Friday 17 July 2009

Malawi Summer Team - Amrit on Week no.1

Since coming to Chitakale we have learned four things:

  • Do not measure your strength with that of an African man - you will be annihilated.
  • Mixing cement is the funnest thing in the world.
  • Fried lettuce goes really well with Macaroni.
  • And there is nothing quite as exhilarating as a game of football whilst the beautiful African sun sets beyond the hills.
The people of Chitakale are wonderful. Never have we seen children so pleased to see us; upon arrival kids and adults alike burst into song and kept singing for quite a while, even after we had been led to our accommodation. There are twelve of us on the Quest-Team, including the two intrepid and fearless leaders, (these are not my words) Charlie and Richard. We are living in a four room building - three rooms with beds and one which serves as a kitchen. There are ants everywhere, but they are not a great concern to us; we will wage war on them when the time is right. And we will emerge victorious.

Meals are eaten in a grass hut outside of the main building, which has also turned into the "chill-out" area; people chat and play cards under the bright light of the headlamps we wear religiously after sunset at five o'clock.

There is no electricity in Chitakale. Showers are simple buckets of water to be poured over ones head, toilets are made of holes in the ground. Surely Darwin's theory of evolution must be wrong, or man-kind would have evolved into a species capable of "doing their business" whilst standing instead of crouching. Going to the loo has never been such hard work. Girls keep on complaining about aim being difficult - I do not understand what they are talking about.

We wake at 7 a.m with the sun drenching the courtyard in great-gold and blood-red rays, and the cry of the cockrel (who we have sworn to eat by the end of the trip). After a porridge breakfast we wander on-site and work in the blazing heat untill tea-time at ten, served by Ida and her savvies. After tea, work continues untill lunch at twelve, and then again untill four, when the boys go off for the daily, after-work football session.

We are building a school. It is to be a simple construcion - two rooms and a roof, but it will suffice; expectations here are not high - thank God! It is incredible how quickly progress is made. We work with a group of builders and the community of Chitakale - who, with our incredibly talented leaders (I don't know where these comments keep coming from...), instruct us in the art of cement mixing and brick laying. It is very satisfying to look at a days work and realize that one has built half a wall. Work is hard, but we are happy to be doing it. All in all, we are having a great time and feel privileged to be here.

To finish, a couple of interesting facts about our little group here:-
  • We have eaten 10 kg of rice in a week.-
  • Sotiris is being called the Hulk.
  • The Hulk can do five times as much work as everyone else together in half the time.-
  • Kaiky was first to draw blood.
  • Sophie has been crowned "Big Momma".
  • I have been appointed the role of "Big Bwana" - (Big Boss).
  • Charlie and Richard think they are awesome (and so do we).
  • Bella brought the kids a whole bag of toys!
  • Elise has yet to have her first bowel movement.
  • Miriam broke one of the walls we built.
  • There is a beard-growing contest on the run. Richard is in the lead, but I think I will catch up soon.

We will keep you up to date as to how the war on the ants goes.

Amrit Thind - 17th July 09

Thursday 16 July 2009

Malawi Summer Team - Start building with enthusiasm!

The Malawi summer team have started the construction of the classroom in Chitakale village. With 5 weeks of mixing cement, laying bricks, spreading lime, plastering, painting, digging and carrying ahead of them they have set about their task with enthusiasm. The foundations were in place prior to the team's arrival into Malawi and everything was ready for construction to begin on Tuesday. The hard work of the Quest team and the local volunteers and builders has meant that on 3 sides of the classroom the walls are already up to window height - a great achievement for just two days work.

During the coming weeks the team will also be working closely with the orphaned children by helping out at local feeding centres, youth groups and schools.

More updates on the team's progress to come soon!

Monday 13 July 2009

Kenya Summer Team Get To Work

The type of sand dam that the Kenya team and local community begin constructing today!

The Kenya summer team are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work today on the first sand dam of the project. They are working with 55 community members of the Munthi self help group and between them will go through 170 bags of cement during the construction. The entire dam should be built in 3-4 days - a fantastic achievement.

Keep your eyes peeled here for more updates and photos of the Kenya team's work!

Friday 3 July 2009

Bolivia Summer Team, toilets, dogs and buses!

Journey to the Heart of South America - Bolivia-ya-ya-ya:Coral had about 2 minutes to get to the gate to catch the flight to Madrid and had to make a quick decision to throw away Jonjon's kind gift of cheese first out of fear of being fined or arrested once we reached Miami. Needless to say this did not greatly please Matt who is suffering from Cathedral City deprivation. Luckily we were easily distracted by several plastic fish displays, a lifesize model of a giraffe and a sauce bottle labelled Chillie Willy for it to really register that we had to wait 10 hours at miami airport!

But when we did actually get on the plane, finally, we were granted with the emergency seats, extra leg room, yes! However the flight attendant also asked if the passenger next to you died would you be comfortable pulling off the emergency doors in a disaster! A little bit daunting to say the least! Well Coral´s bag did not arrive in La Paz with Alice´s. Due to her stupidity while packing, she had to borrow a pair of Alice´s pants although she had packed a pair of 3 inch heels in her hand luggage! Dangerous weapon? Maybe, but American Airlines, didn't seem to mind.

After suffering all that flying and headaches from the altitude in La Paz we can safely say we were a bit apprehensive about a 22 hour bus ride through the mountains. But we were soon greeted with the most amazing views of the mountains, and literally driving through the clouds! so luckily, us being easily amused and cameras in hand the ride actually turned out to be quite entertaining. that said until we reached the first toilet stop. Well Coral thought that the toilets at Download Festival were the worst in the world but quickly changed her mind when she had to wee in a hole surrounded by other women watching!!! So apart from the toilets and the gang of machette and axe weilding roadworkers that hopped on at one point (but were actually quite friendly), the ride wasn´t nearly as bad as we thought it would be!

While walking around Rurrenabaque in the search of dogs to feed out left over banana bread to, we came across a dog which Matt recognised (and the dog recognised Matt) who had lived at one of the animal sanctuaries. So we promptly made a big fuss of her and fed her our banana bread (just before it started to poor with rain)!

Fortunately the sun has returned now (typical, now that we're in an internet cafe!) and all is set to enter Jacj Cuisi early tomorrow morning to start on our hardcore construction-ing for the next week.Wish us luck and we'll be in contact again once Murray is Wimbledon champion (lets hope that doesn't take him another 70 odd years!)

Ambue Ari summer group 09.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Yachana Team on their Expedition

Four weeks summarised in one page - here we go!

We fled the torrential downpours of the rainforest, returning to civilisation in Quito for a few days before our flight to Lima to begin the Expedition Phase. On arrival in Lima we were met by Rob, our new leader, who strangely resembled our old leader Tim with his long hair and beard! In Lima we checked out the Villa Maria project which seemed to be doing some very valuable work in the area. We took a bus to Pisco which was still rebuilding itself after the recent earthquake there. From here we visited the Ballestas Islands which was teeming with sealions, cormorants and dolphins. Later on we went to the Huacachina oasis for dune buggying and sandboarding. The following day we took a flight in a little Cessna over the Nazca lines – we were all impressed by the scale and intricacy of these huge images. We finished the day camping in a beautiful spot on the beach at Puerto Inka, lighting a bonfire to see in Jamie´s 19th!

From here, we picked up a bus-cama and took it down the coast on the Pan-American Highway to Arequipa, the “White City”. Here we prepared for our first trek in the Colca Canyon, the second deepest in the world. The first day we descended all the way to the canyon floor, following this with an easy three hour walk to an oasis on the second. We relaxed here before the big climb back out of the canyon the next day!

On our return to Arequipa, Rob treated us to a delicious meal at a French restaurant with ostrich steaks all round. Later that night we sampled the local nightlife with drinks by the “bucket full”. On our last day in Arequipa we checked out the latest Terminator film before taking a night bus out of Peru to Arica, Chile… we´ll be back. From here it was onto San Pedro de Atacama, a peaceful little town nestling in the foothills of the Andes, where we did some horse-riding (or in Jamie´s case, fresian cow-riding!)
We started our salt flats adventure early the next day, crossing into Bolivia and spending three days admiring the lagoons, hot springs, geysers and accompanying wildlife. From Uyuni, the end-point of the tour, we took a night bus to La Paz. During our stay, we ice climbed on nearby Huanya Potosi , cycled The World´s Most Dangerous Road (where Sophie took a small tumble!) and ate some disgustingly large pizzas.
We then embarked on our second trek of the trip, along the Choro Trail, which took us from snow capped mountains down into the warm lush cloud forest around Coroico. After two full days of gorging at the buffet and sweating in the sauna, and a comically bad 15 hour bus journey, we arrived in Rurrenabaque. From here we visited both The Madidi National Park and the Pampas. Here we saw some incredible wildlife - monkeys, caiman, pink river dolphins, birds of all shapes and sizes and the all-important Rufescent Tiger-Heron! Along the way we celebrated both Kat and Gabi´s birthdays in fine Bolivian style, leaving them thoroughly egged and floured! We were also challenged to two games of football, winning the first 14 – 6 and narrowly losing the second 3 – 2, despite some fine saves from our resident ninja Tim! We also spent a day working at Jacj Cuisi, the new Inti Wara Yassi animal park, clearing land for the new comedor.

As we write, we are anxiously awaiting our 16 hour return journey to La Paz, from where we will visit Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu (via the Inca Trail). More adventures await…

Thursday 11 June 2009

Tanzania GAP 2009 video is here!

Malawi GAP Team - Lucy & Gasche´s Mozambique update

Everyone was excited to leave Maputo & head up to Tofo - even a 4am bus ride didn´t dampen spirits! On arrival we headed straight for the beach for a spot of sunbathing & swim, as well as a glass of Tipo Tinto - the local rum. Wednesday was the start of our dive course at Diversity Scuba which was spent watching thrilling educational DVDs & learning skills in the pool, before venturing into the big blue ocean on Thursday! Everyone came back from the first dive very enthaustatic & ready to celebrate Katherine´s (real) birthday! The theme was ´white trash´which involved fake stubble, plenty of trucker hats & several banana cocktails!

On our next dive some of us were lucky enough to see a manta ray swimming among the many tropical fish, but nevertheless there was still plenty to see including some moray eels, angelfish, lionfish (who Katherine had a v.close encounter with) and an octopus.

Saturday bought more hard work in the classroom, skills in the pool, an ocean dive and for some of us the final exam! The full-moon party in the evening was a perfect end to the day. There were also a few surprises throughout the night...!!! - including a visit from Bruce Gold (Dumbledore,) who Gasche was v.excited about!

On Monday, as Katherine & Me (Lucy) set off on the boat for our final dive, most people took the opportunity to top up their tans & enjoy some tasty food at Aunty Bea´s. Baptiste, Sinead & Charlie took to the waves with a private surf lesson to which they proved to be naturals & Kirsty came face to face with a whale shark!

For the final night we dressed up in our patterned trousers which we purchased from the local market & entered ourselves into a local quiz. A fun night was had by all, Amber, Sarah, Geri & Soph continued to party into the early hours of the morning at Dinos, before the 4am bus back to Maputo.

We all had a fantastic week & can´t wait to return to Tofo in the future! Thanks guys!

Volunteer in Africa 2010!