A bird’s eye view

On Monday we finally received our list of apartment choices in Phoenix. Good times. They’re all pretty much the same: small but perfectly formed. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but American apartments just look different to Irish ones. For example, most gaffs over here will have wooden floors in the living areas. They’re hard-wearing, and easy to clean and maintain. Well can someone please tell the Americans this? All the places we were offered have carpet everywhere except the kitchen and bathroom. Oh hi, dust mites, I can’t wait to introduce you to my asthma-riddled lungs! But I’m only nit picking. The apartments are lovely (in an American way) with everything we could possible need as well the thing I’ve been most excited about – a pool! In fact, the complex we’ll hopefully be living in has two pools as well as a 24-hour gym and clubhouse. Awesome!

After the complex and apartment being nice, my main concern was that it’s close to shops and stuff, which it is. Within walking distance (5-10 minutes) there’s a Circle K supermarket, Whole Foods and loads of restaurants (yes! Fast food!). And about 30 minutes away there’s the massive Chandler Fashion Centre, which I think will be my second home.

Oh no, the satellites have found our new pad

Tips for integrating into American society

I don’t know about you, but I live under a rock. I’ve never met any American people, nor have I watched TV or seen a movie set in the US. And as for actually crossing the Atlantic? Oh come on, I wish!*

Luckily The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named sent Eoin an email with eight handy tips to help us integrate into American society. It might be tricky, since we’re, you know, monkeys, but I think if we just stick to them rigidly we can’t go too far wrong. If you’re also a monkey, you might want to grab a pen and paper and take notes. These tips are invaluable.

  • Be sensitive to where you can and cannot smoke. Many businesses, restaurants, and public areas are becoming smoke free.

WHAT? This is an outrage. I was led to believe that America was the land of opportunity, a place where I could be whatever I wanted to be. In my case, that’s a smoker. And now I’m told I have to observe rules. Pah! I’m going to start on patches with a view to moving on to cigars within the first six months.

  • A short, informal thank you note is the most appropriate way to show your gratitude for an invitation to someone’s home. A gift of flowers or a bottle of wine when visiting will be appreciated, but not expected.

Who are you, my mother? If I go to someone’s home my presence is the present. They should actually be thanking ME.

  • Americans will often open gifts immediately upon receipt.

That’s the trouble with Americans, you see, they have no patience. They just barge right in and do whatever they want. Whether it’s a country, or a present, they just have to have it immediately. I think that’s disgusting. Personally, I don’t open my Christmas presents until, oh say, July? I’m a Catholic. We’re very patient and we love denying ourselves at every opportunity. When I do get around to opening the presents I’m usually crippled with guilt afterwards. Could I not have waited a little bit longer? At least until we were married?

  • You are not obliged to accept food or drinks offered at social gatherings – the host will not usually urge you to eat. You are expected to help yourself to however much you would like.

Hang on, let me get this straight, if I go to someone’s house I won’t be forced, with a virtual gun to my head, to eat or drink? Not even a sandwich, or a cup of tea? I think that’s beyond rude.

  • People often exchange compliments, and often use this as a way to start conversations.

Well I’m not “people.” I wouldn’t have a clue how to compliment anyone, especially not an American. I can’t stand people who are all proud and up themselves. I’ll play no part in encouraging it, thank you very much. A little humility wouldn’t go astray over there.

  • Americans often give and receive items using only one hand.

But what if it’s a big item, like a drum kit or a Hummer? How big is this one hand?

  • Two gestures are commonly used to show approval. The “O.K.” sign is a circle made with the thumb and index finger, with the other 3 fingers facing upwards. The “thumbs up” sign is a fist with the thumb pointing  upward.

Okay I’ve read this one 12 times so far and I think I’ve got it. To show approval I take my middle finger and stick it upwards. Got it! Yeah!

  • People form lines pay for items in stores, buy theatre tickets, enter clubs and board public transportation. Even if the line is informal, or if no line is made, people rely on a “first come, first served” mindset. Do not jump or push ahead in line.

Lines? First come, first served? I’m sorry, my American friends, but time waits for no woman. When I want to buy theatre tickets (which is, of course, regularly) I barge. Simple-as. And I’ll do it in your country too.

Bet you can’t wait to have me, eh? See you on November 1st.

* I jest! I jest!

Things that made me go “ooh” #2

  1. I’m going to shut up about her soon, but get a load of Willow Smith on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show talking about Whip My Hair. Amazeballs.
  2. I’m kinda glad this guy died.
  3. Will someone PLEASE by me this house?
  4. Fancy some chicken? Yeah me too, but I like mine beige and not Barbie pink.
  5. Something tells me that Miley Cyrus has just purchased a new face (obvs from the Discount Beyonce shop).

Why can’t beige be a food group?

As I’ve confessed here before, one of the reasons I’m excited about living in America is their amazing range of fast food (cringe). I know it disgusts most people (I’ve seen Food Inc, it made me hungry and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the idea) but not Sarah. Only yesterday I declared, while salivating over Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, “I wish beige was a food group.” And I meant it. Beige foods are the best: toast, cheese, donuts, chips, crisps, noodles, pasta, battered things, fried things, all my favourite things, basically. Beige rocks, and I know it, which is why I’m genuinely scared I’m gonna supersize myself when I go Stateside.

I should probably say now that I don’t eat meat, despite the fact I crave it constantly, so I think I’m pretty safe in the burger and steak departments (although I’d love a 9 oz right now). It’s not for any decent reason, so don’t get excited. When I was around 11 I had a slightly red-looking chicken sandwich in a pub in Tipperary and got sick. I’m talking violently, Exorcist-style sick. I was on my way to a family wedding so, when I had quite a large audience, I declared in my no doubt annoying pre-teen whine, “I am NEVER eating meat again.” And I didn’t. But that doesn’t stop me thinking about it. And so, when I get to America, land of the free and home of arguably the unhealthiest people in the world, I’m going to face my greatest challenge to date: staying away from fast food, especially the meaty kind. At the moment I’m only allowed visit McDonald’s on the way home from music festivals (yes, it’s a peculiar rule but I figure anything goes at festivals and I’m allowed do what I want until after my homecoming shower) but what about when I’m alone in a city that I’ve heard has a fast food outlet on ever corner. How long ’til I’m in one of those motorised cart thingies, only leaving the house to pick up more rib eyes or ranch dressing?

So, I’m going to publicly announce here that I will only check out each fast food restaurant once (for review purposes obvos). After that it’s gonna be Whole Foods all the way. Pinky swear.

Obsessed with Willow Smith

She’s the nine-year-old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett (neither of whom I consider particularly cool but whatevs) and I’m basically obsessed with her debut single, Whip My Hair. Yes, she probably still has to sit in a car seat but she’s still cooler than I’ll ever be.

The break-up

I’ve done it, I’ve handed in my notice!

In a way it was harder than I expected, but in another it was much easier. I wasn’t sure how my boss would react (he’s, er, unpredictable at the best of times) but he was actually really supportive, if a little shocked. I shouldn’t have doubted him.

The whole situation though, reminded me of a relationship break-up, which I suppose makes sense. To say I fell head over heels in love with my job is a massive understatement. In fact, I had a massive crush on it long before I ever met it. (If a poster of it had been available when I was 16, it would have sooo been in my locker.) At the start, in those exciting first years, I skipped  into the office every morning, brimming with enthusiasm, willing to do pretty much anything to make it work. I enjoyed telling people what I did, even though I was earning virtually nothing. I was proud of my job, I wanted to show it off and excitedly introduced it to my friends and family at the start of every month.

But then, after around four years or so, the relationship began to sour, and it took more and more effort to make myself happy in it. Other, more fun jobs, with less responsibility, started to catch my eye and I resented having to put so much effort into a situation I felt almost trapped in. I still loved my job, but I just wasn’t in love with it. It hadn’t changed but I had. It was a genuine case of it’s not you, it’s me.

But now my job has moved on, and even though the break-up was my decision, it did sting like a slap to the face when I was replaced, something that I definitely did not expect, since I was the dumper and not the dumpee. In a few months I won’t recognise the magazine I put years of blood sweat and, most recently, tears into. It will look and feel different to me. Someone else (an amazingly talented and utterly deserving person, it has to be noted) will be one half of a couple I was part of for so long. But that’s a good thing, I keep telling myself. It was time for me to go, to give someone else a chance. Still, I see a weekend of ice cream, wine and a large box of Kleenex in my very near future. That’s normal though, right?

Visa: approved!

So my visa has finally been approved! The process wasn’t as complicated as I thought it was gonna be. After filling out that ridiculously thorough form we had an interview at the US consulate in Dublin two days later. We were there for about an hour in total and it was really just a formality. The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named’s lawyers in America had provided us with letters to explain that I would be Eoin’s dependant (morto) and that they have given him enough money to support our “family.” After handing in all our documents (proof that we live together, bank statements etc), our finger prints were taken and then a nice lady asked us a few questions together. When she told us we were done I was just about to walk away when I turned around and asked, “Can you tell us if we’ve been approved now?” She just replied, “Yes ma’am, you’ve been approved. Have a nice day.” Sweet!

Now comes the hard, and most scary part for me: handing in my notice at work. I plan on doing it in the next day or two after which the ball will start rolling  fast. I’ve just started making a list of annoying jobs I have to do which includes, but is not limited to, cleaning out all my clothes and shoes and giving anything I don’t wear to charity. I think it will be quite liberating actually. I’m gonna store a lot of stuff at my parents’ house in Carlow, and only bring things I actually like. Ooh exciting.