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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

13th Stop - London

Finally, another request to road-share, this time from Bruges to London. Ok, why not, but this is going to be very complicated because I no longer have a cell phone. Not having a cell phone, puts you back in touch with yesteryear, when you had to fix a set time and place to meet someone and even go so far as to where a specific color, especially when they have no idea what you look like. Today, it’s as easy as let’s meet somewhere in the city, sometime in the morning, we’ll call each other to nail down an exact time and location depending on where we both are at the time we call! A combination of failed email confirmation and the lack of a specific meeting point behind the Bruges train station doomed my attempt to meet Victoria. Bad luck strikes again.

My swing through Bruges ate up precious time and I had to gun it to make my ferry on time. Great, 15 minutes before it’s leaving, I made it... or not. “Sorry sir, the platform has been raised, you’ll have to wait for the next one in two hours.” Mitigated luck, I had to wait but could work on a translation I had to do and they didn’t charge me extra.

I was kind of worried about driving on the wrong side of the road, but in the end, it was quite easy. I think having the wheel on the left side helped. I made it safe and sound to London but had a few things to take care of before meeting up with Jimmy, one of my best friends from high school.

Visa had set up an emergency transfer via Western Union so I could get some cash. London is an expensive city, I was going to need it. Unfortunately, they gave me the wrong codes and I couldn’t get the money. So I stopped at an HSBC in Lewisham and withdrew money at the “world’s local bank”. Thanks to my status as a Premier client, I can withdraw cash in any HSBC around the world. That’s cool.

It was so great to finally see Jimmy again, meet his wife Oanh and their newborn baby boy, Miles. We took a nice walk through the park that evening with Miles and Jimmy filled me in on everything that happened in Vietnam since Anaïs and I left five years ago. His stories actually convinced me to change my itinerary and stop by Vietnam. Oanh made an excellent chicken dinner that night and I must say that Jimmy lucked out and married not only a beautiful, friendly, and dynamic woman, but also an excellent cook.

The next two days I did private Wordfast trainings in-company and in-library, but more importantly, struggled with parking. Three minutes late with the meter and I had a ticket for £40! On Friday, I ended up parking in the most expensive parking garage I could find, after searching for hours it seemed, then had to take the tube into the congestion zone.

Friday evening, we met up with Jimmy’s friends from Vietnam, Esther and Liam at the Commercial Tavern on Commercial Road for an afterwork. But the fun only began there, we later stopped at a Burger King in a tube station and got whoppered up. While making a connection, Jimmy recognized a girl they all knew from Vietnam. sure enough, it was her, totally random running into her in the tube on a Friday night in a city with millions of people. Our final destination, Madame JoJo’s on the West End for a deep soul and funk dance party till the wee hours of the night. We grabbed a night bus home; unfortunately, both of us fell asleep. I woke up first, then woke Jimmy up. Jimmy ran to the front of the bus without saying a word while I asked someone if we had passed Camden Town. “Camden Town, yeah, like 25 minutes ago!” Luckily, we got off and another bus going in the opposite direction came 10 minutes later.

The next night we went out to a house party after having tapas and cheering on Spain to win their quarter-final match. The house party was hosted by a friend of a friend of a friend from Vietnam! It was interesting meeting the staff from, some actors and film production crew from a recent movie, and a contingent of Spaniards from Malaga who were there visiting someone...

We celebrated Oanh and Jimmy’s one year wedding anniversary in a park with Hiroko, Esther, and Liam. Not sure if it was a coincidence but there was an arts festival going on and we got to see dancers and a play set in the trees.

One last highlight of my time in London was the indian restaurant we ate at Monday night. Note to self, stop eating once I start feeling full, I don’t have to eat everything on the table. We all had a hard time standing up and walking out of there!

A big thanks to my Wordfast trainees, Alison and Kristin, Liam, Esther, Hiroko, and everyone else I met during my stay in London. A special thanks to Oanh, Jimmy, and Miles for their hospitality. Together, we’ll help protect six families over the next five years from contracting malaria. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon. Oh, and best of luck Jimmy in your new job at Coca-Cola!

Next stop: Madrid!

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