It turns out that two of our favourite Brit expats in America have recently discovered that not only do they have similar experiences getting used to life in the US midwest but they have met before, a little while ago. They recently published posts talking of this coincidence that neatly demonstrates the smallness of the world. Both posts are reproduced here, complete with photos of some very young bloggers-to-be.
First up, Brit Gal in the USA writes her post 'The World Just Keeps Shrinking'
Well once again I find myself in one of those ‘it’s a small world’ moments that happen inexplicably from time to time. This time it’s with a fellow expat blogger Iota who also happens to pass her time in the great mid-west.
We discovered it a few months back when I saw her comment on another blog about having grown up in Chesham (Bucks). Knowing we were similar in age I immediately emailed her to learn more. Well we soon realised we not only grew up in the same vicinity, but also went to school together for a number of years!
Memories flooded back of our happy days at Chesham Prep school, old friends and teachers. I managed to find my old school reports including this one from when I was six - let me tell you, numbers never did get any easier!
Iota was a couple of years above me, but this was a small independent school where everyone knew everyone else, or at the very least a sibling. Initially she thought she actually remembered me, but there were two of us with the same name in the school and it was the other Sarah Williams she remembered. I remember my namesake for just that reason, but she never drifted as far away as I did and still lives in Chesham with five kids, so there was no mistaking us now!
We may not remember each other, but we do share the same fond memories of the school. The blue and white striped little dress, which the girls still wear to this day. The not so flattering or fondly remembered vests and navy blue knickers worn for PE, with the formidable and chain-smoking Mrs. Davis. The regular nature walks around the orchards (as in picture above) surrounding the school and I have particular memories of a ‘Teddy Bears’ picnic in my early years there. Sports Day was always fun and I enjoyed the three-legged race, for which many hours were spent practicing and the Egg & Spoon race. We have similar memories of our teachers, the fearsome and scarily peroxided Mrs. Edwards, and Mr. Kitchenman who taught History and Geography, classes I remember really enjoying.
I also suffered my earliest embarrassing moment at CPS. We would go swimming to Amersham Pool once a week and it was usual to arrive with your swimming costume on under your clothes. Well imagine my horror at about 8yrs old, when after the class as I dried off and prepared to dress in my uniform, only to realise I had left my underwear at home! So I had to suffer the ultimate humiliation of telling a teacher and then riding the bus back to school, whilst trying to keep my short skirted dress low enough to hide my dark secret. Things got a whole lot worse though when my mother showed up at school with my knickers and I had to leave class to put them on. Oh fond memories indeed!
Iota and I now live just a few hundred miles apart and regularly see similarities in our lives and viewpoints as expats. She blogs about her family, understanding her kids accents, and life here in the mid-west from our shared side of the fence. We have both faced health trials since we moved here. Iota has blogged extensively and inspiringly about her battle with breast cancer and the trials it throws in your path. In a lesser way I have related to her problems with 'chemobrain', as my own ‘thyroidbrain’ seemed to have a similar effect on me. We have both decided to leave behind that great British institution of ironing anything that could or does crease once we crossed the pond. And we have shockingly both grown to like Green Bean Casserole, Expatmum is shrieking in disgust as she reads this.
But mine and Iota’s story has one final twist. It seems highly likely that I once had my hands in her mouth! My first job after school was as a Dental Nurse in Chesham and guess who was a patient at the same time. Now that really is bizarre!
I encourage you to drop by her blog today to read her side of the story and also to see her modelling those blue and white stripes!
Iota, who writes the Not Wrong, Just Different blog about midlife in the Midwest, takes up the story in her own post 'Small World'.
The girl who I was at primary school with was… Brit Gal in the USA. I can’t remember quite how we discovered the connection – something to do with a website that I’d typed ‘Chesham’ into. As I mentioned, Brit Gal was a couple of years below me, and I can’t honestly say I remember her. There was also a girl with the same name as her in my year, who I do remember well. That made the process of uncovering Brit Gal’s identity a little complicated. According to Friends Reunited, that girl is living in the Chesham area, divorced, with five children, whereas Brit Gal in the USA claimed to be living in Oklahoma, married to a man known as the Hubster. For a while I was confused - but I worked it out in the end.
I enjoy Brit Gal’s blog, with its friendly and open style. She talks about things that, like for me, would have been completely alien to her a few years ago: tornado warnings, trucks, the front porch. These are now the stuff of her life, as they are of mine. I read her posts about these things and think “yes, it’s just like that”. We live a few hundred miles apart, but so much of what she writes is familiar. Except for the rattlesnakes, for which I am very grateful. We don’t have rattlesnakes round here. Who needs rattlesnakes?
Brit Gal and the Hubster have an intriguing hobby. They go geocaching. I’d never come across geocaching before reading Brit Gal’s blog. I think I’d enjoy geogaching. It sounds to me like treasure hunts for grown-ups. Treasure hunts were a part of my childhood, and I often do them for my kids too. I love watching as the excitement overtakes their critical faculties. The clue says “this is where you put your dirty laundry”, and with a shriek, 5-yo exclaims “I know, I know. It’s the television!” and sprints off in the direction of the sitting room. Geocaching is a little more sedate, but I imagine there’s still a child-like thrill in finding the box you’ve been hunting for.
One thing the Midwest does very well is the sky. Brit Gal posts a photograph of the sky on a Friday: ‘Skywatch Friday’. If I’m ever feeling low about living in this part of the world, it reminds me of one of the things I will truly miss when we leave. If you think you’ve seen a big sky, let me tell you this: if you’ve not been to the Midwest, then you haven’t.
The only bad thing about your blog, Brit Gal, is that it is one of two that makes my web browser crash (Not From Around Here – you have the dubious honour of being the other one). The only way round it seems to be to read the post in Bloglines, rather than opening it up. So if I don’t comment very often, that’s the reason why. Anyone have any ideas how I can get to the bottom of this problem? It's only started happening recently and it's only these two blogs. Just as well I'm not into conspiracy theories...
So here’s to you, Brit Gal. Funny to think of us in our blue stripey dresses, running around the playground playing tag, doing ‘Music and Movement’ in our pants and vests, working our way through our times tables with the scary Mrs Edwards, she with the bouffant bleached white hair. And yes, I share your memories of the chain-smoking Mrs Davis, and Mr Kitchenman. How could one forget a teacher with a name like that? And oh indeed, the egg and spoon race too - that annual highlight. I won it one year, which is the one and only sporting achievement of my life. But I also still remember the horrible humiliation of coming last in the bunny hop race. Ah, the highs and lows.
I wonder what our head teacher Mr Ford would make of us now. He taught my class to sing ‘All Through the Night’ in Welsh. That was pretty darn PC, before PC-ness was even invented. I wonder if you learned that too?
Brit Gal in the USA is a British expat who turned her life on its head when she fell for an Okie (the Hubster) in an online backgammon room! Went from stressed out, overworked and stuck in traffic...to chilled out, where's the traffic and look out for tornadoes! Now living far, far off the beaten track in rural Oklahoma (Okieland) and loving life Y'ALL!
Iota Manhattan writes the Not Wrong, Just Different blog which was the mantra she taught herself in preparation for the chapter of her family's life in America's Midwest. They moved from a small village on the coast of Scotland, to a large city pretty much as far from the sea as you can get, with their three children aged (at the time) 9, 6 and 2. That was in December 2006. She wonders whether she will go on saying Not wrong, just different as time goes by? Or will it become Not wrong, but not quite right either? Or perhaps Home on the Range after all?