A quarter of a year has passed since we returned from Africa...the best time of our lives so far.
As our memories naturally begin to fade, I remember the promise we made to each other whilst driving through Tanzanian dirt tracks in the pouring rain. We were sick of it. Tired of worrying about the potholes we were constantly hitting and the damage we knew we were doing to the car, tired of not feeling completely safe during the nights upon nights of camping in the wild, huddled in the damp on the tailgate of the car in the dark eating crappy packs of dried noodles because we'd run out of food, casting our torch back and forward across the long grass wondering what we'd do if confronted by a person or an elephant or a leopard and not being quite sure which was worse. We'd taken the wrong road thinking that it would be a short cut and realised too late that it was absolutely the wrong decision. It turned out to be a very uncomfortable week but one from which we'd go on to learn a lot.
Afterwards, regretted how we'd been feeling...it was as if we'd been wishing it all away and we'd forgotten to be grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives.
The promise we made at the end of that week was to remember how we'd felt during those soggy dinners on the tailgate in the dark and to practise acceptance and gratitude no matter our situation. We knew there'd be moments when we got home - back to work and reality and obligation - where we'd long for the freedom of Africa, the uninterrupted, delicious time together, the smiling faces, the vast colourful, epic nature in every imaginable shade and shape and size, the chorus of birds and buzzing life that followed us everywhere. And we said that in those moments of longing, we should close our eyes and zoom back to those few days in Tanzania. We should remember the dirty clothes and the heated discussions at 4 minutes before sunset about where we should sleep that night. We should remind ourselves that in that moment, we longed for all that came with work and reality: a clean, functional, tidy, comfy world with routines and order. We should remind ourselves of our promise to be grateful for all of the wonderful things in our lives, no matter our situation.
So, we made a list titled 'things I must never take for granted'. It evolved a bit over the course of the day to also include 'things we will miss' to help us be present and grateful during challenging moments of our trip. Today, after my first week back at work, it felt appropriate to write about it and share it with you.
Our favourite things from Africa:
Being connected to nature & learning about its flora and fauna
Experiencing inclusive and supportive communities that look after each other
Eating local, fresh and simple food with no preservatives or supply chain
The abundance of new experiences, cultures and people
The beautiful weather and living outdoors
The sense of adventure
The perspective that discomfort brings
Deep & meaningful conversations about personal growth
A lack of stress
Learning to be adaptable
The pride that came with being self sufficient and resourceful
Cooking with fire
The amount of time we get to spend with each other
Having time to make food from scratch and learning to love 'chores' like washing our clothes in the lake
Using our hands to fix things and having a practical existence
Things we must never take for granted:
That we have access to good education
That we can travel beyond our own postcode
The ability to communicate with each other in the same language
Supermarkets with perfectly ripe, perfectly shaped food from all over the world
Driving on roads without the constant goat/cow/pothole/people hazard perception test
A hot shower with an adjustable temperature and pressure
Routine and stability
Phone reception and internet
Electricity and light bulbs
The price being the price without a haggle
A comfortable and big bed
A dry place to sit that isn't inside a car
Brushing your teeth under a tap rather than from a jerry can of water
A washing machine
Running in safe conditions
Feeling like you belong
Not having your whole life inside your car!
They're good reminders to me this Sunday afternoon as I reflect on a challenging first week at work and think about my week ahead.
To stick to my promise, I'll finish by sharing few moments that have made me feel grateful this week. I'm grateful for:
Ross, my absolute legend of a husband. He is the most compassionate, kind and selfless person that I know. As an example: Ross has been away in the Faroe Islands this week at a race. 300m before the finish line, Ross helped a man who'd fallen onto a rock and badly hurt his leg. He applied a tourniquet and helped to carry the man down on a stretcher to an ambulance before finishing the race without a place.
The two strangers I met at the gates of Brockwell Park on Wednesday night. Myself and another girl had got locked in (they lock the gates at sunset) and between the two of us and a man walking past outside of the park, we helped each other climb over the gates to get free. It took a good 10 minutes (the gates were very high) and involved standing on each other a fair bit!
My friends, family & colleagues who've listened, laughed and cared for each other.
The early morning sunshine that comes through my office window at 7am and my lovely new plants that brighten up my desk.
The brilliant students I've met at my new school this week. They're welcoming and respectful and full of energy. I am very lucky to work with such special young people very day.
Sending love and gratitude to you all. x