Chronicles of one girl's journey to London - from conception to eventual migration.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PRE-2010 WRAP UP

It has been quite the year, hasn't it? Life-changing and mind-altering, I couldn't have asked for a year filled with more promise.
The year started badly and I lost my grandmother in February. As a result, I remember very little of March and April as we adjusted our lives around this large loss and attempted to regain control of our everyday lives.

The summer saved me. Everything seemed better once June rolled around.
I have travelled more than any other year with trips to Dubai, Amsterdam, Manchester and New York twice!
I have made amazing new friends and, as Jayne puts it so well, have infiltrated their group like a master spy.

The end of the year is another story . . . we lost my Mum's brother, my Papoo Mamoo, in October. I haven't seen him in over 10 years and so, while the loss is not immediate in vicinity, it's all the worse that we've lost our chance to reconnect.

Looking back, I am glad for this year, despite my feeling that it has been the hardest I have had to go through in a long time. I feel like I kind of hobbled along through it, waiting to get through to the other side, and unlike any other year, I have some high hopes for 2010.

And I turned 24 exactly one week ago. Time is flying and I am holding on for what will most definitely be an epic ride.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

HO! HO! HO!

Merry Christmas! It has been a lovely Christmas season thus far for me and I hope you enjoy the same right now!

Saw Sherlock Holmes yesterday afternoon and while I wasn't super impressed, I did enjoy me some RDJ!

Delicious.

The movie isn't for your typical Holmes fans but it does have some interesting moments - especially the one where we see Holmes tied to a hotel bed with nothing but a pillow on (inventor of the pillow, I have a bone to pick with you!).

Other than drooling over RDJ, we spent Christmas Day not doing much at all. Our Taylor family dinner was Christmas Eve and was fun as always. Tonight was the Shaal/Taylor dinner and this year we were joined by Amira's boyfriend Ryan and Misha's boyfriend Matt. We opened presents in the morning and they were all amazing - my family knows how to gift :D

Family time becomes more and more important to me as the days roll away so I love that we got to spend the Christmas weekend together.

So, here's to family, old and new and may you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

FOOD, NOSH, GRUB

Main Entry: food
Pronunciation: \ˈfüd\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English fode, from Old English fōda; akin to Old High German fuotar food, fodder, Latin panis bread, pascere to feed
Date: before 12th century
1 a : material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy; also : such food together with supplementary substances (as minerals, vitamins, and condiments) b : inorganic substances absorbed by plants in gaseous form or in water solution
2 : nutriment in solid form
3 : something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies
food·less \-ləs\ adjective
food·less·ness noun
So, a recent chat with Dennis has brought to light this horrible tidbit: Londoners do not like square burgers. Apparently they tried (oh yes, sir, they really did, honest!) but they could not bring themselves to consume sharp-edged meat.
It's not the shape of the burger that worries me, it's the restaurant attached to it: Wendy's! I love Wendy's! When it comes to fast food, it's my only preference. Especially their fries! And, so, with the loss of the square burger comes the loss of the greatest french fries ever.

This led to more questions: "Do you have a Harvey's? A Taco Bell? A Burger King?" (No, maybe, yes). And I realized that the food choices I am used to here may not be available there.
When you think of a new place to live, food is often in the Top 5 concerns, probably somewhere between making new friends and finding the good shoe shops. However, London is so closely aligned to Canadian culture that I didn't think about it too much. The food lines in London are as blurred as in Toronto, so it is possible to get kebabs, Wendy's and a Thai green curry all on the same street. I would assume it's the same in London. Or, if not, at least within close proximity of one another.
I am not a foodie (another reason why I didn't think about food differences) so this is why the loss of something as simple as Wendy's fries makes me sad. But I would like to try some of their home-grown recipes and you know there will be reviews on this blog about my experience with it! Feel free to comment with suggestions please :)
And so I will go, slightly appalled but still entirely enthralled, to the land with no Wendy's french fries.
(But I will never drink a hot Ribena, Dennis!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE WELL-ADJUSTED TRANSSEXUAL

I love New York - always have, always will. Before Europe became my home destination, it was New York City. The big teen dream was to move to NYC and land a job with a fashion magazine. I wanted to be Anna Wintour with a soul. As I got older, the fashion world lost its luster; too-thin models, back-breaking work and sleep-depriving hours made me work towards a job that wouldn't be my life. It was a job to sustain the life I wanted to love. And this leads to more time for friends and love in my life.
Which brings us to this past weekend! Sara, Naz and I went to NYC to see my (our) beloved Sam. While she lives in Long Island, we spent the entire weekend in the city. Sara has never been so this was a treat. I love sight-seeing in any city, no matter how many times i have seen the place. Because even when the buildings remain static, the wave of people enjoying the view changes constantly. It's the people I love to see. And the city certainly doesn't lack people. New York has them in droves! It is, after all, the city that never sleeps, the empire state, the Big Apple (I've always said it, Americans know how to market their country!).
We had one of the best weekends we have ever had together. I don't remember one moment where I didn't laugh and I actually came home with sore abs (also partly due to what Sara and I experienced as Hangover Saturday).

It made me think . . . once I am finished with London, perhaps my return to North America won't be to Toronto. I want to try and head to New York again.

And just for Naz I have to mention the most perfect man in the East Village. The man was a walking magazine cover! Delicious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ALL IS CALM?

Christmas is approaching and in typical calm-before-the-storm fashion, life in general has been quiet.
There is little to no news on the London front, except that we have had to move our deadline forward to April 20, 2010. Exciting as that is, we now have exactly 5 months to untangle ourselves from our lives in Toronto. In theory, that's enough time. Practically, that feels like a minute. Between full-time work, full-time friends and full-time napping habits (the latter of which we are most dedicated to) sometimes it feels like we won't get anything done!
Most pressing on my mind is my car. My beautiful electric blue Mazda 3 - lovingly named Lulu LeBleu by myself and Jessica - has to go.
Then, there's Bella . . . no, not the vampire lover girl. Please.



This gorgeous little chunker! Oh yes, she's coming with us. So now not only do we have to think of a home for ourselves, we have to make sure that she is comfortable too.
So, there is lots to think about and lots to do! But that is what we're good at; getting through the tough times and making life happen is our forte!

And now that we have this blog and the journey is here for anyone to see, we will not want to let it go to waste. O the shame of this falling through would be too much to bear! :D

On a totally unrelated note, I watched Away We Go last night (with Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski). Watch it. It's hilarious and sweet and makes you feel good!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OPEN SESAME

There's a really easy (read:illegal) way for Misha and I to get into the UK to live there. We can simply fly there, stay put and hope that someone will feed, clothe and shelter us (Sanam, I'm looking at you).
OR we can do it the way they would prefer. We will get a visa that will allow us feed, clothe and shelter ourselves. And, most importantly, that will let us WORK for all this - a concept I detest because it gets in the way of my social life, but that's a rant for another post on another blog.

Misha did the research because, well, that's her job in this whole thing. We are going to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme, or Tier 5, visa. It allows us to reside, work and play in the UK for up to 2 years with all the in and out privileges we can handle. So that means, yes, Europe is getting hit hard with 2/3 of the Shaal girls.

The visa is based on a points system. Points for being Canadian (I know), points for being between 18-31 and points for having at least £1600 (just under $3000 CAD) in your bank account one month before departure. If you rack up all your points, apply away!

Applications can be downloaded from this website and must be taken to your local British embassy. Ours is somewhere in Toronto . . . So we take the visa application, proof that we're Canadians and have the money and send it off. Oh, and they want our fingerprints (governments, eh?) and then they'll let us know if everything works out and away we go.

So the visa process seems pretty simple and straightforward, but then, don't they all at first? We should know better by now that government procedures are rarely simple and almost never straightforward. Wish us luck! We want to be in or on our way to London by May 7th, 2010.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

THE PULL

I've been working on a simple research project for my new job. And everytime I get onto a company's website, I find myself gravitating towards their "Locations" section.
Does it have a London office? I wonder to myself. If it does, my heart does a little ba-dum. I could work here when I get there! They won't say no, I'm awesome!

And then I research where exactly in London this office is (thank you Google Maps). Oh, this one's not in London. This one's in Reading (looks too much like Toronto). This one's in Edinburgh (that's not London you corporate fools). This one's in the West Midlands (not really interested in that). Then, there it is, the office that is in London. On Baker Street. BAKER STREET! The essence of London to a foreigher is Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes and the old Tussaud's. I can see the red buses and bobbies now. I can feel the pull.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BE GENTLE, IT'S MY FIRST TIME

I have never been to the UK before. Well, I've been to Heathrow Airport. I have seen Heathrow's walls time and time again. On my way to New York from Dubai, we stopped at Heathrow. On my way to Dubai from Toronto, we stopped at Heathrow. I can hail-fellow-well-met with Heathrow anytime. I can show you her hidden hallways and cleanest bathrooms.

But to actually breathe in that thick English air - I didn't get my first chance until just this October. And it went a little something like this . . .

Friday October 9th - Misha and I depart Toronto at 7.35 - no, sorry Miss, flight was delayed - 8.35 pm. Cruise high altitudes for 7 hours or so. Land in Manchester. (Right, should mention that, didn't actually go to London on this trip. We went up north instead.)

Between the 7 hour flight and 5 hour time difference, it is now . . .
Saturday October 10th - Zab and Sanam pick us up. They're late. We don't care. It is just so exciting to be with them. It is 9 am and we are on the road. On the wrong side of the road! I forgot all about that in my excitement to see them - the novelty of driving on the opposite side. Manchester's outer limits look a lot like Toronto. It's all trees and large chain stores (I saw a Staples! I was so disappointed.) We drive around for an hour or two, mostly because Zab is lost. We go to Arndale, their mall, and meet up with Qas. Eat some food. Go to our rented apartment. Check in and leave again. Walk around the city centre. It is gorgeous. Quaint and modern at the same time. How do they do it?
Back to Arndale where we meet up with Abu and Jayne. Back to the apartment. Abs and Ste meet us there. Fahad comes by for a bit. Qas misses all this because he is doing "business". We suspect he just walks around town, pretending.
That night, we are taken to a Manchester bar. It looks and acts a lot like a club. We drink. We are merry. We go home and eat and pass out.

Sunday, October 11th - We go to Blackburn to Abu and Sanam's house: The Saleh Mansion! They live with Abu's family, a joint family unlike any other. They feed us and then we all hang out. Their family makes me want children - lots and lots of loud, laughing, fighting, screaming children.
That evening, we go to Strada for Sanam's birthday dinner (a week early). Italian food with names we can't pronounce and it's not very good. But I love every minute of my life with these people so it doesn't really matter.

When we get home, Zab and I decide we need to dance. Clare Teal becomes our new favourite DJ and we pretend we are in a cabaret.

Monday, October 12th - I am woken up early by Qas leaving, and then very shortly after by Abu leaving as well. They head to work. By mid-morning, we're packed and Misha and I are being driven to the airport by Zab and Sanam. Life comes full circle. Apparently so do many streets in Manchester. Zab is lost again.
We rush, rush, rush through Manchester Airport and make our flight with enough time to get Burger King (Plane food was inedible to the point that BK seemed a better choice). And that's it . . . we're back in Toronto and home by 6 pm.

Those 2.5 days were enough to solidify what I thought I knew: I want to live there.
Looking forward, I am doing everything in my power to make this happen.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Misha and I are doing this together; this bold, unbridled move to London was not actually my idea. She came to me with it. I had planned on going to Spain (despite lack of Spanish vocabulary and no real action plan).

London was always her dream - I have just joined her on it and taken it over as being part of my dream too. Spain will happen . . . but London will happen first.

I plan to use it as the centre of all my travelling plans. My home-base while I bankrupt myself in Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Prague, India and Egypt. Big dreams.

Big dreams but not impossible dreams!

I WANT OUT

The moment of realization was a strange one. Walking into Sanam's arms at the Dubai Airport, I thought to myself: I miss this part of the world. Why am I still in North America?

Back in Dubai after 9 years in Toronto, we came to celebrate her wedding. She married an Indian boy born and bred in England. All his friends were the same. We fell in love, all of us and I think they took a little piece of me back to England with them.

Having spent the earlier half of my life in Dubai, my connection to the very centre of the globe is strong. And now it pulls me back.

Toronto is home today. The plan is for London to take on that role in May 2010.