12 Months of Simple Living: End of Year Thoughts

It’s been a year of this transformation journey and as January 2018 arrived, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on each month and what impact, if any, it has had on the way I live my life now.

1. | January – Vegetarian |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Vegetarian Recipes

If there was ever going to be a controversial challenge it was this one. With opinions and beliefs splitting people world wide on the subject, it was always going to be harder for a previously strict carnivore to “try out” being Vegetarian for a month and then blog about the short lived and not hugely successful experience. But this journey is my own and now I can see this short lived month really did have an effect on my view, and now my lifestyle choices. However insignificant they might seem, they are still small steps toward a healthier life and a better world.

Since January, I’ve found myself increasingly choosing the vegetarian options whether it is in my work canteen, at home or out to eat with friends. I put this down to a change in my attitude towards meat as a result of understanding the vast amounts of waste, the damage to the environment and the inhumane treatment of animals all for the sake of corporate greed.

From a health point of view, I am so much more aware of the fats and greasiness of meat and how much heavier it sits in my stomach, I do tend to feel a little odd when I eat some types of meat now. It does make me wonder what sort of diseases we are potentially exposed to by eating meat.  That’s not to say I don’t crave the odd steak now and then but I am so much more aware of  trying to choose organic, free range, grass fed meat.

Having said that, I do want to aim to be even more veggie and I have concluded that being a full time vegetarian would be the ideal lifestyle choice and probably is how we were once meant to be. Not that any of my life choices are ideal- we’ll see!

Note: Spiralizers interest me now more than ever before!

 

2. | February – Forgiving |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This one has to be the hardest of all as it’s a continuous battle and a continuous cycle. Choosing to let people off the hook when they have wronged you seems unnatural to our human instincts and makes us feel like a doormat sometimes. But this doesn’t have to be so. I am continually reminding myself that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; if you are continually wronged, don’t let them wrong you again. But love them and show them kindness anyway.

I can definitely see improvements with the way I handle disagreements, knowing that just because we have differences of opinion doesn’t make us bad people, just unique individuals who handle things in different ways. I try to respect another’s perspective even if I disagree.

I still struggle with letting things go quickly, but I can usually get over it after taking a breather. And with my long term grievances, it will always be a battle to maintain forgiveness but I will keep trying.

 

3. | March – Positivity & Thankfulness |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
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This challenge is one that went beyond my natural disposition. I’ve grown up in an environment of complaining, from my family to the culture of the UK, so trying not to was a real difficulty. Being thankful for everything, including the bad times, just opens your eyes to how blessed you really are. Blessed you have arms and legs, and eyes and ears, blessed you are able to use them, blessed you have food, shelter and a job. There’s actually a lot to be thankful for!

I really struggle, still, to see the glass half full rather than half empty but I am working on it. A good way to start thinking a bit more positively is by writing a diary of your week noting, at various points of the day, how you felt – happy, sad, angry – and to what degree out of 100% you felt those emotions. When you look back, you will likely realise you have a much happier life than you initially thought. This is because our minds get conditioned just to remember the negative and not the positive.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

 

4. | April – Stick at It |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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This challenge  actually made me realise that my problem wasn’t so much giving up on things, as feeling like giving up every time something gets tough. Also it was about believing in my ability to achieve what I set out to do.

Through going travelling, something I needed to do for myself but was afraid to, it helped me build confidence in myself. I’m trying to maintain this confidence now that I am back; it’s actually the mundane things in life that knock the confidence out of you.

I have found myself being a little braver and taking those risks even if I might fail, but there’s still work to be done!

 

5. | May – Exercise |

Navigate: Part One| Part Two | Part Three

This one’s gone out the window! Seriously, I don’t like doing any of it – classes annoy me, I don’t even know where to start in the gym, I HATE running, going for walks in the cold British weather is not up there on my fun list… so what can I do?!

I know I have to exercise, I know it’s very important for mental and physical health, but I just need to find something I actually enjoy doing.

I am working on it!!! The only classes I do quite enjoy are yoga classes, so I will try to keep those up at least. Any suggestions? Let me know!

 

6. | June – Meditation |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

A very interesting challenge, in that, I thought this would be the easiest, but it turned out to be much harder than I thought.

I enjoyed it when I did it, but I found that I had to make time for it, rather than try to fit it in my day.

I haven’t kept it up on a daily basis but have naturally found myself meditating on life, faith and positive thoughts when on my own and spending time enjoying the beauty of Nature.

“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.”
― Amit Ray

 

7. | July – Water |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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A challenge that you either understood completely or didn’t get at all. Fellow water haters, I confess, I was doing so well and then I reverted… But I have a plan to get me back on track!

Drinking water has always been at the bottom of my to do list, and something happened when I realised, in my sugar free month, that (some) wines only had naturally occurring sugars; I started drinking more wine… And more… Not like an alcoholic, but just like with my dinner and in replacement for water…

Okay jokes aside (sort of), I just struggle in this already damp and wet, cold English weather to feel thirsty. I feel somehow I’m absorbing so much water just through breathing damp air. And even when thirsty, I’m so cold I opt for a dehydrating cup of tea (that’s right, tea is a diuretic so you ultimately lose more water than you take in).

But the plan? I bought this from Kikki.K and I intend to use it.
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New Year, new pee… I mean me.

8. | August – Say Yes |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
Climb every mountain

This challenge was certainly the most adventurous and the most rewarding, delivering me to exciting new places, giving me more out of life and connecting me with the best people the world has to offer!

It’s an attitude that takes courage and takes self-belief. You need to be a risk taker, taking chances when there may be disappointment. Worst, you need to be prepared to be disappointed.

I have definitely carried on with this type of attitude, but I have to remind myself. I am naturally cautious and if left to my instincts, I would let opportunities pass me by. I struggle with disappointment and so when I am let down it hurts, a lot! But life is not going to get more interesting, fun or exciting if you don’t take risks.

I hope 2018 will be a year that I don’t hold myself back with my own self-doubt, but a year which I open my eyes to opportunities and take them with both hands!

 

9. | September – Slow Down |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

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Image Credit: ryangoggin.com

This one is harder to keep up when life just gives you busy schedules week on week. Certainly, my technology diet assisted with this and I naturally slowed down in most aspects of my life.

I have since had to remind myself to enjoy beautiful moments, the first full moon of 2018 for example, and a stunning sunrise the following morning.

Slowing down ties in with meditation, with reducing social media and other time fillers and many other parts of my yearly challenges.

I hope to carry on a slightly slower, more purposeful pace into 2018.

 

10. | October – Sugar Free |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner | Dessert
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This is the challenge I am most proud of. It was complex and required a lot of effort; cooking, reading ALL labels, turning down tasty office junk food etc. But I smashed it!

I honestly saw the health benefits (especially when I returned to sugar), I realised the effect that sugar had on my asthma!

Sadly, the return to sugar has been a full submersion due to the time of year, but I would like that to change in the new year and I’d like to greatly reduce my intake. If not for my overall health, for my asthma (which has suffered greatly due to the return to sugar and all the other factors that trigger it).

I will proudly say though, that I have not returned to putting sugar in my tea!

 

11. | November – Technology Diet |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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Being cut off from the world of social media came with mixed feelings… It was strangely freeing but at the same time isolating.

Yes, I missed out on social events, life updates from all my 900+ facebook “friends” (ha! I have more than you! JK) and ultra-hilarious memes, BUT I gained an independence, learned a new language (slash carried on learning Spanish from all my years of dabbling) and met people in more organic ways.

Being back on social media, I actually am not as bothered anymore… It’s sort of an effort to post so I’m doing it less. And I’m only really scrolling through facebook for the “12 times you failed at life” style posts, because … they make me giggle.

So, although I won’t keep off social media, I think I have struck a balance along the way.

 

12. | December – Volunteer |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
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What a feel-good way to end the year; by volunteering! I honestly got such a sense of achievement by helping these charities in the skills that I had to offer. I really cannot urge you enough, if you have any spare time, to give some of it to a charity of your choice. You will form new friendships, new connections and it can even help you gain more skills.

One thing that is overlooked when people are looking for jobs but lack the experience, is volunteering. The way I gained my administrative experience was by volunteering for the Lifetrain Trust. So if this is where you find yourself, just go for it – if not to help, then to look better on your CV. But you will feel good when you see the contribution you have made to these charities.

Charities do amazing work, and I will be more than happy to give more of my time to volunteer during 2018!

 

So that’s it, my end of year update! Let me know how you have found my challenges and if you have a resolution for 2018!

Thanks for reading!

Ciao!

X


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December Month 12: Volunteering (Part Two)


Challenge: Volunteer
Charities: The British Red CrossThe Natasha’s ProjectBe@titudes
Total Hours completed: 23
Thoughts: “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
― Horace Mann


The Final Challenge: To Volunteer

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Getting myself started with volunteering wasn’t as simple, quick and easy as I thought. The thing with volunteering is, the opportunities to do so are there but you do have to look for them. Most charities really need long term commitments and not one off days here and there. But I found this site useful in finding opportunities nearby that fits my skillset and availability.

Thankfully I have some good connections and so it wasn’t long before I had booked myself up for a few days. My workplace pay for up to 5 days a year of volunteering leave so I can volunteer without fear of losing out on a day’s work. I was able to take advantage with 2 of those days.
Tip: If you are thinking of volunteering, why not ask if your work place would be open to doing the  same? Charity has become a very important part of our society, especially to businesses and you will be surprised at how supportive your place of work can be towards you volunteering.

 

How did it go?

As promised, I gave time to Be@titudes, giving two of my Saturday mornings to hang out with Rosemary and be that extra pair of hands. It was there that I found out how much of a help it has been that the Duke of Edinburgh awards have included voluntary work as a mandatory. Two lovely girls were also giving up their Saturday mornings to help in the shop and really seemed to be enjoying it!

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Image Credit: http://www.facebook.com/DorkingBeatitudes

If you have a spare Saturday and want to do something good for the local Dorking community, consider volunteering here!

I was also lucky that Val (my partner in crime for all of my challenges) volunteers regularly at the The British Red Cross and so was able to contact the manager directly and arrange a time for me to come along.
I was given free reign to arrange the Bridal window as I please and organise the bridal room. I was also able to bring in my pre-loved wedding dress and donate it. I hope you think I did a good job:

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If you are getting married, try popping in to the Red Cross, you will be surprised at the quality of the Wedding dresses in stock; some are even brand new!

Even if you aren’t getting married, pop in anyway – I put out some (otherwise) expensive designer bags and shoes yesterday; Ugg, Cos, Ted Baker and more! I may have nabbed a cheeky deal myself… shopping and working, what could go wrong?!

Sadly, I couldn’t volunteer at The LifeTrain Trust this time, but I will be doing so in the new year which I am looking forward to!

I was, however, able to volunteer my time from home by doing some admin work for The Natasha’s Project! This has been particularly good because it means I can fit it around my job and social life so it doesn’t feel as if I’m giving up an entire day. If you have any skills around fundraising, social media, general admin or even if you have some connections that will help this amazing charity to get some secure funding then get in touch!

 

The Conclusion


Success rate: 100%
Hours given: 23



Will I carry on volunteering?
 Definitely! I already am looking at doing some hours with the LifeTrain Trust in January and I will continue to support Be@titudes, the Red Cross and the Natasha’s Project.

What can we do? Get involved! Give some time to any of the charities that I have supported this year, or any causes that are close to your heart. Whatever you do, whether it is giving a sandwich to a stranger, or lending a hand to a friend in need, the reward is the same; a little light of kindness in a broken world.

If you can’t give time, you can always give dolla $$. Many companies are starting to do charity matching, whether they match a certain monthly contribution you decide to make to a charity of choice or they may match an amount that you raise for a charity through an event up to a set limit. Ask your employer about this!

Or if, as the new year looms, you are feeling super inspired by my 12 months of simple living, why not give yourself monthly challenges and wager your time/money to a charity for when you (inevitably) balls up!

I hope you have enjoyed following my year! Here’s to an amazing 2018!

X

 

December Month 12: Volunteering


Challenge: Volunteer
Charities: The British Red Cross,  The LifeTrain TrustThe Natasha’s Project, Be@titudes
Thoughts: “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.


The Final Challenge: To Volunteer

Why Volunteering?

Having had different charities each month benefit from my failures by reaping financial reward, it made sense to close the year by giving my time to some of these Charities.

Volunteering has always been something close to my heart. Growing up in West Africa, poverty and need was not something alien to me, and one of my favourite things about the culture of Ghana, was the willingness of the people to share with one another. It was not unheard of for people to show up at a friend or neighbour’s house in a time of need and expect to be fed, housed or even have money lent to them. For all it’s flaws, the Ghanain culture is an open and giving culture and teaches you that what you have is not yours alone; it is by good luck if you are well off and it is your duty to share this with your friends, your family, and even strangers.

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The welfare system we have in place here in the UK, although necessary and a God-send for so many, seems to put a distance between our connection to need and our understanding of how we fit in in terms of giving. Here, if someone needs, it’s the government’s duty to provide. In Ghana, if someone needs, it’s the family’s duty to provide. One common way this is done is by having “house girls” or “house boys”; a distant relative or friend of a friend of a friend could approach you and in exchange for food, shelter and sometimes even school fees, they will cook and clean and look after your house. My Granddad has helped many a person in this way, and the most recent girl, Baawa, has just graduated from university as a nurse!

 

Where, Who and What?

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Sleeping outside of St. Albans Abbey to raise money for the homeless one Christmas

I have chosen a number of charities that I feel are close to my heart for various reasons. I have supported these charities throughout my year’s challenge except for one; The British Red Cross.

The British Red Cross help people in crisis. Part of a global voluntary network, they respond to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
They help vulnerable people in the UK and abroad prepare for, withstand and recover from emergencies in their own communities.

 

The Natasha’s Project is a charity that a good friend of mine has worked to set up. It is a merger of two things she has been passionate about for as long as I have known her; dance and putting a stop to human trafficking. They travel around the country to raise awareness of human trafficking through dance and to help restore trafficking victims through dance workshops.

The Lifetrain Trust assist young people of underprivileged backgrounds providing them with the skills and give them the opportunity to build a life they have chosen rather than the one they were destined for; seek further education or qualifications and to say no to anti-social behaviour.

Be@titudes are a children’s shop, with a play area for children to use their imaginations and interact with one another while parents relax, shop or share stories. It’s intention is to be a community project, making it more affordable for low-income families to be able to obtain necessary baby and young children’s clothes, equipment and toys. It’s a project focused on bringing people together, where all local parents and children are welcomed in.

 

The Plan

What I plan to do is give as much of my time as possible to each of these charities, if they are happy for me to do so. I have already accumulated 3 hours of assistance that I must give Be@titudes from last month’s challenge, but the rest is our of the spirit of goodwill… after all – it is Christmas!

I’d like to take the opportunity to remind us all of how blessed we really are, and though some of the things we have gone through may seem too much to bear, we must always thank God that things are not worse. There is always someone better off than we, but more importantly, there is always someone worse off. Let’s do what we can to help, when we can and the world will be a better place.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama

Happy Christmas X

September Month 9: Slow Down (Part One)


Challenge: To Slow Down

Supporting Naomi’s DTS this month.

Thoughts: We so often miss the little things that pass us by.


The Ninth Challenge: To Slow Down

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Image Credit: ryangoggin.com

Everything is fast paced in this world, like we are all in a race. To grow up, to become successful, to find a partner, to have children. We set goals, we say “by this time I want to have achieved XYZ” and then we put our blinders on and we run.

Over time, we have invented shortcuts to get us there quicker. But instead of giving us more time, we have just given ourselves more; packing every spare moment with activities and things to achieve.

It seems that all of us have become so used to this pace of life that if we happen, by chance, to find ourselves with space to breathe, we feel awkward. Fidgety. Bored, even.

When did we get so busy that we lost sight of what really matters?

Some of my best and most rewarding moments have been when I’ve taken time to stop amidst the business and chaos of life.

 

The Woman by the Road

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One moment I will never forget was in Sapa, Vietnam. I was riding through the mountains on the back of a motorbike by the cliff edge on my way to catch a bus to Laos and the driver and I noticed a small crowd of people around a woman sitting on the road. Without hesitation my driver stopped the bike to see what was happening and (I presume) ask how he could help. It turned out that the woman had just given birth on the roadside but she and the baby were doing well and did not need any additional help. It was the most beautiful moment for me, knowing that this woman had brought a life into this world in the middle of the mountains by the cliff side overlooking the incredibly beautiful valleys of Sapa. I shed a small tear.

But I couldn’t help wondering, if this had been me in a taxi back home in England on the way to catch a train, would we have stopped to help?
What about if I had been rushing to work, running late, would I have taken the time to slow down and stop? Or would I assume the people around her had it in hand? Would I have missed out on this beautiful moment and opportunity to be part of something so wonderful?

I think for most of us, there have been times like that – not as dramatic and wonderful, but smaller and more discreet moments that we have brushed off with a slight guilty pang thinking “somebody else will”. And maybe they will, but maybe taking the time to slow down could mean you are part of something beautiful.

 

Rare Moments

But this isn’t just about stopping to help people, this is also not being so busy and in such a rush that you miss the beauty in small rare moments.

Another special moment for me in Sapa, was seeing a butterfly on my path that looked pretty beaten down. At first I thought it was dead, but I saw that its wings had been wet from the rain and so it was stuck on the wet path and likely to be crushed by other hikers or eaten by a predator. So I found a twig and let this beautiful creature hop on before placing it in a safer and drier location.

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Later mother nature rewarded me by sending this beauty to hitch a lift on our umbrella!

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Weeks later, now on the east coast of the USA, I was driving on my way to Daytona beach when I saw this little guy crossing the road. I slammed my breaks (safely) when I saw the other side of the road did not seem to be slowing down, jumped out of the car and grabbed him! He had nearly been crushed by a big scary car. I returned him to his home in the sand dunes and warned him not to cross the road again.

 

The Challenge

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The challenge this month will be to not be so busy that I miss the little things, those special moments. To make time for myself to breathe and enjoy a slower pace of life, rather than being in a hurry to get where I’m going. It seems fitting that I write this as I am on a 9 hour bus journey to Glasgow which I chose in favour of the more convenient, faster methods of transportation in order to save a fair bit of money. Because, actually, time is not money.

Because this challenge is going to be too difficult to measure, I’m not going to set any targets or give money to charity based on my success (or lack of). Instead, I’m going to be supporting my friend, Naomi, as she starts an amazing journey of her own exploring her faith and growing both spiritually and within herself.

I would encourage you to read her story and consider supporting her here.

 

Part Two

13 Weeks of Wandering – Sa Pa: My Humble Abode

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver


Where To? Vietnam
How long? 3 Weeks
Thoughts: Have you ever taken a shower with a pig grunting right outside your shower door? Neither had I.


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Animals Galore

Glancing up from my second noodle meal of the day, it was difficult not to feel as if I had been taken back a number of centuries as women clad with their native, time-honoured garments sat together conversing. Beyond them lay the unspoilt mountain terrains rich in vegetation and of course, animals.

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Back on route to Mama May’s village, I must have seemed like I’d been locked in a cage all of my life as I marvelled at the ducklings nestling around their mother in one corner, a goat bleating intermittently in another and a pig stalking us. Really, I have seen all of those things many times before but usually in a farm or a zoo, not just sort of on the same road cars (or more likely motorbikes) would drive on.

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But what really had me oohing and ahhing was coming across a family of buffalo just having a pee break across our path. I felt sort of rude interrupting so apologised in a most British way as I squeezed past, but they seemed unfazed by my presence and carried on doing their business.

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There were also horses, chickens and other wild and domestic animals, but what scared me most were the dogs.
It seemed as if we had walked in on a serious Jeremy Kyle moment where one dog had definitely been cheating on her partner with his brother and things kicked off big time! First was the severe baring of teeth and then the growling as two of the dogs circled each other and the [basic] bitch watched on. Then was the barking and the slo-mo leap towards one another as I visualised my doctor warning me not to be bitten by any animals because I hadn’t had my rabies jab. The knockout moment was when one of the dogs got a sizeable bite on the other’s neck and the last I remembered before hastily edging past was the bloodstained teeth of the champion.

 

My Humble Abode

A grand total of 6 hours later, just a few hours after I’d given up on breathing like a normal human being (I have asthma – don’t judge), we arrived at her actual house. I mean, I genuinely don’t know what I was expecting… like a mountain lodge with a hot tub or something?! No, this was the real deal and it was her home.

I met her children first, only two of them were able to communicate in minimal English whilst the others shyly smiled at me. Then I met her mother in law, a beautiful old lady with a bright smile and warm personality who you can’t help but love despite the language barrier. She would still try to speak to me in her own language making big gestures so that I would understand. And her husband who I’d met earlier was also home now (with my bag) and also did not speak any English.

Her home was a humble room which had been divided into sections. A small section was the “kitchen”, this was a drain in the ground in one corner and a small fire pit in the other corner with stools surrounding it. This was the area the whole family communed around as they cooked. An area was boarded off for Mama May and her husband, another section for her mother in law and the kids would climb up a ladder to an “attic” area above the kitchen to sleep. My bed was by the window hidden by a mosquito net.

Her husband had built their home, Mama May proudly told me, from scratch by himself! She also told me that she was the sole bread-winner of the family since nobody else is able to work due to a lack of local jobs other than farming. Because she had learned to speak English, she was able to capitalise on tourism and invite people to her humble home. This made me feel proud to be able to be a part of helping her make a living, but also proud of her as an example of a “strong independent woman who don’t need no man”!

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And she carried on proving herself strong as she set about making us all dinner despite having walked however many million miles whilst I died in the corner swearing never to walk again.

 

When Pigs Fly

Mama May’s place may have been small, but that didn’t stop her from keeping animals. She had chickens which fought each other for the last grains of corn. One cheeky little hen, who would puff up her chest and try to be ‘ard, tried to bully another scared chicken and baby chick by running up to the cage and poking her head through pretending she was going to peck them. Then there were the cats, that would stretch out on the veranda and chill because, well what else do cats do?
But more importantly, were the pigs. Two large and over-confident pigs.

Have you ever taken a shower with a pig grunting right outside your shower door? Neither had I. But when you’ve just been hiking for 6 hours and you smell as if you belong with them, showering with pigs seems less unconventional. When it came to it, I was more worried about the giant mosquitoes than stepping out of the shower and into a pig’s sty. Seemingly, not only did the vegetation grow bigger and more bountiful but so did the insects.

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It was to my great surprise that Mama May had hot running water for her shower and even a sit-down toilet which is rare in your regular populated cities of Vietnam, let alone in the mountains of Sa Pa! The warm water was welcome seeing as the temperatures in the mountains were akin to the temperatures of England in the autumn and the unceasing rain more so. This was my chance to thaw and ease my aching muscles whilst ignoring the pig nose pressed up against the frosted glass door. *Grunt, Grunt*

Needless to say, the whole shower experience was surreal. I can’t say I’ve ever showered with a pig outside my door. Well, I suppose now I can!

 

The Mystery of the Scream in the Night

Settling in to bed after a huge home-made dinner of spring rolls, rice and soup, washed down with “happy water” (a.k.a the Vietnamese equivalent of home brewed Sake), I couldn’t get myself comfortable.

Shining my torch on the mattress carefully, my biggest concern was whether or not there could be bed bugs but I couldn’t tell and I had to take that risk. I pulled out the supposedly 100% silk sleeping bag that I bought cheap from a Ho Chi Minh market and prayed it would protect me from all bugs. Spotting a number of holes in the mosquito net, I knew better than to hope in the net to protect me from the blood thirsty insects so covered myself entirely within the sleeping bag liner.

“You are getting the real Sa Pa experience” I reminded myself whilst trying to get comfortable on the rock-solid mattress. As the temperature dropped, sleep evaded me more and I drifted in and out of consciousness frequently jumping awake fearing some insect had made its way through the net.

I’d finally battled myself into a light sleep when I shot up hearing a loud high pitched and long enduring scream. I couldn’t tell where the bloodcurdling wail was coming from but it sounded as if it was in the house. When it would not stop I heard stirs and movement and I don’t know what they did, but the noise stopped as abruptly as it started. I was scared shitless, but my bladder was giving me all the signals that a toilet break would certainly be necessary soon.

I put it off as long as I could manage, but the fort wouldn’t hold for much longer; I had to be brave! I untangled myself from the safety bundle I had created with the sleeping bag liner and slid out from  under the mosquito net grateful to feel my flip flops under my feet. Then, using only the torch of my phone as a light, I found the back door which would lead me to the pig sty and ultimately, the toilet!

Again, not sure what I was expecting would happen when I braced myself and opened the door, but it certainly wasn’t the giant moth that flew in my face! Stifling a scream, I jumped back nearly wetting myself there and then. When I had pulled myself together, I forced myself outside to the pitch black. The bathroom was only about five steps away, but it felt like another 6 hour hike as I darted my eyes about jumping at every rustle of leaves or snap of a twig. What felt like years later, I made it to the bathroom. Thankfully, it was on the way out of the bathroom that I spotted the giant cricket/spider/stick insect/moth mutation killer bug literally the size of a nokia 3310 and I never looked back making a swift retreat back into the house and the shelter of my sleeping bag liner.

I never did find out what that scream was…

Find out what I do when I see a woman bleeding by the cliff side in my upcoming third and final Sa Pa post!