Aug 27, 2012

Getting to Galway (Part I)

Me: Are you sure you can't come with me?
Sanjana: *fixing her hair and pretending she's not going to miss me*
There's really nothing like having a little sister.
Classy, as usual.
Greetings…from somewhere over the north Atlantic!  The first leg of this trip has just begun – it’s about seven hours from JFK to London, a two-hour layover, and then ninety minutes from there to Shannon.  (From Shannon, I believe that the bus ride to Galway is about two hours.)

Leaving New York was rougher than I expected it would be.  Despite all of my experience with travel and living abroad, I woke this morning with a resolute desire to stay exactly where I was.  But my parents, it seemed, had different plans, because before I knew it, my dad was hoisting my bag into the car and we were on the Van Wyck.  One more blink, and I was standing in a security line, holding a boarding pass (when did that happen?) and hugging my brother goodbye, telling him to be good and tell Mommy jokes on the way home so she wouldn’t cry too much.  And then, I was alone in the snaking line, clutching my bag and feeling like a small child in a crowd who looks over her shoulder every three seconds to make sure Mum’s still there.  I wanted to be a grown-up, believe me.  Grown-up Me would have blown her a kiss, shot her a grown-up grin, and waved her away, mouthing, “Don’t worry!”  But for those few minutes, I decided that it was okay to look over my shoulder, because she’s my mum and I wasn’t ready to leave home, leave my comfort zone, leave her.

me and Dad
One more word about my mother, friends.  As many of you know, she is wonderful for a multitude of reasons, but one stood out this afternoon: every time I searched for her, she a) pretended she was the only one looking, b) smiled that soft smile, and c) waved wildly.  Her shamelessness delighted me.  Of course, I shed a few discreet tears ten minutes later as I sat outside Gate 3, and I’ll bet she was doing the same as she put the car in drive.  But I think we’d both prefer to remember the picture of me craning my neck to find her for the fifth or sixth time…and her, waving like the most ridiculous parent on the planet.  I miss her, but the captain says we’re headed to London and I’m not sure I could turn the plane around.
me, Mum, and Rishi

Holding on for dear life, it seems...
My boy and me!

Now that I’ve had a few hours all to myself, I’ve realized anew just how much about this trip is worrying me…and how positively irrational every single one of those worries is.  Examples: what if no one likes me and I don’t make any friends?  What if I don’t do anything and everything as efficiently as possible?  What if I don’t like it there, and then I’m stuck for four months in a country where I don’t want to be?  That’s right; each one of these thoughts has taken up residence – useless space, really – in my mind over the past few weeks.  Thank goodness for friends who don’t dismiss these worries, but remind me that it’s both normal and appropriate to be nervous.  Thank goodness, too, for one particular friend who sent me off with a beautiful letter that reminded me of so much that is good.  To this friend: you know who you are, you know how grateful I am for you, and you know that when we talk next, I’ll tell you all of this and more.  (I love handwritten letters…there’s a certain “nearness” about them that is near impossible to achieve in an e-mail.)

Sleep is calling, friends.  I’m the type of person who’s very capable of thinking herself into a frenzy, and too much thinking makes for a very sleepy Sonika…

A few hours later...

So of course, I’m stuck in London.  (For context’s sake, it’s about 10 am on August 27th.)  Ironically enough, the issue originated in New York; my first flight was late getting off the ground at JFK, and the captain was optimistic that he’d be able to make up the time in the air.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to, and I missed my connection…so I’ve ended up with a solid four hours to burn here at London Heathrow.
the boarding area where I'm probably going to spend those four hours
Although I’m a relatively experienced flyer, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t panic (a little) when the harried Aer Lingus agent informed me that I’d missed my flight.  For perhaps ten minutes, I did have to sit down and get my bearings…in other words, remind myself to be an adult and plan my next steps – i.e. get a standby ticket onto the next flight out, make sure that I’d be able to find my checked bag in Shannon, and look for a pay phone so I could call collect and keep my mum in the loop.  Now, with everything sorted out, I’m writing to you all from a slightly-too-chilly lounge with a remarkably large number of disgruntled passengers.  Apparently, a bunch of flights to Belfast got canceled this morning.  Such is air travel, I suppose.

I can’t remember the last time I flew through London; when my family and I fly to India to visit family in the summers, our stopover is usually in Paris or Dubai.  So this airport is completely alien to me – it’s a maze, and a huge one at that.  I feel like I walked a few miles just trying to get from my first flight to the main building.  (Actually, “walked” is a delicate way of putting it; I ran a fair amount, particularly during that brief period of panic.)  Anyway, what I’m getting at is that it’s easy, especially when you’re flying alone, to feel dwarfed by the chaos of a large airport like this one.  I’m still a little stressed, truth be told…so let’s examine the flip side, shall we?
  • I’m not stranded – I’m not even going to be here overnight.  (I’ve been in airports overnight before.)  I’ll get there eventually.  And in the grand scheme of things, four hours is no big deal, especially since Shannon is relatively well-connected and I don’t expect that I’ll have any trouble getting from there to Galway.
  • There’s a coffee shop called “The Emerald Gateway” about 200 feet away from where I’m sitting…and when I eventually make my way over there to re-caffeinate, I’m going to sink into one of those red velvet couches with the pretty paisley patterns.
  • I now have time to freshen up so that I can land in Shannon looking like a well-seasoned traveler.  Appearance is everything, my friends ;)
  • I have my journal with me, and more than enough books with which to occupy myself.  No time like the present to start another book…
Whew – now I’m convinced everything will be fine.  Who knew counting your blessings could be so calming?  (Note to self…)
After a four-hour wait, this was a welcome sight indeed.


  1. You know, I had the exact same thing happen to me when I studied abroad - stranded in London for 4 hours on the way there. I'm glad to see you still got there at a decent hour :-) Yay adventures!

  2. No kidding! Were you traveling alone as well? I guess I got real lucky...God was watching :)

    I miss you, Kirsten - have you been back to campus yet? I'm so excited to hear that you and Jamie are thinking about volunteering at Union. Keep me in the loop?