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The fun bookclub-like GIG (Girl Investment Group) program supports you and girlfriends, workmates or new 10thousandgirl friends to complete the 10thousandgirl Personal Finance Program. The aim is to learn the principles behind personal finance and investing in an engaging, supportive and light-hearted environment.

GIGs are all about learning the life and finance skills we need to know but often didn’t learn at home or at school. Supported by interactive webinars, videos and beautiful workbook materials, 10thousandgirl supplies the Personal Finance Program with an agenda and learning materials for each meeting, and you let your group know what time and who’s bringing tea, treats or wine.

Financially empower yourself while 10% of your program fees go toward providing a microloan for a woman to start a new business and lift herself and her family out of poverty. Pretty inspiring!

10thousandgirl_Libra10thousandgirl_Leo10thousandgirl_Cancer10thousandgirl_Capricorn10thousandgirl_Scorpio10thousandgirl_Sagitarius

whitesquarewhitesquareclick here to register interest pink

 Want to find out more?

Here’s an overview of GIGs (Girl Investment Groups) and the NEW 10thousandgirl Personal Finance Program.

Interested and want to find other like-minds in your area? Register your interest.

Already decided this is for you? Here’s the Steps to Getting Your GIG Started.

Currently a financial services professional looking for opportunities to financially empower women in your local area? Interested in a Mentor opportunity? Read on…

Did you know the average credit card debt in Australia is $3500? And paying minimum repayments at the average interest rate of 21.5% could take over 90 years to pay off?

Shocking but true.

In a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald ‘Plot a path to turn red into black‘, some basic tips to get yourself out of a credit card pickle were shared along with case studies which show it can be done.

Here are some other tips and resources to help get on top of debt and back into black:

TIP!! If you are consolidating debt, make sure you are careful of your credit rating, making multiple applications for credit cards etc can impact your ability to apply for a home loan etc. at a later date. Talk to your bank manager/s but don’t let them log any applications for you unless they’re 100% sure you will get it. You can check your credit history by getting a free copy of your credit report from these credit reporting agencies:

TIP!! Paying a little more than the minimum repayments on your credit card can mean the difference between having the debt for 90 years or 2!

Paying more than minimum repayments on credit cards

Start small, be strategic, keep on it and you’ll get there in no time.

I am a terrible gift giver. I mean, I love to give gifts, I’m just useless at finding good gifts. Whether it’s a birthday present, a wedding present, a Christmas present or any other kind of present, I’m just no good at it. My sister has a knack for it. Especially when it comes to the cards. She just has this incredible ability to find a card that sums things up perfectly. Whether it’s a funny card for a birthday, or something a little more sentimental, she always gets it right. Puts my efforts to shame every single time.

As Christmas rapidly approaches I begin to panic as I start to think about the gifts I need and want to give. Presents for my partner of seven years, my Mum, my Dad, my sister – people I’ve known forever and I still have no idea what to give. Gone are the days of childhood when you had to wait for your birthday or Christmas to get that new book or CD – we all earn our own cash now, so it’s especially hard when people have it all – or go out and buy what they want, when they want it.

That’s why I love the idea of charity gift cards. Many charities at this time of year roll out their gift catalogues where you can make a purchase or donation to their work in the name of someone else. What’s particularly great about this is you can target the donation to the person you want to give it to.

Example: My Dad. He’s the hardest person I know to buy for. He doesn’t really read, he’s a handy man but has all the stuff he needs, he doesn’t play sport, he volunteers but doesn’t have much in the way of hobbies that I could buy him things for. But he LOVES the footy. So I checked out Oxfam. For $65 I could make a donation to a program that uses footy as a way of helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Sold. This way, my Dad doesn’t get something he doesn’t need or want and he contributes to the sport that consumes about nine months of his year!

If there’s a charity you know that’s close to your heart or the heart of the person you’re struggling to find a pressie for, check them out. Chances are they’ll have a gift catalogue or you can just make a general donation on their behalf.

Now, not everyone likes this idea. There’ll always be someone who likes receiving an actual present. People that know me know that this is one of my ‘things.’ I love the idea of sharing our wealth with communities who really need it – rather than buying my Mum yet another scented candle that will sit in a cupboard.

So for those people in your life that that feel the same way, charity gifts can be a great way of spreading a little love at Christmas – or at any time.

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Ally Wells is travelling an undetermined path; following life’s twists and turns to see where she might end up, trying to relax and enjoy its unpredictability.

I love to travel. I have ever since I was lucky enough to go to Germany when I was 16. Since then I’ve lived and worked in London, spent six months in Uganda and, most recently, spent an entire year living in Cambodia followed by nine weeks backpacking around South East Asia.

My six months in Uganda and my one year in Cambodia were amazing experiences, made all the more amazing because I wasn’t just a traveller. I was a volunteer.

There are many debates to the role travellers can play if they choose to volunteer. There are numerous articles highlighting the issues and implications of ‘volun-tourism.’ Some are all for the idea, others are much more cautious, and even more are dead against it.

I could write a thesis on this topic, but, for now, I’ll stick to my own experiences; and what very different volunteer experiences they have been.

In Uganda I paid a fee to an organisation to host me in country. Being 22 and never having been to a developing country, this seemed like the easiest place to start – having someone else organise the logistics for me. And to an extent, it was. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it more expensive than perhaps it would have been had I travelled independently? Yes. But it was easier. The benefits of paying to volunteer, for me, in this case, far outweighed the difficulties of organising six months independently.

My role in Uganda was not always the one I had dreamed of. Organisational frustrations on the ground made things challenging, not to mention the culture shock of being in a place so foreign. But the relationships I formed and the connections I made still live with me now. My host family took me under their wing and made me feel at home. The children I worked with, helping fix up their school and dormitory, installing a rainwater tank with other volunteers and generally just hanging out singing songs and kicking balls around, they are the ones that made my experience. Sure, I may not have contributed lasting change to the lives of these beautiful children, and this type of volunteering may not be the best, but the experience enriched my life, and I can only hope, that at least for six months, it enriched theirs too.

It was this experience that led me to study more. To learn how I could spend time overseas in a way that would actually contribute to communities in a long-term, sustainable way.

And that’s where the Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) program comes in to it. This program is for skilled young Australians and is committed to achieving sustainable development through capacity building, skills exchange and institutional strengthening. Organisations in Asia, the Pacific and Africa submit roles to be filled by Aussie volunteers in areas they need additional support. Volunteers must apply for positions and go through a rigorous selection process before undertaking pre-departure and in-country briefings before their placement starts. Volunteers are supported with a living and accommodation allowance and flights and insurance are covered by the program.

I was lucky enough to get a spot through the AYAD program with an organisation in Siem Reap, Cambodia; This Life Cambodia. My work here used skills and experience I already had to contribute to the organisation, working with staff to write better reports and grant proposals and newsletter articles, among other things. My work involved creating processes and procedures with local staff that live on, even though I’m no longer around.

Once again, it was the people I met through this experience that made my year in Cambodia so incredible. The vibrant, passionate, young Cambodians who introduced me to local hang outs and food, who laughed with me (and possibly at me) as I failed to master the Khmer language, who sang karaoke with me and taught me how to dance like an Apsara (rather ungracefully I’m afraid).

If I had not volunteered I would never have met these incredible people. I would never have had these experiences. I would have passed through Siem Reap in three days, visiting Angkor Wat and experiencing the Western party side of town. Instead I got taken to eat banh chao (Cambodian savoury pancakes) at a restaurant near Angkor Wat, and I got to play sideshow games, watch kids on the Ferris Wheel  (I wasn’t quite game to have a go myself, OHS in Cambodia is not so great …) and eat 50cent bowls of noodles at 60 Road, a local haunt.

For me, volunteering is a great way to really experience a country. Sure, some volunteer placements are better than others. Some are more focused on making sure the volunteer has a great time, cuddling babies or building houses, doing work that locals could be doing, and others are more focused on professional development and change; working with locals. Some do more harm than good for local communities. Some cost a fortune, others are free if you can get to your country of choice, and some will even pay for you – if you have the right skills and background. There are a plethora of options for volunteering.

We live and we learn. My first volunteering experience made me realise there was a better way I could volunteer and travel. My second one proved that. Everyone has to start somewhere. My advice; do you research and give it a go – it will change the way you see the world.

Ally Wells is travelling an undetermined path; following life’s twists and turns to see where she might end up, trying to relax and enjoy its unpredictability.

Photo Credit


So did that picture capture your attention??
The ATO (Australian Tax Office) has put together some info on identity theft and your tax file number. It’s important reading 10thousandgirls!

Is your identity secure? It’s your identity – protect it!

Your identity is a precious thing, and it’s up to you to protect it!

Your identity is made up of your personal details like your name, date of birth, address and other information, including your tax file number (TFN). Your TFN is a unique nine digit number issued to you by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). You may have applied for your TFN through your school.

Identity crime

Did you know if someone else finds out enough about your identity, they could impersonate you and use your identity for illegal purposes? For example, they could use it to access government benefits, access your bank account, lodge a tax return in your name or even take out a loan in your name. This is called identity crime.

How does identity crime happen?

Identity criminals take other people’s details by:

  • stealing purses, wallets, mail, or mobile phones
  • sifting through rubbish
  • advertising and interviewing for a job that does not exist
  • asking questions while pretending they are a government, bank or other representative
  • offering to help you complete a tax return or other official document
  • reading information on a social networking page online, or
  • tricking you into clicking on a link in an email, or web page that captures your details.

How can I protect my TFN?

  • Never give someone your TFN unless there is a good reason, such as completing a tax form or opening a bank account.
  • Never provide your TFN when applying for work, especially if you are applying for a job online.
  • Only provide your TFN to your employer after you start work.
  • Just like your PIN for your bank keycard, never store your TFN in your mobile phone, in your purse or wallet, or share it with your friends or family (including on social networking sites).
  • See our online security page (www.ato.gov.au/onlinesecurity) for tips on using computers safely and information about genuine ATO email and SMS campaigns.
  • When throwing away documents with your personal details on them, make sure you shred or destroy them properly first.
  • Report the loss or theft of your TFN or other identity documents without delay.

So who can I give my TFN to?

You should only give your TFN to someone who is authorised to ask for it. The most common people and organisations who are legally allowed to ask for your TFN are:

  • the ATO when discussing your tax records
  • your employer after you start work
  • your bank
  • the Department of Human Services
  • your super fund.

Help from the ATO

You should immediately report any loss, theft or misuse of your TFN, see www.ato.gov.au/identitycrime

Photo Credit

Guest Post by Alison Gallagher

Taking out the trash is a much loathed household chore by many young Australians. It’s stinky, dirty, sometimes is dripping with the festering juices of the past week’s discards. But it feels good to get it out of the house and feels even better to line the bin with a nice clean bag. Taking out the recycling has become an additional chore, another carton of rejected bottles, cans and cereal boxes destined for another life somewhere other than your laundry floor. But did you know recycling can save you money?

Recycling has become an automatic reflex for most Australians, with many people installing bins with dual compartments to separate the recycling, and in some homes the recycling tub is more densely filled than the rubbish bin. This is great news for the environment and is having an impact on the way companies package their goods. Many companies are listening to customers’ requests for recyclable packaging and even better, some are even use recycled packaging. One of the best things about recycling and buying recycled good is it can save you cash.

Here a few ways to save money while recycling at the same time.

• When buying office paper and envelopes, toilet paper and paper towels always try to opt for a product that is mostly or 100% made from recycled paper. It is almost always cheaper saves resources and reduces waste.

• Invest in high quality electrical goods and clothing to ensure they last for longer and don’t need to be replaced every 6-12 months. Your initial investment may be higher, but in the long run you will save money. Alternatively you can check out places like Vinnies and the Salvation Army for second hand toasters, kettles, electric frypans and curling irons. You will pay a fraction of the price when new and also be supporting a charity and recycling all in one!

• ‘Green bags’ are a fabulous concept that has been embraced by many people. Some shops are taking responsibility by no longer providing plastic bags for free, instead charging a small fee for each plastic bag used. This is a great incentive to bring along you own carry bag to the supermarket or shopping centre and save a few dollars. It’s also much more stylish walking around with a trendy tote than dragging plastic bags around.

• Reuse your takeaway plastic container to store stationary items, pegs, dry pasta, lunches, leftovers, frozen food. They don’t have an especially long life and aren’t very durable, but can be good for temporary storage.

• Buy in bulk whenever you can. Refill your empty shampoo bottles, liquid hand washes, detergents etc. It will save you money in the long run and you are recycling the packaging over and over again.

• The price of print ink stinks! Get your printer ink cartridges refilled to save a few bucks.

• Have a garage sale or car boot sale and sell your unwanted clothes and household goods and make some moolah while giving your rejects a new lease of life.

• Wash glass jars and re-use them again to save money on storage and store food or odds and ends like buttons and nails. You can also give glass jars to friends who make jams or pickles.  If you’re feeling adventurous you could also make home brew and use beer bottles collected from family and friends

These tips might not make you a millionaire, but they will make a small difference to your hip pocket and to the environment, and they may just make you feel good and resourceful like your Nan.

Bio: Alison Gallagher is a ‘creative communicator’ and Program Coordinator for Regret Nothing, a financial engagement program for young people aimed at making finance fun! She is also an actor and meditation teacher and enjoys inspiring others to help make the world a better place.

The most important thing you can do for your now and your future is to see a financial adviser NOW!!!  Don’t wait until you are rich, until you have an issue, until you get a payrise, until you pay down that credit card….see someone as soon as you can.

So many people that visit me I can help from where they are, but 99.9999% of the time I wish they had come to see me earlier.  Usually people come when they have an issue – going through a divorce, referred their Mum who is now widowed but Mum didn’t know what the situation was with the finances and now it is a disaster, or my partner has cancer and we didn’t have insurance.  The list goes on.

The amount of setbacks to people’s financial position through mistakes, or years lost by not starting to do something earlier puts pressure on their ability to accrue enough for what they want in the short term, the medium term and eventually the long term retirement plan.  But imagine how much just $20/wk invested for 52 weeks of the year ($1,040) for 40 years at 7% growth, this would equal around $212,881. It’s only one bottle of wine less a week and $20 years from now won’t probably even buy you a glass of wine.

Imagine if this money was actually paid through the Govt co-contribution and you didn’t have to pay for it yourself.  There are many opportunities to make your money stretch further and time is one of the key components.

I had a gentlemen visit me last week and I was so sad to see that because he didn’t seek advice, he paid an enormous amount of capital gains tax and has his situation structured incorrectly that costs him money each and every day.  Apart from the financial consequences, he is also stressed because of the situation and lacks direction and focus.

If people can set the foundations of their financial life early then it is easy to build from there.  If the foundations aren’t secure then as soon as something happens there are financial consequences.  “Ah, but I’m too young” I hear you say.  Never.  Little things for a long period of time can often have a better effect on your financial position than drastic risky measures that you are forced to take because you didn’t manage money well previously.

Deborah Visser said “I thought financial advice was only for the rich until I met you”.    Seek advice early because preventing someone from making mistakes is just as good as seeing investments grow.  Having a personal plan in place can see you reach your goals, keep you accountable and allow you to enjoy what you dream and hope for – because it is planned for and you now have certainty and control.

Helen is the founder of “On Your Own Two Feet”.

GENERAL ADVICE WARNING

The advice may not be suitable to you because it contains general advice that has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal financial advice prior to acting on this information.

Helen Baker is a financial adviser with Godfrey Pembroke Ltd Adelaide St Brisbane.   Helen has also worked in the UK, USA and Europe for companies such as Reckitt and Colman, ie music and the Robbie Williams’ management team,StageAccess and Comshows.  She has a Diploma in Financial Planning, a Bachelor of Commerce and a Masters in Innovation and Change Management.

Helen Baker of R.J.B International Pty Ltd is an Authorised Representative of Godfrey Pembroke Limited, Australian Financial Services Licensee and member of the National Australia Bank Group of Companies, with its Registered Office at 105-153 Miller St North Sydney NSW 2060.  License number 336378 of GPL 230690

Contact details:  Helen@GPFAS.COM.AU or phone 07 3123 6947

Are you concerned about environmental issues?  Do you make donations to particular causes?  Do you know if your super is invested in companies that damage the environment, sell tobacco or manufacturer weapons?  Would you prefer your super fund to be invested industries you support like recycling, education and healthcare?

Investing responsibly may lead to better financial returns for you than a mainstream super fund as the following link shows.

You can choose a superfund with competitive financial returns as well as good ethics.  Check out the Ethical Super three step plan.

Your financial advisor can help you choose an ethical super fund appropriate for your situation.  See here for information on financial advice.

To search for financial advisers trained in Ethical investment click here.

Disclaimer
This article contains general advice only, which is not intended for any particular client. In preparing the content, Ethical Investment Service Pty Ltd has not taken into account any particular customer’s investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Accordingly, before acting on any advice contained in the content, you should contact your financial advisor to consider whether the advice is appropriate in light of your particular investment needs and circumstances.

BIO
Mary Campbell is a qualified Financial Adviser and authorised representative of Ethical Investment Services based in Kew, Melbourne.  She has worked in financial services with a focus on ethical investment since 2004.  Mary has completed Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Planning and Accounting and is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia.  Mary specialises in developing strategies to help clients improve their financial position, achieve their goals and align their investments with their values. Contact Mary on Ph:03 9853 0995, mail@ethicalinvestments.com.au or http://www.ethicalinvestments.com.au/
.

Superannuation is a good way to save for your retirement. If you earn less than $61,920 this financial year and you personally contribute $1,000 into super before 30th June 2012, the Australian Government will add up to $1,000 into your Super fund.

Check out the Super Co-contribution calculator to see how much you could receive.

For information on some other government incentive payments see “Money for Nothing” on page 3 of the Ethically Speaking Newsletter

Disclaimer
This article contains general advice only, which is not intended for any particular client. In preparing the content, Ethical Investment Service Pty Ltd has not taken into account any particular customer’s investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Accordingly, before acting on any advice contained in the content, you should contact your financial advisor to consider whether the advice is appropriate in light of your particular investment needs and circumstances.

BIO
Mary Campbell is a qualified Financial Adviser and authorised representative of Ethical Investment Services based in Kew, Melbourne.  She has worked in financial services with a focus on ethical investment since 2004.  Mary has completed Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Planning and Accounting and is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia.  Mary specialises in developing strategies to help clients improve their financial position, achieve their goals and align their investments with their values.

Contact Mary
Ph: 03 9853 0995
mail@ethicalinvestments.com.au
http://www.ethicalinvestments.com.au/

Photo Credit

So the banks are the focus of a traditional post RBA rate movement ‘bashing’ which is understandable as Australian’s will generally be effected in some way or another because they either

1/ have a home loan

2/ have savings account or a term deposit

3/ are a shareholder

Now banks provide a service and Australian banks are as strong as any in the world which was demonstrated through the GFC as other banks around the world were defaulting. Now as per any other business, banks are out there to make money for their owners, ie their shareholders of which many Australians are either directly or through their superannuation funds and if you are not all in cash or self manage your fund the chances are you are invested in them as well.

But just as a business like your local supermarket, they have a product to sell. To enable them to have this product to sell they need to buy that product and the difference between how much they buy the product for and sell the product for is their margin which the use to generate a profit which they can then return to their owners/shareholders. The banks product is however lending money, so to lend money they have to buy money…… to buy money the banks can do several things, one of which is borrow it from depositors, ie savings accounts and term deposits for a certain interest rate and then lend that money out at a different  interest rate. The difference of which is the margin they keep for the service.

Competition among the banks for the consumers money ie term deposits and debt will push this margin down and ensure the consumers win but the banks will also always try to keep this margin at a suitable level to keep their owners/shareholders happy.

The trick is to remember that when all this noise is out there – the effect of how the bank reacts to reserve bank cash rate changes will differ for each person, depending on whether you are a borrower, depositor or shareholder.

How do interest rate changes affect you?

Alisdair Barr is the founder of Future Map, a dynamic financial literacy program focused on building life planning and financial literacy skills in the workplace. Having held senior leadership roles for the last 10 years at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, he is passionate about reducing complexity and helping to map out a better future for all Australians. More from Alisdair on www.futuremap.com.au

Photo Credit: Mel Rodgers

Do you ever feel like life is just passing you by? It’s as if everyone else is on the train, speeding away to their destinations; while you’re still at the platform, frantically trying to decide which train you want to board. You can see the faces of your friends, smiling wistfully at you as they are carried further and further away. You wonder why they are smiling wistfully at you; why do they look as if they want to be the one on the platform?

I have regular moments of panic about my life. I joke about having a quarter life crisis – but to be realistic I have these crises way too often to be called quarter life; they could more appropriately be named quarter-year crises! Perhaps it’s because I spend too much time thinking, too much time wondering what my purpose in life is, too much time fantasizing about the possibilities ahead of me. Whatever it is, I have abject moments of panic when I wonder where my life is going and what I really want out of it.

My life has been wonderfully rich and fulfilling so far. I’ve studied marine biology, climbed the Eiffel Tower, competed in triathlons, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, fallen in love, read Jane Eyre and My Brilliant Career, had my heart broken, laughed until I’ve cried, lain in the park and stared at the clouds, slept in a hammock along the Mekong River, had too many tequila shots, lost a shoe at a music festival, and played a crocodile in a musical.

That isn’t to say my life has been a picnic; but then if it had been I wouldn’t have any stories worth telling. Life is tough. I’ve had moments of stark loneliness, staring at the ceiling wishing I had someone to talk too. I’ve had depression and days of wondering whether there is a reason to get out of bed at all. I’ve felt paralysing self-doubt, wondering if I’ll ever be smart or pretty enough (for who or what I’m not sure). All of these experiences have shaped me into the woman I am now.

It’s in my moments of panic that I think about all the things that have really mattered so far in my life. The moments when I’ve laughed with friends, cried with my sister, hugged my mum, listened to my brother, or asked my dad for career advice. The moments I’ve seen a beautiful sunset, watched the waves roll in over the sand, or watched the sunrise on a morning jog. These moments make me realise that I’m not waiting for my own life to happen, it’s already happening. If you’re like me – you’re still figuring out who you are, where you fit in the picture, and how you’re going to change the world – I think it’s okay to be scared and unsure sometimes.

Don’t get disheartened. In those moments when you’re wondering where you’re going and how you’ll get there, take stock of all the amazing things you have already done in your life, the beauty you’ve seen, and all the challenges that you’ve overcome. There is no single recipe for happiness or success (nor a single definition for these). There are no right or wrong answers. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s path. To paraphrase Regina Brett, you just have to get up, dress up, and show up – life will follow.

Mel Rodgers isn’t sure exactly where she’s going, but she’s still going to show up. She writes, runs, cycles, laughs, cries and makes excessive lists of all the things she still wants to do in life.

10thousandgirl welcomes a new blogger – Melissa Rodgers – blogging her perspectives from her current home in a small village in Cambodia!

There are millions of reasons why we make connections with others; just as there are millions of types of connections to make. There are friends that touch your heart. There are colleagues that inspire your mind. There are lovers that ignite your soul (… and those that are plain old steamy, but worth the fun). There are mothers and fathers that hold your hand and catch you when you fall. There are brothers and sisters that torment and tease, but always have your back. There are tiny connections with strangers that change your day for the better; the barista who always gives you a cheeky smile with your coffee, the neighbour who smiles distractedly at you each morning as they walk by.

I have been living in a small village in Cambodia for 6 months now. There are about 10 other expats in town, which means the potential for relationships is limited; at least, that’s what I thought when I moved here. Living in this town has taught me a lot about the small connections that can be built between strangers from different cultures. It’s these connections that can change your day for the better by slightly adjusting your soul.

Every morning I say hello and poke my tongue out at my landlords’ 2 year old daughter. In turn, she wrinkles her nose up at me and says hello. Despite the language barrier, my landlords still make me feel welcome. About once a fortnight they bring me a bunch of bananas. The first time this happened I did not stop smiling all evening. It was such a small gesture, but when you’re living in the middle of nowhere without family or friends, a little thing like that reminds you that people do care.

I spend my Saturday mornings buying fresh produce from the local market. I speak only enough Khmer to be able to ask how much things cost; that’s about it. Now that I’ve become a ‘regular’ at the markets, many of the old women at the stalls talk to me. I can honestly say that I have no idea what they are saying, and I’m sure they don’t know what I’m saying either. They chat among themselves, including me in the conversation; all the while we’re all smiling like fools at each other.

Each afternoon as I leave my office, there are a few kids playing out on my street. Sometimes they are playing volleyball, other times they just seem to be playing in the dirt. Every day, without fail, they will greet me with shouts of “hello”. Some afternoons I will attempt to play volleyball with them – it doesn’t matter how uncoordinated I am, they let me join in just like I’m one of them.

Yes, I miss my best friends from home. I miss the man who knew me so well after a few weeks of friendship to make me a perfectly personalised mix CD. I miss the girlfriend who sent me a bottle of wine and chocolate, no note, and I knew instantly who had sent it. We may not talk every day, but our friendship is about quality, not quantity. It’s because of all the unexpected, but enriching, connections that I’ve made over here that I can cope with living remotely, away my closest friends.

All of these unexpected connections, across language barriers, will be poignant memories someday. These are the connections that shape moments of your life. They are moments I will reminisce over when I’m sitting on a veranda drinking wine at 80 years old. It doesn’t take identical view points, similar tastes in music, or even the same language to make a connection. All it takes is the willingness to open the windows of possibility and welcome people into your life; allowing strangers to become friends. In the end, we’re all people – we all dream, hope, despair, laugh, cry, love and pine.

Photo Credit

Melissa Rodgers believes that in life there are those that drift and those that go their own way. She is a friend, daughter, sister, emergency contact, colleague, training buddy, and white woman on a green bicycle. She shares her stories at http://mel-dolphinsdarwinandotheradventures.blogspot.com/

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