“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9

August 29, 2017

August in Edinburgh Pt.1

28th August 2017

I was really fighting to keep my eyes open, my body from uncontrollably shaking, and customers from getting too annoyed at me from sending them up the wrong stairs to their seats. 

This was the first Saturday of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, where I was working as an usher directing people to their seats. And the Saturday show meant that, unlike week days, there were two shows in the one night. This meant that we started an hour earlier than usual at 6pm, and finished at around three hours later than usual at 1am. 

So there I was in the midst of a crowd of people feeling like I had hypochondria. It was not fun. So that was my first week on the job done!!

Leaving Helsinki
I had had a lovely and relaxing time with my family over June and July in Finland, and then took a flight end of July to Edinburgh to have my first training for working as an usher at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I was really looking forward to it!! It was my first time in Edinburgh in August and, for those who don't know, Edinburgh comes alive in August filled to the brim with tourists and amazingly persistent flyerers trying to get you to come to their shows. There is the Fringe festival, with 3, 269 shows in various venues and genres throughout August, and the Tattoo, with a show every week night and two shows on Saturday evenings. And I was going to get to experience these world-renowned events!! Yay :D 

I arrived in Edinburgh with two suitcases, and managed to somehow get keys to my flat I was staying in for August as there was a mixup with the keys. That afternoon was training, where we were told about the security and responsibilities that we had to watch out for within the event. We were also given our uniforms, which included a tie, jacket and rain-proof trousers. As I was employed through Queen Margaret University I was also given their tartan to wear as a scarf during the show, along with a journalist-style notepad to jot down interviews on with the audience throughout the show. None of us were too sure how this journalist interview thing would work because we were thinking that people might not want to give us their names… 

We then had a week to wait until the final training at the venue at the Castle and when the show to start!! During which I twisted my ankle on a walk down Arthur's Seat, made key-lime pie cupcakes, paid an emotional farewell to my family in Edinburgh who was moving to Australia and had tea with Sophie and other friends billions of times. I know … it was a rest week ;) 

Key-lime pie cheesecake cupcakes  
Walk up Arthur's Seat
Excited to have finally reached the top of Arthur's Seat, in the most torrential wind I might add, we decided to take a victory selfie!! From the right: Graeme, me, a random guy looking like "The Thinker" statue, and Sophie 
On my way, after spending two days on my own at the flat recovering from a twisted ankle, to an emotional dinner to say farewell to my family in Edinburgh <3
Having tea!! I actually had a hot chocolate because I needed a chocolate, but that is just a technicality ;) From the right: me, Sophie and Berenika
The first day of actual training arrived!! So I got dressed up and headed to the castle: venue of the Tattoo. It was not an easy feat.!! There were tourists milling around everywhere on The Royal Mile, so I felt like I was dancing ;) This way, that way. One step forward, two steps back. 

My uniform <3 Made me look like a local at Hogwarts ;) 
After a 30 minutes walk, that would usually take me 15 minutes or less, we all clocked in and were told to head up the stairs of the temporary stands of the Tattoo venue to the Royal Gallery. There we were divided into groups, socialised a bit, and were shown by our supervisors where our sections were. We were then shown a short preview of the show, in the full sun, which was amazing!! 

Watching some of the show
Pyewww. That was the sound that the CO2 fire extinguisher made when you pressed down and it exerted a large puff of cloudy white dry ice. We were then told when, and shown how, to use the fire extinguisher in case of fire. The guy allowed as many people as wanted to use the extinguisher, but I didn't quite feel that excited about it so I allowed others to have a go. haha. Or maybe I was nervous ;)

After being told about the run of the show we were dismissed and told to meet again tomorrow for the first show.

So the next day when we arrived we were thrown into learning all the numbers and letters in our section. I found it super complicated, because we were basically looking after three sections: 6,7 and 8. Not to mention that section 5 tickets would somehow make there way up to our platform. And in the stands for section 7 the numbers fanned out from low to high numbers, so it was easier to send low numbers up one staircase and high numbers up another stair case which was different to other sections. So I remember the first day my partner Jo-Anna basically did all the tickets. She was double-checking every ticket that I was directing just to make sure, which I was glad because I did get many of them wrong ;) She was working for two people!!

The next day was better, because before the show started I took time to go up and down the staircase trying to memorise the letters and numbers. I mean, I did better than the night before. Not perfect, but I was getting there ;) 

View of the castle from where we had to stand throughout the performance, except when we were on breaks 
Walking down the hill after a show. I waited a while till there was no-one on the road. There was actually a lot of people still up at that time!!
My tired, but happy, face while walking down the hill after the show to my bed
So, the run of the show: During the week we met at the castle at 7pm. We then waited for around 30 minutes for the performers to come up the castle in their buses. After that the disabled people could either walk up or come in cars. So we would then go and help them to their seat, sometimes wheeling a wheelchair to the right seats. The first two days I was disappointed because I didn't get given an opportunity to wheel a wheel chair. I remember the day that I finally did get to I was smiling so much that the military police who directs the traffic was very surprised of the reason ;) Fond memories of my first wheel chair-wheeling experience!!

After the disabled convoy was finished all the other customers would flood into the esplanade and file up into the stands to their seats. That is where we had to be very quick and precise to make sure that they got to their seats with no hassle. 

After everyone was seated we would then wait at the bottom of the stairs so that we could direct people to the bathrooms. Funnily enough, most people were even confused where the bathroom was when we pointed it out!! The other ushers and I joked that we should have a laser to point it out to them ;) Or the lights that they have in airplanes to direct people to the exits. I actually got a comment from one of the people in the audience that I was like a flight attendant. haha.

So throughout the show we were the only section that were given a 30 minute break, rather than 15 minutes in other sections. Not to brag or anything ;) Somehow our section got divided into two groups, and we tended to always go in those groups to our break together. 

Our breaks were divided into the first and second half of the performance. Usually depending on what performances you wanted to see: the first half was the highland dancers, Indian, French and Japanese performances; and the navy, Jacobite scene, airforce, fireworks and final march were in the second half.  For the break we would head down some stairs to a basement where we could have tea and coffee, and on Saturdays there were hotdogs. In terms on seating, in the beginning we would sit on some stairs looking out towards the Pentland Hills, but after all of us got a cold from the chilly winds we started sitting in chairs in the basement where we would chat and check our phones. I would be looking forward to those breaks to get something warm into my stomach!! 

Having our break on the steps. From the right: me, Shannon, Melinda, Lena and Rebecca. 
Funny picture <3
After the show I would then go and stand at the bottom of the stairs to The Royal Gallery. That is where the VIPs would sit and have champagne and listen to a talk and other stuff that they do up in their box. My job was to stand at the bottom of the stairs and make sure that the people who go through to the Gallery had the right pass. On the first few nights I was on the stair case that the VIPs didn't come down, where I got to see all my fellow ushers clocking out 15-30 minutes before me, and then from there I got upgraded to stand on the stairs where the VIPs actually came down. So … I got to stand millimetres away from Prince Charles and William one night!! That was surreal, especially when I shared a glance with William :D Ever since I told my fellow ushers that experience they nicknamed me “Princess” ;) I also got to see many important military people and talk with many interesting VIPs. For example I talked with Benedict Bruce, son of Lord Bruce from the Bruce clan. He was very animated!!

Where I would stand after the show was finished
My radio!!
And I also got to have a radio so that I could talk to the people up in The Royal Gallery and to my supervisor if anything happened. I got to use this many times, it was so exciting!! So I would say: “Laura to Katie”, and then she would say: “Go ahead”. “There is someone here from (insert company) with whiskey and umbrellas”. “Okay, please send him/her up”. I sometimes heard some people saying “over” after everything they would say on the radio,  making me think of a walkie talkie, but the guy who taught me what to say said that there is little radio etiquette at the Tattoo ;) 

The team who worked with me on the platform 
The most majestic place to say that you work at!!
Watching the fireworks at the end of the show
Another selfie while waiting to start the show!! Lena was annoyed that we took a selfie the night before because we hadn't warned her and she hadn't washed her hair. So we took another one ;) 
The pipe band marching off the esplanade. Behind the performers you can see the height of the stands where people would sit. It was amazing!!
To make things even more difficult during August I was working 4 days a week at the St James Centre development. I would be responsible for directing people to the department store and wherever else they would like to go. At the end of the month, though, it all started getting way too much for me so I quit with only three more shifts to go. I am so glad I did it though, and made many friends through the experience!!

Here I am with Kat working our purple jumpers and Queen Margaret University scarves helping tourists find their way around Edinburgh
My go-to face from 10:30 to 12:30, and then 1:30 to 3:20. Especially this day when I took the photo, because I was on my own due to my partner having concussion :o 
On this day a guy came over from Caffe Nero and handed me a chai latte, saying that the guy behind the check-out ordered it for me :D That was so sweet!! I was smiling all afternoon :D

So this is all the work that I was doing during August. The Tattoo was from the 3rd to the 26th of August in the evenings, and I was working four days a week at the St James Centre from the first week of August to the week before the end of the Tattoo. Some how I managed to fit in many social events as well :D The first week at the Tattoo I filled in all my time with socialising, and then learn from that that I needed breaks. So after that week I made sure that I had enough food to eat, time to nap and energy to stand hours on end in the evening. 

I have learnt so much from everything this month, and am super grateful for all those people who would put up with my tiredness!!

Till next post,

Laura xoxo

July 28, 2017

Day Eight: Hungary to Tampere

5th July 2017

Today is the day we got to reward our weary feet and sit down for around 3 hours on the plane. I don't know about the rest of the family, but I slept for half of it!! I was so tired. I think it was probably the 5:15 wake-up call, but you never know ;) Maybe my body was finally telling me that I exhausted it out by walking around EVERYWHERE!! ;) hehe. So here are some pictures:

Walking to the taxi at 5:55 a.m. People are actually about at that time ?!? 
Blurred photo of dad in the taxi. I think my camera had some sleep in it's lens ;)
Budapest city in the morning
Amazing sun light!!
At the airport!! We got first-class service as he dropped us off right outside the terminal ;) haha.  
Boarding the plane. Harri and I were at the front of the plane, and mum and dad went to the back of the plane 
I had seat 1B!! I had such fun watching the crew members doing their job, not to mention being the first one out the door in Tampere to see my grandfather on the other side of the fence ;) That was very special :D
So excited to be home for a couple of weeks till heading back to Edinburgh!!!

Till next trip,

Laura xoxo

July 18, 2017

Day Seven: The day of forgetfulness in Budapest, Hungary

4th July, 2017: Hungarian Parliament Building, Hungarian National Gallery and St Stephen's Basilica (Even though it's not a basilica, the pope just named it one ;))

The day of forgetfulness 

We left the apartment with just enough time to walk to the Hungarian Parliament Building in time for our tour at 9:30. And we were really pushing it. As we were speed walking down Andrassy ut, I causally asked if Laura had her passport… 

… and she didn't, so I ran all the way back to the apartment, got the keys from reception, hustled up the stairs to the second floor, found her passport (which was not where she said it was, Laura…) and back downstairs, before sprinting all the way to the Hungarian Parliament, with the memory of where it is from looking at the map this morning. And while Laura was taking this photo I was already near the entrance :D (That was my army training put to good use)

Back View of Hungarian Parliament Building

Golden Staircase

We then met near the entrance and proceed to the visitor's entrance before lining up for the tour at exactly 9:30, phew! And of course when we went through security check they didn't ask for our passports :P

Anyway, we had a very nice, funny tour guide who showed us through to the golden staircase where we found out that anything above 3m (out of arms reach) that looks golden, is real gold. And there is 40kg of gold (mainly gold leaf) covering a large part of the building's surfaces (and mind you it's the 3rd largest parliament building in the world)!

The reception Hall

We then continued into the Reception Hall, with two grand staircases, and which I am assuming is at the main entrance to the Parliament Building. Apparently the only things in the room that did not come from Hungary were the 8 granite pillars from Sweden, who had the finest available granite at the time.

The chamber

We then continued to the chamber, where plenary sessions take place. Fun fact: the Hungarians invented the first air conditioners; massive blocks of ice (from ice factories) were placed into an empty well and air vents were built, going from the wells all throughout the parliament building. Ingenious!

Crown Jewels. This is a postcard I bought from the souvenir shop, not my photo ;)

Then probably the coolest part of the tour was seeing the Crown Jewels in the 16-sided central hall, which has travelled all over the world over hundreds of years, from Russia to Fort Knox. There are always two guards guarding the jewels (during opening hours at least), and we had to stay 2 meters away from them. Plus we weren't supposed to take photos, so the lady taking a photo now has an "illegal" photo.

Red Star

At the end of the tour there was a big red star with no description; probably because the Hungarians don't want to make a big deal about Russia's rule over them. Luckily, we had had a walking tour where the tour guide explained the story behind it: both the Parliament Building and the Church were 96 meters tall (896 was the the year of the Conquest of the Hungarian Kingdom), to symbolise the equality of the church and parliament, however when USSR took over they added the 3 meter red star to make the parliament "more equal". 

Front view of Parliament Building by the Danube

We then walked around to the front of the building, which reminded us of the UK's Houses of Parliament, which is of no coincidence because they actually took inspiration from it and made it 3 meters longer :P

National Gallery over the Danube

We were then supposed to go straight to St. Stephen's Basilica and relax the rest of the day... however dad was set on seeing the gallery on the other side of the river up a hill. However, in the end, I'm glad he did. The lunch in the cafe was delicious and the paintings were very nice. Now, one thing to note for later; dad had to leave his passport at the desk in order to get an audio guide ;)

Hysteria (or despair, or something like that by what's-his-name)

We were transfixed by this countess's expression of despair and hysteria, which was because she had just found out that she had accidentally killed her lover.

Mum and dad with view of Budapest from National Gallery Viewpoint

Laura and Harri from National Gallery Viewpoint

We then walked up to the National Gallery viewpoint and took the necessary selfies. We were quite exhausted already at this point as we saw how far we had to walk back to the Pest side of Budapest.

Setting up for Awards Evening for Generali (Insurance Company)

Just outside the National Gallery we saw people setting up for an Awards evening for Generali, with a band practising. We were thinking: What an incredible location!! Little did we know that this was not the last we would see of the event ;)

Facade of St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István-Bazilika)

Our last attraction to visit was St. Stephen's Basilica, which was named after St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary. In fact, his left hand had naturally mummified and is housed inside the church for anyone to see (if you pay 200 Hungarian forent; less than a euro; to put on a light). And my job as a tour guide was finished, phew!

That necessary selfie again in front of St Stephen's Basilica

Second time at McCafe, as we don't have it in Finland :D

We then decided to go to a coffee shop and I remember having a headache and part of me had yearned for the comfy sofa in our air-conditioned apartment just off Andrassy út. However, my desire to experience Budapest as a 'local' (just walking casually through the streets) was far greater. 

We sat in the air-conditioned McCafe just watching the people walk by and observing their different characteristics. It's probably one of the most stress relieving things. At the same time I was enthusiastically sipping a chocolate frappe with complete disregard for the fact that I was on a non-dairy diet. All I cared about was cooling down and easing my strained head after having the heavy burden of being my families personal tour guide for 3 days.

Next we proceed by walking through the shopping streets and boulevards, where we did some souvenir and clothes shopping. I ended up getting a Rubik's cube from a shop called Paprika. Seems random, however we had learnt that the spice paprika is in almost all Hungarian dishes. Also, the Hungarian Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik's cube.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed that I no longer had a good reason to walk through the streets some more. However, I had mentioned that I was interested in looking at some shoes. So with that, my mum and I stayed back and wandered the streets some more at a leisurely pace, looking into a few shoe shops before deciding to finally head back. I remember our feet starting to ache and my eyes getting droopy. How nice it will be to get back... and then we got a phone call from my dad; "I left my passport at the art gallery!" It was around 7:30 p.m., the art gallery had closed at 5pm, and we were leaving the city the next morning at 5:30 a.m. for the airport to fly back home...

Suddenly, with a mission to accomplish, our tiredness disappeared as we started to walk all the way back across the Danube to the National Gallery, with the hope that the Generali event was still on. At the bottom of the hill I decided to run up the long way, while I told mum to take the gondola up. I ran all the way up, using a few steep short-cuts, and got to the top... to see the event still on, phew! I noticed two security guards outside the event and walked up to him, trying my best to look confident. 

As soon as I got to him he said: "Im sorry, the national gallery is closed", after which I promptly replied: "Yes, however my dad left his passport in the gallery and we leave tomorrow morning for the airport". He was very polite and heard me out, before saying that there is nothing he can do. 

With that I waited for mum to come up and as soon as I explained it to her she said: "No, we need to get the passport",  and with that she marched back to the second guard to show me how its done; she persisted and persisted and the guy went back and forth to contact someone inside and eventually came back with a smile on his face and said: "what is the name", and as mum said: "Mark Badham", his grin widened even more, as he gave us the passport. We had to take a photo to remember our accomplishment 

Photo of victory!

Sunset on the Danube

With passport in hand, and permanent grins on our faces, we strolled back down the hill and stopped to admire the beautiful sunset on the bridge. Soon we were hobbling back to the city, along the Main Street and practically crawled into the hotel and up to our room with a delicious dinner, prepared by Laura, ready for us:

Laura's Goat Cheese Salad

Not sure Laura was happy with me taking a photo of her in her pyjamas :P

July 17, 2017

Day Six: Budapest, Hungary

3rd July 2017 - walking tour, hike up a mountain and waiting for famous people (who never came).

We woke up this morning to the sound of air-conditioning radiating through the grates. After a tasty breakfast of poached egg on toast with tea, Harri informed us that we had 30 minutes to be at the required place to start a free walking tour!! Ahh, hurry!!

As we were in such a hurry, however, Dad forgot to leave his keys at the accommodation, so he had to quickly jog back. And, with my events studies still in mind, I made a contingency plan that we could go in the afternoon.

I had previously looked at the best metro stop to get off, and so as we got out of the metro, around 5 mins late, they had just started. Perfect timing!!

Our walking tour guide. It was her first time giving a tour in Budapest!! She did amazing :D
Walking across the bridge from the Pest (pronounced Pesht) to the Buda side
Matthias Church. It was once a mosque, but due to a wall falling down and a statue of Virgin Mary being revealed from the destruction during a siege, it reverted back to Christianity. The roofing has some porcelain orange tiles, which are used on many churches around the world. The tiles are very durable, being water-proof and easy to clean, and they are very vibrant and beautiful. A perfect way to enhance the sightings of this amazing building!!
The ornate work of the church's steeple
Our school-cafeteria-like lunch. I had a creamy chicken dish with rice
Dad had this moussaka-like dish with potatoes and spicy sausage
Harri had a paprika veal meal with this weird-looking pasta. We all just could not finish the meal as it was soo much!!
After our lunch Harri decided, as he was the tour guide, that we should now walk up the Gellert hill to get another amazing view of Budapest. Everyone except me and Harri, where I am always up for hiking up a hill even if I am tired, did not want to walk up a hill. But we ended going up anyway :)

Walking up Gellert Hill
Budapest's Statue of Liberty. Interesting story: This was the only Soviet statue that remained in Budapest after all the statues were destroyed when they left. This statue was, apparently, placed under a sheet and revealed after three days as a flashy new Budapest statue ;) Not a Soviet Union statue ;)
Harri admiring the view from the hill
Aww <3
Family photo <3
It was Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary soon, so I took some cute photos of them <3
Walking down Gellert Hill, when we had mustered up enough strength ;)
Our preferred restaurant
My photography ideas ;)
Buda castle 

Sunset over the Danube
Harri and Gellert Hill
Action shot :D
Suddenly a procession of police and other black cars, we presumed to be FBI agents and top secret security guards, drove around the corner with loud ear-percing sirens going. That definitely got our attention!!
All of us tourists waiting to at the Four Seasons Hotel to catch a glimpse of the famous people, or whoever the hoards of security were there for.
I was more interested in the flowers ;)
And capturing the sun <3

After around an hour of not seeing anything interesting, we got mum and Harri to start moving towards our hotel, and away from the drama ;)

Walking toward the St. Stephen's Basilica
Look at the dogs!!
So cute <3
The grand basilica, that is not actually a basilica (which you will hear about in Day Seven)
Capturing some kind of award ceremony of the camera. We think it might have been some biking competition. "Who knows, he could be famous", mum said ;)
Walking to our accommodation through the amazing opera house's entrance
We walked past this building so many times, that I am embarrassed to say that I actually don't know what it is ;) 
After a lovely meal, we all slept amazing. All ready for the awesome, and forgetful, day tomorrow!!

Till then,

Laura xoxo