How I settled in

I cannot believe it has been more than a month since I came to Spain. I know this is a cliché but it really has flown by very quickly and I’ve made some amazing friends and memories. This is my first time being away from home so I was worried about how I would settle in.

Moving to a different country where you don’t speak the language is like moving to University times ten. I knew from my friend’s uni experiences that settling in can be tricky so I did expect some difficulties. Here are the ways I combated them and felt more at home in a completely beautiful but different place.

Supermarket

This may sound strange but I absolutely love supermarkets and going to supermarkets in different countries is fascinating for me. My local ‘supermercado’ is surprisingly good and I can find pretty much everything I want there. Seeing the cupboards filled with food definitely makes our flat seem more homely.

Fruit Market

Fruit markets, bakeries and delis are pretty old school. If you shop this way it takes ages but it does feel very authentic. I get to pick each tomato that goes into my salads and it has made me very particular. The quality here is amazing, vegetables are not bland and watery; they’ve got some real flavour.

Walk around

The best way to get to know a city is by walking around aimlessly. On a free day with no plans, I head out to the centre and take it all in. The first few times I was out for hours when running simple errands because I kept getting lost. Now I get a bit less lost and have some basic sense of direction and major landmarks. But I do love accidentally discovering a new place in town.

Hot water bottles and kettles

The first couple of weeks in Sevilla had me coming down hard with allergies and colds. I was drugged up on painkillers and going through several tissues an hour. Luckily I managed to find a hot water bottle in my room so I could make myself all cosy. I also used the kettle to create a steam bath to unblock my nose.

PG Tips

This is very ‘Brit abroad’ but I was absolutely delighted to find a box of PG tips at the supermarket because generic ‘breakfast tea’ does not cut it. Now I can represent the UK in Spain by having my morning brew with a couple of biscuits.

Breakfast in Bed

It’s relaxing and self indulgent but I do it everyday. I don’t have special breakfasts as such. Even a bowl of cornflakes will do. But it’s important to take some time to relax in the morning. After all, I start work at 4pm so I may as well lie around for a bit.

Diary/Journalling/Blogging

I love bullet journalling which I promise I will talk about in a future post. My life is essentially in an emerald book which organises everything for me. I’ve also got blogging and writing in my diary so I can look back on my time here and how I was feeling throughout the internship.

Having my possessions out

Within 24 hours of reaching Sevilla, my room was cluttered with clothes, makeup, paper and jewellery. I don’t much mind that though because it makes me feel at home. In a room that first felt a bit strange and unfamiliar, it was necessary to get my shit out.

Exercising Again

I’ll admit I initially gave up on exercise because my lifestyle here is way more active than in the UK. I walk, cycle and carry bags up three flights of stairs so I often wake up feeling sore. But it’s super important to give yourself half an hour to just exercise more purely. It feel a bit too hot to run but I make sure I do pilates at least 5 times a week. You have to keep your interests going.

Going out a lot

The best way to feel happy is to keep yourself occupied. Leave the house at least once a day even if it is just to take out the bins or buy some fruit. Spend three hours just sitting over a drink with friends at a café. Oh and not to mention going out for tapas. A lot of tortilla and patatas bravas for a vegetarian like me.

 

If you have any other tips for living abroad, please let me know!

 

 

Museo de Bellas Artes y Plaza de España

On a Saturday, I proposed going to see a bit of Art with a friend because with our EU passports the Museo de Belle Artes in Sevilla is free. The museum itself is a beautiful salmon pink building. It showcases the work of Spanish artists but more specifically Andalusian artists.

We made our way through religious iconography and richly detailed still lifes, stopping to look at the little patios and ceilings which were sometimes better than the art itself.

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My favourite style will always be Impressionism and the more gestural brushwork which became popular in the late 19th Century. It’s truly expressive and I loved the more down to earth topics such as flamenco dancers and factory workers. Be sure to pick up a postcard as a memory from the gift shop.

It was quite late but Spaniards always eat and do everything a bit late so we decided to get some lunch. Whilst wandering around the streets we managed to find an amazing restaurant by chance called Mechela. I looked it up after and apparently it is very much in demand so you often need to book. It has a 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor and all! Alex and I were lucky enough to get a seat immediately albeit at the bar. My veggie lasagne was very reasonably priced at €6.00.

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But of course, we were craving dessert which we found further out during our walk. I opted for a lemon sorbet whilst Alex went with the more traditional ‘churros con chocolate’ which is as good as it sounds. Warm, crispy, slightly salted donuts dipped into a rich sweet sauce. Sadly I don’t have a picture to make you salivate.

We then ventuted on to Maria Luisa Park for a nice walk in the shade but were distracted by Plaza de Españas which looked especially beautiful in the sunshine. It was time to take copious amounts of photos because we had a bright blue sky.

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We read the name of each province and talked about whether we wanted to go there or not. We discovered there were many places we wanted to go to. Spanish tourists made sure they took a photo with the display of their hometown.

Finally, after drinking some overpriced but very much needed bottled water we went back to the cool park and explored around. There are horsecarriages and various types of bicycles that you can choose to ride around in. Two years ago, my parents had chosen one of these and mayhem ensued as they shouted at each other for their terrible coordination.

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To avoid, that and the hiring charge we just walked and sat down when we were tired by a little pool.

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There are more museums near the park and once again they were free so we chose the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares. This one also had a lovely courtyard.

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It was filled with fabrics and information about various processes like tanning, gilding and pottery. Definitely one for those interested in all things crafty and traditional. So make the most if you are ever in town and happen to have an EU passport because it is FREE!

 

 

Feria

In Spain, there is a flamenco festival called Feria. Sevilla’s Feria de Abril is one of the most famous and beautiful. Sevillians really do get into it.

I work in a language school and during the week of Feria most children don’t turn up so I was given an unexpected week off right at the start of my internship. There was no excuse not to go to this fiesta.

Women dress up in traditional flamenco dresses and men wear suits. I did consider buying a dress and going all out but they are quite pricey at €100 each. Instead, I opted to wear one of my nicer dresses and put on some lipstick. You can also buy some cheap fake flowers to put into your hair to fit in with the locals. These ladies, were among the best dressed in my opinion. The detailing the dresses is very authentic with much craftsmanship- some genuinely looked as though they had come from the 19th Century.

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I can’t really speak for Ferias in other Spanish towns and cities as I only went to the one in Sevilla.

In the day time there are horse carriages which parade through Los Remidos. Horses have to answer nature’s call so it is best not to wear your best shoes to the Feria unless you want to spend the next day cleaning them.

As nightfalls, the lights come on and everything looks glittery and magical. There are stalls with games and candy floss for children to play with

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The tipple of Feria is called ‘rebujito’ a mix of sherry and lemonade. It doesn’t really taste of alcohol so be wary- it catches up on you. I thought I wasn’t particularly drunk but my headache the next day disagreed. At a public cassetta we got drinking rebujito out of tiny plastic cups which we kept filling up again and again.

We managed to get into a private cassetta where we drank more rebujito and I attempted (very badly) to dance the Sevillianas and Flamenco . Luckily my partners were patient and tried their best to teach me. The atmosphere is the tent was something else. Everyone was very merry and there was a live band playing traditional music. The floor was filled to the brim with dancers and everyone took part, laughing and swaying late into the night.

Sadly, I was very tired and decided to come home early at 3 am meaning I couldn’t watch the sun come up. It’s definitely an amazing cultural experience that tourists don’t often get to see because getting into a private cassetta requires connections. We were very lucky with the timing internship and this was definitely one of the best parties of my life.

The Alcazar and The Mushrooms

Every Monday evening after 6pm, the Reales Alcazar has free entry for all. Get in the queue nice and early at 5:15 to really make the most of it. In my week off for the Feria (which I will talk about later) I decided to pop in for a visit. I work evenings so normally this wouldn’t be possible meaning I jumped at the opportunity.

I have been to the Alcazar and in fact Seville before and can say it is well worth the price. But when something so amazing is free, it’s something you HAVE to do. I loved to rediscover the parts of the palace and gardens that I had fallen in love with earlier.

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Game of Thrones fans such as myself may recognise this place to be ‘Dorne’, you know the Water Gardens from season 5? Too bad they messed up the plot but that’s just my opinion…

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Strangely, the thing that I love the most about the Alcazar is the amazing tile work. Geometric mosaics line all the surfaces of the palace and you feel dizzied by the beautiful patterns and colours.

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The best example is the ceiling that made me trip over because I kept staring at it. Forgive the blurriness, it was a bit dark.

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There are also the pinky- purple flowers you can see throughout Sevilla in the springtime.

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When the gardens get too hot you can cool off in the underground bathrooms.

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The Alcazar is Old Sevilla which totally contrasts the Mushrooms or ‘Setas’ as they are known in Spanish. Their modern style has provoked a lot of debate within the city as some believe them to be eyesores. I personally quite like them.

Tickets were three Euros with a drink included. I ensured I asked the receptionist whether the free drink was ‘con alcohol’. It was so I was very, very happy.

We timed our visit pretty well so we could catch the sunset falling over the city. There weren’t enough clouds in the sky to get a proper picturesque sunset but the view was hardly ugly.

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Photo creds to Irilena my awesome flatmate for the last pic.

We finished the evening with lots of Tinto de Verano con limone and cervezas whilst tucking into tapas. All in all, a great start to my unexpected holiday.

 

 

 

Adventure Begins…

After endless job applications, cover letters and Skype interviews riddled with technical difficulties, I got an amazing opportunity.

The opportunity to live and work in Seville for three months as an English Teaching Assistant. Flights, insurance and a shared flat were paid for. There was even a hundred euro living allowance for each week so signing my contract was a no brainer. I didn’t even think I had a chance to get it because it really was my first choice.

Before the offer, I had begun to feel a bit worried and downhearted because I had left both my jobs with no offers in sight. The furthest I had been on my gap year was the University of Warwick which definitely didn’t give any elephants and architecture worthy enough for the Insta. So you’ll be surprised to find out that I felt really daunted by it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for this internship but I’m 19 years old, with virtually no Spanish, living in a foreign country away from home for the first time in my life. I made countless to do lists and googled Seville but nothing really seemed to make me feel excited. I’m far from settled because I still get lost when going to buy vegetables (an hour of my life that I’ll never get back) but I feel much more excited about the next three months.

Packing was pretty last minute even by my standards. I had essentially dumped all my summer clothes into a suitcase and put it in my wardbrobe without much thought. Friday came along and I was feeling very, very stressed. I did a lot of folding which calmed me down but I realised that I really needed to sleep because the past week had been very busy. We had training days in London and after, I was always saying goodbye to friends and spending time with family.

At 6am on the day of the flight, I finally felt excited and realised that I would never really be ‘ready’ as such. I did some more haphazard packing and got my Dad to help me close my suitcase.  I slept during the journey but had one last coffee with my parents and took a really bad selfie at the airport. As I got deeper and deeper into the security queue my parents finally waved goodbye and disappeared. That’s when it struck me that it had really begun. My gap yah was going to quickly become more interesting so there was no excuse for a lack a blogging. This once in a lifetime opportunity shall make it onto the blogosphere. 

Things I’ve learnt on my Gap Year

 

  1. Making cocktails, apparently my piña colada is the ‘best in the world’.
  2. Being able to remember the long complicated orders of  drunk people  who can’t remember what Carol wanted. Was it a vodka tonic or a vodka lime soda? Carol’s too far gone to remember herself, let’s be honest.
  3. Communicating with children, teaching them Maths and why they shouldn’t chew on wires and stationery. I’m giving some inspirational life lessons and helping future generations.
  4. Finding a job is bloody difficult as you’ll apply to 100 places and get a couple of interviews from places who forget to reply. When they do reply, you’ll probably forget you even applied, as you have given your CV to literally everyone. It’s like getting a message on Tinder from a guy that you forgot you swiped right on.
  5. Learning that it is possible to find parallels between job hunting and Tinder
  6. Once you bag a job, any job, the feeling of seeing figures in your bank account rise is truly beautiful.
  7. Home comforts are really special and you will miss them. Seeing university kitchens and their lack of fresh herbs was a shock. Special shoutout to Cambridge University for the hob which turns itself off every 10 minutes for safety reasons.
  8. Being able to finally make some time for myself to plough through books and making  pretty but impractical spreads in the bullet journal.
  9. Being able to make time for others too, and coming  up with some amazing birthday presents that make me feel smug.
  10. Learning about taxation and getting a rebate when HMRC doesn’t realise you’re on a minimum wage job and you’ll probably never earn £11,000 a year.
  11. Managing money, which has inadvertently, turned me into a massive cheapskate.
  12. Petrol really is as expensive as our parents say it is.
  13. Gauging traffic and complaining when your estimates about journeys are wrong. Basically, I’m a middle aged man  whose main conversation topic is motorways and carparks.
  14. Learning which friends I can depend on and which friends were only friends because we ate lunch together.
  15. Getting more comfortable with my own company and being alone
  16.  Realising that social media is a distortion of the truth. Give me a dark room, some loud music and glass bottles from the recycling and I’m sure I can recreate a club in my kitchen. We’re only seeing the highlights as no one puts up a crying selfie at 3 am whilst they’re struggling through an essay.
  17. But of course, when you do get FOMO from seeing highlights; it’s best to log out and focus on yourself.
  18. Reunions make separation from friends worthwhile as you can catch up and enlighten each other on your different lives. It isn’t the same conversation as you’re all growing and learning no matter what you do, but it does feel like you’ve never been apart.

Why I took a Gap Year

Thursday 18th August 2016, a day that held a lot of significance for teenagers like myself across the UK. It was a day that charted out the next three years of our lives but for many, including my myself, it did feel like the rest of our lives were revolved around this day and the letters on a piece of A4 paper. It was time to see if two years of hard graft, tears and countless flashcards were worth it.

The day before, I had decided to keep myself occupied by going to the RA Summer Exhibition with a friend. Generally, we were both quite cheerful and happy but on the train back home, anxiety began to creep in. We parted ways, hugged and wished each other good luck. The rest of the evening is hazy to me. I woke up very early on Results Day which was a shock to the system as the summer had been filled with lie ins, trips to the pub and watching copious amounts of TV. The idea of waking up to receive potentially bad news always struck me as cruel and harsh.

That morning I felt ill and sweaty whilst clutching a bowl of cornflakes that I was unable to eat. I logged into the school’s VLE to find out my grades only to be met with a screen of numerous letters. It was so confusing and my sleepy, panicky self wasn’t helping me to process the information. ‘Did I really do 12 A levels?’ was one of my more stupid thoughts. After calling a friend who told me which column to look at; I could finally make sense of it all. Still, I noted my grades down on paper and asked my family to check over just in case.

My disbelief stemmed from the fact that I had done a lot better than I expected getting 3 A*s and an A. I’d got into my first choice university (Bristol) to study History of Art so Results Day was a success for me. But Bristol didn’t quite feel like my top choice university; it felt like something I was left with after being rejected by my two top choice universities.

Since then, I had casually started considering a gap year. The rejections were crushing experiences to say the least and it made me too scared to make concrete plans in case my grades were not worth me reapplying to university. Now those letters on the screen indicated that a gap year was definitely a choice. I had spent the summer wanting my grades so I could make solid plans but now I had them, I was just as perplexed and facing even more questions and doubts.

Of course, these questions and doubts could wait for a couple of days as I was busy celebrating with nice meals, clubbing and talking to extended family who were so happy for me. Yet, sooner or later, a decision had to be made. Speaking to teachers definitely helped as they bought years of experience and wisdom. I like to think that I decided on a gap year slowly over a long process but I know deep down, I decided at 7:34 am on the 18th August 2016. With those grades, I knew that reapplying was worth it even if it did mean revisiting bad memories of UCAS.

This was definitely the main factor in my decision but there were some background issues which affected me. For a start, I didn’t feel excited about university. Seeing friends busy planning for their uni life by contemplating bedding/saucepans and filling out paper work so enthusiastically made me realise that my feelings were uncommon. University can be scary but ultimately you should go into it feeling excited not apathetic.I think one of the reasons why I felt apprehensive was because I had begun to doubt whether History of Art was right for me; I was now considering a degree in History as I had more experience in the topic.There was also a part of me that couldn’t face going back to the academic life after two years of intense, regimented work. I needed a break and my grades gave me the opportunity to have that. I’m grateful for them because they’ve allowed me the chance to do something a bit less ordinary, learn new things and hopefully let me have some adventures that I can chart on this blog to share with you.

 

A Room with A View by E.M. Forster- A Review

“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”

 

I love a good romance novel and this one is set in the Edwardian era so I knew I had to read it. I had previously read the memorable opening of the novel during an English lesson because it was an unseen text for a mock exam. After finding out who had written the piece I stored it in my mind as something which could be read later. The Italian side intrigued me because I didn’t know much of tourism in the Edwardian era. Now get ready for some spoilers.

 

The novel is concerned with a young woman’s emotional growth on a trip to Italy as she slowly sheds the constraints placed on her through rejecting a stuffy fiancé in favour of true love with a more passionate man. ‘A Room with a View’ is a Romance but it is also a Comedy of Manners with constant quips and grains of wisdom. I went into it with very high expectations so I ended up being disappointed. I often felt there was more scope for both comedy and romance. Aside from Cecil, many characters felt unmemorable and their various stereotypes weren’t pronounced enough to create a funny effect. I also expected it to be more fast- paced and it did sometimes drag.

 

I must stress that I though the plot itself was without fault; my main criticism is about the style and execution. Of course, I am open to a second reading because some books tend to improve upon further reading such as ‘The Great Gatsby’. Moreover, there were parts that really did resonate with me. The dilemma that Lucy faced and her characterization were brilliantly done. Forster really does show the constraints of Edwardian society and the way it can result in mental decay especially for women. Equally, he creates the possibility of a more fulfilling and imaginative existence very vividly that Lucy’s rejection of Cecil really does feel quite revolutionary.

 

I would still recommend ‘A Room with a View’ and will give it a second chance. Please let me know what things you enjoyed about it so I can look out for them in future.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- A Review

“She had been fashioned to adorn and delight”

 

Having previously read ‘The Age of Innocence’ for an English essay on marriage, I was already acquainted with Wharton’s ability to analysis New York society through sharp and cutting social commentary. ‘House of Mirth’ is probably the more famous of the two novels as it cemented Wharton’s reputation as a writer. However, I don’t wish to compare the works too frequently. If you haven’t read beforehand, be warned that my review will almost certainly contain spoilers.

 

The novel traces the fall of penniless socialite Lily Bart down the rigid New York hierarchy till her eventual death from an overdose of sleeping draught. But it is not these events in themselves that make the novel so captivating. Rather, it’s the way in which her fall is traced and presented as an almost inevitable downward spiral. Of course, there were plenty of opportunities for Lily to remedy her position but for reasons of honour and conduct she often chooses to decline them. Yet Wharton’s narrative makes the downward spiral seem so unavoidable that the reader cannot truly dislike Lily for her decisions.

 

For me the characterisation of Lily Bart was the strongest part of the novel. The novel’s other characters are simply not as compelling and they do tend to blur together in their hypocrisy and close mindedness. It really does feel as though it is Lily alone battling against this mass, whose values she hold so dear even though they lead to her destruction. Indeed, her circumstances are very tragically ironic. Lily’s lack of agency makes her more striking because we are put into her closeted life. Each idea and hope she has is rapidly crushed by external circumstance or her internal morals and we are with her through each defeat.

 

By contrast, Lawrence Selden is much less interesting perhaps because we do not enter his mind as much. I found his rejection of society and rebelliousness less admirable because unlike Lily he has such an option. As a bachelor and a lawyer, he can distance himself from society because he does not need it as acutely as Lily. The love story between Lawrence and Lily was in my opinion, of secondary importance. It never felt likely to come together. Ultimately, it is a story of social ruin not love so their relationship became a plot device to chart that. Selden is almost like the reader as he has a more sympathetic reaction to Lily’s misery.

 

The distinction between men and women and the elite and ordinary is drawn very distinctly in the novel. Money and gender relations are inextricably linked as Lily presents marriage, as being strategic and calculated. It reminds us of how matrimony is somewhat superficial and based on financial and social gain. Men give women security through marriage but ironically each time Lily receives any money or emotional support from a man it is condemned as scandal. The hypocrisy is infuriating for the modern reader as you begin to feel just as confined as Lily who is punished by her own beauty and kindness which are so valued by New York society.

 

I know I probably haven’t touched on all the themes presented in the novel but these were the ones that I found most striking. If you want to read about tragedy, social hierarchy and suppression of women ‘House of Mirth’ is definitely right for you. I would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments. Please be free to disagree with me if you adore Lawrence Selden or find Lily Bart to be foolish.

The typical and difficult first post

To kick off my adventures into the blogosphere, I’m going to introduce myself. What better way to approach this awkward task than by using a list?

I love history.

I’ve studied it since I was 12 and it’s always been a favourite so I’m going to spend £9,250 a year to carry on because it’s difficult to imagine my life without it. I love a good history documentary and my guilty pleasures tend to be period dramas that are grossly inaccurate or camp. Downton Abbey I’m looking at you.

But I also love Art and Art History.

I nearly ended up studying Art History at university. It’s always something I’ll wonder about but I’m happy with my decision. I still try to keep Art in my life through visiting galleries. I used to study Art A Level which I loved because it let me improve my drawing and painting skills and think more creatively. Currently, I’m trying to get back into making art and salvaging everything I learnt in two years.

I have a lot passions that I need to put more effort into. 

Art can be included in this. But I have lots of other projects or aims that I want to fulfil during my gap year. Learning Spanish, running long distances and starting a blog are the more ambitious ones.

I’m Indian- sort of.

This is a tricky one that can’t fully be explored in a few lines. My parents are definitely Indian and I even spent five years of my life in India. We moved to the UK in the 90s and have been here ever since so I’m not sure what that makes me. ‘Second generation immigrant’  is probably the best term but of course it’s deeper than that.

I’m short -really short.

Not like in a 5″3 way. Frankly, I would be grateful to reach the 5 foot mark because I come in at 4″10.  This is quite amusing so I’ve been exposed to most short-jokes imaginable. People also feel the need to tell me I am short because apparently I don’t know it myself. This is greatest joke of all.

I would say I am a cat person but I appreciate a good doge meme.

My life and bed is shared by two furry critters by the name of Cookie and Casper who are the best things in life. There will be pictures later but for now you will have to trust me when I say they are adorable.

I love most animals so I’ve decided not to eat them anymore. 

Going veggie wasn’t a big dramatic change because I’d been considering it for a long time. I slowly started to cut down on my intake. My last non-vegetarian meal was a chicken stir fry on an aeroplane from American. Looking back, I should’ve made sure it was a nicer meal that wasn’t heated up in a metal box at 36,000 feet.

I went to a grammar school.

Again, this isn’t something I can fully discuss in a few lines because a lot happened. It’s made me who I am today and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be educated at some of the best schools in the country. It was pressurised and towards the end, almost unbearable but I made it out alive with plenty of advice and study tips so you don’t make the same mistakes!

Documenting life is very important to me. 

This is probably the reason why I’ve decided to blog as it’s just another way of preserving memories. I have a diary and a bullet journal too which I know I will appreciate looking at in years time. Hopefully this blog can also be something to fondly look back at.