Field Note: Daily Life
Justine Harris is my home-stay mom. She is a lovely lady, who has lived in England her entire life. She is a loving wife and mother, who opened up her home to me. She is a fan of the Grand Prix and ballroom dancing.
Justine Harris is my home-stay mom. She is short and petite with short brown hair that makes her look like a pixie fairy. She is reserved, kind and has a good sense of humor. She is a loving and dedicated wife and mother. Her husband, Paul, is a very nice man who works in the factory around the corner of where they live. She has three daughters, 22-year old Lisa, 21-year old Katie, and 15-year old Amy. Katie and Amy are the remaining two left in the house. Lisa is living on her own and makes her living as a nurse. Justine uses Skype to talk to Lisa multiple times a week. The first time I met Lisa was on Skype!
Justine only has one sister, who also has only daughters. She sees her sister at least once a month and talks to her frequently on the phone. When I asked Justine to describe what her family was like, she simply said, “We are just like any other family.” After living in their home for over three weeks now, I can say that they are a pretty special family. Even though everyone is very busy with their own schedules, when they are all together there is a lot of playful banter that is obviously stemmed from love. Justine is the glue that keeps them all together. She is in charge of knowing everyone’s schedules. Even though she has a job, she still finds time to cook dinners every night, do the laundry and clean the house. Her house is beautiful. It is always squeaky clean and organized.
Justine and her family live in the suburbs of Oxford in a neighborhood called Risinghurst. In fact, she told me that right down the road, a famous author, C.S. Lewis, would walk in the nature preserve by our house to get inspired and also to write. C.S. Lewis wrote the wonderful series, The Chronicles of Narnia, which include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Justine and her family live in a duplex painted white. A duplex is a large home that is split in half so that two separate families can live in one house. They have a small garage next to the house, and in the backyard they have a large shed where Justine’s husband, Paul, stores all his tools and fishing gear. Their backyard is longer than it is wide, and it is about the size of half of a basketball court. Their adorable 13-year old dog, Jack, loves to go explore in the backyard. Inside everyone have their own room, but share one bathroom. I have always shared a bathroom with my sister, but sharing a bathroom with four other people has been a new experience for me. I have learned that it is common for families in England to share one bathroom.
Justine works at Sainsbury’s. This is a like a grocery store or supermarket. She is a pharmacy dispenser. She describes, “I will give people their prescriptions, or the medications that doctors have required their patients to take when they are sick.” She gets to work by taking her car. “Even though it is not too far away, it will take me about ten minutes to get there,” she says. “Unless you are a bus driver, it is sometimes difficult to get around town, especially the closer you get to the city centre. There are a lot of one-way streets and roundabouts.”
When Justine is at home, she likes to wear comfortable sweats. Her favorite pair is from Hollister. On the weekends, she will sometimes go shopping with her daughters. She especially likes H&M clothing. When I asked Justine if she goes into Oxford’s city centre often, she replied, “The shopping is not great in town. When I go shopping or go to the cinema, I would rather go outside Oxford.”
What is her absolute favorite thing to do in her free time? Watching the Grand Prix motor racing! She and her husband, Paul, are big fans of racecar driving. Just two years ago they went to Monaco, France, where famous car races take place. She was smiling as she described the event. “There was a 30s theme and we had got special tickets for this race. People were dressed in 30s-styled clothes. Women were even pushing their children around in old-fashioned buggies. We were able to go to tents where the racecar drivers were about. Paul is rarely speechless. It was really fun to see him so speechless when seeing all his favorite drivers.”
Justine and Paul have been dedicated fans to the sport for as long as she can remember. Just last weekend, their daughter Lisa bought tickets for Paul to drive a 4×4 racecar on an off-road track. There were steep hills, plenty of mud and water he got to drive through. Justine said that even though she loves cars and racing, she would be nervous about driving one of those fast cars herself.
Having lived in England her entire life, Justine only speaks English. She grew up in a small village called Kennington. The family travels every year to vacation abroad. Her favorite places to go include Tunisia, the Dominican Republic and Spain. She has never travelled to the United States, but told me that she would like to go someday.
Justine enjoys watching the daytime soap operas when she is home during the day, but her favorite television program is Ant and Dec Saturday Night Takeaway. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows as well! Justine, Paul and Amy watch the show together every Saturday night, and I have joined them for the past couple Saturday nights.
As I talked to Justine, I learned we had a lot of things in common. As a child, she took ballroom dance lessons just like I am doing. Even today, one of her favorite shows is Strictly Come Dancing, which is the British version of Dancing with the Stars. These are also some of my favorite things to do when I am home. She talked about how she loves visiting the coast, and how she loves going to theater to see plays. There used to be many more famous theater groups visiting Oxford, but they do not come as often anymore. Justine mentioned that she would love to go to London more often, just as I would like to visit Los Angeles more.
Finally, I asked her about the Olympics (remember how London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012?) and the Royal family. She said her family did not attend the Olympics events in person, but it was very exciting to have London host the events. Her sister, however, took her children to see some of the swimming events, because they are swimmers. Lastly, I asked if she follows the happenings of the Royal family, like many other British do. “Only a little,” Justine replied. ”I will pay attention to the big stories, but I am not constantly checking in on what they are doing.”
I have learned that Justine and her family are not so different from mine and I think that is pretty cool.