Long haul flights are always a trial. Waking up early in the morning in New Zealand, my lovely parents drove me the three hours to the airport (passing many sheep and other farmland animals on the way, of course), where I checked in to the quite nice Thai airways, happily undisturbed by the Chilean ash cloud, and got on my plane outta there.
I was apparently one of the first to board the plane, as when I got to my seat near the back, there were hardly any people around. The row behind me had a Thai woman travelling back home to visit, and her seemingly half-Thai daughter, a tiny little inquisitive thing of a few years who was cute for the first 25 minutes, then annoying for the next 11 hours. After failing to act on my mothers directions to demand a good seat, my seat ended up in position B, snugly squeezed between seats A and C, neither aisle nor window. When a guy and a girl who seemed to be travelling together turned up to fill those two bookends, I offered to let them sit together, which the guy, who seemed more surprised than was really necessary, took up by telling to go sit by the window then.
I felt a little happier about the situation until the woman who piled in in front of me slammed her seat back as far as it would go, while my seat recliner was apparently broken. After the couple beside me proceeded to ignore my attempts at conversation, I spent the next 12 hours staring intently at the woven headset in front as the little girl behind me asked her mother questions non stop while kicking my back.
I arrived in Bangkok for the layover, exchanging the smiley image of Thailand in the world of the plane for the surly reality on land. I had a few hours here, which I used to catch up with M for the first time in months, which was nice. The immigration officer didn’t seem very impressed with my explanation for lack of address in Thailand being that I would be back on the plane in the few hours, just meeting someone in the airport then leaving again! After eyeing me up suspiciously and being sure to take my photo, I was able to get in and enjoy a curry and creamy drink with M while looking over my shoulder to check her parents weren’t hiding in the potted plants with binoculars. The 6 coats I was wearing to get around the woefully inadequate baggage allowance made themselves felt in Thailand’s muggy heat, even in the air-conditioned airport in the middle of the night.
After my short reprieve, it was back to the doldrums of flight, trudging through the passport control, through to the excessively long distance between gates (am I the only one who seems to always get the gate furthest from the security area every single time? Seriously, are all those other gates even ever used?), waiting for delays in the waiting area filled with more people than seats, everybody looking like cows waiting to be herded off to the abattoirs, then through and on to the next 12 hour leg of claustrophobic hell. At least by this stage I was exhausted enough that I could have patchy dozing sessions, and we had passed into a time period acceptable to be called England’s night, so I could get away with it without feeling bad about not adjusting my body clock.
And I could think. People have been telling me alot lately about how excited I should be to be heading to England. And part of me is, but a larger part of me has a kind of trepidation. I have been wondering about what it is that I’m trying to achieve in this new leg of my life. My plan has always be, since I left University in New Zealand a hundred years ago, to head to England, where half of my family are from, and try a new experience there, getting a professional career going.
However, alot has happened since then. I moved to Japan, ended up spending four and a half years there, and travelled to a ton of different places. And my values, and the things I want, may have changed from what they were. I haven’t done anything that really counts as Law work in years. I studied law for the last couple of years in Tokyo, but the language barrier was so great that rather than learn anything substantive, what I was really doing was improving my language skills. And despite my constant moaning about how many things Japan has wrong, and how I would never want to work there permanently, and how I was just waiting till went to England, the fact is I did spend nearly five quite formative years there, and now look back on it with some fairly strongly rose-tinted glasses.
Three large things have changed since my original plan to come to be a lawyer in England. I now speak Japanese. I have developed a large liking for travel. And I have forgotten a lot about Law. Is this really where I should be now? And if it is where I should be, is that what I should be doing here? Several of my friends have gone on to do things totally unrelated to their degrees. Some have gone back and re-studied for things which, when they earned a few more years of life experience, were actually closer to what they realised they really wanted to do.
I feel like I am at a crossroads here. I can go ahead with my original plan, try and get the law thing going, although realistically, it will be quite difficult and take some time to get on track now, I feel. Or, I can forget all that and restart from scratch something I feel like I might rather do, something creative or artistic. However, that also would take a long time, and doesn’t seem to have great job prospects. But I’m approaching 30 here. Time to wander about, deciding what to do is running out. Life is catching up, the urge to have a secure job (at least for a while) is increasing, and the surrounding number of friends in long-term relationships is also increasing. Procrastinating has been fun, but it might be getting near time to shelf it for a while?
Were some of the things I was thinking as we hurtled towards London at a snail’s pace. And now, four hours ago, I landed. A deft swap of my New Zealand passport for my British one (thank you Dad) saw me through an actually friendly immigration at record speed, and after picking up bags, express-training out of there, lugging bags up and down staircases through subway stations and riding their rocking, lumbering trains with flickering lighting, making calls from bright red public phone boxes, and walking the cobbled streets, I really have begun to realise I actually am in London, and with that final realisation does come a burgeoning sense of excitement.
I’ve finally managed to catch up with a friend who I haven’t seen for years, who is now being taught music mixing in an underground studio down some random street as I sit on the couch in the next room and write this. Looking forward to seeing how these next few weeks play out!