Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A journey of adventure (and that’s just getting to Malawi).

First of all, I’ve arrived in Blantyre, Malawi safe and well. It would be tempting to say that the journey was plain sailing and that everything went without a hitch – that would be a lie.

So arriving at Edinburgh airport went rather smoothly – Emma and Gretta took me.  Checking in and finding the gate was straightforward, then the fun begins. The flight is delayed due to thunderstorms over Heathrow, meaning that the plane wasn’t allowed to take off. We were delayed by about an hour which meant I would have a rather hurried transfer to catch my flight to Johannesburg. What I  (and no one else on the flight) banked on was one of the windscreen panels of the plane cracking, meaning we ended up flying at 10,000ft and a tad slower.

We made it to Heathrow, though the plane did have a golf ball sized hole in the windscreen. Then the fun really began, I made a mad dash through passport control and security to get into the departure lounge- that was when I realised I was to get to the furthest away gate of terminal 1 in less than the time it would take to walk through duty free.

Ever seen a film with someone doing a mad dash to catch their flight – well that was me. There were announcements out for me to go to the gate (believe me I was going as quick as I could). Then there were ground staff at the gate waiting to escort me to the plane. I made it by the skin of my teeth and the captain even sounded surprised that I had managed it.  I found my seat, sat down and promptly wondered why I was on another plane. By that time we were taxying along the runway and I had no way back.

The flight to Johannesburg was calm in comparison, not much turbulence and no broken windscreens. When I told one of the flight attendants why I was delayed so much, they looked at me as if I was mad – “and you ran for your connection?” one said with surprise.  I slept for a good chunk of the flight and arrived in Johannesburg in good time.

I got through security and then the fun began trying to find my gate for the flight to Blantyre – with all the boards saying different things, I took a guess and ended up at the right one, got on board and took a deep breath. The flight to Blantyre was a smooth as the long haul flight and landing at Blantyre airport was rather a relief. The airport is small and once I got through immigration and goods control, I found my way to the entrance. There was someone with a piece cardboard with “Ms Alli” written on it. 

A 20 minute drive later and I was at Chez Maky, being greeted by the owner and shown to my room by a multitude of staff. It’s a double and en-suite, has mosquito nets and seems rather well equipped – just a shame about the lack of hot water! (don’t worry there is plenty of cold water).

I’ve had a quick tour of Blantyre by a fellow guest (who is also Scottish). Karen has popped in to see me and I plan on spending tomorrow trying to get to know my new home and plan my research.  – or maybe I’ll just take a very extended holiday!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Why do Swedish people think I'm Swedish??

So it's now Friday and this is my 4th day in Uppsala.  It's been an eventful few days, in which I've discovered that Swedish people seem to think I'm from Sweden, everything except Pizza, McDondald's, Subway and Ice Cream in Uppsala is super expensive and that it never gets dark at this time of year. I've attended a couple of panels, helped (wo)man the CAS/CRAS/ABORNE desk and served numerous glasses of wine to guests at the CAS wine reception, followed by singing and more alcohol at the ABORNE party. 

There has been the Conference official opening (On Wed), with a Keynote speaker that induced cramp in my leg and just happened to force me to go outside for most of his speech (honest!). Then there was the Conference Dinner and reception after it, which was rather nice and I met lots of people, some that I already knew and others who are friends of friends. 

I managed to escape the conference centre yesterday for a few hours, which resulted in wandering around Uppsala finding quirky (and expensive) shops including an English Bookshop. I visited one of the largest Cathedrals in Scandinavia, which is probably everyone's reference point for the middle of the city centre. It was whilst exploring that Swedish people kept starting conversations in Swedish and then looked surprised when I replied with "I'm sorry I don't speak Swedish" - you would think the fact i was wearing a t-shirt that says University of Edinburgh on it, would give them a clue...

I'm meeting up with my panel for lunch today, before our session tomorrow morning, when I have to present. I'm still not sure what I'm going to say though I am told that it will just come to me when I have to speak - I hope so....

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Hop, Skip and a Jump at 35,000 feet!

Ok so I’m writing this blog post as we cruise along at 35,000 feet (I’m on a flight to Sweden). Norwegian Airways does actually have WIFI on its flights but unfortunately not this one – either that or my netbook reckons at 35,000 feet asking it to switch on is a challenge never mind connecting to the internet. Well the flight was delayed by 2hrs 20mins and our captain informed us after take-off this was due to a problem with the previous aircraft and they had to divert to Oslo – I’m rather happy he said previous!

So I’m on my way to the ECAS conference in Uppsala –Joost , Wolfgang and Sarah (et al) are on the flight   - though we are sufficiently spread out! The flight is half empty though and as a result there is no-one sitting beside me. It reminds me of my flight back from Australia, though I slept for about 99.9% of that journey and so remember very little apart from the fact as there was no-one sitting beside me I got to stretch out!

We’ve been told that it’s warm in Stockholm for the moment – according to the weather forecast it’s going to rain. As my friend Sarah pointed out – “so it’s wet there as opposed to here?” she has a point the chances are that I’d be getting wet somewhere in Scotland anyway – at least it’s less likely to be “wet rain”!  And for those of you that are wondering wet rain is the kind of skin soaking, chilly, pelting it down cold rain that only seems to exist in parts of the west coast of Scotland.

So at 35,000 feet and a speed that I’d rather not be aware of, Sweden is a hop, skip and a turbulent jump from Edinburgh. Had we not been delayed my planned afternoon of exploring would have been rather nice, now I think I will locate some dinner when I arrive and find out where the rest of the CAS students are! Norwegian airways did give us £9 to spend on food because of the delays. I managed to spend £5, had I been given the voucher 20 minutes earlier it would have bought lunch, but I had already eaten – so I went to boots, bought more water and some sweets!

Well I’ve arrived at conference, where I do have internet access! – so far it’s raining, but it’s warm! I’ve been to my first panel this morning so off to a good start!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Counting down the days

So my case is semi-packed, i have bought just about everything i need for going to Malawi and now I'm trying to write a powerpoint for the ECAS conference. I am mentally counting down the days to going away - part of me is so over excited about going away, the other part slightly panicked that I have no idea what I am doing. How am I going to make the best of my time out there...

I'm not just counting down the days till I leave for Malawi but also till going to Sweden. The ECAS conference is getting closer and I'm not really sure of what i'm going to say. Well I know what I'm going to say, but I suspect it will change the moment I start. I've got into the habit of speaking without notes these days - good in many ways, disastrous in others. I am looking forward to going to Sweden though and I fully intend on visiting Stockholm one of the days that I am there.

In counting down the days, I've managed to clear a list of things that had been waiting to get done and further have managed to re-arrange most of my belongings - Mhairi (my flatmate) can testify to how much re-organisation I've been doing recently.  I'm trying to enjoy being away from Edinburgh for a week, getting a bit of west coast polluted air and getting wet however is not the most enjoyable of scenario's.

So I'm going to pull my old room at my mum's apart (and put it back together) then find a quiet spot to sit and read my book...