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Eric and I had the wonderful opportunity to house-sit in Bexhill-on-Sea the first week in September. The house was absolutely beautiful overlooking the ocean in the south of England. We made it there by train and had the week to read (for me:The Red Tent, a brilliant book by Anita Diamant and Love’s Work by Gillian Rose), watch TV (which is a treat for us!!) and do some touring in the ‘1066 Country‘. It was the first time we’ve gone away-just the two of us-since we moved to the UK…something we used to do quite often back in San Diego so we were really looking forward to this.
Bexhill is a nice little seaside town with a ton of charity shops, which always get me in to trouble. It was so good to be near the ocean again and I was surprised by how different it is from the Pacific. First of all, I noticed the air didn’t smell salty and sea-weedy like it does at home and second of all, it is WINDY. The beaches are really pretty with all of the pebbles and beach huts lining the shore…when the tide is out you can walk out onto the sand and search for seashells. There was one day of wind and rain but otherwise we had gorgeous weather the remainder of our week.
We hopped on the train to ancient Rye one afternoon and enjoyed the quaint “Englishness”… another afternoon we went to Hastings and had a curry and walked along the promenade. It was a lovely time…a dreamy once in a lifetime sort of thing…
We now live in an area of Nottingham called Beeston and we are LOVING it!!! The fam has been asking for pictures of the inside of our house but it’s not quite ‘photo ready’ with all the clothes strewn about etc. You’ll have to wait ;)
It is bank holiday weekend and we’re headed to Bexhill (south of London, near Hastings, on the coast!) on Tuesday. My coworker (she is a star) gave me a few plants, pots, and soil for my birthday, so we decided to do a bunch of yard work and a few chores today to get the house nice for our return late next Sunday. I must say, we knew our garden was amazing but learned so much more about it today! I had to get the camera out so you can see it… It is so late in the summer to feel like we can do much but come spring, we want to plant a vegetable garden (plot already there!) and do more up-keep. It will never look ‘prestine’ though…none of the gardens do here…they’re often a bit overgrown, which I prefer anyway!
I know we’ll spend a lot of time out here.
Most of the pictures are of the back garden but we have the added bonus of a small front garden as well (not as common in England, it seems). Let me know if you can identify the mystery plants/berries!
Every room I have ever been in with you was a much easier room for your presence.
It’s rare to meet a person like you, where intellect and intuition make such a perfect rhyme.
Your intuition tells you that the well-being of the American people, spiritually as well as physically, is connected with America’s role in the world. I know you know that the prosperity of your fellow Americans, though hard fought, is less fulfilling knowing there is so much more that can be done to alleviate poverty and suffering in the developing world. You know that less than 1 percent of government income as a contribution from the world’s richest economy to the world’s poorest is not a fair tithe — even in times like these — which is why you have promised to double foreign assistance. As with our own personal sojourn, so it is with country and community -– we discover who we are in service to others.
I know your intellect — fashioned in the halls of Harvard and on the floor of the United States Senate — has weighed up the evidence on how effective American tax dollars are, when converted into smart, targeted, focused aid. Putting children into school where they can think freely of freedom. Giving farmers on the parched land seed varieties that double the size of their crop yields. Giving mothers 20 cent immunizations to protect their newborns from the deadly viruses that they pass on through childbirth. I know your intellect has taken in the data and seen the analysis on the transformative power of effective aid in places where the United States flag is currently not one smiled at. I know you know how much cheaper it is to make friends of potential enemies than to defend yourself at a later date. I know you know all this stuff.
My prayer for you is that your instinct and intellect stay in harmony in the difficult months and triumphant years ahead.
1. I wish that I loved (or valued?) reading so much that I would do it every chance I got… rather than allow life, involvements and what-have-you take priority pretty much every time.
2. When my fingers are dry and I am folding towels, I’ll often lick my fingers before I touch them because the feel of dry cotton towels gives me the same sensation as fingernails on a chalkboard. (I’m not the only one! Shalina…)
3. I would love love love to make peace with my complexity but in the end – when it really comes down to it – I clearly never seem to.
4. I would like to get a Masters degree but in which field, I am not so sure. Peace Studies has always been an interest, especially since my trip to Rwanda in 1999. However, it’s looking like Social Work makes the most sense. If we ever make it back to San Diego, I would really enjoy the Non-Profit Management degree at USD. The most fulfilling moments in my career (next to working directly with clients) have been learning the program well enough to identify trends which lead to the development (and implementation!!) of new strategies to reach benchmarks and more importantly, clients. Although it can be maddening, I sorta like the tension between playing the funding “game” while remaining mindful of the clients and their real needs.
5. One of my horrible inconsistencies is that I despise objectification of women and violence (a lot.) yet really like listening to rap and hip hop. Whaa?? I mean, I don’t really own any of it beyond a couple of mix CD’s…when I had a car though; I’d listen to NPR in the morning and the hip hop stations from then on. And when we’d all go dancing?? Love it. Looooooove it.
6. I like directness. Just tell me like it is and I’ll do the same. It may not be enjoyable to hear (especially if it is a criticism) but in the end, we’ll both learn more without wasted energy.
7. I want to travel more and am in the best place to do it.
8. I’m sortof messy in the kitchen. When I cook, I dirty every pan, leave everything sitting out – the works. I like to enjoy my meal before rushing off to clean up! So sue me! The bad part (which gets Eric annoyed sometimes) is when I forget about stuff I’ve left out for a long time, even overnight. What a waste.
9. I secretly like the tiny fridges here that look like they belong in a dorm room closet. It makes sense considering most food I’ve purchased here in the UK is made with fewer preservatives…so, you buy just enough of it to ensure you can eat it all before it spoils. Another reason is because you can actually see what’s in there! …we’ve been much better at eating leftovers since we arrived.
10. The one person who has truly felt like my sister other than my real sister is Liliane.
11. I love browsing through decorating magazines. My dream would be to own my own quaint bed and breakfast somewhere decorated with antique furniture and serve breakfast from an eclectic array of china. And, to show the kind of hospitality that makes people feel totally comfortable, like it is their home as well.
12. I like to sing. Harmonizing is my favorite…the challenge of blending so well you can hardly be heard except for the solid compliment it gives the person singing melody. I started singing with my parents when we would pass through hundreds of churches as missionaries raising support. I sang specials at church with my girlfriends. Sang in choir and ALS in high school. Worship team….even competed at district and regional levels with the Nazbos. This all sounds great and all but I don’t read music or anything, just by ear (although Eric has offered to teach me!). I had been a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir in San Diego before I left and I’m on the hunt for a gospel choir here in Nottingham. I suppose that is one of my goals!
13. I sortof like eccentric people. The way they are so unapologetically themselves and seem unmoved by people’s judgment…even better, maybe they are even unaware of it? YES, they are weird but they are so special…
14. I cannot wait for LOST to start up again!!!! I’m really hoping we can download or stream it somehow from here. I would die if I knew everyone else could watch it and we couldn’t!!
15. I wish I had thick hair rather than fine and thin – especially when I’m bored with it (like now). That way I could do something interesting and fun with it rather than something half-hearted, hate it, and just grow it out again.
So…December was not only a first for mince pies, and putting Christmas pressies under our own tree, it was also a first for DRIVING IN THE UK! …on the left side of the road and sitting on the right side of the car no less. About a week before my mom arrived on 25 December, we learned there was NO public transport running from Manchester to Nottingham on Christmas day! Who knew?? After searching around online for some sort of alternative we decided the best option was to hire a car. It made us a bit nervous but we did just that and at the excellent suggestion of Vicki Moore, we got a GPS to help us get around (we’re in love with that thing!!). Eric made all the arrangements, picked up the car and did an amazing job of driving. In fact, it was so convenient and helpful to have a car, my mom decided to get one for the last 5 days of her visit. We are really glad she did.
In thinking about the last 10 days with mom, I’ve listed the things that stood out to me as some of my favourites. But first, pictures…
My teapot from Eric <3
Skyping with the Lee Family
Journey to 85 Forest Road West Basement...be afraid!!
Warwick Castle Courtyard
Warwick Castle Tower
Warwick Castle Countryside
We like trees. Especially cool ones. Taken at Warwick Castle Mound
The canal, Nottingham
Me and mom at the Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest sunset
Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare's House, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Me, mom and Robin Hood
The Lace Centre, Nottingham City Centre
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham
Eric and me on our way to tea
Eric and Mom at the tram stop
My mom and her continual excitement about everything. Even when we simply stayed home for a couple of the days, she was content to chat, work on a puzzle, nap from time to time …a true vacation. For her, this was a chance to have quality time with Eric and I, relax and take a break from her busy job/life back home, see the countryside, drink as much tea as possible, and visit a real thatched-roof English-style house. And that she did – and then some. It was a joy to have her visit and she is greatly missed around here.
Sitting down at the table together for our Christmas meal.
Warwick Castle. Wow. Pictures will say it all. Hayley was able to join us for this trip as well. Its pretty incredible walking into a medieval structure with so much history that is still intact. They did a really good job of bringing it alive as you walked through…scenes were set up with important figures and descriptions, fabricated smells to give you an idea of what it would have been like to walk through the lower parts of the castle where the hired hands worked …and they even had staff members dressed in full costume who would tell stories or sit and grind up the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle. I must say, it was very interesting and the views from the towers were gorgeous looking out over the green and grey landscape with fog hovering slightly over the land.
Afternoon Tea at The Walk. My friend Hannah has mentioned this particular tea house a few times before and I decided it might just be the perfect place to take my mom on her last day. I made a reservation for 3. We got dressed up and ventured out on the tram. The shop was really cute – kindof modern but had an eclectic feel to it. Our waitress was super friendly and terribly excited to learn that my mom was from the San Francisco Bay Area - her favourite city after her home town, Edinburgh, Scotland. They had a great time chatting it up.
My beautiful tea pot, cup, and saucer from Eric, which we’ve continued to make really good use out of since then. Just what I wanted, and the really nice card he gave me was an added treat.
Driving in and around Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare Country – totally enchanted. We toured Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (Shakespeare’s wife) and passed by Shakespeare’s birthplace in the city centre…there seemed to be a lot of older medieval buildings in this village…like you could spend all day going from one to the next admiring their structure and learn about their history. I’d really like to return with Eric and maybe stay at a little B&B one of these days. Hard to believe its only 1.5 hours from us.
One thing we didn’t get to do was visit the Cotswold district. We planned to drive to Bourton-on-the-Water (a village built along canals) but it was just too cold and overcast to do so and enjoy it (would have been mostly outdoors)…my mom’s friend who lives in Southern England says it’s a must-see with all of the houses built out of the lighter “honey” coloured Cotswold stone.
One of the great things about the break from work and being with my mom was a renewed sense of excitement about traveling and getting a sense that there’s more out there within… and beyond Nottingham. Sure, we could hop on a commuter flight to Paris (which we MUST do one of these days) but there’s also sooooo much to see here in England.
Eric and I had a wonderful Christmas. Between the thoughtful gifts family sent with mom and skyping with the Lee clan around the table as they finished up their Christmas meal and then head off to the living room to see Phaedra open her presents…I really felt like we were able to enjoy the holiday with family – more than I had anticipated anyway ;)
Happy New Year to all!
Warwick Castle Panorama
Note: Sorry for all the hyperlinks! I wanted to include them in case you were interested in learning more about the various things I mentioned beyond just seeing some photos.
Last Thursday, Eric and I had our first mince pies! Yep, its true…neither of us have ever had one. These little pastries are a British tradition during the holidays. I am told that if you eat your very first mince pie of each season without talking, you will have good luck in the coming year. Sadly, I couldn’t hold myself to it as I was surrounded by my coworkers at a holiday lunch. The one pictured is an extra I brought home to share with Eric :)
On Thursday I also completed paperwork to become a Relief Worker with Framework - an organisation I’ve heard many good things about. They are a housing organisation working with homeless or vulnerable people for one reason or another. Afterword, I met with a woman from one of their services who explained a bit more about the ethos of Framework, one which I truly admire and am sooo excited about. This meeting only confirmed the excellent things I’ve heard about them from acquaintances and also what I observed when I met with the managers at another location a few weeks ago.
My temporary post at the Uni has been a blessing and a curse. The longer I’m here, the more I feel it is the latter and I must admit, it has sortof given me a…well yes…negative experience of this little island’s inhabitants and way of life. I know there is more out there, its just hard to see when I’m stuck not being able to connect with the community because I’m here. So, I am REALLY looking forward to this Relief Worker position (she’s hoping this first assignment will be a full time post temporarily) and am assured it will most likely lead to a full time permanent position with them in the near future!
Lastly, look at our Christmas tree!! Do you love it???! It is potted and I’m hoping it survives for next year as well. With my mom arriving on Christmas day, Eric and I have been wrapping up our presents to put under the tree and realised this is the first year we’ve actually done that together…typically we are traveling up to Concord and Merced right about now so that’s kinda fun even though we will miss seeing all of the family!
As a super brief update - I’ve been working in the University of Nottingham’s Human Resources Department as a temporary Administrative Assistant. It’s a full time gig at the satellite campus not far from the Uni and has been a great opportunity to get some UK experience to sortof ‘beef’ up my resume. I have to admit, it took some getting used to. For example, every morning they would ask, “would you like a drink?” in their English accent and come back with a tray of piping hot mugs of tea delivered to each person. I thought it was so funny, ya know? So, the first day, I walked myself down to the kitchen to get my own coffee and to my surprise, there was none! Yup, only tea. Well…and instant coffee but I don’t think I could or would ever want to get used to that! SO, tea it is. I enjoy it actually…and they’ve got a big water boiler hanging on the wall with a spicket so it’s “no hassle”. I later learned from an American friend that its sortof rude to get up and get your own ‘drink’ without offering to get everyone else’s. That’s all it took - I was learning how to prepare everyones tea to their liking the next day and gladly allowing them to fetch mine.
Oh, the fun subtle differences…even on the computer keyboard. I could go on and on…
Overall its been a good experience so far and my coworkers don’t look at me like I’m an alien as often (and to be fair, vice-versa) haha. I’ve enjoyed them and they’ve helped me more than they know. I will say, I am looking forward to finding a position of my own…one in the Social Service, NGO realm where I can get down to business. I’ll write another post with my job search update but I wanted to show everyone where I’ve been working! Who knows…I may get lucky and move on to something else soon!
Eric and I recently watched a 55 minute documentary on youtube by a professor at Kansas State University, Prof Michael Wesch, who teaches Digital Ethnography. It is a video presentation he did at the Library of Congress this year. Definitely well worth the hour! We both found it really interesting. I don’t care so much for the hype around youtube being almost a magical or spiritual experience but the whole idea of Cultural Inversion: individualism and community (etc) was really fascinating…that tension is so undeniable. In our society we seem to hold tightly to our individualism, are fearful of commitment, accountability, responsibility, reliance upon someone or something…anyone or anything that will require something of us. No wonder so many people are suffering from loneliness and isolation. We sure do look for community or something “real” in strange places…and on our own terms. I have to wonder with many others, however, is it true community when you’re able to log out whenever you like?
How terribly convenient.
So next time you have an hour set aside, I think this is worth your while. It’s super fun and funny (!), interesting, well done, and relevant.
Last I posted, I mentioned the possibility of traveling down to see my friend Kristina who was passing through on her way to Portugal. Well, I did! Actually we did! Eric and I took the bus down for a nice little visit. We were able to stay at Pat’s flat in the city that night and upon his suggestion, went to Borough Market the next day. This market was a schmorgasboard of local produce, international cheeses, organic and fair trade treats, smoothies, wine, beer, fresh breads and soo much more. The location alone was quite incredible being that it was sortof nestled under a bridge and although it felt pretty “open”, there were alley type things that would lead to other sections of goodness. I mean, this place was packed to the brim with people! Very fun. The other main thing we did was walk around the Tower of London area and toured Tower Bridge.
So, I wanted to post the pictures from this little adventure! Gallery // Slideshow
Here are a few pictures just in case you’re in a hurry :)