Settling In

This past week has been a blur. There’s been so many ups and downs, but right now I’m at a good place. We spent Sunday night through Friday morning in London, and unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. I think it mostly had to do with the fact that I had fallen in love with Edinburgh, and leaving there put a damper on the next five days. Granted, I fully enjoyed seeing all the locations in London that I’ve heard about, but it just didn’t even come close to my experience in Scotland. 

Getting to the hostel was a breeze because we took the train and we had already been to our hostel before to drop off our luggage, so that was one less hassle. We spent Sunday night relaxing and recovering from the past few days. It was nice to have a little bit of time to just not have anywhere to go or to see and to reflect on our time up to that point. The next day we went to all the major attractions in Westminster, including Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Chapel, Big Ben, and Trafalgar Square. I think this was one of my favorite times in London because I had seen so many pictures of these places but never once had thought I would actually get to see them in real life. And boy, are they spectacular! We didn’t pay to go in to Westminster (because it was over $30!) but went back for their Evensong worship service that evening. This was fantastic because we got to see the choir sing, and be a part of worship in the most beautiful church I think I will ever be in. The tradition, that still carries on from hundreds of years ago, was amazing. And to be in a church with that much history: words just cannot describe. The day before in Scotland we had gone to St. Giles church, so that means we went to the Church of Scotland and the Church of England in two days! And not just visiting, but actually being part of a service! Wow. 

On Tuesday we went to Piccadilly Circus and ate lunch at Chinatown. That was quite an experience, because the employees try to make you pay a ‘service charge’, which is actually illegal (we found that out later) so it was way more expensive than we thought! And they charged for tap water, also illegal in the UK. Looking back, if we had known it was illegal we would’ve said something! After that we walked all the way to Buckingham Palace, going the long way through the mall. It was quite cool, as good as I had expected, and even better because the flag was up meaning that the Queen was residing there. We spent a lot of time taking pictures and admiring them (even though the sculptors didn’t seem to care about appropriateness of dress or censorship!) and even threw some 1 pents into the fountain. Actually, Natalie and I did. Stephen thought it was foolishness, even though he provided us with the coins. That night we went back to the hostel and relaxed again, which became our routine. We would be very active during the day and then go to the little Pimlico shop by our hostel for some microwave food and eat it in our kitchen. 

I think once of the reasons that we did not enjoy London as much is because our hostel was not a good experience. It was less friendly than our last one, and there were more people to a room. The staff was not friendly and people came in at all hours of the night. But because of that I’m starting to sleep more soundly, which is a blessing! I now can sleep through doors opening and people snoring, which will make my family very happy to hear about! One good thing that did come out of that hostel experience is that I had the opportunity to meet two guys from Estonia: Kristo and Siim. Embarrassingly enough, I didn’t even know that Estonia was a country when they told me where they were from! Needless to say, I then had to prove how I am not just an ignorant American! But no, they were friendly and I got to ask many questions about their country and their culture and have more deep discussions. Goodness, my therapist/social worker side is really coming out on this trip! But it was great to learn about where they are from and make more relationships with people from across the world. If I ever go back to Europe again, I know I will have places to stay! 

On Wednesday we got a tour done by a guy named Izuna. I had actually met his mom on our bus to Edinburgh, and of course, me being myself (a.k.a friendly and outgoing) absolutely had to make conversation with the lady next to me or I would be bored out of my mind. So I talked to her during the 4 1/2 hour ride to Manchester, and we really hit it off. So she offered her son to us as a tour guide, and we took advantage of that. He took us to Harrod’s, which is an awesome place! I couldn’t believe a store could actually sell that many products! And we went to the Covent Garden Circus, the Natural History Museum, and Piccadilly Circus. The coolest part about the tour was him bringing us to where the youth come to break dance. It was just fantastic to see where real teenagers go to and where only locals know about. I enjoyed being part of something that not many people know about and being able to at least experience for a little bit what people my age do in that city. 

Thursday we went to Oxford, but I felt bad the entire day and it was not a fun trip for me. We spent a lot of time on the bus, and when we got there we realized that visitors were not really allowed inside anywhere. We did get to see where some of the scenes of Harry Potter was filmed (and if you haven’t guessed from my last post, I love Harry Potter) which was awesome! And we also got to go to the pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet to have their writing club called the Inklings. That was definitely interesting. I wish I had felt better so I could’ve enjoyed that trip more, but it was still cool to see the city and visit the college. 

That night started the traveling nightmare. Like I said earlier, I was feeling awful. And we had to lug all of our luggage (6 bags and 3 backpacks) an hour away to Heathrow via tube. For those of you who have not been to London, the tube is full of stairs. I ended up breaking the pull handle off one of my bags on the stairs, and then we had to just carry it the rest of the way. Once we finally got to Heathrow, we go inside and nothing is open. They tell us that the airport is closed till 4 in the morning! We couldn’t believe that the busiest airport in the world was closed at night! But anyways, we found some couches and got around 2 hours of sleep before we could check in. When we were trying to check in they informed us that our bags were too heavy because American planes could hold more weight. And we understood that, but the guy was very rude about it and we ended up having to pay $200 to ship a bag just one way to Tel Aviv! Then we ran to our gate and did make it with time to spare, which was a relief. Once we got to Zurich we ended up getting lost in the airport and arrived at our gate just as it was boarding. By then we were all frustrated and exhausted and waiting to finally arrive. However, Natalie’s bag didn’t come in the baggage claim, so we had to spend time to figure out what was going to happen and get all the documentation needed so that she could get her baggage checked. Finally, we got on the shuttle and arrived at the college, but I will leave the arrival for a different post! 

Looking back, I am very grateful for our time in London. Although it wasn’t all that we expected it to be, it was still spectacular and I have memories that I will always remember. I think the greatest thing I learned there is patience, because there was a lot of times that the normal me would be frustrated and complaining, and I just didn’t allow that to happen. It feels great to not have to have everything go my way to enjoy things, because I was able to enjoy experiences that I might have missed if I had been impatient. It also came into play through the traveling experience because if this had all happened to me a year ago I would have just given up and cried out of frustration. But I stuck with it and saw it through without giving in to my emotions, and I am here safe and enjoying not living out of a backpack. 

Here is the verse that I’ve been looking at this week, it has a lot to do with my experiences that I have had. Romans 12: 12, ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’. I’ve had a lot of time to pray these past 10 days and it’s been great to spend some alone time with God because He has given me such clarity in my decisions and such joy in all that I have done. I hope all is well back in America! 

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