Essentials on the Plane

If you’re like me and do long haul flights maybe over a couple of days and anywhere from 10 – 16 hours, it’s important to take a few essentials with you to make it comfortable.

If you would much rather watch the video of this rather than reading it, check it out HERE.

 

  1. Noise Reducing Headphones

I would suggest going all out and purchasing a pair of Bose headphones. Some people have got the cheaper ones but according to travel buddies, they are nowhere near as good as Bose. You can buy wireless ones, but for $100 less you can get the ones with a cord. I’ve done a lot of trips with mine and found the AAA batteries last longer than what I was told.

heads.jpg

  1. Neck Pillow

Don’t go and buy the cheap ones, go for the memory phone neck pillow. They last longer and you won’t regret the investment. The pillows on the planes just don’t do the trick and are never thick enough.

neck pillow

  1. Eye Mask

You can get freebies when you do long hauls on airlines such as Emirates, or you can spend a few dollars at the airport. They block out the light and help with the much needed sleep.

mask

  1. Contact Lenses

I hate wearing glasses, but it’s much more comfortable than your eyes drying out on a flight when you wear contacts. You can always put your contacts in at the airport toilets. Make sure you fill your contact lens case with lots of solution as it tends to leak on flights. Take a small bottle of solution with you on the plane, it doesn’t count towards your liquid take ons.

lens

  1. Socks

Kick your shoes off as soon as your flight takes off, it will help with keeping the swelling down. I tend to wear ballet flats on a plane and put on a pair of cheap socks for the flight. That way when I go to the dreaded toilets I just wear my socks, which I leave on the plane or put in the garbage after the flight. I find that my feet tend to get really cold on a flight so even if it’s hot outside, I wear my socks on the plane.

 

  1. Jumper

Call it a sweater, hoodie or jumper but definitely take something to keep warm on a flight. On one of our long flights from Abu Dhabi to Sydney it was so cold on the 14 hour flight that people had blankets over their heads and around them. For the life of me I don’t know why they didn’t turn up the air conditioning but it was the worst flight ever. From now on I’m even taking one of my Masai blankets as an extra precaution.

 

  1. Little Items

Hairbrush, hair tie, toothbrush, toothpaste. They all make a difference to your flight. At the airport you can buy (if you don’t get one on the flight) in the toilets a small toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s well worth the $2 investment. Most airplane toilets have hand moisturizer in them – use it. At least after a long haul flight you can walk off the plane feeling a little refreshed.

tooth

 

What essentials do you take on your long haul flights?

Advertisements

Grandparenting from Afar

When we moved to Kenya we never even had it in our minds that within a few short years we would have a grandchild on the scene. Why you always look forward to it, you’re never quite ready for it. When our daughter Hannah and her husband Luke told us that they were expecting their first baby, we didn’t actually believe them. It’s the type of prank our family would play on each other. So even when we got off the Skype call, we didn’t quite believe it.

But it was true, and in March this year Isabella Rose was born.

I felt very privileged to be there a couple of weeks before she arrived, was there for the birth and for a month afterwards. But then we had to leave to return back to Kenya. We saw Han and Izzy one more time when we were in Australia but after that we weren’t sure when we would see them face to face again.

It could be years.

baby-hand

We are now on a journey of being grandparents from a distance.

It’s a common occurrence in the world we live in for grandparents to be on one side of the world so how do we manage it and still build a relationship with the most precious gifts in the world?

 

  1. Don’t feel guilty

It’s hard not to be there for every moment of their lives. You feel bad for not being there for birthdays or Christmas and if you were there they wouldn’t have to go into daycare because you ‘could have’ helped out.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to realize that even if you moved back to the same country as them, they might up and leave to go somewhere else. So are you just going to jetset around the globe following them? You have chosen to live where you are and they where they are.

 

  1. Use the internet to your advantage

For us, Skype is one of the best inventions ever. We might only get to use it once a week, but the fact that we can, is the fantastic. I’ve asked Han for a photo or video every day of Izzy, and she’s pretty good at sending it on Facebook. Sometimes it’s a report on how she’s been sleeping, other times on how she’s going with feeding. Even the smallest message makes us feel involved with Izzy. At times I just get on my phone and video myself or put some toys in from of the phone and make up stories for her. This morning I got back from a run and put a 30 second video of me filling in Izzy on what was happening today. It’s no big deal, but it helps with me missing her so much.

 

  1. It’s not a competition

It’s hard when your daughter and grand daughter are surrounding by their in-laws who get to enjoy ‘your family’ on a daily basis. When you find out that your grand child has been spoilt with lots and lots of gifts and you can’t do that because you’re a missionary and don’t have money for such luxuries. It’s very easy to get jealous.

But it’s not a competition between them and you. Your grandchildren are not objects. You can’t buy love and the best thing you can do is give them time. Things break, the best investment you can make is time. Let them show you their homework, art, favourite toy and just chatting. Even taking the time for them to sing their favourite song or preparing for a presentation. The fact that you’re making time for them is the most important thing.

october-foot

  1. Make the most of holidays

If you can’t get to your grandkids, invest into them and fly them to you. When Izzy was born, I made the decision that I wanted to be back for her first birthday. I have no idea how I will find the money for the ticket, but it’s important to be there. Izzy won’t remember it, but for Hannah, she needs to know that she matters to us. It’s been a difficult journey for her because she hasn’t had her parents around. I’ve got expat friends whose grandkids come at least twice a year to visit them in Kenya. Others fly to their other home each year or meet up with their kids and grandkids in a mutual country for a few weeks.

One of the dangers of volunteering overseas is that when you return to your home country, you need to spend a lot of time fundraising and you don’t spend time with family. On our last trip we said we would take April off and have a break. But, because of school holidays, we actually had to do many presentations during April. However, we still made time for family, which was a first. For Hannah’s birthday and Mothers Day, we made sure we spent it with the kids.

You can’t get time back. Go and make some good memories.

 

  1. Learn to celebrate

Look at what you do have and not what you don’t. Make the most of birthdays and Christmas, not just with a card or gift, but with the phone calls and messages on social networks. I’m keeping every video and photo that Han is sending through for a project for Izzy’s first birthday. I’ve also got some creative ideas for gifts for Christmas. We’ve sent clothes through but judging sizes is always a hard thing. Sometimes we’ve ordered books online that our kids grew up with and sent them through. Because we live far from them, when I’ve returned, I’ve taken the toys that Han had when she was little. That way if anything untoward happened to us, at least she has memories of us. My grandmother gave me a porcelain love heart when I was small, so when Izzy was born, I gave that to her. It might not seem much right now, but I have nothing left from my mother, so it’s nice to leave something small with Izzy.

 

What have been some of your experiences of grand parenting from a distance?

october-disney

 

Living Without Technology

The last month has been one of the most frustrating all year – for technology anyway. Technology is great, when it works. When it doesn’t I feel powerless and want to throw my laptop out the window – which of course I don’t do even though I feel like it.

techI’ve spent endless hours and Skype calls between Nairobi, Auckland and Sydney trying to sort out our new website and emails. I built this new website but couldn’t get it launched because of name servers, login details and email systems that wouldn’t work. Then of course, there’s the electricity which decides to go off for hours. In fact we had almost 2 days without power. Just to top it off the battery in my laptop decided to crap out so it decided all by itself when and where it would go.

Can you imagine being without power, the internet, your phone or computer – for a whole day? How do you work, talk to people overseas, find out addresses, look for businesses, design material, contact people or prepare school lessons?

masai

Masai warrior

I see people on Facebook who say they are going to do a fast for a week or month from it. While that’s nice, I see other people complaining that the power went out for two whole hours and their life was miserable. The thing is, we are so reliant on technology that I don’t think any of us can really do without it. I see Masai men herding their cattle in the middle of nowhere who access apps to see what the price of meat and veges are going for at the market.

lap

The only way to make my charger work.

One of the things we miss is the convenience of life, including access to technology. Living without it is a pain in the butt however it’s the reality of life for millions of people. So we learn to celebrate when we do have it, and survive when we don’t.

Here’s how we manage our challenging situation in Kenya:

  • Keep electronics charged 24/7
  • Put on surge protectors
  • Make sure you have enough credit on your phone for both airtime and the internet
  • Carry a plug in internet flash drive (with credit loaded)
  • Put at least 1,000KES (about $10) on your Mpesa system
  • Remember the cafes that have free wireless internet
  • Have a solar lamp powered up and ready to go
  • Have spare lights around the house
  • Buy a washing machine that automatically goes on when the power returns

What is your plan of action for living without technology?

The Challenges of Living in the Third World

I hate the wording ‘Third World’ it seems so second handy and demeaning. I’ve been living and working in Kenya for 5 months. While it’s early days yet, there is no time for putting one’s feet up and enjoying the scenery.

There are some big challenges here though:

1. Language

Just when you think you start understanding Kiswahili, you try and enter a conversation and you’re blocked out. On top of that there’s the different languages in different areas and then the slang called ‘sheng’ which is the street language in Nairobi. Having lessons is like going back to school. I’ve taught English as a second language for years, now the teacher has become the student.

2. Electricity

Or the lack of it. When we travel to the farm, an hour away, it’s in a rural setting. You expect the power to go off there and brace yourself for heating up water on the gas stove and use the headlamp to get around. You don’t expect to be in the city and have no power for days on end. So, you have to compensate by using solar, making sure everything is charged when there is power and know where the torch is. I’ve got my laptop down to 2% just before the power returned.

It’s amazing how having lights and access to electricity can change your mood. Sure, we have a TV and an office on solar power but to be able to work in the light makes you feel better.

3. Internet

Where we are living there is wireless internet but for no apparent reason it just stops working. This usually happens just when you urgently need to find something on the web. I’ve resorted to getting a plugin modem that I can use anywhere. $2.50 of internet can last for weeks, so it’s rather handy.

It’s amazing that you can be in the middle of nowhere, and you run across (as opposed to over) a Masai warrior dressed in traditional clothes and there he is on his phone Tweeting about events in the field. I’m off to Uganda next week so here’s hoping I have no hassles in getting the internet there. Not that I;m addicted to the internet but without it I can’t work.

4. Clothes

The clothes shops in the malls are so expensive, I’m talking about label price for something that isn’t. There are plenty of places you can buy cheap second hand clothes but I don’t have the time nor the patience to go hunting for them. Pete refuses to buy second hand, it’s below him. Import duty here can be between 75 – 125%, uping the prices hugely. We bought enough clothes to last us a year but now I realise that most of my tee shirts are black. I’m not a floral person (I do like flowers) and a lot of clothes have flowers on them. I hope to head to Sydney in February next year and I sure will be shopping there.

5. Being Forgotten

We made the choice to come to Kenya. Nobody forced us, no one twisted our arms, we came of our own free will. I totally understand that everyone’s lives are busy but it’s frustrating when your old friends don’t keep in touch with us. It is true that when you are out of sight, you’re out of mind. In our online world no one has an excuse to not keep in touch. I remember the CEO of Compassion years ago saying that the thing that breaks his heart is that so many sponsors don’t write to the children. I totally understand this. Not that I’m expecting a letter but the odd SMS, email, hi on Facebook goes a long way. I work about 90 hours a week and sometimes the work is overwhelming. Then, I get an SMS from a friend just to say hello and it encourages me to go on.

To me, relationships are the most important asset we have in life.

All the other things like terrible roads, limited money, distance from family, long hours and still not being in our own home pale in comparison to the opportunity we have in impacting the lives of young people here.

Challenges are here not to break us but to make us into better people.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself anyway!

Me and the girls

Me and the girls

Okay, I’m Ready To Go Home Now

I woke up this morning feeling angry, frustrated and ready to kill the rooster next door who announces EVERY morning that it’s 4am. I was over constantly finding new areas of my body swollen from mosquito bites overnight even though we have the state of the art bug killer system in our room. The fact that I haven’t got malaria yet is a miracle. Both wrists look broken but they’re only swollen. My forehead is a racing track for mossies and they leave not little hills where they’ve been. I have to sleep with a pillow over my head to keep the buggers away (yes, that’s how I feel) but they are so persistent they burrow under. I feel very justified squashing them and are SO happy when I find a dead one on my pillow.

Then I whacked my head on the window because it has a small frame to keep out burglars, even on the second floor. I had to buy a cheap second phone for a system here called MPESA, which enables me to transfer funds to you via a phone if needed. We’ve taken it in twice now and it still won’t work on the system. I’m told that I will get a text message so I can put credit on it. Three days later, still nothing.

We’ve waited 2 ½ months for our visas so we can stay in the country rather than drive 3 hours to the border and visit Tanzania for a day and then come back. On the same day I get a rejection letter from last year I get an approval letter from the lawyer. He tells me it’s costing $100, the Minister of Immigration’s letter says $1,000. Flip, I’m a development worker, we live from day to day, where would I find $1,000 from? Eventually we find out it’s a typo (sack the secretary I say) and I stop having a heart attack.

I realised today that I haven’t been out in the sun in over 8 weeks and I’m lily white. It’s ironic since I live in East Africa and not far from the Equator. All simply because it’s been head down and bum up working 24/7.

To put it in a nutshell, I miss the ease of life in Sydney. Sure, people complain they have to wait 25 minutes to talk to someone on Optus, but at least you can actually talk to someone.  Traffic is bad in any city, but if you get pulled up by a cop he’s not going to threaten to throw you in jail because you indicated to turn then changed your mind. And he won’t demand a $100 on the spot bribe while holding a rifle. If you take your phone in because it’s dodgy then they ask for your passport first, which you want to leave at home because you don’t want it stolen.

What I really wanted to do was put my head back under the covers and ignore the fact that I had to head to the office to answer the never ending stream of emails. I wanted to cry, kick something and pack a pre-school tantrum. Of course, I couldn’t because it changes nothing, and our housemaid (comes with the house sitting) would arrive soon and she would tell me to have more faith and get myself together (got to love her honesty).

Instead I went where I should’ve and that was to the Word of God. I’m reading through Matthew and at the end of chapter 19 the disciples say to Jesus ‘Hey, we’ve given up everything to follow you, what are we going to get out of it’ (my version). Jesus quick reply is that they’ll get back one hundredfold, and eternal life. Nice one Jesus! Put everything in perspective, what really is the thing that matters in life, is the eternity we get to hang with him.

A wise friend once said that when we get to Heaven our life on Earth will be like some vague memory compared to what we’ll have – forever. I quite like that philosophy.

So when I say I’m ready to go home you can be super spiro and think ‘Okay she’s ready to die and go to Heaven’. Not really, while to live is Christ and to die is gain, I’ve got a whole lot more to get in my life before I quit this place.

Am I ready to go back to Sydney? No, but when I do get to go on holiday boy am I going to enjoy it! Kenya doesn’t feel like ‘home’ yet, but we both agree, we aren’t meant to be anywhere else.

So when I say I’m ready to go home I’m talking about having a whole day off tomorrow. Staying in bed and reading, hanging out in my pj’s watching a DVD and then maybe cook something wickedly yummy and full of chocolate.

Until then, I will keep my eyes on where they are meant to be, on Christ who endured everything just for me. That’s when I’m trying NOT to scratch my myriad of mossie bites! Right now, I’m getting a towel, laying it on the ground and taking the next 10 minutes to try and get a tan.