Culture Shock

Who would guess that a first world country that speaks the same language would be so different? It doesn’t really hit you when you walk around town or use the bus. It hits you in the weirdest places at the weirdest times. The first time it really hit me was last Thursday when I had my initial visit to my school placement. At first it wasn’t a big deal, but it got me thinking a little bit. I was the only American there. All the other times I’d been out I’d been near other Americans, either ones I knew or tourists. That was the first time I’d been on my own in the real British world. In the end it wasn’t really a big deal, but I became aware of being the odd one out.

On my way back I stopped and got a candy bar. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe it was just one of those times where he needed subtitles, but I could not understand the clerk. I felt really bad about it. I mean, we spoke the same language…I think. Anyway, moving on. I tried to not let it bother me much. Keeping myself busy, looking forward to Stonehenge and classes. Then I went to Boots, the drug store. I wanted a knee brace, vitamins, and pads…easy list, right?

Well, it might have been, if the store wasn’t two stories. I went to the top to talk to a pharmacist, get my knee brace, which I finally found under first aid (makes sense). Then I found my fish oil vitamins, which are in this really weird bullet kind of bottle which all vitamins seem to come in. Then I could not find pads for the life of me. There were big signs everywhere saying “Please Pay Here” so I wasn’t even sure if I could go look downstairs or not without buying what I had! I eventually just asked a clerk, and she told me with a funny look on my face where to find “sanitary napkins” and I could just pay downstairs if I wanted. So I went downstairs and bought some pads. Turns out, British women apparently favor scented pads. They don’t come in normal, they come in smelly. We’ll see how this goes.

Then my first day of placement happened. It started out slow as my teacher didn’t have class and the other teacher I was meant to follow was away with a school trip. But then I got to follow another teacher for one class, and then lunch, it was pretty normal. No one really seemed to mind I was American. Then we went to my teacher’s year 8 class, basically 6th grade so 11-12 year olds. He introduced me and said I was from America¬† learning to be a teacher. To which they all gasped and one raised her hand. She asked me, “Are you American?” I thought it was a little silly to ask, but I replied, “Yes, I am.” And they all gasped and chattered excitedly. They were the sweetest bunch of little things. They’ll be the class I teach my lesson to later on. One of them mentioned she’d love to live in America because they’ve got all the gangsters and stuff. Oh dear…

Then we went back to the upper school for my teacher’s year 11, so 15ish years old. They were equally fascinated that I was American. One group even asked for me to help them solely for the purpose of hearing me talk. It was somewhat embarrassing! And I had to choose different phrases to see how they were doing with their work. “How’re you guys holdin’ up?” doesn’t translate well into British… It should continue to be an exciting adventure! I’ll continue to be the one with the “lovely accent,” the one that supposedly understands what “I’ma take out a piece and tap that” means (which doesn’t mean what I think the teacher meant), and the one from the glory land of romance, crime shows, and gangs all because I’m the American.

Stonehendge et al.

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Today we went to the vast and famous Stonehenge!¬† You may not be able to walk among the stones, but you can get awfully close to them. It was a long and early bus ride to the attraction on which almost everyone fell asleep. But then everyone seemed to wake up around the same time as we thought we might be getting close. There were a number of burial mounds scattered across the fields of sheep. We passed some construction that seemed painfully out of place, but we figure it’s for a museum so it’s not all bad. Then suddenly, with no warning at all, the bus turns the corner and BAM. Giant stones in a circle. What they failed to warn everyone properly about was the weather. Blustery would be putting it lightly. The weather said about 8 degrees Celsius, so not a bad 47ish degrees out. However, it did not mention the windchill. Stonehenge is placed upon a hill with absolutely nothing around it but sheep. By the end of the circuit, which takes about 15 minutes to walk, all of our hands and faces were numb! Sadly the weather had turned something I wanted to stay at forever into somewhere I’d seen enough of for one day. But our adventures were not over! Back on the bus and off to Salisbury we went!

SAM_0117 I opted to go on the optional tour of Salisbury Cathedral. The view was spectacular! The font just inside was the biggest I had ever seen. Made of black marble it took up the majority of the center aisle, which considering the size of these buildings was pretty impressive. Our tour guide was an amusing man and told us the story of William Longspee who was fighting in a war and was captured. No one knew what had happened to him for 6 months or so. This other guy’s nephew needed a wife. So he went to the missing man’s wife and said, “Hey, you’re pretty, and your hubby’s not coming back, marry my nephew.” To which she replied, “Naw mate, not in your life, I know my Billy’s coming home. Sod off.” And sure enough, William did return. To show no hard feelings were meant, William was invited to dinner by the other man, and found dead soon after of poisoning. Oh…England. On an interesting note, the same poison killed a rat that had found its way into his tomb some time later. Lastly, we got back on the bus and headed into Lacock.

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By this time it was dim enough my camera wasn’t particularly interested in working. It was twice as cold as Salisbury as well! But this village was the most charming. With about 350 inhabitants, it is a protected historical sight in England. New construction is more-or-less prohibited since William Longspee’s wife set up the Abbey. And what do you reackon about that building? Look kinda familiar? It’s probably because you’ve seen it in Harry Potter, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, or the 2010 Wolfman. All of those and more were filmed in this tiny protected historical town of Lacock. We had dinner nearby in a little place called The George Inn build back in 12something I think. Stuffed chicken wrapped in ham with gravy, broccoli, and potatoes, and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert with a pint of the local ale on the side. Today was a busy, yet fulfilling day. I know I promised culture shock, but this was far more interesting!

Week One

The Flight: Flying is uncomfortable. Flying with a head cold is worse. I guess, in a sense, it was a small blessing as I couldn’t taste the airline food very well.¬† But joking aside, the flight was all right. 6.5 hours, over Canada then the ocean. The Sun had just come up by the time I got out of the plane…. 6.5 hours after it had just set. Didn’t sleep a wink! Soon it had been 24 hours since I’d slept! It was very exciting.

Getting into Bath: That was tricky. It’s like driving in DC, but with worse parking, neighborhood streets only, and no way to understand traffic signals. Luckily my friend Tony was very good and found us the way to the train station. I couldn’t even recognize the symbol for rail! And did you know, they didn’t use the metric system until the last 30-40 years or so? So all the road signs are in Miles and cars run by Miles per Hour. But it’s illegal to sell anything in inches, pounds, onces, or gallons, etc.

Once in Bath it was not so bad. We waited for the bus that would take us to our houses for about 2 hours. Once there though, it was really lovely. Charming little house with crooked steps. Downstairs is the kitchen and washer and dryer, a wooden dining room, and the access to the back garden. There’s also a full bath with the shower “right” next to the window. On the ground floor is the mudroom, a bedroom, and the living room with a TV and lots of couches. That is the room the photo I posted yesterday was taken. On the way to the “first” floor, on the landing, is a toilet. Then on the first floor are two bedrooms, one of which has a bathtub in it, and yes it is carpeted. Continue up to the top floor and there are two more bedrooms and a giant shower room with a tiny shower in it. No toilet. Only a tiny stand-up shower in the corner of the giant room. Oh, and the corner of my room is painted like a Jungle!

The Weather: No one knows. Don’t listen to the forecast, it’s probably wrong, but might be right, so you don’t know. It might be 52 out, but the wind’s at 23mph. Or maybe it’s raining, well, it was, and it might later, but it’s stopped now. Oh, just kidding, there it goes again. But the Sun’s out? That’s hail. But all in all, it’s not bad, just very cold.

Diagnostics!: We were told at the height of our jet lag that we’d have to take diagnostic tests. No one knew it was coming, but they reassured us that it won’t count against us. The teachers didn’t seem too horrified when we spoke to them at the reception, so here’s hoping! Classes start Monday with Education in England and Shakespeare in Performance for me. Then School placement on Tuesday. Culture shock will be in my next post!

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My New Backyard

My New Backyard

This is the view from my living room in Bath. Tonight it’s movie night! Tomorrow is a tour of the markets and Sunday Stonehendge! I’ll blog again when I have a little more time about the whole transition and the rest of my charming house!