Everyone has an accent

Obviously my ears are doing extra work as I sort through British accents and the British accents mixed into Polish accents, Tamil accents, and French accents among so many others. Myself, I can have a bit of a Virginia drawl but mostly just at home in Fredericksburg.

I grew up on Colebrook Road, so this felt like a good omen.

We walked into a bank to attempt to open an account (which is no small task as a foreigner), and the branch manager tilted his head to the side, “Am I getting a bit of an accent there?” It was the first time someone located me by my accent. Usually I have felt like an outsider on account of my politics, indigenous heritage, or non-Californian-ness, but never my voice. On the other hand, it also meant that I could blend into the mix that is London (so long as I was quiet). I’m secretly channeling Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady.

They think I have an accent; I think they have an accent. I felt less out of place when I remembered that everyone has an accent; no one is normal.

So, here’s a list of things this particular transplant has noticed:

"Stay" atop the EU flag

Immigration is a hot topic here just as it is in California and the US. Here no one assumes I’m Mexican, so I’m getting fewer, awkwardly spoken “GRACIAS” and presumptive, fluently spoken Spanish language encounters. The UK will decide if it’s staying in the EU on June 23, and much of the discussion centers around immigration.

Nescafe instant coffee

Beer, wine, and coffee is a sad affair. And I can’t bring myself to try one of these “real Californian” burrito joints.

I do recognize that I just made an exodus from the land flowing with beer, wine, coffee, and tacos. I hope to be reunited with my home brewing equipment and French press soon. In the meantime I am on a (Mexican food) hunger strike and surviving on Nescafe freeze dried coffee. (I know, right?)

I did find a new beer I’m in love with: Pentonville oyster stout. It’s the only beer that has been good, but I plan to spend the week hunting for the brewery.

First Friday night: at the theatre with my oyster stout to see Boy

I am delighted with the produce and food here! British farmers know what they’re doing. We have been shopping at a tiny coop across the street from our apartment, and it’s all very affordable and fresh even though it’s local and organic. Butter, cheese, milk, eggs… I’m just sitting here imagining them.

To Hogwarts!

Harry Potter is everywhere. They love him just as much as Americans do. While I have a lot of opinions about the new series J.K. Rowling just put out, I love what the Harry Potter series has to say about being different.

At Platform 9 3/4 they have two people working to take your picture, outfitting you with a wand and scarf from the house of your choice, coaching you when to jump, and letting you take a phone photo for free.

Incoming rain in Islington, our current neighborhood

Ithaca, NY has prepared us well for London’s weather. In the 3 days we have been here, it has been gloriously sunny, pouring rain, hail, and snow. Most of those happened yesterday. I love the clouds, though I do miss the ocean and Karl the Fog.

Islington at night

Everyone walks on the left. This makes sense given they drive on the left; but my natural inclination is to dodge right which has nearly bulldozed me into other pedestrians. I’m sorry, London! I am trying my best.

Walking is everything here. We don’t have a car, and London was made for walking. So, this is how I spend most of my day. I am getting so much exercise, however, and I’m really excited to start training for another race. Running makes me feel at home.

I find myself tensed up as I walk–I have no idea where cars or people will be coming from. It’s hard when you don’t even feel confidence in how you are walking, but we’re getting more accustomed.

This may be a good analogy for how I deal with new situations: I attempt to adapt perfectly to the new rules, afraid that I’m going to crash. I’m working on being aware of what’s going on around me, but giving myself some leeway to learn slowly and to be different. So long as a double decker bus doesn’t run over me, I am fine.

We forgot to pack this one in our shipment, so we traveled with my painting. Makes it feel more like home here.

Celsius, grams, 220 V power, vinegar for your “chips”–that’s all been fine, maybe because I adjusted when I was in Banff in 2014.

I’m going to start painting again when David goes to work on Tuesday. My art practice is a constant, while everything else seems to shift. For me feeling like an alien is almost always a given, so being an ex-pat (ex-mat?) gives this a name that’s easily understood. However, it’s complicated when what makes you feel strange and “away” is spread among so many people and places like San Francisco, Ithaca, and Fredericksburg.

Our Tube stop
Regents Canal near our temporary apartment

First Day in London

When last we left off in our adventures, we had landed at Heathrow Airport and were waiting to go pick up Zeke.

Well, we got him! We took an Uber XL with all our bags in a roundabout trip around the whole airport before we found the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre. We walked in, and they told us Zeke was almost ready! We only had to wait 5 minutes. He came out wiggling, super happy to see us, and seeming completely like himself. Thank goodness. Seems the trip wasn’t so hard on him.

We waited for another Uber XL and then took the traffic-filled, 90 minute trip to our hotel. The driver was really nice and chatted with me during the ride, while Leah and Zeke passed out in the backseat. Then we managed to get checked into our temporary house and get all our bags upstairs.

It’s really nice! We were expecting a studio apartment, but they actually gave us a 1 bedroom–it has a kitchen with everything: a washer/dryer, a living room, and a nice bedroom with a closet, chest of drawers, etc.

The rest of the day has been spent relaxing, getting phones set up, napping, and eating delicious mediterranean food. OH! and we took Zeke to the nearby King’s Square Gardens for his first London park adventure! He got his ball stolen from him by a yellow lab and then once we got it back he played really well. Just like in America!

Tomorrow we try to run a few errands like getting a bank account set up and getting our permanent ID’s.

Picking up Zeke at the Animal Reception Centre

Driver on the right side... that will take a bit to get used to.

Zeke playing in King Square Gardens

First sunset: view from our temporary apartment

Fredericksburg, Virginia to London

I’m writing to you from Heathrow Airport! We are taking a moment to have breakfast (lunch?) while we wait for Zeke to get through his customs. It’s about noon now, which is 7 am east coast time and 4 am west coast.

We changed our residency to Virginia yesterday, so I enjoyed 12 hours of being a Virginia resident once again. It felt good to root myself there while we live in London.

Milo, my Honda Fit, with his new plates

We got to spend so much good time with my family here in Virginia. My niece is growing like a crazy, little weed. Zeke spent his time playing in the field/yard and being around a big family/pack. It is painful to think about everyone, but we are so grateful for all of our people. I have decided to embrace my puffy eyes as a sign of love.

David, tiny niece, me, Megan, & Jason with canines Zeke & Kirby
She made some noises that sounded like "auntie"
Family selfie attempt
Pokey, my canine niece
Amanda, me, Momkins, & Washmo
Amy Friend brought us Chick-fil-A dinner & a show at the airport
Arriving: the River Thames!
Just like Love Actually--waiting in line for customs

Norwalk, Connecticut to Fredericksburg, Virginia

We are done driving!

I write to you from Fredericksburg in the midst of a pancake breakfast that my dad made me.

We spent Friday with David’s family in Norwalk, CT. They took us out for bagels for breakfast, then that night we got to celebrate Passover with them. It was really beautiful to celebrate freedom and the beginnings of wandering in the midst of our own travels. The story of the Exodus is one of my favorites, and it was good to take a moment to remember that in our journeys we have someone guiding us to safety.

Saturday we installed window flower pots for David’s mom for an early Mother’s Day gift, then hopped back into our trusty Honda Fit to head to Brooklyn. We met Benjamin, David’s brother, and his girlfriend, Mara, for brunch in Bushwick. Zeke dog hung out in their apartment with their dog, Audrey, while we feasted on burgers and lamb hot dogs.

We continued our food tour and drove to Bensonhurst to meet the Eng family for dinner. Dorcas is one of my very best friends in the entire universe, and her family kindly welcomes me with hugs every time I see them. Chinese food for dinner included pea shoots, walnut shrimp, and everything delicious under the sun.

And one last time we loaded ourselves and drove down the east coast to Fredericksburg, VA. We arrived at 2:15 AM today. David drove like a champion after a cup of coffee, while I tried to entertain him as I fought my own heavy eyelids. We marched straight to bed. After 3,480 miles, my car will live happily forever in Virginia with my sister.

We’ll rest here for a couple of days, then we start on the next leg of our adventure with our flight to London.

Marc with our collaborative refrigerator art (Norwalk, CT)
Good bye, Connecticut Brombergs! [Leah, David, Cathy/David’s mom, Marc/David’s dad]
Audrey and Zeke dog (Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY)
David, Leah, Benjamin/David’s brother, & Mara after a few intense rounds of Monopoly Deal
Dorcas, Leah, & David on our way to dinner in Bensonhurt, Brooklyn
With Mr. Eng!
Crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Virginia at 1:15 AM on Sunday, April 24

South Bend, Indiana to Norwalk, Connecticut

After more than 3,000 miles, we’re here  (ish). We are visiting David’s family in Connecticut. We drove from 10 am until 11:45 pm, and we’re excited to have arrived before midnight.

Today was about strategic naps and caffeine. I can’t believe we drove the entirety of I-80. I looked at its Wikipedia page and recognized all the pictures. I am thankful for an uneventful trip but glad to get to not be on the road for a bit. So are our moms. We sent a lot of texts today that were like,  “We are 50 miles east of Toledo.”

It’s bed time, friends.

South Bend, IN
Zeke expressing all of our feelings
I can do this
Pennsylvania is a very wide state
David's mom made us a welcome sign!

North Platte, Nebraska to South Bend, Indiana

Today was a long drive under all the wonderful clouds. We are listening to The Odyssey on audio book, and Odysseus has finally arrived to his native land of Ithaca. I chose this book with all the intentions of losing myself in someone else’s journey while I had my own.

Odysseus was in a deep sleep when they laid him on the shore, and he didn’t even recognize his homeland in the fog the next morning.

We are bouncing from our (most recent) home in San Francisco to David’s family’s home in Connecticut, to my family’s home in Virginia, all to go to our new home in London, which is actually David’s old home. So much home and so long a journey. It was hard to see the home SF was when we were there, and maybe it will be the same in London.

The fog around Odysseus always made unclear his perceptions. His sleep was like a death as a journey-hardened man arrived to his home. The man and the home from before were gone, and the fog made anything familiar inaccessible.

So, I watched the clouds and rain and fog today, hoping for better visibility as we drive through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.

Iowa rainbow
Calendar of goodbyes with a flower from our backyard weeds

Wendover, Utah to North Platte, Nebraska

Today is my first post on this blog. I think all of the busyness of getting ready to leave has made it difficult to wrap my head around all the emotions I’m feeling in leaving San Francisco and moving all the way to London, but now that we’re out on the road with no real deadlines other than needing to get to our hotel before we pass out, I’ve had more time to think.

I am sad to be leaving San Francisco. All of the good-byes to all of our friends has made it really clear how loved we are and how much we did have a real home there, even if we knew it was never going to be forever. I’ll miss driving in the Presidio on the way to work, getting probably the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll miss the beach and running at Land’s End. I’ll miss all of my friends at Telltale. And part of me will miss the possibility that never materialized, that is moving to the East Coast for a job or an opportunity for Leah there.

But, as weird as it is, I am really excited to move with Leah and Zeke across the world to London. I’m not sure I can fully put into words why. It just feels right. I’m excited for new possibilities and my new job at Rocksteady. I’m really hopeful for new opportunities for Leah to advance her art practice over there. But mostly I just feel it’s how God is going to move our family forward. We felt somewhat stuck in San Francisco, as amazing as it was. And even though I don’t know all the details, like I like to, I trust that God is going to use London to do some pretty amazing things in our family.

Anyway, enough feelings for today. Today we drove through all of Utah and all of Wyoming. Leah had driven through most of this before , but I’d only driven the southern route before. It was really beautiful and a lot more snowy than I had imagined. Zeke got to play in the snow. He was mostly good though I think he’s getting a bit sick of being in the car all day. Here are some pictures.

– David