Name: Becky
Occupation: Student/Occassional Auxiliary Nurse/ABA Therapist/Serial traveller/owner of itchy feet
Home Towm: Bangor, North Wales
Current Location: Bangor


Thursday, August 20, 2009
Hue, Vietnam avec sunburn  
Apologies for the lack of updates, we've had a crazy couple of weeks and had very little time online. So, we're in another country, which is beautiful but sooooooooooo hot! Quite a shock to the system after the relative cool of the Laos highlands. Quick update on where we've been since my last post:

Louang Phabang was beautiful, had a lovely few days there wandering about and going to swim in nice waterfalls. We really wanted to stay longer but decided we had to move on to Vientiane to get visas for Vietnam. To give ourselves extra time we got a night bus- good idea in principle- spend an extra day wherever you are, get on the bus, sleep, wake up in a new destination fresh from sleep and ready to explore. However, we didn't count on the driver thinking that playing horrible Lao pop at 3am was a good idea! I did manage to sleep (anyone surprised?!) but only after what felt like hours of feeling very sick as we did hundreds of hairpin bends up a mountain.

And to make it worse, Vientiane wasn't even really worth going to! We got stuck there for a fews days waiting for visas but we could have seen everything worth seeing in a day, which was quite frustrating. From there we went to Vang Viang famous for tubing, drinking, and drink whilst tubing. For those that don't know, tubing involves floating down the river in a tractor inner tube, and here you have the added bonus of getting pulled in to bars intermittently to drink ridiculously cheap alcohol- a great way to spend an afternoon!

After we'd had fun destroying our livers with nasty rice whiskey we dragged ourselves on to a bus and headed towards the border to the Plain of Jars which is what it says on the tin (or should that be jar?). There are three main sites around the area which are littered with big stone jars and non-one knows how they got there or what they are for!

One day there was enough so the following morning we started what was to be an epic trip to Vietnam. We left the hotel at 6am on a tuktuk, got the bus at 6:30, crossed the border just before lunch, changed buses (no idea why) a few hours later, and at 5:40 pm arrived in Vinh, Vietnam. Here we were greeted by lots of people trying to sell us bus tickets, and managed to make out that there was a bus to Ha Noi leaving in 20 mins. It was then we got our first really taste of how much they try to rip you off here. The first quote we got was 200,000 dong ($10) and were told we could pay in dollars. We (Max, I and 3 guys we met on the bus) decided to check in the bus station first where we saw the price was 100,000 dong! So went to pay at the desk there, but the lady wouldn't take out dollars! By now we had about 10 mins before the bus went and about 50,000 dong between us! Being the sensible female of the group, I took $10 from everyone and legged it down the road, in the rain, to find somewhere to exchange, not easy when all the banks close at about 4! Managed to get a jewelers to change it for me, ran back and got there at 6 andwent to buy tickets at the counter, but the lady pointed me to the bus conductor, who whilst standing under the sign that gave prices told me in was 120,000 because we were white! We got a price we wanted in the end, and set off- to the otherside of the road- where we sat for another hour before actually moving on. The journey was fine but involved lots of getting pointed and stared at and having people saying things at us we didn't understand. And the guy behind us tried to make a move on Max while I was asleep on his shoulder! By the time we got to Ha Noi it was 2am and time for our 5th mode of transport- a taxi that tried to charge us 250,000 to the city centre! givenwhat we had just paid to travel for 7 hours we weren't happy with this, but amazing bartering got us a fair price. What was immediately obvious though is how aggressive people here can be. In Both Thailand and Laos people don't get angry- bartering is always done with smiles. But this guy got really cross with us and when we got to the city practically dragged us out of the car. And it wasn't because we were under paying as I check with the hotel in the morning how much we should pay to get to that bus station and it was about the same as we paid.

Anyway, trying to get ripped off was made up for in that night's accommodation. The place our new friends had decided to stay was $30 for a room which was a little over our budget so we decided to take a nightwalk and try to find something cheaper. Our planned palce looked very shut so we carried on walking and a few meters later got called over by a guy offering us a room. The place was totally dark as he said the power had gone, so we were a bit dubious. He offered us a room for $20 as it was so late, which still sounded like alot, until he said their cheapest room should be $55, and the room he had wasn't the cheapest! And breakfast was included, and two bottles of cold water, and he sent us to the room with a glass of iced water each! The room, and the following sleep was worth every penny- there was a proper shower, not just a wet room, fluffy towels and bath robes, silk sheets on the bed, and free goodies i nthe bathroom! And the power came back on after about half an hour so we had aircon too! The best sleep so far, even if it wasn't for very long!

The following couple of days were spent around the city which has crazy traffic but is otherwise quite nice. The most exciting thing we did was go to Ho Chi Minh- ex leader, been dead for 40 years, doesn't look too bad considering!

From here we took a tour to Halong Bay which was amazing- totally worth the hype. However, most people seem to have realised this, so it's not a peaceful as it could have been. Just before we arrived I started having bad neck pains, but put it down to sleeping in a funny position on the bus to the Bay. From the dock we got a Junk boat which took us in the the islands and to 'Suprising cave' which was very nice, but my neck pains were getting worse and I was feeling sick as well. After the caves we took a kayak around the area, then went back to the boat for a swim. That night was spent on the boat and the following morning we were taken to Cat Ba island where we cycled to some more pretty caves, and then got taken to Monkey Island for lunch and to spend the next night. The afternoon was spent on the beach, not doing much as I still wasn't feeling right. The next day we got back on our Junk and started to go back to the port, stopping for a bit of swimming on the way. After swimming we were laying out on the deck to dry, and in less than an hour (at about 10:30 am) I managed to turn my thighs bright red. Despite all the time we've spent outside this was the first time either of us had burnt and combined with my neck and tummy pains, I realised that I was having a reaction to the doxycycline we're taking as antimalarials! But not until I'd had that day's dose! When we got back I looked up side effects (heartburn, headaches, increased skin photosensitivity) and was spotted doing so by a medical student, who confirmed what I thought and that it probably was Dengue Fever, which was my only other thought. I'm still not right, but feeling much better now I've stopped taking the doxy.

We left Ha Noi that night on the night train, and have spent two days in Hue. Just walked about yesterday and went to the Imperial City which was nice, but was probably better before the Americans dropped bombs on it. And today went to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) which was the border between north and south Vietnam. Went to several firebases and points of interest, but the highlight was the Vinh Moc tunnels, built by locals to hide in during the bombings and to keep a supply line going to an island owned by the north which gave them control of the sea in the area.

In the morning we're off again, a few hours south to Da Nang along a bit of railways that is meant to have amazing views, and then stright down to Hoi An where we're taking a trip to the tailors! I'm very excited!

1:58 PM
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Sunday, August 02, 2009
Louang Phabang, Laos  
New month, new country. An a very nice one at that. We arrived a few days back and spent the first two days taking a slow boat down the Mekong River to get here. The scenery was amazing- tropical forests on mountainsides, topped with mist- Max found it very Indiana Jones! The journey was an interesting one. I had read about people that took it not b\many years back, when there were few tourists and the boats would be carry cargo up and down the river. Now although those boats still exist, many are put on purely for tourists, so it wasn't quite the romantic trip it might have been. The fact that it is still a vital form of transport was shown on our second day when we pulled up at a beach along the way and a very ill man was carried on board in a blanket-stretcher. He was laid down in the middle of the rows of seats, where a few minutes before a tourists with a hangover had been- he seemed to perk up pretty quickly!

Where we are now is also packed with tourists, but somehow it doesn' feel like it. It's very laid back, lots of pretty french colonial buildings, and both mornings the sun has shone and the sky has been blue. And when it rains we go and hide in a cafe or get a massage- a lifestyle I could definetly get used to. Especially as I'm suffering with lower back ache at the moment, so I'm aiming to get a massage every day til it clears up, at only two quid a time it's cheaper than taking painkillers!

Back to Thailand- as predicted the waterfalls were lovely, the only downside was the pools were full of little fish that eat the dead skin on your feet! People pay to have this done, but I really couldn't deal with it, and in trying to avoid them stubbed and possibly broke my little toe! It's feeling much better now though and hasn't really stopped me from doing much. The best bit of the trip was that we hired a motorbike to get there which was so much fun, something we hope to do alot more later on in our travels.

The following day we took a brief trip to the POW cemetry in the town and then went to the bridge to take photos, before getting a bus to Ayutthaya- ther former capital which got destroyed by the Burmese. Only spent one day there cycling around to various ruins and having a strange man take photos of us- very creepy. Left that night on the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Despite booking in advance there were no sleepers left so we had to get normal seats. They reclined and were pretty comfy so I decided to go to sleep at 10 and didin't wake til gone 7, less than 30 mins before we arrived, much to Max's annoyance as he hardly slept at all- I think he's starting to get used to it now though.

Internet is being temperamental, and we need food before the museum we want to go to opens for the afternoon, so the exciting trekking tales shall have to wait.

5:18 AM
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Monday, July 20, 2009
Our latest location. Home to the bridge over the river Kwai, lots of related museums and POW cemeteries. We went to the best museum on it today by train. located near Hellfire pass- one of the deepest, longest trenches that the Japanese order to be built, and one of the stretches that produced the highest death toll. It was very interesting especially as neither of us really knew much about it before today. We also got to go through lots of jungle to get to it and saw some beautiful misty mountains, was nice to see something a bit more natural. Plan for tomorrow is to continue with natural wonders and head out to some waterfalls for walking in a swimming. Apparently some of the best falls in the country so it should be good. Will post pictures and give a full report later in the week!

2:41 PM
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Friday, July 17, 2009
Hello all!

Very quick update as the internet cafe is about to close (and we've been to jetlagged to do much so far!);

We made it here ok, Max survived flying thugh apparently got a little nervous durring a large bout of turbulence- I was asleep through the whole things so was totally unaware.
Found a great place to stay wuth air con and a roof top swimming pool for a tenner a night for both of us!
Went to the palace today which was very ool- pictures to come.
Have invented a new sport- ladyboy spotting- very entertaining.
Have not yet eaten in a proper resturant- street food here is incredible- 50p for a plate of fresh pad thai with egg and spring rolls!
Max had his first tuktuk experience and is now trying to get me to buy him one!

That's all for now folks, ill tell more when we've done more!

2:56 PM
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Monday, February 23, 2009
Exciting news!  
No, I'm not getting married as Adam decided to tell everyone via facebook. I have got myself a job though, which I think is much more exciting! Not only is it a job, but it's a really well paid one, only a few hours a week, can increase those hours during holidays, and it will involve some practical application of what's covered in my course- perfect! And on the topic of my degree, which I occasionally forget is the actual reason for me to be in Bangor, I got exam results today along with a letter of commendation from the head of school! A clear indication that 10 days in Africa prior to exams is highly beneficial (Yes, Andy did pretty well too, so the results can be generalised!), so if anyone would like to help, nay, ensure that I do equally well in the summer exams, send me your money!

Unfortunately, I think job commitments may mean a pre-exams holiday may not be possible, but an epic summer expedition, collaborating the talents of myself and Miss Fletcher, should make up for this. Exact details are yet to come, but Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will all be included with possible diversions to some or all of Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong(flight price dependent), during July, August and early September. I am very excited about this, especially since my suspicions of Vietnam's amazingness were confirmed by Top Gear recently. I've heard so much good stuff about this part of the world on my travels it will be good to actually see it for myself. Plus, I shall be doing it all with Katherine, which will make it all the more fabulous. I've not done more than a couple of weeks travelling with someone that I've not only just met, so it will be quite different, but I have no doubt that we will make an unbeeatable travel team. Bring on the summer! Actually, I've just realised my average for last semester is high enough for me to do nothing for the rest of the year and still pass overall- holiday anyone?!

4:47 PM
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Sunday, January 18, 2009
I am officially rubbish at blogging  
and apologise to any faithful readers (Hello Elliot!) who are disappointed in my lack of writing.

Not much exciting has happened recently, this blog is only occuring because I'm meant to be revising and since doing all my washing up, laundry, tidying my room, painting my nails and rearranging my shoes I have no other useful procrastination activities left!

So for an update on the last few months:

After being severly ill for the first 24 hours of being home (very frustrating after being completely healthy during 6 months of African travels!) started catching up with everyone in Norwich and preparing myself for Bangor, ie digging out my wellies and waterproof trousers!

Moved to Bangor two weeks later, and fell in love. Bangor is tiny, we have tonnes of chariety shops(great for the many fancy dress nigths we have), but very little else. Howvere, my halls overlook the Menai Straights on one side and Snowdonia National Park on the other, quite possibly the most beautiful place to live in the UK. Have got involved in several societies to take advantage of this, BUMS (Bangor uni mountineering soc) and the diving club, so get to make fairly regular trips to the mountains, sea and quaries. Have also managed to get employment,auxiliary nursing at the hospital and behavioural therapy with an autistic child, though haven't started either yet. The course is going well, lots of less interesting stuff like writing reports being covered at the moment, but in the second half of the semester we covered health and clinical psych which was good. (Just not fun to revise!) I'm living with a great bunch of people, including a couple of my age which is nice. Am living with 5 of them next year- just need to find a house which is this weeks task!

Despite this, I was desperate for a change of scene and some sunshine (the good weather in Freshers Week didn't last, though it's not as bad as it's reputation suggests) by November, and decided a return to Africa was needed! So...

Last week I returned from 10 days in Morocco with a friend! It was very different to any other part of Africa I had seen (which is quite a lot really), far more like I imagine the Middle East is like. I enjoyed it, but would prefer the east/southern Africa. Was also unable to find a dive shop which was disappointing. Did see plenty though.

We started in Marrakesh, which was crazy. Couldn't go very far without a seller calling us in 'just for looking' at their wares.

From there went north to Fes where it took all of my self-restraint not to spend the latest chunk of student loan on various leather products- shoes, poofs, handbags, and anything else you can imagine! Did purchase a beautiful cactus-silk rug for about a third of the original price- I love bartering!

Next stop was Meknes, which had great souqs (markets) followed by Rabat. I hadn't expected much from Rabat, but it was beautiful (partly because it was really sunny for the first time in a while). Walked around the old look-out area on the estury, through a much more relaxed souq than in other towns and then to the ruins of a Roman settlement with lots of stalks and ibis!

We had planned to go to Essaouira, but discovered we could only get the bus from Casablanca at 3pm, so left Rabat early and spent a few hours in Casa. It has a reputaion as just being very industrial, but it was an interesting contrast from the other older cities we'd seen. And the mosque there is amazing. It was a Friday so couldn't go inside, but from outside it's beautiful, especially against the clear blue sky we had.

Arrived in Essaouria really late and found our planned hotel was full, but were taken to another place where we found a really nice room in an apartment with a terrace over looking the city walls and the sea! The town is only little, but had very pretty whitewashed houses, a busy fishing port and a lovely beach. Will be remembered for having the most amazing orange juice I've ever tasted!

From here went back to Marrakesh, where I spent an afternoon doing last minute shoping and wandering alone, and got practice my many various reasons for why I couldn't stay for mint tea! Conclusion- Morocco is nice, but don't go expecting Africa, and don't go out without a male companion.

Before that spent two weeks in Norwich, where I seemed to get very little done except for work at the hospital. But did get to see most of the usual suspects which was great.

Now back home, trying to revise, have done one exam and have another at the end of the week. The content isn't too difficult there is just a lot of it, and the exam is multiple choice, so to do well you have to really know what you're talking about as the options will probably only differ very slightly and there is no hope of easy marking when it's a machine doing it!

Hopefully it won't be five months until I return next. I realise I've still not said much about Africa, that will probably come next time I'm bored of revision! I also have new travel plans, but they will also have to wait.

2:20 PM
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Friday, August 29, 2008
So not as often as I'd hoped...  
but I've been busy!

Hermanus was great, nice people in the backpackers, nice groups of us left from the truck and very cool wildlife- Great Whites and whales! Went sea kayaking with the whales which was cool, then the cage dive which wasn't as scary as I thought it might be but totally amazing. Was very sea sick though, but that didn't spoil it too much. Photos to come later from both things.

From there went on to Oudtshoorn, home to lots of ostriches. Went to some caves with amazing formations inside then to an ostrich farm where I rode on one! Leaving there I bumped in to TJ (guy from the truck I'm travelling with) who I had left in Cape Town, who was also on his way to Storm's River- site of the worlds highest bungy jump at 216 metres! I had considered doing it, but when I got there decided that it was even higher than it sounds and spending my money on something that I'd actual enjoy was a better idea. TJ did it three times to make up for me not doing it!

After that went to Port Elizabeth, where nothing happens. We had heard that too many people just stay for one night before getting the bazbus (it's a compulsory stop over), and that you should stay awhile. However the majority are right. We went to the cinema as there was nothing to see apart from films! At 20 Rand (about 1.50) for both of us it was totally worth it.

When we managed to escape TJ went straight to Durban but I stopped half way and went to a place called Coffee Bay. Very cute place, tried to surf, semi sucessfully, and generally had alot of fun. Only had one night there then continued on to Durban where I was met by mum's cousin and family who were looking after me while I was there. Was great to catch up with them- last saw them at a wedding when I was four and had never met their youngest. It also meant I had a real bed to sleep in, didn't have to queue for a shower only to find the hot water had run out, and had nice sofas to sit on with a Tv to watch. Had a great first day there as I got to go to a Tri-nations rugby game against Australia, followed by a braai. South Africa lost the game but they did manage to get some points which they didn't in the match the week before.
Following day drove up to Peitermaritzburg where I caught the 'Underberg Express' (much flasher than it sounds- it was just a battered car with a sticker with the name on the back window!) up to the bottom of the Sani Pass. Here I arranged a trip up to Lesoto for the following day. Had planned to do a couple of days up there but they had no trips going so settled for a day trip. The drive up was amazing- the road is only tarred part of the way, the rest is just rocks and dirt, which is fairly common for Africa. However this was at a 25% angle and had hairpin bends with names like 'The Devil's Elbow', and a shear drop on one side! Beautiful mountains though! At the top drove to view point at 3000 metres for lunch then went to visit a local woman and her fmaily where we ate lovely bread cooked on the coals and drank beer that wasn't quite so tasty. Washed it down with a cup of tea from Africa's highest pub at the top of the pass.
Decided to leave the next morning as the cold weather was coming in and I wanted to get some diving sorted in Durban. Which is what I've sent the last two days doing. Got my scuba cert upgraded to open water, became a specialist nitrox diver and started my advanced course! Which I plan to finish this weekend in Sodwana. Currently in St Lucia (just south of there) but arranging a trip up with a friend for tomorrow or Sunday. It's one of the best dive sites i nthe world so should be good!

2:24 PM
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Despite the lack of bloggage, I am still alive, just been a little busy and lacking in internet time.

I'm currently in Cape Town and have been in South Africa for a few days. Firstly in Stellenbosch for a wine tour which, as expected, was a lot of fun and obviously very educational, which is totally why I went, nothing to do with all the wine tastings. After that came down here on Sunday. Done Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, and had planned to do Robben Island today but due to high winds and rough sea it was cancelled, so I went shopping instead. I've discovered I can claim back tax on nearly everything I buy, except food, which means everything is really cheap so I have to buy lots. Unfortunatly I don't think I can claim for postage expenses , so that might limit me a bit.

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Hermanus for a spot of cage diving with Great Whites (saw life size model of one in a museum today and realised just how big they are!) and some whale watching with a few people from the truck. After a few days there I'm off on my own for my grand tour. Not sure exactly where I'm going yet, but I'm sure making it up as I go along will be fine, as long as I get to Johanesburg on time. For those of you that don't know that's September 5th, so I'll be back in England on Friday and then in Norwich on Saturday night. And that is the last time we talk about me leaving until the 4th, at the earliest!

I'm not going to attempt to do a big update at the moment. Hopefully I will have more regular net access over the next three weeks, so will inform you all as I go, then when I return I'll write up about all my adventures up until now. I've had a great time though and have seen and done some amazing stuff. Other stuff to tick of my bucket list are seeing the Big Five, Victoria Falls, Dune 45 and getting to 12 of the 46 African countries I want to visit (yes that might be all of them...).

2:45 PM
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Becky's list of things things to do before you die:  
Swim with wild dolphins- tick

Even more amazing than you could possibly imagine, especially as they wanted to swim with us and weren't being forced to, and as it was complete luck that we found them. We were meant to be going to look at coral reefs and fish but found dolphins instead and decided that that would be the better option!

Brief update on the last week; spent a couple of days in the Serengeti, saw a lion kill a warthog- very cool, saw a leopard- even cooler, saw all the big five except a rhino- also cool, and got tanned during it all! After that came down to Dar es Salaam, where I had my first dip in the Indian Ocean ,then the next day took the ferry across to Zanzibar where I am now. Spent the first day doing a spice tour where we saw alsorts of exciting things being grown, tried amazing fruit (did you know you can get a fruit that tastes like apple and custard and it's called a custardapple and tastes incredible?!) then had an excellent meal made from the spices we'd just seen. Afterwards drove up to the north of the island and spent the rest of the afternoon and all the following day on the beach, in the sea and at the bar. It's a tough life here, but we're just about coping. The group I'm with are all nice, mainly in the 20-30 age group, and I've found a friend to go around South Africa with me, so it's all good.

6:54 PM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
West Africa Blogging  
Carl here again. I've started to blog about the two weeks I spent with Becky in West Africa, and she asked me to post up links here so that her readers could share in my descriptions of our travels. So far:

Part 1: Cotonou, Benin

Part 2: Abomey and Dassa Zoumé

Part 3: Natitingou and the Burkina border

Part 4: Ouagadougou

I'll update this list as I post more.

Hopefully Becky will be back here soon telling exciting tales about East Africa...

9:40 PM
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Monday, June 23, 2008
My Overland Tour  
Today I left Nairobi on a seven-week tour through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, ending up in Cape Town!

Here's an interactive map of the route:

View Larger Map

A detailed description of the tour is here.

Once I arrive in Cape Town I'll be spending three weeks travelling across South Africa, hopefully via Lesotho and Swaziland, to Johannesburg. I'll fly home from there at the very end of August.

(Carl posting on Becky's behalf)

2:42 PM
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Sunday, June 22, 2008
I am alive...  
And in Kenya! Had a few issues getting here, but it all worked out fine in the end, so we won't dwell on that.

West Africa was an interesting and very challenging experience. Will probably blog on it at some point, but until then read Carl's blog as I'm sure he'll be commenting on it soon.

So far Kenya has been uneventful. I slept all yesterday morning as I arrived at dawn and had barely slept the night before I flew, so went straight to a hotel and was in bed two hours after landing! In the afternoon I managed to drag myself out of bed and wander around a bit, returned to find a new room mate and went for dinner in a local cafeteria with her and a French guy from the hostel, then for coffee in a non-local place that cost 200 shillings more than three meals and drink had done! Today had another lazy morning, now off for lunch at Carnivore (guess what they serve!) and will more to a hotel near by where I meet my tour in the morning! Really looking forward to having someone to do the worrying for me, and seeing everything I will should be good too. Map like the one below to follow at some point.

10:31 AM
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008
African Travels  
Here we are in Ouagadougou, 5 days after meeting Carl in Cotonou, Benin, to start our epic tour across West Africa. We're having a great time--not much time to write now, but here is a map Carl created of our tour. (Hope it works, if not, the link to it is here)

We're off to Mali either today or tomorrow--including Timbuktu- yay! (Sorry Lou)

Agrandir le plan

10:54 AM
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Saturday, May 24, 2008
Why the Ghanaian Health Service isn't as good as it should be...  
because I'm not running it. That and the education health workers receive isn't good enough or they forget it as soon as they leave. And they need to learn some bedside manners.

Yesterday I spent in with the doctor (yes, only one!), Dr Mercy, which was very enlightening. The number of people that were diagnosed with malaria, or given anti-malarials 'just incase' was shocking. The worst case of this was a girl who came in with abnormal discharge for two months and a slight fever (I think she was about 37.5C- not very high really when you're in Africa) for the last two days so she was prescribe some. I realise that malaria is major problem here, but when it costs about twenty pence to do the blood film to test for malaria and about two quid to buy the medication then it's better to check before letting the patient waste money. The malaria parasite also builds up resistance to the drugs and as she give the same type to each patient, about 20+ each day, 5 days a week, they're going to be totally ineffective in the very near future!

Most cases we saw were slight fevers, aches and pains, nearly all of whom got the malaria treatment. One baby who came she decided to leave me to see to as she wanted a break, and didn't question what I said at all which was a little worrying. Although it was very clear that she was very sick, she was very jaundiced looking, the inside of her mouth and eye rims were very pale (indicating anemia, often secondary to malaria) and she had a fever, a real one, about 39C, so we sent her to the regional hospital for treatment. Other cases which should have been treated with a similar urgency were almost ignored. A 16 year old came complaining of neck ache and a rash on her arms. Dr Mercy was going to give painkillers and educate her on personal hygiene for the rash, until I examined the rash and noticed that it didn't change when I put pressure on it, which combined with the neck pain should have screamed meningitis at her! I suggested that this was the case and that she should be referred. So Mercy spoke to her and sent her away, then told me she had asked the girl to return on Wednesday to be referred to the regional hospital to have a lumber puncture (the test they do for meningitis) as they only do them that day. Whether she will still be alive then is another question, there is a good chance she won't be if it is meningitis. And she was given no advice about what to do if her symptoms got worse or she developed a headache.

I don't think Mercy is totally incompetent. Part of the problem is that she had around 50-60 patients to see and she was the only person to see them, so her time with each is very limited. She asks the patient for their symptoms, what if any treatment they've had already, and then prescribes some medication, or sends them to the lab if necessary (done very rarely, usually only if they've been treated already for malaria and symptoms have persisted, we also had a girl who might have been pregnant and a patient with HIV symptoms who both went for the relevant tests). She did no physical examinations, other than a quick glance at the rash or a wound that was brought in, even when a patient came complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing she didn't listen to his chest! They all have blood pressure and temperature taken before they see the doc, but that only covers a tiny amount of what could be wrong (And most of the time those aren't accurate. The thermometer is left under the arm until the nurse gets bored of waiting, not until it bleeps, and the blood pressure is taken to the nearest 10, and is often wrong- one young girl was given a bp of 140/80 and I redid it and got 115/60 - quite a big difference!)

Will update on the rest of my adventure when I remember to bring my note book to the cafe with me!

1:20 PM
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Thursday, May 15, 2008
Well despite my positive thoughts at the end of lat week work hasn't been a huge amount better. Monday was spent in the recovery room, which meant watching a little girl to make sure she didn't move her arm as she had a drip going through. I did spend some time in the dressing room so watched some dressings being done, one on a little girl who burnt her feet three months ago in a bush fire, and got to do one myself. Nothing very exciting, just a wound from an operation that hadn't fully healed, however I did have the challenge of dealing with maggots! It wasn't very nice, and the nurse assisting who was putting the tape on had no idea what I meant when I asked her to put the tape on so the edges were completely covered and therefore limiting the ease of anything getting in, which was very frustrating. The following day accidentally ended up doing a clinic in a village which was quite interesting. By clinic I mean a table and two benches under a porch in the middle of the village('Do you have villages in England?'), which we walked ('Can you walk? The road is bad') around letting people know we were there. We gave out mosquito nets to mother who brought a voucher (given at a recent clinic when they had run out), vitamin A to any child between 6 months an two (they give it every 6 months), any immunisations that the child needed- polio, BCG, DPT (a combined one for several different things including hep B and diphtheria) , and weighed the kids. They go to a different village each day except Wednesday when it is done from the health centre, which I did yesterday. Today I had planned to go to Accra to get visas but they still don't have any, so stayed of work anyway as I was really tired. It's been really hot the last week and it's quite draining. Tomorrow I'll be back at work and have been invited to to work in the lab (by a man who wants to marry me!), so will hopefully be doing that, and then next week will be visiting another clinic on Monday and might do some work with them next week. I'm going to talk to the doctor at the clinic I'm at currently and explain that if possible I want to be learning, not doing something I could be paid to do back home, or failing that at least something practical. If they don't think they can do that I'll try the other place and failing that go back to the hospital.

5:23 PM
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Friday, May 09, 2008
Week of work  
Well, perhaps only three days of actual work, but I worked hard, so it was like a whole week.
Wednesday I went to the orphanage, which is also a school, and spent a morning trying to teach about 40 rowdy 2-10 year old kids three different classes all at once(I think that alone qualifies as a weeks worth of work)! When they were doing as they should be it was quite fun, when they were pulling each other of chairs and hitting the small kids with chalk boards it wasn't so good. Luckily, they finished earlier than the other classes so I escaped and went a joined a class of seven older children (12-14ish I think), and they asked me questions about England, mainly where various football teams were located and got very confused when I told them Manchester United wasn't the name of a town and that Arsenal and Chelsea are both from London! They were a lovely group, one of them I had met the day before and she had asked the names and ages of my brothers, then announced that she was going to 'write Sam', and as I was leaving she produced a heart-adorned letter written in pink to Sam saying she loved him- don't say I never do anything for you Sam!

The next day I went back to that class and spent the morning teaching them English Language and science which was very enjoyable, made me quite want to teach, but I think I would enjoy it much less if it was a less pleasant class. It was interesting teaching a class where the kids don't all have pens and paper, everything written was done on the board, and where resources in general are lacking. The younger class I took had no books, so I had to invent everything that was taught, the older group did have text books, but had the class been any bigger there wouldn't have been enough.

I had planned to try to go back today but Paschal had already arranged for me to start at the clinic. I met the head doctor there yesterday who was very nice, but didn't get to see her before I started this morning, so had no chance to discuss the kind of work I would like to do, so ended up watching a nurse taking blood pressures and temperatures and then writing them and the details of the patient in a big book, then the diagnosis (invariably malaria- there were at least 30 cases in the 40 patients we saw!) when they had seen the doc. Not the most productive way I could have spent the morning, but apparently I'm going to be working in the recovery room on Monday so I might get to put canulas in and set up fluids and other exciting things. If I do get to do more it should be a pretty exciting couple of weeks.

3:55 PM
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Travel Tales  
Not really a huge amount of any interest to tell I'm afraid, most of the week involved being proposed to or getting annoyed with Ghanaian transport.

Spent my first night (Saturday) at Busua beach, was accosted by some tourists when I got to the taxi staion who wanted to go to a resort that was abit out of the way and wanted to know if I wanted to share a taxi there. I had planned to go but changed my mind when i realised how expensive the taxi would be for just one, so agreed to go, only to find when we arrived that both the places in that area were full! So had to drive all the way back and find somewhere else, which I did without to many problems. Spent the following morning swimming in the rain, then went back to Takradi to get the train to Kumasi... only to be told it hasn't run for about 3 years! Tried to get a tro-tro (battered minibus type thing), but sat there for over an hour without it leaving and realised I would be getting to Kumasi very late and despite calling some places, hadn't managed to get a hotel room, so decided it wold be safer to go back to Mama Joyce for the night. Which I did, without too much hassle, and then got a nice comfy air-conned bus the next day to Kumasi where I was looked after by one of Paschal's students, Steven. It's not the most exciting place in th world, but it's the regional capital and home to the king of one of the biggest tribes, so visited the palace and a couple of museums about the Ashanti people, and went to the biggest market in West Africa- it was huuuuge. My lasting memory however, will be walking around endless banks trying to find one that would take my Mastercard, eventually found that Barclays would, which was the first bank we had gone to, but rather than letting me go in to ask, Steven just spoke to the guards who sent us to a different bank!

Wednesday I went on to Accra, and arrived late evening due to horrific traffic around the outskirts. There I had more fun with transport, I asked a taxi to take me to the national museum, told him the road it was on (one of the biggest in Accra) and showed him on the map... he took me to the Memorial Museum for Kwame Nkrumah, which I only realised after I had payed, gone in and not found anything the guidebook mentioned! Went to some of the sites around that part of town, including the cultural centre (market aimed at tourists so hassle is endless), and Independence Square. From there tried to get another taxi to the museum, who told me he knew where it was, then pulled over to ask for directions! I ended up getting out to try to find it on foot (it was about one thirty by then so really hot!), but had no idea where I was! Eventually found a nice man who walked me there, wanted my number in return, but I'd temporarily forgotten I had a number in Ghana, very conveniently!

Friday was spent trekkin around town again, this time in search of visas! I phoned the Togo embassy in the morning to check they were open (had tried to go the day before only to be told it wa sa holiday so could get a visa!), and that they could give me a VTE (visa for several of the french speaking west African countries) which they said they could, I asked how much it was and they gave me a price in CFA, asked what it was in dollars, but was told I could only pay in CFA! I didn't have enough so went to the Barclays near my hotel, but was told I could only use a Mastercard at the head office... ON THE OTHERSIDE OF TOWN! The embassy was on my side on the city. Traffic was bad, had to wait, then trek about for a forex with CFA, and then get back to the embassy, where I was told that the visas were 'finished', they had run out of visas! Had lots of issues there which resulted in me hanging about for ages and then not being able to get a visa, I have to go back in two weeks when they will get some more from Lome. Not Happy!

The rest of day was frustrating, except the hour I spent in an air-conned net cafe with a fast connection and managed to get some pics online (via Carl), see facebook. Again transport and people who won't leave me alone were annoying, ut eventully managed to get to Kokrobitey beach, where I found a room, had a great BBQ dinner and watched the sun set over the sea. The next day was typically grey (the last two days we beautifully sunny, as was the following day), but still warm so went in the sea, ate the hugest pizza in the world, and chatted to the locals.

The next day I dragged myself away from the beach (at 8:30 I was already hot enough to want to spend all day in the sea) and got a taxi (driver asked to marry me) to the junction where I got a tro-tro to another junction and an old man showed me where to get a taxi to Winneba, then asked for my number! Got a taxi, was waiting for more passengers and got proposed to again! Got there but when I enquired about where I should go and when was told that the festivities for that day would be in the evening, and as I thought I had work the next day decided to leave, especially as it was far to hot to do anything except sit in the sea or in a air conditioned room. So made my way back home, with remarkably few offers of marriage!

As it turns out I didn't have work the next day, or today, but I have met with Paschal and will be spending the next two days in an orphanage, then will meet with a doc fro ma locl clinic and will hopefully being working with her from then on, will be getting details of my job later but it sounds lke it will be vaccinating and going out to local villages and doing clinic sessions there. Will give more details as I get them!

4:13 PM
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Friday, April 25, 2008
More travelling!  
Today was my last official day in the hospital, although I'm considering sneaking back in to watch an autopsy and perhaps an afternoon in x-ray which I was told today is very interesting. It's been a fascinating four weeks, which I shall tell you all about at some point.

I'm now taking a break for a week to see some of the country, not entirely sure where I'm going to go, just wander and try to end up in Accra and then a coastal town on the way back to Cape Coast for a festival next weekend. Hopefully when I get to Accra I'll be able to put up some pics as the internet is faster there.

Generally everything is going well, I've been fairly healthy, my family are still great (especially now we've lost some of the annoying cousins!), and I've met some lovely people at work. Not totally sure what I'm going to be doing when I return, my project co-ordinator is meant to be calling to discuss with me tonight. Was very pleased to discover from some volunteers with Teaching Projects Abroad that there work has been just as disorganised as mine (they are doing exactly the samething as me, were dropped off at the hospital and left to their own devises) and paid twice as much as I did! The possibilities are going back to the hospital, doing an outreach educational project (what I was meant to be doing, but unsure of whether funding will be available), going to an orphanage, trying to find a clinic somewhere (preferably somewhere remnoteish) to work in, or maybe a bit of each. Whatever it will be interesting, and I'm quite looking forward to my holiday being over!

For those of you that don't know already, I'm having a visitor! Carl is going to be joining me in early June in Benin to travel around West Africa, which will be great. As much as I enjoy travelling by myself it's sometimes nice to have someone to look after my bag so I can sleep on long bus trips! Will post more details closer to the time.

5:43 PM
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Monday, April 14, 2008
An update and apology  
The apology first, variations of plantain are not the only good food here, groundnuts (bit like peanuts) are very nice and so is popcorn.

On to the update. I've had a pretty busy weekend, went to Kakum on Saturday(got delayed a week due to an AWOL driver), Cape Coast Castle yesterday and had alot of family in the house as there was a funeral happening.
Kakum was cool, a nice wander through the rainforest 40 meters up is quite pleasant when you get over the wobbling and just how far down the ground is, dad and Luke you would have loved it! After that did an additional nature walk and saw lots of big trees and learnt about their various medicinal properties; the bark of one when mixed with black pepper heals bones apparently!
Did very little except plan trips around various parts of Africa in the afternoon and eat pineapple.

Sunday I had a lie-in to recover from my stressful afternoon the previous day then went to the castle which was interesting. For those that don't know the castle was originally just a fort for various european countries (it kept changing hands, danes, dutch, portugese and swedes were all there at some point before the brits took over), but was later where captured Africans were kept before being shipped off round the world as slaves. A tour is offered which I joined and was the only white person and got lots of dirty looks when we were shown around the dungeons and told that up to 1000 men might be kept in a space not big enough to hold half that number and comments along the lines of what my people had done to them. I decided to point out that actually a lot of them were not captured by the british but by rival tribes who traded them for guns and alcohols, I didn't get any negativity after that. The museum housed there was very interesting, had lots of background on Ghana as well as the slave trade.

My week at work has been good, last week did female surgery, delivery, and neonatal intensive care, and today went to paediatrics. All of it has been very interesting, and there seem to be some constantly reoccurng problems, mainly education (or lack of), funding (again, lack of) and the use of traditional medicines. There was a lady last week which who had put some traditional used herbs on a cut on her toe which turned gangrenous but she continued to use alternatives and by the time she got to hospital it was too late and the toes (her first two and quite a lot of her foot) now need to be amputated. Read a similar case today about a three year old who was given a 'native enema' to relieve constipation which didn't work, just lead to an infection. There are lots of people who seem to use these instead of going to a doctor as you have to pay for health care, it costs $2 just for a consolation and another dollar for admin costs. There is an insurance scheme but lots of people (mainly the poorest who would benefit most) don't use it. A two year old girl we had today burnt her hands when she put them in boiling water (she appears to have some kind of autistic spectrum thing) but was not taken to hospital, because her mother (only 17) couldn't afford it, until 17 days later when a 'good samaratin' took her. By this point the burns were infected so she had the tops of her fingers amputated today.
The majority of cases on the paeds ward were malaria (having looked though the report book this seems normal) which again could be prevented with more education, although a lot seems to be happening already- there are billboard up in town telling people to sleep under nets and use repellent, and apparently nets are given out free (not sure of the conditions of this).

I've booked a day in theatres tomorrow so that should provide lots of interesting stories so will report on them later in the week.

In other exciting news- Ghana has cucumbers (or Ka-kum-bers as they say here), this has made me very happy.

5:28 PM
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Friday, April 04, 2008
Mmmm... barbequed plantain  
Just about the best thing about Ghanaian cuisine, that and fried plantain and fufu (mashed plantain)... everything else involves lots of meat and or fish and very few veg.
Apart from that I'm having a pretty good time, tis very hot and very sticky but I have a fan in my room and a lot of the hospital has air con or fans.

The family I'm staying with are lovely. They consist of Mama Joyce, 3 of her 4 daughters (ages 19, 20, 21 and 23) (although I think the 4th is joining us soon), 2 of her 3 sons(15, 27 and 29), her sister and currently her niece and nephew, and an American student (Miles) studying here at the moment but leaving soon. So it's a fairly busy household. The house is nice, plenty of fans, and palm trees in the garden!

Work is going well so far, had a tour of the hospital on Monday but started properly the following day. So far I have done two days in Obstetrics and Gynecology, today in Accident and Emergency and yesterday off sick- traveller's sickness final got me! Obs and gyne had lots of cases similar to what I think you would get in any western hospital, but the treatment they got is where the differences lie. Some fairly mundane stuff like not giving analgesia when suturing a woman after a Caesarian section, to more serious things like only controlling symptoms of gynecological cancers rather than treating the cancer with surgery or chemo. I realise that the likes of ovarian cancer have a fairly poor prognosis generally, but to my knowledge they would still try to treat it if they could in the west. Part of the reason for the lack of surgery given is because they have one theatre (and one attached to the delivery suite) serving the whole hospital containing over 200 beds, including several surgical wards!
Next week will be off to some different wards, probably surgical for the first two days then the dialysis, burns and ICU ward for the second part of the week. ICU (intensive care unit for none medical types) is one of the few places I haven't worked in before (obs and gyne was one of the others), so that should be very interesting.

Got exciting plans for the weekend too, think the older kids, Miles and I are going out to a few local bars tonight then a Ghanaian club, then tomorrow were going to Kakum National Park, and the beach on Sunday to cool off, so should be good.

Will try to put up some photos when I find a computer with the ability and speed to let me, hopefully will get some nice views from the treetops!

4:22 PM
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I'm here!  
This is going to be very brief as I'm nearly out of internet time, but I am alive, fairly well considering I've been up since 3:45 with only a couple of hours sleep before that! Will fill you all in on my epic plane journey and first impressions of Africa later, but for now I need bed, and maybe pizza....

10:19 PM
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Monday, March 24, 2008
55 hours and counting!  
And very scared! But also excited, and nervous and absolutly cannot wait etc!
I'm pretty much packed, got a visa, and think I've got most of what else I need, but have been warned that most of Africa is much harder to get anything I forget at a good price and good quality than Nepal was. It should be fine though. I've had lots of fabulous advice from many people, especially Lou on Ghana- thank you sooooooo much darling!

The plans have been re-jigged a bit after lots of scary stories about various problems encounter by others when trying to do Africa overland alone. So the revised plans are something along the lines of:
Tuesday 25th, 12.00- leave Norwich for a fun packed afternoon with Carl in London
Wednesday 26th, at the crack of dawn- leave England for Ghana
March to end of May- working in Ghana
June- travel around a bit, currently thinking of going along the coast to Togo, travel north through the country and in to Burkina Faso, North again to Mali (mainly to go to Timbuktu) then either fly out from there or go back in to Ghana and fly from there...
Around 20th June- to join a six week overland tour from Nairobe to Johannesburg via everything that is worth seeing and adding another 8 countries to my list of ones visited! I will arrive in South Africa about...
Early August- and get a three week bus pass around the country, popping in to some or all of Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho on the way, before flying home late in August (sometime between 27th and 29th I think)!

All very exciting, still feel like I've got a lot to do, not help by the fact that nothing has been open since Thursday evening and won't be until Tuesday morning, which is going to leave me with quite a lot of last miute shopping on Tuesday before the train or in London. Thanks to the internet, flights, tours, buses, banking and many other things can be arranged when I get to Ghana, and from what I've been told many African countries have embassies there so if I can't get them at the border I can get them there.

On a side note, just found a list of the top 50 places to see before you die, the next 5 months is going to add at least three of the list on to the six I've already been to (two of those in the top 10- The Grand Canyon #1 and Las Vegas #7)! And another 6 are already planned in to next years summer holiday- Becky Goes to Asia- Part Two- more on that another time... in six months time perhaps...

Anyhoo, this may well be my last England-based blog for a while, hope you all have fun while I'm gone. I will try to update as often as I'm able, but do to email/facebook me to say hi as well. If anyone wants to say hi/goodbye leaving drinks are tomorrow evening, all invited, give me a call for details.

Oh, and you're more than welcome to come and visit me any where along the way! Au revoir!

12:11 AM
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Saturday, March 01, 2008
Latest Travel News  
And there is lots! I've had most of the last two weeks off work which has been great, especially as it's paid leave! The first week I took as holiday and went up north visiting. Spent a few days with Carl, the first evening of which we went out with Lou, who was up for an interview, Tim, who lives there, and Helen who came down from York so we could have a proper NYFC reunion, and much fun it was too! Very good to see you all. The rest of the week consisted of lots of watching of Lost, but, combined with a portable DVD player and four hours waiting to be operated on, we're now up to date so it was worth not seeing sunlight; and a very enjoyable shopping trip- thank you Kate! When we managed to drag ourselves away from the wonders of 4OD Carl took me to see The Grouch which was very good.

The second part of the week took me south to Leicester to visit Katherine and Sally, which was also very enjoyable and un-suprisingly involved more shopping! I believe there were some wonderful photos from this but there was a mysterious accident and most seem to have disappeared- I'm sure it was nothing to do with the incriminating anyone or their behaviour, just one of those annoying things that happens somethimes- right Katherine?!

Back in Norwich I worked for two days then had the dreaded tooth removal! It was very bizzare being there as a patient and being asked all the questions that the day before I had spent all day asking patients who were theatre bound! To my relief I only saw one member of staff I knew and at that point I was still fully dressed and upright. It all went fine, but there was a last minute decision to remove all four as the two upper ones looked as they would be problamatic in the future- so any hopes of wisdom have gone in to a clinical waste bag! Spent Friday evening feeling awful. I was given plenty of local anesthetic before I woke up but as this wore off the pain came on and seemed to take ages to get under control. The worst bit was how much my jaw ached as it must have been pulled open very wide for about an hour, that took about three days to wear off! The swelling was pretty bad to start with too, but has been going down since about Wednesday- now I just look fat! Still feeling very tired very easily, but I went for nearly 20 hours without any painkillers today which is a huge improvement.

Despite my condition I went to Oxford on Sunday with Mum to visit her family en route to an open day at Bangor on Wednesday. Seeing mountains again(even ones eight times smaller than the last ones I saw) was wonderful- I'm getting very attached to the idea of living with them on my doorstep- especially when the sea is on my backdoor step- something that Nepal can't offer! The uni is pretty small, which is good as it removes the need for the use of anything except my legs to get anywhere. All the student housing is in the town centre, which is mainly comprised of the uni campus, as are the shops, and train and bus staions- should I feel the need to leave at anytime. Part of the campus is very old and grand and looks like it was stolen from Hogwarts, this is where I would have most of my lecutres, and the Psychology headquarters is a brand new building which has all sorts of exciting researchy stuff. Combined with what sounds like an excellent course, with oppertunities to study abroad, Bangor being scored top for research along with the likes of Oxbridge, and its geographical position and the opportunities for extra activities that gives (paragliding, mountain climbing, kayaking (sea or river), surfing, sailing- need I go on?!), it all sounds pretty good!

In other uni news:

Still waiting to hear from Plymouth before I make a final choice, but as I'm not entirely convinced that I would be happy being a paramedic yet, then it will take alot to persuade me that going there would be better.

Had an interview and entrance exam for UEA yesterday, the interviewer went throught my paper with me and seemed fairly pleased with what I had written (as was I as I haven't planned a psychological investigation for three years and still came up with something that ticked all the boxes!), and the rest of the interview wasn't bad, but while the offer from Bangor is there I won't be accepting anything from UEA.

Cardiff are stupid- long story but basically they seem to have changed the course title and the required grades at some point, but those details were not changed on UCAS at the time I applied so I was unaware of this, and as a result no longer have the asking grades. Upon further research I have been put off clinical physiology anyway, which means Leeds is off the list as they eventually decided I couldn't change my application to human physiology- apparently working as a nurse for 18 months counts for nothing towards ones knowledge of the human body!

So really it's down to a very one sided battle between the mountains and the moors!

I have been signed off (on paid sick leave!) for two weeks so I'm going to take advantage of that, as I'm not up to doing anything more than a couple of half days, and spend the week trying to sort my self out for Africa! There have been concerns raised that I have no way of knowing how bonne fide the organisation I'm planning to go with are, so I'm being forced to look at some other options, if only to keep everyone happy. If anyone has any thoughts on this, or knows of anything that can sort out a medical-type placement for me in West Africa for a sensible price (I had been quoted £500 or so for my original placement) then do offer suggestions. Also having visa issues as I need to have proof that I'm leaving the country before they'll give me a visa- which I don't have. I'm hoping that if I speak to the Ghana embassy and explain my plans and offer to buy a flight home from South Africa then they will let me off. Flights around Afrcia are expensive at the best of times, but even more so if you buy them from anywhere other than the country you are flying from- my current quote was more expensive than my flight to Ghana from the UK! And although having a flight home will restrict me slightly, it will make everyone here much happier and give me more of an idea about how much money I have to play with! More news on this as it breaks, but I think that's all for now folks!

11:40 PM
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Monday, February 04, 2008
Happy Mondays!  
After feeling very frustrated that I had no new emails from universities or my Ghana project this morning, I set my facebook status to 'Becky wants answers!' and went to get dressed. During this the post arrived and guess who I had a letter from? Our dear UEA inviting me for an interview! Would have prefered to have heard from somewhere that I was more keen to go to, but hopefully it will mean other replies will be on their way shortly. Due to allthe excitement I forgot to open my other letter, but when I did it was from the taxman saying they had recieved my P60 and I will be recieving a tax rebate cheque very soon! This will be very welcome as they owe me about a months wages! And next payday I get back paid for everything I've worked since August when I got a payrise that I haven't been getting until this month! And I've lost 2Kg in the last two weeks! So overall I'm quite a happy bunny and facebook is magical! Who said Mondays were bad?!

11:27 AM
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Thursday, January 31, 2008
Slightly overdue...  
So this isn't quite 'tomorrow' as promised, but it came eventually which is something to be grateful for I think. I do have an excuse as I've had a very busy 6 weeks since I returned.

My first week back involved trips to the pub, luncheons with friends and trying to get my head around the fact that I was back in England- much harder than you might think. I did manage to restrain myself from haggling with the bus driver over the price of a ticket, but did greet someone with 'Namaste' more than once, and still say 'Ek sin' (= one minute) to patients when they're nagging me!

Three days after returning I was back at the hospitalfor an appointment where Iwas told thatmy wisdom teeth needto come out. They've not been causing me pain continually, but they regularly ache, one is at risk of causing an infection and neither are going to come out without surgical intervention! I was back the next day for a chest x-ray so I could be cleared to work again, promted by three phone calls from work asking when I was free, within 24 hours of being back in the country! My first shift back was in the delivery suite which was the first time I had been there and very exciting! That week also saw me write the quickest UCAS application on record, in order to get it in before school shut for Christmas. Decided to stick with the healthcare route and so applied for:
Psychology with Neuropsychology at Bangor (N. Wales)
Clinical Physiology with an international year at Cardiff
Human Physiology also with a year abroad at Leeds
Paramedical Studies at Plymouth
Psychosocial Studies at UEA
It was all a bit rushed, but was fairly happy with my choices, although UEA was a bit of a filler.

Week after was Christmas which brought with it lots of family, and extra pay at work! Had Christmasday off but worked anything else that was going to help replenish my bank balance.
New year was seen in with more family, (Hello TW Gathercoles!) was great to catch up with them as I hadn't seen any of them for ages. Also took the oppertunityto show cousin Hannah around our fine city as she had been offered an interview for a postgraduate social work course, which she came back for a week later, and was subsiquently offered an unconditional place! I also hadexciting news that week as I checked UCAS track for the first time and found an unconditional offer from Bangor! I also managed to persuade the parents that I needed to have my room back (Sam stole it within days of me moving out last January!), soI'm now back in my lovely stripey room, it's still full of boxes though.

My Christmas present from Carl was a weekend away in Madrid in mid-January, which was wonderful. Neither of us had been before so exploring was a lot of fun. Visited a couple of art galleries, the stunning Palacio Real (Royal Palace), and many pretty streets. The best bit for me was the clear blue skies and constant sunshine- something I've really missed since being home. A friend of Carl's (Hello Joy!) is studying there so we spent alot of time with her which was nice, especially as she is a fluent speaker of Spanish!

The weeks since then have been fairly uneventful. Have been working a lot, not heard any more from any unis, but I am starting to nag them, as I now have a time limit for interviews... as I booked a flight (just one- no return ticket!) to Ghana today! I've been planning to do it for ages, but having recieved some forms from the group I'm going to work for and realising I had a £20 voucher to spend by this evening with the airline that was offering me the best price, decided to go for it! I had an appointment with the travel nurse this morning and have had a booster vaccination and have an appointment for the Yellow Fever jab next week. The medical treatment will continue as I have my opperation as the end of Febuary. I've oppted for a general anesthetic as one tooth is going to be pretty tough to get out- this will be my first GA and first operation- so I'm feeling a little nervous, which makes me feel silly as I see patients going in and out of theatre all day every day! It does give me a paid week off work which will be nice! Will no doubt be spent eating ice cream and planning what to do in Africa. At the moment the general plan is to spend up to three months working and travelling around Ghana, before going east to Zambia, possibly for more work, or maybe just extreme sports (Bungee jumping off Victoria Falls anyone?!), then travelling overland down to Johannesburg to start a tour of South Africa, with a flight back home planned for sometime towards the end of August. If anyone has any recommendations of whereto go and what to do then do let me know! But until that my most exciting trip is going to be up to Leeds and Leicester to go visiting, and perhaps to some unis for open days or interviews- I'll keep you posted!
PS- You will find out about Tibet one day!

2:55 PM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I'm home!  
Yes, back in our fine city of Narwich, and oh so pleased to be back in England with it's clear skies and warm climate... hmmm. I am obviously slightly happier to be able to see everyone again- if you haven't seen me yet (don't be too offened, I've only been back 30 hours!) and would like to do give me a call or email and I'll try to fit you in to my very busy schedule!

Will do a proper update tomorrow and may even add a few piccys, the rest will be on facebook shortly.

9:46 PM
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Sunday, November 25, 2007
Pokhara to Kathmandu  
For those of you that hadn't guessed, the photo was taken in the Sarangkot area, but about 500 metres above it from a paraglide! Was alot of fun, and not half as scary as you'd think running off a huge mountain and then hanging with nothing but a bit of nylon keeping you up, would be! Unfortunatly it was the least clear day we had all week, so no spectacular views of the Himalyas, but the ones of Pokhara and the lake area weren't bad as you can see.

The rest of my time in Pokhara was great- lovely, warm weather, clear skies most of the time, and lots of fun stuff to do. Aside from paragliding, I went by motorbike (no, I didn't drive Mum!) to some nearby lakes, went to a cave full of bats, visited an orphange run by the chariety Bishnu is president of, went to the Gurkha museum (Nepali soliders who are very tough and serve in the Britsh army), went to several temples, went up Sarangkot for sunset twice, and spent lots of time looking and taking photos of the mountains!

I decided to break up the jouney back to Kathmandu by stopping at a couple of little place on the way. First night was spent in the very beautiful village of Bandipur, I saw about 6 other tourists while I was there! Had lots of pretty buildings and great mountain views, and because it was on the top of a very high ridge then it was nice a sunny in the morning, even though the valley was full of cloud! Drove down in to the cloud, hanging of the bck of a jeep type thing, then continued on to Gorkha, once the captital until it got moved to KTM. Also very high up, but not as high as the Gorkha Durbar which was 1500 steps above the town! Walked up ad was rewarded with more fantastic mountain views! Met some guys at the top who had run up, carrying 30 kilos as they were training for Gurkha tryouts! In the evening joined them and their friends for the festival celbrations that were going on which ws nice. Next morning left very early and got a bus to Manakamana (think that's spelt right, I don't have my Lonely Planet on me to check!) which is a very important Hindu temple, and as it was Saturday (Hindu holy day) it was very busy with goat-killing pilgrims! Had to get a cable car (the longest in Asia at 3.03 km!) there as its up a huge mountain (noticing any themes here?!), which was possibly scarier than paragliding! After seeing a few headless goats and chickens decided that mountains were nicer to look at, so bought some interesting looking Nepali snacks and wandered up towards where I thought I would be able to see mountains, and found this:

so ate my very tasty food, drank some tea that a nice family who were also picnicing up there made for me, and enjoyed the views! After that went back down and caught a bus back to KTM, which I rode on the roof of as it was very hot inside and the view were better from the roof! A slightly nerve-wreking way of travelling, but at least if we looked like we were going to crash I could jump off! Got stuck in jams twice which made the journey mch longer than it should have been, so didn't go back to MSCC that night, jst stayed in Thamel and prepared myself for another long journey the next day!

The Chitwan story will follow, but I will give you taste of whats to come...

5:13 AM
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Guess where...  
... I was when I took this photo!

3:11 PM
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