Officially an Expat

It’s true. We have jumped the pond.
We left Chicago yesterday afternoon, and have made it all the way to Birmingham. Last minute things in Chicago were absolutely crazy to the point that we were the last people to board our flight. So much for all of my advance planning. We had a lifesaver of a friend come to our aid and ensure that we made it to the airport…with all of our luggage.IMG_5192

The flights went fine – I’ll post more about traveling with a baby soon, but this is how [thankfully] some of it went:IMG_5190We’ve taken a preliminary walk around the city, and I’ve realized that I had very little expectations about Birmingham itself, other than it would be a city (check), British (check), and probably rainy (unfortunately check). I have done a little reading about it, but that was actually ages ago so I only vaguely remember some of the highlights.

After we got in, took a nap, and put on a fresh coat of paint mascara, we strolled around a bit. First thoughts about the city:
Very Amsterdam-ish feel (the first place we explored was some of the canals)
028The city goes back and forth between very modern buildings
IMG_5196 and more quintessential European Buildings/pedestrian streets/squares.

Stay tuned! We have lots to learn and do in the next few days weeks months.

Canals photo source, Victoria Square source.



Dear Craigslist,
Thanks for existing.
A young couple moving overseas

But seriously. As we have to pay out of our own pocket to store our things while we’re gone, we’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. Enter craigslist. Thankfully nothing has been too sketchy and the only thing left to that we want to get rid of is our old-school TV, aside from a trunk full of things to go to Salvation Army. Although the TV  may find it’s way there too if craigslist doesn’t pull through on this one.

In other news we’ve nearly finished boxing up our whole lives in preparation for next week.



Yesterday Derek got an email from the HR rep in the UK for his firm. He was in the process of setting up a cab to pick us up from the airport and asked if we would need a saloon car or a people carrier. Um, what?
So we googled both.
Saloon Car = A Sedan
People Carrier = A Minivan
Thanks Wikipedia.
All of this reminded me of an article I read recently about Americans incorporating Britishisms into our vernacular. Current personal application? Some phrases are okay, but be wary of sounding pretentious.
A favorite quote:

But borrowing from the Mother Tongue can be a slippery slope into absurdity, said David Coggins, a writer who lives in the West Village. “You find yourself calling your friends ‘lads,’ which is generally accepted,” said Mr Coggins, 36. “The next thing you know, you’re calling them ‘chaps,’ which they might loosely tolerate. And then you say ‘tallyho’ and you’re greeted with a blank stare.”

I think this ‘language barrier’ will be the most obvious when we first get over there (jump the pond if you will) and quite possibly when we return after having infused our language with britishisms. Perhaps I should start reading this blog, or at least keep trusty google close at hand.


Image by Adam McCauley


On Moving

Holy crap we own so much junk! And it’s not even nice junk!

That’s my recurring thought when I try to wrap my head around packing stuff up to store (for the most part) or take with us for the next 15 months. But then, if we can live without it for 15 months, do we really need it? I’ve read a couple articles like this or this about how to decorate (something I’m not good at) while living in a small apartment (something that I’ve done). All of them preach a common goal: DE-JUNK! Welp, it is time for us to follow that advice. We’ve lived in Chicago for 3 years and have collected too much in that time.

So…want to buy an enormous TV? Need any random books?

Realistic Shantal

Sometimes when I go on a walk and leave behind mittens or something that should have been so obviously necessary Derek will get a text from “Realistic Shantal.” These texts typically look something like this:

Dear Shantal,
I know you think March means Spring and therefore warmer temperatures, but you live in Chicago. It’s still below freezing. Wear socks and gloves.
Realistic Shantal20130228_133751

[Photo taken from the top of the Aon Center]

Realistic Shantal doesn’t often help me out when I’m still in the apartment when it comes to things like wearing my heavy coat. However, I’m hoping she’ll rear her know-it-all-ish head when it comes to this move. I need her whispering in my ear things like, you never wear that shirt, get rid of it, or that apartment will be in a questionable neighborhood, don’t rent it. For once, I think she’s already appeared when it comes to me considering keeping a journal of this big ol’ adventure. I won’t. [Unrealistic] Shantal may buy a new journal with the intention of writing in it every day, or at least every week, and have a separate one for L that she plans on writing in every time L does something new. But I know that won’t happen. I’ll get behind and overwhelmed with how much I’d like to write about the previous month(s), but it will seem like too much and I won’t write anything.  So that’s why I decided to keep a blog. Maybe it’ll help me become a better writer. Ha. Or maybe the fact that other people can see how often I post will help me post more often. Enh, possible.  Or maybe this will be just as much as a failure as a traditional journal, but with a cooler, less personal, more tech-savvy format.

Recently after a discussion about our future and how to make our lives a little happier and brighter I realized we needed to summarize and wrap-up the conversation with a take-away list of goals. My way of segue-ing into the wrap-up was, “Okay, time for some Realistic Shantal.” To which Derek responded, “Awesome, I love Realistic Shantal.” I love Realistic Shantal too. Sometimes.

Dear Realistic Shantal
I need you around the next few months, okay? Like in-my-head and around-the-corner around, not I-already-made-a-poor-choice-and-now-have-to-live-with-the-concequences around.
Thanks for your help,

With that, Realistic Shantal just pointed out it is time to move on to accomplishing real things on my ever-growing, pre-moving to-do list…

It’s Just Unforeseeable

I have so many questions about living in a new country. Ones that wouldn’t really apply if we were just visiting. I thought about one today while I was in the diaper aisle in Target: Where and what kind of diapers will I buy? Will cloth diapers start to make more sense? What’s the norm in the UK? I’m sure we’ll figure it all out without too much difficulty, but I for one have never looked for diapers when in a foreign grocery store. To try to answer this question I just googled “UK diapers.” Nappies! They’re called nappies! I knew that. Mum! I’ll be a mum over there!  Also one of the first sites that pulls up is  Whew – I can use Amazon still.

Derek asked me the other day if he should stock up on Old Spice deodorant in case he doesn’t like the smell of any of the deodorants over there. I told him he was being silly, that it was impractical to bring extra deodorant and that he should go British for the year.  I saw that one as an easy answer, but I know others won’t be so simple.

Then there are also big questions like what are L and I going to do all day? Are we going to make any friends? Or what about her first birthday? Is it normal to have parties for 1-year-olds? Will we have made enough friends by the end of July to even have a party? I hope so.

I realize I should, for now, worry more about all the issues that are presenting themselves as we plan the logistics of actually moving ourselves over there. Perhaps this is a lesson about living in “the now” rather than concerning myself with the unforeseeable. 


P.S. On making new friends. (Thank goodness for the sense of community we find and friends we make at church).