So, as I’ve been in Boulder for just over a month, I figured it was probably about time for a proper update. Forgive me for not having done one so far, but you’ll soon see why when I tell you how uber busy I’ve been. So here, I’m goign to recount my first couple of days in America. I’ll catch up on other stuff I’ve done in later posts.
Okay, so flying? Flying ROCKS. I love it so much, but I HATE landing. Landing really sucks. It feels like your knees are going up through your ears. You know, in a non-painful way. I loved take-off though. That feeling of speeding off to lands unknown… unbeatable.
My first flight was actually kind of boring. It was 9 hours from London to Minneapolis, about 7.5 of which I spent watching various films and TV programmes and playing games on the touch-screen in the back of the chair in front of me. The rest of the time was spend variously sneaking to the escape door to try and see out of the puny coin-sized hole they called a window, and eating. My GOD, the food was nice. After all the horror stories I’d heard about airline food, I was pleasantly surprised by my Cajun chicken, rice, and yummy yellow stuff main course, and even happier with the ice cream and mini pizzas the hostesses brought round 30 minutes before landing (though I only had the ice cream).
Minneapolis was brief. I barely had time to think ‘OMG I’m in America!’ before I was pulled through the arrivals gate by the rest of the plane’s passengers and ushered into the dreaded immigration area. This was actually more boring than anything else, as it involved queuing for a long time and then speaking to a guy who, after asking me where I was ultimately headed, proceeded to spend five minutes telling me, in a curiously robotic-monotone voice, that COLORADO IS BEAUTIFUL AND THE MOUNTAINS ARE LOVELY AND YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A GREAT TIME THERE. Yeah. Thanks for that.
Luckily he let me into the country. He said ‘Enjoy your stay’, but not ‘Welcome to the US’ which I was really, really hoping for.
Actually, Minneapolis wasn’t all that exciting anyway. I stared out of the windows along the tunnel from the plane to the immigration thingy, and the only thought going through my head was a rather disappointed, ‘This looks just like Heathrow…’ but I didn’t have time to dwell, as I had to get through immigration and then find my gate for my connecting flight to Denver (after, of course, buying a postcard of Minneapolis to commemorate my journey.)
I don’t know what it is with me and luggage carousels, but I had issues with them at both airports. I’m about 56% certain that this isn’t my fault, though. I think they just put my luggage on the wrong carousels to spite me or something. Kind of a, ‘Hey, welcome to America. Try and find your luggage. WE DARE YOU.’
Eventually, though, I did manage to find it, and had a lovely 3-minute reunion with it which was spent lugging both bags over to the trolleys and hoisting them onto one whilst three airport staff members watched me. Can’t have been a pleasant sight: a short English girl, just come off a 9 hour flight, dragging two suitcases and a flight bag across the baggage hall with pained ‘Urrrrr! Urrrrr!’ sounds. Once I did manage to get them onto the trolley they were rewarded with a furrowed-eyed gaze that read, ‘Thanks so much for your help, guys…’. I hope. It could have read, ‘I’m so tired and if you keep staring at me I’m going to take bites out of your shins’, for all I know. Baggage halls aren’t known for having mirrors you can check your withering gazes in.
So I threw my bags onto a random conveyor belt which I was only about 50% sure was the right one (it had no signs!) but by that point I didn’t really care. I had to queue for ages to go through the security scanners (and, by the way, do they not know how inconvenient it is to have to take your shoes off, whilst also taking your laptop and plastic bag of cosmetics out of your hand luggage? Especially when you’re standing in a queue of about 100 other people and you only have about a foot and a half gap to maneuver in? Eventually though, I managed to get through the security with no problems and ended up standing, in a mirror image to Heathrow, in a departure lounge, slightly unkept hair plastered to my forehead, my heavy flight bag straining at one shoulder. The only difference was that this one was full of Americans. i had about an hour left before my next flight, so I checked the board for the gate and decided to amble slowly over there, stopping on my way at a gift shop to pick up a Minneapolis postcard (I would have got a better souvineer but at that point my brain couldn’t think of how much things cost and a 50 cent postcard was the maximum of mathematics my brain could do.)
I couldn’t be bothered to explore that departure lounge. Apart from everything being in dollars it wasn’t much different to Heathrow. So I sat by my gate and just waited to be let on the flight- only to remember that I hadn’t actually been assigned a seat yet and didn’t know when I was supposed to board. As they began calling people I hesitantly approached the desk and asked about my seat. The woman smiled and said it wasn’t a problem, and printed me out a little ticket that said ’10A’ on it. I traipsed down to the plane and climbed aboard, realising this was a much smaller plane than the one I’d been on earlier. I glanced around looking for 10A, and noticed it was right at the front of the cheap seats section, just behind the divide between us slobs and the first classers. There were two seats, 10A and 10B, and there was a Chinese woman sitting in the aisle one. I stared at the empty one.
Me: *pointing* is that 10A?
Chinese woman: Yes, that’s 10A.
Me: But… but… that’s a window seat!!!!!
Oh yes, I got a window seat! I was so ridiculously happy (I think that the Chinese woman spent at least 5 minutes giggling at my overexcitement as I strapped myself into my seat muttering, ‘this is so COOL!’ under my breath). And then the plane started taxiing towards the runway and I had my face glued to the window. When we got out onto the runway and suddenly accelerated and were racing down and then suddenly taking off- I saw it all. The sudden increase in speed, the ground suddely dropping away…. my heart was racing and I LOVED it. I took a million photos outside of the window, even though you couldn’t see much, and spent the whole 2 hour journey to Denver looking out at America.
By the time we landed in Denver, it was dark, and I wasn’t able to see any of the mountains, though I really wanted to. After finding my way from the gate to the train that went to the terminal (after asking the help of the Chinese woman, who was very nice to me) I managed to find my bags (wrong luggage carousel again, grr) and eventually managed to find my roommate Nora, who had made a welcome sign for me 🙂 We spent ten minutes wandering around the airport trying to find the way out and eventually made it to Nora’s car, whereby she asked me if I wanted to go up to the university or to her Grandparents’ place. We decided on the latter. So she drove me to a small Denver suburb (couldn’t see anything on the way as it was pitch black by this point, and anyway, I was too busy being frightened by oncoming traffic to take much in at that point) and we arrived at a small cottagey-looking place that was so American it hurt slightly. I stepped out of the car and my ears were immediately shattered by the noise of a million crickets all chirping at once. As I cowered slightly under the noise, Nora’s grandmother came out of the house and ushered us inside. They showed me to a small bedroom in the basement (and WHAT a basement! American basements are awesome. It was like a little gentlemen’s club down there) and I basically fell into bed and asleep (but was woken up several times during the night by the dog coming into the room for hugs. I didn’t mind this, but it made me miss my cats terribly).
In the morning I got up and showered, then Nora’s grandmother gave me some bedding, which was awesome because the university doesn’t provide it and I was otherwise going to have to buy some. But American hospitality is awesome. We loaded my bags and some of Nora’s stuff into her grandparents’ HUGE car, and went for a drive around to get me a phone and also have a look in Goodwill, where Nora and I cobbled together a very strange lamp for our dorm room. Then they drove me up to Boulder, and I saw the mountains (!) and we moved my feeble amount of stuff into my room. Then they took me for lunch at Chipotle, and I had my first burrito, which was delicious but HUGE (everything’s HUGE in America) I ate about half of it then wrapped the rest up for dinner later.
Nora and her grandparents then dropped me back off at my dorm and I spent an hour or so unpacking my feeble amount of belongings and decided to settle in for the rest of the afternoon, as I was exhausted. But then the bathroom door burst open and my other roommate Dani walked in, surprised to find me there! (I have three roommates- two double bedrooms connected by a shared bathroom.) Dani was just moving her stuff in, as the American students weren’t properly moving in until a couple of days later, so I offered to help her and her dad. We moved all her stuff in (and she had about 6 times the amount of stuff I did), then they offered to take me out for dinner. We went to P.F.Changs, an awesome ‘Americanised’ Chinese restaurant, where I had the most delicious crispy honey chicken. Afterwards we got fortune cookies. I’ve collected the fortunes from fortune cookies for years and was pleased to have some American ones to add to my collection back home. Mine said, ‘Your talents will be recognised and suitably rewarded’. Given that I had entred a story into a competition back home the month before, I took this as a good sign.
Dani and her dad dropped me back at uni, and I made my bed and fell into it (well… sort of. This is difficult because it’s quite high off the ground, though it isn’t lofted.) And that was pretty much the end of my first couple of days in America.
Since then, I’ve been so busy. I’ve had various international student meetings, as well as meetings to try and sort various registration problems out, classes and shopping trips, and even a hike up Chautauqua with Nora a couple of weeks ago. I’m really settling into life here and I am having a great time (except at the moment, cos I have a bug and am feeling all icky and a bit homesick thanks to that).
Before I go, though, here’s a few photos from various things I’ve seen and done. I’ll put some more up very soon.