Sunday, January 30, 2005

Learning old skills in a new way

I do not remember when I learned to wash my clothes. I don't think I ever got a specific lesson on the process of laundry, although there were tips provided along the way after I shrunk a sweater to doll size or mixed a bright colored top with a bunch of lights. But, I think I, like most people, just learn and develop these skills as we go along. So, I found it fascinating today as I explored the remidial task of laundry all over again. First of all, I have a washer, but no dryer. My landlord must not have wanted to fork over the bucks for one of those lovely washer/dryers all in one (what most seem to have here). The washer is located in the kitchen next to the sink which is why at first glance of the flat I thought it might be a dishwasher (my estate agent and B&B proprietor, Jackie, had a good laugh at that one). With no dryer, I am forced to air dry eveything and with the gray sky ever impending threat of rain, I dare not use the clothes line in the garden. So this meant another bus ride to Stourbridge Town Centre and to Wilkinson's (my little Wal-Mart) for an air dryer. Did you know how many "indoor airer" options there are? It's quite a high tech operation. I head back home on the bus, awkwardly large indoor airer in tow, prepared for some serious washing. Now here comes the complications...I load the bin, okay I can handle that, although it is not quite large enough to overstuff as I like to do. Now, just add the soap...Right, there is a little drawer on the washer that looks likely to be the soaps point of entry but there are three compartments. Go for the middle, sounds good! Now for settings: I have from A-P to choose from. We'll go with K, it's delicate- a level I understand and hey, it's my middle initial so what the hell. After another 45 seconds of trying to figure out how to start it we are on our way! The wash begins and I stare in fascination for as long as my ADD mind will allow. The load comes to an end with a sound that resembles what I would imagine to be a space ship landing in my flat. Once it's done, things are layed out nicely on my new indoor airer and the next load is on it's way...

Wow! Who would have thought I could write so much about a load of laundry (and that you might read it)! I am simply fascinated by these little differences that come into my life each day as I settle here. It's forcing me to be more resourceful and creative as I learn to live without a clothes dryer, without automatic hot water from the faucet, among other things.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Orientation...what is the point of this day?

Ah yes, well at least you can count on corporate orientations to be the same the world over. Boring presenters discussing organizational charts and HR polices...Can't I just read the leaflet. Of course, there is the delightful complimentary lunch, cold quiche, cold samosa, cottage cheese and pineapple sandwiches, cold scotch eggs and cold satay...YUM, YUM!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Another day of learning

I had somewhat of a tough day today but I can reflect and attribute it all to the acclimation period. I met with the other two American gals today for a lunch, a little shopping, but mainly to be able to check my email for the first time since I have arrived. This was the first chance I've had to communicate with everyone, with the exception of mom and dad, so I was of course very excited. Then, of course, I cannot get a library card because I don't have the appropriate documentation! I should have known, but the last time I applied for a library card was probably 1990. So fighting back a few tension tears I rushed outside and smoked a cigarette to relieve the stress. Before heading back home, I realized I would have to pay another 75p to get home and another 75p to get back. So, I decided it was time for a bus pass. After going to three places, I found somewhere that sold passes, managed to get it, get home, get my paperwork, and get back to the library to get online. Seems trivial now in writing but in the moment I was so excited and once I couldn't get online it felt like nothing went right for the next couple hours...Ah well, now I know where to go when I need to renew my bus pass.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A week completed at work and almost a week and a half in the UK!

I have completed my first week at work and it feels like much longer...In a good way, I suppose. I have developed an initial comfort level with most members of my team and eveyone continues to be helpful and friendly. According to my co-workers and other folks in the West Midlands area, I am very "brave." Not so sure I agree, but I will take the compliment. The team gets a good laugh from my American phrasing, like "stick shift" and "sometimes I do milk, sometimes I don't (in my tea)." Everyone in the office offers to make you a drink (we're talking tea, not vodka here people!) about ten times a day and everyone wants to know what I think of the weather compared to home... "Well, believe it or not, it's warmer."

It's hard to make any valid comparisons of the social work systems so far, I am currently in training after training and site visit after site visit. A few things I have noticed (which could change with time) though are the caseloads seem to be smaller- of,course, so is the population, there is much more whole team collaboration in a crisis, and there appears to be a strong connection in all areas of practice with the actual laws. The whole of the UK is guided by the same laws and procedures, much different from the state differences in the US. But, given I never worked directly in child protection, I think it is somewhat difficult to make direct comparisons. However, my time at YES and Dawn, even, gave me enough material, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Our meeting with the Mayor

Today we were invited to meet the Mayor. Sounds as though it's quite privledged from the way most of my co-workers have reacted. I've been told our picture will be in the paper. I would never expect to meet Mayor Peterson of Indy; although Cammie and Abby had their picture taken with him under the tent at the Golden Ace on St. Patrick's Day....The Mayor of Dudley does not quite hold the political standings of mayors in towns and cities in the US. His status is more of a custom and the local authority is actually run by the council. We arrived at the council house and were invited to the Mayor's Parlor. In addition to the mayor, we were joined by a few council members and the Diretor of Social Services for the Council. I felt, as I believe my two other American Colleagues did, that I was on stage to perform. After being in the country for just a little over a week and feeling overwhelmed with attempting to find our way around and get settled in a home, it was hard to be so on the spot with these folks that made it seem it was such a monumentous occasion to have three Americans working in their midst. The mayor was very nice, though. A sweet older man on the verge of retirement, being paid respect by fellow council members with his honorary position. Following our visit, we were invited to stick around to observe a field trip with a local school. We were able to sit in the council chamber and find out the history of the Mayor's robes, chains and ceremonial staffs. Of course, our pictures were taken and supposively they'll be in the paper. If so, the clip will definitely be posted and if nothing else I will get a copy of the pic on as soon as I receive it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The first night in my flat

Happy to have my own space, I must admit I starting crying when I could not figure out how to work the lock on my door. (Those that have lived with me or know me well know how I get when I cannot figure out something that seems it should be simple-enough said.) After conceding to admit that I needed a little help, I called my lanlord for the first time (I let the flat through an estate agent) and fortunately she was forgiving and helpful. Tomorrow, she'll be here to show me how to work my heating and hopefully answer all the other questions I've listed for her..."How does the heater sitting in my fireplace work? The smell of gas is concerning. Can I paint flames on it so it looks like a real fireplace?"

Although the curtains and some of the decor would not be what I would typically buy, I love every bit of my new little flat. With a few personal touches, it shall make a good little home... Until I move again in 6 months to a year.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Initial observations in the first 48 hours

  • Not only is the driving confusing, but even crossing the street takes some thought! (Not that I am driving at the moment.)
  • Yes, a mile is like ten here.
  • So far, NO ONE is shy. Especially when they hear your accent and realize your not from the area.
  • The locals who are friendly are also very patient and forgiving.
  • The young are not as pro-social as those in their mid-30's and older.
  • I get excited everytime I hear a child's English accent.
  • Yes, so far the food is bad....I'm trying to give it a shot! I think it will be better when I get more familiar with the area and hopefully more choices.
  • Most people I have encountered are open to helping out as much as they can. In fact, they love to give advice!
  • B&B's continue to be the way to go if you want friendly interaction and help to familiarize.
  • Issues surrounding immigration and race relations seem more apparent here than they did in the States. Perhaps I was desentized to it on the home front...
  • The sun does exist here.
  • You can drive thru one town and be in another in two minutes.
  • A GBP (pound) is smaller than a 50p piece; 20p is smaller than 10p; and then there's the 2GBP coin.
  • As expected, tv news media is much better.
  • There are no free refills.
  • Weather is always the hot topic of conversation.
  • Most locals seem to find it unbelievable I would want to leave Midwestern United States to move to the West Midlands. (ironic the similarity of terms, huh?)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The day has arrived

Well, after a crazy last two months and completely neglecting my blog, here I am on the day I leave for England. These past two moths have passed me by with my last days at Dawn Project, trip preparations, holidays and as many social engagements as I could fit in. I am only just now beginning to be a little nervous about this trip, but I am confident in my ability to adapt and take on whatever new experiences come my way. I am embarking on a entirely new experience: new job, new home, new country, new people...and I am ready to absorb it all. The one thing that scares me is moving away from all the comforts of home. I do not mean my favorite burrito place or favorite T.V. show, but the comfort of knowing I have some truly amazing, dynamic, hilarious, generous and loving friends here and throughout the U.S. Those of you- you know who you are- that continue to love me unconditionally. But fortutanetly with that unconditional love comes the knowledge that it will always be there for me. Although distance and some time may separate us, there is a constant connection that will be consistently renewed.
I love you all and will be seeing you again in no time!