25 February 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality!

I'm back studying at UCB and I'm also back living in Birmingham for the new semester. There's been no jumping on the PATH train to New York City these days, what's my life been reduced to?! Well, I have found my change of location and working quite a struggle, something of a culture shock! It's time get to Birmingham life and back to my student reality! I'm ready BB!

I won't lie the first few weeks after I got back to England were quite challenging, I was so excited to come back from America that I forgot how I would eventually grow to miss my Lafayette Street life within the Ironbound District. My university belongings were gathering dust, quite literally for they had been sitting in box from when I moved out of Holder House in January 2012. Being back with my family has been precious, even now in February I look forward to the Christmas period due to being in Newark, New Jersey the previous year! I don't have to walk to Newark Penn Station during the early hours of the morning anymore to catch my airport bus but deep down I actually miss it. Birmingham is doing a sterling job of distracting me during this crazy time of transition, moving away to somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean is madness! Newark was yesterday, now my degree studies begin again!

I'd been rather lazy in Birmingham before I jetted off to Newark, USA for my Industrial Placement at Newark Liberty International Airport. Fresh from a year full of excitement and exploration I'm now on a hunt to get the best and even more from my student city and from hometown as well, I plan to make the make the best of my student loan to help me achieve that. New York City used to be my playground but I never really went out to nightclubs, looking back on that faux pas from my U.S life that I never went out all that when I was in Birmingham before placement. That was yesterday, so I'm now pledging to get back out there on the Gay scene in Birmingham and just enjoy myself at the weekends because I'm tiring of the Freshers scene If I'm honest. I know for a fact that Birmingham student life this time around will be different and even more enriching compared to my original semester in 2010. I'm ready for a change, It's time to put Newark to sleep for now. 

I'm now living in Birmingham again after one year, gosh this time around it feels strange. The everyday things are becoming more familiar, but this city has changed so much over the past twelve months. Now that this Blog has flourished beyond all of my previous expectations I'm confident my first semester back at University after placement will provide some colourful times that create great reading for 'Desperately Seeking Adventure'. As mentioned before I want to get the most from Birmingham, aiming to discover sides of this city that I previously haven't seen. Let's just say that I have accomplished good things so far. I have recently been to the Eastside and the Jewelery Quarter, forget the world because Birmingham's my oyster!

Adjusting back to lectures has been difficult, I'm not going to lie but at the beginning of the new term I wanted to get on a plane back to Newark! Honestly! Managing Human Resources and International Travel Operations! Give me back my Virgin Atlantic uniform back so I can work the Clubhouse again! I'll take on the most angriest of passengers to get out of these modules. I'll be fine because I have no other choice not to be, life is life so I can hope for the best! Parlez-vous Fran├žais? I have taken on the challenge to learn French again, mind you I haven't properly learnt French since secondary school! Thank goodness for the Maltings Halls of Residence, that place keeps me grounded and keeps things interesting. By any means I know that this semester will be a game changer!

Getting back out into Birmingham has been a pleasure, I have been able to reconnect with friends that I had not seen for over one year! Kelly, my best friend who's originally from Hong Kong has reintroduced me to the joys of Bubble Tea. Caffe Chino, a cute Oriental cafe was shown to me by Kelly just the other week, I had no clue that this place even existed! Transporting me back to my nights spent within the crazy of New York City's Chinatown I appreciated having somewhere like Caffe Chino a short walk from my Halls of Residence. I'm looking to visit my fellow intern and friend Paolo, who lives in Huddersfield so I better get looking for a coach because those trains are much too expensive for my student budget! Not forgetting Tom, my other British intern and friend from my airport days, I'll be getting to his hometown of Northampton soon after Huddersfield no doubt. Oh, I do miss the Realness of Newark!

So, as it stands now I have eighteen months remaining at UCB, but what I will do after I graduate is another question entirely?! I have my eye on some Cabin Crew job openings with Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways but anyone of them would be an amazing job opportunity to snatch! Fresh from my previous airline based work placement I have toyed with the idea of applying for Cabin Crew with Virgin Atlantic Airways to use my previous experience as an advantage. I have to keep my options open and my head in the game because I still have three semesters and a dissertation to compile, I'll worry about getting a job when graduation beckons. Getting back into life and dealing with reality after my placement in America hasn't been as easy as I previously thought it was going to be, I'm good with being back in Birmingham because I know its not forever and I have the opportunity to seek adventure somewhere else in the world when the time comes! Yes!

Bitch, Get It Together! 

Joseph Harrison

16 February 2013

Caffe Chino: Birmingham's Oriental Cafe

A few days ago my friend Kelly took me to a charming Oriental cafe called Caffe Chino. Serving Bubble Tea and a whole range of different Oriental bakes I present a hidden gem within Birmingham's Chinese Quarter. Serving me something that I became quite accustomed to during my trips to NYC's Chinatown! Let's get down to Caffe Chino! Just make mine a HK chilled brew B!

I recently returned to Birmingham because I spent one year away in Newark, New Jersey for my Industrial Placement. Yes, I have missed Birmingham so I thought now with my blog almost reaching its first birthday I wanted to seek and discover other places in Birmingham, the first time around I was about the party! I accepted a visit to Caffe Chino with my friend Kelly to see what all the fuss was about. I can now say that I'm glad I discovered this Oriental cafe when I did because I can appreciate the sweet treats that are for purchase there. Tucked away down Cathay Street is the home of some seriously tasty Oriental treats and Bubble Tea. Being formally reintroduced to Southside I took a chance on Caffe Chino, I wanted some Bubble Tea to remind me of my nights spent within the crazy of NYC's hectic Chinatown. Oh, Southside served greatness, of course Kelly found a winner! Get it together Brum!

Caffe Chino's cutesy image didn't exactly take me back to the harsh streets of New York City's Chinatown for it gave me a new perspective that this new Birmingham chapter was actually happening! Settling back into student living I was itching to see something new, I had previously been around the city centre of Birmingham for the first time since I moved back to my halls of residence. I wanted to adopt a new mantra 'see more, do more' because my previous semesters hadn't been very eventful during the daytime, I was going to endorse the nightlife but wanted to see more interesting finds like Caffe Chino. Being connected with the Gay Village in Birmingham I recognised that the Chinatown would be a useful place to get to know better, if I'm spending time there during the night I can make time during the day for some Chinese food and then finish with some treats at Chino's. Plus, catching up with a good friend is the best excuse to have a treat! Yes, Southside rocks B!

Making our orders I was feeling in a reminiscent mood about my first discoveries of Bubble Tea from NYC, so I choose a cold Hong Kong style Bubble Tea. This ice cold tea smoothie tasted lovely even if it had quite a bitter aftertaste, but I know that honestly it was worth every penny! Accompanying my Bubble Tea was a piece of heavenly cheesecake, this wasn't just any Cheesecake for Chinese cakes are made using different methods to make the cakes taste sweeter. If truth be told I had never had a cheesecake that tasted so good before! I loved my Oriental inspired Cheesecake, this Chinese Cheesecake had a very light texture that enhanced the cake's flavours because it tasted great! Obviously I had been to Birmingham's Chinese Quarter before as I have eaten at some of the many restaurants over the years but I never knew Chino's was there! Birmingham, I'm going to pay attention to you now I'm back!

Birmingham's Chinese Quarter has clearly been present for some time but has a more small community feel compared to other Chinatown's I have previously been to. I believe that each Chinatown throughout England, America, the Netherlands and other more further afield places have differences that gives a sense of individuality and charm. It goes without saying that Birmingham's Chinese Quarter should keep doing what it does! I've not paid a whole lot of attention to Birmingham's Chinatown whilst I have been living in Birmingham but I pledge to change that notion. The chattering of the Mandarin and Cantonese languages could be heard all around, during our visit to Caffe Chino it wasn't difficult for us to hear a Far Eastern styled conversation behind us, I don't understand those words but I'm sure Kelly did? Like I mentioned before my taste-buds were tantalised by my Hong Kong style cheesecake! Caffe Chino, maybe you could give me the recipe one day? Just maybe?

Caffe Chino offers so much more than just cakes, pastries and drinks. If you like Oriental snacks and sweets then this cafe has lots to offer. It's not just about those bubbly tea drinks because there's all kinds of sweet drinks to enjoy! Displayed neatly on the opposite to the drinks counter and pastry fridge are Pocky sticks, Chinese and Taiwanese biscuits, crisps and other sweet goodies. I personally didn't buy anything as I wanted to conserve my spends so I could buy another cake. Caffe Chino surprised me because the selection of products rivaled sweet shops in London's Chinatown. Cathay Street, gives Caffe Chino some rich competition as the other bakeries didn't really look as invited as Caffe Chino did, I guess this cafe knows what its doing because I'll be coming back for more! Loving London's Chinatown is easy but places like Caffe Chino steals the trophy for Birmingham! That's the word on Birmingham's Cathay Street!

My experience at Caffe Chino would have been incomplete without Kelly, my friend and classmate from University College Birmingham. Me and Kelly had a great time at Caffe Chino after not seeing each other for over one year, our post-placement catch-up was lovely! Kelly is originally from Hong Kong so she's familiar with all the products that Caffe Chino specialises in, that helped me a lot and showed me something new! Kelly and I had a great time talking and enjoying our Oriental delights. Caffe Chino and Birmingham together welcomed us back to our University semester very nicely indeed! After we enjoyed our cakes and Bubble Tea Kelly showed me a whole new method of how to buy cakes and pastries the Hong Kong way! I hope to reach the Far East to both China and Hong Kong but for now I'll enjoy the Birmingham delights of Caffe Chino. Aside from the Gay Village I know that I'll be spending more time in Southside because of Caffe Chino! Of course the only way is Hong Kong! 

I Love HK Bubble Tea!

Joseph Harrison

9 February 2013

The Maltings: UCB Halls Of Residence, Birmingham

University College Birmingham allowed me to move away from home to 'the Maltings' halls of residence'. I'm no longer a fresher but I will never forget my first year away from home. Here's one part of student living, where the party never stops and the Student Union sells the best pint of Snakebite! Forgive me because it's been quite a journey since I first moved in!

Sat along the Birmingham canal is 'the Maltings' a purpose built halls of residence for the students who attend University College Birmingham, the city's newest university! I first moved to 'the Maltings' back in September 2010, I was more than ready to begin the first year of my BA Hons Hospitality and Tourism Management course. I won't lie I was petrified about moving away from home but knew that it was the step that I needed to take. Saying my goodbyes and taking a look around my study bedroom that had not long been unpacked I couldn't believe I had made it to uni! I had been talking to some other freshers over Facebook before the move in date before Freshers 2010 kicked off. I was out for something new, the time was right for B'ham!

The Maltings saw many things go on that first year, from the flat pre-drinking parties to the mother of all Halloween celebrations I was certain that life would never be the same again! 142 Davenport House became my new address, we knew it was where the cool kids lived! Teaming up with the Fresher lot we loved our pre-drinking sessions before we hitting the nightclubs of Broad Street. We very rarely made it back separated from a night out because the area around Granville Street had an edge back when I first moved to Birmingham! We were living for those week nights out and those quiet movie nights in because after lectures it was only right to be back at halls. Leaving the first year behind me I said my final farewells to Davenport House, it was onto another Maltings flat!

Student accommodation has changed over the years, pictured to the right is my current room at 'the Maltings.' I'm living in Vulcan House during the final semester of my second year, this room happens to overlook the student union 'Bar One'. It's crazy because my placement means I'm technically on my third year but I'll leave that out for the moment! Aside from my bed I have a study desk which has plenty of storage for personal belongings such as DVD's, books and other items that won't fit in the kitchen. Keeping clothes organised is easy as you can see there is a good amount of draws and a wardrobe. The vast majority of the rooms at 'the Maltings' have their own en-suite bathroom complete with a shower, sink and toilet. When I think about how good I live for a student at this Birmingham halls of residence, it's like a hotel room! I will not be staying at Cambrian Halls ever, no shared facilities!

Throughout the course of my time living at this closely connected halls of residence I have lived in three houses so far. Calling 142 Davenport House home during the first throws of my UCB experience, I learnt to cook basic meals and with my new friends I became a party animal for the first time! Let's just say that Halloween party confirmed something that I had been querying since I moved away to Birmingham, I got my life! After my Disney summer in 2011 I returned to 'the Maltings' for the first part of second year before jetting back off to America for my year long work placement, setting roots within Holder House this time I called flat 170704 my home. That time around I shared the flat with my classmates, Kelly and Hannah. Maltings life changed so much but I appreciated the difference, if I feel nostalgic from the first year I just drag my heels as I walk past Davenport House to think about those terrifying first moments, how much fun was waiting for me there!

Life can take us to many different places, I almost feel like things have gone full circle as I have now returned back to 'the Maltings'. I will be honest that this week has been so surreal! No matter what direction I go towards I will never forget my time spent at 'the Maltings! With my placement completed I needed a place to be whilst continuing with my second year post-placement, no 'Cambrian Halls' for me! I wasn't sharing a bathroom with anybody! You can guess which accommodation I decided to choose? With a stroke of luck I secured a room at 'the Maltings' this time around my room turned out to be 180107 Vulcan House, my post-placement residence. I won't lie to you, moving back to 'the Maltings' was a shock to the system!

Thankfully, University College Birmingham allows it's students to stay in 'the Maltings' for the entire duration of their course! Obviously, I chose to stay up until now and with the clock ticking before my final year I don't think I'll be looking for any other kind of student accommodation. All faults aside I feel safe and secure living at 'the Maltings' the location beats the competition in one shot! Located just over the road from the Mailbox and the main party hotspot of Broad Street is only a three minute walk away, it's a students paradise by any means. I head out to a different part of town when the sun goes down so its always good to know the security will be on hand through the night if anything goes wrong. Vulcan House is only for now, I wonder what final year house I will be having?

Sharing a kitchen was an initial worry for me when I first moved in, I had never needed to cook before leaving home for university but that wasn't a problem, no I didn't always eat microwave meals but I did for a little bit. I was more worried about the cleanliness because it was all about the good times so after a pre-drinking session the kitchen would be in a sorry state, I made a point of locking away as much food as possible and would monitor what food was on my shelf in the fridge. Even though the semesters have passed me by since Freshers in 2010 I will always remember deep cleaning the kitchen in 140 Davenport House, it was in a sorry state so a whole bottle of double strength bleach was needed. I got mad when I moved back from America, my flatmate never washed her dishes so I became super critical of what wasn't clean! This semester has been interesting, let's just say the kitchen drama isn't over yet! No!

It might only be a normal halls of residence on the borders of Birmingham city centre but its got under my skin, I love it sometimes and bloody well hate in the next breath but I wouldn't change living at 'the Maltings' for nothing! The Students Union isn't my hangout any more, those X-Factor Saturday nights have been and gone, we've moved on but I know that those memories will stay sweet to me. Nothing beats staying in bed all day in my study bedroom watching documentaries on YouTube with a fried cheese sandwich and too much other bad stuff. Pre-drinks have changed but its all good, I still get sozzled before hitting Birmingham's Gay Village at the weekends because weeknight student nights don't impress me much anymore! From that first pint of snakebite and the shenanigans of the rest I know that 'the Maltings' will always be a memorable place that I've lived in. Oh, that kitchen business will be sorted soon enough, that bad bug will be caught! Yes B!

A Home Away From Home!

Joseph Harrison

4 February 2013

My Industrial Placement... One Year On!

What a difference a year makes! I was lucky enough to be selected by Hallmark Aviation Services to work at Newark Liberty Airport for Virgin Atlantic Airways. I loved being a fully-fledged Passenger Services Agent! What was I thinking going to live in the U.S.A for eleven months?! Embodying my fierce Britney Bitch persona helped me get along with Newark life! BB served!

Newark's Ironbound became my new home, showing me a whole new way of American living. Fast food restaurants were secondary after the Portuguese and Brazilian barbecue eateries that served the tastiest chicken, rice and beans! The realisation that I would be living in Newark for close to a year was incomprehensible after I had experienced my clean-cut summer at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando the previous year, but something told me this time around things became serious. 333 Lafayette St became my home, well one of the apartments did. Walking to work at 03:00 am through the mean streets of Newark became second nature, getting to know the nocturnal habits of Ferry Street put me in good stead ensuring my safe arrival at Newark Penn Station for my bus to Newark Liberty Airport. My flatmates and colleagues were Rebecca and Sarah, we had a colourful year! Bye Felicia!

So, after completing three semesters of my BA Hons Hospitality and Tourism Management Degree I choose to interview for a opportunity to be part of the Virgin Atlantic Airways ground operation at Newark's Liberty International Airport working as a Passenger Services Agent. Little did I know my love for the Newark Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse would be my ultimate favourite department from working at EWR. The airport was amazing for the most part, seeing the Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew report for the VS2 and VS18 flights to London Heathrow gave me life, some of those fly boys were very easy on the eye! Building my fierce persona had to be done, people forget how to act properly when they are passengers so she pushed me forwards through those once daunting situations. Newark, New Jersey had edge so I appreciated the hustle of my colleagues who called the 'Brick City' their home. Would I ever go back to airport life? I really don't know but it was an almighty experience!

Hopping over from New Jersey to NYC became second nature for me, I loved the 24 hour PATH train. Facing my fear of heights at the top of the Empire State Building. New York City enabled me to reunite with my Disney love Ritika! Our meetings were amazing, a series of meetings that I won't forget in a hurry! Tequila! You see this city in the movies. I actually saw this city for real! Nothing will ever compare! I also caught a baseball game at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx! The feeling of standing in the middle of the action watching the lights of Times Square took my breath away, a site that was truly amazing! Throughout the year New York showed me many sides, some mesmerising and some not so nice but that's what life's all about! Yaass!

Throughout my year I made sure I travelled to many places across America, I even crossed over the border to Canada twice! I left Jersey for the bright lights of Las Vegas for one weekend, it was a weekend that will remain with me for a very long time! I used every opportunity to take a short trip away to see something new, a new state or a even a new country. I used all of my holiday allowance and even got an e-mail to prove it! My island holiday to Puerto Rico has to be my ultimate trip of the year! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Trying my best to sample the local cuisine and to not be rude by having a few too many margarita's, well one can never drink to much in my book! I know that I will always miss the streets of Newark, NJ!

I was the hostess with the mostess, serving as a Clubhouse Host in both the original and new Newark Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. The new Clubhouse made me realise that my dream of having a long-term career within the airline Industry could become true! I have to say a huge 'Thank You' to the Clubhouse Manager for giving me the opportunities within the Virgin Clubhouse and believing in me! The Clubhouse gave me life, working with my sisters it made my mornings and evenings working at EWR. This experience did come with some stressful times and the odd struggle but as the 'New Joe' emerged I worked and served during my shifts at Newark Airport. I had my way with the guests as this job requires personality and flare this made my everyday job quite extraordinary! BB toned her vibe down but she knew her Upper Class flow! Yes, I saw many famous faces at Newark Liberty's finest residence.

Let's leave the work and the holidaying alone for one moment, one final component still has to be featured that made my Placement year so special. Fiorella Sanchez, Valerie Calinawan and Leah Alcid are 'My Honey Bee's and also my Virgin Clubhouse sisters. Without the love and support from my three lovelies I honestly don't know what I would have done. Leah's Filipino Thanksgiving celebration gave me the opportunity to experience something new! Mine and Valerie's Christmas Day was a time to never forget! Fiorella and I had a marvelous weekend in New Orleans before my departure back to England. I'm a very lucky boy! I don't want to forget the other friends I made when working at Newark Airport, you guys and girls are amazing! Paolo and Tom your my Brit lads, forever and always I shall remember our Newark days and our Las Vegas trip! Thyciria you will forever be my Virgin Clubhouse Queen! Teaka and Sharoya stay the way you both are! BB has love for you all!

BB Was Born!

Joseph Harrison