A New Chapter…

It’s been more than four months since my last blog post. I’m a Newbie in blogging terms, having only written a handful of posts since moving to the Caribbean last February, but despite this, I’ve been struggling to find content. After some self-reflection, the reasons for this are clear: When I first started my blog back in March, my life looked significantly different to what it does now. Whilst I think I’ll always have the soul of a free-spirited traveller, one can’t deny that I’m now embarking on a new chapter, one where everything I’ve known changes exponentially, and the new life growing in my belly takes top priority. Unsurprisingly, planning for birth and parenthood have taken centre stage, leaving little time to consider travel or adventure, at least for the time being.

Writing in any medium is a form of self-expression and I’d like this blog to be authentic to my interests. Therefore, I’ve decided to change direction slightly: In future I’ll be blogging more about pregnancy, and expat life as a parent; topics which I love to read about on other people’s blogs! I think this will give me more to write about, but most importantly, more motivation to continue writing.

Another issue which I must address is my perfectionism! I’ve confused blogging with high-brow journalism, agonising over every adjective and sentence. This inevitably sucks all joy out of my hobby, as a short post which should take no longer than a couple of hours takes days or even weeks of tweaking. From now on I’m going to try and write in a more concise and down-to-earth narrative. Not least because I won’t have time for great elaboration once my arms are full with a newborn! I’m searching for a new name for my site too – please get in touch if you’ve got any ideas for suitable names.

I’m excited to say I’m now almost thirty-two weeks pregnant. I’m currently back in the UK and loving the cooler weather, which has made pregnancy much more comfortable. Generally I feel fine in myself but have some mild pelvic girdle pain. My midwife told me to slow down all activity and be careful not to overstretch in yoga. I’m also struggling to complete some basic tasks such as taking off my shoes. Bending over strains my back so I have to squat or sit down to reach things at a low level. My hips are also sore at night and turning over is a nightmare, I often get stuck on my back whilst trying to change sides! However, I must say all of this is a small price to pay for the joy of feeling our baby squirming and kicking every day. ūüėä

Virgin Airlines Review

We left for the Caribbean on the 25th of February from Gatwick airport. It was a beautiful, crisp sunny day in England, ideal for flying.

Virgin’s brand, tailored to precision, is perhaps one of the most iconic in all of aviation. As we stepped through the door of the Airbus A330-300, we were greeted by a warm and friendly crew, dressed immaculately in Virgin’s lipstick-red Vivienne Westwood attire.

A blanket, water, menu, pillow and headphones were ready and waiting on our seats of the Airbus, which was spotlessly clean and modern.

The aircraft can accommodate 266 passengers; 33 in Upper Class, 48 in Premium Economy and 185 in Economy. We occupied 46H and 46K, economy seats on the right of the aircraft, just behind the wing. I couldn’t help but notice that our seats were a little cramped compared to other long-haul planes we’d flown on. We purposely picked seats which were next to the washrooms, but unbeknown to us, this came with the added disadvantage of limited reclining space.

As we pushed back and taxied towards the runway, the safety video played on the small screens on the seats in front of us. I must say, this was the best safety video demonstration I’ve ever encountered. Virgin have avoided the yawn-a-minute corporate style presentation in favour of a series of trendy cartoons, which explain each part of the safety process by taking on different movie genres and accents.

Before the in-flight entertainment began, we were asked by Sir Richard Branson to find small change to place in an envelope for charity. An integral part of the Virgin brand and celebrity in his own right, the Branson ethos underpins virtually all of Virgin’s activities and I’d predicted he’d make an appearance somewhere in our flight journey!

The in-flight entertainment was second-to-none, featuring relevant and critically-acclaimed films such as The Martian, Black Mass and James Bond Spectre. I watched Amy, a documentary on the late singer Amy Winehouse and Cristiano Ronaldo, a documentary on the life of the famous footballer with the same title. My husband watched Straight Outta Compton, a film about the lives of five rap stars which revolutionised pop culture.

We travelled on a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok last month, which required passengers to note their dietary requirements during the check in process. I’m vegetarian, and wrongly assumingly the same rules might apply, my husband accidentally selected the lactose-free vegetarian option for me whilst checking us onto this flight. It turns out the in flight menu for Virgin features fantastic vegetarian options, such as meat-free curry and caramel chocolate ganache which don’t need to be ordered beforehand. Nonetheless, I rather sheepishly enjoyed the lactose-free vegetarian option made especially for me; dumplings with vegetables and bean salad, and dairy-free cheesecake, with the ubiquitous aeroplane side dishes of bread rolls and crackers with butter. My husband had chicken curry with mashed potato and broccoli. We were also served wraps, crisps, chocolate biscuits and sour cream pretzels outside of our main meal.

We arrived half an hour before schedule in St Lucia where the plane stopped to refuel and change crew. Ironically, St Lucia is planned to be our permanent home, but as explained in previous posts, my husband has training in Grenada before we settle there. The flight from St Lucia to Grenada was a mere thirty minutes and we were on the ground on time to meet our welcoming party.

Virgin are a lovely airline which were a pleasure to fly with. However, they do not hold some elusive level of magic aviation genius as suggested in their rather dramatic marketing campaigns. A similar level of service is offered by many of the larger carriers such as Lufthansa, British Airways and Garuda Indonesia but I’d definitely fly with them again.

 

 

 

 

Zika Virus

I’m a little disappointed, though completely unsurprised, by the current furore surrounding the Zika virus outbreak in¬†the Americas.

The world’s press have the notorious habit of creating mass hysteria over something as¬†unthreatening as a bowl of pasta, with little to no consideration¬†of the effects of irresponsible reporting.

Whilst not scientifically proven, there does seem to be some link between Zika and possible birth defects in the offspring of women who contracted¬†the virus¬†whilst pregnant. There is not however,¬†much evidence of a sudden explosion in mosquito numbers¬†in Latin America¬†or the Caribbean, or that the Zika virus is even remotely dangerous to those in good health with no plans to start a family.¬†Whether Zika virus can be¬†contracted through sexual transmission is also negligible.¬†The virus is also¬†less prevalent¬†than it’s¬†sister ailment Dengue, which is responsible for 12,500 deaths per year and produces far stronger symptoms.

Truth be told, there¬†will always be¬†risks associated¬†with travelling and I’m well-acquainted with the travellers’ perverse desire to seek danger and uncertainty in unfamiliar places. The risks¬†tend to multiply when travelling into¬†developing countries. Every four minutes someone dies on the roads in India. Each year, Malaria¬†accounts for¬†a million deaths worldwide and¬†there¬†are an estimated 1.5 million earthquakes, resulting in an average of 13,200 deaths. There is yet to be a single death related directly to the Zika virus and many who are infected present no symptoms at all. It should also be noted that Zika, like many tropical illnesses,¬†is sadly¬†a¬†disease of economic misfortune. It is common in¬†impoverished areas where education is a novelty and stagnant water provides the ideal breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito, the exclusive carrier of the disease. The threat to travellers staying in modern cities,¬†luxury resorts and established tourist areas remains very low.

In 2014 and 2015 the Ebola virus spread across west Africa, producing a severe¬†outbreak which was the worst of it’s kind.¬†It affected¬†just three countries primarily; Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, with Nigeria, Mali and Senegal seeing less than¬†thirty cases in total between them.¬†With the combined effect of an increased threat of terrorism, the result was a mass exodus in tourism from the¬†entire continent, with devastating consequences. Tourism is key to many regions of Brazil and other countries in¬†Latin America. Revenue from tourism in Brazil¬†reached¬†over $7billion in 2013, a¬†figure which has been steadily increasing year-on-year.¬†Tourism is even more key to countries in the Caribbean, who lacking the economic diversity of larger¬†nations, rely almost solely on tourism¬†to fuel the economy.¬†At least¬†10% of¬†Barbados’ working population are employed in tourism, and as much as¬†25% in Jamaica. Therefore I feel it’s important to keep some perspective on the situation, and to continue visiting the countries affected, whilst taking the necessary precautions.

I’m interested to hear from people who have¬†plans to travel into regions affected by the Zika virus. Has the Zika virus put you off travelling to countries where there is an outbreak? Have you even gone as far as cancelling your trip? Are you concerned about the spread of the virus, and if so why is this a personal worry for you?