March started off with a very interesting week for me, and now, I have been to nine countries. I have a pen-pal, Iranga, who I've been exchanging letters with for about four years. He's from Sri Lanka, but he's been living and attending school in London for the past two or three years. He's not sure if he'll be staying in Britain after 2009, and already last fall he sent me a letter inviting me to come for a visit, even offering to pay my way since he knew I couldn't afford it on my own. As much as I longed to be able to travel (the last time I'd been outside of North America was when I went to Peru after high school graduation in 2000), my immediate reaction was to say no. I told him that I was touched by his very generous offer, but that I couldn't allow him to spend so much money on me. I mean, he's doing quite well for himself in London, but it's not like he's reached a point where money is of no concern at all, and it just seemed wrong to accept such a generous gift from someone I wasn't even related to. But he kept bringing it up in each letter, and I began to feel more guilty about not accepting his offer. So finally, I said I would come.
I still felt bad about it though; it just seemed so selfish to allow someone to do something like that for me. Maybe that sounds silly, considering it was his idea, but I have a hard time asking my own mother for money for things I actually need. I'm a full-time student, living on grants and the money Mom gives me from my dad's life insurance, and often I feel like all I do is take and take and take and don't ever give anything back. I just feel like such a leech. If I'm being fair to myself, I understand that I'm doing what I can at this point in my life, that being in school now will open up all kinds of opportunities in the future and that the main reason my dad had such a large policy was to put me and my brothers through school if anything happened. I also understand that there are other things that can't be measured that do count for something, like the way I live my life from day to day and the way I treat people, that allow me to be of some good, but I still feel pretty lousy about myself a lot of the time. But I realized that these are my own hang-ups, and that if I allowed my issues to prevent someone from doing something that he clearly wanted, not just for me but also for himself, then I really was being selfish. Plus, I needed this.
I flew to London on Saturday Feb. 28 and came home on Sunday the 8th. Aside from a weekend in Ontario, it was the first time I'd been out of the country since 9/11, and I wasn't sure if there were any new security measures I needed to be aware of. I didn't have anything to worry about though and didn't have any trouble getting through customs at either end of the trip. I did experience a rather frightening couple of hours when I first arrived at Heathrow though, because I couldn't find Iranga! Turned out he was waiting for me in a different area from where the international arrivals left the terminal.
I'm going to be adding a number of posts about the week, since trying to fit it into just one would be ridiculous. If anyone happens to read this blog, I hope you enjoy the descriptions and photographs of the places I visited. It was definitely an interesting week!