Thursday, 25 May 2017

Madeira // Hill Walking and Whale Watching

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02.11.2016 we thought we got further than we did

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03.11.2016 we saw pilot whales!

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04.11.2016 Santana & a tiny banana

Stay tuned for the final post in my Madeira series, coming at the end of next month! It really was, in many ways, a phenomenal trip, one which I was so pleased and privileged to be able to photograph.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Madeira // A Clear Head

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This day was probably my favourite. I had become reasonably used to the concept of such an immense distant, and had already made plenty of notes on this other-island life.

Our plan for the morning was to go to a place they called "Mango Beach", but I don't think that that is the place's true name. The locals access it by a frightening looking elevator which is attached to the side of a cliff. Everyone used to get there that way, until they installed a teleferico which, let's face it, is a lot less terrifying as a prospect. Down at the beach (which, as all other natural beaches in Madeira, was very stony), we saw all kinds of fruit and vegetables growing. The day was beaming as the sun, we were all roasting and blinded, but in a way which did not feel so bad.

We encountered lizards and stray puppies. We looked out at sparkling waters, and explored a rocky trail. We found new parts of the beach too, as well as sitting down for refreshments at the bar, where some news item was simultaneously being filmed. And then we headed back to the teleferico. Which did not open, no matter what buttons we pressed or who we called. Then a woman, maybe twenty minutes later, came down to us to tell us it was no longer working. We'd have to take the lift. I played it cool, don't worry. It wasn't really so bad either. Then that activity was over. We stopped for lunch and then discovered my favourite place yet.

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The sun was starting to set, and the tide coming in, but after a wobbly trample over more massive rocks, we sat ourselves down in front of the sea, in front of a few boulders and weathered rock. And it was beautiful. There are no simple words that I could use to explain to you the divinity of this place. The sound of foaming waves retreating and coating the sleepy rocks was nothing short of soporific. I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay there forever as it cleared my head and made me feel content. I felt like I was beautifully insignificant, and happy to surrender all and any power I would ever had. I don't think that I'll ever forget that feeling. I never want to. I want to go back there, to that uneven beach. One day, I don't know where, I will taste such serenity again.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Madeira // A Peaceful Halloween

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The 31st was the day that Lucia and I got to traipse about Funchal, the capital city, by ourselves. Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens, which was beautiful regardless of the poor weather. I should mention that cable cars are also a very useful and dare I say common method of transport in Madeira. We took a cable car from Funchal to the gardens, and were to take another cable car from the gardens to another part, but after a fire a couple of years back, the car was closed off. We were in the Japanese gardens for the most part.

After that, we carted back and had lunch in the capital. Might I add, it was so difficult to find restaurants with vegetarian options. So much of the menus were comprised of fish, which I don't eat. It was a great pity in a way, as so many different types of fruits and vegetables grow in Madeira, and had a proper chef stepped up to the task and prepared something with them, I'm sure I would have been blown away.

We arranged a time to meet up with Lucia's dad, and until then, had a couple of hours to spare. We bought some delicious gelato, and headed up to the harbour to enquire about tickets for dolphin watching, an activity we'd do a few days later. By then, the weather was gloriously hot. Maybe too hot, but that didn't matter.

So, it wasn't very halloweeny at all, but that didn't matter. As with all the other days of my trip, I had an incredible day of new discovery. Travel is so rewarding. Also, that Bird of Paradise flower? They were everywhere, and so beautiful.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


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Quietly, she wakes, a gray sun veiled from her eyes, filtered by imperfect curtains. She scrunches her toes and uses them like fingers to remove her cotton socks. She is too hot, but the outside world is too cold.
 Downstairs, a clatter of dishes, a dropped knife force open her sleepy eyes. She realises that she doesn't much want to be awake, but there is nothing she can do. Someone else thought it was okay to make noise. She rises, and leaves her duvet in a crumple. It looks like melting whipped cream.
 Underfoot, the car[et is not so bad. It shelters her from the whisping cold, all the way to the bathroom where icy tiles sting and insist. She looks into the mirror. Her sleepy eyes tell of a different world, one much softer, of grass and the colour blue. Her lips are split and her eyebrwos wild from tossing and turning.
 She can feel her arms prickle with goosebumps. All of her hairs are alert, and she thinks of how someone plucked out all the feathers of a chicken, and made each one exit so violently that little bumps errupted from the chicken's skin. She rubs her arms to make them smooth and warm.
 She steps in a wet puddle and is grateful that she isn't wearing socks anymore.
 She nips downstairs, but whoever was unloading the dishwasher is gone. She thinks she might like some pancakes, but remembers that there are no more eggs, and slides a slice of white bread into the toaster in their stead. She decides to spread it with raspberry jam. She doesn't want milk or orange juice, but it is too early for water. She cuts off the crusts and leaves them for the birds.
 In the very centre of her brain, a snowflake falls. It shouldn't be there; it is springtime. Snowflakes usually do not fall alone. It is odd. She doesn't like it.
 She takes a bite out of her toast. She tells herself that the snowflake was just a strange accident that no one could ever explain. It doesn't matter. It is still springtime.
 The next morning, when she wakes up, she realises that the heavens have opened. Somehow, it is winter.

anna o'c

Thursday, 9 March 2017

My Experience as an Exchange Student in Germany

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T A G   E I N S  00:07
I had some nice thoughts about clouds and planes on the way here. Once I landed and finally met my host family, things changed. I suddenly forgot every word of German I knew, and could only say cool, gut, umm and danke. It was awful. I could barely understand anything either. It is so frustrating not being able to say what I want. I know it will get a little easier as the days draw on, but right now I feel like a German baby. I will improve. That is what I'm here for. I can't say I like it here yet. I'm still so scared in many ways. I need to relax.

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T A G   Z W E I  22:52
When I woke up, I wasn't sure whether to go downstairs in my pyjamas or to get dressed. For some reason, I decided that pjs were the answer and once outside the kitchen, I could see through its ajarness that everyone was fully dressed and sprinted quietly back up to get changed. We made chocolate and nutella cupcakes, went on a bikeride to get icecream, played with the bunnies, watched Sherlock (auf Deutsch), watched another German crime show and ate food. I hope tomorrow I'm able to string together a few better sentences, although I've already learned new words, or at least how to use them!

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They collect all their bottles and get money back on them

T A G   F Ü N F  21:10
I'm shattered. While my speech has continued to improve, getting up at 6:10 in the morning and not being able to use the internet until 19:40 at night was weird and hard and boring. I hope I made the right decision going to school here. People just aren't as friendly as they are at home.

T A G   S I E B E N  21:56
Strangely enough I'm not in bed. I'm instead at the closest thing to a house party that I've ever been to. A German barbecue with legal beer and probably less legal Jaegermeister.

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Musical swings at Enschede

T A G   A C H T  19:07
Up until now we were in Enschede in the Netherlands. I had never been to the Netherlands before so it was kind of nice for me to check another country off the list, even if it was only for a few hours. I'm picking up a lot of vocabulary, even if I can't use it in a sentence today.

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T A G   Z E H N  17:02 the next day
I was reasonably alive having gotten up at 6:15. When they set the table for breakfast, they now know that I always eat cereal and just leave me a bowl. I like that.

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Sleeping in a room full of gymnasts in a technical college. Definitely a new experience.

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T A G   V I E R Z E H N  16:19 the next day
Each day here in Siegen (at a gymnastics festival) has gotten a little better. The weather however was completely digusting this competition day, and I wore my low waisted shorts and a top in a knot up to my bra, sweat dripping down my face, beautiful really, but honestly I was amazed at how okay I felt with my untoned tummy being on view.

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T A G   S I E B Z E H N  21:30
I had 1.5 or 2 hours to roam around Munster and shop. I was very glad beacuse it reminded me of all our family trips to Germany. It was strange because I was in Galerie Kaufhof and it was almost like my family was there with me. Like I'd been there before.

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T A G   E I N - U N D - Z W A N Z I G  23:17
I just wanted to say that I'm feeling suddenly a little bitter-sweet about leaving. I've genuinely had a really good time here, and I've grown to be fairly comfortable around these people.

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T A G   E I N - U N D - Z W A N Z I G  18:14
I almost can't believe I'm coming home. My German has improved beyond measure. I've learned so much about the culture, picked uo the way people speak, learned new words, how to use words, and practised and reinforced what I knew already. It was so so worthwhile and I'm so pleased to have done it, and also ridiculously proud. Peace out Münster!

All of these entries are actual abridged pieces of writing from my stay in Münster, NRW, Germany, back in June 2015. I was sixteen at the time, on a 3-week exchange, staying with a German family. It was challenging, and I went to bed early a lot. Sometimes I wish that I had really just spoken and thrown myself into it, but being shy and reserved in nature, it was hard for me. My host family was good to me, although in some sense I don't know that we were that well matched. Our personalities were just so different! Nevertheless, not 2 weeks after I returned home, I yearned to go back. I love the language, and the culture, and the streets. Germany is a beautiful place. The food is so different and the humour too. I would recommend to anyone to go on a language exchange if possible, and if desired. It's probably the best thing you can do for your language skill, even if you'll find yourself desperately seeking English when you shouldn't be!

Have any of you gone on language exchanges before? Do tell me about your experience!

Anna x

All photos taken on the iPhone 4. Excuse the poor quality, and the blurredness!