Tuesday 24 February 2009

Tanzania GAP team Jan-Feb 2009 what the volunteers had to say

Check out what our volunteers had to say after completing a new classroom in Tanzania.  The team of 10 volunteers spent 6 weeks working and living with the community.

"With only one day left in Babati, Tanzania, I cannot help but think back over how amazing the last 6 weeks have been. I have helped build a school, survived on a diet of beans and rice, struggled to come to terms with my American heritage and most importantly, I have been lucky enough to meet and befriend a community of incredible, selfless and vibrant people ranging in ages from 3 to 83. While I am sure that they will not remember me in several years time, I can honestly say that my experience here in Babati, with Quest Overseas and the Livingstone Tanzania Trust and the Waangwaray school has been something that I will never forget."
Dixon Knox

"It has been the most incredible 6 weeks, not only through the work that we have done but with the community who have been so generous inviting us to their houses and teaching us to dance. All the new people and things we have done have made this an unforgettable experience."

Victoria Yates

Thursday 19 February 2009

Tanzania latest Project update!

Photo's coming soon, watch this space!

What follows is a summary of some of the fantastic things we have got up to in the last few weeks, mostly taken from James with a bit of Tom and a sprinkling of Sophie:
The classroom and office that barely more than a month ago were nothing but a square of drying concrete foundations  was completely finished when we said our final, tearful, farewell on Monday. Among the many ways in which we sweated for the cause were the construction of the A-frames for the roof, painting them with foul termite-proof doo doo paint (tee hee) and first cementing and then liming the walls. The latter job proved to be quite a skill, with a flick of the wrist that took some mastering. Still, the local builders (fundis) were fairly impressed with our speed, with one taking a particular shine to Hannah. Score.
As well as the classroom itself, we also found other ways to help out around the school. Our other big project was constructing a fishpond to generate income for the school. This mainly involved cementing the base and walls (the results of which are seen not only in the watertight nature of the pond but the sculpted nature of our forearms). Once it was finished, and prior to the water being filled with s%$t (literally, in this case) we took advantage and had a paddle, cue impromptu games of volleyball and plenty of splashing and screaming. 
Another experience of note was our being invited to a church one Sunday. It was obvious that the community spirit generated by these Sunday services was fairly integral to the lives of the people there (or at least more so than the church house band, consisting of two barely-tuned guitars and a keyboard drum machine stuck constantly on sound 17, speed 6). Pleasingly, there was also a fire and brimstone turn by the preacher, exhorting passionately from his pulpit.  After the service we had the opportunity (rather unexpected) to bid for blessed goods. Freddie (in his second best cashmere jumper) did the group proud with a successful bid for a box of blessed mangos. They tasted far superior to the normal kind.
One of the most amusing evenings of the project phase was Obama Day, our own celebration of the inauguration. In classic American style, we decided upon chicken and chips. The chickens were brought from Babati market, slain with varying degrees of squeamishness by (take the stage) Sarah, Sophs, Freds and Vic and then deep fried. We wasted very little, with Vic munching on a foot or two and Sarah proving quite partial to stomach.
Every day (give or take a few) we got Swahili lessons from the Reverend Jason (the Rev, his street name, is how he’s known amongst his cohorts in the Babati mafia). We have all become kidogo safi, tafadhali ndizi (please dont google translate that!). It works the other way too, as we held regular conversation classes with the school kids. They were fascinated by us, the first question always being whether or not we were married. The highlight of these classes was Freds manfully attempting to teach the entire year group heads, shoulders, knees and toes with surprising success. In addition, we got to visit the kindergarten in pairs daily to play with the littlest ones. This, whilst exhausting, was incredibly fun and Dixon deserves special mention for his frequent and popular conga lines. 
On our final day on Monday we had a massive ceremony, cutting the ribbon to our classroom and, hilariously, being asked to entertain local dignitaries with our tribal dancing. Ouch. We then moved off to safari, which was absolutely fantastic. We got on incredibly intimate terms with an elephant, a family of giraffes and a warthog, among others.  Anyone reading this check out the balls of the vervet monkey.  Fantastic.  After our first day we retired to a gorgeous lodge on top of the rift valley escarpment for Sarah’s fake birthday (we all get fake birthday celebrations).  Her birthday poem, composed by Tom, runs like this. She wanted it published, predictably enough.
On your birthday is the time
To submit a brief and humble rhyme
And sing in praise of Sarah C
She doesn’t disappoint, not she
You lead the group through thick and thin,
You wipe sick dribble from my chin,
And when the times run thin then thick,
Still you are involved with sick
A slur and a stagger, we saw the signs,
When lily puked on your legs eight times-
But enough of the vomit-focused rant
On to thoughts more elegant
Such as when you helped to send
Love and joy to your secret friend!
No joke, you were the very best
The pride was rising in my chest,
As I saw my banner fly,
Although the locals wondered why
I felt such love for a simple lamp 
(Perhaps they thought I was a tramp
And from dusk onwards, all through the night, 
Had no other source of light
But enough of me, now let us sing,
Of other fun you helped to bring-
Chaz’s credits rapid rise,
Martins cry of pleased surprise,
The tennis bats were quite a catch,
To you, Madame, game set and match,
And it would be a dreadful loss, 
To fail to mention Chaz’s cross:
A labour of love, if ever I’ve seen
Painted in blue and black and green 
As well as these, you’ve done much more,
To make the hearts of Quester’s soar
Notably, you’re honouring Sophie’s choice, 
And dusting off your golden voice,
To sing Hero and heal her hand,
(You should charge at least 100 Rand
For were all privileged to have sat,
Through a performance such as that
And there’s one more thing that I should say
About a man big in more than one way
I’m not talking about big Jules P. 
I refer instead to the big JC,
Who has entered into your life
By way of a bible verse or five
As you read this, or so I wish,
You’ll be halfway to getting pissed,
But before you drink the night away,
Close your eyes and let us pray:
Dear God, asante, asante sana,
For Sarah, she’s the top banana!
On that note, Im off for a kili biridi and our farewell Tanzania meal!

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Sophie Shuttleworths, poor attempt at a group update! Villa Maria Team ! 2009

Not sure where Vicky left off but i think it was around Wednesday. So Wednesday afternoon went to the men's prison which was pretty scary. Loads of little kids visiting their dads, was pretty upsetting. We went to visit a guy called Raymond who looked like a cross between the colonel from KFC and Albert Einstein had a tour round ´machete land´etc. was really interesting although pretty terrifying (to think i thought the prison visit was a joke!) but the important thing is that no one got killed so everything was good on Wednesday.

Wednesday night was ladies night down at bungalow 6....the drinks: sex in Quito, sex on the beach, mojitos all free, what more could you ask for in life!! we manages to smuggle the boys in but the deal was they had to drink beer (not very good for 3 of them who hate beer!) was good fun! Thursday was a bit slow due to the exploits of the night previous. Lessons were good, if a little slow, spent the second part learning how to play games and the Spanish that would be needed to interact with the kids in Villa Maria.

Thursday afternoon we went to some art gallery Guacamine who depicts scenes of suffering from around the world, was pretty interesting. His art is very emotionally charged and to a degree shocking. Thursday night we just had a quiet one watching DVDs in the hostal.

Friday was cool.went to order the shirts for footy was pretty interesting but found out today that people do actually understand my Spanish which is promising. After lunch we headed up to yunguilla. we had a little tour around the Village and a ´brief´history of the place although i think the meaning of brief here alters a little from that of it at home! We then went to find out which family we were going to be staying with that night. (a few of the girls thought it was a joke until they found themselves sat at the front of a hall of yungillans ready to be aucitoned off) spent the night with our families who proved to be over generous and incredibly welcoming. There was a party for an English guy who was leaving the village so we went to that. Like the meaning of brief yunguillans clearly have another meaning of party form that of the English, but nevertheless a good time was had by those of us that stuck around for bit. great chance for me to show up my salsa skills too, being outshone by an old man isn't ideal.

Saturday was the 7 or 8km trek. was good fun, the ground was really muddy so some of us spent more time on our bums than feet but we got to Santa Lucia all in one piece. Saturday night chilled out, and we had our first opportunity to use our head torches after the solar power ran out. pretty exciting i must say!! lodge was really nice, and everyone got a good nights sleep accept for the boys who were woken by Fred having a nightmare.

Sunday was more walking, not so hardcore this time, really nice weather which made it even more enjoyable, although most were in a little pain form sunburn and walking from the weekend! A few of the group went up to a waterfall with Julio who was our guide. sounded pretty fun, i personally chickened out and sat on a rock instead. Sunday night we were forced by some to watch Twilight, possible the worst movie i have ever seen so most went to bed early to avoid the film!

Monday we all changed teachers. i think most people were a little unsure at first but the majority have warmed to them now. In the afternoon we went to the equator AND the fake one, was pretty cool. lots of photos etc etc. Laura and I managed to balance the egg on the head of the nail. we were pretty damn impressed with ourselves! Monday night we sorted out some stuff for villa maria (by stuff i mean activities) we came up with quite a few so should be good fun!

Yesterday (Tuesday) lessons were spent organising what we are going to perform for the rest of the group next Tuesday. my group is doing the Spanish version of snow white and the seven dwarfs. I was assigned the role of happy (much to Emily's amusement as she has made comments about my lack of height several times!!!) ours also involves singing in Spanish which will be VERY interesting. i think another group are doing some kind of Oscar type thing although eveyones being pretty secretive. no doubt a video will make its way to you!

Yesterday afternoon we went to the teliferico but it was closed for maintenance so we spent the afternoon in the theme park thing at the bottom instead. was really good fun apart form the ride called ´samba´ it was actually horrific!! a couple of us went on the ejector seat thing too! Last night some of us went out (as another night watching a film didn't really appeal) we went to some Irish bar and took part in the pub quiz, was pretty funny, we definitely, didn't even nearly win. but whatever.

Today lessons were pretty chilled. Alex and I went to collect the t shirts for the match tomorrow so the last half hour was spent taking team photos in the park! its all looking pretty special. i think us gringo girls have a good chance of winning, hopefully we will as i have a bet with one of the teachers. doesn't sound like much fun so cheating and aggression might have to come into play!, if you've made it this far through my e-mail.... sorry my version of brief is the same as the yungiuillans!

Monday 9 February 2009

Rio Language Phase part 2 by James CA

Weekend away in Ilhe Grande.

Having packed the night before we were all up early in order to set off for our weekend trip to the reportedly stunning island of Ilhe Grande. After a scenic boat journey we were not disappointed with what we found. With our tents pitched on the sands of Ilhe Grande we ventured into the small fishing town. The locals quickly thrashed us at football, following that we enjoyed the atmosphere of the town square with a drink in hand. It is was then time to hit tents for some well needed rest.

The crashing awoke us from our slumber, a quick breakfast of fresh local fruit ensued and we were ready for the trek ahead.
Following two and a half hours and nearly seven kilometers through the primary Atlantic rain forest we arrived a t the picturesque Lopes Mendes beach. The day was spent riding the waves and soaking up the Brazilian sun. To ensure the stunning weather continued members of the group performed a ceremonial sun dance and then we were off. A local boat took us back to base camp where we wined and dined the night away under the starry sky, and then to the tents for some well earned sleep.

Sunday was spent on a nearby beach and in a spectacular fresh water pool, with many a group photo to be had night had already drawn in... "Oh what a life".

The bags were packed and reluctantly we waved 'Tchau' to our treasured pocket of paradise. AS the ferry meandered back to the mainland we were all missing Ilhe Grande, but looking forward to the hustle and bustle of Rio.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Villa Maria language phase 2009 by Vicky Spence

After a decidedly interesting flight (aka a rocky landing accompanied by a Spanish lady telling us all about various past plane crashes) we finally reached the hostal which is going to be our base while we´re in Quito. The school is part of the hostal so all we have to do is wander downstairs for our lessons. Definitely a blessing after some of the late nights we´ve had!

Lessons are during the morning so in the afternoons we´ve been out exploring Quito, visiting the old town with sites like the cathedral and the presidential palace.

So far we´ve had our first weekend road trip, heading up to Otavalo to go to the local craft market. Considering that none of us have nmuch room in our rucksacks, we´ve been fairly restrained with the shopping, but we have all bought matching alpaca hats, so there will be some very entertaining group photos taken soon...
We had a packed weekend, swimming at the base of a waterfall, trekking around the ridge of a volcanic lake (we are now a little nervous at the thought of the 4 day trek to Macchu Picchu!), and the bizarre experience of visiting a shaman, who cleansed Fred by hitting him with parsley, rubbing eggs on him and blowing smoke in his face.
Back in Quito we have also been on a ´party bus´ with disco lights, music, and a lot of an ecuadorean alcohol which is heated and smells like bubble gum. It took us on a tour of the city in the evening, attempting to dance without falling over, and dropped us off for supper in a local restaurant. England has definitely missed out on this form of entertainment!

Rio Language Phase 2009 by Rachel Brown

For the first 3 weeks of our time in Brazil, we had Portuguese lessons to prepare us for the rest of our trip. I thought this was really useful, as the project phase is spent working with kids, and so being able to communicate is essential for getting the most out of it. Also, just generally being able to ask for simple things, like drinks, and order your own food makes the experience so much better, and means that we don´t have to rely on our leader the whole time. For me, the language phase was one of the reasons I chose the trip, as I am going on to study Spanish and Portuguese at university.

I found the lesons really helpful, and the fact that we were split into two small groups of 5 and 4 meant that we had more time to go through each point in detail, and also ensured that everyone in the group understood what we had learnt before moving on to the next unit. We had 4 hours of lessons every morning, with a half hour break in the middle. I found the lessons really varied, and each day we would learn something new, while also revising what we had already learnt so we didn´t forget antyhing. We used a text book for part of the day to get a grasp of more gramatical issues, but also listened to Brazilian music and translated some songs as well. One day, having learnt all the vocabulary for different fruits, we were taken to the fruit market near the school, and were actually able to try the different fruits, like Jaca, while also practising our Portuguese with the venders.

Our teacher also made us pick a topic that we had learnt, and teach it back to our class, which was a really helpful way of going over previous units. We also played lots of games to help us remember vocabulary, and the fact that each lesson was different kept us interested and meant that we were constantly learning new things. After about a week of lessons, we visited Casa La, to introduce ourselves to the boys that we would be looking after. It made me realise just how important the lessons were, and motivated me to work harder so that I would be able to communicate with them better. It was great to actually be able to use what we had learnt, to understand and be understood, and talk to the boys. It amazed me just how much we had learnt in so little time, and now that we have the basics, I think we will be able to pick up a lot more Portuguese during the project phase.