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

Stuck on a metro, pompiwho, ‘do I look like voldermort?!’

Europe

Look who I bumped into in Paris! Unfortunately it wasn’t Beyonce and Jay Z but seeing Jenna and Steph was second best I guess..

They’d been off interailing and ended in the french capital so we got to hang out over the weekend. We went to a metro party (about an hour after I’d landed back in Paris) but bailed quite early on because it was basically a game of cat and mouse with the police and some idiots weren’t letting us out of a carriage. We ended dancing in Bastille. I ended up missing the last train home so did the standard sit on a bus and chat to a randomer about cultural topics for the whole journey home thing.

On Sunday Steph had planned a walking tour to see all the sights. So here are some generic photos of us at the sights 🙂
We went for a drink by the sacre coeur that evening, took the funicular, got the metro to the Eiffel tower and watched it light up as we drank €12 champagne. Living that Parisian life

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Cheeeeers to all the lols girls

Mary x

First week in Paris – 8th September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

I can’t believe I’ve only been in Paris for 8 days. I feel like I’ve settled in so quickly, met loads of lovely people and seen some cool stuff and can’t believe I’ve got pretty much a whole year to explore this amazing city.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Au Pairing is a completely different world and it’s been a bit strange to fit into my role but I’ve found meeting up with other Au Pairs has been really helpful. Last Sunday I went to my first ‘meet up event’ in Paris; a big picnic organised for international students and au pairs in Champ De Mars, a park directly in front of the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t know anyone there so just sat down with the first group I saw and discovered a few English girls. We all chatted for hours over baguette and some amazing (my new trademark!) Blanc Peche wine. It might be Paris’ version of Lambrini (cheap and sweet) but I don’t care as it’s so yummy. I was so happy I plucked up the courage to go as I met some awesome people who I’ve already seen a few times again since then.

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My actual ‘work’ has been enjoyable, I’m learning a lot about the children and they seem to be getting used to me as their new helper/playmate/friend.

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One of the biggest challenges here is managing my time and motivating myself to work. Some of you know that I’m studying a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course at the moment and I’ve completed the classroom courses so now the rest is online. It’s 120 hours split into about 7 different units; you learn each unit then have a review at the end to test your understanding. I’m in the early stages of it; it’s interesting but difficult to find the right time to do it. I’m also trying to re learn some french using the duolingo app and website, which are both fab. On top of these i’m supposed to be applying for french lessons at a language school for 1 day a week. I obviously want to learn more french whilst here but the cost of these language schools are a bit crazy so I’ll maybe do some more research before booking. So this is my ‘workload’ but there’s a ridiculous amount of other stuff I want to get done this year;

– I’d love to do some dance teaching as I hate coming completely out of the dance bubble

– I need to get my exercise on and stop being so lazy, the plan is to join a netball club

– More photography. I haven’t touched my DSLR in weeks (I always use my mini panasonic but actually setting up a photo is painful for me now) and that needs to change ASAP

– More diary writing as I love that feeling of reading back over great / average / crappy times, months or years later

– More fashion show, events, gigs, parties, meet ups etc!

– Less time worrying about not fitting it all in. And just doing it.

Mary 

x

today's view from lunch

today’s view from lunch

Markets, Cake & making my way to Paris – 14th – 16th June 2014

Europe

On Saturday I barely left my bed as I felt so ill, I think my travelling was starting to catch up on me. I did eventually manage to leave at 4 in the afternoon to go to some cafes and let Nina get on with her work. That night we went into town and found a great bar to people watch from, the next bar was our chosen spot to watch the England/Italy match. Somehow we were in the perfect spot to see the game with a full room of enthusiastic men behind us and there was a table of English girls in front who needed to go out and smoke every 5 minutes because the game was ‘so stressful’. I decided England aren’t too great at football and they just want to constantly chase the ball; I can confidently say most of the boys at Otjikondo play better than them!

On Sunday I booked my travel to France(!!!) and then went to a vintage market in Mauer Park. I didn’t know the way when leaving the metro station so just followed the hipsters to wherever they went; like magic, 10 minutes later I was there. This place is a huge market; some stalls were just selling second hand clothes and unwanted things from home and others were selling handmade jewellery, badges, sunglasses, dog clothes and lots more. I could’ve walked around for hours as there was so much to hunt through but I knew I couldn’t spend too much money so I went to listen to some of the singers on the grass area next to the market. One singer told the audience how she lives in Cape Town for 4 months of each year and how much she misses it, basically, everyone loves Cape Town.
Next I went into town to catch a bus to see some of the more classic tourist sites. As I’ve been to Berlin before I wasn’t too fussed by the big buildings so just observed from the top deck of the bus… I wrote some postcards and bought a little sew on german flag which I did originally want to put on my jacket but I think I’ll get mum to put it on my camera strap and I’ll add flags from the other countries I’ve been travelling in. In the afternoon I arrived home to a hungry Nina so she took me to her favourite cake shop, Bravko, just down the road. I had a lemon pie whilst Nina had some fruity, crumble thing. We left, I packed and I said my goodbyes. It’s been awesome staying with Nina; we’ve got to know each other so much better, she has the cutest flat, she knows all the best places in Berlin, she prepares the best breakfasts every morning (fruit salad, german bread, smoothies woo) and is generally a fab host. So thank you Nina!
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I rushed to the coach station, arriving there at 6:45, really smug that I managed to get there 15 minutes before the coach was due to leave. I was then informed that I had to stand in a long queue in order to get my boarding pass. As soon as the guy at the counter filled it out (he tod me to CALM DOWN) I grabbed it and ran to my stop. I jumped on the bus with 30 seconds to spare. Luckily I hadn’t started thinking about what I’d of done if I’d missed it.
As I write this I’m sitting at the back of a coach that’s travelled from Berlin, through Belgium and we’re due to arrive in Paris any minute 😀 I have a few hours before I’ll then catch the train to Saintes. I’ll be staying with my sister, Georgie who’s living and working in Royan at the moment. I know she’ll rub it in my face that she’s more tanned than and she’ll probably complain that I haven’t bought her any presents but I’m still excited to see her after nearly 5 months apart!
Mary x

Wild Wild West Coast – 19th May 2014

Africa

Our Trisha, Bill, Callum and Mary days are becoming numbered as they’re soon to jet off to Hong Kong on their next leg of their sabbatical so we made the most of a sunny and work free day by visiting the West Coast National Park.
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When we entered the park we didn’t expect to see too many animals as the reserve is more focused on plants and birds (that we probably don’t appreciate enough to be honest) but we quickly spotted ostriches, a few different types of antelope and about 20 tortoises. I don’t know how the tortoises avoid being squished by passing cars as we had a few near misses. I had to resist the urge to pick up a tortoise and take one home, I’m totally deprived of a pet 😦 Scones at a cafe confirmed our thoughts that South Africans like their scones to be stodgy while exotic looking birds stalked our table and ate our leftover crumbs as we admired the amazing scenery. The waitress told me how it was a popular wedding venue; there was a cute water feature, outdoor benches with flowing white curtains, beautiful archways, an altar (convenient!) and a stunning view of the lagoon. A wedding isn’t on the cards (don’t worry dad!) but I’d love to have a massive party there.

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Most of the day was spent on a deserted beach. The sand was almost like quicksand, the sea was perfectly clear, there were arches made of the rocks and in the distance you could see flocks of flamingos. I got closer to them and loved seeing them up close and it was cool to see them fly off; the underneath of their wings was even more pink than their bodies. Bat and ball, countless games of catch and watching the workers throw a dead shark back into the sea concluded our beach day. We headed back to the pretty restaurant for dinner. I don’t know if it’s because we were starving or because the food was genuinely fantastic but we all praised our meals very highly. I ate mussels with a peppadew and mayo sauce with chips and it was the best meal I’ve had all year, the type of meal that I could re-eat over and over again.
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We reluctantly left the park at 6:01 (the gates shut at 6, oops sorry.) and travelled through a strange fog which prompted car stories about fog; think Hermonie, Ron and Hagrid in the forest with a talking Chihuahua. No decent evening is complete without lemon meringue pie and a large amount of Dairy Milk chocolate so we added back all the calories lost through running around on the beach, perfect.

Mary x

Baboons, braids and Thai tea – 20th May 2014

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Yesterday was a bizarre and exhausting day. And we’d decided that by 12:15.

An early start took us to a primary school in South Fields to see an educational show by Jungle Theatre, a company Trisha has been working with whilst in Cape Town. Traffic left us rushed and panicking about where to park; we soon realised we were actually at the wrong school so we became even more rushed in trying to find the school we were supposed to be at 25 mins earlier. With the power of maps on the iPhone we found it just in time and joined the classroom full of around 100 children to watch the show about baboons returning a human baby to it’s parents. The school children loved it and were so excitable that they actually made me feel tired. 
 
Bill, Callum, Trisha and I then made our to Long Street in town to tick off some things from their Cape Town Bucket List. Trisha and I had said we’d go for a Thai massage for a while so we tentatively entered the building that I pass so often and were greeted by a woman who looked like she’d expected us to arrive any minute (we hadn’t booked an appointment) and was really excited to see us. We had our massages in the same room and had 2 giggly masseurs who sometimes spoke to each other in their own language, leaving us to assume they were gossiping about us in the least discreet way possible! 60 mins was enough to leave us feeling relaxed and de-stressed and equally battered and bruised, standing on our backs and walking up and down our legs was a bit more intense than we expected. I think their idea of de-stressing us was giving us some green tea before we left.
 
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Our next task was to get hair braids! Yes, the type you got aged 9 when you went on holiday to France and you were giddy to show your mates at school after the summer holidays were over but then after a week the head teacher decided they weren’t allowed anymore so you had to unravel all the pretty threads and brush out that matted bit of hair. Yeah, those ones. I took us to the guy in Greenmarket Square (if you’ve ever stayed on Long Street you should know who I mean!) as everyone says he’s brill. Turns out he charges a fortune for a little braid. It was his lucky day as we were desperate enough to still want them; after a bit of haggling we paid the smaller fortune to have some coloured thread in our hair and small elephant charms on the end. Trisha went first whilst he told us that the braids he does last up to 10 years. Impressive, but we’d only planned to have them for a few days/weeks. I do like the thought of having a 10 year old braid in my hair when I’m 29 though, I’ll know then that I’ve become a full fledged hippy. I set up his table display whilst he did Trisha’s green, blue and yellow braid. I had different shades of pink and blue in my hair and the others watched in disbelief as he used his lighter to burn the knots. I love my little braid even though it may have cost me a weeks worth of food shopping…
 
Mary x

Hiya Addo – 9th May 2014

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Arriving at Addo Elephant Park was fab, our lodges in Matyholweni camp were so nice and homely but we quickly got back in the car to go on our first mini game drive round the park. Although we didn’t see any elephants that evening we did see warthogs on their knees (very weird sight), a huge buffalo, kudu and a jackal. The jackal was basically a glorified fox but unlike in the case of seeing a fox, we stopped the car, excitedly whispered and took an unnecessary amount of photos. It gave us a full display of it’s talents; scratching, sniffing itself, digging, sitting in the middle of the road and then howling. Well done jackal, you impressed us.

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Mary x

 

 

 

Running with Dolphins – Holidays in South Africa – 9th May 2014

Africa

I love a good beach. If you’re my friend or follow me on facebook/twitter/instagram/tumblr/pinterest you’ll probably have already grasped this fact…

I love swimming in the sea (I can chose between 2 oceans when in Cape Town which never fails to amaze me), I love playing bat and ball, I love watching the surfers and I could spend all day sunbathing. If being a beach visitor was a sport I would be a professional. On 9th May we stumbled upon a pretty little beach at Plettenberg Bay. We didn’t plan to stay long as we were travelling from Knysna to Addo Elephant Park and just wanted to stretch our legs and take a few photos before heading off again.

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As well as being a total beach bum I’m also very good at being the last at things; the last to exit the car, the last to finish a meal, last to decide what to have from the menu. This day I was the last to turn away from watching the ocean and in the distance I could see fin like shapes bobbing up and down in the water, not too far away. One side of my brain was about to explode with excitement – loads of wild dolphins just a few metres away! The other side of my brain was doubtful – surely they would’t be this close, just jumping about like dolphins in movies?! My mouth just went ‘kerjfgnjdhgsgjn DOLPHINS, GUYS COME SEE!! aakjdnbsjvbfjhsv’.

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admittedly my photos aren’t great but I was way too caught up in the moment to care too much

Trisha, Bill, Callum and I just stood and watched as about 30 wild dolphins swam, surfed the waves and jumped about in front of us. And we were the only ones on the beach! Amazing. As they moved along the water Callum and I couldn’t resist running along the beach next to them. We were running on a gorgeous, empty beach so close to a pod of 30 dolphins in Africa. Can things get any cooler?! I felt like I was in a cheesy film about love and freedom… It was great. 

 

We also saw a double rainbow that day. What is up with the universe?!

 

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Mary x

Holiday in South Africa! 8th-9th May 2014

Africa

Living in South Africa means a holiday doesn’t even involve having to cross borders, there are some pretty cool places to go in the country. Callum, Trisha, Bill and I embarked on a 6 day long holiday last week following the famous Garden Route to Addo Elephant Park with a few stops on the way and I think they’ll agree that it was a pretty amazing trip.

The journey began early on 8th May, following a night out and maybe 2 or 3 hours sleep Callum had to pack all his clothes in a few minutes (because he is yet to learn the beautiful art of organisation) and jump in the Suzuki Swift, our mode of transport for the next 6 days. Our first stop was at Paradise House in Knysna, our rooms were stunning we even had little balconies looking out onto hills, the town and the sea. Knysna is beautiful and the scenery is great but the weather was not on our side and that night we watched a huge thunderstorm outside our window. I gave up on trying to get a decent photo and just watched the lightning strike from the comfort of the warm room; it’s kinda exciting to watch and looks so much prettier than lightning in England.

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Thunderstorms in Knysna – South Africa

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A brighter view the next morning

 

The next morning we woke up to a sunnier view and we were all in high spirits, excited to get onto our next stop until Trisha realised she didn’t have her purse 😦 losing valuable items is rubbish wherever you are but the prospect of not having your purse when you’re away and will be away for the next 7 months must’ve been reallly crap rubbish. I told myself (and Callum) that we’d find it by 10:27 that morning… We retraced our steps back to the B&B, nowhere to be seen. We rooted through the car, nowhere to be seen. We emptied bags, nowhere to be seen. Our last resort was to ask at the pub that we ate in the night before but when the owner told us he definitely hadn’t seen it we all started to panic. We turned to the car with almost no hope left when at 10:26 the guy came out with it in his hand. He’d decided to double check where we’d been sitting the night before and found it right in the corner. A group hug and a few tears followed before we jumped back in the car to carry on our journey. Maybe it was just a coincidence that we found it by 10:27 or maybe I have actual psychic powers….. 

It was an interesting start to our holiday, we left Knysna ready to see some wildlife and have less drama.

Mary x