Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The final days...



DAY 7

On Day 7, I woke up with my first blister after one week of walking. Due to the commotion of getting ready for each event and consuming vast amounts of alcohol (JOSE!!!!), I left it untreated. Somehow, I managed a full day's walking from Whitchurch to Chester.

On the way, we visited a Dairy Farm and had ourselves some British ice-cream. Everyone was so tired but we all had one thing on our minds...who was going to win tonight?! Some common names were whispered on our lips and people ushered their favourites but it was all down to that evening's judging.

The judging ceremony took place at Peckforton Castle...a titan structure of historic times. It is the only intact medieval castle in the UK and feels like a scene out of a Harry Potter film. Check it out: http://www.peckfortoncastle.co.uk/. It felt all very regal and we were served quaill meat for dinner amongst other strangely named foods.


After dinner, the Judges (Kate Edmonson: our MTV host for Fanwalk, Sara Kelly-Husain and Julian Hewitt: Clubfeet) commented on the presentations by each finalist. All of them were really good but you could tell some were more nervous than others. We actually got to see the presentations since they were done in the banquet hall where we had dinner.

The moment Dirk (Germany) was announced winner that night you could feel everyone's shoulders dropping and their hands coming together in one huge applause. Shoulders dropped because that tense feeling of anticipation was destroyed and hands clapped in approval. Of course, some people felt dissapointed but after that defining moment our friendship was sealed forever.




DAY 8

The next day was Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. We walked it from Chester to Wirral (Heswall). Despite the aches and pains we experienced from all the walking and exhaustion this may have been one of the very best walks. That element of competition was totally eroded and now that we knew each other so well it all boiled down to that feeling on our first day except better cause we had a history of good times to share along the way. Everyone was just mixing with different groups since there were no challenges so we were free to hang out with who we wanted to. I took this as an opportunity to talk to other people I didn't really have the chance to speak to properly. By this time most people (mostly girls) had caught on the trend me and Sarah started. A sort of high-school school-leaving book for jotting down memories, messages and contact details. It all felt a bit strange. Now that we knew the winner and could finally relax and be together as one big family, it was all over! Tomorrow, would be the day we land in Liverpool...the day we had all been waiting for. But, we were just not feeling it. We wanted to be fanwalkers forever. Liverpool never felt so close as that day. And after 8 days complaining: "Are we there yet??" , it all seemed to have ended too quickly!


That evening, we got to our hotel (at this point I don't remember any more names), and then drove to this location for our Guy Fawkes-style bonfire night complete with crappy amateur fireworks. Despite the petty attractions we conjured up our own form of entertainment in the form of campfire songs. We sang all the fanwalk classics. Wonderwall by Oasis, Good Riddance by Greenday and all our other special songs. Inside the dinner hall, people were signing their farewell books and some were crying and hugging each other. I felt a bit gloomy that night. Not only because of the general mood but I was in pain. My blister was 3 times too large and I had burst it open and tried to burn it before stepping out. Blonde moment, right there. Not that I haven't done it before. It's a pretty effective yet gross technique. However, this was the grand-daddy of all blisters and I went tampering with it.

Sheloian (the gorgeous one) presented some awards for the best bloggers too. They all got a new phone and bag by Sony Ericsson. I know that Sheloian reads this blog so I'd like to wish him all the best for the festive season. He really helped us Maltese a lot and he's an awesome guy.


Back at the hotel we had our last party together (besides the awards after party). I don't remember much of that night. Did I go to bed early? :O Everything's a blur to me now. All I knew is that the next morning we would have to wear our full fanwalk gear for the international press and Dirk would be attending soundcheck early in the morning...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

These boots were made for walking...


DAY 5

It was Sunday and it was our day off. From walking, that is!!

All we were told the night before is that the next day we would have to dress up in our own personal style for a photoshoot and then perform a little challenge. NO WALKING. That sounded cool especially since we were going to Oxford and could do some shopping...

It was a bit of a struggle getting ready in the morning but we made our way out and packed the Fanwalk party bus for a new adventure.



When we got to Radcliffe Square in Oxford and finished our shoot we were briefed about our challenge for the day and for the next day. We had to split up in teams and create bands by collecting musical items from the streets of Oxford in any non-criminal manner. We couldn't buy the stuff either.


Three persons from each team followed by their own camera crew scoured the streets in search of "instruments". The result was amusing and quite creative. My team even managed to get an actual item from a band's tour bus...the "Cage the Elephant" tour cow-bell!! (www.myspace.com/cagetheelephant)


In the evening we were split up in four different hotels which SUCKED. Particularly scary was our choice of hotel...the Formule 1. We were just a group of about 10 separated from the rest of the team. However, we quickly made up for that at our night party location...the Barton's Arms. This pub was so majestic and breathtaking with its swooping staircase and chandeliers, that I couldn't help stop and stare. In addition, I felt some sort of connection with its musical roots especially when I found out icons like Ozzy Osbourne and UB40 used to be regulars there.

The night was pretty relaxed and Clubfeet got a little more intimate with an up-close-and-personal gig followed by some fanwalker performances. The Italian fanwalkers entertained us with their dance rendition of Mamma Mia!, Caroline from Germany sang a little Cranberries and the Free Booze Band played the unofficial fanwalk song - "Wonderwall".



DAY 6


And then we busked.

The sixth day saw us in Birmingham starting off with some time with the Birmingham press and some more photoshoots. By this time we had all gotten sick of getting our pictures taken.

Our mission was to use the instruments we had collected the day before to BUSK for charity. We all had our hats, tins and jars ready for collecting coins in aid of Sound Futures: an organisation in Birmingham providing underprivileged kids the chance to play an instrument. Unfortunately, we were stopped by the fuzz, but still managed to collect a lot of money in a short time.

On the bus ride to our walking spot of the day, Sarah (my fellow Maltese sister) suggested we do a mini-challenge to get a wristband. Seeing that we were only going to walk 8 kms that morning we thought we'd tie our shoelaces together for the whole distance. This day was to be known as Muddy Monday...

Never in my 19 years of life did I see such quantity, depth and density of mud before!! It was the worst day to pick a challenge but we endured. Two kilometres of tripping, falling on our arses and getting mud in our pants we were finally made to stop, much to our dismay. The terrain was too dense and we were slowing the team down. It was the funniest and most difficult walking experience of my life but totally worth it because later that night we were awarded a special Sony Ericsson gadget for it (http://www.engadget.com/2006/02/14/sony-ericssons-hbh-ds970-stereo-bluetooth-headset-with-remote/). Also, we travelled through dark woodland with steep climbs and our torches to guide us. It was a new experience for me.

The good news was that we got to spend the evening in a Spa Resort with comfortable beds, spa facilities and a mini-fridge in each room. *grin* The rooms were so large and opened up to the lawn. Basically, we kept the residents up all night. ;)

The biggest announcement that night was when Troy revealed the final list of eligible fanwalkers to present the award at the MTV EMAs. The pressure was certainly on for these guys as they had 24 hours to prepare a 1 minute speech explaining why they were the ones to present the award. However, for that one night, nerves were pushed aside.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let the good times roll...



DAY 2

There's one thing I hate about British fields...the gates! We climbed over many a gate, I assure you. However, they're easier to tackle than the Maltese rubble wall. Therefore, I'll stop complaining. And anyway we learned to make gate-crossing fun by kissing the person who passed after us on the cheek after each gate. Awwww...

The most significant part of the day was undoubtedly the first challenge. Troy (see picture above) made us walk the final stretch to our location with our arms in the air and finally also standing on one foot in a line (still with our arms in the air). It was tough because it was bitter cold and I had no gloves on. When we got to put our arms down in the end I couldn't feel them!!

That evening we got to Watford (Geri Halliwell's hometown) and had to get ourselves ready in an hour to go out again. Something which became routine to us. We made our way to WALKABOUT (http://www.walkabout.eu.com/home/venues/london/watford) for our next challenge...KARAOKE. I won't reveal much but I can say it was an interesting night. However, in memory of good times I can say it was the honorary night when the FREE BOOZE BAND was born (named after all the free drinks they gave us each night) and the night I visited my first British club, OCEANA (http://www.oceanaclubs.com/watford/). This club is so cool and has got different bars and one main arena. Thanks to our UK fanwalker friends, John and Sinead, who showed us round their usual clubbing spots.


DAY 3

This was the day I realised that wearing heels after walking 15kms is not the brightest of all choices. Nevertheless, I did wear heels on various nights leading to a sprained ankle incident on the night of the Europe Music Awards, but I'll tell you all about that in later blogs...

The third day was actually sunny and bright and we walked along the Glade River (canals) to Hemel Hempstead. We also had a hilarious piggyback challenge. The fact it was so funny was because the person being carried and the carrier's body ratios varied in size. You had some people with tiny body frames carrying much bigger fanwalkers on their backs. The falls and laughs were countless.




Day Three was also October 31st, aka HALLOWEEN. Our evening challenge was the hair challenge. Lots of clever hair designs were created and everyone put on their best Halloween outfits. The party was held at this house by the side of the canal known as THE BOAT (very original name, I know). I was a little homesick that night for some reason but after I heard Michael Jackson's THRILLER (which I had been waiting for all night) then I got into full party swing!! Celebrations continued till the early morning back at the hotel.


DAY 4

The morning after the night before. Scary. Somehow, we managed to roll out of bed, grab a bite to eat and start our walk to Aylesbury. A few canal side scenes and a trust challenge later, we got to our destination all pooped out only to find a horrible dormitory/sports centre. The hall I slept in actually had 14 beds for guys and girls. You could see that the toll of walking and hard nights partying was taking its effect on us. Some people were getting cranky and didn't want to go out for the evening's challenge. However, it turned out to be one of the funnest challenges...DISCO BOWLING!! I was in the Sex Pistols team so we had to dress up like the group. Other teams included the KISS team, ELVIS team, P!NK team, MICHAEL JACKSON team, THE BEATLES team, PUSSYCAT DOLLS team (or Amy Winehouse, I'm not so sure) amongst others. We really had some team spirit going like never before. We were becoming more than just friends...we were becoming a family...the FANWALK FAMILY.


(to be continued)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to reality...

...because FANWALK was just a dream!

I cannot even begin to explain my gratitude and disbelief towards SONY ERICSSON for organising such a perfectly unique event. And now I sit here on my bed trying to garner the energy to put it all down in words without shedding a tear.

Our journey started early on the morning of Tuesday, 28th October 2009. As usual, I was late...as in 30 minutes-check-in-before-flight late! I met the others and I could tell everyone was nervous. As soon as we entered the aeroplane I dropped my passport with excitement.

We were all tired but couldn't sleep on the plane (except for Sarah...she could sleep through a hurricane). As soon as we arrived at Gatwick airport we were greeted by a petite old lady with the Sony Ericsson Fanwalk sign and that's when we knew we were in the right place!

The first friends we made on the drive to our first hostel in London (The Holland Park Hostel http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/london/hostels/london-holland-park/index.aspx) were two of the Ukrainian fanwalkers - Liliia and Aleks. As soon as we got to the hostel and started meeting other fanwalkers we knew this was going ot be a special adventure. That first day was so long with so many things happening. Fanwalkers kept arriving till the evening and we must have gone shopping on the Kensington High Street about three times! That same night we were given our Sony Ericsson W-series mobile phones and some instructions on the Fanwalk. The Maltese crew got this model:-



Pretty schnazzy, right? ;) The person who blogged most with their phone even stood the chance of winning another mobile phone!

We also got lots of goodies like walking gear (sponsored by Reebok and EDC by Esprit) as well as Sony Ericsson candy, pens and badges. I also got to meet my cousin for the first time because he works in one of the local post-offices. That was pretty cool and meaningful to me.

Then, later that evening, we had our first taste of the night life. Nothing special really. We all crashed at this neat pub called Kensington Arms and made friends with so many people. It was cool because we had music as a topic to get things going and so many different tastes and lifestyles were revealed. We talked about our countries too and how we all got into this competition. It was pretty cool. The walk back was crazy though since it was snowing! However, as soon as we got to the hostel we hung out in one of the bigger dorms and got to know some other people. It was so relaxed and soothing...Andi (from Germany) playing tunes on his guitar and everyone on the floor singing and chatting. Another taster of nights to come...

DAY 1
The next day saw us all together as a group and marked the beginning of some very serious friendships and lessons in packing and unpacking. We had to check out really early and dress up in our star outfit, i.e. , dress up as our favourite artist. Some people went all out and it was cool. The most over-copied star was Justin Timberlake. I tried my best at being Alicia Keys...not bad, don't you think?

We got to see some cool sites like the Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. We also had a photoshoot with various members of the press and some of us got interviewed. This was our first real reminder that it was going to take much more to get Malta noticed.
After the shoot, we went to this cool club in Camden, London, known as Jazz Cafe (http://www.jazzcafelive.com/). This is where we changed into our walking gear and met for the first time the band that would be travelling, partying and living with us for the next 9 days. They came by the name of CLUBFEET (www.myspace.com/clubfeetband) and boy were they good!! They performed some of their songs for us that day including the Official Fanwalk song 'KEEP IT TOGETHER', which was to be drilled into our brains in the following days. I also bought my first wellies from the Camden market. Aren't they fab? ^^

And then, we WALKED. Our first walk. 15km. I shall never forget it. Everyone was mingling with each other and it was the only day we were at maximum energy levels. HAHA. We were divided into groups of about 20 each so as not to startle the locals. My first group leader was the almighty JEN from the Outward Bound Non-Profit Making Organisation (http://www.outwardbound.org/). She was so awesome and I regret not having my picture taken with her or any of the group leaders actually. They really helped us get along the British wilderness except for Mr. Brown (he was a little misguided but a nice chap really! hehe). We first walked up to Mill Hill and through Hampstead Heath and paused a hundred times for interviews and photoshoots, but it was fun. By the time we got to the tourbus, we all looked at each other and thought that wasn't so bad. Never a more fallous statement there was.

The tour bus took us to the Days Inn Hotel...a welcome sight! This is where we learned how to get washed and changed in 30 minutes in time for our first briefing. Troy the motivator introduced us to the wristband challenges which basically meant that in order to be in the running to present an award at the EMAs we had to partake in different challenges along the way, earning us wristbands. The top 15 people with wristbands would then pass through to the finals. All we could say was...BRING IT ON!!
(to be continued)