A Travellerspoint blog

May 11, 2011

Aaron and I woke up this morning and took one last ride up to the township to say goodbye to the Sinethemba kids. After many hugs and well-wishes we dropped off the candy and the little heart trinkets for Nicolene and Esteline off at Dorothy Broster. Now we are waiting for our cab to pick us up and take us to the George Airport. We have one heck of a day laid out before us.

1.) Hour long taxi ride from Knysna to George (leaving at 11:30am from the house)
2.) George, South Africa to Johannesburg, South Africa (leaving at 2:55pm and arriving at 4:45pm)
3.) Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta, GA USA! (leaving at 8:20pm and arriving at 6:40am our home time!)
4.) Atlanta, GA to Indianapolis, IN (leaving at 8:25am and arriving at 10:06am)

We are already tired and ready to be done with the traveling. Emotions are high. We are ready to be home, but we are sad to say goodbye.

Posted by SpethsInAfrica 02:27 Comments (0)

May 10, 2011

I went to Sinethemba today for what was supposed to be the last time. I decided at the end of the day that I am going to go in tomorrow morning to give them a proper goodbye. We had a beautiful devotion there this morning. I definitely believe that part of the reason that I am calmer and less worried all of the time here is because I start everyday with yoga and either an assembly full of worship or a devotion time. It has definitely made a positive impact on my life and my outlook on life. After devotion I sat down with some of the kids and Simon and Tody to write down all of the song lyrics to the songs that they sing during their devotions. I now have all of them to remember forever, just in case I need to have my own devotion at home some mornings  I spent some time playing with the kids in the new preschool. They have had it there for about three weeks now, and it has gone surprisingly well. I have two little girls and a little boy that always give me hugs in the morning. Jeroniza is a little girl who literally can not stop giggling, she finds everything hilarious, and her laughter and smiles are contagious to everyone around her; Lisanda is another little girl with the biggest and sweetest eyes ever, and she treats everyone like a jungle gym; and then there is Giovanni, an absolutely adorable little boy who is crazy about Ayesha. Ayesha spent the morning with us at Sinethemba to say goodbye to everyone. She had a very tearful goodbye during devotion. I noticed this morning that the new poster for Sinethemba was hanging on the walls. This was especially exciting for me because Aaron designed that poster!! That’s right! The new promotional poster for Sinethemba was made by my man! 

The rest of the day went by very quickly and was full of fun activities that I participated in whole-heartedly with the kids. A group called “Mad About Art” came in to do some art projects with the kids. We made collages from magazines. I spent a lot of time on mine. It was definitely a therapeutic activity for me, and it was a god way to balance out my feelings and emotions about leaving this country and going home. In some ways I am more than ready to go home and back to a normal life there, but in many other ways I am going to be heartbroken to leave. I also knew the entire time that I was cutting and gluing that I was going to have to say goodbye to Esteline today, and that was something that I was completely dreading. My collage ended up being a circular homage to the Earth and all of its beauty. It started with the ocean then went to the land then to the trees and plants and ended in the sky. I have definitely found a way to look at situations differently and from all angles since I have been here, and I have applied that to nature as well. I have paid so much attention to the things around me, sights, smells, and my feelings towards these things, but I have not spent a lot of time doing that back home. I plan on changing this instantly. So I guess my collage was just my way of saying that I have learned to appreciate everything that surrounds me more, and I plan on spending more time appreciating those things and less time scrutinizing them.

After we finished our collages two women from Lotus Yoga Studio came in to do an hour of yoga with the kids. This was definitely right up my alley! We had an absolute blast doing yoga together. Of course there were the random outbreaks of laughter and shouting and just random words (especially from Enver), but overall the kids did a great job. Cici even joined us! I was certainly impressed with the way that the kids behaved and handled themselves, and I could tell that the women were excited to come back again. They are going to make it a weekly event now!

When we finished with yoga I headed out with Nicole and Simon to Dorothy Broster to say goodbye to Esteline and Nicolene and the other kiddos there. The three of us had a nice walk there in the sunshine, and I enjoyed becoming part of the township again through our walk. Esteline greeted me at the gate, and again, she was immediately in my arms. We played for a while out on the porch, mainly jump rope, while we waited for Nicolene to get home from school. When Nicolene got there I took them both into Eva’s office so she could translate everything that I wanted to say to them into Afrikaans. I desperately wanted them to understand what I was about to say. I told them that I cared a lot about them and that I was never ever going to forget about them. I promised that we would send letters and emails and that we would stay in touch and always stay a part of their lives. I told them that I was sorry that I had to go home, and that I was going to miss them terribly. I don’t know. What the hell was I supposed to say? I couldn’t say the truth, I still can’t fully say the truth because it is too real and too overwhelming and frightening to me. I wanted to tell them that I wanted to take them home with me to a real home and have a real family, but you try explaining that to two kids staring at you wanting to know why you are abandoning them. You try explaining to two kids that even though their mother abandoned them there she won’t sign the papers necessary for them to be adopted and have a chance to have a normal and happy family life. So what was I supposed to say? I fumbled through a lot of words. Eva could tell that I was struggling, so she told me that I must speak to Nicolene about not being so naughty at school. She said that Nicolene had skipped school the last two days to go and play at the park. Nicolene wouldn’t even look at me after this. She had a sly smile on her face despite her obvious effort to look ashamed of what she had done. I told her that I was going to email when I got home and that she could only read the email if she had gone to school. I told her that school was important and that she was too bright to throw away her education. I was seriously just fumbling and desperately trying to find words to say to any of them that would make this situation less terrible. Eva then translated to the girls that I had to go back to America today, but that maybe they could visit me sometime. That was it. Esteline literally burst into uncontrollable sobs in my arms. Nicolene had tears streaming down her face. I started frantically saying anything comforting I could think of. I was going to send them birthday gifts. I was going to write emails to them. I was going to send them pictures. I couldn’t take it anymore. I sat there with Nicolene’s hand in mine and Esteline on my lap and I lost it. It wasn’t that I was sobbing like Esteline, but the tears could not be controlled any longer. They started to fall. Eva left after a while, and soon after I walked out carrying Esteline and hand in hand with Nicolene. I gave the other kids at the center big hugs goodbye, and Sharon (who had come at this point to pick me up) told the other kids to watch after Nicolene and Esteline for me. I gave the girls one last humongous hug and kisses on the forehead before I walked out of the door. The second I hit the door I sprinted to the van and burst into tears hiding on the other side so that no kids could see me. Lauren and Sharon didn’t say a word. Lauren gave me a hug and we just got in the van and left.

I spent the afternoon trying to recover some of my feelings and emotions about the day. Aaron came home from work, and we finished packing. Lauren and I met Tom in town and we got some snacks and rented a movie for the night. I bought a big bag of candy for the kids at Dorothy Broster as a goodbye gift, and I bought Nicolene, Esteline, and myself a small beaded heart charm. I am going to take them to the center tomorrow so they know that I will not forget about them. I want to send their birthday gifts to them as soon as we get home so they know that even though I am gone, I still think about them and care about them so much. Tom, Lauren, Aaron, and I spent the evening watching the movie, eating spaghetti, and visiting. Nicole is spending the night in the township at Simon and Tody’s house because they had a big Sinethemba meeting tonight.

Tomorrow it is all over. Tomorrow we are heading home. It is so strange to think about because we have been so homesick, and yet now that it is actually here I feel heartbroken in many ways. I think that only time will sort out the emotions that I am having right now. Time and some good old jet lag.

Posted by SpethsInAfrica 02:26 Comments (1)

May 9, 2011

Today was my last day at Chris Nissen, and I made sure to live it up as much as possible! I walked into the teacher’s lounge and into their staff meeting once again. It was a little hectic, as always, but in the amount of time that the remainder of the meeting lasted I was able to find out some very important information. Tom informed me that during the staff meeting last Friday the principal announced that the program was going to be cancelled, but he didn’t give a legitimate reason why. I guess after he made the announcement the other teachers threw a fit and said that it was unfair to me and to the students that the program would be cancelled, especially the day of. So the entire staff stood up for me. Although I was initially angry beyond belief that he wanted to cancel the program, I was incredibly grateful to the staff for standing up for me. Obviously it worked!

I thoroughly enjoyed my final assembly. The kids all sang beautifully, it was once again amazing to watch all of these kids and teachers pray together and worship together, and I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love for everyone who I have met here and everything that I have learned from this culture.

I didn’t really teach any classes today. It was more of a day to wrap everything up, say goodbye to everyone, and try to learn as much as I could from everyone before I left. So for all of the classes that I had today I had the students teach me some things. One class taught me a whole entire page of new isiXhosa words, another class taught me several traditional Xhosa dances, and the last class taught me a traditional Xhosa lullaby. I had an absolute blast learning all of these new things! The dances were difficult, especially because I was wearing a skirt and many of them required high kicking, but they were definitely fun. I made the mistake of asking the kids what the words to the songs we were dancing to meant. Unfortunately, I will never be able to teach them in my future classes. One of the songs literally translated to “You don’t know what you want. You want my hand. You want my heart. You want my breasts.”  So, after that I stopped asking what I was conveying in the dances and just had fun with it instead. In return for their kindness in teaching me the dances, I taught them some dances too. I taught them how to do the Macarena, which we did making the sounds from the song with our voices hehe. Then I taught them the Electric Slide, which was hilarious and beyond fun too!

So after I learned and taught some awesome dances it was time for lunch. Ms. Myo and Ms. Javu sent me outside and told me to stay there until they came out to get me. When it was time to come in I was completely blown away by what they had prepared for me! There was all kinds of food, a present for me on the table, and all of the staff members were there to wish me farewell. We had cake, South African candies, chips (as in actual chips, or as they call them here crisps), and milktart, which is a traditional South African desert that is beyond delicious. I was overwhelmed by their kindness. The principal spoke first. He told me that he was very grateful to me for coming to Chris Nissen and that I must tell my husband thank you for letting me do this. In this culture that is a big deal, but I had to smother a giggle because it was me who basically forced Aaron into letting us do this together  He also said that he has always wanted to teach in America and that he has applied many times but has obviously never gotten a job there. I was sitting there thinking, dream on Mr. you wouldn’t last a day teaching in America. It is sad how little he cares about his school. When he was done talking he told one of the other teachers to take a picture of him and me so he could take it back home and make up lies about it. Let me tell you, I barely smiled in that picture. I was too weirded out. Mrs. Bam spoke next. I was still surprised that she even addressed me last Friday, but I was even more surprised that she asked to speak today at my going away party. She told me to thank my family for lending me to their school and their country for such a long time, and she said that I had truly made an impact on their school in the time that I had been there. She said that I had a positive aura around me all of the time, one of kindness and willingness to do anything. She said that I had energy and a willingness to always help and do anything for the learners. Lastly, Ms. James spoke. She said that she could not be happy today, only sad, because she was going to miss me. She said that she had learned so much from me and that she was going to use what she learned in her classes all of the time now. Then she gave me the gift from the teaching staff. It was very funny because she actually stood there and opened the gift for me then handed it to me. They got me a very nice stainless-steel travel mug. I absolutely love it. What a thoughtful and wonderful gift for a world traveler! I can’t wait to use it. Ms. James said that she hopes I will think of them every time that I use it, and I can guarantee that I definitely will. It was my turn to say something now. I stood up and told the teachers thank you for making me feel welcome at their school and in their country. I acknowledged that that isn’t always an easy thing to do, but that it was much appreciated. Then I summoned all of my courage and I basically said, “My hope as I leave today is that all of you realize how blessed you are to have the job of educating the future of your country and of the world. I hope that you also all realize how important this job is, and I hope that you are passionate about it and that you love it even when it gets tough. Every little life out there is an integral part of your culture, your society, our world, and our future, and giving them a positive and full education is one of the most important tasks that we can be given as human beings. I hope that you have learned as much from me as I have learned from you and your students; and I hope that some of my passion and love for teaching stays here with you always.” Ms. Javu actually yelled, “Yes!” in the middle of my talk. She told me later that she was so touched by my talk and hoped that it would help make the staff at Chris Nissen work together instead of against one another towards what was most important, the kids. It was such a fun afternoon, and I really enjoyed my time with the staff. I felt so loved and I felt like I truly helped and made a difference to them while I was there. All of them thanked me for doing the program and said that they were impressed with the performances and that they had learned more about how to plan and carry out a program in the future.

I enjoyed the rest of my day relaxing and talking with the students. I presented the new schedule that I have been working on to Ms. Myo and Ms. Javu and they were both ecstatic about it. I actually saw them showing it to Mrs. Bam before I left for the day, so I am hoping that they will at least take it into consideration and make some changes to the awful schedule that they now have. Tom is going to let me know how it goes because he is going to be there for three more months. I also completed a book of song lyrics of all of the songs that I taught the kids while I was here to leave with Ms. James. When the school day ended I sadly gave out hugs to every child that I saw and left the building. I left in the best way possible. I am happy about my experience, and I feel like it was completely worthwhile and that I made a true difference there. I connected with new people and a new culture, and I learned so much, shared so much, and am leaving full of happy memories.

Sharon drove me up to Dorothy Broster after we got back from school so I could say hi to Esteline and Nicolene. As we were driving through the township we saw Esteline walking on the side of the road with a few other kids from Dorothy Broster. They were on their way to the library, so I jumped out of the van and walked with them. Esteline immediately jumped into my arms and planted a huge kiss on my cheek. I don’t know how I am going to communicate to her that I am leaving. Her English is not good enough to understand me all of the time. I didn’t worry about it today though. We just had fun today instead. I gave the kids the books that Lydia Middleton sent and read through almost all of them with them. I had almost every child at the library either on my back, my lap, perched above my shoulders, or huddled next to me to read the books. It was beyond awesome and fun. It made me wonder though how often these kids have books read to them. Judging by their reaction today I don’t think that it happens very often. We all had a good time though, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading to them.

This morning we had to say goodbye to Uriel. He left at 2am to head back to Holland. Ayesha is leaving tomorrow, and then of course Aaron and I are leaving on Wednesday. It seems strange that we are all dispersing so quickly. To celebrate one last night out for Ayesha, Aaron, and myself we went to a Mozambique restaurant called Catembe for dinner with Tom, Nicole, and Lauren. The restaurant and the food were both amazing, although some of us did have to work for our food  Lauren and I couldn’t decide what to eat, so we shared two dinners: chicken peri-peri and crab curry. They were both absolutely delicious!! Tom also ordered the crab curry, and this is where the work came in. Lauren and Tom had never had crab before, and they were both quite surprised to find out that you had to crack open the shell with a tool to get to the yummy meat inside. We all made a huge mess, and Tom struggled big time to get to his. It was definitely a fun experience with lots of laughs and curry and crab juice everywhere! We also tried a Mozambique drink there called catembe. This consists of red wine mixed with Coke! It was surprisingly tasty. Sharon said that it is a great way to get rid of bad red wine 

Posted by SpethsInAfrica 02:25 Comments (1)

May 8, 2011

We have had an awesome day today. We got up early and went to church at St. Boniface again. It was a nice service, although I did get a little emotional thinking about spending a Mother’s Day so far away from all of the mommies in our lives. After church we walked around town for what will most likely be the last time. Today was a much nicer day than yesterday, so we got out there and enjoyed all of the sunshine, the cool breeze, and most definitely being out of the house! We finished all of the souvenir shopping that we needed to do, and we even got some stuff for our family and friend braais that we are going to have when we get home. A braai here is a South African cookout. We walked to the waterfront and had lunch there and enjoyed some time hanging out by the lagoon and looking in the shops. It was a very relaxing and low-key morning and early afternoon.

We waited for a while for a taxi to pick us up at the waterfront to take us to the meeting place that we had arranged for sailing this afternoon. Here in South Africa you call taxis and arrange them ahead of time. The only taxis that you can really hail are the minibus taxi vans. So our taxi finally showed up and drove us out of town, across the bridge, and to the other side of the lagoon to a small restaurant called Crab’s Creek. Here we met Cundell Statt, the man who was taking us sailing, and his son, Cundell Jr. Both of them were extremely nice and very passionate about sailing. The wind was really picking up at this point, and unfortunately the sun was gone and clouds were abundant. But Aaron and I were excited and ready to start our sailing lesson!!

We started by learning some of the terminology for the boats. We learned that the type of boat we were sailing was called a mirror boat. It is a small, racing sailboat with orange colored sails. The front of the boat, or the bow, is always flat like the back of the boat, or the stern. Cundell Sr. told us that you can remember that the bow is the front because if you take a bow you bend forward; and you can remember that the back is the stern because if he got stern with you, you would take a step back. The right side of the boat is called the starboard side and the left is called the port. Cundell Sr. said that we could remember that the left is port with the phrase “there is no red port left”. This is helpful because the port side of the boat is marked with a red light and the starboard side is marked with a green light. The main sail is the large sail in the back of the boat, and the jib is the smaller sail in the front of the boat. Underneath the main sail is a wooden piece that is called the boom. It is called the boom because if you do not duck when it comes towards you it will hit you in the head and make a boom sound. So our job on this sailing excursion was to listen for the command “ready, tack”. This meant that we had to unhook the rope holding the job, duck under the boom as it swung around, the move to the opposite side of the boat. This would turn the boat around. We were the crewmembers on the boat and the skipper, in this case Cundell Jr., was in charge of the steering. He steered using a pole connected to the rudder on the back of the boat. To turn the ship you had to move the pole in the opposite direction of the way that you wanted the boat to turn, so it was a little confusing. The last part of the boat was the dagger board. This was a straight piece of wood that went into a slit on the floor of the boat and into the water. It keeps the boat from sailing sideways.

So after we were given all of this information we both put on waterproof jackets and life vests then took off our shoes. We helped Cundell Jr. roll the boats down the shoreline and into the water. Then Aaron and Cundell Jr. got into one of the sailboats. Cundell Sr. and I stood on the shore and watched for a minute to see how the conditions were. The boys seemed to be doing a fine job. They were doing figure eights around the lagoon when all of a sudden the boat started tipping. To me it seemed like it was in slow motion. I saw one side of the boat go straight up in the air, then I saw both Aaron and Cundell Jr. topple into the water and the boat flipped completely over. So in less than five minutes we had a capsized boat. Both boys were fine of course, and quite honestly I think they both loved it that the boat capsized. In a matter of seconds they had the boat right side up and had climbed back into it with no problems. Aaron did say that the water was freezing though and was definitely a shock to his system when he fell in. At this point I was beyond nervous about sailing. I did not want to go for a swim at all. Cundell Sr. took me out in the rescue boat so I could take pictures of Aaron while he finished his sail, then it was my turn to climb into the sailboat and give it a try.

I was extremely nervous at first. It all seemed very complicated, and I was certain that the boom was going to smack me in the side of the head and knock me unconscious into the water. But once I got into the groove sailing was fun, easy, and honestly relaxing and invigorating at the same time! I absolutely loved it!! Cundell Jr. and I found our rhythm and were able to maneuver the sailboat through all of the turns with no problem. Of course I gave Aaron a hard time for capsizing the boat when I did not, but we it didn’t matter, we both had an amazing time. Two hours flew by very quickly, and before we knew it we were back on land. Now we are both warm and dry!

I wanted to take a moment tonight to jot down some of the words and phrases that are used all of the time here in South Africa. So here it goes:

- Braai: a cookout/barbeque
- Isit: they combine the words is and it and use the word anytime that we would normally say “really”. Aaron hates it, he is ready to never hear this combo again.
- Tackies: sneakers
- Sarmie: another word for sandwich
- Bakkie: pick-up truck
- Now Now: a little sooner than soon, so still in the slightly near future, if someone says I will do it now now it means they will do it in like ten minutes or so…ridiculous
- Shame: used in place of "that sucks" or "isn't that cute"...yeah...

Posted by SpethsInAfrica 10:36 Comments (0)

May 7, 2011

RAIN. RAIN. RAIN. RAIN. It has poured down rain nonstop since last night. It rained so hard today that we could barely walk out of our flat and into the main house without getting drenched. Aaron and I were supposed to go sailing today, but that obviously didn’t happen. Luckily we were able to reschedule for tomorrow. So our day was spent watching episodes of Scrubs, doing Sudoku puzzles, doing brainteasers from my puzzle book, and eating lots of snacks. At this point we are about to go crazy. The weather will hopefully be better tomorrow so we can actually leave the house.

Posted by SpethsInAfrica 10:35 Comments (0)

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