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.
I’ve been under the weather for about 3 weeks now and after a while it really starts to get to you. Normally I’m in fairly rude health and this most recent stint of illness has made me realise how much I take it for granted that I’m healthy. It’s also made me think about how I really do need to take better care of myself.
This year has been busy, work has been intense at times, good but with no let up and I have travelled a lot. I’ve not had a holiday where I’ve had an entire week off since last Christmas when my in-laws visited. I really need a break to relax properly and give my body a little love.
I’m contemplating a cleanse, I’ve never done one before but with the illness has come very few gym visits and comfort eating so that of course means a slightly more relaxed waistline than I would perhaps like… The next few weeks are crazy busy though, we fly back to the UK for a few days to try and find somewhere to rent, then I have a work project for a week, the following week we head to San Francisco for a few days and throughout this time we also have to sort everything out to move. Fun times.
Still I can’t complain, I’m feeling better, things *are* happening and slowly but surely we’ll get there, one way or another. As a wise friend said recently you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.
With the move is coming a lot of change. We’ve done this before, admittedly only once, but this time although the same some things are slightly different. As much as change is exciting it is also unsettling. I’m mixed, one day excited the next mildly panicked. Work, housing, friendships, finances all of these things are whirling around and around. I know it will work out in the end somehow and things are falling into place slowly. Things will work out. I’m learning again that I need to bite piece by piece and work on things a little bit at a time. I’m also learning again how important it is to talk about everything. Poor J is having his ear chewed far too much. I process by talking, it helps me work out what I do or don’t want, even if it means I go round and round in circles far too often. Lots to write about once I organise my thoughts.
It’s my birthday tomorrow, another year passed already! This time last year J and I headed up to NYC for the weekend, for dinner at the Gramercy Tavern, a walk along the highline and general soaking up of NYC, it was really rather lovely.
This year we’re in Australia! Celebrating with my sister and her family. My brother-in-law shares the same birthday so it will be a double celebration tomorrow. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent my last two birthdays celebrating in different places to those I grew up in.
J and I were commenting only yesterday how lucky we are to travel so much, and we seem to have been given an extra dose of luckiness this year. A chance to see my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece now, opportunities to return to celebrate with bestest of friends in May and July and visiting a new country, South Africa, in June.
So tomorrow we shall be celebrating making it to the other side of the world, being with family and the passing of another year. I do wonder what the next year will hold but I feel hopeful for it. Hopeful that with J, my family and my friends at my side it’ll be a good year. Onwards dear friends, onwards.
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…
In the last year three couples I know have divorced, two of which I went to their weddings and watched them do exactly what I did just over three years ago. It makes you think seeing your peers divorcing.
As a child I didn’t really see divorce, my parents are still married, coming up on 38 years in May, all my friends’ parents were still married. There was one of my mama’s friends who had divorced but I didn’t really understand it, she had always been that way to me and there was nothing odd about it. Then at 13 one of best friends told me her parents were getting a divorce, her dad had been having an affair. She didn’t talk about it much, alluded to it now and then but mostly in passing and her mum seemed to take it incredibly in her stride. I remember knowing that this woman was strong and respecting her for what she put up with and how she dealt with it.
Then the years ticked by and marriage became something my friends talked about, that I talked about with J, that we eventually embarked upon. We all knew about divorce of course but I think that it was more of an idea than a reality.
And so these three couples have been a slight shock, bringing it home that divorce is a reality. I don’t know what the statistics are these days but I know I have heard figures bandied around between 30 – 50% of marriages end in divorce. I suspect in a majority of these cases the divorce was the ‘right’ thing. That looking back both parties will appreciate that what they did was what they needed. I’ll be interested to talk to my friends in a few years and see what their thoughts are.
In the meantime I shall hope I can be there for them when they need, and I shall hug J just that little bit tighter tonight and be very grateful that he and I both still want to be in this together.
Perhaps it’s the time of year, or perhaps it’s being more settled but I am struggling for inspiration right now. Not only that but there are now so many outlets through which to tell people about stuff, and to listen to others telling you about stuff that I am feeling perhaps a little overwhelmed.
I think it’s time for a little assessment. On what I want this blog to be. What I want to be talking about. How I want to do that.
Or perhaps it’s just January and with the hope that February can bring all will resume a little more normalcy round here. Who knows, only time will 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.
This year is the first year J and I will spend Christmas together. It is also the first year for me to not spend Christmas in the UK with my family. So it’s a year of firsts, a year where we can forge new traditions which are ours and we can be just the two of us and think about the future and where we want to go.
It is also a year where since we are not spending it with others we are avoiding a lot of present buying. For example this year we’re not buying each other Christmas presents. I have bought gifts for the nieces and nephew but my sisters, parents, in-laws, etc no gifts.
It’s rather wonderful. Not only do we save money but so do others and we also save giving and getting stuff which is nice but not needed and thus fills up either ours or someone elses house.
Don’t get me wrong, I love buying gifts, well chosen, thought out ones, but I like having time to do this. Hence why I enjoy buying birthday presents, they are thankfully a little more spread out throughout the year. But presents for presents sake is something I’m a lot less on board with.
Partly perhaps it’s an age thing, I have most stuff I really need and I don’t have kids so I don’t have people to really get excited about the gift giving bit of Christmas. Partly it’s also that I have been trying a little this year to limit my spending so much, to avoid so much general consumerism and to be a little more environmentally friendly. Still no way near enough I’m sure but every little helps.
I’m sure this will change so this year I shall enjoy a Christmas focused on spending time with my loved one, contacting other loved ones round the world and stuffing myself silly.
London is full of them. I realised the other day a huge part of the reason I love this city so much is all the memories it holds for me.
It was the first place I lived after moving away from home. It was where I met J, where we fell in love, where we married. It holds the key to so many happy times, dancing times, singing times.
Of course it also holds the people with whom I made these memories but walking round these last few days I have glimpsed places, buildings, open spaces and my brain has gone back making me smile in secret knowledge of the things I have done and the memories I have made here.