First day at work & henna lols

Murcia
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lesson planning on my balcony

So I think my interview at the language academy went well the other day (as planned). They offered me around 5 different students with the potential for more and maybe even my own intensive class, woo!

The owners of the academy are literally the friendliest people ever and have even been helping me with other Spanish stuff, not work related. Which is super sweet of them.

This evening I had my first day (I mean hour.) of work teaching English with an older student, let’s call her Sue.

Sue is at elementary level and explained she can understand more than can she can speak, so we started off with the very basics before using shop role play and picture cues to practice describing other people, talking about her daily routines and buying clothes in a shop. I wasn’t really nervous but definitely apprehensive about my first lesson but luckily it went really well. We both relaxed and the hour flew by, Sue said she really enjoyed the lesson which was a massive sigh of relief for me.

I walked home, had a quick chat with mum (she’s in Mallorca with my dad and sister) and headed to Kloe and Jess’ for wine, milka, hair braids and henna tattoos. Let’s say we got a bit carried away with the temporary tattoos…


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plus more that I didn’t take pics of.

Mary x

Explain why you’re in Spain?!

Murcia

Holaaaa.

Next country – ¡España!

Paris update –  A lot of things mildly got me down in Paris; the prices, the weather, the day to day harassment, the difficulty of going out and getting home without waiting around hours and hours for a bus or the first metro. That’s not to say I didn’t love living there because I bloomin’ did. I can honestly say I’ve been lucky enough to live 8 amazing months in a vibrant city that most only dream of exploring as more than a tourist. I didn’t have a dull weekend, explored endlessly and feasted my senses to some of the best art, food and culture in the world. And that’s all before I even mention the friends I made. Without gushing on and on I just want to put it out there that since September I’ve made the best friends EVER. Seriously, where have these girls and guys been hiding my whole life?! We all shared this experience together and making friends for life is probably the best and most unexpected thing to come out of it. So thank you everyone who made me laugh, fall over in a club, smile, cringe or just relax and have fun in the past 8 months. Once in a lifetime trip.

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Anyway, after bidding au revoir to my pals I listened to Honda and changed the situation

Next step.

I’ve moved to Murcia in the South of Spain today to join Kloe (pal from Paris) and some of her friends for a few months. I’m renting a room in an apartment with a German girl and another girl from Bolivia. It’s not a huge apartment but there’s a large bathroom and living room as well as a balcony so I’m happy with it 🙂 And rent is flippin’ cheap. I’d choose chilling out here in the sun to paying 4 times the amount in a big city any day (I’m talking about you London).

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The job situation is very relaxed; I’ve been in contact with a few language academies to show my interest in teaching English, 2 seem keen so I’m heading to my first interview this afternoon to see if the loose opportunity they’ve offered me still stands! I’m feeling pretty positive about it so I have in my head that I’ll have some set hours by the time I leave the office.

My first 24 hours have been equally as chilled (mainly because the gals were mega hungover yesterday and I managed to catch up on about 2 weeks of interrupted sleeping). We ish watched Game of Thrones; yes I broke my GoT virginity, dunno how I feel about it yet – maybe too many nipples on show and not enough jokes and trips to the mall for my liking. My flatmates are super chilled and friendly and I’m loving having a balcony to people watch from. I went for a walk this morning to see my side of town (I’m over the river so a bit separated from what I saw last time) and did a little supermarket shop, no dramas as of yet. Kloe took me to the gym to sign up this morning so I have at least 3 months commitment to at least attempt to get fit again.

I’ve got some boring errands to run; getting a local sim card, sorting language lessons, paying the last bit of my deposit and finalising jobs but thats the fun of moving countries! I’m actually feeling pretty content with life in this moment (cringe cringe cringe); did I get ridiculously lucky or is it in my nature to make situations work to my favour? No exams, no debt, my biggest stress is that I can’t drink the tap water, everything’s in walking distance, my sisters a ferry ride away and the tequila is cheap.

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Bring on the next few months señoritas

Mary

besos

Todays mood – Florence and the Machine, Shake it Out.

Hello Otjikondo, Goodbye Otjikondo

Africa

This time last week I’d just booked a flight to Frankfurt but had almost 4 days to wait around in Windhoek for it; 4 days in Windhoek is 4 days too many, so with some broken communication, Gilly agreed for me to come and visit Otjikondo with Ottilie and Chelcie for the weekend. Our wait in Windhoek included ice cream in the park, shopping for fabric for Sara, making use of the internet at the Carboard Box, eating at Nando’s and Joe’s Beerhouse before meeting Paul on Thursday morning.Image

Chelcie and I ended up in the back of the open bakkie with a very strong natural air conditioning, lots of luggage and 2 mattresses to sit on. The mattresses would have been perfect if only they weren’t covered with plastic sheets that flapped around in the wind and made so much noise that it was almost impossible to hear each other.Image

 

Arriving at Otjikondo nearly 5 hours later was no less than magical; Paul beeped his horn and kids came running. Chelcie and Ottilie were greeted by hugs and squels, I got a few of the same then some ‘Miss Mary you’re back again?!‘s… It was great to see everyone again but I had to explain quickly that I could only stay for the weekend so the chance for them all to get a dance lesson was pretty slim, sorry kids!

Seeing current GAPs Rebecca and Eleanor again was awesome and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them. We got straight to work on Friday, I opened the shop and helped Destiny learn her rap for one of the songs in Wind in the Willows, their summer play. That evening most of the children watched Frozen in the evening but I went to look after the little boys as their hostel sister was away. We watched Antz and Matilda, I fell asleep on the freezing cold floor and woke up to some of them having a giggle at me. I got a few cuddles before I walked home.

Saturday’s normal routine was replaced with sport; the under 11s, 12s and 13s played netball and football against Kamanjab on maybe the windiest day I’ve ever experienced in Namibia. We won all games except 1 which was amazing! I looked after Brenda’s baby Crushanda and hung out with my girls Tjazupo (my sponsor child) and Eengwi (her best friend) whilst some of the older girls somehow convinced me to let them use my camera so went around documenting the matches and supporters.

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That afternoon was spent running the shop whilst the others did bank (gave the kids their pocket money). I don’t know how it took so long but Priska and I were in the shop until it was dark; we couldn’t find our way out and had to stumble over to Gilly’s house without dropping the bags full of coins and notes we had. I was exhausted and felt so ill but decided not to turn down Paul and Sara’s offer of dinner!

Sunday’s church service was enough church to last me a lifetime; it went on for 2 and a half hours and I can’t bring myself to write any more about it. Tjazupo, Fillemon, Tenesses and Dankie (our sponsor children. + Eengwi came as her and Tjazupo are pretty inseperable) were invited into the GAP garden afterwards and were spoiled by us with presents and sweets. Tjazupo and Eengwi loved their plastic princess accessories and I showed Fillemon how to play snakes and ladders and do races with his toy cars.

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The rest of the day was spent teaching the drama kids a dance, having lunch (Mina’s chicken and chips!!!!) at Gilly’s, messing around with the over excited Grade 7’s, eating fudge in the big girls hostel, reading Mr Strong to the girls in Weavers Nest hostel, hearing the girls own stories and acting them out, dinner with the ex and current GAPs and watching Pitch Perfect in my room with the girls.

Although my visit to Otjikondo was so short it felt really special and it’s always great to see the Stommels, staff, GAPs and children. I said my goodbyes and made sure they weren’t too emotional as I wasn’t in the mood to cry and be upset! I’ll miss everyone huge amounts and know I won’t be able to visit again soon which is a horrible feeling! On the plus side, I’m so thankful that I was able to go back and visit twice less than a year after I finished my 12 months there.

Goodbye Otjikondo, thank you GAPs and Stommels for putting up with me once again! 🙂 Love you, miss you, mean it 😉

Mary x

Snakes and lions – 1st March 2014

Africa

Hello!

We had a music concert on Saturday morning to show the parents what the children have been working on this term with Mr Faustinus. Fran’s music concert sign stood outside of the church as the children and parents piled inside. There were so many parents there that every inch of space inside the church was used, children were sitting down the aisle, at the sides, parents were out of the door and any small children had to sit on the laps of others. I had Armando on my lap and although he’s a really well behaved little boy he found it hilarious to tickle my neck during the performances, I managed to contain my giggles and luckily he fell asleep after a while. The music was really good and even if I didn’t know the kids I’d be really impressed. Faustinus used tambourine’s and drums to make the recorder pieces more lively and even had whole percussion groups. Mrs Vermaak made a quick speech at the end and thanked Faustinus, Rebecca and Sara for their involvement before we all exited ready for the parent’s meeting.

I met Iris and Luisa, the two Project Trust GAPs at St Michaels, the school ‘down the road’ from us. We all chatted for a while, accompanied by Armando who we seemed to be babysitting for the day. The girls were all meant to go somewhere for the out weekend but couldn’t decide on anywhere worthwhile so decided to stay in Otjikondo but take time off from their usual activities.

Because the parent’s were in the meeting I went to occupy some children with tennis bats and balls, skipping ropes and hula hoops and when the parents came out Tabs and I sold Vet cakes for $3 each. I was so tired already so went to the little girls hostel to return Armando to his mum and I nearly fell asleep on a little girl’s bed. I sunbathed at lunch then went with Annika to do Bank (handing out pocket money), I don’t know why it took so long but I was sat there with the books and money for more than an hour and a half! I helped in the shop with the other GAPs afterwards before the boys greeted us with a lovely present swimming around in a bucket. A live python. We all had a look until it started sliding to the top of the bucket and looked like it was going to come out. Tabs ordered the boys to take it out of the shop and to release it outside, we tipped the bucket over and it disappeared into the grass.

Karina, Destiny and Agnola had become my sidekicks for the day, following me everywhere and when I didn’t see them for an hour or so they’d come knocking on the GAP flat door asking to do something. I was in a good mood so put my laptop on a bench and we sat outside of the GAP flat watching The Lion King, so African! There’s been news in the past few days that theres a lion wandering near St Michaels and that it’s been killing cows so we made endless scenarios of what we’d do if the lion just jumped out of the grass while we were watching the film. Soon we were joined by about 6 more children and used my duvet to keep warm as it got dark and cold outside.

Rebecca and Eleanor are so much more adventurous with their food than Fran and I ever were so we had a Mexican themed dinner which was delicious! 6 GAPs in the flat meant lots of story swapping and giving the girls advice on where to go in their holidays. Another busy day at Otjikondo meant I slept like a baby, even if I did wake up a few times worried there was a lion waiting outside…
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx

Dance, bugs and raps – 28th February 2014

Africa
Hello!
I feel like so much happened so this day deserves a whole post, sorry for my rambling!
Friday started differently to most days, I was the only one in the GAP flat as Rebecca, Eleanor and Annika had gone to Otjiwarongo with Sara to buy some essentials. This meant I was teaching PT for the morning, my favourite and easiest PT lesson is to teach dance so I spent the morning with the speaker, my laptop and the kids teaching them a dance to ‘Katatura Baby’. I think it’s good for them to do something different every so often as obviously not every GAP will want to teach dance in front of nearly 40 judgemental kids (especially if they’ve never danced before). Before the classes even began I had a scare when moving the tables to the sides of the room, a bird was just sitting on the table and I’d touched it before I saw it which really freaked me out (I thought it was a giant rat or something…). Shepherd kindly came to my rescue when I screamed and picked up the bird, opened the window ready to let it fly it, as he let it go it didn’t fly off like we expected, it fell straight to the ground and landed on it’s back… I’m not saying we killed the bird but we didn’t do the best job of trying to save it, sorry bird!
 
At lunch I went to get Vet cakes from Sister Albertina (like big balls of deep fried dough) and attempted to tidy the GAP flat and found some unusual bugs whilst doing so. You’d think after spending a year in Namibia I’d have seen all these different types of insects but apparently not, almost everyday I have to ask the GAP’s ‘what on earth is this?!’. As I started the mop the girls returned from Otjiwarongo. When I asked if they’d bought much they looked guilty, they’d bought LOADS. They showed me their purchases; lots of toiletries, pesto, more peri peri sauce, chocolate, doritos etc etc. 
 
I went to Skype Fran and was surprised that it actually connected as the internet has been playing up recently. It was so nice to ‘see’ her and chat about the gossip here, the kids that were around were really happy to hear her voice and chat to her too. I can’t wait for Fran to come and visit at some point! That evening we decided to have a talent show as the hall was being cleaned so we couldn’t have our usual TV time. I was the organiser but didn’t really organise much, the GAPs and Sister Albertina were judges, I did the music and Renico ‘presented’ it. There were some hilarious acts performing and I hope the GAPs agree that it was great entertainment for us. The kids here rarely get nervous and most are happy to just get up on stage in front of 250 others and sing or dance. The standout act for me was definitely Damian and Peterson rapping, the lyrics were hilarious even if they weren’t intended to be and we all got to dance along (put your hands in the sky, I’m guna make you fly) plus the height difference was great. The GAPs voted for the top 3 places, all of which won some sweets, crisps and some biscuits. Even though there might of been a bit of a mix up with the winner (Renico’s fault!) everyone had a wicked night, it’s fun to do something different as to not get bored of the Otjikondo routine. 
 
In the evening we saw a car pull up to the flat, we assumed it was one of the teachers but we didn’t recognise the guy when he came in. He told us he was driving to Otjiwarongo and needed food. He wanted the crisps but I refused and offered him 2 of our apples if he gave us $10. He then asked for a beer, we obviously refused and I proceeded to push him out of the flat.
 
The kids keep asking when I’m leaving and it’s just starting to dawn on me that I only have a few days left here before returning to Cape Town so I’m trying to cram in as much as possible! I’m having an amazing time and I’m so grateful for how welcoming the GAPs have been to me. That’s all for now 🙂
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx

 

‘Hello little chocolate Mary banana!’ – 25th-27th February 2014

Africa
Hello!
The aftermath of receiving presents from sponsors always means the joyous task of getting handwritten replies from the children. With 150 presents being given out Annika and I got straight on with supervising the writing of the letters. You’d think these kids would find it easy enough to write a simple letter as we’d printed a template for them to copy and they only had to fill in their names and what their favourite gifts were but apparently we were wrong. I basically spent my morning nagging them about using capital letters at the start of sentences and dotting their ‘i’s’ (apparently it’s WAY too much effort to just do it without being reminded). 
 
Helping out in kindergarten was a welcome break, there are a few new faces, a girl called Banta (amaaaaazing name by the way, well done parents) was silent all morning until I put on some music to teach dance and she completely changed. Lauda’s son Armando is a new hilarious addition to kindergarten, the children all call him Himba (which translates to ‘poor’) and he loves to just spontaneously say ‘chocolate’, ‘banana’ and ‘let’s go’, as well as ‘Hello little chocolate Mary banana!’.
 
The day brought so much rain which I’m really not used to because when I was here as a volunteer we had almost no rain for the whole year, I think it was the worst drought for 60 years. Now every time I hear the rain (which is a lot by the way!) I’m a little bit shocked and I’m not enjoying avoiding deep puddles everywhere I walk. The afternoon involved dancing in the grass hut, painting shapes for the Grade 2 classroom and chatting to some of the girls I was closest to. We sat in the grass hut for almost an hour while it rained outside, chatting about England, family and school life until Izaura burst into tears asking why I had to leave again next week. Such a horrible feeling. In the evening Annika and I visited the little girls in Weavers Nest hostel to read the girls ‘Goldilocks and the 3 Bears’, they all sat listening attentively even though I’m pretty sure most didn’t understand 90% of what I was reading. 
 
Today I woke up with a banging headache and the usual Thursday empty fridge didn’t help my mood. We ate cake in the staffroom to celebrate Mrs !Unes’ last day of covering for Mrs Brenda. I was then whisked away to cover kindergarten, we coloured in, read stories (Spot the dog, what a classic), sang ’10 green bottles’, had races, ate porridge and played in the playground. Helena cried because she fell over. Olivia cried because she was scared of being at the top of the climbing frame. Paulet cried because she thought I was ignoring her. Armando cried because he didn’t like the see-saw. Banta didn’t cry because I don’t think she knew what was going on.
 
For the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon Tabs and I went to Gilly’s house to put every sponsor letter in their corresponding envelopes, a long job but it had to be done. I then made more friendship bracelets with Lavinia, Grace and a few of the grade 1 girls. Before the children went to supper we all played duck duck goose outside of the art room and a few games of ‘Mr Lion what is the time?’ which they LOVED. The empty fridge meant I made bacon and melted cheese for dinner, the diets going well…
 
Lots of love,
Mary x

 

‘God is good’ – Back to Otjikondo – 22nd-23rd February 2014

Africa
Hello!
I’m back home! My african home of Otjikondo, Northern Namibia, The school village where I spent a year volunteering from August 2012 to 2013. It was so emotionally tough to leave 6 months ago that I was skeptical about returning, would it still be the same place that I left? This question was answered as soon as I stepped out of gillys car and  onto the now very green grass of Otjikondo. I knew that Gilly’s husband Reiner was praying in the church so i decided to quickly greet him before finding the children. At first he didn’t recognise me at all and just stared at me … after almost screaming ‘it’s Mary!!!!’ at him he jumped up and gave me a massive hug. Someone must’ve heard because as soon as I let go of Reiner I was surrounded by excitable girls. ‘Miss Mary’s back! Miss Mary’s back!’ I burst into tears after seeing all the faces of the children who I grew so close to. My sponsor child Tjazupo ran and jumped on me. 6 months ago I could pick her up with one arm, now I struggled to keep hold of her with both, she’s grown so much and looks so beautiful! I made sure to introduce myself to one of the new GAP’s, Eleanor. She was so nice and welcoming that it threw all of my fears out of the window. Stepping back into the GAP flat bought back so many memories, most of which were with Fran. It’s frustrating and upsetting that she’s not here to share all of these experiences with but I know that she’ll get an even bigger reception when she does visit. The children have bombarded me with questions as to where and how she is and I’ve only been here 2 days!
 
I later met Rebecca and Annika at Paul and Sara’s house where we had a braai (bbq) with Mrs Vermaak, Gilly, Reiner, Kate, Ian and Paul and Sara’s 3 children; Matty, Olivia and Helena. After a steak, salad and a few amarulas we called it a night and returned to the gap flat. The girls were very grateful for the percy pigs, snacks, magazines and CD’s I bought over for them. Sleeping was difficult in the GAP flat as I’m used to having Fran in the bed next to me. Another reason I found it so hard to sleep was because I’d heard some terrible news earlier that day. A student called Franzelle had been killed in a car crash 3 weeks ago. She was a grade 7 student that we taught art and PT to for a whole year, I took her for extra maths twice a week, had her for afternoon activities, spent weekends playing with her, wrote letters to her and she had a big part in the school play that we put on. Franzelle was so cheeky, talkative, confident, funny and loving to everyone she met and i can’t believe that she’s no longer with us. 
 
This morning I tried to take my mind off the terrible news by seeing the boys. Renico and Petersen ran and gave me the warmest welcomes of all the boys, hanging out with them again was so much fun and they gave me all the gossip that i’d missed. At 9:30 we went to church, the songs came flooding back to me and I felt like I’d never left. After church we gathered at the dining hall for one of my favourite activities at Otjikondo… handing out the christmas presents! Each child has a sponsor (usually from Germany or England) who sends them chrismtas presents. They take so long to arrive it was only today that we had the chance to hand them out. After singing ‘God is good’ Gilly counts down to opening the boxes. The room goes wild with paper and cardboard being thrown in every direction. The kids usually recieve toothbrushes, sweets, toy cars, dolls, clothes, colouring pencils and loads more. They are all so grateful and you realise how much of an impact a few toys can have to a child who doesn’t have much else. I loved seeing my sponsor child, Tjazupo’s face light up when she opened her box full of clothes, sweets, a pink water bottle, pink knickers, a torch and a teddy bear. Such a beautiful day in Otjikondo. 
lots of love,
Mary xxx

Project Trust Training!

Uncategorized

HELLO! Woah I haven’t updated in a while, sorry everyone. Since I’ve last posted I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve finished my exams (fingers crossed for results day!), finished work at Sherrardswood (already miss the kids!), started a new teaching job in Westminster and have been on training in Coll! I’m now fully prepared and qualified to teach overseas!

I departed for the Island of Coll on Saturday 30th June with high expectations, the last time I’d visited was for the Project Trust selection course in December where I’d met an amazing group of people and found out loads about the organization, island and new countries that I wanted to visit. This time I didn’t have the fear of not being selected (THANK GOD) but this fear was replaced with the anticipation of meeting my project partner. I still didn’t know who I’d be spending my year in Namibia with and spent most of my 9 hour train journey stressing out that we wouldn’t get along.

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I spent the first night in Oban and met a few other PT volunteers the next day in Oban Backpackers. Sarah, Ben, Jake and I spent hours discussing the different countries we were going to and I persuaded them to try out the amazing pancakes in the pancake place (I did the same on selection, so yummy) . As more PT volunteers arrived we went to the Irish pub to watch the Euro finals. A few of us got bored pretty quickly so decided to meet the rest of the volunteers at the train station, knowing that my partner would be with them.

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Meeting my project partner was so exciting, her names Fran and we both screamed so loudly when we met each other! She’s from Skipton and we’ve got pretty similar interests, well done PT on matching us up! After chatting and meeting the other Namibilinas (volunteers going to Namibia wahoo) we went back to Backpackers to bed 🙂
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Training started straight away on Coll, it was nice being back at Project Trust and seeing the leaders but I felt like I was back at school with a full day of lessons. Over the week we learned more about our specific countries (Guyana and Rwanda volunteers were on the course too) and projects and spent hours learning teaching techniques. We also we taught invaluable lessons on health and safety when overseas.

Me and Fran had a long chat with John Fraser, our country representative, about our project in Namibia. We will both be volunteering at Otjikondo School, a primary school in north Namibia. We will both be teaching Art, Music, Pe, Drama and basic Literacy and reading skills whilst helping with the school library, putting on the nativity and school musical and setting up our own extra curricular activity clubs for the children. As the children board at the school we will also be occupying them during the evening and weekends. Our days will start at 7am and finish at 6pm, 7 days a week for 3 weeks each month. I hope people now realise that this will definitely not be a holiday!
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As well as finding out loads of information, being tested on our knowledge of Namibia and planning and teaching 2 lessons to the other volunteers we also had some time to relax on Coll. We went to the beach (5 minute walk away!) when it was sunny with no intentions of going into the freezing sea but somehow every time we ended up going in and coming out with numb feet 😦 The sunsets were amazing and we even spotted seals and a whale (it was probably just rocks but a whale sounds way more impressive). On the last evening of the training course we had a formal dinner, lots of photos and a ceilidh. Oh and a casual Skype call with the house of commons (random I know).
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Anyway, it was an amazing week back on Coll and emotional to say goodbye to the Project Trust staff and other volunteers. I left feeling so prepared and even more excited to depart, now knowing a lot more about my project and knowing who I’ll be going with! I also know the date that I’ll be flying; so for all of those who have been asking when you’ll finally be getting rid of me… I’ll be leaving on the 28th August!!! It’s scary that it’s so soon but I wish it would come quicker…

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Thank you so much for reading my ridiculously long post, let me know if you want to know more or are interested in singing up for a gap year with PT 🙂 I will definitely be posting more in the final few weeks before I leave so stay tuned.
Bye for now!
Mary x

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