As forewarned dear readers, the next few months are going to be quiet as I put my head down and concentrate on my studies and keeping on the straight and narrow.
Having said that I am very excited as I start planning for my travels next year. As has happened a lot in my life so far, I have had to bide my time and wait patiently (or not so patiently) for things to fall into place so that I can realise a dream.
So my first plan of action has been to enrol in a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. Easy right. Thousands of kids do this every year and go on to get amazing jobs overseas. Well, the easy part was enrolling – nothing since has been! I’m not sure what happened between leaving school 27 years ago (really!!!???) and what they expect to be taught these days but it is HARD. Or should I say difficult, complicated, onerous (see I know all the big words but apparently not only are they adjectives but they can also be nouns when used in a certain way!) And, if used in another way, may be a gerund. And don’t even get me started on past present continuous and the like! Anyway, luckily Khaya is in Thailand teaching English and I get the sense that what you need to learn (and get over 75% for) is not necessarily put into practice quite so formally in the real world, so that makes me feel a bit better. Except I still have to get 75% for every single assignment of which there are many in order to continue and ultimately pass.
The other exciting thing that happened is that I have already found my school! It’s in Tehuacán, Mexico. I had a Skype interview with the supervisor yesterday who asked all sorts of weird questions – like if you had a superpower what would it be? I said, to be able to read people’s thoughts (Yes, I was an avid Misfits watcher!). If I could choose between flying and invisibility which would I choose? I chose invisibility. How would your boss describe you? I said ‘annoying’. 😉 Anyway, after a 45 minute chat he told me that he never does this on the first Skype interview but I’m hired. He found my ‘quirkiness interesting’ and has a good feeling about me. Well, I hope he does not say that to all the prospective teachers. Anyway, its a long way away still but as soon as I saw the advert for this school, I knew it was the place for me. I have 4 months there and am going to travel for 2 months and already I have changed my mind a hundred times about where I am going to go. But more about that later. As I type this I received the confirmation email saying that they want me to join their team! I am so excited!
I am thankful I have all these things to keep me going and occupied because life is hard and lonely in London when you aren’t doing much and are trying to save money. It has literally rained the entire summer so far. I bought a bike recently and have not really been able to ride (except for weekends) because every night when I get home it’s drizzling or pouring with rain. I am really missing the boyfriend so much and and there is no sign of an imminent visit due to his expanding business which in itself is leading to huge stress because the Skype dates of old are very few and far between these days. But on the plus side, his business is booming which is amazing. I am so grateful to have this man in my life who will keep the home fires burning while I get to follow my dreams (with the general expectation that one day we will live and make a life together!)
I have been in London for a year already! The time has flown! What an exciting, exhilarating, amazing year this has been for me! If I had told my 20 year old self that this is what I would be doing with my life at 44 I would not have believed me!
It’s weird because on the one hand I have had lots of time on my hands to do nothing, but when I put it all down on ‘paper’ I can see just how much I have accomplished. This post is a tribute to my first year in London – all the places I have been in London, all the places I visited outside of London in the UK and my travels to other countries. It’s a pretty impressive list, even though I say so myself!
August – I started work in August but prior to that I managed to get myself around quite a bit of the UK. Nottingham (to visit Dan’s gran), Gloucestershire (to visit an old friend from SA), Cheltenham (to visit my cuz) and Malvern to visit my old friend Annabel where we had a marvellous time hobnobbing with the rich and famous! Also attended my first big festival in the UK: Nottinghill Carnival – what an absolute jol!
September – After only being in the UK for 2 months my only living parent (of which I had 3 originally), passed away suddenly. Here is my tribute to my step-dad – On Becoming an Orphan
October – Little did I think that I’d be going back to South Africa so soon! But I had to go for the funeral and sort out my dad’s affairs – I spent a hectic week in Cape Town
July – Summer Concert in Hyde Park – main act was Green Day but we also got to the see The Hives, Gorgol Bordello and Rancid. Hands down the best production I have ever been to! Hands down the most sober I have ever been at a concert so maybe that’s why! 😉 Green Day played for 2hrs 45 minutes and their stage presence and interaction with the crowd was just amazing and heartwarming and yeah, I’m gushing. 🙂 We were in the middle of a rowdy group of people who moshed to most of the songs and everyone was making friends with everyone else, people were pissed and having a great time. There are LOADS of videos on YouTube of this crazy event but the part that blew me away the most was when Green Day had a quick break and they played the music to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the crowd sang every single word. Watch this video to see and also to see how insanely BIG the crowd was – 65 000 people!!!! If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing will!
I’ve been in the same job since I arrived here and that too has been an interesting one as there have been times when its been super slow and boring and I was constantly weighing up the pros and cons of the job. But for the most part I am really grateful to have a job with a great salary and very importantly, that I am able to walk to work, the little bit of exercise I do still get!
I will admit that the travel bug has bitten big time and what I’ve learned from all these quick adventures to other places, is that I would like to immerse myself into the culture of a country, to be able to take time to explore and learn things more deeply than you can when you go for a few days.
Which is why I am doing the TEFL course so that I can go to South America and stay there for as long as I can afford to, living with the people, learn a new language, and really explore … the country, and myself. I love London and I am so happy here but I definitely feel like I do not want to just be here now. I need new experiences and new adventures and that is what I am working towards with London’s help – as its paying me the salary I need in order to save enough! 😉 No more travelling for Maria this year! It’s all serious from here on out – study, save and get slim is my new mantra for the next six months!
So the only way I’ve discovered so far to make my photos not wonk out TOO much is only to put captions on the ones that are rectangular, not square – I had so many pretty square pics that I couldn’t disregard them but those will be the ones without captions – the others should hopefully be descriptive enough!
OK, so where to start about the Amsterdam trip … to put it in a sentence which deserves all caps:
AMSTERDAM BLEW MY MIND!!!!!
I’ve spent a long time on this post trying to put into words why I was so blown away by it. I think it was partly because Amsterdam was something that Mnandi, Jo, Mike and I had decided on doing over a year ago. Mike and Jo were coming to the UK for Jo’s daughter’s wedding and they decided we should all go to Amsterdam for a long weekend together. Tickets were booked ages ago and Mnandi (having been there before) booked the accommodation. For those that know me, know that if I am to go to another country/city with other people who know their way around, I tend to not get involved. I like the element of surprise and am generally quite amenable when it comes to doing things i.e. I have no set agenda so happy to do what the rest want to do as long as we keep busy and see as much as possible. I think what I am trying to say here is that I had no preconceived ideas about Amsterdam. I knew that you can smoke weed in the open and that buying soft drugs is legal and acceptable. And that cheese, clogs and the Red Light District seem to be Amsterdam’s other claim to fame. Well, let me tell you dear readers, we did all of this AND MORE!!!
What I didn’t expect:
Was to be able to read all the road signs because Dutch is so similar to Afrikaans
To be able to understand people when greeting and other similar sentences because it’s SO similar to Afrikaans
The friendliness of the people
The immense amount of bicycles and that bicycles rule the road and that you don’t find 4 story car-parks, you find 4 story bike-parks!
To see mothers with as many as three children with them on their bikes – no helmuts!
No road rage, considering there are bicycles, scooters, cars AND trams all contending for the same road space – still, bicycles rule.
For my Facebook photo of me licking a giant penis in the Sex Museum to get so many Likes? And comments. I mean really, who died and made everyone a prude!
That you really can walk into a coffee shop (of which there are many) and buy weed (and then smoke it there, or in the park, or in the street, pretty much anywhere except the apartment).
That you can buy mushrooms and various other mind enhancing chemicals at what is called a Smart Shop (the sign of a mushroom above the shop lets you know you have found the right spot).
That I would not see one homeless person in the entire time we were there (not saying that aren’t around, but with the amount of town we covered I think its safe to say that there aren’t many, if any).
The beauty and cleanliness of the buildings
The architecture – we saw some really modern buildings
To puke in the middle of the street and for no-one to bat an eyelid!
Please excuse the layout of this post – really struggling with how my photos are posting now that I have to retrieve them from the Cloud. If anyone has any suggestions of how to fix this, please do let me know!
Daniel’s recent trip to visit me was the catalyst, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the tipping point, the last straw – whatever you want to call it – that caused me to start my new regime of eating less. For two weeks we ate and drank continuously. We ate out every day, at least twice a day and drank copious amounts of alcohol. Besides him going to visit his gran for two nights we spent every moment together and it was awesome. Sadly, too awesome. It was his first visit to me since I have been in the UK and it has been hard without him since he left. All my bravado about long distance has gone out of the window a bit but that’s a story for another day.
Here are some highlights of our trip.
The Book of Mormon – excellent show by the makers of South Park. I was a bit dubious going in, knowing how contentious South Park is and knowing the show is about religion and ‘making fun’ of Africa and things going on there. However, what they addressed really IS going on – like genital mutilation of women being one example. I really did not find it any way demeaning (even though there was a shitload of swearing)! I came away from that show knowing more about Mormonism – what an absolute joke that people really believe all that shyte – and seeing that people can laugh about things that are actually real and hectic issues. The songs were all very catchy and easy to hear and continued the story. It flowed well and every single character was easy to like and enjoy. I would definitely go and watch it again – in fact I want to take Nicholas to see it in December and get his take on it.
After the show (we went to the matinee) Daniel said that he really wished we could go and see a comedy show. We tried Google to see if we could find one close by, but nothing came up. Then lo and behold, while we were walking around, a guy came up to us with flyers to a comedy club with a 20% discount for that very night – in an hour’s time! And oh what an interesting night that was! There were 3 comedians and all of them pontificated about politics and racism (all men, 1 White, 1 Black and 1 Indian). A lot of the stuff I didn’t understand as I am still coming to grips with British politics but the interesting part about it all was the reaction of the crowd! People were walking out and saying they hadn’t come here to watch this shyte kind of vibe. Even though I didn’t get some of it, I still found it funny but yeah, the people walking out definitely put an even more interesting slant on the evening. It was really fun!
Wicked – Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz story. Took a well known story and put a different slant on it. The acting and costumes and sets were all brilliant and the twist in the story was great. A lot of people apparently go to this one many times. Definitely a once off for me and Dan.
Camden Market – One can never get tired of browsing around Camden. Always some funny characters to see and be entertained by and of course, the food selection is just INSANE. In fact, we took so long to eat there because we couldn’t decide. We eventually chose a Hungarian food stall because it had tables you could sit at and we needed to rest for a bit. We probably chose THE most unhealthy option in the whole place as well!
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho – Dan and Don (the gran’s boyfriend) had surprised the gran. Dan by not telling her he was coming to the UK for a visit and Don by arranging a weekend in London with us and not telling her. We managed to keep it a secret so gran was VERY surprised to see Daniel at her front-door when he arrived. And then even more surprised and thrilled that they would be coming to London for the weekend! Anyway, jazz is not our thing but we went because they wanted to and it was another nice surprise for gran. It turned out to be such a fun afternoon. A band called The Jive Aces were the act and they were funny and very good. The songs were all tunes that people know from movies or adverts. We chose to eat there and the food was excellent, albeit a bit pricey. The show lasts about an hour and a half. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you have older folk visiting and not sure what to do with them. It does require booking way in advance though.
Had to get this picture – of Dan looking at some art! LOL. Not his cup of tea really – National Arts Museum
After the show we wandered around Central for a while and by the time we got back to Richmond, it was time for a pint at what had become our local in the short time that Daniel had been here. Turns out it was open mic night and we had the most fabulous time listening to all the talented people having a go! Daniel’s gran and her man are such good sports and I think they had a better time than us! Lots of wine was consumed!
The Queen’s Rose Garden – Regent’s Park – Did not know about this part of the park and was so pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it was. So many variations of roses and they all smelled different and beautiful! Lovely place to go if you want to propose marriage to the love of your life.
Slam Dunk Festival – The whole reason Dan came to visit when he did, was because we wanted to go and watch one of his favourite bands play at a festival in Hertfordshire – Mad Caddies. So we spent two days doing this. One day to get there and go to the festival and the next day to recover and get home. It was a very interesting experience to say the least. Coming from a background of years and years of trance party experience (with one rock festival – Ramfest) in there too, this was totally different! Even if I just compare the Ramfest experience with this one because the genre of music is similar, it was still so different. Or maybe it was just because we didn’t know anyone so there was not that familiar vibe of walking around and bumping into people. Or maybe it was because it was gently drizzling the entire time. It was still really fun though! The bands we wanted to watch were all great, the sound was amazing and we had a fat jol. We tried really hard to get drunk but that didn’t happen – not sure if they watered down the drinks or what (they were rather cheap). Anyway, probably for the best because we got to go home and enjoy the quaint little hotel we were staying in and were not at ALL hungover for the free breakfast in the morning! We even went for a little walk in the town before hopping on our bus to the station.
Our stay in Bradford-On-Avon. The second week of Daniel’s visit we decided to drive up to Bath for 4 nights. Turns out we had booked a cottage on a farm in a town about 15 minutes outside of Bath. It was so beautiful and exactly what we needed after a hectic ten days of being on the go non-stop. We had lots of big ideas about seeing as much as we possibly could in those 4 days – maybe even driving up to Wales – but the moment we got there we were so overcome by exhaustion and the beauty of the area that we literally didn’t leave for 2 days. There was a farm stall 5 minutes walk from us with milk and cream straight from the cow, fresh, HAPPY meat and everything else we needed so all I did those first days was cook! LOTS of food and drink consumed. We managed to make it into the village on the third day – SO old! And on the last day we caught the train into Bath, did the hop on, hop off tours and in so doing, managed to see as much of Bath as possible in one day. We left feeling revitalised which is the main thing.
There is no set date yet for Daniel’s next visit – he has to at least pretend to run his business for a while again – but that doesn’t stop me from nagging him about booking his next ticket at every opportunity. 😉 Can’t wait for our next adventure!
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since starting the Bucket List blog series. So instead of this blog post being about the top 10 places in the world I really still want to visit (which was the original aim), its going to be about my immediate future plans. Writing this series made me realise that there were a few things I wanted to do when I was married that I was really passionate about, and that I would still like to do. Going through all the photos and memories and my journal, reignited some smoldering fires that have clearly not gone out!
Two things spring to mind first and foremost. I wanted to go and save turtles in Costa Rica and I wanted to become a teacher. Saving turtles in Costa Rica was a ‘I need to find myself’ cry for help when the stresses and strains of being a mom and a wife and a go-between was all getting too much for me. But of course that idea didn’t sit well with anyone and volunteer work such as that, requires you as the volunteer to actually pay to do the work. But now, this is something I could potentially do.
The other thing I wanted to do was become a teacher. But changing careers and studying and then becoming a low paid teacher in South Africa was not really feasible either.
BUT NOW, the world is my oyster and so the plan is to do a TEFL course, learn Spanish and then go and teach English as a foreign language (hopefully in Costa Rica so that I can save some turtles too) but if not there, anywhere in South America.
And that dear readers, is my next quest. It probably means that I am not going to have too much new material for the next while as I settle down to studying on the weekends and save every last cent I have in order to fund my time away, but I do have a few holidays that I have not blogged about yet (Daniel in London and Amsterdam) and a few things on my mind that I wish to share … so don’t panic as the drought is not imminent. 🙂
This would be my first overseas road trip and what a trip it was! It had all the elements of a Thelma and Louise experience, except we didn’t kill anyone, including ourselves – oh ok, the only similarity was that it was two women in a top down convertible, going on a road trip to get away from it all.
The trip started in France – actually, no, the trip started in the UK. I sneakily booked my ticket to the UK so that I could spend a couple of nights with Dan (only did Dan this time, not London as well) and then headed off to Gatwick where I met Annabel. We flew to Toulouse and that is where all the fun started. First of all, even though we had been told that no-one speaks English in France, we didn’t really believe it, I mean after all, everyone speaks English right. Wrong! Not even the people at the airport. So there was an issue with the deposit for the car, and we also needed to hire a satnav and all of this contributed to it getting later and later, with the worry that we would arrive at our destination in the dark. Anyway, we finally get the car, and head out onto the freeway, but everything is on the wrong side of the road. Annabel is driving in what she thinks is the slow lane, but everyone is hooting at us and pulling the middle finger. It took us a while to realise that because everything was done in reverse, so too was the fast lane! We got hopelessly lost on our way there and had to stop at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions – so mainly hand gestures were used. I cannot even remember how we actually managed to find the place, but we did, and as I recall it was dusk, so we made it just in time.
We spent a few lovely days in Mauvezin with my family, eating, swimming, drinking and generally just having a chilled time. Photos here under to prove it!
After 3 days we were on our way to Barcelona. We decided to take the scenic route over the Pyrenees which took us about 6 hours. We had every type of weather on that trip. One minute we had the top down of the car, the next we were being attacked by hail. There were cows in the road and at some points we couldn’t even see the weather was so bad. All on the wrong side of the road – nail biting stuff I tell ya! Anyway, we clearly lived to tell the tale as here we are.
We spent a week in Barcelona which was amazing, a must see city! We did the hop on, hop off bus tour which is a really good way to get around the city and get a feel for where everything is. We didn’t do this because we only did the bus a few days in, but a good idea would be to do the bus on the first day, don’t get off but get a feel for the areas and then use it to hop on, hop off when you know exactly where you want to go. From tanning naked on the beach, to exploring the food market, to the best wine tasting experience of my life, Barcelona was a blast! Colourful, exciting and busy. Here are some pics in no particular order.
All in all a fun and educational holiday experience. In keeping with what I want to take away from holidays it had all the elements I desire. Sun, sea, fun, good food, good drink, with a wee bit of culture in the mix!
It would be four years before my next overseas trip – which took place in April 2014. A lot had happened in those four years. I eventually got out of a very acrimonious relationship with ex-husband No. 2, we sold the house we had bought together and I bought my own little matchbox of a place. By this time I had my British Passport and one child out of school. But with two to go and trying to build myself up again to a place where I knew who I was, travelling was not first and foremost on my mind. Then I met Daniel and 14 months after we got together, he moved to the UK. His grandfather was dying (albeit slowly) and he wanted to be there to spend as much time as he could with his grandfather before he got too ill. And so Daniel left South Africa without an end date for returning and so the epic saga of our long distance relationship started.
At about the same time my mothers side of the family were planning a family holiday in France over June/July and because the sale of my house was about to come through I decided to join them. And then in the style that has clearly permeated all my previous holidays, my friend Annabel and I decided to join that holiday with a holiday to Spain. (But more about that in my next post).
Sometimes I do things spontaneously and because I knew I had the money from the sale of my house, and because I was missing the boyfriend so much, on a whim, I decided to go over in April too, over Easter, and do London with Daniel – or was it do Daniel in London?? I think it was both! 😉 It was the best spontaneous decision of my life. It came at a time when we really needed it. So within the space of two months I did another two trips in quick succession. I think that this was the start of the plan that was eventually going to lead me to where I am today. I really felt an affinity with London and knew very quickly, that I could move and live there. The more I think about it the more I think its because English blood runs through my veins. My mother was born in England and all her family before her for as many generations as our family history goes back, lived here so it stands to reason that I feel like I belong here. We have a family Bible that shows the family tree going back to my great, great great-grandfather so there is history here!
Daniel lived in Central London and for the purposes of my holiday that was great! For the purposes of having a life besides paying rent, it was not great, but that story is far too long to get into here. He lived in Marble Arch and was literally a minute’s walk from Hyde Park – that’s how central we were. Besides for 2 days when I went to the Cotswolds to visit Annabel we spent every single day out and about exploring London.