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Camp Cambodia

27 September 2017

When I told people I was spending part of my summer at Camp Cambodia, I was met with looks of confusion and curiosity - "I'll be teaching children English and playing with elephants for 3 weeks" I'd say, shrugging it off. How wrong I was, it was all that and so much more. Sit tight kids, we're going back to the start.

At no point in the 7 months prior to the trip had I questioned the fact that I was going to spend 3 weeks on the other side of the world with a bunch of complete strangers, but you best believe that after 24 hours of solid travel when I hopped off the plane at Phnom Penh to be met by some quite frankly terrifying border officials, completely alone, all I could think was 'what have I done?' Fast forward 3 weeks to the return journey home, where I was knocked back from airport security for crying just that little bit too hysterically and I guess you could say that Camp Cambodia had been nothing short of one of the best experiences of my life.

It's impossible to try and convey everything that I saw/felt/experienced during my time in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and to those unfortunate enough to have been in my company since I've returned, one question is enough to spur at least 3 hours worth of Cambodian related chat. I'm not even sure where to begin and to be honest, my words could never be eloquent enough to describe just how incredible the experience was. Conveniently, I made a little video of my time there, which you can watch below.




From teaching underprivileged children English to volunteering in the slums in an effort to break the cycle of poverty that is so present in Cambodia, the experience changed my outlook on life and was moving in all senses of the word. Surrounded by such bright and positive children on a daily basis proved that even in the darkest of times, light can always be found. But it wasn't only the children who were a source of daily inspiration.


The strangers who I met at the airport that very first day, the people I lived with, ate with and shared beds with, have firmly rooted themselves in my heart. The progression from strangers, to friends, to family, all within such a short space of time would have seemed inconceivable to me before this trip but I can honestly say that I would have been nothing without them all.

To my Cambodian family, I don't know where to begin. Thank you for being warm, friendly faces that first day at the airport and for making breakfast plans with me that first night out (food is always the priority). Thank you for the endless laughs, the laughter that made me cry and for turning my tears back into laughter again. Thank you for the never ending supermarket runs with me and daily brunches at Brown's. Thank you for the nights that turned into mornings and for being the best karaoke partners I could have possibly asked for. Thank you for the late nights stunting in the pool and the 3am chats about life, where I figured out more than I thought possible. Thank you for sharing beds with me, letting me dance around the room endlessly and looking after me when I was sick. Thank you for the tuk-tuk races, the monkey chases and that time I went rogue on the quad bike. Thank you for accepting my sometimes questionable shapes on Pub Street and then joining me anyway and for not letting me try and navigate my way home alone at 2am. Thank you for the bus tunes (DJ JC) and for the adventures out in the torrential rain. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration to me daily, each in your own way, even now that we're back home and for honestly making me believe in myself. I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends to take on Cambodia with - sorry, but you're stuck with me now.







Camp Cambodia, thank you for everything.

Sabai, sabai


xo


Two Months Later

24 June 2017
Two months after I spilled a little bit of my heart out onto the page here, I figured I should make a reappearance.

Life is sweet and Norwich is sweeter. Having grabbed all my bags and packed my life into my little car, I drove a good 300 miles across the country, with little idea what the next few months would have in store. In short - I was freaking out.

Fast forward a couple of months and here I am, alive, well and happy. It turns out that Norwich was everything that the doctor ordered and more.






I mean come on, look at that little face. He's right on my doorstep - cute is good for the soul.







I have one month left here and by the end of it, I'll have produced my Master's thesis - one step closer to fully fledged adult status. NOPE, nope, nope. Here's to the last month of exploring my new backyard, sunshine and house sharing. Oh and writing that thesis (but we can forget about that for now).

Until next time,

xo

Progression

13 April 2017

Life doesn't stop for anybody. Stephen Chbosky wrote about it, Deaf Havana sung about it. And it really doesn't. In the past year, I've graduated from one course, started a Master's in a brand new one, travelled to the other side of the world and lived my everyday life. All along though, there was one thing that I failed to notice. I grew. And I'm damn proud of it. Don't fret, I'm not about to get all hot and heavy on you.



Within the past 8 months, I've done everything I've listed above. I've had highs and I've most definitely had lows. I had never taken the time to reflect until a couple of weeks ago, where an interviewer asked me: "what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?" and honestly, when you strip it down to the basics, it turned out it was my own personal growth.

Flash back to the tail end of last year: I was in a course that I loved, surrounded by people that I loved and who loved me, yet I felt so low. I was painfully self conscious of myself, my thoughts and everything that I did, to the point that one night at an event, I had to lock myself in a toilet to get away from everyone for a while. The saddest part is that I never truly realised it.

More recently, I've been forced to focus on myself and somewhere along the line, my confidence not only in myself but in everything that I do has grown massively. It's the little things. I've made numerous phone calls, had multiple interviews and stood up for myself without fearing the consequences. I've stood up in a court of law to present evidence without my heart skipping a beat and talked my way into a dream placement. I no longer feel overwhelmed at work on a regular basis, I laugh stupidly loud without being embarrassed (because I can) and in no way have I tried to reign in my facial expressions. Basic, I know but for people who know me well, it's definitely progression and I'd be a fool not to take it. In a few weeks time, I'll be packing up and moving to a new city; a few months after that and I'll be flying solo to Cambodia - and I'm really proud. Granted, it's absolutely terrifying but hey, I'll fumble on through.

The point is, sometimes the greatest achievements come from the simplest things. We're constantly growing and evolving, so sit back and reflect every once in a while - you might be surprised at what you've accomplished.

Until next time,

xo

A Letter from a Cheerleader

5 May 2016


For the past couple of years I have been heavily involved in the sport of cheerleading, as a member of the university competitive team for both seasons 2014-15 and 2015-16. It is a sport that I have fallen head over heels for and as I competed for the last time a couple of months ago, I was genuinely upset to be leaving it behind, as my time at university comes to an end.  However, throughout my time, I have been exposed to the negative connotations and associations of the sport; most recently I was involved in a dispute with a woman via Facebook (I know, really?) who had decided to voice her opinions and disgust over our university team. After much deliberation, I have decided to write this, for anybody to read: cheerleader or not, to give a real insight into our sport and to explain just why exactly it's time that the stereotypical "cheerleader" image needs to be put to bed.

Over my 2 years in the sport, I have learned the true definition of a "team". I've learned to apply patience, strength and focus in ways that other sports have never asked me to. I've learned to be brave, have faith in my team, all whilst having the greatest of times with some of the best people that I've ever met. We are cheerleaders. We are not girls standing on the sidelines waving pom poms at boys, aiming to please - we're anything but. We stunt. we jump, we tumble. We train harder and then even harder again. We take the fall, we take the hits. Broken bones? Concussions? We've been there and we've seen it all before. Not what you thought? That's the thing; the hyper-sexualised portrayal of cheerleading couldn't be further from the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, the World Cheerleading Championships took place, showcasing the best of the best from countries across the world. However, unless you're directly involved in the sport, it's very unlikely that you'd even heard of it before. It might seem like I'm preaching to a deaf crowd but hear me out - cheerleading deserves recognition. It's a sport that involves a serious amount of dedication and hard work, there's no ifs or buts about it; throwing multiple stunts several feet it the air   followed by a few tumble passes doesn't come easy. Throw a couple of jump sequences into the mix and a couple more stunts? Well you get the idea.

Cheerleaders are the underdogs of the athletic world - we aren't taken seriously but we've still got some of the strongest, most flexible and fittest players in the game. With cheerleading currently under consideration for status as an olympic sport, it's time that it is truly recognised for what it is. If you're still unsure or unconvinced altogether, please watch this video of just one of this year's winning teams and believe me when I say that while they make everything look easy, it most certainly isn't.

Cheerleading has become one of my all time favourite sports. It's a sport that has taught me a lot and has allowed me to meet some incredible people. Whilst I could probably write another thousand words to try and show you everything that the sport means to me, I hope that this post has given you a small insight into just what it is that we do and the reasons why cheerleading is a sport that needs to be recognised. I know I can never address everything and that trying to shift the negative connotations and hyper-sexualised image of cheerleaders and cheerleading itself isn't a one man job,
but with every bit of recognition, it gets that little bit easier.

Until next time,

xo