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09 July 2011

Welcome to Manchester

Day 37: Sunday, 26 June 2011
The flight from Reykjavik to Manchester was only about 2.5 hours. I sat in front of an obnoxiously loud child, about 6 years old, who kept whining about everything. The didn't deter me from falling asleep for most of the flight. I groggily passed into the airport and through immigration, where I got held up for a quite a while, because the immigration officers had no idea what kind of visa I had. They had to look it up online, because it was a new category that had just been introduced (so apparently I knew more than they did).

It felt hot in Manchester, especially compared to Iceland. It was apparently 27°C, which is like 81F. I took the train from the airport to the main train station, Manchester Piccadilly. It only cost £3, which is much cheaper than the analogous train in London. I then took a tram to Kieran's place, which was also quick and easy. I arrived at the house, but Kieran wasn't there and his housemate Johnny didn't have the key to unlock the door. No worries, I sat on the front ledge and laptopped away.

Kieran arrived with Amy and another guest, Tsachi from Israel, whom I at first called Ducky. We went for a long walk into the city center, which was pleasant. It felt good to be back in a city, surrounded by people.

I felt particularly culture shocked, maybe because I was sleep deprived. The traffic driving on the other side of the street seemed particularly disorienting. There was litter all over (I didn't see any litter in Iceland). And there was such diversity! It felt good to be around so may different kinds of people again. And of course I had to switch on phrases like "you alright," "queue," "take away," and "CCTV." Yet at the same time, I didn't feel the same sense of excitement arriving in Manchester. I guess that after Iceland, few places can seem impressive; and I had been to England already anyway. But coming back to the UK didn't feel like coming home; it felt more like re-taking a course that I had already passed. I think that after I get past the cultural adjustment phase, it'll feel more comfortable and like home.

So we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Indian restaurant on the curry mile. £8 per person got us way more food than we ever needed, and the flavors were amazing. We had enough to take away. Kieran's friend Lewis arrived, who is quite a crazy character (in a good way), and he drove us to our next stop: a pub where we'd meet everyone else. We had several mojitos and caipirinhas, as there was a special 2-for-1 on cocktails, and it was just so warm. I got to meet the whole group - Becky, her bf Tom, Andrea, Kate and some of Tom's colleagues at the BBC.

We stayed until late, maybe 9pm, but I couldn't tell because it was still bright and sunny. We grabbed some take away pizza on the way home, and the guy making the pizza was very happy to hear someone with an American accent.

Day 38: Monday, 27 June 2011
I explored Manchester entirely on foot. It was warm and sunny for most of the day, with some clouds coming in and cooling things off by the evening. I witnessed two girls getting into a ghetto catfight in the park. I sat in the square near the big ferris wheel and watched a bit of Wimbledon on the big screen. I glimpsed inside Manchester cathedral and sat in Piccadilly Gardens with many locals.

I crisscrossed the city center several times, passing in and out of the Arndale shopping centre several times. (UK, and European, shopping malls, even the big ones, simply don't compare to those in the US, in terms of quality of offerings, cleanliness, and overall pleasantness. I can see why Americans so frequently hang out at the mall.) Since it was Monday, the Art Gallery was closed.

I met up with the housemates for another late lunch/early dinner at the girls' Brasilian restaurant. Then, I got a new converter (US-UK) and walked back with Kieran and Tsachi.

It was Tsachi's last night in Manchester, so we walked to the nearby pub for a couple pints. Unfortunately the pub closed at 10:30 (?!) so we just returned back to Kieran's. 

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