Monday, February 20, 2012

"You're SO cute...So adorable!"

Living in an international community is quite interesting and at times very entertaining.  In our one flat alone we have eight girls people from four different countries...And, again, this is just in our one flat.

Being a native English speaker, those who don't use English as their mother tongue often ask me questions such as, "How do you say that?  What does that mean?  Did I say that right?  What is the word for...?"  Since English is my first language I have automatically become an English teacher to aid those who are trying their best to learn all that they can so that they can understand and speak the language better.  (Although, sometimes I jokingly say, "Don't ask me - I'm American!" ---  That's usually my way of admitting that I don't know the answer.  Sometimes that answer even works if it ends up being British English that they are referring to.  In this case, this is also helps me learn my British English words and phrases.)

Dinner time is often a time of laughter.  Why?  This is usually when our funny language lessons take place.  We will talk about our cultures, homes, foods, our cultures.   This would include things like the other night when we taught each other what different sounds animals make in different countries.  For example, Americans say a cow will "moo".  In Korea they say that the cows "Maa".

One day I realized that my Korean friends often used the word "cute".  Actually, it wasn't often.  It was more than often - it was a very frequent!  Everyday they say things like, "You're voice is so cute!  You're so cute!"  Jolly Ranchers and the noodles for American Craft Mac and Cheese?  Yeah, they're cute too.

Noticing they used the word cute a lot (aka: for everything), I decided to teach them a new word so they would have more options in their word choice.  To go along with cute, I taught them the word "adorable".  

The other morning I was really sick and I slept a lot.  At one point, though, when waking up I saw two of the Korean girls standing over my bedside looking at me saying multiple times, "She's so adorable!"  (At least I know I still look good when I feel my worst??)  I'm starting to think it's time to teach them a third option for more variety.

For the last two weeks (at least) everyday, at least once (if not twice), I am still told, "Your voice is SO cute...SO adorable!"  After leaving here any girl should have wonderful self esteem and confidence.  ;-)

I really enjoy helping them with their English.  Not only are they learning, but I am as well.  When they ask me, "What does that mean?" sometimes I realize, "You know, I've never actually thought about the meaning and why we say that word or phrase..."  This has helped me come to realize that in America, we use some really odd phrases for some things in life!  I've also come to realize how many American idioms and slang I sometimes use.  My British English vocabulary is also expanding.

It's also remarkable to see how hard they are working to learn to speak another language.  I know they have their days of frustration and discouragement, but they leave me impressed everyday.  Here they are, from different countries and languages, speaking a foreign language (my language) all day, seven days a week.  They work so hard.  I cannot even imagine how exhausting that would be to listen and to speak an unfamiliar language all day, everyday, translating everything in their mind to process what is being said.

What American/English phrases do you recommend we teach our international friends?

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: Another phrase we have tried to work on is with the word "deserve".  One girl was telling someone, "You deserve to be my roommate."  We understood what she meant but had to help her find a better English way of phrasing her feelings about her excitement of being roommates together.  Now that is a joke in our flat.  "You deserve to be my partner", or, "you deserve to be my friend."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life in London

What is life like in London, you wonder?  Let me fill you in on what my life here looks like by schedule.

I've been in London for three weeks as of tonight.  Wait...Three weeks?  Where has the time gone??  Earlier today I was writing an email to a friend who I met in Germany.  I realized I hadn't seen her since the day before arriving here.  It amazes me how fast time has flown.  If I've been here three weeks, that means I left home a little over a month ago!

The first two weeks here in London we had two weeks of Orientation.  During these two weeks we looked over a manual of things to expect, what we'd be doing while here, rules, helpful information, etc, etc.  We had a whole two hours spent on fire safety information as well as a whole day dedicated for child protection.

 I knew some of the people I'd be working along side with, but not many before arriving here in London.  During these first two weeks I really had a chance to get to know many others much better.  I also realized that I never knew what the word "cold" meant until moving here.  (I'm a Valley girl from California, what can I say?)  My first week and a half here I literally LIVED in my jumper (hoodie/jacket). I slept with it on (some nights I even slept with my gloves on), I walked around the flat with it on, I went to orientation with it on.  Now I am going some without wearing it.  I'm either adapting to the colder weather and buildings, or it's warming up a bit.  That, or, it's a combination.  (I will say that it did snow TWICE within a week during this time!  What a nice surprise!  It has now snowed three times since I've left home!)

Within the first two weeks I also tried to pay for a bus with some Pounds AND Euros.  Oops.  Talk about awkward!

This week we started our normal week.  Sadly, I missed most of it being sick in bed.  Monday some of us spent time out in the streets of London meeting locals and passing out free literature.  Tuesday I worked on my internship with the communications department.  Wednesday and Thursday I was suppose to be in a classroom to learn about other cultures and religions, but Tuesday night is when I started to get really ill.  Friday was my day off this week, and today (Saturday) I was suppose to go out to pass out more literature with our group.  (Usually Saturdays are our days off, but this week it was flip-flopped as that will occasionally happen.)

Pretty much...That's what my week will look like:

  • Monday: Spend time in the streets of London, meeting locals, passing out literature.
  • Tuesday: Internship (which, can sometimes change with Mondays)
  • Wednesday: Classes
  • Thursday: Classes
  • Friday: Same as Monday
  • Saturday: My Usual Day off
  • Sunday: Church
(There is other stuff to my schedule, but those are just during the regular day hours from morning until 5:30...each night is also different.)

Being sick has really bummed me out.  I was slightly getting homesick before I actually physically got sick.  But being around other people, keeping busy, working...My homesickness would come in rare waves but would quickly leave.  However, once I was sick?  After two days of being really sick, it hit and it hit hard!  I started to miss home and the comforts that it brings to my life.  I missed my own bed, my own room, my dog, usual foods, and of course, my mother!

The night my homesickness was the worst my flat-mates came upstairs with a box in hand.  My mom had sent me a package - and with PERFECT timing!

Opening the box I found items such as:

  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • A spice I love to cook with!
  • Butterfingers
  • Reese's
  • Goldfish
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • Converter/Adapter (Did I mention here on my blog that my last one died in Germany due to a hair dryer?  Yeah, the hair dryer is no longer living as well...Oops!)

There were also a few other things included, but those are to just name a few!  I was so thankful when it came in the mail.  While it didn't take my homesickness completely away it certainly made me smile!  Even when my mom is many miles away, she still has a way of making me feel better!  It was a reminder of how blessed I am to have such a supportive family back home.

Thinking about what to write next, I've realized that the topics and stories could take up a whole blog entry of their own.  Since I don't want this specific entry to end up too terribly long, I'll end this one here.  Who knows, maybe I'll post more then one tonight...or at least start a second entry!

Thanks for tagging along the journey and for the prayers thus this far!

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: While I have been really sick, I am starting to feel MUCH better!  Tomorrow I plan on going out for the first time since Monday.  Hopefully my body will feel it's 100% tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Long Way

This photo above is a photo of my first dinner in my flat when arriving to London.  When four of us arrived as newbies, the three girls who had been living here went out to do some work that they do every week.  There wasn't much to eat in the fridge as grocery shopping is done on every Monday and we had arrived late on a Sunday.  There are four Korean girls in our flat, one girl from Switzerland, and then two Americans.  In the cabinet there was a lot of unfamiliar Korean food of which we had no idea how to make, not to mention being clueless as to what some of the ingredients were.  What did we eat?  Salad (with homemade dressing made by my Swiss friend!), rice, nuts, bread, some ham, and best of all...Gummy bears I brought along from Germany.  (What can I say?  I am a bit of a candy junky lately!)  Regardless of what we atel: We were able to bond and have much laughter over the experience of our creative meal!

Monday we went grocery shopping.  We bought food and stocked up for 8 girls (since the first dinner a week and a half ago, a girl from Germany has joined our flat for a couple of months).  We also have a list of who makes dinner on which nights.  Tonight was my night.

Now, if you know me...You know I don't cook much.  I know a few basic meals but I am limited in my knowledge.  While I don't cook much, I do bake.  I bake a LOT.  Cheesecakes, lava cakes, truffles, brownies...You name it, I bake it!

Tonight was an adventure.  The girl from Germany helped me a LOT.  The girl from Switzerland was in the kitchen as we cooked.  We worked together making a wonderful team.  For dinner we made salads, toast, and Chicken Stock Stew.  While listening to our comments about our cooking work-in-progress such as, "Oh no!", "Eh, we can wing it", "Do you know what you're doing or how to do that?", "Oh, we don't have that...", or "It's okay - I'm sure it'll be fine!"...and not to mention all of our laughter, I'm sure she was praying the whole time while we cooked!

The Chicken Stock Stew was suppose to consist of: Chicken, onions, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, and celery.  We didn't have potatoes or celery.  Instead, we improvised.  Our version of the recipe had: Chicken, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and noodles.

To say the least, our meals have come a long way since our first night in the flat.  We've eaten more rice in one week then I usually eat in a month in the States.  (Again, four girls are from Korea.  It's neat to see all the different ways in which they eat rice!)  I've learned to cook a new dish and bonded more with my new German friend.

While we have come a long way, one thing is for sure!  Both nights we improvised ingredients for our dinners.  The first night, there wasn't much around but worked with what we could find.  Tonight there was food around, just not what the specific recipe listed to add to the dish.

Flexibility and improvising - those are two of the main skills you need when traveling and living overseas, right??

Last night I asked for prayer on my Facebook page for the seven girls I live with who would be eating the food, and for it to at least be edible.  What do you know?  God does answer prayers!  After eating all of the food, we even lived to talk about it! ...Then again, I guess we should wait at least 24 hour to make sure we're okay! ;-)

The Traveling Chick,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Outside My Window

Every so often I look outside my window and can't help but think, "I'm in London...I'm actually in London.  Wow."  I've been here a week now.  I've been gone for almost 3 weeks total.  Yet, somehow, it still puts me in awe that I am here.  That I've left home for the next several months to live in a complete different country.

Tonight is one of those nights.  Currently it is snowing in London.  For the first time I see London fog starting to hover over the neighborhoods around me.  The snow falling from the sky is getting heavier and heavier.  I'm in London.  Wow...I can't believe I am here.

Why am I still in such shock?  Good question.  One I've thought about since arriving in Germany and have actually come up with an answer.

When I think, "Wow!  I'm in London!  I can't believe it!"  I think of my past year.  I think of my story, of which I know is still in the making.  I think of all that God has brought my family and I through over the last several years, but specifically this last year of 2011.  The pain, tears, and heartache come to my mind.  Not only has God brought me a long way physically, but He has brought me a long way emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.  Sure...I still struggle due to all that occured.  Each day is still a slight struggle,  some harder then others... But it's not the same kind of struggle it was even just a few months ago.  My heart still aches but it doesn't shatter.  The pain isn't nearly as agonizing, and while some days or moments are still painful for me, usually it's more of a calmer sorrow and a reminder.

I think another reason it puts me in awe is because almost all my time in 2011 was focused on family.  It was focused on helping one another make it through the stormy season.  Many times that included lending my umbrella (AKA: help, time, energy) when the clouds shifted over each one of us at different times.  While I was focused on London, I wasn't focused 100% as most of the focus was used to be with and help family, as well as making it out of the storm.   During this time I also talked about London.  I talked about where I was going, what I was doing, and I started my fundraising.  Now?  Now it's not all talk.  It's all action.  I'm not talking about going to London anymore.  I am HERE.

I'm only here for 4-5 months.  Regardless of how long or short of a time I am here it is a learning experience.  There are thoughts, emotions, frustrations, culture shock, that I will go through.  It's an adventure.  Sometimes easy, sometimes more difficult.

Where am I mentally at now?  I'm still in awe that I am here.  I'm in awe, but I have honestly had my moments of being overwhelmed.  I've had moments of up and down times.  Excitement and stress.  There is a lot to take in, new names to remember, new streets to travel (and also to remember!  My spiritual gift is SOOO not with directions when traveling...ha!).  All I have to remember, no matter what I am feeling, experiencing, or thinking: Every adventure has a road.  Every road has it's short cuts, smooth pavement, potholes, pretty scenery, and sometimes we get a little lost along the way.  That's what an adventure is all about I suppose, as long as we are willing to observe, learn, embrace it, are willing to be flexible, and live it to the fullest.

The Travelin' Chick,

PS: This is just a brief note that I hope to elaborate on a little more in the future.  Or at least, this note briefly touches some of the topics I hope to cover later on of some of my thoughts, emotions, lessons…