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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Exploring Hamburg!

2nd December 2011

Why Germany in Winter

Many people asked me with a shocked look on their faces why in the hell I was going to Germany in the winter. My response consisted of FOUR things:

1 – Christmas Cookies
2 – Christmas Markets
3 – Gluwein
4 – Bratwurst

No one really does Christmas like the Germans and I couldn’t wait to get into the holiday spirit. Although on numerous occasions this proved a little difficult as the mammoth realizations that I would soon be ending this odyssey and that I had developed feelings for a guy from Nepal, began to weigh heavily on me. I am not ashamed to admit that I cracked on more than one…. ok five occasions, but my amazing friends Cathleen and Nadine were always there to support me.

Hamburg a Little Jet Lagged

After nearly giving Cathleen a heart attack that first morning by popping my head up from the floor and saying good morning, we started to plan our day.

Side Note: I have a history of changing sleeping positions. Growing up my mum would go to wake me up and find my feet on the pillow instead of my head. And when I find a bed too soft or after traveling for a long time, I often find the floor more comfortable. Strange but true.

Hendrik and Cathleen had ensured that I had the best options for breakfast, with rolls and meats and cheese and German granola WITH chocolate chunks… I thought I was in a 5 star hotel. You guys were great!! Although it did take 2 Germans and a South African/American to figure out the fancy coffee machine… was probably made in Switzerland (that’s our excuse).

Despite the lack of sleep and ever increasing jet lag Cathleen and I went to explore Hamburg, as we would be leaving to Berlin in the morning.

NOTE, culture shock is inevitable when leaving the embodiment of chaos that is Kathmandu and Nepal and arriving in German perfection and planning. Everyone was wearing conservative winter clothes and here I was in multi colored sweat shirt and scarf from Nepal (mainly because I had chucked all my others to fit in the new). I was easy to mark as a tourist. Oh well I guess I have to play the tourist at least once.

We walked past a statue of Otto Von Bismarck, if I remember correctly. Cathleen was surprised I had studied him in high school.

Why yes… after a quick google search this is in fact the most well known of the statues of Otto Von Bismarck, the statesman who unified the German States into a German Empire in the late 1800’s

Heading to a famous church with beautiful architecture we not only discovered it had been rented out for a function, we also discovered a bit of a nutter in a santa suit with a gorgeous German Shepherd (would it be just a Shepherd if it was in Germany??) and a rather large “elf”. He was, apparently, protesting the function, although we couldn’t really understand him, but his 7ft tall “Elf” in the trench coat was certainly a bit intimidating.

Protesting “Santa” and his “Elf”


The statue outside the church

Tea please
Since it was downright frigid, ok maybe not quite, but close enough to it, we decided to have tea and Cathleen knew just the spot. It could have come out of Diagon Alley and some other story book, as the place was tiny and situated between 2 large buildings.

Entrance to the Alley

It turned out what I thought was the entrance to the tea shop, was in fact the entrance to a hidden alley that dated back to 1718. The little shops brought back visions of an era long past.

Alley

The tea shop was at the end of the alley filled with sweet and tea and curio shops. It literally oozed Christmas from the decorations to the smell. There was even a chimney with a twist… literally!

Twisted!

Hamburg used to be a hub of trade for spices, cloth and other goods. These were transported on boats in the canals and the old storehouses still line the river. Makes for quite a stunning view.

Old Storehouses Become Trendy Lofts

Noting the previous photo and how narrow the canal is will give you a new appreciation of the barge drivers who manipulate them between each section.

Barge Ballet

Knowing how much I loved cooking, Cathleen surprised me with a visit to the Spice Museum, apparently the only one of its kind. It had spices of every kind from all over the world and the aromas were quite intoxicating, if I may say so. The entry ticket was a packet of fresh whole pepper corns, (just emptied them into my grinder this evening).

Christmas Market #1

Wandering around Hamburg was quite delightful but finally it was time for my first Christmas Market. We were off to meet Hendrik and some friends for Gluwein. Even though it was around 3pm on a Friday, it looked as if every other person had the same idea.

Christmas Market – Hamburg

This also meant my first encounter with Christmas Cookies!

Cookiessssssssssss!

And of course GLUWEIN!!! Gluwein is a spiced red wine that is served hot and is very yummy.

Cathleen and I enjoying Gluwein

Unlike many countries where you buy a drink in a disposable cup, here in Germany you buy your drink and pay an extra 2euros for the ceramic cup unique to that market or city. If you decide not to keep the mug then you get your 2euros back, however, if you are like me, you decide to keep it and make a collection for every Christmas market you go to… of course the reality of getting them home will be something I deal with at a later date.

Gluwein Mug 1

German SIM Cards

Heading “home” we picked up supplies for me to cook dinner as a thank you to Hendrik for putting us up or putting up with us, either way, BIG THANKS!! I made the Schmidt Family Spaghetti Bolognaise, always a hit.

After dinner we started the complicated process of trying to figure out how to set up my SIM card. In Germany there is no such thing as slipping it in and switching it on, nope you have to register on a website and then wait a few hours before its even active. But finally we had success and right before bed I sent Buddha a quick text saying that I missed him and here was my German number. He had replies to my email saying I had arrived safely with a very sweet message about how he had gone to Monkey Temple and even though the monkeys were happy to see him, they apparently missed me, so he said hello for me. So sweet, its already starting to feel so unreal…

Tomorrow it is off to Berlin!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Germany Bound!

1st December 2011

Security Checks Continue

So my route plan from Kathmandu to Hamburg was extensive: 8am flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi, 4hours layover, New Delhi to Milan, 4hours there, finally, Milan to Hamburg…

After leaving Nepal far behind, we disembarked in New Delhi, India. Quite a fancy airport and it even has sleeping “cocoons” that you can rent if you have a long layover.

Once again we were given bag tags to add to our ever growing collection, I think I will look like a traveling Christmas Tree by the time I am through all of these.

Bag Tag Decorations

Waiting in line I met Hannah, returning to the UK after volunteering in Nepal for a few months. Going through security check number 2 or 3 since arriving at the airport, we had to scan our bags. Her’s was pulled to the side and the good humored guards asked where the little pair of scissors were. She argued stating there were none, but when she unpacked it she found it in a little side pocket. There was much laughter. As mine went through I took out my little pair before they even had a chance to ask, dang it totally forgot about them till Hannah was arguing. We joked that they should open a used scissor shop after work. It was refreshing to find airport security with a sense of humor.

Money Exchanges… Or Not

I had ended up with 2500 Nepali Rupees, totally forgetting to change my money before I left (blaming lack of sleep and emotions). But was certain I could change it into Euros in New Delhi airport or at the very least change it into a currency that would be more workable once I got to Germany. As it turns out there were TWO major issues:

1) Past immigration and security no FOREIGNER could exchange money (only Indian Passport holders). Since transit meant I was already past security meant I had no hope of being able to do this.

It did occur to me to ask an Indian Passport holder to change it for me… until

2) They don’t take Nepali Rupees.

GO FIGURE!!! It was suggested that one of the Duty Free stores might take them, but after about 15 shops both Hannah and I realised there wasn’t much hope. Mmmmm guess it means I just have to go back to Nepal.

People Watching

People watching in airports is one of my favorite pastimes and this was no different. This brought a bemused giggle to my lips:

Reebok Monks

I can barely afford Reeboks and here are 2 monks buying a pair of stylish running shoes in the Duty Free Shop (which is usually twice as expensive).

Jet Airways continued

So far Jet Airways had been pretty decent and I hoped this would continue with the 11hour flight to Milan looming in my near future. After an hour delay it was time to board, then a further 30minute delay we were finally in the air. I was in the middle section on the aisle with an Indian mom and 2 boys. For the most part they were reasonably well behaved, but there was the occasional elbow in the ribs when they weren’t concentrating. Luckily Jet outdid themselves with individual entertainment units, great service and decent food. I think I even managed a bit of shut eye, which is rare for me unless I have a row to myself.

Arrival Milan Airport

Finally landing in Milan and feeling decidedly travel worn already, I wandered through the airport towards my gate, which was on the far end. On the way I thought it wise to draw some Euros, but at that precise moment could not remember if Italy used them or not. I asked at one of the duty free shops and after a bit of confusion with translation I got my question across and the fact that I was brain dead at that moment. We all laughed and they pointed me in the direction of an ATM. Of course it was all in Italian without the option of English (if there was one it was probably asking in Italian if you wanted English). Oh well, it was a good thought.

Went through another security check and finally found my gate, I literally think it was at the end of the airport. Another hour long delay so I decided to buy some internet time just to let all those who needed to know that I had made it this far.

The plane was almost empty and I just hung back to board up hoping to get a front row to sleep. Thank karma I did, the attendant too one look at me and didn’t argue, pointing me to the second row. I think I was out for the count before the plane even left the ground. I woke up just before we landed and before my eyes were even in focus the attendant was offering me the snack and juice I had missed at the beginning. I love good service and was very appreciative of this.

REUNION!

Germany was not just a country of random choosing like most of the others. At the very beginning of my trip, in my first country, I had met an awesome girl by the name of Cathleen in Aguas Calientes. You can read about that in my entry “Aguas Calientes Day 13”. We had always joked about me visiting her on my way home but never really thought I would get the chance to. Once I realised I was going to Nepal and would head home over Europe it just seemed like it was meant to be. Cathleen lived in Leipzig in the former Eastern side of Germany but had traveled to Hamburg to meet me. As I got off the plane and wandered through the non existent immigration check (still very strange to enter a new country without all that rigamarole and slightly annoying as I now don’t have a German stamp in my passport), I felt exhausted but was very excited to see my friend.

She was there with her friend Hendrik who lived in Hamburg. He had driven her to the airport which meant no dealing with public transport, he also gave up his bed for us. I was exhausted but still had many things going through my mind and still trying to fathom that my year of travel was only 2 weeks from an end. This would prove to be a difficult idea to wrap my head around in the weeks to come.

But for now, there was a new country to explore and a great friend to catch up with.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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