My arrival to London started off a little bumpily. From the airport, I took the Elizabeth line to Paddington Station and from there got into a black cab to get to my homestay. Unfortunately, the address of my homestay did not point to a direct location on the map accessible to the cab, so I was dropped off in the vicinity. I did not have a working SIM card (I had pre-ordered it and it was at my host’s home) so I wasn’t able to pull up navigation. However, I was hopeful that I would be able to find it, maybe with some extra wandering. I was very touched when a young woman came up to me offering help (perhaps a confused look and my large suitcase clued her in to my state) and she put the address into her maps app as well. Again, the address did not yield a clear location to walk towards. She tried multiple variations of the address I had to work with, going off just the postal code and excluding or including different portions of it. I was touched by the lengths she went to try and find a clear set of directions she could give me. Eventually she was at a loss, but her helpfulness lifted my spirits.
I was able to successfully get to my host’s home. Her flat (fun fact: you will be laughed at by your friends if you use “apartment” in lieu of flat as it refers to the posh and upscale flats unless of course you actually live in an apartment) was a part of an assortment of buildings that made up the estates (which was why it was difficult to locate on the map). I was feeling extremely grateful to have gotten to her flat with minimal wandering and with the added experience of a kind stranger. However, my heart sunk when I rang my host’s bell and there was no response.
Thankfully, other people were buzzing into the building, so I was able to get inside (away from the cold and wet). I thought maybe I had used the buzzer incorrectly, but a knock on her door also yielded no response. So there I was, a mere few inches of wood away from my home for the next few months. I was at a loss of what to do so I figured I would wait, as that was all I could really do. I sat in the stairwell hoping she would be home soon. Maybe she had stepped out for groceries? After thirty minutes I plucked up the courage to ask a neighbor. The door directly across yielded no response. I then walked up to the floor above; the first flat I knocked at also did not answer. However, the other one, directly above my host’s, was answered. A suspicious older woman answered the door; she apparently wasn’t on friendly terms with my host but was willing to allow me use of her phone to call my host. My host informed me that she did not know when I was arriving but would see me soon. Spirits restored and incredibly thankful to the neighbor who allowed me a call, I returned to the stairwell to sit and wait. However, time dragged on, and it got very cold. I regretted not having asked when exactly she would be coming. At the two-hour mark from the time, I made the call (two and a half hours since I arrived), I plucked up the courage to venture upstairs again. This time she was not very pleased to see me and rejected my request to call my host again. She informed me that my host had called earlier and knew I had been there waiting. I think at that point my hopes really took a dive and I started feeling a little sadder. I returned to the stairwell, curling up to try and stay warm.
At about three hours of waiting my host arrived, with much apologies, and I was able to warm up in her flat. I was grateful that the three hours of waiting in the cold were behind me and I was able to have a warm dinner and take a hot shower. My study abroad program had collected our flight information from us and informed us to head straight to our homestay and that we would be notified if our host would not be available at the time of our arrival as other arrangements would be made. Not having been told to take a different course of arrival, I was under the impression that she already had that information. When the housing arrangements were released and I reached out to my host via email I had the thought to mention my arrival information, but decided against it, thinking it would be redundant and not wanting to burden my host with having to read and take the time to read more than was necessary during the holiday season (in retrospect, a silly way to think). However, she did not know when I was arriving, and assumed I would be arriving in the evening, so she had stepped out to take care of a work emergency. On her way back she had received my call, but her car had run out of gas, delaying her even further. I was feeling upset with myself, thinking if I had just included that tiny piece of information, I could have avoided all of this and feeling exceptionally dumb for not having done so since none of the other homestay students encountered that issue as any normal person probably would have thought it common sense to include the flight information. But mistakes happen and ruminating on what could have been done differently is not very helpful. Of course, everyone tells you to take them in stride, learning from them and letting go instead of being hard on yourself (but it’s easier said than done). Though not the ideal arrival, everything did work out and there were nice snippets of hope and help that were appreciated along the way!
Image below of some pretty colorful houses that caught my eye on a walk the next day wandering around Kensington before my program orientation.