Tag Archives: observations

Book Challenge by Erin 10.0

23 Jan

As you may know at the end of last year, I discovered an online reading challenge on Facebook. The group is run by Erin (hence, the name). The challenge is very easy. There are 10 different categories and you have to read a book from each category to complete it.

As I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment, I managed to finish the challenge in 21 days – yes, 10 books in 21 days. I surprised myself. I’ve been motivated by reading 68 books last year and I would like to better it this year if that is possible. Obviously, I have given myself a great start to the year.

Here are the categories and the books that I read for the challenge:

Freebie (any book that is more than 200 pages long) – How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carniege

I decided to read a non-fiction book for this category. I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

Book that was turned into a Movie – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Set in Europe – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

So many people have been talking about this book recently that I thought I just had to read it. At times it was an unpleasant reminder about the horrors of Nazi Germany but there was also a huge sense of hope and love. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who wants to read it by revealing what happened but it is well-written and poignant. I would recommend that you give it a read as well.

A Newberry Award Winner – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I read this children’s book in a few hours. It was a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friend, Charlotte, who is a very clever spider. This book was popular when I was growing up but I never read it. I was glad that I did. It is a story about relationships and how working together can help improve everyone’s lives. The ending was sad but in a nice way.

A Friend’s Favourite – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I was a bit sceptical about the book when I first started reading it. It took a while to get my head around the structure of the novel and the reasons for that structure. The book is six stories, spanning different eras woven into one. Each of the stories has a connection to the previous one. The stories were so different, not only in terms of narrative voice but also in the format; one was a diary, one was an interview etc. It showed a vast amount of skills to write with such complexity and authenticity. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others but overall it was a great read.

Written over 100 years ago – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I had no idea that this book was based, at least partly, in Switzerland and that it is nothing like the Frankenstein monster horror story that have come out of Hollywood. It is a poignant story about human interaction and the need to be accepted in society. The figure of “the monster” is a lonely, misunderstood figure, who has had no part in his design or creation, and tries to take revenge on his creator after he refuses to help him find happiness.

Title with 6 Words – The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Another book from the Nazi Germany era. The worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

Cardinal direction in the title – East, West by Salman Rushdie

This was a collection of 9 short stories. I really liked how the narrative of each of the stories was so different and the subject matter was so varied. A lot of the stories made me quite reflective about life. I haven’t read any of Rushdie’s book before but I am going to make an effort to do so in the future. This was a good introduction into how well he writes.

Originally in another language – The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende (Spanish)

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Begins with the letter N – Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Surprisingly, in this book the narrator is a unborn foetus, who is overhearing the destruction of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s subsequent relationship with his uncle. It was fascinating to read – the narrator can’t see everything that happens in the story but tries to infer all the details from his experience and from other senses. As with all McEwan novels, there is a sinister twist to the story and the foetus attempts to interfere with events that are happening around him.

There will now be a bonus round, where I have the opportunity to read another 10 books, but that part of the challenge doesn’t start until 1st February. In the meantime, I will have to find some other books to get stuck into!

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The Start of 2019

10 Jan

It’s been a busy start to the New Year. It’s only the 10th January but I have the feeling that I have done more in the last 10 days than I did in the whole of December. Which is hardly surprising because my main activities last month were eating and drinking.

Although we had a few smatterings of snow in December, the snow is finally coming down. Perhaps my increased productivity is due to this weather. I don’t feel like going outside so I have been busy doing activities indoors.

Here is a list of what I have done in the past 10 days.

  • Stopped eating and drinking as much as I was doing over Christmas in an attempt to lose the weight that I’ve put on;
  • Read 5 books (and I’ve almost finished number 6);
  • Collected and built a wardrobe that I had ordered;
  • Tried some new recipes in the kitchen;
  • Had a haircut;
  • Packed away all of the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree – and the corner in the living room still looks empty without it;
  • Bought a new TV – our old one decided to give up the ghost on the 5th;
  • Started work for preparations for lauching my own travel website later in the year;
  • Started learning some coding in Excel;
  • Sorted out some clothes and other things to be taken to the recycling centre or to donate;
  • Went swimming for the first time in as long as I can remember;
  • Had a couple of lunch dates with friends;
  • Begun editing a short story that I wrote last year.

Bearing in mind that we were on holiday in Belgium until 3rd January I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

If the snow keeps falling and I remain inside, I think this month could be the most productive one on record! I hope you’ve also had a good and productive start to 2019.

Short term memory and luck

3 Nov

One week from now (depending on when you are reading this), I will be sitting in an exam hall in Switzerland tearing my hair out while trying to pass my German exam. When I entered the exam, I made the mistake of thinking that I have all the time in the world to study for it. But time goes by so quickly that I don’t feel like I have had time to think let alone study for it between then and now.

I am all to aware that there is not so much time left and I am in that awkward place that everyone finds themselves in just before taking an exam. I feel like there is not a lot more that I can learn in the next week that will mean the difference between a pass or fail and I just want the whole thing to be over. I am sure that there is a language that has a word that describes this feeling but we don’t have an english translation for it. If anyone is aware of such a word then please get in contact with me to let me know what it is.

Perhaps it is a mistake though to have this feeling. When I took an exam about two years ago, I also found myself in this place. I was ready to give up learning until someone convinced me that I would be able to learn a lot in a week. I didn’t really believe her but carried on studying for a week. It turned out in the exam that a few of the words that I had learnt in the last fews days came up in the exam. That ended up being the difference between a pass or fail.

So now maybe I am in another place. I am in a place where I am relying heavily on my short term memory and a big, fat slice of luck landing on my desk in a week. We all need a bit of luck but a last little push to help me over the finish line is probably just as advisable.

Does it matter if I don’t pass this exam? Essentially no. I am doing it to help my chances in the job market but mainly for my own satisfaction and to prove to people that you can learn new things, even languages, when you are over the age of 30. However, I want to finally draw a line under this so that I can move on to learn more things that people advise you not to do when you are over a certain age. Plus I am not sure that I can physically prepare myself for resitting exams in January.

So please think about and pray for my short term memory in this last week of preparations. Failing that, please send me a big, fat slice of luck!img_2870

Things I learnt in August

31 Aug

Another month is almost over and I have been having a think about what interesting things that I have learnt this month.

1. A flying fox and a fruit bat are the same thing. This made my brain hurt when I found this out this week. I ‘m not sure exactly what I thought a flying fox was. I didn’t think that it was a type of bat though. bat-2639114_960_720If you look at this picture though, you can see that it does look a bit like a fox so I can understand where the name now comes from. It’s always confusing when people use different words for the same thing. Like the whole debate about what a small bread roll in English is called. I’m not even going to open that can of worms.

2. According to my knee doctor, my knee is (and I quote) perfect. I don’t want to sound like I am showing off but he did use the word perfect several times when talking about the cartilage, tendons and ligaments in my right knee. He was able to “show” me this because I had an MRI scan for a knee problem that I’ve had a bit of trouble shaking off. So I had the MRI as a precaution to make sure that everything in my knee was still in one piece. It was reasserting to know that after playing so much sport over the years, running a marathon and trying to be a regular runner hasn’t had a negative effect on my joints so far. Which means that I have no fear about training for one of my next challenges – to run an Ultramarathon.

3. I am a turophile. I love eating cheese. I really could sit and eat cheese until I made myself sick and then I would probably carry on eating again. Not being able to eat cheese was the hardest part of my vegan challenge. I looked up the etymology of the word it comes from the Greek word for cheese which is “turos”. Interesting stuff!cheese-1972744__340

4. Patience is a virtue. Recently I have been waiting for news and I have realised that I’m just got good at it. As much as I try to not think about it and distract myself by doing other things, I still end up checking my emails every fifteen minutes. I am not even sure if it is possible to train yourself to be more patient. If someone does know if it is possible, please feel free to get in touch!

5. Classic novels are wasted on youths. In the last month I have read a few classic novels that I have been meaning to read for an age. I have also just started reading Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen and I will probably read Wuthering Heights next. When I was at school, I hated reading all of these classics. It wasn’t because I had to read them for an exam but I just found them boring. Perhaps it is an age thing but I do enjoying reading these novels now. At school students shouldn’t be forced to read classics but be encouraged to read whatever they find interest.

And that is the 8th month of 2018 finished! I hope you have also learnt some interesting things this month.

On the move…

6 Aug

In the current heatwave that we are having, it’s best to stay indoors and do as little as possible. Unfortunately, it has been virtually impossible for me to do this this week because it has been moving week. This has involved carrying heavy boxes down never-ending flights of stairs for what feels like a lifetime.

I knew that I owned a lot of books but physically carrying each and every one of them down the stairs in this heat has made me realise how impossibly long my to-read list is. The plus side is that if I do manage to read all of these books, I will definitely be able to win a series of Mastermind.

It is a long and boring task but it had to be done. I am now adjusting to life in a much bigger apartment and not knowing that I have unpacked properly and what has been left in a bag that will become the study because I don’t quite know where it “belongs” yet. It could take a while before I settle in completely. Just today, for instance, I got off the bus and immediately started walking in the other apartment and then realised that I don’t live there anymore.

Aside from the arduous task of unpacking and finding a place for our belongings in the new place, we also have to completely clean the old apartment before we hand it back to the landlord. Luckily, we have a few weeks before this needs to be completed. But Swiss apartments are carefully checked for signs of damage before the deposit is released to the former tenant. Cleaning is also not a fun activity to do in this weather (or any weather, in fact) but it looks like next week will be a bit cooler so it can wait until then…

Also a quick thanks to our friend, Mark, who ably assisted us in getting the last few heavy items of furniture out of the old place. He was rewarded with a few cold beers and a steak on the grill. I was more than a little concerned when he said, if he got this for helping us every time we moved, he would help us move next week as well. Thanks but no thanks, Mark. We are definitely staying put!

Happy 727th Birthday Switzerland!

1 Aug

1st August is the official date of birth of the Old Swiss Confederation. It also means that the whole country gets a day off (but only if the day falls on a weekday).

I will never forget that Switzerland was founded in 1291 because when we were in Sao Paulo we found a trendy place for food and drink (see the picture below).

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When my boyfriend said that this place must have been the idea of a Swiss person, I asked why and then he explained that 1291 was the year that Switzerland came into existence. I will now never forget this date, which might come in useful if I ever decide to apply for Swiss citizenship.

At the ripe old age of 727, Switzerland isn’t looking too bad…

No Fun in the Sun

28 Jul

The weather is unbelievably hot at the moment and, apart from an almighty downpour this morning, there really doesn’t seem to be any let up. Even though the rain has come down finally, it is still very humid and I have the rotating fan on as I write this.

I have just check the weather forecast today and from tomorrow it looks like the hot weather will return and we will be back to more 30-plus degree days.

I don’t mind the heat so much when I’m sat under an umbrella with a cocktail but at the moment we are in the process of moving and moving furniture is not ideal in this weather. However, it is better that the weather is hot rather than rain while we move. Soggy cardboard moving boxes would be a lot worse.

For a bit of fun, I decided to make a couple of lists about things I don’t want to do and can’t do in this weather.

Things I don’t want to do when the weather is this hot:

  1. Use a hair dryer
  2. Use public transport (especially at rush hour)
  3. Wear make-up
  4. Exercise
  5. Move flat
  6. Get into the car (it’s about 100 degrees inside)
  7. Eat a lot – this is perhaps a positive!
  8. Wear formal clothes
  9. Exist

Things I can’t do in when the weather is this hot:

  1. Sleep
  2. Keep insects out of the flat because the windows are constantly open
  3. Think properly
  4. Eat ice-cream because it melts down my arm
  5. Go outside for more than 10 minutes without burning
  6. Keep my hair straight because of the humidity
  7. Enjoy a nice bath
  8. Find my sunglasses – I will probably find them once the weather turns!

What are the things that you don’t want to do or can’t do in this weather? Let me know.

I’m off to enjoy a nice cold beer because it’s important to stay hydrated and cool in this weather.

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