Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Introducing our new GapBreak Bloggers

Lauren Collee - Peru April blogger While procrastinating during exam week about a year ago, I bought a set of Peruvian panpipes off ebay. Inevitably, after a few days of amusement, they were shoved to the back of my bookcase and have been gathering dust there ever since. But a few days ago, getting back from the Antips training camp weekend, I pulled them out again. For me, the idea of going to Peru has been more than enough to justify the long café shifts and budget meals for the last few months, but no more than a distant reality.

Now, my internet history is full of Spanish-English internet translation and Lonely Planet articles on Inti Raymi. I can’t explain why it made me feel so happy that suddenly my little wooden panpipes finally have some sort of relevance to my life, but it must have something to do with the infectious enthusiasm of the 19 other people who will be tucked into Cuzco’s beautiful little corner of the world with me for the next 3 months. If anyone thought that all the talk of illnesses and medication (which sounds like yet another language we will have to master), and warnings against the hypothetical drug- dealing ‘Jack the barman’ would be enough to put us off, they were sorely mistaken!

Anna Craven – Argentina April, blogger One month until we jet! … And still so much to think about… The weekend’s training course proved to be the second last (exciting and exhilarating) hurdle yet to jump before our departure to the big smoke of Buenos Aires, Argentina on the 1st of April. There is of course, the daunting task of actually PACKING the bag whose size seems far too small to fit enough for such a big journey – although this can definitely wait until I muster the courage! We arrived in the depths of Chatswood both nervous and eager to meet our fellow Antips however once myself, Emily, Sophie, Jess, Nat and Kelly got to know each other, we realized we all had similar ideas of what we hoped to achieve whilst in South America.

This included as much volunteering as possible, trips to the famous ‘burbs of BA (La Boca, San Telmo etc.), getting tickets to see the La Boca Juniors amongst the giant crowds, visiting Iguassu Falls, wine tasting in Mendoza, exploring in Patagonia, fun in the student residence, learning as much Spanish as possible and travelling onwards to Bolivia, Peru, Chile and further! It is clear that even with only 2 days in between the English-teaching lessons, scenario deciphering, medical instructions, mealtimes, and learning about Argentina, that we are going to be a very happy little family of Aussies during our impending adventure! … And I can’t wait!

As we come to the time when we’ve paid our final installments, confirmed our flights and booked our travel insurance, the seven other ‘Ecuadorians to be’ and I finally met at the Antipodeans training course on the 25th-26th February. I personally was not so nervous to meet my fellow travelers simply because I’m already good friends with three of them. However I often wonder how anxious the other four were having to meet the people they were going to live with for the next three months...

Surprisingly enough we all hit it off great! Everyone I met during the training course was confident and friendly and I couldn’t help feeling excited knowing that they would basically be my family for the next few months. We were all enthusiastic with learning about teaching, customs and general safety. Moreover the lessons our antips staff provided were fun and helpful, which I think made us feel more comfortable with getting to know one another.

The training weekend was beneficial in a number of ways - we all met and got to know our soon to be traveling buddies, we were taught a great deal about our placements and we had the opportunity to ask any questions that were on our minds. But mostly we were able to remind ourselves how excited we are to start such a fantastic and sure-to-be rewarding experience! Bye-bye Australia - Hello Ecuador!

The lead up to France By Siobhan Calafiore

It is about six weeks before we leave for France and I just can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. In just a few short months I have finished school, gone away, booked this trip, looked for work and started working. It has been chaotic! Work has been the major stressor for me so I am relieved to finally have a job and with so little time to go I’m embracing the eight hour shifts everyday at Maccas! For others it may have been a little bit easier as they would have probably already had a part time job or at least a little experience. However for me the past 13 years has been school, sport, music and study and although at times I got close to getting a part time job I never went through with it. At times this summer I cursed my lack of experience but I don’t regret not working during my school years as I don’t think I would have coped.

I was worried that my siblings would return to university and I would be at home bored and lacking a sense of purpose or place. Especially when my twin brother and I have always done everything at the same time, walking, talking, going to school and now he is starting university without me. If I didn’t have work to keep me occupied I would probably start questioning my decision until I finally departed just as so many other people have questioned me. So I’m glad to have something that fills my days and pays well. Between being so busy working and finalising paperwork for France as well as writing letters to my host family, its both scary and exciting to pause and realise that the trip is fast approaching.

I have now met the three other girls from Melbourne who will join me and am feeling more confident knowing that I have these girls as a support group overseas. Our week in Paris I am sure will be a blast and will bring us all a lot closer as we explore a foreign city. We are also very fortunate that we have all been located so close together with our families! It makes catching up a lot easier and I can’t wait to discover their towns as well as my own. I have just received news of my host family and finished writing my first letter to them. They are a family of three young boys who are very sporty. We both share a passion for tennis so I can’t wait to get out on the courts and have a hit with them. They live by a river and a forest near the coast and their town sounds beautiful. I love natural beauty and I have a feeling that I will be surrounded by it during my stay. I am also excited because it will be summer and having visited France twice in winter it will be a welcomed change.

At the moment I am not nervous but I am sure that I will be by the end of April. I have been on exchange before and although I know that this experience will be very different, having the assurance of being able to cope on the other side of the world without my family and a small knowledge of the french language and culture is a great comfort. I was very lucky to have a beautiful, warm and affectionate family during my last exchange who I email and facebook regularly, who I still very much love after more than two years and who will come back to Australia with me on my return for a holiday! Although I am optimistic that my current host family are just as kind and welcoming and I am confident that I will be able to form the same strong bonds, I understand that there will be different challenges, new confrontations and other experiences throughout this journey. While I try to erase any expectations and prepare to take everything as it comes and embrace it, I can't help but sense that this trip will be truly memorable and worthwhile!

If you're interested in participating in the GapBreak program post-highschool, jump onto our website and get all the relevant information. Why not teach English in Africa, work in animals in Brazil or help out on conservation projects in Borneo?