Thursday, 30 March 2017

Madeira // Funchal

The 31st was the day that Lucia and I got to traipse about Funchal, the capital city, by ourselves. Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens, which was beautiful regardless of the poor weather. I should mention that cable cars are also a very useful and dare I say common method of transport in Madeira. We took a cable car from Funchal to the gardens, and were to take another cable car from the gardens to another part, but after a fire a couple of years back, the car was closed off. We were in the Japanese gardens for the most part. 

After that, we carted back and had lunch in the capital. Might I add, it was so difficult to find restaurants with vegetarian options. So much of the menus were comprised of fish, which I don't eat. It was a great pity in a way, as so many different types of fruits and vegetables grow in Madeira, and had a proper chef stepped up to the task and prepared something with them, I'm sure I would have been blown away.

We arranged a time to meet up with Lucia's dad, and until then, had a couple of hours to spare. We bought some delicious gelato, and headed up to the harbour to enquire about tickets for dolphin watching, an activity we'd do a few days later. By then, the weather was gloriously hot. Maybe too hot, but that didn't matter.

So, it wasn't very halloweeny at all, but that didn't matter. As with all the other days of my trip, I had an incredible day of new discovery. Travel is so rewarding. Also, that Bird of Paradise flower? They were everywhere, and so beautiful.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


Quietly, she wakes, a grey sun veiled from her eyes, filtered by imperfect curtains. She scrunches her toes and uses them like fingers to remove her cotton socks. She is too hot, but the outside world is too cold.

Downstairs, a clatter of dishes, a dropped knife force open her sleepy eyes. She realises that she doesn't much want to be awake, but there is nothing she can do. Someone else thought it was okay to make noise at such a time. She rises, and leaves her white duvet in a crumple. It looks like melting whipped cream.

Underfoot, the carpet is not so bad, though it feels rough. It shelters her from the whisping cold, all the way to the bathroom where icy tiles sting and insist. She looks into the mirror. Her sleepy eyes tell of a different world, one much softer, of grass and the colour blue. Her face looks full and wears deep pink signs of the pillow on which she slept. Her lips are split and her eyebrows wild from tossing and turning.

She can feel her arms prickle with goosebumps. All of her pale hairs are alert, and she thinks of how someone plucked out all the feathers of a goose, and made each one exit so violently that little bumps erupted from the goose’s skin. She rubs her arms to make them smooth and warm.

She steps in a wet puddle and is grateful that she isn't wearing socks anymore.

She glides downstairs and counts all twenty-four steps, but whoever was unloading the dishwasher is gone. She thinks she might like some pancakes, but remembers that there are no more eggs, and slides a slice of white bread into the toaster in their stead. She decides to spread it with raspberry jam. She doesn't want milk or orange juice, but it feels too early for water. She cuts off the crusts and leaves them for the birds. She sits at the kitchen table and slowly begins to eat. Her toast doesn’t taste of much.

In the very centre of her brain, a snowflake falls. It shouldn't be there: it is springtime. Snowflakes usually do not fall alone. It is odd. She doesn't like it. It is just one twinge, and then it is gone.

She takes another bite out of her toast. She tells herself that the snowflake was just a strange accident that no one could ever explain. It doesn't matter. It is still springtime.

The next morning, when she wakes up, she realises that the heavens have opened. Ice crystals pierce her brain. Somehow, it is winter.

anna o'c

updated 28 january 2018

Thursday, 9 March 2017

My Experience as an Exchange Student in Germany

T A G   E I N S  00:07
I had some nice thoughts about clouds and planes on the way here. Once I landed and finally met my host family, things changed. I suddenly forgot every word of German I knew, and could only say cool, gut, umm and danke. It was awful. I could barely understand anything either. It is so frustrating not being able to say what I want. I know it will get a little easier as the days draw on, but right now I feel like a German baby. I will improve. That is what I'm here for. I can't say I like it here yet. I'm still so scared in many ways. I need to relax.

T A G   Z W E I  22:52
When I woke up, I wasn't sure whether to go downstairs in my pyjamas or to get dressed. For some reason, I decided that pjs were the answer and once outside the kitchen, I could see through its ajarness that everyone was fully dressed and sprinted quietly back up to get changed. We made chocolate and nutella cupcakes, went on a bikeride to get icecream, played with the bunnies, watched Sherlock (auf Deutsch), watched another German crime show and ate food. I hope tomorrow I'm able to string together a few better sentences, although I've already learned new words, or at least how to use them!

They collect all their plastic bottles in order to get money back on them

T A G   F Ü N F  21:10
I'm shattered. While my speech has continued to improve, getting up at 6:10 in the morning and not being able to use the internet until 19:40 at night was weird and hard and boring. I hope I made the right decision going to school here. People just aren't as friendly as they are at home.

T A G   S I E B E N  21:56
Strangely enough I'm not in bed. I'm instead at the closest thing to a house party that I've ever been to. A German barbecue with legal beer and probably less legal Jaegermeister.

Musical swings at Enschede

T A G   A C H T  19:07
Up until now we were in Enschede in the Netherlands. I had never been to the Netherlands before so it was kind of nice for me to check another country off the list, even if it was only for a few hours. I'm picking up a lot of vocabulary, even if I can't use it in a sentence today.


T A G   Z E H N  17:02 the next day
I was reasonably alive having gotten up at 6:15. When they set the table for breakfast, they now know that I always eat cereal and just leave me a bowl. I like that.

T A G   V I E R Z E H N  16:19 the next day
Each day here in Siegen (at a gymnastics festival) has gotten a little better. The weather however was completely digusting this competition day, and I wore my low waisted shorts and a top in a knot up to my sports bra, sweat dripping down my face, beautiful really, but honestly I was amazed at how okay I felt with my untoned tummy being on view.

T A G   S I E B Z E H N  21:30
I had 1.5 or 2 hours to roam around Munster and shop. I was very glad beacuse it reminded me of all our family trips to Germany. It was strange because I was in Galerie Kaufhof and it was almost like my family was there with me. Like I'd been there before.

T A G   E I N - U N D - Z W A N Z I G  23:17
I just wanted to say that I'm feeling suddenly a little bitter-sweet about leaving. I've genuinely had a really good time here, and I've grown to be fairly comfortable around these people.

T A G   E I N - U N D - Z W A N Z I G  18:14
I almost can't believe I'm coming home. My German has improved beyond measure. I've learned so much about the culture, picked uo the way people speak, learned new words, how to use words, and practised and reinforced what I knew already. It was so so worthwhile and I'm so pleased to have done it, and also ridiculously proud. Peace out Münster!

All of these entries are actual abridged pieces of writing from my stay in Münster, NRW, Germany, back in June 2015. I was sixteen at the time, on a 3-week exchange, staying with a German family. It was challenging, and I went to bed early a lot. Sometimes I wish that I had really just spoken and thrown myself into it, but being shy and reserved in nature, it was hard for me. My host family was good to me, although in some sense I don't know that we were that well matched. Our personalities were just so different! Nevertheless, not 2 weeks after I returned home, I yearned to go back. I love the language, and the culture, and the streets. Germany is a beautiful place. The food is so different and the humour too. I would recommend to anyone to go on a language exchange if possible, and if desired. It's probably the best thing you can do for your language skill, even if you'll find yourself desperately seeking English when you shouldn't be!

Have any of you gone on language exchanges before? Do tell me about your experience!

Anna x

All photos taken on the iPhone 4. Excuse the poor quality, and the blurriness!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Vegetarian/Vegan Shoes ft. TOMs and Matt&Nat

I've been a vegetarian since I was eight years old. It was completely my own decision, and my parents rolled with it seeing as there were many other vegetarians in my family anyway. I never looked back, only becoming stricter and stricter about the whole thing as I got older. In the last year in particular, I started to feel somewhat hypocritcal. I wouldn't eat animals, but I'd still wear them. I knew this had to change.
  Leather was, of course, the greatest problem. It was actually more difficult than I thought to find shoes that weren't at least partially made of leather. However, the two brands which I've gotten vegan shoes from at this stage are TOMs and Matt&Nat

I'd known for a while about the company TOMs. For every pair of shoes sold, another pair is donated to a disadvantaged child. I like that you know that you're giving the company profit as well as "giving" to charity. It feels more honest somehow. I'd never owned a pair of TOMs, but I always liked them. It is also important to note that the vast majority of the shoes they sell aren't vegan or vegetarian friendly, but they do have an ever expanding range of them. I've treated myself to two pairs, a light-weight gunmetal grey pair, and a faux-shearling cable knit one. You can see their current vegan styles here.

What I like about them:
  • They're comfortable
  • They're fashionable
  • They're glittery
  • They're good in hot weather
What I dislike about them:
  • It's rarely warm enough to wear them without no-show socks
  • No-show socks still show
  • They get completely saturated in the rain 
  • They're not true-to-size
On that last point, they started to fit me properly after a rain-storm incident which shrunk them down somewhat. I'd recommend ordering half a size down from your usual.

What I like about them:
  • They're fluff lined and so extremely comfortable
  • They feel like slippers (and are often confused for them when I wear them out)
  • They're a really nice colour
  • There's a higher chance that I'll be able to wear them without freezing in cold weather
What I dislike about them:
  • They're still not that warm, probably can't wear them much in winter
  • They're 100% going to be filthy and are harder to clean
  • They're definitely not waterproof
I got these on sale and really do love them. As per my own advice, I ordered them half a size down, and now they're really snuggly. Would highly recommend them, or ones similar!

The next brand, Matt&Nat, are a Canadian brand famous for their bags. I found them online during my quest for waterproof shoes. And I love everything they do. Their designs are amazing, and look like they're made of leather. I got these chelsea boots for Christmas, and really, really love them.

What I like about them:
  • They took no time at all to break in
  • They're true to size
  • The design is so cool, the elastic in particular is super funky
  • I really like the colour
  • They're waterproof!!
  • They make any outfit look way more put together
  • They're an excuse to show off cool socks
What I dislike:
  • Honestly nothing. I love them. I'm obsessed. 
So the plan now is to purchase more Matt&Nat stuff at regular intervals throughout my life. It's just wonderful to find companies who seem to be on the same wavelength as you!

I hope you found this post helpful if you're on the lookout for vegan/vegetarian shoes. I know myself that it's not that easy to find them in store, and is better to find them on the internet, even though sizing can be risky. Just make sure to really invesigate the measurements each shoe company makes reference to!

Do you know of any good vegetarian/vegan brands of any description that I should try? Let me know!

Love, Anna

p.s. this post is not sponsored although I really wish it was
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