Sunday, September 30, 2007

One more night

Wow... hard to believe this is my last night in my apartment in Nashua.
At this point I honestly thought I'd start to get all misty-eyed and melancholic (as I tend to do when a particular part of my life is over). Turns out it's not happening!
I spent the day getting rid of my bed and my dining table + chairs and had a wonderful friend over who pretty much cleared everything out that I had left over and didn't need anymore, as well as pretty much cleaning everything in the apartment for me!!!
All that's left for me to do is clean the bathroom, do a bit vacuuming, pack all that's left into the car and hand over the keys tomorrow!
I can't even begin to say how thankful I am to her for all her help, she really has taken such great care of me since I got here.
I'm heading to Portsmouth, NH tomorrow for the last concert of the mini-tour with the choir and then I'll go and stay with her and her family for my last two days in the US.
I know choir tomorrow will be very emotional but I am very much prepared for it and it won't come as a surprise. However, not getting the least bit upset about leaving here is still sort of weird to me. I guess it just means it hasn't made that much of an impression on me? I don't get it. Maybe IBM really took over my life for the entire time that I was here and just screwed everything up alongside of it. It very much seems that way.
I did get a bit choked up when I went to the library for the last time this morning. They had a library book sale and I just couldn't resist. Nevermind the fact that my luggage as it is weighs a total of about 130 pounds, if not more (I am NOT kidding). Much as I wanted to just pick "one book for reading on the plane", I ended up buying seven. Go figure. As I dropped off the last books I had borrowed I did get a little sad to leave that wonderful library behind. Without a doubt, Nashua Public Library is the best library I've ever been a member of. So many amazing books, always up to date with everything, tons of new releases and the most incredible media library I've ever seen. And ALL of it for FREE!!! Such a wonderful, wonderful institution! I will really miss it very much.
I shall try to update this blog in the next two days but it is unlikely. I'm off to the UK on Tuesday night, flying with Aer Lingus via Dublin to London. I hope they have decent food and good entertainment on board. If all else fails, I've got my trusty iPod which will keep me good company :-)
Off to sleep on my airbed now - just like when I got here! LOL
Byyyeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

I LOVE the internet!!!

I can't even begin to count the amount of times I thought "Thank heavens for the internet". It seems to be there at every corner, available to help with whatever questions I might have. I truly can't imagine having to go back to living without it!

Best example - I've been cleaning my oven today. And just so you understand, I didn't actually do it. The oven did. Because it's one of those self-cleaning ovens apparently. Before I got to the US I'd never heard of them but they're standard here.
So what happens is you take the racks out of the oven, set it to CLEAN, set the timer and then pull a lever into the "clean" position. Normally it's on the "cooking" position but when you clean you just move it to the right. So I did.
The oven then starts to heat up and apparently gets REALLY hot, so hot that it burns all the dirt inside. Once the process is done, you're supposed to turn the CLEAN setting off and then turn that lever left, back to the "cooking" position.

Well, guess what - mine wouldn't do it. Pull to the left, that is. If pulled halfway through and then stopped. I pulled harder, tried to open the oven door - nothing.
My only solution (since I had no instruction manual for the damn thing) - google it!
And lo and behold - there it was, the solution to my problem. Of course someone else had encountered it and the solution was very simple. Turns out the oven remains locked until the temperature inside has cooled down to an acceptable temperature so you won't have a wall of hot air gush out when you open the oven. Another 30 minutes later I heard a loud clang and went to inspect my oven - the lever was in the "cooking" position and I was able to open the oven door! SUCCESS!!!!

I seriously would've had to call the maintenance guys tomorrow if I hadn't googled it - I LOVE THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One week to go

Well, more goodbyes have been said - time is ticking, it's only 7 more days until I hop on a plane back to the UK.

Last night's choir rehearsal was was very cute in the beginning when Diane started the warm up and was wearing this t-shirt that said "Life is goog!" (which is hilarious to me because one of the voice exercises we do is sing C-E-G-C up and down and then as scales on the word GOOG and the t-shirt stand for exactly that! LOL). I managed to tape everyone doing this exercise but stupidly taped over it today. I headed over to Burlington Mall in the afternoon and had a t-shirt made just like hers. It rocks!
Anyway, throughout the evening people came over and told me how they'd miss me and how nice it was to have me in the choir. After rehearsal some of us went to the 99 restaurant and just had some food and drinks and chatted away at my farewell "party". It was really sweet - I mean, I only joined the choir a year ago. I felt so special that all these people made the effort to come out and wish me good luck. I got a signed menu card at the end, where everyone that was present at the restaurant wrote a few words - I will treasure it forever! (and yes, I chose to not read it while everyone was around because, yes, of course, I started blubbering like an idiot and couldn't stop until I got home).
The good thing is I have two more concerts left with them so the real heartbreaking part will come Sunday when I REALLY say goodbye to everyone. Heaven help me.

Today I said goodbye to another set of people - a bunch of girls I worked with and used to go out with for lunch sometimes (and one guy but he really is one of the girls cause he's way too nice to be a guy!!!). We did lunch for the last time today and it was somewhat bittersweet. I can't say I feel the same pain over people at work as I do with the choir (beats me why! I spent way more time with the work guys after all!). In a way I think it doesn't hurt so much cause I know I will see them all again very soon. When I left the UK, I was certain I wouldn't ever be back.

And then tonight I met up with my cake decorating teacher (she's in her late twenties so don't got picturing an old biddy) and some other girls I met in class and we went to the Outback and had food and talked and laughed and I had my very last "Chocolate thunder from down under" desert. Heaven on earth, honestly! It was hard to say goodbye to them too even though again, I've not exactly spent hours on end with them but we've managed to establish such an easy rapport in the short time we've known eachother. Again, I fully expect to be back soon so it will probably be like we've never been apart.

I've got lunches/dinners planned for the rest of my stay here so it should keep me busy. In the meantime I made the mistake of walking into a Borders bookstore today and walking out with two new books. As if my suitcases weren't already bursting! To be fair though, I wanted to buy four books so ending up with two is still something to be proud of.
I am dreading Saturday though - Nashua library has another one of their AWESOME book sales and I am SO going to be there! I don't care HOW heavy that makes my suitcase! LOL If I see something I want, I will buy it!

Alrighty... time to go to bed. More in the days to come :-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

One worry off my mind

It's Monday and the worst part of the day (and the entire move) is over.
Two Gentle Giant guys came over this morning around 9am and started packing up all the stuff I'd set aside for shipping. They were a cool duo, joking around and having fun, I spent most of the hour talking to them while they were packing. One of them was even Romanian - that was so spooky! After about one and a half hours they were done, packed it all up nicely and moved it into the van. They were maybe 20 boxes in total, not bad for a year's worth of living LOL
Now my apartment is almost completely empty - I've only got the bed (which will be picked up Saturday) and the dining table with 4 chairs (will be picked up or delivered sometime during the week) and then that's pretty much it. Bits and pieces here and there but nothing major anymore. Just clean up, close up and fly out! YEY!

I've choir rehearsal in an hour or so and then they are throwing me a little goodbye party afterwards. Oh boy... I can feel the waterworks coming on already!!!
More later!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A lot of lasts

Well, it is inevitable that at this point in my decision to go back to the UK I'd have to face goodbyes and a lot of lasts.
Like this morning, the last time I've had breakfast at the IHOP and the last time I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, on Tuesday the last time I've had an ice skating lesson with my awesome teacher Christina and the last time I've gone to a cake decorating class and fought with the icing to try and make royal icing flowers. It's starting to build up now and it's not exactly surprising but whilst I've been very conscious of not feeling all that sad so far, last night suddenly brought everything into perspective.
The Nashua choir has managed to secure a grant which allowed us to do a little mini-tour through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Out of 4 performances, we did the first one last night, at Keene College and we did quite well.
The killer came though when we were all together in a room before the performance and Diane gave us our usual pep talk and told us how wonderful we sound and to go out there and have fun (I LOVE HER!!!!!!!) and then she looked at me and started saying how wonderful it was to have me with them and that this will be the last few concerts we'll get to sing together. At that moment I could feel the lump in my throat and tears welled up and I knew if she didn't stop I'd start crying so I (somewhat rudely) held up my hand and told her to stop and please not do that because I really couldn't have coped with it so shortly before the performance. I think she got the picture and she did stop but suddenly it made everything seem so real.
I managed to concentrate on the upcoming performance but now that I've gone through a whirlwind day of breakfasting with my closest friends from work and lunching with another friend (also from work) I'm sitting here in my fairly empty apartment, thinking that I am going to have a MAJOR crying session come September 30th, at the end of my very last concert with the Nashua choir.
Oh God, just remembering saying goodbye to my Woking choir not quite 15 months ago makes me wanna scream. I don't think I remember ever hurting so badly in my life. Then, just like now, it had taken less than a year to fall in love with those people and the music we made together.
And now I'm going back to Woking, to my old choir but I'm leaving this one behind and I wish there was some way I could still be part of them too because it just breaks my heart to be without them.
Obviously, goodbyes are part of life but I'll be damned if I don't leave a piece of my soul behind everytime I leave some place. I guess it would be a good idea to stop moving around like some gypsy on speed. I just might have an intact soul at the end of my life...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Surprising read

So I've been spending most of my free time in the past few weeks reading books. A LOT of them. Since I packed all of them up in boxes to be shipped and I realized they're taking one heck of a lot of space, I thought to myself I ought to at least read some to see if they're even worth having them shipped over.

As I finished one book a few minutes ago and picked out another one I had bought at some library sale or other, I opened it and almost skipped the front page and the handwriting on it. Had it not been for my name jumping out at me. I looked at the cover of the book again - did I remember being given this by someone? Did I forget? I looked at the handwriting... it says "To Maky". Hmmm.... confused. I search my mind again but nothing happens. I look closer - AHA!!!! Maky suddenly turns into Mary.
See for yourself, it could've easily been my name.
On a sidenote - the book is called "Rex and the city" and is written by Lee Harrington ;)





Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Huh!

So here is me thinking the uphieval of moving YET AGAIN to another continent is a pain in the ass and I wish I were finally settled SOMEWHERE, when a friend simply tells me "You're lucky to have the freedom to do all this 'searching'".
Point taken! Attitude adjustment in progress! :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Useless

Well as things go, instead of working on my uni project, my thoughts drifted to things that showed just how deseprate I am to avoid finishing this stupid degree.

Still, shockingly enough I realized that I was pretty much useless as a person.
Let me correct that - useless as a person who doesn't live in a time where computers and technology are as important and omnipresent as today.

So try to follow my train of thought here... pretend with me that something like a nuclear war or something else altogether eradicates most of humanity (personally, I don't see this as a bad thing at all!). Of course I survive. And maybe some other poor souls who are stuck with me. And then continue to imagine that there is no internet, no computers that could in any way be useful, no phones, no technology. Basically, there's nothing left at which I am good or where I can prove useful.

A list of things I can't do (but would desperately need to in above situation):
- build shelter (involves using mathematical brain and other knowledge to make a good, long-lasting shelter - I don't have either)
- make a fire (when was the last time I tried to rub two stones together... ahm... oh yeah, NEVER!)
- somehow get food (from probably picking the poisonous mushrooms, to not having a clue how to fish or hunt, to being totally grossed out if I ever had to cut an animal open - I would have to depend on picking fruit/veggies where I'd be sure of what they were. Very unlikely in an extreme situation)
- defend myself or others (even if there were guns/weapons around, I do not ever see myself being able to use either in order to protect myself or others. I'm just chicken like that. I suppose I could always scream at the top of my lungs which might deafen the enemy...)

And there's more. I don't know how to paint a house, I don't know how to do anything electrical, I don't know anything about mechanical things like cars and other means of travel, I'm not good with animals (aka horses, cows and the likes), the list truly does go on and on.

So you see, make sure when the end of the world is approaching, don't be anywhere near me. All I'd end up being good for is eating me and even then, I'm sure I wouldn't taste that good - I'm mainly made of pure fat. You've been warned.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Not much to say

I just thought I'd come here to let you know that for a change, there's not much to tell! LOL So there...
I have a headache, I slept 4 hours this afternoon (explaining why I'm still up at almost 1am) and I ate lots of spaghetti with tomato sauce and gouda cheese. And ice cream with hot fudge. Doesn't get anymore boring than that!

17 days till I return to the UK - yiiipiiee!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You've gotta be kidding me!!!!!

Is this some kind of stupid joke??? WTF???

New directive may limit musical 'noise'

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blast from the past

Ha... most of you know I am a HUGE Santa Barbara fan. Just LOVE that show to pieces! Well, I joined a SB chat tonight just for the sake of chatting with others who have such fond memories of that awesome soap.
And guess who turns up as a surprise guest? A Martinez aka Cruz Castillo in SB! What a nice guy, we chatted with about 10 others for almost two hours :-) This just put the biggest smile on my face! :-D Life is good!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Luxury

Oh boy... I've just realized that I've grown to be very spoiled over here. At least in the car department (I'm guessing going back to teeny tiny apartments won't be easy either).
Just on a whim I decided to do a search for cars in Germany, see what I could get over there for the few savings I'll have once I get back to Europe. Turns out, not a lot! Makes me ache for my Cory which is such a good car... why, a 2003 Toyota Corolla over there is, first of all SMALL (aka only two doors, instead of four) and costs almost twice as much! Granted, a lot less mileage on it than my Cory but still!!!! And then of course, there's the fact that I refuse to ever drive a stick again. Automatic or nothing. I'm dreading going back to the UK and having to use that crappy non-automatic Ford again until I can get something better. UGH. I actually think that's my biggest problem - find a decent automatic car that's not too expensive. Not an easy feat in Germany... *sigh*

Friday, September 07, 2007

Back

Well, I'm back from Canada. Without writing too much about it, turns out I needn't have bothered going over the border. They never removed my I-94 white slip of paper and replaced it with a green one for visitors. Apparently (after conferring with eachother for about 5 minutes), they decided it wasn't necessary and I'd have some kind of grace period. Wish I'd gotten that in writing though. Someone's word won't do me any good once I try to get back to the US in the future and they pull me over at Immigration. Oh well, I'll deal with that when the time comes.

The trip was fairly uneventful, I made it up to Montreal in about four and a half hours which was cool. Beautiful drive too, up I-89 through NH and VT. Even though I'm missing out on the real foliage changes, some trees already had hues of reds and yellows - I can only imagine what that will be like in a month.

Once in Montreal I seeked out the old Expo 67 site - not much left there apart from the US pavilion which is now a museum, but MAN, is it cool!!!! The entire structure is totally awe-inspiring. I just sat there looking at it for something like 15 minutes. I couldn't get enough.
Here are some pictures of it - it's now called the "Biosphere". Back in 67, there were some plexiglas panels in the structure but apparently it burned down some years ago. The structure however remains.







Also there, this little birdie came very close to me and I had to take a few pics of it (thankfully it didn't come too close or I'd've been a goner)



And then there was this little guy who didn't seem too disturbed by people either. Guess they're used to them by now.



Oh and then there was this building complex, also part of what was built back in 67 called Habitat67. It looks so weird, honestly. But have a look yourself - people actually live there and apparently it's fantastic!




I was going to go into downtown Montreal but I got lost and couldn't be bothered to drive around any longer so I just turned around and got back onto the highway going south. It took me a lot longer this time but I did have to stop for gas, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's factory visit. Yum, yum ice cream!!!! :-)

Oh and did I mention - I'm FREEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

P.S. for today

OMG, does anyone remember this???? (apart from Ally, obviously!)
I love this dance soooooooooo much! God, I wish I was fit enough to dance it again. Sis, we'll have to get in shape and dance again sometime soon. It gets awfully boring just on my own LOL

FREEDOM!!!!!!!

Well, it is FINALLY here... the LAST DAY AT IBM!!!! Oh the many daydreams I've had about this day. This was way better!

Apart from still having to do a ton of stuff all at the very last minute (how else could it be) the day was quite frankly wonderful. The first half of the day I spent working (shocking!!!), then I went to lunch with my old manager which was great fun and then I tried (but failed) to completely format my Stinkpad (for the uninitiated - IBM Thinkpad, my work laptop). After realizing one cannot format the C drive without a Windows CD, I started uninstalling pretty much everything on there, just to make it unusable. Then I started it in safe mode and started deleting all I could get away with on the C Drive. There is nothing left on there now that would be easy to recover. Did you know that you can't just go and delete the entire registry??? That's so weird.. I was hoping I could delete the registry too but I guess that didn't happen either. Sorry, got sidetracked into techie mode here...

Once done with that, I brought my Stinkpad to the replacement for my manager (she wasn't in the office today but it needed to be given to someone to lock up - beware the terrible IBM thieves!!!) and that was that, as they say.
It was 3pm when I started doing my "rounds". Three floors of people I needed/wanted to say goodbye to. I planned to be out by 4. At 5.30 I finally left!!! But oh, how much fun that was. To be able to walk to everyone with a big, fat grin on my face knowing I'm finally happy. As opposed to running around, feeling aggravated about everything under the sun and exchanging complaints left, right and center. Bliss!!!
I feel terribly sorry for some of those left behind though. Everyone with one or two exceptions, said how unhappy they are and how they envy me for leaving. For some, who have family and kids, leaving isn't an option. For others, insecurities about finding another job and other issues keeps them rooted to the spot.
Either way, I AM OUT and for the time being that's all that matters. It was great to see how many people appreciated the help I gave them, and how many seemed to genuinely like me! So with a lot of "Keep in touch"es and "You've got my email"s I finally made it out of there!!!

The best part of the day? When going out for lunch there were workmen working on the side of the building - taking down the big "MRO Software" sign off the top of the building and replacing it with an IBM one. And I realized... I will never have to come into work in the morning to see IBM on the building. I will have worked all days in that building while it was still in MRO's name. Isn't that cool???
It's a sign, don't you think??? ;-) HAHA, get it? It's a SIGN! LOL

I'm celebrating right now by eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's - probably not a good idea since I'll be visiting the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont tomorrow. Yes, big trip.
Off to Canada (Montreal) for one reason only - to get out of the US (because I'm losing my legal status here as soon as my job ends) and come back in as a visitor so I can pack things up and finally take a hike on October 2nd. And the road will lead me past Woodstock, VT where they make Ben & Jerry's (yummy!!!). 10 hours driving in one day - should be very interesting. More interesting will be to see if they let me back into the US!!!! LOL I'm sure everything will be fine though... I'll post again when I'm back and have more to tell!

Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!!! (apart from the God bit though!)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Moving status update

Well... it is now one month until I'm leaving the US to go back to the UK.
My head's all over the place and I've got so many little things to take care of, at times I feel completely and totally overwhelmed and just want to sleep until October 2nd, then wake up and realize everything's been dealt with and I just gotta jump on the plane and take off. Wishful thinking.

Still... progress is being made. I've had a friend from work over today, she's just moved to the US from Australia and looked through a good amount of the stuff I've been trying to sell. Lucky for me (and as she said, for her too) what I wanted to get rid of, she wanted to buy. My apartment is now even emptier than before and it still doesn't make me sad. Weird. But main thing is, a lot of stuff is off my mind now, I feel a wee bit lighter in my head for knowing I at least don't have to worry about certain things.
I think furniturewise all that's left to get rid of is my dining table with 4 chairs. I'll put that up on Craigslist I'm thinking... see what comes of it. I still have a lot of appliances which nobody seems to want (how can you not want a FOODSAVER??????????) but I'm sure something will come up.
All my Weight Watchers stuff is up on Ebay - I'm sure it'll all get a good price since you can't just buy it anywhere unless you attend the costly meetings.

The movers' rep was here on Thursday and gave me an estimate of about $1700 for shipping the stuff I'm keeping over, which is within my budget.

Other than that... on my "to-do" list is survive the last two days at work (Tuesday and Wednesday), then go to Canada and re-enter the US as a visitor, then get started on my uni project (heaven help me), and that's pretty much it. Sounds simple enough - let's see if it will be! :-)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Gatekeepers

I don't usually write reviews of books in my blog but this one really did spark something in me. It's called "The Gatekeepers - inside the admissions process of a premier college".

Now, those of you who don't live in the US might not know what a HUGE deal going to college is here. Almost ridiculous, to be honest. Parents whose child has not even been conceived are establishing savings accounts for their future brood's college career. They take huge loans, mortgage their homes... it's unbelievable. Colleges/universities here cost something like $35.000/year. Sure, there are cheaper ones around but obviously not the "top" ones.

I've never been an academic, in fact, the mere thought of going to college/university always made me gag. Part of it was the fact that I felt that I didn't need a piece of paper to prove that I can make it in life, that I am smart and intelligent and can carry on a conversation about pretty much any issues you throw my way. And the other part was pure frustration at the way I experienced high school - so I assumed college would be the same. Full of bullshit teachers who have no idea what the hell they're talking about, full of bullshit subjects that are needed in order to pass certain things and full of bullshit exams/tests that, if you're smart enough you can cheat your way through.

I picked this book up at a library sale a few months back and never got around to reading it. A few days ago I thought I'd give it a go. It was a boring read to start with... mainly because the subject matter was completely new to me. The things that come into play when applying for a college here are so numerous and unpredictable, I'm astounded that anyone ever gets accepted!
The book is written by a guy who had approval from Wesleyan University in Connecticut to shadow their admission's process for the Class of 2004. He follows one particular admissions officer who at one point in the year, reads hundreds of college applications and has to make a decision based on the applicant's grades, their race, their location, their school, their extracurricular activities, their essays, their talents. With so many things to take into consideration, the book reads really nicely and is very varied.
The author follows a particular number of students who applied to Wesleyan, dug deep to find the background info to go with that application and followed them into their first year of college, whether that was Wesleyan or not. And whilst it got boring every now and then (because the subject matter can sometimes get so un-human and numbers oriented), most of the time I was reading on, hoping to find out whether the students he had picked out would be accepted, rejected, wait-listed... whether they would decide to go to Wesleyan once they were accepted and if not where they would go. Like a novel, where you have to wait until the end to find out if the hero saves the princess!

Still, while it was an eye opener and also a very entertaining read, it also made me think of the comparisons I was constantly drawing to the way students are accepted in Germany. First of all, no charges. Yeah, now there is a minimal fee of something like 500 Euros/semester but that's nothing compared to $20.000. And then there's the fact that colleges in Germany NEVER look at anything else but your high school grades/results. Here, everything counts... extracurricular activities sometimes more than the grades. Being a volunteer, playing some sport as part of a team, being a student body leader, a dancer, a singer, a Big Brother or Big Sister, an editor at the school newspaper... the list goes on and on. What a different way to educate youth, I kept thinking all through the book.

Either way - I highly recommend this book, whether you're looking to get into a US college or not. It is simply too marvelous to overlook :-)