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Published: June 27th 2011
To the Beach!
The walk from our Inn to the beach.
And thus, the next adventure begins!
From the beginning.
I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and met up with Sarah, the other volunteer on the programme with me. We chatted a bit, until the plane started boarding and it was time to face the 16 hour longest. flight. ever. Realistically, I’m sure there are longer flights, but this one was pretty darn long. I watched 2 movies, until my ears started hurting from the headset provided by the airlines, read some of my book, slept as much as I could, and fought off my leg cramps as discretely as possible so as not to continually kick the seat in front of me, nor wake up my seat partner and I deftly hopped over her to wander the aisles. My flight was full of about 50 college-aged students who were part of some Student Volunteer Network that was coming to South Africa to do 2 weeks of some various projects and then 2 weeks of adventure travel. The girl sitting beside me was one of them, and upon buckling her seat belt, she turned to ask me which program I was volunteering in.
Don't be fooled- it was so, so windy.
I chuckled and explained that I was no longer in college but was a teacher on holiday, going over to work with South African teachers. And yes, I was pleased to be mistaken for a college-aged volunteer.
It was fun to hear their excitement and their talk about what percentage deet their bug spray was... oh the safari memories. But, I was less than pleased when arriving in Jo’Burg and clearing customs, the luggage agents assumed that I was traveling with this group of college kids- I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love to be assumed of as a young college co-ed still, but I don’t love being told to stand in a long line with this group of 50 students in order to get my bag re-checked for my flight connection that was boarding in less than 30 minutes. After less than 30 seconds of internal debating, I decided to go with a truly African approach, went around the line of students, under a barrier, and straight up to the luggage check in desk to put my bag through. And nobody stopped me.
So, after about 27 hours of travels and layovers, we all arrived in
"Downtown Ganubie," as far as I could tell.
East London, South Africa. We all = myself, Sarah the other volunteer, and Noble, the President of Education Beyond Borders and our fearless leader in this endeavour. We were picked up by Charles, one of our South African partners, and his wife Christine, who then drove us for an hour to our accommodations in Ganubie, a small quiet fishing town just outside of East London proper.
We stayed in a little self-catered guest house, with an outdoor seating area and swimming pool, which are probably lovely in the summer, but in the winter are just for looking at. We took it easy on Friday once we settled in, and then spent Saturday morning walking down the road to the beach, seeing the CRAZY waves (there were even 2 surfers in there at one point- I fear for whether they made it out ok), and having breakfast. We spent the afternoon holed up in our living room working, which was more than fine as the winds outside were akin to hurricane gale forces! It was howling, trees were knocked over, branches were flying... all in all pretty unfriendly to tourists wanting to walk around outside. But, outside we went for
an afternoon break, this time going in the other direction, to the river! It was beautiful, and a very different scene from the beach with the 7-11m waves. Sunday, there’s not much to write about as we literally spent from 9am- 9pm working. Steadily. Indoors. It was rainy and still eerily windy, so it’s not like we missed out on much outside, but it was a lot of work. As many have pointed out, that’s what I’m here for, so I’m not complaining!
Monday was an early start, with a 7:15 departure from Ganubie so that we could drive across East London to our next destination- a hotel on the edge of a forest. Here, we set up shop for the week and welcomed the area teachers as they arrived for our week of ICT lessons, integration strategies, and action plan formulating. We had all sorts of grand ideas, which we’d worked out yesterday, most of which were based on the fact that we were going to be in a conference center with full wireless internet access. Lies. Yes, we are in a conference center, but all morning the internet cut in and out every 3-5 seconds. Once we
Braving the wind
For a nice little jaunt
got that fixed it just became the slowest. internet. ever. We had about 40 participants, whom we were trying to teach how to do internet searches, gmail account set up, etc... and it took ALL DAY. Oh Africa, how your internet instills patience. We’ve totally reworked the plans for the rest of the week, to be more laptop skills-based (most of these teachers have only just received this one laptop for their ENTIRE SCHOOL and had never turned it on before today), and less internet-dependent (because realistically, some of the schools don’t even have electricity, how can we expect them to provide wireless internet yet?).
It has to be said, the participants were all really good-humoured about our last-minute change of plans as to how to run the sessions, were very patient with watching their computers load websites, and even came in for extra help after the day’s sessions were done. Not only that, but they are also really enjoyable people! The majority of the group converses amongst themselves in isiXhosa- the language you may recognize from The Gods Must Be Crazy, full of clicks. Some of them even have clicks in their names. I’ve already told them that I
Wind vs. Wave
Sea spray wins, I think.
want them to teach me how to say at least a few phrases before the end of the week!
Not only is that awesome, but there is a group of women who I think are the “cool kids” in the group. First thing this morning one of them said something as I walked by, which to me sounded mostly like a bunch of foreign tongue and my name somewhere in the middle. So, naturally I turned around. She said she loved my shoes and wanted them (black ballet flats from the Gap, my favorites). She was willing to pay me 20 Rand for them (about 3 dollars). I laughed and politely explained that not only are they my favorites, but they also are one of the only pairs of shoes I brought on the trip, so I kind of needed them. She said that she’d never seen shoes so great, and would be the first woman in all of South Africa to have them if I’d give them to her... etc.... etc... I excused myself and went on with my preparations for the conference, hoping that she wouldn’t ask again! (I’m worried if she does that I might start
to lean towards making a deal with her, should I?)
Then, during some downtime after the sessions finished, and as I helped the “cool kids” group once again, they turned to me and asked “how many children do you have?” After I replied none, they continued to investigate whether I was married or not, and if not being married was what was holding me back from children, etc. They then told me that all 3 of them had children without being married and thought it was better that way. I of course took that opportunity to tell them of Augustino in the orphanage and how I’d love to have him as a child, married or not, and showed them a photo. This elicited so many exclamations of “oh but he’s BLACK!” “A white woman and a black baby!” “If you had him, of course no man would marry you, he’d never come home once he knew you had a black baby!” Luckily, that’s when someone else called me over to help them out, so the conversation remains to be continued another day this week.
So, now it’s 10pm, we’ve just finished working, and it’s time for bed. We have another
7am start tomorrow, and have completely reworked our plans to entail as little internet as possible, and as much intensive “learn your laptop that you’ve never turned on before this week” time as we can fit into a day! Stay tuned for what will no doubt be many more entertaining stories!
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