SteveO

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One of my friends died.

He was a good man, a happy man – always smiling, always joking. I used to call him bald Steve. I was never able to spell his last name… I loved his humour and his laughter. He was one of the good ones. Why did he die and not some other horrible person? There’s plenty of them going around.

We worked together at my old job.

One of the last things I said to SteveO was “I will miss seeing my reflection from the top of your head. If I was female I’d slap that tight bum of your’s as well.”

SteveO drove me home that day and on other occasions as well (for example when it was raining outside or I needed a lift to catch my train).

He was kind.

He was humble.

I wish more people were like him.

He was a friend.

I will miss you,
Ivar

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Poodles, goats and tigers in a hot air balloon

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The attacks of last week were horrible. I changed my Facebook profile to the French flag immediately after I heard of the events. I didn’t analyze, or do any research to find out whether this was a good idea nor did I consult anybody. I did it because it felt right in that very moment.
A little later I found out that the media didn’t cover similar attacks in Beirut a day before the ones in Paris. A bunch of articles also surfaced which shined some light on the fact that the media is highly biased and the world didn’t pay much attention to the horrible things happening outside the western world.
One idea I found from a comment was that the key reason for this was the word “news”. People get desensitized about news (no matter how tragic) if they hear about it every day. Civilian lives are lost in horrible acts of terror on a daily basis in the Middle East. It’s not news. However, when something like that happens in Paris, it is by definition news and the media should cover it.
Moving on to the other aspect – caring. The people who were sad for Paris aren’t rejoicing about Beirut or any other tragedy. The thing is that it is far easier to liken ourselves with a girl in a Paris coffee shop than an engineer in Beirut. Paris is part of my tribe and therefore my identity, home and family. We all want to go to the City of Love, check out the Eiffel tower, eat a croissant, learn/butcher a bit of the French language, make fun of a mime and smoke some disgusting cigarettes to fit in. The Middle East on the other hand isn’t high on the list of places I’d like to visit.

Eiffel

Paris is also in my back garden. I can practically see it from my window. That’s why it felt personal. This explains the reaction form the Western world to the events in Paris.
This situation is similar to some of the conversations I have with meat eaters. They find out I’m vegan and start arguing. It is wrong to kill animals but they disagree. However they agree that it is wrong to kill our pets – cats and dogs. They think some animals matter more, others less. I see no difference between a French rabbit and a Lebanese goat – neither should be killed, tortured and eaten.
I must admit I don’t quite think the same way about people. I weigh in on culture, religion, touristy things and the cuisine. Funny, how the world works. All human lives matter, we just perceive some to be more relatable. Until that changes, we will never have world peace.
Let me give you a good example of what I mean. There’s a hot air balloon flying across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s got three people in it – a politician, an engineer and an accountant (feel free to change them to a French poodle, Lebanese goat and a Bengali tiger). The balloon is halfway across and starts leaking. It’s losing altitude and soon they will all perish into the water. The question is “who would you throw down the balloon to save the other people’s lives?” I think this was asked in a newspaper and a lot of people wrote in.
I know what you are thinking: ”Throw the politician into the water. They’re all scumbags and do nothing but steal from the people.” If you have some other thoughts, please let me know.
By the way, the right answer to the problem came from a six year old girl. She said that you should throw down the fattest person. That makes perfect sense. However as adults our thinking is clouded by stereotypes and perceived human value to society.
My profile picture still has the French flag in the background. It’s because my tribe was hurt and it feels personal. A tragedy in my own tribe will always hurt more than a tragedy in a distant tribe.
Ivar

Today is moving day

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Firstly I’m moving my ass back to England.
I miss home. I was on the bus and I got a bit nostalgic. I was listening to a romantic song and watching out the window. It reminded me of that time I was living in my campervan in Australia near Shepparton.
I loved watching the sunset but I remembered the mozzies… so many of them. I used to open the back door and scroll down all the windows and go for a drive so that the wind would blow all the mozzies out before I went to sleep. #Lifehack… Life wasn’t perfect but in many ways it kinda was.

image

Today’s plan is to move house. I’m changing jobs and will move to London as well. I’ve been in the UK for 1.5 years and virtually all this time was spent in Chelmsford. It seems like I’ve been missing out on the whole UK experience. I think London will be good for me.
My new place is the most expensive I’ve ever lived in (£750 pcm for my room) but the location is very good. The closest tube station is Angel and the place is only 1.5 km from work – I can skip the whole rush hour commute and stroll to work in only 15-20 minutes.
My new flatmates are Daniel (car surveys) and Joshua (IT guy). I haven’t met Josh yet. Dan seemed nice. He is/was a runner, plays guitar and seemed like a good chap.
BTW when I was flat hunting I only looked at one place – I didn’t have much time because of my sudden trip to Estonia. I checked the place out and said I’ll take it because of the location. There was another place which was even better however the rent was £1000 pcm – a bit too pricey right now. I hope my new home is fine though.
I’m probably not going to finish packing/moving today but I’ll get most of it done. I’ll finish on Monday.
Monday is also the first day in my new job. Exciting stuff.

Faith in humanity restored… and then lost again

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I didn’t quite know when the funeral was going to be. All I knew was that it’s the first week of August. So I booked my outbound flights for the 2nd August.
Just a few days later they set the date for the funeral and it was on the 1st of August.
Great news. It made my day.
I had no choice and booked a one-way flight to Tallinn (with a connecting flight from Amsterdam). Problem solved.
I also had to visit the Estonian embassy to address my expired passport situation.
I have mixed feelings about the embassy. The guy behind the counter was the first Estonian I’ve seen in months… anywho I had to fill in a form or two and voila I was given a “certificate of return”. Think of it as my emergency passport, looking dodgy as hell. It was valid only for a week. The guy was issuing passports and ID cards to a few people who showed up after me (because it was a quick little thing and my thing took longer…). I expected the man to finish with me before moving on to other people in the queue but no. Welcome to Estonia.

My new flights were with British Airways and Estonian Air. I made my way to London City Airport (super easy to get to). I thought it probably makes sense to talk to the peeps at the British Airways desk because of my dodgy passport and give them the heads up.
The man at the counter didn’t quite know what to do, so he called his boss who called the peeps in Amsterdam and after a few nervous minutes it was all green lights boulevard.

I found the way everybody treated me on British Airways wonderful. They were all bending over backwords to make sure I get to my dad’s funeral. Nobody raised any additional questions when I boarded the planes. Faith in humanity restored.

The funeral was sad. I saw a bunch of relatives I hadn’t seen in many years. They might as well have been complete strangers… I knew nothing about where they lived, what they did for a living or what they studied/planned to study at uni. I’ve lost touch with most of them.

First thing on Monday I needed to get a new passport. It takes up to 2 working days to get it done if you choose the speedy option. My dodgy passport only allowed entry to Estonia but was no good for a return flight.
Anywho, I was impressed by the speed of things. I applied for a new passport around 10 AM on Monday and received an email to collect it the same day at 3:40 PM. Wow! The only downside was that I had already left Tallinn and had to travel back again on Tuesday to pick it up.

During the week I met up with a few friends. It was really good to see my main bros – Siim, Pete and Olav – and my family as well.

Remember, I didn’t take the first leg of my flights I booked originally? I thought I could still use the return flights from that original booking. I was wrong. I discovered this about 24 hours before the flight when I tried to do my online check in.
Since it was a no show, all my flights on the booking were cancelled. I was never notified about this.
The carrier (Lufthansa) said the travel agent (TravelUp) might be able to reinstate the flights. I called them but no such luck. All I could get out of them was a £31 refund which would take 4-6 weeks to be processed. Faith in humanity is now a thing of the past.
I can’t catch a break.

image

It seems like this is standard practice – if you miss the first leg of your booking they cancel all flights.
I was out of options and booked a new flight to Stansted for tomorrow. I’m glad I’m made of money.
This has been an expensive, stressful and crappy week (with a few exceptions). I hate Lufthansa, TravelUp, buses, online check ins, my bank account and flying. I just want to go home.

Ivar

The Theory of Everything

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You know that feeling… the one which tells you that you’ve done something really well. That feeling when you congratulate yourself on a job well done because you know it was a masterpiece. Not the word ‘masterpiece’ which I use as a catchall for everything I create, but a genuine success. That’s how I felt after taking my Financial Planning Practice (R06) exam. This was the last exam I needed for my diploma.
I knew I passed that shit like a pro. The questions were easy, predictable and my preparation was good. I answered all the questions in detail and didn’t have any trouble with 90% of the exam.
However, 6 weeks later I got my results. It was a fail. In
Big.
Fucking.
Uppercase.
Letters.

FAIL

I scored 80 points, but needed 82 to pass. I was surprised. I don’t understand how it’s possible that I only scored 50% of the points.
I googled around to find out what I could do and requested a re-mark. It’s worth doing if it was a narrow fail (failed by 1-3 points) so they might change it to a narrow pass. I paid £82 for that lottery and need to wait for up to 5 weeks to find out if my result will change or not. If it’s still a fail, I’ll re-sit the exam in July. I’ll pass it eventually.

The next day I had plans to go to a salsa party in South-End. Unfortunately my ride was cancelled because they got sick. No car, no party. I didn’t feel like dancing anyway so I was relieved.
I spent some time procrastinating on Facebook, one thing led to another and I made new plans for the night and headed out to the movies to meet up with Blue Eyes and Vamos-A-La-Playa. 😀
There once was a uni student who was very late to his lecture. He quickly wrote down two assignments from the blackboard just before the class ended. Two weeks later he went to the professor and gave him the answers. The professor asked what he was giving him because he never tasked the students with any homework. The professor looked at the solutions and realized that the student had solved two impossible problems – two questions which were perceived to be impossible to solve. That kid’s name was Stephen Hawking.
That’s a story I remembered as I was in the cinema watching the opening credits of The Theory of Everything. I heard the above story about 8 years ago in Nashville, TN. It was some pep-talk about overcoming adversity and doing the impossible. In this case doing something because you were never told it was impossible.
My mind wandered and I thought of the summer of 2007 and all the wonderful people I met in the States.
The movie was really good. I highly recommend it. It was sadiful – sad and beautiful at the same time. The sad part was the way the disease was taking away so much from Mr Hawking’s life, the beauty was what the man accomplished despite his disability. In a way it was empowering. The world needs a bit more of that.
I was in a fairly good mood after the movie. My exam failure seemed like such a first world problem in contrast. Let’s face it, things don’t always go my way. And if they did, life would be so boring.

hawking_quote

Amsterdam

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I passed my protection (R05) exam like a pro and headed out to meet France for a quick catch up before I left towards Amsterdam.  We organized to meet up in a bar and I got there before she did. So I ordered my drink … well, not exactly. I was standing at the till waiting patiently before I could order anything. This was the 31st October – Halloween.
In front of me was a woman in fancy dress – she looked a lot like a vampire or some other undead creature. She ordered two fancy drinks and it took ages for the barman to make them. The barman also fucked up the second drink and had to start all over again. Naturally we… well, she started talking to me because let’s face it – nobody can resist my charm.

In the spirit of Halloween she asked me who I was supposed to be. Without any thought I replied “a tourist”. She and the barman thought that was the funniest thing they’ve ever heard and they almost ROFLed. The vampire decided to buy me a drink in return for that entertainment. This was a historic moment for me because no woman has ever bought me a drink before. Just shortly after making history France popped in and I had to ditch the bloodsucker and move on.

The usual catch up followed and I had a good time chatting away with her. She was doing most of the talking as is always the case. I’ve always thought that France was very different from me but after this little meet I discovered that we’re more similar that I thought. I also liked the fact that she refused accepting my money for dinner. All I had was a cup of tea – the only vegan thing on the menu. I didn’t feel like going through the motions of customizing a dish with the waitress. So France ended up paying for my second drink that night.

Things were off to a good start for my holiday.

I met up with 4 Estonians in Amsterdam. I only knew two of them – we studied maths back in uni. My fellow Estonians only stayed for the weekend but I had bigger plans for Amsterdam.

The first day we did a bit of sightseeing, checked out a few pubs, weed shops, adult shops, the Red Lights District and the library. It wasn’t that exciting because nobody had made any plans. And the only reason I wanted to go to Amsterdam was to smoke a joint.

So we went to a coffeeshop and I bought two joints. Without any questions or fuss I was the proud owner of 2 joints for 9 EUR each. We headed back to our rented apartment to get stoned. It was a very happy evening.

The next day we decided to be a bit cultural and checked out the Van Gogh museum. This was the first time in my life I had to stay in a queue for 45 minutes to enter a bloody museum. I’m not an art person but I thought I might as well get cultured. I will never go back to that museum again.

After this rather boring experience we headed to the Vondel Park to get some lunch. One girl said she’d like to visit the Anne Frank house. Since nobody else except her had even heard of Anne Frank, she had to go there alone. The rest of us went to get some dinner. Later we found out that she had to wait in another line for 45 minutes to get into the museum but nevertheless she had a good experience inside.

All my Estonian mates left me on the third day, so I had to move into a hostel for the next 3 nights. The first day all alone was awesome. I felt really free. I don’t know why… I guess I like to explore places on my own.

I rather quickly fell in love with Amsterdam. It is a beautiful city with the channels, architecture, millions of bikes, weed and prostitutes. One thing I noticed was that all the people were so good looking. Most of the girls looked like supermodels. I think it’s because of all the cycling they do. I fell in love several times each day… there was so much beauty everywhere.

The other cool thing was the sense of freedom. People would walk on a street and light a joint and smoke it like it’s nobody’s business. I loved that!

The Red Lights District was really exciting – especially when I was walking there alone. All the girls behind the glass were asking me to come in or waving for me to come closer. They were very friendly and to my surprise very attractive. I also liked that it was so full of tourists. I saw families with kids walking around, guided tours, couples strolling around and also a few horny men (just like me). It was a very civil and friendly environment. I loved it.

Amsterdam is now my favorite city in Europe.

Time traveling

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I visited Waimangu Volcanic Valley. It was an amazing place. The terrain was so surreal and prehistoric – everything was hissing and smoking and the water was bubbling and hot streams were everywhere. All that geothermal activity was something I’ve never seen before. I was blown away!

I had a really good time there, it was so interesting. Check out the pics below!

Ivar the time traveller