Growing out a Buzzcut: Part 2

Since the end of October, I have been growing out a buzz cut. Read the first post here.

I wrote the first post in mid December, on a snowy day. Here I am now, on another snowy day in late January, wondering what else there is to say.

People around me are pretty much used to the hair now. That said, I have had a few more compliments now it is getting a bit longer and starting to look different again.

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Look at all that hair!

When I shaved my head in February 2017, I only let it grow to this sort of “dandelion clock” phase, and then bought some clippers to bring it back into some sort of order and resume my long-on-top, short-back-and-sides style.

We have now well and truly past the dandelion stage. My hair is getting LONG. I feel like it is getting to the irritating stage I have been dreading – the unkempt, teenage boy who wants to look like he’s in a metal band, hair in my eyes stage. Yay.

So far all it does in confuse me by brushing my neck and making me wonder if I have some sort of scarf on, or brush my ears, and make me panic, thinking a spider is climbing inside.

I am still ever thankful for hats.

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Yet another hat look
The thing is, I am mainly too lazy to do anything with it, other than comb it behind my ears and into some sort of order. I am not “girly” enough for cute headbands and bows – they just don’t really suit my style.

Mainly I just wear a hat all the time – happily one is part of my work uniform.

I did put some product in it for new year, which I think looked quite nice – it was flattened behind my ears and spiked up a bit on top.

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An attempt at hair for NYE
Perhaps as the length gets more annoying, I will make more effort to tame it!

 

Growing out a Buzzcut: Part 1

Back at the end of October, I shaved my head. This was partially for the wonderful Teenage Cancer Trust, to raise money for the work they do as well as for an amazing Halloween costume – Eleven from Stranger Things!

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Me as Eleven

I shaved my head earlier in the year, mainly to see what it looked like, but I was away in New Zealand, so nobody knew me without a shaved head and I rarely looked in mirrors on my travels and when I worked on a farm there. As soon as it got too long, I shaved the back and sides and returned to my previous haircut.

This time, I am back in Birmingham, with a job and normal life going on around me. I have also decided to grow my hair back to long.

Actually long.

I shaved my hair to 12mm and it has already grown (in six weeks) to around 40mm!

So it has felt different. At home, I spend a lot of time in front of a mirror, so I got used to my new look very quickly. Despite the fact that I don’t wear make up to work and I am generally a very confident person when it comes to my appearance, I feel more obliged to wear make up and dangly earrings to make some effort to look more feminine.

I think this is most likely due to the fact that I am quite masculine anyway and I get mistaken for a lesbian a lot. This isn’t directly a problem – but if someone I would like to date is assuming I am not interested in their gender at all, it isn’t convenient.

Not that that has happened, but you never know.

I suppose it is also partly because some people tend to be overly wary/ intimidated by particularly masculine girls and get somehow offended by a girl who is not obviously feminine. While I don’t care about this that much, I would rather not be hounded by people telling me I look “like a man” or I look “too masculine” with the short hair.

But honestly, all of this is in my mind, because everyone who has seen my before and after hair has been very complimentary. Apparently, it suits my face.

This is what I remind myself of every time I lament how a new spot can’t be easily hidden or when I feel unattractive.

Practically, short hair is both good and bad. It dries in a heartbeat, which is ideal for someone who is always late and hates early mornings. It also requires zero maintenance.

That said, I chose the wrong winter to do this *looks out at the nine inches of snow*.

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Hats are my friends

Now that I am growing it out, it has reached the uncomfortably long stage and I know it will only get “worse” from here – at least for sixth months or so. So now begins phase two: attempting to style out the weird things my hair does as it grows back to shoulder length and beyond. Hopefully I have enough hair products!

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The first attempt at styling my rapidly growing hair!

 

Moroccan Adventures 3: Essaouira by the Sea

We got up reasonably early and made our way to the bus station. We made a quick stop for our usual breakfast at Patisserie des Princes, before continuing on.

The pollution in Marrakech was more obvious since we had been out to the mountains, so we were glad to be heading away again.

At the bus station, we were accosted by a friendly man, who led us through the station to a few ticket desks and then onto the correct bus.

The bus took a while to get going, so we sat there in the hot, loud station, politely decline the various wares we were offered by sellers who kept wandering into the bus. It’s a captive audience, I suppose. It reminded me a bit of the people selling crisps and drinks to those on buses in Samoa – those buses were way cooler though!

The journey was around three hours and horribly hot and uncomfortable.

They did have one stop where one could buy a drink or go to the toilet, but I felt so rough that I didn’t want to move.

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Inside Essaouira’s old town

We arrived and walked through the slightly less nice bit of Essaouira and entered the lovely, cool, old town. The streets there were mostly empty, apart from those with shops, but had a much more relaxed atmosphere than those in Marrakech. We continued on and found our amazing riad. This was the most expensive of our accommodations for this trip – and still only £23 each!

It was called Riad Al Zahara and it was stunning. The room was a few floors up, it was large, it had its own bathroom and a ceiling fan! We also were given free water and chocolates.

It was once we were in the room, that I realised that I still had the room key from when we were in Marrakech! Luckily, we were returning there the next day! Oops!

We explored the terrace – a beautiful area on the roof with great views and a wonderful breeze. It was just stunning up there.

After getting way too excited about the riad and our coastal location, we practically ran out to visit the sea.

It was amazing! Not perhaps as warm as expected, but by no means cold. The waves crashed in around us as we looked down a beach that apparently went on forever. We had a lovely long walk, before heading back, trying to avoid getting sand in our eyes as gusts of wind swept in.

We had nearly got the the edge of the beach when we were stopped by two local boys, both working in tourism. We spoke to them for ages, well, we mainly listened. You know how it is.

Eventually, after carefully avoiding handing out our numbers or hotel name, we “agreed” to meet them at a cafe that evening. We had other plans.

On our way back through the beautiful streets, we stopped for the first, and last, ice cream of the Moroccan tour.

That evening, we found a highly recommended and slighlty odd restaurant to have dinner. It was strange fusion food, which was mainly nice. We especially enjoyed the unusual decor. Recommended for the adventurous!

After dinner we tried to get drink on the terrace of our Riad, but sadly it was closed. In fairness, it was very windy and very dark.

After an incredibly comfortable and not at all hot night’s sleep. We awoke and climbed back up to the terrace for an amazing breakfast!

We loved the terrace so much, we didn’t want to leave, so we came back after checking out and bought drinks!

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Lovely wine

I had the only alcohol either of us had in Morocco in a glass of white wine. Tasty! We had a great chat and admired the incredible view in our sunny, but not overly hot, surroundings.

We both still had some money left, so went out to do some more shopping before we left the beautiful seaside town. We found a lovely quiet market street, with beautiful arched shops set into the town wall. I bought a pretty tagine-shaped tealight holder and Sam bought a few things from the same shop.

The man then offered to show us some wooden products, made out of traditional wood, in the shop next door. We obliged and he showed us some beautifully carved pieces. I was completely in awe of a clever puzzle box that he showed us and so I had to buy it. It was too clever to pass up.

We found a vegetarian place for lunch, which had pretty decent food. I was quite slow eating though, so Sam went to get our bags while I finished up. We began the walk back to the bus station, lamenting the length of time we spent in Essaouira – our favourite place on the trip!

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Lunch in Essaouira

While navigating on my phone as we made our way back, I proved that I could no longer take a holiday without falling over and tripped down a small set of steps. Luckily, there was not much damage.

We reached the bus station in time to board a slightly nicer bus than the one we had taken to Essaouira and began our journey back to the mad, polluted, eye-opening city.

The journey was much nicer, although we of course hit traffic in Marrakech – we found some questionable music on my phone to pass the time though!

We exited the bus and walked back to our riad as the sun set in a spectacular orange show. The walk was reasonably long, so it was dark by the time we got in and slipped our old room key sneakily back onto the table in the foyer and made our way upstairs to our final room in Hotel Aday.

We spent the evening relaxing and packing and drinking freezer-cold drinks that we bought from the hotel. After the cool streets of Essaouira, Marrakech was stifling!

We had to be up early to get back to the airport, so we slept early too and left after a minor kerfuffle with finding someone to open the front door!

We were determined to get the bus to the airport, and even turned away two taxi drivers, but as time went on, we realised that the bus was late, so found one of the drivers and got a taxi for the same price!

We had checked in online, but despite this, we were made to wait and queue for check in, to get some sort of stamp. This was thoroughly annoying, given how we had to pay to check in early online. Hooray for Ryanair.

Eventually we got through the queue, passed passport control and security with minimum fuss and got into duty free.

With our last scraps of dirhams, we went to Starbucks for breakfast. This seemed like a good idea.

I had a cheese crossiant. Which I ate with a plastic fork.

I was very hungry, as usual, so I was eating quite quickly.

I paused briefly about one third of the way in, and noticed that one of the prongs of my fork had snapped off. So I went to pick it out of the remaining food.

It. Wasn’t. There.

Somehow, I had managed to eat so fast, and with so little chewing that I had EATEN A PLASTIC FORK PRONG.

Wow.

Not my finest hour.

After Sam had convinced me that I wouldn’t die, we boarded our plane and flew back home.

Morocco was such an incredible place to visit, with such a different landscape and culture to anything I had previously experienced. This is why I love travel – it broadens your sense of what it means to be a citizen of this planet.

My advice for anyone wanting to visit Morocco in an adventurous way – don’t fall into the trap of staying in Marrakech the whole time. Marrakech is great, but there is so much more to Morocco than that and Sam and I barely scratched the surface!

Going to Morocco and only seeing Marrakech is like going to England and only seeing London – it’s fun, but doesn’t give you a full picture of what the country is like.

Many many thanks to my wonderful German farm buddy, Chris, for recommending Essaouira and Imlil to me – visiting these wonderful places totally made our trip!

Moroccan Adventures 2: The Mountains of Imlil

It was early when we left our accommodation in search of a Grand Taxi to Imlil.

Petit Taxis operate inside of the city and Grand Taxis go between cities.

We struggled to find the place where the taxis depart from, and after asking several people and meandering around, we eventually found the place where they congregate. It is just inside of the Bab Agnaou gate.

We found a Grand Taxi and agreed to pay a reasonably large amount for both of us to go immediately.

The drive started in the mad streets of Marrakesh, which was understandably stressful, as the taxi weaved in and out of the dense traffic, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, scooters and donkeys as it went.

Out on the open road to Imlil, the driving was no less terrifying, with the driver overtaking slower vehicles on the wrong side of the road, with startlingly close oncoming traffic!

It was really fascinating to be out in the plains though. We passed tiny settlements and gazed out over the vast desert. The mountains rose abruptly in the distance, truly scraping the sky. It was hard to believe that they could be as big as they are.

Eventually we reached the Atlas mountains. The roads became twistier, the landscape became a red, rocky world, peppered with small towns. We rounded corners on the wrong side of the road, including blind hairpin bends, but we didn’t even have a near miss with another car.

I watched the journey intermittently on my map app, noting interesting place names and the remaining time to our destination.

I also attempted to take photos out of the window, with limited success.

Eventually, we reached Imlil. The main town was quite busy, with a massive digger-like vehicle blocking the street in the village centre – pounding the remains of a building with a neumatic drill attachment.

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Work being done in the village centre

We we driven up the hill towards our accommodation and dropped, with the vague instructions to follow a path down and it was “round the corner”.

We made our way down the little path, past some houses and over a bridge which crossed a dry riverbed. Presumably this river flowed strongly in the spring, after the snow in the higher mountains melted.

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Just down the steps from our accommodation

The path took us through some knarly trees and past an orchard. Sheep filled the road in front of us, so we passed then and climbed up a hill next to what was likely a waste water run-off.

At the top of some stairs, a woman greeted us and led us into a building that was our accommodation.

We waited for our room to be made ready and chose from two – the room we chose was the fancier of the two, with an ensuite and a double bed. The other room looked a bit dorm-like.

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Beautiful Imlil

We later realised that we had taken a room booked by a German couple. Oops!

We were given tea and snacks by the host, Jamal, which we enjoyed as he introduced us to his family.

After tea, we asked Jamal about walks in the area and he gave us a route that would take us up to the Berber village and give us great views of the mountains and the valley below.

We thanked him and headed out. The walk was hot, but not in the stifling way that Marrakech had been. The air was fresh and clean up in the mountains.

The walk took us up a steep hill, where we were greeted by Ibrahim, a man working for a Berber coop selling local crafts. The Berber people are the original peoples of North Africa.

We browsed the crafts, feeling relaxed in this shopping environment, unlike we had in Marrakech.

The coop was a large room, filled with pottery, carpets, clothing, jewellery and other assorted trinkets.

I took a shine to the carved and polished fossils. The fossils came from the dessert and were the remains of bones and shells of ancient sea creatures, from when the dessert was a sea.

Sam and I chose some to buy and had a little go at haggling. We didn’t feel like we were very good at it, but we also didn’t feel like we had over paid for what we bought.

We had a lovely chat with Ibrahim too, who also offered us tea.

We carried on up the steep hill and met two boys who talked to us a bit and told us some words in the Berber language. They also said there was a beautiful waterfall nearby which we should visit.

We carried on our climb up to the village and eventually reached a level with a gorgeous view.

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Wow.

There we met Abdul, another friendly store owner, who showed us his products – demonstrating a very cool little toy – a box you slide open to reveal a little wooden snake that pops out and hits your finger. He startled Sam with it, which was hilarious.

We bought some freshly pressed orange juice from Abdul and sat for a while gazing out down the valley.

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Fresh orange juice!

We wandered on through the village, admiring the views.

Our route took us round and over another bridge, then along a basic road back towards the place where we were staying.

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Arty shot of Sam and the mountains

We took a turn off down a rugged path that zig-zagged down a scree slope.

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View back to the Berber village

We saw a donkey using the path too, it’s back packed with a heavy load. The donkeys are used to transport both people and goods around various areas of Morocco and they work very hard. Occasionally we saw examples of cruelty, where a donkey was forced to go faster than it sensibly could.

We carried on down the hill and realised that the waterfall we had been told to visit was just below us. We walked along next to the narrow channels that directed the water until we reached the waterfall.

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How beautiful – one of many, many photos

There was a bar next to it and sets of tables and chairs for people who wanted to stay for a few hours. Sam and I took photos happily. Sam also decided to wander into the water, swamping her shoes, to explore and cool her feet!

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Sam after wading through the water

We wandered slowly back through the village to our accommodation, buying some more drinks on the way.

We wanted to eat dinner at the accommodation, but we couldn’t find the family to find out how that worked, so we explored the sunny terrace, which had amazing views and met the cow that lived behind the house.

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The lovely terrace

We decided to walk into the village to find food and after a false start, found a place by accident.

We were walking through the village and were asked to look in a store. Sam replied that we were actually looking for food. The store owner then led us into a restaurant.

Sadly, there wasn’t a vegetarian option there for me, so I decided to eat the chicken tagine. The food was nice and we had a beautiful view of the mountains.

We walked back up the dark hill to our accommodation. The walk was nice and relaxing, apart from the moment where I almost walking into a giant frog-like creature, which turned out to be a Berber Toad. I tried to take a photo, but it was basically impossible as the toad, understandably, wanted to leave very quickly.

We sat in the terrace and enjoyed the view of the stars. It was such an incredible place to sit at night. Imlil’s relative peace and quiet suited us much more than the mad streets of Marrakech, and we slightly wished that we had stayed in Imlil for longer.

Eventually, we headed down to bed. I slept well, apart from getting up to have a quick cold shower at one point because I was too hot – this happened constantly in Marrakech, and although Imlil was colder, it was still pretty warm.

In the morning, we received our included breakfast. We had eggs, tasty bread, butter, jams, nuts and copious tea. It was lovely.

There was a couple there two, from Germany. They were also leaving that day so we decided to get a Grand Taxi with them.

We packed up and ventured out, making our way towards the Grand Taxi station in the village centre.

We didn’t get that far, however.

We met a taxi driver coming the other way, who offered us a taxi at a tourist rate – similar to what Sam and I had paid on the way over. We really wanted to keep costs down, so we refused as we could get a much cheaper local rate in the village.

The taxi man bartered down, but we held our ground, and in the end, he told us that he would call someone he knew who would do it at the price we wanted. Success!

We waited in the heat for a while and exchanged stories with the couple. The taxi arrived and we began our windy journey away from the peace of the mountains back to the rush of the city.

We checked back in to our hotel – a different room this time. After unpacking, we went out in search of souvenirs in the souks.

This took a long long time, because I wanted to find an anklet I had seen with little camels on, which took forever to find. Like a couple of hours.

I didn’t buy it.

It wasn’t as nice as I remembered.

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The camel anklets were too small and not as good quality as I had remembered!

Sam managed to find a few things that she wanted though and we had a good explore of everything that the souks had to offer.

We also came across a man who showed us the dyes they use for cloth. He explained the process, including showing us a very dirty little room that they work in. Some of the colours were stunningly vibrant and some of the pigments even changed colour quite drastically when water was added to them.

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Dyed wools hanging out to dry

After our semi-successful shopping trip, we returned to the hotel for another very hot night before our journey out to Essaouira.

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Dyes being demonstrated

 

 

Moroccan Adventures 1: Meeting Marrakech

On September 10th, after maybe three hours sleep at Sam’s friend’s house, Sam and I hopped in a taxi to Stanstead airport to start our Moroccan Adventure.

We spent the airport time being wearily excited, relaxing in the main seating area until it was time to go to the gate.

As we had checked in online quite late, we ended up in separate seats, at quite different ends of the plane. I sat down and got settled. A man came over to talk to the girl next to me. She started complaining about how she didn’t want to sit alone. I said I didn’t mind switching seats with him as I was alone.

They thanked me and he led me down the plane to his seat.

It was the one next to Sam. What are the chances?

I wanted to sleep on the flight, but it was with Ryanair, so the non-reclining seats made it nearly impossible.

The flight was nearly four hours long and felt slow – I had gotten used to long haul flights, with their comfy seats and in-flight entertainment.

We eventually arrived and made our way across the warm tarmac, into the air conditioned terminal.

The terminal building was very nice, but the queue for passport control was very long and slow. We finally made it out, with shiny new passport stamps, to get my bag which had ended up in the hold because apparently Ryanair would rather pack more people into their planes than make sure everyone could have their cabin bag with them.

We exchanged some money and exited the terminal. It was still early, so the heat wasn’t too stifling, but it was certainly hotter than the UK. We struggled to find the bus stop and eventually agreed to take a taxi into Marrakech.

As we drove into the city, we admired the buildings and trees and excitedly reminded each other that we were in Africa now!

We got to the old centre of Marrakech, the Medina, paid for the taxi and walked to our accommodation.

This is where I want to share about the wonders of maps.me. Maps.me is an app I downloaded that is my travel essential. Forget special travel gadgets, fancy rucksacks or any kind of multi tool: maps.me is my travel saviour.

The app is an offline map app, which allows you to pin locations in sets with different colours and has a route feature for walking or driving. It is excellent, despite not being perfectly functional and you can download whichever areas of the world you want to. Updates are frequent and the app is completely free.

We used maps.me to get us to our accommodation, where we checked in and had a nap.

After the nap, we headed out to find the henna cafe, to have some food and maybe get some henna done too.

We left our Riad and walked in the direction of the main square – Jemaa el-Fnaa.

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Jemaa el-Fnaa

The main square was our least favourite spot in Marrakech. It is super busy and full of people trying to sell you things, often in very forceful ways.

As we crossed the main square, a woman accosted us and offered us henna. We said no and walked on (I had read that it was better to get henna in one of the cafes).

As we walked away, the woman grabbed Sam’s wrist and proceeded to do an incredibly fast, pretty crappy henna design on her hand.

Sam was too stunned at this point to stop her.

The lady finished, then demanded an extortionate amount of money for the design. Sam argued that the amount was ridiculous and handed over a small amount to try to make the woman go away.

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Sam’s squiggly henna

We then ran away.

This is not uncommon in the square – there are also men with monkeys on chains, which is obviously very cruel, who will throw them onto tourists and then demand money for a photo.

Sam and I mainly avoided the square for the remainder of our visit, only skirting the edges when we had to.

We walked on through the busy streets until we found the henna cafe. We climbed the stairs and, after Sam had washed her unwanted henna off, sat down to eat.

The food was lovely and filling, washed down with beautiful Moroccan mint tea. The terrace was high above the noisy street and a wonderfully calm place to sit.

After eating, I paid for a henna design, done quickly and expertly by a little old lady with henna stained hands.

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My henna (the next day, after leaving it on overnight)

We sat there for quite a long time, before heading back out to explore the bustling streets.

We wandered aimlessly, enjoying the unfamiliar sights. We were impressed by a lot of the products – especially the beautiful pottery.

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Inside one of the souks

The streets we ended up on were relatively quiet, although we were surprised to see scooters zipping through the narrow streets of the souks. The main noise came from the store owners, who were trying to get out attention.

The golden rule is not to stand for too long by something you might not want to buy – a woman was literally chased by a stall owner who had placed an item, one that she clearly didn’t want, in a bag for her!

Eventually, we made our way back to our accommodation, where we had a lazy evening as we were still very tired.

The next morning, we grabbed a crossiant from Patisserie des Princes and began our walk to Jardin Majorelle.

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Enroute to Majorelle

The walk was long and hot and through some of the smelliest and busiest streets we had encountered in the Medina. One street was so full of people, bikes, scooters and a van, that we were temporarily trapped between a fish stall and one with live chickens. Lovely.

Jardin Majorelle was so beautiful, with stunning colours on the pots and structures around the garden. The incredibly vibrant blue catches the eye – just gorgeous.

We were enthralled by the carp and the terrapins in the pools of the garden as well as the massive cacti that towered out from the ground.

It was an oasis of calm in a busy city. The Medina is a mad place, teeming with life. Outside the Medina is pretty crazy too, just in a more usual city kind of way – bigger shops, more modern buildings in sandy colours and the fun of Moroccan driving on bigger roads.

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What an incredible place

After the garden we bought some postcards and trudged through the baking streets to find a Carrefour to buy some snacks. We also bought some more drinks as the heat was quite devastating.

It is a shame that one can’t drink Moroccan tap water, because, despite low prices, a lot of your money goes on drinks in such a hot place!

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Old city wall

On the recommendation of a friend, we visited Ensemble Artisnal. It was a bit of a walk from the Carrefour, but we found it quite easily thanks to my map app. It is a market just outside the Medina where locally made craft items are sold at fair prices, without the need to barter – easy for western tourists who aren’t used to the concept!

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The entranceway to Ensemble Artisnal

The products in there were especially nice and the atmosphere much more relaxed than the souks of the Medina.

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I loved the mirrors with the tiny doors

Sam was especially taken with a music shop and spent a long time looking at and playing the instruments.

Eventually we left and made our way across the road to a pretty little park, that had an exhibition about environmental concerns on it – apt in a city so polluted.

We sat in the park, watching the world go by. The fountains in the centre splashed. People walked by.

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In the park

Eventually we made our way back to our hotel. On this day, I had chosen to wear a vest, instead of covering my shoulders. I’m not sure if this was partially why the following street harassment occurred, but it is possible.

We were almost back at the Medina, when suddenly a teenage boy ran past, grabbing my bum on his way.

As I watched him run away, I felt disgust at being treated that way and sadness that we still live in a world where boys are not taught that women aren’t just sexual objects.

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Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech

We returned to the hotel, freshened up and went out to dinner at the Henna Art Cafe. This is a different place to the Henna Cafe we visited on the first day. This cafe is much nearer to our accommodation.

We headed in and found a seat on one of the lovely quiet terraces, through a tiny door that even I had to duck to get through.

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The beautiful terrace with the tiny door

The menus were beautiful, on blocks of wood with henna patterns around the edges. We ordered and waited. I had mint tea again – something I became quite addicted to in Morocco and a veggie tagine.

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The beautiful menu

The cutlery were brought to us in a pretty (hopefully unused) slipper. The food was excellent.

We returned to the hotel once more for our second night in Marrakech, with a planned early morning to venture out to the Atlas mountains.

 

 

Keeping a Bullet Journal

Since August, I have been keeping a bullet journal.

Bullet Journals are books in which you keep to-do lists, sketches, notes and diary entries in a creative, self-designed format to help you organise your life.

I have wanted to start one for a while and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I stole some ideas from various people on the internet and I have changed my set-up a bit having worked out what works for me and what doesn’t.

Set up:
I bought a lovely yellow notebook with squared paper from paperchase – this notebook comes in a couple of sizes and colours and it can be personalised when buying online.

Some people prefer the dot grid notebooks or even one with plain paper. I find a grid is helpful to keep everything aligned and squared notebooks are easier to come by, but each to their own.

The pages on my notebook have some bleed-through, but it isn’t too obvious, so I don’t really mind. If this bothers you, consider which kinds of pens you use and get hold of a notebook with really high quality paper.

I have a pack of six different sized pens ranging from 0.05mm to 0.8mm. They are by Staedtler and I love them. Staedtler also make fineliners up to 1.2mm and also caligraphy liners as well as coloured fineliners.

I prefer to use black ink and coloured pencils. This partially reduces the bleed-through, because the pencil doesn’t bleed, but some people like to use felt pens or even paints – this would require thicker paper. The pencils I use are WHSmith own brand and they are pretty good quality.

Monthly Pages:
My monthly page layout has mainly stayed the same since I started the journal, with a header with a small quote, a larger quote, a small calendar with key dates, a goals section, notes and a habit tracker on the double page spread.

My August setup had a very small calendar, which I have sized up since and also a work hours tracker, as I had a zero hours contract at the time. Now I am on a salaried job, I don’t need this.

The colours and drawings change every month to reflect the season and key events of the month – my October one, was especially Halloweeny.

The quotes I choose depend on my feelings at the start of the month, with the smaller quote being a sort of bullet journal mantra for the month and the larger quote changing between something silly that I like and something deep depending on my mood when I created the page.

Weekly Pages:
I have had two styles of weekly spread so far – one full double page with the days of the week and notes and now a double page with one side for the days and a budget tracker and the other side as my to do list and spendings for the week.

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Original Weekly Design

The initial design was something I didn’t use very well, only writing my pre-arranged events and recording the weather for each day and taking up a lot of space.

The new design still works for these things and also allows me to have a full to do for the week, instead of putting things on different days and being sad when I don’t complete specific tasks.

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Current Weekly Design

It also helps me keep better track of my finances, which is something I desperately need as a serial spender!

Finances:
Originally, I had no way to record my finances in my bullet journal, but now I am earning a salary, I have begun to work on ways to keep track of my spending and saving.

The first iteration of this was a spending and a savings page. The spendings page had a itemised list of what I spent and when and what on and whether it was with card or cash. The savings page had bars that showed what I wanted to save money for, which I could colour in as I saved.

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Initial Spendings/ Savings Spread

The mess of the spendings page was evident and I often didn’t quite manage to keep track of everything, so occasionally had to update the numbers. The savings page was fine, but now is stuck quite far back in my journal, so I keep forgetting about it.

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Attempt at October Finances Page

I tried to do a finances page for October, with a savings in and out bar, budgets for social, clothing and entertainment and all my direct debits/ standing orders listed so I remembered when they got paid. This page wasn’t really helpful.

Now I have incorporated my financial tracking into my weekly page, which means I can check it more often and keep track of a low weekly budget, hopefully meaning I can increase the amount in my savings account quickly before my monthly outgoings increase when I move in around a month’s time.

Happiness Logs:
I saw a pretty cute idea online of recording one thing that makes you happy every day. I started by designing a page to look like it had stickers all over it to do this on, which was fun, but a bit time consuming.

 

I designed a slightly more stylish grid page, which I prefer, but this month I haven’t done one so far, so I have been simply writing my reasons to be happy on my weekly spread. I’m not sure how I will proceed with this one.

Lists:
I have done several lists in my journal so far, one of things I want, which is lying dormant now I know I don’t have much disposable income. I may want to resurrect this soon to make a list for Christmas.

I also did TV/ Movie and Book lists, which I haven’t used much so far. I do watch a lot of TV, but I just tend to watch what’s on, not worry about making sure I see something.

I am still terrible at reading enough, so I need a better reminder of which books to read – maybe something to incorporate into my weekly or monthly spreads.

The Verdict:
So far I have loved bullet journaling. It has given me a place to store my to do lists, fuel my meticulousness at tracking the weather and my habits and to enjoy creating something in a very casual and easy way.

The only problem can be that I occasionally struggle to keep up to date with it, or I get sad that I didn’t complete my to do lists on time.

So long as I can remain relaxed about this and not get bogged-down in not completing things to my own arbitrary deadlines, it is a fun hobby that helps me get on with the things I want to do.

I am aware that I have reasonable artistic talent, but you don’t have to be wildly creative to have a bullet journal – it’s a case of using it in a way that suits you and adding as much or as little colour/ drawings/ detail to it as you want to. Most of the calligraphy I did was copied off font websites, like dafont. Layouts were borrowed from various online sources (although I did edit them).

Zoe Morton Design: And So The Adventure Begins

I have decided to start my own Interior Design Company.

I know. It’s ambitious.

There’s a face that most people make when I tell them that this is what I am doing. This face says “That won’t work.”. What they say is different, ranging from “Wow! That’s amazing!” to asking questions that subtly hint at their obvious concern for the success of my dreams.

It’s difficult to see that people don’t believe I can make it work. Although, that said, I don’t blame them for thinking that way, it is a big risk and a huge undertaking. It may come as a surprise to some that I know that it may not work.

Sometimes, I don’t even believe it could.

This is likely due to the fact that most businesses fail and the economic climate of the world isn’t great right now. The reasons it may not work are beyond my control.

I have never been the kind of person who goes for the safe option. I like to go with the flow of life, making important decisions with the heart.

I didn’t apply for any other sixth forms, even though there was a chance I might not get to do a design A-Level, because I believed I didn’t need a back-up plan.

I only had one university option, even though it wasn’t guaranteed I would be successful at interview.

I went to New Zealand, alone and without enough funds to live on for the entirety of my world tour, not knowing if I could get a job or not.

It’s worked out well so far.

In this case though, I do have a back-up plan, but I hope not to need it.

I know that I am taking the risk of gambling a few years of my life to become the thing I really want to be, rather than take the safe option and apply for graduate design jobs.

The safe option doesn’t appeal to me in this case.

If I took the safe option, I would have a job in design, with money coming in so I could travel and buy things and enjoy my life. But I’d always wonder what might have happened if I had chased my dream.

I really want to chase my dream, even if it doesn’t work out, because I know I can do it and even if the way of the world means I fail to create a company that functions, I won’t have failed myself.

Getting a bit over-emotional now, eh?

I understand people’s concern, but I have a plan and it’s my life to lead and take the risks I want to take regardless of the outcome. While I’m young and optimistic, I’m going to try this out – and I am excited.

So less of the worried looks please.

Edit: I wrote this one when I was in a bit of a mood – please no-one take it that I don’t think you are being supportive! I appreciate everyone’s concern – I’m glad you care about what I do and I know that you are all behind me whether this works out or not. I’m just saying “Don’t worry, I have a plan.” 🙂

 

Interior Designs: Art Deco Bedroon

Back in August, I designed an art deco style update for a bedroom. The design was approved by the client and implemented.

The reason for an update was that room had not been decorated for fourteen years and had become a bit tired and uninspiring. However, the light in the room is good and there is a lovely old fireplace that is a focal point of the room.

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Before

This design was created with a very low budget in mind, but almost all of the existing furnishings kept – so basically a repaint with one or two new accessories and one new piece of furniture.

The initial designs were bold and had a strong influence of the art deco style, without going overboard and making it an overdone theme.

It is always annoying when a theme is overly packed into a room without any measure of restraint. A nautical theme could include an anchor motif, or a boat-shelf or bold blue and white stripes, but throwing every piece of driftwood and rope and every seashell at a room, no matter how nice individual pieces are, in my mind makes it look a bit tacky. Which may be what you’re going for, but that is most often not the case.

In most cases, I try to only suggest the theme.

Design Proposal
The initial scheme

Most of the furniture has been kept, just a built-in shelving unit that was in the left hand corner has been removed. The fireplace has been refreshed and the walls repainted and papered.

The majority of the room is a golden yellow colour, moving away from the cold pastels of the previous scheme. This back wall is now the main feature of the room as it is the one most often viewed as you walk in. The dark green creates a richness and ties in with the blue and green plate on the fireplace wall as well as an existing blue and green lampshade. The wallpaper, in an art deco style pattern, highlights the fireplace as a central feature of the room and adds texture to the scheme.

New bedside lamps, with large brass bases are added, as well as geometric shelving and glossy blue curtains. The picture rail and skirting board will also be painted blue to tie the scheme together.

Sample board
Sample board

The implementation of the design was carried out over several days, with a few changes to the design as we went on. The original yellow was changed with a more golden one on viewing samples in the room.

The lamps chosen were too large for a bedside setting, so others were found which actually fitted the scheme more closely – they have more interesting shades, with coloured glass and more ornate bases, although still in a brass finish.

The shelves I designed were not quite right for the clients’ needs as they wouldn’t store enough, so alternative shelving was found. The offsets on the design and the way you could see through certain parts to the green wall was desirable along with the increased storage space.

I was very happy with the finished product.

 

The clients, who had been away on holiday while the work was being done, were very happy with the finished product and the difference that the changes made. The room felt warmer, bolder and more luxurious.

Even small budget rooms can look unique and special once given an interior design makeover. Everyone should feel delighted by, and at home in their living spaces, even those of us with less to spend.

My Dinner Lady Life

Since returning to the UK from my world tour, I have started a new job. I am now a dinner lady!

I had spent all my money on my travels – with literally £100 to my name on returning home. Luckily, I have parents who won’t charge me rent I can’t afford, but I needed a job to get me started on an income.

We all know that graduate jobs are intensely annoying to get hold of, so I took my old job as a general assistant in a cafe back. Shortly after this, the same catering company had an opening for a full time job at another site – a sixth form college – as a general assistant in the kitchens there.

It’s actually not a bad job at all. I get living wage, a half hour lunch break, all the school holidays off and no evenings or weekends.

I actually like the work too. I get to prepare food, which is quite enjoyable for a practical person. I really enjoy making coffee too.

Despite being “only” a general assistant, I am now in charge of some of the paperwork and I end up being people’s go to when they need a question answered and the manager isn’t available.

It’s like being a supervisor, but I’m not.

The other staff are great too – super friendly and very hardworking. They make my day fun! My fave staff member is one of the newest – my lovely bestie Sam, who I have known for a whole seven years! She, like me, needed a fast income post-uni. It is lovely to work with her, but occasionally distracting – my lunch half an hour, if shared with her, tends to stretch towards 45mins (oops!).

I doubt that this job will take me anywhere career-wise and I doubt I’ll stay for longer than a year, but it is quite fulfilling, despite the early mornings, hideous uniform and annoying teenagers everywhere. I am hoping I can at least be made supervisor before I leave.

Mainly, I want to start my own interior design business, a project that I have started working on. This job gives me time to work on that and money to live on before my company makes any of its own.

Hopefully, my plan for my company will work, but for now, roll on the sandwich making.

Homecoming

The word homecoming always makes me think of American TV shows set in high schools or the song by Green Day.

I actually looked up the lyrics to that song just now to see if they were relevant to how I felt about returning to fair Birmingham, UK after sixth months of exploring the world. They mostly weren’t.

I did mean to write this blog within a week or two of returning home, but because I still had a month’s worth of Canada blogs and two week’s worth of USA blogs to write and a life to live, I have only gotten around to it now, three months later.

It’s been great being back. I have caught up with most of my beautiful friends. My bestie who I have known for more than half my life, Laura, even met me at the airport on the day I got back to Brum. I missed them so much when I was away, but they kept cheering me on throughout the whole process of me being away, which I really needed at times, given that the lone world tour wasn’t entirely planned, funded or expected.

I have loved being back in my own bed again. Bed is the best place in the world. Trust me, I know.

It sounds cliche to say that the time away was life-changing. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. How can seeing so much and experiencing so much not be?

Mainly, it has given me more confidence.

This probably sounds crazy to those who know me well, given that I don’t have a reputation for being humble. But travelling the world on my own has made me feel like there is nothing I can’t attempt, even if it seems crazy. It has taught me that living outside my comfort zone is worth doing and has made me want to do it more.

Before I left New Zealand, one of my friends there told me that within a couple of weeks of being home I would want to leave again.

I love travelling and I definitely want to go again. I want to see parts of Asia, tour Australia, do a South American tour, go on safari in South Africa and visit more of Europe. But for me, life isn’t about travelling. Life is about building something in one place that I can be proud of and call home, so that when I go out to see the world, I have somewhere I can come home to bed at the end of the day.

That’s what I am attempting to do now, build my situation. I hope it works!

It was such a privilege to see so much of the planet, to fly so high. Now I am back at ground level, I am excited to see where life takes me next, even if I don’t go far physically. My adventures haven’t ended because I have returned from the world tour.

The world is still ahead. There are still many paths to tread…