It's been a slow couple of days. The miserable cold I caught a month ago is still lingering on, so I took Friday off to go to the doctor. Nothing they can do to help me...I just need to pump Vitamin C and rest. I tried to explain that that isn't possible until November...I have a full time job and finals looming only three weeks from now. Sleep is like chocolate to an anorexic to me. The nice nurse understood, but explained that if I didn't rest I would continue to cough and lose sleep and run at 75%. So I took her advice.
Took some effervescent C drink (like alka seltzer, except made with something that tastes like those chewable C tablets.) Drank some innocent drinks supersmoothie with power C. Took a four-hour power nap. Watched some Tivoed versions of the Sopranos and Grey's Anatomy. Slept another 12 hours.
On Saturday, I already was beginning to feel much better. So much so, I was sitting in my living room (or lounge, as people of my station call it here in England,) and realised that my house was a complete, total, utterly hopeless tip. As our friend Bette Davis would say, What a dump! Papers and textbooks everywhere, strewn about as I'd been writing WACs the last few weeks. Discarded issues of the Financial Times and the Economist. Dust as thick as powdered sugar on a delicious pan of lemon bars. So I cleaned.
Fired up the iPod. Decided I do too much shuffling, and have lost concept of the album, so browsed my music options. And there I found magic.....PODCASTS!
My friend Pam had blogged about the wonder of podcasts earlier this fall while she was doing one of her stints living in Austria. I'd taken the time to subscribe to quite a few podcasts but hadn't listened to many with my busy schedule. When I had, I'd been happy about it but it hadn't really struck me just how magical they really are. As of Saturday, I now realise that the podcast is the best thing I've discovered in a very long time.
You see, I've lived in Minnesota. And Minnesota has the best public radio, bar none, in the US. I believe I've blogged about MPR and how I listen to it online when I can. But that's dependent upon my schedule and plays through the tinny speakers of my laptop. Podcasts give me MPR in stereo.
Chances are that if you read this blog and were to live in Minnesota, you would find that one of the three MPR stations would be playing at least one hour a day in your car or home. In fact, many of you would find you listen to it more like 6 or 7 hours a day. Seriously. It rocks. They have your standard news and information programming, a FINE classical station that attracts both aficionados and indifferents, and a killer alternative station that plays everything from obscure speed metal to glam rock to Hank III to Woody Guthrie to the Andrews Sisters, depending upon the time of day. MPR is fundamentally cool, and it becomes the backdrop to tons of daily routines for Minnesotans...it's a huge withdrawal when you leave. Podcasting lets me access much of the programming I'd forgotten how much I missed, and I can play it when I want to, where I want to, without being tethered to an internet connection.
I cranked up the volume and made my way through the mess while I listened to back episodes of Fresh Air, the Motley Fool, Marketplace and the Splendid Table. When I decided to take a break for lunch and some C power, I relaxed with a little This American Life. Right now I'm listening to a music review show with a folk musician who's written an entire album of anti-Bush/anti-war music. This is great! (Both the podcast listening and this particular show.)
It's hard to explain the expat experience to someone who hasn't lived abroad. It's exhilarating, just as you'd expect it to be...new things, new people, new culture...and people like me really dig it. And while there are things you miss, you learn to deal with the unavailability of your home products...there is no good peanut butter in the UK and zip-close bags don't actually seal here, so you eat jam (conserve) and recycle the ziplocs you brought from home. It takes awhile, but you build yourself a pattern that turns the unfamiliar into home, a mix of your familiar habits and the influences of your new place. You stop missing things, learn to love the things you have here.
But when you do find comforts from your homeland, they are sweet and wonderful and you savour them in ways you couldn't imagine. They don't make you homesick. Instead, they feel like a little retreat to a time and place you've forgotten. Like spending the weekend with a dear friend you don't get to see often enough.
It sounds stupid, I know, but somehow the NPR podcasts made me feel like I'd just had a little trip home. And even though I know it's just psychological, it gave me a boost. My cough is almost gone now. It could be the C. It is likely the sleep. But maybe it's the Ira Glass, too.