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Looking Back on 2018: Blizzards, Anthropology & Our Cuban Wedding

I can’t believe it’s time for another pre-New Year roundup post. This time last year I was sitting in our living room, writing about two great milestones in my life: moving to Scotland and getting accepted on a master’s programme at the University of Edinburgh. Well, this year has been a bit more exciting than the last one, for two main reasons. I graduated with a distinction, and I got married.
Before I moved to Scotland, my annual roundup posts were all about sharing the best moments of my travels. I haven’t done much travelling since moving to Edinburgh, mostly because I have spent most of my savings on my degree and rent. Edinburgh is an expensive city, but the good thing about living in a diverse country like Scotland is that you don’t need to leave the country to explore a new place.
This year, however, I finally got to travel to a country that had been at the top of my list for the past ten years or so. And… I also got married there. But before I share more details about this special day, I’d like to look back on some of the other great things that happened to me in 2018.

Getting caught in a snowstorm

This year I got to experience a blizzard for the first time. I wouldn’t call that an achievement, but I am a bit proud of the fact that I braved the weather and got out to take photos in the middle of a snowstorm. The Beast from the East brought the country to a standstill, disrupting transport and shutting many businesses and schools, including my University. Edinburgh became a winter wonderland, and all I wanted to do was walk around the city with my camera.
One morning I got up very early and headed to the city centre to take photos of Princes Street Gardens covered in an unspoilt blanket of snow. Afterwards, I went up Calton Hill for more beautiful shots, and it was there that I found myself in the midst of a snowstorm. The Beast from the East had just arrived. I stood there for about 15 minutes, unable to take shelter, and once the snow eased up a bit I started my way down the hill. I was cold, very cold, so I decided to head back home.
Fifteen minutes later, I got a call from my Douglas.
“Where are you?” He asked.
There was a note of urgency in his voice.
“I’m on the bus,” I replied, still reeling from the excitement of being in a snowstorm.
“The Met Office has just issued a red weather warning. Conditions are about to get very bad.”
I got off the bus three corners away from our flat. When I got to our street, it started snowing heavily again. The wind threw snow at me from every direction. At one point, all I could see was a white haze. I walked blindly towards our flat, and let out a sigh of relief once I made it to the door, only to realise that I forgot to stop off at a supermarket to stock up on food.
Douglas was seriously considering sleeping at the office that night, but he managed to walk it home in the storm. He even stopped at a kebab place to get us some food. To my delight, the Beast from the East lasted for a week, and we got more snow in the first few days of spring.

Graduating in anthropology

In 2018, I achieved my biggest goal thus far – obtaining a master’s degree. Studying anthropology at a world-class university has been a life-enriching experience, which helped me become a more perceptive and confident person. I spent hours sitting at my desk, reading article after article, and writing about an array of topics. Perhaps the most challenging part of my course was writing the dissertation. For four months, all I did was write and read about corruption from an anthropological perspective, which started out as an interesting venture but later turned into a depressing one. At times I asked myself; Why didn’t I choose to write about witchcraft or monsters?
Well, three months after submitting my dissertation I was awarded a Master of Science degree with distinction. It was my proudest moment since climbing Mount Toubkal, but as I found myself in the stunning McEwan Hall, wearing my graduation robe, I realised that what mattered most at that moment was the fact that my family was there to celebrate this special event with me. I was extremely happy to have spent a week showing my parents and sister around Edinburgh, despite the several trips to the same shops on Princes Street.

Visiting Cuba

When I was 16, I fell in love with Cuba. I can’t remember what exactly sparked my interest in the island, although I may have watched Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights a few times when I was in my teens. Two years ago, I spent a summer poring over of a book called Inside Cuba and grew more fascinated with Cuban history. I was 26, and promised myself that I would try to visit Cuba before turning 30.
Well, this year, at the age of 28, I finally got to visit Cuba. The country exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and it left me speechless. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into the words the emotions that Cuba has stirred in me. We soaked up the sun on the beach, walked through streets lined with colourful houses, smoked cigars on a tobacco plantation, and rode a boat on an underground river. In Havana, I found myself absorbing every single detail around me: the cracked walls and beautiful facades with paint peeling off, the animated conversations between street vendors and local shoppers, the occasional silhouette of an old person sitting on an armchair as we walked past open doors and windows.
On our penultimate day in Cuba, I was standing by the window in our hotel room, watching cars driving along the Malecon – Havana’s popular esplanade.
“I’m not ready to leave,”I told Douglas. I later wrote the same thing in a message to mum.
Later that day, all flights flying into and out of Gatwick airport were suspended due to the drone incident. To my delight, we ended up spending two more days in Havana.

Getting married

On the 12th of December, Douglas and I got married on a beach in Varadero. We got up around 8am and went for breakfast at the buffet restaurant in our all-inclusive beach resort, the Royalton Hicacos. Then, we had our usual pina colada and mojito at the lobby bar and later returned to the buffet restaurant for lunch. At 3pm, we headed down to the beach to get wed. It was a sunny day, but it wasn’t too warm. The sea was quite rough and the red flag was up, so we didn’t have to worry about having people in skimpy bikinis and speedos in our wedding photos.
We were wed by a notary, and the wedding organiser translated everything into English. The ceremony was over in 15 minutes – it was short and sweet. We spent the next hour or so taking photos in different parts of the resort, and it felt great to be doing things at our own pace. In the evening, we had a lovely meal at the resort’s beach restaurant.
Our special day was beautiful. We ditched tradition and had a stress-free wedding. More importantly, we had the wedding of our dreams, and we are grateful for the support we have received from our family and friends.

Bidding adieu to a great year

Well, 2018 has certainly been a memorable year, and I hope to achieve more great things in 2019. Meanwhile, I plan to continue sharing informative and fresh content with my readers (expect to see a lot of Cuba posts in the next few weeks!). While I may not be able to travel a lot in 2019, I do plan to see more of Scotland and I look forward to publishing more blog posts about this amazing country.
I would like to wish you all a year filled with happiness, health and success. Remember that you don’t need to travel far and wide or find the perfect job to make amazing memories and have a successful year. Learn a new language, or spend more time with loved ones. But most importantly, follow your dreams, and don’t be afraid to do things differently.
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#experiences

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Daniela Frendo

Daniela Frendo

Hi! I'm a Maltese blogger based in Scotland. I created Grumpy Camel to help travellers connect with places through culture, history and cuisine.

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