Volunteer Journal

The main subject of this blog, also my last blog, is crying crying crying :(

The time arrived to say goodbye to the township, the country and everyone I had met – the housemates I lived with in the volunteering house, people from the township I worked with, the children in the township, and all the other locals. I wanted to give something to the teachers from Ilitha Day Care.

In this blog I will tell you about my trip to the Drakensberg, Durban and Port Saint Johns. The Drakensberg mountain region is a beautiful place. We took a trip over the Sani Pass (which borders between South Africa and Lesotho), in a Jeep over the mountains to the kingdom of Lesotho, and saw African snow on the mountaintops!

The children at Ilitha Daycare this week were as happy as always. They give you lots of hugs and love to dance. We played games and learned our shapes, numbers, months of the year etc. We also had to be at the high school for the registration for the soccer tournament.

On one of the Fridays that we had the swimming lesson, it was held in an indoor swimming pool for the first time. It’s getting closer to winter now, so it’s too cold to swim in the outdoor swimming pool - the children will freeze and get sick. They were excited to see the new swimming pool, but it had one difference - in the outdoor swimming pool they were already a little bit scared of the water, but more so now because the indoor swimming pool is uniformly deep everywhere. Sometimes the children are so scared that they hang onto your neck and scream!

I had a lovely visit with my parents and sister, but I was happy to see the Ilitha daycare children again, and they were happy to see me. Last Tuesday we went to an educational farm and the children were very excited. We went in two buses, and on the way the children were talking non-stop about all the things they saw during the trip. The farm was in Port Elizabeth and we had half an hour’s travel time.

Simon is coming on so well with lessons this week and I am extremely proud of him! He is still learning how to write his own name. I alternated teaching his name with his wife’s name, and then numbers.  I didn’t want to overwhelm him with new information and make it too difficult for him. First of all I wrote down his name, so he could see how it looked. After that he had to write it by himself, but I gave him the letters. By the end he could write his name by himself. Although we have lots of practice to do, I was glad he could spell his name without my help.

Last Thursday I helped at an adult literacy class in the township. The people were learning to recognise the letters of the alphabet, and write letters and words. Most people who join the literacy classes struggle quite a bit. One of the women couldn’t recognise the difference between the letters “h” and “b”. Someone explained it to her a few times, but it didn’t work. The teacher explained using the words hello and baby. It was a little sad that she was struggling so hard to learn the alphabet and write, but she was making an effort!

At the daycare, I helped a boy pull up his pants, and saw that he had a green thread fastened around his hips. I asked the teacher what it was for, and she told me that it was a religious symbol, and meant that God would watch over him. Faith is very important for people in the township, and that was the first time I truly saw this.

I’m writing this blog while sitting on the couch at the volunteer house. There are three new people here, who arrived last weekend – two guys, one from the Netherlands and one from England; and a girl from the US. It’s not that easy to write with them here - one of them is listening to loud music, and another one keeps hiccupping! But they are are lovely people and I like sharing the house with them.

Another week went by, with the children at the holiday program. This week we had four days where there were a LOT of children. There was no electricity at the school at the beginning of the week, so we had to dance without music. The children really like music and dancing. Finally at the end of the week, the electricity was back up. It was much nicer to dance with music – it’s easier and puts us all in a good mood. The people here are so flexible with their hips - it’s great to watch and I’m jealous!

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