Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Our last few days in England

Hello Readers,
We are almost done with our assignment now so our time has changed from enjoying the experience to closing everything down and wrapping up all of the loose ends.  Tuesday of last week our air shipment was packed and then Wednesday and Thursday the kids helped me clean the house.  Definitely not the most fun days spent over here but the time was well spent as we sailed through the house walk through with the owner in less than half an hour Sunday morning.  One more item checked off the list.

Final look at the houses across the road from our house.  When we first moved that area was an abandoned retirement home in various states of decomposition.  Now it is turning into a group of houses.  Kind of a bummer that we didn't get to see the completed transformation.

Our apartment dining room and family room for the curious.  It is a large two bedroom apartment so we won't be cramped during our last couple of weeks in Derby.  

A Helo model small electric heated dry sauna is included in the apartment.  I've used it a few times.  Since it is a dry sauna it is used in conjunction with a shower.  The temperature rises to 160 F and settles at 150 F so it is enough to sweat a bit. 
We have been looking for new sights or attractions the last few months and while driving in Derby last week we saw a sign for the Sikh Museum (website) so thought this would be something new for us.  We stopped by Saturday to check it out and it did end up being a new experience but not quite what we were expecting.  When I read the website it came across to me as being a "drop by and look at the material" type of museum but when we stopped by it was locked.  In the window was a sign telling us to go next door if it is locked so we did and asked a person if the museum was open.  She said it was and went to get someone.  Fast forward ten minutes and a person comes into the waiting hall to introduce himself.  Turns out he was a priest who gave us a tour of the praying halls while we waited for the person to come and open the museum.  We said sure as we weren't exactly sure what to expect and removed our shoes and put on the head coverings for the praying halls building/temple tour.
Two lions guarding a locked door.  The start of an interesting and unpredictable couple of hours.
In the waiting hall were a few paintings of actual Sikh historical events (read about Sikhs here).  One was of Sikhs sitting on a railroad track as a train runs them over which we found out was based upon them trying to prevent the British soldier filled train from stopping in Punjab, India.  Per our guide two Sikhs had their legs cut off from the train.  There was also a painting of a person being scalped alive (not sure what that event captured), a person being boiled alive in a huge pot (related to Indian Islamists trying to convert the Sikh Guru to Hindu - did not work) and a person being burned alive while hanging upside down (related to converting the Guru again).  According to our guide the last two paintings were related to the Islamists trying to get the 9th Guru to convert to Hinduism.  The Guru would not convert and was eventually beheaded.  I found this link if you want to read about the 9th Guru yourself.  
Also in the waiting hall was the Shaheedi Wall, a brutally realistic wall of posters and Sikh obituaries.

Here is one of the leaders killed in the Sikh fight for an independent state from India.

Hard to get more realistic than looking at someone's death picture.  No sugar coatings today.
In the temple our tour included an explanation of the normal temple layout.  You start at the shoe locker then walk through the rest of the temple which requires no shoes and a covered head which made Karl uncomfortable.  The second room was a kitchen and praying area where any visitors are welcomed to eat at any time although we passed on the offer.  The upstairs of the temple (think two story modern day conference hall building when I say temple) had a praying room where a lady was reading/singing out of their holy book and another hall used for weddings, funerals and baptisms.  About midway through the tour Lori and I figured out the museum wasn't a "drop by and look at the material" type of museum but a "guided tour of Sikhism required to visit the museum" type of museum.  It was okay once we figured it out but I have to admit we (Lori and I) felt a tad misled. 
The priest was extremely helpful and explained a lot to us on our tour.  A few Sikh religion items we learned:  The first Guru founded the religion in the 1400's in the Punjab region of modern day India.  He founded the religion under the idea that God is in everything - people, animals, and plants; and that all people including women are equal.  They do not eat meat, fish, or eggs but do not consider themselves vegetarians.  The 5th Guru compiled their holy book from many different religions, 20 if I remember correctly, and the book is 1430 pages long.  There are 10 Gurus and after the 10th Guru they made their holy book the Guru so that no more humans will be gurus.  The book is in poem form and all the lines are numbered so no modifications to the book may be made.  They don't convert people to Sikhism and allow anyone to pray in their temples provided they follow certain rules.  The baptized Sikhs have head coverings, an iron wrist ring, a ceremonial dagger, shorts they wear under their clothes, and don't shave their facial hair.  Although they don't convert people in order to become a Sikh you must pass a verbal test with the priest before they can be baptized.  He did seem to contradict himself a couple of times; once when I asked him if a child of a Sikh can grow and pray in the temple without being baptized he said no, they have to be baptized.  He himself was not raised as Sikh and his parents are not Sikh but he is Sikh so that seemed a little like converting to me so he did confuse us a couple of times.  Maybe he meant they don't actively scour the communities to recruit people to their religion like other religions do?  He said Sikhs live by three principles - pray to God (no idols or symbols in Sikhism), be honest in your life and dealings, and selflessly share with others.  He did tell us more and answered our questions but I forget the rest of the tour.  Extremely interesting although Lori and I felt a little sucked in.     
By now it was after noon and the person was there to open the museum even though the online hours say 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM.  The priest then walked us over to the small museum and talked some more before apologizing that he had to leave to attend to something else.  (He made the comment of having more time for us if we had booked a tour which reinforced to Lori and I that the museum wasn't as straightforward as it appears online.)  The three room museum focused on Sikhs in the World Wars, a few weapons, some cultural items like comic books, and a video on the attack on the Golden Temple Complex and its aftermath.  I only was able to read half of the museums as it was later than we had planned and the family was getting cranky and hungry.  For the record I was only hungry.

The Sikhs and British started out fighting when the Brits tried colonizing them (sarcastic surprise) then became partners.  80-some thousand Sikhs died fighting with/for Britain in the World Wars and Britain honored them by naming three vessels for them.

Also in the museum were boards of Sikh people who fought in the various wars.

India surrounded and attacked the Golden Temple (link) in search of a Sikh leader in 1984 killing thousands and enraging the Sikhs who responded by assassinating Indira Ghandi (Wiki link).  India responded by months of anti-Sikh riots that killed thousands of Sikhs.
Model of the Golden Temple before the attack.

One of the twelve or so hanging boards about 1984. 
Overall the free admission museum and temple tour was interesting and worth a stop in spite of us feeling a little suckered.  From what we saw, read and heard the Sikh history sounded very violent for a peace loving people.  Kind of reminded me of some parts in Israel.  One of the questions I was going to ask the priest but didn't since he was getting long winded and we were getting hungry was why was India persecuting them in the first place?  I guess India is not tolerant to other religions but I am guessing I would find a different take on the Sikhs if we were to learn about them in a Hindu or Islam museum in India. 

The final Facial Hair of the Month was maybe the most difficult one to select.  I did have some ideas that didn't make the cut - Monkey Tail (thanks but no thanks Dana), Two Face (from Batman comics), Reverse Beard (really unpopular with the boss), and Reverse Goatee (very tempting).  But ultimately I had a last second inspiration.  There isn't really a reason for my final style, I was just trying to do something different than the other winners.  The final facial hair is the Chin Guard, partly for my love of American football which I will be able to watch ALL THE TIME this season (yeah Lori!) but mostly from my laziness.  Us retired folks don't have a lot of free time to spend fashioning facial hair you know.

The Chin Guard relaxing in the apartment once our house was cleaned.

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dad's in the audience.  I had a low key day as the house turnover to the owner was late morning.  It turned out to be a quick inspection and then she signed off on the house which ended up going much smoother than I expected with all of the problems we had with her.  The house was much cleaner than when we took it over so we didn't anticipate any issues but she often surprised us so we are glad that is behind us.  In the afternoon Karl and I went to see Iron Man 3 since his birthday present this year was supposed to be seeing Iron Man 3 on opening night but Lori went home that week so we didn't see it.  The movie itself was a little disappointing to me, lots of talking and non-Iron Man armor action.  I mean, who goes to see Iron Man and doesn't expect to see the armor flying around shooting bad guys like in the first two movies?  There was also some social commentary themes to the movie which I didn't expect or appreciate in a comic book movie.  I don't mind social commentary in movies about actual events, I just don't think the film maker/writer/whoever should put their personal views in the story line of a comic book unless the movie follows a comic book storyline.  Karl liked it but I thought it was the worst of the trilogy.  Or maybe I am turning into a grumpy movie goer.  We finished off Father's Day going to carvery at The Cooper's Arms (website) with our next door neighbors from Washington state the Greggs.  Todd works at Rolls and was part of our American football watching group for my regular readers.  Heather is not in the BHC because there is another network of American ex-pats who are all RR subcontractors and unfortunately their meeting day is the same as ours so we were never able to connect the two groups.  Once again the company was better than the food which was pretty good.  We had an enjoyable evening discussing vacations, English living, American living and a list of other topics with them while the kids occupied themselves outside after eating their carvery.

Lori hadn't been here before until we pulled up and she said, oh wait I've been here before.  Apparently she was here for training with Kuk but didn't remember the name (typical for her).  Another reason why I am the vacation planner.

Dana Johnson Pic - My final English carvery.  Food tasted good although the Yorkshire Pudding (still just bread Dana) was in the shape of a muffin instead of a bowl which I didn't like.  I do like the bowl shape where you put the veg in the bowl then drown everything in gravy. 

Kalle, Mia and Hadley for the final time.  On our street there were four houses in a row where five girls would hang out together which Kalle will miss.  Besides us and the Greggs were two English resident houses rounding out the five girl group.  Unfortunately shy Karl never made any neighborhood friends while social Kalle did which made the experience better for her I think.  Hopefully they will keep in touch with the (sometime) blessing of modern technology.  
Dana Johnson Pic - Greek Salad with bread and a few dips.  Later in the week we met the Tim, Laverne and Megan for a Greek meal at Steliana's and Sapho's Greek Restaurant.  Food was pretty good, a few dishes tasted like our Greece meals while others were a little off.  They just came back from Switzerland and Germany so it was fun comparing our experiences since we did some of the same places on our trip.  Another fun evening of catching up with friends before we head across the pond for the final time.
Funny things you see in England.  This is the safe to walk green guy.

And this is the not safe to walk red guy.  I guess he is off kilter so the tipsy folks see him more clearly?
My final Better Halves Club lunch was at the New Water Margin (website), a Cantonese and Pekingese restaurant.  We were finally able to connect with the other American ex-pats here (thanks Luella) who are sub-contracted to a different division of Rolls so there isn't very much interaction between the two groups.  Hopefully they will be able to mix more in the future now that they have exchanged information and the first meeting is in the books.  The food was good (Kalle and I shared four Dim Sum dumpling and roll dishes) and it was nice to finally meet the people of the other group.  

Both of our groups, we were eighteen people strong including the kids.

A heartfelt thank you to all my fellow Better Halves Club members Stephanie, Yuka, Cindy, Becky, Sarah A. and adorable Anna, Sarah H., Mattie, Tracey and my little buddy Andrew, Kerry, Brittany, Christy and the best behaved two little girls I have ever seen, Luella, Kristy and happy Xavier, and of course Laverne and Shirley (who also go by Lori and Agnes).  I will miss getting together with them as I always looked forward to seeing everyone and catching up on vacations, local events, and just life in general.  The club was therapeutic as I transitioned to life in England and always a fun couple of hours once I settled in.  Life as the non-working spouse can be a little tough at times.  The working spouse maintains their work routine which I think is an easier transition than the non-working spouse.  Granted the work environment is different here but they still have a routine to follow that is similar to their life in America.  Most of the spouses had jobs in America but when they come over here they don't work, don't know many people including their new neighbors, and have to adjust to new schools/stores/transportation/etc.  The club was my support system (and hopefully the others felt the same way) which really helps during the low times of the secondment roller coaster.  Talking to other Americans that are going through the same pains and sharing tips to get through said pain was an immense help.  Thanks again to all of the BHC reading this - you made my experience here much more enjoyable and I'm glad I was able to share it with each and every one of you.  You are in good hands with Laverne who was "voluntold" that she is in charge of the group now that I am leaving you.  The most satisfying part of the club is that they want it to continue after I leave so hopefully it will be as helpful to the new and existing members as it was for me.   

This will probably be my last post until mid July as we are going to Iceland next weekend then will be flying back to America the day before my birthday.  The kids and I will be in the UP in early July so once I am back in Brownsburg after the holiday I will catch up.  Sorry for the delay but we will have a lot of settling in to do in Brownsburg and a lot of people to see in Michigan so catching up the blog will be a low priority.  Sorry for the delay and I'll see youse guys (practicing my UP slang) back here in a few weeks.

Thanks for listening,


  1. Now, I am TOTALLY glad you all are finally coming home, but the final post makes me melancholy for you. What a journey you have taken! Can't wait to catch up with yous guys too!!

    1. It is a bit odd thinking that we will be home in a week or so. The journey was incredible. See you guys soon.

  2. I still can't believe you are leaving! It seems like just yesterday that I was picked up by a complete stranger and taken to a lunch with a more complete strangers. The BHC has been a life saver, thank you so much for starting it! I loved your paragraph about it. Jeff sometimes didn't understand why I had a much harder time transitioning than him. I would tell him that he simply changed job locations whereas my entire world was turned upside down. Enjoy Iceland and have a safe trip home, I look forward to the posts!

    1. I know, Lori and I still disagree on how much the transition affects the Better Half. Difficult on both halves I guess. I love the complete strangers line. It is true, you meet a bunch of people for the first time then after a bit you are meeting them here and there to check out Derbyshire. Iceland will be strange as that's our last vacation. Enjoy your last few weeks and safe travels home as well.

  3. Hey Jay, I'm sad to see you guys go. I've really enjoyed reading your blog even though I don't always comment. Enjoy Iceland!