Gratefulness before and during Gambia.

Where to begin? So much has happened since I have last blogged and I am aware that I have a lot of catching up to do, so here it goes:

Before Gambia
Friday 11th November: I enjoyed yet another lovely meal with Devina in our favourite restaurant.
Saturday 12th November: I went to my first Feminist conference and really enjoyed hearing lots of new opinions and solutions. I love some food for thought; and that lots of new and old friends were there as well.
Sunday 13th November: I have been very lucky that lots of friends have been very generous in donating stationary, clothes, medical supplies etc but Devina’s mum and housemate surpassed themselves by giving me more clothes than I could carry! I also had a lovely Sunday dinner with the North London gang in my dad’s favourite family pub.
Monday 14th November: I remember I was quite stressed out that day because I was cooking for friends that evening but had not finished sorting all the donations I wanted to bring. However it was a really lovely evening, I enjoyed cooking and seeing people and I was very lucky that Hattie gave me lots of practical bits for Gambia which I definitely needed whilst there.
Tuesday 15th November: One of my colleagues came round to donate me some male clothes of which I had none and we had a good chat.
Wednesday 16th November: I was really nervous on Wednesday but lots of people were really sweet, Lisaane our intern let me use her international minutes to call Gambia and some colleagues gave some more donations. On my last night in the UK my dad came down to bring me some labouring gloves and more sweetly, Devina came down unannounced to help me pack my clothes and plan my evening outfits.
Thursday 17th November: I was really grateful to travel with my colleague Paul, it was good to have someone to chat to and to joke about with, especially when I was feeling quite nervous meeting the 30 odd other volunteers at the airport. Devina very sweetly texted us both to wish us a safe journey which I really appreciated. In fact it was good to hang out with Paul that day and in the days to come, a familiar face in our very large crowd. 
I love looking at the stars out of my bedroom window at night and there was a moment when I was walking back to our hotel and for some reason I turned around, looked up and the entire sky was lit up with stars that appeared to be glowing. A moment I will not forget.
Friday 18th November: At the end of our first working day, I was thankful to sip a drink at the side of the pool with Howard, eat an amazing fruit platter with him & Paul and then to have my first dip in the sea.
Now after friday I only made one more diary entry, but these are the things I was grateful for:
1. I was working with a lovely family, the Bradfords on our toilet block and with amazing teamwork we were able to go from this:
to the amazing finished product that was:

2. I was really thankful for my parents the day I visited the orphanage school. I don’t always get on well with my parents but seeing those small children with no parents, in a culture where family is the bedrock, really made me think. I sometimes take for granted that I have both my parents, and that they are healthy and well.
3. I am really thankful for all the lovely people that I met, both the volunteers and the family we were working with. Everyone was really nice and you didn’t mind who you worked with as there was a lot of camaraderie. The boys in the family we were working with were absolutely lovely, they looked after us really well, taking us around, answering all our questions, making sure we weren’t hassled too much etc. They work so hard in what is a much tougher environment and mucked in with us whilst making sure we were ok.
4. One of the sisters of the family we were working with made us a Gambian lunch so on three occasions we were able to enjoy authentic Gambian cuisine, this was especially welcome when you have been working hard in the 30 degree heat but also when your breakfast likes to exit before lunch! We ate really well and for me, much more healthier than usual!
5. The kids. What can I say? I loved seeing the kids everyday, and wished I could talk one of the four languages spoken in the Gambia! They were so cute and knowing that some of village children we met will be able to go to the school makes me want next November to hurry up so we can see them.
6. I am massively thankful for having had the opportunity to go to the Gambia and to see all that I have seen. I saw soo much and learnt something new everyday. I am grateful to Howard for asking me to come and then all year telling me that I would be fine, which of course I was.
We come to today:
I am thankful for being able to help make a difference; that my housemate and friends care about what I’ve been up and that our temporary housemate made me a lovely dinner this evening.

So I am in a much more chirpy mood this evening and I am grateful for BIG Cheetham hugs this morning; and the amazing team work of Charlotte, Hannah & Emily which meant that I met a target in record time. I am grateful for the hard work of our work experience student who helped me to prep materials for 130 students. I am happy that I borrowed from the library The Elfstones of Shannara and that I started to read it on the way home. Despite my tiredness I could feel that 24 year old tug pulling me into the story, I love it when I get that feeling, I hope it lasts. That’s all for this evening folks.

Above is a picture of me in the beautiful Chiltern countryside at the weekend. And because I know Charlotte will love this, I’ll also add the below: