People are amazing creatures. All individuals, all slightly tweaked versions of one another, yet all drawn to different things as we grow up. As kids we’re pretty much the same, easily pleased by similar things, yet as we grow we start to become different, interests develop, pastimes are forged, firm friends are made, experiences are had and you start feeling the things your parents used to talk about called ‘draughts’ (not the game), but that’s only one side of the coin.
On the flipside is the other person that is developing: the ‘professional side’. Be it school, college or university, there's always a goal in place for you. I still remember when I did my ISCO test I got career options such as tree surgery, jewelry design, graphic design and armed forces. Mainly because I was interested in making stuff and the outdoors, accuracy at its best- I can almost hear David Cameron reading me the results.
Many of us follow down the route that has become common place over the last 80 years, the so-called normal life: 9-5 job in a obscure occupation suggested when you were 17, or one you fell into because you didn’t have a clue what you really wanted to do at the time. Married at 30, kids at 32, buy a house and live out the days doing the same thing everyday.
Us lucky people, the choices, the opportunities and the double life.
A few years back I opted out, I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do and what I was doing was repetitive and dull. I wanted to do my own thing, so I settled for the woods, a treehouse and the simple life of a hunter-gatherer for six months, with very little idea where it would take me. Living off about £8 a week on staples, foraging, hunting and growing veggies to make ends meet and with a bartery deal of occasional farmhand work for the land use, I became a free man.
That’s not to say I’m into all that crusty, hippy commune bollocks. It’s not really, like…my bag, man. But what that experience taught me is that there are, as there always have been, four main ingredients to life: food, water, shelter, fire. If you have all those then you are living. We fill our lives with a lot of things we don’t really need (yes I have an iphone- because they’re like a Swiss army knife- useful), but how attached to these things do you need to become beyond using it as a tool and means of communication?
This isn’t a hard hitting post about how fortunate we are in the UK and how less fortunate they might in my next destination. The thought of Ethiopia conjures up one thought from my past- food, and the lack of it. I was two years old when the famine hit the country big time. So what’s it like thirty years later and how have things changed?
I don’t tend to hit up London much these days, when I do it is always a fleeting visit before heading back to the sticks, but one thing I can imagine is that I’ll be bumping into a lot more cheerful folk than I would on the London underground. In my experience of visiting places in Africa and the South Pacific in the past, people who have less are often happier. Their lives aren’t as cluttered with the unnecessary rubbish that we in the UK like to fill it with.
Talking of luck, World Vision UK have very kindly invited me out to see what has happened in Ethiopia 30 years later. I will be spending a week or so visiting some of the organisation's ADPs (Area Development Programs) this month. From projects around the capital Addis Ababa, heading north to the Antsokia valley and south to Lake Assawa. Having downsized myself a few years back a vast step beyond the idyll of Whipping-tool’s ‘River Cottage’ series, I’m eager to see how these people live, how they cook, what they eat and how they produce it, what they do for meat? I’ve heard rumours that hunting and gathering is not an option in Ethiopia, from a legal point of view. So beyond an agricultural or pastoral existence- what options are open to the people of Ethiopia?
I’m sure there’s going to be some epic things to see, some great people to meet and some fine experiences to be had. Myself and two other writers will be reporting back what we see- Helen Graves of foodstories.com and Jo Middleton of slummysinglemummy.com
I’ve travelled a bit and I’ve been to some places and seen some stuff. I have also had my reservations about NGO’s, being a keen reader of Paul Theroux’s books, he paints the picture that they all drive around in big white 4x4’s and are responsible for creating a circle of dependence from giving aid. But that is simply one man’s opinion. I get to see it for real and pass my own judgement- not just from something I’ve read by a man I don’t know. World Vision run a very different scheme- Child sponsorship, an entirely different model. What I am there to write about is their 'Enough food food for everyone IF' campaign which is a collaboration of a variety of charities and organisation that are aiming to end the world hunger crisis.
I know what its like to be hungry, thanks to 3 months on a desert island with Channel 4 and living as a caveman for a week for Reader's Digest, but certainly not to the extent that the people of Ethiopia have in the past.
But I suppose what this all comes back to is food. Here, we live in a world where foraging is an ‘option’, Thrift is a mindset that’s tough to get into for some, buying ‘organic’ vegetables from expensive farmers markets simply because they still have a bit of dirt on them has become fashionable. It’s ridiculous, but the worst thing is, deep down, we know it.
When did our lives become like they are? A slave to the system of working in order to buy the food we need to survive (yes, I use the supermarket- can’t deny, but I still haven’t cracked the ‘secret’ recipe for Lea & Perrin’s and rice doesn’t really grow that well in Sussex). Back to the coin and its flipside, I do forage a lot of my food, shoot it, hook it and grow it- mainly because its fresh, I know where its come from and above all its pretty much free. And that makes me happy. I’m not a rich man, not by a long shot, but happiness can be found in the most unlikely of places.
I don’t know what I can expect, but I hear world vision have been doing some pretty impressive stuff out there, their sponsor a child program hits at a grass roots level and helps give many children the chance a lot of us have taken for granted. Education can lead to many things and hopefully an ISCO test isn’t one of them!
So we shall see what the next week produces- I hope to be doing live updates every day whilst I am out there with plenty of photos for you good people to see. Check-in same time tomorrow…