Albania–Meeting Our Sponsor Children

Working within my role at World Vision means that every day I get to hear uplifting stories about the relationships forged between sponsors and the children they sponsor. As a child sponsor myself, I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with other sponsors. We all have the same heart for vulnerable children. So, when I heard that there was a group sponsor visit to Albania planned, I signed up to go as one of the sponsors.

My husband I each sponsor a child in Albania.  As my husband couldn’t be there, I agreed to meet his child Mikeljan on his behalf. A lot of prayer and preparation went into our meeting. Before my trip, my husband told me everything he knew about Mikeljan and especially how much he loves football! Between the two of us, we did some shopping for gifts for Mikeljan and his family.  While in Albania, the wonderful World Vision team worked hard planning the sponsor visits and all the itinerary.

The night before I was due to meet him, I stayed in too reflect and pray about our time together.  I was nervous  about the meeting because Mikeljan is a teenager and I wasn’t sure of the welcome I would receive.  Would he think it was ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ for instance.

We first met at the World Vision office where Mikeljan arrived accompanied by his mother. To my surprise, he spoke very good english! I had brought a letter for Mikeljan from my husband which a staff member translated on paper.  Another staff member translated the conversation between Mikeljan’s mother and I. I showed him photos of my husband Jim and talked about him.

We walked by a lake and later had lunch together. His mother spoke to me about her family and her concerns for Mikeljan. I noticed there was free wifi, so I video-phoned Jim so he could speak to Mikejan in person.  They each had the biggest grin on their faces as they chatted away about  Mikeljan’s biggest passion-football!

I was so impressed with both Mikeljan and his mother. They were such lovely people. Mikeljan is a bright, courageous, sociable and articulate boy.  His mother was lovely, warm and gracious. I felt like I had just met family.

The following day, it was time for me to meet my sponsor child Andrea. It was another wonderful meeting but with some differences.  Andrea is only 7.  He came with his mother, older brother and younger sister. He was very shy at first but soon warmed up.  Nobody in the family spoke english but luckily we had someone on hand to translate for us. Andrea thanked me for the hot wheels I sent to him in the post.  Unfortunately, he lost the green one which was his favourite.  Since I have been home, I have been looking at green hot wheels but they are all so different and I have no idea which one he lost!

I knew ahead of time that we would spend time at a beach. I brought lots of toys to play with. The most popular was a game of velcro mitts and a ball. When we had lunch, I brought out the Jenga which was a big hit as the whole family could play.

After only ever seeing some photos and a couple of videos of Andrea, it was nice to get to know more of his unique personality. He is such a fun, endearing child with a gorgeous, contagious smile. The family were sociable and sweet and we had a wonderful time together.

The trip gave me real insight into the culture and people of Albania. I feel an equal sense of compassion and hope for this country. I am so thankful for the opportunity that sponsorship has given my husband and I to help the communities where Mikeljan and Andrea live.

To sponsor a child through World Vision UK, please go to their website by clicking here.

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Sponsor Visit to Albania

As a sponsor through World Vision, I was excited to be given an opportunity to visit Albania as part of a group sponsor visit. I saw this as a great way to connect with like-minded people, meet the two boys my husband and I sponsor and to also see first-hand the work that I was helping to support.

I met some of the other sponsors from our group before hand on our training day and some at the airport when we were catching our flight. We were an interesting small group of diverse backgrounds yet all of us were joined by our mutual compassion for vulnerable children.

First sight of Albania

 

When we arrived at the airport in Tirana (also known as Mother Teresa Airport), we were met by the lovely World Vision Albania staff who drove us to our hotel. They were even kind enough to phone the hotel in advance and ask them to prepare a meal for us as it was late.

On our trip, we did quite a bit of driving around visiting many of the projects that World Vision was supporting.  Because of this, we had the opportunity to see a lot of the countryside in Lezhe and other areas.

Albania is the poorest country in Europe and still a country in transition. Everywhere we looked, we could see a mixture of old abandoned communist buildings, building projects not yet completed, small houses with red roofs and front gardens used to grow fruit and vegetables. Sometimes you would see a goat tied in the small garden.

 

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Yet Albania is also a beautiful country of hills, mountains, lakes and beaches.

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DAY 1

On our first full day, we met with the Student Government in a school in Balldre who were eager to tell us about the work they were doing raising awareness on child domestic violence.  I noticed that around the classroom where posters about stress. When I asked about it, they explained that this was the psychology classroom. I was also told that children suffer a lot from stress and that violence against children was a major issue. They told us that May was ‘Family month’ and they had planned activities for parents to have fun with their children. It was great to see how the students were being encouraged to stand up for themselves and make positive changes.

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The students were very confident and articulate. We asked them to tell us what their dreams were for their future.  They all had high aspirations, but I soon saw a pattern. One wanted to be an Architect in Australia; another wanted to be a Judge in Germany.  Sadly, no one saw themselves having a future in Albania.

Later we visited the Multidisciplinary Centre in Lezhe. This was once an abandoned building which was repaired thanks in part to the fundraising efforts of the last group visit. The centre helps give children a safe place to go to where they are assessed and helped depending on their needs. Many of the children who go there come from families who are “re-immigrates”. They sold everything to immigrate to another country only to be forced back to Albania years later with nothing left for them. It is also a haven for mothers and children fleeing from domestic violence. The centre also offers after school programs.

Day 2

We visited the sisters of a Catholic church who run a kindergarten and do all that they can to support the vulnerable in the community. This lovely sister who we met us is from Italy. She told us amazing stories of how the sisters have helped families over the years.

 

The kindergarten is colourfully decorated and there is a humble playground outside. Unfortunately, the playground area gets badly flooded when it rains. The rain drains into the sewers which then causes sewage to rise out of the gutters over the playground area.

 

 

We visited another school of very proud students. It was a new high school where previously there had been none. Before the school was built, many girls did not continue their education as it was too far to travel to the nearest high school. Now they have a local high school which enables them to continue their education and to have higher aspirations for their future.

I found it interesting that every classroom in this new building was heated by one of these stoves.

One of the things I noticed when I visited any of the schools in Albania is that the teachers all seem to love their job.  They take such pride in their work and in their students. I saw curtains in the windows and potted plants on the window sills in the classrooms. They may not always have enough money for all the essentials, but they do what they can to make it a welcoming place for students.

If you are interested in supporting Albania or sponsoring a child, please visit World Vision’s website.

For World Vision UK, please click here. Or phone at 0800 085 8188

For World Vision Albania, please click here. Or phone +355 4 2419601

If you are interested in helping the kindergarten by financing the repair of their playground, please contact either World Vision.

 

Being Guided Part 1: Trust Over Fear

While on the Isle of Eigg, I had an eye-opening lesson on the rewards of faith.  Although many of us might profess a faith in God or a higher power, how many of us would be willing to act on it?  How many of us would truly pray, ‘Guide me Lord and I will follow’ and then do just that?

The Isle of Eigg is my personal choice as a place of restoration.  It is sublimely beautiful. It offers within nature what is most popular about Scotland.  You get thistle, heather, ferns and foliage which changes to beautiful autumnal colours in the fall.  You get the crags and huge rocks and lots of wild scenery.  There is hardly any light pollution so you get an abundance of stars at night and beautiful sunrises and sunsets and sometimes (if you’re lucky) the aroura borealis.  You also get migratory birds of various breeds and many sea animals.  You get all that and the sea as well with majestic views of other islands. It is truly paradise….

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sunset on Eigg

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Unfortunately, sometimes things can go wrong like the time a hiker broke her ankle while she was on the Sgurr and they had to get a helicopter to rescue her.  I can’t help thinking that it could have been worse.  I don’t know the full story but she was lucky.  Somehow, someone knew where she was and that she was hurt.  When I was there nearly three weeks ago, I was on my own during off-peak season.  Kids were in school so there were very few vacationers on the island.  Therefore, when I chose to do some hiking and broke my ankle, no one would know.  If I got lost, I would pretty much stay lost for some time…maybe having to spend the night on an area of grazing land…with cows and well…cow pats.  Not a pleasant thought but even more unpleasant is the possibility of falling off a cliff.  I don’t like heights much so it’s no surprise I guess that thoughts would run through my head such as, ‘If I fell off the cliff, how long would it take before they found my body?’  I am a bit embarass to admit this but I confess I thought of this a wee bit too much.  So much so, that even in the midsts of beautiful scenery, I felt a bit of tightness in my chest and I walked very very carefully in some places.  I didn’t want to fall knee deep in cow manure and break my ankle.  I especially did not want to fall off a cliff.

BUT…

I was on on a quest.  Ever since my first visit to Eigg, I had known about this Holy well.  It was on a map of Eigg which I saw on the wall in Tigh Eilidh.  Not many people on Eigg seem to know much about it or cared.  I had vowed that one day I would find it.

So one my second day on Eigg which was a Sunday, I thought it would be a good day to look for the well.  I knew which direction to head towards but didn’t have a route planned.  After about 5 or 6 miles walk, I lost confidence and assumed that I was going in the wrong direction so I decided to postpone looking for the well and just do some exploring.  My anxious thoughts were agitating just below the surface so I asked God to guide my steps.  All I meant was, ‘Please don’t let me get lost, hurt or step in any boggy, sh**-y mess.’ I just wanted to be safe and not have any mishaps.  The weather was beautiful and I was happy just to walk and explore a bit….safely.

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I came out from the woods, and down the path and had an instinct to go through a gate into an open safer looking area.  The weather app on my phone said I was at Galmisdale.  After walking only a short way, this was the view that met my eyes:

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I realized that God had something better in store than just keeping me safe.  He wanted to calm my spirit, to teach me to trust him more and simply to bless me with a gift of staggering beauty and wonder. He wanted to awe me.  I was.  His love never ceases to awe me.

Iceland: Land of Frozen Beauty Pt.2

Continuing our Grayline Golden Circle tour at Thingvellir National Park, we saw the spot where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and are drifting apart.

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The best part of the tour for me was visiting the hot springs and the unexpected bonus of seeing a working geyser (another one to cross off my bucket list).

The whole area was filled with lots of steaming pools and streams of boiling water and we were warned not to dip our hands in them.

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Our tour continued to Skálholt church where we saw the beautiful mosaic of Jesus.

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The stain glass reflects beautiful coloured lights on the walls.

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When it comes to trying to see the northern lights, it is a bit of a hit and miss.  After all, it is a natural phenomenon so you have to rely on luck.  We took our first northern lights tour and saw nothing.  Beautiful scenes out the coach window though.

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Luckily, Grayline offers for you to retake the tour free of charge until you actually do see the lights.  It is practically an all night excursion in the cold.  Our second tour we ended up taking the delux version which meant we went further afield and stayed out longer.  We were cold but it was worth it.

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Iceland is well worth a visit and hopefully, we will go again one day and see more of it!

Iceland: Land of Frozen Beauty Pt. 1

Last year for my birthday, my wonderful husband surprised me with a trip to Iceland booked for February. The trip was in the hope of fulfilling my dream to see the Northern Lights. The Tourist Agent told him that this would most likely be the last winter where the Northern Lights could be seen so well.  So with joyful anticipation, we patiently waited over seven months for our trip to Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik.

This of course gave me plenty of time to do some shopping for some cold weather clothing. With winter temperatures ranging from around 0 °C (32 °F)  to as low as −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F), having the right winter clothing is essential.  Luckily, I already had a very warm down coat and snow boots so all I needed was a few extra things. I bought a few long sleeve merino wool undershirts, thermal socks, leggings, gloves and thermal-lined trousers and a snuggly ‘fur’ trimmed hat.  Although I tend to feel the cold quite acutely, I managed to stay warm and toasty for most of my trip even when I was outdoors late at night.

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Iceland has beautiful countryside with stunning scenery but Reykjavik itself was not very captivating.  There seems to be no graffitti laws and it was everywhere.  Most of it was not art, but there were a few who tried.

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Food is excellent in Iceland although as you can imagine, a bit expensive.  While we were there, my husband enjoyed the traditional lamb soup while I (not being a meat eater) opted for fish most evenings.  One of the best restaurant finds was a place that served soup in a bread bowl.  This became our favourite place for lunch.  Warm, nourishing and delicious soup in a large crusty bread roll!

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Iceland is a place where it is worth getting out into the countryside.  There is so much breath-taking scenery there but miles away from civilization and so I strongly recommend booking one of the many coach tours.  We decided on two tours with Grayline.  The coach picks up and drops you off at your hotel or you can catch it at one of their main depots.  The views out the window are gorgeous.

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The first tour we took was The Golden Circle tour.  On this tour, we drove out to Thingvillir National park to see some of Iceland’s greatest natural features.  One such feature is the Gullfloss waterfall which of course, being February was frozen over in beautiful large icicles.

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The blue-green colour of the ice is due to the blue-green algae which resides in the water.

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Our tour guide told us a beautiful story about how the falls were nearly lost to foreign investors who wanted to put up a powerplant and dam the falls. One local woman in the 20th century was so fiercely against these plans that she threatened to throw herself over the falls. Her strong protest also included walking barefoot from Reykjavik to the falls (over 70 miles) proving by her bloodied feet that she meant business.  Year after year she fought to protect the falls raising funds for lawyers but it wasn’t until after her death at the age of 87 that the government took over the falls and made it safe.

At Thingvellir, we also saw the spot where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and are drifting apart.

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The best part of the tour for me was visiting the hot springs and the unexpected bonus of seeing a working geyser (another one to cross off my bucket list).

The whole area was filled with lots of steaming pools and streams of boiling water and we were warned not to dip our hands in them.

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At Thingvellir there was much to see, so I will share more about it in part 2.

Cliff Walk on Eigg

We stood at the top of the cliff by Kildonnan overlooking the bay.  It was with near breathless exhiliration that I found myself repeating the words several times, “It’s so beautiful!” I now can’t remember whether I simply spoke the words or shouted them.  What I do remember was feasting my eyes over the landscape and the sensation that I can only describe as my spirit singing.

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Jim and I had followed the suggested walk from the Walk Highlands website starting instead from MacQuarries Cottage where we were staying in Cleadale.

It was a warm sunny April day and also ‘lambing season’. Below you can see An Sgurr, the highest hill on the island  which is exposed pitchstone formed as a result of one of the last volcano eruptions a long long time ago.

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We also came accross the standing stone which had been erected by the citizens to memorialize the buyout of the island.  I think I remember being told a tale in which this stone was knocked down one jolly night and re-erected and then dubbed by some of the locals as “….’s erection” to commemorate this person’s re-standing the stone after it’s close miss with destruction. If I remember correctly it was a friend of the locals but not one of the locals themselves!

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We walked along the sandy coast….

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…and then made our way up with cliff.

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…where now the guide was telling us it was a steep decline.  I am usually not good with heights and my husband has two artificial knees but I decided to descend part of the way to see how steep it was.  I ultimately decided it was not worth the risk but that was after seeing even more of the spectacular view and spying a couple of wild seals swimming in the water!  Afterwards Jim and I decided to continue the walk on another day by making our way to the bottom of the cliff from a path on the otherside but on this day continued our walk by making our way to the cafe at the pier for a drink and a snack…

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…and another gorgeous view.

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Bruges—The Venice of the North

My husband and I recently returned from visiting one of the most charming cities in Europe.   Bruges is located in Northwest Belgium and is known as the Venice of the North.   I am not surprised!   Bruges is a romantic city with canals, parks and over 200 restaurants and several chocolate shops on nearly every street!

We boarded the Eurostar from London and then got off at Brussels.  The next train was every 15 minutes to Bruges.   The great thing about travelling by Eurostar is that unlike flying,we don’t have to arrive three hours before departure and there is no maximum baggage allowance!

We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Dukes Palace thus named as it was the former residence of a Duke.

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The staff were wonderful and catering, the room was lovely with a huge en suite and overlooked the garden.  We asked what the story was with the giant red poodle but was told there wasn’t one..it’s just art.  ??

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The buffet breakfast is probably the best hotel buffet breakfast I have ever had.  It included a seperate table with huge slabs of chocolate for you to cut a chunk off yourself and bottles of sparkling wine and fruit.

Which brings me to some of the things Belgium is famous for…basically it’s all about the food!  Belgium chocolates, waffles, beer and pomme frites (french fries because they were actually invented in Belgium).  Mussles also seemed to be sold at every restaurant and their ice cream was as good as I remember gelato being in Italy!  Every restaurant we ate in was excellent but sadly not cheap.  They know they are catering to tourists so if you plan a trip, be prepared to spend a lot on your meals.  Alternatively, you can choose to get some to go food from the market square or eat from restaurants further away from the market square.

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The city itself is beautiful and well worth exploring.  It is a great place for leisurely walks.

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The archetecture is beautiful and I found myself just wishing I could peak into a typical Belgium home and view those high pointed ceilings.

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One of the best ways to see Bruges is to go on the canal boat ride.  A lovely way to spend 30 minutes cruising down the canals.

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Or if it is raining, you can choose to do a carriage ride as they often have extra covering for protection.

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If you are looking for doing some siteseeing, the Church of Our Lady has an actual Michaelangelo statue of the Madonna and child.

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One of the oldest cathedrals in Bruges is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, also one of the prettiest cathedrals I have ever been in.

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Some other highlights for me include:

  •  Groeningemuseum which houses flemish art through the centuries including a beautiful Jan Van Eyck.
  • Choco-story which calls itself a museum but what you get is the history of chocolate which ultimately leads you to a chocolate gift shop.  Great place to go when the weather isn’t great and you’ll pick up some interesting informative facts about chocolate.
  • Lumina Domestica or the Lamp museum will give you the history of interior lighting.  We bought the ticket as a combined one with choco-story which is located in the same building. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of lamps, over 6000 of which are antiques.  Great if you are an interior design student!  Sadly no gift shop for lamp lovers at this museum.
  • Minnewater or the ‘Lake of Love’ a beautiful lake for lovers!

 

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I look forward to returning one day to Bruges.  I hear they do a great Christmas market in December.  I recommend it for those looking for a romantic getaway or even a short break with your girlfriends.  Great for shopping too!

 

Saying Goodbye (for now) to Eigg

Yes, I have written more than a few posts about the enchanting Isle of Eigg and maybe I am a wee bit obsessed with Eigg in a honest-to-goodness healthy sort of way.  Can I try and explain why?  Do I even need to?  Some may understand, some will not.  Although I am not a decent photographer by a long way, I think my pictures show that Eigg is a beautiful place.

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My photos don’t do it justice and funny enough, no one else’s photographs do either. I have seen some photographs taken by amazing photographers and those reveal only a bit of the beauty of Eigg. The reason I think is this: Eigg is a place of more than just visual beauty.  Eigg is a place of experiential beauty.  It may not be for everyone.  One reason, I suppose is that when you are there, you bring yourself there too.

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There is a sense of freedom on the Isle of Eigg.  I got the distinct impression from my conversation with Charlie that the human residents also enjoy this sense of freedom.  Yes, they are still Scottish but when I asked Charlie about it he said they feel a bit separate too from the rest of Scotland.  Some rules don’t seem to apply on Eigg such as wearing your seat-belt in the car and dogs being on leads.  On the other hand, there are no police on Eigg as there never seems to be any crime.  People who live on Eigg, live here because they love the place.  They don’t need much because there is natural beauty all around them.  Life is slower here.  Charlie talked about being able to sleep late most mornings.  People seem to have more time to breathe, live and create.  There are several creative individuals on the island, like Charlie’s wife Libby who makes beautiful felt artworks, All About Willow who supplied willow baskets for the TV series Outlander and A’Nead Hand Knitwear makers of beautiful cobweb lace products.  Obviously, this slow-paced life is balanced with lots of hard work as well.  Many of the locals are farmers or simply keep a few chickens and grow their own produce.  I am attracted to the idea of living here.  It isn’t for everyone and it has its own difficulties what with having only one shop and often having to do without if the shop has run out of something.  However, I sense people simply go with the flow and live life with less care and more child-like freedom than those on the main land.  I think I certainly would if I lived here.  As an outsider, I am not privy to any other acts of rebellion the islanders get up to but I get the feeling they have some (though I am sure quite innocent) good times here.

My last day on Eigg came after several days of non-stop rain.  I looked out through my bothy window DSCN1966_peand saw the Isle of Rum once more after not  being able to see it because of mist and rain.  I quickly got on my shoes and went outside breathing in what felt like freshly washed clean air.  I was relieved that the rain had stopped because that would mean my ferry wouldn’t be cancelled (or so I thought).  I went to Laig Bay and was met by Faolan.  It was a joy to spend time with my favorite dog on Eigg. As usual for Faolan, he left me first and went back home.  I saw him again when I was passing his house.  He was behind his fence and I went over and stroked his face and looked into his beautiful amber eyes and said goodbye.

On my way back from the beach, I looked over at Rum to see a rainbow rising from the sea right in front of it.  I remembered that a rainbow is a symbol of promise and I stopped and admired the rainbow and vowed that I would return to Eigg.

While on Eigg, I had some adventures and mishaps and joys and surprisingly many teachable moments.  I followed where I was led and learned when I was taught and on my last day thought this was the end of such adventures.  I think now, it was only the beginning…

 

Urban Highlander (Or a Former New York Yank in Rural Scotland)

The Isle of Eigg is home of the famous ‘Singing Sands’ beach.  Basically, the sand is made of quartz crystals and when you shuffle along it makes a chirping sound.  The drier the sand, the better the sound.  This is Scotland however and though I heard the sand sing in August when the sand was still rather damp, this time around in October I could procure no sound at all.  Still, the beach with its rough and wild paradisal beauty is well worth visiting. That is why one morning I left the bothy at 8:30 and made my way there again.

It is simply breath-taking.

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I cannot describe the elation I felt when I spotted the familiar Welly-boot Bridge DSCN1830and the sheer joy of being back on that shore even if the sand didn’t sing for me this time. I spent a good hour gazing through my binoculars and taking photos in total bliss.  DSCN2088

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I visited Singing Sands beach several times in the past and found my way there easily enough again. Which makes what happened a bit strange I guess for I managed to get lost coming back. Perhaps the beauty of the scenery played against my usual directional impairment.

Sheep?  Did I pass sheep coming here?

Didn’t I pass these ferns?  I am sure I passed these ferns.

Wait!  I am sure I went over this stone wall…or did I go over this stone wall?

The trouble I had with finding my way back wasn’t because I didn’t know which direction to walk. The Isle of Eigg is small and the bothy was not that long of a distance away from Singing Sands. However, there was more than one route I could take.  The route I ended up on seemed to want to take me through somebody’s farm.  Perhaps it is because I was brought up a city girl but I just thought it would be rude of me to trespass…and I dunno maybe dangerous?  I kept envisioning old-time American movies I had seen of men with rifles protecting their land from trespassers (and Charlie had made a few comments about wanting to shoot things and I never knew if it was in jest or not).  The way I had always taken had been less cumbersome and had less boggy areas.   I didn’t want to go by just any route, I wanted to go via the same route I had previously taken which didn’t bother anyone and was less of a hassle.

After trying different directions, I decided to go back toward Singing Sands to get my bearings.  Only yet again I was coming at it from a slightly different direction and managed to fall going over some slippery rocks…into a cow pat.

Luckily, it was just one of my water-proof hiking shoes which went into the cow pat. I decided I was going to have to go back to the beach to clean my shoe.  Maybe that decision made me further careless as I then managed to get both my feet ankle-deep in boggy mud while beginning to lose my balance and caused me to instinctively reach out a hand for support… on a barbed wire fence.  My fingers were now bleeding and I was muddy and embarrassed and hoping that after cleaning my water-proof hiking shoes I’ll be able to find my way back to the bothy without passing anyone.

I washed my shoes by the shore as best as I could but as luck would have it (and I was having none that day) I misjudged the tide and managed to get my water-proof hiking shoes completely submerged.

After cleaning my shoes, I made my way back to the bothy with the help of some volunteers who I happened to come across.  It was now about 1:30 and I hadn’t had breakfast and I looked a state but I was glad to be back and not stranded in a land full of cow manure!

My state of mind at that point was one of practicality.  My shoes had gotten muddy again on my way back and my jeans and socks were muddy as well.  So I washed them and laid them out to dry.  I started a fire in the stove, made some lunch as there was no point having breakfast at this time and because I intended to have a much-earned glass of wine.  I think I had two.

After a conversation with a fellow blogger (dhammafootsteps) who is Buddhist about many paths which possibly lead to the same direction, I was able to reflect upon the day’s mishap in a more thoughtful light.  Why do we choose a particular spiritual path? Do we avoid other paths because of fears we may have?  Are we afraid a different choice might offend or lead us down boggy paths?  Did I choose my path because I thought it was ‘cow pat’ free?

Actually, I think I chose my path in spite of the cow pats I expected to find.  After a while, I learned to dance around the cow pats.  After more time, I realize there were never any cow pats to begin with. I wish that had been true on the Isle of Eigg that day though.

A Faolan Islander

Wow, to be a dog living on the Isle of Eigg!  They really have it good here.  These canine residents enjoy a sense of freedom.  I have not seen a single dog on a lead.  One often sees them playing by the sea bounding about with a lot of energy which I can testify is part due to the cleaner, fresher air on Eigg.  These lovable creatures are very trusting of everyone and are super friendly. Comically enough, they appear to be always smiling much like many of the human residents on the island!

We made friends with many dogs here when our family visited last August, but two dogs in particular stood out for me. First there was Moss.  Moss belongs to the owner of Eigg’s only shop and luxury restaurant.  Moss is a sweet small collie who never got tired of playing fetch or tug-of-war…or rather she got tired but refused to give up. She followed us to the house we stayed in and played with us for hours in the garden.

Moss

 

Then there is Faolan (pronounced Foo-lan and is Gaelic for Little Wolf).  Faolan would meet us at the top of the path leading to Laig Beach and accompany us down to the beach to play fetch.

Faolan

However, he didn’t do this with just us.  He seemed to play with every visitor who went to the beach.  Faolan is an interesting dog.  He wasn’t affectionate, he just wanted to play.  I guess he was used to people coming and going that he didn’t allow himself to get too attached.  There was a look of intelligence about him. His beautiful amber eyes would gaze deeply into my eyes as if he was trying to communicate telepathically. He and I would play for quite a while on the beach until he would suddenly decide he had enough and then quickly leave me.  He’s a sort of independent dog who seems to make his own decisions and everyone else just has to work around him.  I love dogs in general but as crazy as this may sound, he almost seemed like an evolved dog or even a dog who chose to be a dog but on his own terms. I found him quite fascinating.  So you could imagine how I felt on my first day back on Eigg, when I saw Faolan again by the road near the Laig Beach path.

This time however, it was a whole different story.  When he saw me, his tail began wagging and he walked over to me with a grin (I am not kidding!) and greeted me with a nuzzle.  I like to think he actually remembered me and because I came back, I no longer had ‘stranger’ status. We were now old friends.  After meeting again for the first time in two months, I was now permitted to pet him.

I had the privilege of playing on the beach with Faolan a few times last week.  However, a couple of times, I would find him already engaged in play with some other visitor.  Which leads me to the reason why I see something a bit more in Faolan than other dogs.   On one particular day, I went down to the beach and Faolan was playing with a man and his little girl.  When Faolan saw me, he bounded up to me smiling (again dogs do smile!) and stood in front of me looking me in the face for a few seconds and then turned around and bounded off to play with the little girl and her father.  I understood what Faolan was saying to me.  It was so well communicated that I am sure he said something like this:

‘Hi there!  I just came over to make sure I greet you so you don’t feel I am ignoring you or anything, but I have a promise to keep to these other people.  You see I have already started playing with them and it would go against my sense of loyalty to abandon these nice people.  However, I see you and acknowledge you and maybe we can play later if we’re both free.’

I understood of course and I caught up with him on another day.