China Diaries: Christmas is Banned!

23rd December – 29th December 2019

I went into Christmas week with high hopes, they were soon dashed! Last week I asked my point of contact with the English department if it would be ok to do a Christmas lesson on Wednesday as it was Christmas day. She gave me the green light and said I could even do the whole week! So I planned my little Christmas lesson, complete with “Santa Shark” (oh yes, there is a Christmas version of “Baby Shark ladies and gentlemen) and went in on Monday fully dressed for Christmas in my “Santa Paws” T-shirt and candy cane earrings. Things were going well, most of the children knew Santa Claus but the other Christmassy characters were unfamiliar to them so we had a bit of fun as I tried to explain each one.

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Trying to take a cute family portrait…
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Presents ready for Christmas day.

Then there was class five, and to be honest I don’t if it was because I am sick or if it was because we had no Chinese teacher to help us communicate or what was happening but things quickly went awry. The first hurdle seemed to be the word toy as they didn’t understand exactly what the word “toy” translated to in Chinese and they aren’t allowed toys in school so it was hard to give them an example. I tried to explain using a skipping rope but skipping is a competitive sport in schools in China so I don’t think I really got the message across. One student got a little too excited about his skipping rope and as he pulled it out of his desk managed to smash his glass water bottle, which I think actually contained corn juice, on the floor. Queue ten minutes of cleaning up corn juice mixed with glass and one of the Chinese teachers throwing my Q&A prop cards in the bin… even though they were nowhere near the scene of the accident!

Q&A cards retrieved and thoroughly dowsed in hand sanitizer I had about ten minutes of class left to get through about twenty minutes of content and all I wanted to do was go home and have a nap! We rushed through the questions and sang “Santa Shark” before anything else could go wrong.

And here comes the dashing, no I haven’t got one of Santa’s reindeer’s names confused, I mean the dashing of my Christmas hopes! Christmas was banned! Cancelled! Forbidden! Basically the Chinese government has told schools that they must focus on Chinese culture and as a result our school decided that there would be no celebrating Christmas of any kind, including the foreign teacher giving a lesson on the subject. So Monday evening I received a message asking me to plan a new lesson on the topic of food instead.

On Christmas Eve I stopped in at my friend’s restaurant to give her daughter a little Christmas stocking/boot thing that I had put together. I filled it with chocolate a sweets and a tiny little mouse hair tie, I also found a Santa pillow with a tartan Santa hat for sale in Miniso and just had to buy it for her (and one for me too…). I woke up on Christmas morning to a photo of her holding the little mouse hair tie as she slept and it warmed my heart! That’s what Christmas is all about really, it doesn’t have to be a big expensive gift, the little heartwarming moments are what make it special.

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Christmas goodies!

 

It was a beautiful sunny day on Wednesday and it was about 20 degrees Celsius, I wore my Christmas jumper anyway. China might not have been celebrating Christmas but that wasn’t doing to stop me being a walking, talking pot of Christmas spirit! It wasn’t all doom and gloom on Christmas Day though. I tutor three kindergarten students and the main aim of each lesson is to read a book together so I took the book “What’s a Christmas?” into our lesson and played some Christmassy games. I also took three little boots of sweets to class with the deal that if they were well behaved for the whole lesson they would each get one.

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One of my first grade students.
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“What’s a Christmas?”
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Three little boots for three little humans.

The evening was when it really felt like Christmas. One of the other foreign teachers here invited us round for a few drinks, nibbles and Christmas songs. It was lovely to have a group of people together to celebrate Christmas, for a little while I honestly thought I would be celebrating alone!

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Christmas Crew
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Merry Christmas!

This turned out to be one of the busiest weeks I’ve had since arriving back in China and I think that helped to keep my mind off of being away from home for the holidays. On Thursday evening the primary school held an “English Competition and Show” for grades one to three. I was asked to come and judge the grade three “Story Telling Competition” and as a result was sat right in the front row. Usually when I go to watch any of the school performances I am way up the back so it was nice to have such a good view for a change. The show lasted about an hour and a half and had everything from songs to spelling bees to short plays. There was even a Christmas song despite the schools no Christmas rule (apparently the head teacher stormed out when he saw it…) It was the perfect way to spend boxing day and it made me strangely emotional, especially when the students sang a song about their dads. It is amazing the amount of effort that goes into these performances and the students all looked so cute in their costumes. In all, just a magical evening.

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Each grade has a theme; grade one is Garden Grade, grade two is Ocean Grade and grade three is Forrest Grade.
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The show begins.
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Little Christmas angels!
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Farmyard sing song.
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So many beautiful costumes!
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Prize giving.

 

This week I turned 26, still feels strange to say it out loud. The school is closed for five days starting Tuesday so I ended up having to work on my birthday which wasn’t so bad to be honest. My English department teachers invited me out for dinner to celebrate. When I arrived at the office the exact invitation I got was “We will go for pigeon, to celebrate your birthday”… I had to tell them I was a vegetarian but I happily went to the restaurant and ate all the side dishes of vegetables. It was such a lovely thing for them to do as most of them only had an hour break before they had to go back to work. The school day for primary school here is 6:50 am to 8:30 pm with a two hour lunch break (12 pm – 2:30 pm the students have a scheduled nap in that time) and an hour dinner break (5:30 pm – 6:30 pm) and the teachers take it in turns to shepherd the students from class to the dinner hall to nap time and back to class again.

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Grade One English Department
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I didn’t want to open this, it was to perfect looking!

I share my birthday with my friend’s daughter, Ning Ning. I actually think this fact is one of the things what led us to become good friends, when they found out last year they got so excited and insisted that I celebrate my birthday with them and I quite happily accepted. This year was much more chilled out because Ning Ning’s mum is pregnant and due at the end of January but there was still plenty of love and, most importantly, cake to go around!

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Ning Ning loves to draw so when I saw this I knew it was the perfect gift for her birthday! She loved it!

If you’ve been reading these weekly update since I started back in November then you will know that I lost my lucky bracelet on my way to China. I’m not usually a superstitious person but even I had to admit that my first few weeks in China didn’t exactly go smoothly! My friend Rose (Ning Ning’s mum) helped me realise that all my bad luck started when I lost that bracelet. As the weeks have gone by my luck seems to have evened out and to be honest I stopped thinking about my bracelet, but Rose had not. For my birthday she gave me two bracelets; the first is a traditional Chinese style bracelet made by bending and drying a plant stem to fit the wrist, attached is a little money bag to bring me good luck and, to quote Rose, “a lot of money.” Here’s hoping! The second is made from Chinese red beans, red is the luckiest colour in China. In Chinese culture it represents joy and happiness as well as luck, it can also mean celebration, vitality and even fertility in the traditional colour system and it is commonly believed that red helps to ward off evil spirits. Basically I am super lucky now.

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I am the luckiest person I know.

What a final week of 2019! It’s been a pretty wild ride to here but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world because every experience has made me whole. This week has made my heart so full and it’s about to overflow because in one week I fly home for a month and a half of catch ups, adventures and freezing temperatures.

Happy New Year and remember… Christmas will never be banned if I’m around!

 

For more of my China adventures click on one of these:

 

 

China Diaries: “Where is my Chinese teacher?!”

1st of December – 7th December

Posting this a day late from my phone as my VPN refuses to work on my computer! 

In China, more often than not, events that must take weeks of organising are something that foreign teachers find out about as they are happening. This means that it is very likely that at least once a month you will arrive at your scheduled class only to find it empty with no idea what is going on. This has happened to me so many times and I am completely used to it by now, so it was a great surprise to receive a message on Sunday night informing me that my Monday classes would be cancelled because the students had other places to be.

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Me and some of the Chinese English teachers at the testing event
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Students running from booth to booth. The teachers decorated the hall on Sunday evening.

The place they had to be was the gymnasium and when I arrived for a nosy it was all action. Around the hall were small booths set up with activities to test the students on their skills in each subject; Maths, Music, Art, Chinese, English, Sports and Life Skills. For each test the students could earn one, two or three stamps depending on their performance and once they had completed all the tests they could exchange their stamps for a prize. The night before the head of English had asked me if I would like to judge and I said I would just come and look this time but I ended up sitting at the English booth “Happy Singer” and was soon encouraged get involved. I went a bit stamp happy… I think just about every child got three stamps from me but they’re so cute! How could I not?
This wasn’t the official test of course, grade one have an exam in January that will give them their mid-year grade but it was such a fun way for the teachers to assess where the students are in their studies. Chinese schools can have a reputation of being quite strict and boring but Sanxin really proved itself to be ahead of the game this week. Only downside… the students completed the tests quicker than expected so it was back to class for everyone in the afternoon!

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Life Skill – Clothes Folding
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English – Sight Words
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English – Happy Songs
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Week Two’s lesson on fruit 

I think this week is the perfect summary of the highs and lows of teaching in China. After a good two days with my lesson plan going smoothly and the students warming up to me, getting excited about matching water bottles and how fuzzy my jumper was, I arrived at my final class on Tuesday to find the Chinese teacher missing. Now this is not always an issue, some classes are very well behaved without an extra pair of hands in the room but this class was not one of those classes. I got through my warmer with some minor distractions but it took about double the time, it was clear I was losing them and fast. I hastily sent a message to the head of English asking;

“Where is my Chinese teacher?!”

There was no reply, I was on my own and I still had 25 minutes of class left. It felt like an impossible amount of time. Children were climbing on top of desks, two boys had started kicking each other, some were running the length of the class room and even out the door! I tried my usual classroom management techniques; clapping, sending the worst to the back of the classroom, when that failed making them hold a piece of paper between their head and the wall. None of it was working!

Then I started taking names.

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Names I won’t be forgetting in a hurry!

The students have a point system controlled by their teachers on the computer, of course it’s all in Chinese so I don’t use it myself but they don’t know that. At first I just wrote their name on the board, but then I started putting numbers up and the mood changed instantly! I followed that by giving all the students who had actually behaved stickers and suddenly everyone was sitting down… By this point class was pretty much over so I asked them to recite one of their speeches, the bell rang and I was out of there faster than you could say “baby shark”.
I felt completely and utterly defeated after that class. Everything had been going so well then BAM a total disaster. It was one of those moments where you just want to go and hide under your duvet with some chocolate and finally I had a reply;

“Sorry the teacher forgot about your class.”

Fair. I’ve definitely forgotten about a class before, or gone to the wrong one or turned up at the wrong time. I asked her to let the Chinese teachers know that without them in the class the students just don’t feel like they need to listen to me, I mean they don’t understand half of what I’m saying so I don’t blame them. She promised me it won’t happen again but also said that I need to control the class on my own too. I’ll keep trying, I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve.
As much as that class was a complete disaster I have to remember that these kids are only 6 or 7 years old, in a boarding school, sitting in front of a teacher who doesn’t speak their language. So of course there are going to be a few settling in issues and now they know I have stickers maybe they’ll be a bit more willing to cooperate. All I’m saying is thank god for stickers!
Now I know how troublesome that class can be I can go in prepared on Tuesday; there will be stickers and point systems and Peppa Pig and the Chinese teacher and everything will be fine…

Won’t it?

I’ll let you know…

 

For more of my adventures in China click on one of these:

Back teaching in China after eight months away

The week bad luck followed me around like a bad smell

What I learned from teaching in China for one year

 

China Diaries: This Was Almost a Disaster

I am writing this post from my bed where I am snuggled up with the cats and a lot of blankets! Winter is setting in here in Sanxiang, right on schedule as I remember the weather turning colder around this time last year too.

 

Wow this week has knocked me out! It has been absolutely incredible but I forgot how much energy it takes to get up at seven in the morning and give the same high energy class three to five times a day for a whole week!

I was a little worried about coming back into this style of teaching. After eight months of small classes that I saw multiple times a week, going to twenty classes of about forty students that I only see once a week was going to need a whole different plan of action. Of course I had done it before when I taught grade one at the beginning of last year but that was my first ever teaching job and I was still getting the hang of things. Myanmar was where I really developed my teaching style and grew confident in myself as a teacher so switching back to China felt like February 2018 all over again.

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Last February, when I was giving my introduction lesson, one class didn’t have a working computer!

I decided to look at my first lesson from last year for inspiration and found that it was almost exactly what I needed. So with a few minor tweaks, the addition of a bumble bee prop and my favourite “hello song” (those from the NELC Xplore office will know what I’m talking about) I was ready to go.

Except I wasn’t… Sunday night saw me locked out of my apartment after realising my key was not in my bag when I returned from the supermarket. When I finally got into my apartment I was up until the small hours going over and over my lesson creating props and worrying that I was going to sleep through my alarm. When I finally fell asleep I woke up every hour convinced it was somehow 10am and I had missed my morning classes (this has happened to me before after a particularly bad case of jetlag).

 

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Bumble Bee prop to help me get to know the students.

I wish I had just trusted myself and my lesson because really I started this week on the highest of highs despite the sleep deprivation. The first class on Monday morning was “class two” and they were enthusiastic, excited and had a really high proficiency level for their age. (They should do too, with their parents paying extra for them to have more English classes both with their Chinese teacher and western teacher). I managed to get through my whole lesson plan which reinstated my confidence and set me up for a fantastic week. Not every class managed the whole lesson and I can definitely see a variety of proficiency from class to class but that is to be expected from such a large number of students.

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Class 2, Grade 1
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Class 20, Grade 1

This week has shown me just how much I have learnt over the past year and nine months of teaching. For someone who never thought they’d find a job they were passionate about teaching English abroad has really changed how I see my future. I’m learning new things every day (right now that seems to be 800 student’s names) and it is the biggest adventure.

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Nessie by a student from class 13

Bonus blog – well not really because I missed last week due to a VPN failure… but an extra little story on the end of this week’s oh so wise and thoughtful piece.

Last week was the primary school sports week and to begin the proceedings the school held an opening ceremony. If you follow me on my personal Instagram you will have seen my story and if you can remember as far back as last year you might even have seen some photographs of last year’s ceremony. As my visa kept getting pushed back I was worried I wasn’t going to make it back to China in time to catch this incredible show but things worked out in the end and I arrived a month before the event.

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Some of my students from last year dressed as chinese lions, 2018

The opening ceremony includes a procession of all the primary school classes from all the grades on the main sports field on campus. One by one the classes march towards the front of the running track and put a performance of some kind. It is usually a dance or mixed martial arts to music vibe and are about two minutes long each.

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Grade 2 entire grade performance, 2019

As I already mentioned above every grade has twenty classes, so the ceremony lasts all afternoon! After every class has performed the entire grade puts on a show together, that’s a lot of students in one routine and it makes for a fantastic spectacle! As the sun starts to set the flag is raised and the Chinese national anthem is sung, followed by the school song before everyone heads back to the canteen for dinner. Sports begin the next day and include everything from basketball to the father/student piggyback relay race!

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Grade 1 in the middle of their whole grade performance, 2019

I have asked my Chinese friends and they tell me that Sanxin having an opening ceremony for sports day is not the norm in China. I guess it has something to do with the fact the school is a private boarding school so they want to put on an impressive show. I would love to know if anyone else who teaches in China has seen opening ceremonies for their school’s sports day so please leave a comment if this is something you have seen!

For more of my adventures in China click on one of these:

Myanmar to China: You Will Not Believe the Week I’ve Had!

25th October – 2nd November 2019

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One last dinner with my amazing team at NELC Xplore!

Leaving Myanmar was an emotional experience, I left some good friends and memories behind (as well as a box or two of things, thanks again Zoe)! I arrived at the airport confident that my bag was under the weight limit and I was ready to board the plane but when I got the check in counter, things went South. Turns out I had read the website wrong and instead of being 2kg under my weight limit I was actually 3kg over the limit!! Then they asked to weigh my hand luggage and I already knew that was too heavy. Airasia charges $20 per kilo for overweight luggage so I was looking at a $280 charge in total for my ridiculously over the limit bags!

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Saved my behind more times than I can count!

No one ever wants to be that person; the one repacking their bag at the airport. I have always been really lucky and on the few occasions that my bag has been overweight they’ve either let me get away with it or offered me a cheaper solution. So here I was, already emotional from leaving the country I’d called home for the past eight months, having to sort through my belongings and decide what I wanted to leave behind! Let’s just say there might have been a few tears shed… Luckily Arrle was there to be the logical side of my brain that had apparently taken a quick holiday! He sorted through my things, while I sat on the floor and tried to keep it together.

With the drama of check in behind me I headed to immigration and made it to my gate in plenty of time. Next stop Bangkok!

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Not a bad view!

I was asked to arrive in China at the start of the week so we wouldn’t lose any days when applying for my residence permit which meant I could spend the weekend in Bangkok and celebrate my friend’s birthday. I got into Bangkok late on Friday night and Eilidh had Pad Thai waiting for me when I arrived at her apartment (that’s the kind of friends you need in your life to be honest)! On Saturday we got glammed up and headed to the SO Pool Party at Sofitel, my first ever pool party if you can believe it. Sofitel hosts a pool party on the last Saturday of every month from 1pm to 9pm and costs 600 baht per person (one arrival drink is included but I would not recommend the mojito). Sunday I said goodbye to Eilidh and checked into the cheapest hotel I could find for the day. On her recommendation I headed out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market for a bit of shopping (but not too much after my disastrous experience at Yangon airport). I’ve been to a lot of markets since I started travelling so I wasn’t expecting to spend a lot of time there but I spent about three hours wandering around and bought a couple of nice little bits.

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A good day of shopping in Bangkok!

My flight to China left at 1am on Monday morning and arrived around 5am China time which meant I had to wait about an hour for the metro to open before I could catch a train to the coach station. I then had to wait another hour and a half for my bus to Sanxaing so I decided to put my rusty Chinese to the test and attempt to order a McDonald’s breakfast. The entire experience just reminded me of why I love this country so much; me with my broken Chinese and the server with no English managed to communicate with mimes and laughter and my McDonald’s “scrambled eggs” were delivered without an issue. I think I provided the morning’s entertainment!

Arriving in Sanxiang it was like I’d never left; I caught a tuk tuk to the school, picked up my keys and had a much needed shower before heading to the school office to see my friend Rani. The campus was exactly the same as when I’d left and it felt so good to be walking through it again. And then… I broke my phone!!

Rani had just ordered me a DiDi (like Uber for China) to go collect my cat from the kennel and I dropped my phone face down on the solid tile floor of my apartment. It was one of those moments where I just didn’t want to look, the sound it made as it hit the floor alone told me it was broken. But my car was waiting, and I had no way to contact Rani to tell her I was phoneless and therefore probably unable to contact the kennel owner on arrival. I also now had no way to get back but I got in the car anyway… When I got the kennel I asked my DiDi driver to call the kennel (luckily his phone number was on the gate). I then had to try ask the kennel owner to call Rani and explain that my phone was broken. Rani called me another DiDi but when he arrived he refused to take me because I had the cat so the kennel owner’s wife made him drive me back to the school. I still don’t really know if the kennel owner was mad at me or his wife but he seemed to smile at me as I left the car so I’m going to hope we’re ok. If this experience has taught me anything it is that I really need to learn more Chinese now I’m back!!

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Soooooo happy to have this little gremlin back in my life…

I went to see my friend Rose and her daughter Ning Ning on Monday evening, luckily we had organised a time to meet at her restaurant before I broke my phone! It was so lovely to see them and enjoy her amazing fried noodles again, which she gave me for no charge because she said she had missed me! She also bought me a whole bag of fruit to take home because my fridge was empty. Just another reason why I love it here so much, everyone wants to help you all the time even if you don’t ask, it just fills your heart right up!

I spent the rest of the week washing all the clothes I had left here for the last eight months and organising my new apartment. It feels so nice to have my own space, this is the first time I’ve lived by myself. I had flatmates all the way through Uni, when I arrived in China I lived with three other people for the first six months, then one person for the second half of the year and in Myanmar I had a steady rotation of flatmates over the eight months so having a whole apartment to myself is a nice change.

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Needs a bit of work but I’m loving the space and the view!

On Friday I finally got my phone back from the repair shop, they didn’t have the right colour of screen so now I have a white screen while the rest of my phone is pink. It’s unique! I went for dinner with my friend Luna and mentioned that I had a bit of a headache and she suggested a head massage. It was exactly what I needed and they even gave me a haircut while they were at it (which I probably also needed to be honest…)

I was so sad when I left Myanmar and I still miss all of my friends and students from Yangon but it feels so good to be back in Sanxiang. It is getting colder now and I am looking forward to not sweating constantly and wearing cosy jumpers with a cup of tea in bed! I will hopefully start work before the end of November and I can’t wait to meet all my new grade one students. It’s going to be a whole new adventure!

 

If you are interested in my previous adventures in China click on one of these:

TEFL Tip Tuesday: Why Your First Day of Teaching Will Probably be a Disaster and Why That’s Ok!

It’s been a while but I’m back with another TEFL Tip Tuesday. This post was inspired by a recent Q&A we held at the language centre I work in. It was for new teachers arriving in Myanmar and teaching English for the first time, we were asked to give them one piece of advice about the job and well, without even hesitating I said “Your first day will most likely be a complete disaster, but that’s half the fun!” and speaking from personal experience it’s the most honest advice I could give!

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My first week of teaching went less than smoothly but I loved every minute!

Whether you have previous teaching experience or not, chances are your first lesson as a ESL teacher is going to be a complete disaster. Yes, I said disaster and yes you’ll probably agree with me about ten minutes into your first day that absolutely nothing you planned is…well… going to plan!

Let’s rewind a little bit here. Back to before you’ve even walked into that classroom; because I imagine if you are reading this it is because you are looking for advice for your first day on the job and therefore, have not even stepped into a classroom unassisted yet. More likely than not you’ve just completed some kind of course in ESL/TEFL/TESOL (whatever acronym they slapped on your certificate) and although it may feel like a blur of irregular verbs and classroom management techniques, you’d be surprised how much of this TEFL stuff is now second nature to you.  This stuff is in your brain now. For better or for worse you are a qualified, certified English teacher. All that’s left to do is get that first, actual, real life lesson out of the way.

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Me and the girls after our Graduation from Xplore Asia’s TESOL program.

Let me be the first to tell you, that though it will probably go down in history as one of the most chaotic and or awkward hours of your life it will also be the first story you tell anyone back home when they ask you about your TEFL experience. It’s one of those funny in hindsight kind of experiences and as with any first, it is completely unavoidable.

 

So, let’s get it over with!

 

Your first day; you’re bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to get into that classroom and show those tiny humans (or possibly fully grown adults depending on how you get placed) your plethora of knowledge of the English language. Only one problem though… this classroom does not have a computer, nor does it have a HDMI cable so that carefully put together introduction slide show you prepared is gone, out the window, useless!! OK, ok just stay calm and ignore the fact they’re all staring at you expecting greatness, like you’re Captain America and the fate of the universe rests solely in your trembling, sweaty hands. Improvise, the limit does not exist when it comes to the possibilities of a board and some chalk. Any lesson can be converted from powerpoint presentation to chalkboard masterpiece with enough energy and imagination.

A chalkboard masterpiece?

Before you know it the hour’s up and it’s onto lesson two and then just like that you’ve somehow stumbled your way through an entire day of teaching (your first day of teaching!!!) with only a few sticky fingers and a scattering of biscuit crumbs in your hair. Did 90% of what you had planned end up on the cutting-room floor? Probably. Did you have to use brain muscles you didn’t even know existed when one particularly mischievous teenager pointed to THAT word in the dictionary and asked you to explain it, even though he knows perfectly well what it means!? Well, yes but it’s nothing a trained professional like you can’t handle. And, did any student for one second suspect that you were kind of winging it for half, if not all, of the lesson? Nope! They had no idea. Believe me when I say they are much more interested in having a good time and learning something new than they are in whether or not your lesson plan has been followed to the exact second. As long as you open with something fun, use a bit of magician’s deception (read: big hand movements and distraction tactics) when things go slightly pear shaped, improvise your way around faulty technology or just plain non-existent technology and end your lesson on a memorable note then you did a pretty good job from where I’m standing. It may feel like a disaster in the moment but really the only person thinking that is you and when it’s all over that first lesson will be a cherished memory and one hell of a story.

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Note the tiny piece of paper he is drawing on, a particularly tight budget in my first semester meant I had to ration my paper handouts. This resulted in a few complaints from students but it’s nothing a few stickers can’t distract them from!

Your first day of teaching will probably be a disaster, that’s ok! Trust me, if it went 100% perfectly then you’d have a hard time keeping up with yourself for the rest of the semester. Some people will definitely take to the role more naturally than others, it’s just the luck of the draw, but no one in the history of the world has had a perfect first day on the job. I really do believe that the more disasters you encounter early on, the better teacher you become. It’s not just your students that should be learning in the classroom, your teaching technique and style will have to evolve and adapt with each new challenge that is thrown your way. No two days are ever the same and in my opinion it’s the best part of the job! Throw predictability out of the window, you’re a TEFL teacher now!

 

For more TEFL tips check out on of my previous posts:

TEFL Tip Tuesday: Thinking Outside Box.

Welcome back to TEFL Tip Tuesday! This week I’ve been experimenting in my classroom and it has completely changed the way I think about teaching. These posts usually come from something I learned last semester and now use in class but if there is one thing I know about life, it’s that you never stop learning new things. So this TEFL tip is almost as new for me as it is for you!

I have this habit of getting stuck in a rut, scared to try new things in case it doesn’t work out and disrupts my safe little bubble that I have created for myself. Now I know what you’re thinking, I moved to a completely new country by myself into a job I had no practical experience in, doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of person who is scared to try new things does it?! Well that’s just it, with me I’m either in my safe little bubble or I’m making a drastic change to my life or the way I do things. Recently I’ve been a bit bored when teaching my classes; besides my one grade two class I’ve used the same format in my lessons for almost a year and, well, it was time for a change! It’s not that the classes themselves are boring, in fact depending on the topic I can get some very entertaining answers, but I wanted to find a way for my students to practice their English that wasn’t just a question and answer session with the person next to them. This is what led me to this week’s lesson plan.

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What is the opposite of a staring contest?

All my classrooms have exactly the same layout; about fifty students at square desks, split into seven rows, squeezed into a medium sized square room. This was the box I needed to think outside of. I was taught the PPP structure of lesson planning in both of my TEFL courses and I really do believe in it but it can be difficult to get such a large class to participate in a communicative production activity that isn’t centred around them sitting at their desks. Add to that the fact that my school has strong focus of textbook led lessons, the thought of doing any kind of activity that involves rearranging the classroom has always slightly worried me. So, naturally, I decided to dive right into the deep end and do a lesson on directions that had the students practically turn their classroom upside down.  I first split the class into two teams. Three people from each team created a maze and five people from each team were blindfolded and directed through the maze by the rest of the class using the new target language. The first team to navigate all five people through the maze were the winners.

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This looks like madness but I was assured they had a plan…

Now, I’m not recommending that you start with something as drastic as turning your classroom into a maze but I am suggesting that you think about how you can use the classroom differently. How can you engage your students in a new and exciting way? I made the game a bit mysterious by sending the five students from each team out of the classroom before I explained what was happening, this made the students who remained in the classroom feel like they were in on a secret and therefore more engaged when I explained to them that they were going to create a maze out of desks and chairs. The students outside of the classroom found the mystery exciting and were eager to impress their classmates and win the race through the maze. This got the whole class working together (with a few exceptions that tried to sabotage their own teammates, but there will always be at least one troublemaker when you teach over one thousand kids) and made them excited to use the English they already knew as well as the new language they learned at the start of the lesson.

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Working together!

The most important thing that I learned this week is that although thinking outside the box can be scary and the results can be uncertain, it is so worth the risk! I’ve always found that using games and fun activities works best in my classrooms but now I know that I can take it to the next level and I encourage you to do the same!

For more TEFL tips why not check out one of these posts?

Organised Chaos: the First Few Weeks of Teaching

Teaching English: just when you think you’ve got it, you lose it and just when you think you’ve lost it, you crack it again.

 

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One class hard at work drawing Nessie.

 

My first day of teaching I realized I had lost my USB stick somewhere between getting on the plane in London and arriving at my placement school. As a result I gave my first three lessons by placing my laptop screen under a projector which was set up by a six-year-old! Good start…  A quick trip to the computer shop at lunch time for a brand new USB stick and the problem was sorted, until the computer in the next class room didn’t work and this time we had no projector! Time for a bit of blackboard improvisation and a few games (there maybe about forty Chinese children who now think that Scotland’s flag is pink).

 

When the computer doesnt work and you have to present your class with just a black board and chalk
Improvising a lesson about Scotland.

 

The first week I focused on introducing myself, explaining where Scotland is and showing the kids some Scottish wildlife. Being placed in a southern province meant that my pictures of the snow back home left each class gasping in amazement. I also decided to teach them about the Loch Ness Monster which meant I got to enjoy their take on the Scottish myth in the medium of crayon and felt tip pen (I was even lucky enough to have been gifted some to decorate my bedroom wall with). I have to say though some of the kids are extremely talented at drawing, especially considering they are all between the ages of six to eight years old!

 

Some very talented children in the class
Drawing Nessie

 

In the first week of teaching I was introduced as “The New Beautiful Foreign Teacher” in at least two of my classes, which made me want to turn around and run out of the room. Especially when it is followed by 40 small children giving me a round of applause (if you are anywhere near as socially awkward as I am then you will understand why)!

One of my favourite parts of the job so far is how every day I am greeted with consistently enthusiastic “hello”s, hugs and high-fives. Some of the children have also figured out that my favourite animal is a Panda. This means that “Panda” is shouted almost instantly every time we play Pictionary, every circle is a Panda in their eyes! My name has proved a struggle for some of the kids and so to about half of my 800 students I am known as “LeeLee”, which I have decided is close enough…

 

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Some of the students outside class during break.

 

We were lucky at our school, we got to pick what grade we wanted to teach. As a result, I am teaching 1st grade, which is nothing but endless fun, games and colouring. The good thing about 1st grade is, because they are so young, as long as you are animated and lively enough they won’t notice it you suddenly have to improvise for the last ten minutes of the class because you got through your lesson plan in record time! So far I have played “Who Stole My Pencil”, “Heads Down, Thumbs Up” and a new version of “I Spy” that I have recently invented; it involves a class room full of small children running at me with various objects of a whatever colour “I Spy” in order to high-five me first and win a point for their team (because you try explaining how to play “I Spy” to 40 children who speak almost no English).

 

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Me with one of my classes.

 

So far, I am absolutely loving teaching English! The kids are incredible, the school is beautiful and I have already been for lunch with my Grade One Contact and Mandarin Teacher at her home here in Sanxiang, cooked by her lovely mother who looks after the children in their dorms at night. I’m not even a month in yet but I know this is going to be a hard place to leave when it comes to July! As they say, find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.

The Kilimanjaro Experience

It’s 12am, it’s pitch black, all you can hear is the sound of your own heart beat and someone being sick a few steps in front of you. It’s cold, it’s windy and all you have is a head torch to guide your way. It’s summit night on Kilimanjaro and it’s about to be the hardest night of your life!

I had such high hopes for this blog post, I was going to write notes from each day, record everything, do a video diary. By the time I got to camp on day one all I wanted to do was eat my popcorn, sip my tea, locate the nearest toilet, curl up in my sleeping bag and pass out! (Which is exactly what I did.)

Don’t get me wrong I didn’t for a second think that climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world was going to be easy, in fact a small part of me was convinced I couldn’t do it but I just told that part to go to hell and kept pushing on. The thing I found both this year and with Toubkal last year was that it didn’t seem to matter how physically fit you were if you weren’t determined to make it to the top. It was mind over matter with me, my body wanted to give up, it was falling asleep as I walked but my head wasn’t going to let that happen.

This is my Kilimanjaro experience (as well as I can remember) it day to day over the six days it took to complete the biggest challenge of my life!

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Our first group photo at Heathrow Airport. So proud of my team together we raised an amazing £72,363.10!!

Day one started at the Machame gate 1640m above sea level, it was a bit of a gloomy day so we didn’t get to see the whole mountain before the climb (probably for the best to be honest…) It was like walking right into the Jungle Book, hanging vines and stone steps all the way to camp. I was glad of the cloud cover if the sun had been out in full force the heat and humidity would have been unbearable. It was quite pleasant walk to Machame camp stopping for a lunch of chicken and chips under the trees about half way.  A couple of times I felt I was going to tumble back down the path, my awful balance and walking poles being attached to my back pack were not helpful, but there was always someone behind me to give me that slight push I needed to correct myself.

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(1) The route we took to the summit and back down.

At camp we met our porters who showed us to our tents (I’m just going to say now that my porter was the best human being I have ever met and I owe him so much because he pretty much did everything for me, including putting aftersun on my very burnt hands, and I love him). We were shown the mess tent and given a briefing for the next day and then it was straight to bed for me because it got unbelievably cold as soon as the sun went down!

Day two the sun was out and we raced the clouds up the mountain. I thought they were going to catch up with us but we stayed ahead of them until they couldn’t climb any higher. I found this day one of the hardest because we had to walk all the way to camp before lunch and it felt like a life time! I also dropped half of my NAKED Banana Crunch bar at our second snack stop and it was heart breaking. Staying at the back allowed for a lot more conversation though I felt like I got to know some of my Brunel team mates a lot better on day two.

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Racing the clouds up the mountain.

Everyone told me about how beautiful the stars look from Kilimanjaro before I went but I can’t say I really saw them properly until summit night. They were there, I was just absolutely exhausted every night when we got to camp that I went to bed straight after dinner and looking up while walking in between 20 something tents is not advisable. A few people stayed up to watch the stars and came back to me with tales of shooting stars and the milky way but I just couldn’t keep myself awake to watch with them.

Day Three was acclimatisation day, we climbed high until lunch time and then back down to sleep low giving our bodies a chance to get used to a thinner atmosphere at higher altitudes. The climb to lunch was hard, breaks were very welcome, but I did not feel any symptoms of altitude sickness and made it to the Lava Tower in the first half of the team. After lunch I decided to stay back with the team members who were suffering from altitude sickness to make sure everyone was doing ok and to provide my encouragement. This was going very well until about ten minutes before camp when out of nowhere altitude sickness hit me and the entire contents of my stomach emptied onto the side of the trail. It completely knocked me for six. I felt dizzy, weak and wasn’t entirely convinced I wash finished throwing my guts up. My head guide, James, had to hold me up for the short distance to camp, my vision was blurry and I don’t really remember getting to the check in point. All I remember thinking was how impressed I was with the members of my team who had been dealing with this all day, I felt absolutely horrendous and could only imagine what it must be like to experience altitude sickness from the morning knowing how far away camp was! When I finally got to camp all I wanted to do was go to sleep but I knew that would just make me feel worse so I made myself go to the mess tent for popcorn and a hot cup of tea, followed by a handful of pain killers and a lot of water. Within the hour I felt absolutely fine again.

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Lunch time before the altitude sickness hit!

Day Four we tackled the Barranco wall. This steep ridge was an almost vertical scramble on which I ripped my nana’s walking trousers she had lent me, almost had my hand pulled off by the guides (they did not know about my dodgy wrist) who yanked us up that wall like their lives depended on it and saw the most spectacular view from above the clouds. This was actually the fun part of the day because they then made us walk down a valley, back up a valley, down another valley and finally back up a valley and into camp. What’s wrong with bridges Kilimanjaro?? I have never wanted to pee more in my life than the last twenty minutes of that day and I was so relieved (in more ways than one) to see a toilet block just out side of camp, there was no way I would have made it through check in without an accident occurring!

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Team RGU representing Scotland after scaling the Barranco wall!

We had made it to base camp! There wasn’t exactly much time to celebrate though, we were to leave again at midnight for summit so it was dinner, toilet and bed! Having said that dinner was still an emotional meal; a couple of my team were very upset because they did not believe they could make it to the summit! I had full belief in every member of my team and to see them so upset made me completely break down into what was the first of many tears in the 24 hours that followed.

Sometimes in life you believe you have been super sneaky and no one could possibly know what you are up to! I tried to organise a surprise for my team along with the team leader from Brunel by contacting the teams loved ones asking for a letter of encouragement to read before summit night. I would like to think that most of the team were completely clueless but one member of RGU had asked me on several occasions if I was organising said surprise. Getting more and more frustrated at this members willingness to spoil the surprise for himself when he finally called me over after all the letters had been handed out I thought it was to gloat that he knew what was going on the whole time and I hadn’t surprised him one bit only to be handed a letter from my own loved ones and have to return to my seat feeling bad for all the times I told him to let it go! My letter is pictured below and while most of the team were sitting in their seats crying I couldn’t help but laugh at my mum’s favourite story of me and my stubborn ways!

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Letter on the left is from my fellow team leader from Brunel Uni! Letter on the right is from my family, thanks to a lovely member of my team for organising that for me!

So here we were, summit night, with two to three hours sleep my nervous chatter had already set in, I had one mouthful of “breakfast” and thought I was going to see it again almost immediately, the cold was unbelievable, the sky was glittering with star light and my water bladder had already frozen solid. For most of the climb I focused on Mars, it was usually directly in front of me and distracted me from the tiny head torch lights in the distance that reminded me of just how far we had still to climb. My day bag was taken off me by a guide almost straight way so I could focus solely on where to put my feet. This guide (who fell over once and scared the absolute living hell out of me, if he had fallen over then all I could think was that there was absolutely no hope for me and my clumsy self!) stayed with me the whole way to the summit and for the life of me I couldn’t pin down his name. I know I would never have reached the peak if it wasn’t for him, shear determination and a packet of Haribo Tangfastics that I had saved specifically for that night.

I almost gave up on several occasions, absolute exhaustion and fear threatened to overcome me at any moment. Every time we stopped for a break I thought I was going to fall asleep. When James said it was time to move again tears came from nowhere, but he grabbed one arm and my guide grabbed the other and hoisted me to my feet, up we went higher and higher until we started to see the sunrise over the clouds so far below us. That was the moment I knew I could do it, my phone had died from the cold so I had no idea what time it was but when I saw the sunrise below and Stella point above and beyond that Uhuru Peak I knew I was almost there, to give up now seemed as impossible as the whole climb had felt 6 hours before and I pushed myself that last hour and a half, to the Summit of the worlds highest free standing mountain.

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All the pain is worth it for that view!

I didn’t summit with anyone but my guide, I was about ten minutes behind the first group from my team to summit. When I got to the rest of the team I was swallowed whole by a group hug and burst into yet more tears at the sight of my team mates tears. Then there was the queueing for photographs (other groups had summited at the same time as us), the realisation that my camera had died from the cold, losing the friendly square that a kind man had given me for good luck on the bus to London, my phone getting a second wind and switching back on for photos at the summit and finally a member of my team collapsing from hypothermia in his legs*. This all happened in about 30 minutes and then it was back down the mountain.

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Me and my Guide at the summit!

Heading down was arguably harder than the way up. Firstly the ground was no longer frozen so it was like walking down the biggest sand dune you have ever seen in your life, secondly it was about eight in the morning and I had had about two hours sleep and thirdly there was no motivation left in my entire body. I’d made it to the top, I was done, I just wanted to curl up on a rock and go to sleep. This was not helped by the fact that every couple of meters I would fall on my back and lie there like an overturned beetle until the  James caught up with me again and put me back on me feet. By about the fifth fall I told him I was staying put and he would have to drag me down because I refused to fall over again. So that is essentially what he did after I had one more cry, this time asking for my mum and pizza. He took my bag on his back, threatened to piggy back me down the mountain, took my hand and led me down the sand dune of death with complete ease despite his allergy to dust (wise career choice there…). When we reached solid ground I got a complete second wind and marched of into the distance only to be met with yet another impossible downward climb and had to sit for about 20 minutes for someone with a bit more technical skill to show me the correct path.

Finally, after what felt like a life time, I made it back to base camp. I was met by my porter who gave me the biggest hug and a cup of pineapple juice which lasted all of five seconds. He led me back to my tent, took my boots off for me, ran to fill my water bottle up, gave me a well deserved fist bump and zipped me into my tent. I should have had a nap here, I was exhausted so it should have been easy but I just couldn’t fall asleep! I spent the rest of the time we had at base camp packing as best I could with my sunburnt hands, eventually admitting defeat I had to get someone to help me stuff my sleeping bag back into it’s compartment.

We had lunch and then set off again down the mountain. I think we had been walking all of two minutes when I had to stop. I couldn’t breath properly, my vision was blurry and I was about 90% sure I was going to be sick. I was right. Up came my lunch, up came my pineapple juice, up came my Tangfastics and, you guessed it, out came the tears. Altitude sickness is not a fun thing, why it only happened to my on the decent I do not know but I am very glad that it didn’t happen before then because I don’t think I would have managed to summit if it had. Instead of the four hours it should have taken me to get down to the last camp of the trek it took more like six and it was pitch black by the time I arrived. My porter, being the absolute amazing human that he is, guided me to my tent, took my boots off for me and even offered to take my dinner to the tent. I refused this last offer as food was about the last thing I wanted. I struggled into my sleeping bag, closed my eyes and passed out till morning.

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Heading back down, the summit in the distance, just before I saw my lunch again.
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Our last view of the summit on the final day climbing down.

The last day was definitely the easiest but it also felt like a never ending trail of trees upon trees. I was impatient to get down but also very aware of how slippery the ground was and if I was to go to fast the likely hood of me ending up on my backside was very high. When we finally made it to the bottom there was an enormous sense of relief. I signed out, took of some layers, found my porter and that was it finally over. This is where my porter very kindly put aftersun on my hands for me and took my day pack off my back. He even carried it all the way onto the bus for me. The final day was a good day for chatting and reflecting on the day before. For myself it still sort of feels like a dream, I know it happened but there was such a big build up to that day and then for it all to be over already is just surreal. This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, there is no way I would have made it with out the support of my team, my family, my friends and the amazing guides and porters.

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Team RGU and Team Brunel on top of the World!

I took on this challenge partly to prove to myself that it was possible (partly because a certain RAG chair who shall remain nameless convinced me it was a good idea) and also to raise awareness for an amazing charity who do work all around the world. If you would like to donate to Childreach International you can still do so on my fundraising page linked below.

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Representing RGU RAG at the top of Kilimanjaro!

*this team member is absolutely fine and still has full use of both of his legs. The guides acted amazingly and got him down to base camp quickly and safely and part from feeling a little bit silly for not listening to the head guide about wearing more layers no harm was done.

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Everyone loves a good Selfie!

You can donate here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/aileenmacalister2

(1) http://www.machame.com/machame-itinerary6.htm

Top Ten Tips for Climbing Mount Toubkal

For the past year I have been fundraising in order to take part in Childreach International’s Summit to Sea Challenge. This involved me climbing Mount Toubkal and trekking along the Moroccan coast line in every weather condition imaginable. Instead of writing a day by day blog of my experience in Morocco, like I did with the Big Build, I have decided to share with you my top ten tips for tackling the highest mountain in North Africa.

Group photo at the summit of Mount Toubkal
Group photo at the summit of Mount Toubkal

10. My first tip is you will see bugs, they aren’t everywhere on the mountain but they will sneak up on you when you least expect it! I found an ant in the squat toilet, after I had been!!  A reminder to all arachnophobes out there “the spiders in Morocco don’t bite”. I for one am terrified of spiders and this was proven to everyone in base camp on summit morning when three of them decided to invade my tent as we were preparing to leave. Much to the guides amusement I screamed bloody murder and ran from my tent hyperventilating, crying, the works. The guides will then try to show you the spiders after they have removed them and this will send you into another fit of screams and them into a fit of laughter!

9. Next have fun and don’t take it to seriously. If you make it to the summit then fantastic well done you did it! But if you don’t it is not the end of the world you made a pretty good crack at it. There were times when I thought there was no way I was getting to the top but what kept me going was the two people I was with at the end, Scott and Carol, knew how to have a laugh. The distraction combined with the team spirit we had is what got us all up that mountain. I was determined to make it but I also knew that there was no way I was going to make it to the top if I thought about how much I couldn’t breath, instead I focused on the very strange conversations we ended up having (must have been the altitude.)

The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers

8. Leading on from that; also be prepared to cry! It might be a lot it might be a little but it will probably happen at some point on the mountain. My time came at the most unexpected moment for me, we had to jump across a river. This sounds easy enough but when you have already been going for about 9 hours and you have fallen at least ten times during that time, jumping over a river from one rain soaked slippery boulder and landing on another rain soaked slippery boulder seems like an impossible task. I ended up holding up the entire group by about five minutes I was so determined I was going in the river not over it, but when these moments hit you have to just keep going because otherwise I would still be half way up that mountain, alone!

7. Pack for all weather. The first day of trekking in the mountains will be hot, the second day it will hailstone so hard you will be left with multiple bruises (ok this isn’t a guarantee but still be prepared, they hurt like hell) and the third day you will go from being to hot to to cold every five minutes as you climb to the summit. Buy a proper fleece for summit day, take your down jacket but a fleece is top of my list. For one thing it is more breathable than a down jacket so this makes the climb so much easier. I am not for a minute saying that you do not need a down jacket because trust me you do. It gets pretty cold at night, also if you have just been hailstoned on and your waterproof jacket is out of commission while it dries you will be so glad to have it. Also if you are on the summit for more than about twenty minutes you will start to feel the cold and it will come in very handy then.

We may have laughed at first but in the end we were all jealous of the umbrella
We may have laughed at first but in the end we were all jealous of the umbrella

6. Be prepared to do very unusual things. For example; you will get up at ridiculous o’clock on summit day because breakfast is at half two in the morning, oh and did we mention you are going to be climbing in the dark? Head torches on everyone!  Also our guides preferred method of getting down the mountain was to sit on our backsides and slide down in the snow, if you have had no experience in snow sports then it can be very difficult to steer in this mode of transport and you are very likely to crash. I crashed five times in total, three of those were into other people! Another strange experience has to be going to the toilet on the side of a mountain, sometimes you are lucky and you will find a nice secluded area in which to go about your business, other times you will not be so lucky and random American climbers will try to make conversation with you.

5. Take snack bars. This is especially important if you have any allergies like myself because you will find that although the guides do a fantastic job of catering for us awkward coeliacs, the lack of fibre in your diet will leave you feeling tired and very hungry! Even if you don’t suffer from any allergies I would still take things to snack on during the day. Snacking isn’t really a thing in Morocco, they will occasionally pass around a bag of nuts and biscuit type things, but apart from this the only time you will eat will be set meal times. Times between meals can vary depending on how fast your group is moving and also how far the guides want you to trek for each day. There are stops along the way on the first part of the mountain where chocolate and fizzy juice can be purchased but these won’t keep you going for long and on summit day there will be no shops. I took a veriety of different snacks but my life saver was definitely “Trek Cocoa Oat Flapjack” they fill you up and taste amazing all at the same time and an added bonus, they are gluten free!

Carol and her long awaited Snickers bar
Carol and her long awaited Snickers bar

4. Talk to the guides. Ask them questions about the mountain, about the culture and about themselves. They have a lot to say and you can learn so much more about the country from someone who lives their than you ever can from a travel guide book. Also our guides were fantastic, they were up for a laugh and they valued the advantages of sticking together as a team.They know the mountain like nothing else and are also very capable of rescuing you if you slide half way down a vertical slope, after flying of a makeshift slide and are clinging on for dear life thinking “this is how I die!” (yes this did actually happen, sorry Nana.)

3. Take a camelback!! They might be expensive but they are completely worth it and 100 times better than any water bottle could ever be. Trust me I learnt this the hard way, I ended up borrowing a friend’s camelback on summit day because she had injured her foot and it saved my life! The water bottle I had taken with me may have looked practical and fancy in the store with it’s fold away feature and large capacity but it was the most impractical thing I have ever purchased. Nowhere in my bag could store it with out either the issue of easy access or just the fact that it fell out every two minutes! Save yourself so much hassle go out and buy a camelback, like right now!

2. Take walking poles!!! I can not stress this enough, if this is the first mountain you have ever climbed then take walking poles, if you have weak knees then take walking poles, if you are of medium fitness (as the itinerary suggests you should be but really you need to be super fit) then take walking poles! My walking poles are my best friends now, they helped me scramble up impossible looking paths and helped me keep my balance on paths so thin they were probably built for ants!

Me and my walking poles, almost there!
Me and my walking poles, almost there!

1. Finally, celebrate!! You climbed a mountain, you made it to the summit! You might not remember most of it because you were to busy focussing on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling and remembering to breath, but you did it. At the top you will see the other Atlas mountains which surround the highest peak of Mount Toubkal, you will be above the clouds. If you are scared of heights I advise you not to look down at this point, if you are scared of heights what on earth are you doing climbing a mountain in the first place you eejit?! When you get to the bottom, look back up, you were up there, you made it, celebrate!

Above the clouds
Above the clouds
Looking back from the hostel at the bottom of the Mountain
Looking back from the hostel at the bottom of the Mountain

Morocco – 22nd of June

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Our last day in the village of Marigha. We felt so welcomed and accepted by the people in the village that it made us sad to think we had to leave. I know that we will all miss the children so much. In terms of building work we were back to sand chaining and shovelling. We wrote our names in chalk, along with the footballer names the children had given us, on the walls that we plastered the day before. Just like that it was lunch time.

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There was so much going on after lunch; parachute games, frisbees, skipping, chase and ball games. Just before dinner we had a game of football with the older boys in the village. I think it is safe to say football is not really my game, although I did manage to tackle someone with only minor injuries. Then they put me in goals… bad idea, I prefer to run away from the ball rather than dive in front of it.

After dinner we went to the house next door where they had prepared some cous cous, some people tried their luck at eating it traditionally by making it into a ball and just eating it off your hand. Unfortunately I am allergic to cous cous but it was really old fun to watch everyone trying to through handfuls of it into there mouths.

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We then went back up to our house where the villagers were waiting for us to show us some traditional drums and dancing. It was an amazing experience to be involved in the dancing and some sort of take on the conga in which I ended up piggybacking one of the younger boys because he couldn’t reach my shoulders!

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So this concludes my Moroccan Adventure. It was one of the most amazing experiences and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it. In the speeches that were given that night the village council told us how grateful they were for what we had done for them but I want to just say that I am grateful to everyone involved in making this project happen, to the village for taking us in and trusting us to build such an important feature in their community and to friends I made along the way.

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THANK YOU AND THE END