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Is Britain still Great?

Many people will argue that the United Kingdom of Great Britain is no longer great. Some will say it’s because we entered the EU and that’s why we are now facing Brexit. Others will say that we will no longer be great due to Brexit as it is going to weaken us financially, politically, socially and security will be threatened. Those who agree with Brexit will state that we will be stronger in all of these areas after we have left the EU. Others will argue that the nations wanting to divide no longer make us Great or United. And, whilst I could get into the pros and cons of Brexit and my feelings towards it, this is not what I believe to constitutes to whether Britain is Great.

Throughout, our history we have kept the same mentality when it comes to people hurting our country. During the Blitz and before Britains have never allowed people (those individually or a whole country) stop us getting on with our lives. Again, this is what happened on Thursday. Whereas, other countries have ‘shut down’ the day after we didn’t Ministers were back in Parliament the next day along with their staff. Now, I have many friends who work there (and I’m lucky enough to say that they are all fine at least physically). Despite the shock, they were back in their offices the next day, after not being allowed to leave them for hours the day before due to the threat they were under. It is this, that makes my nation Great.

It is those people who ran to help those, who were injured and dying, despite the threat to their lives. The Junior Doctor, who was off duty, the Police Officers getting people to safety, the MPs, who were on their way back to the house, the Paramedics, and the general public. These are the people who make this country Great. I’m sure that there are many people that I have missed off this list and a few that people will argue it is their job to go into that situation. Yet, they still made that decision when they signed up to their job to go into those situations and many probably hoped that they would never have to face that situation. They make us great.

It is the police officers, paramedics, doctors, security services staff, and the armed forces that served when 7/7 happened and where there again for the Westminister attack. It’s the way the victims of 7/7 have learnt to adjust their lives to the new realities that they had to face. The same for whose who are having to come to terms with theirs after Wednesday. Instead of seeking revenge and posting it all over social media.

Whilst, we could change our ways and make all the offices at Westminister armed, would this not take away the feeling of us being free and safe? Has this worked across Europe, the United States and other Western countries? We will probably never know in our lifetime how many attacks our intelligence and security services have prevented in the last 16 years+. We will only ever know about the ones that they ‘failed’ to prevent. Yet, in both 7/7 and Wednesday’s attack, our casualties have been lower than many other countries who have faced similar events. Yes, they failed in terms of the event still happened, but have they truly failed? They quick responses meant that fewer people were injured and killed. If it wasn’t for PC Keith Palmer resistance it could have been a lot worse. PC Palmer would have known that he couldn’t take down the assailant unarmed, yet he still tried. It is this heroism that runs through my country’s history that makes us Great. If he was armed, would it really of prevented the situation or would it have made it worse? Whilst we will never know in this case, it is one that I do not want to have to find out either. One thing for sure is, we wouldn’t be hearing the stories about how wonderful man he was if he was armed. Would tourists ask for a photo with officers outside Parliment if they are carrying guns? Some would argue that tourists shouldn’t be taking photos with our officers you don’t in other countries. But, the British bobby is an iconic picture along with our red phone and letter boxes, the black cab, and Westminister itself. If we change this we would be changing some of the fundamental things about our country. This would be the point when I would start to question if we are Great.

Britain is Great because people not allowing others to dictate what they are going to do with their day. It’s Great because the day after the attack people where using hashtags to promote that we were still getting on with our day. It’s the viral images of positive quotes at our train stations. And, the stories of heroism that are being reported instead of just reporting about the attacker and his life. Britain is Great as we look for the positives even when we are down. Britain is Great as there will always be someone to help those who are hurt. Britain is Great as we will always rise stronger than we were before. Britain is Great as we make the decisions as a nation not and not let a few dictate to our democracy.

This is why we will always live up to being Great Britain.

Is it worth the flight?

Hello, now a few months ago I went to Liverpool from Exeter for less than 24 hours. (I know anyone from the UK, or understand the geography of the UK, will be thinking I’m mad. To be honest you’ll probably correct in that assumption). Since university I have friends all over the place, a few not even in the UK now. So when it comes to our group meeting up it tends to be somewhere a bit random, and most of them live up north (there was only 2 southerners, including myself in our group) so I tend to travel in this direction a lot. This time as a bit different though as I tend to drive up and often pick up the other southerner en route; yet, his was (and still is) in Itlay. This along with knowing that I was only going to be there for 1 night, and we were going out drinking, led me to rethink my mode of transport. Most of you are probably thinking that the UK isn’t that big so the drive can’t be too long or maybe just get a train or bus so you can have a few to drink. Well, from my house to the centre of Liverpool you’re looking at 4 and half hours with the roads being clear and no road works. Now if any of you have ever driven in the UK you will know how much we love our road works – especially on our motorways! Believe me, there are a lot going on, on the motorways that I would need to drive on. So safe to say that put me off driving (as well as it meant that I could drink) as well as a bus/ coach – 4 and half hours of not being able to move about and no leg room – no thanks. Being around 6 ft in height generally, puts you off anything with limited leg room for a long amount of time. Apart from the title of this post you would probably be thinking I got the train, well I did for a small portion of my journey, yet it would take over 5 hours to get there by train. Yes, I would be able to move about and chill -however, a return trip is over £100! Flights from Exeter to Manchester return are under £100, and 2 one way tickets from Manchester to Liverpool on the train was around £20. This and the fact it only took me 3 hours from my house to where we were staying each way – what’s there to complain about.

Now, I would totally fly from now on. Check in online up to 24 hrs before my flight, I could even use an app on my phone so I didn’t lose my boarding passes – I totally didn’t think that Exeter Airport would be that up to date. I did have any issue at Manchester with this, though (likely I had printed both of my passes out before I left home). I only took hand luggage for obvious reasons – but if I’m flying anywhere in the UK I’m not going to be there long enough to need liquids over 100ml, plus there is always the samples in hotels theses days. I only had to be at the airports 30 minutes before my flights as well (this was included in the 3 hours each way) and half an hour in the air. Then an hour on the train between Manchester and Liverpool. Like I said, what’s there to moan about?

Well not a lot really, but because I’m British (yes, I’m going to fall into one of our stereotypes – I do try to avoid doing so). I do have one thing, now if I wasn’t working the job that I was and had been able to book time off this wouldn’t have been a big deal. However, that wasn’t the case. The flights aren’t that frequent there is at least one a day but at the weekend it is only the one there and back each day. You’re probably thinking that it not a problem, yet the flight there was at 3 pm – so whilst most of my friends were meeting between 10 am and lunchtime I was still in Exeter. So I missed out seeing the docks and all the other bits that they did during the day. I meet up with them about 5 pm so I was there before dinner and pre-drinks (don’t get me wrong I had a great time). But, my return flight was also 3:30 pm after most of my friends had left – not a problem right I get to check out all the places they had already been too right? Wrong, due to Sunday train times and being the UK’s best day for rail replacement meant I had to leave before them all and spend over an hour at the airport – it did mean I got to finish reading my book that I had started on the way to a different friend’s hen do. Whereas, if I had been able to get the flight the night before that was at 6:30 pm I could have had the day on Saturday to spend catching up with them all. Like I said if I had been able to get the day off on friday or finish early it would have been perfect, but I couldn’t so I can’t really tell you where to go in Liverpool. I would totally go back to check out the docks – it has a huge section on the slavery trade (whilst being an unpleasant time in our history it is still our history to which we could all be educated more on to ensure we learn the lessons). And, the Beatles museum too. When I do get to go up there to do those bits along with some others, I will more than likely fly as it was just so easy and stress-free. Driving the same pieces of motorway whilst the end maybe slightly different each time does get tedious – especially without your road trip pal. However, I do think that everyone should drive across the UK as well. We have some of the best views from our roads and you wouldn’t even know that they existed if you didn’t drive along them. If I was to be going up north for longer than a few nights it would be worth the drive but otherwise, it’s not. To fly works out around the same amount as the fuel I would spend to drive plus then I would have to pay for parking as well, whereas I can get lifts to the airport.

So to anyone looking at doing a long drive for a short trip away within the UK – go and look at the flights we have more domestic ones than you would have known about – plus Flybe are meant to be opening a Gatwick to Exeter flight. (I’m not at all excited about this happening, being a Sussex girl living in Devon).  Anyway, that’s all for now.

Speak soon.

Maria.

Photo collection: Ghana

UK Summers

As I’ve mentioned already, I’ve moved around the UK when I was younger. This meant that we didn’t live that close to any extend family, however, many of my school holidays were spent in the UK. Whilst, most of my friends were off to the sun in Spain or France, I was (more than likely) in Devon and Cornwall. At the time, I was jealous of my friends for going to all these ‘amazing’ holidays; but looking back now I was the lucky one. Don’t get me wrong my friends did get to go to amazing places; many of these places I still want to go to. Yet, if I had gone to some of these places when I was younger I would never have appreciated them for what they truly are. I love going somewhere new and being able to immerse myself in the culture; history and beauty of a place.

Yes, I could have gone back to these places as an adult as well as a child; but then I would have missed out on all the fun holidays I had in the UK. Even though, it rains the majority of the time you can still have a fun summer holiday. Throughout my childhood, we would go to different places. This meant that I got to explore the culture within my own country as well as seeing how much this country has to offer. I still haven’t been able to go to every region of the UK. I’ve lived in the Midlands; East; South East; Devon and Wales. This has meant that I have friends all over the UK; which is a great excuse to travel around even more. By having our holidays in Devon and Cornwall it meant that we were able to see family whilst having a holiday.

At one point we went through a stage of surfing holidays, who cares if it’s raining if you’re going to be in the sea surfing anyway. At one point my parents’ even booked my brother and me to surf school in our October half term. I’m sure many of you are thinking that this seems like a strange time to go to Surf School as the weather isn’t going to be good and if you don’t know about surfing that is the wrong time to go. North Devon gets good surf in the summer and autumn. Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay, were where we had been the summer before. If you want somewhere to surf within the UK I would totally recommend these beaches.

By having holidays like this, I’ve been able to spend valuable time with family that otherwise I wouldn’t have seen. Plus, I’ve been to many amazing places that you don’t necessary think about going to when it’s on your doorstep. Here is a list of some of the amazing places I’ve been to:

  • Land’s end
  • St Ives
  • The Isles of Scilly
  • Poldock Mine
  • Wookey Hole
  • Croyde Bay and Saunton Sands
  • Dartmoor
  • South Downs
  • Cadbury world
  • Tower of London
  • London Eye
  • Winsdor Castle
  • Snowdonia
  • Legoland
  • Alton Towers
  • Brighton
  • Thorpe Park
  • Exeter
  • Aberystywth

This isn’t even the complete list as there is just so much to do within the UK that, people don’t even think about. So who cares about the whether, if you were in a different country you wouldn’t let it put you off seeing things as you only had a limited amount of time there.

Maria

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Dawlish Seawall

The drinking holiday

I have no intentions to use this blog as a way of me earning a living I just want to write about my experiences of travelling. So this post might come across completely differently as it’s not about my travels to Ghana; yet, about my holiday last year to Spain.

Personally, this holiday was less interesting than my time in Ghana as it was, to put it frankly, a drinking holiday. Now, this isn’t because I don’t want to see the culture that Spain has to off; however, I was on tour with the rugby girls from uni — so of course it was going to be a drinking holiday. Plus, this was probably just what I needed at that point in time. I was near the end of my degree and my dissertation was about to be handed in. Some of you might be wondering why I went on tour when I needed to finish my dissertation. If I hadn’t I think I would probably have had a breakdown of some sort — hey, 4 days of sun, sea, sand and drinking probably helped in some way, well maybe not the drinking. I was 21 and acting 21 instead of being a responsible student (yes, you can get responsible students — normally the ones also panicking about what else they are going to do in life now uni is ending). Don’t get me wrong I had a great time on my drinking holiday as we decided that the final year students were not to be responsible for anything — instead of the ones being responsible for everything. It made a nice change and I’m pretty sure we all went back to our freshers’ ways for the 4 days. But, when you want to see the world you soon relies upon that you will never do that if you’re drunk or in a party town. If you’re travelling for a long amount of time you will probably want to be able to go out every now and then — yet, who doesn’t when you work all the time too. Moreover, you soon learn that you can have a good time just seeing the world and sights that you would never see anywhere else. Or, even better loses yourself within the culture and try to take in as much as you can at once.  But, surely this is the difference between holidays and travels. If you are going holiday you’re going to enjoy yourself and have fun; yet, if you’re going travelling you are going to educate yourself on that country and culture.

Let’s face it I’m not going to go into the details of that holiday as I have in my other posts about Ghana. Besides this blog to let people see what I found useful and to try and see how I saw and see the world on my travels. As a 20 something is going to see the world in a different way to that of a 40 something. And, I’m going to see the world in a different way to a 20 something from a different country and different lifestyle to me.

Speak soon.

 

Maria

Update

Sorry, it’s been awhile but I am now back and have lots to write about. So, I will be attempting to get posts up weekly… at least for a bit anyway.

Hopefully, these post will be useful to you as well as sharing my experiences of places I’ve. I haven’t been aboard must over the last few years which is why I haven’t posted anything. However, I’ve recently been inspired to write about my travels in the UK. This maybe because I’m also planning my next big adventure ready for my 25th next year. So I’ll also be writing about what I’m planning and how I am preparing for this trip.

Speak soon.

Maria

British vs Ghanaian Culture 20 months on…

20 months ago I was in Ghana… 20 months ago! Time has definitely flown by. In that time I have graduated university and now have a full-time job on a graduate scheme (the main reason why I’m so rubbish at keeping to date with posting blogs) and I have interviewed many people who have gone or are now waiting to go to Ghana with GHEI. I’m trying to get some of the other volunteers to send me so of their experiences so I can post them on here too. Hopefully, that way I will be able to get some posts about the other sessions that GHEI offer. Even though in the last 20 months I’ve not been back to Ghana I have been able to carry on working with GHEI through their media drives and recruitment for the next lot of interns.

The village elders and the Girls Empowerment Volunteers 2013
The village elders and the Girls Empowerment Volunteers 2013 (photo taken by Elena Szajewski July 2013)

Looking back on my time now I find that I’m longing to go back. I seemed to settle into the Ghanaian lifestyle quickly and their cultural conventions still have aspects that we should be trying to fit into the UK’s lifestyle/ maybe even western lifestyle all together. Seeing as I have only lived in the UK I can’t really say that the whole of the western culture need to bring in some of the aspects that maybe the UK need to remember again. The nature of life in the UK is a nonstop, rushing from one place to another, and not always spending as much time with family, friends and loved ones as they do in Ghana. I’m not saying that the Ghanaian culture is perfect but they do seem to have a different take on life. I’m sure that I have mentioned this before yet it is a main aspect of their culture. Whilst work is important seeing family and friends is on the higher priority list. If you see them on your way somewhere – even if it is to work – you would stop to talk to them to show them that you appreciate them. Time is not something that the Ghanaian culture worries about; whilst this was the cause of some annoyance at times, it created a less stressful culture to the one that seems to encompass the UK. Within the UK it’s like we are trying to fight with time to fit everything in without having the time to able to do everything.

Whenever I interview someone and they ask me how I found my time in Humjibre all I can say is how much I loved it and how great this culture was. I don’t think people can understand their culture until you experience it. As long as, you go in with an open mind and willingness to try as many things as possible you will love it. Don’t go in thinking I can’t live without my smartphone or that I need to be able to contact home every day; if you do that you won’t be able to see the greatness that there is being offered. In the month that I was out there I think I phoned people at home about 4 times – roughly, once a week. I was offered to call people at home as soon as I landed – which I didn’t do – I tried to leave it a couple of days so I could fill them in on more things that just the flight. (The flight was not the best but that’s another story altogether). Maybe this was also my way of preventing culture shock or maybe I was thinking that I would have quite bad culture shock. Yet, I didn’t seem to have shock when I was out there. This could be to the fact I was expecting the worst when I went out there; or, the fact that the culture seemed to make anything that could be seen as shocking so much better. Children who had lost a parent didn’t just have one parent they had a village full of parents. Everyone, looks out for everyone if a child’s parent(s) couldn’t be home for dinner the neighbors would check on them and make sure that they were fed. There was none of the isolation that you see within the UK. Whilst after 4 months getting back to ‘normal’ life when people can contact me 24/7 and the brightness of lights was shocking there have been things that I’ve learned to change about my life. 20 months later and I still don’t take my phone everywhere – probably to the annoyance of my friends that try to phone me and get to my voicemail (that then takes me about a week to check). If you are to leave me a Facebook message don’t be surprised if I never reply and that I rarely post things (unless it’s some article that I’m sharing). Twitter is just used to find out what is going on with the world and I barely tweet anything. Oh, and I get in a mood when people would rather be on their phones instead of spending time with the people they are with in person – especially when it is a family or special event.

Cape Coast (photo taken by Maria July 2013)
Cape Coast (photo taken by Maria July 2013)

When I interview people I look out for the ones that seem as passionate as I was before I left and who are willing to learn the culture of that they are entering. If you don’t try to understand the culture then you can’t see all the amazing things within it. Whilst, the main part of this article is to do with the differences between the culture of Ghana and the UK there are key aspects that you can take with you on any travels. As long as you go in with an open mind and the willingness to learn the culture you are in – you will be able to learn ways that you can benefit your own life as well as help to change that of others.Speak soon,

Speak soon,

Maria