So this is about a week late and it’s been a hectic week. I normally have these at least written up ahead of time so I can post them the next chance I get but I’ve just been too exhausted to do any writing the past few nights. I’ll throw Thursday, Friday and Saturday together then follow up with the days leading up to today. Also, you should know, that what I’ve lacked in writing this past week I have made up for in pictures. Got some real gems this week.
On Thursday, after seeing that Xhosa lesson on Braille, the day before, I was curious as to what some of the other lessons may be on. You have know idea how disappointed I was when I saw a 4 page lesson on Justin Beiber.
Thursday evening I was sitting in my room writing something when I got a knock at my door. It was Mawande and he had brought his book over to read with me. During the school day it’s very difficult to teach something to a large group of kids but it becomes a lot easier when it’s a one on one lesson. It’s also a lot easier to help someone when they want to be helped. The combination of the two made for a great night. We took turns reading the book about Nelson Mandela. I didn’t realize that Nelson Mandela was actually born into a Xhosa family and a lot of the names that are used are from the Xhosa language. I think Mawanade helped me as much as I helped him throughout the read. What was interesting was that since a lot of Xhosa names have meanings to them, Mawande was able to tell me what they translated too. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s uncle’s name translates to new mountain. I thought that was pretty cool and certainly not something I’m used to experiencing when reading with a younger student. I may not have taken many pictures from Thursday or had a lot of crazy experiences, but I’ll always remember the night Mawande first came over to read with me. It made me so glad to that I took them out and bought them the books, in fact I could even go as far to say that it made the entire trip worth it (not that it already wasn’t). After Mawande left I packed up my stuff for the train ride back to Cape Town in the morning.
Friday started off a bit dreadful. I woke and walked the distance to the train station to catch the 9:05 train back to Cape Town. When I got there and waited around for a bit I gathered that the train was running late. On the speaker they announced everything in Afrikans so I didn’t pick up much. When I finally went to the office and asked them about it they side it should arrive around 10:30. So I’m sitting there waiting for a very long till the train finally came. I’ll tell you that my experience on the train was both a new one for me and quite inappropriate. There were a total of three times that I thought I was going to have to defend my life. The first was a gentleman that wanted to be a little too close to me. The second was a group of three guys. One of them carried a field hockey stick and I’m sure it was intended for something other than hitting a rubber ball around with. The third was a homeless guy that followed me for a few blocks after I got off the train. He at first had a friendly approach to asking me for money but that soon turned to telling me that he was going to carve up my back the next time he saw me if I didn’t give him money to feed his family. I called his bluff and kept my pace. Fortunately I still always have a plan in mind incase anything actually went down. I anticipate the worst situation that could possibly happen and then I kick some ‘A’. When I finally got to Cape Town I went to go pick up my pack from Shelby and then headed back to the SASTS hostel. The package was pretty heavy and my curiosity was killing me to know what was inside but I knew that if I had to take the train back to Kayamandi then It’d be better if the package wasn’t opened. Of course this theory lasted till I got back to the hostel and couldn’t bear to carry around a package without knowing what was inside. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. My favorite thing about Christmas is actually the act of giving. I obviously like receiving… but giving makes you feel so much better. This was like a nice combination of the two. I received a nice heavy package in the mail addressed to me, and just about everything on the inside was mine to give away. I’m also not a very religious person but the saying, “God Bless you” to Shelby seems fitting. She hooked me up with tons of pencils, SHARPENERS, books, glue, beach balls, silly bands and so much more. The very best part, besides the letter, was a box of Tasty Cakes. My very first act of giving was to share a bit of Philadelphia with the rest of the volunteers and let them taste their very first Tasty Cake. You’ll be sure to hear more about that special box and its contents when we get to the rest of the week. As for the rest of Friday, I basically spent the day uploading the rest of my pictures. Back home this would have made for a really sucky day, but because I knew that everything I was uploading I was going to be able to share with at least 100 of my closest friends it actually made the process quite enjoyable. Friday night was filled with meeting new volunteers and relaxing. There was a new kid from Hawaii that arrived and he had left on Tuesday! Could you imagine traveling 4 days!
Saturday I woke up early because the plan was to catch a ride with a couple of the volunteers back to Kayamandi. They had rented a car with the intention of driving clear across the country and were departing Saturday morning. It worked out alright because the first part of their drive was right through my town. We made a detour to visit some penguins and take a bit of a scenic route but I wasn’t complaining after my experience on the train the morning before. I showed them around my township a bit and then they were on their way.
Mama Zulu told me that a couple of my students had been over already but she had told them I wasn’t home. They weren’t supposed to come by till two, and it was only noon! I but my ring on the gate to let them know I was now home and went back to my room to take a nap. I was kind of anticipating being woke up by a few of my students but they never came by. I was too exhausted to take a trip into Stellenbosch so I just relaxed at home with my host family. That night during dinner I ran back to my flat and grabbed a Tasty Cake to share with Papa Zulu. They loved them and told me I’d have to sent some back for Christmas haha.
Sunday was the most memorable day of the weekend. It started out with one of my students coming over. Avela had borrowed a book of mine to draw me a picture and he was bringing me the picture he had finished. The picture actually looks incredible and I was very impressed. He told me he wanted to go swimming, which I was fine with but I wondered if any of the other kids wanted to come. He told me that they were busy and weren’t going to be able to make it. I believed what I was told and we were on our way down to the pool. The pool was really big and really filthy. I’ve swam in lakes that were clearer than this pool. I wasn’t expecting it to be nice though and fully intended on swimming regardless of the standards. To my surprise there was a lifeguard but I don’t know how many lives he’d be able to save, God forbid he’d ever have to. The moment a kid goes under water you can’t see them anymore and there was well over 100 kids at the pool. The pool is located across the road and railroad tracks which puts it in a different township. This township is mostly colored families who all speak Afrikaans. So there were tons of children speaking Xhosa and Afrikaans but unfortunately no English. I didn’t bring my camera because I had a feeling it’d just get stolen while I was swimming. That theory probably would have stood true but given the circumstances of bathing attire it was probably a good idea I didn’t have my camera anyways. Mostly every child just swam in their underwear which wasn’t a big deal but a few of the Afrikaans speaking kids were acting a smidgen more inappropriate. I don’t feel comfortable typing up exactly what they were doing but I’ll tell you they were right around the age of 12 and 13. Once you got past all that and the slightly freezing water (remember we are just coming out of winter here) it was a pretty great time. Avela is typically shy and soft spoken but once he got in the pool he was the complete opposite. He can’t swim and immediately latched onto me as if his life depended on it. I suppose when we went to deeper water that his life actually did depend on it… but you get the point. I can tell you the stereotype that black people can’t swim is very false. Obviously given a group of people you’ll always be able to find those that can’t swim but this large group of pool goers were fairly good at swimming. They were at least very comfortable in water and given certain instruction would be swimming in no time. I think the black faculty I work with were more shocked to hear this than I was. No one is going to be good at something they’ve never done before.
After the pool we walked home and Mama Zulu told me that about 10 kids had been by looking for me. She told me they wanted to go swimming. Turns out Avela never really talked to any of the kids and wanted me all for himself haha. Not long after arriving back home all those kids showed up again. The total number was actually 13 and the rest of the day was hanging out with them. By hanging out I mean monitoring my belongings while they went wild. There were two kids listening to my ipod, three kids playing games on my U.S. cell phone (and it was only the crappy demo version), two kids playing on my South African cell phone, two kids using my camera, and the rest were on my lap top. At one point I was on my lap top showing them pictures from my trip and all thirteen of them were crowded around watching. I don’t think I’ve ever been so squished in my life. When they lean into watch something, they do so with all their body weight. I basically just got squished right out of the picture as they took over. It was fun, a bit overwhelming, and an extremely tiring experience. There were at least 200 quality pictures that resulted in that day post getting back from the pool!
To make the day even better, Alex and Ndidi were coming to visit me from Cape Town! They had a very lovely journey with absolutely no problems what so ever on their way to Kayamandi. Actually that’s a complete lie but they’d kill me if I posted about their trip on here, especially with my ability to dramatize everything. They did arrive a few hours later than expected and after a late dinner we settled in for an early Monday morning.