Tuesday, January 30, 2007
In the remaining seven minutes I have on this computer, I want to tell you that so far, my favourite moments in England have been:
- sipping on mulled wine on a comfy couch in Brighton while chatting with Immy about boys
- trying rabbit for the first time at a yummy tapas restaurant
- dancing in a dungeon-like club on the Brighton sea front
- fancy high tea at Kensington Palace (and trying a new tea!)
- Notting Hill, all of it
- all the time I've spent at the numerous markets, markets, markets
- taking in a service at St. Paul's Cathedral
- cream tea at a little cafe in Cambridge across the street from the famous Round Church with the biggest scone I've ever seen in my life
- Christ Church Cathedral and College (I had a serious moment)
- a warm dinner at the Oxford University Buttery
- the Christopher Durang play I'm going to see tonight at the Oxford Playhouse
Monday, January 29, 2007
Thanks to Mallory for making London what it was - Great. BUSTLE is the only word that comes to mind when trying to describe what it's like there. Without having gone back to New York in some time, I can say that for now and to me, London is the city that never sleeps. More details are to come when I've got more time.
The city charmed me, but it didn't sweep me off my feet like Brighton and Cambridge have. The smaller cities look like they were just coloured in with crayons; everything is colourful, brick and stone and winding, twisting, turning streets. It's like nothing I ever imagined and everything and more than I wanted it to be. I feel like I'm in Harry Potter Land.
I'm in an internet cafe/sheesha-hookah bar and now I have to get back to my hostel in the dark by myself. Fun.
Hope you're all well.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I fear you are not getting my emails and I desperately want to talk to you, so this is my last chance at getting you to 'hear' me. I tried calling your cell phone about five times last night and again tonight, but every single time, the operator lady tells me that your number is invalid. I know that can't be true because I called you using that number just a few days ago in Brighton, unless you changed your number all of the sudden...
I also logged onto GMail last night in an attempt to chat with you, but this computer at the hostel blocks chat messages and prevents them from being sent. It frustrated me to no end that my message wouldn't leave the little box I typed it in, and even worse, when I saw that you had written me something, but I couldn't read it. So I logged out and back into my email account (you can only have one window open at a time - grr) and sent you a million little emails so that you'd get them like little make-shift GMail chat messages...but I don't think you did.
Then I wrote a longer one explaining what I had gone through trying to get a hold of you the entire night and it's been just about twenty-four hours and I haven't heard back from you, so I'm wondering if they ever got sent. This all makes me very sad because I want to talk to you so bad it hurts.
I leave London tomorrow morning so maybe I'll have better luck with communication in another city. I love you. And miss you very much.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Within the last twenty four hours, I have managed to:
- say a tearful good-bye to my family and friends for the next six months or so
- smuggle a Canadian orange onto my flight, across the Atlantic Ocean and into the UK
- fly across the Atlantic for the first time (I have officially participated in Transatlanticism)
- create a comfy bed for myself with three pillows and two blankets on the plane since the two seats next to me weren't taken
- sleep for maybe two or three hours
- negotiate Gatwick's customs line, luggage trolleys and buy myself a train ticket to Brighton
- figure out how to use British pay phones and come to strongly dislike them
- realize that voicemail here isn't what it is back in Canada (i.e.: it cuts you off at five seconds so before you've said anything of importance, you've lost your 30p or 40p - that's 0.75 to 1.00 CAD for a phone call!)
- carry all of my luggage (travel back, suitcase, carry-on, laptop case, camera bag and Nalgene bottle) while wearing a coat, two scarves and a hat down a large flight of stairs without falling over
- take my first taxi ride through Brighton, love driving on the left side of the road and not tip the driver (it's not customary to do so here)
- feel like I'm in Harry Potter Land and fall in love with the city
- be reunited with Immy!
- have a hot cup of tea while hanging out in the coldest house EVER
- take a shower in the coldest washroom EVER
- take a walk through Brighton, see The Lanes (love!), see the seaside (LOVE!)
- have a drink special to Brighton in one pub and deliciously mulled wine in another
- nearly get run over by a double decker while jay-walking across a busy road (and dart away just in time)
- be treated to a tapas dinner with my friend's boyfriend's parents that included my first ever dry sherry, sangria, and white wine
- get really excited to go to Spain and eat
- be seranaded (along with the rest of the restaurant) by the friend's boyfriend's drunken father in Spanish, supposedly
- pay ten quid (that's nearly 30 CAD! oh, the exchange rate is killing me here) to have just two more drinks in another pub (basically, I drank a lot of alcohol tonight)
- attempt to speak in a British accent (as a result of the alcohol perhaps?)
- go to the Honey Club and dance to different music in different rooms and have a load of fun
- lose the coat I was wearing which (belonged to my friend, actually) and included my favourite sweater/shrug from Beijing, my nice scarf, the gloves my brother got me for Christmas, some lip balm and gloss, a tube of liptstick and oh, look at that, my wallet too
(good thing I emptied out the contents of my wallet and put them into my pants pocket - now how's that for good thinking or sheer good luck?)
- realize that when bouncers in really busy clubs have nothing better to do, they walk around and find stashed coats and turn them in so that people have to either wait until three in the morning to get them back, or go home in the freezing cold without them and call the next day to get them back (we opted for #2 which means that I'm in England for the next week sans extra sweater and gloves - incidentally, they had their first snowfall the morning I arrived and there's an expected snow storm tonight - YAY)
- still like Brighton even though my first night on this side of the Atlantic ended badly
- stay up until three in the morning packing for my week alone in England and give my body just four and a half hours of sleep after a night of only getting two or three
- sleep in the coldest room EVER (they weren't kidding about that 'wet-cold' over here)
- start thinking in a British accent
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
T-minus 4 Hours, 30 Minutes
It's no surprise that I'm running behind yet again. I leave for the airport in an hour and a half and I'm over my luggage allowance by 20 kg. I also haven't charged my camera batteries and I haven't packed my carry-on. My shower puff is currently sitting on my bed. Oy.
You'll have to excuse my complaining and utter unpreparedness and pretend that in its place is a wonderful essay on why I'm going to miss my life here, how I've yearned for independence since I was ten years old, but that TRUE independence really is kind of scary. Also pretend that you're reading about my friends, my wonderful, fantastic, there-are-no-words-for-them friends who have seen me through thick and thin, who have dragged my drunken arse home in the middle of winter, who have championed me into FINALLY getting my driver's license, who called me from Bangkok, who threw me surprise parties, who listen to me when I'm in hysterics, who have done more than I could ever ask for, I love you all. Even to the ones I'm not so close to, I'll miss you. Your non-presence on campus in the Fall will indeed make me sad.
Speaking of love, to mon beau: Je t'adore. Je t'aime. Tu me manques, toujours.
I don't know when the next time I'm going to write is...I'm spending the next ten days bumming around England and I think I'm going to enjoy myself just a bit. I'll try my best to keep y'all updated, especially since I need to absolve myself of the Super Guilt I'm currently suffering from because I haven't posted anything good in a really, really long time.
So, uhm, good bye? See you later? Soon?
I can't believe I won't be back in the country for so long. Wow.
Take care of yourselves.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
For a week or so, staying at home with my family was a good thing. I spent quality time with them and didn't whine; I had chats with my brother and uncle about what was going on in their lives, I cooked meals with my mummy, and my dad rubbed the side of my head and cheek when I parallel parked perfectly, five times in a row. I was domestic; I did dishes and cooked dinner. I made appointments and ran errands. But after a full month of The Family and now, a lack of social interaction because all my friends from back home are back in school, here I sit at home, doing nothing. Sure, I'm prepping for a great adventure, but I miss life when it was full and busy and bustling. Vacuuming and cleaning my room may bring me joy, but it's not the same. Y'know?
I'm feeling more like a recluse than ever. Not only am I not leaving the house and spending my time watching Street Eats and Beauty and the Geek, there's actually no desire to go outside. That's when it gets scary. I'm going to blame it on the cold and snow and my utter distaste for winter right now because it means yucky road conditions when I have my road test TOMORROW. Tonight I will be circling a parking lot somewhere in suburbia backing in and out of spots over and over again until I either learn how to park properly or give up, like I did last time.
For now, I sit at home with my fuzzy pants, my free t-shirt, my mum's old pregnancy sweater and my neon pink knee-high socks. I'm going to drink water and make tea to drown my body in fluids so it can flush out whatever badness is going on in there because I simply cannot travel when I'm unwell. And then I'm going to pack and maybe have some ice cream and get everything in order so that when I finally get on that plane, I can start to have some fun.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Turn That Smile Upside Down
I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not.
All I want to say is that I'm slowly re-figuring plans out and things are looking up in terms of what I'm going to do for May aka the Month of Hiding Out. I've got another friend looking for an adventure and coming to meet me somewhere between Europe and Asia to run from the authorities sounds like the perfect little post-grad trip to her. Sweet. So, according to my new plan I'm living nomadically out of a pack for three months starting in April, but according to my parents, I'm not. I've got a new little kink to work out now, and this will be hard because they're tough nuts to crack.
Other non-EU related news doesn't really exist because my life right now is one giant To Do Before I Leave For Europe list. Other than spending time with my family and friends, I'm mainly sitting at home thinking about how scary all of this is and how scared I am about doing it. There, I admitted it. I'm scared. Now you all go off and feel sorry for me, because I'm clearly not doing enough of that myself.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
How my plans went from "one semester of international academic exchange" to "just being overseas for six months, and finding loopholes in Schengen/European Union travel regulations, where failure to do so will lead to dodging the authorities as best I can", aka "how my plans went to crap":
Fall 2004, Plan A
Go on exchange in Europe during second semester of third year.
- Enter The Break Up From Hell. Put plan on hold for a bit. And then pursue it with fury.
Winter/Spring 2005, Plan B
Go on exchange in Spain during second semester of fourth year, finish school and graduate while overseas, skip convocation and bum around the world for as long as I'd like.
- Things go la-dee-da-whee! Until I find out that the school in Spain doesn't offer all the courses I need to graduate in English.
Summer 2006, Plan C
Go on exchange to Spain, take some courses while abroad and come back to school in September for Fall term 2007, finish up and graduate.
- Find out that courses will not count toward my degree. The marks won't even affect my GPA. Realize that school this term WON'T COUNT and DOESN'T MATTER. Enter visa troubles. Now that I'm not getting a visa, I'm definitely not going to school in Spain.
Winter 2007, Plan D
Go to Spain, live there for a bit. Travel a bit. Try not to break any laws. Travel more. Come home and go to school in September, finish up, graduate.
For freaks' sake.
So, my Grande Plan hasn't exactly worked out the way I wanted it to, but I'm trying my best to see the ever morphing situation as one that's ...interesting, at the very least. Ashley and I were/ARE also planning to backpack across North Africa for a month and a half after I'm done school and she's done convocating (circa early June '07), but now that I'm not getting my visa I have to be out of the EU a month earlier than we anticipated, which has thrown a serious wrench into our plans. What I have to do now is hide out in a non-EU country (or two) during the month of May before she arrives. Thinking of the logistics and costs I'll incur is making my head reel.
This also throws my whole lifestyle into serious disorder. See, if I was to have my visa I'd be able to live in Spain while going to school, which would mean a nice feeling of permanency and security, and the ability to bring two luggages worth of stuff to set up my life there. Now that I'm not allowed to stay there for very long (max nintey days), I have to keep moving. My game plan now is to live in Spain for two months from February to early April and audit courses for fun at the university while seeing bits of Portugal here and there. And then I'd take off for France and Italy one month before my time in the EU is up and spend two weeks in either country. That only brings me to early May, right up until my ninety days expires. What to do for a month until Ash arrives in early June? No real ideas have formed yet; I could split the month between Switzerland and Turkey (the only two non-EU countries in the area that I have remote interest in), or take off to India for a month.
Things to consider are: MONEY. Moving around this much means a lot of train, plane, and bus tickets, lots of hostels and lots of eating out as opposed to staying in and cooking at my apartment. This also means lack of permanency and security, which is making me more nervous than I thought. I'm going to be lonely, really. It means living out of a pack for three and a half months (ahh! wrinkly clothes!). It means bringing one luggage, not two; only packing two pairs of shoes and no heels; no jewelry nor make-up; it means no lappy. NO LAPTOP. NO COMPUTER. NO. INTERNET.
I kid. I actually think that living without a computer for such a long time will be good for me, or...interesting at the very least.* Really, the thing that worries me the most is being by myself for such a long time. I'll leave Spain as of April and I won't have any permanent contact info which means my family won't be able to reach me. Filial piety at it's best: I worry about my parents worrying about me. That, and I'm also worrying about their reaction to the fact that I'm no longer going to school like I said I was (i.e.: "Then stay here! Go back to school and graduate in April!"**).
At this point, I'd appreciate info on:
- loopholes in travel regulations pertaining to the Schengen States/European Union
- sweet talking authorities
- how to get out of jail
- how to pack lightly
* I sound like a broken record by saying that everythig is "...interesting at the very least" because I'm trying to find as many silver linings as freaking possible
Saturday, January 06, 2007
For Everything Else, There's NOTHING
Police reference check: $15.00
Passport photos: $27.34
Student ID card: $16.00
Travel insurance: $366.12
Accommodation fees: $434.69
Flight reservations: $371.34
VISA fee: $74.00
Travel pack, quick-dry towel, sleep sheet, laptop lock, plug adapter, various travel accessories: loads more money
Time spent collecting paperwork, making phone calls, doing research, being resourceful and finding cheap deals: LOTS
Tears and energy spent over trying to get Spanish VISA and then being told that I can't (at least not before I'm scheduled to leave the country): worthless
So a funny thing happened on the way to the forum...NOT. First of all, it wasn't funny and second of all, there was no forum. I spent far too long circling the Spanish consulate's automated phone system yesterday morning (what kind of system tells you to dial *24 to speak to a consular officer and then HANGS UP on you?!) and when I finally found a human to talk to, she informed me that HA! there's no way to get a VISA within two weeks when she has people who have been waiting for two months. I was polite, explained that I'd been waiting for my doctor's note and that things were delayed due to the holidays, but no, there was nothing she could do. I either forget about the VISA and get my ass out of the EU before my time is up and the authorities detain me, or I can fly back to Canada to pick it up. Uhm. Ye-ah.
Without my VISA, I can't stay in the European Union for more than 90 days - which is definitely not enough time for me to go to school and get credit for my courses. It's also not enough time to live in Spain and do all the travelling I wanted to do. It means no permanency for a long period of time, and lots of moving around all by myself. It means doing North Africa by myself or not at all. It means hugely disappointing my North African travel-buddy, and finding some way to tell my parents that I'm now going to Spain for fun and not for school, which will be very, VERY difficult. This means a mad scramble to re-figure out the next few months of my life and make loads of contingency plans because I'm apparently a huge magnet for STUFF THAT GOES WRONG.
I feel a little confused and a lot lost. I'm burdened with a huge feeling of disappointment and it's the utter failure that gets to me. I've been working at this 'exchange' for over a year and I feel like I failed miserably at pulling it together and everything that I've been planning has not worked out the way I wanted it to at ALL. For goodness' sake, I started thinking about an international exchange back in the Fall term of my second-frickin'-year. The application process took months last winter, spring was full of good news because I got accepted to the one school that I wanted, but starting in August everything just went so, SO wrong. It took nearly three months for my exchange advisor and I to figure out that: the school teaches in English, the school doesn't teach in English, the school teaches in English for non-exchange students, therefore we need to withdraw from the exchange program. And oh look, none of these English courses can be applied to my degree! Whee, my graduation plans just went down the crapper! I get to tell my parents that my little brother graduates before me! Wheeee! Basically, all the work I did for the exchange program meant nothing and I had to start from scratch in late-October/November.
According to the lady at the Spanish consulate, if I wanted my VISA on time, I should have handed in all my paperwork at least two months ago, in mid-November. Look lady, two months ago was when I applied to leave my school and study abroad as a free agent sans exchange program, two months ago was when I re-applied to my school in Spain, and I didn't get accepted to said school in Spain until LATE November. By the time I collected even some of the paperwork you wanted, everything was closed for the holidays. I didn't get my doctor's note in the mail until YESTERDAY.
So I get that some of this is my fault as part Shit Magnet and Victim of Circumstance, but hel-LO, can I please have some compassion (i.e.: no scoffing and HA-ing when you hear that I need my VISA in two weeks because I fly out of the country then)? Thanks.
- request transfer of VISA-making to another office that isn't so backlogged
- email/call/harass old exchange advisor to HELP ME PLEASE
- find loopholes that will allow me to hide out in a non-EU country for a period of time and then return to Spain
- beg, cry and tug on the compassionate heartstrings at the consulate
- make a friend at the consulate who will do me a special favour
- pray that a miracle will occur that gets me my VISA in two weeks
- find illegal Spanish VISA on the blackmarket
- Google search "squatting in Spain"
From now on, I've got nothing but prayers and the Big Guy's good humour.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I said goodbye to 2006 in the backseat of a car that reeked of New while driving in circles around downtown Toronto trying to find a damn parking spot that wouldn't cost upwards of thirty-freaking-dollars just so we could go upstairs into a condo that didn't belong to any one of us and sip real champagne from fancy glasses that also didn't belong to us and count down towards 2007 in a more civilized manner than on the streets of Urban Traffic Hell. Alas.
At 11:45pm we resigned ourselves to the fate of AM radio giving us the low-down on the countdown and when the car clock said 0:00, we honked like mad. To our dismay, we soon found out that New Car Time was not the same as Toronto time, so we essentially celebrated the coming of 2007 twice, within about four minutes of each other. Again with the mad honking. It got to the point where I wasn't sure if people were honking out of good-natured celebratoryness or out of frustration and anger that traffic had come to a standstill around the fireworks that were shooting out of Nathan Philips Square. Gladly, we had fun that night with our pricey, but uber-fancy drinks, good company during our two hour and twenty minute wait for a table, our delish meaty dinners, and yes, even the car ride because it meant delicately making out in the backseat while the two in the front were leaning on the horn.
So despite the fact that it was a very rainy and fairly anti-climactic Eve (as compared to the 'wild house parties' I've been to in the past *sarcasm!*), it was a good one. So far, 2007 isn't off to a bad start:
I've won an Award and a Scholarship from my university totalling almost $2000!
Hot damn, I officially fly out in three weeks. I've got my first two nights of accommodation in and around London figured out - now I just need to work on the other seven nights....
I know I already told you this, but I have my accommodation in Spain! I found out tonight that it's a PENTHOUSE suite with TWO bathrooms for just three girls that's (again, indulge me here) between my new university and THE BEACH. Beach beach beach beach beach.
My boyfriend and I are discussing plans for him to come visit me IN SPAIN circa late April/early May 2007 in time to celebrate my 23rd on the island of IBIZA!
*screeeeech to a halt* Boyfriend? What?
Adam deserves a better introduction than that and this, and I've been trying to work on one for the last, oh...I dunno, few weeks, but how do you introduce and encapsulate someone so awesome into just one entry? For now, here's the photo of us all dolled up in late-November ready to get it on before I-Ball. Kidding! We got it on after I-Ball.
No, but seriously, he's great. More on that to come soon in a greater, more eloquent and mushy fashion.