Tropical Monochrome

Fashion

My, my. It has been a while, hasn’t it?

Now let’s not start pointing fingers and throwing accusations about who abandoned whom, let’s just all enjoy the fact that we’re together again. Deal?

Ok, let’s get down to business. (To defeat the Huns.)

Summer’s pretty much dead and gone and we’re rapidly moving into the only season where it is appropriate to use the words pumpkin and spice in the same sentence. Or latte for that matter.

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As something as a final hurrah for the dying season, let’s try a last ditch attempt at a summer look. This muted tropical outfit will see you from your mate’s BBQ through to drinks at your favourite rooftop bar.

With a top half as striking (and let’s face it – obnoxious) as this, it’s a good idea to keep the rest of the outfit as simple as possible. I’ve gone for these black skinny suit trousers from ASOS. Black jeans would work just as well, but proper trousers give it a subtle touch of formal, making it look a little more thought out. On a hot day, dark shorts would be great too.

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White trainers are pretty much my go-to at the moment, but you could probably already tell that by how well-worn they are! For a monochrome look, obviously the only colours allowed are black, white and the 50 or so shades of grey, so these white sneaks fit perfectly. The trainers dress down the suit trousers and make sure everyone knows that you’re still young and cool, but if you want to go a little more upmarket, black brogues or monkstrap shoes could replace the sneaks, taking the look from day to night.

Going ‘sockless’ with the trouser hems rolled up once or twice is a nice touch. (I awkwardly forgot to do the hems in the picture.) I put sockless in inverted commas because not wearing socks in the summer just leads to sweaty, smelly shoes which is bad for everyone, especially the people you live with. Try no-show socks like these and your housemates will love you forever. Unless of  course you’ve got other things wrong with you. But I’ve tried my best.

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This tropical tee and shirt are from boohooman.com but I’m not even going to bother linking them because their stock turns over so quickly. I thought I’d go for the matching set as it’s something that stands out. Matchy-matchy can be hard to pull off so replacing the tee with a plain white one, leaving just the tropical shirt, would be a great alternative if you’re not sure. I decided to tuck in the t-shirt as, once again, it adds a formal touch to the look.

Hawaiian-esque shirts are having something of a comeback at the moment, especially with the rise of the Cuban (or revere) collar. That said, it can be easy to look like you’ve accidentally stumbled into your father’s holiday wardrobe. To combat that, I’ve gone for a minimal black and white pattern.

Alternatively, as we move into autumn, you might want to jettison the tropical print altogether and try a similar look with other patterns. Paisley, windowpane check and stripes (pinstripe and otherwise) are some of my favourites.

Finally, throw on a plain baseball cap and some mirrored sunglasses to finish off this contemporary look with a 90s twist.

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Well I have to say, it was great catching up! We really must do this more often.

Call me.

Edi

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“Sprechen Sie Englisch?”

musings, places

Remember that time you went to Hamburg with two hours notice, no accommodation, no plans, no contacts and next to no money?

I feel like I’ll be asking myself that one for a while.

Just over a week ago I took part in Escape and Pray, a faith adventure organised by Fusion, a charity that is passionate about seeing students come to know Jesus. I see silent alarm bells going off in your mind. “Escape and Pray”, ” faith adventure”, “Jesus”. It’s going to be one of those posts, isn’t it? Yes. Yes it is. Sorry, not sorry.

Escape and Pray aimed to give students the opportunity to live out Luke 10. Though obviously not quite to the letter, seeing that we’re not the group of middle Eastern agitators to whom the words were originally uttered. Basically, it was a chance to have an adventure and to trust in God to provide and to connect with students and with churches and just to generally meet new people and to go to Europe and to have a lot of fun. So here’s the premise: organise a group of mates, turn up at the airport and open an envelope containing your European city destination, your tickets and €20 per person. Then go to said destination with only the time before your flight to frantically try and find accommodation and contacts. Standard.

media-20150624 Arriving at Manchester airport with my amazing team – Rob, Emily and Rosie –  I was a little nervous but heavily excited. A couple of minutes before finding out our destination, for reasons unknown to myself, I unwittingly set my heart on Valencia as a possible destination. Who knows why, but I was crossed-fingered for Valencia. Then we opened the fateful orange envelope. “You’re going to Hamburg!”, said the orange piece of paper. I stared at the words. Jet black on orange. They stared back, the paper mocking me with its hue, the precise shade of the Valencia orange. I fell to my knees in anguish.

No I’m just kidding. My disappointment lasted about as long as it it took me to realise that Hamburg was in Germany, the land of beer and sausages. (See previous posts to understand why beer is now significant to me.) My excitement soon became sprinkled with worry. I don’t know anyone in Germany, talk less of Hamburg. And the Hamburgular’s really busy at the moment with his makeover so he wouldn’t be able to help us out either. Just like any other millenials, we turned to social media in our time of need. And I called my mum too.

With the ensuing social media blitz of excitement and pleas for help over (though yet to yield any significant progress), we stepped aboard the bright orange hull of one of Easyjet’s finest vessels. I’m 90% sure Fusion only picked Easyjet because they have a weird thing for orange branding. An hour and a half later, there we were in Hamburg, taking selfies on the runway like a Kardashian. Having landed, we opportunistically leapt upon the free airport WiFi and checked our messages, trying to confirm some form of accommodation. Amazingly we’d had four offers of places to stay by the time we got to the city! After leaving the airport, we tried to hitchhike to the city centre. We wrote ‘bahnhof’ on a piece of paper and stood at a junction smiling sweetly with our thumbs extended. Later it was pointed out to us that bahnhof, meaning train station, was not a useful sign, as there are 68 stations in Hamburg, none of which were particularly obvious that we meant. Maybe that’s why every car sped past us. Or maybe they just didn’t like our faces. Or maybe both.

After paying for a bus with our tails between our legs, we wandered around town for a while, starving, trying to find the cheapest traditional food, one of our challenges being trying a local delicacy. We went for Currywurst and never have I enjoyed curried sausage so much. OK that was the first time I’ve ever had curried sausage, but it was good. No, it was great. After dinner, we met the girl who’d kindly organised accommodation for us, having been messaged by a friend about our predicament. She was a lovely student and she let the girls stay with her and found some mates to house Rob and myself.

The next morning, I felt great. We’d spent ages chatting with our hosts and joined them in their morning prayer sesh so I started the day on a real high. Wandering around the University of Hamburg was fun. We were able to tick a few more challenges off our list including crashing a lecture. We sat at the back for a while looking conspicuous and English, often one and the same, but hightailed it out of there when the lecturer put some incomprehensible symbols on the overhead projector (I know, right?) and it became clear that we’d have to spend an hour listening to a lecture in German that I’d have struggled to understand in English.

University of Hamburg! #hamburg #teamhamburgers #🍔 #escapeandpray

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Next we made our way into town to try and find a church for some good old-fashioned Christian sanctuary. Most of them were closed – unsurprising seeing as it was a Monday afternoon. The evening before, we had found a fast food joint that had free WiFi at Hauptbahnhof, Hamburg’s main train station, and this became something of a headquarters for us. Or rather, the spot on the floor just outside it, where the WiFi still worked but there was no pressure to buy anything, became something of a headquarters for us. We soon came up with a hilarious team name – #TeamHamburgers – a name that became much less funny when we realised that people from Hamburg genuinely call themselves Hamburgers as the meat-related Americanism clearly isn’t as much of a thing for them. As expected, the trip was full of poor jokes about eating the locals and abuse of burger emojis on social media.

Afterwards, we wandered toward the harbour and took a picture with the Hamburg State Opera House – selfie with a monument, check! We were quite hungry but were reluctant to buy anything to eat because we’d already spent a fair bit on food and transport the previous day. One thing we’d agreed on was that we wanted to give away as much of the money as possible. (That was also one of the challenges by the way, so not just us being selfless saints!) Having spent the day wandering around with our stomachs rumbling, we saw a homeless man outside of a church and one of the team suggested we buy lunch for him. This didn’t sit quite right with my self-preservation instincts, but I wasn’t about to refuse a man on the street lunch so I went along with it. It was oddly humbling buying food for him and none for ourselves. It was also quite humbling realising that the empty stomach feeling that we had was probably how he felt most of the time. I’m not going to pretend it was easy giving out money that we felt we needed, or that the clouds parted and a heavenly beam of approving light shone down, but I think it did me good to think about someone else at that time and to put things into perspective.

Later #TeamHamburgers returned to the university to make use of its WiFi. Eduroam is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Counting our money in the university dining hall, it turned out we had a little more than we’d thought – enough to buy some food and still be able to afford the next day’s train fair to the airport. With that night’s accommodation confirmed, we splashed out on the cheapest dish served by the canteen. Let me tell you, you’ve never had better pasta and tomato sauce. We shared two meals between the four of us, like two pairs of besotted dogs from different social classes enjoying Italian food on a particularly bella notte. The person who served us didn’t ask for any student ID, our dishevelled appearance no doubt telling her all she needed to know, so we were charged the cheaper student price that obviously wouldn’t have been available to us if she’d known we didn’t actually attend that university. Talk about stealing benefits. This extra windfall of $2 allowed us to treat ourselves to some waffles too and I gleefully smothered them in a blizzard of powdered sugar. Bearing in mind that I’d been up for 11ish hours and had eaten nothing more than a slice of malt bread, a Toffee Crisp and a morsel of cheese, this made me feel amazing. The hungry, grumpy afternoon was long forgotten and I felt ready, once again, to take on the world.

Earlier we’d responded to an ad we’d seen on a noticeboard asking for foreign students to discuss real estate in their home countries. The ad promised free coffee or beer for the participants. Naturally, we jumped at the chance. We met the three girls whose project it was for in a coffee shop and talked for a while about house prices, living conditions etc. for students in England. After we’d finished discussing their topics we just chatted for ages. One thing that transpired was that Germans pay something like €300 per semester for university. €300. This was such a slap in the face to the £27,000+ bill that I’ve racked up over the last three years. I struggled not to spit out my coffee in shock. To be fair though, maybe if they sprung a little more than €300, they’d be able to afford more than an overhead projector in lectures… Yeah I went there. Afterwards the girls insisted on buying us a delicious pastry that was native to Hamburg. It was a sort of cinnamon roll/croissant hybrid and had a name that we all struggled with. It was something along the lines of “fransbrochoweivenoborgeniebrushettastiplwievelsknitcheluchen”. Something like that. When I say the girls insisted on buying us this treat, I mean it. These generous students walked us to three different bakeries before they found some fransbrochoweivenoborgeniebrushettastiplwievelsknitcheluchen to buy for us . Once again we were bowled over by the unwarranted kindness of strangers. Earlier, we’d prayed for food and drink and we’d had a great meal and dessert, followed by coffee and more dessert. Suffice to say we felt very grateful.

As evening came in, #TeamHamburgers (I’m not even sure that the hashtag is ironic anymore) made our way to our second host’s house. This woman had got in contact, having heard about us from a friend on social media. From the moment we stepped foot in the house, we were welcomed like guests of honour. All four women who lived there were so lovely and generous to us. They made a curry for dinner and I ate so much. Like a rude amount. It was delicious. We stayed up and chatted for a while, but they had work in the morning and we wanted an early night too so we soon went to bed.media-20150624 (1) The next morning, they provided a lovely continental breakfast of various meats and cheeses. We laughed about the differences between German and English food. It would appear that Germans find the concept of the full English breakfast ridiculous as they prefer a lighter start to the day. Apparently they can’t be dealing with sandwiches for lunch either – they like a hearty hot lunch. And quite frankly, that’s something I can get behind. Two slices of bread and a smear of filling can only take you so far at lunchtime. And why are sandwiches so expensive? I need answers. But this can be discussed later. Anyway, after praying with our hosts, we left for the city centre, laden with a packed lunch that had been lovingly prepared for us. Honestly, the kindness of strangers. Overwhelming.

After a ferry ride to a ‘beach’ that mostly consisted of stones and disappointment, we prayed for different areas of the city. On a whim, we also walked along the Old Elbe Tunnel that was 426m long and 24m below sea level. Coming up on the other side, we found little more than severely underwhelming industrial estates. Ah well, it can’t always be Narnia.

Tunnel vision. #escapeandpray #hamburg #teamhamburgers #tunnel #photography

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We were all exhausted as we headed back to the airport. Exhausted but grateful. Exhausted but content. Exhausted but elated. Looking at the #escapeandpray hashtag in the airport (thank you, Turkish Airlines for the free WiFi), it was exciting to see all that God had been doing with the other groups dotted all over Europe.

Love this place. #escapeandpray #hamburg #teamhamburgers #🍔 ##hamburg #spam #sorrynotsorry

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So what did I enjoy? The many opportunities Hamburg offered me to take pseudo arty Instagram pictures. What did I struggle with? Living, quite literally, on a prayer. The trip helped me realise that I don’t really trust God in my day to day life as I rarely ever lack anything I need, or even want. What won’t I forget? German efficiency. Honestly, the public transport system in Hamburg is ridiculously good. €6 for a day ticket in all zones and all forms of prompt and timely transport, including ferries. And don’t even get me started on their university fees. What will I take from this? Generosity. The kindness of strangers. It, quite frankly, amazed me that people would allow foreign strangers to sleep in their house with merely hours of notice. Actual strangers. We weren’t even friends of friends. Not really. I quite like what this group who went to Oslo calls it: unnecessary generosity.

Getting home felt great. As did our celebratory McDonalds. After ordering my main meal (BBQ Chicken Legend Deluxe with bacon), I showed my student card to get a free burger. Student life has many perks. Free burgers and crushing debt. Anyway, surely proving that God has a sense of humour, the McDonalds lady asked me: “Will that be a cheeseburger or a Hamburger?” I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

Weltenbummler means globetrotter. we had no idea till someone who saw the photograph pointed that out.

Weltenbummler means globetrotter. we had no idea till someone who saw the photograph pointed that out.

Amsterdam: A place beyond belief

musings, places
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The title of this post may seem cheesy, but it’s worth considering that I very, very nearly tittled it “Amsterdayummm”. “A place beyond belief” isn’t looking too bad anymore, is it?

Last week I went to Amsterdam. I was visiting Nigeria and flew with KLM as Virgin and BA now seem to think that we’re all millionaires. Besides price, flying with KLM also gave me benefit of the opportunity to stop in Holland. As I’ve never been before, I purposely chose a connecting flight back to London that was 14 hours after I arrived in Amsterdam so I could have a look around. It was great exploring the city, although due to the timing of the planes and my refusal to pay for a tram in the city centre, I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got on the plane to Heathrow. Despite this, I absolutely LOVED my time in Amsterdam. Would be great to live there sometime. Maybe that’s what I’ll do after uni: slump around the Dam (I think that’s what cool people call it). And hey, if I run out of money, there’s always the red light district to make a buck or two.

That joke was inappropriate. I apologise.

Aaaaanyway, my favourite place in Amsterdam by far was NDSM-werf – I think werf means wharf – which is a collection of derelict, abandoned shipyards around which something of an artistic community has unexpectedly appeared. I imagine that, in this respect, it is similar to New York borough Brooklyn, not that I’ve been, in that a down-market, unmaintained, formerly overlooked neighbourhood has become a creative breeding ground for artists and/or hipsters and/or people who un-ironically list their profession as “poet”. I absolutely loved the place. B-e-a-utiful. Everything had been tampered with or repurposed into something creative. Whether it was the electricity fuse box that had been turned into a face, the metal cable spools used as seats or shipping containers moonlighting as rooms, everything was something it was never meant to be. Even a crane, an object used exclusively for function, was – intentionally or not – painted in aesthetically pleasing colours. The huge ship-building factory warehouses had been repurposed into offices/workspaces. One of the warehouses was actually MTV’s office which does unfortunately dock some hipster-points from the place, but piles on the mainstream cool-points. Another warehouse rented out office space, the only catch being that you had to make your own office! Inside were loads of unique structures, some made of wood, some of metal, some glass or plastic or whatever, that the people who work there had made or had had made. It. Was. So. Cool. I loved exploring the two storeys of offices because they were so mismatched, each more unexpected than then last.
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I met a lovely man on the 10-minute ferry over there (I can’t even contemplate the amount of hipster points being able to say you take the ferry to work would grant you) who explained to me that the ship-building companies had all gone out of business in the 70s so the place had been left to ruin, but in recent years had been taken up by creative types. He also suggested a café I should visit and all but walked me to it (he really was lovely). The café turned out to be in a greenhouse. No, seriously. It looked really cool and I really wanted to go in, but it was closed. The ferry man did warn me it might be, joking that artists would never be up so early. It was 9am. As a student,  I completely empathise with the artists and their nocturnal sleeping pattern.
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View from the ferry to NDSM-werf

Other randomly beautiful things included an old Citroen with stained glass windows and a licence plate that read “survivant” mounted inexplicably on shipping container; a submarine left by the Russians (what are they like eh?); and an unexpectedly accurate sign, visible from the ferry on the way there, that read ” A place beyond belief”. The whole area was old and dishevelled but there was a certain beauty to it that I can’t quite put my finger on. I realise how pretentious that sounds, but I genuinely mean it. The derelict qualities of the place, and the things in it, would have been ugly elsewhere, but here it fit perfectly.
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Outside of NDSM-werf, I loved the architecture of Amsterdam: Gothic and/or Art Deco, yet still modern (I know NOTHING about architecture so am probably talking crap, but I understand what I mean, at least.) I really enjoyed the canals too. They made the city that bit more romantic. Just beautiful. Museumplein – a park outside the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh and the Stedelijk museums had some gorgeous blossom-covered trees and, of course, the famous ‘Iamsterdam’ sign.
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I was a little disappointed by the bloemenmarket, the flower market (as you can see, I speak fluent Dutch now) as the pictures I’d seen made it look like what was essentially a field of flowers that just happened to be encased in a series of market stalls. It turned out that most stalls didn’t have too many flowers on display, just some dotted around the place. This was disappointing because I was looking forward to taking some pseudo artistic pictures of all the vibrant colours. I did take a few, but I would have liked to see more flowers at a flower market, especially considering the time of year I came – I’m no florist, but I was under the impression that flowers bloom in spring. To be fair, I guess most of the problem was that the stall owners didn’t put the flowers they had together, but spread them around. I can’t photograph that crap. How incredibly inconsiderate of them. I was also a little let down by the main market. Is anyone else seeing a trend here? But this was purely because I’d forgotten that markets in general have little to interest me, assuming that because I was in another country, the market would be so much more interesting than what we have at home. I was wrong. It was great and all, and some stalls looked really good (especially the food) but there’s not that much to be found for me at markets. I mean, what am I going to do with a poor quality, yet overpriced headscarf?
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Amsterdam Schipol airport itself is quite an attraction in itself. When I got off the plane I was faced with a casino, juice bars and a mini version of the Rijksmuseum featuring exhibits from the original. And all this was in the arrivals/departures lounge! Outside in the main airport was a huge shopping centre. I’ve loved airports since I was a child because they promise so much to explore. If I’d gone to Slhipol when I was younger, I probably would have fainted with excitement. By the way, does anyone else find that, despite it seeming like they’re so large and have so much to explore, there’s always less to see at airports than you think? Or is that just me who’s going through a phase of being marginally disappointed with everything?

One thing I noticed was that the airport shopping centre had a H&M, which wouldn’t be interesting if there weren’t at least 4 other H&M shops within a mile radius of each other in the city centre. Story time: When I stopped over in Paris when returning from Nigeria in 2011, I spent a lot of time in the city centre and ultimately got lost and missed my connection flight to London and was left stranded in Paris. As romantic as it sounds, I had no intention of being stuck in France for the rest of my life with no money or friends and after a (less frantic than you’d think) phone call my mum booked me another flight and saved me. Anyway, aside from my incompetence, lack of orienteering skills and general bad luck, one of the things that contributed to me missing my flight was my inability and consequent determination to find a H&M. So 3 years later, the next time I’m I’m a new city alone, I found it rather funny that I was surrounded by H&M stores. God – or fate, depending on your worldview – has a very dry sense of humour.
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Speaking of humour, a slightly funny and slightly embarrassing thing happened to me after I’d had lunch. I’d eaten in this nice little café and was heading towards the market when I saw some Christian graffiti stencilled on the pavement. It was a cross followed by an equal sign and a heart: ‘Christ is love’. Words I wholeheartedly agree with. I was taking pictures of it, already imagining the arty filter I’d put on the photo when I uploaded it online (#christianhipster), when a cool looking young man approached me on a bike. He asked me if I knew any cafés. ‘What luck,’ I thought. ‘I’ve just come from a café. This is one question I can answer, despite being in an unfamiliar city.’ I went on to (poorly) explain in great detail how to get there. “So it’s like a coffee shop,” he asked. “Well they do sell coffee but they sell other things too like sandwiches and paninis,” I assured him. This back and forth went on for a little while, until the poor man realised he’d stumbled upon the most clueless person in the city. “Do they sell weed,” he asked finally, realising that subtlety is wasted on the likes of me. I’d genuinely completely forgotten about the whole marijuana coffee shop culture of Amsterdam and had thought he was just extremely particular about where he eats. After I assured him that I had no idea where he could procure such items, he smiled and shook my hand, despite me wasting all his time being clueless and lame. Nice guy. To be honest, it’s not really an embarrassing story, just an exemplar of my chronic uncoolness.
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Despite my best efforts to ruin it, Amsterdam is a very, very cool place. I know I’ve gushed too much about it, but I genuinely had an amazing time. It’s a truly, truly beautiful city.

Here are some more pictures from my visit:
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