In my previous blog - My First International Trip – The Flight, I shared my experience on the flight. I will take you to scene two now.
They say sometimes that perceptions of the mind when faced with reality are often a shocker. I expected to see tall buildings, plush localities & wonderful high-tech infrastructure while landing in London. However, to my surprise, a pleasant one, I saw lot’s of green pastures and beautiful bricked row houses.
After getting clearances from the immigration at the airport, I headed towards the lobby expecting my name on a plank-board held by an Addison Lee cab driver. To my dismay, I didn’t see anyone. Since I landed on a Saturday, I knew no one would be at the office and it would be rude to call someone at home. Worst I did not have a calling card. Therefore, I first freshened up at the restroom and then came back to the lobby. Then I thought to myself ‘You need to get a calling card first, then call the driver and sort things’. I walked up to a counter and asked the gentleman for directions. He asked me to buy an O2 calling card from one of the vending machines. You know the kinds where you put a coin and get a can of coke! Well I interested two 5 pound coins and got my O2 calling card. I inserted the Sim card in the spare UK phone I had, first send an ‘arrived’ text to my boss and then called the driver. Now Mr. driver responded saying that he was waiting for me at the airport for over an hour. I told him that I did not see him with my plank card. I asked him to meet me at the Sainsbury outlet at the airport which he did. When he showed me the plank card, I was aghast! To my horror the name written on it was ‘Mr.A.Nachaira’. Ok, now how in the freaking world would I even remotely relate myself to this plank card. I thought it was unfair to comment or for that matter argue with him. Therefore decided to simply drive to my guest house. It was a beautiful drive from Heathrow to Hammersmith. My Pakistani driver –Ali-(don’t raise your eyebrows guys) was extremely humble and modest. He carried my bag to the car and opened the door for me. It was approximately 14 degrees in London. I buttoned up my denim jacket and thanked my lucky starts for wearing denims. Now 20 minutes into the drive and I could feel my stomach churning. I requested my driver to stop the car since I could puke any moment. He stopped at a bridge. I didn’t puke but felt much better after alighting from the car. To divert my attention I decided to strike a conversation with my driver. He shared some information about his family and within no time, we reached ‘Hammersmith’. I first went to the office where the person in charge had left a key, the address and a message for me. After few minutes of searching, I managed to locate my guesthouse. Ali was kind enough to carry my heavy bag right to the doorstep. I shook hands and we bid adieu. Nice Chap!
House number 164 was a beautiful row house with a Royal Blue color door! There was a maple tree right in front of the house and since it was Autumn, there was a pile of lush orange colour leaves on the pavement. Hmmmm….the weather, environment was simply lovely. I opened the door with the key and could see a long hallway as I entered which was pitch dark. My colleague who had been there earlier told me that there was a button, which switched on the lights in the hallway. The catch was, you had to reach the steps with few seconds following which the lights would be automatically switched off (this was some new technique to save electricity). Now I had to reach the stairway, climb approximately 15 steps carrying a heavy bag. So you can imagine my plight! Finally, after running to and fro 3 times I managed to reach floor one. Thankfully there was no hallway there and I ended up trying to open the wrong door. Little did I know that my company owned the last two floors? So by the time I reached the second floor, I was completely exhausted. However, when I entered the guest house, I was very pleased. My boss was considered enough to ensure that the guys had installed latches in my room. For those who don’t know there are not locks or latches for doors in London. It is understood that you will knock and enter the room. But hello! What if I am a burglar, I don’t like knocking doors you know. Anyway, coming back to the point. This three-bedroom guest house was quite warm and welcoming. I got the rearmost biggest room, which was well kept with clean bed covers & pillows with a decent wardrobe and a TV (which I did not know how to operate). On the floor above there was an open kitchen with sitting area, television and an old-fashioned dining table from where I could see the sun setting. I was quite surprised to see the sun setting quite late in the evening but it was a sight to see! The entire set-up, the wooden flooring, the beige carpets the clean kitchen, long chandeliers in the hallway all made me feel nice, safe and warm. It was as though the silence was telling me welcome home honey. This is London. You will be staying here alone for 10 days and you have to get accustomed to being responsible for yourself!