No Bread Week

I’ve managed to get one week of teaching under my belt but now it’s the school holidays! Two weeks off for Toussaint, which seems to have come around really quick and not really at that great a time. I’ve barely got into working with my new classes and colleagues and things still seem as disorganised as ever.

I really love working at one of my schools – they have a semi-designated English teacher who is fully organised and seems to know exactly what to do with me as an assistant. She emails me her proposed lesson plan, tells me what I need to do or bring to the class and then works with me in class to make the most of my presence. It’s a shame that not many of the other teachers really know what I’m there for. Most do not speak English and when I enter the classroom mostly go “what are you doing here?”. They’re in general a really lovely set of teachers who do want to work with me. The English teacher has set aside one hour a week to do a “club d’anglais” where we’ll be working on a play to perform at the Christmas fête at the end of term. We’ve got costumes, props and scripts to prepare and I’m super excited to get to work on that.

Sadly the other school I work at is much less prepared for me. On Tuesday I spent the entire day being pushed between classes until someone would accept me in to teach English. Here, the verb “teach” can be exchanged with “sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to a baffled crowd of 3-5 year olds who had never heard the song before or had learned the song but had been taught that “ears” were “eyes” and vice versa. It was fairly excruciating. On Friday, they surprised me by sending in the same group of 3-5 year olds to come and watch my cultural presentation/quiz that I’d prepared for the 10-11 year olds.


I’m just grinning and bearing it; I know that as the term progresses that they’ll get themselves organised and I’ll find out where I fit in with all these new classes. It’s a completely different role to my previous assistantship in the high school where I took the classes by myself and planned all their lessons according to theme as opposed to direct ability. It’s hard to plan a lesson when the students can’t speak even the most basic English. On the plus side, this language barrier is doing wonders for my French.

We’ve had a good week of entertaining – on Tuesday, we made dinner for our neighbour, on Wednesday the oven broke and we improvised by cooking the pizza in a frying pan (strangely edible) and on Thursday we had a couple of Caroline’s colleagues and their kids over for paella. That evening left a lasting impression on us, mostly in the form of the girls’ nail varnish staining our walls forever more.

Friday saw the beginning of the school holidays – two weeks off. We celebrated by heading up to Sainte Marie to attend a Mexican themed evening at Jacq and Molly’s. It’s always lovely to get together with some of the other assistants, as many of them live in rural places and we don’t see them that often.



A trip to the banana museum in Sainte Marie finished off our weekend in the north, including a lovely walk through the grounds of the plantation and a creole meal (chicken colombo and plantain) at the restaurant.




For the holidays, Caroline and I are planning on getting to see more of the island, especially down south where some of the most beautiful beaches are. That, of course, is if it doesn’t rain, which unfortunately put a bit of a dampener (pun intended) on our trip to the beach today.

French words of the week:

ramener – to give someone a lift home in a car
climatisation/clim – air conditioning
une ruche – beehive

P.S. to my assistant family – I consider myself the victor of No Bread Week. The French toast you (kindly) force fed me at brunch on Saturday did not count. Nor did the fried pizza.

Il pleut


The first couple of weeks here in Martinique treated us with gloriously sunny weather, but now I can fully believe that we’re in the rainy season. Dark dramatic clouds have followed us everywhere, chucking out the odd waterfall of rain when we least expect it. Everyone we meet gives us an apologetic smile and says “il pleut” before opening up their umbrellas. I should have packed an umbrella.

This week I have proudly (if not at all confidently) tackled one of my old fears: driving on the right hand side of the road. I picked up my rental car last Tuesday, a cute little Renault Twingo that has two most important features: air con and Bluetooth connection to my iPod. I’ve finally stopped banging my left hand against the car door when searching for a phantom gear stick and I only stall the car (usually on hill starts) once a day on average. I now can independently get to work as well as provide a much needed taxi service around the island for my friends.

We took the car on its first long trip up north to Sainte Marie, where our two fellow English assistant friends Molly and Jacqueline live. By long, I mean about three quarters of an hour. Caroline was very much enjoying the view of the countryside on the drive while I struggled not to get lost. It seems that the Martiniquais haven’t quite mastered the art of signposting, meaning you usually just have to guess the route until you stumble across your destination. We did manage to eventually arrive in Sainte Marie, which appears to shut down on a Wednesday, and spent the afternoon trying to find a bank branch (unsuccessful) and help Jacqueline move her remaining suitcases into her new apartment (successful).



I had my first week at my new schools this week. Although I was told I was to be strictly observing the classes only, most of the teachers didn’t have a clue who I was at first and then seemed relieved that I could come and talk English with their pupils and let me do a Q&A with the classes. Naturally primary aged children don’t speak a lot of English so this Q&A was more of a test of my French. To the boy who asked me to name all the types of dogs we have in England, I’m really sorry my French vocab disappointed you. I’ll do better next time.

The week ended with our friends in the north coming to stay to celebrate Molly’s birthday (at a Chinese restaurant which was the only place locally with affordable prices) followed by a pool party hosted by some other assistants located further south. I drove, we got lost, but we did eventually make it. It was a close call after I wasn’t entirely optimistic that my poor little Twingo would make it up one of the steepest hills I’ve seen so far with 5 of us squished inside. Sunday was spent recovering from hangovers (not me, the designated driver, ha!) on the beach en route to taking our friends back up north.


This coming week involves my first proper classes at both schools, hopefully a day trip on Wednesday and a trip up north to stay with our friends. Hopefully the weather will cheer up soon, days without a trip to the beach are days wasted!

French words of the week:

une morne – hill (Martinique French)
un ravet – cockroach (Martinique French)
hisser – to hoist (a flag)
brandir – to brandish
un fers a cheval – horseshoe

Bienvenue en Martinique!

It seems unbelievable that this time last week I was on my flight to Fort-de-France, nervous about starting my new life in Martinique. My lunch tray was hinting at the strange mix of cultures awaiting me: rice, camembert, local rum punch and red wine all provided as standard.


It’s strange to step off a long haul flight to find that there’s no passport control. Technically, flying from Paris to FDF is a domestic flight and I haven’t actually left France. The Caribbean is so far from Europe and yet there is never any doubt that you’re in France; I eat croissants for breakfast, use the same bank account as last time I lived in France and of course everyone here speaks French.

Less than 24 hours after arriving in FDF (and after very little sleep due to jetlag waking me up consistently at 3-4am for almost a week after arriving), I found both a flat and a flatmate (Caroline). My first day in Martinique was spent traipsing around the city trying to find somewhere to live. We have a beautiful apartment in Schoelcher, a suburb to the west of FDF, close to the beach and with a sea view if you can ignore the telegraph poles and a solitary block of flats. For everyone here, this counts as “trop loin” / too far from the schools where I work. Seeing as you can drive to the other end of the island in 45 minutes or less, a journey longer than 5-10 minutes counts as a trek. It should take me around 20 minutes to get there by car if I can avoid the traffic. Pas mal.



Apart from moving house, this week has been full of training for my job as an English teacher – lots of admin, some cultural sessions on life in Martinique and a day where I met with my colleagues to plan our lessons up until Christmas. Overall it was super impressive how much effort they’d gone to organise our training. Dare I say it was even better than the training I did for Grenoble.


Next week’s tasks involve picking up my car (I’m renting for the first month), observing my classes at school and tackling a mountain of paperwork in order to get paid by the end of the month. Happily the hard bit is almost over.



French words of the week:

un cafard – cockroach
un moustique – mosquito
un moustiquaire – mosquito net
une piqure – insect bite/sting
piquer – to sting/bite (insects)
maracuja – passionfruit (Creole)

New York, New York

This will be the final entry in my series on my Round the World trip April-June 2013. I stayed at the Q4 hotel/hostel in Queen’s Plaza, which was right opposite the subway and so it was really conveniently located for getting everywhere I needed to go. It had great facilities, including a large kitchen and communal area with a pool table and tennis table. I could have done without the annoying people in my room turning the lights on at 3am. I’ve stayed in plenty of hostels before and never come across people who so blatantly ignore dorm etiquette. But that’s a problem with the people, not the hostel. It was super easy to meet people in the communal area too, which is the main draw of any hostel. 

Here are some highlights from my 5 day trip to New York City in June 2013.

1. Ellen’s Stardust Diner



When my friend Sarah promised me a trip to this diner on Times Square for our meetup in NYC (something for me to look forward to after a 26 hour flight from Sydney arriving the night before and thus a consequently sleepless night), I knew it was going to be one of the highlights of my trip. I wasn’t disappointed. The waiters SING to you while you eat, producing favourites from Grease, The Lion King and other fabulous show tunes (a lot of the staff end up going on to work in Broadway, so you can imagine how high the quality is). A song from Annie was requested and as soon as the waiters started singing, a group of school kids on a school trip stood up from their seats on the balcony and joined in. It was a completely all-American/Glee style moment that left me with the biggest smile on my face. 

2. Central Park Zoo


This zoo is iconic, having been featured in so much of pop culture. I wasn’t let down; it’s a beautiful zoo with a great range of animals. 

3. Central Park


I spent a lot of my 5 days in New York wandering around Central Park, either with friends or lovely people I met at the hostel or by myself in the last couple of days after everyone else had left the big apple and I was on my own. The weather was gorgeous, which always helps. 

4. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


In the same day, I got to go and watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart being filmed in the TV studio. I was lucky enough that another American friend of mine, Becky, had a spare ticket and I absolutely jumped at the chance to go to my first ever tv set. So cool!

5. Tourist Hotspots


There are some things you HAVE to do if you go to New York City, so I spent a good day ticking off items on my tourist list: The National History museum, the Empire State Building, the National Public Library, Grand Central Station and the Statue of Liberty.

6. Ground Zero


It was extremely harrowing to visit the place where the World Trade Centre once stood. Ground Zero itself has been really well done and is beautiful as a monument in memory of all those who died as a result of the events of 9/11. Being a somewhat young person myself, this is an example of an event I can say I remember where I was when it happened and to visit the place I remember seeing in the news had a significant impact on me. 

7. The New York Highline


My friend Lizzie recommended this to me and I am so glad I went! An abandoned railway line converted into a walkway and gardens makes for a beautiful and pleasant walk through the high rise buildings of New York. They even have food stands under the bridges, which makes for a good lunch spot. 


avenue des champs elysees

Things I did in Paris this Weekend

(23-26 November 2013)

1. Palais de Versailles (this time including the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s creepy hamlet where she pretended to be a peasant)

960209_10151796794067919_1240942825_n hallversailles village

2. Paris Village de Noël, Avenue des Champs Elysées

arc de triomphe christmas market

3. Macarons at Ladurée and Pierre Hermé


4. Montmartre, including the Café des 2 Moulins, where Amélie was filmed

amelie amelie2


5. Saw a cat that looks like Hitler


On the Road in Tanzania

17 July 2013 – Day 24

It was “morridge” for breakfast – our camping version of porridge made with muesli and milk powder rather than porridge oats. It was a welcome late start for us, with a trip to see the snakes that Snake Park camp is named after. In enclosures not very far from where we had pitched our tents was a large collection of local wildlife, mostly snakes but including crocodiles and owls too. It was only as we read the information on each of the local snakes that we started to really appreciate how many dangerous creatures we were sharing our homes with. A mental note was taken by many to double check our tent doors were always shut. We had (luckily) missed out on the snake feeding the day before as we had been in the Serengeti, but those who stayed behind reported that it was fairly gruesome – they fed the snakes live rabbits. After we got a chance to hold some of the snakes and (baby) crocodiles, we headed back to the truck to head off for our next destination, Marangu.

Marangu is in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. When we arrived it was still early afternoon. There were reports that that you could see Kilimanjaro from the campsite bar so we rushed off to see it. There were quite a few photos taken until someone pointed out that it probably wasn’t Kilimanjaro after all… So we were never quite sure if we got to see it or not.

It was a beautiful evening so we grabbed a couple of drinks and sat outside. At this point I was refusing to use the Internet unless it was free (my resolve weakened later) but a few people bought WiFi vouchers. After diner we stayed up a bit longer to continue to get to know our new passengers. Milla provided us with excellent cheesy music to sing along to, which divided the group somewhat. Eventually we went to bed for an extended sleep as we had a free day the next day.

18 July 2013 – Day 25

Finally, time for a lie-in – except that I found I couldn’t stay asleep beyond 7am now anyway due to the shift in my body clock. Despite the fact that there were activities on offer, I decided that I’d stay behind at the camp to chill. We ended up watching Django Unchained up on the truck beach and heading to the bar later to relax. When you’re on the go all the time, it’s nice to just stop and take a break every now and then.

19 July 2013 – Day 26

We had a long drive day. We were now heading towards the coast to catch the ferry to Zanzibar. In the morning, it was my cook groups’s turn to buy food for our meal the next day. We stopped at a roadside market before leaving Marangu – this was our first try at market shopping in Africa because up until this point we had been to supermarkets. We combined our money with the cook group for that night so that we could buy a treat – goat. They were making a vegetarian meal and so didn’t need so much money. We managed to find potatoes eventually and between the six of us we bought out the whole vegetable stall. Feeding 24 people is no small task, after all. After buying out supplies we jumped back in the truck and set off towards the coast.

20 July 2013 – Day 27

Today was the day we were off to Dar es Salaam, the port on the Indian Ocean where we could catch the ferry the next day. The weather had started to seriously heat up the closer to the coast we got. The nights being cold, this shift in temperature was noted by all. I had certainly not dressed for the stifling heat. This would have been fine normally – with the canvas sides up and the truck rolling along we usually got a good breeze even if we got dusty. However, the traffic in Dar es Salaam was really bad, meaning we got stuck on the main road and we we had no way of cooling down other than to break open the eski and pass the time by having a few drinks. Before entering Dar, Joe and Kyle had told us to keep an eye out of the sides for thieves, who would likely try and steal anything that wasn’t screwed on to the truck while stationary in the traffic. At first our only visitors were vendors trying to sell us fizzy drinks and a man trying to sell us machetes, but soon enough we heard that someone had managed to take the oil stick.


We arrived at our beachside camp in Dar and after setting up our tents (some members of the group struggling due to the amount of alcohol consumed during the traffic jam…) we jumped into the sea for a bit until I had to go off and cook our goat stew & mash potatoes. It seemed to go down well and we all headed to bed fairly early. We would have an early start to catch our ferry to



(My camera was out of battery at this point so thanks to Drou & Mandi for the photos!)


Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti National Park

15 July 2013 – Day 22

It was an early start for us all again as this time we were heading off to the Ngorongoro Crater, a national park situated at the centre of a huge crater. By about 8am we had reached the crater lip, a few hours after we had left Lake Manyara, We all bundled together at the viewpoint to take a few photos and get a feel for how huge the crater was. All kinds of animals and birds all lived together inside the bowl of the crater, providing both fantastic game viewing opportunities as well as a beautiful backdrop.


We had an excellent day for game viewing. We saw managed to see the Big Five again, this time with the special addition of a black rhino in the distance. We also got to see a porcupine, which was larger than I expected. Our safari guide told us it was the first one he’d seen in 9 years. Porcupines are nocturnal and so you don’t usually get to see them when you do game drives.


We stopped for lunch at the side of a large lake filled with hippos. It was sunny and hot, but we were advised to keep our eyes on our lunches at all times. It became apparent why when eagles kept swooping down to try and take our sandwiches. Baboons too were present yet again but we had learnt from our previous encounters and managed to fend them off.


Sometime during the late afternoon we crossed from the crater park into Serengeti National Park, perhaps one of the most famous game parks in the world. A few of the local Masai were waiting at the gate. I say local, when in fact they had to walk for miles to get there. They await the tourists and will pose for photos in exchange for coins. We were told that the dry season is the best time for game viewing because the animals have little choice of food and water and so often are found at the same watering holes or nearby. In fact, just as the sun was setting we were lucky enough to spot a cheetah in the grass and lots of plains game.




When we made it to the bush camp, we were delighted to find that our safari guides had set our tents up for us – the best treat of the trip so far! After tucking into a pre-cooked meal (another treat! We were truly being spoilt), we were advised not to venture outside in the dark alone or without a light, as we were camping in the middle of the game park and there were no fences between us and whatever animals were roaming about in the dark. Indeed, Caz and Brendan swore the next morning that they heard a lion outside of their tent during the night.

16 July 2013 – Day 23

Finally, the day I’d been waiting for the entire trip – the Serengeti! Up early as normal, tents packed away and we were off again into the park. Our luck was in almost straight away. Our safari guide got wind of a cheetah sighting so we sped down the dusty tracks to find them. We were more than lucky – we found two cheetahs. We watched them for a while before we set off again, only to swing by later and find that something more exciting was happening. A jackal had arrived, along with a young impala and they were giving chase. Our guide said that apparently cheetahs don’t like to eat young impala or something, but I wasn’t sure how much I believed in this so-called conscience on the cheetah’s part. The jackal managed to slip through the cheetah’s barrier and snatch the impala. It ran off, the cheetahs at full speed chasing after it. Although the cheetah’s are far faster than jackals, they’re not strong at all and so didn’t manage to win this fight. We were all fairly gutted when the cheetahs gave up and the jackal ate the baby impala. Such is the circle of life.



We had another good day of game viewing, though by now we were dusty and tired. Dirt from the dry tracks outside poured in through the windows we kept open to cool ourselves down. We eventually made it back to Snake Park, Arusha, where our truck, tour leader and a few of the others who had stayed behind were. The Numpty for that trip went to Jenni, who bravely asked “are there penguins in the Serengeti?”


That night we stayed in the camp bar late into the night, relaying our adventures and getting to know the new members of our team who had joined us in Nairobi. Another tour company’s driver let us try some biltong (dried meat, beef in this instance). Emma showed us her incredible moves, doing the worm for us on the dusty floor and she ended up gauging holes in her feet and banging her chin, but she was awesome all the same. It was very late indeed when we got a scolding from a teacher staying in the campsite and after that it was time to call it a night.