I am now six months through my placement and it is hard to believe I am well and truly on the back end of my trip. It won’t be long until I am laying in my bed back home in Australia and reminiscing on one of the best years of my life. The experiences have been second to none and the friendships made cannot be replaced or forgotten.
To celebrate the essence of international volunteering, we run an annual competition here at Lattitude for existing and recently returned volunteers. The competition comprises three different categories – photo, video and written – and volunteers are invited to enter one or more categories and showcase their amazing experiences.
The exuberant colours of an African market place indulges the senses. The rusty brown earth. The yellow, red and green of fresh fruit and vegetables. The dusty haze of the horizon under a fading blue sky. The dark African skin only highlights the bright entanglement of colour put before me. But there are some colours that do not belong. The white that is my skin. The blonde that is my hair. The blue that are my eyes. These represent something that is foreign.
Isabella and myself have been in Hai Phong for two days now and already we have met so many lovely people and seen so much. Our placement is Hai Phong Vocational College of Tourism and Services which is about 20 minutes from the city centre. It is a big college with lots of wide open space and large buildings. The guest house where we are staying is very spacious and has all the facilities we need. I had no idea what to expect from the college or the people and so far; both Bell and I have been pleasantly surprised. Every person we have met has wanted to help us as much as possible and make us feel at home (even if it means feeding us chicken feet). We have sussed out the city on the back of motorbikes but have no idea how we will go finding things by ourselves!
The last two weeks have been SO busy! The swimming program at the school is now in full swing and I’m at the pool at least once a day, sometimes twice, with students of all ages. This week I completed a Splash Test at the centre which means I am now allowed and qualified to coach swimming from both in and out of the pool!
A yellow fishing boat bounces through the turquoise and shark infested Pacific Ocean along the coast of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. The tiny speck of land, only a dot on the map rises impressively out of the waves into a cloud of mist. The exotic jungle on top of it will be my home. The people on the boat with me will be my family. The adventure in my heart will be my life blood for the next six months.
I have now been at my placement at Tolmers Activity Centre for just over three months and have comfortably settled in and am really feeling at home. I have made many friends and many memories already on my trip. I have done things that were completely new experiences for me and I’m not even half way through my stay here at Tolmers.
When I was 17 and just finishing high school, I knew that I didn’t want to go straight to university. The HSC was stressful enough and I knew that I needed to go out and see the world and contribute to it before I committed to three further years of study. But I knew that I didn’t want to do the same gap year that everyone else was doing – it just didn’t seem like a big enough of a challenge to me.