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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Day 9: Hanging with the fellow expats. [20041017|03:15]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I get up fairly early for a Sunday. I decide I'm going to be clever and run to the market for some orange juice and cream before Marco wakes up. The trouble is, I've forgotten that this is the UK. The grocery store doesn't open until 11 am. I go back home to wait. Marco has to get up and get ready for his football game, so no fresh juice for him. I am feeling miffed on my second walk to the grocery store, a feeling that is not diminished by the failure of the cash point to dispense any money and subsequently, by the failure of my deadbolt key to open the front door when I have a heavy load of highly perishable goods in my arms. I have to call Marco, who has to run back from his football game and open the door for me. I unload the groceries and call Janelle, who has promised to take me to Spitalfields Market that day.

We ride the 214 bus from the stop right next to my house all the way to the Liverpool Street tube station. We walk through the tube station and into the market, which is more like what I remember Camden Market being when I first visited London four years ago. The stalls are all tiny and crammed together, the goods are cheap, handmade and often high quality. We look at everything, but try not to spend too much. I buy mostly little things – a tea-light holder made of salt, stripey over-the-knee socks (hard to find in California), head wraps. We have crepes and hot chocolate for our late lunch. My biggest purchase is a Lomo camera. It uses 35 mm film and takes four exposures at either 2 or 0.2 seconds. I saw it when I first walked into the market, but I put it to the test first. If I was still thinking about it before we left, I'd buy it. I was.

Janelle mentions that it's tough to make friends with the English. She thinks they are quite clique-prone. They have their schoolmates and their college friends, and a lot of them don't make much of an effort to reach out to new people. I wonder about this a little. It's certainly true that expats seem to band together here. However, that's true in the US as well. Even though we speak the same language, it can be hard to break through barriers that are unintentionally raised by misconstrued body cues and nuances of inflection. For instance, it can be difficult to understand regional variations on the English accent, and when you're constantly saying, "What? What?" to someone, it will almost inevitably be off-putting. It's tough to overcome social obstacles simply by "trying harder." I think the key is simply persisting in being friendly, keeping your ears open, listening more than you talk, and buying lots of rounds of beer. That way, everybody's mumbling, but no one cares what's being said.

Seriously, though, as an expatriate, I think that the burden of making friends is entirely on me. It's true that the natives are mostly not looking to expand their acquaintance, because they don't have a strong motivation to do so. They have fully developed social circles not because they're elitists, but because they live here. That's it. Complaining that the community is closed to me when I don't find instantaneous acceptance will gain me nothing. I must put the effort into asking questions and into sharing myself with them. I am the one who must get phone numbers and e-mail addresses, who must call and make plans with people. I think - I hope - that they will appreciate it, too, because as a non-native, I probably have a greater motivation for venturing out.

Then again, Janelle may be right. She has been here quite a bit longer than I have. We will see.
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Comments:
From: ripperlyn
2004-10-21 05:17 (UTC)
Funny, I found that in London I was mostly friends with the expats (other students) at first, but now there's a fairly solid group of people I know down there...

Anyway, have you been in touch with capitalflash, etc? I can text you her number if you want it.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-10-22 13:29 (UTC)
I'm starting to think that experienced expats function as a sort of bridge for new arrivals to making friends with the natives. Marco, for instance, had a bit of help from two workmates, the aforementioned Janelle and Mike, who'd been there for four years and recently returned to the States.

No, I haven't been in touch with capitalflash. I know she left her mobile number in a comment a while back, but I haven't been able to find it and the e-mail notification is long deleted. I can totally understand if you don't want to spend the cash on expensive text messages, so if you could just e-mail it to me when you get a chance, that would be great. I think we were going to meet at the Ben Crouch at some point. :-)
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From: ripperlyn
2004-10-23 03:47 (UTC)
Yeah, definately the expats can help you meet the natives. <g I'll email her number in a moment. I HAVE WIRELESS IN MY ROOM NOW! AND I GOT YOUR LETTER TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH THE EXCITEMENT THAT IS MY LIFE!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-10-26 11:26 (UTC)
Dude! I have to tell you how impressed I am with the UK-internal postal system. I mailed that letter to you at 5 pm the day before you got it, and you received it before noon. WOW. I mean, if you mail something in L.A. to someone in L.A. via first-class post, it won't get there until at least the next day.
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From: ripperlyn
2004-10-26 22:54 (UTC)
OMG, I so keep forgetting to bring your letter out with me when I leave the house. But I have a letter for you. Which I will mail soon.

I'm going to be down in London from 25-30 November, and am really really hoping we get to hang out a bit? And maybe I could stay at your place at some point while I'm there, as I always worry I'm imposing too much on capitalflash and her kind flatmates?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-10-27 11:41 (UTC)
Oh man, this kind of sucks. I may be in San Diego from 25-30 November. :-( Some friends of mine and Marco's are getting married, and their wedding is on the 27th. His birthday is the 28th. We're not sure if he can go, or if it'll just be me, or maybe I won't go at all if it's too expensive. I should know by the end of the week. IIf I am here, yes, absolutely, you can stay. I'll get back to you as soon as I know.
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From: ripperlyn
2004-10-27 13:45 (UTC)
...!!! I will be so upset if you're not in town because I don't think I'll get back down until after the new year! ::sniffle sniffle::
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From: ripperlyn
2004-10-27 13:49 (UTC)
...not that I'm into guilt-tripping people or anything.

::sniff::
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-10-30 18:21 (UTC)
It looks like neither of us is going to go. It's way too expensive right now, even with my travel voucher, so I'm going to wait until January. So! We will see you soon. :-D
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From: ripperlyn
2004-10-30 21:59 (UTC)
YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

::deep breath::

AYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You get the idea. So excited!!!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-11-01 15:34 (UTC)
Me too! Thank you for your text last night - I didn't see it until this morning. I had a mellow Halloween. Marco may have a broken rib, so we couldn't do anything too exciting. We went to a pub in West London to visit with some friends from Marco's work. A few pints, some apple crumble, a guy in a bright orange pumpkin suit walking his little dog...good times. :-P

Sounds like you had fun, too - did you dress up?
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From: ripperlyn
2004-11-01 15:47 (UTC)
Hee hee. I got myself gorgeous (well, more so than usual) then wore two itty bitty devil horns. Basically I was just dead sexy. :) Heh.

Hope it's just a strain and not a break. :(

Read your thing the other day about the Intrepid Fox...I went there once while I was studying in London, it seemed okay but I was with a group of people and we were pretty smashed by the time we got there. Sorry your experience was so negative. :(

Have you been to the Ben Crouch yet, or am I taking you there when I'm in town? Also, Bell Book & Candle by St. Pauls is nice. (They're part of the same chain.)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-11-01 17:50 (UTC)
Excellent! I hope you took pictures. It's always good to record incidences of being dead sexy.

I hope Marco's ribs aren't broken, too. It's been over a week now and he's still in enough pain to avoid working out. Usually it takes something being broken to keep him from working out, so he's decided that if it's not better by Friday, he'll go get an x-ray.

About the Fox, well, I don't think the pub itself was bad or that all the people in it were that sleazy. I just happened to converse with ones who were. I'd go there again - I love the decor - but I don't think I'd go there alone.

I haven't been to the Ben Crouch yet! I might try to go there this month, but since I'm sorta doing the NaNoWriMo thing, I'm not sure I'll make it before you arrive. I'll definitely go with you when you're here though. :-)
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From: ripperlyn
2004-11-01 21:39 (UTC)
No, no pictures, it was just lovely, lovely gorgeousness on the part of ME. I'll bring the outfit when I come down there and be dead sexy at some of you Londoners as well. ;)

OMG do your NaNoWriMo thing and we'll go to the Ben Crouch to celebrate the successful completion of your novel. Which you will let me read. Yes?
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From: ripperlyn
2004-11-01 21:41 (UTC)
Um, also, I may be being paranoid here but he should maybe contact his GP (he is registered with a GP, right?)and see about setting up an appointment for Friday. He can always cancel, and you never know with the NHS...it's not quite like in the USA where you can just turn up and expect prompt medical care, from what I've heard. And if he's had it for a week it might be hard to convince them it's an emergency.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-10-22 13:36 (UTC)
When you were looking for an ATM, did you ask for an "ATM?" I ask this in all seriousness, because I actually had people give me strange looks on my first visit to England when I said I needed to visit an ATM. I described it and they said "Ohhhh, a cash point!" They don't say ATM here at all. By the way, I'm not saying that it's impossible that some tiny backwater English town didn't have a, um, cash point. I believe you when you say you couldn't find one.

Did I tell you the story about the mail boxes? I was walking around looking for a mail box to drop off my letters and I went up and down the street about five times before I realized I'd gone right past it. Because it was red. I was looking for a blue mail box, because that's the color they're supposed to be, you know. :-P
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