Friday, 3 August 2018

Wanderings Lately :: July

Life hack: write a blog, even if no one else reads it you will have a great record of your life over the years.

Last July the weather was horrible. A couple of years ago I was celebrating birthdays and bring sporty. Seven years ago I was swimming in rain in Korea.

I can't quite believe that it is August already, and yet when I think about this time last year, I was about to head to Cornwall for our big family holiday and that seems like years ago! Time is a strange thing.

This month I have two weddings, a reunion, another family getaway and a break from many of my usual after work pursuits. Perhaps I'll take some evenings in the park soaking up some summer sun over netball and dancing for the month instead!

Here's a look back over July; a trip to Nice, a little bit of work, sports and hen party fun.

Nice






I began the month in Nice, visiting Johanna, just before she was about to leave to return to Geneva. I made a video of my trip, which I think shows how much fun it was. Visiting friends is one of my favourite ways to travel. Not only do you get to spend time with someone who you enjoy being with, and that you don't see as much as you once did, but you get to spend the day exploring yourself and meeting up in the evening to chat and talk about it all. As I was clearly reminded on my ill-fated trip to Greece, solo travel is really not for me. But that's not to say I don't like being on my own. I am happy with my own company and can easily spend the day exploring, wandering or even just sitting around on my own. I just don't like to do that all day every day. Evening are the time when I really want company.

Going to Nice this time, was very different to my first visit. It's interesting to re-visit those places you went to as a young backpacker with no money. Not that I am suddenly flush now, but I certainly have more to spend than in my early 20s and it gives you a totally different experience.

Events





I won tickets to watch the Vitality Superleague Netball final at the Copperbox. So I went along with Holly, one of the girls from my netball team to watch.

Great to see professional netball in action, and well done to Wasps Netball for winning the league again this year. Next season there will be a London team for the first time, so I would like to watch London Pulse more often next season.

We also had our student farewell event at Alexandra Palace at the beginning of the month. As I started half way through the academic year, I wasn't there when these scholars arrived but it was rally quite something to see all of the scholars in one place at the same time. It's such a diverse room of people, from so many different places, their lives all colliding for one year as they make a stop in the UK on their career paths. I am looking forward to orientation this year, although I know it will be a busy day work-wise, but this time I have been involved in the process of selection. I hope to meet the scholars from Kosovo who I helped to interview back in March!


Happy Hens







My final two weekends in July were spent celebrating two very different Hen Dos. First up for Siobhan's at Go Ape in Battersea Park. I've been there been with my friend Polly, but this time we had a group of happy (and not so happy) hens in tow. Siobhan ended up getting tangled in some of the ropes and none of us completed the final top level loop. We all opted to head to the room we had booked to drink prosecco and play games instead. The glorious summer weather was in full swing so we saw out the day sitting in the park, chatting and finishing off the nibbles. A very chilled and low key day.

Last weekend, I headed up to Manchester for Chelsea's hen. Much more a traditional hen night, with a big group of girls from many corners of the world - Canada, Australia, Holland (and of course London!) We had a great afternoon and evening, learning how to make cocktails, playing games - my team won! - dinner, karaoke and a good old fashioned night out. The following day, the UK weather decided to revert to form and was pouring with rain. 

:: One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by. Jeanette Walls; The Glass Castle ::


Monday, 23 July 2018

From Draft... to Published | Chernobyl

When Mary and I did our long trip back to London from Asia, we travelled through Kiev because it was convenient for the route and to avoid the large visa cost of going via Belarus. Although it hadn't been on my list of places I'd like to visit, I ended up loving Kiev. It's a cool city, especially beautiful when the sun is shining. It's chock full of pastel churches and cobble stones. While we were there, we heard that it was possible to take a trip to Chernobyl, site of probably the world's worst nuclear disaster. The trip was quite expensive, and we weren't sure whether to blow a large part of our backpacker budget on it. In the end, after deciding to go for it, we weren't able to sign up as you have to give at least four days notice.

So when my work trip to Kiev was confirmed, I knew I wanted to book a couple of extra nights and take the trip. The area around the remaining site is known as the exclusion zone, a 30km area set up by the Soviet authorities. The area is still secure and you have to pass through check points in and out. All trip participants have to register with their passport to attend.

The journey there takes around 2 hours, during which a video is shown with gives details on the disaster (referred to as 'accident' throughout by the tour guides), and also the clean up and legacy. A couple of things I wasn't aware of previously; 

1. The reactor was initially covered with a cement sarcophagus to contain the radioactive debris but this was only ever intended as a shield, a short term solution to quickly minimise the damage. As time went on, it was clear that the cover was deteriorating and would not last more than 30 years before it collapsed sending the still contaminated dust back into out atmosphere. In the early 2000s, an international team of engineers worked together to create a better cover which could last much longer (100 years) and enable the deconstruction and safe removal of the reactor. 

2. The disaster occured in reactor 4. The other reactors continued to be used after the disaster and it wasn't until 2000 that the final one (reactor 3 - next to the one that exploded!) was decommissioned.

3. There was actually greater areas of land affected by the disaster in Belarus, and these parts of the country are still no-go areas.

4. Some people have now returned to Chernobyl town, and live there safely today.

The day trip is very long, and is quite tiring. But it is completely worth it. I have always been quite fascinated by abandoned places. Pripyat is probably the ultimate time capsule town. It's so quiet and peaceful, but with an undeniable sombreness in the air. Generally the visit was conducted with sensitivity, but a couple of times I had to remind myself that this was the site of other people's misfortune and suffering and should not be minimised to a tourist attraction.

I feel that I learnt a lot from this visit, and I saw a part of history that is fascinating, sad and unforgettable. 


The stands of the Football Stadium from Pripyat









The ferris wheel is one of the famous sites of Chernobyl, and it's especially sad as it was never used. The whole playground was created for May day celebrations, and the disaster happened on 27th April.





Quite before their time, Pripyat had a large supermarket. The ruins in the town are sad to see; rusted trolleys, broken glass, fallen in ceilings and water dripping from everywhere. But in 1986 this was quite unusual.




Our tour guide stopped by this sign, and told everyone to get out for 'selfie' time. It seemed very inappropriate and as you can see I just took a photo of everyone blindly following what she told them without questioning it.



The soviets were in the process of building more reactors; this is the site of 5 and 6 - the plan was to build 12 in total. Once reactor 4 exploded construction on all of these stopped. 









A Soviet ferrari!



The empty roads were creepy but the stillness was also quite peaceful and serene.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Wanderings Lately :: June

I don't have many photos from June. It's been such a wonderful month of sunshine, and summer well and truly arrived in the capital. I have been cycling into work everyday and enjoying lunch in the square outside our office. 

We had our first BBQ of the summer at home, and really started to believe football might be coming home...

I ended the month in Nice, visiting Johanna and soaking up the sea breeze and croissants for breakfast every day!

Work Netball




We entered our first netball tournament with a work team, and although we lost every one of our games, it was still good to play some more of the game. There are a few enthusiastic players so we may still get a work team together to play as well.

The Women's Procession



I joined Siobhan's work colleagues on the women's parade in celebration of 100 years since [some] women got the right to vote.

It was a great day, with so many people all walking together as a community. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day though!

Nice 



The end of June, and the start of my short break to Nice. Waking up early to explore the city before the masses were up. Heading to the beach, for a whole day, an afternoon or to eat our dinner by the shore. Time spent with a wonderful friend

:: Is this summer weather here to stay? Can the UK really be in for a proper sunny summer? ::

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!)