Birthday Month

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It’s officially Winter in London now. I can’t say it’s any worse than winter in Canada and I really don’t miss all the snow, but the air is crisper, the chill seems to get through your scarf no matter how you tie it, fairy lights are up all over the city, and I am fighting my urge to play Christmas music as loud as I can almost daily.

December for me is always a countdown to two things; Christmas, and my birthday. I’m going home to Canada for Christmas this year and so my countdown to the holiday is doubly exciting, but since I moved to London I harboured a secret fear that my birthday wouldn’t turn out as grand as I wanted it to be.

I’m not shy of the fact that I’m the kind of person who likes attention. My birthday is the one time of the year where I get to reasonably say that everything is all about me. Last year I turned 24, I had multiple celebrations and an entire Birthday Week dedicated to celebrating the fact that I am on the earth. This year is the big 25, a quarter of a century, so it’s reasonable to think that this year should be Big. But when I moved to England I didn’t know that many people, I thought my birthday would be one huge reminder of the fact that all my friends are in Canada. Now? I’m not so sure.

This year I get Birthday Month. One whole month, one (or two) celebrations every weekend, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. My birthday isn’t a reminder of how far away my friends are. It’s a reminder that I have friends all over the world.

December is going to Rock.

My Summer In London

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Summer, regardless of whether you have a real life job and responsibilities and stuff, always seems to be rather freeing. So freeing, in fact, that I found myself doing so many things, I completely left blogging by the wayside. I don’t regret this. Sometimes, you just have to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If I had been blogging regularly this summer, I’m not entirely sure it would have turned out the same way. I don’t know if I’d be enjoying my life as much as I am now.

I did miss you all though. And now that it is autumn, and winter is on its way, I feel like it’s time to be blogging again. It feels right. But first, I thought I’d share what the last couple of months looked like for me. So, summer in bullet points;

What I Did This Summer

  • became an Auntie to the best little girl in the world
  • met new people
  • found a new musical hobby
  • went to see PHOX live in London
  • met more new people
  • went to Paris for the weekend
  • took endless pictures of the Eiffel Tower
  • went to see lots of plays
  • got sick (and taken care of by lovely surrogate family)
  • saw my sister at the airport for three hours and was amazingly happy about it
  • got a haircut
  • met more new people
  • started actually enjoying a social life in place of Netflix
  • had a picnic
  • went to see Hudson Taylor live in Camden
  • met more new people
  • moved to my own flat all by myself like a real grown up
  • stopped having to commute 3 hours a day
  • solidified friendships
  • missed Essex
  • missed Canada
  • got way too into the World Cup (as always)
  • Mourned England’s loss
  • Celebrated Canada Day with as many Canadians as I could find in London
  • met more new people
  • Went to see Neil Gaiman live in London
  • Finally, finally got to see my parents again for the first time since moving
  • Pretended I was any good at speaking French in Paris
  • Showed my parents the city I love and live in!
  • Finally did all the touristy things I didn’t want to do alone
  • Spent a couple nights on the West End!
  • Went to see (and meet) Nice Peter live in London!
  • Dealt with total six days of unbearable heat
  • Complained with the rest of the country
  • Missed the heat
  • Finally got tired of people getting my name wrong
  • Did nothing to address the problem
  • Went to North Yorkshire
  • Reconnected with old friends
  • Met more new people
  • Lost Robin Williams
  • Felt rather useless at work during the quiet season
  • Struggled through August
  • Considered getting a new tattoo
  • Went HOME to Canada!
  • Met my perfect, wonderful, amazing niece
  • Spent a glorious week reconnecting with my favourite people
  • Dumped a bucket of ice water on my head
  • Started to miss England a little bit
  • Went back to England
  • Definitely didn’t cry
  • Lied about not crying
  • Jet lagged through the beginning of September
  • Met more new people
  • Realized I actually have friends in England
  • Benefited from being in one of the world’s major cities with a visit from a relative passing through
  • Went to Amsterdam
  • Met more new people
  • Had a visit from my amazing Bestie!
  • Went to Euro Disney
  • Realized it’s not summer anymore
  • Wrote this blog

Visiting Strangers

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When I decided to move I told myself that I would travel every weekend, as much as I could. And on the weekends I was in London I would spend doing London Things. During my first couple of months in England my weekends were generally spent hiding in my room, not doing things, and not trying to do things. Eventually, I snapped out of it, started doing “London Things” whatever that means, and a couple of weeks ago I took my first trip abroad since moving my life across the Atlantic.

When I told people I was going to Sweden for my Easter break, they were either slightly confused or eagerly enthusiastic. The people who had never been to Sweden wanted to know why I would go to Sweden “what is there?” they cried, “why choose somewhere colder than here when it is so nice out right now?”. The people who had been to Sweden would instantly jump into tales of how fantastic the country is and how much they love it. My trip, however, was not influenced by the weather, or even by the attractions of the country if I’m being honest. My trip was for the sole purpose of spending some time with some people I had never met before.

I’ve written about my keyboard-pal Miriam before. She and I have been friends for almost six years. (Quite possibly more, we were never quite able to pin that down.) And since I was finally on the same continent, only a short flight away, I had no excuse not to get my butt over there and finally meet her.

I was a bit nervous; Miri and I had sent emails back and forth to each other for years, an in that time we had Skyped, and sent YouTube videos to each other, and added each other on Facebook, so I knew she was who she said she was, but there was this nagging worry of “what if we just aren’t the same in real life?”. The minute I got there, that worry was set aside. Miri met me at the airport with a huge hug and it was as if we had been real friends the whole time. As if we lived across the street from each other, it’s just that our street was 4,000 miles wide.

During my time in Sweden I was introduced to a new country, a new culture, new foods, new sights to see, new friends, and one Old Friend.

HannahandMiri

Dates With Myself

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I’ve hit the point in my journey of living in a new country where I can’t use the excuse of being new to this anymore. I’m not sure what the exact limit is, but I think at four months I’ve passed it.

I spent my first couple months “adjusting”, by which I mean spending a lot of time holed up in my room watching Netflix because I was too scared to actually go out and do things. But there came a time where I had to actually get off my butt and get to the Adventure part of this adventure. As such, I have spent a lot of time on my own. I figured keeping myself from doing things just because I didn’t have anyone to do things with was a waste of my time as a foreigner in England; so I decided to get my Tourist on.

My first venture in taking myself on dates was to see the Veronica Mars movie when it came out in March. I walked to Leicester Square from work in the beautiful weather, and made friends with all the other people who had gone to see Veronica Mars by themselves. (It was amazing, of course.)

Next I went on a date with myself to see Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit. I took myself to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, and doodled cartoon pigs all over my napkin, making secret jokes to myself in my head. And then I went to the theatre, and played the Law and Order game by myself (I lost, I think the Law and Order game is not as easy on the West End). I even made small talk with the German guys sitting next to me.

After that I took myself on a date to the Natural History Museum (I have Thoughts, they will follow). The great thing about going on dates with yourself is that you don’t have to try to impress anyone. I wore my “I don’t want to do my hair today” hat and sweatpants and trudged around the museum blissfully listening to NPR like the pretentious hipster I pretend not to be. Then I went shopping, and ordered way too much snack food for one person at the cinema to see The Muppets, and chortled like a lunatic in perfect bliss.

Most recently, I went to Sweden, and I will of course follow with a blog about my first holiday since the Big Move. That one takes requires a lot more detail, so I’ll post another blog detailing my trip in the next few days.

I actually have quite a good time doing things by myself. The key, I think, is the fact that I just really enjoy my own company. (I mean really, I’m hilarious!) When you get used to the sound of your own thoughts, spending time alone is actually really enjoyable.

What I Put My Umbrella Through

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I’m adjusting to London Life pretty well, I think. And aside from the fact that I’ve developed a cold which I attribute to the constant damp that surrounds me, I’ve almost gotten used to the rain. It’s interesting, living in a city where no matter how cold it is, it’s considered a beautiful day as long as you can see the sky. (Although cold for me is relative here, considering how much snow I’ve left back in Canada.)

Before I left Canada I had a beautiful yellow umbrella that was given to me by a friend and I cherished it. I left it at home, because I am not that smart. Luckily, I was also given a wonderful black umbrella at my going away party. It was perfect; it fit in my purse, it had a little flippy button, and I blended in perfectly with the black umbrella masses. This is what happened to it.

First day in London: I love my black umbrella. I can’t wait until I finally get to use it!

Day 2: Still no rain

Day 3: Getting tired of carrying the stupid heavy thing around with me if I don’t ever get to use it.

Day 4: Finally some rain! Have carefully folded umbrella back into its case after letting it dry

Day 7: No longer care about folding umbrella. Is probably getting moldy because I don’t care about letting it dry either.

Week two, Day 12: Umbrella has let me down several times due to wind. Umbrellas clearly useless against gale-like forces.

Day 14: Carried around stupid umbrella all day but came in useful at end of night.

Day 15: Have left beautiful, magnificent umbrella in a cab yesterday. Has probably been stepped on or worse. Will never see it again. Hope it knows I loved it.

Day 17: Purchased new umbrella from Boots. This one has flowers.

Day 19: New umbrella is tiny but works fine.

Day 25 (today): New umbrella is tiny and of no use to anyone. Hate it. Also flowers are ugly. I miss my yellow umbrella. And my black one.  

I guess I live in London now

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It’s been two weeks. When I finished Blogging Every Day All Year I swore that I would keep up blogging frequently. At least once a week, I told myself. And of course after the New Year I waited two weeks before posting a blog about my emotions and then another two weeks in London and I’m sure you’ve all thought by now that I’ve died or forgotten about you. I promise neither of those things have happened.

I’d like to update you on my life in England. I’d like to tell you all the things I’ve gotten up to in the last two weeks since I’ve moved here. But unfortunately I’m not sure how much there is to tell. My job is fabulous, but it takes a lot of learning, and my commute from Essex is long. I’ve met some fabulous people who make me feel less lonely than I should, really. I have done exactly zero of the touristy London things I wanted to do before I got here. I’ll get to them, I swear.

It’s strange, really, but I haven’t felt that sort of culture shock I was expecting. I mean, the toilets here use a lot more water than the ones in Canada, and the cars drive on the other side of the road so that I have to keep telling myself to look the other way or I’ll get hit by a car, but really everything’s quite… normal.

I think it has to do with having a routine. I get up, I go to work, I come home, I have dinner and chat with my adopted family that has so graciously taken me in, and then I hole up in my room hoping to speak to some people from home. I’m lucky enough to get to talk to my parents often. Even with the time difference, it’s not too hard to talk to people when you have internet.

I’m marvelously happy. I miss people, quite a lot, and there are some things I wish would just figure themselves out already, but I have no complaints. I love London. I’m happy that I feel like I’ve made the right decision, especially with all the up and down emotions leading up to my decision to leave.

I promise that I will blog more.

I promise that I will try to blog more.

Love you all.

Leaving

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It’s been over two weeks since the end of 2013, and tomorrow I begin 2014. These two weeks have been so packed full of trying to get ready to go that I haven’t really focused on the going. Tomorrow I’m going to get on a plane, and then I’m going to go live in another country, all by myself, for a whole year. In these two weeks I’ve tried to fit everything I possibly could into two suitcases, I’ve visited the places I’m going to miss and said a farewell to them, I’ve done the boring things that need to be done before you leave a country, I’ve gotten a reminder of my home etched permanently on myself, and I’ve gone through the goodbyes.

The goodbyes are the hardest. There are some that are still waiting, that I don’t want to face right now. And through all those goodbye’s I’ve teared up but I haven’t really faced the fact that I am leaving. It hasn’t seemed real. And now I’m sitting in my bedroom for the last time in who knows how long, typing on this laptop like I’ve done so many times before, and I can’t help thinking about how everything is going to be different now.

That’s a good thing; I wanted different, that’s part of why I’m leaving. But there is one part of me that is just screaming about how much it wants to stay here. Stay here and watch movies with my best friends. Stay here and play games with my family. Stay here and have sushi with my favourite people in the world.

I’m excited, I am, but I can’t remember what that feels like anymore. I know that there are things I’m looking forward to but I can’t remember what they are. I don’t want to make new friends I like the ones I have. I don’t want to miss the things I’m going to have to miss while I’m gone.

I want to stay here.

But I am not going to. I am going to London tomorrow. I am scared, I am sad, I am nervous, and I am getting on that plane anyway.

 

I wish I could take everything with me though.

One Whole Year :: Beday 365

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It’s been a year. One whole year since I decided to write every day. It’s almost unfathomable for me.

One year ago I was hanging onto the past. I refused to believe that a year had gone by since I finished school and I still didn’t have the career I had expected to just run into purely by accident. I missed Flight Centre and was still holding on to every hope that I would get to work there for real. I was terrified of the future, and so I let things drift by me thinking that everything would work out for itself if I left it alone.

Now, I’m taking the future and telling it to go by my rules. I’m following through on a dream that I’ve had for over five years and never thought I would have the guts to follow through on. I’m twenty four and terrified of everything but doing it anyway. I’m stronger (mentally, physically I am fatter and slower but that comes with age so not complaining), and happier, possibly more well-adjusted than last year.

I can’t believe I succeeded in this crazy, ridiculous, completely impossible goal of mine. One blog every day for one whole year. Even with the two grace days per month (which I am so insanely grateful for as they kept me from losing my mind) that’s three hundred and forty one blogs in one year.

I’ve blogged through anxiety, through stress, through death, and heartbreak, through four different seasons, and twelve months of internet things, through all the good times, the music, the memories, the travel, the best summer ever, and the best friends ever.

This year may have turned out exactly the same if I hadn’t blogged through it, but I don’t think I could have coped with it as well as I have, and I certainly wouldn’t have as grand a reminder of all the wonderful things that have happened. I am so so thankful to every one of you who have read along with my year. Thank you for commenting, and for considering commenting, and for mentioning my blog in conversation. Thank you to all the internet people who I’ve never met but are still here reading, I think you’re all fascinating and hope to meet you in real life one day. Thanks to my friends who coped with my interrupting nights of fun to write a blog on my phone, and thanks to my family who constantly copes with my leaving my laptop in inconvenient places all over the house.

I’m going to continue to blog next year, of course. (Not every day, I am not that crazy.) Next year will be different, and exciting, and scary, and I am so so so looking forward to it.

Turning Point :: Beday 364

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My brother is leaving tomorrow morning to visit my sister in Uganda. Though I know I’ll see him once more before I leave for England I can’t help but feel like tonight was our last night to spend together. I’m glad we got to sit and play video games just like old times, and I’m glad he was there to hug me and comfort me during my tiny freak out this morning.

It’s hard not to think of my leaving as final. I know I will be coming back in a year, and I will come to visit even before that, but there are so many things I don’t know about what’s to come. I know I will change but I don’t know how I will be different. I know I will come back but I don’t know what my life will be like when I return.

My move is a turning point in my life. Almost unintentionally I seem to be pushing my life forward in the direction I want to be going in. I’m excited, I’m so thrilled, but I’m sad and terrified and right now I don’t know which emotions are stronger.

I’m going to miss my brother a whole heck of a lot. I’ll miss everyone, but right now I’m sad I can’t put him in my pocket and take him with me.

Nudity in Films – Guest Blog :: Beday 363

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The time has come for the final guest blog of the year. The honour has been reserved for my friend Sal; who, along with being a nurse, and my friend for over eighteen years, has developed into somewhat of a film critic. While I can’t say I’m as great at looking at films in a more specific way of whether I liked it or not (the one film analysis class I took in college broke me) I can say that Sal’s opinions on film may rival those of the late great Roger Ebert, rest his soul. Sal’s written a piece on nudity in films, so I will leave it to her.

 

I want to start off by saying that generally, I’m not too concerned about nudity in movies/tv shows. One sex scene here and there, or a scene where non-sexual nudity actually has a purpose (more on that later)- maybe not completely necessary, but whatever. For me, the problem is when it goes beyond that. Sometimes, way beyond that.
Now, before you start labelling me as a prude and accusing me of being afraid of a natural human body, let me inform you that I am a nurse. I have bathed patients since I had a co-op placement in a nursing home at 17, and I have inserted catheters in men and women as part of my job. I assure you, I am not afraid of the human body.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll continue. I’m well aware that nudity is often shown to portray that character’s vulnerability- especially in movies. One example of this is the movie Babel, where there are full-frontal shots of a deaf girl who sleeps around because of the neglect she receives from home and the bullying she receives at school.

Other times nudity is shown during a sex scene. While sex scenes can be shot without nudity, it’s not really a big deal if there’s a brief shot, it obviously gives the scene more realism. This, I don’t really care about.

On to what I am uncomfortable with. To me, the movie The Reader (where Kate Winslet *finally* won an Oscar) is a very good example of this. Much of the nudity in the movie was unnecessary and excessive. Part of it was necessity to a point, as there are important post-coital scenes between the two leads where they are both naked. This I understand and had no issue with. However, there also many unnecessary sex scenes (we get it! They were having an affair!), and a scene where Kate Winslet’s character, after swimming in a river, stands up and we see a completely unnecessary shot of her breasts. It added absolutely nothing to the scene of the movie.

I also want to discuss the show Game of Thrones. Having read the (first three) books, I’m well aware that there are a lot of sex scenes, and that brothels and prostitutes play a minor part in the story. However, much of the first season had several sex scenes and one of the, um, participants would be explaining some kind of backstory or exposition that was important to the story. This became so common on the show that when there was finally an exposition scene without sex or nudity, people (critics) noticed and practically thanked the writers. This was because those earlier scenes made them think the writers underestimated the audience and couldn’t pay attention to an exposition scene without nudity. I was glad that they finally realized this wasn’t the case, and was actually more distracting than helpful.

Sex and nudity can be shown in movies and TV in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. A recent article in Entertainment Weekly revealed that sex and nudity are starting to become more rare in Hollywood. This is a trend, despite my comfort with the human body and tolerance for short sex scenes, I wholeheartedly approve. It shows that gratuitous sex/nudity are rarely necessary to advance a story or a scene, and I believe we are better for it.

 

Great thanks to Sal for her opinion piece! You may find her on twitter at @saldsouza if you would like to hear more of them.

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