Friday, September 22, 2006

New Paths To Take

This road is dark and never ending
No lights to follow, just forever bending
In directions I cannot control
Into places that I'll never know

I'm all alone with no one to guide
Not a hand to hold, no one by my side
But this is a road I have to take
I have to take for my sanity's sake

It will take me out to different places
Introduce me to brand new faces
Show me things I've yet to learn
This is happening to me, it's now my turn

This road is new and very scary
My days will be different and always varied
But I've never been this excited before
To do it alone and go out and explore

Although the way is new and dark
On the world I'll make my mark
I think at last I've found my place
Finally there's a smile upon my face

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Part 3 - The Final Day!

Once more we were rudely awoken at 6.30am!! and this time we had to pack all our stuff up and take it back over the main building, because we weren't coming back again. And we had a breakfast of fried eggs and porridge again. Mmmmm. Then we were once again split into two groups, and we had a talk on security, and the kinds of security measures a member of the ERU should take, and what kind of risks there would be. We watched an amazing 70's video reconstructing some of the dangers and things, and then we had to plan a risk assessment and route from the 'city' that we were in Dan, to the nearest city, Patan, to pick up a first aid kit. As we were doing this there was the most almighty bang! It scared the carp out of us!!!! It was a guy dressed in a hoodie and a beanie type hat, waving a gun around demanding money! He went straight to our team leader Scott - who is in the army - who handled the situation very well, and calmly got up and stood against the wall. Then we realised that the dude with the gun was actually Jimmy - one of the other army dude, who was team leader to another group. This kinda ruined it a little bit, in as much as he went straight for the other army trained person in the room. Even though it scared the life out of us, it too quickly became a role play. We suggested that maybe for the next group, he wear a balaclava or something to disguise himself, and maybe go for Sue (who was the main organiser lady), because that way, you'll get a totally different reaction from everyone else, because a) he was going after a woman, and b) she's not army trained to deal with it. It would seem more realistic. And also maybe to get the rest of the group involved, make the whole thing last a little longer. So I would have liked to have been in the second group for that! Anyway, having planned out our route, and listed the kind of things we would have to look out for, our team (Team 4 incidentally!!!) piled into the big LandRover thing, to 'go to Patan'. Because I didn't want to do it, they MADE me sit in the front to be the spokesperson. *shudder*, so as I was expecting, we got to a 'border' and sure enough there was Scott and Jimmy being guards!!!! We had to talk our way through them, whilst turning down their offer of an armed escort, because the Red Cross runs on the principle that is Neutral and Impartial (among other things), if they were to accept an armed escort, it would seem like they were affiliating themselves with that after many nasty questions, and being put on the spot by the EVIL EVIL jimmy, we managed to get through!!! Ooh, it was horrible! Didn't like it at all! I have a real issue with authority anyway, so it was not fun! But it was all done in good humour, and when we got back to the main base bit, we were all giggling about it. I can't imagine having to do that with ACTUAL people, stood there with guns and being totally serious! It gives me Goosebumps just thinking about it!

After that we did a kind of leadership, trust exercise. We were put into pairs, with someone that you've never worked with before, and one person was blindfolded. The guys had marked out a route through the trees by tying some rope to the trees and things. The non-blindfolded one had to lead their partner around the route, without touching them, or talking to them, and with out the blindfolded one holding on to the rope. HUH???/ I hear you say! We thought the same thing! Basically you had to clap to them, and they would follow the sound of your claps. It was really hard though, because there were things to step over, and branches and twigs in the way, so you had to work out some kind of signal within your clapping to mark that there was something to step over. We managed to do this (I was clapping first), but then about ¾ of the way round, there was about a 6" drop!!! Until then the signal we had worked out meant step OVER, so it was impossible to tell the other person to step down as supposed to over. But hey ho - it was really annoying though, when it came to swapping over, we did really well, as I think most people did on the second time round because you kinda knew the route by then. My partner and I were on for a really good time - it was a bit of a competition you see - but then she led me the wrong way round a tree, so we had to go back and round the other side of this tree!! But Alison - the lady leading me, didn't know the route, and as it was just marked out by a thin piece of rope, I don't blame her at all for going wrong, it was just sooo annoying. But hey ho - that's life I guess!!! But that was really good fun - it was really interesting because the sound of the other person clapping became such a comfort after a while - it was all you had. When the other person had to turn around to make sure they were going in the right direction, the clapping stopped for a while, and I know that I for one, started to panic a little bit! "Where did they go...what's going on...." It was scary!!!!

After that was the best bit of the whole my opinion anyway. It was the first aid section. We were led further into the training camp, walking for about 15 mins or so, and then sat on the ground outside. It was a beautiful day, so sitting outside was lovely! We had a bit of a crash course in emergency first aid, and the kind of injuries we would encounter - fractures, cuts, etc.....then we were split into two groups again, all mixed up this time, which I don't think was a good idea, and we were taken to this upside down burnt out old helicopter. From there we were given a brief - we were an ERU team coming to relieve another ERU team who had been caught in an aftershock of the earthquake. 3 of the team had made it out ok, but one of them was left injured somewhere. We had to pick up a piece of kit along the way, which had been dropped from the helicopter, and radio in for more instructions. However, there were enemy forces marching this way, and friendly forces coming from the opposite direction, and they were going to meet each other right where we were, in about 15mins. Therefore, we had 15 mins to get the kit, and find the injured person and get him out. Ooh, the adrenaline started pumping then! We delegated a communications man (who turned out to be rubbish!!!), and went off in search of this piece of kit, with 2 hefty 6 foot poles and a loooong bit of sturdy rope. We found the kit; it was a first kit, in the middle of a 'mine field'. They had marked it out with stones, twigs, cans that kind of thing. But the first aid kit was about 8 feet into this minefield, and we had to somehow get it. We couldn't put any pressure on the minefield, in case we stepped on a mine, and we couldn't use the poles to hook it, in case we dropped on and it set off the we had to use the rope kinda like a cheese wire, and get the rope on the other side of the kit, and flick it towards us - if you get me... - so we eventually managed that, but it took us about 5 mins to work out how to do that, then Tom (our communications dude) radioed in for more instructions. There was a building near us, which is where our casualty was, and also in there was a satellite phone, so we left our radio behind, because it wouldn't' have worked in the building anyway, it was more like a bunker. And then the four of us headed down there - with the guys helping to run the weekend shouting, and generally causing major distractions allll the time. Once we got inside (it was totally pitch black down there, and we just had 1 torch, although I think the guys helping to run it had a couple too) we could hear a radio bleeping, and someone screaming. Our communications guy went straight to the casualty as supposed to the radio, so we had to delegate someone else to be radio guy! Then Tom told me to hold open the casualties airway - he had a big beam across his chest, one across his thigh and then a big rock at his shin, with a really nasty open fracture...and then a cut on his arm too. I stayed with jez - the casualty - all the time, and reassured him, told him what was going on, calmed him down, while tom and another lady bandaged his leg. We then somehow had to get him out - with about 3 minutes left to go...stress - people shouting, noise, dark, heart beating in my head - aagggghhhhh.....we figured we'd build a stretcher with our two man sized poles and sturdy rope - why else would we have been given them? However, we spectacularly ran out of time, and we would have either left Jez, as he was injured anyway, or we'd all have been shot!!!! No teams managed to get him out alive! How rubbish are we!! Haha, and in hindsight we would have done so many things differently. The dude running the first aid bit said if we'd just taken the time to look around, we would have found a big board on the floor, which could have used as a stretcher - so in the end we didn't need the poles at all! They were just another distraction! That bit was soo much fun, and even though we failed miserable, everyone was soo pumped afterwards!!! The adrenaline was going I can tell you!!!!!! Phew - it gives me butterflies just thinking about it. We all wanted to do it again, now that we knew what we had to do! Haha! Apparently we were the only team to keep someone with the casualty all the time - actually caring for him etc, which again in hindsight, I'm not sure I needed to do so much, I could have been useful somewhere else, but hey...what can we do now???? It was just soooo much fun!

Then we met up with the other team of 4 who had done it before us, and compared ideas and plans, and found out that their team was just utter chaos! Then we carried on chatting away as we headed back for lunch. Again lunch was make your own sandwiches, which were delicious! As we were eating, we were given our final situation report, and also we were handed a list of 4 questions. We were told we had to come up with a presentation answering these questions. We were basically handing over the camp to the next ERU, who needed to know the key people to talk to, what to do to relax, what status the city was in that kind of thing. I hate presentations, but it was ok I's all on camera too! Eeek. It's kinda cool though, because all the press interviews we did and all the presentations are all going to be put onto a DVD along with photos that the staff were taking all weekend too. I'm going to put some up on my blog when I get them! Yey! So having done our presentations, we had a brief talk from Sue, the organiser, who thanked all the staff etc, and then it was time to go. However, we were done by about 2.45ish, and I didn't end up leaving until 4.00, I didn't want to go! Coming back to reality after such an incredible weekend was hard! I met some awesome people who I will stay in touch with, hopefully! and just had one of the most amazing experiences ever!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Right…Part 2

For the First Part Read Below!
Then after that little exercise we then broke up into 2 groups, and we went out to build a tent. It was a family tent, that they give out to people in the camps that they set up to house the thousands of displaced people. They’re quite large tents, if you sat someone on someone elses shoulders, there would still be a bit of room at the top. They’re oblong shaped, with 3 large poles down the middle. So they’re fairly large, but then when you think that a family of around 8 people would be living in there for anything up to a year, they’re not so big!!! It was a real eye opener. Then after that, we had to put up a Basher! Basically, we were given a piece of tarpaulin, or a poncho in our case, and some string, and told make a shelter…this is the kind of thing that is initially given out, until the tents can be set up and/or handed out. It will probably save your life. It’ll keep you protected from the elements, and although not palatial, if it can sustain your life for a few extra days, it’s all good right? However, our group failed miserable, because our communication was awful, and we didn’t have a strong enough leader to just give out instructions. Then we were shown actually how to do it properly by one of the little Army dudes, who had had to live in a hole in Macedonia for 2 MONTHS!!! It was him and another guy, seriously living in a hole covered with the tarpaulin for 2 whole months, while they shot aeroplanes out of the sky! Nice huh???

After this we had our communications section. We were taken away from the main building, and sat down for a talk about the different kinds of communication equipment the ERU will take with them. They have VHF Radios (AKA Walkie Talkies), Satellite Phones, and GPS handsets, so that you know where you are, and can give co-ordinates. In our teams (we were Red Dan and the other team of 4 were Red Patan) we were given a couple of tasks to do using the equipment. We had to find our way to given co-ordinates, radio in to another base called Red James, requesting co-ordinates of the epicentre, go to those co-ordinates, and then radio the other team Red Patan with a situation report. It was sooo much fun! Then the other task was to set up the Satellite phone and call ‘Geneva’ and let them know that our comms were working. And them some other stuff with walkie talkies again. While all this was going on, we were also being hounded by the ‘press’!!! we had cameras in faces, and people asking us questions, all while we were trying to get on with our tasks. It was great fun!!!!!!!

Then we broke for lunch, which was just make your own sandwiches, ham, turkey, cheese salady stuff, mayo, mustard, pickle, crisps, fruit – they fed us well!!!! Then after lunch we had a talk about what kind of things the Logistics team actually do, and what the job entails etc. and also the kind of things you have to think about when setting up a camp. Then in our groups we had to design our own relief camp, and present it to the rest of the group. Ours was by far the best – obviously!! Tee hee!!!!! Then after that we had a bit of a break for a while, in which we got to have our phones back!! Yey! so I called the parents, and then daisy and rich to let them know what kind of disaster I was having…..then I managed to wash my hair! Boy did I feel better after that! It was amazing!!! Then we had dinner, which was pasta bolognaise, and very yummy it was too! Then we had some more talks about the stuff the ERU actually do, and we looked at slides and things from Richard’s time in Indonesia after the Tsunami and then in Afghanistan after 9/11. it was pretty harrowing stuff, but really interesting to see all the amazing stuff that these guys do. Then as a final thing before bed we had to nominate 1 person from each team to give a live feed to the ‘BBC’ plugging the Aid Campaign. We chose Nicola, who got up and did really well, with her 1 minute. It was really heartfelt and would have made me want to donate some money!!!! Then as a reward for that, each team got a bottle of wine. Mmmm we were allowed to take them over to our accommodation. So loads of people came to hang out in our room, and we did this thing were instead of going around the room and saying something about yourself, you had to introduce someone else and say what you knew about them. And them if anyone else had anything to pitch in they could. It meant that we all got to know on another a lot better! It was great! It was sooo funny – the more wine people drank the more relaxed we all were, and so the more chatty people got. But because it was only a bottle per team, no one got really drunk, so there were no nasty hangovers in the morning!! It was just great fun.
Part 3 (which is the final part) is on it's way...Also, i'm hoping to get some photos up here soon too. When i get them through the post! Watch This Space!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Disaster Management Weekend Part 1

Right – where do I start!

I’ll start with the journey down, that was going really well until the M1 where I was stuck in traffic for ages, and having left later than planned, I was panicking a little bit!! Eek! But it all cleared up and after a while I was back on track. I stopped off briefly at Chievely Service station to check in with the Parents and them know I was safe, and then headed back onto the M4 – but succeeded in going the wrong way down the M4!!! 20mins later, I had managed to find and exit, turn around and head back the right way. Then I managed to find my way to Bramley – where the weekend was taking place, and eventually made it to the training area.

Before I had left, I opened my secret memo which told me that I was part of an Emergency Response Team being deployed to Bukastan, to a city called Dan, where there had been an Earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale. We were part of the logistics team, so would see relatively little of the actual crisis zone. We were in charge of organising who needed what, and getting it out to the right people. Things like tents, medical kits, sanitation kits etc….So when I arrived at the Training Area, I was greeted at the gate by a guy asking if I was there for an earthquake!!! I drove up the road to the base, and unloaded my gear. Then I had a meeting with Claire who had been organising the fundraising side of things. I handed over the £545 that people had very kindly donated. I also had to hand over my mobile phone at this stage – my lifeline!!!! I didn’t actually miss it as much as I thought I would!

After all the admin type stuff was out of the way, I was given an information pack, which gave us information about the city of Dan, and the surrounding areas, the population, and climate, and political status etc, and then also some info about the Red Cross and Red Crescent…it was all a bit much to take, and everyone just ended up chatting to each other, and getting to know one another. Then when everyone had arrived, we sat down and had some brief talks about the situation, and the red cross etc, and were introduced the various staff members. We were still not told what to expect from the weekend…then we were split into 4 teams of either 4 or 5, and introduced to our Team Leaders, who would be looking out for us over the weekend, and helping us if we were a bit stuck. We introduced ourselves to our little group, and said a bit about what we do now, and where we’ve been, and where we found about the weekend. Then we were given our first update on the situation in Dan, before our deployment later on, and we then had to write a report back to Geneva as to what the current situation was, and what supplies we would be needing, and things like that. We then had a quick talk from a guy called Richard who is a REAL LIFE member of the ERU Team. He showed us some slides and things of when he was deployed to Bam, the city in Iran that was flattened by a horrendous Earthquake on Boxing Day of 2004. You might remember the photos of their ancient citadel that had been standing for about 3000 years, that was totally ruined in about 15minutes….it was so interesting to hear about what he did, and the help he, and other ERU teams provided. Then, after that we were shown to our accommodation – hhhmmmmm. It was totally dark as it was about 10.30pm at this stage, and so all we had were our little torches. Following our Team leader Scott, we were taken to this huge empty warehouse type building. There was a large empty room, with smaller (better sized) rooms off the side. We were given air beds and pump, which is more than I was expecting. So once we had found our little room, we worked out where we would all sleep, got into our Jim Jams and sat around talking about our first update, and the kinds of things we might be doing the next day. I think we all eventually stopped talking and fell asleep around midnight ish. I managed to have a fairly decent night sleep – I think that’s where all the camping came in handy. I’m used to noisy sleeping bags, and rustling air beds. But also, because we were based on a military training ground there were apparently all kinds of strange noises all night. As I say – I didn’t hear a thing! I was shattered, having been working on Thursday night at the restaurant, and then on Friday morning too.

However, we were RUDELY awoken at 6.30 on Saturday morning. We dressed and made our way over to the main camp, where we offered delicious fried eggs to make sandwiches with, or really really good porridge. So we ate that, and then sat down in our groups to go over our second update from Dan. We then had to write another report back to Geneva with all the updated figures, and requests for more supplies and things. Then we had a talk about the ideals of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and what they mean, and what the delegates who work for them have to do to uphold the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. That bit was really interesting, as we learnt about the various sections of the organisation and what each one does. We also played a bit of a game type thing. The guy giving the talk stuck two bits of paper on opposite walls of the room. One said Totally Acceptable and the other said Totally Unacceptable. We had to put ourselves into the mindset of a soldier, and then give our opinions on various statements that he read out. Things like: ~ Shooting a 12 year old boy in the rebel militia coming towards you with the rest of his group holding a gun. IE…is it acceptable to shoot a 12 year old? And then: ~ Making a Prisoner of War clear a minefield that he and his Army had laid? Knowing that he could blow himself up… was interesting to see how people differed in their views.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's Finally Here....

Tomorrow is the day! It’s time for my British Red Cross Fundraising Disaster Management weekend. I can’t believe that it’s here already. The time has just flown by so fast. It’s incredible. I’m pretty much all set and ready to do. I just need to go into town tomorrow before I set off to pick up a few last minute bits and pieces, and than at about 2.00pm tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be hitting the road to get down to a place called Bramley. I’m so excited! I just can’t wait. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, or even what is expected of me. But I think that can be the best way sometimes. I have a Top Secret memo at home that was sent to me a couple of days ago – I’m not allowed to open it until 4.00 tomorrow afternoon. I think I’ve done very well not to have opened it before hand!!!!

I’ve blasted through my £500 target with some extra money too! I’d like to say a MASSIVE thank you to all those who have sponsored me along the way, and helped me reach my target – I would not be going on this amazing weekend without all of you. Don’t worry, you can guarantee that I’ll be updating my blog with every single last detail of my weekend! You wont’ be getting away that lightly either…if I’m able to I hope to take some pictures, so you’ll all be able to see what it was like too.

So thank you again everyone, have a good weekend, and I’ll let you all know how I got on next week…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Joan as Passion Flower

My friend Sally, had a passion flower but when she moved house, it needed a new home, (the passion flower, not sally! - well she needed a new home too!!!) Anyway, sally's new home didn't have a garden suitable for Joan, (now there's another story as to why she's called Joan as Passion Flower), so I took her in, and put at the end of my patio. A few weeks ago, one of her many buds opened up, during a really hot sunny spell here in Derby. Passion Flowers are my favourite flowers of all time, I am fascinated by them...there is just so much to them, so many layers. I was so excited when she flowered, that I just had to go and take some here you go!

Friday, September 01, 2006


I was walking home from work a little while ago, when the weather was still beautiful, and the sun was out. In order to get home, I have to walk through a park , which is always much nicer than I think it should be, due to the surrounding area. I just happened to have my camera with me on this sunshiney day, so I snapped a few pictures to share with you...

I love the way the trees make little tunnels to walk through...lining up on either side, like regiments. But then taken from another angle - they're in no order whatsoever, just a mess of wood and leaves....

With little pathways that just disappear into yet more trees and parkland. Doesn't it just make you want to follow the path, and find out where it goes???

We spend a lot of time in our park, as it's literally across the road from my house...I love green, especially when you're in a city. It's a little pocket of nature right there...