Thursday, 27 August 2015

Ice Caves, the Lindt Chocolate Factory and being 3,471m above sea level?!


  Traveling Adventures:  Austria & Switzerland
                          Salzburg x Jungfraujoch x Interlaken

General Disclaimer: 

I've already written about my journey to Costa Rica. If you haven't read that and would like to, you can click here.  All of the photos and text are mine unless otherwise stated. Nothing mentioned has been sponsored and opinions on countries, products, places and purchases are all mine. 


                    Traveling Austria
Flag of Austria
My family and I generally tend to travel a lot. It's partly because we're all very into exploring new places and also because of my father's work, which is the reason why we were lucky enough to move to The Netherlands. This was the first time that I'd ever been to Austria or Switzerland. We've always spoken about going since we'd done places like France, Italy, Germany, Belgium etc before, but this was something new. For a start, we decided to go in Winter because a) seeing snow is a very rare opportunity for us and b) it was something we wanted to try. In Austria, we stayed in this cute fairy-like town in Salzburg where we went to look at typical touristy things, such souvenir stores and try out local foods. Staying in Salzburg was an amazing opportunity to go see the Alps, as well as exploring old buildings, local towns, cathedrals, churches and going to the river.


We took a tour through the town that we were staying in, as well as a cable car up to the top of the mountain to walk through an ice cave. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photographs, however we did get to see a castle on the river and try some of the delicious chocolate in one of the local towns.



Something else that I thought was really cool was the architecture. The roads were wide but the alleys in between them were very narrow. The buildings were brightly coloured and they would be neutral on the inside. Restaurants were often white or grey with items like fresh flowers or bright curtains to add some colour. "The Sound of Music", directed by Robert Wise, was also shot in Salzburg and while we were there, they had plays since they were touring across Europe. 

    Other locations we saw included various lakes, mountains, going out to dinner and now and then going into town for lunch or breakfast. 





                  Traveling Switzerland

As stated before, this was my first time traveling Switzerland. It was such an amazing experience as I'd never experienced this much snow in my life. Sure, we get snow in Holland, but compared to Switzerland it's like a slushy machine had emptied out its contents all over The Netherlands. In Holland, the canals freeze up and people go skating on it, if it's cold enough. In Switzerland, everything was pretty much frozen.  For me, the main attraction was the place that we stayed at. We booked a little cottage close to the mountainside in Interlaken, which is a resort town on the Aare River.




The inside of the cottage was beautiful, faux crystal chandeliers and all white furniture - which is pretty much my favourite combination for interior.  I took this photo (pictured on the left) of the chandelier in my room. The place itself was incredibly cosy and so beautifully situated next to the mountainside and the gorgeous riverside.

Left Photo: Inside the bedroom in the cottage that we stayed at.
Right Photo: The sign of the Lindt Chocolate Factory.
Something else that was great to visit and experience was the Lindt Chocolate Factory. There was a museum which we toured and after we had a super delicious lunch with hot chocolate from the Lindt Factory. I''m a chocoholic, so I think it's safe to say that I was in Heaven.


Another highlight of my trip was visiting Jungfroujoch, the Top Of Europe. There was an ice museum which I happily toured with my family and did some basic Drake poses next to the ice sculptures, which I shall not include here because I'd like to keep my dignity intact. It was absolutely freezing when we went outside. Jungfroujoch lies at a height of 3,471m above sea level on the Burmese Alps.


It was really great to visit both of these countries. Out of the two, I'd have to say that Switzerland was my favourite - not only is it extremely beautiful but there are surprisingly a lot more tourists. Austrian markets are amazing though, you just need to know where to look.


This is just one of my traveling adventures. If you liked this, stay tuned for upcoming posts about my adventures in France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, The Netherlands, Thailand, Dubai and Namibia!


Until next time,
Miah

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

6 Ways to Get an A on Your Next Presentation!

          Get An A on Your Next Presentation!


For those of you who struggle to give a presentation, here is key information to help the process run smoothly. Know that you've heard all of these before and it really all comes down to preparation and self confidence. 

Decide on a good topic.
Unless the topic is given to you, make sure that you're interested in what you are speaking about. There's nothing more boring than hearing a presentation by someone that doesn't sound like they want to talk about their topic. If you're enthusiastic, chances are your grade will be higher because you'll be more motivated to work.

Do your research.
Know your topic inside and out. Teachers and students alike generally have questions and you want to feel like you've done a good job by the time you've finished sharing your presentation. Make sure to include only the necessities such as a little bit of background information, and the who, what, why and where of your topic. 


Add visuals.
Again, make the presentation interesting by  literally giving the audience something to look forward to. These can come in various forms such as PowerPoints with little to no text so that the audience actually pays attention to you, photographs of what you're explaining, diagrams, short videos etc. 

Interact with your audience.
If you can, make sure to tell a joke that relates to your topic. It's an easy ice breaker and will have people listening to your presentation the whole time. Be sure to ask your audience a couple of questions and then give the correct answer later. This way the presentation become more dynamic and it's a sneaky way for you to get a break from talking the whole time!

Know that appearance matters
I personally hate school dress codes, but I do realize that appearance does in fact play a role in your grade. If you wear school uniform, you're perfectly fine as long as your uniform is neat and your hair is out of your face. If you're like me and your school doesn't require you to wear a uniform, dress appropriately. Now, I don't mean suit up or wear a prom dress. Just don't reveal too much, keep your hair out of your face and for the love of God, do not chew gum.


Have a time limit
Unless you are asked to speak for x amount of time, keep your presentation short, interesting and packed with information. If need be, practice in front of friends or family and pick up where they start to lose interest. Speak slowly and clearly and be sure to explain something important if you are going to repeat the word again in your presentation. 


Until next time, 


Miah

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Letter to High School Freshmen

                       

                               Dear High School Freshmen


Well done, your middle/primary school days are over and you are now officially a high school student! Now as a senior / soon to be graduate (and then one of you again as I head to university) I felt like you could use a lil help, so here's a couple of things to get you prepared for high school.

Firstly, don't get too excited about stationery shopping, you'll literally just use a pen. Actually no, you'll find a pen on the floor or on a desk that someone forgot about and use that. It's important to realize that actually having manners will get you further in life, so at least make an attempt to realize that if you're nice to your teachers, they'll let things slide, like coming late to class or your inevitable sass. 

While we're on the topic of teachers,  keep in mind that your English teacher will  either be hella chill or Satan's offspring. There is no in between. If your English setwork requires you to read a play, try to make it fun by watching the film or better yet, going to see it in theaters if available. It makes understanding so much easier. 
You should also make sure to take notes in class to review and ask if you do not understand. The stuff you learn in ninth grade WILL show up again in twelfth. It's like Mariah Carey who only makes an appearance during Christmas time. 
Also, please look after your school textbooks - they're probably worth more than your life. Do not mess with your grades. Trust me, school records are incredibly important. Sure its just "another year" but it's also another report card that can heavily influence whether or not you'll be homeless in the future. 


With that said, keep in mind that schoolwork shouldn't dictate your entire life; of course education is important, but you need to allow your mind to unwind and your body to physically recharge itself. This leads me to my next point. Freshmen, this is vital and I say it from the bottom of my heart: value your sleep schedule! I speak from experience. Once you start high school, or even prior to that, your sleep schedule is non existent or worse, you will find that you actually wake up tired. This is a thing now, get used to it.



Keep in mind that popularity is not everything. Looks change but people will always remember how you treated them. Do not strive to do or be anything better than who you are or your best. You are enough. High school is easy, even if you need a little help. There's always a solution. It's most likely just your time management that's messed up. Additionally, try to choose your friends wisely, who you hang out with sadly is what people associate you to be. Avoid this step if you don't care what people think or if you go to a small school and have no actual choice in who your friends are, like me.

For the love of God, if you are one of those people who bring their Starbucks coffee / TinyTeatox / Hot Chocolate/ alcohol in a coffee mug to school, at least keep your drinks in a spill-proof cup and carry an extra T-shirt just in case.  Sequentially, if your school has gym / PE class, always keep a spare change of clean clothes in your locker. You really never know when you might need it. Always keep earphones, a charger and deodorant with you. 

Make sure to eat a good breakfast and keep a few snacks like energy bars or a bottle of water in your bag throughout the day. You will get hungry, and you will have a teacher that doesn't allow you to eat in class. Now, if you attend a school that has a cafeteria and serves school lunches, please keep in mind that no one cares about what you had for lunch and no one cares if your water is Fiji so you can stop Instagramming it in the cafeteria. 

Extra tips to make your life (and mine) easier: Do not walk slowly. (God forbid you walk slowly and text at the same time) and definitely DON'T STAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN HALLWAY. Pick a side.


Lastly, freshmen,  always hide your gum.

Good luck for High School!


Miah


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Back-to-School & Basic Bitches

      Preparing for Back-to-School & Dealing with Basic Bitches



Hello everyone!

For most of us, the summer is almost over and it is nearly time to head back to school. Now,  to make it a little bit more bearable, I've compiled a list of back to school tips that covers all bases from school supplies to life hacks for you to (try and) organize yourself for the school year!

Tip 1: School Supplies
Make sure you have everything you need; nothing more & nothing less.


An overview of what I use every day for school.
Left to right: Blue tartan pencil case, highlighters, Mac Book Air, Post it notes,
Mini highlighters, protractor, Quad book, ruler,
flash cards, pencil, pen, calculator.

I find that a majority of us tend to go a little crazy when we go back to school shopping. Your wallet is working overtime and you know that you don't need to get a new backpack because you already have one that works perfectly fine, and that the cute planner you're buying is probably going to go to waste because you're going to forget to write in it. If your school uses textbooks, here's the basics of what you need: 

  • Highlighters - to highlight only key points
    Highlighters are useful especially
    colour coding for different subjects;
    makes remembering important info a
    lot easier.
  • Post Its - use these to write important information on for book reports or case studies.
  • Exam Pads - to take notes while your teacher is talking. These are super handy to review later!
  • Flashcard Notes - to write key points on for your presentations
  • 1 binder  - make sure it's got enough space for handouts from all of your classes
  • Other stationary - rulers, erasers, etc
  • A good calculator - best to buy a proper calculator that'll work and help you through all four years of high school!
  • A Quad book - You're only going to need two for the whole of your high school career. Trust me.
  • Most importantly, don't buy anything you won't need.

Tip 2:  Plan Ahead 
Organize yourself, so that the stress throughout the year isn't caused by you not knowing what you're doing 

  • If an agenda doesn't work for you, skip it - Rather buy a calendar or if you want to DIY it, you can get a free printable on tumblr or Pinterest which you can customize!
  • Make a study schedule - this really helps me stay on track. It doesn't have to be super detailed but it helps to outline the basics so you know what you need to do.
  • Prioritize - Make a list of goals you hope to achieve for the school year so you feel motivated to do your best. This is especially important if you're a freshman or a senior as both of these years will have a huge outcome on your future/work ethic.
  • Review your time table / school schedule - it helps to keep an extra copy in your locker (if you have one) or at least in your bag. That way you always know what class you have so you'll be ready for it!

Tip 3:  Make sure your school outfits somewhat match the dress code
if you're a girl and need some inspiration, click here
I'm not here to tell you what to wear. You're your own person, however, take these into consideration:
  • Make sure that nothing is too revealing - if you're wearing shorts that reveal your butt cheeks, you're doing it wrong. 
  • Try to avoid culturally inappropriate shirts/dirty graphic shirts - just no, it's rude and offensive. Someone else's religion or gender is not a punchline for a 'joke'.
  • Find loopholes - if your school doesn't allow girls to wear crop tops, balance it out with high waisted skinny jeans or a skater / maxi skirt. 
    • If you go to a  school that makes you cut your hair, chances are its just because your face is covered or its touching your collar. Simple solution: Find a style that keeps it out of your face and get it trimmed. 
    • Bonus Tip: Ask your hairdresser for a 'dusting', meaning that only 1/2 a cm is trimmed off so you basically get to keep your length.
    There are always ways to work around dress codes. 
Tip 4: Dealing with basic bitches
We've all known a basic bitch or two. Spoiler alert: They're not always female. Know that you will have numerous encounters with people who think they are better than you because of how many people they've dated, what their parents do, someone that acts like they're your friend (but who's  really only there to benefit themselves), someone who constantly complains about the smallest of things and the most basic bitch trait: someone who cannot seem to mind their own business.

Basic bitches exist everywhere. Sometimes they're lone wolves, other times they travel in a pack.  
  • Know that if they do travel in a pack, it's basically their weakness because they get hella uncomfortable without friends as they rely on their group identity to carry them through high school.
  • Make sure to choose your friends wisely. You don't want to be that person who thinks they have a lot of friends and it turns out that no one in the group is really there for you.
  • Rumors often have some kind of truth to them. With that said, do not believe everything that you hear because it's most likely not entirely true. The girl/guy who everyone considers to be basic could perhaps be your best friend.  
  • Don't let their negativity influence you. Self explanatory.
  • Basic bitches are not worth my time. And they definitely shouldn't be worth yours, either.


Tip 5:  Life Hacks for easier mornings &  school days
  • Get everything ready the night before - honestly guys, this makes things SO much easier. I usually pack my bag and set my clothes the night before. It saves time in the morning.
  • Wake up on time - set your alarm clock fifteen minutes before, just don't fall asleep again! 
  • Always know what class you have next - make your lock screen your class schedule for the first few weeks!
  • Colour code your textbooks - so much easier to know which one to grab!
  • Find websites that help you with homework
    • http://www.wolframalpha.com/ - calculates every math question you'd ever need. Make sure you understand it!
    • www.mathway.com - another website that calculates math problems with a step-by-step explanation. 
    • www.bibme.org - this is a great site to use when you need to cite your sources for essays!
    • www.writingforward.com - definitely a big help for those of you who need assistance in areas of language / grammar. 

I hope this was a big help to those of you who need it. Enjoy the last bit of summer!

Until next time, 
Miah





Friday, 14 August 2015

Meeting Foreign Students, Getting Evacuated and Turning 18 in Costa Rica!

              Costa Rica, Summer of 2015
Disclaimer: All photos posted were taken by the EPI Group, Dr. Markham or Chant.

For those of you who personally know me, you know that I travel a lot. I love the hype of going to new places, meeting interesting people, trying out local foods and just discovering a new culture. This summer, I visited Costa Rica. First,  let me backtrack a bit. I'm an IB ESS (Environmental Systems and Societies) student and my ESS teacher, www.drninamarkham.com, plans these trips once a year where a group of students sign up and go on a semi holiday, learning experience/culture experience kind of thing. Last year they visited South Africa, which is actually my home country. This year, I was lucky enough to get into the program and visit Costa Rica with a couple of other students, as well as two of my teachers.

Months of planning went into this trip and on the 28 of June we all met at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and got onto our plane to San José.

Some of the members in our group.

The main reason why we were going to visit Costa Rica was because we were doing research on Leatherback Sea Turtles as they, like many other beautiful creatures in this world, are in danger of becoming extinct.  Although that was ultimately the reason why we went, we also visited other areas aside from Pacuare (where we studied the Leatherback Sea Turtle) to get more insight on Costa Rica's biodiversity. Our school contacted a group known as Ecology Project International (EPI).We were there to educate ourselves about not only the world we live in, but also to learn how other people live, especially those who didn't take resources like water or electricity for granted.

Basketball Court at the EPI Campus
 It was a grueling 12 hour flight from Amsterdam to San José, Costa Rica. (11 hours to Panema, 1 hour to San José) When we arrived at the airport, we met our first instructor, David (pronounced Daveed in Spanish). He was incredibly friendly and it was easy to get along with him.  The first place we stayed at was the EPI Campus. We basically stayed there to rest and break the ice as we had some people join us that weren't from our school.  This location was fun to stay in as we would play Cards Against Humanity, chill in the basketball court, talk about world issues, debate against one another and enjoy ourselves by soaking up sunlight. This was definitely a treat, given that we've all come from Holland where our summers are basically 16 degrees celsius.




Our first night in Costa Rica & meeting David
One of the activities that we did was to see Poás Volcano. To get there, we needed to take the bus from the campus and meet our second instructor, Marcella. She was gorgeous and super friendly. After the bus ride, we hiked through a rainforest on the way to the volcano. When got there, it was fairly misty but we were fortunate enough to get an awesome photo of the crater, pictured below.
While we stayed at this campus, we also did a lot of work by doing studies on local plants and animals.

Poás Volcano, PC to Chant.

The Capuchin Monkey
The next location was the La Suerte Biological Field Site. This is where things get really fun. When we arrived by bus, girls and boys were separated and we unpacked. There were five places that we most commonly saw: our dorms, The Big House, the La Suerte rainforest, the hammock area and a room next to our dorms that we used for research. The Big House was where we ate delicious food prepared by Reneé, who owned the Big House. While having lunch, we would often have visitors such as the Two Toed Sloth or the Capuchin monkey.



A spider crawled onto David's hand. He offered to hand it to me
but I politely declined.
We also got to meet other students, most memorably, a group of teenage boys from New Jersey, USA. Over the past few days we hung out with them, playing more Cards Against Humanity (and eventually getting it banned for everybody else) having a soccer match against them and the locals, as well as chilling together in the hammocks after lunch or before bed.

There were definitely a lot of hikes on this trip, night hikes too. I'm terrified of snakes and spiders and we encountered a few of them. Our third and final instructor, Stanley (who we lovingly nicknamed Sally due to mishearing David) loved them and encouraged us to know more about them.

After a soccer game with the New Jersey boys
and Cosa Rican locals
A Snakes-Crossing Sign outside of the Big House.


Playing ice-breaker games outside of the rainforest
We had the same rules throughout the trip.

  1. Wear sunscreen. 
  2. Drink water.
  3. Use Bug Spray.
  4. Carry your field guide/notebook
  5. Wear long pants during hikes
Most of the rules are pretty self explanatory. 



It was rainy season while we stayed in Costa Rica, but then again, we were in a tropical area, in the middle of a rainforest so I shouldn't have been surprised. The humidity was unforgiving. I wore shorts nearly every day, unless it was time for a hike as creatures could bite you and plants could be poisonous. 

There were about four groups in total. Ours, the New Jersey Boys, another group from California, USA and a group of university students from all over who were studying and doing research. We encountered all of these people throughout our entire stay in Costa Rica, with the exception of the university students.
Preparing for our hike at La Suerte


Another place we visited was Turrialba. Stanley, our instructor, said that the people from Turrialba are called the sugar cane people for reasons that you might expect. Interestingly enough, David is from Turrialba. While we stayed there, we got to meet his family at a local ice-cream shop,  visited a botanical garden, went shopping and did touristy things like walk around the city. 



Bus rides
Our group also got to learn about different birds and animals from Stanley & David. Fun fact; Hummingbirds fly backwards.
In the garden

We left La Suerte after a couple of days and took our bus to our next location to finally get to see the sea turtles: Pacuare Nature Reserve. On the way to the nature reserve, we traveled by a boat and got to see a Howler monkey up close and even a crocodile in the exact same river that we were in. 
Upon arrival, we met a local boy  our age who would be with us for the next few days. I'm not too sure how to spell his name, so we'll call him J. He explained to us that water was very limited and that there would be no hot water nor electricity. David and Stanley also made sure we all had our flashlights with us while we traveled at night. Pacuare Nature reserve is located literally a few meters from the beach. This was the beach that we would be doing night patrols on. 

Quick Explanation About Night Patrols
  • It's literally what you think - patrolling at night.
  • We were separated into three groups. Each group had a time slot to go on a night patrol. There was 8pm, 9pm, 12pm and 4am. 
  • The beach area which we studied was 100m. We would travel with one of our instructors (I was usually with David) and another assistant to measure the levels of sand in the beach, check for turtle nests and try to spot sea turtles. We would meet up with other groups at 50m because our camp sites were separated. They were located in the Northern part and we were in the Southern.
  • Before our night patrols, we were given a lesson on how to measure the turtles, count fertile eggs and identify the trails by their prints.
  • We weren't allowed cameras during night hikes due to it being dangerous and the flash (or any white light) indicates poachers to security, which means everyone needs to evacuate the beach. 
As mentioned before, a couple of familiar faces showed up. That's right, our friends from New Jersey and California friends were back. To get to the 50m mark, we had to hike from our camp site through either the rainforest, or by walking on the beach. Often it was high tide, so the rainforest was a safer option- but not quite. There were vine snakes and monkeys, spiders, termites and bullet ants and it was all absolutely beautiful. We did night patrols the whole time that we stayed there,  alternating times. I got to measure depth of turtle nests and bury eggs. Sadly, one of our instructors reported that we wouldn't be able to see actual turtles because it was the end of their hatching season. 

In Pacuare, we also had the opportunity to taste food that they grew locally. Costa Rican coffee, pineapples and bananas are their three main exports. We did a taste test where we ate a lot of interesting foods such as the inside of a palm tree, seeds, some nuts, tamarind and fruits. Aside from that, our diets consisted mostly of traditional rice and beans which was absolutely delicious, eggs, fruit juice (made from locally grown fruits and ingredients such as tamarind) and occasionally treats like pancakes and other foods such as cheeseburgers and fries and Spaghetti. 
Trying out local foods.

I turned 18 on the 5th of July. At 12:00am, I was in the middle of a rainforest, surrounded by by best friend and a group of people I had met a week ago and they were all singing 'happy birthday to me' 
The morning of my birthday, I was surprised because Stanley and David had bought  chocolate cake covered with oreos. My friends gave me gifts too and it was pretty much one of the best birthdays. The best part came when we were all relaxing by the tables outside of  the kitchen and someone ran back screaming "THE TURTLES HAVE HATCHED!" 

Everybody grabbed their cameras and field journals and ran to the hatching site.
Pacuare Beach
You see, only 1 in 1000 turtles survive, so seeing them all hatch is incredible. Because it was my birthday, they named one of the turtles Miah. It was awesome to see how the instructors took care of them by the way they handled them and making sure they weren't exposed to direct heat. Unfortunately,  many turtles that hatched came with deformations. One of the research assistants told us that that it was mostly due to pollution and unknown causes.

The ones that did survive were great to see. We spent an hour or two observing and hanging out on the beach before we headed back to our dorms to get ready for another night hike.


This night hike was different. Firstly, because this time I was on the 4am shift. We were on our way back when a man on a motorbike stopped us and spoke in Spanish to one of my teachers. She translated and said that we had to evacuate the beach as soon as possible! The roads were getting flooded due to a mixture of rain and high tide, which would have major complications for us if we wanted to get back to Holland on time. 

Naturally, everyone went back to their cabins, packed their belongings as fast as they could and lined up outside the site. We hurriedly took the boat back to the drop off station where we we transported from Pacuare to our hotel. This time we were a large group since our friends from California were with us and were probably very annoyed with us as we continued to serenade them with 'Let it Go' by Elsa on the way to the hotel. 

The hotel we stayed at was probably the fanciest location we stayed at due to size and the advantage of electricity and hot water. Everyone was given a room to share with one other person. Luckily for me, I was paired with one of my best friends, Abby. 
Dinner was served downstairs and shockingly enough, we saw that an area outside of Pacuare, the town that we had just been in, on the news. The place was completely flooded and people were literally swimming in the roads. I am so thankful that we got out on time. 

Our stay in the hotel and on our way back concluded with studies and presentations in the hotel, having free time to go hike and explore, as well as seeing a gorgeous waterfall. 

We traveled back from our hotel to the EPI campus in San José, but before we left arrived at the EPI Campus, we went white water river rafting! Once again, we were split into teams and got a quick lesson on how to use the equipment, adjust life vests etc. Afterwards, we had a fruity lunch with the locals 


Lunch with some locals
Our last nights were in spent in the EPI campus, laughing at inside jokes of the trip, playing cards, watching soccer and swimming. I'm sure everyone had a great time. This was very different to any trip that I had ever experienced and I am so grateful that I was able to go. A big thanks to AISR, Stanley, David, Marcella, Ms. Eva, Dr Markham and yes, even Tyler , for making this trip so epic.


Now, enjoy this series of accidental photos turned gif of me turning up in Costa Rica.



See you suckers soon, 
Miah