Sunday, 1 August 2010

Back By Popular Demand...ish

So it's been a while since I've last written and I can tell you that it's for good reason. See, the strangest thing occurred...I actually started loving life over in England and being a lot less stupid! Instead of writing about what was happening, I was out doing! After living on the beaches of LA for 4 years I never thought I'd like it in this cold, wet, tiny island called the United Kingdom (minus Northern Ireland). But I think I've learned a little something about myself and about life. So as I gear up for my final 8 weeks in England I thought that instead of sharing my stupid moments (although there will be a few!) I will share what I've learned to love about this place and what horrifies me about returning to America.

I guess I'll start with something one of my mentors from work has taught me. This particular person has moved back and forth to America and 3 places in Europe with wife and 3 kids in tow. He said that you have to make a conscious decision that wherever you live right now is your home. You don't go 'home' for Christmas, you go to see friends and family. If you're constantly thinking about going home, you'll never enjoy what you have and just live.

So here's to me living life in the place I've come to call home in the Northwest of England....

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I Nearly Killed My Dad, On Accident


Do not take hard-of-hearing, slightly inebriated American father to a football game that requires him to cross busy roads in England.

Had a coworker of mine not seen my dad looking the wrong way before crossing the road AND known my dad has trouble hearing, my dad would have been hit by a car. My coworker saw it happening and SHOUTED 'Phil, watch out!!!' just in time for the car to breeze by just inches from my dad.


I recently had the joy of a visit from my parents for 2 weeks. It was so nice to see a familiar face after living in this land of strangers for the last 6 months. On Day 1, they must've hated me because they landed at 7am and I forced them to stay awake until's the best way to avoid jetlag! So, we used this opportunity to visit the town of Bath, which is just 3 hours South on the motorway.

Bath is an amazing old Roman town. There is so much history, it's inconceivable for us as Americans. We toured the actual bath houses where the Romans used to bathe, which are fed by natural springs. Portions of these baths were built as long ago as the 4th century, with additions and restorations throughout the years. In the background of this photo, you also see Bath Abbey, which was builty between 1500-1600AD. I actually think various churches/ abbeys have been built on that site and modified over the years, but the one standing today was built in the 1500's. One of the great things about Bath is that while it has all the history one could want (for one town), it is now quite a fashionable and sophisticated city as well. It's definintely a town to re-visit for some shopping and a good night out!
Well, enough of me rambling on for now...will write more about Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circles, London and Greece soon....

The Silver Lining

So, this constant rain has been getting me down, but I am determined to find the silver lining in it all.

Since arriving in England, I have come to be a bit of a fan of the Everton Football Club. They are one of the two teams that play in Liverpool. I guess you could call them the 'underdogs', these days anyways. Anyway, the point I'm trying to get to, is that to be an Evertonian, means that your glass is always half full. Everton fans are known to have a positive upbeat attitude.

Back to the rain....being that I am becoming an Evertonian, I realised today what the silver lining is with all this rain......


Amazing, beautiful rainbows almost every single day. And while the rain might get me down, one look at a rainbow makes me smile. So there you have it, the silver lining.

Plus, you have a great reason to buy rainboots (wellies) and rain coats, which you can't pull off in Southern California.

I have loads to catch you all up on, more to come...

Sunday, 7 September 2008


So, one of the things that's really caught me off guard over here is this...when people say good bye they say 'See ya soon.'

At first glance, you're probably thinking 'So what?' Let me just explain that in a work environment when a coworker or your boss says 'See ya soon', I'm instantly mentally scanning my calendar for the day thinking 'Hmmm, when is the next meeting I have with this person?' For weeks, I thought I was missing meetings or deadlines. I finally asked a coworker (after he said 'See ya soon') what exactly he meant by that. He looked at me strangely and said 'SEE YOU SOON or SEE YOU LATER'. Right, point taken. I'm an idiot.

Well, I got to thinking that there must be something that American's do that is equally confusing. Eureka! Last week I think I found one. Have you ever noticed that most Americans, no matter what the context of an email, will generally sign it 'Thanks, So-and-So'. Regardless of whether or not the person who will receive the email has done anything deserving of a Thanks....there it is at the bottom of the email. For a nation of individuals that on the whole is somewhat self-centered, why do we do that? Very strange, indeed. Wouldn't it be funny if we started signing emails with 'Your Welcome'???


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Tenerife: England Away from England, with Sun

So, I know I missed out on Phelps Medal count 3-8....but how awesome was he in the Olympics????
Ah yes, the infamous summer holiday....a necessity here in England because the weather leaves much to be desired. So, took a short jaunt down to Tenerife with a few girls that I've met here for 4 days of sun, fun, and sand.
Assuming most of you are like me, you've probably not heard of Tenerife. It's a Spanish island that's about 200 miles off the coast of Morrocco. The weather was absolutely amazing...30C and sunny during the day, but cool at night. Upon landing, however, I instantly realized that Tenerife is basically England, shrunk down and moved into a warmer climate.

What exactly do I mean by that, you say. Let me explain.
-At the grocery, 50% of the food is directly imported from England
-Music played at bars and pools is from the charts in England
-There are English pubs everywhere
-You can get a Full English Breakfast at a tapas restaurant
-You can watch UK Big Brother 9 at the bar
-Most restaurants and hotels employ English workers
-Robbie Williams and Girls Aloud are available for karaoke, in English (not that I sang!)

Shall I continue?

Anyway, after being delayed by 4 hours on our way there, we got about an hour in the sun before heading out for my friend's birthday. The bartenders tactic for getting business in Tenerife is to offer a number of free drinks one night, in the hope that you'll come back another night, which worked out great for us. So, before we knew it, we were having a great night of karaoke. How can you go wrong with 'Son of a Preacher Man' and 'Don't Stop Believin'????

The next day was spent exploring, eating, and sunbathing. We definitely went and watched Big Brother at the pub (vacation will not keep us apart!). Day 3 was a blast....we got up and went on a cruise around the island. We must've really lucked out because we got to see some whales right up close! Unfortunately though, the water was really choppy, which didn't work out so well for those that were prone to seasickness:( We spent a large part of the afternoon listening to this poor girl heaving into a bag at the back of the boat. I honestly am not sure what was worse, the heaving of the sound of it hitting the bag. We did eventually get to anchor the boat and go swimming in a little cove. The water felt great..and as we were swimming, we noticed that the cove is apparently a nudist beach as well. Let me just say that it was NOT a pretty sight!

Upon returning to land, one of the girls and I discovered these enormous inflatable rock climbing walls that are anchored out in the harbor. So, despite the fact that it was filled with mostly small children, we went out there and had a blast. It was a LOT harder than I thought. Probably not very attractive in a 2-piece bathing suit, but fun! Once you climb up to the top there's a huge slide down into the water!

All in all, the trip was great...I really needed a dose of sun to perk me up! Now just another week and my parents will be here to experience all things England! Tune in later....

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Brit-Olympics/ Phelps Medal Count=2

Ah yes, the time we've all been waiting four years for...the Beijing Summer Olympics. It's the only time where we put our lives on hold for 2 straight weeks and absorb ourselves in random sport such as archery, synchronized swimming, field hockey, badminton and horse jumping.

To the majority of the world, the Olympics are a celebration of the cultures of the world, the competitive spirit, and the endurance and skills that we hold as humans. In Britain, however, the Olympics are a celebration of British athletes....and that's it.

I found myself watching some of the sport over the weekend. At first, I couldn't put my finger on what it was that seemed a bit off. And then, I realized what it was. The British commentators, won't comment on really any American athletes, except Michael Phelps. You could have an American diver getting 9.5's on every dive, and they would be commenting on their 14yr old diver who was steadily in last or 2nd to last place. And they definitely won't show a medal ceremony where the US national anthem is played.

I've also noticed, that Team GB (as they are calling themselves) aren't the strongest in general...but they ADORE the athletes who are representing them. It is almost to the point where the entire country is putting their hopes in just a few athletes. Hence, why there was 90 minutes of coverage of the Women's Team archery bronze medal competition. Seriously. Unfortunately for those ladies, they lost the bronze to France and all of Great Britain now hates them.

It was almost getting ludicrous. There were some swimming races where the British swimmer would have the slowest time going into the finals and be performing as such during the finals.....the entire time the commentator would be yelling 'Ah yes, smashing performance by ____ representing Team GB. Could _____ jump from 6th to medal standing?' Not to mention that the South African swimmer just broke the world record by 4 seconds!!!

All in all, though, I have to give Great Britain some credit. As blindingly obvious it is that they really only care about their own athletes, they really are the most patriotic country I've ever seen. I think maybe because the country is relatively small compared to America, they really do band together and support their own. Who cares if their 'Rudy' happens to play Badminton? Guess what, all of GB will learn the rules of badminton and cheer them on! Sometimes, in America, we forget how big we are and forget how many people and resources we have to put into our sports teams. Imagine how different the Olympics would be if you were in a country that only had athletes qualify for a handful of events.

For those of you who are following Michael Phelps in his 8-Gold Medal March....2 down, 6 to go!!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Age-Old Dispute of the Long Commute

Ah yes, always one of the most crucial factors when accepting a new job or finding a new place to call long is the commute to work? Now, I've traveled anywhere from 5-45minutes each way to work, none of which I thought were particularly far. I now live (according to Google Maps) 14.9 miles from my place of employment, and it takes me around 15-20 minutes to get t work. I think that's just right and pretty average, right? You would not believe how many people are SHOCKED when I tell them how far I drive. The comments are usually something to the effect of 'Wow, that's far!' or 'How do you deal with the commute?' Seriously? There were coworkers of mine in LA that traveled 2 hours EACH WAY to that's crazy!

You know how when you're talking to someone and you would like them to call you to give you information about something? Well generally, I would say 'Gimme a call'. Over here, the common phrase is 'Give US a call' or 'Give us a bell'. Does 'us' no longer refer to the plural, indicating more than one person? Very strange indeed.

More to come. Be sure to leave us a comment.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Traffic and Ghosts

Sixteen weeks into my life in the UK, and I've come to understand what it means when someone says that there's 'traffic on the M6'. In my time here, I've made at least 8 trips up and down the aorta of England, which is known as the M6 Motorway, not one of those times have I had anything that I would remotely refer to as traffic. Now, I will admit, I have just moved here from the LA area, where 12 lanes of traffic can be stopped for up to 30 minutes and it still won't be called 'traffic', but this was ridiculous.

Last Tuesday, I was setting off with a coworker around 1:30pm to head down South to an equipment supplier. After dropping off his car, taking my dog to the kennel, and filling up with petrol, we were on the road by 3:30pm. The drive should be around 4hours maximum. Things were going splendidly until we listened to my GPS when we should've listened to our gut. Near Birmingham, my GPS said to take the M6, while my coworker suggested we take the M6 Toll (which is like 4 pounds!!). So, we take the toll and wait for Emma 2 (that's what I named my GPS) to re-route us. But Emma seems confused and can't find an alternate route, so after paying 4pounds to get on, then 4pounds to get off the toll (thank goodness for expense reporting), we turn to get back onto the M6. About halfway onto the ramp, we realise this was the worst decision we could've made.

No joke, the motorway was a parking lot. People were out of their cars chatting, smoking, etc. Some were even walking up into the bushes to go to the bathroom. I think the lorry driver next to us had a kettle and was making tea!! No one else seemed to think this was odd. FOUR HOURS LATER...we started to move, it was another 2 hours before we saw the cause of the accident...a lorry had self combusted.

THat was bad, but it seriously gets worse. A trusting individual that I am, I let my coworker program the destination into the GPS. So, around 1130pm when we expect to be nearing our hotel for the night...just around the next corner....hmmm that doesnt look right. We are out in the middle of nowhere and ol' Emma is screaming ' You have arrived at your destination'!!! My inclination says, um no we haven't, but I check the program to find that somehow my coworker had entered the following destination '002, England'. Now, in case you're wondering '002 England' is somewhere about 15 miles from our destination of Newbury. Lovely place, you should visit.

And so we found ourselves driving through scary country roads to cut over to our true destination. Oh no, that's not it. In that 15 miles thru the country, exactly 1 deer, 1 fox, and 4 bunnies jumped in front of my vehicle. Around 12:30 am (yes 11 hours post departure), we arrive out our 4 star accomodation to find the bar closed. Thank goodness the owner agreed to let us in for a beer before we went to bed. Argh.

Funnily enough, our trip got better. The 2nd night we were in another town, Royston. In preparation for the trip, the vendor had recommended 2 hotels: The Old Bull Inn and The Banyers Hotel. The Old Bull Inn was full, so I booked 2 rooms at the Banyers. It seemed nice enough, though odd that there was no reception and you had to check in at the pub. The hotel appeared to have been recently renovated, comfy beds, nice bathroom fixtures, etc. Fine. Long story shorter, we get up in the morning and head to the vendors headquarters. As we're walking in the vendor says 'Did you see any ghosts in the night?' I laugh, uncomfortably, saying 'No, just slept really well'. To which he replies, 'oh well you know the Banyers is haunted'.

YOu know those cartoons where the character gets so mad he turns red like a thermometer and then explodes. That's kind of what I felt like.

So check out this website: or and search for the Banyers Hotel in Royston. They have a nice full English breakfast.

And so, my friends, that was my week. May yours be full of safe driving and no ghostly encounters.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

A Walk in the Park...or NOT

So, I couldn't spend the 4th of July sans celebratory drinking and bbq-ing....but I didn't know what I was getting into. I was invited by a few lads from work to join for a 'Walk in the Park', or so the Outlook invite said. Ended up that they wanted to take the day off of work and go hiking in the mountains down in Wales. Sounds great, right?

I wake up in the morning, pull out the ol' hiking gear, pumped up for a good day the way it was the first sunny day in awhile. In fact, I was so excited that it seems that my hiking boots got stuck on the steps as I was running down with my arms full and I sort of toppled and rolled down to the bottom of the steps in agony. No joke, I haven't felt this much pain on my bum and neck in a LOOONG time. I laid there moaning for about 30 minutes, with Buster staring at me with a concerned look. But I figured, hey, Susan, pull yourself together. YOu can't miss a good day outside and waste your holiday at home.

And there you have it, I sucked it up and jumped in the car and headed off to Snowdon. May I just tell you that I was about 75 minutes from discovering that my tumble was the least of my worries for the day. We arrive at the location of our 'walk in the park' to discover that it's basically a nearly vertical bouldering/ rock climbing adventure up the side of a mountain. Frickin' sweet (note the sarcasm).

I have to admit, my thighs were burning, my bum aching, and my neck kinked, but the views were amazing. At the top of Triffin there are two stones called Adam and Eve. You're supposed to stand on top of them and jump from one to the other. They're only about 1 meter apart, but it's really scary because there's a steep drop off to one side (see the picture).
If the views weren't enough motivation, there was one thing driving back down the mountain....the PUB! No 4th is complete without at least 1 beer, or several....and then 1-2 more once we got back to Chester.
I woke up the next day, quite sore I might add, and decided that I would invest in a little TLC. I booked a massage at a spa I'd been eyeballing for awhile. I only had about 25 minutes to get there, so I showered, threw on some clothes and ran over to the spa. It that my bum was aching because I have a bruise the size and shape of Australia on my bum and I didn't know until the masseuse told me! How embarassing! I think I've officially earned the title of 'Clumsiest Person EVER'. Outstanding.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

And then there were 2....

So the next greatest thing to my furniture arriving…Buster is now here! For those of you who haven’t had the kind pleasure of meeting him, Buster’s pretty much the coolest dog ever…I mean EVER known to man. I may be biased, but whatever.

After 4 months of fat camp and relaxation at my parents home back in the Midwest (he lost 3-5 lbs!!!) he’s journeyed 1 long car ride, a night in a kennel, 2 plane rides and about 3 hours in customs at the London Gatwick airport. Happily enough, he did remember me (I think!). The whole process of moving a dog overseas is quite interesting….

Apparently the UK has never had any rabies on the island, so they are very strict about letting pets in. In the past dogs have been required to be in quarantine (i.e. doggie prison) for 6 months upon arrival in the UK. It took one mental image of Buster in a striped prison jumpsuit locked up in a cold damp cell to make me think about not taking the little guy over here with me. Luckily, the rules have changed and he just had to have some tests done back in the states before he could come.

So, that being said, all is good in my life now. It actually sort of feels like home, which is a big improvement. Before long, Buster will have marked (peed) on most of this island! I'm not sure if England is ready for this little guy!

British English, NOT American English

Alright, now a lesson in the English language. Originally I thought that moving to England would be relatively easy to adapt because they speak the same language…boy was I wrong. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

Person with no friends-----Billy-No-Mates
Inspection, for cars-----MOT (not sure what the acronym stands for)
To Go, as in food-----Takeaway
Temporary Assignment, for work-----Secondment
You’re joking!-----You’re taking the piss!
Pounds (person’s weight)-----Stone (1 stone = 14 lbs)
Sweatshirt/ Sweater-----Jumper
Tired/ Broken/ Messed Up-----Knackered
Bummed Out/ Down-----Gutted
Cash Register-----Till
Stand in line-----Stand in a queue

As if that's not confusing enough (and trust me that's only a START to the vocabulary differences)....there are apparently somewhere in the realm of 30 different UK accents. Again, stupid American, I thought they all sounded like Jude Law and Posh Spice. Keep in mind that I word in a loud environment as well....strange words, loud noise, strange accents I'm not used to...I'm just getting to where I don't have to fully concentrate on a person's lips when they talk to understand what they're saying!

Well, til next time...

Friday, 30 May 2008

Homeland Insecurity?

One thing I have learned in my short time here, is that the UK takes security of information very seriously. Let me explain my banking situation.

Upon arriving, I of course needed to open a bank account here. So, I identified the bank I wanted to join and went in with passport, work permit, and a bill with my name/address on it. After some struggle (they didn’t like that I didn’t have a 3-year credit history in the country), they agreed to open a debit account for me. Lovely.

In order to use my account, I require the following:
-Sort code (indicates the branch holding my account)
-Account #
-Member # (separate 10-12 number code for logging in online)
-Online login password
-Debit card #
-Debit card pin # (separate from other passwords)
-Secret code word (when logging in online it requires me to enter various letters of the word—even if my login and password are correct)
-Telephone banking member #
-Telephone banking pin # (different from other pin and password)
-Debit card reader (my favourite) – when logging in online, I have to insert my debit card, get an 8 letter password, enter it online…did I mention it’s the size of a calculator?

I may be wrong, but isn’t this a little overkill? Couldn’t we consolidate passwords a bit? I can barely remember how to login to my various online accounts that JUST require a password. Then I think…well why isn’t the US as strict?

Home, Sweet, Casa

Yes, so I've been MIA for about 3-4 weeks now. The neighbor that was unknowingly letting me steal his wireless internet cut me off and it wasn't until now that I actually got my own internet hooked up. I'm back!!!

The most amazing thing in the world has happened….my furniture and personal items have arrived! Thank goodness they weren’t on the Titanic! I don’t generally think I’m super materialistic, but my GOD living in an apartment with 1 suitcase worth of clothes, a folding chair, 1 plate, 1 bowl, 2 forks, 2 spoons, 2 knives, and a bed, for 6 weeks is just not ideal. So, as you can imagine I was jumping for joy when the truck arrived with my items.

It’s funny, though, because when my items were packed in California by 2 spanish-speaking men…I thought nothing of it. In fact, I thought nothing of them marking the outside of my moving boxes in Spanish. It wasn’t strange at all until my boxes arrived here and I had 2 English guys unloading my things and trying to figure out what boxes went in which room. I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t fully understand English accents just yet. What a mess! I had to draw upon my 2 years of Spanish in 5/6 grade to remember that libros means books, etc!

Another learning for me this past week was that the holidays are different here. Yes, I know that probably sounds incredibly obvious (apart from International Holidays like Christmas and New Years)….but what about, um, Mother’s Day. It is not that I don’t understand or believe in the importance of such days, but it is part of the culture to advertise and remind the public of these events, in the US. I no longer can rely on just knowing when these holidays are, I now need to actively seek out and be proactive to ensure I am aware of such holidays. I will need to purchase a US calendar for this exact reason, and a European/English calendar so that I remember the week numbers. Over here, people do not refer to ‘weeks beginning on’ or ‘week of’, they refer to the actual week # in a year. It actually makes perfect sense, but it’s quite confusing if you aren’t used to it and difficult to relate dates to one another (for me).

So, as if I wasn’t poor enough already at keeping dates and remembering holidays, I now have a few more items working against me. I hope not to disappoint, but if you know of a holiday upcoming, please send me a note with the week # and date as a reminder. I will mark it on both of my calendars!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Week 4: Football & More Language Tips

So, somewhere in my crazy social agenda (note the sarcasm) I found the time to experience one of England's most beloved No, not American football, the football watched in all the rest of the

Now let me just say that choosing a football team to root for in England is sort of like choosing which political party you're going to vote for...and everyone will try to get you to root for 'their' team. Just in the area where I live there are 3 major teams that are followed: Liverpool, Manchester United, and Everton. Everton is kind of the under-dog, if you will. One of the guys from work had a spare ticket, so I joined him and his friends for a game on a Thursday night for the Everton v. Chelsea game.

We meet at a pub, of course, for some beers. Then we drive closer to the stadium and stop at a pub, of course, for some more beers. And on to the stadium from there. Once we arrive at the stadium, one of the guys meets me out front with a pink Everton hat and scarf (an effort to 'woo' me as a fan). I have to admit, it's working a little bit:) So after saying thank you, I proceed to enter the stadium, expecting to head straight for the beer stand (it had been >5 min since we'd had a beer).

Now, maybe this is stereotypical, but I expected football to be the apex of drinking in England. Turns out, you can't drink in the stands:( What the f___? Fine enough, less trips to the toilet. But, the game was great...I learned all sorts of new words that I can't repeat anywhere other than a football stadium. But it was great...Everton plays in a relatively small stadium in Liverpool, reminds me of Wrigley Field. Both teams have little songs and chants that they yell. Oddly enough, you can't even really see the timer or scoreboard from most seats -- in the US it seems they post this info all over a stadium.

Unfortunately, Everton lost, and Chelsea went on to the quarter-finals...but I really enjoyed the game. In typical Susan fashion, of course, I tripped and landed flat on my face outside of the stadium. Awesome. England 1, Susan 0. Some things, like my clumsiness, will never change! I swear it wasn't the beer!

This week's language tip is regarding saying goodbye over the phone. In the US, we would say a simple 'goodbye', 'talk to you later', or just 'later'. Normal tone, emphasis, etc. Here, they say the word 'bye' in a higher pitch, almost like a question and they proceed to repeat it up to 3-4 times. It is as if they are having a game to see who can say 'bye' last when hanging up the phone. This is a game that I have yet to win. Very strange, isn't it?

Week 4: What's in the UK News?

Another installment of your favorite updates in the UK quoted from 'The Standard’, Chester & District, 24th April 2008 Print.

  • ‘Black cab drivers to stage protest over unlimited licence decision’. Well the good news is that this is not what I thought. This is not referring to African American cab drivers, apparently they are referring to cab drivers who drive black-coloured cabs.

  • ‘Man jailed for going ‘beserk’ in city pub’. Ah, yes, it’s not an installment of the UK news if there’s not a story about some guy who’s been drinking for the last 10 hours in a pub throwing things and causing the ‘members of the public to cower’ due to his behaviour. Apparently his estranged lover gave him some bad news during hour 10 of his drink-a-thon

  • ‘Abandoned cat George was thrown from car’. Okay, seriously? So, some person was witnessed throwing this cat from their car and the cat subsequently wandered the streets until its hair was so matted it was ripping the poor little guys hair off. Some kind soul has taken him to a shelter where he is being re-socialised. The article actually says that they named him Gorgeous George to try and build his confidence. Right.

  • Finally, I decided to venture out this week in search of a true gem….into the singles ads. And what a gem did I find….’Dizzy but intelligent hard working blonde, seeking special, seductive male for no strings good times.’ Um, isn’t that prostitution in print?

And that's it for this week's update...till next time...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Week 4: Shakespeare & Ghosts

So, as previously mentioned, I am still living in an empty apartment...which is awesome by the way. My personal items are somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic on their way to me around the 1st of May. Wonderful. Now, there is a bit of a silver lining. This not only forces me to get out and get to know the area, but also to work out at the gym around the corner. That being said, after 3 weeks, I woke up last Saturday morning and glanced at the Lonely Planet guide my parents had given me and decided that I would venture out a bit further.

I opened the page to a town called Stratford-Upon-Avon (yes that's the name of the town), which is the hometown of William Shakespeare. So, within 2 hours, I had packed, gone to the bank and gassed up the car. Within 2 more hours I was there. I quickly called one of the B&B's in the guidebook and checked in for the price of 40 GBP (i.e. ~$75) for a TINY room, but really cute and well-equipped. Now for those of you not familiar with a B&B, it truly is someone's house with various rooms you can rent. So there are en-suite rooms which have their own/attached bathroom OR there are those with unattached bathrooms, but there are also common areas shared by the owners and all of the visitors. The owner typically makes a formal English Breakfast served in a proper dining room with China and the whole bit. Very nice.

So, I spent the afternoon wandering the town with churches that are centuries old, viewing ol' Bill Shakespeare's birth and burial grounds. There is so much history in these towns its amazing. I ended up finding the Royal Shakespeare Company's Theatre and they had obstructed view tickets to the Merchant of Venice that night for just 18 GBP! SO, I figured why not and bought them. Turns out that the obstructed views seats are awesome and not very obstructued, so I saved like 20 GBP!

The following morning, after English Breakfast, I walked along the River Avon early in the morning and watched the crew teams practicing. I then hopped in the car to go on my first Castle Hunt! I am just amazed by castles. Seriously, I just can't conceive living in a castle or fighting in a medieval battle or even wearing those crazy dresses! Now let me just say that there are 2 main types of castles to see. There are the ones that want to make money by any means necessary and turn into a bit of a showy circus and then there are the English Heritage properties that are preserved as is, no frills whatsoever. Well, I saw quite the spectrum, let me say. I drove around 10 miles from Stratford-U-A to Warwick Castle. For the hefty price of 17GBP, I walked in to see the Six Flags of Medieval other words, there were all sorts of interactive videos and displays and wax sculptures. There was a guy dressed in battle gear that was showing kids how to shoot a bow and arrow...and there was (included in my fee) a ticket to the Ghost Alive! exhibit. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm always up for a I join in line.....

They tell us to walk up these steps and wait at the top for someone to get us. There's maybe 10 of us in the group, and we see a statue of a ghost dressed in black at the top of the steps. I, of course, whisper sarcastically to the girl next to me, 'ooh how scary, maybe it's a real ghost'. Almost on cue, the statue shrieks at us and we realize it's a real person dressed like a ghost. I'm an idiot, but what else is new. So, we go inside the exhibit, which is in one of the towers of the castle. It's really dark, we''re all crammed in and there's strobe lights all around. There's these actors who are re-enacting the murder of some guy from like the 1200's. What we don't know is there are creepy hidden actors that jump out and yell in your face from behind curtains, dooors, etc. I literally screamed like 10 x's and felt like the biggest jack-ace ever. At least everyone else got a kick out of me! I guess what I've learned is that I like thrills, but not surprises!

Anyway, that was basically Warwick I drove over another 5-10 miles to Kenilworth Castle. This was a castle from Elizabethan times, and is in a state of ruins, but managed by the English Heritage group. They had a great guidebook that enlightened you on the history and origin of the castle and walked you through a self-guided tour...for the price of 7GBP. My other lesson learned, I don't need the extra frills when I'm viewing castles. It's just weird.

Next week includes...more language blunders and my first football experience....

Week 3: The language

So the good news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this week. The bad news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this you don't have that to look forward to. What I have started to pick up on is the wonderful British Language....

A common American greeting to a passerby or to begin a conversation is 'How are you doing?' or 'What are you up to?'. Not so much here. For the first week, I seriously thought that I looked sickly (or suffering as they say) or lost because everyone kept asking me 'You alright?'. I would hesitantly reply yes, only to realize that they didn't really care if I was truly alright, but only saying it...much as we would when we ask how someone is doing.

The other thing that sticks out to me is that whenever someone is talking and they want to pause, instead of saying 'um', 'ah', 'so', 'therefore', they say 'yea?' with an inflection in their voice. Now, I took this as an actual question, as in whether or not I agreed or understood what they were saying. Not the case. It is entirely rhetorical as far as I can tell.

I guess both of these situations exemplify a typical question of concern or request for feedback in America. Therefore, when people here say these phrases to me, it feels that they then are interrupting my response because they continue talking. It's one of those strange cultural things that I think will take some time and is kind of humorous. We're both doing what's natural for us, but it has such a different interpretation.

My 3rd main observation on British communication involves when you walk into someone's office to ask them a question. Typical Americans love instant gratification and response, therefore when someone walks into my office to ask a quick question, it is typical to wait for 10-15 seconds while I finish my sentence. At this point, I might pause my conversation, turn and ask how I can help. In England, it seems, that when you go to ask someone a question, they will wave you in and then proceed to finish possibly a 10-15 minute conversation without acknowledging your presence almost. It's kind of nice because it shows they're focused on the conversation at hand, but nonetheless, different from what I'm used to!

Finally, I have found that when someone is laid off here they are referred to as 'being made redundant'. Now, I may note that I have not managed to already be laid off, thank goodness. However, I have heard the term and feel that it is an even more positive way of saying you're 'letting someone go'. It makes sense when you're backfilling someone to say they are being made redundant, simply by the definition of the word redundant....but how does that work when you just get rid of a position? are they then just fired? Will let you know if I figure it out.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Week 2: What's in the UK News?

I have found some of the headlines, well, hilarious and decided I just had to pass them on. Do enjoy.

Sunday March 30, 2008
‘The Standard’, Chester & District, 27th March 2008 print

• ‘One of Britain’s Safest Cities’, subtitle ‘Chester named as one of least burgled areas’. Ah yes, apparently in England you can make up words like ‘burgled’…is that a word? How do we Americans not know about this word? I believe I’ll start using this immediately. I will burgle the word burgling from England.

• ‘Hunt is launched for Rows sex attacker’. Now, typically not a funny topic, so I will not poke fun at the topic. However if you were to read into the short article, you would find this in the 7th paragraph: ‘The man is described as white, in his late teens, about 5 ft 7 ins tall and with a pale complexion’. Does anyone else feel like this describes just about every teenage boy in England? Not to mention a number of them outside of England.

•‘Tight squeeze for Layla’. This is a good one. In case you were wondering, Layla is a lovely 5-yr-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In Paragraph 6, the writer informs you that ‘Nina said: “He (her son) threw the ball for the dogs to et. Suddenly Layla went smack bang into the metal railings. She had her two front legs through and kept trying to push herself forward but was wedged.”’ No joke, they called a fire truck to come and free this dog. While it is valiant of the fire fighters and all involved, the dog was safe after all, but this was seriously a HEADLINE!

Monday March 31, 2008
‘The Standard’, Chester & District, 20th March 2008 Print

• 'Man banned from pubs for 10 years'. Enough said.

Stay tuned.

Week 2: Parking, Locks, and Petrol Tanks

Ah yes, another exciting week here in Chester, UK. For this week's installment, I have a variety of items to discuss, primarily relating to my 1st day of work.

I feel I've made a pretty good go at mastering driving on the left-hand side at this point, albeit I admit that I do not FULLY understand the rules of the road. However< I'm getting by and relatively comfortable on the road...or so I thought. My place of employment is settled nicely between an industrial park and a quaint little neighborhood. What I mean is, some people from work park on the street, while others park down the block in a parking lot. In an effort to be 'one of the team', I chose on Day 1 to not park in the employee parking lot, but park on the street along a row where a number of other cars are parked. I get in the building and settle down at my desk and am just chatting with my office mate, when a co-worker walks in to inform me 'welcome and you've just gotten a parking ticket'. Wonderful, minutes after I start my first, day we're off to a great start. Apparently, the faded yellow line where the other were parked 'doesn't count' and the actual yellow line where I was indicate no parking. As a typical American, I will continue to challenge the 35 GBP fine I've incurred. Status update to follow next week.

Well, I can only go up from there, right? Ha ha. You know me too well. Working hours here are much less taxing than those back's actually ILLEGAL to work more than 48 hours in a week! However, due to the time change and that being my first day where I could actually call home and check email, etc, I chose to stay a bit later, say 7pm. Now let me explain that you are not allowed to wear your uniforms home, so I abandoned my desk around 7pm to wander to the locker room to change. What are the chances that this was the exact time that the nighttime security guard walked around and locked ALL of the offices and front doors to the building??? Great. The good news is that my car keys, home keys, mobile phone and all of my phone numbers are in my office. So, I find the security guard, who informs me that not only does he NOT have keys to that office, but he doesnt have anyone's mobile or home number than does. As I am examining the lounge chairs in the lobby to figure out the most optimal sleeping position, 3 maintenance guys wander up with a sledgehammer, toolbox, and block of wood. Now I will contest that this is quite possibly the MOST secure lock known to man: hinged on the inside, shatterproof glass, double inset frame. After about 1 hour of gently trying to maneuver the lock open, the sledgehammer comes out (see picture). So my legacy has been replicated here in the UK already on my first day. Now I'm the girl who 'got a parking ticket and sledgehammered the door open on her first day'.

Finally, I leave you with quite possibly my STUPIDEST moment of the first time filling up the petrol tank in my car. Interestingly enough, I have (temporarily) an Audi A4 that runs on DIESEL. So, I pull up, like normal, pop out and walk to the gas tank. I push on the corner, and it won't open. So, I just figure, oh right, gotta flip the switch inside the car. Hmmm, no that doesn't work either. Mind you, there is a 'white van man' (whom I will explain later) waiting behind me laughing as I walk back and forth and start punching the gas tank cover. Finally, I decide to be a bit rational and open the glove box to read the manual. It turns out that you need to unlock all of the doors (which doesn't seem very safe to me) in order for the gas tank to open. Ah yes, the elusive 5th door. Unfortuantely, by the time I realized this, every person at the petrol station was watching me and smiling.

Finally, I leave you with some photos of my new, and empty, apartment (or terraced house as it's called here). Will send more each time.

Until next time...

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Week 1: Trolleys & Raining Buckets

So, I've settled into my new home here in Chester, UK for a grand total of 3-1/2 days now. These have been an action packed 3-1/2 days of self-discovery and amazement.

How many of you in the US (or otherwise) have had your car damaged by a runaway trolley (grocery/store cart)? had to park farther away from the store because someone has parked a trolley in a parking spot and you're too lazy to move it? OR been amazed that stores are willing to pay an employee to go and round up all of the trolleys in the parking lots (um, efficiency much?)?

Well, let me tell you, that apparently the UK has solved this one for us. That's the good news. The bad news is that they don't instruct those of us 'not in the know' on how to use their mastery of innovation. So, I walk up to Morrison's (mind you after my first driving adventure on the other side of the road) to grab a trolley. Sounds easy enough, right? HA! That's where you're wrong. See, they have installed locking hooks to hold the trolleys/carts together. I figured, oh how clever, let me just unlock this and be on my way. After a good 2 minutes of using my god-given superhuman strength to try and pull these apart, I decide to forfeit my pride and ask an innocent bystander what I am doing wrong. This young woman sort of smiles and says, 'oh yea, you just need to put a pound in'.

Of course, what was I thinking? Why wouldn't you have to put in a pound (i.e $2!) just to use a trolley. But, I did it, and it worked, so I'm off to shop. Now, you might think that's the end of this great invention, but no! Upon purchasing my excessively priced groceries and placing them in my trunk (or boot), I realize that the motivation to return the trolley to the central trolley pen is that when you do so, and re-hook the trolley to another one, your pound pops back out and greets you! Genius! Even Americans might do that! Imagine, every time you use a cart, you have to insert $2 and the only way to get it back is to return it. Oh these clever Brits! I love it!

My next major task, was of course, to open a bank account. Fine. I found the bank I wanted to join (Barclay's is a partner of Bank of America, which is ideal). So, yes, it's raining a bit, but it's faster to walk to the bank, than to try and find parking near the bank (since the bank is in a cathedral that is hundred of years old in the centre of the city). So, I grab a hooded sweatshirt, warm vest, winter hat and start walking. I figure this should properly arm me against ol' Mother Nature for my short 5-10 minute walk.

Remember, I am still in the pleasant state of appreciating the rain, as SoCal has very little of it. So, with a bit of bounce in my step, I get um about 2 blocks from my home only to discover my innocence. Remember when we were in high school or college and thought it a good time to splash innocent bystanders who are walking down the street when the rain is POURING BUCKETS already? Hmm, well, apparently they do that in the UK as well. Awesome. No hood, vest, or hat will protect you from tsunami sized waves of rain and streetwater. The even better news is that I couldnt go back home to changes because: a) i have very little clothing here so far and b) i would be late for my appointment to open my bank account, which is sort of important.

So, here I am trying to explain the to banker that, yes, I am a legitimate, full-time professional just moved here and yes, I am a worthwhile customer for their bank. Luckily he understood and was helpful, but mark my words, I will be prepared next time!

And that is Week 1 of my UK Adventure. Tune in next week for more of....Susan's Stupid Moment of the Week!