The Great African Gap Year

Are you planning to do the four-week Cambridge CELTA TEFL course?
I did the course in May 2009 at the Manchester Academy of English and here's my tip for anyone thinking of doing it - they will tell you it's intensive, they will tell you it's hard work, they will tell you to entirely give up all your social life for the duration of the course. They are not kidding! It's all of that. It's also a damn good course and well worth the money. If anyone wants more info from someone who's been there and done that, drop me an .
Here's another tip - there is a book called "Concept Questions and Timelines" by Graham Workman. This was not on the recommended books list for the course, nor was it in the school's library. In fact I didn't find out about its existence until nearly the end of the course when it was too late. As far as I know it's the only one of its kind, and I would strongly recommend anyone doing the course to get it. If you don't know what CCQs are now, believe me they will be haunting your dreams by the end of the course!
With UK Plc sinking into the depths of recession, sleaze and nannyism I have decided to take life by the throat and head off back to Africa, this time for a whole year. It has been many months in the planning, during which I have done a four-week intensive course in teaching English as a foreign language (see panel), cleared the house of junk some of which dated back to the seventies, floored the loft, pumped out the cellar, and packed everything that's left into cardboard boxes, but I am finally ready. My rusksack is packed, my house is let (or will be soon I hope) and my flight to Lilongwe, Malawi is booked for 01/01/10 - the first day of the first year of the rest of my life.
Having decided to take this plunge, one of the hardest things was deciding what to do when I got there. There are any number of voluntary organisations all over Africa doing all sorts of projects, most of whom want a fairly hefty chunk of money as well as your time. I had already decided that I would like to get away from the whole IT thing, and as I love the English language (a dying skill these days) and get on well with kids (although I would never teach in England) it seemed like a good idea to teach English in schools.
Malawi seemed a good place to start, as I know the country reasonably well, and I remembered that I had come across some volunteers when I was at the Lake Of Stars festival in 2006. So it is that I have signed up for three months with Ripple Africa, based at Mwaya Beach on the shores of beautiful Lake Malawi.
Ripple Africa
RIPPLE Africa’s mission is
  • to improve the standard of education and healthcare,
  • to preserve and sustainably develop the environment, and
  • to create opportunities for the local community 
around Mwaya on the northern lakeshore of Lake Malawi

If you would like to learn more about Ripple Africa visit their web site at
If you would like to help me to help Ripple Africa with the work they are doing you can donate online at

Lake Malawi
The school year in Malawi is slightly different from ours, consisting of three three-month terms starting in January, and with it being September by the time I booked, I was advised to hang on a bit longer and come at the start of the year. As a result, I am now booked to fly to Lilongwe on Friday 01/01/10, arriving on Saturday leaving just time for a steak at Don Brioni's before I catch the new 'luxury' Axa bus up the lake to Mwaya Beach on Sunday 3rd in time for the first day of term on Monday 4th - it's going to be a baptism of fire!

Watch this space to find out how I get on.
I've got myself an Asus eee 910 webbook computer to take with me so that I can try to keep this web diary up-to-date as I go.

I've also started a Tips for Traveling in Africa page which I will also update as I go. If you find it useful please - likewise if you feel that I have got anything wrong or left anything out.

Stop press 29/12/09. A huge thank-you to Rowland's Pharmacy, and especially to Judy Henley, the area manger, who authorised the donation of 25 of medical supplies to go out to Ripple Africa's schools and medical centre, and to Cheryl in the Rhos-On-Sea shop who spent nearly an hour with me picking out the best things to take.

Index of pages

  Posted on
Farewell party and final preparations  19 December 2009
The first two weeks at Ripple 16 Jan 2010
Settling into a routine 14 Feb 2010
School Holidays : Painting Matate Primary - Visa run to Mozambique 19 Mar 2010
Romeo and Juliet at Kapanda Community Day Secondary School 09 Apr 2010
Farewell Ripple - hello Butterfly 06 May 2010
Lions at Mwabvi 02 June 2010
South Luangwa and Majete National Parks 20 June 2010
Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve - and my adventures come to an untimely end 21 July 2010

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