on living abroad | utah, usa

2014, April, Culture, Family and Friends, Food, Travel

“so you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. as much as your countries represent and fulfil different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. for the rest of your life …or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. it takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new, and it can’t die simply because you’ve moved over a few time zones. the people that took you into their country and became your new family, they aren’t going to mean any less to you when you’re far away.”
this is a brazilian portuguese to english translation. find the original post here

there is so much to this quote. so much. and i don’t need to add anything to it. it explains everything.

i’ve been home for about 6 weeks and i am still adjusting. {i’ve also had this post saved as a draft for almost 3 months}. in a job interview i had recently, i used the term ‘mall’ {instead of shopping centre}, and one of the interviewers immediately mentioned that i still used ‘americanisms’, then laughed at me. i got slightly confused on which side of the road i was supposed to be on when driving last week. i don’t remember which country uses the word checking account vs. current account. i’m grateful tax isn’t added on once i get to the till/cashier. i’m also glad that i don’t really have to tip anymore. it’s bloomin’ humid in england, but my skin is oh so grateful. is it favourite or favorite? color or colour? center or centre?

some things on this list are specifically tailored to me, a brit living in america, but some i believe apply to any person moving to a foreign country, the good and the not-so-good!

photo 2

1. oh hey you speak english? we’re the same! oh wait, wait what? no, no we’re not.
perhaps it’s common belief, or maybe i was naïve in thinking that because americans spoke english and generally have a lot of similarities that we would be the same.  but we are oh so different. and those differences change from state to state which can be even more confounding. i got stared on numerous occasions for simply asking a question or making a comment using british terminology {again in my naivety thinking everyone everywhere understood britishisms, alas not the case}. “are you in the queue?” | “is it easier to get there on the motorway?”.

be ready for it. enjoy it.

 “we don’t do/celebrate/eat that in england” … it goes on.

i think one of the hardest adjustments was while i was in school and at work. writing assignments, giving presentations or sending artwork descriptions to the company’s design team was hilarious. there were a fair few ‘spelling mistakes’ i can tell you that!

2. what’s the dress code?
this might just be me. and maybe i overdress for everything but i remember for the first few  months whenever my roommate and i were going out whether it was for dinner, a movie or a wedding reception, i would ask her what the dress code was. is this british? but i soon got over it and just dressed for myself. it stopped mattering after a while. and i was ok with that.

3. you’re going to feel lonely
i was really lucky. even though i was moving to somewhere i had only ever visited once {for a week at that}, i was lucky to have a number of people i already knew to help me with the transition. i salute anyone who goes somewhere unknown on their own. i tip my hat off to you. there were some incredibly lonely moments. there were times when i didn’t have anyone to lean on. let me be honest here. if you can’t already tell i am someone who loves my close friends and family. and as much as i love to travel and explore the world, i love to have family close. sometimes i felt so out of place. opening a bank account, buying a car, finding an apartment, passing my driver’s test – i’m so grateful to all those who helped me. my situation was always different because i was a foreigner. but there are good people in this world. incredibly good people, whose kindness often left me gobsmacked. what am i saying here? expect loneliness. but it’s not a constant state. it comes and goes. and when it’s gone relish in it.

4. fooooooood glorious food
and there’s a lot of it in america in general. but like everything else it takes some getting used to. portion sizes, free re-fills, there’s sugar in everything {or at least it felt like it}…embrace it. enjoy it. let curiosity get the best of you. mexican, brazilian, american, food from the islands {hawaii, samoa etc.}. try it all. you’re not going to get it at home {or it might be similar but won’t be the same}. love it.

photo 1

5. you’re going to get homesick
i thought this would get easier after the first few weeks, but it didn’t. not that it got harder either. but it came in chunks. in moments. when i would be driving somewhere, on my own, i would secretly just want to be home. just for a moment. to hug my mum, to laugh with my friends, to feel a sense of homeness that you can’t get anywhere else. but let it be. it passes. it always does. because things happen, days are glorious, new friends make you laugh like no other. strangers will be kind.  things won’t be the same as they are at home. they’re not supposed to be. and its ok. it really is. live in the moment.

6. enjoy the american way of life!
one thing i was a little worried about was losing my identity. quite especially my accent. i therefore made a conscious effort to keep it {often sounding a little downton abbey-ish}. i think it was because i felt that as soon as that happened i would lose myself. weird as it sounds, i felt i needed to hold on to everything that was british about me. and that’s normal right? {at least that’s what i told myself}. however i also told myself that i needed to embrace and experience every holiday/tradition i could; from superbowl sunday to memorial day weekend, july 4th, pioneer day {specific to utah}, president’s day weekend, state fairs and all the fried goodness that comes with it, thanksgiving and black friday. all of it. and i am thoroughly glad i did.

7. “it takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new…”
i can’t express enough how much truth this statement holds. that might be the reason why after 6 weeks of being home, i still feel completely worn out and exhausted. i can only manage to apply for a job every couple of days and i spend most of my time watching netflix. the emotional, physical and financial effort it takes to move from one country to another is impossible to imagine. i also salute anyone doing it with a family, having to sort out a lot more than just oneself.

the meaning of carving {found here}:
a.  to divide into pieces by cutting; slice: carved a roast.
b.  to divide by parceling out: carve up an estate.
c.  to cut into a desired shape; fashion by cutting: carve the wood into a figure.
d.  to make or form by or as if by cutting: carve initials in the bark; carved out an empire.
e.  to decorate by cutting and shaping carefully

carving anything takes work. the reality of it is that it’s not going to be easy. it get’s easier. yes, once you’ve found your groove, your way of doing things, it gets a lot easier.

and now i’m home i have to start carving all over again. i’m not sure i was entirely prepared for that. perhaps again in my naivety i thought it would be just as it was. so i’m taking my time. taking each day as it comes.

photo 4

my two {and a bit} years in utah are now permanently etched onto every corner of my being. i do not for a moment, regret my decision to live there. i grew. i learnt how to love, how to be confident, how to forgive, how to receive kindness and generosity that only living abroad can teach you.

“no one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

i am divided in two for the rest of my life. but that division is ravishing, stunning and winsome to me.



a night i will never forget

2014, Culture, Family and Friends, Fashion, March

miss sierra leone.

i’m not sure i will ever have the right words to adequately describe the night of the pageant. i’ve been putting off this post for some time for that very reason. from the moment we danced our way through “Red Card” by D2 as we introduced ourselves to the 700+ audience and 6 judges, to the moment miss zimbabwe and i held hands as the called for 1st runner-up and the winner…it was more awesome than “a monkey wearing a tuxedo made out of bacon, riding a unicorn with a light saber as a horn, on the tip of a space shuttle closing in on mars, while engulfed in flames”. {yes i found that description somewhere on the world wide web…it was the best description i had come across}.

there a A LOT of pictures and if i could share them with you all i would {actually i might upload them on to flickr…watch this space}.

if you knew me when i was younger you would know that  i was very much an introvert. i went up to say a prayer at church one time, around the age of 16, and when i got back to my seat my brother leaned over and asked “why were you breathing so heavily?” because i was really nervous bro but thanks, i now feel just, ya know, slightly worse.

at family parties, when meeting and spending time with aunts and uncles, i was the quiet one. mostly due to my lack of sounding genuinely sierra leonean {imagine a british/african wannabe accent if you can}. i wasn’t comfortable speaking krio and i would get teased for speaking english, so i preferred not to talk.

even meeting new people {adults mostly} i was quiet as a mouse, getting on stage was a whole different ballgame and i’ve thrown up a fair few times out of sheer stage fright.

where am i going with this? i think i needed to give you a backdrop, an idea, of just how much this was the biggest milestone for me. even more than winning amazing prizes and coming in as 1st runner-up.

for the first time in my life, i did something scary and i wasn’t scared. not one little bit. i enjoyed every single moment. if you would have told me 5 years ago that i would participate in a miss africa utah pageant, i would have laughed in your face. and i mean the of the cackling kind.

 and yet here we are. 3 weeks and one atlantic ocean later, i’m sharing all of this with you. anyway enough of my musings. to the pictures!

{thank you to my amazing bestie ema, of our love in bloom, for capturing the night! plus pictures from miss africa utah on facebook.}

for the introduction, as i mentioned before, we danced to “red card” by d2. we were all in red dresses for this. the fun had begun!


after the intro dance it was time to showcase our traditional outfits. it was phenomenal to see each of the girls, they were all so beautiful. and i learnt a lot about these nations, for example, i didn’t know mauritius was heavily influenced by Hinduism {as you will see in her traditional (pink) outfit below}.






talent time! i’m definitely a “shower singer” and dancing is reserved for me, myself and i {also let’s face it, i felt braver but not that brave}. this was fun to watch during rehearsals, from singing and drumming to dancing and poem reciting {which i chose to do}, so much incredible culture!





then time for the judge’s interview questions…i was actually a little nervous about this one. although we were given the questions beforehand to research our answers, i was more worried about my mind going blank. and of course i got the question i was most nervous about “how do u.s. gun laws affect your country?” but i got through it and by this time of the night we were running on something!






and finally the evening gowns. shopping for this was way more fun than i anticipated. it might have also been for the fact that the first dress i tried on i knew was “the one”.






i. absolutely. loved. it. the poofiness. the colour. the style. did i say the poofiness? i ended up renting the dress {can you imagine trying to fit that into a suitcase to take back to england?}. if you’re looking for a gown for a special evening i highly recommend the dress garden in bountiful, utah.

this isn’t all of us {there were 9 of us in total} but we were then all brought out on stage for the prizes from the night plus the announcing of the top 5.

i won best ambassador…


and most popular!! which was hilarious because i heard my friends screaming before it was announced {it was a ‘text in’ type voting on the night and the results were posted up on the screen right before it was announced}.


and then one by one the top 5 were announced…

and here we are!


and then…questions from the judges. these we couldn’t prepare for. they were randomly asked from a particular judge for each of us. they were allowed to ask us anything.

luckily my question wasn’t too bad, i was basically asked about where success lay for a woman, motherhood or a career? both of course! and that’s how i answered.


we were then escorted off the stage as the judges deliberated. about a mighty 45mins later we were called back on and from 4th runner up to the winner we were called up!


this is the moment where it was announced that i was the first runner-up which meant miss zimbabwe would take the crown.

here is brent and i. he is my brother from another mother! we were in the same mission {and same district for about a year!} and he kindly drummed for me as i recited my poem. got a lotta love for this fella!

and of course sweet, sweet ema. she is one of those best friends that, well, we don’t have to see each other for a while but you just know that you have each other’s backs. if it means flying to frankfurt to be at her wedding i would do it in a heartbeat. it means her coming to support me at the pageant {and taking these amazing pictures!} while i know she has a busy schedule with it being her final semester at byu. we were also in the same mission and i served with her for 6 glorious {i don’t know how she put up with me} months.

anyway, i could go on for days.

backstage was madness. A LOT of running back and forth. trying to stay sweat-free in the process {BIG BIG thank you to the paul mitchell make-up team for keeping me fresh!} having to toss body issues to the side as we all got changed in the same dressing room…plus the dozens of assistants and helpers.

thank you to gloria {the amazing pageant director}, jane and gifty for their endless patience with us girls week after week, rehearsal after rehearsal.

thank you to the wonderful, amazing and incredible girls who participated with me. their stories are amazing and one day i might be able to share them with you. i would like to.

it was a phenomenal experience learning about the beautiful countries that sit on that diverse and dynamic continent.

thank you to everyone who came to support me on the night, and for all the love and support to received beforehand.

a special thank you to my roommates and sista’s from another mista, korinne and kristen, for their patience and support from driving me to collect dresses, sweeping up hair after weaves, clearing tables for a dance floor and putting up with loud anxious pageant contestants the night before {which by the way was so much fun! with miss ethiopia and miss zimbabwe – amazing girls!}.

i’ve probably missed out some things {it is 2am now}…so there might be a part 2. maybe.

i might wear my crown and sash to a job interview or two. ya know. transferable skills and all that.


life lately

2014, Family and Friends, February, Food

oh the woes of first world problems. i’m leaving utah in 5 weeks so naturally i want to eat all the goodness i’m not going to be able to enjoy once i’m back in england. yet…i’m trying to lose weight in time for the miss africa utah pageant.

yes. the woes of first world problems.

anyway a colleague at work {who spent some time in england} had told me about this little café in roy, utah, that served legitimate fish and chips. well as about legitimate as you can get for utah. i was a little skeptical because i’ve had “fish and chips” before {i guess going leatherby’s – a very american restaurant – should have given it away}.

well i was wrong, and it was delicious.

and just fyi we ended up going to the one in layton, and unfortunately the one in roy is closing down.

if you’re in utah and crave a good ole’ plate of fish and chips i highly recommend the little taste of britain.

Little Taste of Britain

Fish and Chips!
***brad and korinne didn’t want a picture taken…i did it anyway and i’m not ashamed.

i really do love food.


a pageant? wait whaaaat?!

2014, Januray


i entered the miss africa utah pageant 2014. i am both really excited and absolutely terrified.

but mostly i think it’s going to be one glittery and exhilarating adventure.


last saturday was the first of many rehersals/photoshoots. i may have sat there and wondered; “what did i just get myself into?” and “wait, i have to answer questions on a stage in front of how many people?” and “i need what now?”.

but meeting the other girls, talking and laughing with them soothed those crazy butterflies even if just for a moment.

hey, we have to try something that scares us every once in a while right? and i think a pageant is a good start for 2014!

miss africa utah, bring it on. i think i’m ready.



happy monday

2013, October

it’s monday morning {at least it is here in utah}…here’s something to get your motivated for another week.

always continue the climb. it is possible for you to do whatever you choose, if  you first get to know who you are and are willing to work with a power that is  greater than ourselves to do it.
ella wheeler wilcox



i heart my city | salt lake city

2013, August

i’m winding down for the night listening to bbc radio 1xtra. i kinda miss the british accent. and british radio. and chris moyles & twin b {who i’m actually listening to right now}.

anyway i’ve been thinking a lot about doing some new features on my blog. and what i mean by that is some monthly posts that feature interviews, posts from my readers, guest bloggers etc. i’ve done a combination of those with my previous blogs so i thought it was about time to get that started again!

this segment i’m calling “i heart my city”. i invite you as a reader to participate! share why you love the city you live in, whether you’re from there or not. send a paragraph or two in an email cupcakemascarablog{at}gmail{dot}com. include a picture of your city and/or one of yourself.

it can be as simple as this..

hi. i’m mariama. i’m 28 years old and i’m from the uk {just outside london}.


i now live in salt lake city, utah — i initially moved here for school but now i have a job {which i love!}…so it means i get to play a little longer in slc! i heart this city because:

  • the taco stands downtown are pretty fantastic — forget resaurants, shack/hut food is where it’s at
  • i’m actually quite loving a city that isn’t busy
  • ice cream
  • the mountains…oh those mountains!
  • fry sauce
  • summer & fall and all that there is to do
  • twilight concert series — $5 concerts of awesome artists like ludacris, kid cudi, erykah badu and mgmt. to name a few…

image from blurbomat.com

you can do it any which way you like. i kinda like bullet points. but you can share a list like i have, a couple of things or just one thing. i’m excited to see what you share! if you live in slc and are hesitant to send something in because i’ve just done so, don’t be…you and i will see slc differently!

just send a few lines {don’t forget some blurb about yourself}, and a pic of your city and/or of yourself and email it to cupcakemascarablog{at}gmail{dot}com.


twilight concert series | ludacris

2013, August

i promise this isn’t to do with the slightly appalling teen movie phenomenon. no, this is in fact the genius that is the concert series. for $5 a show or $35 for the entire series, you get to enjoy a 3 hour performance from two artists.

on thursday ludacris was performing. i kinda love him. in a slighty teenage way too. he’s one of my favorite hip hop artists from the early 2000s. his lyrics are hilarious and witty. and i also find him to be a fairly handsome chap. and for $5 it’s more than a bargain, it’s basically free.

let’s be honest for a moment here, i just love live music, whether it’s rap, soul or pop/rock. coming up? kid cudi, empire of the sun and mgmt.

i heart summer.

Luda with friends


check out the related article {below} on the number of people who turned up.


Related articles

my favorite posts {day 21}

2013, July

if you’ve read my “about” section you’ll know i have indeed started 2/3 blogs over the last two years and my most recent before this one was the definition of vogue {i just struggled to find a blog that fit}.

so i’m combining my favorite posts from that blog and this one to share with today’s challenge.

// travel in style. since i moved to utah travelling comfortably from here to london is an absolute must. especially with a 13 hour flight journey.
// erin jones and britnee b. every friday i would do a feature friday post, focusing on one fashionista. i love these two girls. they were in my sales class last semester and i adore their style.
// also part of my feature friday posts were fashion interviews. here are three of my favorites, all of which are london college of fashion graduates; heba elemara, hazelle moscrop, and nikita karizma who styled the finalists on x factor uk 2011.
// when i found this on pinterest i burst out loud. literally out loud.
// my first post on this blog back in february. i appreciated the love!
// this get real post was the first time i’ve opened up about anything personal on such a public forum.

happy mnday!

blog everyday in july {day 1}

2013, July

yep i’m going to try this challenge and i’m pretty excited, so here goes…


the story of my life in 250 words or less:
i was born in sierra leone {west africa}. i have one younger brother who i adore, plus my mum and pops. we moved to reading, england when i was 4. that’s where i grew up and wouldn’t change for the world. throughout secondary school and university i met some amazing people who are still in my life today {you know who you are}. i served a lds mission in leeds, england {life changing + the best 18 months of my life yet}, then moved to slc, utah to study entrepreneurship. i’m almost 28 {eeek}, and single but of the guys i have dated i’ve been able to experience some great times. however there is one guy, just one, who has shown me that finding the right guy will definitely be worth the wait *disclaimer* he doesn’t know this yet, one day i’ll pluck up the courage to tell him. i love cake, ice cream, strawberries, superhero movies, justin timberlake, summer and shoes. i currently work for a retail licensing company who manufacturer consumer goods such as wall décor {think clocks}, drinkware and other fun stuff for like marvel, my little pony, hello kitty and star trek. i work in the marketing dept. — and i absolutely love it. that’s me in a not-so-nutshell.


life lately.

2013, July

um. hi there. i know. it’s been a minute, or 5. i’ve sort of been in a creative stump these last couple of weeks. it’s hard to explain. but it’s great to be back blogging.

anyway life has been a little crazy to say the least. i started working at a great company 2 months ago and last week i found out my amazing boss is leaving. get this, i only work part-time (because i’m international i can only work 20 hours a week) and my work load it about to double, perhaps triple, until they get a replacement. it’s going to be crazy. plus i’m still not sure what i’m doing, so this is going to be interesting indeed!

i got to spend this past weekend at bear lake/logan. that place is gorgeous! and here are some pictures because i feel pictures say a lot more than words can.

free watermelon at the zoo? yes please!









because i was struggling with getting creative with my blog i decided to try out the blog a day throughout july! i was inspired by this and this from pinterest. so i’m sending you two posts today, i’m excited! plus july is my birthday month so why not?!