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Forget the football because with only a month to go RACHEL IS COMING HOME. I hope plans for my surprise welcome home party are progressing nicely.
And with just a few weeks to go I have pulled up my socks and am working on finishing everything I've started and everything I haven't yet started (new website I'm looking at you). Ordinarily just the thought of how much I have left to do would bring me out in a sweat, but I’m already sweating, so I don’t even notice, so I am perfectly chilled about it (although not literally because Hot).
Did I mention before that its hot? Well now its major humid too because the rainy season is upon us. And in true late-to-the-party diva stylee it all kicked off with a Great Storm that whipped up so much red dust I couldn't see out the windows and started to wander if I wasn't in Kansas anymore but instead was about to land in Oz/Mars/a dystopian apocalypse. Many buildings across the area had their roofs torn off or completely buckled. But of more note, all my clothes, sheets and towels that were happily drying in the sun got absolutely soaked and covered in mud.
The rains also herald the start of the busiest few months at the clinic. Pretty soon, we'll be seeing people with malaria, and more people with malnutrition, gastroenteritis and respiratory illnesses. This means nearly all units across the clinic will have their hands full with more patients to treat and the ward at full occupation. Fortunately, another doctor is coming out for a few months - taking the total of doctors up to two!
The ward
The ward

 

You know they say travel teaches you things? Well, I have learned that in times of peril I clutch my skirts like a Victorian Lady who’s just seen a mouse. Skirt clutching scenarios include:
  • Great storms with thunder and lightning that is very very frightening and had me considering whether or not to run to my neighbours so I wouldn't face the apocalypse alone.
  • Wandering round a park with ‘tame’ crocodiles. Apparently they get fed well, so they're not hungry and so they won't eat people.
"If one of these things kills me don't let my mum know. I'll get no sympathy for voluntarily walking around potentially deadly animals."
  • Hundreds of flying creatures invading the kitchen (and blocking my access to ice cream) and a gecko barring me from escaping outside.
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Holla at me Hitchhikers fans because a towel really is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry.
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Holla at me LOTR crew because the way was shut, this Gecko had made it and he was keeping it.
Repeat after me: I will appreciate God’s wondrous creatures. I will appreciate God’s wondrous creatures. I will appreciate God’s wondrous creatures. I will appreci... But surely some of these beasts have been conjured in the fiery pit of Mordor?
In other non Rachel vs Nature news, I am no longer the only toubab in the clinic! I have a fellow foreigner with whom to share my Toubab Tiara with. Meet Anorthe, a student midwife from Germany, who on her very first morning with us, which also happened to be her birthday, helped deliver a baby!

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Please pray for her, she is having to live through my extremely experimental cooking. Though I think I’m doing a pretty good job styling like I’m used to life here and know how Gambia works. But there are still plenty* things I am not used to, including:
  • The abundance of mangoes in Mango season. Currently eating atleast one a day and hoping the yellow/orangeness of it all is topping up my tan (don't tell me this is not how science works, I'm not interested in your facts).
  • How many people have a daughter / son / wife / husband / father / mother / sister / brother / aunt / uncle etc who died before they were old. Accidents, illness...
  • Feeling so uneducated. Everyone here seems to speak two or three languages. I only speak one and now a small small* amount of Gambian English.
  • The difference the rain has made - the dry and dusty landscape is turning a glorious green. I find myself staring in amazement at patches of grass where I've only seen dust. Living water indeed.
  • Not having a washing machine. Being a fancy toubab my things get handwashed by one of the ladies in the village. But even fancy toubabs have to wash their underwear. May or may not have had to wear my bikini a few times when I've forgotten to do some washing. Also, everything that dries outside has to be ironed to kill any eggs laid in it by mango flies – if not, your body heat hatches the eggs and the larvae burrow into your skin. Am becoming a massive fan of ironed bed sheets (this is what it must be like to be royalty). May or may not have made a massive hole in one of my only three bras when I attempted to iron it (bet this is something Kate and Meghan have never had to deal with).
Though something I am getting used to/have become socially conditioned to accept - if there's no rice or bread are you even eating? I've decided to embrace all my loose, flowing, non-figure hugging clothes and just eat All The Foods. And by all the foods I mean carbs, starches and sugar. And by carbs, starches and sugar I mean bread, rice and biscuits. Its fine, I won't have a job when I get home. I will just live at the gym.
As ever, please tell me all your news. And don't forget - in just a few weeks I will be on-my-way-coming* home!
Till next time team x x
P.S. Still haven’t found Wakanda. The quest continues.
P.P.S. Don't forget the hot air balloon for my party. Or the cake. And if there could be a couple of Alpacas there too that would be fun. And maybe a disco ball. And Beyonce, could you get Beyonce there also? And Gin - a gin fountain would be fun. And pizza.
P.P.S. Watch this space because we have just finished editing a short video about the clinic!
*this is not poor grammar. This is Gambian English.

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A few FAQs for ya:
What’s the weather like? Its HOT. As in, 30something°C every single day by 10.30am. And before you say you’d happily trade – this is the kinda hot where just breathing makes you sweat, you have to wear contact lenses because the heat just makes your glasses slide down your face and underboob sweat is ruining all your bras.  Bonus to the heat though, if you manage to spill something all over you it dries in about 10 minutes – not that this happened to me or anything.
Where do you live?  WELCOME TO MY CRIB Y’ALL!
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High ceilings = excellent acoustics = I AM BEYONCE

 

The Blue House
The Blue House
I know, its huge. It used to be the nurse training school building before being converted into volunteer housing. As the only volunteer here right now one of the office staff moved in to keep me company and ensure I don’t get murdered in the night. Meet Emily:IMG_20180526_082354185_HDR
She persuades me to go cycling at 7am on a Saturday, asks me "What about the pink skirt?" when my clothes aren't nice enough for church and thinks I should marry her brother. I’m teaching her how to cook with an oven.
What do you eat? Whatever I want (more or less) - I do my own cooking. Although there ain’t any Lil' Waitrose out here in Sibanor – just a few small local stores crammed with all sorts of household items. So I’ve been doing my foodshop (read, stocking up on digestives) in the city and schlepping it back to Sibanor. Which has led to some pretty interesting combinations when I've run out of my good food - sweet ‘n’ sour tuna and cabbage stir fry anyone? (I’m not a sweet and sour fan. Nor much of a tuna fan. Or cabbage for that matter). I am having fun trying Gambian food though. Top of the list so far: domodah (peanut sauce with meat/fish, veg and rice) benachin (like jollof rice but with peanut instead of tomato).
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Table for 1?
What is Sibanor like? Sibanor is a small rural town of about 5,000 people and exactly three toubabs (white foreigners). It has a market mostly selling vegetables, a couple of mosques, a pre-school, a few general stores, a few tailors, a church, a school (and football pitch), a health centre (obvs) and not much else. Many homes don’t have electricity or running water.
What are the people like? For the most part, friendly. Greeting each other is big part of culture here - Peace be with you, good morning/afternoon/evening, is there peace with you, how is the morning/afternoon/evening, how is your wife/husband, how are your children... I am slowly slowly learning the greetings in a couple of the local languages. Kids just love me, or atleast they just love to herald my presence by screaming "TOUBAB TOUBAB TOUBAB!" at me wherever I go. I'm not one to boast but I'm pretty famous now - I don't/can't go anywhere in Sibanor unnoticed.
What do you do all day? Sit at my desk and try not to melt/research potential funders/write applications/other office type things. The evenings are a mixture of reading, cooking, washing clothes, visiting people and going to bed at 9pm. Though yesterday a few of us went swimming in a river. May or may not have spent much of the past 24 hours convinced I'm now riddled with river parasites and worms.

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This Sibanor life is a joy. It is a struggle. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. 

Got any other questions for me?

 

Dear Mum,

Just FYI - YOU'RE LIVING WITH A THIEF.

May have to come home early coz clearly all the locks I put on my bedroom door and all the Indiana Jones/Home Alone stylee traps have not been sufficient.

Love from Rachel

PS. Please inform the fam that I am now recruiting a new favourite sister. Interviews and auditions will be held in August. Extra points to anyone who makes me a cake and buys me all the books on my wish list.

Y’all I have a confession. My name is Rachel and its been 38 days since I last wore mascara.
I understand there are some serious issues people face in life but can we please just focus on me for a minute? #alleyelashesmatter
I figured the heat would make any makeup just melt off my face. So given that I didn’t want to end up looking like The Joker I didn’t bring any makeup. But now every time I look in the mirror I wonder why I look so tired and since when were my eyes so small. O woe is me.

princess diaries

So, I’ve made it over a month! I was asked what makes Gambia different from the UK. My answer - EVERYTHING:
The weather, food, people, public transport, cars, languages, social customs and norms, clothes and fashion, trees, animals and insects, electricity, bread, signs, shops and shopping, cooking, water, tea, taps, smells, noise, roads, houses, buildings, flowers, music, internet reliability, washing machines or lack thereof, church, sense of humour, landscape, grass, time, money...
Sittin' on the dock of the mangrove creek
Sittin' on the dock of the mangrove creek
Maybe this is why I’m crawling into bed at 9pm barely able to keep my eyes open. But God is good and I’m getting used to it. I’m even starting to feel like I’m getting a handle on much that happens at the clinic:
Monday is general clinic day – anyone and everyone comes to see a nurse and/or doctor.
Tuesday is antenatal clinic – sooooo many pregnant women. We’re the only health facility in the area where women can have an ultrasound scan.
Wednesday is paediatric day – you can hear children crying all the live long day. It starts when they get weighed at registration and goes on and on and on and on. Even my dead frozen heart of stone feels sorry for them.
Things I am yet to get used to:
  • All the goats, sheep, chickens, cows, donkeys, cat and dogs wondering around the health centre compound and casually strolling all over the main road. Apparently they all have owners and can all navigate their way back home.
  • Always feeling under-dressed. Clothes with loud patterns and colours are life to me (had you noticed?!). But these women are on a level I can only dream of. sibanor-june-2012-047
  • Getting a text every time its time to pray (5 times a day). Managed to somehow activate the PrayerTime function of my Gambia simcard.
  • Lack of interest in Brexit. Apparently not everyone in the whole wide world cares about UK politics.
  • Using cash all the time. Def no chip and pin or contactless out here in Sibanor. Wages are often paid in cash, and so is everything else. I've been told of some remote villages further up country where even cash is rare – most people are subsistence farmers and barter/exchange goods.
  • Lack of interest in the royal wedding. I legit had to explain who was even getting married. Apparently not everyone in the whole wide world cares about the ridiculous that is the UK monarchy.
  • Lack of access to McVities Chocolate Digestives in Sibanor. May or may not have spent the weekend going on a 160km round trip to the city, on seven forms of van/car/pickup truck, primarily so I could stock up on said biscuits. (Update: have eaten all the biscuits, now planning next escape to the city).
Hope you're all enjoying the bank holiday.
Evidence I am turning into my mother 105: Can't help but take photos of all the trees and all the flowers. THEY JUS SO PRETTY THO.
Evidence I am turning into my mother 105: Can't help but take photos of all the trees and all the flowers. THEY JUS SO PRETTY THO.
P.S. I haven’t found Wakanda yet, the search continues
PPS. There's still time to earn my undying love and devotion: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes 

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Dear Mum (and Nan and Sister),
Sorry, but I’m not coming home. They have Hibiscus jam here.
HIBISCUS JAM, Mum.
You know how much I LOVE Hibiscus. I can’t go back to a life without it. Sorry not sorry.
Hope you have a good week.
Much love X x x
As if I would take a selfie whilst eating. As if.
P.S. Please send extra funds, need to purchase new clothes. For some reason the ones I have no longer fit. Nothing to do with the amount of jam I've eaten I'm sure.

I lasted seven days.

One whole week.

That’s it. In my defence, a lot can happen in seven days (just ask Craig David).

Seven glorious days without getting bitten by some spawn of satan insect. Bugs 15: Rachel nil.

In all honesty, it was my fault. I‘d survived seven days which convinced me I was invincible and so I let my guard down and did all the things you’re not supposed to do:

  • Sit near stagnant water - Yep!
  • Go outside at dusk without long sleeves or trousers - Check!
  • Not use insect repellent - Full house!

Bah! I know better! What did the poet once say – pride cometh before the fall? Well, how the mighty have fallen and gone running limping to the anti-histamine cream and insect repellent.

So I’ve been in Gambia for just over a few of weeks now. Sorry not sorry to anyone who bet on me not lasting a fortnight.

I’m living at the health centre in Sibanor and slowly settling in to rural life.  I’m getting a good idea of clinic services but I’ve spent much of the past week in a constant state of bewilderment - although lots of people speak English to me, there’s also lots of Mandinka, Wolof and Jola spoken around me. Most of the time I have no clue what is going on. But, what I do know and what I have seen is that the health centre is doing an amazing job of providing quality health care with the little resource they have. One example – every Thursday the community outreach team travel to a village to screen people for hypertension and risk of diabetes.  They've also just started to vaccinate children in the villages who have missed out on their childhood immunisations for diseases such as polio, diphtheria and measles.

Life here starts early with 7.40am devotions three days a week, and staff teaching at 7.30am on Tuesdays. Yes, 7.30am. Fortunately my commute is probs not even 50 metres.

Def not getting all my steps in
Def not getting all my steps in

Though the real start to my day is around 5am when all the roosters in the whole wide world decide its time to have a sunrise party before the rest of the dawn chorus. These chickens are seriously testing my self-control and part-time vegetarianism – every morning I fight the impulse to run outside with a machete and provide everyone with chicken for lunch.

Staff teaching has been interesting – diabetes last week and asthma this week. Diabetes is just as much a problem here as it is at home. Many people here would rather die than lose a limb – with very little/no access to prosthetics losing a limb could mean that you are no longer able to cook for the family, grow food or work. For many, that is simply unacceptable and they will do all they can to avoid amputation.

Other things that have taken some getting used:

  • Power cuts
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There is def a God because I’d just taken my porridge out the microwave when the power went off this morning
  • Mosquito nets – can’t live with them coz you’ll get entangled trying to get out every single morning, can’t live without them or you’ll get bitten on the elbow by some miniature beast in the night (not that this is based on a true story or anything).
  • Patchy internet – o woe is me.

Anyway, enough about my first world problems. Hows things? Did you manage to beach/BBQ/get lost in B&Q this bank holiday?

Gambia has its mayday bank holiday on the 1st May so last Tuesday afternoon we held a Mayday Sports Day celebration for the staff:

Lime and spoon race
Lime and spoon race
Tug of war
Tug of War
The walking race
The walking race

Such fun! Although, again, didn't understand half of what was going on.

So all in all its been a good start – I'm currently enjoying the organised chaos of life here.

P.S. I’ve just finished the clinic newsletter so shoot me your email address if you want in.

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Y’all, I am certainly not in Kansas Croydon anymore, but somehow surviving.

Even managed to survive leaving the compound where I’ve been staying and going for a walk ALL BY MYSELF  and not getting lost (it was only along a main road. And I should confess that I didn’t even cross over the road – I'm not used to the traffic yet, its a little fluid and I'm a massive coward – but the point is  THAT I SURVIVED). SO COME AT ME WORLD I CAN DO ALL THE THINGS.

I have also managed to survive:

  • Wearing nearly all my clothes on the flight over.

    Screenshot_20180422-190221
    Yes. Yes I did take this selfie in the airport toilets. Judge as ye be judged.
  • The abject horror of realising that in my haste to get ready I’d forgotten about The First Shave of Spring – cue unveiling werewolf legs when I eventually removed some layers before landing in the tropics.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Deciding that I wanted to go home before I’d even left the country. Thanks be for friends who know the right thing to say at the right time, even at 6.28am on a Thursday:

    Screenshot_20180418-141801
    Bob Goff
  • Jumping a mile every time I think some spawn of satan insect has landed on me –  so far, its just been my very over active imagination and the anti-histamine cream remains in its box. Praise be.
  • Drinking tea with powdered milk. Yeh.

Sign me up for The Island because I am clearly a #survivor. All this survival has been immensely aided by:

  • Your amazing love and support (the crying emoji is my favourite right now because of you). For reals, thank you for your cards, texts, hugs, financial support (there's still time: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes), well wishing and even poetry. My people are amazing.
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ICYMI in the previous post.
  • No jet lag. The Gambia is in the same time zone as the UK - though because of BST is an hour behind.
  • A Sunday Roast after church today. Followed by apple pie and ice cream. In The Gambia. I know. Screenshot_20180422-185836
  • The lovely Dorothy and Doug looking after me this week and knowing where to find the best roast dinner this side of town - you can take the Scots out of Scotland but...
  • The weather – apparently it’s a lot cooler than normal for this time of year. That’s fine with me. I am relishing any time I am cold, pretty sure I will forget what thats even like soon.

    Def will be hotter than this in Sibanor
    Def will be hotter than this in Sibanor
  • For the past few days I’ve had wifi. Praise God from whom all blessings/wifi flow.
  • Finding a shop selling McVities choc digestives.
  • Realising I could have missed this. I could have let fear, doubt and a million other things stop me from saying yes.

The past few days I’ve been at HQ for orientation and tomorrow I head out to Sibanor (sadly no wifi, no roast dinners and no shops with choc digestives) where the health centre is and where I'll be based. I’m looking forward to meeting the staff, learning all about the clinic and starting to figure out funding.

Will try and update again soon - internets dependant.

P.S. Y’all. There are pigeons in The Gambia! Vultures too.

PPS. My undying love and devotion is still up for grabs: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes

PPPS. 7 years ago today marked the end of The NZ Blogs (https://rachelgoestonz.blogspot.com/2011/04/here-endeth-blog.html - LOLZ)

This is it y'all. Only a few hours remaining until I head to The Gambia

1st of All. Thank you so much wonderful people for your all your support. You have no idea how much it has made me cry and how much it has cheered me on. My people are the greatest and the most generous - thanks for reminding me how amazing you are. (PS. You can still chip in: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes)

2nd of All. Preach Brother Mark Boyle -

When you are preparing for a monumentous change in your life, the reality often doesn’t kick in until a few weeks beforehand. Then you start thinking about how it is really going to affect your life, wonder why the hell you decided to put yourself in such a position and occasionally, inevitably, ask yourself whether you can’t get out of it.

3rd of All. This past week has been a whirlwind of:

  • Wearing all my favourite clothes that are not culturally appropriate to wear in The Gambia (yes, I'm talking about you ever faithful leggings and minidress/skirt combo)
  • Eating all my favourite eats (yes, I'm talking about you pretentious yet delicious toast in Balham)
  • Saying 'see-you-in-August' to many of my favourite people (insert crying a river emoji here)
  • Asking my bffs "WHAT IS THIS LIFE/WHAT AM I DOING?" on a daily basis (general response: I don't know what you're doing either)
  • And really useful things that are definitely a good use of time and not some thinly veiled procrastination like folding all the clothes in my cupboard (inner neat-freak cannot abide the idea of coming home to a messy wardrobe) and cleaning my muddy walking boots (ditto re: neat-freakness). IMG_20180416_192734_940

So, my bag is packed and weighed. According to my sister Apparently, I am taking too many hair products...

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But what's a girl to do when 60% humidity hits?!

...too many books and too few clothes (my inner minimalist is rejoicing because I have always wanted to try a capsule wardrobe).

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As you can probs tell, its been anther weird week to round off a couple of months of weirdness. Most evidenced through the fact that I haven' changed my calendar since March. MARCH - behaviour previously never exhibited in the Life of Rachel. IMG_20180416_120546244_HDR (1)

And so, I'll just leave you with these:

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Bob Goff. One of my All-Time Heros.
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Because my friends are actual Lyrical Legends.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. da dadada daaaaa da da da da da.

Next stop, The Gambia.

This is it. There’s no going back. Flights are booked, anti-malarial tablets are ordered and I’ve had my Yellow Fever vaccine, supposedly (I didn’t feel the injection at all. AT ALL. The nurse told me that she’s very good at her job and even showed me the empty bottle. Apparently, I now have lifetime immunity to Yellow Fever. But I didn’t even feel the needle, so did I even really get the injection? So am I even really immune for life? Is my Yellow Fever certificate a lie? Don’t ever tell me this blog doesn’t ask the big questions of life).

Only 8 days to go. Nobody panic.

So, riding right next to Excitement is Lament because all these goodbyes have me realising all the things I will dearly miss:

  • My Favourite. Fortunately, he’ll probs thinks I look enough like my sister that when I see him in August he won't realise that I’m not her.IMG-20180101-WA0011
  • My Favourite’s 1st birthday, my Grandfather’s 90th birthday, my Dad’s 60th birthday and a fair few important 30ths too. ALL THE SAD FEELS FOR ALL THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO EAT CAKE and, you know, celebrate life or whatever.
  • My books. I HAVE NO WORDS FOR THE LOSS OF ACCESS TO BY BOOKSHELF. Do not even speak the K-Word to me (#deathtokindles).
  • My beautiful beautiful clothes. ALL THE SAD FEELS FOR ALL THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO WEAR BEAUTIFUL DRESSES AT BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND EAT CAKE.
  • Croydon – concrete jungle where dreams are made of.Croydon-skyline-sunset-from-mycitybookings.com_
  • Nando’s. And I only need two more chillies until I get free whole chicken.
  • Lemon Cheesecake with raspberries.gianna-ciaramello-466951-unsplash
  • Summertime London. The greatest city in the universe becomes even greater.
  • Tea. Of course I’m taking some teabags but it won’t be the same. It never is outside the UK and you know it.
  • Dairy Milk – see as above.
  • Music. I listen to music all the live long day. I have no idea how to get music on my phone. My brother is rather unhelpfully refusing to come down from York to solve this problem for me. I am about to enter a music desert. Pray for me.
  • Family & friends I guess. Whatevs. Never liked them that much anyway.
  • You. So if I haven't see you already then lets make it happen soon because this is the week of lasts - last Saturdays, last weeks at church and last chance for us to hang out.

ICYMI and you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about: I'm off to The Gambia for a few months to volunteer at a health clinic. Any support you can give would be greatly appreciated: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes 

2 Comments

Yep, you read right - in just a few short weeks I'll kiss good ol’ Blighty goodbye to go volunteer at a health clinic in The Gambia for 3ish months. I’M GOING TO THE GAMBIA Y'ALL.

Fear not! I will not be doing anything even remotely medical. I’ll actually be supporting the staff there with some fundraising, some website stuff and a few other charity organisational bits and pieces. I’d always assumed doctors, nurses and teachers were the only ones with useful skills outside of London. Turns out fundraising can be a useful skill too. Who even knew?!

I'll be based at the Sibanor Health Centre which sees 35,000 patients from the surrounding rural areas every year, treating everything from malaria to malnutrition and burns to snake bites. Running for just over 50 years, the centre is well established and people travel FOR MILES AND MILES to be seen by the doctors and nurses there.

gambia-until-7.7-188

Centre services include: a general outpatient clinic, maternity services, a HIV care programme, a 13-bed ward, a child nutrition programme and a Non Communicable Disease clinic (NCDs include cancers, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases). The Centre would like to expand screening for these diseases to more villages. Both the physical symptoms and impact on mental health keep many people trapped in poverty. Earlier diagnosis and treatment would help people live healthier lives for longer. I will be helping to find funding for this project.

As a volunteer, I cover all my own costs. I have been saving for a million and five years but if you'd like to support me it would be greatly appreciated - in return I offer my undying love and devotion and possibly even a postcard. Bank transfer/cheque/cash - just give me a shout and we can sort it out. Or here's a link to my JustGiving page. Thanks team!

Didn't I tell you that you would love this plan? My Nan took it surprisingly well, my sister, however, is still grumbling that I won't be around to help her sort her life out.

I am walking the fine fine line between excited and terrified hysteria. Never in a million and six years of wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be off to The Gambia to help a health clinic with some fundraising. And not gonna lie - the idea of living in a SMALL RURAL town does not fill me with joy (currently stockpiling batteries for my headtorch in anticipation of very many powercuts. Have also resigned myself to three months of Very Bad Hair Days *sighs*). There's also the small matter of new cultures, new languages, new people, new food... throw in giant spiders and I'm sitting in the corner crying and eating Nutella straight out the jar. I question my sanity on a weekly daily hourly basis.

map

So. The Gambia - that's in West Africa for anyone like me who went "Yeh, I've heard of that place but have no idea where it actually is." It's the smallest country on mainland Africa (a similar size to Yorkshire apparently), approx 50km either side of the River Gambia and other than a short coastline is surrounded entirely by Senegal. Yep, we can thank The Empire and Colonialism for these borders. The Gambia only gained independence from Britain in 1965 (cue some severe colonial guilt over the next few months - oh the joys of a British heritage. But win some/lose some - English is widely spoken and I don't need a plug adaptor). About a third of the population live below the international poverty line, struggling to survive on less than 89p a day.

thegirlgeneration.org/resources/gambia-resources

So there we go, next stop The Gambia. There has been nothing even close to normal about my 2018 so far - I think its safe to say its set to continue that way. I am not a fan of this unpredictability but as its entirely self-inflicted I can't really complain can I?

I will be back in August and I WILL MISS YOU A MILLION AND SEVEN so I'd very much love to see your beautiful face before I go - I HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD FOR YOU (for the next couple of weeks) SO JUST GIVE ME A SHOUT.

And yes, Dear Reader, I will endeavour to keep this sacred space updated with the joys of planning, preparation and actual Gambia life so you can live vicariously through all my adventures in navigating new cultures and moaning about mosquito bites. But more importantly, I'm very much an external processor so actually where would I be without you?

And in case you missed it the first time round - here's my JustGiving link. Thanks Team!

Here's to Abiding in The Gambia!

Just another 'O dear Lord what have I done?' moment