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Opportunities: Travel Vs. Mission

Authentic Travel Experiences

Recently I was privileged to go Kenya, Africa to do a project there. I journeyed there with eleven other women, ten from Australia and one from New Zealand. It was just too much of an amazing experience not to share it more widely.

I have been thinking a lot about the experience since, and have been telling a lot of people about what happened in this African country.

I had always wanted to go to Africa but I never thought it would become a reality. One of my friends messaged me about this project and I applied and got accepted. We had training sessions once a month to learn and plan as much as we possibly could before we went over. I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest. Once we got there it was a whole new world, culture and experience. It changed the way I thought of things such as what we eat and how much we waste, and even the things we talk about and waste thinking about. When there are more relevant cares such as what one will eat that day, rather than what someone said or what to wear, it makes these things look so trivial.

There are so many things I could write about but I will only include one story here. I can always tell more things later. One of the things that struck me was the politeness of the children. I am a teacher so I do notice these things. Especially the teenage boys! They were especially polite and not cheeky at all! Boys in Western countries around twelve or thirteen are very cheeky and will second guess anything you tell them to do. Not these boys! They listen attentively to every word you say and reply with “yes teacher” afterwards. This was a major blessing for me. Another experience that further highlights this is when we did a home visit to two of the boy’s homes, who were brothers. We were walking along the street to his house and I saw a shop and remarked “this is a nice shop, does your mum shop here?” The boy replied “no, my mother is not alive” I was so shocked and didn’t know what to say. I don’t do well in these situations. My only response was “my Uncle also passed away when I was little”. I felt that he was more capable of supporting me, than I was of him. Pretty sure it should be the other way around! I think because death is a more common thing for these children, that they are able to deal with it better and support people.

This same boy had a brother who was slightly younger and the two were going off to high school the next year. There is no help or support for them there. You try your very hardest to get the marks you need and get into a good school or you don’t. Fullstop! It is not like Western countries where the Government will support you if you don’t have an income or a good job. These children literally have to work hard to survive. There is no other option! And that means studying hard!

One of the ladies who was with me, a Kenyan herself, was telling the boys a plan of how they could get their desired marks in order to get into the school they wanted to. I could tell that getting into this school was detrimental and that it would influence the boys futures dramatically. My friend proceeded to ask both brothers their grades and then she encouraged them to aim higher! I feel like African women are good at doing this. They are harsh but gentle at the same time. But it is harsh enough that the message is pushed in a way that makes you want to strive really hard in order to achieve it. That is what these kids really need. If they got 20/30 in a subject she would say “Not good enough! You should be getting 30/30,” especially in religion because their Father is a pastor. I was just listening to my friend and imagining how a child in a Western country would respond.

She was telling the boys that they needed to wake up at 2am and first read the Bible so that it would help them to study, next would be two hours of Mathematics and one hour of English. She told the boys that they should fast from friends and technology similar to how you would fast from food. She said do not worry about friends as they will be exactly where you left them when you come back. She reinforced them by saying that “these four months are the rest of your lives. If you do well in your exams, it will set you up for the rest of your lives.” I could really see the impact this would have on the boys and their entire lives and changing the cycle of poverty in their family. Their Mother had died from curable things, stomach ulcers and typhoid. This means that they lived in a poor area and probably didn’t have access to clean drinking water. I was amazed by the boys response to this speech. They are only twelve and thirteen. They were nodding the whole time and replying “yes” to everything my friend was saying to them. They realised the importance of what she was saying and the relevance of it all. Meanwhile I had tears in my eyes and was a little overwhelmed by the whole situation and the man who was also with us on this visit suggested “should we say a prayer?” I kind of snapped out of the state I was in an said “sure”. To match his prayer was equally emotional and powerful, evoking the boys to try hard, to do well in their exams and to help the family and keep them safe. My friend was in tears by the end of this prayer and could not hide it as well!

It was these kind of experiences that puts everything into perspective. I didn’t want to tell everything in one post so I have told one story that has changed the way I look at things and think about everyday situations. When you meet twelve and thirteen year old boys like these in Kenya who have been through so much and are supporting their Dad and themselves, you can’t help but change. They are going to school and trying their very best in being able to go to the high school that they want, that will change their entire future. These children are truly amazing!

One thing that is so important here, is that I went into Kenya hoping to help the children and people there and instead I came away with a world of experiences and a changed person! They helped me in more ways than they can know and I will be eternally grateful.

 

The Importance of the Great Outdoors

Hampstead Heath, London

When I first got to London my brother and I lived in Belsize Park whilst trying to find somewhere more permanent. Everyone told us that we had to visit this place called Hampstead heath. They would say it’s a massive park and if you like being outdoors, you will love it. I went there this weekend not just once but twice because I liked it that much.

As a child I loved Narnia and there was something about Hampstead Heath that reminded me of Narnia. It had to be the lamp posts and the the greenery everywhere. It was magical and I got very excited. It’s definitely a place that instills imagination and makes your creativeness flow.
 


I felt so relaxed when I came home! Must be something to do with the fresh air and crisp leaves on the floor to crunch on. Autumn is such a nice time of year to explore such a nice park like Hampstead Heath.

So if your every looking for a nice park not too far from London, try Hampstead Heath! It will calm you and help you to escape the business of London life.

Happy exploring!

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Kenyan Experience – Margaret

The experience I am going to tell you about is perhaps one of the most significant and touching from my trip to Kenya. Just to put it out there, I am not normally an emotional person, but I feel that in this experience I could not help it.

If you have a look at the above picture, opposite to where those children are standing is where I first met Margaret. We were painting the outside poles and it was quite warm, being the middle of the day. Margaret was fast asleep under a tree, using her hand to block the sun from her eyes. I was carrying two small buckets of paint and my friend said “Katie, Katie, what is this girl doing here?” I dropped the paint tins and went over to look at here. I didn’t really know what to do but then some teachers came over and they took her into the staff room. I didn’t know what happened after that. I continued to paint and didn’t think too much more about it.

I then saw a boy running around the school as if he was looking for something. I then realised he was calling my name and looking for me. The teacher in charge of the vulnerable children, Teresia, had sent this boy looking for me. When the boy found me he took me to Teresia and she told me there was someone she wanted me to meet. She was explaining who it was on the way. She told me this girl had aids and was not well. I don’t thing I was processing what she was saying as we were walking.

When I opened the door and approached the girl I realised it was the same girl who was asleep in the sun from before. She was eating food but every now and then she would stop and touch her forehead and it was obvious to me that she was in pain. I felt really bad for the poor girl. Teresia asked her questions in Swahili and then told me Margaret’s answers in English. When she asked her how old she was, Margaret replied “17”. We both looked at each other and thought she cannot be 17. She looked only about 10 years old. Teresia then proceeded to get Margaret’s sister so that we could get confirmation. We then learnt that Margaret was indeed 17 but because she had aids, it had stunted her growth and she looked as though she was 10 years old. She was in class two as well, which was probably for children around ten or eleven.

I could not believe this girl was seventeen! As her sister was talking to us you could see she was still in pain and she would hold her forehead a lot. I tried to distract her by showing her photos of Australia and of my family. Eventually she fell asleep again and rested her weak body.

We learnt from Margaret’s younger sister that their Mother had died and they had a large family (I think it was six children). Margaret’s sister would go to a orphanage even though they still had a father, but the school would therefore provide her food. Instead of eating all the food, Margaret’s sister would come every day and give her half of the food. Apparently Margaret would not be accepted into the school.

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When I was speaking to Margaret you could really tell she was in pain and her face will probably stay in my mind for a long time. I was trying to not cry in front of her because I didn’t want her to see me crying. At one point I’m pretty sure I did have tears in my eyes and my nose starting running so I had to quickly go and get tissues.

Teresia told me that she would follow up if Margaret had access to the medicine she would need. I hope she does receive medicine and does not have to endure much pain. She seemed like such a strong girl and I pray that she will be taken care of.

I did not envision meeting a little girl with AIDS whilst preparing to go on the Kenya trip. I don’t really know if I knew half of what I would be confronted with. One thing I did learn though was that I went there with an expectation that I would help them in certain ways, but in reality these children helped me in more ways than they will ever know!

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Shops and Websites I would Recommend for Clothing.

I often find it hard to find decent clothing and clothing that I like. Especially as a teacher, it is hard to find clothes that are nice and not too expensive.

P.s. I am not affiliated with any of these websites or shops.

I shop online for most of my special events and I absolutely love these websites.

Here are the two websites I recommend for special events that I have shopped at and have been very pleased with.

https://www.chichiclothing.com-

Chichi London, as it says in the name is London based but I am pretty sure they ship worldwide for a relatively good price. I have bought two dresses from here and have felt like an absolute princess and have received numerous compliments in them. I think they also have a sale on at the moment. Very good quality as well!

http://www.lightinthebox.com

Light in the box is also a good website for special occasions. I bought my school formal dress from here. The dresses and clothing is from China I am pretty sure. I wouldn’t say they are as good quality as the first one but still beautiful!

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Here is a list of other websites or stores that I also like:

– Princess Highway/ Dangerfield (Vintage style clothing) – Australian
– Stelly Clothing – Australian (I bought a nice flowy skirt from here)
– Showpo – Variety of occasion wear to more casual (Australian).
– Oasis – Nice smart casual to casual wear (based in London).
– Review (Australian based). Really nice dresses, skirts and formalwear
– Chiffon boutique (I bought a nice lace top from here). Pretty sure it’s based in Australia or New Zealand.
– I found a nice shop in the Blue Mountains. Lot’s of Floral and Hippie-like loose clothing – Bella Boheme.
Tree of life – Also Australian based. Has nice loose fitting, flowy dresses, genie pants etc.
– esther.com.au – I have not shopped here yet but their stuff looks really nice for going out or work attire.
– Dotti – Australian brand. Nice and not to expensive casual and smart casual wear.
– Auguste the Label – Not bought anything from here yet but been browsing. Nice floral stuff, flowy and adventurous kind of travelling wear.
– Shabby Apple – They have everything- amazing swimwear, coats, winterwear, summer etc. Based in America. Shipping can be quite expensive but totally worth it!
– Feather and noise – Victoria Australia – really nice clothing. Got my eye on a mustard dress at the moment!
– Princess polly – Australian as well I think
– Beginning Boutique – Australian (the last two are more casual wear).
– Misguided – Cheap and still good quality – whatever the occasion.
– Mombasa rose boutique – Queensland based shop – beautiful, nice and bright dresses.
– Boom shankar – Another Queensland based shop – A bit more quirkier.
– Rey Swimwear – AMERICAN BASED – Advertised as not its bitsy and that’s exactly what it is! Perfect and feminine.
– Elise fashion – Newtown – Vintage and beautiful
– Gigi’s Fairy Fashion – Newtown – very unique nice colourful vintage style dresses.
St Frock – Australian based. Variety of beautiful dresses, skirts, pants etc.

ETC.

I will try to update it if I can think of anymore. Enjoy!

Hike – Seaford to Eastbourne

On the weekend, I had the opportunity to do a beautiful hike in my new home, England.
I did a hike with some new Aussie and Kiwi friends from Seaford to Eastbourne. It is about a 22km hike and was quite scenic. Each part of the hike was different. Some parts we could see cows, whilst others we could see the white cliffs and beautiful light blue water.

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It was meant to be raining the whole weekend as it often does in England, so I packed a water proof jacket in my bag, but I did not need to take it out of my bag at all. I’m not complaining at all! Turns out I wore my puffer vest in the morning and for the rest of the day I wore a t-shirt. I even managed to get a sock tan. Didn’t think I would be getting one of those any time soon in London.

To begin the day, all five of us met at the station together and caught the train to Seaford. I forgot to buy a ticket so we rushed to buy my ticket and ran through the gates to get our train. Thankfully we made it in time. The screen was meant to be a touch screen but it didn’t seem to work. I was doing more than touching it. I was bashing ‘S’ for Seaford as quick as I could to get my ticket!

Once we got there our designated leader had a map and we all followed him. I was amazed by the beauty of the landscape. The white cliffs were amazing and the water was so fresh and crisp. It was so light blue as well! The hike was not too difficult and just perfect to take in all the sights. One of the Kiwi girls kept reminding us to look back so we could admire where we had come from and to see the sights behind us! It’s just like our lives. Often, we forget to look back and see the view of how high we have climbed. Our struggles, the good and the bad all add up and help us to get to where we are today (just to add a little side note).

We stopped and had lunch on a hill that over looked the white cliffs and the water and quite a few other people had decided to stop here as well and you could tell exactly why. It was amazing! This is what I want to spend my weekends doing I thought! You get a bit sick of cities. As much as the old buildings and city areas are nice to look at in London or anywhere in Europe or around the world, there is nothing like looking at waves crashing or the beautiful rolling green hills that I saw. Nature replenishes the soul and helps you feel fully alive again! Something that I think a lot of people do not do anymore because of technology. You only have to look at a train or train station to notice everyone glued to their stupid phones! It is one of my pet hates. I hate when they take over people lives so much (rant over!)

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All in all, it was a great day and I just wanted to share some photos and tell you what an amazing day it was. If your ever in London and in need of hike not too far from London, I would definitely recommend the Seaford to Eastbourne hike. Lastly one thing I really enjoyed also was the Australian and Kiwi company. It was a taste of home and meeting people who live 15 mins away from your house somehow creates a connection automatically. I have been getting so excited if I find out someone here is Australian. It makes me so happy! Hope you enjoyed this post and liked looking at photos of my Seaford to Eastbourne hike.

Is Marriage dead ?

Recently I had a discussion with my house mates (both male and in their 20’s) about marriage, both of whom believed marriage was dead. It is interesting because we started talking about marriage and then moved onto many micro discussions. We couldn’t seem to stay on the topic of marriage. I thin there is a reason for that!

Marriage is significant.

My argument was that marriage is a major insitution within society and thus it is a fundamental and critical part of the society in which we live in. For the sake of this post I am talking about marriage between a man and women because same sex marriage is not the topic here, which is a whole new topic on its own. This post is purely focused on whether marriage is relevant or not.

It seems to be that a significant amount of people believe that marriage does not hold an importance for society anymore. Is it just something we are required to do legally or it is something more? These are all questions we need to ask when coming to the conclusion of whether it is important.

What is the purpose of marriage? Whenever I look at a big topic like this I like to strip it back, back to its origins. That is where the variance stems from and in order to understand a widespread topic like marriage we need to go back to it’s purpose.

To a lot of people marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. It is supposed to be a partnership, a friendship; two people united and working through the world and all that it throws at them as a couple. Marriage and it’s importance has changed significantly over time and within a relatively short time period. When my Grandparents got married they were getting married with the intention that it would be a life long commitment. Of course if one of the proposed persons is not safe or there is a major issue or concern of safety, the person should not stay in that relationship. However the vast majority who were in loving relationships stayed together. This does not mean it was any easier. In fact I would argue that it probably wasn’t easier for our Grandparent’s. My Grandparents got married at about 17 and 18 and by my age had a few children already. They went on to have seven children as well. They were not well off when they first came from Malta and had to work really hard to provide for their children. Their parents did not help at all like the grandparents of today, some of who practically raise their grandchildren.

My point here is that our Grandparent’s (generalisation) worked hard on their marriages. They didn’t give up, as it was a life long commitment. It is a promise to that person that you will be with them forever. When you are standing in front of that person, on the altar or on a beach or wherever it may be, in front of family and friends, you make a vow to always love that person, through sickness and health etc and to bring up children together.

Most things in our day to day lives mean more to us when we make a commitment and especially if we sign something or if we verbalise it in front of other people. When we are little kids sometimes with best friends we give each other friendship bracelets and verbalise that that person is our best friend. When we are a little older we might like to remain fit so we verbalise our need to join a gym to our friend, who then signs up with us in person at the local gym. These are more formal commitments and are expected to last.

It is hard to make comparisons to marriage, but the point I am trying to get across is that if we scrap the marriage ceremony and just live as ‘partners’ or a ‘couple’, what is binding us together? Our love for each other? And what is it based upon? Another important question is what is stopping us from giving up? This is not to stay that all marriages work simply because we are making  a formal commitment and having a ceremony.

There is more to a wedding that the ceremony and I think this part of marriage may be losing its value. A covenant is more than a promise and I think this is what marriage is. A promise is something that we swear that we will never break. When making a promise it is serious, but a covenant is still above a promise. An example of a religious covenant is the covenant between God and Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham that if he would totally listen to God and trust him, God would give him many descendants and Abraham would be a blessed man.

Like a promise, a covenant is two way, but it is more complex. It is an interaction, so one person is giving themselves totally to the other and so is the other person. It is a totally fruitful partnership and not selfish. That is one thing that we need to understand, love is not selfish.

Therefore I think we need to look at marriage as a serious institution in society. Marriage is a major pinnacle in most societies. It is a covenant between a man and a women. Thus if we look at marriage in this view, we will see that it is still very much relevant.