Kathleen and I finally had our moment.
But it did not come easily. I woke up at 5 this morning and made it to the airport 2 minutes before the wheels of her plane hit the landing strip. I anxiously watched the arrivals screen updates on her progress: Landed… arrived… bags arriving… bags delivered… according to airport information, it should take an international arrival approximately 30-40 minutes to leave the airport after their plane lands. The time crawled by. I was so excited I was in tears every time a new person walked through the gate. Waiting for Kathleen was more suspenseful than the movie Argo, and almost as long. I started to get worried around the one-hour mark, and really panic at an hour and a half. Finally, my fears were confirmed: “mumble mumble anyone waiting for Kathleen Blanck mumble mumble immigration mumble mumble,” said the loudspeaker.
Oh my god. Has there been some kind of medical emergency? Is she being sent back? Did she say she was visiting her sister who lived here, which somehow lead to questions about me visa? Is she being sent back?
I found someone who worked at the airport, who directed me to a phone and showed me where to find the number to call immigration. They didn’t know what announcement I was talking about, but I gave them Kathleen’s name and nationality and was subsequently put on hold. I waited for what felt like forever til the lady came back on the line. Immigration had been holding Kathleen because she was an unaccomanied minor, and they couldn’t let her go without knowing someone was here to pick her up. When I asked, they told me she’d be through in the next 15-20 minutes after she picked up her luggage.
Finally, finally she walked through the gate. I thought I was going to be the only one sobbing, then I saw her lip start to go and I knew that was it. We hugged and cried for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure everyone in the airport was staring at us.
It sounds like the event was pretty traumatic for her. I don’t know what the big deal was. I had seen a 7 year old come through by herself about an hour earlier. A flight attendant delivered her safely to her grandparents. Where was Kathleen’s flight attendant?
We bought her an oyster card and hit the tube. It was late enough in the day at this point that we headed straight to Waterloo station, where we were catching a train to Hampton Court. We grabbed lunch there from a pasty vendor. She had a Cornish pasty and I had chicken and vegetables. It was very English.
Hampton Court was awesome. It was crazy to get to see the home of Henry VIII. I’ve read so much about it. I think Kathleen really enjoyed it, too. We were both exhausted, but we had a really good time. As we were walking through, we entered into a room and I was shocked to see a Caravaggio right in front of my face. There were two others by him, and a very famous and wonderful painting by Artemesia Gentileschi. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that the Queen had such a fine collection of art, or that I would be seeing any of it at Hampton Court. Unfortunately, it was so late at this point that the main gallery had already closed. Apparently the Montagne Gallery has the largest collection of Italian renaissance art outside of Italy. I’ll definitely be coming back.
It was difficult to keep Kathleen awake on the train rides back, but it’s important if she wants to defeat jetlag. I was looking out the window for not more than 30 seconds, and when I looked back she had fallen asleep on herself. After that point, we played checkers and chess on my iPad. We arrived in Brighton at dusk and walked back to my house.
After a quick stop at the grocery store, we arrived safe and sound. Kathleen deposited her luggage in my room and I made us bangers and mash for dinner.
It was a delicious celebration of her safe arrival. We were both ready to be in bed by 8:00, but we had to unpack her bag and repack some bags for Dublin tomorrow. I received some important supplies from my mother, and Dad sent his Europe travel guide. I feel fully prepared to get through the rest of my time in England.
Kathleen passed out on the floor within 10 seconds of my sitting down at the computer, but she wanted me to wake her up so she could make her first guest-blog appearance. So, without further ado, here she is!
being an illegal immigrant
It’s not everyday that you go to sleep on one continent and wake up on another. Well, technically, it was two days. My first flight was very nice. I sat in the window seat next to a very nice man, named Greg. He was headed to Long Island, where he lives, and surprisingly was not offended when I got Long Island confused with Rhode Island.
Have you ever been to the Philadelphia airport? If not, you should. But make sure you have plenty of time during your layover. My pilot from MCI to PHL told us on the plane that Philadelphia is notorious for its missed flights and late arrivals. When I got into the airport and started walking towards my next terminal, I had the great joy of watching families and individual fliers sprint to make their connection. I was for real so close to cheering them on.
I had a lovely little dinner by myself and found the only store in the airport that sold Diet Coke to bring to my dear sisterina. As soon as I got on my flight to Heathrow, I sat down to a super nice old lady and fells asleep. According to her, I slept folded over onto myself with my legs criss cross apple sauce. I slept the whole way.
Heathrow was more or less really super stressful. As Anna has doubtlessly recounted, I was faced with quite the Spanish Inquisition when I failed to fill out the address at which I would be staying in England. I was told to sit down while they paged my sister, just to make sure she was there. I sat down in front of a full line of international travelers, had myself a good little cry, and waited as the entire line of people waiting to go through customs was processed.
The rest of the day was better, after a tearful reunion and a little bit of a fiasco trying to find the Tube. I’m getting pretty good at this whole “train” thing. Also, we found “confused” skittles that are supposedly one color but taste like a different flavor. We’ll see. Oh, as it turns out, most of the weight in my bag (my Philmont backpack, actually) was stuff for Anna. All of which was extremely appreciated (and heavy).
And so we begin “Spring Break 2013 #noregretzzz”
(three z’s because we’re so tired.)