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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Wonderful world of RISI



Just think about this for a moment. 2 Strangers who have reading in common but have only met very briefly once in Belfast and lived on opposite ends of the UK. They know as much about each others family and what is currently going on in their lives as a very close friend but never email or speak to each other. So when they meet in a different country (nay, a different continent) they have a lovely morning and are chatting away as if they were close friends. It sounds weird when you try and put it into writing or try and explain it to family and friends but it seems the most natural thing in the world to most of the people on RISI.
Well as most of you know the above happened in Washington DC with me (Saucier) and Sarah (Sazzymch). We met in Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in Dupont Circle.
Kramerbooks is a cultural landmark of sorts...Many people do not consider themselves true Washingtonians until they have received a phone call that begins as an invitation for drinks after work and ends with "I'll meet you at Kramer's" Kramerbooks & Afterwords is definitely an institution. There is no place like it here. It is known throughout the town, almost entirely through word of mouth. Of course, anything worth knowing in Washington almost always is." The New York Times

We were joined by the gorgeous 4 year old Luke who was our official photographer. It just seemed so natural and was like two old friends meeting for brunch. We had a bagel with cream cheese each, pots of tea and water and lots of chat. We then decided to go for a walk up to Rock Creek park as it is supposed to be bigger than Central Park in NY. We found an entrance but once inside it didn’t look very nice so we came out and walked along P street towards Georgetown to Rose Park where there was a wee play park for Luke. Luke played away on this while myself and Sarah sat in the shade (it was 100 degrees that day) and kept chatting. If Sarah was moving to DC I am sure we would become good friends but she is moving to San Antonio, Texas, which is as far away as the UK to me so we will just have to remain online friends.
Sarah, Chris and Luke had spent the weekend seeing the sites in DC and from her photos on Facebook it looks like they had a great time. Unfortunately, I can’t post the link to them so you will need to go onto Facebook to see them. Here are my photos from our meet.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=131900&id=626078744&l=83bc3f57dd

After my lovely morning and RISI meet I just chilled about in the afternoon and made a Quiche Lorraine as I had some bacon and Gruyere cheese needing used up in the fridge (as you do!). When Jar got home from work we decided to go out for a run. A bit mad given it was the hottest day of the year so far, but we both fancied a workout and didn’t feel like a game of tennis. Didn’t do too bad and got to break in my new running shoes. I need to work on lengthening my stride because for someone with legs as long as mine I have a really funny way of running which is almost trotting along taking baby steps. When I try to Lengthen my stride I cover the ground so much faster (Obviously) but I can’t keep it up and get the breathing right – it will come with practice I am sure.

Tuesday morning and we got up and headed off to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to start the drivers licence process. Anyone who watches the Simpsons or American movies will know the reputation of the MVA and their staff for being very slow and Jobsworths. I found them slow but very pleasant to me. We were waiting by 8.00a.m. for the doors to open at 8.30 so that we were about tenth in line. Got our number at the reception and then waited for someone to see each of us. Got taken very quickly and did the eye test and photo taken and all the relevant documents scanned onto the system. After that we had to take the multiple choice written exam. I was very nervous about this but I am always over nervous before exams. I got full marks and the questions were common sense for anyone that had been driving over 20 years like me. Luckily Jar passed as well although he got one question wrong but had misread it. You then have to queue to make an appointment for your practical test. Now from the stories we heard this could take a few weeks to happen but not with us. We were both sent outside to do our tests right away. I was sick with nerves as I was doing it in Jars car and I haven’t driven it in a while but thought well will give it a go and I can always re-sit it. The US practical test is an absolute joke and explains why most US drivers are terrible drivers. You do not go on the road but do it in an enclosed parking lot which measures about 20 feet square. It consists of driving across to the lot, doing a parallel park between some cones, doing a turn but it doesn’t need to be in 3 points, it can be in as many moves as you want. You then have to reverse for 30 yards and drive back to the test centre, all without having to deal with other cars beside you. I lost some points for not checking for traffic but it was difficult to remember to check for traffic when you knew you were in an enclosed lot! Anyway we both passed and went back inside and now are the proud owners of our laminated US licences for The State of Maryland. Picture is dodgy because I had not washed my hair due to early start but hopefully not many people will get to see it.

Wednesday I decided to be a bit of a lazy arse and just have a day doing nothing. Started well with a lie in but my day doing nothing turned into me doing the housework, completing a cross stitch and knitting the back of a baby cardigan while watching a movie. I can’t seem to just sit still and do nothing! It was still very relaxing anyway and lots of productive time so I felt quite pleased with myself.
Then Bobby had his first American vets appointment. Now don’t fret it was only for his annual booster jags. Luckily there is a Vets hospital just five minutes round the corner from the house so I had just booked him an appointment there. I still drive because he is bloody heavy and whinges his face off so much that I get lots of funny looks if I walk. The staff at the vets were really lovely – although you usually find they are lovely at vets as they are all animal lovers. We got shown straight into our own private consultation room!! Bobby was then allowed out to be weighed and he was allowed to be left to explore the room. The wee tart that he is he decided that he wanted a cuddle to jumped on my lap and proceeded to knead away to get comfy. When the vet came in he was a bit taken by surprise to see a cat just sitting on my lap staring at him quite calmly as they usually prowl around the room to explore but Bobby just was not interested. He further tarted it up by jumping up himself onto the vet table and rubbing up against the vet and his assistant and allowing them to make a fuss of him. He was thoroughly checked over and given his injections and was pronounced a very healthy and cute cat. It then took us some time to get his passport all stamped to keep it up to date – I think the Vet thought I was mad when I produced a passport for my cat but he stamped it so we were good to go. As expected Bobby then was quite tired and had a bit of a fever overnight and into the next day. The poor Wee mite found a dark corner of the basement where it was nice a cool and lay down on an old sports bag of mine and slept for about 18 hours without eating or going out. He was ok by the next evening and woke up, had a bite to eat and then went out exploring.

Thursday morning and my favourite yoga class. It was a great class and I felt very powerful and centred in it. We were doing a lot of hot poses so it was quite hard work but very energizing as well. We then stayed on for 15 minutes of meditation afterwards and had our normal chat about life. We were talking about getting centred in the right way so that extreme feelings and emotions are just on the side of your centre so that they don’t take over your life. It is hard to explain on paper but makes complete sense when sitting and discussing it and when trying to do it. We have been set some voluntary “homework” for next week. We have to bring some writing – famous or our own – that helps us to find our peaceful centre. I was not sure at the time but have a couple of poems in my mind which I will look out and see what they feel to me when read them again. Again all sounds a bit hippyish but is really helping me with my change in lifestyle at the moment. I feel a much calmer and less emotional person these days. I don’t tend to react to things immediately but rather just take them on board and then only react if they require a reaction once I have thought about it. Although most things now just seem to wash over me instead of upsetting me the way they used to.
In the afternoon I decided to head down to The Smithsonian and get some more culture. On the metro I saw an older couple looking a bit confused so decided to help them out. They were trying to get to the Smithsonian as well so they ended up following me. I chatted to them a little and they were from Seattle and had never been to Washngton before – it actually sounded like they had never been on a metro system before either. Anyway I deposited right in the centre of the mall, gave them my map for the surrounding area to keep and left them to it. They were really grateful and I felt a warmth from helping someone out. I had a nice wander around The Natural History museum although it was so busy I didn’t really get to read all the plaques rather just looked at the exhibits from afar. It is not the best Natural History museum I have been to – The one in Chicago and Glasgow it better in my opinion – but it was still an interesting afternoon out. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera so no photos of this. I then sat in the mall enjoying some of the sunshine and reading my guide book which led me into the Smithsonian Castle. Here is some blurb about it:
Completed in 1855, the original Smithsonian Institution Building was designed by architect James Renwick Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. This Washington landmark is constructed of red sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland, in the Norman style (a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs).
Over the years several reconstructions have taken place. The first followed a disastrous fire on January 24, 1865, which destroyed the upper story of the main segment and the north and south towers. In 1884, the east wing was fireproofed and enlarged to accommodate more offices. Remodeling from 1968 to 1969 restored the building to the Victorian atmosphere reminiscent of the era during which it was first inhabited.
This building served as a home for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry and his family and for many years housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations, including an exhibit hall from 1858 until the 1960s. In 1901, Washington’s first children’s room was installed in the Castle’s South Tower Room where the original decorated ceiling and wall stencils were restored in 1987. Located inside near the north entrance is the crypt of James Smithson, benefactor of the Institution, while outside on the Mall, a bronze statue of Joseph Henry, executed by William Wetmore Story, honors the eminent scientist who was the Institution’s first Secretary.
It also had a lovely garden out the back which I sat in and enjoyed the sunshine again before heading home.
On the way to the metro I was stopped by some people with a camera and microphone who were filming some sound bites for a promotional video for a new video game. They asked if I would answer a question and gave me the option of hearing it before hand or being asked on camera and them filming by reaction. I said ok and they asked me “live” on camera. The question was, if you had another life how would you live it. My answer was simple – I said I would live it exactly as I am doing my current life as you should always make the most of what you have now, instead of always wondering what if and that life was good. Not sure if that will make it into the video but I signed a waiver form to allow them to use my image and they gave me a business card. I will look them up on the internet to see if anything comes of it – as long as I don’t end up in a porn site I will be fine – lol!

Friday and we are off camping for the weekend after Jarlath has finished at work. He took my little car to work so I could pack everything up in the big car so we could set off as soon as he gets home in the evening. Set off at 6.00p.m. for the drive down into Virginia to a campsite at the top of the Shenandoah river. It took just under two hours and the traffic was nice and light so it was a very pleasant drive. The lady at the campsite was so lovely; she drove us around to let us pick which site we wanted. Unfortunately, there were no sites on the riverside left but we picked a nice big site with a firepit and picnic table and surrounded by small trees to give some privacy. Started setting up camp then Dawn and Simon arrived not long after us and we all set up for the night. It got dark really suddenly at 8.30 to 9.00p.m. so we were glad we had just got set up and ready to light the fire just on time. Made some burgers on the grill for dinner and then we just sat around the campfire, drinking and shooting the shit. We had a great laugh and the others saw some shooting stars (I didn’t though). We ended up sitting up until 2 in the morning as we hadn’t realized how late it was because we were just having so much fun chilling out and roasting marshmallows.

Up early on Saturday morning (7.30 a.m.) as the sun was up and making the tent really warm and campsites are never quiet in the morning. A bit tired due to lack of sleep but after a cup of tea and a bacon roll we were ready to go out for the day. Decided to go tubing down the river so went to the company that hired the tubes and you get onto a school bus and they drive you up river and drop you off to get in your tube and let the river just take you back down at a lazy pace. Luckily we had a cooler and a separate tube to carry it on the river to keep some juice and snacks in it. The tubing took about 3 hours. It was fun but we all felt we wanted a few more rapids to make it more fun. I think we were all done after a couple of hours as the last hour was very slow and there were no rapids to break it up. We then had a swim in the river to cool off afterwards – although the river water had a temperature of 78 degrees. I would do tubing again but not at that location but would try and find somewhere with a bit more life in the river. Unfortunately, Simon and Dawn got a bit burnt in the sun and slightly dehydrated. We drove up to Front Royal to get something to eat and a beer and then just headed back to camp to chill out for the evening. After having a kip or a read in my case, we got some more wood and then set up around the campfire again. Much the same as the previous night with us sitting up until 1.30a.m.

Sunday came and we were all tired as woken up early again. Dawn wasn’t feeling great as she was bright red from the sun. We packed up camp after breakfast and Dawn and Simon decided to go and see Luray Caverns as they were only 19 miles further down the river. Jar and I decided just to drive home and do something when we got back. I was exhausted after unpacking the car and could have just climbed into bed for a nap but as it was more a mental tiredness rather than physical I decided to go out on the road bikes with Jar. We cycled up the road towards Great Falls and I was quite pleased with how I managed it. Jar went a little further than me as he dropped down into the falls as I headed back home. I was so glad that I did this as it actually helped to give me some energy and shake off my tiredness – I usually find this when I make myself do some exercise.
Photos of the camping – none on the river as I didn’t have a waterproof camera with me.
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3260358&l=48d85054a3&id=626078744
Lazy evening watching some funny programs on tv and then off to bed fairly early as poor Jar has to get up at 4.00a.m. to fly to Texas for work. I don’t envy him having to do this.

Another interesting week is over. No plans for next week and Jar is away all week so will have a nice quiet one I am sure. Take it easy y’all. Xx

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