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Hi.

Thanks for visiting Joy42. Follow along on my adventures as an American Expat, a newlywed, and someone trying to figure out how to take care of myself. I hope to encourage you to seek out the little joys in your life.

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 9

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 9

By the way, this month f l e w by! Everyone said the last month before our wedding would, and boy were they right!

A few weeks ago, I went to the doctor for the first time since moving. Nothing is wrong, it was just to get established with a GP. I was kind of nervous, honestly, because I had no idea what the NHS was going to be like. As Americans, we hear these horror stories of people in the UK and Canada dying while waiting to see a doctor because universal healthcare is soooo terrible, but from my small experience of dipping my toe in the water, it wasn't that bad. (And I'm not going to speak to the rest because I don't know through research or firsthand.) Anyway, I took my new patient packet in and then I was in. I decided to make an appointment right away as well and I was able to get in within two weeks. It did weird me out, however, that they offered me appointment times like 8:53 and 9:07. My semi-OCD brain opted for the 9:30 appointment. My friend said it's because the government has been cutting appointment times down and some offices have gone with 7 minute appointments because a 5 minute appointment is just too short.

That same day, I called to have my phone switched from Luke's name to my name so I could start building some credit. (I wasn't able to get a credit card a few months ago because I don't have any established credit here, let alone 3 years of credit history.) I'm happy to say I passed the background check and made the switch. It feels like I'm 16 again and my parents are adding my name to things (like my phone bill or a credit card with a $200 limit) so I can get some credit history.

We've been talking a lot lately about adding some four-legged family members to the Drake clan and getting a puppy and a kitten. (Yes, both.) We started looking around at puppies mostly to see what kind of dog we want. My first choice would be an Australian Shepherd (preferably mini), second choice would be a Golden Retriever, third choice would be a Border Collie. We were going to go for a Border Collie for a while, but after speaking to people and doing more research, we decided against it. They want to work and while we loved Luke's idea of getting a half dozen kittens for the puppy to herd, ultimately it's not realistic for our lifestyle. Since Aussies are quite rare here and you almost certainly need to go through an expensive breeder with a lengthy waiting list, we decided on a Golden. We didn't put too much thought into a kitten because we want a domestic short hair, probably black. Nothing too fancy. Anyway, all those dreams of the puppy and kitten being BFFs were shattered--or at least put on the back burner--when our letting agency got back to us to let us know that our landlord won't let us get an animal. We're currently debating on whether or not we want to stay put another year and wait for get pets or if we want to rent a pet friendly property for the next year, since it will be at least another year before we're ready to buy a house.

My work schedule changed slightly a few weeks ago. I had originally agreed to work Tuesday-Thursday so I would be on site for my Thursday meeting, but then it was decided I wasn't needed in those meetings, so I decided to shift my schedule to start the work week with the rest of the world on Mondays. The added bonus is that I'm now working Mondays, which means I get most bank holidays along with the rest of the team. When I went part time, I lost 10 of my 25 days holiday, excluding bank holidays, but since I didn't work Mondays, I lost 6 of the 8 bank holidays, meaning I lost 16 days off in total! Anyway, that's all been fixed now and I definitely like being at work on Monday since I'm trying to be more intentional about Sunday nights and prepping for the week ahead.

The rest of this month has just been finishing up last minute wedding details and answering "Are you ready for the wedding?" every time we see someone. The last big thing we had to figure out were the structure of the ceremony and the last big craft was the seating chart board, so it's been kind of smooth sailing the last few weeks, which is nice.

We went to London twice in the last month though. Once, we planned to visit for Luke's grandma's birthday. It was nice seeing some family and also getting out to explore the city. We were had the most perfect weather while we were there. I'll post more about that trip later. The second time was totally last minute. See, every day, I enter the Hamilton Lottery on the app. I never pay attention to the showtimes and whether or not we could actually go. (They do the lottery for the next day's showings.) Last Wednesday, I had about 45 minutes left at work--my last day before breaking for the wedding--and I got the notification that I didn't win for the matinee showing. A few minutes later, I looked at my phone again and saw that we had won tickets for the evening showing on Thursday! I just stood up from my desk, rushed down to Luke's desk, and shoved my phone in his face for him to see. He was like "Okay, we're going. We have to go." So I called to claim the tickets and he arranged to leave work a few hours early the next day. You guys. It was so amazing! We were sat in the front row which was extremely close to the stage, so it was a weird perspective, but the actors kept looking at us throughout the whole show, which was kind of cool. The show was better than I ever could have imagined. On the way there, we were talking about how maybe we wouldn't want to keep entering the lottery, but afterward, we decided, yep, we would definitely see it again. We also learned a valuable lesson, which is to check what time you buy tickets for. The group ahead of us in line to get into the theatre was turned away because they had tickets to the matinee. At first I thought they were lottery winners, but you can only win 2 tickets and there were 4 of them, which means they bought tickets and went to the wrong show. Yikes. Luckily, our experience was not that tragic. It made for a late night having to go back to Birmingham that evening (we got home around 1:00), but it was so worth it. Plus, we got to finalise our wedding playlists on the car ride.

Last night, we went to something called Bongo's Bingo. Luke had been a few times before, including one time when I was back in Colorado sobbing in a parking lot after been told leaving my middle name off my visa application would automatically disqualify it and we'd have to start all over and pay another hefty fee. My repeated calls must have made that night an emotional rollercoaster! Anyway, Bongo's Bingo is basically a club meets a Bingo game. Everybody gets up on the benches and dances between games--even between calls. It's so fun! We went with a huge group from church and I think of the 18 available prizes (3 prizes per game), people in our group won more than half a dozen. Prizes including a collection of all of the Disney princesses dolls, a box of cocoa pops, a bottle of tequila, a bottle of Jager, a bottle of gin, an industrial vacuum, an inflatable Sumo wrestling costume, £50. Luke and I didn't win anything and I wasn't ever even that close. Still, it was a lot of fun.

Hamilton was definitely the highlight of the last month. Finding out that we could get little things from IKEA at the collection point in town was probably second because that's a game changer. We've been to IKEA probably close to a dozen times--once it was twice in one day--since we moved into our home at the end of July and Luke doesn't really enjoy it as much as I do. Now we've discovered that we went all the way out to the big store (about 30-45 minutes away) a few times for little things that are actually available at the store in town. 

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