All good things must come to an end

I cannot believe that my last day at St. Martins finally came and my 6 weeks here in South Africa are finally over. Looking back on the past 6 weeks I cannot imagine experiencing a better or more life-changing trip than I have. I have learned so much about myself and other cultures and people throughout this journey and I am incredibly grateful to be granted with such a wonderful opportunity.

Unfortunately, I did not become fluent in Zulu as I said I would in my first post, but I did try to pick up a few more phrases. It got to the point where I would try to practice my Zulu by greeting people at the plot by saying “sawubona, unjani?” (hello, how are you?) and the caregivers and children would reply in English because they knew I could not speak very well. This impaired my learning in the end, but it was probably for the better because if I continued to try and speak Zulu I would end up saying complete nonsense.

My last day at St. Martins was very very cold and because I had already given away my jacket to a little girl I resorted to walking around with a blanket wrapped around me all day. Everyone kept joking around with me by asking if I joined the Sotho tribe because they wear colorful blankets around them during winter due to the cold climate of Lesotho where they live. One thing I don’t think I will particularly miss is the cold days, heatless nights and frigid winds. I am very much looking forward to going back to the heat of summer on the east coast.

I began the day by teaching some of the caregivers how to make string bracelets as well as painting their nails. They were extremely pleased when we finished and I allowed them to keep the nail polish and left over string. I basically got trampled over when they were trying to grab the different colors from my bag.

Pinky (one of the Social Auxiliaries who works at St. Martins) holding up her new necklace that she made with my string!

Pinky (one of the Social Auxiliaries who works at St. Martins) holding up her new necklace that she made with my string!

After that Joe and I handed out some yellow St. Martins jerseys, shorts and socks to the children and the caregivers to keep so they will always have something to remember us by. They were so happy to be given this clothing to keep because in the past they had to return the uniforms after each soccer tournament to ensure that we would have enough for the next one. Even after everyone got a jersey there was still two giant duffle bags filled with uniforms leftover that will allow St. Martins to have more soccer tournaments in the future!

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Once everyone had their new gear, we gathered them all in the dining room to show them a video. Because the children and caregivers LOVE posing for pictures and then looking at them, I made a 20-minute video highlighting my 6 weeks at St. Martins. Unfortunately, the blinds were not ready in time so we made makeshift blinds with trash bags and blankets to make sure that it would be dark in the room. We set up the projector and speakers and began to play the video. They loved seeing pictures and videos of themselves dancing and singing on the big screen. Once the video was over some even requested to see it again and many stayed and laughed just as hard as the first time.

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I have also put the video on YouTube and here is the link if any of you want to watch it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl7ZMEbayiY

 

 

Here are some pictures of the newly painted St. Martins building!! It is very bright and colorful and now you can see the fun colors on the building from far away! With handprints scattered throughout the walls it is now very clear that this is a safe place for children to play.

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It was definitely a weird feeling leaving the plot and saying goodbye to all those smiling and beautiful faces that have had such a large impact on my life and not know when/if I will ever see them again. I know that they have greatly changed my life and I hope that I have been able to make a difference in theirs as well. I really hope that I will be able to return one day to St. Martins and work again with those amazing people.

I would just like to sayNgiyabonga” (thank you in Zulu) to all of the people who followed me on this journey and made this wonderful adventure possible through funding or support. Especially, everyone who donated so I could bring soccer supplies to St. Martins, Providence College, the Father Smith Fellowship, Father Robb and the rest of the selection committee and of course my parents for allowing their 19 year old daughter to venture to a foreign continent!

I really hope that another Smith Fellow will continue the work that Joe and I have done here in South Africa next summer. If they do chose to go to South Africa they should know that they definitely will not be disappointed because it is an amazing country with even better people to fill it!!!

 

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Extreme Makeover: Africa Edition

To ensure that a long lasting impression was left on St. Martins after we left Joe and I decided to make some permanent changes around the plot. With additional and left over funds that I raised we were able to buy many new things that St. Martins really needed but could not afford. Our first item we bought was paint to get rid of the dreary chipped white walls and replace it with pink, blue and teal coloring that looks more childish.

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In the admins office there are many informational health and proper caregiving videos that are just lying around not being used because there is no way of showing them to anyone. Because of this we have bought a projector and speakers that can be used to show these informational videos and other movies to the caregivers and children. We also ordered blinds to cover the large windows and painted a wall white in the dining room to make it into a movie theater when it is time to show videos.

About 5 months ago the plot got broken into and 18 computers were stolen (unfortunately I did not have enough money to replace 18 computers) and in this process many windows were broken. These windows have stayed cracked for the past couple months allowing bugs and cold air to enter the dining room and kitchen, so we bought new glass to replace the cracked windows.

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The final edition that we made was to the swing set in the back of the plot that is falling apart and almost nonexistent. Joe and I went to the hardware store and bought new material to build a new part of the swing set so the children have more places to play.

One thing I found very interesting when purchasing these items is that in Africa it is possible to barter in actual stores. Piet claims that this only happened because of my accent and my skin color, but I like to think that it is my good looks and charming personality, but whichever reason it is we were able to save a lot of money. At each store I would bring the product I wanted to buy to the cash register and begin to tell a well-rehearsed story about St. Martins and the good work it does and how this product will benefit the children greatly and we are in dire need of it. Normally the manager or storeowner would knock a couple hundred rand off the final price. Buying the projector was a two-day process however, because it was a rather expensive item at first.   After I told the manager that I can’t spend too much money on it because I still have to purchase many other items that the plot needs, he told me to “come back later in the week with how much money you have left and we can work something out”. We came back the next day and after a little negotiating and me literally fainting (on accident) in the store (don’t worry mom I’m ok) he ended up taking close to 100 USD off the price!!

It is crazy to think that my time here in South Africa and at St. Martins is almost over and I didn’t realize how much I would miss this place until this past Saturday when they held a farewell party for Joe and I. They bused in children from the surrounding townships, so the place was packed. The day was filled with constant dancing, singing and cultural performances put on by the children. These kids are so talented and amazing dancers and move in ways I didn’t even think were possible. It must be in their genes or something because when they pulled me on stage to dance my moves were horrible and I looked nothing like them. At the end of the day the kids started raising their hands to tell us thanks and say individual things that we have done to help them and the plot. They then presented us with a card that was very heartwarming and an incredibly nice gesture.

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After the big party at the plot Joe and I hurried home because it was our turn to cook dinner. Because we missed the fourth of July in the states we were going to cook an American meal for everyone in the house. We cooked quite the American feast that consisted of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fruit salad, corn on the cob, mini pizza, French fries, apple crisp, funfetti cake and lemonade. I felt right at home eating that food and everyone really enjoyed the meal!

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Second Soccer Tournament

Saturday (June 21) we held the second soccer tournament at St. Martins.  It was a special day because St. Martins was celebrating Youth Day and they bussed in kids from three other townships that normally cannot come to St. Martins because it is too far of a walk.  Youth Day is normally on June 16th and is celebrated in memory of all the children who died fighting for a proper education.  June 16, 1976 was the student march in Soweto, many children and adults died during what was supposed to be a nonviolent event.

On the actual Youth Day on June 16th, Father Lewis took Joe and I to a children’s mass in Kwa Thema where the church was filled with children celebrating and honoring their history.  Afterwards we attended a braai that the church put on for the children.  A braai is similar to an American barbeque where people stand around a grill and cook meat.  The food served at a South African braai is chicken, beef and wors (a type of sausage) and of course served with lots of bread on the side.  Since I have been in South Africa I have been shocked at the amount of bread these people eat.  I am looked at strangely when I only eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch because it only has two slices of bread and many of them eat roughly 6 slices of bread just for breakfast!  I have been told that this is a part of their culture and can attribute to the high obesity rate among the impoverished.

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The soccer tournament went very very well.  Because there were three additional townships partaking in the event we had three times the amount of kids playing soccer than the last tournament, so no caregivers were able to play because there was no more field space!  There was about 120 kids ages 10 and up that wanted to play so (with the great help from some of the male caregivers who speak Zulu) we divided them up into 8 teams.

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There were a total of 7, 20 minute games played.

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Half time break for oranges!

Half time break for oranges!

The championship game ended in a tie so the winning team was decided based on penalty kicks.

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Penalty Kicks!

Penalty Kicks!

 

Celebrating the victory!

Celebrating the victory!

The winning blue team then collected their prizes, which were blue jackets that were donated by my club team CFC.

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After the big kids tournament was over it was time for the little kids to play their games.  We gathered up all the children who were 9 and under (about 60 of them), divided into two teams and handed out their jerseys.

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Watching them play soccer was very cute because they were so tiny and played beehive soccer where they were all in a clump trying to kick the ball.

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Everyone joined around the field cheering and supporting the little rascals playing soccer.

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The game finished and the yellow St. Martins team won!

Victory lap!

Victory lap!

Champions

Champions

After the win and victory lap, the team collected their prizes which was a combination of soccer jerseys and bags donated by the Freiling and Thomasian family.

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Some of the winners with their prizes

Some of the winners with their prizes

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The remaining younger players all got a pair of shorts to bring home!

The remaining younger players all got a pair of shorts to bring home!

 

 

Another thing that I have noticed since I have been here is that Africans are not afraid to ask for things.  I have been asked/told on multiple occasions that I must give them my sneakers or jacket or camera before I go home to the states.  This happened a lot on Saturday and even people who weren’t playing in the tournament or helping out with it requested presents too.  We ended up giving out the rest of the gear I brought to the people that helped out so they could get something too!

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After about 8 hours of running around and organizing the tournament, it was finally over and seemed like a big success!  Caregivers and kids were expressing how happy they were today and how they would remember this day forever!

Safari

Last Tuesday morning Joe and I departed on our four-day safari to Kruger National Park.  Going on a safari has always been a dream of mine so I am glad to check that one off my bucket list!  We went on a total of 5 game drives where we rode around on an open truck for about 4 hours at a time looking for animals.

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It was very cold during the morning drives so the safari company gave us warm water bottles and fleece lined ponchos that may have been hideous looking, but were so darn warm.  I knew the animals wouldn’t judge my sense of style, so I wore mine the whole time.

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On our drives we saw many different animals including almost all of the Big 5.  The Big 5 consists of leopards, lions, elephants, buffalo and rhinos and got their name because they are the most dangerous land animals.

Elephant

Elephant

Elephants

Elephants

Leopard

Leopard

Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros

Buffalo

Buffalo

Unfortunately, we did not come across any lions and our ranger Jaryd told us that this was very common because lions are extremely lazy and sleep under a tree all day so they are hard to spot through the bushes.  But we did come across two cheetahs and a pack of wild dogs, which are very rare to see because they are endangered and there are only about 200 in the entire park!

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Cheetahs

Cheetahs

Wild Dog

Wild Dog

 

Joe and I also went on a bush walk during our time at Kruger.  A bush walk is when the safari truck drives to the middle of the bush and we all get out and walk around on foot for a couple of hours to look for animals tracks, feces and even see some close up!  The two rangers who guided us had two big rifles that they carried with them, so I felt kind of safe.

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On our walk we came across a small herd of Rhinos less than 100 feet away from us.  They were just minding their own business and grazing in the field, but I got a bit nervous when two of the biggest ones looked up and started staring at us.  The ranger then turned to the group and said, “these rhinos may come charging at us and they are very fast and can be here within seconds, so you guys hide behind the tree and we will try and shoot them”.  Thankfully these rhinos did not try to attack us, but it would have made a very exciting story if they did.

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Kruger is a unique park because the animals are 100% in their natural habitat and nothing is manmade in the park or given to these animals to help them in any way.  Unlike in a zoo where the animals are in cages and surrounded by people looking in, at Kruger the people are fenced in and surrounded by animals on the outside.  Our campsite was completely bordered by strong electric fencing that even an elephant couldn’t break, but sometimes monkeys or hyenas would slip into camp in search of food.

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Because safaris are big tourist spots for vacationers in Africa, I came across people from many different countries.  People from Austria, Nederland’s, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Germany, India, Spain and the US all stayed at the same camp site as us at one point during our trip and it was very interesting to get to know them and hear their story.

Here are some pictures of other animals I saw on the safari.

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Hyenas

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African sunsets are beautiful, but they are even prettier when a journey of giraffes is walking right in front of it!

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Handing out food parcels

A couple of days before Joe and I left for our safari, we went on another set of home visits with some of the caregivers. These home visits were much shorter than the previous ones because all we did was inform the people that food parcels would be distributed today at St. Martins. St. Martins gets enough money from the government to give out food parcels to 100 families each month. These food parcels are only worth 150 Rands (less than 15 USD) and it doesn’t matter if the family has 10 members or only 4, they still get the same amount and it is supposed to last them an entire month. Because St. Martins only has a certain amount of money, they are not able to give food parcels to every family in need that is living in these townships. They only distribute them to 100 different families and still have 200 on the waiting list.

As the families lined up outside, Joe and I helped the caregivers make bags filled with basic substantial cooking supplies that would be given to each family.

Families lining up outside

Families lining up outside

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I was in charge of collecting the names of the family members and having them sign off on a sheet of paper indicating that they received their food parcel. All of their names were African and none of them spoke English so it was very difficult to understand what they were saying to me and I wasn’t able to hear many of the names on my own. Luckily, Thembi, one of the activities directors at St. Martins was able to help me figure out what these people were saying. I knew that many of the people living in these townships were illiterate and uneducated, but I had no idea how bad it really was. Many of the people I encountered had a very difficult time writing their own name and they either didn’t know how to spell their name or couldn’t write it at all.

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Here are the sheets that the people had to sign with some signatures on it.

Here are the sheets that the people had to sign with some signatures on it.

Thembi had created a separate sheet where people who couldn’t write just had to draw an ‘X’ next to their name. Even this was challenging for some and Thembi had to take their hand and guide them through drawing these two simple lines. Watching these grown adults struggle to spell out their own name or draw an ‘X’ was very sad to watch because I have never experienced something like that and everyday I take for granted being able to spell out my own name.

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Maria, who is one of the catechism teachers in Springs kindly invited Joe and I to her house the day before we left for our safari to watch the Portugal vs. Germany World Cup game. She is Portuguese and has many Portuguese friends who were at this party. Even though Portugal lost it was still a great time filled with new interesting people and great Portuguese food!

 

 

More home visits and a trip to Soweto!

 

Monday, Joe and I got the opportunity to travel on another set of home visits. In the first house I went to we spoke with a single pregnant mother who is about 35 years old, does not work and is disabled. She has five children with ages ranging from a newborn baby to about 8 years old, so it is safe to say she has her hands full. She lives in a tiny shack in the part of Kwa Zenzele that is very poor and has no electricity. She only receives 300 Rand (about 30 US dollars) a month per child from the government, which is a very little amount and barely enough to feed her kids. On top of living in such poverty, her daughter who is now 6 was raped at the age of 3 and has to go to counseling because of this horrific event. Sadly, this is a common occurrence in these townships and very rarely the men get caught and punished for their actions. One thing St. Martins is trying to do for this family is get them in contact with a doctor who can help the mother get acknowledged by the government to become eligible for a disability grant. This will allow more money to come into the home and hopefully provide more food and clothing for the children during the winter.

There is a child that comes to St. Martins everyday who is handicapped and in a wheelchair. I always wondered his story, but I was too afraid to ask. On Monday I found out what really happened to him because his house was the next house we were supposed to visit. Unfortunately, his mother was not home at the time so I was unable to meet her and see his home for myself, but I was filled in on how he got the way he is. The child was born a healthy baby, but got sick at a young age. The young boys mother would neglect him, refuse to give him his medication and lock him in the house to go party. As a result of this abandonment he has become unable to walk and sometimes is still in a great deal of pain even though the illness occurred years ago. St. Martins is working on making sure that the child receives his medication everyday, by having caregivers go to the boy’s house in the morning and by contacting his school so he can be given the proper dosage during the day. Hopefully this change will happen soon and the boy will be able to walk properly again. Even though I never got to meet the mother or go inside the house, I do know the young boy who comes to St. Martins almost everyday and it was truly heartbreaking to hear his story.

On Tuesday, Joe and I introduced the game hopscotch to the children. We found lettered foam squares in one of the rooms at the plot and made out three hopscotch courts. It was going very well until the boys figured out how the tear apart the foam squares and use them as weapons to fight each other with. It was a hopeless cause as the young girls tried to get back these torn up squares in order to continue playing their game.

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 It was very entertaining to watch how differently the little girls acted towards me and how the little boys acted towards Joe. The boys would brutally attack Joe and constantly try to climb on him, pull his hair and jump on his back. The girls on the other hand would just try to hold my hand, hug me and be a lot more civil than those rowdy boys. They were very cute and would even act as my bodyguard. If any of the boys tried to jump on my back or climb on me the girls would push them off and yell at them in Zulu (I have no idea what they were yelling, but the boys would then run away so I am very grateful for that).

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Today Father Raphael offered to take Joe and I to Soweto, which is a township an hour west of Springs. We spent the whole day learning and seeing very interesting historical sites that have a lot of importance in South Africa.

Soweto is the home to Nelson Mandela and his old house has been transformed into a museum with tours given regularly. We were able to walk around his home and see where him and his family lived while learning a lot of history about Nelson Mandela’s life. One thing that we were shown was a tree that was Nelson planted many years ago. This tree has a great deal of significance to the Mandela family because after the birth of all his children, they buried the baby’s umbilical cord under the tree to show the ancestors that a new member of the family has arrived. This tree (and the umbilical cords) is still standing outside of his house with a picket sign reading “Rest in Peace Tata Madiba”. The name “Madiba” is from Mr. Mandela’s Thembu clan and he is called this name out of respect and admiration.

Tree planted by Nelson Mandela

Tree planted by Nelson Mandela

Joe and I in front of Nelson's home

Joe and I in front of Nelson’s home

We also got a tour of the Regina Mundi church that held meetings and provided a hiding place from the police during the Soweto uprising of 1976. This is a beautiful church that can hold up to 5,000 people.

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Even though the church has been redone since this uprising, there are still many pieces of evidence that they kept to help remember those who lost their lives. There are still bullet holes in the ceiling from when the police broke in and started shooting at the innocent victims hiding in the church. Also a piece of the alter is still broken from a police officer banging his rifle on it yelling at the people to exit the church before he starts shooting.

Bullet hole in ceiling from police shootings

Bullet hole in ceiling from police shootings

 

Broken alter

Broken alter

After visiting the Regina Mundi church we traveled to the Hector Pieterson Museum. Hector was a 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed during the student march on June 16, 1976. The school children of Soweto went on strike because of the Afrikaans Medium Decree which forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English equally as languages in the school. They did not believe that they should be forced to learn any language so they rightfully protested. This protest soon turned violent and many children died during this event because of the police brutality. We were able to drive down the same path that these children marched for their freedom.

I am not normally a person who likes to go to museums, but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed today and I am looking forward to going to the Apartheid museum at some point throughout the next four weeks.

To end the day we all traveled to Piet’s house because he lives in a village in Soweto. We were welcomed into his home and got to try Kota, which is a meal, he would eat 3-4 times a weak. This meal consisted of a quarter loaf of bread, and is filled with either eggs, chips (french fries), Vienna (a hot dog), a Russian (a sausage), ham and Achar (an Indian tasting spice) or all of the above. This meal was not as bad as the Mogudu (cow intestines), but I will definitely not be ordering it again at a restaurant anytime soon.

Soccer Tournament and African Mass

Saturday was the first soccer tournament at St. Martins!  After the kids ate their breakfast we divided up the older kids and caregivers into four teams.

White Avon

White Avon

Providence

Providence

 

St. Martins

St. Martins

Blue Avon

Blue Avon

Every team got to play each other once and the two teams with the best record got a chance to play in the championship game!

Providence scores!

Providence scores!

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St. Martins lost every game, White Avon won two, and blue Avon and Providence won one.  Blue Avon and Providence had the same record so they played a sudden death match meaning the first team to score advanced to the finals.

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Sudden death pictures!

Sudden death pictures!

Blue Avon came out with the win and played White Avon in the finals.  Everyone who was at the plot even the little children and the other two teams gathered around the field to watch the championship game.

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The final game was a close one, but the end result was 3-2 in Blue Avon’s favor.

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Championship game photos

Playoff game pictures!

Blue Avon celebrating their win

Blue Avon collected their prizes, which were the practice jerseys from the Women’s Soccer Team at Providence from two years ago.  They seemed very excited about their new shirts and immediately put them on.

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Blue Avon sporting their champions t-shirts

 

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Additional photos from the tournament day

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Additional photos from the tournament day

Sunday morning we arrived at the house only to find out that there was still no electricity, but it was ok because we were leaving shortly to go to mass.  Father Lewis is one of the priests that lives in the Dominican house in Springs and is the pastor at the Kristo Nkosi church in Kwa Thema.  He was kind enough to take Joe and I to mass with him Sunday morning and made a point of telling us to bring our cameras because what we were about to experience would be like nothing we had ever seen before.  Boy was he right.  This mass was three hours long, spoken in mostly Zulu and Sotho and probably one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed.  It was a true African mass with constant singing and dancing just like you would see in the movies.  It was like nothing I have ever seen before and I will definitely never forget how much joy and soul everyone in that church had.  The choir was decked out in real African garb and used instruments like a whistle, tambourine, maraca and bongo drums throughout the entire celebration.  Unfortunately I cannot upload videos to this blog, but if I am Facebook friends with you please look at the video I put up of one of the songs!

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Power was out all day and there is not much to do in a cold, dark, powerless house and all the shops in town closed early on Sunday, so Joe Piet and I went to McDonalds for warmth, food and Internet.  I felt like I was back home in the states as I ate an apple pie and used the McDonalds Wi-Fi.  Apparently apple pies are not as popular in South Africa as they are in the US and Piet couldn’t even eat more than one bite of it because he didn’t like the taste.  We found that strange because almost everyone likes apple pie, but we didn’t feel the need to force-feed him it because then there was more for us!

 

 

A Day at the spa….well kind of

South African winters are no joke. The past two days the temperature got down to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night and only about 45 degrees during the day and when I lie in bed I can clearly see my breath. I knew it would be cold in Africa during the winter, but I had no idea it would be this cold. So I came greatly unprepared by packing more shorts than pants and more t-shirts than sweaters. Because of my ill packing strategy, earlier today Joe and I went into town to try and find a winter coat that we could wear during our time here. We passed by many stores and found one that was strictly for jackets so we decided to look around. We each found jackets that were surprisingly cheap and would keep up warm during our next 5 weeks here in South Africa. Later we found out that the store we shopped at was equivalent to a Savers (second hand store) back at PC. So we are now sporting used South African winter coats, but its ok at least I will be a little warmer even if we aren’t the most fashionable.

As well as it being very very cold, the electricity went out late Thursday night in Springs, which means no lights, no hot water (thankfully where we are staying the electricity came back on in time for showers) and no stoves or heat. Everything is on African time here, which means that things move a lot slower than I am used to in the US and everything is done later than it is supposed to be done, so the odds of getting this power fixed before the weekend is very slim. But fingers crossed!

I knew this morning at St. Martins, before the kids came would be a slow one because we did not have any home visits or anything else planned, so I brought my nail polish to paint my nails. Little did I know, I would be setting up my own little beauty salon in the common room. After word got out that I had nail polish, caregivers quickly started lining up for me to paint their nails.

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I thought that the little girls would also enjoy this so I kept the nail polish out until they arrived at St. Martins after school. They were so excited to get their nails done and had so much fun picking out their colors and posing for pictures!!

 

Guess which hand is mine!!

Guess which hand is mine!!

 

 

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When we returned to the house we were unpleasantly greeted by darkness, so we decided to make the most of the situation and have a nice candle lit dinner!

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Home Visits

Yesterday I got the opportunity to go on home visits with the caregivers.  Home visits are when the caregivers walk to Kwa Zenzele (the township right next to St. Martins) and visit with different families in their homes to see how St. Martins or any social worker can help them.  Sometimes this help entails providing food parcels for the family, finding a school with transportation for the children, or giving them clothing/blankets.  Many of the people living in these houses are HIV positive or orphaned and vulnerable children without any form of identification.  Often times they get offended and embarrassed when these caregivers come to their homes, because they view it as being looked down upon and judged.  This is understandable because the caregivers ask very personal questions to the families only to find out how to help them in the best way possible.  Also, it is very common for the caregivers to show up to a scheduled home visit and have no one be home.  The inhabitants sometimes runaway before the caregivers can get to their house so they don’t have to deal with this confrontation, this happened in the third house I visited.

Yesterday, I got to go inside two houses.  The first house only had one person living in it.  He was an 18-year-old boy, whose mother recently passed away.  This kid was originally living with his older brother, mom and stepfather, attending school and staying out of trouble.  When his mother became sick, the young boy dropped out of school to help take care of her.  Once she finally passed the stepfather and the boy separated and the older brother moved out, so this young teen is now living on his own.  This boy does not go to school because he is 18 and only at grade level 9, meaning his classmates would only be 13 years old.  Because he is no longer in school, he does not receive food parcels from the government anymore and is completely on his own.  When we showed up to the house, 4 other friends who also were not attending school scurried out so we could talk to the owner alone.  For the most part the only language people in Kwa Zenzele speak is Zulu, so it was very hard for me to keep up with what was going on.  Even though I could not understand the words being said, I was still able to use my other senses to figure out what was happening.  The first thing I noticed was the smell of marijuana and I was able to assume that the children who exited the house so we could enter were smoking weed right before we came.  Also, there was one mattress on the floor with a dirty blanket covering it and piles of trash surrounding this mattress.  The house was made of scrap pieces of steel with many holes in the roof, so when it rains everything must get soaked.  Also, when the caregivers were speaking to the boy he would not look any of us in the eye and kept his head down and his answers short.  Walking into this house and seeing this boy who is just a little younger than me, living by himself and in these conditions was probably the hardest things I have ever seen.  After the visit the caregivers filled me in on what happened during the meeting.  They informed me that this boy doesn’t feel comfortable going to school because of his age, but is willing to give his education another try.  One thing the workers at St. Martins are going to do is talk to the president at one of the night schools in Springs, where people of all ages go to get their degrees.  This will allow this teen to go back to school as well as continue to get food parcels so he can eat.

One very surprising thing I learned yesterday while on the home visits, is that sometimes the best way to help someone living in poverty is not by giving them more food, but instead give them material objects.  This was the case for the second family I visited.  The tiny shack that they live in houses four children, a husband and a wife.  It is one room with a small stove and a mattress on the floor.  The four children sleep on the mattress while the parents sleep on the hard ground.  They receive food parcels from the government and are able to buy additional food because the father has a job on the farm.  He makes very little and that is their only source of income for the family of 6, so they do not have any money to buy clothes or blankets.  Thankfully these children do attend school, but do not have warm clothes and the winters in South Africa can get as cold as 30 degrees.  They are in dire need of blankets and jackets to sleep with and stay warm.  Now that these caregivers at St. Martins know how little this family has they are now able to organize a way for this family to their necessary needs and try to make sure that they stay warm in the winter.

I have never experienced or seen anything like this and it will be something I will never forget.  I plan on going on these home visits every Monday and Wednesday and hopefully I will be able to meet many families and help them in anyway possible.

On a happier/cuter note, here is little Bufana trying on my knee brace and a picture of a stunning sunset I took yesterday.

 

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A day of firsts

Today was a day full of firsts.  I was able to try a traditional South African dish called Mogudu.  For those that have never been to this neck of the woods before, Mogudu is the South African word for cow intestines.  As the caregivers all took out their phones to take pictures of the two Americans trying this foreign dish, Joe and I picked it up and took a bite.

The black thing on top of the rice is the intestines

The black thing on top of the rice is the Mogudu

 

Yes it is as gross tasting as it looks.  Lets just say I will not voluntarily eat this meal again, but now I can say I have eaten cow intestines and I am all ready to sign up for fear factor!

After the kids left the plot and we were getting ready to go back to the house, Brother Dominic threw me the car keys and told me to hop in the front drivers seat because I was driving home!  Don’t worry I successfully got myself and the 4 other passengers home safely and remembered to stay on the left side of the road the whole time!

After dinner I got introduced to a very popular South African TV show called Generations.  It has a similar plotline to those daytime soap operas shown in the US, with men cheating on their wives with other men and all that nonsense.  It was surprisingly entertaining, but I think I will stick with my American shows back home.

I now feel like somewhat of a native after conquering Mogudu, driving on the left side of the road and watching some quality South African soap operas.  Now all I have to do is become fluent in Zulu or Afrikaans and I will fit right in!