On January 12 last year, I was flying into to Birmingham, with no clue as to what was about to hit me. Five days later, still no place to live officially, I was starting my new job working as a Social Worker for the Dudley Borough. I have been meaning to write some thoughts in the last week or so as to the course of my year here. But, I have found myself with a kidney infection over the weekend and motivation to do little else but make herbal tea, cut lemons for my ample supplements of water, and lay on the couch. Really, I think that is partly an excuse for my void of reflection.
The four remaining (two have since quit and flown the coup) "Americans" left here in Dudley got together for dinner to celebrate our anniversary of one year here in England. Techinally, Brianna has been here for 7 months, but she's an honorary one yearer. Stacy was feeling very reflective and I was feeling, yep, so another year has passed. Teri has little to reflect on besides her work experiences because she has been consumed by cases and court work. But, when I think about each of us individually, I think we have gone through some major experiences and changes. Some together but mostly individually because we are each so different and really the only thing that brought us together is that we were hired to come live and work in the Black Country, the area most disparaged by the rest of the UK. Of course, once we were brought toghether we found we had a lot more in common than just our country of origin and current job status; I especially have found a lot in common with Brianna and have found good friends in both Brianna and Stacy. It will be interesting to see when this is all over where we all end up (I can predict most of us will end up close to where we once were, but doing new and different things) and how well we stay connected after this experience.
As for my own experiences, I feel like I have had two living experiences here so far. My first six months in Amblecote, where I found a pub that brought me into their circle of friends immediately and helped curb some of that initial lonliness and homesickness. And now, my home in Sedgley with Brianna, where we have started going out in Wolverhampton and just now starting to explore Birmingham. I also feel like I do actually have friends now that I can go to if I need something; particularly Brianna but I have developed a handful of friends that I feel I have developed a true friendship with and feel supported by.
I don't think I have changed much over the year. There has been no epiphany from my experiences here that have led me to what my next course in life will be. But when I look back, it is funny to think of those first days when everything was so new and foreign. For instance, I remember the day I went to look at my flat, having been in the country for only about four days, taking a 15GBP taxi ride through Merry Hill and Amblecote (the area I was soon to live) with a taxi driver who I could understand nothing from but the fact that he was trying to hit on me. Now, I drive myself through Merry Hill and Amblecote going to work each day, praying that old Rusty doesn't break down and I have enough petrol to get me to payday next week- just like any other regular Black Country resident. I think as adaptable as I thought I was, I have become even more so in my year here. I also think in combination with that I have become more comfortable and confident, and although I am still the nice Lisa, I don't put up with the same crap that I often put up with before.
So, I have learned and changed a bit, but just enough and not too much that I would alienate myself from my true home with friends and family. This year, I plan to take better advantage of my situation and travel much more this year. Brianna and I have a mini-break planned in Tenerife for March, I have two of my best gal pals coming in April and I'm hoping to catch up with Efrat in Israel in June, among other trips in the works. After this year, I have contemplated still trying to do some work in Africa or just explore a bit more. But, I think when my contract is up next January, I will leave satisfied that I have done something extraordinary and will have just increased my thirst for travels yet to come. I probably will take a month or two once I leave the job to see a few more places before heading back. And then the question will be, where to head back to? Florida? Indy? Chicago? Any suggestions from the Peanut Gallery?