My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

24 Articles Tagged with “travel”

  1. Travelling is not my favourite thing

    What a week, or to be more precise, three days!

    Last month my former boss asked my current boss if I could travel to Guelph to present some Office365 training to teachers at a workshop. I don’t like travelling, nor do I think I bring much unique to the table in terms of doing training. But I was flattered that he had requested me, and I want to stay in his good books, so I said yes. The workshop itself was two days, but I committed to coming for the second day only; this week was the last week of the session, and I didn’t want to miss two of the last three days of classes while my students were completing culminating tasks.

    Travelling from Thunder Bay is always an interesting experience. We have an “international” airport because we have direct flights to the States and places like Cuba. But pretty much any other destination involves going through a connection in Winnipeg (west) or Toronto (east). So to get to Guelph, I had to fly to Toronto, then take a shuttle to Guelph. The realities of scheduling—finding a flight in the evening with enough time between the end of the…

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  2. Home via Halifax

    I’m home. I’m sitting in my bedroom, in my slightly-too-short-for-this-desk rolling chair, a cup of tea in my big blue Eeyore mug to my right, and my fabulous bookshelves to my left.

    Oh, and my room is a mess. My suitcases lie on the floor in front of the bookshelves and TV, bulging and gravid with my life in England. I haven’t even attempted to unpack yet. I need to tidy the room first, for it has become mired in the accumulated kipple of two years’ near-continuous absence. Snuggled between the cases and the shelf are books I didn’t succeed in getting rid of before leaving. More books that I haven’t read yet are strewn around my room: on my desk, atop my dresser, in envelopes and boxes and bubble-wrapped packages. I have a lot of work to do, and a lot of organization.

    So I’m blogging instead.

    My flight across the Atlantic was uneventful. It was my first transatlantic flight with Air Canada, and they were surprisingly punctual. I was a bit bored; fortunately, because I was flying to Halifax, the flight was only six and a half hours instead of the eight and a half it takes to…

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  3. Amsterdam travel diary: Wednesday

    The Palace on the Dam, with a tram in front of it

    When I went to Edinburgh, we took a Sandeman’s walking tour of the city. These tours are given by freelance guides who hire Sandeman’s to promote them; they are “pay what you want” tours, where one pays the guide at the end within their means and according to their satisfaction with the tour. In return, one spends about three hours tromping through the city, stopping at various locations for the guide to relate interesting stories and historical anecdotes.

    Our Amsterdam guide was a woman named Berber, clad against the elements in a felt hat festooned in scarves. She was eager to point out that, of the three English-language tour guides that morning, she was the only native Amsterdammer, so we would be getting quite the inside story. We began the tour in Dam Square, and from there we went through the Red Light District. Berber described the links between Amsterdam’s prostitution trade and its role as a major shipping port. As we stood outside a church in the middle of the Red Light District, she explained the tenuous relationship between city, Church, and sailors and prostitutes. She mentioned the sale of indulgences, and how this led to the Netherlands…

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  4. Amsterdam travel diary: Tuesday

    A view from a bridge over one of Amsterdam’s canals

    I don’t like travelling. I’m not like Frodo Baggins; I’m perfectly happy to stay in the Shire. It’s nice there. I don’t relish the interruptions to routine that travelling brings, the fiddly bits required in packing, the problem of hygiene on the road. So I travel sparingly. Instead I live vicariously through others: through the stories of friends and the writing of well-travelled people. But I must admit that, once in a while, it does one good to travel.

    This trip to Amsterdam was only for two days, which is probably the perfect length for me. It allowed us to do plenty of things, but I was also home soon enough that I didn’t feel too worn out. Still, two days meant that we had to use our time wisely. There are a lot of activities and venues competing for tourists’ eyeballs (and money) in Amsterdam; we needed to come up with a plan.

    I should mention at this point that, if there is one thing that dominates my memory of Amsterdam, it is … bikes. Amsterdam is full of bicycles. There are bicycle lanes on practically every street, not that they are always easy to distinguish from the sidewalk.…

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  5. Amsterdam travel diary: Monday

    Amsterdam has canals!

    We have two weeks off for Easter. Earlier this week, I went to Amsterdam for a few days with three other teacher friends. I’ve written some blog posts about our time there. We left Monday evening, and originally I wasn’t going to blog about that part of the trip, because it’s mostly travel. But Monday was a special day all by itself, and I need to record it.

    Last year, around this time, I had shingles. In my eye. It wasn’t fun.

    On the day before the last day of term, I went home instead of doing parents’ evening—I wasn’t feeling very well at all. I ended up staying home on Friday, barely able to get out of bed for the first part of the day. As Saturday rolled around, I seemed to be on the road to recovery … but my right eye started showing some signs of irritation. This worsened on Sunday, and on Monday morning, I phoned my surgery for an appointment with a doctor. I was worried the worst had happened: my shingles had come back. I wanted to get this treated as soon as possible, and I needed to know how it would affect my…

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  6. My winter travel adventure

    Oddly enough, transatlantic travel has started to become somewhat ordinary for me. The first time it was new and exotic and somewhat terrifying. The second time it was a relief (to be going home, particularly because I hate travelling). The third time, with a different airline, was another adventure. But now, having done it a few more times and developed a routine for getting to and from the various airports, it is starting to feel old hat.

    Well, my travel back to the UK from Canada at the end of the Christmas break broke up that monotony for me. The original plan was to fly from Thunder Bay to Toronto with Westjet on Friday, January 3, landing two hours before my flight to England. Cutting it somewhat close, yes, but my alternative was a 6 am flight that would leave me in the airport all day.

    Alas, the weather deteriorated Thursday evening and into Friday, and the snow was coming down thick and heavy. Flights were delayed all across Western Canada, including the plane meant to arrive in Thunder Bay and proceed to Toronto (with me on it). We didn’t leave until 6:30 pm. Suddenly the probability of catching my…

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  7. Home for the summer

    Well, I’m not home yet. As I write this, I sit in the basement of my grandparents’ home in Waterloo, Ontario. They are a nice stepping stone between England and Thunder Bay, and I elected to spend a few days with them before flying the second (and considerably shorter) leg back home.

    But I am in the process of going home, which they say you can never do, but I’m a rebel that way. It has been a long schoolyear in many ways. In other ways, it feels like the year has gone by exceedingly fast. I am somewhat in awe that I have finished my first schoolyear as a teacher.

    Travelling home begins with a two-part bus journey from Bury St Edmunds to Gatwick Airport. This takes about four and a half hours. I was excited about returning home for the summer, but as the bus pulled out of Bury, I had a slight feeling of melancholy. I’m attributing this to anxiety around travelling itself. This attests to how comfortable I’ve become in England, that leaving it for home evokes both anxiety and relief rather than simply the latter.

    I’m not a fan of the entire process involved in…

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  8. Scotland Trip: Sunday

    I was up bright and early on Sunday morning. I “enjoyed” the breakfast in the hostel bar while waiting for the other members of our intrepid expedition to filter through, “enjoy” their breakfasts, and begin to draft our plan of attack. We eventually settled on starting our day by touring Edinburgh Castle.

    Me, in front of Edinburgh Castle

    To say that Edinburgh Castle dominates the Edinburgh skyline is a gross understatement. The castle looms over the old town, a comforting landmark and constant reminder of the sense of history that pervades the city. It is everything one wants from a stereotypical fortification. Perched precariously atop the Castle Rock, it looks almost as if it grew from the cliff. It’s possible to walk around the outside of the castle and view the sheer cliff face along one side—our guide during the previous day’s walking tour had told us it was easy to climb if one knew the right path, but I had no desire to test that theory! Fortunately, the approach from the Royal Mile is less daunting and more paved.

    Upon entering the castle (and paying the requisite admission fee), the first thing that struck me was the view. Seeing the castle from another part…

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  9. Scotland Trip: Saturday

    Edinburgh Castle, up on the hill

    This past week was half-term, a welcome break for students and teachers alike. I elected to join a large group of fellow teachers (all of us Canadian except for an odd Aussie out) in a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland for the first four days. We all sort of filtered into Edinburgh Friday night/Saturday morning. I took the same train as another teacher; we went to Peterborough directly from Thetford, and then boarded our train to Edinburgh. The train was so crowded that I had to stand for the first hour! As we got further north, however, seats opened up as people left at the stops along the way. By the time we reached Edinburgh—four hours later—we virtually had the coach to ourselves. I discovered I could charge my phone at my seat … fifteen minutes before we reached Edinburgh station.

    We stayed in a different hostel from the one we would stay during the rest of our trip, owing to the way we had scheduled things. I can’t complain about the service at this hostel—there was someone sleeping in the bed I was assigned, and I was reluctant to let him be and take a different bed lest I take…

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  10. Living in Bury St Edmunds: Arrival

    Hello from England!

    My flight to Gatwick was uneventful—I kind of knew what to expect this time. Several teachers I had met from my iday experience were on an Air Transat flight the same night, but I flew Sunwing. I met up with another Canadian teacher, Josie, teaching at the same school as me. Unfortunately, this flight was not any better than the last when it came to getting sleep. I’m not supremely tired (it’s 10:20 pm local time as I write this), but I know I will sleep well.

    Jodie (not to be confused with Josie), the teacher who put me in touch with my new roommate, is staying here for a few weeks while looking for a new place for her and her husband Ian. Ian is arriving on Tuesday with their dog. I don’t mind having extra people in the house, especially because I’ve already met them, and I think it will make it easier for me to get settled in here. Jodie, having lived for several months already, is certainly a valuable resource. She showed me the way to a nearby superstore (called Asda) so I could stock up on groceries and…

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  11. Iday Vlog

    I don’t always make videos, but when I do, they are long and have quirky music.

  12. Iday Diary for Saturday, June 23

    This is my last iday diary entry. It is short, on purpose. Only so much of interest can happen in seven-hour plane ride over the Atlantic, and this is going to be short on introspection because I’m still processing a lot about my time over there.

    We awoke early for a 7 am drive to London Gatwick, a trip that took about 2 hours. This was a time of goodbyes: Jodie was staying in Bury, of course, where she lives and still works; Ian would be staying with her. Arushi was going home, but our flight was full so she was booked for the next day’s; a separate taxi drove her to a hotel in London. We bid these three farewell and hopped in the van. I took the opportunity to catch more sleep during the drive, while everyone else reminisced about the night they had.

    I got to see more of Gatwick airport this time around. We queued through the check-in for Air Transat; the attendant took issue (probably rightly so) with my torn suitcase. Unfortunately, my ineptitude with any manual task meant it took me far too long to wrap tape around the bottom of it. Sorry, physical…

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  13. Iday Diary for Friday, June 22

    Last full day in England! This time we left very early to drive to the school I was visiting. It was one of the more distant schools, plus my driver was dropping someone else off at another school. So at 7 am we left the hotel and began the long drive down to Werrington, near Peterborough, so I could see Ken Stimpson Community School. It’s interesting that this school and Thetford were my first and last interviews of the day, respectively. I had ranked them rather high on my own personal list, but I guess I came across well early in the day and at the very end.

    With such a positive experience at Thetford, it seemed like I would do nothing but judge Ken Stimpson by comparison, but they really are quite different schools. Thetford is two campuses in a state of flux; it has a frenetic kind of energy from administration to the English department. Ken Stimpson, by contrast, is very orderly. I’ve already remarked upon the campus-like nature of UK schools, but this one felt even more like a university campus. Lots of key fob authentication and basically an entire wing dedicated to staff activities.

    The “community”…

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  14. Iday Diary for Thursday, June 21

    Another early day for me—this is starting to become a pattern. Breakfast at 7:30, followed by a seminar-kind of training session with a head teacher. He covered some of the terminology in the UK curriculum that we might not be familiar with, and then offered guidance for those of us who had to plan lessons in the next two hours before going out to visit schools. The school I was visiting today did not ask me to teach a lesson. In one respect I was lucky—I had plenty of time to prepare for the lesson I would teach at tomorrow’s school—but in another respect, teaching an audition lesson provides information about how students at that school might react to you as their teacher.

    So I worked a bit on my lesson for Friday’s school while the morning turned to afternoon. At noon, we left the hotel and began driving up to Thetford, in Norfolk, where Taylor, Monica, and I would get a bit of a tour of Thetford Academy. Our driver hadn’t been to Thetford before, so he got somewhat lost. We didn’t complain, because this meant more charming English countryside. To complicate matters, Thetford Academy has two campuses as…

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  15. Iday Diary for Wednesday, June 20

    Me, dressed in tie and sports coat, ready for interviews

    Interview day. I woke up early—I think around 5:30—to make sure I had enough time to prepare before breakfast at 6:30. In particular, I was worried about my tie, which up until now I had only practised. Now it was time for the real thing. Doing up the top button on my shirt was tricky too, and as I went down to breakfast I felt quite self-conscious. All this fancy dress is foreign to me, but it’s something I’m going to be doing a lot in England—as in, every day when I go to work.

    Turns out I don’t suck quite so badly at tying a tie as I worried, and after enough reassurances from others at the table I decided to shut up and focus on getting into an interview mindset. To be honest, I wasn’t all that worried. Thanks to some marvellous practice with my partner student teacher, Erica, I was feeling prepared. I knew how to answer my questions; I was confident in my ability and passion as a teacher; I had this down. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

    We were picked up by minibus and driven to the Athenaeum, a subscription club in…

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  16. Iday Diary for Tuesday, June 19

    The customs line at London Gatwick grew quickly. There must not have been an international flight for few hours, because few stations were open when we arrived, and several of them were being staffed by trainees. We stood in line, dead tired and late to meet our drivers, waiting to be processed. Karianne advised us not to say that we were “looking for work” (because apparently that’s code for “I’m a shiftless migrant trying to get into the country”) but rather that we were here for “job interviews”. A likely story indeed.

    Somehow I managed to get into the country, and then we grabbed our luggage and made our way out into the arrivals section of the airport. Britain! We met our drivers and briefly popped into the Marks and Spencer to grab some food and drink for the ride to Bury St Edmunds—I was starving. There were two drivers, and they decided to split the 9 of us by taking three of us in one van with the majority of the luggage and the remaining 6 in the other van. I inveigled my way into the van with three people on the reasoning that it would be quieter and…

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  17. Iday Diary for Monday, June 18

    In order to better cover my experiences in detail, I’ve decided to write a post for each day I was away in England, publishing it on the same day this week. I also recorded video footage that I hope to have edited by the end of the week! Without further ado, here’s what happened on Monday.

    My flight from Thunder Bay to Pearson left at 6:30 Monday morning, so I was up a few hours before that to finish packing and prepare for what I knew would be the longest day of travel I had ever had. After much Youtubing about folding my sports coat properly, I zipped up my suitcase and headed out in the rain to the car, where my dad was waiting to drive me to the airport.

    The flight to Toronto went without incident, and we landed slightly before 8. My flight to England wasn’t until 10 pm. Fortunately, I had arranged for one of my friends from professional year to pick me up. After a brief tour through Terminal 3 to see where I should go that evening and a stop for an unsatisfying breakfast sandwich, I returned to the arrivals area and lurked there…

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  18. Coming Soon: In England!

    It’s been an interesting few weeks. I have a lot I want to blog about—my new tablet, Mass Effect, books, leaving the art gallery, etc. Despite my free time, I keep finding ways not to do it. So far.

    I’d love to talk about how much I’m enjoying my Asus Transformer Pad, but I don’t have time. I need to go to bed. Tomorrow morning I fly to Toronto, and from there in the evening I’ll be bound across the ocean, to England.

    Yeah.

    I’ve mentioned this a bit on Twitter, but not so much here on my blog: I’m actively looking for teaching jobs in England. By “actively” I mean going to England to do it. One of the recruitment agencies is paying for my flight over and has set up an intensive day of interviews, followed by one or two days of visits to schools. It’s an extremely cool event with the potential to land me a full-time job for the fall. I’m excited—and terrified.

    Moving to England feels a little out of character for me. As I came to terms with having to move away at all to get a job teaching, however, I decided…

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  19. CUMC 2010, Days 3 and 4

    It is Saturday, but it doesn't feel like Saturday, mostly because I'm . . . at school. This is the last day of the CUMC. I'm in the last talk of the day, having chosen to attend "Perfect Matchings and Shuffling." Afterward, there is the final keynote, which Ram Murty will deliver on the Riemann hypothesis.

    Yesterday I went to a talk on fractal image compression. The talk itself was not stellar, but there were some good questions on the applications of this type of lossy compression, and the speaker addressed those well.

    In the afternoon Aaron, Rachael, and I took a bus--yes, a bus--down to King St. This was my first time riding public transit, and it wasn't in my own city! Aaron wanted to visit a small record store, Orange Monkey Records, and then i checked out a used bookstore known as Old Goat Books. I bought more books than I should have, considering they need to fit in my sparse luggage--but I couldn't resist.

    The final keynote of the day was delivered by Greg Brill, of Infusion. Although titled "The Evolution of Technology," Brill's talk was not what I expected. He has a…

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  20. CUMC 2010, Day 2

    It is Thursday, July 8.

    After the first talk this morning--on set theory, particularly ZFC--I spent time caressing the lovely wireless network by way of uploading some photos to Flickr. When attempting to geotag them, however, I ran into the slight problem, in that typing "University of Waterloo" into the Flickr map's location finder produced no results.

    So, Yahoo!, in case you are wondering why people drool over Google and its products, here is a hint: we are lazy. When I type in the name of a major university, your map should be able to find it for me. I should not have to go find a postal code on my own, enter that, and wind up in the general vicinity of the campus. (I used Google Maps to find the postal code too, which just seems wrong). It is not that I am a Google fanboy, Yahoo!--they just do it so much better.

    At lunch, I did something completely out of character and chose to be adventurous, purchasing bubble tea for the first time. My less adventurous self was soon vindicated. We went to a fast food place called "The Grill" for food. I attempted to…

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  21. CUMC 2010, Day 1

    It is Wednesday, July 7. The CUMC talks began today.

    I went to four talks today. Rather than summarize them all--I enjoyed them all--I'll mention some highlights. The first talk of the afternoon was both my least favourite and most favourite talk. Entitled "The Ontology of Mathematics: Do Numbers Exist?," the presenter read from dense slides, which did not make for the most riveting experience. There was some lively discussion among the audience, however, and I enjoy talks like that.

    Comparing CUMC to the Combinatorics & Optimization workshop that preceded it, I prefer the student talks of the former. The topics are so varied--there is so much choice within each time slot, that it is difficult to decide which talks to attend. The atmosphere is less intimidating, because it's undergraduates talking to undergraduates. I almost regret not giving a talk myself--almost, for it would involve public speaking, and long gone are the days when classes made that mandatory.

    There were two keynote speakers, one at lunch and one at the end of the day. First, Frank Morgan, from Williams College, gave a talk on densities and the Poincaré conjecture. As I have never studied differential geometry, most of the mathematics went…

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  22. Combinatorics and Optimization, Day 2

    It is Tuesday, July 6.

    Today's four talks began with electrical networks and random walks. That is, suppose you have a graph that describes a network through which electricity flows. Starting at a vertex x, what is the probability that, when walking at random along the graph, we will arrive at a vertex s instead of a vertex t? This talk was very easy to follow (for which I am thankful), even though I don't have any engineering or physics background with which to understand the electrical current aspects (like voltage law).

    Unfortunately, the second talk involved probability. Probability is great, but I find it very difficult, so this talk was hard to follow. The third talk was about embedding locally-compact metric spaces on surfaces (it is not as scary as it sounds). Finally, the fourth talk was about matching polynomials. The speaker went rather briskly, so it was difficult to take detailed notes, but I enjoyed the subject. Before this summer, I had no idea that polynomials and graphs went so well together. Now it seems like they're inseparable.

    And that concludes the Combinatorial and Optimization workshop. There was a banquet for CUMC at the Huether Hotel,…

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  23. Combinatorics and Optimization, Day 1

    I wrote this last night at my grandparents' house, which has no Internet connection I can feasibly use (dial-up does not count), so I had to wait until today to post it from the University of Waterloo campus. All references to "today" refer to Monday, July 5.

    This week, Rachael, Aaron, and I have travelled to Waterloo, Ontario for two math conferences. The first is the Combinatorics & Optimization Summer School, a two-day event consisting of several talks and, yes, food! The second is the Canadian Undergraduate Math Conference, which also entails much talking and eating. I was reluctant to attend at first, because I dislike travelling. However, my grandparents live in Waterloo, so this was a convenient way to visit them for a week while still getting paid. With that incentive, I managed to convince myself that these conferences would be interesting and probably even useful to my research. This was only the first day, but so far I remain convinced in those respects.

    I've been up since 4:30 in the morning. Let me take a moment to reflect on the fact that we flew from Thunder Bay to Toronto in an hour and a half, traversing--or rather,…

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  24. Grand Marais and back again

    I got up slightly before 7 AM today, which is a feat unto itself. Bathed, ate, went online for a little. We left before 10, gassed up at the prohibitively expensive gas station, and were on our way.

    I took the time to work on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which is a very good book. Crossing the border wasn't difficult, although there was a long lineup. Then we were in the US of A, travelling along Minnesota highways. A land where metric is only a word and everything else looks the same as Canada. . . .

    It was the last day of the Fishermen's Festival, so everyone in Grand Marais was out to see a parade going on later that afternoon. When we arrived, my brother and I skipped rocks for a while before my entire family went window shopping. We navigated our way down to the Angry Trout Cafe, a restaurant where we always have lunch because of their tasty fresh fish.

    I had fish and chips (Lake Superior Herring). My brother had the same, only with Alaskan Cod as the fish. My mother had something . . . and my dad had Malaysian peanut soup, although…

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About Me

I’m a 27-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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