One Last Move (For Now)

 

April 27, 2017

I realized today that I have a tradition of taking and posting a single photo of all of my luggage each time I move. It started when I moved (briefly) to Oxford in August, 2013, and since then I’ve just kept posting similar posts each time I’ve moved.

 

The photos are not exactly artistic or even very well shot, but each one holds a very clear memory and set of emotions for me. Each photo, each moment they represent, carries feelings of change, uncertainty, joy, sadness and, ultimately, hope.

I’ve spent a good majority of my life searching for home, always sure it was on the other side of a degree, a flight, a job, something. But in the last 6 months ‘home’ has been nothing but a fleeting ideal–moving from flats and temporary beds five times since September. And so I have taken one more photo, one more set of luggage in an empty room, as I prepare to move into my new apartment.

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To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about this final move until, well, now. I knew it was happening, I’ve got a place to crash until we get the keys to the apartment on Sunday. But I’ve been so caught up in everything else that I hadn’t stopped to think that I’m moving again, much less how I was feeling about it.

To be fair, where I am living now was only a temporary living situation. I’ve been sleeping on my roommate’s air mattress (until said air mattress finally broke), waiting to be settled in. I didn’t really realize until now that I haven’t even thought of this place as home.

Chicago doesn’t feel like home to me, not yet. And where it took a while for Essex to feel like home for me, the hope that it would feel like home was always there.

I do have hope that Chicago will be home some day, too. It’s just a different kind of hope. Not the kind of hope you have when you expect that everything will be okay, but the kind of tired hope that comes with a feeling of uncertainty. When you don’t have that bottom-of-your-gut feeling that everything is going to be just great. When instead you’re not sure, you’re tired, and you cling to hope because that’s all that will stick.

*****

May 5, 2017

One week has passed since I started drafting the post above. I never posted it, partially because this last week has been so busy. But I wanted to come back to it.

This week has been anything but easy. I’m still sleeping on an air mattress, the new apartment is barely unpacked, it’s been a difficult week at work, and to top it all off I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks. But this week has also been, in hindsight, exactly what I needed.

The apartment is still a mess, but I am no longer homeless. I have a place to call home. Each night I unpack a little bit more, and I am filled with the joy of knowing that I get to stay here for a little while longer.

Work has been difficult, but it has also been rewarding. I had to make some decisions that were, admittedly, a little scary for me. But I made them, and I am learning more and more that the team I work with is made up of people that care about me and support me as I continue to grow in my new role. This new job is nothing short of a challenge, and anyone who knows me will understand why that is exactly what I need.

Chicago might not feel like home yet, but the hope that I talked about earlier in this post? The kind I had in Colchester, where all I had to do was wait for things to fall into place? It’s starting to form in me now. I am still tired, but I am finding energy again. I can feel this place becoming okay. Becoming home. And I can see that, for the time being, I’m right where I need to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Chicago it is: Learning to say ‘thy will be done’

In my last blog post, I talked about how I was in a season of change and uncertainty. I was unemployed without much sense of direction, and I was still adjusting to life back in America.

Fast-forward a month: I’m still in Chicago, and little things are starting to fall into place. I got a job working as a writer and editor for a network of Charter Schools. I signed a lease for a new apartment with a friend. I even found a car.

Everything seems to be settling down. I can now say with some sense of certainty that I will be living and working in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

For the most part, things are good here. I get to live with my best friend after having spent the majority of our friendship being multiple time zones apart. I really like my new job, and I mean really like it. I’ve kind of hit the post-graduate jackpot and I’m so grateful for that.

But I still have to be reminded daily that I am blessed where I am now. Because no matter how much I love living with my friend, no matter how awesome my job is, I still struggle with the fact that I did not choose this place. I wanted to stay in England. It had become my home and I wanted to continue to build the relationships I had there. But God had (has) other plans.

What’s funny is that my prayer between October and March was that God would give me a sense of direction, that I would know where I would be in 2017. I declared that I was ready to go wherever he called me, that waiting was more painful than any answer to my prayer.

I had continued to pray “I will follow you,” but with the quiet hope that England would be the answer. And here I am, in nearly April of 2017. Chicago is the answer, and the words “Thy will be done” have never felt more humbling. My prayer now is that I will start to build relationships here and learn to call Chicago home, too. I’m tired and a little shaken up, but I’m excited to see what happens next.

Falling

I sometimes forget how much I love music. During seasons of hectic schedules and chaos I occasionally go a few weeks or months without putting in headphones, only to be surprised by how much I missed it when I listen again.

My life in Colchester was especially soaked in music. I have an old iPod that houses all of the songs I’ve ever listened to since middle school, and I have a growing set of playlists designed for specific things.

Some are practical and made for specific events or tasks. I made a playlist called ‘Road Trip Songs’ for a trip to Wales with my friends last Summer. It was a strange cocktail of Disney songs, 80’s rock, Top 40 tunes, and anything we would all be able to sing along to.

“Songs to Work to” is mostly instrumentals, with an occasional song that makes me want to dance while folding the laundry. “Songs to write to,” on the other hand, echos the playlists from my term in Oxford: mostly Lord of the Rings soundtracks.

Other playlists are geared toward how I’m feeling, like the one I listened to most often while walking in Colchester: “Feeling good.”Or the one I listened to when I felt overwhelmed during dissertation time, “Breathe.”

I spent a lot of time listening to one titled “The Waiting List” while I tried desperately to find a job in the UK. I was waiting for a job offer. The right moment to decide I was moving back to the States. For any sense of direction, an inkling of an idea of where I would be living, what I would be doing, what my life was going to look like in 2017.

It’s nearly March now. My UK visa expired on February 5th, the same day I boarded a flight from London to Chicago.

I didn’t get a job in England. After countless phone interviews and a handful of in-person interviews, I found that–often, though not always–if an employer seemed to like me it was only until the words “Tier 2 visa” exited my mouth.

I’ve been in Chicago for a few weeks now. One of my closest friends is living here and has graciously offered me a place to stay while I figure out what I’m doing next. I’m still listening to music daily, and right now the playlist I select most often is called “Falling.”

I am unemployed. I have no health insurance, no car, no place that truly feels like home. I’m trying so hard to be strong and convince myself that I’m going to be okay. I am trying so hard to remember that I am loved and cared for by both God and the people around me. This is just a temporary season of change and uncertainty.

But at the end of the day I feel like I’m falling. Like I stepped off a ledge, thought I saw where I would land, but instead I’m just in mid-air without a sense of how, when, or where I might land.

And so I listen to music. I write. I read and pray. I spend time with friends. I submit job applications, go to interviews, try to figure out what to do with this time I have. All the while hoping that I land sooner rather than later.

 

6 ways to survive winter while still saving money on your power bill

Welcome to January. It’s dark, wet, and freaking freezing.

Now given the fact that it’s 2017, I am well aware of the inventions of modern-day civilization, namely the blessed metal box god of warmth: the radiator.

But alas, the radiator is only fueled by the fire and power of the boiler, which is in-turn fueled by our utility bill. And while I am no longer a student, I live with two PhD students and I am presently barely employed. So for the sake of financial survival, we have decided to keep our heat turned off for a good portion of each day.

For those of you reading this who have also decided to live with the cold this winter, you might be well aware of how one survives winter without a constant flow of heat. Here are six things I’ve learned to do to brave the winter cold indoors:

1. Layers

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Every morning starts with regretting the decision to leave the cocoon of heat that was my bed, then quickly finding the warmest pair of trousers and jumper that I can find. Five minutes later I’ll add a t-shirt underneath said jumper.

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Before you know it I’m wearing more layers than is socially acceptable, but at least I will have regained feeling in most of my body parts.

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2. All of the coffee and tea

Warm beverages are brilliant all-year round, but during winter months they serve an additional purpose: hand warmers.

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And, if necessary, face warmers.

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Never-mind the fact that you’re already addicted to caffeine.

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Because if you keep the coffee at a near constant flow, chances are your heart will be working a lot faster and your core body temperature will rise–fighting the cold in more ways than one!

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3. Socks and slippers

Much like the layering process, the level of coverage my feet get tends to progress according to how hard I’m shivering in the morning.

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Socks are always a must, but often the heavy duty ones have to come out.

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And if I can see my breath I know it’s a day for fuzzy slippers and coffee combined

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4. Blankets

There comes a point where you can only wear so many layers. And so, like any sensible money-saving person would do, you start adding blankets to your battle against the cold.

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You might end up looking like a polar-bear or, more accurately, an alarmingly fluffy mutant emerging from its multi-layered cocoon of warmth.

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But you will be warm, and your flatmates will be mildly amused.

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5. Cuddling

Because science and years of watching the discovery channel tells me that body heat is a perfectly reasonable source of survival.

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Good sources of cuddling and extra heat include, but are not limited to: your dog, your cat, your friend’s dog or cat, a stranger’s dog or cat, a significant other, your flatmates. Some of these may have varying levels of success on the quest for cuddling.

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I recommend extreme caution when approaching unsuspecting flatmates for a warmth-seeking cuddle session, relying instead on the comfort and almost-warmth of a stuffed R2-D2.

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6. Accept your fate as forever freaking frozen

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But take comfort in the fact that your heating bill will probably be a couple pounds less than it would have been if you decided to be warm all winter.

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Finding Home in 2017

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in my grandparent’s dining room. Christmas is done and over with now, and my month-long trip to Michigan is drawing to a close.

Tomorrow evening I’m going home. Well, I’m going to one of my homes. When I came back to Michigan this last Spring, I felt like I was going home on both ends of the trip. The same is true of this trip, though in a slightly different way.

The home I am going back to is Colchester, England. I have lived there for one year and three months. From the time I land on Sunday, I have five weeks. Five weeks to either get a job (and a new visa) or pack up and move back to Michigan. More on that later.

When I was getting ready for my trip to Michigan, it felt like just that: a trip. Temporary. Exciting but inevitably exhausting. Each time I come home to Michigan it feels less like home in the way I used to define the word. It used to mean familiarity. Safety. Family and friends. And in some ways it still does. But it feels less and less familiar. I don’t function here like I used to–no longer an active member of this community, I am only a temporary fixture during this holiday season.

Colchester, though, has taken on the more functional meaning of the word ‘home.’ It’s where I am most able to be myself. It’s where all my things are. It’s where I sleep and eat and work and spend time with friends. I feel more at home in Colchester than I have ever felt at home in Michigan. That being said, I still question my place there often. Like I mentioned earlier, Colchester will only be my home after January if I am able to get a new job and a new visa.

The weird thing is that as I look at my life and the ticking clock that is my soon-to-expire visa, part of me wonders how I’m not panicking. In this moment, it seems more likely that I will be moving back to Michigan. And yet here I am, getting ready to go back for one last-minute attempt to make life in England work, and I’m not worried. In fact, I’m excited. I get to go home tomorrow, even if only for a little bit.

When people in Michigan hear me talk of Colchester in that way–full of excitement and love and joy–they like to tell me that I’m obviously meant to be there. Some even go so far as to tell me they are sure I will get a job and be able to stay. As if my happiness dictates my ability to stay there. Oh how I wish that was true, though I’m okay with knowing that reality it not often so kind.

Maybe I should be more concerned that my time in Colchester might be limited, or that I’m still effectively unemployed and on the verge of moving back in with my family. I’m not counting on anything right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up either. Right now I’m taking this one day at a time. I’m going to enjoy my time in Colchester. I’m going to hope the job interview I have next week goes well. And I’m going to hope that Colchester really is where I belong. And if not, I’m excited to see what happens next either way.

If I’ve learned anything in 2016, it’s that home is so much more than a place. I might not know where home is after February 5th, but I am certain that I will find it eventually–in Colchester, Michigan, or somewhere else. Either way, I’m pretty sure 2017 will be an interesting year in the least.

Life Update, October 2016

I’m pretty sure most of my friends and family are now aware that I am flying back to the States in December, so I figured it was time to post a little life update. I also though it would be convenient and slightly hilarious (if only for me) if I did this post in the form of a FAQ list.

Frequently Asked Questions about Erica’s life right now:

Q: You’re coming home in December, does that mean you’re moving back to the States?
A: I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not!

Q: Are you going back to England in January/next year/ever?
A: I don’t know. I hope so, but the Home Office generally frowns upon illegal immigration.

Q: Where do you want to live?
A: I don’t know. England is cool and I have a good support system here. America is slightly less cool I mean, something about freedom and baseball, but I have a good support system there as well.

Q: Do you have a job lined up yet?
A: No. If I did, questions one through three would have very different answers.

Q: But what about (insert name of one of the few men I’ve spent any amount of time with under both romantic and non-romantic pretenses)?
A: We’re not having this conversation, are we?

Okay, general sass and sarcasm aside, here is a slightly more detailed version of this life update. I completed my master’s course in September. I’m still waiting for official marks on my dissertation, but my preliminary marks all point toward a very good outcome (yay!).

So now I’m just spending my time working part time at the university, working on my own research, taking a few online courses, and applying for full-time work. I’ve applied to many jobs, both in the UK and the US, and so far I’ve only gotten rejection letters and silence. Friends and mentors tell me to have patience and to keep applying, and so I am trying to listen to their kind words and advice.

At the end of the day, I know a few things. I know that I am flying home for practical reasons at the start of December. I know that unless I have a job lined up I will not be returning to England, at least not right away.

Beyond that, everything is kind of up in the air. It’s not something that I particularly enjoy, but I am trying my best to be happy and live well despite not knowing where my home will be come January. And to be honest, I don’t think there’s really much else I can do for now, and that’s okay.

 

Keep a list of what’s gone right: Chronicles of the Inexperienced Cook

I decided to write this post today because I found myself sitting at the kitchen table, wondering what meals to make next week. The great thing about living with other people is that you can share meals. The not so great thing about sharing meals with someone is that, well, you might get a little self-conscious about your half of the meals being contributed to the cooking schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own (kind of) on the cooking front. The problem isn’t that I can’t cook. The concern is that I can only cook a limited number of dishes before my flatmates realize I’ve run out of things I know won’t catch fire if I’m in charge of making them.

I suppose that I feel fairly confident that I’ve gained some skill points in cooking this last year, and I feel slightly more comfortable testing some of my recipe experiments on other people. However, it’s still nice to have a back-up plan. It’s also nice to keep track of those experiments that go right, which is why I’ve kept a list of things I have made this year that I know are safe for flatmate consumption. All of these successes (and I use that term lightly), have ended up on a little list I like to call:

All the recipes (or meals) that didn’t go horribly wrong

  • Sweet potato and black bean quesadillas (but also quesadillas in general. Also tacos. And burritos. Enchiladas. Fajitas. Anything that involves a tortilla shell and cheese, basically).
  • Chickpea sandwich filler  (I mean. It was edible).
  • Haloumi and roast veg (because noms).

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    Recipe over at sortedfood.com
  • Fish and veg or mash (not really a recipe, but close enough).
  • Soft-boiled eggs and toast (breakfast!)(also see microwave egg on toast. Also see egg thing below).
  • Egg muffins, omelettes, and all other egg things I know how to make (which, now, is most of the egg things. Recent accomplishments include Spanish omelette, over easy, soft boiled, and scrambled).
  • Roast veg and rice – except instead of being fancy, just use korma sauce from Tesco, throw some ground peanuts on top and call it good
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Recipe on Cookie and Kate
  • Pasta (see every college student cookbook ever).
  • Jacket potatoes in all of their forms (i.e. tuna and sweetcorn, beans and cheese, sweet potato and goats cheese, etc.)

If you’re a university student or you’re living on your own for the first time, I really recommend starting a list of your own. I know I’ve made other successful meals this year, but I didn’t start keeping track of which ones weren’t terrible until halfway through summer.

Not everything you try is going to go well. And even if you do everything right, you still might not like a lot of things. That’s okay. The fun in it all is trying new things, learning what works for you, and maybe coming away with a few fun stories about how you nearly burned your flat down about your misadventures in cooking.

A weekend of changes

It’s Friday morning, nearly afternoon. I’ve been awake since 6:30 this morning, which is a miracle considering my average bed time has been 4:00 am.

My morning started like most other mornings: a bit of grumbling, a lot of stumbling around the flat, a cold shower to wake me up, pills and inhalers, and a quest for coffee. Half an hour later and I’m walking out the door, texting a friend to tell them I’m on my way.

We’re moving to our new flat this weekend, and they went ahead of me because we had a delivery scheduled for the morning, apparently as early as 7 am. Neither of us really enjoy mornings.

The day moves on, almost as mechanically as the morning. At the end of it I should be happy. It should have been a good day. Our gas and electric bill is set up. We got a lot of things moved. We managed to get our internet connected. And after several hours of moving things, waiting for deliveries and figuring out how to adult, we ordered pizza and played Cluedo as we sat on the floor of our half-empty living room.

A new flat. I’m nearly done with my postgraduate degree. Soon I’ll be working full time. I’m at the start of that thing I’ve been working toward for so long: a career, a home, building a life with people I care about. All good things, things that I know I should be happy about.

Instead I feel tired. Overwhelmed. Scared and alone. At one point in the day I will find myself feeling stubbornly determined to do well, find a job, and prove that this is where I’m meant to be. At another point I start to wonder if I really do belong here, if I’m really going to be okay, and whether or not I should just book a flight home for Christmas and give up on trying to stay here.

It’s Sunday afternoon. Friday was a bit of a stressful day, but I was hoping that my downcast state was only a result of little sleep, not enough caffeine, and the typical stress that comes with moving. I’m not going to lie, though: I’m still struggling.

This weekend I’ve felt like my mind is anywhere but where it needs to be. My body has been dragged along, moving large suite cases and heavy backpacks down the road to the new flat. My room in the old place is nearly empty. The drawers are empty, the shelves no longer hold books or pictures. Even the walls are empty – the wall of white board sheets with my notes and ideas and questions and graphs and charts, where I’ve worked out so much of my dissertation and my general understanding of my research area. It’s all gone now.

I know that, realistically, it will take me maybe one or two more trips to finish moving into the new flat. But for some reason I’m not ready to leave this place. It isn’t the most glamorous of homes: screaming drunk students outside most nights, the upstairs neighbours who we’re convinced cook while trying to learn how to use a pogo stick, the terrible stove and overly ambitious oven, and the general joys of living with seven people.

But I’ve spent a year of my life in this flat, and with all of its flaws and quirks I’ve come to love it and call it home. It carries with it a sense of familiarity, safety, and certainty. I knew how long I was going to live here. I knew while I was here what I would be doing with my life. But things are different now. I know what my life looks like between now and the start of October. Beyond that, I have no idea.

It’s Sunday evening. I spent a lot of today cleaning the old flat and a lot of time lying on my bed, staring at the now empty walls, trying to process what I’m feeling.

My phone buzzes. I sit up on the bed, reach over to the bedside table and pick up my phone. It’s my friend, who is already living at the new flat. She’s not done moving, but she slept there for the first time last night. This morning I was set on not doing the same until I absolutely had to next weekend.

We’re making cupcakes. You can come join.

I sigh, but move to put my shoes on. I text back to say I’m coming.

I grab my keys, throw on my backpack and move for the door, then stop to look back down at my phone. I  take my backpack off and place it on the bed. I pack the posters I took down earlier, my R2D2 pillow, and a few sets of clothes. Maybe I’ll sleep at the new flat tonight.

Life is weird, and growing up isn’t always easy. So much is changing and I’m scared. But I have people around me that I care about. We’re all going through scary changes together. I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.

 

 

No time, no money, no meat? Learning to be a vegetarian in grad school

I was talking to a friend a few days ago when she told me she had Googled “how to eat cheap in grad school.” Apparently most of the advice the internet could come up with mentioned sneaking into events with free food (which, in all honesty, is pretty solid advice).

Our conversation got me thinking about my own eating habits and my continuing mission to eat healthy without overspending. Being a student, whether you’re an undergrad or a postgrad, often means that you’re either crunched for time or money (or both). And if I’m being honest, for me that often results in lazy dinners and a lot of repetition in my diet. I’ve also decided to cut out most meat this year (still eating fish), so my sad and tiny repertoire of cheap and easy weekday meals has gotten that much smaller.

I’ve been mostly vegetarian (read: it took me ages to stop eating chicken) for about eight months now, and I still only have about five go-to meals that don’t include pasta or some variation of beans on toast. That being said, I have enjoyed playing around with new recipes and I’ve made it a general goal to try something new about once each week.

This week I even managed to try (technically) three new recipes. On Wednesday I made baked sweet potato with spinach, onion, feta and pumpkin seeds

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Baked sweet potato with side salad. Made two servings for £1.28. Light lunch at 311 kcal per serving, but could have had the entire potato or added another protein.

Friday I tried my hand at a traditional British jacket potato with tuna (no sweet corn, I was working with what I had in the cupboard). And today I made. Well. I don’t know what it is. A quesadilla? Kind of.

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Quesadilla with spinach, onion and carrot with feta topped with makeshift Sriracha sauce. Excluding store cupboard items (oil, butter, sauce), £0.77 for one serving at 508 kcal. Not my healthiest creation, but it’ll do.

Ignoring the bit of the tortilla I tore off to taste the weird but oddly delicious sauce I made, behold the above…thing I made for lunch today. I was torn between going to Tesco and going to Subway, when I decided to see what food I had left. For the first time in ages I didn’t have any tinned tuna or baked beans at the ready, so I had a feeling I was going to get creative or go hungry.

My half-empty fridge shelf contained a container full of questionably aged rice, half a package of spinach, two spring onions, a spiralized carrot (we were testing a new gadget last night), a bit of leftover feta, half a block of cheddar and some tortilla shells that were a tad stale. The cupboard offered little help, unless I was in the mood for something with honey, peanut butter, red lentils, or butterbeans.

I thought I would go with the standard cheese, spinach and onion quesadilla. I could have used cheddar, but I was pretty sure the feta was closer to its use-by date. I went through the typical motions of washing and chopping the things, buttering the tortillas and heating the fry pan. It wasn’t until I was throwing the onions into the pan that I remembered there was some spiralized carrot in the fridge. For no reason other than I was curious, I chucked the carrot into the pan.

After heating through all the veg and transferring the mixture to a bowl, I turned down the heat and began constructing the quesadilla in the pan.While waiting for the second half of the quesadilla to finish browning, I decided that a proper quesadilla needs some sort of spice. And instead of doing what any normal person would do (just throw some Sriracha on it), I decided to make some sort of sauce.

Don’t judge me, but this sauce contained unknown measurements of (1) Sriracha, (2) mayonnaise, (3) soy sauce and (4) salad cream. Stop laughing. Also stop cringing. It was surprisingly awesome. It had the kick and chilli bits of Sriracha, the tangy bits of mayo, a bit of salt from the soy sauce, and a bit of sweetness from the salad cream. Spicy, sweet, tangy, and a tad savoury. I know you’re not convinced, by trust me on this.

The end result is the blurry picture posted above, and you know what? It was surprisingly decent. Like, I would eat it again decent. Albeit with melted cheese next time, but I would definitely make this or some other variation of it. And I think that’s one of the most helpful things I’ve found while trying to eat on a budget: get creative. Keep an eye out for food items that are on sale (this time, for me, it was the feta). Play around with different combinations of things you like and might go well together. And take advantage of those days you don’t have time to go shopping (or are just too lazy to leave the house) by playing around with what you’ve got.

 

I still don’t have an umbrella

Today is Saturday, the day that I typically like to think of as a day for everything but work. However, classes are done, deadlines have to be met, and my dissertation isn’t going to write itself. So I made a deal with myself: Saturday’s can still be days for fun and spending time with friends. But I’m going to spend the first part of my Saturday’s on campus getting work done.

As I woke up this morning, before my alarm went off at 7:30, I decided to give myself a little extra time to wake up. Coffee came before real clothes and breakfast. Breakfast consisted of eggs instead of the usual yoghurt or nothing routine. I even spent some time putting away dishes and tidying up my room before deciding to venture out nearly an hour before I had planned.

As I made my way down the stairs and out of the building, I realised it was raining. April showers, I suppose. Luckily it was only England rain, the kind of rain that is there but not at the same time.

Fast forward approximately 2 minutes and it was actually raining now. My “water resistant” jacket started to struggle resisting the water now seeping onto my t-shirt underneath. My hair was definitely damp and no longer straight. My glasses were useless so I was kind of walking half bind. At least I didn’t wear the shoes with holes in them today.

As I was walking and getting pelted in the face with rain even though I was looking at the ground, I found myself smiling. I even laughed a little bit. Why? A couple of thoughts entered my mind:

  1. I have lived in England for more than six months. I still do not own a proper umbrella. I barely own a proper rain jacket. At least once each week the thought “I should buy an umbrella” crosses my mind. Still no umbrella.
  2. I don’t remember who said it or when, but at some point during this programme someone said that I needed to pick a research topic to fall in love with. One that I cared about so much it would drive me to walk to campus in the cold and rain on a Saturday morning, even when the rest of the world was still sleeping or doing anything else but work.

I was smiling not because I was cold, wet, and on my way to a cold and empty campus. I was smiling because despite my stubborn refusal to buy proper rain gear, I was still walking in the cold and rain to do something that I loved.

So I got to campus, albeit a bit damp, but still smiling

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I wiped the rain drops from my glasses

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Threw my hair up in a ponytail

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Turned on my favourite playlist

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Made myself a cup of coffee

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And started, still with a smile, working on my list of things to read and write today.