“I’m working in Milan.” “Oh, did you study Spanish?”

That’s how the beginning of my conversation went with the poor soul sitting next to me on my ORD to LHR flight. In my flustered traveling mindset, I confused Milan with Madrid. After I was corrected (“Well, Italian, but yeah.”), I recovered quickly and followed up by stating that I clearly wasn’t studying Geography in school.

Backtracking a bit, I started my journey talking with a customer service rep who was celebrating his birthday! Unfortunately all of his customers weren’t gifted free first class upgrades, but I figured it was worth a try to ask. The flight to Chicago went pretty fast, sat a seat away from a fiber optics engineer from Chicago. Regarding grad school/grant writing, he offered some useful advice: talk to any professors you can-no matter what the subject-who are writing grants for research, most profs are excited to have someone looking over their shoulder and helping them out. Plus it’s free experience for you!

Something I personally learned on this trip is NEVER hold out for better food. I was walking through the terminal we arrived in at ORD, headed to the shuttle to the terminal the flight was departing from. Hurrying to find the gate the bus left from, I passed many semi-appetizing looking restaurants. But, only having about an hour until boarding started, I wanted to at least find my gate before I tried to get food. I got to the gate at 6 after the hour, and signs informed me that I would have to wait until half past, as the shuttles only ran every 30 minutes. I was JUST about to head back into the heart of things to find some fuel when the arrival of the bus was announced over the intercom. I figured there must be some good (or decent) food in the terminal we were headed to, so I took a chance and hopped on the bus. Lesson learned. The only food within a 7 minute walk of my gate was either Mexican (not good on an upset travel belly) or convenience type snacks. Walking a bit further I found a cafe and called it good. I got a very sub-par $9 sandwich and a dry chocolate croissant. Could be worse, I’m sure, but I’ll make sure I’m amply fed before leaving an area of warm food choices next time!

Boarding on the British Airways was relatively painless (contrary to my last post pondering loading procedures, they boarded first class then the plane back to front). I was sitting down, items stowed with things I wanted immediately tucked in the seat pouch, sandwich and fixin’s spread out on my lap, when a young Brit approaches me and says “I think you’re in my seat.” After contesting him I check my ticket, and sure enough, I’m one row back. In retrospect it may have made more sense for one of us to suggest he just sit in the seat behind, rather than me pack up and move back there (also, a girl was in my seat so she had to uproot), but pack up and move I did! And might I say he was quite an unpleasant person to have in front of me, reclining at odd times, for example, in the middle of dinner. I managed to sleep a little bit, but am still pretty jet lagged!

Standing and waiting in the UK entry point (such a long line!) I sucked up all 45 minutes of my free WiFi trying to arrange with my sister Dana, where and when to meet. I also met a nice girl studying abroad in Edinburgh, who would ideally love to spend her life planning festivals! Once I got thru entry and got my bags, dragging them through customs, I had no internet and no way to get ahold of Dana. I finally found a pay phone, and after a few attempts at dialing (what international codes to use, etc.), I got in touch with Dana and we were discussing how to go about things, when the line died. I threw in another 60p and got a bit further, when it died again (less than a minute on the phone each time) I made a third call, and Dana must have picked up on exactly what was going on because she didn’t miss a stride, she blurted out where they would be and when before I could get a word in at all. Of course the ‘when’ was a bit off, about a half an hour, which had me wondering if the ‘where’ was right. I approached a group of local-looking people asking if I could bother them to use a phone to call my sister (a local number-I promise!) and they were willing to do so. Of course I got her voicemail, which left me still sitting out there, wondering if we were on the same wavelength. She eventually pulled up with Les, the cabbie. We took the scenic route, with less traffic, all the way back to Forest Hill.

My mom and aunt are supposedly on their way to Dana’s flat now, but they must have gotten really lost because it’s already been about twice as long as it should have taken them. I’m extremely hungry, so I’m off to scrounge up some food, definitely an early night tonight!

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