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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 3 – Travelling by Bus – Part 1

Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – 2004-2005

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

For previous parts of the Adventures of Kiwi in India series, check them out here and here.

 

Best seat on the top of the bus!
Best seat for a Kiwi in India is on the top of the bus!

So if you’ve read my posts about India by train, then you may have seen a mention of also travelling by bus. I much prefer to travel by train, just for the convenience, speed and comfort of the ride, but sometimes it’s either impossible or impractical to take the train, so the bus or coach is the only way.

One of the big things I like about taking the train is that personal space is more or less guaranteed, not so on a bus…

I found that often either myself or my travelling companion was given the task of propping up an old lady in a sari, who would just sit down beside us and lean in like it was our job to keep her up. We as the white folk in the bus are also there to be examined and stared at. Really there is nothing you can do about this but grin and bear it. Of course, personal hygiene also isn’t guaranteed. My travel companion at least once had an old Indian lady belch in her face. Charming!

Other times people have been friendly, sometimes too friendly. Sometimes the ride has been memorable, other times hair-raising…

My most memorable bus experience was in Northern India, in the state of Rajasthan, a beautiful desertland, one of the poorest in the country, but the top choice for Indian honeymooners, for the obvious reason of the beauty of the desert landscape.

While visiting the distant desert beyond the last of the desert forts, our bus arrived but was more or less full. Gina, my travel companion was ushered into the bus, but I was waved up to the top of the bus… I wasn’t really sure about this, but there were 25 or 30 other men up there, looking quite happy. Giving no indication of whether there were more at the start of the journey or not.

As the special guest of honour, I was given the best seat on the roof! I got to sit on the spare tyre toward the front of the bus. ‘Hmmm…’ I thought ‘I hope I survive this’ (spoiler, I did, or you wouldn’t be reading this now).

My baseball cap kept blowing off my head and the guys behind me motioned that I should turn it backwards, which I did, and it stayed on for the rest of the ride. Talk about local knowledge!

Since I had my daypack near at hand I reached in to grab my camera and grabbed a few shots from the top of the bus, as well as a selfie with the guy behind me leaning in and flipping a few V signs for good measure!

Riding up top with the boys!
Riding up top with the boys! Yes, that man has a drum… Why not?

By 2004 I had graduated from film camera to digital, but that still left the issue of storage and retrieval. At least one of my India trip CDs is missing and another is cracked. Hunting through a stack of CD’s with multiple folders from 15+ years ago is an exercise in nostalgia and hope. Luckily, despite my concerns, I was able to find that shot on a CD in the stack labelled ‘India’.

As far as the least comfortable Indian bus journeys, there are a few contenders…

The most shocking was certainly taking an overnight sleeper bus from Kerala in South India across the mountains to Tamil Nadu. We took the pair of seats at the back of the bus that were still vacant and got ourselves comfortable. At certain points in the journey, the bus stopped and people got off or on. Some people a few seats ahead of us left the bus and the people directly in front of us motioned for us to take the seats, but we were comfortable, so no need.

The ride was smooth and nice for a time and we expected to get a good amount of sleep in the 8-hour mountain crossing.

However, the bus and India had other plans for us!

As we reached the mountains the road got decidedly bumpier, and as we soon realised our seats were behind the back axel, and this meant we were essentially human buckshot and our seats were erratic yet effective catapults!

We were thrown into the air from our seats, only to be slammed back up again as we were coming down… this was the definition of hell!

I really mean we were human buckshot. It’s not a pleasant experience at all and certainly not recommended.

We quickly came to realise why those on the seats in front of us had been so kind as to offer us the seats forward of the rear axle… This wasn’t their first Rodeo! And a Rodeo it was… I was looking forward to the first opportunity to get off this bucking bull to a more comfortable seat!

Happily, in a short time, a pair of seats ahead of us became free, now we were not so polite and charged ahead to grab them before anyone else did…

Finally, the sweet relief of not being pummelled by a surprisingly hard seat with a vendetta against soft tissue and vertebral alignment!

A bus that thinks it is a catapult is no way to travel in India
A bus that thinks it is a catapult is no way to travel in India

As for the other contenders for least comfortable bus journeys, tune in next time!

The next part of the Adventures of Kiwi in India – Traveling by Bus is here!

 

Part 4 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – Part 2 – is coming soon!

But until then, why not sign up to our newsletter and be informed as soon as the next post is published!

 

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Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Part 1 – The Great North!

In case you missed the previous parts of this series, check them out from the beginning of the story or perhaps the Index of posts will be more helpful?

Onward travels from Birmingham

Carla and I spent a week or two in Birmingham, then she had some arrangements to meet friends, so off she went.

I stayed around with Orlando and his friends another week or so. During this time we visited the famous Godskitchen club night on a big night out. This was my first enjoyable experience of House music.

Prior to this, my experiences of dance parties in Hamilton (there weren’t any night clubs yet, other than Fire Cats and that’s a different sort of club) had mostly been trance and techno with a little bit of ambient music mixed in for the chillout zone. In my experience House music had been pretty cheesy with far too much wailing female vocals… House music was mainly associated with the gay scene in New Zealand at that time, which wasn’t my scene.

UK House was an altogether different scene. I was experiencing the Lost Generation… These people were hardcore clubbers who spent their weekends in nightclubs and in recovery and worked through the week, fighting the comedown, in order to repeat the following weekend… I liked it, but not that much. I still preferred Trance and Techno, and later I would discover Drum n Bass, Break Beats, Trip-Hop… and Goa Trance!

I had fun with Orlando and his friends, but wary of overstaying my welcome I decided to head north to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Why the amazing northern cities of Manchester, Liverpool and my genetic, ancestral home of York, didn’t feature on my itinerary, I still have no idea. Perhaps for no other reason than simply not being that aware of British geography or my personal family history at the time. And also probably because I thought I had loads of time to see them later…

So I boarded the National Express coach headed NORTH.

I discovered Glasgow first. I was surprised to find a cool, cosmopolitan and modern Scottish city!

I actually don’t know what I was expecting, and I don’t know if I really got a complete view of the city or if I just stayed in one area and thought that was everything to see.

Kiwi's onward travels - Glasgow
I don’t know if these buildings existed when I was in Glasgow, but you get the point right?

I do recall a night out with some embarrassment. I had connected with a group of Australian girls, had a few beers and went to an Indian restaurant for dinner.

But my embarrassment is not how quickly I shelved my disdain for other expats. That small irony hadn’t occurred to me yet.

At the restaurant, we were met by the Indian waiter who served our table. The waiter, presumably the son of the owners was born and raised in Glasgow and sported a thick Glaswegian accent.

The drunk tourist that I was thought it was funny to ask him to ‘do the Indian accent’.

He was gracious, polite and declined. As he rightly should!

Now I didn’t know this at the time but while the British people absolutely love Curry, they’re not always very polite to the people who make and serve it.

I was inadvertently taking part in a form of British racism.

So, to that kind and patient waiter that night. I am truly sorry for being such a DICK!

Sorry for being a dumbass
To that Indian waiter, Sorry for being a dumbass!

I guess I spent a few days in Glasgow, and perhaps considered staying longer. But it was on to Edinburgh next… My wheels were rolling and I was on my way!

Edinburgh and Castle - Scotland
The weather isn’t very good, but I don’t know if it ever is in Edinburgh

If Glasgow was a modern city, Edinburgh was ancient and full of memories.

The Royal Mile. King Arthurs seat. This was a city that had been on these rocks for a very long time.

I spent a lot of time walking around Edinburgh, just exploring and taking in the atmosphere of the city.

Now, the next thing that happened, I’m still not sure if it was in Edinburgh, or later in a hill station in India… I can’t be 100% sure either way because, time, weed, alcohol, have all clouded my memory… And it was the most unexpected thing to suddenly face miles away from New Zealand…

I came face to face, just for a moment, with a Scottish-kilted Maori gentleman with a beautiful greenstone pounamu, a top-knot and a full face Moku! I couldn’t believe it! I was literally stunned silent.

I didn’t even manage so much as a ‘Kia Ora Mate!’

And then he was gone!

I met a Maori man with a full Face Moku in Edinburgh - I think
A very brief moment of meeting a Maori man with a full face Moku in Edinburgh – I think…

What I do know is that I was up high on a hill in an old Colonial-style city, and I was completely taken off-guard to meet a fellow countryman of the highest calibre… So it was either Edinburgh or the British Raj hill station of Mcleod Ganj in India. I guess I’ll never know…

Some years later I was given my first pounamu by my father, have worn it nearly every day since, and have met a few fellow Kiwis along the way because of it!

 

Part 2 of Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Further North – is coming soon!

But until then, why not sign up to our newsletter and be informed as soon as the next post is published!

 

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Contents for the Stories and Journeys of the Homesick Kiwi

content for the Homesick Kiwi

Contents for the Stories and Journeys of the Homesick Kiwi

AKA Making sense of the Ramblings of an expat Kiwi mind

Greetings fellow homesick Kiwis and other highly esteemed readers. As this blog develops and I share more of my adventures from different times and places, you may find that it gets a little complicated, perhaps confusing…

So in order to make the consumption and reading of these collections of words possible, I have undertaken to organise and arrange, primarily in a chronological fashion, the unfolding adventures, of said Expat Kiwi.

I have also done my best to put links between posts in the same series, as well as arranging those posts into roughly useful categories by country.

There are also some non-chronological posts about life, relationships, general musings and anything else that happens to come out of my hands when sitting down to type. These I will gather together at the end of this list, for those that have read everything else or simply like to skip to the end to see what’s down there…

I will keep updating this page as new parts of the story are written and published.

Many sections are not yet written… So please standby! In fact, why not subscribe to the newsletter to be kept up to date on developments? There are a number of sections to come…

So let us begin…

Section One: Leaving New Zealand and Venturing forth to the Land of London

The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 1 – From Hamilton to London
The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 2 – First Contact with Kiwis
The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 3 – My First London Party
The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 4 – The Time I Met Bob Dylan
The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 5 – Time to Leave London?
The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi — Part 6 – Welcome to Birmingham

Section Two: Leaving London and venturing forth to discover the United Kingdon (Currently being written)

Settling in Birmingham for a time. Being broke, living in a shitty situation, feeling depressed and then getting the hell out of there!

Expat Kiwi’s Onward Travels – Part 1 – The Great North
Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Part 2 – Further North!
Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Part 3 – Back South in a Hurry

Section Three: Returning to London via European trip

Starting with a poorly informed decision to hitchhike in Europe in a very cold January, but happily ending in London in time to meet my brother who decided to join my awesome expat life! (Check the previous section to really get the irony of this statement!)

Section Four: London to Brighton

Outlining my years in Brighton, lots of Kiwi friends came to the UK for the Big OE, and a big Swedish/Scandanavian element in my life at the time.

Section Five: Travels in India and Nepal (Currently being written)

Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 1 – Travelling by Train – Part 1
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 2 – Travelling by Train – Part 2
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 3 – Travelling by Bus – Part 1
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 4 – Travelling by Bus – Part 2
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 5 – How to become a Bollywood Star
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 6 – My Travel Companion in India – Part 1
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 7 – My Travel Companion in India – Part 2
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 8 – My Indian Wives – Part 1
Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 8 – My Indian Wives – Part 2

Section Six: Returning to London Life

In which I got married, started my own businesses, had some ups and down… You know the type of thing…

Section Seven: Forrays into different countries and escaping London again

This is from roughly 2010 until the present time. Will take in Italy, Thailand and Crete. Includes special guest appearances by Brexit and the trump years!

My Under Earning Journey

Over the years I’ve struggled with making more money than the minimum. I’ve grappled with this over the years, I’ve learnt some stuff. I don’t think I’ve overcome it yet, but I’m writing about the process and hopefully, it will help someone, anyone!

My Under Earning Journey – Part 1
My Under Earning Journey – Part 2 – Trying to overcome the blocks
My Under Earning Journey – Part 3 – Plant a Tree
My Under Earning Journey – Part 4 – I’m a GME Retard
My Under Earning Journey – Part 5 – I Nearly Got Scammed

Extra Section: Writings on various topics that don’t have a strong chronological/locational aspect. Personal Essays and Articles.

This will be reorganised as stronger themes develop. But expect some thinly veiled complaining about my wife, some whimsy and some angry rants… I will do my best not to disappoint!

8 things this Introvert learnt from living with an Extrovert
The Benefits for an Introvert to be with an Extrovert
The Great Shit of 2020! — Cosmic Shit Has Come to Light!
What’s Wrong with Expat Kiwi?
Neoliberal Totalitarianism – Poor trump got de-platformed

 

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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Travelling by Train – Part 2

India by Train, 2004-2005

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Part 1 of the Adventures of Kiwi in India is here

I think we know by now that India is a BIG country. But did you know that sometimes a journey in India can take several days, going from the East to the West or North to South? Some people might find this interminably boring, but I found that it was one of the few times when I wasn’t seen as a tourist (or a walking wallet) and wasn’t being hustled by the endless stream of hustlers that seem to make up 90% of the Indian population.

I was engaged in respectful and interesting conversation by normal, working Indians. Those Indians would protect me and other tourists from the numerous touts and beggers that preyed on foreigners, either learning in the windows at the station or getting to the train at one station and working their way down the train to gather whatever they could before getting off at the next station and repeating in the other direction.

Once, on a three-day journey from Chennai in South India to Mumbai in North-Central India, I was awoken in the middle of the night by an unknown man.

He smiled at me and said ‘Get off the train’

‘What?’ I thought in my sleep-addled state…

Be insisted, ‘Get off the train and go to that stall over there’ he pointed…

I stumbled off the train in the humid warmth of the early morning hours and made my way towards a gaggle of people crowded around a solitary stall on the train station platform.

As I approached the back of the crowd one of the men in the group turned around and motions to me for some money, I don’t remember how much, I just handed it over, and moments later a small wooden tray (biodegradable) was placed into my hands containing a number of small round dough balls swimming in syrup, freshly cooked Gulab Jamun!

Adventures of Kiwi in India - gulab jamun in the middle of the night
Being Woken by a strange man in the middle of the night isn’t always a bad thing…

Collectively we milled about on the platform gleefully eating this unexpected middle of the night treat, and once we’d finished we filed silently back onto the train, smiles on our faces, returned to our sleeping bunks and the train resumed its journey…

So sometimes, being woken in the middle of the night by a strange man isn’t a bad thing!

Adventures of Kiwi in India - The unexpected pleasure of gulab jamun on a train platform
The unexpected pleasure of gulab jamun on a train platform in the middle of the night

On another journey, my travelling companion and I bumped into another pair of foreigners. Two young women on the train, travelling in the same direction as us. We shared a train compartment for a short time.

The first girl was from England and she introduced herself and the second girl…

‘She’s from Kazakhstan!’ Like Borat! Tee hee hee hee’

Meeting a Kiwi in India on the train, it wasn't the highlight of the Kazakh girl's India trip

Bearing in mind that the first Borat film had recently been released and was currently universally hated by all citizens of the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I don’t think the Kazakh girl actually said a word to us, just rolled over in her bunk and faced the wall… Probably she would have had a better time on her Indian trip if she’d ditched the English girl and been able to make connections with different people before their first impression of her was forever tainted with the Borat connection…

Meeting a Kazakh girl on the train, it wasn't the highlight of her India trip
I hope the rest of her trip was VERY NICE!

One of my most memorable experiences on a train was travelling for several days while sharing a compartment with several Ethiopian Muslims. They were friendly and generous with their food, all of which they brought with them.

They had a seemingly endless supply of honey, dates. white bread and milk. I don’t know if this was a religious thing or if they just really like carb-heavy treats?

Honey and Dates - just missing the white bread
Their seemingly endless supply of honey, dates and white bread.

They refused all offers of our food but happily shared theirs with anyone who would accept their generosity, all the while gathering a group of the other Muslims on the train so that they could pray together. One of the gang resembled a small gnome, complete with a little beard.

Soon our compartment was crowded with guys trying to find the correct direction for mecca. Given that this was a moving train it proved to be difficult for them.

African Muslim Man Making Traditional Prayer To God While Wearing A Traditional Cap Dishdasha
Trying to find Mecca on a moving train was a challenge but they were undeterred.

An Indian man who was sharing the compartment scoffed that they spent all of their time praying and felt that it was ridiculous!

He asked me what my religion was, at the time I had identified with Buddhism, and he was fine with this because ‘ we basically pray in the same way’.

I thought this was a slightly odd distinction to make, but India is a slightly odd place.

During our time together, and between their frequent prayer sessions, I had the opportunity to converse with the leader of the Ethiopian Muslims.

He was constantly on the hunt for new recruits and we had a number of debates during the journey about different religions, prayer vs meditation and what constitutes a good life.

My biggest victory was getting him to admit that it didn’t really matter which religion people were, as long as they lived a good life.

I felt happy with that and chalk it up as one for human unification! But I have no idea if it changed his recruitment drive or not…

african-muslim-man-praying-to-god-wearing-traditional-cap-dishdasha
It’s my belief that it’s more important to live a good life than to belong to a certain religion.

Part 3 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – Travelling by Bus – is coming soon!

But until then, why not sign up to our newsletter and be informed as soon as the next post is published!

 

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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Travelling by Train – Part 1

India by Train, 2004-2005

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

India is so big that they call it a sub-continent. According to Wikipedia, there are 122 official, individual languages, and 1599 ‘other’ languages in this unique and bizarre country.

When visiting the North of India, while speaking to a South India, I was informed that they consider themselves as foreigners there.

This extremely diverse country is unified by the language that was brought to them by their former oppressors, the British Empire, in the form of the English language. It is the commonality amongst 1 billion people from different regions, with different religions, languages and ethnicities.

While the British were cruel and brutal masters, spawning the peaceful rebellion of the great Gandhi, they also left an infrastructure that connected the country, in the form of the glorious railway system!

This would be the primary way of travelling during my 9 months in India (with a break in Nepal… they don’t have so much of a train system due to the mountains. My adventures by Bus are another story altogether!)

The first memorable train journey I took was a narrow gauge train up the mountainside from Kalka to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas. This 96 km piece of track was completed in 1903 and existed to transport the government of the occupying British administration between Delhi and their summer capital in Shimla.

narrow-gauge train up the mountainside from Kalka to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas - Kiwi in India
Kalka to Shimla narrow-gauge train journey

New Zealand has narrow-gauge railways, required to make turns in the hills and mountains and are generally 24 inches or 60 centimetres, but some go as tiny as 10 and a half inches or 25.4 centimetres.

This Indian Kalka to Shimla track is 2 feet and 6 inches wide, or 76.2 cm, gigantic by New Zealand standards.

The memorable thing about this journey was the beautiful and picturesque journey through forest and hills. At one point the train is curling around a tight valley and it’s possible to take a photo of most of the train in one shot (But can I find that photo on my old photo CDs… No!)

narrow-gauge train up the mountainside from Kalka to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas
Didn’t capture the whole train but you get the idea.

The funny thing about arriving at the destination was the effect the altitude had on me (and the bout of food poisoning that I caught just before leaving Delhi). I was so shakey that this altitude of 2,276 m (7,467 ft) above sea level left me gasping for breath. I’m not very good at altitudes. Lucky I’m not interested in climbing mountains.

So my travelling companion and I enlisted (or rather got a little bit hustled into accepting) the help of a local Gurkah, who for a few rupees picked up both of our packs (weighing in the area of 35 to 40kgs) and strapped them to his back with a bootlace, and literally ran up the hill from the station, leaving both of us gasping for breath in his dust!

Standard gas delivery system in Shimla
The standard gas delivery system in Shimla

Shimla is a beautiful and picturesque town that time left behind (or at least time had left it behind in 2004 when I was there… I hope it’s not full of terrible highrise building by now, I guess not, as it’s built on the side of a mountain) and I highly recommend visiting it if you find yourself in the north of India!

Shimla in 2004
Shimla in 2004… I wonder what it’s like now…

In India, if you want to go a good distance at speed and in style, the Shatabdi Express is the one for you! It costs more than the usual long-distance trains, but is much closer in comfort to Western trains and even included a hot meal! The Shatabdi Express is most often used by Profesional Indians as a commuter train and is very easy to use… But some care is needed. The writing in India is best described as Squiggly, and although English is usually written nearby, the proximity of platforms and departure times can be tricky…

My travel companion and I boarded what we thought was the correct train south, on what we thought was the correct platform, and it left within minutes of the correct time. But about 30 minutes into our 2 and a half hour journey the ticket inspector informed us that we were on the wrong train, that it actually left from the adjacent platform several minutes later.

And that we would have to get off at the next stop and return to Delhi. The next stop wasn’t for another hour or so as this was a fast train that didn’t stop at every village it passed…

So we buckled ourselves in and enjoyed the journey.

The return train ride took twice as long, stopped at every goat shed on the way and took up most of the day. Luckily we were informed by the ticket inspector that we could apply for a refund for our ticket as long as we went to Ticket office 19 and filled out a form within 8 hours of the train’s arrival at its destination.

By the time we got back to Delhi Central Station, it was approaching the time limit and although we were tired from a day of trains and stations, we decided now was the moment to get our money back. It was only something like £30 but it was a lot for a couple of shoestring travellers.

Delhi central station mail sorting area
An example of the madness of India – Delhi central station mail sorting area

Delhi Central Station is a typical Indian affair, grand British Raj style architecture, entirely taken over by the madness that is Indian life. There were families literally living in the station hall cooking their food on little portable cookers, touts preying on newly arrived tourists, and touts praying to their gods in the breaks between preying on newly arrived tourist.

We set out on our mission to get our refund at Ticket Office 19. The ticket offices lining the ticket hall were numbered from 1 to 18 in the main area, and from 20 to 32 in another area, but the coveted Ticket Office 19 was nowhere to be found.

We wandered back and forth, carrying our too-heavy packs in the heat that is Delhi while the time on the clock slowly ticked by… this £30 was looking less and less likely to find its way back to us.

Eventually, my travel companion did the Girly-thing to do and asked someone. Amazingly it worked!

We were directed to a set of unmarked stairs between Office 18 and 20. A cunning ploy to not pay people their refunds perhaps?

These stairs led up to another floor, along a corridor and into a huge admin area that was like quite literally stepping back in time to the British Empire.

Not a computer in sight, folders stuffed with pieces of paper lined the hallway like they were building a wall, clerks bent over desks with those green lamps that you see in old banks on each desk, they virtually had visors and clips on their sleeves.

Green Bankers Desk lamps on every desk, not a computer in site. Delhi Train station, Desk 19
Green Bankers Desk lamps like these on every desk, not a computer in sight, at Desk 19 in Delhi Train station.

It was quite a wonderful sight.

The clerk that served us had impeccable English with a strong accent, was efficient and gracious, and not long after had returned our cash to us, after a stern warning about taking the correct train in future.

So after our day of travel, we had ended up in exactly the same place as we started, returned to the same hotel and planned to strike out again the following day on the correct train…

However, India had different plans for us!

We had an encounter with Bollywood instead!

Part 2 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – Travelling by Train – is coming soon!

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The Great Shit of 2020! Cosmic Shit Has Come to Light!

Great Shit - 2020 has been a big poo

December 21st 2020 is an important day in Astrology

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Apparently, lots of stuff is happening, things are resolving, big cosmic alignments are occurring… There is a lot of Great shit coming to pass!

Great Shit is happening on the 21st of December 2020 - Cosmic Star Trails
Great Shit is happening on the 21st of December 2020 – Are you ready?

I know this because I’m married to a secret hippy. She looks like a normal human being, but in the past, she has consulted psychics, commissioned a Feng Shui expert to sort our house energy out and paid way too much to a guy to ‘Align’ our house (and it turned out that he didn’t really believe in it himself, although he certainly believed in the money!).

In addition to the examples above, we are living where we are because of a Locational Astrologer… Ok, to be fair that one came via my father, who was the spiritual light in my early life, to balance up my extremely pragmatic Kiwi mother. But it was my wife who reached out to my dad for the connection to Mr Julian Lee. And in all honesty, it has worked out very well for us, so who’s to say that it’s not legit!

Great Shit of 2020 - Groovy Galaxy
Great Shit is happening on the 21st, are you ready? Me either!

To add to the hippy credentials of my wife, she was also involved in a dodgy meditation group for a while… But I think that deserves an entire post (or series of posts?) of its own… For now, we’re just talking about a Cosmic Shit…

Lately, my wife has started to work with a lovely Reiki teacher, who is guiding a group of participants through the energetic maelstrom (or should that be shit-storm?) that is bound to ensue with the Great shift on the 21st of December 2020… (I’m signed up to the Reiki group on the 21st but I’m not really sure what I’ve gotten myself into yet… I’ll report back in due course).

Since my wife is a very helpful and sharing type of person, she was messaging some mutual friends about the upcoming Astrological changes and what to look out for…

Intentional or not, one of our friends wrote back about the ‘Great Shit’ of 2020, which is somehow appropriate given that 2020 has been one ordeal of a year and I think everyone is just waiting to get it out of their system, to get it all over with!

We are all waiting for the Astrological bowel movement to pass so that we can safely and cleanly move forwards with our lives, reconnect with friends and family, and generally put this shitty year behind us all!

Great Shit - 2020 has been a big poo
This Shit has gone far enough!

It also might explain why we all needed so much toilet paper this year!

Some parting advice for Shitting 2020…

  • Be sure to wipe from front to back – Get the whole year off in one good wipe
  • Remember to wash your hands properly – We don’t want to spread any of the remnants of the year around
  • Flush as often as you need to get 2020 down and around the s-bend – This has been a big one!

But don’t celebrate too soon, the biggest shit won’t be gone until the 20th of January!

Great Shit 2020 - Don't run out of toilet paper
Don’t run out of toilet paper until the Big One has gone down!

The Next Part of The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon…

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Adventures of an Expat Kiwi – Part 6 – Welcome to Birmingham

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Birmingham – June or July 1997

Part One, Two, Three, Four and Five of the Adventures of an Expat Kiwi are here…

The Bullring Centre in Birmingham looked like this in the mid to late 90's - Expat Kiwi's adventures in Birmingham
The Bullring Centre in Birmingham looked like this in the mid-to-late ’90s when I visited

After about 6 weeks working in the pub, and after my boss accused me of shorting the tips for the Office/Her Drinking Fund, I had built my funds back up to somewhere near what they were when I arrived in the UK. So still with less than a grand to my name, I decided it was time to look for greener pastures.

One night in the basement bar of the Eastbourne Terrace hostel, I met a tall, friendly and outgoing Canadian guy, called Orlando. He had just returned from a visit home to see his family in Canada and was staying in London for a few days to catch up with friends before heading back to this awesome, exciting and outstanding city where we lived, not far from London.

He was singing the praises of this overlooked, little gem of a city. This haven of joy and fun, of parties and night clubs, of drastically reduced cost-of-living… Of culinary delight!

I and a few other travellers were definitely interested.

Orlando offered to put me and a Kiwi girl I’d met in the hostel, I recall her name was Carla, up at his place to check out the wonders that Birmingham had to offer.

Mosley Shoals by Ocean Colour Scene - 1996

He lived in the Village of Mosley, made famous by the Ocean Colour Scene album, Mosley Shoals, that had been huge about a year before. Mosley Village was a small green suburb a few miles south of the city centre.

Orlando spoke of the club night Godskitchen at the Sanctuary Nightclub in town. He spoke of the path to paradise, Ladypool road in nearby Balsall Heath, known to the locals as Balti Boulevard (or was it the Balti Mile?). Reportedly where the Balti was invented and home to the best Curry in England.

Godskitchen Birmingham at the Sanctuary
Godskitchen at the Sanctuary in Birmingham, circa 1997

The way he told tales of the place there was no reason to remain in London for a moment longer!

We travelled as a trio to Birmingham. This was my first experience of using the National Express Coach service. This was a short journey, so it wasn’t too bad, but for a three-hour journey, I was surprised to still be on the outskirts of London after half of the time had elapsed. Either London was the entire universe now and had swallowed up all other cities, or we were going to be belting it once we left the city limits.

Sure enough, once London finally disappeared into the background and the coach joined the motorway North, the driver really opened her up and we arrived pretty much on schedule.  It is accurate to say that London traffic doubles your journey time.

We entered Birmingham and passed the famous Bullring centre. Someone had the bright idea to put all of the cars above ground and the people below ground, presumably to keep them safe from the Midlands weather, and the area around the Bullring had become known as a muggers paradise. The Bullring centre had already undergone it’s second revamp, a third was yet to come. It still looked pretty grim.

The Bull Ring Centre in the 1990's
The Bull Ring, it’s not the most inviting place…

We arrived at Orlando’s house, a pretty two and a half story terrace house in a green and leafy street. We met his housemates and probably got a takeout curry.

One of the housemates had left suddenly in Orlando’s absence, so he got an upgrade to the loft room and I stayed in the spare room with Carla. We shared a bed but nothing happened. There was no interest and no chemistry between us. Or at least I wasn’t interested in her. I have been known to miss the ‘signs’ before.

I wasn’t looking for romance, I had just made my first foray out of the confines of London. This expat Kiwi had discovered that there was an entire country outside of London!

I didn’t know if I would stay in Birmingham or not, but I knew that I was going to keep exploring more of the UK. I had heard a lot about Scotland, Ireland was enticing too… But for now, this expat Kiwi was enjoying the green and open spaces of Birmingham, of Mosley village and Kings Heath.

For the first time in my life, I tasted a somewhat authentic curry! The best I would get outside of India. The curry that I had eaten as a child, the curry that I had grown up on, the curry made by my lovely and wonderful mother… Came out of a tin. I always thought that I hated curry.

This was a curry that wasn’t made from a beige-brown powder, didn’t come from a tin and didn’t smell a bit like shit. There was hope for my undereducated Kiwi palet yet!

The Next Part of The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon…

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The Benefits for an Introvert to be with an Extrovert

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

So my previous article, where I wrote about what I learned as an introvert being married to an extrovert didn’t go down very well with my wife. While she laughed out loud when reading it, she also felt that it was one-sided and didn’t represent her very well.
Yes, she is my only regular reader on Medium at present… Oops, I didn’t think about that when I hit publish…

So to give the other side of the story and stop the imminent divorce proceedings, please allow me to elaborate and fill in the many details that I left out of the previous article.

She is always checking in with me to find out how I am

I have a tendency to suffer in silence, bottling everything up and holding it all down. No, I’m not British but I lived in England for around 20 years, so some of that stoicism rubbed off on me. And of course, I learnt from my Kiwi mum that you just get on with things and don’t complain. so, as a result, I’m keeping it all inside and trying to deal with it on the quiet…

But, because my wife is also a highly-sensitive extrovert, feels that there is something going on and she ever so gently enquires. And then when I say ‘I’m fine’ she enquires slightly less gently and is again met with ‘I’m ok’ so she gets more insistent and a little less gentle…

This continues until I finally crack and spill the beans… Usually, I’m worried about money or work or something like that, and not as her imagination has conjured up that I am secretly packing my bags and planning to leave her imminently.

Image for post

Sometimes, I’m lost in the dark like a jellyfish

She is the one who insisted that I take on a Life Coach

My wife likes Life Coaching and gets a lot out of the engagement, but when she suggested that I get a coach too I wasn’t particularly keen.
A few years ago I had a very good business coach, and a few years before that I had a very bad business coach. But they were Business coaches, not life coaches, and since my business was in a holding pattern while I was focusing on online English teaching, I didn’t need a Business coach.

She pointed out that Life Coaching is about our whole lives, not just our business lives…

Image for post

With a little help, I find my way towards the light

So I reached out to her coach, got four names, interviewed them all and selected my Life Coach. We had a very interesting year-long engagement (no not that kind) and recently finished amicably.

Incidentally, it was also my wife who, through her unique brand of enquiry, allowed me the reflection that I no longer needed to continue with that coach, as I had a new and clear direction to follow…

And not so incidentally, it was also my wife who helped me find, or rather insisted, that I explore and find that new direction…

Yes, it was my wife who encouraged me, repeatedly, even when it didn’t make sense, and when it actually negatively impacted her happy life, to start writing.

In actual fact, it was even her idea for me to write the previous, offending article, even though she now regrets it.

You see she was always a massive supporter of my writing. We met in India about 16 years ago, and I was writing about my travels. Not on a blog, which would have made sense, but instead adding every email address of every person silly enough to share it with me, to my missives from India…

Image for post

Writing lets the light come in

She, along with my Mum (thanks Mum) was the only person who bothered to read them. All these years later they are sadly (luckily?) lost to time… But throughout the years my wife has been the main supporter of any writing that I have undertaken.

She is also the person who regularly reminds me to connect with friends outside of the relationship.

I often say that I talk to people all day every day, and not just her, I have up to 8 English lessons in a day, so I feel very well connected to people… But that’s different to having a chat with a buddy and just shooting the breeze, talking about music or whatever…

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Remembering the good times with friends

She is always thinking about me.

I’ve never had so many random presents for no reason than I have from her.
Ok, my Love Language is shown in Actions, and hers is in Giving, so I haven’t always appreciated the little gifts that turned up for no reason, (but never as a bribe).
Over the years I have come to value these little gestures, but sadly for her, I haven’t yet adopted them myself. Instead, I’ll spend an hour cleaning the kitchen after she cooks. Apparently, it takes many years to learn a new Love Language…

She is such a friendly and outgoing person…

…that I have an instant network and community of people without having to expend my own energy or go outside of my comfort zone.

This is what I consider to be her Superpower. She can enter a room full of strangers and in as little as 15 minutes have learned the names of everyone, and their grannies, made two new life-long friends, been offered a job, offered advice on their kids’ life direction and helped several people with their relationship problems.

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Making new friends is a special skill

Of course, she can sometimes find this exhausting, but it’s also her natural state and it’s impossible to stop her from activating said Superpower…

As a result of this Superpower, we know more people in the small town we have lived in for only a short time, than some friends who have lived here much longer than we have.

Before the pandemic, this had a negative side, where she couldn’t leave the house without bumping into someone she knew and being engaged in a long and drawn-out conversation about their current relationship woes, the state of their children’s education or the fact that granny is in the hospital again with a flare-up of gout. Nanna needs to lay off the wine and cheese!

However! The upside of this was that when the lockdown happened in our wee town, she had built up enough connections in the local supermarkets and shops that we had everything we needed delivered directly to our door!

When I say everything, I mean everything from organic vegetables from our local vegetable man George, the best cuts of meat from the local butchers Vasilis and Lefteris, and all of our groceries from her personal shopper Marina at the Big Supermarket in town.

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Making connections with people is the most important thing

We also got offered contraband Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree (banned from being sold under the Greek quarantine laws), Christmas lights and Christmas cards. Now that is connected!

During the early Pandemic, while our friends in the UK were suffering through 3 and 6 week wait times on having groceries delivered, we were enjoying ‘same-day’ delivery with a personalised service that told us about the best products to choose and the deals that were currently running.

So while it may be occasionally taxing on an introvert to be with an extrovert, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Perhaps my next article will be exploring the trauma and torment she has to endure being an extrovert married to an introvert…

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8 things this Introvert learnt from living with an Extrovert

So, I’m an introvert, a fairly confident and outgoing introvert, but still an introvert.

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

I married an extrovert…

…at times a very unconfident and introspective extrovert, but still an extrovert.

The following are some observations that I have gathered over being married for 13 1/2 years. Perhaps they will help fellow introverts out there who have coupled up with an extrovert.

Just a quick foreword, that I have been with introverts in the past, and while very harmonious I have found that sometimes it got too harmonious. We lacked engagement, we lacked (I don’t want to use the word passion, but dammit!) passion!

When your partner starts to feel like your sibling, that is a problem… I’ve never had that with my extrovert partner.

But there are some very different problems that come with being coupled with an extrovert. These can take a lot for an introvert to get used to.

Allow me to elaborate…

But first, let me also add, that I’m a man writing about the relationship with my female partner, so I’m going to use ‘she’ for the extrovert, but of course, your situation may be different, so no hard feelings right?

She talks so very much!

It’s like if there is a thought in her head she needs to express it, otherwise, something bad might happen?

But the take away here is that She just needs to feel listened to! So while you might be having your own, you know, actually important thoughts, you may need to quickly put them on hold for a moment to ensure that she feels heard.

In the early days of our relationship, before I learnt to express myself better, I had an explosion that has caused us many laughs since. But at the time was the best I could do to try to put a stop to the incessant chatter.

We were lying in bed, either in the morning or the evening, really doesn’t matter.

Because she is always talking.

I was either half asleep or half awake and the words were issuing forth from her mouth, probably about something desperately important. And instead of being a grown-up man, owning my emotions and clearly speaking my needs, I was holding them inside while feeling more and more frustrated, finally erupting with an outburst, while kicking the covers off the bed and sitting up.

“Would. You. Just. Shut. Up!’

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She burst out laughing, which wasn’t exactly my expected outcome. But she did stop talking… Just for a moment…

Which brings me to my next point…

It might just be my experience, but I have found my Extrovert to be somewhat lacking in boundaries. Perhaps I am lacking in boundaries too. Either way, someone needs to put some boundaries in place and since she’s not very good at them, then I need to be the one.

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So remember peeps, to establish boundaries, ideally before you need them. But since that rarely happens, sometime after the most recent time that you realised that you need them is also good. Wait until you’ve both calmed down a bit.
And you’re going to have to repeatedly remind her about these boundaries until they stick…

Since you’re an introvert and your partner is an extrovert you’re doing to have very different coping mechanisms, so make sure that you are aware of yours and that you are taking care of them. Your Coping Mechanisms are those mechanisms that help you cope! They’re going to be unique to you. It might be spending some quiet time alone, listening to music, playing an instrument, reading, writing, watching a favourite show or movie, doing yoga, lifting weights, walking in nature… You know you, so why am I trying to tell you about you? If you don’t already know, you’ll work it out…

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Which brings me to…

I feel like I am in a fairly constant dialogue with my wife; first thing in the morning before coffee, during coffee, in the breaks between my lessons throughout the day (I’m an English teacher working online), before, during and after dinner, then throughout the evening and also before bed…
But that isn’t enough for her! She needs dedicated time to ‘consciously connect… So if your extrovert needs that too, then make sure she gets it!

Of course, fellow introverts, we need to be ok in ourselves, so we need to check in regularly and see how we’re doing.
I’m usually the guy who is doing just fine… Until I’m not. I usually miss the signs because I’m too busy taking care of someone else, you guessed it! My extroverted partner!

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So I’ve been learning to listen to myself, check in regularly and see how I’m feeling and what I’m needing.

I’m also usually the one who doesn’t know what he needs. I’ve been working on that with a life coach until recently. But I still needed a lot of reflection in each session to know (or perhaps, have the courage to say) what I needed, in each session, in my work, in my relationship.
It’s a skill, I guess… Or maybe I’ve got bigger problems.

Naturally, you’ll also need…

Now, this seems really obvious, but if you’re anything like this introvert, you’ll think that you’re doing just fine, that you’ve got all of the contact that you need through your work/online community/pets etc… But be careful about this, especially with the ongoing pandemic keeping us isolated and at home more often than usual.
I find that I can piggyback on the tendencies of my extrovert wife by allowing her to plan online meetups with couple-friends, and I get to see people without expending any effort!
But sometimes I just want to have a chat with my guy friends, so I do on occasion make the effort to reach out to my similarly introverted male friends, to catch up online and shoot the breeze for an hour or so.

I don’t know if I’ve stressed this enough or not, but possibly the single most important factor for keeping introverts, that are partnered up with an extrovert, sane is to have enough time on your own to think your own thoughts and do your own thing, without constant chatter and interruptions.
So make sure that you have some time dialled in for yourself, make it part of your boundaries, part of your requirements!
It will pay you dividends, I guarantee it!

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In Conclusion…

If you are an introvert who is partnered up with an extrovert, make sure that you are taking care of yourself in all of the ways that you need!
Put boundaries in place, have your coping mechanisms ready, listen but put limits on communication, check-in with yourself, get support outside the relationship and protect your own time!

Of course, you could just go and get partnered up with another introvert and skip all of this bother…

But that would defeat the purpose of being with someone so different to yourself!

More writing is coming soon!

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Adventures of an Expat Kiwi – Part 5 – Time to Leave London?

Sawyers Arms Pub in Paddington, the upstairs restaurant looks pretty much the same after all these years. This photo is from Tripadvisor in 2020 so go figure

Time for an Expat Kiwi to leave London?

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

London – June 1997

The pub job in Paddington was going well enough, I was slowly building up my basic waiting and bartending skills, I was making friends and a little money, perhaps I had a shot at being employable after all!

However, after about 6 weeks the boss had turned out to be a bit stranger than I first suspected. 

You may recall my boss was a heavyset Irish woman who had a passionate hate for Fitbas, more commonly called Football Fans, or more accurately, Football Hooligans!

At the end of each week, it was a designated person’s job to divide up all of the tips between the waiting staff, the restaurant staff and the office. Why the office got a share of our tips I’ll never know, but one of the chefs suggested that it might be the boss’s drinking fund.

This was the same week I served a table of Swedish ladies holidaying in London, and because I’m so nice, and because I seem to have a thing for Swedish ladies, (or they for me?) they gave me a £15 tip! That was the single biggest tip I had ever received and I believe that it still stands to this day!

But since I’m such a nice guy, I put that £15 tip (that I earned with my very own niceness!) into the tip jar… And by the end of the week, the tips were only about £1 more than usual!

Another member of staff pointed out that certain members of the waiting team didn’t like to serve tables but were very keen to clear them, and the tips… So this might have been why the tips weren’t significantly higher than in other weeks…

This week it was my turn to count and divvy up the tips. So I dutifully divided the funds fairly and equally between the different staff members and the office.

It was a decent enough week and came to something like £8.26

The next day the boss asked me how much I had given everyone for tips. Off the top of my head, I said ‘Something like £9.26′

In a Gotcha! Moment, she said ‘Ah! You shortchanged the office by a pound!’

Crazy Boss Lady Makes Expat Kiwi Want to Leave London
My crazy boss looked a little bit like this…

A Pound? A Pound, really?

To be honest, I was taken off guard, not expecting to be accused of such a petty and insignificant trifle of shorting the office of the tips that we had earned, not least that it wasn’t true… I don’t think I even defended myself. I was shocked, literally speechless.

The job felt sour after that, I didn’t trust that the boss wouldn’t turn on me or another staff member for no reason. I decided perhaps it was time to find gainful employment elsewhere. I decided that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my time in the UK just seeing London…

It was time for an Expat Kiwi to explore the country and find my perfect little spot to get set up for more adventures!

It was around this time that I met a Canadian guy who was staying in the Hostel after returning from a trip home to see his family and was on his way back to his chosen place in the UK. A magical and mystical city of fun and adventure, off the beaten track, far more affordable than London, just a stone’s throw away… in Birmingham!

Sounded great, count me in!

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Part Six of The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon…

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