Weekly Goings On

I've had quite a bit-y week this week. We finished off decorating the upstairs bedroom.

We borrowed a plaster draw sheet from Kim's Dad which was the most annoying thing known to man because it kept sticking to the underside of my bare feet (and it is HOT here) as I painted so in the end I pulled it up with annoyance – next time we're just using newspaper.

This cupboard was a pain to paint as well. I'm not entirely sure what's even in the cupboard because there's just boarding behind it and behind that is insulation… a mystery cupboard.

But everything is sort of done, there's a couple of speckled patches I need to go over with a brush.

It's meant to be a sort of mauve but my half brother thoughtfully termed it liverwurst (I can only assume out of jealousy).

We browsed the farmers market last week (we avoided it this week as it's theme is 'child friendly') and the theme was corn (or as I now call it – maize). We picked up some hummus and baklava from a Lebanese baker and got a nice quiche from another stall.

They were giving out free grilled corn and you could pick toppings.

Kim and I had coconut milk and scallions which was so good. I picked up more corn at the grocery store. I really want to try Indian corn some time with all the different colours in them.

There was music at the market too and it was quite atmospheric country markety type music until the guy started singing songs from frozen… then we slowly started edging away.

I took a trip back to the hardware store for more paint for the lounge, we've been going there a lot for bits and bobs. You order the paint and they mix the colour for you there so you can't pick a can off shelf. When I asked for a can I was told it was called a gallon, and when I went looking for white spirit I was told it was called mineral spirits and we wouldn't need it as the paint washes off with water… not sure how reassuring that is… anyway I like to browse the gardening section when the paint is being mixed because they get a lot of huge butterflies visiting.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this little thing, I really couldn't figure out what it was because it looked like a little bird but then it was more like a large beetle. You get to the point as an adult I think where there's rarely an animal you haven't seen on tv and can't identify but I was stumped. Turns out it's a hummingbird moth that mimics hummingbirds, I'd never even heard of it! And nor had Kim even though she's lived here most of her life.

So that's been my week, I had a job interview Friday and I have another one Monday, even though I'm still waiting on my licence to go through I thought I may as well start applying. Job applications are so dull to fill out, I like the ones where you can just send in your resume.

Life in America is still a novelty to me, I still enjoy chuckling to myself when I see different signs and inspecting things in stores. The weathers been good most days and we've swam a lot in the lake which has been nice.

Farmington River Tubing & Hibachi

A couple days ago on Kim’s day off we decided it was nice enough weather to try out tubing on the Farmington river. It was an hours drive away and about half an hour into the drive there was a storm (that wasn’t on our weather apps!) with thunder and lightening so we were hoping it’d be finished by the time we got there and luckily it was but when we got to the car park someone had had a bit of bad luck. There were news crews there already to view it but no one was hurt.

The tubing place went down the Farmington river on a stretch called Satan’s Kingdom State Recreation Area, we paid $20 to hire a life jacket and a heavy duty inflatable ring and off we went. It was collllllddddd but it was such a hot humid day even after the storm that it was nice.

Of course I couldn’t take my phone down with me so I couldn’t take any photos but here’s one from their website. It takes about two to three hours to float down and there are three sets of rapids you go down. “Is it safe?” my mum asked on the phone when I described it to her. Not exactly no… you have to sign waivers before you can even pay and it’s just going down a regular natural river with rocks and drift wood and animals etc, the rapids are full of rocks and if your wife is holding onto your ring and steers you directly into a rock (mentioning no names… Kimberly) then you will fall off. But it was still really fun, I’d go again. At the bottom of the river it’s very shallow you can just wade over to the pick up point and you get on an old converted school bus that drives you back to where you parked you car. I loved all the wildlife, different beautiful birds flew across our path taking no notice of us, there were ducks and we saw two otters – I’ve never seen an otter in the wild in all my life so that was special. I think because the rings you float in just take you down the river slowly there’s not too much splashing or ‘human activity’ to scare off the animals.

After tubing we drove to Kim’s parents house to see them and they took us out to dinner at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant called Sakura Garden. Hibachi is where they make the meal in front of you with some tricks. We started out by picking what we wanted then it all came in small courses. We all had some miso soup and then a salad with a nice dressing.

Then our chef arrived, a Japanese guy in a cowboy hat, very enthusiastic squirting sake in everyone’s mouth (or juice for one kid), at another table we saw him go to after there was a pregnant lady and he said no problem and whipped out a baby’s bottle which was funny. This was the volcano he made out of chopped onions.

It was really fun though, I got some nice tuna (you can see it cooking on his grill) Kim hates tuna and the kitties don’t like to share theirs if I open a can for them so I don’t get it often. Kim was stuffed after her meal, she ordered noodles and thought they came instead of the egg fried rice but she got given both alongside chicken and prawns (or shrimp as they call them here).

This waiter had games he liked to play with the sake and was steering this guy into the girl. All in all it was a fun day of new things.

I Passed!

A lot of you know that in England I worked as a registered nurse and that Kim is a registered nurse in America, however neither qualifications translate to the other country annoyingly. When we looked at moving to the USA at first I started the long long very long process of getting my qualifications compared to USA qualifications. In the USA nursing is a four year degree that covers adults, children, mental health, learning disabilities and midwifery and once you graduate you have to take a test called NCLEX. In the UK it’s 3 years and you pick a specialty (I chose adult). So as you can imagine I’d probably be short a few hours of tuition and placements in comparison, I don’t fancy going back to university so I played it safe and decided to request to be a licensed practical nurse instead of a registered nurse and the state said that I could. The NCLEX test is reallly hard, it’s an adaptive multiple choice test so some answers are right, but some answers are more right. The computer also decides which question you take next based on the answer to the last question – so I had a lot of studying to do. I’m a pretty lazy student so I’ve been procrastinating.

I got a few cake mixes to make, I’ve been running errands including a disastrous trip to the Bank of America to open a new account for me. We got assigned to a poor fresh faced young ginger guy who was just out of college and a little nervous and was still in training. It was so complicated because none of the bank staff seemed to have much experience of UK documents and they were really confused so I felt really sorry for the guy training because we were the worst people to start with as we had 3 new accounts, Kim’s name change, change of address, ordering new cards and cheques… it was endless.

We went for a movie date to see Dunkirk which was such a good movie I’d really recommend it.

Did you know they don’t sell sweet popcorn in most US cinemas? I usually like half sweet half salted mixed. They just have salted and a pump of butter you can put on top of it – yeuch.

It’s been hot again mostly this week so we bought new floaties to swim in the lake with (Kim’s is the unicorn).

Eventually though 2 days ago it was time to take my NCLEX, it was a very strict exam taken on a computer in complete silence, I had to show photo ID, get my photo taken, scan the veins of both palms 4 times, I was video recorded at all times, I couldn’t take anything into the exam – you’re not even allowed to take scrap paper or a tissue! I had to pat myself down and roll up my sleeves before I could go in and show my ears under my long hair to prove I didn’t have any ear pieces!

I had 5 hours to take the exam and there would be between 75-205 questions (depending on how you answered), I only took an hour and got about 80 questions or so – so I was thinking this probably wasn’t a great sign. Then there is a 2 day wait to get your results. Kim bought a fondue set so I could console myself with cheese.

Yesterday we had a storm with torrential rain and even some hail and I was perfectly happy inside until I got the life frightened out of me with a weather warning. Apparently they just get sent out automatically to everyone’s phones but I didn’t know that so a little siren started going off from my phone and I was quite confused.

After the storm there was a lovely mist over the lake.

The house across the street is getting renovated, in the neighbour’s front garden is an apple tree and we’d been finding little apple cores and assuming it was squirrels or rabbits or something.

Until we spotted this little fellow this morning, our very own groundhog and his wife (I like to assume they’re married). I love all the wildlife near our house.

Finally after the long wait I got my results this morning that I passed, I am SO glad I don’t have to retake the NCLEX although I have up to 6 weeks to wait for my licence I can at least start looking for jobs and no more studying yayyyy. I have a lucky streak with exams of winging it so I guess it saw me through again.

Coventry Farmers Market & Muster

Last Sunday we took a little trip down the road to Coventry Farmers Market which is held every Sunday over the summer.

 

It was pretty cute, lots of homegrown vegetables, fruit, plants, flowers, crafts, baked goods etc. Each week has a theme and the theme was ‘colonial’, so the oldest paper in the country had a stand (the Hartford Courant) and I got a subscription for $19 for a year so that’s fun. They also had different food vans and a band. The parking was crazy but we got there dead on 11 when it opened so there was no problem. All the churchies came late and had to queue… haha.

 

The market is held at Nathaniel Hale’s house who was a spy in the revolutionary war so to carry on that theme they had a ‘muster’.

 

“I have a stupid question” said Kim, “so the revolutionary war… was Ireland invented by then?” Kim thinks she’s Irish… I think otherwise.

 

Different hobby historical recreational groups played their instruments and had a march about. All the groups were just from Connecticut state and there were tons! I couldn’t believe there were that many people who were interested in that, although marching bands are a school extracurricular here so I guess maybe this is what they do afterwards? The had guns and small cannons that fired blanks.

 

There was only one guy dressed as an English soldier so I took a photo with him and asked him was a good pose would be. “I usually just hold my gun he said”, I said no that wouldn’t do and he had to look menacing with me… perhaps this is why England lost? Not menacing enough.

 

Kimmy got a nice potted sunflower and planted it in our garden whilst Miss Bunny the cat supervised.

Settling In To Coventry

My first week in the USA has come and gone and I’ve been settling in nicely. It’s alternated between boiling hot and rainy so that’s made it pretty humid. Kim bought us a house at Coventry by the lake and we’re lucky because there are no main roads near by so the cats are safe roaming about. Also there are no pavements – now you might think this is a bad thing but in the winter by law you have to shovel your driveway and pavements (or sidewalks) within a certain time so we get out of doing that.

The houses are all different looking compared to the UK where usually the houses are built in clusters so they tend to match their neighbours and there isn’t a lot of brick like in the UK, it’s mostly vinyl siding. We’re 3 minutes walk from Coventry Lake and you can see it from the end of our garden (or yard).

The area is really green and there’s small bits of forest either side of our little neighbourhood. As a teenager I used to have a job at a tropical garden center in Norfolk which I absolutely loved (actually I think if the pay was better I’d still be working there!), a lot of the plants that are popular here I recognise from the garden center. There are lots of hostas and we have some of these already in our garden.

There are also orange day lilies absolutely everywhere (also in our garden)

Kim’s working as usual and I’m waiting to take an awful exam which I do not feel confident about at all and am pretty sure I’ll need to retake but until then I’m without a job and not searching until I know if I’ve passed or failed so I’ve been watching a LOT of TV which I don’t usually do. In fact my friends in England liked to make fun of me because for the last few years in England I didn’t actually bother having a TV. Kim is addicted to terrible TV shows so we had to have one here but luckily she owns a smart TV and we got the Amazon Fire TV with Alexa and it works great. People in the USA pay a lot for their cable TV (think $200+ a month) which I wasn’t happy about so instead we’ve set up Hulu and Netflix and it costs a fraction of the price. There’s also some live TV apps which work great and I can connect the TV to my laptop so we’re saving a lot of money that way, also I get to annoy Alexa.

So I haven’t been too bored whilst Kim works, also when it’s nice out I’ve enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood and seeing all the wildlife. The other day I almost walked into this lovely deer in sight of our driveway then to my horror realised my iPhone had decided to turn itself off when I went to take a photo of her. Luckily she was very polite and waited for my iPhone to restart itself so I could take my photo then tripped prettily off into the woods.

I also saw a groundhog on the neighbours lawn the first morning I was here. We have a bird feeder that’s attracted a lot of blue jays, sparrows and cardinals – I think it would attract more if it wasn’t for our resident squirrels who are very sweet but figured out how to open the bird feeder faster than I did then they proceed to dump all the bird seed and meal worms out onto the floor so they can sort through to get their favourite bits. So we need to invest in a squirrel proof bird feeder which we haven’t got round to yet.

In the mean time we have a lot of our own wildlife though, the house has a lot of little cubbyholes and viewing points that the cats love.

I got my social security number through in the mail which is the equivalent to the national insurance number in the UK. I got treated to a trip to the DMV (like the DVLA) where there was a very long wait but I got told I can use my international drivers permit for a year which is great as I’ll have to retake my driving test and I don’t really want to just yet!

I did buy a little car with the money I’d saved up from my job in England, most people seem to buy their cars on finance here but as I don’t exist on credit reports here and I’m not working yet that wouldn’t be an option so I needed to look for something outright. This was made all the more difficult as the Americans favour very large cars, very very large! And I just wanted a small European car, so I found a few I liked online and settled on a little red Fiat 500 2012 which I bought from a dodgy car dealer guy from Kosovo who did not stop talking. Still, I like it and it drives great. I had to buy it in Kim’s name because I have no Connecticut state ID or drivers licence or insurance. Although, strangely Kim added the car to her insurance and her insurance went down. That would never happen in England, you might expect a discount for a multi car policy but she’s actually paying less insurance now with my car added to her policy than she was for her own which I think is mad. To continue the theme of Goldie my previous car we’ve called this one Ruby.  I had to get a satnav (GPS) though or else I won’t know where anything is! Funnily enough my sister Bronte leases a Fiat 500 in blue so we are car sisters, much like in life her model is younger and better looking than mine haha. Fuel is ridiculously cheap compared to England, to fill up my car with petrol from almost empty cost $23, which is about £17.60 which wouldn’t even give me half a tank in England!

Our neighbours have been very friendly so far, there are a few differences though, everyone here is completely obsessed with the American flag and have it plastered all over their gardens, houses, cars etc. It’s actually illegal to burn a flag here, which is fair enough I suppose but if you’ve gone to the trouble of buying a flag to burn surely you’re just burning your own flag that you’ve bought which is your own problem isn’t it? The previous owners of our house left an American flag on our shed (see the middle photo) which so far I’ve kept up there because it makes me laugh.

Another difference is that no one has a letterbox fixed into their front doors, they have mailboxes. Ours is across the street (outside our neighbour Darlene’s house, Darlene is very friendly and enjoys walking about in her nightdress and going on the trampoline with kittens… yes really) and you collect your mail from it, if you want to post a letter you don’t need to find a mailbox, you just stick your letter in the mailbox and put the little flag up and the mail carrier picks it up for you – which I think is very convenient. The United States Postal Service has proved to be every bit as incompetent as Royal Mail though when it managed to deliver 2 of the new address postcards we sent out back to ourselves… great. But I do like the mailboxes and lots of people decorate them. We got a decal sticker with our last name on it which I put on the box a bit wonky but I think the effort is still there. This is also a frequent occurrence in people’s front gardens… I just find it weird though.

So all in all it’s gone fine. Everything is still a bit of a novelty like going to the grocery store. Kim’s been helpful as always to me adjusting by pointing out little tips (“That’s margarine, it’s like butter”… err yeah… thanks for that).

We usually try and do something on Kim’s days off, we went blueberry picking the other day which was fun. Blueberries are widely grown in New England so that was tasty.

But when it’s hot we try not to over do it.

Kim’s Auntie Debbie came to visit us out in the boonies (Auntie Debbie taught me that word, it’s what UK people would say is ‘out in the sticks’, it’s USA war slang for boondocks from when they fought the Philippines) and bought us a nice ice cream cake. I haven’t tried ice cream cake before so that was exciting (as all cake is). All in all a good start.

The Big Move

Finally the day came that was the day of the big move from the UK to Connecticut! My dear chum Crissy insisted on driving me to Gatwick which was very kind of her after many proclamations of “I will not let my friend take that bloody coach to the airport!”. We had a jolly good road trip on the way up, it was Sunday so it was all 80s on one of the radio shows which was great for car kareoke but also not great because I had ‘we built this city’ by Starship in my head until I got Connecticut.

So we got there in one piece and I checked in, the guy at the desk let me check my small suitcase I was going to take as carry on which was great as I then had less to carry until afterwards I realised I had over $1,000 in the case completely unlocked… still it all came back ok so no harm done. Then I called my Mum, my brother Charles, Bronte my sister and my Great Auntie Lily to say bye, went through security and then I browsed duty free. I’d been looking for a certain type of perfume, do you ever do that creepy thing where a stranger walks past you and you smell their perfume and it’s really nice so you ask them what fragrance they’re wearing? Well I’d done that a couple of weeks before so I spent a good half hour trying out all the Marc Jacobs perfumes to find the exact one. For some reason Marc Jacobs has chosen to revenge himself against normal people by making all his bottles look roughly the same with flowers on them and picking almost exactly the same names for all the different scents which are completely different. For gods sake Marc Jacobs, sort your life out.

Meanwhile my buddy Joy had decided she’d have one of my sofas for her new house and I got sent this photo of them stuck… so it did my heart good to know that they were having fun haha.

Finally my gate got announced but there was a massive massive queue, it wasn’t so bad because I made a buddy in the line to chat to who was from Sturbridge (you might remember it from the historical village we visited last Christmas) and had been going to a wedding in Berlin so that passed the time.

I assured my new found buddy that I wasn’t looking forward to the flight because Norwegian Air was utterly useless last time I flew with them to JFK and besides I always got sat next to a screaming baby. And my prophecy was correct, the moment I sat down a screaming baby promptly arrived to sit in the seat behind me… I swear there is some sort of tracking beacon on me when I fly. It screamed… and screamed. And we waited on the tarmac for 2 hours because they wanted to check something in the cargo and then they had to fill out paperwork and then they had to refuel because they’d spent so much time fucking around so we were really late leaving.

All the movies were either bad or I’d seen them before so I rewatched a couple, amused myself by finding Coventry on the little airplane map by zooming in a million times, huffed at the mother of the screaming baby, listened to music, slept on and off where I assume I snored at my seat companions, feasted on my banquet of tastiness I bought in duty free. The plane ticket I’d bought was part of Norwegian Air’s new budget flights for long haul, think Easyjet – you pay for luggage, a meal, to pick your seat etc all extra. I wasn’t about to pay 30 quid for airplane food no matter how much I enjoy it.

We finally got into Boston airport and then because we’d left so late they didn’t have a gate for us to park the plane at so we waited again for about 40 minutes, suspiciously exiting the plane just 20 minutes before the time that the airline would have had to pay us compensation for the delay… I was meant to land at 7pm local time, I didn’t get off the plane until about 10pm. After that there was a long line to reach border control, everyone else just had their ESTA visas but I had a large sealed envelope for an immigration CR1 visa. As I moved closer in the queue you could see all the border control agents view the envelope with trepidation, they all went super slow to try not to get me, one guy went on his break, another pretended to take a phone call, all waiting to try not to get me. In the end I was waved over to the only agent smiling, the others all looked miserable as sin, I told him he was the only person there who looked cheerful “Oh I get that a lot” he said chuckling. It reminded me a lot of one of my favourite dystopian games Papers, Please but luckily there weren’t any issues and I was through.

Kimmy girl picked me up, I had insisted that she make me a sign to collect me or else I wouldn’t go with her and I wasn’t disappointed. When I got in the kitties were please to see me, my boy cat Barclay did a double take as though he couldn’t quite believe it was me then proceeded to climb my head with love. I think Kim’s girl cat was quite pleased too because the whole time she’s been back in America she’s refused any treats but as soon as I gave them to her she quite happily tucked in, little madam. All the luggage made it unharmed except my laptop that used to be Kim’s laptop has a very large dent in it… it seems to still work though so… easy come easy go?

The next day we took a trip to Kim’s hospital where she works to sort out my health insurance, only we didn’t sort it because they were really confused by the concept of the NHS. The house Kim bought is in Coventry which is a lake town so about 3 minutes down our street is this beautiful lake, the part of it we live next to has a little dock and a closed off swimming area so we paddled a bit.

Also we got some Hello Fresh to make some fun recipes whilst I settle in – this has been good to learn where Kim keeps all the kitchen stuff.

Today we were about the discover the joys of the social security office when the alert for Kim’s tyre pressure popped up, we went to inflate them (which Kim had no idea how to do!) and got greeted with this mad medieval looking device. I am not used to these air machines, in England they have a little digital display and you just enter in what pressure you want and the machine beeps when it’s done. This looked like it was used to inflate the wheels on penny farthings! Fred Flintstone probably stopped off to use this on the way to Bedrock. We went to two separate gas stations and they both had the same. It’s like a time warp.

 

Afterwards we went to the social security office where we waited for about an hour and I incited a rebellion. I made some buddies at the social security office (I always make a buddy) waiting in the line and we got chatting about how it wasn’t very confidential because people were going up to the window and you could hear all their business so they all said they were going to complain. I said I wasn’t going to complain because I was a foreigner and didn’t want to rock the boat. A girl there who looked about my age asked if Kim was my daughter, so I said I hope not as I married her… seriously, Kim is 26… I’d have to be about 45 for her to be my kid… do I look 45??? I’m not even 30 yet. Not amused. The girl looked like she wanted to be swallowed up into a hole in the ground and I would have pushed her. Pft. Had to explain Kim is just a midget.

 

Packing Up And Lord Mayor’s Procession

So I’ve been pretty busy the last couple weeks or so packing up the rest of my house into 2 suitcases and selling everything. Selling things was the most annoying, I sold bigger items online on Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace and every single thing I sold there was hassle. People wanted more money off, wanted to collect things at really odd times, turned up late, they wanted things delivered when I’d put collection only, they couldn’t find my house, they couldn’t find my house even when I sent them maps with a place marker on. Don’t people get taught to read maps anymore? It was endlessly annoying to sort out between my last few shifts at work. The only painless transaction was selling my beloved car Goldie, a couple turned up to buy it who looked like Del boy and his wife, a real geezer. I opened the door and he said “Alright darlin?” after he went for a quick test drive he got out of Goldie, gave her a reassuring pat and said “pay the lady!” to his wife and they were off. Look at my suitcase…

It took about a good half an hour to get the zips shut to here… I found my first grey hair the other day and I am convinced this is why.

So finally everything was pretty much sorted, you might remember I had texted my Dad to see if he wanted to see me before I went. My Dad and I don’t really talk very often although we used to get on like a house on fire, I was a real daddys girl as a child and it was kind of a shame that we hadn’t seen each other for about 12 years. Anyway so he never got back to me with a date so I had given up, I texted him in the last week before I went (mainly to tell him off actually for not getting back to me) and to my surprise we did organise to meet up for lunch and it was so nice. I thought he’d have aged since I last saw him but he looked exactly the same and we got on like we’d never been apart. We went for lunch at a nice Portuguese restaurant and stayed so late chatting it was about 4pm when we left and my Dad got a parking ticket! Oops! So I was so glad we did that and hopefully we can talk a little more often now and have more of a relationship like we used to.

That night my lovely chum Sarah came to collect me and all my crap, the house was still full of stuff which I begged her to take (please Sarah, take my shoe rack, you know you want a shoe rack!). And she kindly dropped me off at my buddy Nancy’s house in Norwich. I also foisted my unwanted goods on Nancy, such as fridge scrabble where I left a special message for her boyfriend Tim (who is also our friend Joy’s brother) concerning her vegetarianism.

 The next day Nancy, Sarah, Joy and I took a trip into Norwich city because it was the Lord Mayor’s Procession.

So there was quite a lot of things on… I’m not sure why there was an octopus but whatever.

So we got a good spot to watch, but my god we had to wait, the procession was late because of some sort of running marathon thing so we had to watch these runners go back and forth for about half an hour. The mayor and his council buddies wafted about in their ceremonial dress and chains.

There were a lot of floats and dancers and bands.

Most of them were pretty fun.

A couple of them we didn’t understand though, one of them was a tractor and trailer and in the trailer were elderly people waving… who let them in it? I think they need to be more selective.

I felt sorry for the dancers and acrobats because they had to dance the entire length of the procession so they must have been exhausted.

After the procession Sarah, Joy, Nancy and I went to Nandos for some chicken and I saw my buddy Megan quickly and her sister because she had some coffee for me for a leaving gift (thaaannnkkss) so that was good.

Tim had been working nights so I didn’t get to see him but he left me a new addition to our scrabble and I left one back. Nancy and her family go to France every year but she was endlessly confused by the word escargot.