I know it’s been over a month since I last blogged anything but because the days here tend to be the same each day, I felt like there was nothing new that I could say. However yesterday the team put on an event which was brilliant so I’m going to tell you all about it.
As part of this program you need to plan and deliver one big event in the community on a topic of your choosing. You have complete free range in this event and can do anything that you want. We chose sexual heath and gender based violence as we felt that we wanted to talk more about these issues as they were prevalent in the community.
We invited various stakeholders – department of health, local counsellors, love life, an NGO who do HIV testing, department of education and department of social development. They did speeches and the children from local primary and secondary schools did performances which was all very good. We had dancers, poets, debaters and singers. Simultaneously we had football and netball tournaments with the winners getting new kit for their school as well as free HIV testing. We also had a photo booth where the children wrote something about sexual health and GBV and then we took photos of them. We ran the event on the same week as International Women’s Day because we wanted girl and women empowerment at the event. We cooked lunch for 300 people which was delicious, rice and veg.
After the event we had a lot of spare veg left over so me and Aimee walked around the community giving out free vegetables to those who wanted them.
All in all great day all round.
As part of my volunteering experience, the charity I am away with pay for one trip each month. So on Saturday we went to Mhlontlo Nature Reserve to see the Tsitsa Falls. We met up with the other team who are working in a place called Tsolo doing the same thing as us here in Qumbu who we haven’t seen for three weeks. It was a VERY VERY exciting day for everyone.
It was a beautiful place. Beside the waterfall there was little cabins which you can rent out for R500 per night… I was very tempted. One of the most exciting parts about the entire trip was the toilets. They had proper toilets with flushes and taps to clean your hands. It felt like five star luxury.
A couple of the girls and I who have been named The Journal Club literally for the fact we all wrote in our journals every night together at training, pre-planned a picnic where we all brought something and shared it. It was LUSH. Because it’s towards the end of the month and we haven’t been to supermarkets very frequently we have all been a bit consistently hungry for the last while. So when we saw the feast that was about to happen it was like we had never seen food. The four of us devoured the picnic which consisted of two tubs of pasta, three tubs of fruit salad, six slices of banana bread, four large packets of crisps, two packets of biscuits, two packets of sweets, a large bottle of apple juice and cartons of coconut and pear juice. It was such a great treat that we really needed and for the first time in a while I felt full and satisfied after eating.
We spent the entire day just mingling, chatting, catching up, playing games, taking pictures, laughing and eating. It was such a wonderful day and The Journal Club gals were reunited for the first time in what felt like forever. I’m so so lucky to have found these girls who are 100% going to be friends for life. The countdown is on until next weekend where I get to see them again at top up training and we have already started planning for all the shenanigans that are going to happen once we get home.
I’ve been in South Africa for three whole weeks (and a bit) now so I thought to kick start the SA blog series off I would focus on the good, the bad and the ugly, by ugly I mean the things I’m missing back home.
How did I end up in South Africa?
Well, it started a year ago when I applied for ICS (international citizenship service). The scheme seemed interesting with various charity all working with the ICS programme. After filling in a couple of forms I then had to rank each charity from my top preference to my bottom. I was invited to a selection day in London with Restless Development (my first choice) which was a day of interviews, presentations and scenario based activities. Luckily I found out a few weeks later that I had been accepted onto the programme. After what seemed like forever I then found out the location I would be working in. I chose Restless Development as they were working on projects which I found most interesting – sexual health, gender based violence, livelihoods and life skills.
Where do I even begin? Everything I love here takes me back to basics. The smallest things make me incredibly happy and excited, for example finding chocolate spread in a shop made it feel like Christmas had come early. I love waking up naturally at 6:30am every morning (can’t even believe I’m writing that) to the sounds of the chickens cooking outside, it’s like the worlds best alarm clock. Getting up and going outside to eat breakfast in the company of the family’s dog (who had no name but I call him Snoopy) in the sun is one of my highlights. He is really affectionate to me now because I feel him everyday some of my leftover food, a bad habit to get into but one I can’t help. Even bathing in a tub, washing my clothes by hand and having to boil water for drinking are all things which I have adapted to quickly and enjoy. I think it’s because all of these activities mean you are focussed on one thing only for a while so your mind isn’t thinking about a thousand things a minute, it’s pretty calming. I like seeing my friends everyday without fail and having conversations which never get dull or never dry out because there always seems to be so much to discuss. I love going to one of my friends houses and seeing her dog Danger who is a guard dog but has become such a softy as us British girls pamper him to the max. I like having just enough food to eat without having excess. I love the yoga sessions which happen in the mornings or evenings which the kids join in with and love. I love how I loose track of the days and the time because everything here is much more chill than back home, lateness is not rude it is accepted. If something is meant to start at 11am it won’t actually start until an hour or so later. I love eating vegetables fresh from the garden to add to my meals. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the animals are able to roam around free here without a care in the world and how they always find their way back home at sunset.
To be honest there’s nothing major that I dislike. I don’t like how dogs are treated as animals rather than pets, however that’s something that I just need to accept. I don’t like the waste management or lack of. In the town of Qumbu (my nearest town) piles of rubbish litter the street and it’s disgusting. Bins are very few and even then people tend to just litter. In the communities it’s less of an issue as the rubbish is just burnt in the garden. We are hopefully (fingers all crossed) going to be working with a guy who is interested in turning rubbish into biofuel potentially tackling some of the waste management issues, however this is a project that is volunteers can start tackling but will need to make sure it is going to be sustainable for when we leave.
The ugly (or things I miss about home)
Again not much. Mainly out of sheer laziness I miss a washing machine, shower, microwave, toaster and all those things. My biggest thing however is probably running water in the house and flushing toilets. I often feel like I’m not maintaining hand washing practices as well as back home but it’s difficult to continually be washing hands when running water is just not a thing.
All in all I’m having an amazing experience and feel so happy to be part of a wonderful team with so many interesting projects on the go.
This time every year I am thinking about what I can improve about myself or my life and the steps in which I can achieve these. Usually its a pretty mundane list with the New Year resolution cliches making up the majority of the list. This year I have spent most of January thinking about realistic goals for the year and planning appropriate steps to conquer these goals. The goals I have chosen are not for creating a whole new me or vastly changing any aspect of my life, but simply building on achievements that I made in 2017. So here goes…
- Saving money. 2017 was the year where I actually began to save some money and not spend every penny I own on material goods. Having goals for what I wanted to spent my savings on really helped me focus on not splashing out and I want to continue this mindset into 2018.
- Continuing to run. I made so much progress with running last year from being able to run a 5K with difficulty to being able to run 100km in a week. Running is so good for me to clear my head plus get some fresh air that it’s a definite must to keeping up with in 2018.
- Getting a job. I got my first full time job in 2017 after finishing university. My goal is to be able to get a full time job in radiotherapy after I come home from travelling and to begin my professional career.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while now then you will know that one of my best gals got engaged. After what felt like a very long wait, finally the day of the hen party had arrived.
We all met at Rebeccas flat before heading down to the canal at Fountainbridge. The first part of the day was sailing down the canal on a boat. Hanah’s bridesmaid had organised all sorts of games and a makeshift Photo Booth which was brill. Everyone turned up in their best sparkly outfits and we were given little parties bags which had little chocolates, wine and sashes in it.
After the boat it was time for some dinner. We had preordered dinner off a set christmas menu, I had a nut roast followed by some christmas pudding washed down with red wine.
After dinner we went to bohemia which is a bar in town and ended the night in The Shack which is a club playing retro music.
All in all, great day/night with great company. Gutted I can’t make it to the wedding.
This christmas was incredibly quiet, just with the parents and my sister. Sometimes the quiet ones are the best one though.
I started off the day with a baileys hot chocolate because why not? It was christmas. Then we got stuck into opening presents. This year I just was angling for some money and various little things which I could take away with me travelling.
One of my best presents was actually a massive jigsaw puzzle which I have just finished. I spent part of the day watching Home Alone and Scrooge and trying to make progress with this jigsaw. Alfie was very lucky and got a new jacket from Santa which he loves and looks unbearably cute when he struts around in it.
One of our traditions is the christmas walk with our dog Alfie. This particular christmas had unbelievably bad weather so only half of us braved the lashing rain. On the walk I picked up holly complete with berries, ivy and fern branches to decorate the table with. It’s amazing how much a bit of foliage completes a table!
This was my first year having christmas dinner as a vegetarian and I was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to be majorly depressed looking at the pigs in blankets, gravy and delicious turkey but in reality it didn’t even slightly bother me. I had a nut roast which was so delicious. In between courses we played a christmas trivia game which was really fun but I was terrible at.
And that was that, christmas over for another year.
So if you follow my blog/any of my social media accounts you will know I’m jetting off to Africa in January. As part of this trip you are expected to raise £800 for the charity through fundraising. For ages I was stumped as to what I could do that would encourage donations and finally I decided on a run as it is something that I do anyways and it is easy as it doesn’t take much organisation or cost any money. 100km in a week is what I decided on and once I had chosen a week then it was just a case of training. When I say training I didn’t actually really train because the week of the run just crept up on me so quickly. I was planning on taking the week off work to ensure I was well rested and eating properly but I forgot (classic!). I ran with my flatmate who is also going to Africa and needed to fundraise. I definitely wouldn’t have had the drive to do it on my own. If you are wondering I used map my run to ensure I was doing the correct distance.
You know those days where you just cannot run, everything hurts and you just want to stop… that was day 1. I ran on the treadmill in the gym instead of outdoor running. I have a really annoying ankle which always hurts when I run, possibly to do with having old shoes or a bad running style but omg the pain. The plan was to run 15km but I only managed 12km. Slightly disheartening but tried to keep a PMA (positive mental attitude).
In contrast to day 1, day 2 was a breeze. I strapped up my ankle (so tight I couldn’t feel it) and it was a dream. Nothing hurt and I wasn’t tired so I ran 17km to make up for day 1.
Day 3 was actually okay. The strapping kept my ankle in check although the thighs were killing me probably because I hadn’t stretched so I learnt my lesson there. That was another 17km ticked off.
Day 4 was the worst probably. It was so incredibly windy that the run felt like it took twice the amount of energy. It was freezing so whenever I had to stop at the traffic lights, my muscles would seize up and it was difficult to get going again. Never been more happy to have a hot shower when I got home. Managed another 17km though.
Day 4 wasn’t too bad. I think because I had already completed such a distance already the end felt reachable. It was still really cold but there was little wind so I wasn’t as tired at the end of it. My ankle was twinging but to be honest at the distance that I had done all week it was way better than I expected it to be at this stage.
Because I had a hen party this day, I did a cheeky 10km which felt so incredibly short. I’ve never been more happy to check my distance on the running app I use and see that I was almost finished when it felt like I had just began.
Solid relief is all I felt when I woke up in the morning that all I had left of this run was 10km. It was bitterly cold and really frosty so the ground was a bit icy in places. Having taken my ankle strap off I was expecting some trouble but actually the ankle was okay. The run felt so short. And I’m going to probably take a good couple of weeks to recover/run again.
There is still time to donate! Anything large or small is greatly appreciated to help me reach my target. My just giving page is linked here.
Overall although it was difficult, this challenge has taught me that you can actually do way more than you think you can do… all it takes it some motivation and determination.