Another Day in Paradise (Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Nairobi, Diani Beach, Kenya)

My Europe trip finished before I knew it and I’ve already moved onto my Africa trip! Actually, once I reached my last destination in Europe (Prague), everything started to go downhill so I think I was almost relieved to get back to London. The last time I posted, I was in Belgrade, Serbia, which was really nice but also really hot! During the last week of my trip, it was a constant 33 degrees (except in Prague, where it often just rained). I did the walking tour in Belgrade and then I spent the rest of the day exploring the city. I had limited myself to 20 pounds per day (including accommodation) during my entire trip, and it got more and more difficult as I got further north. This was only the beginning of my struggles in trying to keep up with my daily limit.
On Tuesday morning, I had to catch a 7am train to Budapest. This was the first time during my entire trip when I took a train, and it also ended up being the only time. A bus ride was 6 hours and a train ride was 8 hours, but the train was cheaper so I opted for the longer trip. I ended up getting an entire Harry Potter carriage to myself, which I was so thankful for but after 45 minutes, a guy from South Korea asked if he could sit with me. I said yes, although I was somewhat disappointed. Then, he continued to talk and talk nonstop! For those of you who know me, I hate mornings, and I hate talking to people in the morning, especially when I haven’t had my coffee. I struggled for about an hour and excused myself so I could go find the restaurant carriage. As I walked over, I noticed that every other carriage was completely empty… this guy came specifically looking for someone to talk to! I wondered if it would be rude if I went and grabbed my stuff and moved to a different carriage, and decided against it. I endured his conversation for hours, even when the train stopped randomly for over and hour and a half – increasing our total time to ten hours! When I finally got to Budapest, I was not disappointed! Oftentimes, I don’t like hearing how much other people liked or disliked a city because it builds up my expectations and I end up being disappointed. Budapest is a city that I constantly hear about but it didn’t disappoint whatsoever! The architecture everywhere is absolutely beautiful, and I instantly had the feeling, “I could live here.” I went on my usual walking tour the next day, and then had lunch with some of the people on the tour. I then spent the rest of the day walking around and trying to stay cool by spending time in the stores. The next day, I was really wanting to go to the thermal baths since it was supposed to be another hot day, but it would cause me to go over my budget. I therefore decided to go for lunch at an amazing soup & sandwich spot called Bors Gasztro Bar. I then decided to walk to the city’s island, where I could sit by the musical fountain for hours and hours (for free!). The fountain continued throughout the day, but the music only happened for about 15-20 minutes every hour on the hour, and the fountain and music were synchronised perfectly! I stayed for about three hours before heading back to my hostel to have dinner.
On Friday, I took a two-hour bus ride to Bratislava, Slovakia. These buses (RegioJet) were better than most European planes I’ve been on! We each got our own TV with a selection of movies, and you could order food or drinks, and have as many complimentary coffees/teas/cappuccinos as you wanted! The time went by extremely fast and I got there just in time to do an evening walking tour – the communist tour. It was one of my favourite walking tours because the girl was so passionate about the subject and knew her information really well. The next morning, I went on the actual city walking tour, which was the history of Bratislava. It was quite interesting to hear how peaceful most of their protests were, and how they broke away from Czechoslovakia. Bratislava had also lost most of its Old Town because they had to decide which city they would preserve – Prague or Bratislava (and they obviously chose Prague). However, I still think Bratislava is quite charming and I enjoyed my time there. That day, they had a music festival happening so I was able to watch some live music and enjoy my time in the sun. The next day, I wandered across the river (over their famous UFO bridge) and spent some time in the park. It started pouring later that afternoon so I spent the rest of my time in the hostel.
On Monday, I went to my last destination – Prague. I took the same type of bus so I got to watch movies during the trip. However, I started to feel a bunch of pressure right around my nose. Halfway through the trip, the bus driver stopped for a bathroom break and as I got up, the pressure increased and I had an extreme pain go through my nose and forehead. (Warning: too much information up ahead!) When I went to the bathroom and bent over, liquid came streaming out of my nose – it was like someone had turned a tap on! It filled up my hand and it felt like a nosebleed but when I looked down, it was just like water. I then went to my phone to figure out what was happening and the majority of posts said it was brain fluid!! I then started freaking out and wrote my doctor friend in Canada (thanks Raman!) who assured me that it was only sinusitis and I had nothing to worry about. I got to Prague and decided to take it easy that evening since my head was still hurting and I still felt stuffed up. The next morning, I woke up to some bites on my arms, which made me somewhat concerned. The bites continued to add up each morning during my time in Prague – mostly on one side of my body. That morning, I took my last walking tour, which was also interesting hearing the Czech side of Czechoslovakia, and then explored the east side of the city. Wednesday morning was when everything started to go downhill. I tried to check in to my flight online and it wouldn’t let me. I then called the airline and he replied that my booking had been cancelled and I didn’t have a seat on the flight. “Umm.. excuse me?” He said I’d have to call Expedia to sort it out, and didn’t seem willing to help out any further. The thing that ticked me off about this was that at the beginning of May, I had gotten an email saying that my booking was cancelled and if it was an error, I should phone them. So I phoned them and the guy basically just laughed and said I had nothing to worry about and my booking was still there! Well, apparently not… I called Expedia and he said I didn’t have a seat on the plane and he’d try to sort it out. He asked if I wanted to stay on the line or get a call back, and he said it could take 5 minutes or an hour. I opted for a call back and I couldn’t even say bye before I started crying in the middle of the cafe. About an hour later, I got a call saying everything had been sorted out (thank goodness!), and I should wait an hour before trying to check in again. I went to check in when he said, but it still wouldn’t let me! I called the airline and they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport. Someone else I met while travelling said the same thing had happened to him and then when he showed up at the airport, they told him that there weren’t any seats available, so I was paranoid that was going to happen to me. I tried to keep myself occupied by going to the other side of the river and exploring the castle grounds. The next morning, I made my way to the airport. I walked to the nearest metro station in the pouring rain, only to find out that the station was closed. I then had to take a tram to the next station, and eventually I made it to the airport. The weird thing about this airport is that they had security right before each gate. Therefore, if you wanted to eat at a restaurant or buy a bottle of water, you’d have to get it sealed before boarding the plane. I went through security and bought some water from a vending machine, and waited to board. They finally started boarding us when we were supposed to be leaving and then when about half the people were on the plane, one of the security guys came from the plane and started yelling at the flight attendants in Czech. They then stopped checking people in, and everyone who was on the plane had to get back off. They announced that we would find out more information in an hour. Great! Since it was lunch, I decided to go eat but I had to leave the gate, meaning I’d have to re-enter security with my bottle of water. I asked if it would be okay and the guy said he’d remember me. I went and got some goulash and then when I went to re-check in, the security guy was just leaving! The new lady seemed pretty pissed off that I was trying to bring a bottle of water in, but she put it in her box thing, saw it was safe, and let me bring it in. I boarded the plane and they announced that they were waiting for the go-ahead to start flying. We waited while sat down for over an hour, and we were 20 minutes short of getting compensation by the time we finally left (I swear they do that on purpose). By the time I got to London, I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. And I was seriously questioning all of the bites on my body, which I was hoping weren’t from bedbugs. I waited in the long line to get through passport control and then went to get on the bus that I had prebooked. However, because the plane was so late, the driver said my ticket was no longer valid and I’d have to buy a new one. By that time, I was just annoyed and mad, and I stubbornly decided to wait for four hours until I could use my other bus ticket (which I had bought for my cancelled flight). However, I realised that I’d probably spend the same amount on food while waiting as I would on the bus ticket, and decided to just take the bus anyway. I got to my hostel, got some food, and then went to bed. My bug bites continued to swell over the next two days and became at least the size of a dime and were bright red. I became more and more concerned, and questioned everyone I met on whether they were bug bites or not. That Friday was the Phil Collins concert! The doors opened at 2 so I headed over for 2:30, and then there were five concerts. The concert was in Hyde park, so there weren’t any seats but everyone sat on the grass between concerts and then stood during the performances. After the first performance, a mother and daughter (who was about my age) came and sat beside me and I noticed a Canada flag on their backpack. They then pulled out a deck of cards, which was also Canadian. I couldn’t help but ask, and I found out that they were from Vancouver, doing a trip in Italy and Germany, and flew to London just for the Phil Collins concert. It was nice to see some fellow Canadians, and the night was so good, it helped keep my mind off of everything else. Phil Collins’ voice is still just as good as ever, but he had to use a cane on stage and he sat in a chair during the entire performance. His 16-year-old son was his drummer, which was pretty cool! Saturday was Canada day! There was a huge get-together at Trafalgar Square from 12-8, so I headed over for 12:30. I waited for one of my former flat mates to show up with her girlfriend, and then we stood in the extremely long line for Poutine. They had one line to order and one line to collect, and it took us about an hour and a half just to get through the order line so we got to know the people around us quite well. However, once we got closer to the front, we noticed there were tons of people trying to butt in line, so we had to stay glued to the person in front of us. Sam and I basically stood as a human wall so that people couldn’t get through. There was one point when I turned and told everyone that no one would be getting in the line because we’ve been waiting our turns and no one would be let in. Then when I got to the front, someone tried to cut right in front of me, so I had to say, “No, all of us have stood in line for an hour and a half so you’re going to let us go first,” which she did. If London’s taught me anything, it’s to have a backbone! I don’t like anyone getting in the way of me and my Poutine! Anyway, we finally got the ticket to order and then had to get in the collection line, which took another half hour. However, our two hour wait was totally worth it! The Poutines were delicious! Apparently the line to get to Tim Horton’s was also over two hours, so I decided I’d have to wait a few more weeks to get my iced cappuccino. One of the event coordinators said that there were 69,000 people who attended Canada day! I also found out that the Grey Cup was there! I stood in line for 2-3 hours during a blades game to see the grey cup and when I had gotten to the front, the Roughriders said, “okay, we’re done” and walked away with the Cup. This time when I went, there were five people in line so I easily got a picture! After we finished our Poutines (and my flatmate’s friend shared a Nanaimo bar!), Kim called and said she arrived. I met up with her and her friends, who I had met before at Thanksgiving, and we spent the rest of the day drinking Sleeman’s Honey Brown (until it ran out). We went out for dinner at Nando’s (a popular chicken place in the U.K.), and then we bought alcohol and stood on the street in front of the Canadian pub (the Maple Leaf), where hundreds of other Canadians were hanging out. We stayed out until about 10pm and then I headed back to the hostel.
On Sunday, I had made plans with my flatmate to pick up my mail so I had also made plans to meet up with one of my co-workers for coffee in that area. She also didn’t know what my bites were, but suggested I go to the pharmacy to ask. I got them checked and the pharmacist said they weren’t bedbugs, and I probably got them cause I was sleeping right next to an open window in Prague. I also got a message from my flatmate, who said that she couldn’t be at the flat anymore cause she slept over at her friend’s house, and could I come the next day instead. Super annoying since it costs my five pounds every time I go there, and I was already in the neighbourhood. I was also planning to drop off my Europe suitcase and pick up my Africa suitcase from Kim the following day, but she wrote and said she didn’t feel comfortable taking my Europe bag and couldn’t risk getting bedbugs in her flat. This was completely understandable but also extremely inconvenient, and I was getting to the point where I just wanted to go back to Canada because nothing seemed to be going right. I called my parents in tears and they reassured me that everything would work itself out. Lucky for me, I was able to find a company that would pick up my suitcase and then drop it off when I needed it again. However, it needed to be packed in a box so they’d have to deliver the box, then I’d have to pack the box, and they’d collect it the following day. The soonest they could deliver the box was in two days, meaning I wouldn’t actually be there when they collected the box. Lucky for me, my hostel was really accommodating and said I could leave the box with them and they’d make sure the delivery man got it.
I went to bed and the next day, I went to the bank to order the money I’d need for my African trip, which I’d have to pick up the following day. I then stopped at Primark to pick up some clothes for my trip, and then I made my way to my flat. My flatmate wrote me that morning saying she wasn’t able to come to the flat and her boyfriend would come at 4:30. I wrote my flatmate to tell her I was on my way, heard nothing, wrote her when I was at our station, still nothing, and then walked to the flat and called her when I was there. She said she was just about to message me and her boyfriend was on his way. 20 minutes later, he finally showed up and I got my mail. However, the letter I was expecting for taxes wasn’t there! I headed to Kim’s to pick up my backpack for Africa, which was also quite stressful because I had packed things in different bags and had to remember where everything was located and if I forgot anything (I’ve already realised I’ve forgotten quite a few things). Tuesday was my last full day in London, and the waiting day (which was kind of inconvenient). I had to wait for the box to arrive so I could pack my suitcase, so I went to do laundry, then went to pick up my money at the bank, and then did some last clothes shopping. Finally, my box had arrived! I packed everything up and left it with the hostel, and then headed to my other hostel, which would be closer to the bus station.
The next morning, I had to get up at 4:30 so I could make it to the bus station by 6, and head to the airport. My flight left at 10am and was about 7 hours to Dubai. I was able to watch three movies, and then I had a five hour layover in Dubai. Everything in Dubai was so expensive! Even the burgers at McDonald’s were 10 dollars! I avoided buying anything there and waited to eat on my next flight to Nairobi, which was five hours. I finally got there at 5:40am and then had to wait to get my Kenyan visa, which took at least an hour. This cut back some of my layover there, and then I had to re-check in and catch my 50 minute flight to Mombasa, which ended up being 20 minutes late. I arrived in Mombasa at about 10:30am but when I went outside, my pre-ordered taxi wasn’t there! I asked to use someone’s phone and called the hostel, who said I’d have to ask for another taxi and he’d cover the cost. What I didn’t realise was how long the taxi would take. By the time I go to the hostel, it was about 1-1:30pm! However, the taxi driver kept doing errands – stopping at the tire shop to get his tire fixed, stopping at the gas station twice, etc. It should have only taken 1.5 hours but it took way longer. I was exhausted by the time I got to the hostel, but the gave me an upgrade since the taxi didn’t come, which was great! I slept in an amazing treehouse, meaning I had to climb up and down a ladder in order to enter and exit, but it was so cool! I loved being able to sit on the private deck and watch the monkeys jump from tree to tree. The owner of the hostel is Canadian, and he also owns two other properties close by, so I was allowed to walk over to the hotel and use the pool or take advantage of the beachfront location on the Indian Ocean. Every night at 7pm, the bushbabies would come out so we could feed them bananas; it was so cool! I ended up getting 11 hours of sleep on each of the first two nights that I was there – I was obviously exhausted from all of the travelling! During the day, I just relaxed by the pool and read my book. It was a much needed relaxing holiday! On Sunday morning, I had to take the 1.5 hour taxi ride back to the airport, only to find that my flight would be delayed an hour and 40 minutes. I finally made it to Nairobi at about 4pm and I got to meet a few people who would be going on the tour with me. This time, I slept in a tent-like 8-person dorm room, which got quite cold at night! Even though Nairobi is quite hot during the day (about 26 degrees), it goes down to about 12 in the nighttime since it’s their winter right now. And this is one of the warmer places! I might have to buy a few extra blankets to survive the nights. Today, I got to go to the Giraffe Centre to feed some giraffes, and then we went to the elephant orphanage, where they raise elephants until they’re about three years old (since they wouldn’t be able to survive without the milk of their mother), and then they reintroduce them back into the wild. They have 26 elephants right now, but they said they can get up to 20 elephants each year. Although some of the mothers are killed by natural causes, most are killed due to poaching for ivory, which causes these babies to grow up without a parent. It’s quite sad! They said that the best way to help is to avoid buying products made of ivory, so I’m passing this message along for everyone to make their own decisions on the subject. Tomorrow, I’m officially starting my African trip and we’ll be leaving quite early in the morning to start the 7-hour drive to our next destination in Tanzania. I’ll try to update as much as I can, but I don’t think we’ll have much access to wifi. Hope everyone’s doing well! Love always
Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins

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

Family (Slovenia and Croatia)

My former flatmate said that her professor told her: a person knows they’ve made it as a blogger if the reader can feel like they’re just having a conversation with the writer. They can hear your voice and can feel your enthusiasm. Can you hear my voice in your ear? Sorry if it’s annoying… Well then, you might as well make a cup of tea cause we have lots to catch up on! Of course, this will be the type of conversation that consists of me just talking about myself the entire time. You can write back with your stories though; I’m sure I’d enjoy it! Another holiday has went by way too quickly (and this one was 18 days long!). Since I last wrote, I’ve been pretty busy with teaching, planning, and marking. I agreed to stay another half-term to help out the school, meaning instead of being finished at the school right now (like I could have been), I still have another 5 and a half weeks to go. I’ve definitely struggled with teaching my year 12’s, as a lot of the information that I’ve been teaching, I a) didn’t learn it until third-year university and therefore, don’t know it very well, or b) have never learnt it before (so I’m reading about it before the lesson, trying to understand it as best as I can, and then teaching it). Not only that, but I’ve talked to a few of my med-school friends, and THEY even said that they haven’t learnt the information that I’m teaching until this past year. Needless to say, I really haven’t enjoyed teaching my year 12’s, since I’m not as confident about the subject as I should be, and I spend so much of my extra time trying to learn about the topics. More on that later… (a lot more). 
During the past two months, I’ve been trying to enjoy my remaining time in London as best as I can. Ron came to visit again from China, so we met up for dinner. I also had my most embarrassing moment (or at least one of the top three most embarrassing moments of my life).  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, when I went to Copenhagen, I met a Canadian guy who lives in London so I was like, “Cool, a new Canadian friend!” So he wrote me when I got back from Copenhagen and was like, “Can I interest you in going to dinner?” Based on his text, I was kind of thinking, “Ah crap, this is not going to be a friend thing.” But I was keen on making a new friend, so I agreed to dinner. I met him at a bar and he asked if I wanted a drink so I said yes, but he had his card out and I was thinking, “No, I’m not giving the wrong impression,” so I made sure I paid for my own drink. Afterwards, we went to this Sri Lankan place for dinner and it was really good! He paid and I said, “No! let’s do half and half,” but he said I could get the drinks after so I agreed. We went to have drinks afterwards and he asked if I liked stand-up comedy, and I replied that I’ve never been. So he looked up a show and there was one only 15 minutes away that started in a half hour. We walked over and literally got the last two tickets. Anyway, the comedian decided to make fun of US. He asked, “Oh, is this a couple?” and I was like, “No.” He asked, “Is it a date?” and it was just an awkward silence. So he continued, “Is it a FIRST date?! Have you kissed yet?” “No.” “Well, how about they have their first kiss RIGHT HERE in front of everyone?” And the whole audience starts cheering and yelling, “Kiss kiss kiss” and I was just shaking my head. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my entire life – my cheeks were RED HOT. And for everyone wondering, no, we did not kiss. The following weekend, I went to a travel show with Kim. The travel show had a whole bunch of travel agencies who were trying to sell trips for discounted prices. I found out that one of the companies that I had been looking at would be at the show, and I ended up buying a 33-day trip to Africa, which will start in July! The next week, my dad’s friend Dave came to visit again, and my mom’s friend Karen also came to visit again, so I got to catch up with both of them. Kim and I also went to another musical, Kinky Boots, which was AMAZING! I definitely recommend it to everyone who has a chance to see it. At the end of March, my mom arrived! She came on a Wednesday evening and then I gave her two days to get over her jet lag while I worked. On Friday, I finished at noon
 and then I started my holidays! My mom and I spent that afternoon at Camden Market, checking out all of the stalls and then we walked down the canal to Paddington station (which must have taken at least an hour to an hour and a half). The next day, we spent a couple of hours at the Natural History Museum, went to Buckingham Palace, and then had tea (with many tasty treats!). On Sunday, it was a gorgeous day so we did a cruise along the Thames, spent some time in Greenwich (and stood on the Prime Meridian), and explored more of the City of London. On Monday, we had our flight to Slovenia! That morning, I had a quick doctor’s appointment to FINALLY pick up my orthotics (which I’ve been waiting for since November – it’s a long story, and not necessary to write on here). After my appointment, I went back home so we could get all of our stuff together and start our journey to the airport.
We arrived in Ljubljana (pronounced Loo-blee-on-ah), Slovenia at about 8pm Monday night and since public transportation was already closed by then, we had to take a private shuttle to our Airbnb. The Airbnb was a nice
and cozy studio apartment, about a 20 minute walk from the Old Town of Ljubljana. We decided to get Chinese food from the nearest restaurant (and the only one that was open at 9:30pm), and call it a night. The next morning, we woke up and went on a free walking tour. Ljubljana is such a charming capital city! It’s not too busy, and the people are extremely friendly. After our walking tour, we went for lunch at a restaurant called Druga Violina. Not only do they have delicious food and amazing prices, but they also hire many people with special needs – awesome to see! On Wednesday, we went to a sausage place for lunch called Klobasarna, which also had really good prices and really great food! We spent our afternoon walking around, taking pictures, eating ice cream, and checking out the markets. Later that day, we also walked to a neighbourhood called Metelkova, which is set up in an abandoned army base and is a self-proclaimed city. It holds many events in illegally occupied buildings, and reminded me a lot of Christiana in Copenhagen, with its bright colours and houses. 
On Thursday morning, we caught a bus to a Unesco heritage site – Skocjan Caves. The first tour was about 1.5 to 2 hours long, and it was absolutely amazing! We got to see the
Skocjan Caves!
formation of stalactites and stalagmites, which take about 100 to 150 years per 1 cm of growth. It’s crazy to see how big the stalactites are, and realize how long they’ve been around! The craziest part about the entire tour was when we were in the deepest part of the cave and the tour guide turned out all of the lights and lit one match, so we could see what it would be like as an explorer. I don’t think I’d be walking around caves with just a match! Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the caves, but we were able to take pictures at the very end of the tour – towards the exit of the caves. It was such a cool thing to see! After our tour, we had to wait for about an hour and half until our bus came. We waited at a pub beside the bus stop and our Airbnb host met us there to give us the key to our next destination in Piran (pronounced Peer-an). Piran is one of Slovenia’s only coastal towns, so we were able to be close to the Adriatic Sea while watching the sunset. We only stayed one night, but we took advantage of the seafood there! We walked into a random restaurant (Restaurant Pavel) and the waiter completely took over. He told us to close our menus and he would take care of the rest. When he brought out bibs with bowties, we weren’t sure what we’d be in for. However, he brought out a HUGE plate of assorted seafood – shrimp, mussels, scallops, razor clams, and more, all covered in a tomato-wine sauce. Absolutely delicious! The next morning, we were planning to do a bit more exploring of Piran but because it still wasn’t tourist season, not much was open. It was cold and windy, so we decided to move on to our next destination – Bled. In order to get there, we had to catch a bus back to Ljubljana and then take a train to Lesce, where we had a private room in a hostel. The hostel (1A Adventure Hostel) was in an old monastery and it had a city clock next to it (RIGHT outside our window), which rang every 15
Our fish feast
minutes from 7am to 10pm. Meaning we got pretty accustomed to hearing bells ringing when we were there (although I didn’t enjoy the ones first thing in the morning). 
On Saturday morning, we took the hostel shuttle to Lake Bled, which is a cute little lake with a little island. It was a gorgeous day and we walked around the lake, which took about 2-3 hours, and then we stopped at the grocery store and had a picnic on the side. On Sunday, we took a bus to Lake Bohinj (pronounced Boh-heen), which is a less touristy and more natural-looking lake. We also decided to walk around THAT lake, which was 12km! Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we finished. On the walk, I happened to hear some rustling in the leaves beside me so I looked down, and there was a snake backing up right in front of my foot. As I screamed and leapt over it, he backed up completely, and
Lake Bled
slithered away. Not impressed! An hour or two later, we saw a couple who was quietly recording something in front of us. I snuck up and noticed it was another snake, exactly like the one we had just seen. I got a picture that time and after, my mom did some research at the hostel. We found out that it was a poisonous snake – a common viper! When we told the hostel worker, he didn’t believe us. He said it was still too cold for the big snakes to come out, and it was likely only a little, non-venomous snake. However when we showed him the picture, he confirmed that we were right and said that if I had gotten bit, I would have died within ten minutes. Well that was reassuring, considering we were three hours away from any main roads! Anyway, snake aside, the hike was really gorgeous and enjoyable! On Monday, we took the shuttle back to Lake Bled but this time, we decided to do the one-hour walk to Vintgar Gorge, even though it was mostly closed (and was reopening April 15th – missing it by a week!). The walk was almost completely uphill on a road with no shelter from the sun, so
The snake!
we got warm really fast. Once we got to the Gorge, we were able to sneak through the “Closed” barricades and walk for about 200 metres, until a steel door prevented us from going any further. We then walked back to Lake Bled, took advantage of the sunshine, and relaxed beside the lake (where I got extremely burnt and now have a bad tanline because of the neckline on the shirt that I was wearing). 
On Tuesday, we had to take a train back to Ljubljana in order to go to our next destination on the east side of Slovenia – Maribor. The train and bus rides in Slovenia are so amazing because the landscapes are beautiful! Slovenia is such a clean country and it has a little bit of everything, even though it’s such a small country. I shouldn’t be saying this (cause it’s nice not having lots of tourism), but Slovenia should be near the top of everyone’s travel list when and if they come to Europe. It’s definitely worth it! We only stayed in Maribor for one night, but it was another small city so we saw what we needed to in a day. Maribor was much more European than the rest of the cities we went to in Slovenia – it had more of a city-like feel. The private room that we stayed in was absolutely gorgeous! It was nicer than most hotels! On Wednesday, we left Slovenia and made our way to
Croatia. We had to take three trains in order to get to Zagreb, where we stayed for one night. One of the trains had Harry Potter-like carriages and then when they stopped at the border, we had to get our passports checked by the Slovenian police (and get an exit stamp), and then by the Croatian police (and get an entrance stamp). Once we arrived in Zagreb, we explored the Old Town as fast as we could during daylight hours, and then went back to the hostel early because we were planning for an early morning. Unfortunately for us, the walls were SO thin – we could hear every person who entered the hostel and walked down the hallway, and we could also hear the couple across the hallway, who seemed to be having a bit TOO much fun multiple times that night. Needless to say, I did not get a good sleep that night, even with earplugs. We found out that it was supposed to rain the day that we were planning to spend in Plitvice Lakes National Park, so we decided that instead of spending the following day
Plitvice Lakes
exploring more of Zagreb, we should just go straight to Plitvice and take advantage of the sun that day. However, neither of us set an alarm, and long story short, we ended up missing the early bus. We took the next bus out, but because it arrived in Plitvice in the afternoon, it wouldn’t be worth paying for a day pass in the Park. Instead, we just went straight to the hostel and decided to do a hike that the hostel suggested. This was a 2.5 hour hike and ended up being straight up a mountain – not zig-zagging its way up, but literally straight uphill. After about an hour and a half, my mom’s knee was bothering her (as it had been our entire trip), so she decided to sit and wait while I continued. I walk for about 20 more minutes, thinking I had gotten to the top, only to see that the path wanted me to go straight downhill, only to go back uphill even higher. At that point, I decided to give up so I headed back down towards my mom. When we got to the hostel, one of the people staying there informed me that I was about 3 minutes away from the end of the hike. Well, I guess I know for next time! We went for dinner, and did some grocery shopping so we’d be prepared for Plitvice the next day. The shuttle took us to the park at 8 the next morning and was due to pick us up at 4pm that afternoon. We understood and were prepared that at about 11am, we should be hit with thunderstorms and possible flooding. However, that never ended up coming! Once again, we had completely sunny weather! Plitvice was just as gorgeous as I remembered it being in 2012, and this time I did a different hiking trail so I got to see the lakes from a different view. There are 16 lakes total, and they’re all piled on top of each other, so we started by going to the upper lakes, and then we made our way down to the lower lakes, seeing tons of waterfalls as we went along. It was such a good way to spend the day! I had booked bus tickets to our last stop (Zadar) for 6pm that evening so
we had just enough time to go back to the hostel, get our stuff, and go to the bus stop. We waited, and waited, and waited some more and finally, the bus came about a half hour late, only to inform us that there wasn’t any room left. We HAD to get on that bus, since we already paid for an Airbnb in Zadar, and our flights went back to London the next day but they kept refusing until we volunteered to stand. Luckily, they let my mom sit on the extra seat in front, but I ended up standing for two of the 2.5-hour bus ride with the other girl who came with us from our hostel. Only AFTER walking around for six to seven hours, so no big deal… We got into Zadar at about 8:30 that night, went for a three-course dinner (mussels for an appetiser, fish for a main, and ice cream for dessert), and then sat by the infamous Sea Organ for awhile before going back to get a well-deserved sleep. Zadar still remains one of my favourite cities! It has a charm just like Ljubljana. One day, I’ll have to compile a list of all of my “good vibe” cities – maybe when all of my summer travelling is over. Anyway, on Saturday we spent the day exploring Zadar (not in the dark), had a great lunch, and went back to the Sea Organ. While we were sitting there, a sailboat came right up to where we were sitting and they asked if we wanted a free ride. I guess we were in the right place at the right time! They happened to be promoting a summer festival so they were giving as many free sailboat rides as they could. It was pretty cool to watch the guy move back and forth around the boat, pulling different ropes and putting up different sails. We had dinner and then caught the bus to the airport at 8pm. Our flight didn’t leave until 10:50 and we arrived in London at about midnight. The passport control line was so long! It was quite stressful as well, cause I had booked a bus for us to get back to London for 1:10am. Luckily, we ended up catching the bus with ten minutes to spare! We got back into London at 2:30am, then had to take the tube back to my station, which took until about 3:15am, and then we had to do the 25-minute walk back to my house, getting us home at about 3:45am. My mom got to do one of my typical Saturday nights! :p We probably got to
Vintgar Gorge
bed at about 4:30 that morning so it was a very lazy day on Easter Sunday!
On Monday, we had another lazy morning and then took the bus to Richmond, where we had hot chocolate and cocktails! After that, we headed back home so that my mom could pack for Edinburgh! This morning, we got up nice and early and took the train so my mom could catch the bus to the airport. Unfortunately for her, the plane ended up being delayed over four and a half hours! She’s now safely in Edinburgh, and I’ll be (unfortunately) going back to work tomorrow. I’m now really regretting that I decided to stay. On the last day of term, the head of biology came to talk to me. He seemed very awkward and kept repeating that it was a bad time to have this conversation. Basically, one of my year 12 parents called and said that her daughter was complaining that when they ask me questions, I…(he paused). I finished for him: “Don’t seem to know what I’m talking about?” “Yeah, basically.” “Well, I feel like that too.” I explained how I read the textbooks and try to learn everything before lessons, but I’m still not as confident as I should be on the topics. Again, I’m teaching my students stuff that my friends haven’t learned until med school. The head of biology said that since there wasn’t any point in switching teachers because there was only five weeks left, I should spend my time really getting to know the information during the holidays. I felt horrible. Part of me felt guilty, part of me felt angry. It wasn’t like I was keeping it a secret… I was clear from the beginning that the information was new to me and I’d need the support. I spent the entire weekend worrying about it and then I decided that I had to explain
Lake Bohinj
that I wouldn’t be able to put in the time that they expected of me. I sent the Head of Biology an email explaining that my mom was in town for the next month and after that, I’d be travelling for the next two weekends, and then I’d be moving out during the last weekend. I also said that I’ve put in a lot of extra time on my evenings, weekends and holidays to prepare for that class and obviously it’s not enough. Not only that, but I’m not even paid to do work during that time. I wouldn’t be able to commit to doing as much work as I have been doing and I definitely wouldn’t be able to commit to doing even more work than I’ve been doing. The school also wanted me to write end-of-year reports for my year 7-10 students since the new teacher wouldn’t know the students well enough to write reports – meaning I’d have to write over 150 reports in five weeks (each about 4-5 sentences long, which also usually take at least 10-15 minutes each). I explained that it wasn’t fair for me to have to do those reports, unless they were during my spare periods when I wasn’t planning and/or marking. I told him that if the school wanted to find someone who would be more dedicated, I wouldn’t be offended since I couldn’t give the time and effort that they expect of me. The next day, he wrote back and said he hoped I was enjoying my time with my mom and that he didn’t want me to spend my holidays stressing about the year 12’s. Great! However, then he went on to say that he had a talk with the Deputy Head (the guy who interviewed me before and made me feel like garbage) and said that while they were aware I wouldn’t have the extra time because my mom was visiting, the school was keen for me to use that time to benefit the girls, and they’d be willing to pay me for my holidays if I did the extra work. From that email, I no longer felt guilty but I just felt angry since the paid holidays were what they tried to bribe me with to stay until the end of the year (and it didn’t work that time either). I then emailed back, said I was in Slovenia and I’d be travelling for the next two weeks, that I didn’t have my laptop or any school supplies, and once again threw it back on them that if they require someone who can put in the extra dedication, then I’m not the person for them. Anyway, tomorrow is just a staff day so I’m kind of nervous to see how things pan out, and how awkward it’ll be. So that’s strike one: what happened in my life of work. 
Now for Strike Two: what happened in my flat. As I mentioned before, my mom and I got back from Croatia at about 3:45am on Saturday night. When we arrived, my light wouldn’t turn on, as the lightbulb must have burnt out. I turned on my extremely dim lamp, and noticed that my mail was on my night table (nothing new, since my flatmate always seems to find it necessary to put my mail straight into my room when I’m not home, instead of on the kitchen table, or anywhere else that’s not my personal space). My mom started making comments about how her pajamas had been moved from under her pillow, how her underwear was missing, how one of my shelves had been knocked over, and how she couldn’t find her extra blanket. She also noticed that her iPad was missing, and then found it in my laptop case. I kind of just brushed those aside, since it was late at night and I was too tired to deal with anything. However, when I went into bed, I noticed that my duvet was sideways. Someone had definitely been in my room for longer than just placing my mail on my night table. We went to bed, since there was nothing much that we could do. The next day, later in the morning, I opened my closet to get dressed and I noticed that everything had been moved around – my mom’s underwear, blanket, and t-shirt were put into my closet, my school backpack (which was on the floor) was also put on top of my clothes in my closet, and then my bag of hangers were also moved. By that point, I was literally shaking. I had to keep taking deep breaths and try to keep myself calm, so I could go approach my flatmate. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate confrontation and I would have rather just ignored it, but since this wasn’t the first incident of my flatmate being disrespectful, I knew I had to say something or it would continue. I went and knocked on her door, and asked her what had been going on in my room while I was gone. “Oh I slept in it.” “You slept in it… why?” “Cause I really just needed to sleep in my own bed.” “But you can’t just do that…” “I’m sorry, it was just one of those weeks and I really just needed to sleep in my own bed.” “Why didn’t you text and ask beforehand?” “I tried but…” “But no, if I’m paying for rent, I should be able to leave and know that my room won’t be entered. That’s not right.” “I know, there’s no excuse and I’m sorry.” “And why was everything moved around if you were only sleeping in it? Like my mom’s iPad was moved…” “Well I didn’t want to knock anything over. I tried to put everything back in its place, I even took pictures.” “Still, I’m paying rent. That’s my room.” “Well you can take one week of rent off, and I’m really sorry.” I can GUARANTEE that it wasn’t her sleeping in my room cause there’d be no reason to move all of my other stuff around. I was livid. Still am! It got even worse the next day when my mom and I decided to go to Richmond. I decided to wear my new insoles/orthotics that I had gotten right before we left on our trip, but I couldn’t find them. I had left them on the floor and they were nowhere to be seen. I texted my flatmate to ask where she put them, and then my mom and I searched the room, and eventually found them halfway down my laundry basket, in my dirty laundry! I didn’t bother texting my flatmate to tell her that I found them, but she eventually replied saying that she put everything that was by my night table on top of my bookshelf (when in reality, all that was on top of my bookshelf were my mom’s socks…). Now, I’m wondering if I should not only deduct the one week of rent for next month, but also deduct my deposit. I have a feeling I won’t get it back otherwise, cause I’ve definitely lost all of my trust in my flatmate. Anyway, my flatmate went to stay with her boyfriend and I haven’t seen her since the incident. Strike two.
And last, strike three: what happened with my money. Yesterday, I decided to be productive and start making all of my purchases that needed to be made for the upcoming month. Most importantly, I needed to book my buses to the airport for my upcoming trips, and I needed to order new contacts and new face wash, as well as register for travel insurance. I got as far as booking the buses and then when I went to order my face wash, my card was declined. I tried two more times and then immediately got a call from an unrecognizable number. It was someone claiming to be part of the HSBC Fraud Department, and he needed my birthday and my full address. I for sure thought it was a scam so I typed in the number online while talking to him, and saw that it was a legitimate number. He said that my card was on a list of details that had been stolen and my card was compromised and would have to be cancelled. He went through all of my recent transactions, which I confirmed were all done by me. He repeatedly asked, “You were in Croatia last week?” “Yes, I notified the bank about it..” When he went through all of the charges and I said that they were all my transactions, I was hoping he’d change his mind, but he said that my card still had to be cancelled. “But it’s the only card I have. I need to get groceries, I use it for transportation, you can’t just cancel it!” ”Okay, well I’ll cancel online transactions and you can do your grocery shopping and then you’ll have to call us so that we can cancel it and send you a new one.” Great. So now I have no card once again, and I’m patiently waiting for my new one to arrive. And that’s strike three! 
I’m just trying to remain positive and get through work and my flat for the next five weeks. Then I can put everything behind me and just enjoy my travels! However, I AM open to any advice on how I should handle the whole flatmate situation. I hope everyone’s been doing well! Love always
Family – Catey Shaw

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

Anywhere (Spain)

Here’s the latest blog post ever! This actually isn’t the first time I wrote this blog post… I had gotten motivation to write this back when I was on my flight home from Toronto to Saskatoon, and I spent two full hours typing out all of my stories – to the point where the person sitting beside me made a comment about how long I had been typing and asked what I was writing. Anyway, I made the stupid decision to write my blog in Notes on my computer (which I’m actually doing again right now – apparently I don’t live and learn) but because my phone hit wifi before my computer did, it updated my notes first. Therefore, when I turned on my computer to edit my blog before posting it, I was horrified to see that my post no longer existed. Needless to say, it’s taken a lot of motivation to get me to sit down and start this blog post again. Anyway, as most of you know I’ve already been to Canada and back, although that will be saved for another post. This post is dedicated to my trip in Spain! The last week of teaching was very quiet, and I only ended up getting three and a half days of work, mostly at random schools that I had never been to before. At one school, all of the students called me

Menorca Map

“Ma’am” instead of “Miss” and it made me feel like I had aged at least 30 years. The last day of school was on July 20th, which was a Wednesday, but I decided to just give myself those three days off since I figured I wouldn’t get work anyway.

On the 16th of July, I flew to Menorca in Spain. I was extremely concerned because my flight was due to arrive at 10pm and there were only two hostels on the island: one that accepted check-ins until 10pm and one that accepted check-ins until 11pm. I obviously opted for the 11pm one but I knew it was going to be a tight squeeze. When I checked in, the agent asked if I’d be checking in any bags (which the answer is always no in order to avoid baggage fees) but for the first time ever, I was asked to put my carry-on bag onto the scale. I wasn’t too happy when I saw that my bag was a kilogram over the allowed weight requirement. It must have been my lucky day because the agent offered to check in my bag for free! Anyway, everyone ended up checking onto the plane so fast that we actually left and arrived a half hour early. I still ended up having to wait for my bag to come out, and later realized that an older couple had it for a half hour until they saw their ACTUAL bag and put mine back onto the carousel. I then ran to the extremely long line to get a taxi. Well, it seemed like they only had two taxis on the entire island, because one would come every five minutes or so, so it took forever until I finally got my own. The taxi only took about 15 minutes but it ended up costing me 20 euro – the same amount as one night in the hostel! I got to the hostel with a half hour to spare, but all of the lights were out and there was

Es Grau

no way of getting inside. Luckily, the hostel owner must have been watching on a tv screen, cause he showed up shortly after. Menorca is one of the three main Balearic islands (including Mallorca and Ibiza), but unlike its sister island Ibiza, it’s not a party island. It’s the most relaxed place I’ve been to in a long time. No one was ever in a rush, everyone was really easygoing and friendly, and people would stop for you even when you were three metres away from getting to a crosswalk (Note: This would NEVER happen in London, where the cars don’t even stop at crosswalks unless the lights tell them to. If a crosswalk doesn’t have a light, then you better run as fast as your legs can take you, because no car will ever slow down for a pedestrian). Menorca has more beaches than Ibiza and Mallorca combined, so the possibilities were endless! I was staying in a small town called Sant Lluís, which was about a 15 minute bus ride from the main town, Mahon. On Sunday, I decided to spend the first part of the day in Mahon to try to find a beach. Unfortunately after feeling like I had walked along the entire Mahon port, I never found one so I decided to take a bus to Punta Prima, which was somewhat of a busy beach, but I ended up spending the entire afternoon there. On Monday, I went to a beach called Es Grau with two people from my hostel – a girl from Chile and a guy from France. We arrived at about noon and the next (and only) bus to take us back was at 6pm, so we were pretty much forced to sit in the sun for six hours. The further you walked along the beach, the more private it got so we finally found our own private beach (with the exception of a nude couple who likely wasn’t too happy to have the extra company). The weather was scorching hot and I definitely started to feel it towards the end of our time there (Note: My back was so painful that I couldn’t even roll over in bed without waking myself up. For the next few days, I shed a whole layer of skin off my back so I had to start from square one all over again). We went back to the hostel to shower and get ready for the evening and then we decided to take the last bus to Mahon. We found a nice little restaurant and ordered a bunch of different tapas, which were absolutely delicious! My friend also ordered us a round of drinks called Tinto de verano, which I wasn’t too excited about because it’s red wine mixed with lemon Fanta. I was pleasantly surprised how much I actually liked this drink, as I always stay away from red wine, and I ended up drinking these for the rest of my holiday. However, I also started to notice that every time I had one of these drinks, my nose would get completely stuffed and then I’d sneeze for the rest of the night. Allergy to red wine perhaps? That wasn’t the only thing I found out I was allergic to during the holiday… Even though it looks like all of my holidays are a lot of fun and I’m enjoying myself (and they are and I am, don’t get me wrong), it’s during my holidays when I’m also usually in the most pain since I end up not using bottled water to wash my face and my skin spends the entire time going through multiple reactions. Anyway, this time it wasn’t only the water that my skin reacted to but also the sunscreen. I started to notice that

Ciutadella port

every time I put on sunscreen, my face would burn and sting as if I was pouring some kind of acid on it. My hands also started reacting since they had the most sunscreen on them. Halfway through the week, I had to make a decision about whether I’d rather suffer through the pain of the sunscreen, or risk getting a burn. Eventually I opted for the no-sunscreen, as the pain was getting unbearable. Basically the sunscreen was blocking my sweat glands and because I was in a 28-degree place, my body would try to sweat but it couldn’t, so the glands would become infected and make multiple pustules on my skin, which would eventually break open and cause extremely dry skin. Obviously, one would put on moisturizer to get rid of the dry skin, but that would just cause another vicious cycle of blocking my sweat glands and make them infected again. Needless to say, I was in extreme pain during my holidays, especially when I had to put my raw hands in the salty ocean water… I didn’t even try putting my face in the water because whenever a drop of water would splash on my face, it would end up being itchy for 20 minutes. Anyway, because we ended up taking the last bus to Mahon, we had no choice (at 2am) but to walk back to the hostel, which took about one hour so we finally arrived at 3 that morning. It’s always so nice meeting up with people that you just mesh with! I often get annoyed when I hang out with people at hostels because someone will make a suggestion that no one wants to do, but everyone will agree since they don’t want to be rude. This time around, we all seemed to be on the same page whenever we wanted food, drinks, beach time, etc. It was awesome! 

On Tuesday, I woke up realizing how much I had burnt so I decided to take a break from the sun and go to the other main city of the island – Ciutadella. I spent most of my time wandering around, going to cafes, or shopping, but trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Even when I would HAVE to walk in the sun for ten seconds, I could feel my arms burning. After spending the day there, I went back to Mahon where there was a huge night market. They also had a bunch of entertainment outside – I felt like I was at a resort!
On Wednesday, I went to a different beach called Playa de Binibeca, but I made sure I watched how much time I spent in the sun once again. I went to the main beach for about an hour and then I walked to a small town about a half hour away (Binibequer Vell). I had lunch there and checked out some of the shops and then I walked about another half hour to a more private beach.
On Thursday, I spent the day with an Italian guy from my hostel. I was determined to go to Cala Galdana because it was supposedly one of the nicest public beaches on the island, and it did not disappoint! The beach was huge, and the water was clear no matter how far you went out. We stayed there for about an hour and then had lunch, but I was determined to

Cala Macarelleta

go to the NICEST beach on the island – Cala Macarelleta. We made the long trek through the forest, but it was so worth it because we got beautiful views of all the beaches. The walk took us about an hour to get to the first beach – Cala Macarella, but we continued on to Cala Macarelleta, which took about another 20 minutes. It was one of the hottest days there, and we had little to no shade. It’s a good thing cardio doesn’t bother me, but stairs do and I nearly thought I wasn’t going to make it towards the end. Drinking my warm (almost hot) water didn’t help… The beach was so nice, but it was also pretty crowded due to its popularity. And you know it’s hot when your nail polish starts melting on your toes! Not only that, but when I got back to my towel after going for a swim, the pages of my magazine were ripped out. I thought someone had tripped over my magazine, pulling some of the pages out with it, but no – the sun had melted the glue of the magazine! We stayed there for about an hour and a half before we had to make our trek back to where we came from so we could catch the final bus back to Mahon. I decided to stay in Mahon for a little while longer before heading back to the hostel later that night.

Friday was my last full day in Menorca, unfortunately. Usually towards the end of my week of holidays, I look forward to getting back home and getting back to my routine but this time, I really wasn’t looking forward to leaving. Even the bus driver knew who I was by the end of the week! I would recommend Menorca to everyone; it’s the perfect holiday destination! Anyway, that day I went to Son Bou, which was another really nice beach but for the first time since I got to Menorca, there were clouds in the sky and the wind was absolutely horrible. I had to keep cleaning off my towel and then every time I went into the ocean to clean off, I’d get sandy within five minutes. I decided to call it a day and decided to go have a late lunch. While I was waiting for my meal, a commercial came on with what I thought was a joke. “Right now, there are donkeys that really need a friend…” When I looked up, I saw it was anything but that. Apparently if you spend 2 pounds per month, you can adopt a donkey, become Facebook friends with it, and even go and visit it! Maybe one day I’ll get a donkey… After eating, I went back to the hostel to pack my things.
The buses to Mahon don’t start running until 8am each morning, but my flight to Barcelona left at 8:45. I absolutely refused to pay for another taxi to the airport, so I decided to walk to Mahon and then take the bus from there to the airport. I had to get up at 6am and leave by 6:15 so I could catch the 7:15 bus. I had to run the last few minutes, hauling my suitcase behind me and I made it on the bus just in time – it literally closed its doors and left as soon as I stepped on! I got to Barcelona at about 10:30 that morning and dropped off my suitcase at the hostel so I could go explore. Here, it had increased in temperature (with the average temperature in Menorca being about 28, while the average temperature in Barcelona was about 33). I actually didn’t like Barcelona when I first got there, as it was much more city-like than I had thought. It was just like being in London, and I wasn’t too happy to be there after leaving quiet Menorca. I just wandered around that day, and then that evening I went to La Festa Catalana, which was a festival showing many sacred and rare dances. The next morning (Sunday), I took a three hour walking tour, which showed me all of the sites, including where Picasso grew up and where Columbus brought back his spices from North

Castle Montjuic

America. I was planning to go to the Picasso Museum that afternoon because it was free, but the lineup was at least five blocks long – it was insane! I then made my way up a huge hill to Castle Montjuic, where there was a free jazz concert that evening. It was so awesome to be there, and it was such a great atmosphere! Monday I did a lot more walking around and I checked out the Barcelona beaches.

On Tuesday, I caught a bus to Madrid. The bus ride was about 7 hours long, but it went by quickly. When I got off the bus in Madrid in the underground parking lot, I was shocked at how hot it was down there. It was like I was standing right next to a warm engine and I couldn’t wait until I got upstairs to cool off. However when I got upstairs, the temperature didn’t change. The average temperature in Madrid was 38 degrees! That’s almost a 90 degree difference compared to the -46 weather that Saskatoon had last winter; it blows my mind!
Parque del Retiro

On Wednesday, I did another walking tour. Afterwards, I went out for lunch with three other girls from my hostel before we went to the Parque del Retiro. We found some shade and stayed there for a few hours, just to keep cool. That evening, I decided I should probably go to a Flamenco show while I was in Spain, so I found a really cheap 12 Euro one at Sala La Garrocha. It was insane how much emotion was put into the dancing and singing! The next day, I had to go back to London. I decided to go for churros and hot
chocolate before leaving, which were absolutely delicious! I then did a bit of shopping before making my way to the airport. I got home around 11pm that evening and had two full days to pack, before heading back to Canada! 

Spain was a fabulous time, and I’d recommend it to everyone! I think I actually preferred Madrid to Barcelona, and I absolutely LOVED Menorca! I’ll work hard on getting my Canada blog posted soon, I hope everyone’s doing well back home! Oh, and by the way, I’m somewhat famous now! Remember when I was in Luxembourg City and I was sitting at the Chocolate House and a photographer asked if he could take pictures of me while I was eating? Well I made it onto the website! I’m on the bottom stream of photos on the “Kreationen” tab. I can sign autographs when I come back home 😉 Hope everyone has an awesome rest of the month! Love always
Anywhere – Passenger 

Seeing Stars (Amsterdam, Belgium, and Luxembourg)

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


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

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

Brussels Memorial

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

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

Manneken Pis

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Vianden Castle

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

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

Seeing Stars  – BØRNS