Had a really nice day…

Had a really nice day yesterday. Got a lot of household things done while Jarmila watched the baby, and then while Kavi was napping, Jarmila showed me how to thin my paints for acrylic painting, and I showed her how to etch glass, so we had a fun hour of art in the middle of the day. After that, I spent a while implementing revisions to Arbitrary Passions, then took a walk with Kevin and Ellie to the little local store for crackers, cheese, fruit and flowers for the evening meeting.

There was good energy around doing Kriti again in 2009, so I'm hopeful that it'll go a bit better this time. My goal is to be a lot less involved; one of the challenges of Kriti is that everything tends to fall on me, in the end. I'd much rather it were a group effort, with everyone committed, so that if I disappeared, it would just keep going, not just this year, but for the future. Not that I'm planning to disappear, but...

We do have a job in England to consider again. It would start in January 2009, I think. This one pays noticeably more than the last one (which, I'll remind you, we almost took). It's not going to be a long, drawn-out process like last time, I promise you. In fact, we need to decide today whether we want Kevin to apply for it, and if he does apply, he's pretty much morally obligated to take it if they offer it this time. So, England yes, or no?


  • dollar is very weak so will seriously hurt our savings
  • job pays a bit less to Kevin so we can only afford slightly smaller house (and we were thinking here that we'd ideally like a slightly bigger one, i.e. we have 3 bedrooms, would like to add family room / playroom in a few years)
  • may end up a little further from center of town, so possibly boring?
  • farther from all U.S. family and friends
  • have lots of friends in Chicago, will miss them
  • will also miss vibrant S. Asian community here
  • may be hard to make friends if stuck in a house in the middle of nowhere with baby and dog making it easy to just stay home every day (I am v. lazy about going out unless it is made v. easy, and that is unlikely to change in another country)
  • may be hard for me to find teaching work
  • will Mary Anne just end up stuck in the house with Kavi and Ellie all day, going slowly crazy?
  • when we decided against the other job last year, we mostly felt relieved, rather than regretful (of course, it paid notably less, and I was very pregnant at the time, so feeling anxious about a big upcoming change already...)
  • big move -- scary!

  • it's England. England!
  • cheap and easy access to Europe
  • Kavi grows up with cool British accent
  • free healthcare for all, so it's not such a hit financially for us if I don't work
  • can probably find some kind of writing work to do from home, although with the dollar so weak, better if I find it with a U.K. company
  • long, rambly walks over the moors in the countryside
  • better weather than Chicago, by a lot
  • almost all homes come with a yard and garden, which is surprisingly hard to afford in Chicago, and which we really want for Ellie and Kavi and me
  • big move -- exciting!
I wonder how much babysitting costs in Oxford...

Please feel free to weigh in again, if you're so moved. Even if you already did last time. :-)

17 thoughts on “Had a really nice day…”

  1. Not to add further complications, but I think some of your pros and cons aren’t England-specific, and you’ve talked about the possibility of moving elsewhere too. (Though I suspect a couple of your pros and cons are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, so if I’m taking them too seriously, then never mind.)

    For example, missing Chicago (and people/community there) is going to be an issue if you move anywhere; and better weather than Chicago is easy to find. (And, really, has anyone ever moved to England for the weather?)

    I know you’re not deciding right now between Chicago-and-elsewhere, just between Chicago-and-UK. Still, I think it’s worth noting which of the pros and cons are UK-specific.

    …As for long rambly walks over the moors, is Oxford actually near the moors? Oxford appears to be 3+ hours away from York and Devon, but there may well be other moors, I dunno. Yeah, I know everything in the UK is closer together, but how often do you drive 3 hours to visit natural scenery from where you are now?

    From hearing you talk about it in the past, it seems to me that the biggest pros for y’all are (a) that it’s a big exciting change, and (b) that it would be a good career move for Kevin. And (c) that it’s England! Is that an accurate assessment? Not to downplay the other pros you mentioned; just trying to get a sense of what the biggest advantages are.

    I, of course, would miss you. 🙁 But I’m trying not to let that color my comments here too much.

    In indirect response to Maya’s comment: If it were me (and I realize that your and my attitudes about these things are very different, so this may be totally irrelevant), the biggest issue would be the difference between an adventure and a change of life. I think of adventures as things that one goes off and has and then comes home from. Moving to another country for the rest of your life (or at least with the expectation that it’ll be for the rest of Kevin’s career) seems to me like a very different thing from moving to another country for a year or three with the expectation of coming back.

  2. Jed is so right, Mary Anne.

    Without wanting to put you off, England is almost always grey except for the summer. It’s very cold too and often rains.:-)
    Still, there is that muted romantic atmosphere about the weather that makes it what it is. At the moment, severe snowstorms are going on and even in Ireland, there are squalls & gales…well, we share the same weather as our neighbours. 🙂

    Oxford is about an hour and 20 minutes by train from London – several trains a day – and the mooors are indeed a long way off.
    Oxford may be quieter. The larger part of a thriving literary scene happens in London of course. And there are many South Asian authors who live and work there, except I sense that the community is slightly more robust where you are. It is not as close-knit a community here. Many writers work independently and meet at festivals and such.
    The advantage is that it’s easier for South Asian authors to be heard internationally as opposed to if you had been published in the States.

    When you publish a book in London, because of the very nature of its distribution system, the book is instantly launched worldwide, with the exception of the States that has its own distribution system unless an American publisher buys your rights. That normally happens some months later. It’s easier for Australians for eg. or those in Asia to have heard of writers coming out of Britain first of all.

    I gather from reading your blog, that you are very close to family and friends and are community-driven. I remember once that such an offer came up and you felt that you wanted to stay close to home. I think a strong tendency for homesickness is also an issue you may want to weigh carefully as it would mean, starting over from scratch.

    Flights are cheap yes, but you may have to ask yourself, how often you intend to travel. I know that Ireland and New York offered very cheap flights from US-Dublin and so forth, during the Christmas period. So you may be able to find good bargains even in the States. If say… you stayed in the States, you could still holiday in one European country and easily make your way by train or coach to the other countries. You would have been able to take part in a lot of sightseeing in just a few weeks. There are loads of such tours that go on.

    In any case, good luck, Mary Anne.

  3. Jed and Susan are absolutely right, of course. but still, but still… :).

    I somehow imagine you’ll enjoy living in Oxford (i wouldn’t be as sure of Cambridge–the “other place” (j/k), which is smaller and mostly gown and very little town). And as for the tourism aspect of it, i’ll just say that it’s more interesting to actually live there than merely “visit” it. As a writer, a new place is bound to be a great boost to your creativity. Also, the Cotswolds are plenty near (wolds are so much nicer than moors, anyway!).

    Of course, if this move will really last the rest of Kevin’s career, it’s an extremely serious decision. (Though, in my experience, most academics switch/exchange positions as their interests and desirability allow–so this could turn out to be an adventure per Jed’s definition rather than a permanent change of life, after all.)

    No doubt, my life on a student stipend was much simpler than yours will be as faculty, but my one serious recommendation would be to live *in* Oxford–even if only in one of the newer blocks of flats–i understand that life on the outskirts is not quite as rich or various.

  4. Btw, from my perspective as someone who’s not actually having to make this decision, it’s really cool to hear about it from people who’ve actually lived over there. 🙂 For example, I had no idea what a wold was until now, despite having seen the word all my life.

    Re travel to Europe: I can’t speak for Mary Anne, but I do think that if I wanted to (for example) visit France regularly, Oxford would be a lot more appealing than Chicago; I think the psychological distance and travel time are significantly less. Six and a half hours to drive from Oxford to Paris, but only four hours to drive from Oxford to Calais. (According to Google Maps.) Not something I’d want to do every week, but sounds a lot less daunting than a transatlantic flight.

    And I’ve certainly heard plenty of good things about Oxford. Especially for Anglophiles.

    Re career-long change vs a few years: I don’t actually know about the current situation, so I should shut up about this, but I’ll just note that when my academic friends get tenure-track jobs, my understanding (which may be wrong) is that it’s usually with the expectation that they’ll spend their whole career there if they get tenure. I know some people do switch universities over time, but my impression in the US is that that doesn’t happen very often with tenured professors. But again, I could be wrong, and I don’t know about Oxford anyway.

  5. so he’s getting paid in dollars not pounds? why is this? Seems very strange

    I would go for it. Seriously. the weather will not be better, but it will be different. You have to fly to see your families anyway. Go for it.

  6. I know that this doesn’t address the pros and cons but..for me Oxford is the Holy Grail, THE Ivory Tower. Whatever the negatives, I would leap at it.

  7. Mary Anne, I had to wonder why i was getting all excited about your possible move. I figured out that the reason = my sense of *outrage* that we might move to Ohio (Ohio!) once summer comes :).

    I wanted to add too that there are several writing workshops that crop up all the time. And i’m quite certain that you could find work teaching writing/tutoring litt theory–the key would be to ask the individual colleges rather than the English dept. Also i hear that Oxford Brookes University (http://www.brookes.ac.uk/) is a good place to teach.

    I wish i’d had three more years (three more years of a student grant) so i could claim to “know” Oxford. All the best with whichever decision happens to work out for you.

  8. I share some of Jen’s confusion. How is the weak dollar not an argument for getting paid in pounds?

    Oxford is short on moors, long on rivers, canals, pastures. Very walkable.

    I probably wouldn’t live in England again myself, but that’s mainly down to the seasonal affective disorder. It’s fine from April to September.

  9. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Weak dollar means that our savings, which are relatively substantial, will be worth a lot less if we sell our condo, cash out now, and buy property in England. Didn’t have anything to do with pay scale / income — Kev will be paid in pounds, and hopefully I will too, if I can work.

    I really like rainy days. It’s the cold I hate…

  10. Hi Mary Anne,

    The cold is not so bad. The rain is more of a steady drizzle than anything and there are sporadic periods of showers. So hoods and umbrellas will always be on the ready. 🙂
    England is famous for its literature and that for me, was the most enticing.
    Shakespeare, Dickens…
    and the Lake District up north – Windemere & Cumbria – one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world – is soaked with its history of poets from the Romantic movement and also features the life of Beatrix Potter, a famed children’s author at the turn of the century.

    The rail system is very good linking all parts of the UK together. For instance, it’s only a few hours from London right up north to the Scottish Hills. One hour from London down south is Brighton, famous for its beachfronts, Punch & Judy puppetry and the like.

    The snow has vanished from London and only grudgingly visits. 🙂

    And if it helps in your favour, property prices are falling steadily in England at the moment and this fall is predicted to become heavier in the near future. 😉

  11. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    It does help, although property prices are also not doing so well here in Chicago, which is not as good…

  12. Actually, it sounds like you should talk to your parents. After all, you are contemplating embarking on the same path as they did – leaving the old country for a new life in a new one. Whilst moving to England in 2008 is not quite the same leap into the great unknown as coming to America was for our parents, many considerations are the same. Where will home be? What will this new country offer you, and what are you leaving behind?

    There is a huge difference between emigrating and going ex-pat. It’s a lot harder to undo the first one, whereas temporary assignments are, well, temporary.

    But if I were considering a move to the UK, I’d take a good long look at their online newspapers. Read the BBC online, especially the have-your-say section. What do people there care about, and what seems to be working and what seems to be broken?

    A one way ticket to the UK right now wouldn’t be my personal cuppa tea. But where I am in my life is very different from where you are, and only you can decide what’s best for you and yours.

  13. Well, I did move to England, and I love it, so I obviously support moves like that. 🙂 And Oxford is one of my very favorite cities – we’d love to live there. However…Oxford is one of the most expensive cities in Engand, about equivalent to London (the reason we haven’t moved there), which means it has some of the most expensive housing in England (which has massively expensive housing in general), so I’m guessing you would not be able to buy a house w/a garden on just one person’s salary unless Kevin’s salary really would be VERY good.

    On the other hand, of course I have no idea how large your savings are, how much the job would pay, etc…so maybe this wouldn’t be a problem after all. You can get a good view of possible prices by checking the local estate agents online, which might be a good idea, or by looking at Up My Street (and inputting Oxford as your city), a website which not only tells you about house prices but also various other amenities and issues in different areas across the UK.

    Good luck making the decision!

  14. Mary Anne,

    I’m in Oxford for the year, and to me the city seems wonderful, and the university seems terrible. Every academic I know here dreams of getting a tenure track job in the U.S. There is all kind of weirdness (“contracts” don’t hold the same meaning so they are not always honored, they push around junior people, they have this crazy and oppressive system of measuring faculty productivity, the library system is ridiculous, your whole life depends on which college you are affiliated with) so I think Kevin would be unhappier here. It’s also not a very good university these days–it’s a mediocre university with a highly exaggerated sense of self.

    You, on the other hand, might well be happier. The city is honestly gorgeous: safe, walkable, the centuries of history palpable in every street corner, a 10 minute walk to the countryside and the lovely Thames. It’s peaceful and lovely like a small town, but it feels vibrant too, as if it were one neighborhood of a large city. Very close to London. Lots and lots of Indian people.

    I guess the contradictory info may not help, but good luck making a decision! I love living here, but I would not give up an American job to work here.


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