Thanksgiving

Food, friends, family, football. Thanksgiving is a time for coming together, pigging out and being thankful for life and love.

Growing up in England, we did not celebrate Thanksgiving. But now that I live in California I have had a small taste of the holiday. I am totally into being thankful for what we have. I look around at the selfishness of humabity sometimes and just wish that there was more gratefulness in everyday life. More grace. More care. More love.

For me, Thanksgiving feels almost like a pre-Christmas. A celebration with a huge meal. And the lack of gift-giving and focus on being thankful allows for a little less focus on the material and more on love (and food).

For some it’s all about the football. My husband is a big Dallas Cowboys fan, and apparently they play every Thanksgiving. The most valuable player in that game wins a giant turkey!

Some traditional Thanksgiving foods include sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Brussel sprouts seem to be popular also. And pumpkin pie! I tried making a green bean casserole last year, but I’m not really sure what it is supposed to taste like. I didn’t think mine tasted so great! But it was edible. This year I am keeping it simple. Turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and gravy. Apple pie and ice cream for dessert. There will only be two of us so no need for a huge feast. Though one day it would be nice to experience that full family feast Thanksgiving.

What do you like best about Thanksgiving? What is your favourite food? Do you have any traditions that you uphold on this holiday? Do you have Friendsgiving instead?

Pies

When I think of pie, hearty, meaty savory pies tend to come to my mind. My favourite kind of pie is chicken pie. And after that beef mince pie. My Dad loves pork pie. And pasties are a whole other category of pie that make my mouth water. The pasty does not really exist in America. Sure, they do have savory pies, such as the chicken pot pie, but they lack the distinct flavouring that British pies have.

Fall is here and it is almost Thanksgiving. The kind of pies that most commonly come to my mind here around this time of year are sweet potato pies, cherry pies and apple pies. There are so many kinds of dessert pies here. Boston cream pie sounds particularly delicious to me…. or chocolate cream pie… or banana cream pie… basically any kind of pie with cream. Yum! Of course, Britain has dessert pies too – my nana makes a mean apple pie. Then there is the mince (fruit) pie that melts in your mouth like a Christmas explosion around Christmas time.

There is something so comforting about a pie. Don’t you think? I certainly miss British pies. But it is nice to be able to try different things. Maybe I will even try making a pie this year for Thanksgiving. Wish me luck!

What’s your favourite kind of pie?

Culture Shock

When I moved to the USA from the UK, I received training at an au pair school. One of the things they tried to prepare us for was culture shock. Culture Shock is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes” (Oxford Languages). Yet, despite learning about culture shock, I still wasn’t prepared to experience it.

Culture shock can manifest in different ways for different people. I couldn’t imagine experiencing culture shock in a country that I thought I knew so well. After all, I was an English speaker and I watched plenty of American movies to know what living here was like, right? Wrong. And to top it off, I was living with a family of Russians, so the main language I was hearing (and unable to understand) was not my own. I found myself becoming homesick. There many things to adjust to… from the food, to the way people behaved.

If you experience culture shock, don’t be surprised if you start to feel irritable. Perhaps there are systems that are frustrating (I felt like there were always long wait times or lines, stating at the airport when you arrive in the USA and have to go through customs). Perhaps you are tired of not being able to understand the language or are having a hard time keeping up with cultural references in conversation. Sometimes you may also begin to feel lonely. For me, these things meant that I began staying in my room more and really missing my family.

Some tips on how to handle this are:

1. Keep an open mind. Things are bound to be different than you are used to. Accept this and try to embrace it. Focus on the positive differences and find things that you enjoy to do. Practice the language. Maybe watch a few movies from that country or read some books. Don’t criticize or judge… instead find things that you DO like about where you are. Differences are what makes travelling interesting.

2. Accept that you will be homesick. Ask your family to send you some treats from home. Set up a time to call with them each week. You could even plan a trip to visit home, if you are living in a new country or are struggling to adjust. But also, try to make friends where you are. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings – find places you enjoy going to. Go exploring. Take language classes and practice speaking the language that you are immersed in. See this as an opportunity to improve yourself and to make new friends. Soon, the new will become the familiar.

3. Time. It may take a while to get used to a new place. Try new things. Familiarize yourself with what is local. Before you know it, you will get used to where you are.

Don’t worry. You will start to adapt to the new culture you have entered. Sometimes it takes a few hours, and sometimes it takes a few weeks. After hiding in my room for a while, I began embracing my new home. I took Russian lessons and practiced with the family that I lived with, asking them to help me. I went for walks and mini-adventures, discovering what this new place had to offer. I made friends with other au pairs, who were going through the same thing (I was lucky to be part of a group that were all going though the adjustment – it was easy to meet people since we had au pair meetings every month). And soon, this became my home too.

However, it is possible that you will also feel strange when you go back home. Your experience away may have changed you. You may have to get used things again if you have been away for a long time. For me, it is always nice to be back home. I live in the USA still, but I visit my family in England as often as I can. I love the familiarity of home. It is like a warm embrace. But what makes me feel weird, is when some things are different than they were when I lived there – when the familiar is no longer familiar. For instance, they changed the money in the UK so that now it looks different from when I lived there.

Culture shock can be a little jarring. But when you travel or live in a new place… you may discover things that are wonderful. Perhaps you will find a new hobby or a new favourite food. You may meet amazing people or do things out of your comfort zone. You could end up with crazy adventure stories that make you more interesting. Or you may experience something life-changing. Remember, if you find yourself struggling to adjust, it will get easier with time.

Have you experienced culture shock? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Halloween

I dressed as a witch for Halloween 2020

Halloween is a big deal in USA. Or it is for many people, at least. From decorations, to parties, to trick-or-treating – they just do it right here. Growing up in the UK, my family never celebrated Halloween. I remember carving a pumpkin once, and dressing up for school parties once in a while, but Halloween was never something that we looked forward to with huge excitement. That’s not to say that England doesn’t have trick-or-treating or fun Halloween events and parties, it’s just something we didn’t celebrate. And of course, every year we would wait to see if anyone would egg our house.

When I moved to California, I lived in a neighbourhood in Menlo Park. It is a nice, quiet community. At Halloween, the people really come together to make it a special time for kids and adults alike. Many people decorate, some quite extravagantly. It was so fun for me to walk around the neighbourhood and just enjoy the decorations for the whole month of October.

On Halloween, that neighbourhood is the place to be for trick-or-treating. People even come from other neighbourhoods because they know that it is a fun place to be. Streets are blocked off and families can enjoy the festivities. Some houses have outdoor movies with popcorn; others have hotdog stands; some have parties for adults; and the treats are not just candy – all kinds of prizes are given out to the kids. I love that the community is able to come together and have some fun at least once a year.

What is Halloween like for you? Do you enjoy dressing up? I for one, LOVE dressing up. Leave a comment…

Accents

Have you ever thought about your accent before?

I grew up in the north of England. Northerners are known for having a strong accent. (Think Ser Davos Seaworth from Game of Thrones). And there are so many colloquialisms that it is almost another language altogether. YouTube the Geordie accent if you have no clue what I’m talking about.

Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northern England

Now, despite growing up surrounded by this gritty, hearty accent, my own accent was always much softer. From a young age, I was always aware of the way I was speaking. I wanted to talk properly. Perhaps this is because of my love of the language, or of structure. Perhaps it was because I read a lot and was also read to often from a very early age. I’m not sure why, but I never developed a strong Northern accent.

My accent diluted further when I went to live in York for University. I spoke too fast and had to learn to slow down so that people could understand me. But it was when I moved to California that I really started to notice my accent.

York, UK 🇬🇧

The people here would comment on my accent when I met them. “I love your accent!” they would say. And sometimes I would get, “Are you from Australia?”. Have you seen ‘Love Actually’? One of the guys goes to America to meet girls because he thinks he has a “cute British accent”. Well, that’s what it felt like – I had the “cute British accent” and I kind of loved how much people loved it.

But the more time I have spent here, the more I have adapted my accent. I went from saying tom-AR-toe to saying to-MAY-toe. And I cringe inside every time it comes out of my mouth, but it does make life a little bit easier when you don’t have to repeat yourself twenty times. Adapting seemed like a small price to pay to live in this amazing place. After all, I have always been a bit of a chameleon.

Every year for our holidays (vacation), we would go to Scotland as a kid. And I LOVED the accent of the people there. I would mimic it as much as possible. I have always had a fascination with interesting accents and tried to mimic them for fun. Scottish is an example of an accent that I think stays with a person more easily. I doubt that many people from Scotland lose their accent when they move to another place. But perhaps I am wrong about that? Perhaps it depends on the person rather than the accent. I know people from the UK who have lived in other places with strong accents, South Africa for instance, and their British accent remained as strong as ever. Yet, my sister went to live in South Africa for a year and came back with the accent (although she went back to speaking in her regular Gerodie accent after a sort while when she moved home).

Scottish Highland Cow

So, despite adapting my accent to be understood more easily, there are some things that have stuck with me. I still say ban-ar-na, for example; and c-ar-n’t; and bin rather than garbage can etc. So now I have a hybrid accent and I’m not sure how much I like it. People don’t hear right away that I have a British accent when I speak now and I miss the idea of having that “cute British accent” – I felt sexy and exotic with it. But I also don’t mind my hybrid accent. I am part of both worlds. I am both British and American. And my accent reflects that.

Do you adapt to where you are? Or do you have no choice but to keep the accent you grew up with? Leave a comment 🙂

My Blog

Hi there! My name is Rachel and I am restarting this blog to tell my experience of life as a Permanent Resident in California. I will talk about Green Card application, life in California, country dancing and more.

I moved to Cali in December 2014. I came as an au pair, although my job was really to teach the children I cared for English, as they were of Russian origin. It was a great way to come to the USA for free and experience a different lifestyle than I was used to in England. I was paid very little, but I had come with a goal of gaining life experience, travel and the pursuit of happiness.

I was 24 and had lived a fairly sheltered life in a small village, with very protective parents. And, although I had moved to another city for university and had lived on my own before, I had never really experienced travel or other cultures. My focus when I was at university was studying and doing the best that I could, and on my boyfriend at the time, with whom I had a long-distance relationship. Then I went on to do teacher training, and that was so intense that I had little time for anything else.

I became a teacher and I discovered that I wasn’t happy. And so I gave up the career that I had worked so hard for and found a way to travel while being paid. Granted, my salary was nothing. But I didn’t care. I went hiking every opportunity I could; I went to beach parties; I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, since I had a network of au pairs; I continued my studies at Stanford University and Palo Alto Adult School – honing talents that inspire me and that I am passionate about, art and writing; I won a cruise to the Bahamas; I explored California on my own and with friends; and eventually, I met my husband.

My husband is from Texas, originally, and he’s a real cowboy. He is a country music radio DJ. I have always had a love for country music and I had started exploring country night clubs etc. I met Randy (my now husband) at a small concert at a club in San Jose, California.

Since then, I got more and more into the country culture. And I even have become a line dance instructor. I absolutely LOVE country dancing. It has been a completely unexpected turn of events for me, and I never would have discovered my love for dancing if I had remained a school teacher in the UK.

So here I am, still in California, living the life, just wondering what will happen next.

San Diego

I went on a trip to San Diego in order to complete my credits so that I do not break my Visa agreement. It was a special course designed for au pairs at Alliant University. The classes covered conflict, history and US politics amongst other things. We also got to do some volunteer work and to see the gorgeous city. I wish that we had gotten to go to the beach though! The beaches in San Diego are supposed to be amazing. I had a really great time and the best part was making new friends, even some that live nearby and I can meet them again soon. I could say so much about this weekend but I am so so tired. All of my pictures are on Facebook though 🙂

Also, I am going on a road trip in October and a cruise in November and I promise I will write in detail about them! 🙂

Beach Party

Hey!

So I  went to a beach party at Half Moon Bay. My host family were away for the weekend so I was lucky that I got to go. I felt like I was in a movie going to a beach party!! I totally dressed wrongly! It was wayyyyy freezing and I was wearing a short playsuit.. This meant that I froze and had to undress when going to the bathroom (meaning on the beach). I did have a hoodie and a poncho with me though which helped a bit. We were some of the first people to arrive, which was good as we actually got to make friends before the drinking and before it got dark. Then more and more people arrived and it was insane. This guy dug a seating area and a bonfire was built in the middle. It was so cool. I sat there with my friends, Meike and Krissi and chatted. Then a Canadian girl came and sat next to us. She was a chemist and super interesting to talk to. She had just come back from New Zealand and I was so jealous that she had been to Hobbiton! She introduced me to her French friend whom she had met the previous week. I was unsure about him at first as he kept joking around. I had noticed him when he first arrived and had thought that he would be a big partier. So there happened to be a rave at the beach at the same time that we were there and my friends decided to go over. I turned around and they were gone and I was left with the French guy and the Canadian girl. So I asked them if they fancied the rave, thinking I would see my friends there. I never found them. The girl ended up talking with a Russian guy, who was a party planner in his spare time. I went over and danced next to the French guy. We ended up spending the night together. We kissed. And he was the second person I’ve ever kissed. I normally would never kiss a guy I just met but the atmosphere was so great and he made me feel so wonderful. There were literally fireworks. I was truly French kissed…

England and Taylor Swift

Hello!

So my friend Viktoria left to go to Chicago with a new host family because her Californian one moved to Amsterdam! Now I have no idea what I will do on Fridays since I know no one else who has time off then – I’ll be back to lonesome trips out. But I do have a lot of friends who are interested in hanging out with me now so I’m sure I’ll find time to see them – I do only work 5 hours on a Saturday after all.

Luckily, as Vicki left it was time for me to leave too – for England! I sat with Alla, the nanny, in the plane while the family enjoyed first class. This was great as Alla is super nice and I got to practise my Russian. I watched so many movies on the plane since I couldn’t sleep!! (both ways). When we arrived in London I was anxious to get the train as I had a booked seat on the 4pm train. However, we all went back to the family’s gorgeous apartment and, suffice to say, I missed that train. I knew the trains would be packed after 5 and I had a three hour journey to make after flying for over 10 hours so I was very agitated. But I did enjoy seeing the apartment. Luckily, although I couldn’t get on the first train I tried, a kind man directed me to another train which was empty and so I got the seat of my choice. I was sat next to a young man of 20, who had blonde quaffed hair and had had a very bad day, which included getting stung by a wasp. I and the lady opposite enjoyed laughing at his hilarious, yet unfortunate story of the day. But they both got off at the first stop and I was alone for a while, until a blonde lady sat opposite me. She was visiting her military boyfriend. It was her first time in Newcastle – her bf usually came to her and it was fairly recent.

I arrived at night and my phone was dead. I just prayed my dad would turn up and that I would see him. A nice man in a car in the car park let me borrow his phone and my mam assured me that my dad was there somewhere. Soon, I saw my sister, Erin walking towards me and was relieved. I was home. I gave everyone their gifts and then we all went to bed.

On Saturday, I saw my wonderful nana. She had soooo much pocket money for me! I had missed her so much. In the evening we went to our family friends’ house, Julie and Shaun. It was fun catching up and playing board games. The highlight of that first week was seeing my gorgeous friend, Bethany. I was so happy to see how well she looked. It was her grandma’s birthday and it was just so cosy and welcoming in the house. Her family are just gorgeous. I could only stay a short time because my sister was making dinner for me and then I was going to meet another friend. (I still didn’t meet up with everyone I wanted to 😦 ).

Soon came our family holiday to Worcester. I had looked forward to this but also didn’t want it to come because I wanted to keep looking forward to it so that my time at home would be longer. It was me and Naomi and my parents. The hotel was called the Pear Tree Inn and it was such a lush, cute country place. There were two weddings on on the night we arrived (Sat) – I love weddings. One was red and one was purple. I shared a twin room with Naomi which was fun – she likes to stay up later than me it seems!! We did so much on our holiday, including visiting Worcester cathedral, a delicious sandwich deli, feeding swans, a fantastic safari (where we fed giraffes and zebras etc. – I was soooo excited), and Snowshill Manor House (a Cotswold manor filled with treasures collected by Charles Wade – very weird and interesting). But, like all things, it came to an end. I did get to enjoy a sunny beach day with Jenny though when I came back – absolutely loved it and she even treated me to fish (or sausage for me and just chips for her) and chips and ice cream!!! MY GOSH that ice cream mmmmmmmm.

When I came back to the states I was greeted by the biggest, most heart-felt hug I’ve ever experienced by Elizabeth. Anya and Alla also welcomed me with hugs and we enjoyed dinner together. But I was back to work right away the next day, though it hasn’t been too stressful. I am ready for my day off though and my back is killing. I am seeing my doctor on Friday – phew. What would I do without my newly found back doctor?

The day after I got back was the T Swift concert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I went super early, at 3pm to get a parking space. It cost $40 for parking – insane! But I had a good spot and I was there with no hiccups. There has been a heat wave here and several people fainted during the hour wait until the doors opened. I quietly ate my tuna sandwich purchased from Safeway while I waited and drank slowly. The time didn’t go too slowly as I people watched and listened to random conversations (I was alone). In the stadium I still had a 2 hour wait -_- but I was ready to wait. The food was so expensive and I ended up buying a $5 bottle of water as I’d finished the drink I had brought! I had really thought there would be doughnuts there but I was disappointed – there were very few desserts. What there was, was expensive frozen custard. Blah. When 7pm came I thought everyone would be in their seats. I was actually annoyed at how few people were sitting in their seats. And I was walked by by so many people coming up and down the stairs to and from their seats. I thought it was so rude. Sure, I know these people came to see TS and not necessarily her supporting acts, but come on, you’ve paid for your ticket, why not make the most of it? and at the very least, TS has chosen these acts to support her, why not show them some respect and support and take a seat? Anyway, I enjoyed them. Then, the magic was brought by Tay. The crowd went wild. We all had light-up bracelets. She brought Little Mix and Julia Roberts out to greet us. Just – wow. That’s all I can say about her performance. She is so talented and beautiful it’s unreal. Plus, she is so nice.

So now, I have a day off coming up – what will I do with it??

4th of July

SOOOOO  I have been a bad blogger who has been too busy going out to write! I now have $200 in my account at this moment -_-  because I keep spending money I don’t have!!!!! But I guess that’s living life to the full. But now I need to stop and save up for my road trip in October :). Anyway, I have done too many things to write about right now so I’ll just let you know how my 4th of July weekend has been and tell you that I hang out with Viktoria too much and we influence each other into spending money!

On Friday night I went for ice-cream with Viktoria and then we went too a Shisha bar. I had no idea what shisha was when Viki asked me to go and I asked her if it was the Russian food she’d told me about. It was not. In fact, it’s a type of smoking through water. Who knew? Probably anyone reading this! But not me. So the place was cool, with cushioned seats in sections and good music. I am someone who would never ever smoke. But since I didn’t really know what it was and we were there I partook of the watermelon mint shisha. It was an interesting experience and I was not good at it! I had a lot of fun but probably would never do it again, especially since I read about it and it’s actually just like smoking cigarettes, though it feels different and tastes nice.

On Saturday I went to San Francisco with Viki (Germany) and Marit (Estonia). This was an awesome day. We went to Haight-Ashbury, otherwise known as the “hippie street”. It was so cool. The stores there were so interesting and random. I wanted to buy everything! But I managed to resist. There were cool vintage stores with outfits dating waaaayyyy back. I wanted to get the prairie dresses. They were so gorgeous. They had some cool flapper outfits too. We then headed to the Golden Gate park and watched some people skating. There are some random people in SF! This one guy was so funny and was in a crop top and skirt. He was hilarious to watch, though he was so serious. We headed to Fisherman’s Wharf then for fireworks. They were the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen and they lasted for 25 minutes! We did sit in our spot for 2.5 hours so we could get a great view, however, and we were bursting for the toilet after but had to wait in a long line and use a gross toilet! Also, it was so cold that I had to buy a hoodie. Some kind people helped us out at the bus stop when we realised there were no buses running and we had to catch the train home. They got us an Uber and we made it 2 mins before the 11:30pm train! A miracle.

The next day, Sunday, I went to the Muir Woods with Viktoria and Krissy (Germany). We ate lunch outside the entrance and then talked to Kayley the guide. She was so sweet and helpful. We saw a chipmunk – my first wild one. We were told about the different types of owl that live in the woods but were disappointed by not seeing any (since they come out at dusk). We wanted to head to the beach on our hike and the guide told us the path to take. We were doing great until we realised we’d been walking for 2 hours and still no beach. The signs at the woods were very poor and we’d gotten lost. Fortunately Google Maps helped us out and we made it back to the entrance wishing we’d used the Maps before then. Still, the walk was beautiful and we enjoyed singing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’.

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