Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Should go to Sleep

But I just wanted to say hey. Tomorrow is Halloween and I have volunteered to help out with a party thing for the villagers in the coffee bar. This guy Marc Antone (is that how you spell it when it's pronounced 'an-twon?') is in charge of Folk Club, which is basically just him and this other guy playing guitars and pianos in the coffee bar and doing sing-alongs with the villagers and other people do stuff in an open-mic sort of way. Nice.

Tonight I came in after farming and barely had time to sit down cuz Paule had gone to a meetign and I had to prepare supper. Nick helped a bit, as did Stephanie, and I got to sit at the head of the table and dole out the tea and be in charge and all that and then I did the washing up and I was late for choir already so I figured I could make Anthony's bed for him but then Paule returned and she said she would do it so I wouldn't be really late for choir. We are singing the ugliest song ever in this choir and Claire, who is the choral leader and my Botton Friend, isn't a terrible director, but it makes me realize how awesome Sara Jane was at Westtown and how bitchin chamber singers sounded. This song we're doing is in Japanese for one thing, and it also has no melody, its just a series of clashing notes and rediculous keys. Blech. There are two lovely songs, Evening and Who Stands at the Threshold, that we do as well, but we're only performing the ugly one. Okay, definitely time for sleep. OH! HOLY CRAP! Go Phillies! Winners! Moooooooooooom I hope you tivo'd it!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As Expected

So its been a few days. I was going to say it's been a nice few days or an interesting few days or some kind of few days but it hasn't really been anything lemme break it down:

1. Lovely co-worker things; Maisa informed me that a bunch of people get together on Wednesday nights to play sports in the school because apparently I look athletic (woot.) and last night after supper in the coffee bar we played "social games" in the hall with some lady doing a rather good impersonation of T. Michael. Hilarity ensued: the pair who never understood what was going on, the fifty year old man pretending to be a bear and chasing people, tiny Asian girls pretending to be bears, Jan using math to figure out how to make a square with a rope and we were all blindfolded, and afterwards laughing and smoking and squealing and FINALLY being my usual hyper crazy self with my wonderful co-workers who asked if I was usually like this. They seemed happy when I said yes.

2. Katherine left this morning and it made me sad and as I thought, tonight at supper Paule informed me that in Katherine's absence, I am "getting promoted." What a nice way of saying "now you have to do a lot more work in the house." So tonight I put Emily to bed for the first time and it went very well. Nick and I had a nice talk about giving the villagers boundaries, a talk I've had before, but not with him, and it was nice to have his input as well.

3. I am thoroughly taking advantage of the piano in the hall and have almost finished teaching myself Samson by Regina Spektor among other things.

4. I love the cows. Sybilla is so cute. At work this afternoon I was really tired and I lay on Sybilla for a while and tried to absorb some of her good energy but ended up with a bad case of interesting.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Is that Bad?

Um, Katie wont eat anything because she's depressed (maybe) and it annoys the hell out of me. I think it annoys Paule too. Like, I'm not sad for her, I'm pissed! I'm like, "Katie what the hell stop starving yourself and pulling your hair and rubbing your eye, it's so annoying!" I don't know what it is, I know I should be concerned, and I am to a certain extent, but the rest of me is just frustrated with her because I think she KNOWS she needs to eat, and we aren't really sure why she's doing this. She shakes all the time, she's literally skin and bones, and she's only 45.

On a different note, I spent most of the day in bed and my back feels somewhat better. Paule asked me to cook Sunday lunch next week and I'm scared! I found recipes from Karina's Kitchen and decided to make a "roasted vegetable nest" which is just roasted veggies in a nest of pasta, a curried pumpkin soup, and a chocolate cake. All gluten free of course! :) Karina's Kitchen is going to save my life when I have to cook for myself when I'm all grown up. I'll just stock my shelves with gluten free baking mixes and xanthum and guar gum and all these wonderful things. Haha I should re-write that Sound of Music song "Favorite Things" and make it all about gluten free food. Anyway, the only meal I've ever cooked was mom and dad's anniversary dinner and it was for TWO people, not TWELVE. So we'll see. Phil will probably help me. Hopefully.

A full week of work ahead of me. Time for sleep.


PS Katherine leaves on Wednesday and I'm super sad because she's super cool.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Molly Makes Some Friends

Got Mad Pains

Me duele la espalda. Really bad. I can't even bend down. No way am I going hiking to a pub the weather looks slightly hurricane like. Angelica is coming over for supper tonight and basically to say goodbye cuz she's leaving on Monday. Might be awkward...think I'll be doing a fair amount of translating.
Also, Katherine leaves on Wednesday and I'm super sad cuz she's awesome and we've been bonding and I know all about her life and it turns out this guy from nextdoor and her have been together for a while but keeping it under the radar and they're leaving together. She's not telling any of the villagers that she's leaving, I think she's just gonna slip away and then Paule will explain to them that she's not coming back. Emily is going to be devestated. Katherine will miss her a lot as well; she keeps saying she would adopt her if she could. Her not being here will change things I think. Nick has been in such a poopy mood recently, losing his patience with the villagers a lot, and it's been nice to be able to say, "Geez, he needs a nap," to someone.

One thing that's very odd is that I've been here for three weeks and I don't even know the people who live next door. I'm familiar with most of the residents of Honey Bee Nest and Trefoil, but Castle House is like a big mystery. Luis has been here for like two and a half months and he only just met Nick and Phil last night! Because we're all so spread out, it's hard to know everyone immediately, but that's why we have weekly events and gatherings. Unfortunately, a lot of the house parents and co-workers don't go to those things so you never see them. It's true my life consists of about 20 people consistantly, from the food centre, home, and the farm.
AHHH need to recline and do yoga.

Yo my bad.

So sorry about the lack of updating. So, in no particular order, here is a summary of recent events:

1. Angelica has been asked to leave because her English isn't good enough. I've spoken to several people about it, including her, and there are many parts to this. The first is simple; on her application, when asked how well she speaks English, she wrote "more or less," and it's definitely "less." Her inability to communicate prevents her from being able to help the villagers when they ask questions and inhibits interaction in general. Also, according to the other co-worker in her house, she doesn't make a lot of effort to interact with everyone and stays in her room most of the time. I feel bad for her, because I think she didn't quite realize what she was getting herself into--she wouldn't have been able to read any brochures Botton sent her, and I guess she could have used an online translator for the website, but those are pretty unreliable. Anyway, she's going home on Monday.

2. Howard, one of the villagers in the food centre, didn't know my name, so he just called me Magdalena because he absolutely loves Magdalena, and her name. He says her name at least two dozen times every morning. But I told him my name several times, and now he calls me Obby due to his speech impediment.

3. I had four co-worker things this week. Tuesday morning was part I of the Induction Essentials that I missed since I came late, and Thursday afternoon was part II. We watched this really awkward movie about abuse that I think is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. The thing is, abuse only really happens villager to villager or villager against co-worker (some of them can have outbursts and potentially harm someone). On Tuesday night we had our usual co-worker supper in the coffee bar, and then an incredibly boring talk about Gerta (sp?) science. The topic was presented as "What Kind of Science do we Need Today?" and i thought it was going to be about global warming and alternative energy, but it was totally wack. This lady talked about how we need to be able to talk to plants and how plants have personalities and characteristics like people, and we were supposed to discuss this stuff as a big group, so I spoke up. I said something about how things like religion and math and laws of science are human perspectives and creations and there is math in the structure of the plant because WE deem it so. And she basically said I was wrong. Ya know how i sometimes complain that I have way too many thoughts? Well I'd been suppressing them for a while because they got so friggin annoying, but this stupid lecture brought them all up again! All this shit about humans and brain function and nature and biology and Buddhism and how these thoughts are just part of my being human and they are stupid and humans are stupid and the earth doesn't want us and we are so arrogant and self-absorbed as a species. Blech. On the way back to the neighborhood I vented to Luis and he was like...whoa you DO have way too many thoughts. Then the next morning we had Foundation Course stuff and at tea break I hung out with Mycha, who is officially nice, and Nastia and Luis and several others, and they totally agreed that the lady who gave the talk was a little nuts. Turns out most people thought it was going to be about science, not a doctrine.

4. Rufus is so funny, every time I say "Good morning Rufus," or "How are you Rufus?" he goes "MOoooooouuhhHH!!!" I think he loves me. Molly is cute as ever, Sybilla and White Bean are my favorite cows, and White Bean's calf is due in three weeks, so that's exciting. Also today Justin tackled a sheep and fixed its foot with some blue spray-on anti-foot-rot stuff.

5. My fingers constantly smell like silage, and it is gross.

6. The apple juice we have been making in the food centre somehow fermented, and now Magdalena and I are secretly making cider (in England cider means alcoholic and what we think of as cider is just apple juice)...shh don't tell!

7. I miss Lucy so bad. Cats are just not dogs.

8. I am so sore all the time. Eff pitchforks and pulling out fences.

9. I had a really bad ingrown toenail made worse by the amount of walking I do every day, and it started to pus but instead of going to the health centre I operated on it myself and fixed it up all nice. I told Phil about my mad operating skills and then at lunch Paule asked if I had gone to the health centre for my toe and Phil said don't let her go in there she'll start cutting people open!!"

10. Anthony has something wrong with his leg, I think with the tendon behind his knee. He came limping into the kitchen when Paule and I were preparing supper and he was almost in tears because it had started hurting on his way back home from the woodwork shop and he could barely walk home! I felt so sad for him! He is such a lovely person, always saying "Here you ah my deah!" when passing things at the table and "You certainly may my deah, by all means!" And he calls me "Luv" which is just so precious. Oh! And for those of you who watch the Simpsons, if you're wondering what Anthony looks like, he is literally the identical twin of Smithers (I think thats that guys name, I can't say I watch that show a lot...)

11. OMG!! I guess I saved the best for last. Luis told me today that Tracy, his house mother, had told him that there are big rumors flying around the neighborhood about us. Obviously, we did not underestimate Beth. Apparently, Tracy said, someone saw us kissing! Which is a TOTAL LIE! These villagers will do anything for entertainment. John Chatham ("Chatty") who makes us our tea for tea break on the farm, has Down syndrome, and therefore an incredibly creative and fantastical mind. He loves to tell me that I am his daughter and today he gave Luis permission to marry me. I asked him if he would walk me down the isle and he said of course, but we must all drink lots of coffee and whisky after the ceremony. Anyway I'm sure he has a part in these rumors as well...I'm thinking it might not be such a bad thing since the men seem to be leaving me alone now...they must think Luis will beat them up or something.

I think that's about it. Tomorrow Luis and I are gonna walk to a nearby pub. By nearby I mean it takes like an hour to get there but it's really pretty and you walk on the top of the dale and get a nice view....except the only time we are both free is like...9:00 at night. So it'll be...actually probably a little dangerous, and certainly treacherous, but also very very fun.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This is Not About Yorkshire.

It's about the love of my life, Westtown. And I am P.O'd! A girl from 07 got kicked out with a bunch of other dumdums (some of whom I actually really liked, they just made shitty decisions and paid for it), and her family sued Westtown. I hadn't thought about it in a while, but suddenly Facebook is all up in arms over these videos. Please watch, absorb, and then send Mr. Depew (the fat ugly guy) a message about why he is dumb. Here is what I wrote to him (via his youtube account):

Speaking as a recent graduate, and someone who knows your daughter and her friends, I must say, your reaction is highly inappropriate. Posting these videos is juvenile and tactless. Westtown is an incredible school, and your daughter abused her position as a student there. The security and health of the students is one of the schools top priorities, and the administration has a far clearer perspective on that subject than you. If Westtown had security checkpoints at the entrances and armed guards wandering campus at night and metal detectors, Westtown wouldn't be Westtown! You need to understand that while the school's security measures may seem inadequate to you, they work very hard to instill in the student body a level of integrity and trust that one will not find in another institution. We as students hold a responsibility to the school and to ourselves to respect the rules, and you're daughter failed. I admit, I too have broken some of Westtown's rules. I have run around atop many places on campus one is not supposed to be, but as a prefect my junior and senior year, I stopped shiking. As teenagers we find certain thrills in the breaking of rules, and Westtown is there to teach us that rules are there for a reason. I was caught by the security guards, who are very good at their jobs, on a few occasions, but I never did anything drastic like drinking or smoking or sneaking out after hours. The fact of the matter is, very few people ever did. And those who did were caught and dealt with appropriately. Your anger towards Westtown is unwarranted--it's Christine you should be angry with. To be given the opportunity to attend a school like Westtown is a dream many kids will never experience. For some of us it is a gift, one that we should cherish and be thankful for. You should be embarrassed for posting these videos. Ted, Chris and John are wonderful people who work incredibly hard to provide a healthy, lively education for hundreds of kids, and you should be ashamed for causing them trouble.


Robin Tuttle, '08

ohhhhhh snap.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stay Calm

Okay I just talked to Paule and told her all about everything and she was super helpful and reassuring and said that it is really hard but you just have to set up clear boundaries and the villagers are used to it and accept it when you say: this is my space, you don't come in it. She said a lot of the stuff from Midgley and Ettiene isn't meant in a creepy way, but if the villagers see a person who is open and comforting, they aim and fire for that comfort zone, wanting hugs and security all the time. So basically the next time I see Ettiene I need to firmly tell him that I need my personal space and we will have no more hugs and only handshakes. Paule said never to hug the villagers, especially the men, not because they might come on to you, but because it means you are an open target so to speak, and they will flock to you in droves seeking attention. So now I have this new perspective, you see. I understand how she and Nick and these other experienced house parents and co-workers interact with the villagers. It's not cold by any means, but there is a clearly defined line, and that in itself gives the villagers comfort. So I don't have to be rude or worry that I'm hurting anyone's feelings, I just have to be clear about my space and make decisions for myself about what I'm okay with and what I'm not. God this is complicated! But I feel better now. Time for sleep.

The Usual, With a Few Exceptions

A fairly normal day. I got up at 6:45 and got breakfast ready with a bit of guidance from Phil. The food centre was rather entertaining this morning--I was humming songs as usual and then I started singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (the version from Across the Universe) and suddenly one of the villagers started singing along! Magdalena was very surprised, as this was quite unusual coming from Julie. A few minutes later, when we were all quietly working on cutting apples, Howard burst into song! It was so cute, Angelica and I clapped for him. And Andrew, a villager who frequently wails a high pitched noise that sounds to me like wind whistling through a door, or a kettle boiling, was back from a short holiday, and back to his wailing ways. He was in the kitchen making tea and then cleaning up, and all the villagers were laughing and saying he sounded like an airplane landing and taking off.

I walked briskly home and on high alert so as not to run into Ettiene or Midgley. Lunch was nice, pork and red cabbage and mashed potatoes and tomato broccoli salad. Speaking of broccoli, Paule has the same two Moosewood Cafe cookbooks we do: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and...that other one.

On the farm we worked on clearing more brambles and branches and such from around above and in a small run of water that goes into Danby beck. Nice rough work. Luke of course did his fair share of standing around, as did Neil, while Luis (I discovered how he spells it)and I did most of the hacking and slashing and pulling and splashing and falling.

On Monday's after supper there is always some sort of neighborhood gathering, and tonight we played skittles, which is basically bowling with three small balls and you have to knock over the middle pin to get any points. I was a bit late cus everyone left without telling me, so I walked in and sat down near Anthony and Katie and almost instantly Ettiene comes over and sits down next to me and keeps patting my back and then starts rubbing my shoulders and saying, "give you a massage!" and Anthony, bless his heart, says, "stop it, she doesn't like that! stop it!" But I just couldn't bring myself to do anything but move away. I didn't want to make a scene by yelling "Get you're hands of me you pervy old man!!!" So I went and sat next to David and a large post, hoping Ettiene would get the picture. And of course, the frenchman moves with me. He tried to touch my shoulders again and I put up my hand and said, "NO. Nonononono." And he backed off. It was every house for itself, and we (Bracken) came in second. I was pleased, because at least we beat Honey Bee Nest and I could rub it in Luis's face.

Luis and I were hung out outside the hall afterwards and I told him about Ettiene. He hadn't noticed it happening during the game, but then Ettiene came outside and came over to me and tried to do it again! Luis saw and came over and I totally just hid behind him, I was so embarassed and grossed out. Neil came out and started talking to Luis and Ettiene cornered me again and I was up on a wall and he said goodnight and reached for my hand, so I stuck it out for a handshake and he tried to kiss my hand but I just kept shaking his hand and even said, "Handshake!" but he was rather determined and in the end kissed his own hand. It has gotten to a point where I need to talk to Paule immediately. I know this is a bad comparison, but you know how rape victims don't tell anyone because they're embarassed that they got raped? I'm always like, that's so dumb, it's not your fault you got raped, but now I'M embarrased about THIS situation! I think partly because it's like saying, "Ooh, I'm so pretty this dude won't leave me alone," which just feel dumb to me, but I really want this shit to stop without creating a whle big scene. I thought maybe I could hide behind Luis on a regular basis. And Beth, a villager from Luis's house, is very protective of him and considers him 'hers' so when she saw us together I think she assumed we're more than friends and said she would no longer be Luis's bodyguard because he was flirting with me...which he wasn't but the GOOD thing is that perhaps Beth will just perpetuate a rumor that I belong to Luis or something and then these male villagers won't treat me like a piece of ass. Whatever, this shit is so fucked up and creepy and annoying and grosses me out. I'll talk to Katherine first and make a plan of action or see if she's experienced similar things, etc.

Those reading this, rest assured I will take care of this situation, and myself. And if worse comes to worse I'll just take him out. I think I've watched enough Alias to know how to bring someone down...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Things I Miss Super Super Bad

1. Westtown. G2. Streaking. Neighbees and wifey. '08.
2. Lucy, and dogs in general.
3. Simon, even if he is a jerk sometimes.
4. Ginger snuggles.
5. Hope mom and dad aren't offended they rank after the pets...
6. Avocados
7. um, wheat? but damn i love rice cakes.

Overall, Fun Was Had.

Sooo several things that some may find interesting; I will do my best to summarize precisely, something you may have noticed I'm terrible at.
That boy from the coffee bar, Till, showed up unannounced after dinner, and it was super awkward. I talked to him while I cleaned up the kitchen and then made some lame excuses and ran and hid upstairs hoping he would go away. Katherine came up the stairs as I was coming out of the bathroom, which is of course the best hiding place. I said, "That was soooo awkward I have no idea why he just showed up," and she said, "Yeah , I'd watch out for that one." Apparently after I left he hung around her while she did the washing up and she got a real creeper vibe from him. So I resolved to call him in the morning and cancel our Whitby plans because "I feel really really sick." Mycha called to cancel the shindig due to a bad case of cramps. I made her the best mixed CD ever created, and I'll put it in her mailbox tomorrow. So then we had the group meeting thingy and like I said, I didn't want to go because Ettiene, the french guy, would be there, but he was totally fine. The meeting was super boring mostly...the question was three fold: what does Camphill mean to me, does Botton reflect this, and are the Bible evenings healthy in Botton? Having two and a half weeks experience, I said what I could, but I've never been to a bible evening so I just said I was fortunate to go to a school that taught lessons in Islam Buddhism and Hinduism as well as Bible and Quakerism, an I think for the bible evening at Botton to be healthy they should include readings from the Bagavad Ghita or the Ramayana in case those teachings speak to some people more than the Bible.

Louis wasn't at the group meeting, so I called him around 10:00 to a. see if he was okay and b. see if he wanted to watch James Bond cuz we had talked about doing so earlier in the week. Turns out he wasn't at the meeting cuz he was working at the wedding party that had been in Honey Bee Hall...and he had snagged a bottle of Chardonnay. So now that the hall was empty we could go downstairs to the game room (with Molly of course!) and play pool and watch the movie...until 2:30 am. Whoops. I can't believe co-workers supposedly do this all the time! For one, I woke up totally hungover, which is surprising because I only drank like half the bottle which is probably the equivilant of two or three glasses. Whatever, it was really really fun and nice, and I also didn't have to lie to Till when I told him I was sick! So I went back to bed and then got up for lunch, and after lunch, lo and behold the dude shows up unannounced AGAIN. I saw him coming and although running away to the bathroom crossed my mind, I was quite stuck doing the washing up. I wasn't really creeped out by him or anything, it was just sort of embarassing and annoying. So I talked to him for FOREVER cuz Phil used so many effing dishes to cook. Eventually I finished and made like I was gonna go back to bed (even though at this point I felt fine I pretended I was still sick) but he was like "we stay in contact?" and I was like surrre and wrote down my email address really sloppy so he couldn't read it properly and when he misread it I was like "yep sure." So smart. Then he left and I went upstairs and started reading Richard Bach's Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, which Katherine lent me. It's very interesting so far. And that's all. That's my life. The end.

PS mom and dad you should try answering the phone, it's fun :-P

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Steph is getting kind of annoying...I think I was too friendly or something, cuz now she wants to be in my room all the freaking time and mostly when I'm home I just want to be alone reading in my room. There is a rule in the house that you always knock on someone's door before you go in, and if you don't get an answer, you don't go in. You could know the person is in there, but if they don't answer, you don't go in! I recognize her knocking and I don't answer on purpose, but she comes in anyway! It's so annoying! And she's also getting really clingy and wanting hugs that never end all the time and leaning on me and it's SO annoying. I have never before longed for personal space. I usually hate personal space. But dammit I want some.


Ugh. Yesterday was...freaky. Went to the food centre in the morning and all was well and good; we made apple puree for jams and then scrubbed the drains with toothbrushes. Magdalena, the co-worker in charge of the food centre (she's so nice) said she felt like the mean orphanage lady in Annie. When I was walking back I ran into Midgley, one of the villagers. He is always smiling and says hello to everyone and everything, and he greeted me and since we were walking in the same direction he stuck out his hand and asked me to hold his hand. I thought, "Okay, this guy is like...a grandpa. No problem." So then we were walking along holding hands, and I was a little uncomfortable but ignored it. Then we ran into a whole bunch of villagers coming the other direction on the path, including Beth, who is very loud and shrill. Beth exclaimed, "Oh! Are you boyfriend and girlfriend!?" And I thought: "Shit."
After being at Westtown for four years, I understand how small communities work. Gossip is rampant. Hell, we talk about villagers and co-workers at the dinner table! So I thought, "Great, this is what I need. For all the villagers to think I'm Midgley." I think I should have been more assertive, but I just shook my head and said, "No no we're just friends--friends can hold hands too!" All the villagers cackled as we walked away.
Then we ran into this french guy who lives in my neighborhood walking his bicycle. He talks a lot and I hadn't interacted with him a whole lot but he seemed nice and almost 'normal' sometimes. So the three of us walked together until Midgley had to go left and we had to go straight. He let go of my hand and we waved goodbye. I thought, "thank God that's over with," and just then, the french guy grabs my hand. I was like ARE YOU KIDDING ME but instead I said, "Aren't you going to ride your bike?" He said no, he was going to walk beside it. So I tried other tactics. Tim, if you're reading this, I have to admit I used you! I went on and on about my boyfriend back in America who I miss very much and it totally worked cuz he let go of my hand. Which sort of leads one to believe he was hitting on me and then realized I was unavailable or something. So then we were just walking and chatting and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and drop it did. When we got to Trefoil, his house, I moved toward Bracken and he moved toward me so I thought okay, he wants a hug. Most of the villagers very much enjoy being hugged; it gives them a sense of security and assurance. Aaaand then he kissed my cheek. Part of me thought "AHHHH WHAT THE FUCK THATS MY PERSONAL BUBBLE" but the other part of me thought, "Naw, he's just french and maybe thats how he says goodbye to everyone." I mean, one time Anthony kissed me on the cheek to apologize for yelling at me and he told me how much he liked me, but since then he's treated me like he's an old guy and I'm a little girl he's very fond of, like a granddaughter or something.

I could be paranoid. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it, I was too shaken up and a little embarassed in case I was overreacting. But in the afternoon I told Louis about it and he was sort of shocked/worried and told me that next time I just need to be more assertive and say that I need my personal space. One of the reasons I could be paranoid though is because Paule told me a few days ago about one of the villagers who has hit on several of the young co-workers and even sent them pornographic love letters. So I'm actively avoiding that guy.

But it's very awkward and tonight we have these group meeting things and the french guy is in my group and I really don't want to see him...although it could also be an opportunity to be someone reserved and standoffish and maybe he wont bother me.

Tonight is also Mycha's gathering, which is less a party and more just a few people hanging out and watching a movie, which is really better than a party. I made her the best mixed CD ever. I think. I have no idea what kind of music she listens to, so she might not like it at all, but it's the thought that counts of course.

Oh and tomorrow I'm going into Whitby (finally!)...with some guy I met at the coffee bar. I know--so unlike me! He worked here for a year and he's back visiting for two days, and he has a car and invited me to go with him for the day. He seemed really nice and several people in the coffee bar knew him, so I dont think he's a psycho killer or anything. I'm glad to be getting out of here for a bit, and I hope to find a store in Whitby that contains posters or pictures or something I can put on my walls so my room doesn't look so drab.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Good Rapport

Walking back from the food centre this morning I ran into Anthony, who was also on his way back to Bracken for lunch. He said his usual, "Hello my deah!" and invited me to walk with him. He gave my his arm and we walked back together, discussing how the cold weather makes us feel fresh and lively. I noted that he does a lot of walking, back and forth to and from the woodwork shop, which is all the way on the other side of Botton. He agreed that it was very good exercise, and insisted that it was making him younger. I very much enjoy chatting with him. Sometimes he gets into spats with the other villagers, particularly Felicity, who can be very bossy, and then he's hopelessly moody and plays the victim every time.
I also love working with Steph. She is so good natured and agreeable and never gets involved in any drama or quibbling. And she loves music, so this morning as we scraped labels off of jars until our fingers were pruned and covered in glue, I put an iPod earbud in each of our ears and we listened to one of my livelier mixes. She gets really into rap and hip hop and was putting her arms up in the air and smiling so much I had to get her to focus more on the jars and less on the music. Steph also occasionally slips little pictures under my door when I'm reading. So cute.
One of the cutest things one could ever see if Felicity laughing. I want to get a picture of it so badly, but it almost always happens at dinner, so I'll have to plan ahead. David and I talk sometimes, usually whle we do the washing up, and he always wants to know about cowboys and saloons in America. Katy doesn't say much at all. She is very thin and shaky and frail looking, but her memory is very good and she always seems to remember the things we all forget (like which house the other villagers go to for lunch any day of the week). Emily is....Emily. I've come to understand her habits and the like, and know how to deal with her more clearly. She needs constant reassurance and attention, so she always says things like, "robin I really, really love you," not because she particularly loves me, but because she wants the feedback and entertainment. I just say things like, "how lovely," or "that's wondeful Emily, it's good to be loving."

On a different note, I am in far less pain today, so I think it's safe to say I'm free of appendicitis!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


i guess the first part of that last post doesn't qualify as a splendid happening. it's just a happening. also, as was requested, here is a picture of Danby Beck. it's actually way bigger than it looks in this picture--some of those rocks are as big as me!

Splendid Happenings!

These splendid things are as such:

1. went to the doctor and he said i either have a wacked out ovary that hates me and enjoys inflicting pain, or i have the beginnings of appendicitis. the "surgery" was a modern building surrounded by 200 year old stone cottages in Danby. when i walked back to the doctor's office/exam room i was greeted by four cows, standing to attention at the window, ready to offer their advice and opinions with an occasional moo. the doc also took three blood samples, one for a standard CBC, one to check up on the levels of...something that will indicate how my celiac disease is doing, and the third to test for egg and milk allergies. he said i'm a really unlikely candidate to have so many allergies because i've never had excema or asthma or any of the things that usually go hand in hand with such an enormous amount of food allergies. he shared the opinion of mom and dad, saying it really depends on the kind of test that was performed and it is all relative. so i think the test he's doing is more precise than the saliva one...something about blood just seems more indicative than saliva. i'll get those results back in a week or so.

2. tonight at supper the phone rang and nick got it and then came back and told me to phone mycha after we were finished eating. i'll admit i was a bit apprehensive about calling her since she had been a bit cold to me in the past, but when i called her back she said she had called to make sure i was okay! she said "we were worried since you weren't at the foundation course meetings," which made me think...we? people noticed i was gone? people cared? HOORAY! she also called to invite me to a party at her house on saturday for her birthday! a party! with co-workers! my dreams are coming true! haha. yay.

Danby Beck


Three items of interest:

1. My flannel shirt appears to be permanently infused with the scent of cow manure. I rather like it.

2. I have been drinking an infusion of elderflower Pride and Prej is that!

3. Paule is going to phone the "surgery" a.k.a the doctor's office and see when I can get looked at. I don't really have a cold...the occasional cough or two, but there seems to be something very wrong with my belly. Eating doesn't make it better or worse, and it's not making a terrible amount of noise, it's not nausea, it just really really hurts! This last part has nothing to do with infusions, I just thought you might want to know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Clarification

Several things have come to my attention. The first is in reference to Lisa and Louis, two people mentioned in an earlier post. I thought that I had previously mentioned them and explained their relation to myself and each other, but perhaps not. So I will explain: Louis is from Germany and is staying in Botton for a year. His girlfriend Lisa was here visiting him for two weeks but has now returned to Germany.
The second thing is a question of my language and use of expletives in my writing. It should be known to readers that I am using this blog rather like a diary, and my choice of words is my own. For those of you more delicate of word and speech, I ask that you do not judge me, and remember that in this day and age such words are likely to spout from the mouth an eighteen year old girl. Words placed neatly as these are far too precise and proper for one who finds propriety highly overrated. I hope this clarification helps to settle any feathers I may have ruffled and soothed any feelings of discomfort; do be warned that the language you have encountered is certain to continue, as it would hardly be appropriate for these words to be anyone's but my own.

With warmest regards,

Robin (a.k.a John Steinbeck's biggest fan)


Woke up this morning feelin' the feelings one gets from being run over by a rather large vehicle. I got up and found Paule and said "Hey Paule?" and she was braiding Emily's hair and not looking at me and said, "Good morning, how are you?" and then she looked up at me and said, "Oh! You are sick. You look terrible." I was really relieved when she told me to go back to bed and then brought me some tea. I was slightly worried that there would be some sort of "Arrr, when we yorkshire people get sick we take a cold shower and a shot o' brandy and get ta work!"

So now I'm laying in bed, as I have been all day. Slept for a while, read some Steinbeck. I'm pissed that today is the day my body chose to be ill--on the farm today they're rounding up all the sheep and checking their feet for foot rot. I really wanted to do that. :(

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh yay.

So just for a quick update before I fall asleep, now that Lisa is gone, Louis is way friendlier. I thought about it and realized that Lisa probably would have felt jealous or protective if Louis had chatted with me a lot. But now he is super chatty and friendly and we will be great friends. I very much enjoy my routine now of working in the food centre and teaching Angelica english and having fun with Stephanie and then working on the farm in the afternoon with the boys (Justin the farmer, Louis, Luke and Neil the two villagers). Neil is the one who talks non-stop, which does get old really fast, especially when he continues to tell you things even though you tell him that he has already told you something. Luke is a bit annoying with his incoherent ramblings, but I really wouldn't mind so much if he didn't seem to follow me around a bit...that's a little creepy. Today he had an epileptic fit--I didn't even know he was epileptic. We were walking down the road and all the sudden he made this big yelling sound and I figured he was just making a noise for funsies, but then I noticed Justin (who is also his house father) hovering over him and taking the hedge clippers from him. He guided Luke over to the hillside and Luke layed down and put his hands on his face and moaned for a bit, and then he was fine. Louis explained it to me later on: he doesn't have grand mal seizures and shake like crazy or anything, and he makes that loud noise before it happens, so people can lay him down while he has the fits. And the fits themselves are sort of internalized brain fits I think. Fascinating, and a bit scary. Anyway, so my schedule is really nice, the only thing I dont like is...meal times i guess. Every meal is partly enjoyable because the villagers can be very funny without even trying to be and we all laugh together, but then Nick will flip a shit over Emily getting mustard on the table or Anthony trying to sneak in a third cup of tea or something. And then it gets all tense and bad. And then of course, there's when I do something wrong and the house parents are super irratating about it and treat me like a child when really I have given them no reason to do so. And the need to be proper all the time drives me insane. Everyone who knows me knows I have like zero table manners...I fart loudly and burp when I want to and say bizarre things and its all wel and good and funny at home, but here I dont even do those things and I somehow manage to get myself into trouble! I think Nick and Paul are just...I dunno, old? Things at the farmhouse seemed a bit more relaxed when I went there for lunch. But it's hard to compare one meal to all of this. I'll ask Louis about it.



Well that happened sooner than I thought it would. At lunch, when we were passing the plates back to Paule so she could put them on the trolley and the fruit plates were coming round I started whistling softly. Paule looked up and said, "Who is whistling?" And I thought she was going to compliment my mad whistling skills, but when I said it was me she shook her head and said, "No, that is not good table manners." Well excuuuuze me! I hate all this fucking manners shit!! I get that we have to set a good example for the villagers, okay? I fucking get it. I dont have a problem with it. I did it all the time at school. So that pissed me off. Then I ate a kiwi and went to grab a little apple from the fruit basket and Nick said, "I'm sorry Robin, but you've already had one. Look around, does anyone else have a second piece?" If anyone ever wants me to punch them in the face and they wat to get me really angry really fast, just be really condescending. And I will punch you in seconds. I was practically shaking with rage when I washed up, and David distracted me by asking about saloons and cowboys in America. After washing up I went into the living room for tea and Nick approached me and started saying how, in case I was confused about why he had reprimanded me earlier, we must always set a good example. I was staring into my tea and stirring it rather aggressively. Paule was sitting there as was David, but I kept staring and stirring and said, "Yeah, I GET IT. It's not the reasoning I have a problem with. It's that when you correct me you have a tendency to be incredibly condescending. I'm not a villager." And he seemed...kind of impressed that i said something. And he told me that i should always tell him when he is condescending because he may not realize that he's doing it. Then I read the newspaper and hated on Sarah Palin with David, who kept calling her Sarah Johnson and that she's a daft bird.

Gettin Mah Sing On

So I've been going to Honey Bee Hall almost every night and playing the piano. I'm not getting any better really (I still can't use both hands at once) but it's good to sing out loud and feel like no one is listening so I can be all secure and stuff. The other night I left my laptop on the kitchen counter when I came back (I bring it to the Hall so I can use chords i've found) and then I went out again to keep Molly company for a bit, and when I came back there was a note from Nick saying he had taken my laptop to my room for me. So then last night he saw me coming back with my laptop and he gave me this big lecture about leaving it on the counter. I am getting so sick of these lectures. Sometimes I'm like, okay I totally understand why I need to do things this way, but then he's so condescending I can't stand it! I'm like, okay I'm not a villager, geez. He can be soooo snippy it really gets on my nerves. I think pretty soon I'm gonna have to ask him to not talk to me like that. I wonder how that will go....

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Sarah Palin was five minutes away from my house. Way Fruit Farm will be cursed.

In case you're wondering what the hell i'm talking about:

Ew ew ew ew ew people are effing morons.

This is What I Will Look Like if I Continue to Eat at the Farm

No for real I think I just gained ten pounds.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Like a Night Club for Senior Citizens

A very nice day. I totally missed breakfast this morning because I slept through both my alarm and the bell...that's a first! I was a bit surprised that no one woke me up, but it was fine. I ge the impression that snacking is not allowed, which makes sense, because if the villagers see you snacking they will think it's okay for them to root around in the fridge whenever they please, and then all hell would break loose. So i was very sneaky and just went into the larder (a.k.a pantry) and got some rice crackers with jam and muesli. Then I did the usual Saturday morning chores, helping Emily clean her room and organizing David and Anthony's closets and cleaning the sinks and my own room. Katherine is awesome. I really love having a younger person around who likes to have fun with everyone and says things like, "right, brilliant," all the time. Too bad she's leaving on Sunday. Maybe I should attempt to convince her to stay...

For lunch I went to Tour House where Angelica lives. Another girl, Cornelia, from Germany, lives there as well. In between translating with Angelica, Cornelia and I had some nice conversations. She also thought there would be more "togetherness" with the co-workers, so it was nice to know someone shares my opinions and thoughts. I think we will be good friends.

After lunch I went to the library and read an ecology magazine and found Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, a book I have wanted to read for a long time. I got absorbed in my reading and was late to the coffee bar. On the weekends different houses run the coffe bar, and today was our house's day. When I arrived, Mycha (Meeka, the other American) and Nastia were sitting on a bench with Ned (I think I mentioned him, the really funny villager who is non-stop hilarity) and I said hi, and Mycha said, "You're late." It was kinda unfriendly, and I think Nastia noticed cuz she gave me a somewhat encouraging smile. I figured there would be a few people in the coffee bar...holy crap was I wrong. The whole VILLAGE was in the coffee bar. Phil was behind the counter with David and Stephanie was washing dishes and there was a line of at least 15 people waiting and 30 more sitting around sipping tea and munching biscuits (cookies) and talking and jumping around and reading newspapers--it was madness! I felt so bad for being late! I hadn't thought it would be such a big deal, this coffee bar! So I started taking orders as fast as I could, but it was so awful and nerve-racking because A. I'm totally horrible at math, even simple adding, and I hadn't done addition in months anyway! and B. I didn't know where anything was or how much things cost--only some thigns were labeled, and C. I didn't recognize any of the money! I need to sit down and study it! There's a two pound coin, a one pound coin, and a fifty, twenty, ten, five, two and one pence coin! And they are all sorts of shapes and sizes, it's ridiculous. But I survived. And it was really nice to hear some villagers yelling "HI ROBIN!" over the din. And I introduced myself to a few more villagers who found my name quite amusing. But this time instead of thinking it was a boy's name, they compared me to a bird. It was very cute.

Now I'm bloggin (obvi) and I think before supper I will go sit in the barn with Molly and read. Last night when I went to put ehr back in her stall I sat down in the hay and very nearly fell asleep. The hay was so warm and Molly was being so cute and jumping on my was lovely. So I'll have to be careful I dont fall asleep and miss supper as well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Molly is Effing Cute


Just got smacked in the eye by a cow's tail. Probably the most painful thing that can happen to your eyeball. But hey, I get out of farm work for the next two hours. I had a nice conversation with Katherine a few minutes ago...she's standing in for Paule while she's away. She's really nice and chill and friendly and witty. I wish she was here for longer. She used to live in Honey Bee Nest but she had some sort of falling out with Justin and his wife (the House Parents) and lived in Bracken for a few weeks. She says the stress of the situation made her ill or something and she had to leave and be in the hospital for a bit and now she's back just for the few days Paule is absent.
Angelica and I talked a lot in the Food Centre this morning, working on her English and my Spanish. I taught her the difference between "to" and "too" and "know" and "know." When you're teaching someone Englsih you start to realize how hard it would be to learn. In Spanish, the verb conocer means to know a person and saber is the verb used when your talking about knowing facts. But in English one uses the same word for both contexts. And things like weight and wait, which sound exactly the same in a sentence and you have to understand the whole context of the sentence to know which one is being used. Yeesh. But she learns really fast and I think she'll be fine. I'm having lunch with her tomorrow in Tour, the house I was originally supposed to live in. And on Sunday I'm eating at Honey Bee Nest. So I'll get out of the house a little. Which is good, cuz I'm very comfortable to lay in my room all afternoon (in the mornings we clean) and read and be a hermit.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bracken House

The View From the Top

A Better View from My Window

I Found a Cool Tree


Sheep Have Big Tails

Chickens, etc

There's No Such Thing as a Bad View

Big Baby Rufus

This One is for Dad

A fountain in the Inner Gardens

I Think I Will Name Her Penny

<3 Yorkshire

Phil and David at Lunch

Look Who Greeted Me in London

The View From My Window

My Room

Chris Eats an Apple


Yesterday on our co-worker tour when we visited the food centre I thought, "thank god I don't work here this looks so boring and awful." And at supper Paule told me I would be working in the food centre every morning. Forever. Coooool. I started coughing up a storm last night and this morning I slept right through the breakfast bell and Phil had to wake me. I hurt all over. I don't know if it's from the farm work or the apple picking, or the kids jumping all over me and making me give them piggy back rides...but god am I sore. After breakfast I changed Emily and Stephanie's sheets and made their beds for them and then set off for my new job. Five minutes in I realized I scored. Working in the food centre is the wonderful kind of monotony. Wiping and drying jars of jam. Tea break. Putting labels on jars. The end. But the main reason I scored is because Angelica, the girl from Columbia who speaks no English, works there every morning too! I was really insecure about my Spanish speaking abilities at first because I was sure I would butcher every sentence, but then I thought, wait even if I suck at it, she's gonna love that someone speaks Spanish. And boy did she! She was so nice and really greatful that she could talk to someone, and I was suprised that I actually understood everything she said. Sometimes I would have to ask ehr to repeat thing slower and more clearly though. But we established that I would only speak in Spanish and she would only speak in English so we can both practice. I'm teaching her how to say things, and I plan on writing down some helpful translations for her.

The rest of the day was pretty normal, except that at lunch Nick told us that a man who often worked in Botton had died. He created some sort of special sewer system for the village and I think he had family living here as well. So tonight there was a special gathering in the church, and Nick insisted that everyone attend, even though I never met him. But I was glad I went. I even squeezed out a few suprising tears when an old lady started playing the harp. I kept thinking, "Am i crying just because I'm supposed to be sad?" But then I realized I was sad because everyone else was. But people were actually rather cheerful. Hm.

On the farm in the afternoon we pulled out bracken and weeds from among more hawthorn trees dividing two fields, then moved to the other side of the dale to rid a hillside of briars and nettles. It was very satisfying work, but I ended up rubbing my whole arm in nettles and damn do thsoe suckers burn! Its like the stinging nettles we have in PA times a million. I rubbed duckweed and yarrow on it and it helped. Louis and Lisa speak to each other in German all the time and Luke and Neil are pretty annoying...Luke follows me around a bit and stares at me intsead of working, and neil works but talks incessantly. Like, those of you who think I talk a lot/too should meet Neil. The man puts me to shame. I think Louis and Lisa think I'm a little strange...or maybe not, they're just very exclusive. My favorite thing right now is hanging out with Molly...who is a cat. And Rufus the bull and Ice the bullock and the calf that I haven't named yet. I named Ice (he's solid white if you hadn't guessed) but not Rufie.

Katherine, another co-worker, arrived last night as well. She's really nice, and I think she's in her late twenties. She was on holiday for a few weeks and now she's back I think just until Sunday when Paule comes back from Amsterdam (she left this morning).

So that's all for now. Time for a shower and bed. I smell like barn.


PS I tried to put up a picture but the internet is so awful it might not happen :(

The Cows Know Their Names and the People Might Not

Whoa. That was intense. I’ll start from the beginning:
We drove to Howard and Alison’s and dropped off Lucy, and then went on to the airport and listened to the Phillies beat the…Dodgers? Brewers? I forget which one. Regardless, mom freaked out. We made it to the airport and checked in while dad maneuvered around the ridiculous roads to find a place to park. A really nice security guard helped us find a place to eat—the ritzy restaurant attached to the ritzy Marriot Hotel. My last American meal was a chilled salmon salad…yum. Then it was off to security to say goodbye and hug and cry and then get confused and flustered by the huffy security guy who took his job a little too seriously. I waited with a bunch of British people at gate A17 for a while and listened to one guy say he think McCain is going to win by a hair. And then he said he didn’t know anything about Sarah Palin and I wanted so badly to go over to him and say “Cool, well let me tell you…she is the devil.” But then I realized he couldn’t vote anyway, so what was the point? I bought a toothbrush in a little airport store and then waited some more. Eventually the plane came and we all got on and whoa was I nervous. But nervous in the whole first-time-on-a-rollercoaster kind of way—like I had these “great, I’m gonna die” thoughts, but the rest of me was like this is just crazy and I should enjoy myself whilst I destroy the environment with this gigantic carbon footprint. And boy did I! Once we were over the Atlantic I asked the beverage guy what the legal drinking age is over international waters, and he said eighteen, so I had myself a bottle of chardonnay. And THEN they didn’t have any gluten free food whatsoever, so this nice flight attendant lady brought me some fruit from the first class. So I had wine and fruit. And THEN I watched Pride and Prejudice. I mean seriously, could it BE any better? Yes. The seat next to me was empty, and there was no one behind me, so I could recline and enjoy. It was the classiest plane ride ever. But did I sleep? No. I wanted to watch the sunrise! I asked one flight attendant what time the sun would rise and gave me an estimate…that guy was so Scottish I swore he would call me lassie. But he didn’t.
So the landing was smooth and it was all great and I had no idea what do when we arrived so I just followed some girl who got off the plane in front on me and eventually I got through customs and I got my bag and met up with Robin (my cousin). I should have been starving, having only eaten a banana some grapes and a bottle of wine in seven hours, but I was too hyped up to drink and everything was bread anyway. The plan from there on out was that I would take the tube directly from Heathrow to Kings Cross, but we soon discovered that the farthest I could get from the airport was Acton Town, and from there I had to get on a different train. So I did. When I was getting off at Acton Town some guy behind me said, “Betta getta move on, we ‘aven’t got all day,” as I was struggling with my gigantic suitcase. I should have been a little offended, but his accent was so great I wasn’t. The tube to get to Kings Cross took a long time and made a lot of stops, but I had left Heathrow at 11:00 and my train from Kings Cross was at 12:30, so I felt like it would be fine. We finally got there and I was lugging my huge suitcase (and a smaller wheeled carry-on, and a bag) and there were no “lifts” in Kings Cross! A very attractive nice man carried the huge one up a flight of stairs for me. Actually several nice strong men helped me out. Only the one was rude. So eventually I get to the information desk to ask which platform the train will come to, and the man says, “Um, it’s 12:36. You missed it.” So that SUCKED. I almost burst into tears. Instead I went to the ticket place and spent £97 on another ticket. How ridiculous is that?! My original ticket was just no good, and it wasn’t even my fault! I was totally on the verge of a breakdown, and I think the ticket lady could tell. When she said £97 I lost it…I only had £60 in cash, and I had never used my credit card, so I thought I had to go get cash from a machine with it, but she asked if I wanted to just use the card, which I didn’t know I could do…because I don’t know shit about banking. So, overpriced ticket in hand, I went to stand with everyone else in front of this gigantic board that tells you where your train comes in, and when it showed up, we all ran to the platform and I hit like four people with my suitcase. When I ran over a lady’s foot I turned around and apologized and she probably saw how horrible I looked because she said, “It’s okay honey, you’re doing a great job!”
So I made it onto the train and found a spot for my ridiculous luggage and sat down next to a very nice refined looking old gentleman. I couldn’t have picked a better place to sit. This guy was the coolest. It was like meeting James Herriot. It was one of those times you just look around and go, “Yo, my karma rocks.” He was a retired professor at Oxford—and guess what he taught. Biochemistry! I said that I love biology but I was never very good at the whole molecule thing and the only part I ever liked was the electron transport system and cell respiration. And lo and behold, that’s what he specialized in! In fact, he has just come from a dinner party where he had met the son of the man who discovered the Krebs Cycle! For those of you who don’t know what that is…well I won’t get into it, but it’s a big deal. So then this guy told me everything I needed to know about England. We talked about the flora and fauna of England, the politics, how one gets to be a duchess, and so on. And plus, big bonus, he’s a Quaker! He was so helpful, and he knew his way around the train system, so he knew when we had to get out of our seats and move to ones that were reserved for different stops. So if you’re reading this Ian, thanks for being so nice!
The train to Darlington had free wireless, so I was able to check my email, hoping for one from Angelica saying she would pick me up in Danby, but instead I received one from someone named Paule Poole, who said there was a change in the plans and I would be living in Bracken House with his family. The letter ALSO said that they didn’t know which day I was coming! So I was convinced I was going to be stranded in Danby and have to ask random people if they could drive me to Botton.
After a few changes I eventually got to Middlesborough, and after waiting there for a chilly hour or so, I went on to Danby. At this point I hadn’t slept in what felt like two days, and though I was exhausted, I was completely wired with adreneline and a determination to be able to handle the task at hand. When I got to Danby, the greatest thing happened. There was a girl waiting there, and she asked me if I too was going to Botton! She had arranged for someone to pick her up, so I could get a ride! I wasn’t going to be stranded! That was a huge relief. So we went with these two people in this funny little car and the guy drove really fast on these thin little streets and Sheila and I were both convinced we were going to pick off a villager with every hairpin turn. The guy dropped off his passenger whose name I never got, and Sheila was next, and then we pulled up to Bracken. I could see everyone through the window sitting down to dinner and this lady stood up and came out to the car and hugged me and I was thinking, “wait who is this?” It turns out Paule is a woman! And I was hugging Paule. So we carried my bags inside and she showed me my room upstairs and it wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was perfect. It’s really kind of like a dorm room. Desk, shelves (more than I know what to do with) closet, bedside table, bed, and a big comfy chair. I’ll try to put pictures up at some point, but the internet is so slow and horrible and I don’t have my camera chord with me…mom sent it two days ago, so it should be here by Friday.
So then Paule took me downstairs and into the dining room and there was a table full of people all staring at me. A girl with Down syndrome, Emily, stood right up and came over to shake my hand and give me a hug, and everyone else nodded and waved. There was bread and rice cakes on the table with all kinds of toppings like jam and pickles and butter and mustard and tomatoes and Paule said I had come just at the tail end of the meal and gave me some tea and I ate a few rice crackers. I assumed they had already eaten a main course. I was introduced to everyone, and I was fine, if not a bit overwhelmed. Then Paule gave me leave to go unpack and get settled in. I fell asleep pretty quickly, but woke up around five o’ clock and sat in my chair to watch the sun rise. I went back to sleep eventually but I kept worrying about the fact that I hadn’t been able to get ahold of mom and dad to tell them I was alive.
Paule woke me up at noon on Friday and I went down to lunch. For the first few days I was a bit confused about who exactly lived here, because people were always popping round for tea or lunch or supper. Everything was really a whirlwind sort of experience, and some of it was really uncomfortable. Most of the bad parts were learning what to do and how to act and what to say and all that. Paule would hurriedly explain things to me in the kitchen like where things go and all these instructions and then I would mess them up and she would be sort of exasperated with me and in my head I was like, “Geez, it’s not my fault you’re a little neurotic.” But now I know what to do and I really like Paule and it’s all fine and good. She has been really stressed out because she has had to tell Emily’s parents that she might need to leave Botton because she doesn’t do the work or like the work and she needs constant supervision and attention, which is not really something that Botton can provide. Emily’s parents are being totally irrational and a bit threatening and hating on Paule when really I’m sure they’re just terrified of having to deal with Emily themselves. The main problem with Emily is that she antagonizes the other villagers. She knows exactly what buttons to push for each one of them. For instance, David, another villager in the house, hates being called Dave, so she calls him Dave. David is autistic I think…he loves the Beatles and we talk about them a lot, and he has been really sick with a cold and a terrible cough, so we have to make sure he’s not smoking because that would make it worse. He’s really pretty normal, he just says things that are super off-topic a lot and repeats things and doesn’t make direct eye contact. The spectrum is really wide here…some people are really obviously mentally handicapped, but with some it’s hard to tell if they’re a co-worker or a villager!
Friday afternoon Paule gave Sheila and me a map and we walked all around the village and oriented ourselves with the surroundings. We met a few villagers, and Sheila got a chance to practice her English, which is pretty poor. We also helped bring in the cows at Honey Bee Nest Farm, the farm in our neighborhood. The cows all have names like Sybilla and White Bean and Hazel and they respond to their names…it’s so cute. On Saturday I went for a hike up to the top of the dale in the morning and another hike all the way south to the pond on this beautiful trail with my iPod set on the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. Helllzz yeah! On the way back I met two villagers, Jane and Owen. I think I walked about five miles in all.
On Sunday, Paule and I sat down and talked about how things work and what the schedule is like and she told me about all the villagers in the house. So here’s a run-down:

David: I think he’s 50-something, he’s autistic, loves the Beatles, smokes, has had a bad cough since I came, works in the woodwork shop

Anthony: I think he’s in his 60’s, he’s all kinds of crazy, I don’t know if there is a word for how his mind works, he “works” in the woodwork shop and is known for his laziness, can be very funny and quick but sort of accidentally, calls me dear and my darling, and he gets really fussy and upset if he doesn’t know what’s going on but once he realizes everything is fine he apologizes profusely

Stephanie: 27, has epilepsy and autism, is very quiet and will stand near you and not say anything and it can be a little awkward until you realize that she has no idea that it’s awkward, loves Abba and Mamma Mia!, has a big family that cares about her a lot especially her two sisters, she can be hard to understand sometimes

Felicity: 45, has Down syndrome, is incredibly hard to understand, she may as well be speaking French for all I can comprehend, she has two huge teeth and not much else, we have to make sure she exercises and doesn’t gain weight, and she doesn’t go to sleep very well, she wanders around for hours at night

Katie: 45, has autism and very mild epilepsy, is the sweetest and kindest of everyone in the house, and is really easy, meaning she requires very minimal care and supervision

Emily: 24, has Down syndrome and is the most difficult member of the household, picks on others, talks to herself a lot, needs constant supervision and attention, including physical care like bathing and teeth brushing

So that’s everyone. Paule and her husband Nick are good house parents, but they can be a little strict sometimes. I totally understand that we have to set a good example and I need to do things correctly, but when they correct me it can be very stern and reprimand-y. Nick gets especially frustrated, mostly with Emily. He has Lymes disease (sp?) and I think it’s more serious than what Dylan or mom had because they caught it very late, so he’s tired a lot and has a short temper and little tolerance for Emily’s lack of competence. But sometimes he’s very funny, and it really depends on the situation. I mostly only see him at meals anyway.

And Phil! Phil is wonderful—the true Yorkshire man. He talks a lot and has a splendidly gruff accent that is easily understandable. He has a wonderful relationship with all the villagers; everyone loves him because he’s so funny. He pokes fun at the villagers in a way that they can understand it and they play along.

Monday I started working in the house in the morning, cleaning the windows and working with Jane (a different one than the one I met on my walk—there are tons of Anne’s and Jane’s and Katherine’s in Botton), who made a wonderful homemade cappuccino at tea break. In the afternoon I went 20 yards to the farm and met Justin, the farmer, Luke, a villager, and Neil, who I think is a villager whose mental handicap is a complete inability to pick up on social cues that tell him to stop talking. Also there was Louis, and his girlfriend Lisa, who is here on her holiday to visit him. We pulled grass out from under some hawthorn trees for three hours, then brought the cows in, then had tea break, then while Neil and Luke did the milking, Justin took the rest of us to unload some bracken from the tractor. We unloaded it, then climbed in the wagon. As we started moving I heard this awful clanking sound and we all jumped out and Lisa discovered a huge metal tine stuck in the tire. We pulled it out and the tire hissed like crazy…we made it back up to the farm but the tractor is out of commission for a few days.

Yesterday morning I helped out around the house for a bit, and in the afternoon, on the farm, I scraped manure off the walls of the byre for two hours with Luke and this Japanese girl who speaks absolutely no English, and then went into the cow barn where Louis and Lisa were mucking the calf stalls. There wasn’t a lot of room, so I couldn’t be whole lot of help, but I tried. I think Louis and Lisa thought I was being lazy, and that was really frustrating because in the cow byre I was working my ass off to clean the walls and Luke and the other girl totally slacked off.

Justin found a young cat on the farm and has been raising it in an empty stall. I went in to visit it and noticed that its abdomen was completely distended and it hadn’t touched its food (mashed up raw meat). What it had eaten was about a gallon of milk in two days…and most people don’t know that cats are actually a bit lactose intolerant. I think cat’s milk has less lactose than cow’s milk or something. So I got some dry cat food from Paule and started hand feeding the cat, whom I named Molly. I have taken it upon myself to take care of Molly, and she absolutely loves it. I think she’s really lonely in that stall by herself. Maybe we should put her with the calf…

Tuesday night I went to the coffee bar in the village for the co-workers dinner and a movie about Botton. The Foundations course takes place twice a week and lasts until December. I’m not gonna lie…it was kinda awful. I had to walk up to everyone, tables full of people, and introduce myself, which makes me really uncomfortable. Everyone has been here for a few weeks and they all know each other and have formed groups and I’m all alone. So that sucks. There is another American girl here, and she’s from Pennsylvania as well. So you’re thinking, oh wow small world. Yeah, smaller than you think…she’s from Kimberton and we have friends in common! She seems to be good friends with Nastia, who is from Germany. Nastia is very friendly and nice. Meeka is a little less openly warm, but she has also been really sick, so maybe when she’s feeling better she’ll be more approachable. I went to sleep feeling a little hopeless and disappointed…I thought it would be easier to make friends here and we would be this big happy group and not a bunch of little cliques…and I’m not in one.

Today was a good day for meeting people. In the morning, as part of the Foundations course, we were taken around the village in a van (lorry?) and visited some of the workshops and met lots of villagers. I met some really nice girls from…I think Japan, possibly Korea. There are people from both places, and I forgot to ask, and I can’t assume one or the other.
I came back to Bracken for lunch, and then Justin took Louis, Lisa, Sheezay (the girl who speaks no English), and me up to Old Botton Farm to go apple picking. A whole group of co-workers and villagers gathered there and then got into various min-buses and vans and headed off to Ampleforth Abbey Orchard. I met Laura’s cousins, Valeska and Ben, and their four children. I spent a large portion of the afternoon entertaining two of them, Phillip and Christopher, and I also chatted with Andreas, a guy from Germany. He is…I think about 26. He came here for a year four years ago and has returned for another. He smokes a lot, as a lot of people here do…and he was really nice! I was able to talk with him really easily and not feel like I was forcing it or annoying him or anything. So it was nice to make a friend. Unfortunately he lives on the other side of Botton, so we might not see each other that much, but he lives with Valeska and Ben, and Valeska and I totally hit it off and she invited me over for Sunday lunch. She is super nice.

So that’s about it. I’m glad my computer is finally working; I’ve missed having my music! The outlet adapters I bought weren’t the right kind, but Paule found one for me. That’s all for now…sorry its so ridiculously detailed, I have a terrible memory and when I forget all of this I want to be able to read this and go ohhh yeahhhh that’s what happened.

Peace out homies.

^ I can’t say that here. No one would know what I was saying.

P.S They’ve been really cool about my food allergies and I eat a lot of rice cakes. Meals in general are very different here…breakfast is toast (or in my case, rice cakes) with jam and butter and muesli (a special box of gluten free muesli for me), and lunch is a huge meal of various foods, mostly veggies, but also more bread and rice cakes, and dinner is bread with various toppings like Marmite, the grossest condiment I’ve ever seen. It’s yeast paste. It tastes horrid. And certain people seem to love it. It’s hard to adjust to eating so little for dinner. I’m hungry by bedtime, but there’s no snacking. Sometimes I sneak a few slices of cheese during the day. Oh and we have tea breaks at 10:30 and 4:30, and tea with every meal. Yum. I have eaten some pork, and I think soon I will try some bunny. They’re everywhere here, like prairie dogs in the west. People go “ferreting,” which is actually a pretty horrible little sport…they send ferrets into a rabbit hole and they kill everything…babies included, and then bring out what they caught. Neil is going to make some rabbit stew, so I’ll try some. It is sustainable, so I have to suppress my animal loving side and accept it…and maybe even enjoy it! Maybe. I do feel bad about eating meat…poor piggies. And bunnies. ☹ Aw nuts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the picture up there?

that's what it looks like out my window. seriously. i'm working on the biggest blog post patient! :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Whoa. Five more minutes at home. Hope I packed everything. Hope I sit next to someone cool on the plane. Hope I don't get stranded at a train station and have to live in the streets. Hope I like Yorkshire. Psh. Not liking Yorkshire, what a silly thought. Really the only things I'm worried about are all the logistical things that could go wrong...and the fact that I might starve for ten months because I just found out I'm allergic to just about everything except fruits and veggies. We'll just have to wait and see pudding. What a weird expression.