Getting Deported Ain’t So Bad

IMG_0012After almost 5 glorious months of living and working in Copenhagen, sadly I’ve had to pack my bags and skedaddle out of there. Life in Denmark’s big smoke was hectic, but awesome. Just when I thought I had it all sorted – a job I loved, with awesome workmates and a great collection of friends (no small task in a very introverted culture when compared to the likes of NZ), a fabulous apartment (also a marathon effort with central city housing subject to incredible competition). Unfortunately for me, the government seems to have taken a pretty tough stance on immigration in the last few years, and decided (in the words of the immigration office) I wasn’t “special” enough. After a long discussion I managed to translate the reasoning into something a little less literal. In essence, the government has decided that unless you are super highly skilled (Masters degree minimum) and being paid over 384,000kr (around NZ$84,000) per year, work permits were only being handed out to EU citizens as unemployment is so high. Sadly in a graduate job at a startup, and with a mere bachelors degrees, I fit into neither of those categories. It would have been real nice of them to mention that on the visa application form, or any official website, or when I handed in my application and asked “is this likely to be approved?”

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Never mind. Communication has never been the forte of any Danish bureaucratic organisation. Or politician for that matter. I’ve decided to pin the blame squarely on NZ’s favourite Danish politician Marie Krarup, given it was (so I’m told) the disproportionately large influence of the Folkeparti (coalition governments and all that) that contributed to the tightening up of the immigration regulations (but seemingly only behind closed doors).

And so on to Plan B. Go off on an adventure, being sure to catch some sun before heading back to NZ. Plan B involved chilling out on a beach somewhere for a few weeks (maybe Greece? Maybe Spain), using the money I (not without great difficulty) got back from the enormous deposit I paid for my apartment. I still had 3 weeks before the official “fuck off out of our country” date (OK, maybe it wasn’t worded quite that bluntly, but it was close) and in those three weeks my imagination spun wildly out of control. Before I knew it, I’d launched into Plan C and embarked on an adventure with no set plans, no exact date of return home and a whole lot of excitement. Luckily for me there are plenty more letters in the alphabet before I have to resort to the plan that involves selling my body.

Whilst on the one hand, finding myself jobless and homeless on the opposite side of the globe is pretty much the definition of stress, on the other hand it is also very exciting! Fortunately my initial life backup plan, should my job in Copenhagen not work out for any reason (be it the visa, or the fact I started as an intern, or that I was working at a startup), was already in action. I’ve been studying by distance through Massey University, slowly making my way towards a Masters in Economics. So plan C involved heading somewhere I could live off my student loan living costs of NZ$172 per week, that didn’t cost to much to get there. Say hola Spain! My first stop and current destination is Granada, to visit a lovely friend of mine studying on exchange who not only offered me somewhere to sleep but has been giving me a crash course in Spanish and been a wonderful tour guide.

Whilst making my extravagant plans, I’ve also been looking for all sorts of ways to reduce my living costs and increase my income. Step one has been eliminating accommodation costs. After a great tip-off from another friend, I signed up to Workaway, which is sort-of like  Wwoofing only instead of (or as well as) working on organic farms, you can find all kinds of short term work-for-accommodation type arrangements. Given I have worked for the past 4 months in a company specialising in online advertising, I’ve managed to lock in some work opportunities that can help me build those skills and do something somewhat career relevant (as much fun as manual labour or childcare would be). First stop is a Spanish language school in Conil De Frontera who wants some help with office admin, social media, and some ideas to relaunch their website and get a bit more traffic. I think the thing I’m most excited about is that I get Spanish lessons for free. Already in just a few short days in Granada I’ve learned so much, and it has really put in to perspective just how difficult Danish was to learn. Ironically enough, I was proud to realise on my very last day in Denmark as I called up to cancel the power and internet bills, I could finally understand and navigate my way through the customer service menus. Slim chance of me finding that language useful ever again, but at least I know what buttons to press now…

In terms of upping the income, in my short time working for Admazely, I quickly discovered my favourite part of the job was writing the company blog. No surprises, given the amount of content on this here blog that I’ve churned out as a hobby. I had been thinking for a while that it would be great to turn writing in to a full time gig, and getting the boot from Copenhagen has certainly thrown me out of the nest fairly quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find there are a number of opportunities out there. From friends with connections, to Elance, an online market place for freelancers of all types to Copify, the site that has thus far been the most lucrative. Whilst many sites (like Elance) require you to bid against the masses for a shot at a somewhat vaguely described job, once you’ve been accepted on Copify it is a first-in-best-served situation, which gives a level of certainty I am much more keen on. While a lot of the jobs are small and low paid, there a quite a few of them, and its not a bad deal if you land one writing a press release or something with a larger word count.

So for anyone else wanting to go adventuring on the cheap, I can definitely recommend a make-your-own-exchange with Massey distance learning, working for free accommodation  and seeing if you have some skills to sell online. And for all those viewing from home, unless I end up on plan D, or E, or F, I’m aiming to be back on the mothership in September.

Well I can think of worse places to study...

Well I can think of worse places to study…

339. Learn To Surf

I have always wanted to learn to surf. Actually no, that’s a lie. I have always wanted to be able to surf. I’ve never been disillusioned as to the fact it is a fairly hard slog until you get the hang of it, which is perhaps why it took me until I was 23 to give it a go!

Just as expected, it was really difficult! I was determined on day 1 to at the very least get up on the board, and spent almost all of the 5 hour lesson trying, until finally I was there, standing almost upright, gliding along the waves, feeling all triumphant. For all of about 1.5 seconds before I was face first into the ocean.

I was meant to do three days in a row, but at 5 long hours each, it was a gruelling slog! By the end of it I’d had enough after 2 days, was able to report back I’d stood up a few times and got the basics, but very much of the opinion that the effort to reward ratio of surfing is seriously off. For all the time you spend bobbling in the ocean, battling your way out and getting slapped in the face repeatedly by the waves, when you finally get an acceptable one you really only get a good 10 seconds riding the wave before you have to do it all over again.

Perhaps, as the instructor lamented, the surf was crap when we were there, or as the other students lamented, the instructor was crap. I certainly wouldn’t mind giving it a go with some friends who knew what they were doing, where I could potter around in my own time and have some regular breaks, but I can definitely conclude that I’ve given it a go and surfing isn’t really for me!

338. “Irish Sangria” And More Rugby Trivia Than I Could Ever Need

After a wee wander round the Castillo beachfront, and the usual extremely late Spanish dinner, I got back to my hotel room fairly late. I had to be out of there at 5am, so I thought I’d best go double check I could actually check out at that time. It turned out reception was closed and wouldn’t be open until 10am the next day, but the bar was open, so I popped in to see what I should do.

At the bar, I was met with a rather bored Irish bartender who had spent the day dealing with a lot of difficult Italians who pretended not to speak English as he repeatedly informed them the bar was not, in fact, a BYO establishment. By gosh was he excited to find a fellow speaker of the mother tongue! Either that or he was a serious Chatty Cathy. Whilst trying to work out where to put my key in the morning, he insisted I try his latest cocktail innovation – “Irish Sangria.” Well I can definitely tell you that Sangria, banana liquer and whiskey are not going to be winning any awards any time soon, but it was a bit of a laugh and who am I to say no to free cocktails? Despite fiddling with the proportions according to my feedback it didn’t really get any better unfortunately, but it was a bit of a laugh whilst I maxed out my free wifi time.

Just as I was about to leave, one of the regulars came in, an old, alcoholic Welshman named Bruce, who turned out to be a very accomplished conversation trapper. The bartender mentioned I was from New Zealand and he was off out of the starting gates on the biggest rant about rugby and the All Blacks. I mean I know we all love the All Blacks in NZ, but by God I could not be less interested in hearing a play by play of the All Blacks vs Wales on the 31st of October 1972. Just as I’d got past politely listening and was ready to interject and make my departure, he begun to recite a poem about the game! It was actually quite amusing, and I was amazed that he knew this poem about the one time Wales beat the mighty All Blacks by heart. Though he was of the opinion he could only recite the poem whilst under the influence (I think that’s one of those things alcoholics say to make everyone laugh so they can justify their drinking), I got him to say it a second time so I could write it down because it was acutally quite entertaining. Or maybe it was just the Irish Sangria.

“It was a cold and windy day and a week that had seen some rain
When all roads lead to Stradey park with the all blacks there again.
They came down from the valleys they came from far and wide,
They were 20,000 in that ground and me and I outside.

Shops were closed like Sunday and the morn was cold and still
And those who chose who stay away were either dead or ill.
But those who went to Stradey will remember till they die.
How New Zealand were defeated and how the pubs ran dry.

For the beer flowed at Stradey , pumped down from Felinfoel,
And the hands that held the glasses high were strong from steal and coal.
And the air was filled with singing and I saw a grown man cry.
Not because we had won the game, but because the pub’s run dry.

Then dawned the morning after, on empty factories.
For we were still at Stradey, bloodshot absentees.
But we all had doctors papers and they all read just the same.
We all had scarlet fever, and we’d caught it at the game.

And when I’m old and my hair turns grey, and they put me in a chair,
I can tell my Grandchildren, that their Datcu was there.”

9-3 By Max Boyce, as recited by Bruce the drunk Welshman in Fuerteventura.

When I looked up from my computer after recording it, the bartender and the chef were dancing the YMCA on the bar. Supposedly they used to work at a bar where if YMCA came on all bartenders had to drop everything and climb up on the bar and do the dance. That was a good signal it was time for bed!
IMG_5205 (480x640)

337. Castillo Caleta de Fuste

IMG_5173 (640x480)On my last night in Fuerteventura I stayed in Castillo Caleta de Fuste, mostly so I could be close to the airport and get to my super early flight. Castillo de Caleta seems to be a giant town made of hotels and resorts. The waterfront is dominated by the giant complex that is the Barcelo Resort. In fact, as you walk around the waterfront, you suddenly sort of find yourself in the middle of it. There is one tiny strip of houses on the waterfront that refuse to be bought out, but aside from that almost every building is part of the resort, and kind of makes you feel like you aren’t meant to be there!

The last hangers on:

IMG_5203 (640x480) IMG_5204 (640x480)

The waterfront was really beautiful and picturesque, particularly as the sun went down. My favourite photo that really sums up the vibe of the rest of the place is this one:IMG_5155 (640x480)

The falling apart sign of a resort that is barely able to keep running is not at all an uncommon site. In fact, Fuerteventura has some huge issues with Spanish property developers turning up and deciding to build hotels on land they don’t even own, or just starting up some construction as a money laundering exercise, so there are tonnes of giant concrete half finished construction sites, where either the project was abandoned or the landowners managed to get an injunction.

336. Corralejo

IMG_5123 (640x480)As far as tourist places go, Corralejo, the main town on Fuerteventura, proved to be a dream destination. I say that based mainly on the fact we could get a room in a resort for the same price as a single bed in dorm of a hostel in most of Europe. There were also balmy beaches, a cute old town full of novel little bars and restaurants, and it was what I like to call “just the right amount of touristy.” There was enough infrastructure to support all the tourists (shops, bars, cafes, beach activities) but there weren’t enough people to actually cause annoyance. Win.

Highlights included finding a bar with mojito specials when the olympic closing ceremony was on, crazy cheap sales everywhere and coming across a music group doing some kind of Canarian drumming/percussion performance lead by a man who decided conducting was less important than dancing around having a grand old time!

IMG_5134 (640x480) IMG_5132 (640x480) IMG_5130 (480x640) IMG_5128 (640x480)
IMG_5122 (640x480) IMG_5121 (640x480) IMG_5120 (480x640) IMG_5119 (480x640) IMG_5114 (640x480) IMG_5113 (640x480) IMG_5112 (640x480) IMG_5110 (640x480) IMG_5106 (640x480) IMG_5104 (480x640) IMG_5102 (640x480) IMG_5098 (640x480)

 

335. Tapas Heaven

Barcelona proved to be really disappointing as far as cuisine goes. Being a big paella fan, I had sort of made an assumption that like most countries, there would be some great local cuisine to try. As it turned out, Barcelona was choc full of tourist trap style restuarants. Our one attempt at paella turned out to essentially be very dry, microwave reheated rice that was so flavourless it may as well have just had yellow food colouring in it. No saffron to be found there! (which, to be fair doesn’t actually make the rice go yellow, so if you see a yellow paella it will usually just be flavoured with tumeric and thus not be very authentic). Aside from that, local food seemed to just be baguettes with various cured meats in them (AKA not very exciting). Special commendation, however, is awarded to spanish fritatas (potato omelette), often also found in a baguette. Being essentially a carb sandwich, it was definitely a one-time thing, though.

Just as I was about to give up all hope on Spanish food (somewhere between my really average empanada experience and being stuck at Barcelona airport with nothing but dry baguettes. Actually I’m still not over my crap empanada. I mean really, how can you screw up a pie?!), we discovered the most amazing, heavenly, delicious, excellent, [insert adjectives conveying deliciousness and awe here] tapas restaurant in Vilaverde. From goats cheese stuffed bell peppers to super tasty egg plant fritters, to local seafood, the entire menu (which turned up on a giant blackboard  in the seat next to us, and was recited/translated by the restaurant owner), an entire world of gourmet creations I have never seen anywhere else was opened up for us. The fact that most of the meals were meals I’d never actually eaten was particularly novel, as for the most part when you eat out, although a meal is delicious it is usually just a variation on a theme you have encountered many times before. Later on in Corralejo we found another excellent Tapas restuarant

Being the chief export, goats cheese was a huge recurring theme in many of the meals, and it was actually a lot more delicious than anticipated! Most of my previous goats cheese experiences have involved a wierd musty aftertaste, but that was pleasantly lacking in Fuerteventuran goats cheese which was more like haloumi than any goats cheese I’ve ever tasted.

333. Climb a Volcano

IMG_4924 (640x480)Perhaps not strictly a first, I did climb Mt Ruapehu years ago, but we took a chair lift up halfway so I’m gonna call this particular volcano a first, based on the fact I climbed the whole thing. To be fair to Ruapehu though, this one was quite tiny and there was no pick axe required in getting to the top…

The highlight was an equal first between the little squirrels living camouflaged in the crater (which looked small but was actually massive) and the views of the rest of the island.

Fuerteventura is almost the definition of a desert island, apart from the fact that there is only sand on the beaches because it blows over from Africa! They import almost everything there, the only exception being goats cheese, the sole item produced locally. And yet produce is still really cheap, although much of the fruit/vegetables are found in the freezer section of the supermarket.

332. A world of different types of yoga

Given we were at a yoga retreat, it should be of no surprise that we got to discover a bunch of different types of yoga (as well as pilates, tai chi and zumba). It was educational, to say the least! Some classes were, in my opinion, better than others, though everyone has their own preferences. I have to say I’m much more a fan of the relaxing/stretching/exercising types than the meditation/yoga-as-a-religion types, but to each his own, right?

Here’s my run down of the different types we learned, and my personal impressions!

Hatha Yoga

This is my favourite, as it is where you stretch out all your sore muscles and then end with what I like to call “nap time” aka shavasana. There’s no better way to relax than lying down after stretching out every single muscle in your body! It wasn’t too strenuous either.

Vinayasa Flow Yoga

This one was more in the workout variety, and had some fairly difficult poses to hold. much more of a challenge!

Yoga Nidra

Also called sleeping yoga, this is more of a meditation type of yoga. It was basically just the nap time part, stretched out over a whole class. Not gonna lie, there was very little to complain about there! It would probably be a wise choice for anyone who has sleeping difficulties to try, as it is a really great way to ease yourself in to a very relaxed, deep sleep. I was not such a fan of the bit where we were meant to chant “ummmm” over and over, but that’s just me. As we were lying there, we were told to focus on some sort of goal or resolution we were really keen on achieving – supposedly it is often used to treat people with addictions e.g. quitting smoking, or eating disorders to stop them overeating. I definitely did wake up feeling quite motivated!

Kundalini Yoga

This was probably my least favourite class. It was all very focussed on spirits and chakras and all that jazz, which is all a bit far down the yoga spectrum for me I think. It was taught by this very angry German frau who was yelling at us to get into all these rather painful positions and do “the breath of fire” which is essentially hyperventilating. She was very intimidating. Then went round and gave us all lingering bra-less hugs at the end which was a bit awkward. Quite the contrast. Maybe I need to ease my way in to that kind of yoga, but as she was yelling at us that we should be feeling the spirits washing through our bodies all I could think was “of course I’m getting a bloody headrush, you are making me hyperventilate upside down! That’s a lack of oxygen to the brain, not a magical yoga spirit!” But you know, wouldn’t want to go ruining it for everyone else by voicing those thoughts outlod. Maybe I’m just not enough of a believer…

331. Azul Fit Yoga Retreat

Fuertevntura

At last, about 28 hours later than expected, we arrived in Fuerteventura and headed to the “Azul Fit” yoga retreat. It consists of a small villa about 30mins or so out of Corralejo, the main town on the island. We wound up there after we went in search of somewhere we could chill out by the beach, do some surf lessons and easily/cheaply fly there between leaving London and heading to Brussels for a music festival. Claire and I also happen to be growing yoga fans, so when we discovered this place we were quite excited!

It turned out to be just the most amazing and relaxing week I have ever had. Despite intermissions of rather gruelling surf lessons, mountain biking and volcano climbing, there was plenty of time for sunbathing by the pool and book reading. By the end of the week we had built up to doing about 3 hours of yoga and pilates per day, and coupled with the delicious, healthy organic food on offer I cannot recall a time in my life when I have felt healthier! It was just the recharge we needed after the dramas we had had, and a great escape from being in big cities. As Claire and I took up every opportunity to adventure around and do activities, we realised we most definitely were living up to the adventurous kiwi stereotypes! Travel is fun and I’ve loved seeing so many great places that I’ve heard so much about, but I definitely came to the realisation that my idea of a holiday involves as few people and as much nature as possible!

The staff there were also absolutely fantastic. They even let us stay an extra night for free because of our delayed flight which was really sweet and totally unnecessary. It was quite a small, intimate place, and we got on really well with all the girls there (it was all girls that particular week, and not many males in general, usually). The main chef, Jo, made the most amazing, delicious meals, all of which were vegetarian and easily gluten/dairy free. It was really inspirational in terms of creative items on the menu that were really tasty and left me feeling really great by the end of the week. She sent us some of her recipes from the week which I have since made with great success, and she now has a cookbook available which I will most definitely be purchasing once I’m done travelling around. It was a great reminder of the huge difference I feel when I cut out gluten and dairy especially…

I definitely couldn’t recommend the place any higher, it was such an awesome way to relax and unwind, particularly if yoga/surfing/mountain biking is your thing. And compared to its rivals in places like Bali, it was a really cheap offer. We actually mentioned that to the owners, but they were more concerned with being accessible to more people than pitching themselves to the Eat-Pray-Love crowd and charging through the roof. Oh and did I mention how lovely they were?IMG_5090 (480x640) IMG_5089 (480x640) IMG_5088 (480x640) IMG_5086 (640x480) IMG_5084 (480x640) IMG_5083 (640x480) IMG_5081 (640x480) IMG_5079 (640x480) IMG_5031 (640x480) IMG_4923 (640x480) IMG_4910 (640x480)

 

330. Fort Barcelona

We managed to have yet another travel disaster when we first attempted to leave Barcelona. On arrival at the airport, the lines were so long with half of Britain going on their budget holidays to Spanish beaches (think “The Inbetweeners”). There were two Ryanair checkout counters for about 6 flights, and despite being there 2 hours before checkin closed, the lines were so long that they closed it before we could check in. You can only imagine how fuming mad I was. And I wasn’t alone. There was a huge amount of angry yelling in Spanish and plenty of tears going on around us as others had their holidays ruined. The only remote attempt at a remedy was being given a fax number for Ryanair HQ in Dublin, also very infuriating. Who even uses a fax machine these days anyway?!

And so we were forced to camp out at Barcelona airport for about 12 hours waiting for a flight. There was barely any seating, as we couldn’t check in for 10 hours so had to wait near the desks, and no plugs anywhere either. We eventually found one behind a vending machine and entertained ourselves with gossip magazines, West Wing episodes and chocolate from the gift shop. When this got old, we built a fort out of our bags and a couple of airport trolleys. Mostly to hide ourselves from security as we definitely weren’t meant to be sitting there, but really wanted to charge our phones and laptops! After about 8 hours this is what we looked like:IMG_4899 (640x480) Finally, we were able to get to Gran Canaria (not quite the right Island) where we able to travel to Fuerteventura in this tiny plane, which also doubles as the newspaper delivery vehicle:IMG_4907 (640x480)