Off to the Netherlands!!!

I’m starting to get super excited as I’m off to the Netherlands tomorrow.The first 6 days is part of a university field trip, where will be staying near Utrecht and conducting research at four zoos- Burger, Amsterdam, Apenheul Primate Park and Rotterdam zoo. I’m most excited about Apenheul as it’s the first zoo where monkeys are free roaming. The next 5 days will be spent with my friends in Amsterdam!

As is customary for me when I go to a new place, I have made a mini bucket list of all of the things I need to do in Amsterdam/ Utrecht.

  1. Visit a coffee shop.
  2. See Anne Franks house.
  3. Chill out at Vondelpark.
  4. Go to Albert Cuypmarkt.
  5. Ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  6. Ride a bike from the hostel to Utrecht.
  7. Visit the Royal Palace.
  8. Have a drink in the Irish Pub.
  9. Go to the Red Light District.
  10. Have a boat ride along the canal.
  11. Have a night out in Amsterdam.
  12. Climb the Domtoren (Utrecht)

If there’s anything else anyone can recommend let me know! Can’t wait!

Lets Finally Start the Bucket List!

In June, 2013 I am climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

It’s the biggest free standing mountain in the world; the fourth highest mountain on Earth. And in aid of Meningitis Research Foundation I’m going to climb that 5,895 metres to the very top.

File:Mount Kilimanjaro.jpg

Holy Shit.

My mum thinks I’m stupid. She thinks I should be concentrating my money and time on my studies. Come on. I’m in my first year again. Its only a 40% pass mark! I have so much free time, spent hanging around in my bedroom watching How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory (my two new favourite shows). This is time I could be spent fundraising! Yes, admittedly I do have a very high target of £2,600 to raise in order for me to be able to go, but I am determined to prove my mother wrong and get that money.

And what an experience! How many people can say that they’ve climbed Kilimanjaro at barely 20 years old! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, I might as well do it whilst I’m still young and able, still free of commitment and still daring. So much in my life seems to be changing around me recently and I want to do something amazing myself, rather than just sitting there, same old, same old every single day.

I would very much appreciate it if anyone could give me just a little money to sponsor my climb, or to reblog this post and get my sponsorship page around. Its for a really good cause, I’m a student and so am in the second most at risk group to contract meningitis, and this charity does so much brilliant work. Thank you very much 🙂

http://www.justgiving.com/Charlotte-Coventry 

I need a holiday!

Sitting here in the dark, alone, confused and a little lonely, recovering from a pointless test about plants, trying desperately to block out the sound of my house mate shagging in the room opposite, makes me wonder. Have I made the right choices?

I made the right choice to change my course from Psychology to Animal behaviour and welfare. Of that I’m sure. But was I right to go to university in the first place? What would have happened if I’d gone straight into a job? What if I’d gone travelling? I’ve always wanted to explore the world. Maybe I could be somewhere exotic right now? Somewhere hot, somewhere by the ocean?

I’m only a first year again and it’s the most frustrating thing. Seeing all your friends applying to go on placement year, planning on moving away next year. I’ve even been doing some early research and I’ve found some of the most incredible experiences but I cannot go for another two years! I could be going to Madagascar, back to Costa Rica, Thailand, Mexico, Australia, South Africa! I know my education is the most important thing, but right now, my will to stay in this country is very,  very weak.

I don’t care about money. I’m going on holiday next year. Even if I have to swim.

YOLO

This blog post was inspired by another that I recently read, What do you want to be when you grow up? by subtlekate. 

Every time I meet up with my friends recently, conversation always seems to turn to the future.

Oh God, we are going to be twenty next year, that’s only ten years until we are thirty, then we are halfway to sixty and practically dead, ooh our life is over- we are so old etc. etc. 

But seriously, I know we aren’t at any age to be moaning about being old, but life is flying by. In a few years time we will be getting proper jobs, have to pay taxes, get a house, a family, settle down. Shit.

When I was little this all seemed so far away. In year two I remember doing an assembly on, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I said an RSPCA inspector… Not a princess or a footballer or a doctor like a normal kid but an RSPCA inspector. I still don’t really know what that involves now to be honest, nor, I think, did the teachers, but I was pretty adamant and so they let me get on with it.

As I got a bit older, I went through a variety of jobs that I wanted to do, including being an author- I wrote a fascinating story called “Charlie the chimp go’s (lovely grammar) on an adventure!” and a pop-out book about a “Scaredy-cat mum.” My longest dream, however, was to be a vet. This lasted until my sixth form induction day when I realised that there was no way in Hell I would ever be able to take Chemistry at A-Level and thus was not clever enough to become a vet and so, my Wild at Heart dream was, sadly, over.

My amazing story ❤

Then I took Psychology at A-Level, adored my cute old teacher and was in love with my Irish one- so much so that I became a complete arse-kissing teachers pet, yet still trying to be the loudest and funniest person in the class, whilst aiming for none less than one hundred percent in every essay and exam and going to every after-school revision class he did. It worked, I enjoyed the subject and was good at it and so a new dream was formed- I wanted to be a forensic psychologist!

For two and a half years I exercised this ambition- but always at the back of my mind I had my doubts- I had spent my whole life wanting to work with animals, but now I was changing to work with people? I hate people!

*Only a slight exaggeration.

My year at uni was great, I really enjoyed it and made some wicked friends but when I got to the stage where I didn’t bother going to lectures, was so unmotivated to revise or do any work I realised that I wasn’t really passionate about the subject, couldn’t see myself making a career out of it. I know, first year of freshers, who does work? Who goes to lectures? Well, I’m a massive geek. When I like something, I like to learn about it- when I did psychology at A Level I memorised two textbooks, all my class notes and additional powerpoint slides my teacher made. Sad, I know, but I’m too much of a perfectionist to learn the bare minimum.

So now I’ve gone back to what I have always loved. Animals. I imagine myself in the future abroad somewhere. I’d love to go back to Costa Rica or somewhere else in South or Central America to do some conservation work. I want to travel. I want to get everything done before I have kids. Hell, I don’t even know if I want kids!  I’ve written a bucket list that I want to fulfil, preferably whilst I’m still young. Yes, I’m going to be mainstream- YOLO- you only live once. And I intend to make the most of it.

There has to be a Harry Potter joke somewhere.

Pacuare Reserve- BABY TURTLES!

Imagine waking up in the morning to the sounds of Howler monkeys. You look out of the window of your small hut, barely big enough to fit two bunk beds, but somehow perfect for where you are. You can see tens of white-faced capuchin monkeys swinging from branches in the trees, chattering away to each other. It’s a beautiful day, 26’C already. You leave the hut, walk past the trees and there in front of you is a beautiful Caribbean beach, barely 100 steps from where you were sleeping. 6 kilometres of hot, white sand surrounded by tropical rainforest. So quiet and isolated. I was lucky enough to have this experience.

The huts we stayed in 🙂

When I went to Costa Rica we got the opportunity to do some volunteering at the Pacuare Nature Reserve. The beach is the most important nesting site for turtles in Costa Rica. In particular, the Leatherback turtle, the largest of all turtles. Unfortunately, these incredible reptiles are critically endangered. Of those that hatch and make it to the water, most of them die and very few reach adulthood. Poachers are also prevalent, stealing the turtle eggs and killing the adult turtles for their meat. We were privileged enough to take part in the turtle protection programme.

Because of how isolated the reserve is, arrival is by boat. They go pretty fast as well! Unfortunately, we had a few moments where the engine kept dying and we ended up bobbing along the river for a while trying to fix it. Not as bad as another group who had an unfortunate encounter with a Manatee (that is, they hit one and broke down).

When we arrived we were shown to our little huts, which were pretty cool, before making our way down to the beach after an ice-cold shower (amazing!). After a few “getting to know each other” games of volleyball, ‘bibeddy-bibeddy-bop’ and a turtle dance they threw us straight into the work and we started clearing the beach of debris that is washed up by the sea. We had only been doing this a few minutes when our first incredible experience of the trip to the reserve already began! The dog began barking and we all ran over to a nesting site of 43 baby leatherback turtles hatching and scrambling over each other, trying to reach the sea!

Sorry about the quality, they just wouldn’t stop moving!

Despite it taking about an hour for them all to reach the sea, one of them not looking like it would make it at all, we were not allowed to carry them down to the sea. This first journey that the turtles make is the most important and also the most amazing. Literally just born, they have this stunning ability to know where they are going, like an internal compass! It’s thought that after the turtles have dug themselves out of the sand, they are guided by towards the brightest horizon- which is the sea… usually. This is when light pollution has another major impact on the environment. If a beach has artificial lights, the baby turtles are unlikely to survive because they won’t make it to the sea. Whilst we couldn’t guide them ourselves, we did make it our job to clear debris out of the way and shoo away birds that would try and prey on the babies. Out of my whole trip to Costa Rica, this had to be the best hour spent, an incredible, once in a life time experience I won’t ever forget.

It’s hard to believe how big this little guy will grow up to be!

That night our whole group was divided up and put onto night shifts. The aim being to walk the full length of the beach and back and keep patrol, checking the spots where there are known nesting sites, seeing if any more eggs had been laid, and keeping an eye out on poachers. We had a pretty eventful night shift, there was a suspected poacher meaning running along the beach with no torch or light to let the others know AND we got to watch a Green Turtle lay her eggs on the beach. It was amazing, although not as big as mature leatherback turtles she was still a big girl! I got to measure her and help count the eggs, and ended up getting kicked for my troubles. We didn’t get back to bed until late because we had to stay with her whilst she dug the nest, lay her eggs and went back to the sea, just in case poachers grabbed her.

Then I was up again for the 5am walk! The full 7km in the early morning sun was very hard work, but definitely worth it. Unfortunately, the nesting site we found had lots of dead turtles which was pretty sad, but we did manage to rescue one. It had to be taken to the reserve because it had hatched too early and wasn’t developed enough. The reality then of how important the work they were doing struck. So few of these amazing creatures live but with the help of the reserve- and others around the world- hopefully they can prevent another species becoming extinct.

Marrakech, Morocco

This next post is in a somewhat different style to how I usually write. I actually built this based on a piece of creative writing I wrote for my A Level English language coursework. It is actually true, it is a personal experience of mine, just in another style.

I wasn’t expecting such beauty in the markets at night.

During the day the D’jeema el Fna was empty and unimpressive with only a few permanent stalls dotted around. How could something so unremarkable be transformed into a beautiful, cultured and vibrant market (as all the travel brochures try to sell to me) just by the fall of darkness? I have to say I was a bit sceptical. But at night the change in Marrakech was stunning. It was hard to imagine this was the same place I had been stood in only this morning. The square had been transformed into this busy, bright, vibrant open-air restaurant and market.

Along one side of the L-shaped square were the traditional North African markets or the “souks.” Lining another side, the café terraces where you could escape the noise and confusion of the main square attracted sweltering sightseers. Next to them the hotels and gardens were full of rich tourists that had come to visit. Narrow streets full of stalls were leading off of the square and into the alleys of the medina quarter or “The Old City”. In the centre was this busy, bustling, al fresco restaurant full of unusual and exotic smells.

As soon as I stepped into the night food market I was surrounded. Everywhere I looked colourful and interesting food was being thrust in my direction; every restaurateur was trying to drag me in.

“Come taste my couscous”

“Have you ever tried Harira? You’ve come to the right place my friend!”

“Only the finest lamb here.”

I struggled forward; trying to get past the hundreds of bodies crowded together, breathing in the intense abundance of gastronomic flavours. I took a bite of Tajine- a slow cooked stew, full of tender, moist meat and aromatic vegetables, completed with a mixture of spices and herbs. This specific cook used “Ras el hanout,” a secret combination of spices individual to the chief. I could taste cinnamon, paprika, coriander and something else, something sharp that I couldn’t quite place.

Marrakech is well known for its market and in particular its labyrinth of souks- otherwise known as “bazaars.” I squeezed myself through the tightly packed crowds, looking around in awe at the variety and culture. There were more food stalls, Henna tattooists, apothecaries selling unusual cures and herbs, acrobats, jewellery stalls, snake charmers, stalls jam-packed with handmade ornaments and rugs and “zellige”– a mosaic terracotta tile work and traditional Moroccan architecture. I picked up a “magic box,” feeling its smooth wooden sides cool against my hot skin as I attempted to open it and failed. I watched in wonder as the maker unlocked it quickly, easily, through years of practice and of marvelling tourists like me with these simple tricks.

My nose was full of the scents of exotic food, spices and the strong aroma of sandalwood and musk incense burning from their wicks. I could hear the British tourists trying to haggle with the experienced Moroccan salesmen and the beautiful sound of the African music played by men sat on rugs with all their instruments and drums. As I walked past a group of foreign boys selling fake designer watches they yelled “Fish and Chips!” at me. Glad to know the English have a reputation for something notable. Everywhere I turned I could hear African men trying to sell things. And buy things… I overheard one young, startled English boy being offered five camels for his pretty, blonde girlfriend.

An achievement I was particularly proud of was my haggling over a small, wooden camel I planned to buy as a gift. 300 dirhams was the original price. “20 dirhams,” I said, well aware I was pushing my luck. Naturally, the young man told me to where stick it but as I went to leave he chased after me shouting, “70, 70! Final offer.” I beat him down a bit until we settled for an agreement of 50 dirhams. I was even more satisfied when I found out that the equivalent was just four British pounds for the sale. But as I moved off, I glanced back at the young man, at his thin, tired face, ecstatic at what I thought of as such a small amount of money. It seemed incredible to me that four pounds could make such a difference and, as I looked back, I wondered whether I should have given him more as he seemed to need it much more than I do.

I leave the busy souks, pleased with my haggling and weighed down with the gifts I have brought as I make my way back to my 5 star hotel- “5 star”- it wouldn’t even have one star in the UK. Yet, set apart from the hustle and bustle of the main market of Marrakech, a young boy kneels, barefoot and dirty, drinking water from a contaminated hose, stroking his flea bitten dog, desperate to quench his thirst before he goes back to the one roomed mud hut he calls home.