Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cambridge Chronicles, volume 1

As I am writing this, Jon and I are in Cambridge, England.  His job sent him here for a month of training, and I was fortunate enough to get to tag along!  So I will be giving some updates about our experiences here.

Some important lessons I have learned so far on our UK trip:
1) It was good that I learned to look BOTH ways before crossing the street, especially now that the cars are coming from a different direction.

2) We should have gotten the GPS instead of adding me as an extra driver for the extra £10 a day.  Why?  a) Directions on Google Maps are useless because most of the street signs are obscured, and b) I am really not that great at driving on the other side of the road. (Which gets me really frustrated because I normally really like to drive.)  The result is getting lost.  A LOT.  But at least you can circle around the roundabouts as many times as you want to until you figure out which street you think is the one you're supposed to take.

3) I am thankful for my washer and dryer at home.  Every time I leave the country, those are what I appreciate the most.  It obviously takes an advanced degree to operate the one here in our little apartment, between converting the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit, then choosing which temperature at which to wash your clothes (because cold water is apparently only an option for wool), selecting the RPM at which your clothes go through the spin cycle, and the temperature and time of the drying (which happens in the same machine).  Even though I have previous experience with using one of these washers, I am no more satisfied with it now than I was at any other time.  After an hour and 30 minutes of washing (JUST washing), it took another THREE hours to 'dry' the clothes.  And the clothes still came out damp.  Grr.

My nemesis: the washer/dryer
Does a washer even need all these buttons?
Rack: the OTHER dryer

4) Don't listen to anything anyone says about food in England not being a good experience.  Perhaps I am biased because I really like food in general, but Jon and I have had some excellent food since we've arrived: Lincolnshire sausages and mashed potatoes (better known as "bangers & mash"), Yorkshire pudding (which is a type of bread), fish and chips, lamb meatballs with couscous, creamy penne with chicken and garlic bread, cream of broccoli soup with bread, bell peppers stuffed with couscous and eggplant with cabbage on the side...and those are just the main dishes!  Everything we've had has been very good.

5)  It is not customary in the UK to ask for your leftover food to be boxed to take home with you.  Doing so will result in the bartender (because you order your food at the bar) looking at you strangely, spending 5 minutes in the kitchen rummaging around for a container to accommodate your request, and your having to carry your leftovers home in a washed, oversized coleslaw container.  But on the upside, we got the equivalent of a tupperware container out of it, so I can store leftovers in the apartment now. :)
(It's definitely better than the foil and napkin we got tonight.)

6) Credit cards here in the UK come equipped with some sort of chip, whereas our cards in the US only have the strip on the back.  So beware when pulling out your University of Michigan Visa Signature card through Bank of America at the pharmacy, lest the pharmacist attempt to engage you (in an increasingly loud voice) about the recession, the housing crash, and how the Republicans and Tea Partiers in AMERICA (really loudly) HATE OBAMA.  Not really what I wanted to discuss while picking up some nail clippers and conditioner.

More cultural mishaps to come...


Liz said...

Love it! Sounds so familiar. When we lived in London two years ago I hated the washing machine, and we didn't have a dryer so, wet clothes hung all over the house! We chose not to drive, a little too scary for me. My favorite thing was when I decided to bake a cake and everything was in ounces! Good thing Eli drank a bottle! And we were there during the election. People would come up to us and congratulate us when Obama won!
Have fun, and take pictures of the little obscure things, you will appreciate it later.

workingmom said...

Hey Kids there's BIG BEN!!!! LOL! Loving the chronicles Kristen. I am just giggling....A.LOT. Thanks, I needed that. Can't wait to read more!

Linda said...

Okay this is REALLY fun! Especially since I was just there and can totally relate! As for the washing machine, have you tried the short cycle yet? Amber's had one that only took 30 minutes so that's what I used all the time. Also, been there, done that with the "chipless" visa card. We finally just started handing it to people and immediately saying, "it doesn't have a chip". Next, trust me, the GPS wouldn't have been that much better than google maps. I can't count how many times we ended up on a dead end road, thanks to GPS. I can just hear your fun laugh through all of this! Keep it coming!

Tracy said...

Let's try this again. I had already typed this out then found out I had to create an account before I could post a comment. Now I'm typing it AGAIN! Sounds like you guys are having fun. Although that washing machine scares me! Sounds like you have to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to operate it! I miss you guys! Have fun! Have some fish & chips for me! I love british food!


Jessica said...

Oh I am so glad you are posting about your experiences!! I have wanted to call you so badly over the past couple of days and want to set up a time we can skype! Our computer that allows us to do that is in repair mode at the moment, but hopefully we'll be able to skype by this weekend. We love you guys so much and are so happy you're able to both be there together! Can't wait to read more!