Oh, To Be A Brit!

I must admit, I was a bit disappointed upon coming to the UK, to discover that my dreams didn’t immediately have accents.

If my laptop (moment of silence in reverent memory of Steve Jobs) could change time zones without my assistance, and my Ebay account show only UK listings, then surely my dreams would get the message that it was time to Britanize the settings.

But, rude awakening to reality, I’ve still got that horrific California drawl of an OhMyGod! accent…even while I’m sleeping.

The adaptation processes is currently underway.

The one where I’m consistently in the wrong about how to say, and how to spell, and how to eat, and how to dress, and how to cross the street.

And have got to start adding a ‘u’ to color and eating french fries with a fork (and calling them ‘chips’ while I’m at it) and making the word ‘you’ plural (as in, “Would yous like some butterscotch pudding?”) and getting made fun of when I pronounce ‘garage,’ and ‘tomato’ like an “American.”

Or if I use the word ‘pickle,’ or ‘pants.’

Or ask for napkins in a restaurant.

Or inquire as to how many touchdowns were scored in a rugby game.

Or try to read the weather report, or bake something, only to discover I have absolutely no idea how hot, or cold anything ever is.

As my terms for heat and frost have been reduced to just that, “hot” and “cold.”

Numbers and temperatures have gained a liberating sort of insignificance.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

But despite all those desiccately dry British jokes (the majority at my own expense…) that I simply just don’t get (because there is nothing TO get).

There’s something I absolutely can’t help but admire about a country thats’ trains are faster than their busses.

That loves Jaffa Cakes almost as much as they love their queen.

And that dress their policemen up in such cute little outfits.

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The Great Cracker Challenge.

  

Living in Apartment Number Two of the largest student-housing complex in town means that we get a lot of visitors.

Mainly due to the lack of flights of stairs required to scale in order to reach our front door. After a mere literal hop and a skip, you’re in the building.

News Flash: A rainforest genocide has taken place and the results are apparent by the twenty seven odd pamphlets slid under our door each half hour. Advertising new salons, an Indian food buffet, this Friday’s jungle themed rave, and a free bag of chips with the purchase of a new printer.

Believe me, there is quite a party going on beneath our doorframe.

And those are just the notices from those either to respectful, or just to lazy to knock.

There’s another whole genre of PR folks who’ll pound down your door with their various rhythms of knocking until you open it up and listen to their spiel.

We always glue our faces against the peephole and give the knocker a thorough once over evaluation before deciding whether or not to let them in, at the high stake sacrifice of giving them a couple minutes of our lives that we’ll never get back again.

But I’d take the PR staff any day rain or shine over the man who tests our fire alarms. He has this tendency to barge in at all hours of the wee morning, and put off the fire alarms under the pretenses of “testing them.” I’ve come to the sole conclusion that as a youngen he had many a sleep cycle interrupted by intrusive fire alarms, and from a psychological standpoint, he now seeks to make amends by persecuting countless other meager seekers of knowledge.

Just the other day after a bit of habitual knocking, I swing open my door indignantly to reveal probably the most intriguing triumvirate to ever grace the carpeted hearth of Flat Two.

They labeled themselves as architecture students, raising money for their new project of outdoor classrooms.

I wasn’t sure how pleasantly this would pan out with the harsh and icy Scottish windy weather. But I wasn’t there to interrogate them on the practicalities of their scheme, I was present merely to cock my head in wonder at the sign strung round the young mans neck, reading,

“Can YOU Eat Four Crackers In One Minute?”

I don’t know, could I? Surely four crackers wouldn’t be too difficult for a bigmouth such as I.

They all held uniformly mischievous smiles and a single orange bag of seemingly innocent crackers.

The challenge was thus: Consume four crackers in one minute, and win a bottle of Irn Bru (a type of strong orange flavored soda, so popular it’s practically the national drink of Scotland…and nowhere else…).

It was a tempting offer.

And I’ve never been good with temptation.

Reluctantly, I shoveled over a pound, and came to the realization that those elementary school wrapping paper fundraisers never really come to an end, they are just revamped to create a college rendition of the door to door give me all your money tactic of acquiring funds.

So I began.

One cracker at a time.

Liquids not permitted.

Biting through the stack of parched cardboard, the crackers crumbling beneath each other in their crispy shards of dry.

I chewed.

And chewed.

And choked.

And all I could hear was the sound of my relentless salty chewing.

I paced the hallway to the recurring sound of the architects dull counting down of the seconds.

And I heard behind me the muffled expectant cheering of my flat mates.

And then came the loudest sound of all, the dry chortle of sawdust spewing from my mouth as I bent over the bathroom sink gasping through splinters of wheat as failure glared at me in layers from the depths of my bathroom drain.

Most likely a photograph is neither necessary, nor appreciated, and I’m quite certain your imagination is vibrant enough to conjure up it’s own mental picture. However I’m never one to waste a perfectly good photo….

 

Trust it to students to come up with a fund raising idea of such ludicrous proportions, and leave it to students to actually participate in, and enjoy (relatively) said activity.

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All Moved In And Eating Lots Of Toast.

My new best friend.

Couldn’t think of any better way to say: I’m moved in.

On average, we consume about five toasties each per day.

Six flat mates in total.

Now, I’m not much of a math person, but that is a lot of toast and cheese.

Simple. Brilliant. Delicious.

A very global, British-esque version of a quesadilla.

I suppose it’s safe to say, I made it over. I made it moved in.

And am currently in the involuntary process of becoming everything British.

One week down, and hot toast and tea has become my primary staple. 

As if on cue, just to remind me of where I am, Jonathan yells across the flat in distress at Gordon, “How do I tie these bloody laces round my ankles?”

It seems getting dressed for a fancy evening out becomes a bit more complicated if you’re required to wear a skirt.

Especially a plaid one.

With no underwear.

Gordon and Jonathan, both medics, are headed out to a “Caleigh,” a type of scottish dancing ball, this one specifically for doctors.

Jonathan has been griping all week over the sixty pounds he had to spend to rent his kilt. It was the cheapest one in the shop and he had to buy kilt insurance as well, a concept I found to be ridiculously entertaining.

Gordon, the only son in his family, owns the kilt with their specific tartan that had been passed down for ages, well, at least from the sixties. He occupied himself with firing rapid complaints over the length of the sleeves, which to be fair were about three inches shy of fabric. As well as the avocado color and “lame” pleat of his very vintage kilt.

All I can do is thank the lord almighty that my flatmates where graced with considerably much more patience than I myself possess. As they tolerated the stupid blonde American, as she photographed literally every moment of their existence as though I was a proud parent taking pictures of prom night and the pinning of the corsage.

I couldn’t help it.

They were wearing kilts.

It really doesn’t get much cooler than that.


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Ready For TakeOff.

I absolutely NEVER sit next to cute guys on airplanes.

And I have been on a lot of airplanes.

The seating chart roulette always lands me next to those little kids that squeal and kick the backs of other people’s seats repetitively, and then those other people flip their heads backwards and send me those small snarky glares meant to intimidate me into controlling my child. Either that, or old woman.

Not that I have anything at all against them, it’s just that they don’t happen to be cute guys.

Which, biased though I may be, is always preferable.

“God, I love karma.”

I thought to myself while heartily examining the back view of the young man taking up all my compartment space in the overhead storage area.

Normally I’d be significantly ticked off by the intrusive demeanor of his luggage. Except that him placing his lumpy orange duffel all up in my space meant only one thing.

That my space, was his, to get all up in. 

Swoon.

I don’t remember his name, apologies, was a bit distracted. However I guarantee that it was a very nice one, in fact there’s probably a couple of colognes named after him, and one dedicated solely to his fresh and dewy in-flight airplane scent. 

So I’m sitting there, avoiding the armrest and all eye contact, safety informational tutorial droning on in the background. Alerting me in the case of emergency, to remove all high heel shoes, as they may puncture a hole in the aircraft slide. 

Here I am, trying to think of something remarkably stunning to say. Wishing I knew Cameron Diaz’s cousin or something, so that I could casually slingshot it into a conversation, racking up a jackpot of “cool by association” points.

When all of a sudden I blurt out, “I lost my passport!!!”

And it worked. Instant conversation. Just add water.

In no time flat, he became very interested in where and when the last time I remember having my passport (and ticket…) was.

This is a start.

Maintaining interest in each other is a key factor to any steady relationship.

And he was down on his hands and knees, checking around my seat, and under the feet of my neighbors. I was tearing apart my backpack, and flipping wildly through those pamphlets filled with overpriced items in the back pouches of each seat.

And all of this would have probably been just fine and dandy.

If it hadn’t been that I really had lost my passport, and if the flight attendant man with the perfectly parted, if slightly greasy hair hadn’t come over and informed us that in order for take-off all passengers had to be securely buckled as was announced in the safety instructional video. Which I hadn’t necessarily been watching said video as I had much more important tasks to complete at the time, like losing my passport.

Ever wondered how to lose something you’re clutching in both hands and guarding with your life? Look an Irish man in the eyes. 

When I stand up to do one last search in my overhead baggage, I glimpse a lonely looking passport neglected in a far corner.

Sure enough, it had my very own horrifically un-photogenic picture gracing the inside cover.

Maybe there’s a very good reason I never sit next to cute guys on airplanes.

…It’s for my own good.

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I Love Packing.

 I love packing.

Correction.

I absolutely adore packing.

Packing fits into my category of cleaning.

Which I also love, but only the fun type of cleaning, like emptying out old closets, sweeping up spilled Cheerios, and folding warm static-y post-dryer clothes.

Three activities of which I’m particularly fond of.

I must admit that cleaning my room is on the top of my favorite things to do, almost grazing writing in a plain black journal with a steamy cup of peppermint tea.

Emphasis on the almost.

Ironically enough however, my room is a constant disaster.

Although I often feel like I spend the entirety of my spare moments wading through cleaning it.

Still haven’t sorted through the complexities of that paradox.

Packing for a trip, to my delight, is like cleaning for a purpose.

It also includes, which I won’t eschew either, shopping for a purpose.

A reason to rid your closet of the most comfortable elastic-less underwear, third grade class t-shirt, and that faded pink, ratty old sweater that magically becomes the first thing you put on.

If it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, it’s got to go.

I made an exception for a pair of moss green beaded espadrilles, and hid them in the back of my empty closet, hoping their impracticality would mark my return to the States of America.

I do believe, however, I’ve somehow discovered the reason behind the majority of all suitcases being black, the most evident of which, includes the miraculous slimming qualities of the color black. That can make even the most abundant of overstuffed luggage look remotely thinner. Whereas, my own bright red polka dotted bags never manage to attain that same degree of sophistication.

But they are pretty cute, to say the least.

One thing that’s left me persistently baffled is the manner in which a girl such as myself, who loves organization to such a meticulous degree, has absolutely never managed to pull up to the gas station pump with the right side of the car facing the tank on the first try.

Not to mention all those times I forgot to empty the lint filter in the dryer, or left my quesadilla on the stovetop frying to a blackened crisp.  Or the way I consider it a rare blessing when I’m able to find the car keys in under five minutes.

Perhaps organization comes in hills and valleys, in ebb and flow.

Becoming too organized can leave a sterile taste at the back of your tongue, and a floor too clean to tiptoe on.

Being too flamboyantly gaudy with muddled disorder, obtrudes your mental space with materiality, and obstructs clarity of thought and vision.

I guess we just can’t win em all, and in the meantime, I’ll be over here leaving my coffee cup on the roof of the car in the Coffee Bean parking lot, as I peel out of the drive way, just to run home and measure the precise degree and angle each item occupies in my suitcase, and the additional weight it adds.

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Across The World Again.

In times of either peace or war have you, ever been involved in, or suspected of involvement in, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide?

Have you ever supported or encouraged terrorist activities?

Have you engaged in any other activities that might indicate that you may not be considered a person of good character?

Wavering on this last question, I wondered how detrimental ditching fourth period to suntan in the quad during the last week of school senior year, would be for my record.

Gently bubbling in the blanks on my accusatory visa forms, I couldn’t help but wonder about all this prosecution aimed at my application, clearly the UK government harbored some secret grudge against philosophy majors. Then again, even Thoreau had to spend a night in jail.

My oldest brother calls it, “The fog.” It’s that patch of unknown, just over the hill that you’re about to reach. But still haven’t the slightest as to what lies beyond.

Just a bit of hazy expectation, built of photos ripped from magazines, and a folded corner in a guide book. 

So uncertain.

But more certain most of all, that it’s making sense.

Because when you lay on the ground, inspecting the details, it’s easier to get caught in the trap of practicalities.

 The trap of practicalities is a scary place to be tangled up in.

Although it likes to hide itself behind the pretenses of sensibility and rationality.

It really just trips on its own tail worrying about things like finances, and the potential career options accompanying a degree in philosophy, or, lack thereof. 

The trap of practicalities shot dangerous daggers of doubt at me, like wondering if I was ready for the commitment of college, of a degree, of a permanent location. I couldn’t hardly commit to my cereal for eight minutes after pouring the milk on it, how was I to commit to the rest of my life? 

But that’s just it.

Because I realized something beautiful. And that’s that I want this to be the rest of my life. 

Because the rest of my life, includes me, alive at this moment, and  insert your cliche of choice here, that was how I’d decided to spend my existence. 

Brian Andreas says it best, “There are things you do in life, and they may make no sense, and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking, and say it was good.”

I like their accents…so passport in hand, and plane ticket an arms reach away, I’m folding my favorite pair of cut-offs into my incessantly overstuffed suitcase and salivating over the journey to come in nine days time. 

Scotland.

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The Invitation.

I recently tripped upon this poem from a fellow blog of thoughts, neobeatnik, and absolutely could not resist the temptation of sharing it, in all it’s callow glory.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love for your dream for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain mine or your own without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful to be realistic to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.

And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

by Oriah

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