Friday, 31 December 2010

Brigidine in Hanoi - Blog # 1

Brigidine St Ives Vietnam Trip:
Day 1 in Hanoi:
Our first day started with a pleasant wake up call at 7.00am and a full breakfast at our very comfortable Hotel called Paradise 2 located at the northern end of the Old Quarter of Hanoi. After an 'as much as you could eat breakfast' we took a stroll around the streets familiarising ourselves with the orientation of things to our hotel and to the Lake. ( see photo IMG 0325)
The two tourist events for the day were getting a cyclo ride to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (photo IMG 0373) which closed at 12.30pm, so we took ourselves off for some lunch and then for a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum (not far from the Mausoleum). The second tourist event was a visit to the Museum of Ethnology to explore the different minority groups and the way in which they live. Unfortunatley the taxi trip cost us a 'little more' than the transport budget allowed due to some significiant overcharging. The group handled this first challenging event wel and with good grace and pleanty to talk about over dinner. The public bus trip back to our hotel was the bargain of the day for 3,000 dong per person and seemed like a very good idea.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Venturers Update # 1

An update from the team after their arrival in Kota Kinabalu

After arriving at the airport we got on a really really long plane ride where some of the tv's didn't work, but the flight attendants were really nice and happy.
then we arrived at KL at 10:40ish, malaysian time, ridiculously tired.
we then slept on the moving escalators and somehow managed to find our way to our other flight, which was a small, squishy and uncomfortable plane which took us to Kota Kinabalu.

After arriving at 1:00 in the morning we took a very dangerous taxi ride ( they havent heard of lanes) to our lodge.
its called the summer lodge and its bright yellow,
its heaps of fun and theres an amazing aircon.

Next morning we went for brekkie at a random cafe thing, not 100% sure what it actually was.
had a selection of roti but because we couldnt understand the menu we had no idea what we were eating :D
it was nice though,
then we learnt how to deal with the traffic, dont look for cars. just walk.
apparently you wont get hit..

we went and checked out the supposed markets, which were really just a whole bunch of shoes piled up and the malaysian people trying to sell you stuff.
it was fun though, and the people are really nice.
except for some of them who just stare and laugh at us because were so clueless as to everything.

then we ate lunch, we had nasi and mee goreng, its actually kinda amazing.
then we went to a supermarket, which in malaysia is called the hypermarket and bought really weird lollies to take with us to the beach.
then it rained.
so we didnt go to the beach.

and now were having a party in the main room of the lodge, eating ice cream oreos and peanut butter oreos, and drinking a strange selection of softdrinks.

its been amazing so far, no matter how negative this blog may sound.
missing home heaps,
lol jokes.

love from your kids.



by Grace and Gen :D

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

St Aidans Team A - Update from Laos

A post trip update from the St Aidand team

Hello parents and friends,
here is some information about some of the smaller places we stayed in before our project, and also some info about what we did.

On the 9th of december, we headed off to Nong Kiau (after some time, we realised that there are many ways to spell the 'Nong Kiau'!). We took local buses, which we arranged alongside our local guide, John. They were great fun to travel in, as they were mostly open to the elements, and we were all soon breathless on account of the great scenery. Before leaving, we handed over our hard- saved project money (which amounted to approximately $2500).
For lunch, we stopped for some noodle soup at a tiny little roadside restaurant. The food was very tasty and the girls were pleased to realise that there was a small stall selling snacks (Oreos were the favourite) outside. Again, we headed off.
We arrived at our destination (the Sunset Guesthouse) at 2.45, and headed off to our rooms, which were comfortable and had an excellent riverfront view. There is a big bridge which crosses the river, and an even bigger cliff on the other side. There were certainly some incredible views, and some girls went for a walk to take photos. The river was extremely clean, so some other girls went for a swim to cool off. A hot shower, and an excellent dinner at the guesthouse were to follow.

On the 10th, we took a boat to the charming little village Muong Ngoi. When we were there, we took the opportunity to relax, and go for a walk to the caves close by. Again, there were spectacular views, and also a quick swim after to cool off. We had a great dinner and breakfast, and again, very comfortable accommodation. We were very surprised when all the power shut off at 9pm though! In the morning, we travelled back down the river, and then took a bus to Vieng Kham. At Muong Ngoi, we stayed at quite a small guesthouse, with drop toilets and no showers. However, we were expecting that we woud experience these amenities soon, and we were all glad to finally be approaching the project, which we were all excited to begin. In the morning, some girls took the opportunity to purchase some local handicrafts, and it was off to the project!

All our love,
St Aidans Team A


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Somerville House Team A - Update # 5

A final update form the team

After a long bus ride of about 6 hours along foggy, windy mountain roads, we finally reachedd our gorgeous hotel in Chitawan. The concept of a working shower with a curtain did seem a little unusual, but we settled in quite easily. We dumped our bags in our rooms and proceeded to a deliciouus lunch, followed by an ELEPHANT RIDE... just casually. The next day we set out on a jungle walkk, starting off by getting there by ox. We then reachedd a riverr and had a boat ride along the beaautifull water where wee saw numeroouus crocodiles along the way. after reaachiing the bank, we started waalkkinng throughthe jungle, wheeree wee saw birds, deer, monkeys, sloth holes and even a rhino whiich we swear wass aboouut to charge. This was then followed by stopping at a park, where we watched elephants pllayinng soccer. The norml game seems so uninterestng now.

The next day we then set off to Katmandu where we did our final shopping, and visited Patan, famous for itsmetal works and 2 AMAZING temples. We then packed our bags for the final timme and set off to the airpoort, where we sat down and had our final debrief. Not going to lie, there were a couple of tearrs. We are currently atthe Bangkok airport about to board our plane.

We are all so exciited to comee home and see everryonne again. As much as we will miss the awesome food and lack of need of hygene, it'll be awesome beeinng back and able to drink from the tap and lie in a bed withouut a sleeping bag :)

Thankks so much!
Checking out forr the final time,
The A Team

Somerville House Team A - Update # 4

An update form The Somerville A Team from their community project
Namaste everyone!

Sorry it has been a while since we checked in.

Here is a recap of our community project!!

After a quick 15-minute bus ride out of Pokhara, the 17 of us turned into the gates of Pal Ewam Namgyal Monastic School to be greetedd by the 50 odd school students, or 'mini monks' as we later deemed them, in a sea of red. We soon settled into our accommodation and got to know the kidss throuh a game of soccer that soon became an afternoon ritual. Whilile the older ones joinnedd the teachers and monks for thee game out the front, somme of the girls playedd out back with the younger chhiilren whoo weree eneterrtainedd by the balls we brought them.
That evening wee all sat down in thes tudy hall to helpthe chiildreen with their homeework and began to learrn their namess, buiilding the foundationns of manyfriendsshiips we hope we will reemembr forever.

the next morning weewoke to begin ouu connstrructinno work. ouur days connssted of the folloinng timmetalee:

wakeat 730 for a 730 breeakfast :)
work for two houurss
eat lunch
work/teach for two houurss
play with the kidss

the wrk connsistedd of hauling 1500 bricks upp a fliight of stairss and sifting sand for connstructionn. wee thorouughly enjyed the work an thee opportniities to teeah in the class rooms... although answeing questions about the hiistory of austrraliia was challenging for somme of us.

internet time is upp, wee must daash!!

Love fromm Team A

Apollo Bay Update # 3

A final update from the Apollo Bay team

Hi all,
We are on our final day in Zanzibar and then heading back to Dar es Salaam for our final night.  Everyone has had a great time but looking forward to coming home for Christmas.  On our first night in Zanzibar we were fortunate enough to get a free speed boat ride to help advertise for the new company's business here.  Two of the teachers went on a Dhow (traditional sailing boat) to take photos of the group.  Three nights in a row we ate at the seafood market along the waterfront.  They have the best pizzas in the world!  And some great seafood and vegetables as well.  It was a good place to mingle with the locals.

Other activities we have done while here included a boat trip to Prison Island with some of the group fishing along the way and the rest of us enjoying a well deserved swim and lay on the beach.  Our snorkelling trip was a little adventurous with the boat taking on water and us needing to return to the island very quickly.  But we did have a good time and saw lots of fish and corals while out there.  A few people chose to go on a spice tour yesterday while the rest of us shopped to our hearts content and yes we spent ALL our money. 

The girls went inside the old fort 2 days ago and met some ladies who did Henna designs and braided our hair.  We all enjoyed the time just sitting and being pampered.

We'll be back soon and looking forward to our welcoming committee at the airport.

Bay Team

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blog Four from India Scholarship winners!

Festivals and Festivities in PaliThis past week has been one of festivals and festivities in the party town that is Pali. The local town carnival was an experience that saw our celebrity status in the region literally soar to new heights, as the only means to escape suffocation by the mobbing crowd was to brave the extremely rusty and rickety ferris wheel and an equally un-sturdy aerial flying swing set. Even more unsettling was that, to enable us to leave the showground, local police were forced to disband the crowd using physical means. This scenario is one that, though not always to such an extreme, we are becoming accustomed to when attempting to depart any venue, be it a school or a local residence.

We also had the privilege this week of attending two children’s birthday parties, which we were pleased to note are, while materially modest, still cause for momentous celebration among friends, neighbours and family. The value and importance placed on friendships and particularly on familial relations here is not just something that you can witness but something that you can truly feel. Matt and Ingrid certainly experienced this first hand when, en route to a local villager’s house for a cheeky chai they were whisked into every house on the street to meet, greet, have a photograph taken and break chapatti with a grandparent, parent, uncle, brother or best friend. This was among a myriad of weekly, if not daily encounters that are reinforcing to us that Indian hospitality is unsurpassed anything we have experienced elsewhere.

On the Educate Girls front, things are going swimmingly, despite the desert backdrop. Though we are still getting used to ‘India time’ (10 minutes is often more like one hour, ‘soon’ could very well mean tomorrow or next week), we are learning a lot about the inner workings of a grassroots NGO in general and about development in the area of girl’s education in particular. This last week we have been working with the communications team putting together success stories based on individual girls, teachers and schools through observational video footage, interviews, photo essays and feature articles. We have also been documenting some of Educate Girls’ (formally FEGG) teaching methods in training sessions. For instance, EG has developed CLT (creative learning techniques), which are slowly being integrated into all schools in the district. These techniques include use of materials such as flash cards, drawings, peer group activities, educational games and educational songs, which are hardly revolutionary in primary schools back home, but are virtually unheard of in schools over here where the basic teaching technique is teacher lectures, students listen and in the majority of students very little is absorbed and retained. Hence the high number of drop-outs after a few years of schooling, particularly among females where domestic duties are deemed a more viable use of their time than receiving a standard, if not poor, education. So this week we have spent several days at a training session for teachers learning CLT, and despite our very scant Hindi, it was evident that initially there was very strong opposition to these methods by the teachers, but, upon testing on guinea pig students there was almost overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and optimism from many of those same teachers.
On a side note, we were treated like guests of honour at this session, literally. We were honoured in a small ceremony (with nil understanding of why) with colourful leis bestowed upon us, hundred of photos taken and handshakes all around.
On another side note, both Anna and Ingrid have fallen hopelessly in love with one of the EG block officers, who is, and Matt can verify, the most beautiful man in all of India. The girls were both devastated and delighted when we went to his house for chai to learn that he had a gorgeous wife and newborn baby boy. Matt continues to shop for his Indian bride.

On the topic of physical beauty, Manju has made it her mission to make Anna and Ingrid more handsome (translation - fat) by tripling our meal portions. To add insult to injury, we have located the local ice-cream parlour, so naturally at least one a day has been integrated into our growing daily staple of sabjee, chapatti, rice and dahl and numerous street-side snacks. In order to counteract our consumption we have borrowed weights from the neighbours, started skipping on the roof and begun jogging around the village to many a bemused stare.

As per our previous blog, we did indeed take in a puppy for all of 24 hours before deciding that the responsibility of feeding and cleaning was simply not going to fit in with our work and particularly our recreational schedule. Kahlua is now blissfully gnawing on the innards of a dead cow.

Monday, 20 December 2010

BGGS Team C Update # 4 from Cambodia

A final update from BGGS TeAM C in Cambodia

Sorsedai (Hello),
We are back in Siem Reap after building, painting, decorating, bricklaying, moving dirt, playing games and brushing up on our Khmer skills at My Grandfather’s House in Kralahn (our community project). Here is the wrap-up of our last week.
Day 11
After a slow start to the day and an in-depth Ketut meeting we created a plan for our remaining time in-country. We concluded that the majority of the group wanted to go to a cooking class, so we split into two and those who wanted to go did, those who didn’t got to explore the city at their own will. The day was pretty relaxed, and the cooking class started at 1pm and included an early dinner. The cooking class was an amazing and fun filled experience, starting with a tour of the local market filled with local produce and leading to the teaching kitchen of the restaurant, The Paper Tiger. We were allowed to select one entree and one main to make individually and the staff made our dessert of sticky mango rice and banana tapioca. All of us chose to make traditional Khmer foods ranging from the national dish of Fish or Chicken Amok to cool refreshing mango salads and fresh rice paper rolls. The lessons were very fun and casual and our teachers were lovely and patient with our sometimes questionable cooking skills. Not only did we learn how to create the perfect mixture of spices for our dishes, but we were also taught food presentation skills, including how to make little bowls out of banana leaves and how to cut a tomato into a flower. The whole experience was incredibly interesting and educating whilst being a very different experience to the other activities that we have done in the country. The highlight of the cooking adventure was definitely the meal at the end where we were able to fully enjoy our afternoon’s worth of hard work. Unfortunately none of us could finish our entrees, mains and desserts, but we were all more than happy to take the leftovers back to the hotel for some late night snacking. Again, we ended the day at the night markets (this time the real deal!). We’re all pretty close to having bought all our Christmas presents, although there will definitely be a lot more bargaining, buying and spending to be done at the markets – we’re all getting so good.
Day 12
After a lazy start to the day (we all had to have had breakfast by our team meeting at 8:30), we had another Ketut meeting regarding the day’s shopping for the project. We wrote a list of books, posters, presents, etc and split into two groups – one was going to the markets to find suitable presents for the homestay, the other went on a treasure hunt to find various things for the school. After about 20 minutes the homestay group decided that it would be more appreciated if we bought fruit from the markets as a present on the last day, instead completing other jobs (such as – booking a place for Katie’s 18th Birthday Dinner and accommodation for the last few nights). When we met back at the Guesthouse the other group had many treasures – a very successful shopping trip. We did a last minute check that we had everything then met Jo and Thom in the lobby at 12 for our Khmer language lesson.
Some words we learnt (and may use when we get home for a bit):
Sorsedai : hello
Leehigh : goodbye
Sooksabye? : How are you ?
Chemor aye? : What’s your name?
Kinyem chemor .... : My name is ...
Morbeeprotaynah? : What country do you come from?
We had a lovely lunch at the Guesthouse before heading off on the hour’s drive to Kra Lahn. We arrived at our homestay houses (joined by a bamboo ladder) at 2:30pm and had a quick look around before heading 3km down the road to the school. Koon (the Grandson of My Grandfather’s House) took us on a tour of the school, explaining what needed to be done. We saw what the other groups had done in the library (it looked great!). One side was “under the sea” and the other was “the jungle”. We couldn’t wait to see what our “space” would look like! A few of us played volleyball with the locals before it was time to go back to the house. The vans weren’t there to take us home. Instead, 6 ox-drawn carriages awaited us. It was definitely an experience! The roads were so bumpy but we got to see Kralahn from a different perspective (It took over an hour to travel 3 kilometres). When we finally got home, we had some chill time, leaving for the local restaurant at 6:40. It was very nice – a few courses, and a vast variety of dishes. We came home, had a quick team discussion about the work to be done tomorrow, and then went to bed (under mosquito nets, on the floor). We’ll see how that goes in the morning.
Day 13
This morning we woke to the sounds of Khmer music and roosters . . . again. We had brekky at 7:20 – baguettes, jam, cream cheese, butter, eggs and rice porridge – before leaving for the school at 7:40. We started at full speed. We dug a trench across the courtyard for new plumbing to be put in, we started to level dirt at the back of the school, we began designing our part of the library, and Marty became a brick-layer extraordinaire. As the kids began to arrive there were a lot of curious smiles and waves (minimal language was shared), and as the sun beat down there was a lot of sweat as the hard work continued. By 11:30, we were so glad that we were leaving for lunch! We got back in the vans, and drove home. Lunch was delicious – another hot selection of Khmer goodness. We’re really liking this tradition that after you eat, you sleep for a good hour before starting any form of work again. While some slept, others played cards or read. At 2 it was time to reapply sunscreen and RID and head back to the school. Continuing on with the jobs from this morning, we worked really hard; finishing the trench and making a decent start on the others. Everyone worked really well together –if someone was tired and needed a break from hoeing dirt, someone would quickly take over. Our break was decorating the upstairs library or playing ball games with the always energetic, happy kids. The afternoon went really quickly and we finished the day with a game of volleyball and tunnel ball. We had a sarong shower party as we each were given a colourful sarong to shower in the outside shower area (big, clay pots and scoops). Dinner and bed couldn’t come quick enough. We were all exhausted from the physicality of today’s work.
Day 14
Day 2 at Kralahn started with the sound of roosters and music. Surprised? This time some of the music was instigated by Ketut; a quick rendition of Happy Birthday for Mr Martineau. After breakfast, one van took a majority of the group to the school while a group of 4 went to the local markets to buy supplies (paintbrushes, water-based paint, balloons and a Mickey Mouse party hat). We met back at the school around 9 o’clock. Again, a solid effort had been made on all the little jobs Kunn (the boss man) had allocated us. At times it was confusing as to what he wanted us to do because we kept completing our jobs so quickly. Nevertheless, we always found something today. With a similar set up to the day before, we went home for lunch at 11.30 and returned to the school at 2. By this stage in our stay we had all made some cute friends who liked to follow us around, throw balls at us or some kind kids helped us carry buckets of water or dirt. For dinner, we had arranged with our project co-ordinators, Jo and Thom, to go out to the local restaurant and have cakes brought from Siem Reap. A few girls left early in order to decorate our table with balloons in order to make the night a special one for Marty. The night was lovely, and Marty looked smashing in his Mickey Mouse party hat. What a way to spend a birthday! Very full, we came home and again did a variety of things (slept, wrote in journals, cards, etc).
Day 15
Today was our last full day of project work. We knew we had to get stuck in from word go. However, after a slow start, we finally knew what had to be done. Working hard out in the heat yet again we knew today would be our last chance to give back to our new friends at My Grandfather’s House. We had a bit of team mis-communication which did present some complications. But, in true Grammar style we overcame them and “kept calm and carried on” (our team motto). Later in the afternoon, some girls were given the opportunity to venture through Kunn’s rice fields at the back of the school property. We got to see how the local’s really lived. One house, in which a family of 4 lived, had no walls and barely a floor that slopped into a river. It really gave us an insight into this community and as cliché as it sounds, made us rethink and appreciate our very comfortable lifestyles we do lead in Australia. At the end of the day, purely exhausted, we knew that we had achieved a lot within ourselves and for our new friends.  Our night was spent packing and enjoying our final dinner at our homestay with the people who had made our last few days so much fun – Part, Tee, Yum, Kunn, Mumma Kunn, and the drivers.
Day 16
Day 16 of our trip and we now have another 18 year old in the group! Today was Katie’s “coming-of-age” birthday, and one the she will never forget! She woke to a beautifully in-tune version of Happy Birthday as well as a Ketut-signed card and the princess tiara that Sarah had stowed in her pack. Today was her day to be a princess. Breakfast was as per normal and we were all at the school at 8 ready to prepare for our big celebration at lunch time. We quickly finished the remaining jobs (particularly the library). We laid bricks, flattened dirt, learnt to write in Khmer script (with Part’s guidance), and played a bit more with the few kids that were there. By the time heaps of kids got there, our games were organised and we had a brief presentation of educational goodies to the Director of the school. Then, it was time to party! We showed Jo and Thom all the extraordinary things we’d accomplished over the last few days, and we were very proud to do so. As we lined the kids up in the courtyard to play a variety of games (under & over, tunnel ball) tables and a stereo system were set up for our party. It all happened so quickly; the games, the serving of the food (with the entire chicken inside – claws included, whole), and the dancing. We had the most amazing time! The icing on the cake came during the presentations when the Director announced that with some of BGGS funds the school had managed to purchase a generator which will make a huge difference to the kids and schools life. It was at this time that the group decided we were going to put some money towards the living conditions of the particular family we had seen in the rice fields. We know that our money will not be wasted as it is in good hands and we will be receiving photos of the house as soon as it is complete. As we said our goodbyes (some quite teary), we were driven back to Siem Reap, to our pre-booked accommodation at Popular Guesthouse. We had a quick debrief / team meeting before Emma and Sarah took Katie to her birthday present –an hour long traditional Khmer massage. It was definitely an experience! While this had taken place the rest of the team had set up balloons and organised a cake for Katie’s celebration. It was the most amazing dinner, with a huge selection of Western food and the cake (which read Happy 18th Katie ) was to die for! Again, being in Siem Reap the night ended at the Markets with many things purchased (not much had changed!).
Day 17
After a massive few days, we decided that it would be a good chance for a sleep in. We met for breakfast in the lobby at 8 then left to eat at a place called The Blue Pumpkin (where the cake was bought, and recommended in The Lonely Planet: Cambodia). It was amazing with a huge selection of pastries, eggs, fruits, and juices. We then had free time til 12.30 at which time we again met in the lobby ready to go to the Floating Village on the Tonle Sap Lake. It was definitely a worthwhile experience. After a 30 minute minivan ride, we got on a boat and begun our journey past poverty-stricken houses and communities. It made us rethink the kind of country we live in compared to the daily pollution and poverty these people experience. We briefly stopped at a docking station where we saw caged catfish and crocodiles (which really didn’t look that well looked after). We saw the view of the houses and the people in boats and children in small tubs begging tourists for money. Many used the tactic of wrapping a large python around a small child’s neck and saying, “photo, one dollar!” It was very confronting. As the tour only lasted about 2 hours, we had a few hours to kill. We decided to start packing.
For the remainder of the afternoon we are going to see a charity traditional dance performance held by the Children’s orphanage before having our last Khmer dinner and a final market run. Sunday  is our last day in Cambodia. So, we have decided that we are going to go back to the temples before going to have tea at Kunn’s “Jasmine Lodge” Guesthouse in Siem Reap (we really miss the people from our project) and boarding our flight to Bangkok then home.
Parents- just a quick reminder that we arrive at the Brisbane International airport from Bangkok on flight TG 473 at 12:05pm (midday). We would love love love to see you there J
Message from Gaz (Ms McGarry) – it will take us a while to clear Customs and Immigration so don’t be too panicked about being at the airport right at 12:05pm.
All our love, and see you soon!
Team Ketut xxxxxxxx

All Hallows Team A - Update # 4

An update from the team after their Mount Kinabalu trek

Blog from 13th December - 17th December

Monday 13th December

Today was a jam-packed day for Team A. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes we left the accommodation to do sight seeing in Kota Kinabalu. First we went to a museum which provided us with loads of historical information. We found the ceramic section of the museum really interesting. The next stop was an islamic museum. This gave us some background information on the Islamic culture. With this knowledge we then went to the Mosque. As soon as we arrived we were dressed up in the traditional Islamic dress code to be taken on a tour to the prayer room. After the opportunity to look around the guide gave us an insightful speech on Islamic culture and how the prayer sessions operate. After a delicious lunch of noodles and soup as well as a refreshing coke we set off to the zoo. The zoo was a great opportunity to gain more knowledge on the animals of Borneo. We were able to watch the feedings of various animals as well as ride elephants which was amazing! Our last stop was to a chocolate shop which allowed us to stock up on goodies. There were heaps of samples available including hot curry chocolate!

Tuesday 14th December

Today was Ellen's birthday! To celebrate the group embarked on an adventure to the TAR islands. We enjoyed a day of relaxation with lots of activities offered such as snorkelling, swimming and banana boating. That night we went to a delicious Italian restaurant for dinner where we all enjoyed pizza and pasta before spending the rest of the night at the markets.

Wednesday 15th December

Today we travelled from Kota Kinabalu to the base of Mt Kinabalu. We drove in minibuses for approximately 3 hours up windy roads to our accommodation. We spent the rest of the day preparing for the mountain trek.

Thursday 16th December

Today was the big day. It was time to start climbing Mt Kinabalu. We woke up at 6:30, had a quick breakfast and then walked to the base of the mountain. Here we took a bus to the gates which mark the start of the trek. We started walking at 9am up the steep and rocky mountain. The walk was about 6km and finished at an altitude of 3200m. We arrived at Laban Rata at about 4pm after about 7 hours of the challenging trek. We ate an amazing buffet dinner at about 4:30pm and were all in bed by 6:30pm.

Friday 17th December

We woke up at 1:30am to be ready for breakfast at 2am. The 10 people who chose to continue the walk left Laban Rata with Darby and our guides at 2:40am. The remaining four girls stayed behind at the accommodation with Ms Seear. We were all rugged up since the weather was cold with our headlamps. At the start of the trek three girls decided the would not be able to make it up the steep terrain and returned to the accommodation. The remaining seven girls and Darby pushed themselves up the steep cliff face using ropes in dark and freezing conditions. Some members of the group overcame their fears of heights to push themselves up the mountain. After lots of hard work and determination the group made it to a height of 3900m above sea level, with the peak standing just a bit higher at 4095m. They reaped the rewards of their efforts by enjoying an amazing sunrise above the clouds, although the weather was below freezing. The seven girls returned to Laban Rata at about 7:30am and met the rest of the group for breakfast. After this we set off down the mountain. We all found this much easier and more enjoyable than the trek up and took most of us 5 hours. We rewarded ourselves with a buffet lunch before walking to our accommodation for a goodnights sleep.

Friday, 17 December 2010

CGGS Update # 5

An update from the group at Lake Titicaca

Hola amigos! First of all thanks for all of your detailed comments, you should have seen us all running and screaming down the hallways of our hostel with the excitement of hearing from you, so please do keep the comments coming!
Our last few days have been rather eventful.  We began our insanely early morning by jumping onto the local bike taxis which posed many more threats to our lives that caused both Marman and Lashes near heart attacks. You´ll be relieved to hear that all of us made it safely to the jetty where we boarded our boat to take us to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. After a short trip we received a warm welcome from the locals on the island of Khantani where we were shown how the islands are made and told about the lifestyle, history and culture of the region. Once the presentation was over, we had the opportunity to visit the local houses and try on traditional dress, which, being us, was a lot of fun. We then went on a traditional reed boat, where we travelled around the floating islands.
Next, we hopped back on board our boat and endured a three hour ride to an island of more solid sorts, where we would stay the night. We were warmly greeted by locals once again, who showed us to our eating area. After a delicious lunch, we met our host families and spent some time with them, both in their houses and looking around the villiage.
It was then suggested that we climb to the highest peak on the island (that was already at 4000m above sea level!) to watch the beautiful sunset. Admittedly, we weren´t over the moon at the thought of another hike as the memories of our trek were still fresh in our minds. However, it proved rewarding and well worth the ¨leisurely¨walk. 
After a well earned dinner we then donned the local dress and danced the night away (...until 9pm!!) The sad thing however was that the teenagers wanted to go to bed, while the oldies (Marman and Lashes) wanted to dance the light fantastic until the early hours of the morning.  We won, of course.  The band from the local college were great with our final song of La Bamba going down especially well.
After the fiesta we then returned to our host families to stay the night.  The houses which we were staying in had neither elecricity or running water so that was a completely different experience from what we are used to.  We all slept exremely well and enjoyed the immersion that came from the home stay.
Today we travelled back from the island and split off into groups of 5 where we were given free time to find our own lunch and explore the craft markets.  Lunch proved to be an interesting experience where we were forced to experiment with our Spanish.  One particular group was unable to differentiate between the various items on the menu, so chose five random meals on the menu within our budget.  We were pleasantly surprised which the outcome with all of our meals proving very yummy.  We spent the rest of the day wandering around the craft markets, and back at the hostel sorting through five full garbage bags of long awaited clean laundry.
Tonight we´ve been out to a tradiional local restaurant, followed by a stroll through the plaza, and much to the teachers´surprise.. more shopping! We´re all very tired after our adventures and are looking forward to a soak in the hot springs tomorrow afternoon.
Much love from all of us to all of you,
The Puno Pollo Eaters.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

BBC Update # 3 Hoi An, Vietnam

An update from the BBC team in Hoi An, central Vietnam
Hey all
So far the trip has been going great. We have just recently traveled from the DMZ to Hue and then on to Hio An.
The DMZ was a good eye opener for all the boys who were shown serveral key icons that played a big part in the Vietnam war. Some of the sights included The Rock Pile which was an American Base on top of a pile of rock with sharp cliffs on either side, so the only way up was by helicopter. Other interesting sights consisted of the Dak Ron Bridge and Highway 9, these were a major part of the war that were used to supply food, shelters and weaponry to South. Also the Vinh Moc tunnels caught the eye of most boys attention with the tight spaces that used to home families of 5 or more.
Once we viewed most of the DMZ for the day we had a 2 hour bus ride on to Hue, where we stayed in a quiet little hotel. Next day we booked a tour to see the 3 main temples and Pagodas that Hue had to offer. The first was the Buddhist pagoda which was made famous by a protest by a buddhist monk burning himself in the the street out side the temple. The second was the Imperial Citadel where Vietnams 12 Kings ruled their empire. The third and most exciting was the Minhmang Kings tomb which was the most exquisite tomb of all with of tiled rooms and painted roofs by the artists feet.
Next day took a bus ride through the gorgeous Marble mountians to Hoi An, where we got off to find one of the nicest hotels we have stayed in so far in the trip and still be under budget. Once we got their we ate some lunch and headed straight for the main part of town where the we got straight into picking out a suit shop. We started to find that Hoi An was alot hotter than we had thought, but the next morning there was a break in the heat and while we were eating breakfast the heavens opened and down came the rain.
Everyone is in great health and is loving the food and culture. Everyone says hello to the family and friends back home.

UniBreakers in Ghana - tough but rewarding!

Teaching a challenge but getting there!This email finds us very well, in a small internet cafe across the road from the greenland hotel and swimming pool in Swedru.
My first time here, and first internet in a while which I'm loving!

Teaching here is beyond a challenge.. Thought it was going to be
absolutely impossible on the first day but noticed amongst card-making
today that we finally have some control (trying to get them to stop
yelling and sit down) and I am proud to say our two classes officially
know four verses of 'the wheels on the bus'!

This week is very slow at school due to vacation and playing as opposed to
teaching.. We have just done what we can to have some sort of
lessons but mainly joined in playing and using up all our toys through
things like card making and running amok with balloons. Very entertaining
for everyone involved!

We saw Seth today and are going with him tomorrow after shcool (and the
Christmas party we planned) to visit a Swedru orphanage. Hopefully
Mon/tues/wed next week will be spent there by the two of us instead of at
the other school (we really wanted to experience an orphanage here) so
very much looking forward to that.

In brief, everything great!

Somerville House Team B, Nepal - Update # 3

An update from the team after their trek through the Annapurna ranges

After a busy and exciting day in Pokhara featuring an early start to our trek with the hike up to the World Peace Pagoda we set off by bus to the start of our 9 day adventure. With the help of our guides Nima, Purna, Bema and Dumdin and all the team from Summit Trekking we all had an amazing time that will be remembered long after we have (finally) washed the dirt from our bodies.

- The amazing views of the Annapurna ranges that made trekking up several thousand stairs and aching muscles all worth it.
- The awesome food courtesy of our legendary cook, Hem.
- The dance party with the team on the last night.
- The hilarity of getting lost in translation
- Partying with local youth at one campsite
- Cheat, UNO and Yahtzee- played spiritedly by Sonja
- Washing of our 'tans' in a stream
- Making friends with 'Bernard' the dog

Special mentions:
- Cass and Emily: tor their awesome efforts despite feeling sick.
- Izzie: for pulling through her homesickness and not being able to call home

Apollo Bay Update # 2

An update from the Apollo Bay team post Mount Meru trek

Hello friends and family.

Just an update on our trip. We are still having an amazing time and everyone is well. We have been to lake Manyara National Park on the last day of our safari. We saw lots and lots of monkeys, hippos and the usual (girffes, zedbras and warthogs). We were pretty tired after our 4 day safari but we had an awesome time!! =)

We then headed back to Arusha where we had a days rest. The following day we started our trek up Mount Meru. On the first day of trek we walked to Merikamba which was the first lodge. We walked 6 hours to get there in the rain. After the first night we continued walking to Saddle hut where a couple of students were really tired but got there in the end. At 12 that night majority of the students summited Meru after sunrise. The other students managed to climb little meru but at a later time. We were all very happy with our achievemtnts but had very sore legs.

After the trek we got to stay at a really fancy hotel in Arusha. We had a POOL and all food at the restaurant was included. We watched telly and had a really relaxing time. We are now in Moshi for 2 nights. We are now heading to the markets and buying souveniers for you all =D We are all looking forward to Zanzibar and we will update if we can soon.

Love the bay team xo =)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Roseville Morocco - Team A

Copy of text message recieved from Morocco A Team at their Community Project on 14th December:

No email.... Girls busy cleaning walls sanding in preparation for painting and fixing leaking roof little children are fascinated by them mrs Boshiers french lesson proving yery helpful no email possible till Marrake please pass on all good to group email for parents he you can girls all healthy and very happy x

CGGS Update # 4

Another update from the CGGS team
CGGS update no. 4:
¡¡Hola!! It has been four days since our last blog and my goodness it feels so much longer.  We have seen and done so much and we are all really excited for a well deserved rest on lake Titicaca. 
Trekking through the Andes was a fantastic experience for us all.  Despite the fact that the altitude made even the gentlest slopes feel like an hour on the treadmill, the beautiful vistas made it all more than worthwhile. on the second day we reached our highest point at 4650m above sea level, which was freezing, tiring and exhilarating.  Although we were all looking forward to bed and hot showers by the end of the fourth day, there's not a doubt that our time in the mountains was both memorable and a highlight. 
Waking up at 4am the next morning was not the most ideal way to start the day.  however, knowing we were about to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World this early start was well worth it. 
Arriving at Machu Picchu we were all taken aback at the beauty and the level of sophistication the Incas were able to create.  Nestled deep within the mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu took all our breaths away. 
After having a tour around the ruins we were able to explore for ourselves.  Some of us went to the Sungate and others went to the Inca Bridge. 
Another seven of us walked up to the top of Wayna Picchu, the Mountain in the background of all the classic photos of Machu Picchu. Despite only being one kilometre long, the hike was almost vertical in some places as we climbed up the endless stone stairs. A highlight was going through the mountain near the top as we crawled though a dark and narrow cave. The feeling when we got to the top was fantastic! We experienced spectacular views of all the ruins laid out at our feet. For this group it was an unforgettable experience.
We all thoroughly enjoyed Machu Picchu and this will be a day we will remember for the rest of our lives. 
We have just spent our seven hour bus ride to Puno and tomorrow we are off to Lake Titicaca for our home stay.
We would all really love to hear from you so please comment.
Hope all is well,
Lots of love,
Cggs Peru Team.  

Roseville College in Morocco - Team B @ 13 Dec

Copy of Email sent on the 13th December:

Surprise! We found internet in the middle of nowhere!
So much to fill you in on, but so little time. You will definitely get the whole story before the end of the trip, but for now will have to be patient with little bits and pieces.
Special mentions:
Flea: She has been the sick-looker-after-er. One night in particular she was up all night with Maddie (24 thing - dont worry - shes all good now, but the next day too she was the mum of the group looking after the sickies.
Emily - impressing all of us with her dance moves and cool jumps at all times.
Emma - entertaining all of us with her hilarious grandma impersonations
Laura - entertaining all of us with her hilarious Kiera Knightley impersonations and botox face
Hannah - finding us Hotel Barcelona in Chefchaouen
Steph - keeping a close watch on each of us to make sure we are culturally aware when taking photos
Eliza - keeping us entertained with her crazy photos where she tries to get in as many double chins as possible
Maddie -  being a super-trooper even when sick. She makes sure we are all on time, have water etc
Holly W - somehow turning on a tap in a hotel and then not being able to get it off. It all turned out well in the end.
Holly C - being very creative at finding places to pee on trek
Kat - being ever cheerful
Scarlett - getting stuck right into our game of Sahara Ball (imagine softball with plastic bats on sand dunes in the desert)
Lizzy - entertaining us all with her guitar as she sings Incy Wincy Berber and Hot Chicken Tajine (Hot Cross Buns)
Shaz-kebab - hair braider to avoid further head lice incidents (will explain all later)
Michael - remaining ever calm in this crazy group
Anyway, we last left you on our last night in Fes. One thing we should mention is that Flea has organised a birthday for everyone on this trip. (By the way, Mrs Lewington, please note that Steph would like a Mac computer for Christmas to assist with her studies in Years 11 and 12 and a fresh razor for grooming when home.) Back to the birthdays - everyone has a day assigned to be their birthday, and Flea has done a great job of getting cakes organised to celebrate.
Fes was an easy place to get a cake with Boulangeries everywhere, but unfortunately on this occasion we got the cake that was half frozen and possibly 10 years old. You win some and lose some.
Cake seemed like such a trivial issue when we set off for the desert. This was possibly the biggest highlight thus far on the trip. We sat on a bus for 8 hours, stopping in an awesome hotel in the middle of nowhere for lunch. There were traditional fountains, mosaics and food, with a musician playing traditional music as he swung a tassle around on his hat. As the afternoon faded away, sand dunes could be seen off in the distance and we transferred to 4WDs.
Keeping in mind that we were only going about 20kms/hr as we crossed the desert dunes, our drivers did donuts and other crazy things to make the ride even more fun. There were times when the cars resembled the Holden Precision Drivers as they crossed in front of each other to get to our destination. Enquiries later revealed that this is a driving technique used so that the cars dont get caught up in the dust storm left behind by the car in front.
All too soon we arrived at our camp which was situated at the foot of Erg Chebbi, the largest sand dune in Morocco. We should admit that we were all a little disappointed as we had arrived too late for camel rides and nobody could tell us if we would get a chance the next day. However, the tents deserve a special mention. We all thought that being out in the desert, living a "berber" lifestyle would mean us all sleeping in one tent, woven from camel hair, sleeping out in the semi-open. But, what we were greeted with instead was one enormous tent between two people, with a cute little lamp in the centre for light. Oh, and there were beds. Real beds! We love this sort of camping.
Dinner was a delicious cous-cous and then we played cards and sat out under the stars and talked. For people who've never been away from a city before, or even better, in the middle of nowhere such as the Sahara, we highly recommend it. There were clusters everywhere. It was like something out of a movie. Posters of the milky way looked like they'd been strung up above us, but we realised it was the real thing as we saw shooting stars flying by and the stars shift place as the night went on. Cute little toilet tents were set up, and even a shower. We have not been uncomfortable on this trip!
Most of us slept well, snuggled into our sleeping bags, then were woken by Flea to expolore the dunes at sunrise. We trudged out of bed into the cold morning, and ran off to see the red glow rise above the dunes, experimenting with cool photos effects as we got silhouette shots in all crazy positions, including us spelling out Roseville. Hopefully it will make the cover of the next Rose, but we'll see.
Aside from crazy photos, we went sand surfing (sliding down the sand), sand diving (running to the edge of a dune and then jumping off for a free fall before being caught by the sand on the lower part of the dune and sliding down) and just staring in awe at the natural wonder all around us. It was truly breath-taking.
After the sun was up, the three Ems (Em Sena, Em Rodger and Shaz-kebab) set off to climb Erg-Chebbi. When they were about 30 metres from the top, they were told they had to turn around and come down to make it to the camp on time for the camel ride. So disappointing!
Running back to camp, we ate our breakfast of berber bread and laughing cow before setting off to ride camels off into the sand dunes. Squeals of delight could be heard everywhere as the camels jolted up onto all fours and then we were off, berber turbans tied by Flea on all of us. None of us realised that we were going on a two hour safari into the middle of nowhere, lost in the deep Sahara. The photos are wonderful but the experience even greater. We saw incredible patterns formed by the wind, and palm trees rising up out of the sand as though plonked there for effect. It was brilliant.
All too soon it was time to leave, so we set off in the 4WDs again, and made our way back to our bus to board it for Todra Gorge. Again, nothing could prepare us.
Moving from desert to mountains, the scenery gave us much to look at as we would our way through villages crowded with locals going about their daily activities and then arrived in the Gorge. We drove in between two massive expanses of rocks, and were completely surprised when we stopped in the middle and were told to get out. A brief creek crossing (with all our luggage) took us to our hotel for the night - right in the middle of the gorge! The roof was open, meaning we could look straight up and the sheer cliffs and try to take in the magnitude.
Our teachers/leader got a little out of control with excitement and twirled until they were out of control. For those of us who witnessed it, it seemed as though perhaps Antips and the school weren't quite aware of what they'd hired for this expedition. However, our confidence in them was reassured before the night was over.
Dinner was another delicious spread, and then it was time for a disco - Moroccan style. We went to the hotel bar (they sell coke - it's a Muslim country, and we were the only people in the hotel) and had a dance off. Em Sena won hands down. The hotel staff joined in and taught us some very interesting dance moves that we'll probably leave with us here and not take back to Australia. Everything was perfect. Perhaps we spoke too soon.
We had Maddie come down with a violent tummy bug, which so far the rest of us have escaped. This is where Flea stepped in and became nurse/mum for the night. We had a case of head lice (no names mentioned but we're all good now) so Shaz-kebab dealt with that. It seems that Drowning the head in conditioner then combing with a nit-comb (thanks for putting that in Mrs Whittaker) works super-effectively when KP24 doesn't exist.
We left early the next morning and created a bus load of travel sickness as we travelled to Marrakesh through the High and Middle Atlas Mountains. The roads were crazy, wait for the photos, and next time we've decided we'll all take motor bikes to have some fun along the way.
Marrakesh was a great stop before the trek. Our hotel had a pool which our teachers (but not leader) ran to and jumped into fully clothed on arrival and we were treated to comfy beds before the trek. Oh, another interesting story - dinner (turned out to be delicious) got off to a slow start. The hotel was providing it for us and told us it was at 7pm sharp. At 7.50, the first course came out and we all dived into our "chicken" salad. Within one second, the teachers/leader hurried out of the room with a sense of urgency while we all tried to work out why the "chicken" tasted to different. Shaz-kebab is allergic to tuna, and upon contact with her mouth, her tongue started swelling. Don't worry, it all turned out just fine with prednisone given in a huge dose really quickly so the epi-pen wasn't even needed. Close call, but we're checking our "chicken" more thoroughly now.
Leaving Marrakesh, we stopped in at Hotel Afriqua to book our final nights' stay and then set off for our trek.
The first day was all up hill. We went through tiny villages and crossed creeks. It was spectacular scenery. We stayed in a village home with 5 in each room, all of us right next door to each other, and played cards, danced and sung songs.
Day 2 was equally spectacular, but you'll have to wait to see the photos. We basicallty went up and down and all around, stopping for lunch looking at Jebel Toubkal (4167m high) before arriving at an even more comfortable homestay last night.
Today was uphill, then down down down and down. It really has been  wonderful trek.
Tonight we're in a swanky traditional hotel (what kind of trek is this??????) and are setting off for the big climb tomorrow.
Gotta go now because internet is closing. Will write again soon.
Love to all,
Team B. (B stands for brilliant today)

Roseville College in Morocco - Team B @ 10 Dec

Copy of Email sent on the 10th December:
Hi everyone,

So you will excuse future typos, this is how the keyboard is set out:

The auick brozn fox ju,ps over the lqwy dog:

As you can see, typing this email will be a little tedious.

Extreme apologies for not writing sooner. Honestly, the only time we
have had internet access was in Chefchaouen and it was so slow that we
couldnt even log on before things timed out. As a warning, there wont
(sorry, no apostrophes that I can find!) be one for perhaps 10 days
after this because we are trekking as of tomorrow then at our
Community Project.

We are all well. The day we left Casablanca, big rain hit. You might have
seen it on the news because 20 people died. We are constantly monitoring the
weather and will adjust our trip accordingly if weather is going to be an

The flights werent so bad. The first one was very turbulant, but the second
quite smooth. Both Morocco teams were sitting together so we felt like
one big happy Roseville family. However, on arrival in Casablance, we
went our separate ways and Team B started to function.

Our first stop was Meknes. To be honest, we didnt really do much
there. Jet lag had hit, we were ready for bed, but we managed to
source some food after changing money (thanks Scarlett for using your
French so well!) and settled down for a nice roast chicken and hot
chips meal. Not exactly the most Moroccan meal, but we'd had a four
hour bus trip after the long flights and it was all we felt like

I suppose we should tell you about the hotel. It was nice. Really
nice. Really really nice. We all thought Antips was about roughing it
and doing travel at a basic level, but no. This was great. Hot
showers, comfy beds, elaborately decorated rooms and foyer, and
everywhere a feel for what Morocco was going to be like with mosaics
and cool pictures lining the walls. Obviously Antips wanted us to
settle in and be ready for the adventures ahead. Oh, we should also
mention that we sorted out transport for the next day to take us to
Chefchaoen - the city that is all blue and white.

Feeling very at home after a great night's sleep, we were keen to set
off on our first real adventure in country. At this stage, we realised
how awesome Mike (our last minute leader) is and everything fell into

We set off on another long bus ride (maybe 4 hours) and it seems that
this was when our theme song for the rest of the journey (or at least
thus far) was set. For those of you who want a taste of what our bus
sounds like, turn on Dynamite by Taio Cruz, change the lyrics to
"singing eh oh, we're in Morocco" then do some funky dance moves with
your hands in the air whilst remaining safely seated at all times.

En route to Chef we stopped at Volubilis. Volubilis is a site of cool
ancient ruins and we saw what a town would have been like when the
Romans occupied parts of Northern Africa. Like all Roman towns, there
were gates leading into and out of the city. Each gate had three
doorways - a large one in the centre for chariots and horses and two
on either side for pedestrians. Aside from seeing some great mosaics,
we saw the ruins of houses, shops, temples, the market place and many
other interesting things. The Romans used phallic symbols everywhere
(door knockers, wind chimes etc) as a sign of health and fertility, so
we got some interesting photos. It was all in the name of learning the
history and culture of Morocco. We promise.

Arriving into Chefchaouen was like experiencing another world. The
city is completely blue and white, with our cameras never able to do
it justice. It was an Andalusian wonderland. The experience seemed
even more surreal when we were met by a throng of people as we got off
the bus and went to enter the medina leading to the heart of the city.
In Morocco, most of the small, picturesque towns were built long
before cars were invented, so the alleys are too narrow for traffic to
enter. I guess we should clarify and say automobile traffic, because
the human traffic would give peak hour on Sydney's roads a run for its

The traditional dress in Morocco for men is a long gelabra (not quite
sure about spelling, but sounds like jel-arb-rah) with a pointed hood.
Two things came to mind - KKK (although the robes are usually brown in
colour and never white) and also Star Wars with the sand men. It was a
feast for the eyes to try to take in everything going on around us and
not miss a thing.

A lovely local decided to show us to our chosen hotel, or rather
hostel. This is where the whole "Antips" thing was going to kick in,
or so we thought. Careful research by our accommodation people
revealed that the Hotel Mauritania might be an excellent choice within
our budget, so off we set.

People stopped what they were doing as we went through the narrow gate
to the medina, just to get a closer look at us. I guess it would be
weird for anyone to see 15 white people with probably more luggage on
their backs than the locals even own, trying to walk the steep incline
into the heart of Chefchaouen. Before long, we were safely at Hotel
Mauitania, a great price was negotiated, and we entered.

WOW! OMG! I'M IN MOROCCO! were just some of the things that came to
mind. Similar to a traditional Riad (look it up parentals if you don't
know what it is - but baically it's a traditional Moroccan homestead),
there was a central courtyard inside, completely covered in blue and
white mosaic tiles, and gorgeous doors with colourful stained glass
led us to our rooms. We did have one room called the smurf room
because it had 4 single beds lined up very close together, but it was
home and we loved it.

Before going for dinner, we visited a carpet shop and had our first
mint tea with a lovely shop owner. He was desperate for us to write
pick up lines in his pick up line book, but of course, none of us know
anything about pick up lines so we weren't able to help so much. End
of story.

Not wanting to miss a thing, we set off up the hill to arrive at the
central square of Chefchaouen, and most of us chose to eat shish
kebabs for dinner. It was at this point that Miss Shanahan was renamed
Shaz-kebab for the remainder of the trip, and the poor waiter was so
confused when we were ordering because he thought every time we said
Shaz-kebab we wanted more shish-kebab, and desperately tried to
correct our terrible Arabic! After such long journeying, we returned
to our hotel for an early night, eager to get up early to explore the
delights of Chefchaouen.

Breakfast was had in a charming restaurant, with the owner so excited
to have such a large group so early in the morning. It was nearly 9am,
but the rest of Chef (our affectionate name for it) was still
sleeping. We mostly drank freshly squeezed orange juice and ate yummy
omeletes, and were greeted with "good morning Shaz-kebab" when our
restautant from last night opened up. We think he thought we were all
called that.

Anyway, we set off to the other side of the square and began the big
climb to the top of the town. This place is built on a hill, and it
seems that the wealthier people live uphill, the centre is in the
middle, and the poorer live below. Winding our way through the
gorgeous blue and white-washed lanes meant our cameras got a good
workout and we were falling in love with Morocco. We visited local
artisans' shops, bought many trinkets we love but don't need, and then
finally all purchased a traditional Moroccan scarf with the intention
of wearing it during our time in the desert. A special mention must go
to Miss Witt (affectionately known as Flea) for becoming the official
turban do-er-up-er-er after learning the art from our boisterous

Next came our first free time of the trip. Free time on these journeys
consists of us being in a group with a minimum of 4 students at all
times. This is so that if something happens to a student (eg broken
leg) one student can stay with the injured party while two return to
the teachers/leader to get help. The teachers/leader hang about in a
very obvious spot so we all know where to find them at all times.

Free time for some meant trying to go on the internet, for others
buying chocolate. This is where an interesting story comes in. Don't
worry, we're all fine. We promise.

We'd read that Morocco can have some aggressive men (as can Australia)
and were all prepared for the worst when we arrived. After such a
wonderful reception from everyone thus far, we'd kinda relaxed a
little and were feeling quite at home. However, on this particular
day, a sharp reminder was brought to our attention so we'll be super
vigilant from now on.

Holly W was purchasing a chocolate bar and the shopkeeper decided she
was an easy target so refused to give her back her change. By the way,
he hadn't even given her the chocolate bar, so basically he'd taken
her money. As Holly W hadn't done much shopping at this stage (uh, it
changes later on!) the note was a large enough one to be of concern.
When the group of 4 pleaded their case, he became a little angry with
his tone of voice, so two of the students went to the teachers/leader
for help.

Shaz-kebab came along and the shopkeeper looked happy at the thought
of being able to continue to shout at another willing listener. That
was, until she asked him what had happened. In Arabic. He explained.
In Arabic. She responded. In Arabic. He freaked out and said he didn't
speak Arabic. They started speaking French. Then he didn't speak
French. Then it went to Spanish. The he said he only spoke English.
English was the easiest bit for us of course, so he was lost. He
finally said he doesn't speak anything at all because he's mute. Hmm.
Maybe he should get a second opinion on that diagnosis because he'd
proved it wrong just moments before! Completely frustrated, he wasn't
a happy camper. After a less than pleasing outcome (will tell all in
person, but seriously, everything is fine), we cut our losses and got
out of there, ready to get on the bus for Fes. Exciting afternoon.

The bus to Fes - booked with our trusty driver Larabi (we call him
Mohammed though) because the buses from Chef to Fes don't run on the
day we wanted to leave. He assured us he'd pick us up at 3pm. At
3.30pm, Mike (leader) and our transport people went to call him, and
it turns out there was some misunderstanding so we wouldn't be leaving
until the following morning.

Our accommodation team had a mission. Get us accommodation in Chef for
another night. Different accommodation. Beautiful as our hostel was,
there were a few too many noisy Spanish tourists staying there for us
to want to stay another night. So, off they went with Shaz-kebab to
find us a home for the night.

After much searching, Hotel Barcelona became our home. It's on the
"rich" side of the plaza but cost almost half the price of Hotel
Mauritania. The rooms were lovely, but the highlight was the roof,
which overlooked all of Chef, including the town square and its big
fort. It was simply magnificent.

Our extended stay in Chef had a number of consequences. 1. We were
known. We'd spent the afternoon building rapport with shop keepers
(except one) and this meant that everywhere we went people were
calling out to us. It felt like we were locals. 2. Lizzie bought a
gelabra (and has worn it pretty much ever since) and a traditional
Moroccan guita (and has serenaded us with it pretty much ever since).
All good consequences.

We had a lovely dinner then slept like babies before rising to get on
the bus to Fes.

This time, the bus to Fes was charged with iPod speakers the
teachers/leader bough in Chef. We had a sing-a-long for the entire bus
trip (4 hours) and then were ready for the most conservative city
we'll visit on this whole trip.

Arriving in Fes, we were again greeted with an awesome hotel organised
by Antips. This has definitely been a luxury tour! Having limited time
available to us, we headed out pretty much straight away, with Maddie
leading the way to the Palace doors so we could get pictures of the
intricate gold designs that are beautiful enough to grace the cover of
the Lonely Planet Guide we're all living from at the moment. The doors
were truly spectacular, sparkling in the afternoon sun.

We then walked to one of the many gates leading to the medina, and
purchased mandarins from a local seller when we got there. Intrigued
by our group, many came over to see where we were from, and
immediately offers for a guide were flowing. We accepted the offer of
the first guy, and he walked us to a great restaurant for lunch while
we waited for our official guide to turn up.

Lunch (meant to be 80 dirham pp but we bargained and got it for 40 pp)
consisted of the Moroccan bread we're all eating 24/7, and a kefta
tajine which had egg, a tomato sauce and yummy lamb meatballs. Food
here is amazing. the nice thing is that they serve meals in communal
dishes and we all help ourselves out of those, meaning that the dining
experience is an involved one with lots of laughter and chatter.

As soon as we were done, our guide was ready to take us on our tour.
He spoke great English for greetings etc, but we realised as soon as
we were in the heart of the medina and his information started flying
that he in fact had extremely limited English. Bummer. However, he
spoke perfect Spanish, so he conducted the tour in Spanish and
Shaz-kebab translated for us. It worked out just fine in the end.

Among other things, we learned that Fes is the cultural, religious,
artistic, spiritual and theological capital of Morocco. Merchants used
to come from all around to trade goods, and there are over 9,000
alleys in the medina alone. This is why we had to keep the guide even
though his English was limited. We went to the tanneries, shopped in
traditional silk weavers' shops, bought carpets and really had a great
time. We rode home in mini-van taxis and went out for a lovely dinner
of tajine. Again. Tajine is the staple food here.

Again, a great night's sleep then we were off again.

The internet cafe is closing now, so we have to log off. That's a
start, but promise we'll fill you in ASAP on ALL the adventures.

Everyone is well and we're all getting along fine.

Thank you thank you thank you for letting us have this wonderful experience!

Love Team B. (B is for busy today).

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Latest Update from Matt, Ingrid and Anna in Rajasthan!!

Week Three in Pali This week, following the arrival of Baya and Aparna - two of FEGG's Mumbai-based senior staff members, we received further details of our working arrangements and were sent out on a full-day field trip across Pali district. We were also informed that FEGG (Foundation to Educate Girls Globally) has been condensed to a much punchier 'Educate Girls'.

During our field trip we visited a remarkable primary school where, through the efforts of one dedicated teacher, enrolment figures have increased from a one child to 111 students during the course of a single month. This startling turnaround is the result of an exhaustive door-to-door campaign to convince local parents about the government-funded resources and educational opportunities available for their children. Moreover, and again through his own efforts, the teacher also managed to secure a 80 lakh (800,000 rupee) donation from a local businessman to improve the infrastructure of the school.

To recount the rest of day's experiences would warrant a far longer blog post than our weary minds can currently muster; but rest assured, it was equally as fascinating. We witnessed some of Educate Girls' testing methodologies, met and interviewed a tribal mother whose daughter has recently returned to school and were once again mauled by hoards of enthusiastic girls at a residential school.

In regards to our new work brief we were pleased to find that we have numerous tasks to keep us busy, both from the communications and developmental side of the spectrum. We've been issued a detailed weekly schedule (a much appreciated respite from our previously ad hoc 'India time' working life) and we anticipate a rather chaotic fortnight prior to our Christmas break.

Speaking of which (a convenient segway into some rather more trivial happenings) we've semi-successfully hunted down some Christmas decorations to spruce up our guesthouse. Admittedly, the impetuous here was less to do with an abundance of festive cheer than fear of being outdone by previous interns (turned arch nemeses) Amelia and Claire. Their decorative efforts last year have become something of legend among the local staff - to Manju, our surrogate mother, in particular.

In other, equally absurd, news we've all begun to show signs of cabin fever. Ingrid in particular. Aside from perennially scheming to thieve babies and bestowing obscure nicknames to local fauna Ms. Stear has ensured that life in the guesthouse has become something of a one-woman musical. Additionally, a week-long mystery of why Manju has refused to let us do the washing up was resolved when we were informed "Matt good washing, Anna good washing, Ingrid... no good washing". She has since been schooled on the art of soap and scrubbing, but alas, to no avail.

Matt and Anna have shown similar, if slightly less blatant, signs of mental degradation. While stuck in a rather large traffic jam on our way back to Pali Anna produced some A-grade joke material, stating (and I quote) "Wow, everything's happening in Pali! It should be called 'party'!". Likewise, Matt has successfully scaled the facade of the guesthouse and continued his quest to achieve a oneness with nature, with mixed results. His cow pat tally now stands at a triumphant 29 although he also endured a less impressive incident in which a tortoise unleashed (what seemed like) several litres of urine on his pants.

As a footnote, Anna managed to feature in the local newspaper (Matt suspects her Chinese heritage endows her with greater cultural capital than a mere Caucasian). We have also been conspiring to kidnap a puppy for a pet, as they roam the local neighbourhood in such abundance that its disappearance would surely go unnoticed. We've actually singled out our victim, whom Ingrid has dubbed 'Kangas' on account of her uncannily Kangaroo-esque features.

We bid you adieu!

BBC - Vietnam Update # 1

The first update from the BBC boys
Family and Friends,
Vietnam is amazing. Everybody is having lots of fun, and apart from a few minor colds and rashes, are all in good health :). The food here is spectacular and all are enjoying it very much.

Since leaving the airport we had a good flight and arrived in Singapore airport with a few hours to burn on the free computers and games. When we landed in Hanoi airport we were greeted with thousands of taxi drivers begging for us to use them. We have since enjoyed a few fun days cruising the streets and museums and sights of Hanoi, and meeting lots of locals who loved to have their photos taken with us. Everything is so much cheaper than in Aus, even the quality food.
Early on tuesday morning we left the busy streets of Hanoi on a scenic 4 hour bus trip to ther Mai Chau Valley region for the begininng of our three day trek into the project. Each night we stayed in a village homestay, two of which were stilt houses of the Thai people. While staying in one village we watched a football game with the locals and decided thart they were crazy for football. The village in which we were doing the project (PIENG PHUNG) was bustling with young children and friendly people. The project was hard but rewarding, seeing us complete the difficult jobs of leveling the ground insisde and outside of the new Kindegarden. By the end of our work the roof was on, the doors fittined, billions on rocks pilled to the side. Locals were very happy to help us, and yopu will be pleased to know that we had to wear helmets. The villages thanked us by holding a cultrural exchange ceremony in which we, the first Westerners to stay in that village, witnessed some of there cultural dances and in return, we shared some of ours (National anthem, Bob the builder, Old MacDonald, and the macarena). A very friendly and enthusiastic drunken local decided to try and help us do the macerenia, which almost turned out to be a full scale rave. We also participated in the traditiopnal dance were we had to dance around without letting ourselfes be battered by bamboo poles.
Since we have traveled on an overnight train from Hanoi down the coast to Dong Hai, and today did a tour of the DMZ, including the tunnels, the 17th poarrallel and the American air base. By the time we arrived in Hue, it had been 24 hours since we werent on the bus or train for more than an hour at a time.
From the Antips Boys

Monday, 13 December 2010

BGGS Team C Update # 3 from Cambodia

BGGS Team C - Update # 3

Hello from Siem Reap :)
Following on from our last message which told you about our wonderful experience in the Cambodian capital, we have had many different adventures in Siem Reap and on our trek!
Day 6
Today, we woke up for a 6.30 breakfast so that we would be on time to catch our 7.10 courtesy shuttle bus to the Phnom Penh bus station. We were supposed to change buses and leave by 7.45 but we didn't end up leaving until about 8ish. We had a long journey ahead of us - an estimated 6 hours, but we knew that actually meant a little bit more. Along the way, we had two "pit stops " - the first at Shouk (a.k.a Spider town). Here, there were fried tarantulas and crickets on sale. Mr Martineau bought one, everyone watched on as he took the first bite. Apparently, it tasted like chicken? A few of the girls also tasted the spiders legs. Most of us also bought the most delicious pineapple that we have ever tasted! When we finally got to Siem Reap, a good 7 hours later, there were no taxis (only tuktuks). We loaded all the packs and us into tuktuks and went to the accomodation which we had conveniently pre-booked, Popular Guesthouse. It was a secluded little guesthouse with lovely rooms and a jungle-like restuarant. We had a late lunch just before the trek company (Buffalo tours) came to brief us on our 4 day ordeal that began the next day!!! Later, we went to the Siem Reap Night Markets and had a good shop, before realising that yet again we were not at the right markets. But alas, we will have plenty more opportunities to find the right one.
Day 7
Today was "Day 1 " of our long awaited trek. We woke up at 5.45 to finalise our packing list, and get ready for breakfast and the long day ahead. We reunited in the lobby at 8:00 with all of our gear. We packed things into the "wans "(the Cambodian pronunciation of vans) and started walking with our two trek guides "Soowan and Vutha'". They were the coolest people you will ever meet - definitely the best company for a 60-odd kilometre hike! We walked about 6 kms out of the main citty before stopping for snacks of soft drink, pringles and biscuits. Along the way we learnt various parts of Cambodian history as our guides were very knowledgeable and loved to talk. After we reapplied sunscreen, we continued walking. We were amazed at just how friendly the Cambodian children are. Their parents were constantly encouraging them to wave and say hello, some ran up and hugged us, others were very photo-willing. We all walked at our own pace and finished up at a farmers house in one of the villages. The house was huge and the food was amazing - three dishes with steamed rice and soft drink. Emma (being a vegetarian) got her own meal served every day -we were all a tad jealous). By this time, it was the heat of the day and keeping with Cambodian culture, we slept for the next hour and a half. The teenage girls had no problem with this. We had walked 12 kms out of our scheduled 16 for the day. When it was time to leave, and after reapplying sunscreen and "jungle juice "(insect repellent), we hopped into the wans and drove (more like 4WD-ing) to a place about 10 km away, before we started trekking again. As we were all about to die, we reached our accommodation for the night; a monastery. Our individual, mosquito netted, "sleeping chambers" were all set up and our packs were waiting for us. Some choose to shower in a bucket (which was said to be quite refreshing), while others chose the wet wipe option. We then walked up a hill to ancient ruins of a temple and watched the sunset. It was  a big red ball, and seeing it was just beautiful. Picture 1 (attached) is of us at the ruins..
Day 8
This morning we woke up (absolutely freezing) to monk music and the crowing of roosters at 6am! Breakfast was just what we all needed; a selection of various cereals (includig milo), milk, toast and spreads, apple pancakes and omelets. We all stocked up before we headed out on our biggest day (22kms). The first part of our journey was quite similar to the day before - as we walked families would come out to say hello and wish us well. They were all so curious by us. After about 8 km we stopped for  "rest". Quite conveniently, there was a celebration happening across the road for a mother who had given birth to her first baby. The music was blasting, everyone was dancing and we so wanted to join in. Our guide "soowan" asked them if we could join in. Thankfully, they said YESSSS. We joined in, raving and dancing, and playing with the little kids. It was so fun, but very hot. Plus, it's great to know that Cambodians love Pitbull just as much as we do :) (but, seriously, it was great!). We stayed for a good half hour getting pretty involved in the celebration. About half an hour later, it was time to leave (see photo. We said our goodbyes and were on our way, again. After about 3kms we stopped at a primary school for yumyums (lunch). Thea managed to get a boyfriend who attached himself to her, but the other kids were just generally intrigued by us being there. We ate another monstrous lunch and had another nanna nap. After lunch, we hopped into the wans and drove for half an hour before getting out and changing into our thongs. From there, we trekked through a flooded rice paddy for the remainder of the day. Every 200m there was a new puddle to get through- one time it got to thigh high! Before to long, we were done and arrived at our homestay which was a beautiful house. It had two bucket showers which many of us (but not all) choose to wash in, then we all sat cross-legged on the table for another magnificent traditional Khmer dinner. The steps up to the house were  more like a ladder, so we all decided that we wouldn't get up to use the toilet in the middle of the night! Before bed we had a history lesson of the Angkor village we were staying in and the one we would travel UP to the next day (emphasis on the word up!). We were all in need of a very good nights sleep.
Day 9
Today we woke up with our fleeceys and numerous blankets on. We didn't think it was possible in Cambodia but it was freezing! We had looked forward to brekky the whole previous day, and it didn't disappoint. We all made sure we had a decent sized (if not bigger than decent) meal before we headed out for the day. The start of the trek was pretty flat and slow. But, it rather quickly turned into an uphill rockclimb (and sweat bath!). We stopped several times for water and to use our fans (which we bought at the markets, and are so glad we did). About 3/4 of the way up we stopped at a place with "Holy water". It was actually the most refreshing thing ever; so cold and lovely and basically holy. We stopped for snacks at the top of the mountain in a little village with lots of kids.. As we ate, we also took photos of them and showed them on the camera screen. They weer so intrigued seeing themselves, they were smiling and pointing. It was so much fun, we all enjoy playing with the children so much. It took our mind of the soreness of our legs and the kilometres which we still had to walk. We stayed a good 20 minutes before it was time to continue on our trek. This time it was too long on wider snady hills, it was hot and very challenging. There was not much conversation. After about 2 hours, we were completely exhausted- we saw the wans. We have never been happier to see two vans in our entire lives! We collapsed in the shade and ate our pre-packed lunch and cold softdrink before driving to our final homestay. We split between two houses (8 in each). The main house (where we all ate, etc) was the most incredible place we've seen so far. We settled in before taking a short walk to "soowan's" favourite spot. The most amazingly beautiful waterfall (or biggest shower) in the world. We swam in the lagoon part and under the waterfall for a good hour. The water was freezing, but it was so refreshing! It was the best way to end our trek. But it wasn't over. Tearing ourselves away, we walked to the local temple. Along the way our group numbers grew. We accumulated about 20 kids who followed us up. The view from the temple was breathtaking. We were so high up that as we looked over the railings  we could see forever. We stayed a while in the courtyard and all the kids brought us little bunches of flowers from a beautiful bougainvillia archway. (See attached photo). Dinner that night, was a candle lit feast (with traditionally Khmer-dressed waiters). Towards the end, music started pumping and it was time for the local villagers to join us for our farwell party. Dancing with the kids was so much fun. We did a move, and they would copy us exactly. We danced for hours and could have for longer if we didnt have to get up at 5.30. After an amazing night, we said goodbye and went to bed.
Day 10
The itinery told us that we had to walk 9kms today, but it was a welcomed suprise when "Soowan" told us to jump in the vans. We drove for about an hour to the temples. As we approached we were all so excited! We got our tickets (we had to be photographed), then hopped back in the van to get to the first temple; Bayon. There were so many people, but the temple was beautiful. We spet about half an hour exploring before we moved on to Ta Prohm (The Tomb Raider Jungle Temple). It was magnificent. The trees had grown through the stone structure of the temple making it a very shady, cool, beautiful place. We had an hour to explore (and really used it!). We found so many secret passages and met some other tourists. LUnch had been organised at a traditional Khmer restaurant with a set menu of Amok, Stir fry (which was typed as stir fly!), and fried chicken with cashews, and steamed rice. It was beautiful and the fruit shakes were amazing. We then moved on to Angkor Wat. It was nothing like the photos! It was massive and every stone was intricately carved. It took 35 years and thousands of slaves to build, and you could definitely understand why. The grounds were spectacular and so well maintained. The grass courtyards, the beauitful lilly-pad filled lake and the man made moat. We spent a good 2 hours exploring the temple and its surrounds. By this point, we were all so exhausted from the trek that we hopped straight in the vans (but not before taking group photos -one is attached) and booking straight into a GuestHouse- The Millenium. At 6pm, Jo and Thom from the project came to give us a quick briefing about what to expect (we will be meeting them on Monday for more details.) We then split up for dinner as we were all craving some good Western food -for most of us it was pizza and crepes . It was amazing!! While some ventured throught the markets, others caught up on some well deserved sleep.
As we explore a bit more of Siem Reap today, a cooking class and markets, we pack to depart for the community project tomorrow. More updates hopefully after then.
MIss you and love you all.
Team Ketut <3

BGGS Team C Update # 2 from Cambodia

Update # 2 from Cambodia - BGGS Team C

Day 3 – Sihanoukville

Today was our first full day in the beautiful beachside Sihanoukville. We got off to a fairly early start, having a 7am breakfast at the GST Guest House restaurant. After a quick check to make sure we had everything, we were very excited to get into tuk-tuks for the first time on our way to the Ream National Park! They were worth the wait! It was so much fun riding along in the open air and it was such a unique way to experience the everyday life of the Khmer people. Riding along, we were able to watch families preparing for their day - working and playing outside. After half an hour of this, we watched the scenery change as we journeyed closer to the rangers’ station of the National Park. When we arrived, we were greeted by our tour guide, Noon, who helped us to organise our day. We decided to take an hour and a half boat ride down the river which winds through the park ending at the beach. The boat was wooden and extremely colourful. The river was lined with mangrove trees and the occasional thatched bungalow, and along the way we saw many local people paddling down the river, often accompanied by their children. The beach was lovely when we arrived, and after ordering our lunch, we jumped straight into the water. After a delicious lunch, we went for a half hour trek to another beach around a headland. It was so hot – everyone was dripping with sweat! (Hence the limited photos available from this particular adventure). Throughout the walk, we were lucky enough to pass through a small fishing village of about 35 families and observe their houses and the way they went about their daily life. It was enlightening to experience their culture and friendliness as we just walked through their communities. We were also able to stop at their local school for a few minutes which gave us some sort of idea of what to expect during our project work.  It was interesting to note that it was a "Jesus" school in a primarily Buddhist country. After this, we boarded the boat again and arrived home in time for dinner at one of the backpacker hotspots, The Monkey Republic.It was an experience in itself... I think everyone has now decided to be a backpacker once in their life just to stay at a place like this. After dinner, we decided to take a walk to the local markets, however , on the way we were distracted by a concert thrown by the US Navy. It was hilarious! We were the only ones in the crowd singing along to Miley Cyrus’s Party in the USA and Katy Perry’s California Girls. We couldn't tell who was the bigger hit for the local people; our dancing or the actual band. Tearing ourselves away, we ventured over to the markets (following our original plan) only to discover that they weren't actually markets, rather a fair of rides and food. Needless to say, on our walk home we raved a bit more at the Navy concert. 

Day 4 – Sihanoukville / Phnom Penh

Today was fairly uneventful. After waking up early for another delicious breakfast at the GST Guest House restaurant (of eggs, baguettes and fruit), we were loaded onto a courtesy  shuttle bus which began our four hour return bus trip back to Phnom Penh. We once again were able to appreciate the immense diversity of the Cambodian landscape (or alternatively, catch up on some much needed sleep). After a quick lunch stop at a small rural cafe and designated rest stop, we hopped back on the bus and arrived in the crowded and busy Phnom Penh at around 1:30pm. After spending a while checking out two different Guest Houses, we decided on the Hometown Hotel, as fancy as it sounds. The rooms are spacious and lovely and it has a foyer which is wonderful for team meetings. After settling in, we went for a walk to the beautiful river district! We passed by a spectacular Buddhist temple on our search for a place to eat a long awaited lunch. By the time we found one and were finished, we decided that we just wanted a "chill" afternoon before we ventured to the night markets in the evening as this was to be a big night. Everyone was really excited! We had a little trouble locating the markets but they were definitely worth the wait! There were rows and row of stalls selling everything from local cuisine to beautiful handcrafted wooden boxes to delicate silk scarves. At our designated meeting time an hour later a unanimous decision (from the girls) was to stay longer. The teachers gave in, and we continued to buy everyone at home more and more presents. Like any markets, we went wild. It was amazing. We got back to the hotel rather late, and were so ready for bed! Showing everyone all our goodies, we had a quick team meeting and decided bed was the right option.

Day 5 - Phnom Penh

Today was possibly the best day to date. This was mainly due to the fact that it was deemed our "Sightseeing in the Capital" day. We had booked 4 tuk-tuks for the day who would take us every where. Tuk-tuks are possibly the best mode of transport ever invented. We were ready to go out for breakfast at 7. Ms McGarry had heard of a really good little restaurant called Malis  that we were going to try to find. We got lost. But, half an hour later and we were glad we had waited. This was the beginning of our splurge day. It was a magnificent restaurant with amazing meals (mainly eggs, but still great!). The bread is kind of funky over here. Like everything else, it has coconut in it. Ruby got a nose bleed, which was kind of exciting for all of us - but don't stress, she was well looked after, and fine in no time! Boarding the tuk-tuks, we directed the drivers to Cheong Ek Genocide Centre; the Killing Fields. It was a very emotional, and at times, moving experience. One that I'm sure we will never forget. Following on from that, we went to S-21; the prison. This was perhaps the most confronting part as we saw the detention centres, the places in which innocent people were tortured, and even blood. Amazingly, we saw one of the 7 survivors at the site. He was just sitting there, talking about his experience. By the time we had finished, we all felt abit sick. Mainly from the gruesome stories and photos, but also because it was lunch time and we are teenage girls. We found a quiet little place called Dragon Guest house, which we had a decent Khmer meal. Then it was rush, rush, rush back to our busy day of sightseeing. A quick stop at a bank (we had to change our budget into smaller notes), then we arrived at the Royal Palace; the most amazing array of temples, and buddha shrines, and gold. We spent a good hour and a half just looking around (we did take another Ketut picture- but, i cant send it to you just yet because the computers are different. But, I will as soon as I can). It was beautiful. However, the Silver Pagoda was not quite what we had imagined, but it was different in a good way. It had been a long day and we had to decide whether we made one last stop at Wat Phnom before dinner and home. We decided, why not! We were so glad that was our choice. We saw an elephant and monkeys... in the wild, right in front of us. It was so cool. The temple was also pretty amazing, not quite as beautiful as the palace. But definitely something to compare Angkor Wat to when we get there. We went to dinner at some ridiculously amazing Thai / Khmer place. The dimlit setting of orange and red was just a start. We sat on cushions on the ground and the ambience was just incredible. Traditional food was just the tip of the cake. Words cannot describe how amazing today has been.

So, if you got through all of that I shall leave you with our plan for tomorrow:

We are having breakfast at 6.15 (yes, so EARLY!)
But, we are catching the 7.45 bus to Siem Reap, which takes at least 6 hours. Long long time, with one stop!!

Then we are preparing for our trek.

Mentally, wish us luck :)

Ps- Sorry about not attaching photos. As previously mwentioned- this computer doesnt allow it. SORRY!

Much Love,