Wednesday, 27 January 2010

lolcat politics

Stolen from a friend...
Marina Hyde says it better than I probably could.

Indeed. It's started already, and the next day we have what is probably the first politico"gate" of the this here silly season.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Once more with feeling

I was, understandably, very anxious about the situation in which I found myself.

A figure, taller than me and dressed in black, stood uncomfortably close to me with a strong, powerful, and menacing stance. My hands were warm and clammy.

The figure stared at me, and then struck to punch me in the face. From that point, everything moved in slow in motion.

I swatted the figure's arm with my right arm, grabbed it with my left arm and turned and twisted the puncher's arm around their back.

I smiled and nodded my head. I'd got it right.

"You're getting the hang of it, let's try doing it quicker now," My kickboxing partner said. She was about my age, but wore a coloured belt and knew what she was doing. Her legs and arms had flown unnervingly close to my face already that hour.

I laughed. Slow motion is about as fast as I can go so far. "I won't be very good if someone attacks me in the street," I replied, "I know what to do now, but I'll have to stop and ask them to slow down so I can retaliate!"

"You're doing alright. There are a lot of moves to take in at first. You'll get the hang of it."

"I find it easier to master if I make noises along to the moves. Rah, HUH, rur, Argh, OOF!" It makes me feel like Bruce Lee. Or a Wimbledon tennis player on a rampage.

Yes indeed, some of my workmates and I have started kickboxing, just for fun, just on a whim. And it was fun, kicking and punching the air and then blocking our partner's attacks in slow motion. I think we'll go back next week at least, because we'll get to throw people about. Shoplifters beware.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Off the back burner

I had put my 'career' and all thoughts of it on the back-burner until the new year, and now time has sped by and the year is suddenly not so new. I had returned to work and quickly slipped back into full-time routine. In the back of my mind there was a vague notion that I should probably start applying for internships and other positions so that I can at least enter the second half of 2010 on track with my little step by step plan.

I have been loosely tracking various websites to follow who is looking for interns, and who will pay for them. I have not totally ruled out unpaid internships. Unpaid internships are still the main source of work experience for my chosen field, but in light of all the exciting things that happened over Christmas, and all the exciting things that will happen somewhere down the line, I have to be a bit more cautious about my decisions.

I hadn't started applying for things yet when I got this phone call. It was very unexpected, and even if it leads nowhere, I'm pleasantly surprised that they thought to call me personally. At very least, it brought that vague notion out from the back of my mind, and now I'm fired up again...Fired up and feeling good.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Post Script

I neglected to mention something didn't I? I know what you all really want to know...

What happened to the tree, right?

Did we ever get the Christmas tree lit?

Story short: yes, we did. Thanks to giving in and buying overpriced lights from a local hardware store (I am convinced they bought out all the Walmart lights and charged double, y'know, in the spirit of American entrepreneurialism and according to laws of supply and demand) and Sister-in-Law-to-be's partner's gift of a few strings, Christmas was saved and the day was light. Everyone loved their gifts.


Of course I said yes.

This changes everything. I felt a bit awkward about outlining such a personal story, but it would be anticlimactic to say "I got engaged, so now my career plans have changed." It would also be incorrect. But along with falling head over heels, the rest of my life has also been turned upside down, so the most romantic moment of my life must be post-scripted by notions of a more pragmatic nature. Boo.

Coming back after Christmas has been hard, so much harder than when we parted in September after the end of our studies. The overly seasonable weather hasn't helped, and I found myself snowed in, with an extra few days off work, and much to consider. For the first time in a while I found myself frustrated with my situation, which sounds rather ungrateful for a girl who just got engaged!

We have the kinds of obstacles that are not present in some other relationships. We have jobs to find, visas to apply for, and money to raise. For those who have no experience of this, the spouse visa process is a stranger and more bewildering realm than I could have imagined. It seems to be a slow-moving bureaucratic cruise through oceans of paperwork... Visa Journey is not a tourist site or a travel brochure.

So the wedding will not take place for a while. As for 2010, my short-term plans remain the same, although I now have more to consider as I pursue my goals. We. We have more to consider as we pursue our goals!

As soon as the snow melts I will start driving. I will then start applying for internships and jobs. However, as I now have weddings and visas and travel costs to think about, money is going to become a greater concern... for both of us. We are both from families of modest means. Doing long stints of unpaid interning in an expensive city (be it Brussels, London, DC...), even after my time living rent-free with my parents and working and saving, may not be as feasible an option while I save for other items. But we will wait and see.

This new decade has begun with 2010 as a huge turning point in my life script. I feel that from hereon in, nothing is going to be quite the same again. It's going to be interesting, and probably exciting, but also potentially a mundane struggle. January feels like a limbo month, where I have all the information I need to take the next steps, but I have to sit and wait for further instruction on where to go and how to get there.

For now I'm working a seven day week, making up for my time abroad and allowing my manager to take some much-needed time off before it all gets busy again, and saving my wee pennies for future plans and pipe dreams.

Yet there is something else I haven't mentioned. Fiance(!) and I are waiting for news that could potentially change everything yet again. But that is another story for another day...

Monday, 4 January 2010

Without a Hitch

T'was the week before Christmas, I was wearing a dress,
I had been told earlier to put on my best...

Incidentally, the bulldog loved me. He would wait for me to emerge from my bedroom each morning and barked defensively whenever Boyfriend came near me. He would joke "your boyfriend's getting jealous" and I'd appease the dog with some good ol' backscratching. Approval from the family dog must count for something, right?

I was told to wear formal dinner clothes, but with shoes I could walk in. As I brushed bulldog hairs from my overcoat, before we left, my boyfriend reminded me about the favour of picking out a locket for his sister in the next couple of days. He was really anxious about making sure the jeweler had it in time for Christmas, and the weather report was looking treacherous for Christmas week, which could only impede things. "Thank you for helping him out" his Mom/Mum added, "we want something really heirloom quality for his sister, and it's been a hassle to get this all sorted in time."

Boyfriend and I had only met in February, when some small freak snow had littered our University city in the UK, and on our but second date we strolled through the local botanic garden, him trying to impress me and me sliding on the ice like a kid. I was now being taken to a botanic garden (in the USA!) and for a formal dinner as a pre-Christmas treat. Wrong time of year to see a garden maybe? Yes, all of the trees were bare. The flower beds were empty. But the weather was clear (luckily) and the garden trees were lit (beautifully) with festive lights that slowly illuminated as we walked around the park as the cold sun fell. We entertained for a moment a plan to strip some of the trees of lights for our still as yet naked tree back at the house. Sadly, wearing a dress is not conducive to climbing trees. Or walking in the cold.

We spent ages in the network of conservatories, indoor and warm, travelling from subsaharan Africa to ferny jungle. Each room had its own themed Christmas wreath, made of palm trees, ferns, succulents, or roses. As evening wore on the gardens filled with more people.

We queued for dinner in the conservatory restaurant, and Boyfriend's heart sank as a denim-attired group with long hair and baseball caps were given a table in the restaurant. It claimed to be a fine dining restaurant, but it seemed that we were both ridiculously and hilariously overdressed. I could only laugh. We were given a quiet corner table though, and dinner was delicious, the service was great and our tip was complimentary.

Afterwards I was led to a hall where we were treated to a wonderful gospel choir concert. I have loved gospel since I saw Sister Act II at the cinema as a kid, always wanted to experience it live, and I have a secret desire to be reincarnated as a gospel star. It was a gorgeous Christmas experience to hear their jubilant hymns, and I should let you know that it even beats the Coca Cola ad for bringing out the festive spirit in folks.

As the evening drew to a close, the stresses of the holiday season were behind me. After dinner had finished and my anxious pre-emptive speculations about the evening had been proven false (come on, jewelry store? locket? posh dinner?), I melted into the thought that this could be one of many lovely dinner evenings to come. How deliciously pleasant.

That was until we were walking to the car, and we meandered to the museum house to have a quick saunter round. It was a typical colonial American building, full of artifacts about the estate that Boyfriend could only feign interest in. He started to walk faster and more agitatedly through the display rooms before proclaiming brusquely "I need to get outside, there are too many people in here and I don't feel well."

I rolled my eyes, and followed him out and round to a dark corner of the outside porch. The fountain light show was going on just behind some tall evergreen trees. I slumped down next to him on a bench.

It was cold. The fountain light show played its classical Christmas music in the background. He apologised, and he spoke to me for a bit.

And he asked if I would marry him.

And it was a ring, not a locket, of course.

And yes, he had been anxious all week: he wanted Christmas to go without a hitch, but with the promise of getting hitched.

Friday, 1 January 2010


The holiday season is a stressful time by default. I already mentioned some of my fears about spending Christmas with the boyfriend and about meeting his parents and potentially being dismissed for my dubious gift of Twiglets. Also, the fears about careers and jobs and money didn't go away at this time, as far as I tried to put them to the back of my mind.

I wasn't the only one with seasonal jitters. I could see that my boyfriend wanted to make sure that the all-American Christmas that he had envisioned for me went off without a hitch. He tried his hardest to make sure that everything was perfect, from the brand of mincemeat (so I could bring a taste of British Christmas tradition: drinking mulled wine and eating Jus'Roll Pastry mince pies with a Dr Who special on the telly) to the order of seasonal DVDs chosen to background the family festivities in the run up to Christmas day.

The day after I arrived we took a family trip to the Christmas tree farm to pick our sprucy ornament, all 12 feet of it. I appreciate that choosing the perfect Christmas tree is imperative to set the mood for the year's celebrations. However, my boyfriend takes tree shopping to another level. He traipses around the rows of trees and gives a full 360 degree analysis of the specimens on offer, making assessments on height, vertical infallibility (no leaning allowed), corpulence and needle retention. In no other situation is the sight of grown men wandering around shaking trees by the trunk considered acceptable and normal behaviour.

"It's just not the same anymore," He lamented. "We looked up and down the state for the right farm for you to visit. All the good trees are usually tagged before they get to the height they should be. These trees will be excellent in a few years' time, but only if they are given a chance to grow."

As it happened, we did get a beautiful pre-cut tree from upstate, but he remained sorely disappointed that I wasn't going to get the experience of chopping one down for myself. I think for the sake of my fingers that this was a good thing. At least I still have ten of them.

But you heard it kids: give trees a chance to grow. Just $2 a month will help these poor undernourished trees achieve...

Anyway, another cue for stress came when the men performed the ritual of bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic for a dust-off, with the ceremonial untangling and pre-tree trial of the lights. As per Santa's Law, only one set of lights was working. We travelled to all the supermarkets in the land but there were but no white lights left. The three wise men definitely didn't have this problem.

"Do you have any white lights?" Boyfriend enquired at each establishment.

"Alas, not anymore, dear sire" they didn't reply.

"Will you get anymore?" Boyfriend asked. He was greeted with perverse looks and shakes of heads, and derisory comments that next year he should try Christmas shopping more than a week in advance. This set him into an electric rage, while I had certain pumpkin-themed flashbacks and convinced him to calm down.

The weather didn't help. Snow storms and weather warnings and mayor-proclaimed weather emergencies meant that plans had to be canceled or rearranged. Buying gifts for all, with the snow and the money concerns, was another stress. And I had my own secret worries that the gifts I was giving to the boyfriend's family weren't going to be good enough. Girl wants to make a good impression on her first yankee Christmas (and don't worry, I knew that a hold-baggage battered box of Twiglets wasn't going to cut it).

Until the phone rang. And Boyfriend picked it up. And left the room.

He came back and look flustered.

The phone rang again. He left the room again.

He came back and looked even redder.

"I'm having an argument with a jeweler's," he eventually explained.
My blood ran cold and my eyes widened.

"We're getting an heirloom locket for my sister, and it's been no end of trouble. We'll need to go out to the mall across the state on Saturday I'm afraid. I need a female eye to make sure it's going to be acceptable." I agreed, shoulders relaxing.

Anything to be part of a perfect family Christmas. This could only win me family favour, I reasoned. With the weather, lights, and tree providing enough havoc over the season I was only too glad to help. And as I said, he was desperate for Christmas to go without a hitch.