Visiting the Wagah Border from Amritsar, India

20180105_155848(1)

I was in Amritsar in January 2018 with my cousin, and while researching the many activities that we wanted to undertake, visiting the Wagah Border and witnessing the flag ceremony between India and Pakistan was something she definitely wanted to do, and I thought, ‘Well why not?’. While hunting around for the best way to get there, I found Jugaadus. When I first mentioned this name to my cousin, she broke out into peals of laughter. So, the word ‘jugaad‘ means, very roughly, doing something very cleverly, or just thinking out-of-the-box. And the person who does this jugaad, is a jugaadu. I think.

Anyway, we booked the tour through Jugaadus, which is a hostel, and this is just one of the many tours it organises for its guests as well as for the general public.

When we got to the hostel, we waited in the clean central living room and then six of us piled into a vehicle with the driver (Vicky) to head towards the border. Once we arrived as far as we are allowed to go with a vehicle (it takes about an hour to drive), we left the car at the parking area, and off we went on foot. That took about 20-30 minutes max – of course this depends on how fast you walk. Once we arrived at the gate, there’s a massive sign that proclaimed “INDIA”. OK, got it. Then it was time for the security checkpoints. My advice: do not carry your bag with you. They won’t let it through especially if it has things like portable battery packs and so on. I had my phone and wallet in my hand and that was it. There’s a separate line to get through for Indians and non-Indians – the latter will have to carry your passport to make it in. I hadn’t carried mine but as Vicky said to me, “your face is your passport”. Haha.

Inside, the division continued. I found – through my own experience and then watching people who followed – that once you walk in, guards will usher you to the dustier, crowded side of the arena if you’re Indian. If you’re not, you get sent to the “VIP” section. Or if you’re Indian and rich/important/kick up a fuss, we saw those get through to the ‘fancy’ section too.

Once you find a seat, be prepared to wait for a bit. Hopefully you’ll have company, like I did, because you can get bored.

Before the actual drill, people are invited to come down to the arena and take part in a few interactive sessions like passing the flag along, and there’s a bit of dancing to the tune of Bollywood numbers, a lot chosen carefully to incite a sense of patriotism amongst the crowd I imagine. On that note, there’s a man with a megaphone screaming out chants and trying to get everyone to join in, and it feels like a competition with the other side on who’s cheering the loudest.

The arena filled up eventually, and then the soldiers came out. The military drill was dance-like with exaggerated movements, stomping and so on, with both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers on either side of the now-open gate mirroring movements. There’s a quick handshake at the crescendo, before the gates slam shut.

I had, in the run-up to researching this visit, read a few accounts where authors had slightly unpleasant experiences but I, luckily, didn’t encounter any.

Would I recommend it? Sure, only in that I don’t know of many borders that have such elaborate shows, and it’s one of those things you should check out if you can.

To book the Wagah Border tour with Jugaadus, click here.

Advertisements

Movie Review: Mamma Mia 2 – Here We Go Again

Ten years after the first movie came out, we have the sequel to Mamma Mia. But does it work? Will it get the movie-goers up and dancing?

The premise is simple: Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) passed away a year before the events of this movie (we are not told what happened) where her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is reopening the hotel as Villa Bella Donna and making her mother’s dreams come true. But there are challenges: her beau Sky (Dominic Cooper) has been offered a job in New York and he is thinking about taking it and not coming back to the island, and her two fathers out of three (Bill Andersen/Stellan Skarsgard and Harry Bright/Colin Firth) can’t make it for the re-opening. And her on-island father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) is grieving for Donna. While we follow Sophie’s journey and her struggles, we are also taken back in time to when Donna was growing up, and how she met the three potential fathers. Does everything work out in the end?

Well, yes. This *is* a feel-good movie after all!

Let’s start with the returning cast. Amanda Seyfried is really good in this one – I really think I preferred her in this movie compared to the original, and I absolutely and unequivocally loved the duet between her and Sky after their phone call where it seemed as though the relationship was at at end. Not only were both their performances heart-breaking (in a good way, I was totally in the moment), but the way it was shot was beautiful.

Sky (Cooper) isn’t in the movie much, much like the first instalment. But I did have a niggle with his contrived plot point: I mean, okay, he came back mid-way but why did he? Fine, every single decision doesn’t have to be explained, but I was genuinely confused with his ‘I couldn’t stay away’ reason, but hey-ho I’m just nitpicking now.

Both of Donna’s friends, played by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters in the current day, were as brilliant as always. And it was amazing to see that their younger selves, played by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, were so perfectly cast, I couldn’t believe it. Both forms of these characters were so in sync, I was well impressed.

And the same goes for young Donna. Played by Lily James (I first discovered her in Downton Abbey), I was blown away by her voice and her performance throughout the movie. Cannot wait to see more of James in the future.

Now, on to the dads. Pierce Brosnan still isn’t necessarily the best singer of the lot (sorry Remington Steele, I still adore you) but he puts on a better performance than 10 years ago. How much he misses Donna can be seen through his nuanced acting, and I felt like I could feel his pain as he looks over her photographs. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard were hilarious, and Firth’s comic timing is still perfection. Quick note about the younger actors who played them: I hadn’t actually noticed them in anything before, but they were great! And such good singers too!

So, Cher is in the movie. When she starts singing, it’s like, OK this is what we were waiting for. She obviously, absolutely nailed every song she performed. I almost wish we had had more of her powerful voice in the movie. Andy Garcia is also in the movie, as the older, still smouldering, hotel manager, and his role in an enjoyable song later in the movie led to so many laughs and cheers in the theatre. I wish so much I could have heard him sing more, though.

Mild spoiler alert, so maybe gloss over this para if you can? There is a touching scene at the end of the movie which left me tearing up. The whole mother-daughter connection (what, you thought it was all about ABBA?!) was strong in the first movie, and is strong here too – especially where we are seeing the parallels between what Sophie is going through and what Donna was dealing with so many years ago. But it all comes to a satisfying, bone-tingling and eye-tearing end when Sophie and Donna share a duet, in a ‘she’s looking down at you from the heavens’ way that worked, that actually didn’t make you think, ‘well this is cheesy’ but made you sing along and cry because that’s how wonderful it was.

OK YOU CAN READ FROM HERE ON, SPOILER AVOIDERS!

The plot isn’t exactly strong and obviously some points seem built just so a song could be sung, but it’s so much fun nonetheless. Since so many of ABBA’s hit songs were used in the first movie, there are some that are repeated (like Mamma Mia, Waterloo, I Have A Dream and so on) but done well enough that it doesn’t matter. Look, I watched this movie right after Mission: Impossible – Fallout which stressed me out so much for nearly three hours, this one calmed me right back down and I left feeling chirpy.

Do you enjoy ABBA, love singing, and want to see a feel-good movie that may make you cry and laugh? OK, here’s your chance.

And stay for the last song where all the characters get to sing and dance together, it’s so worth it.

Movie Review: Game Night

The premise of Game Night is relatively simple: a group of die-hard gamers (who indulge mostly in board games) enter a real-life ‘game’ of their own where the stakes are life or death. And hey, it’s a comedy!

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, and they are introduced to us in an almost Up-esque montage of two people who meet over common interests, bond, and then host game nights forever. Once the cutesy montage is over, we reach a point in their lives where they are trying to have children, but Max is brutally told by the doctor that his sperm are lazy and tells him that it’s also most likely a by-product of his sibling rivalry with his brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler, whom I discovered in Early Edition which I LOVED). Brooks is constantly living the jet-set life much to the envy of Max, but he returns one day and offers to host the couple’s regular game night at his new swanky digs one day. He hires a company to engage them in a real-life mystery game, but that’s when it all horribly goes wrong. Brooks is taken by real goons and, while the group of six don’t realise it at first, they soon catch on that this is playing for the high stakes, where nothing is really transparent.

So I said group of six. In addition to Max and Annie, we have Billy Magnussen as Ryan (who is a character that’s slightly blank and seemingly superficial) who, to this game night, brings along Sarah (played by Sharon Horgan), who is pretty different from the usual kind of date he has on hand. The final two are married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Added to this is the standout performance of Jesse Plemons as Gary, the next-door neighbour of Max and Annie’s, who is their friend Debbie’s ex-husband as well as a cop.

This is a movie with comedic moments, sarcasm, hilarity, and some brilliant deadpan moments. The chemistry between Bateman and McAdams is pretty good, and both their comedic timing is perfectly in tune with each other. Plemons, as I said earlier, steals the show. His character is devoid of any reactions of personality and his blank face and creepy expressions just add to the fun in the movie. And Chandler is great as a rake!

By creating sub-plots for most of the characters, the writers have cleverly pulled off depth and backstory for them, which is nice. There’s a few cool set pieces in the movie, one involving a dog, and the other involving a fairly absurd chase through a huge mansion. The plot isn’t necessarily straightforward though – there are twists and turns, and by the climax scene, it’s almost like the characters are acknowledging that there have been an almost silly number of ‘gotchas!’ – you’ll see what I mean when you see it.

So yes, the story gets absurd at some points. But what works in this movie is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a game night-themed movie that was presumably set out to entertain audiences, and that’s just what it does.

Where to try barre in Dubai

So after my ‘where to Zumba’ and ‘where to learn dancing’ posts, it occurred to me that I’ve also tried quite a few barre classes in Dubai and figured I’d share my experiences to anyone else interested. And if you scroll all the way down, I’ve got my GuavaPass referral code if anyone would like to sign up.

First of all, what is barre? So barre combines a range of disciplines from ballet poses (we are on tiptoes for quite a bit, for example) through to yoga and pilates, along with using weights where necessary. There is the barre that is used for balance for a few reps. It’s quite a workout, one that you do barefoot, or with grip socks. I have scoliosis, but despite that, I am able to work out quite effectively with barre. I’d of course recommend you mention any and all problems to your instructor, but also definitely know your own body. If it hurts, stop.

So here are the studios (and in some cases, instructors) that I like (in alphabetical order!!!):

Cafe de La Danse
Located on Al Wasl Road in Dubai, there is a ‘booty barre’ class and a ‘power barre’ class, which is the intermediate version of the former. I’ve only been to the booty barre classes so far and most of them have been taught by the studio’s founder, Milla Tenorio. There’s a healthy mixture of the barre, weights and matwork, and what I like is during some of the mat exercises, she comes over to help us stretch our bodies, which is great to improve our elasticity and flexibility.

DEFINE body & mind
This studio is in Dubai Marina, within Silverene Tower B. I’m not entirely sure how to get there without going through the Dubai Marina Mall, but I’ve not gone there often enough to figure that bit out yet. This class [titled DEFINE body (barre)] is almost military in its preciseness and approach, and there’s a very clever use of what can be misconstrued as a small space. You pick a spot in front of the barre where the mat, weights and exercise bands await. The music is loud and pumping, and the instructor is tough but encouraging.

DS2dio
So I’ve mentioned this studio before when talking about dance. But I’ve also tried its booty barre class, which is pretty good. The studio, located in Cluster T of Jumeirah Lakes Towers, is smaller, but there’s movable barres so the space is flexible to the various exercises. I’ve done this one just once, but I had a good experience and would return.

Pilates Academy
Located on the 42nd floor or Jumeirah Bay X2 Tower in Cluster X, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, this studio is probably my favourite right now for barre. I’ve been taught by Victoria so far and she is amazing! The studio is spacious, and there’s such an inviting feeling as soon as you walk in. The exercises are tough, but the instructor is an absolute joy to work with. I’m not sure if it’s how green, woody, and open the entire studio is, I just feel uplifted when I walk in. A combination of the music, the instructor’s cheerfulness, and the exercise is why I think I’ll definitely be a regular there.

Yoga House
Really love this studio and its overall aesthetic; it’s located in The Greens area, in building 4 of the Emaar Business Park. It has quite a few – you guessed it – yoga classes, but there’s also a barre offering. I’ve had two different instructors every time I’ve gone there, and both have had different styles yet equally effective in working out the body. I’ve always felt like I push myself to the max and beyond when I do this class, and leave feeling refreshed.

So there you have it, it’s my round-up of barre classes and studios in Dubai I have personally tried and like.

As always, if you’d like to try GuavaPass, click here for my referral code! Enjoy barre-ing, among many other things!

Movie Review: Black Panther

nullIt’s been a while since I saw Black Panther, but I’ve been:

  • (a) too busy to pen all my thoughts down
  • (b) letting these thoughts percolate into something more cohesive than: ‘OMG THAT WAS AMAZING’.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, have a look at the trailer before moving on… I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

So here’s the basics: Black Panther sees the return of T’Challa whom we saw in Captain America: Civil War, where we witnessed the death of his father, the king of Wakanda. In this movie, he returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to assume his role as king. But an enemy of the state returns, and he must work with his friends and allies to keep both Wakanda and the world safe.

This is possibly one of my most favourite Marvel movies yet. What struck me straight off the bat was the visual oomph this movie possessed. Not only how everything looks from landscapes, architecture, and overall set design, but also clothes. I’m not exactly someone who notices outfits in movies, but the vivid colours and designs lent themselves to the story. It’s not just that, but the music is beautiful. Beyond the fantastic work by Kendrick Lamar on the songs, the background score is also fitting. It’s a great way of showcasing how music and design enhance storytelling.

The characters are equally vivid. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa is restrained, and sometimes I wanted him to break free of those restraints but as the movie progressed I realised that actually added to his nuanced performance. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger was brilliant; he showcased a range of emotions from rage to sensitivity, to cruelty with aplomb.

The women though. Oh. My. Goodness. These are not women who need to be rescued. These are not women who could just as well be written out of the plot. These are women who are an integral part of the story and that was absolutely amazing. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, who plays a spy/activist/protector-of-all. She’s also the woman T’Challa loves, but isn’t defined by it. She fights alongside and without him, she is there to support him but is there to protect Wakanda and all that she holds dear.

And what can I say about Danai Gurira’s character Okoye? I’m not going to lie, I do not like her character in The Walking Dead, so I was almost ready to dislike her here. No such thing. Her role as a warrior and the leader of the all-female troop of bodyguards is pretty cool. I loved her sass and her complete dedication to Wakanda.

But for me, Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, was the best. She is intelligent, smart, irreverent (and has amazing outfits omg), and is the backbone to her elder brother. Played by Letitia Wright, she is funny, has these great one-liners and is responsible for a lot of laughs in the audience when I watched it. She is integral to so many plot points, and her portrayal of this cool geek was on-point.

Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue lend admirable support, as does Winston Duke as M’Baku, who was more or less an antagonist but then rallies around for the good of Wakanda. There are many more well-written characters with not as much screen time, but were important to the plot, from Angela Bassett as the queen mother, to Forest Whitaker as Zuri, and Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi.

I clearly found the movie impressive, but my only niggle is with the slight abruptness of a certain moment at the end of the final battle sequence, but that’s it.

Something else that’s absolutely relevant and beautiful about this movie is its diversity and inclusion; it’s something many others have written about so I’ll let you explore that on your own (as a starting point, read this piece by TIME).

Can’t wait to watch the movie again, if I’m honest!

I mean, even Michelle Obama loved it!

Book Reviews: Discworld 36-41

And we’re back! This is the final installment of my Discworld reviews. I set out on this mission in January 2016. Between life, work, and reading other books, it’s taken me two years to go through the entire Discworld series. It’s been a fantastic journey, filled with laughter, lessons learned and some bittersweet moments too. I will take a break from Discworld for a bit, but I’m sure it’s something I can return to, time and time again…

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20, Books 21-30, Books 31-35

Making Money: Discworld, #36

Moist Von Lipwig returns in this book, which many might assume (somewhat correctly) is a repeat performance of Going Postal. Well, it sort of is. After his success with changing the fortunes of the post office, Lord Vetinari ropes in Moist yet again – this time to fix the fortunes of the Bank. There’s a rather old, wicked woman, golems (obviously), and a few strange characters in the bank. It’s a typical Pratchettian Discworld novel, and while some may feel like there’s a sense of repetition, it’s actually still ridiculously enjoyable.

Unseen Academicals: Discworld #37

While this this is part of the Rincewind series, I was thankful that he wasn’t the central focus in this book. Rather, the focus is on all the wizards at the Unseen University, who might have to resort to leaving their comfortable space to engage in…physical activity *shudder* – football. And while this is ongoing, a Romeo/Juliet is playing out against the background of this sport, unbeknownst to the wizards. And then there’s Nutt…who is he? Or rather, what?! I found the book slightly long in places, and some jokes a bit flat – but it’s still an enjoyable read.

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices: Discworld #37.5

This is an online-only piece, and can be accessed here. I was a little confused by the appearance of the Dean, since he was absent in the last book (#37) due to his defection to another university. A short read, but entirely missable – really not that entertaining, and slightly pointless.

I Shall Wear Midnight: Discworld #38

The fourth Tiffany Aching book shows her grown-up (I think she’s 15 or 16 in this book?) and as the Witch of the Chalk takes care of many people. Roland is also back, but what’s this? Their relationship has slightly changed, because he’s engaged! Letitia is his fiance, and there’s more to her than anyone thinks – and Tiffany can’t help but like her when she meets her. I have begun to love the Nac Mac Feegles more than ever before; I initially found them annoying but I’ve found them more and more endearing as the books went by. Not my most favourite Aching, but a good one.

Snuff!: Discworld #39

Ah Vimes. A really good, satisfying Vimes adventure – and his final one. Sybil finally manages to drag Vimes off to her ancestral home, which he, of course, now commands. He hates it but Vetinari signs it off, and off he goes. While there, he feels like something is afoot, and he gets embroiled in an adventure involving goblins and shady landowners. What I loved about this book was the continuation of themes of acceptance and diversity. Vimes fighting for what is right, rather than following the status quo. I found the river climax fairly lengthy but once that was over it got interesting again.

Raising Steam: Discworld #40

The final Moist Von Lipwig adventure, this one was pretty satisfying. The railway is here, and it’s ready to power its way through the Discworld. Connecting Ankh-Morpork to Quirm, to Uberwald, and beyond… I enjoyed reading of Moist’s adventures beyond the Ankh-Morporkian borders, and it was nice to see yet another species – goblins – continue to make their mark felt in the series. Plus, the appearance of characters like Nobby Nobbs, Colon, Cheery Littlebottom and so on on the side are welcome. Loved the ‘reveal’ at the end, although I’ve suspected it for a while, this is definitely one to read and cherish. Ties up the Watch/Moist side of things nicely enough… considering it’s the last we will see of them…

The Shepherd’s Crown: Discworld #41

Finally… the last Discworld novel. It’s not his best book, but it’s a pretty near perfect end to the series, even though, as the afterword reveals, we will now never know about the new adventures he was clearly planning. The book has some goodbyes (keep tissues handy), and some new characters creep in. I’m grateful to have been able to read this book, because it brings together so many beautiful elements across the entire Disc-verse. Thank you Sir Terry Pratchett ❤

Note: there is a 39.5, called The World of Poo but I wasn’t able to obtain a copy, so haven’t penned anything on it.

Travelling to Tbilisi, Georgia? My tips!

Georgia (in Europe) has been a bit of a hot-spot for a while now; everyone I know has been, or is planning a trip. The country offers visa-free travel for many countries, visa-on-arrival for many others, and has a simple e-visa process; it is definitely climbing up the list of destinations to visit.

Plus: for those travelling from Dubai (which is where I travelled from, obvs), there are direct flights with flyDubai, which is pretty convenient.

Georgia, as a country, certainly has a lot to offer. While I used Lonely Planet’s guide (from my library, woohoo), I also booked a variety of tours to find my way around the country. One was Taste Georgia (which I’ve written about here), and also Culinary Backstreets (post to come, will update the link when it’s ready). Unfortunately, I wasn’t there long enough to go beyond Tbilisi and Kakheti, but on my next trip, I hope to visit other areas such as Kazbegi and Batumi. On my list!

Now, when in Tbilisi, here are a few things you can do (not necessarily related to food):

Go on a free walking tour of the city…

…and you’ll see things like this:

I found this free walking tour after some web searches, and I’m so pleased I tried it. We met at the spot mentioned on the website, and Anna was our guide for the day. We walked across the Peace Bridge (the first photo on this post) to Rike Park, we took a ride up in the cable car to take some photos under Mother Georgia, and scrambled over to the Narikala Fortess where we overlooked the Natural Botanical Gardens.

And of course we saw many more things, before winding up in front of the “I heart Tbilisi” sign right opposite the Metekhi Bridge, where we took a photo with Anna. What I loved about it was the way she shared facts about culture, history, architecture, food, and so much more, into the few hours we spent with her. It was easily one of the most informative ways in which to learn more about Tbilisi in particular, and Georgian culture and history overall. I’d really recommend taking this walk early on in your trip – definitely a must-do.

Take the funicular up the mountain!

I’m a sucker for cable car rides, funicular railways, and all that sort of thing (I mean, I gratuitously took it while in Montmatre on Christmas Day 2016 while I was perfectly capable of walking, but that’s another story). So when I heard there was not just a cable car (which I’d taken during the free walking tour – see above), but that there was also a funicular… I could’ve screamed with joy. I rather think I did! The funicular takes you up to Mt Mtatsminda – you can obviously enjoy the views on the way to the top or back down, but there’s things to do once you’re up there. For one, there’s a building at the point where you disembark to eat and drink, and then you can walk further into the park, which has rides, a carousel and so on for entertainment. At the top, you’re also really close to the 274.5m-high Tbilisi TV Tower.

Take a touristy bus tour

Before you decide to do this, I will say that it’s quite a ‘touristy’ thing to do, and there are a lot of buses carrying out this route.However, it does cover quite a bit of ground and takes out the hassle of finding your own way to some of these sites. I found Holidays in Georgia on Facebook, along with a schedule of its tours and decided we should try it out. I used Facebook Messenger to buzz the company and a rep responded very quickly.

I walked off Liberty Square into one of the side streets – Kote Afkhazi – and I found the office where we could purchase the tickets. We bought a bus tour going to Mtskheta, Jvari, Gori, and Uplistsikhe. The tour started with the Jvari Monastery, from where you overlook the old city of Mtskheta.

Then we headed over to Gori, whose claim to (dubious?) fame is hosting the Stalin Museum. It was quite, quite odd if I’m honest – but it was a fascinating insight into the personality. Finally, we were at Uplistsikhe, which is basically a sprawling complex, with structures cut straight into the rock. There’s a lot of walking to do here, but the views are breathtaking, and it’s just awe-inspiring once you’re there.

20160702_135424

The trip lasted the whole day – and it was a convenient way to see a lot of the sights without having to worry about transport.

Other than this, let me know what else I need to do in Tbilisi the next time I visit! Or where I should explore within Georgia next.

20160630_151447

Book reviews: Discworld #31-35

And we’re back!

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20, Books 21-30

Monstrous Regiment: Discworld, #31

Can I say that this is absolutely my favourite??? I read this via a copy from my library, and I need to buy my own copy. There’s a war ongoing, and Polly’s brother Paul has been missing since he joined up. She decides it’s time to find him and the only way to do that is join the army. The problem? They don’t accept women. So she cuts her hair, wears male clothing and adopts ways of behaviour that include burping, scratching and walking in a ‘male’ manner. She signs up, along with a vampire, a troll, a zombie, and many more odd members. As she goes along with the charade, she finds that everyone is hiding their own secrets – and learns the value of a well-placed sock! Pratchett was a feminist, really, and it comes across in this book. Regular characters from Discworld have cameos, like Vimes, Willam de Worde and more. This book is the third in the Industrial Revolution sub-series.

A Hat Full of Sky: Discworld #32

The second Tiffany Aching book is excellent. I know I wasn’t enthusiastic about the first, but this one is brilliant. I went in with zero expectations and really liked it. Tiffany is such a resourceful young girl, and Granny Weatherwax such a wise woman – having them almost ‘work’ together was a joy to read. Tiffany is sent to apprentice with Miss Level, but finds that something is following her. The Nac Mac Feegles have sensed this too, and eventually go off to rescue the big wee hag.

Going Postal: Discworld #33

Forming part of both the Industrial Revolution and the Moist von Lipwig series, I enjoyed reading this book the second time around, about five years after I read it the first time. Moist is a 26-year-old expert con-man, who has literally and figuratively reached the end of the rope – or has he? Lord Vetinari steps in, and Moist is given another shot at life – as the man in charge of the now-defunct Post Office. With the Grand Trunk Company more sinister than ever, will Moist be able to resurrect the Post Office and make it profitable? In a way, now that I’m reading the Discworld books in chronological order, the more I appreciate Vetinari. His character is impressive, and the way in which he masterfully deals with the ‘enemies’ of Ankh-Morpork, while oddly enough knowing whom to give second chances to, is just applause-worthy.

Thud!: Discworld #34

Another one from City Watch, this one has a new character in it: a vampire joins the Watch! In the book, politics is thrust upon Vimes much to his annoyance, where he’s forced to hire Sally, and also deal with a problem between the dwarves and trolls when the subject of Koom Valley comes up. While the political arc is actually pretty interesting, it’s the human elements in the book – as with the others – that keep you engaged. Angua showing her insecurity, in a way, of Sally’s preening for Carrot, who’s oblivious to everything but the case and Angua’s well-being; Vimes wanting to be home at 6pm every day so he can read a book to his son; and a troll who just wants to understand what’s happening around him… The conclusion is pretty amazing, and hey, Death makes an appearance!

Wintersmith: Discworld #35

We’re in the third Tiffany Aching book, and I have slowly warmed up to this character. In this book, she makes a mistake. And because of it, the Wintersmith has fallen in love – with her! But this is causing havoc to the natural order of things, and it’s up to Tiffany to fix it and bring back the person he was meant to dance the dance with. Super happy to see Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg back again. It’s a bit of a coming-of-age story of sorts, but while it was a good read, it wasn’t a memorable one – for me.

Note: there is a 34.5, called Where’s My Cow? but I wasn’t able to obtain a copy, so haven’t penned anything on it.

Put those dancing shoes on – in Dubai

OK so I’ve always loved dancing. It’s why I enjoy Zumba as a form of exercise so much – it combines dancing and music to create a great workout. But I’ve already told you about where to try Zumba in Dubai (and I’ll keep updating that post as I try – and like – more places, so keep checking), so this isn’t about that. It’s about dance.

If you pop into my YouTube search history, apart from Stephen Colbert, John Oliver etc, you’ll find choreography videos. I discovered them quite by accident one night, and since then I’ve been hooked.

Some of these are ridiculously mesmerising – this one with Matt Steffanina and Dana Alexa is just mad cool.

And I mean, I’m currently in love with this choreo by Phil Wright – linking my tweet so you can click through both videos of the same song:

And for good measure, watch this choreo all the way to the end where he proposes to his girlfriend mid-filming – the choreography is great + it’s so sweet!

So while Zumba was satisfying my twinkle toes, I needed more. So far I’ve tried and liked the following two places. As with the Zumba post, I’ll update if I find more – and more importantly, like them. If I don’t like it, I won’t recommend it OR even bother giving it a bad review.

For actual choreography classes…

…head over for the Dance Pak DXB class, hands down. Held at Train SF in Al Quoz, this class is easily something I now look forward to every Sunday through to Tuesday. Nicole Olaivar, who teaches the class, is ridiculously inspirational. Her dance moves and facial expressions while dancing are mesmerising. She’s great at teaching steps and choreo, and also pointing out very honestly where we mess up – so that we can improve. Sunday and Tuesday are the choreo combined with twerking and strength building. She also now does one hour of dancing without choreo every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Give it a go (if you plan on joining GuavaPass btw, my referral code is at the end of this post)!

For some reggateon…

…head to DSt2dio. There are classes on Monday and Wednesday, with a great teacher and dancer, Juan Saturria. There aren’t specific songs/dances which you learn class on class; rather, this is more about the movements and steps in general that comprise the art form that is reggaeton. He has a way of teaching us the steps and movements in a way we can understand and always performs the entire dance once for us at the end so we can record and practice on our own time too. This studio offers quite a few dance classes, and while I haven’t tried all of them, if they are of the same calibre, I think it’d be totally worth it.

Both these classes are on GuavaPass, so if you want to sign up, here’s my referral code:  http://guavapass.com/refer?t=DevinaLovesGuava609

Discworld Books #21-30

Discworld Books #21-30

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

OK so it’s definitely been a while since I updated this. But here are the next 10 (instead of five) in the Discworld series. I’m currently reading #33 – not long until the end!

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20

Jingo: Discworld #21

This is part of the City Watch series, and it’s essentially quite anti-war – which is great! Ankh-Morpork and Klatch look like they’re going to war, and it all gets messier and messier by the day. Vetinari has a meaty role in this one, and we get to see Leonard of Quirm get involved as well. Very pertinent, as using words and comedy, Pratchett deals with the issues of war, racism and much more ‘real world’ to get a point across.

The Last Continent: Discworld #22

OK I actually didn’t like this, which is surprising. I rarely NOT like a Pratchett book, I just think they’re average. This one, however… So it’s the sixth in the Rincewind series, which is already frustrating because if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I don’t like Rincewind very much! So this book is based in a continent that is suspiciously similar to Australia, but I felt like the jokes fell flat and it seemed all a little bit forced. As if it was easy to pick stereotypes or common jokes for this one. I’m also not 100% sure what the plot was all about!

The Sea and The Little Fishes: Discworld #22.5

A short story with the Witches of Discworld – I highly, highly recommend you read this. It’s focused on Granny Weatherwax and the annual Witch Trials, which she has been winning year after year after year. This year, the other witches want her to sit out. And then Granny Weatherwax turns terrifyingly…nice…to everyone. Find out more, you will enjoy this.

Carpe Jugulum: Discworld #23

I LOVED THIS BOOK! This is the sixth in the Witches series within Discworld, and it was an absolute joy to read. So, King Verence of Lancre and Magrat have had a child together, and as part of the celebrations, the Magpyrs of Uberwald show up – with his Verence’s invite of course. But these are ‘modern’ vampires, who like the sun and eat garlic. And they don’t want to leave. Agnes Nitt has a meaty role in this one, and of course, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg jump into the fray to save their home from the vampires. If there’s ANY vampire fiction you must read, make it this one. Plus: I’ve just found out this is the last of the Witches series (but not the last you’ll read of the Witches, so never fear)!

The Fifth Elephant: Discworld #24

Another one from the City Watch – I really, really enjoyed this book. I think it’s because Carrot and Angua have some meaty roles in this one, and they’re among some of my favourite characters. In Ankh-Morpork a scone is stolen from the Dwarf Museum, and while the Watch are trying to figure out why, off to Uberwald goes Vimes and Sybil as representatives of Ankh-Morpork. It’s time for the Low King of the Dwarfs to be crowned. But Angua mysteriously disappears and Carrot, naturally, tries to find her. And…they head for Uberwald too. What happens next, amidst diplomacy, werewolves and vampires? This book is an absolute blast.

wp-image-971473064.jpg
My well-thumbed copy

The Truth: Discworld #25
OK so I’m totally biased with this book, purely because of my chosen profession. William de Worde (on that note, I just LOVE all the character names in the Discworld books). BTW this is part of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ series, which we’ve already come across with ‘Moving Pictures’, the tenth book in the overall Disc-verse. So de Worde is a person who sends reports, if you will, of happenings in the city to a number of people who pay him for it. And then, somehow, almost by accident, he ends up running Ankh-Morpork’s first newspaper, and becomes a journalist, with his nose to the ground for a good story. And then, there’s a murder… Honestly, even if you don’t like or read Pratchett’s Discworld series, definitely pick up this one if you work or are associated with the media industry. It’s such a fun story, with elements that you might actually identify with!

Thief of Time: Discworld #26

While this is part of the Death sub-series, there was more reading time for Susan, Death’s granddaughter than Death himself. That’s fine in itself, but I didn’t enjoy this book that much. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I think I felt that the characters were going through the motions and there wasn’t much development or chemistry between them. In this book, a clock that could potentially stop time is being built, and the Auditors are involved. Susan sets out to stop them, and we even visit – through Death – the other members of the Riders of the Apocalypse. Nanny Ogg also makes an appearance – which was very cool btw.

The Last Hero: Discworld #27

So it’s another Rincewind book. It wasn’t all bad though (see: previous comments on not enjoying Rincewind books) – it’s tempered with the presence of Heroes. It’s time for Cohen the Barbarian to go on his final quest, with a band of old friends. They set off for the highest mountain within the Discworld – to meet the gods! The Last Hero is Cohen, who is determined to return to the gods something that the First Hero stole. And because Vetinari believes this will bring about the end of the world… he’s determined to stop them. With the ragtag team of Captain Carrot and Leonard of Quirm – and unfortunately, Rincewind – and assisted by Ponder Stibbons. Do they succeed?

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents: Discworld #28

I believe this is the first young adult novel that Pratchett wrote, and I absolutely loved it. Think Pied Piper with a Pratchett twist. Maurice the cat can talk (and we have encountered talking animals in the Discworld before) and so can the rats he hangs out with. This motley crew works with a young boy to scam towns or villages into thinking the boy can get rid of a rat infestation with his cat. But one town isn’t as straightforward as it seems… there they meet a young girl who joins them on an adventure which leads them to a mysterious and strangely powerful monster that no one can see. It’s funny as always, and despite being a young adult book, it does deal with fairly dark or serious themes – but then, quite a few Pratchett books do that. A book I’d really, really recommend.

Night Watch: Discworld #29

Part of The City Watch series, this is potentially one of my favourite City Watch books for the pure human drama. In this book, Vimes and his team were in pursuit of a serial killer, and in a series of unfortunate events, both are, essentially, thrown back in time. To a specific point in Ankh-Morpork’s bloody history, where Vimes – shall we say – meets people from his past. But will his actions change the  future? We shall see. The time travel element adds a nice twist, and it’s a book that will make you think, and maybe cry. Enjoy it.

The Wee Free Men: Discworld #30

This book marks the introduction of a new sub-series within the Discword: Tiffany Aching. A new witch! It’s defnitely aimed at a younger reader (I mean, it was in the young adult section of my library), so I’m not sure it was completely my cup of tea. However, as in Pratchett tradtiion, the writing is excellent. In this book, Tiffany finds herself working with the Wee Free Men, the Nac Mac Feegle who live in the Chalk (where she lives) to find her kidnapped brother. To do this, they must venture into Fairyland, and face the Queen of the Elves. What I really liked about this book was Tiffany’s characterisation – she’s a no-nonsense, sensible girl who is extremely curious and resourceful. It’s a great way to introduce a younger person to the joys of Terry Pratchett, and with a strong, intelligent female character no doubt. However, toward the end, I felt like it was a bit tedious to read, and I skimmed over a couple of pages.