Monday, 29 June 2009

Piggin' Out in the Country

My neighbor's in-laws host an annual pig roast at their property in Oxfordshire to support the charity Action Aid, and this year was our first invite. So yesterday The Other Half, Crumpet and I ditched our urban surroundings and headed off for the peaceful village of Moulsford-on-Thames, where we enjoyed the kind of day that should be typical of an English summer: blue skies, sunshine, warmth. Having just completed a grueling research project (more on that another time), my brain isn't functioning at its full creative capacity, so the only adjective that comes to mind when I think of how to describe the setting is "idyllic." I'll let you see for yourself in the photos I took from the canoe we took out on the river (Crumpet left safely on shore):

The motorway, on the other hand, was not idyllic and simply reinforced why we prefer train travel.

*By the way, in case you were wondering (not that you necessarily were), our dinner (pictured above) weighed 130.7 pounds. I had the closest guess at 130 pounds and walked away with a bottle of bubbly as my prize.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Confessions of a Closeted Socialist

Since I started this blog, I've tried very hard not to get on my political soapbox (although what expat could resist expressing excitement last November?), but it can be difficult not to touch on the subject from time to time, particularly when the whole purpose of this blog is to share my experiences as an American in a "foreign" land and the differences I encounter on a daily basis. Let's face it, politics are a big factor in the expat experience.

But I couldn't help but be inspired by an interview I saw this week of Sarah Palin on Fox News (which is, without a doubt, the most biased, right-wing "news" source out there, but I digress). In the interview, the reporter asked Palin if she thought America was becoming more socialist, to which she replied, "We're headed that way."

That got me thinking: is socialism, in the true sense of the word, really such a bad thing? And why is it that as soon as that word is uttered, most Americans immediately equate it with communism?

I'm not even necessarily in favor of socialism as a whole, just one particular facet: the health care system. America could learn something from the U.K. and most other European nations when it comes to caring for its citizens (perhaps Obama will push the country one or two steps in the right direction, at least). In the almost three years since I have lived in the U.K., I have never had to make a medical insurance payment, never had to pay for a visit to my local G.P., and have only paid a nominal fee for medication. When I was pregnant, I would have gotten free prescriptions (if I had needed them) and even received free dental care (and that lasts until Crumpet is one year old). I'm not saying that the NHS is perfect (in fact, there are many people who would argue otherwise), but what I am saying is that, in my experience, I have had free access to everything I have needed.

It's not as if America doesn't already have socialist institutions in place. We have free, public education. We have free, pubic libraries. We even have free postal delivery. So why is it that we think that everyone is entitled to go to school for free, check out books for free, and receive mail for free, but somehow we don't think that everyone should be entitled to free health care (and those that do receive free health care, in the form of Medicare or Medicaid, are unfairly seen as second class citizens)? Since when is it okay for someone to lose their home in order to stay healthy or to have to choose between paying the heating bill and paying for insurance? As far as I'm concerned, basic health care should be a basic human right. And if that makes me a socialist, that's okay with me.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Welcome to England

I've been a fan of Tori Amos's music for several years, ever since I was fifteen and borrowed my then-boyfriend's copy of Under the Pink. I think I had the song "Cornflake Girl" on constant repeat for weeks. Songs like "Silent All These Years" and "Crucify" were anthems of my adolescence. I admit that in the past few years I haven't been as much of a devoted follower as I once was, but her latest single "Welcome to England," from her new album Abnormally Attracted to Sin, seems oh-so-relevant to me and anyone else who has moved to England (or France or Russia or Botswana...) for love. It's definitely worth a listen. Here is just a sampling of some of the lyrics:

"Welcome to England," he said.
"Welcome to my world.
You better bring your own sun sweet girl.
You gotta bring your own sun now don't you forget --
you bring your own sun, just enough for everyone."

Sunday, 7 June 2009

I should not have to put the heating on in June...

... but I guess that's what I get for deciding to live in England.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Back on Greenwich Mean Time

Crumpet and I have been home for a just over a week now, and we are finally starting to readjust to our normal routine. By we, I mean Crumpet, because being a mom in itself doesn't afford you the luxury of experiencing jet lag.

I'm currently working on a post inspired by our time at home (in NC)... and returning home (to the U.K.). But I didn't want to leave too much of a gap between posts, so until then here is an update following Crumpet's first trip to America.

Our time in the States was wonderful. We had four lovely weeks to relax, spend time with family, catch up with friends, shop at my favorite stores ("Hello, Target, I've missed you"), and dine at all of my favorite restaurants (and bring home the souvenir 10 pounds I referred to in my last post) without feeling rushed or exhausted. I figure I might as well take advantage of these next four years, before Crumpet goes to school and holidays are strictly scheduled around the school calendar. Crumpet had lots of time to bond with her grandparents and her aunt and uncle and cousin, and we were there at a time when they could really see her changing from day to day. In the time we were there, she learned to crawl (actually, she really just drags herself across the floor; she has gotten very close to crawling on all fours but inevitably gives up and realizes it's easier to get around her way), say "Mama" (or "Mamamama..."), give kisses, and wave (hello, not goodbye). She took her first trip to the seaside (or the beach, as we'd simply call it in NC), had her first boat ride (during which, despite the roar of the motor and the rush of the wind, she fell asleep in my arms), and tasted her first bit of German food (who knew red cabbage and spatzel would be such a hit with a 7-month old?). I can't wait to introduce her to even more exciting new things each time we visit.

The flight home, when Crumpet and I were on our own, was not easy. Let's just say that when a baby who is normally used to 12 hours of sleep at night only gets 3, things are bound to be difficult. But, even in her delirious, sleep-deprived state, she was a trouper, and several of our fellow passengers commented on how good she was when we disembarked at Heathrow. Music to any mother's ears.

And now that we are back, it feels as if we were barely gone. Those four weeks seem like a distant memory, and I can't help but find myself already thinking about the next visit. That's the trouble with transatlantic relationships/families: you always find yourself looking forward to the next visit or reliving the memories of the last one.