Meeting Lady Margaret.

This is a poor quality photo (because I took a picture of a version printed on regular paper from a color printer), but it captures the moment I think I blogged about earlier where I met Margaret Thatcher and she made a tall joke to me.

Here she is, saying “Hiiiiii” with her hand motion in reaction to my height:

Hiiiiii!

"Hiiiiii!"

Advertisements

Merry Christmas From McCarran.

24 years ago I was a 7 1/2 month old baby experiencing my first Christmas.  Today, I’m a 24-year-old, 3rd year law student spending Christmas Day in airports hoping to get home after being delayed nearly a week due to snowstorms in Portland.  Hopefully “third time is the charm” will apply here.   My first two flights were canceled so hopefully this one works out!

Snow and Ice, Oh My Part II.

So, my flight to Vegas last Thursday was a success, but my flight out to Portland was not!  I was originally scheduled to fly home that Friday night (the next night), but I was really worried about the winter storm so I switched my ticket to Monday.  I followed the weather really closely, and although almost all flights were canceled on Sunday, Monday I woke up to news that flights were going out.  I added a flight alert to my phone, packed my bags, and headed to the airport.   Getting my bags checked and getting through security was smooth going, but then as I was waiting at my gate, overhearing everyone’s travel horror stories from the weekend, the dreaded announcement came over the loud speaker: flight 711 to Portland was canceled.

Although they told us to stay seated until they figured out what was going to happen, I saw some people getting in line so I got up and got in line too–it was lucky that I did because even though I was maybe #10 in line, it took over an hour and a half to get to the front of the line and get my ticket rescheduled for Christmas Day (that was the soonest they could confirm a flight).  Then, I had to go back to the ticket counter and wait for another hour to get my bags back.  Again, I was very lucky to be one of the people at the front of the line!

Timing was perfect because when I called Alexander to tell him my flight was canceled, he was on his way to an appointment across town and said he’d be back to get me but I might have to wait a little while.  My second bag came back right as he called to let me know he was there.

I tried to call to get on an earlier flight, but Southwest said I would have to pay the difference to switch my flight again. I had asked to be scheduled on the earliest flight out on Christmas Day, and the woman at the counter put me on the 10am flight.  Then, I found out there was a direct flight leaving at 9am, so I wanted to get on that one.  I think they should just switch me.  They’re the ones who said I couldn’t get a flight out until later, and then started offering flights sooner! Let me leave sooner!  The amount I’d have to pay extra isn’t a big deal, but I fear that flight might ultimately get canceled and then I’d be out more money and still waiting for the later flight anyway.  However, the risk of the later flight is that there is a layover.   So that means I could get to Northern California, and then the second leg of my flight could be canceled.  I have no idea which option is the “worst of two evils.”

Anyway, at this point I’m sticking with the slightly later flight.  It’s not a bad deal being “stuck” here in Vegas because I have a big, cozy guest room to myself with Cable and Internet, and no ice on the roads 😉

Hopefully, my flight will take off as planned tomorrow and “I’ll be home for Christmas.” 🙂

Snow, and Ice, and Cold Weather, Oh My.

My 9:25 flight turned out to be a success. I headed to the airport at about 6:30am because I know Southwest is always a ZOO at LAX, and I figured it would be worse given all the displaced passengers due to Vegas shutting down the night before. Boy was I right!  I heard this was the first time in 30 years the Vegas airport was shut down due to weather.  They just don’t have the equipment to put up with this stuff!

Rather than try to take the shuttle again with so many bags, I got a van cab, and luckily had a very helpful, sweet cab driver that helped me load up luggage carts and push them up on the curb to wait in line. After the curbside check-in, the line just to show your ID to get through to the next part where you go through security was out the door, up the sidewalk, and all the way to Terminal 2! From there, they sent us upstairs to a different security area that took forever. All in all, it took me about 2 hours to get my bags checked and get through security. But amazingly, I wasn’t stressed or annoyed at all because I had plenty of extra time and honestly I was just relieved to be on a flight and to no longer be alone lugging around those super heavy bags!

My flight ended up being delayed about an hour, and then once we were on the flight we waited for awhile for more stranded passengers to fill the empty seats. Right after the last two passengers got on and filled the empty seats, a man started flipping out and yelling at one of the flight attendants for “lying to him” by saying we were going to leave at 10:15 and at this point it was 10:45. Long story short, it escalated into a huge ordeal where the flight attendants opened the door after it had been closed, called security, kicked the guy off the plane, and his wife of 40+ years refused to get off the plane with him and claimed they were officially separated due to this incident. In the end, I think everyone’s nerves were just shot from all the delays and stress, and they let the man back on with his wife and he calmed down, and we were finally able to take off.

In Vegas, all of the bags made it (I was so afraid I was going to lose another one!).

Now, I was supposed to go home to Portland on Friday night (last night), but due to the snow/ice I’m very worried about being stranded somewhere again, and also my mom has been staying at my grandparents house and its pretty tight quarters. So at this point I’m better off just staying here in Vegas where there is plenty of room for me and all the snow has melted. Right now I have a ticket home on Monday, so we’ll see how the weather goes.

Be Careful What You Pray For ;)

I am currently back in the USA.  However, although I originally planned to be filled with so much joy on arriving in LAX I might want to kiss the ground, instead I just want to throw things and perhaps flash the “international sign of oneness” to the United States in general, if you know what I mean 😉

Before leaving London, my biggest fear, and the thing I prayed most about, was customs in LAX.  I have absolutely nothing to hide.  Just 6 incredibly heavy bags mostly due to a lot of books.  However, I thought one girl strolling through the airport with 6 huge bags plus 2 carry-ons would look a little shady.  Little did I know, it would be “extremely obvious” to everyone that in fact nothing shady was going on, I was just a super high maintenance girl who just got back from abroad and needed 6 giant bags of stuff.  Ironically, only 2 bags are my stuff.  4 bags and one carry-on are Alexanders.   Don’t get me wrong, I would have more stuff if I hadn’t shipped some stuff home to Portland when I was in Atlanta, given 2 bags of clothes away to charity, and not had time or additional space to buy any souvenirs for people back home.

Anyway, the point is, I had absolutely no problems with customs.  However, pretty much everything else that could go wrong did.  Well, my seat on the plane was AMAZING (bulkhead row.. YEAH!), but my TV didn’t work so that made it hard to pass the time and I couldn’t sleep at all.  Then, my plane got to Vegas a little bit late, it turned out a friend who was going to help me with the bags had car trouble and couldn’t make it so I had to try to figure it all out alone, then it turned out one of my bags were lost, I missed my flight  from dealing with that (but usually its ok because on Southwest you can just hop on the next one), and then I got down to the Southwest terminal, waited in a long line to check my bags and try to get on the next flight, and found out all flights to Vegas were canceled.   They told me the best thing to do would be to get to a hotel.  My cell wasn’t working so I couldn’t call anywhere, plus I had two luggage carts full of bags.. .how was I supposed to even get to a taxi line or a shuttle once I figured out somewhere to stay?  I tried to hold myself together but broke down crying, and the lady tried to assure me that everything was going to be ok, and at least I wasn’t traveling with babies and I was a revenue passenger so I was guaranteed to get another flight out.  That’s all fine and good, but I was still a single girl standing on a street corner with my 5 unlost bags plus 2 carry-ons after being on a plane for 12 hours and only eaten a lean cuisine sized chicken meal, some pretzels and some grapes and it was 2am London time at this point (and by the way, the weight on those bags was 31kg, 31kg, 29kg, 28kg, 23kg… 23kg is 50 pounds and I think 32 is 70 pounds).

I managed to pull myself together and someone helped me wheel the other cart over to the airport shuttle line, and I was still half-crying at this point trying to explain to the guy why I had so many bags and why I needed to get to Vegas and my phone wouldn’t work… while we waited at the shuttle stop, he used his cell phone and called a hotel for me and booked me a room, and then when no shuttles would allow me on (because I had so many bags and nobody wanted to help me), he got aggressive for me and forced someone to let me on with all of my bags.  He just got right on and started putting all my bags on and didn’t let the shuttle guy have a say in it.  Luckily, the shuttle guy turned out to be super nice.  I got to the hotel pretty easily, and was very grateful to have got a room before they all booked up.  The hotel is super nice, not a bad place to be “stranded” 🙂

I feel really bad because I broke down crying on the phone to Alexander because I was so tired and hungry and frustrated, but he has his own stuff to deal with right now and really doesn’t need me to be calling whining and complaining because I lost some clothes and got stuck in L.A.  In hindsight, now that I’ve had some food and some sleep, I feel pretty embarrassed that I was cried about it all.  As I’ve said many times before, I lose all ability to function when I’m hungry or tired, and this was both.  Yikes!

I went to bed about 8ish last night (4am London time) and woke up at 1:45am wide awake (9:45am london time).  Although I originally booked a car last night fearing I wouldn’t be able to get a flight, since I was awake anyway I tried to call southwest again hoping it would be easier to get through at 2am (last night I just kept getting the busy signal)!  After awhile on hold, I got through to someone, and she put me on a 9:25am flight!  The thought of hauling all of my bags back to the airport only to potentially be turned away again is scary, but I’m hoping for the best!

Always Changing.

Well, the word is out now and in reference to the last post I can reveal to anyone wondering… The person who passed away was Alexander dad James aka “Jim.” Shortly after making that post, I also learned that a teenage boy from the church I grew up in, a boy I babysat from time to time when he was younger, took his own life this week. I’ve cried pretty hard over the past week thinking of Jim, and it sends me back into tears every time I start thinking a little too long about the fact that I’m not going to see him again on this earth. It makes me feel sick to my stomach at times and I can barely breathe, and this isn’t even my own flesh and blood. And while I do not believe it was his time to go, and while it was so unexpected, he did live a long and very full life. He accomplished more than most people can even dream about. It’s still unbelievably sad, but I am proud of him, I am glad I had the opportunity to know him, and I know Alexander and the rest of his family will do a great job carrying on his name and his legacy.

Today I finished my last final of 3L semester.  If I could change anything in the past week, I would have just asked to delay my finals as well, and went back to the U.S. to be with Alexander and take my finals late with him.  It has been incredibly hard trying to deal with studying for finals and wrapping things up in London while knowing my boyfriend’s family is dealing with such a terrible loss back in the States, and I feel the loss myself.  I am hurting for them, but I am also genuinely hurting myself.  I can’t stand the reality that he’s gone.  And of course, the loss of someone near and dear makes you think about everyone else who is near and dear, and how the same thing could happen to them… and I’ve just wanted so badly this week to be close to people I love.   Even though I’m technically not all alone here in London, I’ve felt very lonely this week.

But amazingly, no doubt due to prayers of my family and friends, I have survived this week and I am so relieved–good grades or bad.  At this point, I am ecstatic that all that stands between me and the USA is some packing, some cab rides, and a long plane ride (…and some extremely obnoxious blue sticky tac stuff that I can’t seem to scrape off the walls.. ahh!).

I have LOVED my time in Europe.  I’ve had some frustrating moments and some sad times, but overall this has been the best experience of my life to date.  While I am very excited to get back to the U.S., I really wish I was just coming home for a little while and going back to Europe.   It has been amazing here and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to come back.

In the meantime, I’m considering keeping this blog alive just to keep people up to date on my latest adventures.  Even when I’m in the states it seems like I’m traveling quite a bit.  So stay tuned for that 😉

Life is Fragile.

While my experience abroad has been been amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for almost anything, it isn’t ending on the high note I had hoped for.

It’s a really weird reality that life can end so unexpectedly, that any person could be gone in a moment.  We hear about sudden, unexpected deaths every day.  Yesterday, a jet crashed into a house in a residential neighborhood in San Diego, California, killing several people.  How incredibly insane, sad, and unexpected is that?  However, this post is not about what happened in San Diego yesterday.  My point in bringing up that story is that despite hearing about random, unexpected deaths all of the time, it’s never quite real until it actually happens to someone you know.

I have experienced the death of someone I knew well for the first time in my life this week.  I suppose you could call that “lucky” (that I’ve made it this far without experiencing such a loss).  I’ve experienced the deaths of a grandmother, and 3 great grandparents, but in each of their cases I wasn’t very close to them, and while I was sad at the time, it was a long time coming because they were older, and had poor health, and I was able to make peace with it quite easily.

When it’s someone that you’ve spent quite a bit of time with, and feel like you know rather well, it’s much more shocking and difficult to deal with.  Even though this person was not “young” in calendar years, he was young at heart and very healthy.   I feel crushed, and my grieving has got to be only miniscule compared to those who were actually very close to him.

I don’t mean to be cryptic here, but I know the family appreciates their privacy right now, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to break their news via a public blog, even though most people who read this don’t know the family in question.  I am trying my best to hold myself together here in London and finish my exams, but my heart is in the States.

Another Great Thing About Great Britain (with a slight not great part).

I’m not sure if this is true in all of Great Britain, or just a London thing… But you can pay your bills at multiple locations like banks and post offices. We have a post office around the corner from us, so we’re able to walk over there with cash (which gives us a better exchange rate than using a card) and be done with the bill in 5 minutes. I love it! Especially since when it comes to bills that have to be mailed back home, I rarely remember until the day before they are due 😉 I’m really bad about that. The slight downside is that for some reason they like to bill way in advance for things here. We got our first water bill in a lump sum for 6 months. But we were only going to be in this apartment for 3.5 months. So then they split the total bill into 4 payments which we thought “great! once per month!” but it turned out they split up the 6 months of the bill over 4 months. Frustrating! Anyway, we called and worked it all out so that after paying 2 of the bills, we only owed 3 more pounds!

Speaking of pounds, the pound has weakened a LOT while I’ve been here. When I got here it was around 1.86 dollars to 1 pound (which was already lower than when I planned to come to London). Now, it’s at 1.46 dollars to 1 pound. So rather than things costing nearly double, it’s more like 1.5 times the price. This has made my rent gradually cheaper than I expected in the interim, but this also has the downside of causing us to lose a lot of money in our deposit. We have a deposit of 1300 pounds which cost us about $2400USD when we took it out, and at the current exchange rate, we’ll only be getting back about $1900USD. I’m trying to convince myself that we haven’t actually “lost” $500 because we’ve benefited from the lower rate in the meantime (our rent has been less, our bills have been less, etc.) but it still really feels like losing $500. Dealing in a different currency really is a little like dealing with the stock market!

Right now it is Saturday morning for me. I’m leaving London in approximately a week and a half from today (Wednesday, December 17th). (That really makes me want to barf because I have 3 huge finals in between now and then, but I am very excited to get home). I have a direct flight to Los Angeles, then I have to go through customs and everything and get over to the Southwest terminal for my flight out from there, which has a layover in Northern California before I finally reach Portland. I think by the end of the da y I will have been traveling about 21+ hours. It worked out a little cheaper to fly out from/back to LAX and then get a southwest ticket between Portland and LAX, but if I could go back, I would have just paid the extra money to fly out of Portland and save myself some of the extra hassle! But it’s all good. Finals will be over and I’ll be coming home!

Margaret Thatcher.

Last night we had an event at Pepperdine where Margaret Thatcher came for a meet and greet and in small groups we each got a few moments with her and got to take pictures.  It was a little dampened by the fact that Alexander is currently dealing with a family emergency and we are both pretty saddened about it, but it was a good break/distraction for a little while.

Anyway, I just wanted to make a post to say that I met her which was really cool.  She’s a very funny and very articulate woman for being in her 80s!  And…. When she met me I said “Hi” and she said “..HiiiIIIiiiii” and did a gesture indicating how tall l am.  Lady Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister, made a tall joke to me 🙂

Thanksgiving, London Style.

Last Thursday, as I’ve already mentioned, we had a regular day of classes. That might make sense given that we are in London, and England doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (why not?) 😉 However, I am also at an American school (the London campus is just an extension of Pepperdine University in Malibu). But honestly, being in class on Thanksgiving in LONDON is not something one should be sad about. There is a lot to be thankful for 🙂

After a full day of classes, one of the guys who live in my building (20+ of the approximately 40 students here live in my building!) had a little pre-dinner gathering so Alexander and I went back to Bayswater for that. Then we all walked back to campus for the Campus Thanksgiving Dinner. Since it was dark, and Hyde Park closes at dark, we had to walk around via Embassy Row (Road?). I’d never been down that street before, and honestly I always just thought it was a bunch of mansions lining the park. Turns out they are all embassies which now explains the security guards and the “No Photography” sign when you enter the street. (Before, I was always wondering why the rich people didn’t want anyone taking photos…).

The dinner was actually at the “Senior Common Room” of Imperial College. They had the football game up on a big screen, and it was set up really nice. The food wasn’t quite to American Thanksgiving standards, but it was good, it was free of charge, and overall it was a good night.

I do have a couple of pictures but I’ll have to wait to post them because I don’t have my cord with me!