Be Okay

I recently read that lifetime happiness tends to follow a U-shaped curve – it starts off high in childhood, then takes a downward turn from the age of 25, and picks up again when we retire. It basically implies that once you start working, you lose your sense of happiness until you finish work. Many people (i.e. everyone I talk to) have plans – plans to do something in a few months, or in a year, or a few years from now, or when they retire, but during the past year, all that’s slapped me in the face is death. I went home for ONE MONTH last summer and had to go to TWO funerals. I never even thought I’d be having to go to one funeral, let alone two. And it seems like during the past few years, I’ve been hearing about a lot more death than I’ve heard during my entire life. I lost an aunt AND an uncle last year, both my mom’s siblings. And it scares the crap out of me. It scares me that anything can happen to yourself or to a loved one at any time, that cancer seems to be its own “living” organism – evolving faster than any of us can fight it, that one day you could be making your big plans for next month, or for next year, or for when you’re retired, and the next day it can all be taken away from you. But there’s nothing much we can do about it, except live. I refuse to be part of the statistic in the U-shaped happiness curve, where according to the data, I should now be starting my downward spiral into unhappiness for the next 30 years. I refuse to start making plans for my retirement – plans that I may or may not be able to pursue. Since I’ve returned to London, I’ve reached an ultimate high of happiness. I’ve hardly let my job take over my mood, I’ve been going out and seeing all that I can, and I’ve just been enjoying every day as a new day. I’ve really started becoming more perceptive when it comes to relationships of all kinds – I’ve started looking at how I feel when I’m around different people – where I get positive energy from, who I feel good vibes with, when I get that natural high… With me, I find that it’s very difficult to find people that I just click with and when I finally have that feeling, I hold onto it and I don’t let it go. Good friends are hard to come by, and I’ve become more and more impatient with negative energy and lack of commitment. London has taught me so many life lessons and changed me in a lot of ways, and that’s what I love about the power of travel and living abroad. I’ve often doubted the way I’ve lived  – just working to live. I’m not really doing much to improve my resume (except now accepting this new position), I have no 5-year or 10-year plan, I’m not interested in finding anyone to spend my life with at the moment, not interested in starting a family (ugh, children…😉), I’m really just focused on me and my own happiness. I often wonder.. Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing everything wrong? But then I realize that it only feels wrong because society has ingrained the “right” way to do things and the right order to do them in – go to school, get a degree, get a job, find a husband, buy a house, have a family, work for 30+ years, retire – otherwise known as living to work. My conscience literally tells me (and constantly continues to remind me) that I’m doing it wrong, that there’s a deadline to these things, that I’m going to regret missing out. But why? Maybe I’m doing everything right and the rest of the world is doing it wrong… I do know that I won’t look back on my life 20 years from now and think, “Wow, I’m really glad I stayed in that Wednesday night to make that lesson plan and do all of that marking…” I’ll be thinking, “Remember that time I lived in London and spent every week doing something new – going to musicals and rugby games, checking out Christmas markets, and exploring different countries every six weeks?” I’ve done everything right my entire life, I think it’s time to go against the grain and rebel for once… 

 
(Everyone needs to listen to this song because it relates perfectly to my post!) 
Be Okay – Oh Honey

Warmth (Romania and Stonehenge)

My time back here is already speeding by! I can’t believe it’s been two months since I was back in Canada and even moreso, I can’t believe it’s only two months until 2017. And it’s ALMOST Christmas!!!! London has been decked out in Christmas decorations since November 1st; it’s crazy. I’m loving every minute of it; I’ll take my pumpkin spiced lattes and my candy cane mochas, the decorated streets and windows, the Christmas sales… what’s there NOT to enjoy?! I’ve been back at work for a week since coming back from Romania and thankfully, I ended up getting a full week!
Romania was great! When it came up, I wasn’t actually ready to go on holiday yet. Somehow, I was enjoying my time teaching in London. I don’t know if the kids were better cause it was the start of the school year, or if I’m actually getting better at managing them(?!).. Or maybe it was because I really only worked four full weeks out of the seven, so I wasn’t ready to leave. However, I went and I fully enjoyed my time! I flew from London to Suceava (pronounced Sue-CHA-vah) on Saturday afternoon, and didn’t arrive at the hostel until about 8pm that evening with the 2-hour time difference. Now why Romania, everyone asks me? Why SUCEAVA? Well, back in the year 1900, my great-, great-grandparents decided to migrate to Canada. They came from the region Bukovina, which at the time was part of Austria, but now is part of southern Ukraine and northern Romania. The city or town (Stawchan) that they came from no longer exists, so I was hoping to find out some information about it in Suceava, which has a Bukovina heritage museum. Anyway, Suceava was a place where pretty much NO ONE spoke English. It was also a place where pretty much NO ONE came to visit. Therefore, I was not only the only person in my hostel room, but I was also the only person in the entire hostel (Irene’s Hostel). And reception was only open 5-7pm, so I was REALLY the only person in my entire hostel.
Suceava was quite small and quiet, so I got through everything within the first day I was there. It was neat seeing all of the old ladies with their heads wrapped in handkerchiefs, reminding me of my Baba. That day, I took a walk around the city, checked out the fortress, and went to the Bukovina Heritage museum. The museum was really

Inside one of the Bukovina houses

cool, with the exception of one house that almost gave me a heart attack when I turned a corner and saw dummies taking part in a funeral, with recordings of crying at a real funeral in the background. The museum was an outdoor museum that was laid out like a Bukovina village, with about 30 different houses and buildings that you could explore. I learned that the groom/bride gown was saved during a person’s life because that’s what they’d be buried in (I guess it would be good incentive to not gain weight after the honeymoon phase of a relationship). I also learned that funerals often took place in the spare room of a house and would take about three days, where people could come pay their respects when they please. I learned that a baby would not be recognized by the community until it was baptized, which my parents recently explained was why I got baptized at such a young age. I saw everything I wanted to see after that first day. Unfortunately for me, I booked three nights there. My original plan was to rent a car and drive into Ukraine to where my uncle thought the town that we originated from may have been. However, it turns out you need an international drivers license to drive in Ukraine, which I didn’t have. Then, I thought I may as well rent a car anyway and then I could explore the famous painted monasteries throughout the area. I booked my car that evening and spent the entire evening mapping out where I should go, only to get an email a few hours later stating they didn’t have automatic cars in Suceava. Lovely.

The next day, I took a bus to Vama. Taking public transportation in a city that doesn’t speak English is probably the scariest thing for me to do when travelling alone. I usually try to avoid it at all costs, and would rather walk

Egg Museum!

hours instead of have to try to explain where I’m trying to go, figure out how much it’ll cost, when I need to get off, etc. I got to Vama okay, had a quick breakfast, and went to the Egg Museum, which must have the biggest collection of eggs in the world. The collection comes from countries all over the world, and has different kinds of paintings, carvings, and themes. It was really cool! It was so weird walking through the small town, where pretty much everyone had some type of animal in their backyard. Many had chickens, some had a cow, some had a pig, and most had dogs to watch over everything. Since I didn’t have any wifi or a bus schedule, I went and sat at the bus stop to wait for the next bus, which took about an hour and a half. While I was sitting there, an old man came and kept trying to have a conversation with me in Romanian. He would talk and talk and talk, and then in English he would say, “You understand?” I’d shake my head no, and he’d try again and again. I got off at another small town, where I decided

Voronet Monastery

I’d walk from to get to one of the painted monasteries, so I could at least see one. The Voronet monastery was an hour walk there and back, so it kept me busy for the afternoon. Everything in Romania has a photo tax, so if you want to take pictures at any of the museums, you need to pay the tax. I decided to pay the tax for the monastery and then felt cheated as I stepped inside and saw huge pictures that said “No photography inside the monastery.” It was really gorgeous inside though! I walked the hour back, got to the bus station and found out I had to wait another hour to catch the last bus back to Suceava. I had an early night because I decided I’d take the 6:50 bus the next morning to Brasov (pronounced Bra-shov).

The bus ride was about 8 hours but it went by quite quickly. On the way, it drove through the Bicaz canyon, and the views were spectacular. The colours of the leaves in Romania were insane! I wish my camera could capture it, but it’s something everyone will have to go see in person. There were so many stray dogs and cats throughout Romania; it was heartbreaking. I’ve figured out that I don’t think I have maternal instinct.. I have a CATernal instinct. I swear anytime I see or hear a cat, the first thing I want to do is go pick it up and give it a cuddle. I wanted to hold all of the cats! However, remembering when I got bit by the cat in Morocco and rushed myself to the doctor thinking I had rabies, I decided I’d have to go against every fibre of my being in order to not touch the cats. And the cats knew! They just kept taunting me, trying to get my attention. Anyway, I went to my hostel (the Kismet Dao), and then decided to go explore the Old Town. While walking through, I suddenly heard my name and turned around to find Kim’s friend, Taylor, who was travelling with a couple other friends. How crazy! I decided to join them for dinner, where I had a delicious traditional Romanian stew with polenta. Oh, by the way, McDonald’s in Romania offers Peaches and Cream pie instead of Apple, and it’s literally the best thing ever! I probably had at least five while I was there.
Bran Castle
The next day (Wednesday), I woke up nice and early to have breakfast. The hostel had breakfast but all that it offered was cereal. I never eat cereal and if I do, I always eat it dry. However I thought it would look weird just eating up dry cereal and decided I’d give milk a go – how bad could it be? It’s been at least 15 years, maybe things have changed. Boy, was I ever wrong.. I sat there gagging, trying to get through my bowl of milk and cereal. It’s a consistency thing for me – the soggy feeling of grain in your mouth. Even writing about it, I get the shivers. It’s the same reason why I NEVER put ice cream on my pie or cake, or any other pastry item. It seriously grosses me out. Anyway, after breakfast, I decided to take the bus to Bran in order to see Bran Castle (or Dracula’s Castle). Dracula was based on Vlad the Impaler, who was a man who went around impaling people. I later found out on my walking tour how it was done. First, you take a long, sharp object and you insert it straight into the anus of the person that you’re impaling. Then, you push the object at a 90-degree angle so it’s parallel with the person standing so that their legs will collapse and they’ll slide down the

object, which will exit through their neck or head. A GOOD impaling will cause a person to survive like that for two or three days. How pleasant.. Anyway, apparently during this time, people didn’t have to worry about other people stealing their stuff and the crime level was very low, because everyone was scared of the punishment (obviously). Apparently during his lifetime, Vlad the Impaler impaled over 20,000 people! Rumours started that Vlad would drink his victims blood and blablabla, and that’s how the storyline for Dracula was created. However, in real life, Vlad the Impaler had only actually been in “Dracula’s Castle” once, and it was when he was imprisoned there for two days. So it’s more of a tourist trap, but I felt like I had to go, given the Halloween season. After the castle, I went on a walking tour back in Brasov, and then a few of us (two Americans and one German) went out for dinner to a restaurant called La ceaun, where I got to have Romanian

Yummy cabbage rolls with polenta!!

cabbage rolls, which were absolutely delicious!

The next day (Thursday), I took a train to Bucharest. It was like a Harry Potter train, with little compartments to sit in, which was nice except for the teenager who decided to play his video games the whole time WITH SOUND. The teacher in me almost said something, but I did a good job of biting my tongue. I did a bit of exploring and then went for dinner. After dinner, I decided to check out the Parliament building, which is the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon), and on my way there, someone asked me for directions. I explained that I had just arrived and he said he had too (from Spain), so we went out for a couple of drinks and had a great conversation! On Friday, I took the tube to Hard Rock Cafe in order to get my drumsticks. However, on my way there, I found a beautiful park called Parcel Herastrau. I spent quite a bit of time there and afterwards, I went out for lunch closeby. The food in Romania is so cheap! The most I ever spent on a meal was about 40 lei, which is 8 pounds. For lunch, I went to a restaurant called City Grill, where I had a two-course meal for 21 lei – 4 pounds!

Parcel Herastrau

That afternoon, I went on a walking tour, where I got to find out a lot about the history of Romania. It absolutely blew my mind! They’ve really only had independence since 1990, so they’re as old as I am. Before that, they were part of a Communist period. I learned that the people would only get two hours of hot water each week, only four hours of heat each day – 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, and the food was rationed because the president (Ceausescu) decided to use most of it for exports, so there wasn’t enough to go around for the actual country. Obviously, many people had also been killed during this period. In December 1989, Bucharest had a Revolution, which also brought more than 1000 deaths. The president and his wife ended up in custody after trying to escape by helicopter and on Christmas day, the two were put on trial and were convicted for many crimes, and both were executed that day. The trial and the executions were shown live on television throughout Christmas Day, with the message “Merry Christmas Romania, you now have independence!” So insane!

On Saturday, I went to actually check out the parliament building and then another person approached me in the

Carturesti Carusel

Old Town (from Germany). We decided to go for lunch to a place where we were sat right in front of the grill, so we could watch everything take place. That afternoon, I went to a homemade and antique market and made a few purchases, and then did some last exploring. On Sunday, I made the long trip back to London. On my flight, I was trying to find somewhere to put my luggage and I noticed a spot with just a jacket sitting there. I struggled as I tried moving the jacket to the side so I’d have room for my bag, and the man sitting there let out the biggest sigh ever, as if I was the biggest inconvenience in his life and he stood up. I thought he was going to move the jacket aside so I could put my suitcase up, he instead grabbed it from where I moved it, moved it back in the empty space, and sat back down. I was somewhat stunned, and the man beside me smiled sympathetically as he and the flight attendant once again moved the jacket so I could put my bag there. I had forgotten I was on a plane back to LONDON.. Of course I shouldn’t be expecting kindness. I

ended up getting home quite late, after taking the bus back into London from the airport.

This week has went by quite quickly! I worked most of the week at an all-girls school that I’ve worked at before, but the behaviour is horrible.They’re looking for someone to take over a science position since the permanent teacher left (the girls told me that they made her cry). Anyway, Tuesday and Wednesday were absolutely horrible, but the behaviour got much better towards the end of the week. I don’t know what it is – I do things without actually getting mad at the kids now, thanks to the teacher that I observed back in Saskatoon. I find that the more you hound the kids to do work, the less they actually do. My method has actually been to just sit back and make them realize it on their own. Sometimes, they need a bit of a push.. I ended up saying to one my classes that if they want to talk instead of work, they can, and that’s their own choice. But ten years from now, when they’re all working at McDonald’s because they decided not to take their education seriously, it wouldn’t be my fault. I explained that they weren’t in primary school anymore, and that I wasn’t going to hold their hand and check to make sure they were getting all of their work done. That it was time for them to take responsibility of their education. And then I had dead silence for the rest of that class, as well as for the rest of the week! I have an interview and observation lesson this week for the school that I had worked at during the two weeks before my break, so I’ll have to see how that goes! When

Close Talker!

the head of science found out that I had an interview at THAT school, she had nothing bad to say about the school, “But I WILL say this… I’m not trying to convince you not to take the job there and instead take the one here, BUT being at that great of a school might cause you to UNLEARN your behaviour management skills…” Yeah… that’s a big concern… Anyway, my weeknights were also quite busy. On Tuesday, I went to the Close Talker concert for the second time this year! Once again, it was awesome seeing them perform and being able to have conversations with some familiar faces. On Wednesday, Becky, Charlotte and I went to the Bastille concert, which was absolutely amazing! It was probably the best energy I’ve ever felt at a concert, and it was so uplifting. My mood was great for the rest of the week! Thursday, I went to bed quite early since I was exhausted from going out two nights in a row and getting minimal sleep. On Friday, I went out for drinks with another one of the supply teachers from the school and then I went to a BBC radio concert. I expected it to be a classical music concert, but it ended up being some type of weird abstract genre, with random sounds and notes that (to my ear) sounded horrible. I ended up leaving during the intermission, partly because I didn’t want to stay for the rest and partly

Represent.

because I had an early morning the next day. On Saturday, I went on a bus tour with my former flatmate who was visiting from Italy. We went to Stonehenge, as well as a couple of small towns called Henley-upon-Thames and Avebury. It was SO cold, and I was wearing two sweaters and a winter jacket over my clothes. It was really neat to see Stonehenge though! The trip was from 8am to 7pm so by the time we got back, I was completely worn out. Today, I just did some shopping and cleaning, and I’ve started preparing for the possibility of moving if I end up getting the job at the school this week. I hope everyone’s been doing well, miss you all! Love always

Warmth – Bastille
Stonehenge