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

Monday, December 17, 2012

MENTAL HEALTH AND GUNS

OK, it's time to talk violence .

By now, we are well aware of the full story of Friday's Newtown, CT massacre. We have all watched the story evolve. Ryan Lanza is not the killer. His brother, Adam Lanza - a baby at just 20 - is, in fact, the boy behind the gun. The mother was not even in the school. The body they found at the house turned out to be her. He was not a sociable person. Neighbours thought he was weird. A heroic substitute teacher has made the headlines. Faces of the children have been plastered everywhere. Distraught parents have made eulogies of their tiny, tiny children. The police have no motive. Obama droned on about the US failing it's kids but gave his country no real sense of relief. Though, really, can anyone right now?

Social media posts have varied between angry calls for better gun control and criticism of "stupid Americans" and their love of guns to emotional cries for the victims who won't celebrate another Christmas and teachers who saved lives.

Someone posted a Morgan Freeman letter that bashed sensationalist media for giving these killers celebrity-like status (a letter that is NOT really from him at all). Yet another posted this image of all the gun related deaths compared to the US and the numbers are staggering. A friend posted this image this morning. Is it true? Somewhat, yes. Most likely quite a biased image that feeds into our hate of Americans and their too-free wielding of guns. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Control is big on these images. They like these numbers floating around because they are scary.

Doesn't this feel familiar? Don't the quotes and pictures and vigils have a dreadful sense of deja vu about them? Does it feel like yesterday we were just angry and sad and emotional about, say, the Dark Knight cinema shooting?

But now a new topic is emerging, creeping in slowly among these gun control issues and tears for the children. Mental health. This, I think, is the real issue to tie in here.

Adam Lanza wasn't just "not sociable" and "weird". He was also autistic. His mother pulled him out of public school and home-schooled him for the remainder of his years because it was too painful for him to handle the social bonding required from him on a daily basis.

Now, I am no expert, I am not pretending to be one, nor am I saying all autistic individuals are going to pick up a weapon and fire at random. Autism is, however, linked to reasons behind violent behaviour.

What I think we should be concentrating on is why a young boy would even think to pick up a gun for this violent purpose. Instead of focusing time and money on better gun control why not focus time and money on better resources for those with mental health issues?

There needs to be a better system in place which will help parents understand their children and children understand themselves. This will, with great hope and hard work, help them grow into more understanding and - most importantly - more understood adults.

People are not weird by nature. People are not ant-social by nature. There are reasons behind this. This is not a senseless act, as much as we want it to be.

Think outside the US. Does your country offer a system where those with mental health can seek help without being ostracized and labelled as "weird"? Can you offer your help to someone who needs it?

Let's think bigger picture here. Let's think realistically! Guns cannot feel emotion, cannot sense that they are pointing at someone precious. Start with the trigger finger, work your way up and into the mind of the person holding it. What can you do for them?

To end, a great article about a parent dealing with a child with autism: I am Adam Lanza's Mother.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SOCIAL MEDIA QUANDARY

First off, YAY, I got a permanent position here in Toronto. On November 12, I start at Stikeman Elliott LLP as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator.


I'm happy because the company is a huge law firm here, one of the top 50 employees of 2012 actually, and the position itself sounds great. Great location, great co-workers, great pay = happy Zaira.

Now, on to my main reason here, my social media quandary. I use Twitter and Facebook already, post pictures, tweet at random when I think I am interesting enough. I have no problems there. I used LinkedIn to find a job, and update that when necessary as well.

But then I branched out; I started using Pinterest and Goodreads. And that's where the problem started.

Pinterest is so much fun, I can spend hours looking for cute things I like, repinning them, liking them. But I now realize that the point of Pinterest is to pin, then DO! But I don't ever do anything with these pins. I just collect boards of pretty things. I have a board for wedding ideas (some for myself, most for my sister's wedding in May) that will never take fruition because they require effort. I see pins for cute DIY projects that I will never do either. You know why? Because it requires me to make a list of things I need for said project, go out and buy them and then find a space in which to complete the project. I just don't have the patience or money for it. I am also not all that crafty. I find it hard enough to maintain this blog and all I have to do is write, something I am good at!

Cracked did a great article on why Pinterest is actually a bafflingly bad tool for women to use, and I agree with some of it. I see people with the time, energy and money to make these crafts and be all DIY-happy and I wonder: Where do they get their motivation? I would much rather spend the extra few dollars at a store or on an artist. Is it me? Am I the weird one?

To date, only one pin has inspired me in real life. I made these Nutella brownies. They were just OK.

Then, there's Goodreads. This is a social media site for book lovers and avid readers. You can sort your books into Read, Want to Read and Currently Reading. I love it, it's a great way for me to keep updated on soon to be published work, as well as keep a reminder list of what I want to read soon. I read about a nvoel a week and so this has been very helpful for that. Except that I don't! Goodreads one requires only one thing: go out and buy/borrow the book. It's not like Pinterest where you need a how-to for each pin you like. You just need to get the book. And have I? Well, no. I managed to tick 2 of my list of about 50 books on my Want to Read list and that is because we had them in the house. Now I have to make the effort and spend the money to read the rest.

I know this makes me sound like the laziest, cheapest person ever . . . but I don't think I am alone in this. I really don't. I feel like I am speaking for a majority of people who are going to soon realize that utilizing social media is expanding beyond just sitting in front of your computer and liking and pinning things. Soon you will have to stand up and hand over your debit/credit card to make your Gorgeous House Stuff board a reality!

I will let you know if any more pins come to life . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A TINY CHANGE OF PLANS

So, there I was, preparing to dive into the pile of paperwork that would undoubtedly accompany the Tier 4 Student Visa process. I was even preparing to blog all about it, with tips and advice just like I did with the Tier 5 process. I was ready to get my Masters in London! However, that has now changed.

It slowly dawned on me that I would take on a tremendous amount of debt. So, between the boyfriend and I, we came up with a new plan. I will stay in Toronto for one more year and we will do the long distance thing. I have deferred my admission to Kingston University until 2013 as well.

This way, I can do my masters and return to London without incurring any more debt. Smartest way to do it, I think!

I'm excited because it means I get one more year with my friends, family and the real love of my life, Ben!

Ben is this adorable dog
I'm also sad because I miss London. In fact, I will be there for 10 days from next week (to sort out the clothes and paperwork I left there) and a big part of me feels like I am going back home! All very odd.

Anyway, this will be tough, I know, but so am I! And this means that when I do go back, it will be on the right terms and under the right conditions.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I SHOULD BE USED TO THIS BY NOW

Ah the job hunt . . . I have done this so many times in the last few years. Actually, when I think about it, I have had to do this just about every single year except 2011!

So, I am an old hand at this. And, yet, it does not get easier. There seems to be nothing for me in Toronto - temp or perm!

Wish me luck . . .

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BACK WHERE I STARTED

Well, back to where I was when I first started this blog: Toronto. It seems like nothing has changed at all in the last 2 years. It's disappointing and reassuring all at once.

A quick recap of my last couple of weeks in London . . .

I had a lovely bon voyage party on my final Saturday there. I thought I would be a quibbling, emotional mess but I managed to hold out on the tears long enough to enjoy the night.

On my last Monday there (May 8th) Qas took me out for one of the best days in London I have ever had. We started at the London Eye! If anyone has been keeping track at all of the blog, some might know that this has been on my list to do from the day I landed. However, I insisted that I wait until the very end of my two years there so that I would recognize neighbourhoods from above. I recommend this to anyone; going up there when you've walked the city a few hundred times means you know exactly what you're looking at when you're in the pod. It's a little emotional if you leave it to the end but it is worth it!

After the London Eye, we went to see We Will Rock You! Queen has been one of my favourite bands most of my life so this was a scary treat. After the mess of Thriller, I was nervous this would be the same. But it really wasn't! WWRY is an amazing, funny show and it is well worth a trip! It's in its 10th year now so is having a few anniversary performances (apparently Roger Taylor and Brian May performed with the cast the other night).

Then, on Tuesday morning, off I went. A few tears at the airport and off I whizzed through the security doors. So, yes, back in Toronto and looking for work. Looking for distractions from missing Qas and looking for a good catch up with all the friends here!



Thursday, April 19, 2012

CYMRU . . . WALES

This one was a spur of the moment thing. One minute Jayne, Julainne and I were talking about spending a girly weekend together, the next I was booking a room for 2 nights in Wales. As you do . . .

We drove there from London on Good Friday and I can say with utter confidence that this was a terrible idea. Because everyone else had the same idea. A 2 and a half hour journey took us almost 6! Granted, we did stop for a leisurely 2 hour lunch at one of the best pubs I have ever eaten in! It's called the Old Barn Inn and is in Newport, just as you cross the England-Wales border. They have a cake selection that rivals most bakeries and their meals might just have been the highligh out of trip!

Best food in Wales

We stayed at Llanerch Vineyard in Glamorganshire, a little village just 20 minutes away from Cardiff. I highly recommend it - and it came recommended to us from Julainne's friend Leah - if you like peaceful places to stay and those with the slight family touch. Breakfast is included in the price of the room and is amazing!

Once we settled in, we went for a nice long walk around the countryside. We tried to play with some sheep but they weren't interested. The country roads have no light so we scrambled home during sunset to make sure we didn't get lost.

SHEEP!


On Saturday, we drove into Cardiff's city centre. Well, actually, we drove up to the Park and Ride and took the shuttle in so as not to worry about finding parking. It cost just £3 so bargain!

Cardiff is built around a castle, aptly named Cardiff Castle, and it is a beautiful little city. The shopping is similar to London for high street stuff but they have many more indie shops where the prices are incredibly low compared to what we are used to in London! We found the nicest vintage shop with some amazing pieces, and nothing cost more than £20. Vintage in London means £100 tops usually . . .

Cardiff Castle


That evening, we dressed up and went to Retro, Cardiff's 90s bar and it is amazing! We only had one complaint and that was the DJ who talked far too much during his set. Less talk, more music please.


Sunday was the most exciting day! We checked out of Llanerch and then drove to Castel Coch (the Red Castle), which is high up on a mountain and looks like it belongs to Rapunzel. After a quick tour through there, we drove to the Big Pit. It is a coal mine that you can tour. You aren't allowed cameras down there (and if you go you will see why) so we have no pictures from underground but I can say it was the best sightseeing thing I have done in a long time!

Castel Coch
 On the drive back, we stopped at Old Barn Inn again and were treated once more to the best food we have had in ages.

Wales is one of the nicest places I have ever been. The people are genuinely lovely and helpful and Cardiff is a delightful city. Put this on your list of places to visit!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

DEJA VU - PARIS AGAIN

Qas has taken me on a lot of great holidays in the last couple of years. I have finally been able to return the favour by taking him to Paris for his 28th birthday.

We went via Eurostar - a first for both of us - and I have to say it is one of the best ways to travel. It takes just under 2 hours and we had absolutely no trouble at all.

In the interest of keeping this post a readable length, here are the 5 highlights of Paris:

Catacombs
The catacombs house the bones of about 6 million people and most are pre 18th century. We toured these on Friday afternoon.



The line to get in was not too long and it costs just 8 to get in if you are over 26 and a mere 4 if you are 26 or younger. The walk is 2 km of creepiness but a very cool experience. It is one of the best sight seeing ideas we have ever had.

Top of the Eiffel Tower

This is going to cost you 13, which I didn't think was too much to pay at all for an experience like that. Qas and I went on the Thursday night so the line up wasn't too bad. It will definitely be busy but could totally be worth it for you! I'll let the view do the talking though.






Montmartre 

Just past the Moulin Rouge and up a hill lies the Sacre Couer. It is a beautiful Roman Catholic church and also has stunning views of some of Paris. Obviously, it is free to see inside but you aren't allowed photos. And we did try to take some - the attendants will shoo you away for getting your camera out when inside.



Just a little further down the hill from here is the famous Le Consulat restaurant. I tried frog legs here, and let's be honest, they're nothing special. They don't even look that cringy on the plate! And they really do taste like chicken . . .


Batobus

The funnest way to tour Paris is not in an open bus. That is for boring peope. The funnest way is on the Seine in the Batobus - their boat tour. It costs 15 per adult for the day and stops at 8 famous landmarks: Musee d'Orsay, Tour Eiffel, Hotel de Ville, Louvre, Champs Elysees, Saint Germain des Pres, Jardin des Plantes and Notre Dame. In the summertime, these tours run till 11 pm. In off-peak it is only 7 pm. I have done this on both visits to Paris and it's still fun!

Sunshine

Yes, this is very generic . . . but Paris in the sunshine is wonderful. Like any holiday in the sunshine really. We had the benefit of some beautiful weather and it made it that much better.

Ah look at that lovely blue sky!



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

AND I HAVE TO LIVE WITH A BOOOOY

 So, once again, I am moving. For anyone keeping track (Mum), this is my 3rd time moving while living in London. I have moved from Gants Hill to Clapham South, from Clapham South to Tooting Bec and now from Tooting Bec back to Clapham South.

This time, I am moving in with le boyfriend. And I am already regretting this idea. Not because I don't want to live with him, or think it will go badly but because I don't know where I am going to put any of my things.

Now, it's purported that females (big generalization coming up) have a lot of clothes, shoes, toiletries and other such things. But, guess what? Males have the same amount of useless junk too! Le boyfriend has a wall to wall, floor to ceiling bult-in wardrobe in his room. It is full. Clothes, shoes, boxes that should be in storage, hair stuff, face stuff and just. more. stuff.

This week, I am cleaning it all out. I am forcing myself into this space as best I can. Sorry le boyfriend. I am not even trying to take over the room, I am just trying to find a spot to put my undies and dresses that I can reach without contortionist training.

Then, there's the worry that you ARE taking over someone else's space whether you meant or not. It's hard to move in to someone's room when they have already settled into it themselves.

So, wish us luck and I will let you know how it goes when I am picking up dirty laundry from the floor and he is brushing strands of my hair off his pillow 7 days a week.

PS I don't know if everyone remembers the scene in Friends that the blog title refers to so here is the YouTube clip (skip to the very end).

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

VALENTINE'S DAY GRUMP? NOT ME!

I'm not an advocate for Valentine's Day but I am not one of the grumps who oscillate between, "What a money-grabbing scam" and "Why do we need a day to tell someone we love then? We should do that everyday". And these are just the people in happy relationships.

I, on the other hand, am of the mindset that any day where you get to celebrate love and being in love, or even wanting to be in love is a good thing. I agree that there is a certain corporate, money-making element to it all. But just two months ago, weren't you standing in the Christmas rush, handing over your plastic card to a frazzled sales girl so your girlfriend would enjoy her new Body Shop basket/knee high boots/Coach purse?

And in May are you going to abstain from sending your mother a card to wish her a Happy Mother's Day? Will you do the same in June to your father? For the majority, I highly doubt you will. And those are the two actual holidays invented by corporations.

Valentine's Day, on the other hand, has a lot of history and meaning behind it. There is no need to go overboard. Flowers and chocolate are nice, cards are actually even nicer if you take the time to write a proper message in them. But, most of all, it's just a nice opportunity to tell someone you love them. Think small.

So, stop being a grump and enjoy it already!

The Oatmeal has it right!

Friday, February 3, 2012

F**K OFF, WE'RE FULL!

Sometimes, I get very very angry at Britain. I get frustrated and upset and my mind boggles. Why? Two words: immigration laws.

On my Youth Mobility Scheme visa, I am not considered an immigrant. The visa espouses how wonderful it is that I am considered a resident for the two years that my visa is valid; I can come and go as I please; I can work as much as I am able and I can rent a home, open a bank account, get myself a mobile phone and even make friends (oh yes, they're very kind like that). Of course, I have no access to benefits - recourse to public funds they call it - though I don't actually want them. I have done fine without them and only hope that continues.

But you know what I can't do? I can't stay. I have spent the last two years working hard, paying taxes, making very good friends and falling in love - both with the city and a boy. However, it means nothing to the government. At the end of my visa's two year grant, I must pack up and leave, don't let the door hit you on the way out, and go back to a place I no longer feel is home.



I understand immigration frustrations. There is a JobCentre at the end of my street, and when I see the line-up that forms outside it each morning, I understand completely. Britain - London especially - is running out of jobs faster than it can create them. It has run out of money, did so a long time ago. The world is in shambles and there are people coming in, seeking asylum from war, poverty and human rights violations, and it is becoming harder and harder to support these people who might actually need the help.

For selfish reasons, though, I want to stand in front of a tribunal and state my case. I have taken no one's job really - they wanted to get rid of the old Marketing Manager and so they did. I found out that my role was meant to go either to me or another Canadian girl and I won out. So . . . nobody in the UK was suitable anyway!

Now, I know this means I can probably get sponsored by my company. I have thought that through carefully and decided against it for various but very valid reasons. I have chosen the university route - that's right, I am going to do my Master's.

I have done it all legally and put down the beginnings of what might be roots. Wish me luck as I do my applications!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

IMPOSTOR CANADIAN

So . . . I say I'm Canadian. I celebrate Canada Day with pride, I love Timmy's and I can reel off a number of famous Hollywood residents who are actually Canadian with pride and envy. I do it all the Canadian way.

However, I have a confession to make. I am an impostor. I am no more Canadian than I am Middle Eastern or Pakistani. I don't like hockey, I speak British English more naturally due my primary education and I don't remember a lot about Canada's rules and regulations.

I no longer feel Toronto is my home. It is now where my family lives. When people ask me, "How long since you've been home?" I have the urge to answer, "I am home" - and then also correct their grammar and speech but that is a different matter - because it is the truth. I have no personal ties to Toronto outside of family and close friends.

Toronto WAS home. Dubai WAS home. They moulded me and shaped me and taught me. But, now, London is where I feel I belong. Toronto is in my past, and I will always love it and I can get nostalgic for it. But I am no longer homesick for it. London is where the path to my future lies.

And I will never have an answer to, "So where are you from?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A VISIT TO 221B BAKER STREET

On Sunday, January 22nd, Sara and I visited the famous 221B Baker Street. Most people will know this is as the address of the so-famous-you-might-think-he's-real Sherlock Holmes and I suppose having a museum in his name doesn't help that either.

It's a great little museum. It costs £6 to peruse and you also get a handy little leaflet to guide you through some of the installations. The first two floors are laid out as Holmes' study would  be based on Arthur Conan Doyle's books, while the top floors are wax figures in homage to the different books.

Sherlock Holmes' lounge

The museum is very interesting, if a bit small. The strangest thing is the lavatory in the loft. There is still water in the bowl as well, so perhaps it can be used for patrons of the museum? We didn't experiment to find out!

The plan was to get a traditional Sunday roast in a pub around the corner (in keeping with the Sherlock theme, we picked The Globe). However, we then walked by the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street and saw that they did afternoon tea for just £15. So, from one English tradition to the next, we decided to get us some tea and scones.


It was a pretty good tea, but you could tell why it was just £15. The scones were definitely bought at the Tesco next door and not made fresh. Same with the brownies, fruit cake and truffles. The sandwiches were just cheese, cheese and ham or smoked salmon so not the best selection. An afternoon tea deserves cucumber and prosciutto and fancy cheeses and things like that! Can't complain for the price though, can you?!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS IN TORONTO, HAPPY NEW YEAR IN LONDON

This year, I gave my family what I thought would be the best Christmas present ever: ME! 

I flew home on December 24th, arriving early afternoon. My dad picked me up at the airport with one of his cute daughters (my half-sister) in tow, took me to Tim Hortons for a quick coffee and then dropped me off at my mom's house. Paul answered the door, which was great because I was hoping to see him before all my attention focused on my mother.
Amira's Christmas tree
There were lots of tears, and even more so when my sisters arrived an hour or so later. I am really glad I went home, even though I will be back there for the summer in May. Christmas without my family doesn't feel right! I've also decided to miss as few Christmases (Christmasii?) as possible from now on. 

On the 26th, most of my friends came over. All except one knew about my arrival. We surprised Badr very well, to the point where he kept pinching himself when he spoke to me. I also got to see my sisters' houses and meet Amira's puppies!

I was only there until the 27th, when I flew home on an overnight flight. I arrived in London on the morning of the 28th, dropped off my suitcase at Le Boyfriend's, had a very quick shower and went straight to work. Harcore, right? I know. I'm dedicated. And also had no holiday left to take. Mostly the latter.

I brought in the new year in London, my first time ever since last year we were in Dubai for Ayesha's wedding. It was a quiet celebration, starting with a little get together at Le Boyfriend's house before going to a local bar (Glow) for the countdown with our bottle of rose Moet to pop and toast with.

Yummy

I have high hopes for this year and also very scared for it. This is the decision year, I feel. It's going to be another pivotal year in my life and there a lot of questions that go along with this - will I get to stay in London? If not, what will I do? Where will I go? 

And what about Le Boyfriend? This is the big question, at the end of the day.

I have two half-baked plans in my head and I will reveal all soon. While I formulate, I wish you the very best this year. We may have an apocalypse at the end of this year and we may not (more likely of the two) so I hope that you spend this year appreciative and full of love, luck and positivity.