About Me

London, United Kingdom

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!

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...