Category: Social Escapades

Acitivities and outings

My group travel experience in Malaysia

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A view of Kuala Lumpur from our first Air BnB

On my recent trip to Malaysia, I was very intrigued to observe the different kinds of personalities and behaviours displayed by the group of people that I travelled with.  This was my first time travelling with a group of people who are not necessarily family or close friends. Since it was an all-girls trip, I assumed all will be smooth-sailing. It did not take a day for me to realise how our different personalities were causing tension. For the purpose of this blog, I will describe the different instances in which I observed our differences creating tension:

The itinerary

  • Type-A likes to have a fixed itinerary, plans days before what they want to do and ensures that they visit every place on the well-googled list.
  • Type-B does not plan anything, wants to go with the flow and see where the day takes them.

I am a type-B traveller who is so not into the military-style planning and waking up at a certain time of the day to catch all the touristy sites suggested by Google. We had initially agreed to travel together within the city to minimise costs; which meant taking one taxi/cab or grab as they are known in Malaysia. Anyone who would opt to go their own way would end up paying the full fare whereas if four people went together, the fare would be split four-ways. This meant that there would be times when one is forced to take part in activities they were not interested in or choose to go their own way and pay the full fare. Within a few days, the group had split into smaller groups with similar interests. Speaking of similar interests; the group was also made of people with different religious beliefs. Malaysia has a lot of temples, mosques and churches. When it came to the itinerary, it was not surprising that some of the people wanted to visit a mosque, some wanted to go to the Buddhist temples. I felt that I had no reason to visit either of the two, so I opted to find something else to do. I also remember there being some old tombs to visit on the list. I opted for a relaxing sound-bath Read more about what it is here that actually helped me to relax and reflect on why I needed this break.

Some of us wanted to go restaurant-hopping and tasting all the food in Malaysia. This is fun if you’re into that kind of thing, but for me, it wasn’t something I was interested in because I don’t eat that much. I was fine tasting one meal at a time, but I draw the line when it comes to spending the whole day eating. Malaysia is known for its amazing food and I did enjoy sampling some of it. (PS: I will do a separate blog for the food).

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I tasted the famous roti canai with half-boiled eggs

Shared accommodation

We used the Air BnB because we all decided we preferred cosy apartments rather than the hotels or hostels. It also made sense to share the apartments instead of having separate ones (cost-effective). The result was that we had one apartment with several bedrooms, but sharing common areas (lounge, kitchen, bathrooms). With different personalities came different morning routines. Some people are weirdly happy and chipper in the morning and then there is me; terribly grumpy and generally unfriendly until I have at least had my first cup of coffee. I found myself having early morning conversations about what we were going to do that day before I even had a chance to open my eyes. Some days I would wake up to meetings that were too serious to be had in the morning. Lesson learned for next time, get your own room.

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One of our air BnB apartments in Kuala Lumpur

Socialising

I am a social person especially after I wake up properly and have my cup of coffee. One of my main aims on this trip was to meet new people and socialise. I love meeting and speaking to strangers, I believe that is how you make new friends. Now, with the different personalities in my travel group, it meant that some were interested in meeting new people and others were not. Picture a scenario where you all decide to have lunch at a local restaurant and another group of travellers approaches your table to greet the people at your table. You then find out that you’re the only one who is keen to speak to the new group and that your group prefers not to add new people to the group. How can you travel to a new place and only want to talk to the people you came with? This is when I realised I needed to separate myself from the group and go my own way.

Treatment of service staff

When you travel with a group of people, you will find that not everyone treats service staff the same. I was shocked to realise how some people can justify being rude to waiters, cab drivers and security personnel. I witnessed a number of arguments that could have been avoided with a little common courtesy.  At the back of my mind, I kept worrying about being guilty by association because I was part of the group. I am the kind of person who believes in treating people with respect, no matter who they are. I also realised that I was in a group of people of different age groups, different backgrounds and upbringing. As I was observing, I was also trying to understand what would drive certain behaviours. During the trip, I purchased the book “Surrounded by Idiots” by Thomas Erikson which is a great book if you want to understand the people around you and how to interact with them. I found myself reading this book every night after my observations so that I could make sense of what I was experiencing.Image result for surrounded by idiots

Conversations

I guess I had high expectations of the kind of conversations I wanted to have on this trip. I hate small talk and so I tend to seek out deeper and more meaningful conversations. Travelling as a group meant that I was with people who were either into that or not at all. I soon realised that some people in the group preferred not to converse at all and others were more interested in discussing the weather or some other random thing. I found myself seeking out strangers as had been my earlier plan because I wanted to learn new things and have memorable conversations. I will also write another blog about the interesting conversations and people I met during my trip.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed my trip, but I doubt that I will be opting for group travel any time soon. Maybe, it just was not with the right group of people. It might have been a way for me to know what I prefer between being a solo-traveller or travelling in a group. I also learned a lot about what kind of traveller I am. What has been your experience with group travel? Please share below and maybe I can learn from your experiences too.

GG

We are more similar than you think…

Since I came to Hong Kong, I usually found myself forming friendships or associations more with international people more than the local Chinese people. The reason behind this is mainly due to the language barrier, I do not speak a word of Cantonese and my attempt to learn Mandarin did not go very far.  I did try though and I wrote about it a while ago in this POST.

As a result, I do feel more at home with English-speakers. Usually, when we meet as friends or acquaintances in the places we work or socialise, we always find the common topics of discussion to be centred around our experiences of being here. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about how non-locals feel they are being treated by the locals or how this and that is difficult or how it would be different in other places. I guess that is the story of anyone living in a foreign land. 

I found myself in the least expected company the other day and the experience brought home this thought about how shared experiences can bring people together. There is a saying misery loves company which suggests that somehow people who are going through the same circumstance may find solace in their shared experience. So there I was, a female from Zimbabwe, seated with a guy whose heritage is mixed Indian and Russian (first time to ever meet someone with such an interesting heritage, massive conversation starter and he uses it to his advantage) and the other, more loud and confident, born and raised in Manila, Philippines. As the three of us sat at a table having dinner we suddenly found it funny that here we were, in Hong Kong, all three of us coming from completely different backgrounds, but we were speaking the same language, in the sense of having experienced some of the same things during our stay here. What are the chances that we would find similarities in each other’s stories? This blew my mind and immediately, I knew these two men would become my friends. One thing I totally forgot to do was to take a selfie, but next time I see them, I will remember to take one so I can share with you guys. 

We talked about, among other things, our different experiences of racism and discrimination, each of us having a story to share. I could write a book on this topic alone really. We also talked about our home countries and the concept of “home”. This is important to me because, at that moment, I realised that a lot of young adults are beginning to lose this concept of “home” as circumstances force them to leave the countries of their birth to seek greener pastures. However, each of us was so sure that there will be a day when we will all return back to our “home”. 

At that moment, we were so different yet so much alike. 

We also had a chance to relearn what we thought we knew about the other (black African, mixed Indian-Russian and South East-Asian) and filling in the blanks. This was such a beautiful learning moment and it made me realise that we are all HUMAN, period. Our differences make us who we are, but we can all find a place to meet as humans and find that we are not as different as the world makes us out to be. Stereotypes and prejudices are the things that separate people. 

At the end of the day…

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Confronting my ageism…

ageism
/ˈeɪdʒɪz(ə)m/
noun
  1. stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. “ageism in recruitment is an increasing problem”

I am going to start with a few questions for you.

  • Is it always important for you to only hang out with people your own age?
  • Do you only consider dating in a certain age range and never step out of that range?
  • Do you only accept the views of people in your own age range and view others on the outside of that range to be “uninformed” about your experiences?

If you have answered yes to one or both of these questions, you might be an ageist. Well, that might be a strong statement, so let me rephrase. You might have practiced ageism knowingly or unknowingly.  I recently had to admit that about myself and it was only after taking some time to reflect on it and research on what ageism is all about that I realised just how limiting this mindset can be. The extreme forms of ageism can lead to people being overlooked for job opportunities or being discriminated against in society. However, I am going to describe my own experience with ageism, from how I have come to understand it.

The first time I came face to face with my own prejudice related to age was a little while back when I went on the GPS Gateway Camp . This was the first time I admitted to having stereotyped people according to their age and I felt really ashamed to have done this. The funny thing is as I was busy making stereotypes about people based on their age, it did not occur to me that I was also making those same stereotypes about myself (judging myself as old).

Here is how it happened:

So, we arrived at the camp on the first day and it was a Monday afternoon. I registered as an individual camper which meant that I would be part of a team of people who will be meeting each other for the very first time, unlike those who registered as a group. So, you know how it goes when you have to make introductions… The conversation went like this:

“Hey, how are you? My name is ….and I am from (insert country of origin),  how old are you?”

I was fine answering the first part of the question, but the last part I found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable. For some reason, I felt uneasy answering the question about my age. The reason being that the people in my team looked really young. I immediately thought, OMG, I am in the wrong team. I am in my early 30s and most of the people in the camp looked like they were teenagers. My reaction was so immediate and sort of subconscious. I  had judged them based on their appearance and made the conclusion that they were young and therefore, I was in the wrong group/the wrong camp.

In hindsight, I am happy to know how wrong I was to have made that judgement because even though the people in my team were much younger, it was the right group for me. Their energy levels and stories made me reflect back on my days as a young adult and also gave me an opportunity to feel like an older sister. 

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These days I am learning to work on my prejudices. I am willing to befriend people outside of my age range and I honestly think that has widened my network a whole lot. I am finding that younger or older people also have a lot they can show and teach me. Even people ten years younger or older than me.  I also realised the importance of having a teachable spirit and not judging a book by its cover.  Funny story…none of the people in my team believed me when I told them my real age, so it goes to show that age is really just a number.

Have you confronted your ageism and in what instances? Drop me a message below, you know that I always love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Using art as storytelling -Art Women Hong Kong

I attended the Art Women event at the Social Room last Thursday and I was so inspired by the work the ladies are doing that I just had to share.

Art Women is a group of female asylum seekers with a passion for arts & crafts who came together to use their art as a way to deal with the experiences of being refugees and the trauma that came as a result of their experiences back in their home countries. Today, the group consists of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Egypt and Sri Lanka.

At the event, Clarisse, the founder of Art Women, spoke about her experiences with depression and how she started crocheting as a way of expressing herself. From there, she started making dresses, bags and jewellery. She also started learning English here in Hong Kong since she could only speak French when she arrived.

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 Photo credit: Pitshu

She later joined with a group of other refugee women and together they are Art Women, and now they use their craft to spread awareness about the situation in their home countries while showcasing the beauty of African fabrics and vibrant colours.  They also prepared amazing food from Africa, the menu included plantain, sweet potato fries and a variety of other amazing Central African delicacies.

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Photo credit: Pitshu

 

It is not easy to be a refugee in Hong Kong, because they are not allowed to work. One of the ladies who was a nurse back home in the DRC now has a way to pass the hours in her days instead of sitting at home doing nothing. She stays so busy making several crafts, jackets and dresses that she said she and the ladies were running like a small factory. I hope this means they are getting lots of orders because their stuff is really amazing.

I was so inspired by the work these ladies are doing and by how they have managed to turn their traumatic stories into something beautiful. Their garments are so full of life and tell of the story of Africa that is so inspiring. What I learned from these women on this day is that where there is a will, there is always a way. The resilient spirit of African women to rise above all obstacles and strive to make something of their lives is something that should be celebrated.

You can check out Art Women and their merchandise on their website HERE.

 

 

There is no place like home…

I am sitting in the airport lounge, fighting back tears. I hate goodbyes…

Still can’t believe six months went by so fast.  I am now convinced that it is better to stay away from home than to go home and have to leave again. And this is coming from a self-confessed unsentimental (antonym of sentimental) person.

For a bit of background for the new readers (Welcome btw👋): I traveled from Hong Kong to my motherland, Zimbabwe in July 2017 and stayed there for the past six months. The purpose of my trip home was to carry out fieldwork for the Ph.D. project I have been working on since 2016. So, after spending months at home with my mother, making new friends and spending time with old ones; I had to leave all of that behind and come back to Hong Kong.

Highlights of my time at home:

a) This might be surprising but I love my home country Zimbabwe so much. It was such an exciting time to be home when Robert Mugabe finally resigned from being President after 37 years in office. I am the least political person you will ever meet, but the month of November 2017 was a great time in Zimbabwean politics.

b) My sister came to visit me from Cape Town. My sister is my best friend, so you can just imagine how that week when she visited made me feel. I had last seen her in 2014 when I left Cape Town so this was a lovely reunion.

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c) I spent Christmas at home with my mother and it was an unforgettable time. Anyone who knows me knows that this woman is my rock, my everything. Since the passing of my dad last year, I cherish every moment I spend with her even more. She is more than a parent, she is a friend, a confidant… I run out of words to express how I feel.

d) I also celebrated the start of the new year 2018 at home. New Year’s day is special because it also happens to be the day I was born, so spending it at home was something I will always cherish. I am a year older, hopefully, wiser.

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As I reflect back to my time in Zimbabwe, I feel that there will be no place like home. I can travel to many countries but home will always have a special place in my heart.

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Mvurwi is naturally beautiful

 

It has a different feel to it, full of childhood and teenage memories; full of hope and laughter. It makes me sad to know that I will not be going back until this Ph.D. is over…and that, my friends, is a long time from now.  I hold on to the beautiful memories of the time spent at home. P.S: I have too many pictures from my time at home, they would need ten other blog posts. So, please don’t feel bad if I took a picture with you and it is not in this post.

I was greeted by warm weather when I arrived in Hong Kong, but it’s cold again because it’s winter here in Hong Kong.  Winter in Hong Kong is between December-February with average temperatures of between 16 ° and 20 ° Celsius. This is mild compared to other winters I have experienced. I am currently having trouble sleeping because my body still needs to adjust to the time difference.

On a positive note, I have lots to catch up on with my Hong Kong family of friends, lots of things to look forward to and lots of opportunities for new beginnings.

Let’s see how this year goes. I will surely update you guys 😉

Currently Homesick,

GG

A trip to Namibia…

This post is dedicated to my most recent escape to the Namibian desert.:) I decided to take a quick break from my stressful fieldwork and travel to Namibia for a week. I am grateful for the chance to go where I want to go when the mood strikes. I will be the first to say my life hasn’t always been this flexible and I do not take it for granted.

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At the airport

My plan was to go camel-riding and quad-biking in Swakopmund, and I got to do just that. The experience was surreal. I still haven’t found the right words to describe how I felt riding atop the majestic animal known as the camel. I was scared at times, thinking at any moment, the animal could just take off running with me. Thank God, they are well-trained and did not take off running.

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The camel was posing better than me, they are wonderful beasts.

The quad-biking was just pure adrenaline. As we went up and down the sand dunes, it felt like I was flying. Nothing I have experienced so far can compare to that (trust me, I have been bungy-jumping and it still doesn’t compare).

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I also got to spend some priceless moments with old friends and some new friends I met in Namibia during my trip.

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You can see from my smile that it was happy days…

 

I went there drained, close to research burn-out, and I came back rejuvenated.  The most important moments for me were the moments of quiet, where I was alone with my thoughts and facing the beauty of God’s work. The sea and the expanse of the desert, stretching to God-knows-where, did wonders for my soul. You just need to experience it for yourself, because words will not suffice.

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Smiling from the inside…

My life has been amazing so far. I have experienced exhilarating pleasure in different places and I know there will be more after this. I am the kind of person that lives for moments like these. My life is far from perfect, but give me a new destination and some free time, and I am ALIVE.  What traveling to a new destination does for me can only be compared to the feeling of a child opening a new toy.  I don’t even need people to validate my experience or be with me in that moment. Leave me on an island, or desert (after this experience) and I am all good.

Do travel when you get the chance. It’s amazing.

I am back to reality now, in Zimbabwe continuing work on my project. But, I came back with a new energy and it is because I dared to take a few days off.  And trust me when I say everything else can wait. Your mental and spiritual health is important.

If you want to know more about the places I visited in Namibia (restaurants and the like), drop me a message. It is a lovely place to visit and the people are so friendly. Transport is easily available and the locals try to converse in English with visitors. You will not feel lost in Namibia.

Till next time,

GG

LIVING IN BEITBRIDGE…

Welcome to the newest chapter of my life…LIFE IN BEITBRIDGE!!!

As I blog I am sitting in a room that is sweltering with heat. A massive 40 degrees of hot weather…that is how I have been welcomed to Beitbridge town. My crazy life has led me into yet another exciting journey, from the cold and wet Cork City in Ireland to the extreme opposite dry and hot weather in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe. As I am going to be here for some time, I thought I would share this journey with my readers.

Beitbridge interests me for a number of reasons. I am here for work and will be exploring the rural areas of Beitbridge conducting much needed developmental work. Rewind to November 2015, a month after my arrival to Zimbabwe, I got a job as a Social Anthropologist at a research institute in Harare. This, in a nutshell, means I conduct social research and engage in social dialogue with communities as well as engaging in the rich culture and lives of people in their lived environments. I will be working on a project that supports mopane worm (madora) harvesters to improve their livelihoods. I am recently learning that there are populations living in conditions of food insecurity in Zombabwe’s dryest parts, particularly because there is no rain this year compared to other years. Mopane-Worm-Salad-Slide

That is actually a madora salad…who knew??? You learn new things every day.

These populations rely on mopane worms (madora, amacimbi) as their main food and income source. I am curious to know what else can be done with mopane worms and I am happy to say I have tasted them, I have touched a live mopane worm too!!!

If I say this work excites me, I am grossly understating how my new job makes me feel. I am grateful to God for the opportunity and the grace to be able to do what I love in my own country.

So welcome to my life in Beitbridge where I will be for a few months before I move on to other interesting projects. I am with a group of colleagues, which is just about it in terms of who I know in these parts. Living in Matebeleland South means getting exposed to new languages, the majority of people speak Venda, I heard a sprinkling of Sotho and Ndebele. Someone said some people speak Shangaan.  Shona and English are being used but not in the villages where I spend most of my days. This means I have to learn Venda fast!!! I am living in Beitbridge town, which I was quite impressed to see is quite developed now. There are hotels,  casinos , a shopping centre with most facilities including banks and supermarkets. Another plus is that Beitbridge is the border town between South Africa and Zimbabwe. If I could cross to South Africa, it is just less than 20km away to Musina. Sigh…

COLD WATER  has become a very important commodity. This place is HOT but I am staying hydrated. Dressing around the villages needs to be conservative as this is a conservative community, so goodbye to shorts and minis. I will be posting pictures of my new wardrobe which includes ankle length skirts, long sleeved tops (no cleavage) and definitely a sun hat. This is definitely new because everyone who knows me knows I love my shorts.  In Beitbridge town though, where I am currently reside, I can wear jeans and normal tops.

I hope to update my blog often so you can join me on this journey. I actually think I need to blog to stay sane as well as writing is my escape. I am taking lots of pictures and will probably do a vlog so that I show you the environment I am working in, especially the villages. I have already been introduced to the Venda culture of greeting the Village Headman whom I have met and engaged with a few times. See image below that illustrates how Venda women greet traditional leadership

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Image from https://underwaterheritage.files.wordpress.com to illustrate how village leadership is greeted by women. I did this myself, pity I could not take a pic because the Headman was present.

Do follow my journey and feel free to engage with me at any point if you have questions, advice for life in Beitbridge and anything else.

Love from GG…