Living away from home

Where do I even start? / Por onde eu começo?

(O texto em português está disponível abaixo)

It’s the end of the year… and once again it’s time to reflect on what happened and how life treated me (and I treated it). If I think of what my life surprised me with since I last wrote on here (May 2014), I don’t even know where to start describing how much my life has changed. So much has happened! I had a baby (10 weeks earlier than expected!), I had my mum visiting us in the UK for the first time (super special), I had my sister over too (she is still here), I started my maternity leave, my relationship with Lee (partner in crime) has become something else… something different, something even better. There is a gorgeous human being called Louisa in our lives now and I guess when you have a baby you see your partner in a different light. It’s almost like you get each other more, small stuff stops being an issue and you realise that together you are stronger than you ever thought you could be.

2014 has been by far the best year of my life, without a doubt. I thought I had done it already, but, really, it’s the year when I met the love of my life, which is the way my friend Estelle describes having a child. When I saw my baby for the first time, it changed my world…

So here are the main things that I realised/found out in life post-Louisa…

1. You have more strength than you think… lots more!

A premature birth requires strength. I know it happens all the time, but when you are in that situation, you have no choice but to stay strong and believe things are going to work out. Louisa was born very early and the first few hours were very difficult. However, Lee and I never for one second believed that things wouldn’t work out just fine. And although Louisa is still being monitored, we have so much faith in our little one… so I guess the more strength you show, the more you have.

2. Patience comes when you need it

The first days of Louisa’s life were touch and go. We were eager to know if everything would be ok but, somehow, I was just patient with everything. I just felt calm. I have no idea where this serenity came from, but I just had it. Those who know me will know that I’m far from what you’d describe as a patient person, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t asking questions I knew couldn’t be answered, I wasn’t feeling anxious, I wasn’t panicking. I was happy to take a day at a time, to go with the flow. I quickly learned that the whole thing wasn’t a race, but a marathon.

3. You are not just you anymore

Ohhh… this is a big one. There will be a time in the life of every person that has a child when you suddenly realise that you are not on your own anymore. No, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted that child, how much you planned and prepared for that moment. One day, when you least expect it, you will realise that you will share countless experiences with them, help them with their problems, be there for them and go through happiness and sorrow with them. And you will realise that your job is to make sure that they can be the best they can be to go through life, with and without you. It’s scary to realise you have that much responsibility, but also reassuring to find out that you are more than up for the job.

4. A half ‘reflex’ smile can change your mood

No sleep, no time to eat, have a shower, to exercise, to meet friends, all those things that were so common in pre-baby life and that you miss dearly… all to be completely forgotten when your little one gives you half a reflex smile, that is not even a ‘real’ one yet. I know this real one will happen, though… in her own time. And when it does, I might just melt. (Gosh, this is all so cheesy and yet I can’t help myself!)

5. It’s true what they say… there is no time for anything

I know this is a cliche, but what did I do with all the time I had before? Lie-ins, lazy nights, movies, pub sessions… ermmm… not anymore! You sort of learn very quickly (well, you are forced to) to compartmentalize your life in little chunks of a couple of hours (if you are lucky), because this is the time you have between one feed and the next. Everything you do becomes a bit of a mission and the alarm to stop all you are doing (aka hungry cry) may go off at any time. Going out of the house becomes another crazy happening and sort of military operation. It needs to be carefully timed so that baby doesn’t start screaming when you are queuing at the post office. Adventurous stuff.

6. Your family and your true friends will be there for you

This is by far my main realisation with all that has happened this year. I decided to post on Facebook what was happening with our little Louisa, since she stayed in hospital for two months and people wanted news. The response I got was completely overwhelming. I am convinced that the positive thoughts everyone sent our way had a massive effect on Louisa’s recovery and it’s partly why she is now home with us.

My mum and sister also came to visit us for the first time since I’ve been living in the UK (13 years), my dad Kao and mum Iris were always in touch, sending messages every day (thanks, Whattsapp!) and many of my friends were there for me, to help, to hug me, to offer advice, to listen, to ask how things were going or simply to talk about something else and take my mind off it all. Some new friendships started in the midst of all that was happening, some others strengthened, others dissipated somehow but, whoever stayed, confirmed they are by my side for the long haul. And I’m so glad that they are.

7. Perspective is everything

Louisa is absolutely fine now. She is at home with no medical apparatus or anything like that. She is putting on weight steadily and growing each day. But we do know that the brain bleed that she had will need monitoring in the coming years. And this is fine. It doesn’t scare me, or Lee. It doesn’t phase us, really. We are in love with our girl and believe in her, whatever the future brings.

8. Love is all around!

The amount of love you feel when you look at your baby is something out of this world. Ok, cliche again. But I just feel so blessed for having been able to experience this in my life. It’s crazy that all the love that I felt pre-Louisa cannot compare in any way to the love I feel for her. It’s just on a different league. I know that this love got me through the tough times and I know that this love is what will keep me positive for the future.

All in all, what a year!

So long, 2014. Bring us all a brand new year, full of joy, health, family gatherings, happy moments, sincere smiles. And even more love, because there is always more space for it in our hearts.


 2014-11-28 23.09.49

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Texto em português

É o final do ano e, mais uma vez, é hora de refletir sobre o que aconteceu na vida da gente. Se eu começo a pensar em como a minha vida me surpreendeu desde a última vez que eu escrevi aqui (Maio de 2014), eu nem sei como começar a descrever o quanto a minha vida mudou. Tanta coisa aconteceu! Eu tive um bebê (10 semanas mais cedo do que o esperado), minha mãe veio nos visitar aqui na Inglaterra pela primeira vez (o que foi muito especial), minha irmã também veio (e ainda está aqui), eu comecei a minha licença-maternidade, meu relacionamento com o Lee (parceiro de vida) se transformou em algo diferente, algo ainda melhor. Um serzinho lindo chamado Louisa faz parte da nossa vida agora e eu acho que, quando se tem um filho, é inevitável ver o seu/sua parceiro/a com outros olhos. É como se a gente se entendesse ainda melhor. As pequenas coisas já não importam e a gente se dá conta de que juntos somos mais fortes do que jamais achamos que poderíamos ser.

2014 foi o melhor ano da minha vida, sem dúvida nenhuma. Eu achei que isso já tinha acontecido, mas foi o ano em que eu conheci o amor da minha vida, que é como a minha amiga Estelle descreve ter um filho. Quando eu vi a minha bebê pela primeira vez, o meu mundo mudou…

Então aqui vai uma listinha do que eu percebi nesta vida pós-Louisa…

1. Você tem mais força do que imagina… muito mais!

O nascimento de um bebê prematuro requer força dos pais. Eu sei que isso acontece a toda hora, mas quando você se encontra naquela situação, a única opção é ser forte e acreditar que tudo vai dar certo. A Louisa nasceu muito cedo e as primeiras horas da vida dela foram muito difíceis. Contudo, o Lee e eu nunca paramos de acreditar que tudo daria certo. E, embora a Louisa ainda precise ser monitorada nos próximos anos, nós temos muita fé na nossa pequena. Isso tudo me faz crer que quanto mais força mostramos, mais surge de algum lugar.

2. A paciência vem quando precisamos dela

Os primeiros dias da Louisa foram bastante críticos. Nós queríamos muito saber se ela ficaria bem mas, de alguma maneira, eu consegui ser paciente com tudo. Sei lá, eu simplesmente me sentia calma todo o tempo. Eu não tenho nem ideia de onde surgiu toda essa serenidade, ela simplesmente começou a fazer parte de mim. Aqueles que me conhecem sabem que eu não sou muito paciente, mas eu me surpreendi comigo mesma. Eu não fiz perguntas que não tinham respostas, eu não me senti ansiosa, eu não me desesperei. Eu estava feliz em simplesmente viver um dia de cada vez, cada um com seus desafios, e deixar o barco correr. Eu logo aprendi que a situação toda não era uma corrida, mas uma maratona.

3. Você não é mais apenas você

Ohhh… esse é um ponto importante. Vai chegar um dia na vida de cada novo papai ou mamãe em que você vai se dar conta de que não está mais sozinho neste mundo. Não, não importa o quanto você queria aquele filho, não importan o quando você planejou tudo e se preparou para aquele momento da vida. Um dia, quando você menos esperar, você vai se dar conta de que vai dividir inúmeras experiências com aquele serzinho novo na sua vida, ajudá-lo com seus problemas, comemorar seus feitos e estar na vida deles para sempre, na alegria e na tristeza. E você também vai perceber que o seu papel é ter certeza de que ele/a possa ser o melhor possível, com ou sem você ao seu lado. Dá medo perceber que se tem tanta responsabilidade, mas também uma certa segurança de notar que se está mais do que pronto para o trabalho em questão.

4. Um meio sorriso de reflexo pode mudar o seu humor

Sono, sem tempo para comer, tomar banho, se exercitar, ver filmes, ver os amigos, todas aquelas coisas que eram tão comuns antes do bebê chegar e das quais agora você tem saudades… tudo é esquecido quando o bebê te dá um meio sorriso, que não é nem um sorriso real ainda. Eu sei que o sorriso de verdade vai acontecer logo… quando a Louisa estiver pronta. E quando acontecer, acho que vou derreter como um sorvete no sol (nossa, isso tudo é muito cliche, mas mesmo assim não consigo me conter!)

5. É verdade o que eles dizem… não se tem mais tempo pra nada

Eu sei que todo mundo fala a mesma coisa, mas o que eu fazia com todo o tempo que eu tinha antes? Dormir até mais tarde, noites preguiçosas, idas ao pub… ermmm, não mais! Logo você aprende a dividir a vida em pedaços de 2 horas aqui e ali, pois este é o tempo que você tem entre uma mamada e outra. Tudo o que você faz se torna uma missão e o alarme que manda você parar o que está fazendo (também conhecido como ‘choro faminto’) pode começar a tocar a qualquer minuto. Sair de casa se torna um acontecimento e meio que uma operação militar. Tudo tem que ser cronometrado para que não se corra o risco de o bebê começar a berrar de fome quando você está na fila do correio. Uma aventura e tanto.

6. A sua família e os seus verdadeiros amigos vão estar presentes

Esta é, sem dúvida, a maior revelação depois de tudo o que aconteceu este ano. Eu decidi postar no Facebook o que estava acontecendo com a Louisa, já que ela ficou no hospital por dois meses e as pessoas queriam notícias. O envolvimento das pessoas foi imenso. E eu estou convencida de que todo o pensamento positivo teve um efeito enorme na recuperação da Louisa.

A minha mãe e irmã vieram me visitar pela primeira vez aqui na Inglaterra desde que eu moro aqui (13 anos), meu pai Kao e mãe Iris estavam sempre em contato, mandando mensagens todos os dias (obrigada, Whatsapp!) e muitos dos meus amigos estiveram presentes, ajudando, me abraçando, me dando conselhos, me escutando, perguntando como estavam as coisas ou simplesmente falando de coisas completamente diferentes para me distrair. Algumas amizades começaram no meio de tudo o que estava se passando, outras se fortaleceram e outras se dissiparam, mas quem ficou do meu lado confirmou que está do meu lado pro que der e vier. E eu fico muito feliz com isso.

7. Perspectiva é tudo

A Louisa está super bem agora. Ela está em casa com nenhum equipamento médico. Ela está engordando todas as semanas e crescendo a cada dia. Mas nós sabemos que o sangramento no cérebro dela vai ter que ser monitorado pelos próximos anos. E isso não amedronta a mim ou ao Lee. Nós estamos apaixonados pela nossa menininha e nós acreditamos nela. Estamos prontos para o que o futuro nos trouxer.

8. O amor está por tudo

O amor que se sente quando se olha para um filho/a é indescritível. Ok, mais um cliché. Mas eu me sinto tão abençoada por estar podendo vivenciar isso na minha vida. É muito louco pensar que todo o amor que eu sentia antes dela nascer nem se compara ao amor que eu agora tenho por ela. É um amor que está em outro plano. Eu sei que este amor me ajudou a enfrentar momentos difíceis e eu sei que é este mesmo amor que vai me manter positiva no futuro.

Resumindo… que ano!

Tchau tchau, 2014. E que venha um ano novinho em folha, cheio de alegria, saúde, encontros familiares, momentos felizes e sorrisos sinceros. E ainda mais amor, porque sempre tem mais espaço nos nossos corações.

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Categories: Babies, Being a mummy, Energy, Friendship, Happiness, Living away from home, Love matters, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A little thing called ‘WhatsApp’

And so I discovered this little thing called Whatsapp recently. Oh dear. If anyone out there is as out of synch as I seem to be all the time with anything technology-related, I explain: Whatsapp is an app for your phone that you use to keep in touch with people, if you are both signed in. You can send messages, pictures, videos, etc.

A friend of mine asked me if I had it and I said no (already thinking – mmm, this will be complicated and I can’t be bothered!). But then my other half downloaded the thing and she found me, as easy as that! I was amazed (I am easily amazed with anything like that). So, friend added, we started talking away. Fantastic.

I then quickly realised how good a little thing this was. See, living away from family and friends, this makes it so much easier to keep in touch with everyone, especially when you consider the different time zones. I can leave a message at midnight my time and get a reply at 4am, but that’s ok, because I can listen to it at any time I want! It’s great!

It can, however, become slightly addictive. I have been talking to one friend in particular who also lives away from home (by ‘home’ I mean our hometown) and we seem to talk about our daily lives’ little details, like what we are doing today, what the plans are for tomorrow, how we are feeling, if the weather is good, stuff like that. But even with all the details and lots of little messages, it doesn’t become tiring at all. It just makes us feel even closer. And what’s not to love about that?

I miss my friends so much. I have fantastic friends that I made here in the UK, but my friends from home know all about me. They know the awkward teenager I once was. They know how stubborn I can be. They know my star sign without even asking. They just really know what I’m like. Don’t get me wrong, my friends over here are slowly but surely getting to know me too, warts and all, but long-term friendship is a process where steps cannot be skipped. So it’s good to be back in constant contact with those that know me inside out and have done so for many years.

I am indeed addicted at the moment. I look forward to my friends’ messages and I enjoy sending mine to them. I also like the fact that there is no immediate interaction, as this makes you think and really try and address all the points your friend made in the last conversation. It seems as though less of the conversation is lost than if you were face to face.

Of course, it’s not ideal. Ideal is face to face, as it always will be. Nothing beats looking into each other’s eyes, as a good friend most of the time doesn’t even need words to explain a look. But since we can’t have it all, Whatsapp is a fantastic solution (and no, I’m not being paid by them!). In my opinion, anything that makes me feel closer to the ones I love, is ON! Bless technology!

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The secret of happiness… by me.

I have discovered the secret of happiness. Oh yes, I have. It’s something all of us can do, all of us sometimes already do, but may not even realise. I found out about it only this morning, and quickly thought I’d share it with whomever cares to read this post. Are you ready?

This morning, I woke up and got out of bed. I like to get up, go to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Then, whilst the water is boiling, I usually just stand around the kitchen, trying to wake myself up a little more. Today, however, it was almost like the noise of the kettle put me into some kind of trance, for I started looking around as if I was in a different world. An Alice in Wonderland World.

I started looking at all the things that make me happy. Some books I had in the kitchen, some magazines, lovely food, pictures of family and friends… and then a realised… Gosh, I have everything I need. Yes, I still look for more, I still want more (to learn more, to improve more, to travel more…) – I guess this is what keeps us moving forward. But that realisation, there in the kitchen, was such a bliss.

I then made a coffee and left it on the kitchen table, as I felt this urge to go around the house and look for more things that would make me realise how lucky I actually am in life. Entering the living room, I saw my guitar. I absolutely love my guitar and I adore playing it, even though I’m not that good. It makes me feel alive when I play and sing, it’s such a good feeling. Then I saw another pile of books that I can’t wait to read, my laptop that puts me into contact with my lovely family, and then I remembered that I’m going to be seeing them all in a month’s time. And then I started crying because that kind of happiness was just too much.

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I left the living room with tears going down my face and went into the bedroom. There, sleeping like a baby, Lee was just making that very subtle breathing sound that we make when we sleep. I just looked at him for a little while, thinking: ‘Gosh, how did I get so lucky? How did I find this amazing person that loves me and puts up with me?’ And then he woke up and asked me why I was crying. I couldn’t really explain, so I just said: ‘Because I’m happy.’ To which he said, opening his arms and displaying a bit of a puzzled face: ‘Come here…’.  And there I was, embraced by the love of my life, in a warm bed, in silence, thinking about all these little things that make my life and make it so very special. If you really think about it, it’s not much, it’s not stuff. It’s feelings. It’s realisation.

So the secret of happiness, to me,  (I know you have been waiting for this bit) is PERCEPTION. It’s seeing what’s around you but not just seeing it, feeling it and realising how much each of these little things contribute to your well-being and your ‘feeling good’ factor. It’s valuing the people around you and the things that you can do yourself to make your life happier. This is my happiness secret.

So how about you, what is the secret of your happiness?

 

 

Categories: Happiness, Living away from home, Love matters | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dutch

Since my first visit to Amsterdam, in 2000, I have developed some kind of fascination with the Dutch people. They seem to speak right to me and I seem to understand what they are all about – and deeply admire it.

Over the years, I visited Amsterdam four times and I plan to go there again and again and again. The place is magic – and, believe me, magic is a word I definitely use sparingly when describing a place that I like.

To start with, I like the place because it’s beautiful. And my apologies that I can’t speak for the whole of the Netherlands as I have only been to Amsterdam, but I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated had I travelled further within the country.

Amsterdam has a charm that is even hard to explain. The best thing about it is to get lost (and by that I don’t necessarily mean getting lost by a drug high you can achieve legally over there). I’m talking about walking and walking and walking so much that all of a sudden you start recognising that you have been going round in circles a little bit and took a long time to notice. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. The place is so beautiful and so majestic that you simply won’t mind seeing the same sights over and over again.

Lee and I went to spend Easter in Amsterdam a week ago and, once again, the place amazed me. So, with everything fresh in my mind, I compiled a bit of a list of my favourite things about Amsterdam and the Dutch people.

Please note: I’m not an expert and my travels consisted of 4 visits, so please forgive me for not being extremely thorough, I’m only mentioning the things that strike a chord with me.

So here goes…

1. The way of life

The Dutch seem to live a very balanced life style. They cycle everywhere, they all look healthy and fit and, most importantly, they seem to really enjoy life. A recent study said that 75% of  the Dutch women work part-time and are perfectly happy with their decision. In fact, the Dutch don’t work very much at all, when compared to their European fellow countries. They work an average of 30.6 hours a week, which is nearly one day less than in any other European country. Even so, they still manage to be at the top of the list for productivity, so we could say that working less hours seem to make people more productive. It makes sense: if you have a good work-life balance, you will be happier and, in turn, you will have more enthusiasm to do your work. Clever people .

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Life is good, eh?

2. The Food

The supermarkets contribute, in my opinion, to the Dutch being so healthy. Lee and I were amazed, in our last visit, at how beautifully the fruit and veg are displayed on the shelves. They get placed on shelves with these glass doors, making the whole fruit and veg section look like a shop window. It makes everything look so fresh and yummy. Having said that, nothing beats a good stroopwafel with a steamy cup of coffee. Or the marvellous cheese and brown bread they make. Or the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever had (to be found on Winkel 43 – Noordemarkt). Not so healthy, perhaps, but all true Dutch national treasures.

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Stroopwafel and apple pie. Yum!

3. The bikes

The thing you have to get used to quickly in Amsterdam is the bikes. They are everywhere. With over 880,000 bikes in a city where 790,000 people live, no wonder they are seen on every space available on the streets, on top of one another sometimes, and all around the city, with all the Ducth people riding them. And the reason you have to get used to it quick is because the cyclists may run over you if you’re not careful. They do tell you if you are in their way by ringing their bell a bit in advance, but sometimes just before they are about to hit you. Eeek!

The bikes add to the charm of the city and are certainly a major photo opportunity on every corner. And the most curious thing about this bike-obsessed life is that the Dutch really don’t seem to care for really fancy bikes. They prefer theirs to be gearless and rusted, with the odd exception when they paint them in cool colours (see photo). The Dutch don’t thrive on spending money where not necessary – and the bikes, although a main mean of transport, don’t make top of the list for them to spend their (not so hard-earned) money on.

The most amazing thing, though, is what you get to see the Dutch doing on their bikes. They carry their children on it, they carry heavy objects (such as the massive mirror Lee and I saw this guy carrying on our last visit), they eat, they talk on the phone, they have a full conversation with the fellow biker next to them. It looks extremely easy, but I bet it takes years and years of practice.

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Family day out on the left, a very cool bike in the middle and a busy mum on the right

4. The bluntness

I like blunt people. I like when you know where you stand with others. I tend to be like this – which sometimes doesn’t go that well with my polite British fellow colleagues and friends. But hey. I admire it. And the Ducth are just the same.

If you ask them a stupid question, they will look at you like you are, ermm… stupid. And when they stop looking at you that way and decide to help you out by answering your question, expect the answer to be short and sweet. They are straight-forward people and hanging around doesn’t seem like a productive use of their time. However, I may be speaking from a ‘tourist’ point of view here, and they might show a lot more tact with people they actually know. Still, I admire this ‘black and white’ approach (it’s even on the street signs!).

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Lots of the famous Dutch orange on everything, of course – even when they’re being blunt!

5. The houses

Oh my God, they all look so amazing. Outside and inside. And I can say that about the inside because one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is to let my inner voyeur out and look inside every single house I have the opportunity to. I think they are amazing. The Dutch have this ability to group things together, but nothing ever looks too matchy-matchy. Everything they seem to own has a purpose to be where it is and the colours they put together sometimes don’t go (in theory), but in practice they just work. They certainly have a gift for making a place look effortlessly welcoming, cosy and modern at the same time. Hats off.

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6. The flowers

They are in almost every house, in restaurants, cafes, stations – pretty much everywhere. And boy do they make the place look colourful, inviting and fresh! I just love how they use flowers for decoration. You see all kinds and they are quite cheap. I wish they were that cheap here in the UK, so my home could have more of it. Flower power.

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7. The 3 kisses

This is something we do in Brazil and, during my few visits to Amsterdam, I noticed a lot of people doing the same. The tradition works in the same way as it does in Brazil: 3 kisses on the cheek (more like ‘blown in the air’ kisses) that start on the right, then left, then right cheek again. The kisses are for family and friends only, though – like in Brazil. It’s just so refreshing to see that, when here in the UK people have this barrier and this personal space that the other person shouldn’t even dare trespass. Refreshing and closer to home.

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Ok, maybe not on the mouth!

 8. The airport

I just love Schiphol Airport – it’s definitely my favourite. Arriving there gives a pretty good picture of what is to come. It’s straight-forward to find where you have to go (very Dutch-like), modern and, to me, the most important thing: it’s colourful. It’s an airport I usually choose for flight connections to Brazil, if I can, and it’s definitely a bonus to be able to buy some stroopwafel on your stopover.

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Vibrant and colourful features make Schiphol special.

9. The passion for life

The Dutch seem to have a special passion for life. They seem to have this eagerness to enjoy every single second, even if it’s by doing nothing. I remember seeing many people just sat at their door step soaking in the sunshine and doing nothing else. They have this ability to enjoy the moment, to relax, to just ‘be’. They don’t seem to be a worried nation, they take life as it comes and cross bridges when they come to them. They don’t get stressed. These are characteristics I really admire, as I can be a stress-head sometimes. We have a lot to learn with the Dutch and their quirky approach to life, me thinks.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA… and relax!

Overall, the Dutch seem to be very happy people and I think this is what fascinates me. Nothing seems to phase them too much. They eat well, they exercise, they are friendly, they don’t mess about, they are proud of who they are. They just seem to go through life in a very well-established manner, like they have all read this secret amazing book of ‘how to live life in the best way’ (but shhh, please don’t tell anyone).

When Lee and I were at the airport, coming back to the UK after our last visit, we were having a chat about how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. We would work less, we would be more relaxed, we would be fitter. We then started talking about how and if this would even be an option for us. I was voting yes, and so was Lee, but then we thought again and found a major obstacle: we’re just not cool enough.

Categories: Amsterdam, Coolness, Dutch People, Living away from home, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brazil x England – (Ding Ding!)

It’s now been over two months since I arrived back in the UK from my holiday in Brazil. I’ve had enough time to analyse how the trip went, although when you go to see family and friends it’s bound to be good anyway. In fact, it seems like it happened ages ago and I miss he place and everyone already!

As you may/may not know, I live in the UK and all my family and childhood/teenage years friends live in Brazil, so every time I go I try to see as many people as I can to make sure that the bonds that are so important to me stay as they are: strong.

This time, there was a difference, though. I took the boyfriend with me. I was a little anxious as to what he would think of Brazil… but let the trip run its course without asking him a million times whether he was having a good time or not. I could actually see for myself that he was happy, but I didn’t want to keep on asking the question and annoying the hell out of him.

It turns out that he loves it, which is fantastic! It was funny to watch him around my family and friends. Lee is a naturally quiet person and he’ll only really let go when he has known the person for a little while (or if he is drunk, ha!). Even so, it seemed like he felt pretty comfortable being around everyone, which was a relief. At the end of the holiday, I left Brazil with my parents and friends telling me what a catch he is (and because he now knows what they think, I’ll have to look at his smug face forever!).

Anyway, this post is not about that, really, it’s about me thinking of Brazil and REALLY thinking about the reasons why I chose not to live there. I have written about this here before, mainly about not being able to explain why I chose to live in England over Brazil.

Now here’s the truth: these are two completely different countries in so many ways… age, politics, society, culture, economy, etc. Even so, I find that a few of my top reasons for not living in Brazil are quite shallow considering other issues that could well tip the balance in England’s or Brazil’s favour.

So here they are:

1. Hay fever

Who suffers from this sneezing-evil condition will know what I’m talking about. In Brazil, I am ALWAYS sneezing, my nose is always running and I find that this has a massive impact on my quality of life. In England, I only suffer from hay fever for a couple of months during spring, if that.

England 1 x Brazil 0

2. Security

In England, Lee and I go out at night and walk back home, no matter the distance or the time. I do not worry and I am not scared walking around in England. In Brazil, as everyone knows, the story is very different. Lately, it seems to have been getting  even worse.

England 1 x Brazil 0

3. Food

In England, a much smaller country than Brazil, there seems to be so much more food variety. And although the fruit and veg do taste a lot better in Brazil, England’s selections of cheese make up for it in one go.

England 1 x Brazil 0

4. Travel

In Brazil, the airports can be quite disorganised and the air fares are not always the most friendly on the pocket. In fact, it can be cheaper to travel abroad than it is travelling within the country! England, on the other hand, proves to be a fantastic connection to the world and the amazing places out there.

England 1 x Brazil 0

5. Salary

This was always a positive about England. Not anymore. 13 years ago, I remember working in a restaurant in London, paying for all my bills whilst renting a room in a house with other friends, going out and still being able to save to go travelling. Now, the same recession that seems to have impulsed growth in Brazil, hit England in a bad way. Having a job is a bonus and saving any money can be compared to performing a small miracle. Having said that, I recently read that the cost of living in Brazil has skyrocketed, leaving people with no choice but to swallow hard and carry on.

Brazil 1 x England 0

6. Organisation

For as long as I remember, getting any kind of document in Brazil is a very good reason for a headache. The queues are never-ending, the forms are not straight-forward and there are always obscure rules that no one knows about. In England, everything is so black and white it can even get embarrassing if you don’t understand how things work. They make it easy for everyone and usually things are done pretty quickly.

England 1 x Brazil 0

7. Politics

In Brazil, we all know how messy this scenario is. Year after year, the same corrupt politicians are still part of the government (how?) and most people still seem to sell their votes to the highest bidder. In England, the majority seems to take much more of an interest in politics. They recognise how it affects daily life and make sure they have their say.

England 1 x Brazil 0

8. The climate

Yes, ok, call me crazy, but I prefer to be in the cold than in the scalding hot weather of Brazil. It drives me absolutely mad to be sweating all day every day, to sleep unfomfortably and not be able to function properly if not in the mercy of an air con. I like the cold weather England has to offer which, funnily enough, is what the English try to run away from at any given opportunity. Yes, I like sunny days, but by the beach. For city living and a working life, I’m happy where I am, thank you.

England 1 x Brazil 0

So, if you have done the maths, England wins 7×1. But it’s not just about this list. There is something else. Still, unfortunately, it’s that something I can’t explain. There must be something in the air. Or I might have past connections with this place – yes, I do believe this is possible! I don’t know what it is. I love Brazil to bits and it will always be my favourite country where a lot of people I love are but, to me,  nowhere else says HOME as England does. For now. (ha!)

Categories: Brazil, Home, Living away from home, London, My home, St Annes living, Winter | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The end

This weekend I watched a couple of movies that, as usual, made me put my thinking cap on. One of them was a French movie called Le Temps qui reste and the other one was called Seeking a friend for the end of the World. If you haven’t watched any of them, please be aware that I may spoil them for you if you carry on reading.

Both movies are about the end of something and about loss in some way or another and it was a total conincidence that I watched two movies with the same theme in the same weekend. Watching them made me think about our time on earth, about losing people and about our reactions to extreme circumstances.

Le Temps qui reste is about a trendy photographer in his thirties and with his whole life ahead of him when he discovers that, because of a terminal cancer, he has only 3 months to live. Yes, some dark stuff there. Not really knowing how to react to the tragic news, he starts behaving in a terrible way, mistreating the people he loves the most. He hides his illness from his family, apart from his grandmother, and goes through a couple of months of darkness until he finally dies, apparently in a peaceful place.

Seeking a friend for the end of the World is, as the title says, about the end of the world. With an asteroid nearing Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbour who sort of changes the course of events. Unlike the photographer in the French movie, in Seeking a friend for the end of the World everyone is in the same boat, everyone is going to die. And the certainty of death makes people react in many different ways. Some people are calm about it and decide to just carry on as normal, whilst others decide that living life to the full and go crazy is their best bet.

As dark as it may seem, the two movies made me think about being in a situation like that. It’s practically impossible to know how you’d react to such news, but it made me wonder what I’d do if I only had 3 months to live or if an asteroid was coming to end our lives as Earth inhabitants. I think most people would want to be near their loved ones, so it will probably come as no surprise that my first reaction would be to fly back to Brazil to be with my family (Lee – my partner –  in tow, for sure).

I’d probably also want to see a few places again, like the beach I loved so much as a teenager, Harmonia. If I was ill, there is one thing I’d do for sure: I’d write a letter to each of the people I love, to say why and how much I love them and what a great impact they had in my life. And if we were all going to die, I think I’d craft a plan with my family to make sure we were all together when that happened. Scary, of course, but the thought of being together somehow makes ‘the end’ a little bit easier.

Things like this are so far from our usual reality that when you think about it you only go for obvious answers, but when you are in the situation it’s possible that we just end up reacting in very unusual ways. I think that movies like this, as well as situations like this, make us put life into perspective. They make us think if we are focusing on the important stuff or if we are getting distracted by all the noise day-to-day life brings, giving importance to a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t matter. Time does go fast in life and sometimes we just have to try and watch our priority list as if we were seeing life from above. It’s a good exercise to think about life and about what we are doing with it from time to time. In that sense, I’d reccommend both movies.

And now the killer question (haha, interesting choice of words there)… if you were about to go to the other side, what would you do?

Categories: Death, Living away from home | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My neck of the woods…

When I first came to England, I lived in London for 3 years. Then, I went back to Brazil to finish university (I was half way through it at that point) and then moved back to the UK to be with the person I (then) loved. We then went to live in Lancashire because of his work. We are no longer together, but I’m still here! I ended up in this little part of the world by chance and now feel so at home that I miss it when I’m not here. Talk about destiny…

I’m originally from Novo Hamburgo, a city in the south of Brazil and, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the place. It’s where I was born, where my family and best friends are and it’s the place that I know like the palm of my hand. However, I think that sometimes you just connect with other places and this is exactly what happened when I moved to Lytham St Annes. As the expression goes, this is my neck of the woods.

Lytham St Annes is a conurbation in the Fylde district of Lancashire. The neighbouring towns of Lytham and Lytham St Annes form a seaside resort. These towns are situated to the south of Blackpool at the point where the coastline turns east to form the estuary of the River Ribble (often called Ribble Ribble by the locals) inland to Preston. St Annes, like Blackpool, overlooks the Irish sea.

St Annes is internationally renowned for golf and has four golf courses and links, the most famous being the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, one of the hosts for the Open Championship (also known as the ‘British Open’), which has been a competition course since first hosting the Open in 1926. Approximately once every ten years, the coming of The Open—a major sporting event—brings a major influx of visitors, including the world’s media, into our fairly peaceful community. Celebrities come to appreciate the golf championship and cause a bit of a havoc in the community. As you can see, the place is nothing like London, where celebrities can be spotted at Nando’s anytime. This year St Annes was the host for The Open again and I could witness the buzz for myself. Many people are out and about and the athmosphere is great!

St Annes, as the place is usually called (dropping the ‘Lytham’) is magical. You have sea, sand, nice people, nice pubs, international sport events (once every ten years so it doesn’t spoil the calmness of the place), amazing sunsets and a peaceful life. What more can you ask for?

Below are some of my snaps of St Annes, so I can share what all the fuss is about… there is a lot to see and do, but you’ll still feel like you are on a peaceful holiday.

The St Annes Pier…

The band stand…

The beach huts on the prom…

The swam and the ducks… Awww…

The ice cream stand…

The little café on the prom…

The local pub…

The main promenade…

A carefully placed bench…

Another great local pub, 5 minutes from home…

And yet another pub… no shortage here. This is 2 minutes from home!

Part of the lovely ‘square’, which is the main shopping area of S Annes…

The train station…

And even if all of the above didn’t exist, I’d still want to live here because of this one below… the sunset is the most amazing I have ever seen!

So there you have it… my little tribute to St Annes, a little town that welcomed me with arms wide open and that makes me feel at home every single day. So much so that I can’t think of living anywhere else anymore…

Categories: Living away from home, St Annes living | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear London…

I recently went to London to celebrate a big birthday with a very good friend of mine. I live in the North West of England but I lived in London for 3 years, nearly 10 years ago. I loved it then. Now, every time I go, I experience a mixture of feelings about the place. One is nostalgia because I remember things from the past, places I had good times at, people that enriched my life back then. The other feeling is one of dispair. As soon as I step off the train, I’m quickly reminded of how busy things can get in London and how rushed people are on the streets, on the tube, everywhere! Then, something a bit strange happens: I start behaving a bit like everyone else and get agitated if things start getting in my way. Maybe I’m just a true Londoner at heart and the calmness of the North is just a disguise…

Thinking about the place, I compiled a little list of what I love and hate about London. Here we are:

Hate number 1: People that stop in front of the barrier to find their Oyster card

You’re in a tube station and your goal is to get the train. You know that an Oyster card or ticket is required. Why then do you wait until you reach the barrier before you try and find it? It would be so much easier if people just planned ahead a little so as to not to let a long queue pile up behind them.

Hate number 2: Not letting people off the train first (or not moving down the carriage)

This should go without saying as it’s just a case of common sense, really. If you want to get on a train, you wait until everyone that wants to come out is out before you step on, right? No, of course not. Some seem to think that there’s no need for that. Just go in, sod the rest. Not very nice. Tuc, tuc, tuc.

Hate number 3: Escalator etiquette

Sorry that this is about the tube again, but it does seem that the most annoying things about London do happen underground. Must be the air. Now here there is only one rule to obbey and it’s so easy to remember it hurts: all you have to do if you are lazy to walk down the stairs is to stand on the right hand side. This leaves the left hand side for the busy London people to rush down and not miss that train, even though there will be another in 2 minutes. Never mind. Just stand on the right and you’ll avoid lots of grumpy faces. Simple.

Hate number 4: My purse is empty!

Whenever I go to London, I budget to spend a certain amount and always (but ALWAYS) come back and realise I spent at least half as much. I blame it on the cafe culture. Everyone eats out in London, it’s just the way it is. I love going to a cafe to catch up with a friend, but in London people seem to have every meal out. My over budget spending might also have something to do with musicals (which I love), museum/art galleries entries and shops. So, in reality, I shouldn’t blame London, really, but my lack of control near temptation instead. Now that’s a confession!

Hate number 5: Where is the bin?

Back to the days of the IRA’s bin-bomb campaign, the lack of bins was understandable, but nowadays it’s practically impossible to find a bin in London. They say that they would make it far too easy for a terrorist to just plant a bomb in them. However, it would be just as easy for a terrorist to plonk a bomb in a rucksack and leave it on the street, since Londoners don’t really take much notice of whatever is not right under their nostrils. Bins everywhere, please, no excuses!

Love number 1: Southbank

Now I can start talking about the reasons to love London and Southbank is a really good one. Walking along the river Thames is just so beautiful. There is art, there is nature, there is civilised people (people actually seem calmer in that part of the city than anywhere else). And just a short walk around the corner there is my beloved Tower Bridge, my favourite London sight. Can’t ask for more.

Love number 2: Affordable World Food

From Indian to Italian to Spanish to French cuisine, you’ll fnd it all in London and at affordable prices – depending of where you go, of course. The many food markets are just incredible and you have more ways than one to awaken your taste buds. Just listen to what your palate is asking for and go for it. Experiment. Dare. Enjoy.

Love number 3: Art, everywhere!

Photography, theatre, museums, galleries, take your pick. London can offer whatever floats your boat. If you are clever, you can go into places for free, although certain exhibitions can set you back a few quid. Money spent on appreciating art is always money well spent in my view, though, so whenever I visit, my budget always allows for this. It’s just such a pleasure to see new things. Art keeps you thinking, it shows you new ways of seeing the world and motivates you to be creative. What’s not to love?

Love number 4: Friends, friends, friends

London is home to some of my best friends and nothing is better than visiting them. Some of them are from my university years and others are from the time when I was discovering London as my new home. Memories are everywhere and the fact that we have the city in commom somehow just makes it all the more special.

Love number 5: It’s London!

What more can I say?

So there you have it, my little list of things to love and hate about London. I put this together quite quickly as if I was to spend a long time thinking about it, thew list of what to love would be a lot more extensive than the list of what to hate. London is magical, you have to go and feel the magic for yourself. There will always be something you haven’t seen before, a place to go, something to experience, an undiscovered gem. So, my advice is: if you haven’t been, go and become a lover too. Pronto.

Categories: Creativity, Living away from home, London | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The magic Lakes

”Imagination, which in truth
Is but another name for absolute power
And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,
And reason, in her most exalted mood.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850), British poet. The Prelude.

A couple of weeks ago, Lee and I went on a weekend break. We live in the north west of England and we are lucky to have some great places around to visit. A great one is the Lake District, most commonly known as The Lakes.

The Lakes is a mountainous region famous not only for its lakes, forests and mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and other ‘Lake Poets’. The Lakes became a National Park on 9 May 1951, becoming only the second National Park in the  UK with the Peak District. It is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and over 23.1 million annual day visits.

All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Mountain, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England, Wastwater and Windermere.

Now that you know what I’m talking about and you can situate yourself using Google Maps, I have to tell you what the Lakes is all about. I have been there a few times and to different places and I can say that the place is amazing.

People walk around looking amazed by what they see, you can just tell by looking in their eyes. They know they are lucky to be there, being able to appreciate nature at its very best. It’s almost like nature is greeting you, smiling at you, welcoming you… ‘walk on my grass, sit by my lake, walk around my woods and feel the water of my waterfalls on your hands’. No wonder poets have been inspired to write great work when living or visiting the place.

On one of the days we were walking around Ambleside, for example, we were heading towards the lake and walking calmly, with not much rush. We were walking on this busy road where the back of a building faced the main road. On the back wall there was a sign facing the road, where all the cars were going past at great speed. The sign said…

I mean, this is the thing with the Lakes. When you least expect it, a little insight comes from nowhere. The sign above  is badly placed if you asked me, but then if I think again, I would probably say that the sign is strategically positioned to reach those that need to read it. In that particular moment I was thinking abut something and that was really the answer. Listen to your heart… Again, the magic of the Lakes amazing me.

One of my favourite things in the Lakes are the little book sellers, mostly people that open up their house to the public to sell books. They make the books look so special, so carefully placed and it’s all so inviting. I absolutely love it.

And then there are the many lakes… stunning and glittery and calming…

And to box it all off, how is this for a sunset?

One of the most famous poets of the area is William Wordsworth. He once went to visit the Lakes and, on his visit, spotted a cottage up on the hills. He fell in love with it straight away and moved in there. The 8 years he lived in that cottage was when he produced the best of his entire work.  Next to him was a big lake that goes all misty when it rains, giving that magical feel to it. It’s one of those places where you find yourself gazing into the sky and then realise it’s gone dark and you haven’t even noticed!

The Lakes have so many places to visit. So many waterfalls, walking trails, lakes, villages and also such nice people. If you are visiting England and are a nature fan, I’d highly recommend it.

I always say that visiting places is something very personal. There might be a place that you visit and just shrug your shoulders thinking: “Yeah, it’s alright”. But then, there are places where you just feel this sense of belonging and just feel so carried away walking and looking around that it feels amazing to just be there, inhaling the air and stepping on that ground. Travelling is amazing, but truly connecting with a place is surreal.

Categories: Beautiful nature, Living away from home | Leave a comment

Olympic Fever

Some people are saying that they are sick and tired of watching all of the TV adverts with an Olympic twist, that all they see are babies in Olympic vests and red, white, blue, red, white blue everybloodywhere. Some people get sick and tired of too much of something.

Well, in this case, I LIKE IT! I like it how the community gets together and I like how we all celebrate the athletes’ achievements as if they were our own achievements. These committed, driven individuals share their glories with us, lazy asses that only care enough to watch it on the telly. I like how generous they are to do it for their country and for each one of us spectators. What a nice thing to have someone pushing themselves to the limit just to make us smile and cheer loudly.

Being a Brazilian but also a British citizen, I find myself in funny situations when talking to people about the Olympic competitions. I say a lot of “We” did this, “We” did that, not making it very clear if I mean “We” British or “We” Brazilians. My fellow work colleagues sometimes ask what I mean but, most of the time, I realise that I’m not making much sense and add the odd word in to make myself understood, so they then know exactly if I’m talking about Team GB or the Brazilian crowd.

My approach to the Olympics is the same as the one I have in the World Cup. I support Brazil if Brazil is playing, I support England if England is playing. But if Brazil is playing England, sorry, it’s Brazil all the way! I also like to see poor third world countries winning, as I imagine winning something at this scale is a big confidence boost for citizens of places that find themselves in difficult situations.

The most special thing about the Olympics, though, is the sense of community, the sense of “we are all in this together”, even though we are not the ones jumping high or running fast. I like how we all dress the part, talk the talk and cheer loud enough for the athletes to hear us, no matter the distance.

I’ve also realised that I’m starting to like sport more and more. And this is big, coming from someone that didn’t even like PE at school. I like the fact that it’s really black and white and not subjective at all. If you do your best time, if you score, if you do better than your opponent, then you win. There is no ‘opinion’ about how you perform. There are set parameters and all is very clear and simple. And I like simple things.

I’m having a blast watching all the Olympic stuff on the telly. No, I didn’t make my way down to London because I thought that the ticket prices were robbery in daylight, but I’m happy with seeing it all from the best angles from my own comfy sofa. And let the best ones win! (be them Brazilians, British, Canadians, Australians, Ethiopians…..)

Categories: Living away from home, Olympic Games | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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