Back to my favourite coffee shop...I have spent far too much time here in the past couple of weeks - it has become more than a sanctuary - it is my caffinated Happy Place. Outside, I can hear an absolutely horrible singer drowning out the moderately ok music in here. Seriously...this guy could make glass break - a dog is actually howling along to the music (?). Sweet Home Alabama is not so sweet when sung by this poor sap - Lynard Skynrd would be sickened. Maybe I should join him, and at least try to make a couple of pounds before I leave. I could impress the locals with my Canadian accent and limited acoustic abilities. Or I could beat a garbage can to provide background noise. Noise is about the only description that suits the torture that is produced by the sound of this guy's singing. And such is life in Banbury.
Hang on...before I continue...regarding my "Canadian accent" (which I still have, because luckily, I haven't been here long enough to loose it :-P ) . In the time that I have been here I have been asked where I am from. I "sound different"... Sometimes the locals like to guess where I am from. Obviously the usual guess is: "Are you American?". "No. I'm Canadian." "Oh sorry!" (why they apologize says alot about the Canadian-American relationship on a global scale). I have had several other interesting guesses though...."Are you from Poland?" "HUH?" That has happend at least twice - and no, my surname has not been a factor. "Are you from Northern Ireland?" "Sure..". I knew I sounded exotic, but not as exotic as I apparently sound. Ok..that's all I have to say on that topic.
This morning I began the process of decluttering (AKA "getting rid of the stuff I aquired"). At least I had enough foresight to not aquire a lot - I realized when the anxiety started that I could be on a fast track towards departure. While I have complained about the Americanization of the UK, and the continual infiltration of big box stores combined with global uniformity, I was pleased to find a Cash Converters right down the block from my flat. Ok...so I didn't make a lot of money there, but at least I made something. I was even able to sell some speakers that I brought with me from Canada. Oh and I should mention - I have talked to countless Brits who have also complained about the invasion of Britian by American globalization.
Ok...brief divergance (what else is new?)....I don't know why I always end up listening to local disparities...but I do. It doesn't matter which country I am in, which culture, religion, etc - I end up hearing the bad side of the story - the tales of financial ruin, economic disturbances and stories of culture clashes, interactions and observations. Even in Turkey, I ended up with the same situation. Maybe I look attentive and intelligent (HAHAHA)...or maybe it's that I listen - and I only listen because I don't have the information to actually interject my comments (which is why I've started blogging - I can rant here, without getting cut off or challenged!). Anyway, my conversations with the locals have been no different - granted they have been interesting and informative. For the record, the Brits are their own worst enemy when it comes to promoting their country to tourists. The continual emphasis: "the country is going to hell."...the usual solution proposed: "it can't keep going like this...it has to stop...or there will be no Britons left in Britian." ..."If you are smart, you will get out now and head to Cyprus."(Turkish or Greek?!?!)..."I'm moving to Spain where it is affordable."..."The prices keep going up - who can afford to live?"..."They won't raise the income tax, but they are more than willing to raise the price of everything else."...and so on....Even my neighbour from Germany was complaining about the costs here - Great! I consider Germany expensive - so what happens when a German considers the UK expensive?? Now picture Leanne, verging an emotional crisis, being told that life here is too expensive, even for the people who grew up here.
Of course when I moved here, I was perplexed about tipping. In Canada, tipping rates have hit a whopping 20% (and trust me, if I were in a service profession, I would accept that 20% without complaint), and we now tip for everything! I will admit - I still don't tip at certain places - I figure, 10 years ago when I was flipping burgers and serving milkshakes, I wasn't getting tipped...ya, you can insert your own explitive here to describe my attitude. But come on! It adds up! In another 5 years you can guess that we will be up to 25%. You can likely thank the overtippers for raising our tipping percentage - you know who I'm talking about: the people who don't want to appear cheap in front of their friends, so they tip 40% of the bill - its the sport of One-up-manship. I have a friend like this - going out with him is a burden (and I do mean that in the nicest way). When I inquired about tipping in Britian, I received very mixed responses. Tipping here is still at 10% (wow...fruit and tipping are cheaper here, who'd of thunk?!?!?), and from what I have figured out - you only tip at eateries (not takeout). When I have attempted to tip at the pub, coffee shop, etc, I am met with surprise. So of course, I have asked the locals about tipping - the response (on all occassions): "Nobody tips in Britian anymore....nobody can afford to. If you have to tip, you tip your basic 10%. But its too expensive here now, and most people can't". Hmmm....
Alright..I have no idea where I was going with this whole entry. Possibly I am procrastinating going back to my flat and confronting the mess that still lies before me. Or else I am attempting to forgo reality for an hour or two, and not think about the impending darkness that I have to face. I keep wondering how bad of a decision I am making. And I know deep down, I am making a horrible decision. I was so blinded by potential when I accepted the UK - as a traveller all I could think about was Morocco, Portugal, Malta, etc, etc - ya, I came to the UK to get out of the UK as frequantly as possible. I saw my salary and doubled it to accomodate the Canadian dollar - but I forgot that you don't live on the Canadian dollar in Britian - the British pound is firmly established as the currency of choice (and unfortunately I can't change that!). So I need to go back and regroup, and reaquaint myself with the reality that I hate working in customer service...and then reaquaint myself with the necessity to finally choose a career - or at least a direction. The hardest part about going home is knowing I don't actually belong there.
Right now there aren't alot of good options - I just need to make money on a continent that isn't bleeding me through the....***. I will go to London tomorrow...and I will go to a meeting on Friday regarding my future employability here. Tuesday, I will fly back to Canada and hyperventilate for a few weeks. These are certainties. Hopefully, I will return in the fall with a better idea of what to expect, what to leave at home, how to live, and what I would do differently (and already, I have a list a mile long!) Maybe I will be more confident in my decisions, and not so afraid of the career choices that I have made. I love anthropology and archaeology- but I don't think I can make a career out of either. 5 years ago I gave up the opportunity to pursue my Masters in Medical Anthropology, studying AIDS in the Third World... because again...I second guessed myself. Hind sight is 20/20. I should have accepted that opportunity. I was able to move to New Orleans at 19, and adapt to it. When I moved back to TBay I was miserable, and desperately wanted to go back to NOLA - and I did. Ever since, I have been unable to cope with drastic change. I need to figure out why. OR...maybe I should just move back to New Orleans....noooo...wait...post apocalyptic New Orleans might not be a good idea....but...I know what I'm doing there, and where I'm going, and the cost of living isn't that bad, and the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar isn't so bad anymore...and...maybe I should. I could easily find a job there because nobody wants to go there now- I'm sure that Squatters Rights have been reestablished. Maybe I need to retrace my steps to be able to move forward. Hmmm...out of the frying pan....