Marhaba, my name is Yasmin and I am the Arabic tutor at VLLC Melbourne. After five years of celebrating Ramadan on my own in Australia, I was so excited to spend it this year with my family in Egypt.
Every year millions of Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Fasting brings Muslims closer to God and reminds them of those who are less fortunate. It makes us very grateful for what we do have. By refraining from the worldly desires such as food and drink, Muslims develop and strengthen their powers of self-control and self-restraint so that they can then apply it to their everyday life to bring about self-improvement.
Although Ramadan may seem to be a hard and difficult month, it is, in fact, a very enjoyable time. Families come together and enjoy the delicious food for the breaking the fast and the pre-dawn meals. The shared experience of not eating or drinking all day unites Muslims both as a family and community in the Mosques where Muslims gather together to break their fast with other people also observing the fast that day.
Celebrating Ramadan in Egypt is a very special and unique event. Egypt has one of the oldest and richest Ramadan heritage in the whole Arab world, ranging from lights to cannons to night callers. Egyptians welcome Ramadan with the Fanoos or Ramadan lanterns. They decorate their homes with the colourful lanterns and children swing with their new glowing lanterns while singing Ramadan songs. Using the Fanoos as decorations is believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate. Egyptians welcomed the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo in 969 during the month of Ramadan by lighting hundreds of lanterns.
Another interesting tradition of Ramadan in Egypt is the firing of the cannon. The firing of the cannon marks sunrise and sunset therefore signalling the time for beginning and ending the fast. This tradition started during the time of Khedive Mohamed Ali (1805-1848) when he ordered a number of cannons for the Egyptian army, and so it happened that one cannon was accidentally fired during sunset in Ramadan and people then thought that this was a new tradition ordered by the Khedive.
Finally, one of Ramadan’s special traditions is the Mesarahaty or drummer. Each morning during the month of Ramadan, an hour or two before dawn, drummers tour the streets, hammering out a repetitive beat to wake people up to have their pre-dawn meal. This tradition dates back to the Ottoman era when people didn’t have alarm clocks to wake them for their pre-dawn meals, drummers would walk through the streets beating their drums.
If you are planning to visit Egypt in future make sure you come during the month of Ramadan so you can enjoy the special atmosphere it has in the country. Shukran, Yasmin.
April is Thai month at VLLC! You might wonder, why April? The answer is that April is the month of Songkran festival, which is the Thai New Year festival. The festival usually starts on 13rd of April every year. This usually continues for a week (or more!) depending on where you are; the middle parts of Thailand tend to finish later on around the 25th. Many people know of Songkran as a water festival, where people come out of their homes to have water fights on the streets. We use containers (e.g. a garbage can and a bowl), to hurl water at people. This helps us to stay cool in the middle of April, when the weather is hottest, and most humid. Water fights also provide a good opportunity for family members to have fun as a family. When I was a child, I remember sitting and waiting for my cousins to arrive on the first day of Songkran, and wishing Songkran could last forever! Those were the days…
There is another aspect, a spiritual aspect, to the Songkran festival. The Thai people are mostly Buddhists, and they usually take this opportunity to make merit (do good deeds) at their local Wat (temple) in the early morning on the first day of Songkran. We believe in karma, and that making merit at the beginning of the year will bring luck and happiness. After we finish at the temple, we return home to be with our family, especially our elders. Then, traditionally, they bless us, and splash a Thai perfume on us, as a symbol of good fortune. After that, it is time to enjoy food, drink, and especially water fights, in order to celebrate the rest of Songkran; the best holiday in Thailand.
This is going to be the third consecutive Songkran that I will miss. If you have a chance to visit Thailand, please consider joining in and getting wet during Songkran. You will have fun, learn about Thai culture, make many friends, and bring back many fun memories. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Thai month at VLLC always reminds me of the good times I had in Thailand in Songkran month.
Barramee, VLLC Thai Tutor.
Paul is a student at VLLC - learning Japanese so that he and his wife can return to Japan and renew their vows with meaning.
'My wife and I both love Japan, we love the beauty, culture and history of Japan. We organised a holiday to Japan and leading up to the trip we got engaged, we thought why not share this experience in this beautiful setting. We got married at the Kamigamo shrine in Kyoto. We got to wear traditional attire for the ceremony, My wife's kimono was so delicate and treasured that she had to have a personal assistant to constantly adjust the dress and help her with any actions that she couldn't perform being restrained in the outfit.
The ceremony itself was conducted in both Japanese and English by the Shinto priest, as per tradition both families drank sake together and my wife and I went up to the shrine and I spoke out our vows, in English and then we made the branch offering and asked for blessings for a happy family.
My vision is to learn Japanese with VLLC and go back to Japan, experience Japan with a new perspective and be able to interact on a whole new level, revisit the Kamigamo shrine and repeat the ceremony all in Japanese.
Hola¡ my name is Ben and I studied Spanish at VLLC. I decided to start learning a language for two reasons; firstly after spending some time in Spain, I returned thinking that I would have got more from the trip if I could have spoken the language. I want to go back to Spain, as well as travel to South America, hence my first reason to learn Spanish. The second reason is that my workplace now has an office in Chile and being able to speak Spanish may open up opportunities for me to work in this office or overseas. The VLLC program’s combination of online study and 1-1 tutorials is very enjoyable, the tutors are great teachers and I am finding that what I am learning is sticking, having studied a language at high school the approach of VLLC seems to work much better. I have tentatively tried out my new found Spanish skills in a few restaurants and with colleagues at work, to my surprise they have understood me! It has been very rewarding experience.
This month we are focusing on all things Spanish. Other than completing a few lessons in Spanish 15 years ago, and attempting to learn Latin dancing, I have had zero experience with the Hispanic culture. While I was learning Italian, my tutors kept telling me I was sounding like an Italian person speaking Spanish and I must admit that if I didn’t know a word, I tried an Italian one to keep the conversation going. It worked 50% of the time.
But in this holiday, we went to the beautiful city of Madrid and were wowed by the history and grandeur of this wonderful European city. We were amazed at how ‘alive’ the city was and as well as the small cobblestoned streets, there were wide, broad boulevards with lots of greenery and parks. We also couldn’t believe how late people (including small children) ate!!
The Royal Palace was larger than any I have seen in Russia (would you believe it) and we went into the oldest restaurant in the world which was founded in 1725. The history of the place (Botin Restaurant) is amazing and its specialty is whole suckling pigs (I have a photo but didn’t want to offend anyone!!).
But what amazed me the most was all the shops with jambon – Jamón Ibérico is considered the finest ham in the world.
Every second shop was filled with this delicacy and priced accordingly. Yes I did try a few varieties and it was best on fresh bread with butter (a bit like caviar!!) I’ve only seen a little part of Spain and nothing of South America – I’d love to hear some of your stories…
I began part-time language studies with VLLC at the end of January 2014. In May, I decided to move my plans forward by 6 months and audition in January 2015. I commenced full-time German studies in June and completed my Certificate III in Foreign Language Studies assessments in early December, just in time for my departure to Germany on December 30th. I had applied to 5 music academies in Germany and my first audition was at my first preference university; the Detmold HfM (see picture above). What only needs to be said is that the audition process was daunting and conducted only in German. There were many applicants who did not pass the language test and were given 3 months to immerse themselves in German, and then resit the test with the result of being "de-matriculated" if they did not pass the second time. For my second audition, I was billeted in Berlin. A plaque located on the wall outside the apartment block in which I was staying noted that it had been Albert Einstein's residence in 1914, during his composition of the 'Theory of Relativity'. At this time I was notified of my acceptance into Detmold HfM and my success of passing all associated entrance examinations. I didn't continue with any other auditions because my dreams had come true and I made my way back to Detmold.
Having been a musician for many years, I know the importance of having elite tutors. Without finding a quality piano teacher and a certified language provider I wouldn't be a student (for the next 4 years) at the Detmold Hochschule für Musik. Joanne, Iris, Marion, Mali and all associated staff at the VLLC seriously understood the importance of my goal, tailored my programme and made the lessons enjoyable and pertinent. They are interested in my progress and continue to keep in touch. One of my tutors, Iris (who I had only ever met online) has since visited me in Detmold and it was my first contact with someone from home since I left in December. It was like a family member had come a calling.
I would highly recommend VLLC to anyone who wants to learn another language.
I love what I do! I work with wonderful people from around the globe, and I get to travel regularly. Ok, not physically, but through my students. The only people I know who get to travel to so many different places without having to live out of a suitcase, are my colleagues.
Somewhat vicarious some might say – wouldn’t you rather go there yourself? Sometimes yes, but it is really special being able to share a student’s journey - from a little idea or dream, to starting their course and then going, it is lovely to be a part of it.
As many of you may know, one of our French students recently bought his one-way ticket to France. He is now settling in in the heart of Paris, and this week, resumes his French course via Skype.
In a few weeks another student will get married in Greece and for the first time, be able to have some simple conversations with her new extended family.
In addition, every day I get to hear my wonderful tutors share their language and culture with our students-helping the dream become a reality.
So keep dreaming, keep travelling-I’m there!
Melinda, VLLC Melbourne
My name is Sue and I am married with 2 teenage children and live at Norton Summit in the Adelaide Hills. Why did I decide to learn Indonesian? I have been wanting to learn Indonesian after visiting Sumatra a couple of years ago and a number of times since. I am expecting to travel to Indonesia a few times a year on an ongoing basis and I want to be able to speak with the locals on their terms and to understand and participate in conversations with them.
A bit of background on what I do. It all started when I wanted to take my family on a bit of an adventure holiday to see the orangutans in Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra a couple of years ago. Something really special happened while I was over there, I fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. I came away just wanting to help them in any way I could and decided that the best way to do this was to help them with some new employment opportunities, by setting up a tour and trekking company with a number of local guides. The aim is to attract more visitors to this special part of the world, ensuring that the proceeds of these tours go back to the local people and communities. When I mentioned this idea to them, they became very excited about the creation of new employment opportunities in sustainable ecotourism, as an alternative to mining, land clearance and palm oil. They were wondering how I could help and I said that back in Australia I run an eco winery and guest houses, with my main role being websites, enquiries, bookings, marketing and promotion and I would be happy to help them in a volunteer role. Well they could not believe their luck because these were just skills they needed to make this idea become a reality. So Sumatra Adventure Holidays was born! I set about developing a website and Facebook page over a year ago and before I knew it the enquiries started rolling in from all over the world! As things progressed, I wanted to do even more for the local people, so I suggested Sumatra Adventure Holidays join the Pack for a Purpose Program, where visitors can give back to the local community by bringing supplies with them for the local schools when they go on a school visit. To date we are the only company to be involve in the program in Sumatra, but I hope a lot more will join this program because it is such a worthwhile thing to do.
While it is still early days, the local guides, businesses, guesthouses, the community and their families are so grateful to be actively involved in this new tourism venture and they are all hoping that it will be a huge success in the future and so do I. So if you are interested in minimal impact sustainable tourism in places a little off the beaten track and like the idea of tourism where all of the tour proceeds are reinvested in the local community, please consider Sumatra Adventure Holidays for your next holiday :). Please have a look at the amazing tours and treks we have developed on www.sumatraadventureholidays.com
I travel back to Sumatra often, so if anyone has any donations they would like me to take over I will be more than happy to take them with me, such as school consumable supplies (the list is on the Pack for a Purpose website on the Sumatra Adventure Holidays page) and good condition clothing. I am also doing a technology drive for the guides and I am looking for donations of old smart phones, laptops, digital cameras and old iPods that people are no longer using) If you can help, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 08 83901995. If you are interested in volunteering with any of our environmental or other projects please go to our website www.selangpangeranvolunteer.wordpress.com .
Here are some stories about VLLC' students and why they are learning a language