I went to Guinea for work recently, it was the first time I had been to West Africa and the first time I have been to a country which is as poor.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve been fortunate to have travelled a fair bit, but nothing quite like this. To start with there are the medical concerns, the yellow fever vaccination, the anti-malaria medication, the warnings about food hygiene, water safety and everything else you have to think of. Guinea is one of the countries where the mosquitoes carry cerebral malaria, the kind that kills you within a couple of days of contracting it, the kind you really really don’t want to get. Then there’s the cholera epidemic they are just coming out of the other side of. When you start to read about all the things which you can contract and which can cause you trouble it is easy to worry (or for me it is at least). Thankfully work and my client were excellent in preparing me and ensuring we had the necessary.
We arrived in the afternoon, it was hot and humid, a stark change from the cold and grey I had left behind in London. The airport was easy to navigate and we swept through quickly. The hotel we were staying at was a short drive away and we got our first chance to begin to get a feel for a Conakry. Unsurprisingly it is a low-rise city, with houses along the road and as we drove along we saw children playing football on make-shifts pitches, family gatherings and the ebb and flow of people’s daily lives taking place. Conakry has no sewerage system, so you also see piles of rubbish on the side of the road and the odd burning pile of rubbish where someone has decided that there is a more than enough and it needs to be got rid of. I also saw goats, cats and dogs wandering along and vendors walking along with their dead chickens or fish ready to sell.
Most of the week was taken up with work so we didn’t get out and about very much, in fact we spent all day working and then had dinner and a beer before crashing out under the mosquito net. However on the final day there my colleague wanted to buy a couple of things for his kids so we were taken to a local market to try and buy a football t-shirt and a dress. As soon as the vendors saw us we were surrounded, everyone wanting to sell us their goods, everyone knowing as soon as they saw us that we had money and could afford not to drive such a hard bargain. As we drove away we had kids knocking on the window asking for money, for a drink. It made me acutely aware of all that I had and how very lucky and privileged a life I lead.
I came away from the week away thinking about what could be done, about how when a country is somewhere down at the bottom of the GDP per capita table there is so much scope for change and how hard it really is to do that. It was a reality check seeing the poverty and the life that goes on and meeting people who were warm, friendly and full of optimism. I’m pretty sure I won’t be going back anytime soon unless work takes me there again but I am glad that I got the opportunity to visit a corner of the world I might never have been able to get to and to be able to reflect on what it is I have and how lucky and blessed I am.
We went West for Christmas. It was good, for us both. Although the weather was not all that California weather is meant to be (read pissing rain for many of the days we were there) the enforced inside time and relaxation was a blessing.
Due to the terrible weather we spent the first day in the California Academy of Sciences. They had an amazing coral reef aquarium with the most beautiful array of fish. I could have watched it for hours.
Of course there is the bridge, which is as spectacular in real life as it is in your imagination. And it really was that grey for many of the days… Although there’s something about dull, low grey and mizzle which makes me feel so cosy.
Our friends took us in search of sunshine and find it we did. We even found some Elk. Who knew there were Elks in Northern California, certainly not I. Speaking of Elk we also saw Elephant Seals and hummingbirds (so very amazing).
And then the last day spent in a blaze of sunshine, seeing the city on foot and enjoying the colours and contrasts that this city provide, old vs new, green space vs urban sprawl, poor vs rich.
I’m sure we’ll be back.
When you don’t see or speak to friends or family that regularly you are often asked if you have any news. Much as I appreciate the question I also find it hard, whenever I am asked it all I can think of is the mundane day to day goings on.
Perhaps because I think of news as a big piece item, and I’ve kind of done all of those for a while… But also because when you don’t speak to people that regularly you forget what you’ve been doing. We were recently speaking to J’s parents and forgot that since we last spoke we’d been up in NYC for the weekend and gone to the opera!
What it has made me think about is how I can plan ‘newsworthy’ things. That perhaps this feeling of mundanity and a dearth of excitement is something I need to address rather than bemoan. So I shall get my thinking cap on and see if I can find some fun things for us do, like planning another party And in the meantime perhaps it is time to let my imagination run wild when I catch up with friends and family and see what stories I can tell…
I know a lot of people are doing these posts and I’m late but selfishly I want to do one, if only so I can look back and say, yes, 2011 was the year I…
Came back to the US in January after an amazing holiday and realised that this was for real, that we lived here and that I needed to get on with it and *be* here
Found a job which I really like, after taking a temping job to get me back in the swing of things
Returned to the UK in May for a wonderful wedding and an amazing time with good friends
Experienced my first ever DC summer, quite the sticky humid experience. But lovely too to get a summer! I think I even got a bit of a tan
Returned to the UK with J for four weeks, seeing my mama and papa and sisters (both the one from Oz and the one in the UK) and all my nieces and nephews
A quick about turn in the US then back to the UK for five and a half weeks without J, that was hard
Our first Christmas together and then a visit from J’s parents to celebrate New Year
We hosted our first house party in the US and it was good! At least we enjoyed ourselves
This was an odd year for holidays, we went abroad but we didn’t ever really go somewhere just the two of us and relax. I did my first trip to Massachusetts and also ticked off Nevada, Arizona and California. We went back to the UK and as much as it is wonderful being back it can be a little stressful, I’m sure those of you who live away from family will know how hard it can be catching time with everyone and squeezing as much as possible out of the given time.
It’s been a good year in the main, three good friends getting married, four good friends getting engaged, pregnancies being announced and lots going on. I feel good about 2012 though. More so than I did about 2011. Partly I’m more settled in the US, much happier here than I was before, I have good friends here now and a good job. Things with J are stronger, working through everything has built more solid foundations for continuing to build our lives together.
I’m hoping therefore that 2012 can be perhaps a more fun year, one with a little travel, one with some entertaining, one with friends old and new. Without some of trials we came through at the beginning of last year to face and overcome.
Tomorrow we’re off to the Preakness horse race in Baltimore, I’m very excited. My first time to a horse race and it’s the second of the triple crown in the US. The race follows the famous Kentucky Derby and will hopefully be a day full of Pimms, betting and general high jinks.
Then on Wednesday we’re going home! I cannot express how excited I am about this, we’ve not been back for almost six months and I miss everyone in England so much so am super excited to be seeing them all. Plus some of our dear friends are getting married while we’re there so it’s even more exciting.
The weekend after we’re off for our first trip to California and another wedding. Lots to look forward to!
A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate enough to be given tickets to the Spring opening of the White House gardens. Not only were we given tickets but we were given four! Which was rather wonderful as we had lovely friends from England with us.
So on a chilly grey Sunday we turned up (as did about 10,000 other people that weekend) to tour around the gardens. And what fun it was! The gardens really are beautiful.
I don’t think this is a famous bit but it looks just lovely.
They had a band playing as we went around. Lots of brass and rousing tunes.
The vegetable garden as introduced by Michelle Obama. Here if you look closely you can see plants which were from Jefferson’s garden. As in plants which have been cultivated at Monticello since Jefferson’s time and are now being grown in the White House gardens!
And finally an ‘up close’ pic of the House itself, complete with the many many visitors that morning!
I feel like of late I have been receiving a lot of inspiration and encouragement. Inspiration to *do* things and to make things happen and encouragement that yes I really can!
From a young age I day dreamed a lot, inspired by stories on the news, tales from books I had read, scenes I saw while walking along and by people around me. I imagined life when I was an adult (and had long black curly hair, nothing like my hair is but I imagined it would change to be like that because I wanted it to be). My inspiration came from a myriad of sources and then off I went into my own world of dreams.
Then I grew older, life was taking a course, maybe not the one I wanted, but I didn’t really know what I wanted. I began to rely more on encouragement to achieve things. My confidence took a huge knock back after my first year at University. I stopped dreaming and started worrying. No longer inspired to do things, be someone, but just to get by. J was my absolute rock for me during this time, I wouldn’t be where I am right now without him.
Then a few months ago life took this huge turn and change and I’ve been given the opportunity to dream again, what do I want to do, what do I want to achieve. I am being constantly inspired to do things, by bloggers who write posts about all they have done, by tweeters who tell me about the kick ass days they have had, the run they have been on, by my husband who is working so hard to make this all a success and by my family who have done so much for me and continue to be there.
And encouraged, one mustn’t forget the encouragement. You guys have just been the most wonderful support. Helping me to believe that yes I can do these things.
I hope I shall continue to dream and to be inspired, hopefully perhaps also to inspire and always to try and encourage dreams. Because without dreams, well…
As of yesterday I am officially allowed to work in the USA, woohoo! This is both exciting and terrifying news. Exciting because I can meet new people, get out of the house, earn money and hopefully really experience what it’s like to live here.
Terrifying because that actually means getting a job. Finding something I want to do, can do and in a company that will employ me will not be an easy feat but never say never.
Wish me luck! (or even better if you know someone in Washington DC who is looking for a lovely Brit to come work for them, do let me know)
I’m currently in Australia visiting my eldest sister and her family. It is lovely being here and seeing her life and all we’ve talked about. Amazingly it’s my first ever visit, amazing because my sister has been here 9 years, my mother is Australian and all my aunts, uncles and cousins are out here. So I’m delighted to have finally made it! Plus the warm weather helps
I’ve lots to tell but for now a quick one, my niece and nephew are early risers and they don’t want a tired auntie!