An Ode to my MacPac…

As I was recently rooting around in my loft for something, I found my big macpac, and realised I’ve had it for 10 years this year. It’s the best rucksack I’ve ever bought, it has a lifetime guarantee, and it’s EXTREMELY well-made, so I thought it was worthy of a little shout-out.

I bought my matching big and little macpacs in 2007, before going to Nepal for a year.

My big macpac has gone with me to Nepal, India, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Liverpool, South Sudan, India again, Nepal again, Kashmir, Oxford, the USA, The Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Iraq, Jordan, Canada, USA again, Australia again, Senegal, Kenya, Iraq again, and Senegal again.

Other than an unfortunate incident once where my Big Mac got ripped in an airport and needed to be patched (I sent it off to macpac and they fixed it up and shipped it back to me), it has held up remarkably well! In Nepal I used to keep it empty under my bed, but padlocked as my passport was in there, and when I lost the key, I had to beg the locksmith to cut through the padlock carefully not to damage the zip!

It’s incredibly comfortable, exactly the right size, and I love that it unzips like a proper suitcase instead of rooting around in a normal rucksack. I also love that you can fold in and zip up the straps when checking it in at airports so they don’t get damaged en-route.

My little macpac has gone with me EVERYWHERE in the last 10 years. It’s literally my everyday bag, it carries my laptop into work everyday, it goes with me on mini-breaks and weekends, and in addition to all of the countries my big mac has been to it has ALSO been with me to Qatar, Madrid, Italy and Switzerland!

Obviously daily use for 10 years has left my little mac a bit grubby, but considering what it’s been through, it’s holding up INCREDIBLY well! It’s even still mostly waterproof, as I learned after a can of tonic water exploded inside it once in the Philippines…

This little bag goes with me pretty much everywhere, is still sturdy and comfy after 10 years, and it zips onto the front of Big Mac (although I hardly ever do that).

So, all in all, as a fairly frequent traveller, I give these bags 10 out of 10 and highly recommend them for your travelling adventures.


Highlights from the last few weeks

Well, as I know a few of my faithful blog readers are not on facebook, here are some of the highlights of my life, in the form of my facebook posts, for the last couple of months, purely for your amusement.

17th November 2016

So, while I’ve been in Kenya, my boiler broke down, which was really complicated to get fixed remotely from here, and although it is finally fixed now, it is going to cost me a fairly big chunk of change.
This morning my lodger informs me that the washing machine is leaking and has flooded the kitchen. No idea yet if it’s fixable or requires a whole new washing machine.
Apparently everything is broken.
I blame Trump.

21st November 2016

For all my humanitarian peeps, and any others who are interested, here is a really interesting piece on the future of USAID under a Trump administration.

“Women and girls may have the most to lose. From the World Bank to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the SDGs to the new UN Secretary General, the economists, technologists, health advocates, educators, humanitarians, rights activists, and data junkies are all aligned and making the argument that investment in women and girls might be the best dollar spent…. Vice-President Elect Mike Pence, a radical social conservative, may be influential in rolling back US policy and investments in support of women and girls.”

22nd November 2016

A memory that popped up from 2 years ago:

“Aah, lush evening at the spa with my mum and my sister. I’m proud to be from the kind of family that can start a water fight in the sauna of tranquility… 😀” Continue reading

All the places I’ve been

In a recent conversation with my dad, I realised that in his 70+ years, he has travelled to a huge number of countries, (34 and counting!) so I thought it was worth listing all of mine out too to see how we compare!

My dad also pointed out that the majority of his travelling happened in his 20’s and 30’s, as like most people, once you settle down and have kids you tend to travel less often, so here is our combined list:  Continue reading

Prayer before Birth, by Louis Macneice

And now for something far more melancholy.

I have always loved this poem in spite of it’s somewhat depressing nature, and in light of all the global events of 2016, the many deaths of beloved figures, the combined shock of Brexit, Trump, and poor Jo Cox, this poem feels as relevant today as it did when it was written during the height of the Second World War. I have many friends and family members who have had a baby in the last year, many of whom are wondering what sort of a world they are bringing their child into, so this one is for them.

Prayer before Birth, by Louis Macneice

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

It’s good (to be back home again)

Well, I have officially re-entered my life, and as usual there is much to catch up on!

Work has been busy as usual, and I’m happy to announce they’ve extended my contract for another year, so I must be doing something right! Yay for job security! (ish).

I now have an EXTREMELY sexy new washing machine, that plays tunes when it’s done, and weighs your clothes to calculate how much water to use, and many other cool and groovy things. There was a slight snafu when I came to install it however….

You see, the thing is, there is always a sequence of events. Idiotic things rarely happen in a vacuum. Continue reading

Maya’s Guide to Nairobi

A kind friend and colleague who lived in Nairobi for many years, and is a self-proclaimed foodie sent me a fantastic list of recommendations of things to do in Nairobi (and mostly great places to eat!)

Here is the full list of recommendations I received when I arrived in Nairobi, along with my additional comments and thoughts. It’s mostly a restaurant and eating-out guide, but with a few other things as well – in case any of you are in need of suggestions for things to do in Nairobi!

I bought a map and started marking out where things were in order to plan my culinary tour of the city!

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Back to life, back to reality…

Well, it’s been almost 6 weeks since I arrived in Nairobi, and in spite of the many incredible things that I’ve seen and done since I got here, I must admit I am ready to go home now!

Partly because when you spend 6 weeks of living in a hotel, the novelty wears off rather quickly and it’s annoying needing taxis to go anywhere, not being able to cook or eat when you want etc. Also the shower in my room is rubbish so I can’t wait to get back to my lovely bath and much better shower! And my room with all my things!

It’s also because while I’ve been away, everything seems to have gone wrong with my house! My poor lodger, who has only just moved in, and who I abandoned rather suddenly to disappear off to Senegal and then Kenya, has been on her own in my house for weeks, kindly looking after the cats and keeping things ticking over, and dealing with all sorts of crises!

First, the boiler broke down, which was awful, as it was -1 degrees celcius in Oxford at the time, and the poor girl had to go without any heating or hot water for several days while I scrambled to get it fixed remotely. It was a pain to sort out, and required an awful lot of chasing and skype calls and frustrated emails! Initially they thought it was an electrical fault in the panel, which they replaced, and when that didn’t work they had to replace the PCB (whatever that is!) which required ordering in special parts. And when that was replaced they discovered a leaking pipe inside which had apparently caused all of the electrical faults, and so that had to be repaired as well!

In the end it took about a week, and will cost me about £500. But at least my poor lodger has heating and hot water again!

Then, about a week after the boiler was fixed, she texted me to say that the washing machine was leaking and had flooded the kitchen. Brilliant.  Continue reading

Animal Facts

A friend of mine lent me a lovely book about the animals of the Mara, and that, combined with some interesting things I discovered from the guides on my safari trip, meant that I learned a lot of fascinating, amazing and fun facts about some of the animals of the Mara!


Hippos are herbivores, who spend all day lounging in the mud, almost fully submerged in water, and they come out onto the land at night to graze (they mostly eat grass). They are excellent swimmers, although they mostly prefer to stay near the banks of rivers and lakes so that they can stand up in the water rather than float or tread water. They can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes, but on average they submerge for 5-6 minutes at a time before coming up for air. Hippos are massively aggressive, and will defend their territory fiercely, and can easily kill a human, although they won’t actually eat you afterwards. They live in families of around 10-15, usually with one male and lots of females, and some of the young.

When they defecate, they flap their tail quickly back and forth with a “thwap-thwap-thwap” noise, to spray their faeces far and wide. It looks a lot like shit, quite literally hitting a fan. Trust me, I’ve seen (and heard) it.

My favourite hippo fact? Young males are tolerated in a family, but they must show respect by defecating in the face of the alpha male. Possibly the most hilarious way to show respect I’ve ever heard of.

img_1105 Continue reading