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Tuesday 24 November 2009
After a two hour flight from Durban, I arrived in Cape Town feeling very excited, yet a little nervous as to what would lay ahead of me for the next two weeks. I was hoping to get involved in some community based volunteer work, however, nothing had been organised or ‘set in concrete’ as of yet. So, here I was, in a big city all by myself, not really knowing where, how or what I would be doing before my overland tour commenced in two weeks time. I think it was more overwhelming than scary. I had just moved from a very rural area after six months of living with the bare essentials; for me, city life was something I was going to have slowly get used too again; city lights, cars everywhere, people rushing to work, shops, real food and REAL variety of everything, running water…

Wednesday 25 November 2009
I was woken by my alarm at 8:00 today – still no people in my room (which has 8 beds in it) – GREAT! I had a shower (the bathroom was nice and clean…a bit different to what I was used to!) and got some breakfast from the hostel’s restaurant which looks over the beautiful Table Mountain, one of Cape Town’s most well known tourist destinations!

…My taxi arrived on time and by 9:40 and R130 later ($20), I was at the volunteer centre. The morning talk was to learn about our rights and responsibilities as a volunteer, as well as some of the volunteer placements that were on offer. Pamela, one of the staff members was able to find me a placement 15 minutes away from where I am residing. Whilst I know very little about the placement, I am led to believe that it has something to do with women and children…and that’s all I really know! T.I.A!

I met a man called John at the centre this morning, who would have been in his fifties. He was unemployed (as were most of the nine other people who had shown up today) and was not mentally ‘all there.’ Nevertheless, he was very friendly. Instead of me catching a private taxi back to the backpackers, John offered to show me how to use the public taxis and train system to get back, as he only lived five or so minutes away from where I was staying. We ended up spending the afternoon together; he took me to a local market and we stopped at a shopping mall for some lunch. I’m not going to lie; by the time we reached the backpackers, I was more than happy to say goodbye to him – he was very nice and a great ‘guide,’ but by the end of the afternoon, I had learnt more about his life and his views and opinions on society than I could handle!

John grew up during the apartheid era and for a period of time and was consequently forced to enrol in the police force. John did not agree with the government’s attitude to black people, nor did he accept the way in which they were brutally beaten and taunted by the white police. But, during this terrible period, John had no choice but to abide by what the government and consequently, the police force ordered him to do. He said that he was expected to enlist and essentially bash and even kill black people for no apparent reason; to rob them of their dignity and freedom. It got to the point where John could no longer do what was ordered of him; he could no longer kill people just because of the colour of their skin. Unfortunately, one of the only way for him to get out of the police force, was if he was mentally unstable. As a consequence, he began to consume large amounts of alcohol so as to deliberately intoxicate himself. He also began to smoke weed. Over time, his body began to show the effects of alcohol and drugs. But whilst his is brain became like mush, he had managed to get himself out of the police force.

After many years of substance abuse, John is still suffering today. H no longer smokes and he can now drink a glass of wine socially, without falling of the wagon. He does, however, still slur his speech like someone who is drunk. Mentally, John still suffers. He is very negative and no matter what we talk about, it somehow relates back to the apartheid era and the ‘injustices’ of the past and present world. Even when I tried to divert the topic to something more positive and something that had nothing to do with the apartheid era, racism or politics, he would always, without a doubt, find a way to link it back to the issues of apartheid etc.

Spending time with John was a real eye opener. Whilst it was hard being around someone who was always so negative and pessimistic and also challenging to listen to him constantly talking about the past and current day political issues relating to race, it was a real eye opener to speak to someone who had actually lived during the apartheid era. As a society, we tend to hear about the effect t apartheid had on the black people and the struggles and pain they went through. But whilst we are aware of the hardships they went through, we very rarely hear about the struggles some white people went through. Spending time with John made me appreciate that there were some white people who did not agree with the apartheid system and racial segregation and that for some, their lives were just as much ruined by apartheid as what the black people’s lives were. John did not agree with racial segregation, to the point that he chose to abuse and ruin his body just so he did not have to be part of such an injustice.

Today, John is till very cynical and pessimistic about the South African Government. He still believes racism exists (which I strongly agree with) and he still believes that South Africa has a long way to go before complete equality is achieved, if this ever is achieved. He wants nothing more than to leave the country for good. Ideally, he would like to call Australia his home, but due to Australia’s tough immigration laws and due to his mental health record, he is finding it extremely hard to be granted a visa to Australia or America.

Thursday 26 November 2009
This morning I caught a taxi to St Anne’s shelter in Woodstock.
I really had no idea what the shelter was for or the types of things they did etc. After reading the pamphlet, I have established the following:
– They provide rooms for abused women and their children
– There are various workshops per day for the women to attend (e.g. cooking, sewing, human rights, computers, how to find employment etc)
– During the day, whilst the mother’s attend workshops, try to find jobs etc, their children are looked after bin the crèche/baby rooms.
Because it was my first day and they already had volunteers in the crèche, I helped to tidy up the storeroom which housed lots of boxes of donated clothes. It was upsetting to see them all going to waste – the clothes were not been used! It makes me wonder just how many of the donations that are given per year actually get used in an effective way by organisations such as St Anne’s Shelter.

I did this the whole day with a man called Justin, who was also here for the first time. He is 29 years old and is currently attending and living at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre near Cape Town. I was alarmed at how open he was about it all! He said this is his ninth time he has relapsed! He normally lives in Hong Kong. Apparently his girlfriend was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment for being caught with two ecstasy tablets! He said that the rehabilitation centre encourages its patients to give something back to the community and he thought this would be a good way of doing it, whilst also getting out of the rehabilitation centre three times a week.

Friday 27 November 2009
Today was my first full day at the St Anne’s shelter helping in the crèche and baby room. My day consisted of playing with the toddlers (whose average age was 2 years old) and cradling and feeding the tiny babies, some as young as one month old! It was all very cute, but I must admit, by the end of these 2 weeks, I will be ready to move on – it is not stimulating enough!

I first went into the crèche to help. The children were all very cute, but there was one boy in particular who really pulled on my heart strings. He was so tiny, skinny and very timid and just sat there looking into thin air with his big eyes. He didn’t interact much with the other children – he was very shy. I went and sat down on the floor next to him and he reached out his hands to me and started to cry. I went to pick him up but one of the other volunteers said not to as he will apparently just cry all day. But how could I not cuddle this gorgeous child!? He looked like he needed someone to cuddle – a warm and affectionate snuggle…I just wanted to wrap him in my arms FOREVER! As time went on and I began to interact more and more with the kids, playing with lego and for the older ones, cutting and gluing magazine pictures, I picked up on a few things that indicated a possibly different upbringing to what I for instance, am used to.

A lot of them were quite happy to keep touching me – they wanted to sit on my lap or hold my hand – they wanted the sense of touch that maybe they lacked previously. There were also two older girls, five years of age, who came over and asked me what my Mum’s name was and my Dad’s name. When I asked them what their parents name was, they were able to tell me their Mum’s, but some of them did not know their Dad’s. I also found that both these girls were great friends, but at times, they would get very stroppy with each other. At one point when this happened, one of the girls stood their staring blankly at the other girl, her eyes glazed with tears. She looked emotionless, yet at the same time, upset.

For the rest of the day, I went and helped out in the baby’s room. There were about five babies, all of which would have been no older than 2 or 3 months. One of them was only one month old and was so gorgeous! (then again, they all were!) I helped feed them, change their nappies and comforted them when they were crying. The mothers only ever came in when it was time for their baby to be breastfed, but even then, we would sometimes have to go and find the mothers as they had forgotten to come!

There was one girl who was two years old who was also in the baby crèche. When I asked why she was not in the crèche room, Sweetness (the carer of the babies) said that a couple of months ago Kenya came to the shelter not eating or drinking anything. Her kidneys were beginning to shut down and she was scheduled in for an operation at the hospital, but could only get in next April! Sweetness started feeding her very small, sloppy portions until her body was able to handle food again. Thankfully, Kenya is now better, however they have decided not to take her to the crèche until the new year as it is so close to the end of the year. I personally don’t see why this matters!?

My heart went out to Kenya when I saw her leaning against the wall dazed and un-energised. The poor thing does nothing all day but sit on the mat, as they are not sending her to crèche yet which means she is surrounded by sleeping one month old babies and therefore no one to play with. I went over to speak to her, but she was very shy and didn’t respond to me showing her toys etc. Even the toys were only things like stuffed animals – definitely NOT what a 2 year old needs in order to be stimulated!

I decided to take her outside for a play on the swings. I had to carry her out as she wasn’t too keen on moving from her mat – what has probably become her comfort zone! After a few minutes on the swing, however, she began to smile and by the end of our play together, her face had lit up and she was smiling! Another mother, whom Kenya and her Mum share a room with walked past and said that I had been a blessing and that Kenya looked so much happier now that she had had a play on the swing!

After lunch the ‘House Mum’ walked me down the street to the second St Anne’s shelter. After asking if they provided accommodation for volunteers, Zeta has offered me a room in the second stage house which is currently being renovated. This house will be for women who are dependent enough to not have to live in the shelter, yet who still need a place to stay until they can better their finances. There is currently only one mother and her toddler living there.

Saturday 28 November 2009
Today, I did a Cape Town Hop on hop on hop off city bus tour. It was like a big red London bus! I sat up the top and listened to commentary in between getting on and off the bus whenever I wished.
We started at Clock Tour, before heading past the new Convention Centre and onto St George’s Cathedral. I got off here to have a look at the church. It was amazing! It was a big cathedral with beautiful high ceilings, decorative pews and furniture etc and colour glazed windows – very different from anything on the Gold Coast and VERY different to Ingwavuma!

My next stop was the District Six Museum. Basically, this was an area of Cape Town where black, coloured and white people used to reside – together. The white government later decided that they needed to do some ‘town planning’ and demolish all of the houses and everything within District Six! This evidently forced the black people out of their homes and into a slum area. Today, many black people are in the process of making applications to the government to reclaim their land! Some have even moved back into the District Six area and are living in apartment blocks. They are also given the option of monetary compensation, although it is only around $2000!

Late morning I went to the Castle of Good Hope. This is an old castle which was built during the Anglo-Boer war to protect the Portuguese from the English soldiers…

Once on the bus again, I was driven up to Table Mountain to see the spectacular view of Cape Town! The next stop was Camps Bay. This is such an amazing area and has seen celebrities like Robbie Williams visit! It was such a lovely day and there were colourful umbrellas upon colourful umbrellas scattered on the beach. There was even a massage tent on the beach for people to indulge in! On the other side of the road, there were lots and lots of restaurants, many of them seafood.

I got back on the bus and passed through Sea Point which is another beach/bay type area. There were some lovely big enclosed playgrounds for the kids to use – it was all set up very nicely. We then returned back to the Clock Tower. Along the way we passed the new soccer stadium for the 2010 world cup.

I was dropped off near green market square to end my tour. I was busting to go to the toilet so I went into a deserted shopping mall and asked one of the security cards where a toilet was. He was very helpful and walked me down and unlocked the toilets for me! When I came back up to return the keys, he asked me if I thought he would need maths to do a degree in event management. I am always in awe over how little knowledge African people have about university etc – no wonder so many lack educational qualifications and a stable, well earning job. Nevertheless, I was very glad to help him.

Sunday 29 November 2009
This morning I went across to Robben Island with two Australian backpackers I met at the place I have been staying at.
The tour was very surreal – to actually be on the island that people like Mandela had been imprisoned on was weird. We began with a bus tour around the island. All of the tour guides are ex-prisoners, so it made for a very interesting tour. Our guide told us about his experiences in jail and what each section of the camp was used for.
We were then given a guided walking tour through one of the prison buildings, by another ex-prisoner. We got to see Mandela’s prison cell, as well as the tiny kitchen, recreational and bathroom facilities that hundreds of inmates were forced to share.

Monday 30 November 2009
Faith, the lady I am now staying with in the second stage shelter (St Anne’s) received a packaged of donated clothes and linen tonight. I have always donated and given old clothes and so forth to charity, but as I am sure most of us do, I don’t think much about it after that. So, as you can imagine, it was a real eye opener for me when I saw the look on Faith’s face when she received second hand clothes, shoes, a bag and some bed linen! She was beside herself and was so excited for the rest of the night. It made me realise that even though some of the old clothes etc that we donate are not what we would call ‘in fashion’ or worth keeping, that there are people out there who are grateful for absolutely anything!

In saying this, it would be great if someone could donate a fridge to the house! The house I am staying at is extremely run down. The kitchen cupboards are hanging of their hinges, the oven barely works, the microwave doesn’t work and there is no fridge! I must admit, this is all a little daunting. I am having to either buy food the day I am going to be using it, or just stick to the basics – soup, pasta, bread etc. I’m definitely not complaining, after all, it is about the experience and it is possible to live without appliances such as a fridge, however, what concerns me, is that the Mum and her baby who live here on a regular basis do not have appliances that are fairly necessary, especially with a baby to feed!

Thursday
Upon arrival at St Anne’s, I met some volunteer students from a local boarding school. On one occasion, they invited me to come with them and a group of teachers and their students to a local slum area to donate some bags of clothes and shoes to an orphanage.
…To be on the safe side, we were instructed to keep our windows up upon arrival into the slum area. There were people sitting on the side of the dirt road, many trying to sell food produce, others daydreaming and some, staring at us as if we were a group of spectators invading their homes.

The orphanage was very welcoming. It was an unbelievable set up! The house was rather small (keeping in mind this is a slum area), yet it catered for around 100 children! Even more unbelievable, was that it was run by one lady who all the children referred to as their very own Mama! I have no idea how they manage to cater for all of the children! Each room of the house is just filled with beds – from wall to wall. Of course, the bed is not just for one person, it is for as many people as it can possibly fit! There are only two toilets and a couple showers. There is one whole room that just had piles of clothes which is where the kids are given their clothes from every day! Food is cooked in the kitchen on a series of gas stoves, in numerous gigantic pots.

The kids were very excited to see us and I got attached to one or two of them that were happy to hang on to me the whole time I was there! I can still remember this one girl, who would have been two or three, who I just wanted to take home with me! She had these massive eyes and just looked up at me and she clung onto my leg!
There was even a 24 year old orphan who had been there since she was a baby. When I asked her if she plans to leave the orphanage one day and go to university or get a job etc, she said no. She said the orphanage is her home and she plans to spend the rest of her life helping her ‘Mama’ with the role of bringing up the younger children – her brothers and sisters.

Last weekend in Cape Town
After meeting some volunteers from St Cyprians (the boarding school who invited me to the orphanage), I was invited to stay at their volunteer house in the school grounds for the weekend. Whilst most volunteers had already left the school/placement to head home for Christmas, there was one English volunteer who I spent the weekend with.

Rebecca showed me around the school. It was as if it was out of the Harry Potter movies! Old stoned buildings, long passages and hallways and well groomed gardens! The night I arrived, there was a ballet concert on in the school auditorium, so there were Mercedes and BMW’s everywhere! What’s more, the school hires 24 hour 7 day a week security staff to man every entrance into the school!

As for the girls; they were all very well groomed and dressed in very posh looking uniforms and dainty ribbons in their hair…and I was soon to learn, that some of their attitudes mashed perfectly with this image! It may sound stereotypical, but so many of the girls were true ‘posh borders.’ The whinged, they complained and they bossed each other around! After teaching Nansindlela students who had next to nothing, I found it really hard to listen to the girls whinge and complain about each other, or how hot it was or how hot, crammed and long the 20 minute drive was going to be to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for their weekend excursion!

The Kirstenbosch Gardens were amazing! I was lucky enough to be given a ticket by the school so that I could also go and enjoy the concert that was being held on the lush green grass, with Table Mountain in complete view, just behind the outdoor arena! It was a spectacular afternoon and whilst some of the girls do whinge about things I now see as ‘petty,’ once I got to know them a bit better, I saw how lovely they are…except when they whinge 

The weekend at St Cyprians was a real eye opener! I got to experience another type of school environment in South Africa, this time, in a city! Not only did the school give me a ticket to a very popular music performance in the renowned Kirstenbosch Gardens, but they also provided me with accommodation and all meals for the entire duration of my stay!

Last day at St Anne’s
My last day at St Anne’s was extremely busy! I spent the entire day in the baby room – feeding, changing nappies and trying to get babies to stop crying and sleep! For the most part, I was looking after the entire room by myself as the staff member was absent. Two new Mum’s had arrived the night before with their MANY children (I think we had five new babies to cater for), so it also meant that I had more babies to look after. The new babies were also quite unsettled; it was a new environment for them and it was their first day of what would be a hard few weeks of trying to get them into a routine!

I moved back to the backpackers tonight. This time, my room was filled with other backpackers. It was nice meeting new people and sharing each others stories… except when I became awfully ill! I had been feeling off colour after dinner and it wasn’t until I just managed to make it to the room’s sink, that I realised something was wrong! I was vomiting (among other things!), and was breaking out in sweat, before all of a sudden feeling cold…and then hot again, my face was as white as a ghost and no sooner had I used to the toilet, did I need to use it again! I am almost certain that my bout of sickness was from the amount of dirty nappies I had changed today, especially since some of the babies had upset stomachs themselves! Apparently there was a bug that had been going around, not that that made me feel any better!

So, for the next couple of days (I had finished volunteering 2 days before my tour started so that I could explore Cape Town), I pretty much just stayed in bed the whole time! It was horrible being so sick whilst sharing a room with 5 other people, but this is what backpacking is all about…right!? What I find ironic, is that for the last 5 months, amongst all the challenges of rural living, I did not fall ill once, yet, now that I am in a large and clean city, I do!
Hopefully, I will be better by Saturday when the overland tour starts!

Stay tuned for what I am sure will be a 3 week experience of a life time!!!

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Sadly, I have left Ingwavuma and headed on to the text part of my journey. Nina and I are helping Eliza at her school in Manguzi for the next two weeks. I can’t help but feel a little homesick – Ingwavuma was my home away from home and I won’t be going back again (a least not this trip anyway!)
In the week after leaving Ingwavuma, I received some lovely text messages.
Yito text saying “keep in contact with me. Is so deficult to me say goodbye but theres no way so have a good journey to manguzi.” 20 minutes later he wrote: “my lovly frd i have started to day to miss for this short time u left me at the church. How much more while u are going to be in Austrelia. I will miss you a lot.” Half and hour later he wrote: “so Ashlee, you are special person to me I thank for everything that u did to me, i enjoyed to be with u. I wish u all the best God bless u a lot. Ill phone u bye.” He also sent me another text and said “one day u & i well be 2gether in austrelia as a famour singer or artist with yr voice.”
Sabelo, a staff member at Fancy Stitch also text me to say “Goodbye Ashlee missing already. Come back please, i’m so sad!!! I will contact u.” I replied to say that I missed him to and that one day I hope to visit Ingwavuma again! He replied saying “yes of cose. Don’t wait. I’m looking at Queensland oh it lovely. Loving u a lots.”

Friday 13 November 2009
…For the first two periods I tutored two of Eliza’s students. I then had her grade four class for technology. And, as has been the case for this past week, they were absolute angels (African standards of course!) and in comparison to Nansindlela students! For the remainder of the day, I taught grade 4, 7, 8 and 9 computing classes. There were about 10 computers working in the staffroom (which also acts as the computer lab) so I had to rotate the kids and take 10 out of the classroom at one time. The staffroom is incredibly small, so as you imagine, the room heated up really quickly once all of the machines were turned on! Nevertheless, the school has computers…and apart from about four of them, they ALL work! This is a far cry from Nansindlela! There are three working computers in the staffroom, which are only used by teachers.

Saturday 14 November 2009
This afternoon I began marking my grade 4 EMS class work. They are currently revising for their exam, which is in a week’s time. I got them to do mind-maps for which they had to write everything they could remember about malaria, tuberculosis, cholera and HIV/AIDS. Boy, did I get some interesting answers…and I mean REALLY interesting!!!
Some of them included:
– You should not drink and drive when you have malaria
– You should not eat soil when you have TB
– You should not drink alcohol because you will end up having sex and getting AIDS

Sunday 15 November 2009
This morning one of Eliza’s local Manguzi friends came to pick me up to take me to her church. We walked for about 20 minutes through little sandy and beaten tracks in the middle of nowhere. We passed lots of shack-like houses and miniature maize gardens (all of this on sand of course!) The church was part of a missionary, which consisted of a few houses (one of them for volunteers – this was the only one with electricity and cooking appliances…and a flushing toilet!) The rest of the missionary has no flushing toilets, no electricity and everyone must cook outside on a fire!
Church went from 10:00-12:00. It included LOTS of singing. I could not believe how energetic everyone was – the adults were jumping and running around the room to the songs – they were just like children! A few times, the leader(s) of the service stopped everyone from singing to say that there were some people who were not energetic enough – that they looked bored. The church even had a translator for the Bible readings just for me!

Monday 16 November 2009
…After school, all of the staff stayed behind for the GAP farewell party! When Eliza, Nina and me walked into the reception room where the party was being held, all of the teachers were sitting around tables which where joined together to create one long table in the centre of the room. On it was a stack load of food and drinks! It was party time!
There was lots of food – cakes, lollies, chips, biscuits, viennas, cheese, fruit, chakalaka, bread and salad! The school had also organised a massive sponge cake from Boxer (big South African food store). It had our names iced on the top – ‘Bunvoage Eliza, Anina and Ashlee.’ Clearly their French is not as good as their English!
… Eliza, Nina and I were absolutely gob-smacked by the behaviour of the teachers! The minute Madam Tembe finished her speech, all of the teachers pretty much flung themselves onto the table. It was a cat fight trying to get food – everyone was only worried about themselves – they pushed and shoved and had their hand over the person in front of them, ready to take the serving spoon off them! Eliza, Nina and I felt so rushed – we had to be quick to even get food, despite the fact that there was PLENTY to go around (or so we thought). We then sat on the chairs scoffing our food down so we could quickly get some cake for desert before it all went!
During the whole party, not one of the local African teachers came up to talk to us or say goodbye – they were too busy worrying themselves about the food…Nina, Eliza and me have decided that most of the teachers probably didn’t even know what the party was for!
But it didn’t end there! When it was time to leave, many staff members grabbed a plastic bag or cup or whatever they could find and stuffed it with food to take home with them! And they weren’t just taking one or two slices of cake – they were taking as much as they could get their hands on!!! Some even took whole loaves of bread!
By the time we left, we were exhausted – it had begun and ended in less than an hour!
…Later on in the evening, I realised my phone was missing! I searched my room high and low, but could not find it anywhere!

Tuesday 17 November 2009
…Today I had my grade 4 EMS class. We continued working on the worksheets from the previous class. I marked most of them this afternoon – OMG! The majority of the students got pretty much EVERYTHING wrong – it was actually really depressing! One of the questions asked them to describe in one sentence why the people listed were considered leaders. I got the weirdest most absurd answers, including ‘in this unit we will be learning about world leaders…’ They had obviously copied this straight out of their book! Another question was, list 5 words that describe a good leader. One student wrote, ‘banana, apple, mango, milk, water.’ Eliza told me that sometimes the students can’t be bothered, so they just write anything that comes to mind!
…The grade 3B teacher was away today so Nina and I took it in turns to supervise the students doing worksheets…They were so naughty! By the afternoon, however, I had them under better control. I had threatened them – and it worked! I had a few students who I made stand in the middle of the classroom with their hands on their heads in front of the entire class! This was enough to keep most of the kids quite!

Wednesday 18 November 2009
…I donated the recorders I had left over to Lorraine today for her pre-grade R class. She was very excited, even more so when I gave her two recorder books, one with a CD! In the afternoon, I went and took some photos of them – lets just say Lorraine is going to have a headache after every music class she does with them – they just made screeching noises the whole time!
Friday 20 November 2009
It was our last day at school on a latitude placement in South Africa FOREVER! I cannot believe it is all actually over, although I do feel as if it hasn’t actually sunk in it yet.
We didn’t do any work as we had finished and finalised everything with our classes…We had the grade fours before morning tea for three periods, in which time we played games with them. ..At then end of the lesson, two of the girls wrote a message on the blackboard for me, saying ‘we love you – you are the best in all our class Miss Ashlee.’
***
Tonight, Jane, Sizwe and his friend came over. Jabulo was also there. We were all in Eliza’s room when Nombiselo and her beautiful baby came over to say goodbye to us all for the final time…Eliza, Nina and I sat in the kitchen with her…. Jane, Sizwe and his friend went outside whilst they were waiting for us… Jabulo stayed in the room watching a movie on my laptop.
… Eliza went back into her room at one stage to find her ipod and ear phones missing. She was absolutely certain that she had placed the ipod in its dock to listen to after Nombiselo left. She knew that she also had her earphones hanging on the wall…and now they were gone. Eliza was really upset and immediately started crying. The others came back in from outside and from then on in – the night was a blur.
The thing that confused us all was that Eliza was absolutely positive the ipod had been in its dock along with the ear phones on the wall. And we also absolutely knew that no one, besides the people that were already there, had been in her room. We obviously knew it wasn’t Eliza, Nina or me and we had complete and utter faith in Jane and Sizwe as they have always been so supportive when things have gone missing previously. When my MP3 player went missing, they refused to let anyone go until it was found. Sizwe searched everyone and Jane threatened to call the police. This therefore left Jabulo and Sizwe’s friend. I had only seen Sizwe’s friend once and Jabulo – well, we all trusted him.
Jabulo and I have been getting along well, so I took him into the bathroom and asked him if he knew anything about it. He said ‘how could I possibly do something like this to Eliza after all she’s done for me? She is my friend…’ He sounded sincere too. But then I asked him if he noticed any of the others acting weird whilst Eliza, Nina and I were out of the room or if anyone had come up to the window. He said he no, because all he did in the room was watch the movie – he didn’t pay attention to anything else going on…
Nevertheless, when we were all in Eliza’s room together, I couldn’t help but notice Jabulo was keeping awfully quite, even when the others were pointing the finger straight at him. Eliza, Nina and me would have never even thought to point the finger at him, but the whole situation did not make sense! No one else had been in the room at ANY stage of the night – someone had to have it and it had to be either him or Sizwe’s friend.
Eliza went and got Peter, one of our neighbours, who called the police for us. We had told everyone that if they had it, just to give it back now, otherwise they would have to deal with the police instead. It didn’t matter – no one owned up, so we had no choice but to get the police involved. I can’t remember why I walked out of the room, but when I went back in, everyone was shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs. All of them were trying to beat Jabulo up. I thought it was because they were assuming it was him and were trying to get him to tell the truth. I tried to get everyone to stop…there were punches being flown everyone…until I saw Jabulo with the ipod in his hand. OMG! I was absolutely furious! At the same time, my legs were shaking. How on earth could he do this!? The fact that he looked at me in the eye when I took him into the bathroom and swore to God that he didn’t have it…we were supposedly good friends…OMG!
It was then that I realised he must have my mobile phone. He was the only person who was in my room on Monday night and if he was capable of stealing Eliza’s ipod pretty much in front of everyone, than he was capable of stealing my phone too! When I asked him, he kept denying, denying, denying, saying he would never do that to me and that he didn’t have it…At one stage I grabbed hold of his jumper and yelled into his face – I, along with everyone else, had no reason NOT to believe that it wasn’t him!
Just before the police arrived, he told us that he didn’t have it but knew who did. He said our other so-called friend, Mongeze had it…
The police arrived and after Eliza explained what had happened, I also brought up the mobile issue and showed them the statement I had made on Tuesday at the police station. They then took him out to the car and put him inside the back carrier section. A couple of times, the police went over to him and tried to get some answers out of him about my phone. It was awful. Eliza and I stood outside listening to him cough and choke – who knows what the police were doing to him… Jabulo called out Eliza’s name every now and again – it made me feel sick to hear his voice. At the same time, I hated the fact that the police were probably going to give him a beating.
We went over to Mongeze’s house and called out for him to unlock the door and speak to us. He didn’t answer. We knew he was home, but the police said that they couldn’t get in and that we should therefore give them a call tomorrow when we saw him. The police told me that they would ‘make Jabulo sweat’ so that he would tell them any information he knew about the where-abouts of my phone.
They then took him to the station before driving him home to his parents. Eliza didn’t want to arrest him as it would have meant that she would have had to hand in her ipod to act as an exhibit in court and who knows how long until the court date would be.
Saturday 21 November 2009
…we were woken this morning by someone knocking on our door…I walked into the kitchen to find Mongeze sitting there with Eliza. When we questioned him about where my phone was, he said he didn’t have it…How on earth could we believe him! How could we believe anyone anymore! Eventually he told us that he didn’t have it, Jabulo did. We didn’t understand why Jabulo would lie to the police about this – why he wouldn’t admit to taking it as well, but Mongeze kept saying he didn’t have it.
We told him that he had thirty minutes to get it back to us or else we would ring the police. An hour and a half later we saw him walking back into the mission .He started walking towards his house instead of ours. Eliza and I quickly walked over to him, scared that he was going to lock himself in his house. He said that he had it, but that he had to delete some things off it first. I followed him into his room and watched him try and rewire and create a spark of electricity so he could recharge my phone so that it would turn on…He wanted to delete the password and security code he had put onto the phone and I am also assuming the pictures of him he had taken. He also had a pornography video saved! …I cannot believe he even had the nerve to take MY phone, a teacher’s phone that he had STOLEN to school! OMG!!!
Eliza and I were so disappointed in him and absolutely furious – we made him feel pretty bad – he started crying at one stage – so he should! Apparently, Jabulo and him had made a pact that they were both going to steal an ipod and MP3 player from us…He begged us not to tell his Uncle. Yeah right!
I am just glad that I got my phone back. I honestly thought it had gone.
…We were all feeling really lucky today, so we each bought a R5 scratchy ticket each…and we ALL won R5 each! Today was our lucky day!
…At about 6:30, Sizwe and I went over to Jabulo’s house to speak to him about the phone situation. He was not home and when I asked his Mum if she knew what had happened the night before, she had no idea! I told her the whole story – Sizwe translated for me. She was obviously shocked, especially when I told her that he had stolen from me and Eliza and that the police were involved and he got taken away in the back of a police van. She said Jabulo had not come home last night – she had only seen him this morning and he stayed in his room all day.
This afternoon our house was filled with electric shocks! The edges of my laptop was giving me and Sizwe electric shots, Eliza was electrocuted numerous times by the shower tap that she was using to try and clean her clothes, Nina’s mp3 player was sending off shots and the toilet sink, kitchen sink and toaster was also doing it too! T.I.A Baby!

Sunday 22 November 2009
This morning Eliza and I went to church with Sizwe, Kohna and the rest of his family…It was a Roman Catholic Church and the sermon was reached in Zulu. They had the usual accolades and the priest was dressed in a white robe. They also had incense and some people took communion. The singing was absolutely AMAZING! They had a choir lead the hymns – it was beautiful – there were heaps of different parts and harmonies, high sopranos and deep manly baritones. It actually reminded me a lot of an English choir!
…At one stage, Sizwe leaned over to tell me that they guy sitting next to him ‘loved me.’ He said he wanted to visit me later on in the day!
About half way through the service, Eliza’s finger started getting even more swollen than it had been the night before. The ring was getting tighter and tighter and her finger was starting to go slightly purple…
After packing up the last of our things and cleaning the rooms and dishes (hoping that I wouldn’t get electrocuted), we left Manguzi for the final time 😦 It was really upsetting. I had only known Sizwe and Jane properly for two weeks, but I am going to miss them sooooooo much. They were real friends – fantastic and fun people to be around…
For the last time, we drove out of Manguzi, past the turn off road to Ingwavuma, through Jozini and finally into Pongola. It was around this time that Eliza’s finger was starting to get really bad – it was so swollen and was turning a scary pinkish/blue colour. She was almost in tears so we drove her to the hospital. An old lady nun came out and…we told her that we needed to get Eliza’s ring off. She said ‘what do you want us to do about it, we are a hospital.’ Uh…exactly sista! She got out a small silver cutting contraption and after turning the dial herself for about twenty seconds, asked us to take over! Lazy! I went and got Stephan (Nina’s friend who came to pick us up), who spent a god 45 minutes sweating away, trying to cut the ring with the blunt contraption we had been given…Eliza was in so much pain – tears were streaming down her eyes – she was holding onto our hands for dear life – it looked so painful!
…Overall, I cannot believe how AMAZING and how BEAUTIFUL the Drakensburg is! It is sooooooooo green and has so many mountains – it reminds me a lot of some parts of Australia, but even greener and more lush! ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!!
Stephan’s house has the prettiest view ever! It is surrounded by lush green paddocks owned by the family. Heaps of cows, paddocks, tomato fields and did I mention the lush green grass!

Monday 23 November 2009
…The main event for the day was horse riding amongst the beautiful scenery and mountains of the Drakensburg!

Tuesday 24 November 2009
This afternoon I caught a plane from Durban to Cape Town. I couldn’t believe it was already time to say goodbye to them! We will no doubt see each other upon their arrival in Cape Town in two weeks time though! As for me, I plan to volunteer for the next two weeks somewhere in Cape Town – watch this blog for more details!

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!

Tuesday 6 October 2009
This morning I went to the grade ones. Every morning before they start their work, they stand in a group at the front of the classroom and sing devotional songs. This morning, Mamma got me to stand with them and follow their actions to the song. This was a real African moment – to be in a classroom of beautiful African children, singing and dancing to an African song!

…I actually had quite a few grade ones come up to me at the end of the class, on their own accord, to thank me and say how much they enjoyed the Dr Seuss book I read to them!

I had my grade 8 class after morning tea…we worked on their drama… some of the groups performed what they had been working on. It was really satisfying to see the final products and actually feel like you have managed to get them to do something productive! A group of girls performed a short play they had made on the issue of alcohol abuse. There was also a group of boys who did a rap on HIV/AIDS. The whole class loved it! There was also one girl who had written a poem on the same topic. I was really moved by her writing and the maturity and honesty she brought to the poem. Lethukuthula Mabuakhulu wrote the following as an introduction to her poem:

“This poem is about HIV an AIDS. I wrote this poem to make people realise that life is not all about sex and all that. But to acknowledge that many people have died of HIV and AIDS and that it many children have been left alone to sometimes take care of their families, teenagers and brothers. HIV is a very out in the open disease that people have to protect themselves from. They say abstinence is a better way to increase a better future of a HIV free generation. All I am saying is, don’t let things that are being said about you offend you. Just take it and put it into a better understanding and let go of it. And don’t let your past determine what you are bound to be in the future.”

And the Nation Shall Die
As I fall to the night
I hear a cry
A cry of a nation
She’s gone
What has become of our nation?
For an orphan has been left
Left to fend for itself
Too many promises
More talk
Less work
We were friends
You know my status
You run away
You tell the nation
They say ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed.’
I saw a future, a bright future
But it never came
I saw a great success; success that disappeared
I saw a nation, a beautiful nation
Which turned me into a slave
A beautiful nation that became so cruel
It turned me into a victim

And the nation shall die
It shall die in the night
For a disease that eats you alive has risen
And the nation shall die

In the middle of one of these performances, all of the students in my class randomly ran out of the classroom! I had no idea what was going on… It turns out, that one of the senior teachers was physically fighting with a grade 10 student! I am still not sure of the specifics or what actually happened, but from my understanding, the teacher began the fight after the student was being extremely rude and disobedient. There have been many times where I have wanted to throttle students necks (seriously), but for a teacher to actually physically interfere with a student…can you imagine a teacher back home in Australia doing this…once again, all I can say is T.I.A!

Wednesday 7 October 2009
I was reading a tourist brochure today and came across a passage explaining the significance and meaning behind the African beads worn by women. Apparently, the earliest Zulu beads were made out of materials such as seeds, seashells and ivory and were coloured with dyes made from fruit, roots and mud. Whilst they are considered objects of adornment, perhaps the most important aspect is the message it carries. This is achieved through the various colours displayed in a piece of jewelry, all of which have different meanings; white is associated with purity, pink with poverty, blue with loneliness and green with pining. In the past, Zulu maidens would send long involved messages to their loved ones by ‘weaving thoughts of love, grief or jealousy, poverty or uncertainty into their creation.’

To be honest, I am currently fed up with the grade one math tutorials I have been doing! But, according to Mama I shouldn’t worry; ‘don’t worry teaching them anymore, they will get it tomorrow.’ What difference does it make! If they don’t get it today, they are probably not going to get it tomorrow either! As a result of Mama’s ‘theory’ we spent the rest of the lesson singing nursery rhymes – no wonder they don’t understand their math!

Thursday 8 October 2009
Today began with Mama trying to feed me more for breakfast than I wanted! I had eaten my usual cereal, but she insisted I have some avocado (not something I would normally have for breakfast!). She then told me that I should drink a cup of soup as a substitute for tea, since I do not like tea. Um…ok…two totally different liquids but anyway! I politely refused and hoped that she wouldn’t be offended. I heard from someone that it is rude not to take food when offered to you…

The grade ones practised their maths once again this morning, only this time I really struggled to be patient…I took two girls into the staff room to give them one-on-one tutoring. It was hard enough trying to get Nonsindiso to understand it, but when Mama decided to send in approximately another six more students (all rat-bag boys!) I just couldn’t cope! None of them were getting it and none of them tried to do any work unless I was speaking to them directly. This meant that whilst I was helping one student, all of the others were sitting there being silly or looking aimlessly around the room. I was just not getting through to any of them and the grade one teacher was sending more and more students into the staff room – this was no longer a tutoring session, but a whole class!

After tutoring the Swaziland girls at their home after school today, I started my walk home. I am enjoying walking home from school, however, I must admit, it is a long way and I am finding it is making me exhausted! By the time I get home, all I feel like doing is having dinner and going to bed! Unfortunately I cannot do this as there are a lot of chores and dinner preparations to be done and everyone must help. It is a cultural difference that I just have to get used to and adapt to, but still…I am just so tired by the end of the day and just want to go to bed!

Friday 9 October 2009
This morning Mum made Samkele cook me some meat paddies to take to school, even though I told her (as I have every day) that I eat the food from school! I felt bad standing in the kitchen watching Samkele cook MY food. As always, I offer to do it myself, but they always refuse.

I had the delightful pleasure of teaching my grade seven computer class this morning for periods two and three. Period one I went up to the computer classroom to prepare, only to find that the classroom lights were still not working. Because it was so overcast today, there was no way I could have taught a class in that room! It was so dark! The grounds-men were unable to fix it and did not have any spare lights (which doesn’t surprise me) so I went on a search around the school to find a spare classroom.

When the time came for my grade seven class, I had to argue with them the whole way to the new classroom. They were almost refusing to come as they had apparently been accused by another class and teacher for stealing something from the classroom we were going to…I eventually got them all in the room and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to get them all to sit down and be quiet. To make it worse, after the first half of the lesson, we had to find another free classroom as the one we had found had another class scheduled for the third period. So then I had to experience the whole saga again; getting them all out of the classroom, getting them to walk to the next classroom, getting them to actually walk in through the door of the classroom, getting them to find a desk and somewhere to sit (which is not always a chair as they are sometimes hard to come across), getting them to sit down and not move their desks randomly around the classroom, getting them to face the front and finally, getting them to be quiet and LISTEN! …and then if I’m really lucky, I’ll then try and get them to actually do some work!

This term, I have decided to teach the grade sevens about Australia…For this week’s lesson, I taught them about where I live in Australia and showed them a series of pictures of the Gold Coast. They were very impressed and many of the students tried to tell me that their parents were from Australia. One boy told me that his Mum lived in one of the high-rise apartments in the picture. As frustrating as it is to hear them lie straight to my face, it also made me think about what is going on in their minds. This is not the first time kids have tried to tell me that their parents are from Australia. And they always sound so serious and if I didn’t know better, so truthful; it’s as if they have this imaginary world in their mind that they can use to escape to a ‘better’ world; OUR world. They come up with some amazing stories that sound so convincing and so real. Maybe they hope that if they believe in it enough, that their dreams and ‘make-believe’ stories can come true?

Imagine being in this situation – where, at the very best, all you can do is pretend; to make believe that you or one of your family members live in a place like Australia – the place which you and I live in; the place that you and I don’t even think twice about; the place which offers each and everyone of us so much. We are not the ones in a community like Ingwavuma, where poverty is the norm, where diseases run rampant, where jobs are scarce. But, if you are lucky to find a job, it will either be as a teacher or government worker, or on a less appealing scale, at the SPAR as a check-out chick, a gardener, cleaner or laundry lady who must hand scrub every last particle of dirt out of every piece of clothing all day, everyday. Or for some, it is all about capitalising on the once-a-month Ingwavuma markets. They are happening today; it is here, that people bring in the fresh produce that they have grown at their homes (e.g. cabbage), or the piles and piles of clothes and shoes that they hope to sell (from the charity bins that you and I hardly think twice about at home).

Its only just ‘clicked’ for me; that there are people living all over the world, including the rural community of Ingwavuma that desire and crave Australia or a more westernised and opportunistic world; the world that YOU and I live in! Unfortunately, for most kids, the closest they will ever get to Australia is in their make-believe stories and fantasies that I hear in class.

Two grade seven girls came to the staff room to make some jewellery with the beads I bought. I also had a teacher make one! It reached the time for the next lesson to start and she had not yet finished. She was in no hurry to finish either! Eventually she decided she should better go to teach her class and finish it later!

… I started singing and dancing with some reception and grade one students who were in the playground. I taught them ‘Ring-a-Rosy’ and ‘Round and Round the Garden.’ They LOVED the second game, to the point where they were all shoving their hand into my face saying ‘me, me, me!’ They also taught me a song! Everyone stood in a circle and one person danced in the middle. They then had to pick someone who mirrored their hip-shaking moves, before taking their place in the middle of the circle. I even had two grade 12 boys join in. This is one thing I love about South African people. No matter who they are, how old they are or how cool they think you may be, they will always be happy to join in on little games with little kids, without feeling stupid or ‘odd.’ Here were two young gentlemen who were happy to spend time and play with the reception and grade one students! And the little kids loved it!

I got speaking to a young lady in the staffroom who does substitute work at Nansindlela. Currently, she does not have any degree. I asked how she got a job as a substitute and she said that they were just looking for someone who had passed matric. This made me feel a little better; sometimes I feel a little guilty for not having any qualifications to bring to the school. She said that she would love to go to university and hopes to one day study engineering. But, as is a common theme for South African people, she cannot afford to go to university at the moment.

This issue is something that I come across at Nansindlela day in and day out. Most of the students do wish to go to university, but unfortunately, a large proportion of them will not because they cannot afford to. Just this afternoon, I typed up a letter for Mbali, the grade 10 girl I have been tutoring. Mbali would like to go to university when she finishes her metric to study radiography. Although she is only in grade 10, she is already thinking about how she is going to finance her study (reality check: how many kids in Australia do you think worry about this in grade 10!?). She is hoping to establish a decorating business. To do this however, she is in need of donations. I admire Mali’s motivation and dedication.

Saturday 10 October 2009
I had three of our next door neighbours come over this afternoon. One of the girls is in grade 10 at a nearby school and wanted help with history and her english. She said that she needed help with the whole chapter on racism; apparently her teacher is not very good and she doesn’t understand ANY of the material, some of which will be on the exam at the end of the year. I really enjoyed helping her and got quite wrapped up in it all. …This girl has poor english, so after I had explained something to her, another girl then translated it into Zulu.

I also helped this girl and a grade 12 boy with their english. I taught them the difference between certain words (e.g. there, their) and sentence structures. At the end, she even asked me what homework I was going to give her! Wow! Dedication and a hunger to learn! Am I really still in Africa!

Sunday 11 October 2009
This morning I took Samkele to my church. Once again, someone all of a sudden became ‘possessed’ by spirits. I would suggest that they were evil spirits, as the lady seemed very distressed and it took her a long time to calm down. She even ran out of the room at one stage!

We caught a lift with Yito in the back of his fathers ute. Yito and his father told me to sit in the front and seemed surprised when they saw that I had already hopped in the back! There was something very ‘African’ about sitting in the back, driving along the edge of the top of the mountain to church!

Monday 12 October 2009
…Whilst I did not have any classes, I worked solidly all afternoon on a book of helpful english rules, words, sentence structures etc for any student, teacher, parent or random who would like a copy to help them with their english! I think this would be a great ‘gift’ to leave behind – and it is something that they will always be able to use!

I walked home from school most of the way, but was picked up by Mum and Dad on their way home. I jumped in the back of the ute – I got the weirdest stares by a group of girls – they just kept staring at me, almost in disbelief – did they really just see a white girl in the back of a ute!

I was tired by the time I got home, but Mum asked me to cook some broccoli and fetch some beetroot from the garden. I enjoyed picking fresh produce from the garden – even if I was unsure as to which plant was the beetroot and how on earth to retrieve it from the ground! I then made a complete mess on the kitchen table pulling off all the soil and cutting all the leaves off, but it was worth it, as we now have some MASSIVE beetroots to cook and eat! (I sound like such a spoilt Australian girl don’t I!)

Tuesday 13 October 2009
The grade one teacher came into the staffroom to ask me how to do a work sheet she had printed off for the class today. Gee – if she couldn’t work it out, than how on earth would the grade ones! …It was a very simple task and required them to count how many red coloured, blue, green and yellow coloured pairs of shoes were in the picture, before colouring in the correct number of boxes to show this. The only problem was that the photocopier was not coloured, so I had to tell Mama that they probably wouldn’t be able to do the sheet. Never mind! Mama said she would just let them colour in the picture instead (i.e. instead of practicing their math!)

I caught Velapi (well actually, he knew I was in the room and he wouldn’t have cared less who saw him), one of the so-called school administrators in the staffroom today with his bare feet up on the desk and his body sprawled over a chair snoring his head of sleeping! And the teachers didn’t seem to care one bit!

After school I visited my friend from church, Yito, who I am teaching some church songs to. Whilst I was waiting for him to get back from SPAR, I met his brother, John. John is 29 years old, has a wife and two kids and has just started grade 10 at Ingwavuma High! Up until the beginning of this year, he had not been to school since he was in grade 6.

John is originally from Mozambique. He grew up during a time of war and conflict…It got to the point where the leaders of the two political groups who were fighting were sending the local Mozambique people overseas to work as slaves and produce weapons and war machinery! Consequently, Mozambique became a very impoverished country. John said it got the point where he had to drop out of school and at fifteen years of age, start training to become a mechanic to help financially provide for his family. When he was at school, he said that he and the other students often went without food for the whole day. Many would also come to school with what we would dismiss as ‘rags’ for clothes.

Now, at twenty nine years of age, a wife and two children, John has done what many people do not bother to do, and go back to school. At 29, he now sits in a classroom full of teenagers – of ‘kids.’ After finishing his metric, he hopes to study business management at University. He said that whilst he does have his own mechanic business, he would like to gain the necessary skills to better assist him as the owner of the business. He said that it is one thing to run a business like he is doing now, but another to actually take it to that next level and bring wealth and success to it! I really admire his determination and thought of mind – it truly was inspirational talking to him.

One point John did mention, which I found really interesting, was that sometimes he could not go to school because he could not physically walk on the searing hot sand! He said he was forced to stay at home because his family could not afford to buy him shoes to wear. I appreciate this now that I have been to Mozambique and seen how much sand there is! It is exactly what I expected Africa to be like – red dust and dirt everywhere. I can only imagine what it must be like during the high temperatures of the summer months!

Wednesday 14 October 2009
After school I tutored Menzi from grade 11. He came to me on his own accord last week, to ask me if I would help him with his spelling and pronunciation.

I had no idea what level he was at, so I didn’t really plan any worksheets; I thought it would just be best to do a variety of different questions with him for a variety of different areas of skill. Turns out…his english is REALLY poor! He had so much trouble trying to read the words I gave him, even though they were very simple! Unfortunately, Menzi could not even sound out the words!

I decided my plan of attack would be to teach him the sound that each letter of the alphabet makes so he could then use this to sound out and better pronounce each word. For the hour I was with him, it took me the majority of the lesson to help him understand and remember the sounds. After this, I gave him a series of words that he had to break down into smaller parts…
At 3:40, I ask Menzi when he needed to leave. I don’t think he realised we had been working for just over an hour, as he immediately said, ‘oh, I need to go.’ Menzi, as do most students at Nansindlela, normally has a transport pickup after school. He pays the driver a certain amount per term for this. He seems so keen to improve on his english, however, that he (and his parents) are willing to forgo this cost once every week so he can have a lesson with me. He told me the reason he had to leave was because he had to hitch all the way home. And apparently ‘all the way home’ is a long way from the school for him.

I received a text from Yito today in regards to us catching up to practice the church songs. He wrote: ‘My lovely friend…I’ll call u 2morrow.i like to be with u Ishlee&the way u sing.i and u we are going to make something great through music, God bless u bye.”

Friday 16 October 2009
I had the grade sevens for a double period. They continued with their Gold Coast and Australian animal drawings – some of them anyway; actually only a small minority did, the rest just sat there. When I asked them why they were not doing their work, they told me they had no paper.

Some students had finished their work with about half and hour to go and asked if they could go outside to play ball. I was so over it by that point that I said yes – after all, they were only going to run a-muck in the classroom disturbing others. Without me noticing (because I had been trying really hard to ignore them the whole lessons), the group of horrible boys also left the room. Before I knew it, they were all running back into the classroom – Rose, one of the teachers, had chased them back to class wondering why on earth they were not in class. It was great actually – the boys not only got in trouble for leaving the classroom without permission, but also for not doing their work! I just hope that this will change their attitude and behaviour in class for next week! (But then again, I am almost certain it wont!)

After lunch I got a text from Jesse saying that he has to go home really soon due to personal issues and that I should come down to spend the weekend with him…So, it became a quick and last minute decision that I would go down to spend the weekend with him and Eliza. Before I left, I took grade 11 student, Ziee to the post office to post a letter to my sister Brooke. She had never posted a letter before and had no idea what to do! It was such an experience for her!

Saturday 17 October 2009
Jesse, Eliza and I awoke bright and early at 5:30 this morning with the intention of catching a taxi to Richards Bay early so that we would have a full day to explore…
When we arrived, we were directed to a taxi that had absolutely no one else inside! Great! We waited and waited but by 8:00, we all had a really bad feeling that this was going to be a VERY long day. Jesse and Eliza took me for a tour of the local ‘CBD’ which I might add, includes Boxer – another supermarket! They have two supermarkets! When we went to check on the taxi, it was still empty so we decided not to bother and to just stay in Manguze for the weekend. We planned our day – go the library (what…there is nothing else to do), have lunch at Maputaland Lodge and spend the weekend watching DVD’s on Jesse’s laptop. We sat out the front of the library waiting for it to open at 9:00 when Janice Hall phoned. Janice is the local representative for Latitude who Jesse has been speaking to about his current situation. She said she didn’t mind if we arrived late and that we should still come to Richards Bay! This was enough encouragement for us to go back to the taxi rank and to our surprise, only have to wait for about another half and hour before we left! This was 10:30 though!!! (Think of the extra sleep we could have had!)

It took three hours to get to Richards Bay. This of course, was because of the alarmingly high speeds the driver was doing! A few times I checked the speed gage – we were doing, on average, between 130-140km/h! A few times he seemed to drop back his speed and I actually checked his speed gage because I did not understand why he had slowed down so much…we were still doing 100km/h! Eliza and I sat in the front which provided us with a good view, but also probably the most deadly seat in the whole taxi! We both couldn’t help but have visions of us stopping suddenly or crashing and us flying though the front window! At one stage, the driver put his seatbelt on and asked us to do the same. Eliza’s middle seatbelt did not work so she had to pretend, but mine was functioning which was surprising! But why did we all of a sudden need to put our seatbelts on!? Before we knew it, we had past a police check point and before we knew it, the driver had whipped his seatbelt back off in the blink of an eye…I kept mine on for the remainder of the journey!

We arrived amongst an old shopping centre complex. We knew there would have to be a better shopping mall somewhere, so we asked a taxi driver where we should go. He said he would take us there for R20. Great – a cheap taxi ride! No sooner had we got into the taxi, were we at the Boardwalk Shopping Mall. No Joke! It was across the road – walking distance! Unfortunately, because we had not seen it behind the building in front of it, we had no idea how close it was! I was SO ANNOYED and nearly said something to the driver, but Eliza stopped me, saying ‘its only R20, let it go.’ ARGH!

The shopping centre was small, but it was relatively new and still very nice inside. We had lunch at a nice restaurant be who had offered to pick us up to take us back to her house. Along the way she showed us various parts of Richards Bay, including some lovely houses which backed onto a canal – it looked just like the Gold Coast.

That night we had a lovely home-cooked meal! We even sat at the table together and ate as a family! I miss doing that so much!

Sunday 18 October 2009
Janice’s parents live in a granny flat next to her house. This morning we went over to the grandparent’s house for church. It was so cute! The little old man is a retired priest. Apparently he is quite senile and is becoming rather forgetful and the only thing he can really hold onto, his is faith and being a priest – Sunday mornings is his time to shine! We entered into their cute little granny flat where they had lit some candles, brought out the communion cups, bible stand etc – made it look like a tiny little church! There was only about twelve of us in the room, so it made for a beautiful little service! A few times the priest (Steven) lost his place or so forth, so Mike, Janice’s husband would help him – it was adorable! The service only lasted 40 minutes (which was a far cry from the 2 hour services in Ingwavuma). After this, we sat outside on their verandah and ate fresh scones and rolls with homemade jam for breakfast! Yum!

We caught a taxi home after this service and I arrived in Ingwavuma mid afternoon.
‘Mum’ seemed very happy to see me, just as much as I was happy to see her. It felt so good to be home!

Monday 19 October 2009
I took some of Simon’s classes today as he was away, as well as the grade 6 Arts and Culture Class. I was meant to just be assisting this class, but the teacher, Ge Ge, decided to leave the room for the whole lesson – saying she had to go and photocopying some sheets! I didn’t mind this until the class started misbehaving and getting really ratty! Here we go again – crowd control!!!

Wednesday 21 October 2009
On the way to school today, Dad suddenly says ‘we have run out of petrol.’ Oh well, I thought, the car is still working, so there must still be some left! Whilst there may have been some, there was obviously very little, as just as Dad went to drive over the edge of the road into the petrol station, the car stopped…we had definitely run out of petrol! As is always the way with Murphy’s Law, we were literary only eight or so meters from the petrol tank! We all had to get out and ‘Dad’ and another person pushed the car over the edge of the road so the car could roll over into the petrol station so we could fill up!

Luckily, I still managed to arrive at school in time for assembly. Once again, I gave out the GAP Star awards which are still highly regarded by all of the students!

…This afternoon, no one turned up for tutoring. I thought that Menzi would have, but he didn’t even come! I sometimes feel useless when I don’t end up doing these tutoring classes, but I have to keep reminding myself that there is only so much I can do – the rest is up to the students. In other words, I can offer things to the students, but it is up to them to turn up!
This evening was great! Nina and I went to Simon and Ruth’s house for dinner and Bible study. …I had a chat to Simon about the way assessment is marked in South Africa. Apparently, from grade ten onwards, the student’s exams at the end of the year test everything that they have learnt since the beginning of grade 10! This would be hard enough for the grade tens who have to learn and remember a years worth of information, but I can not begin to imagine what it must be like for the poor grade twelve’s! He also said that the term four exams count for 75% of the student’s total marks, with the other 25% being from exams and assignment given throughout term one, two and three. Essentially, if they ‘bomb-out’ in their term four exams, they end up failing the whole year.

Thursday 22 October 2009
…My family is so thoughtful. They pick up on everything I say! When I first moved into their house, I remember commenting on the fact that everyone uses butter here instead of olive oil. They said they do this because Olive Oil is too expensive and vegetable oil is not good for you. Tonight, they got out a brand new bottle of Olive Oil that they had ordered in from the SPAR! This is so thoughtful but I feel a little uncomfortable about it – I don’t want them spending money (on expensive products like this just for me!

Mum has also found out that I love avocados – she bought some for me the other day. When Dad was in Jozini, he bought me a punnet of strawberries! Yum! I hadn’t eaten strawberries since Australia! Mum also bought me a bountiful supply of yogurt and some muesli!!!

Friday 23 October 2009
For my grade seven class this morning, I photocopied a blank map of Australia and got them to look in an atlas to find the names of each state, their capital cities and the surrounding oceans, to draw a compass indicating north, south, east and west and to finally colour it in. I thought this task would have been relatively easy for grade sevens, but it actually turned out to be nothing but a circus!

I had students who wrote random places instead of just what I had asked them. This included things like rivers and mountains. Then there were those who thought Queensland was in Western Australia and Western Australia was Queensland, a girl who called South Australia South Africa, those who could not spell correctly even though all they had to do was copy the word from the atlas…the list goes on…and on!

I even had a girl who wrote ‘Southern Haman Sea.’ Haman was the brand label on the map!

Even the girls who do put in an effort lacked the basic skills of map drawing. They were able to identify what each state was called and its respective capital city, but they wrote the capital city anywhere within the state. On one of the girls map, Brisbane was over near the State’s western border. Another student had Darwin down near Alice Springs! As for good ol’ Tasmania – some of the boys spelt it ‘Tanya.’

Most students wrote in pen despite me telling them to use pencil. When it came time for them to hand their work in, I had one boy bring me a crumpled piece of paper – he had scrunched it up and unfolded it again! He had done next to no work and the work that he did do, he had scribbled with a blotchy pen.

By the end of the lesson, the desks and chairs where in a complete shemozzle (as per usual) and when I asked them all not to leave until they had tidied the room, they all ran away thinking it was a huge joke! (As per usual)

Saturday 24 October 2009
This morning I rose out of bed at 5:15 to be up at the starting point for the Ingwavuma marathon by 6:00. The sunrise was beautiful this morning! It was so peaceful walking – it was quite and there was very little wind, only a few people about and hardly any cars! It was gorgeous! I did, however, have a car flash his lights at me and pull over to ask me if I had a husband. I quickly said no and shut the door in his face and walked off…

I decided to walk the 10km run with Deepa. Deepa is originally from Durban and is working as an occupational therapist at the hospital. I am still being cautious about my back and I actually didn’t mind the idea of just having a nice, relaxing walk. Normally, I am always so fired-up and competitive I can’t help myself, but for one of the first times ever, I actually felt like just taking it easy!

Maybe it had something to do with how little people there were who competed and how laid back everything was! Once everyone had registered, we all jumped in the back of a buggy (three buggies was enough to transport all competitors) and headed out to the 10km and 21km starting points (Quite different from the Gold Coast Marathon!)

I cannot believe how AMAZING the walk was! The view was absolutely SPECTACULAR! Because we were 10km out of the main area of Ingwavuma, it was a lot more ‘country-living’ and ‘rural’ looking (yes, the central part of Ingwavuma now seems ‘busy’ to me!)

The course began on a steep incline and because Ingwavuma is on top of a mountain, the hills never seemed to stop! It was amazing to look in front of me and see a single dirt track winding its way up and then down the mountain – it was indescribable. What made it even more impressive, was the many traditional Zulu huts I saw – some round and traditionally thatched, others square and made out of stones held together by sticks. Combine this with the amazingly green grasslands, the indescribable view of Swaziland and the groups of children playing along the dirt road and you may be able to begin to envision just how beautiful Ingwavuma is…but then again, unless you have been here, you will NEVER appreciate its real beauty – it truly is indescribable!

Sunday 25 October 2009
This morning I woke up for church with my Zulu family. The preacher today was my Zulu Dad! At one stage, when the congregation was singing, they all went a little ‘ballistic’ and started screaming and crying – just another ‘moment’ in Africa!

Monday 26 October 2009
I tutored a grade ten girl from Iscelthoseto to help her with her history. I have helped her once before and I cannot believe how much better her english is since I last saw her! She said that it was because of me and that she is so lucky to have someone like me to help her!

I walked home from school with one of my brothers, Sne today, when he nearly got run over by a passing car! I was walking on the grass next to the road and he was walking as close to the edge of the road as possible. Before we knew it, a car who was heading in the same direction as us (and therefore should have been on the other side of the road), flew past us, trying to overtake the car in front of him that was also flying. It all happened very quickly, but I remember feeling the wind of the car as it went past us. Sne said the car mirror almost hit him! I HATE drivers in Ingwavuma!

Wednesday 28 October 2009
After many hours of preparation and planning, I finally finished the english booklet I decided to make for any one wishing to have a copy. The only problem at the moment, is that I am unsure how I am going to print it! The booklet is at least fifteen pages, which means even printing one copy will be a challenge. The school is running low on paper, so much so, that each teacher has been given one ream of paper each, which they must use for their exam paper photocopying. So, if the school is low on paper, how on earth am I meant to expect to get any! I’ve thought about buying my own ream, but I have no idea where I will be able to get one from. The option is charging people who want the booklet a small fee, just enough to cover the cost of the paper. But, before I get too excited, the staffroom printer does not actually work at the moment! I was using it today, when all of a sudden it started making an awful noise. Somehow there is a bunch of staples stuck inside of it!

Thursday 29 October 2009
I told a few students today that next week would be our last week at Nansindlela before head of to Kosi Bay to teach at Eliza’s school for two weeks. They were surprised and all hated the thought of me leaving so soon!

Hi everyone! Finally I can put up my next blog! I have now finished my placement in Ingwavuma and can actually get internet access! I will try and get up to date with all of my blogs asap!

For now, here is my next blog, ‘Tales and Stories from Mozambique!’ Enjoy!

Wednesday 23 September 2009
For the second time since I have been in South Africa, we were going to Durban, this time, for the September school holidays! It took us five hours and one petrol/toilet stop before we arrived. We were dropped off on the corner of a main intersection, left to hail a taxi down. The only thing was, there were no taxis in sight! To make matters worse, it was overcast and drizzling with rain! We decided to start walking and hope that we would soon see a taxi. It was almost funny; here we were, with all our luggage (Jesse and Eliza had their big backpacking bags which would have looked very tempting for any thieves near by), walking up the middle of the medium strip, in between two directions of busy traffic, in the cold and wet! At one stage we passed a school. A group of girls asked if we were part of the ‘Amazing Race!’ I wish!

Thursday 24 September 2009
…We had dinner at Ushacka Marine World, at Moyo’s restaurant. The restaurant was very nice. When we had taken our seats, a lady came around to paint our faces. She used white paint and a stick to draw a floral pattern with dots on my cheek. We were then brought a bowl of water and towel to wash our hands with! The staff were excellent; they even had dancers who came out to perform to its guests a couple of times throughout the night!

Friday 25 September 2009
This morning we took the Baz Bus to Swaziland, our next holiday stop! It was a seven hour journey and we only stopped for petrol and lunch.

Saturday 26 September 2009

… Nikki and I went on a game drive at Hlane Game Reserve today! The night before, the worker at the backpackers booked a tour for us, which totalled approximately R900 each. This is just over $100 which we thought was pretty good as it included transport to and from the reserve, game park entry, a 2 hour game drive, 2 hour game walk and a braai.

We got picked up this morning by some random dude in a car who we were meant to give all our money to upfront! I wasn’t keen on doing this, so Niki and I agreed to wait until we had sussed everything out upon arrival at the reserve – after all, shouldn’t we be giving the money to the staff at the game reserve and not the driver!?

When we arrived, we paid for the entry fee and gave the driver R50 for petrol. We asked him where our tour guide was, as he was supposedly meant to meet us at reception…he never showed up, so Niki and I went to the counter and asked to pay there. It ended up only being R170 for a 2 hour game drive!

We saw HEAPS of rhinos, elephants and impalas, one lion and some eagles. It was amazing to see the lion!!! We didn’t see any zebras, which I was a bit disappointed about, nor did we see any giraffes. I wasn’t so disappointed about this as I don’t think ANYTHING can compare to the twelve giraffes we saw walking across the road on our way out to our placements in July!

After the game drive, Niki and I waited for the driver to pick us up. He said he would be back at 4:00. It was now approximately 3:30 and we hadn’t done the walk because we never even came across the tour guide who was meant to be taking us. Niki and I were glad that it worked out this way, however – a two hour game drive is plenty long enough – and it also meant we spent a lot less money!

All in all, Niki and I paid R170 each for the game drive, which is less than $30, plus R50each for petrol.

Upon our return, however, the guy who organised it for us, asked how our day was. We said it was great and just as we went to go to our room, he said, “so I’ll just get the money off you later this evening?” To cut a long story short, he thought we had done the tour we had initially organised. When we told him that we didn’t because the tour guide never showed up etc, he still seemed confused. The guy who owns the car that transported us then arrived and started ranting on about the money we owe him. He guy was going on about how we used his car and we were meant to pay the whole R900 blah, blah, blah. There was NO WAY I was giving him the money – we had paid for what we had done – end of story!

Eventually, I said that we would give him another R50 each for petrol. When we arrived home from the game reserve, the driver hadn’t asked us to give him anything for the trip home. I did ask, but he said no. Nevertheless, I thought we probably should have given him something.

Eventually the guy gave in and accepted the R50. I am just so glad we didn’t hand all of the money over first thing that morning!

…It was then time to head to ‘House on Fire’ which is a chilled-out music stage, for a concert called ‘Mango Groove Live on the Lawn.’ The arena reminded me a little of the Parklands showground during the Big Day out – the performance was outside and everyone stood on the lawn. The audience included both young and old people and the music was sung by an older lady who had a very chilled out, jazzy-styled voice…

Sunday 27 September 2009

This morning we were taken to Mozambique by the dodgy guy from the backpackers for R300 each. …once arriving in Mozambique, we walked down the road for some lunch. I ordered a vegetarian pizza and paid for it using eftpos as EVERY ATM we went to draw money out of (keeping in mind we had no money on us because we were in a new country with a new currency – Metcash) was out of service! This meant that we could not pay for a taxi to take us to the markets where we had planned to buy local crafts. It also meant we HAD to find somewhere for lunch that accepted eftpos! Eliza and I did not have dinner that night as we had no money on us! Eliza and Niki did set up a tab system with the backpackers so they could at least buy water! Lets just say we spent most of the night laying on our beds feeling a tad isolated from the rest of the world and a little sorry for ourselves!

Monday 28 September 2009
This morning we had a pleasant sleep in before heading out to the main streets of Maputo, Mozambique to withdraw some much needed money out of the ATM which was now working! Whilst Eliza and I stayed in our room for the whole night (on account of there being no reason to go out as we had NO money), Jesse and Niki went for a walk and were pulled over by the police, with their big guns strapped to their bodies, who asked to see their passports! It is mandatory in Mozambique to travel around with your passport with you at all times if you are a tourist for this exact reason!

We took a taxi to the Central Markets of Maputo. It looked amazing! There was heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables and seafood! Around the outskirts of the big rooved area for the food, were cute little shops selling hand crafted African jewellery, woodwork, carvings and paintings etc.

After this we walked down to a shopping mall that had only recently been opened up. One thing I found weird, was that the supermarket market did not sell bananas! Maybe it had to do with the fact that every second person was selling them on the streets!? I then asked where the dried fruit and nut was. After being taken to various staff members by other various staff members who didn’t understand me, I got taken to the coconut milk!

We decided to have some fun and caught an ‘M-Cell’ (mobile network) tuk-tuk back to our Backpackers, Fatima’s. OMG! This was so scary! On two separate occasions we were nearly cut off by cars at a four way intersection who almost didn’t give way to us, even though we had right of way! One of the cars was so close to hitting us, yet he didn’t seem to take any precautionary measures, apart from flashing his lights at us! We were then almost rammed into by a car driving behind us. Everyone drives so close to one another in Africa – even the tuk-tuk was tailing the cars in front of us!

In true tuk-tuk style, the driver tried to get us to our destination as fast as possible, so much so, that he drove up the wrong lane of the street (i.e. towards oncoming traffic)! When the cars coming towards us got closer, he would quickly duck back into our ‘normal’ and ‘legal’ lane of traffic or stay squeezed in between the two lanes! And this whole time, I was sitting on Eliza’s lap as it only had three seats!

We had dinner at Bambeeza, a tiny little cafe-eatery just down the road from Fatima’s. The menu was even more confusing than the bakery we ate at for breakfast – we had no idea – it was all Portuguese! Eliza and I decided to be daring and just randomly ordered something off the menu. I saw a picture of an omelette, so I randomly picked one of the flavours, not knowing what I was going to get! It was actually quite nice – capsicum, tomato and some random pink meat which I think may have been pologne. Eliza’s wasn’t so good! All she new, was that it included chicken. Once again, we waited for what seemed like forever to get our meals, before out came a bowl of what looked like an Asian-style broth. She started eating it and on about the third spoonful of food that she picked up, she found a delectable chicken foot! Lets just say it definitely was a surprise and that she ended up ordering a plate of chips instead!

Tuesday 29 September 2009
Despite being in the taxi to get to Maputo at 5:30, we didn’t end up leaving until 8:30! Nevertheless, Maputo was beautiful! It was very tropical and had a very relaxed feel to it. Our backpackers, Fatima’s Nest was right on the beach and the four of us shared a bungalow together. Each bed was equipped with a mosquito net, as malaria is a problem within Mozambique.

One of the highlights of the trip was taking a rickety wooden and very old sailing boat across to an island. When we arrived at the Pier, the sailiors (local men) were standing on the deck (as they do every day) waiting for tourists like us to come and ask for their services. Two men came with us – one who steered the boat and the other, who used a small plastic container to scoop all the water out that was seeping through the many holes of the rickety boat! We obviously didn’t realise the extremity of the situation until we were out in the middle of water, so Eliza and I were pretty worried about our cameras getting wet if we sunk! I’m not going to lie, we did make a plan as to how we would salvage our cameras if we did end up in the water! The trip across to the island took us about 1.5-2 hours due to a strong current that kept making us go around in circles! Eliza felt sorry for the poor man who had been scooping water out of the boat for so long, so she offered to have a turn. Although she meant well, what happened next caused some stress! No sooner had she started scooping the water out, did she accidentally let go of the container! It flew across the water and started very quickly floating away amongst the choppy waves! The sailor attempted to direct the boat to where it was bobbing up and down amongst the waves, but every time we got near, one of us would just miss catching it! Next thing we knew, Jesse had ripped his top off and jumped into the water – he was not going to let the damn container float away – he wasn’t going to watch us sink! He eventually got hold of the damn thing…the only problem was getting back into the boat! The water was shallow enough for him to stand, so he tried running against the waves and wind back to the boat where we all had our hands out waiting for him. What a sight! He was struggling so much against the waves – galloping on the sea bed trying to reach us. At one stage we nearly had him in the boat, but he got pulled away from us! Eventually we managed to drag him into the boat – soaked and drenched to the bone! I’m not going to lie – it was HILARIOUS!!!

After spending an hour or so on the beach, the two men offered to take us to try some local coconut beer before we headed back to the mainland. We thought this would be a good experience, so we walked to a small thatched hut inland a couple hundred metres. OMG! It was disgusting – even Jesse, Eliza and Niki who drink couldn’t handle it! It smelt and tasted like apple cider vinegar – disgusting! My bet is that they offer this to every tourist the bring to the island, knowing too well that we will pay for a litre (the packaging size it came in), hate it and then give it to them to finish!

One thing that I remember vividly upon arrival back to the mainland, was seeing a man get out of one of the rickety boats and walk up to the main road with three televisions in their boxes on his head at one time!!! And Eliza and I were worried about our cameras getting wet!

Sunday September 2009

After catching a shuttle back to Maputo at 4:30am, we then had to work out how on earth we were getting to the Mozambique and Kosi Bay border gate. We thought it would just be a matter of catching another taxi, but we ended up having to catch a big ferry to the other side of the mainland. The trip to Maputo was very exhausting and full-on and we were evidently tired from a late night the night before and having to get up at 4:00am! So, by the time we got to the ferry, we were all grumpy and over it! We were also starving but could not stop anywhere as we were worried we were not going to make it to the border gate by 5:00. We waited and waited for the ferry to get going. I was feeling shaky from a lack of food, Niki was busting to use a toilet (she refused to use the disgusting ones I used in the boat itself) and we were all in all, over it! All of a sudden, everyone around us starting getting up – we thought we hadn’t even started moving, yet to our surprise, we had already arrived!!!

It was from here that things got worse! The small market area we were in was filled with busy people, cars and a few taxis. It was our job to find a lift to the border gate! We tried to hitch a ride but no one was going where we were. A guy then told us that his mini bus taxi would be arriving shortly. So we waited…and waited…and ate some fresh bread that seems to be such a big thing in Mozambique! We ate a whole cob each –we were so hungry! I also had a boiled egg which is a common thing that is also sold on the streets in Africa.

When we finally did get into the taxi, the driver tried to charge both Jesse and Eliza for an extra seat because their big backpacks were apparently taking up another seat space. Both Eliza and Jesse strongly argued against this, since they were sitting in the first row of seats and their begs were in front of them. Eventually they agreed to pay for one more seat only, much to their disgust, simply because we really needed to get going to make it to the border gate in time! Once this was all settled, we asked the driver to get going – what on earth were they waiting for – the taxi was full, Jesse and Eliza had paid for another seat. Much to our surprise (although it really shouldn’t have been a surprise after living in Africa for a while) the driver said that they could still fit one more person in and that they were going to wait until someone came along! We were absolutely flabbergasted! There was NO WAY they could have fit another person in! Besides it being illegal, there was actually NO ROOM!!! But, this is Africa, so of course, they found a way…a way in which meant we were more squashed than we had been before – now, we were suffocating!

I sat right at the back in the corner next to two other people. I had my two bags sitting on my feet and lap and the lady next to me had a big round washing tap resting partly on her and partly digging into my arm the whole trip. People were sitting on their side, arms resting wherever they could find a space for them, whether that be out the window, on-top of their belongings or wrapped around someone else’s small yet definitely not ‘personal space.’

We were really worried that we were not going to make it in time – the driver had stuffed around for so long in the beginning that time was slowing creeping away from us! What are we going to do if we get to the border, where there is no accommodation or signs of life (except on the other side of the border) and we are too late!?

The driver told us not worry and that he would drive us through a shortcut way that would ensure we get there in time. To cut a long story short, this short cut happened to be an off-road adventure amongst the dirt, rocks, holes and dips that the great Mozambican land provided us with. The ride was already uncomfortable as it was, little own when we started bumping and sliding around all over the place. Off course, sitting in the back of the taxi was the worst – I felt every bump we went over! I hit my head numerous times on the roof (and wouldn’t be surprised if I got concussion – seriously!), the two people next to me kept sliding into me which consequently pushed me further into the corner of the taxi, I could feel some type of liquid dripping onto my leg, I couldn’t breath because the windows at the back wouldn’t open, the metal bars in my seat were digging into my back due to the lack of padding and the lady’s round tub next to me was leaving rather large imprints in my skin that were becoming more painful as the drive progressed.

Thankfully we did arrive on time, with thirty minutes to spare! Whilst it was good to finally get off the damn taxi, for which I sat squished in one position for three long hours, I was in a vary grumpy mood! It had been such a long day!

We managed to hitch a lift back to Jesse’s and Eliza’s. Niki and I stayed there for the night, before I left Sunday morning to get back to the land of Ingwavuma!

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! …

Wednesday 5 August 2009
If I have learnt anything from today, it is to never assume the word ‘test’ or ‘exam’ carries a universal definition!

Nina and I had to supervise the grade 10 geography exam today. Lets just say, it was…different!

Firstly, the students arrived late. When they did eventually arrive, they were in no hurry to start their test, despite the fact that it was their time they were wasting, not mine!

For the entire duration of the test, there was not one split second of absolute silence. All of the students seemed to think it was all right to talk; to help each other with the answers, to sing, whistle and to even ‘lend’ one another their answer sheet to copy!

All of the learners thought it was hilarious that I was demanding absolute silence! And, when it came to me moving people away from those who they were still talking to, despite being warned, I was somehow being unfair!

I was also flabbergasted by the ‘crazy’ attitudes of the majority of the students; I had way too many come up to me with 5 or 10 minutes left of the lesson, asking if they could go to the toilet, despite the fact that they were nowhere near finished with their test!

Looking back on the situation, it was also quite funny when, with 15 minutes of the exam to go, I suggested that they look over and re-check their work before handing it in. I had to repeat this a couple of times before they understood what I meant! Re-checking work? Who would have thought!

Thursday 6 August 2009
…Being in South Africa is just like being in a musical! Out of nowhere, the grade 11 boys started singing together in class this morning, with beautiful harmonies and deep base undertones filling the school classroom! It was absolutely amazing! And there was no way I was going to tell them to be quiet…

After recess, the grade 10 geography class completed their exam – it was soooo exhausting; I don’t think I even paused for breath:
“stop talking”
“Look at your own work”
“Don’t cheat!”
“No sharing textbooks!”
“What are you doing out of your seat?”
“Sit down”
“Stop whistling”
“Stop singing”
“Face the front”
“Don’t throw things across the room”
“I’m not going to ask you again…”
“Would you like to be moved?”
“Be quiet”
…and the list goes on!

After this, I had another class – the dreaded grade twelves for geography.

And then…with 15 minutes of the lesson to go, all of the boys, minus three, decided to run out of the classroom. They said they were hungry…they did not come back.

I told a teacher later that day, who put them all on the detention list. She later informed me that when the boys heard about this, they went and stole the detention sheet which had all of their names on it! Argh!

Another thing that is hard to deal with is when you are telling someone off and they then compliment you whilst you are trying to discipline them! Take today for instance:
Me: “Stahn, you need to sit down and start your work please.”
Stahn (grade 12 student): “Miss, you have really nice eyes.”
…How on earth are you meant to respond to that…seriously!

At 4:50, after a long and stressful day, Nina and I were finally on our way to Kosi Bay. We had finally started our Durban long weekend!

Friday 7 August 2009
3:45 – rise and shine! This morning we woke up and walked down to the Kosi Bay bus stop…
We were some of the first people on the bus so we were thankfully able to spread ourselves out and ‘sleep!’ I say ‘sleep’ in inverted commas as every time I finally got to sleep, I was either woken by the swerving of the bus or from being winded by the potholes the driver didn’t miss!

Eliza eventually woke me up. The bus was now completely full, which meant I had to sit up, cram my bags underneath my feet and spend the rest of the trip crammed between smelly, stinky passengers. What made it even worse was that no one wanted to open any windows! Combine that with us sitting right at the back of the bus with only one stop the WHOLE 8 ½ hours and you can begin to imagine the type of trip we had!

The one stop we did have was at a petrol station. So many of the passengers took this as their chance to get out of the cramped bus and pee! After receiving my couple pieces of toilet paper from the ‘toilet lady,’ I became involved in what I like to call the ‘peeing rat race!’ Everyone pushed and shoved; I had one lady’s big African boobs shoved right into my back – I think she must have thought this would get her to a toilet quicker! It didn’t, so she rudely jumped the que and ran into the next available cubicle! All the females were really impatient – when I went to the toilet, I had only just unlocked the door to exit when a lady barged right passed me into the cubicle I was still coming out of!

Once we arrived, we caught a taxi to Tekweni Backpackers where we had booked to stay for the weekend. First things first – a shower! Yes; the thing where you stand under a dish like object and turn a few knobs, before…wholah! Water…warm water! It felt like we were in a one hundred star hotel!

After we had indulged in this we spent the afternoon at the other beautiful thing called a shopping centre. We hadn’t eaten all day due to the whole bus dilemma, so it was incredibly exciting when we found a nice café; it was almost too hard to resist not jumping over the counter to give the staff a big hug!

Saturday 8 August 2009
Today was the day of all days! The challenges of all challenges! The best of the best! Today, we were going skydiving!

When we arrived, we had to fill out indemnity forms which made what we were about to do even scarier! The sign on the office door read: “Skydiving is a high risk activity which may cause or result in serious injury or death”…gulp!

It seemed like forever, but finally, Eliza, Nina and I were suited up and in the plane! The plane was absolutely tiny! It had no door and could only fit three pairs of skydivers in it! I volunteered to go first, so I had the honour of sitting closet to the plane door (or should I say open hole…there was no door!) Surprisingly, I felt all right! I had the best view of the amazing South African scenery! I even saw a group of hippos in the water at a nearby game reserve!

When it was time to jump, I had to dangle myself out of the plane and then lean forward before…whoosh – free fall! OMG! It was sooooooooooooooo amazing!

When I first jumped out, I remember doing a somersault or two before enjoying the amazing feeling of free falling! It only felt like five seconds, but apparently it is between 30 and 35 seconds free fall! When the parachute was pulled (which was the roughest part of the dive), the rest of the descent down (all 9,000 feet!) was so peaceful and created such a feeling of freedom!

Sunday 9 August 2009
We awoke and headed down to one of Durban’s biggest shopping centres; Gateway City. It was here that we had breakfast …

For the rest of the morning, we shopped!

…We then took a taxi to some markets down at the beach.

Monday 10 August 2009
After a fantastic weekend, it was now time to head back to rural Ingwavuma! After indulging in our last restaurant meal we returned to Tekweni’s and began pondering how on earth we were going to get home!

We caught a taxi to a taxi rank where we found a mini bus taxi going directly to Manguze (Kosi Bay). We were relieved that we had easily found a means of transport and would not have to resort to the dreaded bus that brought us to Durban!

…That didn’t stop us having to wait 1-2 hours for the taxi to fill up before we actually left! When we finally did leave, the taxi was crammed full of people, with bags upon bags all over the floor – I barely had any room to rest my feet and to make it worse, my feet had to rest on an elevated part of the floor where the wheel of the bus was located. A mother and her beautiful six-month-old baby were in the taxi with us. I offered to hold the baby for her! She was so cute! The only thing was Jesse, Eliza, Nina and I were left with her for the whole trip – the mother seemed quite glad that she had found some ‘babysitters.’ It is part of the South African culture to look after and care for one another’s children so it was not unusual that the mother felt so comfortable leaving her baby with us!

The entire trip took approximately 5 hours, including one stop at a petrol station where we struggled to climb over all of the bags on the floor to get out and buy some much needed food and breathe in some much needed fresh air! The taxi had become unbelievably hot – the sun was on my side the whole way home!

Eventually we arrived at the Kosi Bay turn off point. Nina and I had to get off here and wait for another taxi to take us to Bambanana and Ingwavuma.

The drive from Bambanana to Ingwavuma was considerably annoying! We just managed to cram into the taxi. Our bags only just fit and every time someone wanted to get out of the taxi, I had to get out, pull all our bags out and then hop back on again! It was tiring! But…eventually we arrived home – safe and sound but extremely tired and ready for bed!

Friday 14 August 2009
I was invited to go on an excursion today with 15 students and one other teacher to the Ndumo Game Reserve…From the moment we stepped on the bus, everyone was so happy and excited…and loud! The music was pumping and everyone sang, laughed and danced the WHOLE way there! It was such an awesome experience to be around a group of students who were so happy and so excited! Even the teachers were getting into the ‘swing’ of things! (Including deliberately jumping up and down in the taxi to make it bounce!)

We were driven around the 10 000 hectare game park. We saw plenty of crocodiles, impalas, buffalos, boars and two rhinos from a distance!

Sunday 16 August 2009
This morning I walked to Tandi’s to meet her for church. Nina and I first met Tandi on the first weekend we were here. She is a teacher at a local school, twenty-five years old and has a gorgeous personality!

We part-walked and part hitched a lift in the back of a ute. The service started at 9:00. It included lots of singing, preaching, praying…singing, preaching, praying, more singing, preaching and praying… (you get the point). Most of the service was in Zulu… A couple of times during the service, it sounded as if they were all possessed; they were all chanting or mumbling their own words to God – some were even crying; it was actually a little scary!

Almost four hours later (most of which we were standing!), the service finally finished. It was now 1:00 and I was absolutely starving! I felt like my blood sugar levels had dropped to the bottom of the universe, so I can’t say I was overjoyed when the priest invited the new members into a small room…for what I had no idea! After what felt like everyone coming up to me to introduce themselves, I was taken into a small room where I received a glass of fruit juice and some biscuits. It was weird – it was meant to be a way of welcoming us to the church, yet everyone just sat in silence (probably enjoying the small bit of sustenance we were getting from the food!).

…It didn’t stop there. Tandi, her friend Nellie and myself then had to walk back home. This took about 45 minutes. It was about 2:30 before I got to devour some lunch! But, this is Africa baby! Unlike home, where we have the luxury of transportation, most people in Ingwavuma (and throughout South Africa) do not.

Thanks to everyone’s wise and encouraging words, I am beginning to understand that I may need to focus on making ‘smaller’ differences to people’s lives instead of trying to take on the whole world. I sent a text to Tandi this evening thanking her for a great weekend and her friendship. She just text me back saying:
“Thank u so much gel. U ar a blesing 2 me.”

Monday 17, 2009
…This morning Nina and I went and helped with grade 1 writing and maths. …As always, the students came up to get their writing checked and to say the sentence to us. This is always like pulling hens teeth out (most of them had no idea what the sentence said!). This morning was of particular frustration for me; one tiny little girl would just not speak…at all! I even got to the point where I was asking her to just repeat each word, word by word back to me…still no sound! Argh! I have to say, I was getting so frustrated – I was ready to scream! I wasn’t going to let her get away with not saying anything (especially after the teacher told me not to bother as ‘this one never speaks’), so I told her to wait beside me while I marked some other students work, before we would try again. After a couple of students read the sentence to me, I suddenly heard this tiny little squeak beside me; she was starting to tell the other students what to say! I couldn’t believe it! The little so-and-so did know what the sentence read! As time progressed and more and more students came up and read to me, she became louder and louder and more confident in reading the sentence out loud! After I praised and encouraged her, she decided to put her writing book on my lap and read it to me – almost no help required on my part! This was such an amazing moment for everyone!

Tuesday 18 August, 2009
…For the two periods after first break I had my grade 8 class. Once again, this was an absolute shemozzle; they had nowhere to lean on as the non-working computers were taking up all of their desk space. I then had to struggle to reach the chalkboard over all of the rubbish and metal scraps from the broken computers that were lying on the floor in front of me. Because there was no desk space I had students writing on the ledge in front of the chalkboard. Essentially, I had to lean over the students to write on the board; this didn’t always work as I couldn’t always reach over them, so we ended up having to keep switching places with one another!

Whilst in my room after school, the three girls who visited me on the weekend came over to show me some photos of their family and home back in Swaziland. We then went over to their house to meet their other family members. The girls are only young and live with a ‘mother’ (who is actually not their mother, but oldest sister). She is 21 and is in grade 10! All six girls share one small room. It is tiny! There is no furniture; all six sleep on two thin mattresses (they actually look like they are just blankets folded over) on a cold concrete floor. And Nina and I thought we had it bad…no way! I went back to my room and now feel like I live in a Queen’s palace!

Wednesday 19 August 2009
…The first class I had to supervise was in a science room. As I had no key, Simon opened the room for me…and, as only you can expect to happen in Africa, out gushed a stream of water! Oh no…the classroom was flooded! It turns out that the students left some of the sinks turned on. This doesn’t normally matter as there is normally no water, but for some random reason, the water had spontaneously come on! Simon didn’t seem too fussed; “oh, this always happens – just get the kids to clean it up.” …And he left.

So…I was now stuck with the job of somehow getting all of the water out of the classroom…. Thankfully, I had 3 or 4 girls who didn’t take this as an opportunity to bludge and helped clean everything up…Thankfully the classroom has a concrete floor so it made the job a lot easier!

For the rest of the day, Rose (science teacher) left us a few very brief instructions on a scrap piece of paper. It said things like: Grade 7 = poster. Grade 8 = poster. Grade 9 = Test. It had no more description than this! We had no idea when these classes were or what room they were even in! To make it worse, the office was missing their copy of her timetable! …In the end, only two of her classes did work the whole day; every other class had no idea what their teacher was talking about by the word ‘poster!’

The Nansindlela Beauty Contest saved me from having to take her afternoon classes! This was put on by the grade twelves to raise money for their end of year dance…

…They took off the ‘Miss Universe’ beauty contest; each girl who competed had a sign attached to their costume to show which country they represented! There was a casual clothes section, ball gown and even swim suit section…Girls were prancing around in bras; their boobs bouncing all over the place for the entire audience to have a perve at – including the male teachers! One of the teachers in particular, Walter, was hooting and cheering; making a complete idiot of himself.

I could NOT BELIEVE that the school would let something like this take place. I could also NOT BELIEVE the male teachers; they were not afraid to have a good stare and publicly let other students around them know what they thought of the ‘girl with the massive you-know-whats.’

Thursday 20 August 2009
I’m so upset – I’ve just come from the grade 1 class where I taught them English and maths. Of course, because I have been a few times, the teacher now just sits there and doesn’t even bother helping me. Argh!

Firstly, the teacher said that for their sentence writing, I could put any sentence I wanted up on the board. What type of teacher does that!? She NEVER plans her classes! They may only be in grade 1, but they are in their foundation years – it is crucial that planning is done by the teacher! But no, not in Africa; here, the teacher just writes whatever comes to mind that morning. So, the sentence is normally something like ‘today is Thursday and it is cold,’ or ‘today is Friday and it is sunny.’ The kids don’t actually know how to read these words, they just guess!

And then there is the issue of not being able to read what day of the week it is. Most of them think Thursday is Tuesday and their teacher has taught them the order of the week as Monday-Sunday instead of Sunday to Saturday.

Oh, the other thing; a few kids would say something/read a word of the sentence; I would either say ‘no,’ ‘nearly’ or ‘pardon’ if I didn’t hear them. On too many occasions, they would then say back to me ‘no,’ ‘nearly’ or ‘pardon,’ thinking that I am telling them how to say the word! (Sigh…)

Then there is maths; they just don’t get it. They get their addition and subtraction signs muddled up and they really have no clue how to do the sum at all; they ALL just copy from the small handful of kids who do understand!

…Of course, the teacher just stood there the whole class and didn’t even help me explain to the kids how to work out the sums. I had such a long line of kids wanting to get each answer checked and it was taking me sooo long to get through them all because each student needed extra help and therefore extra time with me. But why on earth would the teacher help!?

By the end of the grade one lesson, I was really (sorry to say it) pissed off –angry, frustrated, upset. I’m struggling not to cry now! L

Friday 21 August 2009.
Last night I was close to deciding that I would not go to school today. For some reason, since yesterdays grade one class, I have been feeling really weird. It was like it was my breaking point. I feel so fragile at the moment; I am so tired, so exhausted and in some ways, unmotivated. But, as always happens in these types of situations, my conscience got the better of me and I decided I would go.

I also thought it was important as Nina and I were to be teaching the grade 7 computer class for the first time since being here…The grade sevens were, to but it bluntly, REAL LITTLE – actually no, REAL BIG SHITS!!! It was horrible.

…As per usual, everyone turned up late. I was feeling really exhausted and fragile and I didn’t have any energy, so I told them that I would just wait for them to be quite before I began the class. Note to self; reverse psychology and little ‘teacher tricks’ like this DO NOT WORK.

…Nina was the first to take down one of the students to the principal. This one boy was asked by both Nina and I numerous times to sit down and be quite. He simply looked at Nina and said ‘NO!’ We get this all the time, but there was something about the way he said it that flew Nina and I off the handle. He then tried to cover himself by saying “no Miss, I wasn’t talking to you.”
“But you were looking at me straight in the eye”
“Yes, but I have problems with my eyes and I thought I was speaking to my friend.”

By the time Nina got back from taking him to the principle it was my turn to take a boy down to the office. This one decided to climb up the door and wall and onto the roof of a small room within the classroom. He had dirt and filth covered all over him!

When I returned, Nina was still not having any luck settling the class. Then, amongst all the noise and chaos, a boy decided to sit on top of a computer and jump on it; not once, not twice, but multiple times! As you would expect, he snapped it and broke the plastic cover off the back of the computer. He then had the nerve to say that it was already broken, even though Nina and I heard it snap and saw it break with our own eyes! When we told him to come to the office, he bolted out of the classroom and ran away.

Nina had to go back down to the office to give the principal his name. And from then on in, I was left with the class on my own…They were all SO RATTY. I got to the point where I said I was leaving and I was going to get the principal to come up. And that was it…I left and didn’t return. And honestly, I didn’t care less that they were in the room by themselves, they don’t act any differently when I am there! Besides, I didn’t have the energy to keep shouting and trying to get everyone to be quiet and I think if I had stayed any longer, I would have started crying in front of the entire class!

After lunch we didn’t have a class so I took this opportunity to go home and get some alone time. After walking home, I fell on to my bed and I swear, instantly fell asleep…
It was great until my loud housemates came home.

Saturday 22 August, 2009
Today we went to Lala Neck, a secluded beach two hours drive from Ingwavuma. It was reachable only by 4wd and was extremely rough – my back jared itself at one stage and Julia, a medical student from the hospital badly hit her head on the roof…ah well – only in South Africa!

Sunday 23 August, 2009
…Kellie (a white school teacher) picked me up to take me to her church. The church was actually at a school in a small grade four class room. So, here I was, on top of a hill in a small classroom singing praise to God with local Zulu adults and children! As always, the singing was AMAZING! I honestly felt like I was surrounded by a choir, everyone with their own parts; harmonies and various melodic lines filled the room and I am sure the whole valley of Ingwavuma! It was spine tingling! I even got to sing some songs in Zulu!

The church had a special guest preacher. Near the end of the service, he welcomed anyone up to the front who wished for him to pray for them; to pray that God would help the individual feel the holy spirits presence within them. Most of the churchgoers went up, including me. We were then prayed to one by one. Oh my goodness! I cannot even begin to describe to you the feelings and emotions that suddenly swept over the room. Before I knew it, most of us were crying; I don’t know why, but I was swept with this overwhelming feeling; it was indescribable. I think I cried for a variety of reasons; there was a real power emanating within the room – God’s presence was definitely with us.

… One of the men fell to the floor and cried uncontrollably. The other looked as if she had something inside of her; her body was convulsing; moving backwards and forwards before she fell to the ground and cried. This was the moment when I realised that there really is something more powerful than us out there; whether we believe it is God or some other form of spirit, there is something out there.

I can’t even begin to describe this morning’s events, nor will I ever be able to. But, I hope that this blog can bring some sort of comfort to those who feel burdened or in pain for one reason or another. Maybe you are struggling with something in your life that is causing you to question your faith and/or confidence in life. If I can be of any help, I want you all to realise that we are not alone and that each and every one of us is being protected and cared for by a greater power than ourselves. It is important for us then to accept life’s struggles and have faith that we are not facing them alone.

There is nothing that comes our way that we cannot handle, especially when we have faith that there is something greater than us who is watching over and protecting us.

Tuesday 25 August 2009
Oh my goodness, oh my good, oh my goodness! We have running water, we have running water, we have running water! Yes that’s right people – the water is running! I have just been sitting on my bed trying to catch up on some diary entries when I heard a rather unusual sound, one I haven’t heard for some time. At first, I couldn’t quite pin-point what it was, but, somewhere deep inside me, I heard a voice, a rather faint one, but nevertheless, a voice saying ‘its water…running water!’

I jumped off my bed and into the hallway to find Nina filling up the bathtub with hot water! (Ok, the tub isn’t that clean and I probably wouldn’t use it, but who cares – we have water!) But, the other teachers were quick to inform us that this sometimes does happen…and that it disappears as quickly as it comes.

I remember Simon telling me the other night the reason (believed by many people) as to why we do not have water; Ingwavuma is under the Jozini municipality (a town about an hour or so from here). Jozini is lead by the IFP political party. When the recent political elections were held and Ingwavuma voted against the IFP and instead, in favour for the ANC, the IFP decided to switch Ingwavuma’s water off!

Whilst I may have seemed a little excited when I first heard running water, to be honest, I actually couldn’t have cared less. I am so used to not having running water anymore that it now no longer seems like such a big deal. At the end of the day, the only thing we don’t have is the convenience of WARM RUNNING water from a tap. We still have water, we just have to collect it from the tanks and boil it. Big deal.

…it didn’t last for long – almost as soon as it came, the running water has now stopped!

After first break I had my grade 8 computer class. As planned, I gave them an exam paper to complete in relation to the ‘World of Animals.’ …Reflecting on this lesson, I realise just how much things have changed, or should I say I have changed since I first came here. This was an exam, yet there was never a moment of complete silence, or a moment where everyone was sitting down (not that they could due to the lack of seats in the room) or where I truly felt like the test was going to be a true indication of everyone’s individual knowledge of the topic. But, strangely enough, I was more calm and collected about it all than what I have been previously! This is Africa baby and sometimes, you just have to accept and do things the African way, no matter how wrong it may seem coming from a Westerners perspective!

Wednesday 25 August 2009
… As per usual, none of the heads of school knew that certain people were away today and it was only because of us alerting them, that they were made aware.

The afternoon classes somewhat tested my patience, especially since I was feeling really unwell! The grade 9 class were incredibly loud and boisterous. At one stage, I had a boy and a girl running around the classroom, banging into other students whilst they attempted to hit each other with a big plank of solid wood and a stick.

The last class of the day were the grade eights. There are a group of girls in this class who are very friendly and sweet. I couldn’t work out though, why one of them was slowly walking up to me, then stopping, then looking at me, then looking back at her friends…what did she want!? Eventually, she plucked up enough courage to come and ask me if she could play with my hair! Once I said yes, I had a whole heap of girls touching my soft and silky hair (a far cry from their coarse hair!). I felt really unwell and it is always so nice when you have someone to stroke your forehead or play with your hair; I could have fallen asleep!

Today I asked Mama if she would mind cooking for us every now and again. Mama is more than happy to do so! I was also lucky enough to be invited over for dinner! … I ate way too much from excitement, but I enjoyed every mouthful!

Thursday 27 August, 2009
I woke up this morning seriously contemplating not going to school. I felt fluey; cold, achy, chesty cough and surprise surprise, my back was hurting!

One of the teachers got back from Impageni in the early hours of this morning. So, with about five minutes before I was due to leave for school, he comes into my room to say that he was not going to school today as he was too tired. Fair enough, but when I asked him for an indication of what he wanted his classes to do, he said he was too tired to start writing out instructions and to just tell them to do the work that I had given them yesterday. That’s all very well for him, but the students had finished the work (even before yesterday’s lesson!) I told him this, but he didn’t seem to care in the slightest; so, off I went to school, feeling that today was going to be as pointless as yesterday…

…I take that back! I first had a grade 11 class. I had one girl come up to me and ask me to read through and mark her geography homework questions. … I really felt like I had helped her and that she was better equipped with the knowledge and answers she needed!

A boy then came and asked me for help with his geography speech. I spent time going through his work; he had pretty terrible english and never started any of his sentences with a capital letter.

But, once again, I did feel like I achieved something with him; especially when he said “I am so lucky to have found a teacher like you.” This was a real ‘moment’ for me! Up until this morning, I honestly haven’t felt appreciated by any of the students. For me, this was what I needed to re-motivate and re-direct how it is I am going to help Nansindlela.

By mid morning, my back was absolutely killing me! I was in excruciating pain, to the point where I was almost in tears. I have never had pain like this before. Bongi arranged to take me to the hospital…and this is where it gets interesting!

A public South African hospital is a far cry from what we are used to in a Westernised country. For the most part, I didn’t really have much idea of what was going on so I appreciated Bongi being there.

…To start off with, we walked into a small room crammed full with other people wishing to see a doctor. Most were either school-aged children or mothers and their babies. We sat here for a while before my obs were taken. By this stage, my back was really sore and I was beginning to feel even more like I had the flu! It turns out I had a temperature; 38.3 degrees Celsius and my blood pressure was quite high. Well, I might as well see the doctor about this too!

… Bongi was then taken into another crowded room of people by a nurse who told me and Chandler to stay where we were…um, I’m pretty sure I’m the patient here! Chandler eventually took me into Bongi who looked up at us and tried to signal for us to leave the room! She came over to me and said that it was best if I waited outside. It turns out that Bongi was pretending to be me; she said that if I had walked in and they had seen that I was white and that I was trying to jump the que (the nurses allow Bongi to do this with the GAPS as they know how busy she is at school during the day!), that this could have caused a lot of prejudice and tension against me. ..So, here I was, standing outside the room, feeling a little uncomfortable about the whole situation! I must admit, there was one women sitting about 10 metres away from me who was giving me the biggest stares! … There were people crammed in everywhere waiting to see one of the doctors who each sat behind a curtain-like barricade…eventually I got to see one!

Chandler then took me to the physio where I was treated by Deepa, a young girl from Durban who came out here at the beginning of the year after finishing her degree in occupational health. Apparently all medical students in South Africa are expected to do one year of community service after they have finished their degree.

The visit with the doctor, physio and my medication did not cost me a cent! Mosvold is a public hospital but I was still surprised that I did not have to pay for anything!

This evening I am feeling like shit! My head is pounding, I feel like I am sitting in a sauna and my eyes are becoming more and more heavy as the minutes go by! And, to put the cherry on the cake, my back is now as painful as it was before I had the physio treatment!

It didn’t help that I was due for a bath…You have to lift and pour the buckets of water into the tub…I tried to use small buckets to save my back as much as I could; the worst thing, however, was not being able to stand under a constant flow of warm running water. Instead, I was left to freeze in the tub, which was doing wonders for my temperature.

Friday 28 August 2009
I was invited by Bongi to go with her and Mary to Pongola today. It was a two-hour trip that passes through Jozini…

After Mary had done her errands, we went to ‘The Junk Shop.’ It was here that I went crazy and bought a whole heap of art and craft materials for the art and craft extra-curriculum group that I am going to start up! After this we went to the ‘OK’; a grocery store which is soooooo much better than the Ingwavuma SPAR! I almost fell over in shock when I saw they had nice chicken! They even had dried fruit but because I had spent a bit of money on the arts and crafts for the school I didn’t get any (can you believe it – me turning down one of my favourite foods!)

…And then…from Pongola all the way to Ingwavuma, I drove home! …

…I enjoyed driving again, even if Bongi’s clutch was a little stubborn at times… It was incredibly hard to see the direction of the road and where all of the potholes were! The road from Jozini to Ingwavuma was the worst – and yes, there were quite a few holes that I did not miss!…I also enjoyed the experience of driving into a petrol station to get petrol!…There were cars coming in and out from every direction; people were walking everywhere and no one would move for anyone! This was a little stressful, especially when I first entered the station. I had to stop on a hill – I then had to hill start; the only problem was Bongi’s hand break did not work very well! Let’s just say a lot of car reving took place!

Saturday 29 August 2009
…I had to laugh – I was at Mama’s house having a chat this afternoon (and watching how she cooked cabbage and pap), when, on two separate occasions Bongi and another teacher came into the room to compliment me on how clean my washing looked! It seems to be a big deal over here if you’re washing looks clean after you have hand washed it! And they all seem to like to compare each other’s and check out how the new girl on the block is going with hers!

For the rest of the afternoon, I worked on some school posters and marked some grade 8 test papers for the recent animal kingdom test I had given them.

There were a few questions on the test that too many of the students got incorrect. One of them read:

A penguin lives in what type of a habitat?
a.) ocean
b.) polar region
c.) temperate forest

I am NOT joking when I say that a large proportion of the learners put c.) Temperate forest as the answer!

Another boy wrote the following answer to the question: ‘what is a habitat?’

“A habitat is something that you are addicted to.”

The marshmallow cooking with Akhoma (9 year old boy from next door) and Rose that night was interesting…Akhoma’s Aunty Rose had never cooked it before so had no idea what to do…When I told her that we actually needed the flames, she seemed very surprised! And when I told her that you actually have to stick the marshmallow in the flame – wow, this was obviously something very new for her!

Friday 31 July

This morning (and in fact the whole day!), I experienced something quite unusual. For the first time, I wore my knee-length skirt to school and stockings. It seemed like from the minute we arrived, I had students of all ages staring at my legs! I eventually came to the presumption that it was because of my stockings, but, to this moment, I am still unsure on what is so fascinating about them! Haven’t they ever seen stockings before? Maybe they look different on a ‘white’ girl!? When I spent some time with the reception students, I even had them feeling up and down my legs with their hands and ‘picking’ at the stockings!

 It was at this time, that I was taking some beautiful photos of the beautiful reception students. They were all so cute, but nevertheless, it was so frustrating trying to take photos of them! They had no concept of the need for them to stand back from the camera and that they can’t keep waving their fingers in front of the camera if they want me to take a photo! It also tested my patience when I tried to take a photo of one or two students at a time – this hardly ever happened as all of the group of kids wouldn’t move out of the picture! Of course, none of the students could understand much English, so this made it even worse…I don’t think I was talking to a brick wall???

 And then… there is always a little ‘rat’ in the group who really pisses you off. In this case, a little boy who REALLY tested my patience, kept waving his hands in front of the camera, in between trying to snatch the camera out of my hands, sitting on the back of my neck and kissing me on the cheek (ok, I must admit I thought this last bit was cute!)

 …and then everything went downhill. All of a sudden, my camera said that there were no pictures and that there was an ‘error.’ After trying everything I could (including downloading them on to the computer), I was quite upset…actually very! I was disappointed with the fact that I had taken some AMAZING photos – and not just ‘amateur’ ones either – some of them looked like professional images; real ‘picture perfect moments!’…

…The school ran out of water today! (i.e. there was no more water in the tanks). It was the weirdest sight seeing kids place their water bottle under the tap, turn it on and see nothing come out! This also means that we cannot really use the toilet at school. I guess if we are left without water for much longer, the teachers will have to start using the drop toilets (which are for the students to use). Never to fear though – the tank at our house is still supplying us with water. In saying this, it only has a very small amount left…!

…this afternoon, Nina and I caught a bus taxi to Kosi Bay to stay at Eliza and Jesse’s placement house. From the word go, this was a real adventure! When we worked out which taxi was going where, we got in, got proposed to by an African man (whom I said ‘thank you, but no thank you to, as I was engaged.’ He then asked to see my ring…oh shit…um, I didn’t bring it as it is brand new and I didn’t want to get it dirty or lost…) and waited for about 20 minutes before heading of to our first stop, Bambanana. To begin with, the bus had 20 people in it (all adults except for one baby)! Nina and I were the last to leave the taxi. By now, it was dark. As we got off the first taxi and into the second, we were immediately bombarded by some street children who asked ‘please miss, can I have R2?). We were then our way to Kosi Bay (in a second taxi), not knowing where the hell we were, but hopeful that we were heading in the right direction!

Saturday 1 August

Firstly, I can’t believe we are now in August!

 After last night, we woke up at about 7:00. We then took some more taxi buses to Sodwana Beach, where we had organized to meet up with some teachers/hospital workers and kids from Ingwavuma. The beach was so nice – the minute we saw the water, Eliza, Jesse and myself felt like we were back home! The water was just as beautiful as the Gold Coast (almost!) but the sand was more of a brown colour. Nina, Jesse and I braved the water in our clothes as we had no bathers! It was freezing at first, but nice once we got in. I was so desperate for a ‘shower’ (the water at Jesse and Eliza’s was not working when I got up) that I did not mind the initial cool water or the fact that I didn’t have my bathers (I had spare clothes thank goodness!)…

…At about 3:00, we all left the beach to head back to Ingwavuma. Of course this was done in true African style, with about 10 of us in the back of the ute! It wasn’t the most comfortable ride but we were kept warm by a blanket which we covered ourselves with! It was really fun! We sang songs, had lots of laughs, waved to lots of people and ate lots of chips!

Sunday 2, 2008

It is 2:00 and it has been raining cats and dogs all day. I missed out on my run (but was so tired I was kind of glad it was raining!). due to the rain. For the first time since leaving Australia, I was able to snuggle up under my warm blankets and have a sleep in! What was even more, was that everyone else was relatively quite this morning! I dozed on and off until about 9:00, before getting up and having some breakfast. Nina decided to walk down to the SPAR (in the rain!), whilst I preferred to stay in my room and put all of my pictures up on my wall. I have also written some quotes and inspirational messages on coloured cardboard to stick up, as well as my ‘South African Bucket List.’ Listed on this, are things that I would like to achieve before I leave South Africa!

 After this, I made myself a sandwich, before devouring some yummy rye-vita crackers that I found at the Bambanana petrol station yesterday! I am still hungry though! I can’t believe how hungry I see to get up here! (Especially when I have done nothing but sit on my bed the whole day!) Maybe it is the high altitude?

 For the rest of the day, I plan to devise lesson plans for this weeks classes (including our very own classes!), organise next weekends trip to Durban (I can’t wait!!!) and hopefully, get an early nights sleep!

 Note: My beautiful Mum text me this morning to say that the Hope Island Rotary Club would like to donate $200 towards Nansindlela School! I am so grateful for this and so thankful that they are all still thinking of me! Thank you to everyone from the Hope Island Rotary Club!

…It is now mid afternoon and I think I’m going to go co-co if I have to sit in my room for any longer!

Monday 3 August 2009

After yesterdays constant rainfall, I am pleased to say that the school water tanks now have water in them! This is obviously great for the kids, but also fantastic for the teachers as the toilet is now flushing!

 This morning I went and help out in the grade 1 classroom. Still wanting to try and help the little girl who is REALLY struggling, I asked Mama (the teacher) if she would mind if I came to the classroom 2-3 a week and do one-on-one work with the one or two students who are really struggling. She said this would be great, which I am very pleased about! As frustrating as I think it will be (I got REALLY frustrated today!), I know it will be rewarding to go home from my placement at Nansindlela and know that I have helped improve the academic level of this girl.

 After morning tea I went and sat in on Walter’s grade 7 social science class. Like all of the classes I have been to (in order to sit and observe), I found this class so loud and so rude and so frustrating! And the worse thing is, Walter just kept talking over the top of them, with only a small handful of children listening to what he was saying! I guess, in a way, this is at times the only way to teach a class here in Ingwavuma. I have been sending so much time and effort on trying to get the class to be well behaved and absolutely silent, that before I know it, the class is over! In saying this, Walter told me that he felt that was a good class and that he disciplined them ‘well’ (um…I beg to differ, but then again, he said they used to be worse!)

 Since yesterday, I have been feeling really overwhelmed, and at times, quite emotional. At the moment, I feel like everything is just too hard! So many things need to be changed, improved and altered; things about the students, teachers and overall organization and planning of the school, school rooms and other resources. I have absolutely no idea where to start. Worse of all, the teachers just don’t seem to have the motivation to change their ways; they can’t be bothered, and so this is essentially reflected in the student attitudes towards school.

The library, for instance, is not even what I would call a library. There are books upon books scattered ALL over the floor, in no particular order or category. This means that when a students needs to find a book on a particular topic, they must search high and low across the whole library floor. I would love to help get the library into some form of organised system, but, at the moment, in my overwhelmed and emotional state, I am finding it really hard to be motivated. It is honestly such a mess; I wouldn’t know where on earth to start!

 Then there is the issue with the students, particularly those in Senior school, who are so obnoxious and so rude! Every class is a battle – it is so draining and just too easy to give up. Firstly, you must fight to get them to take a seat. Then you must get their attention to tell them what is set for work. For the rest of the class time, it is a matter of getting each and every student to actually take their books out of their bags. Then you must try and get them to open them. And finally, when they do (if they ever do), a lot of them will spend the next 10 minutes telling you that they don’t have a pen or that they are running out of paper and that they therefore don’t want to write anything. If I’m lucky enough to get some students who do have their books open, it is generally not because they are doing the work that has been set, but because they are copying last night’s homework from another person’s exercise book or reading a magazine that I have hidden in between their book. When you tell them to put it away, they deny, deny, deny that they have done anything wrong, until you confiscate the book or prove them wrong in some way or another.

Up until this afternoon, I have been managing the students in each class. In the last period, however, I had grade 12 maths…gee did they test my buttons. There were two boys who were SO rude and SO disrespectful, to the point where I was at melting point. Firstly, one of the boys kept playing the keyboard, even though I told him time and time again to turn it off and go and do his work. He then gave me back-chat after back-chat after backchat before I finally asked him to give me his name so I could write it down for detention. Of course, this was easier said then done. He refused to give me his name and no other student in the class was obviously prepared to help me out. I then went and got another teacher from the classroom next door to get his name. When we arrived back at the classroom, the student had done a runner and didn’t return until the teacher ad left. I then had to put up with both the boys arguing with me and saying that they didn’t care that I had given them detention and that I could give them a whole year’s detention if I wanted to. They said because I had given them detention, there was no point in behaving. By this stage, after asking one of the boys to leave the classroom for the rest of the lesson (by now, the rest of the class was well and truly disturbed); I went and got Bongi, the principal. Bongi asked all those who misbehaved to stand up and leave the room with her. The first student stood up pretty much straight away, but the second intently stared at me, as if to say ‘there is no way you’re getting away with this.’ When he finally got up, he walked past me and said ‘are you happy now?’

 Because of this whole saga, Bongi had to leave the class she was teaching and come and get the boys. I then had to go down to the office with them and listen to one of the students explain to Bongi all of the things he had done wrong. Bongi was then going to write a letter to his parents explaining the situation. A visit to the school by his parents was also going to be organised.

 Bongi informed me that this particular boy has also been extremely disrespectful to past gap people, to the point where he was suspended from school for a week. Apparently, the other boy, when questioned by Bongi brought up the issue of race. He said to Bongi ‘surely you understand…you’re black…we can’t let these white people rule us.’ This was interesting to hear; I had no idea that some of the students had this attitude towards their teachers – towards me. Whether we like it or not, it is clear that racism is still a major concern within South African society.

After all of this, school was finished and Nina and I headed to the SPAR. Surprisingly, it the roller door entrance was closed! Apparently, the security had caught a robber who tried to steal from SPAR, before jumping through the window of the hardware store. Consequently, the SPAR was put into lockdown (with customers inside). The police arrived and the life in Ingwavuma went on as normal!

I went for a 6km run with Jan Heese (teacher) this afternoon. We ran up towards the Swaziland lookout. I am still getting used to the many hills and in particular, the high altitude! I cannot believe how hard it is to breathe when running! Whilst the run was great and really enjoyable, Jan and I were stopped in our initial minute of running by a little boy. This boy came running down the road to us, screaming his lungs out, tears streaming down his face and snot running down his nose. Jan went to put his hand on his shoulder to get him to calm down and tell us what was wrong; I have never seen someone jump and flinch like this little boy did. Just as you would if you were about to be hit, he almost shook himself out of his skin! When we finally clamed him down, we took him over to a car that had just pulled over. This man was able to speak to him in Zulu. He and his passengers laughed, before saying ‘the boy has run away from his house because his parents are beating him. Take him to the police.’ Jan and I just looked at each other. How could they laugh about something like this? Maybe this boy was just upset because his parents gave him a small smack on his bottom? But maybe this is much more serious and he really is been beaten? Jan and I started to walk towards the police station with him. He was absolutely shaking and could hardly walk. I put him on my back and gave him a piggy back to the station. When we got there, the policewomen laughed at the boy and said that she would take him home.

 There was nothing more Jan or I could do. Nothing. I felt terrible leaving this frightened little boy behind, but what choice did I have? None.

 After my run, I went over to Bongi. I have a list of ideas that I would like to start to establish within the school (e.g. extra curriculum groups, principal awards etc etc). I wanted to run these by her and seek and suggestions for or against my ideas. Bongi seemed happy with these, but once gain, brought up the issue of other teachers not being bothered to commit or help with things such as extra-curriculum groups.

 I also spoke to her about the situation with the boy this evening. She said that if anything happens like that in Ingwavuma, you should just give them a tissue, tell them its ok and leave; do not interfere; do not take them the police station. She said that when people like myself do this, they run the risk of getting in trouble with the child’s family…there is no way I am just going to leave a crying, frightened, petrified boy on the road by himself. I think if it ever happened again, I would take him back to my place until he settled down and then get him to go home…but then again, he may not want to…the family may find out about me…the boy may not even speak English (which was the case this evening). This means I can’t really help him at all.

 Let’s just hope something like this doesn’t happen everyday and that it won’t happen again.

 Until tomorrows tests (and hopefully triumphs), good night

Tuesday 4 August

This morning I took the grade elevens, who were all pleasantly well behaved (of course when I say this, I mean pleasantly well behaved in ‘African standards!’ After morning tea, Nina and I had our grade 8 computer class. As the computers do not work, I did the lesson on the world of animals. As I had time after my run before leaving for school this morning, I did up a lesson plan, which really. Most of the time the class seemed interested. There were a few, however, who did not follow the rest of the class to another classroom for the second half of the lesson (Nina and I tried to find classrooms that were free so the kids would have desks to write on – the computer lab is full of computers and rubbish and definitely not big enough for such a big class. This meant we had to change classrooms half way through their double period as another class needed the room we were initially in). I am excited to receive and mark their answers for the worksheet and tasks I have set them.  Then again, I wonder if anyone will actually bother doing their homework…?

 Today, I also received two beautiful letters from two grade four students. One of them said the following:

 “I love you so much, I know you love me. I want to say I still love you. Please can you be my part Mom. I will miss you.

 Please please please please can you.”

I am currently in my spare/free lesson. After this, Nina and I have to relief teach a grade 10 science class. We may have to come up with some games or activities for them though – the teacher has told us to get them to work on their projects and hand out the accompanying worksheets. The problem is, he didn’t give us the worksheet!?

Since last night, Ingwavuma has had no reception. This means that our mobiles don’t work at all.

Hi everyone!
I can’t believe I have finally found an internet! Sooooooo much has happened since my last post! I am currently in Kosi Bay with my GAP partner Nina. We are visiting the other two GAP students. Getting here has been a trip and a half! Nina and I got into a bus taxi in Inguvama (where I am staying). The thin with these taxis, is that they don’t go anywhere until the taxi is full. Lucky for us, we only had to wait about 20 minutes, however, at the beginning of the trip, there were 20 people crammed in to the one taxi bus! It was crazy! Once we got down to the bottom of the mountain (and our ears were finally popped), Nina and I got into another taxi and headed out to Kosi Bay. We got picked up by Eliza and some teachers working at her school. It was, by this time, dark and, in true African style, Nina and I had to sit in the back of the ute…sitting under the bright moon and shinning stars, we had a real ‘moment!’

Anyway, I mst try and hurry along with this – everyone else wants a go on the internet too!

For those of you who don’t yet know, here is some info about my placement:

I am sharing a room with Nina in a teachers house which is about 20 minute walk from the school. The room is tiny (just big enough for two beds and a tiny wardrobe). We share a kitchen, which is really dirty! The fridge didn’t work very well so they have recently got another one. It is much smaller and des not fit everyones food in it! The inside of the micowave filthy. The stove does not work so we have a camp-like stove with 2 hot pates on it it. I tried the oven when I first got there and I caused a blackout within the house!

Best of all, we have NO RUNNING WATER! This means we cannot flush the toilet and have no water to wash hands (thank goodness for hand sanitiser)etc. We have to bathe in a really small tub which we fill with cold water befoe adding water that we boil to make it warmer. The tub is so small – I have to sit in it with my legs right up to my chest and then squeeze the face washer over my body. To wash hair, I have to kneel on the floor and dunk my hair into the water! It gets really really cold as I am obviously not under warm running water!

Clothes washing must be done in the same tub – hand washing so hands get very sore by the end after all the ringing. Nina and I still find that we can’t get all the soap out of the clothes!

Anyway, the following are excerpts from my journal entries I have been keeping whilst here:

Monday 20 July
Today was our first full day of life in South Africa! After rising at 7:30 for breakfast, we walked to the Church hall where we were spoken to by an Australian working for the Australian High Commission in South Africa and a South African Travel Doctor……..

We were then spoken to by travel doctor, Dr Maarschalk. I found this talk extremely interesting and obviously very beneficial. Dr Maarschalk talked to us about a variety health issues, one of them being HIV/AIDS. In South Africa alone, it is recorded that 5.6 million people are currently living with the disease. This equates to 21.5% of the population, a dramatic increase from the 7.6% in 1997.  In 2006, 370 000 South African deaths were attributed to this disease, which equates to 1000 deaths per day.  Furthermore,1 in 5 South African women infected with the virus will not live to see their 30th Birthday.  When compared to Australia’s 22,000 recorded cases, it is clear that this is a serious epidemic; an issue that is still not understood by a large proportion of the South African people today.
* Fact: 36% / 1 in 4 people in Kwa-Zulu Natal (the province my placement is located in) is infected by the HIV/AIDS virus.
……….
Malaria is also a major concern within the African community, with 95% of malaria related deaths occurring in Africa, equating to an annual death rate between 1.5 and 2.5 million people. Whilst there are four different strands of the disease, it is important to note that only one of these can cause death and that it must have been as a consequence of being bitten by a female mosquito as male ones do not bite!

The issue of water was also raised and, it may surprise many of you to find that the water in South Africa is in the top 8 of the world’s cleanest water! This means that I have been drinking tap water in Johannesburg. I will however, need to reassess the situation once I am living at my rural placement in Ingwuvama.

Thursday (arrival at placemet)
Upon arrival, we were briefly shown around the school grounds. School had just been let out so there were kids everywhere! Quite a few of the younger ones stopped us in our tracks and hugged us, there wide smiles and big eyes glaring up at us! What was amazing, was that almost immediately, I was asked by some girls if I could give them my earrings and even the hair tie that was around my wrist!
…………
I must admit, this was all a bit overwhelming when we first arrived. How on earth am I going to survive for six months without running water – without having a shower, without having water to wash my hands after going to the toilet, having to pour water in to the toilet after every time I go, having to scrub and hand wash my own clothes, having to either boil water or buy bottled water…the list goes on!

After the initial shock, and now reflecting on it whilst sitting in bed, I realize that this is going to be an experience I will never forget! I am going to learn so much and begin to appreciate life and what I have at home so much more! I will also be able to say that I have lived in a way that many people know to be the only way – in poverty and with less than the bare minimum. After already seeing how so many people live in Africa, I can already appreciate that where I will be living for the next 6 months – this small dorm, with no running water, crappy bed mattresses and a squashed cockroach on the floor beside me, is actually not so bad when compared to where many Africans live. Some will spend tonight sleeping on the side of the road in the freezing cold, or if they are lucky, in a slum, but with no water, no electricity, no food and very little clothes.

Anyway, I better go – it has been a tiring couple of days and I need to get some sleep. But first, I REALLY need to go to the toilet! I have been putting it off…but you can only put something like this off for so long! Wish me luck!
……………

FRIDAY
the students were at times, a nightmare! It was incredibly hard to control them, particularly because they were older and therefore more independent and apparently ‘in-control’ of themselves! In particular, there were a couple of boys (some as old as 19 and 20) who would not behave – they never did any work and continually disrupted the rest of the class. At times though, this was quite funny! One boy had a leather jacket on and was doing dance moves across the classroom so as to impersonate Michale Jackson! Another boy sat at his desk and stared at me, deliberately popping his eyes out as far out of his head as he possibly could! In both instances, both Nina and I had to keep a straight face and at least try to stop them and get them to do some work! At the same time, there were also a couple of very studious workers in each class.

After these classes, we were then fortunate enough to listen to the school choir practice…OMG! This was absolutely fantastic experience – another ‘moment’ in South Africa! Words cannot describe the atmosphere that their beautiful voices created! It was exactly as you can imagine – boys and girls joining together, harmonies and all, to create a fantastic African inspired sound that was incorporated with movement. Both Nina and I had shivers constantly running down our spines. And, I don’t know why on earth why, but we were both close to tears. Nina and I still can’t understand why considering I never get emotional), but there was something so special about the sounds and movements we experienced that was overpowering and emotive!
………….
before we knew it we were bombarded by some younger students, all of whom wanted to speak and play with us! I took this opportunity to show them the photos I brought over –they loved seeing my friends and family and wanted me to say what each and every persons name was so they could say it back to me! I showed them the photo of me at my friends at my 18th Birthday party – they were surprised at how many friends I have! After this, Nina and I taught them some clapping games. The ‘thumb war’ was the most popular; even when we were walking out of the school gates at the end of the school day at 2:30, we saw kids everywhere who were teaching it to each other! It was amazing! 
…….
Nina and I then walked up to the local ‘CBD’ to finally buy various item…
We must have spent ages in the shops as it was 4:45 by the time we finished and went outside with a heavy trolley overloaded and full to the brim!
Now the challenge – to someone get back to our house. Because we had bought so much, we needed to be driven home. We asked the only taxi around at the time, but he was going in the other direction. We then asked another car full of people. A lady from the car was so kind and went around organizing a lift for us. In the meantime, we had no idea when or how we would eventually get home (even though it was only a 2 minute drive away!). Would it be dark by the time we got home? Was it going to rain? Were we going to freeze? Would we even get home tonight! Eventually, we were directed to a gentleman in a ute (yes we hitched hiked – but there is a really nice story to this – he is starting up a youth/poverty program and whats our help!)
……
Going to bed feeling like this is going to be a fantastic experience. I am not as anxious about it anymore. Now that we have conquered the toilet, shower and cooking (with water issues etc), both Nina and I now feel like we can definatley do this – whateer comes our way, for the net 6 months! I’m excited and wouldn’t want it any other way!
…………………

Tuesday 28 July
For the classes prior to morning tea, Nina and I assisted with grade 1. All of the students were so cute! All of their big eyes were on us as we walked into the room and took a seat at the back of the class. To begin, the students stood at the front of the class, said their prayers and sung a ‘halleluiah’ song. They then practiced their handwriting, before moving on to math. The math sums were very simple (e.g. 17-7, 12-2), yet for some students, it felt like I was trying to pull hens teeth out! There was one girl who particularly did not understand; no matter how I tried to explain it to her, she just didn’t get it. Even when we came to an answer together, I told her to go back to her desk and write it down, she would come back with a completely different answer, not even moderately close to the real answer!

From this mornings lessons, I can somewhat understand why teachers teaching at these remote schools, all too often ‘give up’ on their students. Sometimes, it just seems all too hard; too much effort, worry and attention for a child who just seems to not get anything, no matter how hard you try. The grade 1 teacher this morning, said something to me that exemplified this. Whilst marking students handwriting, I asked whether I should send one of the children back to her desk to re-do the letters she was writing incorrectly. The teacher responded with: ‘Oh, no, just fix it up for her now, this girl has always had problems with her writing.’ For me, this implied that the teacher no longer bothered with this child – that it was all just too hard…

After recess, I had intended to go back to the grade 1 class, however, one of my students from a class I took yesterday cam up to me and asked if I could help her with her homework. When I questioned her as to why she was not in class, she said that she has computer technology, but she was just sitting in the library doing nothing. Apparently, the teacher who normally takes this class moved back to Canada at the end of last term. So, from then on in, all of his students have been unsupervised, without any work, direction or supervision by a teacher! When I heard this, I went straight up to the library and attempted to get the class in to the computer lab so they could work on their ‘computer skills’ (when I asked the students what they normally do in computer technology, they said ‘play games, like cards…’). So, I now had a large class of ratty children to take care of. To top things of, NONE of the computers worked and only three students had other work they could go on with. This meant that I had to think of something to do with them…and FAST! I decided to play ‘round the world’. This is a quiz game, whereby two students compete at a time. The first to answer the question I ask moves on to compete against the next student and so on. This game proved really popular! It kept the boys on task the whole lesson! What amazed me though, was their lack of general knowledge, even about their own country! They could not tell me what the colours on their flag represented or what Gandhi’s first name was. One boy hadn’t even heard of the word ‘koala!’

Wednesday 29 July

This morning Nina and I helped out with the grade one class again. I hesitate to say ‘helped’ though, as the teacher pretty much stood in the corner of the classroom whilst we marked all of the kid’s writing and maths questions. Just as I did yesterday, I spent considerable time with this one girl who was struggling with her maths. She didn’t even have her book out to start with, even though a few other kids had already finished their maths! When I finally got her on task, it was, once again, like pulling hens teeth out. She struggled so much; she hardly ever got any of the sums correct and when she did, it was because she had spent a considerable amount of time on them. By the end of the class, she was in tears; the teacher said she had had enough and that she didn’t want to do any more. I can understand how frustrating it must be for her, but the teacher did not seem to help with matters; she once again, dismissed the child and didn’t bother trying to encourage her to keep on going or praise her for the work that she had done.

Periods 4 and 5 consisted of Nina and I teaching the class that, up until we arrived, had no teacher computing). Because the computers do not work, Nina and I led a game of ‘Round the World.’ As per yesterdays lesson with the grade eights, the class stayed focused the whole time. Of course, there was a group of boys who had to ruin things –they didn’t even come to class!

Nina and I asked a variety of different questions, from a broad range of subjects. Listed below are some of these questions and some of the answers we received!

Q: What continent is Egypt in?
A: Asia

Q: What is the order of the four seasons, starting in the month of January?
A: Summer, Spring, Winter, Autumn

Q: Who invented the light bulb?
A: Albert Einstein

Q: What is the capital city of America?
A: United Kingdom

Q: What animal is NOT an Australian animal? Koala, Kangaroo or zebra?
A: “A what?…what is a koala?”

Q: In the Northern hemisphere, there is the arctic circle. What is in the Southern hemisphere?
A: The North pole

I knew the academic standard of the students in a rural community like Ingwavuma would be low, but I could not have imagined just how naïve they are, particularly to the rest of the world! Whilst these types of answers do give me a bit of a chuckle (and I am sure, you!), it also displays an extremely serious predicament confronting the South African education system.

After these lessons, Nina and I are now motivated to make these lessons count; to use this time to teach them about things as simple as what continent Egypt is in!  What has previously been a bludge lesson, will now be transformed into a fun, interactive and informative lesson, where every student WILL learn something! It is my goal, to help these students become 100% more aware of the rest of the world, as well as simple, general knowledge about a variety of different subjects.

Nina and I have now got text books lying on our small bedroom floor, ready to use as teaching resources. Yes – we did manage to find some books in the ‘library’ (if you could call it that). The resources are, however, very basic children’s encyclopedias etc. Nevertheless, they are able to provide us with the information we need to teach the students. I have already made up some worksheets (fill in the gaps, mix and match, diagrams) etc for next weeks classes. Nina and I also intend to incorporate quizzes and weekly tests that incorporate the lessons topics etc. We also have the vision of decorating the computer room with student work, posters and colourful pictures – we want to make it ‘our’ room where students actually want to come to learn!

This afternoon, we were invited by the SPAR manager, Leon, to watch the beautiful South Afrcan sunset! This was absolutely AMAZING! Normally I am not one to sit around essentially doing ‘nothing,’ but I have to say, it was soooo relaxing and sooo worthwhile! According to Leon, we were actually on top of the mountain that was technically part of Swaziland (i.e. where the South Africa and Swaziland borders meet). Now I can add something else to my list – illegally entering another country!  One thing that amazed me about the South African sunset, was how orange the sun became and how quickly it set!

Thursday 30 July

I really enjoyed school teaching today! I took Walter’s classes as he was away at moderation. Mr Walter teaches social sciences – right up my ally! I taught grade 7, 8 and 9 subjects such as the industrial revolution and capitalism versus communism. Since I have learnt about these topics, I really enjoyed being able to expand on the information given in the text book.

After Nina and I walked home from school, I decided to do some clothes washing. By the time this was done, I had five minuted to spare before a teacher from Nansindlela, Francis S came to take me for a run! I was so excited about this but also a bit unsure on how I would cope, considering I have not run for the past 2 months due to a back injury from my car accident.

We ran up to the Swaziland/South African mountain which borders both countries. This was approximately 7km and took us about 35 minutes to complete. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful it was ot be running in South Africa! If you can begin to imagine, we were running on dirt roads, in th middle of no where, with a spectacular view once we reached the top, of Swaziland and th magnificent suset. Of course, this afternoon was not the time to sit and enjoy the view – we ran the whole way and did not stop. I was really pleased with this considering I have not run for a while. Once back at my house, I continued on down the hill to the hospital, where I met Nina. Nina was watching a soccer game, which was on top of another mountain (next to the tennis court). Once again, a spectacular view awaited me!

What made this run most exciting was that Francis has competed in both Commonwealth and Olympic Games for the marathon! In 2000, he was selected to compete at the Sydney Olympics and came 23rd! When I asked him to tell me about this experience, he began to relive it and talked about it the whole way back home! Unlike most marathon runners in his race at the Olympics, Francis was not a full time professional runner. He still had university study and teaching and so quite often missed some of his training runs. So to come 23rd in a group of full-time athletes is obviously such a huge achievement.

I truly felt honored that he had offered to run with me. By the end of our training run, he said that I had done very well and could tell that I was good at long distance running. He said when he has taken gapers before, they stop at the top of the mountain, saying they need to ‘stretch’ (i.e. they are stuffed!). I must say, this 7km was a lot more difficult than 7lk at home! It has so much more hills; just as you catch you catch your breath going down a hill, you are faced with another rise! He also said that the high altitude makes it harder than if we were running at the bottom of the mountain.

Francis says I am more than capable of training up to the half marathon which is happening in Ingwavuma at the end of September/beginning of July. It was my goal to compete in the half marathon the minute I heard about it, however, Francis has inspired and motivated me even more to make sure I do pursue this goal and do it!

I am so excited and can’t wait to have completed my first half marathon in a foreign country, in rough terrain, high altitude and amongst some of the spectacular views in the world! Yay!

……..

Ok – please excuse spelling/grammatical mistakes – i have not even looked over this or formatted it. I hope you all enojy reading about what I have been up to!

I am really enjoying South Africa – having such a great time!

Hope all is well in Australia!

Love you all

Ashlee
xo

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my blog! I am currently in Singapore and had no idea that I would get the oppurtunity to write to you all so soon!

I left Australia today with mixed feelings – excitement, nervousness, feeling sick, feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling like I wanted to jump for joy – you name an emotion, I probably felt it somwhere along the line today! And I will soon be able to add another one to my list – feeling tired! I still have another 4 hours to roam around Singapore airlines before my plane leaves for Jo’Burg at 2am (which is 4am Brisbane time).  Hopefully I will get some sleep and be ready for my adventure to really get going when we arrive in Jo’Burg at 7am.

I suppose I should tell you about my flight to Singapore.  Ther first thing I did when I got through customs was go to the toilet (yes there is a reason I am telling you this!). I ended up meeting Katlyn who I recognised from a Lattitude orientation day at the beginning of the year. This has been great for obvious reaons!

On the plane, I had a window seat and no one sitting next to me which was great! For the first hour I pretty much stared out the window dreaming about what may or may not lay ahead and hopefully, what I will be able to do to help the community I will be going to and also how I will hopefully grow and expand my horizons! I can’t wait! What is most exciting, is the unknown; its exciting to think that I don’t really know much about what lays ahead!

Anyway, I better go and do some more window shopping in the many Gucci and other extravagant shops in the airport! (Because you know how much I love shopping…not!)

Until next time,

Ashlee

xo