My one year American anniversary (Exclusive interview!)

one year anniversary candleThis month Fledgling Immigrant Digest is proud to bring you an exclusive interview with that most reserved, yet adorable, yet irascible (yet curiously alluring) Edinburgh to Nashville immigrant, Difficult Second Novel, on his first anniversary of arriving in the United States. 

Fledgling Immigrant Digest: How are you?

Difficult Second Novel: Bit tired. Also doing the allergic coughing thing a lot today. I’d like to change the air-conditioning filter to get one that can get rid of all the pollen and dust but I can’t find one at Lowe’s or online that’s the right size. It’s a nuisance. My eyes are so itchy, I reckon I’m a rub away from waking up with conjunctivitis.

I was just saying “hi”.

Oh. I thought maybe you were British.

I’m not.

Got it.

Interview continued on page 73.

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American firsts (Adult stuff)

Cover of the song "Land of Hope and Glory...I arrived in American wet behind the ears, but I’m quickly catching up with the rest of the grown-ups in terms of quality American life experiences.

Sadly, many of the classic episodes in American life –  e.g. visit to the Emergency Room, car accident, opened bank account, pulled over by police officer, listen to an American politician speak, and buying a car –  already completed those in my previous American incarnations.

But there was still plenty of new stuff up for grabs when I got here:

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American firsts (Kids stuff)

Autumn Red peach.

Image via Wikipedia

There’s been a lot of children in my life since I arrived in America.

I expect the behind-my-back consensus is that I don’t really like children. And that would be true. I don’t really like them. But I don’t really dislike them either. What I actually dislike is the accumulation of dirt and noise that accompanies the children, the instant stickiness, the forgetfulness, incompetence and insatiable hunger for attention that is their right.

But these kids, and the Stuff That American Kids Do, ferried from one after-school activity to another, has given me a view of life here I never would have had otherwise:

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Conversations with Americans Pt 3: Once more with feeling

Enthusiastic talkerSometimes I worry I’m not enthusiastic enough for America. Even though a day doesn’t go by here without me expressing joy about something (mostly it’ll be sitting on a shelf in Kroger), the people around me routinely check to see whether I’m having a good enough time.

Perhaps my tone is inadequate. After all, British people sound sarcastic to American ears, just as Americans sound… (wait for it…) a little over-eager to British ears. It’s something we have to get used to.

Is it my unwillingness to drink my milk and get on a horse? Do I need to master a different set of gestures and facial expressions to convey meaning?

That might help, but I think more important is the vocabulary. It may be my unwillingness to use the key American phrases employed to show enthusiasm:

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Teaching the language (after I learn the language)

I’m half-way through my class in Teaching English as a Second Language, and I fear I’m losing the ability to speak.

The “TESL teacher” has unkindly acquired the reputation for being someone who (a) has no idea what they really want to do and (b) looking for job anywhere but home.

I’m taking the opposite approach by (a)  knowing exactly what I want to do (one of these days I’ll tell you) and (b) wanting to work where I am right now  (you get to keep hold of your green card that way).

Teaching English to furriners fits perfectly with what I want to achieve professionally in the United States. One small issue is that when you teach English in America, you are expected to teach American English. Which is a little inconvenient for an immigrant like me.

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Saving the world (or not – we’re fine with that as well)

Paper recycling binsIt’s not easy being green. And frog or not, it’s next to impossible to be green in Springfield, Tennessee.

Attending Nashville’s Earth Day event just two weeks after our arrival in Tennessee gave me a taste of how it could be here. Expecting very little, I was impressed and delighted by the diversity and enthusiasm on display. There is so much good work going on in terms of community food, conservation, recycling, mass transit etc. But none of this has made it into the mainstream yet.

Once Americans are sold an idea, like wireless everything or hand sanitizer they embrace it with zeal. But it can be a hard sell, and the concept of “choice” is so hard-wired that nothing must appear forced. I’m seeing far more innovation in the form of a 28th flavor of Pop Tart or yet one more way to consume cheese than a genuine way to save energy or reduce waste.

There are bigger problems we could have, but moving from a small Scottish town that was fully signed up to things such as  curbside recycling, free compost bins, a frequent bus service, to a much bigger American town which doesn’t offer any of these things? It’s a tough transition, but I’m doing my best to avoid turning my carbon footprint into a colossal crater. Continue reading

Horses for courses (My first job)

Grill ventMy very first job as a permanent resident is something I am, with my “would you like baked or scalloped potatoes with that?” Masters degree in Hospitality Management, absolutely qualified for.

And when I say job, I don’t mean I’m getting paid. There’s a notion that if we make a profit, we split the dough.

But that is currently just a sweet fantasy designed to get us out of bed on 2 Saturday mornings every month.

Rebecca and I run the food concession at a local horse show, except when they’re cancelled due to bad weather. (Interestingly, bad weather in Tennessee means “rain”, it does not mean “hotter than hell” – that’s where, along with the definitions of “short drive” and “funny”, Tennessee and I agree to disagree).

I know what you’re thinking: That sounds…fantastic! I would love to be a part of something like that. I’m a team player, I don’t have (m)any criminal convictions…so where do I sign up?

Not so fast. Hold your horses.

There are some things you need to know about the horse-show-food-concession-business before you go jumping headfirst into it: Continue reading