One Year in America

3 years ago today, I was awarded my university degree. Soon after, I left to teach in China. Fell in love with an American woman. Spent the past part of a year back in the UK unemployed.

Then, one year ago today, I moved to California.

It’s a very odd realisation. Just a few weeks ago I was telling people I had “only been in the US 6, maybe 8 months?” That’s what it felt like. That’s what it still feels like.

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Whereas only 11 months in China felt like 5 years. I have always felt like I grew more in China, than I had done in 4 years of university.

I think California has gone by quicker than China, because the Culture Shock is less obvious. In China, every trip to the market was an adventure into the unknown. A usual daily routine I did not possess. And it was very clear where the Culture Shock was, because it was very shocking.

 

In the States on the other hand, I watch Game of Thrones with my wife, I talk movies and games to my friend, and my alien status rarely comes up. Well, compared to China at least, where you noticed when people weren’t staring at you.

However, that makes my Culture Shock in the US something much more insidious. Its Culture Fatigue instead. On occasion I’ve had to tell myself to take a break, and remember that I am actually a foreigner in a strange land. Having an American partner has definitely helped me to adjust though.

So what have I done in the past year?

Let’s take stock of the past year. I came here as a social media intern for a live video streaming company, and it amazes how quickly we take knowledge for granted, because I knew absolutely nothing about live video one year ago.

The only thing I knew was how to record video and edit it, and that someone you could do that live. I had no idea what a CDN was, how to use any of the encoding softwares necessary, what codecs or bitrate were optimal, or when you needed to use a capture card. (Neither did I know anything about keyword management, Search Engine Optimisation, UTM tracking, or how to queue up social media posts)

I’m pretty proud of the video tutorials I made while I was working there, mostly because every single one of them was a topic completely new to me. Prior to those videos, a day or two earlier before they were posted to YouTube I knew nothing about the subject.

Now, I attend a monthly video tech meetup with top engineers from YouTube, Twitch, Google and more. It was completely overhead when I first attended last August. These days…it’s still mostly over my head….But I get some of it now!

I even got to give a talk last year at their first, annual conference. That was fun, because I get to tell some of the top video engineers in the world how to actually use a camera.

If you ever use an App or webservice and think it’s awful, remember, there can be a huuuuge gap between the engineer and the actual user.

Then I got married!

A pretty solid mid-point in my first year in America.

I had proposed while on holiday for Thanksgiving in front of the Statue of Liberty, and made a comment along the lines of “This lady has watched over so many foreigners coming to this land, maybe she can watch over one more”.

Something like that at least….It’s amazing how much of the proposal and the wedding is a blur to me. Adrenaline does stuff to you.

Of course, proposing wasn’t that simple. I asked some British tourists to take our picture, and then got down on one knee under the pretence of needing to tie my shoelaces, to which my partner retorted with “No you don’t!! Get up, they’re going to take our picture”.

Perhaps “Well what’s this then?” wasn’t the best comeback

 

Oh, and you know how in movies they pull it out from their inner coat pocket in one fluid motion? Yeah, doesn’t work like that! I spent a solid minute rummaging around, before I got my wrist thoroughly wedged in there.

The wedding worked out really well too. It someone managed to come together really well. An old mentor of my wife, who’s from the same corner of this colossal country, but actually lives nearby – just so happened to be ordained to preside over weddings.

We had a few close friends. Did a little ceremony with knick knacks we had collected over the course of our relationship. We read . And said our own vows (again, that’s a bit of blur to me now). It was really nice.

Course, I messed up the reservation though.

I blame the poor design and confusing layout of every single government website EVER. So you need to make an appointment for filling out the forms, and then you have to do a ceremony wihtin 90 days.

Now, I thought you also needed to pay for space in a room, and then had to bring your own Ordainer. Turns out, what I had paid for was for the Ordainer in Residence to do the ceremony for us.

Opps.

So after we’ve filled out the forms, this awkward subject comes up, and we had to figure out where we going to do our ceremony that we’re all here for, (because the room and the Registrar person are a package deal).

“It’s really quiet up on the 4th floor” the clerk suggests, and went on to tell us where exactly we could go to not be disturbed. It was beautiful and out of the way, with all of the grandeur of San Francisco City Hall above and below us.

 

Seriously, if you’re getting married and you have a nice city hall, do it there. The staff there were the nicest government staff I’ve ever met, they must genuinely enjoy seeing all these couples coming and getting married. And there were loads of them! Maybe a dozen or more, but all at different times so it was never too crowded. Just other couples as giddy and excited as you, compliment shoes and hair. It had a real communal feel to it.

And then we had tremendous Chinese food.

All great days end with good Chinese food.

To the edge of the world

We kind of whizzed past it, but Christmas this past year was fantastic. My wife drove us to Las Vegas, where we saw Evil Dead: The Musical, we went on to the Hoover Dam, and finished up at the Grand Canyon.

It finally got it into my head how gargantuan the United States of America is.

8 Hours of desert. That was it.

I don’t think you can drive for 8 hours in the UK without winding up in the ocean. You’d probably have to drive up and down every mountain we have. This was 8 hours of pure, distilled, flat.

We’d finally reach the pass in the mountains on the horizon, pass through, and then I swear the same mountains were on the horizon again.

Getting back to the point, Arizona was utterly spectacular. Snow, mountains, forests, ancient lava flows, sunsets that turned clouds into roosting, glowing dragons.

After the first day there, we were absolutely mentally exhausted. It was that feeling of doing 5 particularly taxing exams back to back, having had less than 24 hours to prepare.

The Grand Canyone naturally being the monumental cherry on top of this mind-crushing cake.

Not only is it a beautiful and wondrous thing to behold, but you can see time so clearly. All the bands in the rock, going down and down. You could begin to grasp the actual scale of the history of our entire planet and our small little part of it. We really had very memorable and touching experience there.

Definitely a noteworthy way to spend Christmas.

Looking Toward Next Year

After I got married, it took a month to submit my Green Card application, and then I spent another 2 forcibly unemployed while I waited for the temporary work permit, that is got to tide me over until the Green Card is processed.

….Then I spent another 2 months looking for work.

Maybe that’s why it feels like this year has gone by so fast. A good half of it I was unemployed again, and that does weird things to time, as well as your spirits. I have spent more time bored and unemployed than I would like to for one lifetime, and yet somehow people see appeal in retiring?

But hey, things still happened. I did a consultancy gig designing a Hearthstone league. That was actually really fun, I’d love to do a project like that again.

As of little more than a week ago, I started a part-time job at a board game café as a “Game Guru”, where I suggest games to people and teach them how to play them. I can’t deny this is a pretty cool job.

However, it was Sean “Day[9]” Plott who guided me to the idea of Making a Living vs. What You Do. I grew with the notion that your Job was what you did with your life. These days though, its even easier to separate “What You Do” and “How You Earn a Living”.

So I’m chugging along with my game, Rulers. I’ve got plans for upcoming gaming events and I’m trying to make that work. I guess I’m doing things, even if they feel only like hobbies from time to time.

Most of all though, this past year and the next, I am a husband.

I run errands, I clean (sometimes), and I always cook a delicious dinner for my wife. That’s What I Do.

That’s what I’ll do next year aswell.

 

Not that I have a choice of course. I can’t leave until I get my Green Card.

So would everyone stop asking me to come visit! Literally cannot leave the USA until 2017, and that’s if I’m lucky.