Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A glimpse of Doha

For those of you curious about Doha, what the city is like and what the Middle East is like at the beginning of the hot part of the year, here are a few pictures that help give you one side of the story...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ola from Barcelona

Ola everyone from sunny, lovely Barcelona. I got here Tuesday night for three days at the MuseumNext conference, discussing museums and digital technology. The Irishman arrives this evening, and we'll stay the weekend exploring and eating all things Catalan.

Of course there will be a full-on report when I return, but you may have to wait a while as 12 hours after I return to the UK I have to get on a plane to Doha again. You may think this life is glamorous (I thought it would be) but actually it's just tiring and requires a lot of strategic laundering of clothes.

Anyways, I'm missing the best heatwave to hit the UK in months so I'm going to go enjoy the heat here while I can. Have lovely weekends everyone! x

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


So I hinted on Twitter that there is house news coming soon... and I promise it is, and it will, but just not yet. If it were up to me, I'd have filled this blog with every single juicy, gut-wrenching, dramatic high and low of the house-buying process thus far. But it's not up to me; I'm doing this in partnership with The Irishman and that means we've had to meet in the middle about a lot of things – well, everything really. From location to size to space to bedrooms to garden to money to how much I disclose about our house search online to money to dealing with our parents to money, we've had to discuss and argue and find a way to agree on everything despite our seemingly extremely different points of view.

Where we've ended up is a place we both feel comfortable and positive and optimistic for the future, but the compromise isn't over. In fact, it's dawning on me that this is just the beginning. Even if we do get a house, by signing on the dotted line we are committing ourselves to 33 years – the length of a mortgage – of joint decisions, budgets, priorities. And that means that my world view is shifting, and none too subtly. Holidays I want to plan, sales that constantly tempt me, must-do restaurants and theatre, all of the things I previously would have done on a whim are now going to be things we plan and save for. The Irishman likes to reassure me that this is what everyone does, and that we've been privileged up to this point to be able to just jaunt off to Paris and worry about the credit card bill later; I recognize this truth and I do appreciate and value where I've – we've  – been able to get to in our lives to be able to have that freedom. But it is exactly that freedom that I'm now trading for the security of a home with The Irishman, and that is pretty scary. It's a bigger, more complex, more demanding commitment than the one I made when I moved in with him, one that is a lot harder to undo.

And of course, there is the big elephant in the room: marriage. In some ways, buying property together is more binding than a ceremony and party. The Irishman and I will have been together for four years in just over a month, and I sort of feel like the last 5 months of house-hunting has been our version of wedding planning hell. I've never really been a big bridezilla type, never wanted a big white wedding, and I also was pretty adamant that I didn't want to get married until I turned 30. But now that I'm here, buying a house with my man at 31, having attended more weddings than I care to recount, I am ready and want my own special day. We've talked about The Big M and there is a shared agreement that it's not an If but a When, but talking about the sheer sums of money we need for A House makes the cost of a wedding feel frivolous and unrealistic. When £2,500 can get you the kitchen of your dreams or the wedding dress of your dreams, it's hard to decide which is the more appropriate decision – compromise – to make. Yet, I'm sorry, my vanity is strong: I do NOT want to get married at 40, I don't want to walk down the aisle with wrinkles. There's no right answer to how to spend one's money, and I feel slightly trapped in that putting a downpayment on a house has already decided for me.

So I'm entering unchartered waters here, trying to juggle the best for us as a couple, hopefully as new homeowners, and what I want and wish for me, myself, a girl who has her own individual hopes and dreams. And I am starting to realize that actually this is just a magnification of the biggest struggle a person can have as part of couple: retaining her sense of self, stay whole, while creating and building another, bigger, hopefully better, whole. I guess this is just the maturing process, realizing who and what you are and want and balancing it with who and what your partner is and wants and what you are and want together. Every milestone we meet together brings this truth into sharper focus and brighter clarity, while also being difficult to understand and adjust, yet once we've passed it I feel stronger and more capable. I guess this house thing will be yet another of these trials and tests for us both.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A meaty weekened: Street Feast & MEATmarket

Somehow, without realizing it, The Irishman and I had a meaty, streetfood-themed weekend. We started Friday night, post drinks with my colleagues, at Street Feast off Brick Lane. Street Feast is a gathering of all the good and great food trucks that have been rumbling around London lately; we had attempted to go two weeks ago but The Irishman got the dates mixed up and it hadn't started yet. So b the time we got around to attempt 2 we were really up for checking it out. We started our evening with a light appetizer of ribs from The Rib Man with his Holy Fuck Hot Sauce, which made my lips burn for the rest of the evening.

Then we waited patiently for hot dogs from Big Apple Hot Dogs. They were good, red, and nothing like a New York urine dog. Delicious.

If you are organized enough, and taking a group of 6 or more to the Street Feast, you can reserve seating in the Car Wash Dining Room tent and wait staff will go GET YOU FOOD FROM THE STANDS FOR YOU. How indulgent!

One of the things that wasn't so indulgent about the whole set up was that there were absolutely NO trashcans to be found. A few stands had bags themselves but I heard one trader say that whatever trash was left they themselves were responsible for removing, which is a bit of a shame. However the organizers had set up portapotties – a nice, necessary touch.

We wrapped up our eating with margharita slices from Homeslice pizza. I was a bit annoyed because I wanted to try their bone marrow and spring onion pizza (!!!) but it was a 20 minute wait for the next pie to come out of the oven. I was impressed however that they had a portable pizza oven for their pizzas. So cool!

We left soon after the pizza as the queues for beer were unbelievable, and, while still peckish, the other remaining stands seemed to only be different types of burgers and some Asian starter-type dishes. We didn't want more burgers and didn't want to queue for satay sticks, so off we went. We'd definitely go back though which is a good thing as Street Feast takes place every Friday until 20 July.

We woke yesterday still hungry, somehow, and with a friend of The Irishman in tow we headed to Covent Garden to check out MEATmarket. From the chaps behind such deliciously BBQ'd favorites MEATwagon and MEATliquor, MEATmarket is in the Jubilee Market on the south end of Covent Garden. Upstairs, above the touristy tchotchkes, is a fastfood space serving burgers, hotdogs, cheesesteaks, and fries. It was greasy, delicious, more American style than any other burger/fastfood concept I've visited in London. I highly recommend it if you're craving some really great American comfort food. Be warned: limited seating and no booking so this is definitely an on-the-go drop-in spot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

4 years and counting

Today is no ordinary Thursday. Today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in the UK.

It's very interesting timing for me. When I think back to landing at Heathrow with 3 suitcases and a bike, I never thought I'd be a) still here, b) in a long-term committed relationship, c) trying to buy a house four years on – and yet it all feels completely natural. I guess what I mean is that I never thought I'd have eased into such a comfortable routine for myself in London.

Moving abroad often carries with it the dreams of travel, new experiences, excitement around every turn, and while there is definitely an element of that spice, I've also found a myself embedded in a rather normal domesticity that includes weekly veg boxes, dry cleaning runs, loads of laundry, HBO TV serieses, and occasional meals out with couple-friends. In essence, my expat life looks surprisingly like the life I probably would have had back in the US – except that I have a postcode with letters in it rather than a zip code with numbers.

And yet I still don't feel fully settled here in London. My recent trip home to US was an eye-opener for me in terms of realizing how much I missed simple American pleasures like driving through the farmlands of New Jersey, sitting out on my parents back deck in the sun, calling my grandmother without dialling a complicated access code and doing math to figure out what time it is for her. I don't know that I would be living in the 'burbs if I were in the US right now, but I do know that I wish I could have better access to the rolling green hills and hayfields of my childhood than I do now.

Even harder was seeing my friends at the wedding in Florida. I haven't been able to give you all a full debrief of the week because it was a rather bittersweet reminder that our respective lives have been changing in parallel, sometimes too much for me to bear. I listened to them recount all of the lovely details of weddings, vacations, nights out, that I've missed over the last several years with an increasingly sinking heart, knowing that unless I move back I will continue to miss out on these simple joys. On the one hand it was wonderful to arrive in a place and greet them as if no time had passed, and I felt so honored and secure in knowing that our friendships are still strong despite time and difference, but on the other hand it was desperately hard to leave them, yet again, to leave the sun and sand and get on a transatlantic flight to a cold, rainy, seemlingly isolated life.

So I am trying, on this anniversary day, to think of all the good in my expat life, rather than what I left behind. I am looking forward to travel to Barcelona, Ireland, the Middle East, around England and maybe more this year. I am looking forward to plans with lots of UK-based friends this summer – new friends who maybe didn't know me when I danced on tables in bars in Syracuse, or who ran wild with me through the streets of New York, but people who recognize the person I am now and find me endearing despite my rather American earnestness and volume levels. I am looking forward to hopefully finalizing a house purchase (more on that soon for everyone's reading delight) and I am hoping the place we find is a home not just for The Irishman and me but also a place for me to welcome all of my friends from far and wide – a little oasis in this big city I now call home, where we can pick up the conversation wherever it was left off.

That is my resolution for year 5 in the UK. I think it's probably going to be a pretty good one.