Wednesday, January 29, 2014

England: They Have Stuff Too

Here's another example of "little differences": Last night, StereoNinja and I went to dinner at a steak restaurant called Cattle Grid. It was the most American thing I've encountered since I've been here. Now, I have no evidence that its intention is to come off as American, but it absolutely fucking does. It has a very American decor to it, authentically, not "this is what we imagine America looks like" decor, a menu that list its beef and pork dished under the headings "COW' and "PIG", enormous American sized portions of things including a massive rack of barbecue ribs the likes of which I have never seen here, onion strings which I have also never seen here before and which caused me to actually audibly gasp when they were offered to me and a highly American looking desert menu meaning we didn't order any because StereoNinja couldn't get a cheese plate (also that whole thing about the giant portions). There were only two things that gave it away. One was a completely disinterested server - not a bad server, just a man who was clearly not working for tips. The other is a thing that keeps happening to me every time we eat somewhere which is StereoNinja has to remind me to properly arrange my cutlery. Because unlike America, where they are watching you and waiting for you to slow down, or coming by to refill your drink since it's free refills ALL THE TIME in Fatassland, and they ask you while they're there "Can I take your plate?", the only way to have your plate cleared here is to align your fork and knife right next to each other across your plate. If you leave your utensils either on the table or strewn about your plate all willy-nilly in the wrong configuration, you will be sitting there waiting for the check (cheque) for hours. It's like the Bat signal for "I have finished my meal." And I ALWAYS forget.

Right so, anyway, not my point. What I actually meant to do right now was write about some of the things I love about being here, because I feel like all I've done is complain so far, and it's really not that I don't like it here, it's just that it's not home yet. So here's a few things that I think are fantastic that you have thus far dropped the ball on, America:

Roast dinner. Yeah, ok, we have roast dinners in the U.S., but there are certain designated days for them which are Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the year you just are like "Oh won't it be great when it's Thanksgiving and we'll have roast turkey again?" Yeah, um, yer doin it wrong. Because it is Roast Day here EVERY SUNDAY. You can make a roast at home or you can go to a carvery or you can go round someone else's house - whatever. Oh and another thing: Yorkshire puddings. Get in on that, Murica, you are missing out.

QI. There is not a show being produced right now on American television that I am aware of that is nearly as awesome as QI. A show that is funny AND has Stephen Fry AND you get to learn cool stuff? It's like an arrow of joy aimed straight at my little nerd girl heart. I am particularly overjoyed when there's an episode that has either Bill Bailey or Jeremy Clarkson who say they funniest things and know some of the weirdest shit. And I lose my fucking mind every time I actually know the answer and shout things at the television like "NO! It's because it has a three foot long tongue!" or "Oh my god, I know this one! IT'S A THING FOR EXTRACTING BOOGERS FROM A CORPSE!"

Road signs. I find the road signs here to be generally more helpful than the ones in America. Like, coming up to a roundabout or a slip road (this is an on or off ramp), there will be a sign with a picture of the exact roundabout or shape of slip road you are about to encounter. But that's not even what I like about them. The best thing about the signs is how ambiguous they are if you don't already know what they mean. Before I started driving, I started making up my own meanings for some of the ones I thought were funny.
Windsocks are dangerous

WARNING: Killer duck

Sad wiener

No perspective

I didn't make up a meaning for this, I just want to vandalize it and make it into a centaur.

Beware of men with giant umbrellas
Caution: Bra in the road


See, so some stuff is great, but it's not gonna get me a slice of Pequod's or an episode of Tosh.0.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Answers That Aren't 42 And Also A Thing About My Birthday

MIXED NEWS, EVERYONE! I have finished and turned in both of my papers (yay!) which I am pretty sure are both complete garbage (boo). But I'm back for now and I'm going to write some blog posts, starting with answering the questions you guys left for me in the comments:

exoticchemist said...

I'm curious as to what exactly triggers you to feel homesick. Is it just randomly wishing you were back in the US? Missing family and friends? Or is it specifically the differences between the US and UK? Maybe this is a dumb question...

It's not a dumb question, but it is a hard one to articulate. For one thing, I am now having a completely different cultural experience from the rest of my countrymen. While I don't miss snow (AT ALL), and I certainly don't want to be living in temperatures that can kill you in minutes, the whole polar vortex episode was hard on me because I felt...I don't know, left out. I still like to imagine that I am from Chicago and Chicago is my home and everyone at home was having this shitty but nevertheless collective experience and I wasn't there. And what made it worse was the UK was having a different collective experience with seriously damaging flooding seemingly everywhere, which is the experience I had, but it was the wrong one. And by the way, I'm crying right now. Sure I miss my family and my friends, but I can talk to them because the internet is magic. What I can't do is go back in time to when everyone was at the terrifying weather party and show up this time and be in on the jokes and know the stories.

Maya's comment was spot fucking on, and I really just wanted to post it and write "THIS ------>" next to it, but I'll elaborate instead. Maya said this: " I think, for me anyway, it was the fact that most things in the UK are so similar to North America that the differences, even the little ones, felt like a personal affront." I would say especially the little ones; the kind of things you never notice until they are different. In America, almost invariably, when you go inside a public building you just walk into it without breaking stride because the door is going to shut behind you. But in England where many of the buildings are older than my country, you walk into the building and you have to remember to shut the door behind you or it will just swing in the wind until the person at the desk gets up and closes it while glaring at you. There are no screens in the windows because there aren't that many bugs; you go shopping several times a week because the bread and the vegetables haven't been engineered to last for 2 months; the toilet doesn't flush the same way. I cannot fucking find wax paper at the store - grease proof baking paper is the closest thing. I know these things all sound dumb and petty because they are, but they add up into this sick feeling that this is not your home, no matter how much you want it to be.

Ok, that was sad. Let's do a different one:

Anonymous said...

44 degrees celcius here in Australia today, nature is bi-polar (and yeah that whole global warming thing). my question - did you ever choose a stripper name? or did I miss the big reveal in one of your posts?

Well anonymous, I'm pretty sure all of North America hates you right now, despite the fact that if it were 44 degrees there (111 F) they would be complaining that it was too hot. I did choose a stripper name and I did write a (half-assed) post about it. For the show I went with Phoebe Moon because I am a nerd. Now that I am in the UK however, I'll be using Poppy Cox because it's better and people get that joke here.

S said...

What have you learned about Brits/Britain by living here that you didn't learn by visiting?

Many many things, actually. I've learned that the words "noodle" and "pasta" are in no way interchangeable. In related news, I've learned that I'll need to bring a shit ton of Ramen back with me when I visit the states because the equivalents here are yucky in comparison. I've learned that people will fall over laughing if you pronounce squirrel as "skwerl". I've learned that driving students aren't allowed on the motorway, which means that when people get their first driving license, they have not learned to drive on one, which seems kind of dumb. Just last week I learned that when I say "look at those cans" no one realizes I'm talking about boobs. I've learned what stollen is, and that I hate it (raisins. why must everybody ruin perfectly good bakery with raisins? Knock it off already). I've learned that Christmas tree skirts aren't a thing here. I've learned that StereoNinja can't say prosciutto correctly. One thing that I already knew, but can't seem to get used to is being greeted with the phrase "You all right?". The American equivalent would be "How are you?". "You all right?" is what you would ask if someone just fell down the stairs or slipped on some black ice and landed on their head or just was walking around looking all sad. So whenever I'm asked that I immediately am confused about why they think I might not be all right. Gets me every time.

Thank you all for your questions. I like answering questions, so send more if you like and ask about whatever you want: stuff about me or why do Americans do that weird thing or where can I buy dildos or what is it about Patrick Stewart that makes him so sexy or Chris Christie, seriously, wtf is with that guy - whatever you want.

I'm not going to do a birthday wrap up post because it was overshadowed by paper writing and homesickness, but I did want to mention that StereoNinja bought me a telescope. HE BOUGHT ME A TELESCOPE. A FUCKING TELESCOPE. This feeling that I'm feeling is I think what it would be like for a normal person if their partner bought them a surprise Ferrari or a diamond as big as their hand. I HAVE A TELESCOPE YOU GUYS, and I live somewhere that I can actually use it. If it ever stops being shitty weather, that is.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It Can't Always Be About Raping Zebras

StereoNinja, reviewing my paper on masculinities in boylesque: (reads a passage out loud in a mocking tone of voice)...hahaha you sound so academic.

Me: It's an academic paper. It's not going to read like Bizzybiz.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Question Deserves An Answer

Anonymous said... 

Where for art thou Amberance? 

10:49 PM 

Very good question, anonymous. It's been a rough couple of months. Moving to a new country, even one that you love, is emotionally more difficult than it is possible to prepare for. Christmas, which is normally my FAVORITE THING IN THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD, was mostly a nightmare, and my birthday, which is Sunday and which I would normally have been reminding you all about on a daily basis for the last six weeks is only being observed at all this year to appease StereoNinja, who has made it very clear that my strategy of hiding in the bedroom ignoring him (and everyone else) while failing to engage in any of my beloved hobbies (blogging, my birthday, gratuitous nudity) is no longer acceptable. Having now spoken to a number of people who have already done this, I've had to severely lower my expectations for the foreseeable future, as the collective wisdom of those who have gone before me is that I will continue to burst into tears at completely random intervals due to vicious and overwhelming homesickness for at least 18 months. I don't even want to talk about how miserable I was on New Years, though at least I managed to leave Devon the day before it disappeared into the sea.

I have two papers due in a week, so as I said in November, let me get those written and turned in, and then check back here as I plan to reward myself by writing the next Fifty Shades review and/or going to Prague (oh yeah, I've decided I want to spend a weekend in Prague though I have absolutely no idea what is actually in Prague or why I want to go there - my main motivation seems to be the ability to say "When I was in Prague over the weekend..." - so advice on what I should actually DO in Prague would be lovely). I've been ready to write it for a while actually, but have been putting it off because I felt that I was upset about the wrong things and was trying to adjust my rage to match my logic. It hasn't worked, so I'm just going to write it the way I'm feeling it and then pack my bags for my journey to Hades since I am a terrible person.

Where I am at this very minute is sitting in my living room looking out at the sea. While all you guys in the U.S. have been at the travelling Antarctica Experience exhibition this week (the first time I saw someone write "Chiberia" made me laugh much harder than was probably warranted), the U.K. has been dealing with its own disastrous weather since roughly Christmas, mostly in the form of massive rainstorms combined with extremely high tides and a recent habit of building homes on floodplains. In typical British fashion, this was described on the news in the most hilariously understated way possible as "unusual weather". Living on an island in the Thames as I do, it is impossible not to notice. The field directly across the river from us which is typically filled with sheep first became a lake (which I named Lake Titicacao because tits! and chocolate! and I'm a massive child!) and then a few days ago even that was swallowed up and now the whole thing is just part of the river. Our marina is entirely flooded, the water covering not only the gangway that goes around the outside of the marina but also the first two steps leading up to our garden It is an inch from covering the third, which would leave only two more stairs before we go from living on riverfront property to living in the actual river. There are two roads leading into the island, but only one road that leads away from it, and that road is also flooded, meaning I actually drove my car through the Thames twice this morning. I was lucky I made it through - on my way back, there were two cars stranded on the road who had tried to drive through the river but were too low profile to get through and were now stranded in non-working cars waiting for rescue. If the river doesn't crest today I may be stranded here all weekend. Every once in a while, a helicopter flies over and I imagine them looking down at us and saying "Yep, still flooded." I think I should write a really rude message for them or draw some tits so their day will be more interesting.

Anyway, give me a week to finish my papers and I will write you guys a scathing review about how E.L. James has apparently never been to a bank and being threatened with rape is super romantic. 

P.S. I have enjoyed answering this question. Feel free to send me more questions you would like answers to and I'll answer them in a future blog post. It will be like a conversation!