Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Top Moments - Happy

I figured that sometimes my blogs are a little depressing and sad. Not everything we do here is so serious, I promise! The volunteer house is so much fun and everyone is really great. Although we're winding down because it's the beginning of the month and many people are leaving (just like I was supposed to). So I thought I'd recap the eight best moments (in no particular order), that I've had with the people who's been here. I consulted them, and we've come up with some of the most entertaining moments that I'm sure none of us will ever forget.

1. The Five Shapes / The Five Colours / ABCs with Actions

Each morning at the day care starts with a circle time of songs and dances. Some are Zulu (we've all tried to learn the words), and some are English (we taught them I'm A Little Teapot last week). We try to do the ABCs each morning, and for some reason Nonklakla has decided that it would be fun to perform the ABCs by making letters with her arms. Really, only A, C, H, and X end up working out consistently; most of the time she ends up missing letters, or entire sections of the alphabet. It ends up being a complete mess, and even the five year old kids look confused when she jumps from K to R. For some reason, the teachers have learned somewhere that there are also five shapes; circle, triangle, square, acute angle and right angle. No more needs to be said about that. The five colours change every time they're called out, normally they are red, blue, yellow, purple, orange. Sometimes green replaces purple, sometimes black replaces orange – it's so hard to keep track of. Nonetheless, the teachers try so hard to keep up with the other crèches in the area, that sometimes they don't have all of their information correct. They're usually happy to have us correct that “right angle” is not a shape, and there are many colours.

2. Lost Keys

Yes, the keys were lost somewhere in Kosi Bay, near the border of Mozambique. Although it wasn't that big of a deal, and Anna and I ended up driving up to get the four girls that were stranded in one of the small town's bars. As we were taking the two and a half hour drive back, we actually passed the large truck that was towing the rental car back to Richard's Bay to get the only extra key AVIS had. Funny enough, even with all the commotion, no extra charge was put on the car.

3. Monkeys and Bananas

One afternoon, we came home to find Zanelle, our cleaner, in our room. She was apologizing profusely and when we finally got her to tell us why she was so shaken, she said that she had been cleaning our room and had opened the windows. Then Andrew had asked her to go to the store and when she left our room, she left the windows open as well. When she came back, banana peels were all over our room and all over the wall outside. Monkeys had jumped off the wall onto our window sill, gotten up into our cupboard and stolen four bananas. Even a week later, the monkeys are still stalking our room, although the dog, Peanut, tends to keep them at bay.

4. Wild Dogs and a Black Rhino

As I've said, we saw a pack of tracking wild dogs on our game drive in Hluhluwe on the first full day of my arrival. No one else has seen any wild dogs since I've been here – although I've learned that Hluhluwe has a large wild dog conservation program. We all agreed that we would never forget turning the corner and seeing all those wild dogs, and how we could have leaned out of the car window and pet them. Also agreed we'd never forget how one of the volunteers leaned out the window as we came so close to being charged by a black rhino, one of the most aggressive African animals (probably only second to Buffalo). And Theo just turning to Ben, our driver, and saying “start the engine” in a very frightened voice.

5. Crocodile Attack

So, I guess we've had a lot of close encounters with very dangerous African wildlife. On our Hippo and Croc tour, we got followed while we were on shore by a pod of hippos, only to have our guide's paddle attacked by a croc, and then have it run into our kayak. We were so close to so many crocs that day, it was really unbelievable. It was probably the best experience so far, to be paddling around the estuary seeing so much of the wildlife so close – even birds and fish.

6. Surfing

Last weekend, I had a surfing lesson with Hannah, one of the girls from Manchester. We paid less than $40 for an two-hour semi-private surfing lesson. We actually got to stand up riding the waves (not for long). I got hit in the head with the surf board, and at the end I was cut and bruised and sore. I had so much fun though that it was well worth it. I've never been able to pick up a sport so quickly and be able to have so much fun on my first try. The Indian Ocean is quite warm all year round, and it was so comfortable I just wore board shorts and a rash vest. Elaine, from Canada, and Emily, from Manchester both surfed the next morning. We're all going to go again this weekend, we enjoyed it so much.

7. Giving Out HIV Certificates

Giving out the HIV certificates has probably been one of the best experiences of my life. The smiles on the people's faces when they receive their certificates has been all the reward I need for coming to South Africa to volunteer. They represent the future of HIV/AIDS in this country. They progress from believing that ARV drugs are made out of human brain, to understanding safe sex and the effects of opportunistic infections. Most people here believe the lack of education is a major obstacle in the fight against HIV, and with each person that we educate, it feels as though we are creating positive-thinking community members and helping to quell discrimination.

8. Building Buildings

The new day care centre has really progressed since the ground breaking in my second week. We're about two weeks away from finishing the entire building. We have been digging a giant hole (about eight feet deep) in the back of the building to use as toilets, as well as a pit for sand. We've made the bricks by hand, we mix the cement on the ground, and we plaster the walls by hand as well. We cut all the grass by hand and dig away the weeds in the same manner. The manual labour that the hired builders endure every day is unbelievable. They work so quickly and even on the weekends for such a low price. In total, the entire building from start to finish will cost about $10,000; that's including labour and materials.

Until next time,


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