Friday, 28 May 2010

Emily's last Thailand Internship entry before she departs

Week 12 – Reports and initiating contacts

The past week has also been pretty busy with a lot of report writing and funding proposals that are underway.
One of the big projects that I started working on was an ‘about us’ report on the small business here that is an income generation project for women in local villages. What started out as asking questions for my report, and to source information for my friend’s proposed project, has now expanded into a full-blown new focus on the small business. I have been having meetings with the head of the project, to discuss product lists, inventory, analyse colour codes and sizing and style codes in the new catalogue, international pricing, 30% markup, 300% markup, tags, care labels, accessory costs, production costs and final costs, as well as managing to use my basic Excel skills to create data sheets of such information. Myself and another volunteer have been heavily involved in trying to understand the small business and its failings and successes. My friend has had ten years experience in the fashion and marketing industry, so it feels like she is meant to be here! I am like the person that writes all the information down as we collect it. The business is currently constantly in the red, as there is a lack of supply/demand, as well as not enough of a mark-up on the products to generate adequate profit to cover costs. As a result of this, we have created an international price list, and the first step in expanding this business will be to recruit volunteers here to sell packages – either A, B, or C, for which we have compiled product lists, international prices for each product, and an estimated cost of each package. These packages will be sold wholesale to the volunteers, who will sell them at international prices to their friends and family, sending the profits (which are considerably higher!) back to the small business, which can be used to update the project, and expand it. This will involve expanding the building so that sewing machines can be put inside, as well as recruiting villagers for sewing training and women’s empowerment training. It will also involve the current workshop getting repaired, as it has a huge hole in its roof where the rain just pours in!
This whole process has taken a while, and has been very intense and exhausting – and I have been doing this while juggling the heat, and a stomach bug. Fun times. After our meeting yesterday, in the middle of the day I went back to my bunk for a little nap to try to re-energise, and fell asleep straight away. My friend came to look for me (she needed my computer password to access all our documents). She tried to tap me, then shake me awake. I was unwakeable. I finally emerged 3 hours later.
I have also started working on two new funding proposals for the Anti-Trafficking Project – for two different embassies based in Thailand. We have had new information come to us about the villages surrounding the village that we visited the other week, in that brothel owners travel to the villagers to ‘book’ young girls, even pay a deposit on them, so that later in their lives, they will come to the brothels. It is heartbreaking.
The ATP will be applying for a grant to conduct campaigns in the village about labour law, as villagers will not want to probably attend training about human trafficking. The campaign is targeted at changing villager attitudes. The campaign has a couple of phases, and will involve training in labour law in villages in 2 provinces, in a number of districts and sub-districts: two of these districts are on the Thai-Burma border. After this, youth will be invited to youth empowerment camps. Participant youth will be chosen in consultation and partnership with teachers from schools, who will select youth based on criteria that indicate the students are high at-risk. At the camps they will do empowerment activities, learn about sexual health, safe sex, importance of education and be encouraged to follow their dreams. Concurrently, women from villages will be invited on study day trips where they will meet women who have left the sex industry, and NGOs. The idea will be for women to see what it will be like for their daughters and relatives to enter this trade. After this, (and this is my favourite part, and gives me shivers just thinking about it), 4 drama camps will be run, with youth from the previous camps being trained in drama. They will create performances about human trafficking and their desires for their futures and destinies, which will be performed in villages – therefore, giving these youth a platform to tell their communities what they really want to achieve with their lives.
This week I have also completed a funding proposal for the Mlabri project.
However, the big event that happened this week that I loved, was the outcome of ‘farang hunting’ in the Night Bazaar on Sunday. A friend of ours had been standing in the fruit shake line, and another farang behind her said ‘oh, are you with the anti-trafficking people?’ she said ‘no’... but then told us about this little conversation. Nadia and I got excited and proceeded to go to the pad thai stall and pretend we wanted to be in the line in order to find the anti-trafficking people! It turned out that 20 farang interns were in town with another NGO, learning about trafficking issues and had already travelled to Pattaya, and were en route to Chiang Mai and BKK, as well as visit a key project in Chiang Rai. Nadia then invited them to Peace Bar, where we all had a great night, and overpowered the place with excessive numbers of farang! The executive director of the NGO was there that night, and she invited us to the orientation of the interns the next day out at Ba Sang, on the other side of town.
The next day, we met them at one of the most exclusive hotels in Chiang Rai, and jumped in the back of a truck, and drove out to their project. It rained a bit on the way. May pen ray! (No worries). It was so green out there – mountains of forest, green corn fields and everything shining after the rain. We proceeded to hear a presentation about trafficking in Thailand and specifically what this NGO did to combat the issue. Their projects were really similar to the NGO here, and I felt that there were so many strengths that we could share and learn from each other. Their approach was also really similar, in that it was based on relationship with a community. However, this NGO was a ‘farang’ one. And our one is Thai. After this, we went to the local school where they work, and then walked around the village where they work. It was much more well-off than the villages that we work, and had fruit trees and many many trees and endless green. The children and clothes were also much cleaner. Still, this village was one which had established relationships with brothels and one that used to be prey to human trafficking.
It was such an incredible day to be part of, and I felt like each moment was golden. Afterwards, we were driving to dinner, and I pointed out a beautiful restaurant with hanging lanterns and said to Nadia and Emily ‘Oh, remember this restaurant, because I want to come back here!!’ Instantly as I said these words, the truck pulled to a stop. We were going to this very restaurant! To me, that summed up the day for me – that everything seemed to fall into place so perfectly, as I was able to learn more and engage with the issues that are really starting to form a place in my heart and mind.
As a result of this encounter, the NGO are now going to visit our NGO, and have a sharing meeting, sharing ideas and what works and what doesn’t. At the moment, the meeting looks like it will happen on the day I fly back to Australia! But all in all, it has been a great week. I will be sad to go home next week.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Painting in Nepal - Our Gappers give a local school a fresh lick of paint..

Fresh photos from our Nepal Gappers settling in and getting stuck into some community projects. Mind the paint!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Spanish Songs in Cusco - First Update from Gappers in Peru

So it’s officially three weeks we’ve spent in the Incaland, and the sleepy ol’ citadel has taken us on quite a ride! Taking us by the hand, he (decided Cusco is a masculine figue, don’t quite know why) slung us through five days of intense 4-hour spanish lessons which have gotten us past solely “can I have a coffee with milk?” to “yes, Australia is quite big and yes, there are many kangaroos”. But the tediousness was broken by fact we convinced Fernando, (best Spanish teacher, ever, period) to let us learn 5 spanish songs, when the quota was one a week. Awww yeah.
The Cusco nights are nothing like I’d imagined; admitedly, I had a preformed picture of little quiet cobblestone streets still in the chill night air, a completely different picture from the constant movement and colour of the days where vendors endlessly peddle their fantastic array of goods in the sunfilled streets; but if possible, night times match, if not overpower the chaos of the day: at every corner, there are atleast two clubs, and for every club, five promoters push free entry and drinks into your hands, and attempt to usher you to free salsa lessons or live reggae show either here or there; Mind the ice, tuck your wallet safely under your clothes and you can have a splendid eve out… our first night out saw us through several clubs and then on a late night maccas run, but not just any ordinary one: bottle-soccer with locals in the streets, singing “La Bamba” at the top of our little lungs to the Andean sky above, and giddy with a freedom so fresh and new in such a new place.
This same feeling I can wholeheartedly translate to our first day at Ccorao school… The weekend before on a tour of the Sacred Valley, we caught our first glimpse of the school, a collection of about four-five small buildings painted the same colour as the vivid sky you had to crane your neck to see above the mountains encircling us. I didn’t think I’d ever take this view for granted, though after spending two hours on collectivos and coaches each day, one way entirely standing, much like flying it has become just the slightest bit less enchanting. Though, still knocks my breath out every time I let my mind go blank and stare out the window..
I should describe you the mountains first, as they dooo make up the major part of our vista each day. Although they absolutely dwarf Uluru, and make Mt Kozci look like a plum pip, I can only describe them as, casual. Just a casual cousin of Mt Everest, gently leaning over the tiny ant houses and farms below stretching almost halfway up its length, sun peeking over his shoulder, and wrapped in a thin brown twine of road we would follow around and down into the valley. As we popped out of the bus, one by one, poor Jack (007), Will and Adrian with a little more difficulty than the rest, the tall souls, we filed in through the giant front metal gate, to stand open mouthed at the little magical world behind it… it was odd, and it wasn’t just my wild imagination getting in the way of things, colours truly did seem more vivid; a couple dogs and a family of chickens wandered freely among the vermillion green grass uninhibited by the kids running round, and playing over by a small lagoon and a brightly painted metal playground, and there was a ridiculous amount of butterflies, I tells ya. Before heading to our “staff room”, a teeny quarter where we put our bags for the day, we were lined up and sat down across from the 150 students, and each year brought a little performance before us, like a poem or dance… but the most mind blowing moment was when every single student launched our way greeting us by a huuuge bear hug from the more confident, or a little hello from the shy, pressing flowers in our arms and throwing confetti (pica pica!) in our hair. Me and Clarissa sitting next to me, could do nothing but endlessly thank and laugh till our cheeks hurt. It completely slipped our minds that these kids are only able to pay 5 soles a year, equivalent to about 2 aus dollars, and that school is actually they’re one getaway; at home, they help out with the family work, usually in agriculture and get little spare time to just be kids.
I couldn’t waaait to get stuck into teaching, but the week ended up starting with construction; our group, turns out raised about $9000! :D Firstly, this money is going to the maintenance of the trout farm built by last years volunteers to give the school an income, and secondly, to finishing a building which will become both a place to sell them and a mini restaurant, which we’re doing now! In our first two weeks we’ve cleared the sides, hammered bamboo ceilings and window frames, and plastered ceilings while the cutest puppy in the world, the skinny little Pocho, darts under the wooden boards we balance on. Though of course, not on our lonesome with Pocho; we’re watched under the hawk eye of the wiry old builder Cosme, whom I actually feel a little bad for sometimes; the language barrier isn’t even necessary to overcome on seeing Cosme’s friendly mocking smile, when you fling a chunk of plaster at the ceiling and see the large part of it slop back down, usually on your head (me being a prime example). But we’re learning, every time we’re dropped into a new situation, which seems to be more times that I can count, we become a little faster. And though we get quite gung-ho about finishing a job, it’s hilarious to see everything stop for the most immature things; the Invisi-man created with Jack’s gloves gets us every time, he’s a bit of a local celebrity now..

Now, I’ve never seen myself becoming a primary school teacher, or teacher of any sort in that matter, but I’ve fallen in love with the job a little bit…
Me and my partner in crime Charlotte’s schedule, with our year 4 class, goes as so:
Mondays, Computers
Tuesdays, Computers and Sport
Wednedays & Thrudays, Construction
and Friday, Art & English

There is no syllabus for us to follow, so it’s up to our own lesson plans to fill these beautiful kids heads up with useful stuff! Our first lesson began with introducing ourselves, recieved as “Miss Mitch-elle” and “Miss Char-loch”, and learning our 15 cheeky kids names (no easy feat, I tell you!), and finishing with art; making rabbit masks of course! Never been so exhausted, mentally and physically, though it gets easier as time goes on… hopefully by the end of three months we can teach these kids more than tunnelball, “whiskers” and “ears”… though cannot even describe the feeling when they actually remember vocabulary from the lesson before!

one third down, two to go!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gap Updates from Nepal

Well talk about a hectic week! The last couple of days have been a blur. After having left my backpack in the back of a taxi and lost all my valuables there is good news now! Someone handed in our passports, cards, some souvenirs I bought and Mim’s lonely planet - unfortunately they have taken our cash, ipods, phones, cameras etc... We are on our way to the village now, so will be back in time for some delicious Dhal Baat!!!! ahhh
I don’t know if you heard but, the Australian Consul let us stay in her mansion out the back of the Embassy, which is nothing short of an oasis! The last day and a half of luxury almost (almost!) compensated for our lost everything. Apart from enjoying comfy beds and a massive sleep-in (7.30!!), Mim and I swam in the embassy pool and all five of us (the others had to come to the embassy to witness our new passport applications) got to taste vegemite on REAL toast with REAL butter. Ash nearly keeled over when she discovered Mim and I had swam in a pool - but she was cheered up at the opportunity to pat the Embassy's non- rabid cat (fully vaccinated, we assured you!) Unfortunately, Mim's a little worse for wear - we had to go to the international travel clinic yesterday where Mim was diagnosed with Giardia and another bacterial infection - nothing 3 hours on a rickety bus back to the village cant fix! We thanked the Consul profusely and she has told us that she might see if she can spare a day to visit us in the village. We're exhausted (and sick), but spirits are high and we are looking forward to getting back to our families. It is our host brother's birthday today and we are hoping to celebrate with the cricket set Ash bought him in Thamel!

Update from Ghana - Meeting Host-Families!

Welcome to Ghana. Our fresh gappers talk about meeting their families, dealing with orhpanage conditions and going to church!

As we left Accra, we all found the vegetation to be much more green and inviting. As we dropped off James and Sean, the realization that we were meeting our families kicked in. We were all a bit anxious of what was next. It was the weekend, and we all attended Church with our families. Well that was an experience we were happy to only have once! Our church service went for 5 hours, and all we understood was Amen and Hallelujah! Lilly and Phoebe probably had the best experience; the preacher making jokes about getting married and then getting drunk because the wife isn't what you thought she would be like!

Monday Seth took us to Madame Charity's orphanage, which was more than overwhelming! We were attending to the smaller children who were in the midst of moving from one orphanage to another. We were set to work cleaning beds and wooden slats, where the smell of urine smelt so bad, that we thought we'd crumble after a day! Lilly thoroughly enjoyed cleaning skiddies from the children's underwear! The standards and facilities provided here were shocking; where the children wouldn't be cared for when they needed to use the toilet or when they were sobbing. It was emotionally tiring for all of us having to attend to the children, when it was so difficult to get them to smile or laugh - we all felt a bit pointless! Although, when we were able to get a sobbing child to fall asleep in our arms, it all seemed worthwhile.

The next week we began at "Blessed Little Angels" which was such an improvement from the last orphanage and this orphanage didn't even have sponsors! The children here were much happier and it was easier being in their company. It was much cleaner, and the children actually had a uniform which implied that there was some sort of structure within the orphanage. Throughout our time there, we read to the children, asked them to read to us and we painted the orphanage Green and Blue!

We're all about to begin school now, so we'll have some exciting, interesting and conflicting stories to update you with at home.
Thanks, Alice

Emily's Week 10 Post – Ideas, ideas, boiling, bubbling, into new projects...

The past week has been a week of ideas. A lot of ideas jumping back and forth, new ideas for projects, bursting at the seams. This has been my week.

To follow up from last week, I had contacted a friend in Melbourne to tell him about available products here at the NGO for his business. We contacted back and forth for a bit, and then he suggested a project to me, wherein he, his high-end fashion designer friend (who designs and sells jackets that cost $500!) and a filmmaker, would come to the NGO, and run dressmaking, fashion design, marketing, pricing workshops, for ten days at the end of the year. The filmmaker would capture the journey, and use the film to promote fair trade principles and development issues in northern Thailand, at special events which would be used to also sell the NGO products. INCREDIBLE!
This led to me sitting on the kitchen floor with P’Moo and P’Aor, and mapping out the entire project: and how the current project functions. How there is actually only one woman, who is HIV positive, who has access to a sewing machine, and the others do not know how to sew. The need for two phases in the project – Phase 1 being buying sewing machines and training 18 women in basic textile design. Phase 2, being the advanced dressmaking training provided by the Australians to 12 of these women.
I assisted my friend to apply for funding for a certain funding grant, including writing the NGO referral letter and editing the application. I also skyped him and showed him around Mirror over the internet! The miracles of technology. Now there is talk of trying to get funding for sewing machines anyway, regardless of what happens with the grant. There has been a fresh injection of life into the project. The clothing/jewellery business here at the NGO has great potential for expansion, but needs significant nurturing. This upcoming project could be that!
In addition, there have been other ideas bouncing around. For instance, some of the girls from the local village down the road, were onsite at the NGO and came to talk to Salapao. At the time, we were chilling out in the rainbow hammocks sharing ideas. Because of what she had taught them at sex education camp, they wanted clean underwear so that they would be healthy. Each of them had only about 4 pairs of underwear, that were old and with holes. They were going away to stay in the dormitory while attending school, and Salapao suspected they were also ashamed of having old underwear that people would be able to see when it is hanging up to dry after being washed. Salapao arranged with P’Moo for the girls to be given new underwear.
Sanitary products
Salapao is also keen to start a new project, where sanitary items are made available to young girls that are made of cotton and are ecologically sustainable. They are apparently a hit in Japan, and are pads that are made in all kinds of colours and prints, but are washable, reusable and cheap. Salapao wants to get a project started where these girls are provided with such items, potentially on the sex education camps. On the sex ed camp, many of the girls were asking her about sanitary items, and where they could buy them, and what they should buy. This alternative would provide the girls with an option where they could take control and be independent as well in their use of it – and not have to depend on their family for money to buy them. We discussed intensely how this project could take off, including recruiting sewers of such products in our home countries.
Field work research... about recruitment....
Then today, we went to visit a village, called Pa Moob.
We had been told that there was a girl from the village, who moved away to another city, and worked in a massage parlour. And in this massage parlour, she also offered and worked in sex work. She then returned to the village, with lots of money, and built a concrete house for her parents. And then the other parents wanted a big concrete house. She asked her friends, “Come work with me....” and now there are at least ten girls working in Bangkok or Southern Thailand. Most probably in massage parlours. Today we went to the village to research the true situation.
We sat inside a house on the bamboo floor, with pieces of clothing hanging from hooks on the wall, and all of the men sitting leaning against one wall, facing us. I noticed that Surchaay (one of the NGO staff) moved to also sit against that wall, as a way of identifying with these Lahu men. Surchaay spoke in Lahu to the men for us. We were careful not to ask directly, ‘so are people from your village involved in sex work?’ And nowhere was it stated explicitly. But it was made implicit as we were told that the girls worked in massage parlours. For me, it was as though the pages of my coursebook reader for Anthropology 360 were coming alive. I thought of the articles talking about girls from the North of Thailand moving to Pattaya to work, and I thought of these girls that we were hearing about, living and working in Bangkok and the south of Thailand, and my heart was sad.
It seemed that so many areas of life were stacked against them. We were hearing about their schooling – and how they could not afford to study further, because they are poor. I know that the cost of schooling is often so prohibitive, with even just the cost of textbooks, stationery and uniforms. Within families, the male would usually farm, and the woman produce handicrafts. The men work on rented land – which also links to their lack of Thai citizenship, as it is due to their lack of Thai nationality that they are unable to own land. The lack of opportunities for the villagers also seemed so unfair – to be involved in agriculture or handicrafts, that are not even being marketed at a high price – seemed so limited in choice, so limited in ideals of career, or desires to participate in a different way in society.
We were walking down the hill, on a concrete road that was baking in the sun, and three beautiful little girls came running from afar, calling ‘Hello, hello’. With faded clothes and short black shiny hair cut in bobs around their faces, they ran upto us. Later they followed us, dashing down the hill, with fistfuls of handicrafts in their hand, to try to sell to us. They were in first and second grades of school, and their mums had made the handicrafts. One bag, embroidered with a silver sequinned elephant, they said cost ten baht. Such handbags are sold for at least double this price in the market. P’Pi talked to them, while looking at the handicrafts, asking them where they went to school and their names. We didn’t buy the handicrafts.
As we walked down the path, back to the car, the little girls called out to us repeating phrases and making gestures. I asked Salapao what they were saying. Apparently, their cry was, “Give me money, give me money”. Who could have taught them that? I asked. She said, that probably tourists, who come to the village, had encouraged the practice by giving them money. But then she said, ‘At least they’re not saying “I’m poor, I’m poor, give me money.”’
As they ran, I could not remove the image from my mind, that these little girls, five, six and seven years old, were one day going to grow up into the girls that moved away to the Big City to massage the farang and Thai men that would come to them seeking sexual favours. These girls are the next generation of such a cycle, unless it is broken by education.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Emily's Week nine report - all safe in Thailand and doing some great work!

Week 9 - Reporting, reporting

The past week has been extremely hot. We are in the middle of the hot season, and some of the days here are incessantly, endlessly, hot. The past week has been a battle to get things done, with the heat draining the energy out of everything and everyone (especially me).
However, the past week has been spent doing a lot of report writing. As the NGO does not have very many English resources of reports, I took it upon myself to start creating some documentation about the achievements of certain projects.
Anti Trafficking Project
Firstly, I have been working on a report surrounding the 2010 achievements of the Anti-Trafficking Project. I have been mainly doing work for the Anti-Trafficking Project while I have been here, though it has ranged. I generally work with Salapao, who is from Japan, within this project. Earlier on in my stay here, I worked with Salapao to more effectively translate a report documenting the previous project of the Anti-Trafficking Project, which was a preventative education campaign. The campaign looks incredible, and involved drama and role play in schools, villages and dormitories, discussing the dangers of unsafe employment and the danger of human trafficking. A cartoon comic booklet was produced telling stories of people in vulnerable situations, as well as a clay animation film, which is incredible, and I have watched, depicting two friends and the choices that they make in employment. Another part of this campaign included training in art and the holding of an art exhibition of children’s artwork surrounding the topic of ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ or ‘safe/unsafe employment’. I have since referred back to this document so many times I almost feel that I was there while the project ran – even though it finished a few months prior to me coming here. I have now provided a summary of this project, and of the sexual health education camp, to provide potentially the first ever summary annual report of the Anti-Trafficking Project in English, summarising the projects and providing journal-based research as to the rationales of the projects.
I have also created an evaluation report of the sexual education camp, which was a pilot project that we were running. I figured that producing an evaluation report would also be useful for future funding to show that the pilot project was effectively evaluated.
In addition, a staff member from the Australian embassy in Bangkok wants a summary of the projects here (in English) to send out to various networks to source funding. So I have also been working with another Australian girl here to summarise the projects of Mirror, including a summarised version of the summary of the Anti-Trafficking Project, and the Citizenship Project. I am still working on those things.
I am also writing the funding proposal for a project to assist the Mlabri people. It is a unique position, being able to write funding proposals, as I find that I am actually able to contribute ideas to the project, and sometimes, these ideas even get adopted. I am hoping this is the case with this project because I have some ideas that I think are important to the effectiveness of this project on an ethical level. I hadn’t realised that it can be a bit of an ethical dilemma even writing a funding proposal!
New possibilities
And things are stirring up in this current week.... which are extremely exciting... I had a meeting with the director today, and a project director of the small business we run here producing handicrafts and jewellery. We met on the floor in the director’s house (which is onsite) as the nanny that looks after her son was sick today.... and we sat there with cups of 3-in-1 coffee in our hands. I had emailed a friend of mine last week in Australia telling him about the NGO, and now suddenly, the wheels are in motion, and potentially, a women’s empowerment project training them in sewing, design, marketing and production could all be happening!!! INCREDIBLE! I had a meeting this morning, where we mapped out the project plan of what would happen, with me frantically taking notes on my laptop. I would ask questions like ‘how would we select the women’ and ‘how many’ and then I would contribute ideas about ‘no, I think we could do more. I think it is possible to do more than that’. And then my ideas were getting implemented!! I have always been someone that likes to think of ideas and brainstorm new possibilities... but here, when I am connected to the right people, this skill is somehow utilised... I love it. I’ve just been contacting my friend back, who is writing a funding proposal, so fingers crossed that we get it....
Pictures: Khaw soy, an amazing soup with noodles all inside it with chicken, and crunchy noodles on top
Me and and another volunteer in Chiang Mai on our weekend.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The beautiful St Malo

St Malo is a popular seaside resort in northern France whose ancient stone walls hold back the tidal surge.

Antips in Lyon

Check out this short video of our French language immersion students in Lyon. Placements are made with a host family for five weeks over December-January.

Go to our website for further details.

Antips in St Malo, France

Language Immersion students interested in our 7-week program over Christmas are placed in the beautiful city of St Malo in northern France. Check out this short video of a recent group.

New UniBreak Program Video. It's your world, discover it!

This is the rest of the post

Our Peru In-Country Agent gives an update about her first meeting with the April GapBreak students, just arrived in Cusco. All students are doing well and keen to practice their Spanish! I saw the group today at Ccorao. I arrived early for our first weekly meeting just to see how they were all going with their classes and construction. For their second class they were doing really well - all of them had the kids under control in PE and computing which surprised me a little this early on! The others were working hard on construction - doing a lot of digging and moving dirt to level the area outside the new building and also putting together bamboo sections for the ceiling of the building.

I spoke with them all after they finished classes. We talked about their classes - they are all happy with their allocated grades and are comfortable with the timetable. They all agreed they will feel more prepared next week when they have some more time to prepare and now that they have an idea of the level of the kids.

We talked about construction and Arlich gave them some direction on what is left to be done this week (tomorrow) - finish leveling around the building so it is ready for a concrete pathway, start leveling the floor inside and finish the ceiling. They were all comfortable with this. I reminded them all that they are working at altitude so they need to take regular breaks and drink lots of water.

We talked about their families and they love them. Sounds like they are being well and truly spoilt which is lovely and enjoying practicing their Spanish on their families. They are also planning to do something special for their host mums next weekend for Mother's Day.


Rain, Cows and Dahl Bat. First Update from Nepal!

The very first blog post and photos from our Gappers just landed Nepal. Rain, cows, and a whole lot of Dahl Bat. The orientation was really fun, although it took a while for us to get used to the Nepali eating habits -even more so now we are in the village. The Language lessons were so helpful - we would be so out of our depth without the small phrases we learned.
Sharmilla is amazing! She is happy to tell us about the culture and regularly laughes at how western we are. She accompanied us around Thamel untilo we got the hang of it. We are all pros at crossing ridiculously busy streets, and Ash and I haggled for two pairs of hand-made pants in broken Nepali. The shop owner thought we were out of our trees.
The city tour was a little relentless - our guide didn't seem to notice that we were zoneing out. We saw the living Goddess -the Kumari - which was bizarre, but fascinating.
Mine and Ash's host family are amazing. Our Aama (grandma equivalent) speaks no english whatsoever. 'potato' is the extent of her vocab. She found it thoroughly amusing that we had no idea how to bathe and was absolutely cacking herself. Our family has two cows - one of which will give birth while we are here. Very excited.
Andrew, Mim and Soph's family are so nice! Their host father, Ragu is so amazing looking. He looks like he's just stepped out of Nepal 400 years ago. They have two young host siblings who are oh so cute. We call them bahini( younger sister) and bai (younger brother), partly because we cant remember their complicated names.
There was a strike today, so school was cancelled after an hour of teaching. Today was our second day and was so much better than the first. Ash and I are teaching at the primary school in Lele, which is a 25 minute walk along the river. The numbers in the school are very low because a private school has opened up near by and many students' parents prefer private education. And we understand why! There is absolutely no structure to the teaching. the children run from classroom to classroom at will, the rpiciple left half way through the day to take me and ash on a tour of the memorial site for the 1992 plane crash and there are no rescoucres. In fact, the 'office' is thoroughly decorated with letter charts, time tables and diagrams whilst the classrooms are COMPLETELY bare. Ke?
Mim was the first to get sick and so szhe missed the first day of teaching. Soph and Andrew taught for 20 minutes yesterday before they were told they were finished for the day.
We are buying rescources for the school and having to completely re-think all teaching strategies - the number of kids is erratic and we are all having to contantly compete with the Nepalese teachers who come in in the middle of a lesson and start screaming at the kids in Nepalese.
We are all so sick of Dahl Baat. There is alot of force-feeding in Nepal.
I cant write any more because i've nearly reached my internet limit.
All is well.
The team.

First Update from Ghana Gappers!

Our April Gappers in Ghana have finally arrived and settled into the Ghanaian way of life. Check out there very first blog post!
Well we are at the end of our induction week and more than ready for our family. Seth and his family have been more than accomodating this week and I think Felicia's cooking is going to bring us back to Accra some weekends. We have all now experienced the real African way; bucket showers and eating with our hands.

The locals here are so intrigued by us, and our skin; we are definately not tired of waving millions of times a day to the local children as we pass them on our travels. Especially at the beach, we were swarmed by dozens of local kids wanting us to pick them up and play with them in the waves. It was more rewarding for us to see the smiles on their faces than for them actually having the satisfaction of being thrown into the waves.

This week we have had drumming and dancing lessons on the beach, an amusing experience watching Sean and James attempt to let their body flow to the rythmn of the drums. Felicia has also given us some cooking lessons, which hopefully we can take with us to our host families.

We are all now feeling more climatised to the heat, and we are all ready for the amazing journey which now awaits us with our family.

Thankyou Seth, Tina and Felichaa for preparing us for this experience - And Renos (who we named Demitri) who babysits us in the back of the ute and has now becomed more of a friend than a leader.