And my week of holidays are finally here! First off, I’d like to say that I’ve received TONS of emails and personal messages in response to my last blog posting. Thank you so so much for sending me all those words of encouragement and motivation; it really helps to receive that kind of stuff when you feel like you’re all alone in a foreign country with no support! I have a few updates on my landlords, but I still feel like we haven’t really gotten anywhere (or at least anywhere where we’d like to be). On Saturday morning, I received an email from Lashari saying that all of the information about our landlord is stated in the contract (which it is, but no names are given) so I replied and asked for a specific name (which I still haven’t received). I then decided to do a little bit of research on the landlord with the information I was given. First, I looked up the name (Hafizabad Management) and I found out that Hafizabad is a city in Pakistan. Then I looked up the address and was shocked to find out that it technically wasn’t a real address; it was a virtual address. Basically you pay this company to give you a suite number attached to that address, and the company forwards your mail to wherever you are. Meaning that if we were to actually go to that address, no one would be there to answer any of our questions. A few days later, I happened to notice Lashari’s operation times at the bottom of their emails (which I’ve never noticed before), which are the awkward hours of 4am-1pm. Ironically, this is 8am-5pm in Pakistan. Just saying… I’d like to think this is all one happy coincidence but something tells me it’s not. Anyway, around noon, I wrote them again and told them that there was 32 pence of gas credit left, and not only were we still waiting for the gas card that they said they’d deliver three days ago, but we were never shown how to use the gas meter in order to top it off. Becky and I were planning on going to the Chocolate Show that day, so I went to go meet up with her. On my way, they replied to my email regarding me refusing to sign their weekly health and safety sheets:
“Hi Janelle Achtemichuk,
We hope you are doing great.
According to our previous correspondence regarding General Inspection of the property you were informed about these Health and Safety Sheets. Either the Flat-sharers have to comply with the inspection or signing of these sheets on weekly basis. Either way these measures are taken with emphasis to ensure your health and safety during your stay at the property.
As you had reservations regarding the visit of the inspection team, visiting the property in your absence earlier, we can not arrange the visits for this month. So kindly cooperate by signing these Healthy and Safety sheets for this month until we can inform the Inspection team and arrange regular visits from next month. It is our company’s policy to have weekly visits regularly and is being practiced at all our properties. Moreover, we will provide you with re-directional stickers for the unnecessary or unattended mail so it can be sent to the office.
It is not intended to cause any intrusions however, your health and safety is our utmost concern and need to be carried out and we hope you will cooperate with us.
Thanking in anticipation.”
So what went from a monthly check has now moved to a weekly check? I was so not impressed and quickly replied:
If your company does that for all of your properties, you would have thought to include it in your contract. Unfortunately for you, you didn’t include this in the contract and because we didn’t sign to it, there’s nothing you can do to make us abide by these weekly checks. Not only that but because you didn’t put monthly inspections in the contract, you can’t suddenly change your mind and decide we have to do them. Please be aware that we have talked to experts on this topic and they have never heard of this being a requirement. We are also aware of our rights as tenants and what you can and can’t do. I suggest you do some research yourselves. Stop harassing us, and please acknowledge the gas issue immediately.”
Soon after, they replied to my previous email about the shortage of gas:
“Hi Janelle Achtemichuk,
Thank you for writing to us.
Please note that you can get for any british gas shop just by asking them to give you a gas card. From the same shop the gas top up will be done. All these instructions should have been given to you at the time of check in as you have signed the check in form and all of this is included in it.
As far as your gas bill is concerned we are not taking any payment from you for gas, we are only charging you for electricity, council tax and internet that we pay to the supplier company on your behave. However, gas meter is prepayment and it needs to be topuped by the flatsharers.”
?!?! By this point, I was actually fuming and quickly wrote them back once again:
“I wasn’t given any of this information upon check in, and I was asked to sign the document immediately upon entering the flat, before being asked to look it over or being shown anything. I have proof for this as well. Why is gas split between five people, when there are two separate flats? Should they not be dealt with separately? Why was the gas card taken away from us in the first place? Why is the amount owing getting higher on the one gas meter, when the gas contractor told me it was no longer working? When check in happened, Ahmad couldn’t even get the gas box to open and told me I should leave. I was expecting him to come and show me how it worked later, but it never happened. Once again, gas is included in the contract so if we top up our gas, please be prepared to deduct it from our rent.”
It took quite awhile to get my nerves calmed down after that. I felt bad cause Becky showed up right after I sent that last email and that’s all that was on my mind. Luckily, chocolate knows how to calm my nerves so we ended up going to the perfect place! First we went out for lunch at a pub across the street and then we headed to the Chocolate Show. This show has only been in London for three years, but I was at the same one in Paris six years ago with one of the families. Still just as great though! There must have been about 80 stands and each of them had a sample of chocolate. Becky and I got through about half of them and by that point, both of us started to feel sick haha we stayed away from sampling the rest of the chocolate, as our stomachs couldn’t handle any more. At 5pm, they had a fashion show with chocolate clothes so we got seats at 4pm and waited for it to start. It was pretty cool, seeing all of the outfits. I definitely wouldn’t have minded being a model for the show 🙂 After that, I went home and decided to do some more research on the gas situation since the post office was closed until Monday (for us to get a gas card) and we now only had 18 pence of gas left. I pulled out the gas safety check record and looked up the guy who checked our gas in September. It must have been my lucky day cause there was two phone numbers attached to his name and photo so I decided to give them a try. I was kind of taken aback cause I heard kids and a tv in the background when the phone answered. “Hi, I don’t know if you remember me, but you checked the gas at 63 Swinburne road last month..” “Yes I remember you, you had no gas left,” “Yup, that was me,” “And I took your old gas card and Ahmad was supposed to bring you a new one from the office,” “Yeah, I still haven’t gotten that card…” “Really?” “Yeah, and we only have 18 pence of gas left and no way to fill it up,” “Okay, I’m going to call Ahmad for you,” “Alright, but I’ve called about ten times in the past three days and I’ve gotten no answer,” “Ouch…” So he hangs up and about two minutes later, he calls back again and says he can’t get a hold of him either. “I’ll tell you what though.. I still have your old card so I can bring it over. I just won’t be able to make it there for at least two hours so I won’t get there until about 9 or 10pm.” “Are you sure? I don’t want to interrupt your Saturday night,” “No, it’s fine; I’ll be out and about anyway.” So I decided to just sit and wait in our cold flat. I couldn’t cook anything cause we didn’t have any gas so by the time he showed up, I was starving! He came over around 10:30 with his brother and he showed us what meter to use, and how to refill the meter. He also added five pounds of emergency credit to last us until we could top off our card. When I asked about the other meter, he claimed it wasn’t working. “But it’s still building up in credit owing…” (as it was now at 17 pounds owing) “Well that’s the company’s problem, not yours,” “So they won’t say we owe them all this money at the end of our tenancy?” “They’ll figure it out,” “Okay, and another question.. When you were here last time, did you add any money onto the meter?” “No, I told you that there was 57 pounds on it from before,” “Yeah, just checking. Cause the company is claiming that you added 75 pounds and we owe them for that,” “Just know I’m not involved in this, nor am I getting involved.” “Have you worked with this company before?” “Yeah.. Let me just tell you this.. Many times, you’re just going to have to grit your teeth. Welcome to London.” Out of everyone I’ve met in London, this guy is the only person I’ve met who seems genuine and trustworthy. Everyone else seems to only use you in order to get what they want. That’s the lifestyle here though, which is somewhat sad. Everyone asks how you are (in this case, instead of saying “how are you?” They say “you alright?”, which actually annoys the heck out of me) and I feel like they don’t ever care what the answer is – many people don’t even wait to hear the answer. It’s not like back at home, where people look out for others, even if it might not benefit themselves. It’s a lifestyle that I’m not used to and I hope I never become accustomed to. I know this is one big stereotype, but this is my experience and this is the impression that I’ve gotten while living here so far. Maybe it’s not actually true, but if that’s the case, then London really sucks at first impressions. Anyway, after the gas guy left, Jess and I ordered pizza and then invited James from downstairs over so we could catch him up on everything. On Sunday, I got up and ate, went grocery shopping, and that night, Jess and I went to Hotel Transylvania 2!
On Monday, I went back to the school that l was at for three weeks and vowed to never go to again. The only reason why I agreed to go back to this school was because I remember reading somewhere in the contract that we’re not guaranteed pay during the week before or after a week of holidays. This way, I would be guaranteed work so I’d be guaranteed pay. On top of that, I’d be subbing for a different teacher so the classes would be different (and hopefully better). But I was so wrong. I didn’t have tens to deal with but instead I had elevens. Which are actually so much worse than tens. One of the teachers even told me that the elevens don’t take any responsibility for learning and they blame the teacher for leaving them so they can’t learn. After my first day back, I already had to fill out an incident report for one of my year 11 classes. It’s pretty much like they hire me as a babysitter, not a supply teacher. If I wanted to babysit, I would have stuck with au pairing, or opted for teaching at primary schools. It literally shocks me how disrespectful and immature these teenagers are; it’s absolutely ridiculous. By Wednesday, I was already losing my mind and on Thursday, I nearly went to the principal to tell them that I wouldn’t be coming in on Friday. No more favours for this school! On the plus side, I had quite a few of my old students come up to me in the halls asking why I wasn’t teaching them anymore, that they missed me, and when will I be teaching them again. What’s the best way to say never…? Anyway, I tried to take advantage of my fitness classes to let off some steam, cause these classes were so bad, I’d end up being in a sour mood for the rest of the day. I tried step class again (which was much easier the second time!), Zumba, and Pilates. Today (Friday) wasn’t too bad either. I ended up having three of my old classes (from when I was there the last time) and I got cheers from the students when they saw that I was teaching them. And then I got asked a bunch of questions as to why I wasn’t teaching them anymore, how long was I staying at the school, would I teach them again, etc. I also had two classes of year 11’s but this time, I prepared myself by asking one of the teachers to pop their heads in every 10-15 minutes. They actually weren’t too bad; the incident report I filled out on Monday must have gotten a few of them in trouble! I was definitely happy when the day was over though!
On Thursday, Jess and I had a meeting with the landlord agent to discuss everything, as we weren’t getting anywhere with the emails. It seems like for the most part, we were able to sort everything out, although that doesn’t mean I agree on everything we decided on haha I’m just looking forward to my week off, where I can actually enjoy myself and I don’t have to worry about rude kids and landlords! And now it’s here! Tonight, Jess and I went shopping for pumpkins so that we could do some carving tomorrow. It definitely wasn’t too fun carrying all three of them home though! Then on Sunday, I’m going on a trip! I actually haven’t told anyone where I’m going (except for the people here), so stay tuned! I’m pretty excited to go somewhere new, and to get some time to relax and enjoy myself 🙂 Hope everyone’s doing well over there! Love always
My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit