Friday, 31 August 2012

LOST in paradise

As we flew over from Frankfurt, it's only normal to think about the plane crashing, if the thought has never crossed your mind, you're lucky or lying. I wondered if we would be stranded like those passengers on Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 from the TV series LOST.

Some people told us that Seychelles is a bit like 1970's britain. A lot of things end up stranded in the Seychelles, such as very bizarre products in the local shops. Entrez "Hair Mayonnaise" for example!

On a random walk out yesterday, I came across Lemuria's golf course, stunning yet empty. Apparently it's quite an affordable rate for tourists and residents (£250 for 6 months or something like that), but we've yet to see anyone on the 18 holes. I met a local guy called Michel nearby, he was opening a coconut with a Machete- ripping through the tough outer husk looked cool, so I thought I'd have a go and I brought 3 coconuts home. Unfortunately, my Machete skills were still quite novice, so after 20 mins and breaking sweat, I had to take a hammer to it in the end. After all that, the coconut juice was sour inside, gutted! I'll try again tomorrow, but as a local shop owner advised, maybe I should use an axe!

School reminds me that this is a very real experience, it is not an episode of LOST and it is not a dream.

This is the view from the school science rooms, a beautiful view of Baie Ste Anne and a private beach down below. How many schools boast a private beach?

Captain M, being not only a legendary headteacher but also a very talented artist and art teacher decided to decorate the white walls of the school with stencils. Each child (aged 4-14) had the opportunity to make their own piece of positive graffiti art. We only had 5 mins, so I couldn't possibly capture all of them:

SHOUT OUT TO FLO GONTH for the image below. Eventhough I never made your blog, you have made mine on Day 2! The piece is very apt, given that you're a twin and I'm sure that the infinite consciousness that is our universe is trying to tell me something. This piece is a year or two old, so it's way before I even thought about the Seychelles as a place to teach. The world is a funny place. Time to dig out the Family tree Mr Gonthier and ask Papi about distant relatives in the Seychelles.

And here is my lovely calssroom, a white canvas for me to work on I guess. My predecessor "Madame L" is an absolute legend and left me with rich Schemes of Work and so much info on the kids. She even asked each member of my form to write me a letter to introduce themselves, reading those have reminded me why I love this profession.

On the day we went in, the internet was down and the school server had been hacked many months ago. People literally laugh when I tell them my aim is to restore the network along with our capable technician "H". H is from India, he's pretty sharp and a real nice guy, I look forward to working with him and trying to fix our little network.

To put things into perspective, there are 7 teachers in the secondary section and there are 175 students from Reception to Year 10 in the whole school. Compare that to Marylebone's 110 teachers and 1000 students, it gives you an idea of the scale of things. It should be an exciting year ahead; lets solve these IT problems and then we can celebrate with a Seybrew or Ti Shot. More on Ti Shot and home brewed beverages later!

End of Day Two.

Day 1: Mahe and Praslin

After 24 hours of travelling, we finally land on Mahe. We expected the airport to be a tin shack, but actually it was fairly modern. As instructed we went over to the "residents" queue as we had a Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP); all the millionaires and honeymooners stared at us, a little bemused that we were residents. You could even hear them muttering about us as they endured the hour-long custom's queues-an early introduction to Seychellois bureaucracy! Captain M, our headteacher had made our landing and customs clearance quite a breeze.

At the airport, we waited for our connecting flight, a 17 seater jet, which can only be described as a private jet with the most beautiful views. As one of my predecessors once said, "Get Jealous":

MAY BE Prosecuted

The sign above pretty much sums up the Seychellois/Saselwa way. A pretty seriously topic is trivialised and at the bottom of the sign "Thanks". The only thing missing was a Harvey Ball smiley face.

As we had time to kill, Captain M took us around Mahe island, health and safety procedures are unheard of so we rocked out in the back of the pickup truck that his artist friend had kindly lent us. Seychelles transportation is a winner, except the Catamaran, we'll get to that in a later post.

We were brought over to Eden island which is a multi billion pound development built by the Rt Hon. Mr Vijay Patel (he is also our school's founder/benefactor/sponsor- he is not a reverend, but he is right and honorable). I digress, back at the restaurant on Eden island, I went for the local tuna and mango salad. Needless to say it looked and tasted delicious and the price was pas mal also.

Here's the marina at Eden island.

We finally landed on Praslin and got settled into our respective houses. To see a map of my house, click here . It doesn't take an Msc in Cartography to figure out that we live 2 mins from the nearest beach, Costello Beach. So we as we had little baggage or running water for that matter, we got our priorities straight and headed straight for the beach:

That's all for Day One.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

London Heathrow to Frankfurt International feat. JJ

So I'm sat in my boss's ridiculous house in Praslin. It has a 1960's pinball machine and is just divine. I don't have internet at the moment, so this blog post is back-dated from August 24th.

During the flight from LHR to FRA, I sat next to a guy (let's call him JJ) who was working for an American Airline in Frankfurt. Originally from The BX (Bronx, New York), we got talking and we didn't stop for the whole 2 hour flight.

One of the things we talked about was the evolution of mankind,

"Dinosaurs exhisted without weapons, but were eventually made extinct by an asteroid. That could happen to mankind at anytime. We've been here for relatively little time and we've made amazing advances, but at the same time, we're not investing money in preventing our extinction through natural or man-made hazards. Instead, we create weapons to kill each other."

JJ continued, "To send a missile from one country to another is just primitive." I assume he meant primitive in thought and morals.

"What gives you the right to take another man's life?"

Having read this far, you probably think we're just a pair of peace keepers / raving pacifists. Well, JJ has a military background, having served in the US army prior to working in airline operations.

As we talk about everything from Julian Assange to The Olympics, from Brevik to Merkel; it becomes clear that this meeting is not just by chance.

Whilst discussing the  Olympics, JJ has an awesome idea that countries should compete like they do in the Olympics but instead of sport, they should compete in other things such as finding a cure for cancer, HIV, AIDS. I agreee, maybe eventually these competitions would also lead to co-operation in the off-season!

As we touch down at FRA, I kind of hoped that JJ was flying to Seychelles. We'd make good company and talk for hours more I'm sure. This meeting was just too brief, too short. But then again , short is sweet-maybe our lives will cross paths again some day.

Did I mention he's a house DJ too? His Beat Freak mix is quite good:

"Humankind was gifted by mother nature with great intelligence and potential, but everyday we must choose the right path, make the right decisions and do the right thing."

We surely can destroy each other, but we can also choose to live harmoniously in peace.

Salaam for now.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A new adventure awaits

Six months ago I decided that six years in the same school was possibly a little too long, despite the school being the best place I've ever worked at-amazing staff, students, location.

At the same time, I was feeling a little burnt out by London Town and needed to find a new environment to test my teaching skills.

The Misses would only consider moving to New York, as alongside London it's the best place for Contemporary Artists (like herself) to be. Unfortunately for her, I would need a masters degree to teach there. We kept on the look out on TES and whilst jobs did crop up in Doncaster, London and Rugby, three locations/schools made the shortlist:

  1. Mongolia
  2. Seychelles
  3. Amsterdam

Mongolia-Beautiful country which we visited on honeymoon. Apparently it is sub-zero for 6 months of the year with lows of -30 though. To top it off, Ulaan Battaar ranks in the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, this is mainly because they burn anything and everything to keep warm including plastic, waste and rubber tires! Not good if you want to keep your respiratory functions in tip top shape.

Seychelles-Another beautiful country, hot all year round. Slightly remote given that it's in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This also meant that it relies heavily on imported goods. The cost of living as a westerner can be quite high (£10 for a jar of Nescafe Gold or £3.50 for a pepper, hotels start at £200 a night) and the wage is comparatively quite low compared to London and all the places we were looking at. Then again, the big trade off is that we would be living on a paradisaical island with a lot less stress. This would give us both a perfect "pause" from our regular hardcore schedule.

Amsterdam-Well the Seychelles interview lasted 2 hours and although it took a while for them to get back to me, they did and I was offered the job. I was pretty speechless but obviously kept it cool on the phone. When I hung up, I think I was more relieved than anything else. I didn't get around to send my CV to Amsterdam.

A new adventure awaits on Praslin, Seychelles.

  Leisure Girl on Anse Lazio beach, Praslin – Seychelles