domingo, 7 de junio de 2009

Revolutionary War!!

What a tumultuous journey. That's all I can really say to describe my 4-ish days in London. It started out okay: made my flight with Ryanair, caught the train into town, got cash. The trouble really started when I left the train station. I expected to take the tube, but it was closed when I arrived. Taking a taxi was my solution, and I headed out the back door of the Liverpool Station to catch one. 


Apparently this "taxi" I took was illegal. In my groggy state of travel, I didn't realize that it was probably sketch that there was no meter in the car or that this guy had offered a flat rate of 10 pounds. I just wanted to get there, so I hopped in, thinking nothing of it. He didn't rob me, he didn't rape me, and he definitely didn't give me the run around. We listened to some god-foresaken arabic music, but that was really the only thing I could complain about. He took me right to my hostel without problems, unloaded my bags, and quickly drove off. 

I got to the front desk of my hostel ready to check in and quickly pass out. I gave the guy my reservation number, confirmed my birhtday... all was well until....

"Can I see your passport?"

I grabbed for my purse and looked in. No sight of my green passport book, but I didn't really panic; it always disappears into the abyss of my bag, especially when it's filled with all my travel shit. I moved my wallet. No passport. I moved my i-Pod. Nothing. I then realized that my passport was not in my purse. I dumped the entire thing out on the desk in front of the GUY working there (I say guy because, well, as ladies we always carry things in our purses that we would hate to fall out in front of a man. At this point, however, I didn't give a f*ck because I was in such a panic mode) and still couldn't find it. I knew it was gone. It wasn't in my pockets, and I knew I hadn't put it in my suitcase (although I tore through that as well). It was gone. 

The guy at the front desk, despite anterior signs of being a complete dick, allowed me to use my student ID as my identification, probably because they didn't want to lose my business. Whatever, I didn't really care at that point. I grabbed my stuff and ran to the nearest computer. It was time to take full responsibility for my actions and figure out what to do next.

But first, I had to cry to my parents.

Seriously, I called my dad, and the second I heard his voice I started crying. I don't know what it was about talking to Ambrose... probably the fact that I hated myself for making the BIGGEST travel mistake of all time, but the emotion was definitely FLLOOOWWWINGGG. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hey Dad"
"Hey Andrea! Are you there okay?"
"Yeah" (awkward voice where you're holding back tears)
"...Is everything okay?
"No" (still awkward voice)
"What's wrong?"
(full on crying) "I..LOST...MY...PASSPORT"

Surprisingly, my dad wasn't mad at all. In fact, he was like... "That's it?" I guess it wasn't as big a deal as I made it out to be in my head (thoughts of being trapped a la Tom Hanks in 'The Terminal' came to mind). I really think my dad was more relieved that I was in the UK as opposed to, say, "that godforesaken country Morocco" (his words). Despite his claims that everything would be fine, I was still upset. I barely slept all night. I don't know why, either. I couldn't remedy the situation until morning anyhow, but the idea of my stupidity kept me up all night.

In the morning I started to retrace my steps and try and find the damn thing. It wasn't at the airport or in the train, which I figured. I went back to the train station to try and find this cab driver who of course wasn't there. I called the city of London's 'Public Carriage Office,' aka the Department of Public Transportation. This is when I was informed that I'd taken an illegal cab because the city does not have ANY vans legally registered. WOOOW. At that point, the woman told me that I had little to no chance of finding my passport. Despite wanting to take a Dumb & Dumber attitude ("That means there's still a chance!"), I again called my dad and decided my best bet would be to hit up the US embassy and order a new one. 

I forgot to mention that the waterworks didn't stop the night I lost the passport; I seriously cried all day Wednesday as well. I really don't know why, either. I guess the stress of travel really got to me. I headed to the embassy alone and without an appointment, hoping they'd be able to issue me an emergency passport since my departure date was only 3 days away. 

I can thankfully say that I'm proud to be an AMERICAN after the quickness with which the embassy handled my situation. They just don't do things fast in Europe, but the embassy gave me a little taste of something from the homeland that I miss -- efficiency. I walked in, told them my problem, paid, got pictures, took an oath, was issued and handed a new passport in a little under 3 hours. I felt like a fucking redneck I was so obsessed with America in that moment; I wanted to get a 'These Colors Don't Run' tattoo and wear a bandana and drive an SUV. I also walked out of there feeling like a straight-up idiot for being an emotional shitshow for the past 18 hours. I put the new baby passport in my wallet, zipped my purse, clutched it and headed off.

At this point I remembered that I was actually in London to have fun.

In all the stress of getting the passport situation handled, I could not get excited at all for the fact that I was meeting up with Allie & Abi, my future roommates and constant lovers who I hadn't seen in 5 long and arduous months! Without cell phones, it was hard to reunite. Thanks to a Facebook message, however, I knew they'd be at Tate Modern, an art museum, so I grabbed the tube over. I didn't find them right away; apparently, they were at the Globe seeing a shiteous version of Romeo & Juliet, but I didn't know that til later. I walked around the museum for a while and saw some Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Monet's "Water Lillies." I wish I knew at least SOMETHING about art in order appreciate what I was looking at, but modern art is probably the strangest of all time. There was seriously an exhibit where you walked into a room where they were projecting images of naked people on a wall. I don't know how they can call that 'art' while people shoot down Playboy and other equally nakie magazines... But yeah, after a while, I was bored and sat down in a leather chair to await their arrival at 6-ish. 

It wasn't the Heathrow Gate reunion we dreamed of (Love Actually ref), but when Allie jumped on top of me in my little leather chair, it seemed to be the PERFECT way to reunite. It was the best/weirdest feeling ever... it's so odd to be with someone you haven't seen in so long. At first, we all just kind of stared at each other, but after about 5 minutes of hugs we were okay. We quickly headed off to dinner (I realized then that I'd eaten a bag of chips and a Snickers bar from the embassy's vending machine for lunch) and then got ready to go out with everyone in their program. I was introduced to the delicious beverage called Strongbow, a fizzy cider that tasted like it didn't contain any alcohol. My kind of party. We then went off to a bar called The Rocket. Everyone there seemed to be a shitshow which made the night particularly fun. Although the place was strictly a pub, we started a dance party and that really was the highlight. I was, however, incredibly surprised to find out that the place shut down at midnight... I am so used to Spain's seemingly never-ending bar scene that a 12 pm cut off really offended me. Oh well. We then tried to go to the bowling alley that also boasted karaoke and a bar, but that was closed as well. LAME. Now I see why we started the Revolutionary War; the Brits just don't know how to party.

America, fuck yeaah...

I got back to my hostel that evening in great spirits and used the computer for a little while. I even tipsily emailed the entire Sevilla Facebook list-serv telling them I lost my passport, which was actually quite embarrassing information that I didn't want to reveal til later. Oh well. I also didn't realize that, while I was on the computer, Creeper Alert 10.0 should have been going off. 

Time for another edition of The Creeper Files of Andrea... Woo! (if anyone remembers this show, you are as awesome as me; oh, and she really typed in Courier font so deal)

June 3, 2009
The Generator Hostel
London, England

All I wanted was to go back upstairs to my room and go to bed, but that was not what was in store for me. I noticed a genuine creeper staring at me in the computer room, but I paid him no mind, as I am accustomed to his type: gelled hair, awkward tight shirt with silver dragon, Chinese lettering or similar details, lighter wash denim and thin euro sneakers. I walked up the first flight of stairs to my room, and as I was about to reach my room... a voice...

"Excuse me, can you help me find my room?"

I turned around and there he was in all his glory. I didn't know whether or not the request was genuine, but time would soon tell that he was just another creepy Moroccan man. As he "fumbled" for his key, he started the barrage of questions; the basics came first. After revealing my name to Mohammed (go fucking figure... Fogel wasn't kidding when he said it was the most commonly used name on earth. I swear to God everyone who hits on me is named Mohammed), he then proceeded to ask me "What are you doing tonight?" I wanted to say, "I'm going to bed, bitch," but I left off the final insult. "Well, don't you want to go out with me?" Seriously, buddy? What indication have I given that I wanted to go out with you --completely blowing you off downstairs, or being polite despite your creepiness and helping you find your room?

Luckily for me, I am clearly used to this sort of probing questioning. I cooly responded that I was sorry, but my boyfriend wouldn't appreciate that behavior. 

"Oh, are you married?" No, you fucktard. I said boyfriend. 
"No, I'm not. But I am in a relationship." 
"Well... is he here?" Oh God in heaven. If I wanted to cheat on my imaginary boyfriend, it most certainly would not be with you. 
"No, but I'm in love with him, sorry." Lying was easy because I just imagined the face of my imaginary boyfriend for the past decade, John Mayer. I am soo faithful to him, I haven't ever cheated. 

Here comes the real kicker:

"Well, you are very pretty, you know..."
"Thank you." I said this really shortly, as I just wanted to go the hell to bed.
"You are the perfect size. Not too big, not too small."


All I could conjure up was "Thank You...?" as I headed off into the women's bathroom absolutely DUMBFOUNDED. Was that a compliment? I am not a goddamn farm animal for you to size up and buy, Mohammed, and I am certainly NOT up on some kind of display for your creepy, hostel-stalking ass. I could not really grasp the situation, so I sat in the bathroom for a good 10 minutes, as this was also a kind of I-hope-he's-gone, I-don't-want-him-to-see-my-room-number strategy. I was so freaked out and disgusted by him, I about screamed when I opened the bathroom door and someone else (a female non-Mohammed, thank you LORD) was waiting to get in. Of course, I kept seeing him around the hostel for the next three days and avoided eye contact at all costs. Great, and exactly what you want to happen while staying alone in a hostel.

The next day I slept in pretty late to make up for my worrying about the passport. I met up with the ladies at their hotel which was conveniently about 2 minutes from my hostel on foot. Perfect planning. We hit up Greenwich for one of their class projects to go to the park that, among other things, houses the Prime Meridian observatory. I went halfsies with the world, standing on the line and therefore inhabiting two hemispheres. Awesome! We then proceeded to lay in the park for a while, staring at a football (European-style) match, complete with a sweaty old man wearing only cleats and boxers. It was highly entertaining. We also tried to put Allie's roommate for the trip, Radhika, up into a cheerleading stunt. I tried to channel the olden days of doing that in the Park, but it was pretty much an epic fail.

After Greenwich, we got dinner in Chinatown before the girls had to go see a play with their program. I decided to go down to the Thames. I have this problem where I'm not satisfied with being in a major city until I see the sites (example: I didn't feel like I was in Paris til I saw the 
Eiffel Tower, etc.) because I'm 5 years old, so I went and saw Big Ben. It's seriously gorgeous. The magical thing about London is, in my opinion, that the entire place was bombed by Hitler during WWII, but it still has so much of it's old character. Maybe I just made myself out to be a history geek, but whatever, so be it. I think this crazy history is the real reason I'm fascinated with Europe. I could listen to tour guides and their little tidbits of information all day. Oooohkay, I definitely just out-gayed myself.

But yeah, I sat by the Thames for a while, then walked across the pedestrian bridge. I did field a little attention from a sexy homeless man ("Hello Darling"), but all in all I spent the beginning of that evening just walking around and thinking about my life. I really felt like Bridget Jones as I crossed the pedestrian bridge (just like she did in the movie, aaah!), although I didn't get to bang Hugh Grant or Colin Firth while in London... As soon as it started getting darker, I felt a little sketched out and headed back to the hostel til their play got out. We met up again in Piccadilly Circus, a mini Times Square, then went down to Trafalgar Square. It was so beautiful despite the tacky color-changing lights they'd put in the fountains for the nighttime guests. After a few digestive cookies and gossiping, Allie and I left the group so I could get some pictures of me down by Big Ben and the London Eye. We even stopped by the Prime Minister's house (Love Actually ref again) along the way. It was even more beautiful at night. We also decided at that time that we're moving to the UK after graduation. I really want to move to Europe, and although I love Spain, I'm not sure if it's exactly where I'm going to end up; I looove London as an option as well, and there are tons of PR opportunities for me (eww, why are we growing up). We finally got down and took my pics. We were also asked to take pics for a group of men, whose request for photos went a little something like this:

"Will you take a picture for us?"
"I am Iraqi"

What about him being Iraqi was pertinent to the situation, I really don't know. But we continued laughing about it. We also saw a Borat look alike on the bridge who was filming a sort of TV special. Another great sight. We eventually had to go back because the Tube closes a bit after midnight and we didn't want to walk. 

The next day I got up super early to catch up on my sightseeing that I completely missed out on on day 1. I hit up Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey & St. Paul's Cathedral alllll alone. I was so proud of myself, especially when I built up the courage to ask someone to take a picture of me in front of Tower Bridge. If you knew pre-Spain, social-anxiety me, you are probably proud, too. But I got my pictures and headed back to meet up with the girls after their class ended around 1:00. We headed from there to Buckingham Palace, where I searched in vain for the only real live redheaded man I'll ever love, Prince Harry (I say real-live because I also love Ron Weasley, but after years of being told he's not actually a real person, I guess I have to accept that and move on). We then headed for Notting Hill to try and go to a street market we'd read about. It was really cool; it used to be known for antiques, but now it's just a bunch of different shit. I bought, among a few other items, an 100-year old key to put my car keys on back home. I thought it was a really cool idea, so whatever. We also got lunch there and I FOUND A CREPE STAND!!!!, where I was able to relive the glory of chocolate + banane that I killed three times in Paris. YUM. 

After that I hung out at the hostel for a little while again until they got done with their group dinner. I was going to sit in my room, but my new crazy roommate showed up complete with the always lovely habit of talking to herself. It got awkward quickly, so I just hit the shower and spent the rest of my time in the bathroom or in the common room. I hate hostels for that reason... Oh well, it was the last one I'll stay in for a VERY long time. 

That night we headed out again with the people from their program as it was their last night in the city. We went to The Rocket again... but not without first stopping at KING'S CROSS to check out the legendary PLATFORM 9 3/4. I seriously DIEEEDDDD looking at it! I am such a Harry Potter nerd. It was probably my favorite visit of the entire trip... and the best way to disguise my true identity as a wizard by posing at such a muggle-popular site! I got my picture and headed off to the Rocket, this time chock full of Brits. We of course met some creepers, especially a man who danced with us all night but did not speak a WORD to us. It was hilarious. Really, though, it was a great way to end my rollercoaser-of-emotions journey to London. And seeing my lovers 2 weeks before going home gave me just a little bit more strength to make it there... 

It's so hard to believe I'm leaving Sevilla a week from tomorrow. I am really freaking the shit out. It's absolutely the definition of bittersweet... I know I'm going to miss it more than anything, but I also know it's time to go. I don't want to be the guy who won't leave the party, but I kind of feel like I'm not ready to say goodbye to the best 6 months of my life. More news on my subsequent depression later.

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