12 April 2014

shoes for college

While I was staying with family in the Southern Highlands of NSW, we went to the local show (or fair).  There were a number of stalls which I stopped to look at that had fair trade and post-slavery made products.  There's quite a range out there these days.  What I did buy were these fantastic sandals.  So inventive but with a great story behind it.  As the slogan says, "Every sandal has a story."

"Sseko (SAY-ko) Designs is an ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment that will go directly towards their college educations and ensure they will continue pursuing their dreams...We believe that every woman has a dream. When she is given the opportunity to pursue those dreams, we are collectively walking towards a brighter and more just and beautiful world."

The people at the stall also passionately told me how often the Ugandan women finish high school and don't get the opportunity to go to college.  The women Sseko employ for a short period provide not only income to save for college but also bring in people to speak to the women to inspire them and help guide them in their choices for further education.  I love the support these shoes provide...and not just to me!

Sseko sandals are bought in two parts: the sole and the ribbon.  The sole is well made and has elastic loops to thread the ribbons through to tie the sole to your foot.  This, along with the huge choice of ribbons, allows for a whole assortment of styles from the one pair of sandals.  Ingenious!  So far mine are fairing very well and I'm very happy with the quality and the feel.  And since I'm living in Sydney, there's lots of opportunity to wear them--even in the middle of Autumn.  Below are some of the styles I've tried.  The Sseko ones you can learn how to tie from their site but the other ones are my own twist.  I bought the red ribbon at the local show stall along with the soles and the floral ones I made from fabric I had and the black ones are just a length of lace ribbon I bought.  The ribbons I made I added extra length for easier wrapping of my chunky feet.  I want to buy another Sseko ribbon with a pattern though. 

Sseko also have other items for sale and you can also find out lots more from the Sseko Designs website.  If you want to buy some in Australia you can try this website.

Quality in product and ethics.  Bonus.

03 April 2014

change change change

I'm someone who likes to settle into a groove.  I like being comfortable and knowing how things roll.  I like having the same ol' friends whom I know well and who know me.  It's therefore a little strange to realise how much change has happened in my life since I moved out of home ten years ago.  In that time I've not stayed anywhere for longer than two years and I've only done that twice.  I've lived in three different countries and visited a dozen more and I've had at least 15 different jobs.  And certainly there has been a lot of changes in myself and who I am as a result.  Hopefully it's been mostly positive growth.  A bunch of these changes were unexpected exits from the path I was cruising along on and some quite sudden.  My summer has been an interesting season of change.

About a week or so after my last post I was told the family were moving to Bali to help set up some stores in the airport there.  My 12month contract suddenly became a lot shorter.  They were a delightful family and it was a little sad on my part but an exciting adventure for them.  I had a month to pack up and move on.  Early December I said goodbye and my lovely big brother picked me and my load up and drove me off to his house a couple hours out of Sydney in the Southern Highlands.  The week I moved in with them was the week they were moving house so there was lots of cleaning, carting and entertaining their youngest to help out.  I did squeeze in a birthday treat for my sister-in-law and took her shopping for the best part of a day with intense chocolate themed afternoon tea.

I then went to Canberra for a two week stint as a trial for a job.  This family sought me out and practically tried their best to persuade me to come which is an interesting way to be offered a job.  Twin 6yo boys was  a bit of change after years of under 5 care.  I actually found I missed little kids.  Canberra is a lovely place though.  Quite relaxed and filled with nature.  Half the time when I was driving places it seriously looked like I was driving through country.  I also got to catch up with a lovely couple I met on my Scotland tour and then ended up living close by them in London.  We went together and saw the house which had the Guiness World Record for having the most Christmas lights on a domestic property.

After two weeks I finally decided to take the job (such a torment to myself to suggest a two week trial which I then had to make a decision at the end of when I usually give myself a month to settle into a new job) and returned to the Southern Highlands for a much anticipated family Christmas.  Unfortunately my sister and her family couldn't make the 12hr drive up but I was so delighted to share Christmas with the rest of my family again after two years away.  With four family groups totaling thirteen people we organised a basic meal plan for the week and a helping duties roster.  It was fun going shopping with the women, celebrating Christmas with an indulgent lunch and opening presents together, having a family beach day (enjoying real beaches in hot weather but not so much the scoring a bad sunburn), relaxing and dressing up and playing games to celebrate the arrival of the new year.  I camped out the longest with my big brother's family since my new job didn't officially start until 20th January.  I got to watch (and explain some) cricket with my nephews, draw with my nieces, celebrate the youngest's 2nd birthday and treat them to movies as well as typical hanging out stuff.  I also particularly enjoyed the evenings with just the adults talking and watching shows like "The Long Way Round".  I also used my brother's car for an overnight trip to Canberra to move my stuff in and went to watch England play the PMs XI and finally got to see England win after a dismal performance all summer.  A week after that quick trip I headed back there to begin my new job.

School kids are a bit different to work with.  I've not previously looked after only school aged children before either.  I missed the cuteness of toddlers and older children are more intelligent and knowledgeable in their objections to follow directions.  I found it challenging though for the most part it was quite ok.  It was lovely to sit by the pool while the boys swam and call it 'work'.  I was in Australia's capital city for Australia Day and watched the firework display from Capital Hill where parliament go about their business.  I explored the city during school hours visiting parks and shopping centres and watching the amazing work of the glassblowers and got myself set up and started meeting people only to find out two weeks into this new job that the parents realised they didn't really need a live-in nanny.  I worked two more weeks before I packed up again and used the family car to move back in with my brother.

So I began the mentally arduous task of searching out a new job.  For a while I seriously considered going to New Zealand since I wasn't locked into life here and I don't need a visa and it's one place I'd quite like to visit.  I even applied for a number of positions.  After receiving the same advice from a few different agencies that it's unlikely I'll get a job until I'm there to interview in person, I decided to look in Sydney again as I didn't have the funds to stay long in NZ without an income.  So perhaps in the near future I'll get there.  In between the job hunting I took the time to enjoy being with my family.  I took my two year old niece out to a playcentre and bought her fairy bread and I took the boys to the International Cricket Hall of Fame (The Bradman Museum) and we got to see Carberry's bat that strangely just snapped in two during a match. The boys learnt how to play Age of Empire 2 and my S-i-L and I managed to link our computers up to play together (we even had multiple evenings after the kids were in bed where we played too).  I had some great chats with her during the day while the older kids were at school too and I got to see the Mainly Music group that they started up in the area.  My 2yo niece loves music and dancing and gets right into watching Playschool on tv too laughing, repeating things and jumping about when they do.  I also got to see countless drawings by my older niece that are increasing in talent and experimentation as well as hear her incredibly natural singing talent on the odd occasion and be there for her 14th birthday.

 Towards the end of another five week stay with them I had a week of drama in the decision making department after an interview I had in Sydney.  It felt like it would be a good job in a number of ways but there were a few things I just wasn't sure about. But after talking it over, thinking it through, praying about it, and further talks with the family I felt good about it and said I'd be happy to take the job.  I then had to wait a couple more days before I was officially offered the job and I spent a final week in the Southern Highlands before packing my bags again.

And that brings me to now.  I'm two weeks into my new job and so far so good.  I think personality wise I fit pretty well with this family.  They have two boys 5yo and 2yo and mostly it's just before and after school.  The 2yo goes to daycare three days per week so I have him for two full days.    I have a sweet hub of my own scoring the top floor bedroom with ensuite and balcony.  Below was this morning's view toward the Pacific Ocean just beyond those hills and Sydney city is just a little way to the right over the iconic Harbour Bridge. It's still early days but it's also been the best start to a new job that I've had. I'll just live the moments that come and see how the rest rolls out.