Sunday, September 27, 2015

Columbia Road Flower Market

I went to the Columbia Road Flower Market with my friend Tess visiting from Oz. I've been a few years ago and didn't really enjoy it then because it was so crowded.

It's still crowded but this time with the sun out and I really got into the massive array of flowers. And they are cheap. Like large orchids in ceramic pots for only £5, even before the market closing sell-off. The prices were cheaper than anywhere I've seen. 



Tess and I were drifting through the crowd and we stopped at a stall selling bunches of 20 long stemmed roses in lots of colours for only £5 a bunch. We couldn't say no to that!

The sellers are full of character, animated in true east London fashion. We couldn't help but smile and take a selfie while we were stuck in the crowd.

Afterwards we had lunch alfresco at a hipster place called Clutch. The menu was based on chicken. Although I generally avoid hipster joints, the food and the sunshine was pretty dang good!

On my way home I passed a lady talking on her mobile who turned around and exclaimed mid-conversation : "They are bewddddiful!!" at my roses. I carried them like they were a trophy. And I guess they were a bewddddiful trophy.

I gave away some roses to a friend and the rest went into a pasta sauce jar. Two weeks later they are still blooming marvellous!


8 Important Things Learned From Teaching My First Zumba Class

When one of my Zumba instructors heard that I was starting to teach, she put me on the spot in her class and invited me to teach Ella Me Copia. I was nervous and hesitant but went for it.

It was a glorious feeling on stage but I wasn't instructing. If anything I was just performing in front of the mirror. I never practiced verbal cues and was too frightened to speak or turn to face the many people in the class.

Afterwards I asked my instructor for feedback and that was the first thing she mentioned. My moves were right but I need to face the class and actually talk to them.

A few days later I taught my first Zumba class to a participant of one. I posted about the class on Facebook but there was no real interest except for my dear friend who doesn't do Zumba often. I guess location had something to do with it but never mind. I needed to practice in a studio and Grant took photos.

I hired a small studio in Camden for a 11am class on a Sunday. My biggest concern was that I was still rehearsing moves learnt the night before. I figured I'd just have to wing it but as a surprise thanks to Grant's encouragement, I discovered my "instructor's voice" within an hour of my first class.

Because my participant was a friend and a Zumba beginner, she made teaching much kinder for me. I spoke freely because there was natural dialogue when there are participants as opposed pretending you're talking to someone. 

I faced her the whole time and realised I really should know my mirror-left and rights. I was shy with the verbal cues for that reason. I got a few moves wrong, stayed on a few moves longer than I should and resorted to a grapevine when I got stuck. 

Overall I think the class went well considering I learnt things which never crossed my mind earlier. So what did I learn from teaching my first Zumba class?
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1) Hire a studio with enough head clearance... 
I didn't notice how low the ceiling was because I'm short. But my participant isn't and she could touch the ceiling with her fingertips. The ceiling height of the studio is 2.4 m and for a high energy class, you need a lot more head space.

2) ...and one that is easy to find. 
The location was close to a train station but because my studio was the smaller of two studios and had a separate entrance that was basically hidden, a friend missed my class. He did ask someone when he got to there but they had no idea about a second studio. If in doubt, send a map to your participants to show them how to exactly to find the place.

2) Don't say "do this".
Easy to say but irritating to hear. I didn't think about this until after the class. It's implied the participants should follow your moves and if they're not getting it, you have to explain your cues in another way.

3) Learn the choreography with the cues.
I know the moves well because I've been doing the routines for years but incorporating cues was a different story. I did a 5 minute cueing exercise at Zumba instructor training and I sucked. They say cue way before the move, do it quick and the signals must be consistent. They say to do visual cues in Zumba but I prefer a combination. Thankfully for me, cueing became second nature as I interacted with the class. Soon enough I was reeling off the cues by the 5th or 6th beat.

4) Know every part of the music.
Including all the "signals" to warn you of the next move or when there's a break from the routine. And know the choreography from any point of the song. 

5) Don't sing to the music.
I don't know why I did it and I promise I won't do it again. No one wants to hear me sing. 

6) Master THEIR left and rights.
What's your left is their right so you have to say the opposite side in your cues. And you have to recall it instantly as otherwise you will miss the time to cue. Mastering this makes verbal cueing easier and you'll also be able to seamlessly change from facing the class to facing the mirror behind you.

7) Always look at your participants.
In their faces the whole time because it's all about them. It's not about how hard you have to concentrate even if that's exactly what you're doing. In all photos it doesn't look like I'm watching my participant but I was most of the time. I do however recall looking away if I got stuck on something and that's a rookie mistake. The pros never do this.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Think You're Good At Zumba? Try Filming Yourself

I thought after 2 years of doing Zumba, I would know a thing or two about dancing. How wrong I was.

After teaching an imaginary Zumba class in my living room I realised it takes alot of hard work to be a good instructor. 


I'm only aiming to be a passable instructor at this point. It's more than just knowing the moves and doing them well. You have cue commandingly at the right time. You have to make eye contact and encourage participants to do more than they think they can. 

I'm not a shy person but I'm certainly not the most confident. When I had to direct a class of only three people at Bokwa instructor training, I was so nervous my voice cracked like a teenage boy. There was lots to learn before teaching my first real class.


Recently I filmed myself in my living room (and in sleepwear but that's not important!) It was a game changer when I watched the footage. Why? Because I realised I wasn't the dancer I thought I was.

I was off time. My arms were flailing about everywhere. My head was down, my shoulders were slumped and I had a stony look on my face. This must be me in every class. *forehead slaps*

There were three lessons to learn from my first home video:

1) What is seen in a mirror reveals a fraction of one's form. Don't completely trust a front facing mirror in class. At least check what it looks like from the sides. 

2) As for keeping the right tempo, keep filming and watching to recalibrate my brain to slow down as needed. 

3) While I'm normally in a trance-like state of concentration, I should keep my head up and smile more. Just like what they do in the ZIN DVDs. 

So if you want to be good at Zumba, especially if you weren't trained as a dancer, try filming yourself and watch. The camera never lies.

Canoeing Down The Danube River

The Danube or die Donau, is a river that starts from The Black Forest and ends in the Black Sea near Ukraine. It flows outside our hotel in Beuron in south Germany and we could hear it from our room. 

We woke up to this sunny morning and there were two fisherman in the river. As you can see the water is shallow as there hadn't been much rain. We were going canoeing that day and it was lucky it wasn't called off because of low water levels.

Us in our canoe. It was a fun ride especially in the fast parts where the river narrows. I loved being surrounded by tall, almost overhanging tress. I was breathing in the wilderness and serenity. 

The part where we had to get out and carry the canoe past a weir. It was pretty, yet disastrous if we missed the sign to hop out!

After four hours of paddling, we reached our destination. We went in for a quick dip and I mean super quick because the water was freezing. Plus the current was strong and we might get carried off down the river.

I took a picture of a nearby wheat field. Our German friends didn't seem to be interested but I'm a long time city slicker. This is where the flour comes from!

Afterwards we visited Sigmaringen. There's a beautiful castle and typical of most towns in the area, the Danube runs along side it. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Apple and Blackberry Foraging

I had the best Sunday. Summer is officially over but we got another taste of it in London.

The sky was clear the whole day and I went north to hang out with Kim. 

I always get an sense of relief when I'm in Winchmore Hill. The city stresses go away and it's a peaceful world. 

I even got a kick out of taking my first London bus that was hail and ride. It reminds me of catching buses in the country. It felt homely being dropped off right outside Kim's door.

We took her dog for a walk to Woodcroft Wildspace, hidden at the center of a residential block. It's like a secret wood where no one is around and there were blackberries, sloes, and red current hedgerows. There is also an orchard. I couldn't help taking three apples home with me. Sorry if I'm not supposed to, but there were so delicious looking.

I also picked blackberries. I would have picked more but the dog rolled in fox poo and we had to get him home to wash off the stink! 

After a relaxing lunch we sat back and enjoyed some champagne and sunshine. I was in a happy place.

I made a blackberry syrup that night. It was very easy. Pass the berries through a sieve, add water and  sugar and simmer for 20 mins. The blackberry syrup is devine on vanilla icecream.