I don’t know about you but I have very mixed feelings about the month of August! I think it has something to do with the end of school holidays. Let me explain.

When I was 13 my family moved from Kilkeel to Uganda (quite the house move!) This was in the time before mobile phones, internet and telecommunications in East Africa was erratic to say the least. My sister and I went from attending the local primary school and secondary school here in Kilkeel to a co-ed American boarding school at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kenya. Without going into too much detail about all that neither my sister Rosie or I ever use the term “culture shock” lightly. We both had many adjustments to make in a very short space of time. Rosie, I have to say was speaking with a convincing southern American drawl within 3 days of our arrival! Both Rosie and I did settle in and loved our new school, cultures and friends and wouldn’t change one second of our experience. It had a huge impact on my life for which I am ever grateful.

My reason for talking about this is that our school vacations or “ vacs” as we called them were really important. July and August were the longest of our “Vacs”. We got to travel back to Uganda to see Mum and Dad. So, the end of August was always a bit of a dread. Not that we didn’t have a total blast at school. It was fantastic. But being out of routine, seeing our Ugandan friends, not having to worry about what clothes we were wearing or getting our laundry sorted or the dramas that being a teenager brings was refreshing. We needed the break from the routine of school and the stresses that it brought. Although we did love school it was hard not seeing Mum and Dad at times, for me Sunday was the worst day! That seemed to last for ever! (I’m still not that keen on Sundays).

“Summer Vac” 1985, Kuluva Hospital, Uganda

Since I have started working more closely with Mark at the Holiday Cottages a lot of my African memories have been rekindled. I keep having déjà vu moments. Some of that is that is because we do a lot of outdoor cooking which is so reminiscent of Africa but an unusual feeling has been when we are cleaning the cottages. Before we left RVA to go on our summer vacation we had to do “dorm clean up”! The last day of 3rd term in June was clean up and everyone was involved. Inspection was in the afternoon when our dorm parents had a walk through and either allowed us to escape to the playing fields or keep at it. Our cases and trunks were all packed ready for our move to our new dorms and our trip home. The levels of excitement and anticipation on those days were immeasurable. (I still get very excited about going on holiday – a trait not shared by my husband).We also always tried to stay up all night which meant there were bus loads of grumpy emotional children on buses and catching flights all over East Africa the next morning.

I think I’ve mentioned before that at the start of all this I did wonder what transferable skills I had to do this job. I didn’t think that “dorm clean up” would become one of them. The other memory of course is the importance of the break from routine. We need “vacs” we need this time to recharge, to relax, to do things we enjoy and to be with people whose company matters to us.

Being able to provide a place for people to do all the things that I have mentioned is a privilege. We’ve had guests visit us from lots of places over the summer. For all of them they have put aside some time to take a break from routine to enjoy a different pace of life. For Mark and I it is hard work and there are challenges at every turn but like my boarding school experience I don’t think I’d change a thing!

*35 years ago this month!