Saturday, 31 December 2011

A look back




2011.  

What a year it's been.  It really has been a year of changes, with some beautiful things happening and some not so beautiful things happening.  A lot has changed for me personally and whilst I'm not going to say it's been my best year it certainly hasn't been my worst.  One thing that really carried weight this year both globally and personally was the Arab Spring.  It came very close to home (Oman) and it really brought certain things into perspective.  I hope that things in the Middle East and North Africa will settle down soon or at least become more stable.  Syria and Egypt have always been on my travel list but for now any travels plans have been put on hold.  The Middle East really is such a wonderful place and it upsets me when violence tears these beautiful countries apart.  My heart will always belong to the Middle East in some shape or form, so what hurts the Middle East hurts me.  

The deaths of Osama Bin Laden, Gaddafi and Kim Jong Il this year probably should warrant a few words but I personally think that none of these men deserve any of our time or words anymore.  Everything that could be said has already been said.  However one voice that will be incredibly missed is Amy Winehouse, too much too young when she still had so much to give.  So many other lives have been lost this year or ways of life have been shaken, through terrible tragedies such as the earthquake in Japan, the tornados in the Midwest, the UK riots and the August terror attacks in Norway.  Whenever I see images from those events it does take a lot not to cry.  This year more so than any other year it seems, really was a test to see how well the world could stick together and if people could be there for each other.  Red cross donations, post riot clean ups in London and the immense global support for Norway does show that there is some faith to be had in humanity.  One of my favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran seems very applicable to this year: 'Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars'.


For me personally it's been an interesting year, there have been some downs but over all it's been a far more positive year.  I'm in a wonderful relationship that is going strong despite the horrendously long distance nature of it.  In March we will be celebrating our 2 year anniversary so that is something I'm really looking forward to.  Also this year I realised after years of searching for the place that I could call my own 'home', that I want to make the UK my home.  Moving away to France in September showed me how at ease I feel in the United Kingdom and how much I really love it.  In a strange way the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April had me in tears whilst watching because I was so proud of my 'home country' because I could see how happy people were and how proud they were to be British.  I'm not willing to give up my German passport because that's part of my history and identity but I can see myself living and working in the UK and maybe one day even having my own family in the UK.  The move to Montpellier in September has been very good for me, it's taken me out of my comfort zone and has made me very appreciative of the life I have back home in Wales.  I've remembered what it's like to be slightly more independent again, I was getting a little complacent in Cardiff and relying on my other half a lot, so he will be happy to see that I can stand on my own two feet again.  It has really been a learning curve, and I still have 6 more months to go so there will be plenty more adventures.  

For the first time in years I feel at peace with myself, many things that didn't make sense at the start of the year now do.  I'm the happiest with myself that I have ever been.  It's taken a long, long time and lots of talks with various people for me to realise this.  What I've learnt is that there is a time for everything: a time to feel sad and a time to be happy.  We go through the bad and the challenging to learn, it builds our character and makes us stronger.  I'm sure 2012 will bring along a whole new host of challenges but I feel ready to at least try and face them.   


Resolutions for 2012:

• Smoke less
• Eat less pastry foods/eat healthier
• budget my money better
• go to Paris, Barcelona and Venice
• do more work for university
• get a job in Cardiff
• apply for internships and work experience
• make the best out of 2012


How has 2011 treated you? What were the most memorable things? Will you be making any resolutions?

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful start into the New Year with lots of optimism for what the new year can bring.  Everything is possible.

Lots of love
x
Nina

Friday, 30 December 2011

Hell of a Season


Today the family and me went for a little day trip with some friends.  We visited one the the oldest forts in Oman called Jabreen Castle which dates back to 1670 and was built by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Ya'arubi.  It's one of the most impressive forts in Oman, we've been to visit it before when we did a 'fort tour' when I was still in primary school but it's been renovated since and looks fantastic.  

After our tour we went off roading and explored the wadi that often gets described as the 'Grand Canyon of Oman'.  My Dad is a geologist by profession and passion (as cheesy as that sounds) so he absolutely loved it.  He even brought his geological maps out when we made a pit stop for coffee and explained why the mountains have all different types of layers and when they were formed.  The Oman mountains have been evolving since 90 million years ago which is completely mind boggling.  It felt like a school science trip, in a good way of course.  I'd love to be more involved with the subject of geology but sadly sciences go completely over my head.  The wadi was also beautifully green after all the rain Oman had last month.

I just wanted to thank everyone who's recently followed me, I really appreciate it.  I also appreciate all the comments on the top 10 album post, thanks for sharing your favorite albums of the year I'll be looking into them!

x
Nina

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Top 10 albums of 2011

(In no particular order)

2011 was a good year for music as far as I'm concerned, whilst for me there was a distinct lack of concerts to go to but this is largely to do with the fact that Montpellier isn't really on the touring schedules of many bands and Paris is quite a trip away.  This year there have been a lot of albums out that I have genuinely been excited about and that have kept me company through my France experience.

Video Games - Blue Jeans EP - Lana Del Rey
Whilst technically not an album per say I have very much jumped on the Lana Del Rey bandwagon and haven't looked back since.  Between all the 'controversy' about her 'has she, hasn't she?' plastic surgery question and the debates over the fact that she might soulely be a reinvention by a record label in an attempt to push more CDs, you cannot fault her voice.  Reinvention is nothing new to the music industry, Madonna creates a new image with every new album and Katy Perry went from being called Katherine Hudson with a gospel album to singing about kissing girls and liking it.  Lana Del Rey shows that image aside, she has a great voice and doesn't need gimmicks like overtly sexual outfits to try and sell her music, she has real solid talent.  Her album Born To Die is due for a January 2012 release and it's the album I'm most excited for in the new year.

Sinners Never Sleep - You Me At Six
I've had a long and loving relationship with You Me At Six which started in 2008 after seeing them support Fightstar in The Cockpit in Leeds.  Since then I've seen them live about 9 times and never get tired of seeing them perform.  The last time I saw them was in Newport in 2010 and I was sat upstairs being able to really watch them perform and it just showed me how far they've come.  Sinners Never Sleep cements this fact even more.  Recorded in Los Angeles the album is a mix of ballad-esque songs and heavier tracks such as 'Bite My Tongue' which features Olive Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon.  This album sounds the most 'American' out of the You Me At Six discography but it appears to be a natural progression for the band as they continue to mature and really become a force to be reckoned with.  I highly recommend seeing them live.

The Modern Glitch - The Wombats
The Wombats have always been on my 'guilty pleasure that I love to love' list.  For me The Wombats sum up everything that is understood under 'British music', they are exciting, upbeat and their lyrics always bring a smile to my face.  The Modern Glitch is a slightly more synth departure from A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation and this album has become shamelessly fun.  It's hard not to want to dance when listening to the album, it would be a shame to class The Wombats as 'just another indie band' because there is something special about them.

People and Things - Jack's Mannequin
Frankly, Jack's Mannequin are one of my all time favorite bands.  In my eyes Andrew McMahon can do little wrong.  People and Things is a solid album, whilst lacking some of the charm from the (for me) flawless and perfect Everything In Transit this third studio effort from McMahon and co brings the band to new places and creates a cohesive sound, it appears Jack's Mannequin have found their niche and the album is another stepping stone of the journey for Andrew McMahon who has had an incredible life story so far.  

Summer - I Heart Sharks
I've already sung praises for this album here and I still can't get enough of it.  I'm far from involved in the German music scene sadly but for me this album is the perfect way in.  This was the surprise of the year for me, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did.  There is something fresh and exciting about this album, it still feels slightly rough around the edges and isn't over produced which I think is part of its charm.  Hopefully there will be bigger and better things to come from I Heart Sharks.

Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
It was always going to be hard for Fleet Foxes to top their debut album, for me personally they didn't quite achieve this but that might not be such a bad thing.  Fleet Foxes' first album was absolutely beautiful and Helplessness Blues is just as wonderful, in parts it is almost haunting and the personal strain on Robin Pecknold shows through on some of the lyrics.  What is so great about Fleet Foxes is that every time I listen to one of their albums I find something new about it to fall in love with and I think that's the sign of a truly great record.  I won't be getting sick of this album any time soon.

Little Hell - City and Colour
I think this has to be my second most favorite City and Colour album after Bring Me Your Love.  I was listening to this before I knew that Dallas Green was going to make City and Colour his full priority, and it already came across like that through the music.  The songs are incredibly strong and the lyrics always hit home very hard especially the title track.  Green's voice really takes you on a journey, I was pretty much listening to this non stop the first month in Montpellier.  Perfect music for late summer.

Femme Fatale - Britney Spears
I have no shame in admitting I love this record.  A lot.  I've always loved Britney Spears since I was about 9 and my dad brought me ...Baby One More Time and Oops! I Did It Again back from duty free when he was away on business trips.  Whilst Femme Fatale wasn't a huge change of direction for Britney, parts of the album are slightly reminiscent of Circus, she moved into the dub-step direction.  Despite it being one of my least favorite types of music on Femme Fatale it works.  This is probably my favorite Britney record and it was so great to see her getting back on top and actually enjoying herself.  She'd had a fantastic year and with an amazing engagement to round it all off.  So happy for her.

A Different Kind of Fix - Bombay Bicycle Club
The longer I am away from my adopted home of the UK the more 'British' my music taste becomes.  Something about this album takes me straight back to London, it would be the perfect soundtrack to walk down Portobello Road or for sitting in Hyde park.  I absolutely loved Flaws but it's great seeing Bombay Bicycle Club going back to a more electric and upbeat sound.  I hope they play some festivals in summer 2012 when I'll actually be in the UK for festival season, they'd be perfect headliners.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver
This was the standout album of the year for me.  I can't fault it.  I was late catching onto the Bon Iver bandwagon, I'd heard the name before but knew nothing about Justin Vernon or how the first album For Emma, Forever Ago was created, let alone had I heard it.  So I went into Bon Iver with no expectations and an open mind.  I wish I'd only listened to Bon Iver sooner because the music is just beyond beautiful and atmospheric to me, there is so much heart and soul in the songs and it carries through the whole album.  This is currently on repeat in my mother's car and she is also in love with the CD.  Everyday is a Bon Iver day.




What were some of your top albums from 2011?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Winter Hymnal

The Al Bustan Palace Hotel:
Home decor:
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque at night:

I hope that everyone has had a lovely couple of Christmas days and that you've all recovered from your respective food comas.  Our Christmas this year was blissfully relaxed.  We went to brunch at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel on the 24th and then in the evening gave each other our presents.  Half of my are still due to arrive with Amazon, the post always arrives late in Oman.  I get less excited about the present aspect of Christmas as I get older, I have everything I need and I tend to buy my own clothes so for me Christmas is more about surprising my parents and seeing how excited my little brother gets when he opens his presents.  For a 12 year old he's very good at picking up gifts and got me a little body wash and lotion set from the Body Shop and some solid perfume.  I have a lovely stack of new books that I want to work through before I go back to France in January and at the moment I'm reading Salmon Fishing In The Yemen by Paul Torday which I chose purely for the title but as it turns out there's a film of this book coming out in March 2012 starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, just another excuse to see Mr. McGregor's beautiful face.

Today was a beach day and my brother and I went for a bit of a cliffside walk.  The water is actually too cold to swim in at the moment, only the tourists are brave enough to go in, most of them are British but they are such hard arses when it comes to weather so I guess that explains it.  Being by the sea is the best feeling in the world, I miss it so badly when I'm not near it.  I'm so spoilt to have grown up with the beach so close to me, Oman couldn't have been a better place to be a young kid.

I've been obsessed with this guy's Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes medley on Soundcloud since it popped up on my tumblr dashboard.  Bon Iver + Fleet Foxes = my heaven on earth.  I think Fleet Foxes are supporting Bon Iver on a tour in 2012 but sadly it's totally out of my reach.  I found out that Coldplay are playing in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, so upset I didn't know about it until now it would have been a perfect way to round off the end of the year but clearly it was not meant to be.

I hope you all have a wonderful last week of December and that Christmas treated you well
x
Nina

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas


To those of you that celebrate Christmas: Merry Christmas and to everyone else: Happy Holidays! I hope you're all having a great time with your families and friends.  This is always the best and most peaceful time of the year so make the most of it!

Much love 
x
Nina

Friday, 23 December 2011

Winter Wonderland

 I stepped on this shell, painful would be an understatement:

Friday in Oman is the equivalent to Sunday in Europe, so today my family and I went for a walk along the public beach not too far from us.  This beach is probably my favorite place in the whole world, it's so relaxing to be right by the sea and collect shells.  We managed to get to the beach at  low tide so we saw loads of starfish and whenever we were walking through the water we nearly always ended up stepping on them as they were burying themselves in the sand.  Oops.  The only thing that I find really sad about the beach is that so many people drive their cars right onto the beach and when they come to have picnics they just leave all their rubbish behind.  It irritates me because there is plenty of car parking before the beach so there's no need to drive all the way onto the beach, but I guess some people just can't be bothered to walk from their cars to their picnic spots.  Who knows?  Also someone has taken to renting out jet skis to locals and tourists so the beach isn't as quite as it used to be.  But nonetheless we had a great afternoon and finished it off with some lunch out.

For some people the idea of spending christmas in a relatively warm place must be strange but for me it seems so natural.  Going on a pre christmas walk along the beach has been a sort of family tradition for a long time, and I wouldn't have it any other way.   The only real downside of Christmas in the Middle East is that we don't have a real Christmas tree, they are sold here but because they have to be imported they cost a fortune and look pretty battered.  

Tomorrow we're going for lunch in a hotel just outside of Muscat and I'll be sure to take some photos.  Because my family is German we celebrate Christmas on the 24th and open our presents that evening, and we don't have stockings sadly.  Some Germans also don't believe in 'Santa' per se, but rather the 'Christkind' which for my family is slightly ironic because apparently we're Catholics (far from practicing) and the Christkind was encouraged by Martin Luther (a Protestant) to be the counter to St. Nikolas, so there you have it.  When I was younger it was always torture having to wake up on the 24th and know that the Christkind wasn't going to be visiting until the evening, I was always jealous of my British friends who'd wake up (albeit a day later) and have their presents already there.  But since getting older Christmas has become so much more relaxing and it's fun seeing my younger brother still get so excited about it.

I hope you all have a great weekend and that the Christmas days are peaceful and happy
x
Nina


p.s: set up a google email address so feel free to get in touch with me via ninanenor@googlemail.com

Monday, 19 December 2011

Hurts Like Heaven

The boat on the far left belongs to the Sultan:
perfume bottles:
 sunset from my room:

A few days ago mum and me took a little trip to the Muttrah souq which is right by the sea and overlooks the port.  The souq is apparently one of the oldest in the Arab world 'owing to the fact that Muscat is the world's largest natural harbor and has seen immense trade in the age of sail, being strategically located on the way to India and China' (thank you wikipedia).  The port is pretty impressive and you can see the Sultan's personal boat being anchored there, as well as the huge tourist cruisers that pull in at various parts of the year.  The souq becomes very busy when there are tourists and the shopping becomes pretty unbearable.  But mum and me were in luck there wasn't a tourist ship in sight.  My mum buys a lot of her fabric here and it's always nice to come for a browse.  We always take friends and family here when they come to visit and the concluding stop of our souq trip every time without fail is at the shawarma shop.  It's a tiny little shop only run by two men and it has been there for as long as I can remember.  A shawarma is a food staple in the Arabic world, it's like a kebab but also not really.  The definition of a shawarma according to wikipedia: 'Shawarma is a Levantine Arab sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. It is eaten with pita bread, tabbouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus, pickled turnips and amba'.  The ones we eat from this little stall are wrapped in fresh pitta bread, accompanied with salad and a bit of tabasco sauce.  It's delicious and costs next to nothing, only something like 30 pence for one.  It may be off putting to tourists because the shop looks a little grimy but the lamb meat just melts in your mouth.

I don't have much planned for the rest of the holidays, my family put the tree up yesterday and went to the carol singing at my brother's school yesterday.  The general plan is to just enjoy being at home and to read lots of books, as well as go to the beach a lot.  Sadly today we've had some 'bad weather', it's been very cloudy and there's been a strong slightly chilly wind.  Not good beach weather at all.  

A quirky little Oman fact: the weekend here is Thursday and Friday.  It gets me really confused when I'm fighting my jet lag and forgetting what day of the week it is.

I hope you are all getting into the holiday spirit, if any of you have book recommendations I'd really appreciate it I have no idea where to start

x
Nina


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