She Wanders // She Wonders

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Merry Christmas

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…and just like that, it’s Christmas time!

Wishing everyone a very safe and happy holiday. May all your wishes come true! x

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China – Part I

On the 13th October 2011 I set off with my friend Dave to embark on an adventure.  We went to China to trek sections of the Great Wall around Beijing for six days in aid of a Charity of our choice.

I thought that it would be great to document the whole adventure in the same style that it was written in my journal because before I had gone and was trying to research things about the wall etc, I found it really difficult to find any bloggers or writers who had done a similar trek and I really wanted an honest opinion about what I would be getting myself into!

I hope that you’ll find this helpful and enjoyable in some way. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget as long as I live (well, I hope that’s the case – my memory sucks!) but at least having the trip down on both paper and my blog will keep the memory alive.

I’ll be posting about my trip weekly so it won’t be too much to digest in one go!

The Trip: Trekking The Great Wall of China for six days.

The Charity: Cancer Research UK

Organiser: Charitychallenge.com

Would I recommend this organisation again? Absolutely! If I could afford to, I would book another trip with them. From start to finish they were brilliant – only one problem occurred and that was that my friend and I didn’t receive a vegetarian meal on the return flights to China. We didn’t inquire further into it as we’d forgotten about it when we returned home (or at least I did).

So here we go…

Below: Dave and I just before heading for departure at Malta airport.

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14.10.2011 – 6:35pm

I’ve finally lay down after our long journey. I’m in China! I feel like I have to pinch myself to make sure that it’s not just a dream. After over ten months of planning it has finally happened. No backing out.

On seeing the wall for the first time I gave myself two minutes to doubt myself. I vividly remember thinking ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into?’ with my jaw wide open and my head plastered to the van window.

Below: First glimpse

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It’s been a long day of travelling. After waking up at 3am on the 13th I’ve had about two hours sleep. I think that it’s been a total of 23 hours since I slept properly and I’m definitely feeling deprived!
Despite having a free day when we arrived at our first lodge, it was still very busy. The first thing we did was to settle into our rooms. The accommodation is basic but fine. The beds are another story altogether. I’ve never felt a mattress quite as hard as the one that I’m lying on now! In fact I’m wondering if there actually is a mattress. The floor might be softer.
After lunch we decided that it would be a good idea to ‘stretch our legs’ by climbing a section of the wall which our lodge was located right next to.
What. A. Climb.
The steps were incredibly steep and high and I hadn’t bothered to bring my trekking poles. Somebody had marked one of the top steps as 1500 but we did go on for about another 200 steps. I am so proud of myself to have made it so far, especially with only 2-3 hours’ sleep.  The upward climb was deceiving though. I would look upwards and it would seem like we couldn’t possibly go any higher…then I get to the top and there’s another upward climb. I had to tell myself just to take one step at a time.
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I can’t believe that I haven’t said anything about the views yet! All I can say is that they are out of this world. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I have never experienced such magnificence on this kind of scale before. Every corner turned is a photo opportunity.
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Going back down was tough because my legs had literally turned to jelly – but I made it.

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I’m glad our paths crossed

It was January 2013 when I approached my manager’s office and announced that I would be quitting in December to travel the world.

An eleven month notice period isn’t a bad thing for a company is it? I’m sure he took it with a pinch of salt and decided that it was just me having a ‘moment’ and he’s told me this in different words since! But nope, this was me making a decision to myself and the world that I wasn’t backing out.

It’s now December and it’s almost a week since I left the company. Although I was ready to move on I was still dreading the leaving day. A decision like this isn’t something to be taken lightly. I knew I was leaving a secure and reasonably well paid job to jump head first into the unknown and that terrified me. As much as I love adventure, I do take comfort in my habits and this was just the start of stepping out of my comfort zone!

As well as having a job I enjoyed; the reason I stayed for almost four years was because of the amazing people who work there. Thank you friends for making my leaving so special.

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My amazing card! Chuck Norris and Mr T on my shoulder, I couldn’t be safer! Drawn by the talented Mathilde Maze. Click on the image to be transported to her Facebook page!

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Beautiful words from my friends and colleagues.

I’m glad our paths crossed and I hope you’ll follow me on my adventure!

I’ll be seeing you all again soon xx

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One of the lucky ones

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It’s my favourite time of year. Christmas trees, fairy lights, family, friends and fun. Christmas carols, school plays and curling up under a blanket with a hot drink and a ”feel good” film. I’m one of the fortunate ones.

On the flip-side not everyone is so lucky as to have even a home to go. Let’s show a little kindness for the homeless who for whatever reason have ended up in a not so fortunate situation.  One person who is putting the limelight on homelessness is Donal Moloney; a commendable photographer from Ireland whom my mum had introduced me to awhile ago. Interestingly; he’s been conversing with a man called Martin who has been living on the streets in Dublin and who it turns could be a descendent of Malta, so his story has caught the attention of the media here. Whether he is or he isn’t, I hope this man and anyone else in a similar situation find themselves with a nice hot drink this Christmas.

There are some interesting little meetings recorded with Martin; the first one can be found here.

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Haunting me – Auschwitz & Birkenau

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I wrote this on the evening after visiting Auschwitz & Birkenau and I felt that it needed to be shared. I was feeling a little ‘creeped out’ by the whole experience so excuse the mournful tone.

I’m having trouble sleeping tonight. Every time I close my eyes all I see are visions of Auschwitz & Birkenau scorched into the back of my eyelids. Today we visited two of the death camps that I’ve heard so much about. It felt so wrong that the sun was shining on this place, yet despite it being a bright and sunny day full of curious tourists I still felt an eery stillness walking around.

Before arriving there, I kind of felt it was a little wrong to visit a place which was the resting place of millions of Jews. Did people really get a kick out of this? I wondered. Now I’ve been there however, I can’t emphasise just how important it was to go and see the camp with my own eyes.

We need to remember. We need to be educated. We need to pay our respects for those who perished and the few who risked their lives for the sake of others.

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Inside one of the buildings at Auschwitz, there was a wall of photos of some of the men and women registered into the death camp. Some, though only having just arrived showed signs that they had been beaten; some wore a blank expression and some (and the ones that really got to me) were faces of men and women wearing genuine smiles with what seemed like no inclination of what was soon to happen to them.

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Of about eight hundred jews who tried to escape, only about one hundred and fifty managed. It didn’t matter how long it took to search for an escaped prisoner, the Nazis would carry on searching even if it took a whole year.

We learnt about the medical experiments performed on the jews for various purposes and how a lot of the prisoners would end up physically handicapped and thus  would meet their end much faster because they could no longer work and were therefore deemed useless to the Nazis.

We learnt about Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who died as a prisoner in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped, the prisoners in the camp would be punished. This was to discourage other prisoners from having even the notion of thinking about escaping (and also because they were just merciless bastards). On this occasion there were ten Jews selected to be eliminated in the starvation bunker including Franciszek Gajowniczec who began sobbing for his wife and children. Maximilian stepped forward and asked to take this mans place. Oddly enough, the officer agreed and the priest was thrown down the stairs into the starvation bunker and left to starve. Whilst the other prisoners were gnawed at by their thirst and hunger (often drinking their own urine and licking the cold walls) the priest would pray.

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After two weeks only four of the ten were still alive.  The Nazis grew impatient as they needed the cells for more victims so an executioner was sent to inject a lethal dose of carbolic acid into each of the men. Maximilian was the last to die and whilst fully conscious, he lifted his arm to receive the shot. A true saint

Franciszek Gajowniczek survived to tell the story and died in 1995 at the age of 95.

After putting pen to paper, I finally managed to get some sleep. I won’t ever forget my visit nor will I forget the fluttering wings of the butterfly that danced past a gas chamber that day.

On another note; try to be respectful if you go. Taking pictures of you smiling next to a display case of glasses (or whatever) just makes you look like a fool.

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