Mary’s Project – 2014

Hey did you hear the news?! Its a whole new year! In no way is this post a brag or ‘oooh look how exciting my life is’ because that’s lame. I’ve posted quite a lot this year but there lots I’ve missed out. I love the idea of looking back on my blog when I’m old and boring and cringing at what I used to get up to. So here’s my (some of what was missed on the blog) year review. Happy new year to everyone 🙂 10 gold stars to you if you read the whole post…

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2014 was welcomed with my sister and her/our friends (yes we share friends cos we’re totes mature) in a crowded club in London, a group of creepy looking men told us the drinks were on them so we proceeded to the dancefloor, drinks in hand. Next thing we knew the bartender is snatching them off us and we’re laughing uncontrollably and not embarrassed like we should be. Don’t remember how I got home but I woke up on Zoe’s sofa feeling great. I went to Cambridge for Sara’s 21st birthday and had such a good time, apart from the vomit bit (not mine). The following days were spent cramming driving lessons with my instructor Geoff and practices with dad. Mum told me that if I didn’t pass my test I wasn’t allowed to go to Cape Town (already booked). So 5 days before I flew to SA I passed first time.

I packed a huge suitcase, left Mum, dad, G and Peachy and flew to Dubai then Cape Town all alone. Callum and I hadn’t actually arranged where we meeting at the airport but luckily he got there as I arrived. Dirk and his girlfriend Danielle drove us to Edgemead, our home for the next 4ish days. There was a swimming pool so I was happy. Our next home was Bothasig, like the ghetto version of Edgemead. I ate dairy milk top deck, fudge and fanta pineapple almost everyday and worked hard on my tan. I saw old friends at penthouse and generally had an amazing time. The hottest day of the year was spent at the reggae jam in Langa, 42 degrees C. I met Thami and Nomveliso and fell in love with the township. We saw Jeremy Loops and loads of reggae bands. I went back to volunteer at the kindergarten for a little bit, conditions were a lot different to what I had seen before but I loved teaching the little ones dances, nursery rhymes, colours and numbers. I got 2 jobs in the space of a week and worked in a photography studio and kept myself  busy as an entertainer at kids parties. Callum and I made the most of the self timer on my camera and saw the most beautiful beaches, parks and ice skated with the professionals…

I took a week out to see everyone at Otjikondo and it felt like I’d never left. But it was extremely strange not to have Fran by my side. After the few days I stopped in Windhoek, I drank cocktails on a roof bar and took a 24 hour coach back to Cape Town, sitting next to the same girl, Nina, I had sat with on my way. Back in the motherland Nina hired a car and we created new dramas everyday; locking the keys inside, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and getting stuck on the steepest hill in the world. I imagined that would be the place we’d die! We made friends with beach dogs and checked out surfers all day long. A trip to Cape Point was beautiful.

I was the next one to hire a car. I don’t know how to sum up the stresses we had, but we survived and had some wicked days covered in monkeys and beaching it. I saw friends of friends and navigated my way through the madness of the city with no map, no GPS and very little experience and maybe a bit too much ambition. I had dinner with Gilly, Arnold and Oliver and was so happy to see part of my Otjikondo family so close to this new home in South Africa. I drove to the airport and Callum and I met his mum and step dad Bill. More beach days, numerous pizzas and countless tap waters with ice, a straw and no lemon. We showed mum and Bill around and they provided hours upon hours of laughter. We all went to improv classes with some great people and saw a few shows. I went to a helicopter session and enjoyed it more than I expected. Driving to Addo Elephant Park was so memorable; we stopped off at Knysna and saw wild dolphins just as we were standing on the beach. At the elephant park there were all the safari animals and every time we saw an elephant we were speechless. Reversing from a herd wasn’t the best idea (in hindsight) but thrilling in the moment. We made light photos by our little cabins and Callum fell sick and was unintentionally hilarious. Trish and I got hair braids; hers stayed in for a week or two, mine is still in my hair almost 8 months later. We bid mum and Bill farewell as they continued on to Asia.

I went to study a short course at Cape Town School of Photography. It reconfirmed a lot of what I already knew but I got my passion for photography back and met some lovely guys and gals. We spent our last day at the waterfront snapping away. On my way home from class one evening I tried on some outfits in the boutique near penthouse, the shop owners asked me to photograph their new line in exchange for some clothes, an offer I unfortunately never got to carry out. I was also invited to a fashion show at the Grand Daddy Hotel to photograph and chat to the models and designers. Although its not that big of a deal to most people I was pretty proud of myself; I went alone without knowing anyone and was shooting a new style. I spent 1 last night at penthouse and boarded another 24 hour coach to Namibia. The journey was disrupted and I had to make the decision to head to Europe. I had one of the worst days of my life in Windhoek, tirelessly googling solutions and making my way to a few high commissions and embassies.

The weekend before I flew was spent at Otjikondo again and I finally met Chelcie (and Ottilie for the second time). Goodbyes were hard but it was nice to have some proper closure. I met 2 swedish guys in Windhoek who were on the same flight as me, we were a bit slow to get to the airport and managed to be the last ones to board the plane, after our final Windhoek lager. As we flew over Nigeria I saw a  lightning storm and wanted to wake everyone up to show them. It is without a doubt one of the best sites I’ve ever witnessed.

I landed in Frankfurt to a heavy case of culture shock. I spent the next 2 days sulking and hungry because I couldn’t justify €10 for a Mcdonalds… The cheapest thing to keep me entertained was hair dye so I spent my last evening in Frankfurt going blonde. I chatted to Nina and thought the best decision was to go and see her in Berlin. I was the last one on the coach (bit of a ritual now) and didn’t even realise where Berlin was in relation to Frankfurt. Berlin was so cool and I was pretty happy to see nina so spontaneously. I then saw Georgie in South-ish France, I worked harder on my tan, played water volleyball, rescued a baby bird and cycled to the beach. I said bye to her tiny cabin house and got the train to Paris to see Callum. I can clearly remember this as another one of the worst days of my life. It was Sunday and the hotel Callum had booked was no where near paris. I had no phone or internet and everywhere was deserted and there were train strikes. After hours of sitting on the side of the road waiting for non existent buses I finally reached Chilly Mazarin, where we were staying for 1 night. We went out for mussels. The next day I was covered in huge red itchy lumps. I’d had an allergic reaction that got more itchy the hotter I was, unluckily it was one of the hottest weekends of the year. We went from chilly Mazarin to Noisy Le Sec, into a crazy open house that was run by a psycho Chinese guy who couldn’t speak English or french and had anger issues. His wife shouted at us down the phone before we gave up trying to be nice and fled the scene. The weekend was great, despite my constant need to stop and scratch and Callum had made me a video montage with goodbyes from everyone in South Africa which may have made me shed a tear or two..

A cramped coach journey home welcomed us to Victoria station where dad greeted me with open arms and questions over my bright blonde hair. Welwyn Garden City hadn’t changed and summer just seemed to resume as if I’d never been away. I found it hard to have proper conversations with random girls and guys at parties that started with ‘omg you went to Africa, was there monkeys everywhere?’.

I desperately wanted to get back on the road, just like everyone feels after travelling.

It was pretty cool to be reunited with my friends again though. I still managed to really enjoy my summer; working, catching up with everyone I’d missed and enjoying the fact that my sisters wardrobe was now technically mine. Fran surprised me by coming down from Leeds. That was so so so good and sneaky of her and my mum! We saw a bloodied goat at the farm with Mollie and were temporarily traumatised. I took Fran into London where we shopped and went to a mini festival in Camden. I turned 20 and saw almost all of my favourite people and went out in London to celebrate. Camping, more birthdays, weddings, BBQs, seeing Laura Mvula at the BBC proms and a trip to Birmingham completed the summer.

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By August I’d got a job in Paris! Travel bug fed and working with kids, tick tick. I left Hertfordshire once again for a suburb just north of Paris, a new home, family and job. Au pairing was difficult at first, I don’t blame the kids for not warming to me straight away but I couldn’t really complain as my host family were so welcoming and made me feel at home pretty quickly. Gradually the kids have become a lot more cooperative and very friendly despite the occasional drama!  Everyone back home fretted that I’d have no friends and be mega lonely but it was the same situation to starting university (or what I imagine it to be). All au pairs, expats and erasmus students were in the same position. The first few weeks were so sociable and I must’ve met hundreds of girls and guys working, studying or just visiting Paris. I then got into a routine, something I hadn’t really had since Otjikondo. Tefl, work, drinks in central paris, picnics every weekend (always with peach wine), dinner parties and movie nights.

A weekend in Milan, 4 days in Zurich, a weekend home and a day in Brighton, a few days in Ireland and another weekend home including a quick trip to Nottingham all before Christmas holidays meant I wasn’t sat still for too long. I surprised Rhiana for her 21st birthday and it was the best thing ever to see her reaction to me turning up in Boots. I returned home very hungover and saw Charlie and her bump for her baby shower. We played pin the sperm on the egg and decorated baby grows, we’re all a little bit too excited for the little boy to arrive and to be aunties! And I’m so excited to see Charlie be a mummy.

Paris was lively before Christmas and there was lots to be done; a meeting for a zine project, visitors, lots of running, Christmas shopping and seeing a circus musical with Lucie the evening before I took the train to Vienna to see my family for Christmas. I then interailed and couchsurfed in Budapest, Bratislava and Amsterdam. The plan was to also go to Prague but time wasn’t on my side. I honestly had an unforgettable 2 weeks and would do it over and over if I could.

The year was mad and its flown by (doesn’t everyone say this every year? Where are we getting our concept of time from?!) and there was barely a boring day. There have been some major lows in the past 12 months; times when I’ve just wanted to click my fingers and land back in my own bed in welwyn and watch crap tv but when I put things into perspective I’ve been very lucky and the majority of it has been more than awesome. I’ve been in 11 different countries (12 if you include England) and spent hours upon hours in train stations and airports but I’m happy to be traveling as much as possible at the moment. Who has time to sit still!?Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 01.02.01

If you’ve been in my life at any point in the past year then thank you! I’ve met a lot of cool guys and gals and very few idiots (yay!). And my year would’ve been poop without you.

big uuuup, 2015

Mary x

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