I’m listening to the sound of Kensington traffic now and trying not to be defeated by jet lag. My muscles ache and I’m a little light-headed. But I’m here. I’m finally here.
The plane was two hours late. We got there four hours before the original departure time. JFK was a maze of people and structured lines. My friend Zoe, whom I was traveling with, was more anxious than normal. As for me, I was on hyper focus mode: taking things one step at a time, rational mind in control. That was the only way that I could cope with the excitement building up inside me.
As we waited, we found other Boston University abroad students on the same flight. It was to be expected. A group of nervous college age students would naturally coalesce given enough time. So we talked and awkwardly joked like it was freshman orientation all over again, all wondering when we were going to be able begin our journey.
Given enough time, we eventually boarded (much to our relief). I was assigned a window seat next to a young English couple. The woman took pity on my obvious lack of knowledge about international flights and helped me by showing me how to use the entertainment system and even how to order my inflight meal. It was strange to me that so much was included within the flight without an extra charge. I’m so accustomed to the insidious fees of American domestic airlines that even a free eye mask was a strange to me.
I tried to sleep. I used my stuffed animal as a neck pillow and even brought my own eye mask, but it didn’t work that well. I just couldn’t find a comfortable position, so no matter how hard I tried, the best I got was a prolonged snooze. But by the end, I was so excited that I couldn’t even do that. In total, I was “asleep” for about four hours out of the six.
It didn’t matter though. As we were landing, I stared out my window, getting as close as I could to the landscape of England. The country was like a patchwork of camouflage, browns and greens separated by sweeping curved lines. (No homestead acts here to create regulated plots of land for farmers.)
The same was true with the streets of the suburbs. No equally spaced blocks, just twisting rows of peaked roofs and small gardens. Soon the buildings got bigger and then there it was: the London skyline. There was the London eye, Big Ben, the Shard, the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie. Every building I’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows. They were all there.
My heart pounded. This was London. After wishing and dreaming for so long, I was finally here. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. It didn’t matter that I had a long journey to the dorm ahead of me. I was here in London and that was enough.