Toto, we’re not in America anymore…
There comes a moment while traveling in another country, when it strikes you that you’re not in the country you flew from. For example, when I first went grocery shopping in Yokohama, it dawned on me that the bread was different. And on my first Sunday in Normandy, I was shocked everything was closed.
Well, at Heathrow, everything is, of course, in pounds and cheesy London souvenirs populate some shops. But there are passengers from all over the world (I chatted with a few Americans before my connecting, including a South Jersey family flying back to Philly), and I even found Sports Illustrated, among other foreign magazines, in a store.
But it didn’t me hit that I wasn’t in the U.S. until – while taking a taxi from Leeds Bradford Airport to my flat – we were on roads narrower than those in the U.S. that swerved like a snake between houses made of stone while listening to a show on the radio about football (the one played by Manchester United, Chelsea FC, etc.).
And things that I take for granted in the U.S. – like easily being able to withdraw money from an ATM – proved to be a bit of an adventure over here. Before coming over to the UK, I received a debit card. I wanted traveler’s checks, but I was told that they were unavailable (which sucks because they’re very handy. Anyway, it took me several hours to withdraw money from an ATM. First, I forgot to set up a PIN before coming here. Then, I had find a pay phone so I could call AAA and set up a PIN. Third, after a couple of failed attempts to withdraw money, I had to call AAA to change my PIN [I had locked myself out of my PIN]. Finally, I was able to withdraw money (Banks totally rip you off, but that’s another story).
Fortunately, I’m on the first floor of a nice flat with nice, free Internet connection, so I’m happy about that. I’ve met several flatmates, and they all seem nice and outgoing. I wish they were a bit older, but they’ve been helpful thus far (I was beaten by Jack in FIFA 2013, unfortunately. So I have to get better at that).
I live in the Hyde Park section of Leeds, and to the naked eye, it doesn’t seem to be the most well-to-do part of town. It doesn’t seem to be a bad neighborhood though, and shortly after arriving in Leeds, I did chill a bit at the eponymous park – which is a popular place for pickup football, basketball and future X Games stars. It certainly seems to be a nice place to be on a sunny day (which I’m not sure we’ll have a lot of in the coming months). And there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, as well as a couple of pubs.
So, I’m just getting started in Leeds. Hopefully, good things are to come.