LAST POST! (Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Botswana, Johannesburg, and Dubai)

Well, my trip is officially over and I can’t believe how fast it went! Two years in London has shaped so many memories and caused me to grow in so many ways. This past year, I’ve had many opportunities to do some pretty cool things! I went to Friends Fest, the Chocolate Show (again!), Aladdin, Kinky Boots (twice!), School of Rock, a rugby game, The Nutcracker Ballet, the Carlsberg Brewery, Stonehenge, the Birmingham Christmas Markets… I moved apartments, got a full-time job at an amazing school, went to the Lindt Chocolate Factory, had tea with cats, flew eagles and owls, saw the Grey Cup, fed giraffes and giant tortoises, pet elephants and lions, WALKED lions, jumped off a cliff twice, and went white water rafting… I went to too many concerts – Billy Joel, Ricky Martin, Empire of the Sun, Close Talker (twice!), Bastille, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Kooks, The Beach Boys, Elton John, and Phil Collins… I went to 24 new countries (Romania, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates) and 2 countries that I’ve already been to (Croatia and Italy). And I’ve met many new people and made many new friends along the way! Coming back home feels bittersweet, but I’m excited to see everyone once I get there.
I guess I need to catch everyone up on the last of my trip… I forgot to say in my last blog (because I thought it wasn’t necessary) that when we did the rhino trek, I wasn’t feeling very well. I found difficulty in climbing a hill and I started to feel really light-headed and hot. Towards the end of the trek, I had to speed walk back to our truck so that I could chug a bunch of water. When we went back to the camp, I was shaking and needed to eat something so I could raise my sugar levels. I didn’t think anything of it because after lunch, I felt a lot better. However, that night, I could hardly keep my eyes open during and after dinner. (Up ahead is a little too much information, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph if necessary). I headed to bed at 8pm and that night, I woke up at 2am feeling really sick and I ran to the toilet. Again at 5am, I felt sick and had to run to the toilet. This time after I was sick from one end, I turned around and threw up three times! I don’t remember the last time I’ve thrown up from being sick but it was horrible and I just wanted to cry. I skipped breakfast that morning cause my stomach couldn’t handle any food. After I threw up the first time, I ended up having to go to the toilet every ten minutes cause I was sick from the other end. The muscles in my legs were really achy and I had little energy. Lucky for me (not), it was a driving day (a long one) and I knew it was going to be horrible when within the first ten minutes of us leaving, I already had to go to the bathroom again. I curled up in a sleeping bag in the bumpy, back part of the truck (where the garbage can was, just in case) and I tried to sleep (and I think I succeeded for a short amount of time! Which considering I can never sleep in any type of vehicle, I felt was a great achievement). We stopped for a few bush toilets (aka peeing in the bush) but since I couldn’t trust my body at the time, I decided not to risk it. 
9 long hours later, we finally got to Victoria Falls! We had to sit through a briefing that went over all of the activities we could do and by that point, I was starving (which was a good sign since I hadn’t eaten all day). I ate some dinner and signed up for my activities, but my legs were still killing me and I was still feeling slightly lightheaded so I decided to stay in that night while everyone else went out for dinner. Luckily, I had some company while everyone was gone so I got to have some good conversations with a few people on the truck. My tour guide told me about how he had malaria twice and I was petrified that I had gotten it too. He said that the parasite is only active for 12 hours of the day so if I felt worse again the next day, we’d have to go to the clinic. My tentmate and I decided to upgrade to the dorm rooms while in Victoria Falls just in case I got sick again, and it only cost us $5 each per night so it wasn’t that bad! I went to bed at about 10pm and the next day, I felt great! I’m hoping my situation was just a bad case of heat stroke/dehydration, or something along those lines. That next day, I was signed up for the half-day adrenaline package, which included a flying fox ride, a zip line, and two gorge swings. I started off with the flying fox, which held me from my back so I basically did a superman flight over the gorge. It was so awesome to see how large it was, knowing that the side of the gorge that we were on was Zimbabwe and the opposite side was Zambia. I somewhat started to freak out when I stopped in the middle before they slowly started pulling me back, because I was just hanging there with no choice but to look down. The next one was the zipline, which was the easiest. Then was the gorge swing… it consisted of a 7-second freefall until the rope tensed up and then you’d just swing back and forth in the gorge. Since I had a small audience, I didn’t want to chicken out but I continued hesitating to jump off. The guide would say, “3.. 2…” and I’d be like, “Wait! Can you count down again?” “3..2..” “No, start from 10!” And then he just pushed me off! I screamed until I had no air left in me. I actually thought I was going to die but once the rope tensed up, the swing was so fun! And after I did it once, I went ahead and tried it a second time. I thought it would be easier (and it was to jump off) but the falling part was just as scary as the first time. My adrenaline was so high for a good part of the day! That afternoon, a few of us went to check out some of the markets (I found a Christmas tree ornament!) and then six of us went for high tea. It was the same as you would find in London – tea, scones, sandwiches and desserts, but the service wasn’t so great and the macaroons were stale 😦 . However, it was at a really nice hotel with a lovely view! That evening, we spent the night dancing; it was a great night!
The next day, I had no activities planned so a few of us decided to walk through the park of Victoria Falls. My body started aching again and I think it was because I was so tense during my cliff jumps the day before. It made it very difficult to do stairs though! Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the whole world, and it was quite spectacular to see! It took us about 1.5- to 2- hours to walk along the length of the park and it was impossible to not get wet. A few of us girls went to have slushies at a cafe that had a nice view of the gorge. Then, we met up with the rest of the group and we went to the Sunset Lodge, where we could have drinks while watching the sunset.  Because we had to leave for whitewater rafting at about 7 the next morning, I decided to have an early night. On Wednesday, I got up nice and early, and even ordered breakfast. However, by the time my breakfast came, I only had about five minutes until we had to leave for rafting. Therefore, I only managed to have a bit of my eggs and all of my bacon. We had to sit through an induction, which went over all of the safety rules and then we had to walk down into the gorge. The walk probably took about 15-20 minutes and I knew that going back up would suck. However, I was told that after rafting, we’d have a barbecue and then we’d walk up the gorge. The rafting trip included 19 rapids but we had to skip over a few of them because they were higher than class 5 (meaning extremely dangerous). It was my first time rafting and it was a lot of fun, but I started to lose all of my energy right after we got halfway through the rapids. Considering I didn’t have a full breakfast and we didn’t have lunch until about 2:30, I was completely worn out. When we finished rafting, they told us that we had to take our lifejackets, helmets, and paddles, and walk up the gorge so we could have our barbecue. I thought they were kidding! They warned us to avoid giving our paddles/lifejackets to anyone (there are people who wait at the bottom who offer to carry everything up for you) or we wouldn’t get them back. However, after about ten minutes of walking up the gorge, my legs had turned into jelly. I literally couldn’t walk up the gorge no matter how hard I tried. Someone ended up just grabbing everything from me without even asking and when I asked if we were close and he replied with, “Yes, we have about 15 minutes left,” I nearly just gave up. I’ve never been close to crying from physical exhaustion but that day, I was on the edge of tears and I was fully willing for them to just leave me there because I had no strength left in me. I think that with the combination of not having food that morning and my body and muscles still recuperating from being sick, it probably wasn’t a good idea to take part in those physical demands. The guy who was carrying my stuff had to take my hand and literally pull me up the rest of the gorge because I wouldn’t have made it up on my own. When I finally got to the top, I was so out of it. I went to get some food and all I wanted to do was burst into tears. I stared into space while eating and I couldn’t take part in any conversations until the energy started kicking in again. We got back to our hostel at about 3:30pm so I had a shower, and then a few of us went back to check out the markets one last time. I got one good deal, which I was happy with! We went back to the hostel and then a few of us went for dinner before I had another early night. Because it was our last night in Victoria Falls, most people stayed up and danced but I was completely worn out. 
On Thursday, we had to leave at 6am so that we could go to Kasane, Botswana. The border crossing was the easiest one we’ve ever done, so we got to the camp at about 9:30am that morning. We made breakfast and then we had the option to go on a game drive in the morning, and a game cruise in the afternoon. The prices ended up being more expensive than quoted so I decided not to go and instead, a bunch of us just hung out at the campsite for the afternoon. It was a nice, lazy day to have! The next morning, we had to get up early again to drive to Maun. It was my last full day with the group, and it was another long driving day. We finally got there at about 3pm and then we stopped at the grocery store so everyone could get food for their upcoming trip to the Delta. When we finally got to camp, the sun was setting so we quickly put up our tents and then I helped with preparing dinner. That night, I had to fill out feedback forms for the tour and get all of my stuff packed. Even though my flight out of Maun wasn’t until 2pm, I still had to get up and ready by 6am with the rest of the group, since the tent had to be packed up. We had breakfast and then I had to say my goodbyes to everyone else. There were only two of us leaving (the other one was Michelle from New Zealand) and most people were continuing their 73-day trips. After everyone left (including Michelle), I stayed at the hotel for a few hours until I had to go to the airport. I instantly felt lonely (which continued for the next three days). Even though I enjoy my alone time, I got used to being able to talk to one of 24 people whenever I felt like it and this time, I didn’t have that option. I caught a shuttle to the airport and then got on my flight to Johannesburg. At the beginning of the flight, a flight attendant walked down the aisle while spraying insect repellent! My flight was only two hours, and there was someone there to pick me up from the airport. I had heard a lot of negative reviews about Johannesburg because apparently there is still a lot of tension between black and white people, so I was told to always walk with someone and to not walk after dark. However when I got to the hostel, there were only two other people there (a couple) and I had a whole 12-person dorm to myself (hence my feeling lonely in Johannesburg). Johannesburg is absolutely huge – its area is four times larger than Greater London, and it has 12 million people! That night, I ordered a pizza to be delivered for dinner, I had a hot shower (which I didn’t have to share with any insects or frogs), I had a bed, and I got to watch two movies! I remember sitting in the hostel lounge just thinking about how bizarre it felt sitting on a couch and watching Rio while eating pizza. I bought a 2-day Hop On-Hop Off bus ticket so the next day, I used it and stopped at the Apartheid Museum. I spent about 2.5-3 hours there, where I learned about the history of South Africa and the separation between races. In 1913, they passed a land act, where 8% of the land was reserved for Africans while 92% was reserved for whites. In 1950, they passed the Immorality Act, which outlawed sex and marriage across racial lines. The 1953 Act prohibited different racial groups from using the same public facilities. When we entered the museum, we were randomly assigned whether we were black or white, and we had to enter through the correct door. In terms of schooling, the government would spent 40 on Africans and 644 on whites. The whites were taught regular school subjects – biology, history, etc. while the African people were basically trained to do slavework. African people weren’t allowed to vote and the whites were paranoid that if they gave the Africans too much power, they’d be taken over. I also learned about Nelson Mandela and how he was imprisoned for 27 years before finally being released and becoming president. It blew my mind to find out how long the Apartheid lasted for, and really made me realize how the British and European people took over so much land all over the world and caused so many others to suffer because of it. After the museum, I took the bus back to where I started and I walked back to my hostel, which took about a half hour. The next day, I did more of the bus tour. This time, I went to Soweto, which is a smaller community outside of Johannesburg, where a lot of the African people were sent to (because the whites didn’t want them to be in the cities). Soweto is where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu grew up (on the same street!), so it was possible to tour Mandela’s house if we wanted to. After that, I went to World of Beer. It was about to close in an hour and I didn’t want to miss the final bus, so I decided to forego the tour and instead, just go straight to the bar. I had to pay 40 Rand (4 dollars) to get into the bar, but I got two drinks with it so it was quite a good deal! 


Tuesday was my last day in Johannesburg and I decided to just spend it in the neighbourhood that I was close to. It had a huge mall, as well as a market. The market was extremely expensive, since most of the items came from other parts of Africa (ex. Zimbabwe) so everything was a lot more expensive than all of the other countries I went to. I spent most of the day walking around the mall, and then I went back to the hostel to charge my phone before I had to head to the airport. My flight was leaving at 10:20pm that evening so I had to take an Uber to the airport, and then I flew to Dubai. I tried my hardest to sleep during my flight since I was arriving at Dubai at 8:20am in the morning and would have an 18-hour layover, but my body wouldn’t let me sleep! I arrived in Dubai and lucky for me, my tentmate actually lives there! So she picked me up from the airport and she showed me around the city. First, we went by the beach, where we had breakfast at Tim Horton’s(!). I was so excited, I bought everything I could. I didn’t know what the conversion rate was until AFTER I ordered so when I looked it up, I realized that I had spent $17 on Tim Horton’s. It was totally worth it though! I got an iced cappuccino, a half-and-half French Vanilla, an apple fritter, and 20 timbits. They asked if I wanted a regular or a large of both of my drinks so I said regular, and they were absolutely huge! I swear they’d be our extra larges in Canada. After breakfast, we went to The Palm, which is a man-made island that’s shaped like a palm tree (you’ve probably seen it in photos). It has a gorgeous Atlantis hotel at the end of the island, but we could only spend a limited amount of time outside since it was “feels like” 41 degrees. It was unbearably hot! We then went to Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world. Just like West Ed, it has a skating rink, but it ALSO has a huge aquarium. We got to see the tallest building in the world as well – the Burj Khalifa. We went out for lunch/dinner at Cheesecake Factory, which ended up costing $27 for a lunch-sized pasta, but it was so good! Afterwards, it was about 4pm and Nicola had to go back home so I decided to go back to the airport. Even though I still had 10 hours to kill, I was quite tired since I hadn’t slept. I killed time doing crosswords in the airport and I even fell asleep for an hour right before boarding! The flight left at 2:45am and was 7 hours, and I (miraculously) fell asleep as soon as we lifted off. I slept through all of the snacks and got about 4.5 hours in! I woke up in time for breakfast and then we landed in London at 7:20am. I caught the bus back to central London and got to my hostel quite early. Since I couldn’t check in, I left my luggage at reception and then I went to Kim’s to get some more of my luggage. I stayed for a chat and by the time I got back to the hostel at 2pm, I was able to check in! I showered and then my other suitcase got delivered to the hostel so I could transfer everything from that suitcase into the one from Kim’s. I then went out for a couple of drinks with someone I met from the hostel before going back to Kim’s at about 10pm to get my last suitcase. I was finally moved out! The next day was my last day in London so I spent the entire time walking around – down Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, China Town, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Bond Street, while feeling nostalgic and sad. Halfway through my walk, it started POURING (which I’ve learned to expect from London) and I welcomed it. For the rest of the evening, I finished packing all of my stuff so that I’d be ready to wake up at five the next morning. Today, I got up and requested an Uber but once he came, he said he wouldn’t be able to fit all of my suitcases in his car. I said that it’s been done before (and it has! I’ve done it twice in the exact same type of car!) and he said that he’d have to fold down the seat so I should order a bigger Uber. I was pretty upset since the other Uber took an additional 15 minutes to come, but he got me to the bus station right before the bus was about to leave and I made it to the airport! My flight ended up being delayed due to traffic control and we didn’t leave the tarmac until 50 minutes after we were supposed to leave. My flight is 9 hours and I have a 2 hour layover in Edmonton to go through customs (which may now be shortened if we arrive late), so hopefully I’ll make it to Saskatoon! Thanks to everyone who has kept up with my blog during the past two years; it’s always nice to hear feedback and know that people have been reading about my stories. Can’t wait to see everyone! Love always


















See The World (Rome, London, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Serbia)

My extremely long vacation has already begun! Since I last wrote, I’ve been up to quite a lot. I went back to work for five more weeks, which turned out fine even after the awkward conversation before the holiday. I only had to teach the year 12’s two more times and the Head of Biology had to observe me during one of those times, which I think we both thought was quite unnecessary and pointless. The situation with my flatmate also turned out – I ended up getting my deposit back, and I’m now officially moved out. And my mom left 😦 After she got back from Edinburgh, we had about four days left together.
On Monday night, we went out to celebrate my birthday and had a steak dinner followed by going to Kinky Boots, which again, was amazing! My mom left on Wednesday morning and then my birthday was the following day. I didn’t do anything special that evening but I met up with Becky on Friday night to go for drinks.
Trevi Fountain – Rome



The following weekend, I went to Rome! I left early Saturday morning and took Monday off to come back that evening. Adriana (one of my friends who was also an au pair in France) was coming to Italy with her fiancé, so Helena (my other au pair friend) and I decided to make the trip to Rome to see her after 8 years. Helena and I both got to Rome at about noon so we were able to check into our airbnb and have a much-needed lunch. This trip, I decided to treat myself and buy good food instead of finding the cheapest deal and being disappointed, so this food experience in Italy was MUCH better than my last. We did a bit of walking around and then found a nice cafe in front of the Pantheon to have drinks until Adriana and Jake showed up. It was so great to all be reunited again! We didn’t end up having dinner until about 11 so it ended up being a late night. The next morning, it was the first Sunday of the month so all museums were free! We went for lunch and coffee, and then decided to try out the Colosseum. The line-up was so long and we kept second-guessing whether we should stay in line or not. Luckily, it moved very fast and we ended up getting tickets within half an hour. It was neat seeing the Colosseum on the inside, but it probably wasn’t anything I’d pay money to see (which thankfully, I didn’t have to that day!). With our tickets, we also got free entrance into the Roman Forum, so we took some time walking around that and then headed back into central Rome to meet up with Adriana and Jake for dinner. That was our last night together and then the next morning, we had all booked tickets to the Vatican (at different times). Helena and I went for lunch before heading to the Vatican Museum. The Sistine Chapel seemed to be at the very end of the museum and we were forced to walk through all of the other rooms with no air conditioning. Both of us were ready to be out within five minutes! Unfortunately, there weren’t any other exits so we just had to follow the crowd. They’d have wide halls to walk through with the art on either side and then they’d just have one small door at the end of each hall, where hundreds of people had to go into. After doing that over and over again for about twenty minutes, we finally got to the Sistine Chapel! It was super quiet and we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but it wasn’t as great as I thought it was going to be. Honestly, I thought some of the other ceilings in the museum were nicer. After seeing the Chapel, we saw that we’d have to continue with the crowd to finish the rest of the museum so we snuck through the “tour guides only” door to escape. We then went to St. Peter’s Basilica, which I’ve already seen before but it was still just as beautiful. We had some gelato before making our way back to central Rome to get our suitcases and catch our buses back to the airport.

The next weekend, I went to The Kooks concert, which was great! It was at Alexandra Palace, which is on a hilltop so it has a beautiful view of London. They played all of their classic songs, so everyone got into it. However, it was a standing concert so I was definitely exhausted by the time it finished. The following day, I went to The English School of Falconry with Becky so that we could meet some owls and eagles! We had to take a train ride to Bedford (which took about two hours) and then take a bus to Cotton End, which is where the farm was located. It was such a cool experience – not only being able to hold the owls and eagles, but actually being able to have them fly to and from your arm! The day showed me just how much of a personality birds have; it was a really entertaining day!

The next week was my last week in the classroom, which was just a revision week so it was pretty easy. However, the school wanted me to write end-of-year reports before I left since the teacher replacing me wouldn’t know the students as well. I had to write reports for all of my year 7-10 students, meaning I had to write just over 150 reports – each at least four sentences long, and no copying and pasting allowed! I definitely started to lose motivation towards the end of the report-writing, as I felt like I was constantly repeating myself. That Friday, I went to the Beach Boys concert, which was another good concert. It blew my mind hearing that they formed in 1961, and they were still performing! They seemed to play a lot of unknown or unfamiliar songs (for me anyway) and saved all of the classics for last. However, I heard over and over again: “Aren’t you too young to be here?” “Do you even know what concert you’re at?”, etc. On Saturday, I packed all of my stuff and then I transferred it all to Kim’s house on Sunday because she graciously allowed me to keep everything there while I travelled for the next few months.
Beach Boys

On Monday, I went to the Close Talker concert. I remember thinking I’d be lucky to watch them ONCE while I was in London but I was seeing them for the third time! I walked into the bar and saw someone who looked familiar, but often my mind plays tricks on me when I’m abroad and I think I see people I know. However, he half-smiled at me so I was like, “Hello? What are you doing here?” (Really hoping that this was the guy who I thought he was). Luckily, he replied and said that he and his wife were travelling and decided to come to the Close Talker concert. I hadn’t seen him since high school, which was almost ten years ago! Anyway, I joined them for drinks and for the concert. On Tuesday night, I went out for dinner with the Biology department and then on Wednesday night, I went to my last musical with Kim 😦 We decided to go to School of Rock, which was really well done! The guy who played the main character was so much like Jack Black. On Thursday, I went to get my last vaccine and to drop off (what I thought was) my last bag at Kim’s, and then Friday was my last night! I went out for drinks with my flatmate and her friends before packing up the last of my stuff and cleaning my room. I was moved out by 8:30 Saturday morning. I don’t know HOW I thought it would be a good idea to plan my trip the day after my last day of work AND move out at the same time, while making sure two year’s worth of stuff was packed away. Somehow, I did it and I’m quite impressed with myself!

Close Talker

On Saturday, I flew to Vilnius, Lithuania. Apparently that day, the IT system crashed in both Gatwick and Heathrow airports so most of the flights were delayed or cancelled. Lucky for me, I flew out of Luton so my flight wasn’t affected (although it was 20 minutes late). I got to Vilnius at about 7:30pm so I went out for dinner and had some amazing pea soup. I wish I got to explore more of the city because it was really cute, but I had an early morning the next day and had to get up at 4:30. I caught an uber to the airport (which only cost me 2 euro!) and then flew to Kyiv at 7am. I arrived at 8:30 but by the time I got to my hostel, it was about 10:30. I couldn’t figure out where my hostel was located or how to get in because there weren’t any signs and my phone was almost dead. I ran to McDonald’s to get wifi and found out I had found the right place but had to put in a code to get in. I finally got in, went up the four flights of stairs and pressed the doorbell about 15 times but no one came! I ended up sitting on the steps for about a half hour and then tried again, and was let in! The hostel had a brand new kitten, which was good and bad cause I couldn’t breathe most of the time I was there, but she was so cute and playful so I couldn’t resist.

St Andrews Church – Kyiv

That day, I was determined to find perogies and borscht so I looked up one of the cheaper places to go to and walked there (which took about a half hour). The thing with Kyiv is they’ve really preserved their culture, in that they don’t have signs written in English and not many people speak English. Unlike many other major cities, where they’ve changed their ways to get more tourism. I admired this about Ukraine, but it also made me feel somewhat ashamed because I didn’t know the language, and I couldn’t even understand the alphabet. Lucky for me, the restaurant I went to ended up having an English menu so I got my borscht and perogies! After lunch, I decided to go on a walking tour which focused on the Soviet history. I ended up being the only person on the tour, and the tour guide said I looked more Ukrainian than a tourist (yay!). She also was really surprised when I knew about all of the foods, but I spoke English.  That evening, I went for sushi cause it was so cheap! I was able to get two sets of sushi, a cider, and dessert for less than ten pounds (less than it would cost for ONE set of sushi in London!). The next morning, I went on another walking tour, which covered the ancient history of Ukraine. I then went for lunch with a bunch of people on the tour and we went to a buffet-like Ukrainian restaurant. There were four types of perogies and I asked for the ones that looked most similar to home and the lady gave me seven(!). However, when I cut into the first one, I was disappointed to see that there was meat inside. I tried it anyway and it wasn’t too bad! However, when I cut into my second one and an Australian girl sat beside me and asked if I knew what was inside, she informed me that it was liver! I was then thrown off of the perogies cause my mind took over my tastebuds. After lunch, I went to a cave monastery with a couple of the guys but the caves closed as soon as we got there. We decided to explore the monastery grounds for a few hours since we were there, and then we went for dinner. I went to bed early that night cause I had to catch my train to Lviv at 7 the next morning.

Bell Tower to St Sofia Cathedral

The trip to Lviv was five hours and I’m not kidding – it looked exactly like Saskatchewan the entire time! I was shocked as to how much it resembled home. I got to my hostel early that afternoon and then I went for lunch where I again had perogies. I then explored the little city, but it rained most of the time I was there. Lviv is a small and charming city and most people I met raved about it, but I ended up getting quite bored while I was there and I think I preferred Kyiv more. I spent the rest of the day wandering around, and made my way to the highest point of the city, where it started to pour! The next day, I looked for souvenirs and filled up on more Ukrainian food. I made my way back to Kyiv on Thursday morning. This time, I had booked first class and even ordered a tea (which I never got), but the seats were a hundred times worse than my third class seat on the other train. I was in another Harry Potter- like carriage but there were five of us in the six seats so our legs had to be moved to the side cause there was hardly any space between the two rows. Two people ended up pulling the beds out from the walls and lying on those so that the rest of us would have more space. It’s always difficult being in those compartments when you’re the only one who doesn’t speak the language though! I arrived in Kyiv that evening and finally found some cabbage rolls for my final meal in Ukraine. I then went to the hostel and went for drinks with a couple of people. On Friday morning, I went to a random cafe and after I ordered my meal, a man from the table beside me asked where I was from. He was from North Carolina and probably my dad’s age, but we had a good conversation during the duration of our breakfast. Towards the end, he got up and then came back to shake my hand and ask my name. He said his name was Bob and he paid for my meal(!), and he really enjoyed our conversation. That was a nice surprise! I did the last of my souvenir shopping. I got my own embroidered shirt (called a vyshyvanka) and I was once again told I had all of the Ukrainian features. The lady there was so friendly and told me how her son lived in America but she wants to move her daughter there too so her family can be together. She said how the last thirty years have been so difficult and that she’s hoping for victory and she burst into tears. I could feel her pain and it made me sad what all of the Ukrainian people were having to go through, and I started to cry as well. I then sat in Independence Square for one last time, where I had quite an emotional time. I was really sad to be leaving Ukraine, knowing that it likely wouldn’t be the same if I were to come again. I then took an Uber to the airport and went back to London. I had some time to kill so I went to my flat to get my last bag, went to Kim’s to drop it off, and then went to Becky’s cause I was staying at her place for the weekend. On Saturday, we went for breakfast and watched a movie, and then I headed to the Elton John concert! He had just finished going through his life-threatening illness and said how he was glad to still be alive. I think he was still getting better, as he seemed to really struggle the one time he walked across the stage, and he didn’t even do an encore. He may have, but I couldn’t tell if it was actually one cause he literally went off stage and was back on five seconds later. The best part was when he sung “Don’t let the sun go down on me” and it started pelting rain. We all had to get out our rain jackets and everyone else just danced in the rain. The rain stopped as soon as the song ended; it honestly felt like special effects. However, it was a good concert and the atmosphere was great! The next morning, Becky and I went for breakfast again before I made my way to the airport for my European trip.

Elton John!
Vitosha Mountain

I flew to Sofia, Bulgaria and arrived at my hostel at about 10:30 that night. It was a pretty cool hostel and had a treehouse feel to it. The next morning, I took the free walking tour and then wandered around for the rest of the day. On Tuesday, I took a free hiking tour, which took us to Sofia’s closest mountain (Vitosha). We walked about four or five hours, and it was a nice way to get out of the city!

Matka Canyon
The brick (and glass) from breaking the bus window

On Wednesday morning, I got up nice and early to catch a cab to the bus station with an Australian girl. We were both planning to go to Skopje (scope-ee-ah), Macedonia but they informed us that the 7am bus was full. Luckily, there was a 9:30 bus, so we killed time at a coffee shop before catching the five hour bus ride. I met a Canadian guy (from Ottawa) as soon as I got to the hostel so we went out for a late lunch/early dinner and walked around Skopje. Skopje is a city that reminds me of no other place I’ve seen before. It has such random statues (over 200) and buildings, which makes it very unique. It “copies and pastes” from a lot of other cities, so it has an Arc de Triomphe, random roman columns, red London buses, a couple of pirate ships in the river (which are restaurants), and now they’re in the middle of building a London eye. Also, Mother Theresa was born in Skopje! So as you can imagine, most Balkan main cities have a Mother Theresa Square, and at least one statue as well. We went back to the hostel, where I met two more Canadians (also from Ottawa, and who had been living in London for the past two years) so we exchanged our horror stories of working in London. On Thursday, I went on a walking tour, which was probably one of the best ones I’ve been on. It went for about 3 hours and 20 minutes but you hardly noticed cause the guide really knew his information. The coolest thing about many of the Balkan major cities is that any of the stray dogs who have tags on their ears (like cows) have been sterilised and vaccinated, meaning they’re safe to pet. And a lot of them are so loveable! We had tons join us on our walking tours. After the tour, a few of us (people from the Netherlands, Croatia, and England) went to Matka Canyon. In order to get there, we had to take a bus that only came once every 1.5-2 hours. We went to where the guide told us to wait and we waited for about 30-40 minutes. While we were waiting, some taxi drivers came over and offered to drive us there for ten euro but we declined. When the bus finally came, it just drove right past us! So we went back to the taxi drivers, who then decided they’d drive us for 15 Euro! We declined and decided we’d just wait for the next one and started walking to the bus station. Once we got over a block away, one of the taxi drivers had come running after us saying he’d take us for 10. So we took the taxi to the canyon, which was gorgeous! We did the hike through the canyon, which took an hour each way, and then we took the bus back to Skopje. However, about five minutes into our bus ride, the rear door window completely shattered into a million pieces. Glass flew everywhere, and there was a huge brick in the aisle! The guys behind me informed me that if it was half a second later, the brick would have hit me! So that was reassuring.. I went for dinner with some of the same people, and then the next day I went to Pristina, Kosovo (Prish-TEEN-ah, KOS-uh-voh).

Pristina Newborn Sign
Pristina Library

Kosovo is the second newest country and is less than ten years old (in terms of independence) but it’s still having a lot of difficulty being accepted by the EU. Serbia also makes it very difficult on them since they gained independence, so they don’t actually allow direct public transportation from Kosovo to Serbia. They all love Americans since they played a big part in stopping the war, so they have a statue of Bill Clinton in the city. Anyway, I caught the bus with one of the Canadian people and the person in front of us asked where we were from. He was from Pristina, so when we arrived he took us for coffee and then we met his girlfriend and we all went for dinner. That night, I went out with some people from the hostel (from Mexico, Germany, France, and the Netherlands) so we got back to the hostel at about 2:30 and then ordered pizza (which ended up being 1.80 euro per pizza!!). The next day, I just did a lot of walking around. They didn’t have a walking tour since they’re still not used to having many tourists. I covered everything easily in a day though!

Skanderbeg Square – Tirana
Through the bunker
BunkArt Museum

On Sunday, I took the bus to Tirana, Albania (teer-AN-ah), which took about five hours. I got there just in time to do the walking tour during the evening. I learned all about its history in being a communist country under a dictatorship. The guide compared his country to North Korea and said they were convinced that they were the best country, but had no contact with the outside world. They could only watch Albanian television, which was all propaganda and most people weren’t allowed to leave. He said they’ve only had vehicles for 23 years and they didn’t even have bananas until after 1991! The next day, I went to the cable car, which went up Tirana’s tallest mountain (Dajti). Because it was so hot, I didn’t wear my runners so I didn’t get a chance to hike, but it probably would have been too hot anyway. After heading back down, I went to BunkArt, which is a museum made in one of the bunkers. The museum basically went through the entire history of Albania, from fascism to communism to liberation. It was very interesting, and it definitely makes me want to read more about the history. Tirana is now a very colourful city because they painted all of the buildings from the dull grey communist period.

Niagara Falls

On Tuesday, I went to Podgorica, Montenegro. I got there mid-afternoon and took a walk around the city. I was told not to go to Podgorica because there’s nothing to do in the city and it’s much better going to the coast, but I wasn’t able to cancel my hostel reservation cause it was too late. While yes, Podgorica is quite a sleepy city with nothing to do in terms of tourism, it seems like most locals spend a lot of their time sitting in cafes or restaurants, so I joined in! The next day, I decided to go to their Niagara Falls, which is only 10km outside of the city. It’s called Niagara Falls because the restaurant that it’s beside is called Niagara. I took a taxi to the Falls and the hostel owner had said it should be maximum 5 euro but it ended up being 9! Scammed by another taxi driver, which is why I normally avoid taxis at all costs. Anyway, I spent the morning and most of the afternoon at the Falls. There’s a swimming pool area, which just looks like a river that doesn’t really flow. But then as you walk along the river, it literally just falls into the start of a canyon. It was really gorgeous, and a nice way to spend the afternoon in 33 degree weather! However, I was sitting in a rock in the water at one point and I happened to feel something brush against my side, which I thought was just a stick. When I looked down, there was a huge frog on my lap (like the size of my hand!). I’ve never jumped in the water so fast! Anyway, I caught a taxi back to Podgorica (which only cost 3.70 this time), and then I had dinner and hung out with some people at the hostel.

Memorial for the Children

On Thursday, I went to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I got there in the later afternoon (it was about a 6 hour bus ride), and then I had dinner and an early night in. The next day, I went on a walking tour, where I found out about the city. I then went for lunch, went back to the hostel, and then a bunch of us went on another walking tour, which was focused on the 44-month war, which was from 1992-1995. When Yugoslavia was composed of six countries, some of the countries started becoming more nationalistic. When Bosnia decided to break away from Yugoslavia, Serbia wasn’t very happy about it because a high percentage of Serbs still lived in Bosnia. The Bosnian Serbs were supplied with weapons from Serbia and because Sarajevo is in a valley, the Serbs only had to go on the surrounding hills and mountains and continuously launch missiles. The tour guide was 7 when the war started and she said that everyone had to move to the basement, and her building had 70 people. And she said that some of the people who went to go shoot could have been your neighbour or friend your entire life! Oddly enough, life still continued – people still went to school and work, they just had to run through the streets instead of walk. They got used to hearing and recognising the sound of a missile being launched, as well as it flying through the air so she said it gave them enough time to find shelter before it hit. However, many people weren’t so lucky. 1600 kids were killed in Sarajevo. In total, over 100,000 people were killed during the war. The UN supplied them with food each week but it was mostly canned meat, stale bread, and rice that was covered in dead worms. She said the medicines that they were supplied with had expired in the 70’s! People were kidnapped and put into concentration camps, where thousands were killed. Many of the people who were responsible are still on trial today. Bosnia now has three presidents – a Serbian president, a Croatian president, and a Bosnian president. They all have to agree unanimously before anything can go through. The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 25-35 is 62%! It just blows my mind how this was all happening during the early years of my life, and I was completely oblivious of it until now. The Balkan history is so recent and the effects of it are still evident. That evening, I went back to the hostel and hung out with some of the people there. The next day, I spent most of the day with a guy from America. We tried pretty much all of the Bosnian food possible: the ćevapi (sausages in pita), the Bosnian coffee (which is similar to Turkish coffee), and two desserts called kadaif (a thin ball of noodles, stuffed with walnuts and syrup) and tufahije (a baked apple filled with walnuts, sugar and cream, and topped with whipped cream). We also went up to the Yellow Fortress, which gave a great view of Sarajevo, and then we went to a war museum, which literally laid everything out in the table. Even the concentration camp museum I went to in Germany wasn’t this morbid. It was quite devastating to see how people were treated. Human beings are cruel. We are all brainwashed in one way or another to believe certain things, and we are convinced that other people aren’t living the “right” way. As I’ve said in another post, I really respected when I went to Germany and saw how open they were about their history, admitting the wrong that they did because they didn’t want it to happen again. Little did I know, it happened again 50 years later in Bosnia. People were delivered to concentration camps and tortured to death while I was innocently playing in the safe streets with my neighbours. Along the same lines, the last residential school in Canada closed in 1996! If you ask me, residential school is just a fancy name for concentration camp. Some Canadians still don’t even understand what happened at these schools, or that they even existed. And all three of these situations stemmed from religion. The Holocaust against the Jews, in Bosnia against Muslims, and residential schools were run by the church to convert Aboriginal peoples to Christianity. Ethnic cleansing. Whatever you want to call it. And believe it or not, that is STILL occurring. Trump. Brexit. “Cleaning” different nations and getting rid of what doesn’t “belong.” Who are we? History continues to repeat itself over and over, and it’s sickening. I have never questioned my beliefs and religion more than at this very moment.

Anyway, I took an 8-hour bus to Belgrade, Serbia yesterday and now I’m there! I was honestly nervous about coming to Serbia since they weren’t talked about in a great light in Kosovo and Bosnia. However, everyone has been very friendly and the city is really nice! I’m taking a break from people today. I’ve noticed today that how social I am depends on a pattern. I’ll be really social and click with a bunch of people who I get along with really well. People who I don’t have to have the same surface-level conversation with, and who I can just share my life story with, including my hard times and problems. Then, we have to part ways and I get really sad and closed off for a couple of days. This is where I’m at right now, as I met some really awesome people in Sarajevo. It’s like losing a friend every time! But in a day or two, I’ll be back to square one, ready to find new people. I swear, every conversation literally starts, “I’ve been living in London for the past two years.” “Oh, you were studying?” “No I was a teacher” Oh, you were teaching English?” (Why I’d go to London to teach English, I have no idea..) “No, I was teaching biology” “Oh, but how old are you?/aren’t you like 18?/you look too young to be a teacher.” I’ve now learned to embrace how people think I’m younger, and I now tend to get offended if I don’t get ID’d at a bar.
Anyway, I think this is getting a bit too long (I guess it’s been two months since I last wrote though). I hope everyone’s doing well! Love always
See the World – The Kooks

Trojans (New Job & Copenhagen)

Another trip has been and gone 😦 Since my last trip, I fully started working at the private all-girls’ school. It’s been alright, but it’s also been a lot of work. Sometimes, I truly miss supply teaching (and I never thought I would say that!). Starting with the very first week back at the school, I had to do weekly parents’ evenings – the first week was year 9’s, then year 8’s, year 11’s, year 7’s, and year 10’s (and with year 10’s, I had three classes – so 67 students!). Every Thursday, I would sit in my chair from 5:30 to 8pm and wait for the next parent to come and interview me (even though it was ACTUALLY supposed to be an interview about their daughter). When I had the year 9 meetings, I had only met the girls twice because I only see them once a week, so it was very difficult for me to give feedback when I really only had their test scores to talk about. Some parents were quite nice, many were quite intimidating, others made slightly rude comments (“Bit young to be a teacher, if you ask me…”), and most quizzed me about where I studied, what my REAL area of study was (“ummm..biology?”), what school I had worked at previously (“I was doing supply teaching all over the place.. but my behaviour management is great!”), if I would be staying until the end of the year (“well, I’m signed on until Easter…” *parent rolls eyes*), if the time comes when I’m given the CHOICE of staying until the end of the year, would I (“Ummmm… I don’t think I’ll be able to make that commitment”), why I was the third teacher that the girls have had (“Well, it’s kind of a complicated situation…”), and many just went on to inform me about how distracting it was to have the girls constantly go through different teachers and blablabla (“I’m sorry; the school is doing the best that they can). The school never once pulled me aside and told me how I should be answering these questions and since most of it is supposed to be kept confidential, I had to do the best I could. THANK GOODNESS I’m done with that! By the time my second parents’ evening came around, I expressed my concerns to the biology technician (who is somewhat the mother figure in the biology department, who everyone goes to for advice). She was also shocked that I hadn’t been coached on what to say during these parents’ evenings and she brought it up with the head of biology. I think the realization hit all of us that Easter was only about ten weeks away so if I decided not to stay longer, they’d have to find someone else. Not only that, but it hit me that I only had about six months left in London, which meant I had little time left to travel. They both started to ask me (on a daily basis) whether I’d stay after Easter and I constantly replied, “Well, I’m still not sure.. I might not teach until the end of the year so that I can travel some more.” The Head of Biology talked to the Deputy Head and said that he needed to set up a meeting with me, so they could start sorting everything out. A couple of weeks went by and I still hadn’t heard from him. However, knowing the way that I work, I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to say no unless I had a valid excuse. That weekend, I booked flights and hostels throughout the month of June so that I wouldn’t be able to commit to the rest of the year (I know, I felt like somewhat of a traitor). Finally during another parents’ evening, the Head of Biology told me that I had to write the Deputy Head’s secretary to make an appointment with him (pretty sure he should be the one making the appointment with me, but okay). He said he’d give me the secretary’s information so I could set up my meeting. Later that week, the Head of Biology asked if I had set up the meeting yet, to which I replied that I still didn’t receive the secretary’s information. He said he’d just send the email himself and CC me in, which he did (I think he was feeling the pressure more than anyone else, which is understandable). Later that morning, I received an email with no greeting, no words, but only a picture of a day calendar, with a slot for our meeting the following day. That day at lunch was Chinese New Year, and the school had a Chinese lunch and gave everyone their own fortune cookie. When I cracked my cookie, I just about died when I read my fortune. A definite sign!

My fortune!

I’ve placed it in my phone case and I carry it with me everywhere I go. The next day, I finally had my meeting. I was really nervous, because I didn’t know how it would go and I felt bad about letting the school down. Before I went, I had conversations with people about how I would make sure to get HIM to steer the conversation, and I’d wait for him to make an offer before I agreed to anything. Neither of those things really happened.. I left the meeting feeling more offended than anything. The meeting started off with him making the statement, “So this must be the longest you’ve been at a school over here now…” Me: “Yes, I guess it would be. The longest I’ve stayed at a school was 7 weeks, so this is just past that point.” Him: “So, the Head of Biology wanted us to set up a meeting about whether you’re staying with us after Easter or not. Tell me how you’re feeling about that.” Me: “Well, I know that I won’t be staying with you until the end of the year.” Him (looking somewhat shocked): “Oh. Well when would be the definite date that you could stay with us until?” Me: “I could stay for another half-term, for six weeks longer – until the end of May, if you need my help.” Him: “Can I just ask where you’re hoping to get to in terms of your career?” Me (this time I was somewhat shocked. And offended): “Well, in Canada, we don’t have opportunities to move up on the career ladder. You start as a teacher and you end as a teacher. We don’t have head of biology or head of science, or deputy head, or headmaster. Whether you’re a teacher for 25 years or for 2 years, you’re considered an equal. The only opportunities to move up is to be a vice-principal or principal and you need to go back to school and get a Masters for that. So for you to ask me that question, and I know I’ll end up back in Canada, my answer is to be a teacher.” Him: “Well, don’t you think it would look better on your CV if you were at a school for a longer period of time?” Me: “Most likely, but that’s not my main concern right now. I have the rest of my life to build that up.” Him: “Well to be honest, that’s what made it so difficult for us to hire you – because you were just jumping from school to school.” (!!! But they DID hire me! And it wouldn’t have made any difference to me anyway..) Him: “So how do I know you’re not going to change your mind and suddenly decide to leave earlier?” (Because I gave them my word?) He continues: “I think we’d benefit  from putting a contract forward to make everything official.” (But would I benefit from it, really?). Him again: “So, have the Head of Biology and Head of Science observed you yet?” Me: “The Head of Biology has (because the Deputy Head told him he had to), but not the Head of Science.” Him: “Well, she’ll be coming to observe you sometime soon. I’m going to give you some incentive – if you decide to stay with us until the end of the year, I’ll offer to pay for all of your holidays. So think about it for the week, and let me know by Friday.” Me: “Okay, thanks.” I get up to leave and as I open his door, he adds in, “Oh, I should also add in that all of this will ONLY be put through on the assumption that I get positive feedback about you from the Heads of Biology and Science.” I grimace as I shut the door. I couldn’t believe the meeting I just had. Nothing about, “We really appreciate everything you’ve done for the school,” and nothing about, “The girls and the biology department really like having you here.” Just a whole meeting basically telling me about how I might not be good enough, and making it sound like THEY’RE doing ME a favour, and not the other way around. It was then that I realized that I will never see eye-to-eye with the people who put their careers over everything else, and vice versa. I feel like I’m living my life to the fullest and I actually look at people who only live to work and I feel sorry for them, and I’m sure they feel the same way about me. But there’s no way we’ll ever see things the same way or even be able to compromise, because I will never live my life trying to improve my CV. I never have, as I’m sure many of you have realized. I’ve never kept a job for longer than a year and during my whole job history, I’ve never done a job that would help me with education or with biology (other than au pairing and tutoring). My way of working has always been to get me money so I can travel, not to move up the career ladder. And I’ve never had a job that I didn’t like. And I’ve had some pretty darn AWESOME jobs: working at the Enchanted Forest, being a Blades Ambassador for the hockey games, working the Froster Truck, countless serving jobs – I may as well be in public relations or business because that’s all I’ve done for work. While going to university, I watched many of my friends try to find jobs working in a lab so they could get experience, and I didn’t understand why. Maybe my mind just works differently, but I know it won’t be swayed. Maybe it’s a downfall, or maybe it’s a gift. Anyway, I went upstairs (feeling pretty pissed off) to tell the Biology Department about my meeting. I think the Head of Biology realized that I wasn’t there because I HAD to be there: “So, do you have a contract here right now?” “No.” “So, if you decided not to come to work tomorrow, you could technically just not show up?” “Well yeah, but I obviously wouldn’t do that…” “And if you decide not to come back, would you get work pretty much everyday somewhere else?” “Yeah, and even if I didn’t get work, I’d still get paid for the day.” “So… you really have no reason to actually be here, do you?” “Well no, not really.” “You’re not in it for the money or anything?” “No, I’m here cause you guys need me.” He started to pick up the pieces that the Deputy Head had thrown away, “Well, I just want you to know that WE’RE really thankful that you’re here, and the girls really like you and you’ve been a huge help, and we’d like you to stay but if you want to travel as well, then we completely understand. If you can at least stay until half-term of next term, that would help us out so much and we’d really appreciate it.” So I emailed the Deputy Head back right before my holiday and I declined his offer to stay until the end of the year, but I said I could stay until the end of May to help out the school (once again, putting it back on him that I’M helping THEM out and not the other way around). I still haven’t heard back from him, but I also still have to get observed by the Head of Science next week and then I guess he’ll make his decision. So that’s pretty much everything in my school life!

In terms of my social life, January was quite a busy month! Kim and I went out nearly every weekend. The

Tea with cats!

streets of London were SO quiet because 1) It was Dry January for many people (not us), and 2) Most people were still broke from Christmas (probably us, but it didn’t change anything). It was crazy being able to walk down the sidewalk and not have to bump into anyone! Or being able to go into a bar and find an empty table! Since I’ve moved into my new flat, I’m now directly connected to the night tube (it’s open 24/7), which has opened a range of possibilities for me! I no longer have to make sure I catch the last train before midnight in order to get home. However, that’s also come at a cost – me getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning, and more than once being woken up at the last stop (which is my stop anyway) by a random stranger, telling me to get off. At the beginning of the month, I went to The Nutcracker (the ballet) with Kim, which was great! We also went to a Cat Tea Emporium, where we got to sit in a tearoom with 12 cats for two hours. It was nice, but the cats weren’t very interested in hanging out with anyone, which is understandable considering people are in their faces for 8 hours each day. I also went to a couple of cinema shows – Pretty Woman and Frozen. The cinema happens in a bar, and then they turn it into a dance floor after the show, so both were a lot of fun. Ron also came to London, so I got to see him after almost

Me and Ron with the London Eye

two years! While our visit was short, it was really nice to see him, especially since him and Yang have been living in Shanghai. I went to a Travel Show, where there are a lot of different travel companies trying to give you good deals, which inspired me to do all of my upcoming trips (and NOT work until the end of the year). And I got to meet up with a couple of people who I met in Cologne during Christmas, which is always one of my favourite parts of travelling – meeting up with people again!

This last week was half-term break, where I went to Copenhagen for four nights. I’ve been avoiding the Scandinavian countries because they cost so much money, but the flight was so cheap on Skyscanner (36 pounds), so I couldn’t resist. I arrived on Saturday evening and as soon as I got to the hostel, a guy from Belgium was in the room and we started talking. I was starving so I asked if he wanted to go for dinner, and we went to a bistro for sushi. Afterwards, we went for a couple of drinks but smoking was still allowed in the bars, so we went back to the hostel and stayed in the bar there. On my way to the bathroom there (I know, lots of detail), I walked past a table and overheard that they were from Canada so on my way back, I stopped at the table and asked where in Canada they were from. Only one person was from Canada and he was from Vancouver, so when I said that I was from Saskatoon, he was shocked. He exclaimed to the entire table that I was a gem. A diamond even. Finding someone from Saskatchewan is so rare and they should probably all take pictures with me because they’ll likely never run into anyone from Saskatchewan again (I mean, he WAS right – With 1 million people in Saskatchewan and 7.5 billion people in the world, you have a 0.015% chance of meeting someone from Saskatchewan, and a 0.004% chance of meeting someone from Saskatoon. Crazy eh?!). So I went back to get the Belgium guy and we

joined their table, where there were people from England, Australia, and Spain. It was a good night! I’ve been meeting many awesome people lately! I used to find it so difficult to find people who I just vibe with and recently, I’ve been finding them everywhere I travel. Maybe I’m sending good vibes out into the universe and it’s rewarding me with equal vibes from awesome people. I totally believe there’s something about energy in the world, cause there are certain people who you just “get,” and who you feel that energy from. Either way, I’m glad I’m finding all of these people! The next day (Sunday), I went on a free walking tour and met up with the guy from Spain there. After the walking tour, we went to see The Little Mermaid statue, had coffee, and then went to Christiania. Christiania is a freetown, which is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood. They refuse to be a part of the EU and therefore have their own rules, laws, and schools. It’s well-known for cannibis trade, but they don’t allow cameras inside, in order to keep the traders safe. It was an interesting place, and really cool to see! After that, we went to the Meat-Packing District, to a restaurant called War Pigs, which is a craft brewery. The drinks in Copenhagen were so expensive! The beer that we got were 65-70 krone each, which is about 8-9 pounds (12 or 13 dollars!!). However, they were higher in alcohol content – about 7.4%, so we only had a couple. When I went to get my second beer, two guys beside me asked to pay their tab, which was 775 krone (89 pounds, or 145 dollars)!!! They were British and were shocked about how they had just spent 70 pounds on drinks, and I sadly burst their bubbles even more, saying that 775 krone was closer to 100 pounds

than 70. “What?! No, you divide by 10 to find pounds…” “No, you divide by 8. You guys have been very considerate to yourselves though, dividing by 10.” One looks it up on his phone, “Yeah, she’s right…” I think they may have skipped dinner that night. On Monday, I went to the Round Tower, which is exactly what it sounds like – a round tower. There aren’t any steps; it just goes round and round like a ramp. It was cool! After that, I met up with the Spanish guy again to have lunch at Paper Island, which reminds me of Granville Island in Vancouver, if anyone’s been there. It had food of every country! We had to eat really fast, because I had booked another walking tour (but the “alternative walking tour”), which I had already paid for. He was leaving that evening so we said bye, and I went on the walking tour. They showed us all of the alternative things – the Red Light District, the Green Light District, etc. Afterwards, I was absolutely freezing so I went to Paper Island to warm up and then I had dinner. On Tuesday, I decided to go to the Carlsberg Brewery. It

was a good tour, and I got two free beer at the end. I became addicted to their cider (which is called Somersby Cider) because it’s cheap, but also because it’s probably one of the best ciders I’ve had. That evening, I did some souvenir shopping and sat in coffee shops. On Wednesday, I went back to London so I spent the morning doing one last walk around the main city and then headed to the airport. I arrived back home at about 6pm and since then, I’ve just been catching up on my TV shows and planning the next six weeks of school (so I can focus on marking). I hope everyone’s been doing well! Love always

Trojans – Atlas Genius
P.S. This is what makes me happy – the viewers from my last blog post. So awesome to see where people are reading from, so thank you for all of the support!

Automatic (Germany & Christmas)

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve written a proper post, so I guess I have a lot to catch up on (sorry). A lot has happened during the past two months, which (if you’ve been keeping up with my Facebook posts) many of you should know about. Back to the second week of November, which was an extremely eventful week… I ended up going to Aladdin (the musical) with Kim, which was really good! That Thursday, I had my job interview at an all-girls’ private school – the one that I had worked at for a couple of weeks in October. I loved this school because compared to every other school in London, there were no behaviour problems.. Parents are paying thousands of pounds per year to send their kids there, so the girls know they shouldn’t mess about. Also, I ONLY have to teach biology – not general science, meaning no chemistry (which I’m somewhat sad about), and NO PHYSICS (thank goodness! I’ll still never understand how to teach electrical circuits…). The other thing that I love about this school is that there aren’t any sets. In London, they arrange classes by “sets,” which is basically their ability level. For example, there might be 8 sets for one year group, so students would be arranged from top set (set 1) to bottom set (set 8). Usually the students in the bottom set are the ones who make their teachers quit (because they hate their job) and are usually the ones that I get when substitute teaching. They have no motivation and encourage each other to avoid doing work, because “what’s the point of trying if they’re at the bottom?”. It’s the dumbest arrangement and I absolutely hate it. This school has classes of mixed ability, so I don’t have to worry about any set numbers. And last but certainly not least, I get free lunch everyday. I figured I’d be crazy to let an opportunity like this go away, as I likely won’t find a school like this anywhere else – even in Canada. My observation lesson was with a Year 12 group on the topic of “Viruses” – a topic I knew very little about. I constantly read and researched it a few days before, and I came up with a pretty decent lesson. I was SO nervous when I had to present it, because I not only had a group of year 12 girls watching me, but also their teacher and the deputy head. After the observation lesson, I had a half hour interview with the headmistress of the school. Everything seemed to go well because a couple of hours later, I got a phonecall from the headmistress asking if I wanted the job! That evening, I looked at three flats in the area. I found a 2-bedroom flat with a girl who I got along with really well and I made an offer that evening. The rent is quite a bit higher than my last place BUT the flat is an 8-minute walk away from the school, so I’m cutting my daily travel time by about two and a half hours. I was on such a high that day – everything went in my favour! That weekend, I went to a rugby game with Becky

Afternoon tea

and we actually won (They win quite often, but I had yet to go to a game where they didn’t lose). Then the next day, I went to a Canadian Remembrance Day ceremony in Green Park. I was only expecting about 30 people to be there but when we arrived, there was a huge crowd of people – hundreds had shown up. It was an incredibly moving experience – being at a Canadian ceremony while living in a completely different country. After the ceremony was over, Kim and I went for afternoon tea, which consisted of an abundance of snacks and sweets – I couldn’t even finish it all!

I was still required to stay at the horrible all-girls school that I was working at for another two weeks (I ended up working there for nearly four weeks) and every day that I was there, I felt more and more sure that I had made the right decision about accepting the other job. I put my room up for “sale” that week and it was snatched up by the first person who came to view it, so it was a VERY easy process. The next couple of weeks just consisted of me packing and getting everything ready for my move. By the last weekend of November, I was able to start the long and tiring moving process. Each round trip to and from my flat took about three hours, so I did three trips on Saturday and two trips on Sunday. It was another one of those moments where I completely underestimated the amount of stuff I had! However, as soon as I started the move, I just put some Christmas carols on and somehow tricked myself into making it enjoyable. Anyway, I got everything moved over by Sunday and then I started work at the new school on Monday. It was quite overwhelming at first… you can tell the girls are testing you out – the younger girls seeing how lenient you are/what they can get away with and the older girls seeing if you actually know what you’re talking about. And every girl can say 100 words with just one look. It was quite intimidating! However, after a few days, I got the hang of it and fell into a groove. I teach 11 classes (most classes only once a week, except for the 10’s and 12’s, which happen twice each) – one year 7, two year 8’s, one year 9, three year 10’s, two year 11’s, and two year 12’s. A lot of the year 12 stuff is so in depth, to the point where I’ve never learnt what they’re learning, or I hadn’t learnt it until university. Therefore, I find myself reading biology books in my spare time, trying to teach myself about certain topics. I’m required to mark something by every student at least once every two weeks and I have 222 students, so I’m required to mark 222 things every two weeks. I understood that accepting a full-time position would be a lot of extra work, but I think I had forgotten how much work it would actually be. I found myself starting to count down the days until I’d be going back to Canada again, which was not a good sign. I think I’m just stressing because this school has high expectations since it’s a private school, whereas every other school I’ve worked at, the teacher didn’t really care if they got through a lesson or not. I’m just trying to maintain a healthy balance of school and work, so it doesn’t completely take over my life. I’ve been trying to only do work at school and then do very little (or none at all) while at home.
The next couple of weeks were mostly filled with Christmas-related things – I went to Winter Wonderland, went

Red Hot Chili Peppers

out for dinner a few times, went to many Christmas markets, and did a weekend trip to Birmingham with Kim. The Birmingham market was absolutely insane and was jam-packed, but it’s supposed to be the biggest German market next to the ones in Germany and Austria. I got to go to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, which was really good! I went to three 15-minute musicals, which were ACTUALLY 15 minutes and were awesome. I went to both Elf and Love Actually at the cinema, and I met up with a friend who I had met in Bruges last April. My neighbourhood even had a few reindeer in it at one point! The last day of my school was quite a different experience.. it started off with about an hour of just singing Christmas carols as a school, then the girls went to their homerooms to do secret santa, and then the entire school walked about ten minutes away to a church, where they actually had a service-like program, complete with a Boar’s Head Feast performance by the Year 13’s, a bunch of actual scripture being read from the Bible, and an excerpt read from The Christmas Carol (This all being done by a school that doesn’t belong to any religion). It was crazy for me to witness, as I don’t think anything like that would ever happen in Canada. My school finished a week earlier than all of the other schools – on December 15, so I decided to pick up some substitute jobs at some other schools for a week. It actually made me miss supply teaching! Throughout the week, I watched Life of Pi, two episodes of the new Planet Earth series, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I got PLENTY of free periods in order to get all of my marking done! There was one school that felt like it came straight from the 70s. It had long, dark hallways, which still had old-school posters, showing pictures of bad quality and kids with bad haircuts. The school had a smell that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. I honestly felt like I should be in a Degrassi show.

Finally, on December 22nd, I flew out to Cologne, Germany. The flight was an hour and five minutes long, so it

Chocolate Museum!

sped right by. After I arrived, I spent the evening checking out a few Christmas markets. The next day, I did a bit of shopping and then continued with the Christmas markets since the 23rd was the last day that they’d all be open (and there were about seven to go to). It wasn’t unbearably cold in Germany, but the wind would make things pretty bad. That afternoon, I decided to keep warm by going to a Chocolate Museum (of course), which actually ended up being a Lindt Chocolate Museum (even better!). It wasn’t too bad, although it wasn’t my favourite. The thing that struck me most was that experts estimate about 75% of cocoa farmers and their families have never tried a piece of chocolate. It really puts things into perspective, and makes me realize how much I take for granted. Anyway, that evening I went out with a couple of guys from my hostel – one from China who’s living in America (Tony), and one from Australia (Dylan). We ended up spending much of our time in Cologne together, and we all ended up meeting in Munich again a few days later.

One of the many Christmas markets in Cologne
On Christmas Eve, Dylan and I went on a free walking tour through Cologne and met quite a few other people from our hostel – a couple of Canadians and a few Kiwis. We all went for lunch/dinner after the tour and then decided to just go back to our hostel and relax in the warmth. Beforehand, we went on a long search for hot chocolate after easily finding Bailey’s. However, most of the stores closed at 5 and when we finally found a shop, hot chocolate didn’t seem to exist. We made due with buying milk and chocolate bars, and the end product was totally worth it! After polishing off the bottle of Bailey’s and playing Uno, Heads Up, and Never Have I Ever, we decided to go find dinner. It didn’t end up being too difficult, as we found a kebab/pizza place about a minute away from our hostel.
The next day was Christmas! As I mentioned on Facebook, this was my first Christmas that I spent without knowing anyone. I was really looking forward to seeing what it would be like, and my experience did not disappoint. It’s difficult to explain without feeling like I’m offending people but in some ways, this Christmas was one of the most fulfilling that I’ve had. Back at home, Christmas is built up during the whole of December and then the actual day usually just consists of waking up, opening gifts, then sitting around and eating lots of food. And then it’s just over. Here, it was just a regular day without any gifts and I felt like I enjoyed the entire day. I started the day by going for lunch at an Asian restaurant for chicken satay (delicious!) and then went back to the hostel and visited with people during the

Me, Dylan, and Tony in Munich

afternoon. That evening, five of us (me, Dylan, and three Kiwis – Meg, Emma, and Jess) went to an Italian restaurant for dinner and finished the evening with a walk across the bridge to view the gorgeous cathedral. I FaceTimed my family when we got back to the hostel and then went to bed. Not once during that day did I feel sad or homesick, and I know it’ll be a Christmas that I’ll always remember and cherish.

Neuschwanstein Castle
The next morning, I headed for Munich. To get there, I decided to use Blablacar, which is basically an organized way of carpooling. You go on the website to see who you can catch a ride with and how much it’ll cost, and then ask for a ride – it’s that easy! I caught a ride with three other Germans and ended up arriving in Munich about six hours later. Once I arrived, I met up with Tony and some of his friends that he had already met there. We went for dinner and drinks, and I met quite a few new people. On Tuesday, I decided to go to the famous Disney-inspired Neuschwanstein Castle. In order to get there, I had to catch a 2-hour train to a town called Fussen. Unfortunately for me, the train was absolutely packed, meaning I had to stand/sit on the floor for the duration of the journey. I went for lunch and got an amazing smoked salmon tarte flambée, which is basically just like a pizza with cream instead of tomato sauce. Afterwards, I had to catch a bus to get up to the castle. The trek to the castle was crazy and reminded me of Banff, where so many people go to see. The view of the castle made everything completely worth it though! Absolutely gorgeous. The town of Fussen was really cute as well – the houses were all so


colourful, and there was still a Christmas feeling in the air. I made the long journey back to Munich, this time making sure to rush onto the train in order to get a seat. I thought it was going to be a good trip until a couple came on with their six children (all under the age of ten). All of the kids sat on the floor in front of me and made noise, tickled each other, rolled around on the floor, and continuously asked their parents for more chips and food. About halfway through the trip, two American kids beside me were given their iPads, and then the entire train was silent. It was as if those six kids had never seen anything like it before, and they all crowded around to watch. I made it back to Munich and then met up with Dylan (who had just arrived that day) and Tony for dinner. I ended up trying a pancake soup, which was basically just chicken-noodle soup except instead of noodles, it used strips of pancakes. Weirdest concept, but it wasn’t too bad.

Pancake soup
On Wednesday, I went to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site. Dachau was one of the first concentration camps, and it was the only one that remained open through the duration of the 12-year Nazi rule.  I saw the crowded barracks (where everyone would have slept), the gas chamber, and the crematorium. There were 32 barracks and each was designed to hold 200 prisoners but towards the end of the war, they ended up each holding about 2000. I read about the perimeter fence and how prisoners would be shot if they’d try to escape, and how some crossed it

Dachau concentration memorial

just to end their own life. I also read (and saw pictures) about how the Nazis would play “games” by taking a prisoner’s cap and throwing it over the perimeter fence, only to make him retrieve it, and kill him in the process. It left quite a heavy weight on me, and many times I just couldn’t wrap my head around how such cruel events could have occurred. To lighten my mood afterwards, I decided to take a walk around the town of Dachau, which was actually a really nice town. I then went back to Munich to spend my last evening with Tony and Dylan before we all parted ways.

On Thursday morning, I took another Blablacar to Berlin, which took another six hours. Berlin is extremely quiet for a capital city, and I was told that this time of year is the busiest that it ever is. I could only wish it would be like that in London! In Berlin, I


was still always able to get a seat on the underground and there were never huge crowds of people everywhere you went; it’s never even like that on a Sunday evening in London! That evening, I felt like I was coming down with something so I decided to take it easy and slept for a solid ten hours. The next day, I went on another walking tour. It ended up being three hours long and by the end of it, I was freezing so I decided to go to a mall and do some shopping in the warmth. I then went back to my hostel, went for dinner with a girl from Belgium to a baked potato restaurant (which was delicious!), and then had drinks back at the hostel. On Saturday, I checked out some of the still-open Christmas markets before trying to get to the New Year’s Eve street festival. However, I found out that we weren’t allowed to bring in any bags, so I decided to go back to the hostel to drop my bag off. I stayed there for awhile and then decided to give the street festival another go. When walking to the metro station, you had to be very careful of your surroundings, as people were lighting fireworks everywhere you went. I figured the safest way was for me to stay directly under the balconies of buildings, as many people were even throwing fireworks off of their balconies onto the streets. It was insane! Anyway, I stopped for dinner and then went to stand in the extremely long line to get to the street festival. Security was obviously at its peak (due to the Berlin events the week before), so there were multiple check points to go through. I stood in line for about 20 minutes and then I was literally about two feet away from the gate when they closed it and said they weren’t accepting anymore people through that entrance. Therefore, I had to walk all the way around the 2-km street festival to the other side and get through there. They had to pat everyone down and check their pockets and then 200 metres later, they’d have another checkpoint and they’d do it all again, and then 200 metres later, they’d have ANOTHER, and so on and so forth. I stopped between the third and fourth checkpoints because it was less crowded and I still had a great view. By the time I finally got there, about an hour

Berlin fireworks!

and a half had gone by since I first stood in line. The Berlin New Year’s show is what any typical New Year’s show would look like in a big city – you have your hosts and then a bunch of performances (including Jermaine Jackson!) until the final countdown. I didn’t know any of the other performers, since they were all German. The countdown and the fireworks were great, and then the party apparently started at 12:30am and didn’t have an end time. I decided not to stay for the party since my flight back to London was the next day, but when I left the park and headed towards a bridge, there were fireworks going off everywhere. Commercial fireworks legally go on sale during the last three days of the year and people go ballistic buying them. I saw some fireworks go off under a police car and then looked over to find a group of about ten police officers holding a bunch of fireworks. Most people just set the firework in a bottle and light it, but you needed to watch where you were going, as there could be a firework going off four metres away from you. It was like a warzone! The non-stop sound of fireworks went on until about 3:30 in the morning. I honestly have no idea how people would even have that many fireworks to last them for so long!

The next morning, I had a few hours to spare before my flight so I made my way back into central Berlin at about 10am. It was like watching a zombie apocalypse, with people slowly staggering through the streets with a beer in hand. The streets were a mess, covered in broken glass, firework residue, bottles and trash. And occasionally

Oddly beautiful

you’d still hear a firework go off every few minutes or so. I went to the Brandenburg Gate for awhile, where they were starting a marathon, and then I spent the morning at the Holocaust Memorial Site. It was a really well-done museum with a lot of information that hadn’t been included at the Dachau Memorial. It also included information about different families, their histories, and their fates during the war. The thing I really respect about Germany is how open they are about their history. The entire world knows their history, and wherever you are in Germany, you’ll always find information about it. Everyone says that the reason for this is so that it doesn’t happen again, but then I sit there wondering why Canada’s not open about their own history. Why the textbooks sugarcoat everything to make the relationship with Indigenous peoples sound like it was only a minor conflict. Why I always have to explain the history of Canada to people I meet while travelling, and they’re completely shocked about the things that happened. And why many Canadian children don’t even learn the real Canadian history, depending on who their teacher is (I was lucky to have an awesome history teacher in grade 12, but I really didn’t learn about Indigenous history in depth until university), while German kids are taken to concentration camps and taught the whole story. It makes me quite upset actually, and I do think it’s somewhat pathetic because I feel like all Canada has done is just swept that dirty past under the doormat to forget that it’s there, when it should be openly acknowledged. I love Canada and everyone talks about how perfect Canada is, but I do have to remind them that we have our flaws as well, and that is definitely one of them. Anyway, after the museum, I headed to one last German Christmas market and ate one last bratwurst before heading back to London. And I returned to a wet ground (of course), once again surrounded by too many miserable people and it was there that I felt at home again. I got home at about 11pm, and went out with my flatmate the following day. Today, I had my first day back at the school (minus the kids) and tomorrow, school starts again. Next vacation is in six weeks! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. Happy New Year! Love always

Automatic – The Mowgli’s

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


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