Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Only one month to go teaching in China

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Robert Meek

With a month or so left in Shenyang, the classic despairing "it's gone so quickly" moment is combated by a realization of how much I've actually done since leaving home. Having settled into a comfortable work routine, I made it my priority to break that routine and discover what Shenyang had left to offer me.

Being an active part of the expat community is vital for staying alive and sane in any city in China for more than two months. The majority of expats living in my district of Shenyang were English, with occasional Americans and a few from various European countries.

My lack of exposure to the Australian accent began to leave a very British toll on my speech, much to the amusement of the Northerners I was bunked with. Events within the community are sporadic and spontaneous, requiring a keen eye on the ten or so WeChat groups I had somehow fallen into.

It was not uncommon to receive party invitations at 8pm on the night, after which I would semi-begrudgingly hop out of bed to try and construct a pirate costume, or a sixties costume, or a Rubik's cube costume out of what's in my suitcase, hoping I'll make it in time (which I usually would thanks to the abundance of taxis).

I acquired a guitar from my neighbour after being introduced to Laowai Open Mic Night at Feng's Live House once a fortnight. All the expats (from our group anyway) meet up and play music for free beer. Through this I managed to join a band; "The Ting Bu Dongs" (Ting Bu Dong means "I dont understand what I'm hearing", a very useful phrase for both the Chinese and the Foreigners). Of course this development didn't affect my Open Mic solo career, during which my cheap guitar earned me many a free beer.

I met a man named Bai Ying at my local haunt, who seemed to have mistaken the bar for an English Corner (a bar that sets aside specific nights for locals and laowais to practice their languages on each other) and picked me out as the best candidate to drill his English with him.

The friendship became beneficial, as he soon invited me over to his small but cosy apartment where his wife cooked a delicious pork dumpling dinner and I practised my Chinese with him long into the night. These kinds of interactions are apparently quite common, and it is liberating to be in a society where my first reaction to a sweet old man inviting me over for dinner is not one of scepticism.

Work continues to be full of ups and downs. The more I get to know my classes, the briefer my lesson plans become, and the more confident I am with deploying said lessons.

Nearing the end of my time in Shenyang, I have been planning a ridiculous adventure around North/Central China to be undertaken at the end of placement with some friends from Beijing and another from Australia. The Lonely Planet book has been vital in this process, and I would recommend it for anyone considering travelling in China. Until then I'll be enjoying these last weeks with my Shenyang expat friends.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Canada Summer Camp Life

PROJECT: Work Placement
WRITTEN BY: Kate O'Hagan

I’m currently writing this on my creaky top-bunk in the private staff area of Cabin 10 in Camp New Moon. I’m a “sleep in” (a specialty staff who sleeps in a cabin with campers, but isn’t their official councilor) for nine prep girls. My day ordinarily looks like this...

8am- Wake up the girls in my cabin, which is no easy task. We play a wakeup song each morning to pester the girls out of bed, which usually results in groans. Breakfast is at 8:15am in the Mess Hall. The best breakfasts always include bagel and cream cheese as the pastry chef at camp makes all of the bread fresh every day.

9am- Breakfast is filled with heaps of chants and messy clean ups. After, all the campers go back to their cabins for clean up before they go to their organised classes.

10am- Before lunch there is two scheduled periods when cabins come down to each specialties. Myself or the three other sail staff take the kids out on Hobies or Lasers, they all love them. During lessons we teach kids about parts of the boat, knots, how to set up a boat, and the general rules of the water. The best bit is taking a small group of kids out and getting to chat to them about nonsense.

12:30pm- Lunch is served!!!! By this time my stomach has been growling for about an hour. Since I work at a Jewish camp we sing a blessing before every lunch and dinner. Kids immediately start lunging across the table for the food after the blessing. It’s incredibly loud during lunch and dinner, I LOVE IT. Kids sing chants that are sparked by anything, it might be someone dropping a spoon or if someone says the word “announcements”.

2:30pm- Rest hour finishes now, I usually just chill out at waterfront where I am all day with the other staff and enjoy not being surrounded by campers.

6:15pm- Dinner.

8:15pm- Evening Program begins, usually it’s within the units (Junies, Inters, Preps, Pre-CITS, or CITS) but sometimes it’s a whole camp program. We play a lot of ice breaker games or running games like dodge ball.

I never want to leave camp and everyday seems like it’s going by faster and faster.


Monday, 31 August 2015

Au revoir France

Five things I got out of my Antips Experience!

PROJECT: Tutoring & Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Khouw

1. I now have the utmost respect for immigrants, especially if English is not their first language. It’s hard. It’s really hard, and I only went to a European country of which I’d studied the language for six years and everyone knew a bit of English anyway.
I can’t imagine coming to Australia from somewhere like China or Iran. So please be kind to migrants. They’re trying their best.

2. I learned that the Western world is incredibly Anglo-centric. Us native English speakers are so lucky but we constantly take it for granted that European schools have to teach our language, that the vast majority of music and movies are in our language, that Europeans know all about Anglophone cultures but we rarely know theirs.
They’re used to it, but it seems a bit unfair that all the radio stations play mostly music in English, and ninety-nine percent of their movies have to be dubbed in French. I’ve watched many of these movies and there’s so much lost in translation- expressions, accents, idiosyncratic voices and so on.

3. I have a new-found appreciation for Australia. I miss all the little things that don’t exist in France- cricket, netball, meat pies, driving on the left, our amazing beaches- but also the general laid-back vibe of the whole country. It’s a beautiful thing. Everything’s relaxed and people are rarely bothered about minor things.
Not that everyone in France is uptight and stressed, but few places are as comfortably laid-back as Australia.

4. I’ve definitely caught the travel bug! I’ve been inspired to travel to every continent, but after I’ve had a break. Surprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about potential domestic trips, which is new. Most of my time here has been spent taking small trips around the region to visit other towns and villages, and I’m now looking forward to when I can do the same thing at home.
Seeing as in Sydney I can drive, it’s so easy to just go down to the beach for the day, or spend a weekend visiting my friends in Canberra and Melbourne.

5. On the other hand, all this travelling has made me feel a little more settled. I’ve gotten all this restless energy out that I’d had pent-up from HSC then doing nothing for six months afterwards.
I’m looking forward to going to uni next year, and I can do it secure in the knowledge that I’ve completed one of my life’s dreams before I’ve even turned twenty!
This is my last blog entry before I go off to Paris for Bastille Day, so thank you for reading and au revoir!


Friday, 28 August 2015

Welcome to Camp!

PROJECT: Work Placement
WRITTEN BY: Cassidy Shaw

Hello from Haliburton, Canada. I am currently a counsellor at Camp Northland for Unit 2 girls (aged 10-12) I currently have a group of 11 girls under my care. Whilst this is my first year attending a summer camp I'm having a wonderful time experiencing and soaking up the amazing culture of a Canadian Summer.

It really is amazing to experience a camp with so much culture, tradition and history. From little things like dancing across certain bridges to avoid badluck to singalongs to canoeing across the lake and camping under the stars. I'm learning and picking up all these little traditions slowly and easing into life at camp and even though it's only the first week I really am loving it.

A day in the life of camp looks a little like this. 7 15am the alarm goes off and the four staff in my cabin make sure all the campers are awake and getting ready for the day. We all head down to the mess hall for breakfast which can be pancakes, French toast or eggs and there is always hot chocolate!

We have two activities and then a hobby (which is an activity the campers get to choose and counsellors also get to choose) this week I am on adventure which involves rock climbing and high ropes. Hobbies are a great opportunity to meet different staff and campers within the camp. Lunch is at 12 15 and then we have a desperately needed rest hour till 2pm, nap time is essential at camp.

The afternoon consists of 2 more activities and then free swim time before dinner at 5 30pm. Counselling, honestly is one of the most difficult jobs I've had but it is also one of the most rewarding and most enjoyable jobs.

Whilst being with the same people 24/7 can seem strenuous, they become your family away from home and the people you'll always remember. I can't believe how many amazing people I've met and how many new friends I've made in the 10 days I've been at camp. I really can't wait for the rest of the summer.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

France: The gross and petit differences

PROJECT: Tutoring & Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Khouw

Some people assume that because France is a Western country, it’s no different than Australia. That’s not true! I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting about the differences, both big and small, between France and Australia, trying to work out exactly what sets our respective cultures apart.

1. Language- obviously, the official language of France is French. This is also, however, a difference in the way they approach foreign languages. Learning English is compulsory, so most people speak French, some English, and often another European language, such as German or Spanish.
Being bilingual is not a big deal because almost everyone is, whereas in Australia, people are impressed if you continue a foreign language to HSC level!

2. Food- coming from a country that doesn’t really have a defined cuisine, I loved trying all the regional specialities. I’ve eaten Boudin Noir (blood sausage), Foie Gras (goose liver), Crème Brulee, and a lot of duck! Cliched as it is, I often have baguettes, patisseries and crepes.
There’s always a bakery around the corner- I’m going to really miss them when I’m home! They also eat dessert for both lunch and dinner. I’ve now gotten used to it but I won’t be able to continue it when I’m home, it’s too unhealthy!

3. Cooking- there is a lot more emphasis placed on cooking. I was surprised that my host brother is a fairly proficient cook, considering most boys I know are limited to 2-minute noodles and bacon! That being said, he also eats weird stuff, like sugar on pasta, and honey-coated duck. I’ve been told to disregard it as teenage boy cuisine rather than French cooking!

4. Opening hours- this has driven me absolutely crazy my entire stay. Aside from the mandatory (and in my opinion, unnecessary) closure of businesses for 2 hours for lunch, shops seem to open and close arbitrarily.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked 20 minutes just to discover that the bakery is closed. I did find out, though, that it’s the law for French businesses to be closed one day a week. It’s their choice which day, but most close on Sundays.

5. Formality- from what I’ve seen, the French are more polite in a very formal way. That being said, I think a large part of that is that Australians are so laid back.
It’s more a general feeling than specifics, but it’s little things like waiting until everyone’s together to start eating dinner, even if the food gets cold while we wait.
Things that don’t exist in France:

• Cricket
• Netball
• Meat pies
• Sausage rolls


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Loving life in Caen

PROJECT: Tutoring & Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Khouw Ft Benjamin Blackshaw

I’m staying just outside Caen, a major town in the Normandy region of France, about 2 hours by train from Paris.

Frénouville, the small country town where my host family lives, doesn't have much in it at all; a school and pre-school, a bakery and a small news agency.

Normandy itself is heaven for people who love food and those who love history. Cities such as Caen and Bayeux have many museums and historical artefacts linked to William the Conqueror and the coast to the North is, of course, the historical site of the D-Day Landings.

Despite all the preparation beforehand, nothing could prepare me for the 'lost' feeling that occurs when you end up on the other side of the world, tasked with speaking another language. Pretty quickly however I became used to being immersed in French and conversations have become easier!

My host mother runs a "mix-mash" service as a babysitter, after school time carer and canteen, it's quite difficult to explain but essentially, instead of an after-school care service in the town, mums send their children to a group of 3 or 4 other mothers (called "nou-nou" in French) who supervise these children at lunch times (French children can go home for lunch time) and after school whilst the parents are working.

The ages of the kids are anywhere from new-borns to 11 years of age. For the past two months I've been playing soccer with them, teaching them Aussie Rules (update: it's been nearly 7 weeks and they've just got the 'hand-ball' down pat) and answering many questions about Australia (one boy couldn't believe that we don't keep Kangaroos as pets). Slang is one facet of any foreign language that you don't learn in high school and therefore spending time with these kids has greatly improved my comprehension of less-formal French!

Other than this, English lessons take place nearly every night for the host mother and I'm either reading French books or watching TV, trying to immerse myself in the language as much as possible.

There's only 1 week left which is awfully sad, but this week I'm heading North with my host family to Rouen. It's been amazing so far and whilst I'm not looking forward to next week when I have to leave, I know that the memories from this experience will stay with me forever


Farefell to Fiji

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Issy Steadman

Wow, we couldn’t believe it, we had already lived in Nadi for three weeks and our last week was upon us. Time was absolutely flying by!

After our weekend away at Beachcomber Island and sporting our new tans, we were well rested and ready to fully embrace our last week at school. With only minimal days left at school and with our lovely host families we weren’t taking any moments for granted.

Our final week started off with the most heart warming assembly given by the Nadi District School, were they sang and danced for us, this assembly was too celebrate the fact that Antipodeans and Vida, another volunteer, had cumulatively donated $1000 to the school for 20 extra water taps around the campus. The Nadi Special School was given $200, which will hopefully go towards their school camp in Term three.

The Nadi Special school also gave us a lovely going away morning tea, with traditional Indian snacks prepared by the talented vocational girls, and where both of us were presented a traditional Fijian sarong to Thank us for all that we did at the school, and a sarong that will forever remind us of all the wonderful people we met at the Special school.

In the afternoon we experienced our second Lovo, where the food was cooked underground on hot stones.
The lovo was our last goodbye with all the staff members at the Special school and definitely one of the best meals we ate in Fiji, consisting of traditional roots, dips and yummy meats.

Our school days now involved more one on one time with the students, gardening in the vocational garden and enjoying afternoon games of soccer and badminton. After four weeks we had done our best to assist students and it was so great to see a visible improvement in many of the kids writing and math’s abilities.

We hope that our most used phrased of ‘keep your hands to yourselves’ will be kept in mind by the young cherubs at the Nadi Special School and hopefully the students will all be treating each other with a little less, whilst playful quite rough, violence.

To ensure we did not lose any time in this amazing country we spent the afternoons in Denarau; watching sunsets and fire dancing at Smugglers Cove, as well as picking up some Fijian handicrafts for our families back in Australia. Thursday night we shared our last meal with our fellow Antipodeans and our in country partner, which was a great way to reflect and laugh over all our adventures from the past month.

After living with the beautiful Chandra family for a month now it was hard to say our goodbyes. It was amazing coming home every night to this family, their playful
children and the beautiful meals we shared with them. We really can’t thank Antipodeans enough for the life changing experience they provided for all the volunteers, and the memories of those four weeks that we will forever cherish.