Getting settled in South Africa!
After the 8 hour flight due south to the land of the RSA we arrived in the afternoon and were welcomed in by Leizl, Hendri and Zante. It was so nice to meet them after hearing so much about everyone from Sue and Andrew! They took us to ‘Adieu’ which is the volunteer and organizational centre for Joburg sponsored by the WCF (Williamsburg Christadelphian Fund) and home to the Scheepers and the Viljeons. We had a really nice dinner of pup and voughst all together chatting and getting to know who everyone was before we crashed out pretty early. The wall in the kitchen has pictures up of all the previous volunteers, awesome to see our family up there and lots of other friends from all over the world.
Our first day and we were straight into it heading over to Olga’s Crèche to build some new cots, paint the playground and walls and make some hopscotch games on their pavement. Olga’s is a crèche/school run by an amazing woman in a run down area of the township. She originally began looking after a couple of children who were either AIDS orphans and when she required more space she would quietly scrape away more of the rubbish from the tip behind her house in the middle of the night, acquiring more land. Now together with her staff she looks after 200+ kids of various ages and financial means, they are all very lucky children.
It was also great meeting Ronald. Ronald is an amazing dude who had just been baptized only the week earlier, he’s 20 and lives in Tembisa. He lives with his brother and 2 sisters and his sisters’ three kids in a house the size of my bedroom. Unemployment is incredibly high in SA and since Ronald doesn’t have regular work he’d come to volunteer his time helping out at the crèche because ‘its better than sitting at home’. If only more people in the world had an attitude like that!
The little black kids (not racist to say over there) are all super cute! They all laughed at us and followed us saying “whiteman/woman” in Zulu. You can’t seem to give them enough waves, hi fives and ‘sharps’ where you like press your thumbs to theirs and flick them together – haha!
Everyone, including the people themselves, refer to the people of African descent as being ‘black’. It still makes me feel weird about it even just typing it. For the first few days I used every other non derogatory descriptive word I could think of when referring to the ‘coloured’ people from many different African nations who largely live in the townships. Eventually I asked what was the PC term to use and everyone laughed and said ‘they are black’. Mmmm k I’ll roll with it.
Jono handed out a massive marshmallow to each child before we left the crèche. This took him into all the different classrooms and he got to meet some of the kids we hadn’t seen running around that day. When he got to the small kids + babies room they all started screaming in fear! Poor guy didn’t know what he’d done but apparently being white was all it had taken to set these kids screaming! The little kids that haven’t really left the townships much don’t really ever see white people so we, 1. look scary and weird to them and 2. The only other white people they’ve probably associated with until now are doctors and nurses who invariably want to do things like inject them with painful needles.
It was a very tiring but very rewarding day and an awesome way to start our 3 month stint. That night we smiled at our good fortune, exhausted but happy, while sipping a Mozambique rum with creaming soda watching the guys cook up the Braai (Afrikaans word for BBQ)!
Saturday morning brought the monthly ‘Jumble Sale’! Each month COP Trust (Community outreach Program Trust) seek donations of toys, clothing and furniture to sell for very little money at a jumble sale in the township. All proceeds go to the Youth Fund which at the end of each year is used to sponsor as many young people as it can so that they can attend the Christadelphian Youth Week.
Let me just say you have seen no sale, no bargain hunting ladies, no shopping fever, until you have been to one of these jumble sales. I had volunteered to be ‘till lady’ and boy was I in for a surprise. As the gates to the Aphiwe Centre opened the ladies who’d been waiting less than patiently outside came streaming in, screaming, pushing and elbowing. I stood there in shock, as any organized Australian woman would, while the front couple of ladies who’d managed to get through the door ran straight into the room and literally dived onto a double mattress that had been leaning against a pillar. The mattress hit the ground with a smack and in no time at all the ladies rolled off and jumped up to continue their quest further into the room and therefore closer to their prey – the huge pile of clothing. Tables were knocked over scattering toys everywhere and garbage bags full of clothes were tore and tipped up. It was insane. When people who’d chosen what they wanted and had managed to keep it from anyone else made their way to me with my money jar at the desk I found they weren’t satisfied with a basically brand new school shirt for $2 and the bargaining began. I hate bargaining and I was totally out of my depth, really you don’t think $2 for that is an absolute bargain already?? Jono found it immeasurably funny to see me squirm.
We met Matamar here. She is an awesome, hilarious, voluptuous black lady who has a beautifully fresh outlook on life and is beyond selfless. She also runs a crèche in the township. Originally she lived in a tin shed in a squatter camp. Squatter camps don’t usually have running water or electricity but the government ‘generously’ provides them with a port-a-loo. She saved up her money for a long time and together with her saving and money borrowed from others in her family she had a small brick house built on land across the road. Just as her family thought her living conditions were going to improve she opened a crèche for the kids of the area to attend rather than move into the house herself. She’d seen how many of them couldn’t attend crèches because of the cost and as their mothers had to work to afford food the kids would wander around doing nothing constructive. Pretty awesome.
Sundays here are always pretty busy. That first Sunday Lucas gave an awesome exhort at Kempton Park meeting, which is held in the back room of Adieu, then Jono and I and Liezl and Hendri shot off to Aphiwe for another meeting. Jono gave the exhort then helped Hendri out with the youth Sunday School class. All the kids were super quite but eventually they got talking and they really opened up, asking cool questions like ‘what would happen if Jesus came back and I am not baptized?’ or ‘is it ok to question God’s justice?’ It was really exciting to be a part of.
I’d had my iPhone out to take some pictures and then I’d put it on the table without really thinking too much about it. We were at church, with Sunday School kids. Shouldn’t have been so careless or trusting in hindsight but hey, you learn something new everyday. I turned around and it was gone. No idea how long it had been missing for, it could have been anyone. I was pretty bummed. I couldn’t believe we’d managed to travel the world for like 8 months and keep it safe and then have it stolen at church! Hendri was mad and sent all the remaining kids out to search the township for it. I just started to feel really bad for leaving something that tempting and expensive carelessly around a bunch of kids who feel loaded if they have $5 in their pocket. I’d written it off, knew it wasn’t coming back and had started to think about making a report so we could claim it on travel insurance when a lady who’d been at church comes striding down the street dragging a small girl by her ear. In the other hand is a mean looking belt and my iPhone!
I couldn’t believe it! So stocked to have the phone back but also felt super sorry for the girl. The mum said sorry and told me she would belt the girl as her punishment for stealing. I felt terrible. I asked her not to hit her and she didn’t while we were still there but geez I hope that kid was ok after we left. The mum was super embarrassed and I just felt awkward. Turns out the girl left some photos on the phone for me though.
Every Wednesday morning Hendri and Ronald go to a Government run special needs school in Tembisa to run a sports morning usually involving cricket, soccer and footy. This was Jono’s first of many of these mornings. He loved how excited the kids would get and crazy the play ground was. A few hundred kids, basically unsupervised, all play soccer, cricket and whatever else in the large yard. There are no marked sports fields though so all games overlap each other. So kids playing soccer are occasionally hit with cricket balls, soccer players run across the cricket pitch and other kids, not fully aware of any of the games just run around hugging each other and trying to touch or wave to the white visitors. It is so much fun and the kids love having visitors to help organize their games a little.
Part of what COP Trust does with money people/organizations donate to them is run a food parcel scheme every month. The food parcels get dropped at a primary school and are handed out to the more underprivileged families. They also go to older men and women in the community. The others asked us to go to the shops to buy the food with them, which we thought was unnecessary, until we saw the massive amount of shopping required! Basically we went to this bulk buy store and bought like 1200 packets of 2 min noodles at a time haha! Then the same with flour, pap, soup, etc, etc. As that arvo was Wednesday it meant the kids who come around for homework club were there to help make the parcels up. We got a mad production line happening and all 200 were done in no time.
Thursday’s were always Crèche Course days. These courses are run by Leona at Aphiwe and Leona and Lilandi at Tswelepele. Aphiwe is the community centre/church that was built in the Tembisa Township and Tswelepele is the centre built in an area called Boxburg. Leona and Lilandi have teaching backgrounds and run this course basically free of charge for the women in the community to better their skills and have a way of gaining a certificate in childcare for their resume. Many of the women who attend already work in crèches or run their own but lack the vital training to actually educate the kids rather than just running a child minding business. I attended the last half of the last course for the year, which was really fun and meant I was there in time to give the classes on First Aid and see the ladies graduate!
Graduation was really awesome, everyone dressed up in the traditional dress of the tribe/area in Africa they’re from and we had a bit of a party! Pretty funny that over here food is a massive free for all unless you really specify ‘there is to be 1 muffin per person’. Cracked me up all the time, if you said ‘there’s morning tea on the table’ the first 10 people there would destroy it completely while the last 30 missed out!