Archive for October, 2008


Monday, October 20th, 2008

Well, it really is all happening now!!

I’ve booked my flights. I leave on Thursday the 8th of January and I’m currently booked in for coming home on the 17th of May (though that date will almost certainly change)!!

It’s all very exciting. It really is happening now!!!

Going Away Party

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I’ll be having a going away party in Cambridge on Saturday the 3rd of January. So please put the date in your diaries and contact me if you’ll be able to make it (at which point I’ll give you further information about times and places and sleeping arrangements etc).

Peterborough Passport Office

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I’m sitting in a Cafe Nero in Peterborough with a nice cup of tea tapping away on my laptop. I came in to Peterborough today so I could get my British passport renewed quickly. It usually takes a few weeks to get it done, but I didn’t get my act together sufficiently early and am now needing to get it renewed in a day. At first glance this sounds a little odd (excuse the sensory mix-up) since I’m not going to Sri Lanka for another couple of months (in fact, my project starts exactly 12 weeks from today). But I need to get a visa for volunteering and that process takes several weeks. And I need a scan of my passport for my visa application – and will eventually need to get the visa in my passport. So my passport renewal had to happen sooner rather than later.

I was quite surprised at how easy it is. I pay a bit extra (plus train and time to come to Peterborough), but the interview isn’t onerous. I just showed up at 8am, had my bag searched and my water bottle left at the door by the security guard for me to collect on my way out. Spoke to a nice man behind a rather tall counter who took my bits of paper, photo and current passport and pointed me to another nice man behind a slightly less tall counter who took my money. 8:15 and I’m on the streets of Peterborough with 4 hours to spend before I can go pick up my new fancy (biometric) passport.

So I went for a coffee (or rather a cup of tea). I did quite well, I drank the whole thing and it only took me an hour and a half! That was at Costa. I chuckled with the barista (such a silly name for people who make coffee) when a woman wandered in and asked for a strong decaf coffee. He said: “It’s decaf, you can’t it do strong!” Though he did then concede that an extra shot of decaf was probably what was called for.

I then wandered around Waterstones and WH Smiths for ages (another hour and a bit gone) and got an English dictionary (I don’t currently own one) and a Sri Lankan Lonely Planet guide from the former and a do-it-yourself Will kit from the latter. I think writing a will is a good idea (I don’t have one yet) and now is a very good time to do it. Not that I think I’ll have any problems when I go away. I’m certainly going to do everything I can to avoid them. But wandering through Sri Lanka is probably more dangerous than Southern England (even considering the present War on Terror), so a will is probably quite wise. Just have to figure out what to do with all my squillions of squillionths of pounds. 🙂

Home again now and uploading this post. I did collect my passport. And I ran it through their fancy biometric checking device in the foyer of the passport office. So I’m all set!!

VESL Sponsored Walk

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I went to the Peak District a couple of weekends ago for a sponsored walk and reunion that VESL were organising. I was the only person there who hadn’t been out yet. They had representatives of all the years they’ve sent people away including (thanks to me) 2009! It was really great to meet up again with the guys who are sending me away. I met them at the information day and will get to see them again at my training day. It was also really good to meet people who have actually been out there and volunteered.

I was sharing a room with 4 girls. Two of whom had been to India about a year ago, the other two had been to the same project about 6 months ago. So each pair had heard about the other pair but had not actually met before. It was really great listening to them talking about the project and comparing notes (and photos)! It was also quite amazing to see the bond between each pair. I am really looking forward to meeting my partner (whoever they are) and am quite sure I’ll end up developing a strong friendship with them.

I was also talking to some of the others who had been to Sri Lanka and to someone who had been to Thailand. They were all quite jealous of me since I have the trip ahead of me and all assured me that I will love it!!!

It was great to hear such positive things from them about their trips and about VESL too. Mind you, anyone who went and hated it isn’t exactly likely to go to the Peak District for a sponsored walk to raise money for VESL!!

Talking to the people who had been has changed my plans slightly too. Small things: I’ve decided that I need to get my camera soon so I can take photos of Cambridge and my life here to take with me. They work well as teaching materials and the kids apparently really love seeing photos of the volunteers and where they are from. I’m also going to try and get a camera that will be somewhat robust. After three months of 35 degree heat and 75% humidity and being handled, played with and generally loved but lots of small children, it’s going to take a beating. I also need to find some children’s songs that I can learn and teach the kids (singing seems to be a great thing to do as a teaching technique). Also on the shopping list are gold stars (or other equivalent stickers).

The bigger change is my thoughts about my time out there. They were all quite unanimous in telling me that I won’t want to leave. My plan had been to teach for the 3 months and then spend two weeks with Sam and Pete holidaying in Sri Lanka. I had then been planning on coming back to Cambridge. I’m now budgeting for spending an extra month or two out there and am considering popping across to India for a bit of travelling there too, since I’ll be in the vicinity. So I should be back in Cambridge sometime between April and June. Or maybe a bit later. 🙂

I’ve started trying to acclimatise myself to chilli and will be trying to eat as much of it as I can manage between now and going away. The Sri Lankan curries are apparently very hot!! But, when your only food option is curry, you apparently get used to them quite quickly. Though I have been warned that there will come a day when curry for breakfast (again) will be quite difficult to face!

But back to the walk. We did about 15 miles on the first day and about 5 miles the second day. I could tell I’ve been in Cambridge for far too long since my knees seemed to be quite concerned about the walking downhill thing. They could cope ok with going up, but going down proved quite a problem. So I did have a rather painful left knee for the best part of a week later. Oh, and my feet got rather wet. I had only brought one pair of shoes (trainers at that) and they got very soggy about a quarter of a mile into the walk on day 1. Ah well, a wet foot or two isn’t the end of the world and I had enough clean, dry socks to change into. And frankly, if I’m going to be phased by a weekend in the Peak district then I’m really not going to cope well with Sri Lanka. 🙂

I know that it is traditional to request sponsorship before one does something like this, but I’d been rather busy in the lead up to going away and had forgotten to tell enough people about it or to specifically ask for sponsorship. But if you’d like to sponsor me in retrospect (the picture on the VESL website shows me (in the white jacket) on the top of a hill – proof I’d actually done it), then please feel free. For UK tax payers, please go to my Just Giving site. For all others, please donate via my Paypal account (the link is on my website).

Fund Raising Dinner

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I did another fund raising dinner on Saturday night. There were 9 of us. I made bread, hummous, chestnut and mushroom pie, mashed potatoes, honeyed carrots, balsamic cabbage, white chocolate risotto, dark chocolate chilli sauce, strawberry chocolate ganache, coffee ganache, chilli and orange ganache, whipped cream, raspberries and failed meringues. It was all quite tasty (even the failed meringues) and was a really great night. So thank you to everyone who made it. Your presence and assistance was greatly appreciated. As was the cash! That’s me £80 closer to getting away.