unallersimple: (hectopus)
I wanted to write something more cheerful than my last post, because despite that mega dump of sad stuff I am feeling happy and grateful today.

Looking back at all the anniversaries of mum's death there have actually been a lot of fun moments. I feel very lucky and blessed to have such wonderful family members and friends who have either got in touch or spent the day with me over the years.

One of the highlights was when my friend Anna came to visit me in London. We had loads of fun with Amy, who helped organise the surprise.

Another was when my sister and I met up in Ely and had THE KETCHUP INCIDENT OF DOOM which I still laugh about.

And there's the time I took a walk in a nice park near my house.

Or on the day of the 2nd anniversary when my uni friends Yvette and Patrick went with me into town and we ate ice cream and played with the toys in Hawkin's Bazaar.

So many people have been awesome on the anniversary days. My friend Poppy has texted or sent a card every year for the past 12 years! My sister and I always call each other. Sometimes I speak to my Aunt. Yvette, Anna, Harriet, Amy, Bolton Laura, a work colleague who recently lost someone to suicide herself are all people who have been there for me too. Many others send their love online if I post about it. Once a co-teacher in Japan saw how upset I looked and bought me some chocolate milk from the vending machine. I was so moved by his gesture of kindness.

And debxena, who has stayed in touch with me and been there for me all this time. I want to meet her in person one day to give her a big hug and say thank you. Finding someone else online who had been through what I had been through, and being able to read their posts about bereavement helped save me. It didn't matter that she was on the other side of the world.

There's good memories to be made from even the saddest of days.

Tonight I'm going round to Chris' to watch Once Upon a Time again! : )
unallersimple: (hectopus)
TW: bereavement, depression, self harm, suicide, brief mentions of finding a body, and PTSD.


Today it has been 12 years since I came home from school and found my mum hanging in the garage.

The anniversary of a traumatic bereavement is never a good day, but it does of course get better with time. I remember how I used to sit and sob and shake for hours. I used to lie in bed drinking for days, and dread the day itself for weeks beforehand. Nightmares, flashbacks, losing time, bursting into tears whenever something triggered me (like hearing sirens from emergency service vehicles) were all some of the PTSD effects that stuck around for a long, long time.

Around 4-8 years it got a lot easier. I’d be ok, just down during January. And I could function on the day itself but would sneak off for secret cries in toilet cubicles or empty rooms if I was at work. (Except for the 6th year, which for some reason was just an absolute write off. I called in sick as I couldn’t do anything else except sit at home crying all day!)

The effect the day has on you is so weird because you know it’s just a day, and what difference does it make whether it’s 27th January or the 4th August? My mum is still dead either way. Yet exhaustion washes over you and your brain is filled some sad fog so you can’t think straight. You do things like forget what you were saying mid-sentence or keep pouring hot water into your mug until it overflows all over the kitchen counter.

These days I’m fine. I just feel a bit sad and a bit grumpy. I find I get irritated very easily, so if someone is faffing with change in front of me on the bus or something I get really angry when normally I wouldn’t care at all. It doesn’t help that the day falls in the middle of winter so the weather is always grey, cold, wet and miserable too. Boo.

It does feel kind of emotional to be here 12 years on, on the other side of the worst of it. As a teenager I used to read people’s stories on the Internet and find hope that they had made it that far and that their lives were ok. And now here I am. And my life is good and I’m really proud of myself for not just surviving but managing to live a really rich and wonderful life in spite of what happened. But I won’t ever forget what I went through or how awful it was for all of us. My heart breaks for that teenage girl who had drink problems and was depressed and self-harmed and felt suicidal with grief and couldn’t find any professional help or counselling no matter where she turned. The Internet keeps everything for ever. The posts I made crying for help are still out there, a brief Google search away. : (

I’ve been through so many milestones already. First birthday, first Christmas, first anniversary of death. Then 2 years, 3, 5, and 10. There have been all the bittersweet successes in life too, where I burst into tears upon passing my driving test or finding out I’ve gotten into university or getting my dream job because she wasn’t there to share it with me.

Grief never ends. It just changes shape. And in time you learn to live with it and it becomes so part of you, you don’t really notice it any more.

I know there will be many more milestones to come. In just a few years I will have lived without her longer than I lived with her and that’s so unfair. If I live to be 44, I will have outlived her. If I get married or have a child or buy a house I know those days will be tinged with sadness too. She should be here.

Why aren’t you, mum?

I’m now 28 and there have been times where I’ve felt depressed and suicidal, and there have been a grand total of 3 rounds of counselling, but I’m still here. Yay! My day to day life is fine. Normal. I don’t really think much about mum or what happened. And I still feel wibbly wobbly when emergency service vehicles whizz by but that’s about it.

My mum’s death, combined with other incidents that happened, meant that I didn’t trust anyone as a teenager. As an adult, that’s sadly still the case but I’m working on it.

I never believed it when anyone said they loved me or that they cared. I'm not quite sure why this has changed recently (I suspect Chris' love/emotional kick up the ass has something to do with it), but I can feel people’s love and care now. This is quite possibly one of the biggest breakthroughs I have had. I only wish it had happened earlier in life rather than at 28 but better late than never I suppose!

A parent’s suicide can put a lot of pressure on you and how you live the rest of your life. When they died young, you can feel like you have to have an amazing life to make up for it and have all the happiness they never did. If they killed themselves because they believed everyone would be better off without them, then you're not honouring that if you're unhappy or unsuccessful.

I find it hard when I move to a new place as it’s like coming out in a way. All the new people you meet don’t know what happened so ask innocent questions like “Doesn’t your mum worry when you go traveling?” or “What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” so you have to tell people over and over again.

12 years on, I’ve still never sat down and really, properly talked with anyone about what happened and how it felt.

That makes me sad.

However what makes me really sad and angry is that mental health care provision in this country hasn’t improved; it’s actually got worse as the government continues to cut funding. There will only be more deaths and suffering as a result and I can’t bear it. Why don't these men in power care?!

There is still so much stigma around mental health problems and suicide and being bereaved by suicide, which is why I always mention these things in conversation so much. It's also why I promoted my local bereavement by suicide support group on the BBC and spoke publicly about losing mum. Every little helps.

I miss my mum, but not that much because I struggle to remember her. Time is cruel like that. It takes your memories. I can’t remember what she looked like, only what photos of her look like. I can’t remember the sound of her voice. But I can remember her hugs and what her arms felt like around me. What I struggle with is the chance that was taken away from me to get to know her as a person and an adult rather than a parent. A chance for us to be friends and share our lives. I will always feel jealous of other people who have mums. I have missed having a mother’s love. There is an emptiness inside that will never be filled.

I used to be so angry at her for what she did, but I don’t feel angry any more.

I used to sit and search for answers. Why did she get depression? Why was she so ill? Why so ill on and off for so long (since I was 5)? Why kill herself on that day, instead of any other? Why didn’t I know when it was happened? Why couldn’t I have stopped it?

But the answer is we’ll never know. And sad things happen to good people sometimes just because. And depression is cruel and takes away the ones you love mentally and/or physically. And if someone is so ill they feel suicide is the only way out, and when you’ve reached a point where even treatment like ECT isn’t working, they’re going to kill themselves no matter what you do.

But I do still feel hurt that she never said goodbye. For months afterwards I used to search the house for a note because I couldn’t believe that she would kill herself without saying something to us. And I feel hurt that she didn’t stick a note on the door saying don’t come in just call the police (or something to that effect) so I didn’t have to be the one to find her. I could have lived without that mum! I used to see dead bodies hanging off things for years.

I still feel 16 years old inside. I still have this residual anger at ‘adults’ that’s hard to shift, even though I have been one of those ‘untrustworthy unhelpful adults’ for many years. I told so many grown-ups I was scared my mum would kill herself, only to be dismissed as being silly. I was outraged people like my ex-boss could get away with telling me it was for the best. Or how a teacher told me if I was going to be late to school, I might as well just not turn up at all. (How about supporting a phased return to education instead?!) The reporters who turned up at the inquest and wrote up mum’s death in the paper. The smug policeman who treated our home like it was his the night dad was taken away. People who constantly told me how I was coping with it so well, without taking the time to actually ask how I was first. Strangers who told me to cheer up, because it might never happen. The doctors who had kept pushing for her to do home visits when she clearly wasn't well enough. I hated everyone! I felt so utterly alone.

I’m always so grateful that as an adult I control my own life. No other adults have the power to decide what will happen to me. I don’t have to do things like lie to social services on the phone because I’m afraid of being taken away.

I feel so sad when I think about how much we all went through. And how ill mum was too.

She feels so far away yet just a phone call away. Even though I know I will never see her again, I still feel like I could turn around on the street and find her right behind me.

I've written a happier post too. :)
Link here: http://unallersimple.livejournal.com/89706.html
unallersimple: (boat)
Well three weeks in and hasn't the time flown by. As usual I haven't got round to updating this as much as I wanted to. In every place I've stayed in I've had the most amazing experiences..but then something bad happens or there's something about the place that really puts me off it. As a result updating a journal has just been pushed out of mind by better or worse things.

So far:
*The weather has destroyed one pair of shoes
*I've cut my feet on broken glass
*I've accidentally sliced my finger open on my razor
*I've been a victim of credit card fraud
*My ankles became so swollen from the heat during the first week of the trip that some days I could barely walk
*I had such a bad outbreak of eczema that for a while I was in pain all day and unable to sleep at night. Showering hurt so much it made me cry. Face was so swollen I could barely open my eyes.
*One night a staff member in my youth hostel came into my room, woke me up, touched my arm and gave me a letter asking for sex. At the time I thought he'd come in to rape me. Didn't sleep the rest of the night in case he came back in.

And last but not least I've cracked the screen on my phone!

I don't know what on Earth is going on. I guess my body is having trouble adjusting to the weather here, and I've contracted a bout of...clumsy-itis? Normally I can get through life without hurting myself or my belongings but every day here I seem to accidentally fling my phone across the room again or find myself in need of bandages or plasters once more.

BUT I'VE BEEN DETERMIND TO CARRY ON HAVING A GOOD TIME!

Yesterday I left Ella a day early and arrived in Galle after an eight hour bus journey. I like Galle. And I like being on the coast again. It's also nice knowing the bulk of the traveling is over now. Just a week left to relax on the beach before home, without anything to do with Star Wars or Christmas in sight!

I found a gorgeous youth hostel in the old town area of Galle and spent time recuperating. Sleeping. Eating. Finding a pharmacy for eczema cream. Washing all my stinky clothes. Reading on the balcony whilst watching them dry in the sun. Charging all the battery powered things!

Yesterday evening the universe, perhaps feeling a bit guilty for throwing so much discomfort my way, sent me some nice moments and coincidences. I was walking down the street feeling tearful and like I wanted to come home when I stumbled upon the most beautiful sunset. As I sat down to watch it, two women next to me called out "Hey, aren't we in the same hostel?" so I had two lovely European companions for dinner and drinks.

Last night my eczema 'broke', similar to the way a fever does I guess. The cream really helped. I woke up with less swollen and less red skin. It's finally stopped itching and oozing. I've stopped feeling too disgusting and embarrassed to talk to people or look them in the eye. I can bear to look at myself in the mirror again. Feel soo much better today.

I also found somewhere to have a good pot of tea so join me in raising my cup to toast for a more chilled out week to come!
unallersimple: (hectopus)
Recently I had been talking about travelling in India and Sri Lanka and the differences between the two with a group of people I'd met. Someone mentioned there are a lot less beggars here in Sri Lanka, and one women pointed out that was because the government made them disappear. I felt absolutely mortified. There I was, sat in the restaurant of an exuberant hotel, mango juice in hand, with a gorgeous view of the beach and the sea. The contrast between worlds couldn't have been more pronounced.

I wasn't sure whether disappear meant forcibly remove or murder, but for once I'm in a city with an Internet cafe and I'm taking a day off from sightseeing (lucky privileged me) so I have time to do some research on the subject.

Below is what I've found out from Google in an hour or two, so the disclaimer is it's as accurate as a quick research from Google can be.

So if you are homeless, living in absolute poverty and begging on the streets of Colombo, what might happen to you?

Well I couldn't find any mentions of the government, police or armed forces murdering street beggars. However back in 2010 there were a spate of murders of beggars in the capital which some have linked to statements made by politicians. The first is reported in The Sunday Times who wrote that "The Asian Human Rights Commission expressed concern that the government may have triggered the recent spate of beggar murders by suggesting that LTTE operatives had infiltrated the city under the guise of beggars."

Politicians also appear to have made statements about the need to beautify the city ahead of The International Indian Film Academy Weekend and Awards ceremony in 2010. However The Sunday Times reported that beggars were actually forcibly removed on this occasion.

The website for The Asian Human Rights Commission adds that

"When the Prime Minister of the country himself creates the psychological impetus for intelligence agencies to act against the poorest sections of society, the beggars, is there any point in calling for inquiries and crying out for justice? When the government itself creates the climate for killing, where is the possibility for inquiries and justice?"

It's a sad and troubling situation.

I tired to find out whether the killer of the 2010 murders was ever captured, but other than one small article which mentioned that a suspect had been arrested I couldn't find anything that said someone had been caught and put on trial.

So what happens when beggars are arrested and forcibly removed? It seems that they get taken to "rehabilitation centres" in places such as Hambantota or Ridigama.

The BBC, www.vivalanka.com and The Sunday Leader mention beggars being moved to centres, and the most recent year I could find a news article for this happening was 2013, where a similar thing to the events of 2010 happened before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

However I couldn't find anything to suggest this practice has been stopped or that the centres have been closed down.

LankaNewspapers.com paints a bleak picture of what life is like in the places that beggars are taken to, which are effectively detention centers. I don't like the way this article is written or the way is describes beggars and the homeless. I don't think it's accurate (do 98% of them really prefer to sleep on the floor without a mat?!) however this was pretty much the only thing I could find on life inside the centers.
http://www.nation.lk/ also reports some of the misery and horrific conditions that no one should have to suffer.

Sadly governments forcibly removing people before a global event is far from rare. I don't understand how people can put appearances before human rights. (E.g. The Philippines earlier this year.)

Taking people off the streets happens around the world, in countries such as Rwanda, Cambodia , and Nigeria to name a few. I never understand the logic of this. Violating human rights aside, it isn't even a plan that is going to fulfill their aims of 'cleaned up' streets. When people leave detention they will only return to where they came from and do the same things necessary in order to survive homelessness and absolute poverty. In the meantime while they are away more people will fill their place because the issues causing these problems in the first place aren't being addressed. It's like wiping away blood without using any stitches to stop the bleeding. But I guess the governments don't really care...otherwise they wouldn't be doing these things in the first place. It makes me so angry.
unallersimple: (hectopus)
I was chatting to a friend on Skpye the other day who told me that she doesn't feel able to visit a country where she doesn't speak the language. She wondered how I did it and that got me thinking about how I get by. I've come up with four reasons.

The first is privilege. I was born in a country where my mother tongue is one of the most dominant languages in the world. The only country I've been to where I couldn't use English to get by was Lithuania!

The second is research. I read and plan as much as possible beforehand. I print off maps, find out bus times, learn a few basic words of the language if I can't speak it already etc. etc.

The third is the international language of mime! Walk into a cafe and don't know whether it does food as well as drinks? Mine eating. Looking for a broom to sweep the floor at the guesthouse? Mime sweeping. Man at the ticket office holds two fingers up to tell me entry costs 200 rupees. It's amazing how much information gestures can convey!

The final and most important reason is the kindness of strangeness. I feel this is especially true for a young looking woman like myself; people see me and instinctively want to make sure I'm ok.

Today I was reminded, as I am every day, of how much I rely on the kindness of others to get by when I'm traveling.

I was taking a bus from Dambulla to Kandy. I walked to the bus stop and began the usual process of taking a bus in Sri Lanka; pointing at the nearest bus and saying the destination I want to get to out loud. "Kandy?" I ask. The conductor shakes his hand from side to side to mean no. I walk off to the next bus but am tapped on the arm. He points to a spot on the pavement a few meters away and says something I don't understand. So I wait where he points and sure enough, within ten minutes a bus has come. This one happens to have Kandy written on the front so I'm know I'm good, but half the buses I've caught haven't had any English on the destination sign. I jump on board and am the last person who can fit on from the front entrance as the bus is jammed full. With one large rucksack on my back and a small one on my front I hold on tight as the bus goes rocketing off down the road at breakneck speed, doors still open. I'm the only foreign person on the bus.

Within minutes people are gesturing and pointing for me to put my large sack next to the driver. I hesitate as it doesn't look like anywhere I should be putting luggage, but a man lifts my bag off my back and puts it down there. An elderly lady several rows down is calling out to me. Several women next to me push me down the aisle past those who are standing. The elderly woman sits me down in her seat. I hope she is getting off at the next stop because I always give up my seat for my elders, not the other way round!! Thankfully she does. I'm grateful as I can't balance on these buses standing up no matter how hard I try. I think the locals know foreigners are not used to this! Some time later the conductor reaches me, and I ask how much to Kandy. He gestures for me to open my wallet and takes 100 rupees (about 45p), then gives a handful of change.

The journey progress as normal for the next few hours. At each stop people get on and people get off, there's an orderly chaos to these cramped conditions somehow.

At one point the bus is so full a young woman puts her bag on my lap without asking, then leans on my shoulder to keep her balance whilst we are flung from side to side!

Once we reach Kandy I pull out the map showing the location of the train station where I need to buy my ticket onwards to Ella in four days time. I'm peering out the windows, craning my neck to try a spot a landmark or a steet sign I can recognise. The conductor taps me on the arm, nodding and smiling at me, reassuring me that it's not time to get off yet. Eventually we reach the station and he helps me off the bus with my large backpack. (The two steps come to waist hight and I'm only little!)

Train ticket bought I am now able to follow the map to my hostel to check in which is a 15-20 minute walk away. However I get lost so stop to ask for directions. The man I chose doesn't speak English, so calls over someone else who works at the garage. He can't work out where I want to go from my map, so calls over someone else! That man doesn't know either, but I know my sense of direction is good so I can't be far out. The second man makes a phone call and reads the address on my hostel booking to someone. Phone call finished, he offers to walk me to the hostel. I thank him for the offer but tell him I'll walk. He points me the right way to go and I'm there in two minutes.

Upstairs in my hostel I meet a couple from Australia. They have travelled round the island south to north which is the opposite direction to me. So we swap travel tips and answer each other's questions and they give me recommendations for good places to eat in Ella.

This is why if I see people stood looking confused in my own country I always ask if I can help them. This is why I lent my adapter to someone who forgot theirs, and why I took a young British women who was upset and alone on a day trip to the beach last week and gave her loads of travel advice. Because when you go somewhere new, the kindness of strangers is what gets you through.

I will never forget the woman who drove me to safety at 4am last week. Or the person who gave me an expensive travel card in Sydney. Or the time a group of young Japanese people saw me reading on the beach alone and took me out for dinner. These are just a few examples but there are, of course, many more.
unallersimple: (hectopus)
My experience of Hamad International Airport was an interesting one because for a long time I was trapped inside it.

When you first step off the plane there you take great strides and beam with satisfaction because it's so clean, light and airy. Tired travellers are reenergised upon arrival.

So with one long journey over and a new country to explore on my 12 hour stopover I dashed excitedly to immigration in order to spend a few hours in Doha. I was told to wait. Lots of security and airline staff were standing around like office staff with nothing to do. No one would tell me what was going on or why. They made it sound like it would just be a few minutes, so I waited.

Then someone came up to me and told me to go downstairs to the airline tour desk. Which I did. Except after waiting 15 minutes the desk remained empty and when I asked elsewhere they said it was fully booked.

So I went back upstairs. Still not allowed out. Neither was anyone else. They said it was the case for all arrivals to the airport though it was hard to believe it. What do you do when so many armed men are standing nearby?

So I gave in to the temptation of watching the latest episode of my favourite TV show (which had aired in The States only hours before). I managed to find somewhere to plug in my phone and streamed a 40 minute episode in just under an hour and a half. Well done airport WiFi!

Afterwards I wondered back to the tour desk and signed up for the 11am free city tour without any problems. Guess it wasn't sold out after all?

When it was time all the passengers followed the tour desk clerk back up to immigration, were refused permission to leave and were walked back down the tour desk again. I was still sat there over an hour later! It didn't really make any difference to me...I could wait for my next flight there as well as anywhere but I hoped we would be allowed out soon as the twelve hours were slowly ticking away.

The disturbing thing is, the experience made the airport seem a lot more sinister...

Whenever I walked around looking for another potential way out uniformed airport staff or police would stop me and ask me what I doing.

Looking round the main hall in the terminal I saw almost as many staff as passengers. Were they refusing to let people in the airport too? If so what the hell was going on?! Would I be able to get my flight as normal? No one knew anything, or if they did they weren't telling when we asked. Even the tour operator was as lost and confused as we were, making lots of anxious and desperate sounding phone calls.

Cleaners wiped down pristine floors over and over again. Every empty shop had a sales assistant ready to greet you at the entrance. They all stood there and watched you walk by as they had nothing else to do but smile at you. It was all quite creepy!

Had I entered limbo? Purgatory? A Truman Show reality? I wasn't really sure what to make of it all. I just know that I wanted out.

Then half an hour later a member of airport staff came to get us and we were allowed out...just like that! Still no one could tell us anything apart from this had never happened before. Thanks for keeping me hostage for four hours, Hamad International Airport!

Once outside I took a photo, elated to have reached country number 30.

We were then ushered into a coach and driven into Doha. As we were so late out we didn't get to do the whole city tour,just two sections of it. I didn't mind, I was still happy to get the whole thing for free as if I had left the airport alone I would have had to pay for transport and a visa. Somehow the airline tour exempts passengers from those fees - so thanks Qatar Airways. I will fly with you again. :)

We went for a brief visit to the waterfront where we could see the skyscrapers of New Doha on an artificial island across the water. Then we had 30 mins in the main city markets which the tour guide informed us had been there for 250 years.

I was astonished because like everything in site it all looked new and completely artificial. Even in the places where grass grew it looked like every single blade had been put there by hand.

It also looked liked half of the city was currently being built. There was so many half finished buildings and cranes.

I learned from the guide that Qatar is a very small country (about the size of Yorkshire according to vaguelyinteresting.com). It's pretty much all desert on the coast as it has no natural groundwater of its own, it has to transport it all in.

If you are not born in Qatar then you can never become a citizen, you can only live there in a work visa which must be renewed every year. Citizens are guaranteed employment, education, healthcare etc. People start work early but finish at two in the afternoon. The king has his own airport terminal!

I wouldn't want to live there to be honest. We were barely out of the airport for two hours and it seemed like a place of two halves. One of luxury for the stinking rich citizens and one of painful working conditions and mistreatment for the foreigners doing all the undesirable jobs for the natives.

Back at the airport I settled in for the remaining six hour wait. I had hoped the city stopover would take longer! However once I'd eaten, taken several hour long naps, walked around the massive airport several times and took photos of silly statues (Google lamp bear, HIA!!) then it wasn't long before I was queuing to board my flight to Colombo.

What an odd way to spend a day!
unallersimple: (hectopus)
I arrived at the airport in Sri Lanka at 2:40 in the morning and to save me any worry, just booked a driver in advance to take me to my youth hostel.

The hostel is further out into the suburbs than I'd thought. I am unfortunately not near the centre at all. You also know you're onto a winner when you appear to be the only guest. Still I have a bed, a fan, a flushing toilet and a shower with cold water so it's all ok for now. The middle aged gentleman on reception is very friendly and told me how to get the bus into Colombo. (Sister Laura, he is just like the father of the Japanese co-worker I caught sleeping in the cupboard once! This is oddly comforting somehow.)

So after drifting in and out of sleep in my empty dorm I got up at lunch time and made my way out into my new surroundings.

The time it took from walking outside to feeling overwhelmed was roughly five seconds. It was so hot I started sweating immediately. I tried to make my way down the road to the bus stop but it wasn't easy. There was no pavement so I had to walk on the road along with other pedestrians, cars, tuk tuks and scooters. If that wasn't enough I also had to contend with 3 stray dogs, one stray cat and an ox that ambled over towards me in a (thankfully) friendly manner. This was all before reaching the main road!

Trying to cross a main road involves waiting and hoping for a long time that there will be a break in the traffic. When you realise there won't be you just have to take a deep breath, close your eyes and step out into the path of oncoming vehicles and hope they stop or drive round you. I have now taken to waiting for a local to cross at the same time for safety.

I then found a bus stop, and noticed with great gladness that there appeared to be a 138 bus every 30-60 seconds. This was helpful as there was no information at the bus stop, not even the name of the location. I observed how other people got on before trying it myself. Boarding involves flagging the bus which slows for you but doesn't stop. Then you have jump onto the stairs and dash inside before it speeds up again. I felt like Indianna Jones!

There was a seat free so I handed over my fare and sat down gratefully whilst wiping all the sweat off. I looked out the window trying to memorise landmarks for the journey home.

Bus drivers seem to think they are in a video game called "Drive fast, Smash Tuk Tuks." Everybody seems to think that the horn somehow powers the engine.

The journey into the city took 30-40 minutes and I was very proud I managed to figure out where I was and get off where I wanted to. Disembarking was even more perilous than boarding. You had to stand in the aisle and wait, then jump off in the middle of the road when the conductor told you to when it had stopped in traffic. Not so bad for me as I'm by myself, but one group of friends ended up being dropped off at intervals along the street as the traffic started moving again every time one of them made it off the bus!

After wondering around for at least another half hour I was unable to locate a restaurant or some kind of supermarket so jumped on another bus back to the hostel. Happily I did spy a supermarket on the way back and loaded up with goodies before walking the rest of the way home in the rain. Very refreshing.

When I got back to the hostel an elderly man made me a cup of tea and I found a gecko on the wall next to my bed.

I feel rather ridiculous that all I've done in my first twelve hours here is make two bus journeys, but I'm British so I'm sure you can understand I've had more than enough excitement for one day. In my defense I am also very tired from two days of traveling with very little sleep!

Definitely time for bed now.

Will start sightseeing tomorrow.
unallersimple: (hectopus)
Going away in Europe for a couple of weeks earlier in the year was real turning point for me, as it gave me the chance to slow down and think about what I want in life in the future. So I handed my notice in not long after I got back and worked out my last few months.

I finished work two days ago and I had a really nice last day. Everyone was so generous I was blown away! I got so many cards and presents and one of my co-workers baked a free-from cake for me. A few people even popped over from our head office in another county. I'm so grateful for everything everyone has done.


I don't have any other job lined up yet, but I've gone for a compromise between traveling around the world and "being sensible". So I'm going away for a month and I will find temp work when I get back until I move to London in February/March. You can still get a work visa for New Zealand until the age of 35 so I've pushed that dream back for now. I couldn't let the chance of renting a room in Streatham at a very cheap rate pass me by!

I'm going to Sri Lanka in a few days which is really exciting (but mostly nerve-wracking). I've always been fascinated by the place and did some of my coursework on the country when I was at university. I've never been to that part of the world before. I don't have any real aims other than to sit on the beach and read a book on Christmas Day.

I'll be staying in Unawatuna/Galle from 20th -26th Dec.

I've been saving books I'm desperate to read for the trip, such as J K Rowling's latest novel and Bill Bryson's new book about traveling around the UK 20 years on from Notes on a Small Island. Can't wait to devour them.

I guess I'm struggling to feel too excited as I'm scared to leave home because of the recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and Paris. Yet I know I'm very privileged to be able to quit my job and go traveling as most people who want to can't.

And I keep having little moments of panic where I think I should be at work!
It's like I haven't really left somehow. Maybe it's just not sunk in yet..

I'll spend the next two days packing and planning before I fly out to Colombo on Sunday via a stopover in Qatar. My room is the usual pre-departure bomb site; papers, clothes and kit scattered all over the floor whilst anything electrical is being charged.

Everything else in life is now on hold until I get back.

Speak soon.
unallersimple: (snoopycomp)






I know this journal is horribly out of date, but I'm slowly kicking it back into shape!


The most recent posts are:

*Feeling Sunnier in Slovakia

*Why I Always Wear a Scarf

*Holidays Are Coming


x

unallersimple: (suitcase)
Yesterday I arrived in Slovakia (country number 27!) after a 7 hour bus journey from Kraków to Bratislava. Ever the party animal, I spent my Friday evening avoiding the receptionist who was trying to get me to go out for drinks with other guests by doing my laundry in the basement.

I like this hostel the best out of the ones I've stayed in so far. I have a wide open spaced room and there are no bunk beds, so you don't get wobbled around every time the person on top climbs the ladder or turns over. It's en suite for a room a four! I wake up when my room mate flings the curtains back and opens the windows. I lie happily looking at the sunshine and blue sky. I liked Kraków but I'm glad to leave the grey Polish skies behind.

I haven't updated this blog yet as after being so run down from work and running a bi group, I've just needed to do NOTHING. I've barely read. I've barely written in my diary. I've not done much sightseeing either! Just lots and lots of walking and sitting in cafes drinking tea. A week into my holiday I finally feel like I'm starting to feel again. Which makes a nice change from just dreading every single day and feeling miserable all the time. I want to change jobs and leave Nottingham. I'm not happy there. I've just not been sure what to do next and don't want to rush into anything in case I make the wrong choice.

I'm also keenly aware of the fact that if I want a working visa to Canada or New Zealand, I need to do something soon before it's too late. (The cut off for Canada is 30.)

Sometimes it's difficult to work out whether something is just a day dream or whether you will actually really enjoy doing it. This two week trip has been a nice way of exploring whether I want to work abroad or buy a round the world ticket as over the past couple of years I've only been away for 3-5 days at a time.

Unsurprisingly I do. I do enjoy this. I just need to figure out the logistics and the money and DO IT!
unallersimple: (snoopycomp)
A few years ago I started wearing scarves as a fashion accessory, but they've turned out to be so useful both in day to day life and when traveling that I always carry one with me now.

They dry very quickly if they get wet, can be used for a wide variety of different things and fold up into a tiny piece of fabric in your bag if you don't want to wear it. A patterned/unusual scarf often makes a good ice breaker and conversation starter too.

Scarves can also make cheap, reusable, and useful travel souvenirs.

They can be very comforting if you're anxious and lonely. I suppose they can act a bit like a grown up's comfort blanket in that sense. :)

You can use a scarf for:

* a blanket when it's cold
* a blanket when it's hot outside but the air on is turned up too high inside
* something to cover skin to prevent sunburn (especially when you're on a long journey on public transport and can't move your arm out the sun)
* a way of identifying yourself to other members of your minority group, eg purple for bisexuality
* something to dry your hands with when public toilets don't provide anything
* as a towel to dry off after rain/paddling in the sea
* an emergency towel when you forget to pack one!
* to clean things, glasses, self, dusty table etc.
* a shawl
* a sarong/skirt
* a head band
* a head cover when visiting religious/conservative places
* something to stop bleeding
* a sweat towel
* a sling
* a pillow
* something to cover your head with when trying to sleep in areas of bright lighting. E.g Airports, hostel rooms where some fucker comes back at 2am and turns the lights on...
* a shoulder bag (tie opposite corners together)
* something to cover you up when you have to pee outside and might be stumbled upon
* a fly screen
* a curtain

...the list goes on!

The fact that my scarves are cotton have also provided me with a lot of relief from itching that occurs as a result of my eczema, as they can be used as a barrier between an evil itchy thing and my skin.

Scarf Tips

When you travel abroad a lot or travel around and work outside for your job a lot, no bag, pair of shoes, or clothes last very long. (Sigh.) I find my scarves last around 6 months to a year depending on the fabric.

I do recommend HAND wash your scarf every few weeks, or as soon as practically possible after you've used it to clean something. It will help it last longer. Let it dry naturally after washing it and don't use pegs to clip it to the line. They damage thinner and more delicate scarves.

Pick a scarf that reflects you and what you like, as people comment on them a lot of they have a pattern on. Once I had an owl scarf that I just bought on impulse one day. People were always asking me about owls and buying me owl related birthday presents. I don't even like owls that much!

I trim the lose ends and threads of my scarves regularly as they can ruin a scarf if they get caught and pulled.

Pick your jewellery carefully when scarf wearing. Some necklaces are right bastards to scarves.

Finally take great care when using your scarf around a new piercing, especially a sensitive ear piercing through cartilage. Taking a scarf off and not realising you've got a thread caught in the hoop/bar will result in tears!

I'd recommend sticking to plain colours, as they go with any outfit and are suitable for any occasion.

Don't buy a white or light coloured scarf. They don't stay white for long and show all the smudges and stains! Don't buy a black scarf either. They soon fade and look terribly shabby.

If like myself you become an avid scarf wearer you will soon find you have a preferred type and brand. I tend to go wide and long in size. My purple scarf from Next is my current favourite, but I always buy a scarf from Camden whenever I'm in London.

Please take care when entering the world of scarf wearing, as it's easy to go from owning one or two to having a full blown scarf addiction. There's also the dreadful feeling of emptiness and anxiety to deal with when you accidentally leave your scarf behind once you reach this stage. I knew it was time to take a step back from the world of scarves and get rid of a few when I discovered I had 15 in my bedroom...


So basically scarves, fuck yeah!
unallersimple: (hectopus)
Next week I'm flying off to Europe for a two week waltz around four countries. I'm really excited as they are all beautiful places I've never been to before and I can wait to explore them.

First of all I'm flying to Poland, then traveling to Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia by bus and by train before heading home. When I come back I will have been to more countries than my age. Wahoo! This is a very exciting development for Mission 101.

I want to celebrate the occasion by getting a map of the world tattood on my left forearm upon my return.
unallersimple: (hearts)
This weekend I have been in London for my friends' wedding. The apostrophe is in the correct place there as it was Mark and Yvette who got hitched. They are two of my best friends who I lived with for several years whilst we were all at uni. They may have driven me mad by playing endless amounts of McFly and High School Musical during that time, but they have always been there for me over the past 10 years. Yvette came to visit when I lived in Japan, and her family have always been a bit of a surrogate one for me. They have had me to stay over many times, and saved me from jet lag and cancelled flights whenever I've flown in and out of Heathrow. All of her family have welcomed me with warmth and plenty of banter. Mark's mum has always looked out for me whenever she visited Norwich.

I can't deny I was a bit shocked when Mark & Yvette first got together as I didn't see it coming at all. I thought we were all just a bunch of nerdy best friends! However as time has gone on I've honestly never seen two people better suited to each other than those two. When Yvette called to say Mark had proposed in 2013 I was pretty much jumping around with happiness and excitement and crying down the phone at her. Half of me thought "but of course" and the other half thought "What's taken them so long?!"

Their wedding was so moving I'm still crying with happiness this morning! Everything about it was so perfect and beautiful. The venue was gorgeous and had been beautifully decorated. What made it even better was when you looked more carefully at everything there was actually nerdy references everywhere. For example the paper flowers on the tables turned out to be folded from the pages of Harry Potter novels, and the groom and best men all wore superhero outfits under their shirts.

You could see how much hard work everyone had put in together for the big day, and how the wedding had brought family and friends even closer than they already were.

The service was moving and uplifting, and was a wonderful blend of British and Ghanian cultures. The food afterwards was fantastic, and whilst the speeches went on for an hour after dinner, no one minded because they were all so moving and funny. Everyone kept thanking each other, and were paying compliments to how wonderful other friends and family members are. People kept saying how happy and amazing it is that two wonderful, wonderful people are now husband and wife and that two wonderful, wonderful families have come together and love and support each other. None of this was cheesy or soppy in the slightest because it was all so heartfelt and genuine.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay and celebrate long into the night as the train back to central London took an hour and I didn't want to miss the last tube train back to my hostel. But I did have chance for a good boogie with my friends and their families before dashing off into the dark.

One of the things I have really valued and been grateful for with both the hen do and the wedding this year is being able to meet all of the special people in Mark and Yvette's lives. I have now met and spoken with their friends and family that I'd previously only known by name. They are all such cool and wonderful people and I hope I can hang out with them more in the future.

The bride and groom have requested that guests refrain from putting photos online for now as they want to see their own photos first. So I will post some pics at a later date, presumedly when I've finally stopped crying over how beautiful the wedding was and how happy I am for my friends!
unallersimple: (hectopus)
I was quiet during the drive over to the tattoo studio this morning. Partly out of nervousness but also because I was worrying about whether I was doing the right thing or not. Had I picked the right design? Did I really want to get something that would be on me forever?

After some thought I discovered that yes, I had chosen the right design and yes, I was doing the right thing. I realised that not only had I wanted a tattoo for over a decade now, but that my body felt plain and incomplete without one. I had often drawn and cut designs onto myself over the years.

I've held off on getting one for so long. I've always been such a good girl. So careful. So cautious. So risk averse. It felt like the right time to do something that really scared and shocked me.

Another reason why it's taken me so long is that I've never been sure of what I want until recently. There have been things I've loved in the past that don't really hold my interest any more, and I've known they wouldn't. However when I first read the quote I had tattooed on me today it immediately seemed perfect. It was love at first sight. So meaningful and relevant to my life.

As everyone smugly told me it would be beforehand, it was painful getting a tattoo on my foot, but I really don't see why this is a bad thing. It only took a few minutes and my friend was there to hold my hand. I wouldn't want to change the location of my tattoo because of the pain involved. It wasn't that bad. Plus it's going to hurt wherever you get it done!

The first time I changed the dressing today I was a little freaked out by the sore skin and raised lettering so I'm looking forward to when it's fully healed, but it feels nice to have it on me and tick another thing off the bucket list.

FullSizeRender.jpg
No wearing boots for a while.
unallersimple: (snoopycomp)
Hello & welcome to my travel journal. It's been going about 10 years now. LiveJournal works by posting the newest entries at the top and continuing in reverse chronological order, but if you want to look at a specific month or year you can look at the calendar feature. You can also click on the tags that are listed down the left hand side of the page if you want to look for posts on a specific topic.

If you're new here, I'm a 28 year old Brit called Lizzie. After graduating in 2008 I lived in rural Japan teaching English as part of the JET Program. I had the best two years of my life out there but it was eventually time to return to my roots.

I lost and found love in Manchester for 3 years before moving to Nottingham in October 2013.

I'm still working on making my life long dream come true; going to 101 countries. How am I doing?

Only 31 down, 70 to go!


Here's a lovely list of upcoming trips:

December 2015 - a month in Sri Lanka, with a brief stopover in Qatar

Here's a lovely list of countries I've been to so far:
The UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Qatar and Sri Lanka.

~~~~~~

You can find me on Twitter here.

Lots of my travel photos are on Pinterest too.

~~~~~~

Here's a page of links to some of my posts about the JET Programme and Japan.


I'm always happy to talk to people about JET and what life is like in Japan so feel free to get in touch. I mentor people applying to JET so if you need any help with application process or with writing your personal statement let me know. I proofread several every year. I don't charge for this!

I was in Japan from 2008 - 2010 so those will be the main years to browse through for Japan related posts.

~~~~~~

I'm also a survivor of bereavement by suicide and I recently collected links to all the posts I've made about it in case it's useful to someone who's going through the same thing.

~~~~~~

If you have any comments, questions or requests then please get in touch.



Where should I go to next?!

Kit Review

Oct. 2nd, 2014 05:58 pm
unallersimple: (snoopycomp)
In August I wrote about the new kit I'd bought for traveling. Now I've had the chance to test them I'd like to write about what I found out.

First of all both the Kindle cover and Osprey backpack pass with flying colours! Durable. Practical. Extremely useful and efficient. However with the backpack the more you pack, the more it expands in width, so you have to watch you don't pack it to it's full capacity or it's too wide to fit in as hand luggage. I also discovered on the way out to Croatia that if it looks too big and bulky, airline staff (Jet2) will ask you to weigh it to prove it's not more than 10kg. Mine came in at 7.9kg (for a week's travel) - but luckily for me they didn't think my handbag needed weighing as that was easily another 3-4 kg! On the way back I didn't use the front pockets on the backpack and didn't get stopped.

The travel pillow from Paperchase looks and feels pretty, but doesn't stay inflated for more than about 15 minutes. FAIL! I'm going to buy new pillow when I can and use the case off this one to cover it.

I traveled with a "Thirst Aid Reusable Hydration Pack" for the first time this week too. Fuck the fancy name, it's essentially a roll up water bottle. Normally airport security won't let you take an empty plastic bottle through to fill up with water on the other side. (Can't work out whether this is to make you spend more, is a genuine security precaution or just a logic fail!) This one went through East Midlands Airport security rolled up in my bag no problem - and I happily saved about £10-£20 on water over the course of the week. You have to remember to wash it and let it dry out though. Don't forget about it and let it grow mold in your bag!

x
unallersimple: (onsen)

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote,
and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”
Michael Palin



It's Monday 29th September. I got back from Croatia and BiH yesterday. I'm sat on a train to Manchester in order to see Michael Palin's show 'Travel to Work' today. Now seems like a good time to reflect why people travel! Or rather why I travel? Why can't I stay in one place for long?

I've realised that there is no simple reason really, but at the heart of it is a curious and passionate mind. A insatiable desire for knowledge. To see and learn about the world. To experience it first hand for myself. I appreciate and am in awe of everything.

There's also the element of adventure. Sitting in an office...going to the pub with friends...routine. It's my idea of hell. Boredom and a lack of challenges in life are the enemy of a curious mind! You never know what might happen when you travel. Plus being in another country can turn something as simple as buying a chocolate bar or catching a bus into a unique and exciting experience. When you travel the world you can climb mountains, go kayaking in the sea, learn a traditional Japanese dance! Anything you can think of doing, it's all there, just waiting for you to discover it.

Also when you've grown up in Kendal and spent three years living in Manchester, it's nice to see the sun and feel its warmth on your skin!

In our overly complicated lives, travel provides peace. Life is simplified. Unhurried. All you have to do is find something to eat, find somewhere to sleep and work out where to withdraw or exchange money! It makes you focus your attention on what's important in life.

Once the above three things have been sorted, you can do whatever you want, whenever you feel like. You are free from the schedules and demands of daily life. It's so liberating. You have full control and full independence.

This life is all we have. We don't know when it will end for us. I'm always aware of the fact that my mum died at 44, so I want to know that when it's my time to go I've seen and experienced as much as I can.

I'd be lying if I only mentioned the good stuff. I know I travel to escape sometimes too. So I can run and hide from the pain of mum's suicide and the deaths of all my grandparents. To fill the emptiness and longing that being involuntary single for a long time brings.

A lot of traveling is not where you go or what you see, but who you encounter along the way. When you travel you finally meet other people like you, the ones who spend their lives saving and working to travel too. Although stays in hostels can be ruined by annoying individuals (and snorers!), lifelong friendships can be found. Most of the time though you just sit and talk with the most amazing, interesting people from all races, religions and professions. So many different life experiences. You learn so much. Hear so many different views and opinions. So many new ways of looking at the world. You rarely remember peoples' names (you meet too many), but you are always affected by their life stories.

Travel moves you. Inspires you. Shatters your prejudices. Reminds you just how little you know. It opens your mind and makes you a better person. As an example, when you've spent all day listening to someone talk about their experiences of war, when they've shown you the bombed out buildings of their own town, there's no way you can return home and live the same life you did before. You know you have to try and do more good in the world. Help others who aren't as privileged as you. Fight injustice. Reduce inequality.

Isn't it odd that when you make lists like these you often forget to include the following: FUN! Travelling is so much fun. And there's so much fear and laughter and excitement and fatigue. Nothing else makes me feel more alive. That's why like Michael, I will be happily infected with the travel bug until the end of my life.

xXx

Dubrovnik

Sep. 22nd, 2014 10:38 am
unallersimple: (suitcase)
What a sight. What a city. It's so beautiful. The Old Town is crammed with tiny sprawling alleyways and slopes and steps. The buildings and walls tower up and out in all directions, making it impossible to capture how amazing the sight before you looks on camera. Everything seems to be built using marble or stone. Everything looks and feels like you've wondered into a city from A Game of Thrones. Your body absorbs the heat in seconds, making you forget the leaves are falling off the trees back in England.

I arrived yesterday lunch time and laughed at just how popular the place has become for British people; I saw someone I know from Manchester within minutes of walking through Pile Gate! In my 9-10 years of traveling I've never seen anyone I know abroad before.

Sadly my travel plans have been thwarted by my dodgy stomach. It started cramping again last night. Something that I can't stop no matter what pills I take. Why doesn't Buscupan work any more?! Why don't any health professionals have a clue what it is, what causes it or why?! Normally it stops within 12 hours, but this morning it still hasn't gone. It's 'fine' if I lie in a foetal position on my side, but any movement leads to me crying in pain. I hope it stops soon. Last night I didn't mind so much because my window is right above a restaurant in an alleyway. There was talking and laughter and live music and it felt like people had rallied together to bring the sounds of the city to me! However today I'm exhausted from being in pain for so long. I'm scared it won't stop. I've got a new country to explore and all I can do is lie here and play on my phone and take an hour to type up one blog post. :(
unallersimple: (hectopus)
Determined to reach 25 countries and go to more countries than my age, I just bought some flights to The Czech Republic in November. I'll only go away for the weekend (as I've pretty much used up all my holiday allowance for this year) but I'm really looking forward to it. I love a bit of literary tourism as it connects my two great passions of travel and reading. The novel "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" was given to me for my birthday last year and I fell in love with the vivid, beautiful imagery of Prague after turning just a few pages. There is even a little map of the places featured in the novel on the official website. I think it's really cool when authors/publishers take the time to do this. (Another example is "The Shadow of Wind" which has photos and a walking tour of Barcelona at the end.) Another amazing thing that brings the novel to life is that Laini Taylor, the author, has a board on Pinterest for the book! Photos like this one inspire and excite and make you want to visit Prague and re-read the book whilst you're there.

I have yet to read the second and third novels in the trilogy (they're somewhere in my massive "to read" pile), but I know where and when I'll start them now.
unallersimple: (hectopus)
My second day in Portugal was much like the first: the weather hadn't improved.

I was woken at first light by a man shouting the same thing over and over again. A quick squint out the window showed someone flogging umbrellas by the exit from the subway. Time to get out and explore the city before I ended up storming outside and jabbing him with pointy bits of his own merchandise.

After travelling for thirty minutes to Belém (an area of Lisbon) to learn the hard way that all the museums close on Mondays, I sat in the foyer of the Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém with my head against the wall. I cursed the rain for preventing me from sitting and reading outside. I cursed myself for being an idiot and not doing any proper travel research beforehand. Cue massive sulking session. I plodded back up to central Lisbon and sat on a train in the subway (still sulking) whilst I figured out what to do.

The aquarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) was pretty much the only thing that was open, however I was sold the moment I saw it. It was like Finding Nemo combined with The Crystal Maze. What a crossover! The building totally looks like somewhere you have to swim to from the Medieval Zone.

IMG_5795


First up was a wonderful exhibition on sea turtles which totally enthralled me. I spent 30-40 minutes peering through the glass watching them twist and turn and glide effortlessly through the water. I like that no matter what their age, sea turtles always seem to look old and wise and move at their own unhurried pace. Just leisurely making their way from chillin' over there to chillin' over here.

Next I saw the main tank which was so large it spanned the central area of both floors of the building. Visitors could walk all the way around it at the top and at the bottom, as well as seeing smaller exhibits around the edges of the interior of the building. The warm, dark interiors of the Oceanário provided the perfect respite from the weather outside, as well as highlighting the vivid colours of the wildlife and water. It all added to the Crystal Maze effect. I often had the urge to jog from section to section seeking out the next challenge.

mazeMap_zone_2_379x229
^ Even the maps inside looked like something from the TV show!

I couldn't tear myself away from the main tank. It was so huge, and I loved watching all the different creatures to see how they moved and behaved and interacted with each other.

IMG_5935



IMG_5884
Challenge! How many fish can you see in the above photo?
Highlight the text to find out how many there are! --> Answer = 2)

Finally my heart completely melted when I saw the sea otters (sooo cute) and I couldn't stop laughing when I saw rock hopper penguins for the first time; they all look like relatives of Patrick Moore!

rockhopmooreSir Patrick Moore

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