We have now been in London for just over a month and have well and truly settled into the London life. We have both managed to get just enough work without really trying, averaging at about 3 days a week and both finding separate favourite schools which we are more than willing to continue working at. As with all casual/supply work we can get some incredibly easy and fantastic days but of course we also get those challenging days where we really earn our money. For those Aussie teachers that might be interested in the actual teaching part of life we have a few interesting differences to schools back home:
1. It never even occurred to us just how multicultural the schools and London in general is. Pretty naïve really, but its seriously crazy how many actual kids from a British background are in your class each day. We find there are normally maybe 2 white English kids at most in a class of 30….and there is no chance of reading the role out 100 percent correct. I even had one Yr 1 kid count how many mistakes I made in reading out the names (Sal), not in a rude way just funny. Most classes will have a spread of kids from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
2. Despite all the negativity we had heard about London schools, most of the schools we have taught at are on par or better than the schools in Australia in terms of behavioural issues. The gap between low, middle and higher ability kids though is huge! Some children can be put into a Yr 4 class without having ever attended a school, and don’t speak English, which can be pretty challenging to teach.
We have definitely been a little slow on the touristy things around London but after the crazy first 3 weeks of our holiday we are more than happy to chill out in this area of travel for the moment. Boxes we have ticked though include Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the performers at Embankment, Camden Markets (so so sick with so many nooks and crannies, so easy to get lost in this place and if we had money, also completely broke), Tower Bridge, London Tower, London Bridge and Borough Markets, where the Jamie Oliver gets some of his produce from.
After so many destinations to choose from and some excruciating internet searches combined with finance calculations, Nath found an incredible deal for a 7 night holiday to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria which was not only all inclusive (meaning all food, all beer, wine, spirits and cocktails….amazing!) at a hot and sandy location but also coincided with the school holidays and Sal’s birthday. Perfect place for SalFest 2010! So after not many weeks of actual teaching, we found ourselves on our first European holiday in a random country we had never really thought of visiting (sorry Bulgarians!).
After a short delay (no complaints though after our fluke through Iceland) we arrived in Bulgaria at about 3am, meaning we didn’t really get to see much on the way in but arrived to a bed and what looked like (in the dark) a pretty sweet resort. Our first day saw us explore the resort (and of course the cocktail list) and discover the boulevard filled with not quite authentic brand name stores. It is also filled with not so authentic artists who hilariously pretend to paint or draw over already finished artworks and sell them as your own. We also signed up for a pub crawl our first night which proved to be an awesome night where we sampled every drink Bulgaria had to offer and managed to stay standing and dance until the wee hours of the morning at the opening of a nightclub, Disco Orange. Nath also entered (not quite so much entered, more picked up and thrown over one of the organizers shoulders and tossed into) a Michael Jackson dancing competition. Despite incorporating the ‘canoe’ and the ‘puppet dance’ into the impersonation and being the crowd favourite, he came a close 2nd, to a poor 1st performance.
After spending a day recovering by the pool, we decided to see at least a little bit of what Bulgaria had to offer outside the purpose built resort. The Thursday of our Bulgarian holiday saw us board a tour bus out to the villages, to see the ‘real’ Bulgaria. The tour started out with a 2 hour bus ride to get to the first village in which the tour guide dead set spoke for the entire 2 hours without a break. She didn’t stop there either, every time we got back on the bus we would be guaranteed a short snooze as her Bulgarian history and politics stories sent us into a coma. The first hour was fairly interesting however there is only so much history one can take in a day and we far exceeded our daily consumption.
Along the tour we walked through a village, lit a candle in the local church and walked through an old house which has now been turned into a museum. Throughout all of these places the notion that Bulgaria is a country made for little people was reinforced with Nath smashing his head on doorways, staircases and rooves at every opportunity. We then took a chair lift ride down a mountain to get an awesome view over the town of Sliven. We were then taken to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant to have a 3 course meal and then into another village where we sampled Bulgarian tea (I would compare this taste to dirt) and a Bulgarian dessert (basically crème egg insides on a spoon submerged in water…quite delicious!). The trip home was spent listening to some crazy Bulgarian supposedly satirical story, comprising of domestic violence and rape passed on by our tour guide.
The next day proved to be an epic day in celebration of SalFest 2010. We woke to a knock at the door with a delivery of free birthday champagne! We donned our homemade SalFest singlets, and with cocktail in hand went off to find ourselves some mopeds to hoon around on. After surviving the pedestrian filled boulevard without breaking anyone or ourselves we returned to the resort where we each got poolside massages, Nath getting his from a girl straight out of an FHM magazine (who even in real life looked air brushed!). Although on the better looking end of the continuum, she wasn’t much of a masseuse, but she at least gave Nath a story of a massage from a smoking hot blonde.
Smashing down our free champagne with dinner at the resort’s Asian restaurant, we then decided to hit up the bar and meet up with a few Scottish people we had met from the pub crawl. We took advantage of the free drinks and when the time came to venture into town, we managed to recruit a few more people including ‘Mum’ a 50ish year old women, completely hammered who was so keen to come out for SalFest that she jumped over the fence into the hedge and made it 20 metres into the walk before deciding it might not be such a good idea to partake in SalFest after all. It was not long after this that Nath decided to get himself into an altercation with a Bulgarian ‘security guard’ for public urination. 20 lev later we were back on our way to finding a club suitable for such an evening. The unlucky club was forced to stay open to the wee hours of the morning despite our group of 4 being the only patrons and was also forced to witness the dance moves of a not so graceful now 26 year old. A quick game of thong golf on the way home as we watched the sun rise over the beach, and a small hedging sesh and we were off to bed 15 minutes shy of breakfast.
Needless to say the next day was a complete write off. The next few days we spent soaking up little amounts of sun (whenever it peeked its head through the clouds), taking advantage of the awesome exchange rate and fake merchandise, drinking cocktails on the beach, eating a ridiculous amount of food (we had to…it was free) swimming and laying by the pool and one intense ping pong tournament with our Scottish friends.
After a week of eating and drinking copious amounts, we returned home in the early hours completely exhausted and a couple of kilos heavier. Bulgaria proved to be, like all our trips so far, an awesome place to holiday and the perfect place for SalFest 2010.
Til next time…
Nath & Sal