Christmas and NYE travels 2014

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If you don’t follow me on twitter or we aren’t friends on facebook then you might not know I went for a little adventure over the Christmas holidays. I had a great time interailing and couchsurfing and met loads of lovely, funny people. I left Paris on 20th December; I got the train to Vienna in Austria. It was a long journey and I had a bit of trouble actually getting my first train. The thing with interailing is that some trains require a reservation as well as your standard ticket. Of course I didn’t realise this and faced having to buy a whole new ticket for that leg of the journey, a ticket costing around €200 for one way!!! I obviously was in no position to pay that so the woman at the desk said my last hope was to speak to the train manager who might be able to give me a last minute reservation. Luckily he was super friendly and gave me a reservation for €20 instead 🙂

I was in Vienna with mum, dad, G and my cousins Bo and Li and aunty and uncle. And their adorable dog Thomas 🙂 We had a lovely traditional Christmas and there were even real candles and sparklers on the tree. They’re not exactly safety conscious in Austria… We went to a Christmas market, baked cookies, played on the Wii, went out for a meal and did all the usual Christmassy stuff. My uncle Bernd took me for a ride on his motorbike (with heated seats, sat nav and a radio. very fancy) round the city and up the mountains.

I then went to Budapest, Hungary on Boxing Day. It’s such a beautiful city and I can’t wait to visit again when I have more time. I met up with 4 different couchsurfers and saw lots of the city. Next stop was Bratislava, Slovakia. There was heavy snow and lots of delayed trains and buses but my hosts apartment was so nice so I didn’t stress for long. We stayed in for a drink because we couldn’t face leaving the warmth. I learnt some Slovakian words and spent the day seeing the pretty buildings before giving up and going to the shopping centre because the light snow was literally turning into a blizzard. I then travelled to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I’d planned to go to Prague or Krakow but I was running out of time. More train delays, cancellations and very nearly getting run over by a van before I reached Nina’s apartment. 4th country to see each other in less than a year; I’d say we’re pretty international buddies by now. I saw Georgie, her bf Chad, their friend Moniek and her bf Matthieu the next morning. We explored for a while; everything in Amsterdam is very in your face. The next day I saw Yasmin and 3 of her friends from uni. We had a long but fun day and welcomed in the new year. I’ll upload all of my photos from this trip so you can get more of an idea of what we got up to. 🙂

I made a little video of parts of my trip^^. Now planning my next trip (and also saving money as I am broke)

happy new year by the way!

Mary x

Packed – Xmas 2014

Europe

packed

Tomorrow I can officially start my Christmas/New years holiday!
I can’t believe I can fit all my stuff for 12 days in a rucksack and small handbag. Let’s see how long I can go before succumbing to H&M and buying new stuff because I have nothing to wear.

First stop is Vienna, Austria for 5 days to see family 🙂 (the real challenge is trying to switch from attempting to speak French to German, waaa. Viel Gluck Maz)

Mary

x

Christmas gift guide – shoebox or sponsor child

Africa, Europe

Tomorrow is ‘Black Friday’, originally a day for Americans to go crazy in the sales for Christmas presents but it seems to have spread to the UK and other countries too. I’m a bit (a lot) against pointless consumerism so don’t really enjoy buying crazy Christmas presents (plus i’m poor) but I gotta admit, I love buying presents for the kids in Otjikondo. My sponsor child, Tjazupo is now 8 and I’ve just been shopping for her presents. Last year I went a bit mad in Primark and loaded her up with pink hoodies, tights, skirts, t-shirts, knickers, sweets, toothbrushes and sweets. This year I’ve tried to include more ‘arts and crafts’ type things because I know she has enough clothes at the moment. Her birthday is in February so maybe I’ll see what she needs after Christmas to fill in the gaps 🙂

IMG_4498

If you’ve got a sponsor child overseas or are thinking about sending a Christmas shoebox (do it do it do it! Check out some fab reactions to shoeboxes in Otjikondo here) here are a few of my suggestions and tips 🙂

– Think about the child’s culture, skin colour and hair type. There’s no point buying a standard hair brush for a kid with afro hair as it won’t be any use to them!

– What’s age appropriate. Think about what you would’ve enjoyed at their age; I’m guessing a 12 year old isn’t going to be as excited about a barbie as a 5 year old is…

– Have a think about what language they speak, e.g. don’t send a German magazine to an english speaking child.

– Be creative! Kids love hand drawn pictures, a postcard from your country or a photo of you and your family. It’s a chance for them to see how people from the other side of the world live.

– Delicate objects WILL break in the post

– However much thought or money you put into the gift, it will be overlooked and the child will be more excited by the sweets over anything else!

– Don’t be ignorant. Just because they live in poorer conditions than what you’re used to doesn’t mean they want your unwanted crap. Dirty clothes and broken toys aren’t the best option

Here are some photos of what I’ve got for Tjazupo and a few things for her best friend Eenwi!

 

Mary x

‘God is good’ – Back to Otjikondo – 22nd-23rd February 2014

Africa
Hello!
I’m back home! My african home of Otjikondo, Northern Namibia, The school village where I spent a year volunteering from August 2012 to 2013. It was so emotionally tough to leave 6 months ago that I was skeptical about returning, would it still be the same place that I left? This question was answered as soon as I stepped out of gillys car and  onto the now very green grass of Otjikondo. I knew that Gilly’s husband Reiner was praying in the church so i decided to quickly greet him before finding the children. At first he didn’t recognise me at all and just stared at me … after almost screaming ‘it’s Mary!!!!’ at him he jumped up and gave me a massive hug. Someone must’ve heard because as soon as I let go of Reiner I was surrounded by excitable girls. ‘Miss Mary’s back! Miss Mary’s back!’ I burst into tears after seeing all the faces of the children who I grew so close to. My sponsor child Tjazupo ran and jumped on me. 6 months ago I could pick her up with one arm, now I struggled to keep hold of her with both, she’s grown so much and looks so beautiful! I made sure to introduce myself to one of the new GAP’s, Eleanor. She was so nice and welcoming that it threw all of my fears out of the window. Stepping back into the GAP flat bought back so many memories, most of which were with Fran. It’s frustrating and upsetting that she’s not here to share all of these experiences with but I know that she’ll get an even bigger reception when she does visit. The children have bombarded me with questions as to where and how she is and I’ve only been here 2 days!
 
I later met Rebecca and Annika at Paul and Sara’s house where we had a braai (bbq) with Mrs Vermaak, Gilly, Reiner, Kate, Ian and Paul and Sara’s 3 children; Matty, Olivia and Helena. After a steak, salad and a few amarulas we called it a night and returned to the gap flat. The girls were very grateful for the percy pigs, snacks, magazines and CD’s I bought over for them. Sleeping was difficult in the GAP flat as I’m used to having Fran in the bed next to me. Another reason I found it so hard to sleep was because I’d heard some terrible news earlier that day. A student called Franzelle had been killed in a car crash 3 weeks ago. She was a grade 7 student that we taught art and PT to for a whole year, I took her for extra maths twice a week, had her for afternoon activities, spent weekends playing with her, wrote letters to her and she had a big part in the school play that we put on. Franzelle was so cheeky, talkative, confident, funny and loving to everyone she met and i can’t believe that she’s no longer with us. 
 
This morning I tried to take my mind off the terrible news by seeing the boys. Renico and Petersen ran and gave me the warmest welcomes of all the boys, hanging out with them again was so much fun and they gave me all the gossip that i’d missed. At 9:30 we went to church, the songs came flooding back to me and I felt like I’d never left. After church we gathered at the dining hall for one of my favourite activities at Otjikondo… handing out the christmas presents! Each child has a sponsor (usually from Germany or England) who sends them chrismtas presents. They take so long to arrive it was only today that we had the chance to hand them out. After singing ‘God is good’ Gilly counts down to opening the boxes. The room goes wild with paper and cardboard being thrown in every direction. The kids usually recieve toothbrushes, sweets, toy cars, dolls, clothes, colouring pencils and loads more. They are all so grateful and you realise how much of an impact a few toys can have to a child who doesn’t have much else. I loved seeing my sponsor child, Tjazupo’s face light up when she opened her box full of clothes, sweets, a pink water bottle, pink knickers, a torch and a teddy bear. Such a beautiful day in Otjikondo. 
lots of love,
Mary xxx