5 years ago I had a couple of months left in Malawi, the country I was calling home during my year out. I had lived there for 10 months by this time and was pretty much settled into life there. I left a young wee peely waly 17 year old and was already a rather browner, fatter 18 year old version of the same self that had left Scotland the year before. I'm not sure what I expected during the fashionable, if a little common, "gap year."
-did I want to discover my true self? (not really, not my sort of thing.)
-did I want to be someoneelse? (yes I was desperate to not be me.)
-did I want to see the world? (apparently not as I spent much of the year in one place in one country, a wee road trip to South Africa aside.)
-did I want to save the world? (yes, I had a vague notion this was entirely possible)
But even now I'm not sure quite what made me so sure I wanted to take this rite of passage getting on with life. I just knew I really really wanted to. I decided that nothing less than 12months away would suffice so Project Trust it was. None of this namby pamby 3 month business. I wanted the real deal and nothing less. I can't remember even properly asking my parents if I could go; I had sort of decided it all already in my head: I would go for the selection week and take it from there. I could then spend the next 9 months or so fundraising before leaving for year out country (now known as Malawi-Project Trust don't tell you where you go until after the selection week) when I finished my last year of school.
The letter with my assigned country and project arrived and I had to go and find Malawi on the map. And then it was time to start raising the £3500. Car boot sales, car washes, guess the teddy's birthday, bag packing, dishwashing....you name we were onto it. And I was amazed by everyones genorosity and words of encouragement. But I don't think I ever knew just how hard this year would be. I wasn't going to suddenly grow into this confident, skinny, go getting girl who could speak to anyone and have any man she wished. Oh how I wanted just that to happen.
I went on the training week, met the girl who I'd be spending this year with as we'd be working on the same project and packed my rucksacks ready to fly away the next morning. I said my goodbyes. Not so emotional. A quick hug, words to take care and have fun and that was me. Off to Heathrow where I'd meet the rest of the Malawi group and where we'd board South African Airways Johannesburg flight before connecting to Blantyre in Malawi. I desperately wanted to tell the businessman next to me I was going to Africa for A YEAR, A WHOLE YEAR, BY MYSELF but instead I buried my head in Shopaholic Goes Abroad and lost myself in Becky Bloomwood's perfect life.
I'd not been so sure of my project partner for the year when we met on training-she was everything I wanted to be and I was intimidated to say the least. So we muddled by, both afraid to say what we were all thinking: would we get on and survive the year or would one of us crack and leave? We were in the air, we were gone.
Listening to: James Morrison - The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore