Hello, I’m Dan.
I thought I would share my perspective on the experience Chris had.
First, let me share a little back-story.
I planned on going to South Africa for a while, but only for the month of June. I booked Tanzania for July, and I kept August open for a different country in Africa, however I was still undecided as to which country (it was probably going to be Egypt). I figured I could finally decide once I get to Africa.
One day, as I was doing research on South Africa, I randomly came across this masterpiece, O’Sullivan’s Travels. I forget how I came to find this, but I’m sure glad I did. It started off with something similar to what I was doing: a guy my age from the U.S was traveling to South Africa for the first time to volunteer and teach for a few months. The main difference is that Chris was near Stellenbosch with SASTS and I was going to stay inMuizenberg with IVHQ. Over the course of a few days, I read well near his whole blog. His sense of adventure, doing anything and everything, is on par with mine! (He may be a tad crazier though haha!) Everything he did–I wanted to do, minus the whole Kayamandi part, because I already had my place in Muizenberg. But the fact that he got to spend a considerable amount of time with those kids he taught was something I thought was pretty damn special. I had a mindset that I would be able to do the same thing in Muizenberg, but it didn’t work out that way. (I’ll explain why in just a second.)
I messaged Chris one day and asked him a few questions about South Africa…okay maybe several hundreds of questions! And like the trooper he is, he answered every single one of them promptly and with detail. Initially, before I even left I was way more excited about Tanzania than I was about South Africa, but after reading about his experiences, my excitement flip-flopped between the two countries. For answering all of my questions, I told Chris if there was something he wanted me to do for him while in South Africa, just let me know. He actually had something in mind. He asked if I had the chance, to stop by his old school, Ikaya Primary, and if there was anyway to show the kids there his videos he made, he would be grateful. After reading so much about his kids and the school, I was happy to take on that task. So I uploaded his videos and a few of his pics with the kids onto my iPad. Next thing you know, I was off to South Africa!
My volunteer house in Muizenberg was pretty cool. My school, the Christian Primary, was cool too. However, the idea of hanging out with the kids after school and was pretty much impossible. One, the kids live nowhere nearMuizenberg. Two, even if the kids did live nearby, they wouldn’t be allowed inside our house. IVHQ had a strict policy, no one other than volunteers and staff members are allowed in the house whatsoever. Bummer. Also, the kids were so young here, that it was more like running a daycare than actually teaching. That’s when I made my final decision, that after Tanzania, I would comeback to South Africa but switch over to Kayamandi and get a different experience with the kids in another school.
Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED my time inMuizenberg. I met some of the most amazing people in the world and did a lot of fun stuff. But the fact that I knew there was a school and place nearby where you could actually teach and hangout with the kids was constantly in the back of my mind. So during my stay in Muizenberg, I applied to volunteer at Ikaya through SASTS, the same organization Chris went through. But that wouldn’t be until August. I still had Tanzania!
Fast-forward through a mind-blowing month in Tanzania and I finally arrived back in South Africa. I initially requested to be placed at Ikaya Primary, however a welcome surprise was that they also had me placed in ahomestay with Mama Zulu, the same Mama Chris stayed with. I let Chris know and he was pretty pumped that he could find out how everyone he left was doing.
This is where things get sweet for me. My time inKayamandi couldn’t have gone any smoother. The footprints Chris O’Sullivan left behind almost a year ago were mighty big ones and everyone in town knew who this guy was. I mentioned to pretty much everyone I met that I was a friend of his, and they would burst into smiles and became suddenly warmer in gratitude. They would all tell me the same things: “Chris loved those kids”; “Chris was crazy!” (In a good way), and “Chris was so nice”. Even at the school, everyone remembered who he was. He was almost like a legend in this town, even more so when I finally found his core group of kids he hung out with.
I recognized some of them from his blog, but I could never put the names with faces. I rounded them all up one day and they came over to Mama Zulu’s where I showed them Chris’ videos and pictures. I never seen kids more excited…ever. They watched the videos several times and reflected on the pictures. That same day, those same kids started to take a liking to me, as I was to them. They would come over everyday and I would take them out, play soccer, or just hangout and chill back at my place. Not a day went by where they didn’t mention Chris, who they referred to for some reason as the “strongest man alive” haha! Also, I have to ask him, what in the world does “Sheep go to heaven, Goats go to hell” mean? They would say it all the time; I thought it was some South African chant at first. Who knows??
I kept Chris in the loop while I was there and he seemed pretty excited that in a way, he was reconnected with his kids. The kids remembered it was his birthday in August and made him a special birthday video that I sent to him later. Also, I gave them my phone to call and talk to him on two different occasions. They also drew and wrote a bunch of fun pictures and letters for him that I would send once I got back to the United States. I noticed some of them had postcards Chris must have stamped and addressed to himself that they never sent. There was stuff written on them, just never mailed. I’m not sure if they knew how?
Overtime, I did a lot of hanging out with his kids. I got to know each one of them a lot better and they got to know me as well. I taught them a few Spanish phrases. They also called me the “Worlds smartest man alive”, even though I don’t think my name means that! Also, over my course in Africa I also wrote a blog in which everyone at home and around the world was able to follow me through. Just like I read his before, Chris was able to read mine and see what was going on in his old digs at Kayamandi. I was also able to use his blog as sort of a “manual” on how to handle these kids haha! I think he may have picked the most eclectic group of learner’s to befriend in that entire school.
Before I left, Chris came up with an idea to start some sort of fund to make sure these kids and probably Ikaya as a whole get the proper educational support and school supplies they need. It’s a lot to plan, but to start I opened up a PayPal and accepted donations to buy them school supplies. Thanks to Chris’ and others donations, I was able to get them a truckload of stuff that should last them for eternity! It’s a work-in-progress but it’s a step in the right direction.
Right before I left I told the kids, who were sad to see me go, that I would comeback one day and that Chris will come at the same time. Can you say double the amount of spoiled? 🙂
I can’t thank Chris enough. My whole month of August created an ever-lasting impact on me and it’s all thanks to him. If I never came across his blog, I would probably have been in Egypt instead doing who knows what? Not only that, but he gave me the contact of his friend Isaac he met here who is one of the nicest people in the world. He was able to take me around and show me what South Africa is all about.
Kudos to you O’Sullivan.