I didn’t want to go to London.
It’s not that I wasn’t interested—I’ve never been there (Jeremy has) and I was curious about the place, but just not now. I didn’t feel like it was very exotic—the UK is a place we could travel with kids later on in life, and I was gung ho to continue roughing it.
Two months in China changed my mind.
More accurately, two months of intense heat in China changed my mind. Originally, our around-the-world tickets had us flying from Beijing to Amman, Jordan. Call that poor research on our part—flying to the middle of the desert in July? Not smart. We needed to kill some time while the planet cooled down a bit before heading to the Middle East, and we had a friend offer us her place in London (which is the only way it would have been affordable for us to visit). So why not? We chose Qingdao based on the climate, why not London?
Ominous-looking clouds over the National Gallery. If you ever feel like complaining about the miserable weather in the UK, just spend two months in the oppressive heat of China. Then London will feel like heaven on earth. A nice, cool, sometimes rainy heaven on earth.
Plus, China was tough, and we were kind of over it by the end (it’s worth noting, however, that the misery has diminished with time—we think of China fondly now). As London loomed closer in our calendars, I started positively salivating at the thought of indulging in Western “comforts” like throwing toilet paper in the toilet and drinking tap water. And, I felt there was a kinship between Americans and Brits. I imagined landing at the airport and feeling like I was in a home away from home. They’ll welcome us with open arms and we’ll all make jokes in English and maybe they’ll offer us a spot of tea and crumpet. Right?
Not so much.
Of all the immigration checkpoints we’ve been through, I’ve never been grilled as hard as I was entering London. Why was I here? (Tourism.) Where am I staying? (With a friend.) How long am I planning on staying? (Three weeks.) What was I planning on doing? (I don’t know yet.) You are going to be here for 3 weeks and you don’t know yet? (Um, I guess I’ll go see Buckingham Palace?) After about 5 minutes of rapid questioning, the immigration officer was finally satisfied and let me through. I found out later that they go through this whole rigamarole to see if there are any inconsistencies in your story. You know, just in case your occupation starts with the letter “T.” And rhymes with “herrorist.”
Um, excuse me, but I think your hat is a little crooked.
I quickly found out that Jeremy too got yelled at by the immigration officer for not going up to the window with me (I guess families are supposed to go through together). And then some lady bumped into me and said “Watch where you’re going.” Suddenly the chaos of China isn’t looking so bad…
Despite the shaky start, we ended up having a great time in London. It didn’t hurt that we have a lot of friends here (and made new ones). Our friend Chi-Chi generously let us crash in her guest room for a whopping 10 days, so we felt right at home. Minus the passive aggression.