After last years #7yearhomecoming to Nepal, I returned this April with a super special someone (Mama) who I’ve always wanted to show my Nepal to!

Super long story short and I think I’ve mentioned this before, Nepal was probably my first solo trip at 19 when I went to volunteer for about 6 weeks and it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart x Mama’s been wanting to go for ages and ever since I can remember, she’s wanted to see the Himalayas and I’m sure climb them as well haha but I did the best I could and tried to fulfill that dream via watching the sunrise over them and Everest so it was a quarter of a win I suppose!

This is a rundown of what our 4 night, 5 day itinerary more or less looked like. I stayed for a bit longer last year with Lucy so we were able to fit in Chitwan National Park and see the elephant sanctuary and more wildlife etc. but that’s probably the only thing slightly missing from this time around; that and staying in an area called Bhaktapur. We lingered in and around the area but didn’t stay a night which we had done before, but I’d recommend it after ‘Day1’ if you’re going by the itinerary below just because location-wise it makes the most sense!

definitely think the following is realistic for someone who’s maybe headed to Nepal for the first time and wants to experience a bit of everything in a short time, which is what I had in mind for mama, but you can always stay a day or two longer in one place and take out another etc etc. as it suits you best! Going to try and not get into too much detail so this doesn’t long out, but places, things to maybe visit whilst you’re in the area etc. are down below and you’re always more than welcome to get in touch if you’ve got a jillion and one questions because promise I won’t mind answering them!

Nagarkot

Nagarkot is a village in central Nepal kinda sorta at the edge of the Kathmandu Valley and known for its views of the Himalayas and Everest. Its about an hours drive from Kathmandu Airport and one of the maddest car rides you’ll ever experience! Mostly uphill on the absolute worst, not even roads lol, ‘path’ I would call it, where 2-way traffic is a thing despite there only being enough space for one car and you risk falling off of steep cliffs (there are no barriers), but you do it anyways because you’ve got to get to Nagarkot! Nepal is actually known for having some of the worst roads in the world, and this is no exception lol last year the drive was made at night in the rain which meant mudslides and even more unevenness and no visibility whatsoever, so all my goodbye world messages were done as I prayed to make it out alive just because you never know what might happen!

Unless you’re interested in hiking and trails are your thing, I’d say 1-2 days max are enough in Nagarkot, maybe even one and a half. Get there midday, walk around the village, get through a smaller hiking trail, sleep in the cold (it’s always super cold in Nagarkot so bring a jumper and gloves!), wake up early to see the sunrise, have breakfast, and take the local bus back down to Bhaktapur!

I’ve never taken a local taxi upwards and instead opted for airport pickup by the hotel seeing as it tends to be the first stop; the drivers they send are slightly more familiar with the roads and terrain as opposed to the city drivers so that’s always a good thing. Nagarkot is also the first stop just because its slightly out of the way than other places and this way you’ll start at the farthest and make your way West-ish to everything else!

I’d recommend staying at the ‘Peaceful Cottage’ (hotel) just because so far they’ve given the best view of the sunrise. Didn’t stay there this time around, but I remembered where it was and snuck mama and myself onto the roof bit and caught it from there. There’s also supposedly an observation tower to catch the sunrise from as well but I’ve never ventured that way so can’t help with that!

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Thamel

Skipped Bhaktapur and instead of taking the local bus down from Nagarkot, mama decided we should hitch a ride with strangers lol initially it was just to the end of the road so we could catch the local bus, but turns out our new friends were also headed there so we joined lol to be honest if you get the chance, I’d recommend it; people are extremely nice and helpful and not even in a schemy get-rich-quick type way in that they notice you’re a foreigner [this happens in the city], but in remote areas everyones willing and wanting to help if they can, so step out of your comfort zone and have a little faith in the goodness of people and you’ll be glad you did!

Got dropped off at a random roadside only after our friends ensured the bus driver knew exactly where he was taking us (faith in people again!); I planned for us to spend the afternoon and night in Thamel because we needed to book bus tickets for Pokhara the next morning. Thamel is a tourist hub and this beautiful dusty congestion of people and shops and bikes and cars all on the same road lol and because of this there are tour companies at every corner where you can book anything from flights to paragliding to elephant safaris etc. Managed to bargain bus tickets at a decent price without getting the standard tourist scam price (I’m always proud of this lol) and also found a halal momo place outside the hotel which was blessed alhamdulillah.

Mama wasn’t a fan of Thamel because of the dust and chaos and garbage but I love it; walking through the streets, getting lost, coming across cool shops and trying random food on the street etc. lol I hardly notice the madness, but also maybe because I’ve been before so knew what to expect!

Bus ride to Pokhara

So this is definitely something I’d recommend everyone do if you’re ever visiting, like a must must!  A 6 hour bus ride doesn’t sound too appealing, but I promise it’s one experience you’ll never forget. No photos of the winding roads and incredible views below (which are actually a tad terrifying in real life) can really do it justice. Legit breathtaking and you’re left in awe of it all and how freaking beautiful and wonderful this world really is.

There are definitely other places which you can travel to via these buses which follow a similar route, but I’m not too sure whereabouts; Pokhara and Chitwan (Chitwan National Park) are ones I’d recommend just because I’ve been, and also if you opt to go water rafting, the same buses drop you off on the way so #samesame

Pokhara

Pokhara itself is a beautiful place in Nepal, one of them ones that makes you feel like you’re not really in Nepal lol quieter, cleaner, less busier, and I think suited for maybe an older audience (Mum preferred it to Kathmandu lol) I’ve got another post coming on what to actually do in Pokhara so I won’t get into too much detail here; think of it as a quaint getaway I suppose!

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Fly out of Pokhara to KTM

Because we were short on days, I opted to fly out from Pokhara on the way back instead of doing the 6hour bus journey again. It’s a small domestic airport and we totally underestimated the size of the plane itself! Legit the smallest plane I have ever seen or sat in ever ever ever! Maybe a 12 seater with the personal space factor being synonymous to what you’d find on a public bus lol it was one of those rides you say bismillah on and hope for the best haha

Once we got back to Kathmandu, the plan was to head to a small village called Godawari. Godawari is where I stayed during my very first trip and I wanted to take mum to show her my Nepali families, where my school was, the streets I roamed and all that good stuff! Mum also opted to not take a taxi so we did like the locals and bussed it from the airport to the local Lagankhil bus stop with suitcases piled on our laps and from there took another bus aka minivan cramped with as many people as possible lol and finally made it to Godawari!

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Godawari

Godawari is the type of village where electricity is sporadic and the day ends when the sun sets. The type where lizards are friends and if the occasional one is found on your bed or while you squat in the bathroom, you’re apparently not meant to freak out…! It was lovely to take mum around and show her the route I used to take to school, where I’d get local munch from and just reminisce all those memories and feels with her by my side. Lots and lots of love to my Nepali family for hosting mum and I for the night and treating us like their own! Love you Mridula!xx

Kathmandu

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Headed back to the city for our last night in Nepal and figured mum had been a good sport and stayed in some pretty unconventional accommodation thus far lol so we should maybe find something cutesy to end the trip with. We hadn’t yet roamed about Durbar Square or any of the temples so opted to stay at Hira Guest House which was right outside the Golden Temple and a stroll away to the main square. Pathan Durbar Square is another place one should definitely visit if you’re in town. A lot of it is still under construction after the earthquake and I suppose to someone who has never been before it all probably looks like rubble, but it always hurts my heart walking through because I remember what it used to be like; how certain temples towered over you as you walked through alleys, and the flow of people from tourists to locals to worshippers who would gather in the square, the smell of incense almost choking you as you’d breathe lol;  not to say it’s dead and there’s no vibe to it, but definitely a bit of difference from before! There’s also a fee to enter the square, different rates apply if you’re a foreigner versus local or Indian, and I know this sounds really terrible, but I always tend to enter from the back route just because of familiarity with the streets so have kinda sorta avoided the ‘toll’ if you will, but just letting you know so it doesn’t come as a surprise!

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As for Hira Guest House, mama loved it as did I, and would definitely recommend it to anyone. The building itself has some historical meaning behind it and I believe it belongs to a member of the royal family who had preserved its authentic architecture both inside and out, and its actually one of the few structures in the area which was untouched by the earthquake which is super subhanallah! Regular bathrooms, hot water, lovely view onto the courtyard as well as a rooftop you can get photos on, have breakfast at, or just creep on the city really lol don’t not stay here if you’re in town!

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–and that’s that! It has literally taken me ages to complete this and I feel a whole lot better now that it is lol but hopefully it might come in handy for one of you at some point and maybe even inspire you to trek over to that part of the world! Also put together this cutesy infographic of our 5 day guide to Nepal which I think might be something we do for future trips! Enjoy! xoxo

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Just got back from a few days in Amman with the W Hotel and wanted to share a bit of what we got up to!

I was actually in Jordan a few months ago and had written a bit of a rundown/helping hand here alongside me very first vlog (here) so go have a creep if you’re interested!

Last time around there were a few things I didn’t get a chance to do and wallah I never thought I would be back so soon let alone have the opportunity to a) work with the W and b) do/see the things I missed so alhamdulillah times a million yet again for the way everything works and falls into place xxx

The W Amman recently opened in Jordan and is lovely jubly! Friendly and helpful staff, beautiful views of the city, and honestly a great place to stay if you’re ever in town.

The hotel features its very own helipad (because why not?!) and our first morning had us working out/taking pictures on it lol – fyi, it was at this very moment when Saira realized she needed to get back on that whole running and exercising tip.

Myself and a couple others were shooting scenes and the like throughout the week with @wearematteblack which was a laugh and a half so stay tuned for the final video which is bound to look amazing inshallah (I made them promise to make me look cool lol fingers crossed)

Made our way to the Citadel which we never got a chance to go to last time; had seen some stunning photos of the view and the amphitheater in the distance, and it didn’t disappoint.

We visited Rainbow Street again, and I’m not too sure I’m in love with it very much lol last time around it was during the day and I gave it the benefit of the doubt; figured it was one of those places which comes alive in the evening lol but this time around it was evening, and yes definitely more alive, but meh.

Maybe I just haven’t wandered in and out the side streets to completely be in awe of what it is, but it was nice to just stroll and chat with everyone nonetheless. Saira also lost her charger and sunnies so yay go team!

Next we were headed on a bit of a road trip to Wadi Rum and Petra for some glamping and camels and 4×4’s which is right up my alley lol hadn’t seen Wadi before so was excited to do that and really just be in the desert again!

Spent the night with Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp and would definitely recommend them if you fancy a night in Wadi. Air conditioned tents with your own bathroom, hot shower included lol I was more than impressed!

Saira also lost her jacket which had some important documents and cards and cash inside and freaked out after realizing it was missing a day later lol smh but alhamdulillah it was found and everything was intact!

Petra was the next day and getting in took a little longer than usual because filming permits etc. had to be sorted. Some of you must have seen on my instastory that we drove into Petra from the back all the way to the Treasury bit – so blady amazing and a story I’m ready to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen lol

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Last time I never got the chance to view the Treasury from up top and it’s something I really wanted to experience. Once you get to the Treasury bit, head towards the left of it and one of the locals will offer to take you up for a fee (we got him down to 6JD for two people); I don’t think you’re able to go up without one. It’s about a 10-15 minute climb (wear trainers or comfortable shoes – not flats) and once you get to the top you’ve got to give someone else some money to get to the actual mat bit where you can sit and take your photos for instagram and get a pretty cool view of what’s below!

After Petra we were headed back to Amman as most of us were flying out that evening. There were some extra shots the team wanted to get on the helipad back at the hotel so your girl headed up only to be greeted up close and personal by a real-life helicopter which I got to sit in and hover about in which was freaking amazing! ( I was well excited lol check out my highlights on instagram for clips!)

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And that’s that! Inshallah definitely want to take mama to Jordan at some point as I think she’d really enjoy it! I think I mentioned this in my last post as well but I’d recommend at least a week-and-a-half to two weeks just to cover some of the main sites Jordan has to offer. Also don’t forget about the Jordan Pass which covers your visa entry alongside access to Petra, Wadi Rum etc., and it’s also valid for 12 months after purchase so your girl felt chuffed using hers again at the airport haha

Still not finished that Nepal post from April, yikes, but its coming I promise!

love and light and hugs sent your way xoxo

Everyone’s got different needs in general day-to-day life, and whilst travelling those needs tend to be magnified to a million and one [for some]. The need for a fluffy pillow, a shower in only the most pristine of conditions, carpeted flooring, a closet with hangers, and whatever other comforts of home aren’t necessarily going to be givens once you leave (def available if that’s what you’re after so by all means you do you, but this post isn’t about that!).

Depending on where and why you’re jetting off, you’ve almost always got somewhat of an idea of what you’d like to spend a chunk of your budget on. Tours, all-inclusive resorts to just chill and never leave the premises, food, a concert or event you’ve flown in for, shopping, sightseeing etc. etc. you get the point lol

I personally enjoy spending my travel budget on doing stuff as opposed to where I lay my head at night, again, depending on where in the world I’ve headed. As long as I’ve got a bed to sleep in and a bathroom in decent condition (okay hot water too lol) I tend to be alright! Don’t get me wrong though, I have and do stay at hotels and can def be about that fluffy pillow life at times lol but there are alternatives out there which are just as good at a fraction of the price.

I was in London a couple weeks ago, stayed in a hostel (@astorhostels), and asked you guys on instagram if you had any questions/concerns about the hostel life because I’m aware it isn’t always the preferred type of accommodation for some; especially if you’re a solo female [Muslim] traveler. Last time I was in town I stayed a lovely hotel which I was tempted to return to, but thought we’d go a different route this time around.

Before we get into some of those questions,, some of you might be thinking “what is a hostel?” Prior to my experience, I was always under the impression of them being this dingy establishment of cramped bunkbeds situated either in the heart of a busy city or the outskirts of town, filled with backpackers who couldn’t afford to stay anyplace else, no food, maybe a dirty bathroom *insert idunno emoji here*

BUT a few years ago my lovely younger sister changed my entire perception after we stayed in a hostel in Kyoto, Japan. She had been staying in them for a while at this point whilst touring around the country and I always scoffed at the thought lol but was slightly jealous of how she could afford to stay at a different place every couple nights. I remember first entering the building and thinking ‘Saira are you dumb? This is so freaking cool! Why haven’t you done this before?!’ (she said I had better credit here so there’s that)

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credit: @abbasspace

SO! What is a hostel exactly?

A hostel is essentially a budget-friendlier version of a hotel; envision a smaller hotel with dorm-like vibes. They aim to provide more of a social and shared travel experience via an alternative accommodation space, again, at a fraction of the price of a hotel. Because they’re catered to travelers and tourists alike, their locations are blady wicked! Almost always in close proximity to main transport systems, tourist sites and attractions, local munch spots etc., they allow for the best and easiest accessibility to anything and everything you’d want to explore whilst in town.

sidetone: yes you can roll up with luggage and not just a backpack lol some have lifts which help, some don’t, but you’ll survive!

Do you usually travel alone?

Yes and I love it! Either alone or with a friend or two, but mostly solo! Travelling on your own allows you to get to know yourself, the good and bad, and truly adds perspective to life in terms of how miniscule certain things, and even you, are in this world, reiterating the idea of living your best life and being true to yourself.

Your first solo trip is always going to be daunting and scary and you being super self-conscious of the world and everyone ‘watching’ you, but it’s just you in your own head lol the world can either be a beautiful place full of love and hope or a big bad scary monster out to get you; you ultimately decide which one it is. Every place, every country and experience is truly what you make of it; I’d always recommend going in with an open mind and open heart and being conscious of the fact that whilst this may not be your ‘normal’ or reality, it is for many others and to be mindful and respectful of that. (side note: would you be interested in a separate post on solo travel itself? tips etc?! let me know in the comments!)

Do you feel safe in hostels with belongings there?

Yes. I’ve got mini locks for my case(s) which I use sometimes, and many hostels also have a safe which they can lock away any valuables for you. You’ve often got to put down a refundable deposit ($5 or something small) but it gives you peace of mind if you’re worried about someone taking something. Depending on the room you’re in, everyone’s got their designated ‘space’ to keep their things and only those people assigned to that room have access via a key card (just like a hotel) so you don’t have to worry about someone from another room or floor snooping.

 Are hostels mixed? Are there female only dorms?

Yes, and yes! The hostel itself is mixed, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a female-only hostel, but the room you choose to stay in is up to you. Rooms are either all-female, all-male, mixed, or some also have the option for private rooms which is an entire room to yourself! Depending on the hostel, some rooms have bathrooms (with showers) in the rooms, some have them outside in the hallway which are communal (could be mixed). Rooms themselves could consist of 4-beds or more; in Japan my sister and I were in a private room with a shared bathroom, and after she left I switched to a 4-bed. In London I stayed in a 10-bed with a bathroom inside, Athens was a 4-bed with bathroom inside, so it all just depends on the place itself!

 

Cleanliness? How clean are the facilities especially if they are communal?

In my experience the hostels themselves have been pretty clean; just like in a hotel there’s ‘room service’ mostly to tidy up the bathroom. The one thing no ones really got control of though is the cleanliness of fellow travelers which might be kinda gross sometimes lol cleaning the sink and countertop once you’re done with it, or not leaving smelly socks/shoes out in the open are common courtesies you’d presume to be normalcies… but nah lol clean up after yourself because that’s how your mamas raised you, and hope the person before you has also done the same! If you’re quite anal about germs etc. you can always pack disinfecting wipes or something of the sort (my mama loves Lysol wipes haha) but they’ll get the job done.

What is your experience staying in a hostel as a female/Muslim/hijabi? (I always imagine myself sleeping in a room full of intoxicated people.!)

 My experience has been great so far! I’ve personally never allowed those ‘labels’ to define nor restrict me from doing certain things and so I don’t think you should either, but I definitely understand where you’re coming from x

As a female, sorted, you’ve got the option to choose an all-female dorm if that makes you more comfortable. As a Muslim, same thing lol stay in whatever dorm you feel more comfortable , pray in your room or the commons area, or you can always ask reception if they’ve got a private room you could use for 5 mins which I’m sure wouldn’t be an issue. As a hijabi, if you don’t want to say hi or smile or engage in conversation with me because you’ve already made presumptions of what I’m like based on what’s on my head, that’s on you and I’m not too bothered lol but like anything else if you make the first move ie. introduce yourself to your roommates or start chatting to people asking where they’re coming from, plans for the city etc. you’ll naturally find something to bond over regardless because you’re all technically at the hostel for a similar reason (travelling, stop over, touristing, taking a month off life etc.)

Regardless of the communication stuff haha er well as a ‘hijabi‘ if you don’t want to go to pub night at the hostel, don’t go; this is that whole making life choices thing again init and I get that wearing and/or being in hijab presumes this restriction upon what you can and can’t do, but everyone’s got different values and deems more importance upon some things than others, so just like you get by in everyday life in terms of what you consider ‘permissible’ in accordance to your beliefs, you’d just do the same I suppose!

Can you sleep without hijab, is it safe?

Yes you can; again whatever makes you feel comfortable. I tend to stay in female dorms so it comes off once I enter the premises and of course when I sleep lol and then walking around the hostel or in commons doing work etc. I either throw on a hoodie or hijab it and it’s all good!

Do you have to share a room with strangers?

If you’re travelling alone, yes, unless you opt for one of the private rooms. If you travel with a group of friends etc. you can always just choose the same room so you’ll at least end up together in a room with strangers lol

 

Where can I find hostels?

I’ve only ever used hostelworld, hostels.com, and hostelbookers ; they’re legitimate, reliable, and have a massive range of places to choose from. Just like when you go to book a hotel, you’ve got ratings to look at, comments/feedback, photos etc. to help make your decision easier. I tend to look at the ratings and location; how close they are to public transport and town centers. Being close to transport helps in terms of going to/from the airport as well because you can often make your own way instead of getting jipped by airport taxis!

*Amenities etc.

 Most hostels offer laundry services either on or off the premises, and if you’re in desperate need of an iron you can always ask. In Athens I was taken to the basement to use the iron in the laundry room which obviously isn’t room service, but it got the job done and I wasn’t fussed in the slightest! Breakfast is also available at times; either there’s a café or shop of some sort, or recently in London Astor Hyde Park had a cool initiative where breakfast was only 1pound and all funds were donated to charity. If you follow me you know food isn’t a massive priority during my travels so I tend to skip out on brekky wherever I’m staying and grab-n-go whilst I’m out exploring!

Wifi and outlets are also a standard. If you’re in need of a travel adapter you can grab one from reception (often at the cost of a refundable deposit which is cool). Same with towels (I’d suggest bring your own though just because..!)

Hostels almost always have events going on at the space itself which is wicked and a great way to meet people as well. Movie nights, free walking tours etc. and there’s always a plethora of posters posted on the walls about things to do (just like at uni!) If you’re interested in booking tours etc. as well, your hostel can also assist with that sometimes or even have a discounted rate as you’re staying with them; some might also have affiliations with local restaurants which grants you a percentage off your meal which #nocomplaints !

I stayed at the Astor Hyde Park during my time in London and I loved it! So close to Hyde Park and literally the most perfect location in the ‘Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington’, an area I had never explored before whilst in London which I loved. 10 minute walk to the Natural History Museum, and a 12-15 minute walk to 2 underground stations (South Kensington and Gloucester) which was a blessing. Walked meself to Nottinghill and Portobello Road Market (25-30 min) which was through town and a highstreet; also easily walked into and through Knightsbridge and Trafalgar Square which was lovely (thankfully I was blessed with fabulous weather which is often a rarity in Londontown!) Also had no idea it was the same weekend as the BAFTA’s but they were literally taking place the next street down to us which was pretty cool!

Astor have got a chain of 4 hostels in and around London: Astor Hyde Park, Astor Victoria, Astor Queensway, and Astor Museum, and they’ve kindly gifted us a promo code to use on your next stay with Astor; use: ASTORLUV for 10% off your booking via their site here [max 14 nights] xo.

I feel like this post is long enough already, but I hope it’s helpful and inspires even one of you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a go even if it’s just for a night! If you’re interested in somewhat of a recap of me trip, check out my ‘Londontown’ highlight on instagram (@shazaira) for some walkings&talkings! Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got more questions/concerns etc. as I’d love to help out and be sure to let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this read! xx

Special thanks to Astor Hyde Park for hosting me during my stay in London. All opinions and views expressed are my own.

 

If I could give massive hugs to each and every one of you who took time out of your super busy lives to message me, comment on the work that’s being done, read my postings, shared my postings, etc etc etc., trust me I would! It makes my heart and soul so happy that loads of you are being touched by the work SKT are doing on the grounds and wanting to know how to get involved which is amazing! I promise sometime this week I’ll have an extra post focused solely on how one goes about volunteering with SKT for the Reyhanli deployment specifically as a bit of a guide for those interested! X

Today was packing day and what an experience! We were driven to a nearby warehouse where the SKT Turkey team store food items and boxes; rows of massive white boxes were already aligned waiting for us upon arrival (empty of course!) We were given a demonstration on how to pack the items so as to avoid over-spillage and I guess just ensuring everything fit comfortably!  The contents of the parcels vary based on the region from which SKT is operating from whilst still sticking to basic staples most households will most likely be in need of. Each of our boxes were to contain the following:

  • Bottle of olive oil
  • Bottle of sunflower oil
  • Tin of tomato paste
  • 4 bags of rice
  • 2 bags of barley
  • 2 bags of flour
  • 1 packet of brown lentils
  • 1 packet of red lentils
  • 2 bags of sugar
  • 1 box of tea
  • 1 packet of vermicelli
  • 1 packet of zaatar
  • 1 packet of sweets
  • 1 packet of balloons (for Eid!)

 

I’m not the strongest person I know; ya’anee sometimes I can’t open the cap to plastic water bottles lol so certain things were a tad heavy for me but promise no one would be guessed because I troopered on haha we had set up a bit of a production line and had local volunteers from SKT Turkey assisting as well which was SUCH a big help! Carrying heavy loads, literally ripping open boxes in no time (no x-acto knife was used) just to make our lives a bit easier was a god sent. After all items were added, we taped them shut, had them loaded into the next room ready for our distribution later in the week, had a bit of a break, and started all over again!

I mentioned yesterday that our total goal for this deployment was 2400 boxes, so 1200 today and 1200 tomorrow. We worked on 200 boxes at once, and managed to complete 1600 by the 8pm stop time which was great! We’re back at it in the morning for the remainder but this way it’s definitely lightened the load for us a bit!

(empty boxes I promise!)

I kept envisioning how it must be like for a family, large or small, to receive and depend upon this mere box of a few items as a means to their survival. How we take for granted the ability to pop into the shops or grocery store on a whim to grab a loaf of bread, or if milks run out in the morning we know the place round the corner is open 24hours so you’re fine to grab it in the evening. To be able to choose what we want to consume depending on what day of the week and how we feel, and on top of that, the specific freaking branding we ‘only’ eat…really y’all?! I’m nowhere near perfect in any way, shape, or form, and promise I’ll be the first to admit my flaws (yes Iman I know I’m picky about how I like my tea!), but we are so unbelievably blessed and lucky to have the ability and freedom to make a simple choice, yet how often are we grateful for it? I feel as though it just comes as second nature to us because it’s how things have always been, and when something is a constant in your life its hard to imagine life without it or in a different way, but being thankful, void of religious beliefs, genuinely acknowledging in your heart and soul that you’re a bloody lucky duck is something we should all make a habit of doing.

The innate human desire within all of us to help and offer assistance to someone or to a cause in whatever way we can, is something I’ve noticed within SKT. Be it via the people I’ve met, from members to volunteers, and what I’ve read up about them, everyone is in it because they want to make a positive difference in the lives of the Syrian refugees. Refugees who weren’t always refugees. They had lives prior to this, prior to the war and injustice which was by no fault of their own, and I hardly think any one of them envisioned a future in which their homeland was obliterated, and ‘home’ itself became a questionable unknown. I feel it more when I see the children around me (surely by now you must have figured out I’m a massive fan of little humans and their naïve lust of living such a beautiful and carefree life) but I see them and MY silly privileged first-world 26-year old adult self doesn’t want to think about what they might have endured, let alone what they must be going through. I don’t want it to come off as though I’m painting everyone I meet or the children I’ve come across with the same miskeen, unfortunate circumstance paintbrush, but to be honest it’s a reality for many here in Reyhanli. I can legit see the Syrian border from the hotel, and fact is that many of those who fled did so via the Turkish/Syrian border, which enters into Reyhanli (google it and you’ll see how close it is to the border!); it’s also apparently been dubbed as ‘Little Syria’ by some due to the influx. When I’m finished hugging and kissing the cheeks off my new tiny human friends, I ask them where they’re from (all have said Syria), how long they’ve been here, if they’re here with family or not etc. specifically to avoid projecting my own biases and perhaps false misconceptions about their current plight.

I’ve strayed from what I wanted to say lol but SKT being here and assisting in whatever way they can is affecting the lives of so many people Alhamdulillah and that’s all one could ask for. Their purpose is one which unites people, volunteers from around the world to provide assistance and do their part for humanity, however big or small it may be, and that’s a freaking beautiful thing x

My feet are super sore and tired lol for some reason whenever I travel and am in need of comfortable footwear, it never happens and no matter how many plasters I apply to help the feet cuttings and rubbings, it’s all a blady fail lol

I’m also posting videos and snapshots of our day on me instastory (@shazaira) so be sure to have a peep when you can! They last 24 hours so catch it while its still up! xo.

 

 

Merhaba!

If you follow me on snapchat and Instagram, you’ll know I’m currently headed to an ickle place called Reyhanli in the south of Turkey to do some volunteer work and help out with whatever really. From what I know and have seen/creeped, a majority of people in and around the area are victims of the Syrian crisis, potentially refugees, and there are loads of cute children whom I want to hug endlessly! *(you’ll more than likely get a more detailed description of what I’m doing once I get there!)

The organization itself is called ‘SKT welfare’ based in the UK and they operate on a 100% donation policy which I love love love. I went to uni for Intl. Development and loved every second of what I learned, but the hypocrisy of some NGO’s and charitable organizations who raise loads of money for those in need but fail to deliver it in its entirety is always mind boggling. (err Grenfell Tower, where’d it all go?) but anyways, I’m super excited and looking forward to have that ‘on-the-grounds’ experience and just share whatever I can offer to do my bit for humanity really. I wanted to go into development to save the world (so so naïve lol), and I remember feeling super overwhelmed one day after class and went to chat with my professor just kinda feeling defeated and hopeless in that nothings really going to save the world because it’s all been going on for such a long time lol. He gave me a much needed reality check and said something along the lines of it being impossible to save the world but each and every one of us has a human obligation to do whatever we can within our means to help. Be it for the environment, the well-being of others, sharing a freaking smile even. It’s like this unsaid obligatory price we pay for being a blady human citizen of this lovely world, and it makes sense to my heart x

I feel like this is turning into somewhat of a white savior complex thing, even though I’m not white, but Alhamdulillah times a million for everything I’ve been blessed with because in all honestly it’s definitely a privilege that many in the world don’t have. Not only me, but many of you reading this are also super privileged; you’ve got a roof over your head, food to eat, family, the opportunity to get an education, go to work and make money etc. etc. etc. and that’s so much more than some people. My morning has been a bit shitty and just all over the place so I was complaining to some friends and one of them goes Saira it’s okay, you’ll be okay, you’re blessed. You have a passport to come and go as you please, you have the chance to travel and come back to a job, you can afford the Starbucks you’re complaining about, so don’t worry lol and she’s so right Alhamdulillah! I know it’s natural to winge about stuff I suppose lol  (I’m usually not a winge-er) but that got me feeling all kinds of ways about the word ‘alhamdulillah’ itself and what a freaking beauty it is in terms of reminding us to be ever grateful and thankful to God for all of it. The good, the not so good, the inconveniences or super special moments. It all happens for a reason and they’re all blessings on blessings based on this genuine faith in your heart that it’s what’s truly meant for you x

I’m staying for about a week-ish and the plan is to blog every evening about the day, bit of a travel journal if you will. I’ve never committed to a schedule like this for my posts haha but inshallah I’ll make the time! Currently in Istanbul with ages to go til my next flight and in need of water and a corner to sleep in so going to get on that.

Also, fyi for future plans to Turkey. If you need a visa (Canadians we do!), wallahi just have your cash exchanged beforehand to avoid the hassle of bank machines that don’t work, currency exchanges that are closed, unhelpful counter people etc etc etc lol $60USD or 50Euros. No Canadian dollars, and only British pounds if you’ve got a British passport lol dumbbbbbb (the only currencies I actually had on me..) and yes it’s possible for an ATM to run out of USD bills. Only use the e-visa machines on the ends if you’d prefer that route because the middle ones will have your transaction go through and completed only to freeze and restart minus a visa printout…(don’t worry mama I sorted it out) This isn’t my first time to Turkey (last years trip here) so I should know this, but alas.

If you’d like to make a donation to the organization or simply zakat to whoever might need, feel free to send me an email or message on Instagram and inshallah I’ll get it to whoever x Keep us in your prayers xoxo