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Barbados with a boy

I've had a year rich in travel and adventure. Just yesterday I returned from Barbados. I went with my boyfriend and his extended family - 50 of us in all - to celebrate his lovely Mum's 50th birthday. This was new for me, travelling with a boyfriend and his family for such a big occasion. It was a wonderful experience for so many reasons. 


Matteo's family have strong connections with Barbados and they know it well. I quickly learned that discovering the island as a newcomer was best done by car, listening to soca music, and taking in the scenes. Beautiful beaches, surf shops, shabby yet colourful houses and endless greenery (it's the rainy season). The food was exquisite. We had fresh fish, coleslaw, mac pie and rum punch at what felt like every meal. I'm a beach girl at heart, so the simple pleasure of swimming in the sea everyday and being able to lie on the sand with my boy made me so happy. The island lifestyle suits me very well. 






The vibe of Barbados is chill. No one is in a rush, whether you're walking down a street or being served in a restaurant. While it can be frustrating coming from a frantic city lifestyle where everything moves so very quickly, the slow pace opens your eyes to think you might not have seen. You are not constantly thinking about the next thing. My favourite example of this was a day when we were at a restaurant on the beach whingeing about how long our food was taking. We glanced over to Matteo's grandfather and he seemed transfixed, just staring at the water and the sand, the one of us not complaining. We chuckled at how he seemed to have drifted away. That was until we realised what he was seeing that we weren't - a nest of turtles hatching and making their first tiny steps to the water. We stopped our complaining and watched this gorgeous natural show, thankful for the delay in our lunch. 



In contrast to the leisurely pace of day-to-day life was the energy and vivacity of Crop Over, six week long festival, originally to celebrate the harvest of the sugarcane, and now a breathtakingly vibrant, fun filled occasion. We watched the colourful parade of bands and floats on Kadooment day amid blasting Bajan music, with drinking and dancing with the locals in a joyous celebration. I was struck by the positivity of the women, who regardless of their age shape and size, dressed in glitzy bikinis coordinated with their party and danced with confidence and pride. It was empowering. There was such range in body types with no air of self-consciousness or judgement; it was wonderful. Not only that but we saw Rihanna dance through the crowds to say hello to the Prime Minister and get a mango. 


Highlights of Hong Kong

I've been away for the last month or so, to Australia and to Hong Kong, with two of my favourite people. While there is much to reflect on and share, I want to begin with some highlights from the vibrant five days I spent in Hong Kong. 


1. THE PEAK


Renowned for its view of the city, we took a tram up one night to the Peak to see the skyline. After a very lazy day, we were keen to really see Hong Kong. When we finally made it to the viewing deck, the stormy weather meant we could, unfortunately, see absolutely nothing; we were literally in a cloud. An hour or so at a restaurant in the accompanying mall and the skies had cleared, leaving us with a breathtaking cityscape with some lightning bolts to add to the magic.


2. STANLEY BAY



While Hong Kong is probably associated more with its urban centre, a short and scenic taxi took us to the very different landscape of the coastline. It wasn't your Australian beach but it was beautiful, and definitely worth the trip. 


3. SAM'S TAILOR




Known for the alleged '24 hour suit', we stopped off in Sam's tailor just out of curiousity, and left with two orders in for custom made outfits. The experience of having something made perfectly for you was pretty dazzling, from choosing the lining, the buttons and the cut to the final fittings, it was something I will never forget. 


4. STAR FERRY



One of my few memories from visiting Hong Kong as a child was the stunning and accesible views of the star ferry. As a commute, day or night, it never failed to impress. 

Colours of Amsterdam

I fell in love with Amsterdam when I visited a few weekends ago. The streets ooze european charm - cobbled streets, canals, tall and skinny coloured houses reminiscient of a storybook. There are endless shades of brown, beige and green but the city is anything but boring. The liberal energy permeates the air; it's a subtle scent of freedom.

Only spending two days there, we covered a lot of ground. From eating truffle scrambled eggs in the outskirts to wandering the colourful Van Gogh museum, it's a city filled with sensory vivacity. I will always remember the sparkle of the disco ball on Saturday night and the rainbow that appeared for barely two minutes over the Rijksmuseum on Sunday right before we left for our flight. The colours of Amsterdam are truly charming.






It's All About the Team

On my father's side of the family, almost everyone plays sport, and they're good at it too. Sport in Australia, where my father is from, is one of the pillars of the culture and lifestyle. I've written about my athletic relatives in my recent post about rugby league: Sport, Identity and the reach of the NRL. It ranges from casual talent to professional, like my cousin Chris Lawrence, who plays for the Wests Tigers. 


My relationship with sport growing up was largely a negative one. Despite the fact that my Aussie athlete genes would suggest I'd be at least modestly good, it was never something I got into. In fact it was something, for a long time, I loathed. 

In primary school, I approached it with enthusiasm. I was the only girl in Year 3 in rugby club, determined to echo my rugby roots (although at school we played union rather than league). In secondary school, I tried out for the netball and hockey teams but did not make either one. At first, this didn't get me down. I went to training every week, asked the coaches for help, once more determined to fulfil my sporting potential. I can't imagine I was very good but I tried hard. I did this for the next few years but eventually accepted I lacked the sports genes and instead took to resenting it. It didn't help that the sports culture in my school felt very closed and exclusive. Since graduating I've spoken to many peers about this, and I'm not alone in thinking that sport was open mainly if you were good from day 1. If not and regardless of potential, it was near impossible to get involved on a competitive level. Although in my case it also had a lot to do with my lack of fitness and talent.


As I got older and needed to get fit, I discovered boxing training. It was the first training I'd really got excited about, and it inspired me to stop resenting sport and start getting into shape. But it was very much a solitary mission. It was part of a gym routine - not a team sport. My school activities were much more arts concentrated: acting in plays, drawing classes, dance shows. 

When I came to uni, I made a lot of jokes to my family that I had 'untapped sporting potential', and that I'd go to trials for sports I'd never played just for kicks. In my first week, I was on my way back from a callback for a musical I'd auditioned for that went pretty badly. Netball trials were that afternoon, and I thought I'd go, half as a joke, just to see what it was like. I hadn't played netball since I was about 14, so I had low expectations. I also associated 'netball girls' with the same 'exclusivity' of the school teams, so wasn't sure if I would even enjoy it.

We met for trials in waterloo station. The first girls I talked to were clearly close and came across as aloof. I feared my worries were well placed. Two minutes later, a blonde girl bursting with energy came over in an army jacket and a skort and asked if this was for netball. She had an Australian accent. I knew instantly we would be friends. Josie and I sat on the train together on the way to trials and it was one of the most laughter filled journeys of my life. I felt much more at ease. 

The initial warm up drills gave me slight PTSD from my PE nightmares.  But I persisted. And when we got down to playing, I actually really enjoyed it. Fast forward a week or so and I somehow found myself on a team, with Josie and many other wonderful girls, gearing up for welcome drinks and our first match. 


At first I texted my friends saying I took the joke way too far and that I was in too deep. I had a major inferiority complex - surely we would play a match and they would drop me from the team when they realised I wasn't good enough. I then realised that things were very different to eleven year old me. Boxing for two years meant I was fit, and (fairly) light on my feet. Watching NRL and playing in the park with my dad meant I had decent ball skills. Maybe this dream of actually playing wasn't so extraordinary. 


As we started playing matches, I fell more and more in love with the sport. But most of all, I loved the community. My Aussie cousins always spoke with such fondness about their teammates - they lived with them, ate with them, they were family. I finally experienced that level of comradery and community. It was particularly significant for me coming to uni and trying to find my 'tribe' - especially being in London, where the uni life is known for lacking community. Our Wednesday night sport socials more than made up for it. To this day they are among the best parts of the week. You get to dress up depending on the weekly theme, drink and dance to cheesey tunes with your friends, meet people from other sports and generally have a good time.

Musing in Sweden

My annual trip to Sweden in December to see family has developed a charming familiarity. The routine is usually the same - a few days in Stockholm shopping, maybe a trip to Skansen to see the festive market and get in the Christmas mood, followed by a train trip to the country and a few days seeing my relatives. While often the appeal of travel is to try something new, I take great comfort in the routine. Sweden is a place I have strong sensory associations with. I think of the limited and precious daylight, the songs I play on the long drives across the open snowy landscape. I look forward to the meatballs and pickled herring for dinner. I'm even starting to pick up a bit of the language. The events don't change, neither does the time of year, but every year, of course, I am different. 



LEXI WEARS:

Jumper - Weekday
Trousers - Zara
Boots - not sure

The beauty of an annual trip is that you can juxtapose the shifts in your life - then versus now. Since Sweden is such a vivid place for me, it makes this reflection particularly vibrant. My experience of 2018 was intense, filled with highs and lows, change, adventure, surprises. I never would have predicted the place I was in when the year came to a close. Equally, I'm very content with where I ended up. 









LEXI WEARS:

Jumper - Uniqlo
Hat - brother's
Trousers - Brick Lane
Boots - Vagabonds via Office

I find Sweden a relaxing place too, one with a slow pace, a quiet quality. There is time for reflection, something I have not had much of in my chaotic but wonderful first term at university. I even spent a whole day at my grandma's in front of my laptop writing about everything I experienced over the preceeding weeks. It was immensely theraputic to reflect and preserve those memories.