I went to church this morning. I had organised with one of the doctors to pick me up from the main road on her way through. I was taking photos with my beautiful grade one boy, Sandile when she arrived. Yito was sitting in the front and went to get out for me; they all looked surprised when I jumped in the back of the ute with everyone else! The ute was pretty full by the time I jumped in. I was sitting on peoples shoes and feet the whole time! More kids wanted to get a ride further down the road; there was absolutely no more room, so the car behind us shoved them all in the backseat of their car!

Before church started I practised ‘Lord I Lift Your Name on High’ with Yito. We had been practising this song for a while and I thought it would be good to actually perform it! The performance went really well – everyone loved it! They all knew the song, so many of them were clapping or singing along with us… After the service, I had a few people come up to me and say that I had an amazing voice.

After church, Amy (and English doctor currently working at Mosvold Hospital) showed me around the hospital. I was surprised at how small it was. I was expecting the typical long hospital corridors with private or shared rooms between two people. This was not the case! Overall, there was one big room for the child patients and a big room each for the women and men. There was also a room for the tuberculosis patients. It was a little scary seeing all of the nurses with their masks on and the skinny men (there were no women) looking very frail and unwell. In all of the wards, the beds were cramped, lined up next to each other with very little space between each. Each of these wards also had an office table and chairs for the nurses. The table in the women’s ward was practically on top of one of the beds!

My main intention for visiting the hospital was to visit the children’s ward and give the dolls that Nana knitted to some of the patients. Amy took me into a small room for the very new babies that need incubation. There were two babies in the room. One of them had only been born on Thursday (4 days old). Amy folded his blanket back…OMG! He was so tiny! His skin was still very transparent and his arm would have been as thin as my pinkie! I could see his ribs every time he breathed.

We then went to the main children’s ward, which consisted of 16 or so cots around the perimeter of the two rather small rooms that adjoined each other (one of them also catering as an office for the nurses). All of the children’s mothers were there with their children. On the floor underneath each cot lay a thin mattress. Amy said that this is where the mothers sleep day in, day out until they can take their child home! There was also another small room which accommodated for some of the older children but they still wouldn’t have been any older than seven or eight.

At first, the children were very shy and not too sure about the dolls. To begin with, I think the mothers were happier and more excited than the kids! I remember coming back into the children’s ward at one stage, however, to find that all of the kids were gladly playing with their new found toys! Others were asleep with the doll cuddled up next to them!

Some of the child patients that were in hospital were suffering from malnutrition – and it was very obvious. I remember giving a doll to one boy who looked like a starving child off a World Vision or Unicef advertisement. His collarbones were protruding, his eyes were bulging out of their sockets and his head looked deformed; long and stretched which is apparently a typical feature of malnourished children. There was also a baby girl who was suffering from malnutrition. She didn’t look as skinny, but had terrible sores and marks all over her body. She was crying uncontrollably when I arrived, but later on when I came back into the room she was sound asleep with her doll laying beside her.

Last week living in Ingwavuma!
The last week of living in Ingwavuma was a whirlwind!
Earlier on in the week, I went to Yito’s house to practise the ‘Christian Blessing’, which we performed on Sunday at church. I love making music with him – he adds some beautiful harmonies to the songs we sing and I just love the fact that I am helping someone in Africa continue with their passion whilst learning new songs that I can leave behind as a legacy!

As he always does, Yito carried my bags for me and walked me part of the way home. Along the way, he presented me with a gift – a bunch of fake red roses (of course they wouldn’t be real – it’s Ingwavuma!), some yoghurt, chocolate and lollies. I also gave him a gift – the ‘Sing Book 2007’ with the CD which he absolutely LOVED and was so grateful for! We took some photos together and he held the book up in front of him – he was so proud!

…On Wednesday at school, I read to the Pre-Grade R’s. The booked was Dr Seuss’ ‘Wacky Wednesday.’ In it, each page was filled with whacky things (e.g. shoes hanging from the wall, people with no heads, a green sun etc.) For each page, they had to point to things that were ‘whacky. I will never forget when my beautiful Asibonge put up her hand to show me something that she could see in the drawing that was not quite right. The gorgeous thing pointed to the shower head which had running water flowing from it!!! This was a real ‘moment’ for me. It made me realise that these children do not have any idea about the way other people live in the world. They see the way they live as normal.

…Due to Simon’s absence from school on Thursday, I took some of his classes, including my much loved grade 11 boys for maths. As per usual, they did all of their work. I did make an ultimatum with them that if they did do their work, that we would take some photos towards the end of the lesson. I love this class, so I gave them all a blue, black and red pen and a pencil each which they were very grateful for! The thing that I will remember the most about that lesson, was the amazing singing and the song they serenaded me with!!! One of the boys had his laptop on and played the song ‘Queen of my Heart,’ by Westlife. They all started singing it softly and one of the boys said to me ‘we dedicate this song to you Miss.’ Awwww!

…To begin our last day at school, Nina and I went to the grade ones for forty five minutes, before I had to go and teach the dreaded grade sevens. I was not looking forward to it, especially because I knew I would be going to a group of misbehaving rats, when I could have been spending the last morning with my beautiful grade ones! The grade ones stood at the front of the class and sang a few prayer songs before singing for me, one last time, the ‘Australian Animal’ song which I had made up for them! After this they presented us with a pile of cards – each student had made us a nice farewell card! Nina and I had also made Mum Sigwaza and the students a big good bye card which had ‘The Cat in the Hat’ on the front! We also handed out a small gift to each student. I then read them a Dr Seuss book for the final time, before it was time to leave 😦 I am going to miss my grade one babies so much!

Then it was time for the grade sevens…Surprisingly, the students who stayed in the classroom (the others I didn’t even bother about) were well behaved! Very few actually did their work, but they were not causing mischief so I was happy! Some played on the three computers that actually worked, and eleven students (including two boys who are normally feral!) finished their pen-pal letters for me to send to Trinity (yes, only eleven, but it was better than nothing I suppose!)

At one stage of the lesson, I went and sat with Zethembiso in the corner of the room. She started talking about how she was going to miss me so much and that she thought I was a very strong woman who she wanted to be like! I asked her why she thought I was strong and she explained how I never gave up with the grade sevens, no matter how naughty they were! I said it was my job as a teacher not to give in to naughty behaviour but she said that the previous GAPS had been overwhelmed by it all – some had given up and even begun to cry in front of the class! I asked Zethembiso why they were so naughty and she said it was because when the GAP students are not here, they get a free class where they can do whatever they want, without a teacher! This explains why they all cheered when I told them last week that I would be leaving this coming Friday – they were going to get their free class back!

…After talking to each other for a while, Zethembiso started to cry – of course that made me teary too! I am going to miss her so much! I worry about her. I get the impression that she is somewhat ostracised at school for being the ‘good’ student and the high achiever. I try and make an effort to make her feel special – she seems to hang from every encouraging word I say to her. She appreciates it all so much. I could do something as simple as saying ‘you are such a smart girl and you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it,’ and she will immediately become a brighter, more confident and happy person!

I went and read to the Pre-grade R students for a second time in one day which they were very excited about! I also gave them a marshmallow each, which they loved!

The rest of the day was full on!!! Nina and I were in-undated with students from all grades flooding to the staffroom to say goodbye and to give us letters. Zethembiso came and gave Nina and me both a beautiful bag of presents and when Tracy who is also from grade 7 came in to say goodbye she got teary as well!

Saturday 7 November 2009
I set my alarm for 7:00 this morning so that I could get up and help to prepare lunch. The boys were already outside doing the gardening by the time I got up! Mum got me to help prepare lunch. After cooking and washing my clothes, I went to say goodbye to the Swaziland girls.
By 11:30, Nina and I headed to the Emoyeni tea house for lunch. It is not normally open on weekends but upon our request, they offered to open it for us…Eliza and Nina came to my house to stay for the night. My family were so welcoming and made such an effort for us all. They made loads of spinach (because they know how much I LOVE it), mashed pumpkin, beef stew with a soup sauce and pap. They put it all in nice bowls and even made it nice and hot for us (they know how much I like warm food! They normally eat their food cold!) I was so full, but could not resist the custard and yoghurt that was for desert! Mnandi! Nina, Eliza and me sat in the lounge and were given the nicest plates and cutlery. I LOVE my Zulu family and will miss them soooooo much!

Sunday 8 November 2009
Nina and I got up early to make lasagne for lunch, which the boys were VERY excited about! Whilst we did this, Eliza made some pancake mix and started cooking them! It was the boys first time to eat pancakes so this was a special moment to be part of! After breakfast and clearing up, Nina and I went to my church…We arrived in time for Sunday school which was nice to sit in and watch. I also practised the ‘Christian Blessing’ song with Yito in preparation for our last performance at church together!

Just before I performed, I got this overwhelming feeling – I had to try really hard not to cry! It was a moment where I realised that I was leaving Ingwavuma and I wasn’t coming back (at least not for this trip anyway!) Ahhhh! I can’t believe it is coming to an end!
After church, Nina and I received a letter from Londi, a boy from grade 8. He is soooooooo adorable and I am going to miss his cuteness sooo much! That night, Nina text me to say that she had been talking to one of the teachers and that apparently he has AIDS! This would explain why he is living at the Sizwe Orphanage. I couldn’t believe it! It was such a touching and personal moment for both Nina and me. Someone we knew had AIDS! This disease isn’t just something we hear about now, it seems so much more real now that we know someone who is infected by it!

On my last afternoon in Ingwavuma, I went and said one last goodbye to the Nansindlela teachers. The grade one teacher had even made chakalaka for us (traditional African food)! I was so full from the big lunch I had with my Zulu family but I deliberately asked for seconds because I knew it would make her so happy. And I was right – she was exstatic!!! The Nansindlela Principle, Bongi, was also over joyed when I presented her with some ‘Bbay Touch’ items for her baby that is due in January. Her grin was as long as the Great Wall of China – she was soooooooooo amazingly happy! (Thanks Aunty Helen, Uncle Ron and everyone at Baby Touch – you made someone’s day – or should I say year!!!)

I myself received a lovely Zulu necklace from Ms Smamane, and even a piece of artwork that Mr Stima had designed especially for me!
To top the day off, my Zulu family and I all had a lovely night together! We sat in the lounge and after singing some devotional songs, each and every family member spoke about my time with them and how much they were going to miss me! I also got to give them some Australian gifts which they loved! We then all stood in a circle, held hands and sang more songs and prayers! Mum got teary quite a few times throughout the night!

I have had such a fantastic time in Ingwavuma and have met soooo many amazing people – I truly can’t believe it is time for me to leave. But, all things must come to an end and this end symbolises a new chapter of my amazing African journey! Stay tuned!