Reaching Out 2 The World


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A Perfect Day in Muizenburg

Earlier in the week Dan and I made plans to take our group of kids from Kayamandi to Muizenburg so they could check out Dave’s Surf Program. All week I’ve been excited for this! After a few minor setbacks in the morning it was finally time for us to meet up at the surf shack. Ten children and four volunteers came along for the adventure today. The children were, Mawande, Chester, Lupho, Khanyisa, Rethabile, Athabile, Ski, Apwhiwe, Luthando, and Wande. The volunteers coming along to help were Theresa, Mieke, Hanneke, and I. Out of our whole group Mieke, Hanneke, and I were the only ones who had tried surfing before… and that was about two weeks ago. I knew one thing was for sure though; these guys absolutely love the water, even the ones that can’t swim love to hang out in the water!

IMG_5435The drive to Muizenburg took about an hour and our van was pretty crowded. The girls in the back had everyone singing everything from, “If you’re happy and you know it”, to The South African National Anthem. I felt sort of bad for our driver because of how loud we were being but he didn’t seem to mind. During our drive we drove past Khayelitsha, the biggest township in the Western Cape. This township is the home to over a million residents and is quite the sight to see. As we drove past, all the boys in the van stopped singing to check it out. None of them have ever been there before but they all know about it. The place is pretty famous for all sorts of reasons. I know about it for its size and population, while the boys know about it because several of their favorite rappers were born and raised there. At first I thought they were gawking at the township when we drove past but I think they were just awestruck by its size.

The closer and closer we got to Muizenburg the darker the clouds got. I couldn’t help but wonder if the weather would hold out for us. I just kept telling myself that no matter what, we’ll make the most of our day! I also knew that the boys would be able to sport some sweet wetsuits that would hopefully provide them with the warm they needed.

When we finally pulled up to Dave’s Surf Shack we were welcomed and greetedIMG_5433 by the children involved in the surf program, as well as a few volunteers, and Bronwyn, Dave’s daughter. They were also concerned about the harsh weather conditions but had set up a few back up plans in the case we couldn’t get in the water. I convinced them that we brought some pretty tough kids with us and that once they were suited up in their wetsuits they’d be good to go. Of course IMG_5434none of our guys had ever worn a wetsuit before so it was pretty hilarious watching them struggle to put them on. Poor Lupho tried his absolute hardest to squeeze his body into a suit that was at least 5 sizes too small before I noticed and grabbed a larger one for him. Once the boys were ready we walked across the street to where the Surf Shop was located so the volunteers could also get ready. This was where everyone received their surf boards and the excitement started to set in. While we waited for everyone to get ready Hanneke and Mieke gathered the crew for an epic game of ninja. Playing any game in a wetsuit will improve the fun quality immensely!

Down at the beach we were joined with Dave’s crew. All in all there were 23IMG_5430 of us ready to tear it up in the ocean, but first we had to get our lesson. We started with a run around the beach to warm up, followed by a giant group stretch. When everyone was feeling loose we began practicing laying on the boards, paddling, and the proper way to hop up onto your feet.IMG_5428 I really didn’t expect many, if any, of our guys to grasp surfing on their first try, I was just happy that they’d get the chance to swim and play the ocean!IMG_5423IMG_5422IMG_5419IMG_5416

surfing, khanyisa 2Soon enough it was time for all of us to wade out in the water. Each kid from Kayamandi was paired with someone from Dave’s program. It was really cool to see the kids working together so well. Most of the guys Dave works with speak Afrikaans, while all of ours speak Xhosa. This didn’t seem to matter in the least bit though as they worked together to ride the waves. Because the air was so chilly the water actually felt great. I don’t think anyone was cold once we were in, but I’m sure the wetsuits played a major role in that! With such a huge group it seemed that no matter where I looked kids were readying themselves for the next wave. I can’t say for sure, but I think Khanyisa was the first to stand. Watching this was like watching your child take their first steps. I was so proud of him even though he only stood up for about a second. Riri, and Athabile were close seconds to standing on their boards. Riri was the one in our group I was most confident about that would be able to pick up surfing. I don’t think everyone in our group was able to stand up but I know they were each able to at least ride wave in boogie board style. surfing ririMawande is probably the weakest swimmer in our group and I was worried he wouldn’t be able to do much. Last week at Myoli’s beach I caught him boogie boarding in about an inch of still water. When I looked out to see him lying on his board in water that was past his waist, I was both proud and a little worried. I knew if he fell that he’d be able to stand, but the ocean has a way of tossing you around and sometimes it’s hard to find good footing. A moment later I glanced back in his direction and he was gone! I looked around in the direction I saw him last but he was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until I turned to face the beach that I saw he had ridden a wave all the way in, and I mean ALLL the way in until he was beached! I’m pretty sure surfing aphiwethat was his most successful ride of the day but it was a darn good one! Everywhere I looked our group was getting better and better and for the hour we tore that ocean up!

IMG_5411Getting back out of the ocean meant a cold and windy walk back to the surf shack, but our efforts were rewarded with perfectly timed hot chocolate! The Surf Shack knows how to cater!

Once everyone was out of their wetsuits and into their dry clothes we had about 30 minutes before lunch. This time was spent playing with every toy the surf center had to offer. There were kids skateboarding, IMG_5407kicking the soccer ball around, playing ping pong, boxing, lifting weights, throwing exercise balls, and more. After some time a few of these activities morphed together into some sort of gauntlet ride for the guys brave enough to ride. Each guy took turns riding down the small hill on a skateboard while the other boys heaved the exercise balls in their direction. This reminded me of a combination between Wipeout and Gladiator. This was all fun and games but we stopped it before someone or something got hurt. Our timing worked out well because it also happened to be time for lunch!

IMG_5406Dave’s mother prepared a warm lunch for all the boys which consisted of rice, minced meat and beans. They all seemed to love it because the food was IMG_5397gone before I could get a second glance at their plates. Mnandi nento was the phrase of choice and it means in Xhosa; that was very nice.

After the meal the boys went back to playing soccer and riding the skateboards. I joined in with a group that was playing once bounce. It’s basically just juggling the soccer ball within the group but the ball is only allowed to bounce once IMG_5401in between hits. These guys can all run circles around me when it comes to soccer but it was still a good time. I think a few of Dave’s crew was impressed with the soccer skills our boys displayed. Maybe we can get them together in the future for a combined practice or scrimmage?!

Actually, the next thing on our IMG_5394agenda was just that, a soccer game. We all headed up to the park just up the street from the surf center. By the time I got there the field and goals had already been laid out and the game was in progress. Over 20 of us split up into two teams and we played for nearly two hours. It doesn’t matter what I fill a day with, because if we include a game of soccer than there’s no doubt these boys have had an amazing day. The volunteers took turns playing and IMG_5393hanging out on the sidelines, I’m pretty sure the kids were better off without us, haha. Through the first game it became pretty evident that the teams were a little unfair. I mentioned it to Riri and suggested that maybe he should switch teams. Riri is also one of the best soccer players and absolutely has the best attitude when it comes to working with others. He had no problems switching over to the less skilled team and immediately went around high-fiving his new teammates. I wish more people could be as awesome as Riri, he genuinely cares more about the greater good of everyone else before himself. His name, Rethabile, actually means happy… it’s pretty spot on if you ask me!

Just before 3:00 we regrouped back at the surf center for one last group picture. We all had such an amazing time, and can’t wait till the next time we can get back together. Hanneke, and Mieke will both be here for the next year. I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to take our group back to Muizenburg in the future. Thanks so much to all the volunteers and helpers at the Surf Shack for having the patience to work with us, despite the cold weather! Can’t wait to hear all about the amazing things your program does in the future!!IMG_5387

Our ride home was much quieter than our ride there due to our successful ability to drain these hooligans of their energy. Riri was one of the three that fell asleep on the way home and unfortunately he left his cell phone in the van. It wasn’t until the van was long gone that he informed that he was missing his phone. It stinks to lose a phone, but I can’t imagine how he must have been feeling. The boy who I just described as always being happy and the life of the party was suddenly hunched over with his head in his hands, crying. I tried getting in touch with our driver but he didn’t pick up. It wasn’t until I was able to reach Dave that we were able to work something out. Dave got a hold of the drive who said he recovered the phone and would bring it by the center tomorrow. I’ll be leaving on Monday morning so I won’t be able to see to it that Riri gets his phone back, but I think Hanneke will stay in contact with Dave and make sure things work out. Good luck to all those involved!

Between the kids all being tired, and the weather being a bit chilly we thought it’d be IMG_5439a perfect afternoon to let the guys watch a movie. Mieke and Hanneke went about setting up a make shift viewing area in their living quarters while I worked with Aphiwe on a very special letter.

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An Encore to Our ReachingOut Trip: Day 5

Dan and I had arranged one more special thing for the boys to do and with the IMG_5035help of HotSpots2C we’d be visiting the Cape Point Stadium. This was something we had wanted to do with the kids during our four day trip but it wasn’t possible due to closings with the stadium. The one thing these boys love is soccer and I really wanted to take them to their home stadium.

Around 8:30 Saturday morning we DSC_0344 (2)all met up for one last adventure and head into Cape Town with our group. We arrived a half hour early and used our time to take some fun pictures outside.

IMG_5022The tour was great and took us all throughout the stadium. Our group got to see everything from the VIP areas to the locker rooms and even had the chance to stand on the soccer pitch. My absolutely favorite part of our time there was filming the boys running out of the gathering rooms and into the stadium to the sounds of us cheering. You could tell they were living their dream being down there on the sidelines and I was so happy to take part in it. Once they ran out they lined up and starting singing their National Anthem. Don’t worry, we caught it all on film.

The Cape Town Stadium was built for the IMG_50242010 World Cup and played host to the semifinals. The Dutch remember it well because they were able to beat the Germans. Something I’ve heard more than a dozen times sharing living arrangements with two Dutch girls and now four Germans. The stadium can hold up to 68,000 people. In recent days they’ve been using the stadium for Cape Town’s home soccer teams and concerts. I think Rihanna will be playing there in the coming week, and there’s a long list of other big named musicians that have played there. Our guide told us that the stadium was completely paid off but I’m not sure I totally believe her. The stadium cost 4 billion rand and I’m pretty sure they haven’t been able to fill it since the 2010 World Cup.

IMG_5019After our stadium tour we went to lunch at the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a popular place along Cape Town’s harbors and offers an incredible view of Table Mountain. The place we took them to eat was Spurs. Dan and I both use to take the boys to Spurs on our previous visits because of how much the kids loved it. Not only is the food pretty good, but there is also an arcade that the kids can play at for free while they wait for the food to be prepared. The only thing we forgot to keep in mind was that all the boys are older now than on our last visits and the arcade is age restricted. Lupho and Mawande were the only ones that looked young enough to play the part.

Before heading back to Kayamandi we made oneIMG_5017 final stop at another favorite location. Boulders Beach is located in Simon’s Town, a coastal town where you’ll find penguins on the beach. We walked all along the coast spotting the penguins in their natural habitats. The boys really wanted to go swimming but it wasn’t something we had properly planned for. I also don’t think they realized how much colder the Atlantic Ocean is than the Indian Ocean they swam in last Wednesday.

IMG_5014Today was a pretty great encore to the first half of our travels and I’m sure we’ll be grouping up for a few more adventures before Dan and I have to go our separate ways. I know we are both interested in taking everyone swimming at least one more time, and we may even consider a surf session.

If you receive a postcard in the next few weeks be sure to share it with the world by hashtagging it, #ReachingOut2TheWorld

 

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I’m a Bit of a Dog Whisperer

We woke up Saturday to the sound of rain which was consistent with the earlier IMG_4029days in the week. Only this morning the rain quit around 10 and the clouds began to part. In the distance we could see that almost all the surrounded mountains had a powdery covering of snow. The past couple of days have been chilly, and certainly rainy but I was not expecting to see snow covered mountains while in Africa. I know I’m close to the most southern part of the continent but still, this is Africa! Besides, the winter season here has ended and it’s supposed to be getting warmer!

DSC_3959Throughout the day I worked with kids on their bracelets and also started a new project. Dan and I printed ReachingOut2TheWorld shirts for each of the kids that would be going on the trip and we purchased some fabric paint for them to design with. I think they all had a lot of fun working on these shirts and I really appreciate all the additional help from the other volunteers for helping chaperone this process.

Since Avela had arrived and would be joining us on the trip I needed to visit with his mother so I could get the permission slip signed. I’m not sure if they are staying with family or if they just went back to their old shack, but walked through the township to where Avela’s mother was staying. A few of the kids joined us as we walked and just before arriving at his home we encountered an aggressive dog. Most of the dogs in Kayamandi are aggressive, but it’s for good reason. I see the dog situation as a bad cycle. Most of the kids tease the dogs, throw things at the dogs, and are just mean to the dogs. In return,IMG_4008 the dogs are generally mean to the kids. I don’t think neither the dogs nor the kids can distinguish the good from the bad and just assume that everything that moves is going to hurt them. So as we’re walking I saw this dog approaching. I know that if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you and it’s best to just leave them be. Most dogs prefer the bark over the bite. When this dog came running and barking all of the kids went running. Three of them hid behind me, and two of them took off up a nearby hill. Lupho aimed to run up the hill but due to all the rain the ground was fairly muddy and he slipped. The dog went for him but Lupho was able to kick and scramble to his feet. The kids were scared and all of them proceeded to give Lupho a hard time for falling down. After meeting with Avela’s mother, who is doing great, we headed back towards my flat. To get home we’d have to walk by the same dog and the kids wanted nothing to do with it. I told them not to run, and that running just encourages the dog to chase. They didn’t listen. When the rounded the corner and started the decent down the hill the dog looked up just in time to see the kids. I went a bit of a different way because I was looking to avoid the mud but in my route I passed right by the dog with no issues whatsoever. This made me pretty confident that the dog was only interested in going after something that he could chase. The dogs presence was making it nearly impossible for the kids to make it down the hill because every time the dog would start towards the kids, they’d turn and run which would just cause the dog to chase after them. I really didn’t want to touch the dog because it was a stray and I was worried that it probably carried fleas or some other sort of disease, but I was thinking the only way these kids are going to walk down this hill was if the dog was preoccupied. I took the chance and reached out to the dog. After he sniffed me I started scratching him behind the ears and just like that his entire demeanor changed. As I scratched his neck I thought two things. First, I hoped I wouldn’t regret touching this dog, and second, I thought about the last time this dog probably received positive attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s never had his ears scratched. I felt bad for the dog and after the kids tiptoed by I made sure to teach them a lesson. Kayamandi has a lot of strays and I am tired of seeing the kids mistreat them. I know they are intimidated by them but that doesn’t mean they need to mistreat them.

There’s a small dog next to Mama Zulu’s house that always goes after everyone.IMG_4012 Of course as the kids were playing soccer out front the ball flew into the neighbor’s fence. They were all scared to retrieve the ball because of the dog. I told them I’d get and walked over. When I entered the yard the dog came barking to protect his property. There isn’t anything wrong with the way the dog acted… I was in his territory. Unfortunately for the dog I wasn’t intimidated and proceeded to crouch down and again reach my hand out. My dog whispering skills have taught me that if you reach out your hand with your palm up and give the dog a chance to smell you, things generally go pretty smoothly. This dog was pretty rambunctious and nipped at my fingers a little but I could tell he didn’t really want to. He seemed mighty confused as to why I was just letting him nip away. His bites were lite and I knew he couldn’t hurt me. After realizing that I wasn’t scared of him he chilled out. It’s amazing how quick a dogs’ mindset can change when they don’t feel so dominant. Seeing me do this made all the kids want to try and one by one they all became associated with the mutt. I still had to talk to them about teasing the animals and that they probably wouldn’t like it if someone kicked them and threw things at them, but I think they are starting to get it. IMG_4006

We continued playing soccer for a few hours, and my hamstring has been feeling a lot better! While we were playing I looked over towards our house and saw Eric half way up a tree and he had his tablet in his mouth. This guy was determined to get some free WiFi! It must have worked though because he was up there for a lot longer than I thought he’d be.

DSC_3960Later in the night I also decided to put a design on my ReachingOut shirt but had to improvise a little since I didn’t have any white paint. Rather than using the puffy paint I used white nail polish and it kind of worked. We ended up having to use two different types of nail polish. In the end I was left with two mediocre flags. Thanks Mieke for all the help!

For dinner that night the Germans made chicken, potatoes, and veggies, but they prepared the potatoes like hash browns and made a sauce that went with everything. It was really great but I was in charge of washing the pots and pans afterwards. I have never in my life scrubbed so hard to get the potatoe crisp off the bottom of a pan. I should have just boiled some water or let it soak overnight but I was determined to get those dishes done!