Back to Bali – and more friends and festivities …

We fly back to Bali from Singapore because we loved it so much a month ago and decided it was worth looping back for Christmas and New Year and seeing more of the friends we enjoyed our time with on the last trip! We have a relaxed 3 weeks in the most glorious villa we’ve rented near Ubud. 

The beautiful villa and beautiful Balinese friends - Angel explains to Erika the offerings shes going to place  around our home, Lara helps Kadek clean the pond and Kadek helps Ben figure out how to design and build a kite:)

The beautiful villa and beautiful Balinese friends who look after it, and us.  Here is Angel explaining to Erika the offerings she’s placing around our home, Lara helps Kadek clean the pond with Angel’s little boy and Kadek helps Ben figure out how to design and build a kite:)

Tucked away down a small ‘gang’ or alley in the midst of rice paddies, in the village of Penestanan, with three wonderful staff looking after us – Angel, our housekeeper, Kadek our gardener and Wayan our security guy who is around the premises all night every night.

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A Gap Year Christmas in Cusco

Feliz Navidad from Cusco, Peru…. no, too late for that! In fact two days ago, 11th January 2013, was exactly 6 months since we started our Family Gap year adventure…even Feliz Ano Nuevo is belated!  At least this blog post will bring us to the end of 2012 and to the New Year!

We arrived in Cusco on a flight from Lima on 19th December 2012 and settled in for a few days at the Amaru ll guest house, ready to celebrate Lara’s 5th birthday and enjoy the buzz of Christmas in Cusco.  Here’s our Christmas Cusco diary……

Our Cusco Christmas 2012

Our Cusco Christmas 2012

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Galapagos Volunteering – Part Five. Accidents will happen…

Things seldom work out as planned!  Our first week of volunteering was full on as you can read in the previous volunteering blogs. I couldn’t say we knew what to expect, although we could only hope it would be the start of an amazing experience – and in many ways it was!

Our first weekend should be a real treat too! We’re excited to explore and armed with a long list of recommendations, it starts well! We spend Saturday in El Progresso in the Highlands enjoying El Ceibo Treehouse and Cafe. Martin has already told the treehouse story.  Then a glorious afternoon at La Loberia  beach, where the kids play with tiny crabs in the sand with Ben’s friend from school, we chat to a teacher from the high school, watch, listen to and dodge the many sea-lions and newborn pups, see hundreds of iguana trails in the sand.

Friends, Crabs, Sealions and Iguana trails at La Loberia

Friends, Crabs, Sea-Lions and Iguana trails at La Loberia

We try to brave swimming in the cold (yes, even on the equator!)  rocky, low tide water to look for turtles but are too wimpish and headed for an early supper! More

Galapagos Volunteering – Part Four. Five go to school!

You probably read about our arrival and first days in San Cristobal in Martin’s Galapagos Volunteering Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Following on, here’s my own tale of teaching in our first week!

After the frenzy of getting all five of us to school by 7.15am, Ben and Martin have headed off to their classes, whilst the headmistress takes me and the girls to our classes. We take Lara into Form 1, she goes in fairly happily – brave girl!

Zoe is next and is shown to 4a and I’m shown next door to 4b. I’m introduced to the expectant kids and it dawns on me that there is no teacher?!

‘Where is the teacher?’ I ask in my best Spanish!!

The Head shakes her head and says a lot in Spanish very fast – I can’t really follow but I pick up lots of Usted’s (a polite ‘you’) – I reply ‘solo yo??’ (Only me??) she replies ‘si!’ (Yes!) with a slightly sheepish grin!

I can’t think of a polite response in English, never mind Spanish, that will get me out of it so I simply give her my best look of horror and ask if she’ll help by explaining to me what to do?! She hands me four course books, and I think says ‘Just start with Unit 5 in all subjects’, points to the timetable on the wall, suggests something about getting the kids to show me around the school once we’ve done introductions? … She beams and wishes me luck and leaves….

Teacher Mo in Class 4b at Alejandro Alvear school, San Cristobal

Teacher Mo in Class 4b at Alejandro Alvear school, San Cristobal – I may look calmer than I really am!

Twenty five beaming faces are on me, about twenty three voices are shouting ‘teacher teacher teacher?’  More

My Galapagos Family and Other Animals

We have been living in the Galápagos for a month. We lived in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal Island, which has a lovely harbour and promenade called the Malecon where we would see hundreds of sea-lions, pelicans, boobies, crabs and iguanas every day.

Spot the sealion, iguana and crab happy together at the harbour in San Cristobal

Spot the sea-lion, iguana and crab basking together  at the harbour in San Cristobal

Amazing creatures in San Crsitobal - a baby sealion, giant tortoise, blue footed boobie and iguana

Amazing creatures in San Cristobal – a baby sea-lion, giant tortoise, blue footed boobie and iguana

I went to the Alejandro Alvear school. I made some good friends there… More

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

The Adventure Travel Show, how useful for a Family Gap Year?

With Oma baby sitting and Mo and I nursing mild hangovers we jumped on a train up to Olympia to visit the Adventure Travel Show a couple of weekends ago to do some research for our family gap year. Not sure what to expect but as usual nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I recognised quite a few of the speakers but the closest we got to any talks was standing next to Charley Boorman in the coffee area which was a shame as I would have found them pretty interesting (and Mo would have worried that I was after a bit too much adventure!). Nick Hewer of Apprentice fame was giving a talk More

4 Months to D Day!

Eek! The ticker on our countdown has just moved from 5 to 4 months!

After scouting around for families who have written or blogged about their gap year experiences, I’ve been reading Elisa Bernick’s ‘Family Sabbatical Handbook’ and blog from her family’s 18 month adventure living in Mexico

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