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

Mumbai was one of those secret ‘don’t tell mum until you’re back’ kind of trips, only because I’d just got back from Nepal a couple weeks prior and mum had gone through the routine ‘okay you’re back now chill out for a bit and save some money’ spiel so you get my drift yea?!

India’s always been on my list but I swore to never go alone or in a group of girls what with it being blasted in the media at one point about female travellers being attacked etc etc etc. and if I went it would be to see the Taj first, but things don’t always work out they way you’d like them to do they lol one visa rejection later plus multiple counts of stressing, we were off to Mumbai for 3 days!

I introduce to you Ms. Amani and Ms. Julie, two lovelies with whom I work with, and bloody 3 days in Mumbai being Julie’s mad idea lol but its them random ones that make you glad you went for it isn’t it!


We nearly missed our connecting flight in Dubai (I’ve never had to run for a flight til this point, thanks guys!) but landed in the morning which gave us ample time to go out and about. I don’t tend to have expectations about places when I travel, just the expectation within myself to make the most of everything and not regret any experience lol BUT Mumbai wasn’t the glitz and glamour Bollywood makes it out to be, from what I experienced anyways, which to be fair was only 3 days so maybe my opinion doesn’t count lol but I would go back for sure and stay no more than 5days tops just because that’s a fair bit of time to get through the city.

If I was to go again I’d prefer to use the trains and local transport to make my way around but traveling solo is always different to when you’re with travel buddies, each having its pros and cons and being a good time in their own way lol but this time around we found a lovely taxi driver who stuck it out with us during the day and took rickshaws about during the evening.

Places we visited:

-Gateway of India *built during the 20th century to commemorate King George and Queen Mary when they visited in 1911 [thanks google!] It’s right by the famous Taj hotel as well!

-Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station *the influence of the British is super prevalent in terms of architecture at the station itself and its surrounding area which makes you feel as though you’re not in India at all! double decker buses as well lol and a clock tower which I can’t help but guess is meant to mimic Big Ben?!

-Haji Ali Dargah *This is a beautiful white masjid literally in the middle of the water so it looks like an island itself. You’ve got to walk across a bridge on the water to get to it but its only accessible when the tide is low. We planned to stop and read juma there (I really really really wanted to!) but the tide was high that day so legit no-one was able to get to it and those already at the masjid were basically stranded!

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-Mahalakshmi Temple *eep jasmine flower garlands and lotus blossoms make me happy x

-Mount Mary Church *Roman Catholic Basilica which was neat to see!

-Dhobi Ghat *this is essentially the largest outdoor laundromat I’ve ever seen! (which is also what it is! lawl)

-Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum *Gandhi’s headquarters for a bit and where he lived for a bit I believe!

-Juhu Beach *super dirty beach but when in Rome…! we went in the evening which was an experience itself! Loads of families out and street food being sold alongside toys and trinkets, henna being done (which we did!), and just a super cool vibe which I loved!

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Shopping: *not a fan of malls/shopping centres when abroad so markets, souqs, bazaars, whatever you want to call them are right down me alley!

-Crawford Market

-Chor Bazaar

-Colaba Causeway

-Linking Road

Food:

Food wise, I have to say Nepal still takes the cake for best samosas! I was really gunning for Indian samosas being the one lol but again 3 days maybe didn’t allow for the best judgement to be made! Butter chicken and naan bread was essentially my staple for the 3 days *eyeroll* but it’s my fave! Masala chai from street vendors and potato dosas were also consumed and gained points lol I admit one thinks twice when consuming street food in certain places due to hygiene and cleanliness etc. but meh. everyone else seems to survive just fine no?! I wouldn’t recommend mangoes that have been sitting in the heat though..I didn’t listen (sorry Amani) and thought my insides had survived the worst so what’s a bit of fruit…nahhhhh! never again lol

Incase you haven’t gathered from the photos thus far, it’s kinda sorta impossible to not catch people in your photos because there are literally people everywhere lol but it’s all part of the experience! I’d definitely go back again, maybe take mum as an apology lol but it was beautiful just being immersed in a completely different culture and peoples  with all the noise and smells and madness that came with it!

No matter where in the world life takes you or you travel to, it’s always the people you end up meeting or travel with who can kinda sorta make or break a part of your experience! Alhamdulillah for good company and having endless jokes and laughter and just going with the flow! Ended up in Dubai for half a day on the way back which was more than enough time for dinner, a fountain show, and a bit of a shop so yay! Not too shabby for 3 days if I do say so meself! xoxo

Merhaba!

A long weekend was randomly gifted to us a few weeks ago so Miss Iman and I ventured to Istanbul where we met up with her mama dearest. I’ve been to Istanbul a couple times before so wasn’t too stressy about itineraries and cramming a whole lot into 3days, but it was such a lovely getaway and the weather was beautiful, that perfect chill where its not too hot and not too cold but a blanket scarf provides the right amount of cozy warmth lol that kind! Being able to just stroll around and have a change of scenery was super refreshing alongside the endless amount of food consumed haha baklava (Hafiz Mustafa is the one!) and Turkish delights and chocolate mushrooms and tea and mmmmmm so so good lol

We initially almost missed our flight thanks to my sleeping in and Iman literally barging into my flat thinking I had died lol (sorry love x ) and then got scammed by a taxi driver upon arrival which wasn’t very fun, but alhamdulillah not too many incidents after that! Stayed in the most ideal location, a 5 minute walk to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia which made my ickle heart super warm and fuzzy and content with life, especially when hearing the adhan at prayer times. The Blue Mosque is one of those places which leaves you in awe no matter how many times you see it and being in such close proximity to it was beautiful. I decided to be adventurous one morning and head out for Fajr prayers but chickened out last minute because I didn’t want to get kidnapped lawl. but I made it for jumah which was such an experience! I’ve written about my love for jumah in other countries and masjids etc etc etc lol so I won’t get into it again, but one of those heartwarming happy chappy soul feelings which was beautiful x if you know me you also know about my obsession with taking photos and looking for particular angles and such lol but I also love taking photos of  old people and children and went a bit stalkerish both at jumah and during the trip in general but I think it resulted in some beautiful photos which I’m super proud of! does anyone else ever take a really cool photo and think it should be framed in a cafe or someones living room?! (its probably just me but still!)

We munched at this place (I’ll have to get the name from Iman), that do only about 3-4 items on the menu because a) it’s their speciality and b) they’re that good, but dang son. so worth it! In Sultanahmet, I want to say right across the Aksaray metro stop..?!! (I’ll find out and stick it in someplace lol it’ll be a lot easier!)

Also did a Bosphorus cruise which I’d recommend; gives you some beautiful views of the bridge and the Galata tower and the city from a distance! There are a number of boats parked by the water who offer tours and trips so super easy to find and do! Spend a lovely evening in Taksim where we witnessed Tunis beat Libya (go Tunis go!) Taksim at night is a beauty on its own full of people chilling out over a shisha or walking and just essentially having a good time, so definitely worth experiencing if you’re ever in town. The Grand Bazaar was epic! I absolutely love souks and bazaars and anything of the sort which allows you to haggle; I just think it’s proper form and generally expected in such an environment lol but found some lovely pieces of jewellery and earrings so yay! Someone had asked on instagram about what/if there was anything particular I purchase from each country and yes I do! always a magnet and a piece of jewellery (specifically a pair of earrings or a necklace!) I love love love ethnic bohemian jewellery that’s slightly representative of each country and the whole rustic look and vibe they give/add to me collection and wearings so that’s always a must! I’ve also started to pick up either a postcard or a print (painting or a picture) as well which then go on my wall or fridge!

Tourism has generally died down quite a bit in Istanbul compared to what it was due to recent attacks which I presume left people a bit frightened and hesitant to make the trip, but anything can happen anywhere in the world at any point and it’s just one of those things that’s truly out of your control and you’ve got to make a decision as to what extent you’re willing to risk your safety or travel plans etc. We never felt unsafe or uneasy walking about on our own and people were generally nice and helpful so teshakular Istanbul and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point in me life inshallah!

I truly hope you enjoy the photos as much as I do and as much as I loved taking them haha I’m really chuffed with meself in case you hadn’t gathered! Headed home in a few weeks inshallah so yay for seeing mama! Hope all is well wherever you may be and you’re spreading smiles and love and holiday cheer to the world! xoxo

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So Miss Iman and I ventured off to Cyprus for Eid which was beautiful. I had another trip half planned but she kinda sorta sold me on the idea of beaches and tanning and sunshine and that pretty much did it (I really don’t ask for much!)

I don’t want to get into too much detail, but we rented a car and essentially road-tripped along the coast which was exhilarating to say the least. Good old google maps made navigating a whole lot easier and having a car definitely allowed for more sightseeing and freedom to stop wherever we wanted on a complete whim! Hotels were booked as each day progressed, literally the morning of, just because! Flew into Larnaca via Lebanon (not a fan already purely based on my airport experience) and within 30-40 minutes, Kalimera Cyprus!

Started in Larnaca, worked our way through Limassol and stumbled upon a random secluded beach stop which we came back for. Spent a day in the mountains in Miliou where we nearly got into an accident on the way but the drive up and through the mountains was beautiful. Eid was spent in Pafos and I woke up extra early to catch the sunrise which was one of those heartwarming soul sessions that you know I love x also jumped the fence to get into an abandoned Turkish masjid because a masjid had to be visited on Eid one way or another!  Did some tourist archaeological exploring there, and visited a couple monasteries, one of which was built into the mountain which was pretty neat! Next we were off to Protaras and good old Ayia Napa and visited the infamous Cape Greco which we hiked up super sharp rocks and braved the wind to get super cool photos lol I have never ever ever seen water as clear as I did in Protaras and at Cape Greco! Pictures do it no justice, but wallah the clarity was subhanallah! and we went parasailing! yay!! it was my first time and soaring over the coast with beautiful water and coastline beneath your feet is just one of those moments you’ll never forget! Miss Iman also faced her fears and sang karaoke in public which we were all super proud of! and then it was back to Larnaca where we visited Hala Sultan Tekke, which wikipedia calls a ‘Muslim shrine’, so we’ll leave it at that, but you also know that I love masjids in different countries and the peace and serenity that comes with entering such scared space etc. etc. so yes. My heart and soul was content! There was this open compound space right beside the masjid which kinda sorta acted like a cat sanctuary; apparently the general public uses it as a drop off for strays or cats they no longer want as they know/assume that the caretakers of the masjid are obliged by God to look after the animals and not be cruel to them, and Miss Iman was essentially in heaven. So many cats and kitties and cuteness overload and the sun began to set and it was yet another soul warming moment for the books x

All in all it was a much needed relaxing getaway to an underrated part of the world where Allah hooked us up in terms of hotel upgrades and his colour schema when putting the world together was/is just so freaking on point mashallah subhanallah alhamdulillah x people were incredibly friendly and approachable and being able to smile and wave at everyone and engage in conversation with random strangers is something I realize I miss and take for granted when I’m back Kuwait! Enjoy the pictures, know that none of them do the country any justice, and be sure to add it to your list of travels in the future inshallah! xoxo

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