I don’t like flying, especially overnight. The flight from Burlington to JFK wasn’t bad, just a lot of turbulence. I looked out the window for awhile and then my stomach rolled and the guy next to me, thankfully, closed the curtain. The young girls across the aisle dealt with flying better than I did.
I popped in my earbuds and listened to Elvis for a few minutes until I realized how to work the TV. I love Sylvester Stallone. Dad and I have watched nearly every movie: Demolition Man, Cobra, Over the Top, every Rambo and Rocky…you get the point – we’re fans. So when Cliffhanger came on, I forgot I was on a plane thousands of feet in the air.
Before I knew it, we landed in New York City. I was absolutely starstruck. That airport was huge. I think the entire city of Plattsburgh could fit into JFK. My friend Cassidy Backus and I met at my baggage claim. It turns out Syracuse lost her luggage (we didn’t find that out until we got in Manchester).
The worst part was the wait. We had to stay there for five hours until our departure at 9 p.m. That involved playing on our phones, talking, thinking, nearly sleeping and spending $18 on a sandwich, apple and water dinner.
Our friend and third amigo, Manny Vivas, joined us at 7 p.m. and we lined up early and boarded the plane quickly. I felt like a pro – whipping out my passport and boarding ticket.
As I walked onto the plane with my backpack and carry-on, I thought about the seven-hour flight ahead of me and wanted to hurl (I didn’t actually vomit at all, just felt like it).
The airline supplied me with a small pillow and red blanket. I was ready! Unfortunately, a distraught English man refused to get off the plane, so we were delayed 15 minutes. Then something about leaking jet fuel and having to refuel delayed us another 30 minutes.
Finally, we took off and my nausea set in, big time. In the course of our seven-hour flight, I watched four movies: Black Mass, Trainwreck (I was sort of sleeping through that one), Tomorrowland and some other movie I can’t remember.
Sleeping was nearly impossible. I kept bumping into the guy next to me, attempting to stretch out, turning onto my side and hanging my leg and arm in the aisle. When the plane landed, I had to practically stick my head between my legs to keep from vomiting.
All I wanted at that moment was to get off the damn airplane.
We had made it to Manchester! The cold air did me well as we walked to the check-in area. The airport was eerily quiet. We stood around the baggage claim, the same luggage rotating around and around. Manny and I grabbed our suitcases, but Cassidy wouldn’t find hers. That’s when we found out it had been “lost/delayed/on its way.” She did get her luggage, but that was two days later. We both didn’t shower until then.
Cassidy and I originally signed up to stay in Bache Hall, and after a little ordeal, we transferred to our current building on Parkgate Road with friendly mates: Leah, Kenya, Marieke and Abby. Bache was rubbish (throwing in some British lingo) compared to our new housing. The hall offered jail-cell-like rooms, dirty furnishings and five girls to one bathroom – not fun. Plus, it was a twenty-minute walk to campus and a thirty-minute walk to the city center. Parkgate House 41 is beautiful. There’s two fully equipped bathrooms for six girls, a large kitchen and dining area and a spacious room.
Sunday and Monday night the three of us (Cassidy, Manny and I) ate at George & Dragon. It’s a beautiful pub with amazing food, great bartenders and a wide variety of beer. I love experimenting with my food and beer, so each time we went I got something different. The first time I ordered a Carling lager with cottage pie; it was absolutely delicious.
We also hit up another pub called the Red Lion. It’s everything you would expect an English pub to be: dark, cozy and warm. My favorite beer, by far, is a Guinness stout. The three of us ended up chatting, drinking our beer and watching darts on TV.
Back home, we don’t walk everywhere we go. Otherwise, it would take an hour to get to the grocery store (and I’m relatively close). To put it in perspective – we walked so much blisters developed on our feet and our heels were rubbed raw and bloody. I slapped on bandages and then rubbed through that too.
I’ve only been here a week, and it feels like a lifetime. My body is still adjusting to the time zone. I would eat dinner at 5 p.m. and be hungry again at 10 p.m. The five-hour time difference has definitely been a challenge.
England, the land of tea, has stole my heart. I’m in love with the city of Chester – there’s brick everywhere! The old Roman city is surrounded by lichen- and moss-covered walls. You can smell it, you know – the moss. It reminds me of the woods back home.
It’s amazing how another English-speaking country can feel like another world: they drive on the opposite side of the road; traffic lights don’t dangle above intersections but are situated to the right of the lane; nearly every car has a manual transmission; and vending machine soda bottles are tiny.
The food is so different! Crumpets, orange soup, all kinds of tea, bolognese sauce, biscuits and crisps. It took me awhile to associate chips as crisps, cookies as biscuits and french fries as chips. They have stores I’ve never heard of: PoundWorld, PoundLand, Tesco and B&M. Shopping is different. The first time Cassidy and I went to stock up on groceries, our roommates Leah and Marieka gave us a tour of the city. We grabbed biscuits, cereal (bran flakes and corn flakes for me), lactose-free milk, bacon, crumpets and loads of other food. They have a market to purchase fresh vegetables and fruit, which we took advantage of. It was 1 pound for a carton of strawberries! Needless to say, we’ll be shopping there frequently.
I absolutely love the accents; I always have. I forget that I’m the international student here – a foreigner. Whenever Cassidy, Manny and I (safety in numbers) walk into town I think there’s a neon beacon on our foreheads screaming “American!” Or it’s just our accents. Most of the time, people tend to ask us where we’re from. Our reply is usually the same: “Oh, well…we’re from New York. But no, not the city. Well…he is, but we’re from upstate upstate.” In all honesty, I don’t think my answer will get much better than “upstate upstate.” I always say that I basically live in Canada.
Here is a fun fact: it rains in England…a lot. But it makes you appreciate those days when you’re not being pelted by water bullets. Due to the aggressively erratic weather, I understand why a hot cup ‘o tea (or coffee) is a necessity.
The speed limit seems to be optional over here. I noticed a speed limit sign hiding near a roundabout, bearing a 30. It was miles per hour. Little cars fly down the narrow streets. I wouldn’t recommend getting too drunk and walking down the sidewalk.
The first couple of days whenever I crossed a street I stopped to look both ways nearly three times. After watching the locals plow through the intersections with barely a glance, I decided it’s like playing Frogger. I’ll just make sure to not get flattened.
Cassidy and I walked the Chester walls on Wednesday and decided to taste the tea of Mad Hatters. I, once again, tried a new brew – Lapsang Souchong. It’s a very strong and smokey tea. I had the soup of the day, which was carrot and orange soup, with a roast ham and wholegrain mustard sandwich on brown bread. It was absolutely delicious. We devoured every single piece and drained the last drop of tea.
The past week was crazy. Visiting Chester Zoo, braving the elements, touring the city, transferring accommodations, walking until our feet bled and enjoying a beer here and there. We have done so much is such little time. Sometimes I forget that I’m thousands of miles away and an ocean apart. But there isn’t anything I would rather be doing. My journey has just started. Thank you for joining.