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.