Marathon training – outdoors vs gym

Sport, Uncategorized

In April I’m running the London Marathon (Lord help me). I’ve always trained for half and full marathons outside but this is the first time I’m just too cold and stubborn to endure running outside.

When I get into the habit of going to the gym, you just can’t pull me away. It’s so addictive.

Last night I ran 13.1 miles (equivalent to a half marathon) in the gym. I love the gym for a number of reasons and have avoided running outside for the past month. It got me thinking whether or not I can do all my marathon training in the gym? Or will I get a bit bored of running on a treadmill and not getting anywhere.


Pros of the gym

  • Accuracy

I can accurately track how far I’ve run, my speed, incline, calories burnt, time etc etc. Obviously, I have tracking apps and a sports watch to do all this outside but I never 100% trust them (or can be bothered with the faff sometimes).

  • Protected from the elements

As someone who has spent more time in Africa and Spain than the UK for the past few years, I’m really not used to the rain and general darkness of horrible English weather. When I’m in the gym I can be a little spoilt princess who doesn’t have to get muddy or accidently step in a puddle and run for 2 hours with a soggy foot.

  • Watch TV

I take my iPad, watch First Dates or Graham Norton and be pretty entertained for the time I’m running.

  • Safe

Even though my gym doesn’t have staff there after 9pm, I feel a little safer to be inside a building and have people around me in case I start to feel weak. I also like running at about 11pm and as much as I love the thrill of jogging through town and the woods at that time, my parents aren’t super keen on it…

  • Toilets

My God, not much is worst in life than needing to pee or poop when you’re 6 miles from home. I have been known to just stumble into the nearest KFC to use their loo but it’s not always that simple. At least at the gym I know I can go whenever and fill up my water bottle.

  • Places to stretch afterward

I really enjoy putting my headphones on and taking a good 20 mins to stretch out afterward and it’s so much easier at the gym. I obviously stretch at home sometimes but there’s always someone there in the way or pestering you to go and shower because you smell.


Pros of training outdoors

  • Fresh air and nature

Yep, this is my fave part of running outside. I discover new places, can watch the sunset at the lakes, see cute dogs in the woods etc. Adorable.

  • You have no choice but to finish

When you’re on a treadmill you can press ‘stop’ and get off whenever you fancy. If you’re an hour from home, you kinda have to keep going so you can get home. (Although, I used to carry my metro card around with me in Paris so I could just hop on the train to come home if I was tired. Lazy girl problems)

  • Getting used to hills, bends, uneven surfaces

A marathon always has twists and turns, obstacles to avoid and the roads can get slippy. Being on a treadmill removes all of these unknown factors which is lovely but you’ll need to be prepared for when they come up during the marathon.

  • The marathon isn’t in a gym

At the end of the day, as great as the gym is, it’s just not what the marathon will be like. Maybe I need to get over my fear of the cold/wet/dark outdoors and get my body and mind into the state of being prepared for the conditions of the marathon.


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What do you think? Do you enjoy training outdoors, in a gym or a mix of both?

love

(a very tired and sore) Mary

x

 

10 reasons why everyone should visit Namibia at least once in their life

Africa, Uncategorized

Africa is a big ol’ continent and I’m incredibly lucky to have visited 5 countries within it. As much as I’ve loved each country, Namibia has always held a special place in my heart and I discover new reasons to love it every time I go. As one of the most unheard of and underrated countries, I thought I’d put a little list together to tell you why it’s worth visiting the beauty that is Namibia.

1. People

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Everyone says this about everywhere they go so I’m going to join them and tell ya that the people you meet in Namibia are just so so so lovely. As well as being kind, caring and smart; the friends I have in Namibia are also ridiculously hilarious.

2. Sunrises and sunsets

Get up early (I’m talking like 5am), find a hill or building to climb up and watch the sun rise along the horizon.

Watching the sunset is equally as stunning; the colours change each evening and you’ll feel like you’re in the real life version of The Lion King.

3. Culture

 

Namibia has an estimated population of 2.2 million people, made up of 13 ethnic groups. They are: the Herero, the Damara, the Nama, the San (Bushmen), the Rehoboth Basters, the Coloureds, the Whites, the Caprivian, the Kavango, the Topnaars, the Tswana, the Himba and the Owambo. Visit Opuwo in the north to see how the Himbas use ochre on their skin and hair.

4. Drinks

Windhoek lager and Tafel are brewed in Namibia. Savanna and Amarula are from South Africa but readily available at all times in Namibia. You’ve gotta give them a try.

5. Etosha

Etosha National Park is a game reserve in Northern Namibia and should be on every bucket list. You can expect to see lion, springbok, gemsbok, impala, hyena, giraffe, rhino (black and white), elephant and if you’re lucky; leopard and cheetah.

Instead of following radios and keepers to find the animals, you can self-drive and wait for the wildlife to come to you at a waterhole.

6. Braais

Afrikaans for BBQ, but so much better than a pathetic British attempt at grilling meat outside. Braais don’t take days/weeks of notice and hours of preparation. Just call some friends, bring drinks, meat, make a fire and enjoy.

7. Ghost towns

Vogue photoshoot worthy ghost towns (yass, really), Kolmanskop is worth a visit if you want to fill your insta with artsy pics of abandoned houses and a forgotten town.

8. The landscapes

If you enjoy wide, open spaces then this is the country for you. Namibia is huge (3 times the size of the UK) but with 62 million fewer people living in Namibia than the UK, there are a lot of open spaces. You can drive for hours on end without encountering another person.

From rocks, to bush, the desert – the changing landscape is a major appeal to tourists and photographers from all over the world.

9. Sossusvlei

Who knew a visit to the desert would be so tiring?! Sossusvlei will test your endurance and tolerance to extreme heat. In return, it will reward you with breathtaking (seriously) views, wildlife, a sense of accomplishment and pockets full of sand.

10. Swakopmund

Feel like Mad Max as you speed through the desert to reach the German town. The ideal spot for souvenir shopping, eating fresh seafood, hopping between cute little cafes and getting your adrenaline fix with quad biking and sand boarding tours.

Spot flamingos, climb Dune 7, walk along the jetty, collect shells on the beach and enjoy the cooler weather of the coast.


So there you have it, just a few reasons why I might be addicted to travelling to Namibia.

love, Mary

x

p.s. follow on insta for more wanderlust worthy pics: @girlgotlost_

 

 

Mary’s Project – 2014

Africa, Au Pairing in Paris, Europe, TBT

Hey did you hear the news?! Its a whole new year! In no way is this post a brag or ‘oooh look how exciting my life is’ because that’s lame. I’ve posted quite a lot this year but there lots I’ve missed out. I love the idea of looking back on my blog when I’m old and boring and cringing at what I used to get up to. So here’s my (some of what was missed on the blog) year review. Happy new year to everyone 🙂 10 gold stars to you if you read the whole post…

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2014 was welcomed with my sister and her/our friends (yes we share friends cos we’re totes mature) in a crowded club in London, a group of creepy looking men told us the drinks were on them so we proceeded to the dancefloor, drinks in hand. Next thing we knew the bartender is snatching them off us and we’re laughing uncontrollably and not embarrassed like we should be. Don’t remember how I got home but I woke up on Zoe’s sofa feeling great. I went to Cambridge for Sara’s 21st birthday and had such a good time, apart from the vomit bit (not mine). The following days were spent cramming driving lessons with my instructor Geoff and practices with dad. Mum told me that if I didn’t pass my test I wasn’t allowed to go to Cape Town (already booked). So 5 days before I flew to SA I passed first time.

I packed a huge suitcase, left Mum, dad, G and Peachy and flew to Dubai then Cape Town all alone. Callum and I hadn’t actually arranged where we meeting at the airport but luckily he got there as I arrived. Dirk and his girlfriend Danielle drove us to Edgemead, our home for the next 4ish days. There was a swimming pool so I was happy. Our next home was Bothasig, like the ghetto version of Edgemead. I ate dairy milk top deck, fudge and fanta pineapple almost everyday and worked hard on my tan. I saw old friends at penthouse and generally had an amazing time. The hottest day of the year was spent at the reggae jam in Langa, 42 degrees C. I met Thami and Nomveliso and fell in love with the township. We saw Jeremy Loops and loads of reggae bands. I went back to volunteer at the kindergarten for a little bit, conditions were a lot different to what I had seen before but I loved teaching the little ones dances, nursery rhymes, colours and numbers. I got 2 jobs in the space of a week and worked in a photography studio and kept myself  busy as an entertainer at kids parties. Callum and I made the most of the self timer on my camera and saw the most beautiful beaches, parks and ice skated with the professionals…

I took a week out to see everyone at Otjikondo and it felt like I’d never left. But it was extremely strange not to have Fran by my side. After the few days I stopped in Windhoek, I drank cocktails on a roof bar and took a 24 hour coach back to Cape Town, sitting next to the same girl, Nina, I had sat with on my way. Back in the motherland Nina hired a car and we created new dramas everyday; locking the keys inside, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and getting stuck on the steepest hill in the world. I imagined that would be the place we’d die! We made friends with beach dogs and checked out surfers all day long. A trip to Cape Point was beautiful.

I was the next one to hire a car. I don’t know how to sum up the stresses we had, but we survived and had some wicked days covered in monkeys and beaching it. I saw friends of friends and navigated my way through the madness of the city with no map, no GPS and very little experience and maybe a bit too much ambition. I had dinner with Gilly, Arnold and Oliver and was so happy to see part of my Otjikondo family so close to this new home in South Africa. I drove to the airport and Callum and I met his mum and step dad Bill. More beach days, numerous pizzas and countless tap waters with ice, a straw and no lemon. We showed mum and Bill around and they provided hours upon hours of laughter. We all went to improv classes with some great people and saw a few shows. I went to a helicopter session and enjoyed it more than I expected. Driving to Addo Elephant Park was so memorable; we stopped off at Knysna and saw wild dolphins just as we were standing on the beach. At the elephant park there were all the safari animals and every time we saw an elephant we were speechless. Reversing from a herd wasn’t the best idea (in hindsight) but thrilling in the moment. We made light photos by our little cabins and Callum fell sick and was unintentionally hilarious. Trish and I got hair braids; hers stayed in for a week or two, mine is still in my hair almost 8 months later. We bid mum and Bill farewell as they continued on to Asia.

I went to study a short course at Cape Town School of Photography. It reconfirmed a lot of what I already knew but I got my passion for photography back and met some lovely guys and gals. We spent our last day at the waterfront snapping away. On my way home from class one evening I tried on some outfits in the boutique near penthouse, the shop owners asked me to photograph their new line in exchange for some clothes, an offer I unfortunately never got to carry out. I was also invited to a fashion show at the Grand Daddy Hotel to photograph and chat to the models and designers. Although its not that big of a deal to most people I was pretty proud of myself; I went alone without knowing anyone and was shooting a new style. I spent 1 last night at penthouse and boarded another 24 hour coach to Namibia. The journey was disrupted and I had to make the decision to head to Europe. I had one of the worst days of my life in Windhoek, tirelessly googling solutions and making my way to a few high commissions and embassies.

The weekend before I flew was spent at Otjikondo again and I finally met Chelcie (and Ottilie for the second time). Goodbyes were hard but it was nice to have some proper closure. I met 2 swedish guys in Windhoek who were on the same flight as me, we were a bit slow to get to the airport and managed to be the last ones to board the plane, after our final Windhoek lager. As we flew over Nigeria I saw a  lightning storm and wanted to wake everyone up to show them. It is without a doubt one of the best sites I’ve ever witnessed.

I landed in Frankfurt to a heavy case of culture shock. I spent the next 2 days sulking and hungry because I couldn’t justify €10 for a Mcdonalds… The cheapest thing to keep me entertained was hair dye so I spent my last evening in Frankfurt going blonde. I chatted to Nina and thought the best decision was to go and see her in Berlin. I was the last one on the coach (bit of a ritual now) and didn’t even realise where Berlin was in relation to Frankfurt. Berlin was so cool and I was pretty happy to see nina so spontaneously. I then saw Georgie in South-ish France, I worked harder on my tan, played water volleyball, rescued a baby bird and cycled to the beach. I said bye to her tiny cabin house and got the train to Paris to see Callum. I can clearly remember this as another one of the worst days of my life. It was Sunday and the hotel Callum had booked was no where near paris. I had no phone or internet and everywhere was deserted and there were train strikes. After hours of sitting on the side of the road waiting for non existent buses I finally reached Chilly Mazarin, where we were staying for 1 night. We went out for mussels. The next day I was covered in huge red itchy lumps. I’d had an allergic reaction that got more itchy the hotter I was, unluckily it was one of the hottest weekends of the year. We went from chilly Mazarin to Noisy Le Sec, into a crazy open house that was run by a psycho Chinese guy who couldn’t speak English or french and had anger issues. His wife shouted at us down the phone before we gave up trying to be nice and fled the scene. The weekend was great, despite my constant need to stop and scratch and Callum had made me a video montage with goodbyes from everyone in South Africa which may have made me shed a tear or two..

A cramped coach journey home welcomed us to Victoria station where dad greeted me with open arms and questions over my bright blonde hair. Welwyn Garden City hadn’t changed and summer just seemed to resume as if I’d never been away. I found it hard to have proper conversations with random girls and guys at parties that started with ‘omg you went to Africa, was there monkeys everywhere?’.

I desperately wanted to get back on the road, just like everyone feels after travelling.

It was pretty cool to be reunited with my friends again though. I still managed to really enjoy my summer; working, catching up with everyone I’d missed and enjoying the fact that my sisters wardrobe was now technically mine. Fran surprised me by coming down from Leeds. That was so so so good and sneaky of her and my mum! We saw a bloodied goat at the farm with Mollie and were temporarily traumatised. I took Fran into London where we shopped and went to a mini festival in Camden. I turned 20 and saw almost all of my favourite people and went out in London to celebrate. Camping, more birthdays, weddings, BBQs, seeing Laura Mvula at the BBC proms and a trip to Birmingham completed the summer.

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By August I’d got a job in Paris! Travel bug fed and working with kids, tick tick. I left Hertfordshire once again for a suburb just north of Paris, a new home, family and job. Au pairing was difficult at first, I don’t blame the kids for not warming to me straight away but I couldn’t really complain as my host family were so welcoming and made me feel at home pretty quickly. Gradually the kids have become a lot more cooperative and very friendly despite the occasional drama!  Everyone back home fretted that I’d have no friends and be mega lonely but it was the same situation to starting university (or what I imagine it to be). All au pairs, expats and erasmus students were in the same position. The first few weeks were so sociable and I must’ve met hundreds of girls and guys working, studying or just visiting Paris. I then got into a routine, something I hadn’t really had since Otjikondo. Tefl, work, drinks in central paris, picnics every weekend (always with peach wine), dinner parties and movie nights.

A weekend in Milan, 4 days in Zurich, a weekend home and a day in Brighton, a few days in Ireland and another weekend home including a quick trip to Nottingham all before Christmas holidays meant I wasn’t sat still for too long. I surprised Rhiana for her 21st birthday and it was the best thing ever to see her reaction to me turning up in Boots. I returned home very hungover and saw Charlie and her bump for her baby shower. We played pin the sperm on the egg and decorated baby grows, we’re all a little bit too excited for the little boy to arrive and to be aunties! And I’m so excited to see Charlie be a mummy.

Paris was lively before Christmas and there was lots to be done; a meeting for a zine project, visitors, lots of running, Christmas shopping and seeing a circus musical with Lucie the evening before I took the train to Vienna to see my family for Christmas. I then interailed and couchsurfed in Budapest, Bratislava and Amsterdam. The plan was to also go to Prague but time wasn’t on my side. I honestly had an unforgettable 2 weeks and would do it over and over if I could.

The year was mad and its flown by (doesn’t everyone say this every year? Where are we getting our concept of time from?!) and there was barely a boring day. There have been some major lows in the past 12 months; times when I’ve just wanted to click my fingers and land back in my own bed in welwyn and watch crap tv but when I put things into perspective I’ve been very lucky and the majority of it has been more than awesome. I’ve been in 11 different countries (12 if you include England) and spent hours upon hours in train stations and airports but I’m happy to be traveling as much as possible at the moment. Who has time to sit still!?Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 01.02.01

If you’ve been in my life at any point in the past year then thank you! I’ve met a lot of cool guys and gals and very few idiots (yay!). And my year would’ve been poop without you.

big uuuup, 2015

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 🙂

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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

I’m currently 3 floors high in an apartment in Berlin listening to the noisy street below and preparing for a day of sightseeing. The past 2 weeks have been crazy and I’ve worked out that I’ve slept in 6 different beds (alone, don’t worry!) in 3 different countries, in 2 different continents, in 6 different towns/ cities/ villages and gone from seeing donkey carts, bakkies and women carrying bags of rice on their heads to bicycles, Mercedes and businessmen in suits having meetings on the metro.

Back in Namibia –
I joined Paul and his son Matty for the 5am drive to Otjiwarongo; we saw a bat-eared fox, kudu and we nearly ran over a skunk, not your average drive to school. I then hitch-hiked to Windhoek in a 5 seater car and 7 people. I sat with a 9 year old girl on my lap for the next 3 hours, not my favourite car journey I have to be honest. I made my way to the Cardboard Box hostel, dumped my bags there, emailed people to tell them I was alive then headed to Katatura; the not so nice part of town. I had to travel to the Baileys Reo Liner ‘head office’ (basically a poorly constructed, messy concrete box), I’d booked a return coach ticket back to Cape Town that I could no longer use, I’d hoped to get my full $600 back until I noticed the ticket said NON REFUNDABLE.. oops. I found the manager and explained the situation, he told me there was no way he could give me any money back. I used my skills from GCSE drama and started crying and giving my best ‘lost, confused teenager’ look. I think he saw right through my acting but agreed to give me half of my money back. I then jumped in a taxi back into Windhoek and was laughed at a lot by everyone when they all tried to speak Afrikaans to me and I could give no response. My last few hours in Africa were spent trying to book hostels, travel and attempt to check in online (it wouldn’t let me, I panicked and then the women at the hostel convinced me it would be fine).
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I travelled to the airport with my new Swedish friends Martin and Emille, we enjoyed our last Windhoek lagers and Savanna ciders with pizza and chocolate before messing around in the (tiny) airport. We somehow lost track of time and ended up being the last ones to board the plane, about 3 minutes before take off! I kissed the ground outside of the plane, hugged one of the air hostesses and settled into my window seat, ready for the long flight. Luckily the plane was almost half empty so I could spread out over 2 seats, some people had 4 seats to themselves?! I watched most of ‘The Book Thief’ and avoided both of the sad looking plane meals. The most exciting part of the flight was waking up at around 3am to see we were flying over Nigeria; Martin, Emille and I noticed there were flashes of light in the sky below us every couple of seconds. We were watching a thunder and lightning storm happen from above, such an amazing sight.IMG_1049

We decided to start a clap when we landed in Frankfurt (you know, as people sometimes do at the end of a flight…), no one joined in an we had a really awkward 30 seconds as we stayed committed to the clapping (and the occasional ‘woooo go Germany!’) and everyone on the plane turned around and glared at us. Just glared. A tiny bit awkward.IMGA0056

Somehow I was the last person off the plane too! I said my goodbyes to the Swedish guys and they gave me one of the bank notes folded into a shirt shape for remembrance. I was now in Frankfurt with a few euros and my hostel name written down with no idea how to get there. I was directed by a really nice woman at information to take the shuttle bus to the train station and then take the train to the nearest station (I can’t even remember where I got off, oops) and then the hostel was a 20 minute walk away. So off I went, the morning before I was in the African bush seeing crazy wildlife and watching the sunrise and now I was sitting on a stuffy train with miserable looking businessmen. No one was talking to each other, no one even looked up from their phones. Such a contrast to life in Namibia and Cape Town. I just missed the noises and the atmosphere of ‘Africa’.

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My hostel was huge and looked really clean and safe but the next day I was proved wrong when I was covered in bed bug bites… I made friends with one portuguese guy who was travelling back from 6 months in South East Asia; basically, he looked exhausted. My explorations in Franfurt included trying to find a shop that sold a travel adapter, it took over 6 hours and cost €10 😮 I know in Bags Etc they used to be around £2.50?! I visited the Skyline Plaza shopping centre and spent way too much time in shops like H&M, Mango and Zara. I couldn’t believe how expensive everything was; I was converting money in my head from €’s, then to £’s and then to South African Rand and standing in shock at almost everything. A day in Frankfurt was enough and a message from my friend Nina made me book a coach ticket to Berlin for the next morning.

9 hours on a coach is like a breeze for me; soon enough we arrived in Berlin to some cloudy skies. I hadn’t actually arranged where or when I was meeting Nina so hunted for a cafe with internet so I could check my Facebook. The only place I could find was a chinese restaurant with awkward waitresses pressuring me to order more than a glass of water. I gave in a got some disgusting tuna, rice roll things. At least I managed to find Nina and meet her friends Emma and Daniel. We waved Daniel off as he was getting a bus back home then we went to get ice cream, yay!

Nina and I met more than 3 months ago on a coach from Namibia, we then were on the same coach back to Cape Town by coincidence and did lots of driving around and beach hopping before she moved to Berlin. So to see her in Germany and stay with her for a few days is strange but awesome!

Mary x

Africa, Europe

Hello Otjikondo, Goodbye Otjikondo

Africa

This time last week I’d just booked a flight to Frankfurt but had almost 4 days to wait around in Windhoek for it; 4 days in Windhoek is 4 days too many, so with some broken communication, Gilly agreed for me to come and visit Otjikondo with Ottilie and Chelcie for the weekend. Our wait in Windhoek included ice cream in the park, shopping for fabric for Sara, making use of the internet at the Carboard Box, eating at Nando’s and Joe’s Beerhouse before meeting Paul on Thursday morning.Image

Chelcie and I ended up in the back of the open bakkie with a very strong natural air conditioning, lots of luggage and 2 mattresses to sit on. The mattresses would have been perfect if only they weren’t covered with plastic sheets that flapped around in the wind and made so much noise that it was almost impossible to hear each other.Image

 

Arriving at Otjikondo nearly 5 hours later was no less than magical; Paul beeped his horn and kids came running. Chelcie and Ottilie were greeted by hugs and squels, I got a few of the same then some ‘Miss Mary you’re back again?!‘s… It was great to see everyone again but I had to explain quickly that I could only stay for the weekend so the chance for them all to get a dance lesson was pretty slim, sorry kids!

Seeing current GAPs Rebecca and Eleanor again was awesome and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them. We got straight to work on Friday, I opened the shop and helped Destiny learn her rap for one of the songs in Wind in the Willows, their summer play. That evening most of the children watched Frozen in the evening but I went to look after the little boys as their hostel sister was away. We watched Antz and Matilda, I fell asleep on the freezing cold floor and woke up to some of them having a giggle at me. I got a few cuddles before I walked home.

Saturday’s normal routine was replaced with sport; the under 11s, 12s and 13s played netball and football against Kamanjab on maybe the windiest day I’ve ever experienced in Namibia. We won all games except 1 which was amazing! I looked after Brenda’s baby Crushanda and hung out with my girls Tjazupo (my sponsor child) and Eengwi (her best friend) whilst some of the older girls somehow convinced me to let them use my camera so went around documenting the matches and supporters.

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That afternoon was spent running the shop whilst the others did bank (gave the kids their pocket money). I don’t know how it took so long but Priska and I were in the shop until it was dark; we couldn’t find our way out and had to stumble over to Gilly’s house without dropping the bags full of coins and notes we had. I was exhausted and felt so ill but decided not to turn down Paul and Sara’s offer of dinner!

Sunday’s church service was enough church to last me a lifetime; it went on for 2 and a half hours and I can’t bring myself to write any more about it. Tjazupo, Fillemon, Tenesses and Dankie (our sponsor children. + Eengwi came as her and Tjazupo are pretty inseperable) were invited into the GAP garden afterwards and were spoiled by us with presents and sweets. Tjazupo and Eengwi loved their plastic princess accessories and I showed Fillemon how to play snakes and ladders and do races with his toy cars.

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The rest of the day was spent teaching the drama kids a dance, having lunch (Mina’s chicken and chips!!!!) at Gilly’s, messing around with the over excited Grade 7’s, eating fudge in the big girls hostel, reading Mr Strong to the girls in Weavers Nest hostel, hearing the girls own stories and acting them out, dinner with the ex and current GAPs and watching Pitch Perfect in my room with the girls.

Although my visit to Otjikondo was so short it felt really special and it’s always great to see the Stommels, staff, GAPs and children. I said my goodbyes and made sure they weren’t too emotional as I wasn’t in the mood to cry and be upset! I’ll miss everyone huge amounts and know I won’t be able to visit again soon which is a horrible feeling! On the plus side, I’m so thankful that I was able to go back and visit twice less than a year after I finished my 12 months there.

Goodbye Otjikondo, thank you GAPs and Stommels for putting up with me once again! 🙂 Love you, miss you, mean it 😉

Mary x

Changes

Africa, Europe

The past week has been a bit of whirlwind for me and I’ve only just started getting my head together. I left Cape Town on Sunday morning and reached Namibia being told that I wasn’t allowed to return to South Africa for a while. I only had a bag with a weeks worth of clothes and was feeling pretty unprepared. I cried a lot and tried to make sense of the situation and decide what to do next; although I had no desire to leave South Africa I decided that this obviously happened for a reason and someone, somewhere wants me to go to new places. I considered travelling around southern Africa for a few months before going home but I knew I’d feel so close to Cape Town and it would hurt too much to not be able to go. I’d also love to see more of Africa with Callum or a friend because not having someone to reminisce on your adventures with is really hard. So, Africa was out of the picture but so was flying anywhere that passes through South Africa. Which is 99.9% of flights leaving from anywhere in southern Africa. Oh. Multiple trips to different embassies and high commissions resulted in me being none the wiser of my situation so I used my common sense and thought flying directly to Europe (there is only one flight, Windhoek to Frankfurt) was the safest option. I always feel really grown up when I book a plane or train ticket without any assistance from mum and dad, this time was no exception and being alone in Africa and going to a different continent was a new experience. I’m 19, in Namibia for the third time with no clue what was going to happen next.

Luckily I was joined by Ottilie and Chelcie on Tuesday. They both were volunteers (GAPs) at Otjikondo in 2011/2012, the year before Fran and I arrived. I’d met Ottilie last summer when she’d visited Otjikondo again but I’d never met Chelcie, despite many facebook conversations and a few stalks. They both cheered me up massively and helped me see the positive of the situation. That evening we went to Joe’s Beerhouse for meat and some free drinks. Yesterday I booked my flight to Frankfurt for Monday evening. A few more days in Namibia then a the long journey to Germany, ahh! I have no plans for when I arrive so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Wish me luck guys

Mary x

Extended Family

Africa

Hello!

One of my favourite things about travelling is that most places you go, someone you know will have a friend who lives there has a friend or relative that lives or is visiting nearby. When I’m at home in England I’d never think twice about popping in to see my neighbours old school teacher because they happened to be near where I was going, but once you go abroad it’s totally normal and a nice way of feeling like you’re not completely alone in a foreign place. 

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Reiner Stommel – Otjikondo, 2013

My first ‘overseas family’ live in Otjikondo in Namibia. The Stommels take the place of caring parents (sometimes telling me off when it’s necessary) the teachers and hostel staff act as the greatest aunties and uncles you could ask for and the school children are like my brothers, sisters, cousins and best mates. Always there to make you laugh and they give great hugs when you’re missing home.

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with Tuyambeka and Joyce at a party in Otjikondo – 2012

I see the penthouse guys as my next family in Africa and the most fun to be found in South Africa. I stayed in Penthouse Backpackers with my travel buddy Fran in 2012 for 4 weeks and again with my mum and Fran in 2013. I met my boyfriend there and still go to catch up with friends and meet new people at the rooftop bar (Cape Towns best kept secret for sure).

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Miriam and I – Penthouse, 2014

This week I hired a car to go on some adventures (I got bored of buses…) and went to see Anna (a friend from my sixth form) and her friend Emily from Essex. I braved it and picked them up from Table View and drove to Century City, Africa’s biggest shopping centre and made it there and back alive! 

I’ve used the car to travel to Parklands to see my mum’s friends cousins who were so lovely and welcoming and made me a delicious curry. They complained that I was too fussy with food, something i’m definitely working on while away!

Gilly Stommel’s daughter (also named Gilly) lives nearby so I’ve recently gone to visit her, her husband Arnold and her son Oliver in Plattekloof. I had so much fun playing with Oliver and checking out their beautiful house. 

Being away from home doesn’t mean leaving all friends and family, it just means stretching further afield than you usually would and going to the effort of meeting up with friends of friends 🙂

Mary x

‘I just want to say goodbye’ – 3rd – 4th March 2014

Africa
Hello,
On Monday the GAPs were still technically on their out weekend so Annika and I took the morning PT lessons but decided to do something a bit different to usual. As Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in Germany by Carnival (and Reiner Stommel is German so there’s always some kind of celebration in Otjikondo) we thought it would be fun to teach ‘Das Rote Pferd’ and a dance to go with it instead of PT. The older Grades enjoyed it and picked up the words really quickly but the Grades 1s and 2s preferred to just make up their own words and dances!
 
At lunch I went to The Stommels to drop something off and ended up staying for chocolate cake and ice cream whilst we listened to Luisa play the piano (result!). That afternoon I finally got all of the sponsor letters finished which was a huge relief, when I went back to see Gilly I realised that the best way for me to get to Windhoek on time for my coach home was to leave Otjikondo on Tuesday with Reiner instead of Wednesday as I’d hoped so I only had 1 more day at Otjikondo. 
 
I went to visit the girls in the hostel to almost say my goodbyes; Kelly and Tracy were sitting on floor using a bin as a drum, Susan and Pehovelo were playing cards whilst some of the older ones played with my hair (my favourite activity). I went to look for my sponsor child, Tjazupo but the girls told me she was ill with mumps in the Sick Bay, when I found her half of her face was swollen and she looked really miserable. Sister Lisetha gave her some cream and a scarf to wear around her face, Tjazupo burst into tears so I told her to go and lie down whilst I read her stories for nearly an hour. It’s obviously horrible to see any child sick and upset but it’s 100 times worse when it’s a child your so close with. Even though I should of celebrated my last evening I felt so downhearted that I had to leave so I stayed in my room to pack and write a few goodbye notes. 
 
Tuesday’s assembly was the last of my visit so Mrs Vermaak said goodbye on behalf of the staff and children at Otjikondo and they all sang ‘We say goodbye to Mary’ which is a personal favourite of mine. Some of the girls came and gave me goodbye letters which always seem to start with ‘I just want to say….’ (the boys are too cool for letter writing) and a few gave me letters to post to my mum, sister and Fran. I tried to get a million and one things done before leaving at 9am but I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew. It was Shrove Tuesday and we were celebrating German Carnival so Rebecca and Eleanor painted the Grade 2’s faces with everything from cat whiskers, beards and flags. Before I’d even got the chance to eat my pancake back home (thank you GAPs!) Reiner was waiting outside the flat beeping his horn so I jumped in the car and waved goodbye to my second home. 
 
Although I only spent a week and a half back at Otjikondo I fully settled back into the Namibian way of life and had an immense time. I made friends for life in Rebecca, Eleanor and Annika, discovered more about the children and spent time with teachers that I didn’t know too well before. I could go on for pages about happy I am when at Otjikondo but I think I proved that by visiting less than 6 months after I left! Thank you to everyone who welcomed me back, I will returning very shortly 🙂
Lots of love,
Mary 
x

‘Shine bright like your mother’ – 2nd March 2014

Africa
Hello!
 
I always enjoy going to church at Otjikondo but Sunday’s service seemed a bit strange; firstly it was Father Erasmus taking the service instead of Gilly and about a third of the children had gone home with their parents so it felt a bit empty. No one really knew what was going on with the songs/marimbas/piano and Father Erasmus even quoted a Rihanna song… He said ‘Who is the most beautiful mother? Our own mothers are the most beautiful. Beautiful like diamonds in the sky’. I tried my best not to burst out laughing. Throughout the day I heard a few children say ‘shine bright like your mother’. 
 
I went straight to the birthday cupboard afterwards to give 3 pieces of clothing to every child whose birthday was in the past week. They all were well behaved, they put the clothes back neatly and found things they liked really quickly which is not usually the case! I even got to help my sponsor child choose her clothes because she’s just turned 8, she then came to the GAP flat garden with her best friend Eengwi to open some small birthday presents that I’d brought and wrapped way back in August (I’d completely forgotten what I’d got). I gave them both presents because I didn’t want Eengwi to feel left out and they were only small things like a fairy wand, Mr Men book, keyring and a few sweets. Little did I know that Tjazupo would have a mini strop because she got 1 less sweet (I must count more thoroughly next time!), I sent them back to their hostels and Tjazupo quickly got over it because Eengwi was kind enough to share her sweets. 
 
That afternoon the GAPs (Rebecca, Eleanor, Iris and Luisa) went on a farm drive with Gilly, Katy and Reiner whilst Annika and I chilled in the garden and went for a quick swim in Gilly’s pool. I was asleep in our garden when Karina, Japs and Destiny threw a massive branch at me through the gate screaming ‘have some spinach Miss Mary! We brought you some spinach, eat it Mary!’. I kindly declined their lovely offer and guessed they wanted some entertainment. I have a great video of them using their best compliments on me as we walked around school, ‘Mary you are the only rose in the garden! Mary you are the sharpest thorn in the bush. Oh Miss Mary you are the only snake that bites, the only key to open my heart, the only Mopani worm that I’ll eat!’. When I sat down to quickly check my Facebook they saw some photos of me from when I was 14, about the same age they are, and were shocked at how different I looked. I personally just think I look a bit lankier and have nicer hair but they were screaming and shouting about how it looks like a different person. ‘Miss Mary, why aren’t you pretty anymore?!’ – ahh you have to appreciate their honesty! After googling things like ‘world’s deadliest snake’ and ‘world’s fattest man’ for a while (they love to google!) we walked over to the big girls hostel where Audrey offered to braid my hair, I chose orange, pink and grey. Meanwhile Karina dragged a big clear container out from her locker, it was filled with murky green water and about 50 tadpoles, Karina never fails to surprise me! She then showed me her photo album where she’s put photos that I’d given her last year when I’d left. As well as a photograph of her in her traditional tribal outfit and she’d captioned it ‘I’m proud of my culture’.
 
Rebecca made a huge lasagna for dinner and I contributed with fudge that didn’t quite set. I don’t like lasagna because food in layers seems very strange to me so I used the mince meat to have spaghetti bolognese. Having 6 GAPs in the flat was hectic but so nice to hear everyone’s stories.
 
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx