Photo stream update

So I’ve been staring at this blank page (well iPad) for the last 15 minutes puzzling over how to best update you on the last month. Then the wonderfully overused phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ came to mind. If this is true I’m about to save you a good few hours of your life.

When leaving for Kampala I set up a shared iCloud photo stream (I love apple) for Geoff, my wonderful boyfriend. A photo for every day. 85 days of purpose. Rather than telling you every detail of the last month, in no particular order this is a snapshot of my world, through the eyes of my photo stream (with a few others thrown in).

Study
This is what they call no-power studying.

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The embarrassing story behind this picture, is that after posting the photo into Instagram with some strong statement of how even a lack of power will not stop me, my neighbour walked in and let me know there was not a powercut I just hadn’t bought more electric. Oops.

Kampala roads
They make me laugh, cry, scream and shout, you name the emotion, the roads of Kampala have made me feel it (I’ve been working on my road rage, and am doing very well actually).
He’s a couple of pictures though to help you feel the emotion.

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This taxi driver found it hilarious to try an undercut us, making four lanes of traffic when there should be two.

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Home
There are certain things you lose track of whilst being away from home for an extended period of time. The rugby was not one.

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Neighbours
I’m currently living in Busega, Kampala. It’s a relatively safe, friendly area, but isn’t your standard muzungu (white person) area. This means I get a reality check every time I walk out my front door. I’ve seen someone caught stealing being beaten horrifically (there is a wide belief that if someone is take to the police but can pay a bribe they’ll be released with no justice), not knowing where it is coming from I often hear the screams of women and children, and finally I interact with children like the little chap below who are in great need of medical care with no one to pay fees.

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The way I write may sound nonchalant, this could not be further from the truth. My heart breaks consistently for all that I see. There are the little everyday acts I can commit to help see a change, even on a very small scale for the three months I am here, but more importantly I am currently honing my strengths and trying to learn all I can (removing ignorance and naivety) to make the widest long term impact and bring the most hope.

Food
I’m going to make a wild guess and say currently about 85% of my diet is fruit and vegetables. I live about a mile from a market that sells avocados for about 12 pence, mangos for 25, a bag of tomatoes for 20 etc etc. I love it. On the rare occasion I get bored of these delights or an animal crawls out of my fruit (see below), I set myself to make something a little different. Pictures below are of an American night and then a Mexican night of food I created.
First animal in my mango.

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American night = sloppy joes and Oreo brownies

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Mexican night

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Bug killing
A strange thing to include as a part of my month? You would not believe the hours I’ve spent chasing cockroaches around my flat with ‘Doom’ bug spray, washing the ants out of my toothbrush and hanging fly catchers around the kitchen. This picture is a warning to all the bugs that intend to mess.

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Valentines day
Well this may not have been this last month, but I haven’t yet posted about the day of treats I received from Geoff. He seriously sets the standard, even from the other side of the world he spoils me in the most perfect ways. First roses.

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Followed by a day by the pool and a spa treatment at the Kampala Serena.

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Blurred, excited selfie.

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When I already thought I’d had the best day, I was surprised by cocktails and dinner with a great friend. What a gent!

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The only sucky thing about the day, no way to thank him.

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Leadership consultancy

So the main reason I’m here and the largest part of my last month, spending time with some of Kampala’s best leaders. Men and women of passion, hope, tenacity, faith and love. These guys are going to change the face of Kampala as we know it, and it has been an honour working with them these last couple of months.

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Next post is about my Kampala giveaway so keep posted for more information.

Women in leadership

So I’ve been a bad blogger. A week without blogging. Terrible I know. Apologies.
So much has been going on here that I’ve been desperate to tell you all about, but with 4am assignment submissions becoming all to frequent I thought I’d get my uni work done and dusted whilst saving up all the exciting news to blurt out to you over the coming days.

Trying to decide what to tell you about first has been a struggle. I went with the one that incorporated not only great learning and opportunities but also a beautiful hotel, good food and cocktails (some of my favourite things to blog about).

To give a little context to the post, Australian Aid has been working with the Ugandan parliament to pass on the knowledge and experience they have in running a Westminster Parliament (for those of you Brits reading – this is the same system we use). They are running six modules for various sectors of parliament over the course of the year. I very cheekily managed to sneak my way into shadowing the coordinators as they ran a module for female MP’s.

The training was held at the Lake Victoria Serena. Beautiful!

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Here’s my incredible room. I was just a touch excited!

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Perhaps it’s a little strange to show a photo of the bathroom, but seriously a human being could lie down in that shower – it was huge!
And then the view from my balcony just topped it all off.

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There’s not a chance I could share with you all the lessons I learnt from the four days of training, and with much of it being parliamentary details I’m not sure how many people would really be that interested. Instead I pulled out a few brilliant quotes I wrote down to remember from the coordinators and speakers. These are so applicable to life so here’s some pearls of wisdom for you.
As this was very much an internal affair I won’t include names for discretionary purposes.

‘Don’t be a generalist. Know your niche. Concentrate on that. Know your area inside out. Maximum impact.’

‘If you don’t understand the debate don’t be loud with your opinion.’

‘When you become a leader of significance fall in love with your husband again. Know your priorities.’

‘When you exit from leadership plan it. Leave well, it will save you from bitterness.’

It was a very full few days as I dashed around helping to coordinate the sessions and got the privilege meeting some incredible women within the leadership of Uganda, but also still needed to get assignments in, and was investing time into the volunteers of Freedom Church Kampala.

These luxuries certainly helped!

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Then for the perfect round of to my stay I spent the evening in my ginormous bed with a wine and Dirty Dancing. Wonderful.

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Too busy to live?

siancooke:

Great post on the dangers of living ‘busy’

Originally posted on Fun girls live better!:

life mess
Aren’t you people excited when someone is asking you “hey, how have you been?”
Isn’t that the time to show the world how important, how significant, how productive you are, isn’t that the magical moment that gives meaning to your whole life, isn’t that the moment to make sure that there is no hint of doubt left in the poor smack’s head of HOW the world would cease to exist if you wouldn’t be around, of how irreplaceable you are!

Only wimps would answer that question with “Fine, thank you”, noooooo, no, no, wrong!!!!! A real important person would never do that; a real important person would rather have all their body hair removed by a Neanderthalian beast armed with hot wax and sambuca than to say that!!!
No, the real significant person would jump at the opportunity, as fast as Oscar Pistorius at the gun, (I mean the starting…

View original 322 more words

Getting a kick out of the ordinary

Oh it is so, so easy to get in the routine of life and miss out on the colour and vibrancy of the everyday. A couple of weeks go by and you can’t really think what you’ve done? Been there!

How sad is it though that some of our greatest opportunities in life pass us by because they were veiled in the ordinary.

I’m privileged to be surrounded by great friends who have such a passion for life. Their zeal is contagious, but I had to make my own choice to turn the the mundane and ordinary into extraordinary.

All it takes is a change in thinking, the out working of it actually takes little effort.

I’m sure a whole book could be written on this subject, but rather than doing that I’m going to give you a few little ideas to start your creative juices following and hopefully set a determination within you to see the endless possibilities within the ordinary tasks of your day.

1. University work
I start with this one because it is such a big part of the ‘routine’ of my life. I could try ignore it or run from it but it is always there (well for the next 4 months hehe).
Often I have to remind myself of why I’m doing the course, and rather than fitting the student mould of just trying to pass, I let the subject come alive and engross me in its wonderful complexities.

However sometimes that just doesn’t work and I have to take a different tact.
This is my tact.

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Finding places outside of my house or the library that I can still concentrate but that add a bit of variety.

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Also, like many students I’m cursed with the munchies during revision and assignment times. So making the mundane into an opportunity to find the best restaurants and coffee houses is always a win (especially good in Kampala when food is at least half the price).

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Power cuts also add a little diversity.

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2. Birthday cards
I love gifts! Especially receiving giving them. Birthdays are inevitably the perfect opportunity to treat someone and show how much they mean to you.
I would say on average we think far more about the creativity of the gift than the card. Perhaps that’s fair. Often cards are tossed aside once the wrapping paper comes off.

But I believe it’s about time the birthday card made a come back!
Rather than a;

‘To…

Happy Birthday

From …’

Fill the card with words that encourage and inspire, alternatively draw things, stick things in it and make them laugh.
Don’t let your card be a wasted £2, make it something they’ll remember.

3. Don’t always go to Starbucks!
Don’t always meet in the same place.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years mentoring young women – that could have meant a lot of Starbucks but in the early days I made the decision to be a little more adventurous than that.

I’ve met people at the beach, on mountain walks, whilst shopping, over vogue. The possibilities are endless. However sometimes you do just need that caffeine in hand and the ability to focus on someone. Here’s a few places I’ve found in Cardiff that offer something a little different to Starbucks (just to note I’m not a Starbucks hater and do enjoy a good flat white from there every now and then);

- for the best cocktails and hot chocolates Milgi’s
- if it is caffeine you need ‘The Plan’ down Morgans arcade or ‘Coffee Barker’ down Castle arcade.
- on those days you want something sweet the Pancake House tucked in the Brewery Quarter gives plenty of choices of fillings and is uh-mazing!
- another option for either tapas, cocktails, coffee or cakes is Cosy Club

4. Housework
Should never be done without music to sing/dance to or someone to laugh with.

5. Emails
Emails can easily become standardised and routine. They drain life and passion out of them with formality and order.
Don’t get me wrong I love order – a well structured email makes my heart a little happy, but without character they can become boring and can actually cause your email to become just another email (very easily forgotten).

I started using pictures in mine. Adds a little lightness. Here’s a screenshot of a recent email I sent the ladies I work with delegating disney princesses by their character and looks;

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I was Mulan obviously – my superior strength, courage and beautiful skin tone.

NB. Unless you have a boss like mine, this may be another one of those things you don’t involve him in. Well you could risk it, he/she may enjoy a little humour in his/her day.

6. Looking after friends children
So you’ve had a crazy busy week and are now wondering why you had offered to look after your friends children. It would be so easy to just sit them in front of the TV but I’d really encourage you not to – you have an opportunity here to make memories.

Some of my favourites;
- all out nerf gun war (these are too much fun)
- ballet classes (I’m the one being taught)
- cooking (baking cookies for Dad and Mum to come home to. Make sure the kitchen is cleaned or you may not be asked back!)
- making jewellery
Also done painting, theatre shows, cards for friends the list goes on and on.

7. Exercise
Your body will scream at you to not get into a routine of exercise. If you do I promise you will plateau and you will not see the same effects.

Finding a gym that offers a variety of classes is a great option. If you don’t have the finance for that right now there are so many DVD’s, online classes and general workouts that can be mixed up with runs, swims and other forms of sports.

This is currently my Africa routine;

Day 1 – focus: legs and abs

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Abs =
20 candle sticks
20 walking planks
20 crunches
Bicycle 12 reps
3 sets
Day 2 – Jillian Michaels – Level 3 30 day shred
Day 3 – rest
Day 4 – this is a crossfit workout (it’s pretty intense. Honestly if I don’t have time I improvise)

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Day 5 – rest
Day 6 – Jillian Michaels and swim
Day 7 – Abs = as above

There’s so, so many more areas of life that can become routine if you don’t fight for more. Get creative. Have fun. And enjoy finding the extraordinary in the ordinary,
Let me know any more ideas and tips you have for breaking out of the routine.

The simplest low guilt chocolate treat ever

2 ingredients and 3 steps to a low guilt chocolate treat.

So I’m the other side of the world (slightly dramatic, I’m in Africa), and what is it that I’m craving – chocolate rice cakes.

These bad boys have no nutritious value, but when you need that chocolate kick but don’t want to use all your calories for the day they’re perfect.

I believe you can get these in some supermarkets but rather than spending a couple of pounds for three this recipe will make you approximately 20 for £3/£4 and it’s so simple!

You’ll need;
- low fat rice cakes (I use wholegrain, but any plain or sweet flavoured ones will do)
- chocolate (I like dark, but you can go wild, pick your favourite, mix if you like. Just make sure it’s the good stuff)

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That is it.

The process;
1. Melt the chocolate (I do it over hot water on the hob but you could microwave it).
2. Spoon the melted chocolate onto the rice cakes.
3. Leave to set and enjoy with a brew.

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That is it. Seriously. 3 steps to chocolate indulgence.

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Now 20 by yourself really is quite the indulgence, so I wrapped a few of them up (unfortunately I was out of cellophane so had to use tissue paper – not quite so sexy) and popped over a friends for a coffee. A perfect little treat to take with you.

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Life in Kampala

So I’ve arrived in Africa. Sorry for the delay in letting you know, it’s been a full few days.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve made my way to Kampala, Uganda for three months of adventure, consultancy and friendship. This is my forth time to Uganda but I’m excited about this time more than ever. I won’t go into details now but this is as far from ‘pat yourself on the back’ charity work as I hope you can get (don’t get me wrong, with the right heart there is room for that).
For the next three months Kampala is home so I’ve been setting up life.

If you know anything about me you’ll know that the first thing on my list was to get food. So after quickly unpacking I jumped on a boda (like a taxi motorbike) and headed to the market for fresh fruit and veg. All this for under £4. Mmmmmmmmm.

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I’m already learning – do not leave any food out anywhere – ants will get them!! Left a bag of dried fruit and nuts on the side, only realised my error as I pulled out Brazil nuts with ants crawling up my arms. Not going to lie, ants in my clippers tea evoked a rage I didn’t know I had within me. But it’s ok ‘doom’ spray has dealt with that issue.
This sign made me laugh (josh being my brother).

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Next on the list was time with good friends. Many of these guys I had seen in November but it had felt like too long already. Was so good to eat together and chat vision for the coming months and years.

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I’m sure I’ll be telling you all about these guys in the next few blogs, absolute heroes. Privileged to get to spend the next few months with them!

As this time in Uganda for me is a part of a wider plan for my year, an extremely exciting part, but
not my sole focus, there are many aspects the continue on like normal.
I’m in the last few months of my uni course so I brought a few home comforts with me to help with the assignment writing.

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Unfortunately ‘Pure Gym’ is yet to make its way to Kampala so with no spin, fat burn, kettle bells and legs, bums and tums classes, my next three months are going to made up of running through Busega and the wonderful voice of ‘Jillian Michaels – 30 day shred’ reminding me of why I want to be ‘shredded’.

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‘If you feel like you’re dying – good! Keep going’.

Other setting up life pictures – making my room more homely, learning to drive on Kampalan roads and pancake day!!

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Seriously loving it here. Hehe. If any of you bloggers have been to Kampala before let me know your favourite spots, got some friends coming out soon so want to make plans.

Goodbyes

In the last couple of years I’ve said many goodbyes. I’ve waved off friends to Asia, North America, Africa, Australasia and other European countries but this time it was my turn to be waved off. As I type this I’m sitting (surrounded by crying babies – bless ‘em) on board a flight to Entebbe, Uganda, on route to Kampala. I have been given an incredible opportunity to do some consultancy work in an movement in Uganda that is seeing lives changed in amazing ways. I have worked in Freedom Church doing volunteer coordination work before, but for me this is a new venture and great privilege to work with some of Kampala’s best leaders. But before I disappeared for three months I had some goodbyes to do with some of my favourites.

First my beautiful Grandmother (Mum tagged along too but her goodbye was for later).

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This woman is an absolute ninja. Since turning 60 she’s been to more countries than you could count on your fingers and toes, been proposed to at Mount Fuji, walked the Great Wall of China, protected the residents of Porthcawl through her tai chi training, laughed often, invested well and loved much. So lunch with her before shooting off was a must. We made our way to bills cafe in Cardiff. If you’re a resident of Cardiff this is a must go.

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Grandma had the chilli crab cakes with a side of skinny fries, mum had the halloumi burger an I wolfed down their ‘naked burger’ (burger without the bun). Loved it.

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We followed it up with coffees and shared their white chocolate and raspberry creme brûlée. It’s not an everyday treat but shared between three (seriously its big enough to do so) it doesn’t feel quite so naughty.

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2 hours later, very full and having laughed and gabbed much we said our goodbyes with the promise of contact.

The following day the girls and I had a spa goodbye booked in (probably one of the best kind of goodbyes, like ever!)
That said we hit trouble before beginning.

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Geoff came and rescued us and only an hour or so late we arrived at wyeleisure for the day. Luxury!

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Hot tubbing in moonlight – does it get better?

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I was so chilled I wasn’t sure if my muscles would function in order to get us home.

Then onto Sunday. I thought I’d said goodbye to so many but I realised I was only just beginning. That morning I had to say goodbye for now to many friends from Freedom Cardiff, my wonderful church. Not easy. Kept reminding myself, 3 months is not long.
I was very spoilt with lots of individuals buying me goodies for my travels.

Then Monday, the person I was least looking forward to saying goodbye to, Geoff (well he took me to the airport so it wasn’t a real goodbye, but it was our last full day together).
We decided to make it a good British day. Starting with Caerphilly Castle.

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Being the graceful lass that I am it took me at least 15 minutes before I started climbing (in a dress and heels too, oh Sian).

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Geoff got a little too into the history of it.

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Oh yes then we genuinely got locked in. After a few minute of screaming and door pounding we were let out.

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We finished up our day in The Crown Inn. A pure and simple English pub in Herefordshire (I had a meeting in the morning so we went up to stay at my parents for the evening).
Geoff had curry and I had a pheasant pie. Good for the heart!

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My final evening in the UK was then full of family and food (with good friends popping around every hour or so to get their goodbyes in too). My mother, culinary queen, put on tapas so I could enjoy as much variety of my favourite foods before leaving.
Mussels, camembert baked in croissant pastry, prawns, olives, hams, artichokes, meatballs, roasted peppers, creamy mushrooms, cheesecake and much more were spread across the table.

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Very, very thankful for my incredible family (only my brother josh missing whilst he adventures in Cambodia), will miss them a lot but so very grateful for their consistent encouragement and support.

There are no photos from the airport because
a. I was sleep deprived so not thinking
b. the blotchy red eyed look isn’t the most attractive on me

Goodbyes aren’t always the most fun but what they do mean is that change is happening, momentum is building, fun is about to be had and lots will be learnt. For that reason a good goodbye is always worth embracing.

Another blog of ‘how to do long distance well’ will be gracing your screens soon.
This is not just for those who are in another country or even for those in a romantic relationship, thinking this blog will be a great read for uni students as you leave home, how to keep good contact with friends and family abroad, how to respond as the one being left behind, as well as for those in a more traditional long distance relationship.

Ps. I’m totally now posting this (now have wifi) from a sunny balcony in Kampala. Hehe. Sorry to my snow surviving British friends.