Thursday, November 29, 2012

I may or may not have joined a cult

On Monday night I met Jessie in Camden to accompany her while she got her conch (part of the ear cartilage) pierced and have a few beers before she left for India the next morning. As we shared a burger at The Loch Tavern, Jessie mentioned she had picked up a flyer for some kind of creative network and thought it would might interest me. I helped her write a list of what to pack in exchange to stay for a few more pints. It was a lovely evening.

By the time I got home, Jessie had sent me photos of the flyer. 

"Are you just out of university clutching your degree?" The flyer asks. "Are you a creative freelancer just taking the jobs as they come? Are you feeling adrift in a sinking economy? If this is you, WE ARE CAN."

I went on the website to investigate more. Its a sleek website with videos and a simple clean interface. I still didn't really understand what CAN is. I decided to watch an episode of Freaks and Geeks and discover more in the morning, thinking the website would make more sense to me when I was less drunk.

It did not. I had the sense to go to the "about" link but was greeted with a children's story about four animals who learn to share a tree, rather than any concrete information about what CAN is. There's nothing more suss than a vague website with the option to be a Plus Member for £20 a year. As far as I could gather it was a Creative Artists Network, big on #collaboration. I texted Jessie and told her I think she had given me a flyer for a cult. Such flyers do exist in East London, anyway. "Brill," she replied. I made a profile, maybe it would make sense once I was a member (don't worry I didn't pay). 

The profile is somewhere between a Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin account. It allows you to promote whatever genre of the creative world you are versed in, promote your work and experiences and connect with other members. Within a few hours I was added by a few of the site coordinators who started complimenting this blog. 

"Wow, that's really nice," I thought. NO SIAN THAT'S HOW CULTS WORK THEY PREY ON YOUR INSECURITIES TO SUCK YOU IN STAY CYNICAL STAY STRONG GIRL.

I was really taken aback by complete strangers enjoying my writing. Not that I don't appreciate my friends and family who enjoy reading this too, but you guys kind of have to say I'm amazing and talented. 

I don't know what happened to make me so cynical and negative and quick to judge. It's not like my parents forced me to take heroin and sold me to a brothel so I lost all trust in fellow human beings. Although, once Mum said she would let me have plastic surgery on my nose if I still didn't like it by the time I was sixteen, then when I brought it up later she totally denied it. How unfair is that? Actually, I think it might have something to do with the unhealthy amount of Daria I watched growing up. Somewhere along the way I just figured it was okay to be like her when it really isn't, you know, because she's a fictional character.

So, um. CAN. I went to one of their welcome/induction nights at a pub in Dalston because I had nothing else to do, was curious to know what the fuck CAN actually is and secretly liked the idea of it being a cult #DoItForTheStory. Thinking about Martha Marcy May Marlene as I got dressed, I wondered if I was going to have sleep with the leader or something. Well if he compliments my writing enough, I could live with it.

I walked into the relatively private function room and was greeted with "Oh, Sian, hi, your blog has been the talk of the office today."

Oh, wow. That's um. Thanks. I...What. Is. This. 

I chatted to the two members, Tora and Damiano who had complimented me online and they introduced me to Paul, another member. Paul and I sat on a couch and chatted while we waited for more people to turn up and the presentation to start.

Damiano got up and asked if anyone had any questions. Paul couldn't think of anything so he asked me. I straight up said "I don't know what this is." So now, thanks to Damiano, I can tell you that CAN is a creative agency for freelancers. They will advertise projects that need photographers or designers or self absorbed bloggers and in the meantime the members are encouraged to interact and work on projects together to keep themselves busy and get their work out there. Pretty cool, huh?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apology Post

I'd like to apologise for the last post I made. I definitely think I overreacted with how appropriate I think the word faggot is.

I have since realised that if my friends say it, it doesn't bother me, because I know they don't mean it the way I assumed she did. But that it is definitely interesting that because I don't know her I just assumed it was incredibly rude. Maybe it was the tone she used that caught my attention. She said it suddenly and seemingly with vitriol so I jumped to conclusions. Maybe the most surprising thing is that she said in front of someone who, let's be honest, definitely looks like they could be gay and without thinking how it would affect me. Oh well. Whatever.

Tonight she said she would never try a meal if she knew someone had put something weird in it "like sugar or jam". Which I think is far more controversial. She would be fine if she didn't know and would "even ask for seconds, no problem" but knowing what's in the dish would immediately have her turning up her nose.

First of all, she said this as we were watching Come Dine With Me and someone made a main course dish of black pudding wrapped in chicken breast. While black pudding is definitely disgusting and I would forgive anyone who said "no thanks" (I would) it is by no means a weird dish BECAUSE YOU LIVE IN THE UK AND EVERY RESTAURANT AND CAFE SELLS IT.

Secondly, sugar and jam? How are they weird additions to meals? So if I made caramalised onions and told her I used sugar to make them a little bit sweeter she wouldn't want any? What? I can't think of a savoury dish where jam would be used but I'm sure Jamie Oliver would have made something with it. Something along the lines of turkey and cranberry sauce is not going to blow your conservative taste buds apart. Fair enough if you made tomato soup and added marmalade jam because you think you're the next wild and inventive Iron Chef, but there are plenty of dishes that go with sweet, maybe a little unpopular, additions.

I just googled "savoury dishes with jam" and some of the suggestions sound pretty delicious. Maybe tomorrow I'll cook some chicken or spare ribs and ask if I can use the jam in the fridge for a glaze. And then offer it to her. Actually now that I think about it, the other night when I had Mi Goreng, I asked if I could use one of her eggs and just cracked it into the bowl of cooked noodles, mixed it in and started eating it. This seemed to blow her mind. I casually replied "this is what they do in Korea. Its yum." She said "oh, maybe I'll have to try it some day" in an entirely unconvincing I'm-never-eating-that-you-freakin'-weirdo kind of way.

I felt like responding to her tonight and saying "as long as its edible and not banana (or black pudding, I guess) I will try and probably eat all of anything you put in front of me" but I didn't feel it would get me anywhere. So I smiled meekly and said "really?" instead. I should probably try some more engaging responses with her. That would probably be the best way to to get to know her. You know, instead of massively judging her on one statement.

Baz has brought home a whole lot of Pret A Manger (chain store) salads and sandwiches because he often delivers them during his truck driving job, so at least I get to eat free food while I'm trying to get my head around this girl. This evening's comments have made me realise that she's just incredibly sheltered and close minded. While she may have said faggot quite rudely, I don't think she knows that its not cool to say that any more. And sometimes adding strange ingredients to dishes is fucking fantastic. I guess she's never been a poor, lazy student and had to make a meal with whatever is left over in the fridge.

I should probably also try black pudding. Euugghhh.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Flatmate With No Name

I groggily walked downstairs to make some dinner. I'd just woken up from a nap and kind of just wanted to go back to bed. My flatmate was watching X Factor as I took the 95p can of vegetable soup and a packet of Mi Goreng-like noodles out of the cupboard. Trying to work out what I wanted, thinking I had a bit of a craving for real pasta with tinned tomatoes, garlic, basil and mozarella but that sounds like too much effort and I don't have basil or mozarella or even tinned tomatoes, I decided I would sit in the lounge room and watch TV with her even though I can feel my brain cells committing suicide when I watch reality TV shows. Considering I'm responsible for more than enough of my brain cells' deaths it's something I tend to avoid, but in the name of getting to know my flatmates I can sacrifice a few more. And I wanted to sit on the unbelievably comfortable couch.

By the way, Baz calls her Dada and I'm fairly sure that is her name but I'm also scared that it might be an affectionate nick name and I don't want to say it in case its the equivalent of "baby" or "honey". Erin suggested I ask for her phone number (I really should have it because I supposed to tell her if I bring male friends over, which is totally fine, but she needs to know so she can put her hijab on) and get her to put it in my phone, hoping she will fill in her name too. If not I guess I can just put her number under "Baz's wife" or "female flatmate".

I turned the stove on, waited for the water to boil and put the soup back in the cupboard. She was singing along to the catch up scenes from last week when she came into the kitchen, lit a cigarette and sat on the bench next to the sink. One particularly plain-looking competitor had his promo slot and she exclaimed, "that's my boy! He's going to win."

"Oh yeah?" I said smiling. "Do you vote?"

"Yeah, of course." Of course, Sian, of course.

I stirred my noodles, occasionally turning around to see what was happening on the TV.

"Faggot!" She suddenly announced.

I froze. Not in a holy-fuck-there's-a-bear-coming-towards-me-and-I'm-pretending-I-don't-exist but in a subtle-I-don't-want-to-make-it-obvious-but-what-the-shitting-hell-did-you-just-say?! kind of way. The TV was flashing with the bright, multicoloured stage lights as a big dance troupe finished their act and posed. They appeared to be in drag.

"He's not your favourite then?" I enquired gently.

"No. He has a bad attitude." Oh, boy.

"What do you mean? To performing?"

"Yeah. I don't know what the word for it is, but I don't care if he's gay or what he does in his personal life, it really doesn't bother me, but he's too much. He's over the top and very camp."

The word is homophobe. And you are one. It's like saying "I'm not sexist but...." or possibly even worse "No offence but..." and then finishing it up with some hard-hitting truths that are actually just massive insults disguised as constructive criticism because you said "HEY BARLEYS* DON'T GET MAD WITH ME BUT I THINK YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY ARE SMELLY TWO FACED WHORES". You can't preface a statement with something like that and then just say what you want. Your listener will be able to work out if you're a dick or not based on the rest of the sentence. Okay, so maybe she's not bothered by homosexuality and she really is okay with whatever people do in their personal lives but if that was true I don't think she would have said faggot. I realise the language barrier could definitely be at fault here but, I dunno, I guess that's just not a good enough reason for me. Because I think she knows that that word is quite offensive and she said it because he's her least favourite character. I mean she could have called him a "drama queen" or "diva", which if we're going to be super PC about this, that's not great either, but it's better. And more appropriate for someone who is too over the top, if that is actually what she doesn't like about him. But also, let's not be super PC because that's annoying.

Maybe I'm over analysing this way too much now, but I sometimes I feel the way she says "I don't care what you do in your personal life, that's completely up to you" is a patronising way of saying "I don't approve of what you do with your personal life, but as long as you keep it away from my personal life it will be okay." Considering she has said this to me a few times regarding drinking alcohol even though she thinks alcohol is so abhorrent she doesn't physically touch sealed containers, I find this to be an odd statement.

I sat and ate my shitty noodles with cheese and an egg and tried to pretend she hadn't just said that.  Rihanna sang about diamonds and got rained on on stage (I guess she should have brought her umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh) and I wondered if I really wanted to try and be friends with the girl on the couch next to me. As the host announced that the voting lines were open, she lunged for the phone and voted for her favourite. I'm glad I didn't stay in bed, or take my food back to my room because this woman just fucking fascinates me, but this is not a particularly good development.

Also I just spent fifteen minutes researching this guy to find out what he's actually like to understand where she's coming from (his name is Rylan - what kind of fucking name is that?! Are you Ryan or Dylan? Pick one name). And then I realised it doesn't matter what if he is too camp and over the top (how is that a bad thing show business?!), she shouldn't have called him a faggot.

*Is barleys a thing? Is it what you have to say when you play backyard cricket or keepy-off or whatever? Like a reverse "shotgun" to announce you're safe? It's possible I just made it up, I'm so tired (I went out Friday night, worked, went out Saturday night, worked the heinous Sunday shift) I just had to google how to spell umbrella. It doesn't start with an 'e' as I initially thought. I apologise for any other mistakes I've probably made. I also apologise for the Rihanna joke, the Queen just tweeted it and I couldn't resist. In my defence I was just watching X Factor so my brain cell count is probably even lower that it was that time I gave myself alcohol poisoning by trying to keep up with Lloyd.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The "Exciting" Life of Sian

I promised I'd blog again when I found somewhere to live. Seeing as I am currently so poor my friend offers me free dinner at her work, after paying the bond and first month's rent here, I should get everyone up to speed on the Exciting Life of Sian.

Living Arrangements
First I was in a hostel in Paddington. Really good hostel with included breakfast and ensuite bathrooms. Unfortunately the snoring from one of my room mates was so unbelievable that I ended up (unknowingly) bitching about it in front of the culprit. Felt bad and left.

Then I stayed at my friend Yana's place in south London. Yana is an amazing, generous and kind friend but her room was tiny; my suitcase didn't even fit in her room. She said I could stay as long as I needed, and I think she genuinely meant it but I needed a little more space and independence.

So then I was in a short term rent place in Finsbury Park. I shared a room with Jessie, my Australian friend who used to work at Sacred. Then Jessie found a proper flat and Jess, a South African friend who also worked at Sacred (and now they both work at Look Mum No Hands and all three of us work on Old Street), was my room mate for a few weeks. This was kind of okay, even though I bitched about it a lot, but I did enjoy sharing with friends rather than a fat, smelly, snoring American or someone who lets their alarm ring out a la my three months in Berlin, but I was ready to have my own room again. Although, Jessie brought home a whole lot of food from work and Jess gave me a bunch of her old clothes.

Jessie and me enjoying the sun on our window sill.

Me, Jess and Jessie at the Crawley Arms in Camden

Jessie's last night in our shared room.

Now I live in Clapton (East London, not to be confused with Clapham in South London) in a war veterans' cottage with a Muslim couple. I have my own room which is huge and cosy and the best, and Baz and his wife (I don't know her name. Can someone please come over and ask her so I don't have to - it's been too long) are a really friendly and generous, if they are a bit weird sometimes. They mentioned that we all help clean the flat which is totally fine with me, but it's always spotless, so I have no idea what/when I'm supposed to clean. For example, last night Mrs Baz wiped the crumbs off the top of the toaster after I used it. Baz said he wasn't interested in the money so much but just wanted someone else in the house because he often works nights. So I've effectively been brought in as a friend for...her. I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to be friends with a Muslim woman my age with two kids who doesn't touch alcohol (as in she asks Baz to move the beer in the fridge) and has watched Celine Dione's life movie more than once. Jess thinks it's funny that a hardcore feminist lives with a Muslim woman and that I should try and convert her. I pointed out that having short hair, believing in equal rights and comfortably throwing around the C bomb doesn't make me a hardcore feminist, but I liked her point all the same. At least they have super fast internet, Sky TV and Netflix. More to come on my new flatmates as it develops. I feel like it could be something I'll reflect on and be all "hey remember when I used to live with that Muslim couple and they said I didn't have to pay rent as long as I vacuumed the ceiling and watched awful TV with the wife. I never did learn her name. My room was fucking sweet though."

Its even cuter now that I've put up photos and posters.

Work
I work at Shoreditch Grind which is busy and stressful sometimes but everyone's really friendly and cool. I'd really, really, really like to not work in hospitality but there's not much else I can do.

Whenever I see something worth it I apply to copy writing/content producing/journalism internships. Mostly this consists of me reading the website with a vacancies, thinking I'm way better than their current writers then never hearing from them again. I'm not going to get my hopes up (or that down really), I think it's highly unlikely that I will get paid writing work in London but I figure I may as well try. As long as I don't let my happiness depend on the fact that I'm not writing for Vice, it's not going to hurt to apply for things here and there.

In case you missed it on facebook, I finished my Berlin blog. I motivated myself to finish and post it after a particularly shit day at work, more or less so I could get some positive feedback and validation in my life. It worked. And motivated me to keep looking for writing work, write this post and stop hating life so much.

 
Yes, it is Jessie in the photos on that blog. She came and visited me and I decided to make her a character because she is such a filthy hipster and loves when I take photos of her doing anything.

That's where I went wrong last year, I just wish I had the balls to stick it out. Everyone has been through what I went through last year, numerous times, in fact. It's just part of the "joy" of living in London. Jessie said she can tell how she feels about London based on whether the song "I'm in London Still" by The Waifs makes her happy or want to cry.

London is a shit. It's almost constant hard work and you could most likely be having a better, easier time somewhere else. But for some reason we all stick at it. Jess and I were talking about it and basically agreed that it's like being addicted to a drug. It chews you up and spits you out and still go crawling back for more without being able to explain why. When we were in Edinburgh, we ordered some drinks from an Australian guy at a bar. Noticing that there seemed to be a lot of us in Scotland, I asked him why he chose Edinburgh. He started talking about working visas and how easy it is to come over here. I stopped him and said I know about all that, I live in London blah blah blah but why did he choose Scotland and not anywhere else, London, for example. He screwed up his nose and said "well...London's a bit shit..." Jess and I were just discussing this but suddenly got all defensive as if he'd just called our mothers sluts - "How dare he say that!? What would he know about London! It's amazing and awesome and the best place ever and London doesn't want him anyway!" We're shamelessly addicted.

Scotland
On the first weekend of November Jess and I decided to go to Scotland because we'd never been and because we can. I wish I had got my shit together and blogged about it then because it was so much fun and getting to know Jess was pretty great too. She's a beautifully caring, generous and intelligent girl. She makes me feel about eight years old with all the life experience she's had (she's only 21) and I'm going to be really sad when she goes back to South Africa in two weeks. Like, I'm actually going to have 50% less friends*.

Yeah, it was cold.

The highlights of our weekend consisted of increasing the hipster population by 75%, eating amazing vegan food in Glasgow, teaching Jess the ways of cynicism and judging people less cool than us, finding adorable book stores and a frosty, overgrown cemetery in Edinburgh, being asked to put music on the juke box because we "look like [we] have a cool taste in music" and partying with a band (Reptile Youth) in their hotel room. The latter sounds a lot wilder than it probably was. In reality I talked Jess out of letting the lead singer give her a home made tattoo, tried to work out what the Germans were saying even though I was so drunk sitting up was taking up most of my concentration and then realising what complete douchebags they were in the morning. Cool story, though, right? Maybe I should talk it up a bit.

Graffiti in the toilets of The Elephant House, where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter.

Standing on top of Arthur's Seat.

The cemetery.

Other Things
I got my nosed pierced. I was really against it for ages (Steph has one, I hate my nose etc) but it looks fucking rad and I can't believe I was against it for so long.

Talking selfies while I "help" Jessie shop. Something I seem to spend a lot of my spare time doing because we're basically a couple, which we realised when I asked where the husband chair was last time we shopped together.

I got a stupid hair cut for free as a trainee hairdresser's model. In case you missed my documentation on face book (although it seems like everyone took part in the ridicule), here it is:

I cut the really long bit off, and I don't wear the fringe like that so its not too bad. I still don't really like it though.

Jessie's building me a bike. I always wanted to get a bike but my financial priorities were always on finding somewhere to live first. Jessie offered to build me a bike with whatever parts she could find and then I would just pay for the parts she had to buy, on the condition that I give it to her sister when she's here for two months from late December. I get a cheap bike that I can't ride in the coldest, shittiest months, her sister gets a bike and Jessie had a project to keep her busy while she needed to save money. It worked for everyone. She's pretty rad like that. I haven't got it yet but I think it's not far off completion. Photos to come.

I think that brings you pretty much up to speed. I've caught up with a few friends (from Berlin and Australia and even my cousin, Dave on his way back home) including Erin, a friend of Sam's who also lives in Melbourne but is also originally from Perth. Erin was super understanding of my current monetary situation and bought me wine and nibbles and sickness inducing breakfast. I will forever be thankful and hope I can return the favour one day.

Epic breakfast at The Breakfast Club in Hoxton.

I will endeavour to blog regularly from now on. I realise I made this all sound pretty exciting and the quotation marks probably aren't needed, but I also spend a fuck load of time sitting in my (awesome) room watching crap (I watched an entire season of Vampire Diaries last week, even though its possibly on par with The Big Bang Theory) and not going out because I don't want to be hungover at work because I'm too lazy to deal with that crap. In the words of Karley Sciortino of Slutever, I guess I'm trying to trick you into thinking my life is more exciting than it actually is.

Oh yeah, I also saw Radiohead. That was pretty rad. And Jessie and I were in the audience while they filmed Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Also rad.

Me, Chris (the guy I bought the tickets from) and Vanessa (we both work at the Grind) before Radiohead.


*Okay so I have more than two friends here but I see Jess and Jessie the most.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Worst Blogger Ever


So I know this is a bit out of the blue considering I've completely neglected your wishes to live vicariously through me (I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry!) but I come baring good news and gifts.

We just finished our guide for June. As a member of the layout team, I battled through a sleepless weekend and (somewhat self induced) food poisoning to get this finished in a month's time. Diana, our graphic designer, has done such an amazing job and I still can't believe how professional it looks. She worked even longer on it than I did, and also suffered from sickness due to lack of sleep. I was photo editor, which meant everyone sent me all the photos they took and I chose the best ones, changed the format and increased the saturation on Photoshop to make the colours stand out more. While this is a relatively simple task, it was all done a few days before it was due as we didn't realise we were all responsible for taking our own photos (the way the program is advertised makes it sounds like someone is on the course to be the principal photographer) so I had to keep sending people out with long lists of the shots I was missing. Also, my laptop struggled with Photoshop as much as my intestines struggled with the four-day-old left-over Indian food I ate out of exhaustion and laziness to go down to the shops to buy something still within it's used-by-date.

So, go to this link for the free PDF, but it will only be available for another five days then it will be removed by CTR (you can download and save it from here). After that you can buy the eBook from Lulu for a couple of euros (I have no idea how to collect the money from this so I have a feeling the company keeps it, ie don't buy it), or I can send you the PDF via emailz. There is also a link to the sample here.

There are quite a lot of grammatical errors in there, we know, so please don't point them out. We had to stop working on it at some point and just submit it. Even with the mistakes, I'm blown away by how extensive this guide book is, considering we really only did it in three weeks (we spent the first week getting used to the city). And it was made by twelve people with limited experience of Berlin and travel writing. It's just...eugh....go look at it. We're all incredibly proud of the work we've done.

We all wrote about 10-15 reviews plus some people wrote features and introductions, but because I was on the layout team I did a little less writing. I was sent on vintage shopping expeditions to review (Garage, Humana, XVII, Class of Berlin and Trash Schick) but I also wrote about other places I visited (Gorlitzer Park, Santa Maria Mexica Diner, Anti War Museum, Mano Cafe, Escadaria, The Circus Hostel and Hot Dog Laden) because two or three other girls we're writing about shopping too. Our names are at the bottom of everything we wrote. I'd also like to add in that Drunk Sian came up with our title “Only in Berlin.” We had all been saying it every now again because Berlin is so freakin' weird/awesome/the greatest city in the world. And then one night while waiting for my kebab in Kreuzberg it clicked, I sent everyone an email and the group agreed with my half formed thoughts from 4am on a Friday morning.

There are seven of us from June and nine new people arrived on Sunday, all British. While I really don't feel like writing another guide that is more or less the same as last month, I think this time we will be a lot better. With four more people on our team and our experiences of what not to do from last month I think it will be even more professional.

I wanted to be an editor this month, but didn't put my hand up fast enough so instead I have been assigned a managerial role (my journalist teacher, Marcus, has given me permission to crack the whip, but in my “gentle Australian voice”, when people don't get their reviews in on time) and to be an advisory photo editor, upon Diana's request, because she liked the way I treated and organised the photos from last month. It's not quite what I had in mind, but I think I'm looking forward to it now that I've had a few days to recuperate from immediately shitting out everything I ate and getting up at 6am to wrestle with photoshop during a weekend I had planned to do things that I wanted to do. This month I don't really have a particular interest to write about (apart from the ones that were already taken) so Marcus has dubbed me “Eclectic Sian” and suggested a series of unconnected things and places for me to review. Which I'm much happier with, because I don't think I can go op shopping for a while now. This weekend I'm heading to Peacock Island, the Buddhist House, Topography of Terror and something called Babelsberg. I might also do something on outdoor cinemas and a cycling tour that I will make up on my shitty Mauer Park bike.

Diana and I went to the movies the other night, with Kate, another girl from our group, as a treat. While I'm normally against paying for movies, I decided I deserved it/had saved enough money from not eating for a week. Besides, Wes Anderson deserves to be viewed on the big screen. We even paid the extortionist price of 4€ for a beer in the cinema (we often drink beer for 50c a bottle, and no more than 2,50€ from the supermarket). I found it strangely comforting that the commercial cinema we went to smells exactly the same as the megaplexes at home; warm buttered popcorn and recently vacuumed carpets. Moonrise Kingdom was amazing and beautiful and just what I needed. In fact it was so brilliant that half way through, I forgot I was in Berlin. I highly suggest that you see it too.

I'm still available for skype/facebook chats from 12-1pm most weekdays, I have so much more I could say.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Berlin Briefly

I'm just making a quick update from my phone before class starts because we don't have wifi in our apartments and we're pretty busy the rest of the time. I got to Berlin late Sunday night and met the eleven other members of my group. Most of us are in our early to mid twenties and have finished our degrees with no idea what to do next. I share my apartment with James from Seattle, Adam from Sheffield and Ben from Brisbane, the only guys on the project. We were all pretty apprehensive that this program is a scam because it seemed fairly unorganized but I think seeing how much work have to do in the next four weeks has made us feel a little more confident. I signed up to do layout with two others, more because no one else was volunteering than out of interest. We have to write two reviews to be handed in every week plus more just so we have enough for our 120 page guide by the end of the month. So I probably won't have a lot of time for blogging, sorry for those who wanted to live vicariously through me. I got my German sim card yesterday so my phone is fully functioning again. Let me know if you want my number. Sorry if there are more mistakes that usual in this post, blogger is not loading very well on my phone.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

London Again

I'm not sure how to describe what it feels like to be back in London. On the tube from the airport there was a neutral feeling of familiarity that even made me smile after a few stops. But it's not quite the same. I'm not sure why, maybe I no longer have that fresh excitement of being in a new city that I had last year. Maybe memories of London being unexpectedly shit to me prevented me from feeling particularly excited. Although, when I was getting my friend's spare key cut, a man in the store looked at my suitcase and asked me if I was going away or coming back and after a short pause, I replied "coming back" with an enthusiastic smile. If he had given the option of "staying here for a week before going to Berlin for three months then maybe coming back, maybe not" I obviously would have agreed to that one.

The flight over was uneventful. I watched The Rum Diary and a whole lot of crap I've already seen. I had a two hour stop over in Singapore. I kept kicking the woman sitting next to me whenever I drifted off, then felt bad and stopped trying to sleep. While we waiting to leave the plane one of the Australian guys behind me loudly wondered if the budget airline, FlyLo, featured in Come Fly With Me, is real. The surrounding five or so aisles laughed at him loudly.

I had planned to meet an Australian friend, Yana, at her work in Westminster to collect her keys so I could stay  with her that night. Panic set in when I showed up to the restaurant and she wasn't there. I waited for two hours past the time she was supposed to start, imagining myself sleeping in a park before I had the sense to post on the Emergency Couchsurfing group. Almost complete sleep deprivation over the past thirty hours meant I was imagining the worst possible scenarios and couldn't deal with the situation. I just felt like heading back to Heathrow and getting on the first plane flying in the direction of Perth. Thankfully, Bernadet (a couch surfer from Rotterdam) helped me out straight away and I met her about an hour later. She let me pass out on her couch for as long as I needed while she went out. Thank the voice of Morgan Freeman for couch surfing. Turns out Yana was not under a bridge with her throat slit open as I was imagining, but some personal issues had come up, she forgot I was coming and there was a miscommunication with her work. All is forgiven and I'm super happy she's not dead.

Still feeling a bit fragile on Sunday morning, Bernadet took me to Battersea Park to sit in the sun, watch the joggers and have some breakfast. Bernadet told me some cool stories of her travels at a youth camp in Ukraine and a hitch hiking competition she won from Amsterdam to Berlin. It soon became unbelievably hot so we returned to her flat to cool off.


Bernadet and the Thames in Battersea Park

Just after lunch we went to the Battersea Car Boot Sale which happens every Sunday. For 50p we got to walk amongst the crowds in the sweltering heat and rifle through people's belongings. I had a Scotch Egg for the first time, which I was a little disappointed with; after watching Heston Blumenthal make the perfect Scotch Egg on TV a few weeks ago, my cold 75p snack didn't seem that great. I bought a tshirt and a women's magazine from 1953, which I though would be filled with hilariously sexist advertisements (a la Mad Men) but in reality I paid £2 for some smocking patterns and Mills and Boon-esque stories.




That afternoon Bernadet and I went to Old Street to meet my friend Jessie (we worked at Sacred together) at her new work, as I had organised to stay with her for the rest of my time in London. After a beer and stories of how Jessie lost £120 pounds at Sacred we parted ways with Bernadet and went to Jessie's house in Highbury, dumped our bags and had a picnic of chicken shish and Chilean wine in Highbury Fields. We soon went back to her flat above a kebab shop (very distracting smells coming in through the lounge room window right now) and I passed out from exhaustion. Jetlag is pretty great like that.


The back of Jessie's house looking quintessentially English

Not a lot of interesting things have happened yet. I returned to Bernadet's to get my suitcase as I couldn't be bothered bringing it all in one trip, the sun continued to shine and I currently have more of a tan that I did in Perth, with the growing feeling that I am following summer around the globe. I struggled with my jetlag on Monday night at a play, The Sunshine Boys, which Bernadet had a free ticket for. The play was okay; unbelievably predictable humour, but it was mostly exciting to see Danny DeVito on stage and feel the cravings to re-watch It's Always Sunny. Tuesday night I had another picnic in Highbury Fields with Jessie, Erin, her flatmate and tewtal bestie from Australia, and a disposable barbecue, before heading off to the weekly London couch surfing meeting, which was also pretty uneventful. Last night we had another picnic with Yana and some of Jessie's friends and sang along to 90s pop music.

Jessie and Erin

Walking past Highbury Fields

At the beginning of the week, I was feeling so shitty that I couldn't imagine living and working here again even though I was feeling far more prepared. As I said in my last post, I was having such a good time in Perth (for the first time in years I could actually see myself living in Perth forevz) and then I got here and couldn't believe I had left it all behind me again, and really just wanted a hug from a Perth friend. Although, now that I have adjusted to the time zone and caught up on sleep, maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. My trips never seem to start very smoothly but they generally end up being worth the struggle.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts in the park

Sometimes I feel really guilty and sad when I think about all the money I've spent on alcohol. Wondering what I could do today for as few pounds and pennies as possible, I realised that even if those thousands of dollars/pounds/yen/euros/etc were miraculously returned to me, my first thought would be to go to the pub and celebrate. Maybe I'd even buy you a few.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Lead Up

Here I am, about to leave Perth again. And once again I'm not sure how long I'll be away for. I've had so much fun catching up with people before I go, that I almost don't want to leave. Typical, really, just when I start to like Perth I have to get on a plane for a trip that I organised during a fit Perth Hate Rage.

In between asking me who I'm flying with and how cold it's going to be, most people have asked if I will blog again. While reading my posts from last year makes me cringe with embarrassment at my somewhat unfounded confidence in my writing ability and undying interest of my readers, I will be blogging again. In fact I'm looking forward to being inspired to write.

I quit my soul destroying airport job at the end of March and have been unemployed since. I couldn't deal with the boredom, diminishing self confidence and the crippling self hate I felt, even though the money meant I could have travelled in a lot more comfort than I am about to. I asked the recruitment agency for another job and I finally got a call last week for an opening. Great. Everyone asks me what I've been doing since and truth is I have no idea/sweet fuck all. I went through a phase of watching all the Zac Efron movies I could find. I even decided to go back to uni next year, mostly out of boredom than motivation to further my education.

Of course my sister got married two weeks ago which was a huge affair, so that kept me away from 9gag for a few weeks. The wedding was great fun (Drunk Sian was out of course), Steph looked beautiful and I like the idea of having a brother-in-law, as weird as it is to say my sister is married. I wish I had been writing about it as it happened because there was plenty of dramas and ups and downs and spending time with Steph's friends was (I'm not going to lie) a lot more fun than I thought it would be, but now when I think about it, it's a blur of green chiffon and champagne.

It was my birthday on Tuesday; I turned twenty two on the twenty second, a milestone I have been looking forward to since I decided twenty two was my favourite number and started using it in all my passwords. I went mountain biking with Dad and the dog in Mundaring and then had dinner with Mum and Dad at home (leek pie, goats cheese, olives, steak and red wine - at my request). I was supposed to go out with a few friends that night but my complete lack of fitness prevented me from doing anything that didn't involve watching Game of Thrones while lying down.

Due to a painfully low amount of money, it's unlikely that I'll be travelling after Berlin so I'm leaning towards living in London again, as my visa will valid until July next year. But I'm not one hundred percent sure yet. I feel more confident that I will last longer this time because I know what to expect. Last year I had built up London living as this super cool glamorous lifestyle (my big sister did it after all!) when in reality it was really hard and depressing to be working for minimum wage in a job that made me cry over making the sandwiches. I feel better knowing that it's going to be a struggle.

I found out that I'll be living in Kreuzberg, the cool area of Berlin (you can send me mail, so I'll put my address somewhere) in a shared apartment with two or three other people doing the project. Unfortunately I will have to share a bedroom (not happy about having to wear pyjamas) and there is no wifi in the building (WHAT YEAR IS IT). I'm just hoping I will be so busy that I won't notice. Or I'm going to learn how to steal wifi. I'll get a German number/I have an iPhone so contacting me won't be too difficult. I recommend getting Whatsapp or Viber for texting. Also follow me on Instagram!

Before I left for America last year I was pretty stressed. I distinctly remember having dreams about Voldemort chasing me through airports. Last week I had a dream that I left without doing my washing and consequently forgot my favourite socks and the week before that I had a dream that I became really good friends with the guys from One Direction. So I think it's safe to say I'm significantly more relaxed this time around.

I currently have a really sore back (I'm assuming its repercussions from my terrible posture combined with the only exercise I have done in months) so I'm waiting for my Voltaren to kick in while I ask Mum do the bits of packing that involve bending over. I just want to get on the plane and find out what movies I have to watch. I wonder if the Gold Coats and customs officers will recognise me.


Monday, February 6, 2012

City Travel Review

I thought I should write an informative post rather than whinge about how much I can't stand people who fly with Garuda and how beautiful Ryan Gosling is. So here's an explanation for the "whole Berlin thing."

A couple of months ago, after a particularly shitty day at work, I went home and looked on gumtree, determined to find something that wouldn't make me constantly see the worst in everyone (I have become mildly racist). Because I went on gumtree so often in London, my google chrome automatically took me to the UK website. I looked under the job link and there was a section for "travel/writing/journalism," wondering if this was some kind of advanced personalised ad, I clicked on it. The first post on the page described a gap programme in a number of different European cities where a group of young people work together to write a travel guide. Here's the website if you're interested (I think there are still a few vacancies).

I had the option to choose from Berlin, Madrid, Edinburgh, Lyon and Miami, I think. At first I considered Madrid because I've already been to Berlin and I really want to learn Spanish. But I know I couldn't cope with the Spanish summer. I also considered Edinburgh because the programme is during the Edinburgh Fringe which is something I've wanted to go to since I learnt the second meaning of "fringe", but it was the shortest project at only two and a half weeks. I soon realised that Berlin's three month project was the clear winner.

I had to send them my resume and a cover letter explaining why I wanted to go the city I chose. I was then given a Provisional Position before I had a "phone interview" (which was more the guy telling me what I already knew, and what I was about to know in an upcoming email) then I paid a deposit and hey presto! I was definitely in.

So come June, I will be in Berlin for three months doing all the filthy tourist things and turning it into a Lonely Planet-esque guide. We're also given language lessons every day, which I'm looking forward to, despite how ridiculous German sounds.

I've started to realise how busy I'm going to be in those three months. Given that I currently get paid to nap for five hours a day and my degree in Unprofitable Skills had an average of fourteen contact hours a week (several of those I didn't bother to make contact with), this is going to be the busiest I've been since high school and it scares the shit out of me. But I'm looking forward to the challenge, I think. Although the level of group work I'm about to have to do is truly terrifying. Group work is more painful that ice skating with ingrown toenails so be prepared for some posts on how much I hate the dud member. I am actually looking forward to the whole thing, though. I'm hoping that because we're all paying for it there will be a different mentality behind working together, rather than "I have to take this unit to pass second year but I actually think it's bullshit."

It's quite a lot of money (about $4000) but the fees include all the tutors and teachers and tour guides as well as accommodation in a shared apartment somewhere in central Berlin. I also have to save up for the airfares and spending (beer/Mauer Park) money.

I recently found out that my highly paid fence post job has been extended so I'm fairly sure I can save up enough money to travel around Europe after August as well. So far I really want to go to Spain and Eastern Europe but don't have any solid plans. I know a few people who want to go to Europe around the same time and would love to meet up with them (let me know what you're doing if you're reading this!).

I've read a few reviews by people who have done this City Travel Review in previous years and have been offered or found decent journalist positions by using this experience as a reference, which I think is something I would be interested in doing. I don't really know, though. I'll just see how it goes.