The great blog avoider

Hi. My name is Katherine and I’m a blog-avoider. It’s been three months since my last blog post.

In the last three months, there have been times when everything has been happening all at once and I’ve hardly had a minute to pause, and there have been other times where nothing has been happening and I have had plenty of time to sit, contemplate and mull things over.

Either way, none of it has seemed worth writing about.

But this is just not good enough. (Even my parents have said those immortal words: “You need to start writing again!”)

But, quality is better than quantity, right? Right?!

The good news is that my horrendous blog-avoidance will be a thing of the past in a few short weeks. In January, I’m travelling back to Mwanza, Tanzania. Alongside some volunteering, I’m hoping to meet with some NGOs, social entrepreneurs and pioneering business people – particularly within the fields of development and global health. My journalist brain has already kicked in and I’ve been brainstorming some story ideas to get excited about.

And, depending on the access I’ll have to the Internet, I’ll be posting all my stories right here.

I miss Tanzania

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post.

After my exams, I did a two-week work placement at the Kentish Express, then I sat my final two NCTJ exams. Straight after that I went to Tanzania for a month to volunteer. I’ve been a little busy.

I’ve been back in the UK for over a week and I think the real reason I haven’t written about my time in Tanzania is because I’m struggling to describe just how amazing it was.

I miss it. I miss the baking sunshine and refreshing light breezes. I miss lying in the garden at night and staring up at all the stars. I miss sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long-sleeved pyjamas and socks to bed and still waking up with bites. I miss cold showers. I miss going to bed to the sounds of dogs howling and being woken up at 6am by the cockerel in the garden. I miss getting hot and sweaty on crowded dala-dalas and bombing down dirt-track roads on the back of a piki-piki. I miss the blaring music from Corner Bar. I miss walking to Buswelu Corner to buy fresh fruit and vegetables each day and waving to Christina in her shop. I miss Stoney Tangawizi. I miss all the children and the sounds of them running into the house at 4.30pm every day. I miss Mariya and the way she won’t let you see her work or drawings until she’s completely finished. I miss Mussa and Masalu and their comedy double act. I miss Edward and how he can’t help hand-balling during football games. I miss Edina and her dramatics and dancing when she’s in goal. I miss Joshua and the way he runs absolutely everywhere. I miss Ema and the way he likes to lead and protect the other children. I miss Joice and her incredible sass. I miss Nuru and his inquisitive mind. I miss cooking with Joice and Prisca. I miss Eric and the way he laughs at the dramatic bits in action films. I miss walking around Mwanza (and even the shouts of ‘Msungu’). I miss power cuts. I miss the view of Lake Victoria from Hotel Tilapia. I miss watching football games in Corner Bar. I miss not having street lights. I miss haggling prices with market sellers only to give in. I miss jam with dozens of different E numbers. I miss geckos scaling the walls and checking the long drop for cockroaches, armed with a baseball bat. I miss having dirty feet. I miss not wearing make up and not looking in a mirror for days on end. I miss buying chapatis and rice and beans from Martina at Buswelu Corner. I miss getting shocks from the electric cooker. I miss the two-hour round trip into town just to check emails. I miss speaking Swahili. I miss Tanzania. 

Venice, exams, work experience

After my two-week work placement at BBC Newcastle (where my chocolate brownies went down a treat), I went to Venice for a few days with my Mom and Stepdad. We stayed in a lovely hotel on the Grand Canal called the Al Ponte Antico Hotel, where we enjoyed this amazing view of the Rialto Bridge every evening as we sipped apéros on the terrace.

Venice is an absolute wonder of a city. I found myself fascinated with every aspect of it and asking so many questions; where is the nearest hospital and how do they get to it? How do they collect rubbish or deliver big items? What happens when it rains? All things people living on mainland take for granted.

We did so much in Venice but my favourites were the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Dorsoduro. The gallery is Peggy’s old home and features her personal modern art collection and temporary exhibits. There are some beautiful works by Kandinsky and Chagall, as well as some bizarre sculptures in the garden and landing deck on the Grand Canal. The Cimitero di San Michele is a lovely place to visit, despite being a graveyard! It is beautiful and tranquil and nothing like as eerie as say Père Lachaise in Paris. Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Ezra Pound were laid to rest there.

We ate so much seafood! We found an amazing restaurant off the main drag – definitely one not known to tourists but full of Venetians – called the Al Fontego dei Pescatori. The owner and chef is called Lolo and he was so attentive, telling us what was best on the menu that day and recommending some amazing wines. I ate scallop and courgette gnochetti and then a gorgeous tuna steak with a sesame crust.

There are some beautiful islands to the northeast of Venice too, and these are definitely worth a visit to get away from the main hub. Murano is famous for its glass and is absolutely bursting with shops selling jewellery, bowls, glasses and much more. It has become just as touristy as Venice, though, and much of the glass is actually mass-produced in China, but it’s lovely for a stroll around and to look in the independent showrooms.  

Burano, further afield, is absolutely gorgeous. All the houses are painted different colours – supposedly so that fishermen can recognise their homes after a day out on the water.

There is also a sense of sadness, though, about Venice. Many of the buildings are sinking into the water and have become crooked and creaky. It initially adds to the ethereal feel of the place but when you think that in however many years, it may not be possible to live in or visit Venice anymore, it’s really quite sad. But it is absolutely a must-visit city, definitely before it’s too late!Exams

And then after our beautiful holiday in Venice came the horrible mundanity of three weeks of revision and exams. All in all, I think they went well and that’s the MA done and dusted. How time has flown.