Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Have a Kit Kat


This is relevant on multiple levels...
Last month I turned 33, meaning that I'm tumbling headlong into my mid-thirties, and on top of that I realized that I have not posted on QE for four months now which, given how much has happened in that time, is both understandable and rather a shame! I'm also always a little reluctant to simply do "update" posts as it doesn't really speak to the experience of being an immigrant and I worry that it's also a bit dull or narcissistic (or both) to essentially just list the goings-on since the last time I rambled about the previous months' goings-on. That said, I am pretty sure I can make this 'Permanent Resident-relevant' as there have definitely been experiences that pertain to being a Brit out of water...

Home is where a certain man is
So, first things first I suppose: we moved house! Buddy and I bought a gorgeous little place in a cute town just north of Charlotte, and have now been moved in since the last week of November. It was a bit of a whirlwind because the process of getting to closing was somewhat arduous. I'm not one to bitch on social media, but let's just say part of the communication chain was... broken at times! Luckily we had the most amazing realtor who helped us through it all and got us the house at a great price, too. Realty in NC is totally different to back home: it can take months and months to close on a house in England (even with no chain), whereas my experience here is that it can take as little as 4 weeks to sell one house and buy another! On top of that, the realtors get a bit of a larger cut, but work incredibly hard and are extremely knowledgeable - making it worth the extra, in my view. I think we looked at close to 20 properties, but kept coming back to the one we are lucky enough to now call our home. Moving day turned into moving week, as I knew I had to empty a whole house and Buddy a whole apartment, and then on top of that we had furniture from both places, too! Family and friends were kind enough to give up their time and lend us their arms, vehicles, and driving skills, and we managed to have some semblance of normality established before the next big adventure.

Our return ride from Innsbruck to London
We'd not been in the house much more than a week before it was time to pack a bag (or two), drop the dogs off with their Auntie Jess, and head off for our almost month-long partial-surprise trip to Europe. I say "partial-surprise" because everyone but my mum, whose 60th birthday was the primary reason for the timing of our visit, knew we were coming. My dad, who is a preposterously excellent planning machine, had been organizing this birthday spectacular for over a year. We managed to pull off the whole thing without her finding out for this entire time, and Buddy, my brother Sam, his wife Wren, and I (plus some of our closest friends and family) actually rocked up in Austria, where my parents were ostensibly on a couple's weekend to celebrate Mum's birthday, knocking on their hotel room door when she was expecting room service. It was so wonderful to be able to be with Ma, and my family, as well as to be back in Europe/England for three whole weeks AND show Buddy around where I'm from. I don't want to bore you with individual anecdotes (but if you want to ask me about the beauty of Austria, the private jet, the view from The Shard, and seeing beloved humans of mine for the first time in three years, I'm more than happy to giddily ramble away about those and all the other things!), but I have uploaded a few photos from the trip on the QE Facebook page in an album here should you wish to peruse our winter break shenanigans at your own leisure.

All in all, being home was wonderful because of the people I love and the general feeling of comfort I get being around social norms I've internalized for most of my life. The outstanding feeling, though, other than joy and gratitude for such magical adventures with treasured loved ones, is knowledge that my home is definitely in North Carolina now. While I happily relaxed into amused observations of pub culture, queueing, regular sized meals, and mediocre-to-moody wait staff, I feel my home is in not in England any more. Many of the people I love are and for them, as well as my background, education, and views, I am grateful to be from England. But my home is in Charlotte.

The X-Ray of B's leg,
taken about 1.5 hours after the fall
We got back to the States, our new house, the dogs, and a semi-normal work routine (I was still on vacation as the State schools are closed during the Christmas period) a couple of days before Christmas Day. Buddy went straight back to work, and I got to get the house ready for us actually living in it. Half of our stuff was still in boxes in the garage, and we'd not exactly decorated for Christmas...! We planned on spending lunchtime on the day itself with family, and then coming back to our place for our first Christmas in our first home together.

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans... And this is where the terrible second 'break' pun comes in: as we were leaving B's mom's place on Christmas Day, carrying gifts down the front yard which was extra muddy thanks to the unseasonable and crazy amount of rain North Carolina had experienced throughout December, Buddy slipped while lifting a toolbox from the house to the car, landed awkwardly on his left leg, and everyone in the vicinity heard an unmistakable "pop" as he came to a halt, toolbox thankfully thrown to the side and not landing on top of him. We knew immediately that there was a break involved, but the hour between getting an ambulance, getting into the ambulance, arriving at the ER, and getting pain medication dispensed and X-Rays taken felt terrifyingly long (to me, to whom it hadn't directly happened!) as we weren't sure how bad the break was.

It turns out that it was both good and bad - if indeed a break can ever be good - as although Buddy had a spiral fracture of his femur, it was a clean break, and so could be pinned back together with a surgically implanted titanium rod that very afternoon. The break happened just after 3:00pm, and he was out of surgery by 10:00pm (they gave him time for food to digest and there was one urgent case ahead of him with his designated surgeon). The staff at the hospital couldn't do enough for us; I was allowed to stay in his room with him 24/7; and his care was consistent and kind. He had physiotherapy in the hospital - we stayed for three days - and had further at-home appointments scheduled for him to ensure he had adequate support and information while he healed.

He's already driving again. :) 
We are now just over five weeks on from that day, and it feels pretty weird to say that. It's been a long road, but it stretches longer still in front of us. I don't want to speak for Buddy (or his family for that matter) but, while it has been a physically and mentally extremely trying time for him, I have to say I've continued to see the amazing man he is through all the pain, frustration, stress, and anxiety an injury like this causes. He's been truly heroic. We've also been incredibly lucky to have amazing family and friends - and in the latter category, several who showed up at the hospital on Christmas Day to be with us and check in on him - who've been supporting us by changing plans to come over to see us, digging us out of the snow when that happened last weekend, sending Buddy books and games to keep him occupied, checking in with both of us via phone, email, text, or just a silly photo message to see how we're doing, cooking meals for us, forcing me to go out and take a break every so often, running errands, walking Bertie and Satine, and a million other things we won't be able to thank you all enough for. For those of you reading, please know that you are so appreciated and it has made all the difference.

So that, dear readers, is about me updated! I am sure I could do a follow-up post about how health insurance played a part in our excellent (and not totally unaffordable) care at the hospital versus how things might have gone down with the NHS, but for now I could do with a Kit Kat... ;)