Saturday, 2 June 2018

Wanderings Lately :: May

May is a great month, beginning and ending with a bank holiday weekend. I had a few highlights this month, completing a week long intense course at work, completing in my second annual Beamers netball tournament and finishing my homemade dress. 

Here are the highlights:

Tailoring




I continued my challenge to make my own dress this month, and finished over the second bank holiday weekend. Thanks to my mum for the garden photoshoot! It took quite a bit of work, and worked out pretty expensive, but it's definitely a huge sense of achievement. I'm happy with the end result, even if I did have some doubts just before the end.

I may attempt another design, but perhaps not for a while yet!

Werk Perks





I spend one week attending a communications course at the FCO this month, the week of amazing weather where I spent every lunch break eating my lunch in St James' Park. On the final day, we were able to walk along Downing Street to take a photo outside Number 10. Palmerston the cat also made an appearance. Turns out you can't get too near the door, and are not allowed to touch the paint as our dirty fingerprints would ruin the shiny paint job.

I also attended an evening at the British Library to hear from one of our Chevening Fellows and we were treated to a short tour of the library ending in their Africa and Asia reading room. 

Sunny Bank Holidays




Our first bank holiday was fantastic, and on the Saturday I went for a chicken burger at the John Lewis roof garden. A (sort of) secret oasis in the centre of Oxford Street. Although we went on the first day and it was quite busy, you would never know you're in the middle of the busiest shopping street in London, the roof is a world away!

Exploring the Wetlands




Another bank holiday adventure was to the London Wetland Centre, where we wandered all around in the sunshine spotting birds we didn't know the name of and cute otters hanging out on the rocks.

Netball




Beamers in the sunshine tournament where we reached the quarter finals (one stage better than last year!)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Wanderings Lately :: April


April has been such a nice month! I started the month with Easter at my parents', and made home made Hot Cross Buns for the first time, then completed another overseas trip with work, felt important at the foreign office (although not really!) and managed not to collapse on my first ever park run.

This is a little bit late, but worth it to relive the sunny April memories!

Friends






I had a wonderful visit this month from Chelsea and Andrew who came down to London to celebrate our friend Naz's 30th birthday. It was a brilliant day of sunshine so we took advantage of this to enjoy some cocktails over the river from me in Canary Wharf (so much so we were late for the party!)

I was also roped into doing my first ever park run, in honour of my friend Cat's birthday. I made the trip down to Dulwich Park and managed to get around the 5k course and although I didn't run all of it I gave it a good go! This was on the same weekend as the marathon, which I popped out of my house to watch again. I was early enough this year to spot Mo Farrah run past. Watching the marathon runners really put my measly 5k into perspective!

We also enjoyed a lunchtime picnic in Tavistock Square on another warm day (April really did give us a glimpse of summer!) Nothing more wonderful than sunshine in London - and also all my warm cycles to and from work, a reward for all of those cold or wet days throughout the winter!

Being Totally Uncool



I attended a few meetings at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this month, and with some slight encouragement from my colleague (she didn't have to do much really) I snapped a selfie outside the front sign. Just gives me a thrill to have been inside!

Ukraine






I've been to Kiev before, on my trip back to London from Asia, but I was happy to be visiting again, with work this month. My trip coincided with Orthodox Easter, which meant lots of easter eggs and decorated rabbit statues all over the city. I also stumbled upon a blessing ceremony outside one of the churches, which was interesting to witness.

This time I also scheduled an extra day so that I could go on a day trip to Chernobyl. I wasn't sure what to expect or whether it would feel intrusive. But it was very interesting to learn more about the disaster, which I know only through archive footage since I was only one when it happened. The abandoned town of Pripyat is like a time capsule from the Soviet Era, the area still too contaminated for anyone to live there.

The tour is a long day, on and off the bus to look at different sites along the way, but it is super informative and mostly sensitive to the situation (there was only one point when the guide encouraged everyone to get off the bus and take selfies which I thought was not really appropriate).

Zero Waste Life





Still doing my best to live the low waste life (I can't go zero). I've finally planted some more fruit/veg in our garden. I am not sure I can keep any of this alive but I will give it a go! (the garlic is already growing)

I also ordered a new phone case - since pela case now do them for Samsung phones. This is an eco-friendly and compostable phone case. I have donated my old one, which doesn't remove the problem all together but is better than just throwing away.

Lastly, I am currently half way through my 'make your own dress' challenge. Being mentored by my wonderful mother to try and make a dress suitable for a couple of the weddings I am going to this year. So far so good, although the pattern is difficult to follow and we were duped into buying more fabric than we needed. It's a lot of work, and it's not cheaper than buying from a shop but I think the sense of achievement will be enough to justify all the work!



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!