Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Final goodbyes for our Gappers in Ghana

The final blog from Shannyn in Ghana. What fantastic adventures the Gappers have had in Ghana!

So i dont know about you, but i am very sad that this will be the last blog i am writing from ghana!
n the last 3 weeks alot has happened so i guess i shall start with leaving our home swedru....
The last week of teaching was very enjoyable, but i am not going to lie, i cried a bit as i did not want to leave our gorgeous class 3! Maya and I spent the last week absolutely running around swedru looking like chickens with their heads chopped off trying to organize everything for our school! we brought little pencil cases for the kids filled with all types of goodies, but the night before our big class party, we realised that we had forgotten a student as his name was not on the list, so the next morning we woke up so early trying to find any shop that was open to get the stationary!

The class party was so much fun, we bought balloons, snacks and icecream for them and we danced for hours to waka waka! the kids get so into the dancing it is so hilarious, i wished the whole time i could swing my hips like them! Sir patrick presented us certificates which was so nice of him and he said a prayer for Maya and I that made me cry, and it was here we could see how much we have done and made a difference for Prince of Peace! Maya and I were so excited as we had one more surprise for the class! Thanks to our last minute sponsers, we were able to by tables and chairs for the class! they were so excited, jumping up and down saying "thankyou madame, thankyou madame" and sir patrick was so surprised! Maya and I were very happy with our work we have done for the school!

Saying goodbye to the kids was one of the hardest things I and probably all of the group have done! It broke my heart when the kids were like "are you coming on Monday" "are you coming on Tuesday", it was so sad as we had to tell them we won’t see them for a very long time :( Most of the kids were crying as they walked us to the end of the street! Little Prince was in hesterics and it was here i realised that they do really appreciate what Maya and I and other volunteers do for them! I will never forget the moment walking away from the gorgeous class 3 waving to us!

Iona and Eliza bought icecreams for the whole school and similarly they found it so difficult to leave the children. I am really going to miss being called "madame"! it beats "obruni" ANY day! Ma and Erin threw a party for the kids at the orphanage and we all came for the last part of the party on the Saturday! The kids were having a great time eating and singing! My favourite moment of that day was definately when all the kids started singing "Doh a deer a female deer" (as Erin and Ma had taught them) and we all joined in for a group sing along :) Saying goodbye to the orphanage kids was so heartbreaking as well :( every single one of them were in tears so of course, we all teared up! Its hard because they don't understand that we are going because they always ask if we are going to be here next Monday or Friday! It was definately a very emotional week!

On the Friday night, we had our going away dinner where all the families from the group came toghether! It was a very enjoyable night! My and I pulled up our mum and had a great boogie with her and taught her how to shimmie, she was absolutely loving it, she could not stop laughing! we also taught our family the sea saw shimmie when one goes forward and one goes back, and they were literally doing it for the whole night! It was so nice to have a night where we can just relax and spend the last moments with our families!

On the Sunday, Maya and I had the lovely experience of going to church....not one hour...not two hours...not three hours...try 4 hours of sitting in the church, having no idea what is going on as the service is in a different language! there were times where we had to poke each other so we did not fall asleep! It was definitely an experience, i want say that i would do it again though! On Sunday night, Maya and I had the privlidge of going out with our 2 sisters as a good bye celebration! It was so funny watching Linda dance, she is actually an amazing dancer always swinging her hips and moving, i told her that she should go on Africa's got talent, I seriously think she should win! Linda tried to teach me some of her moves, but of course I failed (i really need to learn how to swing my hips smoothly).

So the monday morning 2am wakeup arrived where we left swedru! our family was so cute, they woke up and walked us to our car waiting for us! it was so sad saying goodbye to them! they have been so amazing to us and we are going to miss them SO much!

so now all the goodbyes are over, lets get onto the 2 week travel.....
dont we all love being squished in a bus, swapping sweat and inhaling their dirty smell scents! i know i do....! So we headed to our first stop Kumasi which was a lovely 8 hour ride of my bum being num, 40 billion pot holes, a ladies elbow nearly taking my head out as she was always looking in her bag...all i can say is fun fun fun!

So our easy going day in kumasi soon changed when we got pulled over by the cops from overloading in the taxi! and of course, the taxi driver pins it on erin telling her that he is taking her to court! But dont worry we all stepped in doing our innocent voice "sir, we are sorry this is our first time here and we did not know you cannot overload here", and hell yess we got off and of course the policemen wants our number (Why are policemen here SO seedy)!! We spent the rest of the day looking in museums and souvenir shopping!

We then hoped on a bus with air conditioning (took me an hour to get over the fact that there was airconditioning on the bus and i was actually cold for once!) to Tamale where we met our love of our life, our one and only street breakfast lady who makes the most amazing street milo and egg sandwiches! we were seriously contemplating paying her to follow us around ghana, because her food is THAT good, i could seriously talk about my love for her for hours but should probably move on!

So we hired our personal driver to take us to MOLE NATIONAL PARK!!!! Mole was so beautiful, it was like a scene from the movie, we arrived at the front entrance and there were monkeys running across it! we were like hellooo safari! So we were told before we arrived that it is very rare to see elephants so we made a plan we will not leave until we see the african elephant! well we could of left 10 mins into the park because as we arrived at the hotel and looked at the stunning view over the water hole, there were 3 elephants walking! we were like OMG ran for our camera and took hundreds of photos where the elephant is hardly visible in them! lucky we have MA's massive camera with her mammoth zoom so we could at least see the ears!

We felt so in africa, sitting on the top of our safari vechile with our cameras looking in every direction until we saw animals! So i am proud to say we saw 4 different breeds of antelopes, a snake, a few elephants (which eliza nearly scared away as she screamed really loud when she saw it) and crocodiles! a preety succesful trip! the next day we did a walking safari and god were we lucky. we saw a family of 9 male elephants swimming in the water! it was such a magnificant scene and we were only 20 metres away from them! we sat there for ages, wide eyed amazed at these gorgeous creatures! my memory card on my camera is basically filled up with pictures of these elephants, i just went a tad crazy!

The next couple of days we went further north towards the border! So Erin and I were the lucky ones, we were in a different taxi from the others and we found out that the others taxi had broken down and the taxi driver had jumped on the back of a randoms motorbike and left them stranded there! we were like, what the hell are we going to do, they are in the middle of the country with hardly any taxi's coming past! So we found a taxi and sent him to find them, but he said he could not find them and we were like WHAT tottally stressing on the where abouts of the other ghana girls! it turns out that the taxi driver came back to them, only he got a lift in the boot of another taxi and took them to meet us! he was like "i pick you up tomorrow" and they were like "only if you get a new car"!. Then in paga, we bumped into him again on his motorbike, and then when we were stranded on the road waiting for the taxi, guess who pulls up with his horrible horn, YES the taxi driver! is it possible that he was not stalking us, and he was like "my taxi is always free for you" haha.

Anyway, in paga we went to a crocodile pond filled with 200 crocs which was a nice calming fact! we all got to hold the tail of a 3 metre croc and get this, sit on his back! how many of you can say you have done this! the guide was like i go swimming in the lake all the time and they dont hurt me because they are my friends! and get this, the crocs come out of the lake and cross the road to the guides house at night and lay eggs there! ummmmm why isnt he freaked out my massive crocs sleeping next to him! After the ponds, we walked a supposed to be 2 km walk but try 5 km in the heat to a slave camp! It was so interesting to hear about the punishements they used to get, like carving a plate out of stone when they misbehaved! we even got to watch a drumming show where they made the sounds of a drum by hitting rocks!
So in the days that followed, we made more very long journeys back down to kumasi then towords HoHoe where we entered the volta region which is absolutely gorgeous! when i thought of ghana, i would never think it was actually this green! So we stayed a night in a monkey sanctuary where we stayed in a home stay and got to feed the cute monkeys bananas! we even had dinner in a mud hut which was so exciting, again i was like "wow this is so african". The next day we went to Wli falls where My and I decided to do the upper falls and the other girls did the lower falls and OMG was it a hike! not going to a gym in 3 months really does catch up to you when you literally rock climbing up a mountain! its been more than a week and my arms are still sore! The 2 hour climb to the top was so hard but worth it for the amazing views we got to experience! and reaching the upper waterfall was such a relief! We did plan to go swimming but it was like a hurricane up there and we were so cold! the other girls went swimming and they said it was very cold but nice and refreshing!

After HoHoe we made our way back to our incountry agents house where we were greeted with big hugs from our 2 big black mammas, tina and felica and dad Seth! i absolutely loved it, when we got there, Tina was like "Go to you room", that made us feel so at home :) :) we all love it at this house, and the food is SO amazing!
So the last couple of days we revisted kokrobite and Osu just to get cheese is literally the only reason! and been just having a wind down before we leave which is today!
oh i found out yesterday that I have ringworm which is exciting, i just love having all these circle rashes up my arm! but hopefully the medicine will help it go away soon!
I am so sad, I absoltuely do not want to leave! I LOVE it here, the people, the food (sort of if you take away the rice haha and the fish), our school, the orphanage, the ghana girls! there are so many fantastic memories here and i just dont want to leave!
but most of all i will miss being able to buy anything out of a tro tro window hahah and yes i saw the most random thing being sold, it was a unicorn on wheels with a handle you can push along the ground YEP that definately wins most random thing!

love from shannyn xxx

Farewell dinners for our UniBreakers in Nepal

Here are some final photo's from our UniBreakers in Nepal, and their last adventures in Pokhara...

Photo updates from our UniBreakers in Cambodia

Take a look at some of these awesome photo's from the new library in one of our schools in Cambodia...

Our UniBreakers are making progress in Peru

An update from our UniBreakers in Peru...

This month the volunteers are doing really great lesson plans. Emma is having lots of fun teaching the kindy kids the hot potato and the hokey pokey, Jess' background in physical education ensures that PE is always filled with fun games, Ryan is conducting lots of imaginative art classes and Imogen is enjoying speaking English with the older students.
One thing that we have introduced this month to grades 5 and 6 is their own personal journal. At the end of every lesson we encourage them to write about their feelings, goals and wishes and give them a chance to think about the future. Jess has written up a list of questions and instructions in English so that the next volunteers can continue doing this.

Our main goal this month is to get the garden beds in the school up and running again so that we can grow more produce for the school kitchen. Once completed, we will allocate a plot to each grade to look after. In addition to this, with the help of Jess' additional fundraised money, we will finish the construction of a community member's house. If time allows we will install the floor boards, windows and kitchen and purchase new storage containers, bedding and electricity.

House visits
House visits are usually conducted during talleres in the afternoons, however with Ryan's background as an occupational therapist, we have used this time elsewhere.
Lucia, a monther of four who lives in the community is in desperate need of rehabilitation after brain sugery. Ryan has been working with our local social worker three times a week to help Lucia communicate and exercise her memory. Emma, who has a high level of Spanish, has been helping Ryan through their sessions to translate and help encourage Lucia to talk.

With Ryan and Emma working with Lucia, Imogen and Jess have their had hands full with talleres so we have not done any house visits this month.

Talleres has been extremely busy this month. Imogen has really become interested in the Jewelry making and has helped the women select different colour combinations and new designs. Jess has been really helpful in all the book keeping and has made some great suggestions on how to make the processes more efficient.

Families are going great. Everyone is getting on really well with their new parents and are enjoying the time they get to spend with them. No complaints on the food either however Jess thought is was slightly strange getting cake one night instead of dinner and being sung happy birthday for no apparent reason. Something definitely got lost in translation.

Last weekend the volunteers had a great time paragliding and doing a tour of the sacred valley. Emma and Imogen had this weekend free but Ryan went fishing and Jess went mountain biking. In the coming weeks they will be doing the Lares trek, Machu Picchu and the Amazon. So far everyone has really been enjoying the tours.

The Spanish lessons are really paying off. All the volunteers are improving everyday and are finding it much easier to get by on their own. Imogen is enjoying them so much she is taking additional classes every week.

Until next time, Adios :)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Our UniBreak Health Science students making an impact in Cambodia!

Almost the end for our UniBreak students in Cambodia...

Just to let you know, the Sydney Uni Faculty of Health Science group left us and they all seemed extremely happy with their work and experience. We had a fantastic leaving dinner which everyone enjoyed and they all thanked us, the translators and drivers with cards and photos for our hard work. They have achieved so much in only 4 weeks, I only hope the center can maintain and utilise the resources they have been given. The FHS group promised they would promote to other students to do the module, purely to provide a consistent number of pysios to the centre.

The remaining five have a busy week ahead. Steph finishing the library at the primary School, Emma organising the volleyball tournament for the military men, Dan juggling between SHCC and school and Marie and Nat managing the classes without the others. Hayley will be sadly missed at the school. She was very motivated and had everything under control in terms of lesson planning. They have left a manual behind which is being translated into Khmer so the staff can continue afterthey have gone. The physios also have left an instruction manual behind which will count towards their course credits.

Yesterday Thomas and I took Dan, Emma and Marie out cycling and templing - we covered about 40KM so I am not sure how productive we will all be today!!

Thanks for sending a great group, can we have more like them?? It would be fantastic to have more physio students to sustain what these guys already started.

Jesse is mastering French on his GapBreak in France

Here is the next installment of Jesse’s blog about his GapBreak adventure in France .....

About a week ago my host parents took me to the nearby city of Cavaillon to eat dinner with the godparents of my host brother and sister. They were an elderly couple of upwards of seventy-years, and one with true French class. Their living room was filled with expensive looking oil paintings, and they owned a well groomed Shitsu named Etoile. Later that evening, as we ate dinner, I found myself joking and entertaining the couple with stories of Australia and France and the vast differences therein in complete French. I remembered how, little more than two months ago, I was so unfamiliar with the language that I was almost too nervous to speak. And I thought to myself, I have really accomplished something here.

But enough about me. Summer has fully descended on France over the past two weeks, with many gapers taking day trips to nearby beaches on the Southern and Western French coast with their families, as well as spending hours at a time beneath the sun, and celebrating this beautiful time of year in French style. Ellen has moved to her second placement in the beautiful coastal village of Marignane, a short twenty minute drive from the booming metropolis of Marseille, and but a ten minute drive from the white sands and crystal clear waters of the Southern Coast. Likewise, Will has changed to a second placement in the Northern French city of Nantes where, although far from the other Australian gappers, he is having a great time with his new family.

Furthermore, school is out for the next eight sunny weeks, and this has freed the schedules of our normally studious host brother and sisters immensely, and, likewise, has allowed them the time to show us some of the treasures of France. Sarah Smith made the two hundred odd kilometre journey to Spain with her host family, and spent a week their enjoying the Spanish culture, before later spending a night in the sovereign city of Monaco on the magnificent Cote d’Azur. Sarah Wray enjoyed a weekend in the suburbs of Marseille when her host family drove their combi van there, whilst Maddie enjoyed a weekend spent with her real family in London.

Whilst Henry made a day trip to Lyon, the second most populous city of France, my host parents took me on an overnight trip through Provence (where fields of vibrantly coloured lavender bloomed on either side of the rode) and to their holiday home in Grenoble, a village in the Alps but twenty kilometres from the Italian border. As we entered the mountain range, I saw that the seemingly ephemeral snow that peaked each mountain had melted away since my last visit, though the recent change of seasons had made the beautiful mountain ranges all the more verdant, and teeming with life. A somewhat exhausting hike into the surrounding mountains the next morning exposed more of this luscious scenery, and I saw the liquid remains of the melted snow trickling down the mountains to join the immense freshwater river that ran between them.

On a more superficial note, the Soldes (sales) that officially started at the change of seasons has seen many of us travelling to the commercial havens of such cities as Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Montpellier to capitalise on the clothes, music, books and souvenirs offered at bargain prices therein.

Last Thursday also marked the official launch of the Festival d’Avignon, which saw the Provencal city filled with tourists of all lands and languages. A group of three of us met up at the pub which has become our hangout and enjoyed some sunny French drinking before heading to the main street to enjoy the lively, colourful spectacle of parade floats that followed.

That’s all from me for now. The next two weeks are set to be two of the busiest, most fun-packed weeks of my life, with a group camping trip and music festival at the coastal city of Argelès-Sur-Mer, the five-day fete of the village which has become my home, and an ending trip to Paris all in the works. They will, however, mark the end of our stays with our families in France, a date which is approaching quickly and with dread.

Until then,

Our Gappers are settling into Village life in Nepal

The first blog from our Gappers in Nepal...

Namaste! It was with enormous excitement (and a hint of nervousness) that the 2011 Nepal Gap Year group met on Tuesday the 5th of July to commence the trip so much preparation and anticipation has been invested into. An A380 took the majority of us to Changi Airport, Singapore, where we spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in a hallway, before our second bout of transit the next morning, flying us to Kathmandu. Our first impressions of the country were mixed. The nation’s renowned relaxed approach to life was evident in the way I had left my camera in my pocket, setting off the metal detector, and yet the guard gave me a look to say “oh well” before returning to his magazine. The journey to our hotel was chaotic to say the least - after getting harassed for tips we were split up into two taxi loads and although myself, Will and Virginia arrived safely and promptly, we were left waiting for 30 suspenseful minutes as Meg and Michael were still yet to turn up. Nonetheless, our fears were put at ease as they eventually arrived (there had been a mix-up in the hotel drop-off zone) and we were able to bask in the fascinating surroundings we now found ourselves in. We spent four days in the city, whilst admittedly smoggy, still full of colour and life. Our time was occupied by exploring the area, shopping (especially the girls’ fascination with ‘happy pants’), partaking in the local cuisine and importantly, our placement orientation course, which offered valuable insights into the Nepalese culture, fragments of language, expectations of village life and measures to ward off the many viral oddities the country has to offer.

Then on Monday, the big day arrived, where we were to make our way to the Dulal village, our home for the next three months. Two hours of bump-ridden driving, road blocks and beautiful scenery later, we arrived to find a cluster of houses residing amongst the greenery and rice paddies characterising the Kathmandu valley area. We were divided into two households. The boys were allocated to a household consisting of 9 people, including four inquisitive, playful children, a great-grandmother and a stark lack of English. The girls had similar lodgings, with a large family, several family cows, a spectacular view of the area and a much better quality of dinner time conversation, due to many family members speaking English. The days here start early (5:30am to be exact, with our host-father’s daily chanting and ceremonial horn practise), before a breakfast of tea and dal bhat (quite the staple in Nepal) and then a 15-40 minute walk along mountain tracks to our respective schools. Whilst ultimately daunting at first, we’re finding ourselves adjusting slowly to the challenges of teaching in a village school. Subjects range from English, to maths, science and even computing class (one of the schools has a basic computer room). Despite not always attentive, the children are invariably eager to learn (more so when stickers are offered) and apart from when goats and scary looking dogs burst into the classroom, things generally run smoothly. Especially in the boys’ household, where communication is limited, daily Nepali classes have proved very helpful in politely refusing third and fourth helpings of rice (with the exception of Michael), in complimenting people on their cooking (when not awkwardly confusing the phrase with the similar sounding way of calling an individual obese) and Elliot’s requested Nepali translation of the ‘extremely important’ phrase “you are very beautiful”.
Our in country agent Shamila is hugely warm, knowledgeable and helpful, always there to ensure our safety and wellbeing (fear not, parents!). Overall, we are all finding the trip a hugely rewarding, insightful and enjoyable, with everyone getting along famously and a lot more experiences ahead of us to look forward to.
Until next time, from Aidan and Will.

Our Kenyan Gappers are building a toilet block at Camp Muhaka

A blog from our Gappers in Kenya... First morning we woke up relatively early and boarded the bus for Riverside Resort to do some snorkelling on Diani Beach. The water was warm and the reef was interesting but not very colourful, still a lot to see. There were starfish, sea snakes, eels, lots of fish and sea urchins! After about an hour in the water we boat backed to the resort then headed to 40 Thieves for the afternoon, which is a beach bar and restaurant, where many good days of sunbathing and hearty meals and smoothies, and long exciting nights would be held for the rest of our trip. Here we also met two other English girls who had been travelling through Africa and full of endless, adventurous stories which by the end of this trip we’ll no doubt have too. We saw what a karate expert Gerry was as he swam out to the floating pontoon and spent some time showing the ladies and the locals alike his grand moves.

At about 4:30pm we left the beach and went back to Muhaka. We had a weird maize concoction with rice and a vegetable stew. Our bodies weren’t very used to the amount of carbohydrates we we’re consuming, but still no complaints. All the food we’ve had at Camp Kenya has been exceptional, with the occasional dud, it’s always compensated with chapatti’s (the new favourite meal which is just flour with butter and made into a pancake type thing) or a western style hamburger of some sort. The next day at the beach, Jane got a sea urchin in her leg, but with the persistent help of the beach boys and some medical aid she fought through and, No worries Mrs Stevens, your daughter is in perfect health!

The Monday following was World Environment Day, and the campers joined the children and teachers from the local primary school and Islamic primary school, to plant trees in the sacred Kaya forest. This was a great start to the programme because we could really feel motivated, being part of the community and visibly making a difference. That afternoon we prepared the area we would be using for our projects including a community toilet and some work on classrooms at the primary school. The next day was our first 21st Birthday of one of the English girls, Becky, in the group, and beginning a tradition of our group, we had a birthday cake, (bought from Nakumatt Supermarket, “Have a Nakumatt Day”) and then headed out to party it up at the Full Moon Nightclub where we had an awesome time!

The next day Camp Kenya was hungover! But even with pounding headaches or continual nausea we all powered through and made bricks or dug the 15ft pit we needed for our main project at Muhaka...the toilet block.

The one monthers or two mothers from England had left the camp for a marine Conservation camp one week and then work at an Elephant Sanctuary in Mwalunganje the next.

We left on a Monday morning for Tsavo Camp which was about a 4 hour drive from Muhaka. Here we would spend the next 12 days, and experience a whole new Kenya, red dirt, savannah trees, wildlife and all!!

x aLexandria x

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Final adventures for our Gappers in Peru!

Here's the final blog and photo's from our Gappers in Peru...What adventures they've had!

So since the interesting adventures in Bolivia the whole group has finally been reunited. The boys returned after enjoying watching Boliviano women wrestling and celebrating Nick´s 19th birthday! (I think this went over a few nights :)) While they were embarking on the perfectly safe, calm and somewhat relaxing border crossing us girls went jungle! We headed off to Manu at some hideous hour of the morning to have to catch a zipline across to our jungle lodge. Here there was 2 resident monkeys Chico and Paula who we all feel instantly in love with. Heads up to all parents.. but especially Bec´s we want pet Monkeys. So please start looking.... there was also 2 turtles and a large river otter. However I cannot forget to mention the multitude of bugs and spiders we met. Actually it felt very much like home. After 3 months of missing bugs I know I felt quite at home going to sleep with them sharing the other side of my mosquito net. We enjoyed the brake from electricity and fell very easily into the rhythym of waking up early and going to bed at around 8pm every night. We enjoyed looking for animals on the trails around the lodge and showering under waterfalls. It was amazing to just have some time away from the hustle and bustle of Cusco were we were surrounded by hundreds of types of green. Manu really is an amazing place that needs to be preserved for the sake of everyone. 
Then we arrived home to work very hard on finishing painting the school´s buildings, finishing the green house and going on last ´check -up´ house visits. Together we delievered beds and blankets, we planted beetroot and lettuce and got a significant amount of paint on ourselves as we bevered away. The last week at Ccorao was a blur of fun, sadness and excitment for what lies ahead. It was also dominated by daily visists from 2 police officers who were training all the kids to march correctly for Peru´s independence day. This to us looked more like communist training and slightly worried us about what all this straight line marching is teaching the kids. The policeman also enjoyed teaching us the correct way to paint and even the correct way to eat... go figure?! Our last classes were filled with re-teaching the kids games for our final olympics on the last day and also finishing off the wonderful art that got exhibited in the art show. Friday, our last school day with the Antip´s placement was a whirlwind day that left the kids smiling, happy, tired and with a new calulator and a sugar high. We had organised a mini olympics with many games such as ´potato and spoon´ and their all time favourite.. football! We had seperated the school into Condors, Pumas, Serpents and Llamas and the kids loved getting splattered in paint and ribbons to help us distinguish them.

The entire day didn´t go exactly to plan. As an example my little year 2´s combined with the gorgeous year 1´s got a tad to ´into´ their animals and so our football game was interrupted by the Puma´s trying to eat the Condors. However on the whole we all had fun and that is the main thing. We had invited parents to come and join in and see how talented these kids are and to share in a celebratory lunch. The art show was a huge success and I think every parent left amazed by their child´s ability. We also were lucky enough to officially open the green house with Riccado, ´SuperMan´ smashing the pot (a Peruvian custom.) I cannot adequately descirbe how greatful we are to this man and how much he will be missed by us. We were also so happy to leave him with his own plarque to remember his stirling efforts, a great set of work boots so he can leave his sandles at home and also a jacket to keep him warm.

What was so special about the last day is how thankful every single member of the Ccorao school community was for the work we have done there over the last 3 months. The assembly they held for us brought tears to our eyes and we felt spoilt rotten by the way they treated us like Gods. We were adorned with gifts to thank us and also give us another way to remember this amazing community. To recipricate there generous offers we all felt extremly glad that we could also leave giving a parting gift to the whole school and also to each individual child. To the kids we gave a party bag which we hoped was tasty and useful for future studies. But... for the school we gave them the best sound system we could get our hands on. Now they have no excuse for bad music and announcements at there assemblies!!! This gift meant the world to the Director of the school and also allowed us to show our gratitude to the school for everything the children have taught us. Leaving behind all our friends, teachers, adopted children and dogs was an extremly sad occasion and we all hope that we will be able to return in the future and see how the school is progressing... (with more green houses, a guinea pig farm and other useful projects copmleted there with the combined work of the school community and volunteers)

This week we also celebrated Nick´s birthday all together at the most insane meat reaturant. All I will say is that we had a great dinner and ate way way way way way too much meat..It was the perfect choice for Nick´s birthday dinner restuarant (expect Charlie who just enjoyed the salad bar). To end our wonderful week we went to watch the amazing optical illusion sunrise at Tres Cruces and enjoyed spending a lovely, if slightly cold weekend together. Lots of laughs were had as well as many of our favorite moments in Peru were relived. The sunrise was incredible and the sun appeared to jump above the horizon. We sat on the edge of the Andes looking down at Manu jungle and the cloud cover. The sun definetly took it´s time but in the end we were all left speechless at the array of incredible colours. Sunrises will never be the same at home....

What a rollercoaster of emotions we have had this week but what wonderdful memories we have. Chao to all our AMIGOS at Ccorao!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Week 9 already for our Gappers in India!

It's been 9 weeks for our Gappers in India... Bec gives us the latest update of their adventures!

I can’t believe we have been in this amazing, beautiful country for 9
weeks now, it feels like only yesterday that we arrived! We have
truly experienced a lot of what India has to offer but still
anticipate for more surprises which it may throw at us. I thought we
might start off our blog with a few things that we have learnt about

1. That the country runs on “Indian Time”, your food will come when
they decide to bring it, your train may be an hour late and kids come
to class half way through.
2. That there are NO traffic rules, no one drives on their side of the
road, the only thing they do try not to hit people and cows.
3. That the country is full of people who are willing to help, buy you
chai or a cold drink, and simply just have a chat with about their
story and of course where you come from!
4. That the electricity can go off at any moment, and stay off for
hours on end sometimes!
5. Teaching English as a second language can be extremely challenging
at times. I now know how all you LOTE teachers out there feel
6. Most of all we have learnt the value of friendship, being in the
same boat as 12 other people at a time forms strong friendships that
would last a life time!

Enough about what we have learnt being here though, here’s what we
have been up to the past two weeks.

As the school holidays have now officially ended, a lot of our older
kids at day care have gone back to school. We now have about 15 kids
that come on a daily basis. Some of them are quite challenging as they
can’t speak any English at all as they are only two years old but they
are so cute and do respond with actions a lot of the time. The kids
who are about 3-4 though are really improving and talking more and
more! One little girl, Reika, who is blind, has finally stop crying
every lesson and the other day, when we heard her voice of the first
time, was the most amazing thing ever, she just wouldn’t stop say “I
am Reika, I am Happy”. It really melted my heart. Over the past two
weeks we have started to teach them new songs such as alice the camel
and wheels on the bus. These two are their favorites and they
absolutely go crazy over them!

At orphanage, as the holidays are over and kids have returned, we are
finally able to teach there! George and I are teaching 5th and 6th
grade, which is a nice change to day care. The kids in our class are
incredibly well behaved and are quite smart too. We are teaching them
things such as verbs, maths, spelling and lots of different vocab. we
don’t have a proper class room to teach in (no one does at orphanage)
and sit on the floor, but we make do with what we have.

As well as our regular teaching we have been quite busy these two
weeks with social events. We went to visit a new shopping mall in
Udaipur called Celebration Mall. While we were there we all did a bit
of shopping and treated ourselves to McDonalds! We have also been
bowling this week! I teamed up with another Australian in the house,
Jo and We formed TEAM AUSTRALIA!  There are only two lanes at the
bowling alley so we always have to bowl in teams of two, which is fun!
We have also been to café coffee day quite a few times to indulge in
some amazing coffee! We have also visited a lot of local cafes and
restaurant this week for some amazing food and beautiful views

Last weekend we got to experience the Indian cinema! We saw Delhi
Belly at the movies, and what an experience it was. The crowd went
wild at numerous different parts in the movie which made it that much
more interesting. The movie was in Hindi and it didn’t have subtitles
but we were surprised by how much we could actually understand. It was
well worth the visit!

This weekend we are welcoming 12 people to the house!! That will bring
the total number of volunteers up to 21! That will be a completely new
experience in itself. It will make our last 3 weeks in the house
memorable! We are looking forward to arrival of moonson this week as
the rain we had a few weeks ago turned out only to be pre-moonsonal

Until the next time,

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Final goodbyes for our Gappers in Argentina...

And so this is it...

June ended with an absolutely FREEEEEZING trip to Uruguay and July began with Rowan's 19th Birthday and dinner at the Palace of Papas Fritas! We celebrated 4th of July with our American's in the Roadhouse in true American style, dinner at a bar, fries, chicken wings and plenty of alcohol. We've been to Casa la Gretha, the Waffle House, Hard Rock Cafe, we marched with the mothers in San Telmo, been to Recoletta Markets, San Telmo markets and sorted out odds and ends before we leave. Last night we celebrated our final Pizza Night in the Road House, as always, Pizza and wine all round, and as always a whole lot of fun.

Everyone has now finished up Volunteering, saying goodbyes with tears and precious memories. The kids we've had the pleasure of meeting and helping, in all of the placements have in various ways changed us. The experience of volunteering can not be rivalled, it has been incredibly special and overwhelmingly satisfying.

Basically, no matter what I write here will not be able to convey exactly how amazing the last three months have been. We have seen and done some of the most AMAZING things together; Mendoza, The Andes, White Water Rafting, Trekking, Hiking, Absailing, Iguazu Falls, Volunteering in the Misiones, the ruins at San Ignacio, Uruguay, cooking in the Roadhouse and cooking lessons, bus trips, nights out in Buenos Aires, Pizza Parties, boliches, Teatro Colon, Peru, Guacho Days, ice cream from across the road, Chinese, Empanadas, Jobs, Movie Nights, practicing Spanish and all the little in between things that link the 13 of us inextricably.

Tonight we're going to be moving all our mattresses into the living area for a big 'sleepover' with take away, huge tubs of ice cream and movies. Tomorrow myself, Esther and Connor are going to be on a plane home to Australia, Arabella and Charlie on their way to Europe and Izzy, Millie and Rosie on a bus to Salta. On Sunday Megan, Jess, Bree and Phoebe will be leaving for Salta and Rowan to Europe. There will no doubt be lot of tears and an obscene amount of hugs, promises to keep in contact and places to crash up and down the East Coast of Australia.

We all look forward to the next stages of our lives, but without a doubt will remember with fond memories our time in Argentina through Antipodeans. The 13 of us now share this experience and no matter what stories we tell it will always be ours.

Thanks to, especially, our parents and all those who supported us, through these last 3 months. We are tremendously grateful.

So for the last time, we send our love!


A private beach for the Gappers in Tanzania!

All is good in Tanzania... Don't have a long time the type so ill get straight to the point, the blog!

We have now past the one month mark, and are rapidly approaching halfway. The thought scares us both a little, considering how much we have grown to love the work, and of course, the community of Tanga. The new month saw the departures of some good mates from last month, as we welcome 18 new gappers from all over the world to share the experience with! This month also saw us moving to a new camp within the community, comfortably fitting the new big group, at a destination with its very own beach!

So 5 weeks in, and we can now call this camp a home. We are continuing mama's house as our main project, which will allow us to see a projects completion, start to finish, which is of course, an unbelievable experience. The day we hand over the house will be a day we will remember for a very long time. As well as this we have been continuing other various community works, such as seaweed farming, cow milking and herding, palm weaving, and teaching english to the local community.

On top of all this, last week Gemma and I experienced a safari, in Tarangire National Park. To summarise the experience is an impossible task, I guess all we can say is, you HAVE to see it for yourself! Photos will not do any justice!

All in all, time is going too fast, there is still so much to learn, so much to do, yet we have already achieved and experienced more than ever expected.

The Argentinian Gappers cross the boarder to Peru!

Sarah gives un update of their last few adventures in Argentina...

We're down to the wire now! Only two weeks to go!

Myself, Megan and Esther had an interesting trip! Our flight to Peru cancelled twice but we finally made it out on the 19th! Cusco is a beautiful city and so incredibly different to Buenos Aires. We trekked 22km into the Sacred Valley and stayed a night on the mountain enjoying a traditional Inca Ceremony amongst the ruins. We explored Aguas Calientes and were blown away by the beauty Macchu Picchu and the extent of the ruins! We went horse back riding, met up with the Peru Antips in a club, visited the highest Irish Pub in the World - thanks to Izzy and had lunch at Jack's Cafe - run by a couple from Melbourne. We enjoyed being out of the city and how different the culture really was. Our trip back however was less than smooth - Thank you Ash Cloud! Delayed in Lima and had to make an emergency landing in Cordoba where we had to get a 10 hour bus back to Bs As. Plus, our luggage got lost somewhere in transit - perhaps in Lima - we're still trying to track it down! But we're safe and sound and throughly enjoyed Peru! We wish Arabella, Charlie and Connor better luck when they depart on Wednesday.

In other news! The team in Buenos Aires had a busy week! Pheobe, Izzy, Millie and Bree enjoyed a real Estancia trip with real Argentinian Cowboys, loads of traditional Argentinian Food, as much wine as you want and a traditional folk music show! Arabella and Jess tried their hands at desserts, making heaps of brownies, crepes and biscuits! There may or may not have been an icing sugar incident. Charlie and Daniel had a John Mayer karaoke and Connor took a trip to the hospital for a throat infection and is steadily recovering! There was a trip to the Notorious Jazz Bar and to Lost, as well as enjoying the Long Weekend for 'Flag Day' where a trip to the Rose Gardens was on the cards, being 'full on Argentinan' with Mate and ChorizoPan in the rose gardens. Rosie's parents have arrived for a visit and Rosie is readily showing them around like a 'true local!'

Volunteering is still in full swing, with everyone marvelling at the bonds that have been forged over the last three months and I'm sure will be sad let go in the next few weeks.

The next few weeks are just going to be spent making the most of what we have left and preparing for whatever comes next!

All our Love - Sarah! t

Monday, 11 July 2011

Birthday Celebrations for our UniBreakers in Peru!?

Hello to all from Cusco, Peru. After Chile's volcanoe did it's best to delay or detour all of our flights into South America, all four of us made it to Sunny Cusco, eventually.

Ryan, Imogen and Emma got started teaching and working in the community of Pumamarca and with Maddy's help, quickly settled into the life of a volunteer on Peru's Challenge. On the friday of the first week, Jess arrived and was welcomed into her family. . . in style with a 'Welcome Cake', card and an Elephant with its trunk up. This small celebration was accompanied by a strangely familiar Happy Birthday - sounding song. Well at least she thought it was a welcome cake. The first night without Emma's fluency in Spanish proved interesting but fun.

A couple of nights later during dinner table conversation, Jess was saying (in English) how her birthday is in February. Emma turned to Jess and said, 'Wasn't your birthday a couple of days ago??', referring to the cake celebration. Jess began a cover up in Spanish, 'Yes, yes it was. Err I mean me hermana's birthday is in february'. Turns out that cake Jess had the other night was in fact a birthday cake!! Woops!! Some how Jess must have told them mistakingly that it was her birthday on that day. Not to worry, the cake was yummy and we'll just let that one slide with the family I think.

The first two weeks have been jam packed with plenty of good experiences, fun teaching and getting to know the locals from the communities. Emma spent thursday touring around Cusco watching miriad of street parades and festivals celebrating 100 years since thee discovery of Machu Picchu. This weekend we are heading out the the Sacred Valley to tour some Inca Ruins and Paraglide through the Valley.

Anyway we are all about to head out for our long awaited welcome dinner for the night,

Hope all is well back home,'

The Dalai Lama's 76th Birthday in Nepal with our UniBreakers

A quick update and lot's of photo's from our UniBreakers in Nepal... We had wonderful celebration of His Holiness The Dalai Lama's 76th Birthday in our Village. The students have taken leave from their placement for two days (Wednesday and Thursday) and today they have gone off to Chitwan. Everyone is having a fantastic time!

Townsville bids farewell to China

The final few days for the Townsville Group in China...

Day 15

The group is currently in Xian. We're having a smashing time, we witnessed the excological quandary that are the the terracotta warriors. We learnt about the fascinating history behind the excavation of the deeply mysterious first emperor of China and his stony companions.

Yesterday we arrived in Xian off the overnight train from Beijiing which was interesting however for those of us over 6 feet tall not entirely comfortable. We bid farewell to our wise, humorous and deeply insightful guide and mentor Alan. He taught us about the mindset of the Chinese and explained the motivation of their culture and historic characters.

We had an ardous yet exhilirating two final days of trekking the great wall in one of the most picturesque sections of the wall. We haggeled with some of the local traders in both the stalls surrounding our accomodation on the wall and in Xians' Muslim Quarter.

Tonight we will visit the Big Goose Pagoda and the fountain show at 7pm with a complimentary meal. Tomorrow we will face our final day in the incomphrehensibly big dangerous and occasionally funny smelling city of Xian.

We now have to say goodbye because we are running out of interweb time. We will be home in a bit so zai jyen for now, lots of love the Antipodeans Team alpha squadron Drew Steve Michael and Jess.

Jambo! from SCEGGS in Kenya before they head off on Safari

A quick hello from SCEGGS team B in Kenya... We had a great time in Nairobi; visited the elephant orphanage and the giraffes education centre. Enjoyed some western cuisine and a laid back afternoon in Nairobi. All the group is healthy and well and we are now in Arusha chilling until tomorrow morning where we commence our safari. If we have time we will drop another blog in on Tuesday.