Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Rafting the Apurimac River - Emma in Peru

Busy busy busy... I don´t think us 10 could have fitted anymore activities into the last 2 weeks. We have survived class 5 rapids (the highest possible commercial level people can do) and we have swam in the highest freshwater lake in the worldwide. We have also helped Harry have a memorable 19th birthday, made successful progress with the greenhouse and even managed to fit a few teaching hours in around all the excitement. Pretty impressive if you ask me but first things are first.

Last weekend us 10 Aussies joined up with some Israelis and a token American to take on the Apurimac River. Not only is this one of the top 10 rivers in the world to raft on it is said to be the direct tributary of the Amazon making it the longest river in the world. Pretty cool huh? The drive through the Andes was spectacular with mountains surrounding us for as far as the eye could see. 

Coming down from 4000m was an interesting drive and definitely tested the buses brakes as well as our nerves as we zigzagged our way down into the canyon. For the entire long weekend we were looked after by the amazing rafting guides who could mutli-task beyond belief. Examples include surviving rafting down waterfalls and then cooking us amazing meals in little more than a pot or two! Namely Victor and Alonzo were favourites with us girls...however we got to know them all very well on our 2nd evening during the rafting games. We were made to do all sorts of hilarious games such as spinning a paddle and then running around a pole being careful not to fall into the river and be left cold for the evening.

It is very important to note that us Aussies did our country proud and won overall. (Well in our books anyway!) Rafting down the river we enjoyed the rugged rocks climbing hundreds of metres out of the river as well as the sun that kept us warm. Not only did we enjoy rafting inside our trusty little rafts but we got to experience ´body rafting.´ This entails jumping out of the boat when commanded to and lying on your back completely at the bec and mercy of what ever wave was thrown at you. Laughing all the way we swallowed gallons of water desperately hoping that this water was cleaner then that of rivers closer to Cusco. Harry, Charlie, Liv and I also slept under the stars and fell asleep to the full moon....simply incredible.

For Harry´s birthday we took him out for dinner to the rooftop cafe in Cusco. Looking at the fairy lights of Cusco city we were afraid that we interrupted a wedding proposal but our enjoyment over our first taste of Alpaca steaks and Peruvian specialties (while Charlie enjoyed her vege burger) occupied our minds! mmmmmmmm amazing! We should have alpaca in Australia!

That week we were lucky to be invited out for a drink by Josh an amazing Antipodean staff member who has seemed to have travelled the world, it was great of hear some of his interesting stories and get some travel tips! We also had a Lion King movie night and were spoilt rotten by a cake Liv and Charlie got from our most recent discovery in Cusco. A fantastic cake shop just near the bus stop in town. Too good to be true...We were also treated to enjoy hot vegemite toasties by the boys thanks to Nick´s vegemite. For the record we all still could remember all the words and African chanting and weren´t afraid to sing along!

Lake Titicaca was a late weekend decision by ours to ´make the most´ of our time here in this wonderfully diverse country and that we did. After an overnight bus ride to Puno which felt like we were on the night bus in Harry Potter we arrived to watch the beautiful sunrise over the lake. We then caught a boat out to visit the floating island of Uros were we were greeted very warmly by Island residents. Harry and I even got to get dressed up in full traditional clothing (which Harry bought some of .. hope the poor man doesn´t get to cold out there being shirtless...). Then Rupert and Harry rowed us over to another part of the island in a traditional boat to visit a flamingo. However the boat was definetly not made for Australian long legs. The boys had a swim before we set off for our next island Amantnani. This was were we were billeted to a local family and our poor mum whose birthday it was that day had to quickly make a lot of extra lunch to feed us 10 hungry mouths... A bit more than she was expecting.

To get out of her hair and recover from our potato heavy meal we decided to walk to the top of the mountain on the island and watch the magnificent sunset. Rupert, Liv and I even managing to find our own Pride Rock overlooking a landscape that could easily be mistaken for the Greek Islands apart from the cold and being 4000m above sea level. That aside we all felt as if we had somehow magically been transported across the world. After star gazing and dancing that night Charlie, Sophie, Liv and I made our 3rd pilgrimage to the sun at dawn the next morning.

We very cleverly found our way through the dark at 4.30am back up to the mountain to watch our ´Sun God´ rise up from across on the Bolivian shore. This was the beginning to another unforgettable day where we went to the amazing island of Taquile and enjoyed the local specialities of quinoa soup and lake trout. We also enjoyed jumping off the boat into very very cold water as well as a long, lazy boat trip back to Puno where we all got a little bit too excited by the available sun.. hence leaving us a beautiful red colour.

After a long, hot, crowded bus trip back to Cusco we arrived at 3am. Needing to be at school today early to work on cementing foundations in our green house we should all feel very proud of our efforts. Cementing has started and the roof is now on the other green house. To top it off, inside, it starts to look very friendly´´ to growing vegetables and grass for the schools new guinea pig farm.

I think or should I say know that everyone will sleep very very very well tonight but also go to bed dreaming of what other adventures await.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Spanish lessons and Dulce de Leche - Sarah touches base from Argentina

HOLA! Honestly the days here are flying by and it seems that we're just not able to keep up! We celebrated Connor's 18th, last Thursday with an enormous Chocolate Ice Cream/Dulce de Leche/Apple 'cake' on the terrace, in between busy schedules of Spanish lessons and Volunteering.

The Super Classico went off like a house on fire, with Boca coming in on top! Those who went enjoyed the INTENSE atmosphere and without a doubt, had loads of fun! We've taken the opportunity to do plenty of sightseeing lately, San Telmo Markets, Puerto Madero, Palermo Zoo, The Japanese Gardens, The Ecological Reserve, there's a ridiculous amount of things to see and places to go, it'll be a tight squeeze to get it all in by the time we get home to be honest!

As a group, we went to the movies again, this time to see 'Water for Elephants' which was enjoyed by all, especially the boys! We took ourselves off to Bomba de Tiempo on Monday night, a huge improv drum show outside of Recoletta, it was so brilliant! We had a visit from Josh from Antips this Thursday, who came to check out the residence and see what we've been up to. He also still owes us all a round of drinks. Also important to note, we've become well acquainted with a bar called Job, about 2 blocks from the residence, where incredibly intense games of Fusball have been taking place in the recent past.

Most interesting perhaps, is that we're all headed off to Iguazu on Sunday night with L.I.F.E, the organisation some of us are volunteering with. We'll catch an overnight, 16hour bus, in first class hopefully, and arrive in the Misiones on Monday morning, where everyone will be volunteering in a outlying village for three days. We'll be doing construction work, cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids and delousing children. From here we'll head over to the falls where we'll stay for 2 nights to see the magnificent falls and visit Paraguay! For the last night of our trip we'll be staying in San Ignacio where we'll get to explore the Jesuit ruins before jumping back on the bus for 16hours to return to BA Monday midday.

I'm sure we'll have a whole bunch of stories for next week after this trip, so be prepared!

We send our Love and Best Wishes home,


Friday, 20 May 2011

A Taste of Peru!

Ze Blog Del Ecuador - Mitch's adventure continues!

Hola yet again! aaaand welcome to the third fortnightly installment of ze blog del Ecuador..

So, the first four weeks of our time here in south america saw us -

*it was at this point, 2:39pm, that the internet cafe/dry cleaners/playground for children we were at computer´s decided to shutdown, along with the lights. It wasn´t before long when we looked up at a mirror reflecting an upstairs playroom for the owners children. We witnessed a child flicking on and off the switch which controls the power. So, not getting too annoyed, we let it go and let the computers start up again, and not so suprisingly the power switched off again, which was followed by the happy cackling of an annoying Ecuadorian version of Bart Simpson. It was at this moment the child´s supposed father came up to Asta and I and explained in Spanish the computers weren´t coming back on, to which i replied "it is your son who is doing this, not the third world electricity". Not speaking one word of English he continued to explain they were not going to reboot. And so we rose from our plastic stools and began to walk out, at which point the owner stopped me. Whilst Asta was waiting out in the corridor, i argued with the owner why i was not going to pay him the fee to which he requested. With three people shouting in Spanish at me "cinquenta centavos!", i replied in the same vigorous manner to them why i was not going to hand over the fifty cents which i was not inclined to pay them. Finally, i muttered a spanish saying which we learnt from our tour guide which i do not have an understanding of, smirked at their stunned faces, and strolled out. We then walked to another internet cafe, and thus here i am now, typing away yet again. Anyways.... *
- travel to Otavalo, Canoa, and Montñita, with the fourth weekend spent in Quito.

The past two weeks of our time in Ecuador have been spent teaching in our schools from monday through till thursday, which has been getting better every week, and in two amazing places in the two weekends.

For our fifth weekend we decided to hire a tour guide to take us to volcano Cotopaxi, and the Quilotoa crater lake. Our tour guide, Wilson (who immediatley reminded me and kate of the movie Castaway, in which the character Wilson starred), or "Wilso", picked us up in his 4WD and drove straight to Cotopaxi. Just a little info on the volcano of Cotopaxi - it is the world´s highest active volcano, standing at a whopping 5,897 m, which doubles Australia´s Mount Koscuiszko, and has erupted more than 50times in the past 300years. We drove to a little carpark located on Cotopaxi, and began to walk up. I was extra enthusiastic, as it was my first time witnessing snow that wasn´t a little clump of ice in the high country during spring. Ecstatic, i threw snowball after snowball, whilst Sam was on struggle mountain due to her forgetting her whole toiletries bag containing her much needed asthma puffer. Because of this she held Wilson´s hand the whole way up. When i say whole way up, i do not mean to the summit, we reached a little refuge station sorta thingo, which is located at 4810m, thus we had walked around 600m in elevation.

After resting and getting some air (not that there was much of it), we ran back down to the car, hopped back in, and drove two hours to the town of Quilotoa. Upon arrival, we chucked our stuff in our rooms, left the cottage, and began exploring the town. It took 15mins. Quilotoa tisn´t very big. We got the end of the road, unhappy we hadn´t yet found what we were searching for, a giant crater lake in the middle of a volcano. Sam and I spotted a pretty dodgy looking grassy track which led uphill a bit, we ran up and there it was. To be honest it is one of the most amazing things i have ever seen in my life.

Filling up half of the three kilometre wide caldera was a glassy green/blue lake. Lying perfectly still within the volcano, not even a ripple. Now, at the time there most likely was a ripple, or two, stating that there was no ripple is quite a bold statement and ultimatley probably completely false as at the time we were standing at least two kilometres from the actual lake, thus probably were not able to identify if there were in fact ripples or not... But anyways, we stood looking at it´s marvel for a good 40minutes, photos were taken. Oh yes photos were taken, however one photo in particular stirred up quite the uproar and amusement between the group - with the stunning lake in the background, Mich and Sam sat down on a little dirt mound set to take the photo which will last forever, after taking it we all looked at the camera. It is an understatement to say that hilarities had just occured. There sat Sam, arms around her dear friend Mich, with her hands awkwardley positioned on Mich´s body implying somewhat risque connotations. And mich´s facial expression makes it all the more hilarious. Anyways, you can view this photo on facebook if you would like. Moving on...

The following day we rose early and went back to the crater lake. With the sun glaring down upon us and making the lake´s water shine and glitter, we began our descent down to the bottom of the crater. Needless to say, in the words of Robert Frost, we "took the road less travelled", and it sure did "make all the difference". We reached the bottom of the lake, hot and sweaty we were pumped to get into the water. We rented canoes, we donned our lifejackets, and with our wooden paddles paddled out into the freezing cold lake. A

t one point we stopped on the edge of the lake to view some hot springs which were not hot at all, just some bubbles. A select few (everyone except for Asta) willingly went swimming in the icy waters of Quilotoa, Kate only went in solely based on revenge as Wilson had previously splashed her. She failed massivley in getting her revenge as Kate swims like a desert mole, and Wilso can paddle like James Tomkins, not to mention sing like him.

After our rendezvous in the water, we dressed ourselves (however some of us were already dressed, i.e. those who were stupid enough to wear all their clothes into the water i.e. SAM). And hopped on the back of horses who were to take us back up the steep clifface. The horses were huffing and puffing and were clearly in pain, so halfway up i decided to get off my horse, as it was too cruel to make them walk all the way back up the hill with a person on top of them. After demounting my noble steed named alfred, i looked down to see my now purple piggy toe throbbing, at which point i remembered i couldn´t wear shoes, and the

We arrived back to the top, had lunch, and returned home to Quito. Thus ending our weekend.

The following weekend we again hired Wilso as our designated tour guide, and he again picked us up and we ventured off right down the middle of Ecuador, again. This time however we travelled right to the bottom, to a beautiful city called Cuenca, which was described to me as the "Florence" of Ecuador. On our way we stopped at the "Machu Pichu" of Ecuador, called Ingapirca - the ancient Inca Ruins dating back 7000 years. They were pretty amazing, and Wilso told us all about it, of which i cannot remember.

Unfortunatley we were not able to explore the suppossed wonders of Cuenca that much, we only had the time to see a church or two, due to arriving at 6pm at night and having to leave at 8pm the following morning to make it back to Quito.

We left Cuenca on sunday at 8pm, and on our way home went to a lovely orchid, and an indigenous weaver´s house. Over this weekend it is fair to say we clocked up the frequent driver points, accumulating over 30 hours in the van, including a 14hour final day. Nevertheless the weekend was still great, and look forward to Wilso taking us to the amazon in two weeks.

And here ends the third blog, i hope you enjoyed it, and tune in next fortnight for the third last installment of our wonderings around the country of the sun.


adios, mi amigos.

xoxo blog boy

The gift of language in marvelous France - Jess absorbs her new surroundings

Two weeks into each of our stays in the magnificent country of France, and I figure it’s time to share some of our experiences with you. Paris had a cold bite that nobody had quite expected. It was nearly summer, right? But, as we were soon to discover, this was just the first of an extensive series of changes that marked the difference between Australian and French lifestyles. Bonjour tout le monde!

Having collected our baggage, each of us soon boarded the TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse, which translates to high speed train) which would take us to our individual placements, and were whisked away through the French countryside. Here we tasted the first of the rich French culture which would soon envelope us – amidst verdant landscapes there lay magnificent, sixteenth century brick cheateaus, row upon row of soon-to-be harvested grapes on the outskirts of massive wineries, or small cemeteries next to beautiful medieval villages, all beautiful beneath the cloudless, perfect blue sky. And we would soon get the chance to see such architectural splendours up close and personal.

For now, however, we nervously waited for our trains to stop at Rennes, Avignon, Nimes, Marseille or Valence, where we were to meet the families who would house us for the next three months. And with relief we noted that, on the whole, they were all lovely, wonderfully accommodating groups of people. Whether they spoke near-fluent English, which allowed us to communicate easily, or little English, whereby communication was a mixture of broken French, broken English and frenzied gestures, we were all quick to warm to our families.

And, excited to share their rich culture with us, they soon took us each on excursions into nearby cities (for neighbouring villages and cities are remarkably close to one another in France). In Avignon, the magnificent Palais des Papes, which housed the pope from the fourteenth century onwards, stood more than seven hundred years old. Hundreds of kilometres North, those who had stayed in Paris for the week or fortnight long language immersion course saw the likes of the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomph and other highlights of the city of love.

In the heart of Nimes one could explore Les Arenes, the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world, which had been built at the dawn of the Christian era. Here, excited peasants and magistrates alike would watch as gladiators fought against tigers, bulls and each other. Or, on the darker side things, they would watch as helpless criminals fled from beasts before being torn limb from limb. Ouch. Tough luck buddy – guess you should’ve thought twice before pick pocketing the Marquise. In fact, every street in each one of these cities was bursting with hundreds of marvelous secrets and cultural artifacts.

So rich was the French culture, and such a wonderful blend of the modern and antique! We all stumbled upon wonderful vintage clothing stores, old-style cinemas showing modern films, hidden yet delicious up-market cafés and brasseries, or street markets which sold antique lamps, books, clothes and cameras at remarkably low prices.

And if we’d had enough of the hustle and bustle of these gorgeous, old metropolises then we could easily borrow one of our host families’ bicycles and ride through the countryside, passing horses, beautiful landscapes and medieval villages all the while.

Both at home and abroad we all enjoyed the delights of French cuisine, with little concern as to what we were actually eating. Last Thursday a group of us met at an Avignon restaurant for lunch and, having ordered the plat du jour, were surprised to be served raw beef! Of course we ate it nevertheless – for how long would it be before we were again served delicacies in one of the gastronomic capitals of the world? And you know what? It was delicious!

Above all, the greatest pleasure (and there are many to choose from) was giving the gift of language. Even helping our host brothers and sisters with their English homework was rewarding in ways I had never imagined, and it was slowly being reciprocated as we learned the French language. And this was but the very beginning of our journeys abroad.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

What an Indian Wedding! Bec debriefs on her first week in India

Indian Wedding!

George and I have been in India for just over a week now! What an
adventure it has been! We thought it was about time that we update you
on incredible India and what we have been doing.

After a long day of traveling from Sydney to Udaipur, India, running
through Singapore airport trying to make our plane on time, travel
sickness and the joys of customs we finally made it delhi! Delhi
airport was an experience in itself. Everyone stared! Customs men
walked around with massive guns and the heat finally hit us. After
arriving in Udaipur we were met at the airport by one of our in
country agents, ravi and taken to the volunteer house in Bedla.

On our first day we met the two other volunteers that were already in
the house Amy and Jo, Amy is Australian and Jo is from the UK. They
are both lovely. Over the first few days we had orientation, which was
going through everything we would be doing and just settling in to
life in India! Which is REALLY REALLY HOT!!! We experienced the crazy
driving of the Indians, they beep at EVERYTHING! Beep, beep, beep! The
rickshaws (taxis) in India are also an experience in themselves. They
are made for 6 people but you can have as many as 20 people crammed on
them! We took one into the city for our city tour, and after a while
it becomes part of everyday life.

Bec & George
After our three days of orientation, we started our teaching. George
and I have been placed at the day care centre in bedla which is a 3
minute walk from the house. We love it! The kids are some of the
cutest kids we have ever seen! They are so little and very happy!
Sometimes it is a struggle as they try to talk Hindi to us but we
can’t understand them. They call me Dee Dee and George Sir. We have
been teaching them numbers, alphabet and animals so far. We also teach
them how to wash their hands properly.

As well as teaching all the volunteers work with the boys at the
orphanage. The boys there are great, they are welcoming and all
excited to see us. We do craft and games with them. The other day we
made snakes with them and they loved it!

The other day we all got invited to go to an Indian wedding!!! Which
was soooo exciting! I brought a saree to wear and we all dressed up
nice. It was so amazing, so colourfull and a beautiful experience. It
is an experience that is sooo hard to describe. They are so many
colours, ceremonies and food!!! It was a once in a lifetime

To sum it all up our first week was up and down.. but mostly up. We
are more settled now and excited for what the next 11 weeks have in
store for us!

Until the next time


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chilling in BA - Week 3 for our Argentina Gappers

Weeeeek Threeee already! Whoah! It seems that fall has smacked Argentina straight in the face this week, the weather has gotten really cool! Our rooms have been fitted out with various types of heater, some of which look similar to the Sun...

A huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Esther, with whom we celebrated her 19th Birthday this week... for about three days! There was a party, and a night out and another party, complete with oreo's, lays, two delicious cakes and Chinese food!

Other than that, this week in Buenos Aires was fairly chilled, with Spanish lessons continuing and volunteering becoming more and more exciting and even more and more exhausting! We've also spent more time exploring the city we're calling home. A trip to La Boca where we saw the famous brightly coloured buildings, tango dancers in the street and naturally an invisible man. We saw dozens of mannequins in this very touristy area as well as La Boca Stadium where some of us will be travelling to in the near future to see the Super Classico, River vs. Boca game!

The night life in BA is also INCREDIBLE! The Roadhouse being a focal point for pre gaming and gathering before taking on the city under the starst. After meeting many new friends at the R2A Pizza Night, the Roadhouse is busy as ever with new faces and more fun almost constantly - all hours of the day and night! This fun however has come at a cost, with both Megan and Rowan sustaining war wounds and everyone, especially Connor has a story to tell!

As a group we've also braved the cinema to see Thor in 3D. Unsure if we would be sitting through 2 hours of Spanish that we could only semi understand, we queued up with EVERYONE else in BA to buy a ticket... and popcorn.. and icecream... and M&M's... To our delight we throughly enjoyed the film in English, and have yet another story to write home about!

Best Wishes, Sarah!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Weekend away at the Cape Coast

Ok well, it has been just over a week from my last blog and A LOT has happened!
So from the start, we were on our way to meet our new families, it seriously felt like we were all orphans being thrown into our new family for three months!

I, among with all the other girls were very nervous. Maja and I met our family first, they were not as welcoming as we wished for, but Henry, our host father, was really nice. We then went back onto the road and dropped MA and Erin at their family and we were welcomed by the whole neighbourhood of jumping children! Eliza and Iona's family were next and their two little host sisters ran up to them and hugged them, it was very cute.

Monday was an exciting day,we all met at the shell station and hoped in a tro-tro and headed to the helping hand orphanage. When the kids saw us they sprinted to us and gave us huge hugs :) All they want is to be hugged. The orphans just fell asleep in our arms. We spent the first day just playing with them, and we had to work especially hard to make them smile! They taught us songs, we taught them, and I serously felt like Maria in the sound of music singing to the children! On tuesday we did some gardening for the orphange, planting some hedges etc, but we soon realised that all us girls were pretty hopless as seth always came to the rescue to complete digging a hole! I seriously want to take all the little children home, especially Stefan, a 5 month old boy, he is very cute!

On Wednesday we planned to paint but as it was raining, we decided to clean out the whole inside, especially the supply closet. the kids happily joined in trying to find the missing pieces to puzzles! Thursday we spent painting a room blue and green! I have come to a conclusion that Maja is the pro painter, Erin is the perfectionist, Iona is the spaz some how getting blue in the middle of the green wall, MA is the breaker (she broke a chair and ended uppainting the window), eliza is the shorty who always used that as an excuse not to paint at the top and me well i like to think i was a good painter, but the mess across the whole floor...that was me!

Friday arvo we caught a tro-tro to a well needed break at Cape Coast. $5 a night accommodation turned out pretty nice. It was eliza's 19th birthday so we shouted her dinner, we had pizza and it was amazing to have WESTERN FOOD AGAIN! We finished the night with a competitve game of UNO, and Erin ended up winning, I shall get her next time!

We visted Cape Coast castle on the Saturday which was so beautiful and interesting to learn about. we went through the slave dungeons and cells and it is so weird to think that we are walking on the same ground as the slaves did 300 years ago. We did a bit of shopping and then had a cocktail on the beach, now this is what i am talking about! The waves were to strong to swim, somehow i ended up getting dumped in the shallows and knocking into a woman!

Sunday we tried to go to the market, but our 2 taxis got separated some how so we ended up forgetting the market and went straight to Kakum national park :) The canopy walk was a joy, Eliza was terrified and walked like an old woman the whole way, while I enjoyed scaring everyone jumping and swaying on the 40m high rope bridges! After an hour wait on the side of a road for a free tro tro, we finally got back to cape coast then back home! It was a good weekend away and really good to hang with all the girls again :)

Maja and I start teaching tomrorrow and i shall fill you in on the next blog :)
I'll leave you now and finish our quest for the cheapest digestive biscuits in swedru :)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Peruvian Mothers Day - Emma's blog # 2

What a few weeks we have had! Peru just keeps throwing amazing opportunities at us. Since my last blog we have started teaching at the school in Ccorao. On our first day we were met with at least a hundred smiling faces who couldn´t stop calling us ´amigos!´ We were showered in confetti (a special Peru challenge.. often done on important occasions such as weddings...)and we played for what felt like hours with the children on their only just stable play equipment. Our arms were sore from lifting amigo after amigo onto the monkey bars and us girl´s hair was exhausted from the little girls plaiting our hair.. I think even Harry´s hair managed to squeeze into a little one. No-one has dared test their Spanish to try and get a haircut. The drive to school is through the beautiful Sacred Valley and often we see llamas roaming the grass verge beside the road... truly Peru!

Each day the children greet us just as excitedly as they did on that first day and the teachers also appreciate us being there. In the class room we all realise how important our extra Spanish lessons are. ´Silencio!´- is now starting to loose it´s original effect. We are teaching our way through the colours, numbers and greetings and now are working on making sure that they actually remember it... This as we have all found out is a little more difficult. Each day at school is different, today for example classes were cancelled and the children put on a special Mother´s Day concert.

Each grade did a performance of some sort such as a song or some traditional dancing. Apple bobbing even featured on the program as did ´a performance by the Australian Amigos.´ Luckily for us we were able to rustle up a medley of Waltzing Matilda, Home Among the Gum Trees and some juggling by the boys with only a very very very small amount of preparation time. Once again another example of typical Peruvian style.

Our construction project of building a 2nd green house to allow the school to grow more fresh produce throughout the year and support itself is coming along mighty fine if I may say so myself. We have all learnt very quickly to dig and pick and hopefully are ready to start on making cement for the foundations. Unfortunately though we need to get out all the rocks of the soil. For this part of the process we are trying to convince our ´pupils´ that if they do not listen to our Spanish disciplinary threats that this will be their detention. It´s not going well so far....

We have all settled into our families and the awkward meal time conversations are improving as Liliana our Spanish teacher equips us with more phrases. However I also believe that this improvement is combined by the fact that we are all learning more hand gestures then we ever thought were possible. Our Saturday night pre´s were spent at Liv´s and Louisa´s house where we experienced a Peruvian birthday party. Their host dad enjoying a few special dances with some Australians. Later that night the boys made very close friends with an incredibly nice and generous guy named Ronald McDonald whilst us girls were left to fight the wildness at Mama Africa... All by ourselves. This all followed an amazing Friday night when most of us went camping and pitched our tents in some Inca ruins. We gathered as much of the little firewood available to create some warmth and make us feel a little at home. We spent one of the most incredible nights gazing up at the millions of stars (including our favourite Southern Cross) and again in the morning we opened our tent zip to stare across at the mighty landscape. Some mountains with snow others without. Then some had a lazy morning exploring the ruins and playing cards atop this mountain (which had been a 3hr solid walk uphill) whilst Charlie, Harry and I went exploring and swam under the coldest waterfall ever!

Looking forward to what the next week will bring!


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Oh My Smig! Ghana Girls adjust to their new surroundings


So, first of all I am sorry I have not written earlier, there was a black out in Accra and it has lasted 2 days and is probably still going, HOW INCONVIENT, but parentals we are all still alive so you can stop worrying and waiting by the phones. Haha!

After a long 35 hour journey, of no sleep, too much food and major tetris competitions with Erin, the Ghana girls arrived in Ghana greeted by a wave of hot sweaty air! Say hello to sweating, who says you need to go on a lemon detox when you can just come to Ghana! In a very over whelming airport with trolley wars going on between everyone to get out of the airport, it was a relief to be met by Tina and Seth in their Australian t-shirts and big white smiles and gorgeous Felicia, who gave us all motherly welcome hugs. For most of us, it still had not hit that we were actually in Ghana but that soon changed when we observed goats running across roads, people sleeping on the ground, the lower class houses and the dirty clothing of the

The colours of Africa are amazing though, all the women wear bright
colours and fabrics, and I am so looking forward to wearing the traditional Ghanaian
clothing. Seth, Tina and Felicia live in the upper class area of Accra, so it
was quite a relief to get out of the chaotic streets. We were staying in a room with bunks and a bathroom, and it was a relief to have a shower….well a bucket shower, which was a very interesting experience! Paulina, the cook made us a delicious lunch, and we all liked it! But it is obvious that T and S are slowly acclimatizing us into the food starting with a more westernized food then going into traditional Ghanaian food. As we were so tired, we hit the sacks at 6pm and slept a solid 12 hours!

The next day, Tina ran orientation with us where she went through the Ghanaian culture and how to greet people etc etc, and all I can say is well I have to change to right handed as doing anything with your left hand is disrespectful. Silvia took us down for our first walk to the shops to buy sim cards. Children run up to you
yelling obruni obruni, (Meaning white people) I just want to adopt them all!

Now mothers, I have to prepare you for the next bit. Seth decided to take us
down to the famous Kokrobite beach for a swim. We all jumped in the back of the
ute (and this is not the bad part haha) and went for a bumpy ride on the road. It
was so much fun at the start, waving to all the children with wind in our hair,
but that 10 min journey to the beach soon turned to a 2 hour journey minus the
beach. As it was a public holiday there were people everywhere and we were
drawing so much attention from all over. There were people coming up to us touching
us, calling us and honking us, wanting to shake our hands and saying “I want
you”. A few even tried to jump into the back with us but Seth, on the ball,
would stop the car in the traffic jam and stop them. It was a very interesting
experience, but we at least got to experience something that we can only get in

Funny moment was definitely when Eliza waved to a lady and she came
up to her and said “you wave at me” and E says “yes I did” then the lady goes “you
want to be my girlfriend” and E misunderstanding the question goes “yes”, and
then the lady says while touching her chest, “you want to bathe with me” and Eliza
thinking swimming at the beach and not actually in a bath goes “yes”. Eliza soon
realized as we had to tell her that that lady was looking for a girlfriend. Seth
then decided as it was too busy and we were still far away from the beach to go
home as it was probably not safe for us! Lucky us as 10 people died at the
beach that day from drowning and being trampled!!!!!!! See parents it was good
we got hassled as we did not go to the beach!

The next day we went in our first ever tro, tro!!! Which is a van type vehicle which takes you to specific places. We made our way to the biggest market in Accra, the Makola market! And ohsmig (our new replacement word for oh my god) it was big!!! Silvia showed us some gorgeous material, so we can get some stuff tailored made!yay! It was so hot in the markets, the amount of sweat we sweat I swear we can fill our drink bottle up haha. We brought Mickel a new ball, that is Felicia and Seths
gorgeous 5 year old son, as his had a hole in it. We made our way to the beach
for some drumming and dancing lessons. It was so much fun!!!! Erin was the
funniest to watch, she would concentrate so hard on the man drumming then on
her own hands which were stiff as wood! Maja did not know the difference
between her left and right hand!

M.A was the pro on the shaker! Eliza has no musical timing at all! Iona pulls
the funniest faces when she has to repeat a sequence! And me, shannyn, I like
to think I was the expert haha. We got taught some dancing moves and it is all
in the hips, it was so much fun.

So the next day was definitely an experience! The power went out YAY……not. It is so hot at night when the fan is not on and really difficult to sleep. Today we were nearly acclimatized getting up early at 6 and going to bed at around 8! We had a language lesson which was interesting considering I cant even speak English properly! We then had our first cooking lesson, and mum, sorry but I still have not improved as a cook, 2 min noodles is the best you will get at home! M.A and I were making red red, a bean dish and Eliza, erin and Iona made a rice dish, and maja had a snooze as she has a cold. The amount of oil they put in their food is astonishing, one serve forthem will be a weeks worth of oil for us at home! And we were pretty proud ofthe result, it was yummmmy!

We then gotready for the beach, yes take 2, and Oh smig, was it worth it. The beaches are beautiful here in Ghana! I am talking white sand, waves, palm trees and traditional fishing canoes. We spent 2 hours in the warm water and it was just what we needed! Definitely going back soon! Dinner was not the best we had had, it was yam and a cabbage stew which was so spicy our mouths were on fire! So we endeavored out on our first solo trip to the big supermarket. Picture this, 6 white girls sitting on a curb of a street at 8pm drinking banana milk, not really what we imagined coming to Ghana, but it was so gooood to have some dairy!

Today the power was still off, so another bucket shower and no fans. We got our things together and now we are heading off to our host families. We are excited and nervous!


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

33 days in, and Ecuador opens up to Gappers

Hola tambien! (as you can already see our spanish is getting better - roughly translates to "hello again", i think..)

Welcome back to the second installment of the fortnightly Ecuador blog.

´Twas but a mere 33 days ago when we arrived in Quito, Ecuador. And since then we have travelled to the traditional Andean village of Otavalo, the chilled out little surfing village, which on the rare occasion kindly gives out food poisoning, of Canoa, and somewhere i am just about to tell you allllll about..

Montañita, the fourth stop on our tour of Ecuador. Yet again we jumped on an overnight bus to Guayaquil. We arrived in Guayaquil at around 10am in the morning, quickly purchased out tickets to Montañita, and went to the bus terminal and waited an hour before departing. Following further two and a half hour bus ride we arrived at our destination.

Despite the blistering heat and battling through sweat compromising our vision, we soldiered on to seek accomodation. After five minutes of walking across a bridge then back towards the beach, we found what was to be our accomodation for the next three nights, Hostal Kundulini (my understanding is that Kundalini is a form of meditation or yoga or something spiritual) - situated directly on the beach a two minute walk out of town (via la playa - playa means beach), it was the perfect place to stay. Due to the inconvenient check in time of 3pm, being it just 12:30 we decided to go into town for lunch. Following lunch we had a little wander around the streets and various stalls which swamped the gutters.

Montañita was chilled out, we did the normal touristy things one does when in Montañita - we spent most of our time on the beach tanning (Sam failed, she got burnt instead. And mich turned black), swimming, i befriended a nice Ecuadorian dude in the water and had a bit of a surf on his board, we constantly roamed the streets day and night buying whatever there was to buy. On Saturday night we went out on the town and danced to the local tunes, with some (just one) members of the group suppossedly making fools of themselves, despite successfully executing radical, classic, and quite interpretive moves to perfection, to which the locals popped their hips and raised their bushy eyebrows.

On the tuesday, we caught what we thought would be a two hour bus trip, which ended up being a five hour trip, to the hole i was talking about before, Manta. Eight hours passed and we arrived at home in Quito Wednesday morning, and pretty much slept all day.

Thursday marked a day that has been claimed to be "holy", so we ventured into the picturesque streets of the Old Town to have a wander around some chapels and museums which were, because of the day, "suppossedly" free to enter and explore (turns out they weren´t, hence the quotation marks surrounding the word "supossedly"). Our first stop was a chapel called Compañia de Jesus or something like that - a pretty ordinary looking monument standing outside of it, throughout my life i, and i am sure the other volunteers have as well, have been told "not to judge a book by it´s cover", well i did anyway. Turns out i shouldn´t have as the inside of the chapel was as gold as an American pimp´s teeth. The majority of the interior of the chapel was covered in gold leaf - every pillar every cross every jesus every whatever you can think of (except the pews and floor and windows and some of the jesus´). Although some people claimed it as a "marvel" to look at, personally i think that the gold could have been put to better use, like towards the splendors of nature or improving schools and whatnot. But hey, each to their own. Following the chapel (which we paid $2 for - why would they charge people to enter? Do they need to buy MORE gold to put in there...?) we went to an old hospital turned into a museum, which was sorta interesting, and also some parts of it were interactive which was a bonus (instruments and musique).

A wet, miserable, rainy Good Friday came along and we all ventured back into the old town to see the annual Easter parade, where 50,000 locals (and a few tourists) flog the streets of the old town to see floats with the likes of jesus and mary parading on around on them and purple clu-clux-clan dudes wandering around looking a bit freaky.

Before we knew it Saturday came around. Kate, Sam, and Mich went into the Carolina park to see what i believe to have been orchids and a butterfly farm, and whilst they were fluttering around in the orchids with the grown up caterpillars, Asta and I yet again went back to the old town to see the San Francisco plaza/chapel/museum, which was quite large and old and impressive. After the San Francisco we went to some markets in a parked named Parque Eljido, ´twas here where Asta and i bought two scarfs - one sporting blue and white stripes, the other the two glorious colours of the YELLOW AND BLACK. Fitting being the day Richmond beat north. But moving on...


Easter Sunday arrived with excitement due to our general understanding of Easter - devouring piles upon piles of chocolate bilby´s, lindt bunnies, caramel filled eggs, and various cadbury products. However to our disappointment, turns out Ecuador takes the more religious view on Easter, almost completely disregarding the importance of chocolate on this very day. Unbelievable. Nevertheless, with our chins up and money in hand purchased enough locally produced organic chocolate to satisy our cravings from the supermarket.

And that´s pretty much what´s been happening the past two weeks. We´re back at school and it´s the same as usual. And i think we´re going to Cotopaxi this weekend (a volcano overlooking Quito).

Oh, and in case you haven´t heard - a volcano (not nearby i think, is near a town by the name of Baños - which is coincedentally the exact word for "toilet". Nice town.) Jokes aside, Baños is actually a very nice town and we plan to go there, but probably not any time soon as the residents have been evacuated. We actually recieved an email from the Australian Embassy talking about it.

Alrighty then, that´s pretty much all i have to say, and again please forgive me for any spelling mistakes or grammar as i´m on a tight schedule.

So for now, from all of us...


p.s. GO TIGES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Easter Escape in Mendoza

Two weeks in now, and we've already seen and done so many amazing things, The Flower, San Telmo and Eva Peron's Cemetery! Most importantly to note, is that we've all recovered from the seemingly never ending jet lag and settled into our new surroundings and routine! We've managed to suss out the best places to buy groceries, get chinese food and do the laundry, go to the gym and take out money. With everyone feeling very grown up cooking, cleaning and generally taking care of ourselves and each other I think we've got a pretty good thing going here at the moment. As a group, learning Spanish is perhaps one of the top priorities, with the majority or us taking lessons in one way or another at the Spanish school in the R2A office next door to our residence.

Over the Easter Weekend 12 of our group headed out to Mendoza on a 12 hour overnight bus for a weekend of adventure in the Andes. We enjoyed pizza and free tequila, and did not enjoy the hangovers the following day. We trekked through the Andes, white water rafted in glacial water and absailed down what was OBVIOUSLY the highest mountain in the whole of South America. We spent an afternoon wine tasting through the vineyards, visiting an olive oil factory and enjoying our 'treehouse' style bedrooms, which featured Three x 3 bunk beds! Our other team member spent the Easter break chilling and exploring BA and enjoying the independence and quiet of a mostly empty hostel!

This week however, the true work began, with orientations and the beginnings of our Volunteering! Between the 13 of us, Jess, Izzy, Rowan and Bree are volunteering at an Orphanage, Charlie & Connor at a school and Arabella, Rosie, Esther, Phoebe, Millie, Megan and Sarah are at 'LIFE' volunteering in the villes and slums. Our schedules range between 2 -5 days a week with an average of 3 - 6 hours each day. I think all in all, the experience so far has been hugely rewarding, even though we've only just started. It will no doubt be very challenging, but this I suppose is what we're here for...

We all send our love, thoughts and best wishes home!