Seeing Stars (Amsterdam, Belgium, and Luxembourg)

Hi everyone! My holidays are coming to an end 😦 But I figured I might as well write about them! Since I last wrote, I only had one more week left of work before my holidays. I had also lost my keys during the last blog posting, and I ended up getting a call from my work a couple of days later and the bar had found my keys! So that was quite a nice surprise. The last week of work was the longest week ever! Even though I was working at my favourite school, the kids were on their worst behaviour ever.. likely because the holidays were coming up. That week, I was approached by the Vice Principal and the Head of Science, and both asked if I’d like to come back after the holidays as a full-time teacher since their science teacher was leaving at Easter. I’m still not wanting to take a full-time position, as I don’t want to have to worry about preparing lessons during my holiday, and I don’t want to have to mark. Also at that school, all teachers are required to stay until 5pm everyday and since it takes about an hour and ten minutes for me to get there, I don’t usually end up getting home until 5 if I leave right after school. I talked to the Head of Science about what my responsibilities would be and she said that the work would be supplied for me and I could keep the same hours as I have, but I might have to give feedback to the students. I was still hung up on the distance and the hours. This school felt like their students were falling behind, so they’ve added an extra period to each day and therefore the schooldays are a lot longer than every other school I work at. So I (thought I had) said I’d think about it, but then the next day, about six other teachers AND the principal came up to me and said that they were so excited that I was joining them! I was so confused and I tried to replay conversations in my head, because I didn’t remember actually agreeing to anything. However, then I got an email from my agency saying that I was assigned to the school for the next seven weeks! I wrote my agent and explained that I hadn’t actually agreed to anything, and he asked me to get it figured out. So on my quest looking for the Head of Science, I ran into the Head of Humanities and she exclaimed that she had wanted me for humanities, but science got me first. By that point, I realized that they were pretty desperate for teachers, and that I had the upper-hand. Might as well take advantage of it! I found the Head of Science and said I wanted some more details before I made my final decision. She was kind of taken aback and said that she thought I had agreed, and I said that I still had to think about it. So I fought for no planning, no marking, and the same hours (basically what I’m already doing now, except I’ll have my own classes and they’ll all be science). And then I talked to my agency and explained that I was concerned about the distance, so they offered to pay me ten pounds more each day! I also said that I’d try it out for the next seven weeks (until the next break) and then possibly extend it until the summer. So now I won’t have to worry about not getting work or not getting paid, and I still get my freedom! And I’ll be able to build the classroom relationships with the students that I don’t normally get to build as a supply teacher. So it’s pretty much a win-win situation, minus the transport. On the last day of school, I had a conversation with the teacher who I’d be replacing. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so passionate about teaching! He decided to leave because he felt like the school had too many rules and guidelines as to how you had to teach (which just started being implemented during the past two years). He explained that teaching is an art and it can’t be robotic like that, and I could really see how much he cared about the students. I think he’s the first teacher I’ve met here who hasn’t complained about teaching, and it was really refreshing to hear!
Anyway, my break started two Fridays ago, when I went to the Ellie Goulding concert with Becky and Charlotte. We went out for a late lunch first and good thing we went quite early because the service was horrible. It took us nearly 30 minutes just to get a drink! We had standing tickets at the concert so we were quite close to the stage – it was great! John Newman opened for her and while I recognized the name, I didn’t know any of his songs until he started performing them all. Ellie Goulding was really good as well! The next day, I had to get to the station so that I could take a bus directly to the airport. Unfortunately for me, I had to print out my bus ticket, as they wouldn’t accept mobile tickets. I knew I had limited time so I made my way to Putney (the next neighbourhood over – about 10-15 minutes away by bus) and asked a printing company if they would print out my ticket. He said I just had to email it to them and he would print it out, but the website wouldn’t let me send it on my phone! So he directed me to an internet cafe and I ran over there. I tried to print out my ticket there but the printer wouldn’t work! The man there was like, “Okay, well try it on another computer then.” So I tried it again and still nothing. The man was on the phone so I secretly emailed the ticket to the printing company, and then told him that it still wasn’t printing. “Well, you’re doing something wrong.” “No I’m not! This isn’t going to work, I’m going to have to go somewhere else.” “Okay, bye.” I ran back to the other place and he explained that I needed to pay minimum 1.50 and asked if I wanted multiple copies of my ticket. No, one is fine; I’ll pay 1.50 for it… I ran back to get my stuff and then started my journey to the airport. As usual, my trips to the airport are always hectic so I wasn’t surprised when the train service was cancelled to the station, therefore requiring me to take a bus to another station so I could catch the train there (and nearly doubling my travel time). I still made it to the bus stop in time but then the bus ended up being about 10-15 minutes late. I ended up being the only person on the bus because another bus had picked up everyone else. However, on the way to the airport, we were making a left turn and suddenly I heard a big thump and the driver braked so fast! Some idiot had tried to squeeze through on the inside lane when obviously, a bus needs two lanes to make a turn. So then the bus driver had to get out, get all of the driver’s information, take pictures, hold up traffic (EVERYONE was honking), which made us another 20 minutes late. I made it to the airport in time to still have a quick dinner before boarding the plane. The flight to Amsterdam was only about 50 minutes, but it was the worst flight I’ve ever been on. And I love flying! It wasn’t just your normal everyday turbulence, but we were doing constant freefalls. I was in the very back of the plane so I could hear all of the carts sliding around, and stuff falling off, and when the flight attendant went, “Oh my God!,” I decided to start freaking out as well. The final drop I swear lasted for like 3-5 seconds and it was during that time when I actually thought I was going to die. The lady beside me screamed, and she ended up crying for the majority of the flight. I think there was a sigh of relief throughout the plane once we touched the ground! I didn’t realize how tense I was until my whole body relaxed at the end of the flight. The prices of hostels were absolutely insane for Saturday night (as in 150-200 pounds for the night!) since it was Easter Sunday the next day. However, I found a considerably cheaper place (still quite pricey though) in a hostel about 40 minutes outside of Amsterdam. I decided to stay there for one night and then move into Amsterdam for the rest of my time there. I had to catch a bus from the airport to the hostel and on the bus, I ended up sitting next to an Australian guy (Zac) who I spent the majority of my time in Amsterdam with. It was actually his birthday the next day, so we spent most of Sunday going to pubs throughout Amsterdam. However, the buses back to his hostel only ran until midnight and we didn’t realize that until about 1 in the morning. We went back to my hostel until it closed at 3 and the hostel owner kicked us out. We asked if we could just look up directions outside before I came back in, but


then the hostel owner locked me out and wouldn’t come to the door despite our constant knocking! So we spent the rest of the night on a bench in the train station waiting for the trains to start again at 5:45 that morning. After that, I headed back to my hostel and found out that there was a different night door! ARGH, the hostel owner could have told me! So I went in and I was able to sleep for about three or four hours before I had to wake up again. That day, I was able to meet up with my cousin Janine and her friend Roxan! We had lunch and then Zac met up with us and we did the Heineken Experience at the brewery, which was pretty cool! It was really interactive compared to other breweries I’ve been to. On Tuesday, Roxan was pretty sick (and ended up getting tonsillitis), so Janine and I went shopping and checked out the different markets. Then, we went on a Lovers Cruise (I had to replace Roxan), and we had pizza and Heineken while cruising down the canals of Amsterdam with a whole bunch of couples haha I then had to say bye to Janine since both of us were leaving the next day 😦

On Wednesday, I took the train to Brussels. It was actually pretty intimidating at the Brussels train station because there were police and guards everywhere! They were basically surrounding the entire station in their camo uniforms and with their camo trucks, carrying guns around. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but

Brussels Memorial

once I got away from the station, it wasn’t so bad! Honestly, that was probably the safest time for me to ever go to Brussels since their security level was so high. However, my hostel was eerily quiet… I rarely saw anyone! That evening, I had some mussels and then I went for a walk around the area. There was a huge memorial site set up due to the events that happened the week before, which had a huge impact on the city. I ended up walking through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. As I was walking through, one of the salesmen tried to coax me into his store and even though I constantly refused, he continued trying to persuade me. Well, what did I have to lose? I decided to go in. He took me to the back of the store and I said, “Just so you know, if your intention is to try to get me to buy something, it’s not going to work.” He looked SO offended, “I don’t want you to buy anything, I just want you to try this product and talk to you.” He took out this hand scrub and rubbed it on my hand, and then proceeded to tell me that it was made with 24-karat gold. “What?! How much does this cost?!” “Well, this container is 500 euro.” “What?! How much did you put on my hand?!” The amount of money on my hand was probably more expensive than the clothes I was wearing. Anyway, he did the whole works.. moisturizer, etc. Then told me that yes, the scrub is 500 euro, but FOR YOU, I’ll give it to you for 100 euro, and I’ll give you the scrub and moisturizer for 150. Ha, I knew that was coming. No, not interested, sorry. Okay, well what are you doing tonight? Want to go for drinks? I pulled the old, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend” card, and I’ve never seen someone recoil so fast! “What?! Is he here?!” He looked so nervous, looking all around him. He quickly escorted me out the store haha

On Thursday, I started the day off with a walking tour, which ended up being three hours long but it was a good way to see Brussels. Brussels’ claim to fame is its statue called Manneken Pis, which is a tiny statue of a little boy

Manneken Pis

peeing. That weekend, he was dressed in a police uniform, as a tribute to all of the hard-working service people in the city. The leader of the tour was so appreciative of us being there and said that the terrorists will not destroy them. The only thing they can do is make people afraid, which they’ve already done a good job of since the hotels and the tourist industry has had so many cancellations since the attacks. She thanked each of us for not being afraid and for still coming to visit Brussels, and to keep spreading love around! 🙂 After the tour, I went to the Musical Instrument Museum, which has over 8000 instruments. You get an audio guide in the museum, and you’re able to listen to each of the instruments while you walk around the museum. It was pretty cool, as I had studied quite a few of the instruments before, but I had never seen them in person.

On Friday, I took the train to Bruges. This was by far my favourite place during my entire trip! It was so picturesque and peaceful, and everywhere you looked was absolutely gorgeous. Since it was such a beautiful day, I started it off with a canal tour, which took about 45 minutes. Then, I went to the De Halve Maan brewery. This was probably the best brewery tour I’ve been on in terms of information. Most tours I go on, the information of making beer is all there, but I never fully understood how it was made until I went on this tour. Of course, I got my free beer at the end of the tour! I went back to my hostel and met my two roommates, Celsey (from Australia) and Matt (from Ottawa), who I spent most of my time in Bruges with. We went on a walking tour, which was again about 3 hours. After that, we went to one of the pubs to try out their 11% beer. They only allow people to have maximum three glasses per sitting since it’s so strong! I definitely felt it and I only had one! On Saturday, Celsey and I went to check out the


markets, and I bought my very first original painting! Again, the artist’s wife thanked us for coming and for not being afraid to come, and explained that their hotel normally has all 22 rooms booked up every day and that week, they only had 7 bookings total! It was weird that so many people were so appreciative of something that I didn’t even think twice about doing. But it was nice to know that we were somewhat making a difference, and fighting the fear! We decided to check out the windmills of Bruges and then go to the nearest town called Damme. We were originally going to go by boat but we missed the last boat by ten minutes! So we decided to walk the 6km trek. Once we got there, there was a windmill that we were actually allowed to climb into! It had three levels and you had to get to each one by climbing extremely steep stairs. It was my first (and likely only) time in a windmill! It made the whole walking trip worth it. We decided to get a crepe and hot chocolate in town, as we had gotten quite hungry by that point and then we planned to take the bus back. However, we found out that the bus only came three times per day, and we once again missed the last bus by ten minutes! So we ended up walking the whole way back as well. By the time we got back, we

were completely worn out, so we met up with Matt and went for dinner at a place called Humpty Dumpty. The restaurant must have forgotten to put in our order or something, because we ended up waiting and waiting and waiting for our food, while watching everyone around us get their meals before us. Although we were starving, we luckily had good conversation so it wasn’t that bad. I don’t think we ended up eating until about 8:30 though. After our extremely long 3-course meal, Matt was determined to find hot chocolate. In Belgium when you order hot chocolate, they usually just give you a cup of warm milk and a plate of chocolate, so we wanted to try it out. I was skeptical because in my opinion, you should always have more chocolate than milk in a hot chocolate. Am I right? However, after walking around for over an hour, we never found our hot chocolate 😦

On Sunday, I made my way to Luxembourg which took about five hours. I had to stay in a bed and breakfast because there weren’t any hostels available, so it cost A LOT more than what I’m used to paying. But I got a nice queen-sized bed and an ensuite bathroom all to myself! That evening, I went to the Chocolate House, which had the hot chocolate that we were looking for the previous night. It was actually so good; I was pleasantly surprised! The next day, instead of waiting for the walking tour at 2pm, I decided to do the self-guided walking tour. During it, I stopped at the Chocolate House once again for lunch, where I had a salmon quiche with a caramel latte. When I was served, a photographer came up to me and said that he was taking pictures for the new website, and asked if he could take some pictures of me enjoying my food and drink. Do you know how difficult it is to pose for


someone while drinking a boiling cup of coffee?! Kind of an awkward experience haha but I guess I’ll see if any of my pictures are up on that new website! Part of the tour was to see the casemates, which are an underground system of passages used for protection under the castle. They were pretty cool to see! I did a lot of walking through the city’s old town, and its green area, as Luxembourg has a lot of it! On Tuesday, I went to a town on the border of Luxembourg and Germany called Vianden. It’s a cute little town with a castle, so I got to have a castle tour! I usually never go inside castles, so I think this was one of the first times I actually went inside one. The town also has a chairlift to go up the mountain but because it was raining, I don’t think it was running so I sadly didn’t get to try it. I went back into the city and then stopped at the Chocolate House one more time before going to the airport and heading back to London.

On Wednesday, I went to the Hans Zimmer concert, which is one of my favourite movie composers. Little did I know, he wrote some of the music for the Lion King! Why Elton John gets all of the credit, I don’t know. So he played that, as well as Gladiator, Crimson Tide, The Da Vinci Code, Batman, as well as many others. It was really good! On Thursday, I went to get my haircut. I had gotten a groupon-type thing, and since the salon was only a month old, there weren’t any reviews online. I decided to just go for it and get my hair cut off, as the hairdresser seemed to know what she was doing. She said that in her seven years

Vianden Castle

of cutting hair, she’s never had anyone donate their hair to charity. However, when she cut the first braid and I saw how short it was, I started freaking out! It was waaaaay shorter than shoulder length! However, I just tried to stay calm and convince myself that it would all grow back eventually. She offered me a glass of champagne (which helped!), and she convinced me that I would love it. And I did! I’m still not sure how I’m going to style it like she did, but hopefully I’ll get the hang of it. On Friday night, I went to the London Coffee Festival with my flatmate. We had VIP tickets so upon arrival, we got goodie bags (complete with a sample bottle of Bailey’s), and then we were offered a free rum coffee cocktail (which wasn’t very good). Then we were able to go through the entire expo, which must have been about 200-300 companies, each sampling their products. We got to try different coffees, chocolates, teas, everything! It was pretty cool! Then after the expo was done, there was a launch party with a DJ. We stayed for a bit and then headed back home.

This morning, I decided to go to the walk-in clinic because my throat has been really bothering me the last three days. It wasn’t like a sore throat, but it felt like I had swallowed something huge and sharp, and it had gotten stuck in my throat so every time I tried to swallow, the muscles would squeeze around it. I had never felt anything like it before, and I didn’t have any cold symptoms so I knew it was something different. I ended up having to wait nearly two and a half hours at the clinic, as there were no doctors and there was only one nurse taking all of the patients. All I had to do was open my mouth and the nurse was like, “Oh! Yeah, I’m getting you antibiotics.” So this weekend, I’m stuck in bed with tonsillitis. I have to take two tablets four times a day for ten days. And she said that I had to rest my voice for four or five days, or the infection will spread further down my throat and hit my voice box, and then I won’t be able to talk. So that’s fun! I’ll be sitting in my room watching tv shows all day. She said as long as I do minimal talking today, tomorrow, and Monday, I should be good to go back to work when school starts on Tuesday. Anyway, I hope everyone’s doing well with the spring/winter/spring in Canada! I definitely don’t miss that… Love always

Seeing Stars  – BØRNS