Today was a travel day. I was planning on crossing London off of my “I never” list today since today was the day I would arrive in town, but after all of today’s events I am actually able to cross off three things:
- I have never had anxiety attack.
- I have never been to London.
- I have never had fish and chips.
Please allow me to explain how these three things came about during the day.
We took cabs to the Gare du Nord train station this morning to catch our train to London. I paid the cab driver and went to meet the few people from our group that arrived before me. As I joined them, I noticed yellow caution tape blocking the closest entrance to the station. I heard the sound of a whistle blow and I tensed. There was an explosion and I gaped at my classmates. All I could think was Again? Seriously this is happening again? I wanted to cry. I wanted to get back in the cab and just sit in our hostel. Paris was fine with me, I didn’t need to leave, not today, not at this train station.
But of course, we did need to leave, today, at this train station. So we walked into the train station as a group. All of my nerves were on end. We made our way towards a couple of elevators we thought we were going to take to customs on the second floor. We were redirected towards the giant crowd surrounding one escalator and one set of stairs. Every train before ours had been delayed and in order to combat the crowd, only passengers from one train at a time could go up to customs at a time. So we had to stand in the growing crowd and wait for our turn. We waited for maybe an hour at the most, but during this time, trains released steam and standard whistles blew for other train arrivals and departures. Every loud sound sent a ripple of fear through me. I stood with a wall to my left, a wall to my back, a table to my right, and luggage to my front. I fanned myself with my passport and ticket and did my best to take as many slow, deep breaths as I could. I didn’t need to freak out, I didn’t need to cry. Everything had been handled, and we wouldn’t be allowed in the building if it wasn’t safe. I knew this, but I couldn’t get my brain to turn itself off. It kept thinking of what could go wrong, and how there was no good escape routes if something did go wrong.
I felt better when we got on the escalator, but then we had to wait again in line for French customs and then British customs. I hated waiting and I hated the crowd around me. I don’t know where this anxiety came from, because I never used to have any problems with either of those two things. But there I stood, fanning myself, willing my brain to shut up for just a few minutes.
When it was finally my turn to go through French customs, I was relieved because I knew I was closer to getting away from the crowd behind me. The worker behind the glass said something to me in French, I’m not sure what. Then he asked in French if I spoke French. I said no. He said in English this time, “You have beautiful eyes.” I wasn’t expecting him to say that. Even though it was comforting, it made me feel like I was going to cry. I said thank you and he handed me my passport back and said bon jour. I really needed to get my emotions in check.
Thankfully on the train I calmed down. I wasn’t entirely at ease, honestly, I’m still not, but I’m much better than I was this morning. So we arrived in London and then took cabs to Regent’s University for our orientation. There are a lot of MSU study abroad’s staying at Regent’s right now, and I knew one of my friends was here too. I wasn’t expecting was to get out of our cab and see him within 20 seconds of arriving, but that’s what happened. I said hello and made quick plans to catch up with him later, and then we went to orientation.
After orientation we took a bus over to our apartments. A few of us went to the ATM and then started to do some laundry. We heard from some other MSU students that the dryers here aren’t the greatest so we all decided to let our clothes air dry. We had to get creative with the limited space we had, but one room managed to string up a makeshift clothesline. We went for dinner after everything was hung to dry. I figured since we are in London, and since everyone else was getting it, that I should get fish and chips as my first meal. I’ve never had fish and chips before. I’ve never had seafood really at all before, and I am the world’s least adventurous eater. It turns out, though, that fish and chips is pretty good.
So that was my day. It didn’t start out the greatest, but I’d say it ended pretty well, and most importantly we are all safe and sound here in London!