crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


As in, 'she's such a whinger,' or 'stop you whinging' - British English.

I'd like to take a minute to 'whinge on' about traffic queues. They are the bane of my existence lately.

For the week before half term break I had to contend with roadworks near to my school. That Monday I was over an hour late for school, having been stuck in a queue about 1 mile from my school for nearly two hours. I learned that lesson and started getting up promptly at 6:00 am so that I could leave the house TWO hours before I needed to be at work. The good news: just four more weeks of that particular bullshit.

Well, being tired all the time and having to be out of the house 12 hours/day for work are sacrifices one sometimes has to make. But what really caused this whinge-a-thon was this:

Yesterday morning I left the house at my new usual time of 7:00 am, only to get caught in a queue on the motorway. Not just any queue: a parking lot, to be more exact. So much so, that I actually fell asleep for a time, right there in my car. The radio confirmed that a lorry had caught fire right near my exit and that the motorway was, in fact, closed (the lorry that burned was a mere skeleton of steel by the time I saw it). Yeah, I only arrived at work 3.5 hours late. Good thing it was just a teacher training day.

Not as bad, but also whinge-worthy, was the traffic situation I found myself in yet again today. On the way home from work another lorry had apparently caught fire on the same motorway, which slowed my journey to a near-standstill yet again. Aren't there some sort of laws in this country that require lorry-maintenance to ensure no chance of spontaneous combustion?

God I hate traffic.

British English words used in this post: 7


Sunday, February 17, 2008

10 minutes of relaxation

In nine days, that's all it was. This was another busy holiday. What did we do?
  • sized and re-sized my engagement ring and wedding band
  • planned a honeymoon that may not happen (WAAAY too expensive)
  • joined a gym (which we have actually got our money's worth for this week)
  • researched the advantages/disadvantages of car leasing (we may have to get a new car as a result of previously mentioned driving license troubles; any well-informed opinions on leasing are welcome!)
  • went for a fabulous Valentine's dinner at a swanky country pub
  • got Riccardo fitted for contact lenses (he doesn't want to wear glasses for the wedding)
  • registered for and tried out a new doctor (who changed my birth control to progesterone-only: any well-informed insight on this?)
  • had absolutely NO time for work preparations/planning
  • budgeted and re-budgeted for the wedding
  • 'acquired' tons of karaoke songs for the wedding and, of course, tried many of them out
  • cooked, cleaned, shopped, slept and that about sums it up.

I barely even had sleep-in days, as I got up with Riccardo every day except V-day!!!

So back to the grind tomorrow. Wish me luck.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Mid-term break

My friend Amy makes fun of Canadianisms like 'mid-term break'; apparently it's 'half-term break'. Sometimes I catch myself saying the craziest British-English expressions, like:

  • that was well good/hard/nice/etc.

  • let's get that sorted

  • what do you reckon?

  • would you fancy some chips/tea/etc.?

  • Wounded!

  • and so on.

I really have to keep an eye on that.

Anyhow, I am now on MID-term break. The other day I found myself trying to console the jealous boyfriend with the words, 'But Honey, these 13 weeks holidays were forced upon me!' Didn't go over too well. In fact, I don't consider it much of a holiday; it's more like a transfer of my focus to non-work related business. That said, I do have to get some work-related work done. But there's oodles of wedding-related and trying-live-in-the-damn-UK-related crap I have to get done, too.

I have to see about a license. I can only use an International Driver's Permit for one year. Because UK bureaucracy loves to make things as difficult as possible, they'll only transfer a BC licence into a permit for automatic transmissions here. I'm going to try to fandangle my way around that... but it could mean having to sell one of our (manual transmission) cars to get me a new one. And I loved my little Suzuki so. Probably going to cost us a small fortune at a really inopportune time, but maybe we'll end up with matchy-matchy vehicles - wouldn't that be awesome!? (***barf***)

Speaking of money: it looks like we can't cash in our insurance claim for the bikes that were stolen. And since the store that they work with is a specialty store, we're likely going to end up with two new bikes and two new Satellite Navigation systems (for our cars) at a time when we could really have used that £1100 for important stuff. Bitch. Moan.

I'm also in the process of applying for my permanent residency visa (by permanent, I mean 5-years, I think). This is so annoying as well. Though we should have expected it, we've recently learned that the documentation we must supply is much more detailed than that for my original 6-month family permit. So now I'm consumed with trying to get proof of this and that from all over the world; having documents translated by a certified source; writing emails and filling in forms, etc. etc. etc. Fingers crossed that I don't get deported. I mean, come on, England. I'm a more meaningful member of society than most Brits, for crying out loud. At least I don't live off the Dole.

University applications have been successful thus far. I've got an interview as well as an invitation to a 'First Steps' introductory evening (one from each Uni to which I applied). It's looking like I'll start in September.

I have to find a new doctor. The first office I tried here (only to pick up registration forms) smelled like pee, so I'm going to have to search out another one. I need new prescriptions, which I'm sure is going to be a huge ordeal. On the plus side, my prescriptions are totally FREE here, because I have a 'covered condition' (thyroid).

Ah the wedding. 50 million things to do there. And of course, I'm procrastiblogging. We've been looking into our honeymoon the last few weeks. When we finally got some price quotes for our ideal holiday, we were flabbergasted: £7500!! That's $15,000+!!! So we're going to have to revise, or perhaps arrange some of it privately. I've noticed an alternative that sounds fun: safari and beach stay in Sri Lanka, combined with a week in the Maldives. Supposed to be a lot cheaper, so we'll keep that in mind.

Riccardo and I are taking dance! It's so fun! We go on Sunday afternoons, to a studio about 10 minutes drive away. It was my birthday present from Riki. So far we've been learning the Waltz and the Quickstep. Of course I'm still hopeless, but it's good times.

My mom and Riki got me a really cool birthday present: they had my favourite picture beautifully framed. It's a needlepoint Japanese tea ceremony scene that my Aunty Jane made decades ago. I popped it out of its original frame so that I could bring it to Europe with me, but hadn't had the time or money to have it professionally framed. Now it's all done, and looks fabulous! Thanks guys! xxx

My future sister-in-law, Sylvia, has just returned from her 5-week excursion in Africa. She was volunteering at a lion sanctuary, and while she was there two very rare white lion cubs were born! How amazing! Soon she's off to Italy to live with her love, Michele - a very exciting time for her! Congrats, Sylvie!

Oh, we had to get a new vacuum. The hand-me-down one that Riccardo's mom gave us was a great starter (thanks again, Carla!) but we knew it wouldn't last long once we had duct tape holding together the hose in three separate spots. Then a couple weeks ago when Riccardo was vacuuming, it set on fire. I wasn't witness to it, but he said it gave up the ghost in the thick, black smokey style, and that was that. The new one cost a small fortune (about £90), but it seems to do the job. Our new carpet finally looks new again!

Is that all the news? I think so. Missing everyone from home, so feel free to phone me. Take care!

xxx Crystal


    • At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Riki said…

      That was the longest blog entry "known to man" - would have taken me 2 sentences to tell that to the world:
      "All good here. Miss you all!"

    • At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Riki said…

      OMG, that entry was even longer!!!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

What's been going on

Lots has been happening in the last few weeks, and it's all been good stuff, mostly.

School is still going well, predominantly. I've joined staff-badminton with two of my friends, Kam and Amy. It's on Fridays after school. I've also been invited to the first round of interviews (which doubles as an information evening) at Warwickshire University, and after some drama, am told that I'll probably be invited for an interview at Newman University College; both of these are potential candidates for the on-the-job teaching certification program I've decided to take. Fingers crossed.

Riccardo and I have been looking into gyms, too. As it happens, I get a really good deal at a gym close to my school, but I've decided that since its got no pool, I could only go on weekdays (because it's 50 minutes drive from home), and no classes start before 5:30 (when I usually try to be out of school by 4:00, at the latest) that I'll pay a little more to go to a more suitable gym. We looked at three in our area, and have decided on the city leisure centre. It has decent facilities, and a great pool. Plus it's not too expensive, and just a 2-minute drive away from home.

Last weekend was so fabulous. On Saturday morning Riki and I took the bus to London. Although I did feel like chucking my cookies when the bus driver was battling inner-city London stop-and-go traffic, it was well worth it, for just £6 each way (compared to the train, which is about £30 each way). The hotel we stayed in was mostly fabulous (except the gongshow inclusive breakfast) and very central. We met up with our friends from Japan, Dave and Anna. Some of you may remember, Dave is a Brit, and Anna is his Kiwi girlfriend; they met in Japan, too. Anna was visiting from New Zealand before starting her 12-15 month teacher certification program back home; after which, she'll join Dave in the Big Smoke.

It was really just like old times with Dave and Anna. Love them! We chatted a mile a minute as we walked through the city and over the Thames, and then spent a half hour soaring over Londontown in the London Eye - the world's biggest ferris wheel. We happened to schedule it just right: we topped the wheel just as the sun was setting behind the parliament buildings and Big Ben: GORGEOUS!! We will hopefully be receiving some pictures from Dave and Anna, as I forgot my camera. :( boo

We then went to Soho and spent a good 4 hours in a tiny old-fashioned pub called 'The Duck and The Dog,' where we ate a great meal and met two other friends that D&A met in Japan: a married couple named Ben (French) and Ibis (Britist). Having suitably wet our throats, we carried on to two amazing hours of traditional Japanese box karaoke, complete with Japanese bevvies. As if that wasn't enough, we then popped across the road to a club and shook our booties until the wee hours. It was a superfabulous time; the best I've had in a while! Thanks to everyone involved.

In case you didn't hear, I'm travelling back to Canada over Easter. It's all bought and (mostly) paid for! I've spent the last couple weeks trying to coordinate the Big Dress Hunt which will take us up-and-down the Lower Mainland, and even into Washington, USA. Should be a gongshow! I'm super excited to see family and friends, and already have a list a mile long of wedding arrangements I must settle while there! In the meantime, we are trying to send Riccardo to Italy to visit his family for the usual Easter-weekend tradition. Fingers crossed there, too.

Our insurance claim for our bikes that were stolen has been settled. Unfortunately we don't really want to use the £1000+ claim on bikes. We've enquired about a cash settlement, but that'd leave us with less than 3/4 of the original claim, which was already less than 3/4 of their actual worth. What a cunundrum. If the bike store doubled as a DIY store we wouldn't have a problem; we're just not sure if we can justify putting all that money toward bikes... Well, we may throw a couple Sat-Navs in the mix for good measure.

Other things on our agenda: Riccardo wants contact lenses before the wedding. Part-time ones, anyway. So we've been looking into opticians for him. I'm hoping we find one that does a two-for-one, so we can get him some trendy new specs as well. Also, we've been looking into travel agents lately. We've decided on a honeymoon, and we think we'd better get to booking it in the near future. For those of you who don't know, we're thinking of a 4-5 day safari in Tanzania, Africa, followed by 10 days on the island of Zanzibar. Should be fun and romantic! ...And expensive!

And my most exciting news of the day: today we went to the Jewellry Quarter in downtown Brum (Birmingham) and ordered our wedding bands!!! I was a little worried about the wedding band that would match my engagement ring, because the setting is wonky. I was shown an example of what they can do by the jeweler, however, and I LOVE it! It's just as unique as the engagement ring, and it looks amazing!! I'm soooooo excited. Of course, Riccardo's band looks great, too. Especially because of the meaning behind it: MINE!!

Still can't believe we're getting married! YAY YAY YAY!

So that's about it. Other than a shout-out to my dear, Shawna, who is celebrating the initiation into her LATE-twenties tomorrow. All the best to her on her special day, and to you all! xxx


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