Happy birthday to….ME!!

31 years old…young…? Ah – who cares!


I think today was my single most surreal birthday ever! I spent most of the day as usual with a Portuguese dictionary firmly entrenched in one sweaty palm, with my trusty calculator gripped in my other. This is no real change from the norm for me at the moment – as I spend my days learning random Portuguese phrases like “what size are your feet?” or quickly calculating if a new cooker falls within our budget.


I had one pretty unique moment – all my senior level staff had disappeared on various errands and I was left keeping a watchful eye on our first 5 local employees hacking away at the rock hard reddish brown African soil to create the training area we needed for the 100 or so new deminers we were about to recruit.





The midday sun was absolutely beating down so during a workbreak I gratefully slunk into the shade (next to the chicken coop – the chickens came free with the compound!). The view from my shady spot stretched far out over the vast countryside unbroken until it reached the range of mountains in the far far distance…not a bad office window view I reckon!




I had one of those very real moments where reality hits and you realise exactly where you are and what you are doing. This was my compound! I was now location manager for all this, all these people and all this mine clearance to coordinate!


WOW! Oh yeah…and oh my gawd!! Think about it too much and it freaks me right out!


Needless to say the calm rest moment lasted just a moment before confusao broke out yet again and it was back on the road in red wing to buy uniforms and boots for our threadbare and shoeless workers leaving my logistics guys to draw up plans for rooms we needed to build and walls we needed to sledgehammer!





Boss Lorenzo is up here at the moment to offer much welcomed experience to this whole process and had somehow managed to smuggle birthday cake, candles and party poppers into the Salmon Shack without me noticing.


After a long day racing round town I was exhausted. We sat on the floor of my furniture-less living room and he sang a terribly out of tune rendition of Happy Birthday as I blew out my candles and made my birthday wish!


So it wasn’t an ‘all work and no play’ birthday!! That would just make me dull!!


birthday-candles      birthday-cake




  1. Eric said,

    February 21, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Yes indeed, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. many happy returns, Helen.
    great to be able to read your fantastic descriptions of what you are into there. I am so pleased for you.
    I have stopped working today, Saturday, as I have a lousy cold.
    I have worked flat out since before Chridstmas. I think I told you I had taken the work over that Hazel was doing when she died, and that was definitely the straw that has damned near broken this camel’s back.
    Now thankfully, I am almost at the end of it. I sent in my report 2 weeks ago and got good feedback from both DFID and Action Aid. The latter want me to sweeten up the evaluation report to make it look more positive, DFID want it to stay the same, so I will have to get stuck into that tomorrow. I had two very good week sin Kenya doing an evaluation; I love the fieldwork but not report writing. Anyways, enough, keep up the good work! What a woman, and all at 31!!! All the best from your good firend Eric

  2. Saz said,

    February 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Sis,
    What a birthday! Looking forward to belated celebrations in France.
    p.s. don’t stress too much about all that responsibility- if anyone can handle it, its my fav middle sis! xxx

  3. Jo said,

    February 27, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Happy Belated Birthday – have brill time skiing. I head off on 8th march, cannae wait. Hopefully catch up properly soon xx

  4. Ankles said,

    March 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    hello my dearest friend!!! Happy Belated Birthday!!

    I have no idea whether you are receiving my text’s or whether you received that damn parcel for that matter!!…..if you didn’t then i’m gonna blow the surprise slightly and add that if you noticed anyone walking around with particularly beautifully waterproofed eyeslashes then – THEY STOLE YOU’RE PARCEL!!… i know i know… not only am i rubbish at keeping surpirses but also utterlly rubbish at buying appropriate pressies for africa but i figure that everyone deserves a little luxory!! Not sure when you are back for skiing but give me a bell if at all possible xxxxxxx miss you bells xx

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