The Beauty of being British Asian

All, life, personal

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As a child, I remember being one of two brown girls in my class. I was born and raised in the leafy suburbs of London by my parents – Indian immigrants from India and Kenya. Like most, they tried to retain the culture of their roots when raising their children. They did such a good job at it in fact, that sometimes I feel more Indian than British. Being brought up immersed in one country’s culture but living in another – life as a British Asian is a beautiful blend of the best (and sometimes worst) of both worlds:

It’s the butter chicken and the fish and chips. It’s not being able to handle spicy food (Nando’s lemon & herb everytime). It’s having so many cousins that I couldn’t count them on two hands – let alone one. It’s telling my spelling teacher in year 4 that I don’t know all the English words yet. It’s speaking Hindi and Punjabi at the same time and not knowing when I switch to the other. It’s family gatherings that are filled with (very) loud laughter, big hugs and endless hallway goodbyes. It’s cardamom-infused Indian tea, crispy samosas and sweet mango chutney. It’s my brown skin and British accent. It’s making finding an eyebrow lady a priority when I move away. It’s being called a ‘coconut’ by other immigrant kids. It’s addressing the cultural conflicts. It’s the three day, colourful, big, Indian weddings and the ivory and blush shades of smaller English weddings. It’s bringing the East into the West. It’s keeping traditions alive and challenging those that are archaic and patriarchal. It’s shouting down the phone to relatives in India and being overly polite to strangers. It’s opening a tub of ice cream in the fridge and being faced with frozen daal. It’s blindly respecting your elders as a child and growing up to realise that respect is a two-way street. It’s being racially profiled at airports, but having a British passport. It’s feeling like a foreigner in India and looking like one in the UK. It’s learning about colonial history at home and not at school. It’s cheering on whatever team is playing against England in the World Cup. It’s navigating between the cultural values of my family’s homeland and our adopted home. It’s the snap of a poppadom and the crunch of a bag of ready salted crisps. It’s being a corner shop kid. It’s listening to both the whimsical waves of Bollywood music and the rough rhymes of UK grime. It’s using my Hindi writing skills as a party trick. It’s having the freedom to choose what I do and who I marry, when my ancestors (and parents) didn’t. It’s planning a fusion wedding and adding a new culture to the colourful palette of my life. It’s celebrating Christmas and Diwali. It’s being rich in history, languages, literature and ways of life. It’s strength and resilience. Its open-mindedness and tolerance. It’s being a global citizen. 

– Nikita

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From London to Oxford

All, life, personal

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Just typing that title gave me déjà vu. Yes, I’ve moved again. This time though, I’ve stayed in the UK (despite the unfortunate Brexit timing) and have made the beautiful city of dreaming spires my new home. I’ve been in Oxford for the better part of half a year and so far, noticed a lot of similarities with the big smoke.

I’ll be real with you. Like London, it’s expensive. And, pretty polluted. But, I should add that as a Londoner these things, although real causes for concern, made me feel weirdly right at home.  I’ve fallen in love with the majestic tall spires which dot the Oxford skyline – the university buildings are a dream. The stars even shine brighter here in the green pastures of Oxfordshire and the noise levels are low enough to make me notice the quiet. The cobbled streets and sheer small size of the city remind me of my Dutch home of Leiden.

Since moving, life has gotten in the way of blogging. However, in true new year, new me style – I am determined to write more musings, share more travels and communicate fascinating science and the people behind it.

– Nikita

 

 

Leaving Leiden for London

All, life, personal

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It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last sat down and blogged. Life has changed since then. As I speak (type), this blog post is the result of ignoring multiple reminders on my phone reminding my future self to update my blog *hangs head in shame*. Due to a lot of moving and putting myself and my career first – content on my blog was quiet for a while. Since this blog post is titled ‘Leaving Leiden for London’, I should probably explain.

Last year I was living in Leiden, the Netherlands – one of the many countries I’ve had the privilege of calling home (for now). At the end of 2015, I made the decision to move back to the UK. It’s where I’m from and the place that I left 4 years ago to travel the world in search of well, as cliché as it sounds but, myself. I left as a bright-eyed 21 year old excited to see the world and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I caught my first solo flight to Florida and didn’t look back, moving to France soon after and not long after that, San Francisco, Munich and most recently, Canada and the Netherlands. My blog had a constant stream of travel content as I took every opportunity I was given and ran with it. I started Making Apple Pie From Scratch in 2012 as a result of the new experiences I had abroad and  in order to share the fascinating science I was communicating.

I returned home as a 25 year old woman that pretty much knows what she wants and that the place to get it is back where it all started, in London. Leaving Leiden for London, I began 2016 in my new (old) home and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Fast forward 4 months and I’m now living the life that I envisioned from the start. Working for the brilliant National Physical Laboratory – I communicate science right from the place where it’s done, working closely with the inspiring minds that do so. It’s great to remain involved with European science but to do so with research conducted in the UK, for the UK and the rest of the world. I love the innovative inventions that arise from international collaboration and co-operation in science.

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After years of living and working abroad, it took returning home to realise that it’s the simple things that matter the most. To me anyway. A job that inspires me. My loved ones. A car that I can finally call mine (and practice my driving with)! And a country that I can always call home. Perhaps it’s boring. Perhaps it’s predictable. And yes, at times I do miss the excitement of landing somewhere new, but I know that the world is still out there.

I think that the “quit your job to travel” attitude that a lot of millennial-targeted articles out there have, portray travelling through some very rose-tinted lenses. In my opinion, this approach leaves room to not fully appreciate the life that you have already made for yourself. I hope that by sharing my story, others can relate to and realise that travelling doesn’t have to be a black or white quit-your-job-tomorrow-and-deplete-your-savings- type luxury decision. It can be something to work towards, whilst carving out an everyday life is fulfilling, inspiring and is simply enough. Without that feeling of something lacking.

Moving home has allowed me to set myself up professionally and financially so that travelling will always remain a big part of my life. Because, after changing country every few months, catching a flight every other weekend and packing and unpacking countless times, I grew tired of my ever-changing location and longed for something a bit more normal. And if you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of normal.

-Nikita

p.s check if you ditched your world travels for a 9-5 job too, then this article might resonate with you like it did for me too.

Easter Weekend

All, life, personal, Travel

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This Easter, my folks paid me a visit in (sometimes) sunny Holland. It was a wonderful long weekend filled with cheese, chocolate, Indian food, boat trips and general tourist-like behavior.

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The tulip and cheese museums were a big hit. Unlimited cheese sampling + tulips = a winning combination in my books.

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Standing by the Amsterdam sign without being photobombed by several other tourists is pretty much near impossible on Easter weekend, but I’m glad I finally took a photo by the famous sign after having lived here for over 3 months already!

Easter and food go hand in hand (just like Christmas, calories don’t count during Easter remember)! After a spot of baking, I ticked off two other Dutch delicacies as I tried Dutch pancakes and Hagelslag .

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Nutella and banana is one of my favourite food combinations so I had to get that on my pancakes. Next time, I’ll be sure to try some traditionally Dutch toppings.

Hagelslag is the wonderful rainbow-sprinkled bread shown above. These sugary sprinkles eaten on buttered bread are a common children’s breakfast in the Netherlands, something that I could definitely get used to 🙂

Hope you had a wonderful Easter wherever you are in the world!

-Nikita

The Space Generation Advisory Council

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You may have seen my blog post on the Space Generation Congress (SGC) back in October in Toronto this year. Organised by the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), it’s the place to be if you’re a student or young professional interested in the key issues in space of this generation.

I am happy to say that I have recently been selected as one of the organisation’s Copy Editors. Joined by 5 other peers, we will work alongside the existing Copy Editors to shape the documents and papers presented around the world on behalf of space professionals and students.

 

Comprised of volunteer students and young professionals in the space industry from over 100 countries across the globe, SGAC is the voice of the space generation of today – the space sector leaders of tomorrow. The network connects us to leaders in the United Nations (UN), space agencies and academia. Working in conjunction with the United Nations Committee  on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPOUS), SGAC has the power to communicate ideas across disciplines, generations and oceans.

I’m very happy to join the SGAC team and help to shape the innovative work that is being done here.

-Nikita

Sunday Snippet

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I’ve decided to start posting little Sunday snippets of inspiration every now and then. Sunday to me, is reflective of the week ahead. If you have a productive and positive Sunday, you’re all set for the week. I think that working in any industry, not only in the field of space and science, requires constant self-improvement and self-awareness  something that I think is made easier by thought-provoking quotes such as the one above. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is how I find that I grow as a person and I enjoy reading the occasional inspiring quote or two to remind myself of my goals and ambitions both professionally and personally.

 

This quote in particular really does apply to space too, especially with the bittersweet last few weeks we have had. The challenges and achievements of the Rosetta Mission, the unfortunate Virgin Galactic test flight and the Antares rocket failure demonstrates our need as humans to attempt what we have not attempted before. Making changes and triggering innovation really does take  big, courageous leaps of faith in order to reach what lies beyond our shores.


– Nikita

Road Trippin’

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It’s been a little over a month since my last blog post and I have a very good reason for this. The screenshot below is the route I have been travelling by car since last month. 

 

Impressive isn’t it!? I’ve been making a loop from my home for the summer Montreal, across to the West Coast of Canada and down to the US where I am now. I’m writing this from Buffalo –  a town in Wyoming (McDonalds WiFi is a tourist’s best friend).

 
I’ll be back in Ontario soon and will write a post about my North-American adventures – there’s been a lot to see along the way!
 
-Nikita 

Québec City

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Spending the summer in Montreal means that I’m pretty close to some amazing cities. One of which being Québec City. Last weekend some friends and I drove 2 and a half hours north of Montreal to the beautiful capital city of the province of Québec.

The aptly named city is the oldest European settlement in North America. Winding cobblestone roads are the norm here, so much so that it’s easy to forget you’re in Canada and feel as though you’re strolling the streets of Paris. 

This street in particular reminded me of the Parisian Montmartre. A famed tourist spot – I was told I couldn’t leave Québec City without taking a photo here. 

Montmorency Falls was by far the highlight of the trip. The stunning waterfall flows on the Montmorency River and is 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls. We walked up a winding staircase beside it as apposed to taking the cable car – a decision I at first was hesitant about but the views were totally worth it 🙂


We got pretty up close and personal with the waterfall in this shot! It’s incredible being so close to such a powerful force of nature such as this.

  This area of Québec City is called the Old Port.  What appears to be a castle or a palace in the first photo is in fact a hotel. Le Château Frontenac was built in 1893 and is said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. It certainly is impressive, as are the views from the pier looking out across the Fleuve Saint-Laurent. 

 
It was a wonderfully warm weekend in Quebec and a great break from the busy SSP schedule. We’ve had the opportunity to attend some very interesting panels and events so far and I will write a blog post on SSP life so far very soon 🙂
 
Nikita

O Canada

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I’ve been in the beautiful country of Canada this past week and a half and although the time has now come for me to return to Munich  I thought a blog post would make my trip last a bit longer, through the photos of course.

 I visited downtown Toronto on the first weekend we were here. It’s been 14 years since I last visited Toronto so it was really great to see the city again, this time from a different perspective. 

My sister, Vinita and I tried the surprisingly delicious combination of fried chicken and waffles with Niagara cherry jam, maple syrup and cream at The Drake Hotel. Their brunch menu was so good, and I loved their cute and quirky restaurant style. I definitely recommend it! 🙂

The Canadian $5 note is a little bit cool. Depicting an astronaut alongside the Canadaarm 2 — the Bank of Canada began circulating this new note last year — symbolising Canada’s contribution to space exploration. I’d heard a lot about the new design so was excited to finally see it (and try not to use it)!

                                      

Niagara Falls was a magnificent sight to see. The three waterfalls dotted along the border between the United States and Canada were an incredible shade of turquoise in the Springtime sun — a rainbow even sat on the water which made for a great photo!

I stayed in Niagara-on-the-Lake which is about an hour and a half away from Toronto by car. Famed for its wine and ice wine production, the area is scattered with wineries  as well as the Georgian McFarland HouseFloral Clock and the famous Rainbow Bridge — connecting the United States and Canada.

 

It’s always fun revisiting places you first saw as a child and can now experience as an adult.

 

I’ll be working in Montreal from June this year so I’m looking forward to spending more time in Canada, it really is a lovely country 🙂


-Nikita

Fairytale in Vienna

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 A week or so ago I travelled to Vienna for the weekend with some friends. A 4 or 5 hour train journey away  I’d heard a lot of about the city and couldn’t wait to see the capital of Austria for myself. 

Schloss Schönbrunn, a beautiful former imperial palace is a famous cultural attraction in Vienna. As Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s former summer residence, it’s also referred to as ‘Sisi’s Palace’. The mixture of palaces and whimsical architecture in Vienna gave the city a fairytale feeling.

My sweet tooth couldn’t say no to the famous Sachertorte. Traditionally made in Hotel Sacher, it is one of the most famous Viennese culinary delights. So I had to try some, just for the cultural experience, obviously 🙂

                                      
                                                                                                                 

Vienna was in full bloom, with bustling Easter markets and cherry blossom falling from the trees. As a previously self-proclaimed Autumn person, I think Spring might be my new favourite time of the year. The pastel shades of the season perfectly decorated the city’s blend of old and modern architecture.


The street art beside the Danube River was amazing. I found this painting of a female astronaut and had to get a photo with it 🙂 


Vienna is a beautiful city and I could definitely see myself living there one day. Although, the great thing about living in Munich is that I’m relatively close to quite a few cool European cities.

 

 Next, I’ve got my eye on Italy! 


-Nikita