The taxi has dropped me off in front of a weathered grey, two story building. Multiple green trash cans and a brightly painted blue door contrast sharply with the bleak looking dorm. I pull my suitcase up the front steps and rummage for the keys I received. I put the first key in. I twist and jiggle the knob.
Come on I mumble pleadingly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see the black taxi cab speed off down the road. The second key goes into the lock smoothly. I hear an audible click. Breathing a sigh of relief, I push the door open my hand gripping my rolling suitcase.
There’s another door, which leads into a small area with a staircase on the left. Slightly further, I see I can turn either left or right. I choose right. I peek into the kitchen area with bright red walls. I continue, listening to the sound of my suitcase wheels on the tiled floor. Looking around I don’t see anyone. The numbers on the doors are going up, I know I must be close to my room.
Another flight of stairs. My suitcase is too heavy to pick up. The wheels hit every step on the way up. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
I stop, breathing heavily, then continue.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk Clunk. Clunk.
I make it to the second floor. Groaning, at the sight of more stairs I check the number on my envelop. I look at the door to my right. A match. I pull out my keys again. The struggle between myself and the door continues. A guy comes down the upper flight of stairs. I introduce myself and wonder how many people heard my elephant like thundering. He pushes against the door and it opens. I thank him and we talk for a couple minutes before he leaves. I fling my backpack on the open bed.
Then it hits me. I’m actually in Scotland. Let the adventure begin.
Ten hours later I’m racing through the labyrinth of London Gatwick. I’ve made it off the airplane in record speed. Ahead of the pack and breathing heavy, I run down the deserted hallways. It’s only about 7:45 am in London and the day’s travelers haven’t arrived.
Further and further. The stitch in my side growing.
At last I spot an information desk where three ladies sit. They don’t see me at first; they’re busy spinning out a long conversation. I raise my voice slightly and ask about immigration. They gesture ahead towards a few glass booths across the room. It must have been good fate because there’s not a single person in line in immigration. I hand over my letter from the University of Edinburgh and identification. The woman with the thick rimmed glasses, and plum colored lipstick takes her time. She consults another lady about student visitor visas. Finally, she stamps my passport. I jam it in my bag.
She points to her left and says “You go down the stairs, exit and up two floors” when I ask about departures.
It’s not until twenty minutes later, that I realize I have no idea where I’m going. I’ve passed the currency exchange place twice. Circles. I’m going in circles.
I spot a bunch of passengers heading through a doorway. After a moment’s hesitation I follow. Through more hallways then I notice an escalator. The ride up brings me to an open area where tired travelers wait in security lines. After a minute explanation, a short grey haired women in an official vest leads me through. Fingers crossed, I fervently hope I can make my flight. Past security, with my belongs pressed to my chest, I find the departure board. I stare up at it to find my flight. In glowing red I read “closed.”
Initiate Plan B.
Jet planes are the industrial dragons that soar through our modern skies. I soon will be in the belly of one of these beasts as I head to Edinburgh, Scotland. I am sitting at gate 80 trying (and failing) not to worry about my 55 minute connecting flight in London. To distract myself I glance around at the other passengers.
To my left are two families both with young girls. The girls inspect each other’s Orlando souvenirs—a bright pink light up Disney wand, tiaras and jewelry. The tired parents look on, relieved for the distraction. Across from me sits two ladies. One wears pumps, a black dress, panty hoes and a shimmering silver scarf. The other in a black shirt and dark pants, along with Crocs and socks. A man with thinning hair, talks with a thick English accent into his illuminated iPad. Behind him a young mother’s hair matches her fiery temper.
At the counter a British Airways employee announces they will begin boarding. I flip through my unstamped passport as I watch the other passengers stand up and heave duffle bags onto their shoulders. Gradually, the seats clear until the lady with the shimmering scarf, myself and a few others remain.
Then we are called.
Backpack secured and passport in hand , my boarding pass is scanned. Cautiously, I make my way down the worn maroon carpet and into the dimly lit cabin.