Sunday, September 16, 2012

Landing in London

Two weeks ago just now our family was staggering through Heathrow, sleepy and bleary-eyed, rounding up our 9 pieces of luggage (carry-ons extra) and wondering what lay ahead.  Today, we may still be sleepy and bleary-eyed, but only because we've been making the absolute most of our time in this grand city!

We've settled into our flat - a surprisingly large apartment in International Hall (a University of London dorm).  It still smells a bit funny, and really - don't touch the carpet if you can help it.  True, we might not have chosen oatmeal, lilac, or seafoam for the walls that vanish into the heights of our 12-foot ceilings, and we would definitely have preferred windows that seal out the city noise.  But a run to Ikea and several stops at the "freeware" corner of the dorms, and it's looking like home.  Our kitchen comes complete with washing machine, fridge, and freezer (all approximately the same size) and, of course, electric kettle.  We're eating well (at last count, we've had Indian 6 times...) and even beginning to fill the freezer!

Our neighborhood is absolutely a prime location.  We're more or less in the middle of the city, and with London transport we can get just about anywhere - two blocks to the nearest tube stop; three to a busy bus route.  An easy mile's walk away is the Thames; nearer by is my campus (King's @ the Strand) and Kurt's UofL library.  Fabulous grocery store with two (count them:  two!) cheese sections is only a block away.  I'm loving the "walkability" of our new home.

We've spent more time than expected "setting up" - stumbling our way into more hassles than we might have expected, which just goes to show we're helplessly, naively optimistic.  So, for instance, to set up a cell phone account:  we can select the more pricey pay-as-you-go, or the value "pay-monthly."  In order to do this, however, we need a local billing account.  Which means we'll need a UK bank account.  No big deal, right?  Well, in order to open said bank account, we need proof of residency - in my case, a letter from King's confirming I'm a student.  Not having a printer, I spend an hour trying to get a copy of my email from KCL, and carry it in to the bank branch with great confidence.  Not so fast.  A print-off won't do - it has to be the original letter from the school, on letterhead, with signature and watermark intact.  So I contact the school, and learn that they can't write the letter until I've officially registered, which can't be before the 19th of September.  Pay-as-you-go it is.  (There are several more layers to this story - as yet unresolved - but I'll spare you.  I think you get the idea.)

On the other hand, we couldn't have landed here at a better time.  As London wraps up the summer, (and especially this summer!) there's more to do than we can keep up with.  During the first week, we kept finding our walks interrupted by things like, oh, the Paralympics marathon.  Or the closing Olympic parade.  Last weekend was "The Mayor's Thames Festival" - think Grand Rapids' "Festival on the Grand" on a London scale.  This week kicks off the London Design Festival:  so many things to see and do, so little time!  In fact, there seem to be so many "one-off" type events going on, we've not even hardly gotten started on the "standard London" activities.  I'm not complaining!

Of course, amidst it all, there's also the stuff we're really here for.  This week I met my tutor ("Academic Advisor" in US lingo) and I've begun my preliminary readings for class.  Next up on my calendar:  a tour of King's Maughan Library (here's the front gate).  I may not sleep the night before.  Kurt's already dug in to some of his consulting projects, and is starting to sketch out his thesis.  Pierce has signed up for a graphic design portfolio class at Central St. Martins, and is applying for apprenticeships with local firms.  Tomorrow morning we have an interview for Miriam at a nearby secondary school.  

All that to say, it's been a remarkable two weeks, and we're all looking forward to the next 50!