Well....we made it. Steph and I are in England.
We left Wichita on Monday, September 17th and flew to Chicago. From there, we flew overnight to London. Throughout our journey, I could not help but think of those immortal lines from the Farrelly brothers: "We're really doin' it man!" (Dumb and Dumber, 1994). I also had the song "Moon River" in my head.
We took a bus from London Heathrow to Nottingham, where we checked in the Rutland Square Hotel; it's a nice place right in the city center (centre), and it's about 100 yards from Nottingham Castle. I haven't yet been able to explore the castle, but I'm hoping to this weekend. We had our first dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant called Las Iguanas. Our first meal in England was fajitas.
Our hotel's wifi was a bust, so during our initial time in Nottingham we were without the internet and resorted to a McDonald's to get out digi-fix and to FaceTime and Skype with friends and family. It was during this time that I left this status update on Facebook: "If I'm ever asked, 'What's the craziest thing you've ever done?', I'll now have a good answer: 'I moved to a country I've never been to without having a permanent residence, a phone, Internet access, or a car.' (The wifi in our hotel doesn't work - I'm in a McDonald's.) On the plus, the natives speak English, everyone's very friendly, we now have UK phones, and we'll hopefully have a place with wifi in the next couple of days."
In the preliminary days of our house-hunt, we stayed mostly within the city, but didn't have much success. We decided to move into the suburban town of Beeston, which is closer to the "uni," as the English say. (Incidentally, for those who care, the British would have placed the last comma of the previous sentence outside of the quotation marks, while we Americans place it inside; I had to throw that in there, since my dissertation research involves punctuation marks.)
On Friday, much to our dismay, we discovered that we could not extend our stay at our hotel. In fact, we couldn't find a place to stay in the city at all. The reason? A UFC fight in town. Seriously. Being hit with the news that there weren't any places to stay felt a little something like being hit by a UFC fighter. Okay, not that bad, but it didn't feel good.
So, we rang up some friends of friends who live in the area to ask advice, and we were graciously offered a place to stay in their home, which, Providentially, is in Beeston. It has been a tremendous experience living with them - I am continually being challenged by their kindness and hospitality. They are adamant that we stay until we move into our permanent residence, and, last night, when we insisted that we be allowed to pay for their dinner, they staunchly refused. They are ministers of the Gospel here and in the surrounding communities, and they practice what they preach with excellence. I want to be more like them.
Now, ten days after we left home, it looks like we have found a place to live. We are praying that the paperwork goes through and that we can move in next week. The apartment is modern in design, fully furnished, safe, a couple of miles from the university, and only a brief walk away from Tesco. It is also just around the corner from the High Road, which is a quaint, Britishy, mostly-pedestrian thoroughfare with everything you'd ever want in the way of shopping and restaurants.
Now a few words about the University of Nottingham. First off, it's incredibly beautiful. The University Park campus, where I will be working, is, as its name would suggest, a giant park with buildings scattered about:
Secondly, my first interactions with faculty and staff were awesome. Everyone is very kind. I had an induction event on Tuesday in which members of the faculty explained the basic Phd process and offered warm and encouraging words. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to be able to study here.
There you have it. A lot has happened, but that's the short of it. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and the kind words on Facebook!