Monday, November 24, 2008

The Sound of Settling

Things have been going pretty well! We found a house, but our furniture hasn’t arrived yet so the military loaned us a few things until it comes. Also the house doesn’t have a stove or a refrigerator right now. We’ve been living like squatters for a week. The boys built a fort next to the stairway out of empty boxes and miscellaneous junk to add to the d├ęcor. All we need now is a crackhead in the spare bedroom.

This move is a little different because along with settling into a new house and new school, we're also adjusting to life in a different country. One thing we have to get used to is standing out every time we open our mouths. We can try to blend in as much as we want, but as soon as we speak, people know we’re foreigners.

Unlike living in the south, where we were the fast-talking northerners, we’re the slow talkers around here. In the same amount of time it takes me to say “Hellllllooooo, howwww arrrrre yoooooou,” they could tell you what village they live in, who was beheaded there, what their mum made for dinner three nights ago, and their favorite childhood pastime. However, it’s likely you would not understand a thing they said and then you are faced with two options: 1. Ask them to repeat themselves and risk not understanding the whole thing again and looking like a big foreign dummy. Or 2. Smile and nod and look like a big foreign dummy.

Electricity

Using electricity is a lot more involved here. In our house every outlet has a switch to turn the outlet on or off. And everything uses 220 volts with this giant three-pronged plug. It’s like you’re plugging in some kind of giant power-sucking appliance even when it’s just a little tiny nightlight.

We have to use transformers to plug in our American appliances. I thought the transformer would look like this:

Instead it looks more like this:



It’s a big, black box that weighs about 15 lbs. and makes a loud whirring noise whenever you plug anything into it. It sounds like that part in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the Griswold’s turn on the Christmas lights.

Driving

When we first started driving here it was a little scary. Being on the left side of the road, all the oncoming traffic suddenly looks like it’s speeding recklessly at you on the wrong side of the highway. That worked in our favor because it’s natural to want to stay out of the way. Roundabouts are a little intimidating. The nice thing is if you miss your exit you can go around again and again until you get it right. Then you will feel like Mr. Bean.


Once you are off the highway and on a narrow, two-lane, country road, the idea seems to be to get where you are going as fast as possible without sliding off the road or hitting any sheep. And don’t pay any attention to the rain, just drive as you normally would.

Donn has been doing most of the driving here, but I assist by reading every sign we pass in a British accent.

Old Things

People here take pride in things that are old. In a lot of the villages they even build new buildings to look like they are old. Everything looks like it’s from the 1600’s. I keep expecting to see a chimney sweep walking down the sidewalk. It makes pretty much any city in the US seem like a trip into the future.

Wal-mart

No Wal-marts. However…there are stores just like wal-mart, which I was surprised to learn. I thought everyone shopped at little markets, being it’s the 1600’s and all. But there are places like Tesco.

Imagine stepping into the vast expanse of Wal-mart without knowing where anything is or even what most of the products are unless you actually read the labels. That was what we faced when we walked into Tesco. It was extremely crowded and everyone was rushing around and there we stood, staring at everything like we had the word HELP written on our foreheads. The most exciting part of the shopping experience was taking the cart up the giant cart-friendly escalator. Weeee!

School

The boys both started school today (I'll write more about their little school another time). It was very exciting because we’ve been hanging out with basically just each other for the past month. The family togetherness ended about two weeks ago and since then they’ve been fighting like rabid badgers. Now they can interact with people they don’t live with and maybe things will be a little more peaceful at home. Come on, let’s have some brotherly love.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sleepless in Cambridgeshire

It's 1 AM here and I am wide awake. I'm back to my old habit of trying to figure out the meaning of life before I fall asleep. We are staying in Air Force lodging, which is a refreshing change of scenery after spending a few days camping in our mostly empty house surrounded by piles of clothes and miscellaneous lego pieces, and then a short stay in a tiny Days Inn room with our eight suitcases and miscellaneous lego pieces. Here we have space for our miscellaneous lego pieces and then some!

Ahhh, sleep...

Today we went to my best friend from high school's house (who is still one of my best friends, but it sounds more dramatic to say it that way - 14 years!). Her husband was nice enough to shuttle us there and back and explain some of the road signs to us, so we won't feel like dummies. At least not when we're reading road signs. This friend of mine, April, also happens to have an adorable baby girl who never cries and smiles every time you look at her. Of course we did only spend about 6 hours or so with her, but still, that's quite a stretch to maintain a good mood. She's got me beat.

Hi pumpkin!

After we were at their house for a while and I made myself comfortable, stole the remote, ate the baby's crackers, took off my pants and stuck a pick in my hair (well, that's what I felt like doing because their house is so homey and we don't really have a home right now), we decided to go for a walk. Isn't this story exciting? Let me set the scene. They live in a small village in a rural area, surrounded mostly by farmland. The buildings are stone and brick, smoke is coming out of all the chimneys, the sky is grey, the grass is insanely green, and everything looks really, really old. We walked through a few fields, one of which had sheep and the highlight of the walk for the boys was the vast array of sheep poop. Did you know sheep wag their tails when they poop?

Hello, I am a sheep and I'm full of it.

Then we walked through a church cemetary, which was not as morbid as it sounds. Although Dylann did have some questions like, "What happens to the body when it's underground?" And while we tried to figure out just how to answer that, Jack answered, "The bugs eat it."

Afterwards our friends treated us to a very expensive dinner, which I didn't realize how expensive it was until Donn told me later...and wow, thanks again! That'll teach you to take us out to dinner!

And then we walked over to another really beautiful church where Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded. It was eerie at night with the church lit up, surrounded by fog. And did I mention someone was beheaded there? We didn't tell that to the boys and they thought the church was a castle. They think most of the buildings here are castles because they're not flat, ranch-style houses and wal-marts.

Tomorrow we will hopefully be driving on the proper side of the road and trying to keep up with the british people who drive insanely fast on these winding, narrow roads.

Make way for the americans! We need to go look for a castle to call home.