Reflections on 2013 & my hopes for 2014

As December ends, I start to think about the past year and my achievements. When I first thought about my 2013, I originally thought I had not achieved that much. However, a random comment on facebook (thanks Danny!) made me look at my year in review and this revealed a bigger picture of my achievements both big and small.

On New Year’s eve, I created and posted on fb a list of the key things I achieved and enjoyed in 2013:

*had an amazing new year in Bruges

After a lifetime of NYE in London, three years ago I decided to spend new year in a foreign/ new city. I have celebrated in Edinburgh, Bruges and this year Liverpool. I find being away from home psychologically helps me to feel like I am starting a new year afresh and the experience of discovering a new place makes me more positive about the coming year and what I will achieve in it.

*moved house

It seems commonplace to write about but after two months of stressful looking, in March 2013 I moved in with my landlady Julia and two cats. I have gained a new home and a new friend.

*started swimming lessons & progressed well

This is one of my biggest achievements of 2013. I am pretty much terrified of water and it took all the patience of my swimming teacher Katy to get me in the adult pool, let alone learn how to tread water and take my first stroke of swimming unaided. I now can’t believe I progressed as much as I did in such a short time and will be resuming my lessons soon.

*helped to organise a fab 30th bday for one of my oldest friends

This is a small achievement but I’m glad that I was able to have some input and contribute to one of oldest friends 30th birthday. Particularly as I was not there to celebrate in person. Knowing that she was happy and thoroughly enjoyed herself made me glad.

*travelled to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi & Mozambique

This is my biggest achievement of 2013. Myself and Fu travelled overland from Kenya to Mozambique in 6.5 weeks, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve always wanted to do some ‘proper travelling’ and see more of the motherland, but it was in July 2013 that I finally got to realise that dream and surprised myself by how much I got into backpacking. I met some lovely people in the most varied of circumstances; saw some of the most beautiful places in the world and just lived for the moment. I have definitely been bitten by the travel bug and plan to have some more adventures in 2014.

*celebrated my 31st birthday

This isn’t really an achievement, but after having some considerable angst about turning 30, I am pleased that I was able to celebrate being 31 with equanimity. (and with lots of friends, alcohol, dancing and excellent food!) I also find that I am more self aware, more committed to taking responsibility for my life and financially stable, all of which I strived for in my 20s and which I have learnt is an ongoing process.

*organised another great Black History Month event at school.

For two years I have organised and hosted a Black History Month event at my school, celebrating the achievements of those from the black diaspora and those students whose academic excellence should be celebrated. It was a great night and highlighted both of these with lots of positive feedback from parents.

*helped to set up a feminist society at school

I am a feminist. I think feminism is important and benefits both men and women. I discussed this with a like minded teacher at school and a feminist group has been started. The group have already taken part in the ‘I need feminism because’ campaign. In a world where gender stereotypes are rife and media portrayals of women often focus on their relative attractiveness, we need to give young people the tools to deal with this crap.
On New Year’s day I thought about what did I want to achieve in 2014 and how was I realistically going to achieve my goals.

My biggest commitment this year is to continue to aim for more positive mental health. I am using the term mental health deliberately because there is unnecessary stigma about the term. I started this blog because I want to become a more positive person, and what I actually meant was – I wanted to be able to see my world in a different way and be more appreciative of what I have. A change in my mind set- an improvement in my mental health. As a coach and educator, I know having a positive mind set and understanding your goals and motivations are key to achieving any goal. By having more positive mental health this will enable me to achieve all my other goals. How am I going to achieve this goal? By surrounding myself with positive & supportive people; by reading more- A road less travelled and books on mindfulness are on my reading list and by starting samba classes (Sundays @ Islington Arts Factory if you fancy it!) . Doing what you love is also a powerful motivator so I will continue to tend to my mini garden and read lots.

This brings me to one of my other goals. I recently read an interesting article about a woman who is only going to read books by writers of colour in 2014. As a black woman who reads voraciously, I am aware that whilst I have read books by writers of colour, I have never made a conscious effort to do so and so my knowledge of literature is mostly western, with the occasional foray into the literature of the country I am visiting and writers of magic realism. I have also been a bit concerned about the lack of diversity in both the characters and writers in one of my favourite genre’s- fantasy. I had a quick scan of the books I now own and this confirmed to me that whilst there was some diversity, most of my books were written by white, western authors. So inspired by the article, book suggestions found in fantasy threads and my amazon wish list, I went to the Islington library catalogue and came up with a list of books to read in 2014:

  • Coolie Woman/ Gaiutra Bahadur (Indo- Guyanese)
  • Pride of Carthage & Acacia: War with the Mein Bk. 1 / David Anthony Durham (African American)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy 1) / N. K. Jemisin (African American)
  • The bastard of Istanbul & The gaze / Elif Shafak (Turkish)
  • The museum of innocence : a novel / Orhan Pamuk (Turkish)
  • Fictions / Jorge Luis Borges  (Argentinian)
  • The fall of the stone city & The Palace of Dreams / Ismail Kadare (Albanian)
  • Arabian nights and days / Naguib Mahfouz (Egyptian)
  • Sugar in the blood : a family’s story of slavery and empire / Andrea Stuart (Bajan/Barbadian)
  • Witchbroom & Light falling on bamboo/ Lawrence Scott (Trinidadian)
  • When the Only Light Is Fire / Saeed Jones (African American/ LGBT)
  • The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao & This is how you lose her / Junot Diáz (Dominican)
  • We need new names / NoViolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwean)
  • Ghana must go / Tayie Selasi ( Ghananian)
  • Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital / Lloyd Bradley (Black British)
  • Twelve Tribes of Hattie / Ayana Mathis (African American)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God / Zora Neale Hurston (African American)

Wish me luck with my epic reading list and my quest to be a more positive, healthy person this year. I hope to have more good times with old friends and new and fit in at least one travel adventure. This will also be the year I learn to swim! Here is my final thought for what i want in 2014:



Double Whammy- Malawi & Mozambique

Beautiful Malawi

21st Aug 2013 (from diary)

Butterfly space hostel

We have been here for 2 days and I have not wrote a word. We arrived on Sunday night exhausted from our epic journey overland from Tanzania. A journey that included early morning rising, dalla dalla’s, walking, an epic 4 hour cab journey and a 19 hour train journey. Ach.

Malawi is very beautiful; the landscape varies from being very lush; the rubber plantations and groves of banana trees invoking India. It has dramatic up and downs as you are driving across the country and of course the Lake is the cherry on the cake. The lake is a shimmering expanse that stretches as far as the eye can see. I have seen more sunrises and sunsets than I care to mention and there have been some pretty spectacular orange and pink ones which I have attempted to photograph and one day I will upload!

On Monday I woke up at 6.30am and headed out for breakfast which is a communal affair here at Butterfly Space. We grabbed our swimming gear and headed to the private ‘beach’ and honestly I have never seen such clear water. I was sitting in the water and could see fish swimming around my body and at one point was nibbled one! The water was so clear that I finally put my face in the water and had a good look at some very pretty turquoise fish. We spent the morning at the lake and headed into Nkhata bay town which was very busy as it was market day. Cue lots of sardines and tomatoes being sold side by side. The next day the lake was incredibly rough, it resembled the sea with large waves, completely different to the clear glass of the day before.  Butterfly space where we are staying is a right hippie place, shitting into compost toilets that are open above the waist,  cold water showers made out of rock that look over the lake, communal breakfasts and inclusive community project. Toilet was up a small rocky slope- not a fan myself, luckily we were encouraged to water the trees. Owners very nice and friendly.

Ruby’s Terrace

Bom dia Mozambique!

29th August 2013

After a horrific journey from Malawi to Mozambique, which involved my card not working in several atm’s and not being to cross the border we had chosen. We ended up in the small town of Mangochi in Malawi and were helped by a very nice civil servant Josiah who found us somewhere cheap to stay and most usefully, an ATM that worked! (Fu lost his wallet & card in the cab coming into Malawi). We ended up on yet another coach that didn’t leave until packed to the rafters, this one had people standing in the aisles as well as the usual rice/ luggage etc. We were introduced this day to bicycle taxi’s- just picture fu and I with our massive rucksacks on the back of these bicycles. Getting over the border was very hard because there was no taxi’s or buses contrary to other borders we had crossed, our two options was a van with the driver being told off for the amount of beer bottles on the car floor or a massive haulage truck. Massive haulage truck it was! Comedy night ensused, we rented someone’s hotel room from them for four and a half hours and finally got on the train from Cuamba to Nampula.

Window shopping takes on new meaning in Africa, at every stop people rush to the train with fruit, veg, snacks, chickens, fried food and the others in the compartment rush to buy these via the one window. We found that the bread in Mozambique is excellent and enjoyed ourselves buying various snacks. (I was enjoying Fu’s ridiculous Portuguese accent).

So onto Mozambique itself. Well we both love it so far despite not being to speak the language. People are friendly and the landscape beautiful. We are now on Ilha de Mozambique which is the definition of decaying grandeur. Many of the Portuguese mansions and elaborate buildings have crumbled in places; however people continue to live in the shells of past houses. We went on a bicycle tour yesterday- those of you that know my cycling technique can imagine the stopping, starting and general hilarity of me trying to cycle over bumps and not career into playing children, women carrying babies on their hips and boys staring at the foreigner on the local bicycle. At one point a girl came up behind me and pushed me along! Achhhhhhh. Lol.

Today Fu went to Goa Island, a beautiful desert island with a lighthouse that is only accessible for several hours a day. I spent the day enjoying the beautiful coast and having a guided tour of the museum and museum of sacred art. The latter delivered entirely in Portuguese. Thank goodness for a Catholic upbringing and some basic Spanish! The Island is how I thought Zanzibar would be, and it is both lively and incredibly serene depending on where you are. We are hoping to party hard Latin style over the weekend and then Fu can practice his chat up line ‘Hola minina, tu es muy bonita’ (Hey girl, you are very beautiful). Of course I will not being doing anything of the sort lol. Small note on where we are staying- Ruby’s is gorgeous- beautiful white med style terrace with cerise bougainvillea and lovely rooms. Loving it.

M is for Michelle in Mombasa!

So its been a while since I last posted.  I’ve been having a crazy time. We went to the Masai Mara which was AMAZING! (Blog post to follow). Now we are in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast and I am sitting in a very hot internet cafe in Port Reitz, staying with Connie, who has been feeding us LOTS of amazing kenyan food. Yesterday we had ugali and fish for lunch and then beef pilau rice with coconut cassava. Easily the best food I have eaten in Kenya so far!

We left Nairobi early friday evening and I had the beginnings of a dodgy stomach earlier on in the day.  We settled into our train- first class doncha know and were called for dinner in the restaurant cabin which was an experience! It was a little bit bumpy to say the least. Fu wasn’t well so I went to dinner alone and was sat with a lovely family. I was immediately put in charge of their young daughter who only spoke German- ACH! But the meal was fun and I enjoyed interacting with them. Unfortunately the story goes downhill from then. I became intimately acquainted with the bathroom over the next ten hours and was feeling both weak, nauseous and grumpy when we arrived into Mombasa. I will say that the ride was certainly an experience but only for those that can sleep like the dead.  We were near to the connecting carriage and the jangling noises were a bit too close for my delicate self. However, it was lovely to see the sunrise in the morning and to see village life wake up as the train wound closer to its destination.

We got a cab to Mombasa Backpackers in Nyali and were given a dorm room outside. Outside meant cane walls and a roof. Luckily it is really warm here so cold nights weren’t a problem. We spent all of sat recovering , being a bit grumpy with our various ailments and mostly drinking fluids in my case. I had an excellent nights sleep that night despite sharing our room with a load of go getting business students determined to do everything they can in mombasa in as little time as possible.

Sunday was our best day in Mombasa because we met with Hattie’s friend Sadiki, and we started to have a proper Michelle type day. We went to Fort Jesus and I took lots of pics, we went on a tour of the old town which was very lovely. I had another mare trying to get Laura Blizzard pics printed but finally got it done. We then went to pirate’s beach which is everything you think of when you think tropical beach- white sand, clear turquoise water and sun. Sadiki and I chilled on the beach while Fu and our new friend Kat went swimming and on a catamaran. I am yet to do some swimming but plan to soon when we go to Diani beach tomorrow.

Today we have been wandering around Port Reitz school, looking at their school garden and speaking to children when we can. It it is very warm here and I am eaily worn out (haha maybe that is not just the heat!).  You can see the Indian Ocean from Connie’s house and I have been sitting outside this morning looking at the beautiful blue sky and hearing reggae from her neighbours house. Its been a little bit emotional being at Connie’s house because it makes me miss Hattie but I am having a good time and hopefully my stomach will stay still for a while yet.

Next stop- Diani beach!


Brussels- Smooth, smooth, smooth

From Brussels airport (mistakenly posted on FBC- whoops)

My journey so far has been incredibly smooth.I have traveled from the airport to the hostel and back again and managed to be on time for all!

Not a great sleep last night (lots of Italian yoof chatting outside bedroom window) but hey i have a 12 hour flight to relax.

I am already learning some life lessons.

1. No matter how much prep you do, you will never feel ready. So you might as well just do it.

Before leaving I wanted to download new music, learn some swahili, try epilating my legs, contact ppl etc. There was not enough time and the most important thing is that i actually go and have the journey. Screw everything else.

My internet is running out so my next update will be in Nairobi!!!!!!!!!!!

ps for the feminist ( a young girl is reading half the sky 🙂

pps howard- saw a restaurant chinoise called fu pao :))

New blog for my new adventures!

It doesn’t feel real that I am going to be Kenya in a few days. I am sitting at home, on my very messy bed surrounded by travelling paraphernalia and there are so many little things I should be doing right now but I am enjoying the quiet before the storm!

I will blogging here as much as I can about my travels in East and South Africa, partly because I know you will interested to hear about it and partly as a online diary for myself. So save the link/ sign up for email updates (if i get round to doing it).

There is so much I want to say about this journey, why I am taking it, what I hope to achieve, where I hope to go. But alas, I need to download some Swahili lessons & Frank Ocean so it’ll have to wait!

Next update: Brussels (if they have free wifi).Image