Gone Again

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I woke up snuggled up to a little old lady with curly white hair peaking out from under her hat. I wasn’t just leaning against her, I had shifted in my seat so that I was huddled against her with my face pressed against her shoulder. She was 5’3″ if she was lucky. My almost-giant self had cuddled myself around her. According to her I’d been huddled up to her like that for the last two hours. My bad.

Honestly, when I woke up, I had no idea where I was. I was on a train and…why was I on a train? Where was I going? My eyes hurt, I felt dehydrated, my throat was sore, and I was cold. Where the hell was I?

I sat up, stunned, and checked to make sure I hadn’t drooled on the little old lady and started the slow process of waking up and trying to remember why I was on a train.

He might have let me win that one pool game...

He might have let me win that one pool game…

Then I remembered! I was on a train to Manchester! I’d just spent the last week in Lampeter with all the friends that I hadn’t seen since June. Way too much happened in that week for me to write about. Needless to say, I had a great week with all the people that I’d missed and the new people that I met. I danced, I drank, I hung out, and I beat Pumba in two games of pool! The first game, I won on my own, but the second game I won because Pumba knocked the white in when he put the black in. I’m still happy that I actually played an almost decent game of pool.

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I can’t ever thank this one enough for my awesome week with her!

My last night in Lampeter was the Winter Ball. Instead of going to bed, I stayed up until I had to go catch my bus at 7am. From there I hopped on a train and promptly passed out in my seat. My week in Lampeter was nothing short of amazing and I can’t ever express how grateful I am for the people in my life who made my visit what it was. Especially Victoria who let me take over her room for the week. I got to see a lot of the guys that I’d missed during Old Boys, and I got to spend a lot of time with both Pumba and Josh over the week.

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We both went to the Winter Ball in our flannel tops…

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Molly! So stoked to have met this beautiful woman!

12321626_10100572631519803_4594441068180685522_nIt had been a busy week and I was exhausted. My next stop was a two hour stop in Manchester! I’d heard conflicting things about Manchester so I was excited to arrive and spent a little bit exploring the city while I waited to catch my next train. Except I wound up lost after walking around for 5 minutes and spent the next half hour trying to find my way back to the train station. Basically, I went down a street, got turned around, and suddenly had no idea where I was. With no wifi, I couldn’t figure out where I was and was thankful for all of the nice people who helped me find my way back to the station. In the station I found a Starbucks, ordered a hot chocolate, and sat down with all of my stuff. Within minutes a guy had sat down with me and said that I didn’t look like I was from around there. He was a local who worked in the station and we wound up talking until I had to leave to catch my train.

Hungover, but still ready to explore. Until I got lost.

Hungover, but still ready to explore. Until I got lost.

It wasn’t my train though. Two trains were leaving from my platform. The first train was going to Liverpool and I wound up on it. Thankfully a friendly gentleman asked where I was going. After I said I was on my way to Edinburgh, he was nice enough to tell me I was on a train to Liverpool. I couldn’t thank him enough as I grabbed my bags and scrambled off the train. I don’t know what I would have done if I had wound up in Liverpool!

Eventually I got on the right train and at 9pm that night, after 14 hours of travel, I was in Edinburgh! Despite sleeping on the trains, I was still tired. Or I was tired until I walked out of the train station and saw all of the Christmas lights, old buildings, and…everything! Excitement took over. My hostel was a five minute walk away and I quickly checked in, thinking I would shower and then go to sleep.

16yo me would think I'm awesome.

16yo me would think I’m awesome.

I didn’t. I was too excited. Edinburgh was one of the cities that 16-year-old me always wanted to see. Instead of showering, I gave myself the excuse that I wanted to buy a razor because I needed to shave and I went exploring. I spent the next half hour wandering up and down the streets near my hostel until I eventually found a little corner shop and bought a razor. I hadn’t shaved in nearly two weeks and all my parts were very Sasquatch-like, but…I wound up torn between exploring the city some more or going back to my hostel and shaving.

My new buddy, Tim, and I were ready for bed finally. Bed in EDINBURGH!

My new buddy, Tim, and I were ready for bed finally. Bed in EDINBURGH!

By midnight I found myself tucked into a bottom bunk in my hostel dorm. I was shaved, I was excited, and I was ready to…read the book that one of my favourite authors had just released. Nine chapters later I was passed out with an alarm set for 8am the next morning. I had a tattoo to get and I wasn’t going to miss that for anything!

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Guess who’s back? Back again?

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By the time I arrived at the Carmarthen train station I was exhausted. After not sleeping on my plane, I wound up too excited to sleep on either of my trains. Every stop was one stop closer to when I’d get to see Josh, Victoria and Mike again. I knew I needed to sleep, but I just…couldn’t do it. I would force myself to close my eyes and tell myself to sleep, but then I would just sit there and smile with my eyes closed. It was probably more than a little creepy so I just gave up on that and sat there counting the stops until Carmarthen. I’d tell anyone who asked that I was going to Lampeter to see friends. OK, ok, I told anyone who dared to sit near me that I was going back to Lampeter to see friends and that I was beyond excited to see them even though I’d only been gone five months.

I’d already told Josh that unless Victoria ran at me, I was running right at him because he’s my favourite and I missed him the most.

But then I got off the train and all I could feel was exhaustion. I barely had the energy to lift my bags. I suddenly felt a little chilled, very hungry, and overall I was ready to collapse. I’d been awake for the last 24 hours and 20 of those hours had been spent travelling on planes and trains. At that point I felt ready to go comatose for at least a week. Then I saw Josh drive by in Mike’s car and suddenly I was excited all over again. My trip had felt very surreal until I saw Josh again. Then my trip was very real. I’d just seen Josh. Josh and Victoria and Mike were here to get me. I WAS IN WALES AGAIN!

Victoria and I. Missed this girl.

Victoria and I. Missed this girl.

Within seconds I’d picked my bags up and I basically skipped over to the parking lot to meet Josh, Victoria, and Mike. Just as I got into the car park, they were all getting out of the car. I wasn’t sure what to do until I saw Victoria getting ready to run so I dropped my bags and ran to her.

And ran into her like a fucking freight train.

As soon as my body slammed into hers, she made this weird noise and I knew I’d maybe winded her just a bit. Except I didn’t let go. Vick and I had been counting down the days to this moment for weeks and I was beyond ecstatic to see her. I did eventually have to let go though. She couldn’t breathe. My bad.

Easily one of our better pics together. We know how to selfie.

Easily one of our better pics together. We know how to selfie.

Then I hugged Josh who was chuckling over the sound that Victoria had made. Ahhh! I’d missed him!

My drop-off crew.

My drop-off crew.

Side Fact: Mike also dropped me off at the Carmarthen train station with Josh when I first left Wales. He and Josh basically picked me up exactly where the three of us left off. Except instead of Haylee, who dropped me off, Victoria came to pick me up.

After we were hugged out for the moment, we tossed my stuff into the trunk of Mike’s car, piled in and started the last leg of my journey to Lampeter. In the car Victoria and I poked and teased Josh. Then before I knew it, we were back in Lampeter and Josh and I were dropping our stuff off at Victoria’s, grabbing our gear and heading down to the sports hall for basketball training.

Hugging him after 5 months was awesome!

Hugging him after 5 months was awesome!

The first person I saw when I walked into the sports hall was Pumba! Never mind that I was kind of smelly and felt gross from travel, I still ran at him and hugged him. I couldn’t believe that I was actually back in Lampeter with some of my favourite people. Then Engine walked into the hall and it was Engine! It was awesome to see him before training started. After Engine left Josh quickly organized a 5-on-5 basketball game and we were off and running.

I was back and I couldn’t have been happier and I’d only been back barely an hour.

That time I tried to sleep on a plane and got flying lessons instead

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One of my finer quirks is my ability to sleep in almost any moving vehicle in almost any obscene position. I’ve woken up with sore necks, legs twisted and oddly stretched, and drool going places drool doesn’t normally go. Like down my cleavage because I’ve tucked my chin into my boobs while I was passed out. Anyway, the point is that on trains and automobiles, I can sleep like the dead. In fact, the best sleep that I sometimes get is in a car zooming along a highway.

Planes on the other hand? Not so much.

In fact, for whatever reason, I can’t sleep on planes no matter how hard I try. Sometimes I manage to snag a few minutes here and there, but it’s never a lot because…I have no idea. I just can’t sleep on planes. Maybe it’s the weird plane air? Maybe it’s being shoulder to shoulder with a stranger? I don’t know. It’s something though.

It’s not ideal. Especially on a 9 hour overnight flight from Vancouver to London. I mean, that’s a great time to sleep. It’s night, it’s 9 hours with nothing else to do besides watch plane movies, and everyone else is asleep. Plus this plane ride was really empty and I managed to find an empty middle row of four seats to stretch out on. My 5’9″ length fit perfectly along those seats. I’d gathered more pillows and blankets than I knew what to do with. I was drunk on vodka and Coke. Sleeping conditions were prime. There was no reason for me to pass right out.

So I did. I stretched out on my seats, snug under my blankets with my head nested in a wad of those odd mini pillows you get on planes, and I zonked right out. One minute my eyes were open, the next they were closed and I could feel myself quickly drifting off. Somewhere, I was gleefully clapping for joy because I was actually going to get some rest. I was going t-

GET TOSSED IN THE AIR BY TURBULENCE!

The plane shook, it rattled, and then it shook harder and that’s when my entire body popped up off my seats and I became airborne. I felt momentarily weightless as I got lifted in the air high enough that I saw over the top of the seats in front of me. Then I wasn’t so weightless as I slammed back down to the floor. My body just missed my seats and I became wedged between my seats and the row of seats in front of me. All over the plane several other people had gotten the same flying lessons as me, except I was the only one to wind up awkwardly slammed between seats.

As I lay there, I debating just staying on the floor. It was somewhat comfortable so there was that. Plus, with the way my body was squeezed in between the seats, there was no way for me to get another set of flying lessons so I just…stayed there. Until a flight attendant came to check on me and asked if I needed help. I didn’t and she made me get back up into my seats.

I wasn’t able to sleep after that so I spent the rest of my flight drinking, and watching Dirty Dancing, Minions, and Ice Age: The Meltdown. I didn’t get any sleep, but as my plane got closer and closer to London, I couldn’t bring myself to care. I was almost back in the UK, and almost back with the weird little family I’d left behind back in June. They wouldn’t mind if I turned up drunk and sleep deprived.

Canadians in London

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11147893_10100452868685483_6135005830321690247_nIt was a cold and rainy day in Rotterdam when Haylee and I climbed aboard another bus. This one would take us to London for the final leg of our trip. It was another long bus ride that I slept through, but I perked right up once we arrived in London. From my previous two experiences there, I knew that I loved London and I figured I could never grow tired of it. Haylee had been mapping out our first night in London for a few days and I knew that we would be walking passed Buckingham Palace, and Piccadilly Circus on our way to our hostel.

18827_10100451813205673_1361074453645653499_nI can honestly say that I wasn’t overly excited about seeing Buckingham until I was actually standing outside of the building staring at it. In my mind, I’d always pictured a boring, stock photo-esque building that could easily be replicated. What I actually saw was breathtaking. As we stood outside the Palace, my entire experience began to sink in. I. WAS. IN. LONDON. Not only was I in London, I was looking at Buckingham Palace, a place that I had only seen in pictures and movies. I’d been to Paris and climbed the Eiffel Tower, seen the canals in Amsterdam and been asked to a party while getting pizza in Rotterdam. Was I dreaming? Did I dream it all? WAS THIS REAL?! I mean, I was standing outside of Buckingham and it was so much more than I ever could have imagined.

As Haylee and I took turns taking pictures of each other, my life here in Wales became very real for a very brief period of time. I can’t believe that I’ve spent the last seven months studying abroad. I’ve met some amazing people, seen some breathtaking things, and challenged myself in so many ways that I have a hard time thinking that this all real. Most of the time I don’t even feel like I’m in another country completing my degree. A lot of the time I feel like I’m back in Canada where I can hop a bus and go home if I really want to.

Then Josh talks and his accent reminds me and Toto that I’m not in Canada anymore.

Speaking of Josh, my adventures in Europe were carefully documented because of him. Haylee and I had given him our itinerary so he’d know where we’d be and we checked in with him constantly. The general idea was that if he knew where we were he’d have an idea where we should be in case we decided to make a real life Taken 4. This was all based on the hope that if we did get stolen that Josh would develop some very specific skills that would help him rescue my littlest sister and I from whatever we’d gotten ourselves into.

Thankfully Josh didn’t have to learn any of those skills. Instead Haylee and I walked to Piccadilly Circus after we finished looking at Buckingham Palace. Piccadilly was so busy! I was a bit overwhelmed and amazed at all the people around us. Normally I hate crowds and get grumpy when I feel caged in by human bodies and their stink, but I’ve never minded the crush that comes with being in London. Probably because I play this weird game with Haylee where I try to keep up with her as her tiny frame slithers in and out of the crowd. Normally she wins and beats me to where we are going, but sometimes I declare a secret tie because I manage to keep up to her.

11130254_10100451813475133_2219430778451475684_nAfter exploring Piccadilly, and taking a picture of Haylee with a British fire fighter, we made our way to our hostel. We were staying in a room with 9 other people and one of those people was a very creepy Spanish guy. Not wanting to be around him, Haylee and I went and got dinner and hung out in our hostel’s lobby until we were ready for bed. Thankfully, the creepy guy checked out the next day and we were able to feel more comfortable about spending another night in our hostel.

The next day we woke up and headed off to Hyde Park. I’ve ready so many books where the characters go to this park that I was excited about walking through it. We were also going to go to a bookstore that a friend had recommended to me. Except when we got there, it was closed because it was Easter. That’s when the holiday kind of sunk in for the both of us.

Realizing it was Easter made us both homesick for our own reasons. For me Easter is all about basketball, hiding Easter eggs at my Great-Grandma’s house, and spending time with my family. Except this year I spent my Easter in the Netherlands and London. It was also a bittersweet reminder of my Great-Grandma, who is no longer with us and how much I miss her. I also missed my younger sister because Easter weekend is normally a weekend that I get to spend with her. This is the longest and furthest we’ve ever been separated and I felt the distance and time between us that day.

So Haylee and I found a café and had a good little cry together. I was thankful that I had her with me that day. If there was anyone that could pull me out of pity party I wanted to have, it was Haylee. We also had Lisa there for us who was in France, but still made the time to be there for us when we needed her. Once again these two were my anchors as I struggled with my feelings of grief, excitement, and being homesick.

10984024_10100452852812293_4591428496265318787_nHyde Park was massive and very serene. It was also busy! The two of us walked from one end to the other. We saw lots of beautiful gardens, fountains, and Kensington Palace. Kensignton wasn’t as big as Buckingham, but it was still huge by my standards. From there we walked to the Diana Memorial. I was expecting a statue so when I saw something that looked like a water slide I was a little confused. Then I realized that I was looking at a memorial! It still looked like a water slide, but I liked the uniqueness of the memorial. It was really pretty.

17307_10100452852133653_5509156900727180000_nWe’d had a long day walking around, so Haylee and I decided to have an early night and we made our way back to our hostel. When we walked into our room we found that instead of the creepy Spanish guy, we had three new roommates and they were Canadian! They were travelling with a friend who was studying in London after spending time in France after working as nannies. One of the girls declared it was just like having a slumber party as we spent the night giggling and sharing our travel stories.

We all missed peanut butter.

11062721_10100452851509903_9141338323414648297_nThe next day found Haylee and I up early so we could check out. I couldn’t believe that it was our last day in London and the last day of our week of adventures abroad. As much as I loved travelling, I couldn’t wait to be back in my own dorm bed. One vital lesson I learned is that hostel beds are not meant for most people over 5’5″. As I packed up my bag, I thought about how I couldn’t wait to go home. Then I realized that I was referencing Lampeter as my home.

It was a weird feeling.

11128655_10100452868835183_7943630888993047083_nI soon got over that weird feeling because Haylee and I went to a Canadian pub called the Maple Leaf for celebratory poutine and drinks! The poutine was good and the waitress was from Toronto. She said she could tell we were Canadian because of how excited we looked when we walked in. I declared the Maple Leaf the Canadian embassy and probably my favourite place in London.

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I think this is the actual Canadian Embassy.

I think this is the actual Canadian Embassy.

On our way back to our bus we walked through Trafalgar Square then passed Buckingham Palace again.

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Charles Gnomewin made an appearance for a brief photo shoot.

20990_10100452872647543_1571724865779527695_nEventually we were back on a bus to Lampeter. I was dirty from not showering (hostel showers are gross) since we left Rotterdam, exhausted because sleeping in small beds is hard, and absolutely on cloud 9 because of all the places that I had been and seen. I couldn’t have been happier with the adventures that I’d had over the last week.

Then my friend Chris met Haylee and I when we got off the bus and walked us home and I almost cried seeing him because I missed him and I was slightly delirious from sleep deprivation.

Also: We all should know that I’m a nervous pooper. While spending a week having to pooping in places that I never would have pooped before was therapeutic in the fact that I am a slightly less nervous pooper, it was still freaking glorious to be able to take a dump in my own toilet.