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With only two days left to go in the year, I decided it was time to do some obligatory reflection.  Let’s see if I can recall some highlights from 2011.  I am in no way organized enough to give you something like a top ten.  That would mean planning out this blog post before I started writing, and you know that never happens.

One of the most exciting moments of my life technically happened on Christmas day in 2010, but it was one of the things I wanted to share that made me start this blog in the first place.  Geoff asked me to marry him. I cried like a girl and then said yes.  I was ecstatic for days, and I’m sure it must have spilled over into the new year, so I feel like it most definitely deserves a shout out.

After doing a ton of research into the immigration process, (This was all done by Geoff.  He’s the smart one on this team.) we decided that the only way for us to move to Hawaii without the possibility of being separated was to get legally married in Taiwan and apply for a green card for Geoff from the US “embassy” in Taipei.  This meant a ton of paperwork had to be gathered from all over the world, but eventually we gathered all of the stamps and signatures.  Without any ceremony, we went down to the household registry office and filed our marriage certificate.  On March 4th, we became husband and wife in the eyes of the law in Taiwan and America.  We’re still not legally married in the UK.  I should probably hide his passport.  Okay, not really.

A lifelong dream came true in April when we flew to England for two weeks for Geoff to be in a friend’s wedding.  I had grown up reading and loving English literature.  It only takes half a second on my blog to realize I adore Harry Potter. England has always held a romantic fascination for me.  I couldn’t believe I would finally get to walk the streets of London and stroll through the English countryside.  It was an exhausting and wondrous trip.  We traveled all over England by train, and we had nearly perfect weather.  I absolutely fell in love with the country, and I can’t wait to go back, especially to see Geoff’s family and my great friend Gaz.  I know a lot of people who live there aren’t that fond of England, but to me, it’s still of place of magic and wonder.

Definitely the most stressful experience of  2011 was getting Geoff’s visa.  There was a week when we thought it might not happen.  He had pretty much already been offered his job at the zoo.  It was time to book the tickets.  Everything was happening.  But we didn’t have that one piece of paper that said he could get in to the country.  I cannot express the level of relief when, without ceremony, they told us he was granted the visa.  I nearly fell over right there in the immigration office.

With that most important piece of paper nicely laminated in his passport, we were able to pack up most of our belongings into our suitcases, give the rest of our stuff away, and leave Taiwan forever.  There’s not a lot about that place that I miss, but I do dearly miss our friends and hope they come to visit soon.  Also, we have yet to find a place as perfect to hang out in on a Friday night as the Early Bird Diner.  Go and drink a white Russian for us, Taiwan friends.

So now we’re here living in paradise, and it is as completely beautiful as you could have imagined.  Every single day I am in awe of its beauty.  I hope I never take it for granted.  We found a place to live, two scooters, and now a car.  I got a job, got another job, quit the first job, and am now really happy working retail at Island Sole selling flip flops and not being responsible for any children’s futures.  We’ve made some really cool friends here.  And the most exciting thing is, there’s still so much to explore on this island.  But that’s in the future.  And that’s a blog for another day.  The last day.  Well, probably later today.

I guess this is the part where I say, “Well, a lot can happen in a year.”  Well, it can, and it did.  It’s been stressful and wonderful and full of laughter and full of tears and completely horrible and completely perfect and it’s my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The best thing about the new year is that it’s the end and the beginning at the same time.  That’s its own kind of magic.  I’m ready for it.


Early Night in Slough

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I’m finally managing to write before the sun goes down on the actual day that the post relates to.  It’s been a whirlwind experience, and even though it’s only 7:42, it’s already been a long day.  We woke up to the amazing and unexpected headline about the death of Osama Bin Laden.  We’re watching the White House briefing from the hotel bed right now.  Romantic, I know.

We set off a little past 8 am with Geoff’s parents and younger sister for the drive and farewells at the Preston train station.  I knew this would be a difficult moment for Geoff and his family, and my exhaustion added to my own level of emotion at this moment.  I felt positively cruel on that platform as I watched my husband saying goodbye to the people he loves the most.  I feel no lack of guilt about taking him so far away.

A majority of our day has been spent on cramped trains.  After a brief and highly stressful airport transportation fiasco, we finally made it back into London for an early dinner at a Belgian restaurant with Geoff’s friend Rich.  But 12 days of travelling the country and meeting many friends and family members has completely drained us of all energy.  I am positively thrilled to be lying in this apparently clean hotel bed.  Tomorrow’s journey will be absolutely arduous, and I am in no way looking forward to it.  You should get excited about the next post from Kuala Lumpur full of groaning about my uncomfortable 12 hour flight.

I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to England and go back to an apartment that is no doubt full of mosquitoes.  But there’s really no choice.  Back to real life it is.  I intend to make a Victoria sandwich cake this weekend.  Come by for a piece and a cup of tea.  It would be my pleasure.

Coming to the End

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Tonight is our last night in Geoff’s childhood home in Rishton.  We have a 9 am train tomorrow to spend a final day in London before heading back to Taiwan.  I have to say, I am rather sad to be leaving.  Geoff’s family has made me feel so welcome and accepted.  I feel that I am almost one of them.  We had been away for three days and when we walked in to his parents’ house, I found myself thinking “It’s good to be home.”  Of course, the next moment, I realized that this wasn’t in fact my home at all.  But it does feel like a safe and familiar place now.

I have had such a wonderful time here meeting all of Geoff’s old friends, and most of his family.  Somehow, we managed to have only one day of rain, so I feel like I’ve really been treated to the best of England.  Just looking out of a train window, it’s easy to see why Tolkien wrote so longingly of home.  You can see the comfort in the trees and the fields.  It’s all so Romantic.  The sort of place you just want to sort of evaporate into.  I wish I could have seen this place as each of those brilliant poets and writers must have viewed it, before the shopping malls and high-rise condos.  It’s no wonder that British literature is so full of magic.  It is a mesmerizing land.

I am truly exhausted from all the travelling around we’ve been doing these past days.  Only once have we stayed two nights in a row in the same bed.  One more day, 30 hours of travel purgatory, and then it’s back to my own bed, my own stuff, and my own life.  I’m not sure I’m ready.  I can only imagine what my husband must be feeling right now knowing he has to say goodbye to his mother and father tomorrow.  It actually brings a tear to my eye.  It kills me to take him away.  But that is where our life is now and soon on to the next big adventure.  But I certainly intend to return to England soon to experience more of the magic of this place.

Dave and Lynne’s Big Day

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Our Saturday started rather early as I was second in line for the shower in a house with five people.  The photographer was coming around at 9 to photograph the groom’s party trying to figure out how to tie their cravats.  I got dressed and prepped for the wedding in an upstairs bedroom with two girls I had just met.  I ended up having to help tape one of the girls into her dress.  It was a bit disconcerting.  I was also wearing a dress that didn’t belong to me, so I was nervous about how I looked.  Luckily, there were mimosas that morning for the photos to take the edge off my nerves about having to spend a majority of the day by myself amongst complete strangers.

Eventually all the guys were in their tuxes, and we piled in the car and headed to the church.  Looking out the window the weather seemed beautiful, but there was a biting wind blowing through that froze me.  I sneakily wore my leggings under my ankle length strapless dress, which helped a bit.

The reception was held in a charming old inn and involved a full three-course dinner, dancing, and a late night buffet.  The food was about what you’d expect from a wedding banquet.  The best part was the lemon tart and raspberry sorbet for dessert.  There were also cupcakes made by an 11-year-old girl served at the buffet.  They were cute, but the butter cream was literally just butter and icing sugar, and made me feel a bit sick.  It helped with the intimidation factor.  I’d hate to be outdone by a child.  The best part of the evening was meeting Geoff’s old uni friend, Kate.  It was great to hear some more stories from his younger days.  We had a lot of fun.

Of course, being at a wedding made me think about all the things I did and didn’t want to have happen at my wedding.  I want my wedding to be decorated by nature.  I want my hair and make up to be soft and natural.  I want to approve every single song played at my wedding reception. There will be no dress code.  You don’t even have to wear shoes if you want.  The food will be fun and informal.  There will be no seating plan.  It will be a huge celebration of the overwhelming power of love.  Come to the beach.  Eat a cheeseburger.  Have some cake.  Dance Drink.  Laugh. The end.

At the Mercy of the Groom

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It was bound to happen.  I have been without internet access for two days.  But a promise is a promise so let’s start making up for lost time.  Friday our job was to do whatever the groom wanted, which mostly included sitting around at Dave’s house, watching coverage from the royal wedding and a snooker tournament on television, and driving into town for a sausage roll and a jam shortbread cookie (which was wonderful).  I read a Jamie Oliver book and tried to keep my feet warm.  Geoff had to obey every command of the maid of honor, who was a bit dictatorial.  At one point, he was highlighting all the groomsmen’s highly detailed job lists, which included things like initiating applause during the first dance and stopping the groom from getting too drunk.

Later that night, we headed out with the groom to stay with one of his friends for the traditional pre-wedding separation nonsense.  I gorged myself on sweet and sour chicken and fried rice and was forced to endure a viewing of Top Gun, quite possibly on of the worst movies ever made.  When they decided to put on Dodgeball next, I decided to go to bed early.  But internet was not to be had that night.  I also somehow forgot to bring something to read which was a bit torturous.  I somehow managed to fall asleep with nothing to stimulate my brain.  Another night, another bed.  Such is life on our English holiday.

A few thoughts on the royal wedding.  1)  Those hats are stupid.  2)  People will do anything to get on TV.  3)  Kate’s dress was beautiful, but I’d rather have her sister’s dress.

Trains, Churches, and Pubs

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After a stressful shower and the slightest of emotional outbursts, we were off to Blackburn for a bit of shopping.  I have been desperate for a haircut from an English-speaking stylists for about a year.  In my desperation, I found myself at Supercuts where I was charged way too much for a very mediocre haircut.  But beggars can’t be choosers, as they say.  From there we took a few minutes to view Blackburn Cathedral before getting on yet another train and heading east to Doncaster.

Blackburn Cathedral

We had some time to kill after arriving so we wandered around a shopping mall attached to the station.  Doncaster was the first place we’ve been that just felt normal to me.  Even though the architecture is still different, this city has the feeling of just a normal place where people live and work.  Nice, but not particularly “quaint” or charming.  It was a pleasant change.

We met Geoff’s friend Dave who took us back to his house to drop our stuff before the wedding rehearsal.  The wedding is being held in the most charming stone church.  It’s small and intimate and positively dripping with history.  There are ancient looking gravestones in the churchyard.  It’s like a fairy tale.  Though I must say, I was completely frozen.

From there, we went to a local pub for my first ever experience of a pub quiz.  I am normally quite good at trivia, but as I know very little about British pop culture, I was completely useless.  The conversation was, of course, focused on wedding business.  I’m sure it will be a lovely ceremony.  I’m nervous about having to be on my own all day, but I suppose there are worse things.  It will be a good opportunity to challenge myself to talk to strangers.  Oh, I also will be conspicuously without one of those silly British hats that ladies are so fond of wearing to weddings.  I shall do my best to disappear.

Castles Are Cool

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You’ll never guess the first thing that we did when we woke up this morning.  We had a cup of tea.  But after a scan of some British TV (of course, the cooking show was my favorite) we headed to a little diner for the dreaded full English breakfast.  I was pleased to know I could order a small version, which included bacon, sausage, an egg, a piece of buttered toast, and a big pile of baked beans.  Oh, and another cup of tea.  I managed to finish most of my food, while Geoff had three times as much as me.  I literally thought he was going to be sick.

While we digested this monstrosity, we drove out to Beeston castle in the most beautiful English countryside you could imagine.  Everywhere I turned, there were stunning enormous farmhouses with lushly landscaped front yards.  It was magnificent before we even reached the castle.

But once we got there, what we saw was spectacular to behold.  We had absolutely perfect weather yet again.  From the top of where the castle actually stood, you could see for miles in every direction.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so much green in my life.  It was absolutely amazing.

After walking around the castle and the surrounding woods, we were quite thirsty.  We found a pub called The Pheasant which gave us yet another spectacular view.  I sat drinking my Sprite looking at the landscape barely being bothered by the sun and wind leaching all the moisture from my skin.

After the long drive and train back to Rishton, I was pretty wiped out.  But within five minutes of sitting down, I was offered exactly what I happened to be craving, a cup of tea.  Barbara threw a few things in the oven leftover from Sundays buffet, and we managed quite a little feast of a picnic in the living room.  After a nice chat with Geoff’s family, I once again find myself happy to be in bed quite early.  Tomorrow we have yet another part of the country to tackle and a whole new group of people to meet.  When do I get a vacation from my vacation?