Galapagos Volunteering – Part Three

The horror of being involved with getting the kids ready for school! Maybe I am a lone Dad who finds this part of the day a touch frustrating but I suspect this may be a common problem even in the more perfect of Stepford households. I feel lucky at home that we have had au-pairs to herd the fruit flies out of the door and Mo who loves this ‘quality time’ with the children when she can. Suffice to say that asking a child to put their shoes on 20 times makes me think of Einstein’s quote about doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, yep I am going mad…

So the toys go out of my pram but with the help of a taxi we make it. The headmistress seems happy to see us and we get the obligatory peck on the cheek, smile and burst of Spanish which my brain fails to translate and I hope is nothing more than ‘good luck, you’ll need it’. The kids are gone, no need for embarrassing parental delivery to the door and we head to the classrooms we were shown yesterday. How will the kids fit in? Will they enjoy it? Get anything out of it? What about us?

Outside the new school

Us at our new school

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Galapagos Volunteering – Part Two

Monday we have a reprieve, we will start on Tuesday at the school and Willy sits us down and talks to us about the kids and what to expect. San Cristobal has a population of 6000 of which just under half are of school age!?! This not so much a demographic problem (young people are good news as they will soon be workers) but a contraception problem. We are told that 13 year old Mums are common place and many teenagers struggle, unsurprisingly with parenting. Some quick maths tells me that I could already be a great grandfather and not just plain old dad if I started so young and my offspring followed in my footsteps. I start to wonder about Ben being 13 years old quite soon but don’t want to go there.

San Cristobal School Sign

Our skool

Willy lays it on and tells us if it is ‘different’ here and not to expect the standard of discipline we might expect. Classes will be noisy and kids often get up and run around. With no streaming the mixed abilities mean it is difficult to target lessons to the brightest and slowest and the large class sizes make much of the lesson about crowd control. Some kids get hit at home or don’t come from loving homes so expect some emotional issues. To be a teacher you now need to have a teaching degree but they have a transition period so some don’t which is apparently a problem. We don’t admit to our shameful degreeless status. But they need help and we can make a difference. I remind myself that if it was easy it would be boring. More

Galapagos Volunteering – Part One

Map of Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America)

Map of Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America). We are on San Cristobal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a long time since I blogged and I have missed it! Mo has been hogging the computer with her excellent Amazon Diary but I have plenty of posts planned so I won’t be as quiet.

We spent a few weeks in Quito learning Spanish, the success of which we will soon find out as we are in at the deep end with a month volunteering in the Galapagos. Apart from our one way flights to Rio the ‘volunteering’ was the only thing we booked well in advance. My preference was to try and find projects while in country but Mo was insistent we book something, perhaps she thought this was the only way to ensure we did give something back and not just spend our time on idyllic beaches drinking cocktails between swims and massages?!? More

Ouch – Gap Year Data Roaming Charges!

We are now out of regular WiFi and are having to use Data Roaming on our phones to access email and the web. Luckily we only have an occasional mobile phone signal as we pass towns on the Amazon so we are not tempted to use it more as it is expensive and it feels strangely good to be completely uncontactable!

We are on Vodafone and they charge a reasonablish £5 for the first 25Mb with a 24 hour use time (UK midnight to midnight). We have managed to stay under this limit until now by mainly doing just email and checking the data used very regularly but today with a 3G signal in Santerem, one of the biggest cities on the Amazon, my iPhone used up 10Mb in 10 minutes when I didn’t think I was using data. 5Mb over the limit and £15 spent at the rip off rate of £3/Mb. Almost as much as we spend on food in a day on our boat! Then Mo did the same and went 15Mb over, cost £45!?! We are going to have to be very careful, all part of the learning experience.

I have heard that iPhones are notorious for running up big bills so maybe we have been lucky so far? What we both did differently was turn on 3G at the same time as data and maybe this was the problem, one to watch if you are traveling.

Vodafone still have the best tariffs for roaming compared to other operators, the others are even more expensive.

What we should have done is buy a MiFi device that uses a local SIM card for data and gives you a local WiFi network you can connect all your devices to. We had no idea we would spend over 2 months in Brazil and this would have been a good investment! (Vivo looks like the best network for data if you happen to be in Brazil.)

Get Jealous

I happened upon the blog of another family gap year on the travel blogging site Get Jealous today. The Bremners have an 8 and a 9 year old, are starting in Africa and will be heading to South America as well. Very impressed with their morning PE, looks a lot more strenuous than our aqua-gymnastics earlier today.

I have been wowed with Mo keeping up her running, barefoot on the beach most of the time. I am thinking I need to use or lose my running shoes (luxury item!). That said I beat Mo in our Heart Olympics on the beach this afternoon much to Mo’s surprise, I’ll probably need a week to recover. Our running track was pretty cool with MMBZL branding even if the construction was accidental.

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Get Jealous, what a great name for a web site! I may have to read to get some ideas?!?

Drowned Rats – Boipeba to Morro de Sao Paulo

We expected our gap year to feature some excitement but as so often with these things it can come at unexpected times. Super relaxed after a week on peaceful Boipeba staying at what could easily be the best pousada in Brazil and looking forward to our next stop in Morro de Sao Paulo we boarded our speedboat and waved goodbye.

Waving goodbye to Boipeba

Bye Bye Boipeba

The weather was overcast but this often clears quickly and we were impressed with the speedboat. Bigger than the normal motor launches it looked the business and we were sure Charles was right and it was the most comfortable boat around and at R$200 a bargain as they were picking up more guests in Morro!

On the way down to Boipeba we took the route through the mangroves from Valenca and expected to go this way again as most boats arrive this way. It is lovely and calm but about twice as long as the sea route if you look at the map. As often is the case ‘assume’ makes an ass out of you and me and our skipper headed straight out to sea. More

Family Gap Year – 1 Month In

I awoke today to the sound of rain. Coming from the UK this is something that I should be used to but it felt different, maybe in the way that a holiday cocktail tastes great on the beach but when you try and recreate it at home it is just not the same but more likely it is because for the first time in a month on our gap year we can really relax.

South America, Brazil and especially some of cities we have visited have a reputation for KRE (A joyful new TLA we recently discovered for ‘kidnap, ransom and extortion’!) as well as petty everyday crime like mugging, pick pocketing etc. While I am sure there is an increased threat and these things do happen only bad news sells newspapers (maybe it is our fault in wanting to read about other people’s misfortunes as apparently only 30% of reporting is good news!) and you don’t hear about the many fantastic, friendly, helpful people you meet.

Zoe running

Run Zoe!

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First Casualty

And the winner is…

Lara

A few weeks into our family gap year she has managed to break:

  • A shelf climbing on it
  • A toilet seat by jumping off it
  • An iPad by dropping it off the bed – luckily just a small crack on the edge of the screen and still usable

Dad managed to fix everything apart from the iPad with a spoon and swiss army knife.

Lara swinging on lamp post

Metal Tree Climbing

She has also had a few scrapes: More

Jungle Survival Training

Ben and Ant

Ant hunter

Update – Video added at end.

Keeping Ben, Zoe and Lara alive, fit and healthy is our top priority. As kids they are inquisitive, independent and prone to getting distracted by anything that looks fun or interesting. Within minutes of our arrival on Ilha Grande Ben had caught the biggest ant you never wanted to see. I am pretty sure Ben hasn’t been bitten by ants as he was super confident. I then imagined him playing with a local spider which may not be as harmless as our homegrown Daddy Long Legs More

Introducing Dad’s World School

Ben and Zoe playing cards

Zoe is all in!

Schools out but rather than 7 weeks we have 60 weeks on our family gap year so a bit of home schooling is going to be needed. So far Mo has made the running and talked to all the teachers at school, grabbed syllabuses, work books and been carrying them! I have volunteered to do Maths as English and languages are not something I am particularly good at, apparently lawyers use more punctuation than I do?

Teaching is More

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