Luxembourg

I moved back to Nigeria. And I think I’ve lost my writing mojo. This has little to do with the rest of this post.

In March, on the weekend RUJ(A) got married, my friends and I took a road trip to Luxembourg, and it was such fun (even though I was nursing a cold and was often tired), I wish I could have squeezed in one more like it before moving back to Nigeria.

One of us now has a car (yay!), and we rented another one because there were 10 of us in total. Because of some errors or whatever, we didn’t get the rental car we wanted, we got a shiny silver Mercedes C-class that looked like it belonged to a drug dealer. It was so shiny, people would stop and stare everywhere we went. We went from Amsterdam to Eindhoven to Weert to pick up other friends, stopped at Maastricht to grab lunch, and stopped again in Liege, Belgium to rest a bit because, like me, the owner of the car I went in also had the sniffles.

We got into Luxembourg around 17:00, and walked around the city for about 2 hours, just taking it in and marvelling where appropriate. I remember needing to pee but the toilet was locked because it was late or something, and one of us met a friend she hadn’t seen in so many years, while we were walking on some bridge. How nice. Anyway, that was that, and off we went, to our hotel in Metz, France. We had to sleep in France because hotels in Luxembourg are (or were?) too expensive for us, and anyway it was an excuse to explore a bit of France. We had dinner in a nice restaurant, and I used my mother’s card to pay for mine – after which she sent me the sms debit alert from her bank, probably wondering if indeed, her daughter was still out and about at 23:00. Yes mother, that was me. After dinner, we thought we’d wander about a bit, and we ended up in a bar/club space that made me remember Aix en Provence *sniff* but I couldn’t stay long as I was super tired, neither could my friend, the driver-who-also-had-a-cold, so we drove back to the hotel and I slept off.

In the morning, we went looking for breakfast in the city centre. We ended up in some place that appeared to be the town square, and had regular French breakfast fare, croissants and tea and all such things – and then we decided to explore the city and the quaint shops, churches, etc. We spent a bit of time walking along a river, during which I discovered that apparently, swans are (or can be) terrified of geese, if the geese honk loud enough. Some people were feeding stale bread to swans, and the geese spotted this from about 500m away and started honking and moving en masse to the food-sharing location. I thought there’d be a scuffle, but no. The swans moved away, waited for the geese to eat their fill and leave, and then returned. And here I was, thinking that the bigger you are, the more feeding priority you get.

From Metz, we drove to Trier, Germany, for lunch. I don’t remember what I had, but I remember struggling to choose between pasta and standard German food, and I think I chose schnitzel. We wandered around before lunch too, but we couldn’t do too much because this was 17:00 on Sunday and everyone had to be at work on Monday, and Amsterdam was 4 -6 hours away. I was tired but happy, and I remember getting home around 23:00 and tumbling into bed.

That was my weekend in Luxembourg. There are pictures, which might be uploaded later, but because I’m lazy, maybe not.

I’ve just written this post because it’s August 31, the unofficial end of summer, and even though I’m in Nigeria where (at least weather-wise,) summer never ends, I feel some type of way not having gone on any ‘interesting’ trips this period – so I thought I’d cheer myself up by writing about the time this year when I did go somewhere. I miss Amsterdam, and Finland, and France, and cheap, easy travel. This feeling was a tad amplified by this post, but well, like the writer, I had a nice alternative summer in which I did other things, too.

For people who had a proper summer break and are resuming school or work or anything else, welcome back, and good luck with the rest of the year!

À tout!

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My 2014 In Review

TL;DR: First half of my year was fine and fun, second half wasn’t very fine.

January-February: Got back to NL from the UK, spent time with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen in years and who lived in Amsterdam. Tried to find an internship and really was beginning to panic because my lease was expiring and I needed to find an internship so as to know where next to move. That didn’t work out, and I signed another 1-year lease and then started an internship in a different city (with free accommodation), 2 weeks later. Shout out to the friends who agreed to help me move (it was a 1.5 hour drive) when it turned out I was too broke to afford professional movers or a taxi, and had way too much stuff to just take the train. So, yay internship, but what about the house I rented? I had to sublet it so that went okay. Got broke, and then not-broke. Settled into my new life in the town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere where my internship company was located, sorted out carpooling to and from work, got a new computer, etc.

March-April: My Master’s program required me to do an internship while writing my thesis, ergo, I was writing my thesis at this point. I set a plan and everything, but the project I was handling was such that I wouldn’t be able to write a traditional qualitative or quantitative thesis. Also, the literature review was not going very well. I decided to be ‘AGILE’ – as opposed to waterfall – about the whole thing and was writing various parts of the thesis at the same time, and designing what I was supposed to be designing too. I took a Lean Six Sigma course – because that’s required for all employees of my company – and passed. I also learned, painfully, how to ride a bicycle. I think I already explained why I had to in another post, but basically, it was because the company is on a very large site (and ‘houses’ 2200 employees) and my office is 15 minutes on foot from the main gate, same for many others, so the company has lots of bikes for employees who may have cars but want to move around the site, and for people like me. Anyway, I learned how to ride a bike. I made friends with a very nice Spanish girl and her boyfriend, and she helped me. She’d go out of her way to come to my office the first couple of times, to ride behind me and make sure nothing happened till we got to the gate. Same for when I was going from the gate to my office (and this was possible because we carpooled together). I went to the UK too to see the boyfriend and for a 4-day break from all the nonsense. While on this break, I didn’t check my university emails and as a result, missed out on a job opportunity. Welp. I was still wearing a jacket at this point and wondering why it was still this cold in spring.

May-June: Thesis and project were going well with a few hiccups here and there, and I have to mention here that I think my thesis went as well as it did because I had the best set of supervisors, at work and in school. I’d have been so lucky if I had them while writing my Bachelor’s thesis, but let’s not even speak about that. I had to learn and practise Change Management here too. I started a social media management side-gig with a friend. Then there was my birthday, during which Spanish friend and boyfriend and Colombian friend (all working in my company of course, and now I wonder, really, if any of us young foreigners ever made friends with any one who lived in that town but didn’t work in our company…) made us Spanish omelettes and mojitos. It was summer (and I know this because I was able to wear short shorts) and we’d had a party of sorts the day before, organized by the company ‘country club’. Fun. I had begun to feel old by my birthday, but meh. (Really though. The years are just flying by, and what am I doing with my life?) I submitted my thesis in time (special shoutout to the boyfriend for helping out), had to rewrite some parts, defended and (shot myself in the foot but) got a good grade. The World Cup started in June, and we interns (all lived on the same floor in a hotel and) used to gather in the living room to watch, we’d make a mini party of it, with food and drinks.

July-August: Internship ended, began the search for a new apartment in another city, and I failed the second stage of an interview. I moved to another city, and loved it. How I chose this city? The mental equivalent of spinning a globe and things…only, I was a bit more ‘strategic’. Anyway, I moved, and then the house I moved to was quite rubbish. Falling apart. Unfit for habitation. (And people actually live there. No, I was not able to see detailed pictures before I moved.) So I moved again, after 2 or 3 days, and was quite lucky to find a much better apartment for the same price as the rubbish one. I went to France for my graduation and, when I think of all the rubbish that has constituted the second half of my year, I think back to my time in France and I regain some measure of peace, and happiness. The south of France is quite lovely (year-round, but especially) in the summer, and that, combined with good company, is the stuff that nice holidays are made of. It’s also funny that I didn’t appreciate it that much when I lived there.

September – November: Sorted my residence permit (because once you graduate, your reason for being in the country changes from ‘student’ to either ’employed’ or ‘looking for employment’), but first, had to sort out insurance (Nigerian one expired, and it is illegal to live in NL without insurance, among others) and move because of registration issues with the city hall. So in essence, I have lived in 5 houses this year. Wonderful. Kept getting bounced after interviews and stuff, for no discernible reason. I say ‘no discernible reason’ because my CV is quite solid (I’ve heard, many times), and I’m not terrible at interviews, if I do say so myself. Got another gig in social media management – which can’t pay the bills, but can buy groceries. Finally got a job in client support which I don’t like for shitty pay (but it paid the bills and I was grateful for that and for the opportunity to learn other stuff like account management). {Side bar: the reason I went for an MSc in what I got an MSc in, was because I’d tried the tech support/network admin shebang and found that I didn’t like it.} I got bounced from work after the probation period because I was ‘doing an excellent job but wasn’t integrating’. I never spoke with the person who fired me, so I didn’t get the chance to ask for an explanation. I was fired by proxy. Heh. Why I wanted an explanation? Because, while I always, always blame myself when things go wrong, I couldn’t find any way to blame myself for this one. So I was quite shocked, etc. Well then. Got betrayed. A bit broke. Etc. I got an instant camera, because I wanted one, and because it’s a nice thing that gets people excited, such that you forget your own struggles for a bit. I remembered, somewhere in all of this, that 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to become a Product Manager (for digital products like Gmail and Skype, rather than physical ones like Ariel or other FMCGs). But school and ‘the cares of this world’ made me forget that. I still want to be one, so I have taken (and am taking) courses to put me on that path. Also, I’m practising product management on someone’s yet-to-launch product, and I’m looking to practise all I can, for the experience.

December: Came to Nigeria, for a break of sorts. I’m still here, and it’s been nice to see people and eat food and all that jazz, but my mind is still quite troubled, and I’ve been a bit prickly. This has been my worst year so far. I’m grateful though, for family and friendship and kind words, thoughtful gifts, help, advice, and prayers on my behalf. I’m grateful for the lovely people who have chosen to love me even when I’m being prickly and rejecting offers of help. I’m grateful for the parents who have enough to help me if I’m ever homeless or something (God forbid though. The purpose of all the tuition money that has been spent on my head is not so that I can still be asking parents for money at age 25). I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a blessing to people. I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to my friends and family. I’m grateful for all the flatmates I’ve had this year, to whom I owe many interesting memories. I’m grateful for museums and music, books and instant cameras. I’m learning to think positive thoughts but that requires discipline. I’ve learned that I need to develop people-skills, because my normal self does not go out of her way to, for example, say more than just ‘hello’ to near-strangers. I’ve learned persistence, and to find joy in the little things. I’ve practised compromise. I’ve stopped being naive, I think. I’m going back to NL in a couple of days and I don’t know what’s going to be different, but we’ll see.

In summary, I’m not very happy right now, haven’t been for a while, but I’m very grateful. It could have been much worse, I think. I’ve coped by dancing, exercising (yay year-round summer body), by asking myself things like “are you the furst?” and “but did you die?”; I’m also hopeful because that’s probably all I have left. Hope that efforts being made will pay off, and things will get better. So here’s to 2015. May the odds be ever in our favour, and may the lines be arranged for us in pleasant places.

Happy Holidays (or what’s left of it)!

Graduation in the South of France

TL;DR: I graduated, had a vacation, and discovered that my French isn’t half as good as I thought.

Yep, I graduated. Last week*. I have bittersweet feelings about this, because the past 2 years have been good to me (and I’m not just talking about collecting a regular allowance from the parents), so I’d hate to leave all of this behind; on the other hand, it’s time for my next set of adventures.
But first, a brief account of what went down during the week of my graduation. I arrived in Marseille on Tuesday with my friends, and we promptly proceeded to behave like tourists by whipping out a sunscreen can and spraying generously on our limbs, right there at the airport! In our defence, the weather was lousy when we were leaving Netherlands, so no one really thought to use sunscreen before getting on the plane. I was just glad to shed all those layers of clothing as the plane began to touch down in Marseille. We still had our transport cards from back when we lived in France (and we brought them with us because travelling between Aix en Provence and Marseille is quite expensive without those cards), so we topped them up right there at the airport, got on the bus, and headed for Aix en Provence.

In Aix, we found a decently-priced restaurant, ordered some lunch,  I had a steak with fries and it was meh –  because bad things always happen whenever I order a steak – and then we went wandering around the shops. I left the actual shopping to my friends, and played the role of the sometimes-bemused-sometimes-amused tourist who isn’t buying anything but is quite content to let you try to make her buy. No one succeeded. I’m not such a fan of macarons but my friend bought some salty ones and we proceeded to hold them up as ‘eyepatches’ and take pictures.

Wednesday: La Plage. Of course, you cannot leave the dreary weather in Holland** and not attempt to soak up all the sandy goodness when you go to the South of France!

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Sand, check; sunglasses, check; book, check; wine, check. And a good time was had by all.

Thursday: Commencement. It really was not that serious. In Netherlands and Finland, especially in Finland, no one really cares about an elaborate graduation ceremony a la what you might get if you graduated in the UK, or Nigeria. As far as I know, my Finnish school organizes 2 graduation ceremonies every year, but if you don’t manage to finish within any of those windows, either wait for the next ceremony, or just go put your degree to good use baby. My Dutch school organizes one ceremony for each program, and in France, at least they take the trouble to wear a gown and cap. Being that I schooled in all three aforementioned countries, there was a small ceremony, and I wore a cap. And, being the overthinker that I am, I don’t know how I did not think to find out beforehand, how to balance a graduation cap on an afro, and how to make said afro presentable afterwards. That said, MSc: Check. It was fun, and informal. This is not to say that we did not dress up; we did, but I, for instance, did not see the need for heels. (One of us wore a t-shirt and shorts, 😮 but I was too preoccupied to feel anything more than confusion on his behalf.) We had (bottomless!) drinks and loads of petit fours.

Friday: Notre Dame de la Garde and Au P’tit Quart d’Heure: Not much to say about Notre Dame de la Garde, but it is an interesting place to visit, this year is its 800th year in existence, and err… I had been (and still am) trying to learn to speak French, and I thought I was making progress. Then I went to France and someone at the entrance to the museum section of NDG surprisingly took interest in me. (I don’t look that exotic, and if you live in Marseille, then of course you see people like me everyday, but anyway…) Believe it or not, we had a conversation in French for about 15 minutes. She was doing most of the talking, and I was making what surely must have appeared to be half-arsed attempts to respond in broken French. I understood 95% of what she was saying, but of course, other than vigorous nodding and saying things like “je vivre” rather than “je vis”, my brain refused to formulate appropriate responses to demonstrate my supposed understanding. Also, a kind man at the Vieux Port saw me holding a map and looking like the tourist that I was, and proceeded to offer help – and ask questions like where I’m from, and whether I had seen the sea, and because I misunderstood and said yes (he was actually asking whether I wanted to see the sea), he went “oh, yeah, let’s go”, and started shepherding me towards a bus. When I understood what he meant, I said “not now”, in French and Dutch. As in, I ought to have said “pas maintenant”, but I said “pas nu”. Sheesh. Anyway, thank you, kind man with the beautiful tan. I got back to Aix and proceeded to drink copious amounts of wine with my classmates, at Au P’tit Quart d’Heure. Do not judge me, you would likely have done the same if you were getting 1 glass for €1. No, I did not get drunk.

I think I’ve written too much, but I’ll be back later.

*I started writing this post on August 28th. So it obviously isn’t ‘last week’ anymore, but whatever.

**In all fairness, the weather has been quite decent since last week, such that I am still wearing shorts everyday.