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Archive for the ‘British Experience’ Category

For myself and a lot of Americans, Thanksgiving is a much bigger family holiday than Christmas.

This sentiment was not noticed until I started living in England where there is obviously no real celebration of Thanksgiving. Christmas in the UK is the major holiday and the month of December is full of many parties leading up to the event.

My view is different.

When working in the American corporate world, a week off of work is rare. Since I saw travel as an important life experience, I always used that week accordingly.

Thanksgiving, however, is a long weekend meant for families. You spend the day cooking real food, relaxing with your biological or adoptive family and trying to remind yourself of all you have to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving is the underdog. So much more wholesome than it’s greedy expensive sibling, Christmas.

When you are living abroad, things shift. Sure the grocery stores stock American food items including cans of french fried onions for your green bean casserole and free range turkeys, but you don’t get the day off work and the people around you don’t understand the holiday in its entirety.

Last year in London I decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner at my home. I had a friend visiting from the US who had brought along a friend of hers and a few other American and non American friends to invite over.

I envisioned a day full of cooking and sipping wine followed by lively conversation around the gorgeous dinner table in our conservatory. I spent time sourcing ingredients and pre-ordered my groceries online.

Thanksgiving Table

And then things just fell apart.

The girls staying with me had a massive fight the night before, leaving one of them missing until the next morning and when she did reappear they were not speaking.

My groceries were late. Really late. Which left me late to put the turkey in.

People’s schedules got delayed and I spent the day cooking alone with two house guests who were in a sour mood.

And as the weather was changing, the nights getting longer, people were more and more fatigued. Dragging their bones from across London to my house after a long day of work to have a few bites of turkey and leave.

So much preparation, and then it was over. The guests had given it their all, considering the situation. My expectations obviously needed to be adjusted.

I had made sure there were plenty of leftovers to take home, but few obliged. As I don’t eat turkey, there were to be turkey sandwiches for my husband for weeks to come.

“I tried to get a small one,” I reasoned.

“Next year can we just get a small chicken or a ham?” he asked.

“You’re lucky it wasn’t a tofurkey,” I answered.

So this year, we have done a major oops. Without the constant reminder that it is around the corner, we have made other irreversible plans that do not involve traditional Thanksgiving activities.

Maybe it will be better this way. We can celebrate the following Saturday. Gather together the few Americans we know across the island of Singapore and cook a turkey on our primitive gas fired camping stove that acts as our primary cooking device.

Or perhaps its time to redefine Thanksgiving and make it work for us. Afterall, the Australians spend Christmas having a BBQ on the beach. Maybe we trade in the warm cider and oven baked turkey for corn on the cob and champagne. Adapt. New traditions are all in the making.

Editor’s note: You’ll be happy to know that the primitive gas camping stove was eventually upgraded to a real stove complete with oven and burners.

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The British Museum sat on my London bucket list for a long time. Luckily, it was on Sarah and Temi’s list too when they came to visit from Texas.

Walking up to the front doors I felt a tingle of excitement. Once inside I was blown away by the Great Court.

The Great Court

Other highlights included the section on ancient Greece, complete with opulent drinking cups depicting engagement in naughty lustful activities, Hokusai’s colour woodblock print, The Great Wave, which is on display until 8 January, and the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone

This is one tourist attraction I won’t mind returning to, unlike the Changing of the Guard which I refuse to accompany any more visitors too. I’ll give you guys a map to that one and you can go on your own. 😉

The British Museum

The British Museum is free and open daily 10.00–17.30, Friday until 20.30.

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War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

– Bertrand Russell

Women selling poppies outside of Westminster Abbey.

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

– Jeannette Rankin

War memorial outside of Westminster Abbey.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

– Albert Einstein

Waiting for the veteran's parade at Parliament Square.

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“Your suspenders look really cute with your pants!” means something totally different in America than in England.

Take care when uttering this phrase to a coworker.

 

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With all the buzz surrounding Tracey Emin’s retrospective at the Hayward, a few friends and I decided to check it out. The afternoon promised art and a chance to hang out on the Southbank.

I must admit that before this retrospective I had never heard of Emin. Her identity and art was billed through the media with a sense of British pride. Local girl done good. Why not check it out and gain some insight?

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995. Picture not mine.

After hearing about Emin’s infamous tent piece, I was prepared for a bit of shock art. What I got was a bit more complex. The shock of used tampons displayed as art, visual depictions of masturbation and in depth details of her abortion were enough for a reaction, but all of this was mixed in with a touch of softness. The hard neon sign messages were delivered in a soft pink. Crude confessions and tragedies were sewn intricately into blankets or other “women’s work.” Loving stories of her family were interwoven into her pieces. These were nice reprieves in the midst of anguish.

Picture not mine.

My thoughts jumped from labeling Emin a self-destructive angry narcissist with boring blankets to self-reflection on why I feel that way. What’s wrong with someone describing the female experience with all its emotional context? Why must we label her with PMS or insanity? Don’t we all feel this way sometimes? Out of control of our own bodies, the weight of feminine expectations, the way men can look at us and never really see us? Worst of all, the cultural assumption that it is our own issue when we feel invisible.

This article is well on target.

Midway through the exhibition Natalie leans over to me and whispers “Uh, glad I didn’t bring a first date here.” That about sums it up.

On the second floor there is a video. Emin describes dancing in her seaside industrial hometown to the sounds of verbal abuse with sexual context from the local male population.  She’s extremely upset as she runs to the coast. She confesses she doesn’t belong in this town. Moments later her voice comes through. “This dance is for you,” she says. An older, wiser Tracey is shown on the screen dancing happily. She is clearly dancing for herself. She’s smiling and carefree. I feel a sense that she has found some happiness and I am grateful to witness it.

Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want is at the Hayward on the Southbank until Monday 29 August 2011. Tickets are £12. Concessions are available.

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