New Experiences: Italy 2016/2017

Over Christmas and the New Year, I had an amazing  8-day trip to South Tyrol in Northern Italy. I had never travelled to Italy before. This area is particularly popular for skiing and I’d never skied before so the trip was a completely new experience for me. I’m the type of person that will try anything once  – food, experiences, everything… BUT – if it doesn’t go well or I simply don’t like it, I will not do it again.

So on my first day, I tried to learn the basics of skiing -stopping and starting in the DSC_4283snowplough position. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the hang of it so well. I began with a really positive attitude and tried to take in all the information from my boyfriend and his dad.  Bearing in mind this is the nursery slope for children learning how to ski, I was determined to do well. I plucked up the courage to try and push off and it worked! All for a split second then I found myself uncontrollably moving backwards. Then I started to panic saying “Why am I moving backwards, why am I moving backwards? I want to go forwards”. I kept going backwards for what seemed like forever until I hit the travelator that takes children up and down the slope and landed on my bottom. Despite hugely embarrassing myself, by stopping the travelator and everyone on it looking unimpressed, I wanted to try again. So I got up, dusted the snow off myself and had another go. However, little by little, my confidence started to wane as I became more flustered by all the information I had to take in. The next thing I know, I’m slowly and involuntarily moving off and the slope is increasingly becoming more steep. At first I was calm and thought to myself that I’d probably stop in a few seconds…somehow. Then  the panic had set in…I realised that I wasn’t stopping and that I was accelerating too. I shout “Jack!” (my boyfriend). He tried to ski after me but I went at such a speed he couldn’t catch me. It was too late. Time seemed to stand still and it was like an out-of-body experience watching myself in slow motion hurtling down the hill knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. To make matters worse, at the bottom of the slope stood a huge crowd of parents and children watching the others ski down. I knew I would go flying into the crowd and I thought that they’d see me coming and move but they didn’t… and I kept hurtling down the slope only for my head to hit the a flagpole (for the ski school) and a small child to break my fall.

Luckily the only thing bruised was my dignity and I didn’t hurt myself, just the small child I skied (I use the term loosely) into.  I WAS MORTIFIED. I couldn’t believe what had just happened! Half of me was laughing at myself and half of me just wanted to crawl under a rock and never be seen again – I couldn’t believe how much I embarrassed myself in front of so many people. Fortunately, a ski instructor and a random lady help me up, asked  if I was ok and my boyfriend and his dad took me away.

I’m actually really proud of myself because had that happened to me even six months ago, I wouldn’t have had the courage to set foot on a ski slope ever again. I’m so stubborn and if something doesn’t go well the first time, for me it seems counterintuitive to do it again.  I’m so glad that I didn’t let a fall stop me from continuing to learning how to ski. Well, at first I made the overstatement that learning how to ski was harder than learning the violin but I take it back now! After the fall, we sat in the café at the top of the ski resort and laughed about it. I made the decision to try again and not be defeated before actually trying. I’m so glad I did because I went on to have 4 skiing lessons with one of the ski schools and it was an amazing experience and they really restored my self-confidence on the slopes.

By the end I could actually do things like the snowplough, controlling my speed, a few parallel turns.  I felt confident. This was a huge step for me because it’s not often that I take a positive attitude from a negative experience. It also highlighted the fact that I let fear stop me from doing things, achieving things and enjoying things. I didn’t want to continue with this attitude.

If I could fall down a nursery ski slope in front of a huge crowd, I can do anything.

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My Ancestry DNA

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to have my DNA tested in order to learn more about my ancestry. I only knew a limited amount of information on my family tree – confidently know back to my great-grandparents on both sides but that’s it. Also, coming from a large family with lots of extended cousin and relations, I just wanted a solid, concrete idea of my background rather than relying on family guesswork.

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS?

So, for me the process from start to finish was very quick, a lot quicker than expected. I had endlessly watched YouTube videos of people sharing their result and most people said their results came in in around 6 -8 weeks. My own process took 4 weeks all in all from buying the kit through to receiving the results.

I ordered my testing kit on October 14th, received it on the 17th, activated it online on the 24th. The lab had received my sample by November 3rd, the lab testing began on the 5th and I received my results on November 15th.

On receiving the DNA kit, you have to spit it a tube and send it away in a prepaid package to be tested in the labs.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW?

As a black British person with Caribbean heritage, I always knew that it was safe to say that I had descended from slaves. My ancestors didn’t originate from the Caribbean. The indigenous people of the Islands belonged/belong to tribes such as the Arawaks, Caribs and Taínos. Due to the transatlantic slave trade, around 12-15 million Africans from many different tribes and nations were forcefully removed from their native lands. They were taken to be slaves in America, the Caribbean and various countries on the South American continent. The slave trade took place between the 15 and 19th centuries and so it was too long ago for me to know where exactly my family originate from. Slaves were considered as property rather than people  they didn’t feature on censuses until the 19th century I believe. They were sold to different owners and thus their names would be frequently changed. Due to these factors, it is quite difficult for black people living now to trace and research their family history without any definite knowledge. Black people from Africa were stripped of their original identity and culture – for this reason it was important to me to find out any valuable information on what makes me who I am.

As far as I knew, I am half Jamaican and half Vincentian and that was it.
Enter Ancestry DNA.
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My results showed my genetic makeup was estimated to be from Nigeria, Benin & Togo, the Ivory Coast & Ghana, Cameroon & Congo, Mali, Africa Southeastern Bantu and the Iberian Peninsula (which is Spain and Portugal). I was so happy to discover that my European ancestry was from Spain. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I’m obsessed with all things Spanish. I had Spanish speaking lessons from a young age and I have a real passion for languages, particularly Spanish so I was absolutely thrilled to know that I have Spanish blood.

I think everyone should get their ancestry DNA results as it opens up a wealth of information. Now I know that my ancestors came from Nigeria, Ghana and other places in Africa. Obviously, I still identify as black British with Caribbean heritage but it’s good to know where my ancestors originated and I now know where my love for all things Spanish comes from. I think it’s important for me to acknowledge and appreciate my past and my ancestors who have paved the way for me to be where I am right now.  If you want to know more about your family history definitely get tested, it’s well worth the money!

Ancestry DNA also connects you with other people on their database who are related to you and I actually have 24 4th cousins or closer. With the information that the DNA testing gives you can do so much more than just having the sheer knowledge. Not only is your DNA simply analysed and matched up with others, but Ancestry DNA gives a plethora of historical and cultural information on all the ethnic backgrounds. This is great so that one can learn about the history of the cultures they may have as part of their genetic background.

Going forward, I plan to further research my African ancestry and find out what specific tribes I may come from and I perhaps have any ancestral links with music making!

BMus 1

The transition from sixth former to fully-fledged,  self-sufficient adult wasn’t a difficult one for me. Purcell was a great school for giving sixth formers a good amount of independence. I found that boarding school was the best preparation for university/conservatoire life because I was living away from home at 16. So for me, the living independently aspect was absolutely fine – sorted.

Year 1 at music college/ university definitely started out as a lot of fun but I soon began to realise that my care-free days at Purcell are long over.  Having gone through the rigmarole of applying of student finance and the enrolment process, I really did realise that being a full time student was something that I’d have to do for myself. Suddenly I found that I was the one that had to fill out all the forms and sort myself out. Doing the important stuff like registering at a new doctor’s surgery didn’t even cross my mind. Going from school student status  to suddenly being a ‘responsible adult’ at 18 is a tricky transition.

I had already decided in my head that I wanted to approach being a full time student differently to being in compulsory education. It’s different in that there is no one there to push you and ultimately, the incentive and motivation to do things must come from oneself. So, from day 1, I knew that I just wanted to dedicate as much time as I could to improving my skills as a violinist – specifically working on performance anxiety and technical issues that were significantly holding up my development. And in order to do that, it was a matter of prioritising. I prioritised my personal development over the more social aspects of student life. I can honestly say that I made the right decision for me hence being  MIA for the last few months. Committing myself to making a conscious effort to work on myself and the things that are important to me paid off.

May 25th was my final recital which marked the end of my first year at Birmingham Conservatoire. I played a really great, varied programme: Brahms: Scherzo from the F-A-E sonata, Bach: Sonata No.1 for solo violin (Adagio and Presto) and Sarasate: Romanza Andaluza. I enjoyed my repertoire despite there being a few difficulties. All I can say is that  a year ago, I faced considerable challenges both musically and personally and I have achieved most things that I set out to.

Bring on BMus 2 in September 2016 🙂