Saturday, 22 October 2011

The trip so far

Rather than my usual style of play by play with commentary a la Mario Impemba and Rod Allen rolled into one -- Rodio Allemba if you will -- I'm going to try something a bit different, not sure how it'll turn out.

Basically I'd just like to summarize my observations, learnings and other foreign follies (see what I did there?) from the trip so far.

So some random obervations (and foriegn follies?)...
  • Laundry is really expensive here. Like $5 per wash and another 3 or 4 for the dryer expensive. It's even worse if you have the hotel do it for you since they'll charge like $4 per shirt and another 2 for your socks etc.
  • It is possible for a hotel to look beautiful on the outside and be absolutely terrible on the inside and vice versa, though the former is more common in my exeperience.
  • Eating out by yourself on a regular basis is very wearisome, even when the food is good, and usually it's just okay.
  • While driving on the left actually came quite naturally to me, I still haven't gotten used to sitting on the right. I still frequently walk up to the left side of my car and then am forced to play it off as if I just wanted to put my computer bag on the passenger seat before getting in.
  • The road markings are confusing. Since all of the lines on the street are white and most are just dashed lines, its pretty tough to figure out when you're on a two way or a one way. I've finally figured out how to turn right at a big roundabout. It's all a matter of sticking with your lane, which spirals outward as you go around. Definitely took a while to figure out.
  • Winshield wipers here tend to not be very good, but their washer fluid is great. It also smells like alcohol. Probably why it's so great. I can only imagine fish are getting drunk/going blind on the runoff.
  • Pardon my crassness and shallowness, but I am a guy after all... Really attractive girls are few and far between here. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly pretty girls around, they just seem less common than in Michigan, which is saying something.
  • British people do NOT have the fashion sense that Europe is renowned for. I would go as far as to say that suburban detroit, where fashion consists of jeans and a Hurley tshirt for guys and leggings and Uggs for ladies, is better than over here. They take all of our worst fashions (the highlights of which I've just mentioned) and scramble them up with other stuff that doesn't work. Even with my extremely limited sense of fashion, I have figured that much out. This will be my last mention of fashion. That sort of thing's not my bag, baby.
  • The bad teeth thing is pretty overhyped, nowadays anyway. That said, I've seen some people who could certainly use a visit to the dentist. No excuse since they have national health care that covers everyone.
  • There seem to be a lot more British accents than American.
  • British people only consider themselves European in select, rare circumstances. Haven't figured out what those are yet but it tends to be along the lines of when it's to their benefit. How very French (more like Quebecois) of them.
  • Culturally the English north is their equivalent of our south. Supposedly the accents are "lazier" in the north here as well, but I haven't figured that out yet.
  • Instead of "Hey what's up?" people say "you alright?" or "you okay?". Still haven't really figured out how to responed to it.
  • There are 4 radio stations that cover all of England and then some smaller ones scattered locally. The big four are, cleverly, BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4. Radio 1 is pretty much all pop, some American, some British, funny DJs though. Radio 2 is where the old Radio 1 DJs wash out. I supposed thats why all the music sucks. Its like the worst pop of the last 20 years, except sometimes at night you'll find an old DJ who's into classic rock or something. Radio 3 is purely classical music. Radio 4 is non-stop talk. Generally pretty heavy stuff like radio theatre, monologue readings etc. Also a lot of news coverage similar to NPR, minus the whole "we need our listeners to fund us so let's make it interesting!" thing. Despite my general distaste for pop music, if I don't have my iPod plugged in, I'm listening to Radio 1. Rudowski, you would be proud of my knowledge of pop music.
  • Barbers here (at least Dave at Scissorhands) do this really awesome thing where they take a pair of tweezers with a big ball of cotton soaked in alcohol at the end, light it on fire, and then wave it at your ears. Apparently its a Turkish technique and it's called singing. It's good for getting the peach fuzz off your ears which isn't something I was ever concerned about, but now I know how to deal with it should it ever get out of control.

Work learnings...
  • The bottome line is, its all about safety
  • While a lot of time and effort is put into making the legislation clear, by nature of there being so much of it and so much to it, it will always be muddy and require good engineering sense to straighten out.
  • While watching something you don't understand too much of for 20 minutes may not seem very valuable, the connections you can make with coworkers/customers in those 20 minutes are.
  • The ability to put faces and names together can be trained and honed. You just have to meet a TON of new people in a short span of time.
  • Reporting expenses is a pain in the ass even when you have nothing better to do at work. I can't imagine how annoying it'll be when I'm actually busy doing stuff. Fortunately, at that point I won't be reporting every meal I eat and a hotel every night.
  • An absolutely awesome lesson (which I haven't received yet, but will on Monday) is learning how to drive... fast (safely of course). Unfortunately I won't be driving the Jaguar as I was originally led to believe, but my Kia rental car instead. The good news about that is... thats the same reasonably priced car that the stars drive on Top Gear. I've been studying how to make it go fast, and this was the fastest lap (at the time anyway):
          You can call me Maverick. I will do my best to get it up on two wheels. Xenu will protect me. :)

Don't go away from this thinking that's all I've learned, there's plenty more I just don't feel like typing it all out right now and most (all) of the technical work stuff you would fall asleep before I got through the first point.

Back to my Rodio Allemba style, just to catch you up since my last post. Last week I was up at the Midlands office (towards the north of England, so apparently it's common for family trees to not fork if you catch my meaning) doing some tractor approval work. That's another one of the things on my list from Mark, so that was good. The hotel I was staying in was a prime example of a hotel that looks beautiful on the outside and is absolute shit on the inside. I described it in the last post but that review was extremely generous. There was little and less that I could say positively towards the bedroom besides the fact that it did indeed have a bed (with springs too! I know because I could feel every one of them). My hotel for the next week got much better reviews, appears to be much more modern, and is not located in the middle of nowhere so I'm expecting a much more relaxing stay. That and I get to be there for 4 nights in a row! I'm getting better at this whole long term stay thing. Thursday night I'll be headed back to Bristol for a half day in the office on Friday and then I'll be leaving for Amsterdam! I'm really excited  to get back in the country-hopper fast lane. These last two weekends have been good for recovery, but bad for excitement (other than last Friday, which might have been a bit too much "excitement").

I skipped over this weekend... oops. I should figure out how to work Tarantino into my pen name. Rodio Allembatino? I don't know about that. It sounds a bit too Spanish/Italian. If I'm going to pass as any sort of European I think I'd be more of a Haemish McFlannery. Anyway, this weekend I came back to Bristol on Friday in hopes of having someone from work to hang out with. Turns out no, they're all busy so I've been left up to my own devices. Thankfully, I was able to get a really nice deal on the City Center Marriott and they gave me a room on the 10th floor with a small balcony and a  pretty nice view of Bristol. See?

That big glass dome to the left is the Cabot Circus mall I had a few pictures from when I first got here. Looks quite a bit different from above!
Quite spread out for a 'European' city.

After arriving in town and checking into the hotel, I read for a while and then decided to go to a place called "The hole in the wall" for dinner. Wasn't much of a hole in the wall considering it was a freestanding building in a very nice part of town and a pretty nice restaurant and pub on top of that. I ordered a beer at the bar which was pretty good, and then went upstairs for some dinner. I had a good traditional English meal of steak, mushroom and Guinness pie with cheese covered mashed potatoes. It was delicious. Generally English food doesn't appeal to me but when done right it can certainly hit the spot. I also had a drink called a Dufftown Orchard, which was a shot of whiskey, a splash of bitters, ice and then some really good apple juice to fill the glass, finished off with a pair of straws which had been dipped in honey. I'm going to definitely remember that one and try to recreate it when I get home because it was amazing. Between the food, the drink and the weather --that perfect fall temperature where its almost too cold for a hoodie and all the trees are turning and starting to drop their leaves, leaving that nice fall smell in the air (before they start rotting)--it was autumn bliss. I didn't care that I was eating by myself at that point I was just drinking it all in.

Today I read again for a few hours after waking up. I'm reading A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. The whole series has been absolutely wonderful so far. If you're into fantasy (or even if you're not) I can't recommend it highly enough. Martin has been compared to Tolkien, and if I'm honest, I prefer this series to the Lord of the Rings. If you want to get a taste of it without committing to reading several thousand pages, they made a series on HBO that follows the first book like a script and it was also really good. The book I'm currently on is a 1000 page hardcover, so I'm trying to finish it in the next couple weeks so my parents can haul it back for me since they'll have more room than I will anyway. Shouldn't be a problem, I only have about 150 pages left and its a fairly quick read. The one problem is that once I finish, I'm caught up with as far as the author has written. He's been writing the series for something like 15 years and I've been reading it for something like 6 months. I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while for the next book, especially since this one just came out this summer. This will be the second book I finish on this trip, the first (which I read entirely while over here) was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It was pretty out there plot-wise and writing style-wise but I really enjoyed it. After I finish Dragons, I have one more book on my list. It's a personal finance book aimed towards my generation called I Will Teach You to be Rich. A few of my friends have already read it and praised it to no end so I'm looking forward to figuring out what kinds of things I should be doing with my money when I get home. If I finish that with time to spare then I'll start browsing around the iBooks store a bit and get some more use out of my iPad.

After the morning's reading, I went out to the store to get some soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and lunch. After that I found a laundrete did some laundry (while reading some more). I came back to my hotel, dropped off the laundry, wandered around Bristol a bit (theres a nice park with a castle in it right across the street from my hotel, it's called castle park). After that I came back to my hotel to read again, and then had dinner in the hotel restaurant which consisted of a delicious steak with bernaise sauce and some really good chips (steak fries), that were quite different than other chips I've had here. Something about they way they were prepared or fried gave the outside a much crispier texture. I've heard of places rolling their raw fries in potato flakes before frying them to get that crispier texture so I'm thinking that may be what they did. Either way it was another really good meal. I brought the book with me... what can I say, it sucks you in.

So thats you caught up.

Plans for next week are driver training on Monday as I mentioned, engine testing with Land Rover on Tuesday and Wednesday, probably some brakes on Thursday and then Amsterdam on Friday! After that comes Halloween, my birthday and the parents visiting! Things are starting to pick up again, I'm really excited!

On a much more somber note though, I would like to ask you to keep my mom's parents in your thoughts, they've both fallen ill this past week and my grandpa fell and broke his hip (it's since been surgically repaired, successfully from the sounds of things) but it could be a tough recovery. Also, if you've got a few spare thoughts, Kody has had 3 or 4 seizures this week and is currently staying at the vet until he stabilizes. I'm sure he'll be okay besides being freaked out, but it has been a lot of sad news to come down all at once.

I'm certainly about ready to come home and see my family and friends again.

See you all soon enough!

1 comment:

  1. "British people only consider themselves European in select, rare circumstances. Haven't figured out what those are yet but it tends to be along the lines of when it's to their benefit. How very French (more like Quebecois) of them."

    You are absolutely right, if it doesn't benefit a french person, they don't want any part of it.