Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Last blog from our flagship Southern Africa Gappers!

So here it is the final blog, the final few hours together!

Since the last blog the group has kept themselves busy volunteering. Our energy went into painting walls at Sentinel, Christmas craft classes with littlies and end of year graduations where the children dressed up in white silky attires.

The group of us that worked at Sentinel were taken to Cape Point with the vice principle, a fun afternoon out-and-about exploring the coasts of Cape Town. At Ikaya La Temba as the last week of afternoon care approached cooking classes continued however tutoring and reading classes were replaced with hair braiding and soccer games with the kids.

Like Swaziland saying goodbye to the children at our placements and Ikaya La Temba was hard. We all have different memories and experiences while volunteering to share with you all. It is fair to say spending time with these kids giving our time and energy into helping them not only benefited the children but also benefited us as the volunteers.
When it came to weekends, Antipodeans all went and did various things from Long Street to Green Market in Cape Town. As money began to run dry Hout Bay Habour market and tanning by the pool was the best option for some of us.

It would be a lie if I said we’ve walked away with nothing. I think every member of the group will leave here a more mature person than before, we’ll appreciate home more, we’ll take time to see the bigger picture and we’ll take into consideration other people. I can’t imagine doing this trip with a more diverse yet wonderful group of Australian. Everyone bought something about them to the table.

You could trust Mitch to be the one who goes to the pub with you or who’ll cook up a yummy feast. A guy happy to help if you ask. Kireeti is our go to person when one was sick or had possible rabies bites, his medical wisdom was always appreciated. During our first few weeks Joni would clean all the girls dishes, it wasn’t long till we named Joni the ‘Gentleman’.

Tessa has the most contagious laugh yet when she had to she played mother hen perfectly, the kitchen and lounge were always clean if Tessa had anything to do with it (couldn’t say the same for her room). Nicole is the peaceful and easy-going member making it easy to become fabulous friends with her. Whenever in need of a good chat or a fun night our Maddy is the go to girl, when not asleep, Maddy’s bubbly personality is loved by the whole group. Katie’s positive and enthusiastic personality made her an influential member.

Although she was shy to begin with, it wasn’t long till Nicki’s amazing confidence shown through. Nicki’s good opinion and grace made her a well-respected member of the group. Emily’s inquisitive nature made for interesting conversations. Behind the quietness, all in the group loved Emily’s lively personality, which made for fun and enjoyable times in the lodge and out on the town. And finally the girl who taught us the difference from right and wrong, She is so good hearted and patient, from that alone it would be fair to say Jozie has taught us all a little something.

Shelby our in country coordinator asked us what were some on the highlights these past few months, at first I blanked but seconds later flashes of memories came back I didn’t know where to begin. Seeing Lions mate in Kruger National Park. Whale Shark snorkelling in Mozambique, swimming along side these creatures was incredible. Nights out in Swaziland at House on Fire where interesting dancing styles were seen by Jozie and Kireeti! Group workout sessions at Ludwala Lodge. Marine World in Durbin. Movie nights at the lodge in Hout Bay. All these things I wish I could go into detail about, however I am assured the Antipodeans will come home and tell you everything in more detail.

So there is it, the final blog from the first group of Antipodeans to venture out and do the Southern Africa Volunteer program. Not long till we’re all back in the arms of loved ones whether that be Coco - Tessa’s Cat, Bingo - Nicki’s dog, Leigh - Jozie’s much talked about boyfriend or our parents, we can’t wait to see you all. And to those continuing on with their travels to Europe, have fun and beware of the Euro it’s very different to the Rand. Merry Christmas everyone.

I can’t wait for our reunion… at Jozie’s wedding! Here is a little link by Nicki:

Got to go group board game in progress, Kireeti and Joni ahead with Emily and Nicole falling behind. Wish Tessa and I luck!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Update from GapBreak In-Country-Agent in Brazil

Yesterday I went to Florian√≥polis to visit the group. Oh Gosh, the goodbye will be hard for them and for the kids. Some of the children got so close to the volunteers! One of them, Otavio, started crying when we told Angela was going back home at the end of the month. He hugged her and kept saying (in Portuguese) “I won’t let her go, I won’t let her go…”.

Angela also started to cry and it hurt my heart! Otavio is such a sweet litle boy with a sad background.

We had lunch at a great Japanese restaurant and went to buy paint. We always donate part of the program fee to the projects we send volunteers. So this time they choose paint, a new cabinet and fans for the students rooms. We involved the volunteers on painting and today I just got a picture of the Capoeira room from Angela. They did such a great job, check the pictures!

The volunteers have also fundraised and they bought balls for the kids and will also buy a tennis table, among other things. I told them they could use their money for things for the kids.

They are also having a great time in Florianópolis in general and will be going to Rio next Thursday for 6 days. We will put them in touch with our current volunteers there, so maybe they can do something together.

It was so nice to see them with the hands on, it makes our work so rewarding when we share their enthusiasm! Bye! Rafaela
Keen to volunteer in South America? What about teaching English overseas? Antipodeans Abroad specialises in gap year ideas for Australian and New Zealand students. Find out more at

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

University of Wollongong students live with Tibetan family

We have so enjoyed being placed with a Tibetan family, not only to get to know them each as individuals but to reach a greater understanding of the struggles of Tibetan people. We have gained a much greater appreciation of our free and fortunate lives, and will continue to support Tibetan people.

A major highlight of this trip for us all has been the trek to Poon Hill, which was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things. The kindness and generosity of the Tibetan and Nepali people here, always sharing a sense of humour even when faced with adversity has been an opportunity for some of us to consider how to change the ways that we look at and experience our lives in the west
An experience of a lifetime which we highly recommend. Some of us will most definitely return to Nepal.

There have been a number of different experiences that each of us have had, we have experienced life with different Tibetan families and also in different educational organizations. All of us have been most fortunate to have caring and kind families who cook the most awesome food everyday. Way better than you can buy in the tourist hub of Lakeside. Although the living conditions are different to those in the west they are comfortable and cosy.... Bring warm clothes as well as the nights are beginning to get cold as we edge closer to December.

A couple of volunteers went to a Monastic School, here we have experienced the hardships of 78 children from extremely poor families from the Mustang region. Whilst these children are doing things way tougher than we see in our own country they have a lot of fun with very simple things in life such as a bottle top cap....

As a teacher, one of the volunteers says, "I have enjoyed my time at the school, and was welcomed with open arms by the principal and head teacher. They have been eager to share the Nepali culture with me and have created many opportunities for me to enjoy cultural and spiritual events. I have faced challenges as my teaching philosophy is very different to that of the school that I volunteered at, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share ideas and learn from the teachers here."

A few of us have been on another trek to Dhampus....... totally amazing and a must do two night, three day experience. Don't use a trekking company, just ask your in country agent at the Tibetan settlement. Much cheaper, a higher level of care and way more personal than the commercial ventures. Don't forget to tip the guide and porter and take snacks for energy boosts along the way.

That's it for us, most of us leave this week and head on back to Australia. Taking home memories and experiences for a lifetime.

UOW Education Placement in Nepal, 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

GapBreakers finally visit Machu Picchu!

Lonely Planet’s South America On A Shoestring promotes Machu Picchu as the number one highlight of Peru and the continent as a whole. Now, for our group, we are proud to say after five days of serious trekking, and for some a 2 day train and trek, we have finally visited this incredible place.

We started the challenging Salkantay trek November 9, finishing up at the rewarding Machu Picchu November 13. On the starting morning with 81km ahead of us, the group was a little apprehensive but looking forward to the final reward of our trek. Our guide Nilton led us at a cracking pace with no complaints from the group across the beautiful countryside.

With 5 days of hiking; hours of constant uphill inclines and treacherous declines dodging rocks on the dusty trails we powered across the mountainous terrain. As the days progressed our surroundings changed to muggy jungle, crossing rivers and side towns to arrive at our beautiful campsites nestled in valleys shadowed by enormous mountains. We were provided with history lessons on the Andean spiritual culture of Pachamama (Mother Nature) and the power of the Mountains.

On the second day we reached the 4600m above sea level summit with a fantastic view of the snow capped Salkantay mountain. Thankfully we were incredibly lucky with the weather for the 5 days, making the success of the hike all the more rewarding. We all felt such a sense of achievement as we pushed ourselves physically and mentally hiking day in and day out, supported by excellent cooks and an encouraging guide.

Upon reaching Aguas Calientes, the pit stop town before Machu Picchu, we rested our sore bodies as the prospect of the next day dawned on us. Up at 4am we were welcomed by a 40minute continuous stair climb to the sacred site. Upon entering the ruins we were met by a sight more incredible than anything we could have expected, a view to beat any postcard. As the morning mist and haze lifted from the mass of mountains surrounding this oasis, a perfect day was revealed over this world famous site. We spent the morning exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu in total awe of this experience. Some climbed Waynapichu to take in a more wholesome view of the site, then a few even made it up to Sun Gate. The day was perfect, all injuries, sore feet and leg muscles were forgotten as our cameras clicked constantly.

As we creep closer towards the ending date of our three months in Cusco, the visit to Machu Picchu completes the trip for our group. Less than two weeks to go now the reality closes in. Our last visits to Corao school have been made sweeter as we finished the Water Reservoir and delivered much needed items to one of the houses we visited. Blankets, pillows, food, shoes and warm items were amongst the delivery, cementing why we are here. A big thank you goes home to those who donated to our cause, the gracious and thankful families makes our work here worth it.

With our time winding down it leads us to reflect on how incredibly lucky we have been these past three months, how fortunate we are and how far our presence here can go for those in need.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Adrenaline filled days for our GapBreak volunteers in Cape Town

So here we are in Cape Town, our final destination on our trip away. The place is amazing; one side we’re faced with mountains and forests while on the other side, a beautiful harbour surrounded with penguins and seals. Our placements and accommodation are situated just out of Cape Town, in Hout Bay. Our welcome to Hout Bay was pleasant. We were greeted by both Shelby, our coordinator, and Shannon, the lodge manager, come tourist guide for weekend activities.

After our initial tour around Hout bay, it wasn’t long until we discovered just how segregated the society here is, from the townships to the mansions. The society is split between coloured people, black people and white people all located in separate areas of the bay. For our morning placements the Antips group is split to help in the many kindergartens for children or at Sentinel, the local primary school. Jozie, Nicole, Mitch, Joni and myself are at Sentinel, while Maddy and Katie are at Little Angels, both these placements are at the Harbour side of Hout bay, home to the coloured community.
Tessa and Kireeti are placed at Siyazama, a day care centre along with Nicki and Emily nearby at Star Fish & Angels, both are in the Township. The township is home to thirty thousand people of different races. The Township is also where we spend the second part of our day volunteering at Ikhaya Le Temba which is an afternoon care centre for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Ikhaya Le Temba meaning ‘home of hope’ is supported by sponsors across the world which has created a warm and welcoming environment for these children. We run programs there from swimming lessons, drama classes to cooking classes. Although our weekdays are full on, our placements here are very rewarding, although we are teaching every day, we are learning so much more from them in return.

Our weekends are spent trying to see as much of Cape Town and the surrounding area as we can, or at other times taking a restful day to relax after a hard week. On our first weekend here some of us chose to go on a Wine Tour seeing some of South Africa’s famous wineries where we loved driving through some of Cape Town’s most beautiful landscapes, slightly tipsy. Another weekend found some of us hiking up the famous Table Mountain, I can say on behalf of all of the hikers it was agony but the view at the end was well worth the painful scrawl up. While up on Table Mountain, Mitch and I decided to abseil down it. I couldn’t stop shaking as I realized this one piece of rope was literally my lifeline; nevertheless it was an incredible feeling and adrenaline rush. As was Paragliding which many of the others chose later that day to do.

Thanks to Joni’s mum who informed us about Madame Zangara’s Circus, we spent an amazing night being entertained both by the food on the plate and unbelievable performers. Watching dreamy acrobats dazzle while eating heart shaped ravioli, the whole thing was incredible.

Just last week a group of Antipodeans with their Aussie heads held high marched into the cricket grounds to support Australia in the Test tournament against South Africa. Although we came out with a devastating loss, Katie among other volunteers made in onto World News, seen also in Australia.

Just yesterday Tessa and Katie ventured out into the ocean to swim among great white sharks. Enclosed in a cage they saw sharks come up centimetres away from their face attacking the bait. Katie described the experience as “jawsome!!!” while Tessa tried her best to agree, even if half the time she was vomiting out her insides over the side of the boat.

All in all, these two weeks in Cape Town have been full on from the wonderful markets, adrenaline filled activities and to the children which we take time to help and spend time with, so far Cape Town has blown us away. It is a diverse place from the people we meet to the things we do, the place is a real eye opener. Despite the fact we are counting down the weeks, days and hours till we go home, it’ll be sad to leave this place, this place we’ve grown to love.

Are YOU interested in volunteering in Africa? What about teaching English overseas? Antipodeans Abroad specialises in gap year programs and education travel for young Australians. Go to our website to find out more.

Countryside travels for our France GapBreak volunteers

Salut Australia!

Welcome to the fourth addition of my blog all the way from Bretagne France! Time is going too fast! It honestly does feel like just yesterday that we began our French course in Paris! Everything is going well for all five of us and I think it is about time I put you all up to date with what has been happening throughout our lives in France.

I have spent the afternoon making Lamingtons with my Host siblings. The lamingtons turned out excellent even if we do say so ourselves. I just returned from 4 nights in the United Kingdom with my friend from Australia, it was excellent! I saw many amazing things including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The London Tower and a number of Theatre productions and bookstores. It was great being able to get my hands on some English books!
Andrew took a trip with his host sister to North West France and enjoyed the main attractions of Bretagne! Bretagne is differs quite a lot from the rest of France, they have their own culture and specialties. The specialties include salt (they love their salt) and butter (they use so much more butter it is crazy!) . In Bretagne there is literally a Creperie in every town, no matter how small the town is! Bretagne even has their own language. Andrew's trip was fantastic, he really got to bond with his host sister and she took him to everything that there is to see! He said that it was great to travel with someone who knows the area because that way it is impossible to miss anything.
Anna spent a week in Normandy with her host families extended family. Normandy has a lot to offer and she had an amazing time enjoying the town as well as bonding with her host family. Normandy is famous for its beautiful beaches, lush farmland, bustling markets and fine cheese and wine. She also explored Mont Saint Michel! The Mont Saint Michel is the second most popular attraction to visit in France after the Eiffel Tower.

Both Anna and Andrew have been attending school in a small town outside of Le Mans, they are helping out in English classes and attending some other classes. They have made some French friends which is great!

I was sad to say goodbye to Rebecca today who is leaving the town of Vannes that we have both spent the past 2 months. Rebecca has moved into an apartment with a young university student who she will tutor. She has taken to the busy city very well!

Well that’s all from me, I will be sure to keep you updated :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hilarious Gapper Anna shares her last week in Ghana

HELLO FRIENDS! It is with shaky hands that I write to you from the Eagle's Link Net Cafe in Ghana, no I am not hungry, or scared but in fact COLD! A celebrated phenomenon. It's been a rainy day in Ghana - a nice touch when you spend most of it sitting in church...But more of that later.
This feels like a bit of a wrap-up blog because next time I send my words your way I'll be back where we started in Accra at the Felcare Hostel, most of us getting ready for the next stage of our journey but for Kristen, Harriet, Renee and Katie getting ready to go HOME and see all your smiling faces! It's a very strange thought!
But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me take you back to where I left you, about to head off for a weekend in the Volta region visiting the Wli waterfalls. It was such a long distance to travel to Hohoe, we left at 8am and didn't arrive until 5pm! A whole working day spent with sore bums and trying not to drink water.. trotros don't stop for anything so thirst must be balanced with bladder control. We stayed at taste lodge (oh so tasty) and enjoyed being the only people on the premises. The people that owned the lodge were so kind! As soon as we arrived they all said "awkwaaba!" and pulled up plastic chairs for us. The waterfalls themselves were magnificent - so loud and extremely powerful.

We couldn't communicate with our guide well enough to tell us how tall they were, but from 100m away you were getting wet from the falls splashing on the rocks below. I was too chicken of fresh-water creepie crawlies - but Lauren, Bardie, Hari and Katie braved the power and had a splash! That was when Lauren and Gina took off for a 4 hour hike to the upper falls, basically a higher part of the waterfall. Most of us were feeling blistery and lazy and tired so we chilled at the bottom and ate cookies and mushy bananas. Apart from the falls there's not much to do in the sleepy town, so after taking advantage of some cheap local souveniers we were once again on our way back home to Swedru.

And so it began our second last week of work. I'll take some time to talk about other random things before I dive into the happenings of our next weekend.. let me see.. twas a good week. Though I had to take some time off work, and not for anything exciting but I was painting my classroom and fell off a stool and the stool landed on my toe. So I crumpled and it went blue and swelled up and I stopped walking for a few days. Lucky I had Hari to carry me around, she piggy backed me down our whole driveway which may sound fickle but is actually quite the achievement considering it takes about 5 minutes to walk over all the uneven ground and sand and rocks all the while avoiding the diseased dog (Peace) from jumping all over you.

Who am I kidding - all the dogs in the compound are called Peace. Which is a strange touch but fun all the same when you're calling for a dog to eat your leftovers - "ahh - Peace! ahh - Peace!". Got a little side-tracked there didn't I. But I believe I speak for all us antips-ladies when I say that everything that was once scary and exciting and new is really quite normal! There's nothing strange about buying things through windows or out of baskets on peoples heads. You wouldn't think twice about fishing some earth out of your bucket-shower water, and having someone (female or male) urinating on the side of the road is completely normal. Every day I swap my thongs for my sandals, and every day I saunter out to the well in the hot sun to fetch myself some water. Swedru has been a bit dodge on the running water lately so we're all quite accustomed to the famous bucket shower :D

Ok now for the weekend. For our final one all together we decided to head back to Cape Coast, the absolutely stunning beach about 2 hours drive from Swedru. When we got to the tro-tro station the only one available was AIR-CONDITIONED (what?) so we had to pay an extra 50 pesewa. It was strange and empty without the wind in our faces - instead a man who was preaching extremely loudly to the whole bus. Ohhhh Ghana. Nobody seemed to really be listening but he insisted on the arm-flailing party for a good 45 minutes before he collapsed in his chair. You've just got to go along with it.

UHH just lost power. Another thing that has become normal here ! The moment of dread when the lights go and the fans slow and you're left with a blank screen .. just asking yourself why you didn't save a draft sooner. Good times. Oh well it only took 30 minutes of awkward conversation with Ghanian's (avoided giving out my number, don't worry) before the happy hum began again.

Where was I CAPE COAST ahh yes. The sun was hot! Luckily we had the communal TRUE GUARD sunscreen on the bench for a last minute pump-lather on your way out the door... (thanks mum).. It was nice just chilling, and not really having anything in particular to do but lie in the sun and eat peanut brittle. She was so happy when the girls practically bought out her .. store? (her case on her head). I'll have 1 please. Make that 2. Or 3.. "oh me too, 3 please..!" Our outings were limited to sauntering to the orange lady across the road, the vegetarian place that sold amazing tofu sticks and vegan cakes. TASTY TIMES. But not as tasty as that Hawaiian burger... Maddie will agree. We had this burger 6 weeks ago and even after dreaming about it and raving and trying to remember the juicy goodness for all that time, it was still just as perfect. The pineapple here is so sweet and juicy, and in burger format it's just perfection. Sorry I'll stop talking about this now - everyone's heard enough of it for it to deserve a whole paragraph in the blog.

Anyway we also spent some time venturing back to the souvenier stores at the Cape Coast castles that we were unsure of the first time around. Bardie was feeling good - finally crossing things off her list - "Buy gifts for friends = check!" Our nights were spent chilling out in our happy dorm room, this time avoiding falling through bunks. Hoorah! On Saturday night we watched the most amazing drumming and dancing. They had so much energy! For hours they danced and drummed with smiles on their faces and in their hearts :) <3

After that the rest of the group (bar Gina, Hari and I) headed off to Hans cottage for some chillz with da crocodiles! We didn't get to see any before we left but at least we got a good swim in the pool. We also followed all the rules - It's hard not to when there's a massive sign saying NO DROWNING hanging above the pool.

And then at last it was our last week of work, and I've never felt more proud of the kids there. Especially Staffan! Our youngest little bopper took his first steps! :D We spent our last days with the same routines as usual, but Hari and I knew that it would be the last few times we sung the "Days of the week" song, the last times we give out stickers before break, and the last few times we danced to Michael Jackson on the classroom floor. On our last day we all gave them special lolly bags we had made, and these awesome drinks called Africa Fun. Although they were content just running around with the balloons that we drew on... the end of the day was rough though. We were glad we wore our big long skirts to wipe tears of our darlings' faces. At least we get to see them again! And so will all the others - we're taking them out for a trip to Winneba beach on Sunday :)

And it wasn't just the last teaching moments - we had the lasts of everything! Last market day, last time we wash our clothes, and the last obruni meeting! We celebrated nicely (Bardie got particularly excited and managed to knock over everyone's fanta bottles) and Harriet, Katie, Maddie and Hari brought along things to get signed.. you know things are serious when there's signing involved.

A quick word from the others!:

Katie and Ren - "Cape Coast was fun! Weird that it was our last weekend, loved the vegan cakes. Me and ren loved the last day of teaching, Sir Patrick gave our certificates and we bought them icecream and danced :) It was sad when we started our walk home 15 minutes later remembering we forgot the certificates, we went back and all the kids were like "you're here to stay forever now!"

Harriet and Kristen - "Our last days of school were fun involved 26 FanIce, glitter everywhere, singing, dancing and guitar playing, bubbles, gorgeous photos and sad goodbyes. We will miss our grade 2 kiddies so much :)"

Bardie and Lauren - "We finished teaching abruptly as inter school sport games were wednesday to Friday. We surprised the school with an art + sport cupboard full of goodies and they kept saying "you are too good to us!" :) We had a goodbye prayer and morning tea with all the teachers at our school, they got us Ghanian dresses made."

Maddie - "It was sad to leave the kids, but knowing that we left them with something to remember us by is relatively comforting."

And as it stands it is our final day in Swedru! It's going to be so strange leaving this town that has become our home. We have learnt so much over the past few months and it's going to be so sad to leave. Last night was our goodbye dinner which was so much fun. :) It was really cool to meet everyone else's family members that we have heard so much about! We had it in Seth's backyard and there was amazing food and drinks and lots of Ghanian style dancing. Seth, Felicia and Tina have been the most amazing in-country agents we could have asked for. Every little worry or qualm we had was easily fixed or sorted out - all you had to do was ask. And I think everyone will agree our group had no shortage of house swapping and sickness and donation money to organise so they have just been a god send!

And it turns out that most Ghanians you will meet are the kindest and selfless in the world. Every time they eat you'll hear "you are invited" as they offer their plate to you, taxi drivers will give you free fares occasionally just because "you are human!", if you're running down the street in a torrential downpour they'll beckon you into their shop and spend 15 minutes mending your broken shoe... and there are always smiles. Happiness is just everywhere in Ghana, and we hope on our two weeks travel we'll be able to experience much more of this beautiful country.

We're off to Kumasi tomorrow, and next time I write to you I'll have to tell you all about it. Unfortunately Katie and Renee have left to go back to the land down under, so hopefully they will be safe at hope by the end of the week. We'll miss you guys!!

Ok that's all for now :) We send our love, our happiness and our thoughts.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Notre Dame UniBreak nursing group trekking in Vietnam

Our UniBreak group from Notre Dame Fremantle Nursing faculty have been having a great time trekking from village to village in the mountains of Mai Chau, Vietnam. So far, the group has spent time at Tay Dang orphanage playing games with the children and providing the centre with their donation of gifts and resources. They also visited Bach Mai hospital and had a good chance to start making comparisons with hospitals and health care in Australia. Reports are that the weather is turning colder and a little wet from tomorrow which is a shame for the group but they are prepared and it hopefully won't hamper their spirits.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sunrise safari for our GapBreakers in Kenya

As our second month in Kenya came to a close we finished flattening the bottles for the mud hut and moved on to a new project constructing toilets for the Islamic school, ten minutes down the road from Muhaka Primary. On Thursday we welcomed two volunteers from America and China, that afternoon we stopped by a roadside stall on the way home to sample some local food. We feasted on freshly cooked potatoes with onion dipped in chili sauce, a bag of which costed only a dollar each!

The work at the Islamic school progressed rapidly as we have all become very competent cement-making and brick-laying, and on Friday we put up the roof of one of the structures. Nevertheless it was hard work transporting the bricks, wheelbarrows, tools and cement from the camp to the school everyday, especially under the fierce heat. Most of us have tanned quite a lot since our arrival and we all have thickly calloused hands: the local guys joke that we are slowly becoming African. On Saturday we spent our last day at the beach at Forty Thieves and ate as many burgers and beef medallions as we could afford. The next day we awoke early and hit the road to Tsavo National Park.
Four and a half hours later (Arabella and Amy sang the whole way) we arrived at camp, located in the middle of the wilderness, far from any of the supermarkets or internet cafes we had enjoyed in Muhaka. On our first drive outside the camp we saw an enormous group of baboons, meerkats, mongooses, gazelles, elephants, warthogs, giraffes and my favorite, dik diks, a kind of minature gazelle. On Tuesday we visited the Imani women's group and worked on the Mama's kitchen which Belle raised money to fund. A spokesperson from the group told us about the difficulties many girls face growing up in rural Kenya. It is common practice for a family to arrange their daughter's marriage to middle-aged husbands in return for four or five cows - this can happen before they turn twelve. The 'wife' will never go to school or earn a wage, effectively becoming a slave in a new family.

The next day we woke at 5.30am before sunrise and set off for our Tsavo East Safari. The park was packed with wildlife: baboons, waterbucks, gerenuks, dik diks, gazelles, meerkats, zebras, buffalo, giraffes, elephants, vultures and... a female lion! The animals in the park are much more accustomed to the sound of vehicles so every time we were able to get much closer to the animals than ever before. The lion was spectacular but my favorite sight came right at the end, only fifty metres from the gate where we saw a tiny baby elephant, only a few weeks old, stumbling around after its mother.

The next two days were spent working at the local primary school building a new classroom. At the moment in Kenya the government is meant to provide each school with as many teachers as there are functional classrooms, and it was clear to us that the school desperately needs more staff. For most of the day classes of 60 or more students sit unsupervised, eager to learn but unable to work through their aged textbooks without assistance. For the first time we were given the opportunity to do some teaching for ourselves. This was definitely the most fulfilling work I've done in Kenya: the classrooms are overcrowded and poorly equipped but the kids literally begged us to come in and teach them.

We taught English and Maths to the year twos and the next day we helped the senior students study for their upcoming exams in maths and English. We helped the year sevens with their letters to their pen pals in England. Reading some of these letters was a real insight into the everyday life of the students: many were orphans living with relatives or were looked after by the Imani women's group and others had to commute nearly 10km by foot to get to school. In a stuffy classroom where there are only a couple erasers in a class of 70, and rarely any assistance from teachers, the children's motivation to work was inspirational.

On the weekend we climbed Mount Kasigau, an experience which Megan summed up with the words 'it was bloody hard!' It was an amazing walk through the rainforest and great training for the six of us who plan to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro in 5 days!

Do you want to become an Antipodeans volunteer? Want to volunteer in Africa or teach English overseas? Check out our website at

GapBreak volunteers leave Borneo with great memories

'Team Borneo' have just spent the last 2 weeks at the final camp - BongKud. Camp Bongkud is located in the heart of the small village and is surrounded with magnificent mountains and an amazing view of Mt Kinabalu - so along with comfy hammocks and delicious meals, we were most definitely always in our element. We've all made the most of our remaining time on the program with a 5 day jungle trek, involvement in construction projects within the village and in enjoying the cultural side of Beautiful Borneo. On arrival at the camp, we were immediately welcomed with the warm hospitality of the staff and village members and were given a dance performance which of course we joined in and impressed many with our amazing dance moves.

One of the biggest challenges yet most incredible experiences of the trip was unanimously agreed, the jungle trek. The trek follows that of the Death Marches trail - a path in which huge amounts of British and Australian soldiers were once forced to walk in poor conditions, resulting in over 2500 deaths, a tragic moment in history. We began the trek in Bongkud and completed it with our final destination being the Sabah Tea Gardens near Ranau, a place where we visited a war memorial and were given insight into the loss of lives within the death marches and the importance of remembrance.

Everyday during the trek; we would walk in the sun, climb steep uphill and tumble down steep slopes and clear a path through dense vegetation - so it is obvious that it proved a struggle for everyone. Along with this, we carried our backpacks, heavy with clothes, food and a hammock and tarp necessary for 5 days of roughing it. Although each day was hard work, we were rewarded with the sights and sounds of the jungle and also with a daily swim in the beautiful river. On the trek not only did we stretch our levels of fitness, but we also stepped out of comfort zones involving insects. With alot of screaming and whinging, we became at one with the mosquito, fire-ants and the group's personal favourite, leeches. We got through each day with the assistance of our trusty guides, the thought of mealtimes of noodles and baked beans and of course, trekking singalongs. On completion of the trek, we spent a night at the Sabah tea gardens showers and a mattress were most definitely a blessing.

Whilst at Camp Bongkud, we took part in two major construction projects within the village. We put work into hand-mixing cement for the village community centre and also spent time clearing a sight for the construction of a large communal water tank. This was also hard and messy work, but most definitely rewarding at the end of each day.

In Bongkud, we also spent a day at the traditional markets, where we brought four baby chicks for the campsite. We spent a relaxing day at the Poring Hot Springs - taking part in a canopy walk above the trees, bathing in a waterfall and taking advantage of the slide pool. One of the highlights was our last meal at camp together as a group, followed with rice wine celebrations and the learning of a traditional malay song.

At the completion of our time at Bongkud, we said our goodbyes and went ahead in enjoying our last day in Kota Kinabalu together - going to the markets, enjoying an amazing lunch and soaking up the last of our Borneo experience. We waved each other goodbye with a mix of tears and joy, reminiscing about our memories from the past two months and the amazement at how much we have done. Finishing with the most corny of lines from a past Gapper, but which I am sure all of us would agree so very true..... 'Summer dosen't last forever, but memories do.'

Do you want to visit and volunteer in Borneo? What about teaching English overseas? Antipodeans Abroad specialises in gap year ideas and educational travel. Visit the website at

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Volunteers in Brazil become locals in Florianopolis

One of the most special parts of this program is that fact that once you have come home you can say “I lived in Brazil for 12 weeks,” not only that you “travelled” there. Now that we are two thirds into the trip, we are all starting to feel a lot more integrated in Florianopolis. We have become experts with the bus system, we have our cute little ‘meeting spots’, and are feeling really comfortable in our families.

The most significant moment for me was when I organised a “rapid pass” for the bus. This pass allows you to upload credit and pass through the gate inside the bus with one beep. The inferior alternative is scrounging around in your wallet for some money and waiting for the ‘bus man’ to find the correct change. Meanwhile, the bus has taken off having you bash from structure to structure on each side, and sometimes even hitting the fellow passengers. Every time this happened, we weren’t being integrated in the Brazilian culture. We stood out like sore thumbs and held up the line. Then, everything changed with the “rapid pass.” We no longer bashed through the entrance, but breezed through. The day I got my rapid pass was the same day I began being approached by Brazilians asking about the bus timetable or route. I always tried my hardest to explain my expertise, but I think they always left more confused than to begin with.

Our voluntary work placement is also starting to become easier, and with the ease came a whole other level of relationships with the children. There is nothing better than walking into the hall in the morning and seeing all the bright faces looking up at you, just so excited about the fact that you are there. For children that are experiencing a challenging upbringing, they are certainly more cooperative and willing than I imagined. Whenever we want to teach them a new game or organise an activity they are always so keen to participate. They are also a lot more tolerant of the mistakes we make in Portuguese, which allows them to understand us more. During the second week Lucas and I even started to take some English classes. Due to the laid back nature of the program we never know what days we will be taking the classes, but every morning, without fail, every child asks at least twice if we are having them that day. They are extremely excited about the thought of being able to understand Justin Beiber’s lyrics.

We have decided that a worthwhile contribution to the project would be to paint some rooms and perhaps replace some furniture. We think this will make the building look slightly more official, but more importantly a nice place for the children to spend their mornings or afternoons. We are not sure when this will be done, but we are organising now exactly what needs to be done. For now, we are really enjoying keeping the children occupied and having the freedom to assist in any activity that we want to. Every day we can chose from playing soccer, volleyball, board games, dancing or teaching English. However, most of the time it is playing soccer as for the kids the sport is nothing less than an obsession. Lucas was already a soccer player, so he has a fun time flaunting his tricks, but for us three girls it has been a great bonus getting to know the game and finding that we aren’t actually as uncoordinated as we thought. At the moment I am trying to teach them some volleyball. They have the equipment and the motivation, but they just insist on always using their feet. I have come to the conclusion that it’s in their genes.

Working with the underprivileged children at Cidade da Crianca, is a big contrast to the somewhat materialistic nights that we spend out clubbing. Both of our host brother’s absolutely love to party and could almost be classified as nocturnal. There is no doubt that we have a hard time trying to keep up with them, sometimes there are nights when a movie and popcorn is just so much more tempting than a club. Needless to say, we have had some great nights out, meeting lots of new people and dancing to some great music. One of my most vivid memories of this city will be driving down ‘Beiramar Avenue’ in my host mother’s car, listening to awesome brazilian music and gawking at the incredible lit-up city around me. The only way I could describe it is as magical.

Another one of my favorite memories is the day that we all spent with Ange and Ellen’s host family on the South of the Island. We drove there in the morning and found ourselves in a cute little restaurant on the beach. This restaurant was something out of a movie, or perhaps an artistic magazine. Every wall and every bit of roof was covered in letters from the people that had eaten in the restaurant. It was breathtaking, even before I got to taste the food. Our lunch was a ‘all you can eat’ seafood buffet followed by an ‘all you can eat dessert.’ Everything was delicious, apart from the traditional 70% alcohol that they tried to make us ‘shoot’ at the beginning. We felt a little bit weak having to refuse the drink, but then again, the Brazilians dry retch from trying Vegemite, so I suppose everything is relative.

The weekend after this Ange and Ellen’s family took them and Lucas to the ‘Oktober Fest’ in a town called ‘Blumenau.’ I had to sit out on this one because I woke up extremely exhausted this day, but hearing about all the stories certainly makes me a little bit jealous. The really rowdy party occurs during the night, but the others only went during they day so I guess their experience was more civilised. They did still drink beer, they did still dance and they did still have a great time, regardless of what the Brazilians classify as a ‘great time.’ Sometimes I want to remind them that you don’t have to be drunk, stumbling around and groping someone of the opposite sex to have a great time. Oh dear, I sound like my Mother.

The other day we were lucky to catch up with three Australian girls that are doing the Antipodeans program in Argentina. We took them to a typical Brazilian restaurant where we exchanged stories of our programs so far. They sound like they are having a great time, and were also very impressed by what we had to share. It was very refreshing catching up with people that understand how challenging the cultural immersion can be. Even their accents made us feel closer to home. We wanted to go out with them last night but they unfortunately had sunstroke from getting way to excited about the clear sky. I hope that their bus ride to another part of Brazil wasn’t too painful. The next day was a ‘feriado,’ which is a curriculum day. As Brazil seems to have a countless amount of these, we decided to make this one special by going to a theme park. We went with Ange and Ellen’s brother and sister who enjoyed reminiscing in childhood days with us. Everything about the theme park was extravagant; the colours, the food, the sculptures on the rides, the extreme car show- My head was spinning just from the sight of the place and that was even before we went on the ‘fire whip’ ride. After the park we drove to have dinner in a town called Bulenario, where we hope to spend next weekend with Carla, the other host sister.

After that weekend Lucas, Ellen and I have our trip to Rio de Janeiro and Angela has her trip to Buenos Aires. After that we will be on the home stretch. It’s scary to think about how fast the time is flying. There is still so much that we want to do and see, but so little time left, so here is where the ‘living each day as if it’s your last’ comes in to play. Come to think about it, if it were my ‘last day’ I would do something along the lines of what I have been doing. Spending time with amazing kids that appreciate life, eating delicious food and sipping on great coffee, soaking up the sun on some of the most amazing beaches in the world, drinking the world’s best juices, dancing to great music and spending time with great people. LG. Life’s Good.

Argentina Gappers walk through the beautiful Andes

A relaxing week in Mendoza was more than a well-deserved trip for us Australian Gappers here in Argentina. On Thursday afternoon we got ourselves ready for a very tiring 16 hour bus trip. We arrived in Mendoza early Friday morning and made our way to the hostel. We walked into the hostel and were thrown with a whole page of adventure packed activities we could do whilst in Mendoza. The best part of the list was the price of each activity and how astonishingly cheap each was. This is where we all had to work together and decide exactly what we wanted to do as there were many activities.

So.. Saturday we were scheduled to participate in a bike tour through a few vineyards and an olive factory. Here we examined the exotic flavours formed in each of the different organic wines by simply smelling, twirling, smelling again and then finally drinking. After this we rode our bikes to an olive farm/factory where we were able to taste test the many different varieties of olive oils and pastes. Here a few of the boys made good use of the free sample olive oil body creams as they were just a little bit sunburnt….. 

Sunday we woke up nice and early as we were scheduled to take a casual stroll through the breathtaking Andes Mountain. A small mini bus took us through the many windy roads all the way up to the main attraction site in the Andes. Every single one of us made very good use of our cameras here. We drained the batteries and filled the memory cards before it was time to leave. When we took our first step out of the mini bus we all received a sudden chill of the icy breeze coming from the tops of the Andes but low and behold we put it aside as nothing was going to stop us from trekking on through. 

Monday’s activity was much similar to Sundays except required a lot more fitness as we were scheduled to trek up mountains and then abseil down. 30 Minutes through the trek some of us started to feel the pains in our calf muscle, the clench for thirst and strain on our shoulders from our backpacks. We eventually made it to the top where our mouths were paralysed by the views we had just been hit with. We could see far beyond Mendoza if that’s what we were even looking at. 

To top the rest of our day off we were taken to hot springs that left some of us breathless. The place looked like an amusement park; it was nothing like what we had expected. This day had left us feeling more than exhausted so Tuesday was a day of relaxation before a few of us had to make our way back to Buenos Aires. 

Some of us have a few months left here in Argentina and some only a few weeks. We are never sitting with nothing to do, as many more travel plans are in the making and so are many celebrations. A few are due to return from Brazil where they will have plenty of stories to share.

Eurodisney, Rennes & Italy for our Gappers in France


I have just come back from a weekend in Rennes with my new friend Meagan! Rennes is a largish city in Bretagne. It is very popular among teenagers and university students! We spent our days shopping, admiring architecture and reading in the park. It was an exciting experience shopping in H&M because in Australia the clothes are only available online. I think the two of us spent about 2 hours in that store! The nightlife in Rennes was buzzing! There is a narrow street that looks isolated and untouched during the day but comes alive as soon as the sun goes down. The atmosphere was awesome, filled with music, dancing and of course tasty cocktails. It was an AWESOME weekend. I met people from all over the world! 

I have just moved to my second host families in the town of Pluneret and I am settling in nicely! I warmed to the family instantly. It is great having a teenage girl to be able to talk and hang out with. I do miss my previous family although I have arranged a few dinners and coffee dates with them. My new host Mother Benni is the best cook, she has made such terrific French dishes. Each night she describes where the dish is from. I have absolutely loved every meal even the ones that sound or look bizarre absolutely amaze me. I am currently searching for an Australian recipe that I can make that they will love! Any ideas would be much appreciated? 

About 2 weeks ago Andrew and I took at trip to Disneyland and the beautiful South of France. Eurodisney truly is a magical place. It definitely bought back some childhood memories. We spent the evening in Paris and explored the city by night, beautiful! The Eiffel tower sparkles in the darkness and it is so amazing to watch! The two of us boarded the TGV to Marsaille (the second biggest city in France). We spent three exciting days in the South and loved every minute of it. We visited some really beautiful islands, ate some great food and met an awesome Canadian guy at the Youth Hostel who became a great friend of ours. We took a day trip two hours away from Marsaille to the beautiful holiday city of Nice, I loved Nice! It was absolutely divine. My personal favourite I would say. 

Rebecca and Samuel took a trip to Rome and enjoyed some magnificent sites, Italian culture and of course some of the best foods and gelati! I am looking forward to hearing more about their stories when they get back. 

Tutoring is so much fun and it doesn’t even feel like tutoring. Today I played mastermind with my 12 year old host brother and it was heaps of fun. He explained to me the rules in English. Yesterday my 16 year old host sister taught me how to make her favourite French dish so that I can make it when I return to Australia, it was so good! Most of the English lessons with Marion are not even lessons; it is more like hanging out and having a chat over tea and chocolate. We are becoming very good friends. 

I am not just staying in France anymore instead i am living in living in France. I have routines, a favourite cafe and park and of course an awesome second family. I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the group when I say that too. 

Life is great. 


Gappers in China are getting ready for the cold as they explore the country

It has been a few weeks since my last update, and so much has happened. Hayley and I did some local sightseeing in Shenyang over the Golden Week holiday. First, it was nice just to have some time to rest, but we got into it a day or two later. We saw the Imperial Palace, which is like a (much) smaller Forbidden City. It took us a while to find it, but when we did we had a great time wondering through the courtyards. We even ran into a teacher from our school there, and finally located some postcards. This adventure was trumped, however, by the Beiling Park and the Zhaoling tombs. We wandered up the main path through the park at a leisurely pace, enjoying the various statues and the lake, and if it hadn’t been so cold, the two of us might have braved the Zorbs.

Inside the temple complex that surrounds the tombs, we entertained ourselves by visiting such buildings as the guard towers, the fruit storage house and the sacrificial animal slaughtering platform (which had unfortunately collapsed and replaced with photos). We spent hours in there looking at everything, and steadily making our way to the very back where we came across the Burial Mound. We finished our tour and jumped on a transport shuttle to take us back to the gate, and as the temple disappeared behind us the ominous grey beyond made us shiver. And, knowing that rain was on its way and thus demand would go up, no taxi driver would stop for us. So we stood in the rain for an hour and got saturated, before ducking into a restaurant to wait it out. We had a good feed. 

We also took great advantage of the Golden week sales to stock up on winter clothes. It is fast becoming very cold. This winter will be like nothing we have ever seen before, possibly dropping to -25 degrees. Can anyone say snow angels? We have been back at school for a few weeks since then, and things are going well. We have been to a wedding and a party with some of the English teachers, and have been invited to another wedding this weekend. We are getting along very well with the staff here. 

Outside of school, all of the teaching interns in our building have taken up tutoring as well. Hayley and I were approached after a conversation in a noodle shop beside the school, and now have four hours each a week. She tutors a 7 and a 3 year old, and I tutor their father. All of them will be visiting Australia next year, so they have a strong interest in the language. The pay is good, not to mention the extremely nice, extremely new car he drives us around in and the places he takes us for lunch. It’s a pretty sweet deal. 

In more recent news, it seems likely that Hayley and I will be offered an extended contract until next June, which is perfect as we intend to stay.

Beach visits and Tie-dying lessons for our Gappers in Ghana


We meet again! Another 2 weeks has passed so I am tippity tapping my way through BLOG NUMBER 4! A respectable number considering the fact that only 6 blogs are required and the halfway point has passed :)

The weeks go quickly here...maybe it's because we have all reached such a comfortable routine with school, home and weekly visits to the internet or the post office that just makes it fly by. I thought I would have a lot more free time here, but at the start of the week I actually have to plan how I'm going to fit it all in! Washing is a weekly duty - and has to happen straight after work otherwise you'll be stuck with wet clothes for a few days. Every Wednesday we have Obruni meeting, which is where all us white folk of Swedru meet up for soft drink and weekend organisation :) And when you factor in blogging and letter writing and going to the river with ya host brother... and pocahontus nights at Katie's house... it all kind of crams in and before you know it it's Friday afternoon and you're on a trotro off to the beach!

Speaking of the beach ;) (what a good segway) we headed back to KOKROBITE for a nice weekend of relaxation. And relax we did! It was sooo nice to go somewhere close and familiar, and buy some things at the markets that we were too hesitant to buy the first time around. Happy pants, necklaces, beads, paintings, coconuts = everyone's smiling faces. OH AND THE BON BONS they were the cause of the most smiling that weekend - we discovered these amazing little bundles of joy... little chocolates with creamy filling for 50 pesewa. life complete. but yeah - we smashed out the Italian restaurant again (main reason why we came back) and ordered the best pizzas, and mixed juices and bruschettas... you probably don't want to know the details of our orders (renee got an olive pizza) but food is on my mind at the moment as I am really hungry. Fun fact for you all at home. Not that I'm always hungry here.. it's actually quite the opposite! We have huuuge breakfasts and huge lunches... that we try to eat as late as possible so it can double as a dinner. 
Anyway back to Kokrobite.. the sun was so intense.. last time we were there it was slightly overcastingly dim/sad (that made sense) but this time the sun was scorching and the sky was blue and our souls were smiling.

And once again this last week went really quickly because dear Seth (bless his cotton socks) was jolly enough to take us to his house for a tie-dying session! The great thing about tie-dying is that no matter what you do they always turn out cool. Now we all have a nice little GHANA 2011 (or something of the likes) momento to take home with us :) Things have changed so much at the orphange! We also got to see everyone all together last Thursday because it was time to paint the classroom that I used my donation money to build! Maddie's furniture should be arriving sometime this week and then the classroom will be put to use. Turns out even with 8 people and 2 flashy extendo-brushes (paint brushes nailed to sticks) painting the inside/outside/doors/window ledges of a room is quite the hefty job and we couldn't finish in one day. Perhaps we'll have to recruit the crew in for another session this Thursday.. (yes I am already planning my week because there's just SO MUCH TO DO) 

Last weekend we ventured into the Eastern region to check out the Aburi Gardens, and I can safely say it was my favourite weekend of all. It was such a nice change to mix it up a bit from your classic beach weekend and chuck some botanical gardens on ya tasting platter! Every weekend I feel like we just get closer and closer. When we're not finding trotros or trying to book accomodation, we'll just be chilling in someone's dodgy room, everyone sprawled over the beds and floor and just talking about anything and everything. One time I decided to jot down all the topics we cycled through in a night .. that was quite the extensive list :) 

Anyway so on the Saturday 5 of us (Bardie, Harriet, Gina, Lauren and myself) decided to brave the 24km bikeride over Ghanian jungle-infused countryside. And we all agreed it was the best decision we ever made! Not only did we find our mountain biking legs but we got a nice little tour around a cocoa forest, we stopped off for some palm wine under a tree, we visited our guide (Ben)'s brother also his coach called Lesley, who is a half-Ghanian half-British man who has a lot of nameless cats. After bonding over a waterfall and an extreme rapping sesh, we became so close to Ben (or should I say STONZY BEE) that he bought us a pineapple and he promised to take us out for a real experience of Ghanian nightlife. Little did we know this would also include a chill out in his recording studio, in which we were encouraged to "show us your stuff". We made a pathetic little chorus about palm wine and it's effects on bike riding.. but stonzy found this so exciting that he burnt it to a cd to take home. That's one for the ipods! The rest of the night was spent dancing on the side of the road in the rain in a town called 'tutu'... not being 18 yet I can say that was a strange 'first clubbing experience'... :D 

I am now typing this half for the second time as I had a lovely little run-in with unreliable internet and as soon as I hit send the web decided to crash! So hopefully I can remember what I typed. Honestly I don't think you're missing much, a lot of this is just ramblin' good times from ansy gray. 

But reading back over this it looks like all I talk about is the weekends! I suppose the weekdays have just turned into such a routine that it's kind of strange to say well, today Georgina urinated on the floor! Or - hey Australia, our class drew pigs today! They were really nice pigs. And nobody chose pink when colouring them! There were brown pigs, and orange/green pigs, and red pigs.. a plethora of piggity joy. Sorry my head is in a strange place! I am utterly exhausted from a long afternoon of painting my classroom. So. Much. Surface. Area. I must look a little kooky covered in sweat and red and blue paint :) :) But we're all very happy with our kids' progresses. Even though it may be small, every little difference means so much from our point of view. 

I'm quite glad the internet crashed actually because we had a classic Ghana experience just where I left you yesterday. Hari, Gina and I were in Melcom (a supermarket) and a woman from across the street smiled at us and decided to cross. Things got a little strange when she accompanied us through the checkout and started kissing us and calling us her mother. But that wasn't the end of the strangeness. She decided to follow "her daughters" all the way to the next shop.. all the way up a side street.. all the way to Katie's house... will she come inside? Oh. Wow. Okay she's in Katie's house. What do we do... we can just leave her in the hall. Oh ok, she's in the lounge room now and kissing all our friends.. annnd... settling in for a nice view of the Tuesday movie. Luckily we had Linda (Katie's host sister) to coax her out of their property. Oh Ghana. 

There are so many times you just have to smile and go along with it. I was buying deodorant (hair minimising deodorant .. just for fun) and a woman stopped me and told me I was buying hairspray. "But it says anti-perspirant deodorant.." "NO. It's for the hair." "Ok.. thank you!" :) wheeee. 

Well I can't really remember what else I wrote but this is getting quite lengthy so I might leave you there. It's a scary though that next time I write to you all we'll be in our last week of teaching and saying goodbye to our host families!! Time has gone so unbelievably quickly. This weekend we're off to the Wli waterfalls in the Volta region! 

I'll be sure to give you the low down in Blog number 5... Until then, adios! 

We send our love and our smiling hearts :) <3

Friday, 4 November 2011

Final Goodbye's for our Gappers in India

What a sad, but exciting week we’ve had. This week we had our last days at school, day care and orphanage, because next week is Diwali. It was very hard to say goodbye to our kids, and many tears were shed. Annie and I found it particularly hard at the day care, because the kids there are so young (some could still be considered babies) and therefore had no idea we were even leaving. As per usual, our orphanage boys were very cheeky on our last day and we had to chase them to get photos, we even managed to squeeze a couple of awkward hugs out of them! We have all had an unforgettable experience teaching these kids, and we are so lucky that we were able to be part of their lives! On Saturday afternoon we all boarded an overnight bus to Agra… a 16 hour bus ride!! (Minus Maddy who got to spend the weekend with her mum in Agra – lucky thing). We handled it quite well and even managed to get a few hours sleep. We had a quick, but delicious breakfast when we arrived and then headed straight to the Taj Mahal! Once we found ourselves a guide (actually he found us and practically begged us to hire him) we headed in. Our first few glimpses of the magnificent building were breathtaking. It was so hard to comprehend the fact that we were really there, standing in front of it. It looked just like it does in the pictures, and of course our tour guide took all the corny tourist shots for us. After leaving the Taj, we had a quick visit to Agra Fort followed by a well deserved lunch at Pizza Hut! At 5:30 we were dropped at the train station for our ride home (only 12 hours this time). We were so worried we wouldn’t have time to fit Agra in so we were so happy with the weekend and had the best time.

Our Peru Gappers experience the wonders of Bolivia

Here are the latest adventures from our Gappers in Peru... They've been travelling in Bolivia for the last 2 weeks, from the countryside to the jungle. What adventures they've had!...

For the past two weeks, the Antipodeans group has ventured from our comfort zone in Peru to cross the border into Bolivia. After a 12-hour bus ride via Puno to Copacabana we spent (relative to the three different groups) from 1 to 3 nights in Copa. Staying in honeymoon suites overlooking Lake Titicaca or living in hostels on Isla del Sol. The time in this waterside town was spent with day trips to Isla De Sol, boating across Lake Titicaca, enjoying the cheap shopping, good food, beautiful scenery and lazing in hammocks by our hostel. Our pit stop in Copacabana broke up the long trip to La Paz, Bolivia. Embarking on our second leg, with La Paz in sight we checked our passports and walked across the border, for some of us with ice creams in hand. As we wound down the bends into La Paz city we were met with a tessellation of earthy coloured houses, back dropped by the idiosyncratic Bolivian mountainside. We found La Paz to be a more industrial, bustling and hybrid city than Peru. Staying in The Wild Rover, an Irish run hostel/pub, for some it was a first hostel experience, for others a welcome back to the life of travelling. We explored thoroughly the markets and the cheap clothing, bags and souvenirs. The Witches Markets were a very peculiar sight, complete with hanging baby llama carcasses and potions. The highlight of La Paz for all was undoubtedly challenging and conquering the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. We flew down Death Road on our mountain bikes, dodging the daunting cliff face, at times at a worryingly close radius. The view was beautiful, and dangerously distracting; luscious green mountainsides, sheer cliffs with a drop of over 400metres. The ride was thrilling, our instructor entertaining and the day unforgettable. When we had made it to the bottom, the relief of a wild life sanctuary, promising showers, all you can eat, the infamous free t-shirt and a visit to see the animals was very welcomed. A few of us took on the zip line; three separate flying foxes accumulating 1.5km. The weary group then boarded the bus to drive BACK up the Death Road and to our beds at the Wild Rover. We also celebrated the last of our placement birthdays, Brookes! This had come after a solid week and a half of birthday parties celebrated in Cusco since late September for Isabelle, Cat, Milly and Sam. With our usual ritual of cake and dinner followed by an unforgettable night out for some, Brooke’s birthday was held in style. By the end of the week we were all together in La Paz, only to split into two groups (one of seven and one of twelve) to sight see in Bolivia. On return to Cusco, many stories were shared of our experiences in this beautiful country of Bolivia.

The group of twelve spent two nights and three days exploring the beautiful Salar de Uyuni. The tour travelled in two cramped Land Rovers across the Salar and through the dusty (and bumpy) Bolivian countryside. Visiting the skeletons of the train cemetery, natural rock formations including the famous Rock Tree, countless lagoons brimming with regiments of flamingos and of course the Salt Flats. Standing a top incuhasi, the Fish Island, an Oasis in the middle of the Salar covered in hundreds of cacti promised a view that stretched the entire salt plain. Against a cowboy blue sky, the white desert, a huge salty expanse stretched right to the feet of the mountains in the far distance. Strong winds whipped our hair with salt as cameras snapped constantly the grandiose mountains, the ever-stretching salt plains and the perfectly balanced colours of the lagoons. Despite the freezing temperatures, we dreamt of the girls steaming in the jungle…

18 hours away from La Paz by the real Death Road, the muggy and bogged bus ride whereby six of the girls headed to the jungle and arrived in Rurrenabaque. They were to spend their 2 nights and 3 days in the jungle fishing for piranhas, boating down the Amazon, surrounded by thousands of alligators and other exotic animals such as the giant rat-like Capiburja- not the most beautiful thing. And whilst animal spotting they saw a lethargic sloth, manoeuvring himself down his tree. Catching piranhas was a sure highlight, with Brooke hooking the first feisty fish with a huge chunk of meat. Sitting out on a frail deck perched by single tree trunks whilst watching an impressive Amazonian sunset was a defining memory for the girls. A typical yet cringe-worthy experience of the Pampas was undoubtedly the swarm of enormous black bugs to the light that they would have to brave in order to use el bano. The inescapable humidity characterised the stay; dipping their feet in the Amazon as the boat travelled along by day was a welcomed relief to the sticky temperatures. Our health has been mas o menos, many more additions to the clinic and a lot of bronchitis making it’s way around the group. We have kept the clinic running on revolving doors. At Corao, some were lucky to be entertained by the Schools annual concert, the kids dressed colourfully in their traditional dress performing dances and songs. The front security wall has been finished and work has begun on the water reservoir. With a few money issues we are all pleased that we have made some progress, ready to show some initiative and get done what we want to see completed. With only a month or so to go, there is not a lot of time left together here in Cusco and a lot still to be achieved!