Day #49 18.02.16

Today I was home before the sun had set fully after being at the office. This is unusual and therefore must herald the start of lighter nights and the approach of Spring. Or I left ridiculously early. Pretty sure it wasn’t that.

Managed to catch the last of the sunset from my living room window before it went to bed. It’s the little things.

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Koh Jum-jumbalaya.

Island life part 2 was spent on Koh Jum, a little island on the Andaman Coast. It was recommended to Nick by some friends as somewhere small, quiet and pretty, away from the tourist crowd. Sounded right up our street so we thought we’d check it out. It’s still low season here in Thailand so a lot of places are closed on the smaller islands so we knew it was going to be pretty quiet, but that’s pretty much what we wanted so we got all packed and ready to leave Bangkok to head south.

I was sad to leave Bangkok again, it’s an awesome place and I was suprised how much I ended up loving it. But, new days, new adventures. I can pack my bag in about 5 minutes now; everything has a place and I know just what goes where. I could probably do it in the dark or with my eyes closed by now too. My packing has changed quite a bit since those first few days. I remember repacking a few bits in my mum and dad’s hotel room in London before I left to go to Heathrow and thinking how I had it sussed. Oh how it has changed. Some stuff I’ve ditched, loads of stuff has moved round and I have a few new bits. It’s weird how normal it is now for me to have my entire life in one bag that isn’t even full. Took a bit of getting used to but now it’s totally normal. As is wearing the same clothes all the time and constantly looking for ways to make my bag lighter. As I said to my family last night when we had a catch up, it’s going to be like Christmas when I get back having all my clothes and shoes to wear. I’ve forgotten what things I actually have. Although Dad, that doesn’t mean you can throw them out and I won’t notice. I WILL. Trust me.

So, we hopped on an overnight bus from Bangkok, and arrived in Krabi at 5am after a bumpy and [fairly] restful 11 hour ride. We had to wait an hour for the sun to come up and the Songthaews (shared taxis, like a pick up with two benches in the back – great little inventions) to start running. One songthaew later, we had another hour wait in Krabi town to get another one to drop us off in Nuea Khlong where we had a two hour wait. One last songthaew and we were ready to get the longtail boat in a place called Laem Kruat. Which we just missed by minutes. So, a one and a half hour wait before the next boat which took 45 minutes to get to Koh Jum, where we then had to get a motorbike taxi. Suffice to say, by the time we got to Woodland Lodge, we were pretty shattered and a bit fed up of travelling. A plate of fried rice, a nice cold beer and a swim in the Andaman Sea later and oh yep, we were feeling much better.

Koh Jum reminded me a lot of Koh Mak, in that it was an island, in low season but there was quite a different feel about the place. There are no cars, and the island only got electricity about 4 years ago. It’s a predominately muslim island, so there were lots of women in the most prettiest headdresses I’ve ever seen, and it felt less like a resort island and more a place where people lived and worked amongst the tourists. And speaking of tourists: there weren’t any. Well, apart from me and Nick, and a couple called Jo and Robbie who were permanent long term travellers and regulars on Kho Jum, this time staying for 6 weeks. So, for nearly a week, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. No one else on the beach, in the sea or on the roads. We were the only ones staying with Ray and Sao at Woodland Lodge so it felt like staying with friends. Sao was the most amazing cook and we never ordered off the menu; we just told her what we liked and she’d cook up a storm for us. Mainly street-style food, including my favourite; Pad-ka-prow. Minced pork cooked with holy basil, garlic, chilli served with rice and a fried egg. I now know this is what I had after my second run in Bangkok. It’s amazingly delicious and I could probably eat it every day. Well, I did on Koh Jum. At least once a day. It’s so hot and spicy and tasty and….yum yum yum. Oh, and there was no wifi. Which was great. Just great to switch off for a bit.

The first day we had a few beers at night, which turned into a few more beers. Laura, my best friend, got married this day back in the UK so we had a few beers to celebrate. Ended up more than a little tipsy and so, what better thing to do than to go onto the beach to look at the stars. I decided this was a perfect place to play Twizzles. This is what me and my friends at primary school used to call spinning round in a circle, arms outstretched looking up at the sky then trying to walk straight. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, I fell over into the sea. So of course, the ONLY thing to do was to go for a swim. Fully clothed. In the bit of the sea with all the rocks. I only shredded my leg a¬†little bit. It’s healing nicely now. It was HUGE amounts of fun, and something else I’ve never done. Until now. New experience? Check.

I’m very sad I missed Laura’s wedding. But, I made sure she had some messages and bits from me on her special day, and I rang her in the morning for a quick chat. We’ll have another celebration together when I see her next year so all will be good. Cheers dude!SONY DSC Koh Jum was also the place where my beloved Merrell flip flops met their demise. The comfiest, most brilliant flip flops I have ever owned. Now, ok, they were on their way out, granted, but, I wanted to be the one to decide when to throw them out. Instead, a wild dog decided to take matters into it’s own hands (jaw) and chewed one of them to bits. Just one. It left the other one perfectly intact on the front step of our hut. Like some kind of Godfather-style reminder perhaps. Maybe I looked at it wrong the day before or something. It was a sad day when I had to put them in the bin. SONY DSC Koh Jum village was quaint, small and pretty. After negotiating mosquito alley (a track through the jungle where we literally got covered in thousands of mosquitoes), we had fun chatting to the locals with the small amount of Thai we’d learnt so far, and also found some kind of peanut-sugar-brittle type thing which was basically a small package of peanuty-sugar-goodness. All for about 20p. SONY DSC

But one of the best things about these few days was the sea and the beach. Now, I’m not a big beach person. I’m not a sunbather and struggle with not doing a lot. I’m not hugely fond of the sea per se (Jaws has a lot to answer for) but I do like a bit of swimming. And even better if there’s someone to help tell me what’s on the bottom and to keep an eye on me as I can’t really see much without my glasses. So, we swam every day. In some of the biggest waves I have swum in (it was a stormy, windy day), in torrential rain (amazing feeling and sounds) and bright sunshine, the sea was always warm and getting the right bit of beach meant no rocks or sharks. Always a bonus. These will be really special memories for me. And of course, the sea comes with a beach and a beach is always pretty. To look at, to walk along and to watch the sun go down. And we weren’t disappointed by the sunset one night. The whole sky lit up with oranges, reds and yellows behind big fluffy clouds, sending sunshine rays in all directions, all reflected off the ocean. I do love a good sunset. I think the African sunset is still my favourite, but this was pretty impressive, and a pretty stunning picture to sum up island life.

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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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A picture or two.

I haven’t posted many pictures on this blog so far. My last blog was a photo a day for 2012, so I posted one photo every day and the story behind it. I kind of miss that. Finding things to take photos of, seeing things in a different way, capturing moments. Especially things that would probably just pass by unnoticed otherwise. A view, a sunset, the look on someone’s face. And I love photos, I always have. You’ll often find me snapping away. Or asking someone to snap a photo of me.

Photos are more than just pictures, they’re memories. Not only can I remember what’s in the photo, but I’ll have memories of taking the picture, like where I was, what was going on and what I was feeling. Today I took two pictures. One at sunrise and one at sunset, from different places in Lincoln. I took them because I thought they were pretty.

Sunrise:

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Sunset:

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