A Collision of Worlds

When we moved to America nearly six years ago, we were worried about many things. We worried whether we were doing the right thing leaving everything and everyone we knew behind. I’d just qualified as a nurse so how could these skills be transferable? How would the boys settle in school? What were the schools like? Where would we live? You know we never once worried about the language. I mean, the Americans speak English right…how hard could it be?

Apparently over here if you want slices of cucumber in your subway sandwich, you have to say “cucumbers”. Rich found this out the hard way when he tried to order one. How many ways are there to say “cucumber”? What word could the patient but confused Subway assistant be confusing “cucumber” for…CUUUU…CUMMM…BBERRRR! It seems Rich asking for “cucumber” inferred he wanted a whole unsliced cucumber plonked in his sandwich and the poor guy unsurprisingly just couldn’t make sense of it! Eventually, he managed to make himself understood that 3 maybe 4 slices would be sufficient but it was only in the last year or so we eventually found out not pluralizing the cucumber was at the heart of the misunderstanding! We’d often wondered why he’d struggled!

I remember going to this quaint little tea room with a friend after we’d been here a while. I wanted a sandwich but the sandwich came with tomato slices and a side of lexical anxiety. “No tomato please…erm, no tomato…to-ma-to?…erm, no toe-may-do?…thanks…yep, you guessed right. Yep, I’m English…oh thanks…I love your accent too”. I’m not saying that everyone comments on how they love our accent but if we had a dollar every time they did, I’m sure we’d be able to buy at least a microwave. It’s actually really sweet but being typically English, I feel awkward accepting compliments so I’ve found returning the sentiment negates the unease I feel at being complimented on something I cant really control. In fairness, it’s true though. I still love an American accent, especially the Texan one, which is really handy living here.

We actually nearly didn’t live here though. Before we made the big leap across the pond, Rich spent a year in Houston and we stayed behind in England. Once we knew we were actually going to make the move, he told me to start researching neighborhoods. Houston, a city of 6 million is mahoosive! The kids would be moving from a primary school with approximately 300 pupils to an elementary with 1000+ kids. And that’s pretty much the average number for the schools around here-the high schools run at 3300! So you can imagine trying to find a home was daunting. Luckily, his colleagues were full of great advice and soon he was instructing me to look up “Kadey” as a potential future home area. I checked. I double checked. Kadey does not exist…do you mean “Katy” dear husband!?! After checking the spelling with his buddy, he realised he did! So although we moved to Katy, we pretty much do live in Kadey now. We both work with Americans. The kids attend the local schools. My jobs here have always involved working with people where clear communication is essential so I use the American words like trash, soda and I have to admit that my previously crystal clear T’s in words like Saturday and butter have now slipped a liddle into D’s. Alex has pretty much retained his British accent but young Joshie has developed a hybrid British Texan lilt. He sounds American to us but Americans recognize him as British straight away so I’m not sure exactly how it works except he never ever stops talking. I do wonder if with the quarantine and no longer in an American school environment, his British accent may start to show again.

Then there was the time, not long after we’d moved over here that I thought a good way to meet new people and potentially make friends was to sign up for the school PTA store. They sell all manner of tat: clackers, toy aliens, and stationary that kids decide they absolutely must have and then (in my experience) languishes at the bottom of the drawer or toy box waiting for the day you can sneak in, bag it up and clear it out because although they’ve never played with or even thought about it in the 18 months since they declared a state of emergency to get it. The day you ask is the day they suddenly realize how vital it is to their very essence and there ain’t no way it’s going in that black bag. But it’s an excellent fundraiser for the PTA and they needed parent volunteers to help run it. This would be my chance to demonstrate what a nice wholesome person I was. How I may be the lovely charming new friend they didn’t know they needed. The detail I forgot however, was some English words have different meanings over here and that’s how it came to be that I was politely told off with much awkwardness for enthusiastically selling “rubbers” to kindergartners.

Hands down tho, the word that makes me cringe the most is “fanny”. If you are unsure what “fanny” means in English English, feel free to google it but don’t blame me for the images on your device! It instinctively produces an infantile response where if I’m drinking coffee, I’m immediately going to spit that delicious black nectar out with a juvenile giggle. Every single time. Fanny packs. They sound like something you’d regretfully need to buy at a chemist…why on earth would you want to keep your phone in them! Ouch! My absolute favourite “fanny” moment was when I was working nights at the dementia unit and one of the residents had woken early. He was a fan of Gone with the Wind. He was delighted when I suggested we put it on for him and asked if I’d seen it. When I replied I hadn’t, I wasn’t mentally prepared for his next command “Oh my Miss Emma! Well then! Sit your fanny down and let’s watch it together!” It was 4.30am ish so my brain perhaps wasn’t on top form but I actually gasped in horror until I realised his statement was so sweetly, innocently kind. So I did in fact, sit my fanny down and tried to watch it but in truth, I was mainly giggling in my head at what he’d said and to this day, still have no idea why Rhett doesn’t give a damn!

There’s been so many unexpected giggles along this bilingual journey. These were just a few. I hope they made you smile. As I’m getting into this blogging malarky I think I need to start adding hash tags but “fanny”, “rubbers” and “cucumbers” probably aren’t going to attract the right readers!! I’m not sure it’ll be the post they were expecting!

This was the alternative title song choice-Rich looked it up on You Tube and that comment was just perfect but I went with the song from Cars 2 as it was in my playlist and we watched it so many times before moving out here!

In the Air Tonight

Well, I am English so of course, I’m gonna talk about the weather. It’s an English past time. And having moved to Texas, we’ve been given oh so much more to talk about with regards to that topic.

As I type a storm is raging outside. We’ve had approximately 7 inches of rain fall over night. They’re saying it should end by 9.30am but it’s been going strong since 3am (well that’s what time it woke me). It’s been at times, like a horror movie storm: the kind of crashing thunder where when the lightning flashes, you see a once hidden murderer poised with his axe lit up ready to strike on the over excitable teenagers who were just out to carry on the prom night party fun. House shaking thunder. It rages for a while then quietens. Then suddenly the whole house is illuminated again and the accompanying roar reminds us this storm is not done yet.

We frequently still get asked how we like Houston. People hear our accents and get excited. It happens at least once a week (erm, well maybe once a month since we’ve not been going out thanks to Covid) but whenever we meet new people they ask. The answer that feels the most truthful is we love it here but the weather always seems to be trying to kill us.

It doesn’t just rain, the clouds seem to explode with cascades of water which seem to be compelled to slam into the earth with an unseen, unbreakable magnetic force. The windscreen wipers on their highest speed cannot deal with the deluge so driving becomes a white knuckle ride. So many times I have tried to turn my wipers on harder but they’re already maxed out. Then, you turn a corner and suddenly the rain has stopped. Just gone! Often it never even started there. The streets can be almost flooding 10ft ago but now my wipers are flailing their little arms left and right all over my now dry windscreen with a squeaky scream each time almost like they’re calling out in exhaustion “please let me stop!” The road’s dry and the sun’s shining. The first time I experienced this I remember feeling a little panicked as 100ft away my vision seemed blurry. I was scared I was ill but as that 100ft decreased I realised I was about to enter thru an invisible curtain, thru to torrential rain and the blurriness I’d imagined was just due to the unrelenting downpour that was taking place further up the street. I’m not crazy, I know rainclouds have to have an end somewhere but I’ve never known them to be so linear. Dry. Wet. No inbetween.

I so miss drizzle. I miss those cold November evenings coming home from work when the street lamps, the traffic lights and car headlights and their indicators reflect onto the damp roads and pavements. When you squish your eyes up to make things seem blurry so they’re almost hinting at being twinkly Christmas lights (obviously when you’re not driving). The sound of the swooshing the buses and vans make as they drive along the wet but not flooding roads. Obviously, I think absence makes the heart grow fonder and this maybe gives my memories a rose tinted sheen as I also remember shivering my a** off as I stood double checking the bus timetable, looking at my watch and cursing the typically delinquent bus.

Thankfully here, I don’t have to rely on buses. The thought of waiting at a bus stop fills me with dread and more thoughts of dying. This time from the heat and humidity. Davy Crockett apparently said “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas” (although some reckon he said “Y’all can go…” which sounds much more likely). He wasn’t wrong. Summer in Texas is unbelievably hot and uncomfortable. Stepping outside sometimes feels like that overbearing draught you get when you open a hot oven except you have to step into it instead of just shutting the door and waiting a while longer on your roast potatoes!

Today it’s 91°f (32°C) with the humidity making it feel like 103°f (39°C)! It’s not even the height of summer yet-it’s going to get hotter! Five minutes outside and the sweat starts to trickle stickly down your back. Two or three showers a day are common. When we first arrived (in October), we couldn’t understand why everything was drive thru. Drive thru banks, Drive thru pharmacies, Drive thru donut shops. However, by the following May we had begun to understand. Literally just walking across the car park to the store is an actual effort. Shade is a slight and infrequent blessing but with the humidity, unlike in the UK, it doesn’t actually make much difference heatwise surprisingly. You still feel like you’re melting. For me, swimming is about the only activity that is enjoyable outside here but even then in the summer months, it feels like a warm bath. If the AC even begins to sound troubled, my anxiety increases tenfold. In England, the cry was always “Shut that door! You’re letting the heat out!” Here it’s a similar cry but instead you’re being screamed at because you’re letting the heat in! The relief from walking out of the heat into the blessed joy of AC is always welcomed with more excitement than I ever felt changing temperatures would warrant.

My favourite season here is autumn without a shadow of a doubt. October brings plentiful sunshine and no humidity. Rich has become a bit of a grill master here and it’s always perfect weather for grilling and margaritas. I just love it. Bike riding and walks are possible to enjoy although with my cycling history, I still stay clear of bikes!

The other saying they’re fond of around these parts is if you don’t know what the weather is going to be, wait an hour and it’ll change. (This is more for winter, spring and autumn. Summer is either hot, hot or hotter). I’ve sent the kids to school in jumpers, coats, hats and gloves and they’ve come home having left them all at school as the weather changed and it was too warm for a jumper, let alone a coat with a cute bobble hat!

But Texas never disappoints where weather is concerned. Yep, I think I could do without the hurricanes and tropical storms. The frequent trips to the closet in spring time as I can’t ignore the tornado warnings despite only ever seeing a spout on a photo a couple of miles from here. The oppressive heat. The three day winter…we had snow here once-I woke the kids up at 5am to play in it which was a good decision as it was gone by 9.30am! Rich has even had work cancelled because it was a bit frosty and they’re just not set up for that kind of silliness. If you’ve seen some of the overpasses here, it makes far more sense…you’d not want to try one of them in icy conditions! But it certainly adds to the adventure of living here. Texas weather doesn’t disappoint a secret weather enthusiast even if it does terrify her at times. There’s always something in the air here!

Wow! I’m definitely English with all that weather waffle. Thanks for bearing with me if you did! It took me a couple of days-thats why the weather changed halfway thru! And I didn’t even get onto clouds which are totally epic here 😉!!

Arriving at the store yesterday morning: beautiful sunshine to the east and dark ominous rainclouds coming in from the west!