Personal Essays

2016 Review and Recap

Although 2016 was all over the place politically and pop culturally, for me it was a pretty good year.

Here are some of the highlights.

Living in London for six weeks while interning at the CBC’s European headquarters.

I learned so much from watching talented professionals like Margaret Evans, Nahlah Ayed and the rest of the ridiculously good London Bureau do their work. You can read about it here.

It just so happened that during this time the Queen was also celebrating her 90th birthday and the country was just about to Brexit, so I really couldn’t have picked a better time to see a newsroom in action.

Behind the scenes on the roof of Windsor castle.

I pitched and wrote my first CBC World News stories, about the Syrian arches of Palmyra recreated in Trafalgar Square and FGM education for British girls. I also photographed the Queen (!!!) during her walk about Windsor to celebrate her 90th.

Date nights with Rob when he came to visit me in London completed the experience. We slurped my favourite ramen (Tonkotsu in Bankside and SOHO) and rode the London Eye (during a thunderstorm). We also spent the day lollygagging around Oxfordshire followed by a night at the theatre, seeing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for my birthday. Have I mentioned Rob is my favourite person?

Spending a month in Sarajevo working with Photographers Without Borders

This was an interesting experience that gave me a much deeper insight into the world of NGOs. I still have a lot to write and reflect on from my time here, but the best parts for me include making friends with so many amazing Bosnians who shared their world with us, and making new photography friends in the PWB crew.

Belma Mahmić, one of my favourite Bosnians. Always so thoughtful and always willing to show us around Sarajevo. ❤️

Every day I was stunned by Sarajevo’s beauty. I’ll never forget walking home surrounded by the orange dusk on the mountains to the little apartment our team shared and hearing the evening call to prayer echo through the valley where Sarajevo sits.

From Sarajevo I wrote about their first unofficial pride parade for Photographer’s Without Borders and how safe it is to travel in the country for Twenty-Something Travel. I also got my first byline for one of my favourite travel journalism sites, Roads and Kingdoms, writing about Bosnian coffee.

This year I hope to share some of the interviews we did with photo-voice participants and see PWB TV launch an episode about our adventure and the people we met there.

We also took an impromptu road trip to Croatia.

Dubrovnik! So beautiful, so expensive.

After spending money on one day in beautiful Drubrovnik, I was happy to head back to Bosnia where my money stretched much further. There was also the incident where we almost hit a wild boar with our rental car (after managing to actually get a rental car from the rental car agency that seemed mysteriously always depleted of them) and  drove through the Croatian night trying to actually find a border we could cross back into Bosnia with (many borders are for locals only, as we discovered). This was the same trip in which Google Maps told us the fastest way back to Dubrovnik was to ford a river with our vehicle.

Finishing my tea sommelier course training

In January 2015 I started my Tea Association of Canada tea sommelier training and in September I completed my final course. 🎉🍵 This year I look forward to diving even more into the world of Canadian tea, and tea at large.

I put together this piece about how Nova Scotians are slow to stray from their black tea and in other Nova Scotian news, I wrote about how distance is a barrier to First Nations employment.

A month in the Philippines

As you may have noticed, I like long trips. In October I visited the Philippines to attend TBEX and explore the archipelago.

Woman walking across a bamboo bridge in Banaue. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I learned a lot about poverty and innovation in poverty reduction when I visited Gawad Kalinga housing project as well as their Enchanted Farm centre for entrepreneurship. I tried to sum it all up in a feature I did for The Signal, ‘Surviving Poverty in the Philippines‘.

These kids knew immediately what to try on my iPhone. Pokemon Go didn’t work, but Alto’s Adventures did! These kids live in a Gawad Kalinga village in Quezon City. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I also learned that herbal tea rules in the Philippines (turmeric and ginger all the way).

I read 26 books!

I’ve been trying to read one book a week for the last two years. This year, same thing! Hoping to break 35. Books I most enjoyed reading this year were:

  • ‘Swing Time,’ by Zadie Smith
  • ‘The Book of Tea,’ by Okakura Kakuzō
  • ‘The Silk Worm’ and ‘Career of Evil’ by Robert Galbraith
  • ‘My Life on the Road,’ by Gloria Steinam
  • ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King
  • ‘Into Thin Air,’ by John Krakauer
  • ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (Thanks to Sandrinette in my MJ class for reminding me I should probably read this book)
  • ‘The Bonesetter’s Daughter’ by Amy Tan
  • ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay

This year one of my book resolutions is to read more new releases, starting with Roxane Gay’s ‘Difficult Women’.

Image of the year

I shot this little house in the Trebević Mountains during the most literally breathtaking sunrise I’ve ever seen. It was a morning spent shooting with friends that made me feel truly alive and happy to be a little photographer on this tiny planet in the great wide universe.

This image ended up on the cover of Photographers Without Borders Magazine, Vol. 7. where I wrote this caption for it,

This photo was taken in the Trebević Mountains just outside Sarajevo. In less than twenty minutes driving from downtown you can find yourself in this much nature. Sarajevo has always had a deep conection wih the mountains. It shapes the weather, agriculture and during the Bosnian War it’s where snipers held the city under siege. During the war, Trebević was heavily mined, which prevented people from exploring it. The war ended in 1995 but it has taken people a long time to return to the mountains. Today, it’s safe to hike and has lots of marked trails and walking paths. Any mined areas are clearly marked. Walking through the forest, a deep breath of air makes it obvious why these forests are known as ‘the lungs of Sarajevo’.

When I was reviewing everything I’ve done this year I spent a lot of time thinking: “Holy crap. How am I so lucky?” It was a truly amazing year and I’m so thankful for everything that happened.

What’s in store for 2017?

This is also going to be a big year, despite probably having less travel. Rob and I are getting married (knock on wood). Which sounds CRAZY! There’s nothing to remind you you’re an adult like perusing wedding rings on Etsy out of actual necessity or considering eloping because of the cost of postage stamps and barrage of family’s questions about said wedding.

It also reminds you how great your friends are when they serve as a safe harbour for your venting or redesign your wedding invites at the last minute (thanks Gab).

Rob proposed to me on Mount Robson back in 2015 during our cross-country road trip, and the day we’re getting married (August 19) will be the two-year anniversary of that proposal.

a) Wow. Time has flown.

b) Rob and I get cool rings! Yay!

Originally we planned to get married in Iceland, but after finding some difficulty in getting all the friends and family we wanted to the northern island, we decided to get married back home in Nova Scotia followed by an epic Iceland road trip honeymoon (yes!). 🇮🇸

I’m also leaving this Saturday for a week of writer’s workshops in New York. For now Iceland and that NYC trip are the only travel I have confirmed for the year. January through April will (hopefully) see me finishing my Master’s, including giving a dragon’s-den-style pitch for my new journalism venture in front of a panel of business people. Yikes. Fingers crossed for that.

Even if the 2016-2017 divide is just an arbitrary division of time, the New Year ritual always makes things feel fresh and ready to begin. Ready to take over the world.

As always, I resolve to try and do my best with all the opportunity another year on earth brings. Good luck to me, and you too!

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    Tea Time Links #2 - Books and Tea
    January 24, 2017 at 11:28 am

    […] The above-mentioned list of tea blogs led me to Mel Had Tea. Check out her 2016 recap, where she talks about her tea sommelier studies, travels, and photojournalism highlights. […]

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