12 Hours in Istanbul…

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I have always been a savvy traveller trying to get the most out of my money, so when the opportunity arose to do exactly that I jumped at the chance. During my recent visit to Lebanon I realised if I had a longer layover it would make my flight cheaper. Me, being the opportunist I am, extended my layover to 12 hours in the turkish capital. And so began my 12 hours in Istanbul.

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The Truth About…. Lebanon

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The Masjid al Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut 

When I started telling people I was going to visit Lebanon I got one of 2 reactions. The first being the typical response of ‘Where is that?’, the second response was the typical one you always get when you tell someone you’re travelling to the middle east. The over cautious ‘Why are you going there?’, ‘Is it safe?’ and ‘What if you get caught up in a terrorist attack?’.

The Middle East has drawn my interest over the last few years. I have become to accustomed to the language and culture, something so similar yet very different to my own. My expectations of Lebanon were somewhat hazy, having been to Palestine the year before I had some inclination of what to expect from a Middle Eastern country but I wasn’t entirely sure what this may entail. I believed Lebanon to be a sort of revolutionary capital within the Middle East, a home to a variety of Arabic residents full of creativity and ambition. I imagined Beirut to be a thriving capital full of intellects and nightlife. That is exactly what I found, to an extent.

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The Truth About…. Palestine

I’ve always been that sort of person who was never satisfied with giving to charity and then sitting back with a sense of accomplishment. I feel this never helps people, mostly because I never know what’s happening with that money, whether it’s being used to feed those in need or swallowed into the tornado of corruption in the developing countries political pockets

Palestine has been the one of the most campaigned about causes, people of all religions and races fighting for the independence and freedom of the once individually government country now befallen remote areas within the so-called Israel separated by walls and ridiculous laws and extreme racial segregation. Me being the curious mind I am, against the intentions of my mother, decided to embark on a trip to experience the realities of Palestine.

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Images show a busy market street in Jerusalem and the Dome of the rock in  Al Aqsa compound

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I’m coming home!!

I’ve done it! I can’t believe I’ve actually made it to the end. It’s the final week in Tanzania, we leave out host homes on Wednesday morning to start out debrief and then leave Bukoba on Friday morning for the two day bus journey back to Dar.

On Saturday we had our community farewell where a teacher from my school have a speech about how we helped them. She said that she was very grateful for having us and that they have learned a lot from us over the past ten weeks. It made me feel really good and helped us all realise what amazing achievements we had gained during this programme. Thinking back to the end of the first month were I was feeling so hopeless I can now say that our determination and hard work has definitely paid off.

This experience has made me a much stronger person and I feel that I can tackle anything that comes my way now. I’ve had a lot of time to think about my own life and where I want to go and I must say that I will be taking out a lot of time to go travelling. Also I can’t wait to have home comforts again and not carry all my chargers around with me begging to get things charged.

As I leave at the end of this week I leave behind an old me, not one who has change drastically in terms of thought but one who is more ready to face the world. I also leave behind some amazing people that I have formed such strong bonds and friendships with, who without these last 11 weeks would have been unbearably painful.

My advice to anyone who wants to take part on the ICS programme is that is your living in a host home your are going to get a cultural experience, don’t go if you want to travel but go if you want to fully immerse yourself in the culture and do some development work. But overall no matter what difficulties you face always look to the positive and try make things better because once you’ve finished you will be so proud of yourself.

The Final Hurdle

It’s the 11th week and I can see the finish line in the distance, with only two working days left we have a lot to cram
In before we leave. We started painting at school last week and already completed the solar system, map of Africa, a world map and a english to swahili translation. We received very positive feedback from the teachers who said they were glad we came and they really love the paintings.

It seems like everyone is just counting down the days to go home and even though I’m quite excited about the prospect, I am not looking forward to all the work and stuff I will new to sort out when I’m back. It’s going to be a day of relaxing and then back to the fast pace life of doing uni work, going to society meetings, planning this and reading that. It can be said that will defiantly not be any poley poley once I’m back. Even though people claim students do nothing I can most certainly say that compared to the lifestyle here we do a hell of a lot. So England I will see you very shortly!!!

Mid phase review

9 weeks and I’m already well over half way through the programme. As I left last weekend to enjoy the comforts of a luxurious hotel (by luxurious I mean a comfy bed and running water) I was unsure of what the coming 6 weeks would bring. Initially I felt dread of having to go through another five weeks in the rural community but this past week has been a lot easier than most.
I found myself being happy and interacting with locals instead of being the typical English groggy morning person on the train avoiding eye contact never mind small talk. The only thing that hasn’t change is the schools attitude. They already messed up our timetable by telling kids to come in weeks at a time and not alternate like we told them to but I’ve sorted that out (hopefully). Next week I will be hopefully doing arts and crafts hopefully for two weeks and the last two weeks we might do some wall paintings.

Big news of the week was the wedding I attended Thursday night. In true Tanzanian fashion everything was happening very slowly even the walks down the aisle which they bongo danced their way down and I must admit it looked cool. The highlight had to be when we had to konga to shake the brides hand who seemed so miserable.

Spent the day doing loads of team meetings yesterday and off for a swim today, yeh i know they have pools in africa! Week 8 and it’s eid day in tanzania, with the majority of people Christians I don’t see a lot of celebration going on but then again the school is closed. The host mother last night made my favourite dish pilau rice with beef sauce because she knew I’m Muslim and its eid bless her she makes being here a lot less daunting. I also managed to get to kemondo on a Sunday where half the group live despite the ridiculous transport system so hopefully Sundays will be less dreadful. Overall two weeks left at work and three in country see y’all soon

1/3 way through

As I enter the fifth week of this development project,I can’t help but feel a very changed person. I feel I have realised what is actually important to me and the things I take for granted everyday are the ones I need the most. For example good living conditions, people who speak English and most of all my family.

The past two weeks I have been working at the Katomah A school, which mostly involved making posters. I tried using my initiative and play some English games on individual blackboards with the kids but suddenly all the teachers wanted to use them when I picked them up Also skipped a day of school on Thursday because my counterpart wasn’t feeling well. I can’t help but feel of no help to the people here, I feel I am wasting my time trying to change a cheetahs spots! I think once the kids finish for summer we can organise some games and now that we have money to buy some resources things are starting to look more positive.

In other news we finally met up with the kamachumu group after three weeks. It was by far the best day I’ve had in the last three weeks living in community. Also discovered I may have bed bugs, but I’m not going to check because if I do have them I’m not sleeping on that bed unless I get a new mattress! Just I thought I was getting some what comfortable it suddenly hit me that still I hate being here and I miss my family so bad, I was in bed for half seven last night crying myself to sleep. Plus it dusnt help of your host mother decides to play the radio all night, havnt had a proper nights sleep in two weeks!

I just have to stay strong in less than two weeks we will be half way through and then the countdown to come home begins. Being here has defiantly shown me why development is really slow, it is a two way process where we help them and they need to help us help them. When I signed up for this project, I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how hard this would be. I had a dream last night that I met Zahra after the project and she was saying how much harder her project was than she originally thought, can’t wait to see all you guys when I’m back but after a nice week at home obviously.