Saturday, 4 May 2013

That's What Friends Are For

I had been in Florida for four weeks when I ventured over to Universal with a group of princesses that I work with. We were chatting over an IHOP breakfast (my first ever: if you've never experienced it I highly recommend going) when Rapunzel and Cinderella- princesses who have been here far longer than I have- said the exact words that I needed to hear.

"You won't feel settled yet. You probably don't and you're probably beating yourself up for the fact because it feels like you've been here forever. Week eight is the week that you settle. You'll see."

The fact that Rapunzel had just casually mentioned it over eggs and pancakes while Cinderella sipped her coffee and nodded profusely in the background meant a lot to me- they had been here too. I was not alone. 

For the rest of that day- and probably for the rest of that week- I found that thought reassuring. I had another four weeks to go before I should feel settled. I still had time. 

Then one day I was sitting on the bus when Dumbo unexpectedly got on too. We discussed the previous night's events, arranged dinner plans for that evening, moaned about American food and laughed at ridiculous things that only we would find funny. She then stopped for coffee, leaving me to continue my journey alone. I skipped to work, bumping into three different people I knew on the way. I breezed into the backstage area and shouted hello to everyone I saw before going on stage and working with a smile for the rest of the day. 

When my work day finished I decided to grab a drink from the UK Pavilion and wander around Epcot's World Showcase with it- perhaps stopping to share my culture and try some foreign food. I had promised my best friends that I would cook for them that night so planned to wait for them to finish work so that we could pop to the supermarket and get food together before returning to my apartment to eat. 

What actually happened was that I got so carried away drinking my cider in the sun and looking at the beautiful countries that by the time I got to Italy I could barely string a sentence together and sent an embarrassingly sentimental text to Dumbo and Tigger that I'm sure is going to be read out regularly in an effort to make me cringe. 

Thankfully a bottle of water and an English Bay Sugar Cookie managed to lessen the effects and I made it to the supermarket and back to mine without embarrassing myself much further.

On arriving at mine with the ingredients that I had genuinely intended to cook for everyone, I soon discovered that I had accidentally let myself become hangry. Now for those of you who don't know,  hanger is a condition that affects a small percentage of the population. Caused by a lack of food, it results in cruel words and occasional seemingly unreasonable tears. 

People who do not suffer with hanger on a regular basis tend not to take it seriously. Even my absolute best friends from home refused to worry about it until Pumbaa and I went on holiday together in 2008 and she had to experience the full of effects of my condition without back-up. They've fed me at three hour intervals ever since. 

So as I was heating the pan in preparation for cooking for Tigger and Dumbo, I hadn't actually realised what was happening until Dumbo gave me a look. 

She stepped in front of the stove, took the pan from me and said 'You're hangry. Sit down. I'll cook.' 

Tigger didn't even react. He got another pan from the cupboard and busied himself with the sauce. 

I sat down with a drink, and watched them cook. In my kitchen. They didn't ask where anything was, if they could use anything: they made themselves perfectly at home. 

They put the dinner in front of me, I took one bite and- that was it. The spell was broken. I was no longer hangry. 

We laughed for the entire night. 

I shut the door behind them at one the following morning, smiling to myself. 

And that was the moment. 

The moment that I realised that I was smack bang in the middle of week eight. And I was settled. 

Three weeks later I had another moment: the first moment that it really hit me that I was in America. Not just abroad, not just in Disney World, or even Florida, but America. 

Obviously I knew I was in America. I had spotted the endless differences from the UK (the food, the television, the funny way they pronounce Parmesan), but it wasn't until I walked into a five-thousand-person private pool party held at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park that I really registered: I am in America now. 

Huge groups of bikini-clad girls were squealing in excitement, lads were flying out of the flumes with their fists in the air, rows and rows of heads were disappearing as the wave pool swept them away, spotlights flashed on the beach where hundreds of people were doing The Macarena on the sand-dance-floor. The whole place was vibrating with the volume of the music, the air smelt like a surprisingly brilliant combination of catered food and chlorine, and almost every single person was sporting something they had won: an eye patch, a bandanna, a big hat: you name it, if it was pirate themed- you could see it. 

It was like every American teen movie you've ever seen.

I didn't even know things like this happened in real life. 

I loved it. 

For the first five minutes. 

But in those first five minutes that's exactly how it felt: like I was watching an American teen movie. Not taking part in it. 

Then I bumped into Woody and Russell. 

The second I saw them I stepped into the movie. Woody was wearing a bright red hat and the biggest, cheesiest grin I have ever seen, and Russell was wearing a gorgeous beach dress and enveloped me immediately in a hug whilst shouting 'waheeey here she is!'

I spent the rest of what I think was my favourite night in America so far with a combination of Woody, Russell, Aladdin, Dumbo, Tigger, Piglet and many, many more brilliant characters. 

The music was amazing. The rides were awesome. The heated pools were fab. Meeting Captain Jack Sparrow was...actually a bit scary. The fireworks, the beach, the dancing, the N-Sync impersonators...I could go on forever- everything was so well organised, everything was in place for the perfect night. 

But without the company of all of these wonderful people from all over the world- it would have meant nothing. 

The same as my time here in America would mean nothing.

Walt Disney famously said 'You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.'

So this is me being grateful for every single person who has helped make my dream a reality; and ensured that my reality is every bit as wonderful as my dream.

Thank you :) 

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