#YOLO2017

There is no denying that 2017 was my YOLO year.

It was not something I planned when the year started. When I think about it now though, I think it was the very thing my soul needed – a year off taking life seriously .

I guess it’s safe to say that, all my life, I’ve been pressured (perhaps a little too much by my own self) to achieve things year after year. I was expected to be on top of the class all those years from primary to high school. I was expected to strive to at least maintain my school paper scholarship in college. I was expected to land a stable nursing job after graduation to avoid being a bum at home. I was expected to pass tests after tests to be able to secure myself a job abroad. I was expected to pass the final hurdle (that was the OSCE) before I can get to say my future is ‘secured’. Year after year, I had so much expectations I had to meet.

This year was different. I was able to take a step back and appreciate life as it is. And though 2017 was filled with so many plot twists (most of which were not that pleasant), I remain grateful for this year for it has taught me so much about life, my life.

Before the year started, I already got my pin (in other words, I already qualified as a UK registered nurse). January was spent encouraging and giving pep talks to my friends who were set to retake the qualifying test. It was spent planning where to go and what to do with my newfound freedom of no longer being imprisoned to the possibility of flunking the test and being sent home.

February was my first time in London. It was another surreal moment added to my list since I stepped in the United Kingdom. It was a month of confronting reality, embracing my alone time, and learning how to adult – I think I might have tried to cook to save my life a few times that month. It was also a month of adjusting to a new workplace as an actual member of the workforce.

March was when my friends and I travelled to Northern Ireland. It was my first time outside England (that was not home, of course). By this time, I was getting the hang of how things are done in my ward, gaining a few friends in my colleagues, and starting to appreciate travelling. It was a month of confusion. It was a month of hoping and praying that my brother’s series of tests and application process turn out smoothly.

April was another month of confusion. By this time, I was being convinced to move in with my friends. I travelled locally. It was a month of trying to forget and to brush off feelings. For this whole month, I tried to be strong not only for myself but for everyone who believed in me.

May was when I started hanging out with some of the friends who I eventually can’t part with. Summer was starting at that time and our afternoons were spent wearing shades and shorts, cooking barbecue in the backyard, and laughing/telling jokes over beer. For a certain amount of time, Despacito was our anthem.

June was when I moved in to my friends’ home – on the first day of this month to be exact. I had my reasons but one of the main ones was that I was living alone in a flat with a few other strangers. I actually liked my room and was not scared to go to the kitchen in shorts. I decorated my room the way I wanted it. It was still summer – more barbecue, more beer.

July was when I got hurt. Let’s leave it there. By this time, my heart has gotten so used to being broken but that Monday felt like the day it hurt the most.

August went by in a blur. I knew my brother was flying from home anytime soon. I was trying to forget things. I still went around the UK. I was learning to be okay.

September, my friends and I went to Scotland. I was still hurt but I knew I was getting better. I had a few days off and travelling was my way to distract myself from drowning in my own thoughts. My brother finally arrived! I felt like an adult grocery shopping for him.

October was once again confusing. As strong as I was making my mind to be, apparently, some parts of me were still weak. I’ve gotten closer to the friends I’ve made over the summer and have started having actual conversations with them. I found I can trust them.

November was starting to become really cold. Some days I spent overspending, some days I spent chilling at home with a glass of wine. It marked my first year of being in the UK. By this time, I have stopped deluding myself that planking and the treadmill would get me back to my previous figure. Rice was life (still is).

December was started with us flying to North Africa – Morocco!!! It was my first birthday spent travelling. It was a bold decision to get out of the country. I attended a few Christmas parties and joined parlor games (in hopes of winning). I started to blog again. I was still confused. I bought a ticket home.

I can say this year has given me less pressure than all the previous years I had spent growing up. I was actually living. I was having adulting problems but these were problems I didn’t mind thinking about cos these were my own personal worries.

2017 was not my best year – but it was when I learned so much of life’s lessons.

Indeed, I only live once. Thank you, 2017. You are unforgettable.

 

Marrakech, Morocco x December 2017: Day Two

(Let me put this out there before anything)

A day (and even a few hours) prior to our flight, we had been hearing stories about how the place we were headed to can get dangerous – warnings about strikes, etc. I was even sent a screenshot of a travel advisory for tourists about visiting Morocco.

Now that we are back in the United Kingdom, all I can say is: I am just so glad we still went on that trip. No regrets.

Our second day (or our first full day) started early. As agreed on, we were picked up at 0900 and brought to La Jardin Majorelle – which was one of the places I suggested to be put on our itinerary as it was highly recommended on Pinterest (tip: Pinterest is a lifesaver in ways I have never imagined before).

Though it did not seem as wide as other botanic gardens we had been to before, La Jardin Majorelle boasted of many planted treasures – cactus and palm trees included. For most part of the garden, there seemed to be a tug-of-war of blues (as most of the structures were painted such) and greens – totally making it photo-worthy.

We decided to pay for admission to the gardens only (70dh) but if you are keen on visiting the Berber Museum as well, you could with another 30dh.

It took us about two hours to roam around the place, bask in the warmth of the sun which was peeking through the rows of tall cacti and palm trees, and take photos.

There were friendly staff around too. Funnily enough, while I was taking turns with two other friends to take photos of each other, one of the staff approached us and ‘choreographed’ our shots. In total, he took about ten or more photos of us three in different angles and locations around the garden. 😅

Apart from the garden, this famous tourist spot is also home to Berber Museum, an Yves Saint Laurent art gallery, and a cafe. Plus, clean toilets!!

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hich was Marrakech's main square located within the old walled part of the city known as the medina. Our eyes were swarmed with cafes (most of them having rooftop terraces), vendors selling a variety of things, locals carrying around monkeys and offering tattoos, an array of palm trees, kalesas, and the souk (marketplace). As soon as we were dropped off, our first order of business was to have our money changed to dirhams.

We barely made it halfway through the center of the main square when a woman approached one of our friends and started talking. The next thing we knew, her arm was being tattooed despite her refusing a couple of times. Ironically, this was the same friend who warned us just a few minutes before to watch out for locals who would just grab your hand and sell you their business.

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of waiting for our friend in the middle of the square where there was another woman who came to us. And this time, she got me. At first, she seemed to be very friendly asking us where we came from and if we wanted tattoos. I did not want to be rude so I thought she would leave if I said we needed to have lunch first – oops, wrong move. Little did I know she grabbed my arm as well and started drawing on it and claiming it is for ‘good career, good husband, good luck’. Plus, she added it was for free.

As soon as she was done though, I knew I got ripped off. She charged me 300dh and kept on saying, ‘if you happy, i’m happy’. To be honest, I was not happy. I had a list of things I wanted to experience while on this holiday but I did not have this particular one in mind – and for a price so unreasonable (we found out later from our driver that it was only supposed to cost 30dh!!).

But then again, it was already there. There were places to go and food to eat and I did not want this incident to ruin the rest of the day for us.

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We went to the nearest cafe we saw which served Moroccan food. The Moroccan menu revolved mainly around tajine which is named after the pot where the food is cooked – it can either be beef, chicken, or a mix of vegetables with spices and marinade thrown in. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
ices are a staple – all of which are made fresh. By the end of our trip, our tummies had enough of orange and/or mixed fruit juices.

When it was time to pay the bill, we were told off by our waiter for not giving enough tip. He said it took some effort to kept going upstairs to serve our order so we had to double what we initially gave him. To be fair though, we did pick a table located in the rooftop terrace as it offered a view overlooking the main square (tip: be more generous with tips, I guess?).

The next thing we decided to visit was the marketplace, more famously know as the souk. This reminded us of the local markets back home – selling everything from traditional Moroccan wear to herbs and oils and stones to scarves and souvenirs to take home.

Looking back now, I didn’t think it was a good idea to get inside the souk after we overspent on our handpaint. But then again, it might just be me. I was in a hurry to get out because when we gave the stalls even as much as a glance, the local vendors immediately thought we were going to buy something right away.

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then found our feet leading us to Marrakech Museum after we found our way out of the souk. Though not as massive as other museums, this place was well-kept and had a certain artsy vibe which I liked. However, most of the art descriptions were in French and did not have English translations so the place was more of a feast to our eyes than anything.

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one of the corners of the museum, you can buy a tiny piece of art where you choose which art (styles including Moroccan woman/man, a landscape of Marrakech, camels, among others) you want and they paint your name on the same card in Arabic for 10-20 dirhams. I just had to get mine done as well.

Probably a few hours later, we went back to the main square (through the souk) where food stalls and juice stands were starting to open. I read previously that the main square gets busy at around late afternoon until the evening for this very reason: food – glorious street food!! We already had our sight on the seafood and the mixed skewers but we decided to go up to one of the cafe terraces (for the second time that day) to witness the Moroccan sunset. However, when we got there (some place called Agana where they served coffee, hot drinks, and desserts and was flocked by other tourists), the Sun had already set and the place was packed that we didn't really get to appreciate this beauty of nature. But we appreciated their WiFi for sure, teehee.< em><<
ttle did we know, this was some of the first of the many mixed skewers and handheld bread we would be feasting on for the duration of the trip. I personally loved the chicken skewers and the calamares but was not much of a fan of their rice and bread. Tip: be extra vigilant with your order. When our food was being served, they brought something else we didn’t remember ordering. The good thing, though, is you can completely be blunt and refuse the order so you don’t have to pay for something you didn’t want in the first place.

Tip #2: the main square at night is not for the faint of heart. Locals manning the food stalls will try all they can (and I mean all) to lure you into their stall. Be brave and be firm. They are friendly, don’t get me wrong, but if you don’t intend to eat… learn to shake your head (again and again and again).

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Marrakech, Morocco x December 2017: Day One

It is 00:59 as I am typing this and my friends and I are on a midnight coach that is going to take us back home.

For some reason, I could not sleep. I did not get even just a power nap on the three-hour flight earlier from Marrakech Menara Airport to London Luton – which is why I have decided to just start on this travel entry. As promised to a few friends.

Five days ago, my friends and I escaped the harsh British weather (that is just getting meaner by the minute, by the way) and basked under the warmth of the Moroccan sun (man, I just feel so giddy saying that I’ve been to Morocco already!!!).

It was a trip that we had in mind for a couple of months to celebrate two of our birthdays. Also, it was a trip that, for a number of times, we were not too sure if it will push through – there were concerns about Visa requirements, passport expiry, and budget.

For the record, Philippine passport holders do not require Visa to enter Morocco. We had to contact our airline and their consulate to make sure of this.

As soon as that was sorted, we booked our tickets with Ryanair, our BnB, and our coach tickets for a four-hour trip from home to London Luton. As it was the first time for majority of us to be outside the United Kingdom (since we got here), we were also advised to get single travel insurances for the trip – which we did, at Sainsbury’s (£10-ish).

On the day of the trip, we hopped on an early morning coach to give us enough time to check in our luggage for our 1505 flight at London Luton. Thankfully, everything went smoothly – from the security check to boarding.

On the plane, my designated seat was right in the emergency exit lane while the rest of my friends were seated in the front rows. Maybe it was just my anxiety kicking in but, for the duration of the trip, it seemed like too much was going on. The plane engine was too loud and passengers kept on standing and swapping seats.

Four hours later, we arrived at Marrakech Menara Airport! Much to my relief, nothing happened during the flight as opposed to what I kept on imagining (teehee).

I have to say we were at awe at the design of the airport. On our last day, we were told by our hired driver/tour guide that part of this airport is “old”. Honestly, I cannot see what he was talking about as none of it looked old to me.

*Our BnB host arranged for us to be picked up by a local driver. As soon as we got on his van, we tried to find out if he we could hire him for transport for the next few days as we did not know how to go around and we did not want to be ripped off by taxi drivers.

We were brought to our Bnb… which again, much to my relief, did not disappoint. Since our first trip to Belfast, I had gotten used to be the one to take on the task of finding suitable accomodations for us. Trust me, I would rather find us homes than take charge of the budget or the itinerary.

Our Bnb was located inside a compound of some sorts. From the moment we got inside the bab (“gate”), we knew we would not have problems with our safety (+++) as they checked each of our passports and gave us cards which we presumed will be our IDs for the duration of our stay.

Our place was a three-storey house (with a rooftop terrace) with an open ceiling. It was well-kept just like how we saw it in the app and well-lit and very comfortable. There was a tiny problem with the heating system (so we had to make do with sharing one bathroom) and the Wifi was not as fast as how we were used to but the rest of the place made up for that.

Since it was already late when we arrived, we thought it best just to have a quick dinner by one of the cafes located inside the compound. There were stores there as well from where we got our supplies of canned goods, eggs, and water for the next days.

First order of business: pastries from Aldi (lol just kidding). Moroccan patisserie (10dh).

Tip (from an amateur, I might add): it is best to download the offline versions of Google Translate and Google Maps when visiting cities such as this one. The former will do you good especially when looking through the menus of restaurants/cafes. It did us well especially because most of the locals speak very limited (or no) English.

After dinner, we headed back to our Bnb as we had to be picked up by our driver (yep, the same driver who agreed to be our ‘tour guide’ as well) to see the rest of the city at 0900 the next day.