It is fair to say that I have developed a certain liking for a more private existence on social media. A confession long overdue is that I used to enjoy confusing the world with frequent, controversial updates and watching mixed reactions flow in in places like Facebook and Twitter. Not anymore – like never before, I have started savouring every private thought that passes through this little head, sharing in person with but a few. I have possibly made some progress as far as growing up as well, to enter the world where confidence only loosely correlates with the number of “likes” one receives on social media. Facebook somehow makes even the wisest of thoughts look theatrical: verbal protests look like lazy “armchair” attempts to seem involved, and re-posting of news – merely a way of showing how well-rounded and up to date one is.
I am convinced that even the much re-posted “Expert” video was largely shared by folk to show they were above the problem of idiots pestering many a business meeting rather than for fun – whereas I think many of us actually have idiotic tendencies at meetings, though perhaps in ways more subtle than the extremities presented in that video. Whether it matters or not, the video has been directed by a Latvian chap who studied at my business school in Riga just a year below myself. I am finally feeling patriotic about a country where I was actually born. But I digress.
Last night I went as far as updating my Facebook status – something of a rarity these days. It was a jokey comment about British Airways reminding me I was due to depart to Buenos Aires within a week, amusingly unnecessary as I’d never forget anything remotely related to my holiday plans. Writing that status down on the internet left me feeling rather awkward. It was then that I realised I did not really enjoy discussing personal travel plans in front of an audience theoretically as large as 915 people, as much as I sincerely hoped that most of them had better ways of spending two seconds of their lives than reading into my Facebook statuses.
And while my Facebook page is no longer an approximation of my (or anybody’s, for that matter) life and my Twitter account has been idle for months, I still have some trust in this blog – if nothing else, it is a record of things to aid my memory later in life. For anyone who cares, below goes a small update on the happenings in the life of anjči in the few weeks past.
In case one or two people in the world care, I have short hair now
Starting with the most important, over the last weeks I have inflicted on myself a major task of planning and booking all my getaways for the year. With an Excel file to hand, I think I might have just filled in every 2014 weekend possible – and, in case I had left some out, it was purely intentional. I could continue that I have even sketched rough plans for 2015 and 2016 (I repeat, rough), but then I wouldn’t want to alienate anyone. Let’s just say that, in addition to the plans I made at the onset of 2014, I will also be visiting Bucharest and Brasov in Romania, the Orkney Islands off the shores of Scotland and Spain’s lovely Santiago de Compostela this year. Inshallah.
I have also had to amend my initial plans for the year end to postpone Chile and the Falkland Islands till 2015. I have been dreaming of Chile for years and this was not an easy decision – but an old friend of mine unexpectedly got engaged et voila – the wedding takes place in Sri Lanka at the end of the year, which certainly meant I could not really be hanging around the remote Falkland Islands instead. After my friend Nandini’s wedding in Bangalore last year, I very much look forward to another South Asian wedding. I hope I can be excused for donning a festive saree on every occasion permissible.
And, to add to the fun of a few days in Sri Lanka, I have planned a couple of weeks in Burma (please don’t ask me to refer to it by any other name). Yes, my winter break this year will be a whopping three weeks long – the longest holiday from work I will ever have taken. To be fair, at least one day in those three weeks will be dedicated to transferring between Burma and Sri Lanka. Needless to say there aren’t any direct flights – and, given how relatively near each other the countries are, transferring between them is a surprisingly laborious task. Thank goodness for Malaysia Airlines – yes, whatever misfortune they have been sadly exposed to, I still believe they are a wonderful airline as much as Malaysia is a wonderful country. Flying Yangon to Colombo with them will also give me an added benefit of re-visiting Kuala Lumpur, even if rushed to make my connecting flight. And well, if you don’t hear from me, just check further down the Indian Ocean.
One of my recent independent visits was lovely Gdansk, Poland
I also visited Tarragona in Spain’s Catalonia region
I had initially planned to include sports under the more general “ACTIVITIES”, only to realise that they deserved a heading of their own. Let me put it this way: the last three months or so have seen me getting curiously obsessed with exercise. My habit of a 2 km swim every morning has well been known to most for the last 14 years. For a couple of years, I combined swimming with a Zumba class once a week and declared myself fit enough to do any more.
Enter a new anjči. I first got into Anti-gravity yoga – the one where we spend long minutes hanging upside down in a hammock, stretching and taking deep breaths. I then discovered Body Combat, a class where we basically fiercely punch and kick air. My final discovery to date is Body Pump where we creak our bones as we lift and push weights. Sports have taken over my life noticeably. I wonder where all these classes had been all my life. Zumba now seems like a feel-good warm-up for Chinese grannies, the combination of easy dancing steps we see them do in parks in China on early mornings. No offence, but it feels great to have graduated from that level.
So I now begin my day with a plunge in the swimming pool and cross a City square to get into work – only to get back again for a more energetic work-out at lunchtime. The social time with my colleagues certainly suffers, but then again, I cannot be spending all my office time with them. And yes, I know I am spoilt – I doubt many people from the surrounding banks are able to sneak away at lunch so easily. In case any seniors are reading: I love my job.
Where do I even start? Possibly with my driving lessons. After losing (or shall I say estranging) two driving instructors before the beginning of the year, I was finally blessed with a truly compatible soul, Leon. At our first lesson, he asked if the previous two instructors “treated me badly” (I bit my tongue not to slip it was probably the reverse) and reassured me that he was “very patient” as he had previously spent years working in a kindergarten with toddlers. Now, it is clear that such experience is perfect for dealing with myself as, two-and-a-bit months on, Leon and I are still a team. Unlike the previous instructors, he even lets me tell random stories while performing a reverse-around-the-corner manoeuvre. I am confident that I will pass my practical test in a matter of weeks; a major learning effort, my theory test, has already been safely made without a single mistake in the multiple choice part. My parents are very proud.
My other titanic undertaking this spring is the UK citizenship application. It is only lucky that Latvia has just loosened its rules on double citizenship. I am down to one last document before my application is complete – the document confirming that my degree studies were in English and corresponded to the B.Sc. level. If, for some reason, it turns out they didn’t then I will need to take an English language assessment test. This in itself is rather funny as I have effectively used English as my main language of communication since 2004 – but, as our much esteemed immigration minister once said, “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right”.
Part of my application consists of listing and summing up my absences from the UK in the last five years. Now, only those of you who have followed this blog for any prolonged time would understand the grand scale of this exercise. After analysing my travel booking emails (all thankfully still sitting in my inbox), I have eventually recapped over 130 such absences. Surprisingly even to myself, I was way below the permitted maximum number of days of absence. I think what saved me was travelling rather infrequently in 2009 and 2010 – nothing of the “and where am I going this weekend then” mania of today. Phew.
My favourite part of the citizenship application though was the so-called “Life in the UK” test which, rather literally, tests one’s knowledge of life, history and culture in the UK. I let my (English) boyfriend page through a book containing mock tests, only to admit that he would probably fail it. Nevertheless, after some rigorous cramming of the various kings, battles, dates and requirements to “introduce yourself to your new neighbours” – everything a good citizen would apparently know – I passed. The only question I truly stumbled on was who Sir Roger Bannister was, but even that I guessed correctly. I obviously have great potential to become a good citizen.
I should mention languages here, too. I started the year by giving Arabic another chance for a term, and really enjoyed it. Our teacher, a shy little man from South Kurdistan, learned Arabic as a child in Iraq and seemed immensely embarrassed of not being a native speaker. The sarcastic side of me prevailed as I incessantly teased the poor chap about the fact. I think at the end of the term he was almost scared of me – in which case he will be pleased I will be taking a break from Arabic yet again. I have simply planned too many holidays clashing into the next term to justify the hefty course fee. Greek is a lot cheaper to learn though (doh) so with that I shall persevere. I am also hoping to teach myself some Hindi in the next few months, time permitting – Bollywood films remain my favourite evening pasttime and reading into the subtitles is just a little distracting at times.
Work, too, has been good. I am now working on unsigned projects in Georgia, Turkey, Albania and Hungary – not mentioning Egypt here as that signed a couple of weeks ago. The beauty of our industry though is that the real work on a project occurs after, not before, it is signed, so there is plenty of fun to look forward to. I have also inherited older Mongolian projects from a departing colleague so am now in full middle-level control of the team’s projects in my favourite two countries of our operations: Georgia and Mongolia. Here is hoping that I will inherit those for my full control when I become a senior. Give it a decade or so.
The best news at work is that I have finally been given my own project to lead. I won’t say more in case it suddenly dies (it happens all too often here), but the thought itself is comforting. Who knows, maybe my next promotion isn’t as far away as I had thought.
On business trips, I have only been on one so far this year, to Istanbul. As excited as I used to get about these before, I try to avoid them like plague now. Why? Well, you can’t exercise as much on a business trip for a start. And you have to eat all your three meals a day with your colleagues (I swear I love them all, just in moderation). And you have far too many helpings of a drink in the business lounge. And you get stuck in the office past midnight, effectively doubling your working hours at base. The list goes on – I have now officially stopped chasing business travel. Let Georgia be my only ever exception to this rule.
A view from the meeting room in Istanbul: at least there was one
It does. Seven months on, my lovely Englishman is still working in Germany. We have maintained our once-fortnightly weekend meetings very well so far, and I love the arrangement. Call me selfish, but, with so much cramming of traffic regulations and UK history lately, I really did well to have no-one but myself around. I could not dream of doing so much morning exercise (I’m a freak, I told you) with a man in the house, either. And I can safely say that, as much as I enjoy having my darling around in London, these briefer encounters do well in balancing the relationship. The long distance arrangement is probably not forever, but I know I will miss some aspects of it when the time comes to spend most of our nights under one roof again.
Meanwhile the man of my heart has been busy spoiling yours truly rotten. I still barely believe my luck as, bar one chap, most of my past boyfriends could not boast any women-handling skills. We have recently visited Paris, Dijon, Pau and Luxembourg together, as well as the in-laws (my shorter word for “his parents” – no inferences, please) in a small town north of Peterborough. We were particularly lucky in Pau, as a stranger who approached us in a small cafe to shake our hands turned out to be the city’s newly elected major, M. François Bayrou. We even have photo material to prove it.
In Pau: with apologies, but we mostly look pathetically cheesy these days
Dijon’s central square looked rather abandoned on a Sunday
Luxembourg was surprisingly fun for its size
Our next meet-up will be in Brasov in Romania, though, sadly, not until early May… because, as British Airways kindly reminded me yesterday, my flight to Argentina departs in less than a week! I look forward to pacing the silent trails of Patagonia, doing tango in the streets of Buenos Aires, feeling the fresh spray of the Iguazu Falls on the palms of my hands and sipping ruby-coloured wine in a small colonial eatery in Salta. I look forward to some peace. I look forward to a holiday.
Stay tuned for a possible Argentina update. And have a VERY good Easter!