Beach weekends.

Waking up this morning, I looked out the window and saw sunshine. Real summer sunshine. For the first time since winter.

We have had highly unseasonal weather over the past few weeks. Being over half way through September, you would expect, given the tropical climate of our area that we would be nearly into our summer sunshine, 40 degree heat and wake up every morning to beautiful clear skies. Not the case. We have had torrential rain, unseasonal floods, high winds and rivers with burst banks. Although this morning, the wind was still there, the sun was out, and it has been warm enough all day to resort to usual summer attire of bikini and t shirt.

We’re now off to the beach. Because of the wind, there will be no waves, but there will be warm water, sunshine and clear skies.

What a way to spend a weekend.

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Vegetarian food at MozVolunteers

We *try* quite hard to make sure all our volunteers get a South African culinary experience when they join one of our projects. By the nature of the meal and rushed mornings, breakfast is nothing to shout about, lunch a packed sandwich, but at supper time, everyone is invited to site round the table on our verandah, next to an open fire if it is cold, and enjoy South African cuisine, from summer braais (bbqs), potjies and boboetie to butternut soups, samp and beans and other traditional Zulu meals.

Occasionally we have a vegetarian volunteer, then we usually refer back to the cook books, and often our days in Mozambique, where meat was expensive, poor quality and hard to come by, so naturally ate very little of it.

A favourite is our South African veggie burgers.

Ingredients:

1 x large butternut, peeled and cut into small portions

about 4 large potatoes

2 onions

1 small punnett mushrooms

1 small tin of ready-cooked kidney/sugar beans.

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 aubergine peeled and chopped

2 eggs

2 cups home made crumb coating (or shop bought to substitute)

2 cloves garlic

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

spices (we use paprika and a little curry powder)

1 chopped red birds eye chilli

salt and pepper to taste.

A little flour

Method

1. Fry onions and chilli in a little olive oil until cooked,. Add the aubergine, cook a little longer, add mushrooms and the cloves of garlic crushed, and fry off any spices too.

2. In a separate pan, boil potatoes (peeled and chopped into large portions) and butternut until soft.

3. Drain the potatoes and butternut and add into a dish with the onion mixture. Mix and leave to cool.

4. Add one egg, breadcrumbs and chopped, fresh parsley and mix until it sticks together.

5. Make into burger shapes.

6. Dip each burger into flour, then egg, then the home made breadcrumb coating.

7. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

8. Cook on a griddle for 1 minute each side with a little olive oil until sealed, then transfer all burgers into a greased oven dish and cook for around 30 minutes or until hot throughout.

Serve in hot buttered rolls (homemade are best 🙂 with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber from the garden, with Bean’s tomato chutney and real mayonnaise YUM.

Career Breaks

Who thinks of taking a career break?

Bean and I have been thinking recently about the kind of people who work in “City” jobs. I did my first degree at the University of Durham in the UK, whilst I was there, large, corporate companies appeared to use it as a recruitment ground: I lose count of the amount of invitations to “Champagne and Canapes with PriceWaterHouseCoopers” or “Dinner and Dancing at Deloitte’s Pleasure” invitations I received in my college pigeon hole. It sounds slightly archaic, but that’s how it was.

Now, it appears that an organisation called Escape the City founded by two of my contemporaries from Durham is assisting my old class-mates who were lured in by the promises of smoked salmon blinis and a glass of free bubbly (understandable on a student budget.. especially after the prices charged by the Doxbridge 3) to “escape” from this corporate rat race, and heart-attack-at-35 inducing lifestyles that people seem to fall into, apparently, erroneously.

Getting back to the point. At risk of sounding rather smug *grins* I was never seduced by the promises of gold plated office chairs. I was, however, entirely lured into the travelling trap, resultant lack of cash, and fell into my current lifestyle (which, actually, I believe is infinitely preferably to an office job in London, cash aside). As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, we are planning on expanding the opportunities MozVolunteers offer. In addition to the usual student/young person gap year-focused project participation, we are opening up to the idea of family volunteering holidays, ethical house parties (coming up… watch this space!) and of course the afore mentioned *career break*.

We are in need of skilled professionals, to come and help us with more than the basics. The career break “package” would of course include the contact with communities, management of specific aspects of our organisation, such as website management, teaching opportunities for specialists, health promotion opportunities for health specialists, management, all within the beautiful setting of our organisation, St Lucia Estuary (hippos and all) Monzi (living in an over-enthused farmhouse for the duration of your stay is a price you may have to pay..!) and the Indian Ocean. This is an opportunity for these highly professional individuals who wish to experience life out of the office to come and explore their passions, learn, teach, live, be outdoors, farm, eat fresh fruit straight off the tree (sometimes even lands straight on your bed if you’re lucky), camp out under the stars, eat by a fire, braai, love fresh, local food, search and explore and relax. All whilst sharing these skills with us. We need them.

We can’t promise blinis (braai and poitje?), French champagne (JC Le Roux do? South Africa does have some phenominal reds though…visit ) smoked salmon (aha. Smoked snoek. Much better AND fresh from the boat), gold plated office chair (umm antique wooden leather affair) or limo transport (a ride on the back of a battered toyota bakkie will have to suffice). What we can promise is good food, great friendships, beautiful places, warm, clear water of the Indian Ocean and wonderful wine, helping, learning, teaching and experiencing.

Come on, have I persuaded you yet? Take a career break and join MozVolunteers email alex@movzolunteers.com and really come and experience what you’re missing.

Family volunteering holidays? what do you think.

Family holidays.  My memories include a rainy experience in a caravan near a beach somewhere in England, Bean on the other hand reminisces fondly of weeks on end spent basking in sunshine, sleeping in beach huts on Cape Vidal dunes and hours whiled away fishing and surfing, checking rock pools for interesting creatures and enjoying beach braais with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents.

In this age of ethical travel, and responsible tourism, surely we should start to consider an alternative to the typical high cost, highly unethical, overseas family holiday?

Family volunteering holidays may well be such an alternative…

We at MozVolunteers started offering volunteering as a family holiday experience a few years ago, and, whilst I have to admit we haven’t had quite the influx of punters we were initially hoping for, the five or so families who have taken up our all inclusive family volunteer packages have enjoyed the experience more than we could ever have expected or hoped for.

So, why bring your family to South Africa to volunteer, instead of searching on booking.com or lastminute.com for that late reservation hit of sunshine, sparkly pool with adjacent loungers and evening buffet meals?

We believe that family volunteering provides all you would want from a family holiday along with the added bonus of giving something back to the area that you so enjoy when you are there for a couple of weeks.

We affordably combine voluntary tasks, with tours and safaris, picnics and excursions to amenities in our area, all whilst staying in our comfortable family room in our volunteer house. We have the knowledge of the local area to provide you with up to date, sensible information about what to do in chill out time, where to go, where to avoid, and above all, what’s great to occupy the kids when you and the best beloved want some down time.  We provide you with choices for the different activities you can experience in our local area (of which there are many: snorkelling, scuba, surf lessons, BIG 5 safaris, parks, world heritage sites, cheetah conservation, rhino conservation, mozambique, scuba, swaziland, craft markets, beaches and many, many more) and give you the opportunity to sit back and relax, and enjoy the “all inclusive” nature of the package (i.e. all meals provided, a rest from the cooking!)

On a more serious note, volunteering as a family allows you to give something back, allows you to gain an enhanced understanding of the disadvantaged circumstances of others, and share the experience of this understanding and helping.  This is a rewarding opportunity to make life-long family friendships and care for others.  It means also that the kids are never short of others to play with, and is a contact for when little princess turns 18 and decides she wants a round the world ticket for her birthday in order to “find herself”.  Surely you would feel happier knowing first hand the kind of organisation she’s joining for 6 months?

So next time you browse through a holiday bookings website, take a quick moment and visit http://www.mozvolunteers.com – maybe you’ll take the opportunity to book this low cost option to South Africa, and experience what we really think is a holiday opportunity of a lifetime, a family vacation with a real difference.

Lion

Battle-scarred and bruised, we found an old male lion walking by the side of the bush in Hluhluwe Imfolozi when we took volunteers to try and find the Big 5. He was with his mate, a tired-looking lioness, and another mating pair. We were lucky enough to observe them alone for about 90 minutes. After that, we quietly pulled away and left them sleeping in the long grass at the side of the road.

This was one of the most peaceful experiences watching lions in the park I have ever had. We were extremely lucky that they didn’t mind us sitting quietly looking at them for so long.

Hopefully the next trip to the park will have a similar experience. I do have a feeling, however that this was one in a million.

Battle-scarred and bruised.