A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about migration experiences

Singing the Immigrant Blues

Feeling Low Far From Home

rain 17 °C
View Exploring A New Home on GregW's travel map.

Some days it all adds up
And what you got is not enough
Some days are better than others

- Some Days Are Better Than Others, U2

I was feeling very low on Friday, and sometime around Friday at 10:00 pm I really hit bottom, finding myself crying as I was watching the scene from Cast Away where Wilson, the volleyball companion of Tom Hank’s character Chuck Nolan floats away, and despite his best efforts, Tom Hanks cannot swim out to retrieve Wilson. He cries out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” as he swims back to the boat, abandoning Wilson to floating across the ocean by himself.

Now, lest anyone reading this worry about me, Saturday I woke up to a sunny day and felt very good. So don’t worry, this was just a short blip, the kind of thing people far from home experience from time to time.

I have certainly had days like this before, like my last day in Buenos Aires back in 2003 on my South American trip or sitting in a train station in Jining, China, abandoned and alone with the drunk and the insane surrounding me. Days when you realize that you are far from everything and everyone you know, that you have little in the way of support or help, that whatever comes your way, you’ll need to handle it on your own. Sometimes that can be an invigorating thought, but some days it can overwhelm you.

Friday started out all right. It was cloudy and lightly raining, but I got up feeling good, doing some research for an interview I was going to have that day and ironing a shirt for the interview.

The day started going downhill when I got a call telling me the interview had been postponed. The reason was sensible and doesn’t hurt my chances of getting the job (in fact, I have another interview with the company on Tuesday), but I think after spending an hour in the morning getting ready for the interview had pumped me up a bit, and the delay deflated me a bit.

I didn’t really notice until later in the day though. I went out for a wander, as I do most days when I don’t have anything specific planned. I went and saw New Scotland Yard for no other reason then they mention it on TV police dramas all the time and show that rotating sign, so I wanted to see it for myself.

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Just after I snapped my photo though, it started completely without warning pouring rain, and I got caught out for a good 30 seconds in a torrential downpour until I could find shelter.

The rain stopped, and I went back to wandering around the area, but my clothes were still damp, and that put damper on my mood.

I eventually grabbed some food at a pub before catching the train back home. Though I have certainly eaten alone in restaurants many times before, for some reason (probably my foul mood), it just struck me that I was eating alone in a restaurant full of people who were not alone.

Walking back from the train station, I noticed my big toe on my left foot start to ache. I got home and checked it out - a big blister. “Great,” I thought, “this day can’t get any worse.”

It could, in fact, get worse.

About half an hour later on a trip to the bathroom the blister broke without my being aware, and I ended up tracking blood across my apartment’s floor and letting a good amount out on my white comforter before realizing what had happened.

I cleaned up my foot and applied a band-aid. I walked back to my bed and surveyed the splotches of red blood on my white duvet. I sighed and then spent the rest of the evening listening to sad music and looking up depressing video clips on the internet, which is how I found myself crying as I watched a volleyball float across the water.

I almost didn’t write this entry, as my moment passed quickly. This morning I woke up pretty happy, and after a load of white laundry felt even better to see all the blood removed from my duvet, I had a nice lunch of bagels and smoked salmon and a desert of fresh plums and all was right with the world.

Why write about something, I thought, that is probably only likely to worry those back at home?

When I moved to London I decide that I would use my blog, in addition to it’s use for documenting fun touristy things like Wimbledon or Stonehenge, to also document what life is like for someone who picks up and moves to a new country. That means both the good and the bad.

If nothing else, perhaps there is someone out there tonight who has moved to a new place and finds themselves feeling lonely and low.

This is reminder that you are not alone, others have felt the way you feel, some of them are probably feeling that way right now, and even more will feel that way in the future.

This is also a reminder that tomorrow will be a whole new day, and things can be better.

And finally a reminder that while we may have seen Wilson float away into the vast ocean, just because that’s the last we saw him doesn’t mean that what happened to him next was bad. Heck, he could be sitting on a beach in Fiji right now, surrounding by beautiful native women and drinking Mai Tais.

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Some days you feel ahead
You're making sense of what she said
Some days are better than others

- Some Days Are Better Than Others, U2

Posted by GregW 14:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (1)

Pleasant Thoughts on a Morning Commute

Read them now, because it is very likely I won't be liking the commute so much when I am doing it every morning

sunny 17 °C
View Exploring A New Home on GregW's travel map.

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I woke on this morning at 6:15 AM feeling the sun on my face, just like most of the past eleven mornings. The sun coming up in the sky every morning is not that unusual an event, as it has been doing something similar for some billions of years, and probably will for a few billion more. What is unusual is that I have been able to feel the sun rays hitting my face, rather than the early morning rays getting blocked by grey, thick clouds. This is unusual because the BBC has told me every night when going to bed that I should expect to wake up tomorrow to a grey, raining day.

Every day it is the same thing from the cute little blonde girl giving the weather report. “Well, today is shaping up to be a sunny but cool day in London, but tomorrow the rain will move in and we’ll have a day of clouds and showers,” she will say. The next morning, I will wake up, turn on the BBC and hear the same report. Somehow those showers that are going to move in keep deciding to move somewhere else. Judging by the weather map, it looks like the rain is having a fine time up in Scotland, and has decided to spend the summer there.

Perhaps the rain likes hiking, I here it is good up there, and judging by the Scottish people I know, they’d welcome the rain on their hikes. Anything to make their hikes more miserable seems to make Scottish people happier. “Ay, the weather was bad. The temperature was just above freezing, and the rain was coming at me vertically. The path was not more than a craggy ditch which was soon flowing like a broad river, but I made my way to the top of Gilchesterbladderfrangtoppertoopcrop, the tallest of all the crags in county Carooooooooon. Five hundred and three feet.”

For whatever reason the rain is deciding to stay in Scotland, I’m not complaining. It makes for nice days, at least for the part of them that I am awake.

This morning, like all the previous mornings the sun’s early rays have woken me, I smiled, rolled over to face the dark side of my flat, pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.

The past eleven mornings have gone a little something like this. I wake up with the first rays of sunshine, roll over so the sun isn’t shining on my face and promptly go back to sleep. Every hour or hour and a half, I roll over and am soon awakened by the light and heat on my face. I then roll over and go back to sleep. This cycle repeats until it is about 11 o’clock, when I drag myself out of bed and decide to finally face the day.

I’m not surprised by the sleeping in, after all there is a five hour difference between Toronto and London. Last time I was here in London, I found myself sleeping late as well, not getting up until noon, which is 8 AM in Toronto.

What is strange about this move, though, is that unlike my last visit, I am not staying up until four in the morning. I am going to bed at eleven at night, and not getting up until the big hand has made a full circle on the clock.

At first I told myself I was just catching up on all the sleep that didn’t seem to come my last month in Toronto, when the impending move out of my apartment and my impending move to London kept me awake at night mentally running through checklists of things that I really needed to do, though of course not things I could do anything about at the time so it was a little unfair of all those tasks to keep me up. Tasks not yet done, however, seem to have little in the way of respect for time.

However, now that my twelve hour sleeps have lasted for almost two weeks, I am starting to think that perhaps I am just being lazy.

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Now, these two seemingly unrelated things, my recent tendency to sleep away the day and the BBC’s inability to actual forecast the weather with any sort of accuracy combined this weekend to prod me to change.

On Saturday, I spelt like most mornings until eleven. I woke up, showered, and as I was getting dressed clicked on the BBC as I got ready to go out and hit the town. On BBC 1 they were showing a large parade with a bunch of soldiers outside of Buckingham Palace. Turns on that second Saturday in June is when the Queen’s birthday is celebrated, and there is a large parade of the armed forces dressed in all their finery for the Queen to inspect, as well as a fly over by some of the RAF’s best and loudest.

I had no idea, because I had been not exactly avoiding but not really paying much attention to the media, and as I had slept in and it was already noon, the festivities were coming to their conclusion. By the time I would have made my way down to Buckingham Palace, I would have missed everything. Instead I wound up in the Docklands, lunching on a piece of fat and bone disguised cleverly on the menu as a £10.50 pork chop and seeing an exhibit on the Jack and Ripper which managed to make one of the world’s first serial killers seem boring and made me feel guilty for having any interest in the story.

I did manage to spend the rest of Saturday walking a large, rambling path from Canary Wharf to the Tower of London, checking out a number of potential neighbourhoods to live in along the way, including the funnily named but potentially reasonably priced Wapping.

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Sunday I slept in and spent the day reading, and so had no idea until I went out to find a store to make an international call to my Dad for Father’s Day that George W. Bush was in town, and that the entire centre of town was crippled with traffic due to both the police presence and the roving protests that follow President Bush around like a dog follows around a child holding a hamburger that is about to fall out from between its loosely held buns.

All this sleeping in and missing things was making me feel a bit guilty that perhaps I was taking for granted my opportunity to move over here to London and LIVE in another city, so I decided to do something about it.

Firstly, I decided to figure out what events were coming up in London and the area so I wouldn’t miss them, at least I wouldn’t miss them because I didn’t know about them. I have now marked up my calendar with the Royal Ascot (happening this week from Tuesday until Saturday), Wimbledon (happening in a few weeks), a Polo match late in June that a Canadian expats club is attending, and the British Grand Prix in early July.

Now, I may not make any of these events. The Royal Ascot, which is the first up, has tickets available, but I don’t quite have a morning suit available to wear and with a couple of interviews tentatively scheduled but changing on the whims of potential employers this week, I think the ride up to Ascot will have to wait for next year. The rest of the events I have vowed to research this week, which means I will most likely do nothing until the day of the event, and then curse myself for my inability to follow through on any of my planning and get tickets for things.

But at least I was able to manage to change one of my behaviours this morning. When the sun woke me up again at 8 in the morning, I didn’t roll back over and go to sleep, even though I wanted to. Instead, I got up, showered and dressed in a nice shirt, a clean pair of jeans and a pair of nice, black dress shoes. I headed out and got on the tube station, heading towards the city so I could finally open my bank account.

I had decided to open my bank account at a branch down in the city rather than up in Willesden because I don’t see myself living Willesden for long, and would prefer not to have to drag myself out to the north-west end of the city every time I need to visit my branch. I figure I will most likely end up working somewhere “in the city” (the area that I would have called “downtown” in any North American city), so at least my branch would be relatively close to my workplace.

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Getting onto the tube, I grabbed the free Metro paper and read through the news, sports, entertainment and business headlines, skipping over the weather as the Jubilee line lurched towards Westminster station, where I transferred to the Circle line to Mansion House station.

The tube was filled with a bunch of other people dressed smartly and heading off to work. I felt like I fit in, though, as I was wearing jeans, most were dressed smarter than I, but at least I wasn’t wearing my shorts-t-shirt-hiking boot-camera get up that identifies me immediately as a tourist.

I was dressed up, I was up at a decent hour, I was off to conduct some business. I had my laptop bag slung over my shoulder and I was flipping through the pages of the Metro. I was one of the crowd, one of the many heading off to work. I felt like I was part of the great structure that runs this city (even though all I was doing was opening a bank account).

I will admit that most my life I haven’t much liked being a faceless cog in a great machine, but something about being an anonymous face on the train today, heading into the heart of the great post-industrial beast that is the City of London, I felt great. For a length of that tube ride, I was part of London.

I may be complaining in this very blog in 3 months about how I feel so lost and small in the masses of those that run the industries that run the world, but for today, it felt like I belonged here.

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Today I wasn't just a tourist. I wasn't just floating on the surface of London, or even just dipping in my toe. Today, at least for a few hours, I finally felt like I belong in London.

Posted by GregW 07:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (1)

Floating on the Surface of London

The new immigrant still feels a lot like a tourist in his new town

sunny 20 °C
View Exploring A New Home on GregW's travel map.

I am an immigrant and a resident of a new country. I just don't know it.

That is to say that while I know it intellectually, I don't feel it in my core. When I am walking around in London, I still feel like a tourist there to take in the sites, have a few pints, and get back on a plane to Canada. During all the weeks spent in Toronto in denial emotionally about my impeding move, I always felt that once I got to London, it would all hit me like a ton of bricks and I would realize that it was real. Instead, I find myself still sitting around feeling like a temporary visitor.

That's not that bad, though. Getting hit by a ton of bricks doesn't sound like much fun. Perhaps easing myself into this whole adventure seems a lot better.

The adventure started out poorly, frankly. My last day in Toronto was drizzling, cold and wet. My flight over was long and sleepless. I couldn't sleep, so instead I watched movies and thought about sleep.

Immigration was surprisingly easy. The immigration officer asked me who I was claiming as my "ancestor" for my ancestry visa. I said my grandmother.

"Where was she from," he asked, punching keys on his computer.

"Birmingham," I replied.

He looked up and raised an eyebrow. "Really," he asked. "I am from Birmingham, you know?"

I didn't know, but I thought it best not to point that out to the man in charge of deciding whether or not this whole adventure, for which I had given up my apartment and job in Toronto would continue, so instead I nodded and said, "really."

"Yes sir. You know what Birmingham is famous for?" he asked.

I didn't. In fact, I never had been to Birmingham, and prior to seeing it on my grandmother's birth certificate, I hadn't even bothered to think about it, except in the context that it was also the name of the capital of Alabama and that Birmingham gets mentioned in the Lynard Skynrd song "Sweet Home Alabama."

"You know the band UB40?"

"Sure," I replied. Red, red wine, and all that.

"They are from Birmingham," he said, looking at me with a very satisfied smile on his face, like he had just told me that the Queen or Elvis or the Dali Lama was from Birmingham. I made noises to indicate that I was very impressed, while on the inside was I was thinking that if the best Birmingham could do was UB40, perhaps they should just pack up shop and all move to Edinburgh now.

He went on to add two other notable Birmingham contributions to the world, those being Land Rover and Jaguar, which I have since learned are not, in fact, contributions that Birmingham has made to the world, as neither company is headquartered there. Though they do, I believe, have factories there.

I have also since learned that Duran Duran was from Birmingham, which is (at least to me) 100 time more impressive than UB40. No offence to UB40 fans, but Red, Red Wine doesn't hold a candle to Hungry Like The Wolf.

Heathrow didn't lose my luggage. In fact, quite the opposite happened. I exited the immigration hall to find my luggage already off the plane and waiting for me. I exited Heathrow into a bright, sunny day, exactly what I was not expecting from the United Kingdom. I left Toronto where it was cold and raining to arrive in London where it was sunny and warm. Perhaps I flew into Bizarro London instead of regular London. "Me am Bizarro Greg. This am bad weather."

After a very sweaty ride on a packed underground with three transfers and a number of evil looks from commuters who were cursing the fatty, sweaty foreigner taking up all the space with his three bags, including a backpack which he didn't even bother to take off, I arrived at Willesden Green station. I called to get picked up by the accommodation company that had arranged my flat for the month.

"Did you not get our confirmation email," the voice on the other end asked when I called. I had, and so I said I did. It said to call this number when at the tube station to get picked up, so that was what I was doing.

"Then you would have seen that we can't pick anyone up until 10:30 AM. The check in isn't until then," she said. In fact, I hadn't seen that. I must have skimmed over that part. I looked at my watch. 9:45 AM. "Perhaps you can go and grab a coffee for a while, and call back and 10:30 AM?" she suggested. I guess I would.

Instead of coffee (which I don't drink), I grabbed a Coca-Cola Light and sat on my suitcase outside the tube station, watching the world go by and reading, occasionally, from a travelogue book by Tim Cahill. The neighbourhood seemed a pretty multicultural mix of people, and struck me as safe, which was at least one less thing to worry about.

10:30 rolled around, and I called back to get my pick up. A blonde Aussie girl drove around and took me to my place. She was quite pretty, with large full lips like Scarlett Johansson that kept drawing my attention when I should have been paying attention to riveting things like lease arrangements, power consumption keys and garbage collection schedules. Eventually we got all the papers signed and the leave paid, and I sadly saw Scarlett out the door. I turned around to face my new home.

It's a studio apartment. Not very big, but clean. It sits on the second floor in the front room of a row house on a quiet though central located street. Just steps away is a busier street full of shops, restaurants and bars which cater to a mainly Polish population in the area, but are welcoming of "foreigners" like myself.

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My street

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The main room of my flat

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Kitchen in my flat, with bathroom off to the side

As you can see there are only two rooms, the large main room and a very small bathroom. I quickly dubbed the two rooms the greenhouse and the cold storage. The main room has large windows that were closed when I arrived, and with the bright hot London sun (there are words I didn't think I would be saying), the main room had heated up to an almost unbearable level. In contrast, the bathroom door was closed, and upon entering one felt a frigid chill.

I have since figured out that if I keep the windows open a crack to let in some cool air and keep the bathroom door open, the temperature in both rooms evens out to a liveable level, but the names have stuck.

I dozed for a little while in the afternoon, but didn't want to sleep all day, as I was afraid that would mean I was up all night, so I went out for a walk. My mind raced with a million thoughts, a million things that I needed to do as a new resident of London. I tried to put them all out my head, telling myself that I could worry about those things tomorrow. For today, I would just try and let the day wash over me and let my new found residency sink in.

It didn't sink in, though. Instead I still felt like a tourist all day. Perhaps it is because I have nothing permanent over here. My flat is rented for the month. I have no job, no permanent place to live, no bank account, no phone, no friends, no connections to this place at all.

Dejected, I walked back to my flat, and continued to read my book. The book, Road Fever, by Tim Cahill, tells the story of an attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records by driving as quickly as possible from the tip of South America to Alaska. Just before he is about to set out on the adventure, he talks about feeling down.

Remorse before the fact is a common preadventure sensation. There is an overwhelming sense that you left the water running in the bathroom. You have, in fact, neglected something so simple and self-evident that people didn’t see any reason to tell you about it: the Wall of Flame in Chile, for instance, or the Big Hole in the Earth that Swallows Trucks just south of Rio Gallegos, the River of Acid, the meteorite Firing Range, the Living Dinosaurs...

I read it, and recognized the feeling in me. In the days leading up to leaving Toronto, I had been feeling down, and the feelings had carried over to my first day in London. I felt like I was missing something, that at any moment I was going to get a call from back in Canada that I hadn't paid my rent, or that the UK police were going to bust down the door and deport me. I knew that I was here in the United Kingdom, but it didn't feel like it is permanent. It still felt temporary, and it felt like I was not in control.

I went to bed early the first night at 10:30 PM, and I didn't walk up the next morning until 11:15 AM, getting more than 12 hours of sleep. Despite the late start, I headed out and got 3 things done on my list of things to do:

  • Buy Shaving Cream - okay, not exactly complex, but it was still on my list
  • Get a phone - kind of complete, as my voice mail doesn't work, but at least I have a phone number now
  • Get an adapter plug from my Apple MacBook

In addition, I took a double-decker bus for the first time today, riding the 189 from Oxford Circus to Brent, where I am staying. Like a tourist, I sat up top in the front to watch the view. More importantly, however, is the fact that this bus is a 24 hour bus and will come in handy in the future if I get stuck in Central London after the subway trains stop running. I know that many of the 24 hour buses run through Oxford Circus, and I now know how to get home from there, which could save me a huge amount on cabs in the future.

Music fans will also be interested to know that the 189 runs along Abbey Road, right by the Abbey Road studios. These studios are famous for being the place where famous British rockers "Camel" recorded their 1981 album "Nude." I also understand that some mop-top kids from Liverpool recorded some crap there, but that's 1960s/1970s ancient history, dude.

Anyway, I felt better about the whole adventure after completing the little things today like getting a phone, an adapter and riding the bus. I can't say that I exactly feel like a resident of London now, or that I have completely shaken that feeling that I am just a tourist here, but at least I feel a little more like someone who lives here now. If the first day I felt like I was floating on top of London, not at all immersed into it, the second day I felt that at the very least I had a toe in the water, slowly sinking into my life.

Posted by GregW 15:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (2)

Separation Anti-Anxiety

How to Hate a Place Enough to Leave (Not that I really hate Toronto, per say, but I am starting to dislike it a little bit)...

sunny 20 °C

It’s been a crappy week. If I look back on the past 7 days, I find myself seeing nothing but memories of packing, sweating, moving, sweating, driving, sweating, talking to bureaucrats, sweating, stressing out and sweating.

Despite my desire to be a tourist in my own town for my last month in Toronto, mostly the past couple of weeks have been spent using up my time taking care of moving stuff. While it is all fine and dandy to say to oneself, “self, I am going to take care of as much of this moving stuff as I can as early as possible to free up my time in the last few days I have in Toronto,” the reality is that one cannot do enough up front. After all, I still have my apartment for a couple of days, and I still need places to sit, places to sleep, shampoo to wash my hair, towels to dry me after showering and forks to use when eating take-out Thai food.

When you are moving away, you can’t get rid of everything early, as you need so much of it to live out your last days in your old home.

That really tees me off. And that reminds me of another time when I was teed off and moving.

Back when I was a young 18 year old, living at home and getting ready to move out of my parents place and go away to university, I was, apparently, a bit of a jackass, or at least so said my mother. Quite often, actually.

Back in 1989 when I was 18, I was a bit of a sarcastic ass. I still am a sarcastic ass, and in fact was a sarcastic ass prior to 1989. In fact, that is a trait I am sure I inherited from my mother, which I hope will some mitigate any damage to my reputation that the comments I am about to repeat here that she made about me.

Back in 1989, when I would make a comment that an 18 year old sarcastic ass would be expected to make, my mother would look at me and say the following. “I know that you are just saying that to create some distance between us, so that the pain of separation won’t be as great when you leave for University.”

Her argument was that I was not, in fact, a sarcastic pain in the neck because I was a teenager with a sharp wit (honed for years by my mother), but rather I was a sarcastic pain in the neck because it was a defense mechanism to make separation more bearable.

At the time I didn’t put much stock in her theory. I didn’t feel like I was being especially sarcastic or cruel. I liked my home and my mother and I knew that I would be back there to live at some point (as I was in the summer of 1990, 1991 and then for a whole bunch of time during 1995 through to 1997), so I couldn’t see any reason why I would want to make it a less nice place to live.

However this past week has started to make me think that perhaps my mother was on to something. For with less than one week to go before leaving Toronto for London, I must admit that Toronto is really getting my goat.

It could be that Toronto is just especially annoying this week. Or it could just be that I am tired from a week of packing, moving and sweating. It could even be that I am starting to actually realize that I am 1 week away from moving to another country without a job, a permanent place to live or anything resembling friends.

But it could also be that I am just trying to make the city I am leaving less desirable so that the impending move seems more so.

Lest any of my Toronto friends think I don't like them, let me assure them all that I have had lots of fun going out with all my friends these past few weeks, so I hope you don't take this blog as an insult. Trust me, it's not being out with old friends that is needling me. It's everything else.

I find myself tired, even in the mornings after a full nights sleep. I find myself looking at boxes or furniture and sighing, just on the verge of breaking down thinking about what the crap I am going to do with the item. I find myself talking to stupid people about stupid things like what size storage locker I want, what the address on my bank statements should be (even though the bank knows that all my statements are electronic) or how long I want my mobile phone active for in Canada.

Last night, though, took the cake. I went out to dinner at a local pub, a place I have enjoyed for the 10 years I have lived in my neighbourhood in Toronto. Despite trying to look like I was intently reading a book, I still got engaged by a crazy old lady with an allergy problem (which she detailed in some depth) and a dude on crutches who apparently got some sort of brain injury in Mexico running from the police. I quickly said my goodbyes and moved on.

Next I went to another restaurant, a sports bar a few blocks away. I was hoping to sit at the bar, have a pint and enjoy the playoff hockey game. Instead I found a bar jam packed with old, creepy men staring at the bartender, a well-endowed blonder who (knowing her audience) was wearing a very low cut blouse. I left upset, not sure if it was because I felt icky because of the old pervs, or because I was upset that I couldn’t get a decent seat and be an old perv myself.

Onto the next place, a joint that is best known for showing European soccer but that does show National League Hockey during the evenings (as Euro sports tend to be on during the morning and afternoons over here in North America). I took a seat at the empty bar and watched as the puck dropped on game 3 of the NHL finals.

My peace was not to last though. A guy walked in, probably in his early 60s with a white goatee. He took a seat and ordered a beer, and started to look around the bar. I caught him looking around out the corner of my eye, and I could tell immediately that he was looking for someone to talk to.

“Damnit,” I thought, “I’ve already talked to the crazy old lady and the crutch dude tonight. Can’t I just enjoy the hockey game in peace?” So I stared straight ahead, never moving my gaze from the TV set in front of me. If he can’t make eye contact, I reasoned, he can’t engage me.

My plan worked, though the guy found others to engage. He complained to the bartender that hockey was on, and demanded one of the TVs be turned to something else. She flipped around the channels, and once the TV landed on horse racing, he seemed content.

He wasn’t content, though. He spent 15 minutes speaking to the man on his right, bemoaning the fact that we all in Canada watch hockey, even though no Canadian teams were playing, and that in 10 years we Canadians would probably all be walking around with TVs attached to our heads so we wouldn’t miss a minute of hockey.

I just kept my mouth shut and my face forward towards the screen, no doubt proving his theory that we Canadians are all hockey obsessed. While I was interested in the game, I was more interested in not speaking to him.

The guy on the old man’s right started to ignore him, so the old man engaged the bartender. She spoke to him for about a minute before the following words came out of the old dude’s mouth.

“You know, you are a beautiful girl, but your voice is like nails on a blackboard.”

Take a moment to think about saying that to a woman you don’t even know. Reread that if you like. It’s not very flattering.

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” the bartender replied. Her voice, which had moments before had a certain joyous tone to it became cold and monotone. The kind of tone that a North Korean interrogator might use right before pulling your still beating heart out of your chest.

“No, it’s not an insult. I’m trying to help you,” said the old man. “I know an opera singer who can train you to change the tone you speak with. Don’t feel bad. So many Canadian women can’t speak well.”

I could see the bartender out of the corner of my eye, and her eyes had daggers shooting out of them at the old man. I prepared for a fight, in that I put my hand around my beer, so that if the bartender came over the bar at the old man, I could quickly get out of the way without spilling a drop.

She didn’t come over the bar at the old idiot, though. Instead she did what I thought was a very composed thing. She looked at the old man and said, “well, if you don’t like my voice, then I just won’t talk to you anymore.” Then she walked away.

I was impressed, because I think I probably would have popped the old guy in the eye, or at the very least spit in his half pint of Creemore.

The old guy left quite soon after the above incident, and I was able to finish watching the hockey game in peace. A few weeks ago I might have continued on, perhaps grabbing another pint and going over and saying hello to the Ultimate Frisbee team that was celebrating a victory at the bar.

Instead, I decided to go home. I was tired from a day of moving stuff into storage and worn out from meeting three different crazy people in one day at three of what were my favourite Toronto hang-outs. I used to quite like meeting and talking to the crazy people, it is part of what makes living in an urban setting unique. But last night I just couldn’t take it anymore. Instead it just wore me out, and I couldn’t help but find a bunch of faults with the places that I used to frequent.

Perhaps my mother’s theory holds some water then. Prior to leaving a place for another pasture, you need to make your current pasture seem a little browner. That way, even if it isn’t, the new pasture will feel greener by comparison.

Posted by GregW 21:20 Archived in Canada Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Whodya cheer for? Picking a footie team...

I'm guessing I'm not going to get to see too much hockey over there

sunny 16 °C

The NHL finals are set, and games start up tomorrow. The Pittsburgh Penguins are taking on the Detroit Red Wings. It should be an exciting final, as both teams have pretty potent offenses. I, however, am worried that I won't get to see the champion crowned. The finals are a best of seven series, with the final two games scheduled for June 4th and June 7th. With both games at 8:00 PM Toronto time, that would put them at 1:00 AM London time. Even if I can find a place to watch the games, they'll probably shut down before the game is over.

stanley.jpg
Me with the Stanley Cup, taken in Denver in 2001 when they hosted the All Star Game

Anyway, I need to concentrate on starting to watch European sports. No more American football, baseball and hockey. I have to start watching Rugby, Cricket and (most importantly) Soccer, or as they call it over there, football.

The UEFA Champions League final was played on Wednesday, with Chelsea from London facing off against Manchester United. As Chelsea is from London, I was thinking of cheering for Chelsea. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, and went to penalty kicks, where Man U ended up winning a nail-biter.

So now I can't cheer for Chelsea. I mean, not only did they lose the UEFA Champions League Cup to Man U, but they also came in second in the Premiership to Man U and they lost the 2008 Carling League cup to Tottenham. Obviously they are not closers. I'll have to pick another team to cheer for...

Luckily, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association and the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer are looking to purchase a team. They are eyeing a Premiership team (source). As the article says, "A sports banking executive who specializes in European soccer said three English Premier teams would probably merit interest from the like of MLSE: Everton, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur."

Personally, I hope they buy Tottenham, as that's a cool name for a team. Hotspur. Plus they play in London.

As such, I'll just wait for them to decide who they will buy and then I'll just start cheering for them. And I can wear my Toronto FC jersey to the games and not look out of place, right?

2007_07_22..IFA_U20.jpg
Me at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup last summer (July 22, 2007)

Just kidding, of course, both about Chelsea not being closers (obviously coming in 2nd a lot means they are good team, so please don't write me) and also about having to pick a team right away. In all honest, I can't even figure out how the soccer leagues work over there. There's promotions and demotions and apparently 5 different cups that a teams can win. Some of the games don't count towards some of the cups, and some games are just friendlies that apparently don't count for anything.

It's going to require a hell of a lot of study before I understand it all, I'm sure. By study, of course, I mean sitting in a pub having someone explain it to me over a pint of beer.

2007_08_05_016_pub.jpg

So, if anyone understands it all and wants to explain it to me, I'll buy a pint at the local.

Cheers,
Greg

Posted by GregW 12:17 Archived in Canada Tagged sports living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (0)

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