So, almost exactly a year after applying for the Eisenhower Fellowship, here I am in sunny Philadelphia! I left Brussels on 16 March. Abi drove me to the airport (thanks Ab!) and came in to stand in the queue with me, even going off to get coffee and croissants. I wasn’t super-overjoyed at the thought of an 8-hour flight in economy (which was all the Commission would pay), but kept telling myself that it would be a quiet flight – who flies from Brussels to Philly on a Sunday, I thought. WRONG! Loads of people, actually (well they ended up mostly flying somewhere else, but whatever). By the time it was my turn to check in, my thoughts were all of upgrades! The check-in guy booked me in and then sent me off to ticketing where for a relatively modest sum (modest enough for me to jump at it!) I upgraded and got a boarding pass with the magic “1 for first row” on it. I know Rachel won’t understand, but I’ve just got beyond economy!!! And boy was it worth it. Not only was business quite quiet, so I got two seats to myself, but I was able to get 5 hours of OU work done and as I’m as behind as a behind thing, that was a real bonus. And I practically made up the money – alcohol was $5 a pop back in cattle, so my mimosa, bloody mary and glass of port made a good dent!
Got to Philadelphia, through immigration and customs with no hassles (very short queues if you’re used to New York!) and then got a taxi into the city. “where you from” says the taxi driver. “Brussels”, I say. “Oh. Where you live? Woluwe? Schaerbeek?” “Centre” I say, slightly surprised at his knowledge of Brussels geography, “near the Grand’ Place.” “oh…”he says knowledgeably, “Rue des Bouchers.” You could have knocked me down with a feather. He never explained how he knew Brussels so well, maybe had family there. Small world, innit.
When I arrived at the hotel a folder was waiting for me, along with a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to the US, which was great as I was going to go out and buy one! They’re not easing me in gently – I’m off to Wilmington, Delaware tomorrow to visit DuPont and have another meeting before I go. Today was all about orientation – meeting Tiffany and various staff at the Eisenhower place. Being given my lifetime key to the door (literally!). Getting the laptop they’re lending me for the duration. During the week there’s quite a few social things, including a visit to some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings out in Pennsylvania. I’m definitely going to be doing some driving during the trip, so am going to have to find a chance to try it out, given I haven’t driven any car since July, have never driven on the wrong side of the road and have never driven an automatic!!!
I do feel hilariously British every time I open my mouth here. Don’t know whether I get more clipped, or it’s just in contrast to everyone else, but I sound like Celia Johnson even to myself!
Anyway, enough for now. Shall get on with sorting everything out!