Friday, July 27, 2012

Piecing it together -a visit from Team Canada!

One of the best things about living abroad and travelling, is meeting up with amazing friends in different places and connecting the different parts of your life together.

It is even better when reconnections take place in the sunshine in Scotland! It gives me a chance to be tour guide again, a job I love!

I love it around  Inverary, a trip home wouldn't be complete without a visit there!

So great to spend time with Team Canada before the Olympics! (You may have seen Heather on TV by the torch! :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Scottish Summer's Day

I spoke too soon. It has rained for two days straight. Non-stop.

So, I've done a bit of baking. Oreo cookies, rhubarb and strawberry crumble, banana and chocolate chip loaf and the Best Blueberry Muffins You'll Ever Have. (We have had excuse I am sticking to!)

These really are the best blueberry muffins. Maybe a little bit fussier than other muffins, but they turned out perfectly. I followed this blueberry crumb muffin recipe exactly.

I am quite happy curling up on the sofa, still reading the supplements from the weekend papers...but I would really like it to stop raining tomorrow, as I am being a tour guide for a couple of days and would quite like to see more than 3 metres in front of my face.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Quick, quick, slow

I've been back in the shiny west for a week now. It has been a whirlwind, full of visits to family, meals with friends and also a trip to Ireland. The sun has been out everywhere I have been (honest!), I even went to the fair and had a cone. I have a couple of quiet days ahead of me to recover (and get in a few runs!), before it all starts again. I love the holidays.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tips and Tricks

After stopping off in Dubai to see my dad and getting a free facial (at this time of year, you walk out of the airport and the humidity has you soaking in a flash!), I'm home.

Not just that, but my suitcase is home too. This is small miracle. The lady at check-in tried to charge me for the bag being over weight, but wanted the cash (What can you afford? Nothing. I tired to explain.) handed over in my passport....hmm, a charge or is that a bribe? Her supervisor came back just in time and my case started down the conveyor belt. Oh Kenya, what a send off. Only once I was in Dubai did I realise that I had no ticket for my bag and had convinced myself that I would never be seeing it again. But there it was, on the carousel in bonnie Scotland. I think it has some kind of homing device.

Tips & Tricks for Flying on a Budget

Kate Sorenson contributed this piece on budget travel. Kate is an expert couponer who shares her knowledge and excellent finds on her site, She knows how to find all the best deals and shares several of her favorites each day with the rest of her readers. To check CouponCravings out, click here!

Flying is never cheap. The most expensive part of any vacation is usually the cost of flights, but many of us have learned to simply accept the outrageous prices airlines demand. However, savvy flyers know that there are clever ways to reduce the money spent on flights. Read on to learn some of the best tricks for flying on a budget.

Be Flexible

You will find the absolute best deals if you can move your schedule around a bit and leave at a moment’s notice. When a flight has seats remaining right before takeoff, prices are significantly reduced. If you can snatch up a last minute flight, you’ll save an abundance of cash. Some articles suggest signing up with an airline’s email alerts to stay on top of deals. Or, if your vacation dates aren’t set, search for the days when the tickets are cheapest – avoiding holiday traffic is always a plus. Finally, if you’re willing to go on a bit of an adventure, look for flights with connecting cities that are cheaper. It may take a bit longer, but when it can shave so much off your bill, is that really important?

Use the Airline Websites

Airplane travel sites, such as, may be easier and more convenient to use, but often the best deals are found on the airline websites themselves. If you’re on an email alert list, you’ll hear about any sales the airline offers. Usually, the prices are cut on Monday night, so look for deals Tuesday mornings.

Avoid Hidden Fees

Airplane tickets are expensive enough as it is, but the airlines nickel-and-dime you at every possible moment. Hidden Fees Have Airline Passengers in a Frenzy explains some of the fees you can expect; in-flight meals or entertainment, checking bags, and renting a pillow and blanket all add to the cost of a flight. Not all of these fees are avoidable, but the more careful you are when planning and packing, the more money you can save. Pack snacks in your carry-on luggage to avoid paying a small fortune for dinner and be smart with your bag space to reduce the money you spend on checking luggage.

You may expect a flight to run your wallet dry, but frugal shoppers can save money on their tickets and smart flyers can avoid additional fees. Take advantage of all the deals available to you and you’ll find you can travel without breaking the bank.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I've always wanted a tatoo-fact

This post is going to sound incredibly sad- as in, 'I am a loser', sad. Not, 'I am unhappy' sad. I realise that. I am still going to write it, then I will decide later if I will post it!

Saying farewell to Uganda  was hard, but I knew I was only heading next door. This time I am going a little further away and it is so hard to leave this green, lush land.I am leaving Africa. (Today in fact!) Leaving. My blog, 'Africa, My Africa' therefore has to change or I start up another one. The idea that I would leave the title behind, and Africa just made my chest tight. My heart doesn't want to go you know. I sometimes thought I might make my home on this continent. But, at the moment, it is good to go, I can always come back.

But, back to my blog, I don't want to start a new blog- as I will miss seeing photos of my adventures in Africa. Plus, it was hard enough trying to think of a blog title the first time round. Maybe I should just adapt it, like add, 'and beyond...'.

I joke that I think my life will bracketed into BA (Before Africa) and AA (After Africa) time periods. I am going back to the land of sand, a place I used to call home, but I think I have changed lots in the time that I have been away. Everyday my life is influenced by the people that live in this continent and the beauty that it holds.

I first met my lovely friend, Jane, in Kuwait, when we started work at the same school. It was her husband Sven, that I actually remember being friendly with first. Jane had just left Uganda after living there for 10 years and had not stopped crying since departing her beloved home. She would only come up for breath (between hiccups!) to talk about Uganda and life there. I knew I would love Africa, so I couldn't do anything but go and see why she was making such a fuss. I now know.

East Africa has been tattooed to my being. I am honestly not sure how I will be when I am not here anymore.

Oh-this did turn into a sad, 'I am unhappy', post- but I am not. There are lots of reasons why I am going to be running, skipping and dancing onto that plane...that is, once I have finished my 101 jobs to do before then!

Kwaheri Kenya! I'll be seeing you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lost in the moment

I haven't really said much about the 'w' place. Why? Well, I think if you don't know me well it makes me seem quite a negative or unhappy person. But that isn't me. The experience has been quite negative but as a person I hope and think I am (generally) the opposite.

But you know, this year I have cried more than any other. Even today, when you cry so much that you get a headache, you are all puffy. I couldn't stop.

Then my dad phones and makes everything better. Really.

The things that I have been wrapped up with this year, will soon seem so unimportant. I won't remember names of those I don't want to and money is only money. I realise I am incredibly lucky to say that. (The 'w' place are taking every penny I don't yet have off me because I am breaking contract.) If I didn't have such a supportive family I would have had to stayed for another year, in unhappy circumstances. But instead I can get on a plane on Thursday and leave the (bad bits) behind me.

It is all pretty draining. Sad, genuine loving farewells, but relief that I have other opportunities and can go.

I went to my last yoga session and sushi with wonderful people (including my amazing teacher) this evening and these are the memories I will be taking with me. All the other stuff, well it isn't really that big of a deal. It is at the moment. But I am leaving it all behind me and looking forward to brushing my teeth is soft Scottish water soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creativity fosters Creativity

The packers are in today. I'm getting ready to walk down that corridor of life and open another door...right Dad!? But, I am thinking of my time away from Africa as extended leave. I am certain I'll be back.

I first came to Africa to volunteer in three different local schools in Uganda. I found that my short time in three schools was making little impact and it was hard to build relationships in three schools in such a short time, so I then focused my time and energy in one school teaching mainly the P7 class at Valley View, on the outskirts on Jinja.

Teaching in a local school was quite an eye opener. I went full of fun ideas and resources (I think I was treating it a bit like 'summer camp', but the young Headmaster of the school, Hope, gently insisted that I focus on the curriculum, as children had to sit competitive exams for secondary schools and universities. Children learnt old fashioned English idioms off by heart and countless other, pretty useless, things. On paper it seemed that the pupils all had a good grasp of English, but unfortunately in conversations could say very little. Rote learning was the method of teaching and there was little opportunity for creative thinking or creating learners with problem solving skills.  Unfortunately this means that pupils and young adults may leave the educational system with certificates and high marks but are unable to get good jobs as many organisations recognised the limitations to the government education system. This means that in lots of cases the educational system is failing many pupils.

What I am saying is not new. We now know that rote learning does not give children the skills for life long learning, but in the not so distant past it was how everybody learnt in the shiny Western world, so we can't be so quick to be critical. Now, in the National Curriculum and PYP/IB system, although recognising that sometimes there is still a place for rote learning (when learning the times tables, conjugating Latin verbs, reciting Poetry etc), good schools and teachers will use each activity in lessons to encourage and inspire creativity, leadership and co-operative skills in each pupil. As educationalists, we recognise that pupils need to leave school with relevant skills for the ever changing environment that we live in.

DevEd is a newly established NGO that believes relevant education is the key to development. As a teacher, I value the mission of this organisation. They are currently carrying out a participatory assessment in Northern Uganda and aiming to build a pilot school with a tailored curriculum to fit the needs and values of the Amolatar community. DevEd believes this will empower the community as the curriculum will be more relevant to learner. Sounds great, don't you think?

If you would like to find out more about DevEd's project in Northern Uganda, watch this cool wee video clip.

It is so easy to get lost in our own world, we which are the centre of, but here is a way you can easily get involved. DevEd and Love+Water Designs are hosting a T-shirt design competition to raise funds and awareness for the organisation. Cash prizes will be awarded to two chosen winners. Designs can be submitted on the Love+Water Designs website.

Please spread the word about the competition, especially those of you in Uganda. Thank you!

(PS - To make you smile-I have just realised my external hard drive (probably along with a number of other things that I need before September) has been packed by accident in one of my 22 boxes. Whoops! Time to use some problem solving skills! )

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's Friday!

Dear Kenya, I'll be saying goodbye to you in less than a week. I'm not ready for that yet. So it is not really 'goodbye', just 'see you later'. Dear Parents (at school!), You words, gifts and farewell hugs will be remembered..I LOVE my bag and my collection of portraits of the children that you secretly organised. Dear 3P, No words. You are ace. The best class ever. Dear Guest Speaker from Merchiston Castle, I thought your speech, fondly remembering your old tennis and sport coach from here in Kenya, who is now retiring was touching and inspiring. Dear Legs, This week I have had no time to think about exercise, hope you have enjoyed the rest, we are going to start running again next week! Dear Lewa Half Marathon Organisers, Even though my buddy and I couldn't find the campsite after we finished the run, or find the exit out of the park, the Lewa run was SO well orgnised. Thank you! I do, however though think there should be timing chips to wear, as my official time was posted today as 2h51min...I know I was slow...but I really wasn't that slow...was I!? Dear Holidays, You are here at last!!!Horraaayyy!!!Dear Friends in the UK, I really hope you have made space for me in your summer diary. I'm coming home soon! Yeah!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It has started

The end has begun.

I hate goodbyes, but I am welcoming the tears that are evidence of great times, memories made and lasting friendships, welcoming the tears because I have no words.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Running Wild

I mentioned the 'journey' to get here, but not much about the run. Now that I have recovered I'll tell you a little more.

As soon as we entered the conservancy we spotted a giraffe and thought, 'we are going to be running here! (Insert excited screams)

My buddy Debbie and I arrived, we could not believe how well organised it all was. Security was high. Cars were searched by dogs and people were searched a number of time, so we thought the rumours of Prince William and Catherine being at the event might be true.(The got engaged at Lewa and Prince William is the Royal Patron of Tusk Trust, an organisation that the Safricom Marathon raises money for).But I didn't see them.

We set up camp quite near the start line-you could see it from our tent, which was pretty cool.

There was such a buzz in the campsite.

We woke up to low flying helicopters and to footsteps of the elite Kenyan runners warming up-really-they are superhuman and amaze me

And then we ran. Around about 6km we spotted some zebras, but honestly, with the camera men on bike and the low flying helicopters to keep us safe, there was not much chance of spotting anything else. A frined of mine said a herd of giraffe galloped beside him and his friend, lucky sods!

The terrain varied from dust tracks, to real rocky paths. There is nothing to say but it was tough. Damn hot and hilly and hard. The supporters at the stations were such a boost of energy. There were a couple of mist tracks at stations (to cool us down-which was great!), but apart from that it was a real bloody long slog.

I kept thinking, 'Appreicate how beautiful it is. Remember this" etc, but then thoughts of "When will it be over?" would creep in.

My first 10km was too fast and at around 12km I was flagging under the heat. But I would ask myself, "Are you going to vomit?No, so keep going!"

When I realised I wouldn't get in under 2h30min, I lost interest in my time and felt pretty demoralised.

There were no chips, but my Garmin read 2h44min (which I am not exactly boasting about!), but it also read that the course was about 22.3km.

All I could think, when I crossed the finish line, was thank God that is over and now I have to bloody well drive back to Nairobi.

We put down the tent and tried to rehydrate.This is the first run I've done when I've ended up with black toes. I was cursing those hills, even the downs were bad, then remembered that it wouldn't of helped that I couldn't find my socks (!) and had to beg,borrow and steal a pair.Anyhow-as far as injuries goes, not bad.

It all was a bit of a dream, a daze.

Oh, then Debbie and I spotted giraffes and a lone Ostrich, and I really wanted to cry. I just ran in the wild. How lucky am I?

The best bit, sitting in Barney's (at Nanyuki airstrip) for lunch after, guilt free stuffing of faces!

Now that I have recovered, I am so pleased that I got to run Lewa during my year in Kenya. I am just chuffed with the fact that I actually made the effort to drive up country after such a busy week. The race was so beautiful and I was one of the lucky few that was able to take part.

PS- There are no official photos yet, but I did find this clip on youtube, it shows one of my team mates briefly, but it doesn't show you, that before he crossed the finish line he did 10 press-ups...why oh why???

I've reposted this for the linky party! You can read more about the Lewa run here.
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lewa 2012

I did it!

That is all I can say about it really. I knew the run was going to be tough, but really, it was just so much tougher than tough.

I felt like I 'won' just by arriving at the start line. A crazy week; my production evenings (which were a hit by the way!), two flat tyres two mornings in a row, trips to shops and roadside dukas to get firewood and food for camping, a trip to the doctors, a few too many beers and being locked outside my compound...then the (what turned out to be) 4 and a half car journey to the race after work on Friday.

Exhausted would be the word.

My running buddy and I went into the exhausted-hysterical mode the night before the race, as we tried to set up camp, and fuel our bodies in the dark.

We were so exhausted we couldn't cope with actually lighting a fire with the wood that I brought, so this was our campfire in the car!

Debbie, my running buddy, said that as soon as I lay down in the tent I was asleep-not surpirsing. I can't even remember reading text messages before and after the race and to be honest, the race is a bit of a blur too, a bit of an out of body experience.

I am slowly recovering. My body is fine, my calves were a bit stiff with the drive back, but my energy levels need some serious recharging.

I'll tell you more about the run later.