I moved to Thornton Heath on the 1st of September. Yup, I’m a month late, but I still wanted to write out what happened to me, because so much has happened to me. My first week at Thornton Heath, I spent most of the time resting from the hectic work schedule and typing out the notes I had taken while at WORTH. That Thursday, I went back to Worthing to interview a lady who works at the refuge based in that town.
The following week I took a short trip to Cardiff, in Wales on Monday the 11th of September. I tried to go to the Indian consulate before catching the train to Cardiff, but there were train delays on the way to Victoria, so I had to go straight to London Paddington station to catch the train to Cardiff. Once I got to the Central Station in Cardiff, it was just a short walk from there to the NosDa Budget Hotel where I was staying. I had booked a bed in a four-bed dormitory. I was the only person in the room when I arrived, so I was pretty happy. However, I had to mail my tickets to Sri Lanka and India to the STA office in Rhode Island that was working with me on my itinerary, so I asked for directions to the post office and walked there. On my way there it started raining and I got a little wet. I quickly dashed into the post office and mailed my tickets. By the time I came out it was just drizzling. I realized then that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was past 4:30pm. I went in to an eatery called Pizza Hot 4 U, and bought chips (French fries) with chicken and salad, chatted with a lady from Turkey and a guy called Imran who both worked there. From there I went to an internet café next door to check email. I also helped a South African woman sitting next to me to get some forms for work, and chatted with a Spanish guy who was sitting on my other side. I also tried to have an MSN audio chat with Twum, but the microphone attached to the PC wasn’t working, so he spoke and I responded by typing.
On my way back to the hostel, I had to dash to another hostel at the corner, Cardiff Backpacker, to use the bathroom. It was quite comical because I went in there and told the guy that I would buy something from the bar if he would let me use the bathroom. He said they would be glad for me to use the bathroom, but that I didn’t need to buy anything from them, mainly because they only served their guests. He was pretty nice about it though.
When I got to the hostel, I went to my room but the light wasn’t working, so I came downstairs to read a storybook lying down in the lounge. I also brought my laptop back downstairs to do a bit of work and met a nice Australian couple who are traveling around and working in Scotland. We watched a show called “Little Britain” and chatted about Australia, compared it to the UK and the US, and also about domestic violence and the role some religious beliefs affect domestic violence. After they left, I stayed up till almost 4am typing out the interview I had with the lady who works at the Worthing Refuge. Interview was on 7th September, a few days before I left for Cardiff. I thought I would be done by done, but it is quite tiring to transcribe recorded interviews. In fact, I should have known that it would be hard, looking at how hard and how long it took for me to transcribe that historical tape about the founding of Hampshire College. I didn’t even get the recorder till I got to Worthing. There were two types available; one that was just a digital recorder and the other that could be connected to the PC so that the interviews could be uploaded to the computer. I was trying to be frugal so I went for the one without the PC connection. Big mistake!! Why? Because if I had done that, I could have just put the interviews on my computer for later, instead of struggling to transcribe them all before the next interview. Twum told me that he had got me another recorder with longer recording time than the one I bought. I also had a long chat with Twum about the focus of my project. It was quite helpful because I was already feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere and not learning enough. (Postscript: Now that I’m having to type up all my notes and observations, I realized that I have learnt a lot! It’s actually quite overwhelming.)
The next day I walked to the WSU Cardiff office. It was a bit farther than I was told and I got to the office all sweaty. They were however expecting me, so that was nice. The office manager, Clare, showed me around and introduced me to all the staff, and got me a mug of tea. (Yeah, I’ve gotten into the tea-drinking culture of the UK.) I got to chat with the lead caseworker, Liz, who was a bit busy, so after spending about ten minutes with her I moved to the police officer. Yes, they had a police officer on site, and she was very helpful. I was with her for over an hour, as she explained to me her role at the WSU, and the different ways in which WSU was working with the police. Apparently the on site police officer is changed every six months, so that the clients will have a sort of one-stop shop where their questions will be answered in an affirming, supportive way, instead of having to repeat their stories over and over again to different people.
When I left the office, I wanted to visit the Cardiff Castle, but I also wanted to get a bra because I realized I had only two bras with me on my trip. I spent quite a bit of time moving from store to store looking for bras in my size that were not ridiculously expensive. Most of the time I didn’t find anything in my size, and by the time I decided to go to the Castle, the last tour was over. I did buy some postcards though, and spent a bit of time looking for keepsakes ( I didn’t buy any though).
Once I got back to the hostel, a new girl, Niko, moved into my dorm. She was a lovely girl from Germany who was coming to spend a year studying in a Welsh university. Another girl, Sharon, from Hong Kong, joined us in the room. She had just completed a Bachelors in Mathematics at a University in the midlands of the UK, and wanted to visit Cardiff, Wales, before leaving for Hong Kong. We bonded pretty fast, and spent a few hours chatting. We then moved downstairs where I had a soda and Niko had a beer, while we split a (pretty large) piece of Victorian sponge cake. I also split my dinner with Niko (a chicken tikka baguette with salad). While down there we met a British born Pakistani man who was very nice. He asked if we wanted to watch anything in particular, and I told him that we would like to watch the WSU show at 10:30pm. He said he would think about it. J Anyway, at 10:25 he switched the channel to BBC 1 Wales, which is where the program was going to air, and he stayed and watched with us. We stayed up and chatted for quite a while about domestic violence and life in general, and even after Niko and Sharon went to bed, he kept me company for a little bit, then went to bed. I stayed up late (again), trying to finish transcribing the interviews. ( I still am not done. L)
The next day we had breakfast together, exchanged contact info, and I left for work with my luggage. Work was pretty cool. I sat in on a meeting that one of the caseworkers had with a client. The client came with her mother, and it was pretty interesting, especially when the conversation turned to the fact that the mother and her daughter believed that they could see things in the future, and could project themselves into the spirit realm or something like that. However, the woman had recently been given a new house to move into, so that was good news. The caseworker who had the meeting was called Nerys (lovely name) and she taught me how to pronounce Cardiff in Welsh. It was pretty nice.
Later on that day, I got to sit in on a survivors’ meeting that was ran by one of the survivors, a nice friendly lady called Gloria. She even gave me her mailing address and phone number to contact her if I needed anything. I left early in order to go for a tour at the Castle, but I realized that if I did that, I would have to take a later train to London, and I wouldn’t be able to go shopping with Kathy and Annabelle. I still got to London after 6pm, but I was able to buy a few essential things at a store in the station, so that wasn’t a total loss.
When I got to East Croydon, it was raining. I crossed the road trying to catch the bus right opposite the station, but it was only after I had gotten there that I realized that the road was closed. I crossed over to the other side, and decided to catch the 198 bus which stops next to the station. In my exhausted mind, I thought that since the road was closed, the bus would just turn around and head to Thornton Heath. I didn’t even think that there were other people who lived on the route and needed transportation. As I stayed on the bus and it went further and further away from Thornton Heath, I felt quite stupid. I had a good storybook to read so I wasn’t too worried. At the last stop, the bus driver yelled out that it was the last stop. I went up to him and explained meekly that I had picked the wrong bus. He was pretty nice about it and actually laughed at me. Thank God he didn’t chuck me out into the rain. I finally got back to Thornton Heath around 9pm, tired and wet.
I had some dinner, and then stayed up to finish up the red poncho and crochet some flowers to decorate it with. I wore the poncho to meet Twum at the airport the next day. I was a few minutes late because I underestimated how much time it would take to get to Heathrow. I got there and found Twum, and we took a black cab back to his hotel in London, which cost about 50 pounds. Yeah, quite a chunk of change. J (For those of you wondering, Twum is my husband by customary marriage. The traditional marriage was done by our families on 9th September.) That was my first two weeks of September.