We have officially been “Londoners” (I use that term very loosely) for over a month now!
Just one month and two days ago, we touched down in London filled with excitement and hope. Fast forward one month, and we’ll just say it’s been…. interesting.
My absolute single greatest fear (with respect to moving), that something would happen to someone I love while I was abroad, was realized just a short time after we arrived. Two days after we landed in London, my Grandma Margie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was crushed when I received the news. Her health had been declining for the better part of the past year, but she was on the mend, aside from a pretty bad cough, and none of us expected this. Well it turned out that bad cough was cancer. I respected her wishes for me to stay in London and fought the urge to rush home to be with her during her last days, and she passed away just 8 days after receiving the diagnosis. It’s been hard. Not being able to say goodbye, and not being there to support my family has been really difficult.
I am grateful that I was able to spend a week in California with her earlier this year, and that we spent some good quality time with her while we were home in August, but of course I didn’t expect that to be the last time we saw her. She and I were close. Despite the distance, we talked often. I always harassed her about her poor eating habits and she enjoyed (lovingly) flipping me off. She told me stories about her youth that were funny and sometimes sad. Knowing that she won’t be there when I get home, hurts.
Aside from dealing with all of those emotions, things have been okay. We’ve faced a lot of logistical hurdles while trying to getting settled in London. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to do basic things here like get an apartment, open a bank account, get a cell phone, etc. We still don’t have internet in our apartment, and finally got SIM cards for our phones three days ago (hence the radio silence - it’s hard to blog when you don’t have consistent wifi! Thankfully now I can make a personal hotspot with my phone). Though we submitted the applications and documentation a while ago, we still don’t have bank accounts, which is starting to be a real pain. We’ve felt defeated a lot of days but we are finally getting closer to having things done.
Still, despite the challenges, we’ve enjoyed being here. The weather has been amazing - if it had been raining every day while everything else has been going on, I don’t know how we would’ve managed.
Everyone has been really nice, and we’re learning the city. London still has the novelty of being in a new country - we sometimes giggle at certain accents and grocery shopping is one of my main forms of entertainment - but it’s starting to feel like home. School has been good. It’s really fast-paced and we are still adjusting to being students, but our classmates and professors are wonderful and we’ve already learned a lot.
We’ve been eating good (too good - my waistline is suffering!) and we’ve visited a LOT of pubs. I really do love pub culture here. We have been able to do some touristy stuff - less now that we’re busy with school - and see some of the sights in London. The city is so picturesque and many of the iconic landmarks are centrally located, so it’s actually pretty easy to stumble upon a world-famous attraction. We shopped on Oxford Street for our housewares because it was closest (IKEA too, after we moved into our place!). Our school is literally one block from the British Museum and a 25 minute walk from Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. On a walk from the Tate Modern museum one day, Google happened to take me across Millennium Bridge and through the gardens of St. Paul’s Cathedral - just to get to the train station I needed to go to! Another day, I was with classmates and we stumbled across the changing of the guard. We haven’t had a huge sense of urgency for seeing the sights since we are here for a whole year, but I know it’s going to fly by and that inevitably, we’ll still have unchecked items on our bucket list when it’s time for us to leave.
Aside from the loss of my grandma, and our many challenges with getting settled, our time here so far has been what I expected - perhaps even surpassed my expectations! I am left in awe by the beauty of this city on a near daily basis. I will share some more insights about London soon, especially the funny, quirky things we’ve noticed. And of course, we do have some travel outside of the country planned in the next few weeks, which I look forward to sharing about!