So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part III)


Part III.  Getting Hired

Note:  In this section we consider the two main ways of making your dream of working overseas a reality.

Ok, so you’ve read the first two sections (Seriously, read the second section.) and you still want to work overseas.  What do you do to get hired?  First of all I have a little more bad news, the CivPol and Justice Sector jobs are getting harder to find.  Here’s why – Iraq has wound down and Afghanistan is starting that process, Eastern Europe is winding down.  There are fewer jobs out there then there were 5-6 years ago.  The government is broke and cutting back funding.   At the same time you have a lot of people, who have done a mission or two, or who are currently in a mission and faced with being downsized.   Many of these people liked the work and/or the money and want back in or want to stay in.  There is a supply and demand problem.  I suspect this will result in the pay going down in the near future not to mention it being harder for a person who is new to this type of work to get hired.  The good news is Africa and Central-South America are picking up and with any “luck” Syria will be open in the future.  As long at the US wants to play world policeman and fight never-ending wars on drugs and terror there will always be jobs for Rule of Law professionals.  Someone will profit from our folly, it may as well be you.

Here are my thoughts on getting hired.  There are two ways to do it.  One is the “Who you know” game and the other is the “Numbers” game.  If you haven’t worked overseas before you probably should try both.

The “who you know” method is the easiest.  If you have experience in the Rule of Law area (Cop, Prosecutor, Judge) and you have decided you want to work overseas.  Think about who you know, or who you know who knows someone that does.  Contact them, network, and get them to give your résumé to their boss.  If you feel this is taking unfair advantage or not kosher, get over it.  That is how most of the people in this business get hired.  There are so many people looking for these jobs that potential employers are inundated with resumes, they don’t like looking at hundreds of resumes and there are so many idiots with good-looking resumes applying for these jobs that a recruiter or employer is looking for someone they know is “OK” or for someone somebody they know vouches for.  Trust me if the person(s) you talk to doesn’t really like you they won’t forward on your résumé or they will do it with a weak endorsement.  So don’t feel bad about asking.   They are, however at least likely to tell you whether there are any openings now or in the near future and they will probably know who you should contact.  Knowing someone in the biz is vital.

The second method, and the way I got started is the “Numbers Game” method.  I went on the internet, found all the companies I could that were remotely involved in anything I thought I might qualify for or be interested in and I applied.  There are a couple of things to remember about the numbers game.  First of all apply for every job you think you might vaguely be qualified for.  Employers, when they type up the job requirements, are thinking about the perfect candidate.  They might not get the perfect candidate and they might settle for you.  Good enough is a win!   Secondly fill out the forms completely, check for spelling and grammatical errors.  You should have several different resumes highlighting your experience in different ways for different types of jobs.  This method is a pain in the neck and takes up a lot of time as each employer probably has its own fill in the blank web application process.  If you have the option, save or print out the application when you finish, it could save you time in future applications.  Be aware I started filling out online applications in the spring of 2008 and it was the spring of 2010 before I was hired for my first job.  It could take a while.  But if it is something you really want to do keep at it.  Expect to fill out literally hundreds of applications.

Below are links to a number of companies I have worked for, received job offers from or applied to.  This is not a complete list.  Be resourceful, there are also websites out there who are headhunters for companies that hire people for overseas work, use those as well:

Engility (formerly MPRI):  http://www.engilitycorp.com/

Civilian Police International:  http://www.civilianpolice.com/

Dyncorphttp://www.dyn-intl.com/careers.aspx

Fedsys:  http://www.fedsys.com/careers/

SAIChttps://www.saic.com/career/

Checci Consulting:  http://www.checchiconsulting.com/

PAE:  http://www.paegroup.com/career

Wackenhuthttp://www.g4s.us/en-US/Careers/

Dangerjobs.com:  http://dangerjobs.com/

Next:  Part IV.  Special Attorney Section

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part II)


Part II.  The Bad

Note:  In this section we continue our discussion about working and living as an advisor overseas. I set out some aspects about living overseas that you might consider less appealing.  Overseas assignments vary widely depending on the location, company and type of in mission in which you are working.  All of the factors listed below will not apply to all missions.

“Wow!”  You say, “That sounds great where do I sign up?”  But a little voice in your head may also be saying, “Wait, this sounds too good to be true.  Is there any downside to this big adventure?”   Well the short answer to that is “yes”.  Or perhaps it is more a matter of perspective.  It depends on your personal situation, personality and ability to adapt.  The following information will give you food for thought about whether overseas work is for you or not.

Here’s a quick list of things to think about.  After the list, in the next post, some bigger issues will follow:

  1. If you expect things to be like they are in the US you will be disappointed.  It is different here. That’s kind of the point.  If it is important to you to shop at Wal-Mart and eat at Appleby’s you won’t like it overseas.
  2. If it bothers you when people don’t speak English you probably shouldn’t work overseas.
  3. If you can’t make yourself try strange new foods you probably won’t be happy here.
  4. If you need to pack three large suit cases for a week-end trip, working overseas isn’t for you.
  5. If there is no way on God’s green earth you will ever understand the metric system, you could have problems.
  6. If you can’t imagine working unarmed.  This work may not be for you.  Some missions allow advisors to carry a weapon, many do not.
  7. If you are a type “A” personality and have to be moving at a gazillion miles an hour all of the time, overseas work may be unduly frustrating for you.  On a daily basis everything moves slower here and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to speed it up.
  8. You may feel much of your time is spent unproductively and the way work gets done may be extremely frustrating and hard to comprehend.
  9. If you think the rest of the world love’s Americans, the American Dollar and wants to be like us you are in for a rude awakening.
  10. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase “situational awareness” please, please stay home.
  11. On a related note:  No one outside of the litigious US really cares much about civil liability, it is a dangerous world out there, full of sharp pointy things, electrical hazards, unsanitary conditions, holes in the ground, really bad drivers, etc.  If you can’t pay attention to what you are doing and your surroundings you are likely to get hurt.
  12. If you think you would totally freak out if you were shot at, mortared, rocketed or if someone tries to blow you up you should think twice about working overseas.
  13. If creäture comforts are important to you, you may not like it here.  If you are living on a FOB (Forward Operating base)in Afghanistan if you are lucky you will live in a CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) this is a finished out shipping container which may or may not have electrical power to it.  It may not have a bathroom and you may have roommates.  You might live in a tent.  You might have to walk a couple of blocks to use the shower or the toilet, which sucks at O’dark-thrity on a brisk January morning.  If the shower works it will probably be cold.
  14. You may be required to work long hours.  Seriously, you might be working 12-hour days six days a week, sometimes even seven.   This is one factor to consider when you are thinking about the “big money” contractors make.  If you work 72 hours per week is your hourly wage really all that great?  Does it matter since you won’t be home for a year to spend it?
  15. That’s right most contracts are for one full year.  You will get a chance to go home a couple of times during that year, but every time you go home it costs you money.

Next:  Part II continued, more factors to consider.

So You Think You Want to Be An International Advisor? (Part I)


“The pool of people who think they want to do overseas work is large.  The pool of people who really have the desire and are qualified is much smaller, and the pool of qualified people who have the desire and will actually leave home for at least a year is actually very, very small”

–          Recruiter for a major defense contractor.

Author’s note:  This is part I of a seven part article which is intended primarily for Americans who are seeking first time jobs overseas in the CivPol/RoL sector. Items discussed may or may not be relevant to other international positions.

Part I.  The Good

Living and working overseas as a civilian contractor for the US government’s Rule of Law projects has helped make the past few years the best of my life.  I am now working on my third contract. I work for a company that helps train and equip police in other countries. Since 2010 I have been to over 20 countries on three continents and seen places such as Venice, Paris, London, Vienna, Prague and Munich just to name a few.

Since I started doing this work a surprising number of people have told me they would also like to work overseas and many have asked how to go about doing it. It occurred to me that instead of going through the same spiel every time someone asks I should just put it in a convenient written form. So here it is. The best way I can help you is to give you the straight scoop at least from my perspective. Hopefully what I have written here and in the forthcoming sections will be helpful to you or at least be entertaining.

Here is the good news:  Working and living overseas can be fun, profitable and exciting.  If you like traveling, seeing great sights most Americans never get to see, experiencing new cultures, languages and cuisine you might like living overseas.  Many parts of the world are as nice as (or nicer than) the United States.  The work is  interesting.  You will meet fascinating people and the pay will be good.

A trained monkey can work overseas, some do.  There are as many types of jobs as you can imagine.  Most of them pay better than what you can make doing a similar job in the US.  The military uses contractors these days for pretty much everything except actual combat.  You have no real skills you say?  Well you don’t need any.  If you can do laundry, sweep floors or peel potatoes you can get a job overseas.  If you can speak English or a foreign language, you can get a job overseas.  I don’t have much to say about many of the jobs available since I do somewhat specialized work. If you want an unskilled or semi-skilled job I’d start with KBR , Halliburton, or by just doing some web searches.

If you have some specialized skills, training or experience or a security clearance it may be possible to get a very good paying job outside of the US.  By good paying I mean in the range of about $100,000 to 300,000 per year, your mileage may vary.  If you work in or retired from the criminal justice or legal field you may be in particular demand.  Police Officers, Attorneys and Judges are all needed overseas.  Every time the US goes to war, gives assistance to a country after a war or some other calamity there is a need to reestablish the “Rule of Law.”  This requires Police officers, Attorneys with criminal law experience and Judges.  Initially to do the actual policing, lawyering, and judging but also to train and mentor those in the host country who take over those duties.

Next:  Part II.  The Bad

©2012 by Steven Fenner

Holiday on the Aegean Coast


Old Greek Orthodox Church near Aristotle's Birthplace, North Eastern Greece

On the Memorial Day week-end myself, most of the ICITAP advisors, and the legal advisor from OPDAT went to the Aegean Coast in Greece.  We carpooled to a small hotel near the village of Asprovalta.   Asprovalta is about a 30 minute drive east of Thessaloniki and about 5 hours from Pristina (if the border crossings go quickly).  Zana, who also works with ICITAP lived in Greece during the war and hooked us up with a good deal at the very nice Macedos Hotel right on the beach. 

The Makedos Hotel on the Aegean Coast, Greece

The Aegean is a wonderful sea, there isn’t much tide and most of the time I was there the waves were fairly small.  The water appeared clean and the beach varied from smooth sand to small pebbles.  The morning after we arrived I walked down the beach to a small village and decided to explore.  I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses and a Greece flag beach towel.  After exploring the village a bit I headed back to the hotel and the beach.

Aahhh.....

I spent most of the rest of the day hanging out on the beach in a lounge chair or on the veranda of the hotel reading or just relaxing.  It was a nice day. The weather was good though a little too cool to be comfortable for swimming.

We all got together for dinner again walking to the village in the opposite direction of the restaurant we went to the previous night.  We found a nice Italian restaurant owned by an attractive Swedish woman.  We had a really good dinner there while some of the advisors schemed on trying to fix me up with her.  She apparently told them that her Greek husband had been recently killed in some type of accident but said to check back in a year when she would be done mourning.  I guess that is something to think about.  How do you know when you will be done mourning?

The coast at Aristotle's Birthplace.

The next day we also spent relaxing but in the afternoon most of the advisors went to the town of Philippe, where apparently one of the apostles was held in prison for a while.  I am not real familiar with the story but those who take their Christianity seriously I seemed to think it was a significant place to go visit.  While they were there, myself and one of the other advisors went to Aristotle’s birthplace, which was about a 20 minute drive up the coast in the general direction of Thessaloniki.  This basically consisted or of some pretty extensive ruins of what can legitimately be called an ancient city wall on a small mountain overlooking very picturesque coastline.  I would say Aristotle was very fortunate to have lived there.  The church at the beginning of this post was near the bottom of the mountain the ruins were on.

The next day we spent preparing for and returning to Pristina.  The drive back was uneventful.  I rode down with one of the advisors because he wanted to sell a car he recently bought but ended up not using.  By the time we got back to Pristina I had bought it.  I am the proud owner of a Peugeot 206.

Travel Tip:  If you travel from Kosovo to Greece in a car that is registered in Kosovo you will have to buy insurance at the Greek border before they will let you in.  The insurance costs 180 Euros and is good for 30 days.  the tip is – go in a car regisitered in a EU member country or one with diplomatic plates, or take the bus; any of these options will allow you to avoid buying insurance the  cost of which makes a week-end there almost prohibitively expensive.

Holiday in Albania Part III: On to Berat


Berat, Albania – The old part of town from across the River

     Berat was the high point of the week-end.  We got up Sunday and after breakfast headed out of Tirana.  We only got lost briefly once before we made it to the city limits of Tirana and headed southeast for the mountains bordering the city.  We took Highway E-852 which was well maintained but a seriously winding and narrow road.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through the mountains, but if you have a fear of heights or have a tendency towards car sickness this road is not for you.  The owner of the vehicle, who had been sitting in the passenger seat, was not in very good condition by the time we got out of the mountains, and had made the unilateral decision that no matter what we would not be returning to Kosovo via that route.

The mountians around Berat, Albania

After getting out of the mountains we got on to Highway SH-7 and headed southeast.  SH-7 was flat and in pretty good condition, and we drove though acre after acre of vineyards and olive groves, the weather was perfect for early April and everyone was outside working in the fields.  We continued to pass dozens of cement bunkers, but we eventually got used to seeing them.  Eventually SH-7 ended near the town Rrogozhine and we headed generally south on another highway that was to become SH-72 once we got through the city of Lushnje.  The geography continued to be mountainous but road continued to be flat as we drove on through the Albanian countryside.  Throughout our drive a huge mountain was visible to the southeast.  We first saw this mountain off in the distance as we wound our way around the mountains outside of Tirana.  As the road began taking us more east than south we began getting closer and closer to mountain.  As we continued the journey it became obvious that Berat was located in the foothills of that mountain.

As we got closer to Berat the road got increasingly bad and though it continued to be paved at several point sit might as well have been gravel.  As we arrived in Berat it appeared to just another post-communist city with the multi-story cement apartments that seem to be everywhere in this part of the world.  As we went through town heading east we could see the ruins of a large fortification on top of the mountain overlooking the city.  The road took us along the river and we came to the old part of town which was made of almost entirely of stone houses with large windows.  These houses were all nestled closely together going up the hillside on each side of the river.  A couple of old stone bridges connected the north and south side of the river.

Inside the walls of the Fortress at Berat.

Amongst the houses were some small businesses, restaurants and hotels.  It was all very picturesque, with the exception of the trash in the riverbed.  We found a place to park and walked across a bridge to a restaurant on the south side of the river where we ate lunch.  One of the people I was traveling with, I cannot recall who, had heard of a hotel called the Mangelemi Hotel which had been recommended to them.  After lunch we decided to cross the river and look for the hotel.

It might be worth noting that as we got farther from Kosovo we found fewer people spoke English and more and more spoke Italian.  Which makes sense since Italy is right across the Adriatic from Albaniaand you can get Italian radio and television signals in western Albania.  Albania has not had as much American influence as Kosovo though there is an American presence there.  However, we found that many people, even in a small, fairly remote town like Berat still spoke a fair amount of English, and they still seemed friendly and Pro-American.   As we looked for the hotel we walked along some very lovely narrow streets, the place looked like a movie set…

Ruined Archway inside the fortress at Berat.

…A fair number of times since I have been here I have found places that justseem too perfect to be real; the Eiffel Tower at night, the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the mountains around the ski slopes in Bansko, an old neighborhood with cobblestone streets in Thessaloniki, Greece, the monastery at Ducani, and now the alleys of Berat come to mind.  There are times I feel so fortunate to have been able to see some of the things I have seen it is almost overwhelming.  I wish I was capable of writing about these things in a way the people reading this could get a sense of just how many amazing places there are in this world.  But I digress…

The Hotel Mangalemi, Berat Ablania

…Eventually we asked some directions and found the hotel we were looking for right around the corner from where we were walking.  The hotel was in a large old home, it had a small restaurant and bar in it and a courtyard that was bordered by another building which was part of the hotel as well.  We hadn’t made reservations but they had four rooms available and we checked in.  All of the rooms had been newly remodeled and were fairly spacious with very nice, what appeared to be, handmade furniture in them, my room came with a queen sized bed (most single rooms in hotels in Eastern Europe have single sized beds).  The bathrooms were large and up to modern, even American standards.  The ceilings were made of carved wood were beautiful.  The price included a full breakfast in the morning.  It was the best hotel deal I have ever gotten at 25 Euros a night.  The place was one of those rare gems that you sometimes stumble upon but don’t come around often enough.  If you are ever in Albania and ever go to Berat.  You have to stay at the Hotel Mangalemi.

Overlooking Berat from the Fortress

After checking into the hotel we decided to explore the Castle on top of the hill.  The clerk at the front desk told us there was a nice museum in the castle and that is closed at 4:00 pm.  It was after 3:00 when he told us that so we decided to drive up the hill instead of hiking to save time.  We got there in a few minutes and it was another breathtaking sight.  The pictures I took don’t do the place justice.  There was a large Orthodox Church in the castle (in fact there were several churches within the walls) and the Church, though still functioning, had been made into a very nice museum.  After exploring the church we met back up in the church courtyard where Tim had made friends with an older local gentleman.  It turned out that though some of the castle was in ruins quite a few people still lived in houses within the castle walls.  He was one of these people and wanted to give us a tour.

Me in front of an Orthodox Church inside the fortress at Berat.

He gave us a very thorough and complete tour of the high points of the castle, and was very concerned that we see all of the “panorama” views.  Although his English was broken he gave us a great tour.  This was one of the largest fortresses I have been in and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is definitely worth the drive.

After finishing the tour it was getting late and we decided to head back to the Hotel.  I decided to walk back down the hill and met up with everyone for drinks in the courtyard outside of our hotel rooms.    After a couple of drinks, we had dinner at the hotel.   We continued drinking wine through dinner and finished the meal with a walnut Rakia.  I was surprised by this at first but walnut is definitely the best flavor of Rakia.  From what I recall dinner was excellent and lasted most of the evening, another guest of the hotel from Slovakia joined us for dinner.  The evening ended well with me sleeping in my large and comfortable bed.

I got up in the morning and for some reason had a headache, but got cleaned up and had breakfast and went for a walk.  We left the hotel and headed for home about mid-morning; we drove northwest and eventually got to the coast around Duress but didn’t stop at the beach.  We made pretty good time with the exception of the road out of Berat and the road south of Prisren the roads were good and the drive went well.  We made it back to Pristina about 5:00 in the evening and had plenty of time to rest up and prepare for work in the morning.

Thus ends my painfully long recounting of the week-end trip to Albania.  Just in time for my next trip to Zagreb, Croatia, stay tuned for a Croatian Easter…

Steve’s General Travel Tips


Here are a few more tips.  Again probably nothing original but hopefully if you go overseas you will find it helpful.

General Travel Tips:

  1. When it comes to packing less is more. All clothing can be worn at least twice before washing.  In England you can find a laundry mat but in some other countries it can be tough.
  2. Pack old underwear/socks and throw them away when it is time to put on a new pair. This will free up space and lighten your load. I’d suggest doing the same with shirts and pants if you have some old ones around you are thinking of getting rid of.
  3. When you pack split up your clothing and shoes evenly among your bags so that when the Airline loses one bag you can still get by on the other.  I usually always put at least one change of clothing in any carry-on I may have. 
  4. If you stay at hotels and B&Bs you do not need to pack soap or shampoo.  You can buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors almost anywhere.
  5. It is a good idea to get a collapsible duffel bag, I have one that zips up into about a 10″ x 10′ x 1″ square and takes up very little room in my luggage but when I buy a bunch of stuff to bring home I stuff the duffel full of dirty laundry or extra clothing  and put the purchases in my main luggage.  You will be glad you have the extra bag.
  6. Investing in a small “netbook” or iPad type of computer is a good idea. There has been internet available everywhere I have been though it isn’t always free, and a netbook or tablet will let you do what you need to without weighing you down like a full size laptop will. You really need some type of computer for finding hotels, directions, planning last-minute things, and don’t forget to help with translation, etc.
  7. In many of the places that I have been the dollar isn’t the preferred currency anymore.  Often businesses flat will not accept it.  Americans think everyone loves the Dollar.  They don’t, not anymore.  When you get to a foreign country the first thing you should do is check and see if the dollar is welcome then go to a bank and get enough of the local currency for your needs.  The point here is don’t assume the dollar will get you by.
  8. On the subject of money, in lots of places in Europe and especially in Kosovo they do not like to make change and especially hate to break large bills.  When you are at the bank trading dollars for Euros try to get as many small denominations as possible.  People will openly bitch at you or at least give you dirty looks if you buy a couple of Euros worth of stuff and try to break a twenty or, heaven forbid, a fifty, often even a ten sets them off.
  9. One good way to get the money you need in the local currency is at an ATM.  But be careful some credit cards charge fairly large “Foreign Currency Exchange” fees.  Debit cards didn’t used to do that but now they seem to (at least mine does).  Capital One doesn’t charge an exchange fee yet so you might think of getting a Capitol One card before you go overseas.  The non-Capital One cards I have even charge the exchange fee for purchases not just ATM usage.
  10. When you are in a country that English isn’t the native tongue if you don’t speak the local language and you want or need to talk to a local person, try to at least learn an appropriate greeting in their language, then ask them if they speak English. They will almost always at least try to help you if you are polite. But I have seen, on more than one occasion, an American basically demand help in English, the locals then claim they don’t understand English until he goes away.  They then very politely helped me in English.  Just imagine how you’d feel if someone came up to you in Springfield and demanded you give them directions in a foreign language.
  11. If you can speak any other language and the person you are trying to talk to doesn’t speak English ask them if they speak the third language.  Most Europeans speak two or three languages.  In Kosovo most people who don’t speak English do speak German.
  12. You are NOT in America, if you want to be able to drink the tap water, eat only American food, only hear English, and do everything the way you do it in the US, you probably should just stay home, and NO, they don’t want screens on their windows. 
  13. The golden rule seems to work pretty much everywhere.  Treat people with respect and as your equal and they will generally return that in kind, if you act like they are there to serve you, well your trip may end up having lots of little complications.
  14. MOST IMPORTANTLY:  If you are in a “trouble spot,” the guy with the gun is always right.  DO NOT argue with him.

Steve’s Travel Tips (the UK)


These tips are probably nothing that hasn’t been printed somewhere else but it is stuff I learned the hard way and if you’re not smarter or more experienced than me I would save you the trouble.

Travel Tips Specific to England:

  1.  For most of England you don’t need a car.  I repeat you DO NOT need a car.  Americans want to drive but fight that desire you will be glad you did.  The trains are easy to figure out and the English people are helpful.  The Tube in London is also easy to figure out, I haven’t ridden a bus yet but they look pretty easy too and they go everywhere.  Taxis are also easily available.  I think the only reason to get a car is to drive around the countryside but if you plan well you can find bus tours for that.  I am glad I had the car for the places I went in Wales and to a lesser extent the Cotswolds, but I noticed what appeared to be bus stops in what I would consider the middle of nowhere in Wales and it seemed almost every town I went to had a train station. So again I probably didn’t need a car.
  2. If you think you have to rent a car.  Be aware the driving on the left thing is a big pain.  I drove around GB for four days and was a nervous wreck the first two.  I never got comfortable with it.   Not only does driving on the left go against your deeply ingrained driving habits; you will naturally after making turns etc. want to go to the wrong side of the road.  Road signs are different here, while you can figure most of them out, a few were not intuitive to me and I never figured them out.  There is one that is a blue circle with a red “X” in it which seems to mean “Do not enter” but that is not what it means.  Turns are a pain, the left turn here is like the right turn at home and visa-versa, in that here when you turn right you have to worry about oncoming traffic.  Also you have a natural tendency to look the wrong way first when entering traffic.  Streets here also tend to be much narrower than the US and often there is not room for two cars at one time, again this is something that is hard to get used to.  The last issue I noted with driving is that people here park on the streets pointing both directions.  In the US if you are confused about whether you are on a one way street or not you can tell by the way the cars are pointing, that doesn’t work here and in fact is often misleading.  Personally unless I am going to stay here for an extended time period I would not drive here or rent a car again. 
  3. Related to driving is crossing streets.  You have to be careful here because you naturally want to look the wrong direction for oncoming vehicles.  This can lead to disaster when you step out in front of one of the many buses.  Also related is walking on the sidewalks, stay away from the street side as again you will be looking for oncoming traffic the wrong way.  I about got beaned in the head with a wide rearview mirror on one occasion and that cured me of walking close to the street. 
  4. Pack for the weather.  I think I can be excused for this since I came here from the desert and it was a last-minute decision.  However, be aware that it is probably going to rain while you are here.  I think it rains here more than is doesn’t.  Bring at least a light waterproof overcoat of some sort and a water-resistant hat.  Your shoes should also resist the water.  Although it rains a lot the temperature was usually pleasant if a bit cool.  I would definitely bring a sweater of some sort that you can take off easily.  The rain here also seems pretty intermittent, it will mist, then rain lightly, then rain hard, then mist, then clear up.  Deal with the rain, you won’t melt and if you wait for good weather to do anything you will be in your room the whole time.
  5. I found the English people to be for the most part very friendly and willing to help.  Although we speak the same language I have a hard time understanding a lot of them and even the ones I could understand use a lot of phrases that didn’t compute with me.  You have to remember you are the one with the accent and this is their country but communication can be a challenge.  I notice they seem to understand me just fine for some reason though, I was corrected on my pronunciation of “tomato” and “potato,” and “Gas Station” seems funny to them.  One of the hosts at a B&B I stayed at seemed very troubled that I didn’t have a favorite “football” team.