On a trail of magic: The Harry Potter studios tour

Around nine years back, an awkward, bushy-haired, introverted young girl stepped into a world of magic. She watched wide-eyed as a young wizard, with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, waltzed into her life and changed it forever.

The characters were her friends, she laughed and cried with them. She went on adventures with them. She longed for their world, the world of Harry Potter.

Although that wish never came true, the series was an essential part of my angst-filled teen years, mainly because it helped me put aside a fair bit of my insecurities and grow up a fair bit.

It will always be something special for me, which is why the trip to the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden was something I would forever cherish.

Last Friday, I decided to make the trip down to London, stopping by the studios on the way there.

The tour started off with a little clip telling the story of the waves one little British book and movie series created around the world.

The gates to Hogwarts were then opened, and people of all age groups united by the fandom streamed into the Great Hall like excited 11-year olds entering the world of magic for the first time.

The sets and displays were perfect, to say the least. Every single moment of the series was depicted and pictured exactly how one expects it to be. From Hogwarts castle, the Forbidden Forest, to Privet Drive, Godric’s Hollow and the Burrow.

For a fan, it was beautiful to walk through all the sets and play the game where one guesses the exact moment something featured in one of the movies.
And that fascination, aka borderline obsession, was what made me buy butterbeer and butterbeer ice-cream from the cafe. Slight disappointments did occur when the butterbeer turned out to be sweet soda with a cream-cheese topping and the ice-cream was a tad bit too sweet.

December is the best time of the year to experience most things in and around the UK (if you can handle the cold :P) and this wasn’t any different. The theme of Hogwarts in snow was running through the entire studios. This involved a lot of Christmas-y decor, the Great Hall with the Yule Ball set.

But, the most unexpected and magical surprise for me was when it really started snowing when we stepped out into the outdoor sets, the Knight Bus and Godric’s Hollow. For someone who had only seen snow once, about two weeks back (when it faintly snowed around the North-Eastern parts of England) in her 20 years of existence before this, it was indeed pure magic.

The snow made me happy, despite not carrying an umbrella or a hoodie. It was almost like the part when Harry and Hermione go down to Godric’s Hollow right before Christmas, in the last book.

Through it all, it was definitely a magical experience that I will forever remember, considering all the happy crying that I did at the end of the tour. As someone I know mentioned, I might have grown out of the “fandom”, but I will forever be a fan of the series. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

 

Until next time,

 

Cheers,

G

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When Lumiere Durham 2017 is literally lit

Till about two months back, the only solo trips I had taken were flight journeys down familiar routes, where someone I knew always greeted me at the airport. Moving halfway around the world all alone, I knew that things will change. But, how much was yet to be determined.

Lumiere Durham is a light festival that takes place in the picturesque city of Durham in the North-East of England. Ever since I read about the event, I was determined to go and witness it live. The festival lasted for 4 days, from the 16 to the 19 of November, this year.

Last Sunday, I decided to go to Durham, since it was the last day of the festival. But, there was only one small problem. Most people I knew had either been there earlier or was too busy. Newcastle isn’t too far from Durham, a maximum of 15 minutes by train, so, on a whim, I decided to take a solo trip.

I know that it is not a big deal for most people, but for me, it was. It was the first time that I went exploring an entire city all by myself, armed only with the festival website and GoogleMaps.

The art installations were sights to behold. From the cathedral chiming and getting lit like piano keys, the Frequencies lights along the banks of the River Wear to interactive art like the periodic table-like screen which judged the emotions of the tweets with the #LumiereDurhamFeels.


The entire experience was a once in a lifetime one. My photography skills are moderate, but despite it, some of the photos turned out to be brilliant. But, experiencing it was something more.

 

I had been to Durham about a month back when there was daylight. I had a vague idea of the place, but in the dark, everything was different. I managed to walk more than a kilometre in the opposite direction in order to reach the rail station, got a bit lost, wandered around the artworks and the riverbanks more than twice and finally managed to get into one extremely crowded train back to Newcastle.

When I arrived at Newcastle Central Station, it was nearly 10pm, and on a Sunday, most shops were shut. So, I bought some fast food in a paper bag and stepped out… into the rain. Hadn’t taken an umbrella, because of light travel and all that. In the end, I went up half-running, half-protecting my sandwich, back home, which thankfully was not too far away.

It was indeed an adventure. The solo trip, however tiny and insignificant it could be, gave me that tiny spark of courage, that I can go on trips by myself and enjoy it too. An experience to cherish, the start of something big, possibly.

Until next time,

Cheers,

G

The one where my phone was abducted

Two weekends went by, where I did not post. The reason? My trusted sidekick, my phone went missing. Or more accurately, was stolen right out of my pocket.

Bg04R_oCEAAg90eSo, last Friday night, after meeting a couple of friends, I was going back home, through an absolutely crowded street. I had my phone in the pocket of my coat since my tiny purse wasn’t closing with my mega-sized phone inside. Crossing the street, I realised that my phone wasn’t in my pocket any longer and that’s when someone brushed past me and disappeared into the crowd.

Fast-forwarding a panic attack and some near breakdowns, I decided to do the rational thing, calling my parents and asking what to do.

Seriously though, I tried locating it and erasing data, which didn’t really work, since I didn’t have a data pack and the phone was switched off. I changed all the passwords instead.

Then, I went ahead and filed a complaint with the police. They were really nice, patient and consoling, but at the end of the day, it’s all just a waiting and hoping game.

I went and bought a new phone. But, I was still phoneless for about 5 days. And that taught me far too much.

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5 things that I realised on going off the network grid for 5 days.

  1. People lived without smartphones 10 years back. I like the real-life face-to-face meetings and conversations than the virtual ones.
  2. I must buy an alarm clock.
  3. No group hangout is complete without everyone staring into their phones for at least 30% of the total time.
  4. It is okay if you don’t log into Facebook or Instagram or any social media channels once every 10 minutes.
  5. I live in a very beautiful city.

On a far more serious note, I have become far more paranoid of my new phone and started protecting it like a baby. Also, it is absolutely terrible to lose your phone (that too, one beautiful, brand new limited edition red iPhone 7 Plus). Far more so, when you have just moved into a new place alone, and most of your friends and family live in another country.

I wouldn’t want it to ever happen again, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but the five phone-less days did me a lot of good. Maybe, I wouldn’t mind trying that out again. Going off the network grid for a weekend or so. Not losing my phone. Obviously.

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Until next time,

 

Cheers!

G

So, I moved to Newcastle

So, I finally live in Newcastle.

It has been nearly two weeks since I moved and it has been extremely activity-packed.

Doing barely anything but sleeping at home for the most part of the day for the last six months have made me quite rusty. But, the move to U.K. has done me some good.

It was pretty interesting to say the last and I did quite a lot of things over this one week, for what is probably the first time.

1. Flying half-way across the world, all by myself 

To reach my current destination, I had to take a direct flight to London, and then onwards to Newcastle, which was a journey of a grand total of 15 hours by flight and another 2 hours by car. I’ve flown earlier, but never this long and never all by myself.

But, the journey was quite fun. I did meet some interesting people on the way, caught up a bit on my sleep, and watched two movies that I’ve been wanting to watch for quite a long time.

2. Get all documents and registration done

In one day, I had to go down to the post office to get my resident permit, and get registered with the university. Since I had some time to kill, I decided to get registered with the GP for insurance purposes, and went to buy a new SIM card.

3. Set up a bank account

Honestly, I had no idea how banks worked. That was some kind of mystery as far I was concerned. But, now, I set one up on my own.

4. Get the accommodation sorted

Being the first time that I was moving out of home, it was also the first time that I had to set everything up. But, as it is a university-managed accommodation, I did get a bit lucky. However, unpacking and getting everything up and running was something that took up a lot of my time. Honestly, today is when I finally finished unpacking and brought a bit of order into the chaos that was my room till today.

Apologies on the late post. I barely had time to breathe in the last couple of weeks, with inductions and freshers’ week going on too. (More about that in the next post)

Cheers!

G

10 Thoughts on leaving home

As the days fly by and the time to leave gets near, my emotions are on a roller-coaster ride which is going haywire. A roller-coaster sounds fun, but I’m not a fan of adventure parks or rides since the time I nearly got crushed under one. (That’s a story for another day! xP)

So on to it.

Thoughts that nearly everyone who’s moving out of house to study abroad for the first time, probably has.

1. So much independence 

I have always lived with at least one of my parents, so one of the first thoughts is that the freedom and independence that moving out comes with. I can finally wake up late.

2. But, what would I do for food? 

I don’t know to cook. That is a fact. But, I’m also the kind who overcooked Maggi (ramen) and made it into a soggy mess, and overheated milk that it bubbled out everywhere. I guess it is a year and half of surviving on takeaways, canned food, and badly cooked food. Also, I would definitely miss my masala dosai. (The South Indian greens; those who got the Kenny Sebastian reference, you guys are awesome!)

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3. My new university and course looks so good, on paper.

*mind voice* I really, fervently hope that this does not turn into a repeat of my undergraduate years.

4. But, what if it turns out to be worse?

Although, I really hope it is not.

5. Overdosing on the activities and societies that the university has to offer

All these societies and activities seem interesting. I’m definitely going to involve myself in a lot more activities, probably get into a sport or new hobby, find a place to volunteer or intern part-time, learn a new language and be the new and improved version of myself. Also, I will travel around the entire continent and see all that it has to offer.

6. Pfft. Whom am I kidding? 

The previous point sounded like those New Year Resolutions that I stopped making because I don’t need a new year to change myself, since I am perfect.

Although seriously? I hope I don’t sleep through it all.

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7. Will I be able to adapt to the new methods of teaching and learning?

The curriculum and teaching methods seem vastly different from that back home. I wonder if I can cope up with it and maintain a decent grade throughout the course.

8. I am definitely going to miss my family and friends way too much.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is daunting and not knowing absolutely anyone in the new place makes it scarier. I’ll definitely miss my friends and family back home, although there’s Skype and other video call apps. But, the time difference exists.

Well, I did make a similar move three years back for college and I survived. I hope I will, this time as well.

9. I have way too much stuff! How will I transport it to UK in two weeks and then to Europe in 6 months!?

Trying to stuff all my stuff into two suitcases of 23 kilograms each is turning out to be quite a challenge. The literal baggage is heavier than my emotional one now.

10. Well, all things said and done, it’s definitely going to be an adventure. 

What were your thoughts when you were moving out of your home for the very first time? Do let me know in the comments below!

Until next weekend,

Cheers!

G

Claustrophobia

What if, suddenly, you feel that the boundaries are shrinking and that the walls are closing in on you? That no matter what you do, they are far too strong for you.

You push yourself and apply the maximum resistant force, yet the walls refuse to budge. The resistance falls away and the walls close in on you.

The ceiling is less than an inch away from the top of your head. You crawl down into a foetal position, the natural disaster-response mechanism of your body. But, can your body save you, if it is all inside your head?

There is barely an inch of movable space, your breathing becomes quicker, more panicked, your palms sweaty, your head pounding. The darkness becomes infinitesimally more absolute, until light ceases to exist. Your screams become muffled, and finally, stifled. With one final scream and a violent shudder, there is nothing but silence around you. The deathly stillness that is far more deafening than any loud sound.

After what seems like a lifetime, a tiny orange ball of light glows. The heavens open up and the world is your’s for taking.

Your constrained room with its boarded-up windows cease to be a curse.

The wi-fi is back.

 

 

 

P. S. I had another fun post lined up for this weekend. But, with my router down and the really bad mobile data reception in the place I’m currently in, that post wasn’t possible this weekend. An added prop of a large steel wall right outside my window, blocking all light and plunging my room into darkness, had me trying out different forms of writing. I rather liked this experimental piece in the second-person out of the others, hence I’ve broken tradition to put this one up.

Do let me know what you think about this experimental visual piece, in the comments below! 🙂

Until next weekend,

Cheers!

G

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

It is the First of September, when seasons change, and the Hogwarts Express chugs off from King’s Cross, taking in a whole lot of new students in tow. The events of the epilogue, Nineteen Years Later, would be taking place right now. 1 September 2017. The year we meet Teddy Lupin (<3) and Albus Severus Potter (still haven’t gotten over his name)

September is a month of new beginnings for me, as well. Maybe not as magical as Hogwarts, although one can always hope.

This September is when I hope to start off my post-graduate program abroad. I am sure it will be an adventure, as I am moving out of my house for the very first time, joining a post-graduate program spread across two universities and cities and travelling alone.

Fun Fact: Both the universities where my course takes place are in two cities, none of which is my hometown.

I know that I am excited and at times, overwhelmed, as I have exactly 18 days left to travel. Hence, this blog.

The question on your minds would be, How is a blog going to help with excitement? *rolls eyes*

Well, because I would love to get back to writing again. What better way to do that than to share my adventures and tell in the tale with a hopefully humorous twist?

So, here it goes.

Hop on this train and I promise you that it will be exciting!

Check back on this blog every weekend to follow me half-way across the world, my weekly struggles and joys, as I experience the magic of studying abroad!

 

Cheers!
G