Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Thank you Antips!

Written by our GapBreak In-Country Agent, Marcelo Maldonado

Dear Colin: Once the last group of your 12 kids (April 23 - July 23 / 2008) finished their volunteering and spanish training with us, here in Quito, on my behalf and that of the rest of our host families, we would like to express to you and Antipodeans staff, our gratitude and thanks for giving us, once more, the opportunity to have assisted our poor and sick children. Thanks to the registration fee, after covering our operating costs, as we do not have any staff and no salaries, it was possible to make donations of medicines to many of our children.

Your kids were fantastic at their placements complementing our purpose to help our poor little ones. Furthermore your kids immersed themselves in our culture and after visited the whole country, I am sure they enriched their spirits, culture and hearts for ever. Without any exception, all of your students dropped tears when saying goodbye to their assigned children.
As always we will do our best to make your kids comfortable and feel useful at the placements. Warm regards, Marcelo

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

New UniBreak Professional Internships Program!

Very exciting news at Antipodeans Abroad!

Today is the day that we launch Professional Internships expanding our UniBreak program to offer more opportunities for Australian based students to do extraordinary things overseas. Students can now travel for 3-12 months with us to China, Singapore, USA, India and Argentina where you can undertake an internship with a local or multi-national company. Very exciting!

If you are looking for some unique professional experience overseas then a Professional Internship is for you. Work alongside local staff in your field of study and stand out from the crowd as a graduate with real and interesting experience. Choose your destination and a duration between 3- 12 months. You also choose one of three intake dates in February, August or December 2009 where you will depart with other students from across Australia. Instant friends!

Check out our website for more details about what you can do and how!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Second UniBreak and GapBreak Thai Update

Written by our in-country agent, Paul - Thailand UniBreak, Year Out 2008

The 3rd week since the Year Out and Uni Break volunteers started. Lots has been happening; I will see what I can remember.

Jane has been getting more heavily involved with the E.Bannok shop – I think designing some new items.

Andrew has been a bit sick, but has come good again and has been a great teacher and tutor to both the ICT staff and to the “Top Kids” – local kids who come here after school to learn more English.

They are both finishing pretty soon. L And were trying to plan this weekend so they could get into Myanmar and Laos before departing Chiang Rai on Tuesday.

Kristin has also been doing great and I think went to a Karen village last night for a home stay with Nu and some others. She was also helping us dig the foundations for our new office on Thursday.

Amelia is also getting quite involved in the E.Bannok shop. Great! And helping me organizing many other tasks.

Ashleigh has been helping Jeed to prepare a proposal for a project to utilize drama to teach youth camps about various social issues.

Emily is a bit homesick at the moment but great at teaching. She has some medical research to do regarding the large incidence of kidney disease here.

Louise is also doing great with the teaching and next week will hopefully be helping us build a bio gas project in one of the villages. This will utilize pig dung to produce cooking gas and will mean the owner doesn’t have to go out collecting firewood from the forest.

Charlotte is now a member of the Thai Citizenship project and this weekend she has given up her planned holiday in Chiang Mai to instead join the team on their survey of some villages. J Great to see the volunteers really wanting to get involved with things.

Teaching English is still the main focus but this group seems to be lucky to be here at a time when we have a lot of other things going on as well.

Yesterday we all went to the temple to offer food to the monks for the start of Buddhist Lent, and then in the afternoon we went to Baan Apa, (an Akha village) where a death had recently occurred.

The elders in the village walked through the village calling for the ancestors to come and take the spirit of the dead man away to live with them.

Then later, another man chased away the bad spirits from the village, as is necessary after a death or bad event.

This is done by having a young man paint his body. He wears a big straw hat and also a large phallic symbol made from a banana tree and he runs through the village to scare and chase away bad spirits. Everyone in the village, including guests, must run away from him also so as not to get hit by his object. It is all done in a fun way, with shrieks of fear as he comes close mixed in with the laughter.

At first, as we hadn’t told the volunteers exactly what to expect, just “DON”T GET CAUGHT!!!”, they were a bit fearful and weary. But they quickly came to really enjoy the experience and perhaps understand the Akha’s way of getting the whole village together in a fun way, after such a sad event, whilst also chasing away the bad luck.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Thailand UniBreak & Year Out Update!

Louise Mould - Thailand Year Out Volunteer

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Thailand UniBreak & Year Out Update!

Written by our in-country agent, Paul - Thailand UniBreak, Year Out 2008

Latest news from Chiang Rai is that all students currently volunteering there with Antips are doping well and enjoying themselves – here’s the latest from our in-country agent Paul!

The Year Out 5 had their tour of Chiang Rai last week, whilst Andrew, Jane and Kristen had their first go at teaching.

The 3 UniBreak volunteers loved the home stay last weekend and are going along well. Kristen and Jane are about to start teaching for 2 days at a English camp at a school in Chiang Rai. They seem pretty excited about that. After that I will try to get Kristen a bit more involved with other stuff as she is studying development and I want her to see a bit more yet before she goes.

Jane is going great and is such a happy and positive person.

Andrew also really happy and he has been helping with fund raising ideas and a few other bits and pieces as well as the teaching.

The 5 Year Out girls are great also. The longer induction training meant that they have had to wait a bit more to get their teeth into things but they are starting to now. Ashleigh is also teaching in the school camp. Amelia has taken over as the volunteer leader for all the volunteers here and has been very proactive. Charlotte is about to join our Citizenship team as she is going to study law, so I think she’ll find that interesting. Emily and Louise are involved with the teaching and I am still devising a cunning plan on how else I can get them involved in various ways, but so far they seem happy.

The 5 Year Out students will go on their home stay this weekend, while the other 3 have a weekend off and the plans so far seem to be leaning towards visiting Chiang Mai.

That’s all for now!!!!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Kids and Classrooms in India

Written by Sarah Shaw – India 2008 Year Out Volunteer

Hey everyone!

So far I've had the best time. Getting here was an adventure in itself. I flew from Sydney with another three girls, then met up with another two in Singapore (there are 7 aussie girls all together), our first stop. When we arrived, we were told that our flight had already left and that we would be spending the night in the Crowne Plaza hotel (5 star, individual rooms and expense paid of course!) This was pretty exciting even though we were only there for 4 1/2 hours!

The next morning we flew to Mumbai, waited for six hours at the airport and then finally arrived in Udaipur (let me tell you, checking in at Mumbai airport was not the best introduction to 'India time'! As we had to change flights and were redirected from Singapore, there was bound to be confusing anyway...)

Nevertheless, we arrived safely and were greeted at the airport by two of the Channel Youth coordinators. From here is when the fun really started- the smell, the cows, the driving... oh India :)

We were all amazed though by their driving skills and their ability to utilise the space available and dodge oncoming traffic, though. As crazy and sometimes scary as it is, no western could do it!

I'm surprised at how well I'm doing as far as culture shock goes. I feel really comfortable here and the people are soooo nice. What makes it even more comfortable is having Meenaji, our cook at the volunteer house who makes the most amazing food I've ever tasted! She is so lovely :) All the coordinators and other volunteers are great too (there are 22 volunteers in total- the most they've ever had). The house is in the village of Bedla, about 20-30 minutes from Udaipur.

We took a trip into town on Friday afternoon and were very surprised by what we saw! We just wanted to do some shopping and check out a few sites, but we ended up being spectators to a festival that was taking place at Jagdish Temple (it was his 70th birthday so everyone was out to celebrate and pay their respects. It was crazy! I think what I found the most amazing was that we had to move for a car trying to get through the crowds of people! Like we weren't squished enough!

Wow, I better rap it up soon-
I started teaching on Monday at Bhilwara school. I am teaching grade 3 with another girl, Hayley. We have 24 students in our class, however, only 13/14 have showed up so far. This has been an amazing experience. Everday the kids get one free meal provided by the government. We are introducing a hand-washing program to get them to wash their hands before eating. So the whole school (grades 1-7) lines up and we have to wash and dry their hands. Then we distribute their meals (usually a curry-type dish with rice). The first day there wasn't enough rice for them all, and the second not enough plates, so we had to re-use a few of them. Little things like this make me realise how fortunate I am to live in Sydney. These kids mainly live in mudhuts, some don't wear shoes to school and they are all so skinny (we saw some private school kids in town one day- you can really tell the difference).

Another thing about the traffic- everyone beeps their horns for no reason! Its so funny. Sometimes its to let you know they are coming so you should move off the road, other times its for fun and other times they get so annoyed at you and so beep and then stare you down like only an Indian can.

So far it has been great- the teaching and lesson planning is getting easier already, even just after two days. The kids are so great. Of course you get the naughty ones but this just makes you realise that they are just innocent little kids inside, wanting some attention and wanting to learn about you, anything and everything. I'm even getting their names right! I have Ambalal, Rekha, Jagdish, Gopal and Meera, to name a few!

Anyway, I'd better be off. I have to go and pick up my photocopied worksheets for class tomorrow

Love to you all and I hope everyone is well! I would love to hear from you all- keep me updated!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Getting to Know Thai Culture

Written by Amelia Cleary - Thailand 2008 Year Out Volunteer

Yes everything is great here. Orientation was absolutely great and Paul gives us such an insight into the country and culture. Hes actually really amazing and gives just the right amount of encouragement and independance.

Food is the best ive had in months except for a couple of unidentified things in soups but that wasnt at mirror so its ok.

The accomodation is good too. They lent me a mozzie net and the floor mat beds are much comfier than they look. Of course its not like home, but you get used to it. And as the sighn on the wall says (when explaining how to flush with a bucket and go without toilet paper) "lets try thai custom!"

Im just at the end of the most amazing week and weekend ever. On friday night we all caught a song tao into town and the mirror staff and volunteers all ate together in this great little place with people cooking in woks out the front. The thai food in Sydney just isnt the same. The trick here, i think, is to go to a place without an english menu, cause then you know its going to be the real thing. We ate pad thai for 70 cents wrapped in fried egg and just bursting with peanutty, lime flavour.

We all went into the night bazaar. It was July 4 so all the americans were pretty excited. It was such a great night. We all hung out in the central square and had mango smoothies (absolutely delicious) and banana chips (a little weird) and chang beer (which i immediately learned to like because it costs less than a dollar and is so refreshing when its all humid and hot) and guess what else...a cricket! Yep its true. tasted fine, but the legs kind of freaked me out.

Its such a chilled out town. They had music on the stage and thai people everywhere having dinner.

In the morning paul met us for brekky (if i didnt tell you paul works at mirror and is our in country agent who basically teaches us all about thailand and helps us out. He lives in chiang rai with his thai wife and three kids). Then we drove up through the rice fields and past the crooked junglish mountains to the border of Burma. We waved at the burmese people across the other side of the river. We also made friends with a border guard who is 18 and doing his compulsory military service.

Its an area with a lot of issues (dont worry it was totally safe). I was pretty surprised to realise that begging was actually an industry and involcves a lot of people trafficking. Children or disabled people are sometimes forced to beg for others because it is more profitable. There is actually a refuge for some of these kids in the area which is also an orphanage etc. We went and saw one of the ladies that runs it. Basically theyve run out of money and the staff havent been payed for 2 months and they dont have enough to buy rice, so i gave them some of my fundraising money. The lady was so happy.

We went to the opium meuseum which was really interesting, and then on to the golden triangle. Paul found us a couple of boats and we jumped in and went whizzing over into burmese water, then stopped at Laos and ate lunch. It was such a chilled out little town with lots of low trees, chickens running round and people in straw huts.

Back in Chiang Kong, Thailand, we got a hotel with a big verandah over the mekong. So beautiful, especially with the mountains in the distance and the lights of Laos twinkling on the other side. We ate the most delicious dinner in the world and grilled paul about thai culture, politics, issues etc. Its soooo incredible complex. The hill tribes especially have huge issues with citizenship and a whole huge range of things that mirror are working on. Its a really delicate balance between preserving traditional culture and being able to adapt to modernity. Aparently things in thailand have even changed within the last few years. Paul says he sees less and less people waiing to monks as they pass (which your supposed to do as a sighn of respect). Its kind of sad that people are losing respect like that, but paul pointed out that monks need to earn respect of the people. In fact they cant eat if they dont because they only get food by accepting alms in the mornigns. Its such a clever system. although monks are sooo pwerful (the king bows before a monk and he is SUPER polular round here), they cannot use their power to their own means because they have to get their food from the ordinary people.

We ate banana pancakes by the river for brekky. The fruit here is amazing. It is so full in flavour and there seem to be about 100 things which resemble lychees. The hotel gave us bananas and called us monkeys in thai.

We drove back to chiang rai this morning. Charlotte and I sat in the back of the truck which is so much fun with the wind cooling you down and the tarp to lie on and the SUPER DOOPER GREEEEEEEN foliage overhead and all the people on motor bikes waving at us.

Weve spent all week learning about the society and its problems but i feel like ive only just scratched the surface. Im super excited about the work mirrors doing. teaching is hard but great fun if you get good kids (they thought simon says was hilarious when i lost and they got it right). Im going to give english lessons to the lady that runs the shop (which keeps traditional arts alive and provides skills and employment to local women and funds for other projects) and hopefully learn a bit about the arts. were going out to raise funds and help the local communities by having a second hand clothing stall which sells things at very reasonable prices so that people can be independant and not beg. On monday there might be a protest by the hill tribes but it depends what the government decided about a citizen ship issue they were discussing on the weekend. On the weekend were going to stay with and akha and lisu tribe and ride elephants (which i checked out and its ethical because domestic elephants cant be wild and the only work left for them to get food is tourism) and eating unch at a waterfall. Hopefully we get to go to a Karen village too because Nu invited us (he works and mirror) to come and stay at his village.

And I can say about 10 things in Thai and im starting to get the accents ok and i can write my name.

Sorry for such a whopping long email, but there is so much to think about and write about here.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Reddam House News from Vietnam!

After finishing their trek, the Reddam House team got in touch with Antipodeans Abroad to let us know they were all fine and having a great time. The remote trek has taken them into some beautiful places and allowed them to meet with and chat to the local hill tribe people.

When Anna, the Antipodeans Leader called on Saturday, she said they were all well and looking forward to the next phase which will take them in and out of Hanoi on their way to Halong Bay before they head south for more adventures and fun.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Reddam Ready for their Vietnam Adventure

Reddam House - Vietnam Expedition 2008

Reddam House have all arrived safely in Hanoi after their flight from Australia. They shall spend time exploring Hanoi before catching the train overnight to Sapa to begin their trek.

From China to Vietnam

Townsville Grammar School - Vietnam Expedition 2008

have departed Kunming after a very successful project. They are now travelling south by bus to the Vietnamese border . On their arrival in Vietnam they shall spend 4 days trekking in Sapa.

Lara Secondary College

Lara Secondary College - Borneo Expedition 2008

arrived safely in Borneo. After their arrival they transferred to their community project by bus and boat. They are currently living and working in the long house community of Kampung Melilas in Brunei.