Summer 2012 Series Part 2

In which we discuss the Type A Personality.

Typically London: sun, rain and the need to take a picture of a double-decker!

In late July my Mom and Step-dad, Don, visited for a week. To say I was exhausted by the end is an understatement! My mom (one of my favourite people in the whole world) is a classic Type A. I’m actually surprised that some well-meaning prankster hasn’t gone in and replaced the picture on the wikipedia page with a glamour shot of my mom. I don’t have Webster’s in front of me, but I do have my friend wikipedia. Here is what it says:

“The theory describes a Type A individual as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, can be sensitive, care for other people, are truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.”

Taking a forbidden picture before the Taming of the Shrew started at the Globe.

I have italicized the aspects of this personality that I think are emphatically my mother. I want to make one thing clear before I continue: I do not see any of these aspects of her personality as negative. I think my mother is absolutely amazing. She is one of the warmest, most-loving and welcoming people I know (a trait she no doubt inherited from her own mother) who has a generosity of spirit that borderlines on angelic. Each of the personality traits listed above that might seem somewhat psychopathic are what makes my mother who she is. She has harnessed each of these traits in a way that allows her to be the absolute best at everything she does: being a mom, a step-mom, a husband, a grandmother, a friend, an employee, and a traveller of the world.

I take the time to appreciate her personality traits because it is precisely these things that make her so wonderful that also drive her loving, caring and appreciative daughter a little bit crazy. My mom arrived in London surprisingly relaxed. I say surprisingly relaxed because she had spent 2 very busy weeks in Rome. In my head her trip to Rome was spent like this: wake up with the cock crow, shower, drink coffee and breakfast, drag Don out of bed, get to itinerary item 1, then 2, then 3, then 4. Have lunch and a glass of wine. Get to itinerary items 5-8, then have dinner and wine. Check facebook, message children to inform of day and illicit jealous feelings, have another glass of wine (they’re in Italy!) and then sleep. Repeat for 14 days.

Stonehenge

Oh yes, back to the arrival in London. My mom and Don’s flights were delayed a ridiculous amount. Thank you, Ryanair, for not being helpful in the least. I’ll only say here (I’d need a separate post for the activities on the day of their flights) that I didn’t get to see my mom until the day after she was meant to arrive in London.  So given the stress of flying (she hates flying) the delays (nobody likes delays, especially without any information given), and not seeing her daughter when expected (obviously stress-inducing), I was really relieved to see her relaxed and happy.

We drank some coffee while they told me of their trip and spoiled me with some gifts from abroad (thank you!). I was so happy to see them; you can convince yourself you’re not home sick until you see your parents. Then the jig is up. After the catching up it was time to get to business: the serious business of what-we’-re-doing-from-sunrise-to-sundown.

At the top of St Paul’s

As expected, my mom planned an exciting

At the VERY top of St Paul’s – 371 steps up!

week of activities for us. Also as expected, the activities were planned without much wriggle room. This spelled out for me two things: one, my mom was great at planning trips that Don and I would really enjoy and two, something would likely have to be missed. It’s so easy to get caught up in planning great trips that you forget to just enjoy the place you’re visiting with the people you love. Luckily, my mom is no stranger to these two facts so planned a fairly perfect trip! We did arrive late for some things (no surprise for anybody that knows the family) and we did have to re-schedule an event or two, but all in all I was so impressed by the planning and execution of the week that I must give praise to my mother.

So, to summarise here is what we did: The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe, a trip to St Paul’s cathedral, a night in Bath (visit to the Baths), a night in Salisbury (a trip to the cathedral and also Stonehenge), the Tower Bridge exhibition, afternoon tea and countless delicious meals!

It was so nice to visit with my mom and Don and I’m glad they could visit. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Type A personality planning their trips. They end up perfect!

Come back soon!

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Summer 2012 Series Part 1

Several months after my laptop bit the dust, I’ve decided to stop making excuses and write about the places I’ve been and include the few pictures I’ve got.

First up: London 2012

Image My Grandma Goldie gave me some money for Christmas and I used it to buy myself a ticket to one of the Olympic events. I found a ticket to Canoe Slalom at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG, as they were known here) provided each spectator with free transportation to and from their event. We were also advised to get to the event 2 hours before the start time, to ensure there was time to move through security. My journey began in Chigwell, where I caught the tube to Woodford, switched to a train going further east and then caught a bus going to the centre. It took a total of about an hour and a half, but I got to see parts of Essex I hadn’t seen before.

Upon my arrival I made my way through the park to the entrance of the event itself. I was greeted with a typical British sight: a massive queue. I strolled along to the end of the queue and was advised by a security guard to start a new queue. Yep, I was in a queue to get in the queue.

Once the gates were officially opened, the process was rather smooth. It was much like airport security,  in that they scanned all our bags and made us take off our belts. As soon as I walked through security I could feel the excitement of all the other spectators. The atmosphere was incredible; everybody wanting to share in the amazing spirit of the Olympics.

My seat was in the nosebleed section of the bleachers but at a great vantage point. I could see almost all the gates and was close to the finish line so felt all the accumulated excitement of each race build and then explode at the end. I loved every second of it.

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The green gates were for going through downstream and the red gates had to be entered by going upstream. A certain number of seconds were added to the clock for missing the gate entirely or hitting the gate.

I went that day without wearing any Canadian colours. No Canadians were competing, but also, I don’t seem to own any red these days. It wouldn’t have mattered. It didn’t matter which country a competitor was from; every single spectator cheered with all their might throughout the entire event.

It truly was an amazing feeling being surrounded by people from all different parts of the world.

I was also lucky enough to be treated to a couple indoor volleyball games.

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These athletes were incredible! I needed a lesson in the rules of volleyball (seeing as the last time I played I was likely in grade 9?) but had a great coach who was very patient in explaining everything to me. We had amazing seats and could feel the energy at every play.

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The disappointing thing was to see all the empty seats. It had been reported in the news that many seats allocated to corporate blocks were left empty during events, but to see it in action was really startling. I know so many people that wanted to go to an event that were unable to get an event that this left a sour taste in their mouths. I imagine the athletes weren’t too impressed, either.

ImageThis was well after the games started. Note the empty seats.

I was really happy to be able to attend two different events and be a part of London 2012. I would have loved to have been able to go to one of the Paralympic events but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards. Congratulations to all the athletes!

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Canterbury – In Which We Discuss Dressing Appropriately

A few weekends ago some friends and I decided to hop on the train and check out Canterbury, a lovely city famous for its churches and literature. I should have known the day would turn into a series of silly adventures when before we had even set out I had lost the railcard we needed to board the train. A new one was purchased and with a mad dash (literally: all 4 of us were running through the station, up the elevators and collapsing in a fit of giggles into the seats all while juggling hot beverages) to the platform we settled in for the brief journey.

It was a fast train, but even fast trains get slowed down. We were quite close to Canterbury when the train came to a complete stop and the conductor announced we were being held due to “sheep on the tracks.” How British is that for you?

We arrived in Canterbury on a dark, drizzly day that was none too warm. Despite the grey skies we thought we had better head to the University of Kent where we had been told were the best views of the city. We climbed our way to the top of the hill and then my friends started to walk across the field. Unfortunately I was not wearing my galoshes but rather some less than supportive trainers. Very quickly it became clear that my feet were about to get soaked. We took some pictures, tossed around a tennis ball and then started heading back down the hill.

Remember how I said I was wearing less than supportive sneakers? I quickly realized this to be the case when I slipped going down the hill and managed to soak my whole backside all the way through the clothes to my skin! My friends were very supportive and showed this by laughing hysterically at my misfortune. Lucky for them I was laughing hysterically as well. What else can you do? Here’s a picture of me post-tumble-down-the-hill so you can see how wet I got.Image

After we walked back down the hill (and I squished the water out with every step) we found a Debenham’s so I could buy new underwear, since mine were soaked. Even though I was already in good spirits I felt immediately better by having a dry bottom.

Once business had been taken care of, we took ourselves to Caterbury Tales, a living-museum that tells the stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We were given audio-guides that told us when to walk through the rooms that had been decorated with 3D wax figures, moving images and my favourite, actual smells to enhance the scene. On our way out we passed through the gift shop which happened to be selling socks. Image

Inside the cloister

Next we visited the Canterbury Cathedral, a spectacular Gothic church dating from the 1100s. The original church was founded in 597 but rebuilt after a fire. The church is famous as a site for pilgrims hoping to see the spot where Saint Thomas Becket was murdered following a disagreement with King Henry II in 1170.

We mostly spent a lot of time staring up at the soaring, immaculately carved and decorated ceiling. I also particularly enjoyed the automatic door in a random corner of the cloister that allowed me to disappear and play hide-and-go-seek. Next time I’ll tell people that we’re playing, otherwise I just look silly. The catacombs in the basement were really interesting (including the suspended piece of art of a dead body, constructed out of nails from the church) but unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take pictures. And since I always follow the rules I didn’t snap a single one.

I really enjoyed the organ that started playing as well. It made me think of my Nana so I tried to record it, hoping to play it for her one day thinking she’d like to hear it.

After leaving the church we stopped in the local confectionary to see what might tempt us. I was tempted by the box of Reese Peanut Butter Puffs (my all time favourite cereal) but was quickly turned off by the ridiculous price of £8.99! Seriously! Do you even have any

£8.99!!

idea how much that is converted to Canadian dollars? At the time of writing this, my trusty XE converter tells me it is $14.5o CDN or for my American readers (there is at least one!) $14.17 USD. Overpriced? I think so. Though if I had found 20 quid on the street that day I would have bought the box.

The next stop on our itinerary (mapped out by the employees of Starbucks, no less) was Whitstable, a lovely seaside town known for…….I’m not sure. But what it will be known to me for is over-priced fish and chips, restaurants that close early and grey seas. I’m sure we were looking for food at around 4:30 and found most places closing and the ones that were still open were charging near 20 pounds for fish and chips! I hope they were battered in gold bouillion.  We did end up finding a cheap fish and

Oyster Recovery

chips joint and they were delicious. Oysters were purchased (and consumed on the bus back to Canterbury), and after a brief wander along the coast (brief = 5 minutes, tops – we were hungry and cold) we headed back to Canterbury.

Canterbury also has castle ruins, but by time we got there the site had closed. We took a little stroll up to a look-out point and then made our way back into town. First we stopped at what I thought looked to be the coolest playground ever, but I was told it was only for children and that adults were NOT welcome to play. Another day, perhaps.

We found a lovely little pub called the Buttermaker and warmed up with beer (Canadian Blue Moon) and gooey, warm brownies and ice cream. I didn’t mind the whipped cream on top, but my traveling companions thought the Buttermaker brand of whipped cream was verging on butter. Go figure.

Liquid gold

We made our way (uneventfully this time) back to London. Thanks to the delicious Canadian offerings I had a blissful snooze, arriving in London exhausted but ready for a plate of nachos. Mmmmm…

Stay tuned; I’ll update you soon on a 17km hike along the Thames and about punting along the River Cam!

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You Say Tomat-oh, I Say To-mah-to

A popular misconception about life in the UK is that we (English speakers from North America and British people) speak the same language. You might even be fooled into believing this after spending a few hours here. But take the time to really listen to what a British person is saying and you’ll realise all the nuances between North American English and British English.

There are of course obvious differences in accents. Usually I notice this with regards to dropped consonants (where do they go???) and added consonants (where did that “r” come from?). As a teacher here I have adopted a few of these in my daily teaching. For example, I now say “lit(e)-racy” instead of “lit-ER-acy” and “bah-nah-nah” instead of “banana.” My friends in Essex add an “r” to the word “bath” and when they say “with” it sounds like “wiv.” These are not linguistic challenges to me. I like to think of myself as a smart girl (oops, I mean clever) that can code-switch with the best of them. But I have developed my own lexicon to help me along and I thought I’d share it with you.

Meant to  – used instead of supposed to. Popular usage: “We were meant to go out last night, but ended up staying in.” I have fully adopted this.

Queue – in addition to being a stellar scrabble word choice, this means to line up. Popular usage: “British people love to queue for no reason.” I have fully adopted this.

You Alright? – The most infuriating of all British phrases, this is used as a general greeting. I would equivocate it with using, “Hey” when you see a person. Popular usage: “You alright?” followed by a sharp stare and confused look should you respond with ANYTHING other than a nod, smile, or reciprocated “you alright?” back to them. It is not, despite the question mark at the end, an interrogative. Nobody actually cares if you are alright. Have not and will not adopt this.

Full stop – equivalent in meaning to a period at the end of a sentence. Popular usage: “Children, what do we need at the end of our sentences? A full stop!” I have fully adopted this, since saying “period” at a school is met with puzzled faces and sometimes grossed out looks from the women.

Whilst – Pronounced like “while,” with a “st” at the end, it means the same thing as while. I grew up thinking it was an old-fashioned word, but here it is used instead of “while.” Popular usage: “Whilst you are queuing, have your ticket ready.” Use this occasionally, but I am not completely comfortable with it yet.

“any phrase here”. – Full stops (periods!) go outside the quotation marks and brackets. Just an interesting point to note.

Have a go –  Used frequently when encouraging children to try something new or on their own. Popular usage: “You alright Jimmy? Why don’t you have a go at spelling the word queue.” Have adopted this in class only.

Out of order – Used to indicate events or moments that are deemed to be unfair. Also indicates perceived rudeness, but usually done in jest. Seems to be used mostly with younger people. Popular usage:  “Whilst you were chatting up the waiter, the hostess took the people behind us. That’s out of order!” I have used this sparingly, mostly to test the way it comes out of my mouth.

On the pull/to pull – Being on the pull means you are actively searching for somebody to take home with you at the end of an evening out. If you pull, that means you were successful. Popular usage: “Oh you were on the pull last night, weren’t you? Did you pull?” I have definitely NOT put this into my lexicon, mostly because it doesn’t apply to me.

Shattered – Used to indicate ultimate exhaustion. Popular usage: “I am absolutely shattered! I need to sleep.” I have used this a few times.

Chuffed – Even though is sounds an awful lot like chapped and therefore to me has negative connotations, this is a term of excitement or pleasure. Popular usage: “I am so chuffed I got those tickets to JLS!” I can’t get past the idea that this term isn’t about what’s going on in your underpants or on your lips, so i haven’t adopted this.

Pants – These are your underpants. Don’t get it wrong, or you’ll have a room full of students staring at you, pointing and laughing. Popular usage: “Did you wee yourself? Have you brought a spare pair of pants?” I have adopted this because otherwise I’m made fun of.

Trousers – This is part and parcel to pants. You wear trousers, not pants. Popular usage: “It’s not very warm out, so be sure to wear your long trousers today.” I have adopted this fully. And I like it.

Skint – The act of being broke. Popular usage: “I am skint, so let’s do something cheap.” Oh boy have I adopted this. I am skint skint skint!

Half past – A time-telling term for when it is 30 minutes past the hour. Really, it makes more sense than saying “6:30” since we talk about quarter to and quarter past. Popular usage: “It’s half past 4 – let’s go home!” I use this in my maths classes when teaching time, but in my regular life I still say thirty. I can’t completely assimilate!

maths – It means math, but where did that “s” come from? Popular usage: “What are you teaching in maths today?” I use this interchangeably with “math” when talking to my colleagues, but in class I only say “maths” because that’s what it’s called here.

Lost the plot – when somebody appears to no longer have a point, goes crazy, or is just really acting silly. Perhaps equivalent to acting harebrained. Popular usage: “I am not making any sense. I have totally lost the plot.” I don’t use it, but my colleagues seem to say it a lot when I’m around………

I will dedicate an entire post to the terms “chav” and “innit.” It’ll totally be worth it innit!!

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A Week in Portugal – in Which I Become Domestic

I was sitting at home last night, doing my usual. No, not drinking a glass of wine. I had a cuppa, listened to some music and browsed through the pictures I’ve taken in my time here. Most of them are of the gorgeous people I’ve been spending my time with, but a few are of the more culturally astute things I’ve been doing. Like my time in Portugal. Which was way back in October. Okay, so this post is a bit late. Nevertheless, here is a bit about my time with my Daddy, Leonor and most active senior I’ve ever met, Vovo.

Before my arrival in Faro, I told my Dad I really needed a break and was looking forward to spending hours reading and lying in the sunshine. He jokingly (or so I thought) responded that I would be put to work picking olives. The one (and only) food in the whole world that I dislike was how I was going to spend my vacation? I don’t think so!

As usual, Daddy was right. Not only did I spend my week picking the olives off the trees, but I learned that despite popular misconception green and black olives grow on the same tree. Indeed, my week “vacation” was really a week long study into the ancient art of harvesting olives. Shall we begin our lesson?

The backyard. Full of olive, almond, lemon, orange and fig trees. Also full of other fruit trees that have names I can't pronounce or pretend to spell.

I had been to the country house, located in the Algarve in a village called São Brás de Alportel a few years ago in May. Going in October meant that there was lots of work to be done. The trees were ready to be harvested and as I was able bodied it meant getting right to it. I was given the grand tour bright and early in the morning (after a breakfast of hearty oatmeal – our standard) and shown the olive trees, bursting with fruit.

Olive picking set up - panal

We spread a net around the base of the tree, which I

Basket of olives. Note that green and black olives come from the same tree

believe is called a panal. In addition to the panal, several hand-woven baskets were placed within proximity. Then the picking began. This involved simply reaching up and yanking off the fruit and dropping it into one of the baskets, should one be near you. Eventually all the fruit  must end up in a basket, so you might as well try and get it in there from the start. Once you’ve collected all the olives off the branches easily reached by lifting your arms above your head, you must move up the tree. The ladders are brought out and up you go.

But wait! First you must be taught how to climb a tree by your 88 year old Grandmother, lest you should do it wrong. After Vovo gave me a brief lesson about securing the ladder, up I went. This was definitely my favourite part. I felt like a bird, perched in the branches plucking off the juicy fruit. I especially enjoyed when my Dad was beneath me on a lower level and I got to drop the olives on his head. I don’t think he enjoyed this part as much as I did, but oh well.

At one point I found myself pushing aside the ladder and embracing my inner monkey like roots and actually climbing the tree. All was well until I realised there was something digging into me in areas that are not that pleasant. I spent a few hilarious minutes in

Leonor up a tree. Me avoiding work.

nervous laughter trying to sort out how I would detach myself from said position without tumbling to certain doom. Leonor, always the supportive step-mother enjoyed laughing at me from her position of safety down below. When I did manage to disentangle myself from the branches I actually did look like a bird. I had olives down my top, branches stuck in my hair and a bird’s nest was growing out of my head. And my legs were scratched up like nobody’s business.

After all the olives are picked off the tree, the tiny branches, leaves and other debris must be separated from the fruit. To do this requires an ancient technique (winnowing)that is passed down through the generations. Leonor tried to help her mother with this task but was swiftly told she wasn’t doing it right. So we stood by and watched the master work. A small basket of olives is lifted high into the air and held there until the wind starts blowing. The basket is then tipped over and poured slowly into the bigger basket waiting below. The leaves, branches, and twigs magically float on the wind and away from the basket. Brilliant. Don’t try and pick out the leaves with your hands though; this is incorrect form. Leave it to the professionals.

After all the olives are collected and sorted they are weighed at home on an ancient scale and then taken to the local alagar, or olive collective. This is the community olive press, where locals bring their olives to be pressed into oil. Your olive harvest is weighed and you are given a slip which after the season’s pressing allows you a certain amount of oil. Very interesting.  Olives, interestingly enough, are measured not in kilograms or pounds but in arroba.

My perch all day

In addition to my time harvesting olives, I was also made to shell almonds. I understand now why almonds are so bloody expensive! It is not easy

Proud to be done!

getting that sweet seed out of its home. Examine the pictures to see my hours of hard work. I sat on my perch with hammer and bowl and released each almond. I am proud to announce that I did not injure myself once.

I also learned the fine art of collecting alfarobeira, or carob. These hard pods full of brown

Collecting the carob

seeds grow in tall trees. One person uses a tall stick or other whacking implement and shakes the tree to down the pods. Once on the ground they are collected by hand. My dad and I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes chatting with the neighbours and picking up carob with them. I think 20 minutes was all our patience would allow us.

Because I was feeling so connected with the earth and all things self-sufficient, I thought there was no better time than to learn how to hem my own trousers. Leonor patiently and painstakingly taught me how to do this. I like knowing but I think I’d rather just pay somebody else to do it. The point is that I can do it!

Several months on what I miss is my daily dessert of yogurt topped with jellyfish. Okay, it wasn’t jellyfish but diospiros, or persimmon. The texture is exactly what I imagine a jellyfish would feel like going down. I loved it and looked forward to it every night after my hard days working the cotton fields.

In between my laborious efforts in the back yard I did manage to find time to read endlessly. I also learned how to play some other game that I can’t remember the name of. But there was a board involved and some pegs. Crib?

Daddy and Leonor

We also wandered into Faro a day before a huge windstorm decimated parts of  the airport, traveler’s market and fair. I enjoyed my favourite Portugese foods: bifana and pastel de nata. We played on the beach in Quarteira, stole some pomegranates off a Bishop’s tree and in general just enjoyed each other’s company.

Spending time with my family is hard to do when you live in a different country than they do so I value the moments we spend together. The memories from that all too brief week in São Brás de Alportel will be treasured in my heart forever.

I recommended visiting Portugal to everyone. Lovely people and gorgeous countryside, divine food and beaches! What more could you ask for?

Quarteira

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In Which We Discuss the Politics of “X”

Upon my arrival in the UK (10 months ago now!) I learned quickly that the preferred method of communication here is text message. Be it friends, business or your boss, a text goes further than a phone call. I have since wondered if my ability to communicate verbally has been affected by this. That is neither here nor there. Today I want to talk about the British use of the “x” at the end of a text message. 

Let me illustrate what I’m talking about.

“Hi, Jen. Great to see you last night. Some of us are getting together later for a cuppa. Would you like to join us? x”

 At first I thought this x was just a typo. After the same person repeatedly made this error, with me exclaiming every time, “My god! Figure out how to type! Chubby little fingers blargh blargh blargh,” my Canadian friends over here clued me into what was really happening. I was informed that not using an “x” at the end of a text message makes your message sound harsh. The contents of said message are irrelevant; if there is no “x” you are simply rude. Okay, I can get on board with this. Easy enough, right?

 WRONG! Sometimes I would get text messages without an “x” from friends. Oh dear god. What does this mean? Are they angry with me? Text messages are hard enough to decipher tone from without the inclusion (or exclusion) of an “x.”

 Other times I would get text messages with not one, not two, but THREE of the little crosses. Imagine my horror, as a Canadian getting a message after a night out with friends that read like this, “Oh Jen! Great dance moves last night xxx.” Yikes! What on Earth did I get up to at Candy Bar? Too many Jagerbombs? Thankfully “xxx” isn’t code for x-rated over here.

I was, however, developing a complex. If a friend doesn’t include an “x” does this mean I shouldn’t either? And if they do include an “x” and also add a second “x,” is it rude to only send one back? If I send the first “x” and accidentally write “xx” have I indicated more than just friendship? And what does it mean when your Head Teacher sends you an email with an “X” at the end? By this I am indicating a capital “X” not just a lower case. Ooooh boy a capital “X” is indicative of so much more than a lower case! Or is it? I was spending too much time thinking about this. I decided to never include an “x” and let people just work it out on their own. We are, after all, adults.

Despite my rebellion about the “x,” I decided to take to the streets and discuss this growing concern of mine with friends. I received mixed responses and it became clear that there were a few sides to stand on.

Party A: Most laughed at me and said I was thinking too much about this and needed to relax. I liked this party’s platform. This group (person) did mock me and said they had been horribly offended by the swift retraction of the “x” from my messages and said they would look out for an “x” in my future messages. I obliged and for about a week included ten or more in each message. “Lovely to see you last night xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” Ha! How do you like them apples?

Party B: This group indicated the inclusion of an x was crucial to any kind of relationship. It should always be included, regardless of who it is addressed to. Leaving it out means you are rude, harsh and should be forgotten about as a friend. Okay, I made that last part up. But you get the idea. This does seem to be the majority.

Party C: This small group of people (um, person) said the “x” is handy in indicating the end of a conversation. It is true, sometimes a text message conversation or BBM chat can just go on and on and you don’t know when it’s over, or if the person is looking for an additional response. So an “x” at the end could indicate politely, “I have no more use for you. Goodbye.” Wait, that sounds rude, doesn’t it? I mostly believe that conversations have a natural end and don’t give too much though to how frequently a person does or does not text message, or how long the messages are. So an “x” to indicate the end of a conversation doesn’t necessarily float my boat.

After all of this I came to one conclusion: it’s all ridiculous. I have never really been one for doing what everyone else is doing, but rather following what seems right to me. I will include an x if it feels right, but if I don’t that isn’t a statement to my growing animosity towards a person, but rather an “I just didn’t do it so don’t shoot me” kind of statement.

Until next time,

Jenny xxxxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxxxxxXXXXxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Happy Valentine’s Day for All the Singles

On this most celebrated of the Hallmark holidays, we celebrate the person in our lives that means the world to us. That we love unconditionally. And we reflect on the journey we’ve had together, growing and becoming the current state of a relationship.

 And if we are not in a relationship with somebody else, this holiday can get you down. Instead of being down in the dumps about not being in a romantic relationship, I thought I would take this day to think back over the last year and reflect on my relationship with myself. A lot has happened in this year and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Let’s take a look: 

Healing

This time last year I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my mom, Sandra, and my step-dad, Don. Don was going through chemotherapy for colon cancer and it was very difficult to see him so ill. I am so grateful that I was able to be there with him. He never really accepted much help as I don’t think he needed much from me. I think if I’m being honest my mom needed me more. So I’m glad I was there for her.

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I went to Mexico after a very difficult break up. I went to Mexico to clear my head and find my way back to me. Ending relationships is difficult at any time, but the relationship I was in was destructive and painful on so many levels. I had somehow forgotten how to be the person that my friends and family knew and loved. Being in Mexico gave me the time to read endless books, soak up some healthy vitamin D and heal. I (re)learned that I am a strong person, capable of overcoming whatever life throws at me. I learned that it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s what you do after you make those mistakes that really counts.

 

Forgiveness

While I was in that destructive relationship I hurt many very important people in my life. Over the last year I have worked really hard at rebuilding the trust that I broke. Because these people love me, they forgave me very quickly and carried me when I couldn’t get up on my own. The hardest person to forgive has been myself. A year later and I’d say I’m almost there.

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Family

I’ve always had an interesting family, and this year it somehow got more interesting. Even though I was away from my immediate family more in the last year than I was with them, I think I’ve grown closer to every single person in my family. I’m truly grateful for this because I love every single person in my giant, warped family. Sometimes when relationships end, the family that came with the family seems to disappear. I am struggling with this as I love my extended family and miss them terribly. I never took them for granted, but I did take for granted that I’d always be a part of their lives. I hope they all know how special they are to me.

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England

In March I secured my visa to work in the UK. I crossed the ocean with one bag ready to experience teaching overseas. I worked really hard at being a good supply teacher and succeeded. I grew my friendships with Megan, Natalie and Raj. We spent endless hours dancing in warm summer evenings and then laying in the sun the next day. This throwback to my early 20s was just the release I needed from a year of negativity.

 

First Job

From supply teaching I landed a job teaching in a primary school. It has been an amazing experience and I could write a whole book about all the things I’ve learned. The staff has been amazing, the parents supportive and the students little stars.

 

New Friendships

On a warm, sunny day in July I met a group of women that changed my life. Very slowly I started to spend time with them and learned about all the great spots in London to share a pint, a shot of tequila, a bottle of wine, dance the night away and to have picnics. I explored lakes, art galleries and quirky markets. Somehow during those moments I failed to take pictures because I was just enjoying myself too much. This is okay with me. My circle of friends is continuing to expand here through various meetups and hang outs. Through some bizarre twist of fate I also met two fantastic people from Canada in Puerto Vallarta. Soon after I arrived in England they also moved here. I’ve spent so many fun hours laughing with them and now count them among my closest of friends. 

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Healthy Me

Since I’ve been in the UK I have lost almost 30 pounds. I don’t necessarily care too much about how I look now but more about how I feel. That was not easy losing that weight. It involved taking control of my body and of my life. I am not done yet. My next step is tackling a liver that needs some cleaning out. The UK lifestyle is fantastic for spending quality time with friends, but it is rather heaving on the alcohol content.

 Travel

Okay, so having been in the UK so long I should have seen more places, right? Well I’ve been really focused on exploring London. That’s my excuse. I did spend an amazing week with my Dad, step-mom Leonor and Vovo in Portugal.

The Year Ahead

What’s next for little old me? We shall see! Entering into my 30th year which is not at all scary. I’ve never felt better about what’s in store. I do have a ticket to see Canoe Slalom at the 2012 Olympics and I’m very excited about that. Beyond that, here are the things I’d like to accomplish in 2012:

-Get back in a canoe (where can I find one in the UK??)

-Go camping at least once (I didn’t go at all last year. This depressed me)

-Take a pottery class

-Play some sort of team sport

-See a show at the Globe

-Travel to Ireland, Scotland and Wales

-Go to Paris

-Go to Amsterdam

 

Jenny x

 

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