Friday, April 9, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Strugglemobiles

Traveling, my friends, is not without it's downsides. Sure you see exciting things, catch interesting diseases, take some nice pictures and meet, well, let's just call them characters, why don't we, because anything else is just offensive (and indeed it WAS offensive to meet such people, but mostly just, you know, for me). But the issue that I find most troubling about travel is the element George Carlin discussed so often in his work, and that's the issue of stuff.You see, when you travel, whatever else you might be experiencing can be totally over shadowed by your concern about your stuff. Where is my stuff? Is my stuff safe? Did the nice man I asked to look after my stuff while I go to the bathroom steal my stuff? Or, if I took my stuff to the bathroom with me, how do I get my stuff, which weighs exponentially more the longer I carry it around, back up that flight of stairs? Am I missing any of my stuff? Did my stuff get lost somewhere between Berlin, London and Guam, and, in fact, is my stuff going to be used by a small indigenous tribe living in South America for bartering? Are they mocking my underwear? How dare they mock my underwear! Are they going to separate my whites from my colors when they wash my clothing? These are, in my opinion, the primary questions of humanity, not who am I or does God exist, but where the hell is my luggage, and how to I get it from point A to point B.

Now, this has been one of the primary issues in my mind for the past few months, because the more you travel, the more you accumulate, and the more anxiety you have. For example, I'm currently sitting in a dorm in Oxford's Magdalen college (Thank you so much Anna, and for those playing along at home, that's pronounced Maudlin, because the Britsh have never met a word they could completely alter via pronounciation, I attribute this to their envy and rivalry with the French, but that sort of talk could get me burned alive here, so keep mum, wont you?). I'm surronded by my stuff, which has, against all odds, arrived here in the United Kingdom intact. This is, in fact, quite an accomplishment, and here is why:

In the last two days I've taken 6 trains (including metros, tubes and s-bahns) one bus, one plane, and one taxi, all so I could get to a place that, well, looks almost exactly like the university from which I recently graduated. I traveled from Hamburg to Berlin by train and S-Bahn, and then, after a delightful day in a blissfully warm and springy Berlin,  at the ungodly hour of 6:30 in the morning (can you believe there are people who actually work at that hour? That's barbaric!) I made my way via train to Berlin's Shoenefeld Airport (thank you, EasyJet, for all your cheap orange wonders, your ridiculously archaic flight attendant outfits and the fact that you charge extra for everything but the BATHROOM). Two hours in the air saw me sleeping on the shoulder of a nice young British man who was too polite to make me move, and after the Luton immigration officer determined that I didn't seem like a likely person to wire bombs to London Bridge (fooled HIM) I was off again, boarding a bus, a train, the tube, another train, and a taxi (which terrified me by driving on the wrong side of the road, it's better just to shut your eyes when you come to this country and think longingly of interstates) all so I could get to Oxford. I suppose in the long run that was the easier option, apparently I saved myself from something called the A Levels, which is how young British people get themselves to this school, so being out some 20 pounds sterling or so and a few hours of the day has to be an improvement on that, right?

Of course, my next major move is going to be a 15 hour flight (give or take three hours in Dubai, anyone want a Porsch from the airport?) from Gatewick to Shanghai Pu Dong. Consdering all of the things that could happen to my stuff in the meantime, this past day and a half was gravy. At least when I'm here in Oxford, I sort of speak the local language, and, after all, I know where I'm going, I've been here before. Sort of.


  1. Hey Leah,

    Where else in China are you going? I'm actually living here -- in this place called Qingdao up North ish, kind of by Beijing (and kind of by Beijing, I mean a 6 hour fast train) teaching at a university for a year. Be here till June. If you wanna get it touch with me, get my email off of facebook and get in touch with me that way. Best of luck!!

    Amanda King