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

Bonjour new home and new job – 30th – 31st August 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

Yesterday I left Welwyn Garden City for the third time for the next venture. This time I would be staying a lot closer to home and travelling for only 2 and a half hours to Paris.

The days leading up to the big move were hectic to say the least. I’m a huge fan of leaving things until the last minute but can do 3 days of work in 1 night if I need to. So after seeing Callum and some friends in St Albans I resided to my bedroom to clear the mess, finish up on work related (boring) things and finish packing. I managed to get an hour of sleep before leaving for St Pancras on Saturday morning. I said bye to mum, dad and Peachy and Callum stayed until I checked in. I went on the Eurostar for the first time in years and was genuinely impressed at how speedy it was to check in; I literally went straight from scanning my ticket to having my passport checked to getting on the train and leaving. I slept for pretty much the whole journey and woke up very confused in Paris. My bag weighed a tonne so I struggled getting it off and dragging it to the end of the platform, I then walked around looking lost before Jerome, my host father, spotted me and introduced me to his son Jude. We drove for about 15 minutes to their house in Asnieres sur Seine and I met Guillemette, my host mother and the other 2 children, Penelope and Faustine. 

I’ve now been introduced to this new world of ‘being an Au Pair’; there are a whole set of new rules and activities which you don’t really think about before doing it. I’m excited to start properly tomorrow as the children are lovely and my host parents are really kind.

Yesterday was spent unpacking, being shown round the house and taking a walk to the park and kid’s school. I gave Faustine a bath and read a few stories to the twins (Penelope and Jude) before going to bed. I woke up this morning to the voices of irritable 3 year olds screaming ‘mummy, muuuummy. mummy!’; it will be interesting staying in the bedroom next to the twin’s…

We took a quick trip into central Paris so my host parents could show me how to use the metro and trains; it all seems quite simple and not too different from London. Sunday’s are a bit dead as ALL the shops are closed so we came back for lunch and chill time at home. I gave the kids their presents – loom bands, DVD of The Croods, a Disney princess storybook and a sticker book before they went off for a nap.

Now I’m trying to plan my evening. I just hope I can remember my way to and from the train station as I really don’t wanna be lost and alone in Paris without a phone…

Mary x

 

Easter fun

Africa

Hello!

Easter weekend seemed to go on forever because of South Africa’s endless public holidays. I enjoyed having time off work and everyone else is just generally chilled out and in a good mood. 

Good Friday was spent at a friends braai (BBQ, but better), I was asked to take some family photos which was awesome because I just got to mess around with the kids and their adorable puppy in between taking some cute photos of them. We ate loads of fish and more potato salad than should be allowed.

Image

On Easter Sunday the Easter Bunny came! Leaving a trail of chocolate eggs all around the house and garden. I was totally overwhelmed by all the chocolate and spent much of the day slumped over feeling sorry myself after the huge sugar rush.

Image

Another treat was that my parcel sent from home finally arrived! I’d waited for almost a month and DHL told us it would take 3 days!!!?! I now officially think DHL are poop but my parents are the best people ever! I got my drivers licence, my friends calendar, some clothes that I didn’t have room to pack, percy pigs, DVDs that I was really in the mood to watch and make up that I’d sadly left in the car on the way to the airport. So yeah, parents and sister are the best.

 Image

 

I finally managed to see my friend Harrison who sometimes works in Cape Town. Fran and I met him way back in 2012 on a trip to Swakopmund in Namibia, he’s an actor and stunt double so has the best stories. He treated me to a crazy dinner at La Mouette in Sea Point, I’d already eaten at Mama Afrika that evening with my friend Offir but then had to sit down to a six course meal. I don’t even eat much as it is but I had to find the strength to get through 6 courses excluding the bread before we even started! I won’t go until too much detail but the restaurant is so fancy and if you know me you’ll probably know that I don’t do fancy. Oh, and I’m super fussy with food. The night was traumatic to say the least but I was happy to see Harrison again 🙂

Image

 

Anyway, these past few weeks have been very chilled but really busy at the same time. It’s been fun!

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