Reaching Out 2 The World

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Picking Things Up Right Where We Left Off

Life back in Kayamandi is right where we left off. You head into Stellenbosch when IMG_6757you need to run a few errands and the afternoons are spent hanging out with the kids. On both Tuesday and Wednesday Dan and I went into town so we could gather the supplies necessary for the Halloween party we’d be throwing on Thursday. This is much easier said than done when you’re in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. I say not really because there were a couple stores that sold some costumes and a few decorations but nothing like we have back home. As a matter of fact they already had all their Christmas decorations out on display!

I like to throw good parties but Dan only knows how to throw great parties! This is probably why we spent two days looking in every store that may have something we could use for our party. We bought loads of candy, snacks, and drinks, as well as spider webs, wall coverings, banners, and even a blacklight. The blacklight was one of the more difficult items to come by but we lucked out just before giving up and going home. We also made sure to buy loads of props for costumes and face paint so we could transform the kids. Once we were satisfied we made our way back to Kayamandi.

IMG_6723On Tuesday a few kids came over and we discussed their options for costumes. We made sure every child knew that they were definitely invited… but they weren’t getting into the party without a costume. IMG_6721We weren’t going to provide the costume but we’d certainly help with ideas, creativity, and of course facepaint. By the sounds of it, it seemed like we were going to have a couple ninjas, a superhero, and possibly a cat. All that matters is that they were excited and that’s what Halloween is all about!

While we were discussing our costumes I found out that one of the boys is a gymnast. I found this out while watching a dance off in my bedroom and seeing this little guy drop right down into a split! We immediately went outside where he could show off the rest of his skills. All the other boys tried their best but not just anybody can do a split! IMG_6719Even Butsha gave his shot at a couple handstands when he saw us all having a contest. This really made me miss my diving team back home! I’m really looking forward to seeing all my divers!

On Wednesday afternoon I went with Eric to Judo. I hadn’t been there in nearly a month because of the ReachingOut trip and the 3 weeks we spent traveling up north. I felt bad for not seeing them in so long but really wanted to spend at least one more practice with them before I’d have to head back home. The first practice is for the younger group and a few IMG_6752of the kids I was looking for weren’t actually there. It’s alright though because Eric and I went outside with a few other kids for an ‘advanced’ workout. Eric’s my German buddy who lives across the hall from me back at Mama Zulus, and he is one of the coolest guys I know. He’s been going twice a week to Judo for nearly 2 months and has a lot to show for it! But today was different because Eric and a couple of his students were IMG_6756outside working to the extreme! After a mid-distance run these guys did pull ups and then flipped giant tires across the entire field. I’m sure after you see the picture I attach you’ll be able to make sense of their craziness. I filmed the whole thing though and rooted them on! Before leaving Judo the rest of the students I was hoping to see showed up for the later class. As hard as goodbyes are I still find them very important and I’m glad I was able to see them off. I’m hoping to keep in touch with everyone I can this time around!

After getting back to Mama Zulu’s and having a greatIMG_6759 dinner Hanneke, Mieke, Miriam, Eric, and I went back into town for a few drinks at the Cubana. This was pretty fitting since it was the first place we all went together back when we first met in September. We shared a couple hookahs and played many rounds of cards. The night was so great but there was something even better waiting for us back in Mama Zulu’s kitchen! I still had a mug full of that delicious chocolate mousse and it had my name written all over it! Literally, I carved my name in the top of it with my spoon before putting it back in the refrigeratorIMG_6763 the day before. And with Eric at my side I couldn’t think of a better person to share it with! Cheers to another amazing couple days back in South Africa! Tomorrow would be Halloween and I promise the party lived up to all it’s anticipation! IMG_6762


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Teaching Little Ninjas to Flip

Our plan for Monday was to return to Ikaya Primary so Dan could reunite with a few IMG_3819teachers he worked with last year and see how much his students had grown. We arrived midway through their morning and went about finding which classroom Pam was in. Pam knew that Dan would be arriving back in South Africa but didn’t know when he’d be visiting the school. She was happily surprised to see us walk through her door! Meanwhile, the students were working on a discussion paper. The discussion was about why you should not smoke cigarettes. In groups the students had to first discus the questions being asked and then write down their agreed upon answer. It seemed as though most groups had one or two students who were doing most of the work but I was still impressed by how successfully they were completing the answers. Dan and I joined up with groups and helped prompt discussions. For me, it seemed that they all knew the correct answers but some had to have the questions explained a bit clearer.

At one point Mr. Dume entered the classroom and greeted us. I think Dan had just gotten his camera out and was getting ready to take a picture of some students. Without missing his chance Mr. Dume requested that he first must get a picture. Before taking the first shot, loads of students joined in and it made for great shot.

IMG_3818This week in school marks the last few days before the end of the term. Teachers are busy grading and turning in reports and students have little to no guidance. I asked a group of students what their next class was and they told me they didn’t have one. I was pretty shocked to hear this as it was just midway through the day. Dan and I would have to leave early but later this week we plan on going in and taking over one of these “nothing” classes.

Dan still hadn’t been to the Trust Center, where Eric is doing his voluntary work, and where most of us volunteers go to get free Wi-Fi. When we got there and settled in we both realized that it had been almost 3 days since we had last used the Wi-Fi. I used our modem to update the blog but that had really been it. Sometimes it’s nice being able to go periods of time with no internet. Dan was saying how he disliked always being connected while traveling throughout East Asia. He was excited to be back in Kayamandi and take a break from the constant connection to the interwebs.

With it being Monday, it meant we had Judo at 4. All of us volunteers piled into the IMG_3933truck along with 11 other students. Only Eric and I would be practicing but the rest were interested in coming along. Today’s class definitely proved to be a lot tougher. Both of us were paired up with older and more advanced students and were really put to the test. Even though I was bigger than my counterpart, he was far more skilled, agile, and flexible than I was. We worked for over an hour on holds, and throw downs, and by the end my arms dead. IMG_3932The assistant Judo master paired off with Eric to finish off the class and I was so glad he hadn’t chosen me. Theo has been training since 1979 and is a black belt in Judo. It made no difference that Eric was bigger and probably stronger because of the skill and technique that Theo was able to deliver. It was fun to watch but I don’t think I’m ready for that!

The practice ended at 6, or at least we thought it did. After we both got changed and we were all getting ready to leave, a few students informed us that our driver wasn’t coming till 7. This was not only an hour later than we were all anticipating but it was an hour later than what we had told Mama Zulu and our students from back in the Township.  Being super hungry Dan decided to just venture off in hopes of finding something to eat. We helped the girls arrange a ride backIMG_3934 to the township with one of the parents, and myself and Eric stayed behind with the remaining kids. Neither of us had any intention of suiting up again and I think we were both just interested in getting home but I tried to make the most of the hour. There was a trampoline and mat in the class and a few of the younger students were playing around on it. I taught a couple of them how to do a proper front flip. Or at least I tried to. They both could do the flip but neither of them understood the act of using their arms. I finally took of my shoes, removed the objects in my pockets and showed them how it was done. They go t it, but my camera didn’t take the best photos.

Finally, by 7 our ride had come and we were able to head back to Kayamandi. We were both very hungry at this point and were ready to dive right into supper. As soon as we walked onto the property we were flooded with screaming children. This isn’t that unusual but I still wasn’t expecting it. I totally forgot that we had told all those kids that we’d be home by 6. They had been waiting all this time! Luckily for them the girls had opened up their rooms to them and were playing games. Around this time one of the kids asked me were Dan was. He wasn’t home yet? It was almost 7:30 and he had left the practice on foot just after 6? I assumed he would have made it home by now but clearly he hadn’t. Part of me was concerned, because the sun had just gone down and Dan was out somewhere alone, but I knew he didn’t have anything of value on him and knew that he could take care of himself. After convincing the girls that they didn’t have to wait any longer to eat (they had been waiting for all of us to get home, but I knew Dan wouldn’t have wanted us to wait) everyone made their way to the dining room. Well, everyone but me. I transported all the kids from the girls room to our rooms so that we could eat without having to worry about them getting into trouble. When I finally made it to the dining room and walked in, the first person I see is Dan sitting at the head of the table. I guess he had just gotten back! Glad he was fine, and super hungry, I joined everyone and ate a much needed meal!

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Teacher by Day. White Ninja by Night.

I woke up Wednesday feeling pretty tired after being out to late the night before. We intended to get home early but our driver couldn’t have been less punctual. I joined Papa Zulu for breakfast where we discussed picking up Dan on Friday. Finally, Dan will be joining me on our South African Adventure! After breakfast I made my way to the primary school.
When I arrived at the school there were no children playing outside so I decided to just walk in the direction of the classrooms I thought I’d be able to find Pam. Before I got there I was intercepted by another teacher. I’m sure I have met this teacher before but I couldn’t remember his name. He told me that there was a classroom down the walk that had no teacher.

Next thing I knew he was ushering me into the room. The 40 plus students looked to have been having a field day in their teacherless classroom and were quite shocked to see us walk in. He informed me that this class was to take a math test and wanted me to assist anyone and help proctor the test. Before he left he quickly went over each part of the test, occasionally looking over at me for approval. He spoke mostly in Xhosa but I was able to follow along. Math is it’s own language.  As he spoke the students would unanimously respond, “Yes teacher,” after everything he said. When he finished going over the text he bid me good day and left.
Upon leaving the students looked around and began talking. I knew I had to act fast before losing control of the class so I stood up and introduced myself. I told the class that I was there to help and if they needed me they should raise their hands. Those that don’t need my help should quietly work independently on their tests. They seemed to get the gist of it because they all quieted down and began working on their exams.

Slowly, but surely hands started going up, and it became very evident, as I walked IMG_3605around, that the majority of these students had no idea what they were doing. This test covered geometry and algebra both in their most basic forms, but it was still too much for these students. Had their teacher not expected to receive the tests at the end of the period I think it would have been easier to just reteach everything. Judging by the overall confusion and lack of math skills I’m not sure these learners had ever been taught it in the first place. Most of the questions were loaded questions which proposed a whole new level of difficulties because the students couldn’t solve the first step of the problem to even arrive at the second part. I moved fast throughout the classroom giving small lessons on how to find an average, how to read a graph, and about the different shapes they were being questioned about. There was only so much I could do, and time wasn’t on my side. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like the teachers care how the students do on the tests. It’s appears they just give the tests to take up time so they don’t have to teach. When the bell finally rang most of the students abandoned the classroom, some turning in very unfinished exams. A few students stayed back as I was in the midst of teaching them how to find the percent of a number. I don’t think all of the students followed what I was saying but a few seemed to get it. I took a few pictures of the test to share with teacher friends back home. It wasn’t the worst test I’ve seen, it’s just that these students weren’t even close to prepared for it.

Before long students fled back into the classroom and they were followed by their teacher. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping grade a few English exams. I’m really not a fan of grading but I understand how overwhelming it can be for a teacher. I sat down with him and began going through the workbooks. The test covered reading comprehension and writing. The students had to answer a few questions on a short reading followed by a short writing exercise. This was a bit time consuming to grade because most of the students had much difficulty with the writing which meant loads of correcting. Out of 60 points I think the average score was in the low 20s. It was easy to tell the students who could understand English from the ones who couldn’t and it was clear that most of the students really struggled to read it. The performance task asked the students to write two paragraphs about, A day I will never forget. I read a couple stories about from students about the fire that swept through Kayamandi this past year. Their writing was basic but their point was clear. It was a terrifying event being woken up in tIMG_3600he middle of the night to the sounds of chaos. The fire was spreading quickly through the shacks and everyone had to run for their lives. Sadly, two children were killed in the fire. I couldn’t imagine having so little and then having it all taken away from me in the middle of the night. Because of where the fire was no firetrucks could come. I read from one student that her dad pleaded for an ambulance or a helicopter but the ‘help’ told them it wasn’t available. My heart definitely goes out to these kids. I probably graded the majority of the tests I worked through a bit more generously than the other teacher.

After school I went home, followed by a few new students, and began my writing. I can’t remember the names of the students that came by but I had worked with them the day before while in Dume’s class.

At 4 I met up with Eric at the Trust Center because we would be heading back over for IMG_3598another Judo class! For this class both of us suited up and joined in with the fun. I’m really working hard to be the best White Ninja I can be! We were each paired up with different kids throughout the class which made it a lot of fun. They knew the moves but we were still much bigger than them and could throw them around with ease. Maybe once we are both a bit better we will start practicing throw downs on each other. At the end of the class a young boy named William asked if he could be my partner. I accepted and we began practicing our throw downs. William is probably half my height and maybe 50 pounds when wet. We fought for two minutes and I made sure to let him take me down a few times. One of the instructors, Theo, has both of his sons involved with Judo. You can imagine they are both very skilled, but they are still quite young. I was paired up with his older boy. In the picture is Eric, Theo’s son, and myself. I talked to Theo about visiting and observing one of the schools his sons go to. I think it’d be pretty interesting going from a school in Kayamandi to a school in Stellenbosch. I’ll let you know how it goes!IMG_3599

Once home we ate a delicious dinner of chicken, homemade bread, and salad. The bread was very good and I hope there will be more of it!

Later in the evening we met up for another game of Catan. We played two games, both very close and both very competitive! Hanneke won the second game for her first win!! I couldn’t have been more proud! haha

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My First Judo Class

I woke up this morning with the sudden realization that I’ve been giving everyone I meet my SA phone number from 2 year ago! I confirmed this when I went to check how much air time I had left and noticed that the 50 rand I added just two days ago was nowhere to be found. This is completely my fault and a pretty idiotic mistake but it’s one I made and now had to fix. I entered my name and number into my own contacts, two years ago, so I could have quick access to it when I needed to add more air time or when I needed to provide someone with my number. When I got a new Sim card and new number one week ago I guess it slipped my mind to change out my own contact. So into Stellenbosch I went, a bit gingerly because my hamstring was still bothering me.

While in the mall I also realized there are a lot of stores I’ve never been into and decided I’d check a few out. I found a much nicer grocery store, a store comparable to a Target, a nice book store, and a food and wellness store. I think this part of the mall might have been under construction when I was here in 2011. I didn’t buy anything but I definitely discovered the stores where I’d be buying things in the future.IMG_3554

When I got home I decided I would spend my time getting as much work done as I could. This consisted of returning emails, writing post cards, sorting through videos, and updating my blog.

Around 4pm Hanneke and Mieke came by to greet me. They had just finished their first day with Prochorus, and were interested in walking to the trust center to see how Eric’s second day went. I decided to go with them and when we got there we saw Eric waiting outside. We thought his day would be finished but he had just been informed that he’d be accompanying a group of students into Stellenbosch where they would practice Judo. Many of the younger kids were running around practicing their judo moves. IMG_3557Since the three of us didn’t have anything else going on we decided to jump at the opportunity to join. A few minutes later a truck pulled up. It was the type of truck that had a covering over the bed. Myself, Eric, and 11 other students piled into the bed of this truck while the girls took the front seat. This proved to be one of the craziest rides I’ve been on yet. On the way there Eric and I couldn’t get over the craziness that the kids have just accepted as normal. Never would you see something like this in the states or throughout Europe.IMG_3559

When we arrived at the facility where they’d be practicing Judo the kids all hopped out and ran into the building. Actually most of them ran in every which way because I guess they had a few minutes to kill. The class was mixed between white children from Stellenbosch and black children from Kayamandi. It was actually really nice to see everyone coming together to exercise in this way… even if it meant organized fighting. The instructors we met were very nice and accommodating. Had my hamstring not been bothering me I would have absolutely participated! I think I may give it a try on Wednesday. Out of the 11 children from Kayamandi that made the trip to the center, only a handful of them actually participated. It reminded me a bit of high school gym class when a few students would “forget” their uniforms. After everyone was warmed up and stretched they paired off by height and began practice holds and grips. We happened to have the two smallest, and probably newest, youngsters right in front of us. The highlight of my day was watching these two attempt to keep up and practice their moves with the rest of the class. There were plenty of times where I couldn’t contain myself from laughing, it was too good. Even though there is a bit of a language barrier between the young Kayamandi kids and the young kids from Stellenbosch, and definitely a difference in where they live, and how they look, they all got along really well. It was great seeing everyone come together and just act like kids.IMG_3556

At 6pm our driver came back to pick us up. The ride home was even more exciting than the ride there as the kids were all showing off their vocal skills. They sang so many songs and were so good! The kid sitting next to me could easily be the next teen pop idol. Towards the end of the ride I decided this was well worth getting a video of. If you’re reading this and you’re interested in checking it out you’ll have to remind me once I get home.

Back in Kayamandi we headed to Mama Zulus because it was approaching dinner time. Tonights meal consisted of rice, fried chicken, and for the first time… salad!! It’s been too long since I ate a salad! Of course with that being said it’s Monday and back in the USA that means Monday Night Football! I was really craving some buffalo chicken wings! I did get a text very early the next morning from my dad telling me that the Eagles won!

Riri with his bling

Riri with his bling

After dinner Riri, and Mawande were back in my room waiting for me. Mawande showed me the bracelet he’s been working on. He’s definitely starting to get the hang of it! Riri challenged me to checkers. Last time we played he beat me pretty bad, this time wasn’t much different. On the third and fourth games we had a draw though.

Around 9 I walked the them up the street before saying goodbye. I know my time here is going to be over before I know it and I’m really valuing every minute of it!

IMG_3563When I got back Eric informed me that they were all ready for another game of Catan. Mieke and I shared a bit more strategy with Eric and Hanneke and the game proved to be much closer. In the end I was still victorious. It’ll feel better for them to earn their first win, not have it given to them.