Thursday, September 20, 2007


I’ve decided to call Tuesday, Sept 18 “Initiation Day” because, frankly, it was a shitty day. Ryan and I have since decided that England was testing us on Tuesday, and we believe we have proved to England that we are staying.

Ryan and I both woke up at 2am (thank you 8 hour time change) and spent the rest of the night watching bizarre clips of BBC children’s television, since many channels switch off from 11-6. At 7am breakfast was finally being served downstairs, so we got up and met Derek, the other owner/operator of the Holywell House. He is very nice and chatty and makes a mean pot of Earl Grey, which I have discovered is delicious with 2 large teaspoons of sugar. He warned us about finding apartments in the area behind Holywell House since it is “dodgy.”

We finished up and headed out into the streets of Loughborough…for about 5 seconds, then ran back inside for more sweaters and anything warm we could pile on since it was probably close to 40 F outside. (A lady on the plane told me I could calculate Celsius by doubling it and adding 30, but this is a gross approximation.) We walked around the downtown area “Carillon Square” which is lovely and has many shops, all of which are strictly open 9-5.

Eager to begin our housing hunt, we walked over to the University and arrived at Student Accommodation Services just before opening. We made it in and when Ryan told a Mrs. Claus-looking lady that we needed married housing, she said “Ah! I have one apartment left!” Ryan said “We’ll take it! Oh, but one thing, we’re only here for the 1st term.” The woman’s kindly round face wrinkled into a sneer. “No. Nothing. We have nothing for you and no one else will either. You won’t find anything around here—you’ll end up in a long-term hotel.” Despite the freezing weather I saw a trickle of sweat run down Ryan’s forehead. I stared at the woman in disbelief and she seemed to soften. “Well, I’ll tell you what to do. Take the bus from the roundabout to Shepshed and go to the sweet shop. Put up a post in the sweet shop window and maybe some one will call you—there are lots of large old houses and sometimes people will rent something.” We skulked out of the SAS with our tails between our legs. Ryan walked with his shoulders slumped-- like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “What a total witch.” I said. Ryan nodded and we walked on to the gate of the university.

There was a letting agent right by the gate, and although the SAS lady assured us no landlord would touch us, I convinced Ryan to pop in with me. A fashionably dressed lady with sparkly eye shadow sat us down and heard us out, with many interjections of “Oh bless you!” as we told her of our honeymoon plans to find university housing. She didn’t look terribly optimistic, but told us that 90% of the apartments were already rented, and there might just be a landlord who was willing to settle for a 4-month lease. She said she’d make some calls and then give us a ring—only one problem, we didn’t have a UK phone number yet!

We gave her the name of our B&B and headed back towards town. That afternoon we had authentic English lunch at a little bakery in Carillon Square; I tried sausage rolls and Ryan ate a chicken Tikki sandwich. We walked back and forth between O2 and Orange, trying to compare cell service. Settling on Orange, the shop lady popped out our sim card and handed us our new 11-digit phone number. The thought occurred that we should call the letting agency again, only to remember we didn’t get her name. So we walked back to the university and left our number for Naomi at Nicholas J. Humphreys, as she and it are apparently called.

It was still early afternoon, but we were exhausted. We went back to the hotel for a break, which eventually turned into each of us trying to keep the other awake. Ultimately the scheme failed, and I was only awoken at 7pm by my stomach trying to eat itself. We groggily walked 2 blocks for Chinese take out, wherein another man couldn’t understand us and gave us double our order. (We really need to start checking these things before we bring the food back!) We managed to almost stay awake until 9pm, and then slept 11 hours straight.

Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, the story gets much happier the next day.

Tomato Sauce

Sunday morning we left Seattle to start our new life in England. Our journey was long and sleep-deprived. After a sad goodbye to Ryan’s parents, we hopped a flight from SeaTac to Calgary, and after some confusion was cleared up (don’t believe the ticket agents at SeaTac who say you don’t have to take your checked bags through customs) made it through security. We had a 10-hour layover, but the customs agent in Calgary was very nice and told us how to get to the zoo.

Calgary zoo was a welcome break, despite the usual muck of parents completely out of control of their crazy children. The hippo enclosure is amazing—the hippos have an above ground area and a large, long tank where you can see how gracefully they swim. Ryan enjoys the flamingos the best—he doesn’t exactly know why, but guesses it’s because they are pink from eating shrimp, as are some smaller birds who cohabitate with them. On the light rail back to the airport I remarked to Ryan about the multitude of “help wanted” signs in Calgary. A turban-clad man in front of us started cursing at me in some foreign language, escalating until his finger was in my face and he was practically shouting “Domine! Domine!” ???

Our London flight left at 10pm MST and was fairly uneventful except that I almost murdered the flight attendants who kept waking me up to ask if I wanted headphones, or a turkey sandwich, or an extra blanket. WTF? What sleeping person wants a turkey sandwich? Maybe they should change their slogan to “Canada Air: so friendly, you’ll want to kill us!”

We arrived in the UK on Monday afternoon (Monday pre-dawn Seattle time). Our first impressions were that the UK stinks. This is because we landed at Heathrow Airport, the entirety of which reeks of lemon-scented disinfectant. Customs and immigration were a breeze. Currency exchange, however, was vastly disappointing. I handed over $90 and was given back just under 40 pounds. Also, it was cold and the bus area had a lot of deformed pigeons. Also, we were tired and cranky from our flight.

We caught a bus from Heathrow to East Midlands airport, during which there were some skeezy guys who leered at me, and I discovered that my electric toothbrush had caused its batteries to leak brown goo.

From East Midlands we caught a taxi to Loughborough, at this time it was late and pouring rain and our taxi driver drove really fast and on the left side of the road. We checked into the B&B and after several trips, got all our luggage up the stairs. Les & Derek are the owner /operators of The Holywell House and are very nice, and they have 3 dogs, the cutest and smallest being Marble, a black and white terrier. We popped around the corner to get some dinner at one of Lougborough’s many “Pizza, burger, kebabs!” shops where the man behind the counter apparently didn’t understand me when I said I wanted pasta with “to-MAH-to” sauce and instead handed me a dish of pasta soaked in ketchup which we finally discovered upon opening our takeout back at the B&B. Completely exhausted, we laughed and climbed into the twin beds that were the only available at our B&B.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beautiful British Columbia pt 1

Ok, I've been meaning to update my supposed "travel blog" with my notes from Victoria for weeks. Here they are!

For those of you who don't know, the new husband and I took a "mini-moon" to Victoria since our big honeymoon in the UK is 3 weeks post-wedding. We took the Victoria Clipper from Seattle's pier 69 to Victoria's inner harbor on August 26th. I would say it was scenic and fun, but to be honest we were both pretty sleep deprived from the night before and mostly I remember an obnoxiously loud Canadian espousing his child-rearing philosophies to some obnoxious American parents whilst Ryan & I tried to nap.

We arrived just before supper and breezed through Canadian customs, then rolled our luggage up a small hill to our gorgeous hotel, The Queen Victoria. I managed to book one of the top-floor suites for a better rate than a cheap room at The Empress or Hotel Grand Pacific. Our room had a balcony with a water view, a gigantic jacuzzi bathtub and was pretty stellar I must say. By check in time we were famished so we walked across the street and got some Spaghetti Factory-- not super classy but quicker than walking downtown to find some place authentically Canadian. We also walked to a local grocery in hopes of picking up a bottle of wine only to discover they do not sell alcohol in grocery stores in BC. We were fairly tired anyway, so we just went back to the Vic and called it a night.

Victoria was lovely, but a little off-setting. Going from America to Canada is kind of like slipping into an alternate universe where everything is almost the same...but not quite. Large American chains ala McDonalds and Subway had the same logo but with a tiny maple leaf embedded. There was a "Canadian Idol" with the exact same logo, music, and contestants (seriously, there was a Blake clone) but the judges were all way too nice for "American Idol." There was a "Marble Slab Creamery" instead of a "Cold Stone Creamery." Is this an attempt at a more distinct Canadian identity or a case of pathetic corporate pandering? Probably the latter, although I didn't mind the Canadian version of Reese's cups, it came with 3!

That's all for the moment, I'll update on the rest of BC as well as Big Britain after I successfully hop the pond tomorrow morning. If you're lucky maybe something hilarious will happen on our 10 HOUR LAYOVER in Calgary. Cheerio!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Que Que Nat-u-rah, You will Understand

Last night among the usual collection of bizarre dreams (one involved eating the arms off of Ryan's cousin's doll "for safe keeping") I had one that I hesitate to take seriously.

I dreamt I was on my way to get a hair cut. The lady who entered the room was a large Japanese Shaman. I don't know if there really are Japanese Shamans, but in my dream there was. There were all these people there-- a lot of people I knew from high school who have it all figured out with what they want to do with their lives-- and she gave each of them a necklace. Each one had a powerful symbol. Then everyone told these stories and they seemed random but I soon realized that each of these stories defined them. There were tragic stories that were funny because the people telling them had a funny outlook on life.

The shaman asked me what my story was. I said I had no idea. She asked me who I was. A lot of words came to mind: disciple, traveler, but I settled on seeker.

In the car this morning there was a commercial on the radio for some computer school. The guy said "I was an actor, a chairlift operator at a ski resort, and a cattle rancher. Now I'm a computer-blah-blah-blah." And I thought to myself "what a step backwards!"

So I still don't know what I want to do with my life, but I guess at least I still have it all ahead of me.