Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Voyage in London: February 10th, 2012

     I consider any morning that starts at 4:25 a.m. as an extremely early day. My second host mom, Règine, woke up at this time with me because she had to drive me to the Verviers train station: all the social and communication students and teachers who were heading to London for the weekend. The rendez-vous time was at 5:36 a.m., however, my host mom dropped me off at 5 a.m. to avoid any possibility of arriving late. My train passed through Liège and stopped at Bruxelles. My classmates and I went through customs, then boarded the train. I felt nervous while security was checked my passport and information; I did not want to cause any problems. Since I am was not from Europe, I had to fill out forms and answer certain questions that my other classmates were not required to perform. Overall, I came out without any issues: I still  felt on edge afterwards. The train passed under the channel between the North Sea and Celtic Sea. During this time frame, I tried to perceive any form outside my window in vain; the tunnel was pitch back and mysterious.
     Within a few hours, our group disbanded the train and regrouped in the central station. Time was trickling by as a few of my classmates waited in line to exchange their euros to livre sterlings. We managed to waste more time while the teachers searched for subway tickets for everyone for the duration of our stay in England. Eventually, my group asked me for help since I was obviously the only fluent english speaker. When all the necessary tasks were completed, we resurfaced from the underground station. My eyes widened as I turned in a 360° circle and looked about me. The Piccadilly Circus fountain stood in front of me with various flashy signs surrounding us. It took a few minutes for the setting to register in our minds as we gaped in awe at the London structures. The teachers caught our attention and lead us to our hostel where we were going to sleep in until the next Sunday.
     Our first destination in Londen, after settling our baggage in the hostel, was in St. James Park. Various birds and squirrels surrounded us and shifted with our group as we strolled along. The Belgians were fascinated by these creatures and took pleasure in their company. Apparently, not many squirrels are as overpopulated in Belgium as they were in this park. The wild animals were extremely domesticated and would eat from people's hands if given the chance. I was eating my sandwich when a squirrel decided to climb up my pant leg to retrieve my lunch. I shrieked and threw bits of my sandwich in the opposite direction to distract the creatures. It was my fault because I provoked them with my sandwich. When I habituated myself to their friendliness, I held a piece of bread in the air and waited, stock still. One of the million birds flying above swooped down and snatched the crumb of bread from my outstretched hand.
     The road lead us to Big Ben - the largest four-faced clock in the world. This magnificent clock has been standing near the Palace of Westminster for over 150 years since its completion in 1858. Everyone took photos as we passed over the Westminster Bride overlooking Big Ben, the London eye (a ferris wheel near the Thames River), and other structures.
     Some of my classmates were hungry, so they ran into a nearby shopping center with a McDonald's. Instead of standing around twirling my thumbs like my other classmates, I entered and looked around at the objects in the shop across from the fast food restaurant. When I exited the building it came to my realization that everyone in my group had disappeared. 5 minutes passed, 10 minutes, then 20 minutes without any sign of my group... Fear gripped me and my stomach churned. My heart beat faster as I continued to pace back and forth in front of the entrance to the building. The thought crossed my mind that within a certain period of time I would have to independently rediscover the hostel, which I did not know the name or location of. To my greatest relief, the two teachers reappeared. They asked me if I was upset and I was so chocked up with emotions that at my first attempt I could not reply. In the course of time I told them I was upset, but unscathed. In reality I wanted to tell them that they were irresponsible guides because they did not pay attention to all the students. A group of girls in my group kept wandering ahead of the group and so the teachers would follow, stop when they stopped, and let them take control of the pace (it was unfair for everyone else who wanted to enjoy the scenes and shops more). The teachers were not the leaders due to their submission of control to the group of teenage girls. The teachers gave out their phone numbers after the incident to try to avoid repeating their mistake - they learned a lesson. We rejoined the group and moved toward the museum. The girls in my group cracked jokes about me being abandoned and made offensive comments that suggested it was my fault for getting lost.
     While we were strolling along we came across a free museum. I enjoyed looking at the abstract drawings, disfigured sculptures, and the surrealism paintings. We must have been in the building for hours because my legs were ready to fall off. The teachers wanted to go shopping, so we went down to the metro station nearby to travel to a mall. Almost all the metros in London are underground and our group walked up and down the stairs and escalators throughout the day. During of the moments when I was walking down the starts, I missed a step and almost went tumbling down. To avoid colliding my face with the floor, I used the momentum of my fall to run down the rest of the stairs - it was a close call! As we walked through the entryway the metro was pulling away. When the next one came the teachers told us not to get on because it was over packed. More time passed as two other over packed metro trains came and went. At the fourth train we all decided to nudge our way into the train because it was obvious none of the trains would be less void. The teachers allowed the students to wander among the streets independently in groups; in other words, I was free to be stuck with the group of girls. Even though I was being dragged around I was able to listen to a pack of street musicians who were entertaining. In fact, near almost every famous building or monument, one could find musicians blasting their music in the London streets.
     Around nine o'clock the group came to the McDonald's to eat supper. The time changed when I crossed the english border, so in Beligum, it was already ten o'clock. I was starving, but I had to wait fifteen minutes behind the enormous line before I got to the register. When the cashier handed me my order, I sat down to eat my meal. Before I took a bite I noticed my order was wrong, so I walked back in line to avoid any protests. When it was my turn I tried to explain the situation to the cashier, nevertheless, she was averse to fixing the problem. Sometimes situations like this one happens and it's better to just walk away with what you got instead of causing more issues - hunger was also a motivator.
     That night, after eating and returning to the hostel, I decided to take a shower. Within a decent amount of time I finished and reached for my towel. As I tried to put it on myself I looked down and saw that the towel was not long enough to wrap around me; I grabbed the wrong towel from home. As quick as I could, I picked up my bag of clothes and ran to the stall. If it was not for the confined space in the shower I would have changed there. By chance no other person was in the bathroom to see my naked self running around. Tired from the long journey, I climbed to the top of the bunk bed and fell asleep as the other seven students talked the night away.
     My first day in London was well spent on visiting various well-known buildings and places like Big Ben and the Westminster Palace, free museums, and the sort. It was hard to believe that it was only that morning when I was sleeping in my bed in Belgium and, at the moment, went to slept in a bed in London. The only real issue I faced was the shower situation with the miniscule towel. I had to keep in mind that this was only the beginning of an adventerous weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment