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Monday, 24 November 2014

Bidding farewell to Peru


COUNTRY: Peru
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Teaching & Construction
WRITTEN BY: Stephanie Rainbow

Hola,

Today marks the end of our adventures in Peru. This last week has flown by as we have experienced the end of our time teaching and finally completed the concrete paths around the school, which will serve to keep it from being washed away in the coming rainy season. Yesterday we spent a final lunch out as a group and visited the chocolate museum in the city centre.

It will be very strange to leave the homes and families we have grown used to, catching the bus everyday to Enako and taking the taxi ride to the school of Pumamarca. Some of the distinct features we've encountered have been the bizarre weather, the constant soundtrack of fighting dogs, the lovely planes that pass over our house at 6am every morning and the awesome hill that we have to climb to get home each day.

This week we returned to the families whose houses we visited a couple of weeks before and gave them much needed supplies. The house I visited belonged to Francisco, one of the boys at the school and his younger sister Maria, who's mother ran off and left them in the care of their uncle and aunt. The family previously had no proper table and ate off the place where the food was cooked, so we used the money fundraised in Australia to buy them a table, chairs, some new pots and pans and new blankets for their beds. It was great to be able to really make a difference in the lives of people who have never experienced the prosperous lifestyle that we do, and I pray that Francisco and Maria will be able to finish school so they can have a better future.

Our last day at Pumamarca began with the almost ritual preparation of the fruit salad, before we joined the kids in a series of games such as sack races, tug-of-war and this weird game where the kids ran back and forth filling a small bottle with water and then tipping it into a smaller bucket in the hopes to win by filling it to the top. The kids had lots of fun and it was very enjoyable to beat the boys repeatedly at tug-of-war. The kids were constantly taking my camera off my hands, so I'm sure I have many interesting pictures and videos now!

After the games the kids proceeded to soak each other and the girls in our group where given new hairdos. The day then proceeded into the sad but heart-warming farewells where we were each given flowers and a card by the kids as well as some speeches (which I didn't fully understand but were still very cute!). We were then given more hugs than I quite honestly think I've had in my lifetime with every kid in the school, plus the teachers and the principal. It is hard to think that we may never see these awesome kids again and I hope that one day I can return here to visit.

Tomorrow we will all part ways and head off to different parts of the country, which is sad but everyone is very much looking forward to coming back to the comforts of home. It's been a truly incredible experience, and one I will cherish forever.

Adios, see you soon Australia!

Stephanie Rainbow

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

GapBreak update: France Language Immersion


COUNTRY: France
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Language Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Allie Boyd

It's been another great few weeks here in France. After spending time settling in and getting to know our families, Holly and I finally met up in Le Mans and got to know each other’s families. This was after I moved to Christine's house, who is our in country partner and who is good friends with Muriel, Holly’s host mother. Holly had been very busy going to Muriel’s school to help with English lessons.

When the students learn English, they can learn business vocabulary and English useful for working in retail. Holly also got to participate in the lesson by pretending to be a customer and had to ask questions about the products at the school store. Muriel and Eric’s two children, Romane and Lucas were absolutely adorable (and a bit shy) and Holly would ask them simple questions about their days and what they did at school to increase their vocabulary. The kids would also ask what some words were in English.


“Muriel works in a vocational (agricultural) school in Brettes-les-Pins. Students go there to learn either nursing, selling food products or selling garden products. The classes had prepared questionnaires for me about life in Sydney and were very interested in driving licenses & school, especially the school uniform! “- Holly

We were both so happy we had finally met up so we could talk about what was going well, how we were doing, any concerns we had (there weren’t many really) and shared ideas about lessons or games for our English tutoring.
Because of our families’ busy schedules we had a lot of time to ourselves and met up a lot during the following weeks. We were also lucky that we had the same days off from school so we could go out and explore. We went to some fun places! One of my favourite memories was going to L’Arche de la Nature, which, like the name suggests, was a nature park not far out of Le Mans. It was so pretty and we walked a lot. It was absolutely beautiful and it gave us a chance to actually get to know each other. It was so calming and peaceful and we got some amazing photos.

We also had some interesting experiences here… I touched an electric fence and got electrocuted. Holly got zapped too. It was quite shocking! We learned all about bee keeping and were proud that we could read the information in French. We wandered through a forest and got attacked by a swarm of flies.
Holly faced her fears and climbed this giant ropes course all the way to the top! She was much braver than me. I only made it to the first level and got too scared.

Le Mans is such an incredible place and everything is so close and easily accessible. Getting to the city centre walking along the Roman wall was also enchanting because it’s so old and it still holds strong. The old town was amazing to walk through and was like being in a different century. The Saint Julian’s Cathedral (top picture) was so impressive and no matter how long you looked it didn’t even look real but at the same time looked perfectly in place.

Some of my favourite parts of this experience have been meeting new and amazing people and one Saturday we got to meet other exchange students. Christine organised for every student to make a speciality from their country for the party. Holly made ANZAC biscuits, I made a meat pie and together we made lamingtons (picture second from top). We were very proud of our creations as we didn’t have the regular ingredients like self-raising flour and had to use substitutes. The party was at one of Alain’s factories and we helped decorate the party room with balloons and flags from all over the world. When everyone arrived we had the fun of greeting them at the door and tried to speak some French as we knew everyone would be speaking it. We got to mingle with the other families and spoke, what we liked to call 'Franglais', which was not quite French but not quite English.

If this trip has taught me anything so far its that sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of bravery and sometimes, insane courage to get something done. Whether its meeting someone for the first time and being scared of what to say, or having to speak another language when ordering something to eat or even admitting you’re lost and need help, they are the times you remember because it was a personal triumph were you pushed past the fear of embarrassment and just had a leap of faith that it would all work out.

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Saturday, 22 November 2014

How three months in India will change me forever


COUNTRY: India
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Phoebe Laing

On the 19th of August 2014 I arrived at Udaipur, India, together with four other gap year girls I'd never met before. We would spend the next three months living in the same house (together with other volunteers from Austria, Switzerland, England, Wales and Germany), teaching English to first and second grade school children from a tribal village in the morning and to slightly older boys at a nearby boys home in the afternoon. Reflecting on the following months in the days before we left, most of us agreed it had been the best three months of our lives thus far. Not only had we gained incredible friends in each other, we had found friends all over the world and had acquired a new perspective about our own lives.

India is overwhelming at first - there are cows and dogs everywhere, wandering across the path of weaving motorbikes and tractors, many of which are calmly driving in the wrong lane. Horns, mooing, loud conversations and singing fill the streets; the smells alternate between delicious cooking and whiffs of rubbish and cow poo. It is a culture and environment so different from our own and yet we all grew to love and identify with it; the sense of community and family duty within Indian culture is something we've lost to a certain extent back home.

Our time away from our families and friends allowed us to step out of our normal selves and discover who we were outside of our normal environment. We were trusted with creating our own lessons and caring for our students, and the sense of responsibility and trust was relished by each one of us, allowing us to develop confidence and independence. We learnt how to connect with people from countries across the world, and this never meant more than the connections we made with the children we taught.

Our school children were from a very poor village- many had shirts held together by safety pins and were very obviously underweight. Yet it was their smiles and laughter that brightened our mornings; their parents also smiled whenever they saw us and each other, which left a deep impression on us about how happiness can be completely unrelated to material wealth. Despite their limited English, we made each other laugh and celebrated their progress together, and never felt as though language was truly a barrier. At the boys home I taught slightly older boys, 11-13, many of whom had quite good conversational English. I have never laughed so much as I have while with them; many of the boys are orphans or from incredibly poor families, and yet despite many traumatic stories they were accepting, friendly and always ready to laugh.

On my last day at the orphanage my boys took me by the hands and led me on a tour of the orphanage to show me how they lived. All they had in life was their bed and a small locker full of clothes and books. When I began crying at the end they told me, "No sad, Didi (big sister), happy happy", and made me smile even though I really didn't want to leave. My experience with those boys in particular will enrich my life forever - they have shown me what it is to be brave, and also how incredibly lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and have so many opportunities. I plan to work hard to save up and visit them again next year, but in the meantime I know that I will be a more grateful person, and have so many stories to share with my new beautiful friends both here in Australia and throughout the world.

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Reminiscing a life-changing trip and some advice to future travellers


COUNTRY: Borneo & Cambodia
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Building & Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Clare O'Brien

I literally feel like I've left my family behind. It's been two days since I left Borneo and all I want is for those people to be back in my life. We were the motliest crew ever but we worked.

The last few weeks went by so fast. Our three months of non-stop cementing has also caught up to us and we caught ourselves several times almost falling asleep at work. But all we had to do was remind ourselves of the massive difference this makes to the lives of these children, and we were motivated to keep going. We dug and lifted, carrying massive buckets of heavy soil through the school to build the floor of a shelter for the kids.

Just when we thought we couldn't lift anything more, couldn't smash another rock or mix another pile of cement it was suddenly our second last day of project work, and I'll be damned if we didn't finish on a high, despite the sweltering heat.

We had some of the best fun chilling in the long house making the spare room our home, turning the spare mattresses into a jumping puke and making the camp our playground. The last night though was honestly one of the best. We decided to have a night time game of hide and seak sprinting around camp. When we got too tired to play we all pretty much fell asleep next to each other before we eventually headed to bed.

As we trundled off back to Siem Reap, I couldn't help but reminisce. I know it's corny as hell- but I did it. Sitting in the back of the bus looking at how different our surroundings were to when they first started. I honestly can't even begin to sum up my personal highlights of this incredible journey, but I do know that they all involved the fantastically sassy Zoe, the energetic and gorgeous Brea and the ever-chilled and majestic Stevie.



I am now sitting in a backpackers lodge in Vietnam and I honestly feel like my life has been changed. I would recommend this experience to anyone. If you need a break from normal life, if you want to make a difference somewhere else in the world, whatever the reason- this is definitely something everyone should experience.

As a teenager leaving high school with no real drive or destination, I did feel a bit lost. Now, after finishing three months in an impoverished country I feel like I've gained more than I thought I could. This trip helped to solidify my values and opened my eyes to the world. My trip to volunteer in Borneo and Cambodia with Antipodeans Abroad has been the best decision of my life.

To those that do decide to embark on an expedition such as this, I have this advice: enjoy every moment, don't worry about missing people at home because they'll always be there. This may be your only chance to meet these people, to build a kindergarten for a village, be taught a different language by kids, and travel with people that will soon become like family. I now have so many friends around the world that I can't wait to get back out and see them all.

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that my lifetime of travelling has only just begun.

Clare O'Brien

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Edith Cowan students begin eye-opening nursing placement


 COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: Edith Cowan University Nursing Placement
WRITTEN BY: Megan Stoney

Our first impression of Siem Reap, Cambodia was that it's HOT! The first morning consisted of an introduction to the country and the Khmer language, given by the translators and our in-country partners. That day we visited one of the villages where we saw a temple and spoke to an elder. In the evening a welcome dinner was provided, and we got to see some traditional Khmer dancing.

On Monday we attended a talk about child protection in Cambodia, it was very interesting and opened all our eyes. Night time in Siem Reap has been called the Las Vegas of Cambodia. During our first week of training and learning here we taught health education lessons about hand hygiene, brushing teeth and first aid. The other groups of nursing students were at the health clinics.

The school and clinics were minimal standard and had minimal supplies. The school did not have enough classrooms, supplies or sport toys. One clinic that delivers a lot of babies had no electricity at night and so pen torches were used to deliver the babies! Unbelievable.

Dinners were lovely and exploring Siem Reap at night was fun and interesting. We walked around a lot of the time, but used Tuk Tuk’s to get to places further away. Our first week was exciting, exhausting and a real eye-opener to what Cambodia is like. I am looking forward to the weekend exploring temples and shopping and next week’s learning experiences.

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Gappers' Questionnaire!


COUNTRY: Argentina
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Teaching & Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Clem Rocks

It is so hard to comprehend that fact that we only have two weeks left in Buenos Aires before we go our separate ways. As we begin to wrap up our time together with a series of 'lasts' we have begun reminiscing about the past three months in.

Highlight of the trip
Tarun: Peruti village, Mendoza
Andreas: Peruti village, high mountain tour, Iguazu
Jaci: Iguazu
Georgia: Zoo
Annabelle: Mendoza
Joe: Iguazu boat ride
Clem: Peruti Village

Most challenging aspect of volunteering?
Tarun: Saying goodbye
Andreas: Violent children
Jaci: Language barrier
Georgia: Language
Annabelle: Contrast between the city and the slums given their proximity
Joe: Trying to see the world through the children's eyes and trying to understand their daily reality
Clem: Feeling like we can't make a significant change to their lives long-term

Most rewarding aspect of volunteering?
Tarun: The kids
Andreas: Feeding kids in Peruti
Jaci: The rewarding feeling
Georgia: Seeing how happy and grateful they are we are when we get there
Annabelle: The look in the kids faces when you arrive in the van
Joe: The moments when you feel like you've made a small difference to their world
Clem: Making a difference to their day-to-day lives

Most noticeable difference between Australia and Argentina
Tarun, Andreas, Annabelle: The language and culture
Jaci: Price difference
Georgia: Their passion for anything and everything
Joe: No table water
Clem: Men's attitude towards women

Most quintessentially Argentine experience?
Everyone: The asado in San Ignacio

Favourite food
Tarun & Georgia: Pizza
Andreas: Steak (Argentine steak is the best in the world!)
Jaci & Annabelle: Alfajores
Joe: Chorizo
Clem: Empanadas

Are you ready to leave Buenos Aires?
Tarun: No, but I miss home
Andreas & Georgia: It's been incredible, but yes
Jaci & Annabelle: No
Joe: Yes, ready to see more of South America
Clem: Keen to travel but don't want to leave the group

If you could have something from home what would it be?
T: A cricket bat
Andreas: Bike
Jaci: Chicken sushi & a laptop
Georgia: My dog, and mum's chicken schnitzel of course
Annabelle: Table water, vegemite, Thai food, passion pop
Joe: Mi goreng
Clem: Thai food, dumplings

If you had more time and money what more would you like to do?
Tarun: Salt flats
Andreas: Bariloche and a football game
Jaci: Rio & Patagonia
Annabelle: Cordoba or Patagonia
Georgia: The rest of South America
Joe: Cordoba, Rosario & Patagonia
Clem: Cordoba

If you could do it all again what would you do differently?
Tarun, Georgia: I don't think I would do anything differently
Andreas: Stay in Palermo and bring more US dollars
Jaci: Save more money beforehand
Annabelle: Brought warmer clothes, brought an inflatable pool and a warmer jacket
Joe: Take more pictures
Clem: Learnt more Spanish beforehand

Hope you enjoyed our little questionnaire we made for ourselves! It's crazy to think that in our next post we will be farewelling Argentina... time has flown by so fast!

The Argentine Australians xxxx

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Arequipa, Halloween and Day of the Dead


COUNTRY: Peru
PROGRAM: GapBreak
PROJECT: Teaching & Construction
WRITTEN BY: Stephanie Rainbow

Hola,

Today marks less than two weeks until the end of the trip, and for me the time has flown by. Last week we travelled 9 hours by bus to the city of Arequipa for Jamie's birthday. Despite the bus being first class in terms of the actual bus, it's still a long time to be on a bus. When we arrived at 'The Wild Rover' I was relieved to find that the beds were super comfy.

On the way into the city, Arequipa quite honestly looked like a dump; dodgy neighbourhoods with sand and dirt billowing everywhere. Thankfully, however, the town centre itself was picturesque, despite the hundreds of pigeons that occupied it. The food at the hostel was delicious and cheap, and we spent the day lazing by the tiny pool that sat beside the day bar.



The next day was Jamie's birthday, and after a late start we took taxies to go go-carting, where everyone's competitive streaks came to light. I myself was as slow as an old lady and I just tried not to die as everyone overtook me! With no helmets, and little to no safety measures everyone was a little more cautious than they usually would be but despite this we had heaps of fun.

The girls then proceeded to go to a local salon to get manicures and pedicures; after Machu Picchu my feet definitely needed it and I felt very sorry for the lady who was scrubbing my feet!

The hostel we were staying at was in fact a 'party hostel' and so that night we celebrated Jamie's birthday by doing just that- it was a very fun night. The next morning marked the beginning of Halloween. We trekked through copious amounts of costume stalls, where I bought tigger ears and Nick bought a superman costume. Those of the group who did end up venturing outside reported that it was crazy and they even saw a tank. Go figure.

The morning brought with it a day bar full of drunken staff who were doing shots while they served me. Good service right? It then turned into a pool party and I retreated to the dorm to prevent my clothes from getting even more wet. That day marked the end of my trip to Arequipa as Liz, Bridget and I were leaving early in the hopes that we wouldn't be exhausted on Monday. So with a visit to a crepe shop which was incredibly delicious, it was back on the bus.

We have since begun replacing the roof of a greenhouse for one of the village ladies, and spent the day painting', which the kids were more than eager to get involved with.



While we were at Arequipa it was November 1st, 'The Day of the Dead' which is celebrated in Peru by making dolls and horses out of bread. Before we left we made these special loaves for the children of the school and spent the day in the kitchen/ wood fire oven making them; I quite honestly don't know how the children ate it all, as I was full after the first bite. Tonight we are planning to have dinner at Chillies, which is a restaurant that serves their deserts in mini fry pans.

I can't imagine what it will be like when we leave here and everyone is preparing for the various trips that they are doing afterwards. It will be weird going somewhere where I actually speak the language! Although I doubt it will be as exciting as it is here.

So until next time,

Adios.

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