Christmas Surprise

December 22, 2012

I'm pretty bad at keeping certain secrets, mainly because I get too excited to contain myself and my facial expression is a dead giveaway. So I realised I was up for a challenge when the opportunity arose to surprise my Mum and brothers for Christmas. 
I wasn't planning on going home this year because of my internship and had, after a long period of denial, accepted the fact that I would be experiencing my first cold Christmas. But it seems that Fate had other things in mind and after a change of plans, I was face with the prospect of actually spending Christmas with my family in Barbados. My Dad and step mum Ana very kindly offered to help me with my ticket - I cried a lot of happy tears when I was told this and continued to do so whenever it hit me thereafter. Just over a week later my ticket was booked, I quit my internship and was on my way home. I hadn't seen my brothers and some of my best friends in a year and I was filled with a sense of relief and a joy that I hadn't felt in a while.
At this point my friends and immediate family were sure that I wouldn't be making it and the pity card had been played well in order to pull of my planned surprise. I even had friends offer to pay for my ticket! I had to write down a record  of my 'lie'plan, so that I didn't mess up and tell a different story at any point - I was spending Christmas in The Hague and New Year's Eve in London as far as they were all concerned.

The 18 hour trek home dragged on at an excruciatingly slow pace; waking up in Amsterdam at 3.30 am, waiting in Frankfurt for what seemed like a week and then transferring in St.Lucia before finally touching down in Bimshire. That enormous sense of relief that washes over me when I first glimpse our little rock from the plane window never fades makes all the chaos of travel disappear. It's so worth it - I'm home!

Kathy (my neighbour) had developed quite an elaborate plan for my surprise; I was to be picked up from the airport, smuggled to their house and hidden in a box disguised as a giant Christmas gift. I was worried about someone 'spotting' me at the airport and telling my family before I got home - goes to show how small Barbados is! Being the techie geek that I am and wanting my Dad, Ana and Alfie to feel as involved as possible after helping me, we set up some cameras & the ipad beforehand to capture the moment of truth:

I am so incredibly grateful to be home to celebrate another Caribbean Christmas in the sun.

Quarter Century Crisis

December 20, 2012

Without realising it and definitely without intention, I walked head on into a quarter century crisis. This feels a bit repetitive because I've explained my situation to so many people already but I want to post about it so that everything I write about hereafter falls into place.

I cried at my desk every day when I returned from my birthday weekend in Rome. I was overcome with dread and a knot in my stomach as my train pulled in to the city of Eindhoven and it didn't go away all week. I wasn't sleeping properly and was giving myself migraines from stressing out so much. I was suddenly 25 and very unhappy. I hated the situation I was in and hated myself even more for hating it so much. I'm usually pretty positive but I felt exhausted from trying to find something positive to focus on here; I just couldn't find it. I wanted to be elsewhere, doing other things with other people. I felt like I was lying to myself by continuing this internship. I knew I could be so much more productive over the coming 5 months by doing something I felt passionate about. I was stuck in a grey environment, doing work that I wasn't interested in at all, trying to put other plans into place that couldn't work without my full attention. I felt like a quitter though, even after giving it my all. Reactions from friends and family ranged from being supportive to telling me I was downright mad for want to give up an opportunity with a company such as Philips. I know that it seems silly to some but I'd rather have something on my CV that I'm really proud of than something I did for the sake of good branding.

I finally plucked up the courage to tell one of my managers about how I felt and that I couldn't continue with this internship. Luckily, she was very understanding (albeit shocked to see me in such a state) I walked out of there with a smile that rivaled the Chesire cat's; an enormous weight had just been lifted off of my shoulders and I felt normal again. I then had another meeting with senior managers the following week, presented my case and specific reasons for leaving and was granted leave 5 days later.
I feel really good about my decision and even though this experience wasn't at all what I expected, it was a learning experience nonetheless. In a roundabout way, this has clearly shown me what I do and don't want to do with the next chapter in my life, how it needs to be done and what it may take to get there.

Shine bright: Barbados

December 19, 2012

Ri Ri has won over many haters with this video showing off her homeland, in collaboration with the Barbados Tourism Association. Well done girl, way to represent your roots :) 

5 teeny tiny travel tips

December 18, 2012

Pack light
Seems obvious and yet I rarely travel light. That is, until I'm faced with the dire reality of limited baggage allowance on Ryanair. You'd be surprised at what a girl can fit into a regular Longchamp...Also, they rarely make you weigh your handbag, so you can sneak a few heavier items in there.
Walking through the airport with a small bag is a breeze and you're never caught in one of those awkward moments when you look like a clumsy loser lugging an overstuffed suitcase up a flight of stairs (Or is that just me?)

Pre-order vegetarian food on flights
I'm a borderline veggie so I usually felt ill after eating the meat served on flights. The solution to the age old airplane food conundrum is simple: pre order vegetarian, kosher or halal food on long haul flights. Extra care is usually taken to prepare these meals because of the risk of food allergies and lawsuits and you can usually tell. It's still not home style cooking by any means but at least you're not chewing on an unidentifiable piece of plastic.

Get drunk in style
A small bottle of wine with dinner or a few beers to help you relax are pretty standard but it really irks me to be stuck next to an obnoxious, stinky drunkard who forgot that having a tipple at 30,000 ft is not the same as having one-too-many at home in the pub. 

Bring a blow up neck pillow
No neck cramp, you can sleep anywhere and it takes up less space than the standard beanie ones. You'll thank me for this one day. Unless you travel with someone like Christina who makes sure to move your pillow everrrr so slightly so that you end up snoring and drooling on a stranger's shoulder.

Dress properly
This can mean a lot of things but I'm narrowing it down to 2 tips: Dress smartly and practically. Smartly because you're more likely to get an upgrade if you're wearing something decent which will make it seem like you were planning to sit in 1st Class anyway. Fact: Most airline staff would admit that an upgrade is based on appearance and attitude before anything else. 
Secondly, nobody likes to go through security, far less to be stuck behind an idiot who wore boots, a thick belt & a gazillion pieces of jewelry to travel. Yes, we're judging you silently because you had to get scanned 3 times before informing security of your genital piercing (Seriously?!) Wear flats and get your shit together before you reach security and make everyone's day run a bit smoother. 


December 15, 2012

This last week was a mix of chaos, freezing weather & lots and lots of planning trying to plan.
I have no idea where I'm going, what I'm doing or what 2013 is going to bring but what I do know is that I'm happier than I have been in a long time.
I quit my internship at Philips, for too many reasons to talk about on here right now, I've packed my bags, I have a kick ass best friend who's coming to pick me up shortly from this shithole city that is Eindhoven and I have some pretty cool plans in the pipelines.
I'm moving back to Amsterdam and getting my shit together.

Zeitgeist 2012: Year in Review

December 14, 2012

I'm a sucker for all things Google so I admit that I got a bit teary eyed when I saw this video. So much has happened in the last year and I can't wait to see what 2013 brings!

Happy Friday!

One of those 'holy shit' Mondays

December 10, 2012

I slept over by a friend in Rotterdam last night, after a huge dinner and a food baby the size of an elephant. 
I still had my overnight bag since celebrating Sinterklaas in Den Haag and I.was.not.moving. 
So I crashed on her couch and took the early train to work in the morning. 
Sounds simple, right?
Well first of all, my train was half an hour late.
Which made me miss my other train connection.
Which made me late for the very last shuttle to my work site.
So I was stuck waiting on the regular bus, which takes a lot longer.
I then took the wrong bus, even after double checking with the bus driver.
I then realised that the bus driver mistook 'Bus towards airport' for 'Bus towards city.' 
He then informed me that he was not a tour guide after I asked him which bus I should switch to.
Screw you too Mr.Busdriver, I have a BlackBerry and am therefore rendered useless.
I got out at the next available stop, after walking to the front of the bus to exit, which is apparently the wrong way to go on a Dutch bus.
"Get out via the back" Says Mr.A-hole Bus Driver.
And in my anger at Mr.A-hole Bus Driver, I failed to realise that this stop was in the middle of a 4 lane highway (I didn't know bus stops existed in such places)
Cue me getting pissed off, stomping limping across the highway to the other side, weekend suitcase in tow, making SO much noise, only to realise that this bus stop was 'shut down' and defunct.
Double Shit.
I then took out my shitty Blackberry and attempted to GPS Map my work.
YAY! It was just around the corner. FINALLY some good luck!
I smugly set off, determined to walk to work.
Walking turned into limping, as my knee started to swell and my hands & feet froze.
I realise that 'just around the corner' is in fact 5 kilometers.
Shit, I'm not going to make it.
I need to call my Manager and let her know, maybe even convince her to pick me up.
Except, my data decides to stop working and I can't Google anything.
(No, I didn't have my office number saved. We rarely use fixed lines at my office. Don't judge me)
Thankfully, Whatsapp seems to work.
I don't know how or why, as nothing in life makes sense to me at this point.
I continue to walk and type to one of my besties in London, who's frantically trying to Google phone numbers for me.

I tried at least 10 and not one of them work.
Then, FINALLY, I get through to a guy who works at my site but doesn't seem to know that my department exists.

He's annoyed that I've somehow gotten through to him of all people on this fine Monday morning.
"Do you even work at Philips?" he sighs.
"Yes, I p-p-promise you I do. I'm a stupid intern. Please, I'm just having a bad day, my hands are frozen and I need to get hold of Anna (my Manager)"
"Ok, the extension number is ---"
A giant truck blows its horn as it zooms by, nearly knocking me over.
"Sorry, can you repeat that again please? I didn't hear you"
"Are you near a computer? You could do this yourself."
"Are you kidding? I'm on a highway, freezing my hands off just talking to you. Please help me out here."
"Ok the extension is 2456"
"Can you repeat that once more please?"
"Well, I'm not convinced you work here actually. You should know this number."
"Yes, I'm not convinced. Try someone else."
"Ok thanks asshole, have a great day!"
I hung up on him and continued to stomp/limp along, walking past a truck yard and some large houses that were hundreds of metres from the road.
I was fuming but also laughing at myself.
This was the most bizarre situation. I didn't know what to do and my friend was having a panic attack in London on my behalf.
Finally I walked towards this forested area lining the road, which turned out to be a garden for a strange office of sorts, which looked like the love child of a rehab centre and a Gentlemans' Club.
I walked towards the building, ignoring the stares of everyone working inside. Bespeckled men in suits stopped talking, turned around, stood up and STARED as I walked up the reception.
Cue the transvestite secretary who was reluctant to even buzz the door, looking at me as though I was something the cat had dragged in.
Something I've learned since living in Holland is that it's ALWAYS better to play dumb and speak English. They have little pity for a girl who's fluent in Dutch but can't find her words in stressful situations. So I put on my best foreigner look, explained my situation in brief and asked for her to call me a cab.
In Dutch, she/he explained to the cab driver that I was this poor English girl who had clearly lost my way and needed to be taken to Philips. Perhaps I was going to get my limping leg fixed, she said, as she eyed me up and down. She had no idea I understood her. I smiled innocently and kept saying thank you.
I FINALLY got in a taxi and made my way to work, 2.5 hours late.

Being 25 has so far proven to be awesome...
I'd like to thank my shitty Blackberry for being there for me in such trying times.
And to the bestie in London, who had my back across the channel :)

Poppin' knees in the club, like a lizard.

December 8, 2012
No, I'm not on the toilet.

I dislocated my knee again on Friday night whilst in a changing room, in a store in the middle of Eindhoven. This has happened many times before thanks to super stretchy ligaments, which tend to fail at keeping my shoulders, knees & toes in place. They tend to pop out when I'm a.) drunk & forget that I'm not a dancing queen b.) when attempting any sport more extreme than riding a bike. 
This time however, I was completely taken by surprise.I was pulling on my boot and my knee cap popped out, swiveled around and I collapsed on the floor. Luckily I put it back in place instantly but I blacked out briefly and hit my head. Funnily enough, the first thought that went through my head as I came round was: "HolyyyShit, thank god I'm not naked!"
A manager helped me out but I had to hobble to the main road by myself to call a cab because the store was in a pedestrianized area. The fact that I was in so much pain in a shithole city, crying my eyes out, with no one to help me, reiterated the need to get the hell out of there. I have never felt so alone and pathetic in my life. (Note: never call your mother who is 4,000km away in cases like this. She will panic, freak out & probably call the National Guard to try to help you)
I'm now hobbling around with green sports tape that makes me look like a Christmas lizard. Schmexy.
It was a poopy start to an eventful weekend!

Never say never

December 7, 2012

This is one of my favourite quotes in the world, particularly because I've recently seen things that startled me, felt things I've never felt before and met people with a different point of view.  I've fallen in love with the feeling of having everything turned upside down and having any preconceptions thrown out of the window. I'm a firm believer in 'never say never' and yet...I said never sometimes without realising it: 

"I'll never be that person..."
"I'd never do that..."
"Never in a million years would that happen..."
"I could never understand that!"

Screw never. 
The only certainty in life is that there is no certainty and you NEVER know what the day may bring. You never know who you may meet, what conversation you may have, what feelings you may develop, or what seeds may be planted in your mind that will never leave. 
You never know whether you'll wake up a healthy person, whether those you love will still be by your side at the end of the day or whether you'll be the same person tomorrow as you were today. 
Life throws us curve balls  in the form of people, places, ideas and new experiences which shake us up so much that we'll never be the same again.

From now on the only 'never' I'll believe in is to never take anything for granted, never let an opportunity pass you by, never lose sight of what you want, never stop learning, never give up on love and happiness and never, ever give up hope on the dream of making this world a better place.

Roma Highlights

December 3, 2012
From the time our plane bounced along the runway like a drunken jellybean and prompted a 100 odd Italians to start cursing the Ryanair pilot, I knew I would like this place.

I'd booked this impromptu birthday trip to Rome a few days before, intent on distracting myself from the fact that I was falling head first into a quarter century crisis {More on this later}

It's amazing what a girl can fit into her suitcase when packing for a Ryanair flight by the way; I was so proud of myself for fitting a pair of heels, my SLR, my regular point & shoot camera, make-up, teeny tiny liquids, make-up & 5 outfits into my beat up old Longchamp Pliage :) Oh, plus a bottle of vodka and a tin of stroopwafels at the departure gate, because I stupidly forgot that the 'one-bag-as-hand luggage rule' also included any duty-free items! 

Cue lots of wine, good food, great company and a new city to discover. I was set, not realizing I'd get all of this and more in 4 days.

I went to visit Marvin, an American on exchange in Rome, who I met at the One Young World conference last month. He lived in a building with a gazillion other exchange students so the weekend was non-stop chaos, a flurry of food, alcohol, partying and political debate.
I was hungover for the majority of the time but this didn't stop me from dragging my ass to the Vatican on the Saturday in a bid to save my soul before turning 25. I somehow managed to convince Marvin that this was a great idea, seeing as he hadn't been to the Vatican as yet. He flirted with some Spanish nuns as we queued and they gave us tickets to the service. We didn't realise that we'd be bumping into Benny The Pope at said service. Suddenly my hangover took a turn for the worse but we were determined to see what all the fuss was about. As I sat there with the hungover shakes, a group of nuns from The Philipines also started shaking and crying next to me, overcome by his Holiness. I'll make sure not to vilify him as I'm aware that a bunch of Catholics are reading this but it honestly puts the facade of celebrity in a whole new light; The Pope glided past us with a blank look on his face, giving a similar wave to that of The Queen as hundreds of people around him wept.  It was a pretty surreal experience to say the least. 

Fast forward two days, after hours of walking around, snapping photos, getting lost, eating way too much food and regretting that extra glass of yummy vino, I was on my way back to The Dam, wishing I didn't have to leave. 
I know I only just saw the tip of the Italian iceberg and I can't wait to discover more of this country. Until next time Roma :)