Thursday, 16 February 2012


London Luton Airport- Embarking on a Miss Lame Adventure

I open my book that I have been reading snippets at a time of for months now… Oh right, I’m starting into a new chapter… With my new teaching life, it’s almost impossible to have a thought for myself, especially during the week, let alone time to peer into a novel for pleasure. Other things take precedence. The moments for me involve running and exercising my ass off all for the BIG FAT endorphin release that my stressed, over tired, over-personalising brain needs desperately.  Teaching is exhausting, but the little victories, the moments that a defiant student decides they respect me  enough to give me their eye contact, the “Hello Miss Lein!” in the hallway, every little baby step, makes it count.
Assumptions. The chapter of my book, Last Chance to See (an incredibly interesting book, with a ton of character in the writing style by the way) begins with:
Assumptions are the things you don’t know you’re making, which is why it is so disorienting the first time you take the plug out of a wash basin in Australia and see the water spiralling down the hole the other way round”. 
As Douglas Adams describes his experience of being in Australia for the first time, I feel myself relating to what he is experiencing. He expresses how much of a mind-intercourse it is to have the toilet flush counter-clockwise, to dial the phone counter-clockwise (although this does not have to do with the laws of Physics, apparently the Aussies choose to match their toilet current with their telephone dials).
I reflect on my initial experiences in London that threw me for a loop.
·         The cars on the wrong side of the road (lefts and rights are already complicated enough for Miss Lame)
·         “FOOTBALL” instead of soccer
·         Being able to count out sterling change at the off-licence- the new shapes, sizes and value of each coin transforming a typically automated, assumed process into a highly conscious experience. I recall the building stress I felt as a line of shoppers accumulate behind my slow, Canadian backside.

·         Wine and beer in the parks and streets of London. In Canada we assume a big ol’ fine for open booze in public.
·         Social etiquette: The comment “you alright” not actually being a genuine question requiring a specific response.  An in-passing nicety.
These are just a few of the differences that challenged my assumptions upon moving to London England.  The incongruities with Canadian culture defied and upheaved deeply ingrained social/emotional expectations as well as the automated motor pathways.
This is all very disruptive to ones flow through life.   A new place, where our expectations of what is normal, the small little details of our regular, assumed as normal lives is disrupted by simple, what one might consider minute, altercations to what has been ingrained in our lives, our routines, even our neuromuscular memory.  In new places- little differences in mannerisms, social etiquette, physical designs stand out like Miss Lame in a crowd of non- super-dork people.
To Switzerland- Time to mess with Miss Lame’s assuptions again… Cannot wait!
Surfing in Geneva:
I plow into the petite bachelor flat with my massive ruck sac- roughly the same size as me- and my smaller but equally crammed backpack strapped to my front, protruding out- my travel baby.
Flustered, new to this couch surfing experience and the expectations of the surfer and the host, I apologise profusely for all my stuff and awkwardly, hurriedly adjust and position all my goods in what I hope is least space consuming. 
Hamdi, my host, so warm, welcoming, quiet and calm, gently invites me to place my stuff in the bedroom space. Firstly, he indicates that he always tells his couch surfing visitors to “make themselves a home”.
From the moment I stepped into Hamdi’s home, I knew that I had found a gem of a host.
Upon my arrival, I was invited to join Hamdi and his friends at a bar for a night out and drinks. Of course Miss Lame happily agreed to this adventure.
It is at the “Little Buddha” where I enjoyed my first evening of Geneva nightlife, with lovely people, lovely music and strong drinks.
Upon meeting Hamdi’s friends, I was greeted with not one… not two… but THREE kisses on my cheeks- A lovely 5-10 second exchange of affection with a stranger. The Swiss want to make sure you know you’re loved- a wonderful and most welcome discrepancy from my ingrained assumptions- a hand shake, or 1, MAX 2 kisses. I love it.
Another assumption that affected my night for the better… A double vodka soda does not equate to 2 ounces of vodka in your drink, rather, about half a glass of high quality, smooth to sip Belvedere Vodka, with about 2 ounces of soda water. A “single” drink in Switzerland may be more like what I equate to a “double” in the UK and Canada.
 Little Buddha was lounge-like, with darker furniture accents, candles and low lighting. The people were generally beautiful, dressed nicely.  A warm and classy vibe. The DJ was raised up, set slightly above the lounge and social exchanges, looking official and to be thoroughly enjoying his job.  Great music- Mr. DJ got retro and played some Miss Lame dancing favorites- Stevie Wonder, Arethra Franklin etc. Perfect. So many new experiences challenging my ingrained assumptions, whilst the music brings me comfort through familiarity and provoke my crazy lame dance moves.

My surfing post:

After the bar, Hamdi and I found our way home in the bitter cold, which “not normal for Geneva” Hamdi tells me.
Home: We reach Hamdi’s cozy little flat, consisting of a bathroom, a sweet little kitchen and a room fitting his bed, a red futon (my surfing post) in the opposite corner and a big desk at which Hamdi spends much time writing and developing his dissertation in Neuroscience on the lingering effects of different emotional experiences in the brain (an over simplification of an incredibly interesting and complicated area of research of course).
My extraordinary host offers me food, warming apple-cinnamon tea, fleece blankets and a pillow and the cozy red futon.
 Is it typical to be treated with such hospitality in the couch surfing world?” I ask, completely floored by his generosity and caring nature.
Hamdi informs me that all situations are different and that sometime the host has more/less time or availability to be your guide and to be so accommodating.  The philosophy, however, the principles behind couch surfing, is that of give and take- A communal type mindset and approach to the world of travel.  You are not expected to host, you host when your life permits, but it’s important to understand that couch surfing is a shared experience, that you are not using someone’s home as a hotel.
The couch surfing world appreciates the incredible value in travel experience, from a holistic perspective- social, experiential, shared. The absence of monetary requirement for such a beautiful gesture as opening your home to a traveller from abroad, is related to the key values of couch surfing- accessibility to and love for adventure, travel and people.
The surfing world is a community of fellow globe trotter support and appreciation. A beautiful thing.
Saturday in Geneva, Hamdi and I enjoy a lovely “lie in”- rising from our cozy sleeping posts at 11am.
Hamdi goes swimming. I go for a run along the river which cuts through Geneva, it is turquois, moving quickly, with particles of ice floating down stream. The swimming ducks make me shutter. The graffiti I pass as I run along the path is beautiful, quirky and distracting. I stop often to take photos.

Lunch- Hamdi introduces me to an authentic Swiss meal. Much like fondue- it is called “Raclette”- we heat cheese in mini trays within the special “Raclette” appliance.
Only 20 Swiss Franks!”  Hamdi informs me excitedly.

The perfectly melted cheese is scooped onto your plate and we consume it with perfectly boiled young potatoes and antipasto bites- olives and authentic dill cornichons.
Saturday night, Hamdi and I climbed the winding cobble roads inclining into the heart of the Old City.
Charming. Old. Beautiful.
It is here where Hamdi introduces me to his restaurant of choice- a quaint, casual, lovely little restaurant, in a typically expensive, classic area of town, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced chicken dinner. Following dinner, another delightful bar- “Alhambra”, which I am informed it a special Palace in Southern Spain.  Again, a fantastic new setting is combine with familiar music and Miss Lame smiles and visits with her lovely host.

Portes du Soliel- Assumptions:
I set out for the Swiss Alps, booking a bed in a 6 bedroom dorm at a lodge called Auberge Chez Nelly, moments from the “liftes” and “piste” of the segment of Portes du Soliel called Les Crosets, with expectations that this setting would bring me much social opportunity during my stay.
Online it was indicated that I was the final individual to book into this room.  Perfect.
The train, then the bus, I travelled up, up, up and into the Swiss Alps, the mountains swallowing me, the vehicle and the surreally placed chalets speckling the grand contours whole. I gaze, jaw hung open, at my surroundings, the setting sun highlighting the peaks and curves just so- A moment gone within 5 minutes as the sun continues to lower in the sky and new features are brought to focus.
The daylight nearly gone, I am dropped in front of my new lodging.  Gravity pulls exceptionally hard at my abnormally weighted body.  I am relieved to have brought my ski boots, while also hating the fact.
(Throughout my journey many have laughed at the sight of Miss Lame- a 5’3, petite woman, a big smile on  her face, enveloped by enough  luggage to move house)
As move into Chez Nelly my anticipation for social contact begins to dwindle as I pass a small family, a Mom, a Dad, a daughter, enjoying dinner in the restaurant area that could seat around 20, and as I climb the stairs to my 6 people mixed dorm and the sound of my own footsteps dominate the space. Complete silence. My room is charming, with wooden accents and features, a very cottagey feel, and 6 empty, unused beds. All for Miss Lame. So many bed options from which to choose. Goody.

The Swiss do clean WELL. My room, the toilet and shower room, all in pristine condition- this is calming.
With the Swiss, you don’t get those feelings of apprehension about setting down your things or food items on particular surfaces. The articles already existing on the surfaces, the current state of the space is reassuring, you feel confident in the purity. It’s not overly sterile. It’s comfortable.
I can very quickly get used to this anthropologic assumption.
After moving into my spacious room in Chez Nelly, I progressed downstairs to the bar/restaurant- completely ready for dinner and WINE. As I attempted to make small talk with the server and ask simple requests such as “NEED WINE”, I quickly realised a language barrier built up around Miss Lame. The only English speaking person in Chez Nelly.  This poses yet another challenge to my preconceived expectations of my trip and my stay in the Swiss Alps.  
Growing exhausted by the communication blockade, approaching inquiries and comments from a number of angles and word choice avenues, not to mention ample gesturing, I sought my laptop and good old “google translate”.  Through “google translate” I decipher the menu and decide on “Truite le amandes”- trout with almonds, which came with a small portion of vegetables and of course “frites”- they do a lot of potato in Switzerland.
The wine is good. The Swiss do wine well too.
Miss Lame had to adjust her expectations- the next few days are dedicated to skiing and outdoorsy business, it’s ok to enjoy quality solo Miss Lame time.
(skiing in the Swiss Alps = EXCEPTIONAL quality)

Portes due Soliel- The Skiing:
Monday and Tuesday. Skiing in the Swiss/French Alps. Two days of bright blue skies and perfect snow.

Enough said.

After spending 2 nights in Chez Nelly, which was lovely but potentially “lamer” than Miss Lame, and then staying 2 nights in the beautiful home of my new skiing friend, Pia and her 11 year old son, I was in grave need of socialisation with individuals approximately my age… 
Furthermore, to be around fellow travellers from all over the world, looking to connect, will be refreshing after struggling with the language barriers and the undue guilt and stress of “being Canadian and NOT able to carry on a conversation in French”… (I disappointed many).  The Swiss/French culture did not seem to do small talk attempts with someone who hadn’t come prepared to speak in their language.  The most I got was a smile and a few simple questions from sweet families staying in Chez Nelly who saw me day after day.  I found this experience fairly isolating. It was a distinct contrast to my experiences in South America, where the culture is highly expressive and communicates with you in every form- body language, dance, verbal (despite the series of smiles, laughter and over-usage of the universal symbol of “I don’t know”).
Off to Zurich, the German influenced region of Switzerland, to do city life in a hostel with other young people.

NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Bruised Face, Bruised Ego

A New Year.

What will 2012 bring for Miss Lame?
The big unknown adventure- particularly, a new permanent teaching role in PE and Science- Miss Lein’s very own classes.
I’m excited.

My landlord is a dick.
Many people can relate to my feelings of landlord distain. There are rare “landlord gems” that are good people who care about their tenants and behave in a humane and reasonable way.
Two days after a beautiful Christmas day with my incredible family, I sat enjoying family company at the Collingwood condo in Southwestern Ontario, a fresh layer of white coating the world just outside the window. I opened my email, just to have a look-see.
Not fully acknowledging what this could possibly mean, I open the email, confused, but still calm.
I received my first ever properly outlined, spell/grammar checked email from my landlord that day. It clearly stated that my contract will not be renewed after my 6 months are up- No reason given… Ending with…
Yours faithfully?
For and on behalf of DICKHEAD LTD
My brain dove into a tizzy of thoughts…  Completely overwhelmed, sad, frustrated.
How will I cope with finding a new home and starting my new job???? Lesson planning. At the school from early morning until evening. Where will I find the time? My lovely flatmates. My big family. Everything is about to change.
Next thought: "Organisation = comfort"… Moments later, I was on “”, searching flat adverts, lining up viewings for the week back in big, old London before the teaching world commences. 
Despite the anxiety and feelings of sadness about the pending changes, quickly feelings of excitement welled up inside of me as I contemplate a new space, new people, whilst maintaining my developed friendships with my lovely current flatmates.
A new adventure. Miss Lame likes those.

Why did Miss Lame get da boot?
This might help clarify…
Famous Sevban quotes:
1.       Women have too many rights in the country… Well then.
Miss Lame = woman.
AND so, as a key Chaudrey household spokesperson (meaning a woman “telling” Sevban to do something) this meant a less than adoring relationship developed between Sevban and I very quickly.
Based on my landlord’s stance, he despised my completely out-of-line (a hint of sarcasm…) requests such as:
a) Requiring a phone call/text prior to entering into our home (I was being “demotivating to his staff”)
b) Heat in mid-December (about 3 weeks of waiting and excuses)
c) A non-gas-leaking boiler (you know, so we don’t all die.)
I know. I’m incredibly unreasonable.
2.       You be bad, I be worse! You be worse, I be worstest!
Well, I guess I was “worse”.
Miss Lame and her current living situation.
Home life is sorted and completely ideal.
The tall ceilings, big bright windows and crown molding that enclose me as I sit lounging on the couch make me think of my home that I grew up in.  My heart is happy and my body and mind feel calm. I breathe.
The bright, comforting street lamps give a soft glow that light up my path and the charming, classic Victorian walk-ups I pass as I walk from home to transit in the early morning, and transit to home early-mid evening after a busy day’s work. This new route brings a smile to my face.
The home is much quieter, which is necessary at this time with my absolutely crammed teaching life. EXHAUSTED by constant, on-your-toes human interaction, over-worked, defeated by my year 7 Science class, I arrive home in need of a clean calm space to make and CONSUME food, and minute tolerance for further social activity.  My new home is inviting and brings my soaring anxious brain back down to earth.  I come home to two, in contrast to what was 6, beautiful people with whom I share the ins and outs of my day and vice-versa.  I am not alone, but I am not socially overwhelmed and overstimulated.
I feel calm, happy, at home.

A Bruised Face Feels Better than a Bruised Ego…
The face:
Eager, energetic Miss Lame, wanting to get involved… Not just to even out the teams, but genuinely because she has her incredible, recurring urge to just play some football.
My year 10 boys’ class… I dash confidently, energetically to jockey my 6 foot student, Delwin.  He turns his body to create a blockade between me and the ball he possesses. Meanwhile, other boys begin to swarm the situation. 5’2 Miss Lame, bouncing around, eagerly (and stupidly) jockeying, amidst five or six 5’9+, year 10 black boys.
I stop in my tracks and immediately bring my hand to my nose.
whoa, Miss are you ok?
Is it deviated? I think.
“IS IT DEVIATED AT ALL?” I ask with urgency.
“DOES IT LOOK WEIRD?” I insist, whilst tears flow out of my eyes and down my cheeks.    

The ego:
There is a wall. One of those hypothetical ones… I feel it’s opaque, solid and hard. I hear my voice and I hate it. I hate the sound of my own voice. I am faded and warn, yet my brain and body buzzes with anxiety. Uncomfortable energy.
Stop talking and take a seat please! Class, I need your… Olivia, sit in your seat please. Kenny! Ayo STOP THAT!
Strained voice. Strained eyes reading “helpless”… “completely and utterly shattered”. Dissappointment.
I would have never thought I would fear teaching students. That I would feel so weakened and ineffectual. As I stand before my class of year 7s. Science class. My lesson plan ready, SO thought out… Handouts, power point, experiment, prompts… Scripted…
My efforts are made useless within moments.
If I just plan and prepare this lesson to perfection I will be fine.” I thought with confidence as I sacrificed my night’s sleep, staying up organising myself until past midnight.
Three crucial things I have learned or am still working on actively…
1.       Proper sleep- priority.
Sleep translates to better coping and patience… Less stress and anxiety- CRUCIAL to a successful class.
I have not properly appreciated the value of sleep until beginning my career in education.
2.       It’s not personal- mastering this is taking some time for Miss Lame.
The “crusty senior sass”, the loopy, undirected energy of my year 7s, such as non-stop meter stick jousting during an experiment, the intensity of these behaviours are variable from one day to the next and highly dependent of external factors such as the weather, time of day, what is going on in the students’ lives… hormones etc, in addition to my planning and approach to behaviour management.
Students are not malicious, they are kids. They don’t misbehave to make your life difficult on purpose.
3.       Year 7, 8 and 9s need parenting- structure and “no means no”.
I am working in a school in a region of London with quite the reputation for being rough and as having one of the lowest socioeconomic statuses in the city. Stressed and with minimal time and resources, I can see how the parents of my students struggle to find the energy to establish rules and routines with their children. Why fight their child’s request/demand, when it may escalate into an argument or a situation warranting much behaviour management and emotional strain?
My students come into the classroom, needing an adult figure to teach them boundaries and social expectations of behaviour- NO MEANS NO! 
I am constantly catching myself wanting to level with the kids. As I apply the prescribed reprimand regime- first warning, second warning, teacher detention, safe room- and my student pleads with me to give them another chance, my over-empathetic side says- “show them you understand they don’t mean it… Show them you understand people make mistakes…Give them that chance to do better…
The kids sense this "giving in". They push harder as they see me flinch.
A negative cycle ensues.
…A Bruised Face Feels Better than a Bruised Ego…
But the bruised ego means important learnings…

A Lame moment for Miss’s Lame
Moving day (Sunday January 22, 2012).
Bent over (great way to start a sentence, I know…), head buried under (there I go again) the console of my new flatmate Simon’s car, strategically, affectionately positioning my mini potted coniferous tree and orchid in the foot space so as to avoid a topple-over catastrophe during the drive to my new home.  I sense Simon’s presence behind me, watching me maneuver the pots.  As I turn around and peer up at Simon, puzzled by his presence, I notice a smirk on his face.
HHIt’s going to be a rather interesting drive home with plants at my feet.
A moment of confusion, and then the “AHA moment”, or rather the AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA moment as I realise what I’ve done.
I managed to miss the steering wheel prevailing overhead and neglected the gas pedal protruding into the foot space cave in which half my body was residing.
So many overt clues. Oblivious. Well done Miss Lame. Well done.
 I am Canadian. The driver is on the left hand side of the car for gosh darn sakes!!!

Friday January 27th- leaving work for the day.
School staff behind the registration desk: “Miss can I ask you something?
Yes! Of course!
Does anything ever get you down?

I am revitalised.
...Despite the fact I feel like melting down at times these days, and I can sometimes be found doing so in the PE office after a rough day of ineffectual behaviour management, my positive energy and efforts are acknowledged and appreciated… This comment ended my day and week on a positive note. Revitalised!
P.S. Favorite things I’ve noticed/heard these days
1.       The overground has been suspended due to adverse weather conditions”… at 3 cm of snow.
2.       I like how oranges are sold with their stems and pretty emerald green leaves still intact here. Just lovely.

NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.