Dorothy in Oz – Expat life part 1

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! And welcome to the first of a few posts on expat stuff. I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore which was brought home to me again last week when I went to do my Thanksgiving food shop. Last year around this time I remember a large freezer case full of turkeys ready for British Christmas dinners but this year was surprised to spot only three in the whole supermarket. Meanwhile there was an entire aisle of seasonal Christmas stuff…

I’ve been reflecting of late about the various ways I’ve changed and adapted to life abroad in the UK. In no particular order:

Metric system

I have discussed this before and how buying a digital scale changed my life (that’s only a slight exaggeration). I still run a hybrid metric-American kitchen operation but it works so long as you have the right tools: digital scales, measuring cups that also show equivalent in milliliters, and a good cooking conversion site (current favourite here).

Dishwashing

On my last visit to America, I volunteered to do the dishes and was merrily sudsing away when a certain family member exclaimed, “Wait a second, are you rinsing??” Alas I was not, because I have adopted this British trait of hand-washing dishes but then not rinsing the soap off before setting out to dry. My family is aghast. I was too when I first observed this phenomenon, but then after about a year here with no dishwasher, it dawned on me I could cut out half the time for this chore by…you guessed it, skipping the rinse stage. Because most of the suds roll off anyway, right?

Crossing the road

Again I’m a hybrid operator on this issue. It’s because I initially got very confused about which way to look for oncoming traffic when crossing the road (except in London where they conveniently write on the road “Look right” or “Look left”) so I just started looking both ways. I still do and now do this when back in the States because I function in a state of semi-permanent cultural confusion.

Terminology / spelling / slang

I’m now hyper aware of when someone uses British or American terminology in real life and on telly, er, I mean TV. I adopted British spelling long ago and set my computer accordingly, though now the poor thing is confused and several programmes, er, programs think British spelling is wrong (Office, I’m looking at you). Though Evernote appears to be equal opportunity and thinks both are right. I still learn new slang all the time. For example, bobbins and egads. I also regularly do the equivalent of your mom running through all the names in your immediate family before getting to yours, but with different UK-US words. For example, in a restaurant, “Please can we get the bill, no tab, no receipt!” In a shop, “Do you have any coriander, no cilantro, no that green herb?”

Next week, how to talk to an expat…or at least to this one!

My Bookshelf – Autumn 2016

It’s been awhile since my last post. Apologies for the absence, it’s been a busy few months. Upcoming posts on last weekend’s LISDIS Conference where I presented my dissertation research and a short series on expat stuff.

My bookshelf is a bit of a non-fiction bonanza this autumn – enjoy! Also new this post, a link to this “shelf” on Goodreads if you want to have a look here.

Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
An excellent book – I cannot recommend highly enough. Appropriately enough picked up in Lemuria in Jackson, MS on our last visit. Grant is a British expat in the US who moves from New York City to an old plantation house in ultra-rural Pluto in the Mississippi Delta. Ensue massive culture shock. This is one of best explorations on race I’ve ever read, as well as being a brilliant picture of today’s Southern culture – hospitality, food, music and people who still deeply value family and community.

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow
A book I picked up for seminar prep for summer camp this year. Highly recommend this book by Christian author Dillow about womanhood, the Christian faith and anxiety.

Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh
This was a fascinating account of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict told from the perspective of a Palestinian human rights lawyer who loves nature and hiking through the land he grew up in. It was a welcome read for me having visited Israel but not learned much about the Palestinian side of the issue. The conflict is visceral as Shehadeh describes coming under gunfire on walks and how he can no longer walk in many of the places he used too because of Jewish settlements. Very sobering and very sad with no resolution in sight.

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
Another interesting but very weird pick from my library’s sci-fi section. Set in the distant future where space travel is the norm and you can download your consciousness where ever you like. It was difficult going both because this is actually the second in a trilogy (The Quantum Thief is book one) and his writing style offers no help for the reader as Rajaniemi freely creates a universe with its own terminology, technology and cultures with no explanation at all as to what he’s talking about. It’s called “show, don’t tell” apparently and I didn’t get on with it I’m afraid.

Into the Black by Rowland White
A gift indulging one of my nerd interests – space travel and NASA. This book tells the very riveting story of the development of the engineering marvel that is the Space Shuttle. Lots of big personalities, behind the scenes anecdotes and surprisingly accessible science. The orbiter main engines were beyond cutting edge at the time…the heat shield took decades to develop and implement…the first astronauts were either ex-military test pilots or from the top secret National Reconnaissance Office…I’ll stop geeking out now, go read this if you’re interested in NASA.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copland
Memoir by the first African American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s top ballet companies. As an ex-ballet dancer, I was interested in this story and also Copland’s troubled childhood and barrier breaking career is quite inspiring. A good read and still accessible for the non-dance aficionado.