summer in the city.

28 July 2014 § 1 Comment

And just like that, my first year as a secondary school teacher is complete. Above all else, patience and humility got me through – along with some dear individuals who helped me keep things in perspective. I’m excited about putting in to practice next academic year what I’ve learned this past one. I’m also excited that I am in the midst of a six week long holiday. 

While lots of people fly off to destinations far and near, I am spending most of the summer here in London, doing all the things I wish I had more time to do during the school year. Learning to drive in the UK, reading, jogging/making efforts to be more fit, writing, donating blood, learning to make bread. 

Being done my first year of teaching also means that I’ve nearly been living in the UK for a year. 

I’ve been writing poetry on and off since elementary school, nearly since I could write a coherent sentence. I find that each phase of my life is accompanied by a different voice, a different kind of poetry. Middle school was fantasy, Tolkein-inspired stuff. High school was poems about loneliness and love. University was academic and playful. Post-University was thoughtful and romantic. Japan was reflective and focussed on communication. England doesn’t have a voice yet. This has been reflected in my lack of writing poetry, as well as my general ambivalence about living here – so obvious when anyone asks how I find living in London/England (“Umm.. well,.. it’s good. Not great, but.. it’s alright..! You know, I don’t love it, don’t really hate it…”). I’m hoping I can find that voice this summer.

A colleague lent me a book a while back. “Burnt Shadows”, by Kamila Shamsie. I only just started reading it last week, as my holiday kicked off (“At least one book every two weeks!” I promised myself). It seems to fit fairly well with this idea of finding my England voice. While it is driven largely by international conflict, it follows the lives of a few different families as they move about, providing a thoughtful look at ideas of loss and foreignness. I’m about two thirds in. I recommend it. Y’know, if it sounds like your kind of thing. 

And that’s your end of July update! Over and out.

 

 

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April 2014.

12 April 2014 § Leave a comment

One of the key differences so far between my life in England and my life in Japan: my work now requires most of my energy. Day trips and adventuring are not as frequent as a result. When I have time to do whatever I want, that ends up being staying in in my pajamas. I admire the other teachers from abroad here who take full advantage of their time off by exploring the UK and other parts of Europe. A part of me, though I hate to admit it, was more motivated to see Japan on the basis of it being Japan (England, you’re still cool though! Don’t take it personally!). 

More than anything, I’ve been trying to take advantage of being in London, of being in a big city. A trip to Royal Albert Hall to see Pixar in Concert, seeing Canadian band Walk off the Earth in Shepherd’s Bush, a poetry event at the Southbank Centre to listen to five poet laureates, film screenings in Soho, improv comedy at the Comedy Club, overpriced ramen, a long walk around Kew Gardens. 

Along with enjoying London, I’ve been trying to figure out what I actually want to be when I grow up. After having spent four years studying English literature at University, I find myself leaning towards specializing in maths, particularly where students with weak numeracy skills are concerned. This has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. 

Nonetheless, I want to continue exercising my writing skills. I’ve written a couple of film reviews for The Film Circle Reviews (for Under the Skin and the new Robocop). Poetry has been sparse, however. I’m hoping the two week break I’m enjoying now will bring me some inspiration that isn’t solely related to teaching/education. 

Every now and again I am reminded that I’m not from around here, especially when I hear words I’m not familiar with, or words being used in a way with which I’m not familiar. Hard graft. Todger. Yorkshire “pudding”. It was fun when we were in Canada, having it the other way around. Tom tried on some clothes at a store. Upon coming out of the changing rooms, a store clerk asked, “How’d you make out with those?” Tom: “Sorry? That’s not what I do with my clothes…”

 

 

 

here are some things about the past couple days.

10 February 2011 § 2 Comments

When I went out on my balcony this morning, I realized for the first time that I can see mountains in the distance. I think they are in the east. We had a nice blue sky for the first half of the day, the bluest we’ve seen since we arrived (we = my training group). I’d make some comment about it being chilly, but then I remind myself that when I flew out of Toronto, it was around -20 Celsius. I can’t complain here.

I’ve been trying to learn a few kanji a day. It doesn’t help a lot, but it makes me feel like I understand a little bit. I will turn my focus to katakana eventually, because that’s a realistic system to learn. Today I learned to recognize the symbols for mouth, the “n” sound, and “no” (as a syllable, not like our “no”). Yesterday I learned fruit and juice. The symbol for juice, however, can also mean gravy, syrup, ink, or probably an assortment of other things. This is a fun language!

For the time being, my exploring has been put on hold. I completed my third day of training today. It is tiring. On one hand, it’s sort of nice not having to think of making lesson plans for my job. I get to exercise teaching skills, work with students, and all that, but I don’t have to lesson plan. Instead, the company/school I’m working for has every single one of their lessons already planned out in great detail. Even though we don’t have to do our own lesson planning, we do have to go through this intensive training that makes us feel like we are robots being programmed. There are specific things they want us to say. Specific gestures they want us to use. It’s a lot to remember. We are each expected to present a lesson on Saturday, exactly as though we were teaching a small class. This will determine whether or not each person makes it through to the rest of the training. It’s intimidating and they have articulated very high standards, but it will be fine.

Had okonomiyaki and takoyaki for lunch today. Wikipedia describes the former as a Japanese savoury pancake. I gather that they’re fairly popular in Osaka. Where we bought it, it was pretty much the equivalent of street meat. I have no clue what was in it, but it was really good. Takoyaki is also known as octopus balls. Ball-shaped Japanese dumplings with octopus in the middle. And other things. Anyway, they’re really good. I had them once in Toronto as well.

I haven’t actually eaten at any real restaurants yet, as I’ve been very conservative with my spending. Instead, we’ve been finding cheap deals at street vendors, or buying sushi from the supermarket in the evening after it’s been discounted (a little sketchy? maybe, but still good as far as we’re concerned). We want to go out more, but for now, while we’re just training and without a paycheck, this works for us.

I haven’t been remembering my dreams very much at all, but the first one I remembered since I’ve been in Japan was about being back in St. Catharines. Instead of being at home, at a cafe, or the Merch, though, I was at McDonald’s. Of all places to dream about being back at home! Then again, on my first day here, I went to McDonald’s for lunch. I guess there is some kind of association with the franchise and home, even if it isn’t a place I tend to frequent.

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