Day 3 – Buses… Other bleedin’ buses… and Buddah

Today, following the SD card revelation yesterday, I’ve tried to be a bit more portable with my photos (aka taken some on my phone)… so here’s hoping they came out.

We started the day with some coffee and a cake from a well known Tax avoiding coffee shop whom happen to have a branch in the shopping centre just down stairs. Strangely though, as no one pays tax in Hong Kong, they are perfectly legit here. We then made our way to the station to get the train to Tung Chung.

The train journey was rather uneventful and we arrived with ease. We were warned that the cable car was sadly closed for cable replacement so we’d have to get the bus to the Lin Po Monastery. When we got out of Tung Chung station, we found what we thought was the rather quiet bus station. This however was not the bus station we needed… so we followed the signs around the corner….

Upon turning said corner, we found that half of Mainland China and their dog’s had turned up on bank holiday (Today still!) to go and visit the Giant Buddha at Lin Po.

Not even half the queue!
Not even half the queue!

Undettered by the crowds we joined the queue and were eventually thrust on a bus up and over the mountains to Ngong Ping village. Ngong ping village is a fake village created in “Traditional style” but clearly is just fake fake fake. It feels a bit like Shrek 2. Having had a wander though we decided it was time to go and visit the Tian Tan Buddha.

We followed the general direction of the people, but still couldn’t see the Buddha. I thought it was HUGE so couldn’t work out why we couldn’t see it. We did however come across some rather free range cows.

Cows Love selfies!
Cows Love selfies!

Eventually we found the foot of the steps to the Buddha, bought a ticket for lunch in the monastery, and started to ascend the steps to the Buddha which was shrouded in cloud / Fog. As we climbed the 268 steps to reach the Big Buddha, he slowly became clearer!

Cheeky beggar was copying me!
Cheeky beggar was copying me!

When we reached the top, the fog was still quite thick, so we used our dinner voucher to visit the exhibition inside his plinth. (Free with your dinner voucher), and we explored a number of Buddhist artifacts including one the very few relics supposed to contain some of Buddha himself’s ashes!

Once we were done exploring in there, we realised the fog had lifted a little so managed to get some better photos, before descending the steps to the monastery.

Less foggy Buddha!
Less foggy Buddha!

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Back down at ground level, we walked into the monastery where we found lots of people lighting GIANT incense and praying to Buddha. It was very interesting to watch the rituals and rules involved in these prayers.

Incense and prayers...
Incense and prayers…

Having walked round and looked at the Monastery, we decided it was time for lunch. Every vegetarian place we’ve eaten in so far has seemed to have a loving for this mysterious gloop. The monastery was no different…. Lunch was not great… in fact, I’m still not sure what it was! (But the plain rice was nice!)

The very ornate Monestary
The very ornate Monestary

From the Monastery, we got the bus to the tiny fishing village of Tao O. This was supposed to be the “Venice of Hong Kong”. I wouldn’t go that far… I mean, I’ve never been to Venice but this was not like the photos.

This was enlightening as it was a real glimpse into the lives of some real Hong Kongers, but it was also every sceneted nightmare you could ever have. I can’t even describe the smell of some of the things you could buy on the main street.

At Tao O, we queued again to return with half of mainland China on a direct bus back to Tsung Tung. WHAT A JOURNEY. Somehow I managed to get some sleep, but this as more a thrill ride than a bus ride! The driver saw no danger, even at one point slamming the brakes on last minute to avoid a HUGE cow!

We made it back to the apartment for a quick rest before heading out, meeting Hilz and Jonathan and heading up Victoria Peak for dinner. The views were amazing and you could see them from the Restaurant window.

The amazing View!
The amazing View!
Us obscuring said view!
Us obscuring said view!

Getting home was fun – More huge bus station queues. In a toss up between a taxi queue and a Small bus queue it was about equally pegging so we jumped on the small bus. (Think Turkish dolomus).

This driver made the earlier one look like a granny had been driving. He tailgated a mini all the way down the hill, tackling hairpin bends at 30KMPH as if we were filming an episode of Top Gear!

Added to this, there are no stops, per say – you ask to be dropped off…Hilo had a slight moment of confusion with the driver involving much angry shouting in Cantonese and then Hilz agreeing before leaping off the bus!

I’m absolutely shattered again so am heading to bed before another big day tomorrow – Trams in the morning an then I’m taking things on, on my own in the afternoon! AAAH! Night/Afternoon y’all! 🙂

Day 2 – Parks, Markets and Light Shows!

What a day.

It’s day’s like today I’m thankful that I like to keep a blog as I go along to remind me of where I’ve been. Frankly I’m sat here, writing, not sure where to start because this morning seems like such a long time ago!

We started with breakfast next door to where I am staying, before heading off to Hong Kong Park. Hong Kong Park was full of views – the parky green nestled within the tall skyscrapers!

Panoramic View of the Park inc. LHJD
Panoramic View of the Park inc. LHJD

As well as Parky Green was a number of water features and water falls… Many of you may know that I LOVE Water features so was delightfully amused.

One of the many water features of the day...
One of the many water features of the day…

Also within HK Park was an Aviary – we went for a wander through and saw lots of different birds from all different places… they looked like they were having a great time (The Aviary was HUGE!)

"Lovely orange"
“Lovely orange”

 

Om nom nom nom
Om nom nom nom

From the HK Garden  we walked up the the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens (Different place!) The Hong Kong Botanical Gardens contained a whole host of trees, plants and flowers, (Labeled in Cantonese, English and latin) as well as animals and of course more water features! We saw Monkeys, Orangutangs and a sleeping meerkat. (No car insurance for me!)

Fountain 3 of many!
Fountain 3 of many!

From the HK Botanical gardens we walked to the MTR for my first experience of the “Hong Kong Underground”… Everything is HUGE! The trains are loooong… The stations although underground are bright an airy… and there’s often LOADS of shops past the ticket line… its mental!

Between the Gardens and the MTR we stopped at a Starbucks “Done up” like and Old Fashioned HK Cafe. Interesting!

On the MTR, we ended up at the Nan Lian Garden / Chi Lin Nunnery & Temple Complex… Which was another incredible garden (Including water ofc!) The gardens were beautiful and had wonderful views.  There was also loads of different buildings in traditional architecture as well as exhibitions on the architecture, and a rockery!

It rained...
It rained…
It stopped Raining for a minute!
It stopped Raining for a minute!

We wandered round the Temple, taking in the sights and Leonie and I managed to have my photo taken with some random strangers from Mainland China!

We possibly made their holiday!
We possibly made their holiday!

We entered the inner temple where photos were strictly not allowed (although it seemed many people couldn’t read the signs!) and looked at a number of Gods which were placed round the outside, while traditional Buddist chanting could be heard.

We walked up to the largest Buddah in the complex, and joined the queue to go and pray to him (because we’d noticed a nun giving out freebies!) While we passed, we span a wheel for knowledge (Maybe I’ll become enlightened) before taking the small red envelope from the nun… The “Freebie” that we’d seen being given out.

Leonie and I each took the red envelope and (disgusting) sweet, whilst Hilz not only refused, but then managed to rub the nun up the wrong way by asking her where she lived… i.e. on site or elsewhere. The nun barked “not for you to know” and Hilz tried again, receiving the same treatment. Buddah is not looking kindly on Hilz now! 🙂 🙂

Buddah is however looking somewhat kindly on me… While Leonie’s envelope contained nothing, mine contained a 20 cent piece. Thanks for the 2p Buddah, I won’t spend it all at once!

From the Gardens/Temple we wanted round the very posh “Holywood Plaza” shopping mall, deciding where to eat, before settling for take out sushi. (YUM!)

We then got on the train and headed to look at some of the markets.. We wandered through the flower market which was pretty but mainly rather standard western flowers.. perhaps rarer out here than at home.

We found the Bird market, which was odd. I know it’s common to keep birds as pets here, but they did look a little unhappy in such small cages. I did manage to find a lady “Trying on a Parrot” which subsequently ate her hair!

From the Bird market, we found ourselves lost in another very large, very nice shopping center called MOKO looking for somewhere to get some form of tea or coffee…. We went on a wild goose chase trying to find the “Food Opera” which we still aren’t sure what exactly “Food Opera” means because we never found it and ended up in Pacific Coffee in stead.

From MOKO we headed back to the apartment for a VERY brief power nap before heading out for some dinner at the Tea House in the Hong Kong Garden. We each had to chose some tea (which was lovely… I had a red tea) and then ordered Dim Sum including Purple Sweet potato cakes and some Sweetcorn cakes.

Dim Sum Dinner...
Dim Sum Dinner…

From the Tea House we rushed to the MTR and across town to the Light show, where we watched the Guinness world record holding permanent light show (or some crap fact like that!). Loads of the buildings on the other side of the bank all work together to make a light show to some bloody catchy music. All the different buildings light up differently and it was quite good to watch.

Hilz and I on the waterfront
Hilz and I on the waterfront

From there we went back on the MTR to the Ladies Market. Before we got to the ladies market we got caught in this crazy street market with in-street karaoke and all sorts. We wandered through the very quiet ladies market, and ended up back at the Crazy Street market where Hilly decided it would be a good idea to go and dance with the crazy dancing Chinese people.

VID_20170130_133515~2

From the crazy market, we headed up to another tiny street market before deciding it was time to head back home (Via the Star ferry).

This involved getting a bus (Which was much nicer than London!) and then getting the star ferry. We splashed out on the Upper Deck, spending 34p as opposed to the lower deck at 25p. BIG SPENDERS.

Boaty Mc Boat back of face
Boaty Mc Boat back of face

From the Star Ferry terminal we headed back to where we are staying Via Mc D’s for a cheesecake and a cup of tea, cos I was hungry! (CHEESECAKE. Mc Donald’s is always much better abroad!)

Now is time for bed. I’m knackered, but surprisingly not very jet lagged!

Tomorrow is a BIG day. (that’s a clue!)

[Note at time of publishing:  Lady Hizzle of Arkley  did not mean to cause offence to the nun, simply wished to inquire out of pure curiosity as to the living arrangements for Nuns working in the Temple. We are pleased to note that no charges were pressed]

I don’t actually know what day it is! (Day 1)

I seem to have lost a day.

Careless,, I know but it turns out its because I pretty much did kinda lose a day…. 11h 45 min flight + 8 Hour difference… that’s the best part of a day!

Thankfully the powers the control the magic behind how many people are on a flight were kind. Very kind in fact… and with only 108 passengers on a dreamliner, I was able to stretch out across three seats and get some decent sleep hours in. Which meant at 5pm local time, I hit the ground running in Hong Kong. (Said sleep also included finally watching Finding Dory!!)

From Hong Kong Airport I got the super swift and quiet Hong Kong Airport express train, and ended up in the centre of Hong Kong where I found Hilz and Leonie.

We managed (not without fuss) to make the shuttle bus back to where we were staying. Language barrier adding a slight element of confusion, but we managed it. I dropped my stuff, had a quick shower and we headed out to a viewpoint to watch the Chinese New Year Fireworks.

Unfortunately, there was really low fog/haze so the fireworks ended up looking like this….

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Beautiful as that is… I think the fireworks would probably have been prettier!

From the Fireworks, again not without a Kerfuffle (Not much time, very steep hills and then a taxi) we made it to the restaurant. For those who know me even a little bit or have ever eaten out with me, will know I am very very fussy. Thankfully the restaurant was vegetarian, meaning I could eat everything… and I did! 😀

Gunky Green vegetable things, spring rolls, rice, noodles and dumplings… I tried everything that was put on the table and am very proud of myself…. Here’s hoping I can keep this up!

A Dumpling of (dim) Some Sort. (pun)
A Dumpling of (dim) Some Sort. (pun)

From there we popped back to get Hilz’s brother’s stuff before dropping him off at the airport express…  (It’s strictly one in, one out here 😛 Joking) From the Airport Express station, we went to Maccie D’s for a cup of tea….. and to sample some of the McCafe delights – Tonight was a Mango Macaroon and some Brown Sugar bread with Grape Jam. (Concord grape, just like Kiddish wine!). Ever so delightful!

From there I walked with Hizzle to the Mid-Levels escalators… and rode all the way up to where she is staying. IT’S MENTAL! But I’m sure I’m going to post a whole load of other details about this, so I am going to keep tonight’s mention short and post this photo:

Escalators down as far as the eye can see!
Escalators down as far as the eye can see!

I’m now in bed ready for some good sleep, in preparation for a busy day tomorrow. Here’s hoping the weather clears up a bit! It’s humid, warm and cloudy Weird, weird weather!

It’s 1am here so Night all! ( Good evening back home!)

HONG KONG!

Good evening Old fans, New fans, and those who can’t sleep so are reading this….

So it feels a little surreal, but very nearly a year after my last adventure, I find myself back at Heathrow (The Airport for adventure don’t you know!), Checked in to a flight, off on my next adventure.

As I said in my last post, things have very much changed since last year’s adventure, so I won’t go boring you about that!

This year’s place for writing is a bit different. There’s no pub with a great view. There’s no toast, and no funky world map. I’m in Terminal Three.

The departures lounge is very interior… I can’t see a window. But that’s no issue, I’ve had some sushi and a coffee (Decaf to try and let me sleep), and I’ll soon be round to my gate.

This year I’m a little more nervous than last year – It’s a long way further… Nearly double! I’ve got long legs… It’s gonna hurt! (As far as I know… there is a chance I’ve got 3 seats to myself.. Fingers crossed please!)

The Culture is also VERY Different – at least with the states, they all speak English….

Deep down I think I’m equally nervous and excited… but right now, It feels very surreal to think that in an hour’s time, I will be on my way to pretty much the other side of the world!

Hopefully I’ll be writing as I go along like in the states (Hello fans!). But it all depends if I have the time… (I hope so, because it was a great record of my trip!)

That’s all for me now – The gate is being displayed so I best hot foot it to Gate 21!

See ya laters UK! 🙂

Twenty Sixteen

So, I’d written a blow by blow account of my year. You could call it “2016 lines about 2016”. Thankfully I didn’t publish it. Frankly no one would want to read it.

But while at home the last few days. In and out of bed with a chest infection, I came to realise something;

No matter what went on in 2016, it taught me to Step Out Of My Comfort Zone...

Stepping out of my comfort zone has made me:

  • Leave my job with no new job (aaah)
  • Fly to America alone… and although I was staying with people, I spent two days on my own in Florida. (And the alone time was amazing)
  • … So, I learnt to appreciate alone time. I never used to like being alone and now I love spending a just a little time in the quiet!
  • I learnt how to be skint for a while. (I didn’t enjoy it, but it was my own fault for spending too much in America!)
  • Push myself for a job I didn’t think I stood a chance in getting.
  • Completely change my lifestyle when accepting aforementioned job.
  • At work I’ve learnt bits of new languages, Geographies of new Countries and how to get someone to restart things when they are 1000 Miles away!
  • I tried tablets to try and combat a health condition. When they didn’t work, I’ve learnt to accept my weird skin a bit more.
  • I learnt more about who I could trust….. and who I couldn’t.
  • I’ve learnt to be less of a fussy eater. (No really! I’m still fussy but I’m much better than I was!)

….. And most recently being away from loads of my friends, not being at camp like I normally am, I’ve learnt I need to start listening to my body.  I’m not enjoying being at home. It’s not nice seeing everyone having a great time while I’m here in bed. But I needed to rest. (Hopefully I’ll be well enough to join the fun later in the week!)

I needed to rest because 2017 boasts so many more opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone – Including two trips abroad in the first month alone! (Bring on Spain and Hong Kong!)

So whatever the New Year brings (and I hope it’s great for everyone)… I thoroughly recommend you try stepping outside your comfort zone just once or twice…. you might even enjoy it! 🙂

HAPPY NEW YEAR (Oh  and a Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah/Hanukkah/Hanuka/Chanuka, Happy Kwanzaa, or a happy whatever else you might celebrate!)

 

disclaimer: this is not the suggestion that you make “Stepping out of your comfort zone” a New Year’s Resolution… as we all know no one sticks to New Years Resolutions! 😛

Coming in?

I’ve thought about writing about this for a long time…. But I was never really sure how to most effectively write something like this without becoming a rambling mess… Well, I’m now going to try….

A Friend of mine (@JadeSanders) offered me a ticket to McFly. I literally felt like I was about 12 again! We were quite early and quite close to the front…. We got into a slight altercation with a young lady whom thought she owned the 02 Forum. She was rather angry with myself, my friend and the people around us who wouldn’t let her and her sister push all the way to the front, especially as they strolled in about 10 minutes before the start, bragging how “Daddy got us free tickets”… And we’d been there for over an hour.

Eventually in a fit of rage, as she was split from her sister (and we’d offered her the chance to swap with us to go and stand with her sister a number of times), she sent the following, now deleted tweet:

 It seems twitter's search ending is strong, I'm an expert at reading over shoulders and "GayBoy" wasn't really trending at that moment!

It seems twitter’s search engine is strong, I’m an expert at reading over shoulders and
“GayBoy” wasn’t really trending at that moment!

Being the only male (not attached to a girlfriend) in the vicinity at the time, stood with the girl in front’s mum, I think we are pretty safe to assume it was about us.

Firstly the lady was NOT that old. She was actually very funny, and didn’t really care for McFly, but cared for her principles and was not gonna let them past.

Then the part about me. Not only is it a touch Homophobic, but also factually incorrect… And I’m a little bit fed up.

Nowadays, it seems that one can’t appreciate the theatre or cheesy music (McFly being from my childhood!!!) or be a little camp, without constantly being branded “gay”. I sing in a choir, Play a huge variety of instruments and Am a pretty sensitive person…. But I also drive a moderately fast ride, love going to theme parks and often find myself standing shouting profanities at a football match. That’s my personality, my musical preferences, my life choices and it has NOTHING to do with my sexuality.

It is crazy to think that not that many years ago, should you have wanted to find yourself a girl, you went to a dance. You weren’t dancing like we go clubbing nowadays, but you’d have to summon up the courage to ask the lady you desired to a ballroom dance. Should you even suggest that you might do a samba or a tango now days, you’d also be instantly branded “gay” by a huge number of people.

THIS IS NOT OKAY!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am used to being asked the question; “So are you gay then?”. I’m used to managing to find an answer to try and stop the situation from becoming awkward. (Or one that makes it just suitably awkward enough!)
On one hand, it’s a pretty awkward question and you should be minding your own business… But on the other hand, WHAT DIFFERENCE. Get to know me a bit more and you will probably be able to work it out! (Clue; I used to be a regular buyer of nuts magazine – not for the articles and was distraught when it was discontinued! 😉 ).

I am thankfully ok with answering such questions. I know how I feel and no one is gonna change that. That’s not how the world works. If you keep calling a dog “Cat” it doesn’t become one. However, I feel for those who might not be so prepared. I feel for the kids at school who constantly get the bullied for “being gay” when they’re not.

At the end of the day, no one is going to change me; if we were only how other people wanted to see us, then the world would be a weird place. Meanwhile… I’m going to go back to my tube ride to work. I’ll shuffle the iPod and see what I’ve got. Could be Welsh Rock band Manic Street preachers, or could be Spice girls. Who knows. Who cares. I’m gonna sit here smiling to myself regardless, happily knowing the fact that what other people think ain’t gonna change a damn thing.

Clicks fingers, drops mic and walks away.
SteveeyP, Over and… Well… In I suppose.

I didn’t fast on Yom Kippur….. Not at least traditionally.

A sweeping statement yet fundamentally the truth.

I’ve been thinking for a while as to what I’d do on Yom Kippur. I’ve established previously that I don’t believe in G-d…. and that I do love many of the Jewish traditions. I’ve established that although I don’t believe, I have a VERY strong connection to “my people”, to “My heritage” and to my ancestors. Yet here I am, writing this at the start of, and then adding to it during Yom Kippur (So, please excuse the differing tenses!), the Jewish “Day of Atonement”. The day where you atone and repent for the things you have done over the last year, the one day a year where people who do little else religiously or spiritually all year round, decide they are going to withhold from eating… and I’m Drinking tea…. or maybe eating lunch.

Discussing my eating habits recently I realised that actually the vague adherence I keep to the laws of Kashrut (keeping Kosher) are one of the few areas in my life where I regularly exercise self control. While not strictly the rules of Kosher, I have a clear set of rules in my head and I stick to them. Monday this week, I found myself in Waitrose and for the first time in a very long time I was genuinely enticed by a chicken salad. I almost picked it up, before a voice in my head said “no, Exercise some self control!” (The Pesto Pasta was lovely all the same!)

Having thought long and hard about what keeping my form of kosher means to me, and that mainly being self control, I thought in the same vain about what Yom Kippur means to me. I have never “fully” observed Yom Kippur in the Traditional Orthodox Sense, just like I’ve never kept strictly kosher. (No Use of anything electrical, no driving, no washing, no making anything… etc)… But to me, it means time spent with my family, it means time spent in Synagogue; it means being dehydrated, hungry and feeling irritable. But as well as those things, the one thing I think of, possibly the most each year as the day approaches is the time I spend Counting Time.

Counting the time until the fast is over.

I am the one counting the pages, before checking my watch, before recounting the pages again. My mind becomes distracted from the purpose of the day and focuses on how long until I can stop my raging headache and my tummy from rumbling.

“On the tenth day of the same seventh month (Tishrei – The Month both Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur fall) you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial” (Numbers 29:7). “Self denial”. The Torah is a little vague. Our ancestors interpreted “Self Denial” as not eating, as well as not washing, and not engaging in sexual relations. But is that a true representation of Self Denial today?

For me, practically Yom Kippur is a nightmare. Practically in the sense that I am a grazer. I eat 3 meals a day, but they aren’t huge. But between the meals I’m eating. Be it sweets or chocolate, or crackers or fruit, I love to eat. I think this is partly the reason that I find Yom Kippur so difficult – because my body is expecting snacking or a cup of tea. I’ve thought for a few days as to how I can help reduce the want to graze, how to survive the fast, how to distract myself from counting pages and time to focus on the actual purpose of Yom Kippur – To make yourself a better person in the coming year.

Thinking about what I could do to pass the fast, led me onto thinking as to if I actually wanted to fast. I thought long and hard at what I felt fasting would achieve and concluded that actually other than the piercing headache, hunger and distraction, personally the fast wouldn’t achieve anything potentially lasting.

In my commute, I have been blessed (and when I say that, I mean it) with a solid central part of my commute being underground. Underground where the phone signal doesn’t reach. Being phoneless means I have had to find something else to pass the time. I’m thankful for this time as it has enabled me to start reading again. As the northern line rattled its merry way north, on the night before Yom Kippur I was deep in the final pages of Schindler’s Ark. Since Poland, I’ve been meaning to read it, and this commute has given me the chance to finally read it. As the train rattled out of the Tunnel toward East Finchley, I felt the customary “East Finchley Vibrate” of both my Phone and my Work phone. For the first time I found this really inconvenient.

Engrossed in the book, the vibration made me anxious and it distracted me. On one hand I wanted to carry on reading, finalising the complex story I’ve been reading for weeks, yet on the other hand I was bound by the buzz to stop reading and stare at the lit screens of my phones, reading who wants to play candy crush, looking at photos of friend’s last meals before the fast or looking at emails from work. Whilst the prisoners of Zwittau , in the book, were liberated from the sub-camp that was Schindler’s factory, I was, you could say, incarcerated by the urge to stop what I was doing and flick aimlessly down social media, checking my emails and watching pointless updates about food.

I am undoubtedly digitally addicted. I work in IT. I love Technology, Gadgets and things that ping buzz and light up. I am constantly checking my phone, thinking I’ve got a notification, writing messages, sending pictures and liking posts. Not a day goes by without a considerable amount of “Idle time” spent aimlessly on my phone. Even on Rosh Hashannah and previously on Yom Kippur, I’d find myself flicking aimlessly.

With that in the forefront of my mind, and with the conscious realisation that for the next 24 hours I didn’t actually need my phone, at about 8pm…. I switched off.
The last time I switched off, was 2 years ago. I had no choice. I was on a cruise. We were at sea. There was no signal, the phone was useless. (Lord did I try to get signal – on the top deck of the boat pointing at the land, refreshing the empty list of unavailable networks). Yet now, 8pm on the 10th October 2016, I found myself consciously choosing to switch off.

Just before switching off, I was heating up my dinner. I found my-self aimlessly scrolling as per normal. Frantically scrolling through nothing. Re-looking at old posts, totting up how many likes I’d gotten here and there aggressively time wasting with no purpose.

Once I’d eaten my dinner and had started washing up… it was when I had the rubber gloves on that the final straw broke this Camel’s back. I’d just put the gloves on, just run the water, when *Buzz* *Buzz*. “For Goodness sake” I muttered as I took one glove off my hand to be distracted by the glaring screen…. A spam email…. For Goodness sake” I muttered again, and decided that was enough. I’d already turned my laptop off and had set my tablet to flight mode to allow me to write without interaction. (I’m dyspraxic – it’s my version of pen and paper!!) I pressed the power button, I held the power button, and then I pressed power off. I took the currently silent iPhone from my pocket, held the power button, slid the slider and both phones were plunged into darkness.

Lying in bed is a funny feeling. Firstly I noticed it’s 10:30pm. For me that’s pretty early. I am often up late reading random articles people share or chatting to friends etc. Finally I’m experiencing that myth I talk of often… an early night!
Not only is the early night funny, but I’m consciously aware that normally I’d waste valuable sleeping minutes distracted by the old stale news feeds of my phones.
Without the distraction, there was more time for a quick spot of reading, following which, sleep came easy!

Waking up was again interesting. I overslept. Majorly. Which is odd because I had such an early night and compared to a work day was having a lie in anyway! Once I did actually wake up, my default action was to roll over and reach for my phone. On rolling over, I realised it wasn’t there and rolled over the other side and got out of bed!

I decided post lie-in not to go to synagogue this morning… Arriving late at our Synagogue is a little awkward plus, by the time I got there, the morning services would be nearly over. Instead I’ve sat talking to mum who is feeling ill and I’ve done more reading and more thinking. (and a little dozing!) I’m incredibly relaxed.
Frankly I’ve not missed it. I’m not craving it as much as I thought I would be…. or really at all! There was an odd time that I wanted to look something up, and a time I considered checking my phone to pass a moment of time or just to see what other people are up to. But from this I have learnt, that I don’t need to seek or give the constant approval available from having my smart phone attached to me 24×7.

After getting dressed and eating some food, I decided it would be nice to go down to the hospital and visit Grandma who is currently in. Often I’d find myself sat in the room with her idly flicking through my phone whilst talking to her. Sharing my attention between two. Not today. We sat and chatted at length about all different things, giving her my full attention. Walking out the hospital I felt really good.

During my visit, mum had spoken to someone there who came down to see grandma and asked me to call mum. I could have very easily taken this opportunity to turn my phone on and be met by a barrage of notifications. I made a point of not turning my phone on, but borrowing grandma’s to phone home – I knew that by turning it on, I’d become distracted and so decided to exercise higher self control to not turn it on at all!

I came home from the hospital and got dressed and went to Synagogue. It was pretty
uneventful apart from the 47ish second Tekiah Gedolah Blown by my brother! I noticed that I was not interested in how many pages were left, how many minutes, or seconds… but was happy to be sat there joining in.

What was exceptional was that upon leaving Synagogue, I had no urge to turn my phone on. In fact, I drove home, came in, got changed and still didn’t turn my phone on. If anything I started to feel like actually I didn’t want to turn my phone on at all.
I’ve not craved my phone like I normally crave food. I didn’t really think explicitly about food. Lunch time came and I had something to eat before carrying on with my day. I’ve not been distracted by my usual distraction, and yet in removing something else, I’ve not really been distracted by that either.

Removing the distractions, you could even say fasting from my phones, has allowed me to focus more on personal reflection and what I’d like to change personally in the coming year, a process that’s roots seem stem this year from my extreme reaction to some drugs in September. Removing the distraction has allowed me to focus more on talking to my family, writing this post and actually relaxing on what is supposed to be not just a day of repentance but also a day of rest.

So there you have it. I didn’t fast on Yom Kippur. Not at least in the traditional sense. But maybe in a more modern sense, I’ve learnt the value of spending time without constantly seeking reinforcement through likes, I’ve learnt not to constantly need digital conversation, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, but most of all, I’ve learnt how to pass Yom Kippur without counting the pages, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, until it’s over.

Day 12: My Bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

and off I went… I left Hannah’s and headed straight for the Airport… My suitcase had a little tape on it to patch up the break it received on the way down… and that was that… bags checked in… home time final!!

I popped back to the Car desk to thank the Lady from the car hire for the amazing car!

Dodge Charger... With a pretty large bonnet.
Dodge Charger… With a pretty large bonnet.

…Then I headed through security and to the gate. We were delayed half an hour. I’d not been assigned a seat so went to the desk and asked… he assigned me a seat and said “Good news, I’ve got you a window this time” (as I’d explained I’d had no window on the way down)…

Fat much good that was….

Oh yup, That's the engine!
Oh yup, That’s the engine!

After taxi-ing… we were told there was a further 20 min delay before we could take off… 20 mins passed and the pilot came back to say that there were engine issues and we’d have to go back to the gate. Joys. Eventually we were off and on the way to JFK.

From JFK I transferred terminals and waited for my flight home home!

On the plane home, it was pretty empty… I tried to get upgraded to business with no avail.. but instead managed to bag three seats to myself to try and sleep on. Nice try. the arm rests didn’t lift fully and it’s just not comfy.

On arrival back home at Heathrow, I phoned dad to let him know I was about to get on the tube… when him and mum popped up and surprised me… they had come to pick me up as a surprise… YAY I really wasn’t looking forward to the Piccadilly line! 😀

I’m home! I’m sure I’ll do some sort of concluding post soon… Meanwhile I ought to get looking for a job to earn some money so I can go back!

Day 11: Errrr Shopping and Sarasota…?

I’m out of ideas on this one… All suggestions gratefully received.

Today I slept in! (It’s a holiday afterall!) I met Hannah for lunch on the beautiful USF campus.. and we had lunch on the campus “Beach” (Sand round a lake!)… I even got a keyring from the “Bookstore” to add to my collection (They really didn’t just sell books!)

From there I went to International Plaza… Imagine Brent Cross, bigger, nicer, better and cheaper…. I did some more damage!! Teehee!!

From International Plaza I headed down to the lovely Sarrasota for dinner with Sarah who is living out there… I’m a little jel.. it’s a lovely place to be!

From Sarrasota I headed back to get some sleep before flying home tomorrow! 🙁

Day 10: I bless the Rains down in Africa

Ok… Tenuous again… but we saw lots of animals that could have been in Africa….!

Today we went to Busch Gardens! It’s like a theme park and a Zoo/Safari all mixed into one! Crazy…

After some fun getting parked we headed on in.. and got lost! but eventually ended up at Sheikra (via Animals and children’s play areas!) Floorless and twisty… it was fun! 🙂

We then went for ride on the cable car which gave us a fab view of the park and the surrounding area! After the cable car we made some friends with some animals…

Flamingos.... HUGE Flamingos
Flamingos…. HUGE Flamingos
Colourful birdy!
Colourful birdy!

We grabbed some lunch and carried on looking at the animals and carried on getting lost! We managed to find the train station and went for a ride round the “Serengeti Plains”…

Naaaaaants ingonyama bagithi baba... How Lion King!
Naaaaaants ingonyama bagithi baba… How Lion King!
It's a heffalump!
It’s a heffalump!

We also went for a ride on another of Busch’s Roller coasters… I don’t really think there’s much here to describe!

Before long it was getting dark and Busch was closing so we headed home… or tried to… we got a little lost getting out, but eventually made it!

For dinner that night we went to a place in Soho Tampa which was a really funky Mexican… They were closing but managed to squeeze us in… really lovely food! We drove along the really lovely seafront boulevard and then went to Ybor city (really nearby) for pretty chilled evening!