What I realised in 2016

Since 2016 was famously the year of realising stuff I decided to write a list of everything I realised last year (feels weird writing last year when it was only two days ago).

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full video (30 seconds of your life you will never get back) : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWkYXtnAuu7VTLPwUcRSB6A 

 

  • I realised how much I can achieve if I put my mind to it and stop procrastinating!

I am the world’s best procrastinator, I’ve seen myself be in uni for three hours and achieve nothing, but when I really focus on something I get the job done and the results are worth the time not spent looking at pictures of cats on Instagram. I talk about what I achieved last year in my previous blog post so I won’t go into to much detail but it turns out when I set my mind to it, this little dyslexic human can get an A in Critical and Contextual Studies!!

  • Likes on social media are really unimportant and actual human interactions hold much more value than those on a phone screen.

I used to really worry about the fact people weren’t going to like something I posted on social media, to the point where my flatmate was ordered to go through my Instagram at least once a week and like anything I posted..but I realised that is  just absolutely ridiculous. You are worth so much more than the amount of likes your last selfie got. Who you are off screen is far more important than who you are on screen and no amount of Instagram hearts and Facebook likes can ever compare to quality time with real life, present human beings.

  • Friends who you haven’t seen for four years but when you finally meet up with them it is like nothing ever changed are the best kind of friends!

I took a trip down to the South of England in September to visit some new friends I met thanks to my adventures in Tanzania but while I was there I also took the time to meet up with a really good friend I met while living in South Africa. It was honestly one of the best things to sit and have a proper catch up, because as much as we keep in touch you just can’t beat a good old fashioned chin wag! Friends we meet while travelling are like no other friendship you can make, that shared experience bonds you for life and it is a hard bond to brake! (If you’re reading this Lynda then Happy New Year, love ya! Oh and you are coming up to Scotland this year if it kills me! We have a hill to climb!)

  • Travelling and Photography are two things that truly make me happy. Apart from maybe dogs…and cats…and rabbits. Ok Travelling, Photography and Animals are the things that truly make me happy.

New places and new experiences are worth more to me than anything I can think of and capturing those memories as they happen through your camera is what I love about the power of photography. The year I visited Germany, Tanzania and just took some really nice small trips to various places in the UK and it has been great. Hopefully if my driving lessons keep going well I can pass my test this year and go on even more mini adventures all over Scotland, just me and my camera (and anyone else who wants to join us).

I also became a vegetarian this year after thinking about it a lot I realised it just made sense to me not to eat meat. However, if you follow me on twitter you might know that drunk me disagrees. After about three vodka cokes all I seem to want is a McDonald’s cheese burger but I’m getting better at sticking to the chips, baby steps baby steps.

  • Bras are not always necessary. #freethenipple

I honestly never thought I would wear an outfit that required the absence of a bra but this December I wore three outfits that required just that! It is still an absolutely terrifying concept to me but I am actually pretty proud of myself for having the confidence to go braless. I know that it probably isn’t a big deal to most people but for me it’s a lot.

  • I own to many things.

Around the middle of summer I watched a documentary on channel four called “Life Stripped Bare” if you haven’t watched it then I recommend you do but also be prepared, it is very bizarre. To give you a brief run down of the programme; people volunteered to have all of their possessions removed, from their mobile phones to their clothes, absolutely everything was taken away! They then picked an item each day that they felt was essential and they could go and collect it from storage. It pretty much stripped them back to basics and showed them what they could and couldn’t live without. Having said that the show wasn’t as deep as it sounded, one of the volunteers picked their onesie as their first essential item so, yeah take from that what you will. Any way it did make me think about the about of useless tat that I own, not to mention the ridiculous amount of shoes and clothes that are currently in my wardrobe, so since watching it I have been really slowly trying to get rid of the things I don’t need in my life. So far a lot of clothes have been bagged up/given to my sister but I still have a long way to go until I am back to only the essential items. I might not ever get there but I can  at least try. Also I don’t know how I’m going to fit all my stuff back into my parents’ house when uni is finished…cross that bridge when we come to it I suppose.

  • Turns out I’m allergic to dairy as well as being a Coeliac, fantastic!

After returning  from Tanzania I kept getting what felt like gluten pains when I knew for a fact I hadn’t eaten any gluten. I had, however, always either eaten a lot of cheese or had a glass of milk around the same time that I was in pain. So I made a conscious effort to cut dairy out of my life, after having a chat with my GP, and what do you know I feel so much better! One day I’m just going to end up allergic to every item of food known to man kind and have to live of lettuce for the rest of my life…

  • Lastly I realised just how lucky I am to be in the situation I am in.

I feel like I write about how lucky I am all the time but I really truly am. 2016 wasn’t a great year in terms of world events; the war in Syria, terrorist attacks, the Zika virus and so much more awful things have happened. It really makes me appreciate the luck of growing up in Scotland, I always feel safe here. I can’t imagine how it must feel to not feel safe in your own home and for that I am truly grateful everyday. Another thing that made me think about how lucky I am was a movie called “I, Daniel Blake” about a man in the benefit scheme who to be honest gets quite badly done over by the system. I highly recommend watching this film especially if you don’t know how the system works, it really opened my eyes and also brought home how easily you can end up in such a hard situation.

I’m sorry that post ended on such a sad note but I think it was one of the most important things I realised this year. Just appreciate what you have because you never know how long you’ll have it for. The world is a scary place to live in right now.

Anyway that is enough of my late night ramblings for one day. I am going to try and post something on here every Monday, we’ll see how long that lasts once I get back into a routine for uni (I say back in a routine like I had one before…) but I’ll give it a shot. In the meantime I read this article the other day, maybe give it a look?

Adventure is out there, TFFN!

2016 Only Seems Like The Worst Year Ever For Celebrity Deaths: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/2016-worst-year-celebrity-deaths_us_5865a387e4b0eb586488d8fa

“I, Daniel Blake” trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahWgxw9E_h4

“Life Stripped Bare”: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/life-stripped-bare/on-demand/63815-001

2016: My Year in Review

2016 has been as unpredictable and chaotic as I could ever have imagined. In the same year I thought my entire life was falling apart around me, thinking I had picked the wrong course and altogether wanting to give up and go live in a cave somewhere; I also conquered Africa’s highest mountain, spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted and put a lot effort into making positive changes to the way I live my life.

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to leave behind in 2015 and then burned it. A year on I can barely remember what was on that list but a few things come to mind when I think about it. A lot of what was on there was to do with my attitude towards life; I wanted to stop caring what people thought about me, I wanted to build bridges with people who had fallen out of my life, most of all it was about leaving anything negative behind in 2015 and having a positive year. I can’t say that has been 100% successful, those who know me well enough will know that there have definitely been a few struggles along the way. I can however confidently say that I am ending 2016 on a positive chapter in my life.

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Team RGU at the Summit of Kilimanjaro.

When I think about what I have achieved this year it always out weighs the negative experiences I have had. This was the year I got my first A in University, the year I pushed myself and my body further than I ever have before on Mount Kilimanjaro, I visited Germany, took a 12 hour bus journey to London TWICE, (the second time to visit some of the fabulous people that Kilimanjaro introduced me to), with the help of three wonderful ladies organised what I would say was the most successful Gray’s Winter Ball of the past three years and, maybe most importantly, I rediscovered just how much I love photography.

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My best nine for 2016 on Instagram reminds me just how lucky I have been this year to travel to Tanzania and to also live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Also the middle picture means the world to me, my beautiful mum with the two dogs in one of my favourite places from my childhood.

This year I also started at a new job which, so far, is going well and has put me on track to my hopes of visiting China and working with pandas towards the end of 2017. I feel it is important to enjoy even a part time job and as much as I may dread going to work some days I can honestly say I really enjoy waitressing. When I started at Cocoa Ooze in 2013 I knew it was something I was going to be able to do along with my studies with ease. Unfortunately and much to my sadness I had to make the decision to leave Cocoa Ooze when I realised how much money I was going to need not only for my future travel plans but also just to get me through my fourth year of University. The job I have now gives me better hours to work around Uni and also means I can save my tips away for next year.

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” – The Doctor “Doctor Who – Vincent and the Doctor”. This quote came up on my Facebook feed on my birthday a few days ago and it reminded me that just because bad things happen all the time that doesn’t have to make your life bad. If you focus on the good things in your life then you have more chance at creating a positive environment around you and I feel that only with that positive environment can you really succeed and achieve your goals.

In short 2016 might have been a mess in some respects but I refuse to let that dampen the love, gratitude and general good feelings I get when I look back at the achievements I have made this year. I wish anyone reading this all the love and happiness they could ask for in 2017. My only goal is to stay positive no matter what life may throw in my direction.

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The Uni family ❤️

I’m pretty much winging my way through life, but if you make a plan there is no guarantee it will work they way you want it to. To me life’s more fun when you let it play out in front of you, adventure is out there. TTFN.

*I use the word positive way to many times in this post. Drinking game, take a shot overtime you read the word positive!

Gluten Free, Animal Friendly Banana Muffins.

Bit of a different blog post today but I am really happy with how these turned out so I thought I’d share.

I picked up some eggs from my Uncle’s rescued chickens so I decided to make some Banana Muffins. This recipe uses soya milk and gluten free flour but can be adapted to taste.

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Ingredients

  • Cups of Gluten Free flour
  • 3/4 Cup of Brown Soft Sugar
  • Heaped tablespoon of Gluten Free Baking Powder
  • Free Range Egg (or egg replacement)*
  • 1/2 Cup of Soya Milk
  • 1 Cup of Soya and Almond Yogurt
  • Ripe Bananas
  • 1 Handful of Walnuts
  • Maple Syrup

Method

  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar,baking powder) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine egg, milk and yogurt.
  2. Add wet mixture to dry mixture an mix until combined.
  3. Chop banana and walnut and stir into mixture.
  4. Place two spoonfuls each in 12 paper cases, top up if necessary. Drizzle Maple Syrup on top to taste.
  5. Bake at 200 degrees celsius (180 fan oven) for 25 minutes.

 

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And there you go easy as pie (or cake in this case) Enjoy!!

*I wouldn’t normally use eggs because I don’t agree with how chickens are treated but my uncle’s chickens have a good life 🙂

 

Meeting Goats.

Yesterday I travelled South, slightly, to visit my Uncle,  Aunt and their newest additions to the family; two goats.

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Caper (the darker one) and Gem (the lighter one)

One of the first things I noticed about these two is how much they depend on and love each other; the pair played happily in their paddock and were never too far away from each other. They were wary, but let us come close so they could check us for food, on finding out we had none they would return to their pallets for a bit of play fighting.

After some time we turned our attention to the chickens who were making quite a bit of noise, obviously jealous of all the attention the goats were getting. This place is pretty much a mini farm with fresh eggs everyday from chickens and geese and also a vegetable garden the size of my living room!

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My Sister and Uncle with one of his many Chickens.

For dinner almost everything we ate came from the garden, and although some parts were slightly too spicy for my taste it was a very filling vegetarian feast!  There is something so satisfying about knowing exactly where your food has come from, literally seeing it come from the ground and onto your plate. Hopefully one day I will have two goats and a couple of chickens too!

The Kilimanjaro Experience

It’s 12am, it’s pitch black, all you can hear is the sound of your own heart beat and someone being sick a few steps in front of you. It’s cold, it’s windy and all you have is a head torch to guide your way. It’s summit night on Kilimanjaro and it’s about to be the hardest night of your life!

I had such high hopes for this blog post, I was going to write notes from each day, record everything, do a video diary. By the time I got to camp on day one all I wanted to do was eat my popcorn, sip my tea, locate the nearest toilet, curl up in my sleeping bag and pass out! (Which is exactly what I did.)

Don’t get me wrong I didn’t for a second think that climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world was going to be easy, in fact a small part of me was convinced I couldn’t do it but I just told that part to go to hell and kept pushing on. The thing I found both this year and with Toubkal last year was that it didn’t seem to matter how physically fit you were if you weren’t determined to make it to the top. It was mind over matter with me, my body wanted to give up, it was falling asleep as I walked but my head wasn’t going to let that happen.

This is my Kilimanjaro experience (as well as I can remember) it day to day over the six days it took to complete the biggest challenge of my life!

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Our first group photo at Heathrow Airport. So proud of my team together we raised an amazing £72,363.10!!

Day one started at the Machame gate 1640m above sea level, it was a bit of a gloomy day so we didn’t get to see the whole mountain before the climb (probably for the best to be honest…) It was like walking right into the Jungle Book, hanging vines and stone steps all the way to camp. I was glad of the cloud cover if the sun had been out in full force the heat and humidity would have been unbearable. It was quite pleasant walk to Machame camp stopping for a lunch of chicken and chips under the trees about half way.  A couple of times I felt I was going to tumble back down the path, my awful balance and walking poles being attached to my back pack were not helpful, but there was always someone behind me to give me that slight push I needed to correct myself.

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(1) The route we took to the summit and back down.

At camp we met our porters who showed us to our tents (I’m just going to say now that my porter was the best human being I have ever met and I owe him so much because he pretty much did everything for me, including putting aftersun on my very burnt hands, and I love him). We were shown the mess tent and given a briefing for the next day and then it was straight to bed for me because it got unbelievably cold as soon as the sun went down!

Day two the sun was out and we raced the clouds up the mountain. I thought they were going to catch up with us but we stayed ahead of them until they couldn’t climb any higher. I found this day one of the hardest because we had to walk all the way to camp before lunch and it felt like a life time! I also dropped half of my NAKED Banana Crunch bar at our second snack stop and it was heart breaking. Staying at the back allowed for a lot more conversation though I felt like I got to know some of my Brunel team mates a lot better on day two.

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Racing the clouds up the mountain.

Everyone told me about how beautiful the stars look from Kilimanjaro before I went but I can’t say I really saw them properly until summit night. They were there, I was just absolutely exhausted every night when we got to camp that I went to bed straight after dinner and looking up while walking in between 20 something tents is not advisable. A few people stayed up to watch the stars and came back to me with tales of shooting stars and the milky way but I just couldn’t keep myself awake to watch with them.

Day Three was acclimatisation day, we climbed high until lunch time and then back down to sleep low giving our bodies a chance to get used to a thinner atmosphere at higher altitudes. The climb to lunch was hard, breaks were very welcome, but I did not feel any symptoms of altitude sickness and made it to the Lava Tower in the first half of the team. After lunch I decided to stay back with the team members who were suffering from altitude sickness to make sure everyone was doing ok and to provide my encouragement. This was going very well until about ten minutes before camp when out of nowhere altitude sickness hit me and the entire contents of my stomach emptied onto the side of the trail. It completely knocked me for six. I felt dizzy, weak and wasn’t entirely convinced I wash finished throwing my guts up. My head guide, James, had to hold me up for the short distance to camp, my vision was blurry and I don’t really remember getting to the check in point. All I remember thinking was how impressed I was with the members of my team who had been dealing with this all day, I felt absolutely horrendous and could only imagine what it must be like to experience altitude sickness from the morning knowing how far away camp was! When I finally got to camp all I wanted to do was go to sleep but I knew that would just make me feel worse so I made myself go to the mess tent for popcorn and a hot cup of tea, followed by a handful of pain killers and a lot of water. Within the hour I felt absolutely fine again.

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Lunch time before the altitude sickness hit!

Day Four we tackled the Barranco wall. This steep ridge was an almost vertical scramble on which I ripped my nana’s walking trousers she had lent me, almost had my hand pulled off by the guides (they did not know about my dodgy wrist) who yanked us up that wall like their lives depended on it and saw the most spectacular view from above the clouds. This was actually the fun part of the day because they then made us walk down a valley, back up a valley, down another valley and finally back up a valley and into camp. What’s wrong with bridges Kilimanjaro?? I have never wanted to pee more in my life than the last twenty minutes of that day and I was so relieved (in more ways than one) to see a toilet block just out side of camp, there was no way I would have made it through check in without an accident occurring!

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Team RGU representing Scotland after scaling the Barranco wall!

We had made it to base camp! There wasn’t exactly much time to celebrate though, we were to leave again at midnight for summit so it was dinner, toilet and bed! Having said that dinner was still an emotional meal; a couple of my team were very upset because they did not believe they could make it to the summit! I had full belief in every member of my team and to see them so upset made me completely break down into what was the first of many tears in the 24 hours that followed.

Sometimes in life you believe you have been super sneaky and no one could possibly know what you are up to! I tried to organise a surprise for my team along with the team leader from Brunel by contacting the teams loved ones asking for a letter of encouragement to read before summit night. I would like to think that most of the team were completely clueless but one member of RGU had asked me on several occasions if I was organising said surprise. Getting more and more frustrated at this members willingness to spoil the surprise for himself when he finally called me over after all the letters had been handed out I thought it was to gloat that he knew what was going on the whole time and I hadn’t surprised him one bit only to be handed a letter from my own loved ones and have to return to my seat feeling bad for all the times I told him to let it go! My letter is pictured below and while most of the team were sitting in their seats crying I couldn’t help but laugh at my mum’s favourite story of me and my stubborn ways!

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Letter on the left is from my fellow team leader from Brunel Uni! Letter on the right is from my family, thanks to a lovely member of my team for organising that for me!

So here we were, summit night, with two to three hours sleep my nervous chatter had already set in, I had one mouthful of “breakfast” and thought I was going to see it again almost immediately, the cold was unbelievable, the sky was glittering with star light and my water bladder had already frozen solid. For most of the climb I focused on Mars, it was usually directly in front of me and distracted me from the tiny head torch lights in the distance that reminded me of just how far we had still to climb. My day bag was taken off me by a guide almost straight way so I could focus solely on where to put my feet. This guide (who fell over once and scared the absolute living hell out of me, if he had fallen over then all I could think was that there was absolutely no hope for me and my clumsy self!) stayed with me the whole way to the summit and for the life of me I couldn’t pin down his name. I know I would never have reached the peak if it wasn’t for him, shear determination and a packet of Haribo Tangfastics that I had saved specifically for that night.

I almost gave up on several occasions, absolute exhaustion and fear threatened to overcome me at any moment. Every time we stopped for a break I thought I was going to fall asleep. When James said it was time to move again tears came from nowhere, but he grabbed one arm and my guide grabbed the other and hoisted me to my feet, up we went higher and higher until we started to see the sunrise over the clouds so far below us. That was the moment I knew I could do it, my phone had died from the cold so I had no idea what time it was but when I saw the sunrise below and Stella point above and beyond that Uhuru Peak I knew I was almost there, to give up now seemed as impossible as the whole climb had felt 6 hours before and I pushed myself that last hour and a half, to the Summit of the worlds highest free standing mountain.

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All the pain is worth it for that view!

I didn’t summit with anyone but my guide, I was about ten minutes behind the first group from my team to summit. When I got to the rest of the team I was swallowed whole by a group hug and burst into yet more tears at the sight of my team mates tears. Then there was the queueing for photographs (other groups had summited at the same time as us), the realisation that my camera had died from the cold, losing the friendly square that a kind man had given me for good luck on the bus to London, my phone getting a second wind and switching back on for photos at the summit and finally a member of my team collapsing from hypothermia in his legs*. This all happened in about 30 minutes and then it was back down the mountain.

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Me and my Guide at the summit!

Heading down was arguably harder than the way up. Firstly the ground was no longer frozen so it was like walking down the biggest sand dune you have ever seen in your life, secondly it was about eight in the morning and I had had about two hours sleep and thirdly there was no motivation left in my entire body. I’d made it to the top, I was done, I just wanted to curl up on a rock and go to sleep. This was not helped by the fact that every couple of meters I would fall on my back and lie there like an overturned beetle until the  James caught up with me again and put me back on me feet. By about the fifth fall I told him I was staying put and he would have to drag me down because I refused to fall over again. So that is essentially what he did after I had one more cry, this time asking for my mum and pizza. He took my bag on his back, threatened to piggy back me down the mountain, took my hand and led me down the sand dune of death with complete ease despite his allergy to dust (wise career choice there…). When we reached solid ground I got a complete second wind and marched of into the distance only to be met with yet another impossible downward climb and had to sit for about 20 minutes for someone with a bit more technical skill to show me the correct path.

Finally, after what felt like a life time, I made it back to base camp. I was met by my porter who gave me the biggest hug and a cup of pineapple juice which lasted all of five seconds. He led me back to my tent, took my boots off for me, ran to fill my water bottle up, gave me a well deserved fist bump and zipped me into my tent. I should have had a nap here, I was exhausted so it should have been easy but I just couldn’t fall asleep! I spent the rest of the time we had at base camp packing as best I could with my sunburnt hands, eventually admitting defeat I had to get someone to help me stuff my sleeping bag back into it’s compartment.

We had lunch and then set off again down the mountain. I think we had been walking all of two minutes when I had to stop. I couldn’t breath properly, my vision was blurry and I was about 90% sure I was going to be sick. I was right. Up came my lunch, up came my pineapple juice, up came my Tangfastics and, you guessed it, out came the tears. Altitude sickness is not a fun thing, why it only happened to my on the decent I do not know but I am very glad that it didn’t happen before then because I don’t think I would have managed to summit if it had. Instead of the four hours it should have taken me to get down to the last camp of the trek it took more like six and it was pitch black by the time I arrived. My porter, being the absolute amazing human that he is, guided me to my tent, took my boots off for me and even offered to take my dinner to the tent. I refused this last offer as food was about the last thing I wanted. I struggled into my sleeping bag, closed my eyes and passed out till morning.

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Heading back down, the summit in the distance, just before I saw my lunch again.
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Our last view of the summit on the final day climbing down.

The last day was definitely the easiest but it also felt like a never ending trail of trees upon trees. I was impatient to get down but also very aware of how slippery the ground was and if I was to go to fast the likely hood of me ending up on my backside was very high. When we finally made it to the bottom there was an enormous sense of relief. I signed out, took of some layers, found my porter and that was it finally over. This is where my porter very kindly put aftersun on my hands for me and took my day pack off my back. He even carried it all the way onto the bus for me. The final day was a good day for chatting and reflecting on the day before. For myself it still sort of feels like a dream, I know it happened but there was such a big build up to that day and then for it all to be over already is just surreal. This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, there is no way I would have made it with out the support of my team, my family, my friends and the amazing guides and porters.

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Team RGU and Team Brunel on top of the World!

I took on this challenge partly to prove to myself that it was possible (partly because a certain RAG chair who shall remain nameless convinced me it was a good idea) and also to raise awareness for an amazing charity who do work all around the world. If you would like to donate to Childreach International you can still do so on my fundraising page linked below.

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Representing RGU RAG at the top of Kilimanjaro!

*this team member is absolutely fine and still has full use of both of his legs. The guides acted amazingly and got him down to base camp quickly and safely and part from feeling a little bit silly for not listening to the head guide about wearing more layers no harm was done.

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Everyone loves a good Selfie!

You can donate here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/aileenmacalister2

(1) http://www.machame.com/machame-itinerary6.htm

Being Allergic To Gluten Sucks!

I am a sufferer of Coeliac Disease and can I tell you one thing? I would give anything not to be!Screen-Shot-2013-02-19-at-8.52.18-AM

I was diagnosed when I was eight years old, and apart from the horrible boys at school shouting things at me in the playground for having a week off school, I didn’t really notice a difference back then. Coeliac disease is normal in my family, I grew up with my Mum and Grandpa both being on gluten free diets so I was used to it, I understood it, this did not mean I was willing to have it affect me personally. I remember my mum telling me I was going to be tested for Coeliac Disease, I kept a diary then and the page from that day read something like:

“Mum thinks I have the same thing as her and grandpa. I don’t want it.”

I think I still feel like this, I do not want it. As I said though it took me a while to realise just how much the disease actually sucks. I can tell you exactly when I did realise, it was when I started Uni. I had always found it annoying that I couldn’t buy lunch in the canteen at school. It even caused me health problems in secondary school with fainting being one of the worst side effects of only eating crisps at lunch time.
The reason I really started to notice the problem with having an allergy (to almost everything considered as food) was because I had to start looking after myself. I had moved out of my home, into a flat where I had to buy my own food and make my own meals. At home Mum knew what was good for me, how to make the bland gluten free prescription food interesting and edible. In Student Halls I was faced with flatmates ordering Chinese food and being able to pop into the chip shop on the way back from a night out for cheese fatty chippy goodness that I could only look at, or maybe steal a couple of and regret horribley in the next couple of hours. I have no answer to their amazing smelling food. I can only look on longingly while I try to work up the energy to cook my hungover self a satisfying meal of pasta and cheese (which is still good, but it is not a Chinese).

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I think the worst thing about the whole gluten situation has to be that it can creep up on you without you even noticing. It almost ruined my study trip to Paris last year. The first day we were there and I was “Glutened”! I felt horrible; I was faint, and I thought I was going to be sick, it gave me the shakes and I was breaking out in cold sweats at random moments all day. I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life, but all I had done was eaten the wrong thing at the wrong time and I didn’t even know what had given me this reaction. I am always so careful and I had printed out a special card with what Coeliac Disease was, written in French, so I could show restaurants. I have traced back what I ate in those two days over and over again and I can never think of anything with gluten in it. I was yet another victim of cross contamination.

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Eating out terrifies me, especially if it is a new place. What if they don’t understand what I mean by gluten (a lot of people still have no idea what it is) or worse what if they do know what it I mean but they think I am just on some silly “healthy eating diet” that makes you eliminate gluten. This is a problem now, people do not believe the Coeliac Disease even exists anymore because for some reason cutting out gluten has become a fad diet. Let me tell you something, being unable to eat gluten is not a weight loss technique I will happily trade places with you. Come and take this disease away from me, you have it. I will go back to eating Malteaser (god I miss those things), I will go back to not having to explain why I can’t have a bun on my burger to the guy behind the counter at McDonalds five times!, I will go back to not starving at lunch time because the canteen has run out of baked potatoes on the day I didn’t have time to make a sandwich in the morning.
I have had people say, when talking about how I miss the taste of something or how what they are eating smells so good,”why don’t you just eat it?” Trust me, you do not want to be around for the aftermath of me eating gluten. I have seen me throw up an entire days worth of food just because a burger I ate from the Hard Rock Cafe in Edinburgh had been cross contaminated, that is only a tiny bit of gluten! Think about what it would be like if I ate a bite of your sandwich. I have also had people say to me “I would just power through, I mean it only makes you a little sick doesn’t it? Nah if I was allergic to gluten I would just eat it anyway.” No, no you would not. Firstly how long do you think it would take before you became malnourished from throwing up everything you ate? and how long do you think it would take for you to become dehydrated from all that throwing up?

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Being allergic to gluten sucks! But at the end of the day there are worse things to be allergic to. I am glad that my allergy does not put me at risk of death on contact like, say, a peanut allergy does. I am glad that I am able to manage my allergy and that these bad experiences are very rare. It will always make me feel a little left out and sad when my friends are enjoying something that smells gloriously tastey but at the same time I have friends now that share my pain. I have people in my life that have demanded to be fed a chicken nugget whilst drunk and immediately come to regret the decision. Having people around me that can share their experiences helps and so does having a boyfriend who is actually a pretty good cook, even if he does sigh every time he realises an ingredient he wants to use has gluten in it.

Thank you for reading my rant I hope you enjoyed it,
ta ta for now!

Another Life Update and Thoughts On Christmas

December has been crazy, I didn’t even notice it pass. I swear to God it was just Halloween like yesterday, and wasn’t I in Morocco the other week? This month I have been crazy focussed…on everything at once!

Firstly of course there is Uni which, being in second year, has upped the pace a wee bit since last year. I feel like I’m drowning in research images, my printer has been restocked with ink more times than my bank balance dares to think about and I have gone through enough sketchbooks to fill a mini rain forrest.IMG_20140930_201235

Secondly I am still fundraising for Childreach International. I love this cause and I have now personally seen the good that the charity does (for more on this click on the Travel section in the menu bar) but man is fundraising stressful! You first have to make sure that what you are doing is interesting to other people, no point in standing around trying to sell brown paper bags is there? The second thing is that there is a vast amount of organisational skill that goes into planning an event that everybody is interested in, this is a skill that I am still developing. Then when the event finally happens you have to make sure that everything went the way it should and that you have actually raised some money! The big one this month was organising the 2nd Year Gray’s Winter Ball, I will be writing a separate blog post about this soon because that requires a lot more detail than this update is intended to provide.

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Thirdly and obviously most importantly is the Social Life! This is a tricky thing to maintain if you wish to get all uni work and enough sleep to be a functional human being. The social life of which I speak can be down to something as simple as sitting in the living room with my flatmates watching TV, I like to refer to this time as social procrastinating. We all know we should be doing work but at the same time it is much more appealing to sit on a comfy sofa and watch absolute rubbish in the telly!Scan 143490011

To put it plainly I am looking forward to the Christmas Holidays, which for me don’t really start until Christmas Eve because of work. 😦 So I thought I would do a wee list of my top ten favourite things about christmas, and here they are:

10. The food, I know this is usually pretty high up on peoples lists but I don’t really like turkey that much. I usually have a nice Gammon steak. Christmas dinner in my house is chaos because we have there coeliacs, a vegetarian and a pescetarian. This means that my parents have to prepare four different meals; Turkey, Salmon, Gammon and the veggie option.

9. Christmas cards, I love receiving christmas cards! I have been so busy this month that I haven’t had a chance to buy christmas cards for most people. I managed to get the people I post to but even then there is no way the are getting there for christmas! FAIL!!

8. Not having to worry about anything stressful for at least three days! Its true, all you have to worry about is eating food and unwrapping presents and being with the ones you love, what can be more relaxing than that? At christmas I just put the sketchbooks down and forget that Uni even exists for a couple of hours and it is great!

7. Giving presents! No this is not the same as wrapping them, giving them is a completely different experience. When you give someone a present there is an anticipation of what will they think about it and what will their reaction be and have you got it so perfectly spot on that it makes them grin from ear to ear!

6. The Tree! Christmas trees must have multicoloured lights and they must be perfectly decorated so that they look sparkly and pretty! I do not like tinsel on trees, I don’t know why I just don’t. I like tinsel on the edges of mirrors and even cabinets but not on trees.

5. Christmas Decorations, I love sparkly things so obviously christmas decorations are right up my street! The tree is of course my favourite part…actually I might just give the tree its own section!
4. Wrapping presents, I just love to make them all pretty and tie them up with a bows and ribbon and ahhh prettiness!!

3. Christmas songs! Especially the cheesey ones, and when I get them stuck in other peoples heads it is even better!

2. Secret Santa! I love the whole not knowing who your present is from until you open it thing it makes me so much more excited about the whole present giving experience and of course it means as a student I don’t have to worry about all the money I would otherwise have to spend buying every one of my friends a christmas present! Because as much as I love them all I can not afford that.

1. Spending time with family and friends obviously but it is also doing all the christmasy things with them, like baking cookies and drinking mulled wine!

To end this post I would like to share my favourite christmas song with you all because why not!

Freshers Flu

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Source: lsesu.tumblr.com

This time last year I was a genuine fresher, I’d hardly drank a drop of alcohol in my life (it was reserved for special occasions *rolls eyes*). I moved into halls and I stocked up on everything I possibly could to prevent myself from catching the dreaded Freshers Flu. I was terrified of being ill for my first proper week of “independent life”. I had been receiving emails daily with valuable tips for surviving in the big bad world of University but nothing scared me more than the one about Freshers Flu.

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Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Freshers%20flu

The only time I had been badly ill away from home, before I moved to Halls, was when I got the flu in South Africa. That wasn’t even that bad because my in country support worker was a saint who force fed me Lemsip and covered me in blankets to sweat it out of me ( I know, disgusting right, apologies if you are eating just now). This was completely different, if I got ill in Halls I was on my own! So i was overly protective of my immune system, I took a vitamin C tablet every morning with a glass of orange juice, I stocked up on carrots and I made sure I drank plenty of water after nights out to try and avoid hangovers. If I am totally honest I don’t think I have ever taken better care of myself as I did in freshers week, and it worked! I successfully avoided Freshers Flu.

So what in the world happened this time around!?

Source: confessionalprofessionaldramaqueen.blogspot.com
Source: confessionalprofessionaldramaqueen.blogspot.com

Its not that I thought I was immune, god only knows that I catch every cold that is going around, its more that the thought never even crossed my mind! The one thing I was most worried about last year had completely slipped my mind.  I had actually let myself run out of orange juice (I know shocker right), it had been a long time since I even looked at the vitamin section when I went food shopping and I can not remember the last time I bought a carrot… *

I let my guard down, I drank just as much as usual but I forgot that freshers spread germs just by breathing! No offence if you are a fresher…its true though. Next year I vow to be fully stocked up on all cold preventing tools, I will not be ill for my first week back to uni!!

*Don’t worry mum I do eat vegetables, its just I never know what to do with carrots 😛

The Year of the Facebook Challenge

Today it was my turn to take part in the famous ice bucket challenge, it was cold, it was horrible and in all honesty it was a good laugh. My flat mate Angie did it with me with the help of our other flat mate Leanne and even though we had to battle with spiders and break our kitchen bin we got the job done! After all it is for a good cause, but what cause is it actually for?

Personally I do not know anyone who has suffered from ALS or Motor Neurone Disease as it is known in the UK, even more reason to do it in my opinion. The whole point of the campaign is to raise awareness for the charity who are trying to fund research into a cure for this horrible life destroying disease.

Our news feeds have been filled to the brim and poured over our heads, video after video of people and ice and buckets and wait what do we have here? Haters?! I mean for crying out loud people, do you really have nothing better to do than comment on videos about how throwing ice over your head is stupid? Pointless is it? Well I would like to ask you this; did you know what ALS was last month, or even last week? I know I didn’t, but I do now, because that is the whole point of any campaign! It is raising awareness, and the first step in beating a disease is talking about it. Showing people what it is, what it does, and why it is so important to find a cure, or at the very least a treatment that can make the lives of the people suffering easier.

Social Media is becoming our greatest tool in getting a message across to the largest amount of people possible. Think about it, how many people do you know who do not have any sort of social media account? Yes there are some people who don’t, my uncle doesn’t have Facebook, but then my Nana does. My dad is addicted to twitter, my little sister had a Tumblr account before I even knew what it was, I have friends who use youtube to watch Vlogs or make videos and then here I am typing away on this tiny little blog.

Yes we spend out lives on social media and yes it can take over your life and that’s bad but if used the right way it can be used to make a positive impact. Everyone I know remembers the NEK nominations from a couple of months ago, it was stupid and reckless and sometimes it was down right disgusting, but it spread like wildfire. Look at what that has evolved into, we learnt from that mistake and we turned it into something so powerful.

Obviously this is not a new thing, Tumblr and even Twitter have been used to get news from otherwise inaccessible areas out to the entire world! And of course there was the RAK nominations that were started up in rebellion to the NEK nominations, where people where encouraged to do something nice for a stranger for no reason other than to be nice. This didn’t really catch on in Britain but that is because the minute you do anything out of the way nice for someone here you are immediately a weirdo and are to be avoided.

The point is the intent was there and I did see a couple of videos but nothing on the scale of this campaign, because this is genius. It is easy to do at home (everyone has a bucket) it is relatively harmless (as long as you do not try to complicate it by climbing on roofs and other such antics) just make sure you have a towel handy, and every time someone does it they tag three more people to do it.

So to sum up this post, hopefully, social media has a grip on the entire world, but just because it has us wrapped around its little finger doesn’t mean we can’t use it to our advantage.

 

 

If you made it this far then well done, I know it was a bit of a long one 😛

Watch this video if you want to know more about how ALS affects peoples live and to see how these challenges are helping to spread awareness:

To watch my Ice Bucket Challenge:

http://youtu.be/wGVMAPLt7vA

The Lizzie Mcguire Movie Scarred Me For Life

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This post is inspired by the fact that I had no idea what to wear this morning, its not a massive occasion, I am just away to meet a friend for coffee but still the task was almost to much for me to handle.

OK so maybe the title of this post is slightly over dramatic but seriously that movie gave me issues!

I love Lizzie Mcguire as a kid, we didn’t have sky at home but whenever I went to my granny’s house I would hope and pray that it would be on the disney channel. Not only did I love Lizzie Mcguire but I loved the actor who played her, Hillary Duff, I just thought she was the coolest person ever! I still have her first album. It only make sense, therefore, that I learnt a lot of life lessons from watching the show and when the film came out I was all over it, also still own the dvd.

Now that you hopefully understand how seriously I took the Lizzie Mcguire show, the rest of this post might make some sense to you. If you have never been exposed to the wonder world of Lizzie (I like to think we know each other well enough to be on a first name basis) then I shall explain the basics of the show. Pretty much it is about a teenage girl going through school with her two best friends. In the movie they are graduating and Lizzie is searching frantically for a graduation outfit in her wardrobe. She pics out a lovely blue dress that goes perfectly with her graduation gown.

She gets to graduation and is walking down to take her seat with her friend Gordo when suddenly Lizzie’s enemy shouts out “Lizzie Mcguire is an outfit repeater!” it turns out that the beautiful dress that she is wearing was a dress that she had worn to a dance not that long ago! Nightmare right?

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This scene right here has stuck with me into my “adult life”, I can not repeat an outfit. I just can’t do it. The fear of being publicly shamed is imbedded deep into my brain and does not allow me to wear the same outfit twice within a two month period. What if someone remembers that I wore it to that party two weeks ago? What if they tell everyone?

I know I know, who cares?! I don’t care if anyone I know repeats an outfit, I would never judge someone for wearing the same outfit, not even two days in a row, but I just can not do it. The Lizzie Mcguire movie scarred me for life!

I just googled the Lizzie Mcguire movie and the scene I was so scarred by is not even mentioned in the plot for the film!