Book Review: Me Before You, By Jojo Moyes

The best romance novel that I read in a long time! The book got me glued to it for two days, two working days I might add, and I just couldn’t stop myself until I turned the last page. I need to warn you, the review will contain spoiler alerts and the book does not have a happy ending.

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The story of Will Traynor is presented, a 35 year of man, who was involved in an accident that landed him in a wheal chair, not being able to use any of his members. His family hires Luisa Clark to take care of him and to light up his spirit for a period of 6 months. Apart from learning how to coup with his needs and his hot temper, Lou also finds out about his plans of assisted suicide in Switzerland at the end of her working contract.  She struggles to make him change his mind, but also falls in love with the man who is trying to escape life.

The book brings a different view over the difficulties of a person that has his hole life striped in a second and the pain that is inflicted on both himself and his family. The constant struggle with the physical and the mental pain, the frustration of being dependent of others, along with the way society looks at invalid people, puts in a new light the idea of assisted suicide.

Also a victim of rape, Luisa, learns to let go of her past and exit the comfort zone for Will, she even takes him on a trip to Mauritius, just to make him see his possibilities even in his condition. Unfortunately, she cannot make him change his mind and in the end of the book she stands by his side at the clinic in Switzerland. After his death, he leaves a small fortune to help her go to college and escape the little town they both called home.

Setting aside the cheese love story part, Moyes’s book tackles some sensitive topics: disabilities, rape, depression, life changing habits, family issues, frustration and assisted suicide. We are quick to judge when it comes to the life of others, but we don’t know how we would react when placed in the very uncomfortable shows of theirs. Although the story presents the life of a wealthy family, that can offer Will all the support in the world, yet he decides to refuse this, I cannot stop thinking about the life of the not so wealthy that go through this and are fighting for a chance of life.

My view of the subject of suicide is a subjecting one, since I know people that would have done anything to stay alive and couldn’t due to terrible diseases, and to see the ones that have a chance to live and decide to give it up, it just makes me angry with the latest type.

In 2016 the book is turned into a movie, featuring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), that I am eager to see. Hope I convinced you to give “Me Before You” a chance and see the world of disabled people in a different view.

Traveling, my guilty pleasure

 

Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with the idea of seeing the world. I know it sounds like la cliche, but I have always pictured myself with a suitcase in an airport, waiting for my next flight. It is probably the diseases of my generation and for me the wanderlust means way much more than a hashtag to use on Instagram.

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My first travel experiences I had was with my parents, my mom being in love with the idea of seeing how the world looks. She probably passed this dream up to me and, although she is no longer here with me, I imagine her smiling every time I book my next travel destinations flight.

The first time I took the plane was to go to USA, in 2011 with the Work and Travel program, I was both happy and terrified of the 20 hours flight. From the second I got into the airport, I knew that this would be one of the favorite places to be. I adore staying in the lobby waiting for my connection and analyzing the people around me. Even if some of them are rude I choose to focus on the others, the relaxed ones waiting to go on vacation, the elderly couples that are holding hands or looking over the planes magazines, the suited ones going on business trips or the simple backpackers that are anxious to arrive at their destination, they are all making me smile and enjoy the moment.

Since 2011 I got to see a lot of places and have amazing experiences in countries like : Holland, USA, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Belgium. From each and every destination I have unforgettable memories, that are making my face light up every time I think about them. If I could I would travel to every place from this Planet and even in the outer space, if possible. Can you imagine seeing the Earth from up there???

Unfortunately I have to work, sometimes even 2 jobs, to make my dream come true, but I don’t regret for a second the effort that I put into it. It is one of my principles not to go to the same place twice, perhaps when I run out of new places to go, I will return to the “old” ones, but not before that. I do believe that life is short and that I should take advantage of every second of it.

If I were to choose one favorite place I would say Greece is definitely it and I only got to see Corfu, Paralia Katerini, Thessaloniki, Meteora, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. I am planing on taking a road trip in Greece to unlock the islands from the east coast, but I am not sure when I can squeezes it in. My constant frustration is the limited amount of paid days off that I get from work (21 days we get in Romania) and, as you can imagine, I have only 7 left for this year. Next year it would be even worst, since I booked the flight for 14 days in Thailand and yes, I can barely wait for January to come.

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The perfect moment for me is on the airport, with a big cup of coffee, a good book and my loved one besides me, waiting for our plane to take us to out next adventure. Even if I love taking pictures, I am not constantly reminding myself to enjoy the live site and not to worry about capturing everything for later, later can wait.

What else I learned from my trips is that comfort comes way before looks and that I can also look good in flats and jeans, besides I really don’t care how I am looking in the pictures since I know that happy me is the most beautiful version of myself. Also that traveling light, with only a small suitcase, is much more easy then you can imagine, I don’t need my full closet for a 7 days trip.

For me the world is my home and I would love to be able to move to a new place from time to time. Working in the IT field definitely pays off, but I am constantly having days when I just want to put my things in a bag and go to the sea without the safety net of a stable job. Perhaps one day I will, but for now I am searching the internet for my next flight, maybe it would be Spain, or Malta, or France. I don’t where the next flight will take me, but I know for sure that it will be an amazing experience that I will treasure forever.

Book review: The catcher in the Rye, by J.D.Salinger

Up until the end of the book, I’ve waited for the “good” part to come, unfortunately it never did and Salinger’s book wasn’t what I thought it would be. Written in a manner that for me was extremely unappealing, made me wonder why did I bother to finish it.

The story’s main character is Holden Caulfield, a 17 year old boy from a wealthy family, that is getting expelled from Pencey.  For a few days we get to hear the story of an unadapted kid that is going through a phase of depression.

The story starts with the days before the Christmas break, right before the characters expelling do to his lack on interest in the school topics, managing to fail all subjects apart from English. He leaves the school, goes to New York, the place where his parents live. Gets drunk, breaks into his own house to see his sister. Wants to run from home, but in the end decides not to.

The title has nothing to do with the book itself. It was taken from Holden’s answer when asked what would he like to do as a job: to be a catcher in the rye for kids.

If you are not in a bad mood, this book will definitely help you get there. Finding it in a list of books to read in a lifetime, I wanted to see if it has any substance. For me it didn’t, but it is possible that the manner of writing to just be different from what I enjoy to read.

 

The nice guy myth

Remember when Miranda from Sex & the city said that the ugly guys will treat you just as poorly as the pretty ones? I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately this can also be applied to the nice guys that surround us.

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Before I dig into this, I want to create the profile of the nice guy. Who is  guy? And how can we tell him apart? The characteristic would be as follows: an inexperienced lover, the friend zone candidate, harmless when it comes to women, not the playboy looking kind-of guy, not much confidence in his looks, the IT guy – by now you should have at least one name mind.

But is this type of man really harmless? Is he the Ross of the story? And let’s not forget that even Ross cheated on Rachel when “they were on a break”. Every once in a while I read or hear of the relationship material man that is often described as the guy next door, the nice guy that will bring you flowers and so on. But is this mythical creature living among the humans? Or is he in the elf’s world?

As a woman that is living and working among IT guys, I have to say I am pretty impressed with there skills. Statistically speaking, the guys that work in the IT industry are very much likely to cheat on their significant other. I can guarantee you that those numbers are correct, after a couple of team buildings in corporations I found out that even the nicest one can become an a*shole, especially when there is alcohol involved. And yes, most of them look like Dexter (from Dexter’s Laboratory – of course), yet that is not stopping them.

So what makes them go from the cute puppies to the wild wolves? Well you could have guest: women! A while ago when I was in my single years, I started to receive a lot of attention from one of my dork-is colleagues. He was not the type of guy with whom I would normally go out, but I thought I could give it a try, even if I was breaking one of my golden rules: NEVER DATE AT WORK. He was very indecisive, we would talk for hours on the phone, but he wasn’t so found of really going out with me, he would talk a lot about our future, but we weren’t actually seeing each other much. After a while he got to me, I am not sure what was it about him, but I ended-up getting a few dates out of him. Although I was clearly out of his league, he ended up telling me that he is not sure if he should stop at only going out with me, if he can be with me, maybe he could be with more like me. You can imagine the shock I got when I received that message! He was the only guy that I actually begged him not to break up with me, a mistake that I will never make again! We ended up things even before we started, but even now when he is serious with someone else, he still texts me from time to time “just to see how I am doing”.

Leaving the guard down only because someone looks safe is not a good idea. It took me a while to recover from my hurt ego, more than from my broken hart, but I learned that when it comes to humans, the nice guy will always be that invented character that is dancing along those happy tampon commercials girls in white pants.

Traveling: Unlocking Cyprus

Cyprus is a small island on the border of Europe and Asia, splited between two countries, EU Cyprus and Turkey. Although it is only a small piece of land, it manages to combine two of the most interesting cultures, those of the Greeks and those of the successors of Suleiman the Magnificent. Located in the eastern Mediterranean sea, it is best known for the beautiful blue water that will make you want to return again and again.

I am a big fan of Greece and ever since I heard that I could find part of it in the isle of Cyprus, I decide to book a ticket for the European part. The landing destination, and also the place where I spent the first 4 days, was Larnaca, a small city at the sea shore. Animated during the night, but the best place to chill during the day.

As always, I used AirBnb for the accommodation and our host was amazing. She gave us a lot of tips on where to go and where to eat, just as the locals do. The best place to have the traditional food is Militzis, a restaurant at the sea shore that serves food in huge portions, luckily I had the strait cats to help me finish my plate. A meal in Larnaca was around 10 to 15 euros including a drink and if you want to try a local snack, you can order the Cyprus sandwich, that is made from grilled halloumi cheese and bacon.

For desert you can try the Turkish baclava or the jellies that you can find all over the seafront. Also Cyprus is the heaven of dried fruits, almonds, nuts etc. you can find them an a bargain price all over the city.

As for the best beach to go, definitely the city’s beach is more clean. There is also a fancier one, Mackenzie beach, from where you can see the plains land almost in from of you. The price of 2 sunbeds and an umbrella is 7,5 euros / day and you can purchase them at the beach.

In the last 3 days I went to Ayia Napa, a gorgeous place from where I could see the resemblance to Greece. Here you can find the amazing blue lagoon and the Mediterranean blue water.

Make sure you go on a day boat trip to the ghost town of Famagusta . You will hear the story about the abandoned city, from where the Cypriots had to flee from the Turkish invasion in 74′. Nowadays this city only inhabitants are the people from the Turkish army. Even after 30 years, it is still debatable who is the rightful owner of this forgotten place, that you will get to see from the sea boarder line. On the way there and on the way back you will get to stop to see the blue lagoon, the lovers bridge and the lighthouse. We also had 2 swimming breaks and the lunch included. The price for the trip varies between 15 and 35 euros, depending of the size of the ship and the included options.

For entertainment, you will find plenty of bars, clubs and discos. Unlike Larnaca, Ayia Napa is perfect for sleepless nights. Walking on the club’s streets can be quite hard, since all the animators will try to lure you in, with lots of offers. I had a great time at the Bed Rock Cafe both the bar and the club, where you should have guest, the theme is The Flintstones.

Unfortunately on Ayia Napa, the beaches are few and quite crowded. The most beautiful one is Nissi Beach, but if you rent a ATV or a beach buggy you can go all the way north to the virgin beaches.

The best place to eat would be at Costas Greek Restaurant where the both the food  and the serving was amazing. A local snack that you can have during the day is the Gyros. Ayia Napa is a bit more expensive than Larnaca, the price for a meal varies from 20 to 25 euros including a drink.

In my opinion Cyprus has everything you need for both a relaxing, yet full of things to due, vacation. People here are friendly and always ready to help you. Their English is really good, so the language is not a problem. I hope you will consider it for your new trip destinations. Cheers!

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Traveling : Düsseldorf

The capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Düsseldorf is a small and coquette town that you could easily fall in love with. 

Although it was only part of my trip towards The Netherlands, I decided to spent a day here to enjoy the German vibe. Once again for the accommodation I used Airbnb and had a shared apartment with a race pilot, who was really nice and gave us hints on where to eat in the Solingen region. If you are in the neighborhood, make sure you stop at Alex, a beautiful restaurant with both traditional and international food, beware of the portions, they are huge.

The public transport is really organized, so all you need is to get to a bus or metro station if you ever get lost. We mainly traveled with the S-ban and a small bus and the nice part is that they have a fixed schedule, so you know when you have to be at the station.

Our first stop was the Classic Remise Düsseldorf, the heaven of ancient cars. It is a combination of a showroom and a museum, from where you can actually purchase the cars. I fell in love with an old Mustang, but had to kiss my love goodby since I was not ready for a 40 000 euros commitment.

From the Central station we walked all the way to the Rheinuferpromenade where you can see the old Gothic church and also the white tower. We stopped to have a freshly brew beer on the sideway and to enjoy the beauty of the Rhine river. Make sure you go to the Rheinturm to see Düsseldorf from above. In the tower you will also find a cafeteria, where you can enjoy a coffee with the best view in town.

On our way to the Central station we stopped for a bite at the local marketplace where we had the traditional Bratwurst, a pork sausage in bread with mustard. It is one of the must try foods when you are traveling to Germany. And we also had a tour of the Konigsallee park, that is also on the way to the station.

Although our trip was short, it wasn’t without incidents, we almost lost our plane due to the delays of the buses towards Weeze airport. If you are having your plane from there, make sure you have way to get to it, the buses are every 2 hours and have a half an hour delay almost every day. We were lucky enough to catch a cab driver that was crazy enough to speed all the way to the airport, in order for us to get to the plane in time.

Apart from the incident with the airport bus, we had a great time here and would definitely return, not only for visiting, but also for shopping.

Quality over Quantity

As a Quality Assurance Engineer, is it my job to make sure that the quality of a software is at a certain point before the product goes to the final customer. One of the first rules of a good QA is to always put the quality before the quantity. Naturally I am taking the principles from work into my day to day life and I strongly believe that a happy life is synonym for quality friends, quality experiences and even quality things.

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In the first part of my 20’s, I thought that happiness is found in numbers and I made it my religion to try to gather as much as possible. As I advance in years, I started to feel more and more depressed by the amount of low quality things that surrounded me and that is when I started the cleaning process.

Having now the quality in mind, this is what I’ve learned:

  • Having a lot of “social” friends, but not having any real friends is the biggest mistake that you can ever make.

A few years ago I went on a date with a guy that had 5000 Facebook friends, but not even a single soul to go out for a beer. He only went out with acquaintances and was complaining about not having someone to confess to. His online profile was more important than his happiness, he found more pleasure in 100 likes than in a good laugh with friends.

A handful of good friends can take you a long way! Today I wouldn’t mind having only 10 Facebook friends, because I know that I can call this 10 people at any hour to tell them that I need them and they would be there for me.

  • Spending money on lots of cheep things, instead of a few quality ones, is going to affect your credibility

Remember those fake Louis Vuitton bags that you could see all around the marketplace? The poor quality was screaming at you and they could never be passed for the real ones. This is why you should only purchase either the real deal or nothing at all.

When I was in high school I had a passion for high hill shoes, unfortunately I could not afford the quality ones, so I bough what was pretty. So what if they were uncomfortable? Years latter, I still have blisters from them and even if I am firmly against animal furs, for the shoes I only buy the letter ones. Having a few quality pieces is far more important than having lost of poor quality ones, that can even harm you.

  • Surrounding yourself with lots of things, instead of experiences will catch up with you later in life.

Having the latest iPhone, the newest trend in outfits, the fancy car or the perfect apartment is anyone’s dream, but there are things in life that are far more important. Going on a road trip with your friends, even if you are taking the bus will bring you a lot more value than the new iPad. Going a city break, taking a vacation with your family, going to Disneyland, investing in that business you want, going to a spa etc. and these are only a couple of ideas. Don’t let the years pass with you looked in the tower, you will end up regretting every single item you bought.

  • Settling for less when in comes to a relationship only because you are afraid of being alone

Being in a happy relationship is one of the best experiences that you could have in life. Unfortunately the worst experiences and the horrible heartbreak pain will also come from trying to find that relationship. Many people decide to settle for less because of the fear of going through a breakup or of being single. A few years ago I ended a relationship that was going on for 6 years, the last 2 being the worst. I am not sure if I have been cheated or not, but I remember wanting him to do it, so that I could break free. I was out of feelings for the person and my life was miserable, I gained a lot of weight and all I wanted was to run away from it all.

If you are in an unhappy relation, my story is going to be a deja-vu. Don’t waste your love and happiness. Being single, for me, was 500% better and I don’t regret ending it even for a second.

  • Accepting all the going out offers because you want to be seen with the #squad

Nowadays, a good night for me is one when I stay in my bed, with a good book or movie and a cup of tea, chocolate or even a cocktail. If I don’t feel like going out, the worst decision I could make is to go out and feel miserable. I am pretty much done with getting out of the house only to be seen with a bunch of people, but for some this a way of life.

Mostly women have this problem and, you can see them in clubs, feeling miserable with their phones stick to their hand. I am wondering if they are talking to each other since all the squad is there. Don’t try to impress the others, choose to feel good before looking good in the eyes of the others.

Learning to invest in your happiness is a valuable lesson that you will gain with experience and the price will be the years that will pass over you. Picking the correct option is always up to you and if you were to ask me, you should always choose the quality over the quantity!