Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Nameste! Hello! The adventures of Claire and Amelia in Bali, Rajasthan

Hamara nam Claire and Amelia he/Our names are Claire and Amelia.

Our home for 3 months is India: road rules no longer apply; the air smells of dust and motorbike fumes; women carry brass bowls on their heads and appear as splashes of colour against a dry, green landscape; cows wander in the middle of the road; monkeys lounge here and there; farmers sit in circles under the trees in the fields; and cars seem engaged in a constant exchange of honking.

We have had a gentle introduction into this very intense country. The lovely Sivraj was waiting to pick us up at Udaipur airport. His silent greeting caused us to exchange ‘oh nooo’ looks but soon enough his shyness evaporated and we were chatting away in broken English. Three hours later we reached our town, Bali (in Pali district, Rajasthan), a small but bustling village framed by mountains on the horizon. The FEGG (Foundation to Educate Girls Globally) house and office is light and open – our little haven. We have our own room complete with squatty potty and ‘shower’ – a bucket of cold water, which Amelia’s grandad has coined our ‘primitive ensuite’. We wake up to the sounds of pigeons cooing and children playing.

Our internship is with FEGG, an Indian organisation whose primary goal is to empower girls and mobilise communities through access to education. Already we have seen the positive impacts of such an effort in an FEGG program school in Vingarala village. We will be working to produce materials to aid the expansion of FEGG’s model to the Rajasthan state.

In the few days we have spent here we have been welcomed by the FEGG staff and the villagers who seem a little bemused by our terrible Hindi and un-Indian fashion-sense. We had a comical start to our day this morning at the bus station in Udaipur. We got there in time for the 530am bus but it proved very difficult to buy the damn ticket! Bali is in the Pali district but there is also a Pali town so it seems to get mixed up. The ticket man tried to sell us a ticket to Pali which is double the price so we emphasised the ‘B’ as opposed to a ‘P’. The ticket man called other men over to try and understand us so soon everyone was yelling ‘B’ and ‘P’ at each other. To make it worse, we don’t think they believed that we would be going to Bali as it is such a small town. But we got here in the end and it was kind of a ‘coming home’ feeling!

In fact we are already settling in, having gone to buy our salwar kameej with Mina and Manju. We sat on the floor of the fabric shop and sifted through the colour and patterns. It was a wonderful girly bonding time for all of us with more laughter at miscomprehension than exchange of language.

We still wake up and think ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in India!’ but we have started to crave chapatti when hungry – the first sign of an Indian stomach!

Follow Amelia and Claire on their adventures in Bali, Rajasthan and their scholarship with FEGG. Keep up the good work girls! :-)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Written by Eva Metzeling, GapBreak Ghana, 2009

Well I have almost exactly one month left in Ghana which is crazy - the last two months have flown. It feels like we have even less time left because we only have two weeks left teaching and then we're off for two weeks of travel with the other Aussies. We're getting pretty dang excited about it too - Seren (the Aussie I'm sharing a host family with) and I just spent the afternoon going through travel guides and with any luck our two weeks travel will include the highest waterfall in West Africa, visits to Kente-cloth weaving villages, thousand year old mosques, some national parks, a two day ferry across the Volta river, climbing the highest mountain in Ghana, tropical beaches, a sacred monkey sanctuary, millions of markets of course and probably some fetish priests. Woohoo!

It'll be so so sad to leave school though. The other teachers just make my life, they are so friendly and hilarious to talk to. Although we did have a pretty serious, actually depressing conversation with the grade one teacher yesterday - she has a class of 45 or so (which is average for our school) and was matter-of-factly telling us how impossible it is to cater to the often very pressing needs of individual students in a class so large. (Although once in a different school she had a class of 75 so she figures she doesn't have it too bad at the moment.) Of course we already knew that, but sort of the way I deal with the poverty and shocking living standard here is to figure that as long as the people are happy, who am I to judge and be so condescending as to pity them. So when you have a Ghanaian telling you that 'we are suffering' it makes it much much harder.

Anyway we are trying to do our bit with the money we raised in Australia, to build a library and ITC centre for our school. The construction is going on at the moment - hopefully it will be finished by the end of the week, so then we can paint it and fill it with books and computers before we head off travelling. Desktop computers only cost $150 here! And being able to use a computer opens up so many possibilities for the kids in terms of future work. So we're really happy to be doing that.

Funniest thing today - we had three huge bags of cement stored in our house that needed to get to the school. Seren and I couldn't even lift the bags ourselves, but the junior secondary school sent six boys home with us during break to pick them up. These guys really no bigger than us helped each other to hoist each bag of cement onto one person's head - and then off they'd walk casually as if they weren't carrying anything at all! We just watched and laughed at our own patheticness. Things like people carrying everything on their heads, I think I'm used to and then something like that happens and it's just like wooow these people and this whole culture is so insanely cool!

So really everything's cruisy and going really well. Everyone and everything here is so relaxed and yet everything gets done amazingly efficiently somehow! It's so much easier living here than I expected.

Last Days in Peru

Written by Brugh, In-Country Agent, Peru

Well, it was a great last week with the GapBreakers.

We had the last day with the group at the school today. It was a lovely sunny day and the school held a special ceremony for the group today. I am very happy to report that all the projects got finished with a couple of days to spare - everything looks great so the group should be very proud of themselves.

Of their own initiative, on Thursday, the group cooked a whole lot of "Australian food" (lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, etc.) for all the kids at the school and declared their second-to-last-day "Australia Day". The kids loved the food and I heard many cries of "muy rico" (very delicious).

On the last day the school held a ceremony to say thank you and good bye. There was lots of dancing and hugs. Robert also gave a farewell speech in Spanish which was very impressive.

The included photos are of both of these days as well as their finished construction projects.

The group left this morning for the Inca Trail - I'm sure they'll have a great time.

A daily routine in Ghana and a not-so-typical church visit

Written by Caitlin Stamford - GapBreak Ghana, 2009

A typical day in Ghana looks something like this:

4:00 - 5:00 Rooster starts crowing and sometimes someone wakes up and starts singing or banging buckets around or whatever
6:00-6:30 Whole family is up and getting ready for the day (sweeping, etc) so I get up around then. Usually a kid is crying if they have been dropped off at school early.

6:30-7:00 Shower if there is enough water (someone stole all of the water from the underground tank thing last week with a siphon during the night so we were short if the pipes weren't running until the rain came) and breakfast
7:00-8:00 Getting teaching things together etc
8:00 Go outside and get mobbed by my class who all want a hug and to play 'round and round the garden'.
Bell rings anytime between 8 and 8:30

On Wednesdays the school has worship for about an hour, where they sing and dance and pray and are preached at by the Lady from the nursery.

Any other day my kids help me set up the chairs and tables on the balcony, if we are writing or drawing and we begin the first lesson.
We do maths in the morning, so either counting numbers up to 20 or writing numbers in books. Sometimes we have an art lesson - the other day we drew suns and caterpillars because we have been reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and we have also been looking at birds (wings, beak, feathers etc) so yesterday I made a talking beak out of paper for the kids and we drew on eyes and wings and feet etc and stuck on coloured feathers. It was fun! Then we have singing followed by story time and then outside games if we have time.
Break is at 10:30 and is supposed to go for half an hour.
Then we are back in class and either doing colours or shapes. They get served lunch between 11:30 and 12:00 and then go and wash their bowls and we put the chairs and tables back in the classroom, everyone gets a high-five and I finish teaching for the day.

In the afternoon on Wednesdays we have our obruni meeting in town and that's when I usually stock up on essential supplies like biscuits and happy cow cheese and go to the internet. Any other afternoon is just whatever, visiting people etc. I help with dinner when I can and we eat at about 5ish and if I haven't done so already I do my lesson plan for the next day. My puzzle books are slowly filling up and I have run out of books to read, so I normally just talk with the family and help my two sisters with their homework. Shower and then I'm usually in bed by 8.

If we are going somewhere on the weekend we leave on Friday (sometimes we take the day off school if we are going far) and get back in time to do some washing on Sunday and back at school on Monday.

This last weekend I stayed with my family. Julie (my house buddy) went away and so I did all the normal weekend things with my family - cleaning and scrubbing and sweeping and going to church. Church in Ghana is an experience. Lots of singing and dancing and amazingly coloured clothing. As I walked in with my older sister Rita to sit with the women on the right (the men sit on the left) the pastor stopped his sermon so he could instruct the entire congregation of about 150 to turn around and greet me, the obruni. He remembered my name from the last time I attended his service about a month ago! Somehow we managed to sit right up the front and the pastor, who is lovely, kept trying to include me in his sermon. It was SO embarrassing. He spoke to the congregation in Fante, so every time he directed a question in English at me to answer I was usually not paying too much attention and got all flustered. And then he took a break from preaching because he decided he wanted to give me another name. Names in Ghana have meaning and everyone has a couple of different names so he, and the rest of the people in the church, wanted to give me a special name. The name they decided on means 'God's gift'. Oh God. I could have died. And then when I gave my offering (you give 'collection' to the church and then give 'offering' to a cause, last week's sermon was about the plight of pensioners but the offering was to retired pastors, judge all you like) everyone cheered and he shook my hand. At the end of the service the distinguished members of the church walk out first, but when the pastor walked past me he beckoned me over and made me walk out with them! And I have to go back before I leave, he made me promise so he 'could give me a proper send-off'. It sounds more then ominous - I'm terrified.

I'm off to a place called Kokrobite Beach this weekend, which I have already visited but is amazing so I'm keen to go back. Full of Rastas and beads and fishing boats and street kids and drumming.

I don't have long left in Ghana - only 3 weeks of teaching left! I'm so sad - I've fallen in love with all of my students. And then we have 2 weeks of travel and then its safari in Kenya and Tanzania! Whoah!

Peace One Day in Kenya

Written by the Kenya GapBreak 2009 Volunteers

Last month, the Antipodeans GapBreak volunteers in Kenya were amazing ambassadors for Peace One Day. Just a little summary of their experience;

The Human/Wildlife Peace Day was quite a success. The officials that attended were the Education Officer, the Headmaster and the Local Chief. The HIV/AIDS Awareness Group performed a play entirely in Swahili. It was apparently was quite funny. Everyone seemed to get it, and hilarity ensued.

The group that had stayed with us in Camp Tsavo performed a brief play about poaching and the far-reaching consequences it has for not just the community, but the entire universe. Even though this was also performed in Swahili, it was relatively easy to follow, and quite funny, as the boys playing the poachers were quite expressive in their actions. There was a dance performed by some of the women with lots of jingling and an interesting instrument we had never seen before, that looked like it had been made out of a funnel and a hose. It was very entertaining.

The final performance was the school children’s dance, who invited us to join them. We did, and quite possibly damaged the school’s reputation beyond repair. "You can’t teach a white person to dance!" A few tears were shed as we left that day. Despite the conditions that the villagers had to live in, they were nothing but accommodating and welcoming. They took great pride in what they had, and were not embarrassed of their situation, only seeking a way to better it…

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New GapBreak Programs for 2010!

We have some great new programs on offer for our 2010 GapBreak program. It is not too late to apply, but you will need to get cracking!

Placements include:

South Africa- Sports Coaching- Sept – Nov 2010
Coach sport to disadvantaged children in Swaziland or Capetown in South Africa. Develop sports talent and sporting opportunities, and teach football, soccer, tennis volleyball, netball and more. Live in volunteer house and go on safari on your weekends.

Cambodia - Sports Coaching- Sept – Nov 2010

Coach sports in local schools in Cambodia. Live in Siem Reap and teach swimming to disadvantaged local kids. Live in local family run hostel close to Angkor Wat temple complex and experience life In rural Cambodia.

Argentina- Sports Coaching- Sept – Nov 2010

Live and work in Buenos Aires, one of South America’s most exciting cities. Coach sport in private and live in family homestay or student residence option.

China- Paid Teaching Placement - 30th July 10 – 15th Jan 11

Complete a one month Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course (TEFL), and then put theory into practice and teach English in a school in Beijing for the next 5 months and get paid!

France – Teaching English – August- Dec 2010

Live with a French family and teach English on an informal basis for approximately 15 hours per week. This placement is excellent for those who want to improve their French and are looking for a full cultural immersion experience.

Give us a call for more information on (02) 9413 1522.