Maroc’n’Roll

I’m now in my final year of university, and despite all the hard work I’ve been doing so far (not too far from the truth actually), I’ve managed to squeeze in a trip to Morocco which I returned from on Saturday evening. I’ve never been to Morocco before – and I wouldn’t usually swan out of the country one blustery Tuesday in November – but I have a friend currently living there, surfing and just generally enjoying life, so we put a visit in our diaries.

Not a bad view, eh?

Not a bad view, eh?

He is staying in a skinny beachside house, in an adorable and colourful fishing village called Tagahazout, which is about 20km from Agadir, where the nearest airport is. My days there were filled with sun, surf and snacks, whilst my nights were full of open-air yoga, sea-staring and early nights – have you ever surfed before? It reallllly takes it out of you. To start with, after a bumpy experience in a scuba-diving attempt and my inevitable sea-sickness, the ocean and I are not on the best of terms anyway. The biggest step for me probably came before I even got on a surfboard; just getting out there, facing the waves and the awesome power of the water. By my third day on the board however, I was managing to awkwardly crouch-surf the waves…It’s exhausting, but the rush when you catch a wave is addictive and It’s definitely something I’ll be pursuing in the future.

A hard-earned camel bone wall piece, complete with secret mirror. Plus, a sneaky view of the crazy colourful rug I snapped up.

A hard-earned camel bone wall piece, complete with secret mirror. Plus, a sneaky view of the crazy colourful rug I snapped up.

We visited the local market in Taghazout, where we bartered like natives and as a result I loaded up my little hand luggage suitcase with quirky goodies. I could have snapped up everything in that eclectic and colourful market, every item had such a personality about it! It would be a decorating dream to take a trip to the Moroccan markets with a couple of very large and very empty suitcases…

The food was delicious, and with fresh fish from authentic Moroccan fisherman on offer every morning, I ate like a king but paid like a pauper. Quite a difference from my dismal weekly supermarket basket.

I had a wonderful few days climbing valleys, surfing and eating, and though it was a shock to the system when the plane touched back down at Manchester Airport, I feel throughly rested and ready to attack my Greek Tragedy essay this week. Well, a little optimism never hurts, though it is a bit futile when it comes to tragedy #ClassicsBanter

Italy: Finding Beauty Amongst the Chaos

As my time abroad is coming to a close in a couple of months (boohoo), I was thinking about the struggles i’ve faced during my year in Italy. In deciding how to approach this post, and it appeared to me that I could take it one of two ways. I could a) write about the truly big obstacle which everyone has experienced whilst living away from home – the fact that you are, in fact, away from home. Whilst that undoubtedly is the toughest part of my year abroad, it’s also the most obvious. So, that led me to b) the little obstacles that have peppered my time away – which I suppose could be summarised with my Study Abroad department’s beautifully clichéd phrase of ‘cultural differences’.

A world apart biggest obstacle

my Erasmus society getting a little confused (but still making it work!)

 

The lack of organisational skills possessed by Italy is simultaneously mind-boggling and impressive; impressive that there is still a country left to run underneath the mind-boggling lack of organisation. If you ever find yourself in Italy with something important to do, something with time constraints or an essential outcome at stake, I would urge you to go anywhere, be anywhere, except Italy. My German friend studying Medicine here quite frankly told me that should any medical emergency occur, I must put her on the first flight back to Germany and get her treated there. Coming from someone with firsthand experience of the Italian medical system, I’ve tried my hardest to remain healthy this year, however I did come down with a sore throat (I know, I know – poor me) in March. Thinking that a trip to the local pharmacy would suffice, I struggled down the street, only to be greeted with a sign that informed me that they are in fact closed from 12.00-16.30 every day. Whilst the notion of an illness which respects the shop owner’s need for an afternoon nap seems absurd to us Brits, one can only assume that Italian ailments are much more flexible with their scheduling…

 

It is a beautiful but shambolic version of a normal society, and while this chaos was what frustrated me beyond comprehension at the start of my time in Verona, I have to begrudgingly admit that there is something to admire amongst all the pandemonium. I’ve learned to worry less about tomorrow, and live in the moment a lot more. Whilst I’m prone to intermittent bouts of worrying (just like any good Englishman) and I’ll never be truly Italian in that respect, I do think that we can take something from their love of life and lack of anxiety. When Italians have free time, they really have free time – it’s a lovely thing to see them drinking and enjoying themselves at 11pm Sunday evening, just because it’s their Sunday evening. Work can wait, deadlines can wait and tomorrow can most definitely wait.

just your normal Sunday night drinks in Italy

 

 

Berlin on my mind

Hi all,

You might have remembered that I posted about going to Berlin for a long weekend to see Sam Smith, my current obsession. Well…it happened. And it was even better than I could have predicted.

It goes without saying just how incredible Sam Smith’s performance was, but I’ll say it anyway. I can’t remember the last time I was that blown away by a gig – every note was perfect, and he seemed genuinely humbled and wowed to be performing for us. He’s only 21, and though his youth showed through in his lack of arrogance on stage, his professionalism and skill totally outstripped his age. GO SAM GO.

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Apart from the concert, which was always going to be something to remember, I completely, totally and utterly fell in love with Berlin itself. Head over heels. A no-turning-back-now-I’ve-got-to-learn-German-and-live-there kind of love. The atmosphere and vibrance of the city totally infected me and I can’t stop thinking about it/stalking it on the internet/daydreaming about my life there! My plans have all shifted a bit after my four nights in Kreuzberg, and once I’m fully confident in my Italian I’ll be starting the long road of learning ANOTHER language. And I cannot wait.

I have many many MANY recommendations from my time in the city, but three particular nightlife haunts really made an impression. Whilst everyone visiting Berlin is probably aware of the exclusivity which surrounds the nightclubs there, it doesn’t really hit you until you’re standing in line for a club at three in the morning, entry money clenched tightly in your fist, being rejected after a fleeting and perfunctory once over. As a 22 year old tall blonde girl living in Italy this year, I’ve had seven months of standing out and being rewarded for looking different –  so let me tell you it is most definitely a sobering experience being rejected from anywhere! Whilst Italy and Berlin are potentially the most extreme of each end of the spectrum (thanks for the confidence boost, Italia! You not so much, Berlin…) it is definitely realistic advice that you have to keep it cool if you want to get into the clubs in Berlin. Seriously, look like you wish you were anywhere else in the world but in the queue trying to get into their club. Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH.

Despite being so mercilessly tossed aside at the first club, our gang persevered and the next place we tried let us in, as thankfully we had some German-speakers amongst us, and it ended up being THE BEST PLACE EVER. Did I just blow my cool-cover? It was a giant old squatters’ house on three different levels that had been sort of renovated. It was edgy (sorry about that word), shabby-chic and achingly cool, like a sassy girl wearing a man’s jumper that she found in a skip. There was a boat in garden…a boat. It was essentially the house party to end all house parties. We arrived at 4am and didn’t leave until 7.30 the next morning, in true Berlin fashion.

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looking fresh at 7.30am

On a slightly less exclusive note, we stumbled upon a great bar in Kreuzberg which I whole-heartedly recommend, Rummels Perle. It has a great chilled vintage feel, with atmospheric lighting, beautifully mismatched decor and a great DJ. And they’ll let you in even if you speak English. Which I do.

Finally, Butcher’s Bar. This is a bar situated at the back of an old butchers, which is accessed through the back of a red telephone box at the back of the shop. I know, amazing right?! We passed the door lady’s muster and soon enough we were in the smoky secret back room decorated with meat hooks and red lighting. Though the prices are a bit steeper, it is a really great place to get your first drink and soak up the feeling of Berlin secrecy and exclusivity. While this place does has the exclusive feel to it, I’ve since been told it does actually let most people in. So don’t fret too much, use it as your dry run and ACT COOL….Then grin like a loon when you get let in through the telephone box.

Moral of the story? Go to Berlin. Love it. Just don’t let anyone there know that.

Ciao Verona! – Italia: Take 2

So,

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog side of things recently  – but quite the opposite in reality. On 20th January I moved back to Verona for the second semester of my year abroad. Having had such a lovely four weeks at home in the UK, I (secretly) wasn’t 100% pumped up to be returning to Italy. However, much to my surprise, all i’ve really felt since i’ve been back is….happy!? Obviously every day has its ups and downs, but overall I have found myself feeling surprisingly pleased to be back here 🙂

On the 21st I had my first exam (‘Storia del Teatro Greco e Romano’/’History of Greek and Roman Theatre’). Oral. In Italian. Whilst the preamble was painstakingly slow and inefficient, the exam itself very much went my way, and ended with my professor telling me I had achieved 25/30, and then proceeding to give me a copy of his book for free. Bizarre. But much appreciated! Grazie mille!

Since i’ve been back i’ve been pretty efficient with my time (which might explain my inefficiency in the blog area of my life…), going out for pizza, earning money at work and, most pleasantly, visiting my two great friends Bettina and Mona in Bologna. I met them in Siena in August, at a month-long intensive language course for Erasmus students. We bonded pretty much instantly, and whilst we are all different ages (22, 24 and 28) and from different countries (England, Switzerland and Germany) something about us just seems to work. I appreciate their advice, honesty and life experience – they get me and I get them. It was Bettina’s final weekend in Italy and one of Mona’s last, so it was a great way to round off our six months in Italy together. We ate prosciutto e formaggi, drank Amarone, went to the Terme (underground baths and pools), watched movies,  draank some wine, shopped, went sightseeing and drank some more wine!

It’s amazing how just a month can bond you so tightly. Even though we have no idea when we will see each other again, we all know it will happen sooner or later…even more exciting is that we have NO IDEA where on earth it will be! True friends can be made over a lifetime or over a single month – when you know, you know

Mona, Bettina and me with the winning contrada's flag ('Onda', meaning 'Wave') at 'Il Palio' in Siena (August 2013)

Mona, Bettina and me with the winning contrada’s flag (‘Onda’, meaning ‘Wave’) at ‘Il Palio’ in Piazza del Campo, Siena (August 2013)