Out of my comfort zone. Destination : Mongolia

The last 4 months have been a beautiful chaos and despite reaching some low points and learning some crucial lessons, I was working towards something that today I am very proud of. 2 days from now I will be sat in a red combo van named Pat with Josh, Rob and Hamish, an Englishman and 2 Kiwis that are to become my little family for the next 6 -7 weeks. Together we form The Next Big Adventure ( so LOTR, I know) and we will take part in the Mongolia Charity Rally, a pan continental road trip from England to Mongolia that combines the exciting challenges of such a big trip with raising money for UK registered charity Go Help and donating our pretty Pat at our destination, to be converted into an emergency car. Negative reactions to this? I’ve heard them all and though it disheartened me at the time, I’ve had amazing support from people that encouraged me, believed in me and respected my choices.
Why? Because when Josh came up with the idea, I knew it’s the perfect opportunity to get out there in the world, overcome my fears and live a little more. The perfect chance to finally get a closer look into charity work and take small, but steady steps towards my future projects.  An amazing way to break any negative stereotypes on some of the countries we’re going through (20 of them in total) and, hopefully, a beautiful story I will tell my grandchildren again and again and again.
Am I scared? A little bit, but there’s much more excitement and butterflies and all types of happy feelings. I don’t know what to expect and I get slightly anxious at times with people telling me I’m crazy or that they’d never do it, however I do believe in kindness, bighearted people and making the world a better place one step at a time and that’s something no negative remarks will take away from me.
Prepared? 80%. The clothes and all personal items (missing a couple of things) are nicely organized on Larisa’s sofa, ready to be packed into my duffle bag (Larisa has kindly let me crash at hers for almost 2 weeks so I can save up on rent – You know you’re awesome! Thank you!) There’s a 2 page long check list, the van is having its last health check, mum is sending me daily messages with the countdown, a couple of Russian phrases learned and there’s a fundraising party we’re having at a local club, Orange Rooms, tomorrow night, hours before we leave Southampton to join the other teams in Brussels for the official launch of the event.

I’m annoyingly excited and I can’t apologize for it. I hope this trip, with its good and bad, will be a beautiful journey and will give me the common sense and the experience to grow as a person, as cliché as that might sound.

I will try to update my blog once in a while with stories from the road, but you could also check our official website http://www.thenextbigadventure.info and our Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/thenextbigadventure2015 if you’d like to follow my charity expedition.

To the next big adventure!

Love,

Malina.

p.s. Crossing the Transfagarasan highway first (one of the best roads in the world according to Top Gear), I’m taking the boys to my village in Romania, Epureni, and I cannot be happier. Looking forward to seeing my family and friends and introducing the boys to Romanian traditions (Get ready for the cherry vodka, boys!)

image

Advertisements

Au pair life – 3 month anniversary

A couple of days ago marked 3 months since I packed my life in a suitcase and exchanged my beloved England for stunning countryside views in Switzerland. It’s weird, but good, looking back at everything and realizing that I am indeed starting to grow up. The last 3 months have taught me an incredible amount of things, things that you don’t learn in schools, things that make you happy in a very different way. I finally have my laptop, thanks to my super cool best friend, so I’ve started typing all the nonsense I’ve been scribling on tens of papers mixed up on my desk. My life in Switzerland is different, but the best kind of different. I left England with a lot of unanswered questions like “So you’ve finished university and you’re going to be looking after children? Good for you, I guess” or “When are you gonna settle and find a real job?” or “Don’t you want a car or a house of your own?”. The truth is I’m not going to choose a job purely to please society or my friends or my family. I chose to get away from “a real job” in order to learn some life skills, as clichee as that might sound. And boy, am I learning!

I live in some sort of attic in a pretty country house. My room is very similar to a cabin and beside the very creepy Charlie Chaplin poster on the door (think life size Charlie Chaplin poster!) I am utterly in love with my little huge room. I often wake up and become this disgustingly romantic person, staring for a good 10 minutes at  mountain views, cows (Switzerland must be cow’s heaven) and a hell of a lot of green. There’s a smell of coffee and croissants coming from the restaurant (the house has 3 floors: restaurant, the main part of the house and my floor) and a permanent feeling of “Life is as beautiful as you make it!”

My au pair life (the childminding part) includes dealing with 50 shades of poop, taking dominoes out of a plastic bottle (that’s a skill I should write in my CV as proof of patience), learning French from Prune (2yo) who’s always teaching me new words from her books, trying (!!) to read stories, singing and dancing and all sorts of activities who would keep the little ones occupied. Sometimes we have very deep conversations on the meaning of life – Tobias (7months) is the best listener ever and Prune is already very opinionated. We also have dancing competitions. There’s always two teams – Tobias and I (to whoever invented the BJÖRN  baby carrier – thank you!) and Prune with her “baby” doll. Needless to say, Tobias is a total gentleman and he’s always letting me lead, though Prune has some wicked moves so she’s always winning (she dances better than 80% of the adults I know).
I would lie if I would say it’s always easy. To whoever looked after children and says this – You’re either deaf or there’s something seriously wrong with you. There’s times when I have the impression there are two fire alarms ringing in my ears and I don’t know which one to switch off first. There’s a lot of crying (teething period is not pretty), litres of reflux (mainly on my clothes), a lot of NO’s, there’s hair pulling and baby food pretty much everywhere. I’ve learned to pee in 20 seconds top (washing my hands included), feed a baby and entertain a toddler at the same time and I’ve become a professional nappy changer (another very useful skill) Having said that, I would not change a single thing. People who know me very well are familiar with how much I want a family and how important it is for me to be a good mother someday. This experience is giving me the really close insight to how that would be and, regardless of the difficult times, at the end of the day, Prune tells me she loves me, the cute and innocent way only a child could say and Tobias falls asleep on my chest and in that moment I feel I could stay like that until he wakes up (Yes, my biological clock started ticking since I was about 22).

Apart from this, I have started my French course and there’s progress. Slow, but steady progress. It does get frustrating when I’m unable to express myself and to talk to the parents properly (with very few exceptions, we speak French in the house) and I am looking forward to a better communication. Also I have met a couple of au pairs living in this region and we have been going out for coffee, visiting cities nearby and hiking (a hiking adventure post to follow).

Last, but definitely not least, one of the best things happening to me while in Switzerland is that I have become an apprentice cook or at least I like to call myself that cause it just sounds so Jamie Oliver. The French chefs are teaching me a lot of amazing recipes and I get to cook meals that’s on the restaurant menu and actually served to customers. Being in the kitchen and learning how to use the insane number of utensils that I have no idea what they’re called in English (or even Romanian!!!) is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Cooking all sorts of puddings, croissants, soups and putting into practice many tips and secrets from Caroline and Luic is incredible and though it might not sound like a big deal, it means a lot to me.

In a couple of weeks I am going to visit my partner in crime, Erasmus flatmate and good friend, Dino in Italy and I am very looking forward to enjoy good coffee, gelato, long talks in the early morning, drinking vodka for breakfast and writing about yet another Erasmus reunion.

So no, I don’t regret not getting a “proper” job after graduation.

 

The randoms

– I must have watched Aladdin 50 times. I could probably tell what line comes next with no problem. In French.

– I still haven’t learned to swim. Boooo.

– I’ve ditched the milk in my coffee. Never thought this would happen, but I’ve turned into a black coffee drinker. Very proud of myself. (Don’t know exactly why)

– I’ve started to do some cleaning/ironing for another family in the village to save up some money for my future travels and for Christmas presents 😀

– I’ve included some new Yoga poses into my routine and I’m loving it (Prune loves to copy me and she’s hilarious). Dear Yoga, please help me do the split!

– The rrrr is still annoying. What the hell, French?

– I’ve met my Erasmus flatmate Weronika in Zurich a while ago and it was such a beautiful day! Too many Erasmus memories.

– I have also met my Portuguese chick Filipa who has moved to Switzerland (very close to where I live) a month ago! ❤

– I paid 140 CHF to pick up my laptop and winter clothes, that Larisa sent me, from the post office. Not impressed.

– Public transport is what I spend the most of my money on. Woooo.

– F.R.I.E.N.D.S. are my best friends.

– I found Sangria Don Simon in my local shop. My evenings are sorted. Erasmus!!!!!

– It’s getting cold. Like boogies-freezing-under-your-nose cold.

– I’m looking for flights to Marrackesh, Amsterdam or Barcelona for the Christmas holiday. I bet Father Christmas has never ridden a camel before.

2014-10-19 15.43.11

 

 

France: Bordeaux – Bretagne

     I’m sat on a comfy sofa in an overwhelming country house in Bretagne, France. It’s early and everyone else is sleeping. Outside it’s raining, but somehow, it feels good.  (No, cycling in heavy rain to work was definitely not my favourite thing in the world).
     We left Bordeaux Saturday morning and few hours later, Bretagne welcomed us with breathtaking views, dream country houses and beautiful weather. We’re in St. Gildas de Rhuys, a quiet, yet charming village by the Atlantic and walking down its streets probably makes me look like I’m on something as I’m in continuous awe, grinning and giggling and dreaming.
8 am yesterday morning, we left to the Sunday market (happening every week in the village) and I didn’t want to leave the place. I got lost in the multitude of people buying fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, cheese, seafood, cakes, crepes, all local produce. Apart from the endless mouth watering food choice, which was the main ‘attraction’ of the market, one could also buy hippie jewelery, clothes, bags and all sorts of little things from cheap watches to the highly annoying loom bands.
Overlooking the market, a very busy coffee shop was hosting curious looks and warm smiles – locals, tourists, half asleep backpackers getting their daily drug dose to wake their eyes to the beauty around them. People on bikes with baskets overflowing of bread, cheese and flowers, super friendly (yet not annoying) local traders, lots of ‘Bonjour!’ and ‘Bonne journèe! ‘, all under the warmth of an ambitious sun trying to make its way through the clouds. After a relaxing week and a half in the Bordeaux region with my first ratatouille, sinful, delicious homemade wine, Dune do Pyla and Mami’s famous ‘soup’ (that actually gets you drunk), we ended the day by the ocean where the water was so calm. I stood there for a while and (beware! Cheesy, lame part coming) I felt truly happy. I forgot for a moment about everything else and just lost myself in the view. I’m living my dream and i’m extremely pleased that I get to see all these interesting places in the company of locals who would share funny childhood stories and tips and secrets about the food, the people or the best places to visit that haven’t been discovered yet by the many tourists. Learning so much about myself, trying to always escape my comfort zone (big girl here – went on adults rides in a water parc), I’m easily building the lifestyle that keeps me happy, with less worries, less drama, more smiling and being more grateful for everything I have.
Slight change of the subject, as a leaving present, my lovely GO family gave me a beautiful leather-bound notebook to write in about my adventures and because I haven’t got as much time to develop the millions of things in my head, the notebook is a massive list with pieces of my heart. In the same principle, my posts will sometimes include some random sentences at the end, stuff that I would like to write more about or just silly things I want to look back to in years time and make fun of my silly self.

The randoms

– Mami is 88 years old and one of the coolest grandmothers I have ever met. Also she dresses impeccably and makes the famous ‘soup’, aka the best cocktail ever. The recipe was a family secret.
– My new family is actually French. They moved to Switzerland a while ago and started their family and business there. Asked what they miss the most about France they replied: “Salted butter, pastry shops and markets”. No wonder they have a restaurant. It’s all about food with French people.
– I’m learning to knit. Friends and family, prepare yourselves!
– Tried learning to swim. Failed.
– Uncle Glen, (thanks for reading my blog) I saw two pretty campervans. None were as cool as the ‘Slug’.
– For those interested (English people in particular as I know house pricing in England is a bit of a joke, especially in the South), with £100k you can easily buy a 3 bed country house, decent garden, by the ocean. 😉
– It’s no myth: French people are very well dressed. Simple, yet very chic.
– I have started doing yoga and I love it. (Thank you, Bina!)
– I’m getting a little bit obsessed with herbal/fruity teas and oats.
– Nowadays, my name is ‘Aina’ or ‘iiiidhdbdbsbdhdgsbv’, as the little ones like to call me.
– I’m rocking the baby carrier. Dancing with a 5 month old has never been easier.

Hope you are as happy as I am!

Bisous!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

#swissdream

Or how I decided to go for what makes me happy. The last 2 months have been a beautiful chaos. There’s too much to say and little words to explain how pleased I am with how things turned out. My mum has finally visited me in England and witnessed receiving my Modern Languages degree, Larisa and I moved out and the biggest change of all is that I’m writing this post on my phone from a beautiful, small village in Switzerland where I decided to move to to be an au pair for a year. Without a doubt, it’s the most sudden, yet second best decision I have ever made. My feet have always screamed to step on new places and my heart is in a continuous party at the thought of it. I was going through a weird, comfortable phase in which I didn’t quite know where I’m heading to. The phase didn’t last long though and after getting tired of looking back in the past, waiting for people to make that extra effort and hoping that good things will just fall from sky, I decided to leave England. The process was (far too) quick, painless and exciting, to say the least. One evening after work, I decided I want to become an au pair for a while. The same evening I made a profile on one of the recruiting websites and the next morning I was reading applications from families in Norway, Austria, Sweden, France and Switzerland. I went for Switzerland (the French side) as I wanted to learn yet another Latin language and I was and still am very hyped at the idea of skiing, hiking, camping and (!!!!!!!!) doing via ferrata in the Alps. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. And the family I’m living with are making this experience 10 times better. After reading horrifying au pair stories online, I cannot stop but think again “What a lucky girl I am!”. I know it’s early to say this,  but have you ever met some people and you thought to yourself “Yes, I like these ones. They can definitely stay in my life.”?
   Today is the National day of Switzerland and last night the council organised this big overnight party for the whole community with plenty of food, drinks, music, a massive fire, balloons and fireworks, to top it all off. I was stood there in awe and I was enjoying every single minute of it with a silly happy grin on my face.
    It’s the 4th country I live in, after Romania, England and Portugal and I’m sure that, as with the rest, Switzerland will give me great memories, will help me grow up and will give me the life experience i’m looking for. The real expectation from my Swiss story is to learn, through good and bad, as many skills as possible, be it feeding a 5 month old baby while making sure his toddler sister doesn’t play with the plugs, speaking French, cooking better (have I mentioned the parents own a restaurant?) or doing via ferrata and ski.
    Looking back now, I wouldn’t want to change a thing. (Well, maybe that 3 hour delay on my London-Geneva flight)

image

What now?

I keep getting asked what’s happening now that I’ve finished university and I have a degree in languages. The answer is: I’m living. And well. There are some plans after summer that I won’t talk about now as it’s too early, but for the moment I am taking it easy.
It’s been 4 long years which, in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy that much, beside my year abroad in Portugal. Long, tiring commuting, going to work straight after or before lectures, barely any new uni friends wasn’t necessarily what people have in mind when thinking of uni life. But it’s all gone and I have no regrets whatsoever. I’m fully aware society wants us to get a full time job and get stuck in an office just because “you know, you have a degree now, you spent so much money on it”. I went to uni for myself. If I never get to use my degree I’m not going to cry though I’m sure I will be able to put my collection of foreign languages in practice with what I have in mind for the future.
At the moment, I’m still enjoying my time at Go Outdoors, trying to save up as much as possible. Between working,  looking for other summer jobs and planning for what comes after summer, I’m just living my life well and happily. I finally get to see friends and go out. Larisa and I wake up really early and go for morning walks in the big park next to our house or for proper sunset fun (icecream, cider, board games etc.), we get to play tennis more often, go through that big list of films that we have to watch still and I finally cook more for her, which feels great. Soon enough I’ll go visit my baby cousin/goddaughter Sofia and her beautiful sister Chloe, hoping we can spend some quality time together and my mum is coming soon for my graduation which it will make this summer 3 times more awesome than any other summer.
And there’s so much more stuff I have planned for the months coming. List freak, here you go:
– read more;
– start doing yoga; (yeah, I laughed too when I decided this, but I will give everything a try)
– go camping
– go to Brighton pride. Eeeeek.
– go to the beach. One of the sandy ones around. Or Isle of Wight.
– make elderflower lemonade. My mum used to make this for me when I was younger and it’s literally the best thing ever. Beside the cherry vodka that she makes.
– go to Brighton Breeze, the VW campervan festival on Brighton pier and another classic car show anywhere in Hampshire.
– go for long walks in the woods (one thing I don’t like about the UK is that you can’t free camp in the woods, just like that, which in Scandinavia, for example, is very common. Naughty UK)
– go roller disco. 😀
– dance, dance, dance. Club, streets, my room in my knickers.
– go see Lucy Spraggan ♡
– hopefully go away for a weekend with Larisa to someplace new.
– write more nonsense on this blog.
– go to car boot sales and search for my beautiful old red suitcase.
– be happy and enjoy the most stupid little thing ever that makes me smile.

What are you doing this summer?

image