Saturday, September 29, 2007

First Impressions...

So I will relate you to the events of the previous 15 hours, or if you include the time zones... the last 23 hours.

I have not slept for the majority of those hours which is why, at 10 o'clock Bristol time, I have returned to my room, to scribe and to sleep.

I guess I'll start with the flight. It was pretty uneventful. I don't really remember the flight from Seattle. I remember having my marlinspike taken from me. Yeah, I guess it's understandable to not let on a 10 inch piece of pointed steel. My bad. But after that things went smooth.

I arrived in Newark on time and I have to say my very first impression was that of Awe. I don't know why, it wasn't that spectacular. But there was an immense amount of diversity wandering about there. There were flights going to all over the world, Bristol and Delhi were next to each other.

The very first place I went, as if there were some magnetic force pulling me to it, was Starbucks. I didn't even know where it was in the airport but somehow I found it. I felt quite distinctly, that I was in a new and different place when I entered the airport, but stepping into that Starbucks was like going back home. The aroma, the colors, the mugs... I was back in Seattle. I couldn't stay long because of my flight, but I took my coffee back and sipped it while I waited for my flight.

The flight to Bristol was even longer and more uneventful. There was a small child behind me that sneezed on me and the man in front of me who got irritated by my putting things in the back pouch of his chair. I could only imagine my books were, in some way, poking or jabbing him. He would pull forward suddenly and slam back into the chair. Be bitter, see if I care.

It was hard to sleep on the plane, I was in the aisle this time and that means nothing to rest your head against. My 8 pound skull slumped onto my chest and there it would rest until my neck muscles would scream in agony. Coupled with my unconscious clenching teeth, which caused my teeth to wiggle hours after the flight, made the flight that much worse. I tried everything to get comfortable. It was no use.

Finally we arrived.

I have a new found respect for the RAF (Royal Air Force). I couldn't even see the ground before our wheels were upon it. Before our decent, the captain flicked on the load speaker and casually stated that on the ground was overcast. By far one of the biggest over statements I've heard to date, when we hit the ground I couldn't see but four feet in front of me; the fog was just that thick.

I let my mind drift as we waited to exit the plane. Imagine, the great war, the war to end all wars, WWII I'm talking about. Imagine the pilots, manning what today is considered a primitive machine, leading the way in aeronautics and piloting. These men, without radar, had to land their planes in almost the exact same conditions! How would they even know where they were! Hats off to the pilots of WWII.

When I snapped back I was waiting in line to get through customs. I have to say that getting through customs was so very anticlimactic. After getting every conceivable piece of paperwork that they might need, all it took was my passport and a little white card they handed out on the plane.

I passed into the UK. Now all I had to do was collect my things. I was highly skeptical about that process. I wasn't sure my bags were going to make it, but before too long I saw it gently rolling towards me; my guitar had made it to England in tact and unscathed. My bag was right behind it and soon I was out the door. I met a very nice guy named charlie who was from the international programme at Bristol. He got me a cab which I shared with a nice gal from North Carolina.

I only caught about half of what the american gal was saying because I was so preoccupied with my surroundings. While still foggy, it had dissipated some; enough for me to marvel at Bristol.

The landscape isn't that dissimilar from Seattle's; a lot less evergreens, but there definitely is green everywhere. As for the weather, well my first day was foggy and rainy, then there was a spot of sun, then it rained again. All in all, it's weather I'm used to. But it was the man made structures that impressed me the most.

Driving into Bristol one of the first things I noticed was a Bridge, the Bristol Bridge I believe. I need to go back; it's apparently very old but very elegant. Then the houses. All the houses are packed in next to each other and they too look very old. Old style houses; heavy wood frames and plaster walls. The streets, in many areas, were cobblestone and the walls were conglomerates of many rocks of varying sizes and shapes. Unlike Seattle, buildings built in the last 20 years stand proudly next to building that have been here for 500. I love that.

Well, I can't say my dorm is too impressive from the outside, or the inside. But it's a room and I wish to spend as little time in it as possible. There are a slurry of things to do around the city as well as around the country, so I feel that this is more my base of operations. The people here are very nice, but I'll need to meet many more of them before I make any solid conclusions.

I spent most of my first day trying to track down a power converter. That was a chore. I must have gone in and out of my dorm 10 times that day. Forgot my map, went to the wrong store, found the store but got the wrong plug, went back to the store got my plug. Went to the bank, went to get some food, went out to the pubs. It was a good, albeit hectic day.

I did get settled in, which was easy as I have only the essentials. After all was set up, I went out and thats when I got a lot more first impressions about the people of England.

My observations of the women here are that they are very happy go lucky, at least the ones I've been around. As I was unpacking I could hear them going on about getting so trashed this one time, or this amazing bar another time. And they have a particular style about them. Tapered jeans hold their legs skin tight right down to the ankle, which is covered up by enormous boots. Boots that range from say Eskimo boots with fur at the top, or leg hugging black leather boots that shoot halfway up the halves. Most, I'd say, wear high heels although I met an amazing gal who didn't fit the mold I just described in anyway.

Her name is Meriel. Like Ariel from the little mermaid with an M at the start. She hates that though so don't make that reference ok!? Anyhow, I was sitting in a Starbucks trying reading Moby Dick when I saw this lady out of the corner of my eye. Well, not having my glasses on, I knew I wouldn't be able to see her, but I looked anyway. I'm pretty sure sure and I made eye contact, and I gave a small smile and nod, then went back to reading my book. She came and sat down across from me.

I would steal glances from my book and saw that she was journaling as well. I looked for some way to start a conversation and English tea was the solution; well at that time to me it looked like she was making a chai or something. Apparently the english put milk in their tea. I asked her what she was drinking and she told me it was tea. "chai tea" I inquired. "No, regular tea" she replied. This went on for quite some time as i couldn't grasp the concept of milk and tea nor, i think, could she grasp that I wouldn't understand that it was just milk and tea.

It was a good way to start a conversation.

Turns out she goes to the Uni of Bristol as well, though she is only 20 it is her last year here. She has an amazing laugh, and laughs a lot. She's studying drama, and she's originally from Ireland. We talked of all things, from schooling, our pasts, the greek system, books, hand writing, american coinage... and the time flew by. She had to go.

Enter the sacred time when a man is supposed to get the womans number. Well, I like to change things up a bit. I usually give my number and if the lady is interested, then she has my number. However, the woman usually reciprocates with a number of her own. Leaving that tangent, the moral of this story is the number! I don't have a number over here! Shoot.

Well, I struggled for a moment but I managed to give her one of my millions of email addresses. She gave me her number and email. We've been in contact since, but I'm hoping for more.

Anyhow, I was talking about observations and I have only a few more for now. One is that half of Bristol seems to be shacked up; Truly, the amount of couples here is astonishing. Another is that men wear a lot more collared shirts, that's for sure, but t-shirts are still fairly abundant. Another is that I can't order my coffee drinks in Oz, that was odd to me. Lastly, the women here are much more full figured then those from the states. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just different, and I would attribute it much to the lives the lead. Going to bars and clubs so often, minimal exercise. Don't get me wrong, the folks in Britain who are in shape, are in great shape. But the rest of the populace doesn't seem to care so much.

My night after my conversation with Meriel was a bit of drinking, meeting new people, and falling to sleep promptly at 10. I met a bunch of folks from my dorm, not many of which i remember (due to a bad memory not drinking thank you!), then I went out to a bar called the Bristol Ram, which was so amazing. I met some exchange students there and watched the Scottish Rugby team beat on the Italian team. I chatted with a random man from Bristol about the differences between american football and rugby, which seems to be a popular question as I was asked about it twice in the same night. And I bought my first pint and shot in a pub. Their shots are wimpy but their beer is good. I got a fosters, I thought i should start there and work my way down, I'll try the others later but I have 4 months to do so.

A shot here is 2.5 pounds, so about 5 bucks. A pint is 2.95 or something like that, maybe 3 pounds. So, I know that this is what the folks do here, but I need to keep in mind how much i'm spending. Alcohol could add up to a lot.

Anyway, that was my night, after the Bristol Ram I made it back fine, I really wasn't drunk just happy. I curled up in my new bed and fell fast to sleep. I have to say that I heard people until about 3 in the morning and a small part of me wanted to go join them but I need to make more friends first, and i'm sure times like that will come.

Off to Breakfast! It's 11:30 here. Love you all.