Jenny’s Adventure

4th July 2014

It has been a while since my last blog. I’ve been a busy lady, jet setting around the world to Africa and taking part in the Queen’s baton relay. I’ve missed seeing everyone in class but it has been fantastic coming back and seeing the massive steps in your little ones development. A few weeks seems like nothing to us oldies but in the life of a 1 year old it’s enough time to master those tricky steps, learn to say ‘mama’ and to make their stamp on the world. I’ve loved catching up with you all and boring you all with the sights and adventures from my trip.

I’ll not give you a step by step run through of my trip – as much as I would love to ha ha!! But I do feel like I should share with you some of the lessons I have learnt. When I left for Malawi life was chaotic to say the least, with our recruitment of the lovely Sarah our new instructor, Marina and Sarah completing their Bambino&beyond training, our Ellon classes being launched and Marina taking the helm in Shetland for the first time. I felt, as I boarded the plane, a feeling of fear and exhaustion all mixed into one. Fear of the unknown is hard work and the only thing I think I can compare it to is the fear of our journey into parenthood. How will I cope? What am I letting myself in for? What can I teach the people/children? Will my baby (my classes) be ok without me?

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Now, of course, the classes were in fabulous hands and Marina has done a brilliant job of looking after my baby. But how will I cope with this and what am I letting myself in for? Now, these questions I could never have imagined the answer to. I let myself in for the most amazing experience of my life. I met some wonderful and inspiring people who I hope remain in my life for a very long time. Nothing could have prepared me for the cultural shock I was about to experience.

I split my time between orphanages and local health clinics. For my first day in the orphanage, as I walked into the tiny building holding up to 100 pre-school children, the overwhelming sense of excitement and happiness smacked me in the face. I say ‘smacked’ as it really was a shock to me. I expected to be faced with anguish and despair yet these little faces beamed up at me eager and ready to learn anything I threw at them. Each morning was a bubble of fun as we sung our way through numbers, shapes, animals, days of the week and anything else I could come up with. Everything was learnt in song and often dance too which suited me right down to the ground and when we took our music box and played our actions songs like the ‘wiggly woo’ the children danced along, with the beams of delight widening. These little children in front of me had nothing, literally nothing, no shoes, little clothes, and for most, the only food available was the ‘porridge’ we supplied each morning at the orphanage. The porridge was not what you and I would agree was porridge, it was nothing more than maize flour and water cooked on a pile of sticks outside, with, if they were lucky, a little bit of sugar added when they had some. Yet their little smiley faces will be imprinted in my mind forever.

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My afternoons were usually spent at health clinics, gatherings in nearby villages where health talks and basic medical care could be given to those who couldn’t afford to get to the hospital. This gave me a chance to meet the locals and find out about their way of life. Most, like the children at the orphanages, had very little or nothing in way of possessions or amenities. Yet they were extremely house proud of their huts and again always smiling and happy. The clinics were our opportunity to pass on what we could to the locals, wind up torches, tooth brushes and mosquito nets. Nothing glamorous, but for some, life changing and the gratitude was overwhelming. The laughter that emanated each evening from the villages where many were sat in darkness, with no running water or comfy beds etc. was almost haunting and made me smile each time I heard it.

Each night I sat and thought about my initial fears and the questions that I had asked myself before I left. The question ‘what can I teach the people/children?’ kept swirling around my head. I don’t think it was until I had trekked back to British ground that the answer hit me. I may have imparted some wisdom, now no laughing I can hear you already, what wisdom can come from the bimbo from Bambino&beyond?! but I think what happened is that the people of Malawi taught me more than I could ever teach them. Happiness comes from within; happiness comes from those around you who love and care for you. In our worlds of technology, modern amenities, fancy toys and keeping up with the Joneses, we sometimes need reminded that this is not what life is all about. So when you tuck your little one in tonight, make sure you give them an extra hug and don’t fret that you didn’t buy them that game they wanted or take them on that fancy holiday or to the cinema, just remember that all we really need is each other.

Jenny x

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