Monday, 31 October 2011

#1 30b430 - have a surf lesson

The downside of being taught how to surf by someone who wasn't fluent in English became clear when I asked my instructor 'what shall I do if I fall in?' to which he answered 'no entiendo' (I don't understand).

Fernando, the owner of a surf school in Lima, had assured me that my tutor would speak English as I wasn't sure my limited Spanish could stretch to surf-speech. However it soon became clear after meeting Felix that his English was on a par with my Spanish. When I raised my concerns with Fernando his typically South American reply was: 'No worries, no worries. Un poco ingles and un poco español,' and my lesson began.

The first challenge was getting on my wetsuit, an extremely unflattering task which involved being pushed and prodded into the skin-tight suit. The end result was me looking like a somewhat flustered whale - I challenge anyone to look good in a wetsuit!

Perfecting the paddle technique

Looks easy enough...

Looking like a pro already
Next came the on-land instruction where, in a mixture of Spanglish, Felix taught me the four steps required to stand up on a board. This was a mission in itself and while Felix sprang up like a cat, I had absolutely zero elegance, I had all on managing to stand up and keep my balance on dry land, let alone in the water. It was about this time that the real panic set in.

'Tranquillo, tranquillo,' Fernando kept telling me. 'Stay calm, if you don´t stand up, you don't pay.' To be honest, that stressed me out even more, as I knew that meant they obviously expected you to stand up and I was blatantly going to be the only person in the history of surf who failed to do it.

The paddling begins
But there was no turning back and it was only as we were paddling out to sea (a mission in itself when you're lying flat on a board almost twice your height and you have no upper body strength) that I thought to ask the question about falling in. It was as I was panicking and trying to remember the four steps that I suddenly had a vague recollection about the dangers of a board hitting you on the head when you fell in.

Seeing as Felix didn´t seem to understand my question I tried to act out the scenario. 'Si yo...[miming falling in] que...should I do?´ If I hadn't been so scared at the time it would actually have been really funny.
In the end I decided I´d just have to figure it out when the time came as Felix was turning us around and seemed to be preparing me for my first wave. 'I will push you and when I say ´paddle´, paddle as hard as you can.´

Before I could even take that in he´s let go of me and I could just hear a small voice behind me shouting ´paddle, paddle!´so I did as I was told. No sooner was I paddling then the voice shouted ´jump, jump´. I was so panicked I instantly forgot all about the four steps and tried to jump wildly onto the board, completely losing my balance and instantly falling in.

As soon as I hit the water, images of a surf board crashing down me me filled my head and I started flapping around madly in the water - I have no idea what I thought that was going to achieve. Luckily the next moment Felix was by my side 'Emily, tranquillo, tranquillo.´I dragged myself back onto the board, feeling anything but calm.

Felix high-fived me. 'Very good, very good´he beamed. I had a feeling that this may have been a slight exaggeration. ´And now we paddle again.´So we turned around and repeated the entire routine again...and again.

Then, after several attempts, something amazing happened - I stood up! Just for a second and I was so surprised that I screamed and instantly fell off. But it was such a great feeling that I turned around and did it again.

You might need a magnifying glass but I'm standing - honest!
And for the next hour we repeated the routine. We paddled out (by far the hardest bit - those three years of yoga classes did nothing for my upper body strength), sat on our boards while we waited for a wave - during which time I´d have an impromptu Spanish lesson as Felix chatted away to me - and then I'd paddle with all my might and try to stand up. Sometimes I fell in and sometimes I made it. But the times when I managed to stand up felt fantastic.

The only down-side to the experience was that once again my pesky motion-sickness set in. For someone who loves to travel so much I seem to get sick on an awful lot of modes of transport and I can now add surf boards to that list. After an hour´s worth of going up and down on waves I was feeling distinctly green by the end of my lesson. 'Don´t worry,' Fernando said when I got back to the shore. És normal - next time will be better.'

Next time?!

So big thanks to Kasha for a great recommendation for my list. One down, 29 to go!

#1 of 30b430 - Done!

Friday, 28 October 2011

New beginnings...

So 30b430 has finally begun!

Waking up in my hostel in Lima on the first day of my trip felt very strange. Staring down the barrel of the next nine months suddenly felt very daunting. Even though it´s something I´ve been planning for a while, to actually be here living out those plans still doesn´t feel real in a way.

But it didn´t take too long to slip into the ´traveller´way of life and I´d soon met people in the hostel and set out to explore the city.

So what to make of Peru so far? At the moment I´ve only spent time in Lima, which like many South American cities, is a place of contradictions. On one hand there are towering office blocks, five star hotels and mobile phone shops, Starbucks and McDonalds on every street. People walk around with phone which are ten times more expensive than mine (not difficult, I know, for those of you who are familiar with my pink ´brick´) and drive flashy cars.

But there is also crippling poverty and many people live in slums or are forced to beg on the streets. Unemployment is off the scale but it is amazing to see the creative ways people try to make their living. Dragons´Den eat your heart out. Street vendors sell just about anything you can think of, men sit on wooden boxes to polish the shoes of passersby, I even saw a family who charged 20 centimos (about 5p) for people to weigh themselves on a set of scales in the street.

Lima itself is, again, like many big cities. There are some pretty buildings, but there are plenty of ugly ones too.

But what has been my overwhelming view of Peru so far has been the kindness of the people here. From Kiko, who sat next to me on the plane over, who gave me the Paulo Coelho book he´d just finished reading to Louis, the businessman who walked me to where I needed to go in the centre of Lima, everyone has been so friendly and helpful.

If people see you looking lost, they´ll stop and ask whether you´re ok. When I gave my seat to a granny on the bus she offered to hold my shopping bags on her knee.

And although I have seen little of the country so far, I think it is this which makes it such a special place.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Just where I’m supposed to be...

It was shortly after joining the M25 that I realised I had probably packed a bit too much into my car.

All three lanes of the motorway had been closed due to a big accident and everyone was being diverted to a single carriageway to join an A road.
It was as I was trying to navigate between the other disgruntled drivers then that I discovered the major disadvantage of not being able to use any of your mirrors.
My poor old Ford Ka was packed to the ceiling and the passenger seat was filled with an assortment of bags and boxes which threatened to fall on me every time I turned a corner.

Packing light has never been my forte - which doesn't really bode well for a round-the-world trip - and the trip back home to Scarborough was no exception.
Thankfully a kindly white van man took pity on me and gave me the space to get out, otherwise the chances are I'd still be sat on that motorway with my indicator blinking now. (I say kindly, but I think the beeping could probably have been interpreted in two ways).

The past couple of weeks have been a bit surreal. Finishing at work, leaving my friends in Brighton and saying goodbye to my family are all things I knew were coming but I hadn't let myself think about too much.
Leaving Brighton has been particularly strange as I have no idea whether I'll be moving back there in nine months time.

As I was packing up the three-and-a-half years worth of stuff I have managed to accumulate,  I came across a lot of things which reminded me of when I first moved to the city, when I had a very different life to the one I'm leading now.

Other the last few months, as we all prepare to move onto different stages of our lives, my friends and I have spent a lot of time talking about how things have turned out.
In our most brutally honest moments the conversations have often turned to “this isn’t where I thought I’d be”.
When I moved to Brighton I was in a long-term relationship and thought the last years of my twenties would be following the traditional route of settling down and thinking about a family.
So when the relationship ended suddenly I felt completely lost and it took a long time to figure out what my new life would be.

And even after finally making the leap and giving up everything to go on this trip there have still been many, many times when I've questioned my decision.

But back at home as I was trying to cram my many possessions into the bedroom I grew up in, I came across my old school year book. Among the questions about our most embarrassing moment and what we'd enjoyed most about our time at school, was the question: "Where do you think you'll be when you're 30?"
While many of my 16-year-old classmates had written "married, living in a nice house, with two children", I'd answered "A journalist, travelling the world."

So, strangely enough, it seems I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.