Friday, April 25, 2008

Rarotonga with Joanne & her girls and my brother Brad

After 8 months roaming around the world it was time to put my feet up in Rarotonga. We went to a wedding (friends of Joannes 'Tolly & Lagi') which Faith and Lourdes were flower girls at. Wonderful way to wind down and catch up with some very special people in my life at the end of an amazing trip. Scroll down for a look at how relaxing our time was, the pictures tell it all!

The 'holiday-gang'

Faith and Lourdes giving us more entertainment!

Out to dinner with Joannes rellies, Aunty Joan, Uncle Ta and cousin Teraki

Joanne and Brad trying to proove how far they can swim under water at 2 in the morning after a few too many liquid refreshments, if that wasn't enough they thought they would try and get me to stand on their shoulders so they could launch me up into the air like we do with Faith (7) and Lourdes (5), for some reason it wouldn't work????

Faith & Lourdes dressed up in some Island gears for yet another photo shoot! This time modelling some clothes from Joannes aunties shop

Brad and I came in handy to facilitate Faiths and Lourdes' water fights
Brad tried to go for a relaxing swim....Faith and Lourdes had other ideas

Brad and I kayaked out to a little island and soaked up some island sun and sights

Brad and I hired scooters for our time there, heres Lourdes on the back of Brads 'ride', holding on for dear life. Faith and Joanne are leading our entourage up front, i'm following behind in Joannes aunties and uncles BMW (it only takes 45minutes to drive around the whole island)

Island sundown bliss.....

Joanne and her flower girls Faith (left) and Lourdes (right)

The "Married Couple" Tolly & Lagi

Stealing a moment for a quick shot with the girls
So that brings us to the end of the blog, thats pretty much my travels over and done with, I have to finish off now and go into a dark corner to cry! Thanks for coming along on my journey with me xxx bron

Saturday, April 19, 2008

3 Sleeps in Denver in the state of Colorado in the United States of America

After 4 months of pure bliss in South America it was time to get back to 'reality', so en-route to reality I nipped into the USA. First to Dallas for a day where I was in a state of shock at how big everything was, the toilets, the toilet paper, snickers bars (eek....thats probably not the best thing to refer to after talking about toilets....), pizza, people, cars, it was insane - a country with oversized and excess everything! Then onto Denver later that evening to see Craig and his ever growing family consisting of a very happy and smiley wife (Kim), godsend who helps with everything (Loren), Ryan (son no.1) and Logan (son no. 2). I had a wonderful time catching up with Craig and getting to know his gorgeous family. And in case you're wondering, yes I did get a little crazy about the kids! Luckily Craig knew what to expect so had probably warned the household in advance and they didn't need to be too concerned at my obvious obsession (well not that they showed anyway). But family ties aside, Denver is a beautiful place, surrounded by amazing greenery and mountains. It was snowing when I arrived (which was interesting as Craig had lost the car at the airport so that was exciting in the not-so tropical heat), so I woke the following morning to snow covered houses, trees and lawns then later that very morning it all melted away and we were treated to sun for the remainder of my stay. Apparently the population is the same as the entire population of NZ! NZ really is small in the scheme of it all...... Anyhoo, moving right along.....

Family Velenski

Loren and her boys

Me getting in there at feeding time (but tyring not to take over!!!)

Snow covered branches, lush!....when you're not used to seeing snow

Chalet 'Velenski'

Ridicously big car, the top of the bonnet of this car came up to my neck! This is a typically sized vehicle roaming the streets! A very different sight to the vehicles I seen and travelled in in South America, bit of 'reverse culture shock' went on here

Craig in his bar after a hard morning!

Craig and Kim going head to head on some Video Arcade/spacey game/device

One of Craigs 'Artistic shots'

Family time (with me) out for a walk and picnic

BMT, 2 yr old Ryan (on my lap) and 1 yr old Logan (not on my lap)

And which magazine or newspaper are you after today?

Downtown Dallas, the central Business district with ridicously sized buildings!

And that brings us to the end of my stay in the States of Texas and Colorado in the USA! There are more updates on their way in the not too distant future of my last week in Bolivia, Chile and the homecoming.....good're not the only one rolling your eyes I assure you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 2008 Winding up South America in Santiago de Chile

I've been holding off on updating my blog with the last of my South American photos cause that'll mean i'm 'moving on', now almost 2 months after leaving I feel the time has come to face some harsh realities.

The Chilean people I met were very friendly and welcoming, they do have a reputation in South America of being a little 'posh' compared to the other countries. The have a stronger economy and a heavy European influence though so I guess it stands to reason. They get all seasons, and have all sights to offer if one has the time and money, must add that to the list of places to see before I depart this earth! Scroll on for a little gander of the few days I spent in Santiago.

Overlooking Plaza de Armas from the hostel I stayed at

Creative juice heaven! All over this plaza there were artists doing their 'thang'. It took all my will to leave that place without an oil painting under my wing. I tried to do a bit of wheeling and dealing but the wheel wasn't turning. Artists hardly make anything on their work in relation to the hours they put in so its not really a good look to drive too hard a bargain. Wonder if they have end of financial year sales on now like they seem to all over Australia!

Legs Cafes are all over the city of Santiago, business folk go in there, queue for a ticket for a coffee then stand at the counter and await their overpriced coffee while oogling the legs of the girls serving them. There are no seats, standing room only. Imagine the amusement I created when I sat on the standing ashtray! To say I caused a commotion would be an understatement!

Now this fury fellow drew my attention and was very willing to participate in my photo shoot, bet he's good for business...soooo cuuutttteeeee

Day trip to sea side town of Valparaiso chile, can you tell which ones the Sailors are?
Nipping into a museum to gawk in awe at all the sculptures

Through another plaza to stop and take more 'artistic shots', this is a personal favourite of mine. Its and old building being reflected into a newer one beside it

My canine friend who followed me the whole 5 k's up the hill, when I stopped to take happy snaps he parked up for a rest. Apparently he has a reputation for escorting fellow walkers up the hill. Plenty of stray dogs in this city, but in surprisingly good condition.

...almost at the top and a view out over the city of Santiago de Chile, kind of hard to see through the smog but you get the idea

so there I was crusing up the hill and opted for a shortcut which I shall at this time refer to as the 'scenic route' and are met by another friend of the fury variety, who I all but stood on....can you picture the squish? Fortunately I can live to tell the tale that there was no squish!
I then approached the marvel Mary monument which numerous tourists were also there to see (but they took the bus or drove up!), ok so the budget ruled my days.....also overlooking the city of Santiago de Chile

Below the statue folk stopped to light candles, leave offerings and pray, this place felt incredibly sacred. The Chileans are very staunch Roman Catholics.

A final walk through the streets of Santiago to check out the sights, which include dudes with wheely shoe cleaning machines, the townsfolk were all up for a bit of a shoe polish, my budget didn't stretch that far....until the next chapter at least anyway!

And then came the last supper at the airport in Santiago prior to my USA departure, a very distressing and expensive time for me but alas all good things they do come to an end.....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Volunteer work in Villa Tunari, Bolivia

First of all I would like to say a huge THANKYOU to those of you who kindly dipped into your pockets and pays and donated money to the Foundation, you were very generous and the Foundation was blown away at your generosity. At present the only money the Foundation gets is from volunteers who pay per week to be part of the project (its a small amount and the number of volunteers is always changing so theres never a steady amount of money on the go to feed, medicate and care for the kids and pay teachers so at times they go without). In response to my email I got almost 10,000 Bolivianos ($2,000 $NZ) which will go along way in keeping the Foundation afloat for a bit longer. Thankyou again :)

I cant believe my 2 and a half weeks at the Foundation is finally over. So I left on Friday after lunch and after saying goodbye to the staff at the school, the little ones and my fellow volunteers. I had an amazing time there and had some experiences which will stay with me forever, life is completely different for folk in this neck of the jungle. The foundation is based in Villa Tunari in the district of Chapare, located in central Bolivia in the jungle. The Foundation operates 2 schools with around 120 kids. Some but not all the local children aged between 2 - 6 attend 5days per week for wholesome meals, medical attention and prepare for school. Life is very basic for these little tykes. For some of them their only possession in the world (apart from basic clothing) is their schoolbag, so of them walk round all day with their backbacks on for fear of loosing them. Hygiene is a big problem in most homes and children come to school with all kinds of ailments in desperate need of care. The children are very greatful for the 3 daily meals they get at the school and 99percent put up no fight at all, its a pleasure watching a child finish all the food on their plate. Anyway while I was there we kept ourselves busy doing what volunteers do, going on the 6am bus to do the rounds till 9am picking up and dropping children off, helping out in the classroom for the morning (of course my class of choice was with the 2 year olds), helping out with lunch (dishing up, making sure food makes it into the childrens mouths and not all over their clothes and cleaning up afterwards), doing dishes, cleaning the school when all the kids have gone home. Then theres the work you can do with the dude we live with (Mario) helping out with little projects hes working on, like the water tower for the satellite school or painting old equipment to look new for the children to play with, very tiring work in the sweltering humid, sometimes we had no water, mosquito infused heat but rewarding nevertheless. I managed to implement a couple of hygiene and health practises during my time there too which was great. Like the introduction of water bottles and cups (children were only drinking juice throughout the day and were restricted to how much, not only is it hot and the children dehydrated but the refrescos (juice) are no good for their teeth), the introduction of facecloths for the little tykes to wash hands and faces ater mealtimes and the new handwashing stations outside the classrooms, very exciting. Nicole de Alemania, your 500 and my 500Bols covered all these items. And of course I couldn´t possibly leave before creating a procedures manual!!!.....I can hear you all sighing, especially Kurley. 5 very useful A4 pages of reading for new volunteers, with useful things like what a typical day involves, things to do when you are stuck in a classroom on your own (like I got to do twice, imagine that....the kids speak no english!!!), things to say when kids are good and not so good and so much more useful information......and you can be assured that I have spies out making sure these pages are read! ARE YOU STILL AWAKE?? Was difficult to leave as I had gotten quite used to having not only my own room but quite used to all the people I met aswell, the children, teachers, cooks, children, folk we lived with, children and the other volunteers....did I mention the children. However I had a new adventure to deal with soon enough, as the road from Villa Tunari to Cochabamba was blocked due to a landslide! We had to disembark our vehicles, walk for a K or 2 through the drizzling rain, climb over the rubble and fight for other transportation. I thought I had it tough with my packpack but that was nothing compared to local old women with crates of potatoes on their backs, others with one child on the front and another on the back and children walking barefoot over the sharp rocks! Very amusing and sad and also very normal i´m told. We passed a truck which had gone over the side on our way too, very common also as the drivers are insane, very hair raising at the best of times and worse in the rain! I managed to befriend a nice man by the name of Carlos who was great company and help, I seem to have no end of luck in finding very helpful people at the right time. Anyway scroll on for a look at my life for the past couple of weeks.
The "little tykes" with their new drinking cups, this is a great new novelty

This ones for you Kurley, a shot with the gloves!

Inside the school grounds

The kids got to learn about "time out", on this day I had 5 kids in 5 corners of the room at once cause they took off running around the neighbourhood after they were only meant to go toilet! It seems that with my limited spanish I am skilled in the ways of discplining a Bolivian child....or 5, well until the next toilet stop anyway

It was obsession at first sight when I saw this little girl crying not wanting to be separated from here sister wearing a cute cardy and carrying an enourmous nana bag!....scroll on to find out who the mystery child is.

This little one suffered from a bit of my disorder and enjoyed helping with the cleaning, naturally I was willing to show her the ropes.

A beautiful sight, kids willingly washing their not-so-clean hands

Sometimes we get so tired we just have to drop and pass out!

The blackboard is a good place to get creative when theres no paper in the class

Cuties at the satellite school. Taking photos and then showing them was a great way to use up 5 minutes here and there when supervising the class on my own!

"The train", another great game when resources and language are limited!

Teaching the kids to write their names and recognise letters

One of the typical houses, no its not being renovated. This one is bigger than most (this ones for you Joanne)

Even I thought this guy was cute. There is an animal park next to where we stayed, it was also full of volunteers. There were Pumas, birds and monkeys galore (Ok I never seen a Puma), this place was seriously popular with volunteers

With Oscar, a young boy form the jungle who was brought to the foundation because no one knew his parents were, the foundation is trying to find him a foster family, he has nothing but a amazing attitude, a huge smile and an enormous machete cut on his foot which he apparently sewed up himself!, and Mabel a teacher from the school with her daughter Mabelin

El Castillo where we lived. Not the whole building, just the one behind the big white sign.

Fiesta time at the school, 2 of the long term volunteers left so we gathered for a meal and some Bolivian dance moves with the staff

Ok it might not be entirely obvious here but i´m actually trying to bust out some Israeli moves!

A typical night in El Castillo with the other volunteers, in this picture we have half of Israel, the other half are on their way!

Ron, my mate from Israel. A cross between Manuel from Fawlty Towers and Borat!!!! We were like an old married couple, he never listened to me, we were always arguing, having communication breakdowns, amusing for all!
With Mayda 4 and Iraida 6 from El Castillo where we lived, these girls were my new best friends, and didn´t they know it too!!

The morning bus run where the kids pile in

Can be tough to find a spot on the bus, hence 2 per seat.

At the other end where the kids get off

Sweeping the darling Jessica up off the bus, not supposed to have favourites I know but how could Ì possibly resist this little honey!

Kids lining up for lunch trying their hardest to sit patiently

On my final night we (the volunteers) cooked for the cocineras (cooks), and teachers, it was the first time the cooks got to go out and take a walk in the afternoon, then later that night we all went out to the Latino bar, cooks, teachers and volunteers, 14 of us in a taxi!!!! It was great.

The feast for 25 people (fear not Joanne, there were more plates to put on the table!)

The new kid on the block with Sevina our 18 year old Belgian volunteer

Farewell pic with my favourite class, the "littlies"....notice who i´ve got sitting next to me

After a tough morning one simply must sleep!

The road block after leaving Villa Tunari

Something the kids can´t get enough of, after days and days of breaking up fights I decided I had to film one on the morning bus ride, they´re not hard to find, theres on the go at least every 3 1/2 minutes, these dudes are particularly talented at this sport!! The dude in blue is 2, the other is 4
If you´ve made it this far I would like to congratulate you! I´d like to say there was a prize on offer for ´going the distance´ but all I can maybe offer is another blog update at some stage! Great right! ha.