Arriving in London for the First Time

October 2nd, 2012 (Tuesday) – the first time either one of us set foot in England, or Europe for that matter. It’s one of those “someday” things that you often think about but never really think is ever going to happen. As a child in Hong Kong, I learned of our colonial masters who also hailed from an island, one on the other side of the world. Growing up in America, I learned of the hated redcoats that our forefathers fought against to gain independence. And now, we were in the place where it all started. SMHFU!

(SMHFU = *shake my head* f-ing unbelievable)

We flew out of Hong Kong on a relatively comfortable, daytime, and nearly 13-hour flight on one of Cathay Pacific’s newer 777s (vs. the older 747s on the SFO<->HKG route). We arrived in the evening, after dinner time. We probably docked in the 17-22 area of Terminal 3, because I remember walking a giant “U” to get to the arrivals hall.

Heathrow Terminal 3 Arrivals

Once we were in the arrivals hall, we didn’t have to wait long for our bags before proceeding to immigration. At the counters, there was some back-and-forth going on between one of the immigration officers and a Russian or Eastern-European man; it seemed like they were trying to confirm that the man was the father of the teenager who was with him. I had an officer of South Asian descent who whisked me through, while JC had a bona fide Englishman ask her a few questions before letting her in. I couldn’t help but think of world history at that moment, of the East India Company, of Colonial India. It was a “Wow! All that stuff I read in history books actually happened!” moment.

We made our way to the Heathrow Express and boarded. I had already purchased tickets when we were in Hong Kong and had the tickets on my phone, but it was my first time using phone-tickets and I was anxious and worried that something bad might happen. When the conductor came by, he just looked at the QR code and said “thank you” without even scanning it. So easy! Don’t know why I was worried. We sat in front of the TV and Sky News was covering the Lamma ferry crash. In Hong Kong this incident was all over the headlines, and now we were in London seeing it on TV. What a small world.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in Paddington Station. We had already done our homework on Google Street View so it was pretty easy finding our way out of the station and across the street to our hotel. The air was cool and crisp, a welcome change compared with that of Hong Kong. We checked in quickly and made our way up to our room.

Without day there is no night, without hot there is no cold, and without a long-haul flight there is no first shower after the flight. You’re exhausted, your clothes smell, and your skin is sticky. Imagine all of that getting washed down the drain with a steamy, hot shower, taking you from extreme discomfort to extreme relief. When I close my eyes and think back to that moment, I wish I could stay inside of it.

The last thing I remember before entering the slumbering world is watching TV in bed. There was a BBC documentary about breastfeeding, and they actually showed breasts on TV! Although I had forgotten that the British were less prudish when it came to human anatomy, that wasn’t the shocking thing to me. The shocking thing was that in the show, one of the husbands would use his wife’s breast milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, pouring it into his cereal. A few hours after setting foot in Europe for the first time, I fell asleep with visions of breasts and cornflakes inside my head.

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