September Adventures in London

On August 29th I flew over the Arctic from Vancouver to London. These clouds were kind of strange and neat:

I landed on the 30th, stayed a night with Gareth, a fellow logistics intern, then found my own place in northeast London on the 31st. A very rare empty car in the tube (London Underground):

Gareth and I went to the Notting Hill Festival, which is a big Caribbean festival in London. It was better-organised than Caribana in Toronto, and we had a good time navigating through the crowds and chatting with random people.

A capoeira group displaying their skills:

There were also LOTS of police around:

Check out the woman on the right side of the photo:

Neat street art:

My friend Aidan lives in London now, as a med student at Imperial College. We met up on September 5th and headed to a local pub, but when we arrived there was a crew of firemen arriving!

The firemen eventually left, and my friends Stash and Ian showed up to join us not long after. Stash and Ian were in London at the end of a two month European backpacking trip, and it was great to hang out with them while they were in town for a few days.

Stash and I went to the Lion King musical, which was amazing! No photos allowed, so I just took one before the curtains opened. But man, the visuals were amazing. If you ever have the chance, go see it.

On the first day of my second week as an intern, Stash and Ian joined me after work at a local pub called the Bavarian Beer Hall, where they sell very large beers. We did not order this:

The three of us, plus my friend and fellow intern Joanna, then headed to Tottenham Court Rd to eat Pho. Ian and Stash are tall:

We phound it!

Jo’s not in any of our photos cuz she was always taking them for us… man was it tasty!

After we had our fill of Pho, we had a walk around the area and soon found Poland Street, which made Stash (who’s Polish) very happy. Especially when I renamed it Pholish Street. We like Pho a lot, what can I say.

And as we passed an electronics store, the TV inside was playing some crazy weird movie with dinosaurs and aliens and stuff:

Stash and Ian then headed back to Vancouver, and I finally started getting some sleep in the evenings!

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Uppsala – London – Vancouver

I left Uppsala in the very early hours of April 1st, after packing up all my stuff from my apartment, including my bedding, and flew to London Heathrow.

I found out a few days earlier that my good friend Vania was actually flying to Mexico the same day, so we managed to spend a couple hours together in the airport, which was awesome!

I then flew from London to Toronto, where I cleared customs and carried my heavy bags (after all, I carried ALL of my belongings from my long stay in Sweden, plus the stuff I bought in Asia) by hand to the transit lounge, as Toronto Pearson Airport kindly chose to charge an absurd $2 for a luggage trolley. Way to welcome people to the country.

Flying in to Toronto:

After a little while, I was back up in the sky heading west to Vancouver. The snow-covered prairies were interesting to watch as they passed below us:

I spent 10 days in Vancouver, taking care of various odds and ends and visiting family and friends, including participating on April 4th in my sister’s boyfriend’s final project for his documentary film program – The Beer Mile (click here to watch).

Matt Duquette (the guy making the film) decided to get a few people together to participate in the Beer Mile with him. It was simultaneously a terrible but terrific decision to agree to participate. I do not recommend anyone else doing it, although at the same time I highly recommend it.

The Beer Mile is a race wherein you drink a can of beer as fast as you can, run a lap of the track (400m = 1/4 mile), drink another beer as fast as you can, run another lap, until you’ve had four cans of beer and run four laps of the track. The beer foams up in your stomach, which is not at all pleasant, but the challenge of keeping it down and trying to defeat your opponents is fun and hilarious. JF, Matt, Spencer, and David can be seen here:

The same four are seen here, along with one of Matt’s classmates who was assisting with the filming:

And there’s me, not the fastest by any means, trying to finish and hoping to place second-last (my normal place in any track events back when I was on the track team in primary school)…

The track was not cleared before the event, so we had to share with children on bikes, who couldn’t keep up with me:

Spencer and I weren’t trying to place first – we were the men in jeans, taking our time, while the others were going for gold:

However, one thing that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film, is that I did manage to place second-last with a crowd-pleasing final dash to the finish during which I nearly knocked another kid off the track (kid should have been checking her rear-view mirror and pulling off to the side, clearly hasn’t taken a drivers’ ed course yet).

The day after the Beer Mile, I had lunch with my friends Howard and Margarita.

That evening I hung out with my friend Denise downtown. We had bubble tea and chilled at the beach at English Bay while the sun set, which was really nice.

On the morning of the 6th, I went to the dentist to get some old fillings replaced. This is the view from my chair, until they lowered me down and gave me the ceiling to stare at…

On April 10th I flew from Vancouver to Beijing to Kunming. Photos of my first trip to China will be posted in a couple of days.

Burma to Bangkok to Kuwait to London to Uppsala, Sweden

On February 24th, after almost four weeks in Burma, it was time for me to leave. Having flown from Bagan to Yangon on the evening of the 23rd, I took a friend’s advice to stay at the Gardens Guesthouse in order to take some night photos of the Sule Paya roundabout:

In the morning, I flew to Bangkok and returned to my hostel of choice there, Soi 1 Guesthouse. I picked up my laptop and a bunch of clothes I had left with the owner, grabbed a nice shoewr, and in the afternoon I took off en route to London via Kuwait.

A snapshot of the dorm room in Soi 1 Guesthouse in Bangkok:

Because of the time difference, I landed in Kuwait on the afternoon of February 25th. Here’s a shot taken as we were coming in for landing:

I sat beside a really friendly Scottish girl who, incidentally, knows a couple I met in Mae Sot, Thailand months before. After a number of hours in the Kuwait airport chatting with the Scottish girl and watching the Japanese animated movie, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” on my laptop, I caught my onward flight to London.

After I arrived in London, I went for a coffee and some alone time, read a few of Checkhov’s short stories, then headed to my friend Aidan’s house. Aidan wasn’t home, but his flatmates immediately got me involved in a fun activity: filling his room with crumpled newspapers and phone book pages. We spent a fair bit of time doing it, and would have continued if we hadn’t run out of paper and run out of neighbours to ask for more paper. Aidan was slightly overwhelmed when he arrived home. Here he is, enjoying the new decor:

The next day I took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park:

I sat down on this bench to take a break and eat a sandwich, and after a while noticed the inscription in the wood:

After my long stroll, I walked over to the Museum of Natural History and spent an hour and a half checking out their interesting exhibits. I’ve never before been to a museum with a full dinosaur exhibit, so this place was kind of exciting for me! A few random photos from the museum:

This is the caption for the photo that follows:

That afternoon I headed back to Heathrow once again, boarded an SAS flight to Stockholm Arlanda airport, caught a train to Uppsala, missed my bus even though I was ready to board, standing looking at the driver through the door, walked half an hour on ice to my old apartment, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep.

London and Oxford

Right, it’s been a long time since my last post, and again I’m trying to get caught up with updates on my whereabouts and adventures. I flew out of Vancouver August 13th, direct to London Heathrow. Arriving on the 14th, I left my luggage at an Underground station in central London and went to meet up with my friend Natalie, who was a fellow volunteer last summer in Cameroon. I stayed at her place for a couple nights and did a little more London exploring, even though I’ve explored that city quite a lot over the years. On the 15th I spent a few hours walking along the River Thames, as I like to do. Here are four pics I took during my stroll:

Palace of Westminster with Big Ben clock:

The London Eye:

St. Pancras International train/tube station:

Victoria Tower at Palace of Westminster seen from a very different part of town:

On the 16th, Nat’s sister drove me to the bus station and I caught a bus to Oxford. My landlady/friend Katie picked me up from the bus stop and drove me to my new flat in the Littlemore area of southern Oxford. Here’s a map showing the flat (bottom left) and the route I took every day by bike to Oxfam Great Britain headquarters (top right).

The city centre of Oxford is full of tourists at this time of year, to the point of ridiculousness. I like tourists, but not thousands upon thousands of them, not looking before they cross the street, stopping dead in their tracks when I’m walking right behind them, and generally doing things to irritate me and others. I realise that I, too, am a tourist in a way, but I’m a bit of a perpetual tourist so I don’t count ;-)

Anywho, as a result of the tourists, I didn’t spend much time in the centre of Oxford, where all the pretty buildings are. Still, I didn’t find any part of Oxford to be particularly beautiful or amazing. Interesting, somewhat, but nothing particularly special. Maybe architecture fans would find something special in some of the older buildings, but I didn’t. So, the combination of these factors means that I took very few photos in Oxford, as there wasn’t much that interested me. Here are three pics I took for the sake of having some pics of Oxford. There are more interesting things to shoot, but I wasn’t in the mood.

Buildings in St Giles area:

Random strange church-like steeple with white doves, in random residential neighbourhood somewhere near the canal when I was deliberately getting lost and then getting unlost (one of the ways I learn my way around new cities that aren’t dangerous):

I had a good month-long internship with the Fritz Institute, hosted at Oxfam GB headquarters. I did some stuff, and met some very cool people. I definitely have a very positive opinion of the people at Oxfam GB, as well as my boss from the Fritz Institute, Fraser Stephens. He was a super chill boss, very easy to get along with, but he works a bit too hard. In fact, on September 12th when we had a little going-away gathering for me and my landlady/friend Katie (more for her than me) at a pub, Fraser had his laptop out while the rest of us were holding pint glasses!

The next day, my last full day in Oxford, I wanted to get a haircut but the place I went to, which said it closed at 5, was closed by 430! So Katie kindly drove me around town looking for a place that was still open, and we finally found one. The barber, unfortunately, spoke almost no English. While language barriers have never caused me any serious problems, and growing up in Vancouver I’m very accustomed to understanding very strong accents, this guy was impossible to understand for me. Anyways, apparently he had other ideas than what I asked for, which was a quick No. 2 shave of my head.

After doing that bit, he then proceeded to shave off almost my entire beard, all my sideburns, and then pull out a straight razor and give me a close shave and a gangster-style chinstrap. When I left the shop, not only did I look 16 again, but I was bleeding out of dozens of little cuts on my throat and neck, which are still healing. Oh well, it’s not the end of the world, but next time I get a haircut from a barber who doesn’t speak very clear English I’ll take my UK railcard which shows my desired haircut… which will now take me several months to grow back, since I grow facial hair at the rate of a 16 year old.

Day before the haircut:

Evening after the haircut (the little cuts went away, then became red again the next day…)

And, lastly, the one piece of stencil graffiti I saw and appreciated on a random building in Oxford. I dislike the fact that someone went and “edited” the piece, but I guess that shows the true feelings of many Brits toward a large segment of immigrants. In case you don’t recognise him, the bear is named Paddington.