I have a confession to make…

Originally posted on my LSE blog, cross-linked here. Since that blog is international, all you Canadians just ignore the explanations of Canadianism.

With the cold-snap in full swing, I figure now is the best time of any to come clean. I know it make shock some of you, but here’s goes.

I am a winter person.

Yes. That’s right. The colder the better.* To me, few things can rival sitting all curled up reading a book, looking outside and seeing huge, fluffy white flakes slowly drift down past your window. I love that feeling in your cheeks, all rosy and tingly, after coming in from the cold. I love wearing coats, scarves, toques** boots, mitts… you get the picture. To me, nothing beats a clear, bright sunny winter morning, fresh and white. So crisp!

I love winter activities too, not just accessories. While at home, I took full advantage of skating outside, on our frozen river. Tobogganed at our cottage while cooking over an open fire. Made a quinzy (essentially a snow fort) in our backyard. The list goes on.

Padre hard at work.

Padre hard at work.

IMG_5804

IMG_5803 IMG_5800

Enjoying the Quinzy life

Enjoying the Quinzy life

QUINZYS

QUINZYS

Success

Success

Dag, just look at sunset. Crisp.

Dag, just look at sunset. Crisp.

Now, being a winter person, one often comes up against some critics. I know many people, including many Canadians, who absolutely hate the winter. I even try to hide my adoration for wintertime. Sure, it’s acceptable around Christmas, but after about January 3rd, winter-loathing becomes almost a national sport. To my critics I say a plain, straight, simple: “WHATEVER, MAN.” I know my niche and I’m sticking to it.

Being a winter lover also comes with a certain amount of snobbery. Growing up on the prairies where an average winter day in Winnipeg can get – with the windchill – down to -40 degrees Celsius… (to my American readers, that equals roughly -40 degrees Fahrenheit). I’m hearty. I often brag to my other Canadian friends, not from Manitoba, about how I live through a real winter. I relish being able to scoff when reading the news and the BBC says it’s going to “plummet to -8″. Ha!

Family cottaging.

Family cottaging.

Yea, obviously we made bannock.

Yea, obviously we made bannock.

Nothing says family tobogganing like '90s winter-wear.

Nothing says family tobogganing like ’90s winter-wear.

 

Funny anecdote: I had a couple Canadian friends from Undergrad running a pub in Essex this past Michaelmas term. In early December, they told me that half of their reservations cancelled due to merely the threat of snow. And that one of their servers was 2 hours late because it snowed half an inch. (She lived five blocks from the pub)…

When I was first getting to know my classmates, I mentioned I was from Canada. One of my classmates asked about the cold and the snow, and being from Ireland, was shocked to learn what a ‘windchill’ was. (Basically, the wind gets so cold that it can literally freeze your skin in less than ten minutes exposure).

All this being said, I have a second confession. I hate the winter here. Absolutely despise it. It’s gray (where my winter is sunny). It’s damp (where mine is dry). It’s foggy, and dreary, and rainy, and lumpy, and just plain cold. Bones are chilled going outside. I’m OK with cold on the surface, but what the garbage, this dampness sucks! So, after seeing the news about rail closures, people freaking out about a measly 30 cm of snow, you know what, I get it. I feel the collective pain of living in a maritime climate where you know what? Winter does suck.

So for those of you potential international students thinking you can beat the weather in the UK, you can’t. It will just slowly whittle away at any love you had for the season called winter…

And that’s coming from a winter person.

 

 

*Within reason, of course. No windchill thank you.

** I’ve learned from my non-Canadian cohorts that apparently no one in the world but Canadians use the word toque… Essentially it’s a winter hat or a beanie I guess. Normally knitted. Sometimes with a pom-pom. Mostly they’re knitted by your grandma and are a little too big, but you love them all the same. Mine, for instance is royal blue with a pompom so big my gram still worries if it will ‘fall off’ – she made this five years ago… See relevant NHL sports team version here.

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In the land of the Ice, part 2

Oh Iceland.

The longer I live in London, the more I want to go back to Iceland.

What an absolutely flawless place.

Our second day arrived. Over our jetlag thanks to the most comfortable bed in the entire world with a view of MOUNTAINS, we booked a tour of the Golden Circle – aka the main tourist attractions outside of Reykjavik – but whatever because I love being a tourist. The previous day of sunshine and blue skies was gone. Of course. We book a bus tour and it’s so foggy that you can’t really see anything… Our first stop was driving through the absolutely beautiful countryside up mountains to see a “volcano”. But no one told the weather gods we wanted to see it, so we only saw fog.

Apparently there was a volcano around here?

Apparently there was a volcano around here?

Luckily, Thor (or whichever Scandinavian god controls the weather) heard my plea and the sun found us again.

The second stop was even more gorgeous, and really every place we stopped just got better and better.

I can’t stressed how obsessed I was/still am/forever will be with the Icelandic landscape.

Ugh, just look at this place. As if.

Ugh, just look at this place. As if.

Our next stop was the mid-Atlantic Ridge. The geography nerd that lives deep inside me was on display that day. I had no shame in a) taking 100934805 pictures; b)dancing along the ridge; c)touching the ridge in inappropriate ways; and d)just staring at the ridge.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Just chilling between two continents. Whatevskis

Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Just chilling between two continents. Whatevskis

Majesty. Pure majesty.

Majesty. Pure majesty.

This picture only shows about a 15th of my excitement.

This picture only shows about a 15th of my excitement.

I’m pretty sure I was dancing the whole time.

Afterwards, the bus stopped along other famous sites like the Gulfoss the waterfall used in Prometheus, another waterfall, glaciers, geysirs and just other really cool shit.

Aaaaaagh, these vistas.

Aaaaaagh, these vistas.

The Engineer's spacecraft had just flown away. I swear.

The Engineer’s spacecraft had just flown away. I swear.

Excitement abounds.

Excitement abounds.

Golden circle 7

Could not for the life of me properly time a photo of a geysir going off...

Could not for the life of me properly time a photo of a geysir going off…

I like to tell myself those glaciers in the distance is where Game of Thrones films the scenes beyond the Wall. White walkers.

I like to tell myself those glaciers in the distance is where Game of Thrones films the scenes beyond the Wall. White walkers.

So after about 7 hours of bus rides and spectacular views, we decided to end the day as any normal person would. By ordering an extra large pizza and watching the Fifth Element.

There’s Always Time for Turner

It can be pretty easy to forget you’re actually living in a city like London when you’re studying your Masters. Papers, hundreds of pages of reading, presentations, discussions all manage to take up the vast majority of one’s valuable exploration time. I’ve found that I really need to constantly tell myself things like

“Natalie, maybe Tuesday nights before your Wednesday morning course aren’t the best time to grab multiple pints at the pub”

OR

“Natalie, maybe you shouldn’t go to a third concert in one week.”

OR

“Natalie, maybe you should do your readings and not just walk around your neighbourhood in a dreamy, happy stupor”

Yet, I feel as if I have found a way to properly manage my school/life balance, or at least a small way to de-stress while taking advantage of London’s cultural highlights…

How you ask?

Why evening museum trips of course![1]

I’ve decided to try this theory out at least once every few weeks and so far, it really has been a fantastic way to spend a few hours unwinding and exploring. My first trip was to the British Museum – which is normally packed during the day – but was beautifully empty, quiet and serene. Being alone with the Elgin Marbles or Rosetta Stone is quite the privilege.

This week’s trip was to the Tate Britain. Being kind of an art junkie, I have already visited the Tate Modern about 40 times[2] since moving here so I chose to explore its older twin. One thing I will say is that maybe hold off on visiting the Tate until the spring because it’s undergoing a lot of renovations and some of its permanent collection isn’t on display. That being said it was a fantastic way to spend an evening, wandering around the nearly empty museum, simply relishing the amount of Turners the collection holds. To have a break from the crowds and to be around some fantastic art is never a bad choice and so far it’s helped me keep my head firmly on my shoulders.

Well that and those pints at the George IV.

[1] London pro-travelers tip #1 – Don’t go to museums during the day. Wait till the evenings they’re open late and relish the small crowds!

[2] This is of course a gross exaggeration as I have been twice, but you get the point.

This blog post first appeared at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/studentsatlse/

Slowly settling in.

So since I’m prone to needed large motivation to blog, I’ve decided to apply to be an LSE blogger! I haven’t heard back yet, but I’ve decided to attach my application blog post since I wrote it and it is relevant and this is my blog.

_________

Moving, in any form, is an unnerving process. Whether it’s moving into a new flat, a new city, or – for like many at LSE – a new country, the whole process of packing up one’s life into a few suitcases can be rather daunting. Daunting though it may have seemed, I felt prepared to tackle all London had to offer.

Coming from Canada, I thought the process of settling in to living in London would be a breeze. I mean, we already have the Queen on our money, technically she’s still our head of state, and I grew up watching Coronation Street, I figured I already had British culture down. So how hard could it be, right?

I call this one – “Bone impressed by big monuments”

I had my warnings. “Oh it’ll be so dreary and rainy all the time,” they said. “London is so crowded and polluted,” they said. Though I have only been in the city for two weeks, I can safely say, these warnings are not holding much weight. Sure it rains, sure it’s cloudy, but there’s so much to do at any given moment that it’s easy to forget the drizzle. And yes, it’s crowded and extremely large, but I’ve come with friends who managed to quickly make London seem like home.

So if I was prepared for the culture[1] and if the weather hasn’t bothered me yet,[2] why have the past few weeks seemed so daunting, frustrating, and intimidating?

Although I can’t speak for all foreign students, it’s the little things that seem most unnerving. From the sheer frustration of never knowing which side of the street to walk on, to me profusely apologizing for any accidental brush or bump on the tube with no response or acknowledgment, to never quite getting right which coins to use when paying for a pint, they’ve all seemed to compound into big issues.

But then I remember, these are just the small things. Eventually they will work themselves out. I’m starting to remember to walk on the left in the Underground. I’m coming to understand that I don’t need to apologize for everything I do.[3] And I’m learning that the size of the coin does not equal its overall value.[4]

Reunions are a complete necessity. Especially when they involve free alcohol.

And truthfully, the things that really matter haven’t been so hard to adjust to. The advice I can give is don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll adjust, and you’ll be better and slightly saner for it.

-N


[1] Yes, I re-watched both seasons of Downton Abbey before leaving Canada.

[2] Yes, I bought an umbrella and proper wellies.

[3] For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian culture, be aware that we’re notorious for saying ‘sorry’ for almost anything.

[4] Seriously though, why is the 2-pence coin so big? And why is the 1-pound coin so small?

Top Ten Things One Considers While One is Unemployed.

1. Upon watching too many episodes of the West Wing, one considers if it really is worth it to invest in political science, when Aaron Sorkin seems to have it all figured out.

2. Upon applying for 5 jobs a day and hearing back from none in a month, one reconsiders their worth to society.

3. Upon a daily reading every single news article at their disposal, one considers walking over to the Langevin Block to flip you-know-who the bird.*

4. Upon the onset of utter boredom, one considers trying on all their wardrobe at once, à la Joey from Friends.*

5. Upon finishing many, many mock LSAT tests, while still never reaching above a 155, one considers that an existential crisis may be a better option than law school.

6. Upon sleeping in until 10am every day, one considers those suckers who have to get up at 7 everyday.

7. Upon seeing the contents of their bank account after a month of unemployment, one considers drastic actions – such as selling homemade friendship bracelets.

8. Upon finishing every season of their TV shows, one begins to reconsider the value of fan fiction.

9. Upon realizing jobs prospects are worse now that one has a degree, one considers drinking heavily.

10. Upon sitting outside on the patio, +28 degrees, with no humidity and a cold beer at 2pm, one considers why anyone would want to work at all.

And in case you were wondering, this is what I did all May 2012.

*One did not act on these feelings.

-N

Antwerp

For a few days in mid-August, Allison and I traveled across the Netherlands and Belgium.

We decided on a whim to spend a day in Antwerp.

Central Square or Grote Markt

 

Cathedral in the town centre. They had an exposition of Peter Paul Rubens and his students.  Inside of the cathedral. Yeah.

“If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!”*

 

Killer antiques. Tintin was everywhere in this town.

Stumbled across a medieval castle along the harbour.

Coucou!

Oh and we had lunch in an Opera House.

Antiques, unexpected fine arts, market squares and medieval castles.

All in all, love at first sight.

-N

*YES I MADE THAT BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JOKE.

Petroforming

Way back when in October, I made the trek back to the native homeland with the significant other.

Image copyright of Jo-Anne Douglas, via http://www.flickr.com/photos/jojodouglas/6464310961/

I was still trying to get used to Canada after my summer in Europe, believe it or not, and probably one of the things I missed about Canada was – forgive the stereotype – the open space! I mean sometimes I even miss the open space when living in Ottawa. I KNOW I’M A STEREOTYPE. Embrace it. I have. When you grow up in a province with a population density of 1 person per 2.2 square kilometres you’re used to some space. Also the sunsets and sunrises are really unlike any other… But I digress…

With all last summer seriously lacking in anything to do with nature, I was determined to go on a hike near my cottage. Yet, the odds were not ever in my favour. (Hunger Games reference, anyone? Anyone? Timely.)

Rain. Of course. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had been to an old Anishinaabe sacred site. Instead of carving or painting figures into the landscape, these peoples instead laid out rocks, both big and small in different forms – like turtles, snakes, fish, birds. Thank you mum for taking us here instead!

It was a really surreal experience to say the least. You’re standing on a huge open granite rock slab with hundreds if not thousand year old stones. They also really discourage anyone tourist from walking in the woods nearby because apparently a bunch of people have gotten lost. It’s like a different time there.

The central ceremonial area was beautiful.

It’s still a sacred site that’s often used for spiritual ceremony and you find signs of this all over, especially with the strips of fabric and tobacco that are remnants of past ceremonies.

Adventure time with family!

Also, here’s a montage of my dad’s horrible, awful white sneakers…

Sneakers with a snake!

Sneakers with a fish!

Sneakers with a turtle!

Sneakers with a something!

Sneakers on an adventure!

Also, we found a giant overturned tree, roots and all. Naturally we put our faces in it.

More cool shit about the ‘forms. Click!

N

*All other images courtesy of Conor M. Smith

Downsides of Knowledge

So when I was a kid I watched some pretty educational shit. (Who am I kidding? I still do.)

Discovery Channel was my main jam but I’m pretty sure it led to many if not most of my neuroses.

Exhibit A:

When I was about six I remember watching a documentary about what would happen if a rogue asteroid hit Earth. Basically one of those doomsday scenario shows where nothing ever turns out even mildly ok. Maybe not the best thing for a six year old to be watching, but hey there are worse things.

I walked around for about six months in a relative amount of terror every time I’d look up at the sky. I just had this image of six year old me, minding my own business, probably playing legos or barbies (yea I played with both – suck it gender norms!), then all of a sudden – BOOM – A FLIPPING ASTEROID. All life on Earth dead, six year old me in sheer terror.

And I wonder why I’m neurotic?

Discovery Channel is also probably the reason why I insist on watching nature specials while drunk before I pass out. This is real and it happened last night.