You're in Milwaukee, off your feet

... and at once I knew I was not magnificent. Bon Iver - Holocene
 The trees have eyes. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The trees have eyes. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Graduation is both an exciting and daunting opening into the world, a clearing in the trees. You are hit by an awakening wind, it's refreshing but you're exposed, and it is time to find, or build your own trail. My ideal trail is grounded by happiness. Along its winding and undulating course, I want to observe but also participate in my changing surroundings with a net positive impact by sharing and using the knowledge I have been fortunate enough to receive as well as further knowledge I will gain along my journey.  

Following graduation, Sarah and I entered the grant writing and fundraising world, which we are continuously learning from and exploring in order to set up our projects in Zimbabwe through PORET Livelihoods. This challenging process presented a steep learning curve but will hopefully bring us the resources our project requires to implement change in a struggling environment. The journey so far has encouraged us to develop existing skills and explore new ones which we will weave into the tapestry of our lives, pursuing our passions to meet our goals. I have used my previous experience with software from my degree and a (slight) understanding of technology to build this website and tweet with the birds in social media to raise awareness and network for our project. I have always had an interest in photography and am hoping to provide vivid, engaging, and refreshing visual insights into everyday Zimbabwean life and share the imagination, intuition and enthusiasm of the local population, as well as updates on our work. Sarah meanwhile is continuing her holistic education with Gaia University to achieve her permaculture diploma, which in the future will allow her to teach permaculture. 

 You're right, this is not Zimbabwe. It's actually Stocksbridge, Sheffield.

You're right, this is not Zimbabwe. It's actually Stocksbridge, Sheffield.

Sarah and I often get itchy feet (not because of our interest in barefoot running and my toxic smelling toe shoes). There are just too many incredible places, exotic cultures and diverse landscapes in the world and we want to see all of them. So when Sarah's visa needed to be renewed, it was time grab a bag and a cheap plane ticket and head to the continent, why not? We tailor made our trip using AirBnB and tried our hand at couch surfing, travelling by train and bus from Trieste, Italy to Ljubljana, Slovenia onto Lake Bled, Slovenia and finally to Venice, Italy. Our plans went perfectly apart from the slight hindrance of getting on a train that was going in completely the wrong direction (face-palm), sometimes even the best laid out plans don't account for human error/idiocy. 

 Nope, still not Zimbabwe. This is Sarah in Ljubljana, Slovenia wearing an inflatable shirt.

Nope, still not Zimbabwe. This is Sarah in Ljubljana, Slovenia wearing an inflatable shirt.

In late November, we hopped across the bigger pond (thumbs up - carbon footprint) to stay with Sarah's parents and endure the bitterly cold Wisconsin winter. Whilst getting cosy by the fire with a Wisconsin beer in hand (thanks Michael), we began to get ready for our busy month of December.  For our first source of funding, we entered Global Giving's December Challenge which required us to raise $5000 from 40 donors in a month to earn a regular spot on the crowdfunder's site. Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends, we managed to complete the challenge and now have some funds available to develop the project site.  These funds focus on outfitting an existing structure at the PORET site with solar panels and internet to improve networking, research, coordination and collaboration efforts for the projects at the field site. 

 Sarah wearing the same inflatable shirt, slightly more deflated this time. #slimliving The view from Dead Horse Point into Canyonlands NP, Utah

Sarah wearing the same inflatable shirt, slightly more deflated this time. #slimliving The view from Dead Horse Point into Canyonlands NP, Utah

During our stay, Sarah worked as a sales assistant at the sustainable food co-op Outpost and I volunteered with Tall Pines conservancy, a group which acquires development easements on properties in order to protect them from further development. In April, we drove for 24 hours to Utah, fuelled by Frappacino's (not the car, although...cars running on caffeine? Get Tesla on the phone). We had great company, our friends Brenna and Charlie, briefly glimpsed into the otherworldly Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and camped at Dead Horse Point, an incredible vantage point with a very welcome coffee and smoothie shop. It was warm, it was wonderful. Following our defrosting and  inevitable sunburn, we headed to Colorado for some more time in the snow, another chance for me to show off my fabled skiing ability (I was taught by the best, Jeremiah Lang, often found on ski slopes dressed as the jolly green giant). 

 Arches National Park, Utah despite the absence of arches....

Arches National Park, Utah despite the absence of arches....

Now we are excitedly preparing for our return to Zimbabwe. We leave towards the end of May to stay at our project site for three months. Following that, we will be attending the International Permaculture Convergence in September in London with our project director, Julious Piti. We hope to use this blog to keep our followers updated on our progress and to provide a window into Zimbabwean life. We will publish thoughts, dreams and advice here to feed those hungry minds so keep your eyes peeled. 

I'll be back in a jiffy,

Robin