Monday, April 11, 2011

Better English on Kapas Island

The good people in the Social Sciences department at our Institute had been planning an island retreat to improve their spoken English, and when we showed up they had the idea to invite us as facilitators and well, why not?

But then the rain set in ... and it was put off because the boat is not very big and the sea was too rough etc. So this weekend they decided to try again ... and on the day we were due to go it started to rain and rain and rain ...

We half expected another cancellation, but the trip went ahead.

The boat trip across was quite rough and bouncy, with waves crashing into the cracked perspex window in the prow, water trickling down onto our baggage - but life jackets were available for the faint at heart.

Kapas Island Resort

The resort has not been maintained at the four star standard it once was, but that does not detract from the natural beauty of the place.

The dining room / reception area is one of those delightful open verandah-type places, with ceiling fans and big wooden tables.

With the weather being a bit weird this year, there were only one or two tourists other than our group, and a big poster advertised our course.

Finding afternoon tea already laid out as we arrived, the whole group quickly settled in and chowed down. Of course, the food was all local style - something I find a little hard to deal with especially as almost everything is heavily laced with chili.

For this afternoon tea, there were two options, one of which was something hot and spicy, and I chose the other dish: In my little bowl, here, I have something made from peas or beans, very sweet, which they told me should be eaten with bread. I managed a little, and a cup of hot black coffee helped wash it all down!

This is Yusoff, the department head and driving force behind the whole event, who brought his wife along for the workshop. They are eating something like prawn crackers, quite greasy and fishy-tasting.

Accommodation was in chalets spread along a path, with verandahs looking out over a grassy area.

Inside was basic, but air conditioned and spacious - with a king bed and a single, a tiny TV with rabbit-ears antenna, and a tiny (empty) fridge.

The bathroom had once had luxuries such as hot water and probably even a shower rose.

We dumped our bags, changed into acceptable swimming gear (long shorts and t-shirt), and plunged into the ocean.

Ohhhhh WOW!! This is exactly the right temperature for swimming water! Just a hint of cold (now it's just not nice when it's body temperature or more, is it!), just right for a refreshing dip.

And then, after that, it didn't seem to matter that we had to stand under a 'cold' (well, hardly!) rose-less shower to get rid of the salt.

The resort also boasts quite a nice little swimming pool, but we never got around to trying it with the ocean being so pleasurable (and, yes, it is raining - again - in this photo, not that it matters because the rain isn't cold ...)


Of course we were there to work, and they were there to study. A rigorous series of 8 2-hour sessions had been planned for us to present over the 2-3 days.

This is the meeting place - upstairs where there is an airconditioned, carpeted, windowless room designed for conferences etc.

Everyone dutifully traipsed upstairs, slipped off their shoes, and looked to us expectantly.

On the first evening we had planned some ice-breaking activities - even though these people claimed they all knew each other really well - and in no time at all everyone was laughing uproarously and learning English despite themselves.

The next morning the serious work began.

The subject was stress - something that is particulary tricky for Malays. But we handed out lacky bands ...

and soon everyone was clapping and stretching out stress patterns - with continuing glee and some hilarity.

The lesson was reinforced with some good old Bingo! games, with everyone having a turn at being the 'caller' and practising their new skills while others marked their Bingo cards with sunflower seeds.

Peter's sessions were about giving presentations, and at the end they each had to present a short talk to the group on a subject Peter had selected for them.

Again there was a great deal of laughter and fun mixed in with the learning and practising of skills.

A snorkling outing had been promised, and as the beach in front of the resort boasts nothing but sand and dead coral we were to be taken by boat to a neighbouring island, Gem Island, which still has a coral reef.

Unfortunately the rain closed in and the boat was stuck on the mainland - we only got to see Gem from our boat on the way home the last day.

But we all went snorkling near the jetty where we had first arrived. Everyone (else) donned life jackets (I find I can just lie there and float in salt water, nothing can make me sink! :) ) and snorkels, and one of the resort workers dumped a whole lot of bread pieces into the water, enticing the fish - mostly like large angel fish - to swim around a bit for our enjoyment.

The trees along the beach are tropical almonds - just like we had on Murray Island - and the warm air and balmy breezes made us feel very nostalgic for our home of the 80s.

By the time we had to leave, the weather was clear and bright.

The boat trip back to the mainland was a breeze, calm seas and an easy ride.

Tomorrow we all head back to work at the Institute and this will seem like a dream, except that we will bump into new friends as we walk around at work.

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