Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sirens, Horns & People

Sirens...horns...people...welcome to London. I'm in an internet cafe (?) room (?)...I'm not really sure what it is. All I know is that my laptop is refusing to read my European modem, and internet prices vary from 10p a minute, to 50p for 30 minutes - you do the math! So...since I've been in London I have found myself overwhelmed by my reintroduction to mass numbers of people everywhere! It has only been 4 years since I was last here, but I swear, London's population has skyrocketed. My arms are baring the bruises of having been slammed by bags and bodies (don't worry, they are living bodies!). Us Canadians love our 10 feet of personal space - you just can't get that here! If I were to move here I wonder how long it would take me to become a dispondant Londoner? Presently I try to sidestep collisions - yet the average Londoner does not. They are more than willing to run straight into you and keep on going...of course, as a Canadian I am hardwired to apologize profusely, regardless of whether or not the collision was my fault. I'm not a fan :)
I am also shocked by the noise. It's no secret that I am a country girl - could I trade in the peace and quiet of the country for metropolitan living? Even in New Orleans, I was not exposed to this amount of noise. Through the night there are horns and sirens - which apparently are still a novelty here? The other night I went for a drink with an Aussie who had just completed a tour of Africa - both of us laughed and mused at the noise factor, as we sat in mutual shock and awe - Sub Sahara Africa does not offer this experience! For a couple of days, I can deal with it - but after a couple of months I could see having a catacylismic breakdown.

All complaints about London aside, there are things that I do like about this city. It is a hotbed of entertainment. Whether it be a musical or a concert, or just watching random people do stupid things, it is entertaining here (I can't judge....I'm sure if someone had a subscription into my recent life, they would have been highly entertained). I could sit and people watch by the hour. And the fo
od...what can I say about the food? Cheap ethnic food, that is actually tasty. I know that the Brits have a horrible reputation when it comes to culinary integrity BUT luckily, the infiltration of other cultures has given London a unique selection. I have been enjoying Moroccan and Lebanese food, and may stake out a Chinese food restaurant today. For the record, North American Chinese food is a bastardized rendition of the authentic cuisine. Oh..and can I forget shopping? Granted an afternoon of shopping can set you back...there is a great selection of retailers here. Yesterday I finally got a chance to go to the Portobello Rd/Notting Hill Market - TONS of stuff to buy...TONS of people...could be a fun experience for the hardcore shopper (I'm not that hardcore). I am a personal fan of Harrods, but not on a weekend...

Hold on a sec...I need to discuss Harrods. I am on a mission right now - apparently looking for some chocolate that we can't get back in North America. I decided to take a second trip to Harrods. While there, I opted to have a guilty little ice cream splurge at Morellis - recent weeks have been leading to the ice cream crash. So...Morelli's...awesome ice cream that costs a small fortune. A sundae ranges from approximately $15-30! I bought the cheapest item on the menu, but still skipped dinner to make up for the financial and caloric drain. Oh ya. I didn't find the chocolate...but at least I had the ice cream :)

So aside from this little foray into London, what is my purpose for being here? I don't know. I am contemplating whether or not I could actually live in this city...I have been offered work in Clapham Junction in SW London. Could I do it? I don't know. I am slowly starting to realize that as you get older there is a need for stability. I don't know if I could find stability here. Luckily the job comes with quite a bit more money than the one in Banbury did. Maybe financial stability could replace my need for physical and emotional stability. Hmmm...there's a start...

I made so many bad decisions in going to Banbury, and there were so many things that I did not know or realize. Fortunately I needed to make those bad decisions - they are helping me find my place in the future.

Friday, 25 April 2008

London Calling

So the path home is a long and bumpy road through London. Most people would be excited to be sitting in one the "greatest" cities on earth. Not me. After sleepy Banbury, and backwoods TBay, I am overwhelmed by the honking horns, traffic, construction and people. Sooo...can I move here? I don't know. What is the solution - I don't know. If I dislike small town living in Banbury, and I dislike large cities, it would appear that my only solution is to stay in Tbay. *Explitive*.
Alright, so this is going to be a very brief entry - I am staying in a hostel and having a laptop in hostel is just asking for trouble. I used to hostel - when I was in my early 20s I loved it. Meeting new people, pub crawls, etc. There was something liberating about the potential for drunken escapades with strangers, getting bed bugs, and sharing bunk beds. I'm not 19 anymore. Seeing the condom machines on the wall down the hall from me, makes me roll my eyes - random sexual experiences in a tacky. Apparently I have entered that stage in my life that I am now an adult - I like stability, quiet nights, and sleep - I have had my share of nights of alcohol-induced vomitting (and to be frank, its not the most pleasant experience). That being said, as an adult I also realize that staying in a hotel is not a price option that I can afford. Hostel it is. But along with reevaluating my career & living options, I am now reevaluting my travel desires. Could I handle the congestion of India? The shock of Sub-Sahara Africa? etc. I'm not so sure anymore. Leanne used to be a traveler. What happend?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Out of the Frying Pan...where do I get rid of a frying pan?

Back to my favourite coffee shop...I have spent far too much time here in the past couple of weeks - it has become more than a sanctuary - it is my caffinated Happy Place. Outside, I can hear an absolutely horrible singer drowning out the moderately ok music in here. Seriously...this guy could make glass break - a dog is actually howling along to the music (?). Sweet Home Alabama is not so sweet when sung by this poor sap - Lynard Skynrd would be sickened. Maybe I should join him, and at least try to make a couple of pounds before I leave. I could impress the locals with my Canadian accent and limited acoustic abilities. Or I could beat a garbage can to provide background noise. Noise is about the only description that suits the torture that is produced by the sound of this guy's singing. And such is life in Banbury.

Hang on...before I continue...regarding my "Canadian accent" (which I still have, because luckily, I haven't been here long enough to loose it :-P ) . In the time that I have been here I have been asked where I am from. I "sound different"... Sometimes the locals like to guess where I am from. Obviously the usual guess is: "Are you American?". "No. I'm Canadian." "Oh sorry!" (why they apologize says alot about the Canadian-American relationship on a global scale). I have had several other interesting guesses though...."Are you from Poland?" "HUH?" That has happend at least twice - and no, my surname has not been a factor. "Are you from Northern Ireland?" "Sure..". I knew I sounded exotic, but not as exotic as I apparently sound. Ok..that's all I have to say on that topic.

This morning I began the process of decluttering (AKA "getting rid of the stuff I aquired"). At least I had enough foresight to not aquire a lot - I realized when the anxiety started that I could be on a fast track towards departure. While I have complained about the Americanization of the UK, and the continual infiltration of big box stores combined with global uniformity, I was pleased to find a Cash Converters right down the block from my flat. I didn't make a lot of money there, but at least I made something. I was even able to sell some speakers that I brought with me from Canada. Oh and I should mention - I have talked to countless Brits who have also complained about the invasion of Britian by American globalization.

Ok...brief divergance (what else is new?)....I don't know why I always end up listening to local disparities...but I do. It doesn't matter which country I am in, which culture, religion, etc - I end up hearing the bad side of the story - the tales of financial ruin, economic disturbances and stories of culture clashes, interactions and observations. Even in Turkey, I ended up with the same situation. Maybe I look attentive and intelligent (HAHAHA)...or maybe it's that I listen - and I only listen because I don't have the information to actually interject my comments (which is why I've started blogging - I can rant here, without getting cut off or challenged!). Anyway, my conversations with the locals have been no different - granted they have been interesting and informative. For the record, the Brits are their own worst enemy when it comes to promoting their country to tourists. The continual emphasis: "the country is going to hell."...the usual solution proposed: "it can't keep going like has to stop...or there will be no Britons left in Britian." ..."If you are smart, you will get out now and head to Cyprus."(Turkish or Greek?!?!)..."I'm moving to Spain where it is affordable."..."The prices keep going up - who can afford to live?"..."They won't raise the income tax, but they are more than willing to raise the price of everything else."...and so on....Even my neighbour from Germany was complaining about the costs here - Great! I consider Germany expensive - so what happens when a German considers the UK expensive?? Now picture Leanne, verging an emotional crisis, being told that life here is too expensive, even for the people who grew up here.

Of course when I moved here, I was perplexed about tipping. In Canada, tipping rates have hit a whopping 20% (and trust me, if I were in a service profession, I would accept that 20% without complaint), and we now tip for everything! I will admit - I still don't tip at certain places - I figure, 10 years ago when I was flipping burgers and serving milkshakes, I wasn't getting tipped...ya, you can insert your own explitive here to describe my attitude. But come on! It adds up! In another 5 years you can guess that we will be up to 25%. You can likely thank the overtippers for raising our tipping percentage - you know who I'm talking about: the people who don't want to appear cheap in front of their friends, so they tip 40% of the bill - its the sport of One-up-manship. I have a friend like this - going out with him is a burden (and I do mean that in the nicest way). When I inquired about tipping in Britian, I received very mixed responses. Tipping here is still at 10% (wow...fruit and tipping are cheaper here, who'd of thunk?!?!?), and from what I have figured out - you only tip at eateries (not takeout). When I have attempted to tip at the pub, coffee shop, etc, I am met with surprise. So of course, I have asked the locals about tipping - the response (on all occassions): "Nobody tips in Britian anymore....nobody can afford to. If you have to tip, you tip your basic 10%. But its too expensive here now, and most people can't". Hmmm....

Alright..I have no idea where I was going with this whole entry. Possibly I am procrastinating going back to my flat and confronting the mess that still lies before me. Or else I am attempting to forgo reality for an hour or two, and not think about the impending darkness that I have to face. I keep wondering how bad of a decision I am making. And I know deep down, I am making a horrible decision. I was so blinded by potential when I accepted the UK - as a traveller all I could think about was Morocco, Portugal, Malta, etc, etc - ya, I came to the UK to get out of the UK as frequantly as possible. I saw my salary and doubled it to accomodate the Canadian dollar - but I forgot that you don't live on the Canadian dollar in Britian - the British pound is firmly established as the currency of choice (and unfortunately I can't change that!). So I need to go back and regroup, and reaquaint myself with the reality that I hate working in customer service...and then reaquaint myself with the necessity to finally choose a career - or at least a direction. The hardest part about going home is knowing I don't actually belong there.

Right now there aren't alot of good options - I just need to make money on a continent that isn't bleeding me through the....***. I will go to London tomorrow...and I will go to a meeting on Friday regarding my future employability here. Tuesday, I will fly back to Canada and hyperventilate for a few weeks. These are certainties. Hopefully, I will return in the fall with a better idea of what to expect, what to leave at home, how to live, and what I would do differently (and already, I have a list a mile long!) Maybe I will be more confident in my decisions, and not so afraid of the career choices that I have made. I love anthropology and archaeology- but I don't think I can make a career out of either. 5 years ago I gave up the opportunity to pursue my Masters in Medical Anthropology, studying AIDS in the Third World... because again...I second guessed myself. Hind sight is 20/20. I should have accepted that opportunity. I was able to move to New Orleans at 19, and adapt to it. When I moved back to TBay I was miserable, and desperately wanted to go back to NOLA - and I did. Ever since, I have been unable to cope with drastic change. I need to figure out why. OR...maybe I should just move back to New apocalyptic New Orleans might not be a good idea....but...I know what I'm doing there, and where I'm going, and the cost of living isn't that bad, and the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar isn't so bad anymore...and...maybe I should. I could easily find a job there because nobody wants to go there now- I'm sure that Squatters Rights have been reestablished. Maybe I need to retrace my steps to be able to move forward. Hmmm...out of the frying pan....

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Facing the Reality

Where to start, where to start. Firstly, it is incedibily easy to move to the UK. It is a bit more difficult to leave the UK. In the past 36 hours I have ridden the emotional rollercoster of reality. All of those things that I had been so good about ignoring and remaining emotionally detached from in Canada, have come to a head here. Already I am trying to figure out where I went wrong. Was it in signing a contract? Coming to Banbury (of all places)? Going in to teaching? Deciding to worry about my health in the months leading up to England? Being excessively paranoid about costs? Never having lived alone? Yes. No. Some of it. All of it.
I guess the first challenge was in living here alone - severly alone. Granted I did live in New Orleans, but even when I lived "alone" my then-current love (I use that term loosely) interest spent most of his time in my dorm room. Should I have made the effort to live "alone" in Thunder Bay, before moving here? Probably. Would it have mattered? Not likely.
I have already made a point of discussing my inability to commit to anything (jobs, contracts, partners, etc). So maybe signing a contract led to my derailment. No. Not likely. That nagging thought that kept reaffirming itself in my mind was the clincher - I am in the wrong profession. Did I have to do this to remember that? Yes. I am not necessarily in the wrong profession. I enjoy working with individual students who are struggling to achieve results. I like the challenge of working with the student who just doesn't give a damn. Maybe it's because I see myself in that. I wasn't a natural in school - I had good marks (most of the time), but I worked my butt off to achieve those marks. I worked incredibly hard my first year at university to fail my classes. Which I did, until half term when I realized that I was being daft - and then had to boost failing marks to passing grades.
So then what? The health aspect. Months ago I decided that the "padding" (yes, that's the politically correct term) that I attained on my figure during university had to come off. It has been one of the most unenjoyable experiences of my life. Not secure in my results yet, I have spent so much time worrying about regaining the "padding" that I worked so hard to loose, that I have hardly been enjoying myself. Ultimately I wasn't secure enough in weight to be here. I think there is irony in coming to a country that works on the pound :-p.
Now the costs. I can admit the cost of coming here was a small fortune. The cost of living here is a full fortune. The idea of spending anymore time here, watching the bills ring up - I can't even fathom it. When I look at the big picture, it is truly cheaper to run home now, than to continue on.
I'm sure in the coming weeks I will have a sundry of observations regarding my decisions. There will be regret - both for having gone and having left. I know that. the end of the day...I still have a visa that is good until 2010. I still have credentials (of some sort). I am still Leanne and might find my silver lining - or at least I will be able laugh about it sometime in the future. For instance...the woman who is sitting next to me in the coffee shop is talking about her ovaries. My concentration is being derailed because I keep catching "key words". I can laugh about this. Oh..and I can laugh at the irony - it has been miserable in Banbury since I arrived - today is hot and sunny :) Wonderful.
So here I am, more directionless than when I arrived. Having just agreed to a job meeting on Friday in London.....waiiiiiiiittttttttt....what was that? Did I just say that??!?! Meet Leanne...indecisive and clinging to her last hope... Yes. I have agreed to a job meeting in London on Friday afternoon. Ok Ok..I'm not saying I will let anything happen......yet.....

Monday, 21 April 2008

Not Meant to Be

Periodically you find yourself wondering how you ended up where you are. I have made a lot of bad career - I hate hometown - I'm not fond of present town - I resent it. In moving to England, I thought I could perform that escapist act -but I was wrong. As it turns out I moved 6000 miles to find out that I should have just stayed where I was. I also moved 6000 miles to remember that I dislike my profession (overwhelmingly). I am not a bad teacher - I can teach - I just dislike the life that goes along with teaching. I had forgotten that realization- or maybe I chose to ignore it. There are so many terrible teachers, who openly despise their profession, who think that by staying in the classroom they are doing some sort of favour for the students. But they are wrong. After my experience working in a school, I realize that it is very easy to tell the teachers who enjoy teaching, versus those who do not. I do not want to be one of those teachers - I would not being doing the profession any justice. So...with this reality, I have left my job here in Banbury, with the full intentions of returning home. I can't stand up in front of a room full of impressional young people, and lie to myself and to them. I can teach, but I am not a teacher. I can accept that now.
It hasn't just been the realization that I dislike my career. The financial aspects of living in England are far more than I can ever hope to cope with. Even leaving now, it is still cheaper for me to get out, than to stay and develop more debt. I have realized that I dislike the heart palpitations I feel every time I think about paying for something....I don't run the heat because I am afraid of my utility bills. I try not to run the water, because again, the bills are just too horrible to think about. I am afraid to do anything in my flat, for fear of doing anything that would damage the illogically placed cream carpeting that runs throughout the apartment. I am still perplexed as to why a landlord would place cream carpeting in a bathroom. Needless to say, the financial aspects of England are just too much for me to cope with individually.
There is only so much time I can spend in the sanctuary of my local pub and coffee shop - I need to face the realization that I am miserable here. Granted, it will be worse when I go home - I have to deal with the financial aspects of this decision. But it is slightly more copable knowing that, at home, I will at least understand what I am doing. I won't have to worry about price conversions of the British pound versus the Canadian dollar. Even getting up in the morning for a job I hate, will seem slightly more doable.
So what now? I don't know. I know that I need to go home and face the reality that I was attempting to escape from. Maybe that's the point - maybe I wasn't emotionally detached from this decision - it was my life at home that I was trying to be emotionally detached from. Now, I need to figure out what I want to do for a career. After 9 years in university, I don't want to think or commit...I just want to work and come home at the end of the day and be done with it. So there's a start. I know I want simplicity.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Reality out of Emotional Detachment

Where do I start with this post? I guess I start with the fact that I travel. I have had the fortune of being able to travel a fair bit for my age - and I love it. I'm one of those economy travellers - backpacking, hostels, etc. I have had the luck of seeing first-hand some of the most amazing sights this world has to offer - and I'm not finished by any means. I am a firm believer that travel is a necessity for education, but I also realize that not everybody has the ability to experience it. I wouldn't really say that I have the ability to experience it - I'm a financial mess, but my priorities are where they are. I can't change that, and I don't want to. Travel will forever remain my priority. Yet, no matter how far I travel, and how often I go, I always know that at the end of the journey, I am returning home. There is safety in that knowledge - and I like safety.

When I decided to come to Banbury - no...let me rephrase...when I jumped on a plane and ended up in Banbury, I knew that there would be potential issues. Previous experience living in New Orleans had taught me that no matter how independant you want to be, adjustment can be hard. Two weeks into my New Orleans experience I hit a period of homesickness hell - I had been lucky enough to not experience homesickness previously. But I descended into that hell, and contemplated a fast return to Canada. Fortunately, New Orleans is just down the road (ok, interstate) from home....and I knew people...lots of people. I was able to weather that storm and carry on with living.

Part of the problem with making an emotionally detached decision, with a personal motto of "I don't know", is that you tend to block out those questions and realities that might make you reconsider your decision. Do I regret that? No. Leanne knows Leanne moderately well. Leanne knows that if Leanne had been emotionally attached to the decision, she would not be sitting in Banbury right now - she would have over-thought the process and ultimately stayed in Thunder Bay. I will admit that on occasion I did consider the reality - but then I always ended up at the same place: Why stay in Thunder Bay? What's here? What do I do here? and so I blocked those (exceedingly) brief interludes of reality and carried on with my emotional detachment.

Now back to my original train of thought. I knew that when I moved to Banbury that I would hit this period of know what I talking about....that period when the world is crashing down around you, and you can't breathe, and the walls are closing in. I knew it would happen. Unfortunately I severly underestimated when it would happen. Based on my calculations, the world was doomed to end about two weeks after I arrived in Banbury.
Ok so I am horrible at math, I have no trouble confessing that. You would think that this would hinder me as a Science teacher. It does. So you can guess that when Leanne calculates something, you should throw out the calculation, and get someone else to figure it out. And you're right. My calculation for world destruction was very wrong - I miscalculated by several days.

The reality started to set in the day I rented my flat. Granted I came to Banbury on a contract - as someone who does not like commitment of any sort, a contract is one of those things that gives me heart palpitations. I can't even handle the idea of a cell phone contract - I scoff at being locked in to something for more than a day. I don't make appointments, because I hate having time commitments. Even so, I could handle having an employment contract - it guaranteed money. Signing the contract on my flat was another story - it meant expenditure. I didn't know what an anxiety attack and heart flutter were until last week. But I developed both, and have had them in exceedingly frequant bursts ever since. Walking down the street I will feel my heart start skipping beats as I redose myself reality. I need to stop and take several deep breaths before I continue. And thus starts the darkness...I am learning what Doris Lessing meant about "Briefing for a Descent into Hell".

Then there is the job. Now I can't go into extreme details on my job, for fairly obvious reasons. Firstly, I am in education - people in education keep more secrets than CIA operatives (and generally with better success). Secondly, this blog is available on the internet - I can't risk sounding off on a public form. Let me start by saying that I am not particularly worried about teaching per se...but Leanne had forgotten she despises planning. If I could walk into a classroom filled with 200 roudy students, and be given a lesson plan for the History of the English Language - I would teach it, and be enthusiastic. Tell me I have to plan a lesson for 22 well behaved students on an interesting topic, I will be tempted to head to the first pub I find and drink away my sorrows. How I ended up in teaching is beyond me. No..that's not true. I have worked in a school for eight years. I like teaching. I hate planning. This reality has just added to the darkness.

So where am I going right now? Put simply, I don't know. I am in that period of resentment, and as an Anthropologist I know the stages that I have to go through. I resent that my computer is being overtaken my UK advertisements...that yahoo and google are offering to readjust themselves to UK servers, etc. Emotional detachment has led to emotional crisis. Between the constant financial panics, overwhelming job issues and displacement, I worry that I have numbered my days here. Daily I find shock in the extreme costs of living - I ask again: when will they tax the air here? There has to be a way to do it...I could probably work out a calculation for it - it will be a bad calculation, that will likely result in tax payers paying 20% more than they have to, but the UK goverment will appreciate my ineptness. Maybe next Sunday I should go to Speakers Corner in London, stand on my soapbox, and pose this idea to the masses. And on Monday when I wake up in a hospital, recovering from having been stoned, I can be secure with the reality that I have somehow positively influenced England. Or maybe I should just go to the pub now and watch a game of I develop this idea any further.

Anyway I guess what this long sojourn into hell has been leading to - this is the reality of displacement and adjustment. While I knew it would happen, I severly underestimated the date on which it would occur. And that's the funny thing about life - it can't be predicted. I didn't factor in all of the obvious forces that would contribute to my calculation - for instance, putting an ocean between myself and home - I should have made an adjustment of at least a day to the calculation. And the cost of living - that should have added another day. And the anxiety of lesson planning...another day. So yes, when I add the variables that affect the constant, I am right on target for a collision with reality.

Now the questions...what calculation do I use to get over the reality? When does that happen? What are constants and variables? And can I find my contentment?

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Market Madness

Several years ago I realized that I love European markets! Fresh produce, freshly slaughtered animal (sometimes you can even choose which happy, breathing animal you want slaughtered) - it just doesn't get any better. In Canada, we are victims of the supermarket, and have become alarmingly complacent to accept preservatives, wilted lettuce, and flash frozen chicken. Europe can still pride itself in feshness.

Upon moving into my flat, one of the first tasks that needed to be dealt with was the lack of any food in my fridge. I am happy to say that my apartment is located next to a grocery store, and across the street from another grocery store (ya! throw caution to the wind - forget about the open air markets, I am Americanizing!). Well...let me tell you...I am fascinated by the British grocery store. I could wander for hours in one these establishments - and yes, I have- albeit while receiving rather preplexed looks from the personnel. I had no idea the types of food that could be available in a can! Curries, thai, chinese, beef, chicken, in every flavour and combination. Yes, we do have canned selections at home - but nothing comes close to this. Truly exciting. And the frozen foods - curries, thai, chinese, duck, strange meats...overwhelming. I can still find the traditional American things - like bagged salad (expensive), yogurt (fruit corners), and other less healthy items (thank goodness!). Did I mention that I hate choice? And decisions?
Luckily the majority of my choices are related to costs :)

In Banbury, open air market days are on Thursdays and Sundays. I had previously meandered the market, but actually comitted myself to it today. *Explitive* more choice. Too much *explitive* choice. Stalls lined the square around Castle Quay (the large, overtly Americanized shopping center), each covered by a green and white tarp. Fruits and vegtables overflowed at each of the stalls. I wandered around for some time, unsure where to go, what to buy, where to commit....Finally I went back to the first stall on the corner - how exactly do you pick a proper vegtable stall?

Hmmmm....we buy things by the weight in Canada. Here, you buy them by the bowl full. Not a little bowl - a huge, family sized, enough-food-for-a-year bowl. But cheap! (Did I just say that something in the UK was cheap?!?! Stop the presses!) Needless to say, I have enough vegtables to carry me over until after I leave Banbury (I don't know).
Oh but wait...over the corner...can it be???!!...a cake stand! This is the point at which UK Leanne and Canada Leanne split into two seperate people and argued amongst themselves. Canada Leanne is very concerned about caloric intakes, fat and carbs. UK Leanne is what Canada Leanne was before she wised up.

Ok, the unified me can admit that UK Leanne won. I have been good, and I still excerise daily (I am now diverging into a Catholic-style confession) so I bought a white loaf with chocolate icing in the middle and on the top, with multi-coloured candy decorations. And here's my justification - I have to lesson plan today - that is HARD, HARD work. It is BORING work (at least I'm honest)...I need calories. I need something to drown my sorrows in - and seeing as how Boddingtons and Hoegardaan have no intentions of visiting me today, the chocolate cake will have to suffice. Plus - I have enough vegtables to not have to go back to the market anytime soon - so there will be no risk of having more cake. HA HA HA. OK (that's UK Leanne laughing at Canada Leanne).

As I continue on this journey, without a hope or a plan, every day is posing to be a learning experience. I'm not sure I'm learning so much about the UK as I am about Leanne, but at least I'm learning :-p

Friday, 18 April 2008

Leanne versus the Laundry

It's been over a week since I left home, and naturally I have accumulated laundry. What better a way to spend a Friday night in Banbury, than to deal with that accumulation?

Part of my justification for renting the particular flat I am in, was based on the fact that my flat has a built-in washer. At least, that is what I thought....upon further investigation, the washer is a washer-dryer combo.

The idea of a washer-dryer combo machine is a somewhat foreign concept to me. I can admit - I like having seperate machines for my washing and drying. The silver contraption sitting in my kitchen (in North America, a dish washer would be sitting in the same location) has been a challenge for me. For the past 5 days I have stared, gawked, and sworn at it (why I would swear at it is beyond me - but somehow, swearing makes me feel better). I have sat in front of it, read the instruction manual (this is the first time I have seen an instruction manual included in an apartment rental), and still not had the courage to deal with actually opening the door.

I had thought about avoiding my washer-dryer altogether. Let's face it - I'm renting a flat on the British Pound - all I could picture was the washer exploding, leaking, or somehow lighting on fire. Of course, who would be responsible to repair the damage? How much can I actually afford to repair? Put simply - if I were to damage something in this flat, I would be forced to flee the country before my landlord found out.

The other issue I have had is with utility costs - I can't even imagine what it costs to do a load of laundry here. In a country that is one step away from taxing air, I am fairly certain that the cost of running appliances is incredibly high.

So...I stopped by the laundramat that is located a short distance from where I am residing. I figured - "hey, let's avoid the potential for disaster!". Uh huh. Sure. As it turns out, one load of wash costs a whopping 5 pounds! Next, add the cost of drying..."oh buggar (I'm becoming British), just when I thought something might be affordable in this country."

So it's Friday night, and I really have nothing better to do - except maybe my lesson planning, which I swear I will get to - tomorrow. Outside on the street, I can hear the Friday night course of drunken antics - if this were home, I might be a willing participant. But I still have a hamper full of laundry, and a machine that is a beautiful accent to my kitchen. I decide that the safest method to learning the washer-dryer is to run a test load. Of course I'm not going to just willingly sacrifice my clothes to this technological wonder - I will sacrifice my towels instead...I don't actually need to shower tomorrow. I consult with my friends -Hoegardaan (spelled wrong, I realize) and Boddingtons. After achieving a pleasant state of melancholy and partial sobriety, I return to the instruction manual for my washer-dryer.

"Explitive is this complicated." I stare at the manual for a bit...I flip some knobs on the washer. Nothing happens.

Did I mention that this machine comes equipped with 13 presets? Various dryer cycle options? Custom dryer settings? Specialized temperature settings? Delay options (up to 9 hours!)? And a bunch more stuff I cannot even comprehend? Seriously - I have more options for my washing than I have for my career. What am I supposed to do with this much selection? I can't handle choice, and I certainly don't make decisions.

After spending more time pondering my washer-dryer, I naturally reconsulted with Boddingtons. Now, less than sober, I go to my neighbour's door in the hopes of finding out how to operate my washer-dryer. Luckily she is not home. Back to my apartment I stagger (notice that we are in realtime, here?)

Tentatively, I press some buttons, slam the door a few times, and lo and behold - the washer pops on. Then I pray (have you noticed that I have rediscovered religion since I have been here?). Holding my breath, I wait for water and suds to come pouring out...

2 hours later, I have steaming hot, clean towels....who knew? Ok. So that was Standardized Test 1....hmmm....still partially sober (or is it partially two-sheets-to-the-wind?) I decide to run Standardized Test 2...socks and underwear. And that is where I am right now - waiting to learn the results of ST2. If ST2 is a pass, I will jeopardize my jeans...gradually I may work up to my professional clothes.

Oh yes, and at least I have the utility bills to look foward to :)

Update to ST2: I shrunk my socks - they are cotton, and I am fairly confused.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Hardwired at the Crossing AKA Learning to Jaywalk without getting Knicked

Being a North American, it is fairly obvious that I am hardwired towards certain things. We have our own way of doing things in America (not United but large scale America), that do not necessarily cross over to other parts of the world. Sometimes attempting to undo that hardwiring is virtually impossible - it becomes so instinctive, that one hardly gives consideration to what they are doing. One of the hardest habits that I am having trouble breaking, is a fairly basic one. I am relearning how to cross a street properly.
Now in North America, I am of the "look left-right-left " field of thought. Sometimes I don't even bother to look both ways, I just look at the most immediate lane of traffic, and then run across, in the hopes of making it alive. In Britian, as most people likely know, things are the opposite. This is seemingly a simple issue - but not for me. Who knew that so much consideration could go into the proper way to cross a street?
After a week here, I find myself still ambling to the corner, holding my breath, and debating which way to look. Yes, ultimately, I will look both ways before I cross the street. The trick is in knowing: how close the closest car is, how fast that car is going, what the speed of impact will be, the trajectory of impact, and the size and make of the vehicle (I would much rather be hit by a BMW than a Ford). Perhaps I had all of these thoughts prior to moving here - but they become muted as secondary elements in the back of one's mind. Suddenly I am finding that I must actually think. Not being in the habit of thinking, I find I am wasting a lot of time at street corners...hmmm...there is something vaguely sexual and illegal about that. the next issue I have is with jaywalking. Such a simple task at home! Here though, I have become alarmingly aware of my own mortality - that car that is careening towards me, could potentially damage me. Today I jaywalked....but oh it was tentative...look both ways..twice...look foot out...look...another foot...look...RUN! 'Whew!'
Finally...crosswalks without traffic lights. Another scary event brought to me by Banbury. I have adopted a largely "*explitive* you " attitude towards these crosswalks. I step out, head held high, and brace for impact (which kind of defeats the purpose of the above conversation). I pray that the car barrelling down the street will stop - but I refuse to give way to the driver. What I appreciate is the game of chicken that the drivers play with pedestrians. Or perhaps they are testing out the ABS brake system. Either way, I have found that drivers slam on their brakes at the very last second. Why is this? Something to do with gas consumption versus speed?

Today I was walking towards the outskirts of Banbury, and I heard the sirens of an ambulance, and found myself wondering if some poor North American had failed to properly cross the street (it happens!). As I attempt to not become the newest statistic of vehicular fatalities, I am left contemplating the proper way to cross a street - school just didn't prepare me for this :-p

On Finances and Credit Cards

So the next problem that I have encountered in this country: my credit card.

My credit card is viewed as a relic of the past. Luckily, thanks to my archaeological training, I am very much interested in relics of the past (which also might explain my interest in older men! OH I'M KIDDING!). Unfortunately, my card is treated as though it fell out of the Pleistocene. As protocol the cashier stares at it, blinks several times, turns it over several more times, and then stares at me and blinks. I blink twice at the cashier - perhaps this is some sort of game?.

Next the cashier will attempt to insert the card into a reader - then look at me with some disdain when the card does not work.

"It's North American." I inform the cashier.

"So you don't have a chip or pin?"



"I don't know. We don't use those in Canada."

"You need to get a card with a chip and pin."

"Just swipe the card, the old fashioned way."

I fully refuse to get a new credit card in the UK. It seems like a bad idea: Let's run up more debt on this side of the globe!! FUN! I can be honest - school cost me a small fortune. I'm fairly sure my student debt load competes with the debt of some Third World countries. Unfortunately the World Bank has denied my request for debt forgivness. So no, I'm not getting a credit card in the UK.

Anyway, apparently swiping cards is considered archaic. Now I can't really understand the response I receive because it has only been 4 years since I was last in the UK - and 4 years ago credit cards WERE swiped. It's not like I am reintroducing a concept from a past era. This is recent, recent history! Needless to say, consider it a fair warning to anyone moving to the UK - you will be considered a wonder of archaeological proportions!

Arrival and Identity

Alright..time for the bread and butter of my posts. Unfortunately as luck would have it, my laptop is nearly dead :)
I arrived here last Thursday, and instantly liked the place. It's small and quaint (in the "everything-shuts-down-at-5pm" way). Mainly though, it is the England that I picture when I think of England.
Naturally my first task to settling into Banbury was establishing my presence at my Neighbourhood Local. Within half an hour of arriving, I found myself at The Swan, a nice little pub near the downtown. An hour later, I staggered out of the Swan, intent on finding myself a flat (I staggered because of jet lag...not because I had been indulging!). Which reminds me...can someone explain the reason that a cup of coffee and a glass of beer are equally priced in this country? Naturally I will be drawn to the beverage that gives me the biggest bang for my buck - and coffee it ain't!

So in coming to the UK and trying to find a flat, open a bank account, use a credit card, etc, one runs into a fairly instant problem - "identity". Here's the standard conversation:
"So to be clear you want to rent a flat, open account, etc"
"How long will you be in the UK?"
"I don't know."
"Do you have a phone number?"
"Yes...but I don't know it."
"Well you can't do anything without a phone number."
**scrambling to find my number.**
"Do you have a post code?"
"I don't have an apartment, so no, I don't have a post code."
"You can't do anything with a post code."
"I just moved here."
"When did you move here?"
"This Thursday?"
"Well you need to establish an identity before you can do..."
"I'll get right on top of that."

So, I decided to create an identity - I became Conchita Perez from Spain, with a shady past and an even shadier occupation.
"No...that's not what we mean about you establishing an identity."
Prior to my leaving Canada, my friend was incredibly excited that I would be able to "reinvent myself" in the UK. "Be an entirely new person", as he described it. I'm not sure what he was implying about the Old Me, but apparently Conchita Perez was not going to fly.

Alright, so some how I have managed to establish an identity. I don't know how it actually happend. Somewhere between renting my apartment, and setting up an account, I became UK Leanne not Canada Leanne. I think we are the same person, but I am seeing the potential for a psychological episode. This could also help establish the necessity for stress leave in the very near future.

How A Canadian ends up in Banbury

So to get everyone on the same page - I need to answer the exactly does a Canadian end up in Banbury? I wouldn't say I moved here on a whim - well not exactly. Four months ago, out of the blue, I had a recruiter contact me about moving to England. At that point was perfectly content to live out my days as an unemployed bum. Ok..not quite - but you get the point. I wasn't unemployed entirely - I was on a leave of absense from my hour a day job due to distress - how one gets distressed in an hour a day job is beyond me - but I did. All I knew was that I desperately needed to get out of my hometown - picture economic instability mixed with alcoholism, and a dash of depression. Plus there was snow...and cold. Why not trade all that in for rain?
So anyway..the recruiter gets in touch with me - and hey! I've really got nothing better going on. So why not move to the UK? I'd thought about it before. Sure, I'll move. But it has to happen QUICKLY - I can't sit around and ponder this until September, because I will talk myself out of it (welcome to the inner workings of my mind). Soooo....long story short: 3 recruiters and 2 months later, I accept the first job offer that comes Banbury. 6 weeks after that, I'm on an Air Canada flight into Heathrow Airport.
In the weeks leading up to my departure, I truly had no feelings over my move. Of course I was regularly asked
"Are you excited?"
"Are you nervous?"
"How long are you going for?"
"I don't know"
"What are you teaching?"
"To what grade?"
"I don't know."
"What's Banbury like?"
"I don't know."
My answers were largely noncommital, and "I don't know" became my motto. My feelings towards the move were largely detached. I'm not sure if that was a good sign, or a bad one - but needless to say, on April 9th I packed up and moved continents. hour outside of London, emotionally detached me is nearing the end of her journey - and suddenly the reality hits me (4 months late, I realize)..."holy *explitive* what the *explitive* am I doing?". Panic. More panic. Deep breaths. Turbulance (unrelated to this, but still unnerving). These were the longest seconds of my life - luckily I am emotionally detached, and after 5 seconds I overcame reality and went back to my ignorant contentment. sum up...that is how a Canadian ends up in Banbury. Emotional detachment, indecisiveness, and the overwhelming need for change. Welcome to my reality :)

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Welcome to the world of blogging...

Alright, so I do consider myself somewhat internet savvy. I can email, google, iTune, html (badly), etc. I have experimented to some degree with the whole notion of blogging. This is my commitment with to it though. I figure, what better a way to deal with my emotional/geographical upheaval than to blog about it for the masses to see?