Moving to The City of Lights

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Bienvenue à mon Blog!

In the first of many blogs I want to fill you in on my experience of moving to a different country, trying to remember how to speak French (it seems the words disappear from your head when you want to use them) and starting at a University where everything isn’t quite as clear as Durham.

I was lucky enough to have my family help me move to Paris, and so my first few days here were filled with sightseeing and more importantly food shopping for when I moved into my temporary house. Note the word ‘temporary’, as in I haven’t found anywhere to live yet… This is but one of several things I still need to sort out. Given that I’ve only been in Paris for 11 days, I’ll let myself off.

fam at eiffel tower

A classic Eiffel Tower selfie.

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Part 1: Bolivia

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La Paz

After showing my home-town bestie Alice around the city I’ve called home for the last five months, and a heavy-hearted final goodbye to Santiago, our true backpacking adventure began in La Paz. Due to extensive research on all the horror stories and scams that tourists get tricked into (fake policemans and tourist officials, street violence, kidnappings and the phlegm scam to name a few), it’s fair to say that we arrived in Bolivia’s chaotic capital with our money belts securely fastened and a distrusting attitude. To overcompensate, we stayed in the Wild Rover, the city’s self-proclaimed (and indeed well-deserving) party hostel for gringos. As soon as you set foot into the building, it feels more like a Durham college on the night of a big social or formal rather than cheap accommodation in the heart of La Paz. Whilst it’s far from an authentic Bolivian experience, it’s great fun to meet fellow llama-jumper-clad backpackers and make the most of the affordable British pub-grub served in its bar (I had long been craving a cottage pie!)

Sky high

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Travels: Algonquin National Park

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We left on a Wednesday afternoon. After our last exams we had to move out by 3pm the next day, a rule that makes sense in theory but actually causes quite a lot of stress for students living in residence rather than prevent crazy post-exam parties. I traipsed off downtown to collect the hire car for the weekend (a Dodge Avenger), credit card and passport in hand. Driving back to campus required the help of a Canadian friend to guide the way through the treacherous one-way system of Hamilton.

Eventually arriving in one piece, we set to packing the car with all the years belongings of four people. We realised after two that there was no way everything was going to fit – so we dropped off a bag or two at our “traveling buddy” Brandon’s house to pick up later. Continue reading


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If you know anything about Japanese culture, you’ll know that Japan is really really into its cherry blossom (or ‘SAKURA’ 桜). The four seasons – and the flowers and colours associated with them – are celebrated a lot here, because a distinct Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter is something than many Asian countries don’t have. Spring is the most special for many reasons. It marks the start of a new academic year, the time for meeting new people, the weather is lovely and the flowers come out. But the best thing about Spring for many people here, and many tourists from Asia and beyond, is definitely the SAKURRAAAA!

Literally, everyone goes crazy for sakura. Continue reading

“Exploring the Spring”

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人逢喜事精神爽 (rén féng xǐshì jīngshén shuǎng)

– A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.

I’ve recently gotten to know a lovely Chinese family, and last Sunday they invited me to go to the Beijing Botanical Gardens with them in order to “explore the spring” and see the cherry trees in bloom. Jack is 8 and I thought that “exploring the spring” was the best homework ever. I later found out that he would have to write 250 characters about his experience after the event. A typical example of intense Chinese tuition…

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

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