Wednesday, 28 September 2011

10. Stateside

I feel bad for this extra long blog hiatus. I was originally planning on blogging once a week whilst in the States so I could keep a diary of my times out here, but too many things have been going on and I've generally been busy. But I'm back now, and hopefully with a vengeance!

Where to start? From the beginning, I suppose.

After successfully unwrapping the passport from it's packaging, which could only be related to the difficulty of cracking the Enigma machine, I set off to Oxford with my luggage packed, a smile on my face, and a very long journey ahead of me.

The train journey to Oxford was a pleasant one as always. My cousin picked me up straight away this time. Shock! It was good to see her, a friendly face. We drove back to her place and she started to make food. She's always willing to make me food. Over the couple of days which I stayed there, we enjoyed various meals, spaghetti bolognase, thai green curry, and leaving the best 'til last, a doner meat wrap, with lettuce, tomato, onions and garlic sauce; it was to die for. We definitely pigged out and drank a little bit of alcohol over the couple of days which I stayed there.

The 12th August finally came around and I finally left her house for the last time this year. We drove down to Heathrow Airport, which was easier to find and park than I was expecting. We started off by eating breakfast, which was overpriced and undercooked, exactly what you expect from an airport. I then queued up to use a self-service machine to get my ticket. The self-service machine didn't work, as expected, so I had to queue up again in the manual lane to get my ticket, which was probably a good thing to do. Everything happens for a reason, right?! I look across the hall and who do I see? A friend from my university, going to Florida for 2 week! It was a nice surprise as I thought I was going to leave the country with only having my cousin for contact. It was nice to see her! Anyway, it was time to depart my cousin after converting £200 in to $312 at the travel exchange. The departing wasn't emotional, upsetting or full of anxieties, it was the complete opposite, in fact.

The plane journey was somewhat surreal. I sat down on a plane next to some woman who's stomach was caressing my thigh the entire flight. I heard some woman talk to a man about “study abroad” and I turned around and asked her if she was studying abroad. She said yes. How strange! I then asked her what university she is from, which is obviously the normal thing to do. She then replies “I go to Keele, you?” My jaw dropped. “Me too!” I replied, and for the 8 hour flight from Heathrow to JFK, I made a new friend. It was a shame she was going to San Antonio, though. After going through customs in JFK, and departing my newly found friend, I had to get a taxi from JFK to Newark as I booked the wrong flight. Well, I booked the right flight, just booked one with a wrong connection so I had to fork out $120 to travel that distance. It was obviously worth it and I didn't know there was other means of travel to and from airports at the time. Flying from Newark to Salt Lake City was a horrible mess for me. 30 hours without sleep as I'm unable to sleep on planes, no food given to me on the flight, some man next to me who teaches Russian, didn't speak more than two words to me the whole flight.

Landing in Salt Lake City was insane! I saw the giant “U” on the side of the mountain, and I didn't know that is where the University is situated, which overlooks Salt Lake. I met some lovely Peruvian man who gave me an “Express Shuttle Ride” to the University. He was the first Mormon I had ever encountered. He was a lovely man, a sign of things to come!

I finally arrived at the Heritage Center in Fort Douglas, at the top of the U of U. It was 8:30pm Mountain Time. I couldn't even calculate how long I had been awake for now; I just wanted to get to bed. I walk to the desk to get checked in and get my key. Some lovely woman comes and takes me to my room, which had a desk, a safe, a bed and a chair in it. My new home for one semester. I thanked her and she let herself out. The air conditioning was on and it was cold, too cold. I had no bed sheets, no pillows, no nothing. I slept with my clothes piled on top of me, and my hoodie was used as a pillow. It was hard to get to sleep, the altitude of Utah was hurting me and I had severe jet lag. It felt like I was floating!

The morning of 13th August I woke up at 6am. Welcome to the world of jet lag. I had to find a place to get a sim card, there was no way I was going to survive without a phone for more than one day. I finally signed up with T-Mobile, and popped the sim card in to my phone and voilĂ , it worked!

Over the next week or so I met many new people, I had various inductions, health checks, “what to do” and “not what to do” classes. The international orientation week was well organised, they had many events on for us, such as a barbecue and taking us to see a baseball game! My very first baseball game, in fact. It was fantastic!

More to come another day...