17 October 2014

Back Home

At long last, I am home. The USA home, not the other one.

It's been a whirlwind month, full of fascinating travel experiences across four countries, hellos and goodbyes, and innumerable experiences that I will remember for a lifetime.

Even though I've been home for a couple of weeks, there is still so much left to process. It's hard to get my head around the fact that I don't have a return-ticket to Britain in hand. I'm an ex-expat, and it's taking some adjustment. 

Don't worry, there will be more posts to come. I've nearly worn out my camera taking photos all over Britain, and there are so many stories in my head that need to spill out here on the blog.

Get ready for some brit-tastic goodness.

One last glimpse of England

4 September 2014

10 Days Left

I only have 10 days left as a resident of England. This fact makes my heart melt. Not only am I in love with this country, but I've become deeply attached to Capernwray Hall and the wonderful friends I've made here. 

This year has stretched me in so many different directions. I've loved, I've lost, I've cried more than I ever remember crying and laughed more than I ever remember laughing. I'm learning to love people, love God, and love myself. It shocks me how much I've changed since September 2013. 

On the outside I've chopped off my long hair and gotten my ears pierced and gained weight. On the inside I've become more confident, outgoing, and vulnerable. I'm learning to trust others, even when there's a risk of getting hurt. I'm learning to have adventures without planning them out in advance. I've stripped my faith down to the bare bones and am building it up again with rock-solid truth. It's a slow process, but I'm growing. 

29 August 2014

Living the Everyday

Waking up to the hiss of radiators, I feel cold air rush up to meet my bare feet as I swing them out of bed. Groggy, I nearly bump my head on the low eaves and pull back the curtain to find bright sunshine at this ungodly hour. I wash my face under burning hot and freezing cold water from the double taps, and squeak across the floorboards to the toilet down the hall. 

Welcome to another day in England.

Looking back on the posts I've written since coming to live here, I realize how little I've talked about the everyday things. Of course there's the usual shopping for foodnavigating outlet-free bathrooms, and breaking into Chinese restaurants, but as a blog reader recently pointed out, I haven't really said whether I like living here as an expat on a day-to-day basis.

The answer: yes. Hands down.

At first I wondered if the charm of Britain would rub off, if working and eating and reading and traveling in this country every day for a year would change the way I felt about it. It hasn't. Of course some of the glitz and glamor has gone (see my post, The Dream Dies), but that wasn't the part that counted. The sparkle of my interest in Britain was like the powerful attraction that starts a romance. What is left when the first attraction has faded is a deep, abiding love.

Contrary to what you might have gathered from my posts here, I don't spend every single day tripping around the countryside, climbing hills and eating traditional fare in seaside villages. There's plenty of that, but most of my life involves stuff like this:

2 August 2014

7 Benefits of Living in the UK

For the last 10 months I've lived in this great country we call the United Kingdom. While I've not had to pay taxes, or use the healthcare system, or vote for politicians, I have worked and travelled here, made friends, struggled with homesickness, and drunk many, many cups of tea. In fact, I'm drinking one as I type.

I'll be leaving this blessed place in less than two months. It will have been an amazing year, the best of my life so far. I'm looking forward to seeing my family again, but will miss Britain for so many reasons. 

Today I decided to write down a few of those reasons. There are many more, but here are seven that sprang to mind:

Real Food

I might get exasperated at the expiration dates, but it's nice to eat stuff that tastes real and isn't loaded with chemicals.

24 December 2013

My First English Christmas

What does Christmas mean to you? 

You're probably not thinking of presents under a tree. The real spirit of Christmas for you is something more significant, like family, home, traditions, and really good food. Like the Grinch you have discovered that Christmas comes without ribbons or tags, and even without boxes, packages, or bags. The important thing is celebrating with the ones you love. Right?

But what about the lonely ones? Does the day have any meaning for them? Does it have much meaning for someone like me who finds herself in a foreign country far from all she's ever known, unable to partake in the traditions that have always meant "Christmas"?

The beauty and wonder of it all is that Christmas does mean something to me, perhaps more than it's ever done. Being here in Lancashire instead of back home in the States means that December has looked quite different for me, but I'm finding more depth than ever before. The root of Christmas, the good news of  Jesus Christ's birth, is easier to concentrate on when you're not distracted by all the frippery we tend to crowd around December 25.

It's just as beautiful across the ocean.

That's not to say that I haven't been busy celebrating in every way I can as I experience my first Christmas in England! So far I have taken part in these important British traditions:

3 December 2013

A Postcard from Britain

Hello, everyone!

I know that I haven't posted much about what it is like living here on staff. That's because I had the idealistic notion of posting all about what I did here as a student before moving on to what's happening now. As you can see, that's not been happening. So...here's what has been going on this Britophile's life.

Mailing you this "postcard" ;)
Living in a manor house in Northern England is pretty wonderful. Part of me is still in awe of what God has brought into my life--who would have thought that all of this could happen in such a short span of time! Last Christmas I was eagerly anticipating the day (still far off) when I could finally fly off to my beloved Britain for the first time. Now, hard as it is to believe, I've called this place home for 129 days, nearly four and a half months.

Time flies.

Another part of me is tempted to start missing home, but there are plenty of things to do to keep my mind off of homesickness.

The work here suits the organized-detail-oriented-paper-pushing side of my personality. I answer phones in a chipper voice, try to interpret mysterious regional accents, make tea, write messages, run errands around campus, make tea, process invoices, sort mail, make tea, and count loads of money (I think I'm an expert on British currency by now).

But there's so much more to life here than work. I enjoy socializing with dozens of new friends, many of them from far-flung areas of the globe. I've gotten to know people from England, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Australia, Canada, and even Wisconsin. Amazing. We watch movies (I've learned that no matter what culture you're from, Mr. Darcy is a heartthrob), make food, and play games, not to mention the deep and encouraging conversations.

27 October 2013

Chester: There and Back Again

To pick up this diary where I left off, it is May and I am taking a day trip with my fellow students to the ancient city of Chester. Since it's now October 27, I have been back to Chester, this time as a staff member here at Capernwray, so now I've spent two wonderful afternoons in this wonderful city. Here is the journal of my experiences:

May 4, 2013
Saturday means sleeping in--unless you're supposed to be getting ready for a trip. I rushed to prepare and eat an early breakfast before rushing out to meet the coach with a few minutes to spare. I grabbed a seat in the middle of the bus with a great view out of the large window. The coach trip took about an hour and forty-five minutes, then they dropped us off and dozens of Capernwray students were suddenly on their own in the city of Chester. 

My mom said I couldn't bring him home :(
We started by walking along the famous wall that encircles the heart of town. The Romans laid the foundations around 100 AD, and through the centuries they have been fortified and improved. Now they are a major tourist attraction, encircling the heart of medieval Chester. We students split up into groups, and I ended up walking with an Englishman and three Canadians--such a novel experience! On a regular day at home I am awed by anyone from a foreign country, and here I am palling around with a little United Nations delegation. 

We walked along the wall until we came to some Roman ruins. We saw the remains of a garden and bathhouse, then explored the shell of an amphitheater. It's incredible to think that these stones have been in place for thousands of years, that Roman legions once occupied Britain and left their mark upon the land.  The empire was once so great, and now these memories are all that are left--decaying ruins and the subtle cultural traits passed on through the generations that must have helped shape Britons into what they are today.
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