Fake Christmas!

xmas 2014

Today was my ‘fake Christmas’ (as we have named it in our family), as I will be missing Christmas at home this year (very strange!). I was awoken by Cailin (20 year old sister) at what I felt was an early hour but was actually about 8:30, as she crept into the bedroom I share in the loft with Naomi (12 year old sister), since she took over my room when I moved out and then I moved back, and whispered ‘Happy Christmas’ into my ear. I made my way downstairs and into my parents bedroom where my family awaited with Christmas crackers! I had a tape measure inside mine. Very useful! Then I was told to get my stocking (we have a tradition of opening our stockings on my parents’ bed) and so I brought it through, excitedly. Inside was an enormous Christmas tree made of chocolate! I have no idea how I will eat it all before I leave in a week but I will certainly give it a good go! I also gratefully received some penguin earrings and some socks. It really was like Christmas.

I went downstairs in my pyjamas and opened more presents! After which, I got changed ready for the day ahead. Obviously we had to take obligatory family photographs, despite Erin’s vehement protests. Stefan (Cailin’s bf) arrived and we began our delicious Christmas meal, after hugging him of course. It was perfect! I stuffed myself with dinner and felt so wonderful to have a family who would do this for me. When I was done I had a food baby and a sore tummy!!!! I could not fit in anymore and we all decided to rest our stomachs before desert. So we played Uno. I did not win a single round, and neither did Cailin, but it was immense fun. We came back to desert after a while and I enjoyed our traditional Vienetta. Yum! Going back to our Uno game afterwards, Naomi proved triumphant, much to my mother’s sadness as she thought herself victor.

It was then time for Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. This made me realise that it was a long time since I had read the books and my memory of the movies is not as sharp as it could be. Stefan and Cailin ended up winning. Thus, it was time for ‘Four Christmases’, a Christmas movie which made us laugh. I don’t know who thought we needed more food, but we had a tea. I only ate some pickled onions, garlic bread and a Galaxy Mistletoe cake, which was too much in itself after the mountain lunch!

What a day! I’m feeling so blessed. And I have yet to look forward to my ‘fake birthday’ on Wednesday which will also be lovely. My actual birthday is 28 December, but again I will be away. I am wondering what Christmas will be like in America, and with children. I bet it will be fun but I’ll let you know. I am also thinking about how I get to have two Christmases this year and feel so privileged, when some people will be suffering this Christmastime. And so I reflect on what is important in life and remember to put my life into perspective whilst praying for those I don’t know who aren’t as fortunate as me.

Dinner Date

pack horse

I went for a lovely meal today with three very lovely ladies. It was a sort-of farewell meal before I go to America, with 3 people I worked with and who are very good friends. I saw my wonderful friends Jenny and Lucy this week too. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life who genuinely care about me and want the best for me. I am so privileged.

Our plans to go to Beamish didn’t work out and so we went to the Pack Horse down the road from where I live. It was warm and smelled of steak. We sat down and had a nice chat. I felt sad that I wouldn’t be working with them again next year. I received presents and they paid for my meal. How extraordinarily kind. I had a burger and chips, which I enjoyed immensely, but the company was far better.

I will miss a lot of people when I go away. But, as my friends tell me, I have an amazing opportunity and I take it with all of my heart and an open mind. I am ready for an adventure.

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Visa trip

la-fromagerie

I boarded the train at 04:45 feeling asleep, yet I was disappointingly awake. As the train left Newcastle station all I could see was pitch black outside. It was difficult to stay awake. The train carriage was empty except for a man in the seat in front of me who had no hair. I closed my eyes and drifted between semi-consciousness and consciousness as the train began to fill the closer we got to London. I was lucky that no one sat next to me until quite near the end of the journey and so I had plenty of space.

We arrived at Kings Cross just after 8am. I was pleased to be there, though I was very cold from the train journey. I explored the station a little before obtaining a sausage sandwich. I found the American Embassy on my phone map app and prepared to walk there. My appointment was at 11:00 so I had some time to kill. I found it interesting walking through London. I found a patisserie in Marylebone called Paul’s and partook of a lovely pistachio macaroon.

I was glad when I saw the American Embassy as it meant that I had not gotten lost and that I had made it on time for my appointment. I crossed the road (after stopping to wish that I had time for dinner later at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant that I saw) and walked up to the embassy. There were two very long lines outside. I asked someone what to do and they directed me to the first line. I waited patiently wondering which documents to remove from my bag. I started talking to a very friendly Malaysian man called Andrew, who was next to me in the line. We soon became fast friends for the day. He was from near Cambridge and had been in England for 10 years as a live-in health care worker. We reached the front of the first line and a lady signed our documents and we moved to the back of the very, very long second line. After I said to Andrew, “At least it’s not raining”, of course, it started to rain.

Soon enough though we reached the front, had our passports checked and went through security. We were eventually allowed to enter the building at this point. We came to a room which reminded me of Argos. We had been given a number and took our seat to wait our turn to be called to a window. It is a good job I met Andrew, otherwise I would have been bored as we waited for hours for our turn. Our numbers were next to each other. I was eventually called to a window where a woman took my documents and passport. I then had to wait for my interview, which would take place at yet another window. Andrew and I were near last for the interview. After some time, we were called. I was asked why I wanted to enter America and I told him about the au pair programme. After which, I was told my visa was approved. Happy days! All in all, the amount of time we needed to be there was 5 minutes but we were there for several hours.

After this adventure and the joy of being told my visa was approved, I set off for Oxford street. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Selfridges and admiring its size and beauty. I bought some presents for my au pair children, which I do hope they like. I very much enjoyed my time in the store. I got some free sample chocolates and bought some Jelly Belly jelly beans for my mum and sisters.

Finally, I walked to La Fromagerie in Marylebone to meet Stephen, a friend of the family I will be living with in California. I was early and had to wait half an hour. I went in to the cheese and vegetable store, which was very quaint and quirky. I popped my head round a corner and was promptly seated by a waiter. I asked for some water and perused the menu. After 20 reads trying to decipher the menu and take it in that there were only 3 choices, fear began to set in. The choice was stuffed avocado, salad or aubergine/eggplant parmigiana. I went for the last one, thinking it was the safest option for me. (For those unaware, I have a limited palate and generally stick to eating pasta, even asking the waitress if they had any). After establishing that I would indeed have to be brave and ordering the aubergine, my guest arrived and only wanted a cake as he was eating later with friends! If only I had ordered cake or ice-cream! I was stuck with my choice. Nevertheless, Stephen and I conversed and I got to know more about the family. I was enraptured, although felt a little awkward speaking about myself. I tried my best with the food and was proud of myself for how much I ate of the cold, slimy thing that came. I told myself it was lasagne and battled through. Kindly, Stephen paid at the end. I’d had a nice time meeting him and hoped I’d made a good impression, despite not quite managing all of the food.

I walked back to the station for the 3 hour ride back home. I had a chocolate muffin from Patisserie Valerie which was delightful. It made up for the cold aubergine! I found my train after buying some magazines and settled into my seat (a table this time!) opposite a nice-looking girl of student age with long, blonde hair. We talked a little. She was studying in London and going home to Scarborough for the day. She was supposed to be going to the dentist but he had cancelled so it was almost a wasted journey for her. We discussed the expense of train fare (it had cost about £150 for my day trip to London and that was cheap!) and she had a rail card which linked with her Oyster card so she got her fare cheaper.

I arrived back at 23:00 and my mum was waiting in the car. We were both ready for bed. I felt one step closer to my year in America. Hope and opportunity lay before me.