Bucket List

Over the last few year I’ve ticked a few things off my ‘Bucket List’. While spending the Easter holidays in Cape Town it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever actually sat down and wrote a Bucket List. So I did. I back tracked a few years, but here it is. I’ve set myself a task of completing it by the time I’m 30 (minus adopting a child). Four years of fun ahead.

In no particular order:

1. Bungee Jump (tick)

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Victoria Falls, Zambia 2009 (Ok, so this pic is of Ash, mine resulting in vomiting, much to the locals amusement- ‘You are feeding the fish”)

2. Live in Africa (tick)

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Over my 26 humble years I am privileged to have spent a total of 30 months in this beautiful continent: Kenya 1998 (1month), East Africa 2006 (6 months), Uganda 2008 (1 month), South/East Africa 2009 (6 months), Uganda 2011 (1 month), East/Southern Africa 2012 (6 months), August 2013- current (9 months)

3. Sky Dive (tick)

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Cape Town 2014

4.Run a marathon (tick)

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May 2012

6. Travel the World (tbc)

7. Learn another language (tbc)

8. Climb Kilimonjaro (tbc)

9. Set up a hostel (tbc)

*Read previous blogs if interested more in this dream!

10. Adopt a child (tbc)

I am so glad to have had the above experiences. Living in Uganda makes me appreciate the simple things in life, aswell as the wonderful opportunities I have had to explore the world. Although at times it’s easy to forget- I am grateful.

Life in Kampala continues to be as busy as ever. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 9 months. I’ve confirmed staying at the school I’m teaching in for another year which is a mix of emotions. I’m enjoying life and appreciating the beauty of the everyday things, plus equally missing life and friends back home.

I have a busy and fun year planned. Home at the end of June to visit my nearest and dearest, a months travel to South America, back to Uganda with family visiting in August. October’s holiday is open… suggestions welcomed.

All in all 2014 has treated me well so far, including a fun beginning of the year back home in Northern Ireland, meeting some weird and wonderful people from around the globe, weekend in adventures in Jandira village and amazing holidays to Mombasa and Cape town. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming months amidst my (at times) confused and unsettled mind.

Last note- write a bucket list- and do it!

 

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xxx

 

“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. So I’ll give those of you who are interested a little update on life in Uganda. After the Christmas holidays we moved house. This was a good move, I now don’t have to listen to the sound of a club keep me up all night which alone makes me happy. It was strange returning when alot of the people I had been spending time with had left Uganda. I’ve met some more people since and life is good. I think I’m just getting used to people coming and going now and trying to make the most of the time you can spend with people. It also really makes me appreciate the stability of family and friends back home.

For our half term holiday in February we took ourselves off to Mombasa for a week. It was so wonderful to get away and to be by the coast again- it had been 6 months since I last saw the sea. I first visited this beach on a family holiday when I was 11 and it was so nice to go back and relive some happy memories.

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We spent the second half of our week north of Mombasa by Kilifi creek. This week was filled with lots of outdoor and water activities. I was in my element.

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I feel a little addicted to booking flights at the minute. Before my departure for Mombasa I booked flights to Mexico for a summer adventure around Central America. Upon return I had some post holiday blues so booked a flight to Cape Town for Easter. It gives me something to work towards to and save for. I figure I might aswell make the most of my 20 somethings. Plus, I get to spend these times with some of my nearest and dearest friends. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a good un!

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Aside from work and my many travels I’ve been trying to invest some more time in Jandira village. I’m going there this weekend to attempt to make a promotional video in the hope of gaining some funds for the project. Watch this space!

(Oh! And I got and beautiful new little nephew Luke McMullen! Welcome to the world Luke! I can’t wait to meet you! I have the most wonderful line up of nieces and nephews and miss them dearly everyday. Looking forward to family times in summer!)

The grass is greener where you water it…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently and the same theme keeps reoccurring- appreciating each day for what it is.

Easier said than done.

After my move to Kampala in August I was constantly questioning whether or not I had made the right decision in moving here, constantly imagining what I’d be doing had I stayed at home. This thought process resulted in me feeling hugely unsettled and unhappy and not making the most of the beauty and opportunities around me.

I’m coming to realise that maybe there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices in some decisions. I’m realising it’s about making the most of the path you’ve chosen, and not wishing to be on another one.

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Here are a few snippets of books/blogs I’ve been reading:

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” Paulo Coelho

“If we view today as less than tomorrow, we choose to live in the imagined picture of a story that hasn’t happened, sacrificing joy and adventure that could be ours in the present.”

“No matter what you would change about your current circumstances, there are advantages, freedoms and joys that will be gone in life’s next scene. Don’t miss today because you are imagining that tomorrow will be “better.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/life-won’t-begin-your-next-milestone (Thanks Ash Fulton for sharing)

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of it’s own.” Matthew 6 v 36

“Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.” Walt Whitman

So here’s to 2014.  A new year for new friendships, new adventures,  mysteries and challenges. I’m going to try to appreciate the everyday, the ‘ordinary’ and the beauty of the circumstances I find myself in daily. Because…

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Worth living through every up and down!

“The most wonderful time of the year…”

December is Kampala is odd. Go into the supermarket and you’re surrounded by Christmas trees, lights, commercialism, Christmas music etc. I could almost be tricked into thinking I was back home.

Step outside, and hit 30 degree heat. Meet everybody going about their lives as normal. Even in school, to date, not one of my children has mentioned what they are getting for Christmas. In fact I don’t even think the word ‘Christmas’, ‘santa’ or ‘presents’ have even been mentioned. We are marking the occasion with a ‘celebration of lights’ party next Friday as being an International School we are not encouraged to ‘celebrate’ religious festivals.

It’s odd.

There are of course things that I miss- I can’t wait to get home in a few weeks time and get wrapped up in my winter woolies, sit by an open fire surrounded by Christmas decor, spend quality time with my friends and family and eat my weight in food.

However a part of me is also glad to be missing part of the Christmas ‘rush’. It’s given me time to sit back and actually think.

It seems crazy to me the amount of money spent over this ‘religious festival’.

Children in Northern Ireland have an average of £115.89 spent on them at Christmas.

According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. There are 2.2 billion children in the word. 1 in 2 of these are in poverty (below 1 dollar/day)

A Christmas dinner will cost on average £118 per family. One in ten adults will eat a monumental 7,000 calories due to eating two Christmas dinners on December 25 to keep their families happy.

1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

The consumer’s total average spend for Christmas DAY in Northern Ireland is an astonishing £619.89.

80 percent of humanity live on less than $10 a day.

Statistics, to most readers are just numbers on a page. And this post is by no means a guilt trip. Speaking for myself, I’ll probably finish writing this and go back to finishing my Christmas shopping online, return home in a few weeks and spend crazy amounts of money ‘celebrating Christmas’.

If you’re reading this, you are therefore among the 5% of the world’s population that own a computer and have access to the internet.

I truly do wish you all a wonderful Christmas. Have fun, be merry and be grateful for what you have.

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Hopeless Wanderer

This month has been another reminder of why I feel in love with Uganda. Here are some photos from my half term break.

Lake Mburo National Park
Sunset Lake Mburo National Park

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Lake Mburo National Park
Storm Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Bunyonyi, Kabale
Lake Bunyonyi, Kabale

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Crater Lakes, Fort Portal
Crater Lakes, Fort Portal

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I have always had a love for travelling, along with the desire to in some way help those less fortunate than myself. From the age of 18 I took part in various volunteer teams and trips abroad. Although I always had a wonderful time on this trips I always returned home with a feeling that I hadn’t made much of a difference. Asking myself questions like- ‘What difference will painting a few walls really make?’ I don’t mean in anyway to diss volunteer programmes, however, I do have the opinion that they have often (not always) more impact on the volunteer than those who they set out to help. And this, if it changes peoples attitudes to the developing world isn’t a bad thing. This is an interesting read on the topic: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22294205

During my time spent travelling Africa over the years, I often felt a sense of guilt. I was surrounded by poverty yet living the dream backpacking along the coast of zanzibar, white water rafting in Uganda, safaring in Kenya. It was in 2009 whilst travelling with the lovely Ashleigh and Amy that we realised that travelling and development could go hand in hand. We began to come across various types of community development businesses, mainly hostels aimed at independent travellers. These all had a similar ethos- providing cheap and comfortable accommodation for backpackers while at the same time creating employment for the local community. Often these were non-profitable with money going back into the local community to aid various micro finance projects, schools, orphanages, child sponsorships etc.

There are tons of these type of places across East Africa. If you can travel, and put your money in the right places, i.e. grassroots organisations, you will be helping people at the same time. Often (in my opinion) a lot more that paying thousands of pounds to a UK based charity.

So, in 2009 we had the dream of getting involved in some kind of community development hostel/guesthouse/volunteer centre. That dream is now in the very early stages of becoming a reality. I will update with more information when plans are confirmed but until then if this is something you would be interested in supporting in any way please get in touch.

And finally….Come and visit Uganda!

Life in Kampala. Week 9.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions. I’m really enjoying school. I have a lovely little class of 16 pupils ranging from Canada to Kazakhstan. There is a lot of parent interaction which I’m not used to. However having specialist teachers for art, music, ICT, French and P.E. mean lots of free periods which is a treat!

A few weeks back the staff from school were invited to another teacher at Ambrosoli’s wedding- Zara (from Northern Ireland also) and Sam (a lovely Ugandan guy). It was a great day of celebrating. After a two hour drive from the church to the village we arrived to the biggest wedding reception I have ever seen. As there were only a handful of us there from Zaras side we were quickly seated at the TOP TABLE.

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Alas, I spent the evening at the top table of a wedding, helping to represent the family of someone I had met for the first time a week earlier. TIA. It was a great celebration with great entertainment and I even bumped into Pastor Richard, a friend from Jandira, a village an hour away. It really is a small world.

A couple of weekends ago a few of us went away to Jinga for the weekend. This continues to be one of my favourite places on the planet. It was so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala and spend the weekend chilling by the river. On Sunday I went for a kayak along the Nile and was quickly reminded why I fell in love with Uganda.

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This weekend past I had the privilege of travelling with Faith (Pastor Richard’s daughter) to Mbara to check out land for a possible project there. We stayed with Richards brother and wife. I was overwhelmed with the generosity and hospitality of this family. For the weekend I became ‘Joy McMillian- from Northern Ireland in the USA’. Despite having to stomach cow liver on arrival and a feast of beef, rice, pasta, fish, mushrooms, eggplants and avocado at 8.45am the morning of departure it was a great trip. I am now a vegetarian.

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It has taken me a while, and I don’t think I’m quite there yet, to adapt to life here. I’m enjoying my job, in a country that I love, and constantly asking myself why I feel so unsettled. At home my family often say ‘you are never housed’. I think this adaption has been the hardest thing for me. The fact is, life in Africa is slow.

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It’s a good thing. People here in general aren’t as stressed out about the things that we stress about at home. For many life is a struggle and each day is about finding a way to put food on the table. At the same time, people maintain a degree of contentment, happiness.

I want to embrace this. To find time for things that I don’t have the time to do back home, to read, write, travel, think, and hopefully, in time, learn to find contentment, like so many of my Ugandan friends, in the quiet, simple things in life.

 

Getting Started

I’ve been in Uganda for almost two weeks now. In a way it’s flown and at times it feels like I’ve been here forever. I’m living in a little compound of three houses with a couple from Bangor- Jonny and Natalie. They’ve been great at helping me get settled and sorted with the essentials.

The past few weeks I’ve been busy trying to get stuff sorted for the house and set up a comfortable wee home for myself. I’m lucky in that Jonny and Natalie already have the place looking lovely. It’s been both fun and frustrating going to the market to buy furniture for my room. I enjoy a good barter but end up most days getting frustrated at the Mzungu pricing of everything.

For those of you who have traveled to Uganda before, this word likely invokes some sort of memory perhaps in the form of extreme frustration or of smiling, young children. For those that have never been, foreigners in Uganda are referred to as “mzungu (moo-zoon-gu).” It does not directly translate to “white person” and it is not a derogatory term.

The house is great. I’ve a nice spacious room, hot shower (a treat in Uganda) and all the things that we need for a pretty comfortable life. We have a beautiful garden with palm trees and lovely plants and lawn. The land lady is happy for us to plant whatever plants we want so we’re thinking of attempting to have our own little vegetable patch (Dad, Dave, Emma, Shiv if you’re reading this advice is welcomed!)

I’ve also enjoyed a lovely trip to Jinga which is a lovely wee town by the Nile I always make frequent visits to when in Uganda. I was meeting up with a Dutch friend who I met this time last year in Zambia. I decided to treat myself and join the girls for an evening sunset cruise along the Nile. I could never bore of watching an African sunset.ImageImage

Unfortunately some dodgy chicken from the inclusive BBQ left me vomiting for the remainder of the trip. TIA.

I also spent a few days with the Emmanuel Team. It’s always great to return to Jandira and see how much the schools and communities there have come on from our first visit in 2006. I would like to invest what free time I have there as the more I travel around Africa I realise there is no place quite like it.

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I start work on Wednesday. I called in briefly last week and staff that I met seem lovely. It will also be good to get into a rountine and met more people. It will be a completely different experience than any teaching experience I’ve had before- both back home and in Uganda. I will be teaching a mix of well off east Africans and expat children from all over the world. It will be a new challenge but I’m looking forward to it.

In all, I’m excited, nervous and scared about the next year and frequently asking myself what on earth I’m doing here, but I’m sure it will all make sense in time. The realities of leaving close friends and family at home have hit me on this more than any trip. I’m realising I’m going to have to make more of an effort to get out of my comfort zone and meet people as it’s not as easy as travelling when you are constantly meeting people in hostels. However, I am constantly reminding myself that I am lucky and privileged to be working in a beautiful country that I love, and living amongst some of the most warm and welcoming people on the planet.