Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Exams as a beginning!

We are now a part of the Orkeeswa teaching staff and the school with its extended hours and range of non-teaching employees feels very much like a family. It has been something of a baptism of fire given that we arrived to discover that there would be exams in just over a week and that that decision to run them, had been made only very recently and therefore the previous English teacher had not set the papers.

With the deadline only 3 days away we launched into the first task of trying to acquaint ourselves with the style and format of the national exams. Obviously we needed to mirror that so that the students could gain the maximum benefit. Secondly we needed to read the curriculum documents and texts already covered by our classes in order to write appropriate questions and have some idea of how to grade them when they are completed. Luckily some past papers came to light and we settled for allowing those to guide us.

We are still grappling with the details of the curriculum requirements and the reading that will enable us to make better decisions on the quality of the answers, but given there is a week holiday following the exams I now feel that I can accomplish the reading this week and sort through the exams during the break. Ian however is less fortunate as his exams have been moved from Good Friday to the first Monday of term to accommodate the Easter holiday. It really was a frantic way to begin but now that the papers are written and the exam period underway I feel that we will at least begin the second quarter with a much better idea of where the students are at and what the curriculum involves.
The students here are very endearing even at this early point and we are sure that they will make their way into our hearts. As we struggle with a new language and mispronounce all their names they continue to engage us in friendly conversations and take an active interest in their studies and the many extra curricula activities that take place every day after school. We feel very ill informed about the culture at this point. I guess that is to be expected given this is our first sojourn outside of Asia and it has really been a hectic start.

Bhutan is often in our thoughts as there are so many similarities between our situations here and there. I am sure we talk to our colleagues about the kingdom and our students and experiences there way too much but the scenery, the students and the culture are so embedded in our souls now it is hard to let go. In fact, I am not sure that we ever will.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Finally in Tanzania - Day One!

We have been here for 10 days but I have been dying to write up day one since we arrived. It was just such an amazingly, unexpectedly productive and positive experience.

After weeks of anxiously wondering what unforeseen and unprecedented complications would arise when we finally arrived in Tanzania, the many things that were achieved on day one pleasantly surprised us.

Our concerns about whether we would be granted tourist visas on arrival and what questions would be asked, evaporated in the face of the universal problem-solver: money. As smooth as silk, we paid the fee and were efficiently processed. In no time at all we were heading for the luggage collection area. Once again, worries about our luggage being nearly double the limit for the final leg from Nairobi to Kilmanjaro, came to nothing and our mountain of possessions were within sight as soon as we cleared immigration. Even the one suitcase, which had absolutely no identifying baggage tag or nametag, was miraculously waiting on the carrousel for us. This had not been the case when we last sighted it in Bangkok but the gods were smiling on us. Events continued in this totally positive vein all day.

At the arrivals area in the airport Peter Luis, the director of ieft (Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania) and Lisa, the volunteer coordinator were waiting patiently for us and they immediately ushered us away into the school bus. The scenes flashing by the windows and the flow of information pouring from these 2 experts, ensured that the hour or so journey from the airport to Arusha evaporated in no time.

Once in the bustling city of Arusha, we wasted no time getting cash, mobile phone connections, a data stick for the Internet and even some groceries for the days ahead. With no real concept of what to expect or what would be available, in the town of Monduli or the volunteer house we would be sharing, we simply took the advice of Lisa and purchased items, that she assured us would be treats for the girls in the house and unavailable in the local community. We were given a quick orientation to the town and managed to get a surprisingly tasty, cheap, western lunch and complete some of the necessary paperwork for our working visas, before once again boarding the bus for Orkeeswa.

The bus was required to transport teachers from the school to the town of Monduli, once the after school activities were over for the day so we sped off on another hour long journey as soon as it was viable. We arrived with the afternoon rains that have punctuated almost every afternoon since we set foot in Tz. These rains by the way, ensure that it is considerably cooler that we were expecting which is another pleasant surprise but they also create the biggest mud bath you can imagine. Every unsurfaced road and there are plenty of them, is a mud pool and staying upright is a skill we are developing.  This is the big wet and there will definitely be a lot more rain to come.

Our first glimpse of the school was awing inspiring. Students immediately came forward to introduce themselves and a couple volunteered to give us a tour around the campus, which was buzzing with sporting activity and laughter.

Before we even thought about it, we were piling back into the bus with 12 or so other volunteer and Tanzanian teachers. Crammed in like sardines and bumping and sliding along the rutted and treacherously muddy track from the school, we realized that this would be one of many such journeys over the next few weeks, months and probably years. Thankfully since then many have been in the 4-wheel drive not the bus but the number of passengers remains the same!

After dropping most of the teachers in town, Hamad, the school driver cum handyman and do it all run-about, agreed to drive us up to our new home but that proved a little ambitious in the muddy conditions. About half way up the hill the bus was well and truly bogged and we off loaded all our luggage and with the assistance of our ever willing and enthusiastically helpful housemate, Sara, we slipped and slid our way further up the slope to the volunteer house locally know as Pastor Justin’s house. After 3 trips each swapping loads and resting, all our possessions were finally indoors and we were sweat soaked and exhausted. We stopped for a breather and within 10 minutes Ellie, our second housemate arrived to say that Hamad was still trying to dig the bus out, so we trundled back down the hill to assist.

Luckily for us at that point Peter and the volunteer teachers, who had remained at school playing basketball, when we all took off, arrived in the school Land Rover and they pushed and maneuvered it enough to get it mobile. They were completely doused in mud in no time but the bus inched its way up the hill and finally made it to the yard of our new home.

At that point it was decided that we should all go for a beer at the Green View Club, conveniently located at a point down the muddy track where the road divides and branches off towards the other volunteer house. Over beers we were told that the following day we and a number of other teachers, had been given a reprieve from school and that was a relief. At this social gathering we got to meet all the volunteer teachers and chat about the Orkeeswa experience and it was very apparent that we had landed ourselves in a friendly, community of like-minded spirits.

As darkness fell I began to wonder about the sense of drinking when we had that slippery climb up to the house to negotiate without any light but yet again my fears were unfounded as Seth, volunteer teacher and leader took the wheel of the Land Rover and deposited us and our 2 housemates at our home and Peter at his a little further along the track, before returning to ‘the club’ collect the others and drive them to the other volunteer household where he and his wife Lisa also reside.

Ellie and Sara cooked up a storm for dinner and we fell into bed that night amazed at how much had been achieved in one day and wondering if every day would be so jammed packed full of activities, adventures and advice.

The answer is “YES”

But what an amazing beginning.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Africa on the horizon

I am a worrier!

I can help it or explain it. Given that I am organized, prepared, efficient and methodical I would expect to have nothing at all to worry about but somehow I always end up worrying and then finally wondering why. That is just me.

Despite having tried everything possible to convince myself to be positive and knowing full well that we are really good at starting again and facing the challenges of a new beginning in a new environment, as we are about to launch into the great unknown, I am feeling a little nervous, a little anxious and a lot excited about the next chapter in our lives.

We are unsure of exactly how to accomplish the transfer from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro but we know we are ticketed and have all the details it is possible to arms oneself with prior to arrival.

There is nothing for it now, except to let the adventure begin and go where it takes us.

Nothing too bad has ever happened in the past so we just have to have faith and continue in the same spirit. Once we are able to connect to the net again we will again update!

Bon voyage to us!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2013 a beginning has been made

When we first decided to blog it was a decision made because I have always been a journal, diary, commentary writer and I thought living and working in Bhutan would be a journey worth recording. I don’t think I was wrong.

When we left Bhutan, I again decided that this was not a travel journal and that I would stop blogging for the time we spent travelling and at home in Australia. I didn’t know then that it would be a hard habit to break. I missed the discipline of writing, the time for reflection and the commitment to making a conscious effort to understand and appreciate our lives and the way we choose to live them.

After more than a 2-month break I have decided to pick up the thread again. In just 9 days we will take off from Adelaide to begin a new adventure in Tanzania. In the time that has elapsed since leaving Bhutan we have been on an amazing journey. At first when we left the Kingdom I felt that the challenge of Africa would be too great but slowly as we have allowed ourselves time to relax and unwind we have developed a real enthusiasm for and a desire to understand the new culture we are about to embrace.

Recently I began the “Photo a day challenge” as I thought it would allow me to continue to develop my interest in photography and build my skills, whilst simultaneously recording this transition from one world to another. The concept can be best understood by visiting this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/FMSphotoaday/
I only discovered it in February so I began on Feb1st.

In fact I have so thoroughly enjoyed the challenge that I intend to post the monthly outcome in the blog this year.

So with out further ado: this is the February set of photos and the prompts that inspired them.  

oNe  PhOtO  a  DaY  fOr  FeB

The propmts for each day published at the beginning of the month

1 FORK : intertwining tines

2 PATTERN : lights on the ceiling Khun Churn Restaurant Bangkok.

3 SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH ‘E’ : the envelopes waiting for us when we returned home to Australia after over 2 year’s absence.

4 HOPE : How often we hoped that we would see all these boxes again when we packed and posted them from Bhutan.

5 SOMETHING YOU SMELLED : beautiful baby Maxx first seen and smelled on Feb 5th 2013.

6 SOFT : the hand woven carpet from Bhutan.

7 YOUR NAME : spelt with my jewelry

8 SOMETHING ORANGE : Tom’s retro Kombie

9 GULITY PLEASURE: the “piece de resistance” of high tea at the Apothecary

10 3 O’CLOCK : in the first quarter of the third hour in some of my favourite places

11 ENTRANCE : at the locked doors of the monastery above Sakteng (not taken on the day)

12 WHERE YOU ATE LUNCH : Thea Vegetarian Tea House

13 WALKING : The view when I was walking this morning.

14 LOVE IS…… Chinese character for love in the sand at the beach at sunset.

15 INSIDE YOUR FRIDGE: All my favourite drinks – Moet because we have cause for celebration having signed the contract on a gorgeous inner city apartment today.

16 PERFECT : Great girls, fabulous food, delicious drinks and so much to talk about – the perfect balmy summer evening.

17 IN YOUR HAND : Truth be told it is certainly not unusual for a glass of wine with ice to be in my hand at least while I am here in Adelaide.

18 SOMETHING YOU DONT LIKE : the endless packing, unpacking, repacking and storing of personal possessions when we are between jobs, and between countries of residence but home! Though I do love living and working abroad!

19 I AM …. The proud owner of a brand new camera bought today

20 WHERE YOU STOOD :  on the balcony of the brand new apartment we paid the deposit for today.

21 FULL – a window full of food in a lane way in Melbourne.

22 MAKES YOU SMILE -  Seeing my darling husband always doing odd jobs and repairs when we visit old friends’ houses, always makes me smile.

23 A WORD – spelt with some of the ingredients of our dinner tonight.

24 CLOUD – cover, wing and land below from the Qantas flight to Sydney I took today.

25 ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE – in our hotel room in Sydney this morning

26 QUIET: - a rare moment in an atmosphere of a quiet in a busy day exploring Sydney’s sights.

27 PLAYING: with my new lens in the Chinese Gardens today.

28 UPSIDE DOWN: - Earlier today I thought I had missed my opportunity to capture an upside down shot when I saw the plain clothes police tackle, handcuff, and arrest a young man. I was thinking his life had just turned “upside down,” whether or not he is innocent or guilty. Since then I have realized that from working in Bhutan in December, to travelling in the US in January, and reacquainting ourselves with Australia in February, my own life is about to turn “upside down” again when we fly to Tanzania to work in March. It seems fitting to me that the final shot for this month is me and takes a paragraph to explain!