Friday, 19 June 2015

Challenging, creative and rewarding teaching experiences

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Teaching & Swimming Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Kaitlin Foster, University of Sydney, Education

This week we were given the opportunity to organise our own school holiday program. We needed to devise the timetable, classroom allocations and lunchtime duties – we were the principles of our very own school! We divided the students into both a senior school (years three, four and five) and junior school (years one, two and three).

In the senior classes over the course of the week the students were doing a broad range of activities throughout the day – anywhere from drama activities to an exploration of living and non-living things that could be found at our school! Jess and Mikey focused their unit of work on environmental awareness and the positive interactions the students could make with their local environment. A particular highlight was when the students were able to make their own pot plant or pencil case out of half an empty water bottle. In Kaitlin and Kate’s classroom they spent the week on both English and Science, finishing the week off by giving every student an opportunity to use the pot plant they made in Jess’ class and plant their own seeds!

Real life walking, talking ‘Wild Things’ were found in Ruby and Sam’s classroom – making for some very interesting lunchtime activities. In addition to this, the girls also explored with their classes through art lessons some of the iconic natural and built Australian environments. Two of the Physical Education teachers Izzy and Ally taught the senior classes a human body unit of work – giving the students the opportunity to assemble their own skeletons!

In the junior classrooms, Kate and Olivia developed both a ‘mental maths’ unit as well as a world culture unit. The students enjoyed the opportunity to learn about new cultures as they each developed their own world fact file that they compared to the Maldivian culture each day. Heather and Hilary engaged their classes with health lessons whereby the students each made a ‘health food plate’ of the major food groups as well as discussed friendships in their lessons. A very popular topic this week of Australian icons was a standout in Helena and Melinda’s classroom. The students enjoyed the opportunity to explore Australian landmarks through engaging visual arts lessons where they explored colour and pattern.

After by far the busiest and most rewarding week here, we packed our bags and travelled by speedboat to the Herathera Island Resort. As we stepped off the boat, we all felt instantly relaxed in our own little paradise. We were treated to buffet lunches, dinners and breakfasts but also to picturesque sunsets on both nights that left the entire group speechless. We all feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be in such a beautiful part of the world.

To top off an already incredible week we were treated with a candlelit barbeque dinner on the beach at sunset upon our return to Hithadhoo. We look forward to the week ahead ready to conquer our last opportunities to teach at both Hithadhoo and Sharafuden Schools before travelling home, relaxed and having eaten far too much food.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Invaluable Teaching Experiences for Education Students in the Maldives

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Teaching & Swimming Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Kaitlin Foster, University of Sydney, Education

This past week has sped by and it feels like only yesterday that we had our first visit to our local schools. The week has seen us continuing our swimming lessons and starting both the netball clinics and an ‘Australian School Holiday Program’ for the students of Hithadhoo and Sharafuddin schools.

The Maldivian school holidays began this week and provided an incredible opportunity for the group to teach lessons to the local students that reflected the Australian curriculum. On the first day we had over eighty students in attendance! The program also provides us with valuable classroom experience, allowing us to establish a unit of work on any relevant topic for us to teach during the week. The students immensely enjoyed the first day, and in particular Ruby and Sam’s drama lessons.

As four members of our group are studying Bachelors of Education (Human Movement), some of the local high schools have been eager to utilise the girls’ knowledge for the training of their Cadets. This week, the girls have worked tirelessly to present two seminars based on nutrition and first aid. The girls drew a crowd that was much bigger than anticipated, and worked well as a team in engaging the large number of students.

In the Maldives, the schools take pride in not only producing well-educated students but also in the appearance of their school. It is not uncommon for classrooms to be painted with murals depicting key focuses for the year, or inspiring messages for the students that reflect a schools key values. When the opportunity arose for our group to assist a school in need by painting the Maldivian key values we jumped at the opportunity. In just one day Melinda, Jessica, Kate and Helena produced beautiful pillars that will stand as a daily reminder for the students of their educational goals.

A one-night stay at the Equator Resort blissfully tipped off our busy week. A buffet breakfast and a lay by the pool have the group feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the week ahead.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Temples, Take-Away and The 'Things We Take for Granted' List

PROJECT: Physiotherapy, University of South Australia
WRITTEN BY: Suzannah Michell

Week three in Palampur started with a bang! Our weekend was spent in Amritsar where we were lucky enough to visit the Pakistan border and the Golden Temple. Fun fact: the Golden Temple has more visitors annually than the Taj Mahal!

Whilst our trip to the Golden Temple was vastly different to our experience at the Taj, there seemed to be some common themes: it was hot. Like, really hot. 45+ degrees hot. We planned the day to visit the border and the changing of the guards in the afternoon, and then see the temple on Saturday night to cope a little better with the sauna-like conditions. Our little bus spluttered it's way triumphantly the 5 hours to Amritsar and then the further 2 to the border between India and Pakistan WITH air-conditioning (for most of the time).

The border first: this bewildered author had no clue of Pakistan and India's long term and ongoing wars, violence and feuds prior to the spectacle that occurred at changing of the guards. Imagine two soccer games going on side by side - cheering and all - separated by two metal gates. But the soccer players specialize only in high kicks and yelling. And they're wearing peacock-esque hats and military uniforms, sometimes holding guns. Yeah, well that happened for a good hour. Pakistan and India performed similar displays of gymnastics, strongman posing, screaming and marching whilst separated by the border's elaborate gates. All the while, the extremely large crowds gathered on either side of the border cheered and yelled and danced to the music of their country, trying to outdo each other.

The closing ceremony featured the opening of the gates and quick synchronized lowering of the flags. The finale: a really high, high kick and a scream. Really, I'm not lying - it was strange. Bobby, one of the main organizers here, said that the kicking was to show the opposing side the sole of their shoe as a sign of strength. Whilst Julie mused that it really seemed like a show of good faith to each other to keep the peace. One thing is for sure, it was kind of fantastic, and the vibe was electric and intriguing. If that wasn't enough to round out our trip to the border, we were also patted down and searched 4 times on entry to the event, and it was by far the most number of photos we've been asked for. We were even asked to hold people's babies.

Note: 45 degrees + large crowd + 7 hours by bus + multiple photos with people's children and families = slightly disgruntled travellers. Enough said.

So the Golden Temple next: so nice we visited here twice! Once by night, and then again in full sun. Holy moly batman, that's a nice temple. You have to remove your shoes and place them in lockers on entry then walk through water to cleanse your feet, but the shoelessness was worth it. (Thanks Julie for teaching us all about parasites that can enter your feet by burrowing through your skin that live in water). At night it was like this shining beacon surrounded by water hovering in the darkness. By day it was an immense feature of light surrounded by the vivid colours of India. The first night we stumbled into the temple we may or may not have exited out of a different gate than the one we entered. After some shoeless strolls through the overpopulated city, our shoes were recovered! Whilst dirty, we were thankful that night of India's obsession with burning all roadside rubbish and the lack of glass or suspect liquids in our path.

One more important note from our weekend trip: if you thought we fought over chicken bones, you should've seen the lengths we went to acquiring McDonalds and KFC. The latter was more difficult due to Amritsar's, the holy city’s, pure vegetarianism. But after some crafty Google searches and an excessively long tuk-tuk ride we all had some Kentucky fried solid food to consume. McDonalds was actually located very close to our hotel though! And McPaneer ain't so bad! The McFlurry was arguably better though. Ice cream solves all problems in 45 degrees, let's be honest.

My goodness and that was only the weekend!

This week we started at new placements - rotating around to gain a better spread of experience. Everyday we arrive back at the house for lunch after placement and share stories of confusion or success from our days, revel in the contrasts of Indian physiotherapy, or boast about what delicious treats we were offered on home visits.

In general we decided this week was a bit of a "things we take for granted week" though. So here's the short list:
- Running drinking water
- Air conditioning
- Electricity
- Medicare and private health insurance
- Opening your mouth in the shower
- Fresh and safe meat and poultry
- The ability to safely cool and store meat...
- Currency with less 0's
- Relative social equality between men and women
- Automated washing machines
- Long-handled brooms
- Solid foods
- Australian Heath literacy
- Knives
- Napisan oxidation plus
- Less hand sanitation requirements
- Access to basic groceries
- Beer
- Road rules
- Less need to give way to livestock
- Indicators
- Quiet streets
- Animal welfare league and the RSPCA
- Beaches
- Alan keys (you can't fix a wheelchair without one!)
- Blending in
- Understanding conversation
- Rabies shots

A special thank you to Bobby's dad who also hosted a private tour of his tea plantation this week! His resemblance to the monopoly man was uncanny, and his touring skills were unparalleled!

Golden quotes for the week:

"Things like this just wouldn't happen if I had a knife and fork!" Luke

"Laurence, you should put henna on your face. It will come off straight away" Leah

"I've given up! I'm boycotting pants!" Alex

"I'll bring my Alan key tomorrow!" Undisclosed

"If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball" Laurence

"That's 133 beeps! In only 3kms. A new record." Tobi

This weekend we're going for a 9km 'moderate' walk through the foothills of the Himalayas. I'm forecasting it as a bad episode of survivor... "12 people begin the journey and only the strongest will survive..."

Suzannah, on behalf of Tobi, Luke, Leah, Viv, Maddie, Tina, Alex, Laurence, Teagan, Nadia and Julie


Monday, 8 June 2015

Island Getaway to Celebrate The End Of Week One in Timor Leste

 COUNTRY: Timor-Leste
PROJECT: Health Science
WRITTEN BY: Georgia, Tim, Katie and Jess - University of Queensland

Fast boat. Hammocks and coconuts. Tuk tuks. Nemo and scar. Loud waves. Slow boat.

After just one week we all felt well-deserving of an island getaway: Atauro was calling. We were greeted with open arms and a welcoming second-breakfast by one of the resort managers, Super-Mario/Superman, who never failed to make us laugh. We never realised how much funnier sarcasm is coming from someone who speaks English as a second language. His standard one-liners included ‘good morning’ instead of ‘good evening’ or telling us that the bananas at breakfast were in fact chicken sausages. His catching laughter was the punch line. After hearing the same joke over and over, it only became funnier (motor learning principles in action?).

First port of call was the markets, a strenuous 50m walk but well worth the 2-cent donuts and coconuts. Unfortunately we had to hold ourselves back from the dried squid. Next on the agenda was a tuk tuk ride to the Doll Factory. So bracing to enter the potential horror movie set… we arrived to find ladies sewing away at their very old Singer machines, piecing together anything and everything. Needless to say, not one person left the store empty-handed. After fending off the sales attempts of competitive local wood carvers, we arrived at the moment many of us had been hanging out for (literally, hanging in hammocks), we were off to find Nemo. Safe in our knowledge that sharks had been over-fished, snorkelling was incredible. There were many beautiful colours of the near un-disturbed coral and fish we had never seen before, some only as a Disney Pixar cartoon.

At dinner, a local band came to share their music with us and we were all able to play along with children’s percussion instruments and participate in a local dance for the final song. All this cultural engagement earned us a few cocktails at the bar. You’d be surprised to know that we still made it up on Sunday morning to enjoy the sunrise and we’re so glad we did. Sunday’s itinerary was a little different with not much muscle expenditure happening before 3pm. Left to our own devices to arrange ferry tickets home we were all questioning whether the hefty $US4 each had been given to a fraudster, sure enough we made it on board and 4 hours later we made it home for dinner and very soon after, bed.

Bouncy deer. Traditional music. Beach barbeque. Fish on a stick. Ginger. Obstacle course.

After all that rest we were raring to go on Monday morning. Just kidding, that was a tough wake-up. The clinical week was just as eventful, and was full of challenges and successes for everyone. One common discovery was the extraordinary ability of the mystical “bouncy deer” to improve almost everything during therapy sessions (including our mental health haha). On Wednesday we celebrated Independence Day, unknowingly attending a political party flag raising, that included a show of traditional dancing, with elderly dancers dressed in traditional woven fabrics and vibrantly coloured feathers.

To recover from the challenges of having a day off in the middle of the working week, we went to the beach barbeques at Bebonuk. Here we learnt the ways of the locals, spending an afternoon playing Frisbee with the local kids and watching the sunset over the ocean. After all the running around we were treated to various local delicacies fresh off the barbeque (including a whole fish on stick and chicken livers).

On Thursday it was back to clinic, which was full of moments that challenged us, but also brought us closer together. We also have the undying support of the local cat Ginger, who always finds a lap to stealthily sit and sleep on (we’re starting to wonder if it has a sleeping disorder…).

On Friday we were off to Maliana, where we spent the morning touring the rural health post facility and SISCa clinic, making friends with the local goats and kids as we went (let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be your friend when you’re giving away free UQ Frisbees). We then had lunch at $1 beach (we don’t know either), which excitingly enough consisted of peanut butter (and potato chips for some adventurous people) sandwiches. It was then off for a swim and snorkel (here’s looking at you Tim and Alice) before returning home to Hotel Lecidere. Dinner tonight was a special occasion as it was Ruth’s last night with us here in Timor. We went to Esplanada, one of the fanciest restaurants in town (there’s not many…). While the night was fantastic, we were all sad to see Ruth go. Timor will not be the same without her, and we give our heartfelt thanks to her for her support and comic relief.

Bye for now, adeus!


Friday, 5 June 2015

Settling In To Working Life In Timor Leste

 COUNTRY: Timor-Leste
PROJECT: Health Science
WRITTEN BY: Talita, Jocelyn and Alice - University of Queensland

After an emotional morning farewell (Ruth didn’t believe we would get up for her – we love you Ruth!), the CNR bus arrived at our hotel for an adventure to Maubara. Little did we know, the treacherous nature of the roads that we would face in the 17 seater bus - the CNR staff played on our emotions as they encouraged us to get photos of the cliff that was less than a metre away. Despite this, they treated us to a fantastic day at the beach (pigs and all) as well as a wander through the local markets, an exhilarating 4WD competition and topped it off with a visit to Pope John Paul for sunset. We can’t move on without a massive shout out to Bec’s husband, Kane, who filled his carry-on for the weekend full of muesli bars and vegemite chocolate – you do not know what this means to us!

We slept in. After an action packed few weeks, we revelled in the opportunity to relax for a bit and get some work done on the presentations that we are to present next week. We fit in a morning stroll to Santa Cruz cemetery – a sombre moment amongst the hustle and bustle as we gained a greater understanding of the sad history and suffering of the community.

The Occupational Therapy students had the opportunity to accompany the CNR Community Based Rehabilitation team staff to clients’ homes in the Dili region. This valuable experience provided a better understanding of the home environment of our clients to help guide our planning of therapy and goals. We were warmly welcomed into the homes, but it was a sad moment to learn that one of the clients does not leave her room due to disability and spends her days sitting. We recognised several areas in which therapy could help her and encouraged the CBR staff to get her to CNR for treatment. Monday night, it was time to break out the Vegemite chocolate, and to our surprise, it wasn’t half bad. At least it was almost as good as the mung bean muesli bars the Speechies decided were fabulous (definitely give these a go!).

Everyone is starting to relax and become more comfortable with each other, which is a good and bad thing. The good is that the teams are working well and we are becoming a fully functional IP team (/BFFs 4eva). The flip side is that pranks have started, and certain members of our team are one up, as another member returned home to find they could not reach their bed as their floor was covered in water filled saucepans. Retribution has not yet been received.

After a generally positive morning, we had an emotional afternoon. After giving a modified chopping board to a very grateful patient, we had a teary goodbye as she’d been treated at CNR for the last 5 years. This was followed by an upsetting realisation about the differences in medical treatments here compared to back home in Australia. A young teenager had a severely displaced femur that had not been operated on, and presented at CNR for physiotherapy. Unfortunately, the recommended management is surgery, and in the absence of that, there was very little we could do. This awakening to the reality of developing countries was upsetting to most, as it was probably the first scenario where we felt utterly helpless.

Everyone was really upset that NSW didn’t win Origin, but had enjoyed the mid-week break at a restaurant watching the footy. The last clinic day for the week was spent working with clients and finalising the program for our presentations next week. The presentations revolve around areas of our professions that the staff at CNR had requested information about. These include: cerebral palsy, safe feeding, stages of play and gait retraining. We are very much looking forward to passing on this information in a more formal setting.

A district visit was again planned for today, where we attended a private NGO funded health clinic in Hera; a short drive East of Dili. We were taken through the clinic, and spoke to the Cuban doctor about the challenges he faces. Some of these challenges included the lack of resources, the isolation, the large number of people that he services (177 families), and the fact that whenever it rains and the river flows, they get flooded in. Paulo then took us to his composting centre, the first, and only, of its kind in Timor. Throughout the drive, we experienced our first attempted hitchhiker trying to join us in the mikrolet; the Timorese are very competent in stepping into moving vehicles.
Tonight will be a quite night as we prepare for our 60km, 6 hour journey to climb Mt Ramelau on Sunday morning.


Thursday, 4 June 2015

A Mind Blowing First Week In The Maldives

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Teaching & Swimming Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Jessica Leask & Kaitlin Foster, University of Sydney, Education

Our first day on the beautiful atoll of Hithadhoo was nothing short of magical. With a delayed flight due to severe weather conditions in Hong Kong, and a change of travel route that included a stop over in Singapore, we arrived safely at our guesthouse in the early hours of the morning. After a good sleep in, we all awoke and were excited to explore our new home for the next three weeks.

Our first activity of the day was to visit our schools. For the duration of our stay, the group has been divided between both the Hithadhoo School and Sharafuddin, which boasts the largest school population in the Maldives. At Hithadhoo School we were greeted with flowers and coconuts during our meeting with the Assistant Principal.

Our first days of teaching here have been invaluable. The schools have been very welcoming, with all of our teachers giving us opportunities to teach classes to the students on our very first day! The local teachers are eager to learn new practices, and as a whole we have learnt so many important lessons from the students already. We have also begun to teach the very eager students how to swim in an afternoon program that will be continued throughout the duration of our trip. In addition to swimming, beginning next week, there will be some lively competition between the students at both schools as we are all coaching netball teams that will be competing each other in the island interschool competition.

In addition to our lesson planning and organising the coming weeks ahead, we have been fortunate enough to be able to plan a few little excursions including snorkelling and fishing. Snorkelling was one of the most mind-blowing experiences for so many of the students on the trip. Firstly the colour of the water is exactly how you would imagine it, the brightest and clearest of blues. Meanwhile the wildlife below is breath taking. It is a whole other world down there with so many creatures to be seen. We were lucky enough to see at least 3 turtles in all different sizes, a few reef sharks and so many brightly coloured fish.

As a group we also celebrated two birthdays this week with a beautiful trip to an uninhabited island on Friday, with snorkelling, swimming and a boat ride. We are all now feeling refreshed and ready to conquer our second week!


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Farewell To Our 'Sisters' In Indonesia

COUNTRY: Indonesia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: Nursing
WRITTEN BY: Casey Samiotis, Edith Cowan University

Our second week was spent at Wangaya local government hospital in Denpasar. We had the opportunity to spend time on different wards including emergency, maternity, HDU, paediatrics & the outpatient clinic. With the help of our translators, we were able to observe some fascinating interventions.

Some of the highlights for us were witnessing births in the maternity ward and endless cuddles in the neonate nursery. We also encountered all sorts of medical and trauma cases in the small emergency department. It was interesting to see the ways in which the hospital differed from back home and also to experience the similarities - illegible doctor's handwriting is universal!

We were also invited for a tour of Stikes University campus and simulation labs where our translators are completing their nursing training. We have learnt a lot about nursing and about Balinese social and cultural influences in health care. All having left with a greater appreciation of the people and their impressive pain tolerance!

On our second last night we were invited to join our tour guide Wayan in his local village approximately 1 hour from Sanur, where we enjoyed a home cooked Balinese meal dressed in traditional Balinese sarongs. Children from the village entertained us all performing traditional music and dance.

Our last week of placement comes to an end and so the farewells begin. Tears flowed at the farewell dinner, where we exchanged gifts and said goodbye to our "sisters" (translators) after working so closely together for two weeks. We have made some lasting friendships and some unforgettable memories.