Monday, 2 April 2018

Wanderings Lately :: March 2018

Is March the beginning of Spring? Feels like winter is never leaving....

This month was dominated by rubbish weather; snowy, cold, rainy. There was one spring-like day when I didn't take my coat to work and the following day there was a snow storm that cancelled my flight out of Heathrow. 

I read four books this month; The Omnivore's DilemmaThe Things I Would Tell You, A feminist Manifesto and We should all be feminists. I've just started The Citadel, purely because i came to the end of We should, whilst I was travelling from from my work trip and wanted to start a new book straight away. This was the only one of my kindle that I hadn't ready already - I believe I downloaded this for my mum to borrow for a holiday many years ago. I'm not fully committed to the story yet but as I'm going away again at the beginning of April I will see if I get into the story a bit more on that trip.

Kosovo









I went of my first work trip this month to Kosovo. I was sitting on the interview panel for next year's scholarships. I saw the city covered in snow for the majority of the week, and the thrill of getting in the morning taxi and asking to go to the British Embassy didn't wane for the week. Oh to feel important! 

Kosovo is a fascinating place, as is this whole region, and I was really glad to visit and learn a little more. An important parliamentary vote was taking place during my visit and it all kicked off in Parliament when opposition party MPs threw tear gas in the chamber to disrupt the vote. 

Although I was working for the week, I did manage to leave the hotel a couple of the evenings when the light was fading to explore the main city area. The above domed building is the National Library of Kosovo, a very uniquely designed building, and the Church is actually an unfinished Orthodox Serbian Church, construction of which started in 1995, and was disrupted by the 1998-1999 conflict. It's seen as a symbol of the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, before Kosovo declared independence. It remains unfinished as the current Kosovan-Albanian majority cannot agree on it's future.


Commonwealth Day


Taking advantage of opportunities to attend events through my new job, my name was picked out of the hat for a ticket to the 2018 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. The service was quite a mix; Liam Payne sandwiched inbetween a Gospel Choir and a spoken word poet, but it was something unique to attend and I caught a glimpse of the Royal Family and various politicians. Unfortunately the Queen is so short that I only saw to back of her hat when she was sitting down.


We should all be feminists















Female Empowerment was a theme this month. 8th March was International Womens' Day, which we marked at work (and my first event on the social committee), with plenty of cake and a fun but quite difficult quiz. That evening Jasmin and I went to watch a live podcast recording (my birthday present to her). Our little group of London girls took a trip out to Leatherhead to help Siobhan choose a wedding dress (which she found!) and that evening Ayoola took me to see our favourite author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge at the Southbank as part of the Women of the World festival. I also accompanied Carola on my second Jive party outing in Brockley. I may have forgotten most of the steps but it was a fun atmosphere and I gave it my best!

Thanks March for giving me lots of opportunities to celebrate strong female friends and role models.




Friday, 23 March 2018

From Draft... to Published | Greece :: Solo

In Summer 2016 I went to Greece on my own. I wanted a holiday with some sunshine, but had no one to go with. I am very comfortable being alone. I lived alone in China and Korea. I enjoy being by myself, wandering around, sitting in a cafe reading or writing, minding my own business. |I enjoy lunchtime walks around Tavistock and Russell Squares listening to podcasts. I went to the cinema last week by myself. But I can't embrace solo travel. I don't like being completely alone. The only other time I have travelled for an entire trip alone, was in Bali. I wrote on this blog about the mountain that I climbed, the food I ate and the cooking class I took, but what I didn't write about was how I spent every evening in my room, watching Eastenders on youtube and going to bed early. How I wandered around alone, from one cafe to the next, wishing there was something I would meet up with later to talk about our day. How I signed up for the hike and the class to try and meet people, but only ended up feeling more lonely. How I was glad to leave by the end of the week. 

I thought that this time, in Greece, it would be different. I was different. I wasn't newly out of a relationship and feeling sorry for myself. I was only intending to go and relax, sit on the beach and read my book and I would be happy with that. But it wasn't. Turns out, I just don't enjoy solo travel. I don't like not having someone I know to chat to over a glass of wine in the evening or a friend to go off and explore with. At home, I am glad to spend time alone, but abroad, solo to me is just lonely.












Thoughts and observations from my trip:

Arriving at that in between time when people are still out from the night before but 1/2 hour later everyone else is up to start their day 

Watching the town/port slowly wake up. A lady sweeping her balcony, man walking his dog, recycling van and church priests chanting. 

Wandering the small street past bars closed maybe only an hour or so before, last nights' detritus still sitting on an outside table

The still and calm before the day has begun. 

Boarding the ferry and watching the dark blue water mix with turquoise and bright white foam as we chug along the water. 

Mesmerised by the flag blowing tirelessly at the stern

Deciding to try and walk there from the ferry with my case was foolish. Thankfully a taxi driver appeared who helped me get to the right place and then didn't charge me for it.

Lady at check in: 'Just one?' 
Me: 'Yep.' 
Lady: 'Hahahha' 

'Solo? One?' - Man in restaurant. No one likes to see a woman travelling alone. And this woman doesn't enjoy having people point out she is alone. It highlights the fact more. It reminds her, you're here alone and others are wondering why. You're reminded that you couldn't find anyone else to come with, and for the next week you have no one to talk to or spend time with except yourself.

I stop by a small kiosk on my way to the port to pick up a bottle of water & an iced tea. Lipton iced tea is my holiday drink. I never buy this in England, although it's readily available, but on holiday, particularly in Europe, it's the drink I always end up choosing, besides water of course. I place the bottles on the counter and look to the cashier to tell me the price. He stares back, mute. We stay like this a couple of seconds longer than is comfortable before I ask 'How much?'  'Ah!' he says '€1.50' [in English]  'Oh you were waiting to see what language.' 'Yes, because you look like you could be Greek'  Really? Perhaps that explains why so many people have spoken to me here first in Greek. In Asia I was easily identifiable as foreign & to be addressed in English. I was really happy the first time I was mistaken as a local in Russia, after so long being foreign. But I didn't expect that here, on a tourist island, pale skin and blue eyes. But maybe that's just my ignorance.   

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Wanderings Lately :: February

I started February learning how to make macaron and ended with my very first work trip to Istanbul, with a bit of culture in the middle. Due to the work trip last week I managed to evade the entirety of the snow that blanketed London for the week. It's not been snowy since 2013 that snow really settled in London so I am disappointed to have missed the beauty that comes with newly fallen, untouched snowfall. I am also glad to have missed the travel chaos that any kind of extreme weather causes in the capital. Maybe in the next week or so we'll be looking into spring. Maybe... just maybe.

Baking





Got my bake on first with some bake-at-home pain au chocolat and then at the macaron class at Les Atelier des Chefs. This was a leaving present when I moved jobs last year and I decided to use it as an early start to my birthday. I picked up some tips and am looking forward to putting them in action soon whipping up my own batch at home soon.

Bletchley Park






Mum and I went to Bletchley Park to learn all about deciphering the enigma code and the very first computer. The complex is huge and we didn't see everything but as the ticket lasts for a whole year it gives you plenty of time to go back to see the rest. Interesting to hear more about what went on and the rest of the people (other than Turing) whose work really changed the course of the war.

Work Bonding



We went for an away day with work at Flight Club Darts, which was good fun and I found that I was actually quite good. A surprise to me but I even impressed myself!

Istanbul




We went to Istanbul last week a conference this last week, and although most of the time was spent in the same building and in a room without windows, but I got as much out of the trip as I could. I've been before and did all of the tourist sights then. Thankfully the final day in Istanbul had great weather, and I followed some advice from a friend and hunted out the rainbow steps.

Friday was a lovely day, spent wandering around by the water, along Istikilal street and drinking apple tea (& wine!)

Misc





This month I also went to the Museum of London and saw part of the Whitechapel fatburg, drew the lines back on our netball court and had breakfast with Macey and her keepcup!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

From Draft... to Published | Afternoon Tea :: With the Prime Minister

Looking through  my draft posts, I have realised that there are so many that are in various states of completion. I don't know why I never finished some of these, and so I am aiming in the first part of this year to go through them all, and either finish and publish them, or abandon and delete them. I have decided not to re-word any that were already written, which means some of them may refer to the situation as it was when they were written (where I worked for example) but I want to maintain the post as it was originally intended. So here is the first of my From Draft to Published posts: Afternoon Tea at the Houses of Parliament.

Ok ok, not really with the Prime Minister, but at the House of Commons.

A couple of weeks ago my mum and I went to the Houses of Parliament (or the HoP as I refer to them at work!) for a tour and afternoon tea.

It was really interesting to experience the tour because I book many many guided tours for our student groups and now I know exactly what they get to experience. It's probably not really a revelation to say that they are super interesting. So much history has gone down in those walls! You're not allowed to take photos inside, except in Westminster Hall. This is the first area that you enter, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and houses numerous plaques laid into the floor commemorating important events or notable people.

Both House of Commons and House of Lords were much smaller than I had thought they'd be. The TV definitely makes the rooms look larger. The audio commentary was full of little extra stories and facts about the decor and traditions that still take place in the hallowed halls.

After the tour, we gathered with the rest of the diners to be taken down to the cafe. This was down below the commons area and looked out onto the river. Despite the the weather not being great -the water looked pretty choppy - it was still nice to look out over the water. The food was ok, a pretty standard selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones. The tea likewise was fine. It was a fairly cheap options for afternoon tea, and we did have an incident with the waitress pouring the tea out far too early when it clearly wasn't brewed enough.

I think that this is a quite a unique experience, and fairly good value (although you can only get the afternoon tea in combination with the tour). I wouldn't rush back, but I don't regret going.




 



 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Wanderings Lately :: January

We made it through the first month of the year! Everyone at work yesterday was saying how long January had felt, but for me it's flown by pretty quickly. And that despite not having that many weekend plans. January had been a month of getting into routines for 2018, I've successfully made it to bootcamp twice a week - Tuesday & Saturdays - continued with netball - Mondays and Thursday - and cycled to work most days. I've also pushed myself to do a few new things - open mic, Jive classes and an alumni talk at UCL. So my wanderings for the first part of 2018 aren't exactly far and wide, but they have felt positive and fruitful and that's definitely a good way to start the year!

Food



Last year, I bought the #cookforsyria cookbook, and I finally cooked something from it this month - making my own flat bread and poaching some figs and nectarines. Yum yum!

Winnie the Pooh




I booked a couple of days off this month, as I had some holiday to take before the start of Feb, and I decided to do something with my time, so booked to go to the Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A. It was really good, and I'm so glad I went. So much original artwork was on show, and I enjoyed seeing the WtP products from around the world! I also ended up going on AA Milne's birthday which is now marked as Winnie the Pooh day, which also gave me a little thrill!

Life without Internet






We started January without internet, as we were changing providers and despite our best efforts, we were let down by the new company. This left us without an internet connection for 2 weeks, and the phone signal in Rotherhithe is particularly bad, so we found other ways to amuse ourselves. Our house became puzzle central, and after we finished the Liverpool puzzle that Siobhan had given me, Carola bought another one - Harry Potter inspired - to give us something to do. It was actually really nice, and I found doing the puzzle to be really satisfying and quite relaxing. 

We back connected to wifi now, but it was certainly nice to have a forced digital detox for a little while.

:: Onwards to February... How did you spend the first month of the year? ::