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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Outside my window, wonder

Outside my window, roofs with mildewed tiles, a mile of jumbled black power lines, coconut palms and topical evergreens sway in the sometimes breeze.

Birds chorus at dusk before handing over to the cricket’s symphony or the frogs after the rain.

There is banging and clattering of dishes being washed in the outdoor restaurant below. Voices chatter. Thai words I don’t understand. It sounds cheerful.

Motorbikes rev sporadically but the main road traffic is surprisingly hushed. A lone dog barks at someone or something passing by.

Today I saw a Russian woman learning to ride a motorbike down a small Soi*. I know she is Russian. She wears tight white pants and heels in a puddled street. She is dangerously wobbly and seems confused by the throttle. I hope she changes her mind.

In between the trees, I see patches of sea. Chalong Bay. Sometimes it’s blue but mostly cloudy green. Occasionally a ute or pink passenger truck races along the long length of the pier that leads to the dive boats. At night it lights up like a colourful fluorescent runway with distinct sections of changing colours, pink to purple, blue to green and back again.

Every morning, as soon as I awake, I separate my pale blue-grey drapes to greet the waking day. This morning I squinted through the blinding silver glare as a sky half coated in cloud reflected the rising sun. At dusk, I sat and watched as the long stretch of porcelain blue broke through the dark rain swept clouds. My Nana used to say “If there’s enough blue sky to make a man’s pair of pants, it’s going to be a nice day.” There was enough blue although I didn’t think it was the right colour to chase the rain away. But Nana was right. Even though she’s not here, she is still right.

My favourite ritual is at night. After I’ve turned out the lights and before I climb into bed to sleep, I part my drapes, open my window, stick out my head and stare up at the night sky. Sometimes it’s covered in cloud but mostly it twinkles stars. Sometimes a handful, sometimes more than I could ever count. Science can explain them but I still stare up at them and wonder: How many are there? How long have they been there? Who or what made them? The answers I don’t care for, or need. I just like to stare outside my window with wonder at this world. 

* Soi is the Thai word for street

Outside my window, Chalong, Phuket, Thailand

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

My Just For Today

Just for today, I will not worry about tomorrow, about what I could or should be doing
Just for today, I’m not going to let the constant questions run rampage in my head, I’m going to accept that I don’t know the answers right now
Just for day all those unanswered questions will sit silently
Just for today I am going to let go of worry
Just for today all my concerns about the future will be left where they belong, in the future
Just for today, I am going to be kind to myself, I’m going to allow myself to be human and not perfect
Just for today, I’m going to relax into my confusion and allow the grey haze wrapped tightly around my head to settle and loosen and eventually fade away
Just for today I’m going to enjoy what is before me here and now
Just for today I’m going to trust that the answers to my questions about the future will arise loudly from my heart when my head is ready to hear

 Sunset from Buon Gustaio Trattoria, Naiharn Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Monday, 21 November 2011

Return to the sea

The engine hums mechanically shooting rhythmic vibrations pulsing through the cabin as it propels our 75 foot boat towards our dive site. Today, the waves are small, and we gently rock and roll from side to side on the undulating ocean.  The outward journey is just under three hours. I don’t wish any of it away.  It’s part of what I love about diving, time spent just being on the sea. The movement, sound, vibration, soothe and excite.

It has been 8.5 months since I last submerged myself below the ocean’s silvery skin.  8.5 months of walking on dry, sometimes cold land, occasionally finding the opportunity to hold my breath and immerse myself in a beautiful liquid sea. But 8.5 months since I have been able to stay below for an extended period of time.

We arrive at our dive site. Koh Bida Nok. I stand, geared up and waiting. Sleek in faded black wetsuit. Aluminium tank on my back plus six kilos of weight. I am heavy and awkward and sweating in the tropical heat.  Then finally the moment comes to jump and I stride forward into the warm azure Andaman sea.  Regulator in my mouth, I exhale and sink far below the surface to that perfect point where I am weightless and free, suspended in the ocean’s deep blue. Breathe in and I rise. Exhale and I fall. Life becomes that simple.

For an hour, we glide around the rocky formation that is Koh Bida Nok. There are critters large and small to find and see. A small cuttlefish camouflaged with the sand that glows ominously in warning as we approach. A nudibranch, bright purple and white, slithers slowly, its antennae flapping in the mild current.  Anemone fish dart back and forth whilst glaring mock-menacingly, asserting their territory.  Shrimp hide in tiny rock crevices whilst a flat flounder hides in the sand.  A goby guards the hole of its burrowing shrimp.  Schools of tropical fish circle rocky bommies.  A few black-tip reef sharks whiz silently by.  One giant unblinking eye of spiky puffer fish remains fixed on me as it glides past, curious about the smooth black bodied, finned human hovering and blowing bubbles in its terrain.

Some creatures are shown to me by our dive guide but many I discover for myself.  It is these self-discoveries that I love the best. Excitement spikes the pit of my stomach when I find for myself something small hidden away or a creature camouflaged against its surrounds.  It’s as if I’m finally succeeding in slowing down and really paying attention to the world around me.

Mary Oliver asked, “Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” And in these moments when I am breathing fully, slowly, mesmerised and awestruck by the magic mystery of our planet, of this life I can answer that I am fully alive.

After one more dive, we pack up our equipment as the dive boat powers back towards port.  The surface of the sea is now almost flat and I watch a million tiny stars dance upon its surface forging a path towards the horizon.  The movement, sound and vibration accompanies our journey home but this time mirrors great peace.

Passing Koh Dok Mai on the way out

Fierce anemone fish

A pair of nudibranchs

Curious pufferfish 

Me after a dive in Phi Phi 

 Schooling Fish 

 Beautiful rippled Andaman Sea

On the way back to Chalong

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Wave

The wave rises before me. Goliath.
Heart pounds. A dash of adrenaline surges.
I watch its tip begin to foam and curl, quickly fill my lungs, then dive angularly down through the watery wall.
I find a space, a gap between the surging ocean and the sandy floor.
The wave presses me down, weightily rolls over my body, silently tells me who is boss.
In a second it passes and I am released, buoyed back to the surface to bob in the bubbly aftermath.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Flood Dogs

The pictures alone could make you weep. Posted on Facebook daily for weeks, they showed stray dogs struggling to stay afloat and stay alive during the flooding in Bangkok and Ayutthaya.  Dogs swimming through flood water too deep for them to stand in.  Dogs clinging to floating debris, trees, branches, anything that would keep their heads above water.  Dogs taking refuge on anything that was above the water level, small island embankments, temple ruins, even bicycles stacked on a ledge outside someone’s house. Then there were the inspirational rescue pictures.  People wading through knee to waist deep water carrying rescued dogs. Dogs swimming to people on small boats, towards safety and rescue. People feeding stranded dogs. A Thai woman looking after hundreds of dogs stranded on a small bridge given temporary makeshift shelter with black tarpaulin messily strung over the bridge.

So when the call went out for volunteers to help care for the flood affected animals at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) I responded.  I responded expecting that they would have been inundated with offers to help but I got a swift reply saying “please come”.  One day later I was on a plane to Bangkok and then a mini bus down to Cha-am, 150 kilometres south, ready to help any way I could.  And it was straight into it.  I arrived at WFFT at 8.45pm and by 10.45pm I was in a dark field helping to unload two trucks loaded high with cages of animals evacuated from Bangkok, including a monkey with one arm and one leg, and a rabbit.  Even this scene pulled at the heart strings.  The dogs had been in cages for many more hours than the 4 hour journey from Bangkok and many of these animals had already been evacuated from Ayutthaya before the flooding hit Bangkok.  But at least they were safe and would be well cared for here.  WFFT had already commenced building fenced and covered enclosures for them.  And supplies of dog food had already arrived.  We gave them water and then collapsed into bed ready to face the next day.

In the morning, we started our daily routine.  Thirty minute drive down to Cha-am to the government quarantine centre where 170 dogs and cats, mostly strays, were separated into different runs.  Greeted by the barking dogs, we set down our bags and started cleaning each of the cages.  Poop was swept and often scraped up.  Hay removed and replaced with fresh hay.  Cages scrubbed with disinfectant and washed out when required.  Food bowls were filled and water bowls filled up.  We then had time to socialise the dogs before repeating the routine again in the afternoon after lunch.

For a week, I worked along side some amazing people, volunteers from all over the world including the USA, Holland, Malaysia, Korea and Scotland.  People who came with passion and were prepared to work hard to help another being who needed help.  And it was hard work.  We worked tirelessly in the heat and went home at the end of the day smelling of sweat, dog, sometimes poop, covered in fur, scratches, bruises and even some with dog bites.

But it had its rewards too. I spent time with some beautiful, loving and even inspiring animals.  Titch and Fleck my gorgeous floppy timid puppies who loved nothing more than to be cuddled, sit on your lap or sleep next to you on the hay.  Star, my star mamma dog who adopted 5 puppies in addition to her own 5 after their mamma died.  And Stellar, my big gorgeous brown mamma stray dog who always beckoned me with her eyes, pawed at the door when she wanted food or attention, who jumped up and rested her paws lightly on my chest when I came into her cage and who loved having me sit next to her and pat her gently with love.  I wanted to take them all home with me, to give them them a loving home off the street where they no longer had to struggle or suffer.

As I write this, the rescue operations continue in Bangkok.  Inspirational and often heart-breaking photos are still being posted daily of dogs being rescued from flood waters.  The flood affected animals are still being cared for by volunteers and staff at WFFT and are now being neutered by 5 volunteer vets. With the flood waters spreading into downtown Bangkok, the rescue and care operations are likely to continue well into December and they are asking for more volunteers. If needed, I will return as soon as I can.

If you want to help then contact Edwin Wiek at WFFT via Facebook or see WFFT website
WFFT's prime activity is rescuing wildlife and they do an amazing job providing a natural habitat and care for wildlife.  You can support this important work by making a donation via the WFFT website.

If you are unable to help in person but would like to support the rescue and care operation, then you can make a donation to the Soi Dog Flood Relief Appeal. Soi Dog are doing a fantastic job raising funds to support the various organisations such as Soi Dog, WFFT and Elephant Nature Park rescuing and evacuating animals.

The WFFT field opposite the temple that has been converted into dog storage 

Government Quarantine Centre in Cha-am where we housed 170 cats and dogs

Volunteers from Korean Animal Rights Adocates with Edwin, Barb, Louise, Marise and myself

Little Fluffy giving me a big kiss for being taken out of the enclosure for a run and some cuddles



Puppy in one of the field enclosures 

Another puppy in one of the field enclosures 

Beautiful Stellar 

Stellar and her pups 

Puppy feeding time with Star 

Star feeling a bit unwell

 Another friendly stray dog wanting a pat

Heading back to Cha-am with some dogs for neutering