Groningen, (yes you’re probably pronouncing it incorrectly), a bustling city in the North of The Netherlands. A thriving student centre and a place I’ve come to call home.
There are many things to love about Groningen – Noorderplantsoen on a (rare) sunny day, the nightlife, all the cafes, the diverse range of events happening here ( Leonardo DiCaprio themed party anyone?) and of course all the friends who make up your Groni-Family.
Today, however, I will present you with a reason to adore Groningen even if you’ve never heard of the place before.
ITS JUST SO PRETTY! Many Dutch cities are astetically pleasing, its true, but I’m very much biased here. Allow me to justify myself:
So, there you go, now you know – there is this Dutch called Groningen and it is quite a pretty place.
Til Next Time
Living your best life. Doing the things you want to do, saying the words you want to say, being the person you want to be. Are you? And if not, why not?
My guess as to why you might not be living your best life is pretty simple, you’re just not ready yet. All the little things have not yet fallen into place, and it’s these unruly mites that keep you from jumping into action. So, you wait, say that next week you’ll sign up for that class, when your skin eventually clears THEN you’ll start that YouTube Channel and when you’ve at last figured this life stuff out THEN you’ll take up meditation and interior design.
The starting points we set for ourselves are malleable and all too easily pushed further back until suddenly we can’t even see them anymore. It’s a similar process to the drawing of a line across the desert, in the middle of a sandstorm. It’s all in vain – you’re not getting anywhere.
We have time it’s true, a lot of it even. But there is a limit to the time we have on this earth. And yet we all sit waiting for one particular time, the so-called ‘Right-Time’. The stars will align, and the moment will finally be ripe for action, for the beginning – for your beginning. But no calendar, no clock, nor colour-coordinated year planner will ever show you when exactly the ‘Right Time’ is.
And maybe that’s because it doesn’t exist. So, what now? Should we just accept that the universe will never work in our favour, put our plans to bed and send our dreams to their graves?
No, not all – graves for dreams would be altogether too grim!
While we can say that the ‘Right Time’ doesn’t exist, we can also choose to take another stance. The view that the ‘Right Time’ is a constant, the ‘Right Time’ is now. With now being whenever and wherever you are.
It’s natural, of course, to want things to be just so before starting something new, no matter how big or how small a new it may be. However, it’s important to prioritise starting over perfecting. Because ultimately you may never reach perfection but you certainly won’t if you fail to even take those first crucial steps.
Seize your moment, take the ‘Right Time’ that’s here for you right now. Take the classes, get a move on with your study schedule, learn to meditate even as life continues to confuse you, visit that city that’s been on your list for sooooo long, become the vlogger you’ve always wanted to, wear the dress, paint the walls… Whatever it may be, just take the leap, do it and do it now!
In short, start living your best life.
Til Next Time
Ah yes, the not-so-nice lover we just can’t seem to get over. You most likely have been in a relationship with Stress, are currently in a relationship with Stress or will at some stage fall into the deadly arms of Stress. If somehow you do not fit into any of these categories – please tell me your secret!!! Or allow me to give you cause to reassess your Stress-uation 😉
To do so let me tell you about my relationship with Stress. These last few weeks Stress and I have become ever more entangled with each other. What does this look like you ask? Quite frankly, it’s one heck of a mess.
Think mental and physical exhaustion. Rash, reckless and downright dumb decisions. Oh, and copious amounts of low-quality coffee.
I’ve been running, well more accurately cycling like a crazy lady, from one place to next. Whether it’s been a lecture, a seminar, a meeting or even a catch-up with friends, Stress and I came hand-in-hand. I would arrive in a frazzled state, struggle to truly enjoy the moment as I thought about all the things I still had to do, before leaving feeling even more stressed.
And the worst part? Stress can so easily become what seems to be an intrinsic part of your life. So, before you know what’s what you start to refer to your state of stress like its no-biggie – “Ah I’m so stressed!” “Why am I always so stressed??”, or my personal favourite, sharing Stress-related memes
Don’t get me wrong, A) the memes are funny and B) Stress can be useful. In small doses. In a strictly friends-with-benefits kind of way. The fix you need to boot you into action in the final stages of exam week. Problems arise when Stress wants to stick around.
How then does one show Stress the door? Firstly, as is the case in most cases, you need to recognise the problem. Or you can be like me and ignore it until you crash, burn and disintegrate into drained-of-life life form. I do NOT recommend this option. It ain’t cute, not one bit.
In an attempt to ditch Stress once and for all, I’ve started a ‘TO-Do-For-You’ to-do list. Because while I make to-do lists all the time (no exagerration #listingforthewin) , I still seem to forget to take care of myself. So I’ve wrote down all the important things that contribute to a happy, healthy, Stress-free life. This is what it looks like so far:
- Fresh air and time outside – Spring is here my friends.
- Sleep. Lots of sleep. As much as you need. Sleeping without an alarm and waking up when your body is ready
- Good Music
- Take time to eat good food
- Friends. Family. They are there, and you need them.
- All that self-care jazz – make a face-mask, paint your nails and embrace the magic that is coconut oil (is there anything it can’t do?!?)
- Don’t neglect the unnecessary but oh-so-important things like reading, or researching why Deja-vu is a thing or anything else you feel like doing!
- Hold up, slow down. You have more time than you know.
- Less thinking, more enjoying
While I can’t say that I have completely wiped Stress out of my life, the hold has most definitely loosened. And mannnnn does it feel good!
So if you too feel the STRESS, I hope I’ve inspired you to look for a way out. If you do not feel the STRESS, well then I hope you were at least somewhat amused by this ramble 😉
And if I still haven’t convinced you that you need call it off with Stress, just remember you’re not the only one they’re f***king with.
Til Next Time,
Ah digital camaras, such fun. But do you know whats even more fun? Shooting film. That’s not to say it’s always easy-peasy, but I’m sure you’ll find that the pros outweigh the cons 😉
Why Shooting Film is Not The Best:
- Loading the roll of film into your camera is a a tricky process during which you risk exposing the film , rendering it useless – POOH
- You can’t see the pictures before you develop them. So while you think you may have a roll of outstanding photos, they may well be quite the opposite
- A roll of film sets a limit on the number of photos you can take. An SD card does too, its just that on a roll of film the number is much lower. This means that you can’t take 15 pictures of the same thing, you have to think carefully about what is actually worth capturing.
- Running out of film while out with your camera. Disaster.
- Unloading the film. Similar to the problem of loading the film. Imagine the horror of knowing that you have just ruined an entire roll of photos.
Why Shooting On Film Is The Best:
1.It’s a learning process – choosing film, loading film, unloading film. And as with all things, practice makes perfect and when you become a an expert (or even an almost expert) in these things it feels pretty good.
2. The need to be more economical with what you shoot trains you to spot better photo-oppurtunities. I feel that it also helps you to focus on what’s important to you, as these are usually the things we photograph – now when I use my film camera I like to take pictures of the people I’m with and focus on the details as opposed to the entire scene.
3. The thrill of it. The unknown is exciting. How will the photos turn out?!
4. Even if the developed photos are not what you imagined them to be, you’re likely to adore them anyway. Trust me, even when they’re bad – film photos just have that special something.
5. Having your film developed is like giving yourself a gift. Because among the developed photos there will always be some surprises – days you’ve forgotten about, places you miss, faces you haven’t seen in a while
6. NEGETIVES ARE FUN.
Til Next Time
Exactly one year ago I tried I took the RER A into Paris for the first time, intending to visit the Eiffel Tower. I couldn’t figure out the which stop I needed to get out at or when to change to what train, and so instead of the Eiffel Tower I discovered Notre Dame. And fell in love.
The 5th arrondissment and especically the Latin Quarter will always be my favorite part of the city.
The narrow streets, the bouquiniste stalls, le Marché aux fleurs, Shakespeare and co, Gibert Jaune, Hotel de Ville, Place Dauphine, summer evenings spent Seine-side, spring when cherry blossoms bloom outside of Notre Dame, November evenings so dark and cold you can’t feel your fingers.
I’m not in Paris this year, but as the leaves begin to change and fall, I am experiencing some serious nostalgia. And not just for the 5th, but for the city as a whole. It’s certainly not a perfect city, I’m not sure such a place even exists. In Paris the ideal and the reality exist side-by-side, it is impossible to see one and not the other.
The glamour of Les Grand Magasins and Galeries Lafayette cannot not hide the plight of the city’s homeless.
Grimy, almost hostile streets lead to the most awe-inspiring views of the skyline.
From the cold, indifference of the metro, you emerge to a city pulsing with life.
Seen from Pont Neuf, the Eiffel Tower is simply magnificent – glinting in the sunlight or twinkling in the night sky. Up close the picture is not quite so pretty, the symbol of the city is surrounded by unsightly barriers, long queues and a mass of sellers ready to offer you chargers, selfie-sticks, key-rings, beer…
But then there’s Place du Trocadero with its hustle and bustle – families on holiday, couples oh-so-in-love and of course the buskers. Champ de Mars and the happy sounds of children in the playground.
Capturing moments like this…
Little streets in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower
Knowing you’re never far from a carousel…
People just being people in their city.
The feeling that there will always more to see and more to learn about this city.
Forever wanting more time to get lost because no matter where you go wouldn’t be dissapointed with what you find.
Paris is not all sparkling diamonds and movie-scene love. And yet the cramped metros, dark streets and COLD never repulsed me. These imperfections served to make the city more enchanting.
Paris is not perfect, but it’s the most magical place I know.
Til Next Time
To bicycle or not to bicycle? This is the question. Well, not really. Certainly not for most people here in Groningen, the world’s most bike friendly city. And yet somehow it has taken me two weeks of living here to actually get a bike. While there were always bicycles available they weren’t always within my budget #studentlife. Not having a bike has been the ultimate workout – it’s too bad I don’t have a step counter! The time spent walking also gave me plenty of time to contemplate the pros and cons of bike-life and really get to grips with the great wheels vs feet debate…..
- Everyone else has a bicycle
- People STARE at you wondering how such a peasant came to be when you are walking and not cycling
- Groningen University does not have one central campus, and so you will have classes in different parts of the city. A 20-minute walk to 9am lecture followed by a 30-minute walk to an 11am seminar ain’t cute at all.
- Who doesn’t want to be part of that innately Dutch cycling-everywhere thing?
- Tote bags are fun when holding free t-shirts, pens and leaflets about all the activities you’ll never sign up for. The fun quickly disappears when these are replaced by (deep breath now) a laptop, charger, notebooks, water, pens, folders, a shopping bag, umbrella, spare jacket… You’ll soon be dreaming of a bike with a basket!
- Cycling is simply just faster than walking
- The wind in your hair, cityscapes flashing by – what’s not to adore?
Not to Bicycle
- We had feet before bicycles, right? Relish in the superiority of your own independence and self- sufficiency
- Google Maps is very often more of a hindrance than a help. Now imagining trying to navigate it while cycling
- At least you know for sure you can walk. You might think you can cycle but think again. Traffic lights, pedestrians, bicycles, more bicycles, hand signal, cobbled streets – it’s a minefield!
- The intricate art of maintaining balance while carrying the week’s shopping
- Finding your bike. No further explanation required. A picture speaks a thousand words, and this one is saying ‘Bike, Bike, Bike, Bike, Bike’…
- Riding on the back (or front) of someone’s bike is a great way to make friends
- The hassle of locking your bike, chaining it to something secure just to redo it all later
- Losing the keys for the locks and chains. Leaving you with no other option than to carry your bike home. Like a FOOL
- The constant paranoia that your bike could become one of the 311 stolen every day
- More paranoia – Is this bike you bought through Facebook a stolen bike? What if the original owner steals it back? What if this cheap as chips bike just falls to pieces as I cycle across A-Brug?
- Cycling while intoxicated – Is this even legal? If so, why?
For the moment however, I am firmly on the ‘get-a-bike-side’ of the arguement. I’ve had a bike one day and already my quality of life has improved. Walking is great, but in Groningen Cycling is way to go!
Til Next Time
Just five books I enjoyed reading last month 🙂
Underneath the Lemon Tree, A Memoir of Depression and Recovery – Mark Rice-Oxley
In this book Mark Rice-Oxley, a journalist, recounts his journey into, through and out of depression. A man who seems to have it all suddenly loses everything reflecting the reality that misfortune, depression being one of them, can confront us at any time. His account is harrowing, painfully honest but, at its core, uplifting. I found the paragraph below to be especially striking.
…. Kevin never said, “Why me?” of his hideous illness. He would always say instead, ‘Why not me?’. That’s a crisp example of why the world is poorer without him. The human tendency is to blame, to find fault, to bewail the circumstances beyond our control. In fact, what Kevin articulated was a polar opposite of this: we shouldn’t moan about how unfortunate we are; we should celebrate how well we are.
We should marvel constantly, each day, each moment at the bizarre and precarious nature of our existence; at the improbable geometry of the earth’s place in the solar system; at the delicate zoological balance that allows seven billion of us to survive each day; at the serendipity that has allowed all those reading this book to be born in this time and not a thousand or even a hundred years ago; at the continuing run of good luck that spares most of us from deadly illness or murderous villainy or the vicissitudes of nature.
Our lives are a miracle. Our continuing happiness is not a given, but a stroke of outrageous fortune.
We should ask ‘Why me?’ not when we suffer same wretched set back, but every day we wake up and the world is still there, and our lives stretch ahead of us, marvellously improbable.
Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak – Deborah Ellis
This book holds the combined stories of children in war-torn Israel and Palestine. It is undoubtedly a heart-wrenching given the great pain so many of these young children have lived through. It was also very interesting to hear how the children see each other.
If you think something is wrong, it is important to stand up and speak out, or else everyone will think you agree with what is going, the only way things will get better is if people speak out.
We will make our own peace. Just as we have made our own war.
Protest does work. It helps to influence the way people think. It is good to let others know what you believe. They might believe the same way, and they might get the courage to say so If they see you doing it.
But war, like almost everything else humans do, is a choice. Creating weapons is a choice. Allowing a child to go hungry or to drink poisoned water is a choice. Sitting on the side-lines and doing nothing to stop somethings that’s wrong is a choice.
The Five Times I Met Myself – Tim Marshall
An intriguing novel which delves into the world of lucid dreaming – the art of being conscious while you sleep, thus being able to control your dreams. Sounds like fun, right? Maybe but for the protagonist of this story it proves to be very dangerous game. When Brick finds that he can not only control where his dreams take him but also change his past, it seems like the perfect solution to all his problems. Things don’t go exactly to plan – Brock manages to change his past but wakes up to a frightening new reality.
A Time for New Dreams – Ben Okri
A truly beautiful book filled with thought-provoking and inspiring words.
… its indirect insistence on the magic of listening
The world is a dream
Difficult times, in retrospect, are more romantic than good times, if they are overcome. Myths and fables are made of them.
Hospitality is not tolerance or charity, nor is it weakness. Hospitality can only come from the true strength of knowing what one is, and the tranquillity of allowing other people the strength of what they are.
Hospitality is not a habit. It is a genius of self that recognises the genius of other selves.
We are all guests on this planet, we are all guests in this life.
Open your hearts and minds to the beauties and possibilities of being human
We don’t know who or what any human being really is. Believe me, we are each one a great mystery.
F**ck It: the ultimate spiritual way – John C. Parkin
I really, really, really did not want to return this one to the library. John C. Parkin offers a refreshing, relatable and laugh-out-loud funny look at modern life. It made me think about what I prioritise and why. In short. I think everyone should say f**k it and read this book!
One Day of Life – Manlio Arguelta
One Day of Life is an English translation of a novel by Salvadoran author Manlio Arguetta. The novel is set in Chalatenango, El Salvador, just prior to the Salvadoran Civil War and tracks the daily life of Guadalupe ‘Lupe’ Guardado and the women of her family. Theirs is a tough and gruelling life, surviving with very little and living under the harsh rule of the ‘authorities’, the government’s paramilitary intelligence organisation (La Organización Democrática Nacionalista).
Almost all of us are poor, but we don’t consider it a disgrace. Nor something to be proud of.
…something had happened that we had never imagined. It was a nightmare. We realised that the saints could descend from heaven. After that, nothing shocked us; all that remained was for it to rain fire and for cats to chase dogs.
From that moment on, any sin was going to seem petty.
Til Next Time,
Have you ever wanted to be that guest at a hostel? You know the one. Super annoying, irks everyone, causes staff to tear their hair out and, if they’re really on form, eventually get thrown out. Fear not people I have the answers you’ve been looking for.
Sharing is caring. In order to become that guest you need to embrace this wee gem. You also need to accept without fail that absolutely everybody wants to care, i.e. share. You need not therefore, bother people by asking to “borrow” their towel/toothbrush/flip-flops/pizza/etc – just go ahead, take what you need and make the world a more caring place.
2. MAKE FRIENDS
What time is it? It really doesn’t matter, because in the hostel it’s always time to socialise. So, yes by all means you should strike up a conversation in the hallway at 3am. The louder you chat the better, laughing like a hyena is a nice touch too. Extra points if you take the conversation into your 23-bed dorm room. But don’t worry if you have not yet reached this level – you can just keep opening and closing the door to the room. This way you still succeed in keeping everyone engaged with your no doubt riveting conversation, without actually entering the room – smooth.
3. BE FLEXIBLE
A wise someone once said, ‘Rules were made to be broken’. They were most likely one of those hostel guests and knew very well that above all other rules, hostel rules are the ones to break. In fact they’re not really rules at all. All those ‘no-eating-or-drinking-in-dorms’, ‘keep-quiet-between-11pm-and-7am’ signs? Guidelines babe, just guidelines. So don’t stress it, it’s very possible that your roommates will join you in eating their snacks on the floor anyway.
4. EVERY MOMENT COUNTS
This one is key to getting on the right (wrong) side of staff members. Many hostels operate a 24hr reception, with some poor sod left sitting there to welcome you to at whatever hour you arrive. Beyond this quite a few hostels require a staff memeber to stay up as long as there are guests in the common room. This is where you, that guest, come in. I’m sure you know what I’m about to say, it really couldn’t be easier. Just hang around in the common area or kitchen for as long as you like. It’s important to note that when a staff memeber says they have to close up the kitchen/common area in ‘5 minutes’ they really mean 15. And even when you do eventually leave, you can continue to try sneak back for a good 20 – 55 minutes. I can gaurantee that moments like this with guests like you is the kind of banter hostel staff LIVE for, infact this is the very reason they work in hostels. So go on, pat yourself on the back, you deserve it!
5. HOME SWEET HOME
Ahhh the humble hostel, the home of the backpacker, vagabond, wanderer and/or cheap-skate. Kick-back, relax and make yourself at home. Scatter your clothes all over the floor – now it looks just like your bedroom! Leave the dishes for someone else to do – just as you would at home. Set 77 alarms and sleep through them all, use the same knife for the jam and the butter, turn on all the lights when you stumble into the dorm room at 4:44am, take your own sweet, sweet time in the shower, assume everyone wants to hear your TUNES ( they probably do to be fair)….. Its simple really. If you would do it in the freedom of your own home them itself definitely acceptable in the hostel. And, in the interest of being that guest its a MUST!
Til Next Time
If I can recommend you do two things in Madrid, they would be:
Buy an Abanico
Give the boats at El Parqure del Buen Retiro a go
An abanico is a fan by the way. Not just a gimmick, these things are very useful. Madrid is a bustling city, in the centre of Spain and therefore it is HOT. And at times, very HOT, as in ‘three-days-and-we-haven’t-felt-a-breeze’ HOT. So, believe me, an abanico will prove very handy indeed.
Then of course there’s the novelty of having a fan.
Outfit feeling a bit bland? Create some drama with an eye-catching fan.
Hit a sudden lull in conversation? Whip out that fan and gaze mysteriously into the distance. By time you zone back in somebody’s bound to have found something to say.
The abanico is a great distractor, making eavesdropping, gawking and all kinds of being a nosy goose become muuuccch easier.
Enjoy the feeling of superiority as you watch others fail to yield the fan with the same flourish you do.
Unleash your fan, bat your eyelashes and seduce anyone with in a 5-mile radius. *Note: this one only works if you can release the fan properly. Fail to do so and you might just end up looking like a clown! On the bright side, should that happen you can always use the abanico to fan away your embarrassment. Proving once again, the wonder of the abanico.
There also cheap as chips, so why wait? Beat the heat, release your inner cooooooool and get yourself a fan today!!
A boat is, well, a boat. El Parque del Buen Retiro, ‘Park of the Pleasant Retreat’, is one of the biggest and one of the most popular in Madrid. There’s plenty to see here – The Crystal Palace, the Rosaleda rose garden as well as The Fountain of the Fallen Angel and El Angel Caido, claimed to be the only known public statue of Satan. Many of the parks walkways are named after south American countries such as Avenida de Mexico and El Paseo del Argentina, and there’s no shortage of bars, cafes and restaurants inside the park – perfect for a quick pick me up.
Right in the centre of the park lies El Estanque del Retiro, a large man-made pond. The best way to enjoy the lake, and the view of the monument to King Alfonso XII, is in one of its many rowboats. 2pm might not be the most advisable time to give the boats a whirl – direct overhead sunshine and all that. But lash on the SPF, grab a hat and it’ll be grand. (I accept no responsibility if it’s not ‘grand’ 😉)
At 6£ per boat for 45 minutes on the lake, it’s a fun way to chill out without burning up all your moolah (that’s what the shops on Gran Vía are for!!)
However, the actual rowing of the rowboat can prove a little tricky. Picture a boat going around and around in circles – that kind of tricky. With that in mind, here is my no.1 boat rowing tip:
- Possibly two very capable, very in-sync people could row the boat as a team, but it seems to be a lot easier to let one person take both oars!
- If you really want to win at the whole rowing thing I recommend not rowing at all, sit back and relax while someone else propels the boat 😉
An altogether more important rowboat tip is; bring the abanico with you! In a practical sense it’s going to be HOT and because of a very simple equation: Abanico + Rowboat = Excellent Photo-Shoot Conditions. (Look at me putting all those years of maths class to good use!)
Until Next Time,