Hardly anyone leaves America and moves to Wales, much less for Swansea, so that’s what everyone here I meet in Wales tells me and usually on a daily basis. It seems like every lovely Welsh person I meet, as soon as I open my mouth to speak, before anything else is sorted, or business transpires, they ask me; “You are from America Yeah”? Then they ask me what part and then ask me tell my story.
They always want to know why I’m here and how long will I be visiting. “I moved here,” I reply and I’m from Texas; the Southwestern part of the United States.
I am from Dallas, Texas. It’s true, I lived there all my life and it’s where I was born. My origins are Cherokee with some Welsh ancestry. I remember the first day I arrived in Swansea, I got lost and would stop at gas stations to get directions and I couldn’t even understand what they were saying. I find the Welsh have an extraordinary accent even though they speak English, but looking back, I am sure they had a hard understanding me too.
Even the road signs on the streets are hard to read. Why do they have three different spellings on every sign? When I was looking for Swansea. On the sameroad sign, it is spelled three ways “Swansea, Swɒnz and Abertawe.” No wonder I kept getting lost. But now that I’m here in Swansea; and just beginning to find my way around.
Although sometimes my emotions get in the way. Like the first time I arrived in the UK, landing at Heathrow…good heavens! I was so lost and overwhelmed with Gates and terminals only allowing access to certain trains, buses and taxis. How was I supposed to know that I needed a transfer to Paddington, then transfer again? I thought Paddington was just a teddy bear. Oh boy, was I proved wrong whereas I thought Dallas- Fort Worth International was big; Heathrow is massive and it’s big enough to be its own County with its own MP. Except I think the Welsh call the counties “borough’s” here in Wales.
So, after getting through Heathrow, I still didn’t understand the transit system here and thinking about having to read the signs if I could have found one; how was I going to get to Swansea. “I know…I’ll just rent a car.” Little did I know? All I could see was signs for “Car Hire.” I didn’t want to hire a car to work; I just wanted to lease one for a few days. But I followed all the signs to the car hire desk and low and behold; there was no one at any of the desk. There was no one to ask for directions, so naturally I’m thinking it being a Wednesday and only 10:30 A.M. in the morning; doesn’t anyone in Britain work?
In America, I was always at work by 7:30 in the morning and left the office at 6:15 P.M., but I have discover they don’t here. So I pick up the red phone on the Car Hire desk and call the number as instructed. Unfortunately, for me, there was no answer; Imagine that. And why are there 11 numbers in the phone number system a “0” and a “1” before every British phone number? I wondered if this was an operated assisted phone call with extra charges, like when you make a call and the recording comes on and says: this is not a free call, you will be charged according to blah…blah.”
Luckily, I had my trusty iPhone 5, switched it on to Data roaming, only having to redial 5 or 6 times, where I finally got in touch with SIXT Car hire. Great! They gave me instructions to go to Terminal 3 and “pop on” the shuttle.
“Could it be that easy,” I thought. After all I only had 3 large suitcase and I’ve never been one known to travel lightly. I’d thought I be smart and come prepared and found it here quite different. I was still quite confident until the day I received my iPhone bill. I was charged $1,491.69 for data roaming. That’s £971 in Sterling. Maybe I wasn’t so prepared after all. My phone bill was twice the price of the airfare.
Anyhow, I caught the shuttle to the SIXT Car Hire, hired a car rental and was finally on my to Swansea, so I thought; only to find the steering wheel was on the right with manual transmission only. But that’s another story for another day.
But I’m here in Swansea now and I love it. I love the beauty, its culture and its lovely history; even in its vastness, the contrast and even the differences… and in spite of everything. Thank you for reading.