Autumn wonderland

waterfall and autumn leaves at monasterio de piedra

waterfall and autumn leaves at monasterio de piedra

waterfall and autumn leaves at monasterio de piedra

 

 

When you have lived somewhere for a long time you often forget that there are beautiful spots right around the corner. Monasterio de Piedra,  a beautiful natural park full of waterfalls, is a great stop if you’re driving from Madrid to Zaragoza or Barcelona. These photos were taken a year ago, but hopefully I’ll be visiting again next weekend, it’s my reward if I manage to finish a paper before then.

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Weekend links

Once upon a time I used to post a weekly round-up of links that I had found interesting during the week. When I reuploaded my blog I had a great deal of fun going through them finding everything for the second time. Although I usually share links on twitter or facebook and I save those relevant to my PhD on Evernote, most of the stuff I like gets lost in the depth of the internet. That’s why I’ve decided to start making this posts again, as a way for me to be able to browse through a bunch of stuff that I love. They probably won’t be weekly because I’m a very busy human being and some weeks I don’t even read anything on the Internet (oh the shock), but they’ll come up from time to time.

I feel very identified with this. Maybe a bit too much.

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Istanbul

Last year I travelled to Istanbul for my friend Elcin’s wedding, the first crew wedding. Although more than seven years have passed since we lived in Munich, I’m still close to my Erasmus friends but, living in five different countries, we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like to (which would be all the time), and when we do it’s usually in twos or threes. During this trip to Istanbul, we kept repeating “oh my God, this is the best day of my life!” And although I suppose we would have had an amazing holiday in Hull too, the fact that that Istanbul is a totally fascinating city that feels like a million different cities in one totally helped. I can’t wait to go back.

 

Istanbul cotton candy seller

 

Istanbul sports shopfront

Interesting marketing strategy

Istanbul architecture

Istanbul architecture

Istanbul architecture

 

Istanbul street scene 

 

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The art of doing a million things at the same time

anxiousWhen I started this blog–back in 2007–it was called The Art of Staying Up All Night. The name seemed fitting at the time. I wanted to talk about the things that kept me awake until the early hours: films, books and music. I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, even as a child, and as an undergraduate I fell into the habit of staying up until stupid o’clock (sometimes all night) watching film after film, finishing a book (and then starting a new one, because I always have to have a book on the go) or listening to albums on repeat and feeling identified with cringeworthy lyrics. Well, not anymore, so I’m glad I gave the blog a name change.

 

Last week Linkedin gave me a kind reminder that it was my work anniversary (seriously, who cares?), which means that for the past year I’ve been juggling two part-time jobs and, PhD, a social life and a relationship that for the first half of that year was long distance. Now let’s all take a deep breath, because just writing that made me feel anxious. Somehow during my last months as a twentysomething real life hit me and decided it was time for me to grow up a little bit, and one year later I’m still readjusting.

 

I was used to starting work at 11, which allowed me to indulge in my old habits of staying up late doing the things that I love the most and still wake up fresh-faced and full of energy. Now I had to wake up at six in the morning ready for a long commute to another town, where I was to teach English to future English teachers who were not that much younger than me, have a quick meal at a time which was not my usual time, and run to work again, this time selling furniture and accessories that I can’t afford.  This left me with two afternoons a week and weekends to prepare my classes (one of which was in a subject on which my knowledge wasn’t great), mark assignments, supervise dissertations, look after the flat, visit my grandmother, see my friends and, last but not least, work on my PhD. Time for another deep breath.

 

My favourite position

 

I am used to hearing questions like “how can you do so many things?” and “where do you get the time for all that?”. I’m sure all the professional jugglers out there are more than familiar with this and will agree with me when I say that very often, more often than I’d like to admit, my modus operandi is the following:

1. Think about how much I have to do. Then think about it some more. Start thinking about the following day’s tasks. Calculate at what time I’ll be done and then calculate how many hours of sleep I’ll get. Wonder if it’s all worth it and if I’ll ever finish anything.

2. Panic.

3. Work as if my life depended on it.

 

Thankfully I sometimes have the ability of working quite fast, and that’s what saves me, but most of the time I’m just wishing I was doing something else. When I’m preparing classes and marking papers I wish I could be working on my thesis and maybe even writing my own papers. Whenever I read a really bad paper I feel sad that that student is wasting her time and daydream about how much I could get done if I had as much time as a full-time student. When I’m at the shop and there are no customers I can often be found marking papers, working on my German or reading something for my thesis. My commute is usually spent wishing I was in bed, twitting about how much I hate waking up so early or reading a book, this time pleasure reading in order to avoid building up anxiety. Basically the only times when I’m 100% focused on what I’m doing are when I’m teaching (because that requires my full attention) and when I’m working on the thesis, unless I start thinking about how I wish I had more time to spend on it, then sometimes I panic. This train of thought and constant feeling that I should be doing something else is not healthy. I mean, at the beginning I burst into tears at the shop because I found it hard to find the right time to wash my hair. I know, right? I don’t do that anymore (bursting into tears, I mean, my hygiene is top notch).

 

 

So most of the time I find my mind is not really where it should be, and as much as I wish I could take Ron Swanson’s advice and “whole ass one thing” instead of half assing a million things, that’s not really possible. I could go back to my old job and spare myself the commute, but that’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life, and teaching at university is, so that experience is crucial to my future. Besides, despite how incredibly hard the first year was, I really like it and I think that one day I could be very good at it. Working at uni full time is not an option without a PhD, so that one is out of the list too. There is no way that I could quit my PhD. Although if the b-a-d times sometimes make the thought cross my mind, I am hopelessly devoted to my topic and I love it so much that I know I couldn’t stop even if I tried. The shop job? Easy, I can’t survive with a part-time job, I need the money to live and fund all my unhealthy habits. Thankfully I have an amazing mother who not only gave me a job in her business, and let me get everything I want from it for free, but also let me cut my hours to see if that would also cut anxiety AND sends the shop’s cleaner over to do my ironing every couple of weeks. I don’t think I could manage  without that.

 

Seeing as I have to carry on with this lifestyle, I’m doing my best to keep calm. This (academic) year, with my anxiety levels a bit more stabilised and hopefully going down even further, plus a year’s experience on my back, I am taking some measures to make it work and try not to be a professional multitasker, but rather someone who performs different tasks in different moments of the week.

  • I set a “go to bed” alarm that will ensure I get at least five hours of sleep, so I no longer go to bed thinking “oh god, I have to be awake in three hours,” which really helps. On top of that, my doctor makes sure that I get good sleep quality.
  • Before bed time, I lit candles, make myself a cup of tea, turn on some low lights and spend some time doing something for pleasure. Reading, surfing the web, watching something or writing this blog post. This means that when I get into bed my mind is not in work mode anymore and I can relax.
  • I don’t set myself high expectations for the days when I wake up at six. I try to make sure all my lessons are prepared before Monday, get used to the idea that my nap will be long and I will be exhausted, and talk myself into thinking that it’s ok to spend that evening just reading in my PJs. That way I don’t feel bad about not being the most productive person those days.
  • We try to plan meals so cooking is more a pleasure than a worry.
  • I rely more on to-do lists with items I can cross out to feel more satisfied.
  • I manage my work chunks better, particularly when it comes to research. I’ve learnt to forget about the bigger picture for some hours to focus on what needs to be done next.
  • I take weekends off going out after one or two. I love hitting the bars and everything, but being too tired or hungover to prepare my week on Sunday really takes a toll on my mood for the week.

So far these are the changes that I’ve made, and they’re all successful. And you know what the best thing about them is? Something I just realised when writing them down; I never set out to make changes, they just happened. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep them going for 66 days and they will become habits.

 

join us in victory job

 

This post was inspired by some work e-mails that nearly made me push the PANIC button. And it really is something I should have put into words a long, long time ago. I feel a lot more calm and I am ready to face my inbox without panic. It’s times like this that make me think the past year would have been better if I had been blogging about it. Congratulations if you made it so far, now I’m just writing some extra words in order to reach 1,500. There.

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Dortmund in red scale

 

This isn't actually Dortmund, it's a train station where we had to change trains

This isn’t actually Dortmund, it’s a station where we had to change trains

 

red scale dortmund

red scale dortmund

red scale dortmund

red scale dortmund

 

When I was living in Hamburg I went on a little adventure to Dortmund with my friend Rodrigo to see our beloved Hot Water Music. Remembering this trip makes me feel sad that I haven’t seen Rodrigo for two years, we had some awesome times in Hamburg. I had never thought about visiting the Ruhrgebiet until then. Having lived in Bavaria, the idea of visiting German industrial cities didn’t appeal to me at all, why would I go to bloody Dortmund when I could be visiting castles, mountains and lakes?! I suppose it must have been a beautiful city at some point, but 98% of the inner city was bombed during the war, and although important buildings were rebuilt during the post-war era, that wasn’t enough to restore its charm.

These photos were taken with the Lomography red scale film. I get really mixed results from it. Some photos come out great, but others way too red or too yellow. Some of the pics above have been desaturated on photoshop because it was a bit too much. I much preferred Rollei Redbird. You can see an example of a photo I took with the same camera but different red scale film here, the colours and texture are much nicer there.

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Hamburg

These photos were taken in Hamburg a couple of summers ago. The Reeperbahn is a monstrosity, but I sort of like its decadence. Despite the look of this photos, Hamburg is definitely one of the most alive cities I have ever been to, and my short time living there was crucial in feeling content with who I am again. Because of that I will be forever indebted to it.

 

reeperbahn hamburg

reeperbahn hamburg st pauli zum silbersack

st pauli hamburg

Adorno playing at Rote Flora

Adorno playing at Rote Flora

st pauli hamburg

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Jump into the k-hole

Every time my feedly shows a 1 in brackets next to Internet k-hole I know I’m in for a laugh. This blog is like a bizarre time capsule, it’s the awkward teenage years of the past three generations, it’s the embarrassing pictures you threw away when you grew up, it’s the old family photos that you wish your mum would never show anybody, it’s the sexy pictures your pushy ex-boyfriend took of you before camera phones were invented. It’s the best thing on the Internet. The blog recently moved to tumblr, which in my opinion made it lose part of its appeal. Sure, now it is updated more often, but there was something really special about the sporadic mammoth photo dumps of yore.  Here are some of my favourite photos from the blog. I recommend that you check their archives on blogspot and follow them on tumblr, but make sure you have a lot of time when you do or you may never come back.

Warning: some of the photos on the websites are very NSFW

 

Continue Reading →

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A not so fresh start

So it would appear that my blog has risen from the ashes. I don’t even know if people still read blogs, but frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn. For the past couple of years I have felt ambivalent towards blogging. You see, the thing is that I really turned to blogging during the worst time of my life. Sometimes when life is not treating you nicely the only thing that you can do–apart from the sensible options like seeking help, taking up yoga, eating healthily and spending time with your loved ones and the not so sensible ones like running away from your problems and do things you’ll regret–is immersing yourself in something that will keep you so busy that you won’t even have the time to think. And that’s what I did.

As I was taking hit after hit, I started blogging more and more, taking it more and more seriously and spending a substantial part of my day reading blogs, thinking about blogs, commenting on blogs, scheduling blog posts, doing things just so I could later blog about them and wishing my life looked as perfect as other people’s lives. And it was great. It gave me something to think about other than how miserable I was. It allowed me to escape from reality and it forced me to focus on the positive. In short, blogging really helped me to overcome depression.

But of course this also had several drawbacks. For starters, my blog no longer felt really mine. When I was depressed I didn’t feel like myself, I had thoughts that weren’t like my thoughts, I behaved in a way that wasn’t my way, I treated people differently, I couldn’t enjoy things and activities that I usually enjoy, etc. Consequently I was blogging in a way that wasn’t my way. And once I went back to my usual self there were many, many things about my blog that weren’t me. And not only that, they reminded me of the horrible times that I had been through. It was hard for me to face the traces of who I had been for a little while, so when a nasty virus infected the blog I didn’t feel terribly sorry about it.

When this happened I was writing regularly somewhere that wasn’t so personal, where I could easily adopt a different tone and make it my own again and where we had a wide audience to interact with, which fulfilled my non-academic writing needs. Nevertheless, like my blog before, it ended up feeling like a drag, like another obligation; “do the dishes, write, wash some clothes, answer e-mails, dust the shelves, schedule some posts, make the bed, manage the newsletter, repeat”. It felt like a job without being one, so when real life took a few new turns free time became as rare as hen’s teeth and I had to let it go.

But the thing is, I have missed blogging. I have been doing it since I opened up an OpenDiary back in 2001. I tried to revive this blog, but it was too painful. I tried to get a fresh start on tumblr, but as much as I like tumblr, I find it hard to write there. So the other day I took advantage of an offer and snapped up this domain for free. I figured that if the first year was free I could give it a try. So I imported my old blog, then deleted it, then imported it again. And then it came to me: I started this blog (as The Art of Staying Up All Night) in 2007, when I was living in Munich, happier than I had been for years, meeting some of the most important people in my life. Sure, the blog had helped through the bad times, but it had been there way before the bad times happened. In fact for the most part it is a log of happy memories and things I love. So I thought “fuck it, I’m bringing it back” and proceeded to spend hours going through seven years of blog posts and deleting every single thing that brought bad memories back and everything that felt like a stranger wrote it. And here I am, writing a long justification for my actions which is totally unnecessary. But hey, one has to break the ice somehow.

Even though I’ve been totally disconnected from the blog world, there are some blogs which I have read almost religiously. Hello there, Kim, ZoeBianca, SiobhanLaura, Hila, Diana, Kate & Rhianne!! At this time you all feel like old friends to me, so thanks for being there.

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Sea Fury (Cy Endfield, 1958)

Most of my summers have been spent in L’Estartit (Girona), where I learnt how to swim, how to make friends in a foreign language, how to survive on a diet of coco pops and alcopops and that Malibu mixed with milk is not actually a nice drink. Before the tourism boom of the 1960s, L’Estartit was a tiny fishing town. The L’Estartit that I knew, however, was the one of British pub quizzes, Dutch teenagers, foam parties, and thong vending machines. I used to be mesmerised by the latter and even purchased one at the age of 9 only to “ewww” and “ahhhh” at it for about five seconds before someone threw it away. Another souvenir I purchased at the time was a squeaky monkey which let out a massive penis when squeezed. Now that I think about it, maybe it was a priest and not a monkey, or maybe both. Nice Catholic education there, mum and dad.

Anyway, I have always loved trying to imagine what this little coastal town looked like before the buzzing neon signs, decaying nightclubs and drunk Brits. The other day, quite by coincidence, I came across this gem of a film which was filmed there in 1958, before tourism swallowed up the coast. In it you can see what the town looked like before it even had streets, back when people spent their time making fishing nets on the beach, before anybody tried to sell you dodgy coke. Sea Fury (Cy Endfield, 1958) is available on youtube. It’s not even a good film, and Luciana Paluzzi’s Spanish accent is hilarious, but the views of L’Estartit are magnificent.

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Is technology making us unhappier?

“Is technology making us unhappier?” Just writing down this title makes me feel like one of those bitter old people who complain about everything young’uns do. “Your generation didn’t have to go through a war”, “you kids have it so easy”, “when I was your age I was making a million/year and had four children to support”, etc. We might not have had to go through war, but older generations haven’t had the misfortune of having their entire past available at all times. How typical of my generation to whine about those things that make life easier for us, huh? Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as everybody, but lately I’ve been thinking about its negative effects in our emotional well-being.

 

 

After my Great Laptop Crash (GLC) of December 2013, I hadn’t found the right moment to go through the files that could be saved on my external hard drive until last week. I spent nearly an entire afternoon going through all the folders, deleting duplicates, working out what had been lost and, generally, confronting my past. MSN Messenger conversations from the early 2000s, embarrassing photo collages from the fotolog times, drawings old friends who I can no longer call friends made for me, scans from my collage notebooks, old stories, texts with cryptic meanings that invariably talk about quarterlife crises and trying to find happiness in the wrong places, my grandfather’s last christmas, the carefree years, the whatever years, the what-to-do years, even part of the high school years, every essay I ever wrote at university, photos of people that have left my life, photos of the people I love wearing baggy jeans and looking extremely young, all the files from my old blog, photos of things I thought were cool but aren’t, photos of things I thought were funny but aren’t, photos of things that are actually fucking hilarious. And looking at this made me extremely sad, and not a nice and nostalgic kind of sad, but the worst kind. The good things were making me sad and the bad things were making me sadder. Okay, I was premenstrual, but still. Is it really healthy for us to have access to all of this at all times? How can we move on when our past is so accessible? It takes effort to dig out the box of old journals and the heavy photo albums, but it’s almost impossible to avoid flicking through computer files, wanting to see everything.

I left most of my old journals at my parents’ home when I moved out because I don’t want to have the temptation to drown in them. I tend to be more creative when I going through difficult emotional moments, so everything I’ve ever made is charged with meaning. Every text I’ve ever written is full of analogies and metaphors for my own feelings that made me feel exactly like I did at the time of writing them. I don’t want to throw them out like I did with my teenage ones (a decision that I don’t really regret because I only ever wrote about people I knew and no longer care about), but I feel like some sort of restricted access is necessary for me to retain my sanity, and the same goes for digital files. Having school mates, exes and the fabulous internet people (you know, those one whose lives seem to come out of a magazine) a click away is enough. I can’t block people from the Internet (although I wish I could), but I can stop myself from having my past lying around all the time. That’s why, after going through my hard drive and organising everything, I left all the files right where they were, on a hard drive that I barely use. If I ever want to see them I know where they are, but my laptop only hosts files created in the past two years. Right now focusing on the present is the only way of moving forward.

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