Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lille and Dunkirk

Hello again, dear friends! It has taken me way too long to write about this. A while ago, I had a few days off from school, so I took the opportunity to pop over to France and visit some friends. Pause for a second to realise how cool it is that I can “pop over to France.” They are currently studying abroad in Lille, and although it was quite a long trip by bus, I can’t complain. The first night I got there, I was already in awe of the fabulous corner buildings that are quintessentially French.

Danielle took me to a great burger place that evening. The next day, we took a trip to Dunkirk. We wenr on the rainiest, coldest day possible. Our first stop was the Port Museum. They had an audio tour which was completely free.

The museum itself was all about Dunkirk’s role over the years as a main port in France. It touched on its role in both World Wars including the big rescue mission we all know it for.

I liked all the different artefacts and titbits of information they included in it. I liked the fact that the museum gave you a different insight to Dunkirk as a town. The audio tour was necessary for someone who doesn’t speak French. However, the numbers are very disorganised. There were a number of times where the number was nowhere to be found. The museum has all day entry where you can return, so we headed for the beach when the weather improved and then came back when we were done.

The next stop was the beach itself. What you can’t see in this picture is how miserable and wet we were. All of our phones died from cold, and I’m still not 100% sure how we manged to get this picture on self-timer. Being on the beach was humbling. We stopped by the monument to the Allied forces and had a moment there.

Afterwards, we found out there was an exhibit in an art gallery dedicated to the Dunkirk film. Just so you know, there is a bridge that takes you directly to the gallery that is not on Google maps. It was a frustrating moment when we realised we went all the way around. The exhibit was really cool. They kept a lot of the props from the film and explained the process behind filming. Do you recognise the first aid ship that sinks?

The most hilarious thing for me was the row of fake soldiers. For the aerial shots of soldiers lined up on the beach, they had cardboard cut-outs of soldiers mixed in with a few real actors that movie. I don’t know why I found that so amusing, but I laughed the whole time. That night, Susan and I yelled “faaaaaake” anytime we saw a longshot of the line-up.

Dunkirk itself isn’t much to look at. A majority of it is under construction. We caught the sunset on the way out, and that was the best part. Apparently, tourism has increased 300% since the movie came out. I hope the increase in funds will help them tidy up the town a little bit.

On my last morning, Susan and Danielle took me out for crepes (obviously). This place had a student deal with one savoury and one sweet crepe. It was outstanding. To be honest, all of the food was outstanding. We went to a cupcake place later in the day which had safe cupcakes for me with the nut allergy where I had the best mocha in the world.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around Lille. It is the cutest little town with lots of people (it’s a university town) and lots of little shops. We did stop by a thrift store where I got a fantastic scarf to match all the French girls.

I loved my trip to Lille and Dunkirk. I love connecting with friends abroad. Advice I would give to anyone is to make connections everywhere in the world and then use them! My trip wasn’t all that expensive because I didn’t have to pay for accommodation. The train to Dunkirk wasn’t expensive either. I spent most of my money on food, and that was all worth it.

Feel free to share any experiences in Lille or Dunkirk below!

Also, please follow Danielle on Instagram for more pictures of her travels (it's a great feed): @deesiewood


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Book Review - My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Hello dear friends! Thanks for bearing with me as I continue to sort my life out a little bit. I’m back with another book review, and I’m excited. I finished this novel a while ago, and I’m currently on the third in the series. It is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This novel sets us up with a frame narrative that stretches over the course of the series. It starts with Lenu writing as an adult looking back at her childhood growing up with her friend Lina. There is an instant intrigue about Lila because she always seems to go against the grain. Lenu is in awe of her, proud of her, and also competes with her on an intellectual level. They are truly foils for each other. Their world is complicated, dark, and they are accustomed to death and feuds. Every anecdote centres around violence which makes me uncomfortable in some instances. Lila is deeply affected by the stirring of turmoil, whereas Lenu sees things in black and white. The friendship itself is set up as one full of tension. The two girls are the definition of “opposites attract,” and jealousy seems to be the driving force in their relationship. Lenu knows Lila best. She knows how Lila think and recognises the patterns of her behaviour. What makes this novel interesting is that Lila’s life is filtered through the eyes of Lenu looking back.

The beginning of the novel has a cast of characters – which instantly worried me. Normally, books like this tend to be overly-complicated. It has served me a handful of times (over the course of two and half novels), but I don’t find the novel too difficult to keep straight. I fell in love with the way it is written after the prologue. It is so fascinating to think about childhood through the lens of an adult. There are many moments in the story where the adult voice seeps in as a voice of reason or as a moment of clarity. It adds a certain charm to the novel; there is a clear personality in the way it is written. One of the great things that is made evident is the fear on the part of Lenu that there will be mistakes in interpretation of someone else’s life. I like the role of Lenu as an unreliable narrator. It tells us the story of a place but also hides Lila’s specific experience of every event. We are trying to figure out just how Lila is affected by the events around her along with Lenu. The writing does flow well (I was 150 pages in without realising it), although it took me a while before I managed to be completely interested in it. I will tell you that the second book was easier to get into. Another warning is that the ending is THE WORST for leading you on. The writing is also teeming with culture when it comes to places and food. There is a passion for Italy in this novel. 

We come to realise that Lila is Lenu’s way of escaping her own violence at home. Lila is someone who pulls her to a reality where only they exist as opposites and she needs to be better than her. Through the telling of Lila’s story, Lenu is also able to tell her own story. She grows to realise who she is and how to rise about the typical fate of their upbringing. This novel is about maturation. It is about dealing with the changes in other people as they walk down different paths in life. This is something that I can connect with on so many levels. I understand feeling the disconnect as someone is doing something different than I am. I give this book a 4/5. I absolutely adore the writing itself, but I found it so difficult to get into.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Quick Catch Up

It has been a long while since I’ve been on here. In reading over my last post, I realize just how much I managed to fail. Did I ever establish routine? Not really. I’m re-attempting it once again at the start of a new placement. For the past week, I have definitely been better at it. I’ve been eating healthier, keeping my things tidy, and I’ve even been better at prioritizing my time!

Quick catch up: I have officially finished my first placement as a student teacher! Overall, it went really well. I was so happy in my school, and I learned a lot. I am one week into observations at my new school, and I hope I will get as comfortable as I was in my old one.

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Other than that, the biggest thing that has happened is that I got a job! I will be working close to Leeds (where I lived two years ago) as a full-time English teacher. It is my absolute dream come true. I cannot believe this is actually happening. It happened nearly a month ago, and I'm still not entirely sure that I've processed.

What's New: I've realized that I can't do two posts a week. It's too much for me. For now, I will be posting on Saturdays and the monthly favourites on the last day of every month. I have also set up my social media in a different way. I used to have everything attached to my personal accounts, but as I move into my teaching career, those accounts have been placed on private. I have set up social media accounts specifically for the blog. The links are on the side, but you can also find my Instagram here, Facebook here, and Twitter here

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Nothing else has really changed. I will be continuing with the usual business. I have a couple travel posts to set up as well as a couple books reviews. I also want to disperse some personal stuff on there (like my routines and time management issues). 

This has been a quick catch up here, but it needs to be done. I'll be busy with my new placement and writing up a bunch of blog posts for you (I have about six in mind at the moment).

How have you been? What's new?


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Truth About Establishing Routine

This is about to be a really honest post. I have been in Wales for a while now, and the truth is that I have not established proper routines yet. I tend to come home, spend way too much time relaxing, then give up sleep to finish my lesson plans. I have been living in a permanent state of exhaustion. I sleep in way too late on Saturdays and then I start feeling bad. I don’t have enough organisation for proper meal planning, so my eating habits haven’t been great. Soon, I will have to start planning ten hours of lessons a week. At the moment, those are taking me at least two hours to complete. I can’t sustain this way of living. I need to change.

To give you some context to this realisation, the people over at Elysium Health recently highlighted some of my tips on how to make your day just a little bit healthier. Once the graphic was published, I procrastinated. Then I procrastinated some more. Today, I finally took a good look at the infographic. I was floored by how relevant it was to me right now. I bet some of you reading this have a very similar story to mine. I bet some of you want to change the way I want to. With the help of this infographic and one week off (thank goodness for half-term), I am setting myself some goals. I need to set myself some healthy routines before I get into the swing of things when I head back to placement. 

1.       Get to bed at a decent time.
As it says in the infographic, sleep is vital for weight loss. That is still my goal (even if I haven’t done much about that recently), so I need to make sure I’m giving my body enough rest. I need to stop watching Netflix before bed and start getting into better bedtime routines.

2.       Add in movement as much as I can.
I say movement because I realise that exercise is just not realistic for me every day. However, I took a walk in the park today, and it was great. I can shorten my loop and make it a quick 15-20 minute walk right after dinner. As long as I get some type of movement into my day, I will consider myself successful.

3.       Meal plan
I saw some planning sheets in a store that will help me immensely. I need the visual reminder of what I am going to eat. I need to remember to take out the meat I need so I’m not stuck eating frozen pizza or grilled cheese.

4.       Establish better “me” time.
I do believe this is important. I have let this slip completely. Me time is NOT Netflix. I have always loved journaling, but I have been rubbish at keeping up with it while I’ve been here. I need that time. I also need to give myself time to read before bed. I keep forgetting that I can read for pleasure now. I have given myself a personal goal of finishing three books while I’m off. I’m already halfway through one, so wish me luck!

Thanks to Elysium Health for giving me the push I need to make small changes in my life to make it better. To learn more about Elysium's own mission of healthy, small changes, you can check out this page to see some of the science behind their NAD+ supplement. I will check back in with everyone to see where I’m at.

What are your goals for improving your life in little ways?