Bend It

I can’t believe November is pretty much halfway done already! Although these past couple weeks have seemed like the longest weeks ever… Back to work again, and back to not really enjoying it haha anyway, last last Sunday I went into central London to check out Hillsong London once again. For those of you who don’t remember or didn’t know, I regularly went to Hillsong Paris when I was living in France and absolutely loved it, as it gave me a sense of community and a feeling of belonging. London is a really difficult place to meet people so I figured it would be nice to try Hillsong here to see if I could find what I’m looking for. However, it’s unearthed a whole bunch of emotions that I’d totally forgotten that I had. I guess I should start from the beginning… I don’t usually share my religious walk of life with people because I don’t want to creep anyone out, or pour something on them that they don’t want to hear. But now that my blog viewers have gotten considerably low, I’m thinking now’s the best time to let it all out. So sorry if I annoy or offend anyone; I hope that’s not the case. Feel free to continue onto the second half of my blog if you want to skip it. Growing up, I was raised in a Christian household. I was brought to church and to Sunday school every week for as long as I can remember. And that church had such a sense of community. Everyone was welcome and everyone was family. To this day, there are still conversations that I have with people because “yeah, I know that person from church.” So many people have this one common connection for life. As I got older, I went through phases of refusing to go to church, finding it boring, and announcing I’d stay at home while the rest of my family went, or just sleeping in so I wouldn’t have to go. Then at about the age of 12, I was finally in the breakfast club program, which was led by one of my mom’s really good friends, who was a very active member of the church and was someone I admired and looked up to. This breakfast club involved a small group of people between the ages of 12 and 14, but they were people I had grown up with through the church, as well as from school. I look back now and wonder how we all got to that point – so dedicated to make it to church each week. Most of us who went got up every week, made the walk to church (as none of us drove and the majority of us didn’t have our parents accompany us to church), and had meaningful conversations for a couple of hours. Every single week. Such a random assortment of people too… We likely never would have hung out in school or in “the real world,” but once a week, we all became a little community. The majority of the memories I have during my childhood took place in the church, and they’re all so vivid. They stand out more than any other memories I have. Which now shows me how much of an impact it must have had on my life. I’m not sure how much of an impact the church has had on my identity, my morals and values. All my life, I’ve never been much of a drinker or a partier, I’m never able to lie, and my guilt drives me mad if I do anything wrong. But is this from the church, from the way I was raised, or is it just from my conscience? I do know for sure that I’ve grown to love a sense of community, and I always look for that everywhere I go. Shortly after I moved to France, I found Hillsong Paris and met a bunch of people who I’m still good friends with now. The pastor was so personable, and you’d always be able to relate to his sermon in one way or another. It kept me waking up early on Sundays (my only day off) in order to make the two-hour journey to church each week. And I’d bring a notebook every week so I could write down everything that he had to say. While I was in France, my own church in Saskatoon started going through problems. It was having a tough time bringing younger people into the church, because the older people were stuck to their (boring) traditional ways and weren’t willing to change anything. The “regulars” were no longer attending because they lost interest and moved to other churches, or just stopped attending church completely. Our community was getting smaller and smaller. I was scared of what would happen to the church if we didn’t try to keep it going, and I wrote a huge letter with suggestions of what we needed to do in order to grow our church community and not let it die off. My Breakfast Club leader wrote me back and while she thought I had some good ideas, she said that they weren’t right for the direction that the church was going in – something called progressive Christianity. Which when explained to me, apparently had something to do with looking at God in a less “all powerful” way and more as a loving non-judgemental presence. That the idea of Jesus dying on the cross to “save” us from our sins was distasteful, and that the cross shouldn’t even be symbolised in the church. And basically that the Bible shouldn’t be read as factual, but believed as myths. I was shocked and hurt, as this seemed to go against everything I was brought up to believe. The one lady who taught me all those things was suddenly just changing her mind about what she had preached? I was extremely angry; we exchanged a few emails and I haven’t really spoken to her again. When I came back home from France, my fear had come true. Our church no longer had the community (and therefore didn’t have the funds) to keep itself going and was forced to close down. The place where I went to preschool, where we had fall dinners, where we rented for birthday parties, where we had sleepovers and yardsales, the place that was such a significant part of my life, was just gone. I think a part of me became bitter. Nowhere could replace the community I had there, and nowhere would replace the interest I had in going to Hillsong. So I began to step away from the church and from my religion, which was quite easy since I started my biology degree, where it seemed like no one was religious. It was at this point when I started to hide that I was even a Christian, as everyone just assumed that all of their peers supported science over God. It was during my vertebrate biology class (the most difficult class I’ve ever taken in my life) when I actually started to see that what I was learning had some validity to it. Up until that point, I truly believed that evolution was not a thing and that creationism was the only explanation to the way the earth was made. I remember one of my friends sharing the idea that God just put dinosaur bones there to make us wonder, and I agreed that that was the most logical explanation. That was in grade six. I also remember in grade eight, another one of my friends was determined to get me to support gay marriage by the end of the year, cause I absolutely REFUSED to support it since at the time, it wasn’t supported by my religion (of course, my views on this changed quite soon after, when I began high school). It wasn’t until that vertebrate biology course when I started to realise how brainwashed I might have been. How I believed all these things because someone told me to believe them, but never once did I question them. I started to feel angry by this, because I wasn’t given the choice to believe anything else and I was never old enough to think otherwise. Even when I was in second year university, I was required to take an evolution course in order to get my biology degree, and was offended that I wasn’t given any alternatives. In third year university, I was finally taught how to critically think, how to find evidence to back up your statements, and to be informed about both sides of a debate in order to debate about the topic yourself. I was somewhat angry at the education system for not teaching this at a younger age, as many students don’t make it to university and most continue to believe that their opinion and the way they were brought up is the “right” way. They end up living in their own little bubble, and they’re not willing to look at other sides of any issue. In fourth year university, I took a religious studies course titled Science versus God. I figured that because it was a religious studies course, the professor would be biased and would support the religious side of things, but I found that he did the exact opposite. I loved the course, as there were so many ideas that were brought up from both the science side and the religious side that I would have never even considered. The ideas he shared made me even more angry at the church, and I felt stupid for believing so much. Because I became so uncomfortable and so ashamed of my faith, I began to hide it from everyone else and became bitter towards my friends who kept their faith going. I get extremely annoyed when invited to Prayer Nights via Facebook, and I’d get even more upset when I’d go to a friend for advice and they’d reply, “Just pray about it.” I became a lot more aware of the Christians who give Christianity a bad name – who refuse to accept people because of their lifestyle or because of the way they are. I started to realize that the rest of the world likely saw Christianity in that way, because that was often what was shared with the public. I got upset with people who tried to push Christianity on non-believers or to people with other beliefs. I never understood (and still don’t understand) how some people could go to a random city in a random country and preach God’s Word onto random people, who might not want to hear any of it. I’ve always tried to be as respectful as I could with keeping my religion and my beliefs to myself, in order to not offend anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable, and that’s why even writing this blog post is difficult for me. I’ve also enjoyed hearing other people’s beliefs and educating myself about other religions, not ever thinking that their ideas were “wrong” or “not the right way.” So when I went to Hillsong London, I was extremely disappointed when first of all, the service was held in a HUGE theatre that seats just over 2000 people. They have 4 or 5 services every Sunday and most are usually quite full. The thought of being able to show up and sit beside the same person even two weeks in a row was pretty unimaginable. I didn’t feel like I would be part of a community there at all, as it was just too overwhelming to even try. The second thing I didn’t like about this was the sermons were very theatrical. They had actors to show the stories and while it was cool, I felt like it was more for show, and I felt like there was no way I could relate to the sermon. The third and most important thing I really didn’t like about it was the emphasis they made on bringing more people to the church. They claimed that God doesn’t care how we live our lives, if we do right or wrong, how much we worship Him, etc. But that our only role in life is to bring more people to the house of God. Which as I said before, is something I don’t agree with one bit. They also make a huge emphasis on paying your tithes, and even passed around offering containers twice during the service (one at the beginning and one at the end)! At the end of every Hillsong service, there’s a time when everyone’s supposed to close their eyes and then they ask if you want to give your life to Jesus and to God, and you’re supposed to raise your hand. And every single time, it sounds like there’s at least ten hands that go up. I started to wonder if this was for show too, if there were REALLY that many people whose lives were changed after that single church service. And why. After feeling pretty defeated, I went back home and thought maybe I should just give up on the church. I know that I would never agree with pressuring other people into going to church with me, and I definitely didn’t agree that this was my only purpose in life. Now looking at the bigger church corporations such as Hillsong and C3 from a different point of view, it seems to me as if they’re only using other people’s faith to make money. I mean if you think about it, at least 1000 people must show up at every service and there’s 5 services per day. If everyone offers even a pound at each service, they’re rolling in about 5000 pounds every Sunday. Not only that, but the location I went to is one of five locations in London. And one of many throughout the world. I wondered why they would want us to bring even more people to the church, as I personally thought there were already too many people there and there was absolutely no way you’d feel a sense of community in a sea of hundreds. I can’t relate to the sermons anymore, I don’t feel like the church REALLY cares for your well-being, I honestly feel like it’s a big money-grabbing pot. But what do I know? I’m just sharing what’s been going through my head during the past few weeks (and obviously, there’s a lot!). I’d actually be curious to hear what other people think, as I hope I’m not totally out to lunch.
Anyway, back to what’s been happening during the past couple of weeks I guess! Basically, I’ve been teaching during the day time, as well as going to as many fitness classes as possible during the evenings. Last last Tuesday, I tried out a new school (which wasn’t that great, but wasn’t horrible either), and then my agent told me I’d be going back Wednesday and Thursday. So on Wednesday morning, I got up and got ready (while keeping my phone on silent, as I wasn’t expecting any calls), and then Jess got a call saying that I was to go to the same school as her. Confused, I told Jess to ask about my timesheet, since I didn’t get it signed the previous day because I was expecting to come back Wednesday and Thursday. The person on the phone told me I’d have to discuss it with my agent. So Jess and I went to work together at that school. Then at lunch, I checked my phone and there were about four missed calls as well as a voicemail. When I listened to it, it was another person from Prospero wondering where I was, as the other school was waiting for me(!!). I texted my agent and asked what was going on, as he was sick and wasn’t at work that day and obviously there’s no communication at the agency. I explained how unprofessional and unreliable it made me look, and I also told him he’d have to get my timesheet from that other school, as I wasn’t about to walk back in after I had let them down (even though it wasn’t my fault). Anyway to this day (and this was ten days ago), he still hasn’t gotten the timesheet, meaning I still haven’t gotten paid for that day. But I WILL keep pestering him for it!
Anyway, on Friday night, Jess and I went to the Putney High Street to do our own mini pub crawl, and to check out the pubs in our area, which was pretty cool! The next day, I headed to Sevenoaks to spend the night with Becky and her friend Charlotte for a girls’ night.
We went to the Sevenoaks Bonfire night (my first one! – which everyone was quite surprised about) and watched the fireworks. This is a big celebration, otherwise known as Guy Fawkes’ Night, when he attempted to blow up the Parliament Buildings on the 5th of November (if anyone’s seen V for Vendetta, you’ll somewhat know what I’m talking about). Anyway, we went into town, where they had a marching band and a torch-lighting station. Then, everyone walked towards the field with the band while carrying their torches. On the field, there was a whole bunch of logs piled on each other like a big house, which they lit on fire and then everyone threw their torches into the bonfire. Then, they had a big fireworks show that went along to music, which was really nice! After that, we were starving so we went back to Becky’s house to have pizza, drink wine, and watch movies. The next day, we just relaxed for most of the day as it was really gross out anyway. Then after dinner, I made my way back to London.
This week, my agent has been pushing full-time teaching on my like crazy and has tried setting me up with three different schools. While it would be nice to have my own classroom and build relationships with the students so I could be more respected as a teacher, I would also have to make lesson plans and do marking, which would take up a considerable amount of my evenings and weekends (and holidays!). When I discussed pay with him, he said that I would make 20 pounds more each day, which for me isn’t really worth it as I know I would be spending more than one hour each day preparing for school. However, he still doesn’t seem to want to take no for an answer and still tries to set me up with being observed by head teachers. Obviously, he gets some kind of bonus out of it and he only cares about benefiting himself. But now I’m used to it, as that seems like the London way of life. The fact that schools apparently pay 200 pounds for us to be there each day, and we only get 120-130 of that tells me that his full-time daily offer is a rip-off, and that he’s likely pocketing a large portion of that money. And he just informed us a couple of days ago that there’s a “mandatory” seminar that he needs us to go to tomorrow in Central London, which we found out is four hours long (and takes us one hour to get to each way). No way am I going to use six hours of my Saturday for a seminar, sorry (especially with only three day’s notice). This week, I worked at two of my favourite schools so it was a pretty easy week. I still had to work on Remembrance Day, as it’s not a holiday here. All they did to acknowledge it was a two-minute of silence with the kids sitting in their desks in the classroom. One of the school I worked at is an all girls’ school that is wanting to hire me as a full-time teacher. While it would be the one school that I would actually like to work at, I still don’t think it’s worth it. The girls were so excited to see me for a second day in a row, and asked if I was their permanent teacher. I think every single student told me how nice I was, and how nice it is to have a teacher who doesn’t constantly yell at them. Makes me wonder what goes on inside these classrooms?!
And as for my landlords, the situation hasn’t really gotten much better. We had a meeting with them before our holidays since we were sending about five emails back and forth, and we discussed all of the issues. Basically, they were able to show that we had to pay for gas by pointing out a clause in our contract (which I still don’t necessarily agree with), so we decided to go with it since we didn’t want to argue anymore. But we pointed out that we shouldn’t have to collect money from the downstairs people every time we paid for gas, as it shouldn’t be our responsibility. So they came to the conclusion that James (the downstairs guy) would be in charge of filling up the gas, and he would have to collect payment from his flatmates, and from us. Last week, we only had five pounds left of gas so I texted James and asked if Ahmad had talked to him, to which he replied no (even though it had been two weeks). I told him what the plan was and he finally came to get the gas card from us six days later (when we ran out of gas, once again…). Last Friday, we got an email saying that the electrician would be coming over on Tuesday to fix our carbon monoxide detector (which we don’t have). I asked that they please come when Jess and I were home, after 4:30pm. So on Tuesday, Jess and I hurried home to get there in time, and waited and waited. No one came! Later at 8pm, I got ANOTHER email that said that the electrician would be coming the following day. I replied with:
Hi,
You have to give us minimum 24 hours notice before making an arrangement like this. We had an arrangement set up today for 4:30, waited and no one came. This is very unprofessional, as we both work and have taken time out of our lives to make sure we’re at the flat during the required time and no one showed up. You are going to have to rearrange this for sometime next week, as one of us would like to be at the flat when this is happening, and we are both busy Thursday and Friday. 
The company also continued to send me daily reminders to sign their weekly health and safety “sheet” (which is actually 16 pages long), even though I had asked at the meeting that it be edited and shortened. I started to get extremely annoyed with these emails as they clog up my inbox, but I still want to keep them in case I have to use them for any court cases. So I wrote them saying:
To whom it may concern,
 
I still would like this to be further edited, so that I feel comfortable in signing the contract. I don’t mind checking the fire alarms weekly, but I don’t feel comfortable signing when I haven’t read the instructions for the fire alarm controlling box, or when it says that we agree to give prior notice about a guest staying with us (for example), when I don’t intend to do that. If you could edit this so that it includes just the basic requirements (as opposed to a 16 page document), I would feel much more comfortable in signing it.
Also, our front door at the top of the stairs hasn’t been opening or closing properly within the past week and I think it’s due to the weather getting colder. Can someone please come and check this out, as it’s getting more and more difficult to open and close, and could be hazardous in an emergency. Thank you,
Janelle Achtemichuk
 
They finally wrote back six days later with the following:
Hi Janelle Achtemichuk,
 
Thank you for your email. 
 
Please note that a meeting was arranged with you guys to explain everything about the health and safety sheet, if you are still unwilling to sign these documents then we will have to arrange a private contractor to check these on weekly basis. Please decide which ever option is suitable to you. If you kindly go through the contract that you have sign you will find this clause in it aswell where it says that if someone is going to stay with you, you need to notice the office before hand and ask for the approval. 
 
We have informed the maintenance team about the maintenance issue that you mentioned in your email and advised them to inspect and resolve it asap. 
By this point, I was livid. A weekly contractor? Really? And for us to have to ask them for permission on who we have at our flat is complete bogus! I was done and decided to finally put my foot down. I replied back the next day:
To whom it may concern,
 
Please note that I am aware that we had a meeting as I was there, and I also told Ahmad that the contract should be shortened and edited. We also discussed lack of communication with him, which obviously is a problem if he hasn’t forwarded that information to you after 20 DAYS! Nor has he resolved anything we discussed during the meeting.. What was the point of the meeting if it was only to discuss the issues, and not do anything about them? This is ridiculous, completely unprofessional, and just plain rude. Jess and I are trying to live our lives and cannot do so peacefully with you constantly bringing up new issues. We’ve tried to be patient and work things out with you, but this is getting to be too much. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we would even have to ask for permission from you in order to have visitors. As for now, this is our home and whatever we do in it and whoever we invite to it is none of your concern, or any of your business. Please note that me even AGREEING to sign an edited version of your contract would be doing you a favour, as I shouldn’t have to sign anything in the first place. Obviously this won’t work for you, and I’m done trying to compromise with you. I won’t sign the health and safety check, and I won’t allow a contractor to come into our flat once a week. End of story. What kind of business are you running? It’s very inconsistent. First you tell me monthly checks, now weekly checks, what’s going to be next – daily checks?! I feel like I get a response from a different person every time I receive an email from you, even though “Mr. Muhammad” is always the sender name. Not only that, but you pick and choose emails to respond to based on if it suits you or not. You ignore some emails FOR DAYS (even though you say we’ll receive a response within 24 hours) and you choose to respond to other emails while still ignoring the rest. You’ve set up appointments and failed to show up, you’ve set up appointments and come at least 15 minutes late (multiple times!), you’ve shown up and trespassed in our flat WITHOUT an appointment, you’ve tried charging us with an unnecessary cleaning service, and you’ve been sending me daily emails for the past four weeks to sign your weekly checks. Would you consider this harassment? Cause I certainly do, and I’m sure the court would agree with me. I’m also still waiting for you to provide me with the name of the landlord. It’s been past the 21 days since I’ve asked, which is required BY LAW. Also, I’m still waiting for you to provide me with the local authority that the landlord is registered with, as well as their membership number. Now, leave us alone and let us get on with our lives. I don’t want to have to hear from you again, unless it’s to provide me with the names of the people in your company, or to fix our front door (which is a fire hazard). 
I still haven’t heard back from them, but they retaliated by now sending TWO reminder emails each day to sign their stupid health and safety sheet. Not sure if Jess and I will extend our contract here now.. While we love the area and having our own space, it doesn’t seem to be worth everything that they’ve put us through. Still have to wait until March to get out though! I still haven’t broken down and had a huge melt down while I’ve been here. The last time I actually cried was when I left Canada. Which I’m somewhat surprised about, considering I used to cry at everything back home: movies, meaningful conversations, even commercials for goodness sakes! Looking back on everything I’ve already been through in two and a half months, I don’t understand how I got through it all without breaking down at least once. I know when that moment happens, it’s going to be messy! 😛
This week was pretty eventful! On Tuesday evening, Helena came over for a visit, which was nice because I don’t think I’ve even seen her since I moved into my flat! After that, I met up with Becky and Charlotte for sushi. On Thursday, Jess and I had tickets to Bend it
like Beckham (the musical), so we went into London early to go to the Carnaby Shopping Party. It had a DJ in the middle of the street with bars, so you could just walk down the street with your drinks. All of the stores were also offering 20% off. Jess and I mostly just enjoyed the nice weather, got our pictures taken in the Photo Booth, and then had dinner at a delicious thai restaurant (on the patio! – on November 12th!) before walking to the theatre. The musical was absolutely amazing! It did an awesome job at combining the musical songs with Indian music, and it was really cool to see on stage and compare it to the movie. The girl who played Keira Knightley’s character actually looked just like her! We didn’t get home until about 11:30 so I got less than six hours of sleep before I had to get up for work today. However, I didn’t end up getting a phone call so I guess I can’t complain about that! I ended up going back to bed and sleeping until 11, and now I’m here! Hope everyone’s doing well back at home! Love always
Bend It – Howard Goodall (Original London Bend it Like Beckham Cast)

One thought on “Bend It

  1. Love you Janelle! Amazed you're keeping your cool through all this ridiculousness with the apartment. I may have booked my flight home by now if I were you!! And jealous that you got to see that musical. Was the lead guy as attractive as I thought the guy in the movie was (although now I think he looks like a total creep)?! – LOVE KATIE!!

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