Monday, November 11, 2013

The Skinny on British Milk Cartons

We've now been in England for one week. And it's been a doozy.

When we first got orders here, Nick said, "Well, at least we speak the same language." After talking to dozens of Brits this week, I'm beginning to think we don't, at least partially. :-)

Upon PCSing to MHAFB in Idaho, the culture shock hit me upside the head, mainly because I wasn't expecting it. After all, how much different from Oregon could Idaho be? They bordered, for crying out loud! I learned my lesson; every place has its own language, subculture, political style and more.

This time, I knew to expect everything to be different. The UK, I can announce, has delivered.

At an anthropological museum in Cambridge
You drive on the opposite side of the road in a car with the wheel on the right. The signs are totally different, the sidewalks non-existent. One does not have to stop for school buses at any time. Street signs warn of "rising bollards" instead of speed bumps. And THE ROADS -- oh dear Lord, I will never complain about the state of American roads again. No joke, I have had smoother 4-wheeler rides through farm fields than I have on paved roads here. Nick and I are quite baffled as to what the 225-pound tax per driver per year actually pays for, because it obviously isn't maintenance.

The next time Adele asks me whether she should just keep chasing pavement, I know what my answer will be. Go back to the boy, dearie, because the drive seriously isn't worth it.

Jude checks out an ancient hippo
Dryers here don't actually dry, because there is no vent connecting it to the outside. My dryer at home takes 41 minutes. The dryer here at TLF (our military hotel) takes approximately 4 hours, 10 minutes. I asked about it and was told that's normal, that I'm supposed to take out the clothes and lay them all around the house. Why Brits have dryers in the first place, then, is a riddle I'm still looking to solve.

Look, Mom, now me and Lucy are twins! (And FYI, that red substance on the plate is ketchup, not blood)

Most ovens don't fit a standard 9x13 American casserole dish, and ditto for the cupboards fitting standard American dinner plates.

Bathrooms -- even new ones -- NEVER have a plug-in, meaning you have to dry and curl your hair somewhere else. Closets, bathroom vanities, mirrors, garages, and normal-sized fridge/freezers are rarities. Every house features radiators, and most have oil tanks for heating.We're doing okay on getting our body clocks switched over. As in, the boys are doing all right, while Miss Avinly likes to wake up every hour or two to nurse.

Our temporary dwelling
Here's the lowdown on the past week: Klaus is with my parents temporarily. I twisted my ankle on the wet cobblestones while carrying Avinly. Jack puked tomato all over the hotel curtains. Every child has had an extremely wet cough, with Jack being the worst. With no routine, the boys have been behaving abominably. We were supposed to see five houses Friday; we ended up seeing none. We lost our keys, our rental car broke down, we've had several viewing appointments canceled on us because they were let minutes before. The Ducks lost. We tried to go bowling, but there were no open lanes, leading to some fits. I have no winter coat, gloves, scarves or hats and am constantly freezing. Jack has cried more than once from missing Lucy, his best friend. Jude has asked more than once for his grandparents. Avinly has asked more than a million times for me to suck on.

But hey, some good news: I most definitely am going to lose weight here. I know this because I went grocery shopping and saw the prices.

Thankfully, I can see the future, and it's better. Once we find a house, school, church and rhythm, the Kupper household will be smiling again. And thankfully, there have been moments this week to smile about: Jack's joy over losing another tooth, Jude's excitement over ancient dinosaur bones, crying out with gratitude at discovering a much-needed squeegee and cough syrup stashed randomly in a suitcase, hearing people talk about our "accent," the prospect of meeting some wonderful friends, the hope of future trips to my Grandma Audrey's birthplace and home.

Sorry buddy, maybe another time!

The UK isn't home, but that's all right. It's different than what we are used to, but that is okay. America isn't the be-all, end-all, and being forced out of our comfort zone is a positive. We will grown, we will learn, we will stretch. And that's a good thing.

Argh, Jack the pirate says

Next up: I'll fill you in on British house-hunting. We're hoping to find a house with a fridge that fits a gallon of milk (though we have yet to find a store that sells them). May our hunt make us as skinny as the cow on the left and as happy as the one on the right.

(And yes, there is a whole milk carton. Trust me, you don't want to look like the cow on that puppy!).