Had a fantastic day today, and it was great to get out and about and leave the fundraising work behind for once. Cracking weather, and the Oceans Ambassadors and I headed to Vake Park, where the very lovely people from Sun Yoga Tbilisi (http://www.sunyogatbilisi.com/) had organised a family fun day with a yoga session for both children and adults, followed by a picnic. None of our guys had done yoga before, and what was really great was that, they not only really enjoyed it, but that it also counted towards the physical fitness section of their International Awards, and they all left wanting to learn yoga. As did I, so I would highly recommend a course with the guys at Sun Yoga on Paliashvili.
There were so many people there, mainly expats, some of the children that we met on our outreach day at school, which was great, as well as mums, dads, and lots of children, as well as a group of curious runners who watched to see what on earth was going on.
Ironically, I have wanted to visit Vake Park since I very first came to Georgia, and though I even lived in Vake, really quite close to the Park, I had somehow never managed to pay a visit, so I achieved something there, which was fantastic, and the park was also very nice, especially now that the trees all have their leaves again, and that the sun is shining and the weather is pleasantly warm. We took lots of pictures, so will upload those at some point.
We took towels to lie on, but actually didn’t really need them, and with around 50(?) other people, we began the yoga session, firstly with the ‘sun’, and then two different ‘warrior’ positions, before grouping around a tree each, which was very fitting given that today is ‘Earth Day’. We had a lot of giggles as we stretched and did some different positions and tried not to lose our balance around the tree, and it was brilliant for our team building and also for becoming less inhibited, and more connected with the environment and with each other. It was especially nice to be an equal with the Oceans Ambassadors today as well, and to just spend some quality time with them, as I’m usually leading the session or fending questions and I never really get that important time with them and getting to know them more, so that was especially brilliant today, and nice just to ‘be’. One of our Ambassadors is deaf, and I usually get annoyed that I don’t get time to connect with him and help to interact him into activities more, so again, that was really magical today, and especially because he was one of the very first Ambassadors who inspired Oceans Project Georgia in the first place. Those kids are probably the ones I am most attached to, but now seem to spend the least time with, and I miss that contact with them, as they had such a profound effect on me when I met them in January last year at school.
Next, we sat in a circle, and did some floor games and activities, which were great for co-ordination, stomach muscles, and more giggling, and later we tried to make a ‘train’ and did some hand stands against a tree. Now that is something I HAVEN’T done since I was about 5 years old, and is one of the things which saddens me most about growing up, as I realised about ten years ago, that I no longer knew how to do a ‘roly poly’ or how to do a ‘cart wheel’ or any of the other things I did routinely as a kid, especially in the school playground, in the days when I didn’t care, that my skirt would fall over my face and all the boys could see my knickers. Now I just worry about injuries or my glasses falling off!
Being a grown up sucks sometimes, and is definitely something I want to overcome, and I realised that to do that I need to be less inhibited and also more flexible and fit again! It was just great to lie on the floor with the kids and to look up at the green of the leaves on the tree and the beautiful blue sky, to feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, and to laugh so much together. That’s the kind of thing that money can’t buy, and I really hope that they do similar events to this again. It also made me realise that there is a big ex-pat community here in Tbilisi, and that is something that I have missed and which is really refreshing, so I hope I can start to meet a few more foreigners, having been living with Georgians for so long. I really love Georgians, and I have lots of Georgian friends, but just sometimes its nice to be with people who understand my humour or jokes or British things, or even just to have a conversation and listen to a native speaker. That way I would have the perfect balance between Georgian and ex-pat, and that really would make life here so much better than it is already, especially as I plan to make Georgia my permanent home.
It was also great to meet with some other TLGers (even though I am not with TLG any more), but it was great to finally put some faces to names of people I’ve been communicating with for about a year! I was also astounded by just how active our Oceans Ambassadors are. Not only had some of them joined us for yoga, but they were then off to the zoo to do some enrichment work with the elephants, and then one of them has to go to the theatre in the evening to rehearse, as he has a big interview with a famous actor tomorrow, who wants to see him play four very different roles as part of an audition. All of which, they are counting towards their International Awards, on top of homework, family responsibilities, and so on!! They really are amazing kids, and I’m so happy to hang out with them after almost two weeks with no project sessions. Being around kids has such a different energy and I love the way they think sometimes.
Things are going to be really full on now though. And I really need to make an action plan with all the timings, and also to incorporate some down time, to ensure that I am meeting my training needs and also not heading for a burn out at any point. I really enjoyed the yoga today, and I’ve realised that I’m feeling some pressure because I feel like I am letting everyone down in terms of the ocean row. We have so much support and everyone believes in us, and I feel like I’m letting myself down by not training enough. I also really enjoyed today, and it made me realise how much I need that quality time out, and also how much more effective I think my work will be as a result of taking regular breaks.
I’ve been mulling it over for the past week, and it was great to have lunch with my friend and OPG Co-Founder today, to catch up on project stuff and what’s happening in our lives, and also how to balance things and move forward. Ironically, we see each other at project every week, but recently we haven’t touched base and I’ve missed having that sounding board and fresh approach to things. What was really great was that my friend agreed that taking a yoga course would be a massive help, which I had thought too, but was worried about, because financially I couldn’t justify it, knowing that I don’t have a salary right now. My friend is usually very tough financially and very sensible so it was funny that he thought I should sign up for the yoga course, and it is a really good price, and I know in my heart that it will help me in lots of different ways, and also take the pressure off immensely.
So, I think I will sign up for it. It will be for the whole month of May, twice a day for an hour each time, and within walking distance of my house. This will help because it will allow me to really focus on structuring my day, and because they are set sessions, I know I will feel obliged to go. This will also allow me to build up my core strength prior to meeting with the Olympic coaches in June (still need to figure out funds for that!), and it will also be great for networking and hanging out with some ex-pats. Plus it means I will have some ‘me’ time, and I should feel a lot more energised, which will mean my grant application and other work will become more focused and likely to succeed. So I’m really excited about that, and I think that just knowing I am training, will make me feel less pressure psychologically, as I just feel like I am letting the rest of my team down right now, especially as they are training already, Laura is doing the London Marathon today, and I’m already more than ten years their senior, and I don’t exactly have an injury free or well built body, so I really need to be working twice as hard. This way I’ll feel I’m training properly, and I might even be able to tie in a run to and from the yoga studio over time. Plus I know I have to start looking better, ready for our photo shoot and media coverage when I get to London in a few months, so I need to trim up, and get a haircut, and try and get some yoga kit donated somehow. The guys at Sun Yoga all seemed really nice, and were friendly and not too hippy, so I think I won’t feel too weird, as this will be my first time doing yoga, and I know I will need to take it very seriously in preparation for the ocean row, too many people are counting on me! So, I’m happy now I have my training covered, and I don’t feel such a fraud or unworthy when it comes to all the time and effort and sponsorship people are investing into our ocean row! That was one thing related to the pitch on Friday too as there will be a lot of events related to that sponsorship, and lots of conferences and talks to give, so I really need to feel and look the part more, and for that I need to be body confident again.
Rhino Day Tbilisi Zoo
So, our Oceans Ambassadors are really busy at the zoo still, and are in the process of organising a special ‘rhino day’ for the female rhino they have. We don’t have everything planned out as yet, though the kids have formed a committee and there is a flourish of activity going on. But if I remember rightly, it will be on the 5th(?) May, and there will be lots of activities arranged by our kids, including a presentation about the rhino, question and answer session, maybe an art display, some worksheets, and some pictures to colour. The idea is to collect some money in a jar too which will go towards enrichment of her environment, but sadly we aren’t allowed to do anything more than this fundraising-wise, though we might sell art work on our OPG website. We are looking for activities we can do for free (since we have no budget) and which will promote the rhino as a species, and improve the life of ours at the zoo. But I’m really excited about this, and again, I’m chuffed to bits at how seriously the guys are taking not just their zoo work but also their International Awards. And on the subject of rhinos, there is this great competition run by BBC Wildlife Magazine, and the winner gets to go on an Earthwatch expedition to work with rhinos: http://www.discoverwildlife.com/webform/nature-writer-year-2012-call-entries deadline is the 30th April.
My next big stress is how to raise the £2000 to cover our BSAC Snorkel training. I have one idea, but I need to figure it out a bit more first, and find out what interest there might be. The money will cover the cost of the Instructor (Sophie) to come to Georgia, and train us up to Dive Manager level, which means that the 6 Instructors will be able to certify others up to BSAC Snorkel Diver and BSAC Advanced Snorkel Diver level and also have life saving and first aid skills, amongst other qualifications. There are several options here for the training week, which looks like it will have to be the last week in June. Either we keep the 6 places for our OPG Leaders, or we sell off a couple of these places, or bring over two Instructors so we can provide training for 12 people aged 18 or over. This might help to cover the costs and keep it low for OPG.
The next option, is to advertise the course to children aged 12 and over ideally, and to take advanced bookings and payments for the Snorkel Diver course, and then the Advanced Diver course, which would probably be around 150gel per child which would include the pool fee, training, course manual, and about 8hours of theory and practical sessions. Not just good for confidence and swimming, but also for English Practice and water safety, with a little physiology and physics thrown in too, plus they get an Internationally recognised certificate. Question is, would there be demand for this over the summer holidays, and at what price to advertise it, to make it fair, but also to cover the cost of training our Instructors. Once we are certified, we can teach this to anyone, and it might also help me to supplement my project work over the summer, plus be a way for parents to keep their kids busy? We may invite Paul Rose, our Patron to come over as the second Instructor, which would also be great for our kids to finally meet him, perhaps with him staying on for a second week to join us on our adventurous training and environmental/conservation summer camp in Borjomi, which we also need to find funds for!
I think I might put the feelers out over the next week, as if we could cover the snorkel course this way, it would be fantastic and then we we can teach our Ambassadors, as well as anyone who want sto learn,and to be more safe in the water. Though they would have to pay for their pool medical themselves, since some of them have it and some don’t. Probably the best thing would be to advertise this to schools and see if there is interest?
Either way, I think the snorkelling could be a great way of promoting safety and fitness, helping me to earn a living and to focus on project, and also to keep myself fit, especially if I can sneak in a few extra lengths at the end of the pool sessions too!
This is my next major headache, not just in finding funds, but also in choosing which kids should be allowed to go and represent us with Earthwatch. 12 year olds have never been allowed on expeditions before, so this is the first time, and they will also have English as their second language, and will be representing OPG. If they muck up, it’ll be the end of our relationship and opportunity with Earthwatch, and we really want to have a long term relationship with them, sending the best of our kids on expeditions with scientists each year. Its been really interesting with the kids as some of them were firm favourites throughout, and some have come and gone as favourites and come back again over time, some are a definite no no, some just won’t benefit, and for some it will be a completely life changing experience. What is really interesting, is that we seem to have firm favourites, and then there are a group of kids that none of the project leaders can agree on. For some they are definitely and for others, they don’t even make the reserve list, so that has been an eye opener. In a perfect world, all of them stand to benefit from the experience, but in different ways, but the reality is, finding funds is tough, and we just don’t think that everyone should get to go. We wanted to whittle it down to 10 firm favourites, but we have found this almost impossible, and it has left us in a bit of a dilemma, albeit a rather nice one, as it means that we have fantastic kids on project. We tried to think about which kids would never have the opportunity to travel and which would, but that seemed unfair, as there are some who want to be scientists and some who don’t, so you can’t divide them that way either, and it gets tougher when you know you are also emotionally involved, or rooting for some kids more than others.
I’m also struggling with the fundraising too, but I may have an idea now. I’m wondering about making it into a competition. We have a short video for each student almost, and I’m thinking of creating a page, with each person’s name, age, and their video. Then getting the public to vote on which person they want to go on the expedition. The idea being that this way we can promote OPG and Earthwatch, and hopefully encourage people to donate £1 to Earthwatch through JustGiving, which will cover the expedition costs. To send ten children for example, we need to raise at most £30,000, in other words we would need to get 30,000 people to vote for their favourite Oceans Ambassador, and to donate £1 to the JustGiving fund. But I need to find a way of making it worth people’s while to watch the videos and to vote, and more so to give £1, that is what I am struggling with now. With the power of social media and getting everyone to share the competition, it really shouldn’t be so hard to get 30,000 people to view and donate £1 to change these guys lives, but thats because I love these kids, and if I didn’t, it would really have to be worth my while to spend my time visiting the page. But, it could be the most efficient way of raise the expedition funds for them. Will need to finish editing their videos first, and also come up with the best way to collect votes. SHould it be a youtube or vimeo competition, a web page, on the blog, with survey monkey, or what? It need sto be free and also simple and easy and fun.
Stray Cat Update
So the stray is still living on my balcony, and she is turning into a really lovely cat, though I am worried about her meeting with my cat Izzy and making her sick. I’m thinking that it would be great to find a vet to come and give her some jabs, and maybe eventually to have her become a part of the animals family. Isla loves her, and surprisingly Izzy likes to sit one side of the window and the stray on the other, and they seem really friendly. Surprising, because Izzy usually hates other cats, but I think she probably misses Uisce too. The stray is also getting fatter, so I suspect there are going to be kittens (perhaps Izzy knows this?), and that is going to be a bit of a nightmare since my downstairs neighbour hates cats. It also makes it tricky because its probably not possible to vaccinate during pregnancy and then the kittens will need homes, but I really want to get her spayed after she has them, possibly the kittens too. But I really need to find a vet to come and vaccinate her. I’d put her in the cat basket, but I don’t want to get scratched, especially with rabies being present in Georgia, but she does look remarkably healthy, and she is very friendly for a stray, so I don’t imagine that she has always been a stray. She is a lovely cat though, and a little like Uisce, which makes it hard, and i know come winter if she is still here, it will be hard to see her out in the cold. Even now, she has a hard time with other cats fighting with her, and the last few days in the heat and with her bigger belly, she looks exhausted, so probably there will be kittens in a few weeks. Another tricky issue, that would be so much easier if I was just in the UK and could speak the language! I really want to set her up a proper little bed and place for the kittens, but I also feel guilty because of the neighbours, and I don’t want Izzy to get sick either, so will need to figure things out pretty quickly. She did catch a rat the other day though, so I think scored a brownie point with the neighbour who hates cats!
Am also planning to decorate the balcony a bit this week, including hanging a curtain, so I hope that will give more privacy and mean I can spend more time outside come summer, plus my plants really need transferring now. So many jobs to do!!! Plus miss Isla is in season, so have to be careful with her too.
Think that is pretty much all the news for now, or at least all I have the energy to write about for now, enjoy the rest of your weekend people, and back to the grindstone tomorrow:)