Saturday, December 15, 2007

The other day, as I was waiting for the light to change to cross the street, I realized that I am actually living in England. Yes, it has been 3 months since I stepped on British soil, but sometimes it just hits you, you know? It happened pretty much all the time until about the last day I was in Japan. It’s so easy to take things for granted sometimes. Shiloh and Dave taught me a lot about living in the moment and enjoying what you have NOW rather than fretting too much about the past and the future. I’ve gotten better at doing this, though with the peaks and valleys of settling in a new country, you sometimes lose that insight. But wow. I never thought I’d take a huge leap and live away from my beloved Montreal. I lived in Ottawa for almost four years, but Montreal was always home for me. But here I am, living in my third country within a 2.5 year time period and taking leaps of faith when I would never have fathomed jumping. In the back of my head, home is always there for me, so in a way, a little of the pressure is taken off, but when I commit, I commit. I’m going to be 30 in 6 months and I’ve started to take stock of my life thus far. I used to fret about not having anything to show for my life when I was in my early 20’s, and to a lesser extent, I still do, but I’ve grown so much into ME, it’s a little funny. It feels good.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Japan is and forever will be an irrevocable part of my life. I feel such an affinity for many things Japanese and I have such a tender spot for the country and its people. I read a NY Times article and I felt like I knew the subject, Ms. Matsuyama. When she was talking about preparing sukiyaki and oden for her kids, my memories nearly overwhelmed me. Mmmm, it’s totally sukiyaki and onsen season right now. I wish I could just go to the onsen, get nekkid and soak my worries away. Don’t get me wrong; I got my fill, but it never seems like enough. Dave and I have noticed a few Japanese people in Nottingham (I saw loads in Edinburgh) and we both agreed that there’s a certain sense of knowing and happiness when we’re in their vicinity. There is a trio of Japanese girls that attend the college where I work, and I always try to sit near them when I catch them on my lunch break. I catch snippets of their conversation (in Japanese) and I smile, fully understanding what they’re talking about.

I gave in my notice at work almost 2 weeks ago. I think I made a real impression here as they don’t want me to go. As much as I know that this isn’t the sort of thing I want to do with my life, I was good at it, fit in well with the team and learned a few things (another nice notch on my CV). Perhaps I will get a little moist in the eyes when I say goodbye next Wednesday when the College closes down for the holidays.

I got really excited after I read DBM’s blog (I feel you girl, keep writing!) and from a link to a link to a link, I found my way to It’s a UN affiliated organization that aims to foster peace and international organization through putting hosts and travellers together. The deal is for a small membership fee, travellers can board at the home of a host for 2 or more days FOR FREE. You know I signed up for that post-haste. This is so valuable for solo travellers, comme moi. The only trouble is deciding where to go first. I’m thinking I’ll take my first trip in January. Any suggestions???

I’ve pretty much decided to take a sun holiday in February with TravelEyes. Basically, sighted and blind travellers travel together to cool locales. Due to the fact I recently decided to take a sun holiday every year in either February or March (when SAD hits the hardest), what would be better than going to Fuerteventura of the Canary Islands? Maybe winning the lottery? Maybe, yes. I’m hoping to visit London as bookends to my trip. Just gotta check with my cousins.

On one of those links of a link I visited today, I read about someone who prayed for a friend, and literally 3 days later, got one. I’d definitely like to have a friend, someone who fit. I feel blessed that I can call or email anyone at home whenever I need to, and that I’m living with the one I love (and my ultimate best friend), but it would be great to have a great friend. As one gets older, it’s more difficult to make real friends and really connect. So, as I walking to the bank machine, I said a little prayer and asked for a friend, someone like me, who was funny, smart, well read, pretty (I don’t know why I threw that in – pretty on the inside? I hope I’m not that shallow), and very importantly, available. Let’s hope I get lucky sometime soon.

I've been SOO slack with taking pictures lately, especially of the stuff I've been eating lately. Also, it has just occurred to me that I don't have a Lonely Planet England yet. I haven't had time to be a tourist yet so I'm now looking forward to the two months I have off. I promise, I'll post on the proclivities and absurdities of people and things while I'm living in a country that is HRM (Her Royal Majesty's) everything. Should be good.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Keep on truckin'...

I've been back in a Western office for almost two months and I can't believe I've actually missed it. Well, actually, I know what I missed. It was the socialisation that goes on in the office. Chatting, laughing, exchanging ideas and generally making the day go faster. I lucked out in landing the placement I did. I'm back in a school, a college this time, and I'm working in human resources. I've been curious about HR for a long time and this job was an opportunity to get my feet wet in the field. It's interesting in a lot of ways because I'm learning about the finer points of recruitment, selection and the ins and outs of managing people. BUT, it's not something I want to do for the rest of my days. Interaction with people outside my colleagues is minimal and the paperwork is never ending. I'm more of a paper jockey than a people aide. Some days I can't be bothered searching for invisible files and calculating how many annual leave hours a part time worker has accrued. But, I get paid, I'm out of the house and I can scratch another job I'm curious about off my list.

But back to my earlier point; months ago I stated that I was looking forward to going back to the office. I was still in Japan at the time and the constant pressure of coming up with lessons for my Japanese students was wearing thin. What was really getting to me was the lack of communication throughout the day. My co-workers were great, but the communication barrier was THICK. I was always doing some independent, non-work related activity like Japanese study, reading or surfing the net. Sometimes I'd get so batty from not speaking in my own language all day that I'd say the daftest things when I'd be out with English speakers. I still shake my head when I think about that. It seems like a long time ago now. I miss quite a few things about Japan, and I recently teared up when I saw some pics of my former students on my successor's Facebook page. But that was then and this is now.

I've been noticing a few things that have made me go hmmm in the past few weeks. One of them is the abundance of BBMs – Bad British Mums. These are the young mums who yell, beat and swear at their young kids in public. I've seen examples of these BBMs at the supermarket, the bank, in the street and at my workplace. They have no patience with their kids and yell at them at the top of their lungs for infractions that do not warrant the punishment. I've heard BBMs telling their children to fuck off, to shut the fuck up, that they're going to get their fucking face smashed, and on and on. To make the matter worse, these shrieks are in gutter English accents which make my ears bleed from revulsion. These BBMs think of nothing of smacking their kids in the face, on the chest and on the bottom, further adding to their petty fury. It truly infuriates me. Of course these BBMs are not symptomatic of the whole British nation, but it's stunning to me that I've seen so many of them in the short weeks I've lived in this country. I've been thinking about children a lot and I know being a parent is probably the most difficult (and rewarding) job there is, but DAMN, I'm ready to give out condoms on street corners.

I've also noticed that Brits love to eat crap. 2 out of the 4 people in my little office area eat chocolate and chips before noon. Fish and chips, fried everything, mayo on everything, large portions – it's a healthy eater's nightmare. I'm not a calorie counter, but I do read the nutritional information on EVERTHING I eat. If it's got too many carbs, too many grams of sugar or fat and not enough fibre, I put it back. And I've been looking – a lot of foods have to too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff. According to studies and alarmist reporting, Brits are getting fatter and fatter, rivalling Americans in their girth. I've gained 7 pounds since leaving Japan, and while some of that can be attributed to living with a boy and consuming what he eats, it's also because of the availability of snacks and foods that weren't accessible in Japan. Well, NOT NO MORE. I plan on hitting the beach in February and aim to return to my more svelte self (even though I can't find where these extra 7 pounds have lodged themselves on my body) and not fall into the British way of eating. I will sample the local fare and review them, as promised.

One last thing I'd like to remark on is the multiculturalism that seems to be alternatively celebrated and abhorred. Nottingham has a beautiful market square that sees vendors from across Europe peddling their wares and community groups putting on shows. Recently, I've browsed the stalls and have bought cheese from France, olives from Italy and smelled German baked goods. I've also been to Afro-Caribbean Day where I've eaten delicious jerk chicken while watching kids of different hues perform a "hip hop" dance.
There are so many biracial children and adults here and I've seen every hair texture and variance of skin tone. I love it. But turn on the telly and you'll hear how the influx of migrants is putting stress on the school and health systems and how Britain needs to stem the influx of immigrants as their numbers are "alarmingly" high. In a way, my bubble has been burst. I had no idea how much of a "problem" immigrants are to (white) British citizens.

I'm struggling a bit to end this post in a positive way. I'm happy. The sun was out for a bit yesterday and it's out today. I've finally made it to Season 5 of "The Sopranos". Life is good.