Kenya photodiary – rafiki na familia

Africa, photography

We’re already onto part 3!
This is my Kenya photodiary filled with my film camera snaps from 3 months of volunteering with VSO.
I’m going to share some of my favourite photos of my friends and family in Ngare Ndare.

The most important friend you can ever have is your dog. This is Scotty. He was nameless before I arrived. He’s understandably not allowed in the house because he’s totally flea ridden and feral but I love him loads. VSO told us not to touch any animals while we were away but that’s a ridiculous and unrealistic task to ask from us.
UntitledWe had another dog called Bob but a few weeks after I left I got a text from my sister saying someone had poisoned him. He was foaming at the mouth, his eye had turned green and he couldn’t stand up. He was dead the next morning. Why would anyone do something so heartless? Poor Bob 😦

 

 

 

Sharlene. Oh boy, where do I begin?! This was my brother Moses’ daughter, I think she was 2. And a massive ball of unrelenting energy that no amount of games or dancing could calm. Like my Mama, she didn’t speak any English but she was the perfect tool for me to learn some Swahili.
Kuja – come
Kuja hapa – come here
watcha – stop
kwenda – go
habari gani? – how are you?
kwa nini? – why?
wapi? – where?
nakunpenda – I love you

We grew so close and I missed her big time when it was time to leave
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Kianda life

We lived on a dirt road in Kianda and when I arrived the kids from neighbouring roads they screamed ‘Mzungu!!!’ (white person) then hid in the bushes. I swear to God they were terrified of me. Even some of the adults couldn’t quite meet my eyes when I greeted them. Over time it got easier and I think they realised I was pretty normal (well….) and wasn’t there to hurt them.
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This road outside my house was where I spent most evenings and all day Sunday. There was a group of about 15 kids who became my own mini cheer team. I naturally gravitate towards kids because we’re on a very similar maturity level. Seriouly, these kids were awesome. Always singing and dancing and when I gave them a few skipping ropes they were occupied for hours. As the evenings grew dark I’d tell them ‘nenda nyumbani’ (go home) and try my hardest to shake em off me.
Little Mary (omg twinz!), Vinnie, Ronnie, Mercy and the others were some of my closest friends when I was in Ngazza Ndazza. Untitled
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Kenya photodiary – Ngare Ndare home life

Africa, photography

Jambo readers.

Part 2 of my Kenya photodiary series.

Let me share some snaps from my first placement and first Kenyan home in Ngare Ndare – or Ngazza Ndazza as I referred to it…

My first counterpart, Betty, and I travelled 2 hours out of Nanyuki to this tiny rural village surrounded by forests and giraffes and elephants and waterfalls. Sounds pretty blissful right? Well, I did love Ngare Ndare but the ‘ooooh rural Africa’ novelty wore off pretty quickly when the reality of living in the middle of bloody nowhere with zero work to do set in. Our work supervisor was crap so there was nothing to do. I really did try to be resourceful and upbeat and get on with something but it was near enough impossible. We were there with the UK’s biggest voluntary organisation and instead of having a clear work plan and contacts, we were told to wander round the village (which was an hour walk away btw) and look for women who looked like they were beaders. Seriously?!!?!?!? These women didn’t even speak English or Swahili so we were 100% stuck.

Aside from the failure of our placement I friggin loved my host home. I loved our little hamlet of Kianda and the kids and animals and all day sunny weather. I really thought of it as home and even went back to visit weeks after we’d left. So Betty and I called the little wooden cabin ‘home’ for a month before I relocated to Nanyuki town and Bettz headed to Ngobit.

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Our neighbours house

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We owned a few farms so would collect kales, onions or fruit before dinner.

Our Masai family consisted of our Mum, Joyce. In Kenya the mother is named after their last born child (or any other child) so sometimes she was Mama Joyce, other times Mama Makena and occasionally Mama Stella. Kinda confusing. Mama didn’t speak any English so that was a massive obstacle. She had her middle bottom tooth missing as part of Masai tradition and always dressed beautifully. Although we couldn’t verbally communicate, we always had a laugh together and she taught me loads. She exclaimed that she saw Betty and i as her real family which made my heart burst with all the feels. I was also mega lucky to have 2 gorgeous host sisters; Makena, 18 and Stella, 21 as well as a very cool and calm brother, Paul, 13. Our little family was completed by the 2 dogs; Scotty and Bob who were actually nameless when I arrived(?!). Oh and we had 2 cows, one was pregnant, both very cute.
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Look our cute little house! The walls were lined with newspaper and water would get in when it rained. Our bedroom was crawling with insects and the nights were so cold that four layers of clothes and 2 blankets weren’t enough. Our house didn’t have electricity or running water but that didn’t really bother me. We heated water on the stove and had a bucket shower in a little shed outside and went to the loo in a drop toilet (super smelly but healthier…)
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Untitled In the mornings we’d wash pots and pans (sufurias) outside. It was a nice time to chat and enjoy the morning sunshine. Untitled
My brother Paul. Arsenal for life. Surprisingly good Scrabble player. He walks 2 hours to and from school. He was in charge of collecting milk in the evening.
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Sister Stella
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Work sister Betty

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As you can see, my family are absolutely gorgeous – inside and out. I loved being part of the Masai culture for a few weeks and they taught me so much. I miss our evenings watching crappy telenova La Gata until the TV’s battery died and we’d sit in the dark playing Scrabble by torchlight. We cooked together and ate together every night and always had something to chat about; boys, politics, sport, funny village people.

Next post will be about my crazy niece Sharlene and the kids in the village.
Kwaheri (bye) bishes

I’m going to run 600 miles for charity

Africa, Sport

There’s no time like the present to start fundraising for my 3 month voluntary trip to Kenya with VSO!

I’ve had the idea to run the width of Kenya, all 600 miles of it… I’ve used my trusty Google Maps to calculate the distance from the border of Somalia on the east of Kenya to the border of Uganda in the west, passing through the town I’ll be living come September, Nanyuki.

P.s. It’s actually 589 miles but let’s round it up to make it even harder aha.

Sponsor me here! Help a sister out and donate a few pennies or more if you’re a generous type 😉
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Of course I can’t do this in one go so I’ll be adding up my miles from now and hope to complete it in 2 months. I’m setting myself a massive challenge here as I’m not an experienced runner, I’m generally a busy bee and the heat of southern Spain leaves me pretty knackered after work and general errands let alone socialising, friends visiting and travelling. But I love a good challenge; Kenyans are renowned for being some of the best runners in the world so simply running something like 10km would not do the country justice! Haha let’s see how long my confidence lasts ;D

To make it more interesting whenever somebody donates (whatever amount, I’d be chuffed with £1!) they’ll have the chance to request adding something to make the journey more interesting. I’m thinking running in a silly hat, fancy dress, a weird hairstyle, face paint etc. Also you can request other sports to contribute to the 600 miles; swimming (I don’t have access to a pool but I’m close enough to the beach), cycling, walking or hiking. I’m open to some wacky ideas if you’re donating! I’ll update my blog and Facebook Page with photos and videos of proof and commentary of how it’s going (expect sweaty selfies and videos of me generally dying of exhaustion yay).

I’m excited about this as my first fundraiser for the cause and probably the toughest challenge I’ve set myself. Please share my JustGiving page if you want to support and donate if you’re feeling super sweet; stay tuned for news of how my 600 miles is going!

Let’s start this; 600 miles / over 965km to travel to Kenya to volunteer with those a lot less lucky than you or me.

Share you support with this hashtag #MazRuns600

Mary x

So, I’m moving to Kenya

Africa

Well, not forever but I found out yesterday that I will be spending 3 months in the beautiful country!

Quick catch up; I’m in Spain at the moment, I’ll leave on 21st July to go to England then on 23rd September I’ll be travelling to Nanyuki in Kenya to complete 3 months of volunteering with VSO ICS. How exciting! (yeeeeees I plan on going somewhere else before September but maybe winning to lottery also has to be somewhere in my plans…)

I’ve only been told that I’ll be working on a programme called Secure Livelihoods; their main objective is to strengthen the ability of disadvantaged people to access sufficient food and income, and to have more control over how and when they access these essential lifelines. I’ll find out more about my exact roles and responsibilities very soon.

I’ve never been to Kenya before and don’t have many preconceptions as I don’t (knowingly) have any friends from there so it will all be brand new to me. The town of Nanyuki seems to be a market town with a lot of speeding motorbikes, hustle and a close community. It’s also on the equator which will be cool, I don’t know why but the equators always fascinated me!

In order to go on the volunteer placement I will have to raise £800 in the upcoming weeks. This is definitely going to be the toughest challenge pre-departure as I almost feel emotionally prepared for ‘African life’ already and things like vaccinations and packing lightly aren’t really an issue for me (I say confidently now ha). I have some fun ideas for fundraising and hope to do a variety of events and challenges to raise the money and not just rely on badgering people on social media for donations (although I’m sure I’ll manage to sneak some of that in too. yay sorrrrrry).

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I know a few asian countries were possible options to volunteer in but I’m grateful in a way that I was placed in Africa. Firstly, I doubt I’d ever go to Kenya alone (as in, not being looked after by an organisation) whereas I wouldn’t think twice about jumping on a plane to Asia so it’s a great chance to see Kenya more like a local. Secondly, I obviously love Africa! The people, culture, way of life, weather, everything! I also have seen the positive effects of great volunteering in Africa and would be stupid to turn down that opportunity again. The only downside at the moment is knowing how close (as in close in african terms, a few countries away) I’ll be to Namibia and Cape Town and not having the chance to go and visit my extended family. But apart from that I’m feeling so grateful to be placed in Kenya.

I will do a whole new post about fundraising very soon so will have more information about what I’m planning but it would be dumb not to link my JustGiving page here now – https://www.justgiving.com/Mary-Mandefield

If anyone reading this has been to Kenya before, maybe even volunteered there or has any advice, fundraising ideas or general words of encouragement then obviously it’s all super appreciated!

I’m feeling pretty lucky that I can combine my love for travel with my want of helping others and living more sustainably, I can’t wait to find out more about my placement 😀

Don’t hate, donate.
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Mary x

Settling in and exciting news!

Murcia

I’ve been living in Murcia for a few weeks now (3ish I think) and am feeling pretty settled! I can’t say I’ve done anything particularly Spanish or weird since arriving but I’ve kept myself nice and busy and have really enjoyed it so far. I’ve been working for an English academy; tutoring adults and children. I think I prefer the kids because I get to just play around (whilst teaching obvs) for an hour and a half and get paid for it. Today I watched the boy I teach play Mario Kart whilst I excitedly narrated in English and he repeatedly told me to be quiet. Teaching this kid is kinda funny as the grandma speaks spanish and french and the kid only spanish. So we awkwardly greet each other in French, if there are any problems she’ll speak quickly in spanish then french whilst I try my hardest to translate in my head and reply. And the boy ignores my attempts to get him speaking English. The weather has been crazy good; great most of the time but sometimes we just moan about the heat. Just wish our air con worked and we had a paddling pool or something. It’s only going to get hotter so I’m prepared to reach optimum browness. Apart from working we’ve been eating, gyming, beaching and being really productive watching BGT and Louis Theroux documentaries.

Last week I went home for 2 days (timed it quite well with elections and voted for the first time wahoo); my flight there was so strange. I was seated by the emergency exit so they gave me a little talk about how to open the door in an emergency and kindly asked me to remove anything from under the seat in front of me. Then it came to landing in Luton, I had nothing with me; no books, no headphones, no food, the only thing I had was a thin cardigan. Literally taking up 10cm on my lap; the flight attendant made me move it! ‘Please put it on or place it in the overhead compartment’ lol seriously!?

I was back in England to attend an assessment day for ICS VSO – a 3 month, government funded, overseas voluntary placement. They send young people to some of the poorest places in the world to contribute to development projects. Obviously that’s a pretty vague and broad statement but they appear to do some great sustainable work. The assessment day was good but not quite what I expected in terms of the amount of information we were given about the possible placements. I left wishing I’d seen more visual information about where we could be going and more examples of the potential work. I did meet some lovely people though and enjoyed the ‘what would you do in their position’ problem solving.

In all honesty I can’t give an unbiased opinion of any volunteering selection process because I’ve done it before. Anyway, I came back to Spain on possibly the worst flight of my life (I mean, I’m super grateful I caught my flight and it was all safe but it was a pretty horrendous experience nonetheless), the flight was full of classic LAAAADDDSSS all heading to Alicante and Benidorm for boozy holidays. Most people were drunk before take off and continued to drink, chant and be as rowdy as possible for the 2 and half hours. There were families with young kids who were probably a lot more annoyed than I was. The air stewards continually made announcements to ask people to sit down and calm down. Failing that the pilot repeatedly asked passengers to take note of the seatbelt lights and to stop shouting. A few persistent passengers still carried on and the stewards were losing patience, one air hostess was nearly in tears as she apologised to me for not being able to get the drink I’d ordered. LADs,why be a dick on a flight?! Why can’t people wait until we’ve landed then head straight to the bar!?

To make matters worse we had to be held on the flight for an extra 15 minutes because so many guys wouldn’t listen. This meant I missed my coach to Murcia and had to wait almost 2 hours (in the crazy heat) for the next one. I hate flying in summer!

Anyway, a few days ago, back in Murcia, I got the news that I’d been accepted for the VSO programme! I don’t have much information of what I’ll be doing because they have to clear my medical forms before choosing my placement. But yay! I’ll be volunteering with locals somewhere either in Africa or Asia for 3 months, probably departing around the end of August. I’ll have to raise £800 before departure so that’s another challenge to think about once I have more information.

That’s all for now

Mary x

I’m totally over Social Braggers

Uncategorized

Hold tight kiddos, things are about to get deep.

Well, not too deep. Just deep for this blog.

Let me take a break from updating y’all on my travels and general au pairing life in Paris and let me get a few things off my chest.

Firstly, I’m partial to a lil over sharing on social media and will hold my hands up and admit to at times being a social media bragger. Secondly, I like to think that I do good things in my normal day to day life and try to go the extra mile to help people or do a good deed at times. Thirdly, I’ve recently seen a massive rise in charitable gloaters on all forms of social media (well, the social media I’m on; Facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, occasionally tumblr) and I don’t get it. It really annoys and worries me.

IMG_3044Scrolling away I can quickly spot an example of a SMB (social media bragger. yeah it’s an actual term).

‘Passed a homeless man on my way to work. Stopped to buy him a bread roll, his face lit up and he said I was a beautiful human being!’ – 27 likes and 5 congratulatory comments.

‘Today I decided no kid should be unhappy at Christmas. I’ve bought all the barbies at the store for the children’s centre’ – 103 favourites and 59 retweets

-Photo of a tanned girl riding an elephant in a tropical destination- ‘OMG I looooove volunteering with animals. They need people like us to totally save them!’ – 10,678 likes and 288 new followers.

Sound familiar? From donating to a good cause to giving someone your unused parking ticket as a favour; every good deed seems to be one giant social show off and can’t possibly go undocumented. And whats the point? Obviously it feeds our egos and enhances our sense of achievement (not much harm there). But theres something a bit sick about it all in my opinion (when its taken too far); do certain people feel like an act of kindness is only worth doing if they have a photo to document it or an inspiring quote to go alongside it? When was the last time you did something just for the pure unselfishness of it? No possibility of attention, likes, followers or anything else to gain. Where does it end? Will we be reaching for our phones to film us giving money to the poor? Or only helping a neighbour out if there’s the opportunity to snapchat it.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this tip-of-the-iceburg post but it must be better to share thoughts on this and create a bit of a discussion instead of just turning my nose up at it, right? I think some argue that documenting their own acts of random kindness it inspires to do the same. I call bullsh*t.

I’d quite like to see a friend volunteering for a cause they feel passionately about, not just for instagrams sake. And hear of someone helping out a homeless man or woman because they genuinely want to help.

Have you noticed this weird trend on your social media accounts lately? Thoughts?

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

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

‘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