The last few weeks have disappeared in a flash of assignments, work and preparation for summer wakeboarding season. But with a week-long break for mid-semester and an exam and four assignments handed in recently, I decided to give myself a break from studying and teach myself how to edit video footage. I’d collected a fair amount while in Malawi on my cheap little video recorder and this is the result of that footage, plus a few hours on a Thursday night teaching myself to edit it all together into a little clip…<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/49873084″>Home of Hope</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user13618104″>Emma Makepeace</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
04 Sep 2012 Leave a Comment
* This is the start of an extended piece I’m working on about my experiences in Malawi.
“Allendo. Linda, office,” she said. Her scrawny arm bending in and out as she pointed wildly. As if it would speed up my walk.
“Yeh, I know. I’m meeting Linda at the office,” I said. I wasn’t meeting Linda for the administration staff photo until 2.00pm. But this was Malawi, and it ran on its own time. Friday at 2.00pm, could mean anywhere from 7.00pm Friday through to 10.00am in a months time. Malawi time means anytime it happens.
I rounded the corner of the hall. Linda, with her short stature, tightly wound braids, and ample bosom was trying to run towards me in a pair of wedge-heeled sandals while avoiding tree roots, rocks and potholes in the dirt.
“Emma, I have been looking everywhere for you. Come, Let’s go,” she said. Turning back in the direction of the office, her pace slowed, while her back heaved as she gulped in air.
Linda led me up the path, but turned left to Agogo’s house, instead of right to the office.
Agogo, or grandparent in Chichewa (the main language of Malawi), founded Home of Hope, a children’s home in Mchinji, Malawi. It’s a village currently home to 490 children, and provides schooling and two meals a day to another 100 children through an outreach program.
Every so often, Agogo would call me for an unexpected meeting. It was a chance for him to talk about the needs of Home of Hope, ask how my stay was going, and talk further about my plans for setting up a charity in Australia. But following Linda into the lounge room in his house, I found Agogo, his wife, and an older woman cradling a bundle of blankets on her lap. Two men sat at a table, behind the lounge chairs.
“Ah Aunty Emma, come in please. I want you to meet Baby Emma.” Agogo said, reaching out a hand to point towards the blankets. “I feel that it is important for you to see how people bring their children to Home of Hope looking for help. It is one of the many challenges we face everyday, as we can not always provide all of the help required.”
Tucked inside the thick bright blue blanket, and brown and yellow patterned chitenje on the older woman’s lap, poked a tiny baby’s face. Baby Emma. A crotched yellow beanie loosely covered the top of her head. Little lips pursed together, her tiny nostrils barely flared in and out as she breathed, eyes closed peacefully as she lay, wrapped warm and secure.
I sat beside Linda on the remaining lounge chairs. Tears welled up as Agogo began sharing baby Emma’s story. She was 12 days old. Her mother had died one hour after giving birth. The family could not afford to buy formula to feed the baby, instead trying to feed her with cow’s milk from a cow in a nearby village.
He was interrupted by a knock at the door. The three other volunteers at Home of Hope shuffled in and quickly found a place to sit.
Agogo continued, “This is a challenge faced by Home of Hope. A family brings their child here after the death of a parent. With Baby Emma, we are unable to take her, as we already have many young babies being cared for by the mother’s. We are able to provide Baby Emma with formula though. The family then only has to come back once a month to collect more formula, as it is a long way for them to travel.”
“Agogo, what would you need to be able to keep Baby Emma at Home of Hope?” I asked.
“For a little baby like this, she would need more attention from a caregiver, so we would need another house-mother.” Agogo said.
I looked to Ann, a regular volunteer at the orphanage and my sounding board for every crazy idea I had in this place. “What if the baby came to stay with us at the house for a few days? Just until a house-mother could be found?” I whispered beneath the Chichewa conversations taking place across the lounge room.
“Yeh. That could work. Where are they going to get a house-mother from?” Ann said.
“Yes, Aunty Emma.”
“How much does it cost for a house-mother?”
“It is 12000 Malawi Kwacha per month.”
Ann and I bowed our heads to calculate the currency conversion in whispers.
“I could somehow afford $40 US a month.”
“Agogo, if I pay for a house-mother can Emma stay here? She can live in the house with us until you can organise someone over the weekend.”
“Aunty Emma we are truly blessed to have you as a friend of Home of Hope. God has provided through you to help this needy child.” Agogo said.
Chichewa conversations flew across the room. Many zikomos, or thank you’s, were said, and then we prayed. Thanking God for his hand in what had occurred, for my likeness to Moses or Pharaoh or some other person in the bible’s sister who cared for a lost and needy child, and for a whole list of things we had to be thankful to God for. I don’t remember the details of it. I was concentrating on holding back tears, as I looked at the precious little baby in the bright blue blanket.
“Amen.” The room chorused.
“Now let us go find some clothes for your new baby.” Linda said, taking my hand and leading me out of the lounge room.
The first 24 hours had passed without incident. Baby Emma, after some coaxing, squirting a 5mL syringe into her mouth, had begun to drink the powdered formula. Swapping to the bottle not long after. She took little drinks. 10mL here, 25mL there, so on her first full night in the house with us, I’d estimated that we had plenty of formula to last through her feeds.
At midnight, she finished off her bottle.
New to this mothering business, I’d neglected to bring her tin of formula from the caregiver’s house. Emma would not last the next six hours without a feed.
Wrapping my new little baby up in an extra blanket and slipping into my Ugg boots, we set off from the guesthouse to trek 400 metres across the village. Baby Emma swaddled tightly in one arm, her bottle hanging from a plastic bag around my wrist, and my iPhone torch app glowing in the darkness to light up the rocks and pot-holes along the way.
A growl seeped out of the darkness behind me. A few steps later and two more growls joined somewhere to my right. I froze.
The dogs that lay around all day, actually went on guard at night, and now me, my new baby, and iPhone torch-light were standing in the middle of the dark village, at least 100 metres from the nearest house.
I took another step. Several sets of paws moved closer. One dog barked.
I shone my light around, but they were just outside its reach.
Don’t be scared, Emma, just keep walking and they will leave you alone.
Several dogs started barking, while more were running out from the midnight black surrounds, to add their voice to the chorus of growls.
“No!” I yelled, setting off at a brisk pace towards where I thought the house was. “No! No. No.” I growled back at the dogs.
Surely someone would hear the dogs and come out to see what was happening. Or maybe they’d hear my attempts to frighten the dogs away. I kept walking towards the doorway I could make out in the light thrown from the porch, a little way out in front of me.
I felt like I was drunk, trying to walk in a direct, purposeful line to my destination, but tripping and stumbling over rocks, potholes and tree roots in the shadows of my torch-light. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or run at this point. My arm was shaking, loosening Baby Emma’s blankets.
Stepping over a drain pipe, the dogs stayed just beyond the trees surrounding the village, still growling, but not moving towards us anymore. I’d crossed some invisible line that the dogs wouldn’t cross. A few more steps and they still stayed where they were. I ran. Straight to the doorway, never have I been so glad to arrive inside the house, as I was at that moment, I knocked quickly, but opened the door without waiting for a reply.
The house-mother, fast asleep, jumped up out of bed. Somewhat startled by my sudden appearance in her room, but seemingly understanding that I needed another bottle of formula, as she fetched the tin and thermos of hot water from under her bed, before I had time to remove the empty bottle from the plastic bag still dangling from my wrist.
The house-mother prepared a bottle for us and I asked her how to shoo the dogs away. She smiled and handed me some more cloth nappies, then went and climbed back into bed.
From the doorway, all I could see was darkness mixed with shadows, and the light of my front porch 400 metres away. I looked around, desperate for another person to emerge and rescue me.
I was failing at this mother business.
With no one in sight, I tucked Baby Emma in closer to me, took a deep breath and set out into the dark. I walked as close to the house as possible, before going across the village and running the last few steps towards a house with the TV blaring. I knocked loudly.
“Shinghai, hello? It’s Emma.” I called.
The door opened and a young boy stood inside.
“The dogs are following Baby Emma and I and I’m worried about them biting us, cause they’re growling. How do I make them go away, I don’t know what Chichewa words to use to make them stop?” I said.
The boy came out onto the porch he looked out to where the dogs stood a few metres away.
“Come, let’s go,” he said, leading me down the front steps.
There was a knock at the door, before it squeaked open.
“Good morning,” my sister Sarah said, “I’ve made you some breakfast.” She placed a bowl on the chair beside my bed.
“Thanks,” I said, groggily shifting to look inside the pile of blankets beside me. She was still sound asleep.
“I did run out of formula last night,” I said, then rehashed my midnight adventure and the dogs.
“I did ask if you would have enough formula for the night,” Sarah said.
“Well, I grossly miscalculated how much she would drink, based on her previous feeds. Lesson learnt ok? I’m going to pick up the tin of formula today.”
“Some girls already dropped it over this morning, along with a few sets of clean clothes.” Sarah said. “Do you want me to take her for a bit so you can have a little bit of a sleep or eat your breakfast, before we have to go to church?”
I nodded, extremely grateful to have a moment to sleep. Between the midnight run for formula, the six dirty nappies during the night, and waking up in a panic at every noise Baby Emma made, I was exhausted. Worse than the noise was the silence. My heart leapt, certain that she’d stopped breathing or I’d smothered her in her sleep.
I changed her nappy, adding the dirty one to the pile in the plastic bag on the floor.
Wrapped in her chitenje and blankets, sound asleep, I passed Baby Emma out from under the mosquito net.
I lay staring at the ceiling, eyes heavy, but thoughts raced around my head, keeping me awake. It was Sunday, so a day of rest and church. Except Baby Emma had gone through all but one of her cloth nappies, even using the extras we’d picked up the night before, which meant I needed to wash them all, before we ran out completely. She needed a bath and clean clothes for church, and I had to be at church early to take photographs of the children in their Sunday best, dirt free and where possible, in shoes.
I slowly rolled out under the mosquito netting and sat on the chair eating my breakfast. I could always catch up on sleep later.
Malawi is close to the Equator, but in June and July, chilled southerly winds sweep across the dry, dusty plains. Baby Emma cried every time I changed her nappy. It didn’t matter how much I rubbed my hands together before touching her skin, they were still icy cold on her tiny little body.
So when it came to bath time, she screamed the house down.
Her twig like frog legs kicked out, as she desperately tried to push away from the water. She arched her back and twisted her head, all the while her high pitch cry echoed off the concrete floor and walls of the bedroom. The laundry wash bucket was big enough to fit her small limbs and pot belly, and I squatted beside the bucket with her cradled in one arm. Sarah looked on with a video camera over my shoulder.
I had only ever bathed older babies, babies that can sit and hold their heads up. Holding my squirming baby with only one forearm running the length of her spine, my thin little wrists balancing her unstable neck, and round little head in the palm of my hand, I felt awkward. That at any moment she would kick out those skinny frogs legs and topple into the bucket of water.
Somehow, I managed to wash all of her.
“That was the longest baby bath in the history of the world,” Sarah said.
“Hey, new mother remember. I’m learning as I go.”
The day before, one of the villager’s had ridden a bicycle into the nearest Boma, market, to buy talcum powder, cloth nappies and pins, and waterproof nappy covers, since all we had for Emma were over sized jumpsuits and towels cut up with a razor into nappy size pieces.
Dry and naked wriggling around on the towel on the bed, Baby Emma had stopped crying. Her curiosity turned to the piles of clothes and folded nappies stacked around her. I tipped the talcum powder upside down and with a flick of my wrist, out puffed enough powder to cover her entire body. Her stomach resembled a marshmallow, white, round, and soft to touch. No matter how much I rubbed the powder in, spreading it around into her armpits, along her shoulders, onto her bottom and legs, I couldn’t get rid of the white.
“Whoops, that was a bit too much. Silly mummy, but at least now your skin will be lovely and soft,” I cooed.
Dressed in her last clean nappy, two newborn jumpsuits that were twice the size of her and wrapped in two fresh blankets, Baby Emma was ready for her first Sunday church visit.
I left her on the bed, in between two pillows to stare at the ceiling, mosquito net and anything else in sight, while I took the bag of nappies out to the front yard. Everything in this place takes far longer to do, than at home. There wasn’t a washing machine I could just stuff her nappies into, press a button, and 30 minutes later clean nappies were left in the machine to hang out.
I filled the saucepan as high as I could in the little sink then emptied it into the laundry bucket on the ground below. To get enough water in the three laundry buckets I had to fill the saucepan at least 10 times per bucket. Then there was the large pot on the stove heating some water to also add.
I carried each bucket out the front onto the grass, emptying the dirty nappies from the plastic bag into one of the buckets. Scrubbing yellow stains out of white cloth with a bar of Nu-clean laundry soap, the absurdity of the situation hit me. Here I was living in a place where the power went out on a regular basis. If I wanted clean drinking water, I had to boil it then add purification tablets to it. If there was washing to do, it was all done by hand. There were no mirrors in the house, so I couldn’t see how I looked after my sleepless night, and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care, because there was a tiny baby, warm and comfortable in my bed. She had a full belly and clean body that was growing stronger with each feed. I would stay awake in the middle of the night listening to her breathing, happy in the knowledge that she was still alive, when she had arrived a few day’s earlier so close to death.
Knuckles red from scrubbing, I wrung out the nappy and dropped it in the next bucket to rinse the soap out. A little boy, walking past on the road, called out and waved. I waved back and called out a hello.
A cry escaped from the inside of the house.
Shaking the soap off my hands, I wiped them dry on my skirt and went inside to my baby.
29 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
Ten days are not a lot of time to spend in another country. It seems even shorter when the list of tasks to complete extends over several A4 pages and Malawi time is factored in. In the end I achieved majority of the tasks I had to accomplish, but it was the rest of my experience at Home of Hope that has impacted on me the most. The unplanned and random events that take place and makes one day stretch out to feel like an entire week. Ten days now feels like an entire lifetime spent living at Home of Hope and at the end of it all I didn’t want to leave.
Arriving at the Home of Hope village after a two-year absence I made a bee line straight to the girls dormitory to find all my old friends, including now 15-year-old Emily. After getting dragged from room to room by excited teenage girls asking if I remembered them, Emily burst into the room, saw me, covered her face laughing and crying, before we head butted each other in our excitement to hug. Many more hugs later and sitting on her bed in dorm room number 8 I discovered that she was sitting her Form 2 exams and in three days time would be finished and returning to her village for the school break. This allowed us limited time to catch up and spend together, so we planned for a farewell dinner the night before she left the orphanage.
Wednesday night rolled around and we met up with the girls at their kitchen to collect dinner, before heading to the dormitory. I’d convinced the other volunteers (my sister and our friend) to give the local cuisine a try. Majority of meals at Home of Hope consist of Nsima and Beans which is really very tasty. Finding Emily, she quickly took off with our bowls returning with a heaped serve of Nsima and a side of goats meat. The girls didn’t look so convinced about trying the meat, but we set off to the girls dormitory for our farewell feast.
Dinner wasn’t so bad. Afterwards the girls began singing and soon we were gathered in a large circle in between the bunk beds clapping and singing as each person took their turn in the centre of the circle to dance. Halfway through the songs we noticed Emily and a few other girls huddled over the door and nervously glancing back at us. Curious, we ventured over to see what was going on. Emily was using a knife to attempt to unlock the door through the hole where the door handle should have been. In their excitement to keep the other hundred plus girls out of the room, the door handle had broken off… trapping 22 of us inside. News quickly spread of the Allendo’s (guests) stuck in the girls dorm and the window outside was crammed with faces all wanting to witness the event. The sounds from the rest of the girls and the house matron on the other side of the door echoing in and meshing with the excited rabble inside the room.
Realising we could be stuck a while, I picked a bunk bed and made myself comfy. Another five girls climbed up with me and my sister (a workplace, health and safety specialist) worriedly informed me that the bed was not rated to hold that many people. But this is Malawi and while the bed swayed and buckled under the weight, it didn’t collapse. I’d had every faith in the bed’s ability to withstand the climbing and jumping and giggling girls, because it’s just the way things work here. If you worry about something, it goes wrong. If you laugh and go with the flow, then things turn out ok or even better.
The door was still jammed, but the constant photos of us Allendo’s with the girls or the girls posing with their school books, dinner plates, on their beds, through the windows and with their friends kept us occupied. When word got out that one of the guests needed the bathroom a large bucket was pulled from under the bed and placed in front of her. The need to go, now gone and the room erupting into more laughter. Girls doubled over, hands covering faces as they struggled to hold back tears as the laughter boomed out across the room.
An hour or so later we were all told to stand clear. The noise level dropped as the door jarred violently with each shove from outside. The lock gave and the door burst open, followed instantly by a swarm of screaming, singing girls. Arms in the air, hugs all around, more laughter, before being lead down the corridor and out of the dormitory like royalty. Hand in hand, lots of cheering and more hugs, before extracting ourselves from the surrounding girls to head home to bed. Although we arrived at our house and spent the next few house reliving the excitement over a game of scrabble. The adrenalin taking a while to wear off.
Thursday morning I farewell’d Emily at the bus outside our village and wandered back to immerse myself in my long list of tasks to do. Jet lag had hit though so the battle to take in information and find children for photographs was being lost to the need to sleep. But I still had Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to continue on with my list to do and now with Emily gone, there wouldn’t be as many distractions.
That is until baby Emma arrived on Friday afternoon. I was ushered into Agogo’s house to meet the family that had brought their 12 day old baby to HOH looking for help. Her mother had died an hour after giving birth from an exploded uterus and the father could not afford to buy milk/formula to feed her. HOH currently was at capacity for care givers to look after young babies, but didn’t want to turn the baby away. It is a challenge faced by the orphanage regularly as they want to help all children, but when they turn up at their doorstep, they don’t always have the funds available or immediate care givers available to meet the needs of the child. After some discussions translated between English and Chichewa so that the family and I could both understand what was going on, it was decided that I could care for the baby to allow some time for a care giver to be sourced. this is how baby Emma came to be named… after her new mother. Weighing less than 1.5 kg at 12 days old, the tiny face was visible in amongst the thick blue blanket wrapped around her and poking out from the little yellow beanie that threatened to swallow her head whole.
While the family said good-bye to baby Emma and prepared to walk the 30km back home to their village, I was taken to the storeroom to pick out a supply of clothing, blankets and nappies for Emma. A few towels were cut up to use as spare nappies until we could make a trip into the Boma (market) to buy more cloth nappies and waterproof covers. Dressing her in a babies jumpsuit I could knot the legs together underneath her, since her legs didn’t reach that far.
For the next four days Emma went everywhere with me. She travelled on my lap in the car trip down the dirt road to the farm, then on to the Boma. She came shopping with us as we bought baby supplies and groceries. She attended early morning devotions and Sunday church. I washed her nappies by hand and on the first night when I ran out of formula, baby Emma and I crossed the village square, much to the aggravation of the dogs, to get some more. I ate with her on my lap, did chores with her and she slept in between some rolled up pillows on my bed next to me.
But all to soon it was time to leave. The adventures that felt like a lifetime were coming to a close as I bathed Emma for the last time, dressed her in her new clothes that almost fit and handed her over to her new care giver. She had put on over 300g in 4 days and was feeding every 2 hours. She was growing stronger and healthier and I had helped my little namesake in more ways than I’ll ever understand. I kissed her goodbye then walked straight out of the room, not stopping to watch everyone else say their goodbyes.
Everyday something random and inspiring occurred out at Mchinji. Losing my iPhone 4 didn’t upset me as I realised I’d been lucky to own one in the first place. I could replace it on insurance when I get home. The adventures of Mchinji always remind me of just how fortunate I am.
02 Jun 2012 2 Comments
One week out from arriving in Africa, I’m sitting here eating my hot porridge breakfast, contemplating which camera equipment pieces I will need and whether I have enough warm clothes packed. Then an article by Matt Wade in the Sydney Morning Herald pops up in my inbox and I’m left feeling rather stupid.
The poorest place on Earth travels to Niger, which on the UN’s Human Development Index ranks at 186 of 187, and it reminds me of where it is I am about to travel to and why. Over the course of six weeks I’ll spend time in South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and possibly one or two other countries volunteering at Home of Hope once again in Malawi and then learning more about aid organisations and the work they do in the other countries. That line of thought about which pieces of camera equipment to pack now seems so trivial. But it is so easy to slip into a first world problem kind of mentality when you are not surrounded by the harsh realities of life each and every day.
My biggest problem in recent weeks has been the stress of finishing assignments. I am in fact fortunate to get to go to university. More so because this is not my first attempt. I’ve had the luxury to fail and go back and try again and again until I figure out what I’m doing with my self. When I was living at Home of Hope last time (2010) I remember the students in the secondary school talking about what they would like to be when they finish school. They had dreams, but most of them all finished off their comments with “but I don’t have the money to go to college.” Harsh reality of life. What happens to the children, adults, families living in complete poverty when the aid runs out? Once the children leave Home of Hope they are back to living below the poverty line and making their way in the world. The children in Niger suffering from extreme malnutrition are treated until their condition improves and they are stabilised, with many returning months later for further treatment in makeshift hospitals.
Now that I’ve rained all over your lovely Sunday morning with tales of despair you’ll all go searching for World Vision or some other charity website to start donating immediately. That’s not the train of thought I’d intended to provoke. Merely, to provoke us all to stop and think. Next time something causes stress, frustration or anger, stop and think is it really worth the effort? In the scheme of things is it really so bad? The answer, well that for each of us to decide.
21 May 2012 2 Comments
in Inspiration, Travel Tags: Adventure, Beach, Bucket List, circus acrobatics, dreams, family, Food, friends, lessons in life, Life, nature, outdoors, remedial massage, Travel, university, yoga challenge
I guess it’s better late than never. Making a Bucket List of all the things I’d like to do this year. It’s been easy putting one together. After sitting in front of my laptop all weekend typing assignments and with two weeks to go until the end of university for the semester, my mind easily wanders to the fun things I’d like to achieve in 2012.
So my bucket list for the rest of 2012:
1. Complete a 30 day Yoga challenge.
2. Watch the turtles hatch at Mon Repos.
3. Go to Tanzania (this is a cheat add-on to the list, because it is a new country I know I am going to visit soon).
4. Road trip all summer following wakeboard competitions and just generally hanging out in the sun and water.
5. Spend my 30th birthday on the beach chilling out with family and friends.
6. Do a remedial massage course.
7. Read a book written in Spanish and not understand a word of it (but try looking things up and see what they mean).
8. Learn to scuba dive.
9. Try a pole dancing class or circus acrobatics class.
10. Teach myself to make sushi.
I think in between university that’s a good list to aim to achieve in 2012. Now to stick the list to my fridge so that I am reminded of all the things I want to do with myself this year!
19 May 2012 6 Comments
I wish it were possible to click your fingers and POOF! Packing magically done. Unfortunately this is not the case and often many extra useless items make their way into my backpack. Only to be carried around all trip and never see the light of day.
My last big overseas trip (2010) I packed three hours before I had to be at the airport. Anything I didn’t have I bought along the way, but there were a few things, that a week into my trip, I stared at wondering what I’d been thinking when I threw them into my bag. With three weeks left before I head off to Africa for six weeks, I’ve decided to take packing a little more seriously this time. For starters I’ll possibly be spending time in climates ranging from cold winter mornings in Kruger National Park to hot and humid summer Equatorial weather of Kenya and any other variations in between. To avoid carrying around excessive amounts of clothing, shoes and scarves, I’ve devised a system that works for me. To cull the unnecessary crap from the pile of things to take. It’s as simple as 4 easy steps:
1. Assemble everything you think you need and want to take on your trip on to a bed or floor space (where you can leave it for a long period of time). Leave for a week.
2. Come back to pile with anything extra you have thought of through out the week and add to the pile. Walk away for another week.
3. Come in and start culling. Do you really need 4 scarves? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy another book over there if you actually have time to get through the first book let alone the other six you already have in the pile? Leave the culled pile in a corner separate to the packing pile. Do a mock bag pack. Does everything fit? Do you have space for toiletries and electronics items that you will add at the last minute? Walk away for a day or two.
4. Do a final cull. Being a day out or the day you are flying you will probably be adding all your gadgets now. Power cords, electricity adapters, cameras, laptops or anything else. There will be a few more items culled for sure. Remember your passport, itineraries, plane tickets and any other important documentation (it’s surprising how easy it is to forget these things).
09 May 2012 4 Comments
Week 10 of the university semester has arrived slapping me squarely across the face, before throwing a bucket of ice water over my head. It’s the week where students across campuses everywhere start freaking out because it’s just dawned on them that their final assignments are all due in less than a months time. The week where students start falling asleep in the middle of the day (and not because they’ve been partying to hard) but because Week 10 lethargy kicks in. The sinking, depressing feeling that settles over you that you’ll never make it to the end. Never mind that you only have three weeks of classes to go. Never mind that millions of students before you have suffered through the same end of semester epidemic, only to have survived to live (and therefore party) another day.
If my posts become sporadic and incomprehensible, you will now understand why. With five assignments left to complete in less than a month, my decent into end of semester madness should be swift. But awaiting me at the end of it all is six glorious weeks off. Six weeks which I’ll be starting on a Singapore Airlines flight, the day after my last piece of assessment is due. Six weeks to travel around Africa interning with an aid organisation.
But first I need to survive the last few weeks of semester…
06 May 2012 2 Comments
They say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.
It’s been the week to celebrate my parents. Today is my Dad’s turn. Once again we are not in the same city, we are not even in the same country. And in Ethiopia, where my Dad currently works, it will not even be his birthday, I think. Ethiopia follows the Orthodox calendar and therefore I am not sure what day or even year it is there. But since I’m in Australia and today is the 6th May, I will celebrate my Dad for all he is to me.
Dad’s are different to Mum’s. Dad’s pick you up by your ankles with one hand and hang you up side down tickling you on your sides with the other. They carry you on shoulders when you are tired from walking or to give you the best view of fireworks. They miss birthdays and special events in your baby years, because they were working long hours to save money for your future. Dad’s are ATM’s for daughters, midnight chauffeur’s, security guards at parties and spring boards in the pool. They are the final say, even though it’s a joint parental decision and cop the most hate from disgruntled teenager daughters, because that’s just the role Dad’s were made to fill.
My Dad is my partner in long-winded deep and meaningless chats about the world and how we can save it from all its problems. He is the one I sing with in the supermarket, much to the embarrassment of my Mum and sister who walk several aisles over from us. He is the one who dressed up as a gymnast for my gymnastic end of year concert and when Christmas rolled around would give thoughtful practical gifts, such as a brick to go towards my first house (with a lotto ticket taped to the underside).
He is there to bail me out when I make mistakes and loves me regardless of how left of centre I might be. And in his words “Em is very different to Sarah–I call her a free spirit.” Only a Dad could put that kind of positive spin on the way his daughter chooses to live her life.
So today I count down the days until we catch up in Africa and wish you a very happy birthday, with many more spent somewhere around the world!!
03 May 2012 Leave a Comment
I am coming into the final weeks of this semester at university. With seven assignments due in the next month, I should be hard at work on these. Instead I find myself scouring the internet for information on an idea I’ve had. You know one of those projects you have a dream about and upon waking in the morning, it’s all you think about? Well two days ago, I had one of those ideas and ever since I have been going through details to make it a reality.
The problem is that my idea is quite large and therefore wouldn’t be able to be fulfilled until March/April 2014. Which is 23 months away. Plenty of time. Unlike my impending deadlines for my seven assignments at the end of May 2012. And yet, I can’t shake my enthusiasm to start planning my project, even though I have more pressing responsibilities at uni. Here lies the great problem with procrastination. It’s far more fun to plan an overseas adventure than it is to analyse the techniques used and their link to social context in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. And without passing my classes at uni, the projects I dream up will never become a reality… because I will spend the rest of my life at university repeating subjects until I finally finish something.
So with this in mind, I guess the logical choice is to get back to writing assignments. For it’s only one month away until the end of the semester and then I can spend seven weeks plotting and planning the logistics of my new project. I guess in the mean time you’ll just have to watch this space to find out more…
30 Mar 2012 2 Comments
I am nervous now. Two sleeps to go and it’s time to board a plane and get out of here. It’s not the flight or even the time over there that makes me nervous. It’s everything. But mostly it’s the coming back at the end of the trip that scares me most. The last time I came back from an overseas adventure I was broke, broken and soon after heartbroken.
It’s been almost two years since my phenomenal adventure through Asia and Africa. I loved every moment of it too. I spend a large portion of my time lost in daydreams, reminiscing and plotting how to get back overseas and amongst the world again. Now that the moment is finally upon me, I didn’t realise I would be so scared. The rational part of me knows that I will have a blast and come back from California full of new stories, memories and planning another escape from Oz as soon as possible. Somewhere though, hiding in a tiny recess, in the depths of my brain/heart/soul sits the memory of returning home in 2010.
I’d lost all my money playing Black Jack Poker in Vietnam, cutting my travels short and sending me back to Thailand to collect the rest of my belongings. The shards of self-esteem that were left, now hung in tatters from my soul as I wallowed in my failure to see what had happened and disheartened at having to go home early through my own stupidity. I was somewhat relieved upon finding my friend/guide/angel Jem at the hostel. I was able to debrief on my travels and chat about all the lessons I’d learnt along the way while waiting for my flight back to Australia. Then three weeks after arriving home Jem died. He knew it was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen. It didn’t reduce the shock or heartbreak felt though. It still destroyed me.
So now sitting here, looking over my pile of clothes and books ready to be packed, I’m having waves of nostalgia mixed with stress and nerves sweep over me. The awful thought of “What if…” creeping in and waking me up in the middle of the night or paralysing me with fear at the most ridiculous moments during the day. And the rational part of me shaking my shoulders and screaming “Stop it!! You are going to have so much fun and everything will be fine!!” And it will be. As long as I remember the lessons learnt last time. To just let go and enjoy the moment, but still pay attention. Pay attention to the people, the places, the culture, the sights and sounds, take it all in, but let go of the stress and see what happens.
Sitting here staring at the pile of clothes and books and my empty pack, I’m amazed by what will trigger the human body/heart/soul into such fear. Fear over things long since dealt with, fear over things that really are not that big. Some people have fears of spiders, flying, lizards or swimming. I on the other hand seem to have developed a fear of coming home.