Thursday, June 9, 2011

To Do List

Things to do once exams are over in fifteen hours:

  • Get lashed - champagne reception
  • Ceremonial burning of notes to symbolise the end of Part II Tripos
  • Say thank you to supervisors for putting up with my various incompetencies over the year
  • Retail therapy to ease the trauma of the last few months
  • Make my memory scrapbook - remind Harald that drawing penises everywhere in it is not acceptable
  • Draw lots of nice pictures
  • Pen some nice escapist stories
  • Write that song that is hastily scribbled at the back of my Foundations of Organic Synthesis notebook
  • Set up a proof-reading website
  • Go punting
  • Look for the alpacas near the Cavendish
  • Learn how to program like a boss
  • Learn how to diabolo like a G6
  • Learn how to play croquet like a...
  • Play and win at lots of Jungle Speed
  • Soul Calibur II
  • Get good at pool - ANGLES
  • Go paintballing/theme park
  • Cook lots - dumplings, dim sum, sushi, you name it...
  • Play poker
  • Hit Cindies and that new club at least once this semester
  • Youtube drinking game
  • Karaoke nights :D
  • Go swimming until I am at a socially acceptable level of not being able to drown
  • Gym every day:
- Erg time of 2 min 10 split
- Squat the weight of a small anorexic child
- Deadlift the weight of a small anorexic adult
- Bench more than the bar
  • Watch Snog, Marry, Avoid and all those other mind-numbing shows like Paris Hilton's BFF until my brain turns to mush
  • Watch the shockingly bad horror movie Tamara
  • Read some young adult novels about Important Topics in life like romance in an American high school setting
  • Reminisce about the heady Part II days when all I had to worry about was the benzaldehyde that ended up in my mouth, and other such trivial things
 Should probably do some last minute cramming. Gotta make the last one count.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kitchen Adventures #1 ~ Chilli Con Carne

Why don’t men cook at home?
No one’s invented a steak that will fit in the toaster.



This is in no way meant to be a cooking blog, but as someone who takes photos of every single meal that she makes, I thought I’d write about my more successful incarnations. And so here we have the great chilli con carne:

It may look like I took a photo of this in hall, but if you look carefully, you can see that although the tray and the glass may have been *acquired* from hall, the cutlery certainly is not! And also, there lies my trusty RSC 2009. Now who takes a pen to hall?!

I was going to post a series of photos of my chilli con carne through the ages, but it looks like I didn’t take that many at all, and if you think I am sad enough to go trawling through my Facebook photo history for said elusive photos then you are mistaken – I only went as far back as Easter 2010: Part I before giving up.

On reflection, the last time I made this dish was sometime last term, and it must have tasted good enough to steal…because it did get stolen. I think I’ve almost recovered from that trauma (in which I missed my very important lectures to sit and stare at the wall for a few hours in rage) so I feel that it would be somewhat therapeutic to share. After all, sharing is caring. And revealing is healing.


Minced beef
1-2 Onions
Clove of garlic
6 Tomatoes (or a large tin of tomatoes in sauce)
Red or green pepper
215g tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce (important, otherwise you have to make your own chilli sauce!)
Chopped Chilli (optional)
White wine (optional)
Black pepper
Chilli powder


1. Chop the onions and garlic into small pieces and fry them until slightly brown.
2. Add the beef; season with salt and pepper and fry until cooked. I tend to use a third or half of a 500g pack. Normally it’s enough to last me for two meals!
3. Chop up the pepper and chuck that in, along with the tomatoes and the kidney beans.
4. Pour in half a cup of white wine – I didn’t use white wine in any of my other attempts, and must say that the wine does bring a new level to the flavour. If you don’t want to use alcohol, half a cup of water will do.
5. Add chilli powder or chopped up chilli at your discretion.
6. Let the mysterious mush simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, or longer, if possible – the longer you cook this, the more flavour will seep into the beef.
7. Once the sauce has reduced to your satisfaction, serve with rice!

If you don’t have the chilli sauce then you can either buy pre-made sauce, or make your own from a combination of: tomato puree, water, sugar, chilli powder, paprika, salt, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, coriander, oregano, onion powder, basil, and it says on the back of my tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce. So yeah, buy the kidney beans in chilli sauce. From Tesco.

Finally, you may notice that I haven’t been very specific with the quantities of ingredients used – that’s because I tend to make it up on the spot so have never actually taken note of the ratios. This may or may not be a good thing...I’ll leave this up to you to decide.

Enjoy! ^_^

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lies My ‘Friends’ Told Me #2

That when you are going in for a job interview, you can’t ever show your back to the interviewer. Even when leaving the room. You have to maintain eye contact all the time.

Following on from the corporate theme, I was told this pearl of ‘wisdom’ sometime last term during my job application phase when I would freak out on a daily basis and run to various people for advice. Being in a vulnerable state of panic at the time, I drank in everything that I was told – not once did I question any bit of advice I received. After all, these were people who already had job offers, right? Of course they held some secret elixir of knowledge, some golden key that would unlock the gates of employment-dom for me. Uhm, yeah. About that…

Once again, I fell for it: hook, line and sinker. I even went so far as to try it out in front of them – got more than stuck when attempting to leave the room though. Fumbling around for the door handle with your back to the door and desperately trying to maintain eye-contact would make any normal person realise that you were being had, but no, not I – I still didn’t realise, until they burst out laughing. Yup. There was a reason why I hadn’t come across this piece of advice anywhere on the Internets and now I know why.


I don’t even think that there needs to be a moral to this story.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unilever Assessment Centre (Summer Internship)

Here’s a quick summary of what I experienced at the Unilever Assessment Centre for a summer internship in Research and Development:

Optional Lunch

If you are given the chance to sign up for the optional lunch, do it! You’ll get there early, have a chance to settle in, and you’ll be looked after by someone on the graduate scheme. You may even get to meet other applicants, and I found that to be one of the key factors as to why I was much less scared – I was really lucky and got on really well with the other applicants on the day, which made such a huge difference to my attitude. I contrast this to the time at my ASDA assessment centre where I turned up ten minutes later and had no rapport with any of the other applicants. Horrible day.

Case Study and Presentation

You are set a business related scenario, and get given a big handout full of data which you need to analyse in forty five minutes. I was asked to make three decisions based upon how a newly acquired company should be run and to give an eight minute long presentation, which would be followed by twelve minutes of questions and answers. Criticism I received from this was that I focused too much upon the opinions of customers and not enough upon the facts and figures.

Competency Interview

Standard forty five minute long joint with one other assessor. You are asked why Unilever, and then five competencies that are assessed via the STAR method. Make sure all of your answers conform to this: Situation, Task, Action, Result! Went in having done next to no research on Unilever, other than knowing the names of a few of the products, and the fact that they’d recently been involved in a price-fixing cartel so that ruled out ‘reputation’ as a possible answer I could give. Advice: research your chosen business function, and get in key words like ‘consumer need’ and ‘product development’. Luckily for me my interviewer was really nice (or that they were really desperate for interns), for I had to be spoon-fed all of this during my interview… >__<

Group Exercise

Standard forty five minute long exercise. If you’ve done one of these then you’ve done them all. We were given a set amount of time to read through some information before being assessed for twenty minutes on how we solved a problem together. This was the one that I enjoyed the most because I’d already gotten to know the other applicants really well, so it just felt like more banter, and as I was so relaxed, it was easy to forget the presence of the assessors in the room. Feedback from this was that apparently I led (I led?!) the discussion, keeping everything on focus and that I made some very good points. Hunh…

My Advice:
1. Make sure you know the key competencies that Unilever are looking for
2. Turn up early!!!
3. Try to get to know the other applicants beforehand - this will make you feel more relaxed if you can establish rapport with them
4. Drink lots of water throughout the day
5. If they offer you free Ben and Jerry’s, take it!
6. Take your time with your answers.
Finally, good luck!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Going Corporate

HR lady: You’ve got the internship!!!
Me: Omigaarghghghggghhhh!!!

I’ve actually known about this since last Friday, but kept quiet about it because I wanted to personally thank the four friends who’ve supported me throughout this entire job hunting ordeal: shout out to the two members of Drop Table Artists, to Claud and to Agent Double T. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Not gonna lie, I’m not the most career-orientated (or study-focused for that matter) person you’ll find lying around. I’d much rather be writing, drawing, or frolicking under the sunshine i.e. I never ever want to grow up (Peter Pan Complex). Sadly, the laws of nature dictate otherwise, and after being told by friends and family for two and a half years to get off my lazy ass and find a job, I finally decided to pull my act together. So this year, I made a half-hearted attempt to shoot off some apps and quickly learned that I’m probably not investment banking material. Much to my simultaneous amusement and horror, I also learned that Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrison’s don’t want me either.

What the hell are these people looking for?! I cried out in despair.

There was still one company that I had hope for: Unilever. After putting off a telephone interview for a month, I received a few ‘if-you-don’t-sign-up-for-an-interview-NOW-then-we’re-dropping-you’ emails and decided to give up the avoidance act, man up and just go for it. Apparently, I sounded like a high schooler giving a presentation, according to a Belgian who overheard my interview whilst walking past my room. High school retard or not, it turned out that they liked me (why!?) and decided to invite me down to their assessment centre. Joyous!? I think not, said the stress-head in me.

On the day itself, a series of personal disasters led to me becoming so stressed out that I turned somewhat hysterical on the train – to the point where I would burst out laughing every few seconds, as my message outbox can testify. The other people on the train must’ve thought I’d gone insane. By the time I arrived, I was in the mental state where I couldn’t take anything seriously anymorewhich actually turned out to be a good thing.

In the end, there were only three of us being assessed on the day (one girl didn’t show up). I quickly discovered that our gathering consisted of a mini Leeds Fest down south, what with one of the other applicants being from Leeds, and the graduate who was looking after us too. Never had I been so joyous to hear my local accent being uttered.

Now, for anyone who is thinking of applying for the Unilever summer internships, there is very little in the way of help on Wikijobs, so I’ve made a separate post here with a brief breakdown of my day and what I feel are the best bits of advice I can give you.

Things I have learned from this day:
1. The benefits of turning up early to events
2. Make the most out of optional lunches and drink lots of water all day
3. Don’t ignore the data when they give you data to analyse!!!
4. If someone is speaking really slowly and winking at you during an interview, it means that they are probably trying to give you a hint
5. If you’re applying for Research and Development, you won’t be assessed on how good you are at your degree (yaaaay)
6. Maybe I’m not such a failure after all!
Went home for the weekend for some personal time, and on the way back to Cam, I met a guy who gave me two hours worth of life coaching – he made me remember that my self-esteem was not always this crappy and that there is a world outside of this little sandbox. Always good to keep things in perspective.

One of the little pearls he imparted:
F - false
E - entity
A - appearing
R - real
Oh, and remember my last posts about my little wasp infestation? Well, they’re back… >:|

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lies My ‘Friends’ Told Me #1

That if you sit on a chair and pull upwards on the seat hard enough, then your chair will lift up off the ground.

I'll admit it right here and right now that I'm too gullible (stupid) for my own good, especially when you consider that this happened to me a few days/weeks before my Physics exam in first year. Oh how I really should have known better.

Of course I was skeptical at first i.e. translates to: didn't believe this bullcrap.

But, my two dear friends were very persistent and persuasive, so being the nervous wreck that I was at the time, it did not take long for them to screw over my mind and have me doubting the very foundations of Physics. Perhaps I wanted to believe that I could fly, the poor naive fool that I was (still am). I can still remember the exact second I broke - it was after they'd finished talking about world records when they started making up force diagrams; that was when I put my hands up in the air, backed away and admitted defeat. "Woah, OK, OK." After all, these were Cambridge students taking Maths and Physics, two of them versus a person who hadn't done Physics since those GCSE Triple Award days and didn't know what the hell a transistor was (much to the irritation of my lab partner Tiiiing ^_^:;). Much cleverer than me, right? What the hell am I doing at Cambridge?!

Suffice to say I did not do so well at Physics.

The moral of the story is: no, you can't fly like a G6 and not even force diagrams have the power to make you that fly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wasps Must Die.

Since I started working (learning, procrastinating, stressing) next to my window, I've noticed something: insects seem to really like hanging out here. Whether it's throwing themselves against the glass, or going round and round in little circles, there's always at least one Insect Incident every three minutes. Yes, I have been counting (blame it on my revision stopwatch), and no, I do not know why they do this. Especially wasps. Before I realised that my window was the equivalent of an ASBO-philic street corner, I thought I was going crazy.

I'd hear a buzzing sound, look up, and see...a pigeon staring at me from the leafy branches of a tree, i.e. absolutely nothing. Much to my bewilderment, this would continue for a few hours every day. Was it the exam stress that was making me go insane? I even started talking to myself. And then, one very recent day, I finally spotted the culprits: the wasp! And to my horror, it was not just one wasp, but TWO, emerging from my window frame to go forage for stuff before returning!

It dawned upon me that these wasps were attempting to nest in MY window. NononoNO, this could not do, I thought. It's not acceptable for there to be any extra tenants in my room unless they are of the homo sapiens variety, so in classic Luo fashion, I decided to ask Facebook for help:
~ creative methods for getting rid of the pair of wasps that are attempting to nest in my window, anyone?
Yesterday at 18:43

Let's have a quick look at the responses, shall we?

1. Unicorns!

I'm not quite sure that my friend has grasped the fact that unicorns are mythological for a reason. Moving on...

2. Get a bunch of these mofos and swarm the mothefucker

MOAR BEEEES?!?! Sadly, this is not the most practical method with my limited resources.

3. wasp and fly killer, or deodorant

The most sensible one so far: thanks Agent Double T.

4. Vacuum cleaner is the best way.

Hmm. Trying to explain why I'm waving a vacuum nozzle out of my window sounds like a good test of my sanity.

5. surely lynx/lighter

This was also suggested by my brother. People seem to like this idea: "that doesn't set off fire alarms actually, that's some good shit"

6. chopstick an wok, belly tastee!!

Orly? I hope this person wasn't implying that I stir fry and then consume the wasp with rice.

7. Set the room on fire. seems to be a very popular theme here... O_o

In the end, I waited until the wasps left the hole in my window frame and then proceeded to slam my window shut. As summer is fast approaching, I realise that this is a very short term strategy. The wasps seem to know this because after throwing themselves against the glass for a little while in a fit of rage, they buzz off elsewhere and then return when I can't take it any longer and open the window again.

Could they be smarter than crows?

I know they're watching me...

And nowadays, I keep on hearing the buzzing...

Even when they're not there.


On a side note, I have a job interview tomorrow which I'm supposed to be preparing for so I don't know why I'm writing this. Also going home for the weekend, so no updates for the next few days. Happy 22nd to the 25th of April, folks!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Into the Deep End...

I've always hated swimming. 95% of the reason was because I didn't know how to; the other 5% lay in the nasty smell of chlorine that clings to your skin for days. Oh, and there was also the matter of hygiene. Verrucas. People taking a sly widdle. Swallowing a mouthful of said sly widdle. But at the end of the day, I knew that not being able to swim is a pretty loser-ish (not to mention embarassing) status to bear in life. After all, basic life skills and all that? I knew that, yet...

Growing up, my primary school would take us to the local pool every Wednesday, and I would just watch as one by one, my classmates left the baby pool for the Big Bad Pool on The Other Side. Don't get me wrong, of course I'd try, but it was a combination of bad teaching, a lack of confidence, and a fear of drowning that led to me 'graduating' from swimming lessons with a big fat zero. Not even a fucking Dolphin One Award.

Naturally my phobia escalated, and with these memories at hand, I went through the next ten years of my life avoiding contact with water unless it was: in a bath, in the rain, or occasionally in a large bed of H20 with a water-aid in the form of a float. Hydrophobe? I think: yes. But it wasn't a complete No-Man's-Land; something must've gotten through to my brain, for I had residual memories of knowing how to do the breast stroke, mushroom float, and how-not-to-drown-when-lying-on-my-back. Latent memories, things that do stick for life like learning to ride a bike no-handed and look like a complete and utter prat whilst doing so.

With this background in mind, on the 8th April, I finally decided to quick being such a pathetic loser and learn some life skills. It was that, or revision. And in my mind, any form of useful procrastination was better than revising. So, that afternoon, Claud and I took to the waters of Parkside Pools: me scared out of my wits and feeling completely and utterly insecure at just how damn exposing a swimsuit can be. It was OK, I quickly learned that no one gave a crap.

In the first session, with the everlasting patience of Claud, I learnt the proper technique for breast stroke, and my humiliation at being crapper than the children half my age there gave me the resolve to NOT go for one of the damn floaty things. After a bit of faffing around, Claud convinced me to go to the forbidden zone i.e. the Deep End, the One Terror that I had managed to avoid for the duration of my entire existence. Not gonna lie, I was shit scared. But like a ray of guiding light, Claud took my hand and literally (yes, literally) led me to the deep end and made me go down to the bottom to try to get over my fear. Yes, it was as deep as I'd thought it was. Yes, I thought I was going to die. But...I didn't. And surprisingly, it was OK. I also learnt how to tread water, and left the pool in ecstatics at having braved the One Terror. Next stop: attempting a length.

That happened a week later, and this time, I swam TWO WHOLE LENGTHS, learned that it was OK to put my head underwater whilst swimming, and treaded water as if there was going to be a tomorrow. Hallelujah and all that jazz. We celebrated by getting Chinese takeout and updating my Facebook status with an edited lyric from The Lonely Island's song entitled I Just Had Sex:
~ ♫ i just swam a length (for the first time ever), and it fe-elt so gooood (felt so good) ♪ ♫
15 April at 22:27

(guess that counteracted my one small step away from loser-dom)

Today though, was the big big day in which I completely got into the game. I came into the pool determined to do five lengths, and with the encouragement of a stranger from Catz, managed to swim TWENTY WHOLE LENGTHS.




I could not (and still can't) believe how far I've come in just three sessions. Gives me so much hope in my degree; that if I do apply my mind then I can actually achieve results. Maybe there is still hope for me yet as a Nat Sci...!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


So, at the end of last term, someone suggested a game of Monopoly and I agreed because I thought it would be a nice and relaxing thing to do to wind down at the end of term. Civilised, even. Perhaps at home yes, with my gentle Asian brethren, but here in Cambridge?! How naïve.

I knew I’d lost when I realised that the rules I’d been playing for life turned out to be not quite correct: that if you land on something you have to buy it otherwise it goes out for auction to everyone else, whereas I’d grown up playing a rule where only you can choose to buy or not if you land. Oh dear. So my whole strategy (or lack thereof) turned out to be a grade A fail in Management Operations.

My one and only property for a looong time. Time to turn on the Waterworks... *sniff*

After a stroke of luck, the scene was dominated by a civil partnership between Belgium and Australia, who proved to be merciless and were absolutely barbaric when bankrupting the other players ~ i.e. the shoe and the horse. If only there had been more of the customary cheating that comes with every game, but being Cambridge students, you can imagine that it was a pretty straight-laced affair...although many many glares were exchanged in the crossfire.

Anyway, long introductory ramble over. So, whilst almost everyone has heard of Monopoly, I wonder how many of you have heard of the board game: Anti-Monopoly. Which is exactly what it claims to be.

And how might one go about playing this game? Well, for a start, there are two sets of rules and you get to choose which set you wish to play for the duration of the game ~ as a competitor or as a monopolist. Competitors are allowed to build houses as soon as they own a single street and charge low prices for rent, whilst monopolists have to wait until they own a whole street before building houses which come to extortionate prices for rent. Basically, here the good guys are the competitors, whilst the bad guys are the monopolists. In the real world, monopolists would crush competitors, so a system has been implemented to ensure that the game is more or less fair.

Now this gem has been out since 1974, and with its successful release came a storm of controversy, including legal threats and a decade long court battle between General Mills (the owners of Monopoly) and Anti-Monopoly. According to the Anti-Monopoly website:

It informed Anti-Monopoly that it had exclusive rights to the dictionary word monopoly and any title remotely close to it, including its opposite, the dictionary word “anti-monopoly.” General Mills went on rather bluntly that if we didn't take our game off the market at once, it would crush us. And they were serious. For example, they had already stopped Catholic laymen from marketing a game called Theopoly and a famous black comedian, Geoffrey Chambers, from marketing Black Monopoly.

After seeing this on sale in a niche alternative store ~ you know, those ones that are springing up everywhere now ~ I remembered being intrigued but thought no more of it, and it was only when I was watching myself get destroyed on the Monopoly game board that I remembered the existence of Anti-Monopoly. And that no one had believed me whenever I’d tried to rave about it. So maybe you will now after reading this blog post and seeing the evidence before your eyes!! Upon realising that I don’t have what it takes to be a monopolist, perhaps it’s time to check out this game and see if I fare any better as a competitor...!! I think not, will be the case.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poker Face - Drop Table Artists (Cover)

Look at Harry's face! ^_^

Jokes. So they finally made it onto Internet TV huh? Well, what can I say? Been friends with these guys ever since the 'What I Want To Be When I Grow Up' bop of Fresher's Week when one of them turned up in a home-made Pokemon master costume that got upstaged when someone showed up in a real life Pokemon master costume. Complete with Pokeball. But you had to hand it to Harry for effort. After all, who would've guessed that the clementine he was holding was meant to be a Pokeball? Don't really remember much of Harald, other than that he was the 'tall white guy' standing next to the Pokemon master.

Jokes again. Anyway, ever since we became friends, I've watched them continually evolve upwards (and on occasions laterally) as a 'band'. Although they mainly play covers, their imaginative arrangements and gravelly vocals do stand out a lot, so over the years, they have attracted a small but loyal fanbase who go to support them whenever they are on tour...i.e. playing in the college bar.

Anyway, more about this song. Guess it's kind of a special one for them, for it seems as if they can't stop playing Poker Face (since dropping their all time favourite, The Great Escape) so over the years, this cover has continually been built on and improved, with the latest version showing off some extra arrangements and a new set of backing vocals. Pity the rap has never made it into any of the incarnations:
I won't tell you that I love you
Kiss or hug you
Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin
I'm not lying I'm just stunnin'
With my love-glue-gunning
Just like a chick in the casino
Take your bank before I pay you out
I promise this, promise this
Check this hand cause I'm marvelous

Guys, if you're reading this entry ~ I know you are ~ then I'm gonna throw this one out: you need more stage presence!! And you need to quit looking so serious, even on video when no one is watching you live!!! After all, stage presence is what gets you laid when you're in a band, heh.

Now this is supposed to be a serious entry, but I think I've failed miserably here, hehe.

Anyways, if you're around in Cambridge at all, then keep an eye out for this pair of jokers ~ they'll be playing at the Wolfson June Event this May Week, so if you fancy shelling out more cash than you'd pay for a Muse concert, then come along and support these fine specimens of humanity.

Sadly, I know I will be there.

(x-posted to my music blog, betterinbass)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bulgaria ~ Cuisine

So I’ve had a bit of time now to assimilate back into Western culture i.e. sleep, eat, and not think about impending exams – and some of the things that keep on taunting my mind are the memories of the foods that I experienced. Good food at exploitatively dirt cheap prices, so much so that for a short while, I actually thought that I’d died and gone to a little heaven of my own. However, my la-la-land was not to last – sadly, the thud that brought me back to Earth was the sound of my empty wallet.

That’s right. I ate so much that I ran out of money.

After all, if a main dish costs £3-4, then how could you not order four more?

I’d ramble on for a little longer, but some of you *cough* Ting *cough* have said that my blog entries are waaay too long, so I’ll just talk a little bit about Bulgarian food in general, and tantalise you all with my food memories in pictorial form. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.


From what I’ve gathered, Bulgarian food is incredibly diverse – amongst the many cuisines available, you’ll be able to find Greek, Turkish and Italian, which definitely makes for a lot of choice. We would be walking through a town and be able to buy kebab, pizza or even Subway whilst on the move; however, I wasn’t there for fast food, so we spent most of our meals in the restaurants.

Things I found common to most menus are: soups, salads and clay pots.

At the first restaurant that Ting took me to, nothing I ordered could compare with the epicness of the soup that she picked:

Soup in a bread bun!

There is always a huge array of salads, much more than we’d get in England. It’s not as common to have leafy salads over there, as they just don’t really grow rocket or lettuce or anything fancy like that. Expect grilled peppers (yummy), tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, olives…and occasionally, some leaves.

A salad that I really grew to like is Shepherd’s Salad, which is a concoction of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, chillies, egg, ham and mushrooms:

Om nom nom!

Dishes that are typically Bulgarian include a selection of meats wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese (need to ask Ting what this is called); clay pots filled with chicken, chilli peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce; and various meats with short-grain rice. Cheese is very well loved over there - if you are not a cheese-lover then beware!

I live to eat...

So much food! And yet we finished it all...

For dessert, yoghurt is a great speciality of Bulgaria. Yoghurt, you think? Like the stuff you get in pots? Yes, but better. Their natural yoghurt has got to be some of the best yoghurt I have ever tried. There was one restaurant in Koprivshitsa which served us a yoghurt so thick that it looked like ice cream. We had blueberries or strawberries with ours, and the combination was so good that no matter how full we were, we always made room for dessert! :)

Another dessert that we tried was pancakes, but that's more standard fare so not quite as exciting.

All in all, a wonderful culinary experience - I am definitely looking forward to trying to make some of the dishes that I tried!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bulgaria ~ Day 6

Waking up in the morning was pretty atrocious, especially when we'd arranged to meet Ioanna and her friend Pepi for breakfast at 9am with our luggage in tow. The girls took it in turns to drag my suitcase around, which was really sweet of them as they thought it would make me hobble faster. Ting went to the post office to mail her postcard, and there we were told about the opening of a casino that was taking place at the Sea Gardens, so that's where we headed to next.

Many young adults had dressed up in classic Western costumes, handing out flyers to passersby whilst a band played in the background. Easels were placed periodically around the main path for people to draw on. I'm not sure what else was to happen as we didn't stick around for too long - we were far too hungry for that.

I thought we were going to get food nearby but apparently, nearby means far up north; the place we went to last night, which was definitely a trek and a half. The logic of the youth is so mind-boggling sometimes. Turns out the place they wanted to take us to was closed, so we had to make do with a cafe/restaurant/pub setting. But it was so nice to eat my crepe and drink my hot chocolate on the beach. Lunch swiftly followed - a salad of veg and a salad of mussels - all of which is money that I now owe Ting, being in the red and all. After taking yet more photos, we went to pick up supplies at a supermarket and then waved our final farewells before hopping into a taxi to the airport. I was genuinely sad to see the girls go - they totally reminded me of youthful times, back before Cambridge leached the life out of me...

At the airport, I didn't need to wear my rug, as everything actually fitted into my suitcase, but at security, sadly my rose-petal jam got confiscated. Sigh. On the plane, Ting tried to add patterns to my nails (jokes), but we got told by a flight attendant to stop it as the liquid was flammable - totally a rubbish reason as, guess what, the perfumes they sell are flammable! And so are the alcohols that they sell! In order to make myself look intelligent again, I brought out the dying Kindle and read as much of Catching Fire (the second and still addictive Hunger Games) as I could, whilst rationing out the one lone orange that I had left. One slice each every twenty minutes got us through the thirsty crisp-eating ride, and when we landed, this time I was one of the audience who clapped in thanks for still being alive.

We arrived back in England at 3:30pm - plenty of time to run around looking for phone chargers. I was adamant that the sockets in between the bubble gum machines worked, but in the end, Ting wedged herself in between two arcade machines in order to charge her phone. How ridiculous we must have looked on CCTV. After Ting left for her coach, I tried to get the person at the currency exchange desk to charge my Kindle but apparently they're not allowed to do things like that. Seriously?

My coach journey was a pretty lonely affair - I managed to finish reading Catching Fire though, and the hour spent in Milton Keynes trying to drag out my chili beef sandwich was agony as I totally regretted not putting the third book on the Kindle, not that I'd have been able to read much of it anyway.

My coach got delayed by twenty minutes, something that we weren't told about on the notice boards which stressed me out, yet managed to get a group of us speaking to each other. Lol. One of the guys - Matt - was a bit of a cocky joker, and after the woman next to me got off in Wakefield, he slid into the empty seat before I could even blink and then proceeded to show me a Virgin advert on his laptop that he was in eight years ago. Fifteen seconds of fame, huh. Apparently he's also in a band that made it to LA, but as he never actually told me the name of that band, I'm somewhat more skeptical. I am always amazed by the people I meet whilst I am confined to a single mode of transport.

Anyway, not really much else to say now - mummy and daddy were waiting for me at the station and took me home to a nice bowl of soup. I guess I'll close off the Bulgaria posts with some more focused entries on the foods I experienced there, and perhaps post some of the lesser embarassing photos that I took, hehe.

Until then, adios!

Bulgaria ~ Day 5

Where it gets slightly weird...

We woke up refreshed, after what had probably been the best night of sleep so far (by best, I mean longest amount of hours unconscious) and promptly rolled into breakfast downstairs. For a two star hotel, the spread was pretty fantastic - cheeses, meats, apples, oranges, bread and other various honeyed fruits were on the agenda. I don't know why I poured myself a glass of orange squash, as the colour of the liquid did nothing to improve my post-dye trauma. Unsurprisingly, we had the place to ourselves.

After breakfast, we finished packing, thinking we had plenty of time - we did - until we got carried away in chit-chat and ended up having to dash to the station in a record fifteen minutes. Ting bought us tickets for 10.40 Levas each - the equivalent of just under a fiver - and we found a space on the train for our three hour journey.

I guess when you're speaking English loudly, you're bound to be noticed, and in our case, a girl a few seats away turned to us and asked us where we were from before boldly asking if she could come and sit with us. This was the first bit of youth contact that we'd had in a while, which was extremely refreshing, given her bubbly personality and her endearing accent when she spoke English. Ioanna and I hit it off instantly when we both discovered that the other person liked anime - don't think Ting was very impressed haha. Turns out the kid was travelling to Burgas too, as was her cousin who also came over to join us. Classic metal-head. Yeah, we had a lot to talk about.

He asked us to come and sit with his friends, who happened to be sitting at the end carriage next to the toilet. Pleasant. During our chats, I found it fascinating how they all expressed disdain towards gypsies, sharing a common attitude that I don't quite understand. Later on, I asked them about whether there were bears here or not and set off some banter that eventually led to them (two of them are in a band together) to start writing a song on the spot about something they'd made up called beach bears. I can only guess at what that concept is alluding to... ¬_¬

In Burgas, Ioanna offered to show us around and help us find accomodation. On this journey, I stepped onto some uneven ground and twisted my ankle, effectively wrecking it as it was still weak from the time I'd twisted it in Lacrosse Cuppers. It caned like hell, but I kept on going until we came to the hotel. The price they wanted was 55 Levas, but as I was very very short on cash, I insisted we go elsewhere - not realising that Ioanna would then take us to the place her mother worked at and get her family to find us cheaper accomodation. I am so oblivious... :S

At the office, we bumped into Ioanna's cousin there too. Her mother worked in advertising and found us a bit of a novelty - by the time we left, at least ten photos had been taken. Ioanna, her cousin and another guy took us to a different hotel where they charged us 40 Levas (Ting thinks they'd had to negotiate the price which made me feel kinda bad) and after dropping off our stuff, Ioanna came with us to get pizza for lunch but had to leave to run an errand for her mother.

After Ting warded off a guy that she later told me was a gypsy (once again, my oblivion kicks in), Ting and I chilled in town for the rest of the afternoon. I bought a bandage for my ankle, and Ting went hunting for gifts before we headed to the Sea Gardens - finally we were at the coast!!

In terms of beaches, I've seen better, but I can't remember the last time I was at the beach (Venice?! If that's the case then at least five years ago :S), so I made the most of it by going camera crazy.

Am waiting for Ting to upload some of her photos as they are much better than mine!

Once we were bored of the beach, we went back to the hotel and did some packing before going to the big clock landmark to meet Ioanna and her friend at 7pm. On the way, I had a budget slice of pizza, and when we all met up, Ioanna took me to another fast food place to get a cone shaped thing that consisted of some kind of pitta bread-like exterior, chips, chili sauce and slices of meat.

In Bulgaria they have places that sell coffee by day, and then drinks by night, and this is where we headed to next. Yes, that's right, and that is how Ting and I ended up drinking with two (underage) sixteen year olds, the cool cats that we are. Oh dear indeed.

Cocktails were cheap and came with free shots, so it didn't really matter that I couldn't read the menu at all. Ioanna and her friend shared a milkshake, and I quickly accepted the fact that I was not going to have a smoke-free night, yes, indoor smoking is still legal here. Ioanna's cousin, another cousin, and her older sister showed up, and after we left the bar, we let them lead us way way north to a stretch of beach, me half supported by Mitko as I couldn't actually put any weight on my ankle at all.

By the time we arrived, I was freeeezing and ended up acquiring clothes from everyone - I think I was wearing seven layers in total! We hung out at the beach way into the night, doing chavvy things like playing music on phones - one of Ioanna's cousins entertained us by dancing in amusing ways to the songs. Eventually it got too late (i.e. past midnight) and so we began to head back. Many detours later, we arrived back at the hotel at what must've been 1 or 2am. I then thought it was a good idea to wash my hair before bed, and as we had no hairdryer, that turned out to be a -really- good idea...not. Ach, the fanciful notions of the drunk.

Bulgaria ~ Day 4

Only managed to write half of this entry before my Kindle decided it's battery was too low, so I've had to finish it at home.

Woke up again from the cold, this time at half five, but it was OK, as there was only an hour and a half to go until we had to wake up, pack and leave for the bus stop! A guy in an ancient minibus took us and two American travellers to the train station, a building in the middle of nowhere where the only other animate objects were a kitty, a doggy, another doggy with a weird nose that clearly wanted Ting's breakfast, and some men that looked as if they wanted our luggage (and maybe something more).

As expected, the 08:51am was late, and clambering onboard was a pretty clumsy affair, especially when the steps to the train were so high up! Once we were on board, we found some seats in a quiet compartment and bought tickets from an inspector when he came over.

We arrived in Kazanlak around lunchtime-ish. My first impression of the town was that it looked like it was at the same level of development as Sofia, if not slightly more touristy. In terms of aesthetics, it wasn't incredibly pretty - the town's main attraction are the Thracian Tombs which aren't actually in the town itself; they're many many miles away! Anyway, we made our way to the information centre to seek information about finding a place to stay for the night. The woman there gave us directions to a relatively cheap hotel with a room for 40 Levas.

After dumping our stuff, we went in search of food, dining at a very un-Bulgarian bar and grill. The binge-fests of the last two days, left me requesting just a Shepherd's salad and chocolate milkshake for lunch - I amassed a bill that was smaller than Ting's for once! Lunch over, we went back to the station to check up on departure times for the next day (and witnessing another horse drawn cart - oh my!) and then went to a supermarket to pick up some food supplies.

These are the 'sweets' I bought...

I bought oranges and what I thought (and what Ting had said) were some Bulgarian sweets but upon first hand experience, turned out to be disgusting dyes! ARGH!! This I did not discover until we were back in our hotel room, after I'd popped one of the pills, registered bitterness and then spent the next ten minutes or so hawking up orange spittle, convinced I was going to die. Even thinking about it right now brings up that bitter taste, eurgh! Ting took one look at the back of the packs, read the Romanian, and was then like, oh, it's dye. So much for my placing my trust in her throwaway comment earlier!! And I'd thought they were such a novelty too, to package sweets into what looked like drugs... ¬_¬

After I'd gotten over the fact that I'd probably ingested some very concentrated dye, we went to a history museum and had a guided tour of stuff from Bulgarian olden times, the rose trade, and Seuthopolis, an ancient Hellenistic city back in the day. There are some very sci-fi looking plans to rebuild the city as such:

Pretty cool, huh?

As the main Thracian tombs were too far away, we went to the reconstruction one at the edge of the town, which was still pretty cool. It was located in a park that held a bear statue which ensued much hilarity for at least ten minutes - both Ting and a random chubby kid were able to ride that beast, but I was such a massive fail. Pride would not let me leave without taming the bear, so we stuck around until the kid had left and then I went in for round two, eventually succeeding when I climbed it from the other side. Yay.

Afterwards, we walked around for a bit, apparently got followed by some guys (to which I was oblivious), went shopping for ritalin (didn't find any in tablet form), nail polish, and once we'd finished painting our nails, we went for a meal at one of the restaurants that Ting's trusty guide book had mentioned. There, I ate my usual fill of salad, chips, and clay pot containing chicken, chili, onions, and tomatoes. By the time we left, it was pretty late, so we didn't really do much else - Ting took a nap and I tried and failed to update this blog.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bulgaria ~ Day 3

Yet another update from my Kindle!

Woke up at three in the morning due to the freezing cold, fumbled around for my coat and two blankets, inadvertently waking Ting in the process. She was like, "What's she doing? Why is she going outside? It didn't occur to me that you were cold because I was pretty warm." Great.

Had a shower when it was the correct time to awaken, and headed to the information centre to try to figure out a plan of action for the day. When we realised that the place didn't open until ten, we decided to - you guess it - go get food! We hung out in a smoky cafe for a while, me on the hot chocolate, and after we found out what we wanted to know, we went to buy museum tickets to see the six restored houses.

On our way to one of them, i took a detour and stopped to buy a hat and two pairs of knee length socks imported from Korea. All in the name of not freezing to death. We went to two houses before lunch - both were such charming buildings, rustic and quaint in a way that no Western house can ever hope to replicate. For lunch, we ate at what the guidebook described as an 'uninspiring' restaurant which was a pretty accurate summary. Nevertheless, I ordered shepherd's salad, chips, grilled peppers and krvarma.

Afterwards, we visited a market and another house before climbing into the mountainside to see a monument - that was my favourite part of the day. I saw crystals growing from a stream which came from a hole in the ground, posed underneath the backside of the horse statue, and drank in the wonderful sight of the village spread out before me. Going down, I finally came across an elusive horse drawn cart - Ting's reaction to my gasp was: "I thought someone was about to attack us. But no, it's just a horse."

We went to two more houses, a church and the Bridge of the First Shot. Somewhere in between those, I ended up buying a rug, some handknitted socks which are damn cool, matching mittens and a jar of rose petal jam. Om nom nom.

Then we went back to our room and napped until seven thirty, which of course was food time. The restaurant from yesterday was not open, so we tried out one close by - it turned out to be alright. We decided to share so ordered lamb drobsarma, shepherd's salad, sausage and haricot stew, stuffed peppers and strawberry yoghurt. After consistently ordering so much food and spending so much money on inanimate souvenirs, now I'm slightly worried about how I will manage for the rest of the week...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bulgaria ~ Day 2

Where it's just me and you...

Today didn't really turn out the way we had planned it to, on account of the fact that Ting's alarm didn't go off and that I was far too drunk to have a shower last night, choosing instead to try and upload as many photos as possible onto Bookface. I really feel sorry for the me of yesternight, the poor deluded soul. Once I'd sobered up enough to realise the error of my ways, it was time to rock on the second challenge of the night - ignoring the double whammy of snoring long enough in order to trick myself to fall asleep.  At one point, two guys stumbled in, drunk out of their minds and passed out on ther bunks. Lol.

At half eight, my alarm went off, rudely reminding me that I needed to look for the padlock that I had so foolishly lost last night in my drunken haze. Unfortunately, Ting chose that moment to tell me that we needed to leave in fifteen minutes. How did I cope? By running away to the bathroom. How did Ting cope? By getting ready to leave. I quickly realised that there was no way I could shower in time, so packed and legged it. Turns out we missed our projected departure time, so we decided to eat breakfast slowly and just wing it.

A taxi took us to the station, and after a lot of running around, we realised we would never have made the coach departure time. This completely screwed up our plans and set us back by a whole day as the next coach to leave Sofia for Koprivshtitsa was at two!

So in order to kill time, we did what we do best and chilled in a cafe. I finished The Hunger Games, majorly freaked out by the monsters at the end, whilst Ting did something more productive and read her papers. After a while, we decided to go hunt for lunch, and ended up eating pizza on the streets - I was like: "Shall we stay here to eat?" to which Ting replied: "You're standing in front of two industrial size wheelie bins." Oh. For dessert, we upgraded and ate our yoghurts - a national speciality - in a Subway style cafe before wandering around a market to kill the last bit of time. Ting bought a bag, and then we trammed it back to the station.

The coach journey consisted of us eating oranges, talking about addictions and me falling asleep. Apparently there's yet another video of the latter but Ting assures me she won't be uploading it because she is not a 'lame ass'. Yay.

Once we arrived, we tried to sort out travel to the next location and accomodation for the night - we're staying at a lovely guest house with an awesome stove heater. I promptly had what turned out to be a freezing shower and then we wandered around the village. Not gonna lie, it was like a ghost town. We eventually plucked up the courage to go into one of the larger restaurants where we were the only ones dining - this turned out to be the best culinary experience I have had so far on this trip! Only photos can convey the sheer awesomeness of our three course meal! In fact, we were so full that we lurched our way home.

Since then, I've been slowly writing this entry out - completely on Kindle, so please forgive any errors!

Bulgaria ~ Day 0 + 1 = 1

So I figure I should keep a blog of my experiences this week, as due to my meagre luggage allowance, I could not bear to sacrifice a t-shirt and some underwear for my traditional pen-to-paper journal. Boo. As it happens, this looks to be a most interesting week indeed...

Day 0

After my parents left me stranded on Harvey Road, Cambridge, I had nothing to do for the two hour wait until the 787 arrived so I did what every bored/slightly depressed girl is instructed to do: retail therapy. The Grafton was a ten minute walk, and I killed oodles of time in Primark, eventually leaving with a belt, a necklace, and a pair of sunglasses that I am 90% certain I will have no need for at all this week. How naive of me to extrapolate from last week's weather trend.

Even after killing time, I was still early for the These two concepts do not go side by side but it was definitely a good feeling!

The coach journey was an hour and a half of pure and utter pain in which I was cruelly reminded of why I do not enjoy coach journeys - reading on an empty stomach leads to some majorly unpleasant sensations. Not even the awesomeness of The Hunger Games was enough to stop me from feeling like I had been tossed into a blender that in turn had been tossed onto a whirlpool-ridden ocean.

At the airport, after some speedy texting, some trials, some errors, and a Texan burger, I managed to board the plane - by myself for the first time! Somewhere along that line, I felt like I had what can only be described as a cheesy 'coming-of-age' moment. Cue classic epiphany music. Throughout the journey, I was completely and utterly engrossed in The Hunger Games, so much so that by the end of the flight, I only had 70 out of the 630 pages left to read. Ker-razy. As we landed, people clapped for what I can only surmise as being thanks for still being alive. I'd heard Wizzair was bad, but do people do this on any other airline?

The local time was 1:55am - I got picked up by a man who drove me to the place Ting had arranged for us to stay. As we drove through Sofia, he pointed out various landmarks to me. My first impression of Sofia was that it was a quiet city in limbo between culture, renovation and poverty. Some of the flashing bits reminded me a lot of developing China. It took me a while to accept that the driver wasn't going to kill/murder/rape/mug me in that order - years of stranger-danger conditioning are SO hard to overcome - but all too soon, we had arrived! The man led me through a nondescript looking door that revealed a charming hostel round the corner, and as I stepped in, I was greeted by the oh-so-sleepy face of Ting! Boy, was I relieved to see her.

She showed me to our room - a small place with beds for six. Having to navigate around in the dark when I was already half asleep was something that I do not wish to relive - let's just say I didn't get to bed until 3am and didn't even make it changing out of my jeans before I fell asleep in my coat...

Day 1

I'm a pretty light sleeper, so I guess I started coming to and drifting in and out of sleep at 8am, local time. Ting got up around 8:30am and went to have a shower; I followed suit and optimistically dressed in a dress, shirt and tights. Got shot down a few minutes later when Ting told me I'd freeze to death and it was then that I realised that I'd only packed for summer. Good going, girlfriend.

Downstairs, I had toast with salami, cheese, tomato and apple for breakfast, and after downing two glasses of fruit squash, I was buzzing. We looked at the maps and travel guides for a bit before making a move. Ting had assured me that there was not much to see in Sofia, and sadly, it turns out she was right - the walk from one end of the city to the other takes about twenty minutes! Ting also assured me that I should not have eaten too much for breakfast - turns out she was right again - I was way too full to be able to appreciate the traditional foods for sale at the market!! Sad times! :(

So, to sum up the morning, we looked around some churches, got ice creams at the market, drank from a mineral fountain, and said hi to a stray dog before we headed to the Natural History Museum - and what a barrel of laughs that place was! It was here that I learned about Ting's fear of birds, specifically of her worst death possible - being killed by birds and then eaten by a vulture. Memorable quotes include:

"Killer mydia. You wouldn't want one of those in your vag." - Anonymous on a bambi-like creature known as a chamois, followed by yet another gem from her: "Have a little bambi coming out of my vag? I'd like to think my babies are cuter."

We looked at another market that sold hypodermic syringes (someone actually tried to sell me one), various knives and guns (so badass), accordions (squee), violins (I want), filigree jewellery and Communist stash (something for the brother perhaps?) before we headed to the cathedral as a detour en route to lunch. I ordered onion soup, stuffed peppers and mashed potato - after a relationshippy/religious conversation too deep for my liking, we rolled into a patisserie and spent the next hour or so gorging ourselves on tarts and tea until 5pm...

I'm not really sure what we did for the rest of the day, apart from shop and eat more food. And buy some gloves and a scarf to stave off the FREEZING cold weather - five degrees!?!? All I know is that we now own a bottle of gin that has been making it's way down my throat for the hour or so it's taken me to write this silly blog entry. Plus a pair of smexy trousers and a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and a Smurf t-shirt between the two of us.

And now I'm a bit too tipsy - so much so that I'm actually winning at pool! (Edit: We lost the white ball so no one won in the end)

Yeah. So...laters.