Monday 5 August 2013

Hannah's Guide to Travelling Alone on a Budget in Eastern Europe

1. Plan travel and accommodation a couple of months in advance. This saves you money on flights and guarantees safety in moving from country to country. Whatever you do don't leave it to two weeks before to book flights in and out of previously unknown Polish city and decide to fill in the 16 day gap as you go along.

2. Couchsurfing is a great option for single female travellers. The idea is simple, you trust a stranger you met over the internet with your life, and in return they trust you with their house keys. I was  incredibly lucky  not at all surprised to find that my hosts were muchos craic. It helps when couchsurfing to choose a time when your hosts are in the process of moving apartment - you're not getting in the way, you're an extra pair of hands to unpack Russian books on photography and confuse the poor cat even more. If it's your first time couchsurfing just act naturally when you find yourself eating spicy mushrooms at 6am or trying to match a Russian in vodka drinking (fun fact! it's Russian custom to drink an odd number of shots - 2 or 4 or 6 just won't cut it).

3. Avoid men. When you arrive rather late to a Polish town that's supposed to have buses to the border and doesn't, don't entertainthe 26 year old guy who's angling to stay with you in the terrible hotel down the road before your bus to Ukraine the next morning. It's far wiser to follow an Italian speaking woman into the back of a white van with (presumeably) her large Polish husband, 6 year old child and random Ukrainian man. It's wiser still to cross the border of foot with the random Ukrainian man (try speaking your limited french to him, you may find it's the language you both have in common!) who now has a name (Mr. Sergei, and you're now Анна to him). The time after crossing is a good one in which to realise you've accidentally crossed two time zones and have just missed the last legit bus to the Ukrainian city in which your patient friend is waiting. As Sergei changes money and you worry yourself about trying to find an ATM, go with the flow when he puts your rucksack in another random van tells you to follow it and when asked about an ATM replies "apres, apres!" (apres ca exactly, you may ask yourself at this point). Whilst on your dying mobile phone to your father as he communicates with your friend via your facebook account ("oui ca va Sergei!") realise that you've completely disregarded step 3 and are hitchhiking with two Ukrainian men late at night.

4. Travel light so that you can afford to fit loads of dirt cheap clothes from Polish charity shops into your rucksack! The more hideous the better. 

5. Make sure you catch a cold in Krakow so that your Ukrainian friend's parents dote on you incessantly and you get to drink copious amounts of gluhwein and eat your weight in meringue cake.

6. Keep a travel diary so that you have some quality memories to look back on. An excerpt from mine, for example, reads "in airport 9 hours early at least for now i can focus on lukin rad in this terrible dress & trying to sing midnight by yazoo without everyone noticing midniiiiiiight it's raining outside yeaaaaah U MUST BE SOAKING WET am sticking out tongue as i write must be effort of this cool new handwriting my feet smell like shit dunno where spare socks went granny bitch on my right is gonna get taken down when boarding announced unless she paid for priority which i feel defeats the purpose of a ryanair flight y do i always consider a packet of prince biscuits a viable meal option?the self loathing afterwards is always the same"

7. Be in the city your plane departs from. For example, if your plane departs from Wroclaw on Thursday morning, it's not a good idea to be in Warsaw after the last night bus to Wroclaw has left on the Wednesday night. Your parents are going to require a lot of humble pie to be consumed. (hi mum & dad thanks woo blog mention)

8. Stay with locals. You learn a lot. For example, thanks to Kuba, I now know that Wroclaw is not pronounced Rock-law, but rather Vrottzlov. Obviously. 

9. Know when and where humour is appropriate. Don't pretend to be from Derry when you can't keep up the accent for more than a sentence without fluffing up "tart au citron", don't joke at Ukrainian customs; "WODKA?" demands a firm "no", not a "haha I wish" which will earn you half an hour's questioning in a language unfamiliar to both parties. 

10. Follow advice from fellow travellers: nuggets of wisdom I received include "Don't touch dead animals" and "Don't bungee jump in Mexico".

Tuesday 9 July 2013

The Love of My Life (and other furry animals)

This evening marks the four week anniversary to the day of my arrival to this wondrous land. Some of you may think it rather poignant that I have chosen today to write this post, those amongst you who know any better are aware that I've been too busy trying to achieve this. And failing miserably. Interestingly enough, that link is one of only 4 bookmarks on my Google Chrome.

Here is an assortment of things I have done (roughly) chronologically pre and post repatriation.

1. Morgan, Jason and I did something no man shall ever again achieve without incurring a high risk of heart disease and ate our way through realistically six times the average serving of Korean Barbeque. Though the last mango and sticky rice made the shine leave Morgan's eyes despite the recommended mint ice-cream palate cleanser, plans are in the pipeline for a plaque to be erected on Nathan Rd. where we crawled, dribbling, onto a bus bound for Lee On.

2. Glenda took me to see Hong Kong. Two years late, but I did appreciate it. There was plenty of food involved in that too. Sticky photos made me a little overexcited.

3. I went to the absolute back arse of an tSín. Like, Tajikistan way. 33 train tickets and a motley crew of Dilene, Halfdan, Adam and I left Hong Kong and returned sans tickets and Halfdan. We saw some yaks, ate our weight in lamb fat (excluding Dilly; she's a vegan with her own hemp footwear range), were almost always (in my eyes) excruciatingly late for trains (so much so that once when myself and Dilene were happily smug in our carriage whilst the rest bought noodles at the pace of a latino - surprisingly with only one present in the form of Pao - I almost wanted them to miss it for schadenfreude-y purposes), flew a beautiful kite called Mr./Mrs. Happy (depending on your take on gender constructs), sang a horrific rendition of Óró Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile in a strange Tibetan hostel 3000m above sea level amidst drunken Tibetan chanting, got ripped off by a baller in a yellow shirt with a popped collar and a smoking rate of 4 a minute, played Counter Strike in a smoke filled cavern of death, coconut juice, bitchslayers and G.Daddy Halfi's, wound up in the dodgiest amusement park the world has ever known (the one that sometimes comes to Gowran is like Oakwood in comparison), became the face of Urumqi Vogue following an impromptu photoshoot in the park and almost bought a burqa for Parker. 

4. Had Anna come to visit. Despite woe-filled tales of rain and depression, we actually had an incredibly pleasant time, much to the disappointment of my love of self (and country)-deprecation. There was drinking on the 'nal, cartoned white wine to Fergie's Glamorous on the beach, and a visit to the Natural History Museum Dead Zoo where we found a melodramatic bat and a couple of sloths. 

5. Went to Body and Soul avec le Morg. Interacted on a personal level with (read: groped/waved deliriously at) Wallis Bird, SOLANGE (that's only a few strands of DNA from Queen B and upping the cool stakes), Nick Cave, and the love of my life, David Kitt whom I got to sign a ratty napkin with "KITTSER MY CAMERA WAS STOLEN WILL YOU SHIFT ME?" written on it. He gave me the greatest hug and signed it with "big shifts, kittser xxx" so I reckon I have a massively decent chance when he comes to Kilkenny. Also met Longford's self-proclaimed greatest Nick Cave fan who was a bit Paolo Nutini-esque, enjoyed saying "unreal" and accidentally got me drunk on something out of a plastic bottle.

6. Became opinionated on the abortion bill. Sorry but if a woman can't get urgent medical treatment that might affect her fetus because both of their lives are worth the same then surely it's worse if two lives are lost as opposed to just one.

7. Rediscovered the rabbits. Some say they will outlast even cockroaches in the event of a nuclear fallout. All I know is that I think we've had them since I was in fifth class. Cookie (much to her disgust) has become my replacement for human contact, though it's a matter of days before she retaliates fiercely to my insistent whispering of "WHO'S MY BESTEST BUD NOW".

8. Became the proud owner of a debit card. This shall be my demise. Purchases so far include Polish bus tickets and a beanbag shaped like a wombat (the second part's a lie, but the internet is such a fabulous place).

9. Abandoned blog writing in favour of tea.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Disorientation Week: take 2

I said this to someone recently, that I wasn't sure whether I was going home or leaving home, and was heartily reassured that that disorientation would affect me from now onwards. On the morn of my graduation, and second last night in school (provided I'm able to leave at all considering the fact that my clearance form has gone walkabouts), here's me summing up not just positives and negatives but the lifestyle of this 70's prison we call a school and a home, in comparison to what I remember of the home I'll be back to in two weeks.

Leaving home means no more
  • Hui Lau Shan 
  • Forked lighning
  • Cockroaches in the sink 
  • Interdorming
  • Mosquito bites 
  • Free hair cuts
  • Block 3 pizza/cha siu fan
  • Wearing only leggings
  • Internet ban 
  • Glenda sneezes 
  • Pressure in the third shower 
  • Kowloon Dairy 
  • Stairs 
  • Boones 
  • Signing in and out 
  • Jubes 
  • Check in 
  • Ants in the 4th toilet
  • Walking on the grey tiles in the rain
  • IB 
  • Ordering in broken canto
  • MTR 
  • Skyscrapers 
  • Effective public transport
  • Free airport wifi
  • Humidity 
  • MOS apple pies 
  • Living opposite a mountain 
  • Swimming with no swimcap 
  • Waterfall 
  • HK City Hall Library days
  • Wellcome 
  • Baozi 
  • Typhoons 
  • Fro Yo 
  • Chocolate powder ice-cream sauce 
  • Red taxis 
  • Sneaking out 
  • Gatings 
  • Canteen parties 
  • Trams 
  • Dragon boat 
  • Cheap postage 
  • YMCA roof 
  • Mee & Gee atrocities
  • Pretending to be a tourist
  • Lung cancer 
  • Brunch 
  • Expats 
  • Custard buns 
  • Service planning 
  • Thai curry for lunch
  • Drinking in the street
  • People who can dance
  • Latinas 
  • Paisanos 
  • Sad nights in the library
  • Broken curtain rails
  • Student kitchen produce
  • Chungking Mansions
  • Linda e-mails (plz god)
  • Air con
  • 681, A41p, k807, 299, 1A 
  • Phytoplankton 
  • BOB
  • Brown line
  • Design labs
  • La Bodega
  • Rush at Mong Kok
  • Worrying about Steve/Trevor/Brian being in the gym
  • Lee On McDonalds
  • Smirnoff Slushees
  • Bubble Tea
  • Annoying birds
  • Managebac
  • Grand dictations
  • Condensed milk toast
  • GIFs
  • Travelling with Maddie
  • In my country...
  • Broken bikes
  • Pacific Place toilets
  • Egg waffles
  • Concrete
  • Hot rain
  • Arrogant Frog
  • Lino floor
  • Angry cicadas
  • Trevor whiteboard
  • Mass e-mails
  • Block 2 bench

Going home means more
  • Baths
  • Stocked fridges
  • Come Dine With Me
  • Town
  • Reese's peanut butter cups
  • Real milk
  • Penney's
  • The nal
  • Sessions
  • Cycling
  • Breathable air
  • Dore's
  • Rabbits
  • BBC radio 4
  • Putting on the dishwasher
  • Texting
  • Doing Clob's hair
  • Tea (!)
  • Bulmers
  • Green
  • Stir frys
  • Getting lifts
  • Sheep
  • Sleep
  • Weeding
  • Body & Soul
  • Rain
  • Mint Crisp days
  • Billy Byrnes
  • The Rocco's/Larkin's debate
  • Of Clody's elbow's in my tea
  • Calling dinner tea
  • Saying rubbers, plasters, rubbish bins, pavements
  • America's Next Top Model
  • Castle park
  • Curry chips
  • Dip dabs
  • Shifting, less making out
  • Arts Festival
  • Langers and lickdipses
  • Eating bread rolls whilst going round Supervalu
  • Tracy's treehouse
  • Shops closing at 6
  • Top 40 Oifigiúil na hÉireann
  • Sitting in a car
  • Darkness at night
  • Museli
  • Leprechauns
  • Talking in tea rooms
  • God awful attempts at customising clothes
  • Ditto going to the gym
  • Dressing gowns
  • Camping
  • It being hotter inside than outside
  • Muller corners
  • Privacy
  • Records
  • Chapattis
  • Scacraicbant
  • Badedas
  • Stars
  • Jenkinstown
  • Picnics outta Dunnes
  • New socks
  • Boredom
  • Sitting by the old pool eating Dominos' meateor
  • Downloading films
  • Sue Ryder shop
  • Poulanassy
  • Loud music
  • Bedroom dancing
  • Jaffa cakes
  • G.O.L.D.
  • Flash animation
  • Hoovering
  • Parents
  • BBQ Hula Hoops
  • Beat the bomb
  • Change in jellies
  • Regularly washed clothes
  • Time for Soggy Twiglets?

Sunday 19 May 2013

Exams: A Webcam Diary

During exam time, many of us have our vices. 9gag, stalking pre-pubescent Eli Moist, Sonic Dash-ing, learning the lyrics to Wu Tang's C.R.E.A.M., wearing only the one pair of shorts for weeks on end, mastering aquarobics, eating. All the time.

My vice has got to be the very exemplar of culinary expertise, the modest Jube. A jube is a jelly cube suspended in a choice of juices. My particular weakness? Lychee. They have the consistency of human flesh. Here are some snapz after Jason bit the immovable lid off with his bottle opener adapted teeth. One day it got particularly bad (the pre maths nd chinese Thursday), resulting in this confession on Morgan's wall

The Process of the Degradation of Sanity
Today Hannah was observed to have purchased two jars of Joobs in Lychee brine, for the purpose of a more nourished study of the Chinese language. Having breathed in the first jar in under a minute (in a rather enraged manner) she hurriedly reached for the other, and proceeded to open it using the Jason Method of forcing the lid off on a nearby solid substance. She attempted this manoeuvre haphazardly and accidentally smashed off the top 2cm of Joob jar, leaving a rather rugged edge. This did not seem to phase the subject, and she lifted the jar to her mouth and began to chug the cubes of strange consistency. Midway into her angry chugging, she noticed that she was crunching on glass, and (from her reaction) it can be assumed that she was reminded of the cocaine addicts one learns about in Transition Year, whose nostrils become raw from snorting the drug which has been mixed with ground glass.

Another coping mechanism was dressing up like a puritan rockstar and working in the geography room with Lerler. Sometimes we ate raw carrots. Raw. Rawr. 

Most of them went quite well, Physics paper 3 felt laughable, I managed to cough up a chinese essay of 200 characters on my favourite fanguanr. I threw in a 因此。。。因为, and only mentioned 包子three times so that's a guaranteed 6 right there. Maths, on the other hand was a trainwreck with an asymptote at infinity. Glenda had a different reaction (insert vague racial slur). 

Exams concluded on Friday the 17th. I ran very far away (Mong Kok) and purchased a €2 camouflage t-shirt and a lipstick called "Lavender Whip" amongst other things. On the way back to campus, I took the liberty in waiting for the first MOS train to leave from Tai Wai in favour of getting a seat on the second. The freedom radiates through everything I do. Alcohol was consumed in the presence of a fire consisting of Chinese mock papers and the complete works of Carol Ann Duffy and Dave McCracken's prized envi handouts. I went to the beach (didn't get burned!), then went out with Jason and Morgan to the infamous Korean BBQ buffet place above the Burger King off exit B2 in TST (valuable info). The plan was to eat until movement was hindered. There came a point when our stomachs were shocked by the volume of food it'd been subjected to. So we each had another mango sticky rice pudding (my seventh). Jason's food baby was more than impressive, and the MTR was beyond our capabilities as immobile bags of kimchi. We found a bus in the depths of Nathan Road and created a sitcom inspired by Jason's awful hair and loosely based on his experiences as a carpet dealer in a forgotten Scottish town inhabited by characters with personalities of our 同学s. 

Today I woke up at the other side of 7am (10:20!!!), began to pack the rather talking mounds of shite that's been festering in my corner for the past two years and on a bit of a whim decided to follow that mad eejit Maxim "Mad Eejit" Moshnyakov up Ma On Shan peak (his second time in the day). Despite being attacked by masses of red ants, the camouflage t-shirt and refilled cream soda bottle were integral to the success of the trip. That and following Pao's tramp stamped bootay. My granny sports bra clad body made an appearance but that shit is PG13. Following a much needed dip in the waterfall where we were joined by the non hiking 农民s, I find myself eating pizza in the dayroom with Jason and Pao, and no reason to wake up tomorrow.

Ps. Thanks to Maxim for some of the photos!

Thursday 25 April 2013

I'm Bringing Sexy Yak

So because last week I did a post on things I abhor, I thought it may be nice to follow it up with some things that I like. Aye, I am indeed supposed to be studying for my final exams which start in approximately a single week, but I have my 45 minutes of leisure time now before dinner in which I can blow some minds through the written word.

Or at the very least update the outside world on the (many) things I do not abhor.


Yaks are truly excellent. The best environmental doomsayer we've had in school this year (and we have many) was the guy talking about how cool yaks are. In fact (and I quote) "Yaks are sexy in their own way". This baseball capped yak-enthusiast has inspired myself and Halfdan to kidnap Dilene and take her the long way around the Tibetan plateau on multiple trains averaging 36 hours each (the maximum is 52 hours - card game suggestions are welcome). Dilene was keen on a beach holiday, so I thought it would be considerate of me to make a stop at the most inland city in the entire world, Urumqi, whose local beach is 2,500 kilometres away in southern Pakistan. We're gonna bum all over until we get to Kashgar and then head on back - such is the plan but considering the fact that it is I who will have the most proficient mandarin means that a lot has been left to chance. Regardless, Uyghurs, yaks, lamb skewers and deserted cities from 1BC means that despite announcing that I would be home around June 10th, it is more likely to be never, as I prance around with yak in the wilds of Xinjiang.


During a prolonged study period, my mind was degraded to the point where I google searched how to play the spoons, and spent 11 minutes watching this terrifying man. Summer plan complete (to be surprisingly proficient at spoon-playing by late August) I set about discovering the talents of the spooning world. Ruth kindly directed me to the one and only Simon Spoons facebook page which she had set up for him following an excellent performance of Poker Face. Insomnia is one of the greatest cultural offerings of our time. 

And thus ends the list of things that make me happy. Yaks and spoons lads, yaks and spoons.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Marley and Me Spoilers

Being as sick as a small hospital for the beginning of my study leave meant that I was in a darned good position to reflect on all the things I found adverse to my being in this world (aside from earaches and influenza symptoms). Please note that I am speaking from an impassioned viewpoint.

0.5 bowls of cereal

Luckily I can evade this here because we are subject to communal dumps of cereal but at home when I lift up the packet of Raisin Wheat I can quite often tell if there is not the recommended 35g serving left. I would so much rather Mr. Penultimate Cereal Manbeast went the whole hog and had 52.5g of cereal for breakfast than raised my hopes only to dash them to the ground.

Your iTunes

If it looks like this:

Red Hot Chili Pepper
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Red Hot Chilly Peppers

Please do not get me started on the various uses of "&", "and" and even (god forbid) "+". Drake and Jay-Z should not collaborate so often if it turns your iTunes into the wreck I so often see.

Also if you skip songs. This irks me so much that even on my own iPod if I must skip I will first phase out the song I am currently listening to in order to play the next one. Besides, aside from that Pulled Apart By Horses album (which I regret deeply) all the other music on my iPod is quality.

>8 people at a canteen table

In the morning, the canteen ladies put the chairs around the tables in a nice four sided arrangement. Let me tell you 9, 10 and 11 are not multiples of four. 8 is. 8 is the optimal number of chairs around tables to ensure that you can eat your dinner without being compromised. I am trying valiantly to teach everyone this practice before I have to return to my sister (she of large elbows), whereby I know that no matter if it was just me at the table and her in the same room I would still have to eat from my lap.

Sraith Pictúirz

I haven't even been exposed to the latest attempt by the Ministry of education to get people to appreciate their cultural heritage effectively but I'm already bréan bailithe of it. It seems to me that thing that's getting increased is not love of the Irish language but entropy, as hundreds of leaving certs burn and eat theirs with fiery passion. Wouldn't it be excellent if after 14 years we could understand more than a third of this gem.

Owen Wilson (Americans)

Marley and Me was doomed to fail before my discerning eye regardless (lo and behold his stomach is upside down) but Owen Wilson rose spectacularly to the challenge. Though there are many things I can't stand about him (nose nose nose - his face is a caricature of itself for chrissakes), he says "dawwwg" one too many times in this film. I brought this hatred upon myself, I know, I shouldn't have watched a film about Owen Wilson and a dawg. Morgan has told me that this irrational hatred of Mr. Wilson comes from an inner dislike for Americans. I don't want to elaborate. Too many truths will come. American spelling, and how all internet sites have fallen into the pit of despair that is inappropriate Zs, comes under this category.

Women complaining about the toilet seat being left up

Perhaps a little misogynistic of me but why is down the right way? Men should stand up for themselves and complain about it being left down.

Shop Etiquette

In an ideal world (read: ideal shop) I enter, am greeted with a friendly but passive "Hello" - one must remember that this greeting does not insinuate the beginning of a friendship, but merely lays out certain customer-salesperson formalities. Following this, I proceed to browse at leisure. If, perchance, I have a query about a certain product, I expect that after a sharp glance upward and a pause of approximately 2 seconds, eye contact with aforementioned salesperson will be made, I shall proceed with my query and get an unobtrusive answer. 

Black books sums it up well.

Other interesting pet hates I have come across when researching for this blog were: green pens, rimless glasses, people squirting toothpaste incorrectly, people bragging about being on diets and not losing weight, iTV, and when people upload bad res photos of their skype conversations.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Digressing through Cows

For some reason (most likely the alignment of the stars) I have had many run ins with cows lately. 

To start with, in the boglands of Hong Kong where I currently reside, cows roam free, terrorising neighbourhoods derping around. I bumped into one the other day milling about in Sai Kung around a BBQ site licking a disgruntled dog. Warned as ever by the adverts on the 299 bus from Sha Tin to Sai Kung not to interfere, I was unable to have as interesting an interaction as the dog was having but merely enjoyed the presence of such an ethereal beast. To say they reminded me of home (or at least every second journey down the Grovine East road) would be a lie as they're not fresian.

My second incident occured one night in the common room as the motley crew of myself, Shira, Morgan, Sam tried and failed to load School Of Rock and were treated instead to Shira's very own personal youtube favourites. This has snuck into my top 10 at least, following two camels in a tiny car (best use of 17 seconds of one's life).

The third was at the art exhibition last week when Jayla made all this funky art with cows like turning Jason into a cow and stuff. I'm not any good at reworking candidate statements but the theme was totes deep and made me appreciate Hong Kong cows on a more contemplative level. I bought a 1x2m Andy Warhol-y wallpaper on foam for 100HKD before worrying about how to transport it home or how to utilise it at home. Arnett outbid me the maggot. O wel it was cool (and deep ofc).

dis is another one of jayla lai's (credits: Fernanda)

Three bovine incidents may be too few to justify naming a blog post after but alas I can think of no more. I might talk about more important matters at hand, like the fact that I DON'T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL EVER AGAIN. An incredibly pleasant thought rest assured. Sentiments summed up in this here sound clip, which some of you may recognize from the infamous Potter Puppet Pals meets Eragon MS Paint Youtube series.. Only one more hump to get over now before I properly graduate but we shan't dwell on that to much. At least I succeeded in getting Dilene to wear a pink dress. #trololol #shaniwewin