Wednesday 23 November 2016

My First Harry Potter Film! 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' Review

Fantastic Beasts has been out less than a week but I’ve already seen it twice! 

Anyone that’s had more than a one-minute-long conversation with me will know I am a teensy weensy bit obsessed with all things Harry Potter. This completely rational love for J.K Rowling’s work has however, posed a problem when it came to the film versions of the books. I cannot sit through a Harry Potter film without numerous frustrated sighs, countless angry protestations and eventually storming out of the room. That said, I felt like a little kid at Christmas when I heard Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was being made into a film. I have read the Harry Potter Series over 20 times, I have read Fantastic Beasts once. This leaves little room for expectations and very few potential complaints. I was overjoyed to finally have a Harry Potter film I could watch without pulling my hair out.

I’m not a film critic so I won’t attempt to give any kind of sophisticated review; these are just my thoughts on what might be my new favourite film.

The plot is at first glance simple: Newt Scamander loses some magical creatures in 1920’s New York. There are of course, other storylines, all of which are equally interesting. I especially enjoyed how the lighter, funnier side was contrasted with the more sinister, serious side. I loved the little twists and turns the story took and it was fascinating to see a magical America (though of course GB takes the biscuit). There’s something for everyone in the plot: humour, love, action, mystery and of course magic! Definitely a film for all the family.

Every single character in this film is a triumph. From the hilarious No-Maj (Muggle) Jacob Kowalski to the incredibly cute Pickett the bowtruckle (a magical stick insect basically) I loved them all. Eddie Redmayne was of course brilliant as Newt but it wasn’t a one man show and I felt we got to know a variety of new characters and it was nice we hadn’t lost Rowling’s immense skill at crafting brilliant, realistic characters. The abundance of new (though not perhaps to the most devout Potterheads) magical creatures is further testament to J.K’s astonishing imagination and they are brought to life with spectacular special effects.

Even if this film isn’t for you, you cannot fault the skill that went into making this film. The special effects are mind blowing and beautifully believable. I watched the film in 2-D (I’m a poor student) but I can only imagine how amazing this film would be in 3-D. Maybe I’ll go and see it again and fork out the extra couple of quid for the full experience… Watching this film, I was temporarily transported into a world where magic was possible and this is entirely due to the stunning visual effects. 

HP references
Perhaps my favourite thing about this film was the amount of little echoes of the Harry Potter books. References to Dumbledore and Hogwarts are of course easy things for everyone to pick up on but for my nerdy self, spotting other parts was incredibly satisfying. Almost every creature introduced had featured in the original books and spotting these made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Murtlaps, Erumpents, Demiguises and Nifflers all hold a special place in my HP knowledge and it was lovely to see them on screen. Also Deathly Hallows/ Gellert Grindewald’s sign makes an appearance!

Watch it. End of.

Plot hole?
We discover Newt Scamader was kicked out of Hogwarts yet is still able to perform magic and own a wand. Hagrid was expelled and had his wand destroyed and wasn’t supposed to do any magic (*cough* pink umbrella). What’s up with that???

Wednesday 3 August 2016

The Final Madagascar Diaries

Hey Everyone! 

I can’t believe I’m so disorganised to still be writing about Madagascar in August! I’ve already been home over a month and I’ve got to say I could do with some Madagascan sunshine right about now. 

This final post is really just a big thank you to IVHQ and all of the people I met while I was over there. Firstly, if anyone is considering doing a volunteer project abroad, I cannot recommend IVHQ enough. I did tons of research in preparation for my time abroad and I didn't find a single company that matched IVHQ for value and choice. Their fees are incredibly reasonable, the information provided on their website is helpful and extensive and their staff are knowledgeable and always on hand for advice. 
Cross dressing camp party!

I was actually fortunate enough to meet (and hug!) the founder of IVHQ, Dan Radcliffe and his wife during my stay on Nosy Komba and he is such a great guy. It was a pleasure chatting to him and I will definitely be going through IVHQ for my next volunteer project abroad! Check them out: 

As you can probably imagine, I was really apprehensive about going travelling on my own, living

with strangers and spending 8 weeks with no friends. I was petrified something would go wrong - nothing did and I couldn’t have been more wrong about having no friends – I made tons. All of the people on camp were absolutely gorgeous human beings from all walks of life. I want to thank every single person I met in Madagascar for making my experience ten times more fun.

Notable memories include:
Pre-accident scootering
  • Watching the extended LOTR with Archie, Julia, Mackenzie, Lucy and River!
  • Scooter adventures (and accidents) with Emily, Dannii, Doug and Winston
  • Singing Justin Bieber with Miles (AKA Hench
  • Not losing Camp Olympics!
  • Playing charades with pretty much everyone and revealing my overly competitive nature
  • A two-hour speed boat ride singing Disney and Justin Bieber songs with my girlies
  • Being absolutely spoiled on my birthday with a pizza birthday cake

I made friends in Madagascar that I never want to lose, and you guys know who you are. Thank you for the unforgettable memories, the laughs, the tears and for being such incredible people.

I can’t recommend volunteering abroad enough, if you’re thinking about it just do it! You’ll thank me for it.
Camp Olympics!
Han xxx

Thursday 21 July 2016

Madagascar Diaries Number Two - TEACHING!

I somewhat naively thought that my time as a teacher in Paris was stressful, that the kids were badly behaved and that there needed to be more support. All of this went straight out of the window after my first week teaching in Madagascar. I was surprised to learn on day one that there wasn’t a paid adult member of staff running the teaching program (as there was with marine conservation and forest conservation). This led to various issues as you can imagine. 

There were two lovely interns (volunteers who’d stayed on longer and become staff) Julia and Mackenzie who did all they could to keep things running as smoothly as possible. However, they both left during my time there, leaving one newer intern in charge of the whole program. I feel like this is a massive oversight by MRCI (the organisation I was working for out there). The absence of a co-ordinator led to a lack of leadership and a general problem with continuity, as each intern brought their own ideas and approach. I’m hoping in the next few months they realise the need to have a TEFL trained, experienced teacher in charge of the program, otherwise I worry about its future.

In my first week or so we were taught basic Malagasy, classroom commands and the verbs we would need to communicate. I’d like to think that I picked up quite a lot, but it was not enough! There were many frustrating times where I was trying to discipline unruly children, either by myself or with a friend (there was never a Malagasy teacher in the room with you), and quite frankly ‘be quiet’, ‘listen’ and ‘sit down’ are not enough. 

In order to explain part way what the situation was like, imagine a substitute teacher coming in to teach French but that was they only language they spoke plus 20 words of English. You would just take the p**s, and this is what happened quite a lot in the children’s classes. It made me want to cry with frustration sometimes. How can you be expected to teach with such a profound language barrier?

Of course it improved slightly over the 8 weeks I was there, and there were some children’s classes that went really, really well and I left feeling a great sense of achievement. But on the whole, I have to admit I didn’t enjoy teaching the kids classes of which there were five: one in the bigger town of Nosy Be, Hellville, one in the village of Andrekareka Hely, two in the village of Ampangorina and one in a school called Banana. Each one was just as crazy and hard to control as the other, and it made me realise I would be rubbish as a Primary School teacher.

The adults’ classes however, were amazing! There were five adult classes too, in the pretty much the same locations as the children’s. Adults came to classes voluntarily which made a world of difference: they were interested, they asked questions about grammar and colloquialisms, and their progress in two months was an absolute pleasure to see. 

My favourite class was at a museum called CNRO, there was a mixture of beginners and more advanced students, never more than eight people, and they were all lovely! We read articles in magazines, learned song lyrics, focused on idiomatic phrases and of course lots of grammar. These classes made me realise how little I actually know about grammar and tenses in particular, I still struggle with the difference between ‘I watched tv’, ‘I have watched tv’ and ‘I was watching tv’! All I know is that they’re in the past! Think I need a TEFL course.
I think that’s everything on teaching! If anyone has any questions let me know!

Thank you so much for reading
Han xxx