Saturday, 6 June 2009

Return Volunteers Weekend

Harborne Hall VSO Training Centre Birmingham

There has to be something that rounds it all off and this was it. We were invited in early May to return to Birmingham to Harborne Hall where we had trained as VSOs for a weekend of meeting up, debrief and looking at the future.

It was an excellent weekend and we met many people with whom we had trained and caught up with their adventures in different parts of the world.

A walk in the Harborne Hall Gardens - bluebells and a wonderful time to return home

We had an opportunity to meet up with the new VSO Chief Executive, Marg Mayne who was very keen to hear feedback from all the volunteers. I volunteered to be on the VLG, Volunteer Liaison Group who help with these wekends on a two year stint. I was selected and I'm sure that will give me an opportunity to reamain "in touch". I'm also on the focus group for The Global Schools' Prize and have put myself forward to be a VSO selector. So the VSO experience has not ended for me.

Quite a few people were re-volunteering but it's not the right time for us at the moment but I'm very keen that it is something we will tackle again in the future.

One volunteer summed up the way he felt and it also applies to me.....

"When I'm there, I want to be here and 
when I'm here I want to be there!"

There must be something in that.

Catching up with new friends

Meeting Ann again in Ellesmere Port

There are many advantages in doing VSO, but one of them is the people and making new friends who, without a doubt, will be friends for life, because you have shared so much with them.

Meg and Stephen

Within less than a week of our return, Meg (VSO NCERD colleague from Southport) stayed with us on her way back to New York to see her new grandchild again - Emily. She stayed on the way back and a few weeks later, when we had finally got wheels again (not bicycles this time) we were on our way "Up North" to Southport to see her.

We even went on the "Duck" trip around Liverpool

Round and about Liverpool

We had a great few days and the Guyana experience really flooded back. We were tourists around the area and in Liverpool and then went on to Ellesmere Port to see Ann who had also worked in NCERD but had left a year earlier. What a great time we had together! There were no silent moments and Guyana really came black to life whilst we were visiting Chester and New Brighton (last time there in 1960!).

After "Church"

They both gave us the greatest welcome and I know that when we go to visit Sanny (CPCE lecturer) in Ireland in two weeks time it will be just as good.

In fact, we now have friends all over the world and look forward to extensive travels and, of course, if you are one of them, you are equally welcome here.

Arriving Home

It's over two years since we left England to go on our Guyanese adventure and so much has happened in that time and it has changed our lives FOREVER!

It was a good and uneventful flight and we arrived at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of of the morning on 2nd March 2009 to be met by Dan, Matt and Ann. It was weird. Walking in the house (without lodgers) and all for us was a strange experience. I couldn't resist looking into rooms I hadn't seen and opening drawers and cupboards just to see what was there. Matt and Lucy (and the lodgers) had looked after the place really well but there was a lot to do, mainly unpacking boxes which were all piled up in one of the rooms. The garden was neat but the trees and shrubs had had a whale of a time whilst we were away and bits had disappeared altogether.

So we set about the task of reorganising our lives, not back to the way they were, but the way they were going to be from now on as a retired couple with sooooo much to do that we wouldn't have found the time to work. We decided to call our retirement "sabbatical" because it was clearly a short time "time off" with a lot more to come when we got around to it and when we wanted to do it (whatever "IT" was) at our own pace. But there were one or two things to do before I can really end this blog.

Read on..........

Viva Las Vegas

Venice and the canals inside the Venetian Hotel

Well, we have come from the sublime to the ridiculous or the ridiculous to the sublime. I'm not sure which it is. Guyana to Las Vegas. So different, but I think Guyana definitely wins but Las Vegas has its good points. We have been before and thought we would probably never return but, last time, we didn't go to see the Grand Canyon and that was our motivation this time. Not only that, it's warmer than New York (about 22C) and after 10 days of minus 6C and 35C before that in Guyana we needed a bit more of moderate climate!

The front entrance of the Venetian

Apart from the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas has some amazing deals on at the moment. We are staying in the Venetian which is at the north end of the main part of the Strip. It has over 250 shops and around 50 restaurants in the hotel alone and we have an amazing suite with 3 TVs, sunken living area and out of this world bathroom for the price of a B & B in England. So luxury is the order of the day and we have it for 6 nights.

We enjoy a drink in the Paris Hotel

Mary couldn't resist taking a picture of the loos in the Paris

Half way through the week we went to the Canyon, via the Hoover Dam, by coach -5 hours each way but it was well worth it for what you see on the way. We went to the South Rim, which is more untouched and probably has some of the best views. We didn't get the Skywalk (walking on glass over the Canyon) but the IMAX I think was amazing and better! This has been a real treat and lives up to its name of the most visited natural tourist destination on the planet. Having visited some of the others I can see why.

The Hoover Dam

But, here's the crunch - Kaieteur (Falls) in Guayana is the largest single drop waterfall in the world and although it cannot compete with the GC for size, it is equally impressive for its wild, untouched, raw state and simple lack of people and tourists - a rare site on Earth.

However, we cannot say there were no tourists in LV because, even though it was February, it was packed. The hotels were splendid, the entertainment really enjoyable and the phasing back into a reasonable temperature was really pleasant. We have had a great 6 days.

South Rim

And now we are on our way back to England from Las Vegas to Los Angeles using New Zealand Airways after two exciting, fulfilling and really enjoyable two years in our second home - Guyana.