It has been a couple of months now since I returned from Africa so I feel I can start to look back on the experience more objectively (e.g. I’m not exhausted, covered in mosquito bites or trying to get used to living at home again!). I have had a mental block even thinking about trying to write a blog post during that time; I think perhaps my mind was trying to come to terms with everything I saw and experienced, the highs and the lows, and is starting to feel ready to think about it again. I moved into halls at the University of Leeds last week and put some photos from my trip up on the wall, and amongst all the excitement (and partying) I still realised: I miss it! Uni is AMAZING so far, but, Africa. You simply can’t beat memories of the sun rising at 4:30am over two cheetahs, gloriously bathing in the crisp African dawn. I don’t feel too apprehensive about the size of some of the MANY books I need to read this semester, as I remember the mortification of attempting to teach forty mostly illiterate children without any resources on my first days at Open Arms – it’s a no brainer.
And how has the experience changed me? Many people have asked the old cliche, and currently I can say: watch this space! Saffron and I used to always say ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing’ – I definitely feel way more confident, organised and ready for Uni (in the face of some people straight out of sixth form who genuinely can’t cook more than toast and haven’t heard of the reading list…), but I’m still deciding how it has changed me ‘deep down’ as they say. It’s certainly helped my independence, confidence and problem solving skills (once you’ve caught a rat with a washing basket, what could phase you?), but perhaps more importantly, it has ignited a passion for travelling, wildlife, and an appreciation of education. There is nothing better than experiencing other cultures, but also to see the value of your own: where education is free and available to all, you don’t have to traipse two hours through flood water to get to school, or be brutally punished when you do. The violence we encountered at the school still haunts me and makes me want to create awareness that it is not acceptable. We continue to raise money for Open Arms in our village, on the condition of a no-violence policy – the way it should be.
Finally, where will the blog go now? Which direction should I take? Well, studying English Literature will give me ample opportunity to continue my book reviews, which I have neglected recently, and perhaps write about University experience or further travel adventures. Who knows! Let’s wait and see.