Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween

So, I'm sneaking in a quick post to wish you all a great big scary:

Happy Halloween!

Despite the fact that this move has kind of gotten the best of me and left me Internet challenged for the time being, I could NOT let this holiday go by without writing a quick Halloween post.

I'm so excited to participate in this great American holiday!!

Sure, they celebrate Halloween abroad but not to the extent that Americans do. No way. So, bring it on America! Show me your Halloween style.

There is a definite sugar fueled buzz in the office in anticipation of the big Halloween weekend.

Every desk is lined with plastic pumpkins filled with candy (I'm so on a sugar buzz right now). In fact, one of the vendors got really creative smart and filled the traditional orange plastic pumpkin with not only candy but also with little alcoholic nips. I totally snagged one of those and am displaying it proudly on my desk (proclaiming to my new colleagues that I'm totally an alcoholic) and am sneaking furtive longing glances at it - yes it's one of those days - as I work. I'm thinking that tomorrow I will totally have to hit that (and prove to my new colleagues that I'm totally an alcoholic). Tomorrow is Friday and at-work drinking is usually much more acceptable on Fridays. Right?

So, I'm wondering what are your Halloween plans for the weekend? Are you dressing up? Are you going Trick or Treating? Are you going to hit the town in a pimped out Halloween costume and do some serious partying?

Let me tell you about what I'm doing. I'm so tired of this move. I've decided that this weekend I'm going to have fun. It will be my first weekend out and about since returning back to the US almost 3 weeks ago now. So, I'm hoping that America will bring it on - in full Halloween style!

Tomorrow is the work party. Families and children are invited in the afternoon and in the evening there is a party at the bar.

For the work party, I'm going to keep it pretty tame. I've decided to be an angel (does it get tamer than that)?  I'm going to wear an office appropriate white dress and a halo and some wings... That's about it. I'm still the new girl, so while I love me a dress up party, I'm not ready to go all out. My colleague who I've befriended is going as a Devil, so together we are "good and evil" or "naughty and nice" or whatever...

On Saturday I'm going out with Sexy friend S - who is a crazy friend from back in my college days who I have not seen since, but am totally looking forward to meeting up with - she has promised to introduce me to the Boston nightlife and hopefully some hotty Boston boys!

Oh woops - that sentence got a little distracted and I never finished my main point. But I don't feel like fixing it (my blog, my rules). Let me try again. Sexy friend S is the girl with the plan on Saturday night (although she has yet to decide what that actually is) and she is nice enough to let me tag along and I couldn't be more excited!

But now the big question is... WHAT DO I WEAR?

So, there is where I need your advice. What should I be on Saturday night?

I've got two choices for you. I'm in possession of the two costumes below. Which one should I wear?

Should I be a SEXY FIRE WOMAN?




Or A FLIRTY VINTAGE NURSE?

Let me provide a bit of information on the costumes in order to help you:
  • Despite what you might think based on these pictures, neither of these costumes is very skanky revealing - I mean have you SEEN what is out in the stores for women these days?
  • Neither of these costumes is as short as the picture portrays (the firewoman one in particular is much longer than the picture shows) - I'm 5'8. I'm tall and both are a pretty acceptable length - short for sure but definitely covering my ass! There will be no but cheek flashing in either of these costumes. 
  • I'm not exactly sure of the plans for Saturday night (as Sexy friend S doesn't really have the details together yet) but it sounds like we will hit up a few house parties
  • The firewoman costume is kind of hot... I mean like temperature-wise. It's long sleeves and heavy material
  • The nurse costume is considerably cooler - temperature-wise
  • The firewoman costume actually looks really real... It's kind of freaky
  • The nurse costumes trends a bit to the "cute" side
  • I like profession costumes! Last year I was a sea captain and the year before that I was  policewoman... (not that you really needed this information to choose which costume you like better, but I just felt like sharing that with you)
If I had time, I would do a cool survey on the blog, so that you could vote. But, I don't have time (I'm already sneaking this post in from the office - although after hours of course). So, you will have to let me know what you think in the comments. And be sure to let me know your plans.

And seriously - have a kick ass Halloween everyone.

I will be sure to update you on the weekend's activities and the costume decision in my next post!

Ciao.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moving Back Home Task Number 3: Find an Apartment in Boston

Oh man. This apartment search is not going very smoothly. I knew it would be hard. Boston is a student town an therefore most apartments turn over on September 1st. So, looking for an apartment starting now or on November 1st is not that easy. There is just not a lot to choose from.

The other deal with Boston - not sure if it's the same with other US cities, I would love to hear how it works where you live - is you usually have to pay a broker's fee equal to one month's rent! This is just money that

In other places, you either pay a small fee to the broker or the landlord pays the broker. How does it work where you live? Do you have to pay one month's rent to the real estate agent?

In addition to the fee to the agent, you also might be asked to put down first and last month's rent plus a security deposit equal to one month's rent (although with non-student apartments it is common that just 2 of the 3 are asked for). But either way, you are paying 3 to 4 months rent up front. And no matter how you look at it, that's a lot of money!

And since most of my money is still sitting in a bank account in England, fronting lots of money in cash is kind of hard for me. Luckily, I have nice parents who have fronted me the cash until I can figure out how to move my money back.

So, I came into the Boston apartment search thinking that I wanted to live in Charlestown. I had briefly lived there before and I thought it was really nice. It has cute gas light lined streets and a nice neighborhood feel. But while it's very close to central Boston, it is a bit out of the way - it's not considered Boston proper and it's not well linked by the subway. But since I refuse to take any form of public transportation don't really take subways anyway, I thought that would be ok.

So, I started seeing some places in Charlestown and I actually saw some great places including an amazing converted carriage house with in-garage parking and a roof deck with an awesome view... but there was always something a bit off. They were either not in the exact location I was looking for (Charlestown has some more desirable areas and some less desirable ones) or they were too small, or too run down.

And then I started to have a small panic about the location of Charlestown and the fact that it's not very central. I'm coming back from living in really desirable central areas of Stockholm and London. I could walk out my door and easily access shops, bars, restaurants, nightlife... My friends always wanted to come to my apartment because it was so central. Living in Charlestown started to feel a bit out of the way. I mean let's face it, besides the quaint Warren Tavern, there is really not much happening over there.

After speaking with different people, I decided to include the Beacon Hill area in my search. Beacon Hill is probably the most desirable (and therefore most expensive) location in Boston (although don't get me wrong there are other good places to live in Boston). Beacon Hill is know for its gaslight streets and brick sidewalks. It's a very charming and centrally located neighborhood in Boston. Famous former Beacon Hill residents include: Louisa May Alcott, Daniel Webster, John Hancock. Today people like John Kerry live there (as well as lots and lots of regular old normal people like me).

The problem with Beacon Hill however is that apartments are small, lack storage space and are EXPENSIVE!!! I saw a few places and was very tempted by one that was owned by a woman I work with. It was very cute but a bit less modern than I am used to and also lacking storage. And I was panicking a bit about trying to fit my 43 boxes of stuff into the small space. But it had a lot of charm and a HUGE roof deck.

I felt like it was an ok place and that I could live there and probably enjoy it, but I didn't quite feel excited about it. That little voice in the back of my head was telling me that I hadn't yet found "the one."

I decided to see a few more places. And as Realtors do, the one I was working with convinced me to see a place slightly out of my price range (although nowhere near as expensive as my London place) that was totally newly renovated and included a washer/dryer in unit. By the way washer/dryer in unit = totally awesome.

And of course I LOVED it! It occupies the whole floor of a brownstone. Beautiful cherry hardwood floors. Newly renovated kitchen with granite counters. A cute little gas fireplace. Modern bathroom. Big bright sunny windows. Good sized bedroom. Big (for Beacon Hill) living room. Nice open layout. And TONS of storage space! 3 huge closets including a massive walk in one in the bedroom.

The only small downside is that it doesn't have an outside area (many Beacon Hill places have great roof decks) - but I guess I have to sacrifice something - and everything else is perfect (and I didn't have any outside space at my London apartment as I also sacrificed that for a bigger and more modern place - and while I sometimes wished I had a balcony or a garden, I enjoyed my apartment enough not to regret the sacrifice. Let's face it, you don't use your outside space as much as you use the rest of the apartment).

But of course, nothing is really perfect and absolutely nothing is really easy (at least not when it comes to moving)... The problem with this apartment is that because it's totally new, they don't yet have the occupancy permit and they are not sure when they are getting it. They are hoping it will be all set for Nov 1, but they are not sure and therefore don't want to guarantee a move-in date. Well without a move in date, I'm not about to offer them my life savings in rent and fees... So, we are at a stand-off and since nothing is yet official (i.e. I haven't signed a lease), I'm feeling pretty insecure about the whole thing as they are still showing the apartment to other people (although supposedly, I have first dibs). Anyway, it's all a bit stressful. It will be great to have this settled. I will hopefully know more by the end of the week (as Nov 1st is Monday after all).

In the meantime, I'm kind of squatting. Single I'm attractive friend C was nice enough to let me stay at her place last week even though she was super busy preparing to run a MARATHON in DUBLIN that she ran YESTERDAY! (How awesome is that? I'm sure she did great). So it wasn't exactly a convenient time for her. But she's nice like that so she let me stay. And this week I have her apartment to myself - which is awesome. But I'm still really hoping that I can move into this new place next weekend or early next week. I've been living in limbo for 4 weeks now and it's starting to drive me mad. I just want to have my own space and to settle in and let life get started again. I feel like I'm not living life and having fun right now... I'm just planning, waiting, worrying... Ugh.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! I hope to have this apartment thing locked down soon so I can get back to writing fun blog posts about dating and discovering the USA!

Oh and as soon as I have this apartment. My next task will be to FURNISH the apartment. So, I will be looking to you - my bloggy friends - for advice in inspiration cuz this International Woman of Mystery has never had to furnish an apartment before!

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving Back Home Task 2: Start New Job

Hello my lovely bloggy friends! This International Woman of Mystery has missed you so much! I'm sorry for being away for so long. It was not exactly a planned absence.*

Single I'm attractive friend C was nice enough to let me stay with her in Boston (while I look for a place) but she unfortunately has a situation with her wireless Internet so I was unexpectedly without Internet access all week (and also crazy busy so even if I had Internet, I'm not sure how much blogging would have been done) - although thanks to my Ipad (which totally rocks by the way), I was able to keep up with everyone's blogs although not able to comment as much as usual.

The task at hand this week was to start my new job (and also find an apartment but I think I will focus on the job part and talk about the apartment hunt in a separate post).

As you might or might not remember (depends on how long you have been reading), I have worked for The Company for close to 10 years in 5 different countries. I actually started out my professional journey with The Company in the very same Boston office that I'm working in today. But in true The Company fashion, I soon found myself working in Indonesia, China, Sweden and most recently London - all with The Company. If you are not well acquainted with my life, you can easily catch up by reading part I, part II and part III of the Making of an International Woman of Mystery. Seriously, it's a good read. Check it out.

The Company is obviously very big and very international (which is why I wanted to work for them in the first place). So, when I say "new job" I mean same company but totally different product. In fact, I'm working in a totally different industry than I was working in before.

So, I had the advantage of being quite familiar with the office, being familiar with the culture, being familiar with a few of the people there who I had met over the years.. But despite all that, I was still NERVOUS!

I was pretty comfortable in my old product. I'd been working there for a long time and had gained the "expert" status many years ago. I enjoyed being the one that everyone knew would have the answer. I enjoyed having all the answers. I like being asked to attend an enormous amount of meetings. I loved being able to contribute. Yup. Pretty much, I was a big "know it all" and I loved it.

So, needless to say I hadn't done the "new girl" thing in awhile and I was pretty aprehensive.

And to make it harder, in true fashion of The Company, the job I was hired for had changed already and I was going to work on something completely different then what I was initially told and report to someone different as well. I found this out the Friday before I started.

This actually didn't phase me too much and in fact, at this point I've been with The Company long enough where if it had been any different, I think I would have been truly surprised. Like all employees of The Company, I've figured out how to be pretty flexible and deal with major ambiguity (as well as work long hours and do hard work). So, while it didn't really upset me, it didn't really make things easier either.

The first day was a little bit awkward. People definitely welcomed me, but no one asked me to go to lunch on my first day -which is a pretty standard thing to do. However... I am now working with more technical "geeks" so I guess that I have to take that into consideration. And it's ok. I'm  a pretty tough girl and don't mind having lunch on my own - in fact, most of the times I prefer it.

My first assignment is to help this part of The Company "go mobile." Umm... Great. Except that I will admit that this is something I know next to nothing about. I've worked a lot with technology over the years, but my last role was more general management and working to create processes and improve efficiencies. There was of course a technology angle, but that was not my primary role. So, I'm not exactly up-to-speed on the latest tech trends. Believe me, part of the reason I've been so busy this week is because I've been reading A LOT of geeky tech stuff trying to give myself a crash course.

I do admit that it was kind of embarrassing this week when I could hardly manage to use my Iphone (hey it's new, I was a previous Blackberry owner - although let me tell you that the Iphone is soooo much better). So, I've been working on improving my Iphone skills so I don't look like such an idiot around all the geeky and super smart "just out of college" (oh man I'm old) kids who know all about all the cool technology and kept coming into my office telling me how excited they were about the mobile initiative and how much they wanted to work with me on it. And I'm sitting pretending to know what they are talking about... Oh boy do I have a lot to learn. But the first step is to master the Iphone and then try to get up-to-speed with all the lingo.

Other than that it was a typical first week of work. I listened a lot and tried to put all the information together. I tried to understand the structure and organization of this product (it's massive and a bit complicated). I tried to get a grasp out of all the acronyms everyone was throwing around (The Company loves acronyms). I . My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I met a zillion new people and in most cases as soon as they said their name I forgot it in the next second. On Friday I did a quick analysis of how many people (outside of senior management - I got those down at least) whose name I actually remember and it was sadly very few. I did a lot of research. I talked to a lot of people. I bombarded every person I met with tons of questions. I took a lot of notes. I tried really hard to make a good impression. I tried to be a good and sympathetic listener. I tried to say the right things. And I came home every day completely exhausted from trying so hard.

I hope next week will be easier, but I think it will actually be harder. I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into this project and the ones that follow. I have a massive capacity and actually like working hard. I hope that I will be able to contribute in many ways. I get stressed when I feel like I'm not working hard or contributing. I am finding it very hard to be "the new girl."

I do have to say that it's really nice to back in the Boston office. It's a gorgeous office with amazing view - especially at sunset. And I'm loving the in-house restaurant with fruit salad, granola, yogurt, eggs, bagels, for breakfast and sandwiches, soups, hot options and a big salad bar for lunch. And of course there is also a fully stocked bar just waiting for employees to stop by for after work drinks.

And the benefits are pretty good too. $65 a month for Blue Cross and Blue Shield health car is not too shabby! And of course the people in the office are kind of awesome as they are all interested in traveling (and The Company is kind of awesome by giving all first years 3 weeks of vacation and upping it to 2 the second year then accrual up to 30 days). The people in the office are all very international and are interested in travel - most have lived abroad. Most are smart and ambitious. The Company has a strong culture and it doesn't seem to matter what office you are in, the people are similiar - which is great.

Overall, I found myself more excited to be back in the Boston office then I thought I would be!

By the time Friday rolled around though, I was tired. And I was missing my team in London (I don't have staff - yet - in Boston and while it's nice to have a break, I miss having a team). I couldn't help but think that if I was in London, we would have had Byron burgers for lunch and already be at the pub after work. And various colleagues and team members got me on Skype or email to tell me how much they missed me - which was sooo nice to hear, but it also made me sad and a little homesick. So, I was feeling a bit down on Friday. Missing my life abroad. Missing my friends. Tired of feeling like a stranger in my home country. Tired of living out of a suitcase (more on that soon). Tired of not having any routines.

But luckily one of my colleagues stopped by at 5 to save the day. She was someone I recognized from 10 years before although I'm not sure we had ever actually met. Anyway, she invited me down to the bar for a few drinks with the rest of the team (I was so grateful to her). And despite having decided to drive back to Western Mass to my parents, I decided to accept for just one drink and I was really glad I did as it was a fun time.

This colleague turned out to be really fun - a single gal around the same age as me. She seemed to have the scoop on everyone at work and also on the Boston nightlife. She did a great job at introducing me around to everyone at the bar. I'm looking forward to getting to know her better.

Next up - I will tell you about my quest to find the perfect apartment in Boston. Needless to say, it's not going that well.

But really... I hope I will get settled soon and back to my regular blog posting (next week is gonna be tough as well, so I apologize in advance for being a bit off the radar). And I hope that soon I will get to tell you about the fun stuff - like dating boys in Boston and the nightlife! I just have to sadly point out that I have yet to see a single hot boy in Boston - ugh...the preppy look just doesn't do it for me. But that's a whole other story!

*I apologize in advance for this rather lackluster post and the fact that I will most likely be off the radar again next week for the most part. I really miss blogging. But I'm so flat out busy right now and without a place to stay, without any routine and with so much change in my life right now, the creative juices (and the time to write) just aren't flowing right now!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Redisovering America: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

I've been home just over a week and I feel like I'm rediscovering America: the good, the bad, and the ugly - American the Beautiful and the Not So Beautiful.

When I posted this post about my first weekend home, I got a lot of comments saying that I need to give it a chance and not be so critical. I totally agree. And I promise I'm doing that. And I'm finding the transition - both the good and the bad - amusing and interesting, funny and frustrating, fascinating and infuriating.

So far there are many things about being back in the US that I LOVE! But balancing that out, I'm finding there are other things that I do not love so much... Right now it's a close tie. Let's see which one will emerge the winner.

It's been a bit of an emotional rollarcoaster - which I think is ok. No one ever said that moving back after 9 years abroad would be easy - I certainly wasn't expecting it to be.

There are times when I hear or see that have me scratching my head - especially regarding American's ignorance or stereotypes about other cultures or countries.


There are times when I'm ecstatic to be home and other times when I'm so "homesick" for Europe and wishing I could hop on the first plane back.

There are times when I recognize things about life here in the US that just make so much sense - they make me feel "at home" in the US. In Europe my friends often thought me strange (in a good way I hope) for certain things like loving pumpkin flavored coffee or beer for example (a Swedish person would find this just plain weird), or this inexplicable need I had to over-decorate my apartment for each changing season. But being back in America, I realize these things do not make me weird. They make me American. They are the things that other Americans like/do. And it's these things that make me love America and feel comfortable with my repatriation.

Of course there is the flip side of the coin. I have learned a lot of things from living in other countries. I especially loved living in Sweden and after resisting for a long time, I finally learned to embrace and really love the simple Swedish lifestyle (seriously - I even like salty liquorish candy now, I'm a true convert). And some of the things about Swedish life I'm very homesick for. And some of those things that I have learned seem better than the American way of doing things. Or maybe not even better, just interesting to compare. And I feel frustrated because I

It's a journey - and kind of a fun one. And I want to share this journey with you all.

That's why I'm introducing a new section of my blog -  a series of short (yes folks, I'm going to attempt brevity here) posts on my fabulous journey of rediscovering America: the beautiful and the not so beautiful, as it may be. Of course I will still be giving you long and drawn out rants or musings on life and whatever task is at hand. But look for my Oh America! posts coming soon.

But before I begin this series of blog posts (where inevitably some will not shed favorable light on Americans) I would like to offer a small disclaimer (and by this I mean try not to judge me to harshly while I'm judging others). 

I may write about silly and stupid things that Americans say about other cultures - BECAUSE IT'S FUN AND IT'S FUNNY. However, my disclaimer is that I do realize that I have been privileged (and driven by an excessive urge to live abroad and seek out all things foreign and international and possessed with the demonic ability to give up everything else to pursue it) to live abroad and have the experiences I have had. I'm not judging other for taking a different path - that's fine - there are many paths in life to choose and it would be really boring if we were all on the same one. And I'm not necessarily judging others for their ignorance either. Ok. I admit it. I am just a tiny little bit but only if it's really bad. I mean judgey wudgey was a bear and all... But only a little. Mostly I'm just amused. I promise.

But back to the disclaimer. Actually, while living abroad, I have spent a LOT of time defending Americans and their ignorance about other countries or cultures - besides I found that there are an awful lot of foreigners who have crazy misconceptions and mislead stereotypes of Americans (i.e. we are all fat and carry guns and love George Bush).

So, in anticipation of the upcoming Oh America! posts, I would like to share with you what I have shared with many Asians and Europeans as to why Americans may be slightly ignorant when it comes to foreign countries and cultures and knowledge of geography and why (as so many international people point out) so few Americans actually own a passport. Here goes:

  1. The United States is geographically isolated. Essentially we are a huge island in the middle of the ocean - bordered by Mexico and Canada (and most Americans have been or will go to those two countries sometime in their lifetime). The fact of the matter is, it takes a long time and is expensive to travel to either Europe or Asia. It's not a simple trip. You don't just hope on the train or hop in the car! So geographic isolation is a huge international travel deterrent.
  2. The United States is HUGE - states are like European countries. Most Americans have been all over the US. And to those Europeans who look down on Americans for not having been to another country. Ummm... hello? I have never met an American who has never been to another state - usually they have been to multiple states and most have been to both coasts (6 hours by plane apart - I bet there are lots of Europeans who have never been 6 hours away from their home country). So, Mr. cool I've been to so many countries European, please remember that geographically, Americans traveling to different states is like Europeans traveling to different countries within Europe. And Americans going abroad is like Europeans going to Asian. Obviously fewer Europeans have been to Asia than those who have been to the countries surrounding theirs. So, if we stop comparing countries visited and start comparing distances traveled, I think Americans would probably kick Europe's collective ass!
  3. The US is interesting and diverse enough to keep you entertained. Americans don't really need to go abroad - there is lots of cultural diversity right here at home. And driving across the country is a hugely popular thing to do.
  4. The average American gets TWO WEEKS of vacation. The average European gets FIVE or SIX WEEKS! Of course they travel more. Especially if you take into account point number one with the US being geographically isolated. It takes a full day of travel both back and forth to go overseas (at least) so there is 2 days of your 10 day vacation gone right there. If I had just 2 weeks vacation, I wouldn't travel abroad either!
  5. Geography is seemingly not highly valued and often not taught in schools - I never once was offered or attended a geography class in school. In college a gained a wider perspective on the world - but I was an International Affairs major so that was kind of required. I do not know why geography is not taught in school and I think this is something that should be changed. But you can't blame people for not learning something that was not taught. I do wish our schools would put more emphasis on the international rather than focusing so much on the US. My favorite teacher in high school went out of her way to educate us about the world and the art, literature and cultures of other countries. This had a profound impact on me and helped fuel my fire for wanting to live abroad.
  6. Americans tend to have a strong work ethic. We graduate from college very young (much younger than Europeans who generally graduate at age 26) and are encouraged to join the work force as quickly as possible. I mean it's not like the government is chipping in for our education (no socialism here) and we have all those student loans to pay back so what else is there to do? Gap years for travel are not encouraged in the US the way they are in Europe - again, influenced by the loans but also the American 'work, work, work' and 'make money and get ahead' mentality.
Ok - now you have my disclaimer. What do you think? Do you agree with me? What are your thoughts on why Americans are sometimes ignorant of other cultures or have not traveled abroad?

Anyway, stay tuned for my rediscovering America posts coming at you soon!*

Ciao for now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Jewels over at Turning 30: A Journey of Self Exploration has done me the awesome honor of giving me this blogger award:

In order to accept this award, I must do the following:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave me this award
2. Tell everyone 7 things about myself
3. Pass this award to 15 other bloggers
4. Contact the bloggers that I picked and tell them about the award

Thank and link back to the person who gave me this award.

Thanks a lot Jewels! And I really appreciate the award and the recognition! Jewels at Turning 30: A Journey of Self Exploration writes a wonderful blog covering all kinds of topics from tough family situations to dating, to pop culture and fun events to more profound reflections on life. She seems to be a very busy girl but always finds time to write amazing posts. I'm very impressed with her blog and I look forward to reading it and also to her comments on my posts. Thanks for following me Jewels!

Tell everyone 7 things about myself:

1. If I don't exercise at least 5 times a week, I get REALLY grumpy! I prefer running over the gym but in my old age, I'm realizing that my body needs a break from running so I have to switch things up and go to the gym. Even when I'm on a tough travel schedule, I try to find a way to work out - it helps me stay balanced.

2. I'm a total night owl and I HATE mornings. I try to go to bed by midnight but inevitably I find myself engaged in reading blogs or writing my own blog or getting caught up in a good book and I find myself still awake at 2 am. I don't know what it is, but I just feel so much more creative and productive at night. And the opposite is true in the mornings. It takes me a long time to get started and I'm always grumpier in the morning. My staff and colleagues have all learned quickly NOT to schedule meetings with me before 10 am. Although the above admission often means that I try to squeeze in a work out before work (which is usually fine once I actually drag myself out of bed - that's the hardest part - and as long as I don't have to talk to anyone).

3. Although I often to complain about having too much to do, I’m actually really afraid of being bored. I would rather have too much to do than too little. I get nervous when I think of free hours that I have to fill up with “something.”

4. I make a lot of lists but I rarely look at them after making them. Checking things off the list doesn’t feel as rewarding as creating the list it he first place. I think it’s the process of creating the list that helps me to structure what I need to do in my mind – this seems to make things more manageable and makes me feel better. Although I don’t usually check the list again, once it’s on the list, it’s rarely forgotten.

5.  I got glasses at age 5 and didn’t get contacts until I was 14. For some reason glasses for me equaled low self esteem. I was rather ugly and awkward as child/pre-teen. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get over that. I still won’t wear my glasses unless absolutely necessary because I suddenly feel 13 years old again and loose all my confidence. My mother said that contacts wouldn’t change my life. I think it is the only thing she has ever been wrong about. I'm now planning on getting Lasik as soon as possible.

6. I love the scents lavender and vanilla. I have lots of lavender pillows on my bed. I have worn vanilla lotion from Victoria’s Secret from high school and I don’t plan to change any time soon – the smell makes me happy. I have inspired a lot of other people to wear vanilla – I hope to makes them happy too.

7. I'm secretly (or not so secretly as the case may be) afraid that I'm going to be single for the rest of my life. I guess I don't need to explain this one as the search for Mr. Right is the underlying theme of my blog... However, I might not have previously mentioned so blatantly that I'm more than a little afraid that I will not find him...

Pass the award to 15 other bloggers:

Alright, this is not as easy as it looks. I have recently received two other blog awards: click here and here. And have therefore recently recognized 20 blogs. Making this even harder is the fact that Jewels and I read a lot of the same blogs, so I need to find 15 blogs that neither she nor I have nominated before! 

I got a bit stressed about this. So, instead of a whopping 15, I'm gonna give you 12 really good ones:

1. It's an Average Life - Tracey at It's an Average Life is one of my favorite bloggers. Her posts are definitely versatile ranging from flatulence, to nature inspired photos, to thankfulness, to rants. I suggest you get over there and check her out!

2. Beta Dad - Beta Dad has just been featured on Bloggers "Blogs of Note." Congrats Beta Dad! He also has recently blasted his fellow Daddy Blogger the super hyped up famous and Single Dad Laughing - that post and his blog in general is definitely worth a read.

3. The Anonymous Perils of a Single Southern Woman - I have just started to read SSW's blog which is very entertaining - especially her outdoor sex post. I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

4. How Very Lucky to Be a Girl - a fun dating blog by a 39 year old NYC single gal sharing the joys and perils of Internet dating.

5. Night Notes on Napkins -  I just started reading this fun blog! Jules blog is based on this theory: Once upon a time at a bar, someone said something funny, and someone else, maybe me, decided to write it on a napkin so as not to forget it based on high levels of martini consumption. And so a tradition was born.

6. Carrie Bradshaw is full of Sh*t - This is an extremely funny blog about life and dating. In her words: I am the queen of awkward situations and "did I really say/do that last night?"

7. DC Dating Divas - why does it seem like the best dating blogs are written by girls who live in DC? What is it about that city! This is a new blog that I have just discovered. Can't wait to read more!

8. Daterview - P.Y.T. at Daterview serves up a delicious dish of a dating blog. As she says: Everyone dates, not everyone writes about it.

9. The Au Pair Project - Lauren writes about her life in France as an Au Pair and the hardships of looking after the French children of a single dad. Definitely an amusing read!

10. Jimmy Choes and Tennis Shoes - This girl loves to shop and to party with her friends. She posts lots of pictures of clothes/parties/her dog - very cute! Check her out.

11. *wink**wink**wink* - Zoƫ Blue writes an amazing dating blog. This girl has done her fair share of traveling (I can totally relate) and had her fair share of loves. She is now exploring the single world. I have just started reading her blog and I'm loving it. Can't wait to see more posts from her.

12. My Joy Project - I have just started reading this 'joyful' blog and I think it's great!. In her words Kelly's a single mother of 3 young children on a path to Balance, Harmony and Bliss.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Weekend Back Home

photo courtesy of portfolio.kevinthom.com
So, yeah. I survived my first weekend in the countryside. And it was a long weekend as today is Columbus Day (you know 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue...). 

In case you are interested, the weekend was kind of like this:

On Friday night after the car purchasing experience, I stayed home BY MYSELF as my parents ditched me for dinner with friends (see how happy they are that I'm home). So, I ordered  Chinese take-out and watched a documentary on TV (oh man did the millions of channels overwhelm my non-TV watching self) on Hippies that was kind of interesting.

On Saturday I spent time on the phone with the car insurance agency, then ran 4.5 miles and did some core exercises (apparently according to Mr. Personal Trainer, I have a weak core - so I'm trying to improve on this. Damn planks. They kick my ass - or my abs as it may be).

Then I jumped in the shower quickly as I had agreed to meet a high school friend - the boy who shared the locker next to mine for 6 years (poor boy) who I have known since I was 3. Locker Boy had seen that I was moving home on Facebook and had a little too eagerly gotten in touch with me.

He originally suggested that we go hiking in the Berkshires - where he lives now. But as didn't want to drive up to the Berkshires because I hate to drive I had some stuff to do in the morning, I suggested he come down here instead. He then suggested that we go kayaking. It was an absolutely gorgeous crisp autumn day so I agreed.*

As I was rushing to get ready, I realized that this felt kinda like a date. Weird. And while this guy is nice and good-looking-ish and I did have a crush on him for about 5 minutes in the EIGHTH GRADE, these days, he is not really my type. I mean he is the typical, small-town, baggy stonewashed jeans and Red Sox hat wearing, Republican type of American boy.

Speaking of clothes... I realized that once again, as per usual, I had packed like an asshole (it happens every time). I did not have any appropriate country-activity type of clothes with me (remember, I have just 2 suitcases of stuff with me, the rest is on a boat from England). Skinny jeans and high heels did not really seem appropriate for kayaking... Neither did a dress. Besides, what do you wear for kayaking anyway? I have only been kayaking in a bathing suite in the summer. Exasperated with my lack of kayak clothing options and running late (as per usual), I decided to throw on a skirt while fixing my hair and makeup and figure out what to wear later.

Unfortunately Locker Boy arrived before I got around the changing my clothes again. He laughed at my outfit and told me it was not appropriate for kayaking. "Don't you have any jeans?" he asked.

"Ummm... only skinnny jeans."

"Sweat pants?"

"Ummm... no. I will sort something out," I said and left him alone with my parent's dog while I scrambled to assemble an appropriate kayaking outfit.

I finally settled on black khaki-type pants, sneakers, sweater, scarf and jacket. I grabbed the skirt though and a pair of boots and decided to bring them with me.

Locker Boy deemed my outfit appropriate but laughed at me for bringing a skirt with me.

Anyway, we drove up on small country roads taking in the beautiful autumn scenery (seriously, I cannot say this too many times NOTHING BEATS FALL IN NEW ENGLAND) to some small town I had never heard of (we are talking hickville here) and went out kayaking on a big lake. 
photo courtesy of jasonfarnsworth.com

Not to brag or anything, but I do have to admit that I was kind of awesome at kayaking and Locker Boy was struggling to catch up - for real. He had a laugh at this because his father (who the kayak's belonged to) was all worried that I wouldn't be able to kayak at all. Jeez. This family has known me since I was a little kid. They should know how sporty I am!

It was lovely out on the lake - we kayaked from one end to the other taking just over an hour to do so and feeling pretty tired by the end. It was a beautiful day but windy and the water was extremely choppy and we ended up soaking wet! Well let me tell you, I was the one laughing when after getting completely soaked kayaking, I could slip into my skirt and boots and be all nice and dry while Locker Boy had to endure his wet jeans!

We then decided to head to the local pub where they make their own micro-brew (the master brewer graduated with us from high school - see it's that kind of small town that my parents live in). There we had pints - oops... I guess pints are in the British word. I think in America it's drafts?

Anyway, we had some drafts of the local brew. Another thing I LOVE about America: micro-brews! I had yummy American Wheat beer (or 2 or possibly 3) and also a fabulous pumpkin spice beer. Gotta love America and all it's flavour options (if you are American, you know what I mean - and no this does not exist in other countries like it does here - I have never seen pumpkin spice listed as a flavor outside the good old USA). I'm feeling fall festive and so I'm loving pumpkin flavors right now (seems like everything from coffee, to muffins, to beer has this option here).

Locker Boy was interesting to talk to and surprisingly a good conversationalist. Although the interesting part is that we were so different. He was Mr. American and I was Ms International... He was all waxing poetic about why guns are great (Yes Europe, I'm so serious here) and I was all like - "guns are illegal in Europe and therefore the homicide rate is lower." I told him that cops in the London do not even carry guns (thank you Mr. Sexy Policeman for that bit of info) and he found this hard to believe. Although we were both stumped over the question of how to "de-gun" America if it ever came to that (I admit that would be a hard one), leading him to conclude that my visions of a gun-free America are ridiculous and therefore I should suck it up and learn to love guns. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em right? Right? Well maybe that will be my next purchase after the apartment - KIDDING!

He admitted he has conservative views - i.e. he is was against abortion and gay marriage and thinks Obama's an idiot. I actually kept my mouth shut and left him to his right-wing views without trying to argue for once - actually I was shocked silent since I had forgotten that yes, this is America. I realized that I'm kind of ill-equipped to go head-to-head on American politics at the moment. I need a quick brush up on American politics and to figure out where I stand exactly on key issues (it's strange but it was easy to not pick sides on American politics while living abroad, and I'm used to being the conservative one when discussing politics with Europeans).

And of course I talked about my life abroad and my travels. He seemed impressed with all the places that I had been. And of course talking about traveling got me excited and all I wanted to do was get back on a plane and go back abroad. (Sob).

And then we had this conversation which I feel perfectly exemplifies why it's going to be so hard to fit back into American life:


Him: "Like are there any countries you would never go to? I mean, like why would you want to go to Iceland? You wouldn't ever go there right?"

Me: "Well, I was actually there on Wednesday..."

Silence.

Locker Boy: "You are kidding right?"

Me: "Well no, I technically was only at the airport so that doesn't really count. But yes, I was in Iceland on Wednesday for 2 hours, so I'm not lying. But I hear it's a cool place and it is somewhere I really want to go and hang out..."

Silence.

Locker Boy: "Wow. It's kind of hard to talk to you. You have done everything. I have done nothing unless you count going to New Orleans two years ago."

Silence.

So... there it is. My life as an International Woman of Mystery is over. And not only that. Having that experience makes me weird and just plain hard to talk to. Great!

And so the date ended - and admitedly conservative talk aside, I had a really nice time. I went home and hung out with my parents and their dog and their cat and my blog.

On Sunday, I laid out at the pool and willed the autumn sun to give me some color - it did but only a little. Then went for a 6 mile run followed by more exercises. Then my Mom made me my favorite lobster dinner!

On Monday, I spent the morning searching apartment listings in Boston (next task) and doing more move-related emailing (i.e. trying to get my security deposit back from my London apartment, arguing on the phone with British Telecom over my bill - again, trying to figure how to wire my money from my London account to my US account, and hassling with the movers over my customs documents). And then I spent the afternoon at the mall wherea among other things I purchased an IPAD!!!!

As if it wasn't enough that I bought a car this weekend, I had to then rush out and buy and Ipad too (say nothing of a few new clothes to update the back-to-work wardrobe). Let me tell you, the Ipad is soooo cool (except for the fact that you cannot blog on it - you can read blogs, but you can't blog, or at least I can't find the right app - does anyone know of one)?

Is it really bad that I secretly think that my Ipad is cooler than my new car? Although I might change my mind tomorrow when I actually take possession of the car.

So, that was it. My exciting first weekend back in the US. A far cry from my club nights and meeting hot boys in London... And a bit more expensive too.*

*When talking about what "moving home" would be like, my Swedish friends tried to reassure me that my life in the US wouldn't be so different than my life anywhere else. I told them they were crazy. I was all like "Hello? Boston is a small city with a very student oriented night life. The bars close at 1 or 2 am. There is no hot single 30 something scene like there is in Stockholm. There are no nightclubs like there are in London. My life is totally going to change. I'm going to spend my weekends hiking and doing outdoorsy sporty country things."


But Swedish ladies - here's your proof! This International Woman of Mystery has become a Country Girl!
They didn't believe me...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving Home Task One: Buy a Car

I'm back home and my To-do list that needs to get accomplished before I start work in a week is miles long.

First up on the list however, was to Buy a car.

Actually, let me rewind a minute. First up was to pay the movers for moving all my stuff from London to Boston. This "stuff" turned out to be 43 boxes (I swear I tried to downsize but quite obviously failed). Mind you... I have very few actual furniture items besides a book case, an awesome espresso maker, a small shelf container, a coat rack... So, those 43 boxes are literally just clothes and books "six years of random shit." So unfortunately, the movers kindly felt the need to charge me $1,000 extra then the originally quoted price (apparently I had more shit "stuff" than they thought), so I was looking at a whopping $5,000 dollar bill!

The bill was due and I had to pay - I tried to get them to reduce the price but failed. So, pay I did. IN CASH. The single most expensive one-time payment I have made for anything ever (until that afternoon when I bought a car - talk about a double whammy). And seriously, paying movers to move your own stuff across the ocean is not a fun purchase. I mean all you get out of it is your same old crappy stuff in boxes that you then have to unpack (actually, they will unpack it as part of the service - I just have to put it away). There is nothing at all exciting about shelling out $5,000 to welcome my things to Boston! Just think of how many amazing shoes and purses I could have gotten for that amount.*

Now with my considerably lighter wallet in mind, let's return to the car buying process.

On Thursday night (the first night home) my Mother sent me out with my Father to begin the lovely process of acquiring a new car.

Let me provide a bit of background information.
  • I have never owned a car.
  • My parents were kind enough to provide me (and my brother) with a car at various points over the years
  • These cars were a Nissan Sentra, a Honda Accord Sedan, and a Honda Accord Station Wagon.
  • Living abroad, made it so I did not need nor miss a car - I could walk everywhere or take public transportation a taxi.
  • I HATE driving. If I miraculously became mega-rich suddenly and had a driver at my disposal and would never have to drive again, I would do the happy dance and I would never miss driving.
  • I have a clean driving record (knock on wood) but consider myself to be a bad driver.
  • I am not a confident driver and tend to get lost All. The. Time. Although thank God GPS has been invented since the last time I drove.
  • My greatest wish is to have a boyfriend who loves to drive and then I will never drive again (cuz boyfriend to me obviously = driver, dog watcher, house fixer-upper, heavy stuff carrier, chef, technology guru.... Think I'm setting the bar a little high here?)
So, needless to say I was not thrilled to start this whole buying a car process. I half-seriously asked my Mom if a) she could do it for me (she said no) or
b) if I could pay someone else to do it for me (she didn't respond to this - I think she didn't get just how deadly serious I really was).

My parents told me to do some research on cars. So, being the kind of awesome daughter that I am, I did as I was told. But I got discouraged when I realized that I probably wasn't going to be able to afford a Mercedes or even a Lexus and probably even a BMW wasn't a really good idea right now as I have no idea what my other costs in my new life back home will be. (Obviously living in Chelsea - the land of incredible cars - seriously distorted my idea of what normal cars for normal people are. I got jaded by all the Aston Martins and Porsches and Lamborghinis just sitting around on the road in my neighborhood. I started to think these were normal cars for normal people). Out of disappointment (and boredom), I ended my car research before it really even began.
But there I was, my first night home and my Dad was taking me car shopping. Yippeee!

Our pre-car-shopping-departure conversation went something like this:

"What do you want in a car?" my parents ask me.

"Umm... leather seats?" I say.

"Oh good. That narrows it down. What else?"

"A good stereo. Cool technology..."

"Oh good. Glad you are so specific." I can tell they are getting irritated. "What about color? Any preference there?"

"Not really... But I prefer black. Something dark. At least nothing flashy. Yeah, black would be best. And definitely a four-door car. I don't like two-door cars."

They are looking more and more skeptical so I say "I hear that hybrids are cool. Maybe I want one of those. I mean, all I really care about is a having a 'cool' car." Both parents groan out loud.

"What about make?" they asked.

"Umm... I guess I have to rule out a Mercedes? Well, how about a BMW?"

My parents looked at me like I was crazy. "How about a Hyundai," they said?

"No way!" I said emphatically for no other reason that I feel like I hate Hyundais. "Perhaps a Honda Accord?" I say trying to bridge the gap and this is basically this is the car I'm most familiar with since they have had 3 different Accords over the years that I have driven (and in some cases been given). Luckily, they looked more pleased with this answer.

"New or Used?" they asked. But before I could respond, they told me I was getting a used car. "You hate to drive. You don't care about cars. You are getting a used car."

I couldn't really find a reason to argue with that.

So there it was folks, I had narrowed my car search down to this very weak check list: used car, leather seats, good stereo, black, four doors, possibly a hybrid (not that I even knew what that really meant). In summary, I wanted "a cool car." Although the definition of a "cool car" was not one that could be defined even by me.

I could see my Father was not very happy to be coerced into this trip. But off we went to the Honda Dealer where and my Father tells me he doesn't want to talk to any salespeople. So, instead we skulk around in the dark looking at the cars and reading the information pages on the windows. Let me tell you, for a person who has never bought a car, never owned a car, never shopped for a car before... this is not very informative.

But, I do learn the following things:
  • Cars are pretty expensive, even when used
  • I don't really like Accords - they seem too big and ugly
  • My father also knows nothing about cars
  • Car shopping is freaking boring
We decide to leave the Honda place and my Dad suggests we visit the Subaru or the Hyundai place near by. I tell him "No way. Those kinds of cars are on my definite 'no' list."

"Why are they on your 'no' list?" he asks me exasperated.

"I don't know. They don't sound like 'cool cars' to me." I respond. (Note: My Father currently drives a Subaru Outback and previously he drove a Hyundai Sonata - both cars I did not like to drive when visiting home preferring my Mom's cooler Saab or Honda Accord - mostly because they had leather seats and a cool stereo system. So, I was not endearing myself to my Father with these remarks - never mind the fact that he already feels I have 'snobbish' and 'outrageous' tastes 'like your mother').

"But Dad. Nissans aren't on my 'no' list. Let's go there!" I say, pointing to the nearby Nissan dealership.

By this time it's starting to rain and all I want to do is go home. We walk over to the used car section and I immediately find this black Altima. I look inside and get excited over the tan leather seats! And then I check out the info. It's a Hybrid! A 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Well, that sounds kind of cool.

I convince my Father to actually let me talk to a salesperson and she tells me the price is $22,000 which is within my range. My dad thinks it's expensive but is pleased with the fact that it only has 16,000 miles. The leather seats, the Bose stereo, the navigation system, the blue tooth hookup, the totally awesome interior fail to impress him as much as they endear the car to me.

Interior of the car
Then we decide to go home. On the way home I am quiet and thinking about the black car. "I want that car." I tell my Father.

"Why?" He asks. "I mean you have certainly taken a lot of time to research and look around and make a well-educated decision," he says sarcastically.

"It's cool?" I say. In the dark I can feel him rolling his eyes.

On getting home we recap the car search adventure to my Mother who is livid that My Father didn't get the Vin number (or even tell me what that was) or let me talk to a salesperson or test drive the car.

At this point Dad is officially demoted from the car search process (I'm pretty sure this was his goal) and Mom takes over. She helps me research the car online and pull up the Carfax File (whatever that is).  She also decided that she can leave work early the next afternoon to help me.

"I want that car" I tell her.

"Why?" She asks.

"It seems kind of cool I say... Plus. I don't want to go through that process again - I'm already bored of this."

"Right. You spent a whole two hours on it," she reminds me. And we both crack up laughing at the ridiculousness of that. "You are your Mother's daughter" she says.

2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid
So, there it was. The biggest purchase I have ever made in my life was decided in just a couple hours based more on the fact, that I was bored with the process and didn't want to do anymore research on it or spend anymore time searching car lots (and I could tell my parents didn't want to either). This is so typical me. It's also so typical behaviour of my mother. Like mother like daughter. That's for sure.

So, the next day we go back to the lot and test drive the car. I'm a nervous driver to begin with but having my mother in the backseat cringing and moaning about what a bad driver I am didn't help. I had never driven a hybrid before and I was kind of expecting it to be different. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't that different (although it's very weird when you turn it on because the engine only turns on when you put your foot on the gas) and it felt nice to drive.

The saleswoman who literally admitted to us that she was an inexperienced and not very good salesperson (and no I don't think this was some ploy of hers to makes us trust her - she seemed pretty limited) also had me drive a Silver 2007 non-hybrid Altima. It had leather seats but was missing some of the bells and whistles the other car had. Despite being about $4,000 less, I wasn't as impressed.

My mother pointed out that $4,000 was a lot to shell out for an undefined "cool" factor. I told her I didn't care. She also pointed out that the trunk space was severely limited which I admit, it was. But something like that would bother someone who has a car with normal trunk space more than me since I'm not actually loosing anything since I don't have a car at all right now (admittedly, I might regret this later).

By this time I irrationally (I know) had my heart set on the black Altima Hybrid and I just wanted to get this car process OVER WITH! I had had enough. I didn't want more choices. I didn't want to go back home and research the silver Altima and see if there were better alternatives. I was done. I was ready to throw down my money and get the hell out of Dodge - or Nissan as the case may be.

But unfortunately, the process was just beginning. Why didn't someone warn me the process of buying a car takes HOURS?

My mother and I decide to negotiate cuz that what you should do when buying a car right? So, we put in a considerably lower offer. And that's when the weak little saleswoman brings in the big guns. Enter the smarmy salesman. Picture the text book definition of a used car salesman - a smooth an fast-talker - complete with stories of his ex-girlfriend owing the same car and loving it and threats that another person is making an offer as we speak. We obviously did not stand a chance.

I'm embarrassed to say that we managed to get a whopping (wait for it) $350 discount! Although admittedly, the Kelly Blue Book price was actually the same as their initial asking price (so while I don't think we were getting screwed, we also weren't getting a bargain). That price was the pre-certified (whatever that means) price and this enabled me to get better financing saving me $1,000 over all in interest. But then of course I agreed to a $1,600 extra warranty covering all the electronic aspects of the car with a $0 deductible (it is a Hybrid after all). Pretty much I feel I got taken for a ride. By the end of it, I had no idea what I was actually paying for the car. But, that's what I expected so - oh well.

Then the paperwork began. It was excruciating. 2.5 hours of sitting around, signing my name, trying not to appear as bored as I looked. My mother and I - the two most impatient women in the world, sitting there tapping our feet, trying to get everyone to hurry up.

Amazingly I managed to get pretty good financing all on my own (my mother would have co-signed but was reluctant to).

And finally, 3 hours later after I signed my life and my money away, I was a proud owner of a 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Yippeeee!

So, that is the story of how I spent less than 6 hours making the biggest purchase of my life.
It does make me a little sick to think of all the money I spent this weekend. Seriously between the car which with sales tax, interest, and the extra warranty they convinced me to get ended up somewhere around $26,000 and the movers cost $5,000 this was like a $31,000 weekend! Wow. That feels ridiculous to even write. (I actually only spent $7,000 in cash but STILL - that's a LOT OF MONEY). I'm feeling pretty poor right now. Say nothing of the fact I still need to put a down deposit on an apartment and then furnish it. Gulp. This moving thing is way overrated. And WAY EXPENSIVE.

But. I'm now a proud car owner and next Tuesday I'll be driving around in my new black Altima Hybrid. Watch out Y'all!

And because I'm already feeling ridiculously frivolous, I'm totally going to top off this weekend of spending with a purchase of an Ipad since suddenly I feel this is "oh so necessary" to have. Yup. That's how I roll. Just sayin.

Next on the moving back home "to-do" list: Find an apartment in Boston. Stay tuned. The life of an International Woman is never dull.

*The Company is giving me $5,000 for the move (although I don't have it yet). So, essentially they are paying for this. I was just hoping it would be cheaper so the extra money could go to the other costs associated with this move - cuz believe me, there are lots of other costs. Moving is seriously expensive.

Update: Google announced that they have made self driving cars that are already out and about and driving around ALL ON THEIR OWN! This is so awesome! That means that maybe in a few years, I don't even need to be rich enough to have a driver! I just need to have a self driving car. Thanks Google! To read more about this, click here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The end of the Wedding Season

So, it's official. The wedding season is over. I have just attended my fifth and final wedding of the year. And now it's time to put away my party shoes until next summer when inevitably the next round of weddings will begin. Although I don't think that next year will bring as many weddings as this year did.

 Five weddings is a lot - especially since I'm a single gal and none of these weddings are obligatory partner friends weddings. I was invited to these weddings all on my lonesome (unfortunately).



A quick recap:

  • Wedding number one was a Swedish wedding outside of Stockholm where I made out with a young hot boy
  • Wedding number two was in Western Mass and I had a nice time catching up with old friends
  • Wedding number three was in San Fransisco where we partied like crazy and the Best Man who I used to baby-sit for had turned into a total hotty Mathew McConaughey look-alike
  • Wedding number four was a beautiful and traditional wedding on Nantucket
  • Wedding number five was in Swedish wedding outside of Stockholm that I went to just this past weekend.
I am honored to have watched my good friends get married this summer. All of the weddings were lovely and lots of fun!

This past weekend, I witnessed another beautiful wedding in Stockholm. My friend's J and S said their 'Yah's' at a lovely church an hour outside of Stockholm. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day - although a bit cold. The bride was stunning. The groom handsome. The dinner and reception were held in a lovely castle (as that's how it's done in Europe). We danced and partied the night away and celebrated the union of these two friends until the wee hours of the morning. A fun time was had by all. It was a beautiful and memorable wedding. I was so glad to take part in the festivities.

Grattis J and S!* Thanks for a lovely evening! I wish you the best of luck and hope that you are having a wonderful time on your honeymoon in Bali and I can't wait to hear all about it. Hope to see you soon - you are always welcome in Boston!

After this past weekend's wedding activities, I've been doing some reflecting on the differences between Swedish and American weddings. So, I will employ my favorite "list" format to highlight:

Why Swedish Weddings are Different From American Ones


The bride and groom walk down the aisle together - It's Swedish tradition that the bride and the groom walk down the aisle together. In general, gender equality-friendly Swedes frown upon the idea of the father "giving away" the bride. In fact when the Swedish Princess Victoria was married this summer and was walked down the aisle by her father, it was a source of controversy.

Generally there are just one or two bridesmaids and groomsmen - The Swedes don't generally do the big groups of bridesmaids and groomsmen. One or two is common.

Black, red and white dresses are not to be worn - In the US we obviously don't wear white dresses, but red and black are perfectly acceptable. In fact, it seems to be the trend these days for bridesmaids to wear black dresses. And I have to say I was surprised this summer to see how many guests favored a black dress over some color. But in Sweden, it's not ok - personally, I find this very hard especially in the winter.

There are many variations of dress code - The dress code is clearly stated on the invitation - there are different variations from casual summer dress to 'smoking' which means long dresses for the women and tuxedos with tails for men.

Swedish weddings tend to be small - A wedding of 80 people is considered a big wedding. Swedish weddings also tend to focus much more on the friends of the bride and groom rather than the family members or the parent's friends as American weddings often do.

The dinner seating chart is very special - At a Swedish wedding dinner you do not sit with your date. In fact, all guests are seated around the room guy-girl-guy-girl and you are placed strategically by the bride and groom next to guests they think you will get along with and you are expected to make conversation with them throughout the long dinner. For me as a single gal, this means that I'm usually seated next to another single guy. This worked out well for the first Swedish wedding I went to this summer! And although my single dinner partner this past weekend was not only fabulous but also such a gentleman, alas we were not a love match.

There is one or two people who act as Toast Masters - these are the Masters of Ceremony so to speak. They coordinate all the speeches (see below) with the timing of the kitchen and try to make sure that the night keeps its pace. The Toast Masters usually employ some type of noise maker like a horn to get everyone's attention.

There are LOTS of speeches throughout the dinner - I'm not talking about a small Best Man and Maid of Honor speech here... I'm talking about ANYONE can give a speech at the wedding as long as they tell the Toast Master beforehand that they want to give a speech. It is also common for guests who are absent to send a 'telegram' with a message for the bride and groom - these are read out loud by the Toast Masters. In the wedding this past weekend, the girls and I did a fun speech for the bride where we re-enacted a game we played in the summer

Don't Forget to look at everyone when you drink for the toast - When taking a sip of your drink during a toast, it's Swedish tradition to raise your glass then make eye contact with everyone at your table (and if you are standing and not sitting at a table, you should make eye contact with everyone in the room - yes, this is hard), then you take a sip of your drink, continue to keep your glass raised and then look at everyone again. This is a subtle movement (you obviously don't really look every single person in the eye but you do attempt to make eye contact with as many as possible) - you shouldn't swing your head around and get whiplash - I tried to teach this to an American friend once and she almost broke her neck.**

The dinner is often very long - Due to the speeches, the dinner takes a long time. Luckily this being the heavy drinking culture of Sweden, the waiters and waitresses are experts in keeping the wine glasses full - which can bring about interesting results (especially as you are sitting guy-girl throughout the room). The first Swedish wedding I went to, the dinner lasted over 6 hours. The other two Swedish weddings I have been to lasted around 4 hours. It makes for a long evening. But it's very nice.

Traditional Swedish wedding food is often deer or reindeer - A traditional wedding dinner is usually a 3 course meal usually starting with fish, then a meat dish, then desert (which is traditionally a cheese plate). Each course is pared with a different wine carefully selected to compliment the food. You do not pre-select your choice (although you can send word to the toastmaster if there are any allergies or dietary requirements - but if you don't like the food served, tough luck). Traditional Swedish wedding food is often deer or reindeer (local cuisine).

Singing might be part of dinner - Swedes love their drinking songs. Drinking songs or 'snaps' songs are sung at most festive occasions (like Midsommer or work holiday parties). The snaps songs are usually printed (in this case in the wedding book - see below) and sung all together - and at the end of course you are supposed to DRINK!

The wedding activities start early and go to the wee hours of the morning - Swedish weddings are not for the faint-hearted. The ceremony usually starts around 15:00 and the evening festivities will run until the last person standing goes to bed (usually somewhere around 6 in the morning). I love this about Swedish weddings! I always feel that American weddings end just as they are starting to get good! Swedes know how to party (and apparently there are less noise regulations) and they will keep going until the wee hours of the morning - often changing the venue to another place or another room on the grounds of the castle for the "efter-fest" as they call it.

Around 1 am there is a "vickning," or second dinner - this second dinner usually consists of hot dogs, or sausages as they are called in Sweden.*** Swedes want to party all night and they realize that to do so, you need more substance! I love this tradition. It's perfect to have something to eat after some hours of dancing and drinking to keep your energy up for more hours of dancing and drinking.

There is a printed wedding book for each guest - the wedding book might contain information about the bride and groom (for example how they met) or a history of the venue (as this is Europe, the venue is often a castle with an interesting history). And it also includes a list of all the guests and where they are sitting at the table. Each guest is briefly described and it is mentioned how they know the couple. For example my description in the wedding book for this past Saturday mentioned such highlights about me such as "Lives in London but is moving back to Boston. Works and travels a lot. Is a party girl. Loves Swedish men..." Yup... that does kind of sound like me.

There are lots of small games that might or might not be part of the dinner - A fun game I witnessed at the last wedding was when the bride and groom took off their shoes and exchanged one shoe with their partner and then stood on their chairs with their back to each other. So, both the bride and the groom have one of their shoes and one of their partners in each hand. Then the Toastmasters ask different questions like "which one of you is smarter? Or "which one of you is cleaner?" And the bride  and groom should raise the shoe of the person who they feel answers the question. It's a very cute game - especially when they disagree.

Everyone gets to kiss the bride and groom - If the bride or groom leaves the room for any reason all those of the opposite sex get to run up and kiss the remaining person on the cheek. It's very funny to watch as all the men circle around the room to kiss the bride!

Gifts don't need to be expensive - Friends often chip in to buy gifts together (this is very common) and while you are welcome to spend more... 300 - 400 SEK (about $50 - $70) is fine.

*Grattis means Congratulations in Swedish
**That was 'I'm attractive' single friend C - I'm sure you will be hearing lots more about her in the future as she lives in Boston and is going to be my new BFF - she's funny as hell, so you all are going to love her
***Vikning translates to "food eaten late at night."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back 'Home'

So. I'm 'home.' I landed yesterday in Boston and am now at my parents in Western Massachusetts.

The last weeks have been tough. Full of anxiety, preparations, packing, worrying about things, turning off gas/electricity/Internet/water, canceling things, worrying about things, goodbye dinners and parties, lots  of sad goodbyes and lots of worrying about things.

It was difficult to say goodbye to friends and colleagues in London and Sweden. And throughout all the sad goodbyes. I did not cry. Some of my friends cried. Some of my colleagues even got a bit teary eyed. But I did not cry.

I did not even cry when I found out that the cost of shipping my stuff home would cost $1,000 more than what I budgeted (that's right it apparently costs a whopping $5,000 to 43 boxes of "six years of stuff" from London to the US).

I did not even cry when I found out I was loosing part of my security deposit on the crazy expensive London apartment for stupid reasons like a stain on a bedspread that I had professionally cleaned and then never used!

I did not even cry at the airport in Stockholm where I started to get this panicked feeling when I realized that after this plane ride, I had no more trips scheduled. I can't remember the last time that I had no trips (and no plane rides) scheduled. For the past 9 years, my crazy travel schedule has ruled my life. And I hated it. But I also loved it. At least life was never ever boring.

I did not even cry on the plane when I watched a movie with a scene filmed on King's Road right down from where my London apartment used to be and I at first felt that jolt of excitement and then extreme sadness when I realized that I no longer live there anymore.

I did not even cry when I got all the emails and texts from my colleagues who are in Dubai (where I would have been if I had not decided to switch jobs and countries) and having a blast celebrating a good end to our sales year.

I did not even cry when I arrived 'home' and felt this deep sense of loss and sorrow as I realized that perhaps my whole life is behind me and all the good things, the fun things, the things that make me me, the glamour of an international life, the nightclubs, the boys, the ridiculous drinks, the amazing international friends, the partying in different cities, the amazing friends around the world, that those things are now in my past and the future is a big lackluster unknown.

I did not even cry when today - on my first day home in the US - I got that familiar feeling of already wanting to get back on a plane and return to my 'home' abroad as that is where I feel that I belong... and then realizing that there is no more 'home' abroad. That I am here and here is now 'home' whether I belong here or not.

I didn't cry because I'm afraid if I started to cry, then the floodgates would be open I would never be able to stop crying. Because right now it seems there is more to be sad about than happy about. More to be worried about than to be content about. More to be anxious about than to look forward to.

Ahead of me is a mountain of 'stuff to do' like: find a car to buy, figure out how to finance the car, find an apartment, find a place to stay until I can start the lease on the apartment, read some books for work, fill out the customs forms to bring all my stuff into the country, pay the movers, figure out storage for all my stuff because it seems to be arriving before I will have an apartment, try to contact old friends, try to make new friends, figure out Internet dating in the US, find a man, start my new job.

But those are just tasks. They are practicals to take care of. They are not plans. They are not fun. They are the details of life but not the substance. 

I feel like I'm at the bottom of the mountain of  'stuff to do to get settled in' and I'm not sure what I will find when I get to the top of that mountain. And I'm so afraid that I'm going to look around, take in the view of 'my new stationary life' I'm not going to like what I see. That I'm not going to know who I am anymore when I'm stuck in the city of Boston and no longer a jet-set International Woman of Mystery.

There are so many unknowns right now and the control freak in me is completely freaking out.

Picture courtesy of webecoist.com

But this morning while driving with my father I saw a rainbow and this evening while running, I saw another one. I take this as a good sign. An omen. Two omens actually.

So, despite wanting to just cry, I am holding out a rainbow fueled hope (however small it may feel) that all the fun in my life is not in my past. That there somewhere in the future, good things are going to happen to me.