Scrapin’ Cheese

Whyyyyyyy is it so hard to go back to doing something after you’ve taken a break from it? WHY?

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OK. Deep breaths… Alright, cool.

Have you ever tried raclette? No, that’s not a fancy name for eXtasy. It’s two things (according to Wikipedia): 1) a type of “semi-firm cow’s milk cheese” whose surface you melt and scrape off the larger mass of cheese onto other unsuspecting foods (or maybe just onto a plate), and 2) a dish with French & Swiss origins which involves the heating and scraping of cheese onto foods which traditionally include small potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions, and dried meats. Either way, there’s scraping involved.

Last week, I went out with the super amazing trio of Frankie, Flick, and Sophie to try raclette for the first time at the lovely Truc Vert in Mayfair. It was the day after I’d flown back into England, and the jet lag struggle was too real. I was the laziest food-eater/cheese-scraper/blog person ever (Flick side-eyed me in a major way when I wiped my phone’s camera lens with my finger. SO tired, y’all…). An interesting, double-decker contraption was in the middle of the table. The first level looked like two grills flanking a smooth granite rectangle. The level underneath had individual, triangular trays for heating our cheese slices. The four of us examined our cheese trays and poked at the cooker like a bunch of toddlers. I don’t think any of us had tried raclette before; it was all pretty fascinating.

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After bringing us a bottle of the house white wine, our friendly servers brought over all the accoutrements: the potatoes, the gherkins, the pickled onions, the platter full of mouth-watering meats, stacks of bread, and the star of the show, sliced raclette cheese for melting. This is when my curious foodpanions went into serious blogger mode with their awesome cameras clicking away. Me, I took a few lame-o shots with my finger-smudged phone camera (cuz deep down, I’m just a 5 year-old who’s hungry AF).

Observations:
1. Pickled onions make everything better. Where have these sweet, tangy lil bulbs of deliciousness been all my life?!?!?!

2. Trying to eat more than 2 melted slices of cheese (as in melting more than 2 slices at the same time and trying to eat it) is no bueno for me.

3. If #2 is true of you, too, it’s a good idea to eat with at least one cheese champion, like Flick, who’ll eat the melted cheese you don’t eat b/c you’re being a candy ass.

4. No amount of bread is ever enough.

5. Raclette is tasty and fun!

If you’re looking for a cool social eating experience, give raclette a try. And if you need somewhere to try it, Truc Vert’s a great place to lose your raclette virginity. Do it.

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Thanks for inviting me along, Frankie! And thank you to Truc Vert for being such awesome hosts πŸ™‚

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A Stuffed Head & 5AM Wanderings

I. Am Sick.

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This is incredibly inconvenient, as had planned to attend event at Foyles this evening, but no longer feel up to it. There was also an event earlier this week that I’d been hoping to attend there, but still more body issues got in the way of that. Anyhoo, for the past week or so, my horrible propensity for violent sneezing, itching, plugged ears, and a tidal wave of mucus in the Spring and Summer has reared its ugly head.

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But because my confidence in my body’s ability to deal with such things is ridiculous and excessive, I hadn’t bothered to buy medicine. Last night/this morning, I reached my breaking point. I did not sleep — I couldn’t — because my head was so full of fluids, I thought my eyes would pop out. I lay in bed miserable, cursing the lack of CVS and Walgreens in London. I think about how much I miss 24-hour pharmacies on an almost daily basis. That’s what I think I miss most about the US: being able to just get things when I want to. Some stores here are open 24 hours, but I haven’t found many. At around 5:30AM I couldn’t take it anymore (“it” = rolling around sleeplessly on a bed of used tp, the contents of my head sloshing about). So I pulled on a sweater, left on my sweatpants (b/c who’s around at 5:30AM?), and went a-rambling.

Yes, yes, this is 2015, so I checked my options online before heading out to see what (if anything) would be open. No pharamacies in my area of course. I was given the option of a 24-hour pharmacy in my online search…that I would have to take a bus, then a train to get to. No thanks. Fueled by righteous anger and a head full of snot, I tramped through the mostly empty streets of Acton. It’s so funny how early the sun comes up. I felt like I was already in the middle of my day when most people were still happily snoozing (with the help of blissfully empty sinus cavities, I might add).

It was kind of nice walking around with so few people on the street; a rare scene in such a large city. My first stop was a nearby, 24-hour “convenience” store. Ended up being inconvenient for me as they didn’t have any medication. This store sits next door to a Lloyd’s Pharmacy…that does not open until 8:30AM. I was…not happy. (Sidenote: one of the perks of being out so early is that you can mutter angrily to yourself out loud and no one will look at you like you’re wearing a tinfoil hat b/c their too busy sleeping).

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I remembered there was a Tesco a walkable distance away, and hoped they would be of help as I can usually count on Tesco in times of need. Lo and behold, there it was: a tiny section of medicines for the overstuffed. I bought Benadryl, Vicks VapoRub, Kleenex, immunity fruit smoothies, 2 big bottles of water, chocolate digestive biscuits, and a bag of Jacobs Mini Cheddar crackers, all of which dangled precariously from my arms since I’d only intended to pick up the medicine and hadn’t grabbed a basket. The man at the counter raised an eyebrow at me, then smirked when one of my fruit smoothies fell out of my arms and bounced onto the counter before helping me unload the rest. As soon as I got out of the shop, I popped a pill and waited for its miraculous 15-minute kick-in time, and the subsequent 8 hours of relief advertised on the box. Turns out these meds don’t work as well (for me) as I’d hoped. Glad I bought that VapoRub (which was promptly slathered on as soon as I got home). Finally, after everything, I was able to get some sleep.

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I report to you now from a nest of tissues. Doesn’t look like I’ll be making it to Foyles today 😦 Instead, I’ll finish re-reading Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and HP & The Chamber of Secrets, silently cheering every time I’m able to breathe through my nose without imploding. I’m supposed to head to Brighton tomorrow. Let’s hope my nose cooperates!

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Have a good weekend, y’all πŸ™‚

Poetry Pit Stop

I don’t write poetry as often as I used to, but I tried my hand at it last night while attending a seminar given by the author of a new novel. I’m posting it here because I want it to be somewhere that feels wide open (not just on my computer screen and bouncing around inside my head).

You/Who/I/Where/We Belong
Maybe you belong with someone
cutely quirky
Not fractured & carrying
all the broken plates of her past
which still stab with their
sharp edges held close
For, as much as they sting and dig
I am protecting them
For they are mine
They are me
Without them, I
don’t exist.

You don’t even know how old I am
Thinking me not far from
hand-holding, crossing the street
But I have memory
of the burning fissures in
the Earth when it was new
I have sipped and supped
and been driven mad
by bowls of spirits
Trying to chase the
demons, run them screaming
from my mind.

Do I lack
because my brain is not
always
at the ready
to give service to
the piecing together
of the so-called
Big Ideas?
Who are you to decide
how I should occupy myself?
Circuses of the insane
Do they smile beautifully there?

Β© 2014 Gianni Washington
(b/c I’m oh so professional)

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

So Stinkin’ Wonderful

I had a freak-out on the plane ride over.

I was somehow convinced for a little while that living and studying in England wouldn’t be what I wanted it to. That every past failure would absolutely follow me, and being in a new environment would do nothing to improve my mind or my life. I’d be my old self in a new place, bringing nothing of value with me. I’d watch everyone around me follow their dreams while sitting stuck in the mud. I wouldn’t make any friends. I wouldn’t write anything worth reading. I’d be forced to go back to America defeated.

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Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I didn’t realize until that moment on the plane how frightening and important removing yourself from a comfortable routine to begin building a life elsewhere truly is. Probably because I was distracted by doing all I could up until the very last second to make that flight. So finally, sitting thousands of feet above ground, my brain caught up with what I was doing and the anxiety-palooza began. I’m sure you’ve had (and will continue to have) similar moments of insecurity right before taking a giant risk. It happens; we’re human. Luckily, I was proven wrong pretty quickly πŸ™‚

After an otherwise pleasant flight with a seatmate from Bristol (a lovely, older woman who was visiting her expat sister in Asheville, NC), I made my way to campus without the aid of a student ambassador. I took a bus to London Victoria station, waited a few hours, then caught another bus into Guildford. My giant suitcases and I wandered around for a bit, unsure what direction my room was in (I live in a dorm that’s about 20 minutes or so walking distance from the main campus). I called the International Student Office and a very helpful woman on the other end directed me to the nearest bus stop. I waited, and soon a bus to my part of campus showed up. The driver was patient with me as I fumbled for the correct change. When the bumpy ride knocked my suitcase over for the 30th time, a fellow student smiled and righted it for me. When we’d made it and were about to disembark, another student helped me carry one of my suitcases off the bus (my luggage was pretty awkward to walk with, haha). I got my key from reception, found my awesome room, and took it all in for a while (I also found a giant spider that I hit with 3 different shoes and a small box just to make sure it was dead).

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I went to Tesco, bought bedding and food, had a fun chat with the cashier, then walked back to my dorm. Along the way, each of my grocery bags broke open in turn, the cup I bought smashed into a billion pieces, and I had to stop every few minutes to rearrange things (carrying groceries and a duvet/pillows is kinda tough!). Along the way, some very nice people picked up the items I dropped and placed them carefully atop the swaying pile of stuff in my arms. When I’d made it to the building housing reception, more stuff fell, and I heard someone say “Need some help?” A new undergraduate and her mom helped me carry my banged up groceries all the way to my room! After I put them away, I walked back to the store to check for outlet adapters, but duh, British people don’t need an adapter that makes American plugs usable in England. So I walked back empty-handed. When I got back to my room, my ankles were the size of grapefruits.

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And I couldn’t have been happier.

I’d had a long day, but I’d met some super friendly people. I’d made it to campus and my room safely. I’d done my shopping. I’d organized my belongings. …And nothing went irreparably wrong. I felt — I feel — at home here.

The next day was even better. I attended orientation events, took a coach tour of Surrey (where I had cream tea, learned some interesting facts about the county’s history, and saw sweeping, gorgeous views of the countryside), and made a few friends who I have plans with tonight. I even showed a new friend from Hong Kong how to wish on a dandelion πŸ˜€

I’m really loving it here, and not because everything has immediately fallen into place and I’m a wealthy, baroness with a slew of servants, 5 best-sellers to my name, and everything I could ever want at my feet. I love it here because it feels good and normal and right. Because I already know it wasn’t a mistake.

I’ll post actual photos as soon as I find some wi-fi and can get them off my phone!

Everything that can go wrong, will.

Y’all… just… Y’ALL.

I woke up this morning, and got online to check the tracking info for my passport. Nothing new since its arrival in Charlotte at 7:00PM and its subsequent departure from that station 6 minutes later. After first receiving that update yesterday, I cancelled my initial flight (at hella expense) and re-booked for this evening because I’d been told by the post office that I should receive my package the next day if it reaches them before their deadline. This morning, after calling the ASKUSPS and Tracking phone numbers only to find that they are having “technical difficulties,” I call my local post office and am given confirmation that if it arrived in Charlotte last night, my package should indeed be delivered to me today. I rearrange my luggage. I take a shower. At 10:30AM, I check the tracking site again.

“You’re package has been returned to sender due to insufficient address at 8:26AM.”

Y’ALL.

I literally screamed.

I re-dial the local office (which I had first called after this last scan supposedly happened, yet the update was NOWHERE to be found on the tracking site until an hour or so later). The line is busy. I redial. The line is busy. I redial 15 more times. Busybusybusy. I want to destroy the earth. I call the USPS Help line. I’m told that I should call my local post office before they succeed in returning the package. Mind you, this conversation is happening about 2.5 hours AFTER the scan saying they had done just that, so I was in the midst of a MAJOR conniption. I call the local office again. I’m put on hold. Twice. Finally, someone manages to wrangle the guy who scanned my package last, and he tells me the address written doesn’t exist. I say, “Yes, it does. I’m calling you from it.” He asks if it’s a new development, and I say it is. He looks it up again, and says the zip code is wrong and that’s why he scanned it the way he did. When I first moved here, I believed my current address was in one zip code, but was told by Time Warner when they came to install that it came up under another. Therefore, the new zip code is what I wrote on the mailing label. However, the actual zip code is the one I’d initially believed it to be.

My main gripe in all this is that I, someone who does NOT work for the post office, am able to go onto the USPS website, put in an address without a zip code, and the site will spit out what zip code said address belongs in. If I’m able to do this, WHY DIDN’T THE POSTAL WORKER DO THIS? Instead of putting the entire address, as-written on the label, into your system and slapping a “Return to Sender” label on it when no matches are found, WHY oh WHY would you not then enter the address on its own to see if a different zipcode comes up?! Obviously he was capable of doing this because he did it when I called! Not only did the man label the package as “Undeliverable as addressed,” but he also checked “No such number” and “No such street,” neither of which is true.

Luckily for me, the package was still at the post office where they scanned it last. So:

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This is my “I am completely, f***ing exhausted” face. This has been the most ridiculous week of my life…and it’s only Wednesday.

But I can finally say with 10000000% confidence that I. AM. OUTTA HERE.

See you in England!!!!