Gday once again

June 12, 2007

Dear family and friends,

Its been a while since we wrote, so wanted to get a few words down again. The weeks just seem to roll on by all too fast. It sometimes amazes me how easily the days get filled up out here in the jungle.

For the last 3 weeks we have been frantically working on making a video of the school here, to send with Jeff and Fawna (the directors of the school here) as they go back to the for a short break. They leave on Wednesday and we are just putting the final touches on the video tonight (Monday night). We still are planning to make a Spanish version of it, and also a cut-down version of it too, but these are a lesser priority, and something we can work on in the next few weeks.  It has been a challenging learning curve for us but it has been fun putting it together, and it is interesting what you learn about people when you do something like this. The title of the video is "Changing Lives" and looks at the different changes in the school, changes in the lives of students since coming here, and changes in the lives of the volunteers who have worked here. It's about 18 minutes in total. Anyway, hopefully we'll get a copy of it to some of you in a month or two, so let me know if you're interested.

So this has been consuming a lot of our time lately. And for the last week or so, it seems like just about all our waking hours, at least for me.

I'm still teaching English, and learning to enjoy it more and more.  Teaching the students is a good way to get to know them, especially when there is a language barrier. We are still slaughtering the Spanish too. But that's probably not going to change in a hurry. Its amazing how many words there can be to learn in a language! It makes me laugh sometimes when in an English class I will ask a student to read something out loud from their text book that is written in English, and they say (in Spanish off course) "but teacher its too difficult. I don't like speaking English" as if I have no idea that its difficult to speak another language.

As well as working on this DVD together, Michael has been working on the construction of a water tower, and this has been taking a lot of his time for the last month or so. I think last time I wrote, Michael
had just completed designing the tower, and preparing the engineering drawings for it. After this he and a couple of other guys here spent a week or two buying all the steel, then welding, cutting and drilling it. In the meantime, the footings for the tower have been prepared and the concrete for these was poured yesturday, and the plan is to raise the tower tomorrow. Its a 6m tower, to hold a 5000litre water tank. It will certainly help with water supply round here, and will really help support the future development of this school here.

We also brought ourselves a nice little black motorbike about a month or so ago. Its a Honda Biz scooter type bike. These seem pretty popular round here, and is a pretty reliable bike, easy to drive etc.  And costs all of about $1.50 to make the dusty 60km return trip to town and back. Its been really nice having a bit more independance again.

We haven't had anymore remarkable night time disturbances from Bolivian wildlife, but we did see 4 toucans flying in the treetops the other evening when we went for a walk. That was pretty special to see. They look pretty cool the way the fly. Its just a shame that they, like all the birds here, are so elusive and difficult to
photograph. You hear a lot of birds here, but just hardly ever see them, and especially not very closeup.

As we come in to the dry season here, we also get heaps and heaps of butterflies, especially near the creek. 3 weeks ago, when we had a weekend break from the school we drove out to this other big river and a little village called Cachuela Esperanza, and on the way back, came across this 'swarm' of butterflies. It was litterally a cloud of butterflies...some were bright yellow and others were this kind of pearly colour, and others a darker colour. There was just hundreds of butterflies everywere flying all around us. We took heaps of pictures of them its was just amazing.

In July we have a 2.5 week break from school, and we are thinking of going to . We're not sure yet, but it looks like it might be possible to travel down to the Pantanal (a huge wetland in the south west of that borders and and has the largest population of wildlife oustide of Africa ). It sounds pretty interesting. I'm an optimistic traveller when it comes to planning itineries and I'm wondering if we might be able to make it to a few other national parks or a beach in Brazil, or take a riverboat trip to Manaus (on the Amazon).

We're kind of landlocked here, so a beach does sound nice. As someone who likes the beach, it seems strange when students here tell me they don't know what a beach is like, because they've never seen one.

I'm not sure if we ever mentioned the fact that , even though it is landlocked, does actually have a navy. Ironic, in some ways, but then the rivers here are so big. The river that the town nearby is on, Rio Mamore, is pretty huge. It takes about 5 minutes to cross in a speedboat thing. But its not possible to travel downstream on this
river, because there are some significant rapids not far downstream from the town Guayaramerin, that make it impassable. However, you can travel upstream on it, for days and days. Something we'd like to do sometime. Apparently, there are also piranha in this river. Not sure if this is true, but am not planning to verify this either.

Well I can't think of much more to say right now so I'll leave it there. Trust you are all keeping well.

Love Dani and Michael

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