Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Blues

Halloween is tomorrow and I am sad. I am sad because my new adopted country does not celebrate it. I am sad because no one gets dressed up. I am sad because I do not see pumpkins, bats, witches, ghosts, or skeletons. I am sad because there are no costume parties or trick-or-treaters. I am sad because I am not ALLOWED to celebrate Halloween in my class. I am sad because I am not allowed to put up Halloween decorations in my class. I am sad because I am not allowed to carve pumicing or make paper ghosts with my class. I am sad because the children are not allowed to dress up and parade through the school...

I am sad because Halloween is a Pagan holiday, and apparently celebrating it goes against the school's religious policies...


(Memories of Halloweens past...and other dress-up moments)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Half-Term Experiences - Part 1

Natural History museum

I began the week off by jumping a £13 (return) bus to London-city of lights and fog. And rain as it was turning out. After a 3 hour ride (where we experienced every form of weather), I arrived in London and walked from Victoria Station to the Natural History Museum to find it SWAMPED with 3-9 year olds and their ENTIRE extended family!

This is when I realize the half-term, when all the kids in England have a week off school, was not the best ever time to visit England's most kid-popular attraction...

After pushing my way through the massive queue, I enter the main hall complete with the wondrous Diplodicus skeleton (this dinosaur cast is one of 12 or so that Mr.Carnegie of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Museum of Natural History gave to major cities around the world to promote American palaeontology and share this wonderful dinosaur.)

Richard Owens lords over the museum he designed and built in 1881. Though an important man in palaeontology, Owens often used unscrupulous means at achieving his ends - destroying careers...

The museum holds a wonderful collection of marine reptile fossils, including many of the first fossils ever found by Mary Anning - the young woman who made a living selling fossils she found in Lyme Regis (south coast of England). She found the first ever ichtyosaurus in 1811 and collected the first plesiosaur in 1821:

The Dinosaur Hall has many exciting skeletons, some suspended above the heads of the gawking public:




-Albertasaurus- (collected from Alberta, Canada by Charles Sternberg!)


After 2 hours of prehistory, the museum was closing. I left, happy to get away from the claustrophobic kiddlets, and jumped the tube to Kew Gardens, where my Uncle and Aunt live. I would be staying with them for the next few days.

Goodbye for now from the Natural History Museum in London!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Harborne - Best of the Brum

I am living in a room in a six bedroom house on Albany Road in Harborne, a nice small town based around a main street with all the necessities (grocery shops, video stores, book stores, banks, and chip shops). There are also at least 5 pubs in the area (in order: The Green Man, The Plough, Harborne Stores, Varsity, O'neills...could be more too), with O'neills being right across the street from my flat!
(Hi Dave!).

My room (the largest in the house with wood flooring, double bed, sink, and floor-to-ceiling bay windows - that overlook the street and the town's local probation office - ex-cons? Cool!) is very nice, but needs decor. I bought a lava lamp, some postcards, a Canadian flag, and a wooden poseable artist's model thing to put around. Needs more though. The walls are very white.

At the moment, my roommates include Patrick (not pictured: a British EPA businessman), Kate (pictured right: a Chech PhD student working on cancer research at Birmingham University), and Renata (pictured left: another Chech PhD student, Kate's friend, also working on the same cancer research project!). We've been out as a house a few times and they are really nice fun people. The house holds six, so there will be more roommates to come!

About 15 minutes walk away is the University of Birmingham, which holds Birmingham's Lapworth Museum of Geology and Palaeontology. It holds Charles Lapworth's Collection, the assemblage of fossils used to create the Ordovician Period in 1879. It is one of Europe's oldest natural history museums and contains over 250 000 specimens, including many skulls, footprints and other fossils from around Britain, as well as Burgess Shale (BC-Canadian) and Solnhofen Limestone (German) material. The museum was also used in top secret to assess the geology of the Normandy landing beaches prior to the D-Day invasion. I will definitely be spending more time here!

"Ouch! Bad T-Rex, Bad!"
Allosaur skull and foot, with Deinonycus and Velociraptor skulls, and a Megaloceras (big deer) skull behind.

I have just returned from a week off from school, so I will tell you all about that soon! (Short version though: London, family, art, Kate Moss, Canadian Store, bus, anamatronic dinos, beer, dancing, fish 'n' chips, castles, Charles Darwin!)

Birmingham - phoenix Rising

Birmingham is like a city waking up from a nightmare. The fact is that Birmingham was an industrial city and suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II, and thus the city center was extensively re-developed during the 1950s and 60s, with many concrete office buildings, ring-roads, and pedestrian subways. As a result, Birmingham gained a reputation for ugliness and depression.

Birmingham was also apparently the birthplace of the nuclear weapons and much of the research into the development of nuclear weaponry happened at Birmingham University during the 1940s. Ugly.

In recent years however, Birmingham has been transformed with the city center extensively renovated with the construction of new squares and the restoration of old streets, buildings and canals (apparently Birmingham has more canals than Venice does). Some pedestrian subways have been removed, and the Bull Ring shopping center has been redeveloped, including the architecturally unique alien-looking Selfridges building (see pictures).

I like Birmingham. It is a city trying to be better. It has really good nightlife and parks, and the people are very nice and helpful. It's just that accent...hard to describe and hard to like. It is sort of like John Lennon's accent except less lyrical and harder to understand. Makes understanding my students quite difficult!

More shots of Birmingham City Center.

I live in the beautiful town of Harborne south-west of the city center.

More to come...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peter Bond (Traveling Teacher) still alive!

Yes, I am still alive.
Yes, I finally (after two weeks) have broadband internet.
Yes, I am swamped with paperwork and lesson planning and SEN reports.
No, I have not been:
a. kidnapped by my students or
b. killed in a playground brawl between two 5-year olds.

And unfortunately, yes, I have seen a drug deal go down in front of the school - WHILE THE KIDS WERE PLAYING OUTSIDE!

Anyway, I am safe and enjoying myself, and now have the entire next week off ("half-term break") so I am heading down to the BIG city, London, to see my Uncle Tim and Family and revisit the city I love so much!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Settling in...

Hurray! I am now the new resident of a room in a six bedroom house in a small village of Harborne (home of Birmingham's professionals). It is the nicest part of town I have seen so far, and it is only 20 min buy bus (one bus only!) to my school (I also bought a monthly bus pass yesterday). So I am pretty set up and ready to begin life here in Birmingham. I'll be updating more regularly once my flat gets wireless (landlord says within two weeks)...

So I am off to do some lesson planning - which will be my life for the next year - but I thought I'd show you four photos from a small museum in Munich close to where Nathalie lives, the Museum Mensch und Natur:

1.) A very non-descript entrance-way...

2.) The centerpiece of the museum: a camptosaur mount, huge ammonite, and a glyptodon model (never seen one of 'em before!) - click to enlarge!

#.) Then there was this hilarious model of the jurassic - dino time! But look closer...

4.) A close-up reveals...Oh no!...he's eating Kermit the Frog!!!

Poor Kermie....

Friday, October 06, 2006

Welcome to Birmingham

Now begins the main part of my adventures abroad. Living and working in Birmingham, and making some pounds. After having such a great time in Munich with Marianne, Nathalie, Toby, Randi, and Remi, it was a shock to come up to the UK and have to plan the rest of my year right away. In fact, my entire journey here was extremely fast-paced.

I arrived in Birmingham from Munich around 12:30pm, to be met by Duncan. I at this point didn't know where I was going to stay the night. We were eating in the pub for lunch, when TimePlan (my teaching agency) called and wanted me there that night. So Duncan drove me all the way up! What a guy!! (Thank you Duncan!) We got caught in some nasty traffic on the M6, and were guided in by phone to the TimePlan office. The next day I am working in a classroom!

I have a class in a place called Weolly Castle, which isn't the nicest part of town, teaching Year 4 children (age 8-9). I have a handful of a class, with two terrible boys. The teacher before me left after 3 weeks! YIKES! Luckily, there are only 14 of them. A very small class by Canadian standards...

Anyway, I now have a mobile phone, a bank account, a job, and a library card. Tomorrow I am looking for a flat (apartment) and a bus pass! Wish me luck!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Peter Bond Travels Films - Part 2

So after arriving in Munich, my friends Randi and Remi stayed at Marianne's with me. It was very fun to explore the city with them (after all, each of us we tour guides and worked at the Vancouver Lookout). Munich is a very nice city that I could see myself one day living in (the only problem is that I would need to learn german. It helps to know german is Germany!) At the end of our city tour, we went to the Haufbraugh House for a beer. Now beers in Germany are great and come in sizes much larger than those at home. The shops sell half-litters, but the beergartens sell full litter beers called Masses. Here is me with a mass:

The next day, we all pilled into the S-Ban and took a train to Neuschwanstein Castle.

Walt Disney visited this castle and was so inspired that he used it as the basis for the "Disney Castle" from Sleeping Beauty and Disney's Logo, and he also designed the castle in Disneyland after Neuschwanstein.

Not only did he use the design of the castle, he used the high admission price, the switchback line-up style, the immaculately clean site, the gift shop, and, most importantly, the idea that the tour ends in the giftshop. Neuschwanstein had them first! I did not see any mice though...

That night we wached The Sound of Music in preparation for the next day's travels. We boarded the train to Salzburg, Austria! And then were promptly kicked off, as we apparently had not payed enough to ride the fast train. So we took the slow train, arriving with plenty of time to wander through Salzburg and say hello to Mozart (who was born here and turns 250 this year! Congrats Mozart, happy birthday!)

We toured the castle, and got a fantastic view of the city.

On the 2 hour train back to Munich, I got bored and began experimenting with my new camera. I discovered a way to create ghostly photos to haunt the train. It became a wonderfully fun way to spend the time!

Peter's Ghost attacks Randi and Remi...

Remi's Ghost menaces Marianne and Randi...

On Friday, we did Oktoberfest. Here is a film of our time in one of the beer tents having a blast. For the record, I drank 5 masses...

More to come...

The Peter Bond Travels Films - Part 1

Here is the first in a series of films detailing my travels through England and Europe. I hope you enjoy it.

My trip began with the Vancouver airport, as they tend to do, with a flight to London Gatwick with Zoom Airlines. I brought with me two suitcases and a backpack, containing everything I will need to live for the next year. Laptop, camera, clothes, suits, shoes, etc. Unfortunately, Zoom only allows 20 kg check-in baggage in two bags together, so needless to say I ended up being overweight. Instead of sending me packing (or re-packing, wink wink!), the check-in lady offers that I can pay $50 for the extra weight. I smile and accept, as I have a flight waiting to take me overseas for my year-long adventure into the English Life.

After having a relaxing snack with my good friends Warren and Leah (who randomly happend to also be at the airport seeing off Leah's Mom on a stop-over), I ventured through check-in which does not allow anyone to bring liquids past. After chugging down the last of my water, I slipped through the pat-down and proceded to my gate, D66. The flight itself proceded as it does in the film, although we did get 4 movies on the flight. I unfortunately watched that movie where Lindsey Lohan gets her luck switched with some guy when they kiss...ugh. I can't believe I just wrote that. It didn't get much better with Robin William's filmed-in-BC slosh RV. After, in case anyone was still alive...I mean awake, they played two more movies I can't remember the names of, due to the fact that I was asleep.

I arrived in London and was picked up by my friend Duncan (see film). We drove from Gatwick to Stansted airport direct on the M25, where we encountered a freak rain storm causing the speed limit and the visibility to drop. Upon a safe arrival to Stansted, we realized we had a few hours to kill. So we went to the pub! (Where else?) After a good pint of Guiness, I left Duncan and got in the check-in line-up for easyJet Airline. Interestingly, and unfortunately for me, easyJet has a "stricter" size restriction for their carry-on baggage, i.e. mine didn't fit. Thus I had to check my carry-on (I left the rest of my luggage with Duncan - Thanks, Dunk!) and carry-on my fragile laptop and camera. Picture a man carrying a laptop going through the metal detector and having to take off his belt after another quick but surprisingly thourough pat-down. That was me! I love airports...

So onwards onto another plane, but this time I got the rare experience of walking onto the plane from the tarmac (tarmack?). This plane was going to Munich, Germany where I was going to stay with friends and experience Oktoberfest. The guy I was stuffed into beside was from Edmonton, so we talked hockey for the hour and a half. After, we shoke hands and he tells me the reason he wears gloves was to cover very bad exeema. My friend Marianne (see film) met me at the Munich Airport and, after walking the entire length and breadth of the airport, we drove back to her family's house, where we had another beer. Two beers on two hours sleep and 25 hours awake killed me and I crashed.

Soon we would be joined by more friends and we would partake in the Traditional German Drinking Experience, a.k.a Oktoberfest.... Stay tuned.

But that is a story for another blog entry.
Until then, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying your lack of Lindsy Lohan movies!