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

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