Sunday, 20 August 2017

Berlin, Germany

Like I said in my last post, I recently went away to Germany with someone who doesn't appreciate travel but I'm not going to dwell on that here.

I think the most fascinating part of history lessons when I was stuck in GCSE history, was definitely WW1 and WW2 so when it came to picking a city break, Berlin has both the history and the newly revamped modern vibe to it. It was pretty high on the list of places to go in Europe, so that was that.





We did so much in Berlin; the Berlin Dome, River tour, Checkpoint Charlie, National History/Science Museum, Anne Frank Centre, Jewish Museum, the Reichstag, Brandenburg gate, Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life Centre. Oh and we did all of this on foot so ended up walking 10 miles a day!

For me, the Jewish museum really stood out as it was as more solemn museum to visit. I've been to Poland and seen it from their perspective but in Germany, the museum was more about trying to create the feelings which the jewish may have felt. I use that sentence lightly because of course, we would be feeling no where near as frightened as they were.

There was a room which resembled a holocaust room; nothing in there but darkness. Small and dark. Awaiting death.

There was another garden, almost like a maze but the floor was very uneven and the maze was all different heights. The idea being that you set foot into this garden and feel uneasy, almost sick as you walk around because you're so disorientated. I just found this to be really powerful.






I've also just finished reading Anne Frank's Diary that I purchased at the centre. Not the best in terms of writing (she was a young teenager so must remember that) but a really important read. One I recommend wholeheartedly.

Berlin is a really cool city, one I'd go back to again for sure.
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Travelling

I think we often forget that travelling is a privilege. To be able to afford a plane ticket, passport, spending money, accommodation, cameras etc.. well not everyone can. I've been fortunate to have visited seven new countries this year which probably makes me sound like a spoilt brat (FYI, I worked hard and funded it myself) but I am so grateful to be in a position which allows me to do so.



Travelling is really important to me. I believe it probably saved my life (along with a very good friend) and for that reason, it has a special place in my heart. When you travel, you no longer have a routine. You don't necessarily know where you'll be tomorrow, what you'll be eating, learning, exploring or seeing. And yes, a very long time ago, that would have been terrifying to think about but now it's the most exciting thing I can imagine.

I try not to go to fancy hotels and fancy restaurants when I'm away. A basic AirBnB works wonders providing there is a bed and bathroom because really, how long are you in the room for? As for restaurants, I think part of the fun is experiencing the local delicacies and flavours. Long gone are the days where I sit by a pool for days but you'll find me exploring the town, museums and landmarks at least trying to learn about the history and culture. I never used to think history was important but to understand the present, we should at least try to understand the past and how we came to be.

I try not to get taxi's everywhere, choosing to mostly walk miles all over as you get to see so much more. And I take lots of pictures because I want to show my grandchildren all of the places I've been and that life is much bigger than their bedroom walls.

I recently went away with someone who didn't have this same outlook on travelling. They didn't leave their comfort zone and it broke my heart. A new place with a wealth of opportunity - wasted. I get that travelling isn't for everyone but trying something new is how we learn and grow. As an adult, you don't come across those opportunities in the same quantity as you do a child, so you have to grab them with both hands and run.

If you go away and embrace everything possible, you rarely come back the same person. You'll have a new outlook on life, something in you will have changed because you will see that the world is much bigger than what you first thought.
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Monday, 14 August 2017

Kotor, Montenegro

So the opposite direction to Bosnia, is Montenegro. Another border crossing for us but we were off to visit the town called Kotor and the Lady of rocks in a town named Perest.

The morning began with Kotor, a beautiful little town surrounded by a wall. We were shown around by a local guide who taught us about the churches and famous iconic buildings. I don't actually remember doing much here though as it was way too hot (there was a heatwave when we arrived reaching temperatures of 38 celsius) so I just sat in a bar and ordered cool drinks. There are steps up (45 mins worth) to the most famous church in Kotor but the heat immediately threw that idea out of the window.




After exploring the town, we drove back to Perest. This is home to the legend of Our Lady of the Rocks. It's a tiny man made island which homes a beautiful blue and white church. We took a small boat over to visit it and learned that according to legend, seamen kept finding a religious painting where the island is now. They moved it to the local church but it just kept returning to the rock. As a result, they built this artificial island and the painting remains inside.

We didn't stay here for long but did explore the church with a guide showing us the rooms and artefacts. I don't actually think it's a place I'd stay for a long time as I love activity but the bay of Kotor is definitely somewhere I'm glad I've ticked off my world list.


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Friday, 11 August 2017

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina


These posts are really few and far between, which I apologise about.. actually, I don't because I'm busy seeing European cities (currently on my way home from Berlin). But it does mean I'm writing these from memory rather than in the present.

Anyway, whilst in Croatia we decided to do two excursions with the first being to Bosnia & Herzegovina. To get to the main part of Bosnia, you actually have to cross two borders from Dubrovnik which is a little laborious but definitely worth it.

The trip included a stop at Kravice waterfalls which was absolutely beautiful. We only stayed an hour but the water was again, crystal clear, and also freezing cold. It didn't matter though because Bosnia is even hotter than Croatia so it was nice to feel temporarily refreshed!

 


Then we drove onto Mostar. Our mini bus actually crashed so can say I experienced an accident in Bosnia! Luckily everyone was absolutely fine and we were on our way within 30 minutes.

Mostar was even hotter than the waterfalls but again absolutely stunning. I've never been to Morocco but I imagine it to be similar to the markets in Marrakech - female heaven! We had a 30 minute tour with a local guide before heading off on our own to explore and grab lunch.

Mostar really is beautiful, especially the view of and from the bridge. I'm so glad we spent the day there.



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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Dubrovnik, Croatia

This summer is all about travelling. Seeing the world, exploring new cities and making memories with close ones.

I've kick started this with a trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia. We were there for 10 days which was actually far too long to remain in one place, so also ventured to Bosnia & Herzegovina followed by Montenegro.

We honestly had the most amazing time. I won't write much as the pictures do the talking but we did everything from visit the old town, relaxed in bars, swam in the most crystal clear waters, chilled out on the beaches, sailed to different islands... oh and walked at least 5 miles a day due to the steps down to get anywhere!

The weather was beautiful (if not a little hot towards the end), the food was delicious and everywhere you looked was simply stunning.

I will leave you with photos (the other countries will follow in later posts!)

















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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Thoughts on To The Bone

To the Bone - the new feature film on Netflix based on a 20 year old girl, suffering from Anorexia. Naturally, I watched this on the 6th July when it was released, presumably like every other individual who knows of the film and has been affecting by an eating disorder.


It's really difficult to produce a film on eating disorders. Everyone experiences them differently, with their own individual behaviours and comfort zones. And for that reason, I do have some respect for the producers of the film; for raising awareness, opening up a dialogue and demonstrating some of the behaviours/challenges that present.

However, the film doesn't sit well with me.

Firstly, Lily Collins who plays 20 year old Ellen, suffered from Anorexia in her teenage years and lost 20lbs to play this part. Sure, it was voluntary, but putting anyone who has an eating disorders history at risk, is not a smart move. Of course, this also meant she present extremely thin and frail on screen which just adds to the myth that you need to be skeletal to suffer from Anorexia.

Secondly, the film is extremely flawed and some what irresponsible. Choosing when you eat, going for random walks, unsupervised meal times and running away from the treatment centre is completely unrealistic. Anorexia is not glamorous; it's ugly. Oh, and the cheesy recovery ending is a little bit insulting really because sure, she may recover, but we all know it's not going to be as easy as 'and they all lived happily ever after'.

And then there's the gender roles. The male dancer, who weirdly romanticises the situation, manipulating and encouraging eating disorder behaviours, whilst also portrayed as the hero. The black female with binge eating disorder - the only black character who has a less common eating disorder - silenced. This does nothing but emphasise the misconception that anorexia only presents in white, middle class, perfectionist females when actually, eating disorders don't discriminate. The film needed far more diversity and gender equality.

I won't say don't watch this film because it does open the dialogue and to be honest, it's the most accurate representation I've ever seen which must count for something. I did find it difficult to watch, not in a triggering way, more that I don't ever want to be like that again.

If you do watch it, watch it for the right reasons. Not for thinspiration, comparative reasons or to learn new behaviours. But rather, to be more aware.
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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Goals for Summer



With the first year of my MA over, placement finished and final portfolio handed in, my summer has officially begun. I'm off to Croatia, Germany and Hungary in that time, but there are also a few weeks I'll be here in the UK and I have a few things I'd like to do.

Work on my fitness

There is a little bit of danger here which I'm fully aware of given my history, but for some reason I decided to weigh myself recently and I've gained 2kg. My clothes still fit and I didn't really realise but I have been feeling very sluggish as I've gone from walking miles everyday to sitting in an office. My goal isn't to lose weight but just become more active again and make myself feel better.

Start my MA research proposal

My dissertation research proposal isn't due until October but I have to submit a rough outline in September. What with me being away three times, I want to get a good head start on this now if I can so that I'm not stressed in September.

Learn to relax

Completely contradictory to the first two, one thing I have learnt on placement is that I cannot relax. I get bored watching Netflix, I can't stay in the house all day long and I always have to be doing something. It's not good for me to be sat relaxing all day as I get extremely fed up but learning to chill just a little bit will probably be beneficial.


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Sunday, 2 July 2017

The first year of my MA


In 4 days, the first year of my MA will be over, which includes the end of a 15 week placement. In that time, I have completely neglected my blog, been completely exhausted 24/7 and become extremely negative/cynical. However, I'm leaving my placement with a distinction so perhaps it's been worth it.

It's been a really long 15 weeks and I haven't always enjoyed what I've been doing. I've become frustrated with the system, questioned my values and reflected on myself more times than I ever dreamed I'd be doing. I've worked with children desperate for help and support, I've offered tissues to the strongest of people and I've been there when people have asked for help and no one else answered.

I feel privileged to be in a position where I am there when people are at crisis point. I felt more grateful with my own life, family and friendships than I ever have in my entire life. I've used my personal experiences to help me guide those who are in far worse situations. I've felt ashamed of my white, middle class, straight privilege and I appreciate the family I've grown up in because I have been given a life full of opportunity.

I've become re-addicted to coffee and I'm pretty sure I've gained a few pounds. I've learnt how to drive properly on the motorway and can confidently drive around Britain's second city. I've felt fearful to be working in a city and I'm grateful I live in what I believe is a very safe neighbourhood. I've gained dark, heavy under eye bags but I've also gained wonderful friends who have been on this journey with me. I've discussed topics such as FGM, child sexual exploitation, domestic violence and substance misuse on a daily basis, and I've learnt that acting in someone's best interests may not actually be just that.

I've laughed and to be honest, I'd have cried too but I'm too exhausted to produce tears. I've learnt to value the importance of work/life balance and I've successfully maintained that balance. I've learnt that no matter how successful you are, everyday is a school day and there is always room for improvement. There is always room to grow, discover new things and it's always worth seeing something from the other person's point of view.

And although it's been hard, I am more determined, now more than ever, to continue down my social work road.
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Monday, 5 June 2017

Dublin, Ireland




Last night I returned home on a flight from Dublin, having just experienced an amazing weekend.

If money were no issue, you would probably never see me again. Exploring new cities, cultures and countries is one of my all time favourite things. As Ireland is so close, it was only a matter of time before I hopped over to see it all for myself.

For the first time, I tried an AirBnB which was such a good shout. We had a lovely room in someone else's house but we were so well looked after with leaflets, tourist information and general hospitality.

On Saturday, we visited the Guiness storehouse for the tour, followed by shopping on O'Connell Street and drinks in Temple Bar.

On Sunday, we went to a Real Bodies exhibition and went on a sight seeing tour of Dublin (and a final drink in Temple Bar). I even managed to dabble in a vegan restaurant which was delicious! I thought I'd be a little bored by being a non-drinker, but the atmosphere, music and local dubliners were fab.

This cheeky trip away was 100% needed





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Monday, 29 May 2017

Holiday Wishlist






Being a student on placement basically means I am always broke and any money I do have pays for petrol. Can you tell I'm so over being a student?

Anyway, having said that, I do have 3 holidays planned for this summer and I'm already thinking about next year so naturally, I've been online mooching. As it's bank holiday too, there are a few discount codes around; ASOS, Topshop, River Island to name a few!

So these items are what I'm currently lusting after and I'm sure I'll give myself permission to buy a few before jetting abroad.

What are you currently lusting after?
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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Manchester

I think it's safe to say that the last few days have been awful in the UK. Not only have innocent people been killed in Manchester, but this time young, vulnerable people have been the victims.


Usually I acknowledge terrorist attacks and move on pretty quickly, but this time it feels different. Manchester isn't all that far away. My best friend from Uni lives there, it's a place I go to all of the time; it feels very close to home. I know people who attended the concert and I know a friend of a friend who died there.

And, this time, my circumstances are different. I commute to one of the biggest cities in the UK for work and until now I'd not really acknowledged the danger that potentially puts me in. Manchester this week, who knows where will be next?

That's the point really, isn't it? Anyone could be killed in a terrorist attack which makes you think about how short life is. It makes you realise that the life you dream of has to be the one you live because who really knows when it's all going to end.

Misery aside, this week has once again shown me that for every evil human out there, there are 100's more amazing ones. The love, generosity and kindness that Manchester has displayed this week has reminded me that the country can still unite in times of sheer sadness.

My thoughts remain with everyone suffering in Manchester right now. I'm sorry you have to go through this.
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Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Moonwalk Marathon


Before I start, I am coming back to the blogging world! I've made a few changes and I will be weary of posting personal content but the truth is, I've spent 5 years building this space up and I'm not throwing it away!

SO, last night I faced one of my hardest challenges to date: walking 26.2 miles (full marathon) around London for breast cancer charities.

I'm not going to lie, every minute was physically and emotionally exhausting. The pain I was in from mile 8 was agonising, and it just got worse and worse and worse. Walking on tarmac for that long is excruciating so tablets were taken, gel was applied, and feet were taped so all I could do was put my stubbornness to good use and plough on.

10 hours later (due to time waiting at traffic lights - London waits for no one! time queuing for toilets and general queuing on the track), my team and I crossed the finish line. I cried. It was such a difficult challenge that the pride and relief of finishing was just a little bit too much and we were all extremely emotional. Because actually, when you cross that line, you remember why you're doing it - for a loved one, yourself or for anyone who has suffered. We all have a cancer story that is close to our hearts, and raising a huge amount to help prevent the disease in the future, has got to be worth it.

My first and last Marathon, but my god, I'm proud of myself.


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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

What I Wish I'd Been Taught In School

In a few weeks, I'm twenty-three.

A fully fledged adult now? Or do I have two more years because usually, when you tick a box on any survey/assessment, the range is 18-25. Maybe I have two more years as a young adult, yes?



Anyway, it got me thinking about things adults are supposed to know how to do, or at least, the things I think I'm supposed to know how to do. School didn't exactly prepare me for adulthood, and perhaps I'd have benefitted more from learning these things instead of trigonometry...

Finances

I was lucky. My Mum has done an amazing job with both me and my brother when it comes to working our finances but when it comes to things like taxes, credit cards, insurance etc, I'm making it up as I go. I think we all are actually which is sort of nice to know.

Mental Health

Thinking back, I don't think I had one lesson which focused on how to look after your mental health. It was only when I reached A-Level and opted to study psychology that I even looked at what mental illness was. 1 in 4 develop a mental illness at some point apparently, but I actually think it's probably 4 in 4 will experience bad mental health - whether it's grief, depression, stress, abusive relationships, abortion - we will probably experience something in life which puts a strain on our mental health. It should be discussed.

How to cook

And I mean actually cook. Not a fruit salad or lemon drizzle cake during food technology. I mean weekday meals that don't come from a packet or by simply putting something into an oven from the freezer. I mean, wholesome meals that come from chopping fresh vegetables.

You don't have to do well in school to be successful

I'm academic so I get some will roll their eyes right now. But if I'd have known that I didn't have to achieve straight A's to be successful in life, maybe I'd have pursued a career in music. The arts, sports, manual labour can all see individuals do well in life. In fact, having a degree isn't enough any more anyway. It's all about experience; which is arguably just as or if not more valuable.

Being 'popular' and well liked means nothing when school finishes

When you leave school, friendships become much harder to maintain. Lives fly by and before you know it, you haven't spoken in months. I think adulthood is about working with quality rather than focusing on quality. Not everyone will like you and not every friendship will succeed - it's about sticking with those who matter.


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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Warsaw, Poland

Last night I returned home on what was a rickety flight back from Poland. I've spent the last six days in Warsaw, both sight seeing and also spending time on a University exchange, discovering the polish social work values and their practices.

I'm pretty exhausted to be honest. It's been a full on week, with long days and not much relaxation time but I have seen and learned so much.

Warsaw is not my favourite place in the world, and I wouldn't go again I don't think, however it is full of beautiful sights, culture and history. I'm glad I've been to see how Poland has managed to rebuild itself following the wars, and also have a little insight into how life is like as a Polish social work student.

Some of my favourite places to see were the Old town, Lazienki Palace and the Palace of Polish History and Culture, but I also visited Warsaw Stadium, the Royal Castle, the fort, Warsaw Museum of Polish Jew History and The Warsaw Uprising Museum. But what I also want to mention was that I really loved engaging in topics such as Brexit, female equality, homophobia and human trafficking. In fact, the whole experience is one that has made me realise how passionate I am about becoming a social worker.

I won't write much else as I'm conscious that writing too much about work on here isn't perhaps the best thing but these pictures capture how Warsaw is made up from truly amazing, diverse elements.















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