Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Une année au Québec

As my aunt once said, 'The fold of the atlas is always right on the part that you want to look at'.


I'm going to officially let the cat out of the bag: I will be spending this year in the province of Quebec, working as an English Language Assistant (ELA) in a secondary school! I'm leaving in just a few weeks.

I had always planned on moving to Germany after graduation, and that is still definitely a long-term goal of mine. But I can't deny that after I visited Montreal and Quebec City last summer (which you can read about here and here), I was itching to go back. The trip had rejuvenated my interest in French in huge amounts. I also really, really enjoyed my time as an ELA last year, so combining these two elements felt like a natural progression. The prospect of it all was what helped me through these past few months.

The journey to this point, however, has been far from straightforward. It all began with the £3 deducted from my university computer account to print off my initial application, after which I was invited to an interview with the British Council in London. I was successful, and so the next step was to apply for a Canadian work permit. This involved a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork, as well as paying top dollar for a medical exam. So I guess you could call it a test of your passion to work in Canada. In the meantime, the school I'd be working in got into contact with me, so I was able to ask them questions and research the local area.
As I waited for the medical results to be approved by the Canadian government, I got quite stressed out, as this was the last step and also the only thing stopping me from booking my flight while prices were low: we had been advised to hold off from doing so until the work permit was confirmed. At last, five weeks after my results were sent off, I received the all-important email clearing me as a temporary worker in Canada! As you can gather, there was so much to go through, and that's why I avoided announcing it until absolutely everything was sorted out.

I know how fortunate I am to have something lined up immediately after graduating, and I intend to put my all into it (wow, I sound like a candidate on The Apprentice). The first time I was an ELA, I realised that I would definitely like to get into teaching English as a second language for a while after university. In Austria, I came to recognise some of my strengths in that regard, but also some weaknesses, which I would like an opportunity to build upon. And I'm absolutely delighted to be getting that opportunity not only for one year as opposed to one semester, but also in a unique and fascinating part of the world that relatively few Brits go to.

I've thought about it, and I have decided not to keep a separate blog to document my time in Quebec. For one thing, I know that people specifically interested in that may not really care about my general life blogging. But maintaining two separate blogs that will overlap anyway seems like a job for people with too much time on their hands. I want this year to be all about throwing myself out there and experiencing everything.
Instead, I want to expand on this blog, so I'll be giving it a bit of an overhaul. To quote Ron Swanson, 'Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing'. Words to live by.

Monday, 22 July 2013

My Leicester

I miss Leicester. I truly believe it's one of the greatest cities in England, if not the whole UK. It's a bit grotty in parts, but where isn't? And it's not the biggest city, but it holds its own. So I decided to compile a mini guide to some of my favourite places to eat and drink in Leicester.

Food
  • Roosters Piri Piri, 22-24 Horsefair Street
    This is a terrific place to stop when you want food on a night out yet don't want to wake up hating yourself the next morning. You can get stuff that actually tastes healthy and that you wouldn't feel too ashamed to order for your actual dinner, like falafel burgers and lentil soup, but they still pack that carby, satisfying punch. So it's a great pick for vegetarians. They do the usual spicy chicken wings and everything too, for those that do like their meat.
  • Mirch Masala, 37 Market Street
    This is my go-to restaurant for veggie food. There is a branch on Belgrave Road, too, but I've never been so can't comment on it. This one was practically on my doorstep. You can choose from Indian, Indo-Chinese, Italian and Mexican cuisine, and for most things there is a vegan option available, signified by a green V - remember to ask for a vegan version of the dish in question, otherwise it might be served with butter.
  • Shivalli, 21 Welford Road
    This is an excellent South Indian restaurant, with an all-you-can-eat buffet for about £7. It's vegan-friendly, definitely; once the staff brought vegan ice cream to our table as a surprise, which was so lovely of them!
  • Dos Hermanos / Barceloneta, 54 Queens Road
    Clarendon Park - characterised by Queens Road - is the Williamsburg of Leicester, kind of. Well, it's where all the students live. There are a number of cute little shops and cafés along this road, but the most popular one is by far the double team of Dos Hermanos and Barceloneta. You can go there for breakfast, brunch and tapas by day, and cocktails by night. The bar areas are quite small, though, so it can get really crowded.

Drink
  • Firebug, 1 Millstone Lane
    It feels a little bit unfair to lump this merely under "drinks", because Firebug is so much more than that and it's one of the best things Leicester has going for it. Recently it was one of the venues for the wonderful, wonderful Handmade Festival (which I stewarded at!), playing host to bands like The Twilight Sad, Tall Ships, Johnny Foreigner and Maybeshewill. A lot of cool bands play at Firebug in general, and the team behind the promotions are just excellent people. There are unique and exciting events going on all the time there!
  • Sophbeck, 8-10 King Street
    Again, not strictly just a bar, but more like a place that plays cool jams til dawn. It's quite cool and "underground" on the inside and it mostly plays things like IDM and hip-hop, although I did once hear a flawless segue into a Madonna track.
  • Hakamou, 8 Bowling Green Street
    Admittedly, this place has its good and bad points. The crowd at weekends can be iffy, and anyone will admit that the drinks are not especially wallet-friendly. But when it gets things right, it gets things right. Hakamou is Pacific Island-themed, with wooden huts inside the building and drinks made inside coconuts, as well as the cream of 1990s pop playing overhead, it makes for a really fun night.
  • The Dry Dock, Putney Road
    It's sort of out of the way from a lot of places but it's a pub inside a ship - AN ACTUAL SHIP - and if this doesn't settle it for you, I can't help you.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Garden

Uni is over, I'm looking for a summer job, I'm living with my parents, and the weather is surprisingly warm and sunny. In England, this is an annual occurrence. When the temperature exceeds, oh, 20°C, people will unabashedly get out their shorts and head for the park or beach. A week later, in the pouring rain, you'll see a lot of sunburnt, annoyed faces around.

I could complain a lot about living in my rural hometown - something I have refrained from doing on this blog as it would bore everyone and anyway, I try to avoid throwing myself pity parties nowadays - but something I do really appreciate is our lovely garden.


Rosa mundi, my namesake

 




At some point in the next couple of weeks, I'll have a very exciting announcement to make! For now, it's time to get some much-needed Vitamin D on my little legs.