” or anything as specific as that.  There were directions about what to do after you left the station, but nothing about which direction to leave the station from.

I walked up to a man in a neon vinyl vest.  Neon vinyl vest = works there.  That at least held true in this bizarro world where people spoke English but everything was confusing and overwhelming.

“Excuse me,” I asked.  “Do you know how to get to ________ Street?”

He stared at me for a moment, as if not quite understanding what I’d said.  (Did I say something weird?  Was there something hanging out of my nose?)

“Oh, you just go that way,” and he gestured vaguely.

“Thanks,” I muttered, and just picked a direction out of the station, just to get away from the unhelpful man in the neon vest and his unhelpful stare and unhelpful gestures.  Providentially, it was the right direction, and I found my dorm.  A few of my classmates had already arrived, and I put on a brave face as I downplayed how traumatic my trip from the airport had been.

“Yeah, just a little jet-lagged, yeah, I’ll be fine. I know I shouldn’t sleep, but maybe I’ll take a nap.  Or maybe I’ll go walk around.  Yeah, we’ll see.”

I tried to call my parents from the phones in the dorm hall (this is pre-cell phones, everyone), and for whatever reason, the call wouldn’t connect using my calling card (you might need to look that up).  Pretty much failing to keep the teary hysteria out of my voice, I asked the assistant professor what I should do.  He pointed me toward the pay phone out on the street.

I called my parents collect.  (You might need to look that up, too.)

“I hate it and I want to go hooooooome!” I sobbed.  All the jet lag, the anxiety, and the fish-out-of-water sensations gushed out over the phone line.  It was the telephonic equivalent of a three-year old collapsing in a heap on the floor. My poor parents: 6000 miles away and unable to do a thing for me.

“Go lay down and take a nap,” they soothed.  “You’ll feel better when you wake up.”  I agreed, and went immediately to my room to nap.

It was early morning when I woke up, about 5:00 am (I really needed to sleep), and I remember opening the door on the balcony to look out at the street.  Rows of very British townhouses and a small park I hadn’t even noticed before lined the empty, quiet street, and a man in a neon-yellow vest with litter-collecting equipment rested near the wrought-iron fence surrounding the park, having a cigarette break.  A few birds had started to twitter, and the morning air was moist and cool.  It was beautiful.  And for the first time, I was glad I came.

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