Wednesday, October 10, 2012

back to normality

Yet again time has flown by without any entries. Since June this year I spent two months researching in Zambia, learnt some of the challanges of cross-cultural communication while doing so, got attacked by a baboon,  came third in a 20km mountain bike race across the Zambian bush, spent a solid couple of weeks almost permanently attached to a computer while writing my dissertation, managed to finish my dissertation and hand it in, get a job, move (again) and start making some sort of normality (??!) of my life

So. yes. Busy! I've been so blessed in how everything has turned out. While I was writing my dissertation I was informed by a friend about a position at clatterbridge hospital where I previously worked, interviewed and got the position as an oncology dietitian (cancer) for the next 6 months. I'm even allowed to take 6 weeks off while Im away in Australia over Christmas, which was more than could have possibly asked for. I've been working now for 6 weeks I think, as I started the week after my dissertation completed and am now getting into a routine and pattern. I've even been able to ride my bike to work! Its 8.5 miles each way which doesn't realy make any sense to me i'm guessing about 13km maybe. The only reason I know in miles is because google said so! Its actually quite a nice ride, going thrgh the forest and the country roads and lanes. However, with all the dirt tracks and the torrential rain (for england!) that's been hapening last month (floods everywhere) I didn't get to ride quite as much as I would have liked to ensure I didn't arrive to work completely covered in mud!

 Anyway enough for now. I'll have to start filling in all the details of what happened in Zambia in another post. For now here are a couple of pics of my time over there :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Well. The last month has absolutely flown by with barely a moment to spare it seems. Most of it was spent studying (or stressing) over my final exams at LSHTM, thankfully they went okay with results coming out in a few weeks. I definitely appreciated all the prayers and thouhts that went out internationally during that period.

There has been plenty of blessings and answers to prayer lately, I was able to get a grant from my uni which has covered my flight fees to and from Zambia takin awy some financial pressure. Also after my last exam I was given a call from Clatterbridge hospital and asked to work there again, so I squeezed in 4 days of work over the week before flying here to Lusaka on Friday evening. So I was provided there as well.

Before I left England I was in London during the Jubilee weekend. It was pretty manic so didn't really get involved too much in the city with it, but it was a cool atmosphere everyone all excited. We went to a bbq with some friends of ours who have moved from London and ate 'Lizzy cakes' - cupcakes decorated with british flags.

Friday evening I flew to Zambia from London. My trip down there was a bit interesting. I hadn't had time to pack so packed the morning I left (as I was in Liverpool at the time), then there were train delays and bus delays and I wondered if I would actually make it on time. Thankfully I did, got to uni and picked up the bag that I was taking for them full of lab supplies and took a taxi to the airport. I was blessed with no further problems there and was all checked in quite easily, and met Marie-Laure who is a Belgian girl studying the same degree as me. Incredibly we had managed to buy the same flights to Lusaka independently, so that was nice to travel with someone.

The flight wasn't too bad, very busy though. I can't sleep sitting up so I only had about 30 minutes sleep that night which wasn't too good - made me all dopey when I got to Lusaka. When we arrived in Lusaka it took us almost an hour to get through immigration, so we were almost the last people sorted out even though we weren't last off the plane. There was one line for 'tourists' and 4 lines for other categories, except there wasn't actually any immigration officer in the tourist line! welcome to Africa!! hehe ah well. So we picked up our bags and finally got outside to meet Mum and Dad, who I haven't seen since November.

Dad's welcome to me was 'You're so pale'. Thanks Dad! I realise what England has done to me!! It's nice and warm here in Zambia, much warmer in winter than it is in summer in England so that problem won't take long to rectify!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Did I hear that right?

Studying at one of the leading public health institutions can be an amusing experience at times. There are always topics of discussion that can be a bit odd and if taken completely out of context quite strange.

I was with a group of students sitting at a table in the common room this evening when we were approached by another girl who asked "Are you doing AIDS?". Taken out of context, slightly inappropriate. But given the situation, okay. Alot of group work happens particularly with the epidemiology students where they are all focusing on specific diseases or viruses at particular times of the year. Earlier this year there was an "outbreak" throughout the school involving approximately 200 students. That was an interesting experience, being constantly approached by other students trying to figure out what it was, where it originated from and who was "infected" or not.

Today in one of our classes which was actually on program planning, we ended up on the topic of the importance of hygiene and sanitation. In the UK, 80% of men don't BOTHER to wash their hands even though they have all the necessary resources. Over 40% of the world don't even have access to safe, private or hygienic places to go to the toilet, instead using rivers, bushes, plastic bags and the like. Poor quality water, hygiene and sanitation practices are strongly linked to poor health, mortality and even impaired nutrition.

We came across The Golden Poo Awards in our class and watched one of their previous entries. This is an initiative by PooP Creative and London Short Films Festival to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing and good hygiene in a funny, catchy or "infectious" way. I found it quite funny and thought I would share. If you feel inspired yourself to make your own film, they are currently open for the 2012 submissions which will be used to form part of Global Handwashing Day (October 15th) and World Toilet Day (November 19th).

Enjoy, and don't forget to wash your hands!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Break

Part way through April already! The last few weeks seem to have flown by and there is now only one week left for me before I need to hit the books and get back to studying and finishing off this masters degree.

We had a three week break at uni which was much welcomed. I headed up to Liverpool and was blessed by a week of sunshine and 16-20 degree days (unheard of for England this time of year!!). Financially I have been close to struggling and was hoping to get some work during the Easter break. Luckily for me, two or three days into my first week off I got a call from one of the dietitians at Clatterbridge Hospital here in the Wirral asking if I was free for two weeks! Such a blessing really and couldn't have come at a better time.

So last week I was back at the Oncology Centre again and met Jennifer the dietitian I was filling in for last year before her permanent position commenced. She is lovely, from Scotland and as I discovered last week also a Christian. Hopefully I will be spending much more time with her in the future as well as I've really enjoyed her company at work. Its been great going back to CCO, alot of the staff remember me and its so much easier when you already know the systems as you can just crack on with what needs to be done and help the team out with their busy workloads.

The next few months coming up will be pretty busy. I've got one term left at uni covering nutrition programme planning, then final exams in the end of May. After that I'll head down to Zambia and Lusaka for my Research project which will be keeping me out of mischief until the beginning of September when the dissertation is due. Lots of writing and sitting down and being boring ahead I'm afraid! Ah well, it will be worth it at the end I am sure!!

I keep being asked what I'm going to do when I've finished the degree, where I'm going to work and all that stuff. Honestly I have no idea. I guess just see where it takes me and what comes across my path. No point stressing or worrying about the future too much. It will work out in its own time and in Gods plan.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:4-7


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coincidence or divine protection?

Since moving to London and riding my bike here there and everywhere, I've had a couple of situations where I've thought and wondered about whether something that has ended up delaying me or getting in my way has been a coincidence, or in actual fact a measure of protection.

About a month ago on my morning ride in, a couple of cyclists were taking up the whole road ahead on a big downhill slope about ten minutes away from uni, causing me much frustration (I don't like to go slow if I can avoid it). I managed to overtake them finally, got down the hill, rode up the other hill, and turned around the corner just in time to hear a big bang. At the junction where I would normally be waiting to cross oncoming traffic, two cars had collided. That delay which probably wasn't even 60 seconds long was just enough to protect me.

A similar thing happened to me again last night as I rode back home from uni. I had just ridden up that hill previously mentioned - a much harder task than going down it let me tell you - and as I was approaching the junction on the opposite side it was all green lights. I thought about trying to power it across and decided against it, as it would probably go orange just as I began to cross. So I stood there on the side waiting for a couple of minutes until it was green again and safe to cross. About 10 minutes later, just before approaching Arsenal stadium I arrived at another big junction to see a collision that must have occurred only minutes previously, as police arrived and the ambulance was wailing in the background when I crossed. This collision looked a bit more serious as well, with a double-decker bus and at least 2 other cars involved. Once again I was protected.

Of course it could all very well be just a case of "what if?"  I'm just happy knowing that there is a God on my side who loves me, has got my back and is protecting me even when I'm not aware.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Buildings and M&Ms

 The weather has picked up so so much lately here in England.. crazy to think that only a couple of weeks ago it was snowing, now there it has been a lovely 16 degrees probably every second or third day. So that is very nice! Even compared to last year when I returned to England, it is much much warmer. I keep hearing rumours of drought in England with the warm weather (which makes me laugh a bit).

in London on the weekend so we took full advantage of the sunny weather, got outside and did a bit of exploring around Grenwich and central London. I wanted to go and see the clock or the timeline where the Grenwich mean time thing is, but didn't really want to pay to go and see a line so we decided to skip that idea! Instead we wandered around Grenwich markets and to the Royal Navy college and checked out the beautiful old buildings there.

One of the buildings, the painted hall is absolutely amazing! The entire inside of the building is painted, floor to ceiling and the ceilings on this thing would be like I don't know, maybe 30 foot high! Apparently the man who painted it, would have been paid about 3 pounds per square metre for the ceiling and 1 pound per square metre for the walls. These days it costs about 300,000 pounds to repair the same area!!

There was a chapel there also which was extremely ornamental and beautiful to look at as well. I absolutely love old buildings.  They definitely don't make them like they used to!

During our wanderings around the city we stumbled across one of Londons 'biggest highlights' - the M&M shop...  It is absolutely manic in there. M&Ms everywhere and people running around like crazy as if they are high on the sweet smell of sugar and artificial colours that envelops you when entering the doors. An experience and something to see, and interesting but very VERY expensive. 100g of these babies will set you back over two pounds, making it more expensive than buying lollies (sweets) at the movies..

Which colour would you like to eat?

Plain or peanut?

Even though I've nearly been here for six months in London, I feel that I've barely done anything much as my uni course is pretty time-consuming. So it was nice to get out and explore a bit, see some new sights and areas. Next time I want to get to Borough Markets! :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The power of youth

I think it is quite easy in today's society to think that we aren't that important and our individual voice doesn't matter, particularly for children and young adults. I came across a nice story recently about a little girl here in England, aged 3 1/2 who'se voice sparked a change across all of Sainsbury's in the UK.

In May 2011 she wrote a letter to Sainsbury's asking why Tiger bread is named after a Tiger when it looks much more than a giraffe and should be called Giraffe bread. Three weeks later she got a letter back from Chris King Sainsbury's Customer Manager aged 27 1/3 saying that it was a great idea. Fast forward a year and add in a bit of social pressure via a group on facebook and petitions to change tiger bread to giraffe bread and what do we have....

 For anyone who doesn't know what tiger or giraffe bread is, it is a typical white bloomer loaf where rice paste has been spread on prior to baking resulting in the splotchy effect as seen here:

Anyway, I found it cute and encouraging - that a 3 year old could spark a change.

Throughout history and the bible there are so many examples of children and young adults having a big impact on society and playing big roles. For example David was a boy when he killed Goliath in the bible, Josiah became King of Judah when he was 8 years old. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a pastor by the time he was 16! Sixteen!! Then, not only that, but by the time he was 20, his church was also the biggest in England at that time. Vince Havner "the boy preacher" started sending sermons to the newspaper at 9, was a licensed preacher at 12 and was ordained at 15 preaching for 80 years! Billy Graham as 19 when he spoke at his first meeting about what God has done for him, and has since spoken to over 90 million people across the world.

So, nothing is impossible if you don't at least try!
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 (New Living Translation)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Appreciation of what you do and don't have

Let me tell you, I am so so so SO grateful right now to have some heating in my flat! I started writing this post a few days ago and the transformation between the temperature two days ago and now in the flat is incredible. The change in the last month alone is incredible as well. It's been such a mild 'warm' winter this year compared to last - daffodils were coming out in the streets a couple of weeks ago!!

The boiler had been broken for ah possibly a month or so (I only moved in 3 weeks ago) and with temperatures steadily declining, it meant that the temperature outside was pretty much what the situation was like inside. FREEZING!!!!! The temperature range recently has been a minimum of -6 with a maximum of 1. Nice and chilly!
My new street - freshly snowed

Before yesterday when the boiler finally was fixed (after many many delays) at pretty much any point of the day, when you would breathe out (which I tend to do frequently) a big billowing cloud of condensation/smoke/fog whatever it is actually described out appears, causing me alot of distraction! I was going to bed with like 6 blankets and a few pairs of socks and about 3 layers of shirts and a jumper and keeping my head under the blankets so it didnt get too cold!

But I am not complaining. Not at all. I was so happy to move into this flat, the environment even though physically temperature wise has been ridiculously cold, the warmth and friendliness of my housemates has completely made up for that. And now the heating is working and we are cheering!!

Just in time too! I went down to Shoreham-by-Sea today to see my Uncle Arthur and Barbara as I haven't visited for a while and in the 12 hours or so that I was away it started to snow, and snow, and snow. It only just began to snow down south at about 7pm so there was a dusting around the place. London however, has stacks of the stuff. I was quite excited. Its packing snow so I made a nice big snowball. I really want to make a snowman too, so I might do that later!!

But everything with the weather this week has made me so appreciative. Appreciative and grateful that I have a house to go to, somewhere to keep me dry, and definitely appreciate the heating when it works! It made me think about what it would be like living in a country, in a rural area where they don't have heating and for what it would have been in the past before the invention of electricity. Tough times.

I am blessed. Happy. Grateful.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A new home

I'm on a train again, heading home. Liverpool to London... a trip I have completed many a time now since moving to London for my masters degree. The last few weeks have absolutely flown by, with it seeming like I can barely find a moment to breathe, let alone sleep at times with the busyness of uni, not to mention moving house. Again.

Yes I have moved again, I think this is number 33 of places I've lived at. But I feel home now, I actually enjoy going back there, being there during the week. This move was something that I needed to do, that was beneficial to me and my health. For those who I've spoken to about it, the flat that I was living at was adequate. In theory it was fine. It was cheap, clean, not too far away from my university. The problem was the atmosphere. I felt like I was living in a prison, like I had to tiptoe around. It never ever felt like 'home'. Yes the room was small and that is a bit of a pain, and my few meagre belongings over cramped the room, but the problem was just with the house itself. I felt trapped, it was dark, there was no sense of community or involvement between flat mates. People got home, made food and went to their room and stayed there. It made me miserable to go home and I avoided it at all costs - often staying at uni till 10, 11pm at night to avoid having to go there, anticipating getting told off for something  probably hadn't done by one of the much much older flat mates. I needed out!

I'd thought about moving out late last year before Christmas came, but decided to stick it out as I am technically in a 6 month contract. But two days of being back in the flat after being away over the Christmas period I just had had enough, and got in contact with some people I had been talking with last year, discovered that a room was available, checked it out that night and decided pretty much on the spot that I wanted to and needed to move in.

So I am now living in the North, in a very multicultural, bustling and friendly area with a German guy and a Swedish girl. I love my new house, it is bright and airy and just friendly and happy. We've had some shared dinners together and it is just a place that I enjoy being, doors are kept open when people are in so we can chat and say good night or morning. My room is also much much bigger for the same price. I have an upright piano in there which I've been playing alot. That may be going soon though as the landlord apparently is going to come and get some people to collect it soon. But I'm enjoying it for the meantime! I love the area as well, there are food markets and lots of different shops with foods you just can't get anywhere else. Even the tesco there has different world food you can't get elsewhere. I'm terrible, everytime I go to the shop for one or two things I come back with ten!!! You can buy big big packets of spices and herbs and beans for less than a pound at times. Lots of good yummy food coming ahead I see!!

Also, my ride to uni has become much much safer and quicker as I now get to ride through residential areas of London pretty much the entire way, via Arsenal football stadium so I barely see any cars. This is a change, as when I lived in the East I rode through peak hour traffic the entire way, frequently riding in the middle of the road between opposing traffic. So much safer and more relaxing way to travel. I can catch the tube as well, and that is a 12 minute journey but riding is much cheaper and keeps me fit at the same time at 10km each way! :)

From past to future

It is interesting seeing where people have come from and how their situations then go on to influence where they go and what they go on to doing. I was flicking through a newspaper a day or so ago and found a litle bit written about Zambian President Michael Sata. In his younger days he moved to Britain, but was only able to get low-paid jobs as employment, including working for the British Rail as a porter cleaning the streets at Victoria and London Bridge Stations. He is reported to have said that he wants to clean up his country like the way he used to clean up the filth in the streets of London. He said that his less than ideal situation led him to develop a passion for improving the health and nation of his country, and that if life in the UK for him had been better he probably never would have gotten into government in Zambia.

It made me think that for many many people things in life aren't always rosy posey and pretty colours and perfect. However, there is always the opportunity to develop and learn and grow from less than ideal situations to bring about change and something for the better.

God wants to use what was intended for bad, sad and not so nice situations for good, to build up, protect and preserve something for the future. I was reading recently in Genesis the story of Joseph, how his brothers were jealous of the attention his father placed on him so they sold him as a slave to some traders. However, he ended up in Egypt and became the most influential person after Pharaoh, the trustee and manager of grain stored to feed the nation and surrounding nations during 7 hard years of famine. His brothers meant to hurt him, but God used that situation to save lives.

My university is open 24hr a day 7 days a week with full time security. I'm often there late at night and have to go and get the key for the bike racks (as I ride my bike to uni) from the security guard if it's after 8pm. I found it amusing the other day when one of the security guards farewelled me by name (we have to sign the key in and out). He is a very friendly cheery fellow with a smile on his face all the time. On Wednesday night I had been to a bible study nearby and when I came to get the key to take my bike home I started chatting to this security guard and found out a bit more about him. His name is Willy and he is originally from Ghana, and he is also a Christian. I found this out as he asked where I had been that evening so I said I'd been at this bible study , making some new frends and he was quite excited to know that I was also a Christian, wanting to know what we had discussed as he hadn't been able to attend his church or bible study for a few weeks because of his job. He was encouraged to know that there are Christians at the school (he didn't know there were any) and we had a good old chat about the Matthew 18, and other topics such as life in Ghana and food in Ghana and general health discussions. On the whole I don't go around blatently telling people that I am a Christian, but when he had asked where I had been, I didn't see the point in holding back the truth.

So my challenge to myself at the moment is to be bold, in all aspects of life. Never to hold back but always to give 100% of myself in everything I put myself towards. I want to use each day whether good or bad to become a better person, wide eyed in wonder of the blessings I have, with love, friendship, compassion and kindness to share with those around me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Displaced into the new year

I wrote a few days ago about New Years Eve, about how it is usually a happy time for friends and family to get together and celebrate a new year. I learnt yesterday about how in South Sudan, over the Christmas New Year Period thousands of local and expatriats have been abandoning their homes and fleeing for their lives in the bush and swamp lands of Pibor

Two of three Medicins sans frontiers (MSF / Doctors Without Borders) medical health facilities, the only ones in the area have been targeted and looted. These 3 health facilities cater for over 160,000 people are the closest for 100km. The organisation has not been able to contact 130 of the 156 locally employed staff that were living in the area. Displacement camps have been established 5-7 days walk from the area with food rations and supplies being distributed from other humanitarian organisations.

I hope we can all spare a moment for these people who's lives have been upturned.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome to 20 12

(courtesy of my sister!)
Hello twenty-twelve, or is it two thousand and twelve?! Every year we go around wishing people a happy new year asking how they passed the minutes down as the years change hands. A year ago I was in Dubai and saw fireworks shooting up and down the worlds tallest building with thousands of people crowded about and walking along the jammed freeways to get home. Other years I have experienced the fireworks in Sydney Harbour, spent the time dancing playing guitar and singing around a campfire on the beach in Gerringong and watched fireworks being set off in the Zambian rain.

Different countries and cultures often have different traditions for good luck over the New Year period. In Japan Bonenkai "forget-the-year" parties are held to forget the troubles, grudges, concerns and misunderstandings of the previous year are held. A Spanish tradition is to eat 12 grapes at midnight to secure twelve happy months ahead. 

This year I experienced a quieter and enjoyable English New Year in Liverpool with friends. In the minutes counting down to 2012 we put all our coats on, stocked up on our party poppers and stood in the street to count it down. There were some fireworks coming out of back yards in the surrounding neighbourhood and then we all joined hands with some merry strangers walking up the street to sing Auld Lang Syne. I know the tune to this song but not one single word! Thankfully I wasn't alone in my random la-la-laaaaing as no one else really seems to know it all either!!

I looked it up and apparently it is a Scottish song first published in the 1700s talking about friendships and relationship, and auld lang syne means times gone by. It became a tradition at New Years Eve in 1929 in New York. The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness. It talks about how good times and memories shared have been divided by time and distance but there is alway time to get together. I think this is actually quite appropriate thing to start the year around really, recogising the past and looking forward to the future, focusing on the important aspects of life - those around us.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne! 
With a new year everyone tends to go around making plans and resolutions to improve themselves in one way or another. I don't know what 2012 will bring for me, or for those around me, but I plan to make it one where I face my demons, learn who I am, what I want and strengthen the friendships and relationships in my life.