Soon be time to move on.

It’s my last week in Zambia, I’ll be leaving on Monday. Now it feels like the last 3 weeks have gone so quick. I’ll be so sad to leave, I know I will. I know I’m not leaving quite yet, so I’m trying to not think about it too much, but as it’s my last week there are lots of ‘lasts’ happening now. Like Monday, when it was my last time teaching the Grade 5’s at Tawbuka school. And tomorrow, when it will be my last Conservation Club. So it’s hard not to think about it.

Some guys left on Monday too, it’s not the same without them. We miss you Andrew, Ally, Sarah and Melissa! ūüė¶ Although we got some newbies (hello Ciaran, Max2 and Maria). One of which is a fireman. #justsaying

Last Saturday we went out for some drinks because those guys were leaving. And because it was the weekend. Who needs any other excuse? Started at a bar/restaurant called The Spot for some drinks and shots. I had a Pink Pussy, some others had a Banana Blow Job, others a Liquid Cocaine. Classy place, haha. Next we moved next door to Fez Bar which, as we’re walking up to it, was playing Michael Jackson. Approved. Cue much cocktails, dancing and a bit of hip wiggling. I didn’t get to bed until around 3.30am that night. Luckily, Sunday is my day off so I spent it hanging. Just a little bit.

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Sunday night we went to see a lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls. It’s a ‘moonbow’ that occurs at the Falls when there is a Full Moon. Something to do with the spray and the light from the moon. Regardless of the scientifics, I know that it is very pretty. And very difficult to photograph. I got a half decent picture, but, like a lot of pictures, it really doesn’t do it justice. And, there, it’s all about the atmosphere. The sound of the water and the feel of the spray against your face in the pitch black, lit up by a rainbow. Incredible. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, I feel very lucky to have been able to see it.

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Just a quickie.

Wow this week seems to have gone quick. It’s Friday already which is my day off, so I’m sat writing this sat in the garden in the sun enjoying a bit of downtime. Although, its surprising how quickly time goes when all I’ve done today is catch up on some emails, news, done a bit of writing, face-timed my Dad and chatted to the other volunteers over lunch. It’s 3pm already and I’m only just starting this.

I feel nicely chilled out. I’ve got over my need-to-be-doing-something-every-minute and forced myself to just enjoy sitting. It’s different, and I still feel very lazy but also feeling very relaxed. My brain isn’t full of lists, or things to do or random thoughts of stuff I should be thinking about. It’s fairly empty and I’m just enjoying the quietness, lack of responsibility and a Milkybar.

I went into town on Wednesday lunchtime with some of the others to visit the curio market (a little craft market) and Shoprite for a chocolate, crisp and yoghurt run for everyone. The traders at the curio market are very friendly. Obviously, because they’re trying to get you to buy things. But, some of them are really nice and quite happy to have a chat even if you’re not buying anything (one of the good things about being on a RTW trip means you can’t actually buy loads of stuff, even if you want to – I bought a bracelet and a fridge magnet. That’s all.). The standard greeting here is ‘Hello, how are you?’. And they always shake your hand. But not with any old handshake. With a special handshake. It’s a normal handshake, then a kind of gangster grab, then normal handshake again. It’s like a club. I like it.

Weekday amusement this week happened most unexpectedly when I was teaching maths on Tuesday. There I was, going through how to change improper fractions into mixed numbers with my class (I’m not going to forget that) and in trotted a goat. Yep, a Goat. Only in Africa. Cue me and some of the kids chasing it round the classroom like a Benny Hill sketch to get it out. I think it provided a welcome distraction from fractions for the kids who, naturally, found it hilarious.

There has also been running excitement this week! You can tell the excitement by the use of an exclamation mark, I don’t do it that often. ¬†So, running excitement #1: I ran a new running route! This is BIG excitement. I was convinced I would be running in laps for the whole 4 weeks. And although a run, is deathly dull. So, imagine how excited I was when I managed to force persuade Daryl, general manager here, to come on a run with me, because we could run a slightly bigger lap. Just out a little bit into the park along a couple of the roads, down by the Zambezi river and back round by the house. Oh, it was heaven, and it made my day. It was so nice to run in a bit more of a straight line, and not on sand. It was also as the sun was setting. So imagine this: running through the African bush as the sun was setting, past a herd of impala grazing, then past the banks of the Zambezi river, not a sound to be heard. Wonderful.

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Hopefully we’ll get to run again. Daryl hadn’t ran for a few months, so I may just have outran him a lot a little bit on the second lap. Hopefully I’ve not put him off and next time he’ll be able to go for longer ;P

Running excitement Number 2: I had my first article published! I’ve agreed to be a regular contributor to running website The Running Stories, by¬†writing about my Runs around the World. I’m very excited about this, I love running, travel and writing, and so I can combine them all. I know I have this blog where I was doing that already, but that really started just for me, my friends and family. This is out there, in the big wide world on a proper website. Hopefully people will be interested in what I have to say, and it’s great experience for me. I’d love to do more writing while I’m away so we’ll see where this takes me. You can read the article here.

Another website (Take a Challenge) has also been in touch, asking if they can do an article on me, so I’m currently working with them to put something together. It’s a bit strange, to think people want to write about little old me or want me to write something for them. Strange, but exciting. Anything can happen in this big old world!

Culture spotting.

So, the last few days have been spent getting into a routine with the teaching and various clubs (reading, conservation and kids) which make up my internship, so days are either spent at the schools or lesson planning and researching. It’s good, and fun and I’m learning loads. But we also get a couple of days off each week so this week I decided to do a bit of sight seeing and become a culture vulture for a little bit.

Last Friday was culture day, where a group of us went to one of the rural villages to visit a family to find out more about life as they live it out there in the bush. It was great fun. We got dressed up a bit and the men and women separated off to carry out our respective chores. It’s quite traditional; the men went off to gather wood, light fire, sit around and drink beer and be waited on by the women. The women prepared the food, served the men and looked after the kids. Not quite what I’m used to, or what I feel comfortable with. Especially the having to kneel down while serving the men. I actually felt quite degraded and uncomfortable. But, that’s Zambian culture and it was interesting to experience it. But, don’t anyone get any ideas. I won’t be doing that for anyone. We prepared the food which was all using old traditional methods; so grinding maize using a massive pestle and mortar; chopping meat without a chopping board; making nshima in a pot on a fire.

Oh, and then we had to eat the food without cutlery. Using our hands. You can imagine how I felt about this. Nshima is eaten by rolling it up into balls then dipped in the stew, with the meat being eaten off the bone. I did it; but I was squirming. I’ve got to try these things, it’s disrespectful otherwise but bloody hell I found it difficult. I just hate eating with my hands; I can’t explain it. It’s just one of my things.

It was great just sat chilling out with the Zambian ladies and their [very cute] little babies, finding out more about them, and they about us. The older kids were playing with a drum and singing and dancing in the background. It was one of those moments where time just stood still for a bit and we just enjoyed being there. Even though it was as far removed as you could probably get to England, it struck me how it was essentially the same as any family BBQ/get together. Just nshima instead of burgers, wheat beer instead of lager, drums instead of a stereo. ¬†Oh, and the African dancing at the end. Yep, we all joined in with some traditional African family dancing. So.Much. Fun. Basically lots of wiggling, clapping, jumping and laughing in time to an African drum, in the middle of the African bush. Not something I thought I’d ever be doing. Pure Magic.SONY DSC

Then on Sunday me and Abby, the other community intern decided to hop along to Victoria Falls. Well, they’re only just down the road so it would be rude not to. Oh.My.Lord. One word. AMAZING. They are so preeeeeety. Beautiful. Stunning. Loud. Wet. Oh, OK, that’s more than one word. I think you get the picture. If you ever get the chance, go and see them. There’s a few trails to walk around which take you to different parts. Some parts you get wet. VERY wet. Just-jumped-into-a-lake wet. You walk through forest parts which feels like a tropical rainforest. In a storm. And then some parts are dry. Which is handy for drying out in the sun. Oh, and there are babooooooons everywhere. Little ones, big ones, teeny tiny ones. Right on the path. Right in your way. We had to scoot round them, all the time hoping they wouldn’t strike out and grab our legs. Especially as I had shorts on. Pleased to report I survived, legs and skin intact.

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It was really nice to get out and about for a bit. Do a bit of sightseeing and walk around for a bit. I feel like I sit around a lot, whether it’s in a truck, at a table planning or on a sofa chilling. It’s made me excited for India. The next place on the list. ¬†All those things to see. Plus, I’ve got my itinerary sorted for when I’m there so I vaguely know where I’m going and in what order. I just need to figure out how to get between places, but I think that should be fairly easy. And if in doubt, I’ll just ask. I even met someone at the Falls from Shimla, one of the places in India I’m going who gave me a few little hints and tips. People are helpful everywhere.

And my teaching is coming along. I’m learning loads. How to shout at be firm with children. On Monday I taught at a new school. Well, the kids were little terrors. They were so naughty. Makes the other ones look like angels, haha. The ones on Monday were noisy, loud and disruptive. I had to shush them so many times. And shout be quiet. And silence. And pretty much every word for shut up you can think of. I had a sore throat by the end of it! It was good though, it’s a good challenge and it’s all new skills I’m learning. Who would have thought I’d be any good at keeping a classroom full of kids in order? Who’d have thought I’d be able to teach a class of kids about improper fractions, mixed numbers, nouns, adjectives, verbs and sentence construction? Not me, that’s for sure. But, hey, you know what? I can. I’ve proved I can. Yes it may be daunting, yes it might be scary. But, I’ll give it a go and see what happens. And, it’s helped me realise something. Teaching isn’t for me. I take my hat off to all the teachers out there. You do a cracking job and I know I couldn’t do it full time.

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So, that’s helped me narrow down my career choices. I reckon by the end of this trip I’ll maybe know what I do (or don’t) want to do. That’s the plan.

Living in the moment.

So, I feel like I’ve been here for a lot longer than 2 weeks. I’m getting settled into being away, and enjoying being in Africa. I feel like I’m now finally living in the moment; it took a while to get into it though. Probably because I’ve spent the last few months looking forward to this trip. Spending so much time planning for this trip. Remember my to do lists I’ve blogged about before? Takes a while to get out of looking forward and to just Stop. I need to make sure I do that. I even have a tattoo about it.

I remember back in January this year many times running along one of my regular routes when I still lived off Burton Road. It was the footpath through the trees and it was cold all the time. While I was running I remember daydreaming about being in Africa, knowing that I would really be there at some point. I’d daydream about how it would be warm and sunny and dusty. And I’d wonder what it would actually be like. And yesterday, sat in the truck coming back to the site through the National Park I realised I was living that moment. The one I’d daydreamed about loads. And so just sat there, smiling away to myself, just enjoying that moment. In the sun. Before it went and another moment takes it’s place.

Kids of Zambia.

Today it feels wrong to say it’s been a good day, but it has been a day of mixed feelings. Unfortunately I received some sad news first thing, and, although it was something I was expecting at some point, it’s still a shock and this morning left me feeling far away from home and unable to give support to those who need it most right now. You know I’m thinking of you all though, so much love sent and please take care of yourselves and look after each other to get through this difficult time.

Today was my first day of teaching. Actual teaching of children in a school. Teaching English, Maths and Literacy. Me. Someone who’s not a teacher, hasn’t got any teaching quals and who hasn’t done anything like this before (OK, so I’ve done loads of training and presentations but that’s at work and I’m not sure training someone how to make a posting on Origin or talking about a project I’ve managed is quite in the same league). I’ve had to think about how to explain the stuff that I learnt years ago, already know and just take for granted. Anyone want to explain long division or multiplying fractions? Or sentence construction? To kids? Who speak a different language? You can perhaps see why I was bricking it this morning.

My brother said to just take it in my stride. I just decided to take the same approach I always have when doing stuff like this. Like presentations, training, speeches or interviews. Prepare as much as I can and then just blag it. Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it does. And most of the time no one else will realise you’re blagging it anyway.

And you know what? It was great fun. Yep, definitely daunting. And nerve wracking. But, I think I got the hang of it. And now I’ve done it once I can do it again. And it will be easier next time, and the time after that. I know [roughly] what I’m doing now. I’m getting an idea of the levels of the kids and what and how much they need to be taught.

I have Grade 5, which isn’t really a set age as such, more that they are grouped by ability as the Zambian school system isn’t compulsory and consists of 7 years of primary schooling (with an official entry age of 7) and 5 years of secondary schooling. My class are a¬†great bunch of kids, so happy and keen to learn. They were fascinated by my iPhone and taking pictures, or having pictures taken of them. I let them loose with it and they took hundreds of photos on my phone, posing with each other and then all gathering round squealing at the finished picture. It was so funny to watch. I taught them a few poses ūüėČ

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Getting there is a bit of a challenge too. It’s the most rural school we go to. Right in the middle of the bush. The [mud] houses are all over the place and so many kids have miles to walk to get there. And if they’re late they have to sweep the yard, or do other chores before school starts. Although I’m not quite sure I get this as that makes classes start later anyway. But, although they have a syllabus and lesson plans, it’s still very flexible and they don’t seem to be stuck to as rigidly as you’d find in England so I guess it all goes hand-in-hand. This morning we got driven in one of the pickups. The double cab one. Which, on the face of it, seemed a great bet; it’s chilly here in the morning so whizzing along in the back of a pick up or in the safari truck would have been cold, cold, cold. However, it was a journey that reminded me of playing Daytona rally with my brother in the arcades when I was little. High trees either side of a single sandy track – hard right, hard left – with the morning sun just glistening through the trees. Bloody hell, you don’t half get shaken about though, uneven ground and tight corners. As I got out of the truck at the end I felt like my back surely must be broken. I am pleased to report it wasn’t. Oh, and there’s also a bit of the road where you have to drive through the river to carry on.

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Only in Africa.

Oh, and one last thing about today? Dad, you’ll never guess what we got given for lunch. Frankfurter sausages and salad. How I chuckled. No mini eclairs in sight though ūüėõ

TPAD. It didn’t last long.

Well, it’s official. My travel photo a day is no more. It’s just not going to work. It’s too difficult to keep on top of while I’m out here. I can’t upload my photos easily, I have photos on both my phone and my camera, and I don’t always have time to write about each one, and blog as well. It was getting WAY too confusing!

And also, I have to say, I have fond memories of my Photo a Day for 2012 and doing it again (albeit for a different purpose) just wasn’t the same. In fact, it was almost tarring my great memories of last year’s project and why I did it.

So, after realising I hadn’t taken any pictures for a couple of days, I realised it was nail in the coffin time for TPAD. Already. I know, I know, I’m a bit disappointed in myself. But, I’ve decided I’m just going to blog and post as many pictures as I can on here, and then put pictures on Facebook when I can. I might look at something like Flickr or some other online photo account and post a link but I haven’t got time at the moment to look into it. Well, I’ve got a year so it will give me something to do at some point.

So, many apologies to everyone who was looking forward to it. But, I hope the blog and what pictures I can post here will be enough. And don’t worry, when I get back you can always sit through the whole year’s worth of pictures in one go with me providing running commentary…. No? I’ll bring cake. No? Beer? No? Oh. Ok then.

Busy week.

It’s been a busy couple of days since I blogged last. Lots of things have happened. I ate a worm. I ran. I saw giraffes. I got sick. I helped some kids read.

On Wednesday we had a traditional meal of nshima¬†for lunch. It’s a staple food made from ¬†cornflour and is a bit like a sticky blob of mashed potato. It was served with some kind of stew and WORMS. Some kind of deep fried worms, they looked like something from I’m a Celebrity. I tried one; it was rank. But at least I tried it.

I ran! Although you probably know about that because I already blogged about it. It made me VERY happy.

I’ve seen loads of animals so far. Well, being in the middle of a National Park means we are surrounded by them. It’s a bit weird to be sat having a bit of lunch or breakfast and some elephants just stroll on by. Or some giraffes (which are my favourite). We went for a drive to the other lion site the other day and saw some zebras, wilderbeest, impala and more giraffes. Very cool. Oh, and of course there are the lions here.
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I’ve been to a couple of local schools now – one to do a Conservation Club and a very small rural school for Book Club where I helped some kids do some word exercises. It was very strange, not sure I’m a natural with kids but I’m giving it my best shot! It’s just like you’d see on the TV: rural African school in a rural African village. The houses for this village were mud huts, they have one well for the whole village (that dries up in the summer) and the school is very bare and the kids all running round and were grabbing me by the hand when I got there and as we were driving along they were all waving and shouting. Still very surreal.
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As an Education and Rural Community Development intern I’ll be teaching classes 3 times a week as well as doing conservation club once a week, book club once a week and a kids club on a Saturday. It’s not just me on my own – there’s another girl who’s an intern like me, and then the other volunteers are here to volunteer with the lions but they will help us out too so that’s not too bad.
The place we’re at is a lion rehabilitation and release organisation but they have a branch that does community projects so we’re all here together, and so I’ve also got to walk with the lions (it’s a part of the release program) and get involved with that which has been really cool. We also did Fire Break this week which involves setting fire to some of the bush around one of the lion enclosures at the other site and then putting it out (to avoid big fires in the dry season). It was really hard work and very hot, and probably a little bit dangerous! All part of the adventure though! Although it was really windy so quite a bit of the enclosure has got burnt which isn’t great but fire spreads so quick there wasn’t anything anyone could do. The lions were OK though, luckily.
We went into Livingstone this week too, had a wander around and got money out, that kind of thing. We came across a company called Zambeef. It amused us.
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You guys at work will be pleased to hear I have been using my Travel Tap bottle. Not so far as to be scooping water out of the Zambezi but it seems to be working so far. Although, I have got sick. But I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the bottle’s fault. No, a few of us have got sick. There seems to be a stomach/sickness bug working it’s way through the camp. It’s the poorliest I’ve been for a very long time and I spent all of yesterday in bed ūüė¶ On the way to feeling halfway normal now though I think, although I still have really achy sore muscles and haven’t eaten in over 36 hours and haven’t really got an appetite back yet. Although I could just eat some potato wedges. We’ll see what comes for lunch. At least perhaps it’s a good reintroduction to the fasting diet. Or preparing me for India, where I’m bound to get sick again. Either way, I think it’s on it’s way out. Thank god.
I feel like I’ve been here a long time, or at least longer than a week. The UK seems a long way away at the minute, and a lot longer until I get back. I’m not sure I was quite ready to give some things up, or realised what I would have to give up. ¬†But, c’est la vie. There will be many adventures to be had and I’ll get used to life on the road. I think I just need to learn some patience and to get used to having a year off. No work. Chill out. This will probably be easier when I start my travelling, when I have more things to do and occupy myself. Because one thing here is that there’s not that much to do when we’re not working. No places to go for walks (or runs) or to explore. I feel so lazy at the moment too.

Runs around the world #5

Mosi-o-Tunya National Park, Zambia

For a while this week I thought I wouldn’t be able to run while I was in Zambia because we’re in the middle of a National Park and as such, we’re not really allowed to walk (and therefore run) around on our own (only on lion walks really). It’s because of the animals. We’re not fenced in, so all kinds of animals are around (elephants, hippos, wilderbeest, zebra, baboons, monkeys, impalas etc.).

I was getting a bit distressed at the thought of not running for 4 weeks. What about my fitness? What about my muscles? I couldn’t bear the thought of it disappearing and having to start from scratch again. Especially as my next place is India (where it’s currently 39 degrees in New Delhi) where again I’m not sure about the possibility of running.

So, I don’t really have to say how bloody HAPPY I am that I’ve managed to run today. OK, so it is only in a lap, running around the White House (the main building here). I think some of the other guys were amused and thinking I was a bit of a weirdo. But still, it’s a run. Woohoo! And that’s all that matters. I only did 2.32 miles, shortest run for probably over a YEAR but it was so hot (it was at about 5pm, which, although it’s starting to cool down, the sun is still out and it’s probably still in the mid 20’s) and some of the lap is loose sand (aka Very Hard Work). I’ll do more. Probably only short runs like that though. But, I’ll try and add some speedwork in. And, it’s at least something. Really energised now.¬†Hurrah for running!

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Zambia internship.

I’ve realised that my photo a day of my travels might not work. Although I’m taking lots of pictures I can’t really upload them here because the wifi isn’t great and WordPress doesn’t like it and keeps timing out. I’ll still take pictures and when I get to good wifi places I’ll share some of them, and I’ll try to keep a record of my photos a day so I can upload them when I get good wifi but this might be tricky. Some will be on my phone, some will be on my big camera and I might forget which ones I’ve taken and what day they will be for. So, I’ll see how I go for a couple of weeks and decide whether it’s something to carry on with.

I’n the meantime I’m just going to try to blog every few days with what I’ve been up to. Still a record and I’ll still try to keep it interesting.

So I’ve started my internship. This week is really just an induction, so I’ve been spending time learning about the charity I’m placed with, which¬†is¬†ALERT (African Lion & Environmental Research Trust). They run¬†a 4 stage rehabilitation program for lions to increase the numbers in the wild, as African lions are decreasing in numbers rapidly. I’m based in the¬†Mosi-O-Tunya¬†National Park in Zambia, near to the river Zambezi. They also run community and other conservation projects. I’m on an Education and Rural Community Development internship, which means I’ll be mainly teaching children in 3 local schools though lessons and reading, conservation and kids clubs. This week me and Abby (another intern) will be visiting the schools and watching how the clubs are run so we know what we’re doing next week. I’ll admit it; I’m a fair bit terrified. I’ve never taught kids or had much to do with them, let alone ones in a completely different continent! So it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. But, it’s always good to step out of the comfort zone every now and then. And this is definitely doing that. Got to be good for me. I hope.

I’ve been on a couple of lion walks too so far, with 5 month old lion cubs. The cubs are in stage 1 of the rehabilitation program and get taken on walks to get them used to their surroundings. They are very cute, but still dangerous. They want to play a lot, but their playing would hurt us with their sharp claws and paws. We had a few safety briefings, have to walk with a stick and be¬†alert at all times. It’s pretty damn amazing though, being so close to them; even touching them. They look like big kittens with such cute little faces.

Because we’re in a national park, there’s quite a bit of wildlife around. As we were driving up the road to get here (incidentally in the back of a pick up truck; very African) a couple of African¬†elephants just strolled across the road. Totally surreal. And monkeys and baboons just run around outside like birds and pigeons back in the UK. And tonight, just as I was writing this, a couple of giraffes walked across the field, only about 200 metres from where I was sitting. I love giraffes, so that was pretty damn cool.

What’s not so cool is the massive spider in my room. When I say massive, I mean massive. About the size of my hand. Including fingers. I saw it last night on the ceiling. This morning it was gone. I’m not thinking about where it might be now. Luckily I have a mosquito net as this should also keep spiders from jumping on me while I’m asleep. It won’t stop them from crawling in my shoes though so I’m making sure I put them upside down when I take them off and check them before I put them on. I’m also checking my bed and under the bed for snakes. Because snakes are rife here too. Apparently one time a snake crawled up a womans leg in the shower. Shit.

I also helped out with Donkey Drop today. This involved taking a chopped up donkey from the back of a pick up, putting it in the meat prep area, weighing it and then putting the bits in a freezer. Pretty nasty but it’s a necessary job because it’s the lion food. Lots of blood and body parts flying everywhere.

Everyone is really nice but I have to admit I’m missing home a bit. Already. It’s surprised me a bit actually, normally I’ve been fine when I’m away before. Maybe it’s because I know how long for. Maybe it’s because I know that it’s the start of a life change, a different routine and I’m out of sorts trying to adjust. Maybe it’s because this time I’d quite like to share some of these things with people. At the same time, in person not just in photos and over the internet. I’ll get over it I’m sure. And it doesn’t help that I’m not sure how much, if any, running I’ll be able to do. We can’t walk around in the park by ourselves because it’s too dangerous because of the animals (we even need to walk with a guide to go to bed after dark in the different buildings) so there isn’t really anywhere to go. I could possibly go in Livingstone but that’s about 15 mins by car and I don’t know how often I will go and if so, it will probably be the middle of the day so way too hot. So this might be 4 weeks without running.

And that’s a sad thought. And makes me realise just how important running and fitness is to me now. Hopefully in India things will be better. Although probably just as hot.