Sunday, 13 January 2013

  Ellllo Mah’ Dahlings! I have been meaning to write blog number 2 for quite some time now, but life, public transportation, keeping tabs on my best friend Kate’s pregnancy, and work have prevented me from doing so! It’s hard to believe that we have been residents in the U.K for 3 months now, going on 4! Some days it feels like we just landed in London shouting “We’re here y’all” In the most southern accent ever, and other days it feels like we have been away from the Freedom country for a lifetime fancying English Tea Time and eating biscuits. Chris tells me that somehow I have managed to sound more southern since I have been here, I think he is just hyper aware of the accents!  The last few months have been challenging to say the least! However, Chris is LOVING school!  He absolutely loves studying theology in a culture that isn’t the Bible Belt. He also loves challenging himself. I on the other hand, don’t really “love” or “fancy” a challenge.  I am not that type of person.  I guess that’s not necessarily true, if you want to challenge me to a cupcake eating contest, I am there!  Only if it’s Muddys Cupcakes though, don’t get crazy!
One thing I have learned is you never know how much you miss the luxuries of America until they are not in arms reach. That is the statement of the day! I also find it intriguing how we all speak the same language, but culturally we are very different.  Even the language is quite different. I am sorry, you have to get what out of your boot? How does that even fit in your boot? I didn’t think you had boots on…oh you mean your trunk? That makes more sense.  Someone Bless my heart please!
 Speaking of “Bless my heart” It only took me a few weeks to realize that my southern charm was not only lost on the London residents but it was also impossible for them to understand me. I had thoughts like “You know, back home I am quite humorous, people think I am funny, really they do, or at least they tell me so!” What’s the deal? I realized that not only do they not get my jokes, they don’t understand what I am saying.  To be fair, it’s quite a melting pot here so when you throw in a different accent, it can be a challenge. I found myself wanting to cry one day when I had to repeat my coffee order about 17 times, and then I got a hot chocolate. Hey, close enough…cheerio *tears in eyes*!

I am currently working at Coach Handbags. The commute is 45 minutes by train when the train line is not down! If the train line is down, then I prepare myself for a 3 hour trip to work! Yes..3 hours!  3 hours of catching buses, trains and running to my destination. I feel like I should win an Olympic medal for arriving to work on time. I sing the National anthem when I walk in the door…in my head of course! Sometimes I run in like I have just finished a marathon..I DID IT…I DID IT…high FIVE!! No? Ok. I have to say I have enjoyed working in a different country. I love how in one day I can help customers from Kuwait, China, Japan, Dubai, London, Singapore and Louisiana! We may all live in a different part of the world, but we love our expensive, overpriced handbags! Yes mam! I have met a lot of interesting people. I really do love being immersed in the English culture. It can be very intriguing to learn a new way of life. The British say they are not friendly but most customers will take the time to ask me how I am enjoying life in the U.K! Some women even take the time to write down organizations that I can be a part of.  They all make sure they tell me to enjoy my time here and travel, travel, travel! A few weeks ago a man came into my store and asked me how I was adjusting to life in the U.K.  There are times I so badly want to answer that question with the response, “ I am perfectly adjusted to life in England!” Instead my answer was “not well!” Mind you this was about 6 weeks ago when I felt like an alien walking the streets of London…a southern alien at that. He said, “It’s lonely right?”  “You feel all alone in a big city?!” Yes that is what I was feeling, but why did he have to say it out loud for everyone to hear?  He then said, “You almost have to change who you are!” At that moment I was thinking…Change who I am? I like myself, I don’t want to change who I am to adapt to another culture.  He suggested, and I am not kidding that I become a part of the “London Skater crowd!” At that moment I pictured myself buying a skate board, dying my hair pink and skating around London…wait no…that’s not me, I am approaching my mid thirties….and as cool as that sounds, I don’t think that’s me. He then says, “The subway, it’s lonely right? People don’t want to talk to you on the subway? At this point I was thinking, “Sir, are you here to buy a handbag or did someone send you here to analyze my life in London? Why are you doing this to me?? My thoughts exactly though, Yes it is lonely on the subway.  My friend called it a soulless train. It’s really crazy how close we all sit to each other and never speak. I know what type of deoderent you are wearing or not wearing, but I don’t know your name mam. Sometimes I picture myself starting up a conversation with someone and then I picture them not understanding me and then it becoming super awkward so then I just stare at my phone the entire time. The man kept talking about how lonely life can be in a big city. I kept my composure because at the time I was overwhelmed with feeling lonely, even though there were people all around me. I nodded and said, “Things will get better,” not truly believing what I had just said.  It will though, I can’t help to think that if I keep being friendly, I will eventually dazzle people with my charisma and maybe one day people will find my southern accent strangely appealing and be drawn to me! Yes, yes they will, just after I put this spell on them…Just kidding ..kinda! I really thought I would instantly make friends so it has been an eye opening experience for me. Making friends isn’t as effortless as I hoped it would be, but this has forced me to step out of “southern comfort zone.”I have had to learn a lot by myself and I know I will go back one day and appreciate the finer things in life that I never truly appreciated like Pumpkin Spice Latte, sweet tea, chick fil a, owning my own car, a dishwasher, TV, and friends being close, not in any particular order. 

I am on a mission to embrace the culture, but as humans and we crave familiarity. I never knew how true that statement was. There are days I picture myself in Germantown driving my Honda CR-V singing to some pop song on the radio and eating Chick-fil-a fries and then I snap out of it and make myself a cup of tea, grab my umbrella and head to the tube! I was reminded recently that I need to embrace the culture because once I am gone, I will really miss it.  This wise person said even though things may seem very different and even mental at times … a different culture can be endearing. This is so true. It’s once in a lifetime that you get to experience another way of life for a season or two, or three.  There are days that I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone and I want to find something American and hold onto for dear life, even if it’s a recces peanut butter cup as crazy as that might sound. There are also days that I don’t want to put the energy into making friends, it can be so awkward and it feels like a first date gone wrong, and then I want to explain myself, “Listen, I am cool, people like me, just give me a chance, I am in a foreign country, I have 664 friends on facebook..I got jokes!!” You instantly feel insecure and have feelings you haven’t had in years!! Despite this, we have met some really good friends and I have forced myself to put forth the energy into making friends and I am so glad that I have! It makes all the difference in the world!  I have realized that it’s not just about me trying to figure out how to live in a foreign place without feeling like a complete ailen, it’s about Chris going to seminary and us learning about ministry together and taking on new adventures that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in the United States.  
Brad Paisley said it best in the song Angie sent me…”I miss my TN home, I can see the ways I’ve grown, I can’t see this world unless I go outside my Southern Comfort Zone!” I wouldn’t normally find myself quoting Brad Paisley because I don’t really listen to country music, but he said exactly what I have been feeling! I have to admit there are days that I wonder what it would be like if we never crossed the pond and we were back in Memphis living our very comfortable lives, but then I think how quickly we have become a part of people’s lives and those connections would have never been made. I would have never had to push myself to learn new things or be fully immersed in a new culture. I would never really know what it’s like to work with people of every different background in one small store.   I would never truly appreciate the American way of life and at the same time, never truly appreciate the English way of life.   I could have gone a lifetime not knowing how to properly wash a dish by hand, but now I appreciate a dishwasher! I never truly appreciated my car and how easy it is for us to jump in our car and be at our destination in minutes!  People have told me I will never be the same after this, and I know this to be true.   This is way tooo long and I could write forever, but I know this blog needs to end! Until next time! TALLY HO! Cheerio!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Mind the Gap please! This is what I hear constantly as I venture on to the tube. Mind the gap between the comfort of my previous American life and The European adventure. Well the British automated voice doesn’t actually say that, but that is what I hear. The last 2 weeks have been an adventure to say the least.  We sold almost all of our belongings including our cars and packed our bags and moved across the pond with heavy hearts of missing our friends and family but with an adventure in our soul! Chris is fulfilling a life-long dream of attending seminary. Seminary has been a calling that has been placed in his heart at the ripe young age of 15 and we are thrilled that we are here! Cheerio!

What an adventure! I want to write a novel, “Lisa is perpetually Lost in London”…catchy phrase but not entirely true! I have actually been finding my way around quite nicely…that’s my British accent seeping through. I will be like talking like Madonna before you know it. The fact that I have not lost my way taking Public transportation is just by the grace of God, because if you know me, you know directions are not my thing, oh no. Where do I begin? As I pictured London, I pictured this glamorous lifestyle. I even thought of the Fergy song…you all know it…G L A M O R O U S. I pictured the queen visiting us for tea, lunch with Kate and William, wearing big hats, and seeing musicals every weekend…ok not exactly, but it is quite the contrary.  I pictured us living in a cottage like the one pictured in the movie the “Holiday!” Actually, we live in a small quaint town just on the outskirts of London. It is so cute and everyone is very friendly.  Well the neighbors on both sides at least. We live adjacent to a Retirement home and I smile at the elderly people but they always seem like they are on a mission and there is no time for smiling, especially at complete stranger.  Anywho, we are in walking distance of the tube, the grocery stores, a few ethnic restaurants and Boots (The local pharmacy). Speaking of the grocery store, we walked 2 miles home carrying 5 bags of groceries last week…rookie mistake! That will never happen again!  We don’t have a Starbucks near, but we do have COSTA, which has become my favorite! They got me…the cup says “U.K.’s favorite coffee!” I wonder if that is because there is not a Starbucks around, therefore we are forced to drink Costa to fulfill our coffee addiction.  Well played Costa. Actually rumor has it they shut down Starbucks and are very proud! I guess that is quite an accomplishment, so they are justified in celebrating their achievement!

We have been able to venture into the city a few times and see the breathtaking sites of London. It’s a surreal experience to be so close to the Tower Bridge , Big Ben, English desserts, Oh sorry, The London eye, etc. Pictures just don’t do it justice. Cambridge was absolutely amazing. It was like a dream. You think these types of places only exist in the movies like Harry Potter, but they are quite real.  The city of London reminds me a lot of New York City, which happens to be my favorite city of all time. I know, I am such an American! I can’t deny how much I love it! I love the vibe of the city. London is very similar. Like I said though, we live on the outskirts so we aren’t basking in the big city and bright lights-it is just in arms reach.

Back to Glamorous…The City of London is quite glamorous. As we arrived to our new house, I instantly felt the difference of American Living. Not to mention we have not been able to take a hot shower in almost 3 weeks and they have not been in a hurry to fix it. 2 days in the U.S would be unacceptable and someone would be hearing an ear full.  I had to write a very blunt email to explain how important it is for me and my personaL hygiene to shower, well I said that in so many words. I don’t think I have ever had to write an email like that before!  Our bedroom is very very tiny and Chris and I kept bumping into each other so that was annoying but we got over it fast. By "getting over it" I mean he is moving his things into the guest room.  I miss having a dishwasher and I miss taking dry clothes out of the dryer, they are always damp here. We miss being able to jump in a car and drive places we need to go. These are the things I immediately noticed that were no longer in arms reach. I had to embrace the fact that I had to put my clothes on a clothes line and I had to wash each dish separately by hand, (whaaaaa??) and showers just weren’t happening.   Of course, I have been completely spoiled my entire life so I was a bit annoyed and frustrated. I wanted to turn on the TV and just chill by watching a rerun of “ Friends” or” How I met your Mother”, but of course we don’t have one just yet. I know, spoiled American right? Very….. A smart phone? Out of the question! I worked in the telecommunications industry for almost 10 years so I always had the latest mobile device and never had to pay for it…. reality check.  We tried to get a phone with TMOBILE…denied! Hello, you are American and just moved to Europe, we don’t trust your credit..fair enough.  We were finally able to get a pay as you go phone..a bar phone with 70 minutes! Aww yeah! !  Top up please! That is something I say quite often! I need to top up our minutes please!

Things started to feel very real in the fact that we packed up our belongings and moved to a completely different country and stepped out of our comfort zone. I never thought my mood was affected by the weather but after a few days of being here, the dreariness of London started to sink in. I noticed the days it rained, I felt depressed and missed my friends and family and the fact that I just couldn’t pick up the phone and call them. I think I cried three days in a row, coincidentally the three days it rained. Ruh oh, I just moved to a city that is known for their rain! It’s been sunny the last few days and I have loved every minute of it! It’s amazing what the sun does to your mood!

We have started attending a church that is within 5 minutes of our flat and we attend the night service because it is more contemporary. It’s quite different than our church in the U.S. We loved Highpoint, and we knew it would be hard to find a church that would compare to the love we have for Highpoint. We have met so many loving friends there and created so many lasting friendships, it was so hard to say goodbye. The church we are visiting has been quite different, but we have met the same type of loving people. Last Sunday we attended church and our cousin Ethan accompanied us. Ethan has graciously been here for us since day one…greeting us at the Airport shoving 5 huge American suitcases in his European car! It was amazing. He has been a huge blessing to us since the day we arrived. Thank you Ethan!! Where was I? Oh…Ethan attended with us and the pastor said “If there is anyone here tonight that you have never seen before, go greet them and maybe even sit with them the rest of the service!” Chris and I noticed everyone was coming straight for us like a herd of cows…we were the newbies to the church. It was funny! Everyone has been really friendly and welcomed us with open arms.

The Hunts have been amazing too. In case some of you don’t know, Chris’s longtime dear friends moved to London as well. They were planning on moving here and we kind of followed with the dream of Seminary. Christopher is British and his entire family lives here so him, Autumn and the kids are here as well. The family is amazing..they have been here for me when I needed a hot shower and was about to have a break down. Amazing friends!  God really knows exactly what we need. I am very extroverted and Chris can be introverted at times. I feel like God has always placed friends in my life everywhere I go and I have such a great support system. I met a sweet lady at church that has taken me under her wing and even prayed for my tube experience when she saw the fear in my eyes of venturing on the tube by myself in the city ha ha! My experience that day was great. This blog is turning into a book! To wrap it up, the past 2 weeks have been challenging, fun, hard, exciting, and adventurous! I am amazed at how much the Brits love their desserts! I am having to watch my sugar intake, before I slip into a sugar coma. I know that God has a purpose for us here, and not just for me to see how many English sweets I can consume in one sitting, right?? Right… I definitely feel my character building as I learn all types of new things. My sense of independence is growing as I learn my way around this city walking everywhere. I am forced to step out of my comfort zone every single second. I don’t have the comfort of my friends or family  near so I am forced to meet new people and reach out in the community.  So you made it this far, you read the entire European experience up until this point. Well there has been more experiences, but I would have to start a novel.  For now, this southern girl is going to take part in “Tea Time”! Cheers!