Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Bikram Experience

Cash is tight as I seem to be booking and paying for a trip every week now.  Just booked a trip to Prague for the long weekend coming up.  We get a bank holiday the first Monday of May here (there are only a couple bank holidays a year over here, not what feels like one a month back home!). This weekend was further extended because they actually created another bank holiday for - you guessed it- the Royal Wedding! Thanks Will... Not good for the 'bank' (I'm so funny), but good for another weekend get away.
That being said, even when saving pennies, a girl can't resist a bargain! I was browsing through the Wimbledon Leisure magazine and came across an ad for a Bikram yoga studio in Wimbledon. This is what is often called hot yoga. The intro offer was 10 consecutive days for 15 quid! Good deal, especially when I looked up the studio online and it costs 14 for a single drop in. So yesterday I got on my blackest workout gear and tried my hand at it. 
I was sure glad that I have been doing some yoga classes recently at my gym, this definitely helped. But man is it hot in there! Let's just say that we were still on the breathing exercises and I had sweat dripping from my elbows. By the time the class was over, the instructor - who wasn't even doing the poses, but just saying that we should do - was dripping, shorts soaked and everything. Everyone looked like they had just run a marathon in Mexico in July.  Basically, the class involves a series of yoga poses held for a short time with recovery between each one. You do two sets of each pose then move on to the next pose.  Just the exertion from holding the pose for 30-45 seconds in that heat gets your heart pumping, so you do a little recovery after each one, probably to avoid having most of the class pass out.
But I survived day one and plan to go back for more punishment tonight.  We will see how I feel after 10 days, if I can hack it that long.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Land of Castles and Dragons

Made it through another work week, which means only two more to go before our two week term break. Friday night Christine and Josephine had some people over for a games night. We had a great game of Taboo.  Some very funny moments!

Cardiff Castle
Saturday we were up early. Andi came up from Plymouth and we went on a day trip to Wales by coach.  It was a very nice trip.  Our coach, however, was not full of the most intelligent or considerate people, and we seemed to get further and further behind schedule as people showed up late to
each meeting time, which meant that our free time at each stop kept getting cut.

Unofficial Wales supporters

Wales supporters

Our first stop was Cardiff, the capital of Wales.  This is a place with more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. We got in to Cardiff just after lunch time and it was a zoo! There was traffic and people everywhere. Turns out it was game day. England v Wales meant that Cardiff looked like Vancouver during the Olympics, but this was just a regular weekend football match.  Fans were strutting the colours of Wales, kiosks were set up selling game gear, roads were closed off, big screens were set up and pubs had queues running out onto the streets.  The other noticeable difference, once again, is that public drinking is allowed.  So fans are wandering down the streets beers in hand.  Which may seem practical, since everyone wants a brewsky on game day, but it becomes quickly apparent why we do not allow this in Canada when a group of England supporters strut by and suddenly curses are being shouted, and beers are being thrown.

Caerphilly Castle
We wandered around town for about an hour, our allotted free time, then made our way back to the coach and were off to Caerphilly Castle.  This is the second largest fortress in the UK, outsized only by Windsor Castle. It was beautiful.  As we were gawking around like tourists a very high class (and pricey, I'm sure!) wedding was being held at the castle.

After the castle, we made our way back to London and got home exhausted from the long day.  Our trip was enjoyable, but I would say that Wales might be just too far for this kind of day trip.  If you wanted to feel less rushed go it on your own with a very early train/bus and expect to get home late.
Daffodils, national flower of Wales

Sunday Josephine and Andi and I went to Camden Market, as neither of them had been yet.  We wandered around the stalls, had a cheap and delicious lunch, tried out best to resist all the delicious treats and finally said goodbye to Andi who had to head to her home far far away. Josephine and I caught a matinee of Limitless to cap off another great weekend.

Like I mentioned before, two more weeks until term break when my cousin is coming to visit me and we will be exploring Amsterdam and Edinburgh during her visit.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Whisper Words of Wisdom, Let it Be

Another great week full of work and thus moolah! This weekend Christine and Josephine had cousins come visit from home. They arrived late Friday night and Saturday we took them into the city to see some highlights. Walked past Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, and took a trip up to Abbey Road.  I hadn't been there yet and it was pretty funny. It is a random cross walk in the middle of nowhere with a dozen or so tourists standing around, running across, standing in the middle and taking photos as cars and buses wait in annoyance. Eventually they honk and start driving at those who are taking too long to 'cross' this infamous zebra crossing (as they are called here). Down the road a little bit is the recording studio, again a tiny building barely even noticeable.

Saturday evening, we had all our teacher friends, mostly Canadian and an Aussie, gather together in Wimbbledon and then we headed to a pub for some dancing. It was a fun night!

Sunday, we dragged ourselves out of bed (some earlier than others, I had done 2 loads of laundry and gone for a run before some people were dressed!) and we went back in to the city for more sightseeing. This time highlights were the Eye, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, and of course a good old English pub lunch! Deeeelicious.

Friday at work I had gotten a text from my agency asking if I was good to teach Spanish on Monday because they had a day of secondary for me. I replied, sure I've done it before. Then I got the phone call "So, how fluent is your Spanish?" ... "Well, it isn't. But Spanish is close enough to French that when the kids are doing worksheets etc. I can figure out what it is asking them"... "Ok, we will get back to you, but right now you are our best bet". So I was booked in. When I looked up the school online, not only is it in Chelsea - mega fancy - but it is also called a language college. Oh dear, they are going to find me out fast!!  Needless to say, I laid awake early this morning a little nervous.  I got off the tube and strolled past Tiffany's, and other high end stores trying to find this school.  Turns out the rich kids aren't much different than any other kids in this country. They weren't outright rude and no one swore at me, but they still didn't listen to a word I said nor did they do any work... ah well, another day another dollar.  This week is shaping up quite nice work-wise, already have something booked every day. Next weekend it is off to Wales!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The darndest thing

When I decided to move to London to teach everyone seemed to already know that the children were terrible and that it rained constantly here.  Well, I have to say, they were wrong about the rain! It actually rains nothing here compared to home! In the almost 7 months I have been here, I have seen what I now call "Canada-style" rainy days (an entire day of downpour) maybe twice.  In the summer/fall there would be 20 minute downpours where you could literally take cover under a tree and wait it out. And in the winter it seems to be mostly just gray with some drizzle here and there.
But the kids.... well that is another story. No, not all are bad, but here is a little tale from Monday afternoon.

Monday I get sent to a nice school nearby. I have been to this school several times and enjoy going there. This day is even better because my good friend is doing supply there too so we get to hang out at lunch and chat.  We decide that the day was draining enough to warrant a Starbucks visit at the end of the day :) We are walking from the school to catch the bus, and a small child is coming toward us on the sidewalk riding a scooter.  He looks to be maybe 4 years old. He is in the middle of the sidewalk on his scooter, like most people in London he shows no intent of moving aside.  We have spent the day playing with kids so jokingly I go "Whoa, Look out! haha" In a big dramatic fashion, normal playing with kids. Well as we pass him we distinctly hear a but "F*!@% YOU" and more mumbled cursing directed at us from the child.  We stop in our tracks and look back at the kids who is clearly giving us a death glare. We do some nervous laughter and keep on walking totally in shock of what has just happened.

What a lovely British child...
Starbucks was all the more deserved!

Monday, 14 March 2011

To Dover

I ended up working 4.5 days last week which always helps the bank account. Had a pretty good week working in schools that I have been to before. And good schools with nice kids - always a bonus!
Thumbs up high speed train!
On Friday Christine and I went from work and met her sister Josephine at Clapham Junction. We grabbed  bite to eat then went to a free drinks night at our agency.  The agency we work for has it's own charity.  By working for them, part of the money they make from us supports the charity. Also, 4 times a year they take a team over to work directly with teachers.  They have locations in India and in Africa.  A team had just returned from India, so they gave a little presentation about some of the work they had done, and we enjoyed free snacks and drinks - win/win.

The ocean!! Oh how I have missed you!

Saturday morning we jumped on a train and a little over an hour later we were in Dover in the county of Kent. Our friend Jan (actually from Vancouver, went to UBC too!) lives in Kent and met up with us in Dover.
We stopped at Marks & Spencer to grab everything necessary for a delicious picnic: cheese, pita, crackers, tomatoes, wine, cookies, Christmas plates and cups on sale... We then started out map-less wander towards the cliffs. 

We walked along the beach and finally started climbing up to the cliffs. It was a rather long and very steep walk. Christine and Josephine were not huge fans of the hike, but it was sure worth it when we got to the top! The cliffs are stunning! There is a great view of the harbor where the ferry leaves for Calais, France.
We set up shop and enjoyed our picnic in the sun. The sun soon decided to leave and after our picnic we were all rather cold (the sweat from our climb didn't help matters), so we set off to find the castle.
Picnic!! Christine, Jan, me

Jan, Josephine, me, cliffs!

downhill to the castle

To get to the castle, we basically had to walk all the way back down to where we came from, cross town, then climb up the other local 'mountain'.  One can only imagine now the moaning coming from the sisters! But we all eventually made it to the top and wandered around the castle grounds.

We were too late in the afternoon to take a tour, but still enjoyed exploring on our own. After descending back in to town, we stopped at a pub to warm up before getting the train back to London.

I see the castle, just down the hill, across the valley, up the other side!

Sunday we went in to the city and watched the St Patrick's day parade. It was quite lively with never-ending pipe bands lots of leprechauns. Luckily the rain stopped just as the parade began, making it quite a bit more enjoyable. I even got a key chain for heckling some bobbies!
A wonderful weekend, with some great friends. I am looking forward to more weekend city breaks!

Monday, 7 March 2011

March? Really?!

Am I the only one who feels like I am in a time warp? I was certain that it was just Christmas vacation, but somehow March is already upon us. Although I am definitely not complaining, because March seems to have brought with it greener grass, blossoming flowers, and blooming buds, all overnight! I also noticed this morning that it is now light when I wake up in the morning, and even after a nice walk on the way home from work, it is still daylight when I return home.  These are all very welcome!
The first week back after break was very slow. I did not get much work at all, just one half day on top of my regular 2 days of work. Not great, but not too surprising. Most teachers probably wanted to get into their classrooms to get things set up and organised, and meetings had not yet been planned. This week I am already booked for 4 days and will be on call the fifth day, so this jives much better with my plans to make lots of money so I can see lots of things!
I have now finished the planning of 2 April trips.  My cousin, Devon, is coming for our 2 week term break, "spring break" if you will, mid-April.  We will be going to Amsterdam for 3 nights the first week, and to Edinburgh for 2 nights the second week.  I have booked flights, trains, hostels and we even booked a trip to see Loch Ness (and hopefully Nessie too!). So now this is where the make money kicks in so that I can hopefully afford to eat on these trips, as well as for the month of May. There are so many holidays in April that there are only actually 11 possible working days, hoping that I get booked every day possible... It goes without saying that this is rather nerve-racking.  Just makes me glad that I had Mom bring me a few boxes of Kraft Dinner, in case worse comes to worse.
I have also been planning some weekend get-aways, just to be sure that I am making the most of my final 6 months abroad and seeing all that I can.  This weekend we are planning to go see the White Cliffs of Dover. This is on the East Coast of England. The cliffs are actually composed of chalk which is what makes them white. They've been featured in several movies (Robin Hood!) and it doesn't take too long to get there from London so we figured we would check it out and spend a day in Dover.
In a couple of weeks we are doing a guided bus tour to Wales.  This is a day trip that will take us to Cardiff. We get to tour around Cardiff and also the Caerphilly Castle, one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Of course, on the drive we will get to see a bit of the countryside too which is always nice after spending most of our time in the city.
Always busy and always spending as much money as I can :) But it is always worth it.

Almost forgot to mention that on Sunday, Josephine, Christine and I had free tickets to go see The Lord of the Dance 3D. Sounds crazy/cheesy... try amazing!! Was basically like having great seats at the actual show! It was a great show, and I can only imagine what it would be like to see them perform live. Unbelievably talented people!