Hannah Drake

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 04

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A few weeks ago, I was hanging the washing up to dry and I realized I had been doing laundry for a full week. Before I moved, it would take me a week to do laundry simply because I forgot I had clothes in the dryer. This, instead, is a full week of labor. We only have a washing machine (located in our kitchen) and one clothes horse. We have a clothing line outside, but--you know--England in the fall isn't exactly the best time to dry clothes outside. Even keeping them inside nowadays takes longer to dry with the chill and the humidity. Now I see why people complain that they're always doing laundry.

My mom came to visit for a few days this month. She flew with my wedding dress and we got to thank her by hosting her for the week and taking her around the country to sightsee. It was so great being able to show my mom the home and life we've built here, especially because virtually everything I've done in and around the house has been because it's something she taught me. We took her up to meet Luke's parents and down to see some historical villages. I realized during her week here that spending about 75% of my waking hours alone has turned me into even more of an introvert than I ever was. I also learned that I needn't be afraid to ask for what I need--even if that's a bit of time alone to decompress--because that can really affect my mood for the entire day.

Truly, it was quite lovely having her visit, the first of many, I hope! Despite my introvertedness, I can't deny that I simply love playing host. I really enjoyed making sure the guest room was up to snuff, making dinner, and asking "Do you have everything you need?" more times in an hour than a waiter in the States. It'll be nice next time we have out of town (or out of country) guests that our house will be a bit more homey with the rest of my things being delivered from across the pond hopefully in a few weeks!

Before she left, my mom oversaw the shipment of the rest of my worldly processions. (Well, 99% of the rest.) She packed everything into a huge crate and it was picked up from her garage a few weeks ago. Now it's crossing the Atlantic via ship. I'm mostly looking forward to the little things around the house that make it a home. Pictures and artwork, candles, bookends, etc. Even some of my baking and cooking utensils. We've been living the past 5 months without measuring cups and my home economics teacher would kill me if she knew I was measuring flour and sugar in a measuring jug. We finally got an ETA and it should be in London in about a week and a half. Hopefully it's not too long before it makes it up here and gets delivered.

The day I dropped my mom off in London to catch her flight home to Colorado, I met up with a friend in town. We met each other at the Sundance Film Festival, where I volunteered in 2014 and 2015. She was in town with her husband who is here on business. We went to the Royal Mews and then she graciously agreed to go with me to Chipotle so I could have a little taste of home. It was fun hanging out with her. We haven't seen each other in nearly 3 years, but I've kept up with her and her daughter on social media all this time. It was fun hanging out with a friend in London and I'm sure it won't be the last. I just hope I have the time in the future since I'll surely be working.

In regards to my process of settling here in the UK, I've had some major steps forward! I was finally able to open a bank account. I nearly broke down in tears at Lloyd's Bank when she said they couldn't use our council tax bill as proof of address because they spelled my name Hanna instead of Hannah. Luckily I also brought our tenancy agreement and they accepted that. So long story short, I have a current (debit) account! That feels so huge because almost every American I know here has expressed their similar trials and tribulations getting a bank account, so it always feels like a cause for celebration.

Meanwhile, we were supposed to have an appointment to get my next visa, Further Leave to Remain, the day after my mom left. Luke had booked the day off work and we rushed to get everything together last minute after failing to plan ahead before my mom got in. I got an email while I was on the train headed back from London like 18 hours before the appointment saying they were experiencing IT problems at the office and had to cancel my appointment, so we had to reschedule. It was incredibly frustrating, but completely out of our control, I suppose. However, it was only about a 10 day delay and everything went off without a hitch on Friday. (I'll post more about that process soon.)

We spent a weekend in Ireland visiting Luke's brother who just had a baby with his wife. We went over for Fionn's christening and it was really cool to be able to be a part of it and experience that part of Irish culture. And of course meeting our nephew and spending time with Luke's family. I just got a sneak peek at Ireland and I already can't wait to go back to see a little bit more of Dublin. Maybe do a road trip through the country and Northern Ireland. It was a bank holiday the day we spent a few hours in the city, so sadly we didn't get to see Trinity College and we decided not to do the Guinness or Jameson tours, so they're still on our list for next time.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before--on social media or my blog--but I get asked about driving quite a lot. The answer is that I don't drive. Where we live makes it easy to walk or take the train a lot of places I need to go without Luke. Otherwise, he drives. Because I have a valid driver's license from Colorado, I am legally able to drive for a year. A lot of people have recommended I start driving as soon as possible while it's still fresh in my mind, but I needed some time to adjust to being on the other side of the car and the road. I'm used to it now, but now the narrow roads are keeping me from trying. Also, most people--Luke included--drive a manual. I know how to drive one, though it's been years, and of course the gear is on the left side of the driver. (The pedals are the same.) One of these days, I'll give it a shot, but there just isn't too much need right now, since we certainly wouldn't be getting a second car anytime soon. Even though I'm able to drive with my Colorado license until June 2018, I can also take a test here to get my license as early as December. (Oddly, if I fail the test, I'm still able to drive until June.) I'm not sure if that'll happen in 2017, but I do think I'll take driving lessons before taking the test just to get used to everything here.

I applied for a job here for the first time this week! Now that I have my visa (even though I'm waiting to get the ID card in the post), I can finally start looking for work. I had to polish up my CV (résumé) and I discovered I hadn't updated it since March of 2015. That was a whole job ago! The place I first applied is a retail store located in the train station in town. The whole process is done online and one of the last pages was only to be completed if you live in Northern Ireland. I found it really interesting because, while it wasn't required to complete the application, they ask if you belong to the Catholic or Protestant communities. (Between that question and our recent trip where we spent some time in Dublin at the General Post Office learning about the Irish Uprising and some of the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland, I definitely want to learn more about that country!) Anyway, fingers crossed I'm able to find a job soon!