Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Good Bye America, Hello England- Some Thoughts Before Leaving

It's been a busy couple weeks getting ready for departure, this Friday I'm finally flying into London. I've had a bunch of topics I had wanted to talk about but every time I went to write about them I was drifting off to sleep after a long day. So here is a compilation of some thoughts and observations before heading out as well as a rough guide to what is coming up.

Thanksgiving

People outside America don't seem to understand what Thanksgiving is and why it's really a great holiday. I think Hermione referred to it sounding like a warm up for Christmas. Independence day and Thanksgiving are my two favorite holidays because they involve food and friends and/or family. They're simple, fun and enjoyable holidays. Both happen to also be a bit more secular, don't have too much ceremonial crap built up around them and for people that like to cook both holidays offer a great opportunity to share that with other people.

Getting the chance to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner was a great way to finish up this stint in the US. Something I got in a habit of doing in Nepal was cooking everything fresh and from scratch, and it's a habit I've been happy to keep. That said it is more time consuming and without staff or Hermione to do prep work I spent a serious amount of time cooking everything. Although only cooking for twelve I think I made enough food for closer to twenty. Turkey with herbs and butter, filled with stuffing made with cranberries, apple, pear and, and roasted with a mix of tons of vegetables. For sides there were french beans with almonds, roasted butternut squash, sauteed corn fresh off the cob, cream brushed biscuits, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, fall orchard salad, and pumpkin soup. I also took the opportunity to make spiced cider served optionally with spiced rum and home made eggnog with fresh grated nutmeg. Yum.

Good food, good people, football (the entertaining and strategic American version, not the scoreless flopping version), and a theme that focuses on making us more aware of the good things in our lives and being thankful for what we have, and not what we don't have, makes this a holiday I'll always try and celebrate no matter where I am.

NFL in London

I'll certainly write about this in more detail, possibly as we approach the Superbowl, but the NFL really seems to want to expand into the UK. There's simply no other reason they would host so many games over there, given the difficulty. Will it work? Maybe. If the British saw it as their own they would undoubtedly love it. It's a strategic, subtle and complicated game, all things the English like and can appreciate. It is however American, and thus it will always be inferior to things that are "English". While I don't really care that hardly  a player on the Patriots are actually from New England, I feel that the English would like to see English players take on the Americans at their own game- but this is not going to happen any time soon. A London team would be rostered exclusively by Americans for some time I believe. Then there's teaching an overly complicated sport to people that don't understand that just because a ball isn't moving doesn't mean interesting things aren't happening. Once people understand it's a rather violent game of chess they may come around.

Watching the English

I picked up this book about six weeks ago and have been consistently entertained by it. It's been great to settle down with before going to bed. It also has been quite helpful in confirming that indeed the English are some of the more quirky people on this planet.

Many Americans very mistakenly believe that we are much more culturally similar than we really are. Reading this has really shown just how large the gap is in certain places. That said, being from New England, I feel the gap is far less than if I were from a place like Texas. But then Texas might as well be its own country.

I'll certainly write a more extensive review of this down the line, but it's a really fun and interesting read and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys this kind of thing.

7 Months in America

When I first got back here in late April I really had a bad case of reverse culture shock. I would say that it was far worse than going from America to Nepal. I still do to some point. When Hermione and I went to New York for a weekend we ended up staying in China town, because simply put it was more our style, and we just felt more at home there. I have enjoyed getting to work in a culture again where deadlines are met, people get done the things they say they'll get done, and any kind of food can be prepared because you have access to just about anything you might want to cook with. I've readjusted to the scale of America, where everything from the cars, to the landscapes are big. But I miss the eccentric parts of Asia. I miss some of the chaos, and I miss the lack of total predictability. I miss the fun, America is in many ways a bit more boring, and it's been a long time apart from a lot of my good friends. 

Some Time in London

If the above book reassured me of nothing else it is that England will be in many ways a foreign adventure, possibly not on par with Nepal, but quite a different place. My first few weeks are busy mix of catching up with old friends, getting settled in and celebrating the holidays. Hermione and I already have reservations to check out a really great looking cocktail bar I'm looking forward to write about, and London has a number of great restaurants, bars and clubs I'm looking forward to also visiting. There's trips to Hermione's home town, trips to Oxford, and other places around the country as well. What I'm really looking forward to is just the massive list of really great things to do, it seems that we could keep ourselves quite busy doing things for months and never really get bored. 

Some Time Further Afield 

Despite all that London has to offer, we're already planning a few trips outside of the UK while I'm visiting. In January it looks like we'll be traveling to the French Alps for some skiing. I haven't skied in about twenty or so years, so this should be interesting. In February we are hoping to pop down to Algiers for a long weekend to visit a friend of ours that we met in Nepal. Aside from some of the Roman ruins there I know next to nothing about the country, so that should be interesting. Finally in March, when we've had enough of winter and want to get some nice warm weather and rediscover the beach it may be time to hop over to Thailand. All of this I hope will give me a chance to write about some non-English traveling.

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