Adventures in England: Part 3
Incidentally, I should highlight the *really* cool black cabs they have in London. Supposedly, they are the best cabs in the world. The drivers train for three years, driving around the city on a motorcycle, trying to get a handle on where things are before they're ever allowed to drive a cab. The cabs themselves are those classy old-style cars, the kind the think of Charles Dickens riding in, maybe. They've got the "suicide doors" and the big back seat, with the little seats that fold down facing the back. They're cool.
And they drive on the wrong side of the street. Its weird.
Anywho, Monday was going to be Mr. Hedrick's big birthday, so Mrs. Hedrick wanted to treat him (and us) to a nice dinner. Unfortunately, they'd neglected to include this in the invitation, so I didn't have any "classy clothes" (fact is, I left all my "classy clothes" on another continent) so Mr. Hedrick had to loan me a shirt and tie.
The restaurant was ... interesting. The food was outrageously expensive. They wanted £15.00 (that makes $30 US) for a little thing of chicken with some cheese on it. Apparently, the extra money went to pay for the waiters' attitude. Which might lead you to believe that they were nice and charming, but you'll notice I carefully avoided putting the word "pleasant" between "waiters'" and "attitude".
Mr. Hedrick: "Do you have any specials tonight?"
Head Waiter: "No."
Head Waiter thinks.
Head Waiter: "Well, everything is special, of course. Ha ha."
Maybe we were paying for the waiters' grooming bills, because the head waiter in particular had one of those annoying little mustaches that annoying waiters always have. Grrr. The chicken wasn't all that good. Desert was good, though. I had some sort of combined cake and ice-cream thing, where the cake wrapped around the ice-cream on the outside. It was yummy.
Anywho, the next day, I got up around 5am and got ready to come back. I re-packaged my back-pack, gathered up my stuff and Liz and I got a cab to the train station. It was kinda weird. They had an airport ticket counter at the train station, and I checked in there. I thought that was pretty cool. The train to Gatwick was about forty-five minutes long, and I got there in plenty of time (especially since I'd already checked in).
Liz and I went as far as we could together, when we saw there were only letting ticketed passengers any further, we stopped there. I did a little shopping trying to get rid of some of my pounds. I bought a T-shirt, and afterwards did the math on how much pounds I still had. It was a lot more than I thought, so I gave it to Liz. No sense in just throwing it away on nothing but souveniers.
Anywho, we had our big teary goodbye, and I decided I need to get going toward the gate. After being torn away from Liz, I loaded my mountainful of change into those little trays they have and stepped through the metal detector. For maybe the second time in my life, I set one off. The guy frisked me, and made me show him what was in my left pocket (a packet of peanuts from the train ride and those Czech beer-mats). I picked my stuff up and headed down to the gate.
Its a good thing I went down a little early! The gate was way down there, and they did things a lot different. Normally, there's the gate and some people are checking in, and others are hanging around, then they tear your ticket just before you get on. This time, the only way to get a seat was to go through this long line where they tear your ticket and check your passport again. It was weird, kinda backwards.
Then, they had the planed "parked" away from the terminal, so I had to take a little (too little for so many people) bus out to the plane. The plane looked really small, but it turned out to be normal sized. I was glad.
All my stuff fit on. I was a little worried about that, but I put the backpack into the overhead and the laptop under the seat in front of me. It was nice. A family of five sat next to me during the flight. It was odd. The rather young husband spoke to his wife and kids in nearly perfect English, and they understood him. His wife spoke back in English, but not quite as good. The wife, though, spoke to the kids in what may have been Italian. The kids never seemed to say anything.
(Interesting note: watching them get off the plane made me remember something... if Wehner Clan ever expands beyond myself, and droolpods start appearing, I hereby request that droolpods 2 & 3 be seperated by some gap... five years, say. Reason? So they can't outnumber the parents. If there's a five year gap between 2 & 3 - assuming Wehner Clan gets that big - then #1 will be at _least_ 6/7 by the time #3 arrives... 6/7 is about the age when they can start doing most things ... walk, eat, put on clothes ... without _loads_ of assistance... International Family had trouble hauling all three kids around with them...)
I got to the Munich airport, and after getting almost lost a time or two, I made it to the S-bahn station (it was oddly located). I couldn't figure out how to buy a ticket to the airport, and a bilingual lady told me that you could just buy a ticket for the whole city. That was good enough for me. I deciphered the map and hopped on the subway.
I rode about half-way to my direction, then the intercom started skwawking about "zug endet hier" which means "no more train". I was a little confused, but the stop I was at and the stop I was going had about a dozen lines running in between, so I just hopped on one going the right direction. It was the last day for Oktoberfest, and there were a lot of people wearing those cute little "Lederhosen" outfits. :)
Anywho, I got to the "main train station" and found a ticket window. I said one ticket to Mittweida, please. She couldn't understand Mittweida. I said it was in Sachsen. She asked me to spell it. I couldn't convey the difference between "Mittweida" and "Nittweida" and she never got that far any way. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper, and she says, "OH... MittWEIDa..." like I was saying it different or something!
So, my train didn't leave for another two and a half hours, and I was getting frustrated by this HUGE crowd that was all over the train station. There was a Burger King that was looking like good lunch, and I found some lockers. I put my back-pack in the lockers and kept my laptop (safer with me, I figure) then I went about getting lunch.
I ordered, and took the food back to the train platform to eat. My train was the only one on its platform (#24) for a while, and it seemed to be the least popular place to be, so I had a good chance of getting to sit down and eat. As I was eating, this lady came and sat down to do the crossword in her magazine. She brought along her dog, this "low-rider" model, with a face like Lassie. Except, the dog wasn't on a leash, and it was terribly curious about whether it could convince me to loan it some hamburger.
It started out all nice and begging, but as soon as somebody else walked by (it was a while before we had any company) the dog ran off and started barking at the guy! I guess he was marking his territory... me! What made me mad was that this lady just let her dog grovel at me all he wanted and didn't seem to notice, but she scolded the dog for barking at this other guy.
Well, then things got interesting. The dog returned with not so nice an expression. It was making me a little nervous, so I started eating faster. He kept staring at me, and then his lips curled back in a snarl. He looked mean, and I was tired and I was starting to get nervous. I wanted the lady to notice the dog was growling at me and pull Kujo away, but she was intent on finishing the crossword puzzle. I would have got up and left, but I had myself pretty well camped-in with all my stuff (burger, fries, drink, laptop bag... moving required major effort) so I ate really fast and tried not to think about having my leg chewed off by this mutt. Then he barks at me.
I waited to see what this lady is going to do, and to see what the dog will do next.
He barks again.
Lady continues with crossword.
I wasn't quite done with my burger yet, but I decide that I'm done enough. I go through all that effort to move, and I just get the heck out of there. I finished the rest of my food walking to another platform.
Forever and a half later, my train arrives, and I found a car near the end of the train with no one in it, so I took a seat. I had the car pretty much to myself the whole ride. I had a young family show up for a little while to scream in my ear, and some lady came backpacking through. I just sat reading for what felt like a _REALLY_ long time.
Chemnitz was completely boring, I just got off the train, waited a few minutes, and got on another train. Then I got to Mittweida. I came home, discovered that my roommates had cleaned up the bathroom while I was gone, and started to go to bed...
... but I just couldn't go without testing the network card.
Okay. Its weird. Either I'm not jiving with the 10/100 stuff, or something's weird on their network. Windows just says that it can't find DHCP. Whooptedoo. That does effectively mean I'm not going anywhere, but it doesn't tell me why. The lights on the card are a little weird, so I'm having a hard time interpretting. If they are how I've interpretted (no guarantees) then I'm not able to talk to the hub. What I'm guessing is the "Transmit light" isn't blinking, and the "Link light" isn't coming on. For all I know, that means the hub isn't working.
Okay, so Monday I'm supposed to start class, right? When I left for Bristol on Wednesday, Frau Thiel (lady who works in the international office) was already chugging along on making up a schedule for me for this semester. The issue was that she'd be gone on vacation when I got back from England, but she spoke with Frau Doberenz (not-as-nice lady who also works in the international office) and they agreed that Thiel could leave my schedule for me with Doberenz and I could just pick it up on Monday when I got back, and go off to class.
Sounds good, hunh? I should have known better... I woke up somewhat ill on Monday. Mittweida got really cold while I was gone, and my room was freezing. I had a weird headache and some other cold-like symptoms. It didn't help that there was nothing to eat in my room. All my food spoiled while I was gone. I was a little slow going that morning, but I made it down to the international office to pick up my schedule.
Interesting note: German offices' doors rarely have windows, and they almost never leave the door open. When I find one closed, I generally panic, because there's no telling how to reach someone on the inside. For example, Frau Pohlack, who runs Housing, has covered her office door with some weird padding. On the outside. It leaves no space for knocking, and muffles all sounds that come from the inside. I don't like closed office doors.