Me (at ‘Pret’ a coffee chain): May I please have a regular coffee to go?
Me: With milk.
Barista: White coffee.
Me: No, just coffee with milk.
Barista: Yes, white coffee.
Me (slightly embarrassed): Oh. Ok. Yes. White coffee.
I have been living in London for less than two weeks now and it already feels like I have been here forever. The transition to living in a new country has been pretty easy for me- I have been lucky to have made a pretty good group of friends, and my life here is pretty similar to how I live back home in Canada. In fact, I actually prefer some of the differences! (Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I’m not planning on moving here forever!)
What I love most about London so far is the active hubs of people. With a population density of about 4700 per square kilometer, people live in much smaller spaces than they do in Canada. Stores and services like supermarkets, banks, post office, drug stores, bakeries, delis, etc., are all within walking distance. At home, we usually get in our cars and drive to all these things- so it is nice to be able to walk around and get some fresh air (I’ve seen many cyclists wearing gas masks, though, so I’m not sure how fresh the air is). Although people don’t really have yards, there is a lot of green space in the city’s parks. I am lucky and live very close to Regent’s Park.
I find the energy created by all the people so contagious- it makes you want to get out and experience all that the city has to offer! There are so many interesting people to meet and so many events to participate in. For example, this weekend, I attended the “Thames Festival”, which was a free event by the Thames River that showcased musicians, dancers, and performing artists, as well as the best fireworks show I’d ever seen. I loved being part of the excitement and seeing so many people out and about.
Work has been a bit slow lately, since school only started last week. My experiences so far have been very positive. As a supply teacher, I have realized that you need to be flexible, creative, and extremely confident. Although you have absolutely no clue what is going on, it is important to portray a sense of complete control. Even though I have been living in London for two weeks, teaching for uhh…two weeks, and don’t know much about the UK curriculum or the schools I am teaching at, it is important to appear as though I am a master of it all. For example, I had to teach netball for one of my classes. I had never heard of netball or even seen it played, but apparently, it is what girls play instead of basketball here. Before we started, I asked, “who would like to volunteer to explain the rules of netball to the class for your ‘classmates’ who may have forgotten”. Haha. Essentially, it is the same as basketball, minus the dribbling and the backboards.
For my first day of work, I was called at 8:15 am to teach P.E. at an all-girls high school. School started at 8:40am. I was in Starbucks (ordering a white coffee!)…a 5 min walk from home. I had called my agency at 7:00am to see if I was working that day, and was informed that I probably wouldn’t get any work that day. By 8:00 am, I hadn’t heard anything, so decided it was safe to get a coffee, since I was planning on going for a run and (sadly) can’t have a good run without some caffeine!
My agent (who is super nice and unbelievably supportive), informed me, “there’s no need to panic, but you need to leave as soon as possible since it takes 30 minutes to get to the school”. Luckily, I have a very high stress threshold, so was somehow able to remain calm as I navigated my way through the tube system (which I had previously only used once before), and arrived at the school in good time (another teacher covered the class until I got there).
The students I have taught have been surprisingly well-behaved so far, and have actually been pretty receptive to me. They seem very interested in Canada, although they have a ridiculously stereotypical perception of what it is like. Yep, live in an igloo. Nope, don’t know Drake- it’s a big country.
They are also amused by some of the language I use. For example, I taught a badminton class, and told students to get a “birdie”. Everyone started laughing because they had no idea what I was talking about. In the UK, they call them “shuttlecocks”, or just “cocks” as one sassy gr. 9 was quick to note!
I am itching to get more work, as I haven’t worked in 2 months and am starting to feel a bit useless (and broke- yep, the student loan is almost completely maxed out). However, I have used my free time and the bank’s money well: I saw the musical “Wicked”, got tickets in the pit for Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at the Globe Theatre, went to the Art Gallery, discovered my local pub, went cycling in Kent, played in 2 rugby games, wandered all over the city, checked out several markets that I will try to stay away from…mmm bread pudding at Borough Market…and (yikes!) brown leather jacket that I bought at the Camden Market (it was only 30 pounds, though!).
I guess that’s all the news that I have for now. I hope that everyone is doing well. It is weird to think about how life just continues on back home as normal when you’re gone. I miss my family and all of my AMAZING, inspiring friends, but am feeling happy with the community I am establishing here. Please send me updates on your lives. I don’t want to be too out of the loop!