Published: July 10th 2012June 26th 2012
So I wake up smiling this morning to the sound of monkeys and their young pattering along the tin rooftop of our hut and the beat of loud house music from the phones of some of the high school students that had arrived at World Changers last night. What others might take as a rude awakening was just another new and exciting moment on the South Africa Challenge. I awoke to the reality however that this was to be my last day in South Africa. I couldn't help but remenice and reach for my tablet to put some of the thoughts into prose.
Over the weekend, the team and I have been lucky enough to fit in a few small excursions, as well as go to church and help out around the academy. Saturday brought the hustle and bustle of Victora Street "English" market (a fragmented reminders of Britains colonial rule) and once again all four of the remaining challenge participants threw themselves into the arena of haggling and bargaining for the best possible price. It was a lot of fun and many Zulu's were surprised at our persuasiveness. Communication and diplomacy skills at work again! The whole team agreed that we have each improved those skills since arriving in Africa and getting involved in the bargaining culture that gives it such life and vibrance.
We travelled with our experienced Zulu friends from the academy and they arguably gave us the edge in our negotiations for souveniers. They also had an incredible knowledge about the city, almost as much as the valley of a thousand hills, from which they originate. They also possessed very accurate knowledge about the African Rennaissance and historical figures such as King Shaka, founder of all Zulu tribes, whose name was sprinkled throughout the streets of this emerging city. The market itself had the feel of a middle age village market admist a backdrop of bright, shiny 21st century retailers, supermarkets and fast food restaraunts. To me, that was a portrayal of two things. The first is that despite the influx of wealth and commerce that has flowed into South Africa, especially since the 2010 World Cup, the traditional occupations of healers, crafters, beadmakers, local butchers and farmers, pap and corn sellers and cloth and clothes sellers have not been uprooted. Whilst this place has rightfully retained its place at the heart of the Durbanite community, the African values are all but stripped away by up market clothes stores and high quality goods retailers. South African's and tourists alike were frequently exclaiming as to how allured they were to the bright lights and arrangements of the shopfronts as oppossed to the mats, tents and stalls of the Zulu businessmen and women. To non locals and well dressed businessmen, it was as if the marketplace didn't exist or it was of no use, other than a means to get to another destination or pick up a quick snack. To Durbanites and Zulu's however, the pull of the authentic home made and fresh goods was as strong as ever.
The presence of a KFC and Nando's on every other street corner also hinders the small business of the street vendors. In short, Durban and indeed most of South Africa, is in a transitional phase between the third and first world. There is nothing wrong with either way of life and I believe neither should smother the other. I think that whilst there is a balance between the two, it is very difficult to notice. Neither compliments the other particularly well, rather certain groups of people are flocking to each in an almost tribalistic way. As mentioned in my post on 24/06/12, everything one needs is available in South Africa; how much you are able to access is dependant on how many rands you have. For all the doom and gloom i've probably just created, I do think that whilst the rapid expansion is squeezing an established agricultural culture into aclimatising for the 21st century, there will always be that bedrock upon which people can rely on to benefit from the true roots of South Africa.
We had the chance to slow down for the first time this week and watch a film. This was after taking a tour of the African museum of culture and science. Unfortunately we could not make it to the art gallery. Business hours in SA are very short on weekends; only 4 hours from 9am until 1pm.
Sunday gave us the chance to revisit Westfield Church. Essence of the service was that people will see you how you treat yourself and that we have inherited this world from God and each generation inherits the preceding generations world. It it therefore each generations responsibility to create a world that is as fruitful and as stable as possible for the next to live in and improve furhter.
We had the chance to attend a guest speaker event shortly after mass. David, the speaker, successfully attempted to cross a long strech of desert on the western coast of Africa in 2011. He took the time to share his mantra. His main lessons were:
-dream big enough to make yourself nervous
-team comes as dream grows
-help someone elses dream and yours will grow
-face adversity with courage. It is when you need to dig in and find the greatest belief in that dream
-persevere. It really does pay off!
-suffering is what produces perseverance, then character and then hope.
-hope doesn't disappoint
-life will tell you that it's impossible but when you're down you need to step up again quickly and face it with renewed energy.
I was particularly able to relate to his belief in the words of Rujard Kiplings famous poem "If". He is trying to fill every unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run and make the most of his life. That is what keeps me on my toes and involved in many different activities in which I can improve myself and be able to assist others. Filling every minute of the South Africa Challenge with activities where everyone can draw something for their own personal development and give back to others has been a very gratifying experience and the concept of creating an intense programme has worked well so far. The team are happy because they feel that they have been able to pack in a months worth of experiences into 2 weeks.
What David said was that perserverance is the key to any goal and I coudn't help but think back to the days where this project almost wasn't. Many opportunities for the continuation of the project have arisen since and there are side projects that have been created from forming new and positive relationships with some of our facilitators, which members of the team are taking on separately. These would not have been able to materialist but for digging deep at a difficult time, just like David did 30km from his goal, and looking for every possible solution to the problem.
David did emphasise the need for faith and total belief in the task at hand. Perserverance, he added, is something that involves being adaptable to change, something that is sometimes difficult to swallow but essential to the survival of a goal. With schedule changes occuring during the South Africa Challenge, we have all had to look deep to find and execute alternatives or find new ways in which to achieve what was already planned. The great thing is that the determination can spur you forward from within. The only way I can describe it is that you focus on seeing the event happen and its value, let it fire you up and then put that energy into making it happen. The great thing is that just as David's philosophy brought him through the desert, it can bring anyone through the roughest of times when in pursuit of a dream or goal.
Monday gave us the chance to do try our luck at some whale spotting in the Indian Ocean. We took to the busy shipping lanes with a dedicated and experienced tour company and we searched frantically for great humpback whales, who were beginning migration. The floatilla of ships was an awesome sight and whilst steering clear of them in our tiny power boat, we were able to catch up with a group of 4 whales, their combined weight amounting to 160 tonnes and roughly 180 metres. It was a sight to behold and we can all say that we were privileged to see these graceful, yet endanged mammals. By law we were only able to be around the whales for up to 20 minutes, as it could be misconstrued as a hunting party. None of us could understand why anyone would want to hunt such creatures that come to rest near Africa but as we were already aware, many species of animal, including those held in the reserves spanning accross Africa, were being hunted for certain elements. In terms of the humpbacks, it was for their blubber. What we can establish however is that every living thing is part of an ecosystem and many smaller marine animals depend on the activity of the humpbacks in the sub equatorial seas.
The rest of the trip saw us encounter the rare albatross and other rare marine life that choose the warm Indian Ocean as their home. Once back at the academy, we turned our attentions to creating the cross cultural leadership wall. Input into the design was made by World Chaners staff and SA challenge participants in equal measure, although all credit has to go to Nas for actually drawing the lion, which is the centrepiece of our mural, onto the wall we were using as our canvas. Transferring our concept onto the walls was a very difficult team challenge. It involved coordination and at times people were so eager to contribute, we almost forgot about that aspect! The enthusiasm was there and we all wanted to create a lasting imprint that could inspire any student that were to walk through into the main hall of the academy. We also wanted to show the coming together and understanding of British and South African cultures, the universality of the skills and leadership qualities we try to develop in ourselves and others and the partnership between World Changers UK and World Changers South Africa. We also undertook a leadership class on self mastery with the high school students and Nas took the lead for this particular session in impressive style.
So as I finish this the sun is just coming up and is creeping over the valleys and down into the bowl that the academy peers over. I will truly miss having this sight as the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning and that's before seeing the monkeys! My bags are packed and we're ready to finish off the mural and say our heartfelt farewells to the WCA team.
I think without people such as Lindo, Craig, Sindele, Smo, Vusi and Patrick, who used their extensive local knowledge and knowhow to help the team and I map out the practicalities of our plans for this week and indeed the whole trip, challenge wouldn't nearly have been as action packed as it was. To them and the whole WCA team I can only extend my unending gratitude. There are too many to name here, but I know you will read this and know just how thankful we are you all! You helped the team and I keep things tight and running smoothly, as well as ensuring we always had a bed and a hot meal to come home to. I use the word home because WCA became a home away from home for all of us. The rest of the team have already expressed that to me and will be sharing that with you when they add more reflections of their experiences on this blog.
Thank you to the aforementioned and the coaches for all the help in the advanced planning stages, for keeping me sharp to thing that needed doing during that time and for making some of the initial preparations for activities before we arrived in SA. Again; your selfless actions only show the natural relationship we have built up over this year and the past two weeks especially. We hope we have been of service to you. We have learnt much and seen the world through the eyes of the rainbow nation.
We have come back with ideas and visions that we know how to implement. We have helped instill the same mindset in those young people we have worked with in local communities and also gained perspective of life in Africa and African values. I personally feel the sense of brotherhood in your country and in all you have done for my team and I. Sindele said to me last night that we are seen by WCA as family.We are honoured and anyone who passes through the South Africa Challenge in the years that follow this pilot programme will be able to become a part of that family.
We will sorely miss you; I will sorely miss you, but will only ever look on this as a life changing and enlightening experience. We will be back to see the great valleys, oceans and plains that South Africa has been blessed with next year...maybe we'll be able to see the rest of the big 5 next time too! The experience, however, will be a very different one to this one. Onwards and upwards. The challenge of starting the challenge is complete. Here's to the future!
Siyabonga World Changers; Siyabonga South Africa!