Thursday, 25 June 2009

Heartfelt Ghanian Adventures

Written by Gabriella Barnett - GapBreak 2009, Ghana

We went to Kakum National Park 2 weeks ago which was cool. 'Hans Cottage Botel' was fairly isolated so we had to walk a bit before we could find some inexpensive local food. It was so wierd arriving there because it was like a real standard 1 or 2 star resort type place with a swimming pool, rooms with showers, a gym, ping pong table -how awesome! The restaurant was on stilts over a crocodile pond. We did a 7km walk to the rock shrine -3 giant rocks balanced on top of each other. It was as scary as I'd anticipated trying to pull myself over the first rock -you had to grab on to these 2 vines and walk up it's side vertically. Unfortunately we couldn't go further because it was too wet. We were incredibly fortunate with the weather though - it was a little overcast and not too hot - because it was all so exhausting! The next day, we did the Kakum National Park Canopy walk which was cool because you have got a good view of the rainforest by walking along a very thin bridges raised 50m high. We took heaps of photos -some very funny as it was quite scary. After that we went to see Elmina Castle. Just standing outside and looking at it hits you with something I can't quite describe, but we'd been so shocked from the Cape Coast Castle tour, that the Elmina Castle tour didn't affect us as much as it would've.

I teach Class 1 all day, everyday, now. It was hard changing classes after having gotten to know class 2 so well, but they've definitely grown on me. I get a nice big group hug in the morning upon entering the classroom, which is so heart warming. I mostly teach them songs, to read, and subtraction in maths. They love to colour, but they don't have much imagination so I have to draw things for them or tell them what to draw.

We visited the orphanage on Tuesday again (I didn't go last week as I was sick, so I was really excited). Spiderman (Steven) I feel, has taken a liking to me - he's such a great, happy kid (anyone would totally adore him!) - but his sister, 'Quiet Ama' (a.k.a.) Spiderwoman), was so sad when I saw her, because the 2 Swedish girls that were there 24/7 had left and I think she'd grown really attatched to one of them. She could barely look at me and wouldn't smile. I managed to lift her poor little spirit, but I felt terrible when it was time for us to leave. When Steven and Ama saw a few of us head off, they got really worried and kept asking me if we were leaving and if we'd come back. Sometimes, I wish I hadn't planned my around the world trip so I could come back as soon as I'd done my safari and just stay at the orphanage. There's a new baby of only about 2 or 3 months, that Phoebe held for a while, who looked as if he'd been totally emotionally shattered. He seemed to always be on the verge of a major cry breakout, and whenever someone else went to touch him, his eyes would well up even more, and unless you backed off, he'dbegin to cry. That's even worse than Ama, who, for our first week of visiting, wouldn't show any signs of emotion and was irresponsive. An older girl who seems lovely, kept trying to claim us as her mum. It's just tragic that they can't fulfill their want to love and to be loved.

We're going to the Volta region this weekend -sounds like a very exotic place!

There is no other position I'd rather be in than the one I'm in now.

A typical day in Ghana and some weekend adventures

Written by Amanda Hudy - Gapbreak 2009, Ghana

As I write this (i write all my news before typing it to save internet time) Phoebe and I are sitting in our room and have been invaded by doreen, mercy and paa kwesi who are sitting on our beds and requesting that we sing advance australia fair. This is a typical evening for us. Someone asked me the other day what I do on a normal day and it occurred to me that it's probably a bit of a grey area, so the following is a plan of my average ghana day:

7am - wake up and breaky (take anti-malarials!)
8:30am - School starts, begin teaching
10:30am - school break. On Mon, Wednes and Fri I'm finished for the day
11am - Break over. On Tues and Thurs I go to the Nursery and read books or do craft with them. On other days I might do a clothes wash, read my book or plan the next day's lesson
12:30pm - Phoebe finishes teaching and we have lunch - usually fruit
1pm - Often we go into Swedru for internet, bank, post office, general shopping etc and on Wednesdays we have Obruni meeting at 2pm. On Tues we all meet in Swedru and head out to the nearby town Akwakwaa for an arvo at the orphanage
5:30pm - if we've gone into town we come home and have dinner. Dinner is not the same kind of meal as at home - rather than a family meal, everyone eats seperately. Phoebe and I eat, sit and chat together
6:3opm - showers. Almost always bucket, but we've just had 2 consecutive days of the actual shower working - SO exciting!!!
7pm - plan the next day, chat, hang out with the family
7:30pm - Bed. Sounds early but trust me, here it isn't!!
So that's an average day for Phoebs and I in Gomoa Akropong.

Last weekend we made the trek to Busua - 5 hour tro tro to Takoradi (birthplace of dear friend Graham Willis!) then a 1-2 hour tro tro to Busua. We stayed just out of Busua at the indescribable Green Turtle Lodge. It was Max's bday weekend and also a long weekend due to the Africa Unity Day so we were gearing up for a bit of celebrating!
The only way i can adequately describe Green Turtle is totally idyllic. It's literally a cluster of huts spread out along a very beautiful and isolated beach with an outdoor bar. We statyed in tents pitched on the beach - it was so amazing to be able to wake up and walk straight into the Atlantic Ocean.
On sunday we did a day trip to Nzulezu stilt village which involved an epic canoe trip on which my canoe (Gabi, Brig, Soph and I) were convinced we were going to capsize. So we eased our frazzled nerves by having a very rowdy singalong, including a few rounds of row row row your boat!!!!

Other than that we spent the weekend mingling with other travellers and relaxing, swimming, reading, playing pool etc. Definitely my favourite weekend so far!

The next weekend we stayed about 8kms out of Cape Coast at a place called Hans Botel (we think a pun on the word 'Hotel' because the restaurant was over a lake - boat/hotel = botel??)
The lake has 12 resident crocodiles and it was very funny watching the yanks freaking out when the staff lured them out with meat - these crocs would have been 1/4-1/3 the size of a big Northern Territory croc. We thought they were a bit pathetic - but then we are australian!! That friday night we met a college group from Boston College of Music who were here for 3 weeks studying West African Music. We ended up hanging out with the only aussie in the group - a guy called Jackie. Very very weird to hear such a strong accent that wasn't one of our own!! He was telling us that in his spare time he tours with his Dad's band - then casually said that his dad is Jimmy Barnes!! True story - if you're doubtful, google him. Bizarre who you meet travelling!
On Saturday we got up and headed along a very dodgy road to Domama Rock Shrine. We walked for about 6kms along a very hilly road (in thongs!) and then for 1km in the forest to the shrine. We were exhausted on arrival and promptly collapsed in a heap!! Then there was the option to climb a near vertical rock face using only 2 vines. Max, Harry, Cate, Gabi and Char did it but Claud, Soph, Phoebs and I waited down the bottom. Then we trekked the 7kms back, making it a 14km round trip. Needless to say we were completely exhausted that night!

On Sunday we headed out to Kakum National Park. We did a canopy walk made up of 7 sections, about 40m high suspended over the forest canopu. Doesn't sound high, but trust me- it most certainly felt like it, especially when Cate walked beging me shaking and swaying the walkway!! Despite the slight fear factor, there were beautiful views of the national park.
After Kakum we tro-troed it to Elmina, a former Portugese colony famous for it's old slave fort - not unlike the one at Cape Coast. We did a quick tour of it which, if i'm honest is all a bit of a blur - we'd had a big night before so hadn't recovered from the domama trek, and were subsequently delirious with exhaustion!!! We splurged on a somewhat pricey meal at a nearby resort then headed back to Swedru (or 'swedders' or 'sweddy' or 'the swed' as it's now affectionately known) for some serious resting.

Phoebe and I took Monday off to plan the next 3 weeks of school, but other than that the week passed in a blur of teaching, orphanageing and obruniing as usual.

Last weekend we chose to spend some time at home, so other than a day trip to the the coast we hung about in swedru. School was cancelled on friday due to 'water scarcity' - our pipe had stopped running (phoebs and i substituted showers for babywipes for 4 days) so we had a long weekend too :). We spent most of Sunday in bed which was very blissful! We also visited the tailor and our Ghanaian clothes are being picked up this afternoon - fingers crossed.....

Other than that life is great. We heard yesterday that Harry has now got influenza - he's on a roll.
I'm thinking about sponsoring my favourite orphanage baby and Phoebs and I are in the midst of funding new desks, chairs and the startings of a library for our school.
Donations are very welcome!

The weeks are speeding by at a terrifying rate. It's been nearly 8 weeks since I left home, and it's only 5 weeks to the day til I fly out to Joburg. Unbelievable!!! Although I can't wait to visit everyone in europe :)

For those of you with exams and tests and elections, a huge good luck.
To those with birthdays coming up, have a wonderful day!
For anyone just going about life as usual, stay happy :)
And for everyone else travelling or overseas, hope you're having just as amazing a time as I am!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Beauty of trekking in Nepal

Written by Amanda Hudy - GapBreak 2009, Nepal

Our trek was amazing - even though the bus ride there and back was much to be desired. 7 hours going and coming would have driven anyone mad, but when we eventually did arrive we found a nice place called Buddha Guest House, which provided us with a lovely breakfast to start our trek off. We also met up with some other travellers. There were Russians and Israelis, Americans and even and English doctor who we met along the way. But boy, was going up and coming down difficult. Ultimately it took us 3 days to reach Kanjin Gompa from where you have the most perfect view of the Himalayas. It was amazing at the top and we got really good weather as well, all clear, which really capped off a wonderful trek when we scalled a 5000 m peak to get an uninterrupted view of the Himalayas. I took so many photos, it really was beautiful although quite difficult to get up there. At the top, we enjoyed tibetan bread with jam.

Another thing I loved whilst being up there was in the afternoon, when the clouds finally did descend, you felt like you were in Heaven - I got quite emotional at one point just sitting outside and looking at it all. It really gave me a great opportunity to reflect on things up there and I take from it a lot. Now as I write this, I can say that my cough is slowly going away, but the pollution here does little to help. We have also just realised that in a week we will really only have a month of this placement left, what with all the things we plan to do in the forthcoming weekends - time will definitely fly. Although I am not eager to get home, I'm excited at the prospect of returning and sharing all my photos and stories with you. My travel diary only has about a weeks worth of entries left in it, so there will be lots to say.

As for my upcoming plans. When we return to the village the lower secondary school, where I teach, will have opened properly. They had this big fiasco concerning failed math marks and teacher's getting ousted which really affected my ability to teach properly as you can imagine. Next weekend we will be going to the Tibetan border and then to the Bhoti Coshi river where me and Noirin and Tim plan to bungy jump weather permitting! It's all well and safe - it's like the second highest bungy jump in the world so we should have really good safety measures :). After that we return and teach for another week, which puts us into June. On June 20 the plan is to come to Kathmandu and help out in an orphanage. I think this will be a good thing as it will give me a chance to help out in a different setting. Then on June 30, I will stop teaching and take the remaining 2 days off to explore Kathmandu - perhaps do some Yoga, before I depart on July 3!!! See not long now, and we have been really good at keeping ourselves entertained by doing really cool stuff.

All the way from Africa: Part 3

Written by Phoebe Copeland - GapBreak 2009, Ghana

I can happily say that school is absolutely fantastic. I have been teaching alone now for 3 weeks as the first week I just observed. Its scary to think I only have 3 weeks of teaching left. There are four classes Nursery/creche, KG1, KG2, class 1,2,3.

On the first day about 30 kids turned up so KG 2 and class 1 2 3 combined and the kids just swept, cleaned and played. (they would have been hacking grass with machetes like all the other schools had we had any grass- we have a little dirt patch for playing) By the end of the first week around 60 kids turned up. But now around 100-150 come. Wednesday is worship Wednesday were for the first half hour of school they praise the lord and sing very loudly while the teaches recite passages from the bible and scream AMEN. and Friday is games day where in the arvo they just play games.

The children wear a gorgeous red and blue uniform Monday and Tuesday. A checkered brown and white one Wednesday and Thursday and on friday its a brand new games day uniform which is a hidous canary yellow and blue basketball uniform haha.

I teach class 1, 2, 3 on the narrow veranda of the school as they only have three classrooms. A bed sheet is tied from one concrete pillar to the next for a wall and when the wind blows my kids dissappear under the sheet. Worse still when it rains i cant teach at all as the rain on the tin roof is so loud. When it rains class stops, school stops I'd go as far to say Ghana stops. Luckily the down pour generallly lasts all of 3 seconds.

The orignial teacher of my class Madam Victoria is around 20 years old and an absolutle crack up. She copies my 'highpitced' voice and always mimics me laughing. I'd say she has just as much of an idea about teaching as i do. She sleeps up the back on the veranda only to wake if i yell for the kids to sit down. She jumps up and threatens them all with the cane. She looks at me as if to say do they need a cane madam Phoebe? hahah i always say no next time but never do.
There is no syllabus for class 1 2 3 so up until now i have been basically improvising- writing lesson plans the day before school. Now in my third week though I have much more of a grasp of where each child is at and have discovered none of them can read. Finding the concept of sounding things out is impossible for them to understand. They copy everything- 99 percent of their learning is rote they aren't thinking for themselves - it is very frustrating. So i have began teaching phonetics with them everyday introducing new sounds.

Yesterday Georgie and I combined our classes (she is teaching KG2) and we taught them the the nutbush and macarena as a part of PE and gross motor. hhahah it was very entertaining. I stood on the veranda whilst they stared at me doing the nutbush to no music.

I teach 8:30-12:30 M-F, on Tuesday afternoon the group goes to the orphange, on Mon and Thursday arvo i go to the nursery for story time. On Wed arvo we have obruni meeting and Friday the group meets in Swedru at 1pm to leave for the weekend away for travel. Jam packed week.

Since i told you about our last weekend away in Winneba we have travelled to Cape Coast the biggest city in the Central Region, Kokrobite an obruni haven west of Accra on the beach, Green Turtle Lodge in southwest Ghana and last weekend to Kakum National Park 50 km north of Cape coast.

At Cape Coast we went to a western book shop, had panacakes and banana, saw pigs on the beach and had a guided tour of Cape coast castle (slave fort). Our beach resort where we stayed was literally on the beach-the waves were crashing 50 m away from our very cute old beach cabins. The cabins were shoddily put together i would know as i got locked inside the toilet for 1/2 an hour while an african man with a stick bashed me out. Meanwhile the rest of the group were outside the door singing and asking me for my last words.....

Then the following weekend the group ventured by a very bumby tro-tro ride to Kokrobite. It was a little deceiving whilst drivng through the very small poor village on a dirt road to when you arrive at this gorgoeus plam tree filled beach resort. The beach was fanatic as you could swim and it wasn't too dangerous. All the group stayed in a house like accommodation on mattresses next door to reception. On sat everyone went to Accra for the day except me Gaby and Brig. In accra they found a western mall and cinema where they saw wolverine. i however swam, napped and saw a little too much sun but had an overall very relaxing day. I didnt feel wolverine was intergral to my Ghanaian experience.

Green Turtle lodge was followed by Kokrobite. Which was a 5-6 hour drive towards Cote d'Ivoire. The extrememly remote resort was built by an English couple on a stretch of beach uninhabited by locals- so there were no people trying to sell you water, clothes, food, jewellery and no rubbish washed up alone the sand. The resort is completly self sustainable- all run on solar enegery with self composting toilets. For 4 cedi a night we stayed in tents on the sand of the beach - so incredible- you woke up at 5.30 with the sun and walked straight out of your tent into the ocean. The resort was around 30 mins form any major village and there was no reception which proved difficult in booking the acccom. We spent three nights at green turtle as the monday of this particular weekend was African Unity Day-public holdiay. Whilst at green turtle we did a day trip to Nzulezu -the village on stilts just 45mins drive form the boarder of Cote d'Ivoire. We endured a hellish tro-tro ride out to the reception (in the middle of nowhere) then had an hour canoe ride to the village. The stilt village is built over the lake around 500 years ago and has a popuation of 450 people. The popel who lived there were quite primal and different from other Ghanaians i am with and have met.
It was Max's bday this particular weekend thus we celebrated with a range of cocktails from the extenive cocktail list (6).

To the most recent trip away (last weekend) Kakum.
We stayed at Hans Cottage Botel a very nice hotel/resort style accom near Kakum National Park. Hans is known for is lake in which the restaurant extends over which is home to around 12 crocodiles, which only come out to be fed. ahah. On friday night we met a group of American musicians from a Bosten College- one of them told us that amoungst them was an Aussie who was none other then Jimmy Barnes son. (not david cambell) Sure enough he found us as we are a hugh group of Aussies- his accent was a breath of fresh air - we are all so used to each others voices that hearing another australian accent is very bizzare) Anyway His name was Jackie Barnes - google him- he tours with his dad and plays the drums. Hes 23 and went to school in sydey he evern knew some people from yass. YAY. Spent the night listening to him and his American friends play music we were all a little star struck haha.

Then on Saturday we walked on a dirt track for 7.5 km to visit Domama Rock Shrine- which os one large rock balance on 3 others which formed a cave inside. Once we arrived at the shrine there was the option to climb the near vertical rock face using a vine to hoist yourself up. Everyone manage to get up but i gladly know myself well enough not to attempt something which requires co-ordination - it was not that long ago i fell down a flight of stairs in my own home. But the rock shrine was truly amazing, tucked away in the forst.
After the 4 hours walk we got back and were all exhausted- had a swim and a hot shower yes there was a water heater - however it was neither piping hot or freezing cold.

On sunday we left bright and early to Kakum National Park where we did a guided tour up to the Canopy walk- what Ghana is well known for- tourist wise. The canopy walk consisted of seven bridges cnecting 6 huge trees 50-70m above the ground. The briges swang and rocked and made everyone feel quite unsafe despite the tour guide assuring us it can hold 8 tons. The bridge was made of rope and wooden plants built in 94-95 they were not made using cranes but rather bow and arrows...? yes i know. But it was absolutley incredible. You could see out over the canopy accross all of Kakum.
On our way home we visit Elmina Slave Castle the oldest and biggest in Ghana-- there were definately some spirits there....oooo actually i wasnt feeling well so i layed down in recption and talk to a worker who is convinced he is coimng to Australaia to visit me... uhuh yeah right.

This coming weekend we intend to hang arond Swedru and go to church again.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mountain Designs 'Tell Us Your Tale' Writing Competition

Do you have any interesting tale to tell about your Antips placement?
Want the chance to win a $100 Mountain Designs voucher to gear-up on the latest outdoor and adventure kit?

Entries for the 'Tell Us Your Tale Writing Competition' are open now for keen beans to write 400-500 word about their Antips experience. If you haven't been away yet, we want to know why you want to join the Antips family and take off overseas.


What we are looking for...
Detail. Detail. Detail.
Make your story come alive!
Use spell check!
It could be just one hour of your placement, a day or what you ate for lunch.
Get creative!
And have fun reliving the experience.


1. Submissions are being taken now. Entries close July 31st.
2. The winner will be published on our blog and in our newsletter.
3. To enter, please send a 400-500 word story to Fiona Reeves at
4. Please send your story as an attached word document with your name, placement details and phone number on the top of the page.
5. If you enter, we may use your story- or parts of your story on our blog and newsletter to help other students understand what life is like on an Antips placement.
6. If you do not want us to use your story- please make this clear in your email.
7. Good luck!