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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

OFF TO DUBAI

Dubai is what really started my big move to London last time . . . and now, here I am, the eve before my departure to yet another wedding in that city.

I have a love-hate relationship with Dubai. It was my home for so long but I no longer recognize it. Therefore, I feel no real longing or nostalgia towards the place as a whole.

I am, however, very excited for this wedding! Ayesha, my best friend since I was 5 years old, is marrying her university boyfriend Altamash. Details on the other side!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you are all enjoying the day and are happy, safe and warm wherever you are! A big thank you to the Khan family who adopted me for the day!

Friday, December 24, 2010

COMING OUT OF THE DARK!

Something else I've realized when you move somewhere brand-spankin' new is that you sort of lose yourself for a little while. Anyone who left their hometown for uni can attest to this. When no one knows who you were, no one knows who you should be now. You can act any old way you like!

I had this luxury in very small doses only since I made a lot of my current friends in London last year. So though I haven't changed much I found myself a little unlike the Toronto version of me. 
It has a lot to do with feeling a bit lost; a bit marooned. Slowly, though, you find yourself - your true self  - and from there should fit more comfortably into the world around you. 

But in order to not get too comfortable and then, therefore, bored (a constant issue with me) I have lots of travel plans next year that I really must get going on!

I hope this isn't the faux-cheer of the holiday season but I woke up this morning feeling much more hopeful, happier and generally more at ease with my life! I hope this lasts!! 

Gloria Estefan sang it best . . .


Thursday, December 23, 2010

25 AND A DAY

Well, it certainly was a happy birthday! My sisters have taken off this morning to go back to Toronto (with, I strongly suspect, my house keys in one of their coat pockets!) and I will go back to my house and restore my sense of disorder to my daily life.
I have been sick AGAIN and it's starting to worry me a lot more. A friend's theory is that I'm not used to the viruses in this country and so will feel better as I spend more time here. However, my time here is so short that I don't think I will have that luxury!
Anyway . . . due to the nasty illness I permanently carry about my person, we had a quiet birthday. It did, of course, last an entire week but it involved more catching up and less dancing and drinking.
I'm so glad my sisters were around for it and I am so sad they went back home.
There is lots to do though. Christmas isn't important to me this year apart from church tomorrow night. The next big thing is Dubai in one week! I am really looking forward to that! Hoping to come back with a tan ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

LEAVE MY YOUTH ALONE!

I have been waiting for this dreaded moment since the day I found my first white hair at 22. Three years later, one week away from 25, it has arrived: I have seen my first set of fine lines on my face. It is taking all my common sense and willpower not to sink to my knees, white-knuckled fists raised to the sky, shaking in poorly supressed anger and desperation while I bellow Why, God, whhhyyy?!

It is official: I am old.


I will fight it, as generations have before me, with creams and serums and perhaps even the odd injection here and there. I will buy into miracle products and fall for gimmicky ads when I see Cindy Crawford and her lovely face on TV. 

I wish I was the kind of person who could happily see these lines and say, These lines tell the story of my extraordinary life! Behold, I am wise woman secure in her humanity!

Er, no . . . I'm sorry but I am just not that cool. I'll be in line behind you at the Boots (or Shopper's Drug Mart if I'm in Toronto) with the various age-fighters on the market hoping for that miracle. My youth is not leaving me without a good brawl!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BEST PRESENT EVER

I have been a very lucky girl. Almost all my birthdays have been spectacular, especially the gifts. And I am shallow. I love presents. I'm not the kind of person who responds with Oh you don't have to get me anything when someone asks me what I want for my birthday. If you've ever asked me, you know I'm not shy and will say I don't know but I do love to shop! I love shopping vouchers (hint).
But this year . . . this year, one of my birthday presents has beat almost all the others. My lovely boyfriend has been bestowed legendary status because his gift to me is this:

He is flying my sisters in from Toronto for my birthday week.

On my 5th birthday - 20 years ago
That's right. Both my sisters are coming to London and he has taken care of all of it. I have never had such a thoughtful present that I didn't even ask for! I am amazed at it. Everyone I tell is!

While it was supposed to be a surprise, it is almost impossible to surprise me if I am told that something is coming. I hounded Qas for hints and eventually guessed. He made every effort to keep it from me. I am glad I found out though! As much as I love surprises this gives me something else to look forward to this exciting month. 

And I am just so, so excited to see my sisters! It has been a long 7 months without them around and I'm really looking forward to their visit!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A GENERAL OVERVIEW OF LONDON

I recently reconnected with a near and dear friend on Facebook who asked the following questions when she learned of my move to London:

How are the men? Pansies? Average? "It is what you make of it"?
Weather? Work? Transport?? 

And so, the answers to these questions follows this sentence.

The Men
The men are beautiful. They are either feminine and charming or masculine and coarse. There are, on average, far better looking men in London than in Toronto. Their accents aren't THAT sexy but their attitudes towards women are. London men seem to be looking for love. They are kinder, more aware of themselves and very comfortable in their own skin. Of course, having a boyfriend here, I tend not to notice the men in an interested way. But I am still interested in learning about their cultural differences, so I still observe.

Weather
The stories you've heard are all true: it rains in England. It also snows, shines and fogs. The weather is sporadic and changes on an hourly basis. This is no exaggeration. Something to do with where the UK sits on two different Atlantic currents means that the country experiences drastically different weather at the whim of the wind.

Work
Ah, work. The one thing I wanted more than anything else in London and finally got! Work here is great. They seem to promote very quickly here. They pay isn't as good as in Canada and the standard of living is much higher so day-to-day is a little more of a struggle for someone like me - someone in the middle pay grade.

Transport
Recently, there have been a spate of strikes on the Tube (Subway, Metro, Underground) so transport has been a pain. Also, the weather and transport don't mix (see previous post). I take the tube every morning for 30 minutes to work and it is crowded. I often spoon with gentlemen I do not know and it is not by choice - mine or theirs! But that is what I do. I have no car here but I am, as I always will be, still spoilt as my boyfriend has one. So, while I do spend a lot of the time on the tube, I spend a lot of time in a very nice car as well.

All in all, I love London. Some days I see myself living here long-term with little apprehension.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

HAPPY DECEMBER! STAY UPRIGHT!

It's my birthday month! All rejoice in the celebrations and be merry! Also, Merry Christmas :)
I will be 25 this year and it is my first birthday away from my entire family. I have good friends and a great boyfriend though so I think I should be well taken care of.


View outside my front door last night. Pretty!
It has snowed this week. Not very much by Canadian standards but apparently of epic proportions for English standards. The entire country has panicked. Airports are closed, trains aren't running, tubes are delayed and people are just hibernating.
I blame the lack of salt in the country. There is no salt on the sidewalks and there seems to be no salt truck business here either. The roads are icy and the sidewalks are treacherous; I see people falling on a daily basis. I don't understand. It's not like this is the first time England has had snow right? Sooo . . . why so unprepared?
This is definitely an area we here can learn a lesson from Canada. Salt the earth damnit!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

FLATMATES :)

I have been very lucky in London so far. As one friend put it, "You've really landed on your feet!" I have very few complaints other than the fact that my nose is always either blocked or running. Depends on the time of day really. My theory is the air is laced with coccaine.

Anyway . . . one of the things I got luckiest with is my house and the 6 people I share it with.


When I first moved in, it wasn't so nice. But we've cleared out the riff-raff (and also one lovely, lovey couple) and we are left with . . .




Ben - the token Aussie. He's an accountant. He's on the same visa as me. He moved in 2 weeks after I did. He's awesome!

Glen - the charming Irishman. Also an accountant. He's lived in the house just about a year now. He's a lady's man and a great friend.

Owen - the first Englishman in the house. He works in finance as well, but I couldn't tell you what he does . . . He cooks like a Master and has a fantastic singing voice!

Steve - the other Englishman and our most recent addition. He's our pub fiend and is in events marketing.

Ellen - from Preston, she's a Neuroscience PhD student. She's really sweet, but I have a hard time understanding her accent sometimes hehe.

Emma - a Welsh girl, she has a fantastic set of movies to choose from and is everything I thought British girls would be!

So, there's the rundown of my flatmates in London. Certainly very different from living with family but I love it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

SOMETIMES, EVERYTHING CHANGES

I wake up - sometimes late - and wash my face, I get dressed, go to work, pretend I am busier than I really am, idly chatter with my colleagues but always with a slight guard up, go home, make dinner, idly chat to my flatmates (this time with no guard up) and then fall asleep under a thick duvet. Somewhere in that routine, I think about my family, my boyfriend, my grocery list. Where am I?



It could be anywhere. But then, one Friday evening I am at a bar in the City, near Bank and I walk out onto the street with Ben and Glen. Right in front of us is the Royal Exchange. And then I know . . . whatever it is I'm doing, I am doing under a London sky. 

It never gets old for me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

UNGRATEFUL IN LONDON

Someday I'm going to look back on this London experience and marvel at the ways it's changed my life. Some days, though, I wake up ungrateful and cranky. Today is one of those days. Today, with the skies heavy and grey, I don't want to socialize. I don't want to be nice to anyone and I don't want to make pleasant chitchat.
I want to put on a pair of thick, warm PJs and stay in bed until noon. I want someone to pamper me and be nice to me without wanting anything in return. I want to boss someone around and be snide and bitch and gossip and eat chocolate and get the perfect head massage. I want my nose to stop running. I want a raise for no reason at all. I want the perfect cuddle followed by an endless back-scratch. I want someone to cook me dinner the way I want it. I want to be a big baby.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A BIG WEEK!

2 days after we bid adieu to lovely Dennis (whose tale can be followed here), my mommy arrived in London! I have spent the last 5 months missing her like crazy and I was so excited to finally see her. Qas and I picked her up at Heathrow on Friday morning. I ran to her the minute I saw her; this little woman with two very large suitcases! One was mine! The minute I got home, I went through all the clothes and shoes I had missed these last few months. Reunited at last! 
I had been very nervous about my mother meeting Qas. Over the last year, I had not given her the best impression of him. But when they met, everything was fine. In fact, by the end of the week, she would be defending him if I said something rude to him (always in a loving, joking way of course!)
Despite jet-lag (hers) and the sudden onslaught of a bad cold (mine), we headed to Birmingham the next day to meet Zab who was kind enough to drive down from Blackburn. This meeting went splendidly as expected and we even had the added bonus of Jabir joining us for an hour or so at the end of the day.


They also met a lovely bull.
Unfortunately, I had to work the rest of the week so she entertained herself. One night,I came home to a new rug, laptop table and groceries. Typical Mommy . . . no matter what age, no matter where you go in the world and how well you've set your own life up, your mother will always find a way to leave her mark. It is what makes them your Mum.
The highlight of our week was definitely afternoon tea at the Royal Garden Hotel. Cup after cup of delicious tea with sandwiches and scones and pastries is the best way to spend a Friday afternoon! We followed that with our first trip to Harrod's!

Dear God, those cakes!



And then, Saturday morning rolled around and Mommy left to go back to Toronto and her life and leave me to building mine. But she has definitely left me much stronger and capable. She reminded me why I was able to do this in the first place, and she has given me renewed hope in myself. I feel less lonely and I feel less afraid. I feel less stressed and I feel more inspired. That, dear readers, is what makes Neena Taylor my Mum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

AN ODE TO DM

Tomorrow afternoon good friend and formidable Scrabble competitor Dennis Mensa boards a plane for Japan! He will live there for one year if all goes as planned. I am sad to see him go but so excited he has realized a dream! So, Dennis, here is a post just for you.
 
D is for dreams, the ones you're making come true!
E is for everyone who's really going to miss you.
N is for naughty, which you'd better not be.

N is for new life and realizing your dreams!
I is for I love you, cause really, we do.
S is for saki, something to get used to!

M is for Monica, cause she's that special girl!
E is for eating strange food in a strange new world.
N is for not giving up even when you're sad!
S is for Skype, which you'll always be glad you had!
A is for always remembering you have lots of love to come home to and people who will be very proud of you no matter what!


:) A bientot et bon voyage mon frere!

Friday, October 15, 2010

MAKING IT WORK IN LONDON

The hardest thing in a new place - especially in one where you have no immediate family - is making a relationship work.

The Boyfriend (Qas, Waqas, Qasim, Superman; tick as preferred) is back in my life and in a big way. This time around, it seems to be stronger, more intense and with far more love than the last time. Especially on his part . . .

See, he has family here. He has responsibility and social obligations and genuine interest in spending time with this sisters. He has work and friends and moments when he just wants to be alone.

And I have . . . yes, I have work. Yes, I have friends. But I don't have many moments when I want to be alone. I have no family and no social obligation to them at the moment so I have a LOT of spare time. It's what made our first attempt at this so disastrous. That, and other personality issues that we seem to have overcome for now.


We're alpha dogs, him and I, and I thought butting heads would create crater-sized holes in our relationship. The wonderful thing is it's doing the opposite. 


Anything that comes up bonds us closer. He is teaching me, without even knowing, how to be less jealous, how to trust more, open up more and let go of the little things.


I'm not sure what I've taught him but it doesn't matter. Whatever it is we're doing for each other, it works.


So, that's the only way I know how to make it work in London I'm afraid . . . find your little bit of magic.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

YOU'RE ONLY LONELY

Right, so this post is about sad things, but fear not reader, this is not my permanent state of mind!

One of the things about moving to a new country that gets lost in the excitement and tiring paperwork is the thought that when you get there, it will be very lonely. But it is!

You take for granted the bonds you have built in your hometown, where on any given night, you have a handful of people to call and just chat to. In a new country, while you're still forging these bonds, this isn't always feasible.

And for all the lovely friends I have made and the boyfriend I am now back together with (more on that later), there are some instances where no one can help the complete and utter bleakness of a night alone.

Because there is no one in the new place quite like the family and friends in the old place. Everyone here already has their life in full motion and you are scuttling around looking for a spot where you fit in. In Toronto, I was a part of the life we built. Here, I am the new brick in the old mansion.

So, there, something to think about . . .

Friday, October 8, 2010

2 WEEKS IN

So . . . I am a Marketing Executive now. And I love it! The job is demanding, the job is creative, the job makes me THINK! I am finally back in an environment where I can lose myself in what I am doing. I've missed this . . .

In fact, not to disparage previous roles, this one has more of a hold on me than the others. I feel more clear-headed at this job. I feel like I understand the company better. I am asking more questions, I am giving more input and it's only been 2 weeks.

But then I realize that's because at my last job, I was already counting down the days to London! 

In other non-work related news . . . my mommy is coming to visit me! She arrives Oct 22 and will be there until Oct 30! I am so excited because as we all know I am a big Mommy's Girl. She is also bringing me the rest of my wardrobe :D

Money is still an issue, as expected. I'm just not used to being broke anymore! Slowly, things will get better and I can afford all those holidays I planned to take!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

DISCO ON WHEELS

I learnt how to rollerskate in London! Last night, we went to a roller-disco for Abs' birthday. It was my idea but I, the forever fool, didn't take into account my lack of skills on wheels. When we got there, I wobbled and wind-milled my way to a seat. Then, steeling all my courage, lifted myself up and clunked over to the rink.
And I didn't stop! With lots of guidance from lovely friends, I learnt how to skate! I'm not great and I did fall - though that was just me standing there, not even trying to skate - I am quite proud! 
And, as a bonus, here is a picture of the lovely birthday boy!




Sunday, September 26, 2010

FIRST DAY TOMORROW

I start my new job tomorrow! I am excited to finally be back in something that I am good at and where I am still learning.

In typical Murphy's Law fashion, the marketing job I was had prayed very hard for at Christie's became a possibility when they e-mailed me for an interview 3 days ago. I declined. I believe heartily in things happening for a reason. This may well prove disastrous but it will be disastrous on my terms.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to tomorrow morning. I have good feelings as my boss has let me know he is excited for my first day as well - and he did it via text! That's always a good sign.

In non-work related news, I went to IKEA yesterday morning and bought myself some things from for the house to make it feel more like mine! I have a new duvet, new sheets, a bathmat, lampshades, a bedside lamp, a cheese grater and a new set of knives. Knives that have been proven to be very sharp as I sliced my thumb on one of them as I washed them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MINE HAUS IS WARMED

This past weekend the flatmates and I had our housewarming party. It is over 2 years overdue for some of them but the house just wasn't party-friendly before this. Our previous flatmates (now thankfully moved out!) weren't quite interested in having our house be the party house!
However, new flatmates (self included) have decided this needs to be a social house where people can mingle and drink and enjoy!

The party went very well, though it is quite sad because two more are moving out. And these are two we really like! We can only hope their replacement can fill their shoes.

Flatmates!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CELEBRATING

I have landed a job as a Marketing Executive! I am waiting for the offer letter in the post (Canadians read: mail) and it will be official. But I am still excited! So I have announced it already and am ready to celebrate!

I am celebrating my hope that kept me holding on. I am celebrating the tears and the anxiety that pushed me to try harder. I am celebrating the luck that we all need to get in at just the right moment. I am celebrating the advice from all the amazing friends. I am celebrating the encouragement from my family in Toronto. I am celebrating the fact that I can finally relax for a few minutes! I am celebrating . . .

And I am very, very happy :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TUBTHUMPIN'

It's been an interesting couple of weeks . . . Qas and I are speaking again and it's lovely. And confusing. And comfortable. And probably wrong. But so be it, this is what we have chosen to do and neither of us are complaining yet! We are just friends in the way only we can be just friends, so I have given up trying to understand it.

Last night, he had his comedy showcase after (FINALLY) completing his course. And . . . he was great! The boy can deliver a punchline. Very proud of him. 

Oh yes, there were signs!
Other than enjoying my friends, I am, of course, on the job hunt still and that is driving me crazy. I just want to walk into an office and shake their Marketing Manager (or insert appropriate title here) and scream: HIRE ME!!!

In London, I am slightly unhinged . . . 

Today, I heard back from an interview I had last Friday and was told that "due to management decisions to restructure the marketing department, we are no longer recruiting for this position". Bloody hell . . . back to the drawing board. But this time I won't be too upset. This time, there is no Black Friday. This time, I am fighting back harder because damnit I need to give it all I've got, haven't I? Otherwise, I'll never feel like I fought hard enough for my dream. OK, I am done quoting bad football movies. So, I will just work harder and - now feel free to sing along with me - rally my cry:
I GET KNOCKED DOWN, I GET UP AGAIN, NEVER EVER GONNA KEEP ME DOWN!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GOOD TIMES

On Monday evening, Arpen and I trekked up (ok, schlepped up) Primrose Hill for what I was promised would be a spectacular view. And, my goodness, was it ever! Look!



On a very warm day I imagine that being one of the nicest places to be in London. And, after my incredibly depressing Sunday, this was a very welcome event. 

Last night, I went and saw Marilyn, Brett and Breanne and then took Brett out for a night in London. Tuesday nights in London are useless! They stop serving at 11 pm in most places but we went to Storm in Leicester Square and had some beer and free shots. Came home, finished a bottle of wine and Skyped with Sara and Kyle. Odd thing, two sets of swapped best friends Skyping.

And I also have my month long temp job starting tomorrow! Proper income, yay!

I am much better about The Boy now. It doesn't hurt and I can imagine actually being able to talk to him. Steps forward :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

ON TO HAPPIER THINGS

I got to see the infamous Inferno's this weekend and what an experience! Sara was back in London for one night only so I decided she must see this place as well!
I do believe she will never visit me again . . .
The place is disguuusting but so entertaining! The floors are plush red carpet and it resembles a casino the way it is lit. We have no pictures from that night as there was nothing we want to remember about the night!

I spent a lovely afternoon in Gants Hill with Aiysha and Jabir. The house looks like grown-ups live in it! It's very strange . . .

Tonight, Arpen and I are headed to Primrose Hill for some celebrity and London gawking! Updates on how that goes soon!

And tomorrow I start a month-long temp contract! Up, up, up :)

MY HEART BROKE IN LONDON

In the 3 short months I have been here, I have seen a lot of London. I have seen a little bit of Europe. I have made some wonderful friends and bonded even closer with people I already knew. None more so than The Boy . . . who became The Boyfriend and who is now The Ex-Boyfriend.
While I'm the one who instigated the actual break-up, it wasn't something I really wanted to do and it is hitting me especially hard now - 3 days after the moment we separated.
The loss is immense for me and I can feel it in everything I do. We only went out for a few weeks but we have been so entrenched in each other's lives this past year that it feels like we've been together for much much longer.
While I feel good about the reasons behind the break-up, it is losing him as the best friend that hurts the most. I know we can be friends as there is no animosity between us but we probably can't be friends the way we used to be. I haven't spoken to him since Friday night but it is not without a struggle. I am fighting the urge to call him just to see how he is, just to have a quick chat about our respective days or just to hear that pseudo-American accent. If I call him now, I will cry.
So, despite my dislike of drama, I actually do feel heart-broken. I have to remind myself of the reasons I decided to let go but those reasons feel so trivial right now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TROUBLED

When I left for London, I had high hopes of making it here. I also had deep fears that it would all go wrong and I would end up back in Toronto, my tail between my legs but none worse for the wear.

That's the worst part: returning home not because of some emergency but because I had simply failed at my task.

I'm not a competitive person and my ambitions are life-oriented versus being money or career-oriented and so I don't mind losing on ocassion (except at word games. I cannot lose gracefully at word games!). But, here, in London, on my own, building my dream, I don't want to lose either.

I have gone through my savings far too quickly. Between two holidays and reckless spending on entertainment, I'm left kicking myself. The simple fact of the matter is that if I don't find permanent employment or a long-term contract I will have to leave for Toronto in Otctober.


Goodbye dream, goodbye friends, goodbye boyfriend, GOODBYE LONDON.


Please, not yet . . . not yet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CATCH-UP PART III: BARCELONA!

After a lovely couple of days in Paris, we headed to Barcelona for some beach time! Also, high on my list of sights to see was Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi creations.

We spent our first two nights at the Equity Point Gothic in the Barri Gotic (hence the name). The hostel was quite nice but a bit quieter than we thought it would be. We used these first nights to catch up on some sleep and just take it easy. We were still in relaxed Paris mode I suppose!


For our 3rd night, we moved to Kabul off of the famous La Rambla. The street is a tourist magnet and pickpocket heaven. We got very lucky throughout our entire trip, though, as we didn't get pickpocketed or lose anything!


Kabul was a lot more fun, especially because we joined the hostel on a night out at local club Hyde. Our bunkmates were also great: 3 Egyptian boys and 2 Yorkshire brothers, each only there for the same night we were. I think we definitely made the most of that.


We spent our last 4 nights at Equity Point Sea, which is on the beach. Now, this hostel was supposed to be a bit quieter but we got put in a room with 5 boys from Basingstoke. 5 loud, drunk, smelly, FUN boys! We also met 3 German girls and so we spent most of our last days drunk with them.


We did manage to get sight-seeing done as well. We rode cable cars to Montjuic which is the mountain which houses the Olympic stadium that served the 1992 Olympics. We also went on our own building tour of Gaudi's work via the Metro (which, if you've mastered New York and London, is a breeze!). And, lastly, the most important thing is we both managed to get excellent tans!

CATCH-UP PART II: PARIS!

The day after I got back from the Saleh wedding, Sara and I left for our Continental adventure. First stop: Paris! We stayed at Hotel D'Espagne in Grands Boulevards. The hotel manager took a shine to us and invited us back whenever we wanted for a free upgrade!

Paris gets a lot of flack for being a snobby city but we found it to be quite the opposite! The people were lovely, very friendly and more than helpful when we asked. We have the slight advantage of understanding French and being able to speak it a little as well so that may have helped. Also, we're girls.

We took a Batobus tour (highly recommended!) which is the same concept as those hop-on hop-off tours you see in all major cities. The difference here is that this is a boat tour on the River Seine. It was only 13 euros for 8 stops such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Champs Elysees and so on. We got to see most of the city this way.

The highlight for us was the evening we spent under the Eiffel Tower watching the light show. It sparkles once an hour every hour after sunset. So, we took our cheese and wine to the park and just enjoyed the night!




I absolutely loved Paris and am ready to go back already.

CATCH-UP PART I: A SALEH WEDDING!

Sara is here!
Sara arrived Friday July 30th and we literally hugged for a minute at the airport. I teared up a little because she smelled like home and it made me want to get on a plane and just go back to Toronto (a recurring feeling for the following two weeks). We spent the day together, mostly with her napping as she enjoys her sleep. In the evening, we hit a pub or two.

The next morning, I had to leave for Jabir and Aiysha's wedding in Birmingham. I set off to Watford to Jayne and Ste's where Qas met us and drove us to Birmingham (attentive readers will click in that this is the boyfriend . . . surprise). Sara opted not to attend the wedding and so I left her to explore London with a tube map, suggested sights to see and my Oyster card.


We get there, check in and are told that there is no soap in the hotel - lovely. I also realize I have forgotten to bring shampoo and so will have dirty hair for the next two days. No problem there though as I have brought hair spray and pins to hide the mess!


The reception was at the National Motorcycle Museum, a very cool place to have a wedding I think! There was great music, delicious food and moving speeches. Aiysha's sister's speech made me realize that at some point in the next couple of years I might just be doing one at my own sister's wedding. 

Friends


The next day, the Valima was at Akbar's and, once again, we were treated to delicious food and a very cute poem by the younger Saleh's. I am very happy to have been asked to be a part of the festivities.


Legendary flatmates!


Jayne, Ste, Qas and I head home at about 4 pm (an hour later than planned) and then I have to mission home from Watford. It takes ages and is frustrating because tube lines are down all over the place. It puts me in a terrible mood and makes me miss being in a place that I just know. 

In Toronto, you can put me anywhere in the city and I can tell you where I am and the many options available to get somewhere else. In London, I am slow. I have to think constantly about the best way to get from A to B. I'm not used to that. Sometimes, I get tired of being in an unfamiliar place and The Great Adventure no longer seems fun. So, every once in a while, I feel like going home to where it is safe and easy and comfortable. Then I turn a corner as I come out of a tube station and see, for example, the London Eye or Big Ben and it makes me realize that I love this city and I want to learn it. So, here I am still.
 

Monday, July 26, 2010

HI-HO HI-HO IT'S OFF TO SPAIN WE GO (YES, AGAIN)!

It is my first day off in about a month. My temp contract has come to and end and I am actually at a bit of a loss as to what to do now! I am looking for work, obviously, but there's little temp work at the moment. The agency I am with has nothing for me at the moment.

But I have a LOT to look forward to in the next 2 weeks. The most exciting news of the moment is Sara's imminent arrival. She lands Friday morning and the advantage of having no job is that I can go get her from the airport! I am so excited to see her cause it's like a little slice of home coupled with the fact that, well, I adore her! 

 Proof of adoration!

I have Friday night with her and then I am abandoning her for Jabir and Aiysha's wedding on Saturday. I am headed to Birmingham with the boyfriend (oh yes, there's a boyfriend now), Ste and Jayne on Saturday morning and we are there until Sunday evening. THEN - and this is where it gets even more exciting - Sara and I are off to Paris on Monday and then Barcelona on Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ALL MOVED IN

Finally, I bought hangers and have hung all my clothes. There are no longer suitcases in my room! I rearranged a little as well and am very happy. 

I am terribly nervous, however, about the money situation as I now regularly have rent coming out of my account. Being an adult is really not that fun. Because, let’s face it, until this moment I haven’t really been a grownup have I? I’ve lived at home my whole life and while I paid into the house, it was nowhere near what I pay now that I live on my own. It’s not just the money though is it? I am now responsible for my eating habits as well as every little thing I took advantage of before. I have to make sure there’s always milk. There’s no one else to worry about that now. Little things like that are what make me miss Toronto!

It is a lovely house though. It is a fully refurbished Victorian and I have 7 other flatmates. Yes, 7. SEVEN! The house is certainly large enough to accommodate us though. We also have intensely varying schedules which actually means it can get a bit lonely.

My room is on the main floor and I pretty much have my own bathroom, except when someone is too lazy to go upstairs to their own.

I can only hope I have the ability to get myself a good job to keep the house and also to make sure I can stay in London. I have a lot more to stay for than when I first moved here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

STE'S AND JAYNE'S WEDDING (PART 2)

Ste and Jayne recently had their wedding in Morocco. I missed it as I was in Toronto at the time but have seen the pictures and really did Wish I Was There!

The two were nice enough to throw a reception in England for all those unable to attend the main Moroccan event. It was out in Sarratt, a nice countryside-y village outside London - the kind of place you expect an English wedding to be!

Monica drove us all there, and after some rather scary blind turns on a tree-lined winding road, we arrived! And were one of the first to, as well!

One of my favourite things about the night was getting to see Zab, Sanam and Abu. I even got to be Mrs. Adam for the night. Which, let's face it, has very few advantages to it but is still a fun game to play.


We will all be reunited again in two weeks for Jabir and Aiysha's wedding!


I ended up leaving my camera there, though. Oops. Will be heading to Watford to get it from the Fricker-Coote's sometime this week!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MOVING DAY

I moved to Clapham South! I am very excited as I now have my own space. I have my own room with my own bed, my own dresser and – the best bit – TWO of my very own double wardrobes! My shoes have a lovely home now and that makes me quite happy.

I am still living out of my suitcases as I do not own any hangers!

Also, I didn’t bring pillows or a duvet with me . . . d’oh!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

O MADRID!

Having turned into somewhat of a slacker when it comes to updating the blog, I have a new resolution to blog at least once a week. I don't want to forget anything about London, in all it's strangeness and difference. For example, no one here seems to wear sunglasses! Even on the sunniest day, there's a serious lack of sunglasses across this city. Everyone just walking around bare-eyed.

Anyway, I have recently been to Madrid! And what an experience! Ste and I went to see his sister for her birthday. She is currently in Madrid with her friend Matt while she immerses herself in Spanish. This weekend was special as they used it as an opportunity to celebrate their birthdays (though neither was actually this weekend). Sair's boyfriend Keith and another couple named Jim and Gem were also there.
Our trip happened to coincide with gay pride weekend as well as a World Cup Spain win and, so, we got to see Madrid at peak party time! Red and yellow Spanish flags intermingled with rainbow Pride flags, everyone was ready to celebrate and the city literally roared with energy.

Here is the summary as concisely as possible:

Friday July 2: Arrive after midnight due to delayed Ryanair flight and go straight to Sair's place. Drop our stuff off, freshen up a little and out to a salsa bar with Matt, Sair and Keith! Come home, pass right out.

Saturday July 3: Once awake and ready, we all head to Parque del Buen Retiro and rent boats. After, we stroll around the park, get an ice cream as it is sweltering and then we take cable cars across Madrid and see the absolutely breathtaking expanse of the city. In the distance, you can see the Palace and the Cathedral, both famous landmarks in Madrid.


In the evening, we go to Plaza San Miguel, an open buffet style market that seems to specialize in seafood. I grab a few sangrias and then Ste and I head to Plaza Mayor. It's a square in the heart of Madrid, a little quieter than the other places (especially Sol!). This is the same night that Spain wins their game against Paraguay. They are only 2 steps away from World Cup victory! The streets are wild and the parties go all night!

Sunday July 4: Keith, Sair, Ste and I head over to the palace and the cathedral to see it up close. Unfortunately, we miss visiting times so do not get to see it from the inside. We spend the day walking around the main city. We head home and, that evening, head out for dinner in Plaza de Santa Ana. There's an amazing fireshow from a street performer as well (video below)! The only sad news of the day is that Keith has gone back to Zurich.

video

Monday July 5: Ste and I decide we need some water! There's a waterpark in Madrid in a town called Villanueva de la Canada so we mission on over. It takes so long to get there that we only get 2 hours in the park but it really is enough for the day. Jim and Gem head back to the UK in the afternoon as well. That evening, we look for a flamenco bar but cannot find an open one as we have left it till too late. We eat at Vips, which is about as American as you can get and then back to the apartment.

Tuesday July 6: Having had our previous attempt at entering the palace thwarted by our ill-timing, Ste and I head over there on our last day to see it inside. We are not disappointed! It's a grand palace and we have decided to buy it! This is our last full day in Madrid so we head back the house early to spend some time with Sair before we leave. Our flight home is delayed by about an hour and so I am back at my front door by about midnight.

Two things about Madrid I found interesting and both are related to garbage:
  • They trash the streets at night and then clean them up by morning. And when I say trash, I mean TRASH! EVERYWHERE!
  • They collect recycling and garbage everday . . . at 6 am!!
And that's it! Barcelona and Paris are next when Sara gets here in 3 weeks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PAY TAXES

In London, as anywhere in the world, they would prefer if you paid taxes into the country. In light of that, the fastest bureaucratic system in the country is that of the National Insurance number.
The NI number is the same as a social security number (Americans) or the SIN (Canadians).
Previously, I mentioned that getting a cell phone and a bank account here are near impossible. Not the NI number, however. I applied for it 2 weeks ago and received my number in the mail. No issues, no questions.

RIGHT, SO . . .

Let's see if I can fit over 2 weeks worth of catching up here. Seeing as I love lists, this might be the best time to utilize one:
  • Job: I am temping now, so money is coming in and that's great. I have also decided to temp my way through the summer in order to travel! Which brings us to . . .
  • Madrid: I am going to Madrid with Ste! We leave Friday July 2 and return Tuesday July 6. We will stay with his sister who lives there at the moment. Free accomodation, yay!
  • Rumana: The whirlwind known as Rumana swept her way through London last week. I stayed with her at her hotel by High Street Kensington. I am recovering from the ordeal very well.
That's the big stuff! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BLOGBANDONMENT!!

I will be back with updates shortly. It has been a busy couple of weeks!

Friday, June 11, 2010

SPONTANEOUS MOMENT ARE EASY TO COME BY WHEN YOU'RE UNEMPLOYED

So there I am, on a spur of the moment road trip to Manchester. It is 7 pm and Tez, Qas and I are on the road with Qas at the wheel of his trusty E-class (I know, we travel in style). The trip is only spontaneous for me: Tez had plans to visit his good friend Katherine and Qas is making an emergency work trip for some sort of property issue. Another one of his “meetings” :)
The plan is to sleep over in Manchester so he can do some work in the morning and then to go up to Whitehaven (news followers will know this as the location of the recent shooting spree) for some disaster that has afflicted a property he owns.
We reach Manchester at approximately 11 pm, drop Tez off with his friend and then head to the hotel. We are there by 11:30 which leaves us just enough time to sleep.   

The next day . . .
Manchester business is taken care of while I sleep and then by 9:30 am we are on our way to Whitehaven. The drive up is just breathtaking. Britain is known for its hills, the rolling majestic greens littered with sheep and cows. It does not disappoint. The mountains meet the clouds in perfect cohesion and I have never seen scenery like this. There are even signs to watch for horse-drawn carriages but unfortunately I do not see any!
Whitehaven is a lake town in the famous Lake District and is a quaint little place. It has been taken over by chains, though. There is a Costa Coffee (what I can only compare to a higher end Tim Horton’s) and there are other chain stores and the evil gas stations.


Other than that, it is postcard perfect. The houses are old, the streets are narrow and the people actually wave hello to each other when they pass. Honest, I actually saw this happen twice in the short drive off the main road into the city centre. It is charming in the way only an old English town could be.
If I were so inclined to live in sleepy towns, I would retire here. But, seeing as I have always been a city girl at heart and need life around me, I probably wouldn’t last longer than a couple of weeks.

I NO LONGER SPEAK THE QUEEN'S ENGLISH

Here’s a whole new post about the difference in the languages. I grew up in Dubai and we spoke British English. You know, where:
  • Elevator = Lift
  • Bathroom = Toilet, WC or . . . loo.
  • Gas = Petrol
  • Soccer = Football
  • Highway = Motorway
  • Chips = Crisps
  • French fries = Chips (though something to note here is that they DO have French Fries and they refer to the really thin cut McDonald’s style ones that apparently are North American and not very English. So, in light of this difference, they were given a different name, almost as if they are not authentic).
So, in a way the language isn’t really an issue and there’s no REAL barrier. But, I’ve lived in Toronto for 10 years where we spoke North American English and now everything’s all topsy-turvy.

Keeping up with the changing dialects is proving more difficult than I thought. I can understand everyone just fine, it’s remembering to use the same words myself that does not come easy.

They’re still chips to me if they’ve been crisped and put in a foil packet. They’re French fries if they come hot out of the deep fryer. And it’s gas if it fuels your car.

I’m not too bothered though. London’s supposed to be a multi-cultural city and I’ve settled in quite well despite always asking for French fries and taking the elevator. It will all come together eventually.

One thing to note, however, especially during World Cup weekend is that it always has been and always will be football to me. Soccer is the sport that Americans play . . . and not that well I might add.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

MORE STEPS FORWARD

I had my first interview on British soil this afternoon :) I don't even care if I don't get the job, it's just positive news that my resume does get attention here. 

I also met with a temp agency to help me with a little extra cash in the meantime. I met them at 11 am and by 3 pm they already had a 4 week job if I wanted (I didn't, it involved cold-calling and I just can't do that yet).

Lastly, we saw a couple of places in Clapham today - neither one very nice. They're in an estate and so an excellent price but not in the area of Clapham I want to be. The whole point of living in Clapham was to be near the action and this place is miles from anything interesting.

So, on to more job hunting and flat hunting and things like that.
I miss Toronto right now. I miss my dogs especially.

Monday, June 7, 2010

ANOTHER LOVELY WEEKEND

Ah, it's Monday again! . . . And this means nothing to me as I am still without work, though not for lack of trying. I am certainly not disheartened yet though - it's too early for that. There have also been some better responses today.

Mondays are a good day for reflecting on the bad decisions of the weekend though. Lucky for me, I consumed very little gin :)

Friday morning I got a text from Monica asking if I wanted to join her for a day in Clapham Common. How could I say no to that?! I love Monica, I still love Clapham and it was a beautiful day. My only issue: I wore jeans! So my legs are rather pale compared to the rest of me. Oops!

Friday night was a chill night at Faraz's house where I ended up staying to avoid taking scary night bus home to Ilford. Really, the night bus home isn't that bad when you have company but no sane girl should take it alone because not only is the bus a bit scary sometimes but the walk home is just stupidly long from Ilford station that late at night!

Saturday a bunch of the Entourage went to Taman Gang, a fancy-schmancy club in Mayfair. I'm not kidding - 2 drinks cost me £23.50! Too expensive to get drunk but still a great place. Great DJ and I had my lovely friends with me.

Check out the sequined Buddha. Exquisite!

I saw Death At A Funeral on Sunday and it's not bad! Pretty funny actually but at one point they revert to the (my personal opinion follows) never-funny poop joke. Other than that, all-around OK! Still, not as funny as Four Lions which I saw last weekend and was just genius!

Anyway, back to Monday. Job hunts and flat hunts are well on their way. I hope to have some good news to post here in the near future.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

OH MY WORD, I CAN COOK!

So, coming to London was all about new experiences, right? And what is more new to me than *dun dun dun* THE KITCHEN!
For those not familiar, I actually hate the kitchen. Literally loathe it, to the point where it makes me a little nauseous.
I have never been a foodie (a word I hate as much as the kitchen) but now that I live far away from home and Mommy can't cook for me, I ended up eating out a lot as well as eating some frozen pizzas and Sainsbury's ready-made food. 
So . . . this idea slowly creeped into my head: Could I, perhaps, COOK FOR MYSELF?! I had to find out, being someone who believes she is capable of anything she sets her mind to. I know, ego much?
But, it turns out, I am not a terrible cook!

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping and then made the most simple thing I could think of: pasta and a meat sauce. But I made the sauce myself! Fresh ground beef, onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce and mixed herbs. It was actually edible and quite delicious.

Today, another easy dish: chicken fajitas. Once again, fresh chicken cooked in a garlic and onion tomato sauce with fresh onions and fresh veggies. And, once again, it was edible and quite delicious!

So, on Sunday, I am attempting a shepherd's pie! Wish me luck. And I welcome any other meal ideas. I feel brave enough to try now :)

Also, I have witnesses to these meals! Just saying . . .

Monday, May 31, 2010

QUIET BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND

Highlight of my weekend: Penthouse in Leicester Square with Nousheen, Simone and Nousheen's sister Fatema where, when I looked out the picture window of the 7th floor club I saw the London Eye and Big Ben in one sweep.
Now, Leicester Square is the most touristy place you can go clubbing but for someone who just got here, and is essentially still "touring" the city, it's a wonderful place to check out.
The club's not bad either! You will notice, though, the incessant repetition of his setlist. I must have heard Rihanna's Rude Boy at least 4 times.

The rest of the weekend was pretty lazy. Tez was away in Blackburn visiting the wife and family so I had the house to myself. Didn't think I would miss him, but I did! :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

-

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and I miss my sisters more than anything in the world right now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

DEAR GOD, THE BANKS HERE! (UPDATE)

Right, so moving to a new country is stressful. You've got so many things to think about and worry about and, just, DO! Regulars will remember my visa application stress, then my packing stress, then my resigning stress and then my homesickness stress.

But, now, there is something new to add to that: BANKING! Opening a bank account here is incredibly difficult. It is my own fault. I had this big plan to open an HSBC account in Toronto and then transfer things over here and that would be so easy! But I didn't plan enough time to go do that so came here with just a bank draft and some cash to get me going in the beginning.

But no bank will give you an account without a permanent address. But I can't get a permanent address without a bank account. Hmm . . .
Then I found out HSBC will give me a "New to the UK" Passport account if I pay £8 a month for it. It's a little more than I want to pay for a monthly account but this seems the only way to go right now. All the other banks have turned me down so far.

So, £96 for the year to get an account. 

A word of advice: Open your bank account BEFORE you move if you can!

UPDATE: I have a bank account! HSBC Passport, with a fee but with all the benefits of a regular UK account! FINALLY!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MONDAY AT HYDE PARK

There is nothing lovelier than good weather, a patch of grass and funny people to share it with. So, I headed to Hyde Park on Monday evening to see Selena, Faraz, Amir, Arpen and a couple of other people I had not met before. They had spent the day there and invited me to join them.


After, we popped into a corner pub to watch the England v Mexico match (the same one Zab, Qas and Jabir were currently at). The atmosphere in the pub was much more muted than I expected for a football game but apparently we were in the wrong area if I wanted rambunctious fans!

Arpen, very kind man, drove me all the way back to Ilford from Kensington even though he lives only 10 minutes from where we were.

And now, here it is, Tuesday and 11 days since I landed in England. I feel like it has flown by and also feel like I have been here forever! There is still so much to see though, and I am going to explore it all!

Monday, May 24, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: SUNDAY

Right, so woke up bright and early Sunday morning as I tend to do when I've been really drunk the night before. Lazed about with nothing to do for the morning until Jabir and Aiysha came back with supplies for our BBQ. They had some of their friends come over and we ate lots and kicked a football around. OK, they kicked a football around. I just lay in the grass and got in their way. Something about sports makes my body want to stop functioning properly. Am not usually a clumsy person but seem to lose all coordination when it comes to organized sports.
Zab arrived from Manchester at about 5 pm. He had tickets for Monday's England v Mexico match at Wembley with Jabir and Qas (who graciously offered me his ticket and I graciously, if stupidly, turned down as he has never been to a match before and has been here years and it's only my first week). 
Zab and I had plans to head into town after the BBQ and Jabir and Tez joined us. We planned to be there just a couple of hours but got so caught up in London that we were out until about 3 am.
We visited Soho (popular gay area) and revisited some of the tourist spots we hit the previous Saturday to see them at night.

G.A.Y. Nightclub

We headed to Piccadilly Circus next where buskers had attracted a large audience and dancers! A Spanish guitarist and a bongo player, they were so energetic you just had to join in. Tez and I joined a conga line, hopping around madly and generally being silly. While London is not the city that never sleeps, it is definitely the city that entertains!

We also walked along the Embankment. Look at that lovely view across the Thames!
                                           

After a ridiculously long night (we walked about 3 hours!) we took the night bus home which is always packed. So packed, in fact, that I got to stand at the very front of the bus, literally shoulder to shoulder with the driver. It was like watching a movie of London as we whizzed through the city (mad bus driver) and into Ilford.
We feasted on leftover BBQ food before going to bed, absolutely exhausted!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: SATURDAY

The epic weekend continued with an afternoon in Clapham with Monica and Dennis. I've expressed interest in moving to Clapham so Monica showed me around the area and I absolutely loved it! It's at the top of my list for areas to move. We walked around a bit and then headed to Monica's while Dennis dressed for the day. For lunch, we had a picnic (courtesy of M&S) in the Clapham Common, a beatiful expanse of green, green and green.
Raced home at about 4:30 pm to get ready to head back to Nousheen's for a BBQ at hers. Qas and I left early to go to his friend Rich's birthday. The drive was exciting for me because we crossed Tower Bridge, my first time doing that!
We arrived at Rich's place where I met him for the first time, an experience worthy of it's own blog entry but I fear that would be too creepy. But, what an awesome night with some very lovely people! I got a little too drunk though and passed out almost as soon as I got home.
My first time drunk in London too. It was very helpful having someone to drive me home. In a sexy E-Class at that!

This city has it all for me. Now I just need to find employment. However, the weekend was not over yet . . .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WEEKEND UPDATE: FRIDAY

O2's Matter didn't work out (apparently it's closed down but am currently too lazy to verify this). We ended up in Brixton at a place called Fridge. It's a well-known trance and dance club (for Canadians, akin to Guvernment) so I guess you get the picture. For someone who doesn't do pills, it's always quite an experience to go to a rave. It actually gets a bit boring! However, I was with lovely people (Jayne, Ste, Tez, Abs, Dennis, Monica, Nousheen) and met some nice new people as well (birthday boy Bilal was very sweet).


After, we went to a club called Plan B - a hiphop club with an entirely different crowd than the one we had just been to! But the music was awesome; old-school hip hop that is so much fun to dance to! We left there at about 3am to get some food and it was 5 am before I got to a bed.
I spent the night (technically, morning) at Nousheen's because Jabir and Aiysha were in town with Aiysha's sister and her boyfriend so had asked for the house for the night. Nousheen is the sweetest person I've met in a long time and she has an awesome South African roommate as well!
So, Friday night was a great experience. Tune in for Saturday and Sunday updates soon. As you can see, I had a great weekend! Hope yours was great too :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

YOU HAD ME AT 'ELLO

Spent another day in London yesterday (this time with Zainab who is Qas' younger sister). She took me to Ten Ten Tei for sushi and it was delicious! Though, have realized that am not a big fan of sushi anymore.

Then, we walked down Regent Street to Hamley's, world famous toy store which celebrates it's 250th year this year!

This rotates in the middle of the store on the 4th floor
The store is AMAZING, all interactive with employees as immature as me. I even got hit on by one of the employees . . . I think it's the North American accent. But, sorry Holy Momo, it's just not going to happen.

Anyway, we then walked over to Caffe Concerto, an Italian chain, where we had some DELICIOUS gelato (mine chocolate, Zainab's lemon). Following that, we walked over to Piccadilly Circus. Now, let's be honest, once you've seen Times Square in NYC this isn't going to impress you but it still has it's charm.
Not bad just not NYC, is it?

Zainab and I also have a new project for the summer. London has installed an art awareness project through the city called The Elephant Parade. Elephant statues have been placed all over the city, each one sponsored and painted quite beautifully. The mini herd to the right is in Trafalgar Square and is Indian-themed. We are on a mission to find al 248 as we explore the city more together this summer.

So, things are looking better for me and getting much more exciting. I have a few social events to look forward to as well, including a birthday party at the O2's Matter.

Keep you posted!