Interning in India| Month and a half in the hostel

Arriving in India after midnight, walking out of the airport, inhaling the humid air, meeting with friends and taking a cab to check in to the hostel – an accurate description of my first actions taken after stepping on the land of India. For the reason of it being troublesome to find a short-term rental option, I sticked to living in the hostel ironically called Zostel until me and my colleagues find an affordable apartment. Little did I know it would take a month and a half to finally move into our own place, and, so, my stay in India swiftly divided into two chapters – the one when living in hostel and the one when living in the apartment. 

Starting off with the hostel part.

At that time Diwali, a Hindu festival happening across the whole of India, took over and let me chill for a few days before the start of my internship. Brazilian friend of mine Barbara and I decided to not waste any time and hop on the bus to Bangalore – a city in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. We rented an airbnb for two nights and explored the town both during the day and night. If anything, Bangalore is famous for its vibrant nightlife which we got the opportunity to experience.

Reminiscing on my first weeks in the office as a content writer, I can tell how different the working environment is in Chennai compared to my hometown, Chisinau. Although people might seem reserved, their friendliness and willingness to help comes off straight away (shoutout to our fellow colleagues for helping us talk over the phone with rickshaw drivers, SIM card booth salesmen and just every other Tamilian citizen with poor English) . The utmost curiosity combined with genuine interest to you as an expat leads to you developing close relationship which later on turns you into good friends.

Working from 10 AM to 7 PM, our company’s policy allowed us to have a 15 minutes coffee break in the morning, 30 minutes lunch break and an almost mandatory 15 minutes tea break. The perfect, in my humble opinion, schedule indeed positively influenced my work mode and resulted in me not losing my productivity halfway through the day. And, hey, who would mind having a chit chat with your newly acquired pals throughout the day on topics ranging from traveling plans to weekend shenanigans? Not me.

Trying to get the most out of my ‘one in a lifetime’ experience, I managed to not only do some standard sightseeing, but also escape the noisy (and, let’s face it, a bit polluted) city and explore the surroundings. Pondicherry, a city that preserved its French legacy till these days, became my second after Bangalore weekend getaway. Although initially heading there just the two of us – Mayssa, tunisian friend of mine and I, we met an Indian guy touring the country on his bike, a  German and a Canadian traveller, thus making it five of us in total. Renting two motorbikes and examining the city was the perfect way of spending our short but sweet time off of work.  

While visiting malls in between the jam-packed weekdays, in the back of my mind I was already boarding a plane to the south of GOA, a very much desired destination of mine. Scoring a good deal on a pre-holiday flight sale, me and my roommate embarked on our first to that date domestic flight journey with IndiGo, a local airline. Right after a power nap in our hostel, we made our way to some beaches together with our spontaneously met Italian and Canadian friends (a huge advantage of staying at hostels – you get to meet a lot of people all over the world). Words cannot do justice to the sceneries we got to witness, which is why I suggest you to just take in what is on these pics.

Following a smart decision to rent two bikes, four of us went to explore GOA. We spent about five or so hours in total roaming through the forests of Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, gazing at waterfalls, making contact with village kids, and then watching sunsets on our ride back to the city. Determined to go a little further and ending up wandering at another beach (Colva) the next day, I can say without a hint of doubt that this trip was incredibly memorable. I still go through the pictures taken on that adventure and wish to go back at some point later in life. 

On another note, when trying to fully immersing myself into the local culture (and, honestly, trying to not go broke until my first salary), south Indian cuisine persisted in the majority of my meals. Dosa, idli rice and coconut chutney have quickly become my favorites and go-to’s. Yeah, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t for the love of the universe handle spicy dishes loved and majorly consumed by the locals, but also for their unique taste. Often served on banana leaves and accompanied by at least four to five various chutneys, you simply cannot go wrong with either one of their deliciously cooked flour-based chapathi, roti or paratha. Oh, and how could I forget about banana chips and laddu – a great snack during the day full of workload.

Not really looking forward to staying at hostel for such a long period of time at first, I am now beyond grateful for the right set of circumstances that led me to spending there half of my stay in the country. The amount of people I got to meet each with their own story – from a lawyer on a holiday to a world traveller and to a volunteer – was by far the biggest highlight of my trip. At the end of the day, it is all about the people who fill your journey with memories you cherish for forever.

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Interning in India| The whats, the whys and the hows

I‘m writing this post while laying in the hostel’s bunk bed in the south of India. How did I get here? What am I doing here? Why India?

It all started with me trying to find an internship right after graduating university back in June ‘18. I knew for a fact that I wanted to experience working in the environment I have never worked in before. An unknown country or a far away continent – it didn’t matter. I was so keen on the idea of moving for a certain period of time to a totally unfamiliar place that I immediately started searching for various opportunities online. Needles to say that the first two months did not bring any luck – more than that, the whole process got me feeling frustrated. I started questioning myself and my abilities (which happens naturally in these circumstances).

Over fifty applications and no responses did not make me give up. I wanted it bad enough to keep on looking and eventually did score a few interviews. Not making the cut at the position I thought was the perfect fit for me, it took me a few more tries to be officially accepted to the internship in the place I didn’t expect myself to get to so early in life – Chennai, India.

As for the months leading to me being offered a position in an Indian company, I made a decision to work for a local company in Moldova – both to gain experience in the field and to earn some money. To not sugar-coat anything, I will confess that my job choice was poor. In addition to working for nine hours five days per week, I quickly became uninterested in my everyday activities. Starting with the job position differing from its initial statement and ending with strained relations between me and my boss, I was longing for a change. And, as the most life-changing events tend to occur when you least expect them, I was finally offered a position in a completely different country – India.

It was one of those usual working days in the fall when I got a WhatsApp message inviting me for an interview with an Indian company. Being open to every opportunity coming my way, I instantly agreed. After the interviews was over, I got back to my office and continued working without giving it much thought – I have already had quite a hefty amount of interviews at this point. To my surprise, I received a message saying that I was accepted for the job about an hour later. To say that I was amazed would be an understatement. When applying to this particular opportunity, I did not give it much thought nor consideration. A routine application has worked in my favor. And there I was. Sitting at my work desk not believing my eyes.

Not having much time to brainstorm, I recollect agreeing to it and then coming back home to share the news with my mom. Taking it slow and warming her up to the announcement of an actual country, she at first got scared. A natural feeling to get when your daughter leaves for a third world Asian country, I was patient enough to let that information sink in. What followed the next week or so was me quitting the job I was not satisfied with and starting the visa application process. My mom agreed to accompany me on my trip to an Indian embassy in Romania (for the absence of the one in Moldova) and, as they say, the rest is history.

Did I ever think I will be working in India? I would be lying if I said yes. Did I ever regret accepting the job invitation? Never.

Post Scriptum: I recall reading “Shantaram” written by Gregory David Roberts that same summer and thinking to myself that I will make sure to pay a visit to India at some point in my life. Little did I know my promise to myself would be accomplished only a few months later. The energy you put out in the universe seems to actually come back, guys!

August and September in books

I will not hide the fact that the past two months have been a rough ride for me both professionally and mentally. The good thing is that books (along with physical activities) were my getaway that kept me sane. One of those little helpers was the “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler. The time I picked it up (or, should I say, opened it on my Kindle) was just perfect – I was in need of an easy read.

Have you heard of “Mean Girls”? Yeah, Amy was a part of this movie. This book is just as witty and hilarious. Do not expect to find long sophisticated sentences Dreiser had written in his books. You will also not find thought-provoking quests Brown puts you in when reading his novel. What you will find is some relatable twenty first century approved type of a talk that gives you an insight into a comedian/actress’s life.

I like various book genres for various reasons. Some keep you glued at night, while others leave you sobbing and unwillingly wetting paper pages. This genre in particular is neither one of them. It is the type that makes you laugh at times, makes you nod to certain sentences and makes you realize that we all stumble upon the same issues in our lifetimes regardless of social status and/or occupation.

This memoir stays true to its name till the very end. When reading it, you get a felling that you are having a conversation with a good friend discussing all the burning topics one could think of. Amy covers a wide range of life stories, starting with her job as a waitress in suburbs and ending with her unconditional love for her kids. She talks in details about her childhood, career path, friends, family and the combination of it all while living in three different cities – Boston, Chicago and New York. The memoir is filled with Amy’s sharp sense of humor and passion for what she is doing. It is a refreshing read in the middle of today’s chaotic world.

The second book I read took the nominee of the greatest self-help book I have ever read. It is the well-known “You are a badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life” by Jen Sincero. I am convinced that it is the perfect combination of everything one needs to hear in order to succeed in life: from subconscious decisions we make to the art of surrender.

There could not possibly be one person who would not consider his time well spent after finishing this book. It is that good. It is that resourceful and that badass-y. It made me write down three pages full of notes. I would write some more if I was not so caught up in it.

There is really not much to review since everything you need to know is right inside the book. Concepts of self-perception, power of the universe and the ability to kick ass are well known to everyone, yet only a few bother to incorporate them into their lives in one way or another. For those willing to do so, Jen, as a success coach, outlined all the not-so-evident at first points compactly organized in one source.

She talks not only about the reasons as to why you perceive the reality the way you do, but also about the ways to change that and start living the life you have always dreamt of. It is full of questions you need to ask yourself and actions you need to undertake to reach your goals. You can literally create your own set of actions and start acting while reading it. Or you can set it aside and continue living in your comfort zone. The choice is ultimately yours.

I know for myself that this kick in my butt to get up and start achieving instead of pointlessly dreaming and wasting my precious time was much needed.

A step outside of your earthy everyday life is what “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams offers. It is a look into an infinite galaxy with all its odd yet smart galactic creatures. A fiction I never thought I would pick up – but here I am reading it and kind of enjoying it. The reason I am using the phrase “kind of” is because I am new to this genre, thus am struggling to not put it down and switch to something else every time I encounter the not-so-comprehensive paragraph. That is probably why it took me a while to get though the one hundred and forty pages I would usually get through in a few hours.

The story takes you on a journey through space with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, where the former was saved by the latter just before the planet earth was demolished. Was it a blessing in disguise for Arthur? Most likely. However, keeping in mind that his life on earth full of absurd scenarios such as knock down of his house by a bulldozer to build a bypass, this blessing comes with no surprise.

Arthur finds himself on another planet in a span of a second after the earth is destroyed and is instantly met by the various galactic habitants who seem to change from one planet to another. By the lucky chance of the yet another travel with a speed faster than of a light, he “wins” at a probability theory coming to the newly made planet. This adventure of his takes different turns which are accompanied by some ridiculous conversations made up by the author.

Since I do have three (or four) more stories to read in order to complete the whole picture of this galaxy guide, some points still remain unclear to me (which is probably the way fiction works anyway). It was a nice experience getting acquainted with the totally new to me genre of books. Will I gravitate towards them in the future? I do not exclude this possibility, but for now I will stick to the hundreds of those I already have on my reading list.

Let’s talk about failures

What is it about failure we fear? Is it shame? Is it the absence of support from the dearest ones? Is it the lack of motivation? Whatever it is presents to you, failure is a mentally drowning feeling no one is voluntarily willing to experience. However, at some point in life you still get to experience it and when you do, it is tough. No one prepares you for it. It hits you unexpectedly and you are forced to deal with it. Depending on how you deal with it, it either shapes you or breaks you (hopefully the former).

In social realms failure is not openly discussed. People tend to talk about their highlights instead. And that is totally understandable – why would you want to be a downer? Regardless, some might confuse sharing of one’s failures with complaining about life. For this reason you seldom hear others’ stories of failures – it is success stories most of the time.

Having said that, it is equally important to speak about failures without guilt or shame as it is to speak about achievements. Because of this lack of the failure talk young people in their twenties have wrong perceptions about the failure phenomenon and choose to fear it. They choose to fear it although failure represents a great part of everyone’s life, and if handled correctly, genuinely contributes to one’s growth.

I am not an exception and have encountered countless failures throughout my life. For this reason I am going to dare and talk about my recent failure which influenced me the most.

courtesy of Weheartit.com

I had been thinking about applying abroad for master’s degree as soon as I started pursuing bachelor’s degree. Not to the extent of taking actions, but rather just brainstorming. Having found what seemed like a perfectly fitting opportunity in Sweden, I took TOEFL in December without having time to properly get ready for it and, luckily, got through universities’ minimum requirements (boy, if only I had more time on hand). January was the deadline for applications thus the entire month from December to January I was gathering and scanning all the necessary documents.

Master’s degree in Sweden works this way: you choose up to four universities and apply to them via a specialized online portal. This portal makes the application process easy and quick since there is no need to apply separately to each university (especially if you are applying by yourself without help from a third party). Not being able to afford all the costs, my aim was to get a scholarship which covers everything from flight tickets to accommodation, insurance and tuition fee. Little did I know how competitive it is. Not having a backup plan (bad, bad idea) I solely relied on the opportunity to study in Sweden and applied to a well-known scholarship called Visby later in February.

Fast forward to April and finding out results. Fortunately, I did get a place in one of the universities and yet I was not relieved. I knew that scholarship results come in two weeks hence the anxious thoughts started kicking in. To feel less anxious I joined a WhatsApp group with all the students who are in the same boat. This group made the whole application process much more interactive and less stressful.

courtesy of Weheartit.com

April twenty sixth came and the results became known – as you probably guessed it, I did not get the scholarship. I remember the day I got the results and how broken I felt. I was interning at a local company at that time when I could feel my tears started falling down my cheeks in desperation. The whole process of acceptance did not come easy, but I got trough it eventually (and even applied and got accepted to another country, although the money issue closed this door for me).

Why am I sharing this with you? In this world of success and wealth it is so easy to acquire false perceptions and get a feeling that you have to succeed from the very first try. Is it the real life? Absolutely not. In reality you do fail before your wildest dreams become a reality. You put yourself out there and work your hardest. You get out of your comfort zone because that is the only way to get access to the best opportunities. You fall and get back up. Getting up becomes easier and easier as the time goes by and it does not bother you anymore. You start receiving what you have never had because you start doing what you have never done before. Failing does not scare you anymore and you are stronger than ever.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let me know!

My journey to intuitive eating

I am not going to tell you that I had/have a hard relationship with food. That is simply not true. What I will say instead is that I always was a fussy eater. From the very young age I did not enjoy a lot of foods which frustrated my parents a lot. It was not until a lot later when I was started eating more and more of what I used to neglect. Can my parents thank internet for that? To some extent. And also puberty.

As the years went by I started researching nutrition. It was not a major research, rather just some suggestions on what is beneficial to eat and what not so much. Because of the subjective resources, I did not take much of it into consideration. I continued to not thinking what I consume and how it affects me. I would call it a mindless eating (is there such a term?). There were no specific reasons for eating habits except for the fact that I was always skinny (with a bum though). Skinny runs in my family thus my state of mind was stable and glad that I was free in my eating choices.

Coming back from States a couple of years later (in September ‘16, to be exact) I realized that my scale did not show the same numbers anymore. I also felt a lot bigger than what I was used to. Keep in mind that previously no matter what I ate did not make me gain much weight. My instant thought was to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling I had with the help of gym. I purchased a gym membership the following month and was determined more than ever. Gym made me loose two to three kilos and I was somewhat content with my body. My newly found passion for yoga probably contributed to it as well.

Fast forward a year later to my another adventure in States and yet another weight gain. This time around I did not panic and even got to work out several times during the summer (it did not last long though since working 15/24 hours does not leave you much time for anything). By the time I got back home a new half a year gym membership was purchased. I was getting more and more into eating healthy. With the already expired membership I was determined to be on track with my eating habits. No medication treating my acne became the culmination point influencing my decision.

At the beginning I intended to cut out both meat and dairy out of my diet. Do I need to say it was a bad idea? It was about time I discovered the amount of products containing dairy and meat in them, and decided to take it easy. For meat never played a big role in my diet, I stuck with occasional chicken meals. My relationship with dairy did not let me cut it out completely, but I made sure that my cow milk and cheese intake should decrease to just a couple of times per month. From this point on I was a regular grocery shop customer with my own canvas tote bag.

What about now? Well, I consider myself having quite a balanced diet as of the past five to six months. Water became my best friend. I incorporated a lot of nutritious foods in my diet such as nuts, grains, salmon, avocado and a ton of fruits and vegetables. I also fell in love again with oatmeal breakfasts packed with fresh berries, peaches and bananas. I found zucchini and eggplants very appealing to my taste buds and thus cooked many dishes with them. Beans, tofu, sweet potato and mushrooms became my go-to foods on my grocery shopping list. There was also an abundance of pasta dishes with tomatoes and tuna in the last three months.

I will still have occasional dairy and meat products, although I started listening to my body a lot more and eating strictly when I wanted to. The “it is time for dinner” thoughts disappeared as I ate dinner whenever I felt like it. I quit the mindset of having to finish every single meal even if feeling full. In case I did overeat (and that happens too), I would not blame myself. I also created a home workout routine for myself that actually works and makes me feel leaner and stronger. The combination of both resulted in clearer skin and healthier lifestyle I embarked on and am still enjoying.

There is still a long way for me to go. I would like to cut out animal products completely out of my diet, but I will not rush into it until I am fully ready. The bonus part is that this journey of mine helped me become a better cook and better understand the needs of my body. There is no doubt that I am the most content with my body and am glad to see fruits of my labor.

What does your diet looks like? Do you have any limitations/ are you satisfied with your eating habits? Let me know!

June and July in books

Well well well, is it another book update? Yep, you heard (read) it right. Two thirds of the summer are already behind, which means that this year is slowly coming to an end. It also means that there are only a few more updates coming up. And, it also implies the purchase of some more books. Yay.

My June can be characterized as a month of finishing what I started (university) and starting the process of jobs applications. Quite a stressful time for a graduate, huh? To chill out a little bit, I grabbed my first book of this summer “The Da Vinci Code” by the well known Dan Brown. I completely agree with those saying it takes an open mind to read it and perceive it they way it is supposed to be perceived. One has to remember that this is a fiction, a thriller, a mystery that absorbs you entirely and does not let you live your life until you are done with it. This is exactly what happened to me.

What can be said about this book that has not been said? Not much. Holy Grail quest follows through the whole story and leaves a reader with a mind free to wonder. It is jam-packed with facts about church, Christianity and paganism, true meanings of faith and everything society has been questioning till this day. Were there just thirteen man on Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The last Supper” drawing? Or was there also a woman, sitting right beside Jesus, sharing his royal blood in her womb? Was women’s existence and divinity suppressed by many at the times and if so, then why? How many mysteries and hidden messages do Da Vinci’s works hide? Why the concept of sacred feminine was banned by churches and what path did Robert Langdon take to unveil the truth?

It takes one person passionate about a subject to reach the goal he did not imagine reaching in his wildest dreams. It also takes a mind open to controversial discoveries to understand and choose whether to believe it or not. A fiction like this could easily change your views on religion and faith in general. I am a believer in such events taking place, and with the huge amount of historical facts involved, do not exclude the possibility of them happening. As a first Dan Brown book read by me, I am excited to indulge in some more of his masterpieces in the nearest future.

A book with a huge media coverage “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss was the second book I read this summer. First off, I have to confess that my interest in self-help books has increased immensely during the past year. Whatever the reason for it is – the realization of adulting taking place or the fact that university is over and it is just about time to figure life out – it remains to be so. Rumors had it that this book results in people taking actions and changing their lives forever. Should there be any more justifications for picking it up? I do not think so.

To begin with, you should not expect to learn how to make money solely by lying on the beach and sipping pina colada (no matter how cool that sounds). The reality is that this is not how it works. In order to be able to generate income while laying on the beach a lot of prior measures have to be taken. This book can help you with that by serving as a guide for your actions towards your goal.

Tim’s views on the automated income are quite peculiar yet straight forward. His step by step guide to a life you have probably dreamt of at some point gives you required directions in order to do so. The inclusion of case studies of those who succeeded with the help of this book makes you want to take actions. I am not going to lie by saying that I have never heard of some of the techniques before, but there are definitely several concepts worth taking notes.

To not give away too much and retain your interest, I will give you merely a few of the key covered ideas, after which you can decide whether it is ultimately worth your time. Tim points out the importance of applying 80/20 principle to your work & day-to-day life and the low-information diet strategy a successful, according to his opinion, person should implement. He also discusses in-depth the automation of one’s income with the help of virtuality, which brings a lot more time to focus on things he is passionate about. Another core notion he makes is regarding the importance of taking mini-retirements throughout life without having to wait 30 or 40 years until savings permit you to do so.

I believe I will have to reread the book once I settle in a bit more with my career journey. Since I still consider myself a fresh graduate, it is dangerous in a way to take too much out of this book, although the main ideas are definitely remembered. What self-help books do you feel like severely impacted your life and you could recommend?

To diversify this summer’s reading experience of mine, I decided to grab “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. Since this book is a classic, why not give it a go? But boy, I honestly did not expect it to remind me of the Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky so much. The twists and consequences of one’s decision are reflected in both of them, although the plot differs.

Can I relate it to the time we are living in? Absolutely. The same scenario repeats in the twenty first century of ours with various modifications. In the book’s scenario, the main character comes from poor and highly religious family. Upon becoming a teenager he decides to take some jobs in order to not preach on the streets with his family. Not being able to identify himself with his family’s aspirations, he travels from one job to another while observing the lives and possibilities of rich and successful. In hopes to become a part of the wealthy and enjoy their luxurious way of living, the boy – Clyde – pursues things he cannot obtain. Mesmerized by the feminine beauty, his desires lead him to some morally unacceptable circumstances he finds himself in. Finding a person with a similar to his own background and falling in love with her, he then changes his mind when meeting someone from a rich society where his future seems to him more desirable. Not being able to deal with his own troubles and decisions as to how to proceed so that to join the prosperous community, he commits a crime. Clyde, being so young and blinded by the pictures in his head filled with constant lust for more, makes unwise decision, which leads him to the death house, and, consequently, to the electric chair.

Sad and foolish circumstances bring the attention to the protagonist’s false aspirations, which is often met in real life. The desire to reach unattainable tends to overcast the joy one already has in his life. It tends to put off the existing happiness and focus on the unrealistic expectations, which is how Clyde’s life became.

What books have you read this summer so far? Share them with me.

Graduating and moving on

It is about time to reflect on the past three years of my studies. I can say without a hint of doubt that a lot of changes within myself and in my surroundings had happened during that time. Whether it was for the new circle of people I was revolving around, or for the two summers full of hard work and adventures overseas – it all contributed to some extent to the present version of myself. They say a fresh graduate is a lucky person since all the doors open in front of him. Although I am sure it is true in certain circumstances, there is so much more to it not being talked about enough.

As a matter of fact, let me point out what bachelor degree I had obtained. I graduated with a degree in Economic Science with a specialization in World Economics and International Economic Relations. Was it something I always wanted to study? I would lie if I answered positively. I can even add that I have never excelled in math at school but utterly hated it. This makes my choice seem very random (so it was). In my defense I was an eighteen year old blinded high school graduate who did not know what he wants to do with his life. Who knows it at such a young age anyway? (I mean, there are some, don’t get me wrong, but I was not one of them in the slightest) Even so, I did make my choice three years ago for the reason of studying in English and have enjoyed that part.

If anything, I always thought I would study language translation and interpretation because of my passion for language learning. It did not happen though as I grew older and realized it was never something I wanted to study. In fact, this field of study had nothing to do with my passion.

It was only less than a year ago when I finally understood what I should have chosen as a university major. However, at that moment I had less than nine months left of university and there was no point in changing up majors. And here I am, with an Economics diploma on a book shelf and a head full of ambitions and dreams.

What am I going to do with a degree in economics if I am not interested in pursuing career in the field? That is a tricky question. And, not to mention, quite a stressful one for a twenty one year old living in today’s world full of talented, skilled and “I know who I am” type of graduates. I cannot leave the question open, though.

For the past one and a half month I have been sending out CVs, cover letters and filling out blanks for various jobs and internships at home and abroad. Never have I ever before realized how tough, nerve racking and frustrating this process could be. With so many young and aspiring professionals competition is high. It is especially true if you are aiming for a place in the field you do not have a degree in. Regardless, I do not lose hope and keep on interviewing and waiting for the right thing to come along.

What advise would I give myself three years ago with the mindset I have now? To listen only to yourself and try to connect your hobbies with your choice of major. No matter how dumb/weird/not prestigious it sounds, go for it. Do not even think twice when someone from your surroundings tells you it might not be that good of an idea. At the end of the day, no one knows what you are truly interested in better than you do. (I cannot stress this enough) And, also, do not be hard on yourself once you make mistakes. It is an inevitable part of life which teaches you more than anyone else ever will.

My daily skincare routine

It has been a month (and a few days, to be exact) since I started using “The Ordinary” skincare. Not a lot of time to make a solid opinion, but quite a bit to establish some thoughts. I decided to share them with you in this post because of several requests.

I got acquainted with this skincare line through the social media platforms. Everyone and their mother seemed to rave about their price-quality ratio. I became thrilled with the idea that this skincare brand could potentially treat my skin after so many unsuccessful tries in the past.

As a result of my thorough research on the products the brand offers (there is quite an overwhelming amount of them), I went with Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, Lactic Acid 5% + HA, and Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution . I ordered mine from the official website, although ASOS was also an option had they not ran out of stock with the majority of the products.

Let me start with the one I was the most excited about – “Niacinamide”. The brand states that “Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is indicated to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. A high 10% concentration of this vitamin is supported in the formula by zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to balance visible aspects of sebum activity.”

I found the description extremely accurate. It indeed has decongesting properties, which, over some period of time, have also improved my skin’s texture. I was also surprised to find out that my skin did not feel particularly oily by the time I wake up the next day.

After a few days of using the first product, I introduced the second product to my routine – “Salycilic Acid”. “Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin. This 2% treatment solution helps exfoliate the inside walls of pores to fight the appearance of blemishes and for better visible skin clarity with continued use.”

I am familiar with this type of an acid – have been using it on and off for the last five+ years. The reason I used “on and off” is because I have a love-hate relationship with it depending on the formulations. If speaking about this brand’s formulation of salicylic acid – I am not disappointed. It is mild enough to use it all over your face (I do not recommend doing so if you are new to this acid – apply it locally and wait until your skin builds up some tolerance). At first I was afraid it would dry out my skin (the reason I do not use “acne” marketed products on my face), but it was not the case. Props to the brand! Right now I am in the “clear of acne” state of my skin (ladies, you understand what I mean), so I will give it a little more time of consistent use to notice substantial improvements.

The third product I tried out was “Lactic Acid”. I was hesitant to let it a go since it is not something I have ever tried, but the brand’s description gave me the needed push – “Lactic Acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin. This 5% formulation offers very mild exfoliation and is supported with a purified Tasmanian pepperberry known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that is often associated with exfoliation.”

I decided to alternate between the above mentioned acids to keep my skincare balanced and effective. The Lactic Acid does offer a bit of exfoliation, although not to the point when your skin peels (once again – depends on your skin’s sensitivity and tolerance to AHA and BHA acids). I suppose that because of the Tasmanian pepperberry my skin reacted to the product well and did not become irritated. When I run out of it, I will most likely purchase the 10% version of it just to have some more noticeable results.

The last on my list is the Glycolic Acid, which, according to the website, “..is an alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin. This 7% toning solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture with continued use.”

I have come such a long way with my skin that I was simply too scared to ruin my monthly results with some bumps often caused by this type of an acid. For that matter I decided to give it a try on my back for the time being. It has not been that long since I have started using it, hence why my opinion is not fully formed yet. Once I incorporate it into my daily facial routine, I will make sure to update you on that.

My skincare routine in order of applying:

Morning – Vichy Moisturizer, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Evening – Vichy Moisturizer, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution OR Lactic Acid 5% + HA

P.S. Keep in mind that these products are not expensive, which means that you should not expect from them a luxurious texture and a noticeable scent. With that being said, they definitely do their job if enough time is given (I am yet to use them longer to see even better outcome).

And, also, a nice bonus is that the brand makes sure to state ingredients as well features of each product whether it’s water-free, alcohol-free, oil-free, silicone-free, nut-free, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free and its pH balance, which is handy and good to be aware of.

If you have tried these or other products from this brand – do let me know what your thoughts on them are. What are your holy grail skincare products you cannot live without?

Staying fit at home

So, it has been a month since I started working out at home and I cannot wait to share my experience with you.

As a result of my workout routine, I can now say without a hint of doubt that it is possible to exercise at home and see results at the same time. You do not need to go to the gym religiously to stay fit (I am not taking into account muscle gains). I used to go to the gym several times a week and perform basic exercises. When my membership expired, I realized that I could recreate those exercises and create my own routine at home for no fee.

I prefer to dress appropriately, lay down the yoga mat, put on my playlist from the “ACTIVE” by POPSUGAR app or “Yoga by Adrienne” on YouTube and get straight to the business. I am going to talk about what I tend to do for my workouts and my own advise to any other broke student out there who wants to save up while staying fit.

What does my workout routine look like?

Throughout the weeks of trying to figure out the best regime that will both work for me and not exhaust me, I came up with a routine of working out every other day, switching between cardio + strength and yoga. Since I am a big fan of yoga and have had a year long relationship with it, I could not just forget it and let it go. Moreover, I became aware of the fact that incorporating both physical and mental practices in my routine would not put much pressure on me and bring substantial benefits in the long run.

Down below you can find some tips and tricks that helped me to stick to my regime and not skip a day with the excuses like “I am not in the mood for it”.

⁃ You need to be determined. You have to learn to push yourself when you do not feel like it, because there are going to be days when skipping seems to be quite an attractive option. During those days I remind myself of how good I am going to feel myself after accomplishing this little task. It is true – you never feel bad after working out. You can also recall the goal you put in front of you when deciding to work out at home and the pride you will feel after achieving it.

⁃ You have to create time for your workout regime. There is no need for the whole hour you might be used to in order to see results – half an hour is more than enough. Sometimes I do not even have that – in those cases 10-15 minutes a day does its job perfectly.

⁃ You will not see results if your diet stays the same. Every single fitness guru out there will tell you that you need to eat properly and in small portions several times a day to reach your fit self. Obviously, our bodies work differently and need different nutrients to stay healthy, but this general rule works for everyone. As for me, starting to eat mindfully and intuitively changed my whole perspective on feeling full and staying fit. Cutting out dairy and meat in as many meals as possible proved to work not just for my figure, but also for my skin issues.

A month is definitely not enough to see major changes, but I am already feeling a lot more stronger than I used to be months ago. I can finally do a crow pose which I could not perform whatsoever two months ago (yay). I still need to learn how to stay more than three seconds in the eight-angle pose, but I am getting there for sure. To be completely honest, I can tell that I am sweating a lot more when working out at home than I used to at the gym. Whether it is my willingness to see results even quicker or my total dedication to the idea – I am thrilled with what I have already achieved.

You clearly do not need to follow the exact same routine that I have – instead, you should tailor it to your needs and abilities. This is the only way to genuinely enjoy working out and consider that time well spent. At the end of the day, all that matters is how you feel in your own body and what you do to nourish it. We all have got just one of them for the rest of our lives.

April and May in books

The combination of two months came naturally as a result of busy schedule, although now I am thinking about adopting this format full-time. During these two months I discovered three absolutely captivating books I am going to share with you in this post.

When at the Frankfurt airport, a book named “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith caught my eyes and I remembered it being in my “to-read” list of books on the Goodreads app (which I highly recommend, by the way). I underestimated the amount of free time I would have in Tunisia thinking the book could be easily read at that time. As you have already guessed, I did not manage to even take it out of my carry-on, although I rushed to it as soon as I reached my home’s doorsteps.

People tend to say “Swing Time” is not the best novel to start with when acquainting with Zadie, but I will disagree with that. Here are the reasons why.

According to the author, the story tells about the lives of two brown girls growing up in the same city and sharing the same passion for dancing. Their personalities differ: one is truly talented, while another one has great ideas. The talented dancer’s career does not last, though the not-so-talented friend manages to go a lot further in life. It is a story of choices, sometimes not so well-thought. It is a story of pathways, not often unfolding the way they had imagined. It is a story of friendships that are not defined by the color of your skin or by your background.

Although I anticipated this story to be autobiographic (and who knows, it might be), I still felt strongly connected to the main characters – the girls, who had to undergo so many changes, some occurring at worse times than others. I could relate to the narrator’s views of her family as the story goes on. To be honest, anyone will be able to find some resemblances in their own actions at some point during the reading process.

Every new chapter switches between London, New York and West Africa (probably Gambia), which gives a much wider perspective on every timeline of the characters. Narrating girls’ childhood in London, full time job as a celebrity personal assistant revealing New York, and then charity work in West Africa – all of that made me feel like a time traveller.

All in all, this novel is a great representation of a path one takes, often confusing, at times uncertain, but always engaging. An emotional, thought provoking and challenging story makes a great read for anyone interested in race, authenticity, life choices and self-findings topics. This book is simply way too relevant to our times.

Is there a person who has never heard of “Shantaram” written by Gregory David Roberts? I do not think so (but also do not exclude it). If you are one of those, I hope my thoughts on it will make you want to leave whatever you are doing at this moment and grab one for yourself.

To say that it was the most touching and thrilling novel I have ever read will not do it any justice whatsoever. I do not believe that any heartfelt review could do it any justice, to be honest, but I will try.

So, what is my whole admiration about?Shantaram tells about a man who had escaped from Australian prison, and, with no plans for future, stepped on the land of India. Straight after the landing, he had no clue what events were to occur in his life on the run eventually flipping his life into a new perspective. He had no idea that Bombay (or, as he calls it – “My Mumbai”) would become his beloved home for the years to come. He would not think that he would lay eyes on a woman who would cause him so many troubles and blessings at the same time. He would not think that the biggest local mafia’s head would become his life guide and ultimately a father figure for him. He would also not think that this magical country would give him so many caring and loving friends who would put him before themselves anytime.

I lost the count of events happened in this book. It seemed like a lifetime. It was a handful of laughter and tears from my side. Life in slums with the poorest, establishment of a so-called slum “clinic” for no fee, life-changing acquaintances, big sums of money earned on a black market, philosophical conversations, another prison term, middle eastern war, loss and grieve for the dearest ones and an endless amount of choices along the way were all a part of this man’s journey in his soon-to-be loved India.

No further details can fully express the range of emotions I felt while reading it. What I know for sure is that ‘Shantaram’ is a book you have to read at least once in your lifetime. It is something you have to feel yourself. It will make you fall in love with Indian people. It makes me want to leave everything behind as I am writing this and head to this country right now. I now know for a fact that India will be one of my travel destinations at some point in life.

The most recent book I read was the Paul Kalanithi’s “When breath becomes air”. There is nothing like it in my “read” list, so I was extremely excited to dive into this book.

The best thing about biographical books is that they hold the most sincerity in them than any other book out there. It is especially true for this number. Although it is never easy to write about your struggles, a special place should be held for those brave enough to do so. The author of this story – Paul – majored in English literature, later finding himself in medicine and pursuing Yale medical school. His path towards the medical field is not the usual one – the ongoing wonder about life-and-death topic led him to it. However, it was not then when he thought he would come so close to the topic and find the meaning of life.

To be a neurosurgeon one day, and a patient another is what Paul experienced to the fullest. His passion for finding the meanings amidst the sorrow is inspiring. To be able to live in the moment and cherish the life you still have, is what Paul had chosen. Evidently, the thought of dying did not quite fit into his life plans, but the embracement of the upcoming future made his two years of having a cancer more freeing (if one can ever say that).

Paul’s brave decision to have a daughter with his wife was the right thing to do. Although it did complicate the already ill life he had, the birth of a child was a blessing he did not want to miss. Eight months prior to dying his daughter was born in the same exact hospital. The life of one has just began while the life of another has gracefully ended – that is the nature’s cycle everyone experiences at some point.

It is true what they say about those lying on the deathbed – they have the most to teach us about life. Paul’s story taught me to always be passionate, strong and graceful even in the hardest times, for those moments are the defining ones in our lives.

Have you read any of the books I have mentioned? Share your thoughts on them down below!