Tuesday, 30 December 2008

More from Pen

Tips for the January girls!

Health van one day each would be good, Jess will be great and very glad to explain things to the girls. Orphanage DEFINITELY would appreciate volunteers, and also the Suhit Jeevan Trust Sumangal school, the special school, is a really valuable insight into alternative ways of teaching and learning, especially in a society such as India where everyone is expected to contribute to supporting themselves, so for the older kids a lot of what they do is vocational training to enable them to be self-reliant to some degree. Iggy and I (Jess) have done some days there and it is very different to a regular school.
Sandhya's organising a Leprosy Hospital visit this week for myself and another girl here who is a pre-med student from Canada. Sandhya is excellent!

The girls will love it here, I really do and my only worry is that my 8 weeks will vanish and I'll feel I didn't make enough of the opportunity!

Hope your Christmas was good, and Happy New Year!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Ravenswood - Peru

We´re in Ollantaytmbo, just about to match a train to Aguas Callientes were tomorrow we´ll go to Machu Picchu.

AREQUIPA (the white city)
The hostel we stayed at was lets say unique /quirky.
We dragged sick Di through the desert to a beautiful waterfall for 5 hours and experienced our 1st effects of altitude.
Some thriffty bus ticket buying resulted in an interesting trip.
We temporarily misplaced a student in an alpaca jumper buying frenzy.
The reed islands were really cool – really cute little boy, ate some reeds.
The home stay was amazing we conquered 2nd altitude incounter with success – got a little sunburnt and wind burnt.
Our host familias dressed us in traditional clothing and we went to the disotec (party) and danced – they liked our performance of the nutbush.
Really nice 9am-5pm  bus there – saw some ruins and markets.
Mrs Read is impressing us with her extravagent shopping capacity and stomach of steel.
Slightly altered the itinerary for the next few days – now going to Machu Picchu a day earlier.
- hence we caught a bus via the huge Pisac Sunday markets – bit of retail therapy there
- now at Ollantaytmbo
Everyone having a really fun time – Ollantaytmbo is beautiful.
Looking forward to Machu Picchu tomorrow.
Adios, Ravenswood (by the way a spanish is getting pretty good)

Wanniassa School - Vietnam

Wanniassa have now completed their community project and are now in Sapa about to start their trek.

At the Orphanage, we designed 7 bedrooms according to what the kids wanted, and did base coats in each bedroom and in 2 main hallways. Each group of 4 were assigned to a room and each group designed the different rooms with patterns, animals and trees and things like that. We completed painting the 7 bedrooms and we painted the hallways yellow. Every morning and evening we rode to and from the orphanage for around 4 km's. Christmas morning we woke up to a nice breakfast and stockings with sweets, chocolate and small toys from the teachers, our secret Santa presents and also a secret present each from our families - thankyou to all our parents from the group! We spent a good Christmas with the kids too, and taught 2 classes some English as best as we could, then gave away all our Santa hats to some of the children. We also managed to get 65 toothbrushes and toothpaste for the kids and some sweets, along with colouring pencils and a few other little things. All of us spent some more time with the kids before leaving.

After we got back to our hotel, we went to bed then the next morning we caught the bus to Ha Long Bay. The first morning we all went kayaking with Tim (our tour guide) and we kayaked around Ha Long Bay for around an hour in the rain, but even though it was raining it was really fun.

The group is all having a lot of fun, even though we're all really tired.

We all say hi.


Loreto Normanhurst - On their way!

Loreto Normanhurst are finally on their way from Sydney to Peru.

Despite leaving 24 hours late due to flight delays the team are excited to be travelling.

UniBreak India crew from Jess

Pen update, eye surgery and Xmas palm fronds

Things are going verrry well! House good, but all should bring water bottle as we're boiling H20 every night...
Placement excellent, Igraine and I don't see each other until arvo but have great fun catching up! Two other girls are here, Canadian and an American.

We've had some great experiences already, I've seen my first corneal surgery and Intra-Ocular Lense placement, and have done rubella vacc. camp and Laparoscopic Tubal Ligation camp in amongst village health checks, orphanage and special school work. This Sunday I begin a weekly experience at eye check and surgery camp in Tara, a close town, for poor village people who can't usually afford surgery.

Chrissy plans are: going to Sheetal's house for dinner, and making a palm-frond xmas tree. Safeena has been wonderful, in fact without her guidance the program would be going a lot slower! She's wonderful and warm and has all the suggestions about things to do to expand my program. Iggy and I have been doing a lot of socialising, I've become pretty friendly with a doctor about my age and we do nerdy things like swap clinical books, etc. ha ha :).

A very happy Christmas to you!

UniBreak Jo in Peru

Peruvian Time!

I´ve finally got a chance to sit down and tell you all about it. Fell free to pass this on to others if you like. Firstly the host family is lovely! Dina our mother is fantastic and totally undertands what its like to be a volunteer because she has many throughout the year which is great. At the moment she has about ten but laura katy and I are in a seperate house closer to the volunteer office. They are extremely helpful and all meals are great, just lots and lots lots of carbs (i.e. rice, potato and bread).

Cusco life is great because you have the opportuinty to experience both the turistic side in the plaza and also the local side through the local village work. The weather is freezing! Thermals are a must. But there is also really strong sun so hats and sunnies and sunblock are also a must. Day to day life usually involves 9-1 going to the school at Punamacca. However what activity you do can really varry, some days you will be onconstruction which involves building chimneys and mud bicks, and other days you will be teaching maybe english or p.e. The kids here love you! They all referto you as ámiga or amigo , even before you know them! For those coming in January, for thing to bring for the kids, we already have heaps of koalas haha. Colouring pencils, hair accessorices , stickers those types of things they generall like.

In the afternoon you either do a spanish lesson or a home visit. The spanish teachers have been amazing with us! The three of us feel like the spanish is ocming on so quickly! The home visits involve a drive into the comunity aroud the school and you either build chimneys or plant tress or whatever. We are generally given a timetable at the beginning of each week telling us what we are doing.

But a warning for those coming- Plans made are easily able to chnage. It is a concept reffered to here as ´peruvian time´. It can be extremely frustrating. So be prepared to be flexible. Some days you might turn up and be told you are doign something completely different. Other times people can turn up like 2 hours late, and that is just accepted here. It can really test your patience!

Laura , Katy adn I have done a few really good tours, including sacred valley and sexywoman. I just got back from a solo trip to the amazon which was incredible and this friday Katy and I are treking the Inca trail. (so we are hoping that we will still be alive to meet the new volunteers hah). For christmas we are going into the main plaza and then having dinner with our host family.

Also everyone here is really sick, its bound to happen to everyone. Weñe all basically had travellers diahorrea and other volunteers hae gardia and salema. So bring medication!

Deakin Dan in Quito

Orphanage, Father Christmas and Birthdays

13 - 22nd of December.
So another 10 days has gone past quickly again.
This has been a crazy week. Full on working throughout the week with a couple of sneaky nights out in the evening. I´m going to keep this entry short though, because, while it has been a huge week for me, the placements have been similar and I am due back at the casa by 7am for the beautiful dinner I expect she will cook!
In the mornings, again, we worked in the Young mothers home and in the afternoon Angus and I worked in an orphanage. Though a different one from the week before, where Hannah and Kara continued on for another week.
This second orphanage was also situated in Mitad Del Mundo with the young mothers home, about one hour and a quarter from Quito. It was like going from one extreme to the next. While the first was extremely underresourced and crowded, the second seemed to have all the space in the world and the resources to match it. The kids had textbooks and uniforms and it was based on a huge piece of land with beautiful gardens and well maintained buildings. The kids (about 50 i suppose) live about 6 to a house and carer, which makes those kids massively fortunate in Ecuador terms. The place had been built by a rich Swiss man (I think) and seemed almost like a paradise for the kids comparative to the last home. For this reason I was initially extremely cynical about going to the placement as I felt that my work could be of more use elsewhere.
That changed when I met the kids though, and as I learnt mroe about the orphanage. The kids were the same and still had the same needs as the kids in the other placement.

By far the most scary and nerveracking experience of the trip so far was in this placement. As part of the christmas celebrations the kids at the orphanages were to recieve christmas gifts from Santa. Once at the orphanage it became apparant that that guy was going to be me. Although I objected I was soon dressed up in a red and white santa suit complete with a belt, beard and hat. ¨Ho Ho Ho, Feliz Navidad¨ I said, and nodded whenever a kid said something in Spanish that I did not understand. I think it turned out alot better than it could have, as I got though it without getting my beard pulled off, or told that ¨my mummy said you are not real!¨.

The week was capped off grandly with my 21st birthday that seemed to stretch for the whole weekened. The guys and girls treated me very well with a late night out (a very cheap one at that) and even my own mariachi band on the sunday night!! Tonight we head off to the coast for a few days off over the chrissy break. Looking forward to it like nothing else.

Our very own Ash in Nepal!

Durbar, locals and Nepali massage!

Went to Durbar Square yesterday which was amazing and met some of the Kathmandu rich and famous for dinner. Not quite sure how I managed that one, but because of it, I have met some really great people here as well as some really friendly locals. One of the guys owns a really well renouned travel company here (recommended by Kathmandu Guest House) and he is going to sort me out with a tour of the top sights around the Kathmandu valley, so that should be good.

Today, after a really lazy start, I wondered the streets of Thamel before stumbling across a massage place. I thought I might give it a go, as I am not one to turn down a good massage. Well, it was quite an experience, little did I know that a full body massage meant exactly that...Before I knew it, I had this little Nepali woman on my back hitting the back of my head and shoulders, and that was just the beginning. Anyways, I guess its one for the memory book!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Deakin University in Ecuador!

Dan's Birthday!

I think the photos says it all....Ole!

Jemma and Emily on tour in Cambodia

Check out the Spiders in Skuon!

We have been very busy. having a great time, i guess you could say it follows the
saying no news is good news right!
phnom penh was good - much busier than here in siem reap and the jasmine lodge
really do feel like home now we were glad to be home after our weekend away!
we havent got alot of plans for christmas and new years yet but we have xmas and
boxing day off work so i'm sure we will find something exciting to do!
if the January volunteers have any questions i'm happy for them to email me.
i have uploaded photos onto facebook. you should be able to find me on the
antipodeans page under Jemma Henley! - some real crackers Jemma!

Ecuador Unibreak - Alice Townson

Study Spanish Hard Core!

I´m having a great time here. Jeremy and I are going to have christmas in the Galapogus Islands, and in the new year to go the amazon. We´re very excited.

Placements have been great. Playing with the kids in the orphange is perhaps the most fun I´ve had in Ecuador, except perhaps the hussel and bussel of a soup kitchen we worked at one night.

I have some advice for new volunteers, study spanish hard core. It will make life much, much easier. Also bring more than one jumper.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year

Rebekah Waite - Northern Thailand Education update!

What an experience!!

Hi Everyone!!!!

My placement is amazing, there are no other words for it. I'll give you a bit of a run down on my typical week and answer some questions which will hopefully get you thinking about what to expect.

The crew here is fantastic. At the moment we have only a small number of volunteers (5, four of which are from Australia). But we are surrounded by NGO staff, Thai interns and Japanese interns. Most people are here for a reasonable amount of time, so there is plenty of opportunity to learn about another culture or even learn another language. All the staff and interns are keen to improve their English if you have the spare time.

I am sleeping on a matress on a wooden floor. Blankets and pillows are provides, but I find it much more comfortable wrapped up in my sleeping bag. It has been cold here (I've been wearing thermals to bed) so be sure to pack some warm clothes.

Of a morning we all have to be up by 8:30am (so pack an alarm of some description - phone?) for breakfast and morning meeting. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will always be rice or noodles, so be prepared, but the accompanying dishes are delicious (most of the time). Lunch and dinner is much of the same. If you get desperate and simply cannot bring yourself to eat one of the meals, the icecream man comes up every lunch time, there is a small grocer down the road and occasionally you will be blessed with a visit from the dumpling man. These all make great additions to meals as well - so bring a little extra money! If you are off site for whatever reason (to be explained further on...) The centre will provide your meal from a local restaurant. Friday nights you will spent your evening meal in Chiang Rai and then you are free to go about your weekend as you please. You are welcome to go back to the centre, but there will be minimal staff on site and you will need to buy your own food for the weekend from the markets while you are in town.

During the week we work to a roster. You will get a choice as to what you do, but basically you will either be doing a staff English class in the morning, and teaching either a childcare class or a school class during the day. You will have time to prepare for this before you leave. As you are in control of you lesson you make like to start looking for some simple games or simple craft activities. In the afternoon we'll do an extension class for the kids and some people tutor the staff. Some days we will go into town and work on the guesthouse (this may involve painting so shirts and pants that don't matter are a good idea). Of a weekend you have a choice of where to go. Last weekend four of us volunteers headed two hours north on a bus to Mai Salong and spent the weekend eating, shopping and hiking. It was bliss! Over New Years (if you are here?) you may have the opportunity to do have up to 5 days free time, so have a look at some info and check out things and places that are reasonably close to Chiang Rai (no more than 3 hours by bus).

As far as needed resources go things like stickers, pipe cleaners, coloured paper, white board markers, simple childrens books that are not too culturally specific and can be easily related to a simple lesson (the bigger and easier to read, the better) - basically any craft stuff (glue, paint, glitter, paper plates, straws, balloons etc).

For yourself - bring a good pair of walking shoes. You will do a homestay over one weekend that involves a fair bit of walking. Good shoes are a must. Aside from that, a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off is very valuable, as the custom here is to remove your shoes before entering a room. Thongs or crocs are ideal. If your feet get cold easily bring plenty of socks for indoors. Bug spray is not a necessity at this time of year (winter) as most mosquitos are dormant, therefore a mozzie net is not really necessary either. I brought mine and am yet to use it. A quick drying towel is a good idea (there is very limited hanging space) and if you can fit in a few coat hangers and pegs they also may come in handy. As an alternative you might want to look into a pegless clothes line. Make sure you have a good antiseptic as any cuts and scratches here can quickly lead to infection (don't be paranoid, just sensible).

DON"T forget some toilet paper!!!! You will find it very hard to find paper in any toilets in Thailand, so have some in your carry on luggage for your trip up to Mirror. Once you are here we all just share a bulk pack. You may find that a packet of tissues (or two) is a good back up that is easier to fit in a pocket.

So sorry to rabbit, but I know how good it was to here from someone before I left. I hope some of this helps and as Fiona said, PLEASE email me if you have any questions at all. I would love to help. Aside from that, have a lovely festive season and I look forward to welcoming you all here!

Sabin and Jenny on the Thailand Medical Placement

Sawadi Kup!

The trip has been nothing but fantastic. Jen and I just returned to Surin from Laos, where we spent the weekend kicking pack in Don Det. It was absolutely spectacular!
We are currently still working in the hospital. We all started working in the Emergency Department today, which was very good. It is our last week in the hospital after which its off to the clinic!
Kae (in country agent) has been nothing but wonderful and an absolute fountain of information. She is a very special person!
We have all decided that we're going to be having a huge Thai feast for christmas day, so Kae, O and Wee are coming over to teach us how to cook some delicious Thai dishes, while we are providing some Aussie delicasies...
We are heading off the Chiang Mai on Friday, where we will be staying for New Years. We have booked to do a 3 day Trek up into the hill tribes which I am incredibly excited about!

Merry Christmas to you and everyone at Antipodians.
Also, I wish you a very happy New Years, and may 2009 bring you nothing but great things!

Shelley East Ghana UniBreak update

Ghana is so friendly!

Ghana is going great! My host family is lovely and except for way over feeding me and patting my tummy to see if it's full they have been so welcoming and have spoilt me. The hospital is good too; everyone is very nice and they've let me be involved in heaps already, somewhat different to home but that's what I expected.
Plan to do some travelling over the next few weekends - currently back in Accra for my visit to the compassion child sponsorship program but I think Terri and Verity are in Cape Coast this weekend.
Have met plenty of other expats around and all very friendly.
To hear more of my travels and to get some photos you can join my Ghana updates group on facebook; find me with my email then ask to join the group and next time I find the internet I'll add you :).

Friday, 19 December 2008

Somerville B - Peru Update


We haven't posted much yet as we have been having such a wonderful time here in Peru. But to catch you up here is a brief overview...

We started our adventure with a tiring journey from Brisbane and finally arriving in Cuzco on the 28th of December. Spending a few days in Cuzco we were able to visit ruins, museum and churches. We also spent a day at the Pisac markets buying many Peruvian gifts etc.

We did out community project in the small village of Quilla Huata. We were the first group in and got the extremely exhausting but rewarding task of carrying over 3000 mud bricks each weighing more than 6kgs. In our spare time we taught the children, played games and also participated in soccer and volleyball. The children sang songs and danced tradition dances as we said our farewells. They made us cards and presented us with flowers as some of us (iszy) made our teary goodbyes.

We spent a day at Macchu Picchu, were we took many photos, walked to the sun gate and climbed the steep stairs to the top of Wacchu Picchu. It was an amazing experience one which we are sure to remember.

On day 12 we began our 4 day trek of the Sacred Valley. It started of fairly easy but we were soon surprised when we found ourselves walking through snow. This turned out to be quite eventful, especially as we reached the highest point of our trek at 4750m as we stood there in a blizzard posing for a photo. As we came to the end of our trek we had a couple of hours at the hot springs. This was a great place to relax and rub of the accumulating dirt from the past week.

After an 8 hour bus ride we arrived in Puno. Our two day tour began with a visit to the floating islands, were we continued on to Island Amautani. Here we spilt into small groups and stayed at the homes of locals. They cooked us traditional meals and we were lucky enough to attend a community folk dance were we dressed in traditional costumes. We also visited Island Taquille before our return to Puno.

We were stunned by the city life when we arrived in Arequipa. Our day here included visiting the monastery, cathedral and the Inca mummy museum. In our afternoon of shopping we discovered a chocolate shop, which just happened to have the best chocolate in Peru. YUM YUM

The next day we began out two day tour to the Colca Canyon. Stopping at various places along the way to experience the magnificent views of the Canyons. We spent a few hours waiting to see the Condors, we eventually saw 12. 2 massive buffet lunches later we made our way back to Arequipa were we are currently spending the night.

Tomorrow we set off to Lima were we spend a fun filled two days before our return home. So far our trip has been an amazing experience one which we will always remember.

Adios amigos,

Iszy George and Alice-Anne

Rebekah in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai teaching, elephant riding and hill tribe homestays!

After a long and tiresome journey having to avoid the closed Bangkok airport, Rebekah arrived safe and sound at the project in Chiang Rai and spent the weekend with our in country agent, Paul, before getting straight into teaching alongside the other volunteers.
Monday to Thursday last week was mainly spent teaching English and settling in.
Fri – Sunday she went out to the Hill Tribe villages, rode elephants, did some trekking and home stayed with Hill Tribe families. Feedback suggests she then had a great time shopping at the night bazaar on the Sunday!
Monday she was introduced to the E.Bannok shop as her uni is interested in doing further work with it. She has started to get to know the project more and prepare for her University’s partnership.
Teaching this week has mainly been cancelled as most schools are having a sports week. So the volunteers have all been doing construction work on another project that they have going, and today they have gone out to the sports day at Muay Mae Sai School.
All going very well so far - a beautiful part of the world at a beautiful time of year!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

BGGS - Marafiki

We're back in Moshi after spending three days on Safari at various national parks.

We have seen all of the big five ( the five animals that are supposedly the hardest to hunt) - Water buffalo, Cheeta/Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, Lion; as well as hippos, flamingos, warthogs and wilderbeast just to name a few. We are headed off early tomorrow morning on a bus to Dar es Salem from which we will catch the ferry that will take us to Zanzibar. We have three full days in Zanzibar before heading back to Dar to start the long plane journey home.

We also had the opportunity to visit a Masai village which had more impact on us than I think an of us expected. We were shown inside a traditional hut and were alo allowed to witness some traditonal dancing and singing - Mr Seaha (Baboo as he has become known) joined in but I hink he was a little intimidated by how high they could jump.

Everyone is well and we are all having a great time - there is something quite intoxicating about the African way of life, and I'm sure it we leave an impression on us all. I can tell we are all looking forward to seeing our family and friends again but we will always remember the Marafiki trip to Tanzania.

Hello everyone. That was Bec, it's Jim here now. We are all well but the heat has set in as we have been on the plains for the past 3 days...saw some wonderful sights, the crater is amazing in itself, the animals make it a true paradise in my eyes. The evening safari in Lake Manyara National Park was equaly amazing....at one point, the landcruiser was surrounded by baboons, at another, a family of elephants crossed so close in front of us that you could almost reach out and touch them....Today, in Tarangeri, we witnessed a herd of 50 or so elephants feeding very closeby.....jaw dropping really!

Everyone is wonderfully well...very little illness apart from some altitude related which is now behind us....been in touch with the other 5 groups and they are equally well....such a relief tothis old man! Off to Zanzibar on the Dar express at 7 in the mornng....links with the ferry across so expecting to be sleeping on Zanzibar tomorrow night (a change that we have made to the itin). Talk of late has been much about Christamas food...everyone bragging about their mother's cooking...if only you could here how wonderfully they speak of their mums!

Will email once more from Zanaibar just before we leave.


Deakin University Ecuador

We are all having a ball in Quito.

All 4 of us are in one house which
is great. Rosita has been fantastic, organising our placements and
adjusting everything to our liking!
The house has been great. There are two other American girls living
with us which makes things fun. We are getting along with one really
well, and traveling over christmas with her.

Our placements have been really interesting! We have had a variety of
different things to do, and been amazingly busy, which is good i
think. At the moment Kara and i are at an orphanage, and really really
enjoying it. Am hoping to spend some of the money i raised for
christmas presents on the kids.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Exhilarating Safari Experience for Kanga, BGGS

Hello everyone,

Well we finished our safari yesterday. It was an incredible experience and we all saw a massive selection of animals.

we were also lucky enough to have about 20 elephants come right up to the vehicles and just chill next to us for a while- very exhilarating. We also saw baboons that climbed up onto the 4wd, cheetah snooze next to the cars and watched as some hyenas chased some warthogs and then changed and the warthogs chased the hyenas away!!!

Anyway it is 9:20am and in about 20 minutes were will be picked up to be taken to the base of Mt Meru to commence our trek up the mountain. Everyone is buzzing and very excited!

That is all for now
Hope everyone isn't missing us too much...only something like 10 days and we are home.

Written by the Kanga Team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Expedition Tanzania 08

BGGS Pamoja Community Project

hello everyone,
everyone is well and safe, just got back to Arusha this morning for 2 rest days before we leave for safari - we're all very excited.

Project was very rewarding - the little kids were SO cute and it really felt like we were making a difference. We built 2 water tanks, began digging a toilet pit, painted a mural, made and painted desks and shifted a lot of rocks!

Everyone travelling well - we will write again most likely in Zanzibar.
Love to all

Written by the PAMOJA Team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Expedition Tanzania 08

USYD Health Science in Ghana

Everyone is doing really well and have remained healthy, despite the odd mozzie bite and suspect meal. Our home cooked food is excellent and we have been pretty picky about our eating out experiences so we have been fine, touch wood.

All the placements are going well with everyone experiencing unique, challenging and often confronting situations. Everyone seems to have recovered from the initial culture shock and adjustment to the Ghana method of doing things and have fitted in well. Louise, Laura and Natalie are working well with babies with various developmental problems, amongst other things. They are now very good at keeping babies amused and teaching the staff how to work more effectively with these kids. Justin, Kate and Tara have the same kinds of patients in Begoro although on a much bigger scale, with children who are of a wider age range. They are working with an Aussie Occupational Therapist who has been here for 5 years and is an absolute inspiration. Lernik, Jo and Wendy are seeing more adult patients at Oda and working with a local physio who has very different ways of doing things than we are trained to do. This has been a challenge but again Wendy and Lernik are managing to find a middle ground. Jo has had a very interesting time in the imaging department... now that it another world. Xrays in Ghana leave a bit to be desired but Jo is doing her best to help them improve.

We have had a couple of weekends away, a welcome relief from our lovely but sometimes over attentive host families. Some headed to the Cape Coast last weekend where we did some sight seeing and swimming and just general relaxing. The weekend just gone we all got together and went to the Volta region where we climbed the highest mountain in Ghana, demonstrating how we have been lacking exercise in the last few weeks. It was 1 hour straight up a very rough path, half of us in thongs, and in the middle of the day. Despite most wanting to give up at some point we encouraged each other until we all got there.... great team building exercise. We also went to a monkey sanctuary and saw some locals weaving traditional cloth. It was a great time and everyone is getting on so well and we are a real team. The trip home was a bit of a downer with at few harsh words exchanged with a tro tro driver who was trying his best to rip us off and then proceeded to get lost, adding about 3 hours to the return trip... It will be funny in hind site i am sure.

We are just finishing up this week and head back to the capital Accra on Friday where we have the chance to spend the weekend stocking up on Christmas presents before most of us head back on Monday. It has gone really quickly and we all wish we had a little more time but I am sure that by the end of the week we will have made a least some small but significant changes for the people we are working with to continue with when we leave.

Written by Julia Patrick, Lecturer University of Sydney, UniBreak Groups Ghana 08

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Gilroy Santa Maria

Well the project is done.

And by that I mean, our days are up. The water tank is resembling the shape & was beginning to be tiled on the inside on our last day. So although we can't see the end product, we can see a big difference. The kids had a great time.
We're now in Hue, after a 3 hour delay at Hanoi airport :( Got some reading done, & it's finally dawned on the kids how much they have to do for the rest of the trip, so they were furiously planning. We had our first rain here today, but we haven't hit the streets yet, so hasn't affected us.

St Aidans A

Heading out to Las Chullpas today to catch up with Chalo and begin our trek.

St Aidans A have already travelled from Arequipa, Lake Titicaca and are now looking forward to their trek. The team is looking forward to Christmas in the Plaza de Armes in Cuzco!

St Aidans - Llama Mafia

Just wanted to drop you a quick message to let you know that you can breathe easy as the Lama mafia are all having a good time and we are all good.

Sure we have had the odd upset tummy, but you get that on the big jobs, nothing to worry about and I am on the case.
We are off to Puno tomorrow then on to Titicaca. All is going according to plan. Saw condors, snow and lamas, all in the one day. Girls are good teachers are happy and I am sleepy.

Brisbane Grammar

Hello to all from Brisbane Grammar School in Tanzania.

We arrived in Dar Es Salam a little tired but happy to be in Africa.

Our first night we checked in to our hotel and it was my job to sort out the rooms and hand out the keys, we also bought water for our team and organised a restaurant for our 1st meal. We had a great time, food was excellent and we saved $3.00 each.

The next day we took an all day bus with the locals to Moshi, we had amazing views of Kilimanjaro as we got close to Moshi. We were dropped off in the middle of the bus station, but we managed to persuade the driver to take us to a round-about where we got picked up by Tommie, who is in charge of our project. We arrive at Camp Tanzania, had showers, food, a briefing by Tommie and then all in bed by 8.30, we were exhausted but happy to be in the foothills of the mountains.

Today is the second day of the project, we are helping to build a new dinning room and kitchen for Mbokomu Primary School, it's hot and hard work, but we take it in turns and the local craftsmen we're working with are great and teach us how to do everything. My job was to build a lental for the top of the wall so the roof will be supported above the doors and windows. We did it all by hand, no machines here. We made the wooden support/mould, fixed them over the steel rods that add strength, then poored the concrete in to the wooden support, it will take a few days to dry, but when we pull the wood off, it will look great,...I hope!!!

Also all the local kids were in school and we had a lot of fun with them, they were very excited to see us, and they kept our rugby ball which we gave them in the morning, it's better than the shoe they were playing with before. They are all really happy and their English is pretty good, there are two gap students here that have been teaching them English and helping building too.

OK, i've got to go, as it's time to start work again. Hello to everyone at home and school. We go to town tomorrow, because it's Sunday, we're all going to use the internet, so hopefully you'll hear from us again.

Bye for now, Tom.

Roseville A

Roseville A - In Laos safe and sound.

Roseville A had a great time exploring the temples of Angkor and are now at their community project in Laos. They are working at a school an hour outside of Luang Prabang.

Roseville B

Roseville B are back from our trek (and have just stuffed ourselves with pizza).

The girls are all well and had a fantastic time.

They will take it easy tomorrow before we head to the community project.

We are being looked after well by our Laos guide.

Jenny Bean

Ravenswood arrive in Peru

Ravenswood have arrived in Peru after a long flight.

They have organised to stay in the Plaza De Armes in Arequipa. They will be enjoying the sights there before heading onto Lake Titicaca and Cuzco.

Monday, 15 December 2008

A word from our Ecuadorian In-Country Agent

The students are very busy, with their placement work at morning and in the
afternoon as well as their extra Spanish classes on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. When they not studying they go at the orphanage, they work from 9
to 12 at morning and in the afternoon from 2 to 5.
At morning all of them goes to a House for young mothers and help with the
garden, painting, and other activities they have, I visit the work placements
checking how they are all the time.

The two weeks ago they was at the primary school and high school. All the
placements that knows the volunteers want them, the school call me today they
invitated the students the next week for celebrations of Christmas and
also want to invite them for Sunday to spend with them in a nice house out of
Quito for a day, with lunch.

The two students that arrive are very nice two, they are working at morning
and in the afternoon this week they have Spanish classes, all of them are
together, because they dont know spanish and I want they be save, the next
week they are going to have a different schedule, but they have many
activities, they are very busy, this friday they work only at morning in the
afternoon they are going to have a presentation of a travel agency that
works with us, and they explain the tourist places in Ecuador, after they
have salsa classes.

The last weekends they went out of the city, they visiting Baños, a small town
4 hours from Quito, they liked it so much. The another weekend they went to
Otavalo market, 2 hours from Quito where they buy many things, they like to much.

Thank you for sending the Australian students they are very nice, all the
people are very happy with them.


Written by Rosita Tamayo, In-Country Agent, Ecuador

Fascinating Ecuador

The last ten days has been just as exciting as the first.

After the first week, the four of us Deakin students have settled in and feel much more comfortable and relaxed about our placement. The second week certainly allowed us to get to know the students at esquela Alexander Von Humbolt but while I felt a little more able to communicate with the students, I still found myself pretty frustrated by the progress in learning Spanish. The saving grace in this placement was the patience the kids and teachers allowed us, and the fact that most of last week was taken up by activities for the celebration of Quito and English classes, which we took by ourselves or in pairs.

One of the most interesting parts of the week in this placement was the beauty contest held by the school for the students on the Thursday. It was something that I found very strange. This consisted of students dressing up in suits and fancy dresses. The one exception was the clear crowd favourite, Angus, who stunningly didn´t match his potential with a win.

The whole experience was very strange, as I´m sure we would see dressing up an 11 year old in a dress and makeup to be judged by her fellow students as something that could really stunt her self confidence. This one girl looked so upset as she was told she had not made the final three, we thought she was going to cry.

This last week has had more interesting placements. In the mornings we would work in a home for young girls who had been abused when younger and obviously lacked other places to go. The kids ranged from 12 to 17 and a couple of them had kids, one of the girls was 14 with a baby. The placement has had great prospects as they definitely need a few extra hands on deck, although it is a relatively well resourced placement. Unfortunately though, at times we were only able to do work that we saw as less than beneficial to the organisation. One of these tasks has been creating the nativity scene for the Christmas celebrations. Something that less than motivated us. However, things are now looking much better as we have been painting and doing some much needed gardening for the last few days. I am very confident about the placement next week.

The afternoons this week have been filled with extra Spanish lessons we have booked as well as a placement in a hospital and Orphange. The latter has definitely been the standout. The kids have been amazingly happy to have us there and very open. Angus and I were greeted by hugs by the young kids at this house where the orphanage is based. At this place, it is hugely under-resourced and is reliant on people like us giving the kids the affection that is so absent from their lives. It has been the place I have most felt useful.

We are all very happy and I am so happy with the placement. I am very much looking forward to the coming weeks.

Hasta Luego.

Written by Daniel Schultz, Deakin University, UniBreak Groups Ecuador 2008

Cultural Immersion in Ghana

Yeah well we learnt about Ghana time pretty quickly but have enjoyed the time here so far. We actually aren't meeting our host families till tomorrow as our orientation was the week instead of just 2 days.

It has been great though and have made a bunch of new friends with all of the other volunteers here in our hostel.
We've learnt some language, dancing, drumming, cooking and information about Ghana and everyone is soo nice. We tried the markets, the beach and the trotros and getting used to speaking Twi to those who yell Obruni [White person/foreigner] out to us.
We're all looking forward to meeting our families tomorrow and have discussed travelling on the weekends.

Written by Shelley East, UniBreak Ghana 2008

First Impressions of Ghana

It's been awesome over here but we're still in Accra. Staying with us in
Accra are a large group European volunteers which was a pleasant surprise
but we, as a group of 9, get on well. We have had a full week of
orientation and we head off to Swedru tomorrow.

At this stage its still only first impressions of the country itself but so
far it has been amazing. Even just in the city i feel like there is a
tremendous level of unity amongst people, the extent to which you would
never see in Australia ever. Everybody walks around in Ghanaian emblazend
clothes or cars or just about anything you can think of. Its pretty neat.

Culturally its unlike anything I've ever experienced. They have a rich
culture that differs not only from group to group but from person to
person and each person seems willing to give a little bit of themselves to
every volunteer, which is a pleasant change from the relatively hostile
nature of Australian people.

Anyway, will probably have more to tell next week.

Written by Andrew Frawley, UniBreak Ghana 2008

Incredible Thailand experiences

Thailand has been absolutely wonderful. I would love to begin to tell you all of the amazing experiences i've had so far, but we are heading to Ko Samet tonight, so I wont have nearly enough time!

We have spent two days in the Surgical department at the hospital which has proven to be nothing short of incredible. Today I personally got to assist in a Caesarean section, as well as observing numerous additional surgeries. The food here has also been nothing short of delicious, and I am greatful that I have yet to come across a weight scale as I'm quite sure the results would not be too fantastic.

I will be in touch with more information about our wonderful experience.

Written by Sabin Smith, UniBreak Thailand 2008

First week in Thailand

All is well here in Surin. My time in Cambodia and the trip to Surin were very interesting and all went smoothly (except the car ride!).

We started in theatre this week, but had Wednesday off because of the holiday, so went to see the elephants. Have seen some very interesting operations and we've all helped in some caesarian section births. Jenny and I had an unpleasant experience on Tuesday night when we saw an accident between a scooter and a bike and were the only ones to do anything. We found out today that both victims are recovering reasonably well, which is good to know because we were afraid that one of them was going to die as he had pretty bad head injuries.

We're off to Ko Samet tonight for the weekend with Kae and the QLD nurses, so it should be a lot of fun!

Written by Kathryn Wyles, UniBreak Thailand, Medical placement 2008

USYD in Ghana

All is going brilliantly. Seth and Tina [In-Country Agents] are absolutely wonderful and making life here so easy. All the host families are good and we have had no problems at all.

We went to Cape Coast last weekend and planning on going to the Volta region next. We are going to get back to Accra for the last weekend as everyone is saving up their shopping for the art markets there. All the hospital sites are good, keeping the students very busy which is great. The girls at Duakwa are a bit more quiet but we have arranged some other things for them to see so they will be fine.

All in all it is a great time so far!

Written by Julia Patrick, Lecturer University of Sydney, UniBreak Groups Ghana 2008

BGGS Kanga in Tanzania

Hello everyone. Its Kanga! After a long flight last week we have settled into Africa.

We have just completed our community service at Ilkurot, a small Maasai village south of Arusha. We all had a lot of fun and were all sad to leave. We now look forward to leaving for our safari tomorrow morning and we will email again when we get the chance. Hope you are not missing us too much.

Written by the Kanga team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Tanzania Expedition 2008

All Hallows' in China

Everything is going well. We completed our first trek yesterday, it was quite challenging but overall very enjoyable. The views were spectacular, upon decent we had lunch with a local Naxi Family which was good, met some fellow travellers from Scotland and Ireland.

Yesterday we arrived at our community project and will start working tomorrow. It was at least -15 degrees last night but most of us were quite warm. The kids are very cute and the community is very welcoming. Today we visited a Tibetan temple and learnt a fair amount of the buddist culture, we were privileged enough to meet the highest ranked monk in Tibet and had some of our questions translated to him through our guides Sonam and Tupan. The food is incredible, we are very lucky. Despite numerous girls being tired we are very excited to be continuing with our expedition and community project.

Written by Elise Buchanan, All Hallows' China/Vietnam Expedition 2008

Stories from Somerville C, Community Project, Peru

Peru is amazing! The project couldn't have been better and the girls worked really hard. The community was amazing, the food sensational and accommodation all good. A very very positive project.

We have just had our first shower in four days and it will take another 2-3 washes before all the dirt comes off! Off to Aguas Calientes in the morning and to a well deserved few days of rest before the trek. The project was absolutely exhausting!

The in-country agents have been amazing and we are all getting along fine.

The girls were great on the project and looking forward to Machu Pichu.

Written by Kirsten Cunningham, Somerville House Team C Leader, Peru Expedition 2008

Somerville Team A, Trekking Machu Pichu

Machu Pichu was amazing and the girls seemed to love it.

It was great to have done our trek first though, so that they could appreciate the difference between the remote region of the Cordillera Blanca, and the touristy nature of Aguas Callientes and Machu Pichu! We´re off to the community project this afternoon, and the girls are looking forward to it a lot. I´ll touch base when we return to Cusco.

Written by Kia Langmead, Team A Leader, Somerville House, Peru Expedition 2008

Pamoja Update, Tanzania

Dear All,

We have all arrived back from the hike alive and well. It was challenging but very rewarding in the end. Almost all made it to the summit with the exception of 3 who were feeling unwell due to altitude.

We are now in Arusha which is an exciting and busy city with much to see and do. Today we are exploring the markets, which has proved challenging and has certainly tested our haggling skills.

We leave tomorrow for our project, which we are all extremely excited about. We will spend five days there before returning to Arusha and going on safari.

We are all missing you very much and cannot wait to tell you in greater detail of our amazing adventures.

Love to everyone and we hope all is well!

Love Pamoja

Written by the Pamoja Team, Brisbane Girls Grammar, Tanzania Expedition 2008

Breathtaking Moments in Tanzania

Hello everyone Jim here,

We've been trekking for three days and arrived in Moshi on a Sunday and today is a public holiday. Trek was extremely challenging for all...we all made it to Rhio point at 3800m and then the group split with the maniacs summiting and the more sensible of us resting (note the bias)and watching the sun rise on Kili...enough to bring a tear to your eye...some amazing moments and photos..girls so exited...very satisfying for me....freezing winds drove us back down to the saddle hut for the morning to wait for the more intrepid...they returned jubilant around noon and we immediately began our knee crunching, calf burning descent through rain and hail...it really is a wonder to see a rain cloud below you, then descend through it to look up and see it above you....do love the romance of this stuff...could easily pass on the physicality though....

Moshi is a nice country town...excellent coffee as it is a coffee growing region....girls had a day shopping and doing laundry....seemed to really enjoy the routine of it after such a challenging time on the mountain....met the Pamoja team in the rangers hut as they were arriving and we were leaving...they were full of anticipation...interesting moment...love to see them.

Had birthday celebrations at a roof top restaurant and watched the sun set on Kili...a 16th birtday not to forget for Felicity and a 17th for Beth's memory book for certain....gifts safely delivered from mum and dad with a few quiet moments that followed.... The group has gelled beautifully and the girls pretty much have control of the entirety of the planning now...Maddie told me at breakfast this morning that I had to be at a certain place at a certain time and I realised that I had lost touch with the day to day running of the show...a good thing..planning to happen that way but not this early....they are really in control now.... Within the hour we are off to the project in the small village of Kidia about 20 minutes from here so will be out of communication again....may get a chance to come back into town and will contact again if possible.....bumped into the Brisbane Boys Grammar yesterday for a few minutes in town. They are all well and heading off for their trek as we replace them on the community project.

Written by Jim Seaha, Marafiki Team Leader, Brisbane Girls Grammar, Tanzania Expedition 2008

Getting our hands dirty in Tanzania

Hello everyone!

The trip has been fantastic so far! The flight over was long and tiring but it was definitely worth it.

We just finished our community project. We had a lot of fun and got our hands dirty. We built a see saw, a soccer field, a netball field, a swing set, balance beam and a suspended bridge, so there was a lot of hard work going on. It was a lot of fun to be in such close contact with the Massai community. Some girls were even able to stay overnight in a Bommer (a small Massai village) and were able to gain a greater appreciation of the Massai culture. The children were also a lot of fun to play with.

Next up is the Safari which we are all excited for. Luckily we haven't had a lot of trouble with illness. We miss you all and we can't wait to see everyone at Christmas.

Love from,


Written by the Rafiki Team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Tanzania Expedition 2008

Safari Excitement in Tanzania

We have returned safely from our Safari. We had an amazing time. NgoroNgoro crater was our first destination and it was really beautiful!

We saw lions with cubs, zebras, elephants, baboons, wildebeasts, hippos, cheetahs, giraffes among many others. We all took many photos! Most of the animals were less than 5m away from our safari vehicle. Our cooks for safari did a fantastic job keeping us fed - it was a real luxury.
We went shopping at the Massai markets, which proved to be an interesting experience. We have now had a bit of practise at haggling, but it still proves to be quite stressful. They have lots of stalls, although they all sell the same thing. There are many beautiful paintings and wood carvings.
The Tanzanian people are very friendly and generally helpful.
We are currently in Arusha for 3 nights, awaiting our trek to start. We have a beautiful view of Mt Meru from our hotel and are all very excited to begin climbing!
We hope everything in Australia is well!

Written by the Cheka Cheka team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Tanzania Expedition 2008

BGGS in Tanzania

We have arrived safely in Moshi after a nine hour bus trip from Dar es Salaam.

Feeling a lot better than this time yesterday. Accommodation in Moshi is a lot better than the accommodation in Dar es Salaam..all around a much better town. Trek begins tomorrow.

Miss and love you all very much. Talk to you soon..whenever we can find an internet cafe.


Written by the PAMOJA team, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Tanzania Expedition 2008

Somerville C - Peru

Jordan here, from team C (Kirsten's). We are in Puno at the moment, having gotten in from Arequipa yesterday.

We went and saw the floating islands today on Lake Titikaka and just came back from a very good dinner. Everyone is fine, apart from a few girls feeling a bit ill due to altitude and/or not drinking enough water. We are heading off in the morning to catch a bus to Cusco which we are all very excited for, so all is well.

Written by Jordan Kardash - Somerville Expedition, Peru 2008