Day #81 21.03.16

Tonight has also been a day for reflection. Mainly due to procrastination. So I decided to go through the contents of a wooden chest and throw out stuff I don’t need or want any more. I do this fairly regularly, although not regularly enough that I buy shit I don’t need in the first place. Some of the things today were my old fountain pens from secondary school. I kept all the ones I used to use and the ink cartridges. Quite when I thought I would use a fountain pen after school I don’t know, but remember back then computers were still in their infancy and smart phones were a thing of futuristic sci-fi films  and sorcery. So it was fully OK that I thought I’d probably have a need for one. This does not excuse the 15 or so years after that where I became a Biro convert and ink became a hassle the first world did not have to put up with. I’ve seen these pens a number of times since then, but always kept them, mainly for sentimental reasons.

Just by looking at the Dennis the Menace ink pen brings back memories of school. Like the snapped off pen lid thing was because I fiddled with it in class (and almost all my current Biro’s do not have the lid thing for the same reason. Fiddler.). Dennis’s face is worn away at the top because I used to chew the lid when pondering how to answer stuff, or when deciding what to write. I can remember so clearly now, head tilted, faraway look in my eyes, dredging information from the back of my brain. I remember how I loved the scratchy sound the nib made against the paper, and how certain exercise books were much nicer than others to write in. It felt so special, such a luxury, to have an ink pen. I remember winning a competition (story comp, I think) and the prize was a calligraphy pen and paper. Oh and what glorious paper! Thick, posh paper, so luxurious and elegant I daren’t write on it, and so it stayed blank and pristine for years. One of the things I used to love to get as a child is writing sets. Matching paper and envelopes, maybe notelets. No purpose to them, I didn’t have anyone to write to, I just wrote. Random shit most probably, but hey, not a lot has changed. The main thing is it gives me pleasure.

No wonder I found it hard to throw out some of these things! This is not just a Dennis the Menace pen; this is the trigger-er of memories, the reminder of joy, happiness and of innocence and wonder and creativity.

SONY DSCDamn, writing this is making me half want to go and fish it out of the bin and put it safely back in the box it’s called it’s home for years. But no. In the bin it will stay. I don’t need it any more. It doesn’t work any more and I can’t keep everything that triggers a memory. It’s time for it to go. But with a lesson learnt. Keep the ones that do work (and there are still 2 ink pens I’ve kept) and use them. Write, even if it’s made up bollocks. I always write for myself anyway so what does it matter?

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last few months looking back more than I’d like. Reminiscing. It’s nice to, but there has to be the point of not doing so or you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s not even like I’m looking back wistfully, it’s just general thinking about stuff I’ve done. Live in the moment, every internet meme and my own tattoo shout to me. I try to, but sometimes it’s hard. Right now I either look back or spend too much time thinking about the future, to what might come, and kind of wishing it would hurry up. Which means not enough time living in the present. I know why. It’s because I’m not particularly enjoying parts of the present right now and that’s not me; if I’m not happy, then I’ll change things. But I feel in limbo, in some blank, endless void with nothing in it apart from future plans and the ‘sensible choice’.

Fear not though! I’m not about to stagnate. I’m putting some plans and ideas into practice to keep me busy and learn me some new skills. I might not know exactly where I’m heading yet, but I’m going there with some new shit to play with.

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Day #20 20.01.16

I’m a lucky girl; I have great friends. Tonight I was invited over for tea by my friend Rachel. I’ve known her since we were about 13 and went on the school bus together. She’s the one person I knew in Cheltenham before I moved here and I happened to pick a flat to live in that’s 5 minutes away from her house (handy).

She’s a year younger than me but looks after me well as she’s a proper grown up so she often cooks me tea and stuff. In return I make her go out and get drunk and relive our Horncastle Town Hall youth.

Lasagne tonight (a proper home cooked meal that I very rarely have time or the inclination to cook) and a good old catch up.

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Time to leave.

It’s just about time to leave Zambia, which has been my home for the last 4 weeks. On Tuesday I fly back to Johannesburg where I stay for a night before flying onwards to Delhi (via Abu Dhabi) on Wednesday.

I’ve had a blast. Of course I have. 4 weeks. 1 month. It sounds like a long time but it’s not really. It’s gone so quick. It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since I was arriving here in the back of a pick up with 7 other newbies, all excited for our adventure, not knowing what to expect. It’s been an incredible experience. Chocked full of laughter, lions, children, culture, sun, dust, African wildlife, beer, cold showers, chocolate, waterfalls and bungee jumping.

I’ve learnt a lot; about myself and other people. About Zambia and it’s animals, people and communities. I’m so pleased I did it. So pleased I had that epiphany in that meeting at work just before Christmas. That’s when I knew I had to do something. More specifically, it was then that I knew that part of that doing something was to come to Africa to do some volunteering. I have no regrets at all. None whatsoever. I have so many new memories now that I will treasure forever. I can’t write them all down but here’s just a small selection:

  • The great English vs American pronunciation debate. It never got boring.
  • Riding around in the back of a pick up to get to places. Sometimes stood up, sometimes sat down, sometimes sat on the edge, sun and wind blasting our faces. It reminded me of being little and my Dad’s red pick up that he used to have. Not sure whether I ever sat and rode around in the back though.
  • Andrew washing his hands with toilet cleaner after Firebreak. So funny, especially when we then spent the evening waiting to see if his hands would either a) start to peel b) go red c) burn or d) fall off. Luckily, they didn’t.
  • Nino (sp?) is boy in Spanish. It also means lady bits here in Zambia in one of their local languages.
  • Jamie falling off his chair while we were playing Pictionary. Loudest noise ever.
  • Emily’s inappropriate guesses in Pictionary and her slightly disturbing competitive streak.
  • Finding out what an Eiffel Tower is. No, not the structure in Paris. The rude version.
  • Hi-fiving more times than I can remember. I’m a big fan of high-fiving, I know some people hate it but I LOVE it, it’s so much fun. And over here, the kids love it too. In.My.Element.
  • Knowing that the sun will shine every day and it won’t rain. Ok, so it’s cold in the morning but the sun is already out and by mid-morning it gets hot. Consistent weather; still a novelty. Not sure what India will be like as it’s monsoon season when I’m there so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
  • Nights out in Livingstone; many funny or interesting things happened the two times I went out. So good to let our hair down and have some fun and check out the local nightlife. Beer pong, dancing, prostitutes, sunglasses, shots, it was all there.
  • African dancing at culture day – I had so much fun doing this, I could have done it all afternoon. Dancing their traditional dances in the sun to the African drums was just magical. I loved it.
  • Bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge. It was my second jump (the first was Bloukrans Bridge in South AFrican in 2011) and although not as terrifying or high as that one, it still got the adrenalin pumping and was such a rush. Beautiful scenery, the sun was shining and we had beers afterwards. What a way to spend a Friday.
  • There’s a line on the Vic Falls bridge where Zambia ends and Zimbabwe begins (we already had to go through border control before that though) so technically I can say I’ve been to Zimbabwe too. Although over here it’s just called Zim. Getting with the local lingo.
  • Playing games with the kids at Kids Club. These were so much fun, the kids get really excited and I got to be a kid again for a bit. Kids are so carefree and we got to enjoy that too. Real adult life can sometimes get dull, boring, serious and sensible. Lets not forget to have fun, blast away the cobwebs and laugh LOTS. We can learn a lot from children, just as they can learn from us.
  • Seeing wildlife every day. And I mean every day. Whether it’s elephants, baboons, hippos, giraffes, impala, monkeys or birds, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I’ve not seen something. Not sure I’d ever get bored of it, although you do get used to seeing elephants just wander on by. Or baboons and monkeys running around. Never thought I’d be saying that.
  • Seeing the most beautiful sunrises, sunsets and stars in the night sky. African sunsets are well known, and there’s a reason for that. They’re just breathtaking. Everyone should see one, at least just once. You just can’t beat it. And the stars, out here, in the middle of the bush with no light pollution, are just amazing. We can see the Milky Way; it’s so clear. The stars shine so bright, and there’s shooting stars too. A couple of nights we just laid outside on the grass and watched the stars. Nothing else to do or see, no interruptions, just enjoying the stars. Sometimes the best things in life are free.
  • Sharing the running love; I ended up running with a couple of different people, getting them running. I hope this carries on throughout my travels.
  • Meeting and making new friends. I’ve met a lot of people out here, they’re a great bunch from all over the world; I’ve laughed lots and learnt loads. I hope we all keep in touch. And next year, when I get back home, we WILL have that UK reunion.

Part of my trip away is trying to figure out what I want to do work-wise. I don’t say career because I’ve never been particularly career minded, rather, I’ve just wanted to get jobs that I enjoy, that challenge me, and that I can do well in. I’m not particularly bothered about following a set path, or getting to the top (whatever the ‘top’ is). As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and it’s enabling me to live the life I want, rather than a life I have to, then I’m happy. I can say, after this trip, that there’s two jobs I can rule out. Teacher and firefighter. I’ve really enjoyed the teaching over here, it’s been a great challenge, rewarding and I’ve relished any minute of it. But, I couldn’t do it full time. It’s exhausting, frustrating and just not for me. But, it has reminded me how much I love training. I used to do a lot when I worked for the Police and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. So, that’s a possibility.

And firefighter? It’s something I fleetingly thought about last year. But, after taking part in fire break where we were practically stood in the middle of a roaring fire trying to beat it out, while the thick smoke made it hard to breathe or see, I’ve ruled it out. Obviously it’s not the same at all, but now every time I smell smoke since that first week’s fire break I feel panicky. I really do think it’s scarred me a little bit, it was so horrific, and so that’s definitely one job I couldn’t do now.

Being here has opened my eyes up yet again to new cultures, communities and ways of life that are so different to mine. It’s made me appreciate the things and people I have, and reaffirmed my values and motivations in life. I’m not particularly interesting in things, I’m all about the experiences. I want to help people and make a difference. I know I can’t change the world but I hope I can make a little difference. I hope I have made a little difference while I’m here. I guess I’ll never know for sure but I gave it my best shot.

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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 😉

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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 😛