15 November 2010

So, here’s the thing about making bold moves.  Moving to another country type moves.  It’s not the big, obvious things that get you and make you doubt what you are doing.  It’s the little things.  Like opening cans.

Here in England, we are renting a furnished house.  A well known fact about renting furnished houses:  despite the exorbitant amounts of money you might be spending to rent the house, the house will be “furnished” with all manner of “my great aunt died and willed me the contents of her house” type of stuff.  When renting a home in a foreign country, you often have no idea what half that stuff even IS.  There are approximately 5 gadgets in my kitchen, the purposes of which elude me entirely.  I did unearth what appeared to be a can opener about a month ago.  I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs for my family and - don’t tell anyone - I use canned tomatoes when I make my sauce.  So here is what happens.  I assemble my ingredients on the counter, and begin chopping and sauteing.  Then I go to open the cans of tomatoes.  First, let me say the can opener is manual, not electric.  It looks a little different from my American can opener, but whatever.  It has the sharp wheelie thing and the grooved wheelie thing and the turner thing.  But, for some reason I cannot figure how to attach it to the can.  The grooves and wheelies are not lining up and I’m turning it every which way and nothing is working.  This goes on for a while and I’m kind of panicking because John & Lynn are the in the South of France and we don’t know anyone else and I need my CANS OPEN!  I mean . . . stuff is sauteing!  So, I turn to my trusty advisor, Mr. Google.  This is what I actually typed into the Google bar: ‘how to use a British can opener’.  When I typed that I remember thinking, ‘I hope nobody ever finds out about this’.  Anyway, the Google gives me some options and there, on the screen, is a picture of a can opener just like mine with some instructions, but they really don’t make any sense and there are no illustrations and this is just not working.  At this point it becomes clear that I need an alternate dinner plan.  I am feeling like a complete idiot and can only half-heartedly throw myself into feeding my family chicken (sauteed in garlic and onions).  So, fast forward a few weeks and we have some friends over.  I decide I am going to discreetly ask one of the women, who is British, if she can show me how to use the can opener.  But, she is a very animated person and she thinks it is extremely amusing that I don’t know how to use a can opener.  Before I know it, I am being looked upon with pity and dismay by several advanced degree university students.  This is not going well for me.  So, animated-but-well-meaning British women goes and gets the can opener and begins to demonstrate how to use it.  To my utter horror she begins by pulling the handle (the handle that APPEARS to be a single plastic piece) APART.  Holy crap.  The handle slides apart into two pieces.  Which is what makes it attach to the can and, therefore, work.  Well, needless to say, the rest of the demonstration is pointless and my night, if not my life, is ruined.

So these past few weeks I have been confidently buying canned items.  I have been buying things that have no business being in a can (meat), just so I can have the smug satisfaction of opening cans.  Today, for my inaugural can opening I decide to make tuna fish salad (don’t judge, I like it and it’s good for you).  So, I get out my can opener and proceed to open the can of tuna.  Only, it’s not opening.  I have pulled the handle apart and attached it to the can and I am cranking away and it’s not working.  I decide maybe I have it backwards, so I re-adjust and start turning the wheelie and . . . nothing.  Okay, maybe it was right the first time.  No.  Perhaps I am not pressing hard enough.  Nothing.  Could be it’s not at the right angle.  Nope.  Oh my God this is not happening.  At this point, I am banging the can on the counter yelling about the fact that “it’s not my fault I grew up using an American can opener” and “doesn’t the can opener know I have been buying nothing but canned food items for weeks and my family is going to starve if I can’t figure this out!!” and I’m probably really freaking out my neighbors.  I end up sliding down the side of the cabinets, and I’m on the floor sobbing and re-evaluating every choice I have ever made because if I am not smarter than a can opener, clearly something, somewhere has gone very wrong.  Right?!  I mean, if I can’t figure this out, how am I going to get through all the days that are filled with NOTHING BUT figuring things out?  . . .  And that, my friends, is the truth about bold moves.  You have a thousand doubts.  They just don’t reveal themselves until you can’t get the can open.

6 November 2010

Hello friends!  What a whirlwind this has been.  Will is already taking mid-terms!  Actually he just finished them yesterday.  Carolina is headed to a new school on Monday.  We switched her to a smaller school that is closer to our home.  We were not sure moving her was a great idea (too much change, etc.), but when we toured the school we knew it would be perfect for her.  They have a massive design studio, a fantastic art program and drama lessons through The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art.  All stuff that is right down the Carolina alley.  It’s a great opportunity for her and she is excited.  We spent yesterday getting her new uniform  - complete with crested blazer!  She is mortified (lots of eye rolling), but we think it’s adorable.  I will try to use a bright light to stun her so I can get a picture to post.  She will never forgive me, but isn’t that what mothers are for?  Therapy fodder.

Are you all glad the elections are over?  I was in a job interview and the guy actually started talking about American politics (not in a good way, of course).  It was so awkward.  I’m thinking, “If I agree that George Bush is evil, will I get the job?” . . . I mean, I need to pay for Snickers ice cream bars.  Why do people think it’s OK to completely trash another person’s country and government right in front of them?  I’m going to start trash talking the Queen and see if they like it.  Start making fun of her hats.  Seriously though, I know we have inserted ourselves in to an academic environment, but I hate talking about politics.  Especially in job interviews - sheesh!  So, I just changed the subject and asked him how he felt about God.  I didn’t do that.

Well, I promised to share some more about our sweet little town.  Just today I had this great chat with an old Scottish man at the grocery.  I was trying to decide what beer to buy (huge, amazing selection) and he starts talking to me like I have know him since I was a wee lass.  I really have no idea what he said, but I think we may have a date this Saturday night.  Seriously, he was definitely pouring on the charm, which is not too tough for a Scottish guy (can anybody say “Sean Connery”).  Even if he is old enough to be my grandfather.  He was adorable.  I love living here (and not just because I get hit on by old Scottish dudes).  It’s just this little town is so . . . livable.  Every single thing I could possibly need is within walking distance - butcher, hair dresser, market, coffee shop, sporting goods, drug store, stationary, bank, etc.  We have great restaurants - some of the best in Middle England. And, of course, there are pubs!!  Like 8 of them.  In this tiny little town.  I can’t figure out why we have not been able to duplicate the pub in America.  Maybe it’s the dreary weather here that makes the pubs seem all the more cozy and inviting.  But, I can’t think of a bar I have ever been to in the US where I could go in on the middle of a Saturday, curl up on a couch by the fire and read and have a pint (or not) and talk to whoever came by who was feeling chatty (or not).  It’s fantastic.  And there are parks and greens everywhere here.  The River Avon is just down the street and the castle grounds are so beautiful to walk around.  I know the fun and newness will probably wear off, but I feel so lucky to be experiencing living this way.  Will has had a few tough commutes on the bus, and I thought he might break down and buy a car, but he is hanging in there.  If I start working at the University (see interview nightmare above), I will be joining him in the bus commuting world.  All types there.  Should make for some great stories anyway. 

I might try to do some video of stuff around town.  For now, here is a link to some pictures of the more famous sights around Warwick.

Next time I’ll do photos of some of the places we hang out.  For more information on some of the places in these pictures:

The Lord Leycester Hospital dates from the 14th Century.  The term hospital in those days referred to a home for retired soldiers and that is the role the building continues to serve today.  Even though it looks like it could fall down at any moment with a strong wind.  The walls are wonky and lean every which way.  It’s like something straight out of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.

The Warwick Castle is the premier medieval castle in England.  It was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and has been the home of the Earls of Warwick since 1088.  It is magnificent and very well preserved.  Some of the pictures are taken from a garden at the bottom of the Mill End street which is just below our street.  The garden has been the lifelong project of Arthur Measures and sits at the base of the castle.  We have not toured the inside of the castle yet (we are waiting to go with visitors from American  . . . hint, hint).

Part of St. Mary’s church dates back 900 hundred years, but most of it was rebuilt after the great fire of 1694.  It’s one of those magnificent old cathedrals where every nook and cranny is gilded or adorned with jewels.  There are also crypts scattered about everywhere and a few of the Earls of Warwick are in there.  We did a tour and Carolina eventually realized we were walking on tombstones and she freaked out, screamed and jumped up on a pew.  The docent was not amused.

OkenOken.  The building dates from the 16th century.  It is also very wonky (but warm and cozy) and we love it.