Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Day I Arrived

(P.S. (Is it okay to put the post-script before the post?) I think my blog shouldn't be titled "Journey2Learn", but instead "Letters2Home" because currently these entries are just ways my friends and family can experience my experience. You may find them rather boring! :) 

Terminal K: Chicago O'Hare Airport
Education Speak: 
This truly is a journey to learn. I sat next to a young man on my flight from Chicago to Manchester who just finished his A-levels in June in geography, ancient history, and philosophy. He detailed what the last five years for him were like with GCSE's, General Certificate of Secondary Education,  in 12 areas. I want to learn about these in more detail. I will look them up. I'm wondering how long do these exams take? And what happens as a result of these exams? These are questions I want to explore further. A quick read in Wikipedia helped.

From those exams, my seat partner chose four areas to focus on (age 16) for the next year, and then he took his first set of A-levels. The second year he focused on three subjects, I mentioned earlier, and now, after his second A-levels (age 18), he has narrowed down his favorite course of study, geography, and has decided to study at Manchester University in September 2014. He is now in his "gap" year, a year many 18-year-olds take off to work or travel before heading to the university.
(We ALL need a gap year. I wish this tradition would come to America, as usual, we are the exception to the rule. If I had my own children, I would institute it. Instead, many of my students say "I'm taking  a year off and going to work first.") He is returning home from a holiday in Florida with his family, who live near Birmingham, and he plans to take a 10-week charity trip to Ecuador to work in conservation areas for the rainforest.  He told me Sheffield Hallam was one of the top universities in the UK, out of 144. He's been researching. :-) He described it as an A-B school, which is the grade you need to make on your A-levels to be accepted to this university.  He chose Manchester bc he likes their Geography department. The university experience will cost him £9000 per year. That's about $13,000.

As the flight began, I started to read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. The first notebook hasn't got me hooked yet, but I'm only on page 35. The introduction though, written by Lessing, is one of the best introductions to a book I have ever read. She wrote it in 1993. She detailed her disgust wit
h the educational system (in the UK and around the world) in allowing us to have students read and evaluate what authorities say about a subject vs what they could learn testing it through their own experiences."Nevermind what professors say, read it for yourself, what do you say?" I was inspired by this.

Changing money...
Safe on the ground, 7:37 am., 1:37 am CST. Surprisingly, everything has been so easy.

Going through customs at the UK Border in Manchester Airport.
The customs agent was super nice, asking me outside of work if I had plans to travel, and then offered a slew of local suggestions. At baggage claim I found the toilet first (got to get used to seeing the word toilet) and then found a cash machine that changed paper bills, which on top of a terrible exchange rate, I also paid £5 for the exchange, getting only 52.50 for my hundred dollar bill. I had to use the cash machine instead of the ATM bc I needed actual coins to get a "trolley" for my luggage, which I could have used my card on, but it was out of service.

My luggage came quickly! In Chicago I was moved to an exit row and the airline steward checked my
carry on for me. Nice to not worry about heaving all that research up to the overhead bin. So, that was the first piece that came on the carousel. The next two pieces came quickly afterwards and I loaded up to exit the building. Signs were super easy to follow to the train station, and I kept thinking at any moment I would have to abandon my trolley for a set of stairs, but that never happened. It was a 10-min walk through a covered pathway that led me across a street, up 7 floors on a lift that held 40+ people and their bags, through a terminal, and down one floor to trains. Signs were posted along the way that said, 10 min, 8 min, 4 min, and down. I had pre-purchased my ticket, so all I had to do was slip in my credit card to a machine and print. I made it in 13 minutes...pushing 150+lbs.

I made my way down the lift to the platforms and into the cafeexpressshop. It's a little chilly here right now, maybe 65 or so, and cloudy. My biggest concern now is getting off the train in Sheffield.

My view while waiting for the train at Manchester Airport.
I have a luggage strap, may have to test the bad boy out. I plan to get a taxi to the Holiday Inn express. I can't believe I was actually worried that I could miss the 9:55 train. I made it in plenty of time to catch the 8:55, but I waited it out just to be sure. Wednesday is a good day to travel! Not too crowded.

The Train Ride...
It felt good to ride a train. Although once I was successfully on the train with luggage unloaded, we all had to get off and switch trains and platforms. Fortunately, my trolley was still outside the door. Once I loaded up my bags and made it to the next platform, we all were told to return to the previous platform and train. EighYighYigh! Even the Brits were giggly about this.

I returned to my seat and Ian sat down across from me. If all the British are like Ian, then I will have great help. We talked about everything from rugby people vs football people, hiking in the Pennines, this side vs that side, tipping, Chicago, Missouri caves vs Derbyshire caves, plane delays, breakfast,
My train mate pointing out the Derbyshire peaks.
and northern US vs Southern US accents. His constant questioning and conversation starters kept me awake from Manchester to Sheffield. When I finally told him I would be working at Sheffield HallamUniversity, his eyes nearly popped out of head, "Ooooh, that's a great university." I'm feeling proud and happy that I'll be at an institution that seems very well-respected, even though the city does not seem to impress people. The minute I got off the train, we found a luggage trolley, the lift, and the taxi stand. He left me as if he was worried I wouldn't make it on my own.

We pulled out of the train station, turned right, and voila!   Sheffield Hallam University.

Home Away from Home...
I'm staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Blonk Street. It was only a 4.50 taxi ride, but I paid 2 more pounds for the driver to lug my bags in and out of the car. I know, tipping is not required, b
ut you didn't lift those bags! 

I managed lunch, an egg salad sandwich, packet of crisps, and two bottles of water from the cooler in the hotel lobby. Paid 8.50 for that. Dad thought that was a good deal, until I told him that was about $13. He cringed a little. I still thought it was a GREAT deal. After skyping home, I promptly fell asleep. Hard sleep. I knew I shouldn't, but I just couldn't stay awake. I definitely need to change the time on my computer to GMT. I thought I could handle keeping it at CST, but all it does is make me think about what people at home are doing right now, and keeps me in two time zones rather than one. (Not that I don't want to think about my colleagues or family!) One time zone though is better for me to focus.

I woke up around 4:00 p.m., unpacked a little, showered, and headed downstairs. I was feeling some anxiety about actually going out of the hotel. New place, new faces, new neighborhoods, and sometimes I get it in my mind that when something looks dirty or old, then it must be an unsafe neighborhood, not because the building is 500 years old! :) So, I have to face that fear always when I travel alone, but once I do it, good things come. 

My home away from home before I find a home. The Holiday Inn Express.
The staff at the Holiday Inn Express have been super kind and friendly. The front desk clerk sent me on a 10-minute walk (seems that's the end-all-be-all of distance measurement here) to Leopold Square. I will be going back here, especially this weekend for some jazz music. JAZZ! I said. I asked if it was safe, and he said he walks this route every night going home from work at 11:00 p.m. It gets dark about 7:45, so I wanted to return before then. The walk was all uphill, which reminded me of something Ian (from the train ride) said about Sheffield, "Rome and Sheffield were built on seven hills, and that's where the similarities stop."  I passed KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds on my way to find dinner. I settled at Popolo's because it was next to four other restaurants in the square, and it was packed! No other restaurants had people sitting outside. So, I checked out the menu to see what was the fuss...then I realized it was the equivalent of happy hour. The other restaurants nearby might
What it looked like upon arrival.
need to rethink their late afternoon prices. The service here was great. I ordered the prosciutto e ouvo, which is described like this: prosciutto ham, olives, and mozzarella on a tomato sauce base with a cracked egg." It came by recommendation. I added the salad, which was my favorite! 

The good news is that it was all downhill home. I took a few different streets back just to familiarize myself with the area. I only had the hotel map, which was terrible, but I still made my way by using landmarks. I found the main thoroughfare that houses numerous SHU buildings. Everything looks so close on the maps I've been viewing, but I never realized how close all of this is. My hotel is less than a 3-minute walk up to the university. I made it back to the hotel for a cup of coffee at the hotel bar (I chose a mocha version because I was

What it looks like before bed. hehe.
craving something sweet) and then ended with a soft glass of merlot. I've had a good, make that GREAT, day in Sheffield. 

Tomorrow's agenda...
More walking. Find leasing agents. Find a phone. Ride the tram. Search for a yoga studio. That's probably all I can handle in one day in an unfamiliar city. 

Here are a few others pics of my day: 

prosciutto e ouvo pizza and salad for dinner.

Wall of water (on the right) outside the Sheffield Train Station. Look above and to the right--SHU...I didn't even notice it until now!

Some countryside on the train from Manchester to Sheffield. I love the rock walls that divide the fields. Don't you know someone put a lot of hard labor into those!
It's everywhere I am! Tomorrow I might try to find Sheffield University.
Window shopping on the way home from dinner. Looks like some great shopping to be had in this little city. At first I saw a TJ Maxx, but it's TK Maxx instead. Good thing I have one bag that will be empty for the trip home. These reminded me of my colleague Kristin Howard; she would look dynamo in them!! (And be 7feet tall!)
I will be hitting this place up soon. Yay for a little authentic Mexican food in Great Britain! Ben, the night manager on duty tonight, said there are two Mexican restaurants in this town, one local, one a chain. I will try them both. He said, "they are both really good!"

Speaking of Mexican, my last meal in the states. Not authentic, looks kind of gross actually, but oh so good. A mess of a tostada covered in hot sauce, guacamole, and sweet sauce.

All of the luggage in my care for the journey. Red=clothes, shoes; Grey=gifts; blue=research; backpack=cameras/electronics; purse=passport/credit cards.

Just what you think of in England, a clock tower, a red telephone booth, and a black cab (in the distance). Just walking home tonight.