"If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been."
Never were those words more true for me than today, as I stepped off the plane into London, United Kingdom. While that one more step was still on an airplane technically, I felt as if the ground shook just a bit as I grabbed my carry-on and stepped over the hearth into Heathrow airport.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The air is stale; slightly warm, and though I've never tasted the tepid tang of recycled air before, I believe I may have found it. Beside me, some loud family that's getting ready for a reunion munches on almonds, and I hope that no one has a terrible allergy that keeps the flight from departing. But that's the periphery. The forefront of my mind is occupied with gratitude. I'm actually getting on the plane to go to London, a trip I've dreamed about, but never honestly thought was possible. I am very lucky.
Not only am I filled with wonder, I am very tired. Last night, I spent time with a good friend who I hope will become a better one. Amazing how goodbyes are really more like hellos.
I was so tired that I decided to travel across the world in my very comfortable Doctor Who shirt, a gift from my brother's girlfriend. Already, two people have commented on it. While I maintain that fandoms create community, I agree with the Texan security officer that I'm sure to get teased for it once I'm in the UK.
At least I didn't bring the sonic screwdriver.
By some great miracle, I see my mother during a three hour layover in Minneapolis. She takes me to a restaurant, where they serve walleye BLTs and hot dishes (only in Minnesota). It is so good to see her that it's almost hard to leave. But she takes a picture of me going through security, and we wave across a sea of confused people who watch us and roll their eyes.
The flight is not as long as I expected; it's faster to travel around the world than it is to drive from Albuquerque to Las Vegas--only seven and a half hours. I sleep most of the way, but find it impossible the closer we get. When we do finally land, it takes me a moment to realize the heavy sensation I feel isn't just anticipation and wonder... it's the water in the air.
London air is warm and wet. It makes your clothes stick to you in strange places and I'm actually sweating (which rarely happens back home since the air is so thirsty). I understand the use of handkerchiefs much better now... and luckily, brought some.
The Underground, I hear, is the fastest way to Greenwich Village. I get on after buying an Oyster Card. Then, I head to the subway system. It's dark inside, but there are windows open which brings in a nice breeze because this thing is fast. Then suddenly, there is a burst of light and color. The color is green--there are trees of every kind. Bushes, grass, flowers of purple and yellow... I think to myself, This is the land that legends came from, and cannot be more in awe of the city. It spans over a huge space, but also centuries of history as well. There are apartments for sale, and signs that have American celebrities. And houses that I thought for sure were only real in Doctor Who and Sherlock. I take the train from Heathrow all the way to Piccadilly Circus, and from there to North Greenwich. Names pass by me that I am only vaguely familiar with: King's Cross, London Bridge, Canary Wharf, Baker Street... many of these are places I want to see before I leave.
Once off the train, I take a cab the rest of the way. I'm staying at the Journeys Greenwich Hostel. There are lots of international travelers here; I am in the minority both as an American and a woman.
I got my first lewd gesture already! When I got off the Piccadilly train and transferred to Jubilee to get to the hostel, I took the lift because my luggage was too much to take down the stairs. An older gentlemen joined me, and while he continued to talk, I understood absolutely nothing. I nodded occasionally and smiled politely. He seemed to be asking me a question. When I turned to him, he did this odd pelvic-thrust-belly-out movement, and I just turned away like I didn't hear. But yep, you guessed it--he followed me after I got off the lift. He stood next to me. The train came and I asked him if it was Jubilee, and he shook his head no. So I didn't get on.
And then he said, "Sex." It wasn't a question. I mustered up my best bewildered look and replied, "Sex? No." He gave me the thumbs-up and walked away, muttering and probably saying some disparaging things about me. I wasn't sure if I should be offended or laugh at the difference in gestures between cultures.
In any case, I am here.