Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Bill & I are enjoying what looks like will be a white Christmas - it was snowing when we flew into Manchester airport. We'll be with family & loving every minute of it. We hope that everyone reading this also has a great Christmas and a wonderful 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rio Longa Once Again

The last day of school was a Thursday, & although most people fly out as fast as possible, once again Bill & I had booked our flights for about a week later. However, just like last year we found ourselves so busy in the run up to end of term that we didn’t get around to booking ourselves a break away. When the holidays actually came, we were still quite busy as we needed to make cover lessons for the first 6 days because we are going to the job fair in Bangkok.

We’d spoken to Tony B several months ago about our plans – we are happy at the school, but know it’s not the place we’ll stay long term. We wanted to start the process of looking for another school because we will be quite fussy about where we go next & reasoned it may take two years of looking to find the right school. Tony was great & agreed to let us postpone our final resignation until after the Bangkok fair, by advertising our positions as tentative.

We’d spent ages updating our CV’s – mine in particular needed re-working due to the fact that I’ve been teaching mathematics and MYP for the first time. Our first few days of holidays we found ourselves writing letters to a few schools that had matching vacancies, which had just come up on the job-fair website. I was also busy with my two online courses (an advanced Flash course & an intermediate Photoshop course) – the final assignments were due just as we finished school.

After spending several days on cover and writing application letters, we decided that the only realistic plan for our remaining week was to go to Rio Longa for a couple nights. We tried the telephone number we had, but of course, couldn’t get through. However, I managed eventually to find the website & make a booking online.

We were a bit surprised to find that we weren’t the only ones still around – one day when I was in my classroom working on my cover, Carolina walked in. It turned out that her son’s passport still hadn’t come back from getting his family visa. (Sami’s was late too – but had arrived with just under two weeks before the holiday). The school was doing its best to get the passport back, but because his original visa had well and truly expired, they couldn’t even just get his passport back & leave as the fine for overstaying his original visa could be thousands of dollars. They had missed the flight they had intended to leave on that day, and the remaining flights before Christmas were all heavily booked. Tony B had said they could take 3 weeks holiday from when his passport arrived, but understandably, she was quite anxious about where they would be for Christmas. She was remarkably calm about the situation – I know how stressed we would have been if we’d had to miss our flight. The whole visa thing has been a nightmare this year – the “blue stamp” issue is unofficially resolved – after a meeting with several people in the school and the board with the minister for petroleum who reassured the school that the people with blue stamps would in fact be able to renew their visas next year. The reassurances have worked, very few people other than Bill & I are looking at other schools, despite the large number of blue stamps issued.

We went up to Rio Longa early Wednesday morning & although the boat to pick us up wasn’t there, it arrived about 5 minutes later. The trip on the boat didn’t go past many birds, but we did see a very big crocodile – one of the biggest we’ve seen there. It was sunning itself on the bank, but as our boat came in closer we obviously disturbed it as it launched itself into the water in a fraction of a second. Very scary that a crocodile so big can move so fast!

When we got to the resort, we could see that we had it to ourselves & after explaining that we were the type of vegetarians that didn’t even eat chicken, yet alone fish, we sat out on the balcony and relaxed before lunch. After lunch we went in a kayak across to the ocean side & walked up to the headland. Distances are quite deceptive – we walked for a good couple of hours before we got to the end & then we finished off the water we’d carried – for some reason no matter how much water we have, it never quite seems to be enough! We saw several palm nut vultures which are common there, but not low down – they were circling way up in the thermals of the cliffs. The beach was covered in crabs as usual, we found a dead fish that been washed up in the waves – it was covered in a heaving mass of crabs trying to eat as much of it as possible before the sea reclaimed it.

By the time we’d walked back to the kayak we were quite exhausted & spent the rest of the afternoon being lazy & reading our books. The thing we love about Rio Longa is how totally relaxing it is & how beautiful it is to just sit & watch the lagoon with the sound of the sea in the background. It is also the sort of place that you go to bed really early (no electricity, so not much choice) and then get a great night’s sleep.

The next day after breakfast we went on our first “kayak safari” – we perfected this when we were here last year – one of us gets to paddle the other as close to the birds as possible while they take photos, and after working our way around the central lily pads and up the mangroves, we swap over when we can land the kayak on a beach. We thought the water hyacinth was much thicker this year than last, and it made it quite hard to get close to the mangrove roots. However, we saw a good assortment of birds, including the tiny pygmy kingfishers that live in the reeds.

In the afternoon we walked along the beach in the opposite direction (with much more water in our packs), but didn’t go nearly as far. We also went out on the resort boat, but it can’t get very close to the banks or trees, so not as good for taking photos of birds as the kayaks. We had another quiet and relaxing evening & the next day we went out on the kayak again – it was a very overcast day & there were noticeably less birds around, but we still managed to find a few. We had arranged to be picked up at 2pm, so had lunch before we left. When Bill went to pay our bill, they gave a price 50% more than the price quoted on their booking page on the internet. In the end we paid the price we’d expected, but to be honest the new prices are beyond even Angolan expensive. I doubt we will go back – US$600 a night for the two of us is just too much to pay for no electricity, free beers & sodas, but not wine or spirits & pretty average meals. The beauty of the place just isn’t worth that sort of money. With rates like that it is no wonder that we had the place to ourselves for two days with another couple only arriving just before we left. But, it was the perfect relaxing holiday for us before we headed back to the UK for the craziness of Christmas shopping and full on family. We have just a few days in Manchester before the boys arrive on Christmas Eve & from then on our days will be based around them. We are looking forward to it hugely, but it has been nice to have a bit of respite between the craziness of the end of school, getting ready for the job fair and being busy with family.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fashion Extravaganza

Dahni, one of our year 13 students organised a fashion show as part of her CAS hours. She had designed a whole set of clothes and for the previous month or so had been organising practice sessions with the student “models”. As well as her clothes, one of the ladies in the office also designs clothes & she provided clothes for the second half of the show.

As well as the actual fashion parade, a group of mostly year 9 students choreographed a dance to perform & a student band – “the alternatives” performed as well.

I spent a couple of hours the day of the show taking photos of the dress rehearsal – the parade was on the ramp of building 6 as the theatre was still a construction site with the guys installing the light & sound system not quite finished. At first I wasn’t convinced it was going to work, but after watching the rehearsals, I could see that it would be very successful – the turns on the ramp gave the models a chance to turn & pose.

Danhi had a big crew of student helpers – they set up chairs both downstairs in the foyer & “VIP” seats upstairs at twice the price. The show started late (maybe that’s standard for fashion shows), partly because Danhi had taken the girls who were modelling to the hairdressers & they weren’t back by the time it was supposed to start. Dahni had done a superb organising job, as well as actually getting everything ready for the show. I took photos of the first half but went home at half time exhausted. All the money from the audience went to UNICEF and Dahni & Callie gave a very impressive speech at the start about UNICEF in general and what they are doing in Angola in particular. Although we don’t have the exact amount raised yet, we think it was around US$500. The whole evening was a real credit to her – no one has done anything like that before at the school.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Windhoek Sports Tournament

Bill set off to Windhoek with the boys soccer team, the girls soccer team and Bora, Tomi & a parent volleyball coach the morning after my birthday. He’d been organising the details of the trip for over two months & was more than ready for the tournament to actually start. The tournament was firstly a soccer tournament but there was also a volleyball tournament with mixed teams made from the girls and boys soccer teams.

The boys came second to the team from Malawi, the girls came fourth and the volleyball team showed its makeshift nature by playing well but failing to be placed.