Half term and weather woes!

This week the weather took a nose dive. Luckily there wasn’t that much rain, but it’s been COLD. I haven’t checked but I’m pretty sure we were close to freezing temperatures or at least well under 5 degrees Celsius. Brrrr. I’ve been wearing layers on my way to work in the morning so I don’t freeze. I need to get some better shoes for winter soon though because the ones I have are a bit too open for rain and things. My poor toes are going to be frozen! Oh, well, at least the weather isn’t drastically different from what I’d experience back home. I’m used to cold and rain. Plus the sun has been shining even though it’s cold and that is always nice to have. Much better than clouds that never leave…

One of the best things about living over here are the breaks. They have the school system set up so that the kids (and teachers!) get a break about every 6 weeks. So as of Friday I’m on my October half term break. The school I’m at is a private school and they have longer breaks than state schools so I don’t actually have to go back until November 8th!

Those of you who teach know how absolutely immersed you can get in it and how it kind of takes of your life. I found that by the end of this week, I was definitely ready for a break and I’m grateful to have the rest. I’m trying to recall how I managed to survive going straight through from Sept-Dec now. Although in North America there are a lot more long weekends and things… Here most of the holidays fall during the breaks.

I was hoping to go to Europe and see somewhere new during this break but I got paid less in September since I started late and since I only get paid once a month, I can’t afford to book anything until after payday (which is next Friday) so for this week at least, I’m staying close to home. I’m thinking I might do some more walking tours complete with pictures, or if it’s rainy there are lots of museums here that I haven’t seen yet. I may also take the train out to some other areas of England that I haven’t seen yet. Next week I may be going up to see a friend who lives in Newcastle, and if I can get a really cheap ryan air flight I may go see Ali in Germany again since she’s about to have her baby (or have you had her yet? Maybe that’s why I haven’t heard from you in a few days? *hopes*) and if I don’t see her now it could be months before I can make it down there again since I’m going back home for Christmas.

On Friday night, I went out with to a goodbye dinner for a friend from work – she’s having to move back to Ireland so she won’t be returning after half term which is sad since we were just really starting to get to know each other. We had a great time though. We went for Indian in Brick Lane with her boyfriend, her cousin and her boyfriend and her other cousin and a coworker. The food was amazing. I picked something pretty tame (Chicken Tikka Masala), but some of the others picked stuff with hot peppers and it was amusing to watch them deal with more heat than they were anticipating.

Yesterday I explored my neighbourhood a bit more. I went into some shops I hadn’t been in (found a great pair of boots with no heel that I might get after payday – they’d look great with skirts and they’ll keep my feet warm and dry in the rain), had a light lunch at a really nice cafe and then ended up having tea in a pub down the road a ways. I found a table with an outlet near it and the pub had free wifi so I drank my tea and spent a good chunk of my afternoon writing. It was actually really nice. There was a football match on though so it was a bit loud but hey, you’re not in England if you don’t spend time in a pub during a match.

Today my plan is to assemble a small desk I ordered from IKEA and as a result, to rearrange my room a bit. It will be nice to have a place to sit and do work or write in my room other than the bed. I’m looking forward to it.

Expect an increase in posts from me over the next few weeks since I won’t be as busy!

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Whoops… it’s been FAR too long since I’ve updated here

Hello friends and family!

My sincere apologies for the lengthy gap in updates. Life happened and I’ve been in a bit of a bubble.

So just what have I been up to in the past month and a half? Well, last time I wrote, I was in Germany visiting my friend Ali and her family. A few weeks after that, she came up here to see me which was really fun. We had a good time exploring the city – although we learned that the Southbank during the Mayors festival is a place to be avoided. There were more people there than I’ve ever seen, even in Oxford Circus. You couldn’t move there were so many people and poor Ali was so uncomfortable. We left there as soon as we could.

One weekend in August I took the train up to Cambridge to visit my friends Leanna and Dave who I know from Canada. They’ve been living there a year and they love it. After showing me around the town a bit – including Clare’s College where Dave goes, we walked over the Fens (common fields along the river where livestock are allowed to graze) to a place called the Grantchester Orchards where we got to take tea on lawn chair under the fruit trees. It was wonderful (aside from the bees who terrorized David). It was a long walk to get there (nearly 2.5 hours) but it was worth it, and the walk back somehow seemed to go faster.

September brought with it the return of school (and a lot of rain!) and so I began the not so fun task of calling the agency at 7 am every morning to see about supply work. I ended up getting two days as an assitant at a school that opened a week earlier than everywhere else, which was a nice start, but then Mon and Tues of the following week there was NOTHING. 😦 I was starting worry, but on Wednesday of that week I connected with the rep responsible for my area and he managed to send me out to a school not far from here for the day. Thursday of that week I again had nothing, but this turned out to be a blessing because at about 11:30 that morning I got a call from the same rep from Wed with a job interview THAT afternoon. I went in at 3, and by the time I left the school at 4:30 I had been offered and had accepted the job.

Everything happened really quickly after that – I started on Friday so it was a whirl wind of getting to know the kids 3 days after school had already started. It’s a small little private school that’s located in an old mansion in quite a nice area. I have to take 2 buses to get there, but it only takes about 25 minutes (in good traffic) and apart from recent construction issues it hasn’t been too bad. I’m teaching a class of 7 year one students (which means they are 5 and 6 years old). It’s a nice little group – 5 girls, 2 boys and I’m having a blast with them. The first few weeks were spent just settling in and getting the classroom organized the way I want it, but now we’ve reached the point where things are running smoothly and both myself and the kids are getting into a routine so that’s nice. Next week, is the last week before our TWO WEEK half term break and then we’ll be back at it for another 6 weeks until Christmas.

Aside from work, I’ve still managed to do some fun things. I’ve been to see two shows recently – Wicked, and a “play” called Celebrity Autobiography. Both were fantastic! I also went to the London Museum a few weeks ago with Sarah, a fellow Canadian teacher that I’ve met here. They have an amazing exhibit that takes you through London history from the Victorian era right through to the future. It’s really impressive.

I’ve been trying hard to also get myself in shape and be healthier. I’ve been eating a LOT of salads lately, and tons of vegetables (I love living near good markets!) and I joined a rec centre nearby. Before I got my job I was doing really well, then there was a 3 week void where I just didn’t have much time to go because I had so much to do, but last week I forced myself to get back into it and this week I’ve been to the gym on my way home every day this week. If I leave the school around 4:30 I can get in a reasonable workout and still come home, make dinner and have time to relax. I’m finding that I really do have more energy and I feel a lot better so this is a great thing!

Last Sunday I took the train to Cambridge again to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with Leanna and David and another friend of theirs. It was so nice to see them again so soon and to celebrate the holiday. It was really strange having to go to work on Monday. But I’m not complaining – I have a two week break coming up so I’ll be fine! 🙂

So, there you have it. The super condensed version of my last two months. I promise I will post again soon. My ultimate goal is to update this at least once a week. Feel free to poke me if I get lax again.

Still here, still loving London

Hi all!

My sincere apologies for taking so long to update. The past few weeks have been rather busy.

A few weeks ago I bought this little box that has 30 walking tours of London. Each one is on it’s own little folded up card (about the size of a small greeting card) and it has written directions as well as a map and information about the places you’re seeing. So far I’ve done 2 of the tours so you’ll have those posts to look forward to in the near future (I still need to arrange all the pictures I’ve taken). I’m hoping to do at least 2 of these tours a month. A few of them cover places I’ve already seen though so I may not do them all.

Right now, I’m actually not in London. I’ve been in Germany since Wednesday visiting my best friend Ali and her children (for those of you who don’t know, Ali and I have been friends since we met in Canada when we were 14. She got married in 2003 to a German man and moved here, so we don’t get to see each other very often. Now that I’m in the UK though we’re both hoping to see more of each other). It’s so nice to see her again and to see how her home and family have evolved since my last visit to Mainz in 2007. Unfortunately my german is rather rusty and her children speak primarily Germany so it’s hard to understand them! Anna and Melanie are super excited to have me here though, which is nice. When they’re home and awake it’s rare for one of them to NOT be in my lap. Ali, is rather pregnant at the moment with their third child whom they’re expecting in late October/early November. Hopefully I’ll be able to manage another trip here sometime after the baby comes! I’m here until Tuesday, and then I’ll be heading back to London.

Before I came down to Germany, I finally moved into my new flat. I haven’t had a chance to take photos yet, but once I do I’ll post a little photo tour of my room and the flat. The actual move was a bit exhausting. I managed to fit everything into the two suitcases I’d brought with my from Canada (I’d bought a few things since my arrival so it was a bit tricky), plus I needed my own towels and bedding and I’d had to buy that before the move since I was moving in the evening once my new flatmate was home from work. Needless to say, taking the bus and tube with two overstuffed (and heavy) wheeled suitcases from one end of London to another was quite the ordeal and not very pleasant. Even though the trip usually wouldn’t take more than 45min, it took me close to 2 hours to make it because I was so slow walking with the bags. By the time I arrived, my arms were KILLING me!

Anyway, aside from that the move was good and I can’t tell you how nice it is to have my own space again. And a room, with a door! The room is a decent size and has more than enough drawer and cupboard space for my clothing and books and things. There’s a small computer desk that’s perfect for my laptop and even a tv with cable and a dvd player (although it only plays the UK region stuff). It’s got a big window too so I get lots of light. The kitchen, which is right outside my room is quite nice. It’s fairly modern and very functional. I have a shelf to myself in the tiny fridge. Fridges here are only half the size of the ones in North America – they’re a bit bigger than the mini fridges you find in colleges and stuff but they’re quite small in comparison to what I’m used to. I suspect I’ll be shopping for fresh stuff more often. Which isn’t really a problem considering there are two grocery stores at the high street that’s a 3 min walk from the flat and a HUGE open air market that has lots of produce about 10 min away by bus (near the sub station) where I can get a whole bowl of various fruits or vegetables for £1. It’s great.

Okay, back to the description of the flat. There’s a patio/garden that you can get to from one end of the kitchen which is nice. There’s one bathroom, which had a tub and though it’s a bit small it’s definitely functional. At the other end of the house from my room is the livingroom which has two couches and a table and chairs as well as a large screen tv! The flat is nice and bright since it’s on the second story above a music shop!

My flatmate is named Jenia and she’s close in age to me. (32) We get along well so far and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

Not much has happened on the job front. Schools have been closed for the past few weeks so no hiring has been happening. Once I get back from Germany though we’ll be 2 weeks from school starting again so hopefully things will begin to pick up. I’ll call the agency once I’m settled back in my flat in London.

So that’s the update. I’ve got about 250 pictures to sift through and upload so I can share them with everyone. I probably won’t have a chance before I get back to the UK but I’ll do it as quick as possible.

I hope everyone is well. I miss you.

Oh, and since today is August 21st, I’d like to send a special Congratulations to my friend Anne and her fiance John who are getting married back home today. I wish you both all the best and hope you have a fantastic day!

The Southbank

My friend Cookie2697 challenged me recently to walk to the Southbank from Waterloo station to the Tower Bridge so other night I went out and did just that (taking pictures along the way of course!)

I got off the bus by Waterloo station and the stop is just down the road from the “Royal Festival Hall”.

From there I walked toward the river, and one of the first things I saw was the london eye, all lit up:

I walked along the river from there, taking my time and pausing to look at things of interest, and to take some video of the view from the river (since any attempts at pictures of this area failed miserably).

Sadly I can’t seem to be able to embed video clips, but I did take about 5 short clips of different sections of the Thames. If you’d like to see them, you can find them here:

The pedestrian section of the Hungerford Bridge (which is right by the London Eye):

The back end of the Royal Festival hall:
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Quite a bit further down the bank, I took this lovely picture of St Paul’s Cathederal in the distance (I’m zoomed in):

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In one section, there was a sandy beach below the walkway and someone was sculpting in the sand: Photobucket

A side street off the water – all the shops were closed, but I’ll go back during the day sometime to check them out.

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My FAVOURITE bit of the walk, just past the Tate Modern Museum, (which I went into on Sunday… and learned that I really, really don’t *get* modern art)… The GLOBE theatre! Of course it’s been rebuilt since Shakespeare’s time but still, this is a huge piece of history, right there:

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They’re doing construction to several of the underground stations right now, and as a result there was a long diversion not far from the Globe that took me down and around some streets before eventually bringing me back the the water. When I got there, I was near the Tower of London…

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…and the tower bridge: Photobucket

I did manage to get a picture of myself by the bridge but the perspective is rather funky:
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From the bridge I found the bus stop and made my way home. I quite enjoyed the walk. In total I think it took me close to 2 hours, although I was stopping quite a bit to take pictures. Sadly, many of them didn’t turn out well because it was night. I’ve since been back to sections of it (mainly the Southwark area near the Globe) and I have a few daytime pictures but haven’t yet had a chance to upload them. As soon as I do, I’ll add them to the album and you’ll be able to see them.

In other news, I move into my new apartment on Wednesday August 11th. I can’t wait. I’ll be SO glad to not be living out of a suitcase any longer.

PS – I have to take my computer in for repairs tomorrow and will likely be without it for several days so if you don’t hear from me in that time, don’t panic, I’m here and I’m safe and I’ll post again as soon as I’m able.

Market!

Today I went to the Borough Market and it was AMAZING!

One of the entrances to the Borough Market

It was Saturday, so of course it was incredibly crowded but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all.

I spent a lot of time gawking at the plethora of food items available and most for incredibly good prices. The market is HUGE – there are currently 3 separate market areas open (there is at least one other usually but it’s currently closed because of some kind of construction) and there were stalls for just about everything: meat, herbs, fish, cheese, olives, oils, bread, spices etc…

All kinds of breads!

I love the colours in this sunflower.

HUGE wheels of cheese (Gouda)

Spices

The only thing I actually bought today was a container of REALLY delicious pesto, but once I’m more settled I’ll be going back to get a few items I know for sure I’ll want to have on hand. Nothing beats fresh like that!

After that, I headed to Kings Cross and went to check out the British Library which was AMAZING. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside the galleries, but they have an amazing collection. Their special exhibit right now is on maps and some of the maps they have displayed are truly beautiful. The treasures gallery was my favourite though. Such a rich collection of manuscripts. They have everything from illuminated texts to religious texts for almost every world religion to handwritten or early edition copies of literature from people like Shakespeare, and Jane Austin. They also had a whole section devoted just to Alice in Wonderland which was really, really neat, and there was also a display on music documents which included a score from one of Mozarts symphonies. Beside that was a display on the Beatles. Very, very cool stuff.

From the library, I went back to Kings Cross and located Platform 9 3/4 (from the Harry Potter books for those who don’t know). It’s really there – well, really what it is is a brick wall just perpendicular to platform 8, with part of a luggage cart sticking out and sign that says “Platform 9 3/4”. There was a long line up of people waiting to have the photo taken with it when I got there, but I waited and got my own:

Of course I took a TON of pictures. The photographer in me couldn’t resist taking some artsy shots and I really like how the pictures turned out. I think I may end up printing and framing some of these. You can view them all by clicking on the picture below:

Fancy Mushrooms and fresh herbs

Hope everyone is well!

Sightseeing, adventures and accommodations

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been in London for over a week already. It’s gone by so fast.

Things have been busy in a good way. Last week I did a lot of house hunting which meant I got a crash course in London Transit. Needless to say I’m now rather proficient at getting to where I need to be!

On Friday I had a job interview at an Anglican School in North West London. The interview went well, although it was for a higher grade than I’m hoping for (Year 5 which is grade 4 in Canada). I just got a call about half an hour ago telling me that I didn’t get it. I’m not as disappointed as I thought I would be. There are still lots of jobs coming available and I really am hoping for a reception or Year One Position.

In the meantime I’ve been focussing on getting settled into London and finding permanent accommodations. Adeola has been most gracious in allowing me to stay here for as long as I need to, but it’s really small and cramped and I’m really sick of living out of suitcases (I can’t find anything!).

In any case, I have found a place to live. It’s a flat above a music store in a nice North East Neighbourhood about 10 minutes from one of the main subway lines. It’s been well cared for and is a really nice flat with hardwood floors a really modern kitchen and bathroom, a large sitting room and a decent sized bedroom with furnishings. There’s also a garden although I didn’t see it while I was there. It’s £465/per month and that includes all bills other than my phone and food so that’s pretty good for London. The girl who owns it is named Jenia and she was born in London although her family is from Nigeria originally so that’s kind of neat. She’s 32 and works full time and we got along quite well when I went to look at the place.  She’s going to call me tonight and we’ll finalize some of the details like WHEN I’ll move in. I’ll also get the address from her so I can pass that on to those of you that might want it!

Other great things about the place is that there’s a bus stop RIGHT outside the door, shops nearby, and it’s only a 20 min bus ride to a large market where you can get great organic produce for fairly cheap. There’s also a Catholic Church right along the bus route about 10 min away so I’ll be able to go to Mass easily!

This weekend I went to the Royal Albert Hall and saw the Doctor Who Proms which was a huge musical event. Basically they have a full orchestra that plays selected pieces from the show. They also played some classical pieces like “Ride of the Vallkeries” and “Mars”. It was an amazing concert and I’m so glad I went. Totally worth the £5!

Sunday I met up again with Louise, a friend of my friend Ali (who lives with her husband and children in Germany). Louise was Ali and Johannes’ aupair a few years ago and Ali got us in touch when I arrived. Lou has been great in giving me advice on areas in London and things to do. We met one evening last week after my house hunting and then on Sunday I took the bus down to her area of London and we went to the Cinema to see Toy Story 3 (in 3d!). It was just as fantastic as everyone has been saying so I’m glad I went. It was the first movie I’ve been to in MONTHS.

So this week I’ll be continuing to get acquainted with London, hopefully get some more job interviews, and prepare to move and settle into my new home. I’m looking forward to it! Also, this weekend a friend of mine who’s currently in Northern England is coming down to see me and I think we’ll have a lot of fun.

I finally managed to get my pictures and video uploaded! It took ages! To see them all, (complete with captions) and the videos (at the end) Click on the image below and it will take you to the album. I’ll add more photos to that album as I take them so you may want to bookmark it! (although I will let you know here when I’ve updated it!

Cheers!

 

Three Days in London

I promised an update, and though it’s a bit later than I’d hoped, I’m finally snagging a moment to do it. I’ll try not to make it too long!

The past three days have been a bit of a whirlwind as I acquaint myself with the city and start to take care of a few things (like bank accounts and housing). In the interests of not making this update entirely novel length, here’s the “readers digest version” (or at least as “readers digest” as someone as prolific as I am can make it.)

Monday

Monday marked my first foray into central London. I got a little lost on the way to the tube station, but thanks to the GIANT signs above every tube station (that you can see for blocks – provided there aren’t several dozen people blocking it) I was able to find my way pretty quickly. My first tube ride was rather uneventful and I quickly found the building where the SANZA/Tradewind Teaching Agency is located. After my TWO HOUR appointment (mostly filling in forms and discussing my hopes for employment and next steps like bank accounts and housing – mostly boring stuff, really) I explored the area a bit before heading to the bus stop to meet up with Adeola (my sister-in-law whom I’m staying with right now).

This is where things got a little interesting (or frustrating, depending on your point-of-view). I got on bus 24. What I didn’t realize was that it was bus 24 going in the WRONG direction. So I waited ages for Parlaiment Square to be announced and it never was. Before I knew it I was in Hampstead Heath and had to catch the bus going the other direction to get back to where I needed to be. In the end it was an hour long diversion and I learned that you must ALWAYS double check which direction the bus you want is going in so as to avoid this predicament in future.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning I finally started to look at the HUNDREDS of housing messages that had been piling up in my inbox since I signed up on a london housing site from Victoria last week. After weeding through them for at least an hour, I called several and set up some appointments for that afternoon – unfortunately all 3 places that I went to yesterday were EXTREMELY far from each other and to get from one to the other I ended up using Bus, Train, Underground AND Overground. The advantage to this is that I have now figured out how the different systems work and am getting quite good at taking London Transit. The disadvantage is that it’s EXHAUSTING.

Sadly, all 3 places I looked at were duds. All three of them were rather out of the way, particularly if I end up having to supply teach in September, and all 3 were rather run down. I knew pretty much from the moment I arrived at each place that I wouldn’t be taking them.

Despite my exhaustion when I finally finished the flat hunting for the day, I was DETERMINED to do some sight seeing, so on my way back to town from the 3rd place I got off at London Bridge station and walked across the bridge. I took some pictures from there of the tower bridge and a few other London Sights and then I walked for a bit along Canon street. Finally, just after I passed St. Pauls Cathederal, I caught a bus to Trafalgar Square.

I did a quick walk through the square, took a few pictures and made my way back to the busses, I was getting hungry so I grabbed something to eat and got on the bus.

I only made it two stops before I got off again because I saw Big Ben all lit up and I wanted to see it closer up and take pictures. So I walked that way and ended up eating my dinner on a bench along the Thames just across the street from Big Ben. So my view as I ate was lovely: The London Eye (just lighting up since it was getting dusky), two of the bridges near there and the water. I’d like to go back there another day when I’m not so tired and do a proper walk around the area.

Wednesday

Today started with an appointment at the bank to set up an account. Which is done! HURRAH! It took ages and ages though and I was late leaving for my first appartment viewing.

I had 6 viewings scheduled today and only 2 of the 6 were even remotely in the same area. Oi. To make matters more challenging, I forgot to plug my cell phone in last night and it died around noon. Which was VERY inconvinient and made my day a whole lot more difficult than it needed to be. (since despite having directions, I still got lost – so many areas that were completely new to me.) In the end, I only made it to 3 out of the 6 appointments. I did go to two others but couldn’t find the right place and finally gave up and moved on. Not much else I could do without accessing the numbers/text messages on my phone.

I’m happy to say that despite these frustrations, today was still a more successful flat hunting day than yesterday was. All 3 places today were MILES better than the places yesterday, and not nearly as far out. I experienced my first transport hiccups today though. This morning the bus got caught in road works and was delayed by 30 min so I was late to the bank (this is apparently fairly normal in central london since the bank person I met with was completely unfazed by my being late due to traffic.) Then, when I was on the tube on my way to see two of the places, the doors wouldn’t close and after a long delay they asked everyone to get off the train – it was a VERY crowded train and there were LOTS of people at the stop we were to get off at so this meant waiting two trains until I could get on again. And it was HOT. Then there were more delays on my way back to where I’m staying.

After all that, I met up with a friend of Ali’s who lives here in London and we had a lovely time. She’s a journalist and she’s very nice and we’ve already decided that we’re going to go see “Toy Story 3” together sometime soon (it only JUST came out here this weekend). It’s nice to have a friend already in London. She was giving me some good advice on areas to live and areas to avoid. She also said she’ll help me work on my English Accent so people back home won’t be disappointed!

Job Update:

Before I left this morning I had a call from a rep at SANZA about a potential job teaching music twice a week for a school starting in September. She’s sent my resume through and its possible I’ll get a call tomorrow for an interview. Then, when I got home tonight, and finally plugged in my phone, I had a message from another SANZA rep about a potential job at a “really lovely” special needs school in South London. He called at 4 and they close at 5, so obviously I missed him, but I’ll call back first thing in the morning and see what’s up. Anyway it’s looking good. I’m glad to finally have some real opportunities coming through.

It’s late, so the pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.