Flashing in crowded places

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Every Sunday for the last six or so weeks I’ve been going to this place in Camden Town. It’s dodgy as hell. You need to go under a rail station bridge, walk through a dark garage which smells like motor oil and exhaust fumes, then take a turn into a narrow tunnel, walk into the light and see how far the rabbit hole goes. We’re not quite there yet, but almost. Take a left and with a sigh of relief you can see the entrance to the studio. It’s always locked but all you need to do is press the buzzer and it opens up. Then up the stairs and bingo, we’re in the money.

I was always late because I run on Sundays and tend to underestimate my finishing times. Once, I was an hour and 20 minutes late – I hope nobody noticed.

The room is warm, hot yoga warm. I’ve never done hot yoga but you know what I mean. Anywho, all the kids are up there practicing a little routine we are doing for the International Zouk Day.

I have very fond memories of the first time I flashed in Australia three years ago. I was very keen on doing it again when Miss Valentine asked what our thoughts were on doing it in London. I said I’ll do it but the other three parties were more reserved and less enthusiastic about it.

Fast forward to September 17. This is it – the Big Day. Following a quick 20 minute run and a chat with a potential new housemate I headed out to a park near Kings Cross to meet up with the trio – Miss Valentine, Covanova and Lady Smiles. We rehearsed the performance a few times, declined an offer to buy weed from a friendly Londoner and headed towards the station.

England, being retarded, required all of us to sign a form, get a safety briefing and cough up £4 each for insurance before we were allowed to flash at Kings Cross station. It was quite a buzzkill. I’m glad Mr and Mrs BBQ handled the paperwork and took one for the team. Well done guys!

It was a very similar experience to my previous flashmob. People were all excited and nervous and anxious to make it all happen.

The music started playing. Only the main couple (teachers) flashed at first. All others gradually joined in as the crowd of travelers watched the spectacle come to life. One by one we claimed our spot on the floor – me and Miss Valentine had to fight some other kids for a place in the front row. It was brutal but worth it.

The first song was an introduction and entirely freestyle, followed by the main song and our performance. We got a massive applause and for a moment there was peace on earth – at least that’s what I’d like to think. We did about twenty minutes of social dancing (freestyle) afterwards and flashed again. For good luck!

Then we moved outside of the station and did all of the above again and then again at St Paul’s Cathedral. We were quite tired at the end of it but very happy.

img_20160917_212014.jpg

I had a lot of fun, made friends and am very pleased with our mob. I’d like to thank our teachers for doing an amazing job at showing us how flashing is done and adding a bit more life into our moments.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a video for you guys just yet. I will share it once I have it.

Besos,

Ivar

Drinking margaritas and dancing senoritas

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Running at 15 km/h on the treadmill is probably the same as 12 km/h in the real world. That’s what it felt like. The original idea was to chill at the hotel’s spa because of the rain. Unfortunately the spa was closed at the time. So I decided to cease the day and use the gym instead – conveniently it was right next to the spa entrance. Twenty minutes and five kilometers later, I left the treadmill drenched with what appeared to be the sweat of a thousand scrotums. Mhm, that bad! I went upstairs and knocked on Chinatown’s door to join the tribe.

“Can I use your shower?” I asked as the kids were enjoying their hotel room lunch. They probably enjoyed it a lot less after I joined – I think Mr Fox passed out as he couldn’t handle the smell… or the visual.

All showered up, I realized this was not my best look as my nasty sunburn was on display and I continued sweating. After a bit of chit-chat I had to go back to my AirBnB place to change clothes and have a second shower (my sweat glands didn’t get the memo that I was done running). Hey, it’s warm in Spain!

Neither one of my AirBnB hosts – Christina and Victoria – spoke much English. Consequently we didn’t talk that much as my Spanish is buenos nachos assessino caracas!

Two days earlier, I arrived in Barcelona and spent some time sightseeing. I checked out the Sagrada Familia (it’s the pointy tower building which shows up when you Google images about Barcelona), I checked out a few parks and a castle etc. There was a lot to see.

My first impression of Barcelona was: Wow!

It was so beautiful. I was falling in love with every other girl I saw. They are gorgeous!!! This place was heaven! I’m never coming back to London I thought. I will cherish that day forever and ever.

On Thursday, they had a beach party before the zouk festival. A few of my dancing friends showed up that day in Mataro as well (it’s an hour train ride away from Barclona). The plan was to go to the beach party together and get a cab.

I was told they’d pick me up in two minutes. My feet took me downstairs and across the street so the cab could pick me up. The problem was that the cab never arrived or stopped. I waited a full 10-15 minutes but no dice. So I decided to walk it instead (in all honesty it was only a 10-15 minute walk anyway).

Here’s what happened. Chinatown, The Girl from a Swiss Cottage, Mr and Mrs Fox and the Little Dinosaur hired a cab. They only had room for six people and told another girl at their hotel that she can’t share the ride as one spot was reserved for me. The cab got in front of my place but there was no place to stop, so the cab driver just drove past. They all tried calling/messaging me but I had no reception nor internet on my phone (I actually left my phone at ‘home’ anyway as I thought it’s rather useless here).

The taxi driver was a bit cranky I was told and he didn’t seem too eager to look around to find a spot to pull over. It doesn’t seem that he knew where the beach bar was and ended up stopping way past the actual place – all the kids had to walk quite a bit back.

The way I see it, nobody won that day. I got screwed over as I was left waiting for a cab which never arrived, the sixth girl got screwed over as she couldn’t join the taxi at the hotel, the cab driver was annoyed, the ride cost a lot more than it should’ve and all the kids had to walk back about a kilometer from where the cab stopped. It was a disaster.

One thing is sure I will never let Italians organize a cab again. Ever!

We had a bumpy start to the evening but it got better. A lot better. Picture this: a beautiful beach, with palm trees, warm weather, a light cooling summer breeze, surrounded with gorgeous chicas, good music and some amazing dancing at a beach bar. This is the place to be. It felt like a real holiday.

Next day, I had my first encounter with the local customer service at breakfast. It wasn’t great and my fellow breakfesteers thought the waitress came across as miserable. I couldn’t tell as I don’t speak Spanish and didn’t understand the conversation, The Girl from a Swiss Cottage did most of the talking. So I’ll have to take their word for it. Although I thought the service was OK.

I was impressed that the girl was able to memorize our orders. However, she charged us less than she should’ve and the bill was incorrect. This happened later that day too as the staff forgot to add my cherry beer to our bill. I guess they think throwing in a small freebie will keep customers happy or… they aren’t too fussed about doing things properly.

I did a few zouk classes that day as well and learned a move or two – nothing fancy. After grabbing some dinner we went all back for the social and did a bit of freestyling until 5 AM.

Green man

As you can see above, the green man is also dancing in Mataro!

The next day was a bit similar but this time me, Mr and Mrs Fox decided we’re too cool for school. We all skipped the first class, I did the second one and then a bit of the third until I quit. I walked out of the class because it felt like a lot of contemporary bullshit and I got really bored. Our alternative pastime was to head to the beach and drink some Sangria (red wine mixed with chopped fruit, something sweet and a small amount of brandy). I became best friends with Mr Sangria that day.

The social was way better on the second night. I thought I’d be too tired because of the previous day’s 5 AM finish… but no I actually felt much better this time around. I danced with the same amazing Swiss girl I wrote about in the post about Prague. Many times, you will meet the same people from previous zouk events (the world isn’t that big at all). I was also impressed by a German girl and most of the Spanish chicas.

I had another unicorn moment when I found out I was dancing with an Estonian girl. Man, she was out of this world. She was wild, she was young, she was chaotic, she was fun. Then I recommended Chinatown to have a dance with her to be part of the magic I encountered. He, however, said she was rubbish and completely out of tune and out of control. In her defense, she was a beginner but she moved like a pro. I guess what I’m trying to say is, she made a very positive impression. Disclaimer, this is a completely unbiased overview and has nothing to do with her sharing the same nationality with me.

I can’t leave out the London crowd and have to say they were entertaining to dance as well. The best, without question, was The Girl from a Swiss Cottage. I didn’t get to dance with Mrs Fox though but I saw all the kids show one fancy move after another one.

5 AM finish again. Next day, however, the sleep debt caught up with me and I spent the entire day sleeping and didn’t do any dancing whatsoever.

The day before leaving Spain, I was in Barcelona sightseeing. I checked out Park Güell and Castle Montjuic and other stuff. It was just as beautiful as my first day in Spain.

Park Guell

I took the train back to Mataro. A lot of teens joined me at the next station. They were loud and on their way to a big party (shower party or something). They couldn’t wait until the party started, so they were drinking their booze and smoking right there on the train. I’ve never seen something like this. It wasn’t just one kid smoking but more like 10-15. They also played loud music and were drumming loudly on the windows or train walls. It was quite a sight.

The next few stations we got extra people in to make sure the train was tightly packed with teens. Some guys were pushing other passengers off the train when they tried to board at later stations. It was wild, anarchy at its best.

Next morning I had to get to the airport and was greeted by a massive line of teenagers all the way out of the train station. Policemen were everywhere and during my wait I saw two or three kids being taken away by them. I was a bit worried that I might miss my flight.

It took me twenty minutes to get into the station and buy a ticket. Following this I was quite surprised that the train itself wasn’t packed at maximum capacity. There was plenty of room and I even managed to grab myself a seat. Not sure where the teens disappeared… they must’ve travelled in a different direction from me.

I’m very pleased with my first visit to Spain. It widely exceeded my expectations. I’ve always thought that travelling in Europe is a bit meh, but now I’m starting to realize that maybe it’s not that bad after all…

Yours truly,

Chicalover666

One model, a mankini and the Prague Zouk Marathon

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A woman who looked like a supermodel was casually strolling down the pedestrian road and flicking her hair whilst talking on a mobile phone. All eyes were on her and people stared… some even took pictures. I didn’t think of that because all the blood from my brain was downstairs. Did I mention she was completely naked? Then she disappeared behind the corner just as suddenly as she first appeared. My friends, with that visual I welcome you to Prague!

Only a few days after running the London marathon I set myself up for another marathon. This one however was of a different nature – 5 days of lots and lots of dancing in Prague.

Day 1 – Arrival
The ATM said minimum withdrawal was 3,000. I thought to myself three thousand what? This clearly demonstrates the level of my unpreparedness for my stay in Prague. I had no clue what the exchange rate was for the Czech currency (CZK) to my beloved paper with the queen on it. Now I know it’s about 37 CZK for £1. I felt quite rich after walking away from the ATM.

Czech currency

Getting to my AirBnB place proved to be a challenge as well. I managed to get on two wrong buses until I finally found my way. I also put too much faith into GoogleMaps. Even though I found the place my app was telling me to go to I was on the wrong street. Luckily my host knew this could happen and he found me around 1 AM that night.

Even though it was a bit late I still decided to go to the first Prague Zouk Marathon (PZM) event. It’s a party guys, you can show up whenever you like. I arrived around 2 AM and had a few dances but wasn’t quite “feeling it” as I was a bit tired from the travel. I didn’t stay long and then went back “home” to get some sleep.

Second day
My room us HUGE. Think Donalt Trump huuuuge. It’s at least 5 times the size of my room in London. It’s wonderful. I discovered we also have a bubble bath in the property. However, it doesn’t work… or I simply don’t know how to operate one.

A vegan restaurant was super close to my accommodation and I went there for some late lunch. This was a very positive surprise. The food was delicious and I can recommend the place. I think it’s called “Vegan’s restaurant” and it’s on Nerudova street.

The main tourist thing in Prague is its castle. After filling mah belly with blueberry pie I set path towards it. Only a five minute walk from the restaurant until I reached the big gates. Someone was playing the violin nearby. So I sat down and listened to a few songs and enjoyed the view (the castle is on a hill and you can see the entire city and the river etc).

The weather was super sunny… although last night it was quite cold. I found myself expressing classic spring behavior – always trying to walk in the sun as it’s the only place which wasn’t cold. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I wandered about quite aimlessly and made my way to the river to greet some swans. I couldn’t but notice how clean everything was. It’s a very nice city.

I reached a bridge and that’s then I saw the hot naked girl walking around. There was a cameraman or two walking around her – maybe it was a photoshoot or something. Man, Prague is amazing!

As the day turned to night I started to head  back to the PZM venue. I walked past a big garden/vineyard and saw a rabbit hopping about. Earlier I saw an otter in the river. It’s quite a lively place here compared to London. The only wildlife in London you could see are mostly squirrels and foxes. I’ve also seen mice/rats in both underground stations and Starbucks coffee shops – it was nowhere as cool as seeing an otter. Prague 1 : London 0.

The PZM provided lunch, dinner and snacks in between. I got there on time for a buffet dinner. I think it worked really well – it was easy to fill my plate with vegan stuff although I had my doubts initially. I think the organizers deserve some praise in this area. Well done!

I didn’t do any dancing that night. I was too full and I think many others felt the same. There weren’t enough ladies to dance with so I decided to go home and take a nap and maybe come back in an hour or two if I felt like it. However, I woke up in the morning.

Day three

I was a bit bored in the morning and ended up booking myself a spot in the Paris marathon next year. This is one of the largest races in the world. It’s on 9 April 2017 and the registration is still open. Come join me!

I did the usual touristy stroll in the city and discovered these small islands in the river. They’re really nice and are basically just parks with flowers and benches and grass to sit on and have a picnic. I was chilling on the grass and looking at the water etc. Then a group of lads with one guy in a mankini got to the park to chat and chill and make fun of him. It was quite entertaining. It was probably some sort of a stag do ritual.

Prague islands

Back to the party for dinner. This time I decided to hang around after dinner (although it was a bit boring) until it got busier. I did a lot more dancing that night. My first victim was this Swiss girl in red. She was amazing!

I recognized a lot of people from the Zouk Libre Festival which was in Warsaw earlier this year. Norway (I think it’s Caroline?) was here again and she was very entertaining to watch. I didn’t dance with her – it’s dangerous for both of us as I never know what she’s up to. Anywho, she put on quite a show – just like in Warsaw. Very cool!

I think my Casanova skills reached a new low when I asked for a girl’s name and she said it was Laika – like the Russian dog who was sent to space and for all I know is still orbiting us. I couldn’t stop laughing for a few moments… she did not appreciate my sense of humor. We never danced again. Worth it!

I danced with many others (a lot of them were Polish) and left around 5 in the morning.

Days 4 and 5 – Afterparties

All that dancing and prancing was not good for recovery from the marathon I ran a few days earlier. I now have a blister between two toes and one of my toenails is about to fall off. Walking was a bit painful and it still is. The Prague Zouk Marathon was over but two afterparties were still on my agenda.

The first afterparty was at the TV Tower. The entire floor (96m up in the air) was reserved for the event. It had a wonderful view of the city. I didn’t realize that this was a “fancy” event – the girls had beautiful dresses on and stuff. I guess my crappy unironed white T-shirt, running shoes and dirty jeans didn’t quite fit in. I didn’t dance as much as I would’ve liked – things were hurting and I was a bit worried because of that.

TV_tower

Next day, my feet were still hurting and I decided that enough is enough. I needed to MacGyver a Band-Aid or something for the blister between my toes. I fixed it with a bit of tape and bandage. I felt like a doctor who got his degree online when I was operating the scissors etc. Now I can walk again.

The second afterparty was at a hotel and it wasn’t very busy when I got there. Things got better but I left around midnight to catch the last tube back home – I wanted to catch some sleep before my flight back to London as well.

Aftermath

Now I’m happily back in London and enjoying the rest of my day off. I think I didn’t get the most out of the Zouk Marathon – I only went to the evening parties and spent a lot of time sightseeing and stuff. The close proximity to the London marathon also didn’t help. I feel like I missed out on a lot and could’ve had a better experience.

However, Prague itself was amazing. The buildings are very symmetrical, detailed and refined – like a good wine. I’m obviously an expert in the subject matter of buildings and design because I once dated a girl who was into architecture or was it psychology? I’m not even sure.

Anywho, Prague is a city in which the crazy/unusual will find you if you stay too long in one place – whether it’s a hot naked woman, a man in a mankini or a film crew stopping you from going home because my street was transformed into a movie scene from the dark middle ages. Prague has Australia’s sunshine without the heat and Stockholm’s buildings without its price tag and reminded me of Amsterdam but without the bikes. Lots of trees and flowers were blossoming – it really was quite romantic. It’s well worth a visit!

Ivar

Touch here for POWER! – The Virgin Money London Marathon

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Benn said I better wear warm clothing today as the morning was very cold and it was raining. I was still in bed and thought today is gonna suck. He wasn’t joking – it was 5 degrees Celsius outside and quite windy.

I got to Greenwich park and continued to debate with myself whether I should keep my long sleeved running jacket on or not. The sun came out and the jacket came off. It felt like making a life and death decision back then.

10 AM and the marathon started. Previously I’ve always obsessed about pacing and running in specific heart rate zones. However, this time was different. I made the conscious choice to look around and take in the scenery, the people and the atmosphere. There was so much cheering around, many smiles and great effort by so many runners – man it was competitive. I though the runners would spread out after 5-10 km or so but no, there were always many runners around me.

A bit more than 39,000 people registered (however it’s not yet certain how many actually ran and finished).

My new pet peeve is high-fiveing kids’ little hands as I pass ‘em. I can’t do that every day you know.
All in all I think the crowd was amazing and they helped me heaps.

Some people made signs to encourage the runners. My favorite one read “Touch here for POWER!”  It made me smile.

It was roughly half way through the race when I reached my favorite stretch of the race –  the Tower Bridge and crossing the river. It was beautiful. And I didn’t even notice that approximately 20 km were already behind me. It all just happened effortlessly.

At the risk of sounding like a pussy I must admit I had a tear coming out of my eye at one point. But only one! I was thinking about everything that had happened in the last year and how I got to this point.  And here I was… running one of the world’s largest footraces. Nothing was hurting and I was enjoying myself. I was on fire!

My goal was ideally to finish around 3H 45 minutes but I greatly underestimated myself. That sign must have given me lots of power.

Half split was in around 1H 35 MIN and 20 miles in 2H 25 MIN. Not too shabby I thought. Then my pace dropped dramatically. I hit the wall between 20-23 mile – I should’ve timed the consumption of my energy gels better. I was so low on energy after 20 miles I took everything I could get my hands on – Lucozade energy drinks, Lucozade gels – even though I didn’t train with the stuff. My stomach is now a chemical soup of various isotonic gels and energydrinks. But that stuff worked wonders. I was able to pick up some speed again. Soon I passed the Buckingham palace and finished like a pro.

My time was 3H 21MIN 38 SEC, overall I was the 4939th, I was the 4384th man who crossed the finish line and I was the 2126th person in my 18-39 age category. I am very pleased with my performance as I didn’t train at all in March (I was sick) and April wasn’t that great either because of my exam. Anywho, below is the data from the marathon:

Category                     18-39

Runner no                   7932

Place (Men)                 4384

Place (Age Category)  2126

Place (overall)             4939

Finish time                  03:21:38

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/km km/h Place
5K 10:22:34 00:22:02 22:02 04:25 13.62
10K 10:44:40 00:44:09 22:07 04:26 13.57
15K 11:07:27 01:06:56 22:47 04:34 13.17
20K 11:30:20 01:29:48 22:52 04:35 13.12
HALF 11:35:14 01:34:42 04:54 04:28 13.44
25K 11:53:03 01:52:31 17:49 04:34 13.15
30K 12:16:13 02:15:42 23:11 04:39 12.94
35K 12:42:03 02:41:31 25:49 05:10 11.61
40K 13:10:11 03:09:40 28:09 05:38 10.66
FINISH 13:22:10 03:21:38 11:58 05:28 11.00 4384

Even though this morning was really cold I’d still give the marathon a 10/10. Or maybe I’m just high on endorphins.

Virgin Money London Marathon certificate 20160424_220127 20160424_220037

I had a nap at home and then decided to celebrate at ZoukOff – the best zouk event London has to offer. I was a bit sore but it was a great finish to a magnificent day!

More power,

Ivar

Boris bikes, India and unicorns

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Did you know that you can slide down the handrail at the Piccadilly Circus underground station? It’s only possible in the late evening, say 11PM or later because there’s less people and one of the escalators stops – that’s the one where you can slide down the handrail. And then you can do it all again because you’ve got two of those escalators until you get down under.

A bit earlier that day it was another late night at work. I finished (I’m lying, I didn’t finish anything, I just gave up on the day) and left. I knew I would be late for my zouk class, so instead of walking I should figure out a quicker way to get back home. Then I thought it will probably be faster if I took one of those Santander or ‘Boris Bikes’ nicknamed after London’s mayor Boris Johnson.

There was only one bike left at the rack/docking station, so I figured it must be my lucky day. I went to the machine (which looks more or less like a parking meter if you have no clue what I’m talking about) to book/rent my bike. This was the first time renting one of these babies, so it took me a while until I got the release code.

In the truest meaning of carpe diem another Londoner thought the same thing. However, I think he was a member of the Santander bike thing, which gave him a key of sorts or maybe he already had a release code (I’m not sure how all this works). Basically, he didn’t need to rent the bike from the machine. Instead he could unlock it himself with his key. Since it was the last bike in the rack I only saw his back riding away at the moment I got my release code, which by the way was valid for 10 minutes and only for bikes from this rack. FML!

I’ve been trying to muster the courage to make this happen for months and then I finally go for it, the bike rides away without me. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

My spirits were quite low. I think I need some professional help to turn this all around. Luckily my housemates are both armchair psychologists. I’ll ask them to help me through this very late childhood trauma.

Speaking of my housemates… we went to India the other day. I remember like it was last Saturday. I woke up a little later than usual – around 2 PM – and went downstairs to make myself some breakfast. Then Pilar had an idea and we all decided to go to have a late lunch or dinner ‘somewhere nice’ instead. It took ages to decide on a restaurant and then, once we found one, it was closed at the time.

So we went to a place Romario was familiar with. It was a 40 minute tube ride away in East Ham – the moment I came out of the station I felt like I was overseas. Everyone I saw was Indian. The only thing missing was the melting heat and chaotic driving which I would associate with that part of the world.

Anywho, we got to the restaurant. I can’t remember its name but it sounded like Abubu Khapapapi.  This was a proper Indian establishment – none of that watered down stuff they feed Westeners in central London. Everything was cheap as well, so I ordered a bunch of stuff as I wanted this to be as authentic as possible so whenever I saw the words ‘spicy’ in the menu I would order it (subject to it being vegan of course).

My food was spicy AF. I thought I could handle it but it was too much. Stuffing my face with dosas and curries, with tears in my eyes, wasn’t my best hour. However, Romario thought this was the funniest thing ever. Pilar gave up on the Indian train after a few bites and with a great amount of shame I must confess that I had to throw in the towel as well. The dinner was followed by our trio going to the pictures to see Tarantino’s movie The Hateful Eight – not his best, but worth watching.

unicorn

The next day I was at ZoukOff – a very cool monthly zouk event in London. Every party I’ve been to has been great. That’s where I saw Gerli. Well… technically we’ve met before but we never talked. I usually skip the small talk and go for a dance immediately. I’ve actually danced with her on a few occasions. Previously I thought that she was Norwegian – she looked very Scandinavian. We didn’t talk much because I was a bit shocked once I found out she’s from Estonia. But it was magical, just like seeing a unicorn.

Lots of love,

Ivar

From all smiles to painful everything

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At one point, I remember telling myself that I’ll check the time – if it’s midnight or so I’ll go home, otherwise I’ll be late for the next day’s classes. It was 2:30 AM. FML, better get going…

Getting back home i.e. to Martyna’s place (my AirBnB host), wasn’t that easy. It was a 30 minute walk away but I wanted to bus it, because lazy. The problem is that the night buses here don’t always stop at all bus stops – you need to hail the driver as if you’re on fire – and they might still miss you.

Since I didn’t quite know where I was going I figured that all I needed to do was to count the bus-stops and get off at the fifth stop (just like my GoogleMaps told me). Well… after a bit it became very clear that this strategy doesn’t work when the bus skips stops. In no time I was at the city center’s final station.

This was a tad bit inconvenient. At my lowest point of desperation I asked a cab driver whether he could give me a ride. His response was “I don’t speak” and then he rolled up the taxi window. Wanker! I was cold and unhappy and everything was shitty and he doesn’t even make an attempt to understand me.

Anywho, it took me a while to figure out the logistics of getting back to Martyna’s flat. The munchies hit real hard moments later – I ate everything I had, before I passed out to dreamland.

The previous day I packed my stuff and headed off to Warsaw to my very first zouk festival. In all honesty I didn’t even want to go. I was making all kinds of excuses – it’s going to be cold and I’ll get sick and won’t be able to properly train for the London Marathon etc. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My flight was from Luton. I think I saw Annie Jaffrey at the airport. It might have been somebody else though.

I remembered the Jim Jeffries segment about plane etiquette as I was happily taking both armrests in my aisle seat (living dangerously!!!). Pilar gave me a book “A field guide to the British” by Sarah Lyall to help kill the time in the air. The book’s about an American who writes about living in the UK and getting used to the life here. I have to agree with a lot she said. I’ve been in the UK for two years and consider myself an expert on all things British. For example did you know that the part where you’re supposed to rinse the dishwashing liquid off your dishes is considered optional. People don’t talk to their neighbors but exchange letters instead. And there’s the thing about not heating their homes – they seem to like to freeze.

Back to Warsaw. I was all smiles after I got out at the train station. They have snow!!! It was the proper white stuff which doesn’t immediately melt like it does in the UK. I haven’t seen this kind of weather for about 4-5 years. It was beautiful. Things were looking good!

I spent the entire first evening chatting with Martyna (my AirBnB host). She’s lovely and made my stay in Warsaw very pleasant. Her apartment is beautiful and so nice and warm – nothing like the place in Angel which I call home.

zouk libre

The plan for the following day was to have a luxury day i.e. chill at a spa, have my nails done and get a massage kinda stuff. Then go to the Zouk festival. On my way to the ‘spa’ place I got a bit lost and went to a gym instead. I figured I needed to get in a 10K run anyway. Last time I was in a gym was 7 years ago. I did 13km on the treadmill and then surfed the internet in the ‘relax room’. It was quite nice actually.

I ran in my socks since I didn’t pack my running shoes. This resulted in two blisters.

I did a few classes at the festival and went to the party. I was about half an hour late to the party but still one of the first ones to show up. However, people slowly started to drop in and soon it was so crowded there wasn’t enough room on the dance floors – yes plural.

Saturday was similar – but classes started at 11:30 AM, followed by a party at 10PM. During our lunch break I went to get a cup of coffee at the hotel’s bar. The barman saw me and said something I didn’t understand. As I didn’t reply he gave up on me and approached the person behind me. Then I asked if I could get a black coffee. Here’s the transcript of our conversation (barman in italics): ‘One coffee!’ Yes, please. ’Black, not black, white!’ At that point I wasn’t sure I wanted my coffee any more. Black, please. ‘Here! Or! Take Away!’ Here. ‘6 zloty!’. Uhm, can I pay with my card? I think this is where the barman ran out of both patience and English – he gave me the POS machine to make the card payment. We never spoke again. After that Gestapo-like interrogation I finally got my cup of coffee which, by the way, was the best coffee I’ve had in a long time.

I got home around 5:30 AM, had a few hours of sleep and then back to school – classes started at 11 AM and ended around 7 PM. I had dinner at home and felt quite tired. I decided to squeeze in a power nap but woke up around midnight. Oh well, there’s plenty of time to get to the party I thought.

I’m very glad I decided to head back. I think I fell in love with Aoife (Ireland). She managed to hit me in the face twice during one song. I guess this brings good luck. 😀 I’m not sure I’ve had this much fun dancing with anyone else. She was amazing!

The party ended at 6 AM and I bussed back home. The only warm place on the bus was the area where my thigh met the other lady’s thigh who sat next to me. Getting off a bus is a bit of a mystery to me. The driver doesn’t open the door. There seems to be a button somewhere but I always fail to find it. Every time that happened the bus driver shouted something at me – probably profanities to express his disbelief about how stupid I was. To this day I still don’t know how the doors open. It will forever remain a mystery.

I got home and everything was aching – my feet, shins, thighs, back etc. This dancing business is a serious workout. Would I recommend it to a good friend? Absolutely! I had a very good time in Warsaw. The Zouk Libre Festival was a great success and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Poland.

Ivar

Thinking about gettin’ some Pussy

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secret-santa

We did Secret Santa at work. The budget was £10 and I had to make a gift for Dan – I’ve never even spoken to him before. I was at a supermarket and spent at least an hour trying to figure out what to buy and then ended up with nothing. I was running out of time. Next day I managed to strike up a conversation with Dan. I didn’t get much useful information out of him, so decided to change my research methodology. I asked a different colleague whether he knew anything about my victim. Theo said Dan spends a lot of time on Tinder (it’s a dating app kids). I crunched some numbers and then it hit me – I had to get him some Pussy. That would be hilarious. However, then I started thinking about whether this was OK in the office, whether it’s acceptable and what if Dan gets offended or something. I scared myself out of this wonderful idea. Turns out I’m a pussy as well.

By the way Pussy is an energy drink – google it. I’ve never seen it on sale though, but I know it’s real.

pussyenergydrink

So I went for the safer option and got him a book.

Turns out I’m an idiot as well. I didn’t know how Secret Santa works because I added a Christmas card to my gift which had “Best wishes, Ivar” in it. Did you know that the person receiving the present will not find out who he got her present from? I’ve always thought that it’s a secret up to the gift exchange. That’s when everybody finds out and before that it’s this big secret and all that. My colleagues found it hysterical that I managed to get this wrong. Leanne almost fell off her chair laughing about it.

You live and you learn.

 

We also had our company Christmas Party that day. A venue on Farringdon road was booked for us. In the beginning everybody was just talking and drinking. As the night progressed some people started dancing and then one girl pulled me in to join them on the dance floor. It felt quite weird to do that night club kind of dancing because I’m so used to zouk/salsa/bachata. And what’s the deal with girls holding their drink and purse whilst dancing – that’s just wrong. The struggle was real though – I defaulted to some very basic partner dancing but it was quite bad as the girls had no clue what I was trying to lead. A few were alright with the basics of basics i.e. shifting their body weight from one side to the other and repeat. Especially Katie – she was there at the Vinopolis wine tasting thing as well… I think she just felt a bit more comfortable because she knew who I was.

I stayed until the very end. It was entertaining to watch the men get sleazier and sleazier, gradually but surely. Oh, I feel so bad for you girls.

The party was good, much better than I anticipated. I would prefer my usual dancing parties, but hey, sometimes you need to mix things up a bit.

 

Merry Christmas!

Ivar

A kid gets stabbed, dies and I make a puppet Hitler, how was your weekend?

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I did not know what I signed up for. Things were so slow to start… and there I was – worried I’d be late.

I was late, but that’s not the point because lateness was figured into the starting time of the workshop. So I guess I did the rational thing? Maximizing my utility like a pro (my fellow folks of supply and demand will understand).

There was a time I used to take pride in the fact that I’m always punctual and never too early nor late to anything. That’s  changed. I blame Australia, I blame the tube, my naïve optimism and everyone else except me.

It’s been almost two years in the UK and I should know better. The tube is a slow rat-infested antiquated form of transportation. If I only knew how to take a bus my life would be so much better.

I followed the other kids and last Sunday was the first time I took a bus in London over the last 2 years. I’ve successfully avoided it like the plague. Mostly because of my fear of getting lost, raped and murdered in London (not necessarily in that order).

Speaking of murder, one kid was stabbed not too far from where I live. It was in the news and everything. Some kid wanted to steal the other kid’s bike. Stabbed him and the cyclist died about 15 minutes later. Helmets don’t make cycling any safer after all. Welcome to London!

We were stretching and patting/petting/massaging our muscles. I was definitely weirded out, but hey I paid for the class and had to get my money’s worth (also a thing which has changed over the years). It was a workshop about improvising in dance. I struggled through some of the things because I’m a very shy and reserved person. One could even say cultural. All what’s missing is a monocle and a top-hat.

After a while the class got better, much better. Maybe that’s just me as it takes me a while to warm up to pretty much anything… but I admit parts of the class were fun. In one exercise I was the puppet-master and guided my puppet (other person) into the classic Hitler pose – one arm in the “Heil Hitler” position and the other one making a mustache. I crack myself up.

Oh… what’s the deal with stretching? I’ve done a bit of homework and found out that stretching does fuck all. It doesn’t make you any less likely to injure yourself or on the other hand it also doesn’t cause injury (it does NOTHING). Also, being flexible is a useless superpower – nobody will give you a medal if you can put your leg behind your head. I think it’s one of those things people invented to look busy when they actually aren’t. No different from checking your phone when you’re in a room full of strangers and too chicken to talk to anybody.

I learned a few new things and put them to the test a few hours later – there was a zouk party a bunch of us went to afterwards. I think the dancing got much more interesting and creative with the improvised elements in it. The party was a good way to end the week.

I hope you had a good day and that nobody got stabbed.

Hugs and kisses,

Ivar

contact improvisation (1)

Funny accents, hipsters and a rocking boat

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I’ve survived 2 weeks in the fancy office and had to make a few adjustments. It’s a very corporate environment – after all, it is a big company. Everybody is beautiful, wears nice clothes, has a tan and a Hollywood smile. And then there’s me – my idea of fancy is putting on a tie and my crappy shoes, maybe wash my hair.
The office has a fantastic view of London. I have a feeling it won’t get old for quite some time. Here’s a pic:
View from the office
Whenever I get bored I put on my thinking face and look into the distance. I like this place.

I work next to Hipster Dan – he’s got an epic beard which is his pride and glory. He even combs it every morning – that’s a funny sight. Who the hell combs a beard?
Oh, I’m not the new guy anymore. There was a merger in May and a bunch of people started on Monday this week. Today, I met this Italian girl and she has the funniest accent. She’s adorable. I can’t stop smiling when I hear her talking. I know it’s horrible but I can’t help it. She’s my favorite. I think I’ll pretend to not know something. Maybe I’ll ask her how pensions work… 😀 I’ve got it all planned out!

We had a social ping pong evening with a bunch of colleagues on Tuesday. I remember I got to the venue and realized I didn’t know what they looked like. The people I’ve met so far, largely didn’t show up. That was an interesting problem to have. I walked over to a group and sheepishly asked a guy if he was from my company. I’m glad he didn’t hear me because I recognized a colleague in the distance. Handled it like a pro!

I’ve also been doing a lot of dancing, much more so than normally. The highlight was the Zouk Boat Party on the Thames. And it’s exactly what it sounds like – a party on a boat. They had about 200 people and it was a great success. Dancing on a moving ship was very entertaining. I felt like a beginner again because people were bumping into each other all the time. Fun times!
I also liked that it was possible to go on the deck whenever I needed to cool down and/or chat with other people. Normally the music is too loud at a typical dancing venue, and I don’t like to scream at people. The boat ticked a lot of boxes for me.

Things are going great right now. For a while that hasn’t been the case. I remember telling myself that sometimes things need to get worse before they can get better. The grass is green again.

With love,
Ivar

Every time

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After my zouk classes and social dancing I feel like the world is a little better or a bit less shitty or even almost good. Maybe this is just me trying to be British – polite and humble and all that.

Going on the tube, you start noticing good things all around you. The singing or guitar music of some weird street artist, a girl giving up her seat for an old woman, people giving money to the homeless beggars. On the inside it feels a lot like running a half marathon and noticing that at the 18th kilometer you’re likely to finish in less than 100 minutes. Somehow running becomes so easy and you effortlessly speedup and it feels good to run. And no, you’re not running at that point, you’re flying, nothing can stop you from clocking that sub 100 half.

I go through the same sensations after my zouk classes, every single time – no running required. You’ll also have the added benefits of good music, beautiful and happy people. Based on my experience, the happiest people I know are zouk dancers. Salsa and bachata people are a close second.

I might be too kind with my words, considering that I’ve been deprived of zouk for the last 2 months because of my exams.

I realized that I didn’t mention in my previous post that my R06 (Financial Planning Practice) exam re-mark came back as a fail which was very disappointing. I’ll take it again in July.

exams done

There’s some good news. I had 3 exams this week (multiple choice questions, much easier than the R06 or AF papers) and managed to pass them all. I figured out there are two paths to getting my diploma and if I understood the completion requirements correctly, it means that I should be a diploma qualified financial planner now. I’m waiting for my Level 4 diploma to pop in in the post. It’ll take up to a month to get it, and there’s also the risk of me misinterpreting the diploma completion requirements. So at this point I don’t have a definitive answer whether I’ve made it or not. Stay tuned.

There are more exams planned (AF exams), to progress towards the Advanced Diploma (which is needed for Chartered Status) but these can only be taken in April and October. I’ll have more free time now and can focus on other things.

Ivar