In setting off on a eight country, seven week adventure through Central America, it would be churlish not to accept invitations to stay in the United States en route. So my trip starts in the ‘land of the free’.
Down in the Bayou there rests a little piece of England…or Britain judging by the number of Union Flag adorning the soft furnishings in the lounge. Friends, Vicky and Ben moved to Savannah, Georgia last year as part of a two to three year redeployment for Ben’s job with a British owned multi-national. Along with their son, Henry then aged three; and quickly followed by Morph, a five year old Rotweiller cross-breed they settled into a new life.
Rather than rent a property in the downtown area of Savannah; they chose to live on Wilmington Island, a suburb about twenty minutes drive away. Their waterfront property with its own jetty and landing pontoon has a wonderful outlook that stretches along the Wilmington River, which runs from the Atlantic Coast and meanders to join the Savannah river; also tidal, to run into the city. And the setting is idyllic. A small community by American standards with a population of fifteen thousand, it offers all the usual amenities including an excellent school as required by a young family; and has the charm missing from an urban metropolis.
The landscape is flat; a total contrast to the hills of the Derbyshire Dales in the UK that are usually ‘home’.
Ben’s work base is Savannah, but the job can see him fly out to other regions in the US. Work carries with it responsibilities and no small degree of stress. Hours, as for many, are long. Vicky is a ‘stay-at-home-mom’; and is keen to remind (read indoctrinate) me several times a day that she has no time to do everything…though this is in jest….I think!
The lifestyle here is different. The community has a family feel about it, much more so than the UK. Moms meet up during the day at the gym; or share a glass of wine post-school whilst the children play in safe surroundings. Vicky could have become one of the expat brigade that reside in Savannah, socialising with the wives of other UK employees on secondment to the States; but her closest friends are Americans, fellow mothers with children who attend the same school as Henry. It’s clear that she is accepted and appreciated here.
Weekends are always busy. Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a Monster Truck event (a particular favourite of Henry), or more socialising; there is always something to do. And the weather is fine. Though seasonal, most days have blue skies and temperatures in the high seventies to low eighties. In the height of summer the heat can hit the much less bearable hundreds. The hurricane season arrives every June until November but hasn’t hit hard for thirteen years.
Eating, a particular hobby of mine is a delight. It’s not all burger and fries. From the best of Egg Benedicts to wonderful fresh seafood to the enormous pizza groaning under the weight of toppings; food is an institution and revered as such. Restaurants are children and even dog friendly. This again enhances the family feeling.
But living in a family friendly community in an idyllic setting has its drawbacks. Missing family and friends left back in the UK are clearly key. However the absence of English bacon (streaky doesn’t cut it) leads Vicky to buy Danish out of desperation. And now that American Cadburys chocolate has a different and inferior taste; and when added to the restriction of importing the British variety commercially, Vicky is now reliant on Red Cross parcels being airdropped into the States. Think of Vicky and donate!