Sunday 8 July 2018

A Little Bit of Catching Up

To set the current scene, I’m sat in a tiny shaded park outside Odessa International Airport, which was built in 1961. It looks every inch its age and is reminiscent of a dodgy looking bus station; Ploče springs to mind - that place will haunt me forever! The weather is glorious, sunny, warm embracing heat with a light breeze to kiss the skin. There are dodgy looking concrete bunkers behind me, but not a Costa Cafe or duty free shop in sight. 

The purr of jet engines is audible just behind me but clearly there are only a few planes per day, so it’s not intrusive. The new airport opposite with its distinctive blue and white wavy roof shines under its protective wrappings, and is resolutely still under construction. It is for arrivals only and where I appeared 3 weeks ago. This period of no Internet is the perfect time to record some thoughts. 

It’s been a while since I did any personal blogging about travels. You may well ask what I’ve been doing for the past 6 months or so; gainful employment called and said it wanted a librarian with special skills. I obliged, so since mid-Feb I’ve been working as a lady spy, code name 0000000069. No, I mean, a legal topic specialist for a news aggregator. But many people I’ve met recently seem to think that the truth is far more glamorous or dangerous. Sadly the most danger I’m in, work-wise, is incurring the boss’s wrath for being a bit blond with tech. Or my WiFi going down.

Oh. I can see why they think I’m a spy.

The story for these latest travels actually began in November last year. For reasons best known to my previous employer, they decided that we should part ways after 6 months together. This left me pretty much at rock bottom, confidence-wise, financially, emotionally. I’d put my heart and soul into making that job work, but it seems that for some, it’s not enough - or perhaps too much. Still, all I knew was that I’d sacrificed my health, my summer and time with friends for that company. 

Mental States...
The result of this cataclysm was a trip to Sarajevo in December last year. It was bitterly cold, dark, dirty, lonely, poor, and it suited my mood. If there had been absinthe and some kind of lung disease, it could have been in Paris c1880. I could sense friends were a bit worried about me, but we all had a lot on our plates. Money worries, health was not a Christmas I want to repeat and I think they would concur. 

I had been doing various bits of writing but not enough to keep my living abroad dream alive. It looked like I was heading back to law librarianship in the North of England where I’d been offered a job. When I say rock bottom, I was actually contemplating living in Leeds or Manchester. No offence to friends and family there but only those who know how SAD affects me can realise how desperate I must have been. So on my return to Split, I started writing business plans for my current awareness idea. Even if it went nowhere, it gave me hope, a focus and a reason to keep trying. 

In January I had a very interesting conversation with a young gentleman who is now one of my work colleagues. After 2 more amazing interviews, they had to take me on. I went to London with the intention of camping outside their offices til they relented. The result was a job where I could be innovative, disruptive, annoying, outspoken, and most importantly ME, without fearing that I’m the odd one out. 

Even better, I could work remotely once I’d proven to my amazing boss it would work. They have encouraged my confidence to return and I’m hoping to do some cool things with them. The team is determinedly international - American, Bulgarian, German-Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Ukrainian - and me. Let’s hope we can last in London beyond Brexit...

So why Odessa? Ultimately I’m intrigued by the East and would happily spend all my time on the move around this part of the world. Having found my dark side in Bosnia and Serbia, fell in love with Albania and Macedonia, I feel brave enough for anything, frankly. But I’d been given a number of subconscious invitations to get to Odessa. 

Firstly our tech team are Ukrainian, based in Lviv though being June/July I had no desire to go inland. I need the sea. Secondly I had long been inspired by Edmund de Waal’s Hare with the Amber Eyes. He tracked down his family in Odessa and described it in truly inviting terms. I had other cities on my list - Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest and Istanbul - but this beautiful place really drew me and I am really glad I came.
Much Happier!
Practically speaking, over the past couple of months of remote working, I’m soaking up the co-working space environment. From London’s WeWork and TOG, to Split’s WiP, and now Odessa’s Terminal 42. All of them are good places to work and the people friendly. Sometimes it’s nice to have the option for working at home - usually when doing domestic stuff like food shopping at lunchtime! 

I’ve been working 9-12 hour days, and in constant communication with colleagues. I know these long hours baffle some new friends but that’s the reality of London tech start-up life. It’s also the reality for life in hospitality and those Dalmatian guys on yachts etc amaze me with their stamina!

It just means that you make the most of your evenings and weekends!! To be continued...

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