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From the heart … with no names mentioned

iBlog USAThis is not for the faint hearted, or for those that have surfed here for a trivial piece of Geofftech nonsense if you only have two minutes to spare in your day. Yes, it’s one of those type of posts people. You know the score, you have been warned, etc …

I had an interesting quote said to me quite early on in an email today. It’s not as good as the very first thing that was spoken to me by someone this morning, but we’ll come back to that later and start with this instead.

The email, from someone back home this morning, which at one point said “I’m keeping a very keen eye on your blog these days -although I sometimes wonder what you’re really feeling.”

No offence, but until then a lot of emails had just said the normal sort of things that you would expect. “How are things?”, “Are you working yet?”, “Are you settling in yet?” .. and all the bog standard questions which family, friends, old colleagues, etc.. back home have asked as you would have expected them to ask.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but to be honest – it didn’t provoke me to come out with a complete answer. It’s like when someone says “Good morning, how are you?”, and you reply “Hello, I’m fine thanks”. They don’t really want to know how you are, and you don’t really want to tell them if you are feeling happy, sad, or whatever. It’s just something you say.

Because the whole thing seemed so easy. And I sold it to myself as being easy. When the decision was made back at the beginning of March, I wrote down a list of things I needed to do to be here:

Set a date. Organise job sabbatical. Rent out flat. Get a visa. Pack stuff up. Buy ticket and fly over.

Just like that. And when you look at it just like that – like a shopping list that might just say “Buy milk, bread and go to the dry cleaners on the way back”, it seems quite simple doesn’t it? And I just went about getting on with it in a very simplistic manner.

Except it’s not that straightforward is it? Is it? Actually No. You have no idea what it feels like. And by “you”, I mean both me and you. For like most things – until you get out there and actually do it, you have no idea what it’s really like. Or feels like. Or what it makes you think or do, or how you react to it, and how that reaction makes others around you react and change their mood, and how that mood change then has an effect upon your life and changes you back. And so on. As someone once said to me about my personality: “You dictate my mood”.

And so a ride of emotions and moods it’s been, because often it’s not easy. It’s not a simple list. It’s been fucking hard some days. And often it’s not the things which you tried to pre-empt and guess would be hard, but some non-obvious moments which trigger off thoughts and memories from the past and somehow make the present seem bastardly difficult.

Including one spectacular moment which came exactly twelve days after getting here at the beginning of last month.

I think that’s when it first hit me. When I realised what I’d done, where I was, and not that I hated it, but just for a moment – for one little moment – I wanted to run home. Go to a coffee shop that I knew. Sit in my favourite corner. Meet with old friends. Pay with pounds. Go home and watch the BBC. Not have to think about being five hours behind. Everything. And it made me feel shit. Really really shit. Shit to the point where it was very confusing as I couldn’t even get my head around exactly what had made me get up that morning and suddenly feel like that all of a sudden.

And to make it worse I was in a place – away for the weekend with people who were being ultra nice to me – but yet I couldn’t escape, and I couldn’t get away, and I felt cut-off, alone and unable to get some of my own time and space which is what I think I needed. And I had a terrible day. Really terrible. You don’t need me to go into details, because people rarely do, do they?

Even when people ask “Have you had a bad day yet?”, and you casually go “Oh, yeah .. I had a bit of a shit weekend last weekend actually”, that’s a truly copout answer because nobody wants to hear how you were in floods of tears because all you wanted to do, right then, was just nip home – and see someone, people, things, anything back home that wasn’t new, but comfortable and familiar – not to escape and runaway permamently, but just for an hour or two, before coming back again.

But you carry on, because you have to. Because there’s nothing else to do. Because life isn’t all bad here, there are a load of reasons why I love it here, including one special reason and one special person who lights up my life and makes me feel good everyday and every time that I see her, and it helps … helps so much. And helps you get on with things like I had to, and so which I did.

So I chased up my lettings agent (still no one to rent my flat – anyone?), closed down all my utility bills (Although Seeboard have STILL managed to fuck up my electricity despite four phonecalls to them), went about trying to get work, tried not to panic about the fact that I’m living on borrowed time and spending money that I don’t really have until I actually earn some for real that I can spend properly.

There seem like a million things do, and there were more lists, and everyday I’d refresh my list and do things on them only for the next day there would be new things that would get put on the list and it seemed like I was chasing my tail and doing things forever but not getting anywhere … and it all added to the frustration.

Until this weekend … or maybe just before. I think it started with a throwaway conversation on Thursday. And I then went out on my bike (see below) on Saturday. To an excellent day on Sunday. A sort of excellent day where I actually really didn’t want the day to end, because I was having such a good day, that I didn’t want to go to sleep and get up on Monday because it would break the spell of the good day that I was having.

But then Monday was good too! I got out by myself, and made myself a sort of routine – something which I probably hadn’t had since being back home. And Monday turned into a really good day too .. wow, a really good day! And more small conversations ensued – sometimes about important things, somethings about tiny seemingly insignificant things, which actually have a bigger affect on you than you realise. And then I started to realise that I might be able to get up on Tuesday morning (today) and have a good day today as well.

And at that point something happened. Well two things happened that were quite significant.

Firstly, I slept through the night without waking up. I was asleep by 11pm, and woke up naturally around 06.30 this morning. This is the first time in 5 weeks that I’ve been here that this has happened – even on nights when I’ve tried to knock myself out with sleeping tablets.

And I had no strange dreams either. Almost every night since I’ve been here in an attempt to take in and process what I’ve done, I’ve been having some bizarre dreams. Old people, friends, faces, and places have been popping into my head. I’ve been imagining I’ve been back home .. and then here again, and then a mix of the two worlds, as my poor confused brain slowly adjusts and processes everything that’s been going on.

And so I got up. Made tea. Pootled around, and felt good. Really good. That’s three good days on the trot now.

Secondly, and most importantly of all … I felt normal. Just – normal. I hadn’t really realised that I hadn’t been acting or feeling not normal I think up to this point, but it hit me then that I now was. This was quite a big thing. I had to go and tell someone important, someone that I wanted to know that that’s how I felt now.

So a yawning-just-woken-up-sitting-up-in-bed Leigh was in front of me. I smiled. I thought about speaking, but I thought I’d let her have the first words. “Morning!” she said “You know what … you’re acting quite normal”.

Oh and I smiled. How I smiled. And laughed, and looked at her chuckling for a few moments, “What?” she said, before trying to explain that I had come in to tell her that that was exactly how I felt now too, and that’s what I’d just come in to tell her, only – like all good women do – she’d got in the first word.

So, adjustment time: Five weeks. Thirty five days. Eight hundred and forty hours. (A third of which are full of crazy dreams). Or however you want to put it. It would seems that I now appear to be acting normally.

Maybe it’s not the final hurdle. Maybe it’s just the first one. But I feel like it’s a hurdle I’ve jumped, and I like it. A lot.


Some clearing up to do, I feel. Something else which helped me get here today…

A few weeks ago, I had a slight mini rant. It seemed that no one here wanted to be friendly or talk to me. Was I choosing the wrong people? Was I expecting to make friends too soon? Or did people genuinely not like me or think I was a bit odd?

So here’s the no names bit, because I want to mention people but without identifying them. I don’t know why, I just want to do it that way.

When I went to my local bar a few Mondays back, the guy in question probably didn’t realise that that was my first time out in Charleston without Leigh – quite a big thing for me, which sounds stupid, but it really was, but there was no way I could ever tell him just how nice it was to get out and do that. I probably still couldn’t convey the sentiment correctly today if I tried.

At the weekend just gone, I went out for a bike ride with a couple of guys. Actually, I say “a couple”, but it was just one person that I’d met through Leigh, because his mate couldn’t turn up as his car had broken down. And then when I say “We went for a bike ride”, what actually happened is that we rode for about two minutes, he got a puncture, he spent half an hour trying to repair it during which he broke his car key using it as a tyre lever, had to call his wife to get her to come out with a spare key .. and after we’d done all that we decided to call it quits and go and drink some rather strong Rogue Brutal Bitter. Yum. And I got the most pissed that I’ve done for a while, added to the fact the chain of cock-ups that we’d had actually made it a real fun afternoon, but the guy in question will probably never ever know how much I enjoyed it or why it was so important to me.

Leigh & I went out with our neighbour and her fiancee for a couple of drinks the other night. They have no idea (even though I tried to mention it the next day) just how nice I thought they were to me especially as they’ve now given my name to a few people including a great guy in town who may be able to put some work my way. How do you go up to someone and say “Thank you for just being normal and acting normally to me, because it’s made me act normal too!”. How? They’d think you were crazy. But that’s what happened.

Then there’s another guy I met that’s just moved in to a house one block down and around the corner from us. He popped round the other day to try and help me with a techie thing that I was trying (and failing) to do, and even though he didn’t manage to fix it either, it really made me feel good and made me realise that actually there’s plenty of nice people around. That same guy then called me up yesterday, and gave me the name and number of another English guy that he knows, who I then called and got invited to someone’s house for this Saturday morning to watch the first England game in the world cup at 9am here this weekend. This really made me feel good!

So thank you. Thank you to those people. Thank you for injecting normality into my life. I’m too embarassed to thank you in person in real life or try to explain it, so instead everyone gets to read it here instead.

It doesn’t let me nip home and see my mum. I don’t get to be able to pop round and see my best friends back home and scrounge dinner off of them. I still can’t go and buy a beer and get it served in a pint glass at a bar that doesn’t have stools by it. I can’t complain about the weather anymore. I can’t go up to London on a tube train. But somehow, I feel quite normal – thank you.

Oh, and soundtrack to the whole week – the new Pet Shop Boys album – Fundamental. Now indelibly linked to this period of my life. Fantastic.



Port City Java
Automated DispenserIn absence of ‘Candy bar of the week’ (because it’s having a week off in lieu of my emotional ramblings) it’s probably worth mentioning that all this is being written from a free wireless point in a Port City Java coffee shop in downtown Charleston.

And with my fascination for toilets (bathrooms), I have to mention the best thing I’ve seen here yet loo-wise. I’ve seen motion sensing urinals before (where you break an infra red beam when you stand by it, and 60 seconds later it flushes itself), I’ve seen motion-sensing toilet-flushes (so you don’t have to touch the handle…), but the toilets here have got motion sensing paper towel dispensers! How fucking cool is that?

So I stood there for five minutes playing with it, took this picture, and then checked out their website too.

Now I’ll sit back and watch as you all comment away on automated bathroom devices, and not my emotional outpouring, you heartless bastards… 🙂

41 responses to “From the heart … with no names mentioned”

  1. Sorry, I dozed off halfway down. Have you quite finished?

  2. geofftech says:

    Ian:

    1) Fuck off.

    2) See my opening paragraph.

    3) Even a comment about any automated toilet gadget would have been funnier.

    4) See ‘1’ again.

  3. Ross says:

    Do you dream in color? / colour 😉

  4. Jono says:

    The infrared urinals they have in the US are the individual ones, aren’t they? What’s more impressive is a trough urinal with an infrared beam across it, so that when you step up, the water starts flowing.

    I first came across one of these in the Gents of a posh hotel in Copenhagen, while very, very drunk. I must have done the urinal Hokey Cokey for a couple of minutes, giggling my head off.

    What, you want serious?

  5. Jono says:

    PS.

    Get Skype and a webcam.

  6. Fimb says:

    *seriously jealous about the toilets*

    And, just for the record, when I say “how are things going?” I do actually mean it. I am truly interested in how things are going for you 🙂

  7. stroppycow says:

    Wanting you to be happy is not the same as not wanting to hear when things are not quite as rosy as they should be 🙂

  8. Richard says:

    Geoff – my one piece of advice to you is to remember that you’re never stuck in any situation, and you do have the power to change things.

    Something else that might cheer you up – Arsenal are being investigated for corruption re. owning part of another club and might just get thrown out of the Champions League.

  9. geofftech says:

    #3 – Ross, in colour, yes! Full 24-bit, I do believe.

    #4 – I first came across the infra-red beam toilets at the Patangata Tavern in outback New Zealand, which is miles from anywhere. I think that’s what impresssed me most – the fact that we weren’t even in a city and yet they had some ultra cool toilet technology. I believe I also indulged in a little “You put your left leg in…” too. 🙂

    And I’ll wear you down one day Jono… one day. Trust me.

    #6 – Fimb, well know you know! Along with everyone else…

    #8 – Ciaran. It even looks like you, fantastic!

    #9 – But the whole point is that today I *am* happy. But it’s taken five weeks to get there. That’s what I’m saying! Of course they may still be some tough times ahead, but I’m just saying that the last few days have been a milestone. I always knew I suppose it would take tmie to get there, I tried not to doubt that it would happen, and I have no regrets about being here. But that doesn’t always mean that everything has been plain sailing, y’know?

  10. Chich says:

    Heya Geoff

    I saw this and thought of you…..

    Back For An Encore: http://www.apple.com/ipod/u2/

  11. I thought the public loos in England were a bit “behind” the times… in fact, the first one I visited (at the pub called The Bunch of Grapes” in Knightsbridge,) conditions in the loo were nearly third world. Add that to the odd coincidences of constant loo clogging (see my May 2005 archives) and you will see that damn near any plumbing in the world beats English.

    We have had the auto-flush toilets in Hawaii for a while. Have you experienced the “joy” of a malfunctioning one yet? The second one in the ladies’ loo at our Costco is broken and flushes even as you are sitting down–gack! We also have the auto faucets.

    Heartfelt posts are always welcome, and as a Stranger in a Strange Land, you’ll have much to adjust to. Hang in there!!

  12. Sam says:

    Hi Geoff
    Ive been reading your blog for a long time now but never actually commented but thought i would today. Glad to hear your feeling settled in and back to normal again.

    I myself am moving to America in a few months time just for they year. And the thought of it is scaring me already. I sometimes think i should just give up and stay here. Everybody keeps going on about the great experience i will have and all the practical stuff to sort out. No one tells you what it will be actually like to have your life change completely for a year and how it will feel. So thank you, its really good to know that it is possible to do.

    Sam

  13. leslie says:

    speaking as someone who lived abroad for five years at three different times in three different countries (the last of which could have been a forever thing), what you’re feeling is extremely normal. You will get over it, though I daresay that that may be even more freaky (that ‘normal’ feeling sometimes feels as if you’re losing yourself). good luck–I know how it feels. I hope to feel it again sometime.

  14. Paul says:

    A long but interesting post. Hats off goes to Mr M. for being so honest! Fair play mate!

  15. jaq says:

    Hi Geoff,
    I’m in the midst of the immigration visa process now, so reading about your experiences is helping me think about what it will be like when I move across. Thanks.

  16. Chz says:

    Mmm.. Rogue makes some nice beer. There’s quite a lot of nice beer in the States, it’s just that they only export the shite stuff.

  17. Chz says:

    Oh, and I’d talk about how long it took to adjust from the Canada->UK move except that I don’t really remember any more. The reality of it is that I adjusted quickly, but it was probably 2 years before I was settled.

  18. Alan Perks says:

    Hmmm, football Saturday?
    YOU CAN’T BEAT BEING THERE!!

  19. Bob Hannent says:

    Geoff,

    My misses and myself are presently in a quandry about where to go. Either I quit my well paid job in the UK and move into limited prospects in Greece, or she quits her ‘job for life’ state job in Greece and comes to an uncertain hunt here. It was heartening to read your post today and its interesting that you’ve fallen into normality.

  20. Camilla says:

    so glad your happy and heve reached normality! weird as it sounds there are probably plenty of people here in cyberspace who really care what is happening to you, i know i do.

  21. Rob(Geoff's brother-in-law) says:

    Geoff…….Have you been listening to too much RADIOHEAD since you’ve been there?

  22. CV says:

    That is the most heartwarming and truly lovely thing I have read in a long long time. Re: #1 and #22; I think doing and saying profound things really sorts out who your friends are! For me, the last 18 months, during which I got engaged, married, moved house twice and am now expecting a baby has shown me a lot by the way people have reacted. Proper friends are always happy for you, unless they truly believe you are making an awful mistake (which you clearly aren’t!). Very glad to hear you are forming a life which I think you will be just as reluctant to leave in a year’s time or so as you were to leave the UK…

  23. 17. Sainsbury’s stocks Rogue. Or it did the last time I went there.

  24. Tower Block Tina says:

    Hi Geoff, not been able to post for a while, as was in hospital, foot in plaster etc. I was crying my eyes out reading your blog; seriously, as I said before it takes time to adjust. The first few weeks in a new country you are on a ‘high’, then you hit the wall and it all seems grim. Now you will be climbing back up and building a life.

    It wouldn’t do for it to be all good straight away, best to get all the bad bits out of the way. Just remind yourself occasionally about some of the crap goings on back in the U.K. Travel broadens the mind, and you will be a better man for it. Anyway waking up to your lovely lady every day can’t be bad. We are all with you, if not in body then in spirit.

  25. Lisa says:

    #15 – Hi back to you! 🙂

  26. geofftech says:

    #16 & #20 – Jaq & Bob. email me then if you want to ask anything! you should definetely both go for it .. stretch out, take the plunge, expans your horizons, ‘coz i have no doubt that i’ll look back upon it years to come with extremely fond memories.

    i.e. no regrets – but i’m just saying that it’s not plain sailing. some days can be far from it, and there’s no simple answer when people ask you “how’s it going then?”

    🙂

  27. I remember when I moved from the States to West Africa for a three-year dilomatic tour…even though it was a “temporary” post,” it still meant loads of adjustments.. but I quickly found that the good outweighed the bad, and in the end, I cried my eyes when I had to leave… and I miss it to this day… would love to go back sometime and see how the place has changed.

    There are things you’ll like about a new country and things you won’t but at the end of the day, you’ll come to realize

    (a) no place to live is perfect (even paradise!); and
    (b) happiness comes from within, no matter where you live.

    Great, courageous post!

  28. The Divine Mrs M says:

    Blimey Geoffster. That one was from the heart. In Tooting we miss you rocking up of an evening for supper and no doubt.

    I’m really glad that you are sounding like a happy bunny now. I feel like your other emailer in that I kept wondering how you really felt. But I didn’t ask. Crap friend..:-/

    Meantime – your Bird rocks. She is officially inducted into the Women’s Intuition Hall of Fame (W.I. – geddit?!).

  29. Johnny Alpha says:

    Geoff mate, you’re a good fucking lad, and where ever you end up remember they are lucky to have you there.

    As you say, it’s the little things like busting the key chaging the tyre, so going off on the piss instead that make it feel like home.

    You’ll know you’ve made it fully when you call the bog “the john”! 😉

    By the way, do you have to tip an attendant when you take a wee there?

  30. Johnny Alpha says:

    Oh yeah, I don’t want to start flaming here, but “Ian, The Voice Of Reason”, when someone opens their heart to others, they could probably do without someone taking the piss.

    Come on mate, if you don’t have something nice to say, keep schtum eh?

  31. Lisa says:

    There are no attendants anywhere in Charleston. You are on your honor to clean up after yourself. The first time I ever saw one of those was at a nightclub in Rotterdam. You had to tip just to go to the room. The guy behind me gave me back the coin I dropped in and said that that would have bought it for the week. I just can’t deal with the idea of coins being worth more than paper over here.

  32. No bog trolls? It sounds like heaven

  33. Joan says:

    I’ve hopped around – Canada, India, Canada, Florida, West Virginia and Charleston. I can’t say I’ve found anywhere friendlier really. We’ll suck you in soon. I can’t see myself ever leaving. I’m bilingual now – I can comfortably say “eh” and “y’all” in the same sentence.

  34. Kirk says:

    Sorry – toilets. Although I was pleased to read about your adjusting stuff – very interesting – I could never cope moving abroad.

    Anyhow, toilets – the auto flushing urinals at work aren’t any fun at all – you have to stand in front of them for a certain length of time and I believe contribute before it considers doing any flushing.

    Spoil sports.

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Hello Geoff– Annie Mole’s friend Liz here…haven’t read your blog in a while but just wanted to say that I went through the same thing (in the opposite direction) when I moved to London from Canada nearly 5 years ago. It was lovely to move in with my BF at last after all the long distance stuff, but gosh, that first month of not knowing what I was doing, not knowing anybody, and not having a job was tough.

    I came from a small city where I would run into people I knew on the street and the like, and it really freaked me out that suddenly I was here in London and I knew about 5 people and that was it. Cue lots of waking up during the night and thinking ‘what the f**k am I doing!’

    But it does get better. I promise. One of the things that made a big difference to me was starting work, and getting into the routine of seeing the same people every day and finding my feet in my work ‘hood. Plus, I explored where I was living as well, and generally came to terms with the city…in fact, it totally won me over (and now I wouldn’t dream of leaving.)

    I’m sure there will be many more hiccups in the months ahead but it sounds like you’re on the right track and adjusting as well as you can. And remember- imagine your life if you hadn’t taken this fabulous chance! Then you would be resenting the life you miss at the moment, and cursing yourself for never knowing what would happen….but instead you’ve got a new adventure.

  36. Andrew (TM) says:

    I’ve never moved country for any significant length of time, but my first 10-day (business) trip to Japan was very weird. A real “Lost in Translation” (see the movie) experience – fascinating and enjoyable (particularly with hindsight) but at the same time weird – strange because certain ditties and electronic sound effects are familiar, but you’re just *so far* from home. And not sleeping properly subtley messes up perceptions too. It’s not till you’ve gone some while without sleeping properly that you realise just how thankful you should be for a good night’s sleep!

    BTW: had an infra-red remote control for the toilet/bidet in the hotel room in Japan. Beat that!

    All the best.

    Oh – and it’s crazily warm here in England at the moment – temps in mid-high 20C for the past week, and forecasts are 25-28C for the forseeable future for Gatwick area. Loads of people have 2 or 4 flags flying from their cars for the World Cup. Happy adventures.

  37. Tower Block Tina says:

    Further to my ‘adjustment’post, hope you will have an ‘Allan Sherman‘ moment soon, as in his parody of being at Summer Camp and being homesick: “Hello Muddah, Hello Fuddah”.

    He is writing to ask them to come & fetch him, when he suddenly looks out of the window and spots other boys swimming & sailing etc. and changes his mind. A very funny if sad recording. Played quite a bit in the early 70’s, (bit before your time Geoff) and probably still played on Radio 2 now!

    Re: Toilets – In Kuala Lumpur, the bog was free, but you had to buy a little packet of personal loo paper from an attendant as you went in for about 5p. Cute!

  38. If the loo roll holder automatically refilled itself too…. well, it would be perfect. ~x~

  39. Tower Block Tina says:

    #41 That’s what women do!

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