Sunday, 28 December 2014

Lessons from 2014

2014 was one hell of a year. It's amazing how parts of your life can just magically fall into place whilst other parts just fall apart. It's been an incredibly challenging year for me and with hindsight I'm not sure how I've managed to get to this point of my life. It's been a year of incredibly high highs and very low lows. I had two aims for 2014: pass my Masters of Science with a merit and get a full time job related to my masters. I have accomplished both those things and am incredibly proud of myself and all my hard work.

Everything in life since I was 14 years old, I have achieved by myself. I live alone, miles away from my parents and any direct family. I've had to push myself to achieve my goals and work hard. In that sense this year really pushed my to my limits, academically as well as emotionally. Somethings turned out better than I could have hoped for, whilst other things didn't work out at all. In terms of learning this year has probably been the crucial stepping stone going forward in life.

So the lessons I learned from 2014 are as follows:

You're stronger than you think

There were some days this year where I didn't think I could make it out of bed let alone through the day. But I got up, put some lipstick on and got on with my life and tried to kick ass. There were honestly those days where I thought it wasn't going to get any better and that this was it, I was going to have a breakdown. But I made it through regardless. There were lots of tears involved and ugly crying days but I did my best and it's turned out pretty good.

Don't underestimate yourself

I'm guilty of this, I always underestimate myself and belittle myself. I'm probably my own worst enemy. But working part time and writing a 23,000 word dissertation whilst dealing with a break up made me push myself further than I ever did and I proved myself wrong about my coping abilities.

Hard work pays off

I started job hunting last April and was sending out applications every day whilst going to university and studying for my exams. In the end I got a job before I even finished my dissertation. Good things come to those who wait, but better things come to those who work hard and go after what they want. I wanted a job in Cardiff so I could stay here and be close to my friends and live the life I wanted to live. I worked hard and made my dream a reality. I'm working for an interesting company that has an exciting future, and I with it. Hard work really does pay off.

Boys come and go, but friends are forever

2014 was the year of amazing friends. I can't even really express how much my friends mean to me and how supportive they have been of everything I have done. I've had so many laughs with my best Welsh soul sister WGP, my best friend from university Simone has been a constant source of love, my university friends and the friends I made through blogging (Sophie, Jade, Stacey and Sharon) have all given me so much joy and laughs. I wouldn't trade them for a single boy. I'm enjoying being my own person and spending time with people I care about and can't wait to get into my trouble with my friends in 2015.

Don't be so hard on yourself, you're doing the best you can

In the world of Twitter, blogging and Instagram it's easy to compare your life with another 20 something year old and wonder where you're going wrong. Sometimes it feels like everyone is achieving and you're not. Some people are living the dream in designer clothes and jetting off to fabulous places whilst you're avoiding folding the pants that are drying on the radiator and you haven't even put a bra on that day. Comparison is the thief of joy. As long as you're doing what makes you happy and gives you satisfaction, you're doing something right. Comparing your life to someone else's isn't going to do you any favours. You've worked hard to get to where you are, enjoy that success and keep on going.

I feel like 2015 is really going to be my year, I have a whole new adventure ahead of me in both my career and personal life. I have amazing friends by my side and I'm going to start taking those all important steps towards building up my confidence and self worth. Life's too short to be miserable and wasting it away.

Watch out 2015, Nina's coming for you.

"Don't struggle so much, best things happen when not expected.” ― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Rio de Janeiro - Here there and everywhere

The company my Dad works for has kindly given us a fabulous driver for two months. It's part of getting to know the city, Rio de Janeiro alone has a population of 6.23 million so it can be overwhelming at best to set off by yourself. Sergio is an absolute star and has taken it upon himself to be our tour guide and to give us the best experience that Rio can offer. So on Tuesday he gave us the grand tour of some of the best spots in Rio. He drives us around in a blacked out armoured car which is also bullet proof. I feel like a D List celebrity (but secretly love it).

The thing about Rio that makes it so stunning is the constant contrast of the buildings, the masses of people and the nature around it all. In summer (European winter) the sky and the sea and blue, the sun is warm and the breeze from the Atlantic keeps you from passing out in the heat. Everywhere you go you can see Christ the Redeemer looking down (he's lurking in some of my photos if you look closely) and the Sugarloaf Mountain peeks into most shots.

After taking us for a scenic drive along the water, Sergio made a pit stop in Centro - the downtown area of Rio.  Here the skyscrapers reflect the sunshine back down at you and you feel like you're in New York. Generally the buildings are not works of art but if you look closer you'll find some treasures. Such as the Palácio Gustavo Capanema one of the finest examples of Brazilian 1930s modernist architecture. But scattered amongst all the modernism are the beautiful traditional Portuguese tiles 'azulejos' which make stunning wall murals.

The highlight of my day was finally seeing the Escadaria Selarón in the flesh. The steps are the work of Chilean born Jorge Selarón who in his heart always felt Brazilian. Selarón began renovating the stairs near his house in 1990 with tiles salvaged from construction sites but as time went on people started bringing him tiles from their home countries or places they had visited. Since then the stairs have become a major tourist attraction and featured in Brazil's 2016 Olympic bid. 

The stairs total 250, measuring 125 metres long and are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. Selarón never considered the work to be complete and sadly he was found dead on the stairs in January 10 2013. His body was found with burn marks, the case has never been solved and whilst many say he was murdered others say he killed himself. Regardless the steps are a beautiful tribute to Brazil and really capture the spirit of this amazing country.

We concluded our long day by climbing higher and higher into the mountains to get a view of Rio. Only when you're up in the mountains can you appreciate the scale and beauty of this city and how close it is to both the water and the mountains.  Sergio bride us to a view point called Mirante Dona Marta, from here you can take (extortionately expensive) helicopter rides around the city. This is how all the rich and famous people of Rio get around, it does look fun but we'll stick with Sergio for now. 

Rio has really touched my heart, it's a fascinating place. You're never far from pure luxury housing and fancy shops but you only have to drive two minutes and you see a favela built into the hard granite cliff face. The people here are warm and resilient, you can buy anything here with a credit card and people will try and help you as much as they can. The nature here blows my mind every day when I wake up and see the blue sea. I can't get over how lucky I am to be here. The caricoas (the word which describes the locals of Rio de Janeiro) are lucky people to call this their home.

More pictures coming soon, every day is an adventure here!

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Ipanema walks

On the second day of our Brazilian adventure my family and I headed out to explore our neighbourhood. My parents have the pleasure and the privilege to be living in Ipanema which is just as beautiful as I thought it would be. The whole place is alive with the millions of people who take the beach pilgrimage very seriously indeed. Everybody wears as little as possible and is beyond tanned. I stick out like a pale sore thumb and burn like a crisp. Factor 50 is obligatory here, sun burn just screams 'I'm a tourist steal my DSLR from me'.

You can easily walk for miles here in Rio. We wanted to walk to the famous Copacabana and see Ipanema from a distance, it's the best way for you to get an idea of the sheer number of people that spend their weekend on the beaches. Most people just spend their time sunbathing on the sand or playing volleyball or footvolley. Swimming in the Atlantic is for the brave souls only, and recommended only if you're wearing a wetsuit because it gets pretty cold

The best way to avoid certain dehydration is by taking advantage of the ridiculously cheap and yummy coconuts which are sold every 5 meters at the beach stands. A coconut costs 5 Brazillian Real which is £1.20 ($1.80), coconut water in the UK costs triple that and doesn't compare in the slightest. The stall vendor hacks away at the coconut chopping the bottom flat so you can put the coconut down without it spilling. Seeing them slashing away with a machete is a little worrying in case they loose a finger but these guys are pros. I could drink this stuff all day, it's so fresh and if you're enterprising and want to get your money's worth, break the coconut apart and eat the inside. Exactly what you need in the heat.

We ended up heading towards Copacabana but my poor little European body couldn't handle the 30 degree temperature difference so we headed inside for lunch. To my younger brother's great delight we went to a typical Brazilian 'kilo restaurant'. Basically it's a buffet where you can put as much on your plate, you take it to be weighed and pay by weight. We went to a place called Frontera but there is plenty of choice. It's not for the faint hearted and these places certainly explain why thankfully not everybody has a Giselle Bündchen body.

We've been sight seeing every day so expect some more exciting posts coming up!

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Rio de Janeiro

About six months ago my parents got the news that they were moving to Rio de Janeiro. I of course was thrilled but it's been a bumpy ride for them, they've had a lot to organise and a lot of paperwork to deal with. We're waiting on their permanent housing to come through so I'm posting this from the balcony of their temporary holiday apartment.

My brother and I flew in from Heathrow on Thursday afternoon, I already feel like I've been here for weeks just because we've seen so much. Rio is a fascinating city. The buildings aren't stereotypically beautiful, in fact everything is quite old and a little rough around the edges but the people, the weather and atmosphere make it one of the best cities I have ever been to.

On Friday morning mum woke us up from our jet lagged sleep and took us to the local market which happens every Friday. It was probably the best introduction to Rio that we could get.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from Rio. Once I knew my parents were moving there I avoided reading the news about Rio and I specifically did not watch City of God. Rio gets a lot of bad press for it's lack of safety and the fevelas. I kept my expectations low and essentially non existent, meaning that I have been pleasantly surprised.

Most people do not speak English so you have to attempt to communicate in Portuguese but the locals are friendly and helpful. It's amazing how far you can go with gesturing and speaking slowly. At the food market out foreignness really didn't matter. The sellers handed out fruit for us to try and if you hovered so much as a minute by their stall they would pass you lychees, cherries, strawberries and the most delicious pineapple pieces. Everything tastes so much better here. Everything you could ever want to eat here is sold here, including meat and fish but the lack of refrigeration is scary to my european sensibilities.

We came home laden with the best fresh fruit you could imagine, I've never tasted such good mangos and British strawberries pale in comparison to the ones we bought. We feasted like kings. The whole experience was a little bit of a sensory overload. I kept tripping up because I couldn't stop looking around. Brazilians are loud people by nature (so I fit in perfectly) but it can sound intimidating because none of us speak the language, but everyone is ready with a smile and is patient with us.

We rounded off our day with a walk along the beach, my parents are living in Ipanema and it's really beautiful. Their new flat will be overlooking the beach, so they're pretty excited to settle in properly.  My poor pale skin was stretched to it's limits by the afternoon heat so we headed back indoors and surfaced later on in the evening for dinner and of course lime caipirinhas on the beach with bossa nova music playing. Spoilt beyond belief!

More pictures coming soon, I can't wait to share more from this fantastic place with you!

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