Trekking the Atlas Mountain

Our team of 11 just returned from a successful expedition to the Summit of the Atlas Mountain. We conquered mount Toubkal! 

We reached the summit in -15 degrees wind chill. After 4 days of climbing our enthusiastic and exhausted team dug deep, pulled together, held hands and one slow step after the other made that last 167meters to the top, to 4167meters. It took 1.5 painful hours to do that last little bit. Really really tough. 

We did it though. We stood on top of the clouds took in our view with tears flowing down our frozen faces, we did the trek to celebrate Mental health. 

My personal objective for organising this trek was to mark the end of a 10 year career where I played the lead role in building MHFA England, a social business, a mental health movement, a fabulous community and a successful business.

The 5 day trek reminded me that I love being part of a team and that I am agile and I adapt. 

I felt the strength of human endeavour and the spirit of a group of people on a shared mission. I felt physically exhausted and mentally strong. 

Everyone in this team inspired me for different reasons but my personal hero from this trip is my 17 year old daughter (Picture of her sat under a tree for a rest on our way up). She pushed herself to her complete strength and reached her personal summit at 4000m. Never before have I seen more determination and grit. I am proud of her. So lucky to be your mum. 

You can still sponsor us on 

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=whatthetrek&isTeam=true

An occasion at the airport

Making an occasion of airport goodbyes has been a thing in my family as long as I can remember.

It’s become a tradition and we expect my cousin to turn up with takeaway containers full of freshly cooked birani! 🍛. We expect to wave our family off until we can’t see them as the airport staff try and clear a path through our crowd to let others through 🙄. We usually takeover a few tables at an airport restaurant and we even have goodbye drop-in guests who just stop by the airport for that one last hug or Salam.

We essentially have a mini party where our people from different parts of our country congregate to say a passing goodbye…just in case it’s the last…

I went through a short phase in life when I used to find it all a bit embarrassing 🤦🏾‍♀️ now I have returned to – I LOVE that we turn up on mass to say goodbye to one person and I love that we bring a picnic and do it properly! 💪🏾🙏🏾

On this occasion we saw my mum, aunty and uncle off to Bangladesh for a long break. I loved wearing my peach cotton gamcha weave saree a signature design originally launched by @bibiproductions and a product of Bangladesh with an @asos top.

In case anyone is wondering a gamcha is hand towel size cotton material that is used for everything. It’s always checked and you see it literally everywhere in Bangladesh; on peoples heads to protect from sun, as towel to dry with, as a cloth to soak and cool down with. I remember my mum always tying her freshly washed hair to dry in a gamcha. Which is why I love this saree. It reminds me of childhood. (https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.thedailystar.net/lifestyle/cover-story/the-life-cycle-gamcha-1566922%3famp)

So this series of pics made me laugh so much on Saturday. I was desperately trying to get a picture of just me and mum and my saree….

Paying it forward 

Last day in Seattle and seeing the city from the water is on my mind. I’ve already had 3 awesome days in this stunning place.

So on this last day my absolute highlight was going to the Seattle ferry ticket office and asking ‘when is the next ferry out of here? where does it go? How long will it take?… Bremerton? 1 hour? 8$? Perfect!’ I’ve always wanted to do that, one day I’ll go to an airport and do the same! (Except with Brexit the choices might be limited)

When I arrived in Seattle last Friday, I had money (having learnt from my last trip abroad) and my first purchase was an ORCA card to get me around and I’d even taken my planning one step further by organising to meet family that evening! Pleased with my preparedness I boarded the train to downtown Seattle.

I got chatting to a fellow passenger Kito, who informed me that I needed to tap in and tap out with my ORCA, which I had failed to do, which means I may be fined (not feeling so smug anymore)! Oh well, I’d just have to deal with consequences when I exit.

Now Kito was very interesting he was a ‘Vietnam Era Veteran’ he wore a cap that said so. This meant he served during the Vietnam war era but not in Vietnam. In fact his job was to service aircrafts and he managed to avoid doing this by joining a choir led by the General’s wife who held rehearsals most days. He loved to sing  and he found a way to do what he loved all through his life. He was a proud man and he told me he came to Seattle for a weekend and never left, the air quality here was just too good! At my destination I thanked him for all the local ‘must do’ tips and for the friendly welcome to his City.

At the exit, the barriers were open and luckily I got away with my mistake. I made a mental note to pay my dues (my mums voice in my head reminding me to pay it forward).

I left my hotel late this morning hoping the opportunity to do so might arise. Seattle it would seem is as big on brunch as it is on portions! This afternoon’s food of choice was delicious noodle with tofu served in a box the size of my head!

As I found a sunny bench overlooking the water and began my brunch, I noticed a man with a brown cardboard sign, on it one word ‘homeless’ I placed the lid back on my enormous box and asked him if he’d like some food? ‘Hell yes! I’m starving!’ A few feet away there was another man who met my eyes, hopeful, I gave him what change I had. Opportunity ceased, dues paid (I could see a relieved look on my mums face. She believes bad things happen if you don’t give back)!

Arrived in Bremerton and sat drinking tea in The Coffee Oasis in a pint size cardboard cup. This happens to be a very quiet place with a big naval base. On my way to this cafe, I (literally) bumped into a man as he came out of the barrack security gates, after an apology he tells me his wife is about to give birth to their baby in hospital. I wished him well as he rushed off up the hill. He’s excitement was infectious and I’m still smiling wondering about the  gender of the baby.

To end this adventure I wondered back to my hotel through Pike St Market and noticed a shop with an Arabic sign, I popped in to see what it had to offer and guess what? Yes, my favourite Sesame Snaps! Perfect ending to a balanced trip.

When you arrive in a country, 24 hours away, with no money…

So being Bengali and more importantly from Portsmouth, I refuse to pay the extortionate exchange rate at the airport and decide that 40 Australian Dollars from the cashpoint is going to have to get me to Parramatta from Sydney and I’ll deal with my cash-less issue there later.
As directed by a lovely lady (who thought I was a student) with a big smile, smudged lipstick and a mother like demeanour, I go find my place at the bus stop. Second bus is the number 400 to Burwood, my next destination, except I have notes and the big beardy driver doesn’t take notes. However, from underneath all that facial hair there is a smile and he says ‘you’ll just have to go take a seat!’ ‘That’s very kind of you’ I say (my English sounding really English!). My new best friend tells me all about his travels and Egyptian wife and 30 minutes later I’m in Burwood.
This place is full of Thai and Chinese food and lots of hair dressers…full of older men being groomed…fascinating, I wonder if the bus driver ever tends to his beard using such services!
I’m very tempted by the food smells but bearing in mind it’s only 9.30am I decide to stay focused on my mission to get to my hotel. I have a lunch time meeting with a minister from Ireland. Besides I’m still full from DimSum breakfast.
I head to the shopping centre thinking there must be a money exchange place here. A nice young man in a bed linen shop tells me there isn’t and I should go find the bank. He even googles the exact location…three shops down…(I don’t think he goes to the bank very often!)
So to the bank. another lovely lady with smudged red lipstick (there is a market for quality lip liner here!?¿). She tells me that the cashier bit is closed and I can’t take any cash out on Saturday however there is a money exchange place next to the bed linen shop!
I’m thinking I should forget the money thing today and just get the hotel. She points me to train station across the road. Great. Direct trains! Ahh nowhere to buy tickets. I start talking to a young woman (no lipstick). Who kindly calls the ticket guy. Who tells me they are short staffed and he’s on the platform seeing a train in but he’ll be down in a bit. (It’s like Southern are following me around the world).
He turns out to be very helpful. Instead of 5dollars on a single I get an Opal card for 20 for the week – I can now travel on everything! I’m very excited by this concept and the icing on this little adventure is I find my favourite Sesame Snaps in the Opal shop too!

So 20 and a bit dollars, a few nice Australians and a sugar boost later I am here. Personal mission for my stay will now be to get every last moment out of my Opal card! Love having time for small adventures!