Friday, 27 March 2015

Clara's Travel Tales: The Rome Edition

Today I'm going to talk about my first solo (sans parents) holiday.

I was 19 or 20, had just moved to Europe a year or 2 before, but had already become infected with the travel bug. I remember asking my parents if I could go on holiday to Italy with my 15 and 14year old brother and sister. They said yes, really. A naive never-really-travelled Nigerian teenager going abroad for the first time without parental supervision with two younger siblings, why not right? In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was a reasonable decision on the part of my parents. Either they had blind faith in my abilities, or they'd just got fed up of having 5 children and were hoping we'd get lost somewhere in Italy. 

Anyway they said yes on the condition that we sorted out everything ourselves. We had to fund the holiday, book the flights and hotels and even get our own passports/visas. As a bona fide OCD-er, everything went according to plan as you can imagine. I hustled, we scrimped and saved, and I looked for the "cheapest" flights and hotels. I say "cheapest" because at the time, as a rookie traveller, I hadn't discovered the low-cost airlines, and only British Airways would do. Now with my Ajala credentials well-established, I fly Easyjet and Ryanair like my life depends on it. Let's just that say my posh days are well and truly behind me and I have become a true ajepako!

Arriving in Italy after so much hard work, and with our purses full of money, we were determined to have 2 weeks of great unsupervised fun. I remember us living large that first week, eating/sampling the Italian fare and even drinking wine, something that would normally be verboten to us! We ate a lot of amazing gelato, spent a day with my cousins and aunty and went crazy with shopping. In the first week, we also did a lot of the main tourist attractions; the Coloseum, the Spanish steps, the Vatican city, Piazza Navona, the Roman forum, made our wishes and threw coins into the Trevi fountain (as an aside, I have since been back to Rome, so maybe the legend is true?). In short, life was peachy, until the day that my sister's purse and bankcards were stolen on our way back from St Peter's Basilica.

We'd got the metro and as ajebutter kids didn't realise you could be robbed. So when this pregnant lady fell against my sister's bag, she thought nothing of it and just tried to help her up. At that point, she felt a hand in her bag, but before she could react the woman jumped off the train and ran off at the next station. We were in shock! You see we'd been spending the cash I changed before arriving and were saving the money on her card to pay the hotel when we checked out; that is the cost of two rooms for 2 weeks, minus the 10% deposit. As you can imagine, quite a bit of money! In panic, we rang the bank to cancel the card, then went to find a police officer to whom we could report the incident. They were completely useless and very unhelpful, and as a result of all the running around, we missed our bus back to the hotel. Oh yes, tiny but important detail, the hotel was on the outskirts of Rome, about 1hour away, so a free shuttle bus was provided morning and evening. 

Anyway so here we were in Rome, with night beginning to fall, even less money, and definitely no clue about how to get back to the hotel. Light-bulb moment, we called the hotel who told us that as we'd missed the bus, it was up to us to find our way back. However, as no public transport went as far as the place itself, they were willing to pick us up from a train station nearer the hotel. Upset at this news which meant spending even more of our precious Euros, we got the train to the stop as they'd instructed us, and that my friends is when the real fun on that trip began.

We tried to call the hotel a million times, but the combination of my non-existant Italian and their bad English meant that everything was lost in translation, until my phone battery finally died. Frustrated with the whole debacle, we decided to try to find a bar where we could use the pay phone and where we could have a meeting point for them to come pick us up, since the train station was completely deserted. Anyway when we tried to communicate with the people there, we were told that you needed a special card for the pay phones which we of course did not have! I swear at that point, I started to wonder if the people from my father's village had followed us all the way to Italy and decided that we'd never return home. Well that is when God/fate decided to remember that he/she had 3 young kids somewhere in the Roman countryside who needed to be delivered from a bad and rapidly worsening situation. Basically, a kind but completely BONKERS woman heard us talking about our dilemma and offered to drive us back to the hotel. Ecstatic at this wonderful answer to prayers, we jumped into the car, only for her to tell us about 5minutes into the journey, that she wasn't supposed to be driving her car because it was no longer road-worthy.

She drove recklessly in the car that had only one dim headlight, smoked cigarette after cigarette, chattered Italian non-stop, asked us to hang on to the doors as they could fall off at any time, and told us to keep an eye out for the police! I can still remember the fear that gripped me each time she took a bend, I tell you, we were beyond relieved to arrive at the hotel safe and sound. Amazingly, she refused to accept anything from us and even seemed embarrassed when we became too effusive with our gratitude.

After this adventure, we decided (mostly because we had no more money), to stay at the hotel for the last couple of days and truly enjoy the facilities. As the resident OCD-er, I made a budget, subtracting the hotel fees and airport transportation costs from the funds we had left, made a budget for all three of us and divided the money equally.  We lived off cheap tinned foods, until my brother (the ajebutter) rebelled after the second day and refused to eat any more of it. He spent the rest of his money, then promptly made friends with a British family who basically fed him for the rest of our stay there...awon Oliver Twist tinz. Anyway everything went okay, until we decided it'd be a good idea to leave for Rome a day early so we could at least visit my cousins and say goodbye before going home to England. Being that it was the final day, (and due of course to my impeccable money management skills), we were able to treat ourselves to fine food, make the (very foolish) decision to store our luggage at the train station and do some final sightseeing before going for dinner at my aunty's.

The staff at station quoted us a price for 24hours which sounded sensible and within our budget, so we agreed and left our stuff. The next day, arriving at the station early in order to take our train to the airport, imagine our surprise when they told us that the fee was at least 100€ more than the initial quote! Remember every single cent of our money had been calculated and accounted for. When we'd begged/cried to no avail, we reported them to the police, but they couldn't and didn't give a flying fuck about our situation. Eventually, I did some calculations, and realised that if we gave them everything, and asked our parents to come get us from London, we'd be missing only 25€. That is when I decided to do something that still makes me proud of myself, but also makes me cringe in shame whenever I remember it. I basically left my siblings at the station and started begging on the streets. I repeatedly offered my phone to whoever wanted it, in exchange for the money. Of course I wasn't very successful. No one wanted my shitty phone, many people didn't speak English, and of course the stereotypes of seeing a black child begging on the streets of Europe meant that many people instinctively avoided me, that is until I came across my American Samaritan. He was young, (must have been in his early 20s) and didn't seem particularly to have a lot of money, but he took pity on us and gave me the money without taking my phone. He even refused to take my address as guarantee that I would reimburse him! He was just a good Samaritan plain and simple. Thanks to this amazing kindness, we were able to pay, retrieve our luggage and rush to the airport....but of course the story doesn't end there haha!

We got to the airport late and had only a few minutes to spare before our flight left but thought we'd make it because things were finally going well, that is until we got to the security/border control.  In a hurry, and still stressed from the events from earlier on in the day, my sister got pissed and became very sassy with the officer who then decided to pay us back by holding us hostage. He repeatedly checked hers and my brother's passports, called his colleague over and wasted precious minutes laughing at the pictures. That my friends is how we missed the flight.

After all that kerfuffle we sha arrived at the BA counter, where the British people, took one look at us and decided to take pity and put us on the next flight home. Miraculously this was completely and utterly free of charge. Looking back, and writing this really makes me think how God/someone was watching out for us.

Anyway, back in London, we made up some flimsy lie and got my parents to pay for our coach tickets home over the phone. Till today, we have never shared that story with our parents, initially because we were scared they'd prevent us from going on future trips, and now because it's a kind of special secret between us children. We still laugh about that holiday, and the three of us became closer after it. The younger two think we're cool survivors, and are kind of jealous of our Italian adventure. 

So, ever been on a crazy holiday or trip? Please share your experiences and let all laugh about them!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

Still going hard on the grind. This week was also really productive even though I seem to have lost the feeling that I'm progressing in leaps and bounds. I think that is what happens as one moves away from being a complete beginner; the steep learning curve which also means massive leaps in knowledge acquisition gradually becomes less steep and of course the leaps become "just" strides.

Anyway on to this week's review...
  1. Done. As with last week, I did a bit of listening to radio, because I automatically put it on whenever I am out and about in Brussels. However, I am loving Das Erste and ZDF; German TV stations where I can watch stuff with subtitles. I even watch a short 6minute documentary last night about Nigeria. Love, love these two stations!
  2. Done. I saw Hanna on Thursday and spoke quite a bit of German. I am really glad I met her, becuase apart from the German, we get along very well and spend most of our meetings giggling. Last time I met her, an elder gentleman stopped us as we left the restaurant to tell us how refreshing he found us. He'd been watching, and said he loved the fact that two young women could just meet up and spend the evening laughing away. It was so sweet!
  3. Done. I wrote a super long email to MIL on Tuesday (the words flew off the tip of my fingers), then got Hanna to correct it on Thursday, the poor thing. I hadn't done that in a while and it was good to have her input, and for her to pick up on my many many mistakes.
  4. Done. I finished the book I was reading and started another one. It is about 250pages long, so it should take much less time anyway, but I think I've also become a bit better and faster at reading in German. It's a much harder book to read, but I like the story and am enjoying the book, so I will not give up.
  5. Done. I reviewed the 12 chapters that I previously done and became a bit more confident with some of the rules.
  6. Done. I am so happy that I have re-found my zeal for Duolingo. I have done it everyday since last week and I find myself flying through the levels. I kind of re-did the whole thing, but it was worth it, and I think it was good to refresh my memory.
I'm hoping I can repeat last week's successes and work even harder this week, although I have another friend visiting this weekend. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

After so many weeks of slacking with German, I seem to have found my zeal again, thank God! I worked hard this week, and felt myself slowly sliding back into the world of German grammar and vocabulary. I learnt a hard lesson which is that no matter how hard you've worked previously, slacking off usually leads to a loss of muscle tone, in this case brain muscles. I am basically having to re-remember vocab. that was slowly becoming normal to me, and catching myself making silly grammar mistakes. Still I'm back on the horse now, and happy with my progress. I'm off to see MIL and Jen from Ibibio girl in May, and I am determined to impress them both. As I've got just over 7weeks left, I'm going to have to knuckle down and work really hard.

So on to this week's review...
  1. Done! I did a bit of listening to radio, but really focused my energy on watching lots of German TV. I've discovered that I can watch the public channels online with subtitles (for deaf people), and this is such a life-saver as it means that I can follow the programme both by listening and reading. Already seen a few films and documentaries, and there seems to be a whole lot waiting to be viewed. I am so very thankful for HOLA, the browser add-on that lets me change my geographic location online!
  2. Done. I saw Hanna on Wednesday and again spoke a lot of German. She taught me a few choice words this time, and we were both much less in the polite, well-brought up girls mode. I was a bit tipsy, which made pronunciation a bit interesting, but I have so much fun.
  3. Done. I wrote an email to my MIL, and immediately noticed the wasting away of the German muscles of my brain. As in it was hard to get the words to sound smooth on paper, but I persevered and did it. This week should be better.
  4. Done. I am STILL reading the book I bought about 4weeks ago, but I think I'll be done today, as I only have a few pages left. I am sooooo looking forward to reading something else. At this rate, I'll probably end up reading much fewer books than I usually get through each year.
  5. Done! I did my one chapter, but I think this week's grammar goal will be revising all the previous chapters to make sure I've really got the lessons.
  6. Done, and I am so happy about this! I finally managed to get back into Duolingo and I realised it really helps with the vocabulary and even the grammar. 
I'm hoping I can repeat last week's success and work hard, even though I have friends coming over this weekend. And on that note, I wish everyone a lovely week!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Recovery and Recuperation

Normally I have a hectic lifestyle, but these last four weeks have been particularly tiring. I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting older, or just because I overdid things, but I am exhausted! Of course this has taken a toll on my healthy lifestyle and German goals. My diet although far from being completely disastrous, hasn't been perfect, and the quality and quantity of exercising plummeted this last week. In addition to this, I have been struggling with achieving all my language goals. The straw that broke the camel's back though was the terrible day I had at work last Wednesday, when I was attacked twice (once quite viciously) by some of the children. My head has been really messed up since then, and although I had my lovely sister's graduation to distract me this weekend,  I am apprehensive about returning to work. As someone with slight OCD tendencies, I know that routine and order help me cope, and are the best means of dealing with my anxieties. So I have decided to push the reset button by going on a four-day lifestyle detox, encompassing every area of my life including food, sleep and socialising. I'm going to try to eat right, sleep well and take time out to do the things I enjoy doing. I haven't had the time to interact with many people in the blogging community recently and I miss that for example. I also actually enjoy reading, working on my German and seeing my progress, so I am looking forward to picking it up where I left off...
So yeah,  Monday to Thursday will be spent looking after Clara and nursing her, body and soul, back to health.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Last Weekend.

First of all, there'll be no language review this week because....well I only did 4/6 things on the list (conversation exchange, reading, grammar book and radio), because I was yet again very busy. The thing is that I don't actually have the right to paid holiday at the moment, because in Belgium you have to work for a whole year before you can take time off i.e. I can only take my 6week holiday for 2015 from January 2016 onwards, and if I no longer work for them, they'll have to pay me in lieu. In reality, what this means that I have to make up all the hours before or after, every time I travel. As you can imagine, I am exhausted from all the extra work because God knows February was more than crazy. Anyways enough whining for today...

In other more important news *drumroll please* T met the fam! We both left our respective cities on Thursday and travelled down to England to spend the weekend with my family, and I honestly was amazed at how loving everyone was. My naturally shy T completely opened up and really made the effort to talk to and get to know my siblings, my parents outdid themselves with all the cooking/driving/spending/etc., and my siblings...gosh, I have no words! They all told me so many times how good/respectful/sweet T was, and they made such an effort with him. At some point on Saturday, I was completely ignored while all the boys chatted football, then later on hung-out around the XBox. Honestly, I was super worried about this meeting and had been trying to put it off for as long as possible, but that became unsustainable because my parents (mum in particular) were really pushing for T to meet them. Well I'm glad to say that my fears were utterly and completely unfounded, as even the English weather cooperated! 

I stayed one day longer in England to rest, and will be going back to Brussels and real-life tomorrow, at least for a few days....I'm off to Paris on Friday for my younger sister's graduation. Hoping I'll be able to get back on the language horse this week.

Have a lovely week everyone, I hope your weekends were as happy as mine!

P.S. Many thanks to Duru who checked on me when he noticed I'd gone AWOL online. I'm fine, and the busy times are (mostly) behind me now so I'm back.  

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

I think I've reached a plateau in my language learning. This always happens to me at some point during the journey (it did with French and later Italian), and usually occurs when life becomes busy. Well February has been more than busy, because I have spent/will spend 3 out of the 4 weekends abroad (Paris, Vienna, England), and as I currently am not entitled to paid holidays, I've had to make up the hours. All that to say I am slacking seriously with German, but looking forward to resetting the motivation in March (although that's already looking to be very busy too!).

Anyway on to this week's review, which will be short and sweet...
  1. Done. I have the radio on whenever I walk to work, and I of course make sure I watch at least 2 programmes in German every week. I particularly like Karambolage on Arte because the programs are very short and they're all about explaining the German and French culture and way of life to the foreigner.
  2. Done. On the conversation front, things are going quite well and it feels like I can hold up my end. I now use words that I have subconsciously learnt from reading.
  3. Done. I wrote an email to my MIL as usual, but decided this time to really pay attention. I'm starting to move past the stage of being unable to communicate, to the stage where I have the vocabulary and know how to construct simple sentences, so I have decided to be stricter with myself and work harder on avoiding mistakes.
  4. Done. I am still reading the book above, which I bought in Vienna. It's a normal novel for adults and is similar to the kind of books in English that I would normally pick up, so that makes it hold my attention. However my reading speed is much slower, and I will probably only finish it in another week.  Still, I am learning lots of new vocabulary which gets imprinted in my head, because I see the words being used repeatedly.
  5. Done. I did my one chapter and managed to assimilate it. In fact I think that because I am working hard with the reading and conversation exchange, each week the chapter/grammar exercises seem easier. Kind of like the book is slower than my actual progress!
  6. Not done. This is where I am really slacking. I can't seem to find the time or the motivation to do this to be honest. I might have to review this goal soon (maybe reducing the frequency), because I feel so bad whenever I realise I haven't achieved it.
I felt the week was a total flop, and was rather sad about how February seems to have gone, but writing this makes me realise I'm still making a lot of progress. And to be fair, doing 5 out of the 6 things on the list can in no one's books be classified as being an abject failure. There are a few more days to go before we finish the month, so I'm going to try to work hard and finish February on a high.

Wishing everyone a lovely week!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Clara's Travel Tales: The Belgian Edition

It is just over 3months since I packed up my life in Paris and decided to move here, so for this month's 15-for-15 post, I've decided to talk about Brussels; the good, the bad and the downright strange.

On my walk to work

 Grand Place

One of our many Tuesday meeting snacks

Snow glorious snow!

The Bizarre (to me)

Children drinking coffee. The Nigerian/British/Parisian "bush geh" that I am, was shocked the first time I saw this happening, but it's apparently quite normal here. I was like is this a good idea for some of our already hyper children? My colleague just looked at me as if I was weird and started to pour out the coffee...still not convinced about this though. 

Kisses: I am British and we do NOT do kisses, so Paris was already enough of a culture-shock, but I had to recalibrate again my brain when I moved here. The first thing that surprised me was the men (cheek)kissing each other! In Paris, this only happened in woman/woman or man/woman duos. And the fact that Belgians give one kiss instead the Parisian two has almost put me in (as Ibibiogirl says) a hot of pot ogbono soup a few times. So many awkward situations have resulted from this, such almost lip-kisses (with colleagues and my boss!) and my cheek hanging out in the air as I waited for the second kiss!

The "Bad"

Belgium is a small trilingual/tri-cultural country which is deeply divided along linguistic and geographic (north-south) lines; the French speaking Walloon in the south, the Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and the tiny German community to the east. Brussels being the capital of both Flanders and Belgium is in a weird position, since it's smack bang in the middle of Flanders and officially bilingual but in reality, French is the lingua franca here. This drives the Flemish community crazy, as everyone knows how important Brussels is to Belgium and even Europe. So they decided with lots of compromise, discussion etc. that the solution was to have 3 bus lines (one for Brussels and then one each for the French and Flemish communities), and different library networks, schools etc. You can imagine how confusing this can be for the newly arrived expat who learns that her bus/library pass works in certain places and not in others...I was so mad because this cost me so much money in the beginning.
Even the hospitals in Brussels have 3 different funding systems! My hospital for instance is completely francophone and was funded by the French community which is now trying to force us to choose the bilingual funders (from the capital, Brussels). This would in theory be a good thing as it means we'll have more resources, but the trouble with being funded by them is that we will have to become completely bilingual; accept Flemish children, re-write all our stuff and get bilingual staff. However, the law also says each person has the right to choose what language to live/work etc freaking complicated and pointless for an outsider looking in.

A few weeks ago, I myself experienced the animosity that exists between the Flemish and French communities, when I called the Flemish university in my good deeds post. The guy on the phone refused to speak French even though I could tell he understood me! In the end I asked if we could speak English and it was only then that he started responding.

The Good 

Snow, and so much of it! Coming from Gravesend where it hardly ever snows, Brussels is a welcome change because I really really love snow and the way it makes the world look. Luckily for me, my work which is only a 20minute bus-ride from my flat seems to be in a particularly snow-prone and beautiful area of Brussels. 

Learning new Belgian words and using French in a different way. Now I say things such as "gai" and "chouette" which sound very informal and almost childish to my Parisian ears. I'm also learning to say "GSM" instead of "portable" (mobile phone), and "à tantôt" instead of "à tout-à-l'heure" (see you later). The funniest thing though is the fact that the Belgians say "je sais" (I know) instead of "je peux" (I can). So for example, instead of saying "tu peux me donner..." (can you give me...), they say "tu sais me donner..." (do you know how to give me...). In the beginning I wondered why they seemed to spend so much time asking me if I knew how to do even the tiniest things! Luckily a colleague explained it to me, and I realised it's really just like Yoruba where we sometimes replace the verb "to be able to", with the verb "to know" e.g. "mi o mo bi wo se'n je ijekuje" (I don't know how to eat rubbish), to mean I don't (can't) eat rubbish. Yeah, Brussels is making me into an amateur linguist ;) On top of this, the fact that everything is both in French and Dutch is helping me learn Dutch and by extension German by osmosis.

Work. I am learning a lot about psychoanalysis! There is a different school of thought in France where psychoanalysis is being discouraged but here in Belgium, it is neither encouraged nor discouraged, although they say that there are no scientific bases for it. However at my hospital, it is very important and in fact our whole philosophy is based on psycho- analysis and therapy, so I'm having to learn very quickly. Luckily we have regular seminars, meetings and training days.

I also love the family setting at work, for instance, at Xmas there were presents for children and adults alike, the children are well cared for and the staff go out of their way (bringing/buying stuff for the kids, looking up info on their days off, etc). We have lots of parties and are always celebrating something, for example, they celebrated my first day there with wine/cider/champagne...I was like what manner of place is this?! The management also trust staff noting their own hours, and they feed us loads! Eating at work is encouraged, and I sometimes have breakfast, lunch and sometimes even dinner there. This really helps me with budgeting and saving.

It is hard-work, working with the kids physically and often-times emotionally too, but I love the job and I can see why no one seems to leave the hospital (one of my colleagues has been here for 30years!)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Decisions That Changed My Life: The Teenage Epiphany

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

A few weeks ago, a friend Urigi asked her blog-readers to share experiences that have inspired, or been a defining moment in their lives. I wrote a very long comment, then decided that I'd like to share that comment on my blog.  Here it is...

As a child I was intelligent; coming 3rd in Nigeria at 11, in the National common entrance examinations for instance, but also very lazy. As soon as I got into secondary school, my grades basically plummeted , mostly because I couldn't be bothered with the classes and/or studying. I just really wanted to be left alone in peace to read and read and read! They eventually became so bad that my father had to resort to bribing me with cash for every A I got. As an original money-loving naija babe, this incentive made a huge difference, and I started to work hard ;)

Anyway around the age of 15, I suddenly realised that I didn't want to be like my evil cousins who lived with us and had done their WAEC/JAMB at least 9times since I knew them. One in particular always seemed so stupid and uncouth! Even as a kid, I knew that a lot of the stuff she was was either illogical, ignorant or just plain untrue. At the time, I thought this was due to her ignorance and it really motivated me to be different. I wanted to know more about the world and wanted to breakaway from that ghetto of mediocrity. I had ambitions; to become exposed, to experience other cultures, learn foreign languages, to visit other broaden my horizons. And I knew that I could only do this if I had an education.

That term at the end of SS2 (penultimate secondary school year in Nigeria), I woke up and promised myself that I'd do better the next year. And I did. I cleared my WASSCEs/NECOs and got a very good score in JAMB; enough to study geology at FUTA. And although I never went to university in Nigeria, this experience taught me that I had the power to dictate the direction of my life. Since then, my life's motto has become very similar to the sentiments that the English poet William Ernest Henley tries to convey in verses 1 & 4 of his poem Invictus.  I realised that I really am the master of my fate.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

This week's review is going to be different, it will be a 2-in-1 summary as I didn't do a review last Monday, and I think two detailed reviews in one post would be too long. So anyway, here goes...

Last Week...
I was once again on fire with German! I'm not sure why this was, but I really made an effort and I saw the results. I met Hanna as usual and was able to have an actual conversation with her, then I read the much harder children's book she'd loaned me. It was a very good book, I guess written for older children, and was therefore very very challenging for me to read. Luckily the stories were riveting, so I couldn't give up or put it down. So good in fact was the book, that I've decided I'd like for my children to read it one day. The great thing about this is that I was able to learn so many new words.

In terms of the other skills, listening to German radio has more or less become second nature to me now, and I am understanding or at least recognising more and more words. I was even able to get some information about German Airline strikes and warn T who was scheduled to be travelling, about this. I was so proud of myself! I also wrote my MIL an email, did my weekly chapter and practised on Duolingo at least 5 times during the week.

This Week...
Was the total opposite! I wrote my MIL an unusually long email, did my weekly chapter and a lot of listening to radio. I also watched quite a bit of children's TV with T on Saturday, as well as the clips my Conversation partner sent me and a documentary on Youtube. Apart from this however, I feel like this was a very lazy week for me German-wise. I did hardly any Duolingo practising, did not read a whole book (read bits of another children's book and started my first novel on Saturday). And to make matters worse, I was sick down with the flu/running a fever and had a sore throat on Monday when I met Hanna for conversation exchange, so honestly didn't do very well with actual conversation. I wasn't very motivated to talk with my laryngitis, and was really slow in understanding anything she said to me...the poor girl must have been so frustrated! Still, I'm not too discouraged about my lack of progress because I've just spent 5 days in Vienna and had German around me all the time, on TV/supermarkets/public transport/everywhere, including at the basketball match I went to on Saturday.

I guess I'd just had as the Germans say "die Schnauze voll" (was fed up). This week I am once again very motivated and looking forward to working hard to catch up, especially since there won't be any travelling and/or illnesses "die Daumen drücken" (fingers crossed).

Anyway that's it for this week's edition ;)  Wishing everyone a lovely week!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ma Vie Amoureuse: The Valentine's Day Edition

This is my weekend off when I'd normally visit Vienna from Friday to Monday, however I arrived here last night because all the valentine's day celebrating couples had basically caused Ryanair and all the other airlines to massively increase their fares. I had no choice but to use up one of my precious annual leave days to make sure I could get the cheaper ticket for yesterday, and because I was leaving earlier than normal, I had to make sure I finished all the things I needed to do at work. On top of this I've been quite ill, so I decided to skip my weekly language review post this week. Ironic isn't it, that I caught the flu over the weekend, just after having put up the post about being in a better state health-wise. Apparently this is what happens when you start working in paediatrics; my colleagues keep telling me that I just need time to strengthen my immune system. On the plus side, I think I've discovered the troika that is the ultimate cure for flus: rest, fruits and fluids in massive quantities, and anti-inflammatories. I recovered very quickly and I'm happy to know that I'm slowly developing immunity to every virus or bacteria known to man.

Ok, on to today's topic. It's the big V this weekend (valentine's day to those who have been living under a big fat rock), so I thought I'd share the story of the one and only time I "participated" in this feast of love and lovers. Hang on a minute Clara, I hear you say, only once? But Clara you are 30, how is this possible? Well I am here to divulge all. See I was that geeky girl that had zero interest in boys all through secondary school; I can remember even getting a letter from a neighbour boy and being very embarrassed about it. I was 16 at that point and hadn't even noticed that said boy was on the same planet as me and attended the same church! I remember reading it quietly in my dormitory, then laughing at his poetic use of language, I believe one of the lines was about feeling obliged to reveal his emotions "just as women had to reveal their pregnancy after 9 months." In the end I think I shared the letter with one or two friends then destroyed it. To my eternal shame, I then went back home and either fled or completely ignored the poor boy each time I saw him. 

Later, newly arrived in England, I went to school for the first time and met Dave who told me he lived near me, volunteered to help me settle in and would walk almost home everyday. It was only in our second year of A levels that I found out he lived nowhere near me, and that he'd actually had a crush on me. Me I just thought all English kids were kind and well-brought up lol! Apart from Nick, my very close friend with whom I went swimming and who I had a brief crush on, this was the extent of my amorous life until I turned 22 and went to live in Stockholm for the year. I arrived in August, met  Finnish H in September and started my first ever relationship almost immediately. Now there is a stereotype about Scandanavian men being cold emotionally, but I think the poor boy met his match in me. I remember the first time he told me that he loved me, and the horrible silence that followed, before I managed to gather myself and reply very primly "thank you." I am not the demonstrative of people, so as you can imagine, we were never on the same page in that aspect of things.

Anyway February soon rolled by, and I recall walking back from Uni after classes and seeing all these dressed up men, rushing around with varying sizes of bouquets. I clearly remember wondering who had died? Imagine my surprise when I got home to find H waiting for me by my door (having not called me to ask about coming over), holding a single rose. My people I looked at the boy strangely and asked him why he was there? Anyway long story short, he reminded me that it was valentine's day and we needed to do something yada yada yada.... I sha felt so bad about the whole thing that I rushed out the next day and bought him an inappropriately expensive perfume, in order to assuage my guilt. After that, I made sure I always sent a short "happy valentine's day" message to whoever I was dating, but that is it. I honestly never want to experience that feeling of guilt and embarrassment again.

Oya over to you blog-fam. What are your most memorable valentine's day stories? Please share. Thank you/Oshey/Merci/Grazie/Danke Schön!