Saturday, 29 September 2012

Formula for success

10 years ago in the year 2002 (yes we do Maths here too), Eminem partnered up with Dido to produce this haunting and entertaining record:

He created a formula for success- pick a talented singer (e.g. Dido, Alicia Keys, Skylar Grey) or if you can't find a talented one pick the next best one i.e. Rihanna. Get them to sing a chorus/hook and get a genius rapper (e.g. Nas, Eminem, Dr Dre, Immortal Technique) to pen the rest of the piece and voila. Fast forward to 2012:

This is the song which inspired this whole post, we were playing "name that song" as a starter to a Music Database lesson. I suddenly realised how beautiful/catchy but also formulaic it was.

The same can go with cooking. If cooking fish, just add garlic, samphire, olive oil and black pepper. In the oven 180°/Gas Mark 4, cover with foil and you're done (N.B, put the samphire in for the last 10 mins). If you can't hack samphire, try it with lemon/lime and a bed of root vegetables (Pick 3 from: onion, potatoes, carrots, courgettes, aubergine). If you minus one ingredient from the above, it won't work.

This also applies to dance or any creative physical pursuit e.g. Rhythmic Gymnastics. Guaranteed, if you pick any physical activity which involves creativity, Japan and Korea will have an individual or team in the top 3.

More Mr Miyagi here

First let's deal with Japan, why is it that a population with such deep traditions and conservative approaches to life do you get such creative performers? Well to start with a dancer from Ichigeki once remarked that in Japan, 出る釘は打たれる。 "The nail that sticks up get's hammered down". And perhaps it is this strict level of conformity in society which means that those that make it through all the hammering will be truly extroverted, creative and completely outside the box. In addition to this, an old teacher friend, Scott explained that in Japanese the word Hobby can be translated as: 趣味. However, there is no plural, i.e. there is no word for hobbies. It is not in the culture of many Japanese to have more than one hobby and this culture is partly defined by language. So you pick one hobby and you dedicate all your time to it and become world-class at it. The last sentence pretty much sums up life for Korean men too. Korean conscription means that if you want to be good at a performing art/sport, you have to do it before your 21st birthday (Conscription starts at 18). This is why young dancers and performers go to work 9-5 and then in the evenings (sometimes from midnight to 6am) they practise. Few countries have this same dedicated culture that pervades the entire young male population. Incidentally, any activity that is synchronised/requires structure will always be won by a communist state e.g. Russia/China. That's culture for you.

But is it good? Is all this specialisation and obsessive perfection good for your sanity? I'm not sure. The rewards are massive, but so is the pressure. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

I've got 99 problems but a beach ain't one

I gave my wife a book for Christmas, 

 Image credit: John Self
"Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will"-Excellent tagline.

 Inside the book, the author's intro opens with: 

"Paradise is an island. So is hell"
Judith Schalansky is right about the former, and somewhat right about the latter. But it all depends on perspective. A bit of background on my persepctive: I'm a realist that eers strongly towards optimism. But not some of that flaky "everything is going to be alright" brand of optimism. A student once famously put it "I hate the phrase, 'you'll be fine'. It's so overused, it lacks meaning." 

I was once a complete optimist (after completing a summer with The SouthWestern company selling books door to door in America), but you soon learn that even as an eternal optimist, the poop occasionally hits the proverbial fan and no matter what it's going to be messy and no amount of optimism can clean you up. You need pragmatic solutions. On the other hand, to be a pessimist is draining. Don't hang out with pessimists, they'll get you down. FACT!

Back to the book, a common theme throughout the book is the sense of loneliness and how this can lead to insanity. Luckily, I have some great colleagues out here. We play Aussie rules on the beach together, eventhough we don't know the rules. I bought a ball whilst out on Hockey tour in Aus in 2003 and it provides fond memories. Shoutout to Wakefield massive. 

However, as much fun as beaches and bikes can provide, nothing can replace old friends from back home. Luckily The Dizzle Aka Dr. Sanghvi is coming out to visit on Saturday (talk about short notice), so it will be good to reminisce over old times at Marly. He's one of my top 3 photographers in the world too, so watch out for a Photo special from Dr Dizzle coming soon!

My wife recently asked me if I could see myself staying out here for the two years as indicated on my contract. I told her I could see myself staying here for life. Considering I also said I would stay at my old school until my year 7's went to uni and I cut that short by a year, I might be out in Seychelles for quite some time! Mrs Lau sounded a bit shocked at my declaration over Skype. She went on to ask, smiling "Is there anything you miss in London".

I replied, "Not really, just products but I think I can live without them".

Insanity gets to you, I should have replied "The only thing I miss is you".

Instead I went on to tell her about the small things I miss that you can't find anywhere out here. For example, Dental floss, grapes, berries, decent washing up liquid, soya beans, a decent bike, organic tomatoes. Actually, I lie about the tomatoes, all fruit/veg out here is organic, so there's no sweat about that. But yeah, if there's one thing I could change over the past week or two, it would be to tell her that she was the only thing I missed.

So as far as beaches go, that's no problem. Here's the beach we visited on Saturday:

 When you walk out to the island, this is what is there:

But for now, I long for this picture to be painted again.

Au Rev.

Mr Lau

P.S. Some of you were expecting some Jay-Z gangster ish from this blogpost. But sometimes you just need to write about your emotions to get them out there.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Freakonomics / Things you didn't know about Seychelles

Second hand car dealerships don't exist, either do estate agents. All cars are sold through the newspaper or other forms of paper-based adverts e.g. at the bus stop. Cars generally retain their value if they're fully operational. We'll probably make a profit on our car if and when we sell it, as new taxes are constantly being introduced and there's a limit on imports. As for housing, people never seem to care much about going through somebody else to sell/buy something, so the estate agent is non-existant. Yes, a country without car dealers or estate agents!

In terms of social divide, we're yet to find a noticeably "poorer" and "richer" part of the island. Housing is quite mixed. However, some parts of the island are clearly cheaper to shop at than others. This comes down to the number of tourists in the given locality. A loaclity being defined by the local beach/bay usually. Cote D'or for example is quite expensive especially if you want tourist tat. A pair of Billabong board shorts of questionable authenticity could set you back 300Rs here (£15), compared to 175Rs (£8.50) where we live in Anse Kerlan.

As for local competition, all shops that are within a stone's throw of each other will fix their prices, so it's really up to you which one's you visit. In the end it comes down to personality and friendliness of the shopkeepers as well as what's in stock. Click on the map below to enlarge it for a full breakdown of localities.

I know you're probably in awe of my Photoshop skills (not!). I had to have a map on the blog as Boatswain M loves maps and furthermore he seriously thinks I have a poor sense of direction and weak general geographical/spatial/navigational awareness. He'd be right about all of the above, eventhough I did get 100% in a couple of AS and A2 geography papers, I really don't know my way around the island that well!

Quality products in Jamalaya supermarket

I digress...back to freakonomics. Most people work two jobs here. Even Seychellois teachers/TA's in our school have to work two jobs to make ends meet. One teacher famously finishes work at 2.30pm, then goes on to work at a Casino until 8.30pm every school night, she also works until 4.00am at the weekends. Like Martin Varley said on his blog, the country is very much like 1970's Britain. I remember a few teachers/mentors (Miss Weston and Ms Ellis) mentioning that this is what it was like when they first started teaching; they had to have a weekend job to have enough money to eat/drink/party. Further similarities to 1970's Britain are the single TV channel and single radio station, aptly named Paradise FM.

So how do people survive if wages (even for professionals such as teachers) are low? Well there's a lot of free fruit/veg, everyone either lives near mango, banana, papaya, breadfruit and coconut trees or has a family member that does. We've recently found a passion fruit bush at the back of the house, so that's free passionfruit for us too every day. My other neighbour, Alex the fisherman has so far given Boatswain M and I around 25 fish and not taken a single cent off us yet. Although I think I have given him about 15 bottles of guiness, so I guess we're even! The Anse Kerlan crew are becoming real Seychellois with our local networking; as I was writing this, Boaty M was chatting to our other neighbour Delores (best retro name ever!), who donated a bunch of huge bananas to M and promises to donate a banana tree cutting to him too.

I guess as a Seychellois, if you fancied getting rich quick you could buy a lottery ticket. Although, bizarrely, all winners of the National lottery are printed in the daily newspaper. That's their full name along with their phone number and address/locality!

Imagine how many people would be getting mugged/burgled if this was the UK? On a slightly darker note, all deaths on the island are also fully reported 3 times a day on the radio. It's a national policy to state who has passed away and how they passed away. I'm not sure why this is, but it reminds us all that life is finite and we really do need to live it to the fullest. All we have is the present, the future never exists and the past can never be changed.

On a more trivial note, now that running water is back to 24hrs, I gladly paid my water bill. Water bills cost roughly 80 ruppees a month for a 2-person household. Thats the equivalent of £4 if you do the direct Forex, or £8 if you consider our relative purchasing power. However, even the notion of purchasing power is a tricky topic. I get paid half what I'm paid in London, but I don't have to pay rent. On the other hand, I've had some big outgoings over the past few weeks including things to do with the car (Car Insurance was 1400Rs) and a try dive (800Rs). Internet access is also relatively expensive (950Rs a month), which is ironic given that I'm writing a long blog post with pictures and stuff. I only have 9Gb/month allowance which includes uploads. Compare that allowance to our "Lite package" in the UK which was 40Gb. Thank goodness usage between 11pm - 6am is free. We take this to full advantage. Firstly I go onto EmbedTree and find the newest 20 videos, then drop them into Freemake Video Converter for download from 11pm. I don't know what I'd do without either of these tools. Of course people are using the trusty uTorrent scheduler for all those backup copies of DVDs which they obviously own in the UK.

There's not much else to report right now, other than the kids at school are lovely. I asked them all to bring something ICT-related to decorate the room. Students have made ICT word clouds and posters, others have donated old mice and headphones. One child, "V" decided to bring in a couple of drawings instead and that's started off a trend. Loads of kids are giving me drawings which they've clearly spent hours on!

Suki's art surrounds my classroom. I see her (work) everyday. One of the only things keeping me sane is the prospect of her coming out to join us.

Speaking of school kids, the International circuit always means you're never too far away from parents or students. We end up socialising with a lot of parents. To be honest, most of the parents are super-cool and invite us round to their hotels and houses, so we can't really say no! But the feeling of constantly being watched and being wary of your actions is magnified on an island that is 12km long by 3km wide. Just a trip to the cinema, pizza takeaway, supermarket, petrol station, bakery or pool party and you're guaranteed to see kids, parents and/or governors. Good job everyone is quite relaxed and friendly out here and obviously we're well-behaved so we've got nothing to hide!

On the flip side, a parent/friend of the school also makes beverages. This is one of his fine creations:

It looks like a Capri-Sun. It's actually 40% ABV and goes down like lemonade. At only 40 RS a bag (That's £2!), you could quite easily do some damage to yourself with half a bag. I don't recommend it. Besides, we drink respobsibly out here- generally at a swim up bar at La Reserve. We drink responsibly there mainly because we can't afford more than 3 drinks and the pool is too much fun of course.

To close, here's some bonus pictures from my first diving experience:

 It's what I go to school for. Special pun for bboy Flo.

Today's trivia:
Tea bags out here are weak 
All tinned goods cost 10Rs in MAS supermarket, whether they are beans or soups.
They censor all swearing on English/American films on TV-this could be the reason why kids/adults don't swear much!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

VIDEO SPECIAL: A dedication

Many a moon ago, two of my good students KG and YC suggested that I do a VLOG for my classes. I ended up making quite a few revision videos and the rest is history.

To celebrate my mother's 50th birthday on the 18th September and also as a dedication to my wife, here is a short VLOG with stills and video. It documents my journey over here and the first 7 days. I hope you all enjoy it. If you know my mum, the legendary Lily Lau or even if you don't, please do wish her a happy birthday, either by card (43 Arksey Lane, Doncaster, DN5 0RX), in person or on the phone (Doncaster) 01302 816591. She's literally my heroine and I'm absolutely gutted that I can't be there to celebrate her 50th Birthday. Maybe you can also help me tell her how awesome she is on her 50th on Tuesday!

10 great things about my mum:
 1) She married my dad and gave birth to my sister- The three of them looked after me for most of my childhood, eventhough I was a rebellious little brat.
2) She speaks English with a Yorkshire accent, yet with a Chinese dialect. Jezu loves it!
3) She taught me about generosity and doing the right thing. This in turn ensured I didn't turn out to be a complete Schmuck. Shoutout to Aladeen!
4) She loves my wife aka "Sam Po Tsai"
5) She loves her Burberry handbags. Eventhough they are "so 1999" for HK women, she still loves them and will only buy them in that awful cream check. I still love you for it mum.
6) She always cooks XXL portions of food. In fact everything in her life has to be XXL. Larger than life!
7) She tells good stories and jokes. A born entertainer, yet someone with no tact and a relatively low EQ. She doesn't mince her words and just says it how it is. It means if you're easily offended, you're probably not going to enjoy her banter!
8) Her hair sticks out when she has it cut too short, she loves her hair short, so half the year she has this sticky-outy haircut which is both hilarious and cute. She hasn't figured out that if she has her hair slightly longer, it won't stick out.
9) She's the only person in the world who loves her camera more than I love mine. She loves technology and gadgets, unfortunately they don't love her.
10) She recently discovered running and loves the treadmill in the gym. She refuses to get off the treadmill until she hits at least 10km everytime she presses "Start". BMT (Big Mum Ting).
Bonus 1) Related to number 9 and also number 7: She sends text messages frequently in block caps or all lower case, the most famous one being this one below:

Bonus 2) She sends me mail, usually old bills and things I've left at home. On the back, this is how she always writes the return address:

If you're reading my blog, please help by sending her my/our love and appreciation for Mummy Lau. 50 Years and counting from Tuesday. Hold Tight!

REWIND: Last days in the UK

A big shout out to all my family and friends who passed on such warm wishes as I embarked on this exciting and slightly daunting journey.

Before I left, we had a few leaving do's and other occasions worth documenting, I've only just got round to loading that memory card.
No words, just pictures. I went OTT with the photo editing a) because I can b) because it's a "REWIND" post and so I thought I'd share the slightly retro feel.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Ignorance is bliss vs Turpe Nescire

It is only day 3 in my 2-year teaching contract at the school and I'm exhausted. Little did I know how tiring it would be teaching primary school kids, especially Reception, Year 1 and Year 2! It has all been quite good fun though despite the persistent network problems and lack of Internet connection at school and intermittent connection at home.

Apparently Cable and Wireless are coming out tomorrow to check my modem at home. If you're one of my four loyal readers, you will know that there are no addresses on Praslin or indeed anywhere in Seychelles, so it makes directions/addresses quite amusing. "Do you know the bend in the road before MAS supermarket, before the papaya tree's? Yes, we live down there, fourth house on the right, opposite the breadfruit tree. It has ten pairs of boxer shorts hanging up outside." That is not too far from the truth. There's a national campaign at present to get postcodes by 2014, but that would of course rely on street names. Nobody wants to take responsibility for naming roads though, not the council, the land registry or department of housing. In the end, maybe RiRi needs to send a crack team over from Google and they can do their StreetView thing and name all the streets whilst they're at it. Make sure they don't download all our WIFI data though, as my blog posts might get leaked a day or two early.

Back to the lab (classroom). I did a quiz yesterday as a starter. I've been doing it for years:

To my surprise, over half the students could not identify the first logo (NIKE). I was flabbergasted but also very relieved that globalisation still hasn't quite reached our paradisaical island. Remember, there is no McDonalds or Starbucks here! At the same time, in an English lesson, "Boatswain M" my neighbour remarked how students did not know who Beyoncé was or Didier Drogba. That is despite many students wearing Chelsea shirts. It seems that a country with few national celebrities breeds a culture lacking of big ego's and the dreams of the Praslinois children are less celebrity-orientated. Thank God. On the flip side, local gossip is quite rife, everyone knows everything about everyone. So watch out!

To further emphasise how far along we are on the development curve out here, a Seychellois entrepreneur recently launched their own version of gumtree. It's called BazarSeychelles. On there you can buy and sell anything. I was looking for a mountain bike, but low and behold underneath the Bernina sewing machine...

Yes, that's right. Someone is selling a goat. Only £42.50! It sounds like a Soap opera, remember that storyline from Neighbours in 1999, where Lou had a pet goat? Maybe it's just me.

To wrap it all up, I'll close with this story from reception class today. I've been tasked with teaching ICT to reception kids. This is tricky considering some of the 3-4year olds do not yet speak English or indeed much Kreol and most of them have not yet developed fine motor skills to operate a mouse. I feel a great deal of responsibility in teaching a child how to use a computer and I guess there's never too early an age to start. It's massively rewarding as it is draining in terms of energy levels.  I'm convinced all kids are powered on Duracell 30000 maH batteries. Shout out to dizzle bhai.

Obviously the range of skills varies widely from child to child. As I played on a game on Poisson Rouge , which is used to develop reaction time and matching skills a UFO popped up. The 4 year old boy who I was with screamed, "Aliens! Aliens! My mum told me the aliens were coming but they never came!"-He sounded a little dissapointed.... Later on the same child was asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, he replied "I'm going to be a paleontologist" with perfect diction. We then had a relatively grown-up conversation about constellations. This kid will be a superstar within the next 15 years! HOLD TIGHT

In other news, all classes have come with pens and pencils. It's a little bizarre, everyone bringing all the equipment they need to class and everyone being very eager to learn. Students wonder around the class a bit, not being mischievious, but literally to help each other out. It's a nice little community.

We started off doing Mondrian drawings in MS Paint with Year 8 (due to lack of software/network) and then we looked at Frank Stella. All students were then asked to do their own variation. Here is one above.

Attentive readers may wonder how I got the Poisson Rouge website working in school without an Internet connection. Here is your answer: WinWSD's software allows you to download an entire website, including flash and content. I then just have to run around all 24 machines in the morning with a USB stick uploading the websites by hand. We're solutions-driven out here! I've been trained by the best-Mrs H, Ms P, Shaikh Dimension, Goh-E and Dizzle Bhai (Also known as my ex-colleagues!).

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Please enjoy your stay...

Last updated: 13th May 2013

I've been here 3 weeks and already 3 people have booked their flights. Hurrah! Unfortunately my wife is yet to join the club. Booooooooooooo. 2 more lucky honeymooner's  are also soon to follow. So here's a definitive list of things to pack to make your stay more enjoyable.

You must remember, you are coming out to Africa, things like Pantene Pro-V for Smooth and Silky hair just does not reach our desert island, and when it does, it costs £4 for a tiny bottle. Alas, here's what you need:
  1. Antihistamine bite cream: Anthisan is quite good.
  2. Dramamine/Sea sickness tablets for your trip to La Digue/Mahe
  3. Anti Histamine tablets
  4. High factor waterproof suncream. SPF50+ and SPF30+. On the first few days, you will need Factor 50+. Anything less and you will burn within 30 minutes. From Day 4 or 5 onwards you can scale back to 30+, but re-apply every 45 mins. Ambre Solaire Kids Resisto is good.
  5. Aftersun cream.
  6. Sunhat/sunglasses
  7. Insect repellant. 
  8. Beach shoes/Flip flops-Don't walk bare feet on the coral. You'll cut your feet. Plus the centipedes can hospitalise you. Watch out if you're walking around outdoors in leafy areas.
  9. Slippers/Socks-To wear in the house-We keep it clean!
  10. Lots of thin linen tops and bottoms-short sleeve and long. Long sleeve for the evenings-it prevents you being bitten.
  11. Men-1 pair of trousers and smart shoes/sandals for evening meals out.
  12. Beach towel and normal towel
  13. Obviously pack all the other essentials-wash bag, toothbrush, etc etc.
  14. Earplugs-Planes fly over the house and we have a resident snorer.
  15. Cereal (See below)
  16. Enable roaming on your mobile. Inform your bank that you're going overseas. 
  17. Scuba diving log book/PADI card if you've been diving before

How much money to bring is always a tricky question. Here's a rough guide to your day-to-day expenses:

Takeaway lunch: £3-4
Hotel lunch: £12-20
Hotel/buffet dinner: £25-35
Pizza: £7
Car Hire: £30/day
Ferry to La Digue: £20 return
Snorkle hire from Emerald Cove: £15
Scuba: £50
Bus journey: 25p one way
Taxi: £10-20 a journey

Breakfast we usually do at home, I'd advise bringing your own cereal as there's not much out here and it's triple price. Otherwise, there's always bread, eggs, bacon, beans etc you can buy from the shops.

Also consider:
  1. Torch-It get's dark at 6.45pm and there's little street lighting.
  2. Conditioner-For the ladies (or the guys) who like it smooth and soft.
  3. Mask/Snorkel/Fins for snorkelling. These can also be hired from Emerald Cove.
  4. Waterproof jacket-It's equitorial. The rain is occasionally heavy esp in Dec/Jan.
  5. Spare battery for your camera
  6. Spare SD card-See above and the rest of the blog for further evidence.
  7. Waterproof camera-A luxury, but great to take around the pool/beaches.
  8. Book/Ebooks-in case you get bored of travelling in paradise. There's also a lot of waiting around here, so a book usually helps.
  9. If you have been to Africa recently, they will also require a certificate for the Yellow Fever jab. A transit through Addis Ababa on Ethiopian airlines does not count as going to Africa.
  10. Halifax Clarity Credit card-They do free overseas ATM withdrawals and purchases.
  11. Sunbrella-if you really don't want a tan
  12. Sleeping eye mask-The sun rises early.
  13. Dry snacks, nibbles and your favourite cereals if you're really particular about these things.
  14. 33% extra underware as you'll be showering at least 3 times a day.
  15. Orange clothing-if your visit coincides with a Cote d'or football match, it is essential that you attend for the experience of African football atmos. And secondly, Cote d'or play in orange.
On arrival, you will need to provide your hotel address on the landing card form. Give them my name, address, tel and NIN number, tell them you're staying with a resident. Please request this in an email seperately. 

Further reading:

If you can readily access anything from the list below or if you have spares lying around, please could you bring a few out as we cannot get them easily out here. Don't go to too much trouble though. The list will decrease in size/change as visitors come and go!

  1. Jordan's or similar organic sugar-free cereal
  2. Pepper grinder
  3. Portable hard drive full of (legally backed-up) films. This is Seychelles, Somali pirates are prohibtied. DVD Pirates on the other hand... 
  4. Mouse matsor other random unwanted tech.
  5. Please ask for most up-to-date list!
Thing you do not need to pack:
  1. Warm clothing. It never gets below 20. Maybe you will need something for re-entry to UK climate though?
  2. USD/Travellers cheques-You cannot get Seychellois ruppees in the UK, so just bring GBP or your Halifax Clarity Credit Card. I can also do currency exchange with you at a better rate than the banks.
  3. Travel adaptor, there's no need we use UK plugs.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Lemons and Limes

So far, I've tried to report as fairly as possible. But I realise that some of my accounts are about as balanced as the propoganda coming out of North Korea. Firstly, it is true we do have an awesome leader. I hope he doesn't go all Kim Jong Ill on us all though. Secondly, it is true there are parts of this land which are paradisiacal as Mrs. Tiana Raleo told her son. However, as you can see there are many challenges about living in Seychelles.

Firstly, I don't think it's possible to put on weight out here; that is unless you eat Creole chicken and chips everyday. Believe me, some people do! What I mean is that the selection in the supermarket is so unpredicatble, meat is pricey and the variety of veg is somewhat limited. Kind of related to this chat about products, we watched Tim Harford's talk today about increasing complexity in the modern world during an INSET session.

He stated how in a typical supermarket, there would be 100,000 products, yet in a hunter gatherer society, there were only 500. I joked to Boatswain M, that our beloved local supermarket (MAS) probably had less than 500 products. Being a hunter gatherer is fun for a while, but when you can't get basic ingrediants like lemons or limes, you do get a tad frustrated. You also become more inventive with your culinary concoctions and inevitably, you lose weight. It got to the point where I saw lemons for the first time in 8 days in our local supermarket and I literally got an adrenaline rush. Excited by the prospect of a bit of zest in my life. Silly me!

The only thing keeping us afloat is Jenny's bakery. Anyone who builds their bakery on land owned by the school is a) awesome b) going to do a LOT of business!

Keeping on the positive side, I discovered yet another wonderful classroom view to rival Professor G's this week. Ellie L (AKA "My so called sister who likes to go to the beach and butchers without inviting any other family members") has this stunning view from her classroom window:

We're also situated on the same grounds as the local church. It seems I have moved from one school with an ajoining church to another. This one is Roman Catholic (I think) as 90% of the Church's on the island are Roman Catholic. Based on this, I wonder if my long-time mentor/mother Mrs H could get a job out here? Or just come here on "school business".

It's hard to believe you're in a work environment with views like these surrounding the school, but when your Windows Server has been hacked and there's no Internet access in school. You kind of feel the pressure, it also means I'll be coming into school on Saturday to help our technician out with all the little jobs that he has no time to do. Alongside that, like all schools we have an INSET program and lessons to plan. Some people doubt we actually do much work out here, so here's more proof.

For those teachers that drink coffee, i.e. every teacher with QTS, you'll be pretty shocked by the price of coffee out here:

That's a medium size jar and it translates as £10.50! Moral of the story, get rich or drink tea!

Working in an international school does have its pro's. Practically anyone of influence on the island is on the board of governors or as I like to refer to as being "on board", given the Captain/ship metaphor. We get frequent offers, such as this "optional TGI Friday's pool party at La Reserve hotel". Happy hours from 6pm-8pm.

"OPTIONAL" I hear you say? Even on this slightly overcast day like today, I think it would be rude not to represent the expatriates to the fullest. Unlike HRH Prince Harry of Wales, there probably won't be any strip billiards or indeed any billiards involved. There is however a swim-up bar. As designated driver, I'll be swimming up for my Mango and Orange juice then! It might just be me, as I only learnt how to swim 3 months ago-but I've not yet figured out how you swim back with your drinks. I'll report back after le weekend.

Posts will be less regular due to a) unpopular demand b) workload!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Living and dying in Seychelles P.S. Elvis is Alive

Yesterday, we had an inadvertant off-road experience when coming around a tight bend. To cut a long and somewhat traumatic story short, everyone is alive and well, but the tracking on our car's steering was out by a good 30 degrees. I asked Captain M if he knew Jo the mecanic, who was recommended by Monsieur C,

"No, sorry, I don't know Jo. I only ever use Elvis. Here is Elvis' number: 2589533."

After a 15 minute chat with Elvis, I still had no idea where his garage was in Cote D'or. All I knew was that it was a left turning near L'hirondelle Hotel and they have a car rental service called Austral. I asked for the garage name, but like most things out here, "no name". I wasn't too hopeful and anyone called Elvis was either going to be a right muppet or an absolute legend. The latter turned out to be true, but more on that later.

So Captain M started off our whole school INSET on ethos and ideology with a clip by David Blaine. You know the one where he throws the card through the window:

Obviously, Captain M is already a legend in my books, but he appears to have taken it a step further. After showing that video, he showed us a second video revelaing the magic trick. The point of discussion was that sometimes teachers over explain things and actually too much complexity and in some cases too much information can drain the passion, creativity and spark from Children. He also referenced Ken Robinson's infamous TED talk:

We got onto discussing "questionning" and after a few pretty high level discussions, as well as touching on "synchronicity", "experts" and "how do we know what we know", we moved onto a pretty big question:

"If it were physically possible to live forever, what would be the pro's and con's of this".

Faith/Religion were excluded from the debate as it is perfectly reasonable to believe that after this life, our bodies wither, but our souls continue living in an afterlife.

It made me seriously think about my time in the Seychelles so far, about life and death. Captain M once quoted someone as saying,

"[Thinking about] death is like the silver backing on a mirror-it allows us to see ourselves more clearly"

After a heated debate, the majority voted against living forever. Nobody likes uncertainty after all, it's much easier to deal with a more certain reality. Talking of synchronicity, whilst the debate dragged on for a touch too long, I looked at my cup of tea. This is what it said:

There was a powercut in Baie Ste Anne today, the second cut in 9 days. When I got home there was also drought, so no running water. It comes on again at 4.30pm. T.I.A afterall. Due to the powercut, we were allowed to work from home. As I'd already finished my curriculum plan, with Madame L providing me with a very solid one to start with, we decided to go home via Elvis's garage:
Elvis greeted us with a big smile. There was clearly a queue of cars, so we waited for a while, we watched him work his magic and it was pretty clear that he earned the title of King. A driver tried to start a car and it sounded like a washing machine with spanners in. Elvis leaned through the window, started it in one go, then shrugged his shoulders. He eventually came over and inspected our Suzuki Jimny, said it was a small job and told us to come back in 30 mins.

We went around Cote D'or, which is a beautiful village with a bizarrely empty beach. Everything was a bit more high-end here than Anse Kerlan. Prices were hiked up to double for standard tourist tat and restaurants were luxurious even by 5* Seychelles standard.

After the drive around, we headed back to Elvis's. We waited another 30 mins or so. Time passed by, but we didn't care-The Seychellois way. My good neighbour and dear friend, Boaty M indulged me with a long chat reflecting on life, Gladwell's 10000 hour rule and how awesome the team was at work. Our time finally came and Elvis mounted the car on his lift, all whilst driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone; I'd like to say he was chatting to one of many girlfriend admirers of his, but maybe he was just taking a call from someone who had driven carelessly like myself.

Once on the lift, Elvis was right, the steering arm was bent. But with expert precision he had it off, straightened and fitted back on with the help of three assistants in under 30 mins. No messing around.

Unlike his compatriots, he keeps his overalls clean and has a real swagger about him. The most respectable Seychellois big man we've come across since arriving. Boaty M and myself were beaming with grins watching the King at work on our gold Jimny.

At the end of it, he got the measuring tape out to check if our wheels were aligned. Pretty careful and somewhat surprisingly accurate checking, given that his garage looks really amateur from a distance. He charged 200 rupees for the job and as he was cleaning his hands like a true gent when I went to pay him, he just nodded to his pocket, where I happily dropped in 200 rupees. The equivalent of £10 for 30 mins work with a 4 man team. A bargain I must say, just for the experience alone. And yes, "man crush" is the wrong word. I hope to see him down at "Oxygen"-the local nightclub at some point, I imagine he's pretty smooth with the ladies, Elvis by name, Elvis by nature.

To close, here are more scenes from school. Student art project "Positive Graffiti":

 Cool if this was actually 20 foot high.

View from my classroom.

View from Professor G's science lab!

Other views around school:

In summary, Elvis is alive and is the definitive Fresh Prince of Praslin. We are all alive and happy as larry, whilst there are power cuts, server failures, water cuts and mossie bites- the pro's kind of swing it back to positive.