Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
79Trip End Nov 21, 2006
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England didn't exactly make the best first impression. Right as I stepped out of the train I was greeted by a nice big blast of cigarette smoke from some idiot who clearly thought I wanted to share his cancer. It was an even harsher reminder that I was back in England after spending a week in Scotland (the only nation in the United Kingdom to already enact smoking bans in public places). Once I cleared my lungs I got to learn how stupid the English train system is. I realize that I've used this space quite a bit to rail on public transportation (pun only semi-intended), but did you notice a peep out of me in New Zealand or Australia (where it's more or less efficient) or Southeast Asia (where you have to take the advice of Chris Rock when it comes to playing retarded kids in basketball)? When I boarded the train in Edinburgh, I had to show my ticket to get through the turnstiles and as the train moved south into England I showed my ticket at least three other times. What never occurred to me was that when they make the announcement before your stop to 'remember to collect all your personal belongings' your used ticket stub counts as a personal belonging. So after 15 minutes of haggling with the ticket security guard that I didn't know (OK, I'm a stupid American, but this system is stupider) and that would be fairly unlikely that I made it all the way from Edinburgh without a ticket, she begrudgingly set me free. Then it was just a matter of touching base with Elle -- who I met while staying in the VIP room of the Prima Hostel in Budapest -- to meet up with her at her dorm at Leeds University (it might shock some that there are universities in England beside Oxford and Cambridge). Easier said than done when my texts weren't going through and my phone's mic wasn't working so she couldn't hear what I said.
For the next two day I got to live the life of a college student that I sadly had to ditch a year and a half earlier. And this time I was getting all the perks (aside from having to sleep on the floor) without all the inconveniences of 'homework' and 'class.' It was two days of walking around campus, relaxing in the student union and eating less than nutritiously -- namely take-away Chinese. There was the pursuit of knowledge (including one spirited research project of figuring out -- after one of Elle's friends was reading about this in a biology book -- which species was more ummm, well-endowed relatively speaking between humans and blue whales and all the various tangents you might imagine sprouting from such an intellectually endeavor) and of course the uni bars. It was a good thing I was enjoying student discounts because, well, the pound is terrifying, especially compared to the crappy American dollar. But money was about to become less of an issue -- the parents were only 24 hours away.