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:
- I took a Vitamin E capsule, which ‘helps to protect cells from oxidative stress,’ – healing on the inside.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- I covered my hands with Aveeno, then covered them with E45 itch relief cream, and THEN covered them with the E45 hydrocortisone.
- 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