Volunteering – To give or not to give? That is the question.

...and that is the question mark! See his tail? ;-)

…and that is the question mark! See his tail? 😉

“Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun.” – Wikipedia, 2013.

 

I have been a volunteer for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I remember taking presents and clothes to people in need. I remember selling raffle tickets and lighters for an animal charity. I remember giving food to families in need. I remember collecting food, clothes and blankets for earthquake victims and then driving hundreds of kilometres to deliver them (and losing one of my own shoes in the process!). I remember helping younger children with their reading at school. I remember feeding stray animals on the streets. I remember adopting several stray animals. I remember coaching school teams. I remember picking rubbish off beaches. I remember going to orphanages and holding parties for special needs children. I remember going to old age homes with gifts for the elderly. I remember fundraising for a charity for children with life-threatening diseases. I remember planting trees on a mountain. I remember donating money to several charitable causes – and I generally don’t remember much!

I was obviously brought up by charitable parents, so giving (whether it be my time or possessions or money) is like second nature to me. However, I am by no means a saint! I simply get pleasure out of helping those who are in a less fortunate position than myself. So even though I may not be earning any money as a volunteer, I am in fact gaining several other, more important, benefits. For example, I feel good about myself when I help a person or an animal in need. I get to meet like-minded people and have made very good friends through volunteering. I get to spend my free time doing something I enjoy.

People obviously choose to volunteer for a cause that is close to their heart for some or other reason. So they do it happily and passionately. I can’t imagine anyone volunteering to do something they don’t enjoy doing or won’t enjoy the end result of doing. I mean, I would never volunteer to help animal-abusing chain-smokers with body odour on an airplane to learn how to dance reggae! If Brad Pitt, however, needed a nanny for his children…well, that’s another story!

So, does volunteering make us better people? Possibly. Does volunteering make us feel like better people? Definitely.

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Time waits for no one

The sudden passing of a friend a couple of weeks ago got me thinking…

After the initial shock and sadness, my next feeling was that of injustice. I felt this was unfair. Unfair on him, unfair on his family, unfair on his young wife and two young children, unfair on all his friends and loved ones. However much I tried, I could not make sense of it. After a while I came to the conclusion that it is not something I can make sense of and that I just need to live with that, but I can learn a lesson from it. The lesson I learnt is that life is so short that we need to constantly remember the important things while we are around. What are the important things? Being happy! Doing what we love doing. Being with the people we love. Being with people who make us happy. Not giving importance to things which are beyond our control or things which don’t make us better people.

We can’t take time for granted. We all have an expiry date. We don’t know when that is, so we need to enjoy life while we still can. We need to use the time we have wisely! And by that I don’t mean keep busy and don’t sleep! On the contrary, sleep, if that means you are more alive when you are awake! I just think our time (at least most of it) should be spent doing what we choose to do. Tick tock, tick tock…

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Unravel travel

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves” – Euripides

What is it about travel that gets me so excited? I am going to London tomorrow and I just can’t wait! It’s not as if I have never been to London before. I lived there for nine years! I go back several times a year, yet I get as excited every single time! I love London, but it’s not just London that excites me. I feel the same way when I go to Cape Town. Granted, I love Cape Town, too.  However, I felt the same way when I lived in London and travelled to Athens a few times a year. Oh, ok, I love my home, too!

To be fair though, I get excited whenever I go on a trip. Some destinations may be more interesting than others, but just knowing I am going to see another part of the world brings a huge smile to my face! I love visiting different countries and getting to know the different cultures and traditions. There is so much to see, so many different sights, smells, tastes…you have to just get out there and experience what you can! Also, if you have friends and family to visit, then that makes it even better since you get to see loved ones and spend time with people whose company you have missed.

We are lucky to be living in an era of affordable travel. There are really no excuses for those who love to travel. All you have to do is find a good deal and book it! It’s really (almost) that simple! I am not a millionaire, quite the opposite actually, yet I save up to do what I love most – travel.  

The whole packing, having to leave for the airport three hours before your flight, checking-in, boarding and flying bit I could do without, but I guess until we can be teleported I will just have to deal with it!

So, London baby! Woo-hoo!

 

Greece – from the inside looking out

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Greece really is a beautiful country. I am blessed to have been brought up surrounded by such beauty. Even though the Greeks are going through a rough patch at the moment, we still have the sea and sun surrounding us…and nothing can beat that! We may not have much money but we have so many more important things which money just cannot buy!

It was Greek Easter last weekend and I spent it with my parents and brother at our ancestral home in a village in Mani, in the South of Greece. It was wonderful. Simple, yet perfect. The weather was amazing and we even swam a few times! Our house is up in the mountains and we have a view of the sea, which is a fifteen-minute drive away. The mountains in this area are covered in olive trees, wild prickly pear trees, wild fig trees and beautifully scented wild herbs amongst other trees and plants. Also, at this time of year, there are plenty of wild poppies growing among other beautifully coloured flowers all over the place. It is amazing how they manage to literally grow out of the rocks!

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Everything you eat here, whether from the ground or the sea, is organic! It is simply delicious, nutritious food. Good food, fresh air, crystal clear sea, water that comes straight from the snow-capped mountains. Surely this is the recipe for a healthy life?

So, all of you people looking for the perfect holiday destination, look no further! Greece is the place to be. Greek summers are simply the best. The weather is pretty much guaranteed, and the natural beauty and delicious food in combination with the best ‘swims’ in the world make it top of my list! Islands, mainland, yachts, sailboats…so much to choose from – and believe me, they are all equally perfectly stunning!

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PS- I don’t work for the Greek Tourist Board, nor do I own a hotel or travel agency! I am just sharing a little ‘secret’ with you all because I love my country and I have travelled a fair amount to know what I am talking about! 😉

Feeling creative

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I love a good piece of art. I have purchased several paintings over the years from different parts of the world. I have bought original works of art in South Africa, in Syria and even in Zambia! I love different styles of art and even though I don’t have enough wall space yet, I buy pieces of art in the hope that one day soon I will be able to display them properly. I don’t have the money to buy an original Picasso, so I just go for whatever tickles my fancy.

Now, since I haven’t bought any works of art for a couple of years now, I thought I would try my own hand at it! I had something in mind and just felt like letting it out! I hadn’t painted anything since school so I had no idea where to buy the paints and canvas, nor which paints and brushes I should get. Luckily, I have a friend who is an artist and she kindly took me shopping for the basics. It’s not a cheap hobby, I’ll tell you that much.

Anyway, so I got my acrylics and canvases and started right away on a small canvas. The nice thing about acrylic paint is that it dries very quickly so you can finish a piece in a few hours. Even though I probably spent longer on it than I needed to, I really enjoyed experimenting with the paints. I wanted to finish it in time for a friend’s birthday, so I spent most of the day on it. I am happy with the result, however, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, art is a matter of taste. Some people may like a certain piece while others may think it’s awful.

If you’ve ever had the urge to paint or sculpt something, I recommend trying it. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you had imagined it, it is fun and quite cathartic. I plan on getting my hands even dirtier next week when I go to my village for Easter! Time is really a huge factor when it comes to expressing your creativity (in any form), so I am going to try to make the most of mine now!

 

 

The Teacher Creature

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

– Chinese Proverb

A good teacher cares. A good teacher teaches and doesn’t just correct. A good teacher gives examples, explains, shows, draws, dances, sings, writes and sometimes shouts. A good teacher makes jokes, smiles, laughs and makes others smile and laugh, too. A good teacher sets boundaries. A good teacher earns the trust and respect of students. A good teacher is honest. A good teacher has a sense of humour. A good teacher understands. A good teacher teaches students how to think for themselves. A good teacher gets across and also sometimes gets cross. A good teacher hugs freely. A good teacher removes splinters from toes and fingers! Yes, a good teacher does all these things…and so much more!

Teachers are definitely generally underestimated. They make such a difference to children’s lives and we all remember most of our teachers from way back. We especially remember the very good ones…and the very bad ones as well! So, here’s a little poem I wrote to outline what I think teachers do…or should do:

The Teacher Creature

To be a teacher means to teach

And make students extend their reach

To touch the hearts and souls of babes

Not just to look for the top grades

 

To be a teacher means to care

And make your pupils more aware

 To read, to write, to draw, to sing

To know they can do anything

 

To be a teacher means you must

Make sure in you your students trust

 To learn, to listen, to believe

That anything they can achieve

 

To be a teacher means in your hands

Responsibility of guidance lands

 And if you love the job you do

No doubt they will remember you