Tinder – the perks of online dating

We are after all in the 21st century, and I live in a city where men are everything but courageous when it comes to “picking up” girls, so I might as well explore if behind a screen things are looking up.
I just installed tinder, the worldwide online matching app sensation. Made an appealing (my opinion) profile, and here we go.
How does it work? You can choose a distance and age range, and one by one, matching profiles start popping up, and you must like or not like. So far so good, simple enough.
I already have a reputation for “picky”, and more than one friend told me at some point “lower your standards or you’re going to end up a spinster”. I used to laugh at this, but at this age, I might be starting to believe there is some truth to it.
Ready, set (comfortably on my sofa), go! Uf, a picture of a guy with his (I presume) mother. Not like, mommy’s boy is a no no. Next! A cropped picture but some blonde long hair still manages to stay in the pic. Seriously, you don’t have a picture without your (I presume again) ex in it? Clingy! Next! Too many tattoos, next! Fat (I am sorry, no no again for me), next! This time a sportive type, no shirt and the bathing pants lowered so we can see the work of art (those 6 pack abs he worked hard for, that is). I don’t need to see a 6 pack on full display in a bathroom mirror selfie. Congrats on those abs, mr narcissist, but no thanks. Next. A profile picture showing an independentist flag. I’m sorry, am I on the wrong site? I thought we are supposed to show ourselves, or is this extreme patriotism who you are, you are no longer an individual but a part of a region trying to be independent?I am looking for a date with one guy, not a country, not to mention I find boring this topic, neeeext! Oh, a normal one! Looking attractive, no nudity, no mother in the profile picture, no blonde in sight. Like! Hmmm, he apparently clicked like as well, there is a chat opening up. Starting here, anything can happen, the good, the bad and/or the ugly.
And so on and so forth. I have discarded countless (freak, mama’s boy, naked, hang up on the ex, crazy, narcissist, ugly(sorry!!), crazy eyes, too strong political views, married guys looking for hook-ups, and the list can go on, but i have “liked” a few I actually found interesting.
I am in the chatting phase right now, have not seen any in person so far, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
I’ll be back!

P.S. @tindafella, on instagram, seems to be my soulmate! 😂. Big 👍 to you man! Yes, it seems we are all freaks…

3 weeks in Peru

It’s going to be a year soon since my Peruvian trip, so I might as well document it.

First of all, it was my first real “backpacking trip”. Everyone on the planet apparently discovers it in their early 20’s, I discover it in my early 30’s. Better late than never.

I am coming from a country where backpacking is either non-existent, or commonly accepted as some kind of hobo traveling, so we can agree this was a big break-through. And since in Peru most local people I met have never seen a Romanian in the flesh, and asked me if they can shake my hand,  I’d say in a way it was a ground breaking trip in more than one way.

I was going to meet a friend-of-a-friend who was on a 6-months adventure in South America, and since we hit it off when we met in Barcelona, I was happy to join in on her trip for 3 weeks.

I started planning and planning and looking at blogs like crazy, trying desperately to fit it all in. Tell you what, there is no way you can fit all Peru in 3 weeks and still fully enjoying it. That was my first (an worst) mistake.

Barcelona-Lima-Puno

After 30 hours of flights and dead hours in the airports, I finally got to Puno (lake Titicaca, nearly 4000m), so on top of the jet lag I got altitude headaches straight away :). Who cares, when you are in a hostel overlooking Titicaca, one of the coolest lakes I’ve ever seen. And, according to people coming from the Bolivian side of the lake, I haven’t seen anything… There are the very touristy floating islands, with the kings boat available for rent for a “modest” fee, and a restaurant where I had my very first ceviche (if you like raw fish and cilantro, go get it!), but it is still amazing people are willing to live on a floating island made of straws. Must be for the views, they are amazing.

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Puno-Cuzco by bus – since we were on a budget, we mostly traveled by night bus, specifically with Flores, they are cheaper and have good buses. Not bad for a mid-range company, I’d say good quality-price ratio.

Cuzco was another story. It was raining and cold all the time, but when the sun finally made an appearance… waw. It’s so beautiful (and kinda expensive as well, comes with the territory). We stayed at Pariwana hostel, not a party hostel (thank God, I realized afterwards I am not THAT young) and it was great! Great duvets, great shower, decent wifi, good laundry.

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From there we started planning THE trip: Machu Picchu, of course. Several ways to get there: by foot: Inca Trail, Salkantay trek, by train, by car and train… endless possibilities (none of them cheap, by the way). I was googling the “foot” options for weeks before I got there, and Inca trail sounded very appealing. And crazy expensive, and when you get to Cuzco you realize you can pay less than half. So I would not recommend paying for it online, just go there and book. The thing is, Inca Trail is limited, so if you go in March, no problem, but August can be a different story, you need to book well in advance and they know it. No big deal, though, you can book the Salkantay trek, it has no people limits set on it by day, it is tougher, I think, but it looks amazing, and given the chance again, I wouldn’t miss it.

Cuzco-Machu Picchu

All that google served for nothing, we had the chance to “hitch-hike” on a motorbike with a couple of Spanish guys my friend met in Bolivia. They were nice enough to take us for the ride, and, even though I was nearly pissing my pants with fear, I jumped on the opportunity. Turns out, it is so cool!! So we packed the essentials on those babies, and off we went.

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Sacred Valley is one beautiful valley, and the bike just adds to its beauty. We went: Cuzco-Pisac-Urubamba-Ollataytambo , this route is amazing, filled with mountains landscape, ruins, and (at least in March), almost tourist-free.

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And while up there can be freezing (if I remeber correctly, highest point was over 4000m), the last part, approaching Aguascalientes it was hot hot hot. Machu Picchu can be high, but the climate is tropical.

By the way: you cannot get to Machu Picchu or Aguascalientes by car or motorbike, no matter what they tell you. You can get close enough, and can do the last part on a train or a 30 minutes hike along the train trail (we did this and it’s really easy and beautiful trek). 

Ollantaytambo-Aguascalientes – Machu Picchu

We spent the night in Aguascalientes, did not actually go to the hot water springs, but it would have been nice, I guess, bought our entry ticket to Machu Pichhu from the tourist office, with the entry on the Machu Pichhu mountain (the famous mountain was all booked (Huayna Pichhu). I really REALLY wanted to see sunrise from Machu Picchu, so I forced everyone to get up and trek 1,5 hours up the stairs from Aguascalientes to Machu Picchu. Not a popular choice. And even less popular when we got there and all Machu Picchu was covered in clouds (you could not see 10 meters ahead, so sunrise was, well, out of the question.  They forgot to mention in those million blogs I read that rainy season is not that great for sun-spotting, especially first thing in the morning.

You can see the fog rising bit by bit, while we were freezing up there, cranky as hell. Me too, by the way, although it was my idea to begin with 🙂

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You can only get a few hours to go up to the Machu Pichhu mountain, so after a tour where we learned very few (the Incas could not write, so all we have is guesses – it was worth it nonetheless), up we go, another 2 painful hours on more stairs, just so we can see THIS on top:

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Needless to say our mood was not at it’s best. Luckily, we got down just in time to see it when most tourists were gone, and most clouds were high enough. What a beauty.

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And there it was, the tree I’ve been trying to see all morning through the fog

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Machu Picchu -Cuzco-Arequipa

Colca Canyon appeared in most of the top 10 sites to visit in Peru, so off we go, not wasting any minute :). I have to admit, while it was an adrenaline rush for me, trying to fit all in, my travel companion, which had nothing but time, was all tired of this “go, go, go” kind of trip. So, one piece of advice: you might as well travel with people who have the same rhythm. Important. Very important. 

Up on the Flores night bus to Arequipa.

The city is pretty, weather is way better than rainy Cuzco, sun is almost always up. Highly recommendable: museo Juanita, about the natural children mummies found on the volcano, at altitudes above 6000, where they were dragged and sacrificed to the Gods.

Next day: Arequipa – Cabanaconde (by local bus, far from glamorous, but very down-to Earth experience)

Cabanaconde, a village deep into the Colca Canyon, is a must-see (and a must stay at Pachamama, or at least have a pizza and a Pisco Sour at the restaurant). (when you get off the bus you get harassed by the “canyon police” to pay the over inflated 20 Euros fee).

We went by foot to Mirador Cruz del Condor straight when we arrive, ad it turned out we did good: there are no tourists, they all come in the morning to see the mighty Condor, but at dawn you can have all the view to yourself. Well worth the visit. And if you’re luck, the condor will check you out briefly.

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In the morning we come back by the overcrowded bus. Full of picturesque dressed locals, so we don’t mind. And we get to see plenty of condors (while fighting for a good spot).

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If you have time, take a hike from Cabanaconde to Sangalle (at the bottom of the canyon), have a dip in the pool, and go back up. You can hike or rent one of the many donkeys…

Cabanaconde-Arequipa-Huacachina

Huacachina is an oasis just beside some huge dunes, so if you have never seen a desert (like me) this will be a treat. 

Not much to do besides booking a trip to the dunes by boogie, and have a go down the dune on a “sand-board”.

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Check, and check. Off we go to the Ballestas Island (you can book a trip in any Huacachina hostels). They are named the Galapagos of the poor, and while I have seen lots of cool animals, It’s still a 30 minutes boat trip (you are not allowed to get off the boat).

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Lima

Have to admit that, given the circumstances, I did not even give it a chance. So I won’t have an opinion, as I am afraid it is all very subjective.

Lima-Mancora

I was said Oh, Mancora, go to Mancora, best beaches in South America, so… after a 24 hour bus ride, there we are. I appreciated the great weather, but you are warned at all times that “you will be robbed, don’t do this, don’t do that, I will just stay here 5 more minutes for you to see the sunset, but you need to go inside the hostel soon”, bla bla bla. After a while it gets kind of boring. And not a palm tree in sight, my biggest disappointment of them all.

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That’s all folks. 3 weeks were gone. And while we did and see lots of things, I am still left with the feeling it was not enough.

2 things I really regret not seeing: Amazon jungle and Chachapoyas. I would replace Mancora with any of those any time. But I guess in the end it’s a matter of personal taste.

Conclusion? It’s a great country. Would I come back? While I absolutely loved it, I think the world is too big to afford going back to the same place twice.

But I have just discovered a Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona, with great reviews, so I will go have a taste of that delicious food again. Yummy.

3 days in Tenerife – What to do

Bank holiday. A long week-end ahead and no plan in sight? Been there.

Luckily for me, my friend was asking herself the same thing, and between two (bright) heads, we came up with this: let’s go to Tenerife!! Being the cost-effective girls that we are, we found a nice offer: flight, decent hotel in a nice place, whole (very touristy) package.

Arriving in Tenerife, we took the guagua to the Acantilado de los Gigantes, and on the way we congratulated ourselves for not going for the popular spots. Personally, I think the very touristy beaches do not do Tenerife justice.

And then, looking up for things we can do, this beauty appeared irresistible. Teide mountain. And instead of spending a quiet evening “at home”, and a quiet day on the rocky beach, we decided to go see the sunrise on top of the highest Spanish peak. You need to know that only a certain number of visitors get to go on the top of the Teide, you need a permit (it’s free, but you have to book in advance), but if you spend the night at the refuge you get a free pass before 6:00AM.

Said and done. A taxi to the starting point can set you back about 60 euros, but it was totally worth it. I forgot to say people are so incredibly nice in Tenerife, so if you speak a bit of Spanish go for it, you won’t be disapointed. Who have seen a taxi driver stopping on the way several times, just to make sure we are not missing the beauty of the day, and who had seen a taxi driver going on a mini-expedition to find the perfect volcanic lava rocks and pine-cones, without being asked!! And further more, he offered to take it back to the hotel with him, no need to carry a stone to the top, he said.

Enough words for now, here are some pics taken on the way… how can you not love it?

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Mighty Teide (I have this pic on my phone and I can’t get enough of it).Image

Let’s get back to our route: you can go by car until the 40,2 km of TF-21. From there you have to go on foot until the Altavista refuge, and spend the night. It’s very well marked, it is impossible to get lost.

We have seen several info pages, and they all say you need to hike for about 4 hours. Nope. 2,5 hours are more than enough to get to the refuge, at a leisurely pace. The last hour becomes more difficult, as the path is quite steep, but practically anyone can do it. And you will be so wrapped in the scenery, you won’t realize the time passing.

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While hiking, it’s all warm and nice. Don’t get yourself fooled though, up there at 3260m the wind is ruthless.Image

The refuge is cozy, lots of beds and lots of very nice people. I always wonder why the hikers are so nice… must be the clean air they ingest… Oh, and Wifi!! After all, you have to brag to your friends you are about to conquer Teide.

At 4,30AM, everyone is up. Breakfast and off we go. Oh, you need a lantern, since you are climbing to see the sunrise, you climb in the dark…

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seems pretty obvious, but it was not for us until we stepped outside the refuge :). Luckily, did I mention there are lots of nice people? We got one right away!

A tough 1,5h hike later, we were at the top! Come on, sun, rise, we are freezing our a…….s off!! The wind is almost unbearable, but from place to place the volcano is spitting hot air. Don’t put your frozen hands directly onto the hot air as I did, it hurts…

But once the sun is up, you forget the wind, you forget the tired legs, and just enjoy the view… the sun on one side, and the volcano’s shadow projecting onto the sea at the other. Unforgettable!

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And if you’re lucky, Gran Canaria island appears from the clouds

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You can use the rest of the day visiting the north of the island, it’s so different from the south, all green and nice!! And then go back to the hotel and sleep like a rock. Not much action by night in September anyway.

Next day is the last, so what to do, what to do… whale watching sounds nice… Just ask the hotel,don’t worry, they are so nice people they will always advise you the best option (not the most expensive).

Go to the Maritima (the harbour), get your boat, and go see the whales (if you’re lucky, dolphins, too, we were not lucky), and the beautiful landscapes.

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DISCLOSURE: the canary islands whales are not huge, so if you’re expecting a beast, well, lower your expectations. They are very friendly though, and not at all shy.

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And last but not least… a dip in the ocean!!

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After this, we dried, we took the luggage on the way, and off to the airport we go!! But I was left with great memories, the most impressive sunrise I have seen in my life, I learned (all the) people can be funny and so nice for no reason. Not to mention me and my friend were in sync. All in all, 3 days perfectly spent.

 

Mandarin Summer Program at BLCU

Thinking about the endless nights of google-ing when I knew I wanted to spend my summer studying Chinese (my newest shiniest hobby), I decided to post my own perspective on the matter. The matter being the Chinese Summer Training at BLCU (Beijing Language and Culture University).

It is very subjective, of course, but there are things I wished someone would blog about.

Is it worth it?

Some say it’s great, some say it’s s**t. The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle. If you want to go home with a significant level of Chinese, you need to study study study. Sure, some teachers are not that great (mine was fantastic, though), but in general by participating in Class and get some homework done, you’ll learn a great deal of Chinese. Truth being said, it’s quite easy getting distracted, but in the end, loosing yourself on the streets of Beijing can help a great deal – very few people speak another language besides Chinese. Even if you don’t study that much, just going to classes helps a great deal.

Getting in:

Fill in the forms and e-mail them, that is pretty much what the require. Then wait patiently for the letter. It will come, eventually.

Accommodation

Now I think it is pretty easy, but I know from experience it can be pretty confusing. The best option (in my opinion, of course) is the International Student House, or Building 17. Why? It is right outside the campus door, which means more liberty. It is slightly more expensive that the average dorm, but no curfew, hot water all the time, some ladies cleaning the rooms every morning (some mornings against your will :). Dorm 17 can fill up quite early, so try and book a room ASAP (once you have the letter from BLCU). For the single room they’ll say it’s not possible, no more rooms available, etc, but don’t give up easy. Complaining and wining is the most efficient form of getting things. If you can’t get one single, the double room is not that bad. They will assign you a roommate sooner or later (mine was later, thank god!). When you call, best to have near you a Chinese speaker friend, if not, it will become pretty soon a tragicomedy, but in the heat of the moment, it will look more like a horror story. I know a couple of people who did not book and just showed up looking convinced they did reserve a room, and they got the most-wanted single room, but it’s a lottery you can very well loose.
I stayed in Dorm 17, so I can only say about the other dorms what I heard from others. There are some with the showers outside the building (can’t imagine going out for a shower in the winter), or with a guard outside watching the time, and if you break the curfew 3 times you’re out, and so on. Other than that, I imagine they’re fine. And quite cheaper.

Eating

BLCU diner is cheap, very cheap, and the quickest solution to get a rapid, greasy meal. There are some restaurants and cafes in the same building, but significantly more expensive. My favorite place for lunch? The U-Center (shopping mall across the street) cafeteria, they have the best noodles I had in my life, for 1,5 Euros a (huge) bowl.

Level test

classroom

When you show up you will have to pass a level test, which is quite accurate. Bear in mind you will be in the same classroom with 20 other people and each of you have to speak “publicly”. The teacher asks all of them one by one and start asking questions in Chinese, gives you some texts to read, and that’s it. But if you’re shy, start preparing. Once you start classes, if you are not happy with the level, you can always switch (with teacher’s approval).

Classes

I studied Chinese for 6 month before going to BLCU, and I got to be in level B. I was very proud of myself for that, but it lasted quite little. To my initial shock, the teacher came in and started to speak at normal speed (which for me was terribly fast), only in Chinese. My first impulse was: What am I doing here???? Bear for a while before running to switch to the lower level, after a couple of days it gets better. I learned a great deal, even if at first I was absolutely terrified of the poker faced teacher, and I will always remember her well.

Colleagues

Mostly students, coming from all over the world, mostly in their (very) early 20s, and in my case, they knew a great deal compared to me. It was quite frustrating at first, until I found out most of them have been studying for at least 2 years. So don’t hurry in beating yourself up that others seem to pick up quicker than you. Chances are they already studied that, but they are in the same level as you, so head up.

Trips

The Summer program lasts for 4 weeks. First week-end is normally a trip to the Great Wall. Packed with tourists and students, but still stunning. Don’t forget to charge the camera!! And it’s a good opportunity to eye people and make some friends. Most of the students are by themselves, so they are as eager as you to bond.

great wall

Then, for the other free week-ends, they organize trips. In my case it was Inner Mongolia (a Chinese province) and Datong caves,

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and the other to the Shaolin Temple.

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They are quite cheap, well organized, and allow you to see a bit outside Beijing, and make some friends outside the classroom. Very touristy though, which I guess is fine for the average 20 years old student.

Going out

Propaganda and Sensation are two twin discos 5 minutes away from Dorm 17, and quite popular as well. Wu is a good option, and if you fancy a western bar, Helen’s is right outside Sensations. This is for the every-day party scene, for a more posh and no-students areas, San Li Tun Village is Beijing most popular party scene.

Personal advices:

Have some notions of Chinese when you arrive, otherwise ordering at KFC can be a nightmare, not to mention the shock when you realize almost no one speaks English.
Make the most of the sunny days! There is a huge difference seeing the Summer Palace on a normal contaminated dark-grey fog, and on a sunny day.
If you are in your 30s, like me, you will find yourself surrounded with very young people who will look at you with wide eyes, while imagining you with a walking stick. Never-mind the age gap, you can meet great people and make life lasting friends.
Don’t be afraid to interact with locals. Young Chinese are eager to interact as well, we had the best days with our new Chinese friends we met on the street while asking for directions. And what can be better than a cultural exchange in your broken Chinese mixed with their broken English?
Try not to party EVERY night, and most important of all, try not to skip classes. Even if you will find very few moments to study outside classroom, the mere fact of being in there helps a great deal in improving your language skills.
And most of all, HAVE FUN! It’s been a great experience, I will always remember it with a smile on my face.

P.S. It’s 3 AM, so please be gentle with my grammar or spelling mistakes. :). Any doubts or questions, happy to help.

Grass is always greener…

Must be the human nature, but it still pisses me off that I cannot break this nasty habbit of wanting what’s out of my reach for some reason. 

Could be anything, from sugar cravings on periods I am denying myself the pleasure, to the obsession of having a dog when my lifestyle is completely incompatible with the responsibility, a man that ignores me, or an expensive piece of clothing when I’m soooo poor. 

So am I supposed to trust my own mind in these situations? Do I want it because I really want it, or do I want it because I can’t have it? 

Andy Warhol says: “As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it.”

Problem is… I stop wanting something the minute I find something else out of reach to replace it. It’s just a question of convincing myself that I want a lettuce instead a whole chunk of tasty chocolate. 

Yeah. Good luch with that.

 

Older…

It just hit me. One more week and I am getting officially older. Not necessarily wiser, but I like to think so.

I don’t have these butterflies in my belly anymore about this. My birthday is coming, my birthday is coming!! I even took the birth date out of my facebook, so I won’t get the fake happiness when someone I barely know wishes me happy birthday. Does it matter, anyway? My actual friends will remember, and that will bring me the genuine feeling.

A new year is coming. A new start, though not a clean slate. I don’t get a clean slate with myself anymore. Is it bad? Maybe, my head is messing with me, based on the previous bites.

That SOB. When you need support in getting over someone, it brings out happy memories, making you more and more miserable, and when you need all the illusion, it helps you remember all the times you have been fooled for being too happily innocent. And I don’t think it gets better with age. That you get to a point in your life when you say “All right, I’m a grown up now”, and however, you keep feeling the same anxiety you had 10 years ago, when you were way younger and you were allowed to make mistakes, so you can get something good out of them.

I do get wiser, as I train myself patience, self control that wasn’t there a decade ago, but the feeling is still there, it won’t go away with the techniques you use for the head. I still ask myself the very same questions, I still have the very same conversations with my girlfriends, probably same words, I just got better at biting on my nails so I won’t screw up all the same.

Still, all the patience and nail biting won’t prevent your head from screaming on the inside, won’t prevent the nerves, and if it’s bound to happen, won’t prevent you from getting hurt either.

So, you’re (almost) older now, get your ass back in the game, even though you might not influence the outcome anyway. But you’ll do it better. Or you’ll analyze better your new mistakes.

So, yeah… great to put myself out there again, it was about time I come out of the self-imposed sentimental retirement, even if it is to help me feel as if I am young and silly again 🙂

Bye bye 2012

Bye bye 2012!!

All in all, you’ve been a good year. I should check out my last year’s “New Year Resolutions” if I could find it… the only thing I remember on it is the money… I’ve become a full-on capitalist, it seems.

Anyway, it was the year I have decided to learn another language, and when I chose Chinese, I could not have dreamt of the impact that had on my life… So I went on and spent my holiday in Beijing, pursuing this complicated language (with a relative rate of success), and meeting so many great people, if not so young… which was good by the way, I’ve become younger and sillier myself. I’ve made some good friendships that hopefully will lastImage

This is the year I met people who went around the world… or at least around a continent, and they showed be beyond a doubt that it can be done.

This is the year that I saw the Great Wall, ddd

the sunshine from Spain highest top, the Teide, and most important of all, I saw it with my dear friend… a short but ever so fulfilling trip

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Taipei 101 from the Elephant Mountain, connected with a friend, Image

then Hong Kong – I’ve wanted to see it for so long!!, (and disconnected with another friend, unfortunately),

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I saw my family more, in happy reunions over the summer, and not so happy reunion over my dad’s stupid accident that left him on a hospital bed for a month now… but I have spent more time with him now that I spent in the last few years, and I felt so much closer to my family, so all’s well when ends well.

My love life has been a complete disaster this year, too, but as Bia said, you can’t stay in and wait for a guy to knock on your door, right? That should bring out a very good resolution for the next year: go out (and about)! I’ve heard a very interesting resolution, that you should hook up with at least one guy in one month… I should steal the idea and put it in practice… my hooking up skills are rustier by the minute, haha.

All in all, it was a good year, I have a good job, I did a few good trips, I met really nice people, so thank you 2012… will remember fondly, but looking forward to what 2013 will bring. I feel it’s going to be a hell of a year!!