Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Months In ...

Writing on my blog is a bit like eating healthy food. Once you stop doing it its really hard to start again. Aside from the fact that I have little free time in which I don’t either, want to run straight to the pub or straight to my bed. So here I am three months into it. What has changed? What has stayed the same? Am I certain about anything that I wasn’t when I got here? Have I found anything/ something I was looking for that led me to move to England.

What I am certain of is, I have not been eating well, at all, and it’s a bit terrifying. I can try and chalk it up to the fact that, they don’t pay me enough to buy my own food, and so I have to eat the fatty fried muck they cook up every day, but it’s a bit that and also laziness on my part. I hope to be better. I can’t keep going like this for much longer. Definitely not a year.

Another thing I am certain of. I am glad I am here. I have always felt this anxiety in my chest for this place, this Island. Now that I am here I feel that pressure easing. The peace of a dream being fulfilled. Too corny? But true. Does anyone else know what I mean though? About the anxiety of seeing / knowing places before you die. If you feel it you know what I mean. So basically when I am feeling like a pile of sludge, or a bit lonely, or a bit like, “wow what am I doing shoveling bark chips into a wheel barrow all day in the middle of the English countryside with 18 year olds who couldn’t get into college as my co-workers?” I just try to relax into the contentment that I am so lucky to be living in England learning about myself and other people. ;-).

Maybe it would be easier to write more often if I just broke things down into bullet points or something? Instead of long drawn out paragraphs written in the hard to follow, Kari-stream-of-consciousness style.

The last month of my life I couldn’t be bothered to write on here I did some stuff, not too much but some things. Ill cover them as briefly as possible. It’s hard to write about things that happened more than a week ago. It was great an all, but kind of like having a new toy, after the first few days or so its kind of old news. Even if you haven't told anyone about it yet, it feels stale to write about it. Ill do my best to keep it fresh from now on.

- I went to this town in Wales, yes Wales is actually another country! (Only a little bit). Basically there is just a little sign when you cross the border, pretty much just like crossing from one state to another. How you know you are in Wales is

- The scenery magically seems to get more dramatic. Hills are higher, grass is greener, and sheep are bigger. They say that Wales is how Ireland used to be in the 1950s. Lots of charm and Celtic heritage, without the influx of Americans ruining it all by trying to chase their heritage. I’m sure Welsh really wouldn’t mind if Americans chased their heritage there, but I’m glad they really haven’t discovered it yet. Anywhere so I went there with the fellow American who works at the Centre who knows a have a thing for books. Because there is a town there, not far from the English border called Hay-on-Wye. This town is known for having, lots and lots of book shops. Supposedly it hosts a literary fair once a year that is a huge deal as well. The town was very charming, as far as scenery goes. The awesome thing is that when you hear of a town of books you expect book shops but what you don’t expect is to have shelves of books actually lining the street! There were little places along the roads where it was like an outdoor “honor” book shop where you could take any book and there was a little 1 pound deposit box. Pretty awesome. There was also an old dilapidated castle that had a book shop in it. As well as an amazing map shop! It had maps and etchings all guaranteed to be 200-400 years old. In beautiful color. It was pretty awesome to see maps of America with 17th century names, and most of Canada / Alaska missing from the top.

- Another thing about Wales in general is, there is a definite Welsh accent that is much different than English, and all signs have Welsh and English on them. For sharing the same tiny Island, Welsh appear to be the strangest written and pronounced language ever. Its like someone chucked English into a blender with a grenade and Welsh came out.

- Another weekend I went to Shrewsbury for the day. Shrewsbury is the county seat of Shropshire, and the town pleasantly surprised us. It has a pretty river running through it and lots of cute shops and buildings to see. In England they call stores “shops” and nothing else. So yeah Shrewsbury, built on kind of a hill, pays homage to Darwin. We toured an amazing Church, my second favorite besides the one in Bridgenorth. The great thing about English churches is that you can read what is written on all of the plagues and under all of the portraits inside. When I lived in France and Italy you would attempt to read that stuff but you really had no idea. Here, you get to see these beautiful churches, that are gorgeous, and yet show some restraint (given these are English protestants we are talking about here and not Italian Catholics), while at the same time you get to read all of this information inside that was written hundreds of hundreds of years ago. I think it really goes a long way to make the people in history seem a lot more like us when you don’t have to translate things written by them, carved in their own hand.

- The next day my friend was going to visit her brother in Cheltenham, which is right on, the edge of the Cotswold’s, and she invited Ed and I along and said she would drop us off to go hiking. I don’t think she thought we would take her up on the idea given it was proposed innocently in a pub. But we did. And I am so glad we did. (Ed by the way is my heterosexual gay best friend, he is dating Lucy but that doesn’t stop us from hanging out). Anyway so we drove down there with Lucy its about an hour away from Cleobury, and dropped us off at this pub high on a hill top. The great thing about it is we decided we weren’t going to plan it. We asked for some pack lunches from the kitchen, I googled the area Lucy said she knows ‘ramblers’ take off from. And that was it. It was a challenge for Ed because he is a boy scout. No a real one. He worked as a Boy Scout hike guide in the Swiss Alps, and he likes his hikes to be mapped, charted, and planned to the minute. So yeah we were a bit scared how the day was going to go when Lucy dropped us at a pub in the middle of the Cotswolds without a map. But it turned out amazingly. She dropped us at a pub at the base of Cleeve Common, which is this amazing hill with about 500 walking trails and a golf course dotting the top. It looks like a huge park that just happens to be on top of a huge hill with punches of rolling parts. We got to the top of the hill and picked out something down below that I though looked like a castle, and decided to walk there and circle back up around the other way and hopefully end up back at the pub in about 5 hours. And believe it or not. That’s exactly what we did. The castle turned out to actually be a castle. Called Sudetley Castle. I would have paid money to tour it but the inside is only opened like twice a week because the family still live there, and I didn’t want to pay 8 pounds to tour some gardens. We tried to get a closer look without paying but got turned away by this intense security guars, while Ed tried to play the dumb hiker card of “Oh we thought this was the foot path.” I was pretty bummed but got over it. When we needed footpaths, we found them. It was pretty fantastic. We also hiked to this ancient burial mound that was actually cooler than we thought it was going to be. How ancients constructed stuff like that without heavy tools is pretty awesome. We ate lunch on top of the Burial mound, then tried to make our way back to the top of Cleeve Common where we started. There is this walking trail called the “Cotswold’s Way”, and it makes its way through the awesomeness of the Cotswolds. The Cotswold’s is an area in England made up of adorable towns and epically beautiful scenery, known for lots of sheep and thatched roof cottages. I would love to go back one day and hike the entirety of the Cotswolds way. When I was hiking on the beautiful day all I kept thinking was how much money and American would pay to do what I got to do that day, and it was free and purely on a whim we came with Lucy. I am so glad when crazy half brained ideas like that pay off, and don’t end in disaster.

This weekend I have done nothing but go for some coffee in Ludlow. And next weekend I go to Bath for three days! Yay. On top of that the thing that I do 99.9% of the time, work, is going fine. We have finished the busy season and now it is going to be about how one can keep ones morale up when doing 40 hours of site work a week. So basically site maintenance, manual labor. I have a feeling I am going to have to dig pretty deep to not lose my mind. I am kind of nervous about it. And I am already looking forward to having kids back in the centre in the spring.

I have taken my Christmas holiday days off. I am going to Guilford, with Lucy on the 21st of December, and back on the 3rd of January. I don’t know what I should do the week after Christmas and for New Years but I would greatly enjoy some suggestions!

Love to you all, Kari

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This Is My Life

First of all Happy Birthday on the 24th Mom!

Not much to report from the PC this week. Very busy schedule. We worked Monday-Wed. And then I had Thursday and Friday off, I didn't really do much with my days off, I was so exhausted from the trauma of surviving the first 3 days of the week. Tuesday I took a first aid class. That’s 30 pumps to 2 rescue breaths people who need a CPR refresher.

I had a group this week that was a special needs group of about 9 kids. They had behavioral issues, didn't listen very well... and were not very physically coordinated. It was challenging to say the least. I was shrill by the end of each day, my own voice started to annoy me. But I survived! And I think the kids had a good time for the most part as well.

The last two days have been pretty light, we had a large youth group camp in and they are always great kids. We ran a few blitz sessions mixed in with site work.

We have taken to calling the paint we use around the Centre as "Splodge" because it’s this muddy red color and it is way to clumpy and oozy to be called paint. So during my SW boxes I have done a fair amount of splodging to the fences surrounding the Centre, and that is much better than weeding all the time.

On Friday night a bunch of us ventured to "Frankie and Benny's", which is marketed as a "New York- Italian Restaurant." The food was actually quite good. I would definitely go back. I think they do exist in America but I have never seen one. It was like somewhere between an Applebee's and Red Robin, with an Italian bent.

As we were leaving the car park and waiting for our driver (who was Joel) to open the mini-bus (Yes, any large excursions from the Centre we take a mini-bus... it looks like a big white bus for handicap children, I felt very silly the first few times I went in it until I realized what a cheap convenient form of transportation it is). Anyway so we were just all laughing in the parking lot when we were set on by a group of crazy "Chavs" (description of the awesomeness of a British Chav after the jump) who started to try and fight us and eventually ended up punching three of our guys in the face... No one really fought back we were more just trying to escape into the mini-bus. When asked why they didnt fight back Ed just said "I was in a mini-bus, how was I do fight a bunch of drunk chavs from inside a mini-bus, really." They then chased the mini-bus as we drove away and threw beer cans at it. It was all very dramatic. I, however shamed about it because I found it all ridiculously hilarious. I couldn't believe these chubby white little gang bangers were actually trying to fight us when we were just minding our own business outside a mini-bus for Pete’s sake! And then when they started to punch people I really thought it was ridiculous and started laughing all of the harder! Woops, I doubt I made it any better. We did get away thankfully. But unfortunately we have some rather dramatic people working at the centre... oh excuse me... no, I mean 'socially responsible' people who decided we needed to then dial 999 (our 911) and then head over to the Kidderminster police station to make statements. After an hour waiting for the police to arrive at their own station in order for us to tell them about a few 16 year old gang bangers claiming that car park as their own... some of us non-punched ones got a ride back to the Centre (given we had to work the next morning... that was our excuse anyway) And let those who got punched stay and give their statements.

Last night instead of going to the pub a few of us has a rousing game of Cranium in Ontario. I was on a team with Dane and Ed. And let me say, Cranium is pretty fun to play with a foreigner. One of the things I had to draw for them to guess was the expression "talk to the hand". So Dane in her adorable Danish started to say, "Shout to the hand... what is this shout to the hand!?" and I would look at Ed and he would translate it into English and be "Oh talk to the hand!" (That might be a bad example but it was pretty funny.)

On Friday Ed and I went on a very awesome exploration/ run/ walk/ hike around our nearby countryside. We ran down some country roads to town, we were going to go the the gym because it was cold and wet but when we got to the gym, surprise of all surprises, it was closed! (Its always closed). It should seriously be called (2 Hour Fitness!) Because its open for at best like 2 random hours of the day. So we wanted to get a yummy sandwich from the Crusty Cob bakery but we couldn't justify it yet so we decided to try and run/ walk/ hike all the way up to what we thought was this impressive house of one of the surrounding hills. In order to get there we ran through this huge field of sheep, which was fun sheep are way less scary than cows to run by. A couple scary barking dogs, one was just cute the other was scary. And a big field of cows that was seriously freaky... mostly because cows always look mad and they are really really big. When we finally got up to this house/ thing whatever. It was a water shed building situation, standing out in the middle of a wheat field. It actually looked very ominous and scary. It was built in 1902, and seriously when I saw that I thought "Ah! Its so new... lame!" (Though I know in Oregon that would be one step away from ancient) . Anyway it was a great adventure, and when we got back to the village safe and sound we really did feel like we had earned our sandwiches.

Lucy Ed and I are going to try our hand and Mexican food again tonight.
Love to anyone who reads this.
-American in Shropshire

Sunday, September 19, 2010

St. Mary's History Made, and a Nearby Village Crawl

I witnessed history tonight. St. Mary's Church, the Anglican church in the village held their first Sunday night "modern" service tonight. The church wasbuilt in the 12th Century. And Accept for the whole Henry the VIII switch I doubt the church has much changed since then in the form of how the services are conducted. Litany and all that... organ music with hymns and such. Time to mix it up id say (I have no idea why this is blue and underlined).

I have never worshiped/ listened to a message in such a beautiful space where I could understand what was going on. I have been to Mass in The Vatican's St. Peters and Venice's St Marks, but I couldn't understand what was going on, and it was catholic... so even if it had been in English I would have been a little lost.

Anyway I thought the service went really well and I look forward to many more in the future!

Yesterday, Ed Lucy and I went to check out two nearby villages. One called Bridgnorth, and another called Bewedly.

Bridgnorth is fantastic. The old/ pretty part of it is tucked on top of a huge sandstone hill. The town was bumpin with tourists and a market yesterday it was great. I read some old info boards while we were walking around and it said it was an pop
ular holiday destination for hundreds of years. There is a river that runs in the valley below high town and in low town was where all the laborers lived and worked, while the wealthy got to control everything from up above.
There is a very cool hill/way railway thing that carry's people up the hill (we didn't take it becau
se we parked at the top). But it was very
charming. There were also
these great long stair cases, and supposedly mules where used up until the middle of the 20th century to get goods up to high town and you can see the mule cart ruts on the stair cases.

There was a very lovely church in Bridgnorth called St. Leonard's. We walked around it for a little while, the light inside was very lovely. And someone decided to play the Organ while we were in it so that was fun as well.

After that we went on to Bewedly for lunch and just lounged around there. They have a nice river walk and when it is sunny it is very lovely.

I am off to bed now. Long week a head. woot.

How to Make Blogging Not a Chore...

I haven't figured it out yet. I still hate to do it. Probably because I hardly know how. How to make it cute and fun and worth my time.

Otherwise it feels like its awkward public diary like thing. That people may or may not find completely random and dull.
Its getting colder here but the leaves haven't started to change yet.
I love fall, it is my favorite season by far. It makes me think of cozy yet bright and sunny days. Soccer practice when I was little, the excitement of starting school. And of course, more importantly the fantasticness of a great football game.
Also pumpkin patches. Who doesn't love a good pumpkin patch.

It will be interesting to see how our Fall/ Harvest celebrations differ from the Britons. Well for one I know it is never referred to as "Fall" but "Autumn" of course. But my friend Lucy said "I like it when you say Fall Kari, because thats what the leaves do." So at least they get it right?

More than anything about Fall is just the way the air feels and smells I think. I am sure that has a lot to do with the trees and the changing of temperature. So I hope the feeling is the same here as it is at home. When I lived in Rome there really was no fall. Mostly I think because it is in a warmer climate and we were in the middle of a city so there were barely any trees. But going from Summer to Winter with no warm up act was a bit harsh I found.

Have to run down to the village to play some badminton. Cheerio

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day? Never heard of it....

So this is an English thing I am not particularly a fan of.

I believe they probably have almost just as many 3 day weekends aka government sponsored holidays, as we do in the states. But instead of giving them great names aka reasons for revelry. They are just happy to call them "bank holidays". Ok we get it. The banks are closed. But are you just happy to have monday off because its a bank holiday without a proper reason. I think that is pretty silly.

I did not have a Labor Day weekend because I had to work today. But last weekend was a "bank holiday" weekend here.. (and no I didn't get it off then either). But when I asked me fellow Britons why it was a holiday... what was the reason... they were just like.... "Its just a bank holiday weekend I dont know." Talk about a let down.

Today was good. Better than the awful Thursday and Friday last week which defined a new set of humility in my sort life of 23 years. We passed our hard core ropes skills exam today.
We had to set up a climb, and an abseil. Abseil someone down then prossuck down after them on the safety lin
e. And also tie off a grigri. Good stuff in all.

I finished the book "Fair Stood the Wind for France." It was amazing. It needs to be made into a major motion picture as far as I am concerned. Well done book store man. It is about a British pilot who is shot down in Occupied France. And the fight of the girl and her family who finds him. It is a love story. And It is a testament to the people of France and their bravery in resistance during WWII that they are rarely acclaimed for. I loved it.

I have converted my friends Ed and Lucy to become ardent Huskie football fans. They will shout "Go Huskies" randomly throughout the day. It makes me very happy.

We went to the KA tonight for Wanja's 21st Birthday. Its amazing how not a big deal that major American milestone is over here because they can drink much younger. I had a delish glass of KA white wine and a half pint of Carling that was very nice.

Now I am off to bed.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pioneer Centre: Living in the Ultimate Bubble

Hey there,

The end of another workweek in England. Quite a hectic week here at the centre. We had two large groups in and there were many sessions to observe and assist on.
Right now I am lying out on the grass in the sunshine in front of High Ropes, as we have just finished up for the day.

I thought I would take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the people that I am working with here. Pioneer is truly living in a small bubble. I thought I knew what that was like when I was in college but this is like a totally different level. Because not only do you work with the same people all day long (sometimes 10 hour days). You also hang out with those same people on your breaks and after work, and on top of that.... you live together. You share meal times, you share bathrooms you share pretty much everything. Oh an also... we are stuck out her middle of rural Shropshire without cars. So you can imagine we don't really get out that much.
In our training they tried to kind of let us in on the fact that those people that are givers. Who are happy to do that little bit extra even if others aren't pulling their own weight, thrive here. If you expect things to be done for you, or everything to be fare all of the time, you will eventually just end up bitter and hate it. I am pretty sure its 50/50 with people here by the time they leave. I hope I develop better serving/giving personality traits because I am not going to claim to be naturally talented at it ha-ha. And unlike the apprentices, I am here as a volunteer. C
ompletely by choice. They are really not doing much for me except allowing me to live in England, as I have always wanted to. I could tequnically leave at any time. So I hope that realization that I can get out of this experience what I choose to put into it will help me this year when things get tricky.

So anyway back to the people.
There are some very annoying people here that I find personally very challenging to be polite to. The thing about being annoyed all of the time (or whenever those certain people are around) is that it is totally exhausting. And it makes you feel pretty horrible. But for some reason that doesn't serve to make those people any less annoying. It is something I am really struggling with.
Of course I don't appeal to everyone either. Shocking I know... ok not really. I can come on a bit strong and as a bit of a know it all. It’s not my fault I am ridiculously clever right?! (jokes). But for serious I know of a few people who aren’t particularly keen on me. But they mostly consist of emo young boys I really would have nothing to talk about even if they did like me so it’s all well and good.

The centre is a very international place. In fact I don’t believe I have ever been around such a wide variety of people from different nations. When I lived in Rome I mostly hung out with.... you guessed it. Americans!
There are two main groups that work here at the Centre. The "house team" who take care of everything from the food, to the rooms, bed changing, washing etc. (I don't know how they do it every day its such hard work). And the "Activities Team", which I am a member of, we run all of the "activities" the guests participate in while they are here.

The house team is largely comprised of young people from different countries. While the activities team is made up of "apprentices" who are all English/ Scottish/ or Welsh, and "volunteers" (me) who are from different countries but speak English relatively well.
The other internationals on the activities besides me are, one Danish girl (Anne, my former roommate), Martin (German), Monja (girl) (German), Wanja (German), a
nd Soren (German). You can see there are a lot of Germans here. The guy Germans are referred to as... you guessed it... "The Germans", nicknames here are intensely creative as you can tell :).

The house team has several Hungarians, on it supposedly there were so many at one time the Activities team referred to them as the Hungarian Mafia. Most of them look and sound exactly as you would think Hungarians would. They are big, tall, dark, and slightly ominous sounding.

There are two or three from South Korea, one from Kazakhstan, a couple from Slovakia, and a few from Brazil. It’s funny because they seem to come in clumps. There are a few from each country but rarely is there just one.

Interesting fact, the Germans that are here had to pay on organization back home to find them a year of service in order to avoid joining the army for a year. Because in Germany (if you are a guy) you have to either serve for a year in the army, or do a year of service. (Funny, I didn't Germany was aloud to have an army anymore)? Jokes, jokes! But yeah, I wish Americans had to do that. Maybe we would all be a little less self/wealth centered. Probably not, but it couldn't hurt.

I Mexican food with Ed and Lucy the other night. It was fantastic, and they loved it. We went to Tescos to get the food and I found attempting to make proper Mexican in England very frustrating. They don't sell regular sour cream, only sour cream and chive. Which is way more like something you dip carrots in than for Mexican. And when I asked for cilantro, they guy who worked there said "Is that a type of shampoo?" Uhm no. So yeah no cilantro. Also the avocados they sold there were like tiny green bricks. So sad. But we managed to make some chicken burritos and they were quite wonderful.

I also watched "Remember the Titans" with a bunch of people that don’t understand how American football works. They kept asking questions like " Do your really have cheerleaders?!" And "What does a jock mean?" and "Why are all of the white people mad?" It was pretty hilarious. It made me miss high school a little. And it made me very sad that I am going to miss out on Huskie football season this year so sad :(. Jake Locker's last year!

Anyway I would keep typing but I am pretty tired so I am going to stop now.