10 days and a whole lifetime later, and…wow. I live in England.
Getting out of Germany went remarkably smoothly (that makes it sound like I escaped from East Berlin at the height of the Cold War or something, which is not at all how I felt about leaving Freiburg). There were a couple of close calls, like finding out that the minivan we had rented didn’t have the right kind of insurance for us to be able to drive it to England. We found this out as we were actually getting into said minivan to drive away, and at the very last minute we had to rent a station wagon-thingie instead. It truly was a miracle that we managed to get all of our stuff into it. It was a very cramped but mercifully uneventful ride from Freiburg to Calais, where we caught the ferry to Dover, and then from Dover to Brighton, where we stepped into our new house about 3 in the morning, our minds still reeling from the packing and the hours in the car and the stress of riding on the “wrong" side of the road in the middle of the night on very dark, very twisty English streets.
I’m still trying to absorb everything. I think that I was in a bit of shock for the first few days. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in England, and that this unfamiliar apartment in an unfamiliar town was “home." I felt like I was in limbo, really, or like I was on vacation or just playing house or something. As we’ve gotten more settled in our apartment, that feeling has started to leave me, but everything is still a whirlwind, and I really don’t feel like I’m leading any sort of normal, real life. Not yet.
Emotional turmoil and physical exhaustion aside, I’m enjoying myself. Considering the reputation of English cuisine, it may sound crazy to say that I’ve been reveling in the food situation here - but it’s true. I’ve been stuffing myself with Cheddar cheese, which is the best cheese in the whole world and which I really missed eating in Germany, trivial as it may seem. Jeremy and I have been flying around to the countless cafes and restaurants and take-aways in Brighton. We’ve found great burritos, yummy curries, delicious coffees, superb Cornish pasties and absolutely divine sandwiches. Brighton is a food-lover’s paradise.
I’ve been looking at the sea every time I leave the house, and I just keep thinking, “Wow, I live by the sea!” I love being by the water, and it’s fascinating to see how it changes from day to day. I love the smell of the saltwater and seaweed. I love hearing the waves on the rocky beach. I quite like the desolation of the beach at this time of year, in the windy grey weather.
I’ve been getting myself settled in my new house. Our apartment here is smaller than our apartment in Freiburg, but I like it a lot. We have high ceilings, and a big kitchen, and lovely windows that let in tons of light during the day - a big change from the basement darkness of our place in Germany. We’ve been putting up shelves and hanging pictures and stocking our kitchen cabinets with all the curious things that are apparently indispensable in an English household: Marmite, brown sauce, Branston pickle and lemon curd.
We’ve also been stocking up on things like “draught excluder”, which is insulation for the not-quite-sealed-up windows (one of the perks of living in a 150-year-old house) and which came in handy several days ago when we were having gale-force winds and hail storms and more rain than I have seen in a very long time.
I’ve been shopping on Sundays. Shopping on Sundays! Unthinkable!
I’ve been trying to figure out English plumbing. Incomprehensible.
And basically I’ve been trying to become acquainted with this town and this country and these people. It’s all going to take some time, but that’s okay. I’m getting a kick out of this exploratory phase, where everything is new and there seem to be a million things to discover and a million things to do. I’m sure all the experiences will give me a lot of fodder for this site, and now that British Telecom has decided to cooperate and finally turn on my phone so that I can get online, I’m sure that I will be able to get back to my semi-regular journal updates filled with endless introspection and musings on yet another foreign culture and yet another phase of my expatriate life. Please bear with me.