books

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

The first time I wrote about Milk & Honey was in the first ever edition of my Wishlist series, which you can read by clicking here. There was much hype surrounding the book, the implications and meanings of the poetry and almost every female within a 30 mile radius had this book in hand. Shortly after writing my wishlist post, I actually went on to buy the book. I’ve had it for a few months now, and read and re-read it I would say over ten times. I have completely fallen in love with Kaur’s prose, but I didn’t want to write a post on the book until I felt completely compelled to: until I understood the meanings and intentions behind her work, and until I felt like I could do the book justice. I think the time has come!

Firstly, I want to comment on the appearance of the book, how beautiful is the cover? I suppose it’s arguable that the book itself doesn’t affect the content: ‘do not judge a book by it’s cover’ etc, but it just looks so super pretty on my bookshelf. It had a matte black cover which feels so luxurious, and the monochrome colour scheme with a hint of honey-gold is both appropriate and gorgeous. I know it doesn’t affect the skill of Kaur’s words and the effect they have on the reader, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as a beautiful, well constructed book.

While on the topic of appearance, I’d also like to comment on the illustrations of the book. They aren’t the epitome of art; they aren’t super detailed, but they are functional, simple, and through this, become skilful and almost beautiful. The way in which the images seem to be hand-drawn almost with a ballpoint pen, makes the words even more relatable to everyday life, makes the pages adaptable to your own personal situations. Much like her words, the images are so simple that they take on their own beauty.

But now for the actual book itself: the ‘poetry.’ I quote the word ‘poetry’ because I’m not sure how far to argue that Kaur’s words do classify in this genre. Of course, the words themselves are not a novel, they do not progress into a storyline of such, but they do not seem to follow a metric, they do not form a conventional form of poetry. I’ve read much critique of Kaur’s work because of this, but isn’t this what makes the book unique, beautiful? The simplicity of her words and the uncomplicated nature of the structure, for me, is what makes the book so special. She is unapologetically brutal, she doesn’t miss a beat, and she talks of her themes with the utmost candour. For this, I have the utmost respect for Rupi Kaur. Anyone who is planning on reading this book should be aware of triggering topics such as sexual abuse and rape, topics of which she is very frank about. Her frankness and openness about such topics, are what make her a bold and incredible writer.

The book is split into four parts: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking and The Healing. It becomes almost a process; a cycle that I’m sure every woman has experienced or will experience at least once in her life. I love every part just as much as each other but I would say that The Healing is my favourite, it’s both empowering and reassuring. Below I have left some of my favourite quotes from each section. I fully recommend purchasing this book and giving it a read, you won’t be disappointed.

The Hurting

‘A daughter should not have to beg her father for a relationship’ (28)

‘I was made heavy: half blade and half silk, difficult to forget and not easy for the mind to follow’ (30)

‘the thing about having an alcoholic parent is an alcoholic parent doesn’t exist, simply an alcoholic who could not stay sober long enough to raise their kids’ (39)

‘you tell me quiet down cause my opinions make me less beautiful, but I was not made with a fire in my belly so I could be put out’ (30)

The Loving

‘I want to be so complete I could light a whole city and then I want to have you cause the two of us combined could set it on fire’ (59)

‘You might not have been my first love but you were the love that made all the other loves irrelevant’ (63)

‘you look like you smell of honey and no pain, let me have a taste of that’ (66)

‘how do you turn a forest fire like me so soft I turn into running water’ (65)

The Breaking

‘don’t mistake salt for sugar: if he wants to be with you he will, it’s that simple’ (85)

‘I didn’t leave because I stopped loving you, I left because the longer I stayed the less I loved myself’ (95)

‘I am a museum full of art but you had your eyes shut’ (100)

‘I had to leave, I was tired of allowing you to make me feel anything less than whole’ (107)

‘You cannot leave me and have me too, I cannot exist in two places at once – when you ask if we can still be friends’ (136)

The Healing

‘Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself’ (153)

‘If you were born with the weakness to fall, you were born with the strength to rise’ (156)

‘fall in love with your solitude’ (161)

‘your body is a museum of natural disasters, can you grasp how stunning that is?’ (173)

‘the world gives you so much pain and here you are making gold out of it – there is nothing purer than that’ (185)

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language

Language Learning: Tips & Tricks

Since around the age of 13 I have been learning Spanish, and when I started my undergraduate degree in 2014, I picked up Portuguese too. My Portuguese course has been very intense, as the aim was to bring up my level of Portuguese to the same standard of my Spanish. I am not entirely fluent in either language, but I can speak both at a good level, and to get to this level I had to study a lot. I thought I would share some of the things I did to improve my languages, and also some of the techniques I’ve learnt from my education.

  • Grammar books: I guess that we should start with the boring stuff first, but grammar books that explain grammar rules in depth are really, really helpful. I can’t speak for other languages but for Spanish and Portuguese, I can recommend some really good ones. For Spanish, ‘A Spanish Learning Grammar’ by P. Muñoz and M. Thacker is brilliant, it goes through the grammar rules in two different stages, so that you can build on your knowledge. There’s also practice exercises and solutions in the back, too. For Portuguese, ‘Portuguese: An Essential Grammar’ by Amelia P. Hutchinson is really good, because it describes both the grammar and how to use it in everyday speech. Writing out the grammar you find hard could help you remember it, but practice exercises have helped me lots.
  • Reciting conjugations: the bane of every language students life? Absolutely. I absolutely hate this tip but it isn’t something I could miss out: the only way to learn the verb endings and their different tense forms it to recite them, rewrite them, stare at them until they’re ingrained in your brain. It’s such a boring thing, but I promise that in the end, it really works. The more you write them out, or say them to yourself, the easier they are to remember.
  • 10 words a day: my Spanish teacher from my A Levels actually taught me this tip, but she told me that during her education she used to learn a certain amount of random words a day/week and that was a really useful way of learning vocabulary. In my second year at university I bought a small exercise book from Paperchase and took it to lectures with me, and wrote in any words that I heard/read that I didn’t understand, and then would find out the meaning and separate them into groups and learn them each week. So tedious but so useful.
  • Reading newspapers and magazines: I guess now we can move onto the more interesting things, because with languages comes culture. My grandparents really love going on holiday to Lanzarote, and so when they do, they bring me back a couple of magazines. Sometimes it’s fashion magazines like Vogue, or sometimes its celebrity magazines like Hola! It’s a really great way of expanding your vocabulary but also learning a bit more about the culture etc. Living in Portugal I was also able to read a lot here, but also, foreign publications are so accessible nowadays, its really easy to get hold of a newspaper or a magazine and spend even just 30 minutes broadening your vocabulary/knowledge.
  • Reading books: I guess this one is quite daunting, especially if you’re just beginning to learn a language, the thought of reading an entire book isn’t appealing. In fact it’s so difficult but so rewarding. I would say to read a book you’re really familiar with, when I was younger I absolutely loved Twilight and so I’ve read it in English, Spanish and Portuguese. There were times where I really wanted to give up with it but in the end, it was so beneficial, so I would say to choose a book that you know really well, and love a lot, and persevere with researching the words you’re unsure of. But you’ll find that, especially if you know the story really well, you’ll be able to work out (within the context), what the words you’re unsure of mean.
  • Listening to the radio: I used to hate this step, when I was at home in  England, I hated listening to the radio in foreign languages. I never even paid that much attention so I never thought that I was learning anything. But actually, since moving to Portugal, I’ve realised this is such a good way to subconsciously improve your languages. You’ll be hearing the language being spoken but also be hearing foreign music (thus learning more of the culture, once again). I usually used “listen live.eu” and for Spanish radio stations you can click here and for Portuguese radio stations you can click here. You can use the same website for other languages though, by clicking here and finding your relevant country.
  • Watch films: I love films so for me this step was always fun, but watching foreign films is so useful. When I first started learning languages I watched them with English subtitles, but now, as time has passed I’ve started to watch them with Spanish or Portuguese subtitles. It improved my understanding of spoken word and different accents. Also, another thing which is really helpful, is watching English films (or films in your mother tongue) and watching them with the subtitles in your chosen languages of study. It’s a really good way of learning vocabulary.
  • Speak to other speakers of the language: I struggled with this at first, but speaking to other people who also speak your chosen language is really effective and beneficial. You’ll learn so much more vocabulary, but also your confidence will build so much. If you speak to native speakers, you may even learn colloquial speech and become more natural in your approach, but they don’t have to be native. So long as you’re speaking, it doesn’t matter! For students like me, I used a site called ErasmusU before going on my year abroad, and managed to make many friends through this site and now regularly text and call them and in this way practice my languages.

For anyone interested, you can click here and here to see my two previous posts about my time abroad in Coimbra, Portugal.

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travel

Coimbra, Portugal

As the end of 2016 nears, so does my time as an Erasmus student. I have spent four of the best months in Coimbra, Portugal, a city that has quickly become my favourite place on earth. I’ve met people who have quickly become some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had, I’ve discovered places that are beautiful beyond words, and most of all I have been ridiculously happy while living in Coimbra. I am soon to be moving to Madrid, Spain, to be an English Language Assistant in an International School, but before embarking on my next adventure, heres 10 things you should know about my favourite city in the world, Coimbra:

  1. The soundtrack to Coimbra: you cannot walk 10 paces down the street without hearing a busker, whether thats the old man with a grey beard who plays Careless Whisper by George Michael on his saxophone by the entrance to the Praça do Comércio or the young boy with a moustache who plays sounds on his accordion that seem more suited to the streets of Paris. You’d think it would get annoying, but its all part of the charm of Coimbra.
  2. The Mondego: this seems like an obvious point, but how could I not mention the beautiful river that runs through the heart of the city? If you want to see the city and the river in all their glory, visit A Ponte de Santa Clara. It is the bridge that connects both sides of the city, but once you get half way across the bridge, turn back and look up: you’ll see the hill to the university and all of its gorgeous surroundings while stood by the river. After four months, I’m still amazed.
  3. The secret bookshop: if you enjoy reading, or collecting books like me, there is an amazing second hand/vintage book shop on Avenida Sá da Bandeira. It is almost hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of the Avenida, but a little way up from the Mercado Municipal there is a small second hand store that has one book shelf of books in there, but if you go next door, there is an entire room of books, stacked up to the ceiling, of all genres and languages. The family that run this store are also lovely, and spent time talking to me in Portuguese so that I could practice. I found a gorgeous Portuguese, third edition copy of Jane Eyre that had a love letter written in the front cover.
  4. The parks: in a busy city full of students you wouldn’t expect to find so many gorgeous places to walk, read or just pass through on your way to class or the supermarket. But there are so many parks and places full of nature to visit in Coimbra. I would recommend mainly the Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra, which is full of gorgeous greenery and places to sit. Especially if you’re a student at the university, visiting the gardens in between classes makes the day that little bit better. In addition to this, walking by the Rio Mondego or visiting the park in the Praça da República are good alternatives.
  5. The nightlife: this is aimed particularly at anyone doing an Erasmus placement, but is applicable to everyone visiting Coimbra, but there are so many places to go out. I personally think the Praça da República is a great place to meet people and have a chilled out drink, it is the first place I ever went out in Coimbra, there are many international students there, but some locals too. If its a local experience that you want, the bars in Sé Velha are where you should go. If clubs are more your thing, I really love TWIIT and NBClub.
  6. Mojitos: On the topic of bars and clubs, there is an amazing bar right by Sé Velha where me and my friends went to drink mojitos. The mojitos are only €2 and taste so good! Its a good place to go for one or two drinks before going to Praça da República.
  7. Graffiti and street art: I feel like, especially in England, graffiti can be construed as a negative thing, but in Coimbra, graffiti is gorgeous. You’ll find some of the more artistic graffiti close to Almedina, or by the train tracks near Coimbra A station, or if its thought provoking quotes you prefer, you’ll find those on the walk to the university when you pass Largo da Sé Velha.
  8. A Universidade de Coimbra: it’s an unavoidable element really, isn’t it? While it is definitely the most touristic area of Coimbra, it is arguably the most beautiful. There is not much I can say other than you cannot visit Coimbra without visiting the university. Founded in 1290 and still absolutely stunning.
  9. Connections: the city is well connected. While I can’t fathom why anybody would ever want to leave Coimbra, there are trains from Coimbra B Station to main cities like Lisbon and Porto, and trains from Coimbra A to smaller surrounding places such as Aveiro and Figueira da Foz.
  10. The best Portuguese city: arguably this is only my opinion, but I truly believe there is no place nicer in Portugal than Coimbra. I have visited surrounding areas, Lisbon, the Algarve, but there is no place more beautiful or with more character than Coimbra. For all wanderers: add it to your bucket list.

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