Today is the one-year anniversary of my arrival in the UK to do my PhD. (Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my enrollment as a PhD student at Northumbria.) I’m having a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but I have no time to write about them right now. I’m just posting this short note to acknowledge the anniversary.
Category Archives: ex-pat
My UK friends often ask me if I can vote in US elections, since I’ve lived overseas for a while. Yes, I can vote in federal elections forever, unless I’m disqualified for some reason (such as being convicted of a felony or being mentally incapable). My ability to vote in state and local elections depends on my intention to return to the US, and for the first time since I’ve been here I put “my return is uncertain” on my absentee ballot request. (I’ve sorted a job, eh? :-) This means that in the November election I’ll get to vote for president, senator, and congresscritter but not anything at the lower level.
Instead of putting the US voting info in a blog post where it will eventually get buried in the sands of time, I’ve created a page about being an American expat in the UK. Right now all it has on it is voting info, but as I think of other topics I’ll add them.
I’ve just returned from just over two weeks in the US — ten days with family and friends in Maryland and North Carolina, and five days in California at the CHI 2016 conference (more on that later). Good thing my passport has more than six months left on it, but it is time to renew it. Fortunately, I can do it mostly online via the US Embassy London. The online renewal process seems quite straightforward (they seem to have been taking lessons from the UK’s Government Digital Service in their Citizen Services web design) but the requirements for US passport photos differ from those of the UK and EU. The bad news is that I can’t get mine done at an automated photo booth; the good news is that the US lets you smile. Fortunately, I’ve found a chain of photo stores that do them, and they have a convenient location in the Newcastle City Centre. It takes approximately four weeks for processing and return, so it’s as well I’m not planning to travel outside the UK in that time. I’ll get my photo done and my application sent off this coming week.
I’ve just put in an online request for an absentee ballot for the November election — Maryland has statewide elections this year in addition to the Congressional one, so it’s important. (It’s always important, but Maryland’s having its statewide elections in the “off year” makes it especially important that I vote every time, if I can.)
I put in an online request for the primary, and they sent me the ballot via email. I was in the US at the time I received it, so I asked a friend to mail it for me, which she did, but then I got an email from the state saying they hadn’t received it. Big sad. This time I’ll post it from the UK (I wish I could send it electronically as well) and hope that service is more reliable. At some point I have to go look at the ballot questions and also see what the Democratic Party recommends for each one. I may or may not move back to Maryland, but I intend to remain involved as long as I’m able.
Just last night I expressed how much I hate the hot summers in DC. Today I’m thinking about how much I miss the winters. They’re having lots of snow this year (here we’re not — I’ve seen only one light dusting so far), and my house in Maryland has two woodstoves. (Well, OK, it had one when I lived there; the other was installed in my new space just before I moved to the UK.) I remember how much I loved building a fire and tending it all day, with the snow piling up outside. After it gets going, the woodstove in the den will heat the whole main floor all by itself if the outside temperature is not much below freezing. And what a lovely smell!
Snow gives me a sense of peacefulness and calm that I find nowhere else (except in singing Renaissance polyphony); I’m far more cheerful than usual. I didn’t even mind shoveling my 60-foot front walk.
The last time I felt homesick was the Fourth of July last year (my first July 4 here). I think I’m going to create a page (under “Living”) about things that make me homesick. (There are lots of things I miss, but not many that make me actually feel nostalgic for being there.) Stay tuned.
Elephants stand at various points around Newcastle’s sprawling city-centre mall, intu Eldon Square. Elaborate and fanciful they are, painted elephants about five or six feet high. But it feels weird to see elephants alone. My Unconscious keeps tugging at me: Where are the donkeys?
I am from Washington DC*, you understand. For 35 years I lived just outside the city where US national affairs are more a part of local culture than they are anywhere else in the world. And this means that Elephants and Donkeys are inextricable: you just can’t have one without the other.
Elephants and donkeys, you see, are the symbols of the two major US political parties. And for six months, a decade ago, the city of Washington was dotted with 200 statues of these animals. The exhibit, called “Party Animals“, cropped up everywhere you went.
But the exhibition of elephant statues in Newcastle is this city’s turn to host Elephant Parade, a tour of art works designed “to raise awareness of, and funds for, The Asian Elephant Foundation, a charity which supports elephant conservation projects.” It’s here for a month.
Still, I feel a little discombobulated seeing large sculptures of elephants with no donkeys to complement them. And perhaps offset them.
*Yes, yes, I know I grew up in North Carolina. But I lived 3/5 of my life in the DC area before moving to Newcastle.