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.

ūüôā

Day in the life of…

So, while flipping back through my facebook posts searching for something unrelated, I thought I would put together a little montage of snippets from the last 6 months of my life for all my readers out there.

I realise most of my blog followers are also friends of mine on facebook, so this will be boring and meaningless for them (they get to enjoy my awesomeness on a regular basis via my facebook posts, and often also in person), but for those of you out there who follow my blog and don’t know me in person, or are not friends with me on facebook, (and assuming you are interested), here’s a little bit more of what it’s like in my head, and in my life, in short, bitesized chunks…

2nd June 2015

A day in the life of Maya (abridged version):

1) Woke up, went to work, decided it was far too early to read any stories about mass graves, and selectively deleted those emails, thus maintaining my cheery disposition a bit longer (ignorance is a beautiful thing sometimes).
2) Went to a cash for work payout and met not one, but two beneficiaries called Saddam Hussein.
3) Reflected that names such as Saddam Hussein will no doubt be significantly less popular these days, and will probably soon be extinct, along with names such as Barry and Clive….
4) Started what will no doubt be an endless cycle of edits to a document I am co-writing with an American, in which we both continue to change the spelling of “labourer/laborer”.
5) Felt guilty that I failed to do my daily 7-minute workout, managed to counter-balance it by actively not having a cornetto after dinner. Felt so proud of my self-control I rewarded myself with a gin and tonic. Dieting in Maya’s¬†world is an extremely complex process…

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Death vs Taxes

I have been grappling with my tax situation for months, and occasionally sharing my pain and frustration via facebook, so I thought I would chart the horrific atrocities of both HMRC and my irritating employer in full here so that you can all feel my pain and share the burden of horror from the beginning.

I’ll be having tax-related nightmares for weeks, and may also require therapy at some point. And if it’s a choice between death or taxes right now, then point me to the nearest cliff…

It all started in the middle of last year….

2nd September 2015

You know that thing where you work overseas for almost 2 years, and a month before you come home your employer realises you should have been registered as non-tax resident in order to reclaim all your tax? So you fill in all the forms, discover you have to also do a tax return and start the excruciating process of registering online for a self-assessment form.

Then you get stuck, cos you need a special number to register online, but you can’t get one, as it has to be posted to you, and they think you still live overseas and so they keep posting things to Iraq and the Philippines.

You keep calling them to tell them you’ve moved back home, and they tell you that you’ll need to do a tax return, but they can’t seem to fix your address glitch on their system and of course they can’t possibly just give you the damn reference number over the phone …. And after spending more than an hour on hold on three separate numbers before they refer you back to the first number you called, you just start to weep while bashing your head repeatedly against the desk.
Yeah, that.

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Carbon Footprints…

One thing you learn to accept as an aid worker is that you are never going to have a small, or especially environmentally-friendly carbon footprint. There are just too many flights involved! Not only do I travel to far-flung and exotic places for work, and then generally want to take holidays around the general area of wherever you happen to be, but I also have family in the UK and Australia that I try to visit once in a while, and a lot of friends having fabulous destination weddings at the moment in places like Canada and France! I think 2015 might turn out to be a record-breaking year for me in terms of flights and travel, as I look back at everywhere I have been this year, and am simultaneously busy planning both work trips and holidays for the coming months. I’ve decided to¬†map it out compared to last year, which was also quite travel-heavy….

2014: I can’t remember how many internal flights I did in the Philippines, but if I had to guess I’d say

  • Tacloban – Cebu – Tacloban x 3?
  • Tacloban – Manila – Tacloban x 3?
  • February/March: Tacloban – Cebu – Sydney – Perth – Cebu – Tacloban
  • May: Tacloban – Manila – London – Manila – Tacloban
  • July: Manila – Phuket – Manila
  • November: Tacloban – Manila – London
  • December: London – Sulaymaniyah (Iraq)

Total countries visited in 2014: 5 (Philippines, UK, Australia, Thailand, Iraq)

2015:

  • February: Erbil – Amman – Erbil
  • May: Erbil – London – Vancouver – London – Erbil,
  • July: Sulaymaniyah – London
  • August: London – Geneva – London
  • September: London – Madrid – London
  • December: London – Bangkok – Phuket – Chiang Mai – Bangkok – Sydney – Melbourne – Sydney – Bangkok – London

Total countries visited in 2015: 8 (Iraq, Jordan, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Spain, Australia, Thailand)

Phew! What a lot of travelling!

It’s annoying me that I’ve only just thought of signing up for some frequent flyer air miles! Ah well, better late than never…

Last days in Iraq…

Hmm,

Ok, so after my frenzy of posts about crafty things and recipes, it’s probably time to tell you more about my day-to-day type stuff.¬†Work is going well here, and I’ve met some incredible people. I’ve only got a few days left now, so here are some pics from my work, when I’ve been out and about doing general work-type things!

We did some meetings with community leaders and IDP representatives to tell them more about our work and what we’re doing in their villages.

IMG_4073 IMG_4074

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