I’m Good

Hi world, one month away already! And this week, I’ve actually started to become more homesick 😦 Maybe because during the first 3-4 weeks, I was constantly running around, trying to get everything organized and now, I have more time to just do nothing. Or overthink, as I tend to do quite often. 

 

On Saturday, I went to check out a Japanese Festival called Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square, which was absolutely insane. I love festivals and I usually just go for the food, and that’s exactly what I did. They had rows of tents of different Japanese cuisine but I stuck to the classics and got some spring rolls and some gyoza (yum!). I also tried a matcha latte, which was interesting! The festival also had tents with information and tours for travelling Japan, and then they also had origami and cartoon drawings. Of course, there was a huge stage that had performances constantly going on. It was a gorgeous day, so hundreds of people came to check out the festival. After that, I went home and my flatmates downstairs invited me to go out with them for drinks! We took the bus to a pub closeby, which was extremely cheap (11 pounds for a round of 4 drinks!). They all seem a few years younger than me, but they were all extremely nice and I enjoyed their conversations! We stayed there until the pub closed (1am) and then walked to KFC, got a 12-piece bucket meal, and took it back to the flat. Didn’t get to bed until about 3, which I thought would be fine since I’d get to sleep in the next day. However, when I woke up on Sunday, it was 8 and my body wouldn’t let me sleep in any longer.
I decided to go explore Richmond, which is an absolute gorgeous area! I found a French cafe called Paul, which is at almost every metro station in Paris (but they are much harder to find over here). I ended up getting some quiche, and the best mocha I’ve ever had in my life. It was basically just melted chocolate mixed with some coffee. So rich and thick, absolutely delicious! After that, I found a park (as usual) and enjoyed some time in the sun. I then met up with a friend for dinner and coffee, and then headed home.

On Monday, I woke up nice and early to wait for my call, which was extremely difficult since I think I only got 5-6 hours of sleep the night before. By 8:30, I thought I was safe and could go back to bed… but then I got a phone call at 8:50, asking me to go to another all girls’ school. I didn’t get there until 10:30, which was when the second period was nearly done. And I actually got to do chemistry! All I can say about the school was wow. I’ve never been in a more well-behaved school in my life, and I doubt I’ll be able to find one that’s better. I almost felt like there was no need for me to be in the classroom. During the last period especially, when it was the oldest girls, I was actually bored because they were all doing their work quietly and I was sitting there wishing I brought a book or something to do. Just a walk in the park, I loved it! That night, I met up with a friend who I had met the week before. I must have totally forgot to write about that, but last Thursday, I went to this social night. Basically, you sit at a table with 3-5 other people and chat with whoever for 15 minutes and then everyone gets up and finds another table with all new people to sit at. And this goes on for about 2-3 hours and then you meet a whole bunch of new people! Which is perfect for me since the amount of people who I know in London can be counted on one hand. So anyway, I met this girl (Becky) at that social night and she’s a nanny here in London, so we were easily able to relate with each other on that. On Monday night, we decided to meet up for drinks and catch up, which was nice! I find that it’s better for me to get out as many nights as possible, since I’m still at the flat alone (or was when I was writing this) and have no one to spend time with haha I actually really miss that about the hostels – just being able to walk into your ‘living room’ and choose any 20 people to talk to. Maybe I’ll have to go there once every two weeks or something… That day, I also found out that I had a job at a new school, and I would be there from Tuesday to Friday so I didn’t have to worry about waiting for phone calls, yay!
On Tuesday, I still had to get up at the exact same time, as it takes quite a bit longer to get to this school. Of course, my time management in the morning sucked so I was struggling to get everything ready and get out the door in time. London has really awesome apps (including GoogleMaps), which tells you exactly all the information you need in order to get to another place by using public transportation – walking times, bus and train times, delay times, etc. However, I never understand how they measure the time it takes to walk to a place. I’ve learned really fast that I can never rely on that time. Like do they expect a person to walk a certain amount of metres per minute and then just do the math? And who is their sample person? I feel like it’s Bigfoot, or someone with the largest steps in the world. I would consider myself a quick walker, but I can never keep up with the time that these programs say I should be doing and then I find myself either missing the bus/train, or sprinting to make it there in time. In this situation, my legs were absolutely burning – like not just part of my leg.. my entire leg was just releasing lactic acid all over the place (sorry, it’s the biologist in me). I’m going to have to start figuring out this walking time thing, cause while it wakes me up, the stress of wondering if I’m going to make it to a school on time or not doesn’t work in my favour. Anyway, I got to the school and they have the most high-tech security system I’ve ever seen. We’re given security cards that we can’t even get into the school (as well as any of the classrooms) with unless we have them. I was thinking, “Wow, this must be a really great school with amazing students.” Boy, was I in for a surprise… Again, I was teaching science all day but the school was somewhat unprepared, as in they only gave me what I’d be teaching at the beginning of each period. Which somewhat made it difficult for me since in London, there’s no time in between periods; students are just expected to move from one class to another in as little time as possible. So then the students sit there waiting for us to figure out what they’re supposed to be learning, and then get completely out of hand. Anyway, the first period started and as soon as the students (year 10) walk into the classroom, I get bombarded with questions, “Did Mr. Farrington leave? Did he go crazy? Is he coming back? Are you our new teacher? Did he get fired?” Well, this seems like a bad sign… The students then proceeded to tell me that during yesterday’s class, the teacher just up and left in the middle of class and they haven’t seen him since. (The head teacher later confirmed this and added that not only did he leave, he left back home to Australia! Sounds like a crazy bunch of kids if the teacher sent himself home after TWO WEEKS!) This was my first hint that I had my work cut out for me. The students then asked, “Did you come all the way from Canada JUST to teach us today?” “Why would you come here?!” “This is the worst school ever, you’ll find out after a few classes.” Great… I then had another period of year 10’s and found out I’d have them AGAIN for two more periods in the afternoon! I thought double periods were bad enough in Canada, but what kind of evil person would plan three hours of science with the same students?! The predictions that the first period made definitely started to come true when I was teaching those three periods. Absolutely insane! I didn’t think I’d find classes worse than my 9’s during my internship, but they exist! The students don’t listen at all, don’t take any responsibility for their actions, they’re in the mindset that nothing is their fault. By the third period, I just gave up haha there was literally nothing I could do. So that was a great first day.. The principal came to talk to me after and started talking about how he didn’t want me to have to do long-term supply unless they absolutely needed me. Pretty sure I wouldn’t agree to it anyway. That night, the friend who I had met with on Monday wrote me and informed me that her family had a spare ticket to the rugby game on Saturday, and was wondering if I wanted to come(!!). A once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the rugby World Cup, where tickets are about 500 pounds?! Most definitely I’ll go!
Wednesday was a lot better cause most of the day was spent with year 7’s, who I’ve decided is my favourite year; I’ve only had good experiences with them at every school I’m at. They’re still at the stage where they want to learn and do their work, but can talk at the same time. The head science teacher asked if I’d be willing to stay longer than just this week and I told her I wasn’t willing to do long-term supply, but I would be willing to stay for a week or so until they found a replacement – to which later the technician informed me that was a bad idea, cause they’ll take their time finding someone and they haven’t had the best of luck in the past. And the kids aren’t great (her words, not mine), “but you didn’t hear it from me.”
On Thursday, I only ended up having to teach for the first three periods! Meaning I had three spares. But because I wasn’t willing to do full-time teaching (because I don’t want to have to do lesson plans and marking during my evenings), the head science teacher said they wanted to get their money’s worth with me since they were paying me for the full day, so I could use my three spares to plan what I’d be teaching for my classes the next day. Lovely. It was somewhat of a struggle since I’m not familiar with the U.K. curriculum, but I think I did an okay job. After school, I got home and Jess and her sister had come back from their trip. We went to a night market in Kingston, which was supercool! Lots to see and eat 🙂

 

On Friday, I ended up having a double with the year 10’s who drove their teacher to leave. I hadn’t had them since Tuesday, but they were absolutely insane! I had to keep a resting bitch face on for the entire period (which I’m not sure really looked intimidating but oh well). Then when I proceeded to keep them after class to waste their time since they wasted my time, it was all my fault. “Well this isn’t fair!” “But drama’s my favourite class!” “But we’ll get detention if we’re late for the next class!” And they STILL wouldn’t be quiet. After that class, I luckily had a spare so I could take some deep breaths and calm my nerves. It takes a lot to do that to me! To say the least, I was extremely happy when the day was over! Anyway, I’m spending the weekend at my friend’s family’s house in Sevenoaks so it’ll be easier to get to and from the rugby game. Heading there now! Hope everyone has a good weekend! Love always
I’m Good – The Mowgli’s

Send Me On My Way

Wow, it’s been 4 weeks since I’ve come to London.. how does the time go by so fast?! First of all, thank you for all of the comments and messages I’ve received from people this past week! It means a lot to me that so many people take the time out of their busy lives to read about my experiences. And it’s encouraging me to write more blogs!
On Sunday, I stayed at the flat and tried to get everything organized before having to start work. This included laundry, grocery shopping, washing dishes, unpacking, etc. As the day went on, I started to notice that it was getting colder and colder in the flat, and the radiators wouldn’t turn on. I wrote an email to the landlord asking if someone could come check it out this week. Then that evening, I went to turn on the gas stove, and it wouldn’t turn on! So I wrote the estate agent and asked him why it wasn’t working. He got back to me on Monday and he told me to check my credit. In the UK, they have this weird prepay gas system, which works exactly like a prepay phone plan. You have a card, you add credit to that card, and you insert it into your gas box thing in order to top up your gas. So after work, I went to check what the gauge said and to no surprise, it said we had 0 pounds of credit, but we also had 9 pounds owing. So I went and grabbed the card (thinking that the landlord tops it up and we just have to insert the card) but when I inserted it, it said there was 0 pounds on the card. So I called the agent back up to tell him and he was like, “Well yeah, you have to top up the card yourself,” “Oh, I thought gas was included in the utilities?” “No, that’s the only thing you have to pay for.” Confused, I said bye and hung up and then went to go check the contract, where it clearly says that gas is included in the utilities. So I called him back, “Hey, so do you reimburse us for the money that we put on the gas card?” “No, you just pay for it yourself.” “Well, on the contract, it says that gas is included in the utilities,” “Oh really? Okay, I’ll talk to the office and get back to you.” Which to this day, he still hasn’t gotten back to me. Anyway, I refused to top up the gas until I knew I’d be getting my money back. So I decided to suffer the cold. Day three of no heat (Tuesday). I could hardly get out of bed because it was FREEZING in my room!! Thank goodness I bought my duvet a few days before! I managed to get myself out of bed and get ready for work. Then, I waited for my call to go to work. And waited and waited. At the point where I was absolutely shivering, sitting there in my sweater dress and jacket, I decided to get back into bed and wait there while keeping warm under the covers, fully dressed. People should know this by now: Don’t mess with a Taurus because they’re stubborn as heck! I don’t care how much suffering I have to go through in order to get a point across; I won’t give in until I get my way! Luckily on Tuesday night, someone showed up to the house to do our annual gas appliances check and he informed me that we now have 52 pounds in our account, which should last us for 1-2 months. I turned the heat on high so I could finally be warm for the evening 🙂
This week was my very first week of actual work, and I only ended up working a total of two days. I guess I should explain how my job works. So I’m doing supply teaching, which is basically substitute teaching. The company I work for finds me daily jobs and then I go to wherever they need me to go. They TRY to find jobs ahead of time (a day in advance) but many times, they don’t find out until the day of. Therefore, I have to wake up every single day (whether I have a scheduled job or not) at 6, and be ready to accept phone calls by 6:45. If I haven’t heard anything by 7, I’m supposed to call the company and if they have anything, I need to be ready to leave my house within 10 minutes. If they don’t have anything for you at that moment, then you’re supposed to wait and see if anything comes up. And it’s ALWAYS during that moment (probably because I’m sitting there drinking coffee while waiting) when I have to go to the bathroom. But I never want to go cause it’s ALWAYS during that time when we get the phonecall that we’ve been waiting for, isn’t it? Anyway, we’re supposed to arrive at school by 8:10-8:20. So basically I have to be ready by 7:10 every day, whether or not I’m working. The good thing about this is that I’m under a guaranteed supply contract, which means that even if they don’t find me a job, I’m still supposed to get paid for the day (which will be confirmed next week when I get paid). I’ve been living off of the money I brought from Canada for the past four weeks, but that is quickly dwindling. I’m supposed to start getting paid next week, so that should make my life a little bit easier! The bad thing about all of this is.. well, everyone knows I’m not a morning person. Trying to force myself to go to bed by 10pm isn’t working so well for me either. Anyway, on Monday, I woke up, called, waited, and at 7:40, I got a phone call to go work at an all girls’ school. When I got there, I found out that I would be teaching math for the day (or as they say in Britain: ‘maths’ – so weird) which I guess is somewhat like science? I taught year 7’s to year 11’s and pretty much every grade was learning about fractions in one way or another, so it wasn’t bad at all. However, many of the girls a) like to talk, b) have attitude, and c) don’t listen, so I figured out really fast that I’m going to have to learn how to be more strict. I’m sure it will come with time. That day, I got the most compliments I think I’ve ever gotten in one day.. “Miss, I love your dress!” “Miss, you have such long eyelashes!” “Miss, I love your accent!” “Miss, I like your eyes!” “But Miss, where did you get your dress?”It was an interesting day for sure.. My favourite class was the year 7’s because they’re still at the stage where they’ll get their work done cause they want to impress you, but they can chat at the same time. Anyway, my agent told me that this school was one of his more difficult schools, so maybe it was a good school to start off with!
On Tuesday, I got up and got ready, but received no phone call. I decided I might as well check out the closest mall (or British: ‘shopping centre’) to see what they had to offer. Not only did they have my two favourite clothing stores: H&M and Primark, but they also had Poundland (which is basically like a dollar store)! They had a humongous grocery store there, which is where I found some Clamato juice waiting for me. I got the biggest smile when I found it; I think Jess and I will be making plenty of trips there in the future. That evening, one of the downstairs flat tenants moved into the flat so he came upstairs to say hi (we had met before, when we both viewed the flat – his name is James and he’s a bit younger – probably around 20 or 21) and after realizing that none of our roommates were there, he brought over the two board games that he found in his flat and we ended up playing Trivial Pursuit. Now, I think he kind of had an unfair advantage since it’s a UK version, so I had absolutely no idea what the answers were on most of the questions BUT when we decided to stop playing, I was in the lead by one point so I’m definitely proud of that. On Wednesday, I did the exact same morning routine, waited, and once again didn’t receive a phone call. By that point, these early mornings had already been getting to me (after three days! Great..) so I ended up just passing out again in the afternoon and taking it easy for the day. My agent called me right when I woke up and told me he had a job for me for the next day (yay!). So on Thursday, I got up and headed over to the school that I was supposed to go to. Upon arriving there, I already felt so much more welcome. Everyone said hi, asked if I needed help, etc. It was a much better atmosphere. And the kids were a lot more well-behaved! When I found out my teaching schedule, I was somewhat taken aback. Why? Because my first period was gym (or British: ‘games’). I know anyone reading this right now is probably laughing, wondering how I of all people would teach gym. Luckily, there was another teacher there so I basically just had to stand to the side and watch. But I enjoyed that because I was able to see the interaction between the teacher and students, and how he handled them. Kids actually listen here! In England, I’m pretty sure they think that their students are bad and don’t listen, and aren’t behaved. But I think it’s because they have such high expectations here so they’re still disappointed in the kids. Whereas in Canada, we have such low expectations for behaviour of students that respect between a teacher and students is really hard to find and build up. The students all have a school uniform that they have to wear, and they also have a games uniform. And if they forget to bring or wear anything on that uniform, the students have to hand in a dayplanner, where they get written up. Detention also still exists here! Anyway, after the students finally got settled (25 minutes later), the teacher started doing attendance (or British: “taking the register”) and warned that if he heard any talking, everyone would have to change back into their school uniforms. He got about halfway through and a student ended up saying one word, and they were all forced to go back and change. They were given a talking to and then were asked to once again go change back into their games uniform. Luckily for the kids, games lasts for 2 periods because by the time they got outside in their games uniforms, the first period was already over. So that was my experience teaching games since I only had to be there for one period! The rest of the day was spent in learning resources so I was working with 1 to 4 kids at a time. Most of it consisted of work periods, or practicing literacy so it was pretty straightforward. The first kid that I taught loved to chat and told me about how much he loved Michael Jackson and Rush, and how he thought that American football should be the only sport that exists in the world. Towards the end of the period, he was like, “Can’t you just be my teacher all the time from now on? You’re my favourite teacher,” which was an awesome thing to hear; it’s things like that which make you feel like you’re making a difference and making an impact. And I would never have expected it on my second day, or even as a supply teacher in general. I really enjoyed my time at that school, so I’m definitely hoping that they’ll contact me again! Today (Friday), I got up and ready, and I’ve been working on my blog for the past hour. It’s about 8:40am so I’m starting to think that I won’t have to work today. (Update: I didn’t end up getting called into work, so I walked to Richmond Park, which is essentially a deer park. There are SO MANY deer! And they just wander around freely; it’s amazing!)
This week, it has become a lot colder and ever since we moved into our flat, I’ve noticed my hands going back to their winter skin problem stages. I was kind of taken aback because I remember my hands never going through that problem when I was living in France, so I figured it would be the same here. A couple of days later, the spots started showing up on my neck and face and I noticed that every time I came out of the shower or washed my face, my skin was extremely itchy. I then did some research and it turns out that I’m not the only person in the world who moved to London and has had this problem. Apparently the water in London is extremely hard water, which means that it’s high in minerals and metals. Those minerals prevent the water from reacting with soap and detergents, so instead of lathering up and removing dirt and impurities (like our water does), it basically just spreads them all on your skin and creates a soapy film on the skin (this has the same effect with detergents on clothes). Which then reacts with your skin and prevents moisture from going in. And usually, because you don’t see the soap lathering up, you tend to take even more soap, which makes it even worse. And now I’m at this point. I’ve basically diagnosed myself (because who’s here to diagnose me anyway?) with hard water dermatitis. Basically I’m allergic to the water here. So that’s just lovely. At this point, I’d rather be allergic to anything else in the world. But water?! It’s so painful; I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Not only that, but I might react to any clothes I wear or any beds I sleep in, since they would have been washed in hard water so they likely still have detergent left on them. I might as well just live in a big plastic bubble.. After further research, I found out that washing your face with bottled mineral water should help so I tried that last night and already, I’ve noticed a difference in a) the lathering of the soap, and b) the itchiness of my face. So I’m HOPING that with time, I won’t be an itchy, rashy mess. Still trying to figure out what to do about my hands though? I bought a whole bunch of Aveeno the other day, but something tells me that the ingredients in UK Aveeno is different than the Canadian stuff. I also throw my hands out the window during the brief periods of sunlight that we get haha But if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.. On Wednesday, I went and bought the strongest hydrocortisone that I could buy without prescription just so I could try to get it under control. It’s a dangerous cream cause it’s filled with steroids and basically thins out your skin, but I figure it’s probably best to do it now, since it’s not dry out so my skin shouldn’t crack. So we’ll see how that works; I can only use it for a maximum of 7 days. Welcome to my life for the past 25 years! Although it’s gotten considerably worse the last three years… I’m just glad I know what the cause is this time so that I can make the changes necessary to try to make the situation better. Two years ago, the rash was horrible and we did all types of allergy testing and found out that I’m allergic to some type of ingredient that they commonly put in shampoos, soaps, lotions, cosmetics, etc. and I basically had to stop using every product I had in order to figure out what was bothering me. Not only that, but I also found out I’m allergic to nickel. Easy to eliminate that right? – Just stop wearing necklaces and belts and whatnot. However, it really isn’t all that easy… Many foods contain nickel naturally, so I was given a diet list where I had to avoid certain foods. My medical history has been the most annoying thing, but I guess it could be worse. Anyway, a bunch of you are probably thinking, “Why not just put Vaseline or coconut oil on your hands?” Well, those actually make the rash way worse cause they must have the type of ingredient that also causes me to react. The past view days, I have spent lots of time and money researching and doing my own mini experiments. Thursday, my routine was crazy. I’ll share it with you in case (and I certainly hope this isn’t the case) someone ends up having the same problem as I do. If this information isn’t necessarily useful for those of you (aka the majority of the world) who don’t have this problem, hopefully it will provide you with some entertainment. Okay so Thursday night:
  1. I took a Vitamin E capsule, which ‘helps to protect cells from oxidative stress,’ –  healing on the inside.
  2. Because my hands have been getting considerably better, I didn’t want to start off from square one again so I showered with latex gloves on hahaha (thank goodness I’m not allergic to latex!)
  3. I used E45 wash cream in the shower, which is used for dry skin and doesn’t contain soap so I won’t have to worry about it affecting my skin. I also made sure I didn’t get my face wet in the shower.
  4. After showering, I washed my face in the sink with bottled water, which is softer water so it’s easier on my skin. Then I moisturized like crazy!
  5. I moisturized with Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E on every part of my body that felt itchy (which was basically everywhere) in order to prevent further rashes from breaking out.
  6. I covered my hands with Aveeno, then covered them with E45 itch relief cream, and THEN covered them with the E45 hydrocortisone.
  7. I took a Benadryl and passed out.
Soon there will be an addition to that list, as I have recently purchased a new shower filter head, which is supposed to remove up to 99% of the chlorine, pesticides, and chemicals from the water and therefore reduce eczema and dry hair. Basically, the filter makes the water softer and more bearable. So HOPEFULLY it works because it cost a lot of money! So that’s my life in London. I wish it were more exciting than just my bedtime routines.. sorry if that’s weird to share. Maybe next week will be more eventful. Hope everyone’s doing well!!! Love always
Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root

He Lives in You

Hi friends and family, I’ve been slacking off on blog-writing this week.. Usually I write a little bit each day and then put everything together, but this time not so much. I just realized that it’s been a week since I posted my last blog and I still have yet to write anything down! I guess it’s been somewhat of a crazy week, so to sit down and write about my day would mean I’d be staying up even later than the 2 and 3am nights I’ve been having lately. Not too sure who reads these anyway? So maybe I’ll only have to worry about a select few readers. 

Anyway, life with a smartphone has made my life a million times easier. I guess the world was right.. I still refuse to get Instagram and Twitter though. After I got my phone, I was able to make a bunch of calls and set up a bunch of viewings to pick out flats. So Saturday and Sunday was just a blur of flat viewings. Some big, some tiny, all of them requiring sharing with other house members, one requiring no eating beef… I wanted to make a decision by Sunday night so that we could start the moving process by the time Jess got to London on Wednesday. However, on Sunday night, I got another email from an agent who wanted to set up a flat viewing on Monday night. I figured I might as well give it a try, and decided to go. Upon walking to the flat, I noticed how nice the area was and I knew straight away that I would like living in the neighbourhood. Then, an ice cream truck playing a cute little tune happened to drive by and I knew this was the place. Viewings at this flat were from 6-7:30 and I arrived at 5:55. Basically, the house has two flats: a 3-bedroom flat on the bottom level, and a 2-bedroom flat on the top level, and both were available. I was first shown the 3-bedroom flat, and then went up to the 2-bedroom flat. A little bit quirky, but it was a 2 bedroom! So Jess and I would have the entire place to ourselves! Within ten minutes of being there, about 6 people had shown up to view the flats. The agent left me in the 2-bedroom flat so that he could show everyone else the 3-bedroom and I headed downstairs just when he was finished touring the 3-bedroom. I remember him saying, “So that’s the 3-bedroom flat. And then I can show you the 2-bedroom upstairs now. Unless….?” And looks at me questioningly. “I want the flat.” “Okay, then I don’t have a 2-bedroom flat to show everyone.. just the 3-bedroom is available.” Within a half an hour, 4 of the 5 bedrooms were gone. I guess that’s what they mean about houses going on and off the market within the same day! I had to pay an administration fee to the agent, and then he said we’d get emailed a contract the following day. I was ecstatic! Smiling from ear to ear while going back to my hostel, almost skipping down the sidewalk. We finally found a place! And it was all ours!
The next day (Tuesday), I received the promised contract, but it included some fees (a finders fee and a void protection fee) that I had never heard of before. The contract also seemed to word things in a way that Jess and I might be found liable for anything that happened to the flat. I sent an email to my teaching agent to ask about the fees, waited for a response, and didn’t hear anything. I was just so keen on getting everything done, I signed the contract and sent it in. About a half an hour later, my agent called and was like, “Don’t do anything! This all sounds really suspicious; I’ve never heard of these fees before. I’m going to do some research on the company and I’ll let you know if you should go through with it or not.” Well, that wait seemed like the longest wait of my life. I was definitely sweating bullets, wondering if I did the wrong thing. About two hours went by and the anticipation was driving me insane, so I called him up. He said that he usually deals with larger companies and this one was a lot smaller, so they seemed to do everything independently. Because of that, there were a lot of fees that we had never heard of before. He also talked to the estate agent about specific parts of the contract, and he said he thought it should be okay to go through with it. Thank goodness! So we sent over our money and hoped for the best. Tuesday night was my last night at the hostel, since our teaching agency offered to pay for two free nights of accommodation, which we assumed was at a hotel. I was SO excited to get away from sleeping in dorm rooms, and having a bathroom and my own space. We figured we might as well take advantage of the accommodation, even if we ended up getting the keys to our flat.
Jess and her sister arrived in London on Wednesday morning and I met up with them at the hotel. However, apparently the room hadn’t been paid for (even though payment was supposed to be taken two days ahead of time), and they were demanding that we pay 109 pounds cash. Yeah right; that wasn’t going to happen.. And because of the time change, it was first thing in the morning in Canada and we couldn’t contact our agent who booked the hotel. We ended up sitting there for two hours, trying to contact everyone that we could and then eventually, the hostel worker must have felt bad and allowed us to put all of our stuff into the room. Well let me tell you, I was looking forward to an upgrade from the hostel, but this was definitely a downgrade. It was still pretty much a hostel but with private rooms and shared bathrooms, and it wasn’t very clean at all. When I had opened up my white towel, there were mysterious black streaks inside. The showers didn’t work.. one didn’t have anything to hold the faucet and the other had a temperature situation. Written in the front entrance, there was a sign that said the hostel didn’t have any hot water. I decided to suffer a cold shower later that night, but I was very much surprised. And not pleasantly. It wasn’t that the hotel had NO hot water; it was that it ONLY had hot water. Like scorching hot, second-and-third-degree-burn type hot. I ended up being able to only shampoo my hair, and in order to rinse off the shampoo I had to turn on the faucet for four seconds and rinse off as much as I could, turn it off and wait 20-30 seconds, and repeat about 15-20 times. I definitely felt homesick for my hostel that night! Anyway, back to when we first arrived…By the time we had gotten settled (around 3-4), all of us were starving as none of us had eaten that day, so we went for lunch and then did a whole bunch of walking around. Apparently the payment thing was finally sorted out around 6 so thank goodness we didn’t have to sit there and wait another four hours… We walked to Buckingham Palace and then down Piccadilly. We happened to walk into a ticket office because Jess wanted to see what musicals we’d be able to go to and the guy was like, “Oh, I have these tickets to the Lion King. 75 pounds originally, but I’ll give them to you for 20 pounds each. The show just started 5 minutes ago (which was a lie, it was 15) but it’s just down the street.” So we made the impulse decision to buy the tickets and ran down the street but couldn’t find the theatre. I decided to look it up and we found out it was a 15 minute walk into another neighbourhood (definitely NOT down the street!). So we ran and ran and ran to the theatre and finally got there when they were singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’. I was seated separately from Jess and Jasmin, on the very top balcony but it was still the perfect view, and I absolutely loved it! I may or may not have gotten emotional during the whole father/son scenes with Mufasa and Simba though.. Apparently Jess and her sister both fell asleep during part of the show; I guess it probably wasn’t the BEST thing to do during their first day in London. After the show was done, we were starving once again so we walked to Chinatown and got some food, then we all headed back to the hotel, absolutely exhausted.
On Thursday, Jess and I had our induction day which is basically so the teaching agency could meet us and explain how to get a bank account, phone, etc. Fortunately and unfortunately, the estate agent wanted to hand over our keys that day as well. They couldn’t meet up before our orientation started so I ended up having to leave the orientation quite early in order to get the keys. The rest of the day was filled with a whole lot of travelling.. first to the flat to get the keys and “check-in,” then back to the hotel to get my stuff (because you couldn’t pay me to spend the second night there), then back to the flat to drop my stuff off, then I went to Helena’s to get my two suitcases that I haven’t touched in two weeks. By that time, it was about 8-9pm and I was so grateful when she offered to drive me back to the flat, which saved me from lugging around two 50-pound suitcases. After that, I headed to the store so I could buy some pillows and sheets for my room. Jess and her sister arrived at about 12:30am and then we finally had dinner haha obviously our eating schedules have been all out of whack this week. Unfortunately, after actually spending some time in the flat (instead of constantly running in and out), we realized that it wasn’t in the best and cleanest condition, and Jess ended up emailing the agency.
On Friday, the estate agent showed up at our flat at 9am because of the complaints they received. We talked about what was wrong and what needed to be fixed, and someone ended up spending the entire day cleaning our flat. We decided to make the trip to IKEA that afternoon, not really realizing that it would take an hour and a half to get there (guess it’s better than 5-6!). By the time we got there, (once again) we hadn’t eaten all day so I definitely took advantage of the IKEA hotdogs! We spent quite awhile there, filled an entire cart with items and then we had to haul it back to the flat by taking a tram, two trains, and a bus. We arrived at about ten and were once again hungry and exhausted, so we walked down the street to our local Indian restaurant (which we’ll likely be going to quite regularly now). So delicious!
This morning, Jess and her sister left to go to Switzerland and they’re going to be gone for nearly two weeks so I guess I have the flat to myself! I tried to get as much unpacking done as possible, while balancing laundry, cleaning, and shopping for groceries, but I still have so much more to do! Hopefully I can get it all done by the time I start teaching (which is in two days, ahhh!!). I can’t believe my three weeks of freedom are almost over 😦 I feel like I hardly got to enjoy them because of everything I had to do! Oh well, at least I’ll have some holidays coming up shortly! Hope everyone’s doing well over there, miss everyone tons! Love always
He Lives in You – Lebo M
(This is the Lion King song that made me cry)

I’m Still Standing

This has by far been the slowest week ever. Waiting for everything to happen has required more patience than I even have (and I’m generally a pretty patient person). It’s like I’m a kid again, counting down the days until Santa comes, or until our trip to Disneyworld, and it seems to take forever. I switched hostels on Friday morning and even though it was somewhat in the same area as the last one, it wasn’t nearly as sketchy! It’s so weird when switching hostels because even though I’m in the same city, it feels as if I’m in a completely different city every time. I had lunch across the street, at the cheapest restaurant I’ve seen so far (I can actually stay on budget!) and the owner offered me tea on the house for absolutely no reason at all. So things are looking up! Not only that, but the sun is shining and there’s no rain for once! I feel like my luck is turning around… I decided to spend the day outside and started my walk at Piccadilly Circus, and there I saw Mr. Bean (or a look-a-like) to take pictures with his teddy. I walked down the street, stopped in a few shops, and came across a market – my favourite thing! Because I’m still on the move, I decided not to buy anything (yet), but that definitely won’t stop me from going back. I then walked through Green Park and ended up at Trafalgar Square again. I must have sat there for at least an hour, just people-watching – another one of my favourite things to do. You can’t help but wonder peoples’ stories – who they are, what brought them to London, where they’re from. I also noticed a clown drawing in the kids, getting them to persuade their parents to get them a balloon. But I’ve noticed that this clown (as well as most other clowns I’ve seen in London) really only makes swords. The kids are ecstatic, but couldn’t any person make a sword of their own? Like it’s a step up from a snake, but still… Seems like a pretty good set-up, maybe I should reconsider my options. I continued my walk to the Big Ben and across the river, and that was that! When I got to my hostel, my roommate gave me half of her peaches and nectarines! Finally an entire good day, no stresses and no worries 🙂 Considering all I can do is play the waiting game for A) my debit card (to get a phone) and B) my money to be wired from Canada (so I can put a deposit on a place), I decided I might as well enjoy myself for the next few days, as there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process. So on Saturday, after planning some appointments to view some flats, I decided to take advantage of the free museums. A couple of days ago, I checked out an art history museum but only lasted there about ten minutes – definitely not my thing. So today, I tried out the Science Museum. Much more at home there! I found out about the invention of steam engines, which tied into what I was teaching last year. And I got to see a real piece of the moon! I then decided to take the bus back to my hostel. Buses are by far the best way to see London because A) they’re cheap B) they’re above ground, and C) they go through all the little streets that you would miss by taking the subway. It’s kind of like having your own personal tour of London at a cheap price (and without an annoying tour guide!). I also found out that if you go to the grocery store in the evening, they reduce a lot of the prices if they expire that day, meaning I got to treat myself to Mediterranean couscous salad and Philadelphia sushi, and still stay under my budget of three pounds!
 
On Sunday, I switched hostels once again, and returned to one of the ones I had already been to. It’s the nicest one but it doesn’t have any computers so I’m going to have to resort to using internet cafés until I get a phone (which will hopefully be soon!). I then mostly relaxed for the rest of the day.
 
On Monday, I had a flat viewing appointment. I figured I’d go an hour early to find the place and when I got to the train station, they announced th 13:06 train. I wondered how an hour had gone by so fast but checked my watch and it was 12:06. My first thought was that the trains had their times wrong and I should probably tell someone. Oh, it must be that daylight savings thing that everyone in the world except Saskatchewan does. Could have warned me though! Good thing I left an hour early… However, when I finally got to a computer and researched it, I found out the time doesn’t change until October. So my watch must be slowing down. I feel like everything I touch is breaking… Anyway, the flat was absolutely gorgeous, but also requires a 12-month minimum contract. Monday was a bank holiday (I don’t really know what for…), but during this weekend is the Notting Hill Carnival, which is apparently the biggest street festival in Europe. I’d like to say I went, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Just sitting in the metro station, seeing all the people crowded around waiting to get to the festival. I could only imagine that amount of people squished together times a million, and I slowly started to change my mind. Plus the weather was just blah… I really have to stop relying on the sunshine to keep me in a good and energetic mood. That’s one thing we take for granted in Saskatchewan – even if it’s -40 outside, it’s still sunny! I think the ratio of rainy to sunny here is likely the exact opposite of our ratio. Let me tell you one thing though.. If you want a good method of birth control, ride the metro on a bank holiday. My goodness, kids crying in every direction in such a confined space (and there’s no escape!) – because they didn’t get a seat, because they had to go to the bathroom, because their sister was singing the wrong lyrics to a song, because their brother bit them. Life as a child is tough, but I’d rather go back to dealing with those problems than the problems I’m dealing with now. Anyway, I went for a walk and found the biggest grocery store I’ve seen so far. I searched the store for reduced deals and came up with a pretty awesome dinner: chicken tikka flatbread (delicious!), pomegranate seeds, a yogurt, and a bag of babybel cheese. I’m pretty proud of these skills- they must have passed down from my dad, who always comes home with bags of discounted items that we would never eat. Maybe I never read the ingredient labels at home so they might be the same, but here they bold anything that might be an allergen (milk, egg, wheat, etc.) AND they put the percentage of ingredients on the label. For example, my wrap was 24% chicken, 5% lettuce, 4.5% tomato, and 2% red onion. How they figure that out, I have no idea. But I appreciated it. And when I came back to the hostel, there was a girl there using a flip phone. Like a real flip! So I’m not the only one left in the world, folks… It’s still a thing. 
 
Being back in London, I’ve recognized all the familiar smells of Europe, which reminds me of my second home in France. I can’t really describe the smells; they’re not exactly pleasant smells – they’re kind of funky but I still welcome them because they’re connected to a memory. It’s kind of like when you’re away from Saskatchewan and then you smell cow manure and it reminds you of home. Or maybe I’m just weird… Please, someone tell me you know what I’m talking about. 
 
Anyway, the rest of the night was spent working on my blog and reading my book. And the hostel played Michael Jackson the entire time! There are many things that you learn really fast in London (such as not walking close to the curb when it’s raining – I’m beginning to think they don’t have the same fine that we have when splashing pedestrians. Or they do, and just don’t care), but there are still a few things that I really have to think about doing, or else I naturally end up doing the wrong thing. Such as walking on the left side of the hallways and stairs, or looking to the right, then left, then right again when crossing the street. So hard to get used to when you’ve been doing things a certain way for 25 years, but I guess it’s necessary if I want to avoid getting hit by a car. I’ll likely never drive a vehicle here as many of the vehicles are manual so not only would I have to learn how to do that, but I’d also have to learn it backwards, as I’d be driving on the right side of the vehicle. Tie in driving on the other side of the road, and I can guarantee something would go wrong. Even a bike wouldn’t be the safest option. I guess I’ll have to stick to walking and using public transportation.
 
Monday night, I slept like a rock. I think I started coming down with something cause I completely lost my energy and didn’t hear anyone enter or exit the room the entire night. Someone could have robbed me again… I don’t think anyone did though. Tuesday, I HAD to get my laundry done. A couple of days earlier, I went to a laundromat to find out how much it would cost and he replied with 4 pounds. 4 pounds?! I know I’m not supposed to do conversions when I’m living in another country but I couldn’t help myself. That’s 8 dollars! Just to do one wash cycle! Well, I hope they use some type of anti-wrinkle magical mineral water that mermaids swim in or something. That is absolutely insane! Luckily, the place I ended up going to only charged 3 pounds for a wash, and one pound per 15 minutes of dry. I only did the 15 minutes and settled with having partially damp clothing. Because all of my jeans had to be hung to dry, the only thing I had to wear were my shorts and a tank top. It wasn’t freezing out but it also wasn’t warm. But I definitely felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. Because it was September 1st, people had started pulling out the fall and winter jackets. I was definitely the only person in London dressed as if it was still summer. I felt all the stares too. Kind of like when we see someone walking around in a t-shirt and shorts in -25 degree weather back at home and we think, “Is that person crazy?!” I think that’s what a lot of people were thinking about me. I wasn’t cold or anything, to me it was a typical cloudy summer day. I’m thankful for my Saskatchewan blood, which has allowed me to endure all temperatures (except extreme heat). Maybe I’ll have to play it down a bit from now on though… Anyway, because I had “no” clothes to wear, I decided I might as well go shopping! I got a few items (all on sale!) for a low price (in my opinion). Later that night, I went and looked at another flat. There’s a couple more I’d like to see this weekend and then HOPEFULLY we can move into one next week. Oh yeah, for those of you who don’t know, the reason I say “we” is because one of my classmates (Jess) is joining me with the whole teaching in London thing, and she’ll be arriving on Wednesday. So it should be nice to have someone going through the same process as me.
 
Wednesday morning, I decided to call my agent to see if he could help me with house-hunting and then I went to the Internet cafe to see if I got any replies about viewing flats. Literally during my last minute of the hour, I got an email from the bank and I thought, “This is it! My debit card is finally here!” I opened it and my excitement quickly faded when I saw that my financial person heard from the head office, who said that my postal code was written as S7K4X& instead of 7, and could I please get a new letter from Prospero with this changed. Fuming (literally), I signed off cause I didn’t even have time to write her back. I KNOW I had this changed because that was the problem the first time around and was one of the reasons I had to get the second letter, and I double and triple checked to make sure it was right. So this probably means they haven’t even sent the debit card, which should have been arriving today or tomorrow. Whatever. I’ll go back to Prospero for the third time. They printed off the SAME letter with the SAME correct postal code, and about an hour and a half later, I was at the bank. Of course, she wasn’t available but one of the tellers could pass on the letter on my behalf. I asked him if there was any way he could check the status of my debit card. He told me to give him a minute and he would go look. And then finally, I saw him walking towards me with an envelope! He had the debit card and I could hardly contain my excitement! Wait for it though… BUT: “So I can just go upstairs to set up my PIN?” “Well no, it should have been mailed to you.” “Well Jordan told me I could set it up here,” “Okay, let’s go check.” So we go upstairs and he leaves for a bit and comes back.. “We don’t have it. You’re right, it says under your account that it should arrive here, but you would have to have our address as one of your correspondence addresses in order for that to actually happen. Do you want me to get them to send it to your place of address? It’ll arrive in about two days.” “Ya sure, so what you’re saying is I have the card but I can’t make any purchases until I get the pin?” “Not unless they’re contactless payments.” “Great.” So now I have the debit card that I’ve always wanted, but I have no PIN to use it. Figures… I also got him to check the balance and my wired money had just arrived that day as well, so yay! I thought I may as well stop at the phone company to see if there’s any chance they’d accept contactless payment and he said they do a card and PIN verification so I’d have to wait until I got my PIN. Well, baby steps I guess. Not even baby steps. If snails could walk, I would describe this as snail steps. I’ve been here nearly two weeks and what do I have to show for it? A useless debit card and a bag of rice. Lucky for me, even though I couldn’t get a phone, this is the last day I would have to use an Internet cafe. Why you ask? My dad’s best friend from high school HAPPENED to be travelling through London for the day and later on Wednesday evening, he came to my hostel to drop off my Mom’s old phone! Biggest favour ever! So now at least I’ll have that to use wifi (for free!) until I get the phone thing sorted out.  I’m glad all of these not-so-great experiences are spotted with awesome experiences; it lets me know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
 
I decided to extend my stay at the hostel a few more days, just cause it’s the cheapest one that’s close to the southwest, so it makes it easier to look at flats. Also, my roommates are really nice; I’m rooming with five guys which actually hasn’t been that bad. And there aren’t any snorers! On Thursday, I went to the Natural History Museum, which was super cool! It focused a lot on Darwin and evolution, so naturally I was interested since it’s what I studied for four years. I didn’t even get through half of it though, so I’ll have to make the trip another day. That night, Helena treated me to dinner at her place and cooked some delicious salmon! It was definitely nice taking a break from my 3-pound meals. Not only that, but my PIN arrived at her place so I could finally use my card and get a phone! And that’s exactly what I did on Friday. I’m now the proud owner of my very own smartphone! I bet most of you thought you’d never see the day, but the time has finally come! That evening, I looked at a flat and then went to a pub where one of the Australian guys at our hostel was working. Another week in London done and thankfully, things are starting to get sorted out. Can’t wait until I get a place of my own though! Love always
 
I’m Still Standing – Elton John