Monday, 9 June 2014

A look back at my year

It's pretty obvious to anyone who has heard anything about my year, that it didn't go quite to plan. But nothing in my life every really seems to! Not that i'm complaining of course, life would be very boring if it was predictable.

I've been asked by people whether I would recommend Project Trust to other people. And the truth is, I think that I would - despite all of the trouble and the upset. I had an incredible year away, there is no denying that, and I have made an incredible friend who I hope I will have for life. I was so lucky when it came to my partner, my year would have been so much harder without Daisy and all the funny moments we had together.

The problems that arose during my year came from a number of places. The disorganization of Namibia as a country, the difficulty I experienced with my host and the teachers at my school, the nature of Tses, and the nature of our children. It would be wrong of me to say that my problems were all the fault of Project Trust, because that simply wouldn't be the case. 

Everyone experiences problems, and everyone comes up again obstacles in their year away. It was just unfortunate that Daisy and I had SO many of them. But the memories I cherish are those of us sitting outside on the porch with Sachi, singing our favorite songs,  the lessons which went really well, the moment my kids told me that they loved me and that I was their favorite teacher. 

So yes, I would recommend Project Trust. They have set something up which I truly believe is so worthwhile, and an extraordinary way to spend your gap-year. I would just warn people, be careful about the country you choose, and be aware that problems are inevitable. Life is different for everyone, and our years away are no different from that. I have no doubt that for some people, their year away will have been problem free. I regularly see on facebook, my fellow Project Trust volunteers declaring their love for their country and their project, and stating how they never want to leave.

Problems are inevitable. But so are the good times. That is the important thing to remember. I just wanted to say, thankyou to everyone who has followed me during my year away. To those who helped me to go, and those who sent encouraging messages while I was out there. I'm sorry that it took so long for me to finish my blog, but i'm finally here :)

And just to let you know, I have decided to create a new blog, documenting my attempts to fundraise for the children in Tses. So if you're interested and would like to have a look, the address is:

So, that's it. My year is over, my blog done. It's been one hell of a journey :)

'We are each on our own journey. Each of us is on our very own adventure; encountering all kinds of challenges, and the choices we make on that adventure will shape us as we go: these choices will stretch us, test us and push us to our limit; and our adventure will make us stronger than we ever knew we could be.'
Goodbye, Lulu

Goodbye Namibia, hello England!!!

And so it was time for me to return home to England. As I tried to explain to Cosi later, it was possibly one of the most bizarre moments of my life. All through my year, through the tough moments and the homesick days, it was the thought of home that got me through it. Dreaming of the day I would come home, the moment I would run through the airport and parents. And was really happening.

Somehow I managed to get myself home without any complications. I went to the correct terminals, got on the correct planes, and finally I was home! The moment I finally got to see my family, and got my first hug, was possibly one of the most amazing moments of my life. And of course, they brought me an absolutely massive bar of galaxy chocolate :D

I was meant to arrive at 7:30 am, but unfortunately due to the fog that day flights were slightly delayed, so I only managed to get through at 8:30. And there was my family, impatiently waiting for me :) I was told later that Poppa had tried to say that they should get there for just after 7:30, as there was no way I would be out exactly on time. He was shouted down however, as Mummy and Cosi insisted they had to be there for 7 just in case!

I was also told that Mummy had thought that she had seen me and got very excited. Unfortunately, it just turned out that it was a random mans family being lunatics once again!

The end of the holidays

And so, it was time to return to Namibia. We took the intercape all the way back, an even longer drive this time (which seemed almost impossible!) Once we were back in Windhoek I said my goodbyes to Ruben and Sophie, who were immediately travelling up to Swakopmund to do some activities there. Suzy disappeared back to Luderitz, and Anne and I stayed in Windhoek for a couple of days.

We relaxed, travelled around the city a little bit. I went to the mall, and my restaurant for one last time, and I even managed to get one last delicious takeaway of Chinese noodles! I packed my bags all up for one last time and was time to leave!

Animal safari


Suzy and I decided to do an animal safari. This consisted of an elephant ride, and feeding the elephants, walking with lions, walking with cheetahs, and watching the cheetahs race.

It was an absolutely incredible day. Although I'd had a quick ride on an elephant before on a holiday, it wasn't nearly as good as this one! The whole group rode a herd of elephants - Suzy and I got given a slightly smaller elephant which, to be honest, was good with me! We rode them for about an hour, and then we got to feed them. They were these kind of pellets, you would throw a handful into the elephants mouth, and then they would hoover another handful of pellets right out of your outstretched hand.

We then got to see the cheetahs. We were able to stroke them and take photos of them, and then we took them on a walk. The cheetahs were on a type of harness, and a leash, but even with them you could feel their sheer power! We were then shown a demonstration of their speed. They brought the cheetahs out one at a time, from slowest to fastest. They have a lever system set up, which pulls a plastic bag 'chicken' around the enclosure. The cheetahs run after it and if they manage to catch it they are given a piece of real chicken as a reward.

It turned out that all the cheetahs and the lions they have are orphans. They are being prepared to be released into an animal safari, where they are kept in a 'controlled environment'. Then, their children will be released into the 'real' wild, where they will have no contact with human beings.

We then got to see the lions! We got to stroke them and have lots of photos with them which the entire group adored (thousands of photos must have been taken of just the lions!) We also got to walk with them, where you can hold their tails like a kind of lead.

It was an absolutely amazing day, and fulfilled one of the things on my bucket list - to hug a real lion :D definitely one of the best days of my entire year, and something that I would recommend to absolutely anybody!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Victoria Falls

 We spent a few days in Livingstone, Zambia. We got there by InterCape, a bus service which goes all around Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia. It  took us about 14 hours to get there, but it was really worth it.

Livingstone had an absolutely amazing outdoor market, which we went to everyday, and I managed to get presents for family and friends. We, of course, visited Victoria Falls and I decided to do the bungee jump :)

I actually did a combo of activities. First there was a zipwire across the river, which was nice and relaxing, and provided an interesting view! Then came the bungee jump. I'm not ashamed to admit that standing there, waiting for the moment of falling, I was absolutely terrified. The staff were really kind and supportive, and managed to convince me not to chicken out.

They hold your arms out to the side (I suspect so that you don't start desperately trying to grab something to cling onto) and then they count down: 3, 2, 1, BUNGEE! I got told that you need to dive as far out as you can, which apparently makes the experience better.

The first dive I found the most scary, although once I felt the pull of the rope and knew that I wasn't about to fall to my death, it was quite enjoyable :) although the headrush was rather uncomfortable I must admit. The Vic Falls bungee jump is apparently the third tallest in the world, 111 meters of African air!

I then did the gorge swing. You literally have to step off the platform, and drop for 70 meters until finally you begin to swing back and forth. In a way I found this the most enjoyable, as the swinging motion was quite relaxing and it was amazing being so close to the river.

Sophie and I also went to see the Falls themselves. Unfortunately I didn't manage to actually see much of the waterfall. It was high tide season and there had been an unusual amount of rain, which meant that the river was very full. This, in turn, meant that there was a lot of water vapour - which meant that we couldn't really see the falls.

The consequence of such a lot of water was that all water activities were out of the question. A shame, since I had been looking forward to doing the white water rafting. But oh well :) it was still an absolutely incredible day.

The Himba

We were taken to go see the Himba tribe. I must confess that it was something that I had been really looking forward to for a long time. Maybe just because the Himba are such a symbol of Namibia, of the old ways of Africa. And of course, simply because I think they are incredibly fascinating.

The place we were taken had been set up for 17 years, and was actually an orphanage for Himba children. They are brought there and the Himba women look after them. The son of the village chief took us on a tour of the village, and translated for us when we had questions.

I learnt that the Himba men wear modern clothing, while the women still wear their traditional outfits. If the children wear chunky necklaces (like this teenage girl) it means that they are not yet married. The women wear metal bracelets that look almost like cuffs around their ankles, which protect them from potential snake bites when their collecting water. These bracelets also have a decorative stripe down them. If there is one, it means the woman has only one child. If the cuff has two stripes, it means they have two or more children.

The red 'paint' they use on their skin is made from a special kind of clay, mixed with a variety of other substances including animal fat. The women put it on every single morning, which takes three hours. It protects their skin from the sun and tick bites, and it also acts as a cleansing method, They put it on and then dry it using a sort of smoking pot device.

We walked around the village and was taken into the chiefs hut. It's built directly in front of the animal pen. The 'doorway' of the pen, and the chiefs hut are facing each other, creating a kind of sacred line

It was an incredible experience walking around the village and finding out about this amazing tribe. In a way it feels like a real privilege having been able to see them, as we were often told they probably wont be around in 10 years time. It's a real shame, as they are such an interesting tribe, so full of history and traditions.

Of course I tried to take advantage of the opportunity, and took as many photos as I could. Particularly of the children, some of which were absolutely gorgeous. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and one of my favourite moments of my entire year away.