Hi everyone! Here is my next blog! I am REALLY enjoying life in South Africa (and Swaziland!) and can’t wait to share these next entries with you!  Enjoy! Love Ashlee

Tuesday 1 September 2009

As planned, I went to the Jozini Educational Centre this morning for an Orphan Care Committee Meeting. The school librarian, Kenny went with me (much to my dislike!) … We arrived at 10:00– perfect timing for the start of the meeting…but where on earth was everyone else? There was a group of teachers in the forum room but they were doing a workshop on teacher stress, depression and suicide. I was adamant that this group was not related at all to Orphan Care, but Kenny insisted we go inside and interrupt the lady who was running the presentation. I have to say it was rather embarrassing walking into a room full of people, especially when Kenny decided to take a seat and start listening to the workshop! When the lady was finally able to convince Kenny that this was not the Orphan Care Committee Meeting, we both left and waited in the main office… Whilst we were sitting in the office waiting with the hope that the other members would start turning up, I flicked through the minutes of the previous meeting…and guess what I found…yes, you guessed it…the meeting was scheduled for the 9th September – next Wednesday! So, after the hour long journey down to Jozini in the stinking hot sun with good old Kenny by my side, we left the centre after an hour and a half of sitting around doing nothing, without having achieved anything! … Today was extremely hot and the last thing I felt like doing was standing on the side of the road to wait for a taxi to take us up to the main taxi rank in Jozini, where we would get in a taxi to take us back to Ingwavuma. It felt like we were standing waiting for a ride for ever! I was desperate and didn’t mind whether a taxi or some random person pulled over to offer us a lift…ANYONE…PLEASE!! Eventually, just as I thought I was beginning to feel sick and feel as if I could have shriveled up and melted onto the tarmac, a taxi pulled up! Once we arrived at the Jozini taxi rank, we then had to find which taxi was going to Ingwavuma. We were so lucky – it was just about to leave and I pretty much had to plead with the driver to let us in as there was very little room left for us! But, when the guy told me that the next one would be another hour to an hour and a half, I practically jumped on the taxi door, refusing to be told that we could not somehow fit into the taxi! … On the way home I met this annoying guy who would NOT stop staring at me. I got so annoyed at him and eventually said “do you have a problem!?” He just kept looking at me with big eyes and a cheesy grin; “can you turn around and stop looking at me!” Argh he pissed me off! In fact, this seemed to be the beginning of what was a very frustrating afternoon! I walked home after physio and it seemed like everyone (particularly the males) were staring at me! I then went to the post office and had one guy say to me “you look so beautiful!” It was so annoying! It was a hot today, so I wore my knee length green skirt and a white singlet top – is this why I received so much attention? A lot of the other women around Ingwavuma were wearing singlet tops! Haven’t they ever seen a white girl in one before!?

Wednesday 2 September 2009

…This morning I took the grade 8 technology class. The new teacher who is meant to be taking it is really annoying me! Firstly, he parks his car in between two car spaces so no one else can fit in and secondly, he doesn’t actually leave any work for the students to do. He did give me a page number in the text book which I was to start from, but it was up to me to read about what I was teaching, teach the kids what I thought needed to be taught and give them questions relating to the text. I couldn’t give them the experiment on voltages as he hadn’t organised the equipment so I made up ten of my own questions. When I told him that he really needed to organise the equipment for next time, he replied “oh, I’ve never been up to the science labs before…” Well there is always a first for everything buddy…so get to it! … For the afternoon, I decided to start work on the dreaded library. And this is when it began to all go down hill! When I walked into the library, I once again had an overwhelming feeling of it all being just too hard! The books were scattered everywhere – where on earth was I to start!? I’m really frustrated with Kenny – he is the librarian yet every time I go into the library it looks like absolutely NOTHING has been done! I started firing questions at him; asking him how he was planning to organise the library, why the library was in such a state of chaos and why the work that the previous gapers had done had been completely demolished! I was so frustrated with the whole situation and I do admit that I got a little narky with him…the next thing I knew, Kenny was telling me how much he didn’t appreciate how I was talking to him. … So maybe I did go a bit over board but I am sick to death of him pussy footing around doing nothing! He is the librarian and he has had more than enough time to make some changes; by the end of the afternoon I had done a considerable and visible amount of work on the library…and that was in 1 and half hours! He on the other hand, hasn’t seemed to have done anywhere near the amount of work I did since I first arrived at the school! …Last week, the six girls that I met the other weekend invited us to come with them to Swaziland for the weekend, where they will be visiting their family. Part of the excitement of it all is that we will be walking down the mountain that borders South Africa and Swaziland, before being picked up by their family. Apparently there is a police officer at the bottom of the mountain. All you have to do is say you are from Ingwavuma (they won’t let any random do it…although they take your word for it if you say you are residing in Ingwavuma!) and they record your name and when you intend to come back into South Africa!

Thursday 3 September 2009

…This morning I went to apologise to Kenny for offending him yesterday afternoon. I told him that I did not mean anything negative out of what I was saying…oh…and happy birthday (it was his birthday today!) He said “that’s fine, I don’t hold grudges.” I only found out later tonight from Bongi that Kenny is always like this and that if anyone suggests anything in regards to the organisation of the library or if they ask him any questions in relation to planning, he always gets on his high horse and starts accusing people of treating him like a kid! Apparently he has done this to previous GAPS too! … Later in the day I went to Bongi to enquire about staying with a Zulu family! Lucky for me, Bongi informed that there was a family with a grade 11 boy at Nansindlela who has been waiting to host a GAP student for quite some time! Bongi got straight on the phone to the mother and asked if they were still keen! She then got straight off the phone and asked me when I wanted to move! I honestly wasn’t expecting to get an instant response – I thought it would have taken a few weeks! … I am really excited about this experience! I cannot wait to experience life with a Zulu family; the routines, chores, family, food etc. I also hope that the grade 11 boy will be open to me tutoring him with his school work! … I spent this afternoon drawing and colouring in posters for the Arts and Crafts group I am going to be starting next week. Because the photocopier is not working and I don’t like using up the schools printer ink, I drew and coloured in multiple copies of the same poster! Boy, was I glad when that was done! (And so was my poor hand!) But once again, this was just another part of living in Africa!

Friday 4 September 2009

 Today I went to Kosi Bay private school with the intermediate students, who were competing against Jesse and Eliza’s school in sport and debating. We left at about 7:30 (only half an hour late which isn’t too bad considering this is Africa!). Just like my last experience of being in a taxi with students, all of the kids were as high as kites! They were jumping up and down and singing and dancing to the taxi music which was blaring full volume! We stopped at Bambanana to get some fuel for the trip. What could have been a three minute stop ended up being at least a good half an hour! All of the kids went crazy and bought chocolates upon chocolates, chips upon chips and junk food upon junk food from the petrol store! I actually felt sorry for the stores security guard; trying to control all of the pushy and excited kids was not an easy task! … We arrived at Kosi Bay private school at about 9:30. I was so happy that this school happens to be where Jesse and Eliza are volunteering – it was so good to catch up with them and see what their school conditions were like in comparison to ours. Firstly, their school is completely built on sand! It honestly felt like we were at the beach the whole day…It was a funny sight to see all of the Nansindlela kids constantly take their shoes off to empty all of the sand! Although it is a private school, the classrooms were in a really poor condition! Many of the classrooms did not have furniture inside. Although, in same cases, this is the way it has to be. Jesse took us into his grade 7 classroom where he teaches up to 60 students at one time! The room was soooooooo tiny! Apparently the kids have to line up and squish together in rows to fit into the room! Jesse also pointed out the loose bit of chipboard on the back wall. Apparently a lot of the kids use this as a way from escaping from the class; they simply pull it out, jump out and put it back into place after they leave! …The inter-school competitions ran throughout the whole day…I was lucky enough to umpire the Under 10’s netball game…I am so glad I got given the opportunity! …The netball games were interesting! It was more like netball on a beach volleyball field! There were even kids diving to get the ball, just like you see athletes do when playing volleyball! Another thing that was interesting was that a few of the girls from Kosi Bay only played in their t-shirt and undies! They couldn’t have cared less – and I really don’t think anyone else did either! At one stage of the morning, I had these gorgeous little girls come up to me! I had been playing with them all morning and they had become quite fond of me. Before I knew it, I had these tiny tiny girls, one by one, grabbing me from behind and picking me up off the ground…by themselves! I could not believe it! They were so tiny yet so strong! … It was then time for debating! I was the chairperson, whilst Jesse, Nina and Eliza judged. The topic was ‘multiculturalism is a step in the right direction for the South African education system.’ Nansindlela was affirmative. To put it bluntly, the Kosi Bay team was really bad – they were terrible presenters, they had no central arguments and some of them even argued points for the other team! Nansindlela were clearly the winners, but due to some biased judging…Kosi Bay WON! I felt so bad for Nansindlela and embarrassed! …the Nansindlela teachers were really annoyed about the whole situation…and I had to put up with them whinnying about it the whole way home and the Nansindlela kids asking me why they didn’t win! … When we eventually did get everyone in the taxis, we went into the centre of Manguze to stop at the SPAR for yet again, some more junk food for the students… We were there for approximately half an hour before we finally got going again. (One of the teachers decided to walk to the burger joint, ‘Steers’ and order some takeaway). Whilst we were waiting to leave, there were a group of Nansindlela boys who were drinking cans of soft drink. When they finished, they just chucked their rubbish on the floor (as is always the case in Africa!) I told them that they shouldn’t litter and to pick it up and put it in a bin. They all looked at me like I was from another planet, before saying, ‘where do you think we will find a bin Miss!’ They all cracked up laughing…they did have a point; the only bin in most areas I have been to in South Africa is the ground! Lucky for me though, I spotted a bin!

Saturday 5 September 2009

This weekend was the weekend of all weekends! SWAZILAND! Walter drove me and the other four girls to the point of the mountain where we were to begin our trek! I must admit, when I first awoke this morning, I was feeling a bit nervous; the fact that we were illegally walking (or was it legal!?) into another country was not something I am used to! But, once we were on our way, I can honestly say that I did not think twice about it! It was such an amazing and liberating feeling to begin walking down a rocky track with the sun slowly rising behind us! (The sunrise this morning was absolutely amazing; it was bright red – so beautiful!) It took us about 40 minutes to reach the bottom of the mountain. The trek was quite hard on the knees as it was considerably steep. We sung songs the whole way; I learnt some more Zulu words and in general, had such a good 40 minute walk! Once we reached the bottom, we had to go and report to the Swazi soldiers. This was an experience! The men are actually based there (in the middle of nowhere) in an army tent. When we arrived, one of the men was sitting under the shade of a tree, whilst the other two sweated it out playing soccer on the hot, dusty dirt. We were told to take a seat, before the soldier asked for our details. Tessa did all of the talking; the weird thing was, he only took down my name and her names, our age and when we planned to come back – forget about the other four girls! He didn’t even ask for the spelling of my name! Tessa pronounced ‘Teakle’ in a way that I wouldn’t have even been able to even try and spell, but the soldier didn’t seem to care! After these formalities (or should I be saying informalities!?) we waited for the girls brother to pick us up. His car was so nice! It was an old Volvo, but had comfy, padded, leather seats and air-conditioning! The only thing that made it uncomfortable was that four girls had to squeeze in the back and two of us in the front passenger seat! For the approximately 30 minute drive to Matata, there were two police checking points. So, in true African style, two of the girls had to get out of the car, walk past the police point and then get back in the car so we were not caught with too many passengers! What was funny about this was that we picked them back up in perfect view of the police only a short distance down the road! The family’s house was in Matata. We first stopped in at the SPAR where I bought the three elderly women (who were the ones still mourning the grandfathers death) a cream petti skirt each…It didn’t cross my mind that Swaziland used a different currency of money so it came as a surprise when my change was given to me in Swazi coins and cash! (Swaziland will accept South African Rand but South Africa will not accept the Swazi currency). The coins are really pretty; some of them have curvy edges! We then drove for approximately 10 minutes before arriving at the ‘family village.’ I say this because when we drove through the gate, there were a series of traditional round huts with thatched roves as well as some ‘normal’ houses. That afternoon I had such an amazing time! This included having the pleasure of watching the family men slaughter, hang, skin, gut and clean not one, but TWO cows in preparation for our meals for the weekend! After this, a group of us walked to the Swaziland River. To get there, we walked through a series of agricultural pastures which included maize (corn) fields, sugar cane and other vegetable fields. Some of this land was owned by one of the brothers of the family, who had been given the land after the grandfather died late last year. We also walked over a train track which is used to get to one end of Swaziland to another. Tessa told me it was for public use, yet the two times I saw it go by, it seemed to be transporting industrial resources. By the time we got to the river, we were all so hot! The sun was so bright and made us all so sweaty that the water was just too tempting to resist! Apparently this river flows all the way to Mozambique! I did not have my swimsuit with me, but neither did anyone else. In true African style, many of them (boys and girls) went in naked. I, along with some of the older girls, stripped down to our undies. Contrary to what I may have previously thought, it didn’t make me feel at all uncomfortable. I was in Africa and this was the norm! … When we arrived back home, we were served some lunch; pap with beef (from the cow!) and carrots. I enjoyed it; the meat was very tender and my first taste of pap was also great! Pap looks a lot like mashed potato. It is a substitute for rice and is quite tasteless. Most Africans eat this with their hands due to its firm consistency. I then got to watch the second cow being skinned and gutted. Tessa called me out the back again so she could show me how she was cleaning the cow’s intestines; i.e. our dinner! This was really gross! Mushed up pieces of green grass were squirting out of the intestines from all random angles! It stunk, there were flies everywhere and the dogs were having a field day eating it! Yuck! … Later in the afternoon, Tessa offered to wash my t-shirt for me! It was white and as the day progressed, it had gotten more and filthier from all of the kids wrapping themselves around me! This was very nice of her, but I felt bad just handing it over to her, so I offered to help. Another sign of their hospitality (and me feeling like I was a Queen!) was when Nellie came to me and said that my bath was ready for me! She had boiled some water for me, put it in the bath and then come and got me! I felt so dirty, so it was great to have a wash – although when I asked Nellie if she had a spare towel for me to use, she just said ‘oh, there is one hanging on the wall, just use that one.’ Um…ok…I had no idea who had used this towel…but, this is South Africa baby! For dinner, it was my duty to help serve all of the older women who were seated in the hut with the three elderly women. I had to take the food in on a tray and kneel in front of them before passing it to them. Tessa said they were all very impressed that I did this! After we had served all of the family (of which there were too many too count), we got to sit down and eat our own; pap with cow intestines (which included the delectable outer skin!) I did try it, but I really didn’t like it – all I could think about was the smell – it still smelt like the aroma of the cow before it had even been killed! The ladies told me not to worry and that even some of the younger kids didn’t eat it because it upset their stomach too much…thanks for that – it can be my excuse for not eating it now! The women insisted they make me another meal – a massive plate of rice with chicken. I didn’t want to be rude, so I sat there until I had finished every last mouthful! Aish! The night also consisted of men telling me that they wanted me to be their wife. I took solace in the fact that some of them were a little tipsy, but there were still sober men asking me too! I also met a leader from one of the local Swaziland tribes! Towards the later end of the night, we went across to a house where one of the girl’s Mum lives. Tessa asked her if she could pay for her daughter to go with Tessa to Durban on a grade ten science excursion. When she heard that it was R200, she said that she could not afford it. R200 is approximately $30 so I decided to offer to pay; I wasn’t going to let this girl miss out all because of $30! We then went to another house (all in the same gated area) where we watched some television. One of the brothers offered me MORE food! I was actually feeling a little sick from all the food I had eaten so I had to politely refuse. He then said ‘you do know that in our culture, when someone offers you food you are meant to accept it and eat it.’ ….I know, I know, but I could not possibly fit anymore in!

Sunday 6 September 2009

Saturday night I slept in one of the ladies beds in the main house. It was not being used by her as she, along with the other women of the family had to sleep on the floor of the traditional, round Swazi hut where the three mourning women resided. I felt even worse taking this ladies bed when I heard that she had just given birth to a baby, less than 12 hours ago! Early this morning I was woken by Nellie, who told me that my bath was ready! Wow! What service! …She then escorted me to the lounge where I received breakfast. To be polite, I sat and ate every last mouthful of the rather large amount of food in front of me; two big scones and two thick slices of bread. After this, Tessa, her friend and myself walked down to the families vegetable patch; or should I say vegetable field to collect some produce for lunch. Not surprisingly, the Mama’s were already out cooking more food, whilst the men continued cutting more parts of the cow (they were working on the feet this morning!) Whilst in the fields, I was given the opportunity to hold one of the families little babies…African style! As do all African women, I had to balance the baby on my back, before tying a towel around me to hold her in place. In theory, the towel is meant to stay tight around your chest, whilst the baby rests just above your hips and bum, thus preventing it from sliding. I must admit, it was a lot harder for me to keep the baby comfortable (and me!) as I have no boobs and hips or but to keep the baby stable. It was a good experience though and I am glad I got given the opportunity to try something which I see mothers doing every single day in Africa! When we returned, Nellie and another one of the family girls walked me to their local church. When we arrived, there were a group of teenagers studying the bible under the little shade that the trees out the front of the church provided them. The church service followed; I did not understand any of it as it was all in Swazi, but the experience was still amazing! I got to experience a church service in another country and the wonderful singing that always makes up a large part of any service I have been to over here. For the first 25 minutes of the service, the congregation did not stop singing! Yesterday afternoon, I had told Nellie that I would be happy to sing a few songs to her church congregation. So, half way through the service I was called up on stage. I introduced myself and sang a.) Lord I Lift Your Name on High, b.) God Loves You and c.) Christian Blessing. They all seemed to love it! After the service, Nellie wanted to introduce me to her pastor and what seemed like a never ending amount of local people! One of the people I met was a guy who is in the early stages of building a pre-school and church somewhere in Swaziland. Currently, the only money he has is the money donated by the church congregation every Sunday… …Not long after lunch, it was time to head back home to South Africa! This was an effort in itself! There were so many family members that I had to go and say goodbye to! Most of the time I had no idea who was who and who I had and hadn’t said good bye too! We got driven to the bottom of the Swaziland mountain where we signed our names off with the soldiers before starting our trek home. I was sad to be leaving – I REALLY enjoyed my time in Swaziland with a Swazi family – I didn’t want to go home! It was about 4:00 by the time we started walking up the rocky mountain. It was considerably hot and it didn’t help that the family had bought groceries for the girls to take back up with us! The trek up the mountain was a lot harder than the walk down! It was so steep and so rocky, with no real pathway to follow. We couldn’t help but stop a few times – it was exhausting! I took my bag of my back a few times and when I put it back on, winced at the coldness from my drenched t-shirt! Finally – the top of the mountain…and the entry into another country! It was now 5:00 and we were absolutely exhausted! But it wasn’t over yet – we had to wait for forty five minutes for a car to drive past so we could hitch a ride home! I ABSOLUTLEY LOVED THIS WEEKEND!!! … I experienced so much in only a couple of days; things that I will remember for ever and ever; things that have opened my eyes up to yet another country, culture, family and way of living! I am SOOOOOOOOOOO GRATEFUL TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THIS OPPURTUNITY and I would not have changed it for the world!

Monday 7 September 2009

This morning Nina and I went to help the grade ones with their math and writing. They were all given a 10 question math test to begin. A lot of the students received 18 marks or higher (with each question worth 2 marks), however, there were, of course, a considerable amount of students who got less than half right. Of particular disappointment, was the little girl who I have been tutoring. She received 2 marks out of twenty. Junior, a little boy who I have also been helping received four. … I spent part of today putting posters up around the school for the tutoring group I am starting. It is going to happen for an hour after school every Wednesday. Some of the senior students actually came up to me and seemed quite excited. I had a few ask ‘Why would you do this?” I said, because I want to help you! They all seemed really surprised by this! …After school I went to the intermediate phase staff meeting, where I proposed the ‘GAP’ star award. This is like a principle award. Only one person from each of the five classes will receive the award per week. I have printed off a certificate template and drawn and coloured it in myself to make it more personal for the students. I have stressed to the teachers that it should not necessarily always go to the student who is the smartest etc. All of the staff seemed very excited about this. …After the Intermediate phase meeting I walked up in the stinking hot sun to the physio. Unfortunately she was not there, so I had her ‘assistant’ (who is apparently everyone’s assistant in most fields available at the hospital!) put a hot pack on my back before giving me a massage…better than nothing I suppose! When I asked about strapping my back, she asked another physio, who said he had never heard of such a thing…TIA.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

… I actually feel like my grade 8 class was a success! I gave them back their exam papers and went through each answer with them. They were attentive throughout this time (except for the group of students who have to ruin everything!) and they even asked questions! There was one section of the text that included the word ‘reproduction.’ From then on in, the class pretty much turned into a sex education lesson! I had questions thrown at me left right and centre (some of them serious, others simply to test my ability to answer them!) I had students asking me about sex; how babies are made, can you have sex if you don’t want to have babies; condoms, the pill. I then had students asking me how long it takes to push a baby out and what happens if it does not come by the due date! I felt that I handled these questions well! … When we finally did get back on track (I was not going to continue with anymore questions; they were getting stupid! Questions like ‘what is a blow job’ and ‘what is the best flavour condom’ where starting to be asked), we completed looking through the rest of the test. Unfortunately, too many students received a low mark for the test. I deliberately made the paper relatively easy and it only included the things that I had taught in class. For the five students who did receive 18/20 and the two students who received 19/20, I rewarded them with a prize. … We had about 20 minutes of the class left, when I introduced them to their new topic; drama! They all seemed really excited about this! I am so glad I have finally found a way to connect with the students! I want my time at the school to be worthwhile and if I can teach things that the students will enjoy, it is an extra bonus! Hopefully my classes will only get better from here on in!

Wednesday 9 September, 2009

Today I went to Jozini with Londi for the actual Orphan Care Meeting! There were six of us who attended and overall, I feel that I was able to contribute to the meeting well. I now understand a little more about the group itself. It is actually called the Schools Counselors Group… They are in the process of trying to open a bank account so that sponsors such as SPAR and PEP can donate and deposit them money to put towards student events etc. The only problem is that they cannot afford to even open the bank account up! At the end of the meeting I decided to donate R100 to put towards this. Thursday 10 September 2009 I tutored my grade one girl this morning for math. I still feel like I have not been getting through to her, so I decided to introduce a new method! Recently I drew up some 1-100 number grids, drew and cut out numbers 1-10, the words one-twenty and numerical signs such as plus and minus. This morning, I used these to help the students with understanding what number was what and what the equation read. She loved it! For her, it was like playing a game – she had to find each number amongst the pile of other numbers, the matching word and the numerical signs to create the actual equation. There was obviously a lot of repetition with this which I feel is helping her to memorize the numbers better. I am obviously very happy that I have finally found a method that she enjoys – I let her have a break half way through the questions, but she just wanted to keep going! …This afternoon, Nina and I were sitting in the staff room when Zethembiso, a grade 7 student came in. One of the teachers, Rose, was holding her up and dragged her to the corner of the room. Zethembiso was sweaty, gasping for breath and felt dizzy. She said she couldn’t feel her body and she didn’t know what she felt; hot or cold or what was going on…Zethembiso’s father died two days before she was born. Apparently she was given some beaded bracelets around this time from her father, which is meant to protect her and keep her safe and healthy. Whenever she does not wear them, she begins to feel the way she was feeling this afternoon; incredibly ill. Whilst Nina went to retrieve her bag from the classroom, I did the best I could to comfort her. I put her feet up and wet a dish cloth to wipe over her hot body. By the time Nina returned, Zethembiso was shaky and very weak. It didn’t help matters when she couldn’t find her bracelets – she thought she had lost them! And when she did find them, one of them snapped and the beads went flying everywhere! I had some thread in my locker but unfortunately it was too big for her beads. Thankfully she handled this well; she still had other bracelets to wear and said that she would fix it when she got home from school. What was amazing to see was that the minute she put them on, she became calm. She was still a little shaky but nevertheless, she was ok! In Africa, traditional powers and ‘spells’ are still practiced and believed by many Zulu people. Whilst I believe that some of Zethembiso’s reaction was in her ‘head,’ (i.e. she placed such importance on the beads that she made herself ill) I am a firm believer that it also had a lot to do with traditional powers. After all, I have heard too many stories about traditional powers and ‘spells’ to believe otherwise!

Saturday 12 September 2009

Today was a really lazy day – it was so good to do nothing! After we finished watching a movie in bed and Nina had finally arrived, we made pancakes before walking down to check out Nina’s new abode – it is really nice – it looks just like a bedroom back in Auz! Nina decided to walk back home to my place and stay for the night; the night can be summed up by lots of laughs and happy times to remind us of just how much we are enjoying Africa!

Sunday 13 September, 2009

This morning, Jan, Nina and I walked to Popopo dam which is about 2-3km into the bush! We passed houses/huts along the way and even saw some Nansindlela students out in their front yard. I had no idea that this area existed – it felt even more rural than the main part of Ingwavuma! We met some children along the way who decided to follow us all the way to the dam and then all the way back to the main Ingwavuma road! The dam was amazing! There was very little water, but the water that was running, ran down mini cliffs, right down into a pond at the very bottom. It was so peaceful! …We then went back to Jan’s place and sat out on his balcony. He has such an amazing view! It was also nice to hear one of the churches down in the valley singing and praising God! It was such an ‘African’ moment! Monday 14 September, 2009 This morning I went to the grade ones, who did a math and english test. Nonsindiso (the little girl who has no idea), received 2/20… Which brings me to a rather alarming point; I was speaking to Mama (grade 1 teacher) about this girl and how she really needs to repeat grade 1 next year. Mama didn’t seem to think that she would be! I put my foot down on this one and said that she HAD to – she couldn’t even recognize what number was what, little own move onto grade 2! There is also another girl who struggles with her math and is below the class average. Apparently, this girl is in her second year of grade 1 – she is repeating, yet even at the end of her second year, she is still really struggling! Recently, Mum sent me over some elastics. I decided to take this out to the kids – they loved it! I had no idea what to do with it, but they were happy to make up their own games. Students from reception, up until about grade 4 were getting involved and didn’t want to stop when the bell rang! Even though I still sometimes struggle to see it, I think that it is these types of things that I do with and for the kids that are making some sort of difference. Half and hour before lunch I went and read Dr Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ to the reception class. When I walked in, the teacher said that they always wait for me to arrive – they love me reading to them!…A little boy was asleep on the mat again today! The teacher picked him up and put him onto a little mattress in the corner of the room. He was so cute! Apparently he is only three years old! After lunch I went and worked on the school library. Even since I was last there the other week, there seems to have been a dramatic improvement in the tidiness of the entire room! I now know that this is because Kenny has been begging Bongi for a computer for the library. Bongi has told him that he cannot have one until the library is neat and tidy! So, guess what!? Kenny, in the space of a few days has miraculously been able to tidy up the library! In saying this, a lot of the books have just been shoved onto any shelf. This frustrates me, particularly because I have already spent so much time trying to order the books into sections! After school I walked up to the hospital. I was walked up by some grade 1 girls, all three of whom held my hand or arm the whole way! We sang some nursery rhymes together and at the end, I reminded Nonsindiso that I was going to come and play the fun maths game with her tomorrow! She smiled, so hopefully this is an indication that she likes it! … When I reached the Human Resources Department, a lady came up to the counter to ask who I was looking for. She then asked me if I was teaching at Nansindlela. I said yes and she then proceeded to say that she is going to be looking after a white girl from Nansindlela! Turns out – I just met my Mama! She seems so nice! She said that she has one daughter (who is at boarding school) and that I am going to be her second daughter! Already I feel like I am part of her family! Seeing her has made me soooooo excited – I can’t wait until Friday when I move in!!!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

A highlight from this mornings grade one writing lesson, was that I feel they are now grasping the difference between the word ‘Tuesday’ ad ‘Thursday.’ The other week when they were unable to identify the difference, I made them aware of the different sounds that each word makes; ‘Tues’ and ‘Thurs.’ I think this has really helped them as they all were trying to say the ‘Tu’ for Tuesday and ‘Thu’ for Thursday! Yay! For their half an hour reading session, I read the grade ones Dr Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ The absolutely LOVED it! They were all laughing so hard that I actually had to stop and wait for them to be quite so that they could hear me read! At morning tea time I took a group of girls to the library where they starting making some bracelets and necklaces with the wool, thread and beads I bought from Pongola. Whilst I initially wanted to make a ‘formal’ Arts and Crafts extra-curriculum group (for which I received very little support from the teachers for, as it was just ‘too hard’ to organise), I now realise that doing something like this is just as special. I am trying really hard not to feel like everything needs to be perfect and/or the best it can be! …After school I walked up to the hospital to see the physio. Once the needles were in she placed an extremely hot light over my back to (apparently) promote the circulation of the blood. I wasn’t sure about this; the light was so bright – it was white and made my skin look a little green. I had a suspicion that it was just like a sun-bed light! For those of you who know me, I am pretty conscious about protecting my skin and there is no way in the world that I would voluntarily go to a sun bed lounge – not unless I wanted to die from skin cancer of course! But, as I have had to do a lot in Africa, I reminded myself that I was in Africa and that sometimes, you just have to go with the flow! Besides, I didn’t know for sure that the light was actually what I thought it was and even if it was, it was only one session… That night I went to a pirate and princess dress-up birthday party for one of the doctors birthdays…Throughout the night, my back felt as if I had carpet burns! I couldn’t work out what it could have been – was it a mosquito bite or my clothes rubbing against my skin? I stayed at Nina’s as her new house is close to the hospital where the party was. When I took my top off to have a look at my back, all I saw was sunburn – my whole back was BRIGHT RED! It then clicked – it was from the light used by the physio! …Nina’s floor was actually relatively comfy all things considering. Another thing I am getting used to whilst being over here is being able to sleep anywhere, on anything, with any shade of darkness or lightness and noise!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

This morning was the first week of the ‘GAP Star Awards’ which I have begun at the intermediate assembly! I am so pleased I started this – the five students from the five classes who did receive an award were so happy and took so much pride in it! I struggled to pronounce their names though which was quite embarrassing! After I handed the awards out in front of the rest of the audience, Miss Simamane (intermediate HOD) gave a big spiel on how valuable this award was and that it wasn’t going to be something that could be easily obtained. She said that the students receiving the award should feel honored – according to her, it can even be put on their C.V.’s when they are applying for jobs! Later on in the day, she told me that many of the students were already jealous of those who received the award! …Lunch came around before I knew it – I went to say hello to the cooks and got a chance to stir the semp! If you can even begin to imagine, the pot and stirring spoon were HUGE – after all, they do have to feed a whole school! It was so hard to stir – the cooks thought it was hilarious! After lunch I went to the grade ones and taught them an Australian animal song that I made up for their cultural day on Monday. Once again, it was very simple and normally I would be worried that it wasn’t good enough, but the kids loved it! They all looked so cute performing it with their actions too! This week was the first week of the tutoring class I have started. Due to it being the end of the term and perhaps more truthfully, the laziness of the students, I only had one grade 10 girl come. This was fine though as it meant I got to give her one-on-one attention. I helped her with her business poster and taught her how to write an essay (using Mrs Ng’s renowned OESC technique! Thanks Mrs Ng!)

Thursday 17 September 2009

Did I mention lately how great it is to be in South Africa! Take the grade ones for instance – they are a bunch of cuties! As always, when I enter the room they all stop what they are doing and say ‘good morning Miss Teakle.’ I reply with ‘good morning grade ones, how are you?” “We are fine thank you Miss Teakle and how are you?” Lately, I have been enjoying these greetings; I know now a lot of the students by name and I have been spending a lot of time with them, so the greeting seems a lot more personal – they all look at me with their big eyes and beautiful smiles like I am their long lost friend! I tutored Nonsindiso, the girl who has really been struggling this morning. She definitely has a long way to go, but in the last couple of days, she seems really excited to go with Miss Teakle to the staffroom! Her face lights up when I ask her to come with me! She now looks at me in the eyes, smiles and holds my hand the whole way to the staff room; she now trusts me. Today, the girls who had been making jewelry with the beads I bought finished. They were all really happy with the necklaces, bracelets and rings that they made. They were so excited – they were going to wear them on the weekends and to church! …After lunch I went back to the grade ones to practice the Australian animal song I taught them yesterday; they all remembered it! You should have seen their faces – they had such a fun time singing, making animal noises and actions! They LOVE making the sound of a kookaburra! The whole time, I was standing in front of them, mouthing the words and leading them with the actions – all their beautiful faces staring at me, their contagious smiles lighting up the room! For the last twenty minutes of the day we had a mini birthday party for Phila, one of the boy students. His parents had brought in a cake, packet of chips and bottle of soft drink for a class of 37 to share! Mama cut the cake into small pieces and went around giving each student one piece. I followed with the chips…and then there was the soft drink! We did not have access to any cups so we used Mama’s mug to essentially create a communal drinking cup! I went round to each table, student by student and held the cup up to their mouth so they could take a sip! I must admit, it was rather cute hand-feeding them the softdrink, but, it was also really gross! They had food all over their mouths and a build up of slimy icing, sponge cake and chip seasoning gradually became visible around the rim of the cup! They didn’t seem to mind though! I had to laugh once class was dismissed! One of the students had gone and got the cake box from the bin and was licking the icing remains out of it. Even worse, was when I caught a group of reception students digging through the bin, trying to find any bit of leftover party food that they could! This afternoon I packed up all of my belongings, ready for my move tomorrow! I am soooooo excited and can’t wait to see where I will be living and who I will be living with for the rest of my placement at Nansindlela! I’m ready for this – it’s the next chapter of my journey and I can’t wait! In the last week or so, I have been starting to feel really really comfortable and happy doing what I’m doing. The first month or so was really overwhelming – school was soooo tiring, exhausting and difficult. Now, I am remembering teachers and students names, starting up extra curriculum groups and not feeling so tired and exhausted all the time! I gave one of the grade 11 students, Zandy my mobile number today. We get along really well and I know that she wouldn’t abuse the privilege of me giving it to her. Tonight, I received a text message from her which read: “Don’t kill any mosguito 2nyt cz one of them culd b me trying 2 give u a GUD9T KISS, SWIT SLIP, LUV U am glad ive met sum1 lyk u…love zandy.”

Friday 18 September, 2009

As is happening most Fridays, today was a day for students to wear free dress (or civvies as they call it) and teachers to pay R5 to wear a school uniform. I was enthused to get into the spirit of things and to help support the grade 12 dance (which they are trying to raise money for) so I borrowed a grade 9 girls skirt – I looked quite like the student!

Saturday 19 September, 2009

What a day! What an ‘African’ day – today was exactly what I expected Africa to be like! This morning Sabelo, the guy I met from fancy stitch took Jesse, Eliza, Nina and myself up to the Kings Palace for the annual Reed festival. This festival takes place in various regions throughout Zululand in the month of September, Ingwavuma being one of them. Traditionally, this would be a time for which the Zulu King chooses a new wife to add to his ‘collection!’ Although he does not normally choose a wife anymore (due to his older age, although he has been known to do it a few times) the Reed dance is still a very important celebration for the Zulu people. To be able to partake in the celebrations, the girls must undergo a medical check to prove that they are still virgins. If they do not pass, they are unable to participate (This testing was done at the Women’s Centre in Ingwavuma). Girls of all ages participate, including quite a few I know from Nansindlela; grade fours, eights, nines and tens! Seeing some of my students participate made the experience even more special for me. I wasn’t just watching a group of African girls dancing and singing Instead, it was a lot more personal; I was watching girls that I knew – normal, everyday girls! We arrived by a free taxi service. The taxi bus reeked of alcohol and many of the passengers were drunk. The driver was also drinking – thankfully he wasn’t too drunk that he couldn’t drive properly! When we arrived, the atmosphere was amazing! There were big tents which had been set up for the girls to sleep in (the celebrations go from Friday to Sunday, day and night), food stalls and of course, all of the girls! There were thousands of girls (some who had travelled to Ingwavuma for the occasion – I know, can you believe it, there is actually something going on in Ingwavuma big enough for people to want to come up for the weekend! They were all dressed in colourful skirts and wore beads upon beads around their waist, neck and head! They were also each holding a single reed which looked amazing! The girls were divided into different groups, depending on what colour skirt they wore. This categorizing had a lot to do with the age groups of the girls. The singing and dancing was amazing and continued once we had entered through to a big tent where the audience sat under, as well as the royalties. The poor girls sat out in rows in front of us in the hot sun. They had no tops on, no hat and were constantly singing and dancing – it would have been so hot for them! Nevertheless, they all had so much fun – you could see it in how enthusiastic they were with their dancing and singing and how they listened and responded to the King addressing them. After a few hours of being wrapped up in the whole experience we started heading out of the tent area to find a taxi so we could get home. We were chased on the way out by a South African radio and television presenter who wanted to interview us and ask us about what we thought about the experience! To add to the excitement of the day, I moved into my Zulu family’s home! It is about a 5-10 minute walk from the teacher’s house that I have been staying at. It is inland from the main road so to get there Bongi and her friend Conrad had to drive on a dirt track. We pulled up to what looked like a typical house back home in Auz. It was a big, brick house with a fence out the front and a massive front yard. This didn’t look like a typical African abode! Inside, the house is considerably big. It has quite a few bedrooms, a kitchen and two lounge areas. It is very basic inside. The floors are either tiled or have plastic sheet covers lining the rooms which make it quite cold. My room is very basic, but nevertheless greatly appreciated! It is about the same size as the teacher’s house room. It has two beds and one wardrobe. The wardrobe is quite tiny and there is not much space for all of my things. And the bathroom- there may not be running water, but I am now able to bathe in a bath – a clean bath! For dinner we had rice, beans and cabbage and before bed time, we all sat together for song and prayer which is a nightly ritual. The family all seem really nice – there is the husband and wife (both of whom I call Mum and Dad and both of whom work in the Human Resource Department at Mosvold Hospital), their son who is in grade 11 at school, Samkele and his friend who is staying with them because his family live in Swaziland. Apparently he used to walk up and down the mountain to Ingwavuma from Swaziland and back everyday for school! I am so excited about this experience and can’t wait to experience being part of a Zulu family for the next 3 months!

Sunday 20 September, 2009

Samkele and his friend started cooking at 6:30am this morning to prepare for today’s lunch which we would have after church. I woke up at 7:00 to help them, although Kelly is quite the chef and was happy for me just to watch! We also went out to the pig cage and fed the pigs some food! For breakfast we had banana flavoured maize porridge. Maize is another word for corn. It was essentially pap with banana flavouring in it. We then had church at the hospital from 10:00-12:30. The service was in Zulu so it was a bit boring at times, but, as always, the singing was interesting. …For dinner tonight we had left over lunch. I told Samkele that I wasn’t very hungry (due to the big lunch I had) so he said ‘I will just give you a little bit.’ Yeah right! His ‘little’ was what I would call my big! Oh well, it was yummy vegetables and pap so how could I refuse! PS: I think I’m going to like it here!!!

Monday 21 September 2009

Today was the school cultural day, for which the foundation phase participated. As well as the students, the teachers wore traditional clothes to school. I couldn’t help but wear a singlet top, knee length shorts and thongs! I also made it look more Aussie by sticking some Australian flag stickers on my arm and cheek! With the paint I bought in Pongola, Nina and I had the stressful task of face painting the faces of our grade one class. We did some Australian, Scotland and South African flags. I am glad that I came up with this idea, but it didn’t change the fact that the students would not stay seated and wait their turn – they were ALL up pushing and shoving, saying ‘Miss, miss, me, me!’ For the rest of the morning, the foundation phase watched each grade perform some songs. They were all traditional dances and songs and all in Zulu but it was still entertaining to watch! I got to do my Aussie song that I taught the grade ones! They were all so cute and I was so happy that I took the initiative of asking the teacher if I could teach them a song. For lunch, we had a variety of traditional South African foods which were prepared by the foundation phase teachers. I tried sour milk, pap (maize), pap with spinach, rice, chakalakah, salad and chicken curry. The only thing I didn’t eat were the cow intestines – but I have tried them in Swaziland so no one can say I didn’t at least try it!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

This morning my new neighbours who also have kids at Nansindlela took me to school. I offered to sit in the back of the ute with all of the other students, but once again, they insisted that I sit in the front! …Nina and I were feeling rather lethargic today– the overcast weather didn’t help. We managed to find the energy to type out a science prac for two grade 10 boys…but that’s all we did all day! We had no other classes! After deliberating for a while, we decided to bail at 11:30 and start our holidays! …