Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day One: Blowing out the Lights in my Flat

Whoever said that it's not the destination, it's the journey never road coach on a plane.  And certainly didn't squeeze into a coach seat after being that girl in the airport trying to rearrange her luggage because her suitcase is "3 kilos too heavy and won't be allowed on the aircraft," a statement which first made me ask how many pounds are in a kilo (and wonder why kilos were the unit of measurement in Dulles airport, still in the US) and then made me fear for my ability to communicate across the pond when I can't even understand what a British Airways representative in the US means, all while I frantically grabbed anything heavy out of my checked suitcase and threw it in my carry-on (while wondering why I was doing this-- it wasn't so much the total weight was objectionable so much as the distribution of it which seems ridiculous.  It was all going on the plane not matter what bag it went in.  It made me feel better when the couple behind me had to open both their suitcases and start exchanging their possessions because one suitcase was too heavy and the other one had a few kilos to spare.).  All this while others in line stepped over me and my stuff sprawled on the floor. All of which sounds like I'm starting off this journey complaining (which I am, a little)-- but not really since it only got better and easier once I landed in Heathrow.  I apparently navigate airports better in foreign countries.

And, so, quite easily went through border control, bypassed customs, found the bus to Oxford, got off at the right stop and walked the block to my flat (trailing my large, now even more unevenly weighted luggage behind) where the landlord's son was waiting for me.  I was very rapidly shown how everything works (stay tuned for my first laundry experience! I'm not sure I really understand the temperature settings for the dryer or which one I'm supposed to use and I don't think a guy in his early 20s, no matter the country, is always the right person to seek advice from about this) and then left to my apartment-- with my very lovely garden out back (I have had patio doors open all day to enjoy the gorgeous, sunny weather-- so unlike what I've heard about UK weather but I have the perfect apartment for a kind of indoor/outdoor living).  So far, with the help of Peter from the Study Abroad office at Brookes (who also met me at the flat-- I should mention I've having trouble "saying" flat... it seems to be a sticking point in my usage of British English terms, which is why most of this post reads apartment), I've found the grocery store, sort of figured out buying groceries (Kashi has not made its way here... and I couldn't describe it very well.  There was a lot of guessing about what products were closest to US counterparts, not so much because I don't enjoy trying new foods--I do-- but because it's really hard to cook when you don't know what you're cooking with) and seen a bit of my Headington neighborhood (pictures to come) which I plan to explore a whole lot more tomorrow. (I had big exploration plans for today, but jet lag got the best of my ambition...I think I would have been more motivated to push through if this were a short jaunt, but with four months here, I decided tomorrow, with some sleep, seemed like a better day to discover what my temporary home has in store.)  I think I'm a bit a punchy at the moment.

Things I've learned today:
1) It's apparently absolutely ridiculous that a US Open Match scheduled for 1 pm doesn't begin warm-ups until 1:17.  It seemed really offensive to the announcers on Eurosport (maybe because it was Andy Murray's match-- though it's not being broadcast.).  (Also, Eurosport does not deviate AT ALL from the one court it's broadcasting-- there aren't even highlights from other courts.  Did I mention I'm quite tired...I hit a wall of fatigue around 4 pm UK time and had to stop moving so I've seen a couple hours of the US Open.  I unpacked and put everything I have with me away in organized fashion before I hit that wall though-- I thought I'd mention that just for my kewl wine women.)
2) Just about any bus in Oxford will go to the city center as part of its route (though, I'm sure there will be a day when I get on one that doesn't-- perhaps tomorrow).
3) There is a "night rate" for electricity-- so, right now, for example, my water heater is set to only heat water at night because electricity costs less in the evening (though, I can flip a different switch and heat water during  the day if I need to).  And, all the outlets have individual switches so they don't draw power if nothing is plugged in.  There's a lot more concern for conserving energy-- not as much mandate on recycling though.  I don't have a recycling bin and I'm not sure where I would take recyclables, especially since I don't have a car.
4) Electrical breaker boxes work the same in the UK as they do in the US-- which I learned when I flipped the switch to the kitchen track lights and the middle lightbulb blew, taking all the lights in the apartment (flat) with it.  What's difficult is locating the breaker box (which was not part of my tour...because who would think I would inadvertently blow out all the lights in my first few hours here?)... in this case, it was in a tiny, locked space under the stairs to which I just happened to have a key.  (I have a lot of keys for one small flat.) 

I'm sure I've learned more in just a day...it'll come to me later. For now, I need to get on UK time so I can truly appreciate Headington and the Oxford city center tomorrow.

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