Singapore Slingin’

7 Apr

Marhaba Lounge, Dubai International Airport; there’s free food, there’s free Internet, and, most importantly, there’s free booze!

Yes folks, I’m finally off to Singapore! I thought I’d quickly update you all whilst I’m feeling warm, fuzzy and wasted (Bacardi, I thank you). Now, why is this one of your challenges, I hear you ask. One of the reasons is that I love the sound of it. First of all, as much as I like to deny it, I like shiny new places. I like new hotels, new bars, new restaurants, new shops. I like poncing around and pretending I live on a set in Sex and the City, and, lets face it, Dubai gives me all this and more. So, despite the fact that I’m bored of the place and I’d love to move on, I’m traumatised at the thought of moving somewhere where, shock, horror, I have to fill my own petrol tank. Or, even more shocking, pay for my own drinks! Live in an apartment without a pool? Park my own car? Clean my own car? Drive my own car?! How will I ever survive?

Thus, I’m still in Dubai. Don’t get me wrong, I love the place, but I never intended on staying here longer than a few years. Life is way too short to stay stuck in one place. It’s almost time to move on, so I need to figure out where to go next!

I’ve heard Singapore is like Dubai, but in South East Asia (i.e. plenty of fabulous travel opportunities are there for the taking). I therefore decided to go and check the place out. If I like it, I will look for a job there.

The other main reason I decided to go there is because it’s safe and I wanted to go somewhere on my own. It was therefore a great place to try out travelling solo without the threat of getting mugged or abducted and sold into white slavery. However, it turns out by pure chance that my friend Gaby will be there at the same time as I am, so it isn’t really a solo trip anymore. But I cannot deny I’m EXTREMELY happy that she will be there!

Thus far, my trip has been great. I have been smiling at people and getting the weirdest responses. The guy at check-in chatted me up and gave me a seat with extra leg room. The guy at passport control told me he was going to miss me. Is this what happens when you smile and flirt with people? Is this the kind of hold women can have over men? And why have I never tried this in the past? Muppet.

Wow, I haven’t I blogged whilst drunk before. I like it. I’m typing freely without hating every single word and questioning whether I’m good enough to make it as a writer. Maybe this is my problem in life. I think too much when I should just shut the hell up and act! So I’m going to leave you all now. The bar awaits me. There’s a lot of alcohol going and I am officially on holiday.

Waiter, Bacardi on the rocks, please.

P.s. I apologise in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors. I’m too drunk to proofread.

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Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

26 Mar

I’ve been bad.

I haven’t blogged in more than a month. My excuse is that I recently started an exercise regime and I barely have any time to myself in the evenings anymore. Yes, you read correctly – I, the self-professed coach potato, who detests nothing more than the disgusting feeling of being sweaty, and the even more disgusting feeling of being in a gym, has decided to get fit.

I don’t know whether it was the realisation that I am not getting any younger, or the revolting sensation of my ass getting bigger as I sat on it for yet another grueling day of 9-5, but I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to get up and get my heart pumping.

I started out with African Dance and 80s Cardio classes, as I got to pretend I was Beyonce for an hour every evening, and it didn’t feel as soul-destroying as running on a treadmill. I then decided to try yoga again. I was a dedicated yogi back at university and absolutely loved it, so practising again after an absence of more than seven years felt like being reacquainted with a long-lost friend. Or Nutella. But it’s probably not appropriate to talk about sugary snacks in a post that’s related to fitness.

Since then, I cannot stop talking about yoga. I went out and bought myself a book and mat, and I have been practising religiously ever since. I have also started Bikram yoga, which is the type that is done in a room that is heated to 40 degrees Celsius. One thing is for sure: it’s not for the faint-hearted. I spent my first few sessions wondering what the hell I was doing in this torture chamber (aka the Bikram studio), sweating my ass off, whilst getting acquainted with other people’s asses, feet and BO. Yuck. However, I am now into my seventh session and I cannot recommend it enough. I feel like I am glowing from within. It’s truly a sensational feeling and that’s why I keep going back. So now, on any given evening, you will probably find me in a position like this:

(Whilst trying my very best not to fall arse over tit…)

Back to the blog. I have missed it. And, more importantly, I know a lot of you guys have missed it. So, it’s time to get back on track with the challenge. I managed to babysit a few weeks ago, so I will post about that experience over the next few days and also fill you all in on my next challenge, which is something I am very excited about – in less than two weeks time I will be flying solo to Singapore! This is the first time I will be travelling alone, so I truly cannot wait!

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a good few weeks.

A Note To All Singles On Valentine’s Day

12 Feb

February the 14th is upon us, which means it’s almost time to express our affection for one another with tacky cuddly toys, porno-red love hearts and ridiculously big cards that exclaim ‘I WUV YOU!’  If you scratch away the dreadful consumerism that is attached to Valentine’s, however, what you find underlies this day is the celebration of something that is worthy of a big soiree, and that is love.

As much as I pride myself in being one of the most cynical people to have walked the earth, I cannot fault love. After all, is there anything more beautiful than finding another human being with whom you completely connect and wish to spend the rest of your life with? Is there anything purer than the love that is shared between a mother and child? Is there anything more wonderful than the love that you see between siblings or friends? Love, whether it be the kind we have for our partners, family members, or even jobs, is what we wake up for in the morning, and it is the promise of love in all its forms that keeps us going through the years. So yes, you could say it’s something worth celebrating.

In the past I could never understand single people who dreaded Valentine’s Day. What difference does it make if you’re single on that one day of the year? But I confess that for the first time in my life, I am not looking forward to being alone on Cupid’s Day. Over the past few months, I have started to long for a partner; for someone to share things with, whether it be something as insignificant as the fact I’ve managed to top my Scrabble score or as life changing as finding out I just got a new job. For most of my youth this has never bothered me, but all of a sudden, it does. As much as it hurts the cynic in me to say this, the truth is, I want someone to love.

I can now sympathise with all the fellow single people who are dreading February the 14th. Tuesday will be just another reminder that I have yet to find that special person. But following a lot of deep thinking I have decided to turn this around. Yes, I am single – but that beats being in a relationship that isn’t working or with a partner just for the sake of having someone in my life.

There is a reason I am still alone; over the years I have been wasting my time on the wrong guys. I have the perfect knack for sniffing out the most emotionally unavailable men, endearing myself to them, and then watching them pull away while wondering why it’s all blown up in my face. All the signs are always there, yet I go back for more, over and over again. My subconscious just loves to reaffirm its false belief that I am not capable of being loved.

It was only recently that I recognised this pattern and how emotionally damaging it has been. I therefore made the decision to ditch the rubbish men and to always ask myself these questions before letting myself fall for someone: What would my mum think of him? Would she like how he treats me? And if the answer is no, then that’s the end of it. This is a fail-safe technique, as my mum always wants the very best for me, which is exactly what I should want too. And when I say the very best, I don’t mean the fattest wallet, flashiest car, and whitest teeth – I mean a good heart, caring nature and, most importantly, to be emotionally available.

As I look back over my failed ‘relationships’ (and I use this term loosely, as none of them ever lasted beyond a few weeks), I realise that my mum was right – NONE of these guys were for me. Sure, they made my heart race, and yes, they made life that much more exciting. But the truth is, none of them would have made me happy in the long run. And I am pretty sure that the reason I liked them so much at the time is that I knew I couldn’t be with them – we all want what we can’t have, after all.

So, like many of you, I will be single this Tuesday, and, yes, I will probably feel sad about it. But, in the true spirit of Valentine’s, I suggest we give ourselves some platitudes; let’s remind ourselves that there are reasons as to why we’re single – whether it be because we have yet to find the right person, or that we decided to let go of the one who was wrong. We should use this day to celebrate the fact we’re refusing to settle for second best and that somewhere out there, there is the imperfect perfect person for each one of us, and when we finally meet them, we will know from the beginning that it is right – and, with any luck, my mother will also approve.

To Beer Or Not To Beer

10 Feb

So, I did it. For the entire month of January, I am proud (and shocked) to say that not a single drop of alcohol passed my lips. As many of you will know, I wasn’t sure if I was going to last; I cannot remember a time over the last four years or so when I haven’t craved a cool, refreshing beer within a day of my last drink.

But I did end up completing the challenge and I have come out the other side feeling miles better for it. For one, it has proved to me that I can survive social situations with strangers without using alcohol to make myself feel confident. It also made me realise just how much I rely on a good drink (or several) to make myself feel more self-assured.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few cheeky ones to bolster your confidence when you’re out and about at night.  After all, I am pretty sure many relationships would have never started had it not been for the gentle shove of one too many beers. But, like with anything, when you start to rely a little too much on something, it can spell disaster. I have realised that I am at the point where if I don’t have a drink, I feel incredibly insecure. Drinking to me is an easy way to get the conversation flowing. It is also a great way of blocking out all my insecurities; I am so self-conscious of everything I say and do in social situations, so drinking helps me gets rid of these weird barriers I have, which I attribute to shyness.

But being shy, I now realise, is a part of who I am. I can vividly remember when I was a child how I would run and hide when members of our extended family would come to visit. My cousin Marina, on the other hand, would be in the middle of the room putting on a magic show for everyone. As I grew older, it didn’t get much easier, especially as certain life events made me feel less secure, and even more unsure of who I am.

As the years have passed by, instead of addressing some of my insecurities, I have been masking them with alcohol. After one too many Long Islands I can easily forget myself. And while this is all well and good when I still have some sort of control over my actions, I always take it a little too far and end up, as I said in a previous post, in a heap on the floor, crying. Or, even worse, shouting abuse at people for no apparent reason.

I now look back on these types of scenarios in shame – if you have ever seen me in one of my drunkard stupors, you will know exactly what I am talking about. I also pity myself slightly, as I realise that my excessive drinking is just a bad symptom of self-loathing. How can I carry on doing that to myself? Drinking is supposed to be something fun, but it stops being fun when most your nights out end in tears.

Being shy, I now figure, is not such a bad thing. So what if I’m the quietest person at the dinner table? Surely that’s better than being the drunkard tit who is rude to everyone? And who cares if there are awkward silences in a conversation? Downing drinks to fill those silences really isn’t the way forward.

Instead of filling the gaps I have in my life with alcohol, I have decided to start filling them with things that make me feel happy, and, in turn, more confident. The best conversationalists, I have found, are the people who are passionate about what they’re doing with their lives, so I am now seeking out the activities I am passionate about, such as my writing and photography.

There’s nothing better than doing something you’re proud of and then being able to share it with people. This blog, for example, has given a massive boost to my confidence. I get such lovely feedback from my readers, which in turn makes me happy. I started a career in writing because I realised I can spread joy through it, and making people happy has always been something that’s made me happy.  So I should be typing away like there’s no tomorrow! The blog is also a great thing to talk about with strangers at a dinner party. People always love the idea behind it and want to know more, which again, is a great confidence booster.

I would say that so far, this challenge has been the most enlightening. I have learnt more about myself in the space of one month than what I have in more than five years of living in Dubai.  I have always known I am not the most confident of people, but it has taken me all this time to realise that one of the things that was hindering me from growing confidence was the excessive drinking.

It’s now time to take back control of my life and start focusing on things that will actually help me to grow. So, in the future you’re more likely to find me in a coffee shop, writing and shaping my future, rather than in the pub, drinking and stunting it. And you know what? I am damn sure this will turn out to be one of the most important decisions I have ever made.

Day 24 – An update (yes, I am still sober)

25 Jan

Quitting alcohol has had a strange effect on me. It’s like I’ve been living in an extremely misty world for the last ten years or so, and all of a sudden, it’s lifted, the sun is out, the beer goggles are off and for the first time in ages I can see clearly.

I’ve had a number of important self-realisations over the past 24 days, the main one being, I do not like drunk Andrea.  She’s not a nice person, as you may have read here. For so long, I had convinced myself that I needed alcohol to survive social gatherings; I thought I needed it to make me funnier, more spontaneous, more interesting. The reality is, I am finding, I can manage quite fine without it.

Last Friday, for example, I was at my friend Nico’s birthday dinner at the Shangri La hotel. This would ordinarily have been a very boozy affair, during which I would have subconsciously felt the need to prove how great I am at drinking by downing every rum and coke in sight, and ordering the strongest thing on the menu just to reaffirm how ‘hard’ I am. By 9pm, I’d reach the tipsy stage, but that would never be enough. Before I’d know it, I’d be an uncontrollable mess of gigantic proportions, saying complete ridiculous things to the waiters and thinking I was funny, when in fact I probably just looked like a complete fool. The rest of the night would invariably be a complete blank, and I’d wake up wondering what the hell had happened during the last ten hours or so of my life.

This time, however, it was different. Sat on a table of six gay guys, I managed to have one of the best nights out in ages, while not touching a single drop of anything other than water. I was the loudest person in the restaurant, as I could not restrain myself from laughing at the hilariousness of my friends. I didn’t need alcohol to have fun. In fact, I managed just perfectly without it. And it was nice to see that, yes, I can be funny when I’m not drunk;  and at least I know this time people were laughing with me, and not at me.

I have less than a week to go before I will be able to drink again, and to be honest, I’m not even counting down the days. I think in the future I will be approaching alcohol with a different attitude, and will be drinking with caution as opposed to chugging for England. I’ve also found that since I quit alcohol, I feel so much more focused on what I want in the future, which is, to make a living out of writing without having to spend the whole day stuck in a dull office job. To get there, I need to spend a lot less time drinking, and a lot more time writing!

It looks like the sun is here to stay.

An afternoon of ironing

23 Jan

Life in Dubai, like in most big cities, can make you rather selfish. Our hectic work schedules leave little time for much else other than eating, working and sleeping (and, ok, drinking).  Since living here, I have to admit that I have done very little to help any charitable causes, which is something I am really ashamed of. While I cannot say I was the most dedicated good Samaritan back in the UK, I did regularly volunteer my time to one nonprofit organisation, and I thoroughly enjoyed giving back to the community and meeting new, like-minded people. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything similar and I have genuinely missed it.

I therefore decided as part of this blog to have a section on challenges I have to complete for ‘selfless’ reasons.   On Saturday, I headed to the Senses Residential Care Home for Children with Special Needs in Jumeirah, where I volunteered to help clean for the day! I found this through the Volunteer in Dubai website, which is a fantastic resource for anyone who is looking to do their bit for those in need.

I have to admit, the day itself was rather uneventful.  My friend Ashley and I were assigned a VERY large blue bin of clothes that we had to iron. I am assuming that it would cost the centre a lot of money to have a company do their laundry for them, so they get volunteers in once a week to help out, thus saving many dirhams that can go to helping the kids instead! I really enjoyed the afternoon; we ironed, chatted, and made a new friend – oh, and I managed not to burn myself, which is always a plus when it comes to me and ironing.

So I gave up three hours of my time, which would ordinarily have been wasted either on Facebook or spending all my money in the mall, to do something that actually made a difference for a change. It’s made me realise how volunteering can easily be  slipped into your weekly routine somewhere, and I intend on making this a regular thing from this point forward.

There’s not much else to say, so I’ll leave you with a picture of me, ironing (I told you some day I’d finally learn how to, mum!).

 

Day 14 – Shocking Realisation; Sober Andrea Can Surive Social Gatherings

15 Jan

Thursday night presented me with my first big test since I started the no-alcohol challenge; I had to spend time with people I didn’t know without being able to drink a drop of alcohol.

The event was my best friend’s leaving do at Mango Tree in Souq Al Bahar, and this was the first time since I started the challenge that not only would I be surrounded by strangers – I would also be in close proximity to a very well-stocked bar.

Usually in this type of scenario, I drink. A lot. See, most of you won’t know this, but somewhere in my subconscious there’s an extremely annoying voice that I cannot get rid of; this voice likes to taunt me and tell me that I’m not a very interesting person. I guess I developed it sometime back in my teens when I was very self-conscious and shy, and now I cannot get rid of it. So over the years I have used alcohol as a way of shutting my subconscious up, and to give myself the confidence to speak in a group of people I don’t know, which is something that really doesn’t come naturally to me.

I was the first to arrive at the restaurant and the maitre d’ showed me to the bar, where I was faced with a wall of alcohol and a menu full of scrumptious-sounding Thai cocktails. If I were to say I wasn’t tempted at this point to ask for my usual (i.e. always the strongest thing on the menu) I would be a liar. However, I resisted my every inner instinct, and turned to a page that is alien to me – the mocktail page.

“One Mango Cooler, please,” I said to the bartender, while feeling a tad appalled with myself.

During the dinner, I was sat at a corner of the table away from the only two people I knew. I usually find it very difficult to speak to people that I do not know, which is where the alcohol comes in – it gives me the confidence to be chatty and outgoing. However, I had to deal with the situation sober. I was surprised at how easy I found it in the end. The people I was with were lovely, which definitely helped. I also enjoyed the novelty of being completely in control of everything I was doing and saying – that doesn’t happen very often these days, I’m afraid to say.

I am now two weeks into the challenge and, much to my own surprise, I am starting to enjoy it. For one, I do not miss the hangovers and I have SO much more free time over the weekend. I also do not miss the horrible lows I get the day after a big night out and the awful flashbacks of what a tit I had been while high on too many Long Islands.

I have also realised that these lows do not help me in the long-term. As someone who already has low self esteem, acting like a complete moron while drunk and then feeling bad about it the next day is really not helpful. I am enjoying feeling positive, sober and in control. For the first time in years, I have a clear vision of where I see myself in the future and what I need to do to get there, which is something I haven’t had since I was at  university many, many moons ago.

Sober Andrea will rule the world. You will see.