Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Thank you, Jesus"

I realize I haven’t responded to Piechnik’s question yet: I do believe I would have to put their accents under the uppity category, but that absolutely is no reflection on them, personally.

Two nights ago, after leaving my laptop on for a few hours, I came up to go to bed. Since it was already on, I thought I’d play some tunes while I got ready. To my absolute horror, the audio was not functioning. It was one of those "Oh, God, no!" moments. I restarted my computer…nothing…I turned off my computer hoping the morning might bring better results, but couldn’t help myself from trying once more before bed. I turned it back on when I got up to turn the light off after reading my devotions….I held my breath as I typed in my password, waiting for the introductory ditty that always greets me upon loading…."Thank you, Jesus!"…that melody never sounded so sweet. Call it a glitch, I don’t know, but it is now functioning normally to my unrestrained delight. I already knew how important it was to have my music with me, but this was quite a revelation; I would have cried. I already touched on this, actually, babbling on in my journal during the flight to keep myself occupied. I wrote about how I had been listening to Jason Mraz in my car that morning, thinking about how glad I was that I could bring him and all my other music along on my laptop; I was thinking about how music is home to me. I realize I used that same sentiment in my last post while mentioning my visit with the horses and this has led me to a rather sentimental and insightful conclusion: Home is not a place. It is simply when you’re surrounded by the things that you love; the things you’re passionate about…like being wrapped in a sort of a cocoon. I suppose, it’s about what brings you comfort. That’s my deep thought for the day.

This family has had 5 or 6 au pairs over the years and Catherine has been telling me her very own horror stories….stealing, sleeping until 3, dragging Tom across the floor by his arm. Besides the very first one (a Swedish girl), they haven’t been all that successful. I asked her why she even bothered try again and she told me she had sworn it off, but decided she just couldn’t face the summer holidays without one. Well, I’m happy to report she isn’t regretting that decision. Yesterday morning, she was telling me that she asked Jonathan the night before when she usually starts griping about the au pairs. He replied "The first day". She continued saying that she hadn’t griped about me yet and thanked me for that small and gracious luxury. She was telling me today, as well, that she had been going on to Tom’s teacher how "lovely" I was. I really don’t mean to boast, I’m just glad that they’re not unhappy with their decision to invite me here and I wanted to share that fact with all of you.

I realize this has turned into more of a general journal then a travel journal (considering I haven’t written in my actual journal since the night I got here), so bear with me. My first inclination was to apologize just now, but I’m not going to because I’m just enjoying it too much. At first, I was bothered because I love having a written journal, but writing all this down and then typing it out would be a ridiculous waste of time, so I’m just going to have to swallow that schmaltzy ideal. I suppose it’s because I haven’t done much traveling yet, that I’ve resorted to random anecdotes and even more random thoughts, but I’ll try and keep things interesting in the meantime.

Here’s one such anecdote: The other morning, a bottle of orange juice on the counter caught my eye…and I do love my orange juice. Mouth watering, I poured myself a small glass and took a healthy swig. My first thought was "Where’s the sink?" My second was "What the bloody…? Crazy British people; what kind of crap is this?" Needless to say, it was awful. I poured the rest down the sink and placed the bottle off to the side with no intention of ever touching it again. Well, yesterday I witnessed what turned into quite a revelation. Catherine put a small amount in the baby’s bottle and proceeded to fill the rest up with water. The light bulb went on. As soon as she left the kitchen, I went over to the bottle and slowly (and sheepishly) turned the front label away from me. There it was in clear English: 1 part juice, 4 parts water. I also realized then that, little did I know, Catherine had served this juice to me a number of times over the last couple days and it is actually quite good. Concentrated juice in a bottle, who ever thought of that anyways? "Marks & Spencer", that's who.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Silly Willy

First of all, "Memoirs of a Geisha"; not a movie to watch alone, at night, in a foreign country when you’re dealing with being separated from everyone you care about for the next two months. Bloody depressing, that’s what that was; I don't think I've ever felt so utterly alone. Yesterday didn’t improve too much until the evening. Call it a "funk". If jetlag is the feeling that you could stay in bed all day and sleep, well then, I think I had a bit of that. Plus the fact that the weather was downright ugly had an effect on me, as well. Being the social butterfly that I am, I was also feeling a little claustrophobic not having the option of going out, meeting and spending time with other people my age or at least near it; I guess it’s the feeling of being isolated that’s really nagging at me. That will improve as I take on the transit system in the near future and I’ve since made an effort to contact other au pairs in the area. I can’t wait to get out exploring; I’ll be going to Wales the weekend following the next, which I’m really looking forward to. The weather hasn’t improved too much today and I was feeling a little down yet again this morning, but having the chance to get outside and be active greatly improved my demeanor. I went and chatted with the horses for a bit which always feels like home and I spent a bit of time on the trampoline with the boys this afternoon. That was a blast. I introduced to them that crazy North American pastime known as a "Bum War". Henry has got the rhyme pretty much down ("1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a bum war; shake, bow, begin!"), only needing a slight bit of prompting and, typically, there was a noticeable increase in volume as the anticipation built towards the final "begin". We played other games as well; most involving a mysterious altering in rules to accommodate my staying in the middle, or being "it"…I let it pass most of the time. During one such game as the boys were jumping and dancing around me, screaming and avoiding my flailing arms, Edward (the naughty one) decided to…how shall we say…"pull it out". Whilst Henry laughed and hollered "silly willy, Edward has a silly willy", Edward proceeded to hold it in place with his elastic waistband and bounce around the trampoline like a proud baby bird that’s just discovered its wings. Hiding my amusement, I calmly instructed him that his actions were inappropriate for outside and to my surprise, Henry stopped his laughing and echoed my sentiments. Henry can be a monkey, like most 6 year olds, but he really is one of the most kind-hearted kids I’ve ever met. Something in his eyes, I can’t really describe it. When the weather improves, I’m going to get out my camera and take some pictures of the house and the kids. I’ll have to set up an account with a picture hosting site, but I’ll provide links to make it easy for all you computer illiterate types (mom).

Driving here is nuts. Of course, the whole left side of the road thing doesn’t make it any less confusing for me, but all the back roads are ridiculously skinny and snaky, the traffic circles are chaos, and everyone is in a hurry. This morning after dropping the boys off at school, Catherine, the baby and I went grocery shopping. She’s told me a couple of times now to tell her if there’s anything that I want, but I just can’t do it. Fortunately, though, she’s made me feel very comfortable and I have no qualms about going into the kitchen and helping myself. I don’t often need to, though. I have breakfast with her and the boys before school in the morning and then during the early afternoon she’ll come find me and inform me that lunch is ready; something I haven’t gotten used to. We sit down together and eat and talk while the local news plays on the TV near us. Dinner goes the same way in the evening after the boys have been put to bed, except Jonathan joins us. I’ve offered my help, but she has yet to take me up on it. Once I get more settled (and more familiar with where things are in the kitchen), I plan on doing a little cooking here and there to give her a break and, simply, because I enjoy it.

There’s such a strange sensation I’ve gotten after being here for a couple of days: the feeling that my life back home is just a figment of my imagination. There’s been a couple of times where I’ve caught my reflection in a mirror and it’s made my heart jump a little because it’s such a tangible, concrete reminder of who I am. When I see myself, it causes a kind of firing in my brain, I suppose, and I’m just flooded with memories. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I don’t know how else to describe it. In theory, being away from anyone that’s ever known you, you really could be anybody, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think you really are who you are no matter where you are; no amount of distance can change that. I’m not sure I’d be very successful at being anybody but myself; even if I wanted to.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Planes and Potter's

Henceforth, all text written in quotes and italics is taken from my journal.

"Destination: Fun", that’s what the screen in front of me says; I’d be hard pressed to disagree. After an hour or so spent eating and being hounded by the paparazzi (a.k.a, my dad) and another 45 minutes sitting in a ridiculously hot and crowded holding area, I’ve boarded the plane. When attempting to put my backpack in the overhead compartment, I had a lovely and charming young stewardess ask me, in a joking and friendly manner, if I had packed stones. I laughed and smiled warmly, thinking of the 22lbs of hardware, cables and toiletries I had packed in it to save myself from paying even more in excess baggage fees then I needed to. She opted to shove it behind a back row seat in the "club" section. I may not be flying first class, but at least my luggage is. Being seated in an aisle seat directly across from the loo does provide easy access, but unfortunately doesn’t allow for much of a view. I truly missed that aspect of take-off, but that silly grin was still being worn proudly as I was pressed against my seat watching the suns reflection creep warmly across the surface of the cabin."

So, there’s nothing much meant for consumption that I hate more then airplane food and for the record, I don’t recommend either "Last Holiday" or "Pink Panther", but besides the fact that I only slept about 20 minutes, my flight was fine. After realizing that, yes, I do believe my luggage was the last to be unloaded and having a brief moment of "Ok, where the **** are they?", I successfully found my family and was greeted with hugs and smiles, a Coke and a chocolate bar. This place is incredible, this family is adorable, and this house is absolutely perfect. The house is 4 years shy of a century old; all hardwood floors, dark wood everywhere, three floors high (I’m alone on the third floor with my own room and bathroom), with enough charm to make me believe that it’s somehow enchanted. I think I uttered the words "…so cute…" at least 50 times during the initial tour; grounds included. These kids are too precious to even describe and warmed up to me immediately; I love them already. Their accents…my gosh, you can’t even believe how cute it is. While writing in my journal last night and thinking about Thomas (the delayed, non-verbal, possibly Autistic 6 year old), I believe I heard a word from God: You need to be working in the elementary school level, not highschool. Last night, I was watching Dr.Who with the boys (their favorite T.V. show) and Tom came over, climbed on the couch, snuggled in beside me and had me read to him. He is a gift from heaven; the child is an angel. Henry, the other 6 year old, is a bundle of excited energy and incredibly sweet. Edward, the 4 year old, bounces off the walls seemingly always on the verge of combusting. He’s definitely the naughtiest of them all but has won me over nonetheless. Baby William, 18 months, is beyond precious. It may just be because he’s little, but he seems to have a knowledge and understanding beyond his years. I am going to absolutely love it here; essentially, I am living in a fantasy world.

This morning I went to a Catholic church with the family. It wasn’t your typical starchy mass; the priest was actually quite cheeky and the church itself was beautiful. Catherine and Jonathan (the parents) barely kept the boys from swinging off the chandeliers (and Edward from putting the hand of his Dr.Who figurine into the ear of the old lady in front of us), but I was happy to see some follow through: They had a toy taken away and received no ice cream after lunch for their naughty behavior. That seemingly obvious parenting skill called "Follow Through" could've easily been the difference between a wonderful or extremely frustrating two months. We ran some errands in Guildford after church. It was a sort of outdoor mall, but all old buildings and cobblestone streets…charming, absolutely charming, everything. The cars here are insane; I've seen an Aston Martin, multitudes of other rediculously expensive cars and there are as many BMW's and new Carrera's as any other car combined, on the road.

Ok, one funny story before I end my first official posting. I’ve entitle it "The End of Time": I brought my clock radio in case there wasn’t a clock in my room and to avoid having to wake up to anything that sounds like either an attack warning or a truck backing-up outside my window. Although I am aware of the difference in voltage and took mighty care to make sure all my expensive equipment and hardware could accommodate it, it was only a fleeting thought as I plugged in my poor little clock. While setting the time I started to notice a strange burning smell. Before I even had time to process this attack on my senses, there was a somewhat pathetic popping noise and a single wisp of smoke rose up as though an internal (and extremely metaphorical) candle had been blown out inside of it. That was the end of my clock radio.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

One week and counting...

My excitment continues to grow the closer I get to the date of departure (June 23rd). I can't tell you all how much I'm looking forward to pouring out my heart and soul into this; the chance to write my little heart out - and be able to share it with everyone - without feeling like a nuisance. I guess this is just a precursor; an introduction of what's to come. I will miss my home and all who live here, but I'm off to find adventure in the land of tea and crumpits.