Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Cambridge Reunion

Entering Cambridge always overwhelms me with a feeling of relaxation, hope and belonging.  I lived there from 2003 to 2006, one year in Nightingale Halls down Tennis Court Road and the next two in a shared house down Campbell Street off the illustrious Mill Road.  I can honestly say I had some of the best times of my life at university.  I learned a lot about myself and met some fantastic people whom I still think about and and keep in touch with.  My experiences in Cambridge and the friends I made have formed the person I am proud to be now.

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to see my friends from Cambridge for a while, I thought it would be a grand idea to organise a reunion before I left on my Epic Voyage.

Traveling down there on Saturday afternoon made me feel nostalgic and reminded me of the days I used to regularly travel back and forth to Norwich on the same train.  I was full of excitement as I hadn't seen some of the people since I graduated in 2006.  Although I was a bit disappointed that more people hadn't said they would come.

My friend James, who I met in first year drama at Anglia Ruskin back in 2003, and I had planned to stay the night in The Castle's family room.  James had booked and paid the room weeks ago, however, when we arrived they informed us that they had no record of our booking and had double booked us.  Unfortunately the other people had already checked in and they were fully booked.  Therefore we were sent off with a refund to find another hotel.  This turned out to be a big issue as we soon found out everywhere else was fully booked and we were facing a night on the streets!  We marched back into the Castle and demanded that they found somewhere for us to keep even if it was the sofa.  Cutting a long story short, we ended up staying the night in the Crowne Plaza hotel, which is a four star that the barman at The Castle managed to get half price for us.

After we moved into our hotel room we made our way to The Regal where we were due to meet everyone else.  Over the next few hours we met up with Daisy, Karen, Chloe and Nikkita.  The others were going to join us later but unfortunately never managed to meet up.

The next day I met up with Amy, Jamie and Geraldine for a Sunday roast where we made a new friend, Fred the wasp.  As it was a gorgeous sunny day, as it always is in Cambridge, we decided to finish the weekend of with a leisurely punt down the Cam.

It was great to catch up with all the guys.  I always think you know you're friends when there isn't any awkwardness and you can just carry on with conversations like you did years ago.

N.B. Hopefully this post will be updated when I have a bit more time!

Friday, 10 September 2010

It's Time to Learn

Learning a second language is difficult for us English speakers. There's an unfortunate idea that English people are too lazy to learn other languages. I personally disagree with this and it annoys me as I feel there's more to it than laziness. English is the widest spoken language and is currently used as the premier language, air traffic control use it and a most business is conducted in English. Therefore there is more necessity for other language speakers to learn English.

It's also easier for non-English speakers to learn the language as their exposure to it is far greater than we have to any other language. American films, British TV, Music in English, books, magazines etc. We do not have this exposure to any other language. The majority of English speaking people only have exposure to another language when they go abroad for holidays, two weeks in Spain hardly makes learning Spanish a necessity as these tourist destinations speak English.

It's so much easier to learn another language when you are submerged in its exposure. That still doesn't rule out the fact that when you are in a foreign country and try to speak the local lingo, some locals want to practice their English and will refuse to respond to you in their language.

One of my goals for this trip is to pick up another language, hopefully Spanish in South America. I began learning from an audio course but unfortunately stopped for some reason.

I have now received an audio course for Russian which I purchased from eBay for the value price of £1.99, I was concerned that it would be rubbish but have been pleasantly surprised. Not only does the disk contain a Russian course, it has a French and German course on it too!

It starts off with... "Pretend there is an American man and a Russian lady on a bus in St Petersburg and the man wants to start a conversation..." Sounds like it's on the right track...

So it's time to put this bad boy on my MP3 player and begin learning....

Спокойной ночи!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

One week until Oktoberfest!

Next weekend the 177th opening ceremony of Munich's Oktoberfest, the largest annual festival in the world and is attended by more than 6 million people from all corners of the globe and I am lucky enough to be one of those lucky millions to go!  I am going with Luke, Mike, Kev, Matt and Mark for Mark's stag do.  We're going with a company called Festival Adventures who organise trips to the biggest festivals across Europe at a very reasonable price.  We are going to go on the 6 day trip from London to Munich, which includes travel, camp site, excursions and a guided tour around Munich.  I'm very excited about going to Oktoberfest to take part in this most prestigious festival and  and be served some great beer by Bavarian ladies with incredibly strong arms!

History of the Festival
This year's festival is the 177th Oktoberfest and the 200th anniversary of the first Oktoberfest which was held on October 12th 1810.  The Bavarian festival marks the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig the first to Princess Therese of Saxony. The Bavarians celebrated for five days, on a meadow outside the city gates, later naming the area Theresienwiese (meadow of Therese), after the young Queen. The festival has developed over the years, but remains at the same ground and stands as a lasting tribute to the young lovers and the Bavarian way of life and celebration.
Nearly two-hundred years on, significant developments have seen Oktoberfest emerge from a local tradition to a global festival event.

Developments include:

1835 –The ‘Rifleman’s’ parade takes place on the first Sunday of the festival
1850 – The large statue that overlooks the festival grounds is erected. The monument is a personification of Bavaria in the form of a woman.
1871 – The popular Marzenbier is first served.
1918 – Anton Gruber received the first licence to sell beer and food.

Although known worldwide as ‘Oktoberfest’, the beer festival confusingly takes place in September. The early start was introduced in order to make the most of the better weather in September. Oktoberfest has been held every year since its inception, excluding the First and Second World Wars. The festival runs for 16 days and normally ends on the first Sunday in October, and can start as early as 16th September or as late as 22nd September.

The Stars of the Festival...  Beer and Food

The six prominent breweries in Munich operate the 14 main beer-halls within the festival grounds. The smallest tent seats just 1000 people, and the largest over ten thousand.
219,443 pairs of sausages, 88 roasted oxen, and 459,279 roast chickens were consumed at one recent festival – and that’s not to mention the pork knuckles and pretzels.
The service of beer is forbidden until the festival is officially opened by the Mayor of Munich on the first Saturday of the event. The Mayor taps the first keg at midday and proclaims “It’s tapped” or “O’zapft is” for the locals.

Although this is not technically part of Andy's Epic Voyage, I feel it's a warm up to the main adventure which will get me in the right frame of mind...  I also need to put my drinking boots back on as Russia's going to be a big test on my alcohol tolerance!!


Monday, 6 September 2010

The Two Vs

The most expensive part of my trip will be the two Vs, both of which give me headaches!


Today I have relieved myself of another £140 for Japanese B Encephalitis and Rabies vaccinations.  The nurse told me that she had a couple in her clinic who only left themselves £200 each for their trip to South East Asia.  That's crazy as my vaccines will come to £390 and that's not including anti-malarials.  However, I've had a deeper look into the Malaria zones and it doesn't appear to be as bad as I first thought. At least I've arranged my remaining vaccinations.


As stated before in my previous post, I have decided to consult a travel agency, Real Russia, to arrange my Russian, Chinese and Mongolian visas.  It costs £270 but will save me dragging my arse down to consulates in London, standing bored to the bone in queues and making umpteen mistakes on bureaucratic forms and being denied. 

I've discovered that I will also need visas for Vietnam , Cambodia and Laos.  Although it is possible to arrange visas at certain border points across the region it is advisable to try and get them before you leave.

There's nothing I can do at the moment anyway as I'm off to Oktoberfest in Munich next week and will need my passport.  I will get the forms ready for me to send them off as soon as I get back.

Hopefully, these posts will become more enjoyable as time goes by and the nonsense of the two Vs disappear!!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Two Months Until Departure

And in the Beginning....

When I began thinking about this journey over three years ago it seemed easy, I would work for a few months to save up enough cash and then head off to travel the world.  However, it didn't come as quickly as I had expected it to.  I don't regret the time I've been delayed as I have achieved a lot since I graduated from university back in 2006.  I've taught English to foreign children in Poland, I've traveled around Europe in a Motorhome with three friends, I worked in a touring theatre company called Theatrino in Italy teaching English through drama, I've been a part of The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich and performed in ten productions improving my performance skills and I've made a lot of good friends.

I have now decided it's time to jump and embark on the voyage I have been planning for years.  So on Friday 27 August 2010 I pulled my manager aside and handed in my notice.  I always find it hard to hand my notice in when I get along with the team I'm working with, but I knew that I had to do it, that I had to go on this journey now or I may never get the opportunity again.  Life is incredibly short and extremely fragile, we don't know what is in store for us so I believe that we must live life like it could be our last day on Earth.  My last working day will be Friday 29 October 2010.

Since handing in my notice I have had a strange feeling of nervousness enter my system.  It's strange, I haven't had this feeling before and can only put it down to the fact it's very real now, before it was easy because it was all theoretical but now I've handed in my notice and told so many people I'm going, I have no choice but to go now!! 

So what do I need to do now...

  • Vaccinations - As you may know, traveling around the world presents certain health risks and to ensure I don't die a horrible and painful mosquito ridden death, I must have the following jabs.
    • Japanese B Encephalitis
    • Hepatitis A/B
    • Yellow Fever
    • Typhoid
    • Rabies
    • Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio
  • Visas - A bureaucratic nightmare, a mountain of paperwork, huge amounts of leg work and plenty of cash.  I need to get my visas for the Trans-Mongolian railway before I leave home.  It's going to cost a bit but I have decided that instead of giving myself a headache with the paperwork and sending off my passport to different consulates I am going to ask Real Russia to do it for me for the sum of £270. This includes Visas to Russia, Mongolia and China all of the leg work, checking everything is in order and returning it to me in time for me to leave!
  • Gear - I now have the majority of technical gear I would like to take with me across the world, including camcorder, camera, MP3 player, chargers etc.  But I really need to focus on survival gear, warm winter clothes including thermal layers, sterile first aid kit including anti-AIDs needles and emergency dental repair kit because my teeth are just that week!
That's all for now.  I have a busy couple of months coming up.  I've got a university reunion on Saturday 11 September, I'm off to Munich for Oktoberfest for my friend's stag do on 16 September and am his best man on 16 October.