Friday, September 20, 2013

A cup of coffee, storage, and Ikea

We have been in Scotland nearly a month now and we starting to finally feel like we are settling in. Well, I think Andrew settled in much faster than I did as I was the one left in the shuffle of being the "spouse/partner" of a PhD student. There has been a ton of events for Andrew as he starts on this incredible journey and embarks on this very new step. I have been a bit overwhelmed with all the events for both of us and most for Andrew. The university has been incredible at welcoming the incoming students and preparing them for life as a PhD student.

Although, I must admit, I am not sure how well I have been prepared for being the partner of a PhD student. Our home is still in a bit of chaos and there are boxes yet to be unpacked. We don't have nearly enough storage and I feel as if we are bursting at the seems. I thought we down sized pretty significantly, but I was shockingly unaware at how little space for storage we would have and how much I thought I "needed."

However, I don't want to sound too much like a downer because we have been making progress everyday at unpacking and finding a place for everything that we decided to bring along with us. Which brings me to Ikea...

Oh thank you Ikea, for all of your options to create new spaces, storage spaces, and rooms pretty. We have made several Ikea runs and will probably be making several more as we continue forward. They are a reasonably priced store and can provide almost everything that you may need when setting up home. Unfortunately, the nearest Ikea is about an hour and 40 minutes away in Edinburgh, but it does give us an excuse to see our close friends Adrian and Heather Holdsworth who live and work in Edinburgh and help run a small bible college.

But Ikea you are a pain in the butt when it comes to putting items together. Andrew and I haven't even purchased complex furniture. We have purchased two book cases, a shelving piece for the bathroom window and finally a large shelving unit for more bathroom storage. We still need to come and purchase a couple more shelves for clothing.

We had to also purchase an electric drill. We tried at first to follow the steps as outlined by the Ikea "cartoons," oh I mean instructions. But it was horrible. After straining our muscles and hurting our fingers trying to use this Z shaped tool with brute force get screws into the connecting parts we googled others experiences in putting together Ikea furniture and 100% said don't bother with the stupid Z tool go get an electric tool. Everyone shared in our frustration and in our pain. So we iced our thumbs and headed for the local hardware store, Mica Hardware in St. Andrews.

Mica Hardware is the quintessential hardware store with all sorts of eclectic items all over the store. It ranges from pots and pans to dressing makers to pillows to bug spray to grills and charcoal to lawn care to home improvement to home cleaning and electronics of all sorts. The owners are friendly and you can negotiate a bit for some of the items. Its perfect and everything I hoped a small town hardware store would feel like. We received an amazing deal on a drill because it had been in the window and the packaging was faded a bit and it was dusty. Otherwise it was perfect and a life saver for our Ikea projects.

Yes, we tackled the Ikea monster and can I say that we are now the slayers of the Ikea dragon!!!

With our Ikea pieces put together the chaos is beginning to fade and I will feel even more comfortable and at ease that we are close to being finished.

Additionally, I think we both feel like we are bleeding money at the moment as we try and set up house here. We planned and knew that we would need to purchase these items and we are making really good inexpensive and needed choices but it still feels uneasy. We expected these purchase and even anticipated them, but the reality is that its not easy.

Finally, my cup of coffee. I am today finally enjoying my first cup of home made coffee. For those who know I am a French Press lover. Its my favorite way to make and enjoy my cup of Joe :). I even shipped a few bags of coffee beans which I had not gotten to and was super excited to receive and rescue from the shipping boxes. However, the idea of grinding our own beans is a very new concept here in Scotland and well the entire UK. Hunting down a grinder for my beans has been a challenge, but it was delivered yesterday and tested today. Yummm the coffee is fabulous (of course I added some Starbucks flavour syrup) and as I look out my windows to the stone buildings outside I am thankful for this adventure.

I am thankful for how this will challenge me, change me, ground me and allow me to understand and know my husband better.

I hope we get to see some of you soon on our side of the pound!

A perfectly tarnished child of God

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yikes, where to park the lorries?!?

Quick update: We were able to secure car insurance, thank goodness, and we will be picking up our car on Friday of this week. I can't believe how difficult it was to get all of that situated, but its done and I know we are going to be really happy to get our little automatic car :)

Quick update number two, we are still waiting on our wire transfer. It seems everything finally passed all of the security checks in the US and Chase, but it has not been submitted here in our Scottish bank yet.

Quick update number three, the internet and phone should be installed sometime on Wednesday and/or Thursday which means Andrew and I will be connected again to the modern world :)

New lesson today:

Andrew and I had some items shipped from our home in the States. The items left on the 11th day of July and arrived in a UK port in the beginning of September. The items traveled the ocean blue, just backwards according to Christopher Columbus and well actually made port where they needed to (or were expected to), not a few hundred miles short of the "new world" target... but hey, who needs a history lesson...

This is all about new lessons...

Anyway, it never occurred to me that there may be roads that a truck simply could not get down, well lets just say it never occurred to me that a truck could not get down a normal driving street. I could understand perhaps an alley way or something like that. However, since Scotland is incredibly ancient, most of the roadways were designed by the Romans, yeah those Romans, and needed to only be large enough to fit a horse and cart. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed in regards to road sizes.

We received an email from our international shipping company and they sent a picture of the lorries "trucks" they were planning on driving to our place for our shipment and I about fell over. There is no way that truck with a second trailer was even going to make it to our little town let alone down our very little road of Smiddy Burn. Plus just yesterday I noticed that they put up a new sign indicating that our road was "not suitable for large vehicles." Great now what????

So first I emailed the shipping company to inquire why two trailers were needed to haul our stuff which only took up half the trailer capacity when we shipped it out from our home in the States. So thankfully the emailed back and said they would drop the second trailer in preparation to come to our home. Yeah, thats what I thought shipper people we did not ship that much stuff.

However, we are still trying to figure out where now to put a normal sized long haul truck. Andrew and I asked everyone and everyone had no idea. They pretty much have never thought of where you may or may not need to put a large truck carrying a lot of items.

I have sent another email to the international shippers and have not received a response. But it looks like there is a small drive that the truck could pull down, it will have to back out, but it can unload and carry our stuff through the back door of our property.

Tomorrow, when our shipment arrives is going to be a chaotic day I am sure! Wish me luck and send lots of prayers as Andrew is going to be at orientation all day.

Being an ancient country leads to ancient issues that our young country and planned large road ways did not have to deal with or even think about. I wish I could be a fly on the wall as a large truck tries to make it down these very winding, very small, and very beautiful Scottish roads.

New lesson where to park the lorries... I still have no idea :)

Once these small hiccups are done I can't wait to start taking pictures and describing how amazing our little and perfect Scottish town of Kingsbarns is and how wonderful and inspiring St. Andrews is as well. I will also talk about the new places Andrew and discover.

Oh funny story, our new SatNav (GPS) named Serena TomTom has had some difficulties in navigating lately. We asked Serena TomTom to take us to a vodafone (mobile phone company) store about 18 miles away in Dundee, but instead Serena TomTom took us to Perth which is about 40 miles or more away. Andrew and I just kept driving and we knew that Serena TomTom totally messed up, but it was a pleasant surprise and another great adventure. Plus we had no idea where we were anyways and we had to follow Serena TomTom no matter where she decided to take us! LOL! All we could say is oh Serena TomTom :)

A perfectly tarnished child of God

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In Search of Free Wifi

Today is Sunday the 8th day of September 2013. I'm trying to remind myself that dates are written differently here in the UK and I have to literally say it out loud or write it down. It has already confused a few documents and required scribbling out and writing initials. Although both countries are similar their differences, I am discovering are vast. Especially when you move to a small village from a large metro city in the States.

Here is the beginning so far of Andrew and my journey from Chicago to Kingsbarns. From a population of approximately 3.5 million in the city center and about 10 million in the Chicago area to a village of about 300 and a country, Scotland, with about 10 million in total population. It is beautiful here and the ocean, which is about a 10 minute walk from our home, is calming and brings a wet cool breeze every morning.

I am currently sitting in Bibi's Cafe on North Street in St. Andrews. One of my new favorite spots and a place that allows me to tap into their wifi. Thank you Bibis Cafe!

This particular location serves a great little breakfast, sandwiches, soups, teas, coffee, biscuits, and all sorts of sweet little treats. On South Street they have Bibi's Bakery which sells a collection of beautifully assorted cupcakes, cakes, and fresh made breads. Those of you who know me best know that I discovered this little gem even before Andrew and I moved. I love cupcakes, yeah party for one!!!

We have been in Scotland for about two weeks and I have definitely learned some priceless lessons which will be invaluable for others who decided to take this very odd leap of faith too...

The first week we stayed with dear friends in Edinburgh. We got over our jet leg planned out what we thought we needed and purchased some essentials like bedding and toilet paper. Thank you Costco and Ikea for being the best shopping spots for these items. Unfortunately, both of these stores are located in Edinburgh which is about an hour and half to an hour and 45 minutes away from St. Andrews.

Huge lessons so far:
1. You have to book an appointment at a bank in order to open an account and get the process started. This sounds easy enough, but appointments are difficult to get especially in the beginning of school years. It took us an entire week to be able to book an appointment. Book an appointment right away!

2. It takes 7-10 business days to get your bank cards. You can't do anything with out your bank cards... Trust me this was a bit difficult and really frustrating. Although, ours came in 5 days (thank goodness)

3. Still on the bank issues, wiring money from the States was an awful and incredibly confusing, frustrating, and irritating process. Perhaps its because we bank with Chase, who for the most part we have been very happy with, but getting our money has been a nightmare and you can't do anything I mean anything without money. Thankfully Andrew and I had made friends with our bank manager at our branch in Chicago, Brian, who is absolutely amazing, but had we not had that friendship and his help we probably would still be waiting for our money to transfer. So lesson is carry travelers checks with you (insure them) and have them put into your travel currency so for us we would need them in pounds. At least that is what we are finding. Chase has given us a much better exchange rate than the Bank of Scotland. Perhaps that is because the pound is valued higher than the dollar so I would do some research. But bottom line is carry cash with you (or travelers checks) because wiring money is a nightmare.

4. Cars and Car insurances: So we were told that we would probably need and want a car. After being in Kingsbarns for a week everyones advice is correct and a car is needed. The bus runs about every hour but is actually quite expensive and its much easier to drive the 6 miles into town. Cars here are quite small, but that is a really really really good thing. Large cars do not fit and are scary to drive and drive by on the roads. However, we needed a car that fit golf clubs and luggage so it had to have a decent boot (trunk). Yeah, we found one and within our very very limited budget. Great, purchasing car check, but oh what about insurance. Well this shouldn't be a problem we just need to call a few places get some quotes and move on right?!?

5. Car insurance: So apparently unlike the States, car insurance is almost purchased on a yearly basis. So as your policy comes up you search for the next insurance company because they give you a great introductory year, but than raise your premiums. Yikes, okay no biggie. I was told to go on to find insurance quotes... So I did that lets just say that don't like to insure USA drivers. Again, its a nightmare and it costs an arm and a leg. Crazy absolutely crazy. I finally found an insurance company called AVIVA, but I can't seem to figure out how to pay them. Their quote was a bit more reasonable and I was told that they insure US drivers. Thank goodness... I just need to pay... I will up date later...

6. We purchased our car in Edinburgh which had far more to choose from. If you are looking for a manual car the options are almost limitless and you won't need to spend all that much on a car. However, Andrew and I, well mainly me, want or need an automatic car. That was far more difficult to find and the options are quite limited. Plus you will pay a bit more. However, by looking for a car in a bigger location we had a better opportunity to find what we needed. So, assuming I get the car insurance squared away, we are going to be picking up our car on Thursday or Friday of this week.

7. Internet, phone, cable: So these take a bit longer to install than the States, but I think that is more because we are living in a very small country village. However, we found out that we can't get cable because it doesn't reach our little village. This devastated Andrew for a bit until the BT guy insured him that he could get sports channels via our broadband... Phew... Oh and we were limited to only one option BT and not Sky, which is satellite, because we live in a historical home built a long time ago and they can't drill satellite dishes into them... So we get the free, yes free, BT channels which are a bit strange but work and Andrew will be able to get his sports on-line. Sadly we don't get Downton Abby with our free BT, but I was told I could also get this via on-line. Here is to crossing our fingers again.

8. A little village really is a little village. We have B&B owned and run by Jim and Jayne, absolutely wonderful people and cute little B&B. We have a pub and hotel owned and run by Gary and Jackie, incredible food, clean hotel, and great company. We have a post office and very very small convienent store run by Len and a church, a Church of Scotland church, we haven't met the pastor yet. Everyone knows everyone and everyone is some how connected. It is a very strange world for Andrew and I, but we are really enjoying getting to know everyone. Oh and our little cottage is in a row with what the town calls the "Old Spinsters" and yes, the description is true...

Andrew had enjoyed every bit of the golfing greens that he can. He hasn't played yet in St. Andrews, but did play a round in Edinburgh. He can't wait to start playing here. The courses are absolutely beautiful and there really is so much history and pageantry surrounding each course. He is starting his orientation and is very excited about school starting.

I am enjoying settling in. Trying to get our little home set up and stocking it with all the items we need. I am also enjoying discovering the little shops and restaurants around St. Andrews. Its not a big town, but its friendly, quaint and everything I hoped an old Scottish town would feel like. Plus it has the buzz of students and learning which is utterly inspiring.

Yesterday evening, Andrew and I went for a walk to the sea and it was invigorating. The air was cool, wet, and salty. We passed homes that have been there for centuries and it felt like we were in a movie. I think we will enjoy this walk in the evenings... I think we will enjoy living here :)

A perfectly tarnished child of God