Monday, November 21, 2005

No Turkey Day in the UK!

Friends and Family (all those celebrating Turkey Day), Greetings from England!

Well, we’ve finally made it! After months of anticipation and excitement, we are finally settled here in Hereford, UK. Thank you for all the support, prayers, and thoughts you may have sent our way!

We had to undergo quite a few mishaps before arriving in the UK (and some since we’ve been here), but all is well. Moving is never easy…and certainly not moving continents. Our original departure date was Oct. 7th, but due to some work permit issues, we did not arrive in the UK until Oct. 28th. We took the plane from Chicago to Atlanta to Paris to Birmingham, and the train from Birmingham to Hereford. Then, Sarah’s new employers had reserved rooms for us a local B & B. We thought we would be able to sort a new apartment out quickly…we were mistaken. Most places required their tenants to have lived in the UK from 1 to 3 years before renting to them. We were fortunate enough to find one place that did not. However it’s not like in America, it took over a week of waiting (after viewing the apartment) before they would allow us to occupy. This is where they would normally do background/credit checks…but there wasn’t much to check out on us. Plus, they originally wanted us to pay 6 months rent and a deposit before we could move in. After pleading with them (and a few tears on Sarah’s part), we were able to move in with just 2 months payment plus a down payment…but money is another issue altogether.

On Nov. 2nd, we transferred money from our US bank account to our new UK bank. As of today, it still has not arrived. We have been told by both banks that this is not “normal.” However, it does not help that our money is somewhere between Bowling Green, Ohio and Hereford, UK. Praise God that our debit/credit cards still work. But, they will only work so long because the account that they are tied to is the same account from which we withdrew the money that is now “on it’s way.” I won’t lie to you, it has been a headache. But, Sarah’s work was kind enough to give her a pay advance and we were able to take care of the rent money. So we’ve moved in!

(email addendum: between typing this email and sending it, our money has arrived! I repeat our ship has come it!)

But enough about the mishaps…let me tell you about all of the wonderful differences between the US and the UK. Aside from the fact that things move at a much slower rate than they do in the States (e.g. moving into an apartment), the cities are laid out much differently. Each city we’ve visited has what’s called a high town or city centre area. The difference lies in the fact that everyone gets out and walks around high town…no cars allowed. It is very quaint. Old and young are perusing the shops. Very busy all the time. And there’s no Supercenter WalMart where people we get all our things at one place. Here, you go the butcher for meat, the bakery for bread, and the vegetable stand outside for “veg”. Lots of stops for one “tea” (dinner). And since our fridge is the size of a dorm fridge, (as is everyone’s), we shop more regularly. Not much freezing here, since the freezer can barely manage ice trays.

Our little flat is great, it is very small, which is fine since we don’t have much. Sarah’s co-workers have since donated: table and chairs, 2 dressers, 3 night stands, 1 enormous wardrobe with mirror, 2 shelves, pots and pans, dishtowels and rags, bath towels, microwave, toaster, silverware, cooking utensils, bedspread, pillows, drinking glasses, Tupperware bowls, pot holders, and we have a couch, TV, VCR, and iron coming!! I mean, her work couldn’t be better, honestly! Everyone is so nice and generous, and she loves the actual work as well.

Sarah also received her car this past week! It is currently only hers for work, so this past weekend we couldn’t drive it and we can’t drive it in the evenings. It is only for work. But this week, we are changing it over for our private use. We will then pay 35 pounds a month (about $60) and it will be ours. The taxes, insurance, maintenance, and a gas allowance (not all, but part) is all paid for by her work. Pretty sweet. And it’s a nice car, a 2002 Corsa. It’s tiny, like all cars here. Sarah is pretty freaked out by driving, but she’s doing well. It’s very different, obviously, and the entire road system and driving experience is different here. Very narrow, winding roads, fast drivers, totally different signage. We’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Enough practical talk…let me tell you one interesting Hereford story and then we’ll be off. A few blocks from our flat, there is a very distinct smell. Since we moved here, I have sworn that the whole town smells like blueberry muffins. Sarah says it smells more like PB & J and toast. Everytime we would go outside, there it was, this smell. Well, I just learned what it is. As it turns out Hereford is the foremost producer of Apple Cider in the UK. So, the bakery smell is the yeast (fermentation) and then there’s the obvious fruit smell. So, wherever we go there it is…the sweet smell of cider.

I wish we could tell you about every adventure we’ve already had: reading Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, getting lost and finding our way again, running red lights because we don’t know how to drive in this country, taking 3 hrs. to bake a potato because we don’t know how to use these “cookers,” turning all our clothes grey in the wash because we didn’t realize it was a brand new washing machine, learning to cook and eat vegetables we’ve never heard of, learning every possible way to stay warm because our flat (apartment) doesn’t have central heating (right now we are warming ourselves by what we call the “candle fire”, also we call our apartment “condensation city” and every morning we wake up with water dripping in some window or crack…condensation is a headache, learning to pull a chord to turn on the shower, the fun of learning to drive on roundabouts, and learning a whole new language…honestly, we are two countries separated by a common language.

Well, I guess it’s time to end this THE LONGEST EMAIL IN THE WORLD and bid you adieu.

Happy Thanksgiving and eat some stuffing for us,

Jason and Sarah
4 Newbury Court
Bobblestock, Hereford, England

Home: 01432 264 774 (as of Nov. 30th)
Mobile: 07929 556 171
(US must dial 011 + 44 first, then you might need to drop the zeroes from the prefix of our phone numbers…but we’re not sure ‘cause we’ve never done it)

PS: In case you’re curious, yes we did get to see Harry Potter 4 on opening weekend with a theatre full of little English kids…it was “brilliant!”