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!

Gah!

I know I ought to write about the last part of my Stockholm trip, but right now I’m pissed, so I will write about that instead. I have no idea how organized or not this post will be, seeing as I’m ranting, but here goes:

*Walks into inner chamber, collapses into heap on the floor*

Early February: I receive a mail from my account officer for my French bank account, and she says I have no money left in my account and I must put in some money else she’d close it. I respond, telling her I will put in some money asap. I go to the bank some days later and transfer some money there. When I get home, I send her a mail telling her that I have put in some money, etc. The reason I am interested in keeping this account open is because I’m still expecting my rent refund, and it’s a nice sum of money in total. Anyway, she acknowledges the mail, blah blah blah.

Late February: I go to the website for my rent refund, and see that the refund was approved since late January, so naturally I skip over to my account, where my lonesome 20 Euros is staring back at me. Not quite the tidy sum I was expecting. I tell myself the French are quite bureaucratic (I’m being tactful here, what I really mean to say is not quite nice), seeing as it took over 3 months to get the payment approved in the first place, so the actual pay-out might take the same amount of time.

Late March: I check my French bank account, and discover that my cash account doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

A little back story here: In France, when you open a regular (savings?) account, you actually have 2 accounts, a cash account, and a card account. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but they are 2 different things and even if you have, say, 400 Euros in your cash account, if you don’t have enough money in your ‘card account’, you can’t use it to pay for stuff online. I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone else. Anyway…

So my cash account has vanished. I send an email to my account officer again, asking her why this account can’t be seen, and could she please ‘reactivate’ it? She replies the next day, saying “It is done.” I check my online portal immediately, but can’t find said cash account, and then I figure it would take a couple of hours to get it up and running.

Now, Early April: I didn’t check the account again till a few minutes ago, only to find that the account only got activated on April 2, about 10 days later. How? Further observation revealed 2 things:

1. she actually deleted my old account without my permission, and

2. she didn’t reopen it, she opened a brand new account, with an entirely different account number.

How the heck am I supposed to get my money if the account number has changed? HOW??? Why would she even delete my account without telling me?

I sent her an email, first thanking her for opening the account (which she had no right closing in the 1st place), then tactfully explaining how messy things could get as a result of what she has done. I really hope there’s a way to fix this that doesn’t involve me sending my new account number to CAF, because if I have to do that, I may as well forget about the money. I hope they have a system that updates relevant parties when details have changed. I hope. And I hope that my CAF details have been linked to my bank account, because that’s the only way I see this update working, if it exists.

I’m just going to have to wait till Monday to hear what she has to say for herself.

Why is the French system so bureaucratic? This could happen in Nigeria and I would get really mad, but I wouldn’t necessarily be too surprised, because it’s a ‘developing’ nation. This is France, in Europe for heaven’s sake. Isn’t it supposed to be efficient? Arrggghhh!

*straightens up, pastes smile on face, walks out of chamber* Rant over.

Cheers to your weekend. 🙂

One More

One more post before the clock strikes 12. Sorry I can’t put up the Spanish Steps post yet, because you see, I’m moving towards the North Pole tomorrow so I have to pack all my stuff. Packing is hard for me by the way, because I hate it, and I hate it because it makes my room disorderly, and I ALWAYS have trouble closing my box. This time around though, some things may just have to stay back, cos those boxes are not even trying to observe calm and close.

Went for lunch/dinner (it was between 4 and 5 pm) this evening, had some chicken filet, spaghetti with basil, and of course, cheese on top. For dessert, I had some tiramisu. Sorry I forgot to take pictures. Anyway, when it was time for me to pay my bill and leave, I handed them my card (of course I asked if I could use my card before settling down to eat), and it didn’t work. Hian. They tried it 2 or 3 more times, it just refused to work. Of course the problem was with their POS machine, but in my mind I was praying, just in case, that the problem wasn’t with my bank or card or something. Nigeria is too far away for me to start fighting with my bank over these things. Also, I had planned on withdrawing cash before traveling, so that I wouldn’t be strapped. Where would this cash have come from, if my card didn’t work? Ha. After all was said and done though, I had to walk across the road and withdraw cash to pay for my meal. The card worked this time *whew*.

Afterwards, I entered a shop on the main street, just to look around, as it is my last day in France. I was basically trying to enjoy the relatively warm weather before heading North where, as I said before, prayers for my warmth and safety would be needed. On my way out of the store, I stopped to say hello to a nice old man, and then as I was walking away, I felt a plop on my hand. It was bird poop. Tha heck? I have never been pooped on in my entire life! I usually refrain from walking under the trees that line the streets, but I looked up today on my way out, and saw that the trees were bare, so I assumed the darned birds had migrated for winter. For some reason, this made me so disconcerted that when my friend whom I haven’t seen in a while passed me and said hello and other things, I couldn’t even concentrate on what she was saying. Had to use a piece of paper to clean the yucky goo from my sleeve, and only then could I concentrate. Smh.

Sha, 2012 is over, like play like play. I’m too thankful for a lot of things that happened this year, one of which is the ability to literally tour the world. No matter how much I complain about the things I see around me (such as dog poop on the streets; keep your poop indoors people!), I am thankful for the opportunity to experience aspects of other cultures, I’m thankful that most of the things I learnt in school last semester are actually useful to me right now, and in the future. I’m thankful that even if we do not possess much, my folks are getting value for their money. Speaking of folks, I’m thankful for my family, I’m thankful for all the support, the weekly phone calls to make sure I’m alright, I mean, I’m supposed to be the one calling them, because it’s sort of cheaper from here, but no. They call me, they’re generous, they make me laugh, advice, pray for me, all across the Atlantic. Thank you. Ah, my fashionista little sister, who takes it upon herself to try and instruct me on what to do to look nice. I always attempt to resist her efforts, but I’m thankful. The little brother who likes to banter, LoL. Thanks for the laughs guys. Thankful for my forever playful dog, Stormie (hey baby!). I’m thankful for my friends too, I’ve never been the best friend anyone could have, but my friends have been amazing. Sometimes I’m too wrapped up in my issues to even care enough, but they’re still there, they still take time to check up on me, give advice, whatever it is that I need. Even with their limited income [I don’t have any millionaire friends yet (  ._.)], they call me. This is getting too mushy so I’ll stop. All of you know yourselves. Then there’s the one who calls me sweetness, even though God knows I’m more like bitterleaf (._. ). Thank you for ALL the support, for putting aside your issues to help me in every way possible, for being patient and being the bigger person when I’m misbehaving. This wouldn’t be complete without paying tribute to God, the one who knows me more than I know myself. Thank you for being faithful in my life and in the lives of my friends, thank you for providing, thank you for coming through in every aspect, thank you again and again.

I’m going to miss France though, my school, my quaint little room, the friends I made here, the guy at the cafeteria who used to scream ‘meatballs!’ every time he saw me, the others who used to crack jokes to make me laugh, most of the group mates I worked with, the members of staff who went out of their way to make me comfortable, the cheerful cleaning lady, the cute dude who always used to greet me with a smile and give up his seat for me on the bus (if it was too full and he was on it), the one who took it upon himself to teach me French, my real French teacher (thank you again, for the tickets to the wine tasting)…the list is endless. Thank you all, thank you. For everything, and for the memories.

*raises glass* Here’s to an awesome 2013, whatever ‘awesome’ means for each one of you.