Monday, 15 January 2018

Med School + Blogging



In the past months, quite a few people have messaged me with the question about how I manage to find time for blogging and my Medical degree. I thought this would be an interesting topic to touch upon, hence I decided to write a short post talking about how all of this came about and how I have managed to make it work so far.

I think that it would be useful to start from the beginning. For years I have always loved the creative world and whether it was playing piano, art lessons, acting workshops or studying film - I was always exposed to the creative world in some way. Nonetheless, academic subjects were always in the equation and as a person who loved both, I always had to balance my life appropriately in order to fit all of my interests. At 18, choosing one degree upon which I can focus on was definitely a huge challenge - I am not really a person who likes narrowing my options and after completing IB, I felt they opened up even more instead of narrowing. This was one of the reasons why I chose the IB over the traditional A- Level Exams.  During the IB course I instantly fell in love with Philosophy and the nature of arguments hence I proceeded to embark upon a BA in Philosophy in Leuvne, Belgium. Leuven was an amazing place to study at with its philosophical and theological roots stretching back to hundred of years! However after a year of studying there I went through a complete career change and ended up coming back to my homeland to study Medicine. That didn't necessary mean this was the only career choice I wanted to focus on but I was definitely fascinated by the workings of the human body and wanted to know more. 

I'll be honest - I never was (& never will be) the sort of person who knows from the beginning "I am going to be a surgeon." or "I am going to be a GP." In a way I do and don't envy the people that pre-empt their careers like that. It's much more reassuring to know your path but I genuinely love risk and the flexibility given by not setting a rigid boundary gives me the idea of freedom that I really appreciate in life. Until this day I am still not 100% sure what is my next step but that's what makes it exciting!




My first 3 years of Med School were absolutely manic - I was super busy and my days were filled with classes that lasted all day long. My year was the first year which had a changed program - a lot of subjects from 5&6th year were moved down in order to make my program into a 5 year program. It was all very jam packed. As you can imagine - I hardly had time to eat and lost loads of weight from subconscious stress that came out of wanting to meet deadlines, pass exams without retakes and the want to still sustain a social life. I have always been very ambitious and have strived for the best whenever I could. My perfectionistic nature which is a blessing and a curse in one, didn't always help - I put a lot of extra strain on myself that wasn't exactly necessary. Holidays were key and the fact that I planned to use them on tropical travel, definitely gave me a lot of motivation hence I really pushed myself in subjects such as Anatomy, Biochemistry and other basic sciences that were intense in the first years. Ever since I was a little girl, living by the ocean and learning to surf has been my long dream and I didn't want my career choice to compromise that. I wanted to make it all work - and I did. I made a lot of memorable trips in the past years across various continents, collecting wonderful experiences and meeting great people. I have always been good with time management between my studies and travel - that definitely helped!

 In my free time (which was very scarce) I started blogging, however I felt like it never really got anywhere. The minute I started a fashion blog, I begun to be interested in cooking and it was hard to focus upon one theme which seemed to be a trend with bloggers at that time. I would say that the "on and off" blogging was definitely fundamental in finding "my space" in the blogosphere as well as on Instagram. However, it wasn't until the fourth year of Med School that I finally found out what I would like to focus on when posting - and it turned out to be everything. I realised that showing a fraction of my personality just wasn't me and this is how CHAT BLANC came about to exist. My fourth year was severely calmer than the early years. With basic sciences out the way and Pharmacology as well as Pathomorphology passed the stress level came back to normal and I finally had something I had very little of before - time. Blogging along with travelling and exercise became my hobby and it was a way to express myself in a creative way - something not quite easily done in academic Medicine. Furthermore, time management now was less of a challenge. With more clinical subjects - I could finally use the academic knowledge I gained and use in it clinical scenarios across various departments in the hospital without it eating too much into my time outside of the hospital.



After being contacted by various brands, I begun collaborating on occasional projects. This made my motivation towards blogging grow and really made me feel that my work was appreciated - it felt amazing! What more, it was very fulfilling especially because I was an absolute newbie in the industry. I got really lucky because my first collaboration was with Billabong - one of my favourite brands that I continue to work with until this day. 

Concluding, it is possible to do many things and not just one - you just need to want to do it. I know, that's what everyone says - but it's hella true. Time management is key but the truth is you'll make it work if you can and are willing to do so. I guess that in my case my creative background was something that helped me find motivation and time, even when there was very little of it. I cannot speak for all Medical Students because I know that the curricula and schedules look completely different from country to country. It could be the case that your workload is evenly spread throughout the 6 years making it a little tricky to find time in the end of your studies (like me) - especially if blogging is not your primary interest. However saying that, I have seen quite a few students and practicing physicians from around the world who are bloggers. I guess where there is a will there're a will hey?!


Thanks for reading,

Maria x


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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

BURNING MAN - thoughts & tips


Burning figures, breathtaking structures, out-of-this world outfits and aesthetically pleasing pastel colour palletes. Ever since I set my eyes on the dusty photographs documenting the magical event that is known to most of us as Burning Man, I knew I had to make my way there eventually.

 Luckily, after a couple of years of wanting to head to Nevada to join in the happening, I managed to finally take part this summer. By joining onto a group of close friends who went there before, I was ready for my first burn to become a reality..

I'll be honest. This is how I saw it - the strange outfits and a dreamy desert backdrops didn't give too much away about the event itself and left me a little puzzled with plenty of questions.  No matter how much I googled and browsed on YouTube, I couldn't quite comprehend what the event would be like in reality. Naturally, the idea was always there however only when it became a reality I realised why 70,000 people from all over the world escape civilisation and make their way to Black Rock City. 

I'm not going to lie - with the amount of prep one needs to put in as well as the difficulty of getting hold of tickets that sell out in minutes, not many decide to take part in this special event. You really need to want it and embrace the conditions you may face there with your whole heart!

Let's escape reality for the next minutes and explore what this magical event is all about..

 First of all, Burning Man is very deeply rooted in its ethos - of "leaving no trace" - as Black Rock City rises, so it disappears. Therefore meaning that throughout your whole time spent on the desert, any form of littering is a big no - nothing must be left behind. Black Rock City is a temporary community and it requires for all of the participants to understand the value of this by respecting it's rules, which the Burning Man community defines as their 10 Principles:

Radical Inclusion
Gifting
Decommodification
Radical Self-Reliance

Radical Self-Expression
Communal Effort
Civic Responsibility
Leaving No Trace
Participation
Immediacy
You can read in more detail about each principle here https://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

The 10 principles mentioned above is what should define all Burners and is essential to the values portrayed by Burning Man. 

The creativity is the fuel and the manpower behind it  are - people, us. It is not everyday you see 5 storey structures rising in a creamy desert dust or a person wearing an outfit that could be out of a futuristic space movie. It is also not every day you'll find yourself in 35 degree heat that can really expose you to the risk of heat stroke. Henceforth it is absolutely essential to plan and prep accordingly. Regardless whether you'll be going in an RV, staying in a Yurt or camp - prep is KEY. In the next steps I am going to try my best at explaining the bare essentials as well as vital points you should account for when planning on becoming a Burner. 

The great thing about staying at a theme camp is you'll get to meet plenty of new, amazing people from all around the world. I stayed at Teddies camp that event had a Teddie cuddle dome - it was awesome. I was napping on giant teddie bears 24/7. We also threw our own parties and organised events!

If you are interested in heading out to Burning Man this year, I have written down some tips and pointers if it is your first time. I am by no means an expert as I have only been once. However I really wanted to share some insights that a first timer might find helpful. I will keep updating this post on regularly if more useful tips spring to mind.

1. Research, watch, read and talk to other people who have taken part in Burning Man before. It will help you understand what it's all about and it will provide a great intro into the event. This means browsing forums, YouTube and especially Burning Man's won website. It may be the case that its not something for you. The principles of the temporary city created by Burning Man participators really roots itself into the 10 principles mentioned above. Once you are in Black Rock City there is no 
currency- one can trade and gift too instead. 

2. Dates - as much as Burning Man is all about enjoying yourself there are some important dates to remember and keep in your calendar in order to assure you'll have a ticket. You'll need to refer to Burning Man's official website for more details - it will look something like this. This timeline from 2017, is an example - it shows all of the important dates that your should pencil into your diary. 


source: burningman.org


3. Tickets - there are different ticket prices depending if you're keen to get hands on the tickets earlier and willing pay more -pre-sale ticket prices are quoted at $900 and $1200 dollars and regular main sale tickets go for $425. Burning Man tickets are not too easy to come by and sell out within the 30 minute mark. Fast internet may come in handy but the overloaded servers will still slow you down anyways. This could be quite discouraging for those who'd like a slightly easier ticket access to the event. However, do not be. When my group was purchasing tickets, only 4 people out of 10 people managed to get tickets on early in the game. Yet, all of us ended up going. As some of you may already know, I am a firm believer in the will and way maxim. Therefore the bottom line is if you really want to take part in Burning Man, you'll get hold of one eventually - even if it is only on the day.. (not advised!)


4. Prep - the list of things you should take may feel a little overwhelming at first. This is exactly how I felt when it really hit me I am going to be in the desert for a week. Luckily the organisers of the SF based camp that I was a part of were super helpful and gave a lot of pointers in relation to this during our Skype chats. I am not going to go into extreme detail but the items mentioned below are the 'holy grails' of things you'll definitely need to have with you:

Camelbak - I didn't get one and really regretted it - carrying around a 5 gallon bottle wasn't handy
Night & Daytime Goggles to protect your from the dust as well as dust storms 
Scarf /Shemagh
Hat,
Fairy lights (for the night)
Flashlight - 
PLENTY of water - official BM guidelines state you should 
Food & drink supplies (requirements will vary depending if you'll be a part of a camp or setting up your own one but protein bars always go a long way regardless)
Oral rehydrate solution
Sunscreen
Lip Balm
Saline Nasal Spray
Hand Sanitizer
First Aid Kit
Bike - you could go without it but getting to everywhere would take long - Black Rock City covers an area of 7sq miles
Vinegar will neutralise the dust - yes, the dust gets EVERYWHERE
Baby Wipes
Warm Jacket - it gets really cold at night

This is only an extremely basic outline of where to start, just to give you a rough idea of what you will need to take. The packing list below is far more extensive - make sure to google more too.

Put in an online pre-order with a Walmart that you'll be heading to prior to the event. However remember that often items may be sold even though they were reserved - we had this happen with one of our bikes last year. This is often the case with the Walmarts in the Bay Area, Sacramento and and near Reno as many people buy supplies there before Burning Man.

5. Getting there - naturally this will depend upon where you'll be coming from. I flew into LA from Europe and then continued onto Reno, Nevada from there. (Naturally it is better to fly into San Francisco, I just decide to road trip up the Californian coast) Our group stayed the night before in a hotel in Reno and then continued onto the desert the next day, early in morning. It's roughly a 3h drive but there are also flights from Reno to Black Rock City for those who would rather fly.  Additionally, there is also a possibility to take the Burner Express and not drive in - tickets can be purchased online over at burnerexpress.burningman.org 
6. The Queue - if you decide to drive into Burning Man and not fly or take the Burner Express (the Burner Express takes the fast lane). Regardless of whether you'll get there early or late the queue will be there. Make sure to equip yourself with a respectable amount of patience, you're nearly there! Last year we waited around around 4 hours which is not actually that bad as people who arrived later in the day waited much longer in the long dusty queue of keen Burners. The process takes time as you may have seen from the aerial shots - everything is super organised which makes locating things fairly easy. On top of this cars cannot speed in Black Rock City because of the dust so everyone is driving slowly, which also prolongs the spot allocation phase. Make sure to remember your vehicle pass which should be stuck on your front window in the bottom corner. If you're part of a camp you'll receive the localizaton prior to your venture into the desert. 

The plan below shows you the mapping system of Black Rock City, Nevada - each ring (aka street) is named alphabetically from A-L with Esplanade being the odd one out in the front. This is the last ring before the playa begins. Whereas each individual street that is stemming in a parallel direction is located in relation to a clock face as pictured below. 10B would be 10 O'clock (first line) where it meets with Breath. Easy!


7. Welcome Home After picking up your tickets at will call (if that is the case) you'll move onto the next point where you'll be greeted by other Burners who will Welcome you Home and provide you with some last minute tips along with a small book ( & BRC map) that lists all of the happenings in Black Rock City in the next days. The book is full - it's impossible to do everything as so much is always happening from sunrise yoga classes to various workshops. Furthermore musically whether its Stravinsky's Ballet with a 40 people orchestra or Lee Foss playing a Robot Heart sunrise set - Burnign Man has something for everyone. However it is important to note that some events are repeating whist other not, so make sure that something you'd like to experience doesn't go amiss. 
8.  Now - it's time to get lost and wonder. Don't be afraid to spend the day alone and open up your mind to new experiences. The art installations, the music, the desert but most importantly the people will shape your time there into an unforgettable and a highly charishable experience.
Look after yourself as well as others and most importantly enjoy yourself - keeping in mind that you should leave no trace just like the other 70,000 burners. Happy Burn!
I hope this post provided some enlightenment on Burning Man. This is just a rough guide so remember to research and watch more so that hopefully I'll be seeing you in the playa dust!!




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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

KHAKI CAMO



Olive and camo print are my favourites. A quick outfit from chilly Warsaw inspired by those two tonations..


HAT - SPITALFIELDS MARKET
SWEATER - TOPSHOP
COAT - FEMI STORIES
HANDBAG - TOMMY HILFIGER VIA AMERICAN OUTLET STORE
BOOTS - TIMBERLAND


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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

10 beauty favourites



I rarely write about beauty products, however in this post I really wanted to share some of my favourites that I've been loving for a while or recently became obsessed with. We all search for the "ideal" beauty routine and often are confused with where to actually start. I recently discovered my beauty routine and as it became more defined, I decided to share my favourite staple products that make it up. 

I am a bit of a beauty tomboy so some of the products are not new at all but I can honestly say that all of the products named here I tested myself on many occasions and truly advise to try these for yourself! I am super picky with products (& everything in general) and try to keep it minimalistic beauty wise, hence I boiled it down to the "worth it" essentials  that are..



HERBIVORE BOTANICALS Sea Mist

I am an absolute beach bum so when I found this coconut infused salty hair mist - I had to try it. The coconut smell clearly reminds me of tropical isles I've visited and the salt gives my hair an effortless surf look. Not to mention that Herbiviore's packaging is super cute and the practical small size makes it ideal for travel. All of the products from this Seattle founded brand are made without any synthetic ingredients, parabens, sodium laurel sulfate, phthalates, chemicals, fillers, animal testing, mineral oils, petroleum - convinced? There are plenty of other products to get addicted to so give these guys a browse! More at www.herbivorebotanicals.com  

KERASTASE Spécifique Bain Vital Dermo-calm

I never really paid much attention to shampoos and always bought whatever I found at the drug store with a nice scent. That is until I noticed that my scalp skin was a little dry and got some advice from my hairdresser in relation to the shampoo I should use. Since then, I've been using this shampoo for over a year now & absolutely love it! It is ideal for sensitive scalp skin as well as normal - skin type is what your shampoo choice should be based on and this is a perfect example of a universal winner! Kerastase has great products overall but this is definitely one of my favourites! More at www.kerastase.com

PALMER'S Raw Shea Hand Cream

As a med student the amount of antibac that I use transcends normal levels - we all hate germs, however this often leaves my hands extremely dry and during the winter this problem becomes especially apparent. I have looked for a practical hand cream that's not too greasy for years until I found this one from ye old good Palmers. I love Shea and the formula of this hand cream makes sure its absorbed ultra fast whilst still providing the hands with the adequate amount of moisture. I use this cream on the daily basis and really recommend it, it's a drug store bargain and my handbag essential to this day! Read more uk.palmers.com 



KERASTASE Elixir Ultime

I'm sure all of you ladies will agree that hair oils are a must! Especially if like me you have fine hair that can often be a nightmare to brush (much easier since the invention of the tangle teezer!). Hence we all know a good hair oil can be a maker or a breaker. This is another one of my Kerastase favourites. The price may be scary at first but the bottle is super economical and lasts for daaaays. Moreover after using this oil elixir I feel that my hair is much more refreshed and healthier looking. With a tiny amount necessary this is another great hair essential from Kerastase!

PALMER'S Coconut Oil Body Lotion

Another one from Palmer's that graces my beauty cabinet. Moisturising is vital and it's something I try to do after every shower. Especially as the water in most places is chalky and leaves the skin quite  malnourished. I found that this body lotion absorbs super fast and the coconut smell just satisfies the inner tropical fiend that dwells within me..

LA ROCHE-POSAY Mousse D'eau Micellaire Nettoyante (Cleansing Micellar Foaming Water)

It is no surprise that La Roche-Posay made the cut as it's a well know dermo-cosmetics legend. This fragrance free cleansing micellar foam is absolutely brilliant! I never had huge skin problems but I have to say I noticed that my skin is much more flawless and less irritated after daily use of this wash.     I only wish there was a smaller size for traveling as I do miss it when i forget to take it with me! Discover the full range at www.laroche-posay.com

AVENE Hydrance Optimale Light

Moisture has definitely been dominating this post but I guess since we are over 70% water it should! Well, in that case this light face cream from Avene is just ideal. Fragrance free and ultra light it doesn't make you feel like you just dipped your face in oil yet provides normal skin with just enough moisture in the morning. They have other alternatives if you require a more heavier consistency. Personally after testing out all of, I found this one to be the most universal. Hence I highly recommend it if you are looking for a new face cream. Learn more about Avene here www.avene.co.uk

YOPE Natural Fig Hand Wash

YOPE is a newly established Polish brand that prides itself in their natural based preservative free products!   After seeing and trying it out at my friends place I was already sold. What more I fell in love with all the scents which made is impossible to make a swift choice at their cute store. The beautiful graphics that grace their packaging are very on point and give a tasteful  touch to any bathroom. Their story started with hand washes but they make plenty of other paraben & cruelty free products such as body lotions, candles and cleaning products - all decorated with aesthetically pleasing designs. Take a peek at www.yope.me/en  !

VICHY Aqualia Thermal

We all know Vichy but this is another one of my great finds - and I'm very proud of it! After receiving a sample from my local drug store I instantly fell in love. I have tried so many eye creams and they were either too 'wet' or left a dry residue that bothered me. Lucky, the light consistency of this gel eye cream made it ideal for my needs. It successfully reduced the morning 'puffiness' without drenching my eye in dried out gel residue - winner! www.vichy.com

GROWN ALCHEMIST Vanilla and Orange Peel Hand Cream
Yes - yet, another hand cream! Funny fact I nearly missed my flight from LA whilst buying this at the duty free store in LAX - looking back - totally worth the rush as I am obsessed with this product - the orange and vanilla mix keeps it simple yet original and it's a winner for me because its not too greasy!  (you know I'm super sensitive about that..) What more, it comes in two sizes and the black packaging gives it a nice edge that embraces the stylish Australian aesthetic. All of their cosmetic formulations are organic and free from harmful artificial chemicals - hell yeah! Browse the whole range at www.grownalchemist.com


Thanks for checking this post out - I hope you found it useful! Let me know your thoughts if you have or will try some of these products ;)

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Ocean Blue - Gozo


The isle of Gozo, lies only a twenty minute ferry ride from mainland Malta. Time seems to freeze here as the streets are emptier and the sea wilder. Yet, the architecture on this neighbouring isle won't let you forget that you're still stepping on Maltese soil..


SWEATSHIRT - ADIDAS ORIGINALS
JEANS - ONE TEASPOON
SNEAKERS - ADIDAS EQT







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