Before Odz showed up, the kids and I were mostly housebound. Well, we could go where we could walk, but when you are two your legs aren't very long and you can't/won't walk very far. We did discover where the local library is and also discovered we could walk there. (The way down is fine, the way back is a killer about halfway through. "Mommy, pick me up now please. Please pick me up now, Mommy. Mom-mom please pick me up.") So we took some trips to the library. We discovered the playground next to the library and spent some time there too. Other than that, though, we had to wait until Dadam got home with the car to do anymore exploring.
And now Odz is here and we are making regular trips to the grocery. Whee. Oh wait, and IKEA and HomeBase (a strange combo between HomeDepot and Bed Bath and Beyond). I haven't gotten my butt in gear to take the kids and do some activities during the week, yet. And I'm running out of time because school starts a week from today!
I do still feel like I'm getting my feet underneath me, as far as navigating around physically and culturally. At least once every time we are out, I have to ask someone to repeat themselves because I didn't understand them. I'm still learning where stuff is stocked in the grocery (tapioca is in the pasta aisle) and that occasionally the checkers will bag your groceries for you, but only if you have four exceedingly obnoxious children with you. The trolleys (grocery carts) are designed so that all four wheels are on casters that rotate all the way around. This makes turning corners an amazingly difficult task. They don't really like tofu here, the groceries hardly carry any of it and practically no restaurants serve it. But you can go to a restaurant and get pizza AND Indian in the same place! Non-biological wash powder (laundry detergent) is for those with sensitive skin, but even almost all of that variety comes with a scent! People will often open a conversation with "You alright?" But they don't really want an answer, they're just saying "Hello". "Cheers" is used as a thank-you, but sometimes you also say "thank-you" and "cheers". But I haven't yet sorted all that out. Apologizing is not something that waitresses, cashiers or stockers do. They may express a sort of concern, but they don't say they are sorry. There are only a handful of radio stations, literally. And one of them is always playing news/interviews/dramatic readings. And one of them is always playing classical. The other radio stations play the strangest mix of R&B, dance music, oldies, American, British, popular and rock that I have ever heard.
Although, driving on the left side of the road is much, much, much easier for me now that Odz is here. I don't have to process *quite* so much different input and I find it a lot easier to get around. This isn't to say I haven't gotten confused, but the two times it's happened while I was driving, I was in a parking lot. The unspoken rules of the road are also something that I am still getting used to. It is quite common, if you are turning right across traffic, for an oncoming car to flash their brights at you and slow down so that you can turn in front of them. If there are cars parked so that a two lane road is only accessible by one car, the car that got there first gets to go, but you should move over in to a space to allow the oncoming car the opportunity to go if you get the chance. This would never work in America, where we would drive straight in and expect the other person to move for us. No one likes it if you don't drive the speed limit, but very few people go over. There is very little patience for timidity at a roundabout. Don't dawdle, just go! Oh and for heavens sake, never, ever, never hang out in the right hand lane when driving on a motorway. That lane is for passing ONLY!
People have been, for the most part, unfailingly polite, even when I accost them in the supermarket and ask questions about, say wash powder. Often they are a little, erm, well, embarrassed that a stranger is asking them questions. Most people who've had questions for us, just ask them, but some people just quietly stare.
Someone asked me recently if I feel homesick and I said "no, not at all." But I do feel a bit homesick. Although I'm still talking regularly to my parents and sister, the time difference is now eight hours instead of just three. And I can't just call up my girlfriends in VA and ask them if they want to hang out or come over or meet at the park. I do feel like I miss *something* about being in America, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
None of this is to say that I'm not enjoying life here. It is beautiful and interesting. There are tons and tons of things to see and do that I've never gotten a chance to experience before. I can buy the BEST cheese, right in the dairy display at the grocery. Wensleydale right there!!!! And it's delicious. The Indian sauces section is ginormous and they are all delicious (at least the ones we've tried are). All in all, it's a fantastic success. And I can't wait to learn more.