Blog

Being honest

It has nearly been a year since I took the plunge and moved from Manchester to Poznan. I have been writing blog entries about my exciting travels, new friends, new foods, new adventures. Everyone I talk to back home says when they read my blog it sounds like I am having the most amazing time. This much was true for the most part. I enjoyed getting to grips with a new language and culture, I enjoyed forest walks and the cold winter, I enjoyed forging new relationships and I enjoyed the pierogi. I do have to admit something though (which is possibly the most personal thing I have written on this blog), I was also really struggling.

I’m not one for getting homesick. Exploring the world is something I have always wanted to do and I know I’ll always have my family and friends back in England to return to. Moving abroad was a scary prospect but I took it in my stride. Unfortunately, a few months before my return to the UK for a summer break, things got too much for me. Living in Poznan is such a change from Manchester. I don’t feel there is much international acceptance, you’ll have read in other posts of mine that I have been at the end of some negative interactions. There is also a massive issue with sexism. These things, coupled with a massive language barrier, limited friends and hard work, meant I lost myself. I wasn’t Amie anymore. I wasn’t even fussed about birds! It was like everyday was ground hog day and I just had to get through. Each day was one day closer to going home to my family.

I went home to England for the summer. The first few weeks weren’t great. I didn’t realise how much of me had disappeared. With the support from my amazing family I got back on track and my mood picked up. I am now back to my smiling, happy self. It’s strange how things can happen without your control. How the body and mind cope with negative situations and you just can’t keep up.

Whilst being home, I made the decision to move back to the UK and continue my studies remotely. This was not an easy decision for me to make, but happiness and health are the only thing of true value in this world, they are the things that matter most. My team in Poznan have been so supportive of the decision. It has made the whole process a lot easier. I am actually quite proud of the choice I have made. I could have given up and quit or stayed and been unhappy. Instead I am adapting. Adaptation is the thing that gives any individual strength. Whether it’s birds adapting to the presence of a noisy road, or bees adapting to a lack of suitable flowers…Some will adapt at least. Those individuals will be stronger.

IMG_5260

I want people to read this and to think that they can do whatever they need to do. It may be hard. It may be awkward. It may be really annoying. But just do whatever makes you happy.

I now find myself smiling at the little things again. Long-tailed tit song, a fox in the golden dusk light, a really fat wood pigeon waddling around the garden. Even a really good cup of coffee is a thing of greatness now!

Years ago, my good friend Cat told me a quote:

“Let the sun bring you new energy by day and then the moon should restore you by night, the rain wash away your worries, the breeze blow new strength into your being and you should walk gently though the world knowing its beauty all of your life.”

Be happy. Keep smiling. Enjoy life.

IMG_5264

Lollapalooza, Berlin

What a weekend I have had. I write this whilst listening to Bear’s Den, a new band I discovered at the Lollapalooza festival in Berlin (“Above the clouds of Pompeii” is a lovely song). I’m just going to go ahead and tell you all about my first ever festival experience, trying not to make you jealous. Because honestly, it was one of my best weekends yet!

I met Donata on Saturday morning at Poznan central train station. We had decided to pack extremely light for our trip and so it was just me, my bum bag full of essentials and the clothes on my back. It wasn’t a camping festival so there was no need for a tent. We got a train at Poznan and off we headed to Berlin. I mean, how cool is that for a start? A train from one country to the next. Just a casual Saturday morning here in Europe. After a few hours we arrived at Berlin and I instantly loved Germany. Berlin is a buzzing city, full of people of all styles. I must say, I felt quite out of place with my wavy brown hair and short height, the go-to look is straight blonde hair with legs as high as my shoulders!!! Anyway, off of the train and onto the tram, we headed to the festival location along with hundreds of other Lollapalooza goers. Most girls were adorned with glitter and the guys armed with a bottle of beer. Yep, we were definitely heading the right way. By the end of the line the S-Bahn was packed, the doors opened at Hoppergarten and we followed the signs for the festival.

IMG_5162

We were quite early so the queues weren’t that big and we soon got in. There was colour everywhere, from giant flower statues, to a flashing ferris wheel, yep, this weekend would be fun. We had a wander around and made our way to main stage one where some amazingly energetic caribbean music was blaring. We checked the timetable and it was Bomba Estereo. The stage was alive and it was a brilliant way to start the festival, already a new band I’ll happily listen to again. After the Caribbean party we headed to main stage 2 to discover yet another new band, Bear’s Den. A group of lads from England, their music is beautiful and relaxing and a welcome addition to my music bank.

IMG_5168

Now for the first act we’d actually planned to see, George Ezra. We got right at the front row and could barely contain our excitement. I had some crazy idea he might gaze into my eyes whilst singing one of his tunes and fall madly in love with me and we could just travel the world with his guitar. That didn’t quite happen, but wow was it amazing to see him live. After his show we went and got something to eat before the next show. The food options were amazing with choices from all around the globe. Being in Germany we opted for a bratwurst, it was wonderful, they have a spice to them I really didn’t expect! Refuelled and ready for more music we headed back to main stage one for Mumford and sons. I was so excited. This band reminds me of road trips with my Dad back when I was scouting potential Uni’s. There we would be, donuts in hand, singing to their folk style songs, playing our air banjos. To see them live was such a treat for me. The crowd was huge but it just added to the atmosphere. We even got a surprise performance from Baaba Maal, a south african singer they collaborated with last year. This was a treat for me because I love South African music. An amazing two hour show and then we finished the night with another favourite band of mine, Two Door Cinema Club. One of there songs, “sun”, reminds me of my trip to Kenya. Hearing it live was breathtaking. I just looked up to the star filled sky with a huge smile, the noise from the bass shaking my body and making me feel electric. Nothing quite like it.

Getting to our guest house was a small nightmare. The festival organisers hadn’t quite thought through the mass of people that would need to get the s-bahn back to Berlin centre. It was chaos. To cut a very long story (that isn’t all that interesting) short, 2 and a half hours after leaving, we finally got to our beds!

 

Morning of day 2 and we were pretty tired from dancing and our late night but we were so excited for another day full of music. The guest house we were staying at was quite strange. I went to the loo before leaving to find a lady using the facilities with the door wide open. You meet alsorts on travels. Anyway… we set off and were embraced by warm sunshine and blue sky, a welcome change from the rain yesterday. We ate breakfast en-route to the festival and grabbed a caffeine boost from some much needed coffee. Sigrid was the first act of the day for us. We got right at the front again, we were getting pretty good at this festival thing now! She appeared on stage in a flowing, silver skirt, multi-coloured top and pink denim jacket. She’s a titchy, Norwegian singer and her presence on stage is delightful. Full of fun and smiles. Her singing style is really quirky and I challenge anyone not to want to dance to her music. What a way to start our second day.

IMG_5186

Lunch was amazing. I had frozen acai smoothie with an array of superfood toppings. I was recharged and ready for more dancing. We went to see Anne- Marie on main stage one. She said her songs were mainly about bad ex-boyfriends, they’ve not gotten the better of her though, she was full of smiles. Straight from there we went to another stage to see Rudimental. The crowd was fantastic. I don’t think I stopped moving for the entire set.

We needed a refuel and so grabbed some food and a sit down on the grass. London Grammar were next, and I have to say, the singers voice is a thing of beauty. It was nice to just stand and sway and appreciate the talent of the three people on stage. If you don’t know London Grammar I would listen to “Metal & Dust” or “Hey Now” off of there first album. I can’t think of anything better to listen to to just unwind with a cup of tea after a busy day.

IMG_5198

We rushed to the main stage after London Grammar just in time for the Foo Fighters. What an amazing night. The talent of that band is just ridiculous. I’ve never seen a band perform that were so absorbed by music. It was almost superhuman. They were so in sync with each other. I was completely lost in the music, I didn’t care what I looked like, how ridiculous my dancing was, I just wanted to go for it. Even as I write this my throat is sore and my ears are ringing. A reminder of the buzz of it all.

IMG_5194

We left the festival and got ahead of the crowd so our journey wasn’t as long as the previous day. We had to get back to Poznan and so we had arranged a pick up with a man called Paul through Blabla car. Unfortunately he was delayed by 2 hours and so we loitered at Berlin Airport (our pick up spot) until 2:30am. Many coffees later, we finally began our trip back to Poznan. Paul got us back safe and sound for about 5:30. Seeing no point in sleeping, I got a shower and headed to work. I lasted a few hours before admitting defeat and headed home for 40 winks.

 

This weekend was incredible. I am completely smitten by live music again. It has been a while, but now I feel like something has ignited inside me. Seriously, what is more amazing than hearing amazing talent and feeling the sound waves rush through you. It’s electric. Sorry if this was slightly long winded for what is essentially just a bog standard music festival. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. What am I going to do next? Get myself a record player and get my own vinyl collection going. Maybe my blog can become a place for nature and music and travel? A mash up of alsorts. For now, I’m going to go with the beat of life and probably catch some much needed sleep.

If you read this, why don’t you go and find your favourite song or album or artist and just sit and listen. Or dance. Just take a few minutes and smile.

There is nothing better.

Ludlow, Shropshire.

Again, I have to apologise for the lack of blogs recently. Being back at home I have just gotten too caught up in day to day bumbling about. But, I wanted to write a quick entry about a lovely little trip to Ludlow I had this weekend.

It took us nearly 3 hours to drive there due to bank holiday traffic. But eventually we arrived in the sweet town of Ludlow. When I say “we” I mean me, Dad, Molly and Aileen. We were staying in a higgledy-piggledy apartment full of character from its creation back in tudor times. Nothing was level, everything was on a wonk. It was great. We unloaded our stuff and went on a quick wander around the town. There are a few main streets so it’s easy to get your bearings. The first evening was spent at a lovely restaurant called “Bistro 7”. The food was lovely, the wine and gin even better. The evening ended with a slightly drunken draughts tournament back at the apartment. Dad was the winner. It turns out I’m not very good at draughts …

Day two was another potter around Ludlow. This time we went into the market and the different art galleries. Having a walk through the streets let us see all the quirks of Ludlow. Some of the buildings are so old and stick out at all sorts of angles! We also went into the castle grounds. It’s a ruin now, but with a little imagination you can imagine just how grand it must have been. I think I would have suited living back in castle dwelling times. All the door frames were very low, perfect for someone who measures just short of 5 foot 2!! Was there a role as a castle ornithologist? A castle bird ringer maybe? I could have fit right in!.. Whilst we were at the castle we searched for our surname in the database on the computer. It turns out “Wheeldon” originated in Chorley and it literally meant “a farmstead with a water wheel”. We also have our own family insignia which is “Virtue is more excellent than gold”. The database didn’t mention any noble lineage, but apparently the Wheeldon name has belonged to a few good cricket players as well as a convict called Annie who was sent to New Zealand at a mere 23 years of age! After our history lesson at the castle we went down by the river and had some lunch. We then attempted skimming stones, again, this is not a strength of mine. That afternoon we decided to play cards so I taught everyone how to play “shithead”. I kept getting a lot of luck which was very annoying for everyone else. In the evening we had an amazing thai meal and then headed back for more card games. We were addicted!!

The next day we had breakfast out and then leisurely got ready to head home. We stopped off at Delamere forest on the way back for a walk in the sunshine. Lovely way to finish off the weekend.

 

IMG_5062

Javea, Spain.

 

How on earth was this my first time on mainland Spain? Childhood holidays were spent in Tenerife, Mallorca and Minorca, so I felt I had experienced Spain. But oh no…

IMG_4853-1

I travelled to Alicante from Manchester and enjoyed the relatively short flight. Just enough time for a cup of coffee, a bite to eat and a read of a few chapters of my book (I’ve started the The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin). I landed and started down the steps from the plane. Boom, humidity hit me. I love that feeling. It was evening when I landed so I couldn’t get much of an idea about the look of Spain yet. Travelling to Javea I could see lots of houses dotted around on the hill sides. Yes, it was very hilly. I like that. I met my friend Louise at my bus drop off point. She’s lived in Spain since she was tiny but we met whilst doing our Masters research in Kenya. We were up until the early hours chatting about everything. Amazing first evening.

IMG_4833-1

Up and out relatively early the next day so Louise and her Mum could run some errands. This gave me a free hour on my own. I walked along the promenade at the port and sat at a sea front bar to enjoy a coffee. The mediterranean sea was glistening and the heat was quite exhausting, but I couldn’t help but smile. Sunshine is just wonderful. England has had a summer of showers this year so I will take any ray of sunshine I can get. Anyway… After my coffee I met Louise and her Mum for some lunch. We had a traditional Spanish dish called Tostada, a baguette type bread sliced in half and topped with chopped tomatoes. Very tasty and fresh. After a refuel we then went to the old town of Javea. This was beautiful. Jam packed full of old narrow streets, all with a different feel and character. The balconies of the buildings all have tiles underneath and so any foot passenger walking below has a lovely colourful view when they look to the sky. There is a huge church in the centre sprayed with bullet holes from the civil war. It was one of the nicest old towns I have seen. We also nipped into a nearby market and I treated myself to some fresh figs! They just don’t taste the same in England, they need heat. The afternoon was spent lounging in the sun and enjoying the swimming pool. We then got ourselves ready and went for a meal and then headed out for drinks. Tequila was had… That is all that needs to be said really.

IMG_4842-1

IMG_4847-1

IMG_4844

Due to said tequila, the next day was a write off. We just sat in the sun and chatted. We had so much to catch up on. Never a dull moment. A speedy evening meal out and an early night was had. Tequila is bad.

The next day was packed with fun. We woke up and left the house for 7 to go on a walk up the hill. There used to be a national park there but it was burnt down last year so it is quite bare now. It was extremely humid but worth the view. We caught the sunrise and it was beautiful. We shared our walk with the swooping swallows and swifts. They always look so busy in their aerial displays. We got back from the walk and then headed to the port to do some water sport. We decided on kayaking. I’ve never kayaked on the sea so it was quite exciting. We had an hour so we didn’t go too far, we just enjoyed being in the sea. The way back was tough, the waves were against us and the sun was very hot. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be sticking to my running, kayaking is tough! I was glad to be back by the end. We got back to Louise’s just in time for her other friend Amie to arrive. Yes, two Amie’s, both with an I E. What are the chances? Amie got settled and then we all met another friend, Sienna, for tapas by the sea. It was so tasty. We had squid, calamaris, pork, patatas bravas, bread with allioli. All so tasty. Spanish food is really nice. It’s so impressive hearing Louise speak Spanish. I want to learn, I’ve told her she has to be my teacher! The afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool. In the evening Louise, Amie and I went for a nice meal. I decided on a salad and that I wouldn’t be drinking. That plan failed. The salad part was fine, a nice tuna one. The non drinking part really didn’t go to plan, I blame peer pressure and tired eyes. I stayed strong for a while, drinking my virgin mojitos and soda waters. But tiredness set in, my eyes were so heavy but it was Amie’s first night and I needed to WAKE UP! One gin and tonic I said.. Just one.. 3 gin and tonics, 2 tequilas and a fruity shot later and I ended up swimming in Louise’s friends (Josh and Sam) pool at 05:30 in the morning, cooking spanish sausages on the BBQ and finally getting home at 07:30. It escalated so quickly. A proper Spanish night was had!

As you can imagine, another day was then spent being hungover and tired. We just sat around the pool and I enjoyed my last day in the sunshine. That evening we went for paella. I have never had it before and I’d been excited to try it. We got the mixed one and it came with langoustines, squid, chicken, pork and octopus. WOW. It was so tasty. I even got complimented on my langoustine peeling abilities. Not bad eh? The best bits were the scrapings from the bottom of the pan, nice and crispy and full of flavour. Perfect last meal in Spain. We sat for a drink at a sea front bar and then headed home. I had an early flight the next day and wanted a couple of hours sleep.

IMG_4824-1

And that about sums up my trip. Spain is such a brilliant place, or at least, the little corner of it I have seen is. The people, food and lifestyle is so refreshing. Laid back and happy is exactly what I wanted to be on that holiday and it is exactly what I got.

If you haven’t been then I urge you to go. Try all the foods and embrace the siestas and the late, late nights. Enjoy dipping your toes in the mediterranean sea and feeling the humidity on your cheeks. I did. I think it was just the detox I needed.

Spain and Louise, I’ll be back.

FullSizeRender-1

Better late than never

I haven’t written a blog post in ages! I’ve been busy and not in my normal routine. But today I thought I could write a quick post about what I have been getting up to.

The past month I have been back home in England and I am so happy to see my family and friends. I’m even happy to be in the British summertime weather. Rain makes the countryside nice and green after all…

image6

I wasn’t back home long before I went away for a couple of weeks to my second home of Northern Cyprus. It wasn’t a trip of great adventure (I’ve explored it a lot in the past) but rather a trip to try and relax. I spent every day swimming in the sea and getting a huge dose of vitamin D from the sunshine. It was very hot and humid most of the time but a nice iced coffee soon helped with that. I indulged in a fair few turkish coffees too! One of my favourite things about Cyprus in the summer are the fresh figs. Straight from the tree. Warm, juicy, sweet. There is nothing quite like the taste of a fig. Maybe I would go as far as to say they are my favourite fruit. Although the watermelons over in Cyprus are sublime too. They are about three times the size of those found in the UK and the flavour is at least ten times as intense. Just amazing. Anyway… As well as scrumptious fruits we also enjoyed traditional turkish meze. What a feast! We tried to pick our favourite dishes but it is just too hard. I love the stuffed vine leaves or courgette flowers. But then, i also love the cigarette rolls stuffed with soft cheese….or maybe my favourite is the mini lamachun… see it is just too hard. Too many amazing tastes to try and pick a winner. Away from the savoury world and we get baklava. If you have never tried this then you need to hunt some out. It is flakey pastry, drenched in a sugary syrup and usually incorporates pistachios into the mix. What a dream. Turkish food is so amazing. Aside from the food Cyprus never fails to make me smile. My Mum used to live in Cyprus and so over the years me and my sister have come to know a lot of people and so it is always nice to go back and meet friendly faces and have a good catch up. It’s like we have a mini family in the Mediterranean. How lovely!

image5-1

Back from Cyprus and I had an exciting wedding to attend. My best friend Iqra’s oldest sister was getting married and I got to go to one of the celebrations! This meant I could wear some of the amazing asian clothes I have seen Iqra wear before. They are just so beautiful! Waheeda, Iqra’s mum, had chosen an amazing red outfit for me. It was so interesting to see the different traditions compared to an English wedding. There was so much colour everywhere. All the women had amazing outfits. So many different designs and patterns. There were several performances presented to the happy couple. A comedic play about Reshma meeting Sebastian, Columbian dancing, a group dance performed by the girls. It was amazing. It was such a nice opportunity to see something different than usual.

image4

Another first for me came with the attendance to the horse races in York. All the family went to celebrate my Uncle’s 60th birthday. I have never been to any horse races before so it was such a treat. We all dressed up and had our own box for the day. We placed our bets and enjoyed an amazing view from the balcony. I won 1 of the 7 races and I was so chuffed. I think at least one of the family won for each race which was nice. It’s always nice to just spend time with everyone and have a laugh. I love them all to bits!

Talking about family…I finally got to meet the lovely new addition to the family. Max Rapps is such a treat. Only a few weeks old but possibly my favourite person. We worked out he is my first cousin once removed. It’s faffy to say that though so I think I will just stick with calling him my nephew!

image3-2

So those are the main events of home life so far.

What a treat I have had.

 

Gdansk and a Shaman

This working week was the usual business. Wake up, run, shower, office time and then Polish lessons or see friends.

It was Corpus Christi on Thursday and so Poland being the highly religious country that it is, everything was shut and it gave us a lovely long weekend. My friend Simla and I decided to take advantage of this and headed to Gdansk for a quick holiday.

20170615_12021720170615_16541020170615_165456

Thursday morning we got to the main train station in Poznan, found our train and climbed aboard! Unfortunately we were unable to reserve seats because the train was so busy and so the 3 and a half hour journey was spent stood up, next to the toilet, in the aisle of the carriage. Nice. Time passed quickly though and it was really nice to look out of the window and see all the lovely wild flowers. There are poppies everywhere now, so beautiful against the pristine green fields and bright blue sky. If I’m not mistaken I think the poppy is the national flower of Poland. I can see why now!

20170615_15041720170615_15033120170615_150241

Anyway.. we eventually arrived in Gdansk and got some lunch at a lovely Mexican place near the Old Town. We then went and found our hostel, changed into our swimming costumes and headed off to find a beach! We hopped on a crowded tram and made our way to Stogi Plaza. Google told us this was the most popular beach near Gdansk. It was full of people enjoying the sunshine, but we were slightly concerned as there was absolutely no one swimming! We dumped our bags, stripped off and went for it! Into the Baltic sea! To our surprise it really wasn’t that cold and we enjoyed standing in the waves and feeling the sun on our cheeks. It’s not every day we get to swim in the sea so we made the most of it.

IMG_20170615_151348_438

After drying off and changing, we went back to Gdansk city centre and enjoyed a coffee on the Old Street. Then we wandered around and even decided to get on a big wheel to see the city from a birds eye view. Very touristy! We enjoyed looking at all the lovely buildings and watching the rowers practicing on the river. I have to write a few words on the Polish people and their obsession with ice cream. On the old street there are at least 15 ice cream shops and all of them have queues! Everyone you see is eating the stuff! I know ice cream is nice, but here it is like a drug. I’ve tried some in Poznan and I must admit, they make it well. My favourite so far is werthers original!

20170615_18023920170615_18121420170615_181701

Anyway, I digress..

Tea time came and we found a nice place to eat next to the river and I had some lovely halibut. Only seemed right to have some fish when at the sea side. A wander back to the hostel followed and the day ended with a read of my book and the sound of swifts outside.

Friday morning we headed for breakfast and went to a museum in the old town hall of Gdansk. It was mainly about the history of Gdansk in the 16th and 17th centuries. There was one room, the “red room”, which used to be the summer time meeting room. The ceiling was covered in amazing paintings. Even the doors were impressive, the wood carvings were so intricate.

After the museum we grabbed a quick lunch and went to get our train back to Poznan. The train was relatively empty compared to the outward journey. We found our carriage and got settled. There was a man in our carriage too, dressed in technicolour trousers and fashioning a large beaded necklace. We started talking and he told me that he moved to Ireland 15 years ago and was an accountant there, but a year ago he packed it in, went to Peru, drank the “medicine” and became a shaman. His guide in life is his necklace. He was so interesting to talk to. He asked me what I did, so I told him I was an ornithologist. He then produced a small plastic bag filled with feathers. He insisted I chose two to keep. They were from birds of the amazon. His name was Chris and for a good hour and a half we chatted about anything and everything. He was saying how nothing is a coincidence, everything happens for a reason. I love talking to fellow hippies!

IMG_20170616_211343_129

At Bygdoszcz, a city half way through the journey, an elderly Irish couple with their daughter joined our carriage. They were visiting Poland because Maive’s (the daughter) husband is currently living in Poznan, teaching at a flight school. They had a huge bag of strawberries with them and insisted we helped them eat them. They were delicious and a nice unexpected treat. We talked about all sorts and it was so lovely to hear all the anecdotal stories from the couple. The journey passed so quickly and we were back in Poznan before we knew it.

We said our farewells and me and Simla headed home. I felt so happy after that journey, it really lifted my spirits. I love meeting different people and hearing their stories. And now I have my feathers as a lovely reminder of my special train journey and the shaman.

x

A northern girl at the Opera

This week has gone quite quickly. Had lots of nice little things happen.

On Monday I had my Polish language exam. It seemed to go okay, although I thought of a couple of silly mistakes I had made. All that grammar is hard to remember! The first lovely thing in my week was enjoying a refreshing drink with my friend Simla after the exam. It was that time of day, just before dusk, when the air goes slightly humid and the light in the sky is a mix of pastel colours. I think that is my favourite time of day. It reminds me of playing outside with my sister when we were little, listening to blackbirds singing and catching fresh water shrimp from the stream. Anyway…

Tuesday is reserved for rock climbing. Me and Pavel set off and had good feelings about routes we would choose and exercises we could do. Half way there Pavel realised he had left his climbing kit at the office so we turned back. During the retrieval of his gear the tram 16 we need to take to get to the climbing centre had a problem and had stopped running… disaster. But oh no.. Pavel decided he would make up for this lost opportunity and hire us city bikes to ride back to the city centre. It was so much fun! I haven’t been on a bike in years and I had forgotten how great it is! We were riding for about 25 minutes and then enjoyed a scoop of ice cream afterwards. Maybe he should leave his rock climbing kit more often!

20170609_074900

Wednesday was exam results day. I got 58/60! So so happy. In English we don’t really use cases and conjugations and so I am so proud of this grade. Polish is a really hard language but everyday I am getting to understand a little bit more which is quite exciting. I need to keep practicing now!

Thursday’s lovely thing was seeing my colleague Michał at the coffee break at work. He has been really busy doing field work and even when he is not in the field he lives in Warsaw and so we don’t get to see him much. We were talking about the work he has been doing and about Cameroon. Sometimes the little things can make a lovely change.

20170609_193540

Friday was another office day and then I went to an amazing Mexican restaurant with Simla. It is on a tiny street off of Old Town and I genuinely forgot I was in Poznan for a while. It is like you are transported to Mexico. There was a lovely atmosphere and colour all over. I love finding these new little places. I must say, I haven’t had a bad meal since being in Poznan. The food is always top notch.

IMG_20170609_205512_721

Now for the day of the Opera…

People that know me will understand that I am not exactly the Opera going type… I don’t have high heels, I don’t have minimalist clothing. So I was slightly stuck with what to wear. So me being me, I put on my most colourful dress, matched with Birkenstocks and bangles and my favourite wicker handbag and off I went. Safe to say, I was under dressed. I met my friends Viola and Łucaś and we went to a great vegetarian restaurant called Słodka and Ostra in my district of Poznan. We had a taster of the different soups and then a great salad. It was brilliant. Then off we went to the theatre. It is so grand inside, a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Gosh I was out of my depth. But I sat in my seat and became mesmerised by the beautiful voices. We saw die zauberflote. Viola had informed me that the Queen of the Night character has one of the most difficult aria’s to perform in any opera. It was so impressive and beautiful. Her voice was incredible, I’m not sure how she got to such high notes. I wasn’t exactly sure on everything that was happening due to it being performed in German and translated in Polish, but it didn’t matter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A night to remember! Next time I will probably opt out of the sandals though…

20170610_163941

Sometimes it’s nice to pick little things that have been lovely in your day. You might think it was just any old day but there are always little things that can make you smile. I’m a big believer in silver linings.

Here is to more silver linings next week.

xx

 

This week I slept in a car…

20170530_094701

This week started off very exciting. I was invited to join my friend Paweł with his field work. I went to work on Monday and collected the equipment I needed to record the Ortolan Buntings: recorder, GPS, parabola microphone, headphones and batteries. I packed the bare minimum, with the most important thing being my binoculars. I went to my Polish lesson, got back, grabbed my stuff and went to meet Paweł. Now, I have to say… He had informed me that I would be sleeping in the car, which was fine. I have seen his car before and it’s a hatchback and so big enough to fit a 5ft 2inch girl like me. However, a few days before our trip he had an unfortunate collision with a roe deer which meant his car was in for repairs, leaving him with a small fiat rental car. This car was not a hatchback… anyway.. more on the sleeping later.

20170530_14371620170530_094719

So we drove to Odolanów. First we made a detour to Leszno so Paweł could collect his equipment from his parents home. His mum was so lovely. She insisted we drank some juice and gave us a huge bag of food to take for our trip. How kind! After a couple more hours driving we arrived at our destination. We grabbed a beer from the petrol station and then went and found a good place to park the car. It was very dark so I couldn’t get my bearings but we just parked in a random field in the middle of nowhere. The stars looked amazing, I think I was slightly hypnotised! We stood and drank our beer and listened to quails calling and the barking of a nearby roe deer (quite a scary sound when it sneaks up on you). Time to sleep…. I rolled back the passenger seat as far as possible, got in my sleeping bag and attempted to get some rest. It didn’t really happen…

20170530_09471520170530_193028

I was woken up by a tap on the car window at 03:30 the next morning, the birds were up and singing early! I quickly got ready and we headed out to record the beautiful Ortolans. They have a lovely little song. They choose song posts (spots they perch to sing) that are high in trees, usually pine or oak, at the edge of small forest patches in farmland. This makes it relatively easy to find territories of males because you just have to walk along the edge of a forest fragment until you hear the lovely tune. It was a great morning, but it soon got very hot and the birds stopped singing quite early. I headed back to the car and then met Paweł shortly after. We drove to a few other spots to see if the males were still singing. I had already seen and heard so many birds including white storks, a marsh harrier, red backed shrikes, a buzzard, barred warblers, quails, pheasants, yellow hammers, wood warblers, a blackcap, chiffchaffs and of course the lovely ortolan buntings. After a few site checks we went and found somewhere to nap in the shade. We had checked the weather forecast and there was a storm on the way so after checking a couple more sights we parked up and waited it out. It was quite exciting, at one point it was right above us. It lasted about an hour and then it passed over, taking a lot of the humidity with it. We decided to go bird watching after the storm to see if any  interesting species had dropped by to take shelter. We went to some huge fish ponds and saw great reed warbler, common tern, penduline tit, gadwall, wigeon and marsh harrier. We also heard rose finch, hoopoe, kingfisher, icterine warbler and marsh warbler. Near one of the fish ponds there is an oak tree that is 400 years old! It was massive and so grand. We went and got some food and beer and then found a new sleeping spot. The mosquitos were out in force and I got bitten several times on the bum! I slept better that night as I was shattered!

20170530_145154

Woke up at 03:30 again but this time no bird song. The weather was very windy and drizzly and so it put a delay on everything. Even the skylarks weren’t singing. We waited and waited and still no singing so we moved to another site and managed to record a couple. Paweł made a decision for us to head back to Poznan. The forecast was the same for the next day so it was pointless staying. We got back by 10 which gave me enough time to shower and get ready for a course I am attending on teaching techniques. On my way back home after my class I passed a stall selling fresh strawberries so I decided to treat myself to a punnet. I am so happy it is strawberry season. They are huge and so sweet. I had a polish class that evening and was slightly delirious from the early mornings and the fresh air detox. What a fantastic couple of days though!

20170530_165240

Thursday was a day of resting. I also baby sat my Czech friends kid for an hour or so which was sweet. We drew on the pavement with chalks and then watched rocket launches on youtube.

20170602_14452520170602_145003

I’ve been really enjoying solo walks this week. I walk to my favourite spot in Poznan, Sołacski park, and then to Rusałka Lake. It’s an 8 kilometre route and it gives me lots of time to enjoy being outside and have a pause. I heard a lovely reed warbler on one of my trips. Chaffinches are so vocal and it’s nice to pick out the individual differences in the songs.

Back in England, the wildlife trust does a 30 days wild event for the month of June. This means that for every day in the month you have to do something that connects you with nature. I did this last year and it was so nice. It allows you to really explore, learn and appreciate everything wild around you. I am excited I am doing this again. So far I have appreciated colours, bird song and the amazing David Attenborough.

Who knows what natural amazingness I will come across next week…

 

A sister and a bee.

20170528_124723

This week has been very emotional for many of us.

A terrorist attack in my home city of Manchester has taken 22 lives and effected so many in ways I cannot fathom.

I am not a great writer. I can’t write a blog post to explain this. Or in any way make it better. But I can write about how utterly proud I am to be from such an amazing city. I can talk about Mancunian spirit and the way we rally together. I can say that Manchester is a great city filled with inspirational people.

Mancunians…We are kind. We are strong. We are one.

I used to work in the city centre. I would walk through the streets hearing a jumble of different languages and seeing a mash up of different faces. In a line up of people you couldn’t pick out a Mancunian. We are a people of all sorts. We have china town, the curry mile, hipsters in the northern quarter. We have buskers, business people and students. We have sport, music and pubs. We are diverse and weird and amazing. It took me to move abroad to realise this. It is no ordinary city.

This week we have seen Manchester show the rest of the world just how me we care for each other. Strangers coming together in times of crisis and showing such compassion. In times of such horror, this is not our shield. This strength is our weapon. We fight with love. Love for any human being who needs it.

I am so proud of this.

IMG_2138

Now for my usual post…

IMG_20170525_215828_119-1

I had a visitor this week which was nice. My lovely little sister joined me for 4 days of sunshine, ice cream and walks.

Most of our time was spent wandering around parks and chatting. One day we went to a place called KontenerART which is created for the summer season. It is a venue made from shipping containers with a beer garden and small beach. At night there is even space for bands to perform. We didn’t feel like we were trendy enough to stay here but we embraced it and sat for a while!

20170526_163514

One afternoon we went and sat by Warta river. This is the river that runs through Poznan. It’s a nice place to go to escape the centre of the city. We had a lovely view of the Cathedral and just enjoyed the quiet. We played cards. I won 5 of the 6 games…

20170526_155103-1

I mainly enjoyed the hugs. It’s always nice when you are with your favourite person.

Just lovely.

And that’s that.

xx

 

 

 

Bird song

So this week has been a pretty bog standard week in the life of Amie. Polish lessons, rock climbing, swimming and socialising. All this on top of my work.

I thought I’d write a little bit about what I actually do most days and about bird song in general.

So..

This week I have been looking at natural duetting behaviour of my lovely study species, the mighty yellow-breasted boubou. This involves sitting in front of a computer and looking for synchronous male and female vocalisations. It takes a really long time because the recordings are from 5am until 7pm. Lots of minutes of recordings and lots of duets to highlight. In total I have around 8 days worth of these recordings to finish. It might sound boring to most people but actually when the field work is over, the hard science kicks in! Analysing recordings and then doing the statistics on the data means that we get inspiration and ideas for the next field season. Which is a really exciting thought.

Anyway..

One of the reasons I love bird song so much is that it is always around. You might not ever see the bird, but you know it is there. And most of the time, the songs are beautiful. I think bird songs are a constant reminder that animals are all around us, all the time. Which I find really exciting. We share this planet with amazing species. How lovely is it that I can walk down the street back in Manchester and in the city centre hear beautiful blackbirds. Walking through Poznan city centre I get to listen to swifts screeching overhead. Early mornings when you think no other thing is awake and all of a sudden a robin will start his early morning chorus. Definitely makes early morning worth while right? Then slowly throughout the day the music of the sky gets full and loud. Until you can’t help but tune in to all the amazing sounds. It can feel overwhelming sometimes. Even as I write this there is a house sparrow chirping away nearby, swifts screeching and jackdaws calling to a neighbour. Lovely.

This is why I appreciate being able to study bird song so much. Understanding its uses is exciting for me. Are they singing to show off to a female? Are they singing to defend a brilliant territory from a pesky competitor? That’s what I aim to find out!

It’s not a long post this week. More of a short rant about my love for beautiful songs. Maybe next time you’re sat at home and hear a bird, try and identify it. Not every bird species. Just the next one you hear. It’s quite nice investigating and realising which species it is. They are your neighbours after all.

Listen out and be happy. The world is full of lovely things.

xx