Story Time, Travel / Living Abroad

travel despatches: a tale of ice and snow

This was going to be called ‘despatches from a broad’ which would have been a HILARIOUS word-play but I have contained myself.

ice

Moldova has snow. I am acquainted with the idea of it – Canada dunked me in the deep end and taught my British nerves to deal with lots and lots … and lots of snow. But Moldova has ice and the pavements are covered in it.

This is the formula:

  • It snows
  • Pedestrians compact the snow
  • The temperature rises
  • The snow becomes slush
  • Night falls
  • Temperatures plummet
  • Slush turns to ice

I haven’t seen a single Moldovan slip. Not. A. Single. One. I am rather certain that they have superpowers. Extreme balance. Exceptional grip on their shoes. Underhanded understanding with gravity. That, or they’re waiting for me to clear off and get out of sight and then they all slip over magnificently.

A fellow teacher and I made a bet – the first one to slip buys the other a coffee. Now, I was in no way hoping that she would slip over first. But gravity exists and if she were to prove it … well, no harm no foul.

We were crossing the road. I was slightly ahead of my fellow bet-ee (?). She was explaining the terms of our little wager to a mutual friend when her explanation suddenly halted with a sort of sliding plop.

I turned around and there she was, sprawled along the centre of the road. The brilliant red of her coat looking very picturesque against the dark ice. Fortunately, it wasn’t a bad fall. Unfortunately, I was not going to remain unscathed …

pride comes before a fall

I was hoping to avoid slipping. I had visions of lasting through the entire winter with nary a spill. ‘I lasted an ENTIRE winter with VERY icy pavements,’ I would say with great modesty. ‘I didn’t slip ONCE.’

Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

One evening, we were warned that the ice would be exceeding treacherous the next morning. As we gingerly walked back from school – warily looking at the ground as if it was going to snatch at our feet and maliciously laugh all the while – we pointed out patches of the pavements to each other.

‘That bit,’ we’d say, ‘is going to be VERY icy.’

‘This stretch of the road,’ we’d agree, ‘is going to be INSANELY icy.’

‘Tomorrow,’ I said, eyeing a piece of paving in front of me, ‘this is going to be really ic-‘

Up went my feet. Down went my bottom. It was a moment of exquisite irony. My fingers were a little grazed, my behind was slightly bruised but all I could do was emit a stunned laugh.

since then …

We’ve had freezing rain. It’s become slush now but everywhere had a layer of ice. Walking to school reminded me of skiing really fast. (Which, for some people, must be great. But for me? I was never very confident in the stopping part of skiing. Consequently, skiing wasn’t my favourite thing. I was moderately terrified.) My heart was in my throat. My steps were tiny. My prayers were many.

ice. lots and lots of ice.

But so far, God is good and I have survived. I’ve slipped since but that was to do with a glorious and honourable puppy rescuing mission. (This feat of derring-do might become another despatch from a broad … )

(I’M SORRY BUT IT MAKES ME LAUGH.)
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Books, Life

books. packing. travel. decisions

Next week, I return to Eastern Europe for five months. I want to pack as simply as possible. And by that I mean ‘pack as many books as I can possibly jam into my bags’.

Here’s a handy little guide for you so that you too can fill your bags with as many books as possible …

i’ve done this before #noragrats
*** DISCLAMIER ***
I know, I know – just take a kindle, you can take hundreds of books that way. Sure. Do that. I have done and will do … but I also take physical books with me.  BECAUSE I HAVE TO OKAY???

HOW MUCH SPACE DO I HAVE?

  • a carry on case
  • a laptop bag

CRITERIA:

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE A STOOPID CHOICE

Weight and space are limited in your bag, so you need to take books that will be useful, that you can reread or that will take absolute yonks to consume.

For this reason, I’m taking two books on teaching and grammar and a book with creative writing exercises.

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE TOO HEAVY

… or it can be. (Rules are made to be broken, or so the saying goes.) I’m taking a 500+ page hardback about Calvinism with me. I’ve been wanting to read it for years and now is the time.

But – if you can – try and avoid hardbacks. If the book is thick – having it in paperback could be the way to go. I’m doing this too – taking The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore with me (600+ pages. Also I’ve just sniffed them and is there anything better than the smell of books?)

i just REALLY love books, okay?

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE PRICELESS

though i’ve just learned that i’m missing one so OOPS

Travelling with your books is dangerous – for the books, at least. Though you try your very best to keep them in a pristine condition … it’s quite impossible sometimes.

So choose a book you’re not happy to be battered, but you’ll at least be okay with it turning up a little worse for wear.

I’m bringing a paperback set of the Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen. I paid a dollar a piece for them so if they get a little worn, I shan’t be too concerned.

THE BOOK MUST BE A HEYER

Because OBVIOUSLY.

I nearly considered leaving her behind as I have many on my kindle HOWEVER … this moment of profound foolishness has since passed and I’m taking Frederica with me. (Cotillion may slip in or replace it, I’m not sure.)


I may not actually finish all these books – I will be teaching, after all, and life will be moderately busy. But having my books about me is the same as being surrounded by friends. And I adore my friends.

Also, I’ll be taking my Bible, a book I borrowed from someone, and a few notebooks.

… I don’t have a problem. I just have priorities. And who needs clothes anyway?

Life

2018 – not all the things but some of them

I haven’t finished a Dickens yet but I’m on the way. I’m a couple of chapters in and actually … I’m really enjoying it. Dickens writes well – who knew? 

(Me. I should have done.)

travel

  • Canada – came home in July
  • England – home
  • Moldova – taught for three months
  • Various Airports – Vienna, Frankfurt etc
  • Gotham – not yET BECAUSE 1) HOW DANGEROUS WOULD THAT BE AND ALSO 2) IT’S FICTIONAL. LIFE IS HARD.

writing

HAHAHAHAHA.

It has been a bad year for my writing, to be honest. No books have been finished. A handful of short stories have been completed. One or two have been submitted to competitions. (One honourable mention, but that was all.)

In short: for someone who considers herself to be a writer … I’ve done a poor job of being one.

But on the plus side, I’ve really started to deep dive into the ‘behind the scenes of writing’. Usually, I just go by instinct: sit down, and write. BOOM! Story done. (Or not.) But now … I’m really pondering what goes on with characters, with plot, heck – even with grammar. It’s really fascinating and for the first time in a long time I’m getting excited about writing.

I’ve always been excited about stories and consuming them but writing? Yeah. I’m a bit chuffed and looking forward to what I can do in the New Year.

reading

This was always going to be more successful than my writing. Goodreads lists only a fraction of what I’ve actually read. I’m kind of awful that way.

I’ve read a lot more factual books this year – and I’m glad that I did. Particular highlights were a book on the history of China and a history of eclipses (I really enjoyed that one!)

personal

  • haven’t solved any murders
  • haven’t captured a dragon (and trained it. obvs)
  • haven’t fulfilled my destiny and brought about MAJOR prison reform (I shouldn’t have read Narconomics, should I? NO RAGRATS!)
  • haven’t learned how to function without spell check
  • haven’t become a black belt in ballroom dancing (this was never an ambition but I haven’t done it so I thought I should list it here.)

what i hope for the next year …

  • more writing projects completed (maybe a novel! Maybe several short stories!)
  • finish teaching in Moldova
  • find a job back home (post-Brexit BAHAHAHAHA. Oh gosh. So doomed.)
  • learn how to say ‘no’ to things (it’s harder than you’d think.)
  • more blog posts per month

happy reading, God bless, and happy new year, everyone!

also, if anyone has read a dickens this year then … please let me know which one it was and what did you think and what was your favourite quote etc etc ALSO HOW WAS YOUR YEAR?????

I think I just rambled, Life

tales from a past icicle: layers. lots of layers

In keeping with the theme of the season (the theme? It’s cold. The season? Winter.) here is a little something I wrote whilst living in the wilds of Canada …

As much as I very much wish I was an early bird, I think I’ve come to the hard conclusion that I am not one.

I wake at 5:00 am, four alarms later and I’m stumbling out of bed and into the bathroom. Cleaning, teeth brushing, make up applying follow in very. slow. order. (In this, I can safely say that I will never be accused of being too fast) and then I’m dressed and downstairs at 5:35 am for breakfast.

And then I have to apply more layers than rock layers in geology for venturing forth to catch my bus – which leads me to a Very Important Issue that I will a-dress (ba-dump) here:

ON WEARING A JOLLY BIG AMOUNT OF LAYERS

by A BITTER ENGLISHWOMAN

I used to think that I had to cover up (oh! the irony!) the amount of layers I wear. That I should be ashamed of wearing more clothing than a charity shop possesses. That I should tough it out and be a brazen:

‘Is it minus forty? HaHA! Gee! I didn’t notice. This t-shirt and coat is making me feel a bit overheated actually.’

(A breezy laugh ending with an accidental snort accompanies this announcement.)

WELL NO MORE!!!

I am finished with this self-imposed shame. I am no stranger to the damp winter cold of England, but the deep, deep depths of cold here in Montreal? No. I am not used to it. But, I’m adjusting to it. Slowly.

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(And I’m very proud of myself when I don’t have to wear gloves and it’s minus ten and pfft? What is this? A mere chill breeze, mortals!)

(I was wearing a heck of a lot of layers at the time. And the sun was shining.)

(So it probably doesn’t count.)

Things I’m used to:

  • Watching the rain
  • Living with the rain
  • Dodging puddles of rain water
  • Discussing the rain
  • Singing in the rain
  • Scurrying in from the rain

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Things I’m not used to:

  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Freezing rain
  • VERY VERY COLD COLDNESS

A little part of me wistfully longs to wear a beautiful coat with shape, elegance, and style, but right now? I wear a gazillion amount of clothing when I bus to work. It’s cold. I want to be warm. Being a human icicle is not a life goal.

giphy-15.gif

I will always be a tiny weeny bit embarrassed. It’s hard not to be. (COME ON, I’m wearing one coat, one hoodie, one fleece, one top and one vest – and that’s just for my top half.) But, I’m not going to apologise.

Nope.

Because yes, I’m wearing snow pants when literally no one else is … but if the wind blows sharply or the heavens sends its sparkling dandruff down … I shall be prepared.

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Books, I think I just rambled, Life

elephant thieves, adventures in grammar, and taps.

img_20181001_020627_033I’m living in Eastern Europe at the moment, TEFL-ing my heart out. English Grammar is an intriguing beast and I am wrestling with it on a daily basis. The upside is that grammar is logical. The downside is that though my brain is extremely fond of logic, it isn’t always very quick to grasp it. It’s fast in a sort of … ‘cold molasses gently oozing down an indecisive hill’ kind of way.

Thankfully, I don’t think my students are being too badly damaged, and dare I say it – are perhaps learning things as well.

Though I’ve never thought of my accent in a negative light – not really – right now I am having a crisis; I have a sort of not-posh posh British accent and it seems that learners find it easier to listen to and understand American English. (Something about the ‘r’s.)

My accent isn’t good enough.

Benefits of Living In Different Places: you find new ways to be humbled.

BOOKS I’VE READ

I mean, fanfiction doesn’t count, right? (WHAT?? YOU READ FANFICTION? Yes. Yes, I do #noragrets) Look. It’s free and it’s fun and sometimes it is written really well. What’s not to like?

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Appointment In Jerusalem

I only brought two physical books with me – this one and Holiness by J.C Ryle (I think?) Appointment in Jerusalem has been an encouragement and I shall probably reread it a few times while I am here.

Lydia left her comforts and the Known and traveled to where she believed God had called her. And if that isn’t courage, I don’t know what is.

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Elephant Thief by Lia Patterson

I have always liked Lia’s writing in the fanfiction realm. She’s also written two books and this one is my favourite.

She writes good characters and weaves enjoyable plots with a great dollop of adventure.

What’s not to love?

Also, she needs to write more books ASAP.

WRITING … WHY AREN’T YOU DOING IT?

To say I’ve gotten rusty with my writing skills is to say that the earth is round – both are facts and both should never be debated. [But one day I want to go to a flat earth conference … because imagine how interesting it would be? I have so many questions. 1) …  just … how … wut … *much spluttering* 2) BUT SCIENCE-! HISTORY! FACTS! EVIDENCE! 3) Tell me about everything you believe and why and can I write this down and how do you feel about being inserted into a book?]

Ah-hem.

What I mean to say is – I need to get back to writing a little more than lesson plans. But this will come with time, I think. And that time isn’t right now. Next week, I shall be teaching an extra two classes twice a week.

I am bracing myself.

APPARENTLY, I AM AN IDIOT

… and I have evidence to support this theory. My new apartment, you see, has taps. Running water. That sort of thing.

For perhaps a week, I believed that we didn’t have hot water. It’s the poorest country in Eastern Europe, I thought. You can’t have everything. Turns out … actually, you can. IF YOU TURN THE TAP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

… yes. That sound you are hearing?

It’s me.

Face palming.

Benefits of Living In Different Places: you find new ways to be EXTREMELY humbled.