London: Crazy weather, busy schedule …

I hadn’t been in my flat since I left for Colombia and time back in London turned out pretty busy. Time with Alex, language lessons, first steps towards my motorcycle licence, catching up with friends & neighbours, preparing for Amsterdam … the list was long and time was flying. Overall, I was in good spirits as i worked down my list. Next stop Amsterdam! 

Weather chaos: Arriving back in London from Portugal felt like arriving on winter holidays. Snow everywhere as the ‘beast from  the east’ brought a proper cold front to the island. It was fun to see how kids dealt with it as snowmen appeared (a rare sight in central London) and kids took off the wheels from their skateboards to ride down small hills as if on snowboards. Naturally, London sunk into chaos – trains, metro etc all struggled to run proper services. School was cancelled for three days, as not enough teachers could make it to work. An advantage for Alex mum, as I could take him on all days leaving her on her usual schedule. After a few freezing days the weather swung pretty abruptly and now looks more like spring with temperatures of 10 degrees or more. That’s more like London should be in March! 

Alex back at home: Alex was so happy to move back into his ‘headquarters’ and spending time with daddy. His dog Charlie, which he only got in January, didn’t turn out to be a problem. I expected him to ask to see him rather often – he didn’t ask once to my surprise. Instead we run through the routine of school runs, homework (more Russian!), after school clubs, Russian school & concert, Sunday church, playdates and a lot of time to relax together – especially as he had three days off school due to the weather. I was proud to see him perform at the Russian concert the saturday preceding mothering sunday – well done big man! Ahh … it was also nice to cook a little in my own kitchen including Alex’ favorite – lasagne.

Language craze enters another level: I started Russian Skype lessons after I returned from Colombia, as I felt I was forgetting all i learned which would be a waste. Since then I enjoyed weekly classes with Daria and feel much more comfortable now though the grammar still does my head in and new vocab is tricky. I keep trying. The same goes for Spanish, though the language is generally easier for me. I now have weekly classes with two teachers to improve understanding and flow of speech – Edu from Venezuela & Laura from Colombia. Downside of it all is loads of homework to improve vocabulary, grammar etc. As if that wasn’t enough I also started to train Dutch  a little bit ahead of my Amsterdam trip and the two weeks language school. Thank god that my German and English gives me a little head-start. Let’s see how it goes on the ground and how I will manage to keep up doing all three. 

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Motorcycle licence – first step taken: I started to do my licence already in 2010, but sadly never got around to finish it. Given i have a few dreams of motorcycle tours on my bucket list, it was time to get going. There are three parts to the license. First, a general skills test called CBT (compulsory basic training), then a theory test and finally the practical training & test on a big bike (600ccm+). Hope to get it all sorted before summer though I don’t have immediate trips planned. Big dream is to ride the panamericana one day – just as Daniel who I met in Colombia half way on his tour from Alaska. Let’s take it step by step.

Getting ready for Amsterdam: As usual when I am back home, there is a long list of things to sort out. First on the list was a major washing session. While I regularly wash my clothes when travelling, keeping it in the same bags eventually requires an all-round session cleaning everything. There were many other things like seeing dentist, doctor, sorting the flat and loads of admin stuff. I didn’t get boring. Then there was stuff to sort for Amsterdam. First language school (just two weeks though) and a place to stay. Being there for about two month doesn’t make it easier. Places to stay are in high demand. If you stay only a short while then airbnb is a decent option, but for two month its too pricey. Likewise, you normally don’t get into the mid/long term rental market as tenancies even for rooms start typically from 6 month. I was lucky to get hold of a studio in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district not far from the centre. That was after a video call with the landlady. They do take it serious as to who will live in their place. 

Catching up with friends & neighbours: This time I was better prepared to meet my typically very busy friends in London and booked time with them early on for a few good evenings out to catch-up on life. Here it came handy that I didn’t have Alex all the time as i did previously and could conveniently schedule meetings on my evenings off. Hope to get as much planning security for future stints back home. Very enjoyable was the catch-up with the old UBS lads (to my surprise the former office building in Liverpool street is gone), dinner at Tom & Marta’s, catching up with Sara & Paul and the lunch with my neighbours Dom & Jane over a good Swiss raclette – a new favourite meal for Alex who loves to melt the cheese and fry meat by himself. 

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