Cheers. xx

Dear America,

Hiya. It’s been a while. I’m writing to say that as I readjust to life within your borders, there are a few things you could kindly do to make this transition a little easier for me. I will enumerate them below. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

1. Please drive and queue (line up) nicely. It’s nice to be organised.

2. Serve cream teas (English breakfast tea + a scone with clotted cream and jam) everywhere. A rodeo, garden center or Jiffy Lube? All good occasions for tea. Because let’s face it … every occasion is a good occasion for tea.

3. Don’t shoot me if I forget and think it’s OK to go for a walk across your privately owned land.

4. Laugh if you like or ask for a translation, but please don’t correct my Brit speak every time I use a foreign-sounding word. My friend Matthew would tell you that the British way is the right way anyway … they had it first. ;)

5. Forgive me if I consider voting for the queen as a write-in on my presidential election ballot. I mean, have you seen her? She’s brilliant.

6. Please don’t think I’m strange or forward if all my texts end in Xs. They’re easier and better than smileys, and more affectionate. Thanks. xxx

Cheers,

Grace xx

Hey, pickle.

Hey, pickle. I realize we only just met, but I really feel like this is the real thing.

It’s too bad I didn’t realize it sooner.

My friends Clare and Gem and I had a sandwich assembly line going the other day for a group of girls we were having over, and we finished the ham ones.

“What’s next?”

“Cheese and pickle.”

Cheese and pickle. I’m not gonna lie. I thought that sounded straight-up nasty.

Imagine my surprise when she pulled out a brown squeeze bottle, squeezed and spread it around on the bread.

Once again, the British definition bested me.

In the States, I always gave my pickles away, and I didn’t think pickle could have any meaning other than the obvious (pickle |ˈpikəl| a small cucumber preserved in vinegar, brine, or a similar solution).

Turns out here … it’s awesome.

Check out the two main definitions of the word in the motherland:

1. a relish consisting of vegetables or fruit preserved in vinegar or brine: cheese and pickle

2.British informal, used as an affectionate form of address to a mischievous child.

(Hey, pickle.)

I know you’re judging. Trust me, it’s awesome … and I’m coming back to the States with about eight bottles in my suitcase.

Two years in blogs.

As my time in England is finishing up, I’ve been thinking back over some of the biggest milestones and things I’ve learned whilst here … and here are a few, with links included …

Looking for blood. One of the strangest days of my life. I ate chocolate and, after I’d watched the first time, tried to avert my eyes. I really just wanted to yell at them to run away.

When it comes down to seconds. I’ll never forget the day I sat beside a friend near the epicenter of a devastating earthquake as she rocked the infant son of a man killed in a tea shop when the shaking started. The day after we left the area, another earthquake brought down the hotel around the corner from ours. It opened up a lot of questions about God’s timing. It kept me up at night then, and I still think about it sometimes now.

Enduring catcalling for Christ. I’ve wrestled a lot with what it means to give everything up for Christ and the Gospel. Before this trip, I never imagined that might mean constant male attention, of the unwanted kind …

Vampire teeth. Try to go through airport security with a bag full of them. Just see what happens.

For the love, tell me what to do. This one’s pretty much baring my soul from a period in time when I wasn’t sure how to get back to God.

Little town of Bethlehem. Not just a song. I got to meet some people here, and it was nothing like I expected. For one thing, I didn’t realize it was walled off from the world, and not with an ancient Biblical times looking wall, either …

I slept through a bunch of earthquakes. Nobody else did. It made me question how much I must already be shaking from caffeine overload. But it also made me question other stuff.

I met John. He got kicked out of the funeral club, but it was so worth it.

The ostrich ride. 2012’s only new year’s resolution = done.

What a cuppa can’t fix.

I got this email today from a friend.

A good cuppa. I spend so much of life with a steaming cup of English Breakfast in my hand that my dental hygienist may never be able to turn her frown upside down again.

And I’m not alone. This from the BBC:

As any self-respecting Brit will tell you, there is not a lot that a cup of tea can’t fix. Rough day at work? Put the kettle on. Broken heart? Pour yourself a cuppa. Alien invasion? You’ll be ready for an apocalypse as soon as you’ve had your brew. The British relationship with tea is so important that employers have traditionally allowed their staff tea breaks to enjoy some alone time with their beverage of choice. We even have a mealtime named after it. So you see, tea is more than a drink to us Brits – it’s a way of life. Phew, I’m feeling rather emotional after that – now, where’s my mug?

It can get you through some hard days better than a Kelly Clarkson scream along (yes, I said it) or even a good, long run.

But there are some things it just can’t fix.

And leaving Britain is one of them.

In the last couple of days, it all started feeling official. Two more months until it all goes back in two suitcases and goes back to America … with me in tow. Yesterday I had tea with my good friend Bex, and I think I spent a lot of it staring into the cup and attempting to be buoyant. (She’d probably tell you it didn’t work.) It’s not the first time I’ve faced a day like this with a cuppa and failed at buoyancy.

But there’s still a lot of tea in my future. My girl mates here and I have turned it nearly into a competitive sport recently, and I don’t plan to stop. One thing that makes it easier here is that nearly anything has tea involved.

Lavender farm? Lavender tea.

Strawberry farm? Tea there, too.

After Pooh Sticks at Pooh Bridge? Piglet’s fairy cakes at Pooh Corner.

This island’s a pretty unique shape, and the Britain-shaped hole in my heart isn’t going to be filled with fried chicken or Mexican food anytime soon. I’m going to miss this place, its countryside, its tea shops … and these girls. It’s been a blessed two years.

My cuppa’s running over.

The ostrich ride.

She was a really big bird. And she had only been in the rodeo-style chute for about five seconds when the guy looked straight at me and said, “Who’s first? How about you, London?”

I’d been pretty excited about this whole ostrich-riding thing ever since my friend Elizabeth sent me this Yahoo article last year. It felt so very Swiss Family Robinson. I even made it my only new year’s resolution for 2012 (only half seriously).

Suz said we could do it while I was in South Africa. She planned it.

And then I heard some stuff:

1. “You know ostriches kill people, right?”

2. “Did you know that one kick with their razor-sharp toe can split you right down the middle? Just don’t walk in front of it and you’ll be OK.”

3. “Did you know an ostrich can turn its neck all the way around and peck you while you’re on its back?”

And more realistically:

“Did you know that the only way to get off is to fall off?”

Good grief.

Despite my protests, Suz was “committed” to making it happen. That’s what she kept saying every time I kept saying we could stay in Cape Town for the day instead of driving all the way out to the ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn.

So here’s how this thing works. They have her (the ostrich, not Suz) standing in the little triangular wooden chute with a bag over her head. I felt pretty bad about that, but apparently an ostrich’s brain is smaller than one of its eyeballs, so with the bag over its head, it’s pretty chilled out. It’s an “I can’t see you, you can’t see me” situation.

The guy got me to climb up on her back, with her wings over my legs. You kind of kick back like you’re in a recliner and wrap your legs around her chest, then you hold onto the front of the wings.

“How am I going to get off?”

“You fall.”

And then he yanked the bag off the ostrich’s head. It was like being shot from a cannon.

(If you want the virtual experience, watch this.)

After a while of running around the pen like a crazed lunatic, the guy running behind me yelled, “LET GO!”

Seriously? Is this a trust fall?

He and another guy caught me under the arms as I let go and set me down. Pretty sure every muscle in my body was shaking for a few minutes from hanging on for dear life, but painless enough. 100 percent success for this year’s resolution. And all this for under $10. Thanks, Suz.