Tag Archives: family

Volunteering with International Service: Ghana

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Gha-na-na what's my name?

If someone had said to me 12 months ago that I would be going to Africa with a group of people I had never met before, to do voluntary work with International Service and live with a host family for 3 months, I would have most likely laughed them right out of the room.

Travelling to West Africa, essentially on my own, really pushed my comfort zone. Yet here I am, 12 months down the line, having recently returned from Ghana. Although it was one of the most daunting experiences my life, I am so glad that I went. It has been one of the best things I have ever done, if not one of the best things I’ll ever do.

I made the decision to volunteer with International Service when I stumbled across their website while randomly searching for ‘free overseas voluntary work’ (emphasis on the ‘free’ bit). I knew immediately that it was something that I should do. Not only did it satisfy my desire to travel with minimal expense, but I also strongly believed in their mission statement. Unfortunately, not many people have heard of International Service so for any readers who do not know, International Service is a human rights-based charity, working to protect and promote the rights of some of the most marginalised people across the world.

Not really sure of what to expect or what I would be doing, I got to work with my application. Within a week I had received a response and an invitation to an assessment day. And that was it, I was at the beginning of my International Service journey. Initially I had some difficulty in explaining to people what I would actually be doing. When asked I would always respond with a vague ‘Oh you know, teaching I guess.’ Not knowing really fuelled my anxiety about going, but as time wore on and the departure date approached, it became more apparent: I was to be working on a project which aimed to get more girls into school. This would involve teaching English in schools, running sexual health classes, going into communities to educate the local people on the importance of school, and various other activities.

A sexual health advert from the Ghana AIDS Commission © Erik Cleves Kristensen

A sexual health advert from the Ghana AIDS Commission © Erik Cleves Kristensen

Ghana truly surprised me and exceeded all of my expectations. First I must dispel any pre-existing stereotypes people may have of Africa. The image portrayed in the media sometimes presents Africa as a harsh, desolate place full of sadness, and while my experience of Africa is limited, Ghana certainly challenges these images. A country full of colour, dance, music and vibrancy, Ghana and its people enamoured me. Continue reading


Ganges, Funerals and Lassis – One Day in Varanasi

Due to a complex set of arrangements, mainly resulting from appalling organisation on our part, we ended up with only one day in Varanasi, the North Indian city on the banks of the Ganges. Not even a day and a night — we arrived on the 5 AM train and left at about midnight. This meant that our visit was shadowed, literally, by our bags, as we heaved them around the city after us. There is also a significant amount of pressure if you only have one day in a place, especially if it is somewhere as significant as Varanasi, to do and see everything.

(© varanasicity)

Varanasi is of immense importance to Hindus as it backs on to the Ganges River. The religious importance of the Ganges is agreed on by even the most sceptical of Hindus; its scared waters are said to cleanse people of their sins, its water is transported across the country to be used in rituals, and ashes are brought to be scattered here. Continue reading


A Family Trip to Tenerife

Some years ago my aunt and uncle moved to Costa del Silencio, a small coastal town in the South of Tenerife. My mum, my brother and I hadn’t had a family holiday together in years and were keen to visit, however we were unaware of just how extortionate flights to the Canary Islands could be. We were struggling for cash so my aunt and uncle kindly paid for our flights and offered us a place to stay in their rented apartment, so off we went. We visited annually over the next two years, and from our collection of trips to the island I encountered something completely different each time.

Tenerife-Beach-Canary-Island(Costa del Silencio. www.prontohotel.com)

Costa del Silencio is home to Coral Mar Square, where we spent many a night drinking and chatting in Starlight Bar, a cabaret venue complete with quizzes, karaoke and all the associated paraphernalia you expect from a British-run bar in the sun. I haven’t visited Tenerife for years and can’t seem to find any up to date evidence that Starlight Bar is still there, but it was great fun and I have no doubt that it went out with a bang if indeed it did close down at any point. The nightlife in Costa del Silencio is characterised by tourists and has a very British feel, given that English is widely spoken and many of the cafés, bars and shops are run by Britons. This isn’t the place to go if you’re seeking the authentic Spanish experience, but is inexpensive and is a peaceful location away from the lively beaches of Los Cristianos and Las Americas. If you’re looking to find a serene spot ideal for taking in views of the ocean, head to Amarilla Bay. The craggy coastline and rocky beaches complete with small alcoves are great for grabbing some scenic photographs to take home with you, but by far the best spot for accessing amazing views is the top of cliffs above the bay. Climbing to the topmost point of Montaña Amarilla (Yellow Mountain) will take you up an incline of dusty dirt-paths and across sharp rocks (wear shoes) but the view from the highest point is outstanding. Strangely though, the expanse of land contrasted with the ocean before me made me feel oddly isolated and almost trapped – it truly dawned on me that I was in fact on an island rather than on a continent. The sight of the infinite stretch of water and sweeping coastline alerted me to the fact that there was no way out, that no matter how far I travelled across the island that I would eventually be met with the limits of the ocean.

bianco-front-viewBianco’s white interior wins Certificate of Excellence (tripadvisor.com)

For a more lively afternoon head to Playa de las Americas, where Centro Comercial Safari offers you a range of unique boutiques and eateries alongside international chains. Here you’ll find Bianco Restaurant, definitely one of the best places I’ve ever eaten in, just for the stylish white interior. The restaurant won a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence last year, which strongly suggests to me that it’s just as good as it was when I visited a few years ago, if not better. They specialise in Italian cuisine and do it very well indeed. I can’t recall what I had for the main course, but the parmesan crusted aubergine starter with goats cheese and roasted tomatoes has stayed with me ever since; it was utterly mouth-watering, marvellously rich and cooked to perfection. Take a stroll outside afterwards as the sky grows dark, the illuminated fountain lighting up the plaza as the city becomes a hive of activity. Alternatively head towards the beach and find a bar with an open air terrace to enjoy some Spanish sangria as the waves lap at the shore a mere few metres away.

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A Journey Through Pakistan

The trip through my home country began when I was shaken awake at sunrise by my mother. Waking up on a chilly December morning is easily the most difficult part of a road trip. However, soon enough excitement took over. We were going to drive through three provinces of Pakistan — from our hometown through to the magnificent peaks of Murree.

To those who have not been to Pakistan before, it is a country of many terrains: from sapphire beaches to snowy peaks, from sandy deserts to evergreen forests. It consists of four provinces — Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. My hometown, Karachi, is the largest city of Pakistan and is situated in the Southern province of Sindh. Our goal was to reach the frosty peaks of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the North.

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