25.9.07

Best of London

Not much is new in our lives at the moment so I thought I'd give my two cents about what I believe is the best of London. A lot of these are my favorite places, things to do,etc and I'm sure nearly every Londoner will give you a different answer for each. This is what is so great about the city--so many options for every type of personality. The list could go on and on but here are just a few:

Best............

place to eat out on a budget- Carluccio's in Canary Wharf

place to buy groceries- Waitrose

park- Greenwich

au natural smoothies- Crussh

museum to get lost in- Victoria & Albert

overall shopping experience- Selfridges

shopping for everything
including the kitchen sink- John Lewis

Clothes shop- Zara

art- National Gallery

food market- Borough Market-London bridge

crafts/outdoor market- Greenwich

place to watch movies- The Empire in Leicester Square

place to make fun of tourists- The tube (subway)

View of the city- Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Ice-cream- Movenpick/Green & Blacks

Cultural Experience- A play on the West End

place to hear a concert- Royal Albert Hall

Touristy Spot- Covent Garden

Place for a cup of tea- Organic Cafe, Greenwich

Thing to do on a Sunday morning- Walk through Blackheath Common to Greenwich Park

place for peace and quiet- Greenwich Park on a weekday morning

16.9.07

Two weeks & Running

I've been going extra extra gung-ho on the exercise the last few months or so . This is due to a lot of reasons but mainly I need to get my weight down quickly for my health. I've been doing running races every year since 2002 but the last two weeks I had the bright idea to do two 5k (3 mile) races back to back. My total mileage including the race since last Sunday is 10 miles and this doesn't include my usual time I clocked at the gym and doing yoga this week. I've just got a few more weeks to keep this routine up (if I don't pass out first) and then I've got trekking in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to look forward to in October as well. 4-5 hours of hiking a day in the high mountains of North Africa will be definitely a challenge. So, keep your fingers crossed and end of November/December I should hopefully have dropped at least a little bit of weight.

The races these last two weeks were the same distance but two completely different worlds. The first one was the London Peace Run through Greenwich Park. About 100 people participated, 80 of them professional runners. Mentally I found this one horrible because half the people darted way ahead at the start, the heat was draining and the difficulty of the hills were unexpected. My time was crap but James did it with me and that made it a lot more worthwhile. Here are some pics of James and I at the end of the race:

The second one, the Hydro Active Women's Challenge was quite humorous due to the amount of people involved. 20,000 runners just in London participate every year to do a little 3 mile race and professional runners come from all over the world to run as well. Its an absolutely huge event and highlights are even shown on the 5 o'clock news. You also get a great goodie bag and medal at the end full of t-shirts, organic food and samples galore of everything you could imagine. I swear people do it more for the stuff at the end than the actual challenge of the race. My time was a lot better than the Peace Run cause the route was easier. In the end I managed to do it in about 34:00 which is a personal best for me (My very first 5k I did it in about 46 min). You can see from the sheer amount of people in the pic below how popular this run is. Also, although the expression of my face at the end makes me looks out of it, I was just glad to get these darn races over with.

8.9.07

Atonement

video
Only one word can describe it--Beautiful. I'm talking about the film Atonement with James McAvoy and Keira Knightley which came out this weekend in the UK (released 7 Dec-US). Its got the critics salivating quite a bit at the mouths here and its being talked as the Best British film in years and that it could easily sweep the Oscars. (The same director of Pride and Prejudice reunited with Keira Knightley for this picture). Media hype easily dies down obviously but I absolutely loved it. I saw it today with my friend Helen and it was worth the £15 ($30) ticket to see it in Leicester Square. The story and acting are brilliant (loved Vanessa Redgrave in particular), the music is incredibly gorgeous and the photography--well its in a world all its own and reminded me of a 'Monet painting'. I'd love to read the book eventually too and hear that its a treat in itself (books always are!). I really adore movies like this that are so multi-layered and appeal to those who can appreciate films as a work of art. It seems such a rarity now in films today which is another reason why this film was absolutely a sheer pleasure. It will be interesting to see if the hype of 'Atonement' continues when it opens in other countries but in the meantime I'm glad I got a chance to see such a brilliant film!

4.9.07

My projects

I want to introduce you to the following:

The Gan Sabra Orphanage- I met an amazing woman through Unicef named Lucy. She lives in North East India near Burma and Bangladesh. She's 31 and she's a social worker who has set up the only orphanage for AIDS orphans in Aizawl--which is the capital of Mizoram, the state they live in. She has set up day cares and has provided assitance to the families of children suffering from HIV/AIDS. The work she has done is amazing (it seems she's doing this alone) and they take care of 10+ (all under the age of 10) children with medicines and everything for only $200 a month. Because of lack of funds they can only take care of a certain number but currently have a waiting list of over 90 kids. What these children have to endure is ridiculous and most are not living past 12 yrs old due to the discrimination, lack of care and abuse (including rapes unfortunately). They have been the feature of some press coverage for mostly European news companies (panos.co.uk and a german site) and now have their own website (click on the link above to see! If you want to see pictures of some of the kids click HERE). Whilst they have many hardships they have many successes. The two eldest recently passed their school exams and are first in their class and they are building a new day care from land that was donated!

Hope Runs
I have become friends with the founders Claire and Lara through Blogger actually. Their site was a 'blog of note' and I randomly e-mailed them and discussed our work w/orphanages and have been friends since. Claire and Lara are American, graduates from Stanford and only 25. They have set up a charity/NGO called Hope Runs for HIV/AIDS orphans in Nyeri, Kenya. They use running as a means of motivation and giving hope to these kids (about 120 of them up to the ages of 22 approx) in the form of after school clubs, etc. They are also doing other things to assist like getting I.T. and art programs sorted for them and trying to create long-term sustainability for the children's home they live in. 22 of the children (all with HIV/AIDS)recently completed the Kenya Marathon--some doing the 26.2 miles in 4 hours I believe! (If you want to see pictures of the kids click HERE and to see the site maintained by the kids click HERE)

I have been helping Gan Sabra since Jan 2007 and have been doing little things for Hope Runs since the spring (approx). Although I am not the richest person in the world, I have managed to help these folks a bit and I can see the fruits of my labors (particularly Gan Sabra). The joy I get hearing about the fact these rugrats are doing well just doesn't compare with anything. I never thought I could do much to make a difference but I know that even the smallest thing can change the world. I've got my own problems believe me and am far from being the next Mother Theresa but I know that everything I'm facing is miniscule compared to what some of the youngters go through. It puts stuff into perspective and one word comes to mind--gratitude. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be living!! Life is too short and people (including myself at times) waste so much time worrying about or doing things that just don't matter in the long term. How great would the world be if people smiled at strangers or still offered to help little old ladies across the street? Anyway--I challenge any of my readers to not only read about these orphanages (and if you can help in some minute way great) but to do one random act of kindness today (who know's it may, heaven forbid, spread to others!!!)