Settling in and exciting news!

Murcia

I’ve been living in Murcia for a few weeks now (3ish I think) and am feeling pretty settled! I can’t say I’ve done anything particularly Spanish or weird since arriving but I’ve kept myself nice and busy and have really enjoyed it so far. I’ve been working for an English academy; tutoring adults and children. I think I prefer the kids because I get to just play around (whilst teaching obvs) for an hour and a half and get paid for it. Today I watched the boy I teach play Mario Kart whilst I excitedly narrated in English and he repeatedly told me to be quiet. Teaching this kid is kinda funny as the grandma speaks spanish and french and the kid only spanish. So we awkwardly greet each other in French, if there are any problems she’ll speak quickly in spanish then french whilst I try my hardest to translate in my head and reply. And the boy ignores my attempts to get him speaking English. The weather has been crazy good; great most of the time but sometimes we just moan about the heat. Just wish our air con worked and we had a paddling pool or something. It’s only going to get hotter so I’m prepared to reach optimum browness. Apart from working we’ve been eating, gyming, beaching and being really productive watching BGT and Louis Theroux documentaries.

Last week I went home for 2 days (timed it quite well with elections and voted for the first time wahoo); my flight there was so strange. I was seated by the emergency exit so they gave me a little talk about how to open the door in an emergency and kindly asked me to remove anything from under the seat in front of me. Then it came to landing in Luton, I had nothing with me; no books, no headphones, no food, the only thing I had was a thin cardigan. Literally taking up 10cm on my lap; the flight attendant made me move it! ‘Please put it on or place it in the overhead compartment’ lol seriously!?

I was back in England to attend an assessment day for ICS VSO – a 3 month, government funded, overseas voluntary placement. They send young people to some of the poorest places in the world to contribute to development projects. Obviously that’s a pretty vague and broad statement but they appear to do some great sustainable work. The assessment day was good but not quite what I expected in terms of the amount of information we were given about the possible placements. I left wishing I’d seen more visual information about where we could be going and more examples of the potential work. I did meet some lovely people though and enjoyed the ‘what would you do in their position’ problem solving.

In all honesty I can’t give an unbiased opinion of any volunteering selection process because I’ve done it before. Anyway, I came back to Spain on possibly the worst flight of my life (I mean, I’m super grateful I caught my flight and it was all safe but it was a pretty horrendous experience nonetheless), the flight was full of classic LAAAADDDSSS all heading to Alicante and Benidorm for boozy holidays. Most people were drunk before take off and continued to drink, chant and be as rowdy as possible for the 2 and half hours. There were families with young kids who were probably a lot more annoyed than I was. The air stewards continually made announcements to ask people to sit down and calm down. Failing that the pilot repeatedly asked passengers to take note of the seatbelt lights and to stop shouting. A few persistent passengers still carried on and the stewards were losing patience, one air hostess was nearly in tears as she apologised to me for not being able to get the drink I’d ordered. LADs,why be a dick on a flight?! Why can’t people wait until we’ve landed then head straight to the bar!?

To make matters worse we had to be held on the flight for an extra 15 minutes because so many guys wouldn’t listen. This meant I missed my coach to Murcia and had to wait almost 2 hours (in the crazy heat) for the next one. I hate flying in summer!

Anyway, a few days ago, back in Murcia, I got the news that I’d been accepted for the VSO programme! I don’t have much information of what I’ll be doing because they have to clear my medical forms before choosing my placement. But yay! I’ll be volunteering with locals somewhere either in Africa or Asia for 3 months, probably departing around the end of August. I’ll have to raise £800 before departure so that’s another challenge to think about once I have more information.

That’s all for now

Mary x

I’m currently 3 floors high in an apartment in Berlin listening to the noisy street below and preparing for a day of sightseeing. The past 2 weeks have been crazy and I’ve worked out that I’ve slept in 6 different beds (alone, don’t worry!) in 3 different countries, in 2 different continents, in 6 different towns/ cities/ villages and gone from seeing donkey carts, bakkies and women carrying bags of rice on their heads to bicycles, Mercedes and businessmen in suits having meetings on the metro.

Back in Namibia –
I joined Paul and his son Matty for the 5am drive to Otjiwarongo; we saw a bat-eared fox, kudu and we nearly ran over a skunk, not your average drive to school. I then hitch-hiked to Windhoek in a 5 seater car and 7 people. I sat with a 9 year old girl on my lap for the next 3 hours, not my favourite car journey I have to be honest. I made my way to the Cardboard Box hostel, dumped my bags there, emailed people to tell them I was alive then headed to Katatura; the not so nice part of town. I had to travel to the Baileys Reo Liner ‘head office’ (basically a poorly constructed, messy concrete box), I’d booked a return coach ticket back to Cape Town that I could no longer use, I’d hoped to get my full $600 back until I noticed the ticket said NON REFUNDABLE.. oops. I found the manager and explained the situation, he told me there was no way he could give me any money back. I used my skills from GCSE drama and started crying and giving my best ‘lost, confused teenager’ look. I think he saw right through my acting but agreed to give me half of my money back. I then jumped in a taxi back into Windhoek and was laughed at a lot by everyone when they all tried to speak Afrikaans to me and I could give no response. My last few hours in Africa were spent trying to book hostels, travel and attempt to check in online (it wouldn’t let me, I panicked and then the women at the hostel convinced me it would be fine).
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I travelled to the airport with my new Swedish friends Martin and Emille, we enjoyed our last Windhoek lagers and Savanna ciders with pizza and chocolate before messing around in the (tiny) airport. We somehow lost track of time and ended up being the last ones to board the plane, about 3 minutes before take off! I kissed the ground outside of the plane, hugged one of the air hostesses and settled into my window seat, ready for the long flight. Luckily the plane was almost half empty so I could spread out over 2 seats, some people had 4 seats to themselves?! I watched most of ‘The Book Thief’ and avoided both of the sad looking plane meals. The most exciting part of the flight was waking up at around 3am to see we were flying over Nigeria; Martin, Emille and I noticed there were flashes of light in the sky below us every couple of seconds. We were watching a thunder and lightning storm happen from above, such an amazing sight.IMG_1049

We decided to start a clap when we landed in Frankfurt (you know, as people sometimes do at the end of a flight…), no one joined in an we had a really awkward 30 seconds as we stayed committed to the clapping (and the occasional ‘woooo go Germany!’) and everyone on the plane turned around and glared at us. Just glared. A tiny bit awkward.IMGA0056

Somehow I was the last person off the plane too! I said my goodbyes to the Swedish guys and they gave me one of the bank notes folded into a shirt shape for remembrance. I was now in Frankfurt with a few euros and my hostel name written down with no idea how to get there. I was directed by a really nice woman at information to take the shuttle bus to the train station and then take the train to the nearest station (I can’t even remember where I got off, oops) and then the hostel was a 20 minute walk away. So off I went, the morning before I was in the African bush seeing crazy wildlife and watching the sunrise and now I was sitting on a stuffy train with miserable looking businessmen. No one was talking to each other, no one even looked up from their phones. Such a contrast to life in Namibia and Cape Town. I just missed the noises and the atmosphere of ‘Africa’.

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My hostel was huge and looked really clean and safe but the next day I was proved wrong when I was covered in bed bug bites… I made friends with one portuguese guy who was travelling back from 6 months in South East Asia; basically, he looked exhausted. My explorations in Franfurt included trying to find a shop that sold a travel adapter, it took over 6 hours and cost €10 😮 I know in Bags Etc they used to be around £2.50?! I visited the Skyline Plaza shopping centre and spent way too much time in shops like H&M, Mango and Zara. I couldn’t believe how expensive everything was; I was converting money in my head from €’s, then to £’s and then to South African Rand and standing in shock at almost everything. A day in Frankfurt was enough and a message from my friend Nina made me book a coach ticket to Berlin for the next morning.

9 hours on a coach is like a breeze for me; soon enough we arrived in Berlin to some cloudy skies. I hadn’t actually arranged where or when I was meeting Nina so hunted for a cafe with internet so I could check my Facebook. The only place I could find was a chinese restaurant with awkward waitresses pressuring me to order more than a glass of water. I gave in a got some disgusting tuna, rice roll things. At least I managed to find Nina and meet her friends Emma and Daniel. We waved Daniel off as he was getting a bus back home then we went to get ice cream, yay!

Nina and I met more than 3 months ago on a coach from Namibia, we then were on the same coach back to Cape Town by coincidence and did lots of driving around and beach hopping before she moved to Berlin. So to see her in Germany and stay with her for a few days is strange but awesome!

Mary x

Africa, Europe