Tag Archives: planning

Spring has Sprung – Time to start getting ready.

A glorious spring is upon us here in the UK (for now!) and as the bones warm up, and we emerge from our caves, the first thing I start to think about is getting ready for summer.

With a plan of actions in hand – I have paused.

Once again I ponder the value add of doing a journey through Europe much in the same way as we did Africa.  Whilst the challenges are there no doubt, the question that keeps coming back to me is:

What is the real value to be gained for Sofia?

It is very nice to see amazing places and interesting cultures different from her own, to learn about trusting life and her own ability to live in it – In large part however, these goals were achieved in Africa.  I would like to build on that rather than to simply repeat and run the risk that it becomes meaningless for her – a banality that she can otherwise choose to avoid because it is too much effort.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea of travelling for the sake of travelling, however, I don’t see this as a holiday, I want it to have purpose and meaning, and Autism Awareness is not enough on it’s own to see this journey through on its own as there is limited opportunity through language barriers to meet Autism organisations in Europe.

For me, it needs to have purpose and meaning for Sofia in some measurable way that she feels she has been challenged, over come the challenge and has grown as a result.

A couple of months ago – with the same nagging feeling, I started looking into making it a physical challenge, however, Sofia wasn’t ready for it and I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the ‘big journey’ idea.

Today, however, with the sun shining and the prospect of getting into action and ready for a journey, I am now looking at the question with new eyes.  I am now thinking about what it is that Sofia and I can do, that piques her interest in a positive way, but is a challenge for her to achieve through the insecurities of autism.  That once achieved, she will be a more confident about her own talents and more committed to them because she will start grasp that actually she has something of value to offer the world.

Of course it has to be on the motorbike!

I do have an idea –   Watch this space!

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A Mazungu in a Mutatu

We have now been in Kenya for almost a month and practically the entire time has been in Nairobi waiting for the the bike to be good to get back on the road. I hope now that in the next few days the wait will be over and we will no longer be mazungus (white skinned) in a mutatu (mini bus public transport)

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The inside experience of a mutatu! blurred as it raced over bumpy roads, and packed to the rafters with people – thankfully it was only a short ride to the local shopping centre!
So what has happened in this last month? From an autism perspective, we have met with a couple of charities in Nairobi. The founder of Autism Society of Kenya and principle advocate in Kenyan government, Felicity, met us for lunch and we found out about the remarkable progress that she has made in the last 10 years in terms of getting recognition for Autism in the Education Ministry, and on the day we met, how she received her first email from the Health Ministry acknowledging the need for a committee to be established to identify the needs presented by autism. Felicity has also been involved with outreach programmes but is constantly struggling to find sufficient funding to continue this work.

Knowing the struggle to get any recognition for autism in Africa, it was nothing short of a miracle to hear her story. She puts much of her success down to her previous involvement within government (from a nutrition education standpoint) which has helped her to understand the process, and effectively identify the contacts, follow the right processes, and use her her existing reputation as an expert to ensure that she is heard. Behind all of this however, is her drive an commitment to establishing an effective support system for autism that springs from her grandson’s diagnosis. Indeed, it was only through taking him physically to the registration office to register the charity, that she was able to convince the registrar that autism was real so that the charity would be registered.

I also had the opportunity to meet (albeit briefly) another star on the autism scene in Nairobi, James. Having worked with children with autism in New York, he returned to Kenya committed to helping families affected by autism. Setting up the Autism Support Centre, James works to help parents by bringing them together, providing information, and helping to apply pressure to get more support for their children. I was kindly invited to attend a parents group on a Saturday morning to speak a little about what Sofia and I were doing. I wasn’t the only speaker, as other parents where also invited to speak with the subject of discussion being Autism and Sexuality.

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A full house of parents in attendence
It was a wonderful experience and really interesting to hear about the cultural challenges that parents were facing and wonderful to see a couple of the speakers being fathers, as well as a number of fathers in the the audience. On this particular subject line major concerns included sexual abuse of the child due to their increased vulnerability, and accusations of harassment (perhaps hugging strangers, or staring inappropriately) in a country where very few people outside the community have any knowledge or understanding and the law does not take any account of disability when considering a case should it be brought to court. The primary message however was hope, hope for the mothers who’s husbands refused to be involved, hope for parents concerned about the future and how they will cope, hope that despite autism, that into adult life there was every opportunity for their children to experience normality – as one parent put it: I am still hopeful that my son will find love and get married, even if it means his wife will live with us I will be a very happy man.

 

All in all, this time in Nairobi has been about interesting people. We have been staying at a major overland rest stop and mechanic shop, and whilst Sofia has been doing her utmost to make up for lost TV time both past and future, I have been regaled with wonderful travel stories – from the guy who was asked for the police report for his stolen car because he may have stolen it from himself, to the couple who seemed to have more than their fare share of break downs and improvised solutions like using margarine as grease, draining a pond of water because they were stuck in it, and a ranger vehicle running out petrol on them as it was coming to rescue them from the bush! But the time has definitely come to leave, as I become more frustrated with the stagnation and concerned about the finances, and judgements are starting to be made about my lack of control over Sofia’s TV obsession by the longer term punters of the Jungle Junction establishment. Judgemental strangers is part of what it is to be a parent of autism, as few people take the time to find out more about why things might be the way they are and even less interested to accept autism as a valid reason to any behaviour that they personally disapprove of. Yes I definitely feel it is time to go! 😀

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Taking the carburettors apart and fixing the issue of petrol flooding into the cylinders

Please donate to help us raise awareness from autism – with the cost of fixes to the bike we are now very low on funds, so please donate even a couple of dollars and it will see us getting a few extra kilometres down the road – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

Leaving as Soon as Possible After the 10th November!

Sometimes a fixed date is not what the universe wants, and certainly in our case, leaving on our journey, it is unlikely we are going to know what actual day we leave, possibly until we have left!  What I can say is that we need to be in Africa by Christmas so we can avoid the rains in northern Kenya.

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Sofia at Brightona – The bike meet on Brighton sea front

Reasons for the leaving date has become fluid is multiple, and trying to force any of them to comply to a fixed dated feels wrong as they all have their own time to develop.

The first reason to present itself was my riding skills.  Granted, I’ve not see much of the bike over the summer with it being in an out of the workshop all summer and one mechanic holding it for a month for now reason too boot.  Now finally it is stablised! yay!

Out Training with Mick of MPC Ural Motorcycles
Out Training with Mick of MPC Ural Motorcycles

This has seen a number of forays into the world of off road, both with and without experienced back up, and I’m pleased to announce that not only have I clearly returned alive, but as a result my confidence and skill has been improving.  My most recent story I posted on our Facebook page – Africa With Autism.  For me what is important (because the expectation to ride like I have 20 yrs experience is not my agenda) is that I am able to work through situations on the road that might occur.  I feel now that I will be able to do that.  The fear and panic has now given way to a proactive approach to problems.  I’m still learning though, as you can see from the post!

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Out training with Dave (retired) in the Devils Punch Bowl, Hindhead

Another aspect to the date is Sofia’s school application process for September 2016.  Sofia in now in her transition year, which is effectively her final year of Junior school.  As she has special educational needs, there is a process by which senior schools are applied for.   One of the reasons this trip is possible is that it fits nicely within the process within the process.  We do however, need to ensure that all the paperwork has been done before we leave.  This is something we can’t put a date on as yet especially as the school we are choosing needs to finish its assessment process.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest show stopper of them all is the finances!  We are otherwise ready to go.  We have nearly all the kit, The bike is almost ready, and will make its final trip for tyres and modifications etc next week.  Financially though, we need a lot of money to get this project on the road.  Yes, believe it or not, it is the paper work that costs the most, and there is a lot of paper work that needs to be completed. It is the single biggest reason why many who would love to travel overland, don’t.   So now the project becomes a challenge to win hearts and minds for autism, and help create an amazing story with which to raise funds for autism for years to come.

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Phew! Glad that Month is Over!

11214293_1133029870045567_694130978274829796_nFinally I am sitting under the awning at the caravan site feeling some semblance of relaxation!  A beautiful sunny day with fluffy clouds belies the journey of the last month to get here.

First was the moving and down sizing to a caravan to prepare ourselves for the trip.  I’ve moved before, but nothing resembles what this was like.  On the one hand it was such a relief to get rid of so much stuff, but somehow the packing and storing what we were going to keep, and sorting out what would make it to the next stage in our journey was stressful.  Organising, deciding, coordinating and worst of all finding new homes for our pets.

11050783_1131211920227362_942331995977007826_nSomehow it all happened, and with far more stress than was necessary, most likely because I was always conscious of making it as smooth as possible for Sofia.  Sofia, who has actually coped with it all far better than I have.  Yes, she has had her meltdowns, and currently every morning, she is going off the handle about something as soon as I wake up, but it could have been far worse, so I am incredibly proud of her and very optimistic about her ability to do this adventure.

A wonderful validation has been speaking to another parent on the camp site yesterday evening who told me that Sofia had told them about our adventure and was clearly really looking forward to it!  Yay!

Of course the month would not slip away quietly, and like a storm that brews a builds, so did my crisis-o-metre, which hit the red when I received an email from the mechanic, who was making the bike and sidecar expedition ready, informing me he was not longer going to do the work.  The why’s and wherefores was completely irrelevant at the end of the day for me, all I saw was someone trusted sweep the carpet from under my feet and I went into total meltdown myself!  Whilst I didn’t feel it was the end of the project, suddenly it was in total jeopardy as we no longer had an expedition ready bike, and I have no intention of setting off on a bike that hasn’t been prepared

After a couple of days of feeling completely hopeless, I finally had a good nights sleep and now back in the saddle and ready to make this trip happen once again.

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The foot note to all this is that I am so glad I decided to experience the downsizing stress now rather than wait for the trip.  Even if Sofia seems to be adapting to it in her own way better than expected, clearly for me it is a different story and I would have hated to go through a crisis whilst on the road in another country, and this is true with the mechanic as well.  I would hate to have had that kind of response when we were in desperate need of help out in the bush!    I think we are cool now, but we are parting ways amicably I believe and the bike will find a new doctor to take care of it before we leave.

Above all though, I think I am amazing myself about how important this trip is to me for us to do it.  Yes I felt that it was important to do for Sofia from the beginning, but I think this month has been a make or break challenge for me personally, and I think, coming out the other end, we are both going to cope with what is ahead of us.

We still have a lot of money to raise in the next couple of months – so please donate!

UK tax payers – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

All other countries – http://www.gofundme.com/africawithautism

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5 Months to Go (ish)

Life is moving so fast as the moment, that it is all becoming a bit of a blur!  With in that blur are some key things that have changed in the plan, some for the betterment of the trip, some that will make things a little more challenging.

The Overland Event
The Overland Event

The biggest impact on life right now is the decision to start spending time in a caravan.  The story of how this came about is a long one, but ultimately, the need to prepare Sofia for life style of no immediate access to TV and internet comes to the forefront as she will need to start to find other ways to occupy herself.   It will be a huge adjustment for her and one that is better to happen before we leave when I can give her the attention, than when we are on the road and I have a million things to focus on.

Safari through the New Forest
Safari through the New Forest

 

The plan has changed in other ways too, not least because there is definitely an escalation of ‘trouble’ in the world.  I certainly expected at some point that Egypt and Turkey would be more directly subject to events, however, I believed that would be next year, long after we have past through.  The issues are still mild in both those countries, however, the a yellow flag is raised for me and so not only have I been looking for alternative boats to take us across the Med but will look to seeing if we can bring the timeline forward a little.  Either way, I plan to have a definite date of departure in the next few days, either with a pre-booked crossing or a plan to arrive in port (Italy or Greece) and find a way across when we get there.

Encouraging Sofia to look and see!
Encouraging Sofia to look and see!

One thing I am certain of is that we will not be cancelling as I fully intend to we get through before any serious escalation occurs.   And as happens with changes like these other aspects change to meet the requirement.  The best one being the school I would like Sofia to go to on our return, who have started their assessment process earlier initially to ensure that we would be ready for December, but clearly this will allow and earlier timeline to occur as well.

Please donate http://www.gofundme.com/africawithautism

If you are a UK tax payer, please donate here for Gift Aid http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

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