The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Sunday, 20 March 2016

I've moved!

For all those of you who were wondering where I've gone or figured I'd given up writing for good this time, I thought it was about time that I posted on here that I've moved my internet ramblings to a new site called Let's Kick The Bucket List.

Still some travel, more mental health awareness. Mostly just me facing my fears.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

My Year Abroad

As exam time is coming to a close and all my friends start to trickle home from their various year abroad destinations, I figured it was about time I write something about my experiences.

It’s been a mad one, in short. I've already written a fair amount about my time in Mexico, about the violent love of my friends accompanied by bullets fired from police weapons and wealth of culture juxtaposed with the poverty of compassion from the hearts of those who hold the power. I learned about unyielding strength in times of hardship and laughter in the face of pessimism. Although I was unwell for a large amount of my stay, there is not one ounce of me that regrets going. My heart was broken in more ways than one, sleepless nights were abundant and tears shed uncountable, but oh lord, I am so much stronger for it. It was chaotic and challenging and magical in all the right ways.

Berlin, however, was short and not-so-sweet. Perhaps it was because I finally had a minute to breathe after all the crazy. Perhaps it was boredom. I really can’t decide. I started off well-ish, attending all my classes which was a habit I had lost after being removed from studies UNAM. I'm not sure if I was unwilling, or just simply unable to connect with others, so I’ll settle for somewhere in the middle. I spent most of my time reflecting on and processing what had happened to me, muddling my words when talking to new faces and feeling genuinely disconnected from most conversations. I suppose my life was just in a very uncertain place.

Funky Berlin street art

The culture shock was overwhelming. It’s like what people have often said to me about moving to London, that the shock isn't moving to the city, but moving back to your small, quiet town. I was in a similar sort of situation. I did a bit of exploring but felt so bewildered by the change in scenery to enjoy it much. I kept on confusing my German with my Spanish, my Spanish with my English. My accent in German was just weird and I had forgotten even the most simple sentence structures. The sheer waste of consumerism and pettiness of daily worries regularly brought me close to tears, and I longed to be anywhere else. Not to mention, people in Berlin are just plain rude.

The Backhaus TEAM

I can’t say it was all bad. Over time I started to adjust a little more, and though I never braved Berlin’s (in)famous night life, I did manage to enjoy some other Berlin-esk fun. My house mates were great and we had a day out urban exploring in an old spy base which has now been converted into an arts space. I also LOVE Mauerpark, with its live music, live haircuts and live, well, “music” with Bear Pit karaoke where tourists gather every Sunday to embarrass themselves. The visits I had from two of my favourites from Mexico and my family were absolutely fab as well, and my friends from KCL really did pull me through. Plus the food is cheap and the beer is cheaper, and you always feel safe walking alone at night. I was simply in the wrong frame of mind to enjoy it like I could have done.

My future Mexican hubby and I (we're marrying for visa purposes) losing our Pride virginity together.

Live music at Mauerpark

I’d like to go back sometime and do it again, but for me I think Berlin will always be a better holiday destination than home. I did get into Yoga while I was out there, which is one silver lining, and I stayed long enough to hopefully achieve enough credits to avoid any resits in my final year. Plus my new bestie lives out there too (if she ever returns from Mexico), so it’d be hard to avoid it forever.

We'd got a load of money out to pay some bills and felt rich for about five minutes, so we made it rain money but then lost loads and had to crawl around on the floor to find it...

I suppose Berlin taught me that sometimes, it’s OK to stop. You can push yourself too hard and your mind needs time to process things that happen to you. With hindsight, I probably wasn't well enough to go away at all, but in no way to a regret my decision to do so. It’s just made me realise that although moving to a new country may seem like a fun adventure, and in most respects it is, it’s also important never to forget the pressure it can have on your mental well-being. You can take things too quickly and everyone needs time to adjust.

I think the older I get, the more I realise the value of time at home, in familiarity and in those who have known you for years. It’s a place where you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time, where you can relax and just be yourself without having to worry about making new friends or impressing anybody. In my mind I now have three ‘homes’: Preston, London and Mexico City, though Preston will always be closest to my heart. It’s funny how going away for thirteen months can make you realise the value of staying put. Roll on a summer filled with old friends, Oxfam and English food. I think I've just about earned it.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Change of Direction

Once again I've proved miserable at posting on a regular basis. Honestly, I feel like the more I set writing goals for myself, the more I rebel against them. Much like I did as a child with my parents in fact.

I feel like my writing (in general, not just on here) has recently been lacking emotion and I've felt incredibly distant from it. I think that's what I've been missing in the past month or so, and that rather than suffering from pure writer's block, I've actually been suffering from lack of passion. It's times like these when I really struggle to simply blog about adventures and travel.

I've actually been travelling a lot recently, and having a really great time. I spent an awesome long weekend in Amsterdam with my sister, my good friend Anthony came over from Mexico and we explored London and Manchester, before heading off to Paris to watch the sunset from the Eiffel Tower, and lately I've been touristing up in Berlin like there's no tomorrow. But for some reason, I've found myself un-enthused to write about any of these really exciting experiences.

Last week, a friend repeated a quote to me whilst drunk at a festival that I posted on Facebook a good few years ago.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”- Miriam Adeney

Since she said (rather, slurred) it to me, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. What she got me thinking about is how I've spent so much time travelling and what it's like to feel at home.

I'm not really one to get homesick. I've always used travel as an escape from everyday life, something to turn to when things get bad to give myself a breather from the world. A bit ironic I suppose. However for the first time in my life, I was in no quick hurry to move on from my beloved Mexico City*. And that's not just because it's so amazing.

*I promise this isn't just another blog post about how much I love Mexico. Hear me out.

My stay in Mexico taught me the value that can be found in staying in one place for more than just a flying visit. I became so attached and entrenched in the culture and the people and the way of life, that I'm still finding it hard to let go. As much as I love fleeting visits to cities, I'm finding it harder to write about my shorter excursions, when I've not really had any time to form a bond with a place. Yes, I've had a great time and yes, I would go back (or not, depending on where it is!) but I'm a little tired of sounding like a less-hip version of a Lonely Planet travel guide.

It has also taught me things about myself that I couldn't have learned from a short stay. How to deal with real, strong, long-lasting friendships from a distance; both those from back home and the new ones in the foreign country. How to break through the other side of language barriers. How to deal with being a minority race - being white I'm lucky enough to practically never have to deal with this one in my own continent. How to really integrate into a society once the 'I'm a silly tourist' excuse no longer pays off. You live through festivals and memorials and the mundane day-to-day crap that you definitely don't see on a weekend getaway. Every city has so much more to it that tourist attractions, every person a story to tell.

Of course I'll still be jetting setting at any opportunity, when time and my bank balance allow. I'm not knocking short trips at all, rather just my own attitude towards travel. I think what I'm trying to say is, I don't think I'll be writing as much about the 'normal' travel things I do. I'll always share photos - you know I love a good instagram - but I'd like to start giving a bit more credit to each place that I visit. There's so much history and life and colour all over the world, I don't want to belittle it by simply writing about that trip I took to the Heineken Factory and accidentally drank too much (though I'd totally recommend going, we had a blast).

I don't know why I feel need to write all this in a post, because well, it's not your fault I'm fed up with my own writing style. Maybe it's my first step towards a deeper relationship with my travel writing. Gosh that sounds cheesy.

For those who don't follow my instagram, I'll post some pictures of my latest adventures at some point this week so you can all judge me for buying a selfie stick. Maybe I'll even write a little too.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Lunch in Poland

On Wednesday afternoon I had some free time, so I decided to do something novel and head to Poland for lunch. The border is just an hour and a bit away from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, just take the train to Frankfurt Oder and walk across the bridge.

The idea initially occurred to Greg and I, because of our semester ticket of free travel within the Berlin-Brandenburg area. Unfortunately, I actually found out that our ticket doesn't go quite as far as the border (oopsy), but as I was already on my way back by the time the ticket lady caught me out, I was let off with a warning. Either way our semester tickets do go pretty far, so I think I'll be using it for further exploring on my Wednesday afternoons.

Edgy-look-I-was-in-Poland pic.

Germany on the left, Poland on the right.

The two towns are just divided by a little bridge over a river, with no passport control (good old European open borders) and it takes no more than five minutes to amble across. The majority of my afternoon was comprised of wandering along the river bank on the Polish side, which was a lovely, peaceful change from the madness of the big cities that I have grown accustomed to. The town itself, Slubice (anyone able to tell me how you how that's pronounced??) is tiny, and mainly just made up of cheap tobacco shops, hairdressers and tasty food.

The strangest thing I found is that although these towns are sooooo close together, and it was clear that people cross from one to the other on a regular basis, hardly anyone on either side speaks the other's language. Maybe that's something totally normal for border towns, but I just always assumed that if you lived so close by, there would either be a stark sense of bilingual-ness or some weird mismatch of the two being spoken - you know, like Spanglish but in this sense... Deutski. I quite like that word. 

So most of the time I was stumbling through awkward conversations in broken German (regardless of which side I was on to be honest, my German skills can hardly be blamed on the locals) in order to buy cigarettes for a friend and a yummmmmmy lunch of Polish goulash and potatoes.

I know goulash isn't really Polish, but I just couldn't resist.

Loving my alcohol-free Polish beer and rocking the forehead creases.
I think I'm getting old.

My trip was a short one, as I said literally just for lunch, because I had to get back to Berlin for a yoga class that I was yet to discover, would nearly kill me. My fitness/bendy levels just aren't what they used to be. However I did get to potter through Frankfurt Oder a little on my way back, which was typical small-towny with pretty churches and a square with a fountain. I quite liked the atmosphere there actually, though I think I'm just tending towards peace-and-quiet a lot more now after my year of madness.

I liked this weird fountain a lot.

That evening I also moved into MY NEW HOUSE (I'm very excited about this) which is an old hostel converted into a WG of 28 people. Yes, you read that correctly t w e n t y - e i g h t people. I thought that it would be like another adventure in itself. It really is a bit like living in a cross between student accommodation and a hostel; I'm in a four person dorm, there's shared showers, a huge kitchen and a cleaning rota. I haven't met many people yet because it's been a pretty hectic few days plus I'm going home this weekend (WOOOO) for my sister Siobhan's hen do :D So I'll start my mingling and stuff next week, when I can really sit down and get to know people.

Today I think I'm heading to the park for some beers and *fingers crossed * sunshine before catching my flight at 9.30 tonight. Now it's probably time I got out of bed and packed...

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Kill Your Darlings!

Last Sunday I actually managed to get out for my first bit of exploring since I arrived in the city nearly three weeks ago. As my friends and I have already done most of the usual touristy things, we wanted to do something a little more 'off the beaten track', so we decided to follow my 'Franzi Guide to Berlin' which my awesome bestie, who is originally from Berlin, made me as a leaving present from Mexico.

First stop was visiting the theatre she used to work at called Volksbühne and buying a mystery ticket to a show so I could spy on all her friends who work there. I chose a show called 'Kill Your Darlings! Streets Of Berladelphia', mainly because of the catchy title and the fact that it was only an hour and a half long. It's a pretty alternative venue, where they give out free matchboxes with slogans like 'Still Alive' and 'Fuck Off' branded across the front in shiny red typeface, and all their flyers are A5 stickers of the play titles with descriptions on the back. As a student willing to sit anywhere, my ticket cost just 6€, which I later learned was an absolute bargain.

I took myself on a solo date night to see it on Wednesday, having no idea what I was letting myself in for. In short, it was a monologue critique of life, love, capitalism, communism and the self (or at least that's what I got from it, but I could be entirely wrong), with the main actor gallavanting around in nothing more that rainbow glitter leggings, surrounded by a gymnastics troop. There's singing and audience participation and a very bizarre use of stage props, so it ticked all the boxes for me. I'm not completely fluent in German, so unfortunately I missed some of the key lines and jokes, but nonetheless I had an amazing time. Nothing like what I expected, I'll definitely be going back there soon.

After buying my ticket, we hopped back on the metro/underground/tube/whatever-it's-called-here to Eberswalder Straße in search for the promise of 'the best pizza place! supercheap and open until 4am'. Although it wasn't quite 4am, the promise of the best-super-cheap pizza was definitely appealing to four hungry students. To eat out in London on a regular basis as a student, you either need to have super rich parents or be willing to spare a kidney to the black market. Berlin, however, is no where near as pricey. An ENTIRE pizza costs just 3.90€ (2.90€ if you just got a plain margarita) and it was delicious too. Honestly, I have never in my life been so happy to buy a pizza. So if your looking for a cheap eat near Mauerpark, Ebenswalder Straße next to the Sparkasse is where it's at.

We then headed off to the famous Mauerpark, beers in hand, to check out what was left of the flee market (it was getting kind of late by this point) and enjoy the various artists who were dotted around, whilst lounging around in the rare North European sunshine. 

Open-air karaoke which basically consisted of lots of tourists embarrassing themselves in front of a large audience. Great fun to watch though.

These guys were great! Live drum set that you couldn't not dance to. Serious festival vibes.

By the time we ended up leaving the park, the air was getting nippy and the sun had began to sink behind the high-rise flats. Still stuffed from our super tasty pizzas and one too many beers, we tottered back to the metro, sleepy eyed and satisfied with the days adventures.

Aside from going to see the show on Wednesday, my week consisted of nothing more than lots of going to school and getting lost. Nothing out of the ordinary really. I'm still taking it slow at the moment, because the culture shock between here and Mexico has been a bit overwhelming. So more day exploring and a mystery concert tonight with Greg (Matthew E. White anyone?) should hopefully make for another chilled out weekend.

A building I came across that is on ALL the postcards, when I got lost looking for Volksbühne. The text reads 'Human will can move everything. This house used to be in another country'.
I love getting lost.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

White Party and THE VIDEO

Initially, my goodbye party was supposed to be on the roof of my house and we were going to keep it low-key and low-budget. Unfortunately, my pinche landlords had a different idea and in spite of the fact that we gave them three weeks notice about the party, they cancelled just five days before.

Luckily our new plan turned out to be even better. A friend of mine suggested that we rent an island in Xochimilico for the night, where we could camp and drink and make as much noise as we liked without the concern of neighbours or trashing someone's house. Image Mexican Venice in the countryside, without the glam and romance, but rather an entirely different kind of beauty.

My friend Geovanni's cousin works on the boats that take you to these islands, which are more like long floating rafts which you row with a big stick, so she took us there at not too much expense. We all dressed in white (embarrassingly inspired by the white party in Gossip Girl) and popped champagne as we went, all looking very classy and sophisticated for at least the first ten minutes. We also managed to get some really beautiful picture before everyone got too messy.

As you can see the most part consisted of alcohol, glitter fights, face paint and kinda looking like we were at a hippy wedding. But it was beautiful and fun, until later when the usual drama started but we'll just forget about that part.

And now the moment you've ALL been waiting for... my highlights video from Mexico and that trip to the States I took almost a year ago. I hope you enjoy it and if you do, let me know, so I can make more of my future trips. (I mean I'm gonna do it anyway, I just won't share them with you...)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

First Weeks in Berlin

I have now been in Berlin for just over two weeks for my second study abroad placement. I'm still homeless and living between a friend's couch and a hostel, still can't for the life of me remember how to speak German and am lamenting the fact that as I am no longer able to drink alcohol, I can't taste the beauty that is German beer. Aside from the slight downsides and the fact that an old lady confronted me in the street the other day calling me 'common' because I'm English, I have been able to have at least a little bit of fun, plus I suppose alcohol-free beer isn't allllllll that bad.

On my first night in the city my lovely friend Imogen came to meet me for a pizza and a beer in Friedrichsschain. It was an absolute lifesaver because after a 12 hour flight followed by a quick 24 hour pit stop in London, which was crazy-busy full of catching up with and seeing friends, I was pretty exhausted and disorientated. Not to mention the jet lag which hit me harder than it ever has done before! Even without alcohol, my first German beer was glorious and after almost a year of sleeping on a mattress on the floor, my comfy hostel bed was pretty darn luxurious. I'm staying in a hostel called Plus Hostel Berlin, which I would highly recommend - it's cheap, well located AND it even has a pool!

As I have been to Berlin before (see posts Berlin Meat Sweats and East Side Gallery), I've already done a lot of the main tourist sights. However, when I came last year I fell down some stairs in a club and messed up my ankle (I can thank my old friend Paul for that one), so couldn't walk very far on the last day and missed a couple of key things.

EMILY AND GREG WERE REUNITED (he's doing his study abroad here!) at Checkpoint Charlie, which I'm sorry to say was kind of cool but a little underwhelming... I have, however, heard good things about the museum which I am yet to venture into, so I'll update on that when I finally get around to it.

I finally saw some real life Trabis which were THE car of East Germany before the reunification (I say THE car but in fact it was THE only car you could have... communism and all that) Anyway, I think they're cute but we couldn't go into the museum because Greg is a boring sod and wanted a beer, plus I'm super poor right now, so I probably couldn't have afforded it anyways. Also, I should probably note that they weren't this colour in the DDR...

We also made it to Potsdamer Platz, which is famous for some reason that I can't remember because I am an awful German student, so I have been super kind and linked Wikipedia for you, in case you are interested. The area isn't particularly special; lots of tall office buildings makes it feel a bit like the City of London but I took a photo nonetheless because it makes a good touristy Instagram shot.

I was also lucky enough to receive a visit from my mum and step-dad on my first weekend here (which is another reason why I haven't starved yet. Did I mention how poor I am?) Neither of them have ever visited the city, so we tried to fit in as much sight seeing as we could into two days, wandering from Alexanderplatz, past Humboldt, down Unter den Linden to the Brandenburger Tor, then to the Jewish Memorial and the Reichstag. We also managed to fit in another visit round to Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz, so most of the big sights in one day IS possible, it's just a fair bit of walking.

The Jewish Memorial

One of many beer stops a long the way!

Some Berlin graffiti which I love and is everywhere. Expect more pictures like this in future posts.

On the last night they took me out for a traditional German meal of dumplings and sauerkraut and goulash (I know goulash is Hungarian but it was in a traditional German restaurant so it's nearly legit)

Unfortunately because of my pobreza and the fact that I'm not very well at the moment, I haven't been able to go out at all yet. Mostly I've just been going to University, which so far I have thoroughly enjoyed, and have been meeting up with old King's friends. Seeing my pals has probably been the highlight of the move so far; the stories of the past year's adventures in various parts of the world and the old 'in' jokes have made me feel a lot more at ease in a strange and new place.

So here's to another week of 'can you repeat that please?' and insults from random strangers on my lack of class. I move back to the hostel tomorrow for eleven days, before a weekend at home for my beautiful sister Siobhan's hen do (SO EXCITED!!), and fingers crossed I will return to my own place.