Here, we don’t have ….

This post has been formulating in my mind for a while as a few things have made me contemplate what we don’t have here on comparison to the UK. It is not a list of moans that we don’t have as it is not saying these things are lacking or necessarily missed just that we don’t have them. It’s been a while since I have had a post that was not about things we have done or seen so here goes:

We don’t have:

  • motorways
  • dual carriageways
  • roundabouts
  • traffic lights

This will make our return to the UK in August and driving a hire car north to south interesting I am sure but I’m hoping that much like riding a bike we won’t have forgotten! There is just no need for these here. There is one ‘set’ of zebra crossings on the junction next to school and there is a Lollipop Man there before school, lunchtimes and after school.

We don’t have:

  • traffic jams (hence the lack of need for the above!)

There is a ‘lunch time rush’ when offices and work places close for lunch but truly you’d not even notice it!

We don’t have:

  • Starbucks
  • McDonalds
  • KFC
  • Pizza Hut
  • Pizza Express
  • Wetherspoons
  • Yates
  • All Bar One

To be honest this list could go on and on, we have no international chains other than a Costa outlet at the military base of Mount Pleasant Complex. We don’t miss them, we don’t need them, there are some great independent cafes and restaurants so it is no issue.

We don’t have:

  • Free texting
  • Unlimited internet

I feel that I may have gone over this to death but there is one mobile phone and internet provider that cover the parts of the islands that have coverage. They have recently been granted (by the legislative assembly) a further ten year licence that allows only them to provide these services. This has been hugely contentious! If we have any device connected to our wifi in the house and we access the internet or the device tries to back up or update an app or download an update it uses our monthly allowance of data! Our monthly allowance of data is very costly, if we go over our monthly allowance it is very costly, if we don’t use our monthly allowance it does not  roll over to the next month, the last few days of the month often the internet connection gets very slow because everyone tries to use up their paid for allowance. On Christmas Day a video call online was really not possible as the connection was so jammed up with everyone trying to contact loved ones.

We don’t have:

  • compulsory OFSTED

The education department chooses to invite OFSTED to inspect the schools and pays for that, however there is no legal weight to this and there has to, clearly, be plenty of warning as to when they are arriving, nothing snap about these inspections.

We don’t have:

  • any bees or wasps (or I have been told so anyway and I have not seen any)
  • any butterflies (that I have seen)

We don’t have:

  • long periods of settled weather
  • accurate long range (longer that 1 or possibly 2 days) weather forecast

This is a double edged sword. When we get a beautiful clear, sunny day you have to grab a hold of it and do something with it as the next day may well not be anywhere even vaguely similar! However, being a tiny cluster of islands in a massive ocean also means that when there is a hail storm, sleet shower, massive downpour, heavy fog the chances are it may just as well have disappeared in 10 minutes time and be glorious sunshine again. Weather just does not hang around for days on end.

We don’t have:

  • channel 4
  • live pause for the TV
  • other non terrestrial TV channels unless they are forces orientated (British Forces Broadcasting Services BFBS, Forces TV etc)

I can say (with fairly strong conviction) that really we don’t miss any of this much, even though watching programmes on catch up is also not possible. We are living without Cbeebies and without CBBC and it is not killing us!! Children’s programmes are shown on weekend mornings and weekday evenings till 6.30pm – it’s like old times! And, hey, we are also living without E4, ITVBe, and goodness knows what other nonsense!

We don’t have:

  • much BBC radio

The two BFBS stations and the local Falkland Islands Radio Service do broadcast some World Service programmes, some Radio 5 live and so on but boy I do miss the Today Programme!

We don’t have:

  • Autumn

Well, not as you’d recognise it. Due to the minimal numbers of deciduous trees there is little colour change to trigger those autumnal senses. The weather has seemed to change rather more suddenly too but maybe making this sweeping statement in only our first year is a bit brash.

And the thing that probably was the biggest driver for this post, we don’t have:

  • the hour change in spring and autumn

It is particularly noticeable that the mornings are very dark till rather late on. Given that it is still over a month to our mid-winter, it is still dark at 7.45am and the sun is starting to clearly rise by 8am. It is getting dark in the evenings now at around about 5pm. I will try and note what the timings of these are on the mid-winter solstice.

I’m sure there will be other posts like this in the future but for now this is all I have noted down.

Generosity

The generosity of the Falkland Islanders was highlighted to us twice over the recent weeks. Firstly, as I was ramping up the study for my latest Masters assignment my frustrations at not having a desk or table to work at grew as every time I spread stuff out on the dining table I had to pack it away again into drawers and boxes which made everything very stop start and broke my flow. The best place for finding anything and everything available for sale is on Facebook and so I posted in the relevant group asking if anyone had a desk I could buy. I received a message from someone I had never met an whose name did not ring a bell stating that he had a desk in his garage and I could go for a look to see if it was suitable. I got back to him and arranged to go and see it, I wasn’t expecting anything much but just a space was going to be all I needed. He opened up his garage door to reveal a light birch coloured desk in perfect condition and of office size (over a metre long and 80cm deep). I was unsure that it would fit anywhere in the house easily and even less sure it would fit into the boot of the Rover without the seats down. So, I explained that I would need to do some measuring up and moving of furniture at home but that I was very much interested and how much would he like for it? The reply? Was ‘Absolutely nothing, I’m not using it and you can.’ He would not enter into a debate he was just happy to have it get some use. Sure enough with a bit of juggling we made space and Chris collected the desk a couple of days later. I am sitting at it typing this and it certainly made my Masters assignment far more manageable. I did return after a couple of days and leave a box of Mars Bar Krispy cakes on his door step with my thanks (which he in turn thanked me for) but it was a truly generous act, just giving away such an item.

The second incident came a short while afterwards. We had no plans for the Easter holidays which had surged upon us with too much haste to make any. When I realised that two weeks with Chris in work and me at home with the boys might be all a bit much, everywhere I contacted was already fully booked. This left me a little frustrated and on the moany side of normal. On the Tuesday before the holidays began on Good Friday, I attended the end of term Beaver treat at the swimming pool (for which extra adults were needed) and at the end of the session the Leader asked if we had anything planned. I moaned that no, I had left organisation too late and that there was no weekend availability at any accommodation I had found. Her instant reply was ‘Oh, our house at Hill Cove is free, ring me tomorrow and we can sort it out!’ Hill Cove is on West Falkland (we are on East Falkland) and this seemed an ideal opportunity to explore further afield. The next day I spoke to the ferry company to see if we could get onto the boat on the Friday morning, sadly they could only fit a car and 2 passengers and so we would not be able to leave until the 1800 ferry. This presented the situation of arriving onto a new island with no real idea of our bearings in the pitch black, not the most appealing.

Over the next couple of days our discussions, with the Beaver leader who was offering us accommodation and between us two, went back and forth. Initially she offered to take herself and her 2 children off the morning ferry so we would then all fit on but this did not work as someone had by then booked the other space so we were back to not enough room. So, eventually she suggested that she and her family vacate their main home in Port Howard (where the ferry lands) so we could take the evening ferry, arriving in the dark but without an onward journey and we could then stay in their home for two nights. We could not believe this generosity and that they did not want anything in return!

And so our first trip to the West happened on Easter weekend.

We left Stanley and drove across East Falkland past Goose Green to the ferry port at New Haven. The boys were very excited at the prospect of their first ferry trip ever! The ferry was quickly loaded and we set off into the sunset. Gentoo penguins leaped out of the water heading home for the night as we set off out to sea. It was a calm and easy ferry journey and in the gathering gloom Chris and I were fortunate enough to glimpse a whale breaching and blowing – we believe it was likely a Sei whale but it was such a brief sighting it was impossible to be sure! We arrived into Port Howard in the pitch, pitch black and the instant we drove off the ferry we took the wrong turning to the directions we had been given. Thankfully we realised pretty quickly and pulled to the side of the road at which point one of the other cars leaving the ferry stopped and put us back on the right track and we were very quickly at the house we were using for the weekend. It definitely made us all the more glad that we were not traversing the island in the dark.

The next morning we got up and were blown away by the views and the location we were in. Port Howard is a stunning small settlement right on the harbour. We spent the Saturday driving to Hill Cove and taking in the much hillier environs of West Falkland. The whole island has a population of about 350 and there is a definite feel of isolation with no phone signal, large empty spaces and long empty stretches of road. Typically we forgot to pick up the camera and so my few pictures are from my phone camera, we will, therefore, have to return for better shots at some point! The first thing we stopped at was an Argentinian plane wreck from 1982:

Further on we had a full on road block of a cow off! These cows were not in the slightest bothered that a large Discovery was driving towards them, in fact as we approached they also approached gaining in bravery:

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COW OFF!

We got to Hill Cove and indulged in eating our lunch at the area known as The Devil’s Kitchen high up with a view out over the sea and in sight of many of the other smaller islands. It was not the clearest day ever and yet the view was incredible, there was no point attempting to photograph it on a phone camera and so we just sat back and soaked it all in. Shortly after we went for a brief walk along some of the coastline and the boys enjoyed a bit of a rampage and gad about. We found this complete crab, completely dead but seemingly complete, which the boys insist that I put up on here so who am I to argue:

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Crab

We returned to Port Howard and spent the rest of Saturday (and again on Sunday morning) having a wander about the settlement, taking in the ‘airport’, the creek – where the boys loved splodging and Chris and I were gobsmacked by the sheer number of night herons roosting in the trees and the museum (more of that in a moment). Here’s the photos (most of these from the ‘proper’ camera:

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Sam’s new found friend – Catty!

The museum at Port Howard was like all the boys dreams come true. A whole lot of paraphernalia left behind in 1982 by the Argentinians after Port Howard was taken back and some British things too. Honestly, Chris and I did not get much of a look as attempting to encourage the boys to leave the exhibits alone took most of our time and energy but here are some snaps that we did at least manage to take. We know full well we will return here and by then we may have some fuller information to impart about the history of the settlement in regards to the war, the settlement itself celebrated it’s 150th birthday in October last year. Here’s the shots:

Our two night stay was nowhere near long enough, we loved Port Howard itself and the small portion of the West that we saw and we definitely need to get back for a much more in depth look around and explore. But for now our time there was over and we headed for the lunchtime ferry. Our ferry trip back was topped off by an accompanying pod of about 12 dolphins chasing the ferry out of the harbour, it was a gloomy soggy day so these were the best of the shots that we managed to get but it was a thrilling experience that the boys and us loved!

 

These are just two examples of the generosity of the local population here but it is really immeasurable. There are so many examples between themselves, to those like us that are on contracts here and to those who come as tourists to visit. It is an incredible strength that is a central part of what makes this community a rather special one to be a part of.

The in-between parts!

There are always some day to day things that seem to fall by the wayside of the ‘big’ events on this blog. This is a post for all those ‘in-between’, fall down the cracks of life parts!

Early in March Jack was very excited to be off on a school trip with his class. It was to Kidney Island, where we had previously been as a family in the evening to witness the Sooty Shearwaters coming home to roost. It is the sort of trip that I am 98% certain red tape would prevent in the UK. I mean which teacher in their right mind is going to take a class of 32 on a boat trip (where the boat size means that the class actually has to be split across 2 boats), then on arrival at the island negotiate pupils into small Zodiac boats onto the beach and spend time on an island that sea lions are known to inhabit and where you can’t see them due to the tussac grass (10ft high in places)! No problems at all! Don’t get me wrong it is very well risk assessed and very well staffed, but I still think UK schools would be too over cautious these days. I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be one of the additional adults so we looking forward to my morning out. We were due to go on the Monday but at the very last minute the boat company called if off due to large swell out at sea. On the Tuesday morning we geared ourselves up all over again and we were graced with a GLORIOUS day. The morning boat that I was on had extremely well behaved children, we dug under rocks for Jumping Jacks, took a walk through the tussac, ate some tussac grass, watched tussac birds and cobbs wrens, watched a large male sea lion wander out of the tussac and into the sea about 10 metres away, had our boats surrounded by Peale’s dolphins and generally had a great time! The boat back to the public jetty gave me my first day time sighting of this stereotyped photo of the Falkland Islands and bathed in glorious sunshine too:

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Welcome indeed!

Shortly after this Max had the climax to his topic learning about the Aztecs. He had enjoyed the topic but as a grand finale all the year 4’s were invited to Aztec Day which was to include staying in school for lunch and a human sacrifice! Staying for lunch at school here is a big excitement as it is so out of the normal. The year 4’s were also asked to dress up as an Aztec for the day and were given various ideas. Max decided to dress as a Jaguar warrior and set about organising his costume, here is what he designed:

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Jaguar warrior Max!

I frequently join year 4 for various parts of the curriculum with my pupil. The day before their Aztec Day some of the year 4’s were telling me all about the costumes they had planned and how long they had spent making them, before turning to me and asking what I was dressing as! I explained the them that as I would only be joining them for part of the day I had no costume organised, they were distinctly unimpressed by this and so the conversation led on to me saying that I would come dressed as a cactus. For those of you not acquainted with the Aztec civilisation, their gods informed them to build their city where they saw and eagle with a snake in it’s mouth sitting on a cactus – thus a cactus was important to them. I did suggest this purely as a joke but the Year 4’s I was talking to about it were so adamant that I would never do such a thing that it became something of a challenge. Thus I spent half of the next day dressed as ……….

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Mrs Cactus!

Thankfully it caused much merriment in both staff and pupils alike.

Jack had his first Beaver sleepover at the hut here in Stanley. However, the Beavers were outside under canvas for the night. They were blessed with a glorious evening and were able to make full and long use of the new fire pit that they had had installed with wind protection around it. The pit itself is large enough for all the Beavers to be able sit around – essential for marshmallow toasting! He was very excited to have created himself a camp blanket whilst he was there. This was him ready for the off:

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I’m going to my sleepover!

We had another event to create a dressing up outfit for,  this time for Sam. To celebrate the end of the mini beast topic the whole of his year group had an ‘Ugly Bug Ball’. They could dress up as a mini beast and parents were invited to drop in in the afternoon to join in with activities and see the children’s work. Sam went as a spider and I was lucky enough to be allowed to sneak away from my class for half an hour to see what activities he had been busy doing. It was lovely to see the work he had been up to but the only activity he was interested in sharing with me was … snack! This did lead to me finding out from one of the adults who worked in his class the he really enjoys cooking in school and had helped prepare a lot of the snack. The class have a lovely low level kitchen so that the workbenches, sinks etc are all at the right height for the children. What Sam particularly enjoys about cooking in school is helping to wash up, this surprised me, but, with a smile on her face the adult continued, he has worked out that if he offers to help wash and tidy up then when the other children have left the room he can conspiratorially whisper ‘now can I lick the bowl?’ and not have to share! It has got to the point that he is telling others they don’t need to stay and help and he will do it just so he gets the ‘cooks privileges’ although I don’t think he is yet ushering them out of the door before the activity is finished!

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Spider Sam!

The final ‘in-between’ moment was a visit to school from the Falklands Conservation group. It was not the happiest visit but the children enjoyed it. Sadly a young Sei whale was found dead on a local beach so they had collected the body to try and find out more from it. They were able to bring it to school for the children to see up close. I was interested to know they they knew it was a very young whale because there were still a couple of white lines around it’s body towards the tail end (you might be able to spot them on the photo) and that these were where it had be folded inside the mother.

 

The next update, which I hope will be coming a bit sooner than most, will be about generosity and a last minute, unexpected trip West!

 

Taking the in-laws into the Camp

We spent two weekends with our visitors out in the Camp, allowing Chris to minimise work disruption and holiday days taken (as he has a fairly small allowance).

Firstly, we went to a new area of East Falkland, Race Point, to stay in a self catering property. The property was nice, plenty of space, secluded and with lovely views. We had plenty of entertainment in the way of games, books and films and so we set to enjoying the weekend. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and so just spent the days walking and exploring the coastline. We enjoyed finding starfish and crabs, seeing plenty of bird life, watching Typhoons fly by, hearing sea lions roar from nearby islands and a great display by a pod of at least 6 Commerson’s Dolphins over one of our picnic lunches.

We arrived back into Stanley after the nights away with a definite evidence of the sun on our skin and slightly tired from all the excitement!

Before our next trip out of town Chris treated his dad to a trip to Volunteer’s Point for another nosey at the King Penguins, there was quite a lot of envy from both the boys and myself. We threw the boys off the scent with a promise of a cinema trip with myself and Granny but more of that later. It was the 1st March and an excessively windy day, as some of the pictures indicate, with the sand blowing and the penguins huddling. So here are some of the pictures of this trip with chicks on show this time around:

They clearly enjoyed the day even with the wind. However, those of us left in Stanley planning to head to the cinema were a little perturbed by the strong winds and had to cancel our hoped for cinema trip due to the MPA road being unsuitable for transit. Instead we headed to the museum to pick up a very large key that the 5 of us have been hoping to get a hold of for quite a while.

And thus a very windy adventure began!

This is a key to the Cape Pembroke Lighthouse that we were photographed outside on Christmas Eve. It was incredibly gusty out on Cape Pembroke and getting the lighthouse door open and shut took some doing and the noise of the wind whipping around the lighthouse was fairly impressive! But having the whole thing to yourself is quite an adventure and here are some of the best shots from our blowy visit:

We’ll have to go back on a less windy day and with Chris to enjoy it some more and maybe Sam will brave the top deck! We also took a sandblast of a walk in the dunes up to the ‘Danger – Minefield’ fencing for a glimpse of some of the Magellanic penguins on the other side.

The week finished with a rushed bit of baking for the one category in the Falkland Islands vegetable, flower and produce show that the boys decided they wanted to enter. We then dropped off the biscuits they had produced with a friend on the Saturday morning to enter into the show later that day as we bowled out of town back to visit Johnson’s Harbour. We had loved our previous stay there and the self catering is so well set up for children as well as adults that we were really looking forward to being there again. It absolutely lived up to our expectations and we enjoyed a night there and two lovely days. We again just pottered about, visiting one of  the boys favourite beaches and discovering our first crop of teaberries, we picked plenty to bring back to town with us and a few days later they were turned into teaberry buns:

They are rather like bilberries but grow far closer to the ground and seem to enjoy sandy soil.

On the second day there we climbed to top of a hill just near to the settlement, not only did we get fabulous views of the coast, settlement and Berkley Sound but we also disturbed a pair of Variable Hawks (which we had not seen before) who made it clear this was their peak for a good view of their neck of the woods and they would quite like us to clear off!

 

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Looking back to the settlement at Johnson’s Harbour

The boys favourite picture of the hawk?? This one … obviously!

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Having a poo!

Here is a shot of 4 of us at the top, it was a a grey old day:

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We returned town in time to have a visit to look around the show and pick up any results. All the boys were pleased to have been placed with their biscuits and we shall make far more effort next year to remember the likely date and give ourselves time to actually prepare and produce things well!

The display of fruit and veg from Government House was as impressive as expected and we were treated to some of the grapes in the auction by Chris’ boss, mighty delicious they were too!

 

The full visit from the in laws was enjoyed, particularly by the boys and we revelled in showing off our current stomping ground to those who are important in our lives. We hope they enjoyed it as much as we did and we can’t wait to have any further visitors to introduce to these fabulous and embracing islands and their people!

Long time coming … again!

The February that was, when we are well on the way to the end of April but, hey, life gets in the way.

So the big opener to this blog was the fabulous wedding we attended in February. One of my work colleagues was getting wed and so we were invited along to the evening do. She was marrying into one of the large Falkland families here and her family came over from the UK to be here for the big day. The weather in the lead up had not been good but the day of the wedding was glorious and so the ceremony was able to be outside in the groom’s parents garden as had been hoped. The evening do was in the Town Hall, the biggest joint in town for these things, it was beautifully done up all in the appropriate colours and ready for a right party. The evening was fully enjoyable with live music, great fun dancing, drinks flowing and all a wedding should be! It was our first introduction to Falklands dancing with both a Falkland Fox Trot and a Falkland Waltz, we were stunned and incredibly impressed that all those there, young and old, could just pick up and go with these dances and vowed to learn them ourselves. If I can work out how to upload my video of it to YouTube I will post a link on here. Meanwhile here are some photos from the evening:

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The two of us enjoying the evening
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Bride and Groom

Of course my wedding behaviour was impeccable!

This wedding has previously been blogged about by the bride’s step mother here http://suehofman.blogspot.co.uk/ so if you want to see more pictures etc do go and have a look. It was a fabulous evening, thanks for the invite Coops-Bonner!

Also early in February the Governor’s gardens were opened for a look around. They definitely put our meagre polytunnel to shame. We enjoyed a great nose around and here are the favourite parts:

The berries and grapes that were available to munch, along with the biscuits and the incredulity on the productivity of the place were well worth it.

February was the month that Jack finally made his Beaver promise after a long busy term before Christmas and then our summer break so here is the compulsory promise ceremony picture:

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The rest of the month was mostly filled with Chris’ parents visit and attempting to show them a small corner of our small corner of the world. The first big event they were able to enjoy here was Fish Day – a celebration of 30 years of the fisheries industry here which is a vital part of the economy. The day was filled with one off experiences starting with a chance to see lots of the fish species up close at the fisheries department.

Then there was the visit to the company that move the containers from the boats to storage and onto shops, including the chance to sit inside huge machines and walk into a container that was chilled to -25

And then there was the chance to go and look around the shipping vessels and hear all about how the processes work, it was very interesting

Sam’s favourite moment was being allowed to set off one of the alarms on board, you can imagine his glee!!! (and the disappointment of everyone else!)

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Press this one!

That was enough excitement and information for one day but there were plenty of competitions for the boys to join in with including a colouring one that they spent quite some time in the lead up to the day completing their colouring. We found out a couple of weeks after the event that Max and Jack had won their respective age groups for the colouring, which was a great acheivement.

Our visitors were then treated to some time out in Camp  – more of that to come … soon.

so far behind!

Getting completely lost with this blogging malarkey but in a desperate attempt to not lose it totally I am going to attempt a brief catch up of other January happenings!

In no particular order:

We got our first fresh cream since being here and very much enjoyed it with fresh Falklands grown strawberries and tayberries, delicious.

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Fresh Falkland Islands cream, delicious

Max attended his first Falkland Islands cub camp at Fitzroy, attended by the Coldstream Guards, appropriately dropped off by chinook and in charge of tent inspections. Max’s group came first, hence the trophy. As always in scouting he had a complete ball.

Our polytunnel began to come into it’s own

King penguin’s popped up randomly in the ‘wrong’ places to moult and once they are moulting they are stranded on land for a while. This one jumped out of the surf at Surf Bay whilst the boys were building sand castles:

As you can tell from the photo – this King came up well in land on a very high tide with a full moon and was spotted by us on our drive back from Max’s cub camp.

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Fitzroy ridge king

We bought ourselves a BBQ and used it in the sunshine

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First Mountford Falkland BBQ

We attended one day of ‘Mini Sports’ which were partly the delayed races from Boxing Day. It was glorious weather and we enjoyed the horses and the kids activities.

The boys and I took a walk to the Totem Pole, sadly the information board had been lost (maybe blown away??) so I cannot tell you how or why it exists but if you look at the pictures you may well recognise some of the named places

So, I think we might have briefly covered it all – so next post will be on to February which included our first Falklands wedding which was a fabulous occasion, our first Falklands visitors and more.

 

 

A six month reflection

Six months ago today we arrived here in Stanley. It was a day not that dissimilar to today, stepping off the plane to a grey and windy day. We had to deal with over tired and over active boys after the flight and gather our luggage. The evening went badly and there were tears and tantrums. We couldn’t possibly have known or guessed how the next six months would pan out.

Yet here we are six months on. It’s been such an incredible time. We’ve had opportunities and experiences beyond anything we were expecting and yet there is still so much to see and do! We both have found interesting, challenging and enjoyable jobs and yet our hours of work and levels of stress have never been lower.

The biggest lesson we are probably able to take from this so far, is to grab every chance possible. I have always been one to suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but when you know you’re only here for a certain length of time it seems even more pressing. If you turn a chance down you just don’t know whether it may come your way again. It means we are often much busier than before but it also means weekends often feel longer as so much fits in and holidays the same. I hope it’s something we continue with when we return to the UK. The number of times that going to x event gets put off because it’ll happen again next year or visiting y place can wait until next holiday, it seems a shame now to think of the things we missed out on that way.

So, what are the places near you that you have always meant to visit but never quite made it as there’s always something else more important? What are the things you have always meant to do but never got round to? Thought of something? Why don’t you grab that chance and go and do it tomorrow?

Here’s to out next six months of adventures and let’s see what else we can learn!