Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Hello from Bangkok!
I know it's been only 3 days since the last post, but so much has happened that it seems like ages. So, at first I travelled to Schiphol with my favourite friend: public transport. Contrary to my expectations everything went smoothly and I was 3 hours early. Finally in the plane at midnight, I planned on getting as much sleep as possible. However Turkish Airlines planned differently and chose to wake me up at 2 AM for my supper..
Arriving in Istanbul at 4.15 AM, I tried to sleep a little on some benches before the first Metro into the centre at 6 AM. Hence I was already at the Galata Tower by 7ish, 2 hours before it opened. Thus I strolled in the neighbourhood and had breakfast at a nicely overshadowed by grapes cafe before getting up the tower to see possibly the most beautiful panorama of Istanbul I could have imagined.
After that I took the cheapest boat ride imaginable (2 lira or 1 euro) along Kiz Kulesi, an island with just the Maidentower on it, situated between Europe and Asia. Then a little Mosque Tour and walking towards the huge aqueduct. In the afternoon I went to the Summerpalace (Dolmahabace or something similar) which is an impressive architectural feat, pretty similar in its effect as Versailles but a different style of course. In the huge queue I met Raihane, a French girl travelling around Eastern Europe by herself for 3 months, for the 3rd time. She had loooots of stories (even more than I!). At some point I asked why there were these massive holes in the queue, which looked very strange. Explanation: those parts were in the burning sun, so the queue was broken up in the shady parts.
After that I decided to wonder around a little again, got a bit lost but a woman very kindly brought me back to the subway station I needed, and on parting she gave me a little note with "Gook luck, see u =)" which just made me feel happy. I got off around Aya Sophia and had Gozleme with Ayran, before strolling down a park filled with people and with a very merry atmosphere. Then back to the airport again for another night flight.

This time an American from the Philippines started telling me about his east-asian adventures, before my American neighbour (coming into the plane a little later) spilled out his. They're so easy to talk to! Then watched Sherlock Holmes the movie before dinner at 1 AM, and a couple of hours of sleep before breakfast at 6 AM and a bit of the last Harry Potter to fill up the time. When arriving in Bangkok, I met a Belgium guy who resides in Thailand with his Thai wife. He gave me very good tips and helped me get around the public transport. For the last part I took a tuk-tuk to the hostel, who stopped on the way at a tourist information point, where I got sold a day-tour for tomorrow to see the floating market, River Kwai and the Tiger Temple. However, wandering around the centre a bit on my way to Chinatown for dinner I discovered that 2500 Baht was too much for such a trip. Oh well, being ripped-off was eventually going to happen.
After a veeeery long walk along the river and the Grand Palace I arrived at the food part of Chinatown, where I ate fish noodle soup and a crab fish fried rice with fish sauce. Both delicious but the first one was hot!!!! Met an English couple with the same guide as me (hence eating at the same food stall) with whom I spend the evening, before getting a tuk-tuk back. I tried getting the bus, but there was no way I could figure out which bus to take and everything, with the bus drivers not speaking any English and it also started raining. To conclude the day, 2 girls entered my dormitory with whom I watched the film "The King and I", a kind of Disney movie situated in Thailand. Hilarious =)
Well, off to bed since I'm being picked up at 7 AM and thus miss breakfast here.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

MM goes on AA

So there we are again. I've not been keeping up this blog very much after somewhere around Christmas.. The reason? Very simple: Incredibly bad time-management.
You see, I wonder how come that this condition of mine, also known as the incapability to effectively distribute one's day over several important and valuable activities, seems to present itself in an exponentially growing number of people. Is it me? (I'd like to think not..) Or is it the crooked way in which nowadays everything revolves around skills instead of knowledge and hard work? I let you decide for yourselves.

However, in resume my first year at Oxford has been alright. No actually it's been AMAZING. I met lots of new and incredible people, many of whom I feel closer to than people I've known for a very long time. All the opportunities presenting themselves in societies, organisations and my study have just blown my mind away. I feel like I can do anything I want, if I just want it.

It's  been tough sometimes, having a lot of work ( with work I mean stuff I need to do for my course) whilst also wanting to attend several events or hang out with friends on Hayward Quad in the sun. But I do realise that since this was the hardest thing I had to face, I may not complain. After Hilary Tyler and I went on an exploration of the Isle of Britannia, making use of many different methods including hiking, wild-camping, visiting lots of friends, training/bussing (I am aware those are no real English verbs) and one of my most practiced skills: conversing with the locals. Our trip started in Exmouth where we got off the train and started the journey along the South West Coast Path towards Plymouth. It was gorgeous in every way. The days were lovely, the views amazing and nature was stunning. A little drawback was the unavailability of the campsites (your effort finally pays off Tyler!) resulting in the necessity to camp in the wild. Luckily we had all the required stuff with us to survive. For the first time in ages I got into an actual pattern of sleep, consisting of falling dead around 9 and rising with the sun at 6ish. I cannot emphasise enough how much good it did me after such a mentally stressful term.
Just when the weather got worse we went by Tom Ashby's. My first Real British Family, how exciting! And it couldn't have been better. What a lovely home that was! We had a wonderful stay & recovery from all that wild camping and had the best shower ever.
After that we went up on the Moors of Dartmoor (yeah that's where Sherlock Holmes was filmed!) With some luck we were able to get a cab to the youth hostel called Bellever since there were no busses going in the weekend.. It is really a bleak and empty place. However that is also its beauty. My time there was mainly filled with going on random hikes getting lost and wading through rivers untill I though it was about time to head back to Bellever. Climb up a hill and try and orientate before wading back through rivers. It was great =)
We got a glimpse of Cheltenham where we stayed over at Hannah Gladman's, before departing the next day to Emily Blampied who lives in the heart of the Cotswolds. What a British place that is! (I mean the Cotswolds, although Emily's house also qualifies) I saw horse-races, went to a pie-night at the local pub, made stunning walks with the dogs and of course drank lots of tea. It is as if the caricature-people only saw this place in britain and decided to make it its image. Well I can't blame them, it sure is a great place!
Then off for a big contrast to London, or The City to finally see Calypso again. We went to Canterbury on a day-trip, stayed over till her birthday and met Miguel, James and Junho. So strange to see people out of the College-context. It makes you realise that everyone has a life beyond Keble, and makes people more 3-D as a good friend of mine explained me. 
Back in the train to Wales we were confronted with a map full of weird language. Oh yes, Welsh is a pretty insane and secret language. It takes some knowledge before you're even able to pronounce it, let alone understand or speak. I just hope its inaccessibility for foreigners will not drive this language to its extinction as I've recently discovered did happen to Cornish. We got treated in every single way and also on the extended version of all of the lord of the rings, viewed on a superly high-tech visual-audio-systemy thing! 
That was our last stop before heading: North.
Taking the bus to birmingham, a lay-over in which we were just able to catch the film The Hunger Games, and then arriving in Carlisle in 3.40 AM where it's raining for the first time on our entire trip and then begin picked up by no-one less than the angel Elanor Watts, driving us all the way back to Workington in the little hours of the night (morning?). 
The next day we made a transfer to Eleanor Edge's on the other side of the Lake District. From there we've made little adventures into I must say one of the must stunning and inspiring place I've seen. The Lake District. It already gripped me and it can count on my return! 
A few days in Darlington (how cute is that name ^^) before going to Birmingham to stay with Mike's family. A family consisting of 2 parents, 5 kids and a zillion pets! And eeh oh yeah, throw in the occasional 3 extra guests. I don't know how, but they manage and it never gets crowded, it's just merry.
Then back to Oxford for another term's hard work & fun.

Trinity was much in the spirit of the upcoming Prelims at the end. Everyone at some point started their seclusion with books and fuel (food and water) even though the weather was kinda inviting everyone out. However there were some cool things like an open air screening in Magdalen of A Midnight in Paris, lots of cultural films at the Film Society (like Pan's Labyrinth & Castle in the Sky) and the Keble Art Society was born. Also my lil' sis came by for a good week, giving me the excuse to finally play the tourist of Oxford and discover some of its wonders. In that week I had to convince her to wear something ridiculous for the BOP, stayed up all night for Mayday to watch the choir sing from the Magdalen tower in the rain, got kicked out of a pub cause sis was 16, visited the entire Ashmolean and went to Blenheim Palace again. The day my sis left was the day after Keble Ball.

After all of that I had my exams at the end of June. Admittedly I was a bit scared beforehand, being judged by the Oxford standard and all.. However it felt like an anti-climax coming out of them. Not exactly sure I'm able to describe that feeling of "Is that all" mixed with "I have no clue how it went" and a splash of "Hmm.. that was a third of my course". Any additions are well-appreciated.

The last day of my exams my dad came by to start the second part of our biking journey from Bristol to Land's End. Just to make sure no-one misunderstands this, we biked all the way and left the car at Bristol. The weather was a bit of a let-down, but the biking journey was full with little wonders like Cheddar, Tintagel (pronounced Tintaaaaaagel), Treyarnon Bay, Padstrow, Truro (where we stayed at Miguel's for a couple a days and also went to the Eden Project!) and Penzance. I'm getting tired now else I would be expanding on this trip. You'll just have to ask me in real life if you want stories about that.
On the way back made a stop at Arundel and Canterbury before finally seeing home and mom after more than half a year. It was kinda strange for a little while, but it's still home. (unfortunately the bad weather travelled with us back to holland.......)

So there we are, 2 weeks after my return back home. I'm a 1000 euros lighter but managed to arrange all the necessary passports, visas, injections and guide books for............
That's right, withing 24 hours from now I'll be heading off for my 9 week journey through an unfamiliar continent. I am mentally preparing myself for all the new things I am gonna encounter and the totally different way of life. However I cannot prepare myself for the heat other than bring the most summery clothes (that have been waiting for a very long time now.)
So this is what's gonna happen:
I'm flying to Istanbul first, have a day over there and then catch a flight to Bangkok. After another day I'll fly to Hanoi in Vietnam and have about 2 weeks to explore. On the way back I'll go past Cambodia to see Angkor Wat (I'm so excited about that part!) and then meet Calypso and the volunteering group in Bangkok. Together we'll travel to Chiang Rai where we shall start the volunteering project for 3 weeks, after which I continue my travels south of Thailand towards the islands. That's about the broad plan, but anything might happen to change its course.
Pfoee. I'm tired & excited & scared & thrilled at the same time. I think I better get a decent (half-decent looking at the clock) night's sleep before my Asian Adventure (the AA). I'll try and post something every once in a while when I have acces to internet and a computer. If at any time you need to contact me, use either facebook or my email and in an emergency my Dutch number: 00316-38329379

Hope all your summers are splendid!