Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Year in Review

It is official – we live in a mud hole. Two days of unseasonably warm temperatures have left a disgustingly dirty landscape. It is actually the same temperature in Thunder Bay as it is in London at this moment – which is above 0 Celsius! Don’t get me wrong – I love warmth….unfortunately the mud that warmth creates a pain in the *ss. I went for a walk and came back with a coating of dirt…more laundry…grrrr….but it has been a pretty nice reprieve from the unseasonably cold temperatures (what ever happened to the average?).
Christmas was pretty quite – I struggled through two days without Starbucks, but held my head up high. Actually I just mainly ate…and ate…and ate. I have effectively ensured that I do not have to eat again until July; good stuff – great food.

Ok, so I’ve talked about the previous necessity for teachers to reflect on their lessons, abilities, etc. Today I’m reflecting on the past year, because I’m not really sure where it has gone!! No…there is more to this reflection than meets the eye; it was exactly a year ago that a recruitment agency contacted me about moving to….England…

December 27, 2007: Contacted by I*act Teachers in London, asking whether or not I would be interested in moving to England…sure! Why not?

Lulled in my own complacency for the majority of the month (2008 got off to a slow start); continued on a diet that I had started in late 2007 (ok this diet has been a substantial part of my year); interviewed with I*pact and decided that I wanted to move to England ASAP – but I was entirely detached from this decision, mainly because I was stagnating in my complacency (it also gave me an excuse to not look for a Thunder Bay job!)

Continued to stagnate in my complacency – truly I enjoyed it. Started to become a little disenfranchised with my recruiting agency, and began to look towards more lucrative pastures. Took a brief escape to Edmonton, just in time for a wicked deep freeze - returned to Thunder Bay in time the same deep freeze. Continued to obsess about health and weight.

Found a new recruiting agency, was interviewed by them, then quickly interviewed (and was hired) by a school in Banbury, England (this whole evolution took place in about a week); still completely disassociated with the whole decision, and quickly applied for a visa. This included a trip to Ottawa over March break – Ottawa had a record snowfall that weekend (a mere 50cm or more fell on the city overnight). That was kind of cool. Ha! Showed a Kobalt in a dog show, and had a great weekend with him – finished a couple of titles. Oh ya….and weight and such.

There was a plane ride, and suddenly I was in England, clueless. My agency, relieved that I was in England, kind of flew the coup. I quickly learned the distinction of what an academy is – and why you don’t necessarily want to teach in one (its not as prestigious as it sounds!). Also learned that I had undercut myself by about £5000. I was not off to a good start, and out of the disassociative decision arose panic. Ultimately I jumped too quickly, and really hadn’t made sure that there was water in the pool. Lessons learned. I*act asked me to stop into their offices on my way through London. Sure? Why not? I’ll try again. I think. Oh yeah – and worried incessantly about the weight thing (especially since I had established myself in my neighbourhood local, and was drinking a fair amount of beer).

Reflection. Increasing complacency, and much time spent pondering the future. Briefly became a resident at Starbucks. Spent the majority of the month pondering whether or not I really wanted to go back to England. And – dieting…and exercise.

More reflection. Plenty of time spent at city parks chasing geese with Kobalt. Quickly began to realize that I had no long term aspirations for making a career out of goose patrol. Not that I don’t like the job or Kobalt…
Out of boredom I decided to take classes in English and Political Science. Political Science and I got along really well; I wasn’t abstract enough to make it through English (seriously, what is the point of paying for this sort of course?).

Continued to work on goose control. Pondered England some more. Dieting. Ya that sums it up. Kobalt and I started herding sheep again, and had a really tumultuous start to our herding season…

A repetition of July. Just more geese, and it was moderately warmer and less rainy than July.

Great start – Kobalt finished an ASCA herding title (really it had nothing to do with me, I just watch him work and am basically a third tit). Two days after I decided to get off the pot, quit pondering, and go back to England - this time to London. The rest of the month was spent getting ready for that…and working for Elections Canada (isn’t that a joke now?)…and goosing…and working at a school…September was a moderate blur. Somewhere along the line I was also dieting…k, you really have to understand how much that dieting thing impacted 2008!

The month began in a haze of work; actually I worked right up until 2 hours before my flight departed for Toronto. While in Toronto there was a bit of panic when the flight attendants realized the plane was “broken” but were not sure why (note to Air Canada: some information is best left unshared). Arrived in London, and quickly settled into a six week stint of moving aimlessly through Pimlico between hostels, hotels, apartments, etc. Then came the fallout of the Credit Crunch, which the BBC jumped on like a bee to honey. Quickly became re-disillusioned with my recruitment agency, after a week long delay in work, and mediocre results in securing work. Random trips to Sheffield and Leeds…more weight worries, but interspersed with awesome curry.

Continuing worries. Misdirected information. Money, money, money. I realized I needed another agency, but until that happened I might as well just go home. Unfortunately I was settling into London when I decided to get out – funny how that works! Discovered Caffe Nero’s hot chocolate (not really the life changing thing you would expect in a year end reflection, but it is REALLY good). Oh wait…and Obama…the teenage girls in my classes were absolutely in love with Obama…as a side note, can we start to be honest about why he is seen as the “progressive” change!?!?!! Oh yes, and the credit crunch continued – but for some reason the American dollar gained strength against the Canadian dollar, and yet the British pound lost value against everyone (which adversely effected the daily wage…eeks)

Reflection. Reaffirmation in the sheer boringness of my thesis. Alexandra won X Factor. Waiting. Hope that I have finally found a decent recruiter. Reaffirmation that I can’t keep coming back to Thunder Bay (finding a career in a city without hope, is…hopeless.) And that brings us to today – having gone full circle; a year to the day that the England thing started…still worried about weight…and sure I’ll go to England…why not?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Queen's Christmas Message

In all honesty, while searching Youtube for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video, I came across the Queen's Christmas Message.

Queen's Address

If you are interested in viewing the Queen's Christmas Message, click the above link.

If you are more interested in the Beyonce video, please click the link below :-p

Beyonce's Video

☆.;:+*'`'*+:;..;:+*'`'*+:;.Merry Christmas!!!.;:+*'`'*+:;..;:+*'`'*+:;.☆

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

For the Holidays...

The Holiday Season is Here!!

Merry Christmas Feliz Navidad Joyeux Noel Geseënde Kersfee Hyvaa joulua
Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Nollaig chridheil huibh

(and I could go on....)


Friday, 19 December 2008

The Culture of Football and Why You Don't Insult our Game

If you ever felt so inspired as to read my profile, you can see that I have a background in Anthropology. What this actually means is that I have a degree that is fairly useless for employment, but it does help me to evaluate certain situations differently. When I travel, I can help subside culture shock, but attempting to look at things through a cultural lens; it’s the social scientist approach to life. Last year, while in Guatemala, I was driven crazy by a woman who constantly compared everything to Canada.
“Oh my goodness…look at that…we don’t have that in Canada.”
“Look at the poverty! We don’t have that kind of poverty in Canada.”
“Look at the children! Our children our so much better off in Canada.”
“Oh look at the school…our schools are so much better in Canada.”
“F*ck Canada.” (did I say that?!?!)
Finally, driven to the brink of frustration, I finally had a bit of a falling out with her after an argument over the situation on our northern Reserves. Afterwards, I did my best to avoid her (mainly because I did not want to act on my desire to slap some sense into her). My feeling is – if you want to travel, you have to be prepared for the fact that things will be different, and that you can’t evaluate “them” based on “us” (yes, you might know this mentality under the formal name of the us-them dichotomy). Casting judgements leads to ethnocentrism. Instead, we need to look at different cultures through the realm of cultural relativism (pardon the anthropological terms…I studied anthropology for a long time; using three anthropological terms in the course of this blog posting makes me feel somewhat better about my education).

While teaching in London, I was initially struck by how different things were. I would not say that I had culture shock – believe me, after the amount of time I spent in New Orleans, London is far from a culture shock! The toughest thing I experienced in London was adapting to an urban setting; traffic without trees. It cannot be denied that students are challenging – especially compared to what we are used to in Thunder Bay. In order to understand it, you must take a cultural approach – there is more at stake than what is simply seen on the surface. London, being the melting pot that it has become, experiences a vast array of cultural influences. So you must remember; every culture evaluates structured education differently; as such, these differences play out in the classroom.

That’s not the point though…football (European not American) is my point. Recently I was told by a Brit, that hockey fights are staged for the audience. They are nothing more than scripted fights as those witnessed in the WWF. Of course, being a Canadian, and a fan of hockey (and admittedly someone who enjoys a good hockey throw-down), I defended our national pastime (not to be confused with our national sport, which is actually lacross). Come on – what does a Brit know about hockey??? K…so that p*ssed me off a bit, and I’m still bitter.

When I began this whole British experience nearly a year ago, I decided that I would learn about their pastime – football (which I still referred to as "soccer"). This was mainly because I find that male students are easier to deal with when you can engage them in sports talk. I was also perplexed by soccer mentality. It is a scary, scary world! While we North Americans are avid followers of our sports leagues (NHL, NFL, NBA, etc), we tend not to bleed for our sports. Though I do recall a drunken night, during the Lewis-Tysen fight, that a friend (who was a Lewis fan) decided to brawl with a Tyson fan - luckily vodka and the crowded bar made this nothing more than a talked about idea (but don't think that our cab driver wasn't amused by my friend's drunken rage)- but that isn't the norm...European football fans are a whole other story!! It is life or death. No…I’m wrong…Bill Shankly once claimed that "some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that. " And it is.

I am not sure there has been such a violent sport in recent history – and no…not out on the field, but between the fans. The same person who insulted hockey has also attempted to educate me on football. Unfortunately, he being a Liverpool fan, and me being me (meaning I like to prod the bull), I quickly learned that the fastest way to p*ss off a Liverpool fan is to cheer for Manchester United. Insult hockey, and I will find a way to retaliate.

I am a foreigner who was not brought up in the ways of football, and as such, I will never truly understand it. So here is what I know about football (in a nutshell). I know some of the top names now (unfortunately the majority of these names are associated with, or have been associated with Liverpool, so I can’t say that I have had the most unbiased education), I know the standings, and the difference between the Championship League and Premier League, and some of the basic rules. But the sport itself is of little interest to me. Watching guys running up and down a field, while kicking a black and white ball is a tad bit redundant (when the score is 2-0 with 20 minutes remaining, and the commentators can predict a victory, that is a little bit…boring…) – but the fans – that’s where the true action is. So here is what else I know: if you are a true fan, you must be prepared to bleed for your team. You wear your colours proudly, and when enemies stray into your territory wearing their colours, you must be prepared to kick the cr*p out of them. If you are caught in enemy territory, you must be prepared to defend your team diligently. Life or death and so much more. We as Canadians tend not identify ourselves based on our team affiliation – football fans do. That’s commitment.

I now leave you with quotes and links that best show footballer mentality.

“I know this is a sad occasion but I think that Dixie would be amazed to know that even in death he could draw a bigger crowd than Everton can on a Saturday afternoon.” (Bill Shankly at Dixie Dean’s funeral)

“The rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn't move, kick it until it does” Phil Woosnam

“I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting.” George Orwell

“I'm sure sex wouldn't be so rewarding as this World Cup. It's not that sex isn't good but the World Cup is every four years and sex is not.” Ronaldo

“In Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team” Luis Suarez

“If this can be termed the century of the common man, then soccer, of all sports, is surely his game.... In a world haunted by the hydrogen and napalm bomb, the football field is a place where sanity and hope are still left unmolested” Stanley Rous
As I find better links I will update :-p

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Rerecruitment and Sexing a Thesis

I am presently praying that I am hired by an agency that I was interviewed by last week. It is sort of my dream agency. After having spent time with two other agencies, and having researched countless others, I have developed a fairly decent “bullsh*t” detector. This new agency is run by a recruiter who has not only taught in London, but did so for three years! I have become accustomed to the generic answers that recruiters give – and let me tell you, it can be highly frustrating. Promise are made, and my “best interests are always at heart”. This recruiter has impressed me because she doesn’t give the “everything is merry in England” answers. She knows that I know that this isn’t the case. So I am praying – I want to get back to England before I become too comfortable at home (and it is starting!). I also want to get back to work. I’m bored. No, not really bored…just missing money. I also miss acting like a grown up everyday. When I went to work in London I felt like I was playing dress up – let’s face it, I don’t dress professionally in Thunder Bay. In London I got to play with clothes and scarves (the art of pashmina)…oh…and heels. I’m not sure that it’s a good thing that at 28 I still see getting “dressed up for work” as playing grown up, but whatever works, right?

In the mean time this new agency has introduced me to and I am completely addicted. I am particularly addicted to “Teaching with Bayley”. John Bayley is an education consultant who was ranked as outstanding by OFSTED (and has nothing to do with Iris Murdoch as far as I know!); and let me tell you, I am pretty impressed. After having more insight into the world of British classrooms by way of these programs, I am feeling a bit more at ease. The recruiter told me that if I watch one of these videos daily, I will be a far better teacher for it – I’m watching a lot more than one on a daily basis, because I am hooked! Along with the Bayley videos are countless others, dealing in a full range of topics (thankfully behaviour management as well!). also has a full section for NQTs (which technically I am not an NQT to UK standards, but I am in Canadian standards – don’t worry, I understand what I am trying to say!)…anyway, all I am saying is that is a good resource. Especially during moments of procrastination and lately there have been plenty of those moments.

Oh yeah, and I’m still dealing with my thesis. He (because my thesis is now an individual) and I still don’t really like one another. In a month I have only successfully completed a partial rewrite of the chapter that I previously written. Progress is slow and interest is waning. I still love bison, and I love studying bones – it is writing about either topic that is a problem for me. Every time I sit down to write, I feel like I’ve been condemned to prison. Unfortunately I cannot apply to the University of Liverpool until I am finished my sentence.

All I know is that my thesis is coming to England with me – yay, more luggage. I also know that when I do go back to overseas, its going to be a very fast return – none of this booking a ticket two months in advance crap – nope, I know what to do when I get there now. I have experience (who’d of thought?). Hoping this agency likes me (please!), I sort of know when I’m heading back over, and truth be told, I can’t wait!!!!!!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Announcing a name change...

Time for some housekeeping….in the near future I will be changing the domain name of this blog. Why? Because employers are becoming more internet savvy, and have taken to google searching their employees. The internet has taken away a great deal of privacy - not that I'm complaining; I'm an avid googler. Given that I began this blog when I apparently did not care about my anonymity (actually I just wasn’t thinking), it is fairly easy to access when my name is googled. It sort of stifles what I say, and I have decided that I don’t want to be stifled anymore. I also don’t need potential employers to know how indecisive I am. Nor do I need future students to know about my real life. I also have two other blogs, hosted on different providers. I have made the effort to start transferring their information over to blogspot. It has not gone well – mainly because I procrastinate.
Anyway, if all goes according to plan, you can expect this blog to be under the new URL of

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

My Happy Place

It is incredibly cold outside, and I need a moment to rediscover my happy place.

Left: A beach in was warm :)

Right: Somewhere in was hot

Left: Lago Atitlan basicaly these places were hot, and at the time I was melting. Now I am kind of missing it. *sigh*

Cycling by the Bay

Winter has hit us again, and in a very not-nice sort of way. A weekend snowstorm has left us with snow drifts, and very icy winds. Now that the snow is over, we are left with frigid temperatures (-40 celsius with the wind chill). I’m not a huge fan of frostbite. Or winter. My ideal winter includes palm trees, tequila, and sunny beaches; I should be living in Mexico. The temperatures aren’t my complaint though. Noooo…Thunder Bay mentality is my complaint.

I applaud anyone who is concerned about the environment and is taking positive steps towards changing their life in a way to benefit the environment. I am keen on recycling (though I question how much material is truly recycled). I support reductions in emissions, and an overhauling of the forestry industry that would see the protection of forests (I’m sorry – but let’s think about this: clear cutting will eventually mean there are no trees left; we are stuck in immediate rewards, with little consideration of the future). Yes, given where I live, my views of forestry are somewhat controversial. I am concerned about mining, and am even more concerned about the prospects of raping the environment of all natural resources; I don’t care how “sustainable” mine development is – you cannot mine without some sort of impact. Again, a situation of short term gains, without long term consideration.

Ok, so while I do have concerns for the environment, I can also identify stupidity. While I understand the whole notion of cycling over motoring, I think there ought to be limits. Thunder Bay was not designed with cyclists in consideration. Our roads, even at the best of times, are seemingly dangerous places for bikes. So why, during a snow storm, and during the aftermath (when the roads are reduced in size, iced over, and generally hazardous) do cyclists feel the need to compete with motorists? We have public transit in this city – use it! Furthermore- if you truly feel the need to share the road with vehicles, then obey the laws! Yes, that means you can stop at the red lights too. Don’t suddenly decide to use the pedestrian crossing so that you can proceed through the intersection. Don’t run through the stop sign. Don’t ride two abreast. And I could go on.

In London, all cyclists wear yellow vests, helmets, have flashing head and tail lights, and are required to be well marked. And in Thunder Bay????
Hmmm….is that a cyclist up ahead? In the dark clothes? No lights? No reflectors? I think so….
Every now and then, when there is a fatality involving a cyclist, there is a public outcry regarding the lack of regard that the average driver has for bikers. Nothing is mentioned of the disregard that the majority of cyclists have for road laws in this city, nor is anything mentioned of their overall irresponsibility.

It blows me away that during horrendous weather (such as what we experienced this past weekend) cyclists will actually step out to compete on already dangerous roads. Oh and Lakeshore Drive – I understand that we don’t have public transit in Shuniah. If you want to live in the country, and do not want to drive, or do not own a vehicle, or do not have access to carpooling, I suggest that you take time to seriously consider whether or not you should live in the country. Unfortunately cars and trucks rule the road – I’m not saying its right, but that is the way it is. We are not Europe…our roads are not meant for cyclists and motorists to live harmoniously, and especially not during the winter. Rarely do you see motorcycles during the winter months – should that not be a prime indication to cyclists? Yes, I’m venting – but isn’t it time that road rules applied to everyone??!??!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Commercial

I have consumed a lot of caffeine during the past hour, and you will have to forgive me because my mind is vibrating. Luckily overdosing on caffeine has helped to dim last night’s hangover. At nineteen I was able to slug an ungodly amount of alcohol down my throat, and feel no ill effects in the morning (trust me, I tested this on a regular basis). If there was any latent discomfort it could be easily cured by greasy food. That was then. This is now. Now, the idea of eating a ton of grease makes me want to hurl. The larger issue – I can tolerate a fraction of the alcohol that I used to be able to. I can see I have work to do over the Christmas holidays.

Yep. Christmas. It’s officially the Christmas season. Actually I am fairly certain that it has been the “Christmas season” since sometime around Labour Day. It was fairly shocking that while the UK faced economic collapse, the solution was to begin Christmas in early October. Stores quickly threw up their decorations, moderately impressive sales were implemented, and Christmas music started to blare from speakers. This music is nauseating at the best of times – three solid months of it is downright cruel. And really…I’m not sure that this was the best approach to the Credit Crunch. Christmas is a fairly expensive time of year, and reminding consumers that they are financially destitute does not really seem very festive. Amidst daily reports of bank closures, bankruptcies, job losses and global financial meltdowns, reminding Mom & Dad that Johnny wants an Xbox, iPod, and Blackberry just finishes the gutting.

This year I am not doing Christmas – at least not in the conventional sense. I have no desire to decorate (and really, unless you have kids, or entertainment plans, why bother?), and I refuse to the gift thing. Oh yeah, I know; “The Spirit of the Season” is in gift giving. Not true. This is commercialistic idea, and I am sick of the commercialism of Christmas. I am tired of stores encouraging us to spend copious amounts of money on presents and trying to further the idea that love is somehow reflected by the amount of money that is spent on each individual. That is not the essence of Christmas. Johnny doesn’t need an Xbox. Suzy doesn’t need a new Blackberry Pearl. David doesn’t need the newest Nintendo. It shocks me when I see what parents purchase for their children. I realize that it is entirely the prerogative of the parent to do so – but let’s be realistic.

As you can tell by this blog, I work in schools, and have for almost a decade. It is time for parents to face the reality of their expensive gift giving habits. Firstly, I am absolutely shocked by what kids bring to school. Technology that is more expensive than I even wish to comprehend! Actually, I don’t even understand half of the technology that they show up with. Why these kids have these items at school is beyond me. But they do – and when these items go “missing”, teachers and support staff are left to deal with the consequences. I applaud the ever increasing number of schools banning many of these items from their halls. Here is the reality: kids are not little adults, and no matter how many times parents lecture their kids on the “value of money” (which most children hear as “blah blah blah”), and no matter how “mature”, “advanced”, or “understanding” Johnny is for his age, they are still kids. If parents saw how some of these items were treated while at school, they would likely be shocked too.

Oh but wait – here is what I love, and here is when you realize just how materialistic, dismissive and unappreciative our culture has become…oh yes…if you work in schools, you know what I am talking about…it’s the “My Parents Will Replace It” mentality. Ya. Who cares that the iPod is smashed? My parents will buy me a new one. Who cares that I dropped my entertainment system? We’ll go to the store later and replace it. This mentality is best reflected in how students now treat communal property.

I am of the Commodore 64 era. Yes, junky, boxy computers which were the biggest novelty of their time. We did not mess with those computers – we didn’t dare. Firstly, having a computer in the classroom was a HUGE deal! You didn’t dare do anything that cold possibly damage it – heck, you didn’t even touch it without supervision. If you were caught “messing” with it, there would be consequences! There was a hundred foot safe zone around those computers. For a brief time in the 80s, the computers were actually treated better than the students.
Now fast forward to 2008 – computers (including their value) have long been taken for granted by students. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is replaceable. If it breaks, buy a new one. As such, kids don’t think twice about tossing balls or other items in close proximity (and trust me, even in classrooms with excellent behaviour management it still happens!) and will more than willingly eat, drink and be merry around the classroom PC. It’s the prime indication of how far we have come.

So back to Christmas – I won’t be doing the whole Christmas stress thing this year. I see no point. I won’t be made to feel guilty for not spending overwhelming amounts of money (that I don’t have), and I won’t feel forced to create the “perfect Christmas”. But I will eat. Just because I have no intentions of overspending, I will definitely be enjoying a nice turkey dinner, with gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and whatever else is piled on to my plate – don’t think for a second that I will forgo that! HA!! But in all seriousness, Christmas as lost something in our culture – when I look around at the stressed out faces, and see the grimaces of pain each time a credit card is swiped, is it really worth it? Shouldn’t it just be about spending a nice day with your family, without being paid to do so? The beautiful gifts become the ultimate form of bribery, and maybe its time to see Christmas for what it has become. Sad, but true.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Trucks for Christmas

I'm not really a big fan of Christmas - its pretty commercialized now, and I refuse to feel the stress of the season. Even so, the one thing that I really enjoy going to is the yearly Truck Parade. I had great intentions of taking pictures of it this year. Unfortunately due to the extremely painful cold, and the fact that our truck died (so I couldn't warm up) I was stuck with this picture of McDonalds (ooooooh) taken through the truck window, and a couple blurry shots of trucks. Even so, the parade was awesome!! But cold.

Winter Wonderland...brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Winter has definitely reared its ugly head this year. The temperatures are already far below where I like them (ok, I’ll admit anything under 5 celsius is below what I deem acceptable) and we are definitely having a White Christmas. We have been incredibly spoiled during the past several years; snow has been late in coming, as has the incredibly cold weather – we’ve kind of become desensitized to the realities of living in the north. In the process of being spoiled, I had forgotten just how much I despise the northern winter. I am not a cold weather person. I like snow after it has freshly fallen; when the trees have that beautiful, clean coating, and the world is wonderland. Unfortunately this is short lived, and is generally replaced by brown ugliness. Therefore I could do without snow.
It has also again made me wonder what is worse? A UK winter (dark by 3:30pm, rain, cloudiness, etc) or a Northern Canadian winter (snow, cold, cold, cold). The one advantage to the Canadian winter is that we still receive a fair amount of sun. Thunder Bay also has the great luck of having daylight until 5pm. Hmm…it’s a difficult call. Somehow the answer seems more clearcut when I step out the door and am blasted by cold weather, whereby making it impossible to breath…but still…tough call…

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What Happend to Privacy?

I am a fairly private person – which makes the whole notion of this blog somewhat ironic. But as previously mentioned this blog is about the mapping of my sanity (or something like that). It often amazes me how open some individuals are. I am currently at Starbucks (big surprise, ya ya), but not my usual Starbucks. How Thunder Bay ended up with two Starbucks is beyond me (not including the Safeway’s versions). In a population that is slowly declining, in an economy that is struggling, high-end coffee-shops don’t really seem to make much sense. Tim Horton’s, the blue collar equivalent, thrives here. And rightly so – coffee is far less expensive, and the treats along with being less expensive, are far more sugary. Yet for some reason, Starbucks apparently does well too. Maybe is makes us feel a little bit more metropolitan and connected to the international community. I don’t really know, and that’s not really what I am here to write about.

Anyway – this whole privacy thing. There is presently a couple sitting across from me, engaged in a discussion. Loudly. I am wearing a headset, listening to another overrated British musician (don’t get me wrong, I actually like the music). It’s not that they are talking loudly – that doesn’t bug me – it is the nature of their conversation that is bugging me. And since they are talking so loudly, I am going to talk about it on my blog, because they obviously aren’t overly concerned about their privacy. The woman is discussing her past “issues” – mainly mother issues. She apparently has learned a great deal about herself in the past year, and learned that her mother is controlling her. She has finally figured out what is wrong with her, and where her issues stem from (apparently from her mother). And she is improving on her issues, and so on…the man nods periodically in response, a look of profoundness on his face. His body language screams, “Yes, I understand your dilemma…I am caring…your tits look great in that top….blah…”

Yesterday, again at Starbucks (my usual location), I was lucky enough to over hear a conversation regarding divorce. I use the term “overhear” loosely. I didn’t have to “overhear” it – it was public. These types of conversations are routine – the ones in which people feel obliged to share their personal distress – and usually their distress is pretty much a mood-kill. You can’t just sit their in your previously jovial state – it just seems rude. If you are with friends, you become sort of obliged to look miserable. And then it gets awkward. So much for discussing last night’s drunken antics – there is misery at the next table.

Periodically I encounter people who want to talk to me. They see me typing on my laptop, see that I’m alone, and want to engage me in conversation. In London, nobody ever wanted to talk. Here there is no consideration for the fact that I don’t want to be engaged. The problem isn’t that they want to talk – I don’t mind general conversation. I mind the type of conversation that I am privy to – people who want to discuss their personal lives (really personal), or unload their problems on to me. I am more than willing to listen to the problems of my friends; strangers are another issue all together. And it’s a mood-kill. For an hour a day I come to Starbucks to escape my head, and try to breath. Having someone take me from that, removes me from my momentary relief.

I know this might be rude; maybe it is the influence of London talking; but seriously…not everyone wants to know…not everyone wants to hear…and while I can appreciate that we all have problems, and situations beyond our control…and situations that weight heavily on our minds, not everything is meant to be shared. If you want to discuss your personal problems in public, please, do it quietly…that’s all I’m asking – have some moderate consideration for the rest of unhappy society.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

I don't bend that way! Really.

Periodically in life, you find yourself in those situations where you can have one of two responses: you can laugh…or you can cry. When I returned to Thunder Bay I decided that I wanted to start taking classes at one of our local gyms. I haven’t been in a gym in a couple of years. I used to have a gym membership – and it turned out to be great incentive for me to work out at home. Eventually I got rid of the membership.

I have started taking these gym classes as something to do, and to help me get out of my house. Things have changed since I took “gym classes” in high school…for instance, BOSU? What in the world is BOSU? You can also take BOSU lite (appropriately spelled incorrectly), just in case you aren’t ready for regular BOSU. Add on every specialized stretch class humanly possible (they now offer classes targeted to specific muscle groups – apparently I go to the gym for an anatomy lesson). Oh and “spinning” – do you realize that I thought a spin class actually meant spinning in circles? Little did I know it is just a fancy term for stationary bikes. Ooooh ahhhh. And mental note – any class that has “challenging” in the description, really is, and is best avoided. Unless you are really hardcore about working out, and that is simply crazy.

So on Monday I decided to take one of these classes, mainly because it didn’t have “challenging” listed in the description. It was a dance class. Ok it was a ballet class (yes and if you know me, you can interject your laughter here). And during this dance class, my instructor gets herself into this cute, intricate pose that involved having her head touching the floor while her legs were spread eagle, and arms outstretched and I really could go on. What was appalling was that she expected the rest of us to follow her lead! Again, this class was not listed as “challenging”. It was at that point that I realized that there is a difference between the body of an 18 year old and the body of a 28 year old (though I’m not sure that I could have done this pose a decade ago). I could have cried (I wanted to, especially after I felt every muscle in my body protested my attempts at replicating the pose), but instead I laughed – out loud. I think I may have also thrown in a “You want me to do what?!?! HA!”.

Two days later my body is still writhing in pain. I would like to think that my muscles are inflexible due to the type of exercises that I do. Probably not, but mental conditioning is part of working out. Needless to say I will go through the ordeal again. I mean, my muscles are already hurting, so why not condition them to appreciate the pain? Or condition them to be flexible? I’m just saying…you can either laugh or cry; and that’s what life is all about.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lessons to London

Two weeks back in the Bay, and as far out in left field as ever. I don’t know if it is to my advantage that I still feel displaced. Usually, when you return from a vacation, or time abroad, it takes you a couple of days to get back into your schedule. Yes, you pine for the experience, but life goes on again. It is inevitable.

My life isn’t going on….

Maybe it was because I was not vacationing; maybe it was because I went with the intent to stay, but I am not readjusting to my life. I am in limbo, and am moderately displaced. London was my independence, my career, and my ambition. Home is my safety net, in which I can hide from all challenges. This time though, the challenge is in being home. Honestly, I am OK with the displacement at the moment – that is what keeps me motivated to return. I am continually asked- why not teach in Thunder Bay? Ontario? Canada? Closer to home? etc etc etc. That is where people miss the point. If I am going to teach, I want the full experience. I want to live on my own, in a place completely separated from Thunder Bay, have the career, and the independence. God, I want my independence. I want to say that I can cope with change, experience what most people only dream of, and be the person that I thought I was.

I am still kicking myself for coming back here. I made the mistake of letting my emotions govern my head, in a moment of weakness. I should have just gone out and signed with another agency. But then, there was that substantial financial risk – I could still be sitting in London with moderate amounts of work. And stressing about it; so much stress! Instead, I disrupted my transition by returning here, which in retrospect I should not have done. Why? Because when I go back, I will have to start from emotional scratch again – right?

The past year has posed many challenges, and yet I am not sure I am any further ahead. Maybe in personal growth (if you want to look at it from a teacher’s perspective!! HA HA HA). It has been a year since I decided to loose my university weight. I still have a bit to go, but that has been moderately successful, yet an emotional rollercoaster ride. I can’t say that I’ve particularly enjoyed it (but that is a whole separate blog entry!). Then there was Banbury. Oh Banbury….what can be said about that? I wasn’t ready for Banbury – I made so many mistakes in deciding to go. Aside from taking a terrible contract, I emotionally wasn’t ready. So disassociated from my decision was I, that I rushed into a decision with no prior knowledge. Is that not the basis of teaching? Prior knowledge, scaffolding, etc. I know the buzz terms and yet, I do not live by them. So what brought me to Banbury – the realization that I was suddenly hitting an age in which I am supposed to have answers. Suddenly I needed to have my career, be moved out of my family home, have a direction, and have the future all figured out. Leap first…

I was far from ready for Banbury though. I was so scared about weight (sad, but true), money, my career decision, etc. Add all of the apprehension and uncertainty and Banbury was on route for a cataclysmic crash. Under the right circumstances (or mentality) I could have made the bad contract work out. I tried to change my life overnight (and still remain emotionally detached from it) and that does not happen.

And so back to Thunder Bay I went. And I was OK when I got here. I expected to have a crash when I returned, but I did not. I went on living, although still detached from my life. I did not really think too much about Banbury, and yet debated myself on a daily basis. And over time, as I numbed Banbury, I realized that I wanted to return to England and try again. Wait…no…it wasn’t nearly so romantic as it sounds. One day I woke up and realized that I needed to either sh*t or get off the pot (that is the expression, after all) and decided to stop debating myself, and go back to England. I wasn’t disassociated from this decision; I had every emotion possible.

And then came London. Moving is always a difficult task; for some reason it is harder when there is an ocean between you and home. That “home will always be there” mentality doesn’t really help. No matter how you try to convince yourself that “home is merely a plane ride away”, it is still an incredibly lonely experience. You have two options – either let that loneliness consume you, or force yourself to integrate with society. I let my loneliness consume me – initially. Sometimes you forget about that lag-time – you know what I mean; the time between continual upheaval and settling. Moving to London was a huge upheaval, and settling seemed like a distant illusion. Then arises the larger problem (and I did discuss this while in London) – integrating your home life with your present life. Two lives? No I’m not crazy (much).

When you try to establish a new life, completely separated from your familiarity, you begin to see your old life slipping away. You start to worry about your old life forgetting you. I had this plan that I could lessen the blow by staying well connected to home (technology, you see!). I don’t think that is a good solution though – by staying in constant contact with home you actually impede yourself from adapting to your new environment. Or integrating yourself with it. You begin to realize how far removed you are. It becomes harder to function, and eventually it gets harder to breathe. The only answer to all of this? Establish a happy median, in which you stay connected, but gradually lessen the connection.

I have been fortunate; I have had people who have come with me on this bumpy ride. Through the weight loss, Banbury, London, the Thunder Bay Fallout (that’s what we shall call it from here on). My Mom mainly, a couple of friends who have heard me ponder, breakdown, rise up, break back down, and remained fairly tolerant of my indecisiveness. I have made no secret of my commitment issues, but there comes a point that you have to commit to something. It is the same point at which you also realize that you need to move on with your life. So back to the original point of this entry – why am I not teaching closer to home? Because I want to experience life, and it is time for me to leave the safety net and establish my own independence. It is easier said than done, right? I just hope that as long as I maintain this displacement, I will continue with my desire to return.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thunder Bay Stagnate

Guess where I am? HA! Ya, Starbucks. Guess what I should be doing? Yup…my thesis. I have this amazing mental block when it comes to my thesis. I see the end result, but I have trouble focussing on it. I know what needs to get done, but for some reason I look at it like a prison term. Or like the flu. You know when you are sick, and can’t leave the house? That is what my thesis makes me feel like; like I am sick and cannot leave house. It is some sort of punishment. The worst part about this punishment is that I inflicted myself with it.

I have started the inevitable job hunt. In typical fashion, I have remembered that I hate customer service. No – not customer service, per se; I hate having to deal with a**holes (Leanne has a fight or flight mentality and unfortunately fight is the usual response). When challenged by students, I tend not to care, and can slough it off. When confronted with b*tching customers (adults) it is another story. Yet, I like to work in adult worlds; unfortunately those worlds are within academia, and research – logical places, where I can deal with people in some logical fashion. In customer service the individuals who are the craziest have absolutely no logic. Or at least, no developed sense of rationalization.

When I came home I realized that I needed to remember what drove me into education. And little by little I am having those glimmers of insight. Aside from the financial and vacation incentives, there was something more that brought me into teaching. Ok, teaching still isn’t one of those long term aspirations. But here it is – I think the reason that I have trouble committing to teaching is because of the homework. University killed the desire to bring work home with me at the end of the day. And here is the thing – I push myself (believe me I do, even if the past few months haven’t been a reflection of that!). A job that should take an hour ends up taking three. I am also fearful of screwing up students. What if I teach the information wrong? What if I don’t have the answer? Yes and I realize that most teachers don’t really have the answers.

Every day, as I am confronted by the reality of being back here, I can’t wait to get back to England. I want to go back to teaching, and want to try different schools. And take a contract. Of my available career options, teaching is the best one going. And maybe that is how people arrive at their careers – they evaluate what they have open to them, and decide which option is the least of the perceived evils. Of my available options, teaching is the least of the evils.
Oh and as for the title of this blog – if you are wondering why it is still London Lost, when I’m not longer in London…I am still London Lost – and the day I change it is the day that I give up on going back. Right now, I am not giving up because when I do, I will be reaffirming my complacency.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

London Rebounding

I have been fairly lazy when it has come to posting my blog entries. While in London, I would periodically write entries ahead of time (I really had nothing to do!) which is why there are several posted today (prewritten and unposted stuff). Today’s entry is really a today entry though! I am back at Starbucks, buzzing on an assortment of caffeinated beverages, and thankful that my spell check can spell caffeinated because I can’t. To drown out the surrounding conversations, I have Duffy blaring out of my headset. No. You don’t really blare Duffy; call Duffy my newly formed English addiction. Playing Warwick Avenue, I can close my eyes, and be transported back to London; running through Victoria Station (that song was ALWAYS playing in Victoria Station). Wait. Sitting alone at Starbucks, on a Saturday night, writing blog entries and listening to Duffy? Am I still in London?!?!?!? No.

What should I be doing? Reading my thesis. Yes, I had completed part of it – 30 pages on the history of mass bison kills on the Great Plains. It is boring as h*ll. As you will read to the left - university stifles creativity, and kills the writing abilities of the average individual. My thesis is a testament to that very point. You can ignore these statements if you are one of the people who I will be *politely* asking to proofread my thesis. If in the coming months you are faced with an in-person or email request from me, asking if you would like to read what I have written, then my thesis is highly intriguing and will seek to answer those longstanding, life altering questions. You will be gripped. I will also be providing caffeinated beverages and sugary snacks to make the task seem less arduous. Promise. If you are already bored by my blog entries, I promise that my thesis will make up for it.

Oh wait…hang on…need to check the ITV website in England to see who has been voted out of X Factor…..Rachel…hmmm…

OK so I am digressing. Where I have I been this past week? In short- sleeping, moping, thinking, etc. I made the mistake of ignoring my email. Sorry – but Leanne needed to descend into her misery; sometimes it’s a trip best taken alone. This past week has been emotional – I thought that I was inconvenienced in London; I was mistaken. The temptation to return is overwhelming, and I will. Unfortunately I can’t do it tomorrow, as I would like. There is no point in going back already – I doubt there will be steady work heading into Christmas. I need to finish my thesis, and say that I at least accomplished something in this return. No – that’s not the only thing that I need to accomplish; I need to learn to let go of this place. It’s a hard reality to sit in a place that you chose to return to, and realize that you don’t belong there. And I don’t anymore – Thunder Bay has nothing to offer me. I keep arriving at that conclusion, but have difficulty in accepting it. Really my life here is no different than it was in London; it’s just less interesting; I can’t just go down the block to escape. I am still lonely here; I still seek to find ways to entertain myself; I am still contributing to Starbucks to fight my loneliness. The big difference? I have less independence here; I don’t have my anonymity. There comes a point that you realize that you need to live your life. At the expense of my sanity, I will do just that.

I can’t say its all bad being in Thunder Bay though. My familiarity is here; Mom, friends, and dogs. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all pursue? Familiarity. Unfortunately in my pursuit of familiarity I am screwing myself. Ya, I said it. I am screwing myself. I would love to live in a place with fresh air for the rest of my life. Stay in a city of 100,000 people, that poses no challenges to get around. I know where everything is. I know how things work here. And it is at the point that you realize you are stagnating and becoming highly anal. Short of becoming a professional writer (and after my thesis is completed, that will be a seriously doubtful career choice) there isn’t one career aspiration that I have that would allow me to remain here.

And what exactly are my proposed career aspirations? Ultimately – to find a job that I love. This is a difficult time to be finding a career though. You know that Credit Crunch/Crisis thingy that the media is so eager to discuss? Well it has ramifications on jobs. Unfortunately the world is sinking into unemployment. The necessary job skills and qualifications are changing – it is a cr*ppy time to be in your twenties or thirties and just starting out in life. Ten years ago, when I started university, I think there was a greater hope. Unfortunately things change over the course of a decade.

In Thunder Bay I am qualified to work in places like Old Navy, Walmart, etc. Reality has it, that I actually can’t afford to work in those places – seriously – I would have to declare bankruptcy, and I am trying my damnedest not to. I have contemplated the one-year Masters of Journalism at Western. I would love to write professionally, and pursue hard hitting stories in the Middle East. Exactly. I can’t stay in Thunder Bay to work for the Associated Press. I am presently applying to Liverpool’s Masters of Science in International Human Resource Management. Ya. INTERNATIONAL Human Resources – can’t stay here for that either. I have pondered International Aid and Development in Africa – nope…Thunder Bay isn’t an option. How about teaching? Nope, not even with teaching can I stay in Thunder Bay. What does it all mean? I am going to have to accept that I am going to be inconvenienced and that I need to let go.

Two days ago I filled out a job application for a clothing company. One of the questions in the application asked “Why do you a desire a position with *COMPANY* and what are your career aspirations?”. I know what this question means – it is the moment at which the applicant gets to kiss some *ss. The question should be answered: “I want a job with your company because I absolutely adore your clothing, and feel that I could provide a positive contribution to your team. It is my goal to stay with the company in the hopes that I excel, and continue to grow.” Leanne is past the point in her life where she wants to bullsh*t her way to a job. Here is my ego – but I just can’t make myself drip for minimum wage employment anymore. Do you really think that I am aspiring to work for minimum wage? Is that why I went to university for ten years? I will gladly take a job for minimum wage, and generally I have always worked in customer service; I’m just saying, be realistic. Needless to say I didn’t kiss *ss on that application, and I won’t get a phone call. Next week, when I’m over my ego and reacquaint myself with reality, I will scrap the degrees from my resume and brown nose my way to a job. Fall from grace. And you know what? Realization is far easier that implementation.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

London Departing to Return

Morning came far too early today – 4:30 am to be exact. In my continuing UK-inspired health woes I have the onset of a cold. This brings back memories of an ill fated trip to the Dominican. Presently I am seated in London’s Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight back to Canada. A week ago going home seemed like the promised land; today it is something that I greet with mixed emotions. I was finally finding my groove here – but would I have found it had I not booked my return? Hard to say. Booking my return allowed me to relax and live. Maybe in the future I should travel with an open-ended ticket (less commitment!! HA!) Yet the decision to go back isn’t all bad – going back is helping me to face those life issues that I have long avoided. Facing reality, it is necessary to go home to come back. Yes, I will put myself through this ordeal again, but next time I will have less uncertainty, a better plan, and possibly the knowledge that I can be independent. Now hopefully I don’t loose perspective when I get home – seriously, swift kick in the *ss if I do – volunteers, anyone??

London Tourists

Another rainy day in London. I have come to realize that I am not sure what I dread more – a Canadian winter or a UK winter. In Canada it is cold, and the wind burns your skin. A fresh coating of snow can be beautiful, but when spring comes and it starts to melt – well, it is just ugly (and muddy). In the UK, the rains and impending darkness are a bit depressing. In both countries, I end up with the wet pant legs (ha ha ha ya I know). Luckily in London I doubt I will end up with salt stains eating my clothing. Maybe I need to move south?
I think I have finally figured out the despondence of the average Londoner – it boils down to tourism. This city is overrun by tourists, and I have come to realize that in order to get anywhere you must put on a blank expression to avoid being asked for directions, asked for help, or a sundry of other questions. Also, due to the fact that tourists need to stop every five feet to take a picture, you run the risk of getting nowhere. Oh and about pictures - I am sick of tourists who need to pose in front of every bloody building possible! How many pictures do you need of yourself? Surely I would never do that (ignore the picture to the left!). I have reached the point, that like the average Londoner, I kind of stare blankly ahead of me, so that I do not feel obligated to sidestep picture-taking tourists. Oh yes, I know – I have spent plenty of time as a tourist, and understand the plight of the average tourist. But really, I am now starting to sympathize with the plight of the Londoner!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

London Lost Her Umbrella

During my time in the UK, I have always been perplexed by umbrellas. Initially I was curious as to why I never saw an umbrella, and then suddenly it would start to rain, and hundreds of umbrellas would appear as if out of nowhere. Eventually from experience, I realized that most people carry big enough bags to properly conceal them. Then I found humour in the locations that sold umbrellas. Going bra shopping? Guaranteed you will also be able to buy an umbrella. Going grocery shopping? Buy an umbrella at the checkout. Going to your local Boots? Make sure you pick up an umbrella next to the tampon display.

My umbrella, bright and colourful (not the standard British black) has now made at least two trips across the Atlantic. I am sorry to say that it will be retired when I leave London. I have come to realize that North American umbrellas are not designed to withstand British weather. This umbrella has been the source of much frustration. As soon as a light wind picks up, it flips inside out, so that it collects water rather than deflects it. Due to this problem, it is now coming unlaced from the hinges. When I am forced to pull it out of my bag, which is daily, I am embarrassed by it’s tattered state. In fact, I am at the point that when it rains, I would rather walk in the rain then have to contend with it. It has served its purpose, though only briefly. Next time I will be investing in a proper British version. Thanks for the memories my cr*ppy Canadian umbrella.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

London Lost & Maybe Found

Life is funny at times – just when you think you know what you are doing, or where you are going, everything changes. I keep trying to remind myself that I need to return to Thunder Bay in order to move on. And yet for as excited as I was at the prospect of returning home, a little voice keeps reminding me that it is really a bad decision. But I have to go, don’t I? Finish the thesis. Apply to grad school. Figure out life and finish what I started. But the true necessity is that I finish what I started in the UK, and to do that I have to finish what I started at home. I have to come back and I will. Periodically I wonder how people can claim that their lives have been changed in a week, a month or even a year. But something has changed during this experience in London. That underlying feeling that I am ready to move on with my life has finally taken seed. Does that mean that it will go according to plan when I return to Canada? Knowing me – not likely. I worry that when I am confronted by my comfort zone and convenience I will start to take steps backwards. It can’t be so – if I start to stagnate or move backwards, someone is going to have to give me a swift kick in the *ss. Things have changed, and that is good. It’s time to embrace some sort of commitment. This time I will actually miss what I am leaving, whereas last time I was so truly relieved to get out. I don’t want to leave England and go back to my mundane existence (I feel like a 4 year old "I don't wanna go!" stomp stomp stomp). If only I could have seen this a week ago. Its time, isn’t it?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Sex, German and Alcohol

Like clockwork, Friday has arrived again. Amazing how that happens, isn’t it? Could a week have already passed since my dungeon-esque experience?

As I am staying in a hostel, and I have to get up early, I do most of my “primping” in the hallway outside of the room. Careful not to disturb anyone’s beauty sleep, I spend my mornings displaced. This morning, while sitting on the stairs applying my makeup, I happened to catch an early morning show. Ok, rather I heard an early morning show. Obviously the rooms next to the bathrooms are doubles. Needless to say, I sat there, rather uncomfortable, while a woman expressed her appreciation for her boyfriend. While blow drying my hair, a man staggered out of the room, in a deep post-coital flush, looking highly surprised to see me.

He looks at me… “You realize that hair dryer is loud. I thought something was going on out here in the hall.”
I looked at him, slightly amused (obviously he did not realize that I had overheard his morning romp).
“Really? I apologize that my hair dryer is loud. I was merely trying to block out the sound of your girlfriend.”

Truthfully I didn’t end with the last bit, but I was really tempted. I was just so surprised that he was complaining to me about my hair dryer, when he and his girlfriend could have competed with an orchestra. Needless to say, later in the day when several of my students were mimicking sex noises, I immediately started to laugh. Oh, and for the record – he appears to be a Two Minute Man (if you know what I mean).

Today was another thrilling day of behaviour management. In my never ending pursuit of classes that I should never teach, I would like to add German to the list. How I ended up teaching German is beyond me – but I did. My students quickly realized that my German is limited to “do you speak German?” and swear words. I did try and read the course manual, but that really didn’t help.

“Miss, if we fail the exam, it is going to be because of this lesson and because you can’t speak German. I am complaining to my mother.”
“You go right ahead, and I will mention to your mother that you are going to fail because you are a lazy complainer, who has done absolutely nothing since arriving in class. And since I have also taught you in other classes, I will mention that you are about as useful as a third tit in your other classes, as well”

Ok, again I did not say that. But sometimes it is so tempting.

I also had the opportunity to confiscate a mobile phone. This led to drama, but such is life in an all-girls school. The girl who’s phone I confiscated gave me a fair amount of lip.

Several voices popped up throughout the room: “Miss, it is entirely inappropriate how she is talking to you.”
“Really? You should have thought about that five minutes ago when you were speaking to me in the same manner.”
You just have to love the blame game.

Two periods of German led into two periods of French. Luckily I am workable in French. We survived.

Finally, my day culminated with a Product Development class. Truthfully, by this point, I was so tired I didn’t really care. As long as there was paperwork on every desk, and the perception that work was occurring, I wasn’t going to argue.

After work, I stopped by my agency to file my pay sheet and say my good byes. And to promise that I would be back next year after my thesis is finished. After a rather large glass of wine, I also promised that I would be willing to take a long-term contract next year. Seeing that I was willing target (a drunk and willing target) they asked if I would help them do some promotional work at a career fair in my hometown. Sure?!?! Why not!??!?!?! Give me alcohol, and I’ll give you the world.

As I left the school today, I did feel a pang of sadness. I am not ready to leave England, but realize I have to. Right now, still blissfully buzzed from the wine, I am content. Packing up is such an inconvenience. Having to readjust to home life is an inconvenience. And I hate inconvenience.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

On Figuring and Finding

Since I arrived in London, I have made an almost-daily pilgrimage to a Starbucks near Victoria Station. It is at Starbucks that I generally work on my blog entries, surf the internet and indulge in my coffee addiction. It has also been at Starbucks that I have pondered by predicaments and future. In that time, I have seen the same man, who apparently does the same thing that I do. Except that he is doing formal work, and I’m just d*cking around. Tonight, after nearly 6 weeks, he finally smiled at me – one of those knowing smiles of mutual understanding. We both come here for the same reason – there are people here, and it fills the void of loneliness. If this experience has taught me anything, the lesson is centered around familiarity. Familiarity is important and comfortable. Home is familiar, and highly comfortable and an easy solution to overcome the uncertainty.

An interesting thing happened to me today. I went to Greenwich to seek out the Prime Meridian. Yes, I realize that you don’t actually “seek out” an invisible line. There is no bump on the ground, and nobody has carved a trench to indicate its existence. Due to the rain, I only ventured as far as Greenwich Park. Looking at the map, I found the point at which I perceived the line to run through, and trudged over to it. Anyone who is interested in science, geography, geology, etc is interested in these invisible lines. I’m pretty sure I got there, and yet I don’t really care if I did. At some point today, I know I crossed the mark from which time is based. Basically, when you run out of things to see in London, you see the things that are out of the way – and that is why I went to Greenwich. I have seen Big Ben and the Parliament buildings more than I wish (they were on my nightly workout circuit), and Buckingham Palace, Leicester Square, etc become a bit repetitive.

While in Greenwich I was struck by the loneliness that has been overcoming me for the past 5 weeks. Nobody to share the experience with, nobody to talk with – it becomes disheartening. I started to worry about the future, my education, money (ok, mainly debt), and relationships. How can I make everything work? How will I overcome this? Questions without answers. I keep arriving back at this thought – I do not want to leave England. Needless to say, by the time I left Greenwich I was fairly depressed, and nearly in tears (I still haven’t developed the British “Stiff Upper Lip” and doubt I ever will!). Having to cross through unfamiliar territory in London took me out of my zone of familiarity.

What is interesting about this? As soon as I arrived back at Victoria Station and in Pimlico, I was relaxed again. I was back to my familiar point. The uncertainty had disappeared, and I knew where I was. Suddenly I was back to thinking positively about the future, and remembering the necessity to live one day at a time. And that is when it hit me – I can make this work. If I could commit to actually renting a flat, get a bed of my own to sleep in, and have somewhere to unpack, I could do this. The problem is committing to commitment, and I have issues with that.

I have previously talked about the necessity of living one day at time. Unfortunately I stopped doing that – I kept returning to long-term scales of time. That makes time a cumbersome issue, and that is what eventually leads me to crack. I want all of the solutions now, not a month from now. I don’t now how I will make my education prospects work, nor do I know how I am going to repay my debt, nor do I know how I’m going to make things work in terms of relationships. But time will tell, won’t it? Nothing can be solved or undone overnight, and I keep forgetting that. What happens when I go home? I have a thesis to finish – that is my first priority. I have to apply to graduate school – the second priority. I need to rediscover what pulled me into teaching, and then take the contract that will give me my future. I need to face the reality that without teaching, I don’t have much of a future. I need to deal with the issues I have committing to life, and then deal with the feelings that keep pulling me home. Going home to an economically and employment deprived city does not solve my problems – in fact, it increases my problems tenfold. I need to overcome my necessity for comfort, and convenience and become the person I am. I need to bank money and pay down some bills.

A few days ago I spoke with a Canadian teacher who has been here for over a year. I asked her when she is returning home; she said “I’m going home at Christmas – sometimes you just need to go back for a bit.” And that is the truth – find your way here, but home is always home, and you can always go back for a visit.

What does all of this mean? I will be back. Am I crazy to try again? Probably. Some might even say I need some sort of counselling, and they would be right. But it has taken me ten years to get through university, and get it right – I will keep trying this until I get it right. Banbury left me scrambling for answers; London has left me with realization. Right now I need to go home and finish what it is I started, and answer the questions that I have had on my mind for the past several years – that is the only way I will ever be able to finish or conquer this.

Oh and as for Greenwich – really liked it. It was nice to do something moderately touristy for an afternoon. It was quiet and quaint, and I was momentarily able to forget the hustle and bustle of Central London. The park was a nice break from the over populated parks that I have wandering through for the past several weeks. Now if only they could fix that whole rain problem…

But really, the point to this – I will be back. Just be patient and so will I.

London Polite

Periodically, what strikes me about London, and maybe all British people, is their politeness. No – wait – let me rephrase. The average person isn’t outwardly polite; maybe because the average person doesn’t talk. What strikes me though is the apologetic way in which signs are written. For instance, in case of smoking:

“Due to laws, you are unable to smoke in this area. We apologize and ask that you not smoke. Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.”

In North America this is what you would see:

“No smoking”. Period. Nothing else.

At the laundrette that I go to, a sign hangs above the washers:
“We politely ask you to refrain from consuming alcohol in the laundrette. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”

A comparable North American sign would read:
“Alcohol not allowed.” Simple. End of story.

In terms of litter, London has asked that:

“You please not litter, and please put your rubbish into a properly marked bin.” Polite.

In North America the equivalent would read:

“$500 fine for littering” Not polite, and with a threat.

When it comes to construction, particularly street construction, you see carefully placed signs that ensure the safety of the average pedestrian. Case in point, directly outside of my hostel, the sidewalk (footpath) has been excavated. And I do mean excavated – what remains is a rather substantial bottomless hole. Surrounding that hole is a carefully placed barricade (which is about 3 feet tall). Next to that barricade is a sign that shows pedestrians the proper place in which to walk. This is just in case a careless, or rather stupid individual should accidently climb the four foot barricade, whereby falling into the hole, causing severe injury to themselves. With the sign, all doubt is cast aside; you know that climbing the barricade will result in pain or death. That is polite.

In North America – there would be pylons…maybe a barricade…but still potential to fall into the hole. And any idiot who misses the pylons and barricades deserves to.

So really, all I am saying is that at the heart of it all, the British are careful about inconveniencing people. Even with all of my complaints about London, I kind of like that.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Makeup & Pregnancy Tests

Today I returned from the classroom, to be greeted by a very friendly Australian, who is currently cohabitating in the same room. Exhausted from her travels throughout the UK, she quickly asked me:
“Do you like London? I don’t really like it here.”
My response: “It’s not my favourite place in the world.”
“It’s just so unfriendly!” she responded, with some relief.
I smiled knowingly. “Everyone here is just sad…”…and some days, that is what it feels like.

I spent another glorifying day in the classroom. Yes, a touch of sarcasm. I am exhausted and my feet ache. I am still not used to the idea of teaching in heals – grin and bear it, right?

My day was comprised of four periods of science and one period of English. Truthfully English should have been a breeze; it’s a subject that I actually enjoy (mainly because it doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and as long as you can muster some sort of abstract thought, it is a doable subject; plus I spend most of my time in abstract thought!). English as it turned out, was hell. What should have been a thrilling period of watching the DiCaprio-Danes version of Romeo & Juliet, turned into a classroom management nightmare. My classroom quickly transformed into a make shift beauty school – at one point I was actually gagging on the perfume. I do not know why teenage girls believe that makeup looks best when it is caked in suppressive layers, but I would like to say that the Year 10 class is singlehandedly keeping Revlon, Rimmel (etc) in business. I am actually impressed by their over-the-top beauty skills. I would fall over if I had that much weight and pressure applied directly to my face. Luckily the amount of hair product that they apply apparently keeps them upright.

Frustrated by the makeup situation I asked another teacher:
“What do you do about the makeup situation? It is beginning to irritate me.”
The teacher…a young man…looked at me just as helplessly.
“Well…ya…basically it is up to the forum tutor to make sure that it is confiscated.”
“Huh. That’s helpful.”
His answer was a knowing smile.

Science posed other challenges. I had what was described as a “difficult” class. Luckily the “difficult” class had a practical assignment. The assignment was fairly basic – take your temperature with a thermometer.

“Miss, these themometers look like pregnancy tests.”
I hadn’t actually noticed the similarity. Furthermore I am concerned that a 15 year old girl was so quick to point out the similarity.
We soon realized that there were not enough tests…thermometers to go around…

“Miss, I will go and ask Mr.HeadofDepartment for some more pregnancy tests.”
“That’s a good idea. Please refrain from calling them pregnancy tests to his face.”

Today I decided that it was time to answer one of my more perplexing questions. Many of the girls have their boyfriend’s names written on their hands…I love Johnny…Dave + Suzy forever. Even at 15 I never felt the inspiration to etch a boy’s name into my hand. So I ask:
“If I write my boyfriend’s name on my hand, does that make it official?”
Naturally, I received a bunch of blank stares.
“Miss, what do you mean?”
“Well I have noticed that most girls have their boyfriend’s names written on their hands. Is that some way of making it official? Should I do the same?”
“Oh Miss, its just silly to write your boyfriend’s name on your hand.”
I am still clueless.

I will say that there are various topics that I do not like to hear about in my class. Unfortunately working in an all-girls school comes with a certain amount of drama. As a cover teacher there are various things that I do not want to hear about. Sex and alcohol are two of those topics that I prefer to not have discussed in my presence. Though, I am shocked by the knowledge of thirteen and fourteen year old students. Please keep it out of my classroom – at 28 there are things that I don’t want to know. Periodically I feel tempted to stagger across the field that separates the girl’s school from the boy’s school – surely there can’t be as much drama in a boy’s school. I do have a theory about the makeup though – I have realized that at break the girls must go and press their faces up against the chain-link fence and ogle the boys. In order to diminish the appearance of the chainlink imprints, they are forced to reapply their makeup - repeatedly.

Finally, much to my delight, the student who I had shove me on Monday was back in my class today. I initially felt sympathy for her on Monday – felt that she had been provoked. Apparently it does not take much to provoke her. In fact, all it took was my asking her to complete her assignment. She didn’t shove me though :-p I suppose that is one feather in my cap.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

London Fart Factor

London is one of those cities that you either love or hate. I will admit – my passion for London isn’t really over the top. I like to visit the city, check out a few sights, do a bit of shopping, eat – but that’s about the only excitement that I find in London. In terms of actually living here, I am not a fan (obviously). Trying to carry on a conversation on my mobile phone is literally impossible. Amidst the traffic, blaring horns, and surrounded by hundreds of others screaming into their mobile phones, doesn’t exactly help relay a conversation. Actually, that is even if you can hear your mobile phone ring. It drives me crazy that every person has their mobile set to the highest ring volume – but the reality is, in order for it to be heard above the constant noise, it is necessary. I still do not have the finely tuned hearing to actually hear my phone ring in London. I generally miss calls. Which in some ways is alright, because I am not someone who enjoys being glued to my phone. In my ideal world, mobile phones would cease to exist. Nothing irritates me more than the ring of a mobile during a quiet dinner in a restaurant. Shut it off! You don’t need to be connected all the time (unless it is life or death, then I will make an excuse).

I would like to call the noise in London the “fart factor”. Yes, you read that correctly. In the majority of cities you would never dare to publicly fart – it is rude. People would hear. You just don’t do it. I have come to realize that here in London, you can fart without ever being heard. And if you move quickly enough, you can never be pointed out as the guilty party. When you have hundreds of people surrounding you at any given time, it is impossible to determine who farted. Have I tested this theory? You bet. I’m Leanne, and that’s what I do. Find small things to amuse myself. So – to reiterate – the noise in London is so great, that it is possible to publically fart without being heard. That should be printed in a pamphlet to promote the city. Can’t you imagine the crowd that it would draw??

Monday, 10 November 2008

When you come full circle...

I have just finished another day in the classroom – albeit completely exhausted! I moved into the hostel yesterday, and though I did have the potential for a decent night’s sleep, stress kept me up for most of the night. The last 72 hours have been highly tumultuous, thanks to 2 moves, two nights in a dungeon, and facing the prospect of living in the armpit of five other girls in a 6-bed dorm. I must say I was highly displeased to find that the “secure” baggage room at the hostel, had been emptied of all bags, which were then left haphazardly in the hall. So much for security…and so much for storing a bag.

In the past couple of days I have come to the realization that I need to figure out what to do with my life. It is a catch-22. Let me start by saying that I do not want to leave England. I want to stay. Unfortunately, the underlying reality that I do not want to teach, is a continuing issue that I must face. As such, I have begun the process of returning to Canada. What does this mean exactly? Does this mean that I won’t return to the UK? No. Not at all. I have realized that under the right circumstances, and in the correct profession, I could be happy here. Unfortunately there are too many variables that are contributing to my misery.

In the process of deciding what to do, I have finally contacted my thesis advisor. Yes, it is time. I need to clear those two classes that have been weighing heavily on my mind for the past three (yes, 3) years. Why haven’t I finished them? I took a detour into education! Do I regret that? Not so much. In the long run, I am sure that having an Ed. degree will be somehow beneficial to my future pursuits. Whether it be in handling individuals, dealing with stressful situations, I figure there must me some sort of benefit to the degree. Financially, yes I do regret the degree; but again, maybe in the future it will pay off.

Part of what has spurred this on, is my discovery of the online-Masters-degree option. The University of Liverpool offers two online degrees in Business. The real benefit is that a student can take up to six years to complete the course. This is a good option. Again though, I must complete my undergraduate thesis in order to pursue this sort of an option. Why business? There are jobs in business. I need to be in an adult driven world. I realize that teachers are fulfilled by the idea of inspiring students – and there was a time that I was too. Unfortunately I have lost the desire. Maybe too much time has been spent listening to teachers who speak negatively of the profession. Or maybe my years of working in schools has shown me another side to the profession – the side that I do not wish to indulge in. Does this mean that I will never teach again? No. It means that right now, it isn’t for me.

Today I taught five periods of science. I can say that I was completely lost in one of them – upper level chemistry. I have not taken a chemistry class in 12 or so years and it definitely wasn’t one of my strong subjects. Luckily the other four periods were in biology related subjects – I understood them. Today a student shoved me, much to the excitement of the class (not happy excitement, but it involved drama so they were keen). This led to the great concern among several teachers and heads of department – oh – and paperwork. And apologies. And concern from a supervisor who was worried that I was hurt or would quit the profession on the spot (ironic, isn’t it?). I do not believe that the student intended to shove me, or at least that is what I reported. I did not freak out, or get angry – I was more concerned about the student who took the action. I put on a stern appearance for the sake of the other students (I can’t be perceived as being indifferent to the situation) but truthfully, I just wasn’t overly bothered. Obviously I can’t go into great detail, but such is life.

Aside from this drama, I spent another day responding to Canada questions:

“Miss, what is Canada like?”
“Miss, what is school in Canada like?”
“Miss, do we sound strange to you?”
And then the personal questions…

“Miss, do you like England?”
“I do” and that isn’t a lie.

“Miss, are you a teacher?”
A little confused about this one…I was teaching the class, after all.

“Miss, did you go to school to become a teacher?”
“Nope. Never stepped foot in a school before today.”

“Miss, how long did you go to school for?”
“Let’s not go there.”

“Miss, do you have tattoos?”
“Yes you do. You have one.”
“I don’t have one.” Officially I have two, so I wasn’t lying.

My favourite conversation; between three girls:
“So this guy is working at KFC. What a joke. I mean it is fine if you own the KFC, but to work there? That is so pathetic.”
“I know! You can’t live like that!”
Leanne: “Ok listen, keep in mind that I have 3 university degrees and back home, all I was qualified to do was work in a KFC or MacDonald’s. It happens.”
*three girls look at me shocked
“Miss has three degrees and could only work in KFC where she lived!”
“Miss! We didn’t mean to offend you.”
Leanne: “Life doesn’t always happen the way we like it to.”
**truthfully, the job situation in Thunder Bay is often so bad, that I’m not even sure I could get a job at KFC.

Prior to coming to the UK, I would argue with a friend regarding soccer-football. I refused to call it football until I was officially in the UK. It was a little part of my Canadian identity. In August I had pink streaks put through my hair as my last hurrah before “taking a grown up job” – in October I had my hair coloured to reflect “being grown up”. Last week I gave up the last part of my personal identity when I finally removed 3 sets of earrings from my ears. I couldn’t hide them any longer, and being that I was in a school with a fairly strict dress code, I knew it was time. What is the importance of this? Maybe it boils down to the fact that everyday Leanne gives up a bit of Leanne, whether it be in a physical or emotional sense. No matter what happens this week or next, I know things have changed, and I know I have to look towards the future. If and when I go home, now or in December, I know I need to get off the pot and commit to something.

In reality it does kill me to leave England. If I could live and work in something other than teaching, I think I would stay. If I could head to a place in England and know that I could make enough money to survive, I would. Right now though, I finally understand what it is that I have to do. And maybe that makes this experience ok.

Saturday, 8 November 2008


I generally don’t do two blogs in one day. Tonight I need to. I keep wondering to myself – what is wrong with me? Why can’t I make this work? It has only been a month, and I am so miserable. I want so desperately to come home. I had started to feel better about a week ago, and then a couple of days ago I just crashed. I can’t hold it together – there is nothing in this world that would make me want to stay. I look towards tomorrow, and realize that living in a hostel will be difficult, and given that I am already struggling, I may be biting off more than I can chew. I’ve been away from home for much longer periods. So why doesn’t this work? The answer I keep coming back to…the one that stands out above all others - I really feel that I am in the wrong profession. I want to make this work, but I’m not sure it is feasible. Earlier this evening, I made the mistake of checking my calendar, to see how long I actually have to continue to endure this. Seeing it in black and white, with the weeks looming in front of me – I nearly broke down on the spot. Tonight I looked into taking a flight back home on Wednesday, but alas, it is far too expensive. I can’t afford to run away from London on a weekly basis – I would love to; it has been almost two weeks since I was in Leeds and I am going out of my mind staying here. I don’t know how much longer I can endure being this stressed out and sad. What do I do?