From LHR to Munich to our final destination: Salzburg

Sunday, February 8, 2009

We woke up at 5:00 so we could be ready for our flight to Munich.  We then took a chartered bus from the hotel to LHR, and it was so nice to not have to worry about navigating the tube by ourselves that early in the morning.  One guy from our program overslept, though, and the front desk had to call his room repeatedly -- we almost had to leave without him.  But he woke up, made it onto the bus, and away we went.

Once we arrived at LHR, we got in line, and I planted myself on the airport floor once I saw how long the line for check-in was.  I was unpacking and re-packing some items in my bags -- mostly because I was worried about the film in my lomography camera going through security.  I was holding the lomo camera in my hand and messing with the film when a guy from our program looked my way.  "That's one hell of a camera you got there," he said to me.  His name is Tim, but I only knew him as "Red Hat" because I had yet to see him not wearing a red beanie.  My first impression of him was that he was the kind of insufferable, pretentious hipster who purposely brings up Cannes Film Festival in conversation just to pronounce it Kahn Film Festival.  But as we spoke in line at LHR, I was reminded that first impressions are not always accurate.  He seemed really nice and friendly.

Speaking of friendly, Sandy proved yet again that she may or may not be the most talkative person alive.  She asked me to wait for her after I went through security, as I walked through ahead of her, so when I didn't see her for almost 10 minutes, I began to worry; we hadn't thought to rehearse "what to do if Sandy doesn't make it through airport security."  When she finally appeared, I asked her what on earth had taken so long.  Apparently, she had struck up a conversation with an airport employee on the other side of security, and now knew (1) this woman's favorite yogurt flavor, (2) her favorite vacation spot, (3) her opinion on Americans from the south, and (4) her opinions on snowstorms in Budapest.  Only Sandy...

I slept through our entire flight to Munich, listening to "Wicked Wisdom" by Of Montreal on my iPod -- my favorite song at the moment.  When we landed in Munich and entered the baggage claim area, we were greeted by Ingrid, our program director.  As we made eye contact with her, we noticed she was mouthing the names of each of us to herself as we entered, crossing us off a clipboard-list she held in her hand.  We collected our luggage from the conveyor belt and boarded another charter bus, this time to Salzburg (about 2 hours away by bus).  This drive was beautiful.  There was so much snow on the ground.  It was during this beautiful drive, however, that we realized something awful: we were not rooming together like we had planned.

There are a few different dorms where we can stay here.  St. Sebastian is where Sandy and I wanted to live, and where we requested to live.  It's technically in Neustadt, but so close to the Salzach and the Altstadt.  Another dorm and possible room placement is International Kollege (I.K.) which houses a mix of different international students (hence the name).  The downside is that it's about 40 minutes'  walking distance from the Altstadt, which is where everything happens.  So we were understandably really disappointed when Sandy got placed in St. Sebastian and I in International Kollege.  We were also confused, as we had both requested to live with one another and were fairly certain that our request would be granted.  I had been counting on rooming with Sandy so much that this information seemed to drain me of any excitement I had about the upcoming semester.  In fact, my first thought was, "This is going to ruin everything.  I'm going to hate my roommate -- I just know it."  

We talked to Ingrid, the director, as she was mingling with all the students on the bus.  She encouraged us to give our room assignments a shot, assuring us that if there was a problem, "other accommodations" could be made.  Sandy had been placed with a girl named Kate, from Alabama, while I placed with a girl named Caroline, from Idaho.  Shortly after the room assignments were handed out, Kate approached Sandy and introduced herself.  They seemed to hit it off an I began to worry, "What if Sandy loves Kate, I end up hating my roommate, and then Sandy doesn't want to switch?"  I walked down to the lower level of the bus, where Ingrid was now sitting.  I asked her where my roommate was; I was very anxious to meet her.  "She's not here on the bus -- she is already in Salzburg," Ingrid explained.  "How?," I wondered.  As far as I had known, it hadn't been an option to fly directly to Salzburg -- I had thought the London orientation was mandatory (otherwise, I very likely would have skipped it).  "She's been here since September," Ingrid told me.  "Great," I thought to myself.  "I have to wait another hour to meet my roommate, who I will probably end up hating."  Ingrid must have sensed my apprehension; she assured me, "Jennifer, you're going to love her."  Although this made me feel a bit better, when I returned to my seat and noticed Kate was still there, visiting with Sandy, I said to her, "Hey -- we're not sure what happened, but there was a mix-up with the rooms.  We both requested to stay with one another and we might be switching once we get to Salzburg.  I'm really sorry, but I may request to move in in your place."  Kate's gracious response surprised and humbled me.  "Of course!  Yeah, I'm so sorry that happened.  I don't want to take your room or anything. If you requested to room with Sandy, you should room with her.  I didn't request anyone because I don't know anyone in the program.  So I'm fine living wherever."  I instantly felt embarrassed for my lack of maturity in handling the situation.  "Well....we'll see.  Thanks," I mumbled as I slid back into my seat and Kate made her way back to hers.

I spent the rest of the bus ride in nervous anticipation, wondering what my roommate would be like and whether or not I would like her.  I couldn't dwell on this for too long, though, because I was distracted (happily so) by a story Sandy told me about yet another friend she had made at LHR.  Apparently, when I was at our gate talking to a girl named Kayla (who will be going to school with us), Sandy was talking to someone she believed to be a diplomat.  She's still not sure who or what he was; he just looked 'official' and was wearing a suit.  He also had an iPhone, which seemed important.  As they began conversing, Sandy learned that he was friends with the former President of Pakistan who was recently murdered, and that he has the current President of Pakistan's number in his phone (his iPhone, mind you).  He even showed Sandy the name and number in his phone when she didn't immediately believe him.  When I asked Sandy, "What was the name of the contact in his phone?", she said to me, "I think it was....Aviv.  Yeah, it was Aviv."  When I asked what the last name was, she said, "Um, Aviv."  "The current president of Pakistan's name is Aviv Aviv?", I asked in disbelief.  "I guess so!", Sandy replied, and I couldn't help but laugh.  What's even funnier, though, is that Sandy asked the guy if she could call the president, to which he replied: no.

I didn't have time to ask if Sandy found out the diplomat-man's favorite yogurt flavor or his opinion on snowstorms in Budapest, because we were pulling into Salzburg, which meant I'd meet my roommate in no time at all.  The butterflies began to set in.

Pictures from LHR and the bus ride:

Quote of the day: "I feel like I just found out I didn't make the varsity pom squad." -- Sandy, upon hearing our room assignments 

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