I had a dream…

This week I had a great conversation with one of those strangers who contributed to where I am today. We haven’t seen each other since 2008. This person was my then English teacher, who worked for and later managed the British Council in Budapest.

At the age of 17 I failed my end of year English exam. Together with the rest of the class. This might suggest that it was not only me to blame. The results of that year were important, without good grades it was difficult to get into a university. Only, I didn’t aim for a university. To the amazement of many around me, I went for a vocational training. This helped me find out what I wanted and what surely didn’t want in my life. In 2001, already at uni, one of my lecturers mentioned a School in the UK, that piqued my curiosity. I checked their website that I could hardly understand that time, but I knew I wanted to be there. In 2006, I took the courage and applied for one of their Masters courses. I received a conditional offer of admission, and I was over the moon. However, the conditional offer meant that I had to pass the IELTS Academic test at a pretty high level within a very short period of time. The IELTS Academic test is for people applying for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. English for me was a lingua franca, a tool, never the final destination, for my interests laid elsewhere. Although I have taken various courses with the British Council, my first attempt to pass the test was unsuccessful. I tried again. And I scored below the required level again. By that time I have deferred my offer of admission, hoping I can start the following year. I started taking private lessons from the teacher I started my confession with. He did his best. In May 2008 was my last chance to pass the test, the course was going to start in September, and deferring one more year was not an option. Everyone I knew in the British Council was there standing on the corridor, cheering on me. Even the examiner who has just arrived from the UK that day, did her best to help – everything was recorded, and all I can say, she proved to be an excellent mime… The results came in. I made it. I quit my job, where I only spent a few months but I felt it sucked the life out of me. I left Hungary in the middle of September, not having a clue what will follow. On my first week in London I visited the gentleman at the admission department, who had been following my journey for over a year. I didn’t have to introduce myself, he just looked at me and said: “Adrienn, finally”. It turned out to be the most challenging year of my life, and looking back, I don’t know how I survived. Exactly 10 years ago, towards the end of 2009, I received my final results, and some time later, I attended my graduation ceremony, the most beautiful celebration one can receive. One friend then told me: “The world is your Oyster now”. Apart from still using my old Oyster card when I visit London, this experience provided a solid base that I can still rely on, that made me convinced that I can achieve anything, if I work for it and I use my creativity.

The last 10 years were full of adventures, special experiences and people, I lived in two foreign countries, visited a couple more, and struggled a lot. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What amazes me the most is that, not many but, a few of those friends who had been with me in 2008, are still with me today. They certainly proved their patience for they needed it in industrial quantities to be able to put up with my very dramatic ups and downs. One single decision changed my life to the extent that is hardly believable. I have celebrated the occasion in style, with a trip at the end of last month, that was a beautiful summary of the last decade: tears and laughs, extraordinary places, generous people and valuable lessons.

English is still only a tool for me to reach the stars, but a pretty handy one if you live with a constant hunger for knowledge and experiences. Learning a language never ends, so my meet ups with above mentioned not so stranger anymore, will become regular in the following months. To make an other dream come true.

Happy anniversary!

 

SOAS University of London

See you soon

One more post from my ‘2014 London challenge’ after an amazing day before my departure. I spent the day with some really special people without whom my stay would have been far more difficult and much less colourful. I do not think they are aware of how much they helped unconsciously.

I would like to say thank you to them and everyone else who read my nonsense in the last few months. Even more grateful I am to those who made comments because it means they considered my thoughts and took a few minutes out of their life to reflect on my experiences.

London treated me really well this time. I received all I asked from the city and even more. It can be a cruel place for outsiders like most metropolis is, but with time you learn its ways and you slowly become friends. ‘Am I a fool to think that there’s a little hope’ to meet again? No. A friend is always there waiting for you to return. For this, as I was advised, I will say see you soon instead of good bye.

My posts from the UK might be over for a while but I will be back soon with new adventures on this or on an other site. Would be nice to read your comments then too, but my sexy boots need a little rest now.

Very best,

Adrienn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is a National Trust property going to the dogs?

I do not know how well-known National Trust properties are outside the UK. My friends have never heard of it that is for sure. I love the organization, I believe they are one of the wonders of this country. I have visited many of their sites and it always felt like a time travel. A few words about what they do as it is stated on their website: ‘With your help, we protect some of the most important spaces and places in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We take care of historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages and pubs – and then we open them up for ever, for everyone.’

Perhaps I was just lucky to see only their success stories until recently and not the difficulties they might face when trying to finance every possible historical place. I went to see Morden Hall Park that is beautiful indeed as the Trust promises on its website.

‘When you step through the gates, you’d be forgiven for imagining yourself to be in the middle of the English countryside. Surrounded by meadows, trees and the gentle sounds of birdsong and running water, the park offers a rare sense of discovery and a chance to get away from it all.’

It is a shame that Morden Hall itself, hidden at the end of the park, is in such a bad state. I found a heavily scaffolded building with broken or just open windows,  you can easily walk in and out of the Hall if you like. Well, probably you should climb on to the window sill but then you can have a free tour of the house. Obviously I do not know the financial situation of the area or the National Trust. I also do not know how long the scaffolding had been there but if they are there because the Trust plans any kind of renovation work in the perceivable future then it would be great to state it somehow or at least close those windows.  People and animals, rain and sun can all visit the house day and night, there does not seem to be any objection to it.

Morden is not a place that is frequented by tourists but on the day when I visited, locals did enjoy the ‘meadows, trees and the gentle sound of birdsong and running water’. The only small café that was open on the day was also full. It seemed that the community does need the park and probably they would be happy to use the Hall too if anything creative was done with it. Its history goes back to the 18th century and its still there despite human neglect. It would surely deserve a better future.

No more waste, please

I spent the last few months in a university setting. I often had my lunch in the canteen where I had the opportunity to witness how the young and the old alike consume. This particular School is famous about its commitment to sustainable development and sustainability in general. Students protest for and against every possible cause if they see that basic human rights or the future of our globe is at stake. Still, many of the students and the staff do not seem to grasp why it would be important to live life sustainably.

In the canteen there is a water tap to refill your glass or bottle, free of charge. I saw it on a daily basis that people fill two or three plastic cups so they do not have to stand up during lunch. I have seen a few who did this regularly. On the last occasion a young student, maybe a fresher, filled four cups but struggled to hold them all so he left the fourth one there. No, they did not do it to share the cups with friends. Just think into it. If a staff member eats in the canteen five times a week then s/he uses up ten plastic cups per week, forty a month. It is a striking number, don’t you think?  And all this because of extreme laziness. It is surely cannot be a big thing for healthy young or even less young people to stand up and walk a few metres to refill their cups or invest into a reusable water bottle. The other issue is that hardly anyone cares about where they put their waste. Food, paper and plastic go to the same container despite clearly visible signs on and above the bins. There are a few other basic issues like over-consuming or buying food then throwing it away that is not entirely their fault but surely, having the luck to attend a university that represents the mentioned values, everyone, staff and students all should make a bigger effort to live up to its reputation.

I am certain that many of these people attended the Climate March last month. That is great. But it would be even better if they did what they preach. We tend to think that this or that is a must, something basic without which we can not live. But when you start watching your daily consuming habit you will see how much you waste. In case of the very young I could say that with time they will understand where they study since many things come with experience. But I believe that we have reached the point where we have no more time to wait for people to wake up. We need to keep certain rules today otherwise there might not be tomorrow.

 

From London to Antalya

Are you not tired of this gastro-nonsense sometimes that attacks us from every corner of our life? I am referring to the so-called gastro-blogging, food trends, artisan food and super creative chefs many of whom have long forgotten about the essence of dining. Food must be a few things but not trendy for sure. Do I sound extremely old-fashioned? Probably.

Food to me must be healthy, nutritious and delicious. And you must share it with someone. Sharing a meal you made for someone or that someone made for you is the real thing. There is no need to dramatize it. Good food is relaxing, it fills you, warms  you up and makes you happy. When I go to a restaurant I find it difficult that I have to lower my expectations, for food there is nothing I have been used to at home. When I eat out that is usually just to help my body and mind to deal with daily life. It rarely provides the comfort I feel when I cook and dine at home.

From time to time though I find gems where I feel like home. The latest place I visited was the Antalya Restaurant near Russell Square. Its facade might look modest but when you step in you are welcome with real Turkish hospitality and you quickly forget about the outside world. Even a not so perfectly made meal can feel delicious if you are treated the right way. Thankfully here everything was on its place. Food, service and the atmosphere, all got five stars from me.

I had Islim Kebab for main, baklava for dessert and Turkish tea for drink. Islim kebab, a classic  Turkish dish, is a fabulous combination of lamb and aubergine. I wish I have tried the place earlier. If you feel you are spoilt for choice and the menu looks confusing, then the lovely waitress is there to advise you and if you are in your chatty mood she is happy to talk to you about Turkey too. There was no fuss around service or food only kindness and artlessness. I felt relaxed, warmed up and happy.

ANTALYA Mediterranean Cuisine

103-105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

www.antalyarestaurant.co.uk

The Great Gorilla Run 2014

Eastern and Western Lowland, Mountain and Cross-River Gorillas invaded London on the 20th of September 2014. An estimated 600 Londoners, all dressed as gorillas participated in the 8km City and Bankside fun run. What a spectacle for tourists wandering around Tower Bridge or St Paul’s Cathedral!

The Gorilla Organization held the very first Gorilla Run in 2003 with the aim of seeking support to protect gorillas. The organization’s mission is to protect every type of gorilla species. All four types of the Great Gorillas live in Central and West Africa and are under serious threat. They live in the most densely populated areas of Africa, where humans and animals both have to fight for the same land and their survival. Gorillas are losing their territories due to the destruction of their natural habitat, the rainforests, and as a result, the Great Gorillas have now became one of the most endangered species in the world.

For example, only around 250 of the rarely seen Cross-River Gorillas might be left in the world. But the Mountain Gorillas are also in a tight squeeze, and the latest estimate is that there are no more than 800 of them left in the forests of Africa. These numbers are tragic.

It’s clear that the situation is pressing, but we still can have some fun while helping the work of the Gorilla Organization. During the last 11 years this incredible event has managed to raise more than £2 million for conservation work and for the poverty reduction of affected communities. To limit the confrontations between humans and animals, the Gorilla Organization works together with African NGOs to give local communities alternative solutions which help to keep the forest for the gorillas. Simple technology like new firewood saving stoves or water cisterns make a huge difference in the lives of both humans and animals.

This writing is a slightly changed version of my article originally published in The London Insider.

Amahoro

‘How do you forgive the unforgivable? Ask the Amahoro generation.’

I have done lots of research, listened to expert lectures in the topic of the 1994-Rwandan genocide but none hit so hard than the recent exhibition brought to us by International Alert. It is simply because no book will show you the real face of the events. However vivid descriptions you read, and there are plenty, words in themselves cannot transfer the suffering of both the Hutu and the Tutsi people they experienced during and after the massacre and what they struggle to cope with until today.

The aftermath of the events is clearly seen on the faces and in the stories of the youth depicted on the photos. Award-winning photojournalist Carol Allen-Storey documented the stories of the young people who were born in the midst of the horrors of the genocide. Despite their less than disadvantageous situation they are full of hope and determined to eliminate the chance of an other, future catastrophe.

Amahoro, that is peace, is what they talk about and not revenge of any kind. For this they are called the Amahoro Generation. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Let’s keep it in the past. Go and see the photos yourself. Then returning home you might re-consider if it is worth to go on with your daily trivial disputes about anything that you think is annoying. In most cases they exist only in our head. The Rwandan Genocide was real and costed the lives of 500.000-1.000.000 Rwandan in three months. We have to look into the future but we have to learn from the past. Forgive but do not forget.

The Amahoro Generation

18-28 September 214

The Slice, Bernie Spain Gardens

Riverside Walkway (by Oxo Tower Wharf), South Bank

A whole sea of dolphins for every child

Due to my wanderings in London last weekend I have been considering two new professions I would love to do. The first was marine biologist and the second is simply just the humble explorer. Sadly or not – depending on from which angle we look at the events of the era – the age of big discoveries and explorers has gone a few centuries ago. However, marine biology is still there to move into, isn’t it? It is never too late to start afresh and experience something exciting after all. Pity I have problems with small spaces and being crowded with 10 other people for weeks and months on a tiny cockleshell in the middle of the sea. Regardless, to see the research vessel of the Marine Conservation Research International (MCR) was phenomenal.

I was walking near the Tower when I saw the posts guiding to the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival, part of the month-long Totally Thames Festival. I am convinced that in a previous life I had something to do with a boat and distant places. It was so exciting to visit these beauties. And their stories are fascinating too. The fate of many of the boats ‘exhibited’ have been seemingly sealed on a farmyard or in a dock sank half under water when someone noticed them and brought them back to life with long years of work and dedication.

The work the MCR team does is really unique. They are a not-for-profit organization conducting conservation projects on marine habitat and wildlife. They also assess the  impact of human activities on our seas and oceans. I was told once that it does not matter what you learn about. What matters is who you learn it from. And that is so true. I wish I had so dedicated and brilliant teachers in my early years at school like the MCR team. Learning about our natural habitat and biology in general could have been so much different and so much more interesting. The team’s enthusiasm is sticky, I so would like to spend some more time with them. As they told me, depending on the year, they spend about six months on the sea in a year observing dolphins, whales and other species of our seas. Have you heard that the whales have accents and regional dialects? They communicate slightly differently according to the region they live in and they can recognize who is ‘speaking’ from their own community based on the sound properties of the ‘codas’ or the patterns of clicks that they make.

How cool it can be to see hundreds of dolphins at once. I can not even imagine how it might feel but I would like to believe that our attitude towards our natural habitat would be entirely different if we experienced things that these researchers do on a daily basis. The view of a whole sea of dolphins for every child and we would be able to turn the destruction we have made around.

I am sorry but an idealist will never give up hope and dreaming.

DSCF6956 DSCF6960 DSCF6955DSCF6977

Africa Utopia Festival

September in London is fantastic. There are so many programmes to choose from that it is difficult to decide where to go. This weekend will see the Africa Utopia Festival returning to Southbank Centre after its success in 2012. From the 11th to the 14th of September we can enjoy lectures, debates, music, arts and food from Africa and the diaspora.

If you do not have to work on the 12th, that is a Friday, I can highly recommend to book your day pass for there will be lectures all day on business, trade, education and technology. I crave for the days when I was surrounded by leading experts of these fields so I will surely be there. Saturday and Sunday will offer similar lectures and debates in topics diverse enough to satisfy all interest.

The free events of the festival will include a lecture and demonstration about the history of African dance, one a cappella group from Soweto sing gospel, soul, jazz, doo-wop and r’n’b, the Kinshasa big sing when you can learn traditional Congolese songs and for fashion lovers a catwalk is also lined up. Besides, you can see contemporary art installations and pop-up market stalls featuring the work of young designers.

Personally I am looking forward to hearing the Kinshasa Symphony, the Kimbanguiste Orchestra and Chorus from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday but I have the feeling that Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethio-jazz, will not let you down either. Other names that are worth to check during the four-day feast include Gina Yashere, Alesandra Seutin, Qudus Onikeku & Zena Edwards.

I hope to see some of you over the weekend. Enjoy the show!

Professional or Human?

Could it be both, please? I mean can we be professional and human at the same time? Why is it considered unprofessional, if at times you do as if you were made of flesh and blood? We should not be forced to choose this or that.

Despite a fabulous, happy weekend, by Monday evening I felt squeezed out. My brain refused to take in more information even though I was supposed to work after getting home from work. The deadline was Tuesday morning and I had the kind of headache when you lose control of your brain activities. I started working regardless, but I could produce nothing sensible. Tuesday early morning I received an email inquiring about the status of the assignment. I was well within deadline but I answered that unfortunately I was not able to finish the job the previous night due to a migraine. The response came, lovingly and full of concern, ‘Ok, I hope it will be (ready) today’. Is it only me who feels in this sentence a tiny little ‘who the heck cares about why you are still not ready with the job’ overtone?

I normally do not share my issues with my employers, knowing it is noone else’s business but mine, but this particular company knows me for nearly 5 years and I felt, probably wrongly, that I can be honest about my situation instead of blaming it on my flatmates for example who let’s say locked me out of the house so I couldn’t work.

Why and when did we become this cold and so distanced from reality? Why is it considered a weakness if you live life as a human being and not as a careerist robot? There is nothing wrong with building a career but do we really have to leave our heart behind in the process?

In the first couple of years that I spent in London I did temping too. The saying “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.‘ – fully applies here.  Many of my then superiors tried to prove they are worth more than the young ones who they hired for a few weeks or only for a few hours. I have to say they rarely succeeded. It was amusing to see at times how easily temps could solve problems while the boss did everything to enhance the chaos. There is no point of accepting the role of a ‘subject’ at a workplace. They need your skills, you need their money – it’s an inderdependent relationship and so none is more important than the other. And honestly, noone and nothing can be more important than your health. If you need a rest and you can’t work late into the night, say so. They might not like you for a while but on the long run there is no other way. Once I had two very passionate (to put it mildly) bosses within the same department. They loved shouting at people and they did that regularly, regardless of age or sex, except with me. Never they raised their voice talking to me. Judging from this I think I will go on as before and if I have a migraine I will just go to bed even if someone thinks a project is above all.