Monday, April 30, 2012

Move It!

It has been a busy month or so since my last post. Chrissy and Phil were here for a bit. They didn't overlap my time here too much as they were busy sightseeing in Scotland and racking up parking tickets for spending the night at rest stops (note: if you see a safe place to pull over for the night 'whilst' driving in the UK, it's too good to be true. They only allow for sleeping within 30" of highways. Definitely learning that the hard way.).

Jeralyn also came out for a weekend at the beginning of the month. It was something we decided to do on Tuesday, bought the ticket on Wednesday, and she was on a plane Thursday for a Friday morning landing, then off again on Sunday. It was a whirlwind trip, but we got a lot in. In order to keep the ticket price reasonable, she flew into London and out of Manchester.

I was able to leave Thursday night and crash with my friend Lewis (from New Zealand, Oslo, and Fieldview Festival fame) at his flat. He just moved into a place in downtown London. It was great catching up until all hours of the morning. When all was said and done, I ended up getting two hours of sleep before leaving to meet Jeralyn. Not only that, but being downtown meant tons of revelers out and about all night keeping things noisy. I mean all night. Loud, drunk, and sometimes violent. When I left his apartment around 5:45am, there were just as many people out as when I got there around 10:30pm. Lots of kebabs and chips eaten in that neighborhood every night, I'm sure.

Following the airport pick-up, Jeralyn and I headed due south to Brighton. It's a famous beach in southern England, but I can't say whether or not people would swim in the cold water. We got there really early and nothing was open. Besides seeing the famous pier, we mostly just saw weird looking people making out on the beach (no, not referring to us).

After that, we took the scenic route to the city of Dover, which is famous for the white cliffs. They weren't quite as impressive as Jeralyn was hoping, but Dover Castle was really impressive. Due to the high cost of admission (GBP 16.50 (~$25) per person), we got an English Heritage membership to use later in the summer. We only have GBP 50 to go before it pays for itself. Easy.

(note the white cliffs and her refusal to wear sunglasses in pictures, no matter how bright)

After that, we went to Rochester by accident. We were looking for a place to eat and got off M25 to look for a town. It was a great find, but we missed the opportunity to use our English Heritage membership at the tower there by 15 minutes. So close.

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out around my place. 48 hours isn't a very long time, but we didn't waste much of it on sleep.

The middle part of the month was the standard: fixing fences. I decided to beef up the posts pretty substantially. It looks a little funny, but they should hold. I am pretty sure I am officially done having to fix fences at this place. If I ever need to install fences in the future, remind me not to do it with the cheapest materials available. That said, it did give me an excuse to buy a pickaxe with a 7 lbs head on it and a hickory handle. Oh, man, does that thing chew up cement and rocks. I've said it before and I'll say it again: having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. Worth every penny.

Despite learning that I will be staying in England a little longer than expected, I am still (hopefully) going to be selling my place in the very near future. There are some issues with getting the sale finalized, so we won't hit our original sale date of 1 May, but I had the movers come anyway and they took everything away today. I have no idea how I accumulated so much stuff. It's embarrassing. I spent an entire weekend sorting, organizing, and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, but I still filled 5 crates to the brim. That doesn't include the stuff I kept in the house so that I could still stay here for the summer.

A big part of it was tools, so I'm good with that part. It is what I needed to fix up this place and future places. A big part was furniture. This was the first time I didn't have any roommates, so I ended up buying couches, dining tables, chairs, TV stand, etc. Clothes, dishes, pots, pans, sports equipment, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. So much stuff. The lesson here is that I need to reduce my collection of things. Free stuff coming soon, everyone!

Now that my stuff is gone, I should have a little more free time. I still need to sell my house, but once that is done, I am home free for the summer! Coming up I have a camping trip in Scotland and a weekend trip to France. It has been a long time since I've left England (besides a 3 month work trip to the US). It will be good to get out of the house!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


After almost 3 months of being back in the US, I have returned to the UK. There is a definite feeling of being "home" here. A big part of it is due to the friends, neighbors, and co-workers that I have here. A lot of it also has to do with having a kitchen again. Being in a house remodeled the way I wanted has a positive effect, as well. I'm not sure why wood, stone, and porcelain floors make me so content, but they do. Lastly, I missed the quiet that England has to offer. Yesterday I had my windows open and all I could hear was birds and the occasional child laughing or crying. What a pleasant place to be: no traffic noise, airplanes overhead, or listening through paper thin walls to hotel neighbors having coughing fits at all hours.

That being said, I really enjoyed my time in Virginia Beach, too. The sound of the ocean any time I cracked the windows, getting to meet and spend time with work peers that I had never met before, running barefoot on the beach, and, most of all, being able to see Jeralyn more often. We got spoiled with weekend visits and being in the same time zone. We are remembering that being an ocean apart makes communication more of a challenge.

The last couple of months went by pretty quickly. The course required more of a time investment than I thought it would, including working weekends. I was able to carve out enough time to make one snowboarding trip with a couple of friends from the class. The snow conditions were pretty miserable (warm for weeks, to the point that mud was sticking through the snow in a lot of places and it just got worse as the day went on), but we had a good time regardless. I borrowed some gear from one of the guys and was pretty surprised how light and responsive snowboards have become. I was doing the math and it turns out my snowboard is a 1995 model (possibly a 1996). Doesn't sound too old, but a lot of advancements have apparently happened in 17 years. Long story short, the newer board and boots I used were much lighter and everything felt much more responsive. Seeing as I only get out once or twice per year it doesn't make sense to buy anything new right now, but if I end up somewhere with good snow and hills, it's on.

The last few weeks of the course ended with much better group dynamics than the first two months. People finally started to socialize with everyone and the cliques started to merge a bit. I happily went from eating lunch alone every day for the first week or two to getting up to 15 people going together. Most days it was about 8 or so of us spending a long lunch talking and hanging out. Bottom line, it's sometimes harder than one would think to convince people to spend time eating together (who doesn't like food?), but once you break a couple of people, the crowd more or less gets on board.

Dan and Jenny also came down for a weekend when Jeralyn was there. Although everyone met in Hawaii back in 2009, it was all in passing. It was good to spend time with just the four of us. We have some small and big plans lining up. The big plans don't look very promising at this point (finding two weeks that lines up with 4 people's schedules is tough!), but the small plans (weekend camping) should be easier to make happen.

(Dan giving proper deference to the Dragon and Ninja rolls)

Being home means home repairs. I have a couple of small things to fix around the house today as well as my favorite past time in the very near future: fence repair. I am tempted to just get a professional to put in a metal fence so that I won't have to worry about wind storms teaching my fences lessons in humility, but considering the price is well over 10x the cost of putting up wood panels myself, I get less excited about permanent fencing solutions. Waterproofing the posts is a viable, and much cheaper, option.

Lastly, it looks like I will be staying here a few months extra. I will probably be moving in August now. After years in Hawaii and England, it is time to bite the bullet and go to the East Coast. It is a place I said I would never go of my own free will, but, truth be told, I am excited to go. The job doesn't sound like it will be nearly as good as my current one, but Jeralyn and I have some pretty sweet plans for vans, hang gliding, a canoe with a motor, and lots of travels. That being said, I really need to save up my vacation days. There's never enough time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beach Front

I am back in the US for a class. My hotel room is ocean front with a great view, which makes for a great start to a day. The photo above is what I wake up to. The photo below is what I come home to. Rough life, I know.

I was also able to take a few days on the front end of the trip to hang out with Jeralyn in New York. We did mostly that: hang out. One of the milestones we reached on that trip was making the right amount of food. In the past, we have had a lot of waste, mostly because I go a bit overboard. The secret to making the right amount of food is using the right sized mixing bowls. Waste not, want not, and so on.

Jeralyn recently had a birthday and she came down so that we could celebrate together. We were looking for as many cliche activities as possible and we ended up with the obligatory long walk on the beach (while stylishly dressed and complete with jumping dolphins!), seafood dinner (empty restaurant due to arriving really late and it being the off season for tourism), and sunrises over the ocean (from the warmth and comfort of a hotel room).

We also got to hang out with my old roommate from Hawaii, Ali, who is working on a project in the area. Incidentally, if it wasn't for Ali, Jeralyn and I wouldn't have met way back when.

We had a really good time this weekend, although her flight time snuck up on us a bit. There is never enough time, I suppose, but it felt like we were just getting into the swing of things. We have a couple of other potential weekend trips lined up while I am here as well as some potential plans for later on this spring back in the UK. Hopefully more exciting adventures are on the way!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy Christmas / New Year

Christmas this year was going to be spent working on the house, but I decided, somewhat last minute, to fly to Albuquerque to surprise Jeralyn at her sister's house.

There were a couple of issues that slowed me down. First off, I don't have very many vacation days left and I am hoping to take a long biking trip this summer with some friends. Secondly, Jeralyn wasn't sure whether or not she was going to go to her sister's house due to the cost of the flights steadily rising. I had to gently nudge her to buy her ticket without being too obvious about my intentions if the surprise was going to work.

She bought her ticket 5 days before her flight. I did the same. I had already been coordinating with her sister on how to get to the house and methods of surprising Jeralyn. Once tickets were purchased, I had to figure out a good reason as to why my phone would be off for the 20 or so hours it would take to get from the UK to New Mexico. In the end, I went with something along the lines of how I was going to bring my sleeping bag and get in my car and drive west in search of a white Christmas (there ended up being no snow in the UK, that I know of). I then had to mention how both Wales and the Lake District can have shoddy cell phone reception, thereby buying myself an excuse if she tried calling while I was in flight.

In the end, she figured me out before I got there. She could tell I was speaking around something and then connected the dots on the timeline and lack of phone reception. She asked her sister directly if I was planning on surprising her for Christmas and her sister sold me out instantly. Not only did she sell me out, but she was trying to get Jeralyn to work with her on a counter surprise (as Jeralyn pointed out, her sister really just wanted someone to be surprised).

When all was said and done, Jeralyn met me just outside of security at the Albuquerque airport. I was actually on the phone with her sister when I saw Jeralyn (her sister gave me no indication of selling me out), so I was a little confused at first as to why she was there.

It ended up working out well. She was happy to see me (despite it not being a surprise) and things were already fairly delayed due to a snowstorm. Due to delayed flights and closed roads, we didn't get to her sister's house until after 1:00am. It wasn't until after the fact we learned that Jeralyn was delayed in Atlanta and was supposed to be on the same flight as me to Albuquerque! We could have been hanging out in the airport for 4 hours and then on the 3 hour flight to Albuquerque together. Unfortunately, I didn't send my itinerary to her sister, just my arrival times, and Jeralyn talked to the customer service desk and got back on her original earlier flight.

As for Christmas in New Mexico, it was a lot of fun. Lots of talking, eating, and hanging out in scrubs. I got to meet a small portion of her large family. On a side note, my eyes were completely bloodshot the entire time and looking at photos from that day and a half make my eyes hurt. I didn't take too many pictures, but I did manage to snap a couple.

On the trip back, which was Christmas day, the flight back to England was only about 1/3 full. I ended up getting to take a middle row of 3 seats and lay down. I slept almost the entire flight, from the time the seat belt sign went off after take off until the seat-backs up announcement was made before landing.

New Year's was low key, but good. I went to some friends' house for a small get together. We made sushi and hung out while waiting for Big Ben to be lit up with fireworks at the stroke of midnight.

And now it is 2012. I think there are a couple of predictions for the end of the world this year, but, despite those, I think this is going to be a great year.

Monday, December 05, 2011


This Thanksgiving I was able to take a short trip to Iceland with my brother and some friends from work. It was a great trip and I look forward to going back someday to see more of what it has to offer.

A quick synopsis of the trip:
- Early morning drive to Glasgow, Scotland with 5 people crammed into my car. We ate Christmas sandwiches before the flight, which involves turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

- Flew to Keflavik. Got stuck on the airplane for 40 minutes because the skybridge/jetway was broken.
- Went straight to the Blue Lagoon, which is a geothermally heated pool (it also happens to be the waste water from a power plant). We hung out there for a few hours. Sitting in a super warm, giant pool of water during a snow storm is so great. Maybe one of the greatest ideas ever in the history of the world. I am going to have an outdoor hot tub some day. Mark my words!

- From there to Reykjavik to check into the hotel. The studio apartment that my brother and I were sharing had a broken pipe. We got upgraded to a two bedroom place with a 7 jet shower. Nice.

- Up early for breakfast and a start to site seeing. We left the hotel over an hour before dawn. Of course, dawn was around 1000. During breakfast the fire alarm went off. We thought it would go off on its own. Turns out it was hooked up to the whole building. All of our neighbors were outside standing in the snow in pajamas while we ate eggs. The lady that came in to tell us we were messing things up for everyone ended up being from Chicago. She told us a bunch of great places to go to and see.

- We drove around the Golden Circle, hitting all of the major sites
- Geysir (the name of a hot water spout after which all others were named)

- Thingvellir rift valley (where the continental plates are ripping apart)

- A few churches
- The place where laws were debated and fought over way back when
- A giant waterfall called Gulfoss

- Ate at Fjorubordid, the most famous langoustine restaurant in Iceland, in a small town called Stokkseyri.

- Up early, breakfast, including Skyr; custard like yogurt.

- Drove in the wrong direction for almost an hour.

- Got back on track.

- Crossed over a mountain

- Saw some great waterfalls; Glugafoss and Skogarfoss

- Hiked a little, but didn't make it to the glacier we were hoping to see

- Saw Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that caused all of the air travel delays a year and a half ago

- Accidentally ate some Icelandic horses (cheapest meat!)

- Left before 5am for the airport; streets were packed (everyone stays out until all hours on Friday and Saturday night)

- Flew home, followed by a long drive. So sleepy. I drove 1000 miles on that trip!

Iceland was beautiful. The people weren't necessarily the most friendly, but I definitely much prefer people who don't smile or wave than the ones who buddy up trying to sell you their not-so-sweet souvenirs.