Hobbits, Tolkien, Oxford and Writing

 

Tolkien sign

I decided to hot foot it over to Oxford for a dose of literary inspiration, where the Bodleian/Weston Library hosts the J.R.R. Tolkien exhibition until October. The Financial Times published a pre-exhibition review that tells it far better than I can – you can read it here.

Hobbit cover
Tolkien illustrated the cover to his now-famous book

Writers’ craft

But I learned some valuable ‘writers’ lessons from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings creator.

  1. Lord of the Rings, sequel to The Hobbit, took Tolkien a long twelve years to finish, ‘squeezing his writing into late nights’ after teaching and family activities.
  2. He pursued his creative endeavors (drawing, illustrations, writing) alongside his academic day job and family.
  3. But he had a ‘room of his own’ where he not only wrote his masterpieces but also met with his students, marked essays and carried out his professor duties. In addition, it was a hub for entertaining his children with evening stories.
  4. His illustrations are quite beautiful and complement his writing perfectly. How I wish I could draw! Never mind, at least I can work on my photography.
  5. Tolkien was actually quite an extrovert. He formed a writers’ group with his mates, which served as an excuse and a ‘safe space’ to down beers, and read their written stories to each other.
  6. Nonetheless, he had a literary best mate, CS Lewis.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth is at the Bodleian/Weston Library, Oxford

June 1- October 28 – tolkien.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Oxford's dreaming spires
Oxford’s dreaming spires
Trinity College, Oxford
Trinity College, Oxford

Tolkien illustration

 

 

Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong

 

Changi, Singapore - overlooking the South China Sea
Changi, Singapore, overlooking the South China Sea

I’m starting to prefer staying in the suburban outskirts of a city. Apart from getting more reasonably priced accommodation, it’s nice to be able to retreat from the frenetic centres to somewhere more quiet, if not totally peaceful. As long as there’s accessible transport to ferry me across to the centre when I want then that’s fine by me.

Changi Village in Singapore is a case in point. Just a few kilometres from the airport my hotel was about a five-minute walk from the South China Sea beach side. Nothing amazing about the hotel itself – but (on the whole) it was clean and quiet. Food there was horribly expensive without the quality to match, in my opinion. But, that only galvanised me to sample the nearby local restaurants, where prices were low and the quality significantly higher.

Changi, Singapore.jpg
Changi, Singapore

Quiet(er) Melaka (or Malacca) in next door Malaysia is a pleasant two-hour coach drive from Singapore (I used the bus company KKKL which I do recommend). And even in Kuala Lumpur, I stayed at Airbnb apartments that just skirted the flashy main centres, though with easy transport to shopping malls for sheltering from the heat.

KL during the day

 

KL at night
Kuala Lumpur (or ‘KL’) during the day and at night

 

Mojo Nomad Aberdeen Harbour
In Hong Kong, I stayed at the Mojo Nomad hotel, with this Aberdeen Harbour view from my window. Nice.

 

Hong Kong cafe.jpg
G4 Space cafe is just down the road from the Mojo Nomad hotel and worth checking out

 

Read my other Asia posts here:

https://vanessacurney.com/2018/02/08/travels-through-asia-dining-in-kolkata/

https://vanessacurney.com/2018/02/08/travels-through-asia/

 

 

 

Travels through Asia – dining in Kolkata

Kolkata Yauatcha

I had to visit the Michelin-starred Yauatcha in Kolkata’s high-end Quest Mall. Prices are around a third what you would pay at its twin/sister restaurant in London. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and still on the look-out wherever I go for the champagne/rose tea served there.

Special shout out also goes to the Bohemian Restaurant at 2/4, Old Ballygunge Place, 1st Lane, Kolkata. It’s a cab ride away from the mall. The menu includes enticing sounding dishes such as mutton and baby potatoes simmered with green mango and okra; prawn and crabmeat dumplings stewed in spicy Noler Gur reduction; jumbo prawns stewed with field grown herbs; mutton simmered with baby cabbage and fresh fennel served with steam rice and wilted greens; shall I continue? Main dishes are around 500 rupees (USD$8).

Kolkata Bohemian 2
The Bohemian restaurant. Kolkata, India
Kolkata Bohemian 3
Paraphernalia at The Bohemian restaurant.

Their home designed signature cocktails aren’t bad either, including the pictured Just Bohemian made up of Nolen Gur (Bengal date palm jaggery), ginger and dark rum. Cost around 230 rupees (USD$3.5). At this price, it’s tempting to go for more than one – but they are potent, you have been warned.

Kolkata Bohemian
The Bohemian

Travels through Asia

Miu's Coffee House, Hanoi, Old Quarter
Miu’s Coffee House. Hanoi, Vietnam

At the start of 2017 I said that I wanted to travel to Asia and Asia-Pacific that year. From May I got to work in reporting and public information for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (or, more simply, OCHA) in South Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh).

At the beginning of December and following these busy assignments I decided to make my way around India, Australia and Thailand for the first time visiting Kolkata, Sydney and Bangkok. Three weeks later I was back in London spending a lovely Christmas break with my 84-year-old Mum, my brother and his family.

Sydney breakfast
Sydney breakfast
Sydney Opera House.jpg
No prizes for guessing where this is
Bangkok night market 1
Bangkok night market
Bangkok boat
Bangkok

Then I hit the road again in the first week of 2018, taking in Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Min and Hanoi in Vietnam; Colombo and Galle in Sri Lanka; and Bali, Indonesia where I am now. It’s actually cheaper to be here than expensive London, whilst waiting for my next assignment, plus I get to miss all that city’s tiresome cold winter.

Acoustics bar, Hanoi, Old Quarter
Getting ready to perform at The Acoustics Bar. Hanoi, Vietnam

I like the song that blasts out from the Vietjet flight on landing in Vietnam (the link below will take you to the YouTube video).

 

Galle, Sri Lanka.jpg
Fishermen. Galle, Sri Lanka
Galle, Sri Lanka snake
Rather him than me. Galle, Sri Lanka

 

A funeral procession in Zadar, Indonesia
A funeral procession in Sanur, Indonesia

 

 

Breakfast in Kuta - tender buttermilk chicken, spinach and poached egg
Breakfast in Kuta, Indonesia – tender buttermilk chicken, spinach and poached egg

 

Work and Live Abroad – last word

A side note

You are going to have to exercise much courage and determination to jump over the appalling discrimination (especially sexism) and downright abuse that goes on in some companies and organisations, both at home and abroad.

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Fiverr image

Don’t let that stop you.

Ultimately, if harassment and bullying are endemic within an organisation or even industry, and there is just too much resistance to changing things (from both men and women), ask yourself whether it’s worth spending a professional lifetime banging your head against an intractable iron wall. You may decide that on principle it is, and fine, walls can come tumbling down eventually.

But okay too if you decide to move on to better things, for your own professional and personal well-being and integrity. As I previously said, there are always other options.

Additional resources for working abroad

Books

How to Travel Full-Time – Colin Wright

Rough Guides First Time Around the World

The Globetrotters Guide – Amanda Statham

GenXPat, The Young Professional’s Guide to Making a Successful Life Abroad –  Margaret Malewski

Preparing for Your Move Abroad – Rona Hart

Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job, Kill it in Your Career, Rock Social Media – Aliza Licht

Make It Happen: How to get Ahead and be Happy at Work – Dena Michelli

The $100 Start Up – Chris Guillebeau

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

 

Blogs and websites

Fast Company’s Digital Nomad’s Guide to Working from Anywhere

Travelling the World Solo – travellingtheworldsolo.com

Nomad List – nomadlist.com

Travel Noire – travelnoire.com

How to Become a Digital Nomad – webworktravel.com

Start With Your Why – Simon Sinek’s TED talk on getting to the heart of your motivation(s)

 

Work and Live Abroad – part 2

Embed from Getty Images

 

Finding those pesky international jobs

Here are some ideas.

General international jobs

LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s job board includes a nicely designed layout, good keyword search tool and a wide variety of advertised jobs. Also being able to message directly through InMail makes the process a bit more personable. I’ve sometimes found that jobs can be out of date, and be aware of the scams, but useful on the whole.

Escape the City

Sends out a mailing list of both paid and volunteer roles. I’ve had an interview through this and seen some interesting roles, so worth a shot.

Jobbatical

These companies and organisations will usually sort out your visa and flights once they’ve offered you a contract.

Remoteok.ie and Problogger

For those of you who are looking for jobs they can do remotely, although they seem to be targeted at US professionals. Still worth a look.

Fiverr

Fiverr has great blog community resources and engagement, and I find this a user-friendly remote work portal, especially for creatives.

Workaway

Pay a (tiny) annual fee and find free lodging – even sometimes a room of your own – anywhere in the world in exchange for your skills.

A word on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

Be careful with this one. I’ve attended a course at a fairly reputable TEFL school in London and even there, students were caught out in at least one scam job advert. Schools ask for passport details in their adverts – a standard practice in the industry and, in my opinion, a bad one. It’s a way for schools to test early on the validity of the jobseeker. But how many passports have been scammed this way?

In addition, any requests for PayPal payments from recruiters are a huge red flag.  So, take the course and apply for TEFL jobs, but do your own very careful due diligence, as one should with any international job.

International development jobs

UN Volunteers (UNV)

There are two options: online volunteers who find remote work to which they can lend their time and skills not only to UN agencies, but to a wide range of local and community NGOs and charities.

Then there are the field UN Volunteers: after registering your profile you may be approached by the UNV office in Bonn for relevant field assignments to serve with a UN office (following a written test or/and interview). Two years worth of work experience are required for the field volunteers, who are not paid a salary, but rather a decent enough living expense. Note that you can’t do any other paid work alongside the volunteer role, including freelancing.

Both online and field UNV opportunities are valuable volunteering experiences in themselves, and worth considering to determine whether a UN career is really what you want. Also, guard against turning into a serial UN volunteer, unless that’s what you want.

Internships

Along with volunteering, this is a valid foot in the door option for the United Nations or any organisation/company. If you can find a reasonably paid internship even better. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing these stints for much longer than a year at the start of your career – three months if it is unpaid. For a start, you are trying to build your cash reserves to travel, as well as your professional experience. And these kinds of work can turn into a kind of exploitation. So, enjoy these experiences for a while, and know when to move on.

The following joblists are useful resources:

Reliefweb

Charityjobs              –             UK-based jobs but also has some international

UNJobs                      –             lists UN and other international organisations

Eurobrussels           –             mainly for Brussels based or EU oriented jobs

Gorkana                    –             for PR and journalism jobs