How to do a hand-stand

Post contributed by Eline Postma

Developing personal confidence

Developing personal confidence

For a year or two, I have decided to change my new year’s resolutions from something behavioural (e.g. study harder) to something more tangible (run 5k without stopping). I made this change because it seems like they are more realistic goals that have more clear steps that would lead up to the attainment of it.

handstand1

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was actually to learn how to do a handstand without the use of a wall. For some reason, I am terrified of being upside down, so this seemed like a nice goal for this year where I would have to go out of my comfort zone to gain an interesting new experience. If you think about it, being able to do an unsupported handstand symbolises personal confidence in several manners: you have to trust your body’s ability in being strong enough to support you, and have the general confidence to eventually practice it without a wall (note to self: learn some safe exit strategies!).

handstand

After a month or so, I adjusted my goal to learn how to do a ‘head-stand’. I had seen some people do it in their yoga practices, and it seemed like the coolest thing to be able to do. When I was in Edinburgh at the beginning of May, a friend showed me what it felt like to be upside down by holding my feet so I wouldn’t fall over. I realised it isn’t as scary as I once thought, and If you haven’t tried it, I would recommend it, because it is the best energy booster I have ever come across. After a little over a month of daily practice, I managed to do an unsupported headstand. This was the best thing I did this year for boosting my self confidence and positive body image. More so, than any amount of public speaking ever could 🙂

Future target: clearly, an unsupported handstand in 2015!

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What shall we do today?

Can we ride on the beach in England dad?

Can we ride on the beach in England dad?

Last weekend as I was compiling my list of important things to do I set myself a back-up target of getting the bikes out (now arrived safely with 90 other plus boxes) and reassembled ready for an unlikely family bike ride in the next 6 months or so.  To be fair though the weather has been great since returning home and although the temperature is obviously a lot colder we have seen and enjoyed plenty of sunshine and such was the case the Sunday just gone.

The Ribble salt marshes

The Ribble salt marshes

As soon as the bikes were ready the kids were on them like a flash, woolly hats over their helmets!  They had obviously missed their bikes the last 6 weeks and I hadn’t realised how much.  They were out in the back street riding up and down and amazed at the lack of sweat being generated but anxious to pull their sleeves down over their quickly numbing fingers.  Provocatively I suggested that we go for a bike ride and much to my surprise they both agreed.  So we set off across two busy roads (another novelty to them getting off their bikes and pushing them across a road) and onto the promenade at St. Annes thinking we could ride along the beach but soon realised nobody else was and that push bikes and soft English sand don’t work too well together.  So we pushed our bikes back up to the main promenade and decided to take on the pedestrians heading towards Lytham with the sun shining on our faces.

The Lytham St. Annes spitfire

The Lytham St. Annes spitfire

Sometimes you (well I do) think things are not worth the hassle and it is easier to keep things simple.  Unpack the bikes in the summer, leave them in the garage and worry about fixing them then when they will be most needed.  Do the shopping today, clean the house, get the kids homework done and put them in front of the TV.  How many times do we fall into that trap and what are we missing out on?  The last Sunday in November and it was an amazing afternoon to be out on our bikes, in fact everyone seemed to be out and it was great weaving in and out of people walking off their Sunday roasts. We made a point of saying ‘hello’ to our new neighbours as we passed them and a ‘thank you’ for making way at the same time taking in the new sights and points of interest of our new home, community and environment.

Not as hot as Thailand but still need a rest

Not as hot as Thailand but still need a rest

The Lytham Windmill

The Lytham Windmill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Stuff to-do-list

The Story of Stuff to-do-list

One of my favourite Tweets that I read and decided to re-tweet this week was from The Story of Stuff a website that I have actually written about before. What I love about this Tweet is the simplicity of the to-do-list but the effectiveness of how powerful the outcomes are from doing it.  We sometimes take these activities, opportunities and outcomes for granted and almost always, from my experience, gain and discover a lot more (the value-added) than we ever imagined by getting up and outdoors and doing them.  A 10km bike ride got nowhere near my original to-do-list last weekend let alone at the top up amongst: Tesco shop, clean the bathrooms, find the bathroom scales in the shipping boxes, research electricity provider rates, Christmas decorations, etc… but I am so glad that impulse plus a bit of sunshine found a way and that I was reminded of the important things to be included at the top of any to-do-list.

The gap effect

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Post contributed by Dan Bowie

Just thought I’d update you on my latest exciting news! Today I found out I got the QUEST Scholarship – sponsored by VINCI.  It’s an amazing opportunity not many get to experience and to say I’m pleased is an understatement. Sheffield University seems to be a bit of a hot spot for successful candidates so – as I’m sure you can imagine – a few celebratory drinks will be had!
There is a teacher in everyone

There is a teacher in everyone

I want to take the opportunity to say thanks, the experience I gained in Thailand is without a doubt the reason I got in – especially when I look at the high standard of unsuccessful applicants. Accepting me into the Gap Programme was a stepping stone that has (and will continue to) lead to so many amazing opportunities. So thanks to all who supported me at the school.
Trekking in the north of Thailand

Trekking in the north of Thailand

Uni life is very good, the course is fairly intense and I’ve already handed in coursework and completed online tests that count towards my 1st year grade, which is a little surreal.  The social side is definitely a change from Thailand, but a change I am very much liking. I have joined the hockey team and this of course means socials (and some hockey!).  I will keep you posted.

If you liked this post then read more about gap year experiences here.

Project Nepal – a personal service learning initiative

Post contributed by Manoj Chapagain

Service Learning

Service Learning

Whilst I was at secondary school in Thailand I always wanted to do something that would help my village community in Nepal. During my last year of my high school, I asked some of my friends and teachers to help me raise money to buy computers for my village school where I studied during my childhood. We called this project “Project Nepal.”  This started August of 2013.

 

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

My friend Joyce and some other friends encouraged me and were willing to support me fully. We started doing fund raising events such as a dodge ball tournament, a computer game tournament and many other events at the school. In addition my friend Joyce who helped me enormously to raise money by asking her friends back in Taiwan to donate money to the project. She has contributed the most to this project.  All together we raised $3400. Furthermore, Mr. Alex (a friend of Peter Dalglish’s in Bangkok and my friend too) contributed approximately $500 to the project, totaling up to 364250 NPR.

The Project Nepal team

The Project Nepal team

The school already had a room that needed painting, carpeting, a fan and many other things.  When I got back to Nepal in the summer I went to the village and started overseeing this. Now the room has 7 computers from Project Nepal and another five computers which were donated to the school by a cement factory. The installation for internet is still in the process.

P Nepal7

Five students and two teachers visited the school for a week to see the school and set up the computer lab. They stayed in my village in my home for two nights and it was amazing to see my friends in my village and for them to experience a little bit of the village life. Everyday we used to walk to the school where my friends played games, interact and teach English to the school kids.

P Nepal

It was fantastic for me to see students from my school interacting with kids in my village. It felt great because I was part of the village school during my childhood and then I also became a part of my new school’s family. It almost felt like joining two families together.

 

P Nepal1

This is the first Project Nepal “PROJECT” and it was successful. I was really pleased with our work and of course the credit goes to everyone. When I go back to Nepal I will check how much progress they have made and if any change has come to the school for the students.  I also hope to do many other projects in Nepal with and for the Nepalese people.

To read more posts about Manoj please click here.

Good Old School Dinners

Fish 'n' Chips

Fish ‘n’ Chips

It has now been over 2 weeks since we arrived in the UK and I have now been in my new job for a full week and only just found time to reflect and put some words into a short post for the website.  Of course I have plenty of things to write about but I want to keep this one simple and about being back ‘home’ in the UK and the initial process of reconnecting with the UK education system – something I fully intend to take maximum advantage of and to feedback on over time.

Jam Sponge and Custard

Jam Sponge and Custard

It has been a very frenetic week meeting many new people and trying to puzzle together where and how they all fit within the complexities of a school organisation.  It is very tempting to dive straight in and to commit or give input to every request or idea that comes your way as you meet people and want to give a positive first impression.  You have to be realistic though and take a step back – observe and listen and build up as accurate a big picture as possible of how you and your role can be most effective and successful in the short and longer term without making too many mistakes.

A Friday smile

A Friday smile

It is times like this in your life and career that you look for constants, things that you are sure about and that reassure you however small they may be.  They guide you through the unknown and they are there for you to anchor your trust and confidence onto to. Today, when I walked into the school canteen for lunch (the food has been great all week by the way and making the need for exercise more urgent!) my senses detected that familiar smell of fish and chips, proper English fish and chips served on a Friday and with mushy peas.  I loaded up my tray and walked down the serving station thinking this could not get any better – but it could, there it was steaming hot jam sponge and custard staring right up at me, taking me all the way back to my secondary school days.  I said a heartfelt thanks to Sharon the chef at the same time expressing my delight for this nostalgic treat and she in return gave me the biggest end of the week smile, as if to say well done – you deserve it.  I hope I did.

If I do not see you again, hello

Take time to say hello - S. Bruce-Lockhart

Take time to say hello – S. Bruce-Lockhart

We hear it all the time, the world is changing rapidly and we have to be prepared to adapt to that change.  Education is (should be) all about preparing our future leaders for change and to be able to not only cope with change but to be the change-makers themselves by having the relevant life skills and confidence to use them.  You can never be 100% sure what is going to happen and therefore that temptation into a comfort zone is potentially a dangerous place to be found in for too long.  Many people have asked us why we are leaving Thailand; leaving our home, leaving jobs that we both loved, leaving ‘paradise’?  Of course it was a big and courageous decision to make but one that we have never regretted since making it back in late 2013.  We knew it was the right time for a change and we were prepared to take on the unknown factors that this change would throw our way and to learn from them.  Deep down we always knew the hardest factor would be saying goodbye, something I have never really been particularly good at.  I like to think I will always see people again and continue where we left off but maybe that is just dodging the truth and taking the easy way out of a hard goodbye.  I follow the blog of a well respected and experienced headmaster of a Round Square school in Canada, Mr. Simon Bruce-Lockhart, and really enjoyed reading one of his posts in particular regarding saying goodbye – the post is titled: Take Time to Say Goodbye.  

People handle goodbyes in many different ways and approach it with different attitudes, sometime gifts are exchanged as a sentimental representation of time spent together or as a message to take with you into your next adventure.

A sentimental suitcase

A sentimental suitcase

When I left the UK in August 1999 I was given a brand new suitcase by my friends with whom I had played local village cricket with for many years.  It was a complete surprise to me that these ‘lads’ had put some thought into a gift which I had never expected from them.  15 years ago it was a top of the range suitcase and perfect for packing my few possessions to take with me to Thailand for the next two years.  The sentimental feelings are just as strong as I pack it full of family possessions for our return trip to the UK tomorrow.  It has served me well and I am pleased it is coming home with us.

Not in the UK!

Not in the UK!

I have found it interesting how attached I have become to some of the material things that we have owned.  Part of this transition process has meant selling our cars and of course leaving our family home.  I am not really a car person but have had a couple of (brief) sentimental moments when finally handing both cars over to their new owners and realising that there will be no more family adventures in them.  Thousands of kilometers of nursery rhyme CDs, playing eye spy, making up awful jokes, tantrums, arguments, tears and laughter all confined in a metallic cube – gone!  It’s not like I am ever going to own a pick-up in the UK – and let the kids ride in the back is it?

The power of a stone (next to our zebra - which we are leaving behind!)

The power of a stone (next to our zebra – which we are leaving behind!)

As a teacher I always tell my students (when they ask me) that I don’t have favourites – but if I did have a favourite class then the class I taught Geography through Year 7 to Year 11 would have to be one of them.  I also taught many of these students ICT (well they actually taught me!) as well in Year 5 and Year 6. When it came to their graduation and leaving the school they presented me with a rock, knowing that I like rocks and talked about them quite often in my classes with a certain amount of passion. Each student had signed the rock and they were very pleased with themselves when they presented it to me and told me to take good care of it.  It was an effective way to say goodbye and to acknowledge what we had learnt and been through together – it had real meaning.  I have of course kept the rock ever since in my office at home and just realised the other day that it did not make the packing with the 91 boxes of shipping.  For a split second I though this cannot go to the UK, it is just a rock, but the emotional attachment and meaning soon came bursting out of me and I placed it in a suitcase ready to be packed.

One of the students in that Geography class sent me a poem the other day as part of her Global Citizenship reflection.  Her father saw it when visiting Japan and had sent her the translation.  Even though I have not seen this student since she left school over six years ago, we still say ‘hello’ to each other whenever we can and share our thoughts and ideas about the world.  I thought it was very poignant to receive this poem at a time of big transition and occasionally stress and anxiety for me and my family.  The hardest thing about change is the unknown and saying goodbye to the familiar.  Tomorrow is a the biggest day for our family so far and I am sure it will be a roller coaster ride of emotions but I also know it is going to be the best day.  If I do not see you again, ‘hello.’

Each day is the best day

Whether it rains
Whether it shines
Each day is the best day
Whether I cry
Whether I laugh
Today is the very best day
Because it is a precious day out of my life

-Mitsuo Aida

Constructive paranoia

a convoy of cousins

a convoy of cousins

During my time in Vietnam and meeting new family I have been thinking a lot about a term that I read recently in a book by Jared Diamond.  The book is:  The World Until Yesterday, and is all about what we can learn from traditional societies.  The term he used was constructive paranoia and he used it often to describe a cautious approach that people living in traditional societies adopt to avoid danger or potential death even though to us it may seem an extremely low risk or even paranoid.  An example Diamond used was when he (frequently) stayed with communities in New Guinea and that they never slept under old trees at night for the fear that they may fall down and crush them.  Although the likelihood is small on a particular night, if you were to sleep under trees every night as many Guineans do then the chances of an old tree eventually falling down and crushing you increases, therefore the most constructive long-term approach is to avoid them altogether as sleeping shelters.

easy riders

easy riders

If you had asked me before our visit to Vietnam if I would allow my kids to ride on motorbikes in a country where there seems to be little regulation on the roads I (and especially my wife) would have said no way!  Nothing paranoid about that, just a total agreement that motorbikes are to be avoided if possible in countries like Vietnam and Thailand where the accidents involving motorbike accidents are high.  It is difficult though when you arrive in a situation that is totally new to you and you suddenly find yourself in the hands of your hosts who so happen to be family.  Things happen fast and people are speaking in a language that you don’t understand but you can start to gather an idea from the body language, gestures and the accumulation of motorbikes around you and triple the amount of helmets needed per motorbike!

walking in the river to the sand dunes

walking in the river to the sand dunes

Of course you think fast and make eye contact with your wife (and mother of your children) to quickly reassess the situation.  The cousins are all excited though and so enthusiastic to see you and show you around – they really want to take their new family guests to the beach.  The kids are all excited as well, the chance to ride a motorbike is a complete novelty to them and they of course believe they are indestructible.  Your heart says go with the flow but your brain is telling you that this is not a good idea and to think it through a bit more.  There is also the culture factor – do you stand your ground based on a mental risk assessment and possibly offend people that you have just met and are putting you up in their home.  Or do you shift your perspective and realise this is how people commute in Vietnam, everyone does it – you are placed on a motorbike days after birth!  Are we going to just sit in the house and feel safe and walk everywhere?

a flying sand dune in Mui Ne

a flying sand dune in Mui Ne

I know my wife’s feelings about motorbikes and what surprised me most was that she understood that this was an important time to go with the flow and to enjoy the cultural experience.  This doesn’t mean we should be neglectful of risk, still be risk aware – paranoid enough to be constructive but not averse to the opportunity.  We made sure that everyone is wearing helmets the right size and that the most experienced motorcyclists were in control of the bikes.  The cousins soon got the message that we were happy with the situation but alert to the potential risks in a subtle way.  They drove at a good speed and we always felt very safe without us having to say anything to them.

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

We ended up using the motorbikes everyday while we were in Phan Theit and Mui Ne and the family were over generous in their desire to transport us around and to spend time with us – telling us what time they would meet us and pick us up each day.  We could of course taken taxis but this would have been less sociable and not as an authentic way to see the country, plus the kids really loved their motorbike experience and each one had their favorite cousin to ride with – often sandwiched in between Oanh or myself!  If we had opted not to embrace this opportunity we would definitely have missed out on three amazing days visiting; the Flying Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, eating fresh crab on the beach, shallow river walking through a sandstone gorge, a sunset over Mui Ne bay and most importantly of all making close and honest bonds with special family members.