We stepped off the plane at 6.30am Ethiopian time this morning after what couldn’t really be described as the most comfortable of flights.

Think Ryanair, but for seven hours. Then pick a seat against a wall that can’t recline. Chuck in pastries and tea at 2am and the worst film in the world being shown on a tiny screen, miles away down the aisle. Oh and then ask the chattiest man in Cameroon to sit down next to you.

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That’s all nothing though is it? So I was a bit uncomfortable for a few hours. First world problems as Bee would say, and quite literally in this case compared with some of the challenges faced every day on Ethiopia. I feel a little bit pathetic complaining about eating and strange times. I should be grateful I have something to eat at all.

We can’t find our lift at the airport, so end up getting a taxi across town. It’s still only 8am here – although more like one o’clock if you use the Ethiopian system of counting the hours since sunrise – but the streets are already swarming with people. Men holding hands stroll casually into the street, accompanied by frequent beeping from cars and buses, but no one seems to be in a rush. Homosexuality is not allowed here, but people are generally affectionate and tactile, so it’s not uncommon to see friends walking hand in hand.

At our hotel, a nap is most definitely on the cards.

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After a sleep and a little something from my flapjack stash, we head out for a bit of an explore, and stop for a visit at the Holy Trinity church. The building is relatively modern by UK standards – it was finished in 1944 – but the stained glass and the light inside is beautiful.

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Just driving around is awesome and I’m hypnotised by the people, shacks and stalls that line the street. Today has been about settling in, but tomorrow I’m going to get to meet the group of HIV positive women who have started their own successful food business. I can’t wait.

P.S. I am blogging from an app on my phone due to a suspiciously unreliable ‘high speed’ internet connection so please forgive me if this post looks odd in any way – I’ve never app blogged before.

After a week of cacking my pants, and recurring dreams of not being able to find clean water and eating multiple bags of maltesers without washing my hands, I have woken up this morning totally wired and ready to go. I’ve been waiting all week for my passport, not really fully ready to let myself believe it is happening, so when it finally arrived last night it was the final piece falling into place.

Today then is about packing, preparing everything at home for the week, and dashing out to Tesco at the last minute for all the essentials I’ve inevitably forgotten about. I’ll be getting the train from Bristol at 3pm to Heathrow and by 8pm this evening I’ll be on the plane, ready to take off on my adventure.

Packing then.

I’ve made a list, which I think it a Very Good Start:

"Packing list"

I’ve also started gathering together essentials. This is basically everything I need surely?

"Things I need in Ethiopia"

I’ve also started writing in my head. I can tell when I’m properly excited about something as my head fills with ideas for things to say about it, and whole blog posts start composing themselves. Unfortunately this tends to happen late at night or in a dream, so by the time I get to actually write it down it sounds somewhat less eloquent. Never mind, you’ll just have to make do with this.

Ever since I found out about the trip, I’ve been anxious about really silly things – will I feel sick on the day long car journey out to the Antsokia Valley? Will it be too hot for me? What will I do if I get hungry? This morning though, all of those fears have disappeared. All I can think about is that moment of stepping off the plane into a country, a continent even, that I’ve never been to before. When I think about meeting Ethiopian mums who have started their own businesses, are battling HIV and are raising families against the odds, I get butterflies in my chest and can almost feel my eyes widen and twinkle a little bit.

I can’t even begin to imagine how I am going to feel, but I’m ridiculously excited to tell you all about it.

….Actual Ethiopia. Not just some trendy Bristol cafe that sells exotic meats – the actual country.

I’m going on Saturday as a guest of World Vision, to raise awareness of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign and I will visiting all kinds of amazing people and projects, seeing first hand what World Vision have been doing to help Ethiopia develop over the last 30 years. I will be honest though and say I have mixed feelings about it at the moment.

"enough food if"

Let’s put it into a little bit of context.

It would be fair to say that I’ve led a pretty sheltered life when it comes to other countries and cultures. We never went on family holidays abroad as children, and my only flirtations with foreign travel were school exchanges. As these were often simply ten days spent living with strangers, not understanding anything that was happening and generally feeling terrified, they didn’t exactly give me a positive view of what travel was all about.

I had babies young, and money and time were always an issue – travel fell fairly low down on my list of things to do. I have tried harder over the last couple of years, but have still yet to explore any further than about Spain, and quite frankly that was too hot for me.

Ethiopia then. It’s going to be a little outside my comfort zone. About 3,000 miles outside it actually.

That’s not to say I’m not incredibly excited, and honoured to have been chosen to take part in the trip. I’m sure it’s going to be absolutely amazing, and I could never have said no, but if I’m totally honest, I am anxious too. Partly it’s just the natural trepidation that comes with doing something new, but I’m also worried about how I am going to react to the poverty we’re sure to see, and the struggles and challenges that women – essentially mums just like me – have to face every day. I cry at the VW ad where the girl grows up and her dad gives her a new car – how am I going to cope with seeing women and children effected by poverty, disease and difficult living conditions?

This is where you come in.

Obviously it would be great if you could give me a lovely virtual pat on the back and tell me how brave I am, but that’s not really what it’s about – how brave is it exactly just to visit for a week and then come back to my lovely warm house and comprehensive health and welfare system? Not very.

What I need is to know that I am making a difference. It might only be a small difference, but I need to know that something I do or say or write might make you stop and think, just for a minute, and perhaps make a little change in your own life. I’m not saying you have to abandon your home and dig wells, but perhaps reading about women setting up their own businesses, working hard to provide their children with enough to eat, might just make you think twice about binning those leftovers. Maybe knowing that there are farmers struggling to even get their crops to grow might help you make the switch to supporting your local farmers, rather than relying on supermarkets for everything.

Even if you just learn something new, or have a laugh at my expense when I make some horrible cultural faux pas like whipping out a Mars bar in the street because I’m peckish then that’s OK too. I am bound to do something crass like that.

So this is what I’d like you to do:

I’m flying out this weekend and will try every day, from Monday to Friday, to write about the people I have met and the amazing things I have seen that day. Please sign up to my mailing list if you’re not already, so you don’t miss my posts.

For each post, I then want to create a talking point or theme – something that just makes you think about something in particular, and consider how the people I’m meeting in Ethiopia might have an impact on your life. I will have a linky on each post so if you’re a blogger and feel inspired, you can right and share a post too. If you don’t have a blog, I’ll suggest one little thing you could do or change that could make a difference. It won’t be anything massive, but if we all do it, we can tun it into something positive.

We’ll also be on Twitter, using the hashtag #foodfrontline, so follow me or follow the hashtag and do help share our news if you can.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Have you seen Wreck it Ralph yet? You should. Wreck it Ralph is the new Disney film, released in the UK last Friday, and is everything you’d expect from Disney – fantastic animation, believable characters and a great plot to boot.

Wreck it Ralph is set in an arcade, and the imagination that has gone into creating each unique ‘world’ within each of the arcade machines in incredible. Here’s a little taster: View Post

Today is the day that we all truly put Christmas behind us and start thinking about our summer holidays. It may only be the first day back at school, but today is apparently the busiest day of the year for flight bookings, peaking at about 1pm as we all rush online in our lunch breaks, desperate to get away already after only a few hours back at work.

Whether you’re going abroad or staying in the UK, deciding what to pack for your holiday can be one of the most stressful things about it, especially if you have young children. Before you start your holiday packing this year then, check out this little infographic to help you decide what’s a suitcase essential and what can probably be left at home with the kitchen sink:

Click here to view a larger version.
Packing for Family Holidays: Infographic

[Image provided courtesy of Center Parcs, specialist in family holidays.]

What are your holiday must haves? Funnily enough I don’t often forget to take my appetite with me, although I have been known to accidentally (on purpose) forget my swimming costume.

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