Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another expat interview

Several of the bloggers I read have been participating in the 5 questions interview meme. I volunteered to have Not from Around Here interview me, and she sent the following questions:

(1) What do you miss most about the UK?

After 23 years over here in the US, the biggest thing I miss right now about the UK is my family. I wish my kids had a chance to get to know their English cousins better. I wish I had been able to be around and help my sister's family out when she and her husband both underwent significant surgeries last fall. I miss my mum and dad - but video Skype phone calls are great!

(2) What main message would you like to pass along to your kids about your multi-national existence?
That it is important to learn not just about the British and American cultures, but others too. Too many problems in this world stem from people believing that their way is the only way, when in fact there are often many different ways to do something that are equally good.

(3) What about America do you like the most but perhaps am reticent to admit because you're "Almost American"?
I don't think I would be reticent about admitting it, but I do like the sense of possibility over here. To repeat a blog post from a couple of years ago, I like:
the can-do attitude over here. If someone in the UK said they were thinking about maybe writing a book, the reaction would be, "What, you?" If someone in the US said the same thing the response would be "Go for it!"
I wonder how much that has changed with bloggers like Tom Reynolds, Petite Anglaise and others getting publishing deals now and becoming celebrities?

(4) How would you change America and how would you change the UK if given the chance?
The United States definitely needs a health care system that doesn't leave people in fear of bankruptcy if they actually get sick. Yes, I know the NHS isn't perfect, but in the UK no one has to fear losing their car, house, life savings and credit rating because they can't pay their medical bills. Sadly, I don't see this changing in the US any time soon, despite the change in regime.

I've been away from the UK so long now, that it would almost be like moving to a 'foreign' country if I moved back, so I honestly be sure what I would change. What I read online seems to imply that in many ways Britain is adopting some of the worst aspects of American culture - such as fast food and violence - and I think that's sad.

(5) If you had all the time (and resources) in the world, what would you do with your time?
Time AND resources eh? So I get to imagine having won the biggest lottery I can think of? Excellent! Travel would be very high on the list. The kids have not spent enough time with their relatives in the UK, or enough time over there to get any real sense of how Britain is different from the US beyond some superficial differences in vocabulary. (Lorry, biscuit . . .) I'd like them to see some of the other places in Europe that DH and I have seen, and DD has expressed a strong interest in visiting Asia. I would also like to spend more time on some of my craft interests that keep getting pushed to one side. I have a loom that hasn't been used in over a year, and DH is still waiting for me to ever knit him a sweater!

Thanks NFAH for the interesting questions - some answers were immediately obvious, others I had to think about a little harder.

Here are the directions if you want to participate in the meme:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me,” not forgetting that I'll need your email address. (No need to make it public - just put it in the little box thingy and I'll be able to see it but my readers won't.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Both children are usually pretty good eaters. They like a lot of things I'm told many other children their age won't eat. But for some reason DS has decided in the last 6 weeks or so that nothing we cook is good enough for him any more. He will request something for dinner and then refuse to eat it when it's served. Unless it's cheerios, goldfish crackers or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, there's no guarantee he'll eat it. Some yogurts are acceptable, and anything mom and dad would classify as junk food, though we rarely, if ever, serve it. Tonight's dinner conversation was typical:

On seeing dinner being prepared by DH:
That's yucky!
How do you know? You've never tasted it!
I just hate it!
But you like everything that's in it!
Well, I'm not going to eat it!
Then you're going to be very hungry because that's all that's on offer tonight!
When it was actually put in front of him:
You know I don't like that!
(We ignore him.)
The sauce is touching the broccoli!

(We ignore him.)

I'm not hungry! I'm full!

But I bet you have room for chocolate ice cream don't you?!
Well, the ice cream is only for people who've eaten at least half their dinner!
The faces he pulled were quite entertaining, but he wouldn't let me take a photo of him:

Nor, apparently, was it acceptable to take pictures of his 'disgusting' dinner:

(The empty cup was going to have milk or water poured into it after he'd eaten some of his dinner. We've learned not to fill it at the beginning of the meal as otherwise he just fills up on liquid!)

My dinner, on the other hand, was very nice:


Just kidding! The teatowel and cocktail napkins were joke gifts from DH this holiday season! I had the same pasta with homemade tomato sauce with olives, pork, and broccoli that the kids had and I'm looking forward to the leftovers for lunch at work tomorrow (even without an accompanying glass of red wine!)

DS never did eat any of his dinner, but that's OK - guess what he's having for dinner tomorrow?! :-)

Follow-up: He did indeed get offered the same meal a second time - and guess what? This time it was deemed yummy and he ate it all up!

Future plans

Apparently just before Christmas DD was making plans for her future. I found the following written on a small scrap of paper hidden under her bed. I'm not quite sure why the numbering changed mid-stream - it looked as though she was making plans for specific ages, but then suddenly it changed to specific dates. Perhaps she wanted to throw me off in case I found the list!
10 - See Beverly Hills Chew Wa Wa
11 - own all high school vidios
12 -
13 - Get ears perced
14 - Get first boy friend
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 - Take dads canoe building class
19 - own a horse
Dec 20 - Live on farm
Dec 21 - own livestock
Dec 22 - Request song
Dec 23 - Move to apartment but own farm
24 - have child
25 - move to New york
26 - see the macys thanks giving day parade in New york
27 - buy car
28 - buy a house
29 - Get marryed
She must have written it on a day she was in a good mood because there is no mention of leaving home until Dec (i.e. age?) 20. We do need to have a little chat about the fact that she apparently has no ambition to go to university. Of course that would save DH and I a ton of money in the short term, but probably not in the long run as she will need financial support from us if she ends up in dead-end jobs because of a lack of education! I'm not necessarily excited about her having a child before she gets married either. That's worth a few conversations too!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The end of an error

One can only hope!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Culture shock

Not from Around Here pointed me in the direction of an excellent post on depression and culture shock on An American Bedu's blog. The post itself is interesting, the comments even more so. Culture shock is so much more complicated than many people realize. Many people think it goes away if you live long enough in the 'foreign' culture, but that's not always true. Some people never get over it and choose to go back home, as expat21 discussed recently on her blog. However, it's not true that returning 'home' will always be an improvement. There is truth in the saying "You can never go home" and reverse culture shock can be just as powerful as the regular kind!

Most of the 'graphs' of culture shock I've found online are based on the foreign-exchange student/temporary stay abroad experience rather than that of the immigrant:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A visa by any other name

From The Independent newspaper, January 10, 2009:
For more than 20 years, the vast majority of British visitors to America have entered the US under the Visa Waiver Program. This involves filling in a green form, code name I-94W, while on board the flight to America. But from Monday 12 January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is introducing a new set of rules.
Even though you might be eligible to visit the US under the visa waiver program, you will now have to apply online at least 3 days in advance of your planned trip to the US to ask for permission. Even if you are simply going to be changing planes in the US and continuing on to another destination, you will need to ask permission. (In the past, transit-only passengers did not need a visa as far as I know, so long as they were not planning on leaving the airport.) Customs and Border Protection has a page here explaining what you need to know. If you've ever been to the US and filled out the I-94 W on the plane before landing, the new ESTA program asks for exactly the same information - only before you travel to the US rather than as you arrive.

It sounds as though for many people it could be a tiny improvement - one less thing to deal with on the plane - except that, for now at least, you still have to fill in the form on the plane too! And of course, if you're someone (yes, there are some) who never goes online, filling out the online-only form could prove problematic. I forsee a market for travel agents charging to do this! The US government currently does not charge people to submit an ESTA application, but they reserve the right to do so in the future.

When I downloaded one of the PDF files that explained more about the program, it said I could find out more about the program at Hmm - that address gave me a page load error: "Firefox can't find the server at". So I thought I'd take a look at the site where you can actually fill out the information in advance of your visit to the US - - and guess what? That server couldn't be found either!

Why am I not surprised? (Addendum - anonymous pointed out that I had mistyped the address. The sad thing is that I did it not once but multiple times, each time checking the address against the addresses listed in the PDF file. I guess I was tireder than I thought, or just getting old, as dyslexia is not something I usually have a problem with!)

The correct address is significantly longer than (Spot the difference in the address?) If you actually need it, and want to avoid the typing mistakes I made, it is (currently) linked to from near the top of this Customs and Border Protection page. And if I were you, if the response you get from the system is that you ARE authorized to travel to the US, I'd make sure you print that screen out and tuck the printout in with your passport and tickets! (Actually, the instructions do tell you to keep a record of your application number and have it with you as you enter the US.)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy 2009!

A little late because we've been away and I didn't plan ahead to have a post appear on New Year's Day, but Happy New Year anyway! Here's a quick look back at 2008 from (not my) Uncle Jay:

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