Hundred Miles (Morocco)

Well, this week has been amazing! For those of you who don’t know (and didn’t catch on to my Facebook posts), I spent the past five nights in Morocco. It was nice to try out not only another country, but a completely different continent. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Africa! So crazy! I still spent Saturday in London, where I spent about four hours carving a pumpkin. Then, Jess and I went into central London to do some shopping and to check out an event called Thrill the World. Basically, it was a planned flash mob where people dressed up as zombies and danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” song (also notice the play on words with his “Heal the World” song). This dance was arranged so that it would be done at the exact same time as multiple cities around the world, and they were trying to break the record for being the biggest Thriller dance in the world (I’m not sure if they actually beat that record or not…). The downside to this is that in London, the dance wasn’t scheduled until 11pm, so it was quite cold outside by the time it actually happened. It was an interesting experience though! The next day, we got an extra hour to our day, as daylight savings time was either starting or ending (still don’t really understand how it works…). That morning, we had a fire alarm mishap, where the fire alarms all went off and we couldn’t get them to stop. I called the agent and about an hour later, he showed up with another guy, who told us it must have went off because of the steam from the shower. Anyway, I spent the rest of the morning packing for Morocco and then I made my way to Gatwick Airport, which is actually a really simple trip from our flat. Going through security was the smoothest process I’ve ever seen. Instead of lining up along the security belt (like pretty much all airports do), they had about 5 or 6 lineups perpendicular to the belt. So people at the front of each line had their own section of the security belt and could easily set their stuff in the bin and set it on the belt.

Then after going through security, you go to the end of the belt, grab your bin and take it to an empty station (there were about 15-20 of them), and then you could take your time putting all your stuff back together, putting on belts and shoes, etc. without having to take up space at the end of the security belt. I was extremely impressed! Once you get through security, they make you walk through the entire duty-free department store in order to get to the gates. It was like walking through IKEA, with the twists and turns, except this time you were twisting and turning through alcohol, perfumes, cigarettes, and watches, among other things. Finally, I made it to the end but here, they don’t tell you the gate number until about ten minutes before they start boarding. I found a quiet cafe to have lunch while I waited to find out my gate number. The bathrooms here were pretty well-organised too. Each sink had its own hand dryer, which was behind the mirror, so you just had to hold your hands under the mirror in order to dry off your hands. I finally found out my gate number and headed over. There, they also did things a bit differently.. They had to scan your ticket and passport in order for you to enter the gate. So then when they actually started the boarding process, there wasn’t a long lineup to scan everyone’s tickets. I think Gatwick has some pretty good ideas that actually work! I flew with Air Arabia, and the flight lasted three hours. It’s so crazy that in three hours, I can fly over multiple countries and reach a different continent whereas from Saskatoon, I’d just make it to Toronto in the same amount of time. The flight started off with a “Travel Prayer,” which I though was kind of cool. The tv screens had English subtitles so I was able to understand what the prayer said. Then the flight started! They didn’t have individual TVs, just the one tv in front of every 4 or 5 rows. They played Mr. Bean’s Christmas special, and then they played a show called ‘Hole in the Wall,’ which is somewhat self-explanatory. Basically there are three people standing in front of a pool of water, a wall comes towards them with awkward-shaped holes in it, and the people have to try to match their bodies to the shapes of the holes in order to not get pushed into the pool. All the players really sucked at it so pretty much everyone just ended up in the pool. I arrived in Morocco at about 8pm but by the time I got through customs and got a taxi, it was about 9:30 when I got to the hostel. I was starving by that point but because it was Sunday night, not a lot was left open so I settled with getting some Pringles to hold me over for the rest of the night. That night, I had a bit of trouble sleeping, as a prayer reminder started early in the morning (they do it six times per day: at 5:15am, at sunrise-6:40am, at noon, at 3pm, at 5:30pm, and at 7pm), so there’s kind of a megaphone that blasts through the entire city and multiple men pray/sing on it for about 15 minutes. During this time, tv’s are turned off and you notice many people wandering off on their own. After the prayer happens early in the morning, all the roosters are woken up and all I hear for the next couple hours are cockadoodle-doos.

Tajine pots!
The next morning (Monday), I had breakfast and then three of us (an American and a Welsh person) decided to explore Tangier together. We just kind of wandered around and got lost in different streets (with a bit of help from the locals, who were intently watching us and would let us know when we shouldn’t go a certain way). The cool thing about Tangier is that next to Arabic, French is the most common language (then Spanish, and THEN English), so I was able to try out my French. Moroccan French is SO clear and so easy to understand, so it wasn’t too difficult to get back into the hang of it, after not speaking it for three years. Anyway, during our walk it started raining so we ran into a close cafe until the rain passed. After that, we were starving so we headed to Cafe Hafa, which was recommended to us by one of the hostel owners. This cafe overlooked the entire Strait of Gibraltar and on a clear day, you can see Spain on the other side. It used to be frequented by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones! It’s well-known for its Moroccan tea (which is offered in every single cafe you go to), which is sweetened mint tea and is delicious – I had at least one every day that I was there! After lunch, we decided to head back towards the hostel and take a walk through the markets. Then, we took a taxi to Hercules’ Caves and timed it JUST RIGHT so we were able to watch the sunset, which was amazing! The story behind Hercules’ Caves is that Hercules used the cave as his resting place after finishing his twelve labours. We were actually quite lucky because they caves had been closed for the past two years, and only reopened a couple of weeks ago. After we got back to Tangier, we joined up with another person at the hostel (a Canadian) and went for a late dinner at another recommended restaurant. We told the chef to make wherever he wanted so he made different types of tajine – a traditional dish, which is pretty much a stew. I got to try shark for the first time! It was good, and didn’t taste like anything other than another type of fish.
Cap Spartel
On Tuesday, I got up and had breakfast. Then me and another hostel-goer went for Moroccan tea and had a good visit. It’s so weird going in some of the cafés because in this one especially, I was completely outnumbered by men. It was completely full and I was the only female in there. We then went back to the hostel, met up with another girl (another American) and the three of us went for lunch. After walking around aimlessly and failing on finding the restaurant that was recommended to us, we gave up and walked into a random one (or rather, the chef walked up to us and urged us to come inside). They served us a lot of food: a salad each, fries each, tajine, couscous, skewers, and mixed veggies – half of which we couldn’t eat. And then when we went to pay, we were all shocked at the amount, as it was the most we’ve ever been charged for a meal. Which made us a lot more careful about choosing restaurants in the future, and making sure we didn’t just let them “make whatever.” After that, the guy left to move onto the next part of his trip, and the other girl and I decided to do some shopping in the markets. I found a few treasures and then stopped myself from buying any more, even though everything was extremely cheap! We went back to the hostel to drop everything off, then met up with another guy and the three of us took a taxi to Cap Spartel, which is a lookout point where the Mediterranean meets up with the Atlantic. After that (because we were in the area), we asked to go to Hercules’ Caves since the other two hadn’t seen it yet. Then on the way back, the taxi driver asked if we wanted to stop by the camels and of course, I said yes! I bartered with the camel guy to let me take a picture on the camel for 40 dirham (about 2.60 pounds). I was just expecting to sit on it for five seconds, snap a picture, and get

off. But he actually got the camel to stand up, and then took us for a short walk. The other girl decided to ride one as well and since the guy had already tried it before, he was our personal photographer and snapped a bunch of pictures for us. Being on the camel was a bit scary haha mostly just when it stood and sat because it bows down really fast, which makes you lose your balance really easily. I also felt like I was tilted to one side the entire time. But it was so cool! Definitely one more thing to check off my (non-existent) bucket list! After we got back to the hostel, Marie and I tried to find another restaurant and once again got lost. A kid told us he’d show us the way and took us on an extremely long walk in the opposite direction. I became more and more sceptical, as I didn’t think we were THAT far off from the restaurant. The kid took us to a completely different restaurant and I recognised it as the restaurant that the hostel owner specifically told us to avoid. So I said we weren’t interested and finally escaped, and then I took her to the restaurant that I had been to the evening before.

On Wednesday, literally everyone left me haha I even had the whole room to myself! But that meant for the first time, I’d be wandering around Tangier alone. Before I got there, I read that it was a touristy place where everyone hassled you, but I had never found it that bad. Probably because I was always with someone else. On Wednesday, I started to notice it quite a bit more. I decided to check out the beach and take a walk along it, as I hadn’t seen it yet. But I also noticed that there, I was followed a lot  more. It was all harmless, but it made it more difficult for me to enjoy myself. Once I got to the other end of the beach, I saw a McDonald’s so I decided to take a break there! I needed to test out the McFlurries, as I do in every country I go to. Unfortunately, they only had M&M and Kit-Kat 😦 nothing too unique. I opted for the Kit-Kat one and then headed back towards the hostel. After hanging out there for awhile, I decided to go back to Cafe Hafa to check out the sunset. It wasn’t as great compared to Hercules’ Caves, but it was still really relaxing! After that, one of the hostel owners took me and his other friend to a sushi place for dinner, which completely blew my mind considering we were in Morocco haha it was really good though!
How can you resist this?!
On Thursday, I decided to see if I could walk to Cap Spartel and then check out the hiking trails over there (since I didn’t want to pay the full taxi fare on my own). I was thinking 2.5 hours isn’t that bad, but I underestimated it and forgot that most of the trek would be uphill. I also couldn’t figure out how to get to the coast, as it was all walled off so I ended up having to walk along the main road, which was extremely hot with no shade and no wind. I guess I should also explain that in Morocco, women are still objectified so it’s important to stay covered in a sweater and pants, and even then you still get stared at and the men try to talk to you. Therefore, wearing jeans and a sweater while hiking in hot weather isn’t the best combination. I made it to a park, and then I was able to cut through the park in order to get to the coast, and then I decided to just head back down into town, since it was way past lunchtime and I was starving. By the time I finally got back and was able to eat, it was around 3 or 4pm. I had a bit of a scare because the night before, I had been playing with the cat that frequents the hostel (but doesn’t technically live there) and it scratched me. So after talking to my mom about it, and her copying and pasting a whole bunch of stuff about rabies from Google, I started freaking out and decided to walk to the nearest clinic. As I waited in the waiting room, I actually started to feel not only scared, but stupid. Out of all the ways people die, I basically risked my life because I couldn’t resist playing with a cat… After what seemed like the longest wait ever, I was finally let in. The doctor seemed confused as to why someone with a tiny cat scratch was sitting in his office. I had no idea what the French word for rabies was, so I had a difficult time trying to explain my concern. Eventually, I think he understood but said I shouldn’t need to worry, as it didn’t look infected. He wrote me a prescription anyway, in case anything changed within the next week. Hoping, it’s nothing though!!!!!!! I went back to the hostel and spent the rest of the night visiting with all of the new people who came for the weekend.
The next day (Friday), I headed back to London 😦 My flight was at 1pm, so I got back to London at 4, and got home around 5. Then, I just did some laundry and relaxed for the rest of the night. Jess is away for the weekend, so I’m going to have to figure out how I’ll spend my Halloween weekend! Hope everyone enjoys their Halloween! Love always
Hundred Miles – Yall feat. Gabriela Richardson

Hold on Tight

This week has been extremely stressful, thanks to our horrible landlords. Or whoever the people are that we keep in contact with regarding our flat. I’ll get into this later.. On Sunday, Jess and I mostly relaxed for the whole day. I made banana crumb muffins that morning, which were so good! I was determined to find Stovetop Stuffing, but was unsuccessful when I went grocery shopping that afternoon 😦 However, I found something very similar and it actually tasted exactly the same! I had a whole chicken to cook, and added the stuffing and panfried some asparagus for a small Thanksgiving dinner. However, Jess was still extremely sick and ended up going to bed early, so I enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner alone. It was still really good though! That night, I made some pumpkin cookies, which we’ve been snacking on all week; absolutely delicious!
On Monday, I headed to a completely different school on the outskirts of London. Actually technically, it’s not even part of London and it took nearly 1.5 hours for me to get there. Not only did I have to take a bus and two trains, but once I got to the station, my agency told me to take a 15-minute taxi ride to the school, which ended up costing 13 pounds (which Prospero kindly said they’d reimburse me for 10 of it..). Anyway, I ended up teaching English all day, which was kind of weird. I’m pretty sure the job was meant for Jess but she ended up calling in sick so they must have just given it to me instead. Just when I think I’ve seen the worst school ever, and can’t imagine a school being any more horrible, a new one comes along out of nowhere. The students in this school were moreso just straight-up rude and gave off the impression that they were better than everyone else. Usually in a school, if another teacher walks into the room, the room goes completely silent but at this school, that still wasn’t the case. Students talk back to teachers all the time, but these students took it to a whole new level. I straight up told one class that I’ve never seen a class so rude in my entire life. During the entire day (which was really quite long), I started to think about other areas of work. Is this what I really went to school for? Did I really devote six years of my life for THIS? To be disrespected every single day? To be unappreciated? To want to help students who don’t even care to learn anything? Why am I doing this? Is it really worth it? I always remember my advisor’s voice popping in my head when she would talk about my internship, “Don’t let THIS experience make you think this is what being a teacher is like,” and I try to live by that every day, especially on the worst of days. And I know it’s going to be like this while being a supply teacher, because students ALWAYS give supply teachers a hard time no matter where you are in the world. But even looking now, the students don’t respect their actual teachers. They’re solely only scared of them. Scared of getting detention or getting their phone taken away. I hear crap being talked about their teachers more than anyone else would and trust me, even these full-time teachers haven’t earned the majority of their students’ respect. Things have changed so much. I remember loving school and always wanting to learn. And I would STILL get to chat with my friends in class, because I always finished my work and would have nothing else to do – NOT cause I didn’t want to do work and would sit there wasting the entire hour (except maybe in English class). I just don’t get it. Being able to learn should be such a privilege, and kids these days don’t think of it like that. In university, they said that you’ll always relate to the students who you see yourself in and that’s why I find it SO difficult to relate to all those students who just don’t care. And the amount of students who are like me are becoming less and less in number. Anyway, after school I had to get back to central London because I had to hand in my election ballot at the Canadian Embassy by 2pm on Wednesday in order to get it back to Canada on time. The thing that made this difficult was that the Embassy was only open Monday to Friday, and would close by 5pm every day. So I had to be quick! I refused to take a taxi back to the station cause I figured Prospero wouldn’t pay for the return one (and I was right). For some reason, the buses only came every hour on the hour and because school finished at 3pm, I could either wait for an hour or walk for 40 minutes to the nearest train station. Either way, it seemed like I wouldn’t be making it to the Embassy on time. I decided on walking, but I was pissed off because a) I had such a bad day at the school, b) I was basically out in the middle of nowhere and I likely shouldn’t have gotten sent there in the first place and c) That only left me one day to hand in my ballot. I got to the station RIGHT in time for the train (which also only comes once every hour) and because I caught it, it looked like I’d be able to make it to the Canadian Embassy in time! So I caught another train and a metro and made it with 20 minutes to spare! I ran up to the building and knocked on the door, and a security guard came to open it. “Yes?” “Hi, I came to drop off my ballot for the election,” “Oh, well you can’t cause we’re not open.” “What do you mean you’re not open?! It’s before five!” “Well we’re open every other day except Monday cause it’s a holiday in Canada today.” “Are you serious?” I was almost at my breaking point and could feel tears building up in my eyes, and turned around to walk away as the guard said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” Yes, happy indeed… Well, I ended up wasting 2.5 hours of my day just travelling from the school to central London, and back home again. When I got home, one of our downstairs flatmates (James) dropped by so we could all complain about the landlord and figure out what we should do. I then decided to go to a Step & Tone class at the gym. It was absolutely insane! It probably wouldn’t have been too difficult, except I didn’t know any of the steps. It wasn’t your typical step up, step down. The lady was yelling out all these things and I had no idea what half of them even were: “Hip-hop step, basic, step kick, double knee, double stop, cha-cha-cha” and I’m literally just standing there, wondering what the f*** is going on. But I could feel sweat coming out of my eyeballs, so I guess whatever she was doing was working!
On Tuesday, I got the phone call to come into work back at the all-girls school that I was at on Friday. The good news is they only needed me for half the day, so I didn’t have to show up until 1pm. Which gave me the entire morning to go back to the Canadian Embassy and submit my ballot! It was weird when I got there cause I had to put the envelope through an airport security thing so they could check that there wasn’t anything in the envelope. Then I had to walk through an airport security metal detector thing in order to put my envelope in the box. I then headed home, relaxed for awhile, and then went to the school. I only had to teach two periods and both were year 7 geography courses (yay!). All I had to do was put on documentaries about Russia and Africa and get them to write notes. Easiest day I’ve ever had! That night, I went to Zumba class for the first time and it was SO fun! I had such a blast; it was a great time! I walked home from the gym and happened to come across one of the neighbourhood foxes, who was trying to go through someone else’s garbage. I figured this would be the perfect moment to try to get a picture! As I was getting my camera aimed, another fox happened to walk down the road with what looked like a squirrel in its mouth. Suddenly, the other fox charged and a fox fight erupted less than five metres in front of me! I was actually freaking out because I’ve seen dog fights before and I can only imagine how bad fox fights could get, so I quickly started walking in the opposite direction. Crazy stuff!
On Wednesday, Jess and I got asked to go to the same school! I ended up teaching a couple English classes, a geography class, and a couple of music classes! For the music classes, the students had to write their own catchy songs. They had about 15-20 keyboards around the classroom and the students got to sit at their own keyboard with headphones, and figure out their song. It was pretty cool! Earlier that week, James (our downstairs flatmate) had told us that we only had 9 pounds left of gas so Jess wrote Lashari (the company who we deal with) on Tuesday night to tell them that we needed our gas topped up. As I’ve mentioned before, here they have prepay gas cards that have to be filled with credit, and then you fill up your gas with that. However, when the gas contractor came to do our annual check last month, he took our gas card and said that our agent would be bringing us a new one. Which he didn’t. Also, our contract had stated that gas was included in the utilities so technically, we shouldn’t be required to pay for gas. The company and agent have managed to avoid discussing that for the past month. Anyway, that day, Lashari wrote Jess back stating that not only is paying gas our responsibility, but that the contractor would deliver the gas card to us that day, and that we owe them 75 pounds because that’s what they topped up before (which is a lie, as we’ve never had 75 pounds of credit). I really started questioning the validity of these people, so I sent an email asking for a copy of the gas safety check, as well as the name and address of the landlord. That night, Becky and I went for dinner and met up with another girl that we had met at the social night a month ago. It’s nice finally having some people to meet up with every now and then, and be able to talk (and vent!) with them. I didn’t get home until about 11 or 11:30, so I was in for a short night of sleep.
On Thursday, I got called to go back to the same school that I was at the day before. This time, I taught math the entire day. It was a pretty smooth day, except for the very last class, which was absolutely horrible! It was like being back in the one school I was at for three weeks. The kids wouldn’t listen, were fighting, were running in and out of the classroom, and I couldn’t get them to do anything at all. That day, I sent a fairly long email to Lashari to address them about all of the problems I had:

Dear Mr. Muhammad,
I have recently been informed that we are still required to top up the gas ourselves, even though I have already brought this up (by text, phone, and email) that gas is included in the utilities according to the contract. Please note that I was extremely specific when talking to the agent (Ahmad) before signing the contract that I was only willing to pay maximum 650 per month and he assured me that with utilities, it would be just under 650. I would never under any circumstances agree to have signed the contract if I was aware that I would be paying extra expenses every month, so obviously you did not inform us of this before the contract was signed. Can you please provide me with where in the contract it states that we are required to pay for gas separately from the included monthly utilities? Because I can easily provide you with the portion that states that gas is included in the monthly utilities:

[On page 3 under “Janelle Achtemichuk agrees to”
1 Pay Lashari Ltdon the 28th of each month one month in advance by direct debit an estimated proportion of the gas, electricity, council, water and telephone bills etc. calculated so that each of the signatories (Janelle Achtemichuk and signatories) pays an equal share.]

By law, you are not allowed to change the amount of rent unless a) a year of lease term has passed or b) both parties have agreed to it. Therefore, because gas is included, your only options are to a) top up the gas yourself or b) get us to top up the gas, send you the invoice, and you deduct it from our monthly rent.
I’ve also been informed that we owe 75 pounds for the gas that was credited by the gas contractor. When were you planning to tell me and the rest of the flatmates this information, if Jess hadn’t brought up the topic with you? This is something that we should have been notified of the day that the credit was added, not a month later! Please be aware that I was present when the contractor was at our flat, and he specifically told me that there was 53 pounds on our account, so I’m not sure where the 75 pounds came from. Also, the inventory states that our credit was at 0 pounds, while flat A’s inventory states that their credit was at 57.77. I also checked the amount on September 13th, and our credit was at -9, while flat A’s was at 53, meaning that the amount of 53 was there before the contractor came, which means it would have been credited by the previous tenants. Then when the contractor came, the two gas gauges were combined into one and our overall credit “mysteriously” became the exact same number. Regardless, the 75 pounds should not be owing, as we’re not responsible for paying for gas anyway. I also had to go three days without gas, because I was under the impression that you were supposed to supply me with it (since under contract, you are). It is your responsibility to keep up a livable area and during those days, I went without heat and stove top because you avoided informing me about this information beforehand.
Please note that we are two busy professionals trying to live peacefully and you are taking that right away because every single week, you give us something new to worry about. This takes away our full attention at work because we are stressed about what’s happening back at the flat, and it is taking away our free time because we have to look into what you’re asking of us. Under law, you are still harassing us and I ask of you to please stop this. This has been extremely unprofessional and disrespectful. While we are young, we are not naive or stupid. Both of us are educated individuals with two degrees and we are well aware of our rights as tenants. We can also realize when we are being scammed or robbed of our money. If you aren’t aware or have forgotten your rights as landlords, I have attached a friendly reminder of what is required by law 🙂
I would like to discuss this issue with someone in person and I think it would be a good idea to have a general meeting with all tenants during a time that works for everyone. Obviously, we need to review some things in great detail. Please provide me with an evening that works best for you. Have a great day.
Janelle Achtemichuk

Later that day, Lashari sent me a health and safety weekly sheet. Basically a couple of weeks ago, they scheduled a general meeting and informed us that they would be performing monthly checks to view our flat, but the meeting was scheduled when Jess and I would both be at work. We requested that they not come while we were away from the flat and told them that monthly checks were unnecessary. They said that in that case, they’d send us a health and safety sheet that would have to be signed weekly, which they finally sent now. But only sent to me out of all the flatmates (that I’m aware of). Some of the things in this check are absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!! I sent them an email stating that I refused to sign the sheet and why:
To whom it may concern, 
I for some reason received this health and safety check, even though I wasn’t aware that I would be receiving it. I would like to address some of my concerns. First of all, it is your duty and obligation as a landlord to do safety checks and to make sure the flat is under liveable conditions. 
“Landlords need to be safety conscious as they have a duty of care under common law, as well as under the statutory rules, for the health & safety of their tenants. More often than not all that’s required is paying attention to obvious dangers, doing regular checks and maintenance (mainly between tenancies), complying with regulations such as annual gas checks, and ideally documenting what you have done –  basic safety checklists and risk assessments are the ideal way of doing this.
For us to have to do a weekly check is somewhat excessive, and is still intruding on our right to live peacefully, as you are still continuously asking more from us. We didn’t disagree to having checks done by you; we simply requested that one of us be present when the safety check is occurring which means it would have to be done sometime in the evening on a weekday (at least after 4:30pm). Also in most places, checks only have to be done once every three months unless there is something seriously wrong and it has to be continuously watched in case it gets worse. 
Would it be possible to get all of the extra mail downstairs removed, as apparently it is a fire safety hazard and is also taking up a lot of space? Maybe the people who need to claim their mail can collect it from your office instead. 
I won’t agree to sign this sheet because:
a) I wasn’t provided with the Instructions for the Fire Alarm Controlling Box to read.
b) I was never taught how to check the fire alarms, even though we were supposed to be shown how to do so (according to the check-in sheet). I also asked how to check them during the check in and I was only shown how to turn them off. 
c) We weren’t provided with a diary to keep track of residence time sharers.
d) We weren’t provided with the information of the Health & Safety Officer for a risk assessment to be carried on if anyone stays with us
e) We don’t have lifts in the flat, so not sure why that’s in there?
f) I wasn’t provided with relevant Fire Guidelines as issued by The Fire Prevention Services
g) Checking fire alarms and equipment every day is ridiculous.
h) I’m not sure if the fire extinguisher has been tested within the last year.
i) We weren’t told how to use the fire blanket in the kitchen (and not sure if we have one?).
j) We weren’t told how to use the extinguishers.
As you can see, some of these requests are a bit unnecessary. Please edit the sheet and resend and/or provide me with a day and time (evening) when a check can be done by you. Jessica and I would agree to a health and safety check once every three months, as that is generally what is done between landlords and tenants. Thank you,
Janelle Achtemichuk
Basically, every evening of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday have been spent constantly researching my rights and what I can do to get out of this nightmare. Which is completely unfair as I should not be having to spend all of my free time worrying about this. Again, the landlords are taking away our right to live peacefully (and taking it to the extreme!). Jess and I were discussing the amount of mail that’s stored downstairs and there must be letters addressed to at least 25 different people. And it still keeps coming in daily! Obviously, there’s been a bunch of people who have moved in and out of this place, which is somewhat concerning. I also called the agent of Lashari and left him a very angry voicemail that evening. 
On Friday, I got asked to go to a completely different school. It was another girls’ school, and it was a really great school! I got to teach science the entire day, and the girls actually did their work without me constantly nagging on them. It was awesome! That morning, I received one email from Lashari which sent the gas safety document that I had asked for, but didn’t give the other information I had asked for about the landlord. That afternoon, I received another email with a reminder to sign the health and safety checklist. Other than that, I didn’t receive any other replies and neither did Jess, nor did I receive a phonecall back from the agent. After work, I went home and checked the gas credit, which was at 1.09. We still didn’t receive the gas card, which they said they would give us on Wednesday so we had no way to fill up our gas unless we got our own card. I called the agent four times and didn’t get an answer. Then, I called the Shelter advice hotline and told her everything that has been going on and she told me the steps I should take, and what I could use against these guys if we decide to take them to court. Basically, it sounded like we would have to buy our own gas, keep the receipt and try to get them to pay us back by taking it off our rent. After talking to her for 45 minutes, I called the agent three more times (once every hour) and still no answer. But oddly enough, one of the times that I tried calling, it said he was on the phone, talking to someone else? I also texted him three times, and emailed the company by replying to their health and safety checklist reminder:
To Muhammad,

I just spent the evening chatting with an expert who said that because this weekly sheet wasn’t included in the contract, I’m not expected to sign it. You still have yet to reply to my three emails. We have one pound of gas left on our meter and no card to refill it with. Please note that if we have to go the entire weekend without heat, you aren’t fulfilling your role as landlord in providing us with liveable conditions. We were told that Ahmad would bring us a gas card ONE MONTH AGO and we still haven’t  received it. Please contact me immediately.

Janelle Achtemichuk

And as icing on top of the cake, I got a phonecall from my teaching agent who asked me for a BIG FAVOUR. He asked me to go back to the school that I was at for three weeks for the entire week next week. Luckily, it’s my last week before half-term break, so my holidays will be well worth it! I wrote James and told him that we only had a pound of credit, and he told me to go get a card and put ten pounds on it so each of us would pay two pounds, until we get it sorted out. Jess and I walked to the store, but the lady told us that they only top up gas cards; they don’t sell them. The only place that sells gas cards is the post office, and it was already closed. So I guess we’ll be running out of gas at some point tonight. Jess and I have been freezing because we’ve kept the heat off in order to preserve the gas. This is getting absolutely ridiculous. It’s getting to the point where Jess and I don’t even want to live here anymore, but if we were to move out before our contract, it would cost us 275 pounds in order to write up a new contract for new tenants. And we would have to find the new tenants to replace us, or else they would keep our fees of 580 pounds each. I’m actually losing my mind; I don’t even know what else to do. It’s been an extremely stressful week. I actually woke up this morning, thinking it was just a nightmare and then realized that it WAS a nightmare but it was very much real. Hoping everything will get sorted out soon. I’m trying to keep myself going; I’m determined to keep fighting and make their lives a living hell, as they have done to me. If anyone has any ideas on what I should do, please let me know. Love and miss you all!!
Hold on Tight – Greg Holden


Already in the middle of October?! Where is the time going?? My time here in London is SO much different than my time in France. I remember counting not only the months, but the DAYS that I had been gone, as well as how much longer until I’d be going home. I knew my halfway point, my quarter way point, my ten percent point, and everything in between. Now that I look back, maybe I wasn’t TRULY enjoying my time there. Being my young and naive 18-year-old self, I’m pretty sure I was only trying to get through it to prove to everyone else (as well as myself) that I could do it. It was a tough situation to be in though! Living with a family on the opposite side of the world, with everything you know and love back at home. Here in London, I’m just living. Sure I miss home every once in awhile, but it’s not like I’m counting down every day until I come home. I’m really not counting down at all, which I think means that I’m really enjoying myself here. So let’s hope that continues! On Saturday, I met up with an old friend (Kim Hassard) for lunch. Our moms ran into each other at the dog park in Saskatoon and soon found out that both of us were living in London! We went to this AMAZING Indian restaurant, with heaps of food at a cheap price; it was so delicious! We also got to catch up on the past ten years of our lives, which ended up being a lot to talk about. After that, it was already about 4 so I headed home to get prepared for my next outing. Becky was having her birthday dinner that night with a group of five girls. We went to an Italian restaurant with crappy service but great food! And we ended up getting our dessert on the house (due to one of the girls complaining) so that saved me about five pounds! 
The next day (Sunday), I woke up and Jess insisted that I look outside. I wasn’t too sure what I was supposed to be looking for, but I found out quite quickly when I looked down and saw that our front yard looked like a dumping ground. The neighbourhood foxes got into our garbage and made a complete mess of everything! Jess and I decided to go to Chinatown for dim sum before attempting to clean it up. So we went to a restaurant that was one of the only places left with dim sum cart service (as opposed to choosing from a menu). We had to wait about 30-40 minutes to get a table, but the food was so good so it was well worth it! Until we got our bill. They don’t have any prices on the papers that they use so we had no idea how much it would cost, but we were shocked when it came to 55 pounds! Guess we won’t be going there again for awhile… We then went to look for white vinegar in the Chinese grocery stores, because for some reason uk grocery stores don’t sell it. We got our vinegar and then did a bit of grocery shopping before heading back home to drop everything off. That night, we went to the Weird Al Yankovic concert! While I wasn’t familiar with his new album, he still sung tons of the classics. All I had to hear was Fat and I was happy (and he even wore his fat suit!). He’s extremely entertaining and kept the audience laughing throughout the entire night; I would definitely recommend  seeing him if anyone gets the chance!
On Monday, I went back to the same school for the third week. This week marks the time that I’ve officially been at the school longer than the actual teacher was! It was good though because the students started getting used to me and realised that maybe they should actually get some work done. I still hardly had my voice left since I lost it the previous week, so it made things a bit difficult. One of my year 7’s asked me, “Are you our permanent teacher now?” “No, I’m still just supply teaching,” “But are you going to stay here?” “No, I think I’m leaving after this week,” “Awww but Miss, I really like you!” I swear during the end of each week, the school hires the nicest kids to say stuff like that in order to convince you to stay one more week. Not gonna happen this time! The week actually wasn’t too bad (minus Tuesday with the four periods of year 10’s) except for the boys constantly being violent with each other. There were a couple times when I almost lost my cool and went on a swearing rampage, telling the boys that it was completely unacceptable to put their hands on each other. “But Miss, it was all in good fun!” “You were choking each other for fun…?” As both the choker and the chokee nod in unison. I will never ever understand boys… I also realised something this week. You know that rolling “Mooom” that every kid yells when they’re looking for mom and about to ask her a question? I didn’t realise how annoying it was until it started happening to me. Literally every five seconds, I hear, “Miss” “Miiiiss” “Miiiiiiiiss!” Mostly with my year 7’s, but at least I know their trying to learn. I know it’s probably already annoying when you have 1 to 4 kids, but imagine it with 26. I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never have 25 kids.
On Tuesday night, I did something completely out of the ordinary. I can guarantee that no one would guess it, nor expect it. I went and got a gym membership(!!). Looking at my past history of living and travelling abroad, I know that I’m bound to gain weight with all the delicious food that’s available. I figured I might as well start ahead of time and try to stop that from happening. I’ll most likely use the membership just for the fitness classes, but at least I have access to the pool, hottub, and sauna!
On Wednesday morning, I was transferring trains to get to school and an announcement came on: “We’re sorry to inform you that this train has been delayed due to a person getting hit by a train.” My heart just dropped. Never in my life have I heard an announcement being made like that, nor do I think I’d like to hear it again. There was a hush amongst the entire station. Not sure how something like that even happens.. Again, Wednesday was my easy day since I mostly just had year 7’s for the day. Not only that, but all that was planned for them that day was to make their own health and safety posters for the science lab. Since the kids were only colouring, I let them listen to music on our classroom speakers and took song requests. When I played “Watch me nae-nae” (which I’ve never heard before), I was quite surprised (and entertained) when the entire class stood up to sing and dance in unison. Must be the new Gangnam Style, which was OUR Soldier Boy when we were in high school. That evening, I went to my very first Pilates class and actually liked it, yay! So I guess I might have to make that a regular thing.
Thursday, I went to work and soon found out that it would be my last day there since the students didn’t have school that Friday! The best thing about this day was I only had to teach during the first 3 periods, and then I had the last 3 periods as spares. So they gave me a whole bunch of marking to do and I got to sit in a quiet classroom by myself for three hours 🙂 On Friday, I went to an all girls’ school, which was actually the very first school I went to when I started supply teaching. And which I THOUGHT was the worst school I had been to, until I went to the one that I’ve been at for the past 3 weeks. It’s funny comparing my behaviour management between the two schools: at the one school, I was constantly breaking up fights, hitting and punching between the boys, and at this school, I was constantly telling the girls to put their nail polish away and to not do their nails in class. However, we did have ONE major mishap at this school. One (or more) of the girls decided it would be a good idea to play with the sink in the classroom, which went completely out of control and got half the classroom (and the girls’ work) soaking wet. And then the majority of the class was spent a) cleaning up the water and b) with the girls playing the blame game, crying, and yelling at each other. So that was fun. I was definitely counting down the minutes until the weekend! After school, I went home and then Jess and I went to Decathlon (a camping and sports store, since I’m pretty much an athlete with my new gym membership now) and Ikea to do some shopping. And have dinner, of course. The Christmas decorations have already been put out everywhere; it’s insane! Ikea had Christmas trees and decorations, wrapping paper, etc. They seem to completely skip any Halloween decorations here, as I haven’t really noticed any.
On Saturday, I met up with Becky because she invited me to go to another rugby game! This time, we went to the Wales vs. Australia game so we ended up cheering for Australia, and they won! But many people were really disappointed with the game because no one actually scored any tries (equivalent to a touchdown in football); the only points that were scored were from penalty kicks (equivalent to a field goal in football). I still liked it though! 🙂 Getting back home was crazy, since we took the train instead of a taxi this time. When 80,000 people leave one building at the same time, of course it’s going to be mayhem! I was actually quite impressed with how organized and quick it was though; the staff definitely knew what they were doing. The train ride was absolutely insane! Everyone was still in the rugby mood, so they pummelled their ways onto the train, because everyone refused to wait for the next one. I’ve never been so close to so many strangers at one time. Like uncomfortably close. I could have kissed the guy in front of me. The twists and turns usually cause someone to fall over if they’re not holding on but this time, we all swayed as one massive body and there was absolutely no need to hold on to anything. There wasn’t any room to fall anywhere, so you just had to lean on the person beside you. Thank goodness we only had to stay on for two stops! And now I’m home, finishing up this blog! I hope everyone is having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend! Love always
Youth – Foxes


So this week has been somewhat repetitive, as I’ve gotten into the routine of working at the same school all week. Last time I wrote, I was about to leave for Sevenoaks to spend the weekend with a person who I had met only a week ago, as well as her family. Parts of me thought I was crazy and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t the safest thing to do. But I went for it anyway! I met Becky at the station at around 8 so we could take the train to Sevenoaks together, which was about a half hour ride. Her dad was at the station to pick us up in his huge Range Rover and drove us to their house, which was a little bit outside of town. When we got there, they had one of those automatic gates that opened into their property. Then the car drove under this archway that led into a type of courtyard, with a 3-car garage on the far side and their house to the right. He drove through one of the garage doors and parked next to a Porsche. We then went into their gorgeous house and I met her mom and grandparents, who were staying for the weekend. The table was beautifully set for six, with dinner plates as well as salad plates. I was offered wine and we were asked if we preferred sparkling or spring water for dinner(!!). Her mom had made a delicious gluten-free lasagna. Her family was extremely nice, and made me feel so welcome and at home! After dinner, we went to get ready for bed which is where I got the option to have my own room or just stay in Becky’s. Well, Becky’s room was probably about two times the size of mine, and it had an ensuite bathroom as well as a large walk-in closet with a bay window and an armoire to do makeup and hair and whatnot. Then Becky told me she’d show me how the shower works. Well I’ve had my fair share of tricky showers – loose dials, hard to move levers, crappy temperatures – so I wasn’t really expecting this to be any different. But then she pulls out this remote and shows me which buttons control the power, the temperature, and the pressure. What the heck?! I’ve never seen anything like this in my life! Also couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to turn on her lights in her room, as the switch had about twelve buttons. Anyway, we went to bed and then the next morning we went downstairs to have breakfast. Since it was light outside, I was able to see their backyard for the first time. And it was huge! To the right side, they had a big tiled area with a pool and hot tub. Behind the large windows of the kitchen, they had a tiled seating area. Then beyond that, they had a nice grassy area about the size of a small soccer field (around 2-3 times the size of our backyard), and then beyond THAT, they had their own private tennis court, which they use every Sunday morning to play with their neighbours. Whoa. Becky took me into Sevenoaks to show me around town for about a half hour before we met up with her parents and grandparents for lunch at a nearby restaurant. They informed us to get a proper meal since the rugby match didn’t start until 8pm and we wouldn’t be eating until after. By proper meal, I just thought they meant order something big and filling, like a burger and fries but everyone order a starter AND a big main dish. So I had an avocado salad to start, and the “chicken supreme” as a main, which consisted of a chicken thigh and leg, as well as a grilled lettuce head and a portion of fries. It was absolutely amazing; everything was marinated perfectly! And I was completely full by the end of it. Becky’s dad got up and paid for everyone’s meal and when I tried to pay him, he refused. We went back to their house to have coffee and watch the Canada/Italy rugby match (we lost), and then we got ready to go to London for the rugby match! Becky’s dad gave us our tickets beforehand, just in case we ended up getting separated and I was shocked to see an amount of 315 pounds on my ticket! Was I ever getting spoiled this weekend… The trip was somewhat hectic, as many of the train lines were closed, and the rest were extremely busy due to the rugby match. But we finally made it there among a sea of people! It was absolutely insane; I don’t remember something being that busy since I was at the olympics. We had quite a bit of time to chat before the game started and then we got to watch the game! It was so cool being able to sit in an England match while in England; the atmosphere is very similar to a roughriders game, except with 81,000 people. I caught on to the rules quite quickly as it’s similar to football, but there were still a few things I wasn’t so sure about. I just decided to follow Becky’s brother’s lead (who was sitting in front of me), and cheer when he cheered. The game finished at probably around 10 and then we walked and walked and walked to where our cab picked us up to take us home. We got back at around 12:30 and then had some tea before going to bed. The next morning, we had breakfast and then I headed back to London so I could get laundry and grocery shopping done. It was a great weekend, and it was awesome to leave London for a bit after being there for a month! 


On Monday, I went back to the dreaded school that I was at last week since I told them I would stay one more week. I definitely regretted my decision on Monday, when I had multiple classes with the year 10’s again. Wednesday and Thursday are my easy days because it’s mostly year 7’s, and then Friday is another bad day with a double period 10 class. Now that the week is over, my throat is aching, I’m losing my voice, and I’m ready to have a drink. These kids literally don’t care about anything, nor do I think they’ll ever care. They claim they can’t learn cause they don’t have a full-time teacher and they can’t learn on their own cause there’s nothing to learn and then they’re going to fail all of their exams. They don’t understand the term respect, nothing is their fault, and they have an excuse for everything. So many times, I’ll walk by a student and ask why they’re not doing any work.. “Oh, I don’t have my notebook.” So then ask for paper? Or “I don’t have a pen.” How many other students are in the room? Go find one! It’s literally like I have to go to each student and personally help them take a notebook and pen out of their bag, open it to a new page, and tell them exactly what to do. Because no one listens to instructions the first time. No one reads the board with the instructions written on it (since I know they don’t listen to the instructions). I kid you not, I actually have to individually tell each person what to do because 15 minutes into a work period, half of the class is still sitting there cause “I don’t know what to do.” I was definitely glad this was my last week there. But then Friday morning on my way to work, I received a phone call from my agent. “So I need to ask a favour of you… The school has chosen some possible science teachers but they still have to go through the interview process. If you could stay for another week, it’ll help me and the school out a lot..” Well, what could I say to that?! Everyone who knows me knows that I can’t say no. So I found myself agreeing, and really regretting it as Friday went on. The kids had to write a test, and no one in the class tried. A few girls just wrote their names on it and handed it straight back to me when I handed them out. Most of the class just spent the majority of the time talking and fooling around. I made it clear that this would be the last week. “Ok that’s good, cause I want to get you into another school because they’re looking for a full-time teacher to start January.” (!!) I’ve come to realise that (in my experience anyway), London people really don’t listen to what you say. No matter how many times you say “I want to stick to supply teaching” or “I’m only staying at this school for one more week” or “I don’t want a cleaning service in my flat” (will be explained later), they only take their own needs into consideration and completely disregard what you just said. I’m sure this isn’t the case for all Londoners but needless to say, I’ve been feeling EXTREMELY frustrated these past few days!!!!! 
Anyway, nothing crazy has happened this week. Jess and I have just spent our evenings in, watching tv and movies, and getting everything organised. On Wednesday morning, we both received an email:
“Dear All Flatmates,
We hope you all are doing well.
During last few months it has been observed that the cleanliness of your property has not been up to the standards. Therefore, as per your request following arrangement has been made: 
We have arranged Weakly Cleaners for your property. These Cleaners will only be responsible for cleaning communal areas and will not do dishes or bedrooms. Flatmates should take care of their belongings. We will not be liable in case of any loss.  
There will be 4 visits each month every Tuesday. Two visits will be paid by the company whereas, Flatmates will be charged for the remaining two visits.
Each visit by the Cleaner will cost:  £30. This amount will be added in your Direct Debit from next month onward. As your direct debit for the month of October is already through, so we the amount for cleaners will be double for next month and then normal from 28th November.
This initiative shall provide for a cleaner and better environment for all. We hope you will cooperate.”
What the heck?! Jess and I were both extremely upset about this, as we have kept our flat really clean and couldn’t afford to spend extra cash in order to have a random cleaner come in. I then received a text from the downstairs flatmate asking if I had requested the cleaning service to which I (of course) replied no. There was no way we’d agree to this happening! Once I got home, I wrote and sent this email:
“Mr. Muhammad,
We haven’t even lived in our flat for more than a month so your concerns about the cleanliness of our property during the “last few months” should not concern us. We have bought a bunch of cleaning supplies – broom, toilet cleaner, sink cleaner, kitchen cleaner, etc. and we have kept our flat extremely tidy (and considerably more cleaner than the conditions were when we first moved in). I’m not sure how you would have viewed our communal living space without giving us advanced notice to view the space (as that is illegal), but if you HAD, you would have been happy with the way our flat looked. Please supply me with a list of standards and proof of how we haven’t reached these standards. If you can’t prove that our living spaces don’t reach standards, then I refuse to pay the amount and will bring it up to the authorities. Having a weekly cleaner is completely unnecessary, especially when we’ve already put our own money into cleaning supplies. Please contact me by phone to discuss this: 07495382538. 


Janelle Achtemichuk”


There, that was that. We’ll just wait to receive a reply and hope for the best. The next day (Thursday), I didn’t receive a reply. But after work, I got a text from Jess asking if I had been to the apartment at all that day, to which I replied no. But someone else had! Someone came into our flat while we were both at work without either of us knowing and cleaned (or attempted to clean) our already clean flat. They basically just moved furniture around (and didn’t put it back), used the supplies that we bought, used the towels that Jess had washed the day before, and left blue cleaner in the toilet. We were LIVID, knowing that someone had been there without us knowing, feeling violated and worried since neither of us had our bedroom doors locked, as we weren’t expecting anyone to come in (especially cause it was Thursday, not Tuesday). Jess called the agent, who didn’t really say much and I resorted to my email writing skills: 
“Dear Mr. Muhammad,
Today we came home to our flat and were extremely upset and angry to find out that someone had been in our flat without our permission, and also without giving us any advanced notice. Someone had been inside our flat to clean it, even after we had both specifically said that we refused to accept this service. Not only had someone “cleaned” our apartment, but they didn’t put our furniture and materials back where they were previously, nor did they do a thorough job of cleaning the flat (as we have already done a better job ourselves). As we didn’t expect anyone to come in, both of our rooms were open and our possessions could have been taken without us knowing. Your email had said that cleaning would occur on Tuesdays and today is Thursday so we had absolutely no idea anyone would be coming into our flat. This is an ILLEGAL ACT and you CAN BE CHARGED FOR HARASSMENT!!!!!! 
“Tenants have the right to live without unnecessary interference from the landlord, and also prevent them or anyone on behalf of the landlord to enter the premises. If a landlord disregards the law and enters the property without permission, they could be prosecuted for “harassment.” The law that sets out the definition of harassment in this context is the Protection from Eviction Act 1977:
“The landlord of a residential occupier or an agent of the landlord shall be guilty of an offence if – 
(A) he does acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of his household.”
You are required to give minimum 24 hours notice before coming into our flat and your email was hardly even sent 24 hours ago. Not only do we feel violated, but we feel unsafe living in our own home. This is a violation of privacy and should NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. We did not agree to have cleaning done and we refuse to pay for this cleaning session, or any other cleaning sessions in the future. I hope you realize how serious this issue is and if it ever happens again, we will have to take legal action.
Janelle Achtemichuk”
Excuse my language, but what assholes. They can’t do that! Ever! Absolutely ridiculous. They finally replied today:
“Hi Janelle Achtemichuk,
Thank you for your email and informing us about this. 
We have asked the maintenance team to give us a report that they this has happened and why a proper notice was not served before the visit. They informed us that they mentioned it in the email that was sent regarding the cleaners but very strict instructions have been given to them regarding this that no one should ever visit to the property without giving proper notice. We would like to apologize to you for this and we assure you that this will not happen again in the future. 
As per cleaners we have cancelled the service for your property and the cleaners will not visit your property anymore.”
Well thank goodness. So now that that’s dealt with, we can live at our flat in peace. Or not. A few hours later, we got yet another email:
“Dear Flatmates,
This is to inform you that the general house meeting has been scheduled for your property on Thu, October 8, 10am – 11am to discuss about general house issues as well as inspect the condition of the property.
Hope to see you all in the meeting.”

What the heck?! Can’t they just leave us alone already? Well Jess and I will both be working during that time so I guess we’ll see what happens. I still feel like they’re planning on coming to view our flat while both of us are at work, which we’re not okay with. After school on Friday, I went shopping to buy all of my baking ingredients to make cupcakes (which is actually really difficult – I don’t think people bake very much over here so they don’t have huge bags of flour or sugar, or packs of margarine cubes). Pretty sure these are the most expensive cupcakes I’ve ever made, since I didn’t conveniently have all the ingredients in my cupboard, nor did I have muffin tins, a hand mixer, or a cooling rack. On the plus side, they were worth every penny (or pence, I guess), as they were absolutely delicious! Unfortunately I had to eat about three of them so they could all fit in the container I bought for them 😛 Anyway, I’m really excited to just enjoy this weekend and relax! Hope everyone’s enjoying the beginning of October! Love always

Ride – twenty one pilots