Tuesday, 30 September 2008

All is well in Peru!

Written by Matilda Mcconochie - Peru Detours 2008

Yes everything is going well. Was a bit out of my comfort zone when i first arrived, especially due to my lack of Spanish, and initially was thinking i would refer to live in the volunteer house, but i have now completely settled in with my host family and am very happy there.

It is amazing how quickly time goes here as the one month volunteers are already leaving middle of next week. My host family is absolutely lovely, and are always making sure i am comfortable in the house and am eating the food i like.

Made it to Kolkata

Written by International Grammar School - India Expedition 2008

Hi Kolkata - we made it!

The International Grammar School has arrived safe and sound in Kolkata, India! Watch this space for more details of the expedition to come!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Thailand Community Project

Written by St Michael's - Thailand World Tours 2008

Day 6 - Community Project
Our day began in Chiang Rai at the NGO where we had spent the night. We travelled by bus and boat on the Mekong River to a Karen village of around 250 people.

They were very welcoming and we spent the afternoon playing with the children in the school, teaching them English songs and games and painting their new school building maroon and white. Our group was divided throughout the host families of the village who spoke very little English and who we communicated with in small Karen words and body language. The Chief of the village and his wife Sewai, along with the Christian paster and some of the other villagers spoke to our group in an evening discussion about the contrasts between Australia and rural Thailand. Our guides, Aie, Nu and Yaka were very helpful in their translations.

The work we did in the village was very much appriciated and rewarding. We are all looking foward to a nice hot shower without a bucket.

Day 7 Community Project – A day in the Village
Today we spent most of the day in the village but we painted it for ages and most of us were getting to bothered to be able to paint. When we were done we all had a photo out front of it, the food they served was very nice we had rice and chicken and cabbage and pork and lots of other things, then we got in the back of a ute one the way to the Chian Guest house where we got our rooms and just chilled out for the rest of the day. When night time came up we went to the night markets and some of us bought things others didn't but it was lots of fun and then we went to bed for the night and waited for the next day to arrive.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Thailand Elephant Sanctuary!

Written by St Micheal's College - Thailand World Tours 2008

Day 4 - Elephant Sanctuary
Today we woke up in Chiang Mai and travelled to the elephant sanctuary by mini-vans. once we arrived we fed the elephants and then had an amazing lunch - yellow noodles =) YUM...

We then went down to the river to bath the elephants in the poo water. After washing them we returned to our huts. We (ellie and ella) went down and got fabulous massages from the ladies who also taught us some local slang and braided our hair. For the day we had a humorous guide named jack. He, along with the sancutary crew of volunteers made us feel very welcome with their light hearted and generous natures. to welcome the arrival of new volunteers the local preist man held a ceromony to bless them, this was followed by dinner. Later we were again welcomed by the volunteers to particpate in the "getting to know you" activities, in which their fun personalities beamed through. Overall it was an amazing day, from the experience of both animals and people a like.
Ellie and Ella

Monday, 22 September 2008

Innovative teaching methods!

Written by Hayley Forbes - India GapBreak Volunteer 2008
Image c/o: Sarah Shaw

This is probably going to be my 2nd last email from here in Udaipur. We leave Udaipur on the 29th, so we have about 2 weeks left. This is quite exciting but also kind of sad as i have grown very comfortable here and have gotten on really well with all the other volunteers and the co-ordinators.

These last couple of weeks have been great. I’m teaching at evening school and my class is normally made up of 4 or 5 kids. They are Suresh ( a bright and cheeky kid) Mukesh (very cute boy who’s brilliant at maths but tends to copy Suresh in most other subjects) Prakash (he is quite smart and a little fussy, he must have a very flat surface to right on. Which is a little difficult because we teach on an uneven dirt floor, I’ve ended up bring hard books for them to lean on to class.) And Pooja, the only girl in my class, she’s a little shy like most of the Indian girls we teach, but quite bright.

We teach in the backyard of an neighbor of ours, so the children get a bit distracted as there are goats running around and many younger siblings and we all just sit in a particular area, there is no dividing wall. Which means my kids can always see what other classes are doing and if they are doing something crafty my kids want to join in or watch. My kids are pretty good though and don’t get too distracted. Of late we have been teaching in the car park under our apartment as it has rained every afternoon at around 3pm for an hour and we start teaching at 4.30pm. today we expect lots of children to turn up because we are putting on a picnic for the kids. Me and four other girls and Ritu( a co-coordinator) will be cooking chana masala (chickpea dish) and a semolina dessert.

Tuk Tuks and Temples in Thailand!

Written by St Michael's College - Thailand World Tours 2008

Day 1 - Bangkok
The flight went really well. I must say the seat belt sign freaked me out as we went throught the storm. arrived in Bangkok. Met up with Paul and started the tour. Went on this awsome boat down one of the many Bangkok canals. With houses in lanes all down the side. With there own shops and food growing on decks.. it was amazing.

Its been amazing. Visted the most beautiful temple, ate some local food and traveled around. It was most of our first times on the TUK TUKS!.. little cars thats transport you around. A LOT OF FUN. Its all going well. =]=] having the best time.
love jess and andrew

Day 3 - Chiang Mai
In Thailand, we started with a scenic view of Chang Mai as we awoke on the train. The 12 hour train ride was coming to an end as we rolled to the station. A local bus called a songtaew drove us around the city until we arrived at the Lanna Thai Guest House and checked into our rooms. A short group meeting followed by a visit to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara a local temple that is located on one of the hills of Chang Mai. It offered an amazing view and an even better work out. The temple had an awesome staircase that was bordered by huge serpents. After the temple we went to a local waterfall that was surrounded by some interesting shops that sold mainly food. Some items on the menu included silk worms, crickets, grubs, beetles and cockroaches. Most people were game enough to try them but only three were able to keep it down, including our tour guide Paul. After the waterfall we went to an authentic Buddhist temple that gave us amazing insights to the popular and traditional tradition. The temple had massive caves and tunnels that held great importance in ancient years. Refreshments in our hotel followed by an information discussion on how to use Thai squat toilets then out to the local markets and night bazaar where we had wonderful fruit smoothies for dinner and batered with local stall owners.

Construction, the Tanzania way!

Written by Trent Lawson - Tanzania 2008 UniBreak Volunteer

This week i organised a door, windows and desks for the Nursery School. Laraha (the maasai i am currently living with), the boss Fundi (builder) and myself travelled from Esilalei to Mto wa Mbu, or Mosquito River by Dalla Dalla (the local transport here, a minivan that seats 11 including driver but is usually crammed with between 25 and 30 ppl not to mention livestock also).

After finding out that our other contact had only paid half for the total cost of doors and windows, we had to call a driver from Donna's safari company who was in the next main town and hour away to come and spot me the $210 USD to pay the bill. Once this was paid, we travelled back to the market, halfway between esilalei and mto wa mbu to hire a truck. After about 30 mins of bargaining we were on our way back to Mto wa Mbu with a truck, and 2 very drunk maasai who were already in the back of the truck when i hired it (i felt like i couldnt kick them out). Once we were all loaded up with the door and windows, we stopped at another builders yard to order 30 desks. The order was placed, and deposit paid, and we were on our way back to Esilalei to drop the door and windows at the school site. On the way back one of the drunk maasai men spat flem out the side of the truck which got caught by the wind and was blown back onto my neck and it dribbled down my back, NICE!

The day began at 9am in Mto wa Mbu and ended at 7pm at the school site. I was very dirty (swahili: chafu sana) and very tired, and in dire need of a beer, which was warm of course ;)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Thank you Antips!

Written by Maddie White's Parents - India 2008 GapBreak Volunteer

This is Maddie White's dad and mum here. I would just like to thank you and your organization for making the experience a most wonderful experience.
Although at times the girls have face incredible challenges they have managed and learnt so much, thank you

Could you please pass on our heartfelt thanks to Neeraj. He has been so wonderful to Maddie and the girls, always available, always with great advice and has added to their experience in a most productive and positive way. We thank him so much for all his efforts. Maddie thinks he is a champion!! Their weekends/holidays away have also been a great experience due mainly to him I understand!!

Thank you Katie and others involved. To have such an organization as yours staffed by such interested and involved staff is great for the young people of Australia. It offer such opportunity for them. Please let your Indian colleagues know of our gratitude also

it will be great to have them home soon!!

Friday, 12 September 2008

A Day in the Life of......

Images c/o Ashleigh Hokafonu
Written by Stephanie Dodd - Thailand 2008 GapBreak Volunteer

Hi there all,
I figured I'd take some time to tell you all about what it's like here. Kind of like - a day in the life of...

Breakfast is at 8am which consists of rice and some sort of thai dish or a mildly spicy omelette. It's kind of like having Thai takeaway leftovers for breakfast every morning. Although some people [including myself as of this week] go to the office in the morning to have cereal rather than endure the copious amounts of rice they give us. I'm not saying I don't like rice, I quite like it, I believe I may have been asian in a past life, but I also appreciate a bit of variety ;o)

Then the morning meeting is at 8.30am [in Thai] followed by the volunteer meeting. Then we go about our day organising what needs to be done! The tasks vary from day to day.
Mon - teaching hilltribe and ICT staff as well as a class of kids who come after school [Top Kids]
Tues - same thing as well as some people go to teach at one of the schools - Thung Lung
Wed - teach staff in morning, construction [building new eco tour office] and then teach the local tour guides english for 2 hours and then top kids again
Thurs - Nam Rad school in the afternoon [prepare in the morning] but they are now preparing for exams and then have holidays so we don't go back there for a while.
Fri - Nam Rad school again as well as Damrong school to have conversations with the kids for half an hour.
Weekends are generally free...

Although last weekend we went to Ban Apa village which is an Akha tribe for our homestay. Pairs stayed in the traditional style hut houses and ate Akha food. It was good apart from the roosters at 4.30am. All novelty of a 'cockle-doodle-doo' has now worn off completely as the houses are on stilts and the roosters decided to hang out right underneath the floor where we were sleeping!

Apart from that the stay was great because they had a huge festival on which only happens once a year. the people were really friendly and generous for taking us into their homes.

I'm really enjoying my time here so far and I suppose that's a good thing because I'll be here a while!”

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Ghanaian Love!

Written by Nicole Donaldson - Ghana 2008 GapBreak Volunteer

"I'd also like to take this chance to say thank you to Antips for everything. It was organsied so well, but we still had our freedom to do as we wished. My time in Ghana was a truly memorable experience and something I will carry with me forever more. I had no idea that in 3 months I would fall totally in love with a culture and country so different from my own.

Walking around London, Vienna, Budapest now - nothing compares to the beauty of Ghana so thank you to Colin for telling me I had no choice but to head to Africa! I ring Ma now and I just miss her so much. She says she is already making plans for when I come back! Our family were just wonderful and the fact I loved every second of my placement is a credit to you guys and to Tina and Seth and everyone at SYTO! I cant wait to get me feet back on Ghanaian soil!

Without the opportunity to travel to Africa I doubt I would have travelled at all and what a mistake that would have been. Because of the people I've meet travelling and their interest in my time in Ghana, a job opportunity has opened up within the area of International Aid distribution! So thank you again for a fantastic time! It definately was the best thing I've done so far!"

Demolition work in Peru

Image c/o Jessica Clay
Written by Rebekah Thackray - Peru 2008 GapBreak Volunteer

“Well today has been a very good and productive day. We demolished most of the roof of the toilet block removing the tiles and the concrete leaving only the bamboo in place. It was a little back-breaking but alot of fun! We marvelled at how in Australia we would be breaking a few OHS rules. We worked with the builder, who is the loveliest man might I add. He has given us an excellent price for his services, Guille was telling us that most builders would charge us double or triple what he is charging us. He also has a son that attends the school.

Tomorrow we are going to demolish the concrete dividers between each toilet so that should prove to be interesting. Yesterday we had fun painting the school, we are mainly painting over areas that need to be redone because large portions have peeled off. It was quite funny because we realised that it was oil based paint only after we had it on our hands so some of us are a little blue =) it should come off in a few days hopefully hehehe. I think the morale of all of the volunteers has lifted quite a bit being able to get stuck into construction, things work very differently here, alot slower but that is the Peruvian way.

Teaching is still a fun challenge. We sure have to use our imaginations to teach the kids in colourful ways, they really are a joy to teach, I love it how when they want or need our attention for something they say ´amiga´, it is quite sweet. I am really touched by the teachers at Ccotohouincho and their dedication to the children. It seems to me that they sacrifice alot to teach the children and they really care for their well-being and futures. They have rally embraced us and are really grateful for anything that we do even if it isn´t much, it is quite humbling.

We have alot of fun with our family. Our little sisters Diana and Helen are a constant source of laughter, Helen especially. She is often content to be in her own little world just chatting away to herself, she has the cutest smile which is hard to resist even when she is being naughty. Our grandma who we call mama Estella is funny. She is a very strong, independent woman who is often telling Ella and I how skinny we are and that we need to eat more however we eat quite enough!! We are very spoilt with our Mum Jenny´s cooking, they eat alot of rice and potato here with chicken or spinach spaghetti and many other yummy things! Mealtimes are fun, Mama Estella, Jenny and our dad Juan Carlos like to laugh at us.

I really do love Peru, i think it is very difficult not to. The people are just so warm and they want to share everything with you. They also like to laugh at us foreigners and tease us. They are also very hard working people.”

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tanzania update

Written by Karen Townsend - Tanzania 2008 Detours Volunteer

hey! everything is good here.

i had a little meltdown about a week ago but since then i have been really good. my meltdown was the result of having too high expectations when it came to the professionalism of the teachers (slack bunch of imposters!) and culture shock. but i have talked it thru with donna (who knows all about the slackness of the teachers) and i have decided to focus on the kids and having a good time in the classroom.
dan and i just got back from a weekend in arusha national park so we are on a bit of a high right now- so many giraffe and so little memory space in my camera! donna has been fabulous and we are actually at her house now.. we'll head back tomorrow to ilkurot for our fill of dust and dirty wonderful children!

Friday, 5 September 2008

First Week in Tanzaia

Written By Trent Lawson - Tanzania 2008 UniBreak Volunteer

just on my way out the door of Donna's to hit Esilalei again, and thought id quickly check my mail. Glad you liked the photos, that is only 20 of 1200 so far and the size i had to make them for facebook does them no justice at all.

Ill make a few DVDs for you when i get back, as the photos are each 10mb in size and so far i have over 10gig of photos, probably about 30 by the time i get back to Adelaide. The living conditions were rough for the first week, just getting used to everything, but i love it out there now. Everything except for the fleas. This week im taking a tent out. This is due to the last 3 weeks of fleas biting me. It wasn't bad at first but now i count over 100 bites on my feet alone, and they got really infected because of the ground being covered in cow shit I'm guessing ;) haha. Its no big problem tho, i just wanna see if i can control the flea situation with a tent because I'm not getting a lot of sleep with the crawling up and down my legs. Even Msee's mother is having a problem with them now. She and the rest of the elders were laughing it up at the Muzungu getting eaten by fleas, but now shes had to remove everything from her own hut because she cant stand it anymore, i left her spraying down her hut with insecticide on Friday afternoon.

Anywayz, i gotta boogie, glad Donna had good things to say about me, shes been really good on the weekends when i get back into Arusha, and i hang out with Nas pretty much all day everyday so its good fun to relax on sat and Sunday.

Monday, 1 September 2008

GapBreak 2008 arrives in Ecuador!

images c/o Marcelo Maldonado

GapBreak 2008 arrives in Ecuador!

Written By - Marcelo, In-country Agent in Ecuador

I would like to inform you that this morning we had the Orientation Meeting at my home. All 20 kids attended plus some of the host parents. It was a long session where I explained all important issues especially on their personal security and responsibilities at the placements.

The transport system was also explained, general cultural aspects and the like. Some of the students also placed questions and every thing was clear for everybody.

As soon as they buy their mobiles celulars we will be in closer touch, in permanent contact indeed. They are supposed to call me at any time they need me during 24 hours a day, especially when they are away from home on a trip.

All the kids are in perfect health and very exited. On Sunday week all them will assist at the stadium to watch the game Ecuador / Bolivia. They are preparing themselves to acquire the Ecuadorian team shirt and participate with the local kids from the gallery.

Our little ones are excited with the soccer. Next Sunday they will attend at the game Ecuador / Bolivia. They are prepared to yell like hell and cheer up the Ecuadorian team, By the way, Ecuador has now the best team named "LIGA" of the whole Latin America as it won the championship of best teams in Latin America. Now LIGA is going to play in Japan with the best or champion team of Europe, if it wins Liga will be the best team in the world!

Some soccer games will be organised for the them, salsa classes, gym, swimming, and aerobics all in our neighbourhood during afternoons, besides extra classes of Spanish if some of them decide to get more Spanish at their cost.

All kids gathered to make a plan for all weekends as to travel to the Andes, snow trip, Pacific beach, jungle, bullfights, etc. Let me tell you that last night, Friday they were already at the discos. They are fantastic kids, no problem.

On Monday I will take them to the Academy, everything is ready there. They will take the placement test. The whole week the kids will be quite busy with their Spanish lessons and home work. After this we will go to visit various projects and each of the students will choose one project to volunteer.