An updated house renovation tour

Updated house tour south of France

Two weeks ago, we saw the current state of our house in the south of France. Even since then, so much has happened; one wall of the living room has already got its coat of colour. It’s crazy how quickly things changed over the past 7 months in the former poo-filled dump to slowly becoming a cosy little place. It is so much easier to imagine sitting on my yellow sofa in my future living room or stepping into a jungle coloured bathroom.

Living room wall

I filmed our house tour to document the process, though it is quite a jump from the previous update. Lots of cool stuff has happened, there are floors, walls, windows, visible stairs, a new roof, a terrace. It’s mad but so exciting.

Terrace

We also checked out our favourite tile place in Spain and came back with treasures for the bathroom – it’s been agony finding THE ones – and a colourful idea for the terrace.

My interview for A Women’s Network

I did an interview for a local women’s network to be their woman of the month April. I think it is a nice read, so I thought I’d share it on here as well.

Q: Tell us about your career?

A: My first proper job was organising a 1000-people open source conference called DrupalCon. It was the time when Drupal (and other open source content management systems) was “learning how to walk”. I was successful in the community, understood Drupal and its people and so I continued working with them and the CMS for a few years. When I moved to Doha, Qatar, I thought I should maybe try out what I had a degree in, which is International Marketing. Turns out that wasn’t really my jam (it was at the time when social media marketing was about to take off and many of the jobs of today didn’t exist). I really enjoyed working with people, collaborating and brainstorming with a team to make something that is good even better.

At the same time, I was involved in European Education projects for lifelong learning. This was a really good platform for me to engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I learned so much about how people communicate, about structures within Europe, smaller communities in remote rural areas at the Black Sea. My roles for each project spanned from workshop facilitator, running a communications workshop to being a project manager.

Once I moved to London, I had the opportunity to be a part of a growing team and company (and to move away from the open source world) where I could try my hand as a “servant leader”. For the past 5 years, I’ve been mainly working as a Project/Delivery Manager for SaaS companies.

On the side, I also started my own blog again (isapisa.com), ventured into creating my own greetings cards through an exhibition in the south of France and experimented with content monetisation using blockchain.

Q: What inspired you to work in this field?

A: When it comes to Drupal and open source CMS, I suppose I fell into it. I was looking for a challenge, naive and full of energy after graduating, practised my elevator pitch and walked into an agency that was recommended to me and basically told my then future boss that he needed to hire me. Little did I know that it would be a major influence for my career, the people I met and therefore the network I built, and where it led me even to this day.

Q: What does your job involve?

A: The definition of a project manager varies slightly depending on how the company is structured and what they do. As a project manager for a digital agency, it could entail anything from account management, that is dealing with clients and making sure they are happy, some pre-sales and upselling of products to existing clients, to managing often agile processes and team members (developers, quality assurance people, consultants, designers, UX experts). There is a trend that’s emerged these past few years where the traditional role of a Digital Project Manager is transitioned to a Delivery Manager in some companies. A Delivery Manager is more of a servant leader, akin to a Scrum Master but client facing and having all of the traditional project manager responsibilities such as budgeting, resource planning, risk planning and making sure deadlines are respected.

Q: What has been the biggest career challenge?

A: I had to take a break for a little more than a year because I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. I was 30 then and like many millennial women, I was also struggling with “where the heck has the time gone? My life was supposed to be completely different”. When I was finally ready to go back to work, I was struggling with how I would do. I thought I forgot everything, that I wouldn’t be as good as before because I was still on medication and because I hadn’t worked for a year.

Having a break, forced or not, gives you time to reflect what you want to do professionally and how you want to live generally. It also makes you feel like you’re missing out and might be left behind because everyone else is still spinning their wheels and getting on with their achievements career-wise. Coming to terms with that and realising what matters has been a big challenge for me, as I’ve always been the one at the front of the line.

Q: What has been your career highlight?

I don’t think I can pick just one. Generally I would say that one of my highlights is fighting for my worth and having my worth confirmed. It’s a great feeling realising that you are good at what you do and when other people, your team and your boss especially, realise and admit to it as well.

Q: What are your goals for 2019?

I am looking for new role that allows me to work remotely from anywhere in Europe. I hope it’ll give me the flexibility and balance I want to also do some side hustles.

Q: What was the best advice you have been given and who was it from?

Don’t take it personal.

I think as women (yes I am generalising) we are prone to taking everything a bit too personal and get emotionally too invested. At least I was. My husband and parents kept telling me that I am wasting precious energy and that I need to learn to let things go. I am not saving lives or anything remotely important enough to get caught up in an emotional rollercoaster.

Q: Lastly what advice would you give to our Professional Women?

Speak up when something isn’t right. I made that promise to myself a few years ago and there have been moments I felt particularly proud because I didn’t let a condescending comment about other female co-workers slide or because I didn’t stay quiet when a man would talk over me whilst I was mid-sentence. It may rock a few boats but it’ll get you the respect you deserve and you’ll very quickly realise who can deal with it and who cannot.

Also, unless you’re literally saving lives or the planet, let it go. Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the right reasons and it makes you happy on some kind of level.

The interview was originally published on A Women’s Network.

Pokhara – Saving lives, beautiful sunrises and a road trip

Where to begin with this one. I’ve had some ideas, then I had food not agreeing with me, which knocked me out for about 2 days (yay?! Suppose it had to happen at some point) and then I had, rather still have, pagoda and temple fatigue. But no excuses, on with the writing. My future self will thank me to have this to look back on.

Right, so we went to Pokhara in Nepal. We even extended our stay by a few days because we fell in love and wanted to do much more than we were physically and time-wise able to do. I don’t know if it is a competition thing, but everyone in Pokhara said that once you’ve seen the Himalayas there, you won’t enjoy Nagarkot. So we cancelled our stay there much to my disappointment cause I was supposed to cook with the hosts. But it was definitely worth exchanging that with our adventure in Pokhara.

Let’s start at the beginning. It took us a solid 10 hours from Kathmandu to Pokhara, yet it is a mere 200km so that should give you an idea about the roads. After the dust and hustle in Kathmandu, Pokhara is a nice change of scenery to arrive to. Arriving into the city, we saw some clouds in the distance only to realise it was the top of a friggin mountain in the Himalayas. Anyways, Pokhara is mainly for the active, though I would absolutely not mind just hopping from restaurant to café to restaurant, read a book, chill and watch people. It had a very relaxed mood about it with lots of diverse places catering for tourists. Basically, the tourist street was touristy but it wasn’t overwhelmingly much.

I realised I veered off again. Let’s get to the juicy bits. Mind you, it’s something I can say now cause it all ended well. In short, we saved 2 lives on our first proper day. With a paddle boat. On the lake. We were coming back from a little hike to the World Peace Pagoda (definitely recommend renting a boat and going up there as a half day trip) when we heard some yelling. We were the only ones on the lake that we could see as it had started raining (we had a deadline in our rental time) besides those people. The weather changed very dramatically, as it does in the mountains. So where there was only some light drizzle before, there were suddenly strong winds and therefore currents. Two guys struggled to get to their paddle boats cause of said currents and a third friend was trying to help but couldn’t. I don’t think we quite realised the urgency and just slowly paddled towards the bunch. Once closer, it sunk in, we picked up the life jackets from their paddle board, paddled against winds and waves, threw the jackets out to them and picked them up one by one. Phew!

Fast forward a day, the group of friends invited us for dinner to thank us, took us to drinks at their new favourite hotspot (Altitude Bar – convince them of getting more cosy lights) and we had a date with one of them, Nikil, to do a road trip on a Royal Enfield (husband’s dream). Considering they wanted to take us bungee jumping and paragliding, I felt this was a good choice. Though I am not certain my bum and back would have agreed with that 48 hours later.

Off we went on said road trip, first with no aim, then to Tatopani to enjoy a natural hot spring that turned into an overnight stay to give us all a break from propelling through rivers, mud and sand. As I said, for me it was a bit of a challenge (an understatement) but I knew my husband was a happy bunny and enjoyed “motocrossing it” on the roads. And the views weren’t so shabby along the way. Side note, if you know how to drive and enjoy off-roads, don’t be a passenger on the back.

Somewhere in between adventures, we also some some stunning sunrises over the Himalayas and did some smaller treks. The first sunrise was so stunning that we decided to go up to the Australian Camp overnight in a tent to have the mountains even closer. It was absolutely beautiful and worth doing. The hike up there isn’t that long, though I swear I felt like there were more stairs, steeper hills and an entirely different route to get to the camp the first time around. We did a trekking route with a guide cause we didn’t know anything, but with a bit of research and asking around it is totally doable on your own. Also, I find it’s always worth checking these days, if the place you’re staying at needs some breaking out off via kitchen fences and amusement park barbed wires in the early morning or if they’d open the front door for you. It saves you some adrenaline at 5am though I suppose you won’t need the gym or coffee after that.

More photos of our trip can be found on Flickr

Sunset at a Hindu and sunrise at a Buddhist temple

To say that the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of impressions, activities and interesting encounters would be an understatement. Every day there was something new to take in that hardly allowed me to make space for getting photos uploaded, let alone videos edited or writing blog posts to digest it all.

There was one afternoon, much needed, where I captured my thoughts on Wamena in Papua but I didn’t manage to wrap up Indonesia with the last destination – Yogyakarta and the temples we visited. I can’t believe that we’re off to another country, I absolutely loved Nepal, though more on that in future posts. Sitting on planes, thriving on 3 hour sleep, sugar and caffeine sure make a good foundation to get some brain cells on “paper”.

After Wamena, Yogyakarta (or Yogya as preferred by the locals) was a welcome and uplifting surprise. It has a bit of an independent status and staying in Kraton, the Sultan’s city, was fabulous. We loved our Airbnb and the host (Ifa ; I can highly recommend it. Staying in that area makes everything somewhat of a walking distance and there are great places to discover culturally and food-wise.

We only planned 3 days for Yogya, which for me wasn’t enough to explore, but we got the absolute highlights in there.

Getting to the centre from the airport

If you’re feeling adventurous, get the local bus. We got the 1A to Tasman Pintar, which stops opposite the post office and is right around the corner of one of the Kraton entrances/the foot of Marlioboro Street. The ticket was only IDR 3,500 per person and the ride took about 40 minutes (though I suppose traffic can impact that a little).

Rent a scooter

We hired one for 3 days and got a discount. In total it was IDR 180,000. We fuelled up for about IDR 35,000 over the three days and we drove to both main temples and one of the beaches in the south. There is a tourist area (Jalan Prawirotaman) with lots of restaurants offering western inspired food and there are a lot of scooter rental places.

Prambanan Temple

We did both temples independently as much as we could, i.e. we didn’t book any special tours or guides. Prambanan Temple is known to for great sunsets, so that’s what we did. It took us just under an hour by scooter. I suppose it helps having a I-want-to-be first-at-every-crossing driver, so it’s best to plan about an hour. There is parking on site for a fee. Not sure what happened but the people at the ticket counter gave us a huge discount when we left. Maybe it was because we were literally the last tourists to leave the grounds.

Entry is a bit steep compared to the general price-value ration in Indonesia, but also cheaper than other touristy things we’ve done on other islands before. The prices tend to change, not sure based on what, so best to check in a current leaflet or at a tourist info centre. We paid IDR 362,500 per person.

By the way, the Prambanan Temple is the whole complex. It is a collection of quite a few temples and the main one everyone is swooning over is actually called Roro temple. There are also 3 other smaller ones and the Sewu Temple was rather stunning as well.

Borobudur Temple

If the sunrise is something you want to experience standing with a few hundred of other tourists on top of the stupa of Borobudur, there is only one way to do it. Manohara hotel has monopoly over providing the experience though I have to say it was worth it. We got up at 3.20am as it’s a bit of a longer drive than to Prambanan to get there. Still, we made it in a little over an hour and arrived at 4.45am in time for our torches and badges. Note to any future travellers, check the location for entry; it’s not the one that pops up on google maps.

The ticket per person was IDR 450,000. You’ll have to bring a passport (we had copies on our phones) and you’ll get some decent snacks and drinks after you’re done doing the rounds of the temple, and also a little souvenir.

Regardless of the many tourists popping up in your photo shots, the view is absolutely stunning. Colours changed by the minute, the two mountains (volcanoes) in the distance looked majestic and the fog far below made it all look mysterious and jungle-like. It’s worth going around the upper levels to see the intricate carvings and stories being told.

Food

A typical local dish to try is godek. It’s some kind of pulled jackfruit cookies in something delicious with rice and usually duck or chicken with a black egg. If you don’t eat meat, just ask for it to be served without.

Milas Vegetarian is a bit off the beaten path but once there, a lot of happy tourist faces await you. Shouldn’t deter you, cause it is actually really nice in both the atmosphere, place and food. For us it was a nice dinner out compared to cheaper options on other evenings.

Talking about cheaper options, Avocado within Kraton is a nice little Warung type place. They have a short menu or noodles and rice, some fried vegetables and we’d like to think it was actually prepared by the Mama of the house. Very delicious.

We were lucky to have access to a kitchen, so we also cooked at home. The supermarket Super Indo is good for fresh fruit and veg and anything else you might fancy.

If you fancy having a look at photos, check out my Flickr, or have a watch of the video below I did of our time in Yogya.

Venturing to the middle of Papua

One of the things we wanted to do is see a little bit of Papua and it’s people, so we flew to Wamena. It is only accessible by plane, the road from Jayapura was given up on after a landslide several years back.

I have been pondering for the last weeks how to attempt to write this post. So far, it was my least favourite place. Though this was the place I was most excited to see mainly because it’s advertised as being able to see traditional village, the original Papuan tribes and possibly interact with them.

What I ended up experiencing, was a city with clear separations between the Papuans and the “yellow” people, Indonesians that came mainly from Java. The atmosphere was eery, it seemed every Papuan was eating betel nut, and a giant white cross comparable to a control centre is overlooking the city.

It became clear that most Papuans don’t like the situation. A situation where the other Indonesians organise the city and life for them, running businesses, making the money, and also, where tourists come to visit local villages and to meet the “real” Papuans. We, like probably many other tourists, wanted to visit a local village, but were forbidden entry by some locals. I am not sure whether that was because we were tourists or whether there was an issue with our guide. We couldn’t get a clear answer.

A bit of history, Papua used to be under Dutch rule and then annexed by Indonesia in 1969. Before that, the Dutch started a transmigration programme to move people from densely populated areas of the country to less populated areas, such as Papua and West Papua. This programme was only ended three years ago. Missionaries were also busy converting Papuans from animism or other beliefs to Christianity, and a geologist found the biggest gold mine (there’s also a load of copper) to date near Puncak Jaya, the Grasberg Mine. Naturally, it’s run by an American company you’ll have never heard of that also happens to deal with Petroleum.

You can imagine that the local, indigenous people wouldn’t be too happy about the situation and I suppose every white person coming to town wanting to visit the locals is just a reminder of their situation. If you google Papua, you’ll find that in recent news this sentiment was confirmed.

After our failed attempt to visit a traditional village, we ventured to Jiwika by hitchhiking there. A minibus of teenagers, some drunk likely escaping the Sunday rituals, dropped us off at Jiwika. It’s the hotspot for white people to see a traditional village with the locals wearing traditional outfits. Suddenly, local women surrounded us, first wearing tops, then none to resemble their past cultural lives. They have a mummy in the village to be whipped out any time a tourist comes, though we politely declined. We read about a saltwater well, Air Garam, which included a hike. The online world recommended hiring a local woman as a guide, so we did after some negotiating.

Though the video below doesn’t show it, it wasn’t the best of experiences going up to the wells and have the woman show us how they originally got salt. It was not at all about getting to know their culture, but more about the money. It was a running theme throughout our stay, at the same time, it is also a conflict and contradiction for the locals. They don’t want to be taken advantage of, but they need the money, so they “sell” their culture to a point where it feels like you need to buy air to breathe as well.

It is such a shame that the current situation is like this and I wish I had a better experience and feeling leaving Wamena. It’s infuriating and sad, really.

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