Okay folks, story time.  Think back years and years, to 1998.  My freshman year of college, I applied to do international exchange for my sophomore year. I felt like it was a bit of a process, you had to apply and do an essay and an interview and they didn't tell me for ages if I had been selected to go.  But I was.  Now, the problem was, how to Get There. My mother protested vehemently but... I had gotten a job at Bing's over the summer, gotten a paper route, and every little bit of my money I saved for that plane ticket, so I was going.  I seem to remember it was at least $1500 bucks for a one way ticket.

School there didn't start until like late September, and I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to get this done. I was deliberately going online and chatting to people who were in the area (I KNOW, I would never do that today, good lord, what was I Thinking) and got to know a guy who lived in a nearby town.  We arranged that he would come pick me up from the airport.  Why was I so trusting back then? What an idiot! Letting a complete stranger I met on the INTERNET pick me up in his car to take me somewhere I had never been?!  Idiot!  Anyway.

The day came, and off on the plane I went.  It was a very, very long flight, probably about ten hours.  I was going to sleep, but there was a kid behind me who was probably kicking my seat a good eight hours of that flight. I was nowhere near as assertive then as I am now, so I just endured it. Why? I mean, jeez, I really should have been sleeping, it would have made the jet lag so much easier.  Bad decision there. I seem to remember there was a meal that was kinda crappy.

It took forever to get through customs because the one paper I needed was the one paper I had put on my checked baggage. Of course.  But I had decided that it must not be as important as all the others, naturally.  So that literally probably took at least two hours.  But then I finally got through, met with John (dude actually waited all that time), and we went on our merry way. I would like to point out that he was a decent dude, and I ended up actually dating him all that year.  So while my trust was probably unjustified, it turned out okay.  He was so nervous he hit like, three little poles trying to drive me to the University (which would make no arrangements to pick me up, which is why I had to have somebody - or it would be a very, very expensive cab ride/confused bus journey).

I settled into the dorms and tried to figure out how to use the phone card. I had promised my mom I would call when I landed. No go. I thought I had to swipe it?  I eventually gave up and just went to sleep for like, twelve hours.  I had given my mom John's number, and when I didn't call as soon as I got home like I said I would, she promptly called him and berated him.  So he does what a good dude would do (no cell phones then) and drove all forty five minutes to my dorm to try to wake me up.  No dice.  I was dead to the world.

I eventually figured out the phone card thing when I awoke from my coma and my mom hollered at me for a good ten minutes, but it was worth it. I was in temporary housing for about a week, and then moved into my dorm proper.  This started my overseas adventure.  Well, not so much adventure as it was discovering that the English put corn in their tuna fish sandwiches.  And learning to put my books in a plastic bag before I put them in my backpack - because if I didn't, the mist in the air would get them wet.

Oh, and that "suspenders" don't mean suspenders as we mean it.  They call those braces.  Suspenders in England means garters.  I learned that the hard way.  And we call it an English Muffin, they call it a crumpet, and a crumpet can also mean a word that.. well, describes alone time between consenting adults.

I remember getting drunk with Germans, nearly getting in a fight with a girl just because I was American, seeing tons of tulips in Wales, a never ending drive down to Bath, and an awkward encounter with John's ex-wife.  Maybe that's another story for another time. Getting to the dang college was an adventure in and of itself. And, of course, a series of bad decisions that ended up in me not being murked after all.

I've got a ton of observations and takeaways from that year, but I've learned that people kind of don't care about those stories.  Or at least the people around me at the time didn't.  Maybe you do now? Should I tell more tales out of Lancashire?

Idiotically yours,


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