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Tanzania: Teaching Photography at Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club
Teaching Photography at The Boys & Girls Club © Jessica Gatfield

Teaching Photography at The Boys & Girls Club © Jessica Gatfield

The second week of my trip meant getting down to business: Teaching. I was privileged enough to have found a center in which a previous volunteer had donated a selection of digital cameras in time for my arrival. With sustainability in mind, the cameras were donated as a tool to generate an income. In the future, the photographs taken by the children at the club will be uploaded to an online platform which will allow the public to download the selected photograph as a digital file in exchange for a donation.

For the duration of my time at the club, I taught Photography classes up to three times a week. Sadly, only four of the 12 donated cameras functioned efficiently meaning classes had to be tailored to suit group work. Each week the class sizes changed mainly due to the class being held in the morning or afternoon. The younger children, usually attending the club after school, were eager to join in when the older children were still undertaking business activities. My class sizes could range from 4 children up to 20, meaning I had to prepare an adaptable lesson plan, or in many cases, a variety in which to choose from.

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Narrative Photography Class © Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club

Narrative in Sequence

In my first lesson, I was faced with a large group of nearly twenty students. Stares of apprehension and excitement glared at me with an eagerness to see what the lesson would entail. To tackle the aspect of group work head on, we focused on narrative photography in the form of sequences. The students were segregated into groups and asked to brainstorm ideas surrounding the theme of narrative. Using a Powerpoint presentation, I showed a diverse range of photographic works from Photographers who create narrative sequential imagery to inspire and get the creativity flowing. Within their groups, each person was assigned a roll; director, actor and photographer. Roles would be shared and rotated to allow each individual a chance to dwell behind the camera. The outcome in the above sequence of photographs depicts a guy trying to win a girl’s heart by approaching her. The girl doesn’t agree with what he is saying and results in a slap to the face. This sequence was a humorous and lighthearted narrative and a joy to watch from the sideline as the drama unfolded.

Portrait Photography Class © Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club

Portrait Photography Class © Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club

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Portraiture

The portraiture lesson was a huge success. The class was allowed out of the Club gates and encouraged to explore the surrounding area in the open air. Each group had to offer up three portraits each whilst directing and assisting other members in the process. I asked my students to consider harsh shadows and patches of light, an easy find in the African climate, positioning themselves amongst the natural foliage. Facial expressions were an important topic of conversation to steer clear from silly faces and cheesy grins. The sincere and reflective expressions soon surfaced and a range of beautiful portraits were produced.

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Still Life Photography Class © Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club

Self Portraiture as Still Life

As an avid lover of self portraiture and self expression, creating personal still life photographs was an uplifting task. We set up a makeshift still life studio using a white sheet draped over a paint stricken table and placed it against a rather textured and discolored wall. Each student was asked to collect objects that gave the viewer an insight into their life be it in the form of a hobby, passion or dream for the future. They then had the opportunity to arrange the objects in front of the lens and capture the scene, altering it’s appearance a number of times if desired. Solo soon became a crowd as everybody engaged in helping one another to direct and position the objects as well as assist from behind the camera.

Teaching in Tanzania

Self Portrait Lesson © Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club

Self Portraiture

Pushing the self portraiture aspect of Photography to its fullest, I decided to challenge the children in taking ‘Selfies’. These self portraits however were to be created using a tripod or the self-timer function. After getting to know each and every child, parts of their personalities resonated within each photograph. The self-portraits produced were fragments of their personalities in a visual form; honest, barefaced and gracious. The children interacted in their own way at their own pace with the camera and a deep connection was made. The final images were twinned with a photograph of what makes them the happiest at that moment. Many produced depicted their favorite hobbies, talents or being outside surrounded by nature.

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Making portraits © Jessica Gatfield

Combining my passion for teaching Photography with travelling was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to have found a wonderful center in which to become a part of and blessed with such a talented group of young people to share my passion with. I surpassed the testing language barrier and the uncertainty of class sizes to be rewarded with happy students and a keen desire to learn. Whether Photography ever becomes a career path or not for any one of my students, I have witnessed first hand the benefits a camera has in a classroom as a tool for learning.

You can see more of the Boys & Girls Club photographs here:

http://pamojatunawezaboysandgirls.tumblr.com/

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Tanzania: Volunteering at Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club
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Pamoja Tunaweza Boys & Girls Club Wall Mural © Jessica Gatfield

Here it is, the sole purpose of my trip to Tanzania: The Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club. ‘Pamoja Tunaweza’ directly translates as ‘together we can’, a slogan that resembles the unified groups and organisations that came together as one.

The Hard Life Art Club was at the basis of the organisation. A group of street children themselves living at a local residential center, many of whom are now club leaders at the Boys and Girls club, decided to use Art as a way of getting children off of the streets. They established a safe haven for street children to create art and support one another as well as generate an income from selling the art work they produce.

World’s Collide is an initiative set up by Heather Haynes, a Canadian artist, after a trip to Africa that, like many, left an imprint on her heart. Heather met and worked with the Hard Life Artists to help expand their horizons and support their progression as both artists and individuals.

1Ndoto, which in Swahili translates as ‘one dream’, is a non-profit organisation ran by two Canadian women who were taken by Tanzania’s magic in a volunteering trip in 2011. In December of 2013, all groups collaborated and from that the Boys and Girls Club became 1Ndoto’s flagship program, with further support from the Pamoja Tunaweza Women’s Center.

Background Information aside, the Boys and Girls Club was spectacular. I was so thankful to have found such an amazing center to become a part of for 8 wonderful weeks. The initial feelings I had are almost indescribable. In an unfamiliar far-off place I felt as if I had come home. There is truly something amazing about Moshi. Or maybe it’s Tanzania. Heck, I think it’s just Africa. It is a place of hospitality, good will and happiness. Everyone you meet goes out of their way to help you, to make you feel at home and to make you smile.

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A Morning Volleyball Game © Jessica Gatfield

My First Week

On my first day I was welcomed with open arms. The leaders themselves, all members of the club who have overcome living on the streets, took me in under their wing and made me feel at home. The first week was purely an introduction on how the club operates. I  found myself painting, gardening, making jewelery, teaching English, watching sport. I was accepted as one of the members, a teacher turned student, learning and absorbing as much as I could.

Football Training © Jessica Gatfield

Football Training © Jessica Gatfield

The day to day running of the club was organised. Each week a new timetable would be drawn up to keep productivity at a high and laziness to a minimum. In my first week, the mornings were filled with Volleyball practice or Football training. Being a not so sporty girl myself and never taking an interest in either of the sports, I soon found passion in watching the children play and improve their skills. Being a volleyball spectator became a Swahili lesson as you soon learnt how to count from the friendly bickering of what the running score was. Football was usually played at a nearby pitch, collaborating with a small football school ran by a good friend of the leaders. Watching matches in reality soon led to watching Premier games in our spare time with a beer in hand amongst the locals cheering on their favourite teams. Football really does unite people from all over the world regardless of their race, age or gender.

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The Club’s Kitchen © Jessica Gatfield

After a long morning of sports, around 11:30AM we began the eye-opening task of preparing lunch. Ugali and Mchicha was on the menu each day, a traditional Tanzanian dish that is filling and very cheap to make. Ugali is a stiff porridge made from maize-flour and water cooked into a thick paste that requires patience and a strong arm to continuously. Mchicha is a type of spinach, grown in the Club’s very own garden, freshly picked and chopped on a day-by-day basis. The mchicha, once picked in its vast amounts, is wilted down and fried off with onions and tomatoes. Traditionally the dish is eaten with your hands. The ugali is rolled into small balls and dipped into the mchicha mix. However, as a newcomer to the Tanzanian way of life, I was given a spoon!

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Picking Mchicha © Jessica Gatfield

After lunch, early afternoons saw more creativity from the older children in their business groups and further tutoring for the younger children who came to the club after school had ended for the day. Other afternoons consisted of Hip Hop dance rehearsals, Women’s Group meetings and classes taught by volunteers: in my case Photography and Card Making. Late Afternoons consisted of maintaining the garden, planting new seeds and harvesting what we had already grown. It was incredible to see small seedlings grow into tall plants in the matter of a few weeks.

In my first week of volunteering I was learning more than I was teaching. I was being taught the basics of Swahili, taught how to cook like a true Tanzanian, to plant and harvest Tanzanian vegetables, and most importantly how to paint like a local. I can safely say that the learning experience never ceased as the trip progressed. The children taught me so much about myself as a person as well as how to embrace and utilise my talents. They made me grow as an artist, as a teacher and as a young woman. They are truly an inspiration and will never cease to find a place in my heart.

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Surviving as a Vegan In Tanzania

Post-Hike Cola and Nibbles © Jessica Gatfield

Being relatively new to the Vegan lifestyle before my trip away in 2014, I became overwhelmed with the negative responses. That, and the moral reasoning to why I chose to become vegan aside, I was even more determined to tackle the challenge of eating animal-free in Tanzania head on. Let’s say I was well prepared before I left; I packed over 60 seed bars, enough vitamins and supplements to last me twice my trip over and learnt how to elaborate my animal product free lifestyle in Swahili. Here I highlight the ease of finding Vegan friendly products in Moshi’s local supermarkets and supporting the local community.

Nakumat Supermarket

To my surprise, Nakumat was a haven for vegan and vegetarian foods. The fresh foods section stocked an array of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables: the more exotic including pre-packed stir fry kits, fresh ginger, asparagus (very pricy!), grapes and even strawberries (also extortionately priced!) Fresh blocks of Tofu were to be found in the refrigerated section, but were best bought when a fresh batch had arrived as it wasn’t the most common staple in local Tanzanian’s diets. Egg and Dairy free mayo was also found in the cooler section but I didn’t have a chance to try, just glance at in awe!

In the dry foods section, the cereal selection was thriving. Dorset Cereals were on sale for a pricey 13,000 TSH a piece (£4.84) with over four different varieties to nibble upon. Weetabix, Cornflakes and other grain based cereals were available, many commerical brands being dearer in price than others. Nakumat stocked many varieties of Oreos, the original being vegan friendly and the other varieties just vegetarian; flavours included Strawberry CremeDouble Delight Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate Creme and Double Stuf’. In the bakery section, fresh cakes and cookies were available daily. It was just my luck that I found coconut cashew cookies that were not only super tasty but completely vegan, a complete parallel to the butter and egg laden other confectionery that surrounded it. Cashew Nuts were in abundance along with peanuts and the sweeter varieties in forms of nut brittles.

The tinned section saw Heinz baked beans, a British favourite and a traditional home comfort which made beans on toast a complete luxury and biweekly meal. Chickpeas were also to be found, adding protein to that diet of mine, as well as a key ingredient to attempting home-made hummus. Let’s just say, Tanzanian’s oranges look like lemons, the lack of tahini really does make a difference in taste and olive oil is overpriced and to be used sparingly. However, mashed orangey chickpeas was a great addition to carrots and cucumber crudites!

Rafiki Mini Supermarket & Aleem’s Grocery

Miraculously on my first day I stumbled across Rafiki Mini Supermarket and its array of not one, not two, but three different brands of Soya Milk. They had a large selection of Hot Chocolate powders, warm cocoa being a favourite on safari to keep you warm in the Serengeti (Yes, it does get cold!), the best being Cadbury’s pure cocoa. Made with hot water and sugar: Perfection in a mug! Rafiki’s and Aleem’s stocked Green Tea, good quality coffee and an array of fruit juices. Brown rice and wholewheat pasta was easily found allowing a break from the white rice or ugali found at every meal. Aleem’s provided us with egg-free noodles as well as rice noodles and an array of Heinz vegetable soups. They too stocked a great variety of cereals including Crunchy Nut, Jordan’s muesli and Cheerios.

Abba Ali’s Hot Bread Shop

Opposite Aleem’s Grocery on Boma Road, Abba Ali’s bakery could be found. If you’re in need of seeded breads, french baguettes or sliced loaves, you’re in for a treat. I will pre-warn however, due to the high temperatures of Moshi itself, the bread needs to ideally be eaten on the day it is bought or frozen and then eaten toasted. Let’s just say, the french baguette on Day 2 has more use as a weapon than it does as an edible item.

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German Bakery Order: Afternoon Tea! Photo Credits: Kandi Kwok

My Rafiki’s and I were ever so lucky to hear through the grapevine of a German bakery in Arusha that delivered orders to a German ladies house in Moshi on a fortnightly basis. We soon sourced the bakery booklet, spent days looking through the huge variety of breads, rolls and sweets, placed our large order and waited patiently. The order arrived in Moshi and we went to collect. The woman herself was shocked that the large amount of food was only for four people; we came home with 6 or 7 bags full to the brim of fresh baked goods eager for afternoon tea! The vegan selection that I delved into was of course the Tanzania seeded bread, a Danish Scone and a Sesame Pretzel. My fellow buddies ordered the likes of Raisin bread, crusty Baguettes, Apple Tasche and Nut Snails. A danish scone finished with strawberry jam and an english breakfast tea topped off the warm sweaty afternoon!

Fresh Fruit and Veg from the Mama’s

Moving away from shops and supermarkets, the best place for Mother Nature’s goodness is from the Mama’s in their makeshift shacks on the roadside. Bananas, Avocados, Tomatoes, Onions, Carrots, Cucumbers, Aubergines, Potatoes and Oranges. Cheap, organic and very tasty, the mama’s need all of the support they can get to make an income. I preferred to buy my fresh produce from the roadside and the cupboard staples from the shops listed above.

Surviving as a vegetarian: piece of pie, as a vegetarian-vegan (a vegan who dips into vegetarianism when options aren’t available) relatively straightforward and a strict vegan: manageable. Going abroad to a foreign country does not mean your morals, beliefs or lifestyle choices have to change. However, the ability to adjust and respect the culture you have been submersed in goes hand in hand with that phrase. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices and forgive yourself for matters out of your control. (Even If that means eating a non-vegan muffin and cold pancakes in your packed lunch on safari when there is nothing else to eat for the foreseeable future!).

You can read more about My Top Vegan Friendly Restaurants in Moshi here

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Tanzania: Moshi Town and its Outskirts
Rau, Moshi © Jessica Gatfield

Rau, Moshi © Jessica Gatfield

My accommodation for the duration of my 8 week trip was in a village called Rau. It was located a 25 minute walk away from the center of Moshi and a haven of dirt roads laden with pot holes, lingering dust clouds and mounds of rubble. To walk upon, minus flip flops not lasting a week and every pair of shoe becoming hole ridden, it became a treacherous journey to get from A to B to return with clumps of dust clinging to the sweat on the backs of your legs. Car journeys were renamed ‘butt massages’, tarmac became heaven on both the feet and the eye and pavements in the western world soon became a luxury. Cutting the dusty tracks a little slack, they sure added a little spice to the daily routine and you soon became a professional at walking with your eyes closed and your breath held when cars or Boda Boda’s (African motorbikes) zoomed past.

Moshi itself sure had everything we needed. The expectation was that Western food would be impossible to find, vegetarians would be forced to consume wild animals and that drinking out of the tap would kill you in an instance. I can assure you, none of the above was true.

Western food was everywhere. If anything, we had trouble seeking out the quirky and delicious local food places that seemed to offer themselves up in the last few weeks of the trip. Moshi had an array of supermarkets, Indian restaurants, Thai, Italian and even a Bistro. Vegetarianism was a recognized lifestyle choice and there were no sneaky meat pieces (or that I know of!?) floating around in my vegetable soup. As for the vast range of Indian cuisine, they even had an all vegetarian Indian restaurant that served great food for cheap prices. And, as for the tap water, Moshi’s water was ‘drinkable’. Many expats and foreign doctors I met drank the tap water if necessary and never complained of being sick.  I personally chose to only brush my teeth with the tap water and stuck to bottled water at all times. However, it was comforting knowing that main water sources were providing fresh water from the mountain and if, in desperation, I was to consume a glass, I wouldn’t keel over.

Moshi was not short of banks or cash points either. I was surprised to find a Barclays bank and separate ATM machines around the town as well as many other banking companies that originate from within the continent. Putting safety first, all trusted banks and ATM’s had armed guards patrolling outside however these were within restricted working hours and their uniforms never did quite tell you if they were Armed Police or crazies with AK47’s!

On the outskirts of Moshi there were an array of hotels many of which have swimming pools in which non hotel guests can use at a small fee. The favourite of mine, and surprisingly was only visited once throughout my trip, was at Keys Hotel. For a small fee of 5,000 TSH you were allowed access to their small, but lovely clean over-chlorinated pool. The over-chlorination soon was viewed as a blessing as you knew any bad bacteria floating about never stood a chance at surviving! They also served food and drinks by the poolside which, if you were up for pushing the westernization within your day, then burgers and pizzas were available (quite tasty I heard!).

Coffee, I hear you ask? Well, you’re in luck as Moshi had a wonderful array of coffee shops (I will rate my top 5 in another post, but for the moment you were never short of the stuff). As coffee is a significant aspect of the economy, it’s largest export crop to be precise, it was on hand everywhere you went. Some places, yes, even mimicked Starbucks and Costa and sold takeaway coffees (this seemed almost impossible to comprehend with in my mind). Whether you were a cappuccino gal, an americano guy or an espresso milkshake kinda honey, you could find almost anything coffee flavoured. I sure stepped up my caffeine consumption let’s just say.

So you’ve had your Western food fix, you’re bored of supermarkets as they remind you too much of your old way of living so you decide to be adventurous and buy fruit and vegetables from the side of the road. Before I left for Tanzania, I was warned against buying most street food, be it your fresh 5-a-day or kebabu’s and samosas: it was just not advised. And how I am so glad I tend to go against what I am told. The fruit and vegetables sold by the Mamas was the best you could find. As organic and ripe as you can get, carried miles from A to B on the tops of their heads in the blistering heat and sold for a tenth of what you would pay back in the UK. Fresh watermelon was juicy and sweet, Avocados were perfectly ripe and soft and bananas came in the sweet variety and the not so sweet. Plus, once you get to grips with your Swahili phrases and learn to haggle, you’ll be paying less than 30 pence for an avocado and around 35 pence for a large bunch of bananas. As for the street food, dependent on where you go and where the locals recommend, buying samosas from a street seller could be a great decision. Meat eaters loved kababu’s: a Tanzanian sausage which resonates the look and apparent taste of kebab meat, they also loved Mishkaki: pieces of BBQ’ed chicken on kebab sticks and were suckers for the traditional Beef samosas. For veggies, we consumed vegetable samosas that were crispy and full of flavour and also once you seek out the authentic Indian places, lentil patties that were crispy and surprisingly light.

Beer. Even for the non-beer drinkers Tanzanian beer is light, smooth and extremely satisfying. Be sure to ask for ‘Bia biridi sana’ and you’re sure to have an ice cold beer and not a luke warm bottle. Many different types of beers appeared in their strengths in alcohol content and in strong taste. As a non-beer drinker I stuck to Kilimanjaro Beer. The lightest and tastiest in my opinion and at only 2,200 to 2,500 TSH (Around £94p) a bottle you can’t really complain. The intermediate beer drinkers consumed Serengeti, a slightly heavier beer with more of a ‘beery’ taste as you could say. A good beer to drink on Safari whilst in the Serengeti which brings me to the next beer: Safari. The stronger of the 3, Safari was a man’s man beer and a packed a bitter aftertaste compared to the others. They marketed the beers well those Tanzanians: Kilimanjaro beer to drink whilst climbing Kili, Serengeti whilst exploring the wonderful plains of Africa and Safari beer if you went on a safari but decided not to venture to the Serengeti (bad move – the Serengeti is incredible!)

I’ve covered money, food, alcohol, coffee and leisure. Quite the westerner’s way of looking at visiting Tanzania. However you’ll find that once you’re there you’ll begin to act like a local, surround yourself with locals and almost become a local. You soon lose interest in the western food, the swimming pool on the weekends and the need for a takeaway coffee. You soon step back and see Tanzania in all it’s beauty and realise these materialistic and western comforts are really insignificant.

The tacky array of knock-off suitcases and medicine men perched on the roadside with bottles of pills and potions ready to be consumed.

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Experiencing True Loneliness As A Solo Female Traveller In Tanzania

I had arrived. Greeted with an electric fence, large metal gates and a timid guard, I found myself confronted with home for the next two months. With just my belongings at my feet, I was joyfully greeted by the guard dog, a sandy coloured Pariah named Tienga, who, to my surprise didn’t have Rabies. Upon analysing my surroundings, confusion soon presented itself as the building looked nothing like the photographs that I had been shown. I was warmly informed that the charity’s budget didn’t cover the suggested accommodation so this was second best. Apprehensive, a tour of my new domain soon reassured me that a downgrade didn’t equal squat toilets or lack of hot water: it just meant no WiFi or cooked breakfast in the morning. Pleasantly surprised and therefore grateful, I was eager to unpack my suitcase and meet my fellow housemates.

To my miscalculation, I was going to spend my first night alone. Even through all of the meticulous planning, over cautious preparation and flying across the world in solitude, I never stopped to consider that I may have to spend some time, well, you know, solo. I naively made the assumption that when I arrived at my destination, I would be surrounded by English speaking expats, stay in a guesthouse overflowing with guests and be exchanging life stories over a warm beer within an hour of arriving. i never once considered that the particular time of year was named Low Season for a reason and that guesthouses, surprise surprise, really can be empty.

Denial Before Darkness

 I would say I am somebody who is content and in particular who enjoys her own company. It soon became clear that I am only 100% content with being alone when it is still light outside. It appeared that daylight is comforting and seemingly full of possibility and hope. The evening seems so far away and you cling onto the idea that a new resident is on his or her way to save you from absolute solitude. In spite of this, along with the sun, that idea faded away on the horizon and all that remained was the unenticing darkness. To my surprise, thankfully, there is always artificial daylight and locking myself in my bedroom rocking by candlelight wasn’t on the horizon just yet.

Oh wait… Powercut.

I had the naive assumption that a powercut would never occur on my first night, in particular when I’m alone because let’s face it, this is the scene from a horror film and horror films are all pretend right? On the one hand, I had already cooked some food so tackling the gas hob in the pitch black was a battle I wasn’t going to be a part of. On the other hand, I couldn’t quite recall packing a torch let alone having placed one in the vicinity of where I was standing. After fumbling around in the dark for what felt like an hour, I found a candle and a box of matches that had already been placed in anticipation on the dining table. It looked like I would be rocking myself to sleep by candlelight after all.

Just Ride Out The Emotion

I’m all alone. I’m in a foreign place. I’m in Africa. I’m thousands of miles away from Home. Oh home… home… home. The emotions came flooding in and next thing you know I’m crying. Just letting it all out like there was a water shortage and my tears were the solution to not dying of thirst. My conscious (or should I say unconscious) was screaming ‘focus on the now, be present, just accept it’. ‘Well, dear old conscious, the present is sucking a little I’ll have you know and I quite frankly am scared and fearful of my life’.

In the back of my mind I was thankful for being within a gated compound. Not a common asset in Britain although I doubt we are in constant need of electric fencing and a night guard. And when in doubt of your night guard wandering off out of the compound, there is always electric fencing.Thank goodness for electric fencing. Wait a second… ELECTRIC fence. Which needs ELECTRICITY to serve its purpose. SHIT.

Time to lock myself in my room, with the candle burning and rock myself to sleep. To my surprise my bedroom door didn’t have a lock so I’ll be sleeping with one eye open. Why I assumed sleeping would be possible is beyond me. Every noise outside startled me and I convinced myself that I was going to be next on a killer’s hit list. Just breathe… breathe.

 Accept It For Goodness Sake

Staring at the door by candlelight soon became psychotic. It wasn’t helping the situation nor was it making me feel any safer. That is when I reached for my diary and began writing. It not only took my mind off of the situation but got all of my feelings out on paper. The crying subsided and the fear died down a little too. I came to terms with the fact that I was now facing the true definition of loneliness and had to accept it as an experience that I would look back on in the future (If I survived the night that is to say).

Feeling Grateful

An opposing feeling then surfaced which shocked me a little. I became overwhelmed with gratitude for everything I was lacking at that particular moment. I realised just how lucky I was to have a loving family, a supportive group of friends and the option to never be alone. I knew that in the weeks to come I would be spending my time with both children and adults who didn’t have any of these privileges and would be experiencing pure loneliness on a daily basis. My emotions began to subside and within a few minutes, to my surprise, the power cut was over and my room was filled with light.

You’re Going To Be OK

Just having electricity back seemed to make all of the difference. It was as if the whole evening had been a test to see if I would crack. And I sure did. By this point I was emotionally drained, slightly jet lagged and experiencing the aftermath of culture shock. I needed sleep. With the guarantee it wasn’t going to be the best sleep of my life, I found the courage to turn off the light and brave the dark after all.

In the weeks that came, I experienced many nights where I was alone. Each night brought new obstacles and new challenges but each were overcome with more bravery than I felt resided within me. Experiencing pure loneliness strips you back to nothingness. You are forsaken to be alone with just yourself and your thoughts. It is up to you to control how you choose to spend those lonesome hours and whether you wish to let them break you or build you.

In the words of A.A Milne;

‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’.

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