Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My husband almost didn't make it to our wedding.

I remember the day that I figured it out.

It was May, shortly after my birthday, and less than three months until our wedding date. We had been struggling to understand why we hadn't yet received any information regarding our Green Card application and after hours of online research and several phone calls we still weren't getting anywhere.

I remember that I was taking care of some admin while the little girl that I nannied for was asleep. The laptop was open on the kitchen counter and I was browsing yet another immigration advice website when I finally found the answer that I had been looking for. The website explained that the process that we had thought was almost complete was actually going to take another several months, if not years, and that my husband might not be allowed into the United States until that process was complete.

Basically - my worst fear had come true.

For those of you who have had the good fortune to avoid ever acquiring any knowledge of visa procedures, there are several, complicated steps to the the US Green Card application - including a pre-application process during which you must prove the legitimacy of your relationship. The ability to apply for a Green Card depends entirely on the approval of this pre-application paperwork and this first step can take six months or more.

To make matters worse, until an application is processed, applicants are advised not to travel to the United States, because they may be denied entry based on their declared intent to immigrate. In other words, once you have made it known that you are trying to move to the US, you are very unlikely to be allowed in, even for a visit, until your application has been approved, because they are afraid that you will enter early and stay.

I don't know that I had ever before experienced the level of immediate despair that I felt in that moment. I am, generally, quite a rational person and while I am no stranger to disappointment, I am usually able to maintain a certain sense of composure, safe in the knowledge that there will be some way to make things better. In that moment, though, I felt hopeless.

In the past, our visa experiences, while nerve-wracking, had been fairly straightforward and manageable, but this time there was no guarantee and, terrifyingly, everything to lose. There was every chance that in two-and-a-half months time when my husband tried to enter the country, he would be turned away at customs and forced to return to the UK. Everything was ready - the dresses, the venue, the caterer, the DJ - everything. If we cancelled, the deposits would be gone and the signed contracts would mean that we would probably have to pay the remainder of what we owed.

The bad thing - the thing that we are always worried is going to happen, but never actually does - had happened. 

I remember collapsing to the ground. Dramatic, I know and I swear that this isn't a normal reaction for me (at least not since I was seven), but I have never felt so suddenly distraught or so utterly alone. I wanted to phone my husband - to share the news and seek reassurance - but the time difference meant I wouldn't be able to speak to him for hours. 

So I sat there on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down my face, consumed by this revelation, clutching it to my chest like a terrible secret and desperately hoping that the little girl upstairs would sleep just a little bit longer so that I could pull myself together.

Most of you will already know the ending to this story. Plus it is insinuated by the title, so I won't bore you with all of the details of the in-between or stretch it out as if it were a mystery. In the end, my husband passed through customs essentially unchallenged and the wedding went on, as planned. Our decision not to cancel the wedding wasn't made with any sort of assurance or professional guidance. We simply weighed our options and decided to take the risk. We knew that if we cancelled, we would be bound to the payments anyway, and while we didn't want to inconvenience any of our guests at the last minute, we felt that they all loved and supported us and that if the worst did come to pass, that they would understand.

Despite our confidence in the decision that we had made, the remainder of the time leading up to the wedding still felt like a sort of limbo. We had done everything by the book - always. We had the cleanest of records to prove it and, still, we were left with absolutely no control over something that we should have been celebrating as one of our first ventures together as adults and as partners.

The day he arrived at the airport.

This experience is one that I have wanted to write about ever since we made the decision to proceed with the wedding planning, although I don't think I would have been able to go through with it if things had ended differently. I haven't shared this part of our journey with many people because at the time it took everything in me just to get on with things, all the while mentally preparing myself for any possible disappointment.

We knew when we chose to get married that our differing nationalities would always be a factor in our relationship and that our journey would not be without it's own particular bumps and bruises. I'll admit, though, that with all of our careful planning and consideration, this was not an experience that we foresaw.

Although I have always known I would write this post, it has been delayed and delayed for one reason or another, but recently we have been encountering more visa-related obstacles and the timing just felt right. There are certain things that shouldn't be difficult for us that will be simply because we weren't born in the same country. Each time the disappointment is raw and real, but looking back on that experience makes me feel more and more confident that we will emerge from this turbulent time successful and stronger. If we can make it through the uncertainty of those couple of months then we can make it through anything.

I believe in Love.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

We will never forget.

Photo by Ira Block - compliments of @natgeo

15 years ago I was sitting in an eighth-grade classroom next to my teacher and classmates. All of our eyes were glued to a box television - the old-school kind, perched atop a metal frame with wheels on the bottom so that it could be easily moved about. On the screen two thin skyscrapers, glinting silver in the late summer sunlight, poured steady streams of grey-black smoke into the sky. And then the first tower fell.

For all of those who were lost on that day - in planes, in stairwells, in an attempt to help others - we will never forget. For all of those who were affected by the hysteria that followed 9/11, for those who were beaten, for those who were bombed, for those who would be forced to endure years of hatred and discrimination because of where they were born or what they looked like or how they worshiped, we will never forget.

Let us not turn on each other, but raise each other up in times of suffering.

Love is the only answer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summers End + Enchanted Forest.

A little photographic reflection on this season's adventures as we near the end of summer (more on my utter dismay and devastation regarding that fact later).

Take me back to the Lakes. Take me back to the trees and the hills, to the meadows, to the seas, where the air is clear and quiet is a gently pervasive, and ever-present king.

Take me back.


Tried to get a photo of O, but my lens refused to focus on anything other than that wood.

Entirely enchanted.

Until next time.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Atop the fell, into the tarn.

Ever since I moved over here, my (now) husband has been insisting that there are mountains in England. Despite his obvious earnestness, I always felt slightly skeptical. The area around where we live is so....flat. Where were these mountains? Why hadn't I seen them? 

The prospect of being able to hike and explore without having to leave the country intrigued me, as one of the things that I had mourned the most when making the decision to move was the loss of the vast and varied geography of the states. 

You can see why, then, when we decided to spend our summer in the UK and, more specifically, in the Lake District, I was immediately excited. I had heard so much about this part of the country - the network of footpaths being the definitive pinnacle of English "walking" (basically hiking) experiences, while the landscape has provided inspiration for many poets, authors and artists - most famously, William Wordsworth.

I wanted adventure and, well, England delivered. Adventure and beauty and much, much more.

This was day 1:

Overlooking Coniston Water.


Acting a fool in the tarn.

The Lake District is breathtaking no matter how you choose to explore it, but it certainly is an advantage to have some locals as your well as your most gracious hosts and superb chefs. 

How spoiled we were. 

More photos to come.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I wish to be in the West Country.

What could possibly be more - more relaxing, more romantic, more the embodiment of summer than the little towns that sit beside the sea?


That is the answer you were looking for. Absolutely nothing.

We hadn't planned on visiting the seaside during this holiday, but the sudden remembrance of an annual party and a last-minute invitation to the coast were all that was needed to spark an impromptu trip westward. 

First to Bristol - all sloping streets and ancient docks - where the modern and historic intertwine and one feels a certain kinship with pirates.

Then onto Devon, which I am becoming more and more convinced is actually one of the best bits of England. 

Driving there is like navigating a labyrinth - zipping around narrow, winding roads, each turn like a secret avenue leading to an unknown destination. All of this bordered by trees that tower over and lean in to form leafy green tunnels, only finally opening up to reveal rolling farmland, peaceful villages or the impossibly vast and spectatcularly blue ocean.

My, oh my! I had forgotten how much I love the West Country. 

Oh joy and peace and everlasting summer bliss! If I could, I would never leave.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Cue the late morning sunbathing and midweek barbecues.

What a fabulously sunny couple of weeks we have been having over here! I'll admit that at times I have been disappointed with English summers in the past - too much rain, not enough heat - but the sun has obviously decided to make up for it this year. The timing couldn't be better either as it has coincided perfectly with the end of term and onset of the summer holidays - cue the late morning sunbathing and midweek barbecues!

Photos taken whilst on a Sunday walk in Panshanger Park.

Yesterday was the last day of school, so as you can imagine I am feeling ultra relaxed today. While I have a lot of grand plans and ideas for the next six weeks, I am trying not to rush things. 

The immediate 'To Do' list looks a little like this:

1) Drink coffee

2) Catch-up on my favorite blogs

3) Stroll through town (if I can be bothered)

4) Drink more coffee

5) Lounge outside

6) Lounge inside

I'll let you know how I get on with it ;)


Thursday, July 14, 2016

A memory, a hope, and some vows.

Summer fields.

Almost a month since I have posted anything here! 


And not even a traveling holiday to blame it on. Just pure, ol' fashioned busyness and life getting in the way, as per usual.

So, what has happened since then?

Well, I officially saw my Year 11s out in style - first with a fabulous prom (if I do say so myself) and then with a fun and emotionally charged Leavers Day celebration, which involved not enough brownies to satisfy 60 teenagers, one million selfies, and a speech during which I just barely managed not to cry. [That was my own, by the way, and I am not good at crying and speaking at the same time...or looking would not have been good...]

#notme #itsokhanna

In the midst of all of that I was starting to work with the group that I will be taking on next year, when they go into Year 8. It's been a pretty quick transition during which I have already had the opportunity to meet quite a few parents, accompany some of them on a field trip, and hand out multiple detentions and reports for misbehavior (give me strength). 

Funnily enough, I seem to get these looks of pity any time I confirm that I will be working with this group next year. I know that they have a bit of a reputation around the school already, but really, it's not all that bad. 

I have known for a while now that I would probably be taking these guys on, so I have been getting to know as many of them as possible over the last couple of months and really, I like them. I definitely anticipate new challenges and a reasonable amount of stress, but I'm looking forward to working with them and really having a chance to help mold them into little citizens of society. I am hopeful.

In non-school news (because I swear I really do have a life outside of my job) this gorgeous pair got married last weekend! 

Their sweet ceremony took place in the quaintest, little village church, which just also happens to be (get this) the final resting place of one Dame Agatha Christie.

They went to town with the reception which was 1000% them and included Spanish-style tapas and Paella for dinner, a three-tier pork pie "cake" for late-night snacks, and a round of very organized, karaoke-style sing-alongs, led by a bride a groom duet.

How cute are they?!?! 

And if I thought that Leavers Day was going to be the most emotional event of the year, then boy did I have another thing coming. Guys, I cried so much! I cried at the ceremony, I cried at the speeches, heck, I welled up at the rehearsal the night before. It was an emotional day and I wasn't even the one getting married. 

People keep saying that it's once you have kids that your emotional sensitivity heightens, so i don't know what my excuse was, but I was right there with the tissues and the sniffling and the running of mascara. 

'Twas a joyous day, albeit a long one, and an adventure in a new part of the country for me. In fact, traveling for the wedding made me really excited to explore more of the UK this summer. Since we have been on a few, big vacations recently, we have decided to keep our holiday low key. There are so many places that I have yet to see, so many places that I had written off when I thought I was moving back to the states, that I jumped at the opportunity to stay local. 

We are looking forward to a few adventures and new delights, but mostly to some quiet rest and relaxation. Through it all I plan to take lots and lots of photos and to keep on building up the memories, and of course, I vow to do my best to keep posting along the way. 

[Note: I said "do my best". I don't make promises ;)]