Friday, September 7, 2012

Croeso i Gymru--Welcome to Wales

Having been in Wales just over a week now, I suppose it's about time to make my first on-location blog post! I'm currently sitting in Costa, one of the many coffeshops/cafes in walking distance of our apartment. I love how centrally located we are in town--we are on one of the main squares in Carmarthen, and in walking distance of pretty much anything you'd need. A pharmacy, a few grocery stores, office supply stores, lots of restaurants and coffee shops, some pubs, and LOTS of clothing stores.

 The apartment itself is still a wreck, so don't expect photos for a while--we are currently still living out of suitcases and piles! Our bathroom is giant, so it's temporarily been turned into a storage spot and a workspace for the dresser we are paint-stripping/sanding/refinishing.

My first few days were pretty uneventful--while Josh was at work I spent time unpacking, trying to organize things, catching up on sleep, and wandering around town looking for jobs. Not many places are hiring right now but I put in an application at one place and had an interview yesterday at another place, and I'll be hearing back about that on Sunday. If it comes through, I promise more details :)

Josh managed to get two days off in a row, so on Wednesday, we drove to Cardiff to see Cardiff Castle, which was originally a medieval structure but was restored/expanded during the Victorian period, so it's a really interesting mix of architecture and a lot of history! Then we met up with my friend Helen, who lives in Cardiff, and had a nice meal and got to hang out with her and adorable her son. We were originally planning to come back to Carmarthen that night, but on our way home we decided to take a detour to see Joshua's family, and we hung out with his brother and sister, which was a blast and made me miss my own brothers a bit. We ended up staying the night so that we could go to all the charity shops (Salvation Army type stores) in the area the next day, which was Josh's mom's idea. She knew where all the best ones were and we actually found the aforementioned dresser, as well as a beautiful piece of art for £3.50 and some wine glasses. All in all, yesterday was an unexpected success!

Things about living here that I'm still getting used to:
  • Going 50mph down winding/narrow roads (related: so very glad that Joshua bought me a pair of motion sickness wristbands to keep in his car).
  • Cooking on a gas stove
  • Electric showers
  • Switching outlets on/off
  • Identifying British coins--though I just counted out exact change for two purchases flawlessly :)
  • Keeping to the left side of the street when someone is coming from the opposite direction
  • How nearly everything shuts down at 5pm--but this is actually quite nice!
  • Tax being included in the price listed--this is also quite handy, and makes paying for things less stressful, giving me more time to count out change.
  • Paying for grocery bags/"carrier bags"--most places seem to charge 5p apiece for disposable grocery bags, but I guess this gives people more incentive to purchase and bring reusable bags.
  • The fact that many signs have the Welsh first and the English second

One thing I hadn't really anticipated is how self-conscious I would feel of being a foreigner in the country. The first few days it seemed like every time I opened my mouth I had this moment of anxiety, because I knew my accent would give me away immediately and I realize that people are bound to have assumptions and stereotypes tied in to what it means to be from the United States. I don't want those stereotypes to be preceding people's impression of me--in my job search, in my education, in my friendships--but it's inevitable. However, stereotypes don't always have to be a bad thing. I had a job interview yesterday and the employer, when explaining how he wants his business to provide a warm, friendly atmosphere and high-quality customer service, commented that being from America being friendly would be no problem for me. If that's an impression of Americans that people have in Wales, I was not aware of it, but I'm not complaining :)

Important note: I discussed with many of my friends before leaving that when I got here I'd download some sort of messaging app on my phone so we could "text" for free. I don't have an update on that yet because the phone I'm currently using doesn't support any decent messaging apps (it's a fairly old smartphone and there are few apps for it), so bear with me for a few more weeks. I promise to let you guys know if/when this becomes an option! Until then, feel free to email me or contact me via Facebook, and we can always set up Skype dates!

Cheers,
Monica

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