Akwaaba Life

Akwaaba Life

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Ghana is known for its welcoming and hospitable people, which I am glad to say is incredibly true. From the moment you land, to the minute you leave, you will always be greeted with ‘Akwaaba’ welcoming you into the heart of the country. I wanted to briefly touch upon more of my experiences so far and start to paint a picture with the colourful palette that makes up this fascinating country.

FOOD

When I thought about what I would be eating when I came to Ghana; I’ll be honest my first thought was ‘great I’ll finally be able to shift the mid-way chub and have a serious detox’. Secondly, I imagined eating boring, repetitive and flavourless foods. This was of course based on no research or experience with the realities that I would actually face.

The Ghanaian dishes could not be further away from my initial thoughts at all. The meals here are packed with spices, flavours and colours that have had me eating double the portions I would normally. For the majority, I have loved all the new foods I have been introduced to whilst I have been here; apart from my relationship with fufu (a pounded cassava and maize flubber playdough like creation) I have enjoyed Baanku, waache, jollof and the almighty Red-Red plantain tastiness.

I have had the absolute bonus of having a caterer for my host mum throughout my stay here. She surprises me with new dishes and has given me the opportunity to sample a lot of the Ghanaian cookbook which I am very grateful for. From eto-eto to kele wele her culinary delights always deliver a satisfied stomach. I am also in awe of how she manages to get fried chicken to taste so damn good.

So far my food journey in Ghana has been a massive success.

MUSIC

It goes without saying that, as a whole, the African continent know how to make great sounds and put on a killer party. The music here is a colourful blend of hip-life and reggae beats. The music is always blasting from dusk till dawn. I’m now a passionate Shatta Wale fan throwing out ‘chop kisses’ everywhere I go and serenading people to ‘let me be there soldier’. It seems the chart here takes a little longer to change, so most of the songs you’ll hear, all year round, from every shop, taxi and phone; which you’d think gets repetitive but I see it as people really appreciate a great song.

There’s no slow songs for those moody, brooding days. Instead it’s upbeat and instant smile makers. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen a sad face during my stay. The music is deep rooted into this culture and as well as a social outlet it is also an expressive art used to define regions, stories and the people.

DANCE

Being able to express emotions through dance is another integral part of the Ghanaian culture. Rhythm is everywhere you look here, from the pounding of the fufu to the intense tribal jama displayed through the beating of drums, clicking of fingers and unity of voices. Every part of the country has different regional dancing to express different stories, beliefs and celebrations.

Even the greeting handshake has its own rhythm and click that seems so strange to a rigid westerner’s hand.

LANGUAGE

What does language mean to you? For some its communication. For others it’s a sense of identity. My time here has led me to pick up a lot of the local language: Twi. I’ve learnt to slow my speech down to an almost grinding halt as well as incorporating a lot of the local clicks and sounds. I’ve always found the best way to learn a language is to be thrown straight into the deep end. In my case, 8 months in a rural community, living with a host family should do it. I don’t like to do things by halves.

I’ve ended up picking up a fair bit of the vocab and now things like ‘Ghanafuo pe kasa papaa’ just rolls off the tongue. More than anything, I found that even when I could hardly say anything at all the joy trying would bring to the locals faces was incredible. I guess it’s my way of saying I don’t want to forget your culture, your identity. Which is incredibly important today, when everyone is being pushed so hard to learn English; it is becoming harder and harder for people to hold onto their local dialects, heritages and identities.

LANDSCAPE

Bright sunburnt dusty roads contrasted by lush green jungles and mountain backdrops are some of the things I’m surrounded by when I wake up and drink my cup of coffee in the mornings.

Ghana is an incredibly diverse country in terms of landscape. You can go from the dry northern farming regions to the tropical south and infamous Gold Coast towns. There are the national parks packed full of wild gentle giants; as well as the lakes and waterfalls of the central regions.

An incredibly dynamic geographical landscape.

Reds, yellows and greens define this landscape.

This is Ghana.

 

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How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip

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Hello and welcome to 2016! I love the new year as its a chance to make a fresh start and plan loads of new stuff! There is a lot coming up this year in this blog so stay tuned for more adventures and travel stories. For now here’s my Top Tips on ‘How To Get The Most Out Of A Volunteering Trip!’ Why not do something great this year and give something back, Enjoy!

Volunteering is one of the best ways you can get the opportunity to interact with locals and help make a positive impact on your travels. Once you’ve got your destination and project it’s time to get prepared for your life changing trip! If you haven’t chosen yet then read my review of my experience with IVHQ for some inspiration! I’ll give my advice on how best to prepare for it and what to expect to gain from embarking on a volunteering project.

Pre-Departure

  1. Before you go research. Research everything you can find through blog posts, articles, videos and reviews of the place your staying at and what it has to offer along with all the possible problem areas to look out for.
  2. Get your visas sorted! It’s something that is often overlooked in the planning process but it is a vital part to be able to enter the country: find out where you need one for, for how long, the price, how long it takes to get approved approx. before you go, wether you’ll need to renew it if your staying longer than the ‘normal’ amount of time ( for example visas for Australia are free to apply for online as a tourist for up to a month, after that you’ll need to renew it or get a different visa category) 
  3. Check what/if you need vaccinations for the place your staying at, a great resource is fitfortravel also make an appointment to see your local travel nurse to make sure your covered.
  4. Collect all contact numbers for in country support and out of country support. i.e. support officer, government, host-family, immigration office, airport, taxis, family. 
  5. Get your travel insurance sorted. I would definitely recommend getting some cover especially if your heading to more rural, high risk areas. Also if your planning on taking valuables such as cameras/laptops then get them covered just in case! 
  6. Try and find out if the host-family/project your involved need any resources that you could take out with you to help. 
  7. Look into setting up a fundraising page for your trip – also look at doing some sponsored races, events or collections to help raise some money for your chosen project. I use www.gofundme.com 
  8. Make at least 4 copies of all your documents (passport, money cards, project info, visas, vaccinations, contacts, travel insurance) Give a copy to someone at home, keep one copy in your bag, give another copy to a program coordinator if you have one. This is a great way to make sure you always have someone with a back up of all your important info if anything happens. Its also a good idea to create a new folder in your email account and store all this digitally as well so you can access it via a computer if needs be or you need to email a document. 
  9. Change a small amount ( enough for a couple of nights stay in a hotel/food) into the destinations currency just in case your unable to get your money travel card up and running straight away – tip. check this works before you even leave for the airport in an atm in your own country so you can check everything in order. 
  10. Give your parents/guradian a list of all possible numbers/ emails they may need whilst your away or in case of emergency 
  11. Check social media for any links to your chosen project and see if there is anyway you can make contact with any other volunteers before you go. It’ll help you introduce yourself before you have even left and probably calm your nerves or get you more excited about your chosen project! Social media is such a powerful tool these days which you can take full advantage of before you trip! 
  12. Find out the basic phrases and vocabulary in the local language ( hello, goodbye, please, thank you) before you go to give yourself a head start in greeting and interacting with locals – tip learning the numbers 1-10 is also quite useful!! 

Now all the important stuff is planned and sorted, you can focus on packing!

13. Pack what clothes you want to take. Now unpack it and take half of them out, you won’t need that much! If you get stuck whilst your out there, you can usually pick up a few new t-shirts cheap or just hand wash them!

14. Include practical items such as a hand torch, head torch, batteries, swiss army knife (multitool), plastic bags, padlocks, universal plug adapter.tip take a throw away camera, no need for charging and great fun as a surprise to wait and see what the snaps look like when you come back!

15. Pack some medication i.e. paracetamol, ibuprofen, dehydration tablets, water-purifying tablets, insect repellent.

Once you bag is packed your ready to take to the airport!

Fast-forward the nervous, excited and sleepless flight to your volunteering project.

It’s overwhelming, especially if this is your first experience abroad or in a developing country. Just remember your here for a short amount of time and you will be heading home so make the most of the time you have. Take in as much as possible from the sights, smells, people, lifestyle, language and culture. Be open and accepting that you’re in a different country with different values/views to your own. They may not be what you are used but be respectful and embrace it.

Be Open

Be Respectful

Throw Yourself Into It!

Enjoy your experience of a lifetime and thanks to your well planned pre-departure you know everything is in place, so your able to just enjoy it and help out! Make sure you write down and take loads of photographs to remember your trip by!

Lastly my biggest tip for getting the most out of your volunteering experience or any experience is to just open yourself to it fully. Embrace every opportunity to learn and discover something your not used to, everything that challenges you helps you to grow.

Happy travels!

If you’d like to see what A Day in the Life of a Volunteer is like or Teaching in Kenya then check out my experiences!

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What do you travel for? | I travel for…

What do you travel for? | I travel for…

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I believe that the times I have shown the most growth and potential have been when I have been surrounded by new places, people and situations. Many of these instances have been whilst I have been travelling which is why I’m so determined to continue exploring and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

tolkien

It really is that first small step that you take that will lead you onto your next adventure however big or small. By making travel a focus I allow myself to start to take small steps towards my dream of exploring. I am determined and motivated to make travel a priority in my life because my life is about travelling! Planning, writing, expressing and saving are all examples of small steps I personally take towards achieving my goals.

buddha

It’s true and something I’m still working on doing. Until you experience other places and people you may not even realise the things that are dragging you down. It could be something as obvious as not liking your work or just simply wanting to get out more but other things aren’t as clear until you see it from a different point of view. Sometimes the energy and attitudes of people around us can impact on how we think about things – this can be positive and also negative. It isn’t until you step away from your situation that your able to look back and reflect on things. I am slowly starting to do this and going some place completely different to my ‘normal’ everyday life allows me to take some time to consider and evaluate my thoughts.

gandhi

Learning is the biggest reward of growth in travel, I have found that when you’re in a new environment the natural thing is to learn – places, names, culture, customs, language, new foods, festivals, climates, attractions etc. the list goes on about all the opportunities for growth you can get from travelling!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

columbus

Of course it’s all well and good me saying all this but if you don’t actually go and do it then you’ll never know the potential growth you might have. I’ve found myself always working to save to go and travel because I enjoy new challenges and learning about new places. Its scary going somewhere out of your comfort zone but in my experience its been the best decisions and really rewarding.

alone

If you really want to maximise the potential for growth while travelling, go solo. Sounds scary right? Plan, be sensible and don’t worry. The media makes the world seem like a scary place, as long as you are aware and have some common sense then the opportunities you come across when going solo are endless! You’ll be able to plan your own routes, go at your own pace and really take some time to reflect on yourself.

“Whatever makes you uncomfortable is the biggest opportunity for growth” – Bryant McGill

100

Join me! We all have one shot at life so make the most of it!

hakuna matata

 

My 30 Travel Bucket List Goals

My 30 Travel Bucket List Goals

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Bucket List –  a powerful tool to help you process your individual goals and motivate you to complete them. Lately I have been making preparations and thinking about my future a lot. Future. An ambiguous word and concept. Its scary and exciting to think about, what I could be doing in a few months or years time. I have always had a bunch of ideas crammed into my head about what I’d like to have a go at or achieve in my life and I wanted to get these out and into a post. Firstly to provide a visual bucket list for myself but also to hopefully inspire and share some with others. Wether your a seasoned traveller or budding adventurer theres always something else you can add to your lists! I’d love to have a go at completing as many as I can before I’m 30, I’m 23, so I have a good 7 years of travelling to give it a go! Join my adventure and start your own stories!

I think for now I’ll have a go at listing 30 but things will obviously be added as I go along my travels…I’ll probably think of 30 more when i finish writing this post!

Travel Bucket List

  1. Go on safari and see wild elephants COMPLETE

Elephant & the Bird by Jack Gunns on 500px.com Bucket List

2. Swim with Great White Sharks

http://www.booksouthafrica.travel/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Cape-Town-Great-White-Shark-Cage-Diving-Private-Tours.jpg

3. Volunteer in a foreign country COMPLETE

4. See the 7 wonders

http://www.airpano.ru/files/seven_wonders_02_eng_big.jpg

5. Go dune buggy racing in the Sahara Desert http://www.arabiahorizons.com/cms/imagebank/image/48f9b22c42a69.jpg 6. Learn to cook a Chinese dish https://i.ytimg.com/vi/UEkbRb2vCNQ/maxresdefault.jpg 7. Visit a Buddhist monk monastery http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/photo-diary/files/2013/07/budhist.jpg 8. Dive in The Great Barrier Reef COMPLETE

9. Skydive over a beach COMPLETE

jumping 15,000ft over Cairns and landing on the beach #skydive #awesome #extreme #australia A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

10. Learn a martial art in Asia http://martialfunk.com/gallery2.jpg 11. Bathe with Elephants COMPLETE

the best way to shower in nepal! #elephant #powershower #nepal #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

12. Dog sledding in Svalbard

http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/travel/fullset/2013/02/06/49/Dog-Sledding-Tours.rend.tccom.966.544.jpeg

13. Drink rum in Jamaica

http://www.livemaguk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pirates-of-the-caribbean-curse-of-the-black-pearl-depp-knightley-rum-beach-600x372.jpg

14. Teach in a foreign country COMPLETE

Creative Culture - Bucket List

15. Live abroad for a year

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16. See orang-utans in the Borneo Jungle http://i2.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1168940.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Borneo%20Orangutan 17. Whale watching in Canada http://directory.tourdust.com/photos/3415/Whale_watching_in_Canada_-_main_cropped_large.jpg 18. Tribal Dance 19. Dance at a Rio De Janeiro Carnival http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02841/rio-carnival--danc_2841261k.jpg 20. Inter-rail through Europe https://www.gapyear.com/images/content/Images/11_11_08-mjs_interrailing_32933248.jpg 21. Visit the Acropolis in Athens http://wfiles.brothersoft.com/a/acropolis-of-athens_96147-1920x1200.jpg 22. Adopt an Elephant COMPLETE

23. Experience New Year’s Eve in a different city

http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/streams/2013/December/131230/2D10976631-today-131230-times-square-new-years.jpg

24. Go somewhere hot for Christmas

http://your-hols.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/christmas-abroad.jpg

25. See a lantern festival of lights

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/c4eb0aDPwBY/maxresdefault.jpg

26. Cuddle a Koala COMPLETE

got a very warm and fluffy cuddle – meet Tam #koala #hug #austrailia #instadaily A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

27. Fly First Class

https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/flightfox/images/blog/first-class-challenge-air-canada.jpg

28. Meditate on a mountain

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Phra_Ajan_Jerapunyo-Abbot_of_Watkungtaphao..jpg

29. Learn a Language

http://www.pitara.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2001/04/word-hello-in-different-languages.jpg

30. Work & Travel

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I’ve already thought of a bunch more to add! Whats on your list? Are there any that you didn’t think of that you are going to add to yours now? I love planning and looking forward to the future, hopefully I’ll be bale to add a few more ticks to my never-ending list!

A Day in the Life of a Nepal Volunteer

A Day in the Life of a Nepal Volunteer

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If you’ve not considered visiting the stunning country of Nepal then I’d strongly recommend looking into it. I’d never even thought about visiting here until I came across a volunteering program that was running in Nepal. I’ll be honest and say one of the biggest things that did it was the fact it was so affordable, I had recently graduated from uni and was a skint student with not a lot to my name but a strong desire to head off travelling. I really liked the idea of volunteering and doing a home stay as I had done some teaching abroad but never a home stay. It was a terrifying thought when I was booking it all but I thought why not?

Fast forward to the end of July. Now picture this, I had just travelled around the east coast of Australia for a month and had landed in Nepal after 32 hours of travelling via Dubai, Delhi and finally arriving in Kathmandu. I was extremely sleep deprived and in for the biggest culture shock I hadn’t prepared myself for. I went with it and I had the most incredible experience. I got placed in the most beautiful little village in Sipadol in Bhakatpur and the next two months couldn’t have been better.

For any of you thinking wow I’d love to do some volunteering but I don’t know if I’d be any help or Nepal seems a bit too ‘out of my comfort zone‘” I would say to you that Nepal surprised me and completely changed my view on travelling and outlook on life. You can do a lot of good and really create true lasting friendships with the people you meet. I still speak to all my volunteer friends and everyone at the orphanage and I”m heading back very soon! The media makes things look way scarier than they actually are, of course always be sensible and do your research but Nepal connected me with the most friendliest people I’ve ever encountered!

Anyway, I could waffle on about how great it all was forever but for anyone wanting an insight into what exactly a ‘typical‘ (I use this in the loosest sense as you never know if you’ll be invited to some strangers house for tea, end up doing a dance in festival time with loads of Nepali villagers, watch a cow give birth or smoke Shisha in a local shoe shop – all of these events actually happened, no day is dull while your volunteering) day was like whilst volunteering then here you go! 

Volunteering Timetable

5:00am It’s time to wake up, open those eyes wide and Jump out of bed with a spring in your step… Well it was more like peeling the eyelids back and dragging yourself down the rocky path to the orphanage but after a few days you get over it and then you can’t get down there quick enough!

A room with a view #nepal #travelling #view #instadaily

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

5:30am Meditation. It’s time to channel those inner energies and create good karma. The kids used to all be up and ready sitting crossed legged whilst chanting by the time I used to get there. They also sing there national anthem everyday which was pretty cute to watch.   6:00am It’s never too early to do some chores and have a quick clean up of the bedrooms before school.

“Feed the birds” #nepal #ivhq2014 #birds #instagood A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

6:00am – 7:00am This is free time to spend with the kids to play games, have a chat, do the girls hair and if your musically gifted (I’m not) then some of the volunteers teach guitar lessons. I started going with Ashis one of the older boys to take the milk down to sell. It’s pretty cool to see and they have a way of measuring how good the milk is in exchange for rupees.

Sushil & Ashis, 2 of the best guys you’ll meet 👌 #nepal #bros #smiles

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Jammin’ time with Rohan! #drums #nepal #ivhq2014 #travels #thebiggestsmile A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

7:00am is breakfast time, cue chaos, absolute chaos. The kids all rush in to grab their plates and the volunteers man the rice and dhal creating a conveyer belt of food for each child. Throughout breakfast you’ll just hear the munching of rice with the occasional ‘more rice uncle’ ‘more curry’ ‘paniiiii’ (water)

7:30 – 8:00am It’s time to get ready for school. Everyone takes their positions outside the house as each child bursts through the front doors for shoes to be put on, lunchboxes to pack and hands to hold (everyone wants to hold your hand on the way to school) you’ll end up with two arms full of swinging kids as you manoeuvre down the slippery ‘path’ with each one handing you flowers. Don’t forget to get blessed with a tika on the way, one of the kids will get it done for you! It’s probably one of my favourite parts of the day! So many laughs! As you wave goodbye to all the kids shouting from the smiley bus you instantly cannot wait for them to be running back down the path to come home.

#blessed #tb #peace #tika 🙏✌️

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

#morningwalks #schoolrun #countingthedays #nepal ✌️ A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

9:00am Now it’s time to fill your belly a with a delicious breakfast cooked by aama. Rice, dhal and sometimes an occasional potato will be your main diet for your stay. There were times I never wanted to see rice again but overall I loved aamas cooking and whenever she made rotis I could have jumped for joy and sung from the treetops.

9:30am – 10:00am Freetime is something you’ll welcome after the hectic morning you’ve just had, have a rest but not for too long…

10:00am -12:00am Get back over to the house and help out your didis (older sisters/ the house mothers) there’s goats to graze, cows to clean out, house to clean, grass to cut, grass to carry and clothes to wash. Some of the best moments were getting to know and bond with the didis whilst helping out. It’s the best way to learn some of the language and get a real feel for a Nepali way of life. The mothers were outstanding and taught me a lot about being strong, kind and hardworking. You also get to make a fool out of yourself and have a laugh at your grass cutting technique or cow milking motions.

Hajur baii #nepal #ivhq2014 #aseko #instavillagemission #laugh

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

working the field, planting them crops #nepal #travels #instavillagemission #farming #colourspopping A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Pdidi grass cutting #nepal #travels #farmlife #instavillagemission #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

12:00am Fried rice time! This doesn’t sound that exciting but when you’ve had a limited food diet and worked up an appetite in the fields this is the best thing. Fried rice, chilli, garlic and egg lovingly cooked by the house mothers.   1:00pm – 3:00pm is Freetime and can be spent helping out, reading a book or heading into the old town to do some shopping. I used to love heading down to the fruit sellers and bringing back delicious mangos and bananas for the kids and volunteers!

down at the fruit stalls #nepal #travelling #instavillagemission #vscocam A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kids love mangos just a little bit #nepal #ivhq2014 #smile #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

3:00pm The kids are back! Sometimes if you’ve gone down into town you can time it to catch the bus back up with the kids which always goes down well as you see the big grins walking towards you from the school gates and everyone wants to sit next to you on the bus!

it’s been a long day at school #sleepy #busride #puttinginthehours #nepal A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

4:00pm Time to go down to the stream and wash the school clothes/ mess about in the water soaking the volunteer (me) and getting soap everywhere! Even the dullest activities are made fun by the kids, they have such a zest for life and never seem to be down, it’s really inspiring.

the only time i loved doing the washing 👌#happy #nepal #travels #tb A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Surfsoaping #surfer #nepal #ivhq #instavillagemission

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

5:00pm Time to help with homework – this translates to – trying to get everyone to stop throwing there books around and sit quietly, when I say everyone I pretty much mean the boys haha the girls were pretty good at getting on with it. You pretty much hold the fort until the actual teacher comes and then you can let him do what he’s good at and get the children studying.

6:00pm Time to milk the cows and have a quick milk tea with the didis and take the rest of the milk back to the house for aama. Now it’s time for dinner and more rice and dhal bhat with a charades game with aama to explain what happened in the day (aama spoke little English but we still connected through lots of actions and facial expressions which she seemed to find hilarious)

7:00pm – 8:00pm is chill time with your other volunteers and time to pick out that perfect Instagram picture you can post and hashtag your heart away for friends and family back home!

9:00pm Bed. Sleep. You’ll be meditating in a few hours time and doing it all over again!

So there you have it, a typical day in the life of a volunteer in Nepal based on my experience. No day is the same and weekends are even more intense as the kids don’t have school on a Saturday! I used to love Saturdays and chilling with the kids, grazing the goats and going to watch the boys play football!

Go volunteer! I’m sure/I know you’ll have the BEST time!

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos (there are so many more!) from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

Flickr | 500px

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Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

Namaste Jack Uncle | Travel Talk

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“Namaste Jack Uncle” is what I would hear all the time on a daily basis. The kids here are among the happiest kids I’ve met and so content with so little. I was expecting it to be at least a week before they opened up to me and talked. Not at all, within the first few hours I had kids hanging from me like monkeys. I’ve gotten to know alot of them and kept finding myself anxiously waiting all day for the kids to come back from school so we could play and do chores!

the school run #nepal #ivhq2014 #chito

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

get to wake up to this everyday #nepal #travels #nature

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

so much red #shrine #nepal #temple #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I sought out a tatooist while I was there. I now have arms full of snakes, cats, a house and some mountains. Little rahul is quite the artist. We took the kids to the temple and had a picnic one of the days which was more of a mission than it may sound at first. I went into town with our host sister Saroza to stock up on momos (kind of nepali dumplings if you will – a favourite amongst the children and myself!), we then took a taxi up the mountain which sounds impressive but then if you throw in the fact that Nepal has no real ‘roads’ so the path up the mountain was a little rocky – an even more impressive feat for the taxi driver. As well as this we took huge speaker amps up so we could have music to dance too and marched 21 kids up a to the top of a mountain. It was well worth it and I think I was way more excited than the children! Over the duration of my stay we had various volunteers from different countries come stay and the orphanage was as busy as ever. I went to the old city of Bhaktapur and got the chance to see the Gai Jatra festival. Everyone dresses up and its a pretty great atmosphere. It was a hive of dancing and stick clapping. The old city is quite amazing with lots of old temples and architecture. It’s pretty impressive. Overtime I went down to the old city I felt a sense of ancient history and awe at the buildings around me.

Bhakatapur festival #temple #nepal #rammedro #partytime

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I also witnessed the birth of a baby calf on the farm. Just as we were leaving to go back one evening one of the mothers came shouting saying the gai (cow) was having a baby. We stayed and watched and it was incredible to see so close. We now have baby wally to add to the family. Just a typical day in the life of a volunteer.

Rohan and ‘wally’; the new addition to the fam #nepal #ivhq2014 #neckhug #baby #cow

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Time is flying! I have really settled into the nepali way of life and home now. The more comfortable im getting in my placement the more the days seem to be passing by quicker. I recently went to chitwan on safari where I met with the other volunteers from orientation, which was a great chance to catch up and see how everyones placements were going. The resort was really nice and we got to shower on top of an elephant! Then went on a canoe down the flooded river and an elephant safari. The weather held out for us and we only had one delay from a landslide on the way so pretty successful. More to come on my chitin safari adventure experience in another blog post!

Pdidi grass cutting #nepal #travels #farmlife #instavillagemission #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We threw a birthday party for all the kids as it was two of their birthdays. Myself and the other volunteers bought mangos, rice pudding, a cake and new school bags for all 20 kids which was great! We danced alot and at one point got taken to a random party in the village as they were celebrating a festival as well. I had no idea what we were doing at a villagers house to begin with. Then music came on and everyone started dancing,  it was me and two other volunteers who were the only foreign people and the rest were nepali villagers. No one really spoke good english but everyone was so excited to have us there. They laughed at my questionable dance moves which I don’t blame them for because they were terrible! They offered us some delicious foods and then we went back to carry on partying with the kids and other volunteers. It was so fun and random to party with the locals and a truly unique moment. Life in the village was pretty sweet and loved being with the kids.

Jdidi Roti machine #nepal #ivhq2014 #food #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The Nepali fam #nepal #homefromhome #ivhq2014 #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kids love mangos just a little bit #nepal #ivhq2014 #smile #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

pre-roti rolling with pdidi #nepal #food #culture #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

One man and his goats #IVHQ #nepal #goatherder #instagood

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I also had the cool opportunity of experiencing the womens festival a day where women dress up, dance and fast for the whole day to pray for a good husband. In support of the females in the house I also fasted. It was a long day. The girls all looked grown up in thier best outfits and saris and we went to the temple to dance/me take photos. At one point jamona and bdidi pulled me in to dance. I felt like I was gonna be eaten alive by the women ‘praying for good husbands’ at the sight of a giant white man.

the girls getting ready for the womens #festival with #henna #nepal #ivhq2014

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

today was all about the ladies #womens #festival #nepal #culture #dancing #demsaris

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We got the paints out one of days which was great to see kids getting creative. The younger boys ishan, rahul and ashok decided to put paint all over their hands and then ran through the home to the bathroom. They dropped dollops of paint everywhere and tried to wash in the bathroom, which just resulted in blue stains and streaks. It was funny to watch until ashok filled a bucket of water to throw at the paint and got half of it over me. We all laughed as we cleaned up the blue mess. The whole time ishan telling me not to tell anyone.

no tell saroza, no riya, no rupak #nepal #ivhq #oops #blue #instavillagemission

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

we unleashed arts & crafts today #nepal #ivhq2014 #instavillagemission #topstudent #moneyshot

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Nepal is pretty awesome. Made even sweeter by my little bro rahul who pinky promised me with both hands everyday. Then kissed them both and says “friends forever uncle, yes”.

before the painting got out of control #nepal #ivhq #painting #art

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

There were so many incredible moments during my stay with the Thapa family from aama (the grandmother/mother) cooking us delicious rice dishes every morning and evening but not being able to speak any english; which was interesting when she would keep piling more rice on our plates even if we were full up. I impressed everyone by learning the days of the week and numbers in nepali along with a few other nepali words and phrases which got me bonus points with the house mothers and aama. Going with Ashis one of the older boys every morning to sell the milk. Helping them all with their homework everyday and walking them to the bus stop for school; sometimes we’d get on the ‘smiley bus’ with them if were headed into town. Getting to know the house mothers, who on the most part don’t get as much attention as everyone else, so it was really great getting to know Jamuna, Maiya and Parabati; even if we had to act out most of our conversations due to language barriers – this made it all the more worthwhile!

Hajur baii #nepal #ivhq2014 #aseko #instavillagemission #laugh

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Bumpy bus ride – nepali style #bus #nepal #travelling #asia #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The end of my trip was bitter sweet. I was super glad to get home and eat some home cooking but this was outweighed and overshadowed by the fact that I was leaving my new family behind. Half of me was now entwined with this small nepali village. I never expected to fall in love with an entire village and the kids. The kids I had been with everyday for 2 whole months, who I walked to the bus stop and stayed up with to help with their homework. The kids I had bonded with, I had to say goodbye too. I’d never felt such a heavy pull on my heart as I did the day I had to leave and get in the taxi to the airport. I was leaving behind new friends, a home and a new family.

As soon as I landed back in England I was happy but sad that it had come to an end. I lasted four months being back before I booked another flight back there. I’m heading back to my nepali family and I couldn’t be happier!

this view though #nepal #travelling #instavillagemission #incredible #colourspopping #mountains

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

big and small #nepal #ivhq #bestbuds #instavillagemission #hands

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

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Chitwan Safari at the Eden Jungle Resort | Travel Talk

Chitwan Safari at the Eden Jungle Resort | Travel Talk

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Whilst in Nepal I made sure I got to visit one of the regions famous national parks in Chitwan. Located in the southern part of Nepal, Chitwan is about 6-7 hours travel from central Kathmandu via tourist bus. I would recommend travelling in a tourist bus as you get your own seat, water and toilet breaks; the driving is also ‘slightly’ safer as there are less people in them compared to one of the local buses.

I went on a 2 night 3 day safari tour at the Eden Jungle Resort which cost around £59 ($90) which I thought was super cheap for what you get!

Eden Jungle Resort
Eden Jungle Resort

The bus journey from Kathmandu was incredibly long and we got stopped a few times due to small landslides (which are very common throughout Nepal before you worry) along the way. Bring some food, a book and some water; maybe pack some travel sickness tablets just in case. You do stop off a few times for toilet breaks and at local cafes so there are opportunities to get food along the way, however always keep in mind in Nepal that the food may not be what you are used and ‘nepali belly’ much like ‘delhi belly’ is quite common amongst travellers. Be smart about food choices, I pretty much stuck to rice and momos!

Once I arrived at Chitwan we were picked up and taken to our home for the next few days. We were greeted with smiling friendly faces – as you get anywhere in Nepal – and briefed on the iteniary. We were taken to our rooms and were able to have a quick freshen up before heading out on a tour of the resort. The rooms are fairly basic but sufficient for what you need, its not luxury but does the job. You are provided with beds, a ceiling fan, nets and a bathroom; consisting of a western toilet, sink and shower.

We immediately went for a tour around where they kept the elephants and shown around the grounds. We were lucky enough to see one of the famous one horned rhinos bathing in a stream in the first 20 minutes of being there! They showed us the river which at the time was overflowing due to it being the monsoon season. We were able to watch the sunset and then head back for a cold everest beer!

Elephant HairdoOne-Horned Rhino

Later that evening after a buffet style dinner we were driven to the nearby Tharu village where we were treated to some traditional tribal stick dancing. This was a great atmosphere and interesting to see the tribes cultural heritage. Afterwards we headed back to our resort to get some well earned rest after the days travelling but not before we squeezed in a few more everest beers!

The next day we had an early breakfast (breakfast and dinner are included at the resort) and went down to the river where we got into canoes down the river. There are opportunities to spot gharial crocodile, various birds and monkeys. We got out further down the river and went for a short walk through some local villages. Unfortunately when I was there we were not able to go over to the elephant breeding center to see the baby elephants as the river was so high we could not cross safely, however you are usually able to see them up close.

During the afternoon we had some free time so went into the local village to have a look for some souvenirs and to grab a quick lunch. Lunch turned into nearly 2 hours waiting, always remember your on nepali time haha

chitwan 1
You’ll get used to seeing elephants just walking around the village!

We headed back to the resort to quickly freshen up by taking a shower…with an elephant. A pretty cool experience but definitely came out smelling a lot more worse than I wen into it! I made a quick purchase of one of the resort t-shirts and went for another shower minus the elephant.

the best way to shower in nepal! #elephant #powershower #nepal #travels

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Hatti are awesome #elephant #nepal #travelling #closeup #vscocam A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Next we jumped into a jeep and travelled over to the forest where we were then able to go on an elephant safari. It was a really cool way to see the reserve and some of the animals including deer, rhino and monkeys; left me feeling a bit achey in my legs though! During the Chitwan Safari you have a well experienced guide who spots all the animals a mile off through trees and bushes. When you get off at the end theres usually children selling bananas for a few rupees to feed the elephants with make sure you buy a few to reward them for all the walking they just did.

Elephant EyesElephant Safari

Deer Ears

can’t get enough of these guys #elephant #nepal #travelling #safari A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

legit jungle book #chitwan #jungle #safari #nepal #travelling #vscocam

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

For the evening we went our for dinner to make the most of some of the western food that is available here before heading back to our homestay placements. Grabbed yet another couple of everest beers – my favourite if you couldn’t tell by now – before heading to bed to get some rest and digest the days elephant antics.

Early morning wake up call for some bird watching and breakfast and then back onto the tourist buses to head back to Kathmandu.

Chitwan is a great few days away activity whilst travelling around exploring Nepal. I’d head there between october-march to really get the most out of the experience the temperature isn’t too bad at around 25°C, the best months for viewing game is late january-march as the grass is cut shorter improving disability. Check out Lonely Planets essential guide for your trip.

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

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My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

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I chose, after a lot of research and endless googling, to volunteer in Nepal through the company IVHQ to do childcare work within an orphanage placement. I’ll talk about my experience with the company as well as give a run down of what I went through pre-trip and whilst on placement. All views and experiences are my own.

 

What they say…

“International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable, safe and responsible volunteer abroad programs in 30 different countries around the world. Each year, IVHQ places thousands of volunteers on our volunteer abroad programs and offers a wide range of volunteer travel opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Victoria Falls, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Bali, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, India – Delhi, India – Dharamsala, Vietnam – Hanoi, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ha Long Bay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – Bogota, Colombia – Cartagena, Morocco, Peru – Cusco, Peru – Lima, Laos, Romania, Italy and Fiji.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world’s leading volunteer travel company, offering a variety of projects for volunteer travelers, including Teaching, Childcare, Community Development, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation.

Whether you are traveling abroad, taking a gap year, wanting to experience a volunteer vacation, or simply wishing to provide assistance in a developing country through volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ has the program for you.

With volunteer program fees starting from USD$180, you will not find a more affordable, high quality and trustworthy international volunteer travel company.”

 

What I say…

“IVHQ was definitely one of the more affordable companies for volunteer work I came across, especially what you got for the money and the variety of destinations you have to choose from. You really can get a lot out of the experience without the massive price tag of what other companies are offering, because after all your a choosing to volunteer so don’t want to have to pay an arm and leg to do so! There are other ways to volunteer cheaper – by going directly to in-country organisations, organising parts of the trip yourself i.e. accommodation, familiarising yourself without guides however for a first time experience in a country like Nepal I was more than happy to pay the small amount extra to get all of this included in the fee price.

IVHQ right from the start provided email correspondence to answer any queries I had, organised airport pickup, accommodation, placements and have an extremely friendly team to welcome you and check up n you throughout your placement. They also provide a weeks orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal before sending you to your host-family placements; as well as some language lessons which come in handy!

I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling. I can safely say that the team in Nepal made me feel safe, welcome and at ease before I started my placement. With this in mind I would recommend going for more than 2 weeks to really make the most of your time volunteering in Nepal. Once you take the week off for the orientation (which is essential at the start I think) you should try to have at least 2 weeks+ in your actual placement. I saw people come and go within a week or two which leaves no time to really ‘make a difference‘ or get to know the people your working with. It frustrated me that a few were just using it as a cheap way to travel – this isn’t fair on the children you are working with. If your choosing to volunteer then invest your time with the kids.

“I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling”

The support from the team lasted throughout my 2 month placement with regular visits to make sure I was alright and to help with any trips I wanted to plan whilst there – they even arranged tickets and weekend trips to Chitwan National Park which I wouldn’t have known were to go for. The IVHQ team also checked in with me online via email and answered other queries I had.

I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family and the most incredible children at Bhaktapur Self-Sustaining Orphanage. I decided to stay in the same place for the duration of my stay to really get to know them. All I can say is I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village. Everyone from the host family, children, house mothers, villagers and locals  are like my home from home now. I’m entwined with an entire nepali village on the side of a mountain and am heading back to visit everyone in March ( keep up to date by following @travelling_jackg or my social links).

“I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village”

So, all in all IVHQ was a great company to volunteer through. They gave me the confidence and ease to volunteer without all the headache. I had support, help if I needed it, introduction to culture and a base of friends right from the off. Like I said you can do it cheaper but compared to the other companies out there this is one of the cheapest for what you get! You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. From doing this experience I can now say I’d be happy to just go to Nepal and organise it myself without an organisation but thats only because I had such a positive introduction thanks to IVHQ.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I paid volunteering through IVHQ and other additional costs:

IVHQ Program Fee – £620

Flight – £400 return (LHR – KTH) – I booked through STA travel however in hindsight use sky scanner for a better variety of deals.

Visa – £70 – Apply via the Nepal embassy – send your passport off and get it back with recored delivery. You can also get a visa on entry to Nepal I just wanted everything done before I got there.

Travel insurance – £30 via post office

Criminal background check – £50 via .gov

Vaccinations – varies depending own what you need, I had already had quite a few for a trip to Kenya previously so only needed a typhoid one which was free. I also took malaria tablets which you only need for a small part of Nepal in places like Chitwan however I never ended up taking them as it was only a two day stay. I just wanted to be prepared incase I was placed here for the whole of my stay.

Check what you need here.

Average weekly expense – £0 – £10 (Nepal isn’t very expensive at all, especially as food is including in the accommodation – although don’t expect anything fancy. Expect rice, a lot of rice)

Chitwan 2 day safari – £80 (I’ll write a more detailed post on this as well as trekking expenses)

More blog posts to come about my experiences and time in Nepal, make sure you keep up to date by following my social links!

You can expect:

  • Nepali culinary delights
  • How to bond with an entire nepali village
  • My experience with a bad stomach ache and a mountain
  • 3 new didis, no english and lots of acting out

Stay tuned!

Nikon D7000 | Camera Review

Nikon D7000 | Camera Review

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Over the last 6 years or so photography has become, like many, a strong passion of mine. I’m obsessed with taking, editing and uploading photographs and have 1000’s of photos stored away. I started out with a Nikon D40 camera which was a great introduction into the digital SLR world. I took photography at A-level and couldn’t wait to test and explore all the things I had learnt out with my D40. Then came my trip to Kenya and further ignited the spark for taking photos whilst on safari. My 365 project further encouraged that growth. Mostly self-taught through endless hours of re-taking and fiddling with different settings, I began to outgrow my camera and so after a lot of hours of overtime and a strict savings scheme; I began the search for my current piece of equipment: The Nikon D7000.

Nikon-D7000-Digital-SLR-Camera-32-2

nikond7000-rearback-2

It’s my baby. I worked hard, saved and it paid off. I am so happy with my investment in this camera! I paid around £660 ($1000) on amazon, although shop around for better discounts and prices. If your thinking of upgrading or becoming more serious about photography I would consider this an option. If your looking to take candid snaps on holiday or with friends at events then I’d just go with one of the more basic DSLR’s (D40 or even the nikon coolpix range seem to be getting fairly good reviews at reasonable prices) that are more than capable of delivering the results you desire. For the serious ‘artists’ or up-coming professionals, investing in good equipment can only increase the successfulness of taking awesome photos. I am in no way an expert at all in this field, anything I recommend or review is just my personal opinion based on the equipment I have used or researched. I hope to continue to learn new things and test out new products!

The reoccurring frustration I had with my old D40 was it’s capability in poor or dark lit scenarios. The ISO capability just wasn’t working out for the kinds of photos I was wanting to take. The D7000 has a maximum ISO of 6400 as well as H 2.0.

This gives it a way better performance in low lighting with reduced noise quality.

It’s much better at getting the night-time shots or inside snaps, like some of my own photos below.

Saber-Tooth

ISO 200 f/1.8 1/100

Rainbow Fish

ISO 320 f/1.8 f/320

South Bank At Night

ISO 640 f/11 25.0

It’s ability to adapt and perform well under low light conditions without loss of quality to the photo, has been one of the main benefits of upgrading. I’m still pushing the ISO to it’s maximum setting to get the best out of it as possible. Another highlight has been the 39 central point field focusing system; adaptable in combinations of 9,21 or a 39 point ring. This allows for fast tracking focus for moving objects; so great when your trying to get a shot of something speedy in a one time take. The AF in-built motor system is great as well, especially when I team it with my 50mm f/1.8 lens, helping to get the maximum aperture shot in focus. Overall i’m more than happy with this upgrade and it’s perfect for the kind of creative/semi-professional work I want to create, I still have a lot more exploring to do with the camera but couldn’t rate it more!

I’d give the Nikon D7000, 4.5/5 (It’s my most used piece of equipment, I love it!)

Kenya | Travel Talk Pt.1

Kenya | Travel Talk Pt.1

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I love to travel. I’ve thought about how I can incorporate this into my new site and blog – and so ‘travel talk’ was born. I’ll be giving a brief review and sharing my experiences in a series of posts around the places I have explored. And so here is the first of the bunch…Kenya pt.1

When I think of Africa i think wild, untamed, a country rich in culture and The Lion King. Since a very young age it has been somewhere I have always dreamt of seeing myself. When the opportunity came up in 2009 to visit a school and go on safari I couldn’t get on the plane quick enough.

We flew into Nairobi airport full of excitement and anxiousness. This was it, I had finally made it to a country and experience I had dreamt about. The adventure begins.

Fresh from the arrivals lounge we jumped straight into a truck and headed off to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Now it’s important to note that elephants are number one on my list of animals to see so heading straight to an elephant orphanage was the best possible start to the trip I could have asked for.

One Man & His Elephant by Jack Gunns on 500px.com

 

The David Sheldrick wildlife trust was an amazing place and the work they do there for young orphaned animals like elephants and rhinos is outstanding. The keepers themselves are assigned an animal to look after on a 1-1 24hr basis. I would definitely recommend popping into this place if you are planning a trip as you can get real close to the elephants and watch them play, feed and even put them to bed; we adopted an elephant named Kibo!

Baby Elelphant by Jack Gunns on 500px.com

 

Elephants by Jack Gunns on 500px.com

 

#tb to this little guy 👋 #rhino #travels #africa 🌍

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We headed straight to our new home for the next few weeks in Malindi – got settled, met the garden monkeys, checked out the pool and went straight to the local beach bar – as you do! The Driftwood was an amazing beach hut bar with incredible ocean views! You can go camel riding (on George) along the beach and book various diving boat trips as well – a must do!

Paradise Cove by Jack Gunns on 500px.com

 

George

Whilst we were there we took the chance to go to a crocodile farm where you get to get pretty close to all sorts of reptiles and lizards. We watched a feeding frenzy in the crocodile pit and got to hold a massive python! The farm was really well run and was a great experience to hold a baby croc and python.

Feeding Frenzy

What's For Dinner?

Once we had settled into life in Malindi and had our first few encounters with wildlife we ventured to our first big project which was to go see and teach at Marafa school. When we first entered the school we were surrounded by a sea of smiling curious faces that followed us everywhere. Once the initial shock wore off we relaxed into our teaching roles. On a rotation of 25+ children in each group we began a week of lessons. It was a fantastic experience and incredibly rewarding to see the kids listening and interested in what we had brought with us. They especially had fun with my camera – which gave me some great photos!

Creative Culture

#africa #mask #tbt #instadaily #insta #instahub

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

After a week of teaching the school put on a traditional tribal dance for us – I was pulled up to bust a move or two.

#tbt #dance #travels #happy

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

With an incredible first week and introduction to Kenya, we packed up our teaching bags and got ready for the next adventure – safari!

Kenya pt.2 coming soon…

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Travel. Create, Be Nice!