About Me

London, United Kingdom

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bittersweet and Snowy London

I was in London for nearly eight months before taking my first big trip back to the US of A. I left Friday before last for ten days to spend the Thanksgiving week with my friends and family. While I was initially sad to be leaving my life in London, even for ten days, it was so good to be home. With that said, being home was a bit surreal and strange. It genuinely felt like I had never left. My friends and I picked up just where we left off, my sisters and I argued about the same things we always do (love you guys <3), Target is still an amazing store, and Mi Ranchito is as tasty as it ever. Throughout my time there, I would think about my life across the pond, and it didn't seem real. I'm feeling a little like i am living a double life. Needless to say, my days in London look a lot different than those did in Kansas City. I had (and like to think I continue to have) a whole network of people that I love and that love me. In London, I've met some amazing people as well. It's a strange strange feeling that my different lives don't really cross.

When I left for the US, friends in London asked if I thought I was going to have a difficult time coming back after spending time at home. I never dreamed that it would be so difficult, and that my sister would once again have to leave me in tears waiting in line at KCI Security. Now I know that I wasn't being very realistic about how things would be. Over the last couple of months, I have been having so much fun living an exciting life abroad, I think I lost some perspective about all that I left behind at home. The perspective came crashing down around me over the last 36 hours and it manifested itself in a whole lot of tears.

Two weeks ago if I would have been asked how long I planned to stay in England, I might have told you that I loved everything about being here and could see myself staying long term. Today, that thought really overwhelms me and gives me a serious knot in my stomach...and if I'm being honest, a couple of tears to fall. My contract with my employer is for two years, my visa is good for three. I want to start being thankful for the time I'm here, and stop trying to look so far ahead. My new goal while in the UK is to take things one day at a time.

Anyway, sorry that my first post in three months was a bit depressing. I'm hoping it makes me feel better! :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sorted!

Hi! I hope you are all doing well. Sorry I continue to be a little hit and miss on this blog thing. It seemed like it was going to be such a good idea and so easy in the beginning...some of you are demanding! :)

The last six weeks or so have been really good across the pond. The homesickness seems to have moved on...at least for now. We'll see what happens when it's dark for 16 hours everyday and it rains for five months straight. I am getting busier and busier, which is really good for me. I'm never home before 8:30 or so. I finally found a place to swim laps that I'm happy with. It's so close to my work and is outside. It's 50m, heated, and they say that people swim through the winter. I'll be very curious to see if I'm able to do this without freezing my knickers off. It may bring back some repressed traumatic memories of my mom throwing me into The Big Pool in subzero temperatures back in my GC Seahawk days....

Last weekend, I made a quick trip to Germany to spend the weekend with Katrin's (my sis in law) family. It was really good to see some familiar faces and drink some German beer...and to be on the right side of the road again. I wish Scott and Katrin (and particularly Hannah, sorry guys) would have been there though. I look forward to going back for Christmas this year for some good German Christmas fun.

On Tuesday evening, I went with a fellow Kansas Citian that I work with to see Sister Act at The West End. Whoopi Goldberg has been here through much of August "back in the habit." I was a little disappointed that she didn't play her original role of Deloris Van Cartier but was Mother Superior instead. Sister Act was one of my favorite movies growing up. It was pretty surreal to be that close to one of my favorite celebs. (It should be noted that I was on a bit of an employment hiatus before my move over here and I got somewhat addicted to The View.) I tried to take a picture but was attacked by a theatre attendant after merely taking my camera out of my bag.

This weekend I'm looking to Notting Hill Carnival. I don't really know what it is but I have been assured I will find good food and good drinks (along with possible gang violence, but whatever). I'm set!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summertime in London!!!

I can't believe I've been here for three and a half months...part of me feels like it's gone fast, while another part of me feels like I've been here for fifteen years. It has been pretty overwhelming, exhausting, and an undoubtable emotional roller coaster; but I love this city and am looking forward to all that lies ahead. I do feel like I'm settling in somewhat though. I find that I am in a routine here, which is bittersweet. When I first arrived, I never got home before 10:00 because I was always out exploring. Now, once I'm done working, I come home and do what I do best...watch TV and play on Facebook! Sad, really.

I am super excited to have my first guests headed over this fall. The Siders' are coming over in September and then my mom will be here for almost three weeks in October. I'm working on booking some travel in the next couple of months and while my mom is here. It's one of the main reasons I came over here and so far, I am not taking advantage of it. I love London, but I also love getting out of London. Who knows where I'll end up...

I am thankful that I came at this time of year. Summers in the US are on a whole new level than those in the UK. This summer, we've had some blistering hot days, it's gotten up to 85 degrees!! Because there is no air conditioning in homes or on public transport, it feels really hot at times...and the body odor on the tube proves it! I definitely can't complain about the mild weather. It doesn't get super hot in the summer or super cold in the winter (so I'm told). I have been warned about the winters here though. The English LOVE! to talk about the weather. It's really funny, actually. At any given time, I think that if you just listened to the people around you, someone would be saying something about it. To be fair, it probably will be a bit of an adjustment when it rains for seven months straight and it doesn't get light until 9:00 in the morning and it's dark again by 4:00 in the afternoon. Bring it on!

Work is going well. It's certainly been difficult at times, but I really like the children and families I work with...and my coworkers too!

I've been watching flights for my first trip home for Thanksgiving. I'm planning to be there around November 19-29. QT and Mi Ranchito is just four months away for me!!! :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

So sorry about my slacking!

I just realized that it's been over a month since I gave an update on my life over here. I think that's because life has caught up with me. It turns out, this isn't just one big vacation, I actually have to go to work! I think I neglected this thought some when deciding to make my move over here. I get almost six weeks of vacation time and I've already decided that it isn't enough. I'm clearly going to have to get better at weekend travel.

Another piece of reality that has struck me over the course of the last 2-3 weeks is the fact that I am a good 4500 miles away from home. That's right, homesickness has settled in. I really appreciate the supportive comments from everyone over the course of the last couple of weeks. Things will get better. I love this city! I just need to figure out how to get Irv out of Iowa in order to get my whole family over here. I do not anticipate success in this endeavor though.

Work continues to go very well. While I was working toward the same goals in the US, policies and procedures are quite a bit different. My general state of confusion is sometimes frustrating, but the work is fascinating and I feel like I have been quite lucky by working with some very supportive social workers.

On another note, I anticipate a fun and exciting weekend in England. For those that don't follow soccer (I admit that I know nothing about it), the US plays England tomorrow afternoon in the World Cup. People are super excited about soccer (or football if I'm calling things the right way over here). You really can't escape it, nor would you want to. I'm just glad I have sports to focus on over here as I understand everything that I love about sports in the US is crumbling down around my beloved Manhattan, Kansas. I can't believe that I leave the country for two months and the Big XII falls apart. So depressing!

I promise to do better about blog posts in the coming weeks. I look forward to doing some jet setting very soon!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Moving on up to the east side!

Well, crap. I lost my iPhone at Ikea yesterday. Things were really looking up with the use of that thing too. I lost it somewhere between kitchens and storage. I've retraced my steps about 15 times since then. I am so sick of that place. Unfortunately, I think I am going to have to go back there pretty much everyday this week because I'm too cheap to get a taxi so that I can get everything all at once. Besides, buying furniture for an entire flat at once is quite overwhelming. Hence the lost iPhone. Anyway, I'm so glad that the guy talked me into getting insurance when I got the phone (three weeks ago, sigh). In order to make an insurance claim, I had to make a police report. Therefore, I have had my first encounter with The Met! The Met is the police department in London. They walk around with those funny hats. I was disappointed to find out the lady taking my report wasn't going to put her funny hat on in order to help me, but I didn't feel like it was my place to ask her to. I'm sure that they don't really enjoy making reports on people that have lost their phones at Ikea.

On my way home from the police station, my bus got into an accident...which was very exciting! I was just happy not to have been behind the wheel in this one. The bus driver slammed into the car in the next lane. It was very obvious that she had done it, but she just kept driving! Eventually the crazy guy we hit (he had what could only be the English version of the mullet) caught up to us and blocked the road so she couldn't go any further. There was then lots of commotion...yelling, horns, etc. All in all, after surveying the damage, I would say the guy made out pretty well. After all, a double decker, bright red bus had slammed into the side of his car. Really the extent of the damage was a broken side mirror. It sounded so much louder than that.

I have spent the majority of the weekend moving into my flat. I'm very excited about it. (I'm not excited about how much time and money I've spent at Ikea, but I'll stop dwelling on that.) My suitcases are very excited to be unpacked and in my closet. On Friday, I had a sofa bed, my bed, and a bookshelf delivered. I assumed the sofa bed would be put together. I assumed wrong. I didn't know that a sofa bed could come in 4000 pieces, in 2000 boxes. I can't believe I put it together by myself. I did have some extra screws at the end. I'm not sure what that's about. Oh well, that's not my problem. I don't plan on ever sleeping there. (Sorry guests!) I also successfully put together my bed. Putting together all the furniture has taken a toll on my back. I feel like I'm about 80 years old. Getting out of bed the last two days has been very rough. I'm so stiff! I also think that I'm allergic to all the fake wood that I now have in here. I can't stop sneezing.

I'm living in South Woodford, which is a little community in Eastern London. It's a nice, quiet little area...with lots of cute old people. I can't get enough of the old Enlgish men with their houndstooth hats. I talk to them all frequently at bus stops. My hope is that after 80 years, they have figured out London and they can give me some insight. This place is a little difficult to wrap your head around at times. It's so huge...with so much to do and see. Now that I'm almost settled, I really plan to make the most of it.

I'll post pictures of my flat when it's a little more put together. It's condition is a little embarrassing right now.

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I would imagine that they drive on the left side of the road in hell...

Well, I am just coming off of my first holiday weekend in England. Today (May 3) was the early May bank holiday. I'm not sure what we were supposed to be celebrating, but I did nonetheless. On Saturday, I got the haircut an color of a lifetime. I will never (ever) disclose how much I accidently spent there, but it was the most relaxing three hours I have had in a long time...and for those of you that know about my life prior to moving over here, my life has been pretty relaxing as of late. I guess I know that from now on, you should ask how much services are going to cost prior to booking them. Oh well...I did get my first paycheck in over five months this week.

Early yesterday morning, two girls and I headed up north to York, England for the weekend. We didn't decide to go until late Friday afternoon, so train tickets were pretty expensive by then and we decided to rent a car. The other two girls said that they didn't know how to drive a manual transmission and I was in no condition to chip in for the upgrade to an automatic after my hair extravaganza the day prior. I decided that I would be the driver for the weekend. How hard can it be, right? Turns out...it's really hard. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car, so you have to shift with your left hand. Instead of reverse being on to the right of fifth it's all the way to the left before first. (I hope that makes sense.) It has been the most disorienting 36 hours of my life. There is so much that goes into driving on the left side of the road. You take wide right had turns, and small left hand turns. The British also evidently love the use of roundabouts and instead of going to the right in them, you are very much supposed to go to the left.

After we made it up to York, I was feeling a bit more comfortable and confident in my driving in the UK. I had made it almost three hours without doing any major damage to this country! Then I accidently hit a cyclist. This obviously squelched my confidence. I'm not exactly how it happened. Whether or not I had my blinker on is up for debate, but he made it pretty clear to me that I hadn't. Needless to say, he wasn't a very happy Englishman at that point. He appeared to be okay though. After all, he did have enough strength to yell at me. It was quite traumatic.



The three of us wandered around York yesterday afternoon and into the evening. It's a very quaint little English town. It was pretty cold here this weekend though, so it was hard to see the sights for long. We got up this morning and left York, hoping to drive through the English countryside before coming back to London. We drove through the Peak District in The Midlands. The little villages of cottages and pubs on the hillsides here are so fun. I definitely want to spend some more time out there very soon. I really, really liked all of the sheep too!



All in all, it was a successful holiday weekend. Now, on to work for the week. Luckily, I only have to work 2 1/2 days this week because it is moving week for me! I'm so excited to be able to finally unpack after six months of living in limbo. I can't wait to be able to finally get into a routine. My flat isn't furnished so I will be making the trip of a lifetime to Ikea to furnish the place, but I have already bought a sofa bed. My plan was to figure out an alternative to giving up my bed all the time to my guests! :) You can all start booking tickets now!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I have friends!!



Well, actually, that may be a lie. Another social worker that I am working with (Sam) has friends, and I've been tagging along with them this weekend. Sam is from Australia and last night I went out with she and her other Aussie friends in Notting Hill for her birthday, which was quite quaint and fun. Unfortunately, my I don't have very quality pictures because I keep forgetting my camera at home. The houses down there are SO CUTE...but also appear to be very expensive.

Today we spent the afternoon at a pub in Chelsea for Sunday roast. Sitting around the table were two people from South Africa, four from Australia, and a couple (and their two kids) from London. I love meeting all of these people from all over the world who are in the same boat that I am, more or less.

Work is going well. It is a whole lot to take in though. I think I was taking for granted that at home, I knew the child welfare system well, and I was able to get things done without questioning everything I was doing (if that makes sense). A couple of years ago the borough I'm working for (Hackney) introduced a new model to their social work programs. We now work in social work units consisting of five people including a consultant social worker (me), social worker, children's practitioner, a unit coordinator, and a clinician. The cases are actually allocated to me as the consultant social worker, and then I am responsible for overseeing all of the work that goes on inside the unit. As a unit, we only have 20 children, which makes the caseload far more manageable than anything I have ever done before. I think that we will be able to achieve better outcomes for our families as the services we can provide are much more intensive.

The clientele in Hackney is just crazy diverse. When they interviewed me, I assured them that I had worked in diverse communities by working in KCK and KCMO. Looking back, that seems like kind of a joke. London has such a high population of immigrants from all over the world, it's almost mind boggling. My caseload consists of families from Turkey, Yemen, England, the Caribbean, and the list goes on and on. I went to a training last week and found that we have an entire department devoted to child trafficking, female genital mutilation, etc. I am definitely not in Kansas anymore.



I've attached some pictures of the inside of my office. I feel like I'm going to work in an airport every morning. It's huge!

The last two weekends, I have spent my days just wandering around London. Yesterday I went to Harrod's, which is the craziest department store ever. It could best be described as an amusement park. It went on forever and ever. You could buy groceries there, they had a pet shop in there, they restaurants on all of the floors, etc. I went to Hyde Park for a couple of minutes yesterday afternoon too. Barry, I think you'd really like it there. There are rollerbladers everywhere! I was not aware that anyone rollerbladed anymore (besides you). :)



I have signed a lease on a flat in an area called South Woodford and move in May 6. I'm very excited to be able to unpack after almost six months of living in limbo. I am not so excited, however, about the trip to Ikea that I am going to have to take to furnish the place. Many flats in London are furnished, I didn't get so lucky so I anticipate some heavy lifting in my future.

Oh, and last Monday evening I went with a a coworker's and her family (they are actually from Overland Park and lived about 30 seconds from me) to see Diversity. It is the break dancing group that beat Susan Boyle (God love her) in Britain's Got Talent last year. It was quite impressive all that they can do. I especially liked the little kid with the crazy hair. So cute!

video

I think that's all for now. I know I said this last time, but I am really going to try to blog more often so it isn't so much of a process.

Have a good week!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm here!!!

Wow! What a crazy whirlwind of emotions the last week has been. Really, I have had a total of three mini meltdowns. The first occurred last weekend (which seems like about 3 months ago now) before I left when I had my first call from someone interested in my beloved Honda Civic. I cried when I got off the phone and I cried the entire drive to meet them in west Olathe. Anyway, the car is still for sale and I am more than okay with that. In fact, I really wouldn't mind if it was still for sale when I come home for the first time at Thanksgiving...or even when I eventually move home, whenever that may be. (Sorry Brian and Kerri!)

So after two horrible day of packing and eating all at all of my favorite establishments in KC, I found myself at KCI last Tuesday. This was the scene of another waterworks display. Telling my mom, Allison, Kerri, and little good bye was pretty difficult. As I went through security, I'm pretty sure the guy running the show let me through without question, purely out of pity. I was fine once I was on the plane...until Philadelphia. No one has ever cried like I did over the deliciousness of what was the best (but maybe only) Philly Cheesesteak I've had in my life. After a call to my sister and a pep talk from her, I was boarding the plane to London. I haven't shed one tear since!

I arrived early Wednesday morning here (KC is six hours behind London). I had it all set up to have a driver pick me up from Heathrow...only I booked it on April 6 (the date of my actual flight) not April 7 (the day I arrived). Whoopsy! The driver came back to get me though, which was nice as I would have had no idea where I was going or what to do. He did advise me that I would be able to get the best drugs in Hackney, the borough in London which I am going to be working. I didn't mention that this was exactly what I was coming to work against. I figured I would have instantly lost some London street credit.

Right now, I am living with Camille, an American coworker of mine until I can find my own flat. Camille and her son moved over from New York in September. They have been so welcoming and helpful. My transition here would not be going so smoothly without them. They live in a super nice, quiet community in East London. I think I will most likely end up in the area myself.

So over the last four days I have really mostly been either walking or walking lost. The first day when I got here, I had to go to Central London to pick up some paperwork so I could open a bank account. I had not slept in 36 hours and I was wearing the same thing I was when I left KC. I'm think I'm lucky I got home alive. It is a tricky, tricky thing to remember which way to look when crossing the street around here...especially going on no sleep. I can use the sleep thing as an excuse, but if I'm honest with myself, I think it's only a matter of time before I get hit by a car.

That night after Camille got off work, we went to eat at the local pub. It was pretty much everything I ever dreamed it would be. So cute and quaint! I ate a Cottage Pie with peas and chips. I washed it down with a Strongbow. Very British!


On Thursday, I had an appointment to open a bank account in the morning so I got back on the tube and headed back to Central London. My first encounter with a huge landmark was a little anti-climatic. I didn't know where I was and when I turned a corner and looked up, I saw The London Bridge. It actually is quite spectacular. I just wasn't quite prepared for it. Later in the day, I went and hit up Regent Street. Holy Moly! Shopping like I have never ever seen in my life! I refrained from buying anything though (aside from hangers) as I have been on an employment hiatus for four months now.



Friday was a big day for me as I actually got a phone. I don't have credit in the UK so I'm going to be going the pay as you go route for the next couple of months. I have a really annoying crap phone that is really pretty expensive...especially when you call your family in the US after some drinks. :) I also went to Hackney, where I will be working to scope out the scene there. It is quite urbanized. I'm really excited to be working in the community, but I'm not so sure I'm cut out to live there on my own yet. The building I am going to be working in is brand new (like two weeks brand new) and it looks considerably different than KVC in Paola.



On Friday night, I met up with Andrea (another American expat in the UK...and my lifeline) for some drinks and dinner with her boyfriend (or partner) :) Steve and their friends. I had my first curry in the UK. That spice just never gets old to me!

Yesterday, I set out to tackle the London bus system. (It is just unbelievably confusing but I do fight people off for the best seat on top of the red double decker bus! ...I trying to not be a stereotypical American tourist, but sometimes it's impossible for me.) I must admit, as of Sunday morning, I have not yet seen Big Ben, Buckigham Palace, Westminister Abbey, or the London Eye...but I have seen Costco in London! It's amazing how similar it is to Costco's at home (another one of my favorite pass times in KC). The Brits share my passion for Costco too. The place was insanely busy! The most exciting thing I found while there was this pass for a Hot Air Balloon ride for 155 Pounds! This is most likely something I am going to have to partake in. Soon! You even get champagne! After Costco, I went to Ikea, which I have never experienced before. I could be quoted to say that Nebraska Furniture Mart is one of the most overwhelming places on earth. Well, I think I can take that back. When I finally find a place of my own, I anticipate a very long day at that place. I am not sure if I am excited about it or terrified.



All in all, things are going very very well. I really love it here so far. I would guess that I ask around 15-20 people for directions everyday, and no one has been rude yet. People have told me several times they are watching out for me to make sure I'm getting on and off the right busses, not living in questionable neighborhoods, etc. Yesterday, a cute little older British couple stayed on the bus with me to make sure I got to Costco okay. I wanted to take a picture of them...but I thought they might think I was crazy. On Friday night on my way home on the tube, a couple of Amy Winehouse look-a-likes (but not so much act-a-likes) told me that people are going to love my American accent and I need to take advantage of it, which while I'm getting lost as much as I am, I guess I will. :) When I told them I was from Kansas, they sang the theme song to Oklahoma for the rest of the trip home. I would also guess that one out of of two people I meet as me how long it took me to get here on the yellow brick road or about Toto. Haha! ...I've heard it all my life.

Anyway, sorry this is soo so long. I'll try to cut it down next time. I start work in the morning so I anticipate that my exciting life is going to slow down some. Maybe not though, I am a social worker after all!

I'm going to post some other pics on Facebook as well...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Visa...Approved!

To catch everyone up to speed...
Since traveling to Europe a couple of years ago, I have often thought about living and working overseas. About a year and a half ago I began to actively pursue moving to the UK. Admittedly, the fact that they speak English is quite appealing to me, especially as a social worker. Finally, in December of 2009, I was offered a job with the London Borough of Hackney in Northeast London. It's been quite a process and there's also kind of a long story behind it but I actually left my job (really the only "real" job I've ever had) in December, which has been bittersweet. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with some of the most important people in my life, something I would not have been able to do if I would have continued to live the crazy busy life of a social worker at my old job. I do miss the people there (and the craziness) like crazy though!

So, after lots and lots of paperwork and lots and lots and LOTS of waiting, I was notified by the British consulate in Chicago today that my visa has been issued. I am going to be anxiously waiting for a package from UPS tomorrow so I can book my flight. I hope to leave next Tuesday! Crazy!

So this week (amongst trying to pack my entire life into a couple of suitcases) I am going to be doing all things American and seeing as many people as I can before I leave. I hope to make several trips to my favorite restaurants as I understand they just don't do food the way we do here. Over the course of the next several days you will most likely find me at Mi Ranchito or Oklahoma Joe's (possibly stealing BBQ sauce to take with me when I leave). I will also probably spend lots of time at Target, Costco (though they have these in London), and who could forget Quik Trip!

I have been waiting for this day to come for several months now and up to this point it has seemed pretty surreal. For the first time in my life, I am going to move out of the great state of Kansas and am going to move to one of the largest cities in the world where I really know no one and try to make a life for myself over there. I can't wait!

Bring on the accents!!!

Oh, and does anyone know of someone who needs a very faithful 2005 Honda Civic?!?!? :)