Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Birthday Reflections

As a birthday draws close, it gives the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year past and look to the year ahead. I am turning 26 tomorrow and if I am to be completely honest, it scares me a little. 25 was a good year. I am now heading rapidly towards my late 20s and /gulp/ the dreaded 30! It seems like I should start being sensible, you know, buy a house, start a pension plan, settle down. Even the thought of it is bringing me out in hives. So, for the moment I will continue my usual method of running away from real life.

My 25th year started out well. I had flown to Singapore after spending a year in Australia and was en route home for Christmas. I spent my birthday on the top of the world's highest roof top bar drinking a cocktail with people I had met 2-5 days beforehand. And then a dumpling dinner with one of my best friend's housemates (as he decided to feck off to Shanghai for that week). It made me realise that it truth, strangers are just friends you have not met.

This year, I will be celebrating in the Warm Heart of Africa with friends who, 5 months ago were strangers (apart from Elaine of course). A Mzuzu birthday will be slightly different to a Singapore one but no less fun I'd imagine. Dinner and drinks at the Zoo and possibly dancing. Life is different here and that is no bad thing.

The last birthday I celebrated in Ireland was my 23rd. Wow, you guys have gotten out of buying me a lot of birthday presents :P In reflection on the years spent since I left Ireland, honestly, I am a different person. I am more confident, I know more about myself and I am more content with who I am. These changes, I am not sure I would have achieved without taking off on my own.

Looking back at the past year, a lot has changed. I had a job I hated, worked as a locum and then moved to Malawi. I travelled around Singapore and Malaysia, met some amazing people and come home to a brilliant Christmas. Lived in Galway and loved it, experienced the Volvo Ocean Race, ran the prom many times, had lots of coffee and chats and all in all enjoyed my 7 months at home. However my itchy feet got the most of me and as such my time in Ireland was brief.

So having looked back at the past year, I look towards the one coming. What will it bring? Or more importantly what do I want it to bring? Where in the world will I be for my 27th birthday? What will I have achieved in the next year? What do I want to achieved? All of life is setting goals for yourself. Whether you achieve those goals or not, it is always something to work towards.

Quote of the day: And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”  Abraham Lincoln. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Lake!

I couldn’t be in Malawi and not talk about the lake. After all it is known as the “Land of the Lake”.  All one side of the country is bordered by the lake and it would be remiss of me not to talk about a place where we spend most weekends. Having just spent another weekend at Nkhata Bay, it has reminded me how much I love the lake.
Now this lake is HUGE. They call it the calendar lake as it is 52 miles across and 365miles north to south. 20% of Malawi’s surface is covered by water, from Lake Malawi and three other lakes. And Lake Malawi makes up 75% of Malawi’s eastern border. Standing at the lake shore, it is very easy to think you are facing the sea, when it is windy and there are waves I constantly have to tell myself that it is a LAKE! According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), it is the 3rd largest lake in Africa and the 8th largest in the world. The lake is also known as “Lake of Stars”, a term coined by Sir David Livingstone in relation to the lights that the local fishermen use at night.

Traditional boat

Recently the lake has been a source of some potential conflict between Malawi and Tanzania. Oil has been discovered and there was talk of a possible war over the right to harvest this oil. However, thankfully, this conflict seems to have died down a little. There has always been some conflict over Tanzania’s access to the lake and having a share in the profits from the lake. However if there was to be drilling for oil, the hundreds of fishing communities on all shores of the lake could have their livelihood lost.
Kande Beach
The first place I visited on the lake was Kande Beach. A resort run by an English man set on a long stretch of beach. It’s a beautiful setting and is frequented by overland trucks Here I went horse riding for the FIRST time ever. The trip ended with us going swimming with the horses! Kande is very popular with overland trucks and this can result in nights dancing on the bar. In other words, lots of fun. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see and there is a scuba school on site run by Justin and Joy- Aquanuts.

Here in Mzuzu we go to the Northern Lake Shore, from what others have told me, the northern shore is the most beautiful. The nearest town to us is Nkhata Bay, a town worthy of its own blog post, considering we go there again and again.

I have also visited Makuzi beach resort. Beautiful gardens, a private beach, good food but a tad out of a backpackers budget. Luckily we visited there with work.

And then there is Chinteche Inn. Widely known as the most expensive resort on the Northern Lakeshore. Why was I there? For a music festival. 3 days of African music while taking dips in the lake or lounging on the beach. 

There is a risk of bilharzia in Lake Malawi. A small risk but a risk none the less. However as the parasites live in snails that live in reeds in stagnant waters, the risk on the Northern shores is minuscule. (see my point about waves) But seeing as you prevent yourself getting the parasite by taking a dose of praziquantel (or as I like to call it "The drug I take when I have been swimming in the lake") once every 6 months, and it costs a little over a euro, why not take it. It most certainly is not a reason to not swim in this glorious lake.

Quote of the day: "You only live once; but if you live it right, once is enough." --Adam Marshall

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Home Sickness

Being away from home for a prolonged period of time will lead to bouts of home sickness and today I had my first “episode” since moving to Mzuzu. I can’t explain it, it came over me all of a sudden this afternoon.  Last time I was away it was nearly a year before I felt really homesick. Why it has happened so soon after leaving home is beyond me. I have a few theories.

My first theory is that in the past two weeks I have missed two major family occasions: my youngest sisters graduation and my cousin’s thirtieth.
See there is a child missing!
(Although the photo is very symmetrical now)

 Two events that I won’t see again. For me, that is the worst thing about being so far from home. Missing those occasions that are important to you and your extended family.

My other theory is, the last time I was away I was in Australia which has all the comforts of home. I mean there is water and electricity everyday, cheese is readily available and there is a huge Irish community with Irish bars where you can go for your full Irish/pint of Guinness. Here, it’s a whole other world. Home comforts are few and far between and home seems ever further away than when I was in Sydney.

How does homesickness affect me? Well me being a misery guts I think about all the things I am missing, people, places, events. Even simple little things like going for a coffee with a friend and it turning into a 2 hour chat session are things I miss so much. Then after about 5/10 minutes of torturing myself like that, I get the lump in my throat where I know I am holding back a flood of tears. Now luckily today it didn’t get to that point today as a good friend, Kelly, arrived at my door just before they started. And as much of a drama queen as I may be, I won’t let myself depress others!

Dealing with homesickness is a whole other story. I have a few tried and tested methods
  1.   Chocolate, wine, pjs and some crap TV/chick flick
  2.  A mug of Lyons tea with some Cadbury’s chocolate
  3.  Melted cheese on toast and a good book curled up in bed
  4.  Listening to some familiar music. I love Don Stiffe’s Missing Galway
  5.  A good cry. 
  6. All of the above are good but nothing quite as cathartic as a good, gut wrenching cry.

Some people would suggest talking to home but I find that that can actually make me feel worse. It can make me feel like I am out of the loop with what is going on in people’s lives (generally because I am).
So what am I doing tonight? Well I blew off Jillian (Jillian Michael’s workout) and am currently listening to Don Stiffe on repeat, in my pajamas and about to pour myself a glass of wine. Note to self, download some Declan O Rourke and Gemma Hayes for some more Irish music. Unfortunately I have no chocolate in the house, my block of emergency cheese is in the freezer and I have some work that I had planned on getting done tonight. C’est la vie

Quote of the day: Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
(for the non Irish speakers, that means "There's no fireplace like your own fireplace." i.e there's no place like home)