I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the spring bluebells and finally they are here. The forests have become magical lands where fairies romp, dreams are made, adventures hatched. What a wonderful experience to stroll among the bluebells and breathe in the sweet scent of spring.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
I am very fortunate to be the Mother of my two beautiful girls. They are both gorgeous, inside and out and I am so proud of what they have achieved in their lives so far, especially with the upheaval that this expat life brings. I had a beautiful Mum myself and though I lost her nearly fifteen years ago, two days before I became a Mother myself, I still think of her every day. Mother's Day is a time to remember times with my Mum and to spend time with my girls.
Mother's Day 2011 was spent with my girls at the Lao Wang orphanage in the Anhui province in China. Lao Wang is the parent of a disabled child, he could not understand how any parent could abandon their child. A flood destroyed his factory and he became bankrupt in 1994. He then opened his now empty factory to provide for orphans, disabled and healthy, newborn to adult. He received very little from the government and relied mainly on donations to run his orphanage. Expat Julie Martens came across the orphanage in 2009 and asked the children what they would like her to bring, they answered rice! So Mifan (Rice)Mama (Mother), the charity was formed.
We were there to deliver a truckload of donations of food, clothes and other supplies. We had spent the day before on a bus, travelling for nine hours to get there. When our bus pulled into the orphanage, there were so many expectant faces, though the children didn't quite know what to make of us. They were very happy with the lollies that we handed out and watched while the truck was unloaded.
Was very interesting, that the favoured box was not that containing toys, but the box of books. So sad that most of these children, however bright, would possibly not get the opportunity of an education.
We had the honour to meet the benevolent, Mr Lao Wang, who has devoted his life to these children in need and Julie Martens, the gracious lady behind the charity responsible for the donations, Mifan Mama. What a difference these two people have made to the lives of so many children.
We walked around, talking, holding, playing. There were moments of anguish and moments of pure joy.
It nearly broke our hearts to leave this cheeky little boy behind. He instantly fell in love with my eldest daughter. She spent hours carrying him around, playing with him, feeding him, cuddling him.
This young man was very happy to be told that the t shirt he happened to be wearing, was the uniform of the school my girls went to. I really hope that he went on to get an education.
Some of the kids were happy to play with the toys, things they had never seen before.
Others were happy with some attention, a game, a laugh.
Some were locked in their own little worlds.
Some couldn't get enough interaction.
To see tiny babies, with disabilities so easy to fix but with no funds available was so distressing.
To meet the carers, usually retired farm labourer couples, who are with the children 24 hours a day 7 days a week was uplifting, they give so much for love in return.
One of the greatest gifts I have ever received was given to me by this little baby girl with a severe cleft palate. She was crying, I went in and talked to her, cuddled her, stroked her. She stopped crying and she smiled, really smiled. The biggest most beautiful smile I have ever seen.
I have had many Mother's Day celebrations, with my Mum and as a Mum, breakfasts, picnics, chocolates and flowers. Be hard though, to better this one, a day spent with my girls, giving to children with no Mum, with not much of anything at all. My girls didn't complain of the nine hour each way bus trip, the 40C heat, the oppressive humidity, the dodgy truck stop noodle meals. They gave their time, cuddles and love to children in need. My girls made me so proud that Mother's Day, the best Mother's Day gift of all.
Happy Mother's Day to all the Aussie and Kiwi Mum's out there xxx
Most of these children were later moved to a government run facility built nearby, with better facilities and access to education and medical assistance. Mifan Mama provides support to other less fortunate orphanages that need assistance. They still visit the new orphanage to see the children develop and to take them treats.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
The Eurotunnel was very easy and efficient. Loved seeing The White Horse on the hillside on the way to the train. The horse was constructed in 2003 by local artist Charles Newington, inspired by the White Horse in Uffington and a team of volunteers. It was paid for privately, gifted to the people of Folkestone and is there for all the users of the Eurotunnel to enjoy too!
After a quick thirty minutes in the tunnel, we arrived in France and hit the highway.
After another thirty minutes, we were in Belgium! We headed to the beautiful city of Bruges, the historic city centre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Such a beautiful city with amazing architecture, peaceful canals and delightful cobble stoned streets. We had a lovely time meandering through the streets and taking it all in on a glorious Spring day.
Of course we had to stop for some Belgian mussels while out exploring. Apologies for the terrible photo, but I had to contend with four fellow adventures who were starving and wouldn't wait...and I didn't want to miss out either.... I can say the mussels were good...very good!
We had another look at the beautiful city and incredible fairytale style buildings before we headed back to France. I have a feeling we might head back to Bruge for a longer visit, it's a place that begs you to explore more, discover the history and soak up the ambiance. Plus, my husband and I both had to drive...and we didn't have any Belgian beer....or Belgian chocolate....
We cruised back, through picturesque countryside and arrived in Calais. We found a lovely Spring garden in the middle of Calais, full of colour and delicious Spring smells.
The Calais Town hall is a stunning brick and stone building, construction started in 1911 but was interrupted by World War 1. It was completed in 1925. It was built to commemorate the merging of the cities of Calais and Saint Pierre in 1885. The ornate clock tower and belfry stands 74 meters high and can be seen for miles around.
In front of the Calais Town Hall is The Six Burghers Monument, sculpted by Rodin in 1895. Calais was under siege by the English in 1347. England's King Edward the Third offered to spare the people of Calais, if six of it's leaders would surrender themselves to him. The six volunteers took themselves to the city gates, dignified, defeated and heroic, expecting to be executed. This moment is what is captured in the monument. Their lives were spared when England's Queen, Philippa of Hainault convinced her husband that their deaths would be a bad omen to their unborn child.
We were expecting to do some shopping and have a meal before heading to the tunnel and back to the UK. Sunday trading hours in France had other ideas...nothing was open on our sunny Sunday afternoon. We checked in at the Eurotunnel, was offered an earlier departure at no extra cost and headed back to the UK. We had a delicious meal at an English country pub on the way home. Our adventure covered eighteen hours, three countries, about 400 miles and lots of history...would we do it again...you betcha!
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, where you occasionally saw Spring daffodils in private gardens. The bulbs had to be dug up and stored in a cool place to be replanted every year, so they were are real treat and nowhere near as prolific as here in England! I have been enraptured with the daffodils this Spring and amazed by the variety out there, in the fields, in private and public gardens and by the road.
I now understand why my British friends who live in faraway lands, miss the Spring daffodils so much. I don't want it to end, but the end is in sight, the daffodil season nearly over. Here are some of my favourite photos taken over the last few weeks, from Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and even Hertfordshire. Enjoy their sunny little faces!