Monday, February 26, 2007

Lady in Waiting

Right now Jeremy and I are sitting in our flat that strangely has a Half-Power Outage. Turns out two-thirds of the power in our building is out, and interestingly, only one power outlet in our flat is being affected.

Most flats are completely dark, so we're considering ourselves lucky. Well, we were until we remember the Most Annoying Thing About Living Here: whenever there is a problem with the power, the heat, the water, etc., somebody needs to go through our place to get to the boiler room, which is only accessible through our patio doors. Of course, this little tidbit of information was withheld when they showed us the place back in August, and we've been battling with them for the basic consideration of a phone call before some stranger knocks on the door. When we realized that the power wasn't going to come back on, I called our landlord and asked him when somebody would be coming through our place.

Not only could he not tell me when, but he gave me this snarky attitude and said "well if you don't want to let him in, don't".

As if I would ever not let somebody in who will give me back the outlet controlling my lamp, hairdryer, and toaster oven.

And so we wait. One hour so far, and I'm really hoping that it won't be too much later because it's a school night and this teacher needs her sleep.

EDIT: power came back on 3 hours later - of course the guy didn't leave through our flat until after 11pm. So much for a good night's sleep.

I've been inspired by this experience though... It got me thinking about all of the waiting that I have been doing for the last year.

Waited for graduation from Teacher's College.

Waited to move to London.

Waited to start work.

Waited even longer to get paid.

Waited for Jeremy to get a job... then his visa... then to go to Canada to get his visa... then for his appeal to get his visa to come through... then to decide what the hell to do.

I've waited for over 150 buses, and more than 600 trains (could be more, i'm just ballparking here).

I waited and waited and waited to find out what was happening with my job / my class.


Time until Jeremy moves back to Canada: 3 weeks

Time until my parents come for their visit: 3 weeks

Time until 30 progress reports (that's report cards to you Canadians) are due: 4 days

Time until I get to move back to Canada: 5 months

Time left in this flat: 8 weeks

Seems like all I do is wait... The only thing to do is try to make some memories while I do.

Now I'm waiting for this guy to leave our flat so I can go to bed. Hopefully sooner than later, or tomorrow will be a rough day. All of the sleep-deprived mommies out there can probably understand trying to manage 30 excited 6-7 year olds all day without proper sleep.

Well, that's it for now. Good night!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Online Travel Sites Exposed!!

As mentioned in a recent post, my parents are coming to England for a 4 week visit, starting in March. We've been discussing travel plans for two months now, trying to decide whether or not to go to somewhere warm (like Greece, Italy, or Spain) for a week-long holiday, or if it would be better to do a few short breaks to Paris, Dublin, etc.

I have been searching for decently-priced holidays for several weeks now. Sites like Ryanair,, etc., who all claim to have super-cheap flights and super-cheap deals. Yes, some of the deals are fantastic, but you have to leave on a Wednesday at 9am, a Sunday morning at 6am for two nights, or any time other than a school break. We had found several promising leads for half-board holidays in Portugal and Greece, but I had questions and emailed online help, since the phone number for costs 10p per minute (and when I have called, I've been transferred all over the place, and put on hold, THEN told I've called the wrong number. Twice.). After sending two or three seperate requests for information, including the statement "we would like to book this holiday as soon as possible", after 11 days, I have not received any response.

The customer service is terrible, and every agent I have spoken to has either been non-english speaking or just not paying attention - I've had to repeat myself so many times that during one call, I finally gave up and told one I was going to book with Easyjet instead.

No response.

Apparently they could care less if customers go with a competitor.

Today, I saw an advertisement on's website for flights on the London Eye for as little as 0.01p. After clicking on this, I discovered those prices were for children, and the adult tickets cost 22.35. I can buy tickets for the London Eye for 12.50 at the hotel around the corner, and the most expensive tickets in our neighbourhood have been 15 pounds for that particular attraction. So unless you're traveling with a family, this is not a deal at all.

I have seen some good deals for plays and other nights out on this website and others, but the lack of service and expense / annoyance that accompanies their phone "service" (not to mention non-existent online help) has pushed me towards other providers.

The final straw came this morning, when I saw "Great deals to Paris for as low as 70 pound per person". I clicked on it, and came to this page:

See anything for 70 pound? I don't. So, I clicked on the one that said 82 (even though it's for 3 nights and you leave on a Saturday), and got to this page, where I sorted trips by price. The first holiday is the one that cost the least.

So much for that deal...

Ordinarly, I'd roll my eyes and ignore this, but after going through this exact scenario about 40 times and recieving abysmal service to no service at all, I have definitely had enough.

The worst part about this is that I honestly don't believe that the deals are bad ones. Being able to have your hotel and flight booked for 140 per person for 3 nights in a fancy hotel in Paris is a great deal. I just wish these companies would advertise the REAL prices rather than misleading their potential customers.

I've always hated this quote, but it's so true when dealing with "super deals online!"

If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Well... as a hockey nut (and critic of Britney - not because of recent events, but instead her lack of actual singing talent), I really don't know what the heck I think about this.

If you read the entire article, it goes on to mention that if she accepts their invitation to come to Syracuse and watch hockey, the front staff of the arena will all shave their heads.

Kind offer to a sad young woman? Or funny publicity stunt?

You decide.

(And while you're deciding, here's a nice mental picture: Britney's newly shaved head covered with a big toque as she makes her way through 10 foot high snowbanks to a hockey arena where a group of excited bald-headed fans try to get her autograph, while saying "we're so sorry you're going through this difficult time and here's a free beer and some popcorn from the treat counter".)

(Damn, these parentheses are addictive)

(If she actually goes to the snow-covered northern NY city to watch HOCKEY, I might have to reconsider my dislike of her. Especially if they can get her to sing "The Good Ol' Hockey Game". HA. I would totally make that my ringtone.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane. Again.

Jeremy just booked his ticket back home.

Wednesday, March 21st.

(Interestingly, that is also the day my parents get on a plane to come to England for their month-long visit (they'll arrive the next morning).)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Wednesday Bracelet

"Miss Peterson - that's a beautiful bracelet!!" (exclaimed one of my students)

"Thank you. I wear it every Wednesday."


"I'm in a club..."

It was one of those amazing summer days - bright sunshine, the wind blowing off of the canal nearby, people wandering in and out of shops, carrying bags and enjoying cotton candy, ice ceam, and other treats. Live music echoes down the streets, adding to the sound of children laughing and animated conversation between families and friends. Every person seemed to have a smile on their face.

It was July in Port Colborne, and we were with Jeremy's family; happily participating in the annual Canal Days shopping experience, which for us involved two essential shops - Glam Girl (a store for any woman who loves shoes, purses, and accessories, thus appealing greatly to Jeremy's mom, little cousin, and aunt), and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (which smells just how I think heaven must).

It was about 6 weeks before Jeremy and I were going to get on an airplane to London, England.

I remember looking at the pretty displays of bracelets and earrings, wishing I could be frivolous and get a few pieces to bring with me. Knowing that I could get some inexpensive (but delicious) fudge and Jelly Belly gourmet beans, I headed down the street with Jeremy's grandmother, Mary. After a half hour of exploring, we left the shop with bags in our hands, to meet with the rest of the family.

I was enjoying the feeling of sunshine on my face and trying to justify buying some cotton candy when Jeremy's mom called out, "Hey Mel! We're in a club!", while handing me a shiny gold bracelet.

"We (herself, me, and Jeremy's aunt Kim) need to pick a day of the week when all three of us can wear our bracelets while you're in London".

After some discussion, it was decided that each Wednesday we would wear our gold bracelets, no matter what. In spite of my air-headed tendencies (according to my dad), I have managed to remember every since week since we got here - to the point that Jeremy has finally stopped asking me "did you remember the bracelet?"

I have caught myself planning outfits around the Wednesday Bracelet, and the children in my class (having heard an abbreviated version of the story) take great pleasure in reminding me that "it's Wednesday, Miss - are you wearing your pretty bracelet?". They think it's the coolest thing ever that two ladies from Canada are wearing the exact same bracelet at the exact same time as me.

Want to know a secret?

I think it's the coolest thing too.

Today, I sit at home (since it's our Half Term break - another week of sitting at home and not getting any money) hearing the gold band clinking against my laptop while I type this, and feeling awfully glad that there are people like The Wednesday Bracelet Club ladies waiting for us to return home.

(If you haven't already guessed - that return will be next month for Jeremy, and August for me, since I'll be working with MY class until the end of the year.)

(Yep, we're moving home a year early.)

(At least my blog title won't change. I'll be going from this London to another London. Again.)

(hmm, can I be truly cheesy and say "there's no place like home"?)

(ha. I just did.)

(Okay, enough - will update all of you (and by "all", I mean all 4 of you) more on this developing story next week.)

(good night)

(Forgive me Sully, for copying your excessive use of parentheses. It's a lot of fun, though!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Even though my father is not really into the internet, I'd like to write about him here anyway (and hopefully my mother will show him how to find my blog... And get onto the internet... And turn the computer on...)

Dear Dad,

For your birthday, I made a few wishes...

May you have many happy moments with family,

May your choices in music never go out of style,

May there always be a cold beer in your fridge,

... and some single malt scotch in the cupboard.

May you always have room for the last piece of Mary's lemon cake,

after a delicious dinner of lobster & steak.

May you have hundreds of summertime boat rides (hopefully with me too!)

May you have lots of things to keep you from getting bored as you enjoy your retirement.

May your hockey teams win (although some have a better chance than others...)

May you take trips to wherever in the world you would like to go (the streets of London await you),

and may your birthday be as fabulous as you are!!

Thanks for everything you've done for me - you've been a wonderful father and great influence in my life. It's really nice to know that no matter where I am or how old I get, you'll always see me as your little girl.


Sending you lots of love from across the ocean... Miss you lots & can't wait to see you soon!

Friday, February 09, 2007

All Roads Lead To London

Last night, I tried writing this post in a vodka and orange juice state of mind - meaning of course, that this morning, I deleted several paragraphs of unintelligible drivel (more so than normal) and am starting over again.

We got a "lot" of snow on Thursday - 4 inches is the most London has seen in 7 years (if it had been the 6-8 predicted, it would have been the most in about 100 years), and every person in the city got in touch with their inner child. Everybody in our staff complained about not being able to play outside, and several spontaneous snowball fights erupted before the children started coming through the gates.

It was one of those days when people forget to ignore each other on the buses, and strangers give each other the "how cool is this?!" smile in the streets (as they walked under umbrellas to ward off the snow). The children were over the moon with excitment, carrying loads of snow in their arms, making snowmen, or just standing, staring up at the snowflakes falling to the ground in absolute wonder. It was one of those days that felt special. Even the Head Teacher felt it - he allowed them to play outside during Morning Break, despite the growing amounts of slush. For 15 minutes, the children played in more snow than they had ever seen before. Every teacher was outside with them.

In the staff room at lunchtime, we sat with our warm cups of tea (they really do drink tea constantly here) and talked about the travel chaos that had ensued that morning. They were really impressed that I had managed to make it all the way here with a half hour to spare. Taking the Tube was apparently the only way to get around, since the roads were in terrible shape all over the country. One teacher commented that every road leading to London was blocked up with traffic for miles. During that conversation, I learned that every city outside of London has a road going through it that leads right to here (at least according to some of my colleagues). So wherever you are in England, you can always find The City. It was an interesting parallel to my life - where everything seems to lead to a place called London...

I sat there, listening to the conversations around me, thinking about how nice it would be to stay on with this staff (and school) for as long as possible. Going back to Canada means that I won't have a school anymore - nowhere that I belong. I'll be up against hundreds of other teachers just to get a supply teaching position. Which is okay, but it's hard to choose to leave a place where I know for sure I'll be able to work every day.

Since we're on that topic - Jeremy and I have been talking constantly about The Decision, and have changed our minds a dozen times this week alone. We gave ourselves a deadline though, and yesterday was it (okay, well actually it was last Sunday, but we extended it.).

I walked in the door after a looong last day of classes (before our half term break) with a bag of warm takeaway food and a 7 pound (price, not weight) bottle of vodka; tired, hungry, and ready for a relaxing evening.

"So have you decided what we are going to do?"

"Yep, I think I have. Have you?"

"Definitely. And I really think it's the right choice."

"So where are we going to live after this summer?"



"Fine. I think we should..." *

* We're thinking we should tell our families first.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The funny things in life

London can be pretty entertaining...

I still can't believe this newpaper - it's a REAL paper and a REAL front page. Apparently it's okay for London newspapers to publish swear words or pictures of topless women (in daily newspapers - and for no particular reason at all.).

(no, I don't have pictures of topless women - it's not that kind of blog)

Here is another shot of the front page. Yep - the only words were "bitch, bitching, bitched". heehee

7am this morning, I was making my way to work and noticed a herd of horses stopped at a red light with a double decker bus waiting behind them. I really wish I'd had my good camera for that one...

Next we move on to the people who have way too much time on their hands.

See the squirrel?

I thought he was pretty cute when I took his picture.

Then I saw this sign on a tree in Kensington Gardens:

Wonder if I should email them the picture so they know he's okay.

This last picture isn't funny, but I really like it and since the readers of my blog are used to the randomness of my posts (and things not always making sense), I'm putting it in.

I'm glad that I used my mobile to take this picture - the blurriness around the sunlight really makes it interesting to look at. Just part of the schoolyard covered in frost on a sunny morning - I love how something so simple can be so beautiful.

Come by tomorrow and hear all about the 6 inches of SNOW that we're supposed to get in the morning! I'm sure I'll have wonderful stories to tell about trying to get to work (since the last time we got the massive 1 inch of snowfall half of the city's transportation shut down).

Until then...

Monday, February 05, 2007

About Friday

The night was cool but we decided to wander around for awhile, weaving through crowds of people with cameras, pointing at the buildings and excitedly announcing things like "Wow! I can't believe I'm actually here!" People buying souvenirs and postcards, rushing into bars or onto buses; always hurrying to get somewhere. Without saying a word, we turned away from the main road and walked down the cobbled streets, looking for a nice, quiet place to stop and have dinner.

Busy, crowded pubs were doing a brisk business, serving pint after pint to businessmen and travelers as music thudded through the windows, finally fading as we kept walking. I was surprised to look up and see a star peeking through the purplish glow that always seems to sit over the busier parts of The City. Immediately I thought of home: night skies filled with hundreds of stars, where I would sit, all bundled up, on my dock, feeling content and at peace. Where frogs and crickets would sing, and the lake would quietly lap against the shore and docks, adding music of its own. In that moment, I had never felt so far away from that place.

As sad as this sounds, I'm getting used to this feeling, and the desire to return just made me wistful, and then determined to have one of those nights that I'll remember (wistfully?) when I'm back on my dock, listening to the lake's music again.

Bouncers stood at doors, taking IDs and cracking jokes with one another about the crowds. Some of them looked at potential customers with disdain. "There is no way this guy is getting in HERE. He's wearing trainers for fuck's sake".

We kept on walking.

I should have realized that I was guiding us back towards the sound of an acoustic guitar (I tend to gravitate towards music), closer to the crowds then we wanted, but still quiet enough to hear the strains of old rock ballads echoing through hundred year old buildings. In the middle of the square was a restaurant that served food both in and outside.

We grabbed a table outside, not caring that it was winter and really too cold to consider having dinner under the stars. There were huge heat lamps, glowing orange and warm, that made sitting in the square, where we could hear the guitar, very pleasant.

People wandered around those of us sitting with our warm food or coffees, as the sound of espresso brewing, people asking for the specials or the bill, conversations about the state of the world or where to go 'after this' surrounded us.

Familiar chords filled the cold air, immediately drawing my attention. As the musican sang "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try" the other sounds faded away. I sipped my drink and listened to the song, looking at the pretty, old buildings in Covent Garden and thinking suddenly that this was a moment I would always remember. Dinner under the stars in February, celebrating 4 years with Jeremy in a place I never imagined I would be.

In that moment, I was content.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


... what do you think of when you read the title of this post?

I'd be willing to bet that if you're not a Muslim, your first thoughts were about terrorism.

No, I'm not accusing you of thinking all Muslims are terrorists. And no, I don't think we all associate all Muslims with terrorism, supporting the war, hating the western world, etc.

But we have a major problem when it comes to understanding who they are and what they really believe in. Every day we hear news stories that basically say the same thing over and over again. A message that is flawed and one-sided.

Have any of you ever heard a news story that mentions what the core beliefs of Islam actually are? What things are written in the Qu'aran? I'm not talking about religion class when you were a child (although I remember "learning" about Islam and the other major world religions during school and promptly forgetting everything when I graduated).

Why am I writing about this?

Flashback to Friday afternoon...

"I'm so glad the week's over! Can't wait to go home and relax with my family!"

"Same here. We're going out for dinner tonight - it's our anniversary."

"Sounds like fun - any idea where you're going?"

"Nope, I think we'll just hop on a bus and ride around for a bit, and wander around Covent Garden."

"Nice. I'll be watching a movie with my hubby and playing with my daughter."

Idle conversation between colleagues. I sat in her car, watching the buildings go by. People everywhere, starting out for the pubs (it was Friday after all), running to the grocery stores to grab dinner, making their way home after a long week at work. Leaning back in the seat, I try not to make comparisons to another friend.

"Just because they are both Muslims who wear headscarfs does not mean they have to be similar people", I think to myself.

Both of these women are friendly, open-minded, fantastic teachers who really care about their students and work hard to do the right thing every day. They never have a mean word to say about anybody, and often apologize for things they don't need to apologize for.

I have no idea how we got onto the topic of Islam, Christianity, and The War.

For a moment, she looked like she was going to cry. For one moment, I saw the pain all of this was causing her. Then her anger took over.

"I can't believe how STUPID all of this is!"

"What do you mean?"

"Okay, every Muslim is taught that the Qu'aran is sacred because the Prophet Muhammed wrote it after it was told to him by God. And he couldn't read or write. Now people are killing other people because of their interpretations of the words on that book."

"Oh, like jihad?"

"That's the WORST PART! Jihad is supposed to be a holy war. The Qu'aran says that we should never fight if we can talk things out instead and that we should NEVER harm women or children or innocent people during jihad."

"and now..."

"And now there are men using it as a justification to kill people they don't agree with, employ extreme laws that the media can't help reporting about and now everybody thinks Islam is this crazy, overly strict religion that justifies blowing up buildings and murdering innocents!"

I looked over at her, driving through the London traffic, frustration and anger painted on her face. A car pulled up beside us with a teenage driver, who gave her a dirty look before driving away.

"I hate people like that. People who give you a dirty look for no reason at all".

Now I'm wondering to myself, "Are there just a lot of rude people in this area, or are they giving her dirty looks because she is clearly a Muslim?" This was not something I was going to bring up in the car, but after witnessing the random mean looks and pointed stares my old friend in Canada endured, I couldn't help but wondering just how progressive the western world actually is.

She started talking again.

"The problem is, most people don't even realize that these terrorists are breaking the basic laws of Islam in the name of Islam. It's completely wrong, and those people who don't agree with them are kidnapped, murdered, beheaded, or ignored by the ones coming to help them. Nobody hears about the beauty of our faith anymore - we aren't even supposed to hurt insects if we can help it. But all they hear all day long is the bombings and hate."

"Maybe it's up to people like you to tell us. I hope that doesn't sound trite, but somebody needs to tell about this..."

"Yes, but who am I to do that? It's just me. What can I do?"

We'd pulled over to the side of the road so I could safely jump out near the train station. I wished we had more time to talk about this.

"Thanks for the ride - I really appreciate it! Hope you have a fantastic weekend."

"You too - see you Monday."

I watched her edge back into the row of cars and disappear down the road.

It's Sunday morning and our conversation is still stuck in my head. She really believes that she doesn't have the capability to tell people that the media has got it all wrong. She thinks people won't believe her - that this message will be too little, too late.

I hope it's not.

My outlook on this war (and Islam) has changed. I read the newspapers and stories on; the ones about people fleeing Iraq and suffering under this awful situation. People hating Americans because they blame them for starting this whole thing - this anger spiraling and twisting until they side with the terrorists who aren't in fact fighting for Islam at all, but their own purpose. I see a war that has three sides to it: the terrorists, the western world, and the Muslims caught in the middle, who do not endorse this violence because their religion forbids it.

"How much can one person do?"

The only answer I could come up with was to write about this in my blog, in hopes that the words I heard on Friday will be spread to at least a few other people. If people like me (who didn't know about this before) tell other people that Islam is NOT about what these terrorists are claiming it's about, then maybe things will improve.

It is the Americans' fault? If they hadn't fought back, would the terrorists have had to target fellow Muslims who don't share their extremist beliefs? Would the war have become a civil one instead of an international disaster? I really don't know. Is it the media's fault for failing to tell us that these terrorists have got it all wrong? I do think a finger can be pointed in their direction. It's their responsibility to tell the masses about things like this, because the only way the world is going to find our way out of this kind of war is to understand the point of view of the people on "the other side".

Maybe we'll realize that most of them aren't on the other side at all...