A 2015 recap of sorts, and other things

Until a few weeks ago, I had thought 2014 was my worst year ever, but in reality, it was only the last quarter that was horrible, the rest of the year was quite fine and fun. I wonder what factors people consider when they measure whether a year was ‘great’ or not: Goals achieved? Fun had? Horrible things and frustration kept to a minimum? I personally consider how well things went as a whole, how well I was able to navigate unexpected twists and turns, how much fun (travel, friends, maybe work) I had, etc.

2013 remains my best year so far, though. I travelled to so many new places and experienced lots of new things, was always financially okay (never buoyant but never broke), didn’t have to worry about work because I was in school, met and rolled with interesting people. So. fun. Also, I can say I really didn’t like 2014 at the end because the twists and turns were a bit too much for me.

Dec 2014 – Mar 2015

I’m happy that my problems began to resolve themselves between December and January, though. I visited Nigeria and had fun, had interviews and got a new job, I could pay my rent – this became a big deal at some point because I was broke and jobless – and moved to Amsterdam. Company bought me a new laptop and it was so fun to be working remotely, AND then I got a new client for my side hustle, which doubled my work load but it was good to be making extra money, however little.

I had a nevus in my left eye (which was there for ~11 years), I had it checked out (because I’m getting older and need to start caring about my appearance) and got scheduled for surgery to remove it.

I took a road trip to Luxembourg with my friends, and we went through Liege (Belgium), slept in Metz (France), and on our way back, had lunch in Trier (Germany). I was especially happy to take this trip because I was scheduled to move back to Nigeria after surgery and I wanted to take 1 or 2 more trips. This was it (because after this, I got broke again and there were no more trips till I left).

Apr – Jun

Living in Amsterdam was nice because I was right in the centre, near Dam Square, and it was such a good feeling to be able to walk to all the nice places (instead of having to take the tram, for example). That said, my lodgings in the centre were temporary and lasted 1 month, after which I moved again, this time to a very kind friend’s house. This friend is my person of the year 2015, because she gave up her bed for me and slept on her couch for the 3-4 months I stayed in her house and if it weren’t for her, I’d have had to move back to Nigeria sooner and broker than I’d planned, or put up in a rubbish-but-cheap apartment. She cooked for me once in a while, tried to get me to have a social life, and basically made me feel at home in her house. She also insists this wasn’t a problem at all, but she’s the type of person who likes her space and doesn’t quite like ‘invasion’, so doing this was a sacrifice of sorts, I’m sure. I hope I can be this gracious to someone in the future (or at least have enough money to rent the person a flat of their own -_-).

I finally had eye surgery, and the best part? My insurance covered it. I had to go for routine checkups and what not afterwards, which was why I was still in NL.

I lost my still-new job at some point towards the end of March. Reason? I was hired as a Product Manager but they changed strategy and didn’t quite need a full time PM any more, so it was too expensive to keep me on. Fine. In any case I had been casually reading about things, and at this point I started to think that if I was going to move back to Nigeria, maybe I’d be better off learning and specializing in UX Design because that seemed more useful, with more quantifiable benefits in the current Nigerian environment.

For UX Design, I paid for a web-based 3-month course that gave me tools and tips and taught me lots stuff that might have taken me more time to figure out. I didn’t quite finish the course though – I got so busy at one point that I started skipping classes, and then catching up was difficult after a while. Or maybe I was just scared, because I caught up on everything but the Javascript (JS) portion.

Aside: To be honest, JS looks hard and scary but when has that ever stopped anyone? I feel like this is one thing I should conquer in 2016, BUT am I going to use it for anything? Like, it’s good to know it so I can write some code once in a while, and so I can parse through code someone else has written without feeling like I’m reading Klingon, BUT in my daily life, is it necessary? I’m the sort of UX designer who likes to use visual, drag-and-drop tools to prototype my designs, so I’m a bit torn. I think I only want to learn JS so I can cross it off the list of things I ‘know’.

Moving on, I started looking for work as a UX designer. I discovered new tools and was using them to practice UX/Web design, and then I was working on my side-hustles almost full time. I don’t think I ever applied to any UXD jobs though, and I think it’s because I lacked confidence in my abilities. Instead, I’d admire the job postings, decide I don’t have the experience they’re looking for and need to practice some more, and then go and apply for the customer service jobs. Sigh.

This has gotten too long so I’m breaking it up. Part II is here.

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!

February 2015: Jumble

This month, I started work at my new job. I felt productive the first couple of days and some, and then things got old really quickly. I found there was quite a bit I didn’t know, and in fact, I think my boss knows that, so he’s been extremely patient. But still, I feel like a fish out of water. Some days, there’s quite a bit to do and that’s when I’m most productive. On the days when there’s only one thing to do though, I get sluggish. I feel guilty about the lethargy I feel, of course, but I wonder if there’s something else I can do to get over it? There are quite a number of balls I’m juggling at the moment, but my employer is paying me to work 8 hours a day, so it would be dishonest to use that time to do other things. Sigh. Also, I’m more productive at night, apparently, and this is very bad because it means I work late and wake up early, but I also can’t sleep during the day because what if my employer or colleagues need to reach me?

Speaking of balls, I got a new social media management client the other day, so yay – and bye bye to my carefree weekends 🙂 Another ball I’m juggling is this crowdshipping experiment, in which if you need to send something from A-B, you can post on the platform, and someone who is going from A-B will respond. It’s still in ‘Beta’, so it’s not yet an app or anything, and I need suggestions on how to make it better, please. I especially need advice for the ‘How it works’ section – it’s way too long, and I’m not sure how to make it shorter and easier to read. Flow charts, maybe? How to make colorful ones, does anyone know?

I’m moving house today. I had the misfortune of choosing to sublet from a flighty (or crazy? he calls himself crazy) person, and now he’s decided to move, so I have to move too. He knows how annoying this is, so he’s offered to help me move my stuff to Amsterdam, in a Fiat Punto. I have a lot of stuff so I think we might need 2 trips. On the plus side though, it’s good that I’m moving to Amsterdam because the closer I am to Schiphol when the time comes to leave, the better for me. I shudder to even think about the cost of a cab from The Hague to Schiphol. I still haven’t packed, or done the things I’m supposed to do…I really hate moving, and I reckon I’m going to move at least 2 more times after this before I’m finally settled. Gah. Also, need to buy new suitcases, because the poorly trained humans – and it’s only because of my manners that I call them humans – at Murtala Muhammed airport made certain to break at least one part of my suitcase for every single time I passed through in December (total number was 5, I think). Well done, everyone.

I have to go now. Take a shower, stuff suitcases, trash stuff (and this is the annoying bit – always having to trash stuff to make space. Nobody will buy my old stuff because nobody is a size XS like me!), go sell my old Toshiba laptop (which has ‘shown me pepper’) and ancient Harman/Kardon speakers {Side bar: my office sent money for a new laptop, and as an experimenter, I chose an Asus 13″ ultrabook. Core i7, 128Gb SSD, inbuilt Bang & Olufsen speakers, etc. I chose this, for science. I’ve had it for about 1.5 weeks and it’s been lovely so far}. I need a new, portable, bluetooth speaker. I can’t afford JBL because, broke. Please help? Do you know any good – but inexpensive – ones that can be gotten in Europe?

Meanwhile, I’m going to Luxembourg next weekend!!!

Okay that’s it from me. I will miss this apartment – it’s the best I’ve lived in so far, but I’m grateful for the memories.

A tout!

Amsterdam II

Sorry this took so long..

So, after lunch, we decided we wanted to see the Van Gogh museum, and then the Rijksmuseum. We went up to a counter at the tourism office, paid for 2 tickets, and left. Then we went to Starbucks. I hate coffee (because it just keeps my tummy in distress), but another friend of mine had told me that if I ever got the chance, I should try a pumpkin spiced latte. There’s no Starbucks in my town (apparently we’re not worth their time), so I decided to go try this one. It tasted awesome, but it still distressed my tummy, so I couldn’t finish it. Oh and I read something about coffee when I got back home, apparently there’s no pumpkin whatsoever in Starbuck’s PSL. Oh well…

We were going to take the bus/tram to the museum(s), but first we wanted to walk around the center for a bit. In wandering about, we found a sex museum (not like it was hard to find). This was fun, we thought, and it would be open until 23:00, they said. We thought we should visit after Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum since there wouldn’t be time after those to see the Red Light District(s?), so we promised to come back afterwards. We hopped on a tram and headed for the museum, and thankfully, since we bought our tickets elsewhere, we didn’t have to wait in line very long. When we got to the front of the line though, the guy at the counter took our tickets, looked at them and told us one of them was for “100 canals around Amsterdam”. Huh? I looked, and it was. Apparently the sales girl (who smiled oh so sweetly at us) had given us one Van Gogh ticket and one Canal ride ticket, both for the same prices. It was probably an honest mistake, but I was livid. And it was rush hour, so getting back to the city center took quite some time. When we got there though, the tourism office was closed. The hell? I was confused, and angry. Luckily, someone told us the company that sold us the tickets had another stand about 200m away, down by one of the canals, so off we went. The girl there was pleasant enough, but she asked a lot of unnecessary questions…”where did you say you bought this ticket?” “do you have a receipt?” Does it matter where I bought it or if I have a receipt? The important thing is that it obviously hasn’t been used and I want to exchange it for something else. Oh what, you think someone dropped their ticket and I picked it to exchange for something else? Don’t be stupid, please. Okay, okay, I was overreacting, but I was really pissed. And of course I didn’t say any of those out loud, I don’t like to be so obviously rude. Anyway, I resolved to write to customer service the very next day. LoL. I didnt haven’t. All of that frackas took about 1 hour or more, so all we had time for was the Van Gogh museum. No Rijksmuseum, no Madame Tussauds (yes, we have Madame Tussauds in NL too :D). Only canals and Van Gogh. Oh but I took some lovely pictures of his art. I also took a picture with a real life imitation of Madame Tussaud, beside a wax figure of Van Gogh, so yay me!

Next stop: Sex museum. At this time it was about 45 minutes before the last train to my city left, so I had to make it quick. 4 Eur and I was in. Hmm. I have been called naive many times before, but let me just state here that if the intention of the sex museum was to shock and/or educate me, it did that. I learnt about how the tango was born. And that there is someone whose (nick?)name is Long Dong Silver. And that ‘debauchery’ has been going on for centuries (okay, I sorta knew that, but this just served as proof). And…well, other things. It was well worth the time though. Well, we got back on the train, and I had to pee. Now I never use public toilets as a rule, but I was looking at 1.5 hours of travel time ahead, so I decided to go use the train toilets before the train started moving (so my butt won’t accidentally actually touch the toilet seat). My days. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a smaller, more filthy toilet. *Shudder*

We got back to my city in good shape, so yay, that was a day well spent. As I got off the train, I saw 2 classmates who got off the same train, and they explained that they lost one of their friends at the station where we had to switch trains. He had forgotten his jacket on the train and when he dashed back in to retrieve it, the train doors shut and it moved on. Problem was, this person talking to me had this poor guy’s backpack, and the poor guy’s phone was dead, and this was the last train. All he had was his jacket. Sigh.*

And that’s the end of my tale about Amsterdam. I plan to go back though, with a saner crowd, and to do more stuff 😉

 

*I heard, later, that he slept at his ex’s house in another town 35 minutes away. Lucky he knew someone there who had a good enough heart to open up the door for him, else he’d have had to sleep at the train station.

Long Post: Circus, Amsterdam 1

I went to the circus as I said I would, but on Wednesday, rather than last Saturday. I got 50% off coupons for them, but I had to go to some place I didn’t know called Heyhoef in order to redeem {is ‘redeem’ the right word here?} them. I wish they’d attached codes to the coupons so we could just use the coupons online, but no. If you want 50% off, you have to go somewhere – and if you want the comfort of buying tickets online, then you gotta pay full price. Sigh. Anyway, so I went, I set off early, but seeing as I have zero sense of direction, I got lost. As usual. I mean, what does Google Maps mean by ‘head southwest’? Who determines what ‘southwest’ is simply by looking around? I didn’t have realtime GPS because I didn’t pay for an internet plan from my phone service provider, so I just took screenshots of the directions before I left home. So after a couple of directions (bless those kind people), I was still lost and about to turn around and head home, when I spotted it. Well, not the circus itself, but the hotel after which the circus venue was named. I walked into the lobby and asked for directions, and then I finally managed to get there. 30 minutes late. It was worth it though, the entire thing had me giggling and clapping like a kid. How do they get animals to do all those wonderful things? There were cows putting up an impressive performance (while pooping with reckless abandon, by the way), ponies bopping along to music, poodles, etc. I would put up pictures but they’re too dark. Oh wait…there’s one I need to show you.

2013-10-16 20.45.28 2013-10-16 20.46.34

So in the first picture, there’s a guy lying on some sort of cushion, the way you’d lie on a couch. His legs are sorta extended, like an upside down crab, or like a person ‘squatting’ upside down. Now, on his feet, a ladder is balanced, and his partner (some poor lady) has to climb it to the top. She did the climb 3 times, but the 2nd was amazing. Take a look at the second picture. When she got to the top, she did a headstand. A headstand. On a suspended ladder. She was obviously very scared, and her smile was just bare teeth. At least she tried to smile. I hope she gets paid well though.

Last week, I saw a vacancy for workers at a new cafe, and I applied. I’d just been wondering about bartenders who know how to balance so many drinks on a tray without spilling (even while moving through a crowd), and I always wanted to try, so I applied. I went for an interview and I thought it went well, but sadly, I didn’t get the job because the owner wanted people who have waitressing/bartending experience. Ah well… I better stick to IT jobs then 😦

My friend and I planned to go see Amsterdam yesterday, but then she told me on Wednesday that a couple of people were going on Friday, so we should join them, and that we were going to meet at the train station at 10:05 am. I was there 15 minutes early, but ended up waiting about an hour, and no one apologized. Strike one. This ‘couple of people’ turned out to be about 8 in number. Guys, I hate to generalize here but if you like being organized, then as much as possible, don’t attempt to plan anything casual with a combination of Greeks and Italians. Or at least those particular people from yesterday. Else, I guarantee you will not be in possession of your sanity by the end of the day. I chose to go along with them though, so it’s my fault. Suffice to say that we got to Amsterdam at 14:00, rather than 12:00. Cool. Well, my friend (who is Bengali) and I had gotten tired of them by the time we got to Amsterdam, so we left them (not on purpose, we said we were going to get maps from across the road, and by the time we got back they had disappeared). We took a 1 hour tour of the canals, then we went to have lunch. Shittiest food I ever tasted. I’m Nigerian, and in Nigeria, we have these restaurants called ‘buka’s. These restaurants hardly ever look nice, customer service is either a hit or miss depending on where you go…but the food is usually good, and reasonably priced. We had checked Lonely Planet for restaurant recommendations and gotten one, but we couldn’t find it so we decided to just walk around. And we didn’t wanna eat Chinese or McDonald’s. This place was dirty, and looked dodgy, but as I said, I’m Nigerian so I thought the food was going to be good. I was going to pick spaghetti bolognese, but I thought “no, I’ve got spaghetti and minced meat in my fridge, let me pick something I haven’t had before”. So I picked chicken and sauce. My chicken and sauce came with spoiling vegetables and bread, and tasted like shit. Not like I’ve tasted actual shit before, but I imagine that’s what shit tastes like. The picture on the menu had chicken on sticks, a la kebab. This one was in cubes, a la chicken soup. I started looking at the menu to find the name of the restaurant, but all I could see was ‘Bon Appetit’. I gave up after about 4/5 bites, paid and waited for my friend to finish her crepes, and we left. Looked up at the sign outside and apparently the name of the ‘restaurant’ was actually ‘Bon Appetit’. Oh and customer service was quite crappy. I mean my food was dropped on my table as if I killed the server’s mother. Never ever again. Serves me right though, I should have checked well. I’m sha done trying new food(s) without recommendation, because bad things usually follow that move. Well, to anyone who wants to visit Amsterdam and may not have a map, please walk around, you will find something better. Worst case scenario, order a meat dish in a Chinese restaurant, or just go to good old McDonald’s/Subway.

To be continued…