Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is something people in the UK just don't get. This is understandable, as the whole concept is giving thanks for a harvest which allowed pilgrims to survive on their own WITHOUT the British empire. To British people, Thanksgiving means a turkey roast dinner without roast potatoes or yorkshire puddings.

To an American, Thanksgiving usually means family,canned Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, Zeigler's apple cider, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and commencement of Christmas movies. Or at least it does to me.

This year there will be no canned cranberry sauce and what's left of my family is almost 3,000 miles away. It's times like these that I miss my mom with every fiber of my being. I miss waking up to turkey smells in the morning, my mom's homemade turkey gravy and the day-after-thankgiving turkey soup. I miss drinking coffee on the back porch with her and fighting over what has to be done. I miss her complaining about how my sister never stayed long enough for dinner. Some things aren't the same without my mom around.

I am lucky though, I have a great mother-in-law who makes an effort to do Thanksgiving dinner for me every year. Because we are all at work, it'll be shop bought turkey loin things that just need to shoved in the oven. But it's the thought that counts.

I'm bringing some of the pseudo-Southern charm to the table (I am really from Florida afterall) and making sweet potato casserole and Nigella's version of corn souffle.

Being an expat means bringing a little bit of home to your new life. Though sometimes, I wish I could just catch a plane and be home again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pop-Tarts, Smores and Graham Crackers...

Being an American expat (or the partner of one) often means trying to explain American concepts like s'mores to unsuspecting (often drunk) Brits.

This past weekend I was talking to a few fellow McGuire grads on a course, this was in the bar at probably around 11pm. One of them asked me where I was from, then it got on to pop-tarts for some reason. Everyone mentions pop-tarts, they're one of those 1990's fads which even the 10 year old holiday maker will remember with fond memories.

After discussing pop-tarts and Lucky Charms (oh so magically delicious) the conversation went on to s'mores. Of course this is because the best flavour of pop-tart is the s'more flavour. After using great articulation to pronounce S'more in my semi-drunk state - I ended up having to give a semi-lucid explanation. "It's marshmellow with chocolate, put between two graham crackers. You either toast the marshmellow or put it in the microwave for a few seconds so the chocolate can melt between it."

Then I had to try to explain what a Graham cracker was... with much laughter being had at the thought of the name Graham for a cracker (again, it was getting late) I had to conclude by saying repeatedly that a graham cracker is like a digestive biscuit, but not quite.

Click here for a more descriptive explanation

I Beat Myself Up

So that's where that bruise is from...

I tend to beat myself up about EVERYTHING in my life that isn't perfect. I could do the job I have in my sleep (and the week after a McGuire course I often do). I don't like my living situation (who would after 3 years of living with the inlaws). But most of all, I'm not happy with my speech. That's the worst one of all, because hell, I should be overjoyed with my speech.

If you said to me this time last year, "Jul, you'll be able to pick up the phone without feeling physically sick in 6 months" I wouldn't have believed you.

But it's the truth, I've also done a phone interview for a newspaper article, talked to hundreds of people on the streets using Deliberate Dysfluency and my kick ass pausing, ran a few sessions of support group, did a point on the check list in front of a room full of people, and made a fool out of myself with Ali G (well someone dressed as Ali G, Elvis, a cowgirl, a princess and a few pirates).

Why isn't that enough for me? Why do I beat myself up about one little phonecall which didn't go 100% but still got my message across. Why do I let a silly comment from someone bring up all these negative thoughts? WHY?!

I need to stop doing it.

Th-th-th-that's all folks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Looking Back...

I had to laugh at this post, my First American Expat Rant.

Can we say frustrated much?!

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

There's a book out there, which has been out for a long time, called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I think Fear is a big part of my problem with everything. I've been browsing a lot of expat blogs recently, rekindling my "Stranger in a strange land" thoughts and feelings to add to this blog as I fancy. I was just browsing one such blog, In Tea We Trust, by an American Expat who's lived in the UK for 9 months. She talked about how she is fearful of a lot of things here, I suppose because they are so alien. Everyone has a comfort zone, and as Americans, I think a lot of us are quite cocky while in our comfort zones. When we're in that bubble we think we can take over the world, we became immune to the fear of being "outside."

And then you come to a different country, where you're the "odd one out" and suddenly you think about EVERYTHING way too much. This, for a stammerer, means that on top of the usual over-thinking you do about your speech and speaking situations, you now have a whole new host of random non-speaking (or lack of speaking) situations to muse over:

Need to open a bank account? Even though you've had one for x number of years at home, you'll need about 5 hours of your free time to spend in the bank, and proof of your address. Although, to get proof of your new address you really need a bank statements to prove it. (Figure that one out for me!)

Need to learn to drive, even though you've driven to x number of years in the states (practically since you hit puberty). Well, you'll have to start from scratch in most cases and take a stupid road theory test, and PAY someone to sit beside you and tell you all things you're doing wrong while driving. (This took me over a year of lessons, 2 instructors and 7 tests to only get an AUTOMATIC license!)

Need to find a job, even though you've worked for x number of year and have x qualifications. You'll need to sell yourself to the Brits in a different way.

They say moving is one of the most stressful things you can do, losing a loved one is also right up there. I lost my mom, graduated from college (University) with two Bachelor of Art degrees, and moved to England all in the space of 13 months. As one of my very best friends says: "Julia, you never do anything small."

So, it's easy to guess that my adjustment to the UK has been a very slow process. I think as a stammerer as well, I lost a lot of my assertiveness when I moved here. Whereas before, I HAD to talk to people to an extent. I went to college (UK term: University) classes and did class presentations (which I never did very well in but passed), hell, I even had to do a public speaking summer class. But, then with moving here, the comfort zone of college was gone, the comfort zone of my family was gone, and I was looking for a job and still very much grieving my mom. No wonder I basically became a recluse.

It took me almost three years to try to snap out of this, probably because I was fearful of changing this learned behaviour of: the avoidance of meeting new people, answering the telephone, holding back when I really want to be assertive. And since I've started on this road to recovery as it were, I find that facing my fears is the only way to move forward.

After being quite ill for a week, thank you seasonal/swine/piglet/big bird flu, I need to begin again today; I need to attack that fear that comes from being out of practice with various things. Then tomorrow I get to do a session on Assertiveness to a room of McGuirees! :)