Friday, 31 December 2010

Hey Mom & Dad.. Look What I Did!!

Growing up in Campbell River I always knew that in a small town connections are important. I can`t count how many times I was warned by my parents "never brun bridges!". Connections and good relationships can get you jobs, spots on sports teams, information about events, ect, ect... While this is especially true in small towns, it holds all over.
 I am still in Switzerland spending the holidays with my friend David. I met him playing volleyball in CR and we became friends.  He is a helicopter pilot and with the many economic troubles our town has suffered the past few years David had to move to Fort McMurray for work.  But we didn`t lose touch. We would email and talk and skype. It is not easy to keep contact with friends from afar. I have been in London only 4 months and it is amazing how few people I talk to regularly. Everyone is busy and it takes a conscious effort to keep in touch with someone. David only lived in CR a few years but made some very good friends and is very good at keeping connected with many of them.
When I arrived in Switzerland David told me that a pilot buddy of his might be able to take us on a helicopter ride. I had told David that one thing I wanted to see while here was the Matterhorn. Having visited Disneyland MANY times, I thought it would be great to see the real thing! Hearing that we might get to take a heli ride was very exciting, but I was already in Switzerland and feeling pretty blessed so I decided I wasn`t going to base the success of my trip on this one opportunity.  I have seen some wonderful things this past week. We toured Geneva, spent time in the Swiss Alps, took some mountain walks and spent time with David`s friends and family.  The weather in Geneva has been quity foggy so I was thinking the heli ride was probably not going to come to fruition.

Getting the helmet cam set up, I was first!

And we`re off!!

Then David told me he had a friend who does ULM flights - ultra light, basically a motor-trike with a big hang gliding wing attached. Again I thought "wow, cool!" but there are so many factors - weather, wind... - that I wasn`t going to get my hopes too high. Well, the next day we were on the road heading to France. We met up with Seb, who David had met at heli school in CR, then went on to the French Alps where JB was waiting for us, also a fellow heli pilot from CR.  JB took us each up for a ride in his ULM. We went over the French Alps, followed ski slopes, saw castles and ski resorts and waterfalls. We each got about a 15 minute ride and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. We went about 2700 meters in altitude and also soared down right near the trees.  There is a propeller on the back of the trike to keep speed but for the last couple minutes of the flight he cuts the motor and you glide through the trees before landing. Probably the closest feeling to flying like a bird out there! We got some cool pictures, and with a camera on the wing and another on the helmet, some great video too, AMAZING.
After the flight I told David that maybe I need to get more creative with my bucket list because I had never even thought to put something like this on, never thought I would get this opportunity!



And a smooth landing too  =)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Swiss Chalet

Just returned to Geneva after spending the past few days in St-Luc in the Swiss Alps.
Christmas Eve:
Delphine in new chef`s outfit
David, his brother Pascal and I left for the Alps. It is about a 2 hour drive from their house in Geneva, which for them is a huge trek apparently. Most people would not even consider doing this as a day trip. We arrived late afternoon and it was quite foggy. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th for the most part so once the whole family had arrived we sat down to a huge Christmas dinner of Chinese fondue! This was about a 2 hour operation of eating and chatting. We had fois gras as an appetizer, my first experience... interesting.
Then came out the big pots for the bouillion to do our meat fondue. We had salads and dips and 2 different meats to cook: beef and horse!  Another first for me... Not bad, but I stuck mostly to the beef.
David, me & Pascal
After dinner it was about 10pm, time to open presents!! It was really cute watching David`s niece Delphine tear through her presents. Everyone opened at the same time, it was a lot of fun. Then Delphine went to bed, she was told she could play with all of her new toys in the morning, and we sat down for the next round - dessert! Once we could all barely move and it was quite late we packed it in for the night.

Christmas Day:
Me & Pascal at Saturn
Everyone slowly got out of bed. It was another foggy day so we couldn`t really see the famous view of the Alps. We took the little train up the hill in the afternoon and went for a nice walk along the path of the planets. There are sort of statues of each planet in miniature but all to scale relative each other in terms of size and distance apart. So the whole walk from the sun to the last planet is about 10km, we walked to Saturn then turned back. Another big family dinner =)

Boxing Day:
Snowboarding the Alps!!!!!
The sun came out, the fog lifted,  and the view was breath-taking!! This was our day to snowboard the Alps!!! It was amazing skiing- no crowds, nice big runs and indescribable view. After a few hours I was getting blisters from my borrowed boots and was starting to feel guilty knowing that they are all used to the view and wanted to ski and I was surely slowing them down wanting to take in the view and take some pictures too, so I made my way back to the chalet and went for a nice walk with David`s mom. That evening Pascal and his friend Vanessa, David and I went for a real Swiss fondue, CHEESE! It was fabulous to say the least.

View of the Matterhorn from the slopes

Train up to the ski lifts

View from where we ate lunch!

The 27th was another beautiful day, we walked around the village a bit then drove down to another little village and walked around there for a bit. Trying to walk off at least some of the Swiss cheese, chocolate, bread....A nice family dinner and movie was how we spent our last night in the Alps.  This morning we made our way down after breakfast back to Geneva. Tonight we head to David`s sister and brother-in-law`s place in France to make crèpes!! YUM!

View of Matterhorn from the village
"Swiss Chalet"

Me & David Swiss (just David in Switzerland?)

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Land of the Swiss!

Wednesday morning I made my way to the airport crossing my fingers all would go well. I got cehcked in and saw that the morning flight to Geneva had been cancelled and rescheduled to fly about 20 mins after mine, but all looked good for my flight *whew*
In Swiss Land with David Swiss!!
I was checked in and through security before my gate was open so I wandered around the shops and accepted the free Hazelnut Bailey`s sample. The flight was slightly delayed but otherwise went smoothly. David and his brother Pascal were waiting for me in Geneva and took me back to their parent`s house where I met the family including one of their sisters and her daughter Delphine who is 3 and a half. We had a nice family dinner then David took me on a little tour of Geneva. To get to Geneva we passed through France which is about 2 minutes from the house!
Jet d`eau
In the morning I hung out with David`s parents and niece while he slept the morning away (much like right now as I blog and enjoy my tea, also hiding from the massive spider I discovered in my room, as David sleeps blissfully unaware..). David`s parents were getting all packed to head up to the chalet in St-Luc, part of the Swiss Alps.
After they had gone and David woke up from his nap! we headed in to Geneva for my tour. It was crazy downtown since here they celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve so the 23rd is the last day that most shops are open. We finally found some parking and walked around along Lake Geneva. We grabbed some Starbucks - 20 bucks for 2 coffees and a slice of lemon loaf! This isn`t known as the 6th most expensive city in the world for nothing!!  Then we headed over to the Jet d`Eau, one of the largest fountains in the world shooting water 140 m into the air! We also stopped for a picture in front of the flower clock- another landmark, I was told by my tour guide.
Later on, Pascal made us dinner and we enjoyed a movie at his apartment on his huge projection screen. Then we met a couple of their friends for a drink.
Making tarts to bring to the Alps :)
So... we walk in to this pub/bar just as some interesting dancer-looking folk are walking out. We pass the sign on the door that say you must be at least 16 to enter... We are enjoying our 12 dollar drinks (rum & coke, vodka orange, nothing fancy) when the dancers come back. One male, one female, they jump up on the bar and stay 10-15 mins.... interesting show. This is when David tells me if you are 16 you`re allowed in the bar but can only order beer? I say to him, would you really want your 16 year old daughter watching this? Just as the male dancer gets on his knees on the bar and pour a glass of water all over himself... time to go!
I woke up this morning to snow falling in Geneva. Once David is awake and Pascal comes over we will be heading up the mountain for a big family Christmas.
I am so lucky to have a great friend with a wonderful family, all of whom have welcomed me into their home for Christmas. Definitely counting my blessings this year, and sending love back home to my own family and friends. Miss you and love you. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas full of love and some good laughs. Take a moment to think of all the wonderful things in your life, cherish them. Tell your family and friends that you love them! And do something you`ve always wanted to do but have never gotten around to doing.
Happy Holidays eveyone!!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Happy Holidays!!

Couldn't go anywhere, so Angela and I decided to play!
Snow in London.... There is really no way to explain the panic that comes into a Londoner's eyes when snow is in the forecast. It doesn't even have to be physically snowing for the anxiety to begin. Which means, unfortunately, that is was not all that shocking to watch the entire country come to a standstill over about 4 inches of snow. It was sad, but not shocking. It snowed some on Friday and I awoken to quite heavy snowfall on Saturday. In total we got about 3 inches this times. I expected some chaos like last time, but definitely not to the degree that I saw. As many have seen on the news the airports were shut down. I am flying out of Gatwick airport, one of the smaller ones close to my house, in about 3 hours. This airport was closed for short periods during the snowfall. Heathrow, on the other hand, a huge international airport was closed for more than 2 days! I personally know at least a half dozen people whose holidays plans have been completely thrown off course because of this airport. We have friends staying at our house right now instead of a nice hotel in Spain because their entire trip had to be cancelled! And still, 4 days later Heathrow has not been opened back to normal. The images on the news are slightly misleading as we talk to people who were there and were promised but never given blankets, water, anything! They were told to leave the airport and given no information about their travels. Others weren't even allowed to enter the airport because it was getting so crowded! Happy Holidays!
So again, I am counting my blessings that everything looks to be going smoothly for my flight today and I will get to spend to holidays with a good friend and his family in Switzerland.

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas filled with family and friends. Best wishes to all in the new year! xoxo

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Return of the Snow

Another busy work week as I continue to squirrel away pennies for all the travels I have in mind for 2011. This week I celebrated my one week mark until I fly to Switzerland for the holidays, and also buying my flight to Rome where I will meet Mom and Chris in February :) I will meet them in Rome for the weekend and then a couple of days later they will come to London where I will finish up my work week and then I will have a week off to show them around.  It will also mark the half-way point of my year over here so I am quickly filling up all of my time off with trips I would like to take before I head back to Canada in August - and for this I am saving my quid!

This week was full of jobs. On Monday I returned to the lovely school that I very much enjoyed last week and is very close to home. This time I was in a year 1 class and these 4/5 year olds were lovely! We had a great day doing some maths, some stories, some computer games and some Christmas coloring. They even sang me their Christmas song sans music and it was quite adorable.

I also spent 2 days as a TA in a nursery class out at another school that I enjoyed last time I was there - but is unfortunately no where near my house! It is beyond dark when I return from work, but for an enjoyable day it is worth the trade off!!
In nursery they are 3 years old so my day is mostly spent reading stories, playing play doh, zipping jackets and doing crowd control! I will be there next week as well, this school is open until the 21st! I have very mixed feelings on the whole `nursery` thing.  I have been in other schools where nursery is half day, sort of like pre-school back home, only a little longer. At this school there seems to be a choice between half day and full day. Some kids stay all day while about half of the class changes mid day. There is one little girl who is completely adorable, but has some major issues socially - often hitting other kids and saying very rude things. However, this little girl gets dropped off in the morning and stays all day at nursery, and then goes to an after-school play time too. That means she is at school from 9am until 4pm or later. And she is 3 years old!!! That would be a long exhausting day for me! I think is is too much for some kids and gets abused as free daycare when these kids really need some one-on-one attention (there are usually 30 kids running around nursery and I'm sure just as many after school).
our walk home - not so bad unless you're in a skirt and flats :s
On Friday we had a half day at my regular school because it was their last day before holidays. It was great, as usual. After the staff had planned a nice lunch out with money that had been donated by the school CEO. However, the dreaded London snow returned... Teachers started to panic as the white stuff fell and lunch was called off. Christine and I weren't so excited about this development because we were going to get rides to lunch and a station afterwards and had dressed accordingly. Now our plans had gone to hell. A kind TA offered us a ride to the station, even though it is in the opposite direction she normally goes, about a 5 min drive out of her way. So we helped dust the snow off her car and jumped in. But.... as she pulled the e-brake to stop and open the gate at the bottom of the drive her car slid a bit (I know what you're thinking - shocking!) but this was enough to make her nervous so out we got, into the snow to make our 25 minute trek to the station... We arrived with cold feet and legs - remember we have to wear skirts to school! and we get on our train quickly because it was delayed in our favour. At the next station we will have to wait 30 mins for the train we normally take, so we switch up our route and end up waiting about 10 here and switch again but only have to wait a few minutes for that one too...
Saturday morning snow... airports already closed, oh dear
After all that the snow had long since stopped and the sunshine had come out, but we were done for the week and that was all that mattered!
Now I sit in bed Saturday morning delaying my journey to the gym because today it actually does look like a blizzard out there --- can only imagine the mayhem that this will bring.
Happy Holidays :)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Ode to Hasselhoff

Dinner & wine pre show

After much anticipation, Friday finally arrived. Christine and I rejoiced after every lesson knowing we were that much closer to seeing David Hasselhoff as Hook in Peter Pan.

After work we took the train right to Wimbledon and met Josephine at the pub. We tried out a new one and it was great. We enjoyed some wine and some tasty, very cheap, food.  None of our dinners cost more than 5 pounds and everything on the dessert menu was 1.50   :)

Our fantastic new mugs: Don't Hassel the Hoff
After dinner and dessert we walked over to the theater in Wimbledon. Jo and I bought some fantastic mugs and we were getting quite excited for the show.  Our seats were pretty much nose bleeds (we don't love Hoff THAT much..) but lots of seats were empty when the show started so we moved up about 5 rows. All the bouncer had to say was that he couldn't stop us, but if the ticket holders came we would have to move. Did he think we would get into a fight with them over our new, better view seats of the Hoff??

The show started and we were NOT disappointed! It was hilarious. The song choices were great and we all sang along. The audience got right into it shouting at the actors on stage. Lots of fun and very entertaining. Hasselhoff had a few solos and was cheered and jeered throughout the show. Definitely a night well spent!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Restoration of Faith

Pretty normal week so far. My regular school finally opened back up after the snow, and it was nice to see the kids again. I have to admit that out in Carshalton they do have quite a bit more snow than we got in Wimbledon - the ground is still covered by snow out that way. The sidewalks are also covered in a nice thick layer of uneven ice which makes the walk to the bus stop/train station quite interesting for us... But as no one drives that way (about a 5 min drive, 20 min walk), we still have to slide our way.
Yesterday is the day that made me want to write this post, however. I got sent to a school quite close to where I live, it took hardly any time to get there. Which I didn't know so I arrived crazy early. As soon as the kids arrived they were joking with me, and when I began the register (attendance) they all quieted down quite well and I thought to myself - this is going to be a great day! You would think that by now I would never have these thoughts because I clearly jinx myself all of the time.. But on this day I was right!! They were just normal kids, they respected their teachers and TA's, they were caring and curious. The TA was great too. I stayed in with the kids at break, they couldn't go outside because of the ice on the playground, and she brought be a mug of tea. At lunch I sat in with them and watched some Tom and Jerry. It was like a day with kids from back home. And my faith in the English children was restored :)  We watched some Christmas movies at the end of the day because their PE was cancelled and some even made me Christmas cards and a few decorated some paper airplanes and gave them to me (we had done an activity with paper airplanes earlier in the day. With any other class I would have been cursing the teacher to leave this with a supply, but again, it went really well).
Lovely day.  And my excitement grows because tomorrow I am going to the theater with friends Christine and Josephine. We are going to a pantomime of Peter Pan. If you don't know what a pantomime is (which I didn't) read about them on wikipedia, ( sounds hilarious. But the best part is that Hook is played by none other than......... David Hasselhoff!!! hahaha    Can't wait :)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

I am a student of the blog....

Ok, before I get to my weekend I have exciting news! I think I have figured out how to make it so that you don`t need a google account to leave comments. Yes, I realize this news is mostly only exciting to me, but this is my blog and I can share my excitement if I want to :) Now I will see who my real friends are.... (just kidding).

Now, back to real news... Friday my regular lovely school was closed for snow, once again. And, no, we had not actually gotten any new snow, they just decided it was too difficult to go to school, so why bother.  I was looking at my bank account and looking at info on Geneva (apparently the 6th most expensive city IN THE WORLD) and was beginning to feel the twinges of panic... So I tried my best to make my agency feel guilty about my lack of work situation due to the inability of London to function in cold weather..? aaannnd SUCCESS! haha They found me a day of work! I went to a school way over on the East side, near Bow Station for those of you with a map handy. It was a nice little school with nice little children and nice, helpful TA`s and was overall a great way to end a hectic week! After work I met up with Angela in the city and we fought our way down Oxford Street over to Leicester Square for a nice Friday dinner.
Christine with amazing cake

This is a cake!!?
Saturday Angela and I met up with Josephine and Christine who had each won 2 tickets to a Taste of Christmas festival, and invited us to join them. We made our way to the Excel centre where they had this festival set up. It was basically a Christmas themed `home show`.  They had a huge arena-type area filled with stalls each selling their wares, and most providing samples :) Sausage, cheese, chocolate, fudge, wine, ginger wine, bread, brownies, chutney, salsa, jam, chips and dip..... It goes on and on. Needless to say we were full by the time we left and in a festive spirit!
Angela with another crazy cake
Jo with her ``famous`` chef friend :P

Cake sample? Yes please!!

Jo had not yet been to the Cologne German market near the London Eye and wanted to check it out, so we made a pit stop and walked through that market before heading for home.  After resting our feet and digesting our samples, Jo invited Angela and I over to their place to watch *gasp* TV!!! It goes without saying, that after 3 months without even an actual telly in the house we were excited to watch one that had cable too! So we got our warm socks and boots back on and walked over for a late night movie of Slumdog Millionaire :)

Sunday I actually motivated myself for a morning run, then spent most of the day relaxing at home. Another lovely weekend in London. Countdown is on to holidays and Switzerland :)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

London Lights

our snowy home
So what do we think of the new background?? I'm liking the warm brown :) haha

Well this week started out a little rough. I was feeling a little run down, tired, fighting off a bit of a cold and with all the holiday stuff around started to feel a little homesick. I was warned about the 3 month mark being when homesickness can kick in... But I have some great friends from home who have kept in touch and after a few chats was feeling quite a bit better, made some plans for this weekend and things we really looking up after my ordeal of a day on Tuesday.
The London Eye
Wednesday was another snow day, many schools still closed. This morning I was booked to work and got a call in the morning that my school - and 10 others! - were closed for snow again. This time it actually did snow some more over night at least. I was told to jump back in bed, but keep my clothes close in case something came in. This basically meant, go back to sleep, you won't be working today, since most days they ask repeatedly "Ok, so you're all ready to go right? Ready to leave as soon as I call you with something right?" So back to bed I went.
It snowed on and off today as well, giving us a grand total of about 2 inches here!! I know, crazy times!!
Trafalgar Square tree

After going to the gym and relaxing most of the day I was feeling the onset of cabin fever (I could never make it in an isolated village!). I knew that the Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square was being lit tonight and I have been meaning to get some night pics of the city, so I went upstairs to convince Angela to come with me. Turns out she was feeling the fever too and wanted to get out of the house!
Me & Ang with the tree :)
We headed to see the German Christmas market set up by the London Eye first. Then made our way to the lighting of the Trafalgar Square tree and then caught a bus up to Oxford Street to really take in all the Christmas lights we could! It was beautiful! Great night in the city :)

Big Ben

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

Oxford Circus

Pretty lights :)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Booooooooo (yes, that's all I can come up with right now)

Some of the guards marching in - all wearing Canadian bear skin hats

What a terrible day!!! So to start off with something more positive I will rewind to the weekend.

On Thursday night I had my first 'couch surfer' arrive.  She is from Illinois and is spending a term in Ireland doing her student teaching. There are some sketchy people on the couch surfing website, but I thought "A teacher? Can't go wrong!" And boy was I right!! I had to work on Friday so I gave her some info about walking tours before heading to bed for the night. I got home from work on Friday feeling like I was going to be battling a cold - booo. She came home later in the evening and had done 2 walking tours that day! Talk about dedication to getting the full effect of London in one weekend!

On Saturday we had breaky and headed into the city to see the changing of the guards.  It was a decent day but very cold! The guards all marched in to the gates at Buckingham Palace, and we watched from a good vantage point across the street. It was cool watching them all come in and hearing the band play, but it started to get less exciting as they milled about in from of the palace and our feet started to slowly freeze off. So we ducked out a bit early in search of a good woolly scarf and lunch.

Westminster Abbey
After a refuelling lunch at The Spaghetti House (highly recommend), we went to Westminster Abbey to attend a service. We did not know that you can make reservations to do this? so we ended up sitting in folding chairs where we unfortunately couldn't see the priest or the choir, but only the reader.  This was all right though as the Abbey is spectacular with the high ceilings, statues, stained glass... So beautiful. And to hear the entire place filled with the sounds of the choir almost put you in a meditative state, so completely removed from the noise and bustle of the city. After the service we walked back up past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park where there is a Winter Festival going on. Best way to describe this is as a winter PNE. It was full of little booths and food and rides, including an outdoor skating rink. It was also jam packed with people!! All in all great day, and a great new friend to spend it with. (We are already planning New Year's eve 2012 in New York!)

Santa!!  :)
Rides and beer houses (ok, a little better than the PNE)

Stalls everywhere - many selling toques, but they look at you funny if you say 'toque'

Now on to today.... My lovely Tuesday at with the Brethrens was violently snatched from me because they declared a snow day (at that point this morning we had about half a centimeter of snow, I actually thought my agency was kidding when I got the message). Instead I got called out to St Patrick's Primary. I was thinking "I go to St Patrick's church back home, this must be a sign of a good day to come!" WRONG!!!
I get to the other side of the city (my post code starts SW19, this school is SE18 - actual OPPOSITE side of the planet for me) and there is quite a bit more snow here. I slip and slide my way to the school and arrive at the same time as the teacher whose class I am covering. She gets them settled with some writing and leaves - no notes, no extra work for those who finish, just gone. After break she puts up a slide, points to it and walks out of the room. Thanks for the help! The TA is helpful, but soon leaves for her early lunch and the kids go nuts.
I survive and find my way to the staffroom for lunch only to be greeted with a glass of champagne to celebrate the head teacher's 60th birthday. Right on, this day must be about to turn around.
Nope! I get changed classes and end up in a 3/4 class. When I get there the TA is leaving for her lunch break, I ask what I am supposed to have the kids do and she says "Don't know Miss" and walks out. Awesome.
I find some vague note about similes and a poem on her desk with a note to be copied x31, but only one copy is there. Oh and did I mention they are doing construction on the school so this class is filled with noise from a jackhammer (so it would seem) being used on the roof. Only when I make up a simile about this, the kids have no idea what a jack hammer is.... grrr.
I kind of get the kids to listen for about 3 second bursts, then give up because they are seriously the most terrible kids I've ever met. A couple of fist fights break out. I am pacing the room muttering to myself "Two more hours, 55 pounds, this will pay my council tax bill". Finally god (or someone) comes in and tells me they are being dismissed early due to the weather conditions.

I make a run for it.

I finally make it home despite trains being delayed for weather, person under train, and signal disruption... and it is only Tuesday..... oh joy