“Do you not have a job?”
Feng and I exchange a puzzled look. We are trying to pretend it is business as usual, but we are barely awake and terribly jet-lagged.
It is 10 a.m. London time and we are standing below the huge blue “UK Border” sign at Heathrow Airport. Our plane just landed minutes ago and we sprinted to immigration control, expecting a long queue—the whole Olympic thing, you know. But the hall was almost empty, and we barely had the time to dig into our carry-ons to retrieve passports, boarding passes and the immigration forms we filled out on board, before being called by one of the immigration officers.
And now he is eyeing us suspiciously. We are not sure how to answer the question—or what it means, exactly.
Eventually, after an uncomfortable minute-long silence, he points at the forms in front of him and sigh. With a bored voice that reminds me of the tone profs use when a student claims the dog ate his homework, he eventually offers: “Occupation. You did not specify any.”
“Oh, sorry about that,” I blurt out. I take the immigration forms back and glance at them. Indeed, we apparently skipped a line: “occupation”, right after “citizenship”.
Wordlessly, he hands out a black pen and we both complete the form to the officer’s satisfaction, adding our respective occupations. According to the stamps in our passports, we are prohibited from looking for employment and to recourse to public funds in the United Kingdom, but we are otherwise good to go.
We make our way to the baggage carrousel, pick up our backpacks and head towards the exit through the “nothing to declare” door.
Because we have nothing to declare but our craziness. Ending up in London on the first day of the Olympics, a last minute decision for an international trip, surely is a crazy move.
Yet, the little planning we did before leaving home worked out fine. We found a direct flight from Ottawa to London—first time ever we fly internationally directly from Ottawa. The trip was smooth if tiring (we got the 11:25 p.m. red eye, the last flight of the day). And now we are in London, along with God knows how many people.
The Tube doesn’t seem so packed at first, and the ride to Paddington, where our hotel is located, is straightforward. Yet it’s easy to tell it is the calm before the storm. The crowd is still arriving or hanging out somewhere in the capital waiting for the fun to start.
We have a busy day ahead of us though, we have some business to do—that’s why we ended up in London in the first place. The chores accomplished, we are exhausted. I slept a few hours in the plane but the flight was short (6.5 hours) and so has been the “night”. Add the jetlag to the exhaustion of running around in London, and you get two red-eyed travelers, walking around like zombies. Luckily, we aren’t lost: we were in London just two summers ago and the city hasn’t changed much.
We are in Europe again, for a very short time—ten days only. But we will make the most of it and enjoy this spontaneous trip.