I got up and joined everyone for breakfast around 8. The plan today was to go with the girls, they volunteer through Prochorus. Both Hanneke and Mieke are in SA serving their 3rd term of school. They are studying to be social workers and are required a one year internship. They told me that 99% of their class stayed back in Holland to complete this requirement. They decided to be a bit more adventurous and organized a year’s stay in the township of Kayamandi. That’s a pretty great move if you ask me! So far their first week with Prochorus isn’t exactly what they thought it would be, but it still had its highlights. They were both looking to be more involved with social working and so far all they have done is volunteer at the local crèches. I’m confident that they will be able to steer themselves towards some proper social working but until then they are just taking it one day at it time. Going with them today would also be my first time working at a crech. A crech is a nursery school.
Kayamandi has many crèches but I’ve never volunteered at one. The one we’d be heading to today was located right along my walk to the primary school. Typically when I pass by a crech it’s to the sounds of shouting children. They yell, “A Teacher, A Teacher, A Teacher!” I really didn’t know what to expect spending all day at a crech but I was excited to see what the day had in store.
Our morning started off with the children showing up sporadically for the first hour. It was such a nice day out and we played on the jungle gym and kicked a soccer ball around. It was pretty amazing playing with these kids because of how skilled they were on the jungle gym. The other volunteers and myself have all talked about how carefree these children are with their playing. I think at least 50 times a day I say to myself, ”Well this would never fly in the US”. Children 2-4 years old climbing to the top of a jungle gym, jumping from places that are far too high, running across the streets and so much more. These little kids are also tough! When they fall down they get right back up. There’s a little girl I met today that had a huge scar across her chin, and she was easily the smallest of the bunch, but even she climbed to the top of the jungle gym. After everyone had arrived and we had played for a while we all headed inside.
The crech didn’t have too much but I was pleased to see it painted with colorful pictures on the walls, pictures the children created, and an adequate amount of tables and chairs for the youngsters. When we all got inside the children all took turns using the bathroom and washing their hands. Afterwards they gathered back in their seats and shared in a morning prayer. Next came the snack! Each child got half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and half a cup of milk. When they finished eating they brought their dishes back to the sink. Once everyone was done they joined their teacher in the front of the classroom for their daily procedures. The children recited the alphabet, the days of the week, and the months of the year all in English. There was a brief lesson on shapes, and another on colors. The kids really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The next part of the class was probably the best! The teacher led them in loads of songs. Almost all the songs were in Xhosa but I was able to understand some of them. One song was about family members, and another was about counting. When I didn’t understand what they were saying I focused on enjoying the show. They were so incredibly cute singing and dancing and I recorded loads of videos to share. I tried getting involved as much as I good, singing when I knew what words came next and dancing when I could follow the motions. Without a doubt these children are much better singers and dancers then I’ll ever be!
Following the music portion of the class was an art project. The little learners were in the middle of finishing a book filled with pictures of family members, their home, and a self-portrait. The teacher would explain in a mix between Xhosa and English what it was they had to draw. I definitely learned today that they start learning English a lot earlier than I originally thought.
After a few more songs and dances the day was over for them and the children all left. I’m not exactly sure where they went and I’m still wondering if they just walked themselves home.
The girls and I walked back to Mama Zulus for lunch before heading over to the trust center. At the center I emailed Songo, the man who started Epic. Epic is the organization which gets the kids involved with bike riding and provides them with a safe place to study and hang out. I was wondering when I could come by to check out a practice and he told me any time after 3:30.
At about 4 the three of us made our way across the township to where his organization was located. It’s just beneath the school, but still up on a hill. At the bottom of the hill is the road that takes you to Stellenbosch. With the mountains in the backdrop and nothing to block the view, this is easily the best view I’ve seen in Kayamandi, and that’s saying a lot!
For the next hour I watch kids from the ages of 6-14 practice BMX biking in one of the most spectacular places around. I was very impressed with the course, and even more impressed with how flawlessly they could navigate the course. They were unbelievable as they flew over jumps and took turns at high speeds. The biker in the blue hoodie was one of my students earlier in the week. He’s been biking with Epic for a year, and he’s great! There was also section of the course that was designated for the newest riders. There was a lot of wiping out and a lot of crashing but nothing stopped them from trying again.
Once the practice was over we walked back through the township, but this time we had Songo as our guide. Besides being born and raised in Kayamandi, Songo also has loads of experience providing walking tours of the township.
He works with Hotspots and is one their most valued employees. He took me a way I had never been, and taught me about places I never knew existed. He even took us inside a few shacks to share with us what a few looked like. Still blows my mind that one room, that could hardly fit two beds, is home to multiple families. He told us that usually it’s one family per bed. Try imagining that for a couple days! Before popping out the opposite side of the township, where I typically take the mini buses into town, we passed behind a shack where they were preparing sheep. It might have been goat but all I know was that I was staring at a bucket of heads. They call them smilies around here because when you cook them and the flesh burns it pulls the skin back on their jaws and appears as if they are smiling. I’ll attach a picture at the end of my post, fair warning.
Of course right when we got home it was time for dinner and I had visions of the heads in a bucket. Luckily, tonight would prove to be one of the most enjoyable dinners yet! We had Mama’s Mashed Potatoes, rice, beef and gravy, cooked carrots, and steamed broccoli! I know I rant about how great the fried chicken and mashed potatoes are but the Zulu’s also know how to make perfectly steamed broccoli. Back home I like to dress my broccoli in cheese but here it’s so good that I just eat it as is.
After a very satisfying meal we went back to our rooms. A few students had been waiting for us. I worked with Lupo and Atha on their first bracelets and was surprised how quickly Atha was able to grasp the process. Lupo abandoned his after an early mess up and joined the girls back in their room where they were creating signs to welcome our friend Dan back to South Africa. While Lupo was gone I helped him along on his bracelet.
Around 8 the kids went home and myself, Eric, Hanneke, and Mieke prepared for another game of Catan. Only one game tonight because we were all pretty tired. I won… but who’s counting…
Before going to bed I had planned to video chat with my dad. We were to try for 11 but after an hour’s worth of complications on his end, it was more like midnight. It was great talking to him but I hope in the future it can be under less stressful circumstances. I pay for internet by the amount of data I use and sitting around online waiting isn’t how I wanted to spend my data. No worries though, it was worth the wait. But seriously Dad, you owe me like 6 dollars.