Monday, January 5, 2009

Snow in London/Jackpot Winner

I called BUNAC last week to find out when their orientation times were. They told me that I could come anytime on Monday. Thus, I decided to sleep in on my last day of “vacation” (I start work tomorrow) and go when I woke up. I rose at 10:00 and called BUNAC to verify (not sure why I did this, but I am sure glad I did). They told me the only orientation of the day was to start at 10:30. Now mind you, I was in Maida Vale and orientation was in Farringdon. It would easily take me a good forty-five minutes to get their by tube if I rushed. BUNAC also told me that the next orientation was not until Wednesday (i.e. I’d have to miss my second day of work). Clearly that would not be acceptable and clearly the BUNAC person I spoke with on the phone did not have a clue what they were talking about. Needless to say I did what any good and faithful employee would do. I brushed my teeth and threw on my sweats and started sprinting for the tube station. T minus 24 minutes before orientation was to start. (P.S. they told me that I would not be able to enter if I arrived late.) As I began sprinting for the tube a taxi passed, I tried to wave him down but he either did not stop or it was not a “black taxi” and thus does not have a permit to stop along side the rode. (You have to call and arrange for a non-black taxi to transport you.) I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it but felt as though I would feel much less guilty if I at least made a valiant effort to do so. Oh, but wait… another taxi… I all but jumped out into the middle of the road, asked how quickly he could get me to Farringdon (yeah, no address at that point as I ran out of the house so quickly) and hopped in the cab. He told me it would take 25 minutes to get there without traffic or lights. Hello, London! Fat chance! Miracles do happen, my taxi driver was in fact concerned for the matter and made a point to get me to Farringdon (Bowling Green Lane, yes, I found the address in my back… FAVOR!) as quickly as possible. With tires screeching and passing police cars and busses I got a whirlwind tour of East London and arrive on the BUNAC doorstep at 11:29. I threw twenty pounds at my cab driver (my fare was 13.80) and he tossed a five pound note back my way. Ahhh, he deserves the tip, even if it was assumed. He was quite sweet as he yelled at the window, “Run and don’t stop until you get there. Don’t take no for an answer.” I made it!!! (So did a few others that trickled in late, but had I not thought they wouldn’t let me in I would have prob. attempted to take the tube and missed the whole thing for real.) Things just have a way of working out. Additionally, I noticed that the majority of people at orientation did not have permanent housing or a job yet, which makes accomplishing anything very difficult as you must provide that information. Resultantly, at orientation, very thankful that I have been blessed with both of those things, I was able to complete several things, fax my final paperwork back to the U.S., head to Barclays to set up a bank account, obtain a student discount card (thank you blue card for allowing me to still be classified as a student) and get a National Insurance Number. Let’s talk about that National Insurance Number for a moment... About 25% of my paycheck will disappear but in return I will get medical care, but only in an emergency since I am only here on a visa. Can I not pay taxes then since I am only here on a visa if I don’t reap the benefits of what I am paying for?!? No worries, I plan on being healthy while I am here… and my track record for health is quite good at this point, just a few random issues here and there. I mean, spots are clearly no more concerning than the common cold, right?!? Ok, so more on this National Insurance Card… apparently, you call and speak with someone and they set you up a time to come in for an interview. However, very very VERY few people hit the jackpot and are told that they do not need to come in for an interview and that they their paperwork will arrive in the mail. As if I hadn’t been blessed enough today, JACKPOT!!!! Paperwork will arrive at my house in seven days!!! Hello Favor!! So, that was nice. Additionally, more favor, there were about 40 people or more at orientation, most of whom were heading to the bank to set up an account. Having stayed at the office a few minutes past I figured I would have to wait behind all of them when I got to the bank… but no, they must have all stopped for lunch because I only had to wait about 2 minutes for someone to finish and I got right in. And, when leaving the bank, IT WAS SNOWING!!!! So cool, I didn’t know it snowed in London!!! (I know, roll your eyes, I really thought it just rained all the time. But nope, no rain yet!) It should be noted that some random guy from Texas that was in orientation decided that he was too incompetent to find the bank on his own and caught my attention a ways up the road allowed me to do all the leg work for us; cursing the whole way and then cutting in front of me when we got there (hello, you would not be there if it was not for me). Either way, I’m glad I was able to help him and glad we found the bank. Other side note… I did stop and ask one gentleman for directions. He was wearing a bright yellow vest so I assumed he worked for the town. Upon getting his attention, he turned around and grabbed my map, coughing all over it. He kindly explained (big red eyes watering and pale white face completely visible at this point) that he was sorry, he had the flu and couldn’t help. HELLO!!! DON’T TOUCH MY MAP! I DON’T WANT TO GET SICK!! I thanked him for his help and wished him well… and then once he was out of the distance waved me map around the air hoping the cold air would kill any germs on it.
Oh, what a morning!! A glorious morning. Its not every day you get to sleep in, go on a rollercoaster tour of East London, hit the jack pot and feel incredibly accomplished at the end of the day! I’d say I had quite a wonderful day. To top it off, I decided to treat myself to a sit down, warm meal at a great Indian restaurant that I found called GVFAA. (They have cheap lunch specials, thankfully 3:00 is still considered lunch time.) I just had an incredible dish: chicken covered in almond sauce, rice, potato and chick pea meal that warmed me up on the inside and I’m pretty sure, burned out any flu germs that could have possible made it into my system. Yummy!!! (Mrs. Miru, no worries, while GVFAA was amazing, your Indian cooking is still my favorite! That chicken almond dish would go GRRRREAT with your cabbage dish that I love so much… ::hint hint, nudge nudge::!!) Again, having not eaten until now, I was unable to take my medicine and thus, am feeling quite stiff and sore. Thankfully, in the two seconds that I took to get ready I grabbed my magic blue pills and should be feeling better shortly!!! Oh how I love those blue pills!!!!

Yes, it is always an adventure when I am around.

Randomness from the day…
- Things you don’t want to hear on the tube while stuck between stops: “Sorry for the delay, there is a fire investigation up ahead.”

- Public transportation here and international calling in general are really way too expensive.

- Apparently it is not normal to ask for water with your meal here. Sorry, I like water, and I intend to keep asking for it, normal or not! I’ve never really been normal anyways, I am sure several of you will attest to that.

- I walked by a really cool cultural restaurant today, Giraffe, and I intend to go back and check it out at some point. A mix of cultural food and tunes!! ☺

- The cultures, languages and complete diversity in all regards that is represented in London is truly incredible!!

- They say the F word a lot here.

- Cheers (which apparently means thank you) is said at the end of just about every conversation.

- 16 hours of darkness and only 8 hours of light (8:15-4:15) really gets old quickly. Heaven forbid you sleep in, it’s practically dark outside right after you wake-up.

- For those fashionistas back home… purple is definitely the in color here! Everyone wears bright, Minnesota Viking color purple. Shirts, shoes, hair, it’s all purple.

- I learned in orientation that Barcelona is apparently the Mecca of pick pocketing!

Never a dull moment!


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are having a splendid time- what an enriching experience this will be for you. I am very happy for you, and I look forward to reading about your many adventures. Love you lots!!