So I sit here…

I am suffering a bit (a lot) with the insecurities of not having a job or a clue what will happen in the future – my future.

Firstly there are very few to no jobs to actually apply for. Secondly they all want someone with a Masters. Now I have 6 years of experience that I feel is equivalent to a Masters but I think I am the only person I can convince of that. Ha.

The heartbreaking part is that the jobs for people with Masters, the jobs for people who have studied 6 YEARS, pay half of what I earned in the UK. Half. Geez, yes, let me study another two years to earn half of what I was earning before, oh yes.

Being a scientist in South Africa just doesn’t seem to make sense. So I am telling you now, do not do it. Do not waste your time. I almost want to become a Biology teacher so that I can warn every single one of my students to not study my subject further at university.

But anyway, I did it and so now I am looking at Masters courses to study, so I can look forward to halving my salary, woohoo. I would much rather be working. I am on the lookout for that rare job that would pick me, but it does not seem to be out there.

Other people would seize their free time and do something constructive, volunteer, travel, write a book. I sit here anxiously scanning the internet and feeling afraid and down.

I need a kick in the pants and a “how to use your unemployment consturctively” course.

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Did I ever leave?

I see I have taken a hiatus on writing about my travels – this always happens to me, the doing is more fun for me than the recapping. I am not a very interesting traveller. Most of the people we met in Central America were in their early 20s and were partying up a storm. The BFG and I were like the travelling pensioners, and I admit many nights I chilled in the hostel reading while everyone else was drinking, taking drugs and being young.

Now who wants to read the pensioner diaries?

We have been back in Cape Town just over a month now, and in some ways it is like I never left, which is very disorienting actually. Except that now I feel like a tourist again and everything is new and beautiful and I want to take pictures all the time. I hope that phase of wonder lasts.

I still have to translate everything into pounds to work out if things are expensive or not. Everything seems so expensive here now. Let’s not even mention the price of internet. Yeekes. But I am glad to see that potatoes are insanely cheap in this country, so if I never manage to find a job I can survive on potato with my savings for quite a while!

I realised yesterday that almost my entire adult life has been spent in two environments – universities (for study and work) and climbing gyms. We went to the Cape Town climbing gym last night, which I went to 9 years ago just before I left South Africa.

I swear they were playing the exact same music as they were 9 years ago. I’m talking RHCP Californication, Three Doors Down and Saron Gas before they became Seether. This did not help in my “Did I ever leave?” disorientation. Did anything change while I was gone? What do the younger climbers make of this time warp?

We also saw friends from years ago, and then the changes did hit me. People are looking old now, grey hair and wrinkles and flaccid skin and kids, everywhere. The music stays the same, but the people are a changing.

I have been in so many climbing gyms and so many universities,not to mention the university climbing gyms, that I get these images of people in my head, and I’m like ok, was he a climber? Which country, which gym? Or was he in one of my lectures and not a climbing gym at all??

I think my brain has fused the last 14 years of my life into one huge university climbing gym. Everyone is in there, I just have no idea where exactly anyone fits in any more.

If I know you but you were not at my universities and you did not climb, my apologies but in my head you are wearing a climbing harness and are covered in chalk. It’s the only way things can make any sense.

It’s the senility you see, of this pensioner traveller.

Searching for Sugarman.

I watched this documentary last night. It was excellent, I highly recommend it.

I think every South African over 20 in the middle classy-type range knows Rodriguez’s music, even if they don’t know his name. But even if you have never heard of him or his music, this is a great true story.

Where we went.

Here is a rough map of our five and a half week trip. We started in Cancun in Mexico, and we were supposed to end there too, but since our flight went through Mexico City we decided to skip Cancun and head there, and see some more of  Mexico in the process.

If I could do it again, or go back (wishing, wishing) I would fly out of another country for sure.Probably Panama, and then we could have traveled the whole length of Central America. There is so much to see in Honduras, and Nicaragua and everywhere, it was killing me to leave without seeing it ALL.

I love Latin America. I don’t know what it is. I think it is partly the cultural mishmash of indigenous and European that has always blended into fascinating modern mestizo cultures. The cultural practices are fascinating. And then there is the excellent weather, and the spectacular scenery. I think it is a bit of an obsession with me.

We traveled by bus and by shuttle for the whole trip. The long distance buses in Mexico are fantastic, they have comfy seats, constant Spanish movies that I can stare at and have no idea what is going on for hours, and air con and the whole works.

We took three buses in Belize and they could not be described as fantastic, comfy, or air-conditioned. They are rickety, old and packed to the max. Also they forced me to sit down during the one trip but there was no actual seat, so I had to perch on the end of a seat with one buttock on and one buttock off for hours. It was excruciatingly painful. But it was just part of the traveling package. This is what backpackers do, right? They spend hours on weird bus journeys.

The buses in Guatemala are of similar quality to those of Belize, and they say you are not a true traveler having a true experience of Guatemala if you don’t travel on the chicken buses. But here is the thing. We never travelled on the chicken buses and nor did anyone else around us. Because Guatemala has a reputation as a dangerous country, numerous shuttle companies have sprouted up that pick you up from your hostel and take you straight to all the main tourist destinations. These shuttles are so damn convenient and every hostel organises them for you. The bus stations in Guatemala, if they exist at all, do not have super-organised ticket offices like in Mexico where you tell them (the only Spanish I know is how to buy bus tickets) where you are going and they give you all the options. In Guatemala you have to just try and figure it out for yourself and hope for the best.

So out of pure laziness, the fact that the shuttles were affordable, and to save my poor ass from more agonising trips, we took the shuttles and therefore cannot claim to have seen the REAL Guatemala.

I would like to add that twice we were stranded on the side of the road in our Guatemalan shuttles due to bizarre events, so even though we didn’t travel with the chickens, our transit still had an element of adventure to it.

That’s all about the exhilaration  of Central American bus travel. I admit I did suffer a moment of disorientation when we arrived back in England and took a bus home. I was waiting for them to tie our bags to the roof like in Central America. Those guys are pros at the bag-securing knot.

Also I would like to add that although all of these countries have reputations for crime, not one thing of ours was stolen, and not one bad incident happened. We found all three countries safe to travel in, if the usual precautions were taken. Although, we are like old age pensioners and don’t go out much at night, so maybe our experience is not very helpful to normal people.

Next time – travelling in Mex-Americana – the Yucatan and Quintana Roo.

Emerging from the overwhelm.

Woah baby, it has been a long time since I checked in to this here blog. The last few months have just been mad so I have been hibernating.

First I left my job (sad, stressful), then we jumped on a plane to Mexico and travelled around Central America for 5 weeks (awesome but far too short), then we missioned on the longest flight EVER (Air Namibia, spanning four countries). Then we have been trying our best to settle back in to Cape Town, tackling every affadavit and piece of paper and formality that comes our way. We have not neraly finished all of these challenges yet. I still don’t even have a bank account or a legitimate proof of address. Or a phone line. Internet line. The list goes on.

We have a car and a place to sleep,  which is a good start, I think.

I don’t usually bother to write about my travels, but that is starting to feel like a bit of a cop out, so I am hoping to write about our Central American adventures here. I am so desperate to go back to Latin America. Would it be considered irresponsible to use up the rest of my savings going travelling when I am unemployed and supposed to be starting a new life in South Africa? It is exceedingly tempting.

I doubt anyone is reading any more, but when I get the time and internet access, the adventures of two gringos in Central America will feature soon!

Whirlwind greetings

Hello world, it has been some time.

It was just over a week ago that we left our workplaces and moved out of our flat. We are camping at my parentals now. Talk about an emotional whirlwind. I spent a week talking to people and saying goodbye. I don’t think it has really hit me that I won’t be working with those guys ever again. I will miss them so much.

We just got back from a week in Dubai visiting the BFG’s parentals. It was pretty glorious, even at 45 degrees, because the UK is having the wettest summer ever ever, oh wait wasn’t that last year, or the year before? Well, it is more than standardly wet anyway. So brain-frazzling heat was quite a novelty, and frazzled it got, a few times.

We had a great time out in the desert away from the mad city, visiting a water park and snorkeling in the beautiful Fujeirah sea. It is hard to leave knowing we may never visit Dubai again when his parents leave, and knowing we only see them every two years or so. Leaving people is so hard.

 

We have one day of rest in the UK and then we are off on an adventure to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Has anyone been to any of these places? Can anyone give us any advice? It will be the rainy season. I hope we don’t drown! We’ll be taking our snorkels so we should be fine :P

Til we return, Adios!

Train travesties.

I have commuted between Leamington Spa and Oxford for the last 3 and a half years now. I feel I should be playing some nostalgic violin music as I look back on these years of weirdness and exhaustion. I suspect I will actually miss this commute, although not the times when things got  a little too crazy.

I think I will miss it because as an introvert who sucks at mornings, I use it as my time to come into myself and to wake up. It takes me 40 minutes on the train, and then a 20 minute walk to the lab, and it really seems to take me that long just to go from zombie to functional. I don’t know what would happen if I could just go to work without an hour long commute, would my mind ever enter my body, or would it stay in dream land forever?

Anyway, apart from really scary druggie people who appear to be possesed (cannot find my post about this guy), late trains, delayed trains, no seats on trains, like, ever, the fact that trains shut down if it gets hot, cold, snows, rains, or if there are leaves on the track, or freaking cows on the track (!), clinging onto the roof because the train is so packed, sitting on the floor by the toilet, signal failure, broken down freight trains, unexplained two hour late tains – apart from all of that, the train journey is pleasant and a good way for me to zone out.

To be honest I will miss complaining about all the madness that goes on during my train journeys. I will probably make a point of trying to take the train or bus in South Africa just to fuel me with something to bitch about.

Anyway, this week has been particularly challenging in terms of commuting and I feel that as I am about to leave, the commuting genie is throwing me some gems.

On Wednesday, when my train came, I got on and it sat at Oxford station for about an hour. Some kind of signal failure was occuring. We all sat and sat… until the train driver announced that this train was going back to the South instead of going North.

Yikes! We all jumped off and milled around the platform. Then the station staff announced that all people going North would have to take a train to London, persuade the tube staff to let us travel for free to London Euston, and get a train from there.

Euuugh. This was not good news. It would add 2-3 hours to our journeys. I only live 40 minutes away from Oxford. The people trying to get further North would be travelling all night. But it was odd because usually if you just sit tight the signal failure will be fixed. In all my years of commuting, I have never been advised to do this. They usually just tell you to wait, and wait, and wait…

Sure you might have to wait an hour or even more, but it is still better than trekking to London and dealing with tube frenzies and the possiblity that the signal failure is blocking London trains too. By telling us that we needed to go to London they were indicating that Oxford station was kaput for the rest of the day with no hope of being fixed. Only then would it make sense to go to London.

Turns out it was the worst advice ever! I, along with everyone else, jumped on the next train to London and phoned the BFG to tell him the situation giggling like a mad wench at this ridiculous state of affairs.. He spoke to our local train station. They said the problem was fixed and Oxford trains were running again.

So 5 minutes after they told us that it was the end of all Oxford trains and we needed to go to London, the problem was fixed. If we had just waited like they normally made us do, everything would have been fine, bar the minor one hour delay (ha. Relatively minor). The idiocy of this just astounds me.

No train person announced this fact to us. I cunningly jumped off the train at the next stop and missioned back to Oxford. But all the other people who had been misguided into that harebrained mission probably went to London for no reason. If I had had a loud hailer, perhaps I could have been of use.If it wasn’t for my BFG, who is a star, and went and asked for me, I would have been home very late and very miserable. What were the Oxford platform managers smoking?

What a train smash of a day, so to speak.

The next morning my train could not leave Leamington Spa because a man was causing trouble, apparently removed his pants, and would not get off the train. Unfortunately I missed all the exciting clothing removal and just got to hear the boring and repeated requests for the guy to get off the damn train so we could all get to work.

However, compared to the day before, this was a pretty normal train journey.

Oddball.

I was reminded many times this past weekend of just how special and truly odd my BFG is.

We went camping and climbing with some new friends from work. Making new awesome friends when you are just about to leave is lame and is not helping my pathological sadness, but anyway.

One incident:

He knows how much I love coffee (and how hard it is to rouse me in the mornings when he is desperate to go climbing) so he packs some coffee in some of our old spice shakers. Currently the coffee resides in a chilli shaker.

Cue us making pasta that night. He thought it could use some chilli, and sprinkled coffee all over his pasta. I laughed like a banshee and then handed him the thyme shaker, which in fact  contained sugar.

Well, my bowl of pasta tasted fantastic. Snort.

Another incident:

We have this ancient water bottle lurking in the car that we use when we forget to bring other ones. It is all mashed and worn. The Germans made some comments about it. I doubt Germans would reuse a water bottle for years because they are too stingy to buy new ones, but this is what I am forced to live with.

Anyway, perhaps their comments made some impact on the BFG after all, because the next day I was chugging back some water and realised I was drinking from a sparkling new bottle, not our terrible green one.

I was confused and thought I had accidentally stolen the Germans’ bottle, so I asked BFG where he got the bottle from.

He said the  plastic recycling bin at the camp site.

I thought he was joking. He was not.

He got us a new bottle out of the dustbin.

The scary thing is, this is not the first time this has happened! The first time he did it he took one out of the normal everything rubbish bin. I hoped I had made it clear back then that this was not a practice I condoned.

Clearly I failed.

He is truly mad. How can I help but love him?

Emotional overload.

This mixture of sadness, heartbreak (it feels like I am going through a break-up somehow?!), anxiety and stress is wreaking havoc on my EVERYTHING.

My stomach is a churning mess right now and I cannot concentrate.

If somebody could please just tranquilise me and wake me up next year some time, it would be much appreciated.

Til then I just have to try and remember to breathe deeply and keep hanging on.

Room with a view – of hell.

Somebody is coming to view our flat today, seeing as we are leaving.

Excuse me while this concept sends me into fits of  hysterical laughter.

Why would our estate agent want anyone to SEE this place? Once they have seen it, they are going to be running a mile.

In the 5 or so years (I have lost count) that we have been here, interior maintenance has been a not-happening issue. They come and fix our pipes yes, but when upstairs had a flood last year and the wall paper fell from our ceiling, they came to have a look, made a note, promised to fix it and never did.

Let us not mention the state of the walls, the paint, in every room of this place, because there is not much left of it. In comes off in chunks all over the place. It is not a pretty sight. There is raw wall in patches. I can’t quite understand how it was painted in the first place, it could be that they painted over wallpaper and now the wallpaper is falling off. Basically your average human being with no training at all would not be physically capable of doing such a bad job.

Our neighbour said she repaints herself. We did not do this. I just didn’t want to paint over the catastrophe that is already on our walls and add to the catastrophe. So yup, it is crumbling down around us and looking exquisite. The door has chunks of actual wood missing from it which we told them about years ago.

If they really wanted someone to move in here they would be better off redecorating before anyone gets a glimpse of the place, because if it was in such a bad state when we saw it we wouldn’t have come.

As to the neighbours, I cannot count how many blog posts I have written over the years about the insanity that is my neighbourhood.

However, in the last few years, the karaoke pub across the road has closed down and the family of warring Portuguese people who owned it have moved, our drug addict neighbour was arrested for stealing, our drug dealer neighbours were asked to move away, the stairwell that the arsonist set on fire and where the drug addicts used to poo and do their drugs has been shut up, the other stairwell where occasional drugs were done is guarded by a special door.

No one has punched a window for years! And we had four punched windows in my time. Blood all over the walls, the passageways. Screaming in the night. All that stuff has stopped. It has become a quiet, respectable, even decent place to live!

So now my neighbours are terrified that we are leaving. I am not sure if I should be telling the new viewers to run for their lives or to drill them on behalf of my dear neighbours who are lovely:

Do you do drugs?

Do you deal drugs?

Will there be people screaming your name at your window at 4am in a desperate drug-addicted state?

Do you punch glass windows when you are frustrated?

Do you tend to scream a lot?

Are you generally and in any way… insane?

PS they just came and saw the place and I heard the agent saying they were going to completely redecorate everything (and up the rent of course) and he actually apologised to them for the state of the place. Said it must be hard for them to see it that way.

Thanks dude. Geeez. How about us who have lived here all these years? Why wait until we are leaving to make it look decent?

Anyway, can’t complain, it was our choice and we had madly cheap rent, and we have used the money we have saved to travel and do all the things we wanted to do. We are both kind of fond of this dump, in a confusing way.

I may even miss it. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.  That may be stretching things a bit.

But it has been an education, I will give it that.

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