Not quite hitting the mark: a common theme in the story of an undergraduate

Undergraduate life can be pretty tough on the soul. From getting A*s in 3000-word English essays that you spent all of Year 13 on, to learning to deal with bashing out an essay in a week and only getting an average 2:1, our work just doesn’t quite hit the mark. Over my four years of studying I’ve said on multiple occasions: “as long as it’s above 40%, that’s fine”. Never in my life have I set myself up to just about scrape a pass for assignments than at university.

However, it’s not just that we’re not as bright as we thought we were when we aced our GCSES with A*s and As or got A*AB at A-Level, it’s everything that comes with being a finalist: ruthlessly filtering through graduate schemes, internships, and part-time jobs, to end up flat on our faces with a chapter in our lives entitled “Rejections 1-242098”.

As my fourth year as an English and Spanish undergraduate began, people didn’t hold back to continue asking the same old question: have you decided what you’re doing yet? And with this question comes the inevitable sheer panic as we compete with our peers for a graduate scheme that we’re not even sure we want. The pressure to have nabbed a grad scheme by the end of the year was overwhelming and exhausting. It didn’t even matter that you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life; apply for a grad scheme anyway. Luckily, I came to my senses and spent my time reminiscing about sunny days in Mexico as a tanned Year Abroader.

A few months later and the worry set in again. My friends and peers were suddenly getting their shit together and figuring out their lives while that future chapter of my life sat on the backburner with barely any structure let alone an opening line.

Opportunities started coming my way, and I went in search for them resulting in applying for a social impact programme based in India and organised by the uni. My wanderlust was becoming uncontrollable and I wanted to cure just a tiny bit of it but heading back to where my roots lie. Of course the programme sounded extremely engaging and challenging, and with most costs paid for, I’d be a fool to not apply. But inevitably, I didn’t quite hit the mark.

We have received an unusually high number of applications and the selection process has been very competitive this year.  After reviewing your submitted application, we have decided that we will not shortlist you this time. Due to the large number of applications, we are not able to provide individual feedback on your application.

Okay, that’s fair enough. But, really? Not even a few lines to say what was missing from my application, what made me not quite hit the mark?

Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and I get another rejection email, this time for an internship at Penguin Random House. At least this time I received some feedback, even if it was a bit halfhearted. I actually answered questions pretty decently on the online application, and I scored above average for a number of things they were looking for like passion, persuasiveness and communication. Yet, I still didn’t quite hit the mark.

Those are only two out of a series of rejections I’ve received, and I know that as a whole, us nearly-graduates have been subject to thousands of disheartening emails showing us, once again, how we’re not quite hitting the mark.

But I can’t leave without saying, like good ol’ Ross Geller does: ‘you’re gonna go on like a thousand interviews before you get a job’. So don’t lose hope.

Back to therapy

Before heading off to Mexico for my year abroad I was in a particularly bad place, something that I’m still coming to terms with now. The stress and anxiety of even imagining myself living in another country was throwing me off completely; I was working myself up, lashing out at those I love, and dwelling on the negatives. In the past month or so I’ve noticed myself inching closer and closer to this bad place.

It’s always been difficult for me to talk about my feelings to people face-to-face; I feel my eyes welling up, my face reddening, and my heart sinking seeing those I love upset when I try to voice how I’m feeling. (Probably one of the reasons I find it far easier to write a blog post than to call up my parents.) So a few weeks ago I built up the courage and booked myself an appointment with my GP to talk about my options, then went to Enabling Services which was so dishearteningly disappointing. Speaking with my GP was much more helpful and easier, and maybe this was because she, a middle-aged Asian woman, made the correct judgement about our shared culture: there is still a much larger, more prominent stigma in Asian communities about ‘hidden’ illnesses, manifesting the idea that if you can’t physically see or touch the problem then it just doesn’t exist.

Skip forwards a couple of weeks to today and I’m back to therapy. This was a decision I made with my practitioner over the phone, after coming to the conclusion that the one-to-one CBT I had right before my flight to Mexico proved beneficial. It was evident from the call that the NHS are facing huge problems, which has obviously been going on for a while now, but it had never fully occurred to me until my practitioner said I’d have to wait eight weeks for one-to-one CBT. Two whole months! That just did not seem to be an option for me. So instead I’ve opted for CBT workshops that are interactive group sessions – but not group therapy, I should add – held at the church centre just walking distance from my house and campus.

So far we’ve looked at different ways to address those bad habits we all may take to lighten the load, and let us forget about our worries like resorting to alcohol or smoking, binge eating, and withdrawing from social activities completely. Over the remaining seven sessions we’ll be talking about controlling temper, how to address lack of motivation, amongst other topics. I’m feeling pretty positive about the treatment, and I would encourage people to definitely give CBT a go if you haven’t done so already. Although I haven’t had any experience of medication, I would rather steer away from it if I can and focus on my wellbeing in a more natural way. But, it’s always good to keep your options open.

A minority on the outskirts

As an ethnic minority I’ve always found it intriguing to have a little glance around me at concerts to see where I stand within the crowd. With my choice of music including that of indie/rock – a genre traditionally saturated by white men – I always find myself as even more of a minority as I’m both Asian and female.

I’ve been attending concerts for years with my gig-going history including the likes of Biffy Clyro, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Arctic Monkeys, and Glass Animals. Every time I go I find myself even more aware of the lack of diversity within the crowd, and more conscious that myself and the people I’m with (usually my aunt and/or my brother) are one of extremely few non-whites.

A couple of days ago I was with my brother, uncle and his mate (also Indian) seeing Bloc Party at The Roundhouse, which is one of my favourite venues in London. I found myself on the outskirts of the main centre of the audience, fully conscious of the fact that I was surrounded by predominantly white men. Any women I saw (also white) seemed to be attached to their significant other. This doesn’t tend to make me hugely uncomfortable, but recently it has made me question why there is still such a lack of culturally diverse people attending live concerts.

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On a slightly lighter, less political note, I also found myself as a minority with regards to my knowledge of Bloc Party’s discography, only familiar with the band’s latest album, HYMNS. Hard-core fans of theirs who stuck by them since day one are not keen on this record at all. It presents a shift in the band’s sound that some people are not willing to accept. I’m all for a band adapting their sound, whether it be to suit the current times or whether it be a natural step in a group’s progression and evolution. (Other examples include Arctic Monkeys with AM, Two Door Cinema Club with Gameshow, and Kings of Leon with WALLS.)

So not only was I a minority fan on the outskirts of the venue singing along to the likes of ‘Different Drugs’ and ‘Only He Can Heal Me’ while “true” fans bitched about Bloc Party’s new musical direction, but I was also one of very few women, and one of very few non-whites.

I’ll just add that lead singer, Kele Okereke, was born to Nigerian parents and does not fit heteronormative ideals. The band also has a female drummer.

Málaga: meeting the family, walkways and country houses

Málaga was a pretty important little trip for me. Seeing where my boyfriend had spent his childhood and meeting his family and friends was an absolute delight despite my initial nerves and anxieties about something I’ve never really had the chance to do: be introduced to the most important people in a partner’s life.

Álora is his hometown, which was at first described to me as kinda naff. This it definitely is not. (Fran, wait until you wander the lovely streets of Norbury…) Its beautiful little white houses that sit on the hills of the town are shaded by some of the rocky mountains of Málaga lending picturesque views to any visitor. Walk up the hilly roads to the castle for views of the town and its lush green landscapes.

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Between delicious home-cooked meals with his mum and gran, and drinks with his friends, we wandered the lovely town and made it to El Caminito del Rey, a walkway between the reservoirs of El Chorro. Before it was reopened in 2015 after extensive restoration, it was named “the world’s most dangerous walkway”. Pop a helmet on and stick to the new path and you’ll be fine, and maybe don’t look down when crossing over the bridge…

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Our penultimate night in Málaga was spent in the family’s country house, around a 10-minute drive from the centre of Álora. Surrounded by green fields, with its own outdoor pool, an orchard boasting avocados, lemons and orange, and sitting under a blanket of the brightest and largest stars I’ve ever seen in my life, this place was a lovely little retreat for the two of us. It would’ve been far more idyllic and peaceful if it weren’t for a disgusting cold I’d been blessed with at such an inappropriate time.

The final couple of days in Málaga were spent walking around the centre and up to the castle, Gibralfaro, to gaze down on the bullring, the sea stretching out into the distance, and the city’s beautiful cathedral to the right. Walking by the Alcazaba, which sits in the same area as the castle, took me back to the days in Granada when I fell in love with the Moorish architecture that is so characteristic of Andalucía.

With Fran’s roots back in Málaga, I now have another reason to keep revisiting the sunny south of Spain.

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Lessons learnt: meeting the family and friends isn’t as scary as it may seem, the Andalusian accent is so much harder to understand than the Mexican, Málaga isn’t just a boozy British lads holiday.

Portugal: reunited over liqueur, cameras, and sight-seeing

After two months of not having seen each other, my boyfriend and I were reunited once again, this time in Lisbon, Portugal, after flight delays which were even more frustrating due to the nature of our holiday being a reunion. (Okay, maybe two months isn’t that long, but long distance relationships, let alone relationships, are tricky enough for me as it is.)

Our first two nights were spent up on the hillier side of Lisbon in a lovely little AirBnB just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of the winding streets, the wide plazas and atmospheric bars tucked away on cobbled paths.

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Food and drink are always a great way into the soul of a new destination, and with my extremely limited knowledge of the Portuguese world (apart from the fact that pastéis de nata are fucking delicious), having local input was greatly appreciated. Due to Fran’s career he knows a few guys in Portugal which led to our second night – my favourite – full of Portuguese liqueur and traditional music.

One of Fran’s workmates introduced us to a tiny bar which sold ginjinha only. It’s made of ginja berries (sour cherries) and is usually drunk as a shot. We opted for the chocolate shot glasses which made for a nice pre-dinner dessert. From there we walked to the starting place for nights out. On one of the main roads lies a fairly large plaza with a kiosk to one side of it. This place, with just one guy in it, strictly serves no beer but instead offers a number of Portuguese liqueurs including amarguinha made from almonds.

Take one of the little roads going up from the kiosk and you’ll find yourself amongst a number of little restaurants and bars. The great thing about this place is that when you’re too hammered to figure out where you are, just keep walking downhill and you’ll get to the main road, from there it should be a piece of cake. In theory.

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From Portugal’s capital we took a three-hour train ride up north to Porto. Quickly dropping out stuff off at our second AirBnB, we headed into the centre to meet some other guys from work for lunch. All over Porto you’ll find signs for little restaurants serving francesinhas. They’re laden with meat and cheese so definitely neither vegetarian nor vegan friendly. However, we were introduced to one restaurant which was absolutely heaving at 2PM where I could try a veggie francesinha made with tofu and vegetarian sausages to substitute the meat, layered with bread and drenched in a mild cheese and veg gravy. Add some chips and you’ve got yourself your whole day’s worth of calories. Well, that’s what it felt like I’d eaten anyway. Walking around Porto to catch the sunset over the bridge and stopping off at Livraria Lello (Harry Potter fans should recognise this), burnt off some calories, I hope.

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During the four days in Portugal I felt like a bit of a camera wanker. My Canon DSLR, Polaroid Cube (a present from my brother) and my new baby the Polaroid Snap Instant Digital (a present from Fran) were always at hand. I could’ve made it even worse by throwing my phone into the mix… But with the great zoom and quality of my Canon, the lovely wide angle on the Cube and the novelty of the Polaroid, I think I had a good mix of photographic products to capture some of the beauty of Lisbon and Porto.

Lessons learnt: travelling with a partner is a definite must, I will always appreciate a local’s knowledge, cameras are great.

Back to reality

It has now been over a month since being back at university. Still, to this day, I’m going through a whole heap of mixed emotions. Initially, I was faced with reverse culture shock, a concept thrown at us by our tutors but one I disregarded. I can assure you that it is definitely a valid, but hugely unappreciated notion.

I’m back in a society completely different to that of Mexico and Guatemala, one in which I slotted right back into as though I had never left, but one that I no longer feel 100% comfortable in. I went back to my old casual part-time job that brought on a horrible bout of back problems – something I’ve suffered with for quite a few years now – and with it a feeling of exhaustion and lowness.

Heading back to university was an exciting moment for me, one that I’d been looking forward to as it’d allow me to be back with friends and back in a bubble I’d settled well into in second year. But this bubble is exactly that. It seems so distant from what we all experienced on our Year Abroad. With essay deadlines, exams, and even just being back to lectures and seminars, I feel like I’ve gone a step back. From living, working and being immersed in the Spanish language, I’ve now gone back to academia which seems like I’m no longer moving forward with my desire of travelling and learning about new cultures. This is something I just have to get through because ultimately my degree will enrich my knowledge and allow me to progress in life in the way I want it to. Once I figure out exactly what that means for me.

I recently had a strange “episode” the other night which is affecting me and in no way helping my mental health. Headaches, lack of concentration and lethargy. Horribly bad timing, with an essay due next Monday and work seeming to pile up uncontrollably.

But even with all of this going on I’m grateful for the positive parts of my life.

A couple of weeks ago I embarked on one of the strangest but loveliest life moments. A long distance relationship. Relationships are not exactly my forte, as some of you know, but this is one part of my life that I’m not freaking out about, that I’m not worrying about nor am I strategically hurtling through. A cute weekend spent in Southampton and Winchester with someone I feel wholly connected to is exactly what I’ve wanted for a while now, something I’ve only just come to realise.

Being back with friends and family has also been wonderful. Our little house of three is great. I loved seeing my old schoolmate settling in in Bournemouth and having a little boogie at her housewarming party. Finally going to a gig and seeing one of my favourite bands slay The Roundhouse reminded me of how much I love live music; it completely takes me away. Seeing my brother settle in to his new flat and love his career makes me proud and also inspires me. These are just a few of the things that I’m hugely grateful for.

Although returning to reality has had a few downs, it’s certainly brought some ups with it. That’s what I need to focus on, along with getting back on track health wise, and staying mindful.

 

You don’t speak Gujarati?

This is a question I have had to answer a lot throughout my life, but definitely more so when I was travelling as a young Londoner with Indian and African heritage but who spoke Spanish and hardly any of her mother tongue. The answer both embarrasses and saddens me but it has made me think a lot more about my culture and background and the need to hold on to your heritage regardless of the society you were brought up in. Whilst living in Mexico, I fell in love with the country, its culture and its people; I was in awe of a culture that was once alien to me. But what did I really know about my own culture, the Indian-African-British culture that I was born into?

My parents had very interesting upbringings. Their lives crossed over because of their connections to East Africa. My paternal grandfather was born in Uganda, a fact I only learned a few days ago when having a lovely father-daughter moment one night over a glass of wine and a shot of Chivas and lots of nostalgia on my dad’s part as we spoke about his past. My granddad was educated – only basically – but he was a successful businessman with a high status in the community. This soon fell apart when Idi Amin, dictator of Uganda, ordered an expulsion of the country’s Asian minority giving them just 90 days to leave Uganda. He was a racist and jealous man who believed that Indians were taking over his country. My granddad’s wife, who was born and raised in India, came to Uganda after the marriage was arranged overseas by the two families. She had an Indian passport so had to return to India with her two children, including my dad, but whilst also pregnant with her youngest child. However, my granddad luckily had a British passport, as Uganda was then a British colony, giving him the security to immigrate to the UK with the assurance that he would receive some kind of support. Regardless, he had to leave clothes, jewellery, money and three businesses behind, to move to a country where he would soon begin to work double shifts in factories, not being able to speak the language, knocking his self-esteem and completely changing his status.

My mum’s side of the story is a little different. Her father was a well-respected carpenter in India, but there wasn’t the market nor the need for it where they were living. So when his brothers decided to go to East Africa after hearing news that the construction business was beginning to boom there, he followed. The men went to Kenya and left their wives and children behind in India until they had set up a decent foundation to then bring the families over. So my mum’s three eldest siblings were born in India, then a few years later, her and her six other siblings were born in Kenya. Her two older siblings had heard that there were more job opportunities in Uganda so were there when Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of Asians. It was a greatly difficult time for them, as they were faced with racism and even held at gun-point. At the time news was circulating that Indians would receive the support and care they needed if they headed to London. So that’s exactly what they did.

My dad was six when he immigrated to London, my mum was ten. My mum had the huge advantage of being able to speak some English and having much older siblings who had an even better grasp of the language, whereas my dad couldn’t speak a word  having not enrolled in a school in Uganda due to his young age. Both my parents lived in council houses for the majority of their childhoods. At one point my mum was living with 15 others in a house in Brixton; a house that my uncle now owns.

My parents were both brought up in poor environments with neither having a proper childhood as such. They both took on much more responsibility than they should have considering their ages and circumstances as immigrants. For one, my dad, at just 25, lost his father, had to run the family business as well as juggle two other jobs, had just got married, had a mortgage, and a son only 18 months old. Both suffered from racial abuse, a thought and image that break my heart. Their upbringing in a society that did not fully accept them didn’t lead to a loss of identity as Indians nor as Hindus with the majority continuing lives as vegetarians, praying and fasting and speaking Gujarati, but there is no doubt that some has been lost over the years due to the fear of being rejected in a racist society.

My brother and I grew up in a much more accepting society, however I can definitely say from my experience that we faced some racial slurs during school. Regardless, our childhood in London was far better than our parents, but it goes without saying that just a little more of our Indian-African-Hindu identity was fading away. Especially our language.

No, I don’t speak Gujarati. It’s shameful. Before Mexico and before having a better grasp of Spanish I could converse fairly well with my Gran. I’d stay over and we would get by just fine. In Mexico, I skyped her and my aunt, and the latter had to act as translator. I can understand everything but whenever I want to reply my brain automatically switches to Spanish which has led to some cute giggles from my gran when I start saying something in a language she has absolutely no connection to.

Mexico first made me question my capacity as a linguist with the challenge to express myself in Spanish, but it very quickly made me question my cultural identity as well. How could I speak Spanish, a language that my family has no connection to, when I can’t even hold a proper conversation with my gran?

As well as that, I questioned my identity as a Hindu and what that term really meant, especially as I would always class myself as “kind of Hindu”. I learnt that Hinduism isn’t actually a religion – in the eyes of Hindus themselves – but rather it is a way of life. So in actual fact, maybe I am a Hindu. I’m vegetarian, a very inexperienced yogi, I believe in reincarnation, chakras, the notion of karma, and I do also believe that there is a higher force that guides us through life, to a certain extent, but that our decisions and mental equilibrium has more power than we think and believe.

My culture and heritage has increasingly become of interest to me, and I have Mexico and my travels to thank for that. How can you learn and appreciate another’s culture if you cannot fully identify with your own?

The stereotypical female traveller

During my travels around Mexico and Guatemala I’ve seen a surprisingly large amount of female travellers either in small groups or alone, which is something I’m proud and grateful to see as a solo female traveller myself.

One thing I’ve come to notice on my travels is that people tend to have a very stereotypical image of the ‘female traveller’. Think young hippy with dreads, tattoos, piercings, and no make-up, probably smoking a joint. Having just written that, I’m clearly guilty of paying too much attention to the stereotypes. However, it’s made me realise that this image of the traveller doesn’t quite exist anymore. (Whether it fully existed in the first place.) Any version of the female traveller stereotype shouldn’t exist any longer, as it only fuels the general stereotype of how a woman should appear to society.

There is this concept that as a traveller, whether male or female, you completely lose all sense of cleanliness and hygiene, not showering for a few days, wearing the same dirty clothes all week, and using the excuse that you’re on your gap year. The idea is stressed more within women who are supposed to look neat and prim and make more of an effort with their appearance, so gender norms tell us.

As I was sat outside my homestay this morning painting my nails with a strengthening polish – my nails are so brittle due to the chlorine in the tap water here – I received some pretty judgemental comments with the energy being that as I’m staying in San José, a small, rural fishing village, and as a traveller wanting to learn more about the community, I’m not supposed to take a little pride in my appearance. (Honestly, you should see my nails, they are nothing to be proud of anyway.)

I’m guilty of looking at some obvious travellers and judging them slightly in that they’re so well dressed, their makeup is perfect, and they generally look like they’ve got their shit together. I just assume that they’re in their first few days of their trip. Maybe they look at me and assume correctly, that I’m near the end of my travels, or judge me as the stereotypical female traveller, or don’t judge at all.

I do live up to some of the female traveller stereotypes in that I have tattoos and piercings, can’t remember the last time I wore makeup (not that I wear much anyway), and only this morning realised that I hadn’t shaved my legs for about four days.

But what does that matter? Whether I’m here travelling or back home at uni, I’m pretty much the same. I decide whether or not I want to go through the slight pain of threading my face, or whether I would rather spend an extra five minutes in bed than put makeup on. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad for doing these things, or not, either when I’m travelling or when I’m back home. It’s my time, my body, and my image. No one else’s.

Life without electricity, a stable job or education

For the past week I’ve been staying with a Mayan family in the small fishing village of San José on El Lago Petén Itzá in El Petén. Doris, Samuel and their two boys, Fredi and Rene, are part of La Danta Project, a very new, still patchy programme run by a gringo who provides travellers like me the chance to learn about the Mayan community whilst giving back to the families who are living in minor poverty. The family have welcomed me with open arms and the experience has been enriching for both parties in numerous ways.

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Doris (27) has always lived without electricity, so not financially having the option to pay a monthly cost for electricity hasn’t been a problem. She was brought up to use the sun as a natural clock, meaning days here for the family are pushed forward in comparison to what we as Westeners are used to. The cockerels in their garden start screaming at around 4AM, about the time that Doris wakes up to start making tortillas (using a comal and a proper wood fire) for her husband to take to work. Samuel’s job at a finca isn’t stable. His job depends on the season and his boss who doesn’t always require his skills. Therefore, financial security within the family is virtually unheard of.

To stay with the family, La Danta requires that we pay our host families 20 quetzales (Q) for the night and 15Q per meal, so in a day that adds up to 65Q (around £6). While they receive this money – extremely humbly I might add – I’m lucky enough to see how this family lives on a daily basis. Helping Doris in the kitchen making tortillas, playing with the tiny kittens and the two boys, and learning about the array of fresh produce they proudly grow in their garden from chaya to papayas. Doris and I have exchanged a lot of stories, her curiosity leading me to reminisce about life in Mexico and back home. I’ve heard about her childhood, her lack of education due to a drunk, abusive teacher which led her to quit at a very young age, her falling off the wagon slightly but then finding God again, the struggles of not knowing if you’ll have enough money to buy the week’s groceries, and her determination to progress and succeed in a free adult education course run by the Guatemalan government. (Whenever she speaks about her studies or tells me something new she has learnt and put into practice, her face lights up. It’s wonderful.)

Doris kindly invited me to church one evening and the morning after I was sat with the sisters helping them make tamales which they then sold to people around the town. Unfortunately they’d used chicken so I didn’t get a taste, but dios mio they smelt great. The money they’ve raised selling these fluffy parcels of corn dough will go towards reconstructing the church which is currently a set of benches outside under a corrugated roof. Her belief in God is strong and enlightening. Even though I don’t consider myself religious, nor believe in the Christian concept of God, the thought of having a symbol there to guide you, to make a path for you and help you in your struggles seems kinda nice. When she fell ill a few times she restrained against medicine and let God do the work, so to speak. She strongly believes that God decides your fate, and you have to let Him do so, and not curb the path.

My time with Doris and her family has given me a lot of food for thought. Sustainability, family, education, religion and spirituality have been on my mind and they’re aspects of my life that I’m going to pay more attention to, respect more, and educate myself about.

 

 

Travelling troubles

Travelling is taking its toll on my health. I knew this would happen now just like it did over my Christmas but I’m feeling it a lot more this time with regard to eating habits, achy body, fatigue and a feeling of not being very rooted. That last point is a given with regard to travelling and I’ve always liked that initial feeling of being a stranger exploring a new city, but when you’re coming up to your 13th place in the space of six weeks it becomes a little tiring.

I’m currently in Flores in Guatemala and now on my own as my brother has to go back to London for work. This stop-over wasn’t planned. A night before my trip here of two shuttle buses (five hours in total) and a coach (eight hours) I violently threw up what was actually a really lovely last dinner with my brother. It wasn’t pleasant. Lucky for the other nine people in our hostel room, I spared them the horror of waking up to my barfing by walking down to another bathroom. As you can imagine, with a sensitive stomach like that I was dreading the bus journeys I’d booked for the following day. The initial plan was to arrive here at 6AM and get a chicken bus straight away to San José on the other side of the island to begin my one-month stay with La Danta Project. So instead I checked into a hostel and splashed out a little bit to have my own room and bathroom. Definitely a good idea.

I know exactly why I threw up that night. I ate far too much and the pizza had a couple of really rich cheeses on it that my body completely rejected. As I’m transitioning to veganism, I’m not drinking cow’s milk and have really cut down on all other dairy products, especially cheese. For these reasons, I have a strong feeling that my body just isn’t used to digesting these foods anymore. Again, overeating and hating seeing food go to waste has been my enemy. I’m working on it.

Secondly, my body feels knackered. Bus journeys up winding roads with awful bumps really puts a strain on your body, messing with your posture, giving you awful neck and back pain, and generally not letting your body rest. Back in Colima in my last couple of months there I started a pretty decent routine of yoga, stretches and skipping every morning, and I honestly felt so good when I’d finished. Beginning the day in a productive way like that really helped me during the end of my stay there. But staying in hostels and not getting up at the same time every day has messed up my exercise and chill-out routine meaning I’ve only done a couple of yoga poses while I’ve been sharing rooms in hostels.

When I get to San José tomorrow I’ll be there for just under a month, hopefully being able to stay in the one accommodation set-up rather than move around. It’ll be nice to stay in the same place for a longer period of time, getting to know one area really well, and integrating with the community (mainly Mayan and Spanish-speaking).

London for a month will see me being quite busy catching up with friends and family, hopefully getting some shifts at my old waitressing job, and getting things ready for final year. So although I’m looking forward to that, I’m probably more looking forward to settling in to final year in Southampton where I’ll be rooted for longer and in a proper routine, and will hopefully be able to work hard and well enough to graduate with good marks.