A year ago, I went back home – Sierra Leone. A trip of a lifetime. I wanted to reconnect and reminisce with that of my upbringing and reflect on the journey of transformation so far.
What re-ignites these reconnections are the moments of laughter and fun, occasionally some bruises too. As for many boys/men growing up it was Football – street football in third world countries. Using natural environmental materials at disposal to be creative in order to have fun. Stones/timber as goal post, flip-flops as boots, our daily casual clothes as match-kits (sometimes vestless). Amongst the midst of cars & bikes constantly flowing past we often stop and resume once they’ve vanished.
A mix of Olders and youngers dripping in sweats under a 40 plus degrees heat, sweats sometimes washed away from our skin down into the Gutters of Freetown during rainy season. The best sensation was when it rains. We try to avoid kicking the ball into the open gutters flowing in high velocity of rainy waters as you’d end up chasing it forever. Bystanders stalling; wanting to be a part of the scene as they too could relate to the atmospheric adrenaline of adults & kids in flip flops kicking ball made out of used plastic. The energy is competitive and special.
I was strolling in the neighbourhood at some point during my visit and came across this scenery – once again. But this time I was the bystander who stalled, admired and took pictures. Itching to blend in once more, smiled at how lucky they are to be playing on a tarmac floor as I didn’t have such luxury growing up.
A way to pay tribute before my departure was to organise a football match calling on all the Olders & youngers within the neighbourhood I grew up in. People who played a significant part in my life – like literally. They turned up in abundance having conservations with each other on: ‘Last time I saw you was 2yrs ago’ or ‘I haven’t seen this guy for God knows how long‘. We played, had food refreshment, reminisce and went our separate ways. A hobby best described as a language of togetherness.
Two things that comes to mind when someone mentions the city of Florence : Leonardo Da vinci & The Medici family. Well for me anyway. That’s probably because I watched the TV series _ ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ for like 3 times, obsessively.
A show that digs into the history of its people, rulers and at the time known as the city of centre Renaissance. Thus prior to visiting Firenze you’d say I somewhat fairly knew of its history.
If you are looking to party-hard I kindly suggest you look for somewhere else because this is a city rich in medieval architecture, art & poetry. Sadly, as a solo traveller I was only there for 2 days.
I stayed at a hostel called ‘Plus Florence’ (see on map below) which I’d highly recommend for solo & group travellers. Located pretty much bang on at the centre of Florence and its attractions. Reasonably cheap ( £65 for 2 nights), along with a splendid rooftop view, swimming pool and more.
Worth the money! A confined city that you could walk to any designated attraction with ease.
I think the main attraction drawn to most travellers is the Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore. A Landmark Engineered with an unmissable red dome structure that can be seen from wherever you are in Firenze.
I also loved the ‘Ponte vecchio’ arched river bridge with shops literally sitting on top of it structure. There are definitely more attractions to visit such as the likes of Leonardo interactive museum, Pitti palace, Uffizi gallery, David of Michelangelo and more.
I briefly met some amazing people/travellers like myself from various continental destinations and you’d be amazed how much you have in common and how aligned your travelling plans are with theirs. It was indeed a great ‘walking’ experience!
‘Ponte vecchio‘ 2021
This time last year I sold my car and went on a solo travel in Europe. I had just been offered a job which was to start in September, so I had little time to plan this trip. Three weeks in 3 countries was the plan – including different cities/towns within these countries.
Amongst many other cities/towns I visited, Rome stood out for me. Too bad I was only there for two days before my next stop – Paris. This was a new experience, hence I planned exactly how many days I’d be spending in these cities as my flights were booked ahead thus, it wasn’t wise to miss them.
I stayed in hostels and I was flexible booking them as I go paying £20-25 a night which I thought was a bargain for very decent hostels. Did I mention these hostels also have private rooms not just shared dormitory rooms? female, male, mixed & private.
I hopped on a train from Florence and headed for Rome. Prior to that I met some travellers in Florence (where I also spent 2-3 days). Funny enough they were also heading to Rome the same day as me and staying at the same hostel – ‘YELLOWSAQUARE Rome‘ via booking.com.
Other than exploring the obvious tourist attractions such as the COLOSSEUM, TREVI FOUNTAIN, ROMAN FORUM etc I explored various cultural settings, randomly. I remember bumping into an American & a French traveller at a bar – Yellow bar just outside my hostel the same day I arrived that afternoon.
We hit it off straight away and by the time you know we were on a bus to nowhere. That nowhere turned out to be a nice cultural food district destination (I wished I had jotted down the name). We ordered Italian homely food and drinks. Then headed off to TRASTEVERE – another amazing bar district designed like a maze with many bars within its perimeter – Highly recommend.
My main highlight was the YELLOW BAR opposite the hostel on the same street. This bar is famously known by residents and travelers in Rome. You get free discounts on drinks if you stay at the hostel (yellow wrist band) and peak times are between 8pm – 2am.
Day 2 – After exploring during the day I chose to end my night at Yellow bar. I met a lot of travellers from all around the world and the frequency of energy and vibe was pure and organic. I must say I was slightly gutted that I was leaving the next morning. I said to myself I’d be re-visiting this place again.
As part of our Graduate development scheme, we get to explore and be exposed to the benefits of continuing & on-going learning cycle. A cycle that introduces us into the logistics, tools, direction and skills of the industry as well as getting soaked into the company values & vision. Most importantly, the interaction between different types of people all working towards a common goal.
This week’s session was bombarded with loads of fun, brainstorming, physical & mental activities. The main ethos of this was to explore teamwork, communication & leadership skills in order to establish our various strengths and weaknesses and what actions to implement to enhance these traits. Keep in mind some of these activities takes you completely outside your comfort zone – but that’s the whole point, right? You don’t learn or develop if you’re not willing to give it a try.
“What behaviours/skills do you want to learn or develop this week and ‘What concerns, or obstacles might you have regarding this course?” – was asked the moment we arrived. I remember writing down – ‘I want to explore my strengths and weakness by keeping an open mind’.
To name a few: abseiling, tunnelling, Archery, bridge jump, powerboat, rock-climbing, brain teasers, classroom exercises, team projects. Some of these tasks requires leadership where we were all given an opportunity to lead a task.
At the end of each task, the person who led the task receives feedback from the entire team as to what they thought you excelled on and what you could work on, vice versa. This could simply be talking through the safety elements, delegating tasks, communicating, engaging & inspiring the team. The outcome of each task doesn’t need to be successful as it aims to point out more of your attitude, skills and behaviour.
My highlight of the week was jumping off the bridge & the leap of fate (Heights). I can’t swim but thanks to my buoyancy-suit I was able to paddle through my fear of water – I didn’t know the Atlantic Ocean was that salty! Another interesting one was orienteering! where I get to team up with our ‘Director‘ to solve a murder case by running around the town looking for clues – he definitely outran me; but I chose to keep that fact to myself: made me realise age is nothing but a digit. We smashed it in 30mins which was record breaking!!
At the end of the week, we all took with us something invaluable. A shared experience of our highs and lows and how to embrace them. We also took with us action plans regarding things we need to continue to improve by regularly implementing and reflecting on them.
Founded in 1925 by his Royal Highness – Boys school which I was fortunate to spend 5 years of both my junior and senior education. A school of tradition, culture, sports, drama, science, art, music, religious equality etc. However, nothing beats the long-term friendship bond harvested in this school.
Friendship harvested through various means such as getting in trouble, being a class clown, sports, drama or simply just being smart in your class. Drama it was for me.
Yes indeed! I was a young promising stage actor in those days. We competed in National Drama competitions and Won many titles to a point where every school (Boys & Girl) trembled when we approach the stage/s.
My return seven years later urged me to re-kindle this bond. Some of us kept in contact over these years others I haven’t heard from. Since we were boys/men the easiest of ways to link-up was football – as it was our favourite sport.
I organised this prior to my arrival, reached out to those whose contact I have, whom in return then reached out to the others. The word was out in no time to a point where I found it difficult to select the teams and sort out refreshments. Obviously, the place of this link-up was no other than our school football pitch.
Faces I haven’t seen in years showed up, faces that haven’t seen other faces in years also showed up. It was like being in the school all over again. The game was competitive, filled with laughter plus weather was very hot.
After the game, we had refreshments, laughed a lot while we reminisce on the old days and went our separate ways – hoping maybe we would cross paths again. The score was a draw of 2-2 and yes I scored. In such games you can’t have winners so we agreed to keep it as a draw.
A 2017 throwback of me working on an individual project during my last year at college, before going to university. I spent 4 years in college (Level 1-4). When I moved to the UK at age 17 my academic background didn’t translate to that of UK’s.
Hence, I had to settle down for a course at college (in my case Engineering) and worked my way up, to stack up enough points to go to Uni. Keep in mind the UK age demographic for graduates is between ages 21-22 (Degree & Masters). I went to uni at age 21.
As productive I may have appeared on the image above, at the time I was clueless at to what specific type of Engineering I should apply for before going to uni.
I contemplated many times on alternative paths – one of which was an ‘Apprenticeship‘. The opportunity to earn invaluable experience whilst employed, earn money, debt free, a degree and most likely a secured job offer at the end of your apprenticeship.
All within 4-5 yrs. Yes I know you’d probably say what about the university experience? (party, fun, escaping from your parents hassles, making friends etc).
I won’t and I’m not trying to sell you anything, because only you get to choose which path you want to go down or what works best for you. It’s totally okay not to know what route you want to take after leaving school/college.
Most people take a gap year/s to find answers whilst others shoot straight to uni hoping to find answers – some do others don’t.
I currently work for a Civil Engineering Contractor – Dyer & Butler with offices all over UK, within the transportation sector including Rail & Aviation projects.
My self included and fellow colleagues, along with the help of others have designed the company’s first degree apprenticeship scheme to offer school leavers/equivalent a unique structured development programme recognising your uniqueness and supports you professionally and academically .
All you have to do is put yourself forward and apply. Did I regret going to uni? No, I enjoyed most part of it apart from the debt I’ll be paying for the next 30years.
Should I have gone down the path of apprenticeship? If I knew what I know now, possibly. But it’s your call! Academia is marathon not a sprint. To find out more see links below!