Wednesday, December 31, 2008

10 Years in London

As of 6:30 a.m. GMT Christmas Eve, I have been a London resident for 10 years. 10 years! It's hard to believe. It's trite but true-- time really does fly by when you're not paying attention. What was originally going to be a three-year assignment has become our home.

I've been mulling over this post for the last week or so (in between wrapping dozens of presents, cooking Christmas dinner, and doing dozens of other Christmas jobs, including having my annual nervous breakdown). I wanted to write something profound about what we've learned and how we've changed, but that's such a huge subject that I'm just not going to do it. 

Instead, in no particular order, here are some ways we've changed in 10 years:

• When we arrived, it was just the two of us. Now there are four. (Thing One, in 1999, at Greenwich Hospital (RIP); Thing Two, in 2003, at St. Thomas Hospital).

• I have a much better grasp of British geography, which isn't saying much given the very first time we visited London I had to look on a map to see where in England it was located. Ditto time differences (had to look it up) and celsius temperatures (which I now prefer. Here's a tip: to roughly convert C into F: double it and add 30).

• I can now use the words "brilliant" and "bugger" correctly and in context, but still can't say "blimely" with a straight face. The best use of blimey I've heard: When I was nine months pregnant with Thing One, my next-door neighbour took one look at me and said, "Blimey, you're big!"

• I can no longer face the array of choices in a typical American supermarket. (My friend Anne, who's been here nine years, agrees.) Too much choice really is a bad thing. Give me two choices, like in a standard British supermarket. That I can handle.

• I've completely grown to love the way a British pharmacy works, which I didn't at first. I liked the American way of stumbling through the aisles trying to find the best cold medicine out of the 50 on offer (see above). But now, I like being able to tell the pharmacist my symptoms and she will pick out my cold medicine from behind the shelf. I call that service.

• I'm completely out of touch with American reality television "stars". I can't name one winner of "American Idol" or "America's Next Top Model." And for that I am thankful.

• I now have a handle on how the British school system works. The same goes for the NHS. I learned about both the hard way: by using them.

• The Internet has completely changed the expat experience. When we first got here, I went two months (!) without a computer. Now it'll be a miracle if I go eight hours without checking my e-mail on some device, either on my lap or in my hand.

I know there are dozens of other things I could list here, but that's a good sampling. It's been a good 10 years here. We have made a good life here: friends who are as close a family, a lovely community and even (dare I say it?) Anglophile tendencies. 

Here's to our 10 years here, and may we have many more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Favourite Advent Windows

Last year, our favourite stop at Greenwich's Live Advent calendar was the "Let it Snow" house (see picture below). This year, it's another good one, called "A Star Leads the Way."

Here it is in the day:

Here it is at night:

For more information, or a map of the participating houses, go to:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Greenwich Advent Windows

For the first time last year, Greenwich had a "Live Advent Calendar" whereby every day a different house would decorate a window. So instead of opening a cardboard door to see a new image, like in a traditional Advent Calendar, you would need to walk to the next house to see that day's offering. It was brilliant.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve walking around to see all of the windows, and we plan to do so again this year. I wanted to post a picture of my favourite windows from last year. The theme for these window was "Let it snow!"

Today is this family's turn again, so I can't wait to see what they do. According to the website, which you can find here, their theme this year is, "Let a star lead the way."