Monday, April 30, 2007

Overdue post

Well - it finally happened - I moved from the posh world of Bayswater to a place called Clapton, which is part of the borough of Hackney.

East London.

Home of the cockney accents, zillions of kebab shops, Halal markets, graffiti-covered everything - basically an entirely different world from where I've been the past 9 months.

It's like a Tale of Two Cities - but all in one city.

In Bayswater, there are police around all the time just in case there might be a problem. The buildings are grand and whitewashed and everything is very clean. Not so in Hackney.

So why am I here?

Part of me is wondering exactly that.

I decided that for my last three months in the UK, it would be fun to see whether or not I could survive in the wilds of "dodgy London". Well that and the fact that I can rent a large room in the house of somebody I know (fellow teacher from school) for 400 a month inclusive. That does kinda make things worthwhile... The room is really nice, with a shower and an un-working fireplace. It's done in blue and white, with a single bed and a really cozy rug. And a TV! Surprisingly I haven't even turned it on yet.

To be honest, I'm feeling very lost right now. Even though the flat I was in needed to be sprayed for bugs (ew), and the only sunlight that came in lasted for a half hour in mid-morning, I really loved living in that area. Also, my friend Eve was in the same house, so I had somebody right in the building to spend time with. Now, I'm living with a lady (let's call her "N") and her 15 year old son - very friendly people, but there are very clear boundaries set already: i will likely be eating alone all the time, and spending most of the time here in my room. This is fine, but I'm a little bit sad that it won't be more like living with the other roommates I've had. I'd pictured tea in their cozy kitchen and wine outside in the garden. I can still do those things, but it'll be a lot quieter.

It's only 3 more months though, right?

That's what everybody keeps saying. That time will go by very quickly and before I know it, I'll be back home.

Looking out the window (I'm up in the air now - on the 2nd floor), there are big, leafy trees blowing in the wind, gorgeous blue sky, and the sound of children playing and people walking their dogs. Everything seems so normal - like real people live here and not just tourists or bankers staying for a fortnight or two. Being around all of this makes me even more homesick for the places like this that I fit into.

Limited phone access is another issue I'm trying to deal with. The lady I'm renting from has made it pretty obvious that me using the phone daily isn't a good idea - and to keep my calls as brief as possible because she and her son use it a lot. Since I'm a total phone person this isn't going to be easy. That and the fact that I'll be using phone cards instead of a long distance plan... So those of you who want to call me - I'll have to depend a little bit more on you to make those calls for the next few months.

The good news is that I am already starting to warm up to the area - it's funky and different, and I love N's house. My class is doing great, and I've made friends with some work people who are lots of fun and like to go out often. Things are busy, the weather has been amazing, and I've got a hell of a lot to do.

So things should be just fine.

I just need to stop thinking about August for a little while...

Monday, April 23, 2007

another birthday post

Many years ago, I went on a band trip with our high school to attend MusicFest Canada in Calgary, Alberta. We were really excited because the local all-boys school (that had just invited girls to attend) was also going to be there.

While exploring the hotel, my friend Laura and I bumped into some guys she knew. Laura and I wound up spending a LOT of time with the St Charles boys, exploring the hotel and Calgary, and having fun adventures at a Stanley Cup Game and the Light Rail Train system. We had a great time there, and I struck up a friendship with two guys named Nick and Steve...

It's amazing to think about how a chance meeting during a band trip led to so many different things happening. I dated Nick for over 2 years, became extremely good friends with Steve (before certain events caused a long rift that took a lot of years to fix), and our friends from school became friends with them too, particularly a girl named Kim.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I was lucky enough to be there to see Kim & Steve way back when they got together - a young couple who were joined at the hip pretty much from the beginning. Boy the pictures I could show...

We've been through some of the best times I can remember: a group of high school friends having camp-outs together in the Northern Ontario bush, gone to concerts, road trips, band trips, every Semi-Formal we were allowed to attend (age restriction), and then trips to visit when they moved to London. I'll never forget sitting around campfires, listening to the guys play guitar under the stars, chattering about the "latest episode of Friends", and using as many Simpons references as possible - I swear those guys can make any situation into something from that show. We had our typical high school dramas, but somehow everybody stayed friends.

Steve, Kim, and Laura (visit their blogs and you might get an idea why I love them all so much), are the only ones from those days that I still keep in touch with now. But that magic is still there when we get together - that sense of comfort with each other, and stream of "remember when we?" stories. Plus there have been some new adventures too.

So today Steve celebrates his 28th birthday. When I called to wish him a Happy Birthday, I asked what he was doing (picturing all of the times we used to do birthday nights at East Side Marios), and he said "staying home with the wife and the boy".

Well, Steve - I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate your birthday.

I'm glad that we've been friends for so long, and even more so that stuff in the past did stay there. I've always been thankful that you and Kim were together - no person in the world could ever be better for her.

I hope you had a great birthday - and am sure you did. Next year we definitely have to try and get to East Sides - we can introduce Gordie to the tradition :)

Since I couldn't buy you a present, I give you a very bad picture of me at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Since I couldn't piss off a balcony, this seemed like next best thing.

Happy Birthday!!!

Miss you all :)
And finally we have a picture proving what a great dad Steve is! Teaching his son about
hockey before he could even talk :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

La Paris - partie une

EDIT: This has been a totally crazy week - with my parents leaving, getting back into school routines (and realizing there are a hundred new responsibilities for this final school term), sleeping through my alarm friday morning, and a few nights of drinking with some new friends (the culminated in several of them getting in a massive argument friday evening... but that's a whole different story). I slept a lot yesterday, and basically lazed around, doing some marking. Here is the first installment of my Paris posts. I will try to add more pictures of the trip (the original total for pictures taken was 400, but has now risen to 930) in my photoblog.

I apologize for the delay in posting more details of the trip to Paris, but the last few days have been very hectic. The temperatures in London have soared into the mid-20s, with lots of sunshine and pleasant breezes - such nice weather in fact, that I keep forgetting I'm in England (weather seems more like California).

Also, my parents will be going back to Canada on Wednesday, so we've been trying to fit in all of the little things we didn't do before going to Paris. They still need to fit in visits to some of the places I've already been, like St. Paul's, The National Gallery, and the Globe Theatre (which I haven't been in, but have seen before). I wish there was something special I could do for them before they go, but haven't a clue about how to thank them for all of the wonderful things we've done...

The view from the Eurostar train from London to Paris - the French countryside

I posted a few pictures from the trip to Paris in my photoblog a couple of days ago, but here are several more - I took over 400 pictures in 4 days, and probably would have hit 1,000 if I'd been there a week. Never have I seen a more beautiful city.

Our hotel was in a fantastic location - walking distance of the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuilleries, La Place de Concorde, le Champs Elysees, and the Eiffel Tower.

Out the window of our hotel room: La Rue du Roule

Pont Neuf

Everywhere you look in Paris, there are examples of incredible architecture, old French Gothic Churches, and places that have been there for hundreds of years.

The Seine River is very picturesque, and a wonderful place to spend a day or two. We saw people performing on the riverbanks, while others sat in groups drinking wine and having picnics, while couple strolled over bridges hand in hand. Tourist boats and houseboats line the banks, where people took pictures or sunbathed, or just enjoyed the weather (it was gorgeous every day).

The area our hotel was in is called "Pont Neuf", which translated means "bridge nine". Doesn't sound as pretty in our language... Despite the lack of excitement of its name, Pont Neuf is home to bistros, clubs, dozens of flower vendors, shops like Luis Vuitton and Roxy, quaint hotels, and of course, the Louvre.

It's difficult to explain just how jaw-droppingly large and gorgeous this building is. As much as I like the pictures, they don't quite capture it's beauty.

If you have seen the DaVinci Code, then this should look familiar... I had to wait about 20 minutes for the crowds to thin out enough for some decent pictures. I think it was worth the wait...

The Pyramids
Simply amazing both in the day and night...

Since this is such a huge building, the only way I could get a photograph of the entire thing was from the Eiffel Tower. Even from hundreds of feet in the air, the Louvre is impressively large.

Just as with most of the places we visited, there is magic in the air. Walking into the main courtyard, you are surrounded by intricately decorated walls, with statues in the windows, carvings on the doors, and cobblestones at your feet. In the afternoon sun, the buildings took on an old-world feeling, and I imagined for a moment what it would have been like 400 years ago to walk through the same archway into the arms of this great building. Kings and queens have been there, old royalty from hundreds of years past, the rebels during the French Revolution were there - fighting against the riches that largely brought the treasures to that spot, yet determined to keep everything safe and protected.

It's easy to let the romance and history of this city sweep you off your feet.

Then, there was Notre Dame... but I'll save that for the next post.

Bonne Nuit mes amis!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another reason (actually two) that I shouldn't have moved 7,000km away from home

It's no secret that I'm a huge hockey fan. I knew when I moved to England, that it would be a looong year without any "ice hockey" to satisfy my love of the game, but I figured it would be okay, since my team probably wouldn't make the playoffs anyway.

When I say "my team", there are a few teams that actually fit this category:

1. The Colorado Avalanche (go ahead and make fun of me for cheering for a *gasp* American team, but I happen to think they're great (cough, well not this year, but hopefully next year things will improve), and Joe Sakic is my favourite player AND at least I don't cheer for the Leafs!)

2. The Sudbury Wolves (my true Hometown Team - where I learned to love and appreciate everything the Good Ol' Hockey Game has to offer over hundreds of games with my dad and the folks at "The Barn" in downtown Sudbury.)

3. The London Knights (After living there for over 3 years and watching a few games, and following their triumphant wins during the Memorial Cup, I developed a soft spot for this team. Which surprised me because I'd always assumed that there wasn't enough room in my heart for two OHL teams... turns out, I cheer for both - which might end up being a problem in the near future)

Now that I've established that - and likely chased away half of my readers (Ledawit, I'm looking at you!), I can explain the title of this post:

Yep, for the first time in 12 SEASONS the Sudbury Wolves are going to The Conference Finals. The last time this happened, I was only 14 years old. My parents are season ticket holders, and will have first dibs on the tickets (they're calling to get them today) so they'll get to most of the games when they get back. I'm really happy for my dad, because he loves this team and has been a loyal fan for 18 years (and has followed them his whole life). Just a little jealous though...

At least I can watch the NHL playoffs online sometimes, but for these games, I will be stuck with phone calls and online box scores.



In completely different news (and infinitely more special), I have missed another major milestone in somebody's life. Another birthday.

This is Adele Mary, who was born on April 4th of this year, and is the daughter of my cousin Jeff and his wife Julie. A healthy little baby girl who has been born into a family full of happy marriages (none of us have ever divorced, and my grandparents were married for 63 years, until my grandfather passed away). I've been really lucky to grow up with the family I have - happy, successful people who enjoy life and one another, have great kids (most of have had at least 2), and throw incredible weddings. The only downfall is that we're spread all over Ontario, so we don't get together as often as I wish we would... My parents will probably get to meet the newest addition to our family way before I do, as well as the other baby will be born by then as well, the son or daughter of my cousin Corrine (from the wedding post linked above).

I can't wait to get back home so I can meet my newest cousins! Jeff & Julie, I wish you lots of sleep, and every happiness as you watch your baby girl grow up. May God bless you all.


And finally, a reason that I'm glad to have stayed overseas for a year:

Just a little teaser for the next post to come...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ooh La La, J'adore le Paris!

Just a quick post - tonight is our last night in Paris, and I haven't been able to do any writing for my blog because I haven't had internet access that hasn't cost money. Even right now, I'm paying 8 Euros for 1 hour so I don't have to sit in a smoky bar full of old men drinking scotch.

Yep, that's the Parisian version of an internet cafe! At least in this neighbourhood...

Despite the dodgy "internet cafe", this neighbourhood is pretty amazing. Somehow we managed to find a place in the heart of Paris, so we're a block away from the Louvre, down the street from the Seine, and within 10 minutes walking of Notre Dame Cathedral. It's a short train ride to the Eiffel tower, and there are dozens of other great sites and monuments within easy reach. We really lucked out.

Traveling with my parents has been fun, although I'm really missing Jeremy and wishing that we could have explored this incredible city together. "Springtime in Paris" just isn't the same when you're not with the one you love...

After an exhausting few days of exploring, we leave tomorrow evening for London, but not before going to visit the inside of the Louvre, to see the Mona Lisa and a few other galleries. Should be very interesting, although I'm going to have a hard time not pulling out my camera (apparently you're not supposed to use them inside the galleries).

I really hope that I get to return here one day.

I'll try to write a more detailed post tomorrow, with some of the 300 pictures I took (what can I say - the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is incredible).

Until then,
Bonne Nuit

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To the One Who Shares a Brain Cell With Me


I got a special picture with somebody yesterday, just for this birthday post:

Even though he's old (and crazy) now, I guess he's still pretty good-looking.
And we already know he likes girls our age!

Every time I start to write one of my birthday posts, I try to think of a really good memory to start with... The problem with trying that now, is that I have so many good memories with Kim that I could never just choose one. I could write about band trips, road trips, assemblies, marathon phone calls, parties, high school adventures, being her Maid of Honour, watching her be pregnant, meeting her son for the first time, or hundreds of other things...

She is the kind of friend that you have for life. The friend who has been there as we've grown from the uncertain, awkward 13 year olds that we were when we met into (mostly) grown-up women of 28. We have so much history that I could probably write a blog just about things that we've been through together.

Two nights ago, we went to see Mama Mia at a theatre near Leicster Square (in the center of London). After the show, we walked past Piccadilly Circus, where a TV outside the Virgin Megastore was playing "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers. I froze on the spot, and tears came to my eyes. This time, I wasn't missing Jeremy...

Suddenly it was high school again - and my friends and I were singing at the top of our lungs to that song (we loved singing that song - and many others too), on one of our band trips, then in an assembly, then during a party with our friends (we pretty much sang everywhere, all the time). I remembered the feeling of belonging during those times, of really believing that we'd all be friends forever, and nothing in life would change that. Of course, many of our friends have gone their separate ways, and I probably won't hear from them again.

But we're lucky. There are a few of us from high school who did hold on to what we had, and have managed to stay in touch. A few of us who can say "we've been friends since high school", and know that we will always be friends - even when one of us moves across an ocean.

I've never had a sister - not one related to me.

But if there was ever a person who I would consider to be a sister - it's Kim. My funny, witty friend, who is now a mother and wife, and a mature woman of 28. The person who will stand by my side when I finally get married, and will be "auntie" to the children I haven't had yet. The friend who is the voice of reason during uncertain times, and the one I can always be myself with. One of the very few people who knows me as well as I do - somebody I hope to know when I'm 90 years old and sitting on a park bench, complaining about "kids today".

Kim: I've been lucky to be a part of your life; to have shared all of those crazy fun times, watched you fall in love, get married, and then become a mommy (!), and yet remain the same great person that you have always been. Thanks for being such a great friend, and I hope I get to write sappy blog posts for your birthday for many years to come.

Even if you don't know Kim personally (although you can always check out her blog here), raise a glass, say a prayer, or just send happy wishes her way.

Happy Birthday, my friend. I hope to never miss another one.

(this is Laura, me, and Kim - many, many years after we all met and became friends. It's funny how we still pretty much look the same)

Can't believe it's been two weeks already

The last two weeks have flown by.

Despite this, I still feel like August is light-years away.

On a much more positive note, the last 13 days of visiting with my parents has been a lot of fun, and I've finally (after 8 months) been able to spend some time playing Tourist. We've been all over the city: Portobello Road market and Notting Hill, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, more street markets, two trips to the theatre (Treats and Mama Mia), shopping at Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, dinner at Covent Garden, and today Madame Tussaud's.

Here are a few pics from today:

Read the fine print - does this sound like a good deal to YOU?!

Apparently Samuel L. Jackson thought it was ridiculous too...

Love this picture of me & Hendrix. I can only wish to be that cool...

And here we have Jeremy's favourite actor, Nicholas Cage, who I tried to pose with, but the pictures just don't look good. So here is my pic of him with his motorbike.

So sight-seeing has been pretty fun, and at the street markets, we've really lucked out. My dad found a great watch that appears to be a Swiss Army brand, although we're not completely sure that it's real, since he paid 5 pound for it, and they usually cost 200. I got a pair of Luis Vuitton shoes (!!) and Versace sunglasses (!!) - also am not completely sure that they're real, but as far as I'm concerned, they are. Great deals on both, and I did manage to find the exact same things on the internet for ridiculous amounts of money (the shoes are apparently worth $450 Canadian, and I saw the sunglasses on ebay for 200 pounds). I've never owned anything made by a designer, so even if you KNOW that these aren't the real deal, please refrain from telling me - it's more fun to believe I own something really special.

Either way, I love the shoes because they're comfortable. The only problem is, because they're so expensive, I don't want to wear them everyday, so now I need to get another pair to wear on days when it's rainy,so they stay nice. Gotta love being a girl...

Here are a couple more pictures from day today - these ones are of our dinner at The Globe Pub on Baker Street. Great food and atmosphere (typical of most British pubs actually. I'm gonna miss them when I go back to Canada). We had an even better time than usual because the waitress let us pose behind the bar.

How do I look?

my parents not paying attention to the camera - how cute!

Tomorrow we're heading out early to go to the Tower of London and the London Dungeons. Should be a very interesting, history-filled day. I will probably fall asleep tonight dreaming of the Three Musketeers and the Kings and Queens who walked within those thousand-year-old walls.

I will be posting tomorrow anyway, since it's April 4th; a special day for one of my favourite people in the entire world.

Until then...