Monthly Archives: January 2008

Not very British or reserved

Brilliant video of an entertaining ride on the Tube:

I wish I had been there, that looks like fun!

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Thank you so much!

I have to say, birthdays in the time of Facebook are amazing.  For once in your life, everyone knows it’s your special day and gives you a shout out!  My friends–both facebook and real life–have been amazing this year, as have my family members.  Thanks all so much.

The year of being 31

Tomorrow is my birthday, which means I can wish a not-so-fond farewell to the year of being 31 and start fresh again.  Since I’m a January baby it seems to make more sense to truely start the new year with each birthday instead of with some arbitrary calendar date.  Besides which, by the time my birthday rolls around, I am typically and actually writing the date with the correct year!

When my year of being 31 began, I was just leaving the honeymoon period of “Oh it’s such fun to live in another country!” and just starting to face the reality of “Oh life in another country is just like normal life, but with funny accents!”  Thus, the year of being 31 for me will always be remembered in terms of the trials and tribulations of normal life only slightly different.  I had victories (Barclaycard!) and defeats (depression that landed me in therapy) not to mention many, many ordinary days of working hard, playing some, and generally being alive in the way that we all are.  I got to travel to new European countries (Ireland, Italy) and new continents (Asia by way of Singapore)  not to mention new UK cities (Nottingham, Ely).  I learned to deal with homesickness by surrounding myself with the familiar (Starbucks, McDonalds) and the less familiar (my awesome expat friends).   I even have a few positive things to say about both England and the English 🙂

So what’s planned for the year of being 32?  Well, I have at least one more EU country to visit for certain (Austria,  twice!) and possible/tentative plans for a few other interesting trips to interesting places (Australia?  China/Japan/Korea?)  I’d really like to take advantage of my location here and hit both Scotland and Wales if even for just a weekend.  I’d like to get back to taking more photographs, and not just when I travel.  I’m getting some work done in my flat, with hopes that I might be able to settle in better, get more organized, and feel happier in these surroundings.  I’d like to spend more time with my grandmother in the US, although my trips there seem to be either to the east or west coast, making landing in the middle of the country a perpetual challenge.  Regardless, I just called her to give myself a little pre-birthday pick-me-up!  Thank goodness for cell phones and the internet (and even Facebook!) for keeping in touch with people in far-away lands.  So I’m still at my computer half-working (but obviously half-blogging) as the clock is getting close to turning over on the 30th Jan. and as such, I think I will go and have a toast to the end of the year of being 31!

Expat sisters

I’m oh so very excited, my sister is re-joining the expat life later this year. So we will be expat sisters, on different continents but both far from the continent that is our home. This is really exciting on many levels. Most obviously, my sis has really big and exciting reasons for returning to the expat life. But personally, she has been my solid rock of support in  expat living.  Both her presence in my life in real time, and the blog archives from her last bout of expat living, have gotten me through some tough times.  Having someone to talk to, who knows the ups and downs of it all is extremely valuable.  The same is true of my other expat friends here in the UK–we all share in the grand adventure that is life abroad.  But I can’t help but think that it will be such fun when my sister joins me again in this grand adventure.   Oh the places we’ll go!

Expat life and preconceptions

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a coffee-lover, full stop. I don’t know that it’s actually the drug part of it at all; the caffeine is less a factor than the pleasure of sipping coffee out of a mug. The move to England encouraged me to drink more tea, but my heart’s not in it. I have a nice coffee maker for the morning, but I have not been too averse to drinking the ubiquitous instant coffee found everywhere here in the UK-land-of-tea-kettles. However, I did learn an important expat lesson this week. I had a jar of instant regular coffee, but realized that sometimes I wish for a mug of a warm beverage before bed. I seem to have lost my high school affinity for hot cocoa, and have not been able to embrace the UK’s other alternatives. Although I’m norwegian and my norsk relatives drink regular coffee at 10 pm (Uncle Gary!) I wanted decaf. So I walked to my local grocer earlier this week, and I bought a jar of instant, in a nice bottle with a green label. I tried it, only to discover on reflection the following morning that in the UK it is not a clear-cut code that green = decaf the way it is in the US. I went back later in the week to get decaf and ended up with a jar with a black label and the word “decaf” spelled in red. So, although I had a few sleepless nights before I realized this, now I am happily cozied up with my new decaf blend (with milk, of course!) But an important lesson was learned about label codes and colors. My decaf UK coffee is red, the code for “fully leaded” in the US, and I have to read the labels more carefully and not rely on my US-based color scheme.

I had an interesting, and very different, shock earlier this week when I ran into someone here in the UK who went to my American elementary school, same grade, same special program, only a few years after me. We had the same teachers, even. When I was in the US, before I moved here, I would not have been surprised for this to have happened. I was living only a few hundred miles from said elementary school and I quite expected that someday I might meet someone from the same program. But to have that happen in the UK was a coincidence of epic proportions, and probably the best such story that I have to tell of my life thus far. My prior best was running into someone AT THAT SAME SCHOOL when I was ten, that had been my diaper playmate halfway across the US in another state. But I’m thinking this might trump that. I also discovered that one of my high school classmates is now in London (thanks, facebook!) so it’s been quite an interesting week.

And a good one. I know I’ve had some frustrations in the last few months, and my blog posts about life in the UK were at times fairly negative. At the moment, I’m feeling quite good about the world, and quite positive about my life here. I think my preconceived notions about my life were unrealistic, and it’s taken some time, perspective (and therapy!) to get past that and into a new routine and attitude. But I’m happy that I’m happy. The year of my being 31 was not great, but it was a learning experience, and from next week I get to start fresh with a new age and a new fiscal-me year.

Sleep, drugs and death

On the one hand, I feel sort of silly for being upset about the death of a celebrity.  Yes, I was a fan of Heath Ledger (especially some of the earlier movies) but I was not a superfan, but I’m older than he was and the circumstances seem really strange.  And familiar.  I have been complaining lately about my sleepless nights, how my job stress has been weighing on me, and how I need to adjust things to get some sort of work-life equilibrium in place.  Fortunately I have never resorted to drugs to do this, no sleeping pills, no anti-depressants or anti-anxiety potions.  Until the cause of death is known more precisely, it is impossible to speculate on what role Ledger’s apparent stash of (legal, medically-prescribed) drugs had on his untimely demise.  But it does remind me of a few things.

  1. Drugs are not the answer.  Big pharma would try to convince you that there was a miracle pill for everything.  It’s not true.
  2. It’s especially problematic to combine medications, especially if your doctor or pharmacist does not know.  Drug interactions are a problem.
  3. Drugs don’t have the same affect on every body.  The first time I heard the compound word, “pharmacogenomics” I wanted to hurl, but sadly they have a point.  Sometimes drugs do funny things to one person’s body, and since drugs are tested and considered safe based on population studies, they are only safe on average.
  4. It really is possible to see a young person living alone just die and have to be discovered.  It’s the “Bridget Jones fear of being eaten by Alsatians” or the “Miranda overfeeds her cat” problem.

I live alone; this last one is particularly sobering.

I have nothing more to say.  It’s sad when someone dies at 28.  It’s sad when someone leaves behind a two year old daughter.  Life is precious, enjoy every minute you’re granted.

Cleavage and women in power

There have been a number of news commentaries lately about the issue of cleavage and female politicians. Apparently my hero Hillary has sported some in the US, and the issue has been even more frequently discussed lately here in the UK. Let’s think about the problem here (with apologies to anyone who knows me and would rather not go through an analysis of life with non-microscopic breasts). A woman who has made it to the level of power where she is going to be seen on telly or in newspapers is likely to be older. We who are no longer 19 tend to have larger gazongas (that’s a technical term) than the perky (and anorexic) 19 year olds in Vogue adverts. In Europe it seems to be more acceptable to have some cleavage compared with the US, although they sometimes go too far here for my tastes. But it doesn’t change the overall picture. Womens’ dress codes do not have an equivalent to a buttoned up shirt-with-tie-and-jacket scenario that is the standard uniform for men. In fact, the question of “what should I wear?” is far more complicated for a professional woman in all circumstances: at work, at conferences/trade-shows, at work-affiliated parties, we have a harder time in general. We are expected to be feminine, and yet somehow sex-less. We are supposed to be missing breasts. We are supposed to ignore the advice of the style gurus who say that large breasts are more flattered by v-neck tops than turtlenecks, but if we follow this advice we get chastised for revealing an inch of a crease of flesh in the form of cleavage. Hello, double standard?