Day 38: Friday, April 20
Wow. It’s here. 38 days ago, I would have sworn that today would not have arrived. Ever. The last day. Tomorrow, I must become American again :) Like I could have ever really fooled anyone. I’m too bad at staying quiet long enough to keep up the “I’m a true Brit” charade! Oh, the Southern accent. Gets me every time. I have found myself using (and without even trying) British words and slang. It comes so natural now to count in pounds, even those ridiculous and slightly absurd 2 pence and 2 pound pieces. Why would you ever need a 2 pence piece when there is such a thing as a 1 pence piece? It’s practically the equivalent of having a 2 cent coin. See? Ridiculous! I use the word lift for elevator, queue for line, and I’m pretty sure phrases like “mind your step” have come out on occasion. Wow, what a difference 6 weeks can make!
The only thing on the agenda today was a meeting at the Lewisham PCT (Primary Care Trust) to meet with several of the pharmacists and learn more about the NHS (National Healthcare Service). Carmen still was not feeling super, so Michael, Stephen, and I headed out without her. We made pretty good time, considering we took a route we had never used before. It was all very official when we arrived, having to sign in and get visitor clearance and all, but it is a government facility, so I guess it makes sense. We met with a wonderful lady, Eileen, who is a pharmacist who works directly with the GPs (General Practitioners) to allocate the budget allotted to each area and GP office. Each borough has their own PCT and has to use the budget wisely to make sure everyone gets adequate and enough accessible healthcare. It’s all very complicated, so I won’t go that much into it, but we learned these pharmacists are very good at research, statistics, and working with the GPs. With all the changes to the NHS that were just passed while we were actually in London, the PCTs will be dissolved by this time next year with the GPs becoming responsible for figuring out and maintaining their own budget, and from what we gathered, this could be an absolute and sure disaster, as they have not been trained to do this sort of work. They are purely there to care for and provide care for patients. It should be interesting to see it all play out, and I will make sure to keep up-to-date with the goings-on next year.
Oh, and I also have to say this was one of the most structured and useful meetings we have had this entire trip. Such a shame it was on our last day. It would have made everything make a lot more sense if we had done this our first week here! But oh well. There was a time schedule and agenda and everyone knew what they were supposed to do. It was heaven for an organized person like myself. As you have probably figured out, there was not a lot of structure and a whole lot of “figure it out if you can and hopefully someone will agree to meet with you” going on during our trip.
Anyway, after our meeting, Michael headed back to the guesthouse to meet up with Tara, but Stephen and I were starving, so we tried to find a local pub…with little luck! I think we ended up eating at some place called Jenny’s Restaurant, which was actually very good (despite its rather uncreative name!) and got jacket potatoes (aka loaded potatoes, but with whatever you want in them. I had a plain one, but Stephen got curry chicken in his, and from what we gathered, tuna mayo is also a popular choice. No thank you). After a quick trip to Sainsbury’s to get a few last essentials we made it back right before a huge storm hit!
Around 4pm, the boys and Tara left for a weekend trip to Amsterdam, and we had to say our goodbyes. I know I had never even met the boys before a few weeks ago, yet it was still really hard to say goodbye! The four of us (our crew, as Carmen would say!) have spent so much time together, both for work and for fun just hanging out and have become really close. Plus, I really hate goodbyes. But I made them promise to bring their girlfriends for a trip down to Atlanta so we can all hang out again. I know Bryce would get along with them really well too, so I think it’s a good plan all around. Yes, agreed? Good!
Then the crazy packing started! Let me tell you. I had a lot of clothes. All of them dirty, yet they still had to be folded (semi-neatly) to fit in the suitcase. It really became a game of put everything in the suitcase, get on the (British) scale, convert kilograms to pounds, then try again! Ha ha. This went on for forever! Luckily, Peggy was taking us out to dinner so that was one less thing to worry about, and it gave us a chance to see her one more time and talk. She’s taking us to the airport in the morning (at 6 am, no less, which shows what a truly lovely lady she is), so it’s not our final goodbye. But still, it was a bit sad. And the dinner was absolutely fabulous! So here it is everyone. The end of the journey. Bittersweet indeed, but I cannot wait to see Bryce tomorrow! Hopefully I can sleep tonight with all my excitement!!
Day 39: Saturday, April 21
I’m home! Is there anything else that really needs to be said? I don’t think I have ever been as antsy as I was the past 12 hours just waiting, waiting, WAITING to get home. Poor Carmen had to deal with my foot bopping, constant squeals of excitement, non-stop commentary about how we were almost there since we were seat buddies on the plane. That ride up the escalator (you know, the really, really long one) to the baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (really, who invented such an incredibly long and ridiculous airport name?) took absolutely forever. Luckily, Bryce is the tallest person I know and also the tallest person in the whole baggage claim area so I spotted him in about 1.2 seconds and made a running bee-line with my 20+ kilos (yeah, I use British measurements now! Ha ha) of luggage towards him! It was a great moment of excitement. I thought I was going to burst with happiness!! Plus, my parents were there too, so that was kind of fantastic as well. Ah, my whole life is now complete and back in order :) I am a happy, happy girl writing this right now.
That being said, I wouldn’t have traded the entire trip for anything. Going into it, I was a bit hesitant and definitely not looking forward to being gone for 6 weeks from everything. And also, as much of a nuisance as it was trying to get it to work and all the complaining I did about it every night, I probably would not have survived this trip without Skype. Bryce might not have either :) It is possibly one of the world’s greatest inventions. Also, Carmen and I would have grown really tired of each other if we were the only people that we knew and saw every day. So, really, it all worked out quite well. I loved this trip. I fell in love with London, even with all the crazy amounts of people, pigeons, congestion, and absurd fashion choices (but really, that last one sort of made the trip that much more enjoyable!). There is too much history and beautiful surroundings to not fall in love with it. I know that as happy as I am to be lying on my own couch, sleeping in my own, wonderful, amazingly soft and comfortable bed, I am going to miss London. I already do a little bit. I got see and experience more than most people will ever get to since I lived there and became a Londoner for 6 weeks (well at least until I opened my mouth…my accent got a smile from just about every person every time and definitely gave me away every single time). And for that I am so grateful that I signed up for this trip, was one of the few selected to go abroad, and that Bryce is not only always ok with, but is so encouraging for me to get out of my comfort zone and have these types of experiences (yeah, he’s definitely a keeper!). So farewell for now London. But something tells me that I won’t be able to stay away for too long now that I’ve seen it's magic :)