Thursday, 7 August 2008

Last Day at Work and My Bad Gramma (Ha!)

Today has been my last day at work - it's so weird to think that it's for the next 5 months (although quite nice really to have such a long work break)

It was actually quite sad. The morning was just like any other morning, but then at lunch time I was eating my sandwich and reading something on the screen, and suddenly I looked behind me and the whole office were standing there! It was really sweet, I got a card and a really lovely speech from my colleague Jas (you know what it's like though, you can never remember afterwards what they said because it's so overwhelming at the time!) but it was along the lines of 'everyone has really enjoyed working with me over the summer, everyone will miss me, keep in touch, don't know what they'd do without me, I'm amazing, lol!' It was really sweet and I was really surprised - I honestly had no idea it was coming :-)

Then I was handed a couple of presents which was really nice too - materials for my course; pencils, a sketch pad, and a really beautiful faux leather case full of oil pastels and coloured pencils. It was really lovely of all of them - thank you guys! I'll miss you too!

I normally work 1 day a week at Young Addaction - doing the office admin as I am used to. Over the summer I have been working almost full time, working with some of the young people on a 1:1 basis, specialising in art / design or fitness / boxing in a therapeutic sense. It has been fantastic, and great experience and I have loved working with the young people. Hopefully it is something I'll be able to take up again (1 day a week) when I'm back.

As far as the actual exchange is going I can't think about it for too long at the minute, I just get so excited and nervous and scared and everything all at the same time, so I just don't think about it. I am concentrating more on spending a week with Hans and his family, at least I know what that'll be like.

Having a BBQ at Hans' mums - lovely!

It's so peaceful and pleasant so I know I can relax for a few days. I'll worry about Bergen when I get there. I can't even comprehend what it's going to be like joining a course in the 2nd year, and being taught in a foreign language. It worries me to be honest (even though they have designated teachers for the foreign students) Bergen speak a different dialect to what I have learnt, and also they will speak soooooo fast. I need people to talk to me in Norwegian the same way you would talk to a small child (or the way English people tend to speak to ANY foreigner; "DO - YOU - UN - DER - STAND - EN - GLISH??") in order for me to understand... so, something I made sure I learnt well in advance was "kan du snakk saktere, vær så snill?" - which is, "can you speak slower please!!!" lol

I was coming home from work on the bus today, and listening to my MP3, daydreaming out of the window (as usual) it was realy bright and sunny and I looked up and saw an aeroplane and I thought 'I'm going to be on a plane in a few days, and this time I won't be coming back' (well I know I will eventually, but it's not like a holiday or anything) I have done that many times before, watched a plane fly by and wished I was on it, going somewhere far, far away and never coming home. Sometimes even looking at a beautiful sky even gives me the same thoughts - especially around sunset. I can remember talking to my brother Rob about it when I fist found out about the exchange, and telling him that it's like I always knew I would do something like this one day. I think that's why even though I knew it would be hard, I took the opportunity and I'm determined to make as much of it as I can.

I think sometimes that other people must think I am making such a huge deal out of this, but I'm not really - it is such a massive thing for me. I have never done anything this big before. It is on my mind all of the time, my thoughts go back to it over and over again, I dream of it even. I was thinking about this earlier and I can only remember 2 other major things that have taken up so much of my life; the first is whenever I have had a fight (thai boxing, not in town on a Friday night) and the second is when I met Hans. It was love at first sight, literally, and I remember it was so hard to be around him and him not know how I felt! Both of those things were the same, I could think of nothing else - my whole focus and will was bent towards acheiving what I wanted (and I always get what I want - muhahahahahah!!!) Just kidding! People I talk to daily must be so bored of me talking about nothing else, but it's just because it means so much to me, and it has taken alot of sacrifice to get here. Amongst all of my other emotions, I'm so proud of myself. I'm proud that I have taught myself to speak another language (albeit pretty badly at the moment) I'm proud that even though I'm scared and sad to leave Hans I have fought to get this chance and pushed myself to do it.

I'm sure that's enough for tonight, I had better go and actually study Norwegian for a bit. Yes I do speak it but pretty terribly to be fair (grammer wise) I mean, it's one of the main reasons I'm going after all! The other night I told Hans that "Jeg skal ligger meg, men først jeg må vask min tan" which translated literally as 'I am going to bed, but first I shall wash my tooth'! He has called me 'snaggletooth' ever since. Hmmm, nice ring to it, snaggletooth Simpson!

Yes, really must study!


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Everything will be fine!

I sometimes forget how other people will feel about this exchange trip and I feel quite selfish for thinking only of myself!

I remember when I was first considering the whole thing, I kept checking with Hans over and over about how he would feel and what his opinions were. He just kept saying ‘of course he would miss me, but if it’s what I really wanted to do he would support me’ and that he could see the advantages of doing an exchange in Norway, especially if we do end up moving there (which we probably will at some point) I know I’m so lucky to have someone as supportive and understanding as him. I honestly wouldn’t be doing this right now if it wasn’t for his support, so I owe him a lot. He knows it would be the same the other way around though, and I just hope that if we are ever in a similar situation that I am as generous and kind as him.

I didn’t really think about how it would affect him though, I thought mostly of how I would cope and how much I would miss him – I remember talking to a friend about it and she said that actually it would probably be harder for him; I will be in a totally new place, being very busy and making new friends, and he will come back here alone and be back in our home, in our bed, doing all the things we normally do together but on his own. It does make me sad to think about it, but he’ll be ok. He has some really good friend that I know will support him, and he will throw himself into training.

It will be ok. It will be fine, I will be fine, we will be fine - and in 6 months from now I’ll be back home, reflecting on what a fantastic experience it was and how much I’m missing it! But the best thing will be that I’ll be doing it back here and cuddled up to Hans! Awww!

6 days to go! and no, it won't 'fly by!'

I am getting quite excited now. There are only 6 days to go until I fly to Norway and I can’t believe how fast every single day is going!

I have really been struggling with knowing how to feel about going away; I do tend to feel guilty when I get excited as I am ‘leaving’ people behind. I’ll really miss Hans of course, and I will also really miss my siblings and friends. I will miss my 3 gorgeous nieces a lot too… I know all of this is natural but it has left me feeling bad about the whole the whole thing – like I’m doing something wrong. Letting people down, maybe… I don’t know.

But anyway, today I feel quite excited (yay!) I have sorted just about everything that I can and I am just spending as much time as possible with Hans this week so I feel a bit happier and a bit (dare I say) excited! I know it’s going to be a great experience – 5 months alone in a different country (somewhere I know I like too) no work, and lots of time to do some ‘character building’ and ‘soul searching’! Oh, and study hard of course…

One thing that has annoyed me over the last few weeks is some of the comments people have made. I know people are just being supportive, but sometimes it feels more like they don’t really care so it gets on my nerves a little. For example, if I’m worrying about how long Hans and I will be apart, I may get ‘oh it’ll fly by’ or ‘you’ll be back in no time’ or ‘5 months is nothing!’. As I said, I KNOW people are trying to be helpful or make me feel better, but actually they don’t know me or how I’ll feel when the time comes. Yes I know that it will probably go quicker than it seems right now, but it won’t ‘fly by’. A good friend of mine has been living with her boyfriend for a few years, and he has not long come back from 6 months in New Zealand. I know that I always get a good honest opinion from her (which is why I value her so much as a friend) so asked her how long it felt to her when he went away, and told her I was getting fed up with people saying it would go fast. She said that ‘yes it did go quite slowly’ and of course she really missed him, but she also said it was worth it, and everything was the same when he got back and that even though it’s hard they managed and adapted to it and everything will be fine! I knew that already really, I just wanted to hear it honestly from someone else.

Actually, the only person who says it’ll go really fast and doesn’t annoy me is Hans; I think he is telling himself as much as he is telling me though. That’s quite sad, but sweet as well. God, I will miss him so much!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Leaving my old life behind!

I feel a bit bad today, partly because I still have my headache and partly because I didn’t study Norwegian at all last night – I just ate some cheese on toast and went to sleep! We have a resident nurse at the place I am working at the minute, she has offerered me some acupuncture! I am thinking about it but I am so terrified of needles, so for now she has stuck these ‘ear seeds’ on my ears – apparently they rest just on the acu-point – and shown me some breathing techniques.

I’m still not really sure what to write about – I just know that I want to write! Maybe until I actually arrive in Bergen and have loads to talk about it’ll be mostly boring waffle, who knows? I told Hans last night I had finally set up a blog, but I wondered if there was any point – I mean who is going to want to read it?! He said he would, as we obviously wont get to speak on the phone every day, so I guess that is more than enough of a good reason to keep writing. Also this is a lot faster than physically writing so I am more likely to keep a good record than I would in a travel diary. At the same time I like to have a written diary with all my doodles and everything that I can look back on!

See, boring waffle! I knew it…

With regards to my preparations, now I finally have insurance sorted my biggest worry is banking – I have been researching it and it is apparently very difficult to get a bank account in Norway unless you have lived there over three months! Plus, I first need to register at the police station and get an identity number (but it will be a dummy number, not a proper one, as I am staying less than 6 months) I can use my card and online banking over there exactly as I would here, which on the face of it seems so much simpler – but the catch is that every time I do there is a charge… not usually more than 2 or 3% but that will add up over 5 months and I wont be working while I am there either!

I hate to have things unplanned, I find just diving into things head-first very scary, but I think that the banking side of it is just one of those things that I will need to leave until I get there (as hard as that may be) As far as the rest of the finances go, I have planned as much as I can; I have been working a lot over summer and saving up, then I should get an ‘Erasmus Grant’ as part of my placement whilst I am there as well as my usual student maintenance loan, so along with the money I have saved from working I should just be able to scrape by without working! I have put all of my estimated incomings into a spreadsheet and worked out all (known) expenses and then an average of what I will have to spend per week – basically I have worked out a budget. I have over costed for everything so if I stick to it I should be ok.

Not working for 5 months is one of the things I am looking forward to most of all (in a non-lazy way!) I am 26 now and have been working full time since I was 16 in admin and office management. I t was ok but I definitely couldn’t have done it forever. I always had a passion for designing stuff and wanted for years to do a degree, but I could never afford it. Then I met Hans and got really settled, and after a while we discussed everything (as I was going through a particularly horrible time with my job) I was really miserable; working long hours, putting up with age discrimination basically, and had taken to sitting in one of the really warm toilets at work just to get away from it all, texting Hans and dreaming of a better life! As you do… To cut a long story short, Hans knew how miserable I was and he told me that if studying design was what I really wanted to do, then he would support me all the way! (as long as I bought him a really cool car when I got my big fancy job!) Seriously though, he has been so supportive and amazing and I couldn’t have done it without him!

It was difficult to give up work – especially the salary – and I was so nervous about being a mature student, and also I worried that the younger people would be so much more technologically advanced than me, but as soon as I started the degree I absolutely loved it. I have worked so hard and come out with good grades and really hoping to continue like that. People on the course are all at different levels in their knowledge so I needn’t have worried about that, and also the age thing didn’t make that much of a difference and I have made some really nice friends (occasionally I get blank looks when I mention Sean Connery or Button Moon!) but for the most part it’s nice. I think I have the added benefit of having done all of the clubbing, and living away from my parents etc, so I felt like I could settle into it straight away and put (most) of my time and energy into the degree itself.

I have carried on working at least one day a week throughout my course though, 2 days in my second semester and my weekends are taken up with training and housework! I really felt the difference, especially in my second term, so I am looking forward to not working at all, and having loads of time to focus on my course and really take advantage of living in Norway, making friends and learning to speak the language properly (instead of like a 3 year old)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Preparations for leaving...

I'm really not sure where to start with this so I'll just tell it how it is from today!

Well there isn't long to go now (a week tomorrow until I fly to Norway) and I just feel like I have so much to do. I finally got insurance for my laptop sorted today, just another one of the mundane things you HAVE to do when you go away. When I first decided to ask my lecturers about the possibility of an exchange programme, obviously I had thought about it, but I never really realised all of the cost and preparations involved should I actually do it. You have to consider:

  • funding (what can I get and how can I get it?)
  • travel documents and what I need to do when I get there
  • insurance (travel, health, laptop)
  • alot of work over the summer to save up money
  • intense Norwegian study (which involves me annoying my fiance, Hans, with v.bad pronunciacion), packing
  • booking the travel
  • sorting accommodation
  • and so much more!
I don't regret it (yet!) but I feel quite stressed at the moment. I don't like moving or big changes at the best of times, and this is particularly hard. The background to my current situation is that I am going to Norway (Bergen) to study for a semester (all part of my bg clever plan for when we move there) and up until I got accepted onto the course, an exchange seemed like a really good idea! I guess my aim (as well as the obvious benefits of adding an exchange onto my degree) is to get much better at the language and understand the culture, enabling me to get a better job easier and faster when we move there. At the minute it just feels like a stupid idea, I am going to be on my own in a completely new place, listening to lectures in Norwegian, no friends around and worst of all, over 1200 miles away from my fiance!

We have been together almost 3 years and lived together almost the whole time, we have lots in common and we are very happy, so in love (aww) and incredibly comfortable in each others company. It will be so difficult for both of us to be apart but we do realise it is a good opportunity and will make our future better. At least thats what I keep telling myself. I feel like I should be getting excited (and I am to an extent) but I am sad and nervous and have been feeling quite panicky since Saturday night.

As I said, I leave in 8 days and we will be flying directly to Oslo. From there we will be going to stay with Hans mum which I am really looking forward to - I get on really well with all of his family and feel so at home there. They live in the countryside in South East Norway (close to the border of Sweden) and it is so beautiful and relaxing. I am looking forward to just spending a few days together there with no work, no packing or anything - just each other. It will be a really lovely way to spend our last week together. After that, Hans will come with me to Bergen to help me get settled in. He can only stay for 2 days due to work commitments so after that I'll be on my own...

I know that the first couple of nights will be awful - I'll want to come home but I wont! I'm just glad that I actually start my course soon after, I'll be busy and therefore be able to throw myself into it!