After 3 weeks, it’s starting to feel like we live here.
I started a job this week as an administrative assistant at a private medical practice in Oxford and James has been busy working away on a paper that’s due this weekend. Willow has been surviving our full work days just fine but she has definitely needed some exercise and attention in the evening. We’ve established a nice routine of walking to work in the morning, grabbing groceries on the way home, having tea and catching up on our days over dinner and then taking Willow out for a family walk in the evening. It sure is nice having everything within walking distance!
Over the weekend, we had beautiful weather and were able to get out and socialize with a group of people from James’s lab. There are a few other postdocs who recently moved to Oxford so a couple of locals kindly organized an afternoon of picnicking in Port Meadow followed by a pub crawl and Sunday Roast. We have now been to Port Meadow a couple of times and it’s a real gem. It is a very old area of grazing land which is still used for horses and cattle, and according to legend has never been ploughed for at least around 4,000 years. While walking through the meadow, we came across the ruins of Godstow Abbey (also called Godstow Nunnery) which was built in the 1100s. We also encountered a few grazing cows and a fox.
On the outing we learned and experienced some new things about British culture:
- Sunday Roast (aka Sunday Lunch): includes some sort of roast meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken), roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, topped with gravy. We both had the beef roast and agreed that the meal was a bit bland. I enjoyed the Yorkshire pudding which tastes like a popover but James wasn’t impressed.
- Punting: refers to boating in a punt, which is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers (such as the Thames) or other shallow water. The punt is propelled by one person pushing against the river bed with a pole. We have not yet done this but it is on our to-do list. Apparently you can make your way through most of Oxford on a punt.
- Pimms: a popular summer cocktail enjoyed by Britons consisting of Pimms (a gin-based liqueur), carbonated lemonade, and a mixture of fruit and mint. We both enjoyed this one.
- Pudding: a term for dessert in general rather than the custard-like dessert this refers to in the US. Puddings can also be savory such as Yorkshire pudding, black pudding (aka blood pudding), suet pudding and steak and kidney pudding. So far we’ve had lots of “pudding” but I think the Yorkshire pudding is the only savory one I will be crossing off of my list.
- Greetings: generally social events start and end with a hug and maybe a kiss on both cheeks. This is one that we are going to have to get more comfortable with.
So far, we are adjusting well. We have been more than happy to partake in the tea and biscuit tradition and are looking forward to sampling all of the flavors of biscuits to choose a favorite (mostly me). We are super impressed with the grocery stores; the food is affordable, mostly healthy and really fresh. They have fantastic deals on ready-made foods for dining in and some of the deals include a free bottle of wine. Not only that, but grocery stores are so much more accessible than they are at home. You could almost put a grocery store where every Starbucks is in Seattle. We’ve both been enjoying walking as a mode of transportation. It’s so nice to have your exercise incorporated into the day. When the weather changes, we might not feel so excited about it. Finally, we are loving the abundance of green space and beautiful architecture.
That being said, we’ve started to feel a bit homesick. It’s starting to hit us that we are so far away from family and friends and won’t be back for a long time. We both get excited when we hear an American accent and don’t have to strain to understand what is being said. We miss being able to call our families at normal hours, efficient customer service, and having a dryer for our clothes. We’re also missing some foods that we considered staples at home such as salsa (and good ingredients for making Mexican food in general), maple syrup (I was able to find this at a very expensive price in a specialty food store), American peanut butter, pancake mix, Northwest style IPAs (James) and American style Greek yogurt.
We’ve already grown and learned so much through this experience. We’re looking forward to more opportunities to meet friends and get to know more about British history, culture and food. Without a doubt, there will be many more homesick days but our stream of visitors in the coming months will help!
We have some upcoming touristy trips planned so stay tuned.