5 things I’m grateful for today

3March 17, 2016

  1. So grateful for the gloriously sunny and warm day today; London is a great place to be when it’s sunny 🙂
  2. Grateful for having seen two wonderful, feel-good films; one of them with my favourite Maggi Smith
  3. Grateful to have tenants who share their dinner with me
  4. It was lovely to see Sadia again for a catch up
  5. Right now I am in awe with having a healthy body and mesmerised by the ability to move

March 16, 2016

  1. I am grateful for my friendship with Jenny; I feel energised and relaxed every time I meet up with her
  2. I am very grateful for a healthy, strong body that allows me to enjoy movement freely
  3. I am grateful for my lettings agent who will manage the roof repair for me; t’s nice to share the work with someone and it feels like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders
  4. I was so happy and moved to see The Lunchbox – what a heart-warming film!
  5. I am very grateful for my friendship with Meggi – I don’t feel alone even though she is far away
  6. I am grateful that I haven’t taken out all of my dividends and am well within the higher tax limit, which will help with the loan repayment (another burden lifted off my shoulders)

March 15, 2016

  1. Catching up with Sandra, so grateful that we are still in touch years after Patagonia and she contacts me every time she comes to London
  2. Choir rehearsal today was great; really pleased with the way I sang. Love it! It makes me feel like I belong and I’m alive!
  3. Loved my chat with Paul today; glad I managed to get a belly laugh from him. So blessed I still have him in my life
  4. I’m grateful for the builders that called today as things with the house are moving forward
  5. I am grateful for my warm, light, comfortable home and all the comforts this country has to offer



Before the 7-months work abroad trip

‘Hello? Hi Adrian, how are you?’ – I said, voice low and barely audible.
‘Hi Katerina. I trust you are well. I am calling because you expressed an interest in working abroad and I wonder if you will be interested in an opportunity that’s just come up?’ – replied Adrian.

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Inside my head: looking for a revelation

To Pavel

The guys left and I am home alone. Andreh has (more than) kindly let me stay in his flat since my first day in Rio. I have been here for almost 2 weeks now. I was supposed to leave after 4 nights but he said it was OK to stay longer and since my other host was nowhere to be seen, I gladly accepted. Then today he is going to São Paulo for the weekend and I thought I would leave with him but no, he said it was OK to stay even longer if I wanted to. And I want to. So, here I am, looking forward to my days alone. Andreh is an excellent host, more than I could have ever asked for but there is nothing like being on your own, not having to consider others, being able to come in and go out as you please, being able to sleep late or early, and use the bathroom whenever you want but most of all not depending or owing anything to anybody. I often feel awkward in the company of others. I never know what to say to them or how I should behave. I am not good at small talk and it always burdens me when I have to make up conversations. I feel better on my own. Leave me on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean and I am ecstatic. Put me in a crowded place, a tourist destination and I feel so lonely. I wonder if this shows strength of character or it is just a way of avoiding the real world. Probably a little bit of both.

This is the time to update my blog with a rather personal entry. I few days ago I read a friend’s blog where he shared his thoughts and feelings on various subjects. I liked it and I thought it interesting. A friend of mine has also urged me to write more about the way I felt instead of the places I was visiting. I usually keep ‘me’ to myself and rarely share what is going on inside my head. I wondered whether it is a good idea to put my most intimate thoughts on the Internet for everyone to see but I feel safe with the people reading this blog and know I could trust them with the real me. So, here it goes, I am going to be brave and reveal myself to the world. It is scary.

There isn’t much on my mind at the moment. I am enjoying an almost problem-free life. The little problems I have revolve around broken or malfunctioning electronic equipment, unavailable buses or immigration procedures. I do sometimes have to deal with ignorance, plain stupidity and general madness but don’t we all! Although nowadays I rarely worry about anything, there are a couple of resident thoughts on my mind, namely my return to London and love (always!).

I am looking forward to seeing my friends, having money (I do love money), having my own place, buying furniture for it, decorating it, buying a bright red cooking set (I find it inspirational), and throwing dinner parties with my best friend. I am looking forward to having a home, a place to call my own. I think about all the things I am going to do upon my return. All those things I have always wanted to do but never stuck around long enough to do them. I am going to learn to dance salsa properly, and then samba, I am going to take a photography course, and then a cooking class, and I am going to learn to fly a plain. A long time ago I found a website that offered flying lessons and they weren’t even that expensive. I am looking forward to new challenges and hobbies. I just realised I often get inspired by what others are doing – I see it on TV, in movies, read about it, hear about it. I like it all. But I am just following in their steps. What do I like to do? What is my hobby? It is confusing as I tend to like everything and nothing. I hope that once I have gone through it all, I would know. I would know myself. It is a way to self-discovery.

Speaking of self-discovery, now is the time to reveal the decision behind this trip. Quite simply I just didn’t know what else to do. My personal life was at best rather bleak, I had a job offer for a job I wasn’t passionate about, and since I didn’t know what my true calling was I decided to follow my heart for a change, throw it all away and leave, hoping to find myself, my true calling, and my true love on the way. Four months into the trip I have found neither. I am still unsure about who I am, nor have I found the one thing I love doing and am good at. As for my true love – he is nowhere to be seen. I am quite frankly hoping for a sign from above, something to point me to the right way, to show me the way. Until it happens I will keep traveling. Keep looking.

I have felt very lonely these last few days. And there is nothing like Rio to make you feel even worse. Couples walking on the beach, families having dinner, friends enjoying themselves at a bar. This place is not designed for ‘alone’ people. Food at restaurants is served for at least two, double rooms are cheaper than single ones. It takes a lot of guts to walk into a restaurant by yourself and ask for a table. You get amazed, unbelieving looks, saying ‘You are alone?!’ and everybody is staring at you. Because you are alone. The lady at the restaurant the other day whispered to the waiter ‘Take her order, she is alone (poor thing)!’, as if I had a deadly disease. There is no point in trying to explain this to Brazilians. They just don’t get it. Sometimes I feel like screaming ‘I like being alone! There is nothing wrong with me!’.

The other day I went to a famous church in Central Rio. What is it famous for? Single women pray for a husband there. I thought ‘Maybe I should pray…’ but I felt uneasy with the thought. A husband is a scary thing. You know what they say – careful what you wish for. Then I thought ‘I don’t want a husband, I want more than that. I want The One.’. A husband is not necessarily The One, you can get bored with a husband. The One is forever. I imagine how I would feel once I have found him – utter bliss and endless happiness. It is time he appeared. I sometimes wonder what I would do if I didn’t find The One. Would I settle for the next best thing? Could I live with myself knowing that I have? What would life be on my own? How do I live happily on my own? I needn’t worry about it. I know I will find him.

On a completely different note, a question that sparked my interest and provoked some thoughts, again in a friend’s blog. He said he was proud of his parents. It made me think. Am I proud of my parents? I couldn’t give a short, straightforward answer. I had to think. Firstly, I can not speak of my parents as one. I have to separate them as I have different thoughts on each of them. My dad – yes, I am proud of him. He has developed some funny (at times annoying) personality traits and habits, and he is no longer the father I adored as a little girl, but he is the strongest, the brightest person and the most loving, supportive, and reliable father. I am proud of him for that. My mom – my relationship with her has been interesting. She is not the best of mothers. But I know she is trying. And I am proud of her for that. She has her place in my life.

And finally, my stay in Rio is approaching the end. And it is sad. I thought I’d had enough of the sun, the beach and the fun, that I was ready to move on. But then I realised that Brazil is my last sunny country for the next 4 months. My next destination is chilly Argentina, then there is snow in Chile, then cold Peru. It won’t be until Ecuador I am going to go to the beach again. I was standing on top of Cristo Redentor, looking at Rio, thinking how much I liked it, how much I am going to miss it. I could see myself living here.

Looking back: what’s happened so far

I am now in Panama and as I am nearing the end of Central America, I thought it was time to put down my thoughts on a few things. I will start from Panama and work my way back.

Well, so far so good. My first impressions of Panama are positive. I had a feeling it would be like that though and that’s maybe why I was looking forward to it. Or maybe because it is the last country before Brazil. The truth is I couldn’t wait to get out of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Honduras was very unimpressive (at least for what I saw) with one exception – La Moskitia. The jungle part of the country accessible only by boat, dirt roads, and plane. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go as the rain made it impossible to move around. The few dirst roads would disappear, the rivers would be hard to navigate, and it wouldn’t have been too enjoyable walking under the pouring rain. I decided to save myself the $400 and head to Panama.

I bought a TicaBus ticket that would take me directly to San Jose, Costa Rica from where I would make my way to the Panamian border. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. The morning of the trip all buses were cancelled because of the Honduran general elections. The borders were closed. We decided to take our chance and go to the border anyway. We didn’t go through. Nobody did. They wouldn’t even let diplomats and Nicaraguans go through.

We were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no Inet access. Not only it was weekend but also elections day. Everything was closed. We even struggled for food. We tried to make the most of it and went hiking.

We made it to Nicaragua on Monday. I spent the night in the capital Managua. Just like Tegucigalpa (Honduras) it was ugly. I took a shared taxi with four men, two of whom sat in the front seat. We first went to the worst neighbourhood of Managua called ‘Jorge Dimitrov‘ where a teenager was killed the day before. We also stopped at a car store where the driver bought some liquid for the car. The taxi drivers almost everywhere are trying to rip you off charging double the price. it’s always a bargain. At times I have hated them. It can be tiring and frustrating.

Nicaragua’s capital sucks but it seems like the rest of the ountry has a lot to offer. It would make a fine end to my trip.

After all the travelling and all the run-down places I had gone through I was looking forward to something pretty. I didn’t realise how tiring and depressing the ugliness was until I got out of it. It puts you down and sucks the life out of you. Luckily, San Jose (Costa Rica) provided that breath of fresh air I needed so badly. I didn’t expect much of it but it surprised me. It is a pretty capital. Decent buidings and roads, modern conveniences, good night life. I took a direct bus (a bit more expensive) from Managua to San Jose.
Those buses were supposed to help you cross the border efficiently (at least that’s what the book said). Well, it took us 4h – the majority of which we spent on the Costa Rican side queuing for a single stamp. The most tedious border crossing so far. I hate those too.

The little I saw in Costa Rica was beautiful. It is by far the greenest country in Central America. Unlike other countries whee the housing never seems to end (stretching along the road), Costa Rica has vast kilmeters-long jungle areas. It doesn’t get much better than that for fresh air. And it’s beautiful.

Getting to the Panamian border from San Jose was easy – a direct bus! Sweet! Crossing the border was fast but very frustrating. Although I had a visa (€50) they wanted an exit ticket as well. There was only one option – a ticket back to San Jose, Costa Rica ($11).I was so mad about it s I am not going back there (at least not by bus) and it was a complete waste of money. I thought that’s what visas were for! And then to top things off I got talked into paying $5 for a minibus ride hat cost $0.50 on the chicken bus. The guy told me the town was dangerous and it was getting dark. I knew that wouldn’t be the case and I felt uneasy but I had just missed the bus. Surely enough there wasnone of the danger the guy was talking about. it was a one street town with tons of light, people, and shops. The ride only took 30min and there was plenty of daylight as well. I was so mad at myself for taking that ride! Especially when I read the ne chicken bus was only 30min away.

One thing I forgot to mention is that as soon as we left Nicaragua the people’s attitude changed. People in Costa Rica and Panama are much nicer. And some of them even do it jus for he sake of it! Everyone seems to be the same when it comes to throwing rubbish on the street though. Frustrating and disappointing.

Now a bit about how I have felt so far. I have been good. I was sad when I left Mexico, not even sure I wanted to do this. The first couple of weeks were lonely, my spirits were down. Things changed when I started meeting people. I have met some fun people, some magical people, some utterly unmemorable and unexciting people, some nice but bragging people. Most locals have been very nice and helpful. It’s amazing how easy it is to travel (alone) once you are one the road. It only takes that first step. So far I have found it easy. Speaking Spanish has definitely helped a lot.

I enjoy seeing pretty places and doing cool things. And I really enjoy the actual travelling. Some of the rides (bus or boat) are very scenic but even if that’s not the case I enjoy getting completely lost in my thoughts. I had felt the happiest on a bus on two occasions. You feel free and powerful, able to do anything you want.

One disturbing occurence (fact) is that despite all the beauty that surrounds me, all the great activities, it is somehow not enough. You get used to it and start wanting better (not necessarily more just better). A more beautiful place or a more envigorating activity. Something unique, something that nobody else has done before. Some of the places I have visited (unless completely new to me) have felt like ‘been there, done that’ despite their beauty. I have been indifferent. I remember being completely indifferent when I jumped off that 10m rock into the river (Guatemala). I kinda did it in an attempt to feel something. I have also noticed that the more reckless the activity, the more it appeals to me.

One thing that hasn’t changed so far is: I miss Mexico. There is always something reminding me of it. And as it was the first Latin American country I had ever gone to, it would always have a special place in my heart.