week 2 – culture club

When it comes to travel I am a real believer in quality over quantity. I much prefer to settle into one spot, really allowing myself to get under the skin of the culture, the people and the place. Last week in Hyderabad was truly a cultural immersion, which I loved every minute of.

Firstly it has been an amazing week of incredible food! One of my favourite things to do is to sit around a table with friends sharing lovely food. (In fact one of the other volunteers here is a big advocate of this too, check out Damien’s social enterprise called Community Oven, which aims to bring communities together through nourishing, locally-sourced food!). We were round at Raj and Anna’s house twice this week having a big old feast. On Monday night, for Andrea’s send off back to London, where we dug in to a variety of tasty biryanis (which did leave some in a spicy sweat!), and again on Thursday when we cooked  spinach daal, cauliflower and bindi curry followed by watching a not so Bollywood film, Delhi Belly. And on Friday I think I had my favourite meal so far…chaat from a local street food stall! I met Anusha at a Social Enterprise conference who works for Bala Vikasa. Anusha offered to take us to dinner where we stopped by a small stall on a busy road, Maharaja Chaat. Starting off with pani puri, followed by pao bhaji, bhel and samosa chaat. We were propped up a side wall in the cool, evening breeze, sharing from flimsy foil plates surrounded by locals beginning their Friday night. What a great way to eat!

Gang eating Maharaja Chaat on Friday night
Our chefs for the evening

Then bring on the indian inspired exercise I have been doing since being here… I mentioned in my last blog post that I have started yoga classes. I am not a complete beginner to yoga as I have been doing Les Mils Bodybalance classes for over a year back in London, however I am definitely being challenged now practising yoga in its very pure and traditional form, Ashtanga, (it is also more like hot yoga since they really don’t like to turn on the fans or AC, apparently it gets the muscles working quicker!). I am keen to learn more about the underlying spiritual side of yoga which I do not currently have much awareness of, but I have been discovering some sanskrit words from my practice which really resonate with me and make me want to understand the discipline better. (I really hope I am not sounding too hippy!). As a group we are also doing weekly Bollywood dance classes. Our first class was lots of fun, even though I did have more fun secretly giggling at people through the mirror.

As well as the traditional Indian culture I have also been experiencing the incredibly modern, hi tech and evolving India. I get around the city by Uber and ordered my first meal from Swiggy, the equivalent of Uber Eat or Just Eat. When I pop into the malls for essentials I am interested to witness the Indian mall-culture, where locals come to spend their leisure time, recorded by taking selfies in front of brand names and the mall decor. On Friday night I was also invited to a rather exclusive party on a roof top. This was Hyderabad gone wild, with dancing, alcohol, smoking and lots of leggy women. It was fascinating to see such a contrast to the conservative city I witness daily on the streets.

Clare and I getting in on the selfie action

On the work front, I am making steady progress with my Client. Having now agreed clear objectives I am currently working on a customer profiling workshop to help inform the marketing strategy of Bamboo House India. This is completely different to anything I have done before…it’s going to be a challenge but one I hope that will be of benefit to both me and my Client. It’s also great to have such a variety of professional backgrounds within our volunteer group, something which I am definitely utilising.  Every week we also have knowledge share workshops, last week topics covered servant leadership and human-centred design, subjects which really aided for enriching discussions and food for thought.

It sounds cheesy, but India really does feed your senses. I wake up with the sound of sweepers, travel around the city with the constant hooting of vehicles in the background, walk by the smells of sizzling street food and witness the colourful melting pot of various religions and cultures coexisting together in the city. I think my parents are concerned I’m going to return more Indian than them…

Here’s to more weird and wonderful experiences to come in week 3.


week 1 – from Harrow to Hyderabad

It feels really quite crazy to think I have only been in India for only 10 days. It was quite a whirlwind when I first arrived, however I am now beginning to find a routine and feel very much comfortable living in the wonderful city that is Hyderabad.

I landed in Hyderabad at 4am on Friday 10th February after meeting a whole range of weird and wonderful people on the journey from London, including an aunty living in Hackney from Tanzania on a trip to Gujarat, another ‘Tailor’ whose daughter lives on my road and a local Hyderbadi on his way back from a wedding in LA. The latter offered to drive me up to Banjara Hills where I am living during my time here. It’s a shame we have to be sceptical travelling as I really had no reason to doubt this man, but having just arrived I thought I had better be safe than sorry. I did however exchange details and will be meeting the man’s daughter who has offered to show me around Hyderabad!

The first weekend here involved heavy sleeping, exploring my new neighbourhood (including eating my first famous Hyderabadi biriyani and my first Indian thali) and meeting the other volunteers, learning about how we all ended up on the Social Starters programme. Oh and we were also lucky enough to see a talk by the Dalai Lama which was pretty cool. He’s a very humble and funny guy.

First thali at Chutneys

So Monday hits and our 3 day Social Starters training begins at a very hip and trendy co-working space. We learn all about social entrepreneurship, India, start up methods and core business and consultancy tools to help our Clients. It feels great to be learning new and exciting topics and feels even better to be learning with people who are too aiming to create more socially mindful careers. Lunch includes a full on Indian feast…

Towards the end of the first week I meet my Clients, cofounders of Bamboo House India, Aruna and Prashant. It’s really interesting to hear about their journey and the ambitions and priorities they have for their social enterprise. However, in all honesty, a little overwhelming to digest everything. I’m working on setting really specific objectives with them that I can achieve over the next 5 weeks. I visited their workshop and was invited for tea and biscuits at their lovely house filled with lots of upcycled cool bits and bobs.

Bottle bricks at Aruna and Prashants house

During the week I also signed up for my yoga classes which so far have been pretty intense and a very good work out, we visited the Birla temple at sunset which was really beautiful and on Friday night we boarded the Indian railway on a sleeper train for our first weekend adventure to Hampi!

Be happy in Hampi they say…a UNESCO World Heritage site in the state of Karnataka, Hampi is certainly several worlds away from bustling Hyderabad. We arrived on our sleeper train to Hospet and took the tuk tuk to the village. I loved the journey on the tuk tuk watching the morning street life. We stayed at a guesthouse across the river which had views out on to the lush rice fields, explored the ancient temples, wandered the local markets and hung out drinking chai at the cool, chilled cafes. It was a perfect way to end the busy week and recharge… and the trains were an incredible part of the trip too!

Young boy selling (and drinking) coconuts in Hampi
Sun setting in Hampi

So week one over, its been pretty jam (curry) packed. I’m feeling extremely full and happy here. I love the cool, peaceful mornings and love watching life on the streets. The local people I have met have so far have been very helpful, open and friendly. I get moments in the day where I realise that I’m in India and get all gooey inside. I am also very lucky to be sharing the experience with some very awesome people from all over the world.


In 2014 I spent the few days before Christmas in Copenhagen, it was here where I discovered the word hygge! (said hoo-gah).

Hygge is a Danish concept and can be translated as creating nice, warm atmospheres and enjoying the simple and good things in life with good people around you. What a great word and concept!? From how I understand it, the concept is more of a feeling and a mood rather than something  physical.

I have recently caught the idea of hygge in British magazines and papers where hygge appears to becoming a new lifestyle trend in line with the ever increasing ideas about mindfulness and wellbeing. However a few articles may not quite pick up the essence of how I understood it. Some outline how to get more hygge in our lives from wearing black, to buying new loungewear and a great one highlighting the concern of hygge relying on lighting too many candles which can cause breathing problems!

One of the things I love most about learning languages is discovering words that don’t really have an English translation but happen to really resonate with you. Maybe hygge is getting lost in translation and instead of buying and spending money on hygge us Brits should make sure we take time out from our busy lives to enjoy the simple things and just start to appreciate the moment a little more. As Autumn and Winter set in let’s enjoy the walks in our favourite park,  big comfort meals with friends and family around the table and cozy catch ups in our local pubs.


The Human Family

I really like Apple’s new Shot on iPhone campaign. The Human Family celebrates the diversity of the human race and features the poem, ‘The Human Family’ by the late Maya Angelou. Very relevant in the current crazy world we live in!

Check it out and I would definitely recommend reading some pieces by Maya Angelou, my favourite book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 

The Human Family 

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

~ Maya Angelou

(four) days of summer in zurich

The first weekend of July I hopped over to Zurich to visit a very dear friend of mine. The trip was rather unplanned and I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this city.  But as my Swiss friend would say the best way to experience a city is without having any expectations beforehand. Here are my highlights from my whirlwind four days of summer in Zurich.

Lake Zurich – For a couple of days on my trip we took the boat out on to the beautiful Lake Zurich. The boat trips cruise around the lake where you can see off the city and admire the layers of landscape surrounding the lake. The towns are scattered within the nooks and crannies of the rolling green hills which meet the backdrop of the Alps hitting the horizon. We hopped off on to the various towns around the lake, found quiet spots by the banks, grabbed some cool cans of beer, sunbathed and swam. Pretty perfect.


Wandering around the Altstadt – Zurich’s Old Town sprawls out beside the River Limmat which meanders its way towards the crystal clear lake. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars and boutique shops to check out whilst getting lost through cobbled narrow streets. One of my favourite things about the city was that every few streets you reached a mini-square often with seating and always with one of the 1,200 unique public water fountains. There is no need to quench your thirst at a supermarket since you can drink straight from the fountains.


Lindenhof viewpoint – This is a great spot to watch the world go by beneath you. You have views of the Limmat River, the bustling Swiss streets and the grand Grossmünster Cathedral standing tall watching over the city. Pick up some snacks and hang out here to watch the sunrise or sunset.


Day trip to Lucerne – We decided to take the one hour train journey from Zurich HB to the famous Lucerne. We wandered on to the creaky Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), the footbridge that spans diagonnaly along the Reuss River, and past the Wasserturm (water tower). You couldn’t help but be transported back centuries imagining how the the structure was used back in the Medieval days. We continued on through the city and lost ourselves up within some residential neighbourhoods and found a great hidden spot with stunning views of the city and beyond. After heading back down we took some shade by the pond beneath the impressive Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument. Before we headed back to Zurich we cooled off with some gelato sitting in front of Lake Lucerne. All in all Lucerne is definitely worth stopping by, but perhaps its charm was lost on the day we visited from the very many coaches of tour groups!


Elgg country walk – Whilst in Zurich I was in fact staying in Elgg, a small country town on the outskirts of the city. On my last day before my flight we took a hike up to some ruins. We left any source of time (phones/watches) behind and made our way up in the scorching heat, stopping to pick handfuls and handfuls of the ripest, juiciest cherries I have tasted. It’s the simple things. We were rewarded with a great view at the top of the endless green fields laying in front of the snow-capped mountains.

Manifesta 11 and Cabaret Voiltaire – I was lucky enough to be in Zurich whilst Manifesta 11 was taking place. Manifesta is the nomadic ‘European Biennal for Contemporary Art, which brings the visual arts together with the urban, social, historical, economical, ecological and architectural context of each host city.’ The central piece was the Pavillon of Reflections, designed by 30 ETH Zurich architecture students. It is a floating island created from timber and features an outdoor swimming pool and open air cinema. The pavillon will remain open until Manifesta finishes, on the 18th of September. We also hung out a few nights in Cabaret Voiltaire which was hosting some of the events. The art movement ‘Dadaism’ was born in here in 1916 on Speiefelgasse Street. This bar-cafe-museum-art space is definitely worth checking out. It is an interesting, relaxed spot with a great atmosphere and good people.

Preconceptions are perhaps unavoidable as when telling people I was off to Zurich, the response was often ‘oh for work?’  Set aside the river, which stretches out to the glorious lake and onwards to the mountains I in fact  found Zurich to be one of the most charming European cities I have visited. I am always grateful to explore cities with friends who live in some of the coolest places in the world.

sofar sounds

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to win tickets to see the lovely Lianne La Havas through War Child’s Passport to BRITs Week. Lianne’s show was organised through Sofar Sounds and the venue was a beautiful living room in Notting Hill. It might just be the best gig I have been to. Everything was stripped back, there was about 40 people sat on the floor in the living room who were transported to musical heaven by the eclectic sounds of pianist and composer, Tokio Myers and the soul-funk melodies by Lianne.

It was through winning these tickets  I discovered Sofar Sounds. The movement is set up by Rafe Offer who has created a wonderful community of artists and music lovers all over the world based on ‘bringing the magic back to live music’. Rae explained to the guests how the movement had launched in London in 2010 with the intention of creating an alternate live music experience. He told us how him and his friends were frustrated being at live music events where the audience talked, texted, or asked for their next drink and where nobody really listened or appreciated the music.

A few weeks ago I decided to apply to some London events to find out what Sofar is really all about. I managed to get myself and a plus one on to a Friday night guestlist and explained to my fellow music loving pal that I had tickets to a ‘secret intimate gig’ and I had no idea who was playing or what genre of music, but that I had pretty good feeling about it.

It is safe to say we were most definitely not disappointed. The gig was held in WeWork’s coworking space in Chancery Lane and we were absorbed in the music from melodic trio New Pharoahs, smooth and soulful Liz Lubega and blusey Broken Wit Rebels. It was a laid-back atmosphere with great music and good vibes.  We even got chatting to a couple of girls next to us (you never chat to strangers in London!).

After attending the gig last week I will most definitely be making my way to more Sofar events. I love the inspiration behind the movement – to create a space for new artists to perform in small, intimate venues where guests can actually appreciate the music and make some friends along the way. What’s better is that it hardly breaks the bank (I paid the recommended £13 for me and a plus one) and is BYOB!

So whatever city you’re in check out the website, apply or reserve your spot at a gig and sit back, relax and listen to the music.