Week 1

Feels like time to refresh, since so much happens in the beginning. I guess I’ve managed to get quite a lot done in 5 days, although mostly it feels like trying to run in water up to my knees.

I figured signing up for cell service would be an easy one. After gathering opinions and browsing through mobile stores, I went into O2, chose a pay-as-you-go plan, and got a new sim. They inserted it to discovered that my iPhone was locked, meaning I couldn’t use it on any network besides AT&T. As it was closing time, I had to wait until the following day to find a shop that could unlock it. Then I went back to O2, re-signed up, and was in business. In the two days since then I’ve made two calls to customer service. First because my phone wasn’t actually using my pay-as-you-go plan for the first 24 hours (ironically called “simplicity“). Instead it was deducting money from my buffer balance that is supposed to come in handy at the end of the month. Today I called because my balance was again quickly dropping, only to find out there is a whole series of numbers not included in my coverage! Phone numbers in the UK contain 11 digits, and the first two give you a lot of information, for instance, landline or cell phone. But sometimes you have to notice the first 3, 4, or even 5 digits. These can signify: access numbers used to call internationally, or non-geographical telephone numbers, which don’t connect to a particular phone line, thus could be answered from anywhere. In England a number beginning with 0800 is comparable to an American 1-800 number, but while it is free on a landline phone, I was getting charge 35p (50¢) per minute! According to my Americanophile customer service rep, for O2 to suggest walking me through the terms of my mobile plan when I purchased it would be discrimination, because they must assume I know the standard terms, even though I’m clearly American. *sigh*

Last Friday I went into a bank (HSBC because that’s the only one I’d previously heard of) to find out what type of account I could get. After a few minutes of discussion I was scheduled for a mid-afternoon appointment. When I arrived back they were exceptionally busy, so I waited for half an hour. Then the very polite banker escorted me back, brought me a cup of tea, and began gathering my information. Once this was all entered he realized that I don’t qualify for any free checking accounts. To get the standard account they require a monthly direct deposit. To get the student account you must have lived in the UK for minimum 3 years. All he could offer me was the passport account, which charges 8 shillings (~$12) a month. He assured me I can and should close the account within 14 days if I find free checking elsewhere. In the remaining 15 minutes before closing time I went into 3 banks that each assured me I can get a completely free checking account. By appointment. *sigh*

Yesterday I went on a cycling adventure to the village of Ditton to pick up a free cable lock that I connected with via Freecycle. Alternately “lost” and then recognizing a landmark, I made it within 0.6 miles of my destination according to google maps. Then I pinpointed my location on my now-working iPhone and proceeded. Two miles later I re-mapped and found I was two miles beyond my 0.6 miles-from-destination mark. On the way back I asked for directions and found out that I had missed my turn in the exact spot that I was rubber necking the village thinking “this is so cute, I could totally live here.” This was a success though, because I got a bike lock and a lot of exercise. I also got some great photos along the way.

I’ve also been to several pubs now, to eat and ask about employment opportunities. So far I’ve had 2.5 good meals and 1 potential job lead. Just yesterday I showed up at The Kings Arms for lunch and realized it’s Sunday! On my last trip I learned that Sunday roast is a traditional British meal served each Sunday in the early afternoon. It is a big deal and draws quite a crowd, as was obvious from walking into a small village pub near capacity at 3:00 in the afternoon. They had already run out of roast beef, so that simplified my choice: chicken. It was served with roasted potatoes, a roll-like pastry, very tasty mixed vegetables (primarily peas), and a mystery lump with cranberries, which I found to be the most flavorful part of the meal: stuffing! It all went down smooth with a pint of HSB.

My accommodations are by and large the best part of my trip so far. My hosts Viv and Mick are very helpful with information, recommendations, and even hooked me up with an affordable bicycle. (Mick even raised the seat for me!) I decided to include breakfast in my stay, although I cook for myself since I’m inconsistent with mornings. Most days we share coffee or tea, and they weigh in on my plans for the day, the weather, how I’m finding it here, and offer helpful advice. My room is upstairs with a south-facing window overlooking the garden (yard), very homey and cute. I also have my own bathroom, and share the shower in the main bathroom.

If I walk to the end of the lane and take a right we’re just one long block from a main motorway (freeway). For safety the town of Detling has built Jade’s Crossing, a pedestrian bridge over the road. Quite an incredible view looking southeast on a clear day. And I hear by Wednesday it should be up to 26°C!

That’s 82.5°F. ;)

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