The Asian Circle

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KHTravels are working with The Asian Circle on a mission to support vulnerable women in India and South Asia. We are honoured to be assisting with their social media campaign raising awareness of the fantastic work that they carry out daily. Please help spread the word and follow them on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram!

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The Asian Circle is working together with Oxfam in the tribal Adivasi communities in North East India to challenge the social acceptance of sexual and domestic violence against women. Oxfam is helping the government, police and judiciary to apply the laws that protect women. This includes setting up support centres in police stations to provide shelter, legal advice, counselling and launching a state-wide campaign to raise awareness of and change attitudes towards violence against women.

Around the world, 35% of women and girls suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day dedicated to raise public awareness about this and other appalling statistics and that is what we’re doing!

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Volunteering isn’t easy

Something we’ve seen with lots of bloggers and are guilty of ourselves is only sharing the good parts of volunteering… Those unforgettable moments or cute selfies with the kids.

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The truth is volunteering isn’t easy and can be really tough. Of course the good bits are incredible and it’s natural to share these moments with family and friends but you tend to keep the bad bits to yourself, it’s easier that way. It’s hard to explain but you feel if you share your negative experiences that you are letting yourself down.

We’ve volunteered several times internationally and each experience has had its difficulties. We’ve decided to share some of our hard days with you and how we’ve overcome them. If you’re considering volunteering abroad it’s good to know what you’re letting yourself in for!

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Firstly prepare yourself for very basic accommodation with no luxuries; uncomfortable beds, little sleep, no fans or AC, mosquito bites, squat toilets, hand washing clothes, no TV and no wifi! Culture shock can also be a little daunting, when volunteering you’re often in remote communities that may not have seen foreigners before so make sure you do plenty of research into local customs before your arrival. These are the first things to come to terms with and the rest will fall into place.

In Vietnam and Cambodia we experienced extreme language barriers. We struggled enormously, particularly in Cambodia where the children were not very well behaved. Teaching classes of 30+ students that do not even understand ‘sit down’ was frankly a nightmare! We quickly realised we couldn’t improvise and had to spend time planning for each class. Using pictures was very helpful so we spent the nights hand drawing in preparation for the next day. Action songs are also great to keep the small children occupied whilst engaging them in learning English. One thing for sure is don’t assume the children will know basic English, especially in the poorer communities because… they don’t! There will also be very few facilities so pack what teaching materials you can as it will make your life a lot easier.

In the Philippines we experienced extreme poverty. On the daily commute to our volunteer placement we saw so many street children that we wanted to help, but what could we do? We couldn’t just walk past and found giving the children food was a great way to help. We often bought snacks for them to eat and always took away any food we had left over in restaurants to give out. Also after days of deliberating we started talking to them. They are children after all and much of their day is spent begging or sitting on the streets bored. Taking the time to chat and play simple games we soon had them laughing and although the simplest thing, a smile sometimes makes everything feel better.

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We’re currently at Our Home Community Orphanage in India. It’s our third time volunteering here but this time we are spending almost three months living at the orphanage. It has exposed us to their everyday life and the real struggles they face each day that you just wouldn’t know about from visiting for a few days.

The days are long and hot, especially now it is the summer holidays. The children wake up very early, some at 4:45am and do not sleep until after 10pm. Previously we worked in London and without our daily commutes and working hours we realise how much time there is in a day. With limited resources there is only so much you can do and quite often we find ourselves looking for something new to do with the kids but without the energy to do it because of the heat.

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Being with children 24/7 is also pretty tough. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely adore them but anyone with or around children at home will know this themselves, sometimes you need a break especially when it’s 42 kids you’re trying to occupy! We have found ourselves missing adult company, family, friends and ‘normal’ things that we do at home. It’s a huge lifestyle change that we’ve had to adjust too.

The lack of water in Wayanad at the moment is a big problem, being here in the height of summer means extreme water rationing. We are experiencing a drought and often have not had water for two or three days so no flushing the toilet after a number two, no showers after sweating all day … there’s nothing worse right? Wrong. This is the children’s drinking water so there’s us upset we can’t shower whilst the children are thirsty which makes us feel even worse. As well as the water the electricity also comes and goes as it pleases, usually at night so food cannot be prepared and dinner can be very late.

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This brings us on to money issues. Living at the orphanage we’re exposed to the day to day money stresses they endure and some days all they have to eat is boiled rice. We don’t even eat rice at home so having that as the only food option is tough and we spend nights dreaming of Pizza Hut takeouts!

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Spending so much time with the children we have formed some really strong relationships. It is only natural that they feel that they can open up to us and although we’ve never asked them questions, a few have told us about their past experiences and how they came to be at the orphanage. Sitting listening to some of the horror stories they have been through is absolutely heartbreaking and probably the hardest part of all. We’ve sat holding back the tears whilst they have opened their hearts to us. All we want to do is cuddle and protect them from ever being hurt again and take away their painful memories. These stories just play over and over in our minds and we have spent a few nights sobbing at the thought of what they have been through.

Finally, saying goodbye. Everywhere we have volunteered it’s always been tough saying an emotional goodbye to the children we’ve formed bonds with but Our Home is completely different, these children are our family. The past two times we’ve left have been hard enough, we dread to think how we’re going to leave them this time.

So how do we overcome these difficulties? We do what the children do and get on with it. You never hear them moaning “there’s no water” “I don’t want rice” “I’m bored” they are our biggest inspiration and motivation to get through the hard parts. Each day is a new start and we always find if we’ve had a bad day after a sleep we wake up feeling better and a positive attitude can change anything. Remember this when you’re feeling low because coming home is just as hard if not harder. You miss everything you hated, you find it so hard eating the pizza you wanted because you’re thinking of the children eating their rice and all of a sudden your ‘normal’ isn’t so normal anymore.

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Our biggest advice would be to enjoy every single minute of it. Volunteering is an amazing, life changing experience despite the fact it isn’t easy. Accept all of the bad parts and try to enjoy them the best you can, remember why you’re there. Don’t pretend to yourself and others that everything is always okay, it’s not and that’s what makes your journey. Express how you’re feeling and don’t bottle up those hard parts, embrace them.

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Life brings tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever.

Happy HOLIdays

The last two weeks have been as jam packed as the others, however the school holidays have now started and we are all enjoying some time to relax, especially as the temperature is rising by the day!

IMG_0384Last weekend we had the opportunity to experience something new and very unique. There was a local movie premiere being held in the town close us, Kalpetta. Chacko and Avi, who run the Our Home, are good friends with one of the main actors so he very kindly donated tickets to all of the children. ‘Take Off’ was a Malayalam film but we were able to understand the storyline with a little help from the older boys. It was far from your typical Bollywood movie and instead focussed on real life ISIS events when a group of Indian nurses working in Iraq were stranded in the war torn city of Mosure. It was a very touching storyline that we thoroughly enjoyed, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it does well as it’s being shown exclusively in Kerala at the moment but it has the potential to go big in India! Our first ever movie premiere was brilliant and we even got to meet some of the actors. A memory both us and the children will never forget.

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The onsite school has closed for summer now and the children all had mixed emotions. Some are excited but others are sad at the thought of not seeing their friends for two months. The last day at school was a busy one, the Science Exhibition was held as it had been postponed from its earlier date. They were all so enthusiastic to show us their inventions and we couldn’t believe some of the masterpieces the kids from local villages had created. Our favourites included real electric fans made from cardboard, batteries and tiny motors and clay volcanos complete with lava and dinosaur models! There were also awards to be given out from the sports and art days held earlier in the year and we were delighted to be asked to present these to the kids. It was a great atmosphere as all of the winners collected their medals and trophies.

We missed Holi Festival due to the exams so to celebrate the end of the school year we bought some powder paints to play with on the first day of the summer holidays. It was just as we expected having seen many photos of Holi Festival and the amount of colour was overwhelming. We ran about chasing each other with the paint for a good couple of hours and it was so fun! It was a really good activity to get both the girls and boys involved in and we were like big kids too. We got some incredible photos of the children playing and this day is such a special memory that will stay with us forever.

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Throughout India there is still a huge amount of work to be done before women will be considered equal to men. Having worked with the Asian Circle we want to do everything we can to work towards equality for women and girls of this country. An estimated three million girls are out of school in India and it’s shocking statistics like this that need to change. At Our Home the girls are treated exactly the same as the boys and they all receive the same education, Chacko and Avi are such an inspiration in the work they do with these children and we wanted to enhance that. We spent a day with the girls simply chatting about how important their education is, what they wanted to do when they grew up and motivating them that if they put their mind to it they can achieve anything their heart desires!

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Our meal this week meant an early start as we decided to change it up a bit and cook breakfast. We opted for omelette with plenty of chilli and onion served with bread bread, sweetened of course as we can’t find regular bread anywhere. This dish was an improvement on our attempt at sweet chilli noodles, and the children loved the taste … as did we!

All in all it’s been two weeks filled with a good meal, lots of laughter, celebrations and our first Indian movie premiere! There’s always something unexpected in store and that’s what we love about India.

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Backyard Cinema

Whilst travelling the world, would you believe one of the things we really enjoyed doing was checking out each country’s cinemas. Every single one we visited, from Oz to the Philippines and India, were SO much better than British cinemas. Tickets at less than a quarter of our price, a huge range of snacks all less than £1 and the quality of the  cinemas themselves were second to none.

When we returned home we were not looking forward to paying way over the odds at Vue, or sitting in a hot, stinky room at Premiere. So, when we discovered Backyard Cinema, we were overjoyed! With tickets starting from £16.50  you’re not only seeing a film, but you’re getting a fantastic experience too. The first time we visited we saw Jurassic World in an exclusive jungle themed set up, venturing deep through the jungle before taking our seats in comfy beanbags!

More recently we saw Home Alone in their Winter Night Garden extravaganza, and the set it self was like being in a movie; fairy lights, Christmas woodland, themed cocktails and blankets to snuggle with and get in the festive mood!

If you’re travelling in London we can’t recommend you visit this place enough. We’re super excited to see what ideas they come up with next! You can check out all of the packages and film screenings they offer here.

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Natural History Museum Ice Rink

It’s pretty hard to beat Christmas in London and with it being our home city we’re trying a range of different festive activities to recommend to you guys, starting with ice skating at the Natural History Museum venue.

5The outside entrance to the NHM has been transformed into a winter wonderland, sponsored by Swarovski you can imagine how beautiful and glistening it is. The actual ice rink has a great view of the museum and is of a good size, leaving you with plenty of space to skate together… or fall to the floor depending on your skills! The main thing is, it isn’t so packed that you can’t move – which is the problem with a lot of London rinks this time of year.

A cute bonus is the Swarovski skate cam, located on the rink you can pose for a Christmas photo in the stunning setting and collect a print out for free after or download it online. Perfect for H who is a sucker for souvenirs, and we’re sure many of you are too! After your skate relax in the upstairs café with a hot drink and snack whilst overlooking the magical view.

Our only negative comment is that it’s recommended you get there 40 mins prior to your booking time, so we rushed straight from work to arrive early and were given our skates pretty much immediately and were then left waiting around. However, we can expect the closer to Christmas it gets the busier the rink becomes – so take this as you will!

We would totally recommend this Christmas ice skating experience. Reasonably priced, fab atmosphere in truly iconic surroundings- the perfect Christmas date night!

Price: Adults from £12.95

Availability: Open until 8th December

Tickets: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html

Yo Bitch, let’s cook!

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Being huge fans of Breaking Bad, when we heard about ABQ London we just had to go. It’s a bar inside a replica RV that Mr. White and Jessie cooked in, set in east London. With the theme tune playing on arrival all bitches are greeted with your first cocktail; a trademark Heisenberg blue mojito in a laboratory flask!

The bar features an array of things you will recognise from the hit TV series, although we won’t go into too much detail and ruin it for you! You’re given yellow suits to put on and get into character then seated at small tables with all sorts of cool equipment. With a menu of 6 cocktails to choose from including Walt Junior’s breakfast, you are shown how to make the cocktails briefly and then left to your own devices to play around. The cocktails we made were all delicious as well as being fun to construct, think along the lines of bars like The Alchemist but even better!

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The cost for this awesome event is £30 per person and this includes the welcome cocktail and two which you cook yourself! If you think the average price for a cocktail in London is normally more than £10 then you’re bagging yourself a bargain whilst experiencing something so unique! You can book your tickets here. Unfortunately, “all bad things must come to an end!” but this is certainly a date night to remember!

Could we BE bigger Friends Fans?!

 

Being away for the whole of 2015 we were gutted to miss Comedy Central’s one and only Friends Fest in London, so this year when we heard it was coming back and touring the country, we couldn’t BE any more excited!

After a manic rush to ensure we got the tickets which were like gold dust, we had a long wait until  the day would finally come at Highlands House. H’s mum joined us too being a fully-fledged friends fan. Pivet!

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t have picked a worse day to go, the heavens opened and it was raining non-stop. Despite the fact we couldn’t make the most of the big screen showing famous friends clips and lay around with cocktails in hand, we didn’t let the dull weather dampen our moods!

Basically it’s a day full of fab photo opportunities, the perfect situation for H! From the Chapel where Ross and Rachel got married in Vegas, Joey and Chandler’s front room, to the opening scene with the sofa and umbrellas, all of the favourite Friends sets are ready and waiting for you to enter! You can grab a coffee (or in our cases the ultimate hot mocolate) from Central Perk, or get a bite to eat from Monica’s Moonlight Diner! Fajitas anyone!? Or if you’re brave enough you can learn Phoebe’s lyrics to smelly cat and Ross and Monica’s NYE dance before performing them live on stage. OH MY GOD!

Let’s face it, this is the ultimate geek day… but as a true Friends fan, you will love it! Unfortunately, tickets are now all sold out this year, but keep an eye out, we’re sure it will be making a return next year … did she get off the plane?

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