14 Jul Getting Lost Across the Pond
After a looong flight of about eight hours and an overall travel time of twelve hours (though I suppose those hailing from Australia would scoff at that with at least one fellow intern putting in a whopping fourteen hours of flying-cue my eyes falling out of my head) I finally landed in London Heathrow airport on Friday July first at about 7:40 am for my July/ August internship in the city. That didn’t necessarily mean I met our group coordinator, Vedant or the rest of my arrived group at that point since the customs line took about two or three hours to slog through-urf.
As I am prone to doing anywhere I’ve never been, I intelligently got myself lost in the airport trying to get from terminal three to terminal two where we were to be picked up from. I may or may not have gone to the departure region instead of arrivals…I can’t confirm this. So after much internal cursing and weaving my way back and forth through the Olympian construct that is the freaking airport I finally found Caffe Nero coffee shop: our meeting point. Now when they said there would be a “Welcome Interns” sign at the shop with a guy wearing an Absolute Internship tee shirt, I envisioned something more akin to a poster board or a sign on a pole. This led to a little more confusion when the sign turned out to be a piece of paper chilling out on a suitcase, leaning against its handle. Sooo of course I missed it and spent a couple minutes scanning the various customers at the café-at one point eying a group of sharply dressed gentlemen and weirding them out-until I saw a guy that resembled who we saw in a picture of in our pre-departure handbook.
Our group consisted of three Canadian ladies who didn’t struggle with customs at all (resentful grumbling) and my ‘Murrican (American) self. One was interested in entrepreneurship, another marketing and another publishing. As I would find out later, a large portion of our group were interning in the publishing industry-myself included. After a short while of waiting we finally exited the airport and into the parking lot where I witnessed the best representation of London traffic-one of the cars backed out and into the vehicle coming up behind him. Some words were exchanged in a calmly enough manner but the row of cars succeeding them were laying on their horns because they had places to BE. Being born and raised in Los Angeles, yes I am used to horrific traffic. What I am unaccustomed to is tiny little streets cut between throngs of pedestrians and busses. So more than once did I suck in my breath as our cab squeezed through it all on our way to the accommodation.
Following this, my first true introduction to the city was when we attended our welcome dinner at…I can’t remember the name of the place. But it was a very lovely restaurant with a brick façade that seems to be prevalent in the building designs here. That may not seem worthy of note but I’m more used to concrete walls so it provides the city with an extra charm in my eyes. We were led down to what seemed to be a room specifically reserved for our group. We were all introduced to each other and made aware just how diverse our whole group truly is as we have interns originating from locations like Sweden, Scotland, Germany, Australia, Canada, America and India among other countries. The coordinators were no different as they came from backgrounds that included those mentioned as well as French. Quite a cultural experience indeed.
The walk there provided me a much more intimate interaction with the city than taking a cab did, including with the weather. As I originally hailed from Los Angeles before moving to Tennessee I’m a lot more familiar with hot and dry or hot and humid…the key word being hot. Some (read: not enough) preemptive research into the weather told me that London summer was usually temperate, hovering around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius…I think). I didn’t realize that also came packaged with quite a bit of wind and fluctuating periods of rain throughout the day. As such I had only packed a single hoodie that I will probably have to do some shopping to find friends for as I’ve been relying on it every day. I’ll need to invest in an umbrella too.
When the weather is nice though it’s nice. Rarely does there ever seem to be blistering or smothering heat, it consistently lingers around the cooler side. So after a few minutes of walking it was easy to adjust to and focus on the sights of the city itself. Everything is clustered together without the abundance of parking lots separating each business as it is in the U.S. So really a lot of locations are within walking distance of each other. This means that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in one joint, or you don’t like the service you can mosey on over to the guy next door or at the end of the block.
Or just take the tube somewhere else. Ah, the tube. Now I don’t use public transportation…ever. A cab every now and then when my car is uncooperative or I’ve been drinking too much and don’t want wake up naked in a park. There’s a subway system in Los Angeles because the people who make decisions for that kind of thing are idiots…California is an earthquake zone. Needless to say (but going to be said anyway) I rarely ever took it. My school years saw some bus usage as well- but none of that is the tube system. It’s actually not that complicated…once you get used to it. As mentioned I’m prone to getting lost uh, everywhere, so my first weekend was comprised of my tagging along with everyone else and assaulting them with repetitive questions for which way I would go to get to where.
When the time came for me to be grown up and take the tube by myself to work Monday morning it was…actually okay. I hopped on to the District line going to Wimbledon and it took me straight to where I needed to go, as tubes do. After I got to the area the directions I was given by the Absolute people told me to go straight, take another right and another right after that. And I actually made it! Well it was more like I stumbled across my work place after guessing which road to go down because the street signs here conspire to work against the directionally challenged like me.
After cruising down the path for a minute I saw the sign indicating where my company was. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t still get lost, oh no, because I was early! I had left home an hour before an hour I needed to get there (that’s two hours yes, I just wanted to reproduce the feeling of unnecessary confusion that I had). And because I hadn’t had any breakfast before I left other than a couple bites of leftover pasta I decided to head over to a café I passed on the way to the building. I had a mocha that was not very mocha like at all because apparently there is a national ban on putting sugar in coffee or something and got up to leave twenty minutes until I had to be there. And headed down the wrong freaking street. A very nice lady with a very cute dog saved my life by guiding me in the right direction and I was three minutes late.
No one was upset though and the environment was surprisingly low key and relaxed. I’m usually accustomed to work places that require a lot of bustling around and being in a rush so this was a pleasant surprise. I was also given a task that was fairly new to me as I had to help with formatting on a program that I’ve never used. It wasn’t impossible to work though and everyone around was understanding towards my confusion and helpful. So despite my tardiness my first day was a success that came with an educating challenge. And after a weekend involving tours that only got my slightly sunburnt, a Sunday roast with food that set out to prove that rumor against English cuisines wrong and me not getting upside down and backwards lost, my first few days in London proved to be enjoyable. Even though I did lose my way to the Monday after work drinks location. Excellent wine and an inexpensive but filling meal that took me forever to eat helped me recover from that though.