The following post is an excerpt from my journal written while on holiday in Ethiopia last December. We were visiting our daughter who was teaching at Bingham Academy, an international school in Addis Ababa. After leaving Ethiopia we travelled to Morocco and Spain. I’ll write about those countries soon.
Saturday 10th December 2011: Addis Ababa
We are becoming acclimatised to the altitude here. Both my wife and I had the best night’s sleep since arriving. Our daughter also slept well after getting little sleep the night before due to her pain.
We were able to sleep in for a while and didn’t go for a walk before breakfast. After eating I wrote several long emails, including a newsletter to family and friends.
At 9:45am we all bundled into a school van to go shopping for the day. One of the staff members was the designated driver. His wife and two of their three children came too, as well as another of the teachers.
Our first stop was at the ALERT Leprosy Centre. Our main interest was to visit the shop to buy some of the craft work made by the patients. We also watched some of the people doing their craft work, including an endearing man weaving mats despite having no fingers. My wife bought several items but had to leave some things she wanted due to not having enough cash. We decided to hire a driver next week to return to the shop.
From there we visited a silk shop attached to a very nice private house with a magnificent garden. I took a few photos of the garden and several birds while my wife bought herself a silk scarf and a bead necklace for her birthday.
Despite much confusion and several phone calls to other teachers, we eventually found Sishu, a lovely restaurant near the centre of the city. Our hamburgers were great despite waiting a long time due to many customers.
We then drove the short distance to the craft shops near the main post office. These catered for the tourist trade and were amazing for the variety of things sold, from T-shirts to swords. We bought several carry bags while our daughter managed to find several items on her Christmas shopping list.
My wife and I have just returned from a six and a half week trip to Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. During that time I wrote an extensive journal every day. In the coming weeks I will publish excerpts from that journal here on my writing site. It will include accounts of what we did, what we saw and reflections on what we experienced.
Sunday 4th December: Dubai Airport
I am writing this in Dubai Airport at 6:15am local time after an exhausting but great trip so far.
In the days leading up to our departure we were extremely busy, first packing up and cleaning my mother in law’s unit and shade house. A friend helped me with the dismantling of the shade house and moving the plants out to our place.
Over the last few days we made last minute preparations for our big adventure overseas. This included checking the plant dripper systems, cleaning the yard, mulching the roses and other plants and gathering all we needed for the trip, including last minute purchases like extra camera memory cards, medicines and so forth. We packed our bags and everything was ready to depart. A major last minute problem mid morning was Corinne misplacing her reading glasses which quite distressed her. She took her computer glasses instead.
Our friends arrived at 2pm to drive us to Adelaide Airport. We had a pleasant trip with lots of chatter, mainly from me as Corinne was quite subdued. We were both very tired and she was perhaps nervous about her journey. I know I was and this is quite normal.
Our flight was at 5:35pm so we had time to check in and then have a drink, a muffin and a slice of carrot cake. Our flight was delayed by 25 minutes but we made good time to Melbourne. It was odd going in the wrong direction, but Emirates do not fly out of Adelaide.
Our friends from Gisborne near Melbourne were waiting for us when we arrived and after getting our boarding passes we had a cuppa with them. It was great seeing them and chatting for an hour. We then went through security and customs before lining up to board. Our flight to Dubai was uneventful, generally smooth but very long. Favourable winds meant just over 13 hours of flight (instead of 14 hours) and we arrived at about 5am local time. Corinne managed a few hours’ sleep but I think I only had a few short naps. We bought a drink at Starbucks and sat there writing in our journals, waiting for our flight to Addis Ababa.
It has been a long time since my last post here – far too long. Sorry about that.
Late last year there was a family situation which required a great deal of my time and energy, and then my wife and I left Australia for a six and a half week holiday in Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. I had limited internet access during that time so no posts appeared here. Besides, we were having too much fun exploring new countries and having wonderful experiences. I’ll be writing about these experiences and showing my 1000s of photos on my other sites, Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels.
While I was away I still kept up my writing. Every day I added new entries in a journal. In all I wrote nearly 140 pages describing what we’d done and seen, and responses to those experiences. Much of that journal will be expanded and posted on my travel site. The beauty of having a book to write in as my journal was the convenience factor. I didn’t take my laptop with me though I could have used my daughter’s computer. Instead, I could write in my journal anywhere: on the plane, in the waiting lounge of airports, on a train (we used trains a lot in Morocco and Spain), in bed or even in the garden.
Taking a notebook with you wherever you go is an important way of keeping your writing moving along and developing. You can jot down anything that comes to mind: a scene, a description of a character based on a real person, accounts of little scenes that may make it into a novel or short story, or even a poem or two as you are having a coffee break.
During my travelling time I wrote in my journal every day. But I also wrote a great deal of poetry. I usually can only produce a dozen or two good poems a year, but in the last 7 weeks I’ve written 55 poems, so inspirational was the journey. Some are haiku but most are much longer impressions of what I was seeing and doing. All the non-haiku poems were free verse. Some will find their way onto this site in coming weeks.
We went to Ethiopia first to visit our daughter who had been teaching in an international school in Addis Ababa. What they are doing there is inspirational and she is planning on returning in a few years’ time. After two weeks there, my wife and I, accompanied by our daughter, toured Morocco and Spain, spending two weeks in each. Many of our experiences will inevitably find their way into short stories, more poems and even a book or two. My wife has already come up with a picture book idea based in Ethiopia.
I had a good day of writing today.
It’s noteworthy because such days have been rather a rarity of late. After the rush and intensity to finish my degree last year I allowed myself some space for a few weeks to recover. An unwelcome side effect has been losing momentum with my writing. Sure, I’ve been doing a little here and there, but it has been very spasmodic and not at all intentional or planned.
Time to get on with serious writing again. I’ve actually been thinking in this way for quite a few weeks, but a few health and life issues intervened. Today was different and I have much to show for it. I was under way with a short project early this morning and haven’t let up all day. It is very satisfying when the words flow freely. I managed over 4800 words today, the most I’ve ever done in a day if my memory is correct. (My memory is increasingly failing me, but that’s another story.)
The writing project I started – and finished – today was updating my personal journal. I like to write in this journal at least once a week – more often if I can – and I hadn’t done anything in it all year. I’d recommend writing a journal if you don’t already have one. I find that journal writing gives me excellent writing practice, it clarifies my thinking on many important issues – quite often not writing related – and it records major events in my life. My journal has an audience of one: me. Someday my children or grandchildren may get to read it. That’s not why I write it.
Some writers do not understand the power of regularly writing in a personal journal.
Journal writing is an excellent way of honing many writing skills that are essential to the writing process. It doesn’t matter much whether you write fiction, non-fiction, articles or blogs, regular writing practice is essential. If possible, I’d encourage all writers, especially beginner writers, to write every day, even if in the first few months or years journal writing is all you do.
I’ve kept a personal journal since July 1990. That means the 20th anniversary is coming up very soon; I must remember to celebrate it here on this blog. I write about anything that comes to mind about events and people in my life. I filled several hand written volumes at first but in recent years I have tended to use my computer. One day I might get around to printing it all out and binding the pages into booklets.
More recently I have also been keeping a writing journal. In this I have recorded the processes I have gone through in writing my stories, especially my recent novels. The journals include details of my ideas, sources of inspiration, research findings and the decisions I had to make along the way. In part you can read how I went about ‘Writing a Novel’ here.
When I was a classroom teacher I used Journal Writing as an integral part of encouraging children to write. The skills developed in my programme had some amazing results, not just with writing. I wrote about it in this article: The Power of Journal Writing – a Story of Hope.
This article relates the experience I had with one of my former students. I bring it to your attention now – especially for my many new readers who may have missed it at the time.