My Struggle (and overall success…sort of) with the UK’s National Health Service

It’s no secret that compared to the rest of the first world countries, U.S. health care is crap. What I did not  realize is how early I would get to put that to the test. About a month ago I noticed this weird looking mark on my leg. Nothing too remarkable or anything, just big enough to be noticeable. While a bit unsightly it didn’t hurt and I had much bigger issues to contend with (such as MOVING TO A NEW COUNTRY HOLY CRAP WHAT!?!?) so I decided to ignore it….oops.

It got progressively bigger as the weeks went by. The day we left, I pointed it out to Kelsey who was convinced it was a spider bite. I don’t fault her for this diagnoses. Most would probably believe a similar thing, and seeing as it didn’t hurt I couldn’t exactly go to a doctor 36 hours before leaving the country and explain that, “the weird looking red spot on my leg didn’t hurt exactly, but could you do something about it please as I don’t like the aesthetic….”

Two days after arriving, it was no longer a little bug bite looking thing. Suddenly this seemingly insignifact bite was at least 4 inches across, several different colors, and had a bullet point rash around the outside of the wound. Now for those of you who don’t know, this is  a sure fire sign of lyme disease. While on Skype I showed the rash to my friend, who’s a licensed EMT, and she confirmed the suspicion.  So to recap: less than 3 days into being here and suddenly I’m diagnosed with lyme disease.

Now, supposedly I’m one of the lucky ones because I had the enormous, ugly, rash on my leg. Having this rash is the first sign of lyme disease and only 1/3 of people contracted with the virus get it. So really, it’s a blessing that it was caught so early….right…..

I wasn’t sure on the protocols of seeing a doctor over here and as a result, I’m shamed to say I didn’t exactly make this a top priority. It took me upwards of 2 1/2 weeks to take care of everything. These are the things I did find out though:

  • You need a GP (general practioner) and health insurance number to be seen by a doctor.
  • The only way to get a GP is to have an address. The reason for this is so you can have a GP in your zip code. Brilliant really, but frustrating when you don’t have an address
  • They have an NHS (National Health Insurance) number which you’re supposed to call if you need a doctor but it’s not an emergency (Side note: 911 here is 999. NHS is 111) When I called 111 I’m fairly certain the woman was super confused about why I was calling her at 7:30 am and her advice was to go see a pharmacist to get some drugs. This led me to believe that a doctor wasn’t even necessary…
  • There are pharmacists everywhere here. The CVS equivalent is called Boots but they’re all over. When I went to one the licensed nurse on staff told me I needed to get a prescription. She called a GP in the area of my air b&b and told me to go there
  • I walked 45 minutes to get to this GP on a Monday morning. Got there around 11:45 am. At this particular office I was told they could only register 10 new people every week with the beginning of the week starting on a Monday and they’d already filled their quota. Yup. I was there at 11:00 they opened at 8:00 and it was already full. This is so not to overwhelm the doctors with too many patients. Again, great idea for the UK, frustrating for me.

As you can see at this point I didn’t know what the hell to do….

For those who don’t know, Kelsey and I have been in London since last Wednesday so I asked the woman we’re staying with here what I should do. She sent me a bunch of forms, and paperwork, and all sorts of things that would be exceedingly helpful….if I had an address……it seemed no matter which way I went, I needed an address to be seen by a doctor.

Eventually my friend (same EMT friend actually) who had lived in London for two years told me to just go to the emergency room. They were required by law to see me there. I was concerned about emergency room fees, but knew I was out of options. I found an A&E in London, walked there, told them I needed help, and that was essentially it. The man behind the desk gave me a piece of paper to fill out which took 5 seconds. I waited about 30 minutes, went in and saw a nurse. She had no idea what lyme disease was but told me to go down the hall to the minor injury clinic. I did that, saw a doctor about an hour later and within 5 minutes he had written me a prescription. No blood work necessary, no other forms, no nothing. He told me I needed to register with a GP fairly quickly so I could receive more drugs since I’ll need about a months worth of treatment but that was it…..

Now you’re probably thinking that this was an extremely expensive process right? The entire experience including the emergency room, the urgent care unit, and the drugs cost me a grand total of…..£8.20. Roughly $15.00. Yup. The US seriously needs to step up its game.

Edinburgh Castle


“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto…”

It took a week or so but we finally made it to Edinburgh Castle. It is just as amazing, and interesting, and awe inspiring, as one would imagine it to be. We happened to go on a day so cloudy and rainy that we really couldn’t see the view from the top in it’s entirety. Even with limited vision though, it was an amazing sight. The castle has hundreds of years of history which the city of Edinburgh has taken great lengths to preserve and keep alive even today. I didn’t take as many photos as I should’ve, and I apologize for that but I DID manage to save some of the photos I used from my epic Snapchat story.


View from above

IMG_0534We started in a huge war museum down at the bottom of the castle. I don’t remember the earliest exhibit but it ran all the way up to the present day with pictures of soldiers currently in Afghanistan. I personally fell totally in love with two swords that had been present in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. (No pictures. Sorry :-/) One sword had been surrendered to the Americans after the British defeat and stayed with an American family up until the 21st century where it was then donated to the museum. The other was used in one of the only battles where the British were victorious over the Americans and was considered a prized object. Seeing these two swords in a display while listening to the new musical “Hamilton” (which is literally all about how America came to be a nation) was very humbling and amazing to witness. Yes, I was listening to a musical while walking through a museum. So sue me! (Actually don’t though. I’m way too poor)


Next we went down to the Edinburgh Castle prison and saw how prisoners of war would’ve lived. Turns out, POW didn’t have it quite as badly as one would expect. They received a good amount of rations, tools, clothes, and even supplies to make crafts which they could then sell. Americans had it the worst of all POW as they were considered pirates and not worthy of the same respect as the others. One of the most amazing things in that exhibit was seeing three original doors used to keep the prisoners locked away that had carvings all over them. Names, and phrases, and dates covered the doors as well as one of the very first renderings of the U.S. flag.

Walking higher up and entering the main courtyard of the castle we got to see the Scottish Royal jewels also known as “the Honours.” You are NOT allowed to take photos in there but we got to witness an amazing exhibit leading up to the jewels on how they came to be. They went missing periodically throughout the years including being buried, and stuck in a chest for over 100 years due to opposing forces wanting them destroyed. Walter Scott found the honors in the 1800’s, as well as some jewelry and a “wand” (yes. a wand. that’s literally what they call it) in a giant chest and they’ve left Edinburgh Castle only once since then.

IMG_0527There’s so much history it’s hard to write it all down. We went into a cathedral that is the oldest building in Edinburgh carved in the 12th century. We were in the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son. We went into the Great Hall where meetings are STILL held today for governing functions. We learned how to fire a musket (yes really)….

We even found out that we could get our family crest with our name engraved on the bottom. And for only 200 pounds! I know right? Steal… still. It was really cool knowing we even had a crest.

We also had some truly horrible whisky tastings. Seriously they were gross. Cream Liquor Whisky? Honey Whisky? …yeah. No. Side note: Over here whisky is spelled without an “E.” Tell your friends, save a life.

IMG_0531The castle is an absolute masterpiece and one everyone should check out if they ever find themselves in Edinburgh. It makes hundreds of years of history tangible and important. It makes you feel small and insignificant as well as big and a part of something greater. It’s also just really fantastic to know you’re hanging out in a castle where people lived. Seeing HUGE fireplaces that were the only things to heat a room. Seeing carvings in the wall that had been made hundreds of years ago. Walking on floors that millions had walked on prior… And then to walk out the drawbridge (Yes. Really) and be in the 21st century again with shops, and people, and cars. A humbling experience to be sure. And I’d be lying if I didn’t pretend to be a Disney princess at least for a second….ok 5 seconds….


Super fun day and one that definitely made us feel like we were beginning to enjoy the beauty Edinburgh had to offer.


Love, Annika

Status update: #notdeadyet – Love, Kelsey

It’s been 10 days since leaving California. In ten days I’ve learned so many things I don’t know where to begin but I’ll start with the obvious. It’s cold. Like- really cold. As a California girl I forget that the rest of the world experience something called weather. Today it was a brisk 37 degrees with ice rain pelting at me sideways. And this is only the beginning.  However that doesn’t seem to stop anyone. The city is still full of life and people going about their business. I know I’ll get used to it but in the meantime I find myself a teeth chattering- layer wearing- wuss.

Some of the things we’ve done in the last week- A LOT of job applications. For all my fellow millennials that soul sucking activity that makes you feel like you’re a worthless piece of educated and indebted shit.  We’ve also looked at a few apartments that have been nice but nothing has really stuck yet- and without a job we would need to put down 6 months’ rent which of course is not really something either of us WANT to do.

Yesterday Annika and I attended a really cool (in my opinion) tour called “The Double Dead Tour.” We were taken down beneath the city in the underground vaults where people used to live only a mere 200 years ago. Imagine an entire society of impoverished and cast aside peoples forced to live underground. It was incredible and humbling- and of course spooky. Our tour guide was a total paranormal believer and kept referring to all the ghost stories relating to the place but me being a non-believer thoroughly enjoyed the history.

Edinburgh is known as the most haunted city in the world- so much so that there are thousands of ‘documented’ attacks on inhabitants and visitors alike. This isn’t surprising considering its bloody history. The Scots do have a historical tendency to resort to violence. One such story is that of the covenanters prison located within Greyfriars Kirkyard. It was here that the 1300 people were forced to lay on the ground side by side for an entire winter because of their refusal to adopt the Episcopalian faith during the time of King Charles the II.  Well as it so happens this bloody history has made this space a ‘haunted’ one and there is a famous poltergeist here known as The Mackenzie poltergeist (look it up).

So learning all this we were then given the opportunity to enter the vault called the ‘black mausoleum’ where violent attacks from this ghosty beastie occur. Well Annika and I came out unscathed- Except for the adorable tumble Annika took in the mud on the way to the vault. However, a muddy butt and cold toes was the worst of it for us. It was still an awesome way to get to know some of the darker history of this new city.

Mostly, after 10 days there is not much to report. The beer is good, the people are nice, the weather is cold, and the adventure continues….

First Impressions from the First Day

  • Everyone is really nice
  • The city is smaller than you think
  • The street names can’t decide what they wanna be called
  • Free wifi is easy to find
  • The buses are terrifying
  • The castle is as beautiful as you’d imagined.
  • Remember to look right first before crossing the street. #Notdeadyet
  • We’ve already drank more tea in two days than is considered normal by American standards
  • The rain smells like beer and the beer tastes like rain: It washes away all sins

-Annika and Kelsey

The Journey


Ok. So where to begin. Usually at the beginning. I haven’t slept in close to 24 hours so we’ll see how grammatically correct and articulate this ends up being.

We arrived at SFO in plenty of time and it was by far one of the smoothest entries into an airport we’ve ever had. Having a German passport is like having an all access pass into Europe. No questions, no fuss, no issues whatsoever. We just breeze right through.

There was some concern while checking our bags that we weren’t going to be able to take everything we’d packed along with us. We even had our dad grab a giant bag incase we had to throw things into it at the airport. But the woman behind the counter was very sweet to us and allowed us to take all our bags despite it being a few kg overweight. You could tell they were VERY confused as to why we were bringing so much stuff with us…I guess a one way ticket to a foreign country isn’t the most common thing ever…

One fun thing that happened before we even got going was me realizing I’d left my debit card in my house…yeah. I know. I’m an idiot. I have my credit card. My passport (both of them) social security card, birth certificate, cash…everything. But the card I use for every day purchases and which has no (I repeat, NO) transaction fees overseas is sitting somewhere in Orinda, CA. Typical. Thankfully I called the bank while sitting in SFO and they’re FEDEXing me a new debit card to our hotel. They’re badasses and I’m super grateful. But. You know…I’m mostly stupid.

Currently sitting in an airport in Copenhagen. The flight here was pretty uneventful. We were given a HUGE data dump of TV shows and movies (Cheers Dylan) so we’ve been watching Misfits throughout the majority of the day. That is, until my laptop dies and I need to charge it back up again… We’ve been sitting in this airport for about 6 hours and then will be getting on a plane to Stockholm. We’ll then be in Stockholm for about 12 hours before finally taking our last flight and arriving in Edinburough….phew. We certainly didn’t make it easy for ourselves did we? Write more when there’s more to report….

…. Well- Kelsey here. Sitting here at 2:48 AM In Stockholm Sweden. There was a lot of casual chatter about us going in to the city and seeing the sights – but due to flight delays and a general lack of sleep we ended up just sticking out the night together in the airport. Surrounded by everyone else sleeping in the airport having just as miserable of a time.

Now, despite all of this we still managed to enjoy some of this trip. While hanging out in this giant airport we decided to get a nice sit-down meal. As homage to our swedish heritage a giant plate of swedish meatballs and potatoes with lingone berry sauce was the menu item of choice. Delectable. And the .75L of beer helped too. If you ever find yourself in Sweden just trust me on this- Swedish meatballs is ALWAYS the way to go.

After dinner Annika decided she wanted a cup of tea so we went down to this cute 24 hour cafe in the airport. She ordered a tea, paid, added some cream and while leaving gladly exclaimed “guten tag!” – For all our dear readers out there who doesn’t know what this means let me explain: Guten Tag is in fact the German Phrase for Good Day! as in “Oh hello good day to you sir!” – Poor guy had no idea what she said so of course i reminded her that in Sweden they speak Swedish and in Germany they speak German. That was a pretty good laugh. And as she reads this over my shoulder we can laugh again.

We watched the Pixar movie “Inside Out” cried our eyes out at the end when she’s about to get on the 80 east over the bay bridge (damn you Pixar!) So I guess it’s safe to say that we miss home already but are still very encouraged about the awesome experiences ahead.

Nothing else to report really. Airports are all the same. This one is quite large. As for how we’re really holding up I think we are both using Kimmy Schmidt’s motto- We can do anything for ten seconds- so we just have to take it all in ten seconds at a time.

more later then….

It took us over 36 hours but we’re here. Jetlagged as all get out, no clue what we’re doing, and a bit hungry.

But we’re here. 10 seconds at a time right? Let’s see what this city has to offer…

The Final Countdown

It is the eve before our departure and I, for one, am in full on freak out mode. My emotional status is in a consistent flux of being excited, and anxious, and tired, and scared, and depressed, and tired. Did I mention tired? So. So tired.

It’s a complicated mindset I find myself in whenever I end up in these situations. I crave adventure and new experiences while at the same time opposing and running away from them. I want to live a fulfilled, exciting, interesting life, but don’t want to leave the comfort of what I know and love. I’m sure a lot of people have these juxtapositions in their lives but I seem to find myself stuck in between them a lot.

I’m not exactly secretive about it, but it’s not common knowledge that I suffer from pretty severe anxiety. It’s most often brought out by extreme life changes, but it’s come about at random times as well. Anxiety is extremely debilitating and difficult to pinpoint when you don’t even realize you have it. It wasn’t until a few years ago I even knew I had anxiety, and longer still to realize there was medication I could take that would help me handle it. Looking back on certain times in my life, I can now stay with dead accuracy that my extreme emotional states were from panic attacks. They’re not fun, they’re not easy to deal with, and they’re even harder to explain to people. It’s almost impossible to be calmed down by rational thinking. It doesn’t matter if you’re “going to be ok” or “everything will be fine” or “why are you so stressed out right now?” All that matters is your body in a high intense fight or flight response and nothing (short of drugs. Thank god for drugs!!) can calm you down. I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t get it so bad that I have trouble leaving the house. But I DO get it bad enough that on the eve of moving to a new country I have a profound sense of NOT wanting to go.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily a true statement, because the idea of staying here and doing the same thing day in and day out that I’ve been doing the past year doesn’t appeal to me. But it’s true in the sense that my anxiety is a painful emotional and <em>physical</em> response. which has now been put into constant overdrive. And to be honest, I don’t want to deal with it anymore.

I will say I’m grateful in a lot of ways. It’s easier to handle than normal. I have my sister who knows my anxiety and is willing and able to calm me down and let me freak out when I need to. And I’ll be with her every step of the way which is so relaxing and easing. I’ve wanted to live in Europe since 2010 so I’m super stoked to go and experience a country that I’ve yet to see and always wanted to. And I know that should everything go to hell, or if I hate it, or if I figure out it’s not what I want, I know I can come back any time I want. That’s what a credit card is for after all.

I just hate packing. And I HATE traveling. And I hate leaving behind people I love. My family. Friends, relatives, parents, siblings, my kitty (UGH! MY HEART), the Bay Area theater community, the wine gals, the crew, the jamming buddies, Santa Cruz shenanigans, late night city exploits, karaoke nights, Disney days, brunches, and everything else. All my family. All people I Love. All I’m going to miss an INSANE amount. And you all better come visit.

Or at least be here when I get back.


A message to the world, but especially my sister…

With 27 days until departure I have a lot of thoughts and emotions vibrating in my head. I have this very powerful feeling that many of these goodbyes I’m making are somewhat permanent. I know that my childhood home will always be just that- a part of my childhood. I am contented by the fact that I will always remain close with the people who matter most- whether it is by my own effort or theirs. I know that I will always have the excellent memories to keep my heart full and my eyes wide and looking forward. I am also aware that this move is a defining turning point for me- a step out into the real world (so to speak.)

It is a sentimental thing to do- move away and leave your loved ones behind. I don’t fool myself into thinking I could do this alone. I am so grateful to my sister who is fun, enthusiastic, wise, and the best duet singer I know. I could not go on this adventure without her. So despite all the fears- mostly the fear of the unknown- I am warmed and comforted by the fact that I am not going to be alone. I am going to be with my very first best friend. The one who read to me before she knew how to read. The one who taught me my love for all things Disney and Harry Potter. The one who listens to me when I cry about a stupid boy and makes me laugh about things that aren’t even funny. The only person who truly knows my past, and will always be there in my present and future.

It is a crazy adventure we are going on. And yes, I mean crazy/insane/loco/wtfmate kind of way. But with all of this in mind- the crazy and all- I realize that I’m not scared. We are going to be just fine




Getting Real Now

The countdown has really begun now. I suppose one could argue that the countdown began the minute we bought our tickets; and indeed we did check to see how long ago it was from that date. But now we’re down to the final 30 (28 as of today) and shit is getting real.

I don’t really feel like I’m moving though. I feel like I’m going on an extended vacation for an unknown period of time. If I think about it as an actual move I freak out. Making it more of a “Scottish Phase” if you will, makes it seem much more tangible as well as much less concrete of a decision. Confused yet? Good. I am too.

Things you could never even begin to imagine always pop up when huge life changes happen, and those have already begun in earnest. Sure, you know in theory that things will be different, but then there are random things that other countries find completely normal that I’ve found either ridiculous, or confusing, or both. I have learned recently that the UK has a thing called  a TV license. Which is essentially a bill that allows you to watch TV. Kinda like cable I suppose, except mandatory. And you HAVE to buy it if you wanna watch TV anywhere…including your laptop. Like…what? Ok…

Also their council tax is dependent on the region you live in, and that depicts how much you’re spending. I’m honestly not sure how to look for something based on the council tax, or if it’s even on the high list of priorities at the moment. It probably is because I don’t want to live in a place with a high council tax. But is a high council tax Council A or Council E?? And if we find the perfect place for cheap, but it has a high council tax does that mean we end up breaking even in the long run if we get a more expensive place?

As you can see, I’ve been doing a crazy amount of apartment hunting. The trouble is that places get snatched up quickly. It’s difficult to ask a realtor to wait a month for us to get there. I’ve got some e-mail pings set up for various websites but the bites have been few and far between.

And then, of course, I’m in the beginning stages of saying goodbye to people. Recognizing that these next few weeks will be the last time I see people for…I don’t even know how long. I’ve done this multiple times in the past when I’ve moved away (or moved back) but it’s always hard, and it’s always emotionally draining. I’m definitely in a bit of a state of denial about leaving people behind. I just have to hope that my friends and family will want to Skype as much as I do…

Anyway. That’s all for now. Just wanted to touch base real quick. 28 days. That’s like the title of a bad Rom Com…or a horror flick…..


The Beginning

ANNIKA: “I think I want to move to Scotland and study Shakespeare”

“Can I come with you?”

“Wait really?”


“Sure! I’d love that”

“Cool. Let’s do that then”

And thus. It began. So it will officially begin. In 70 days. That’s a thing that exists now. Fabulous. We talked about starting a blog, (as well as a vlog) to chronicle our experiences and I figured now would be as good a time as any to start it. She’ll add to this when I’m done hopefully, and then you, you lucky reader, will get to hear about both of our thoughts on the matter 2 months early. Don’t you feel lucky? I’m glad.

To be honest, at this juncture I’m not sure how I feel. Having just returned from summer stock 2 weeks ago, I feel a bit like I’m at a bus stop awaiting my next travel destination. Coming back to California was a mere pit stop before moving onwards again. I’m simultaneously itching to get the hell out of here, while also desperately wishing I could stay longer. I’ve felt this way every time I’ve left California, but this time it’s stronger. There’s a comfort in knowing I’m going into the unknown with someone else. And there’s a comfort in knowing that if it all goes to hell, it’s not a permanent destination. Nothing is really. But at the same time I do consider myself a bit of a homebody. I like having a clear idea of where everything is. Who I am amongst my friends, and what my next day is going to be like. There’s a solidarity in that which is wonderful. I’ve begun to create a life here. I have fabulous friends. I have a good career that lets me have the freedom to pursue what I actually want to do in life. And I’ve begun to make strides in my theater career as well. Even my romantic life doesn’t suck anymore….who would’ve ever thought? And yet, I’m willingly up and leaving it all behind for a completely unknown experience. Who does that? Why on earth would I do that? What happens if it all fails? We know practically nothing about the culture, the people, the job market, the housing, the economy…I know absolutely nothing about finding theater work in Scotland. I have a vague plan of auditioning for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which is pretty cool but that isn’t even until April and really…that’s such a minor thing in the vast journey of MOVING TO A NEW COUNTRY.

And yet…I’m so so so excited. I like that I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve wanted to move to Europe (and specifically the United Kingdom) since 2009 and I’m finally doing something about it. I love that this half baked idea I mentioned to my sister one day in December 2013 has turned into a full reality. The world is a such a small place now. The miles, and the borders, and the oceans are so small and insignificant if you don’t think of them as obstacles. And life should always be an adventure if you can make it thus. What more could you want really? HOLY SHIT WE’RE MOVING TO SCOTLAND!! WOOHOOO!!!!!!

One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

KELSEY: 10 weeks. 70 Days. 1,680 Hours. 100800 minutes. Not a long time really. I suppose as a first time blogger and a first entry it is essential that I mention I am not a writer nor an excellent story teller, but that’s not the point is it? This blog is about having two points of view on the same page. Well, I suppose I can start by saying I’m not worried about moving, but I’m terrified of the future.
Growing up I had everything figured out; I knew what I wanted in life and how I was going to get there. I went to college directly after high school, got an excellent degree, had more friends than I needed, and I had a wonderful (now ex) boyfriend. I guess the point is that up until recently; I knew where I wanted to be in 5 years and how I was going to get there.
Well, life has a funny way of throwing curveballs because for some reason everything I thought I wanted looks lack-luster now. So when Annika and I joked about moving to Scotland (because to me that’s what it was- a not so real-half assed-not actually going to happen- joke) I never imagined how perfectly ready I would be for this change.
The details of moving to foreign country don’t actually seem so intimidating anymore. I’m confident in myself and my capabilities. I’m confident in my sister’s as well. We will find a place to call our own. We will find a community of people. We will probably find out a lot of things about ourselves that we didn’t know before. I cannot wait to go.
For me moving to Scotland is the adventure of a lifetime. The chance to shake off every expectation, say “fuck everything”, and actually live in the moment! When looking at the laundry list of expectations us 20 somethings have I realize more and more that I want none of these things. There is no actualization in having a job I had no desire in working in the first place. A 401K (as practical and intelligent as they are/I really should get one) has no bearing on my self-worth. A boyfriend turned husband and a child on the way is neither a goal nor interest. Ultimately, I don’t really know what it is I want anymore and I certainly don’t think working a nine to five in my hometown living in my parents’ house is going to do anything for me and those existential needs of mine.
So here’s to you Scotland. Here’s to finding myself. Here’s to being afraid and uncertain of what lies ahead. Finally, here’s to the gallons of whiskey I plan to consume in the next year. Because fuck it- I’m an American in Scotland.