On Thursday I had plans to finally meet up with Isaac. We had been trying to connect ever since I arrived but he was busy with his company. He called me in the morning to let me know he’d be coming in around 10am to pick me up. This is a good opportunity for me to tell you all about “Africa Time”. Basically, things happen when they happen and there is generally no rush… unless you’re driving. If you need to be somewhere and meet someone at a certain time and something comes up before that can happen, things will get postponed. I remember this from two years ago as being rather frustrating because I’m usually pretty punctual and like the same in return. So when Isaac said he’d be coming around 10 and then called to tell me it got pushed back to 11 I wasn’t too surprised. When he finally showed up closer to 12:30 I still wasn’t too shocked. African Time is a way of life around here and there isn’t a point to becoming frustrated. You just have to learn to go with the flow. I knew that when he finally did come that we would have a grand time, I just had to wait a bit longer than expected. It’s best to have something to occupy your time if you know you might be waiting.
We first went into Stellenbosch to run a couple errands he had to take care of before heading out of the area to a vineyard he was familiar with. Because Isaac works for a tour company he has many connections throughout the area and seems to know people everywhere we go.
On the way to the vineyard he pulled the car over and asked if I wanted to drive. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and moved over to the driver’s seat. In South Africa they drive on the left hand side of the road and you’ll find the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car. Almost all the cars around here are manual so you do all the shifting with your left hand. I drove the rest of the way to the vineyard with no problems but had to keep reminding myself which side of the road to stay on. In the distance, as we drove, you could see snow capped mountains. This is still strange to see snow in Africa but they had just gotten a lot of precipitation this past August.
The place we stopped at was called Backsberg Estate Cellars. They are best known for their brandy, and we were able to do a complimentary tasting. The first brandy I tasted was aged 10 years and was very smooth. It was definitely pretty strong, but still delicious. The second brandy I tried had been aged 5 years and had a similar taste but was much more difficult to put down. That stuff was strong! These brandies were both called Sydney Back and had been matured in oak casks. After our brandy sampling we followed it up with some desert port wine. I think ports use different grapes than traditional wine, and with it being a dessert port it was very smooth and very delicious. It was the perfect complement after sampling the brandy. We ate lunch at the restaurant located on the premise and were presented with a nice bottle of white wine. I don’t recall the name of this wine but Isaac bought a bottle for me to bring back to Kayamandi. I left it in his car by accident so I need to remember to grab that in the near future. Isaac had their fish special while I had a lamb sandwich. It was alright, but my meat was a bit over cooked. They should definitely stick to their brandy making!
I was telling Isaac about how glad I was to get cheese the night before but that I was hoping to get some softer cheese. Being surrounded by wine vineyards that specialize in cheese, wine, and brandy was the perfect place for me to be! We went down the road to another vineyard he was familiar with and one where he knew they had very good cheese. I got the same quantity of better cheese at the vineyard for 1/3 of the price I had paid the night before. It cost me 15 rand for my cheese which equates to about $1.50 USD. Another great thing about these vineyards is how cheap the wine is. They had a special sale at the place I bought my cheese. Pick any 5 bottles of wine for 100 rand. That’s 5 bottles for 10 US Dollars! If you fancy yourself a wine drinker you really ought to make your way to Stellenbosch!
By the time we made it back to Kayamandi it was just about 3. Papa Zulu told me that a few students had already come by looking for me. Since I had gotten the permission slips for the trip on Wednesday my plan was to go around meeting the parents today. The problem with this was that many of the students’ parents work odd hours. It wasn’t long before they all made their way back to my place. I often wonder if there is a beacon over my house that lets them know when I get home. While we waited for their parents to get home I started teaching more of them how to make the bracelets. We are still on the very early stages. I have tons of string but only a limited supply of the South African colors. I want them to practice on the other colors before diving into the South African bracelets.
About half past 5 when we were getting ready to go I heard some people talking outside my shack. When I opened the door I saw it was Mama Zulu and she was with two guys. The one guy was white and carrying bags so I pegged him as a new volunteer pretty quickly. His name is Eric and he is a volunteer from Germany. He’ll be living with the Zulu’s in Kayamandi for a whole year! That’s a long time but I know he’ll have an amazing time. I’m not exactly sure what he’ll be doing here but I know he’ll be working at the Trust Center.
Even though he just arrived and was very exhausted from his full day of travels I convinced him to come along as we walked around the township. I thought this may be one of his few opportunities to get a tour like this and have the chance to meet the families of these kids. It always impresses me how easily the foreigners I meet can speak English. Maybe easy isn’t the right word because I’m sure they have worked very hard, but I’m still impressed. I wonder if he’ll be able to pick up Xhosa as a third language.
The first place we stopped at was Chesters house. This was my first time meeting with his family. Out of all the students he definitely seems to have the biggest home. I can confidently say that because there were 3 rooms visible. Most of the other homes I’d be visiting were just one room with a dividing wall. After I introduced myself to his mother and grandmother I went about explaining what it was we had planned. I found myself trying to break down the itinerary as simply as possible. I wasn’t sure what they understood or what they had heard from their kids already. I think it went pretty well and she seemed happy about what we would be doing. She signed the permission slip and off we went to the Mawande’s home.
I remember where Mawande lived and I even met his family before, but that was two years ago and I couldn’t remember their names. When we arrived I reintroduced myself to Mawande’s mother, Buklwa Mcinjana. They are a very nice family but I got the sense that they didn’t really understand to much of what I was saying. I again spelled out the itinerary and tried my best to explain our plains. Once in a while Mawande would chime in. Their home was too small for Eric and the rest of the kids to enter so they all waited outside. After Buklwa signed the slip I went back out to meet up with them. It was already starting to grow dark and I knew Mama Zulu would have supper ready soon. We decided to head back to my place and on the way I told Eric much about the Township.
We got back just after 7 and the sun had gone down. It was a fairly cloudy night which made for an extra dark evening. I thought the kids would just drop us off while we ate but they had other plans. They wanted to play monopoly on my ipad while we went in for dinner. I didn’t really have a reason as to why they couldn’t so I opened my door to them. In the past I trusted them while I was out of the room, so why should now be any different? Plus, we had this trip coming up so I figured they would all be on their best behavior.
For dinner we had spaghetti and meat sauce. There weren’t any tomatoes used in the meat sauce, but rather cut up potatoes. It was different… but still good. Now that Eric is here I have someone to join me at the dinner table. When we first sat down he asked me if I’d like some spaghetti. I looked at him questionably because I didn’t know what he had said. He had asked me in German by accident. At this point I think his full day of traveling was finally catching up with him. He told me he had left at 2pm… the day before! Like me, he also wasn’t able to sleep on the flight. I definitely knew how he was feeling and knew that he was about ready to crash.
After dinner we went back to my room to find the kids still playing monopoly. A couple of the kids had also continued to practice their bracelets. We sat with them and chatted till about 8pm. I figured the kids would be going around this time but again, they had other plans. Riri (one of the better English speakers) informed me that Ski’s mother was now available to sign the permission slip. I thought, now? It was late and already dark out. They told me that because of her work schedule that now, and at this time, would be the only time she could sign the slip. That was good enough reason to me to walk throughout the township at night…
Eric stayed back to begin unpacking while myself, Riri, Ski, and Mawande made our way to Ski’s mother. It was a bit chilly out so I suited everyone up with the couple sweatshirts I had. A chilly night in South Africa is still a comfortable night back in Pennsylvania so I was fine just wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
On the way to Ski’s mother I asked him to remind me what her name was. He told me, but only after the other boys were not listening. It was actually kind of adorable that none of these boys wanted the other boys to know their mothers’ names. I imagine it was to prevent against teasing/mamma jokes. When we got to his mother, I’m not sure if it was her home or not, I again introduced myself and began explaining the trip. I’m almost certain she had no idea what I was talking about. Obviously the trip will be amazing and an absolute great experience for the kids but I could have been telling her anything! I handed her the slip and explained what it was and what she had to do. I hope the kids have better luck explaining what it is we are doing. I definitely plan on printing pictures after our trip to provide the families with. Maybe I can make a small book for each of them with pictures and a timeline…
I was under the impression that we’d be heading back to my house after this but Riri asked me, ever so nicely, if we’d be able to meet with his mother at this time. Riri’s house was on the other side of the township to where we were and it was approaching 9pm. I figured we didn’t have any issues up to this point and that we could make the trip. As we made the walk, Ski kept calling us ninjas. I’m not sure he realized how much of a complement that was to me, but I was thrilled with the nick name. I am now the White Ninja! Umlugu Ninja. At one point on our walk Mawande suggested that we stop speaking English for a bit. I got the impression this was because of where we were and how late it was.
Still not coming across any issues we made our way to Riri’s home. His mother was feeding Riri’s younger brother and niece. I explained to her the trip we’d be going on with much greater ease. Both of Riri’s parents speak English pretty well and it definitely shows in Riri. She wanted to wait and talk to her husband before returning the slip and I thought that was a great idea. I told her she could just give it to Riri when they were ready and he could bring it back to me.
Afterwards, the kids were nice enough to make the walk back to Mama Zulu’s with me. On the way we encountered a gentleman who seemed friendly enough. He wanted to talk to me. I’m not positive everything he was saying but I’m certain that he kept telling the kids to shut up. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or serious or really what all he was saying. At one point he tried to tell me that the kids I was with were crooks and that I didn’t know them. I think it was at this point I concluded that he was most likely drunk and just looking for trouble. I made small talk with him, or at least I tried to but made sure to keep my distance. As we went our separate ways he had a lot to say but it was all in Xhosa so I didn’t really catch any of it. The kids told me afterwards that he was telling me I didn’t know the kids and that they were bad kids. I didn’t really think much of it…
Once we made it back we said our goodbyes and I went back to my shack. Eric and I talked more about what Kayamandi is like and I updated the rest of my blog. I offered him some cheese and crackers and he had some delicious German chocolates! Food is the perfect peace offering!