Twum arrived at 9am on 1st October, which was a Sunday. I didn’t sleep the night before because I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t wake up in time. I had spent the previous day baking about two and a half pounds of cake. Anyway, I got to Heathrow Airport around 9:40am, and made it to the arrival gate. I thought I had missed him, but there was a notice above the arrival gate that said that passengers would appear there at least 45 minutes after arrival. I felt I was well within the time limit, but I was a little worried that he might have come out already. He finally came through the gate around 10:20am, and I convinced him to take the underground with me. We made it to Victoria station with no problem and got to the hotel to check in. Were we in for a big surprise!!
Luke, the guest services manager we had met the first week we were there, had changed Twum’s booking from their sister hotel to the Victoria Park Plaza. Once he had checked in, we were given an executive lounge pass also. Our room was on the eight floor. We thought it would be like the first one, but it as actually an executive apartment!! We had a small stove top with two burners, a fridge (not a minibar!), and couches and stuff. We also had a glass dining table, a microwave, saucepans, lots of plates, cutlery and glasses, and a knife set. It was amazing! We were like little children, moving around and touching everything.
Later that night we went out to look for food and found a lovely Chinese restaurant that served the best fried rice ever (we both agreed on that). As Twum’s mother had provided us with shito, we had a lovely meal. The next day we went over to Kathy’s place in Thornton Heath to collect my stuff, and got a minicab from there back to the hotel for less than thirty pounds. Once we had deposited the luggage in the room, we went out to get some groceries. We ordered two servings of the rice this time, and then went to Sainsbury’s right across the road. As they were about to close, they had cooked whole chicken on sale for two pounds and eighty-nine pence. We quickly grabbed one of those, bought some vegetables and fruit, and juice. We also grabbed a bottle of Sangria. It was one of the best meals ever!!
The next day Twum went to work, and I contacted a number of organizations in the area I wanted to visit. Most of them asked me to call back, and said they would contact me later on in the day. I went back to the room and did a bit of reading. The previous week I had picked up two tickets for the musical “Wicked”, the story of the witches of Oz. We were to go watch it that night, but Twum had forgotten that he had a video conferencing meeting at 9pm that night. We went to the show though, and he left after the first half for his meeting, while I stayed and watched the second half. It was quite a good musical. I wanted to watch it again.
On Wednesday he went to work again and I went to visit my aunt Vivian and her husband David in Milton Keynes, a town/city about an hour outside London. I got there around 2pm. It was loads of fun!! It’s always a perk to eat Ghanaian food, and my aunt made me banku with tilapia and light soup. Oh, it was wonderful. She also called my mom in Ghana, and we both chatted with her. She was having lunch at the time. Later on when her husband came back from work, we kept chatting. When I was ready to leave, they gave me money ( I don’t like it when I visit people and they do that, especially when they had been so nice to me already), and Sis. Vivian packed up some banku and tilapia and soup, beans stew, and chicken stew for me to take with me. She also gave me some fresh ripe plantains and uncooked rice, to add to the stews she had already given me. She also gave me a six-pack of a malt drink. So nice and generous of them! I didn’t know how to thank them, but they seemed genuinely happy to see me, so that was nice.
I got back and wanted to make some of the banku for Twum, but he wasn’t feeling like it, so we decided to have breakfast for dinner, heating up some baked beans, making an omelette full of veggies, with bread and tea. It was a lovely dinner.
The next day I headed to Worthing to visit the WORTH project and say goodbye. I got there around 11am. It was raining and the weather was not particularly friendly, but I went anyway. I took along one of the cakes I had baked, as I knew they had their weekly meetings on Thursday and could have the cake with their tea. I was supposed to go visit the Newham Action Against Domestic Violence (NAADV) on my way back from Worthing, but it would have taken me at least three hours to make it from Worthing to Beckton, in East London. I called them, and they said to come the next day. I called Twum and told him I was done for the day, and headed back to the hotel.
He turned up around 6pm with one of his former interns in tow. The intern, Daniel ( I think), was doing a study abroad term in London, so he stopped in to have a drink with us. We sat downstairs in the hotel lounge. Twum and I were cold so we ordered hot chocolates, and Daniel had a Beck’s beer. There was a man performing at the bar, playing some lovely oldies and classics. All in all, it was a pretty mellow mood. After Dan left, we went upstairs and had fried plantain and beans for dinner. I packed the leftover for Twum to take to work the next day.
The next morning (Friday) I had a 9am appointment, so I was up at 7am, and out of the door by 8am. I had to go to London Bridge to visit the Greater London Domestic Violence Project, to chat with one of the caseworkers at 9am, and another caseworker at 10am. It was raining again, but it wasn’t as cold as it had been the day before. I met Chelsea, a caseworker who had just moved to London from Australia, and she told me about the domestic violence scene in Australia. It was a nice surprise and addition to my work. The other caseworker was held up by the rain and delayed trains, so I couldn’t meet with her. I called the NAADV office and asked if I could come in earlier, and they said yes.
I had to take the Docklands Light Rail to Beckton, where NAADV was located. The platform was so crowded that I couldn’t get on the first train that arrived, and had to wait for thirteen minutes before the next one. I almost didn’t make that one, but I broke free from the crowd and run down the platform to one car that didn’t have many people getting on, and squeezed myself inside. It turned out that most of the people were going just two stops down, to the ExCEL house or something like that, so the train car was pretty much empty all the way to Beckton, the last stop.
I had to do a bit of walking past an ASDA, to make it to the NAADV office. There, I met a lovely lady called Cheryl, who was the adult services coordinator. She gave me a run-down of what the organization did, and how the organization started. It was pretty nice, and I hope to visit again if I’m back in London this year. I was done by 1:30pm, so I left and called Twum on the way. I went into ASDA hoping to get something to eat, but there was nothing there that struck my fancy, and I just bought a cup of yogurt that I ate on the train. I got back to Victoria around 3pm, where I had the banku for lunch/dinner. Twum arrived just a few hours later and had his plantain and beans with the leftover chicken.
We were supposed to go clubbing that evening with Twum’s friend Edwin, Kathy and her siblings. My friend Laura also wanted to have coffee, so I asked her to come over, around 7pm. Edwin also came over around 10pm, and we ended up chatting the whole night till almost 1am. I made jollof rice with the chicken stew and rice, and made a stirfry with the veggies and shrimp we had in the fridge. We all had a bit of that, and had some of my cake for dessert. Laura (she’s Korean born in Argentina, and lives in US. J ) loved the shito we ate with the rice, and kept eating just so she could eat more shito. It was a lovely evening.
Saturday Twum and I just chilled and did our packing, since we were both leaving the next day. Luke took us to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. It was a lovely meal, and we couldn’t thank him enough for his kindness and the care he had shown us during our stay. He actually hadn’t even know that Twum worked for Google, and was pleased to hear that, since Google had just opened an account with the hotel. We went to bed around 11pm, and woke up at 5:30am to get the minicab at 6:30am, as my flight was at 9:30am. Luke had been really thoughtful and packed us breakfast to go, so I had my breakfast after checking in, and Twum and I chilled for a little while. I went to join the security line around 8:45am, and got to the gate just as they started boarding. My seat was at the back, so I was one of the first to board, which was good.
I called Twum after settling in, and we talked till my credit got finished. I sent a text message to Kathy to let her know I was leaving, and I think I fell asleep before the plane even took off.
Goodbye UK, Hello India!!