Friday, 31 October 2008

London Continually Lost

It is October 31, and normally I would be excited. I love Halloween! If I were home right now, I would likely be going out for my friend’s pre-birthday celebration. She is amazing when it comes to making costumes; most people slap together a costume in the last week. My friend on the other hand, knows months in advance what she is going to “be” for Halloween. And her costumes reflect her careful attention to detail. Today I would be perfectly happy to be someone else.

I’m actually a bit relieved to be in a city that celebrates the occasion. Since I arrived in London, I have seen people dressed up in costumes – or else they were just outwardly eccentric. I still appreciate the man, dressed in a white suit, covered in black arrows; he was “Northwest”. (yes, as in the direction.). Clever. Several years ago my friends and I purposely headed to Amsterdam for Halloween, thinking that it would be a hotbed of entertainment. Unfortunately, as it turned out, Halloween in Amsterdam was relatively dull. After spending an evening in a local “coffeehouse”, we continued our celebration to a square in the center of town. We were disappointed, but we somehow managed to numb our pain. Maybe I need to go back to Amsterdam?

Today it occurred to me that I am dangerously close to my first month in London. Six days away, in fact. I decided to go to Carshalton and find the school that I will be teaching at next week. It was a 50 minute round trip venture, but I have to admit, that I was pretty impressed with the town/suburb/whatever. It was quiet (and I was there in the middle of the afternoon), and had…wait for it….TREES!! I had lunch, and I didn’t spend a fortune. It was overwhelming, life changing, earth shattering (I have tapped into my sarcasm). If I didn’t think that I would go stir crazy, I would actually move there. This is not the point though.

On my commute, I was forced to reflect on the past near-month. That’s what us teachers do, right? Reflect, reflect, reflect. We reflect on the good and bad, and see where we can improve. We write about our reflections, modify our styles, re-reflect, modify, and eventually find something that works for us; once it works we reflect again and find out that it needs more modification . Here is my reflection:

In the past 3.5 weeks, I have successfully:
1. Learned to cross a street with traffic coming at me from the wrong direction; related to this I have also learned to dodge traffic, jaywalk, and dash across busy intersections.
2. Only had one bus/coach honk at me for maybe waiting too long to cross…
3. Gotten the nerve up to cross the Vauxhaul Bridge, venture into an unknown area, and find London’s greatest sights; all within spitting distance of my hotel. That’s a big accomplishment for a girl from a small town.
4. Gotten the nerve to venture into the unknown after dark.
5. Gotten hired & fired all within 3 hours (and I’m still bitter about that).
6. Learned how to use an Oyster Card.
7. Ventured out of London, because I can recognize I need to find my sanity.
8. Made it through a full day without crying – that was yesterday.
9. Made through 2 full days without calling home.
10. Learned to be demanding when the situation calls for it; and to scowl at the a**hole who cuts me off on the sidewalk.
11. Gotten hives, and finally identified the source of the hives.
12. Come to terms with that fact that I have to let go of the comforts that I appreciate; doesn’t mean I like it, just means I have to accept it.
13. Found my addiction to the X Factor; Go Diana! (oh and Simon is less popular here than in America)
14. Learned the importance and necessity of having someone who can take some of the pain away. Whether it is 6000 miles or 10 miles, there is a difference between being independent and being reclusive.
15. Learned to ignore the daily reports of shootings and robberies. It’s life.
16. Accepted that I need to let go of what I know because I know absolutely nothing here.
17. Accepted that I periodically screw up so badly that it can’t be fixed overnight. Apparently problems can’t be fixed in half an hour, like on television?
18. Traded in terms like soccer, bus, silly, check mark and parking lot for words like football, coach, daft, tick, and car park. When in Rome (errrrr…London)….
19. Discovered London shopping…risky!
20. Slept for 12 straight hours (granted that was in Leeds, and now that I’m back in London, I’m back to not sleeping!)
21. Learned to interpret the tariffs on my mobile phone.

And what I still need to do:
1. Learn what a tariff actually is.
2. Accept that I need to move into more affordable accommodations.
3. Accept that I can’t always control the outcome.
4. Let go of more, and stop looking for the parallels.
5. Get through a second day without crying.
6. Stop second guessing, over analyzing, and thinking.
7. Learn how to sleep.
8. Stop praying that this will be over soon, and learn to love it.
9. Classroom management – London students aren’t the same as Ontario students.
9.5 Behaviour management – ya, the same as above.
10. Learn to take it one day at a time, not one year at a time.
11. Learn to keep the stiff upper lip of the Brits.
12. Learn that if I leave my umbrella at home, it will definitely rain.
13. Find all of the answers to the questions that are driving me up the bloody wall.

I’ve already outlasted Banbury. And to be honest – for as horrible as I have felt in London, I still feel better than I did when I was in Banbury. Maybe I can make this work? One day at a time…

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