crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Last Box Ticked

As many of you know, my true integration into British life has been an uphill battle. I've fought over various visa issues; have been given a bit of the run-around over my job and schooling; ran into lack of credit problems when we were trying to get a mortgage; and more. The latest, and supposedly last in this little war has been my driver's license.

As a Canadian, things are comparatively easier than they could have been. Americans, for instance, have to do the complete driver's training and testing from scratch; including the theory test and the required lessons. Canadians, on the other hand, can have their licenses transferred over to British versions... kind of. Unless we can provide proof (from ICBC) that we completed our original driver's test on a manual transmission vehicle (which, as it happens, ICBC does not keep track of), our Canadian licenses are transferable only to 'automatic' British licenses.

This posed rather a problem for me, as the car we got me just half a year ago is a manual. Oops, suddenly not allowed to drive my own vehicle. Well, technically, I had until mid-July before it was 100% illegal because you're allowed to use your international driver's license for the first year of residency. But the additional problem was that the DVLA here was booking practical tests into mid-July. No room for error there.

Thursday I received my automatic license in the mail, which opened up the capability of my scheduling the manual test. With dread, yesterday I called up the DVLA to schedule my midsummer appointment. On a casual inquiry, however, I found out that a cancellation had occurred and there was an appointment available for the following morning - at 9:17am.

OMG! I was so not ready. They needed an instant decision and payment, securing my appointment. I quickly asked the opinions of two friends/colleagues at work who looked at me with apprehension and tried to get a-hold of Riki on his mobile, to no avail.

Aw, what the hell!? What have a got to lose? If I failed I'd be no worse off waiting until July to re-do and taking some lessons in the meantime; if I passed then I'd save myself the stress and the cost of the lessons. So £67 later, I was committed.

I asked around for advice. Even the young lady who booked my appointment shared 20-minutes of tidbits with me. I spent the evening researching the test. Riccardo and I got up extra early Saturday morning so that we could run-through some bits under the 'bonnet' (aka 'hood' - haha!). By 9:25 my Driving Tester and I were off; the test lasted just under an hour!

Miracle of miracles, I passed! I was fairly confident of this when, about 20 minutes into the test, my Tester still hadn't written anything on his clipboard. I remembered how to signal through a round-about; I remembered to handbrake at every stop; I remembered (most) of my shoulder-checks. Amazingly, I did way better than I'd done as a teen - though I was just as nervous. I mean, I didn't do perfectly: I still got 8 demerits (out of 16). But I passed!

And I didn't end the test in hysterics, having the Tester ask, 'Are you done?' as in my first driver's test. So I'm on the road again! ...or still. :D


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not in Spain

There was talk, months ago, that I might finally join Riccardo on a business trip. He and his colleagues were planning a team meeting in San Sebastian, Spain this year, rather than boring old Germany or boringer old England (half his team is located in Germs). That team meeting was planned for the second week of May. Guess what? He's in Spain, I'm not. :(

Flights were about $400, minimum, which didn't seem worth it for about 1.5 days. It's not really beachy-swimmy weather anyway. Plus, I'd have to skip a day of work, which wouldn't look so good since I just resigned.

Well, I have called absolute dibs if he gets to go to Malaysia next year. Fingers crossed.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Warming up for the Safari

Yesterday it finally stopped raining (actually it's been 20+ degrees for several days now - imagine that!) and Riccardo and I decided to do something touristy. With our honeymoon on the way to being fully booked (these things take forever), we decided to practise our safari skills. Kidderminster offers a well regarded safari experience; a different take on a Zoo. The Safari Park is just 45 minutes away from us, and includes (in addition to the 4 miles of safari driving) a small amusement park, a sea lion show and many interesting wild animal exhibits. It was a fantastic way to spend our afternoon! And good enough that we're both looking forward to taking our first visitors back there!


Not So Jobless

Phew. I got the job at the new school. The Catholic one! Ha! Actually, I'm really excited. The pluses are that the English department seems really supportive, with some really nice people in it; the students are/seem? well behaved and conscientious - OMG!; the commute will be easy - just 20 minutes! In fact, just 30% of the staff are Catholic, so that shouldn't be a concern. On the downside, the school is older and something of a gongshow for space. Teachers in the English department do not have their own classrooms, or even their own working spaces! It seems to me that everyone works in the staff room, among the carousing that goes on there. There are piles of peoples' crap everywhere because there is not room for storage. Not ideal. I don't work well in chaos. Compromises, compromises.

Of course, contracts must still be arranged (inclusive of my $6000/year paycut - training salaries, ugh), but it should all go off without a hitch. Though now that I've wrote that, I am reminded that this is England. Nothing is hitch-free in England.


Friday, May 09, 2008

I *heart* Internet

This age of technology is ever-impressive. This morning I emailed a confirmation to our travel provider. We are decided and ready to book our THREE resorts in Zanzibar. She mailed me back almost instantly. From Johannesburg. Yep, that's AFRICA.



Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Great Man, Great Wall

A couple weeks ago Riccardo was in China for work. It was a GONGshow, in the truest sense of the word. Everything that could go wrong for him, did go wrong. I felt so bad for him when we talked on the phone (usually at 2:00am his time). But somehow, after the issues with his hugely expensive display stand, after battles with customs over all their product and advertising, after 14 18-hour work days in a row, Riki was able to fulfill a lifelong dream: to walk the Great Wall.

Apparently the hike was arduous, and I was hearing about sore calves for days after his arrival back in England, but aren't these pictures worth it?


Lions and Lions and Lions, Oh My!

My sister-in-law-to-be, Sylvia, was just in Africa for several months. After finishing Uni and before heading out into the 'Read World' she decided to hiatus on a lion farm. The farm is particularly famous for raising baby lions. At the birth of not one, but two rare white lions in one litter, even National Geographic made an appearance, and Sylvie got to see it all! Here are some pictures of her with some cubs, and close-ups of some lions at the farm. So cool!


Almost Like a Holiday

Did I mention I quit my job? It was accidental, but also it was a long time coming.

I got a lead on an alternate sponsor school for the GTP Uni thing I've decided to do regardless of its transferability. My lead involved a nice hour-long sit-down with the appropriate people at a rather top-notch Catholic school about 25 minutes away from our place. The talk went well, and I was invited to observe lessons and meet people for a couple days before anyone took a decision. That in mind, I decided it was time to tell Whitley that I was 'investigating other options'. They didn't take it well.

I was promptly called to the Principal's (insert: Headteacher) Office. Amidst a chorus of ranting and ridicule I was offered a 24-hour ultimatum whereby I had to decide if I was staying or if I was going. Well, let's just say they made the choice even easier for me. Besides, I had already vowed to quit before the next school year.

Then Warwick Uni told me that I have to find a new sponsor school within two weeks or else they'd offer my place in the program to someone else. Full steam ahead. What kind of a life is a life without drama? Couldn't tell you.

So tomorrow and Friday I'm off to observe and meet people at this other possible school. No teaching, no behaviour management, no avoiding a certain Headteacher required; I just get to sit there and watch, and chat. All the important questions have already been asked. YAY.

Even if, for the time being, the future is uncertain, I'm more relieved than anything else. Someone asked me if I quit because I wasn't happy in the job anymore - I thought, 'was I ever?' Plus, I still get paid through to the end of August. That's a good 4.5 months to search out new career prospects if this whole teaching business doesn't work out. Happy times.

Oh, and it's finally sunny out. And a balmy 25 degrees! :D


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