And the beat goes on...
Trip Start Jan 23, 2007
34Trip End Feb 23, 2008
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So we thought it was again another well over due time to write about our experiences here in Africa. The reality is that so much has changed since the last blog, not in a social, economic, political, or cultural way, but so much has changed for Sarah and me that it is interesting to see the metamorphosis, so here it goes:
Breathe In. Breathe Out. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Smile. Shrug.
I think this is the most common practice I learned here in Africa. It applies to almost anything from teaching, listening to Afrikaans, planning our day, un-planning our day, talking to immigration, talking to people, listening to people talk about other people
I know this sounds a bit confusing, but it is the perfect example of what happened after we wrote the last blog : First we went back to school, unfortunately, with lower expectations, and second we met our "Adventure Planner", but I'll start with school first.
The situation definitely got to us... this downward spiral, this tendency to be mean, this adaptation of what was "right". In the end we broke it down mathematically and the common denominator in the entire equation is 1. So that was our new goal. Not to save the masses (we're not Jesus), but to reach out to them and maybe with a bit of hope and a lot of love, touch one. And that's what we did... our classes turned from lessons on grammar to kickball and computer games, from pronunciation classes to learning the correct words to Jingle Bells and who Rudolf is, from multiplication tables to Red Rover and Baseball (Cricket is the #2 most popular game in the country... I'm converting them one at a time). In the end those who want to learn always step forward and we teach.
We started groups in the Library/Computer Lab, those who wanted to "talk" could stay and "talk" (English practice), and those who wanted to play Snake or Asteroids (our personal favorite was Klickety...and I so beat Sarah!!!) could go play on the computer
Statistically when you look at it there are 720 kids, 400 of which "speak English", 200 who actually speak English, 100 that understand me, and 50 that understand Sarah (she talks fast!). There are about 50 kids who pay attention to Sarah cause they all like her more, and about 10 that pay attention to me. Of those 60 most will finish high school but end up working on a farm as a 'picker' and 5 will finish college.
If in the end 6 finish college... we've changed so much which is really all we hope for!!!
All of this really interesting stuff happened at school during the last month. Mrs. Leffring's class (as a teacher it's only Mrs. Leffring!) of 3rd graders wrote one of our classes. It was amazing to see their faces! The US students included their pictures which was absolutely adorable to the boys here talk about how pretty the girls are and asking us how to pronounce their names. The funnier part was the way a 3rd grade mind works... The US kids wrote about exactly what was going on in their life... accelerated reader tests, the pacer, and even tacos ( Mexican food is very popular here), so Sarah and I set out translating and explaining! Later when our kids went to write about their lives if it was the same .... Breathe. Smile. Shrug. Young minds are Young minds... it brings light to how we are the same... everywhere! (Mrs. Leffring... when the letters arrive, if you don't know what something is, just give us a call!!)
Sarah and I started an informal after-school kickball club that normally carried on for hours after school. It took the entire month to explain the difference between cricket and baseball. It was week four when everyone finally found out you had to tag people, not peg them with the ball. Or better that when you are out, you can bat again. I stayed on the girls' team, or the smaller team, helping the play with the little baseball strategy I could explain...by the end of the month the boys figured out the loop holes and completely destroyed the girl's team. Sarah laughed at me because I would get frustrated with losing... Breathe. Smile. Shrug
It was about that time at the end of the month where our lives started to pick up pace
Lizelle Van Zyl... "Adventure Planner"
A Hostess/Manager/Wedding planner by day, and Super-Hero by night, Lizelle has singled handedly vanquished any remote sense of boredom from our lives while at the same time selflessly subjecting herself to our constant badgering over her poor English (we love you Lizelle!!!!). The twisted story starts way before Sarah and me, but to spare you the details she's a friend of our South African family and even though Sarah and I have yet to spend more than 5 awake-hours with her... she is easily our best friend here.
Oddly enough this is not a coincidence that Lizelle found her way into our life because I'm pretty sure God saw what a wonderful job he did with Sarah's personality, ability to organize, attitude, temperament, annoyances, and humor, that he decided to copy it and put it in Lizelle
Actually for me its great because two people who are the same tend to fight with each other about the same thing for no apparent reason...basically I'm entertained by their shenanigans all day long!
Lizelle has graciously taken it upon herself to fill the empty weeks of our school holiday with so much stuff we really haven't had a weekend free for a while.
This is where I have to take the time and launch myself into another side of African analyzation. We always said we hate being tourists, so we have to go out and enjoy the people and their culture... I don't think I've ever been so blessed and scared by the same group of people in my life.
I think this is where I started developing my idea of constants which eventually is proof that humanity is so interconnected by things other than the internet, that really we are just the replication of one great model 6.5 billion times over again..
First off, Farm boys are Farm boys... one may say the "red neck" is a "red neck". I plan to make millions translating Jeff Foxworthy joke into Afrikaans for the farmers and farm boy here. This revelation dawned on me when we decided to go out and enjoy a bit of the night culture here in Paarl, we walked into a "club" called Water Gat,(Water Hole pronounced Vat ter Hac ut... you have to make that hacking up sound with the "g") which in essence was a large tractor shed with a long bar (that didn't sell beer on tap just out of the cooler?!?!), and some lights: your standard disco ball, flashing colors, some moving lights. There was a makeshift DJ booth set up next to the bar that overlooked the largest barn-dance floor we'd ever seen. Better was the dancing, A make shift two-step waltz mixed with touches of salsa spins and tango turns; where partners, very formally, danced ballroom style in circle to songs normally reserved for a wedding reception: Shania Twain, Best Thing about being a Woman, Cotton Eyed Joe, and remixes of Enrique Iglesias and the Electric Slide but with Afrikaans lyrics.
Breathe. Smile. Shrug.
It took massive amount of begging, pleading and a couple of drinks for us to even think about going out and dancing
Nonetheless the crowd was more important. Imagine most of you Chicagoans happened to stumble south of I-80 all the way down to... Peatone, Gibson City, Decatur, or woohoo Effingham!!! Those kids have twins they didn't even know about... 13000 km away singing the same country songs, dressed the same, attitude, smile, jokes, strong down to earth... somewhat silly farm boys!!! Even as they stumbled around at a "club" in their button-down-cowboy work shirt, mismatching short shorts, and crocs...I thought, "Man I know I met you at a Manhattan (the one south of New Lenox) barn party when I was in High School," and then I thought, "Wow city kids are all the same," as I looked at Sarah and I dressed to impress, ready for a night out at a CLUB!!!
Breathe. Smile. Shrug.
The following week we were jam packed. Thursday we had to teach the entire South African culture how to celebrate Thanksgiving ( they didn't like the no presents idea, so we got a present).
The basic idea was interesting to convey... we get together and we think about what we are Thankful for. I guess I just take it for granted that a day of Thanks is easy to rationalize. There is no religious significance to it, the South Africans thought it was odd that we celebrated a holiday where a group of Indians saved us but then we ended up killing all of them, and it even weirder to explain that Thanksgiving is an "extended family" or travel holiday. Then to tie it into respectively Black Wednesday and Black Friday... the whole thing was odd.
But despite the negative part of Thanksgiving..
This my friends is South Africa... It is Hospitality... It is home cooked meals... It is everyone trying to take care of you, trying to show you a good time... It is the feeling that I walk around with a sign on my forehead saying, "FEED ME"... Everywhere we go there is the reoccurring presence of home cooked meals, braais (bar-b-que), Pojkies (slow cooked stews), and wine! We joke that when we come back no one is going to believe us that there is a hunger problem here... Sarah and I are gaining kilos at the same rate as the invitations we get...last week we went to 5 braais in 6 days.
That's South Africa...they may not have much to give you...but boy will you eat!!
Friday we celebrated Don's (Sarah's Dancing partner) birthday, and finally on Saturday we went out to Worcester... the YWAM place... but this time on better terms. We went with Lizelle to meet her family and hang around for a dinner party they were going to have. As is our custom here in South Africa we brought our party gift of Ranch this mysterious dressing/chip dip has become a rave here in South Africa and now I'm just looking for a Supplier so I can distribute
The first weekend we joined a party with some old work friends of theirs. Luckily for us they brought along their kids, so Lizelle and her sister Hanje, their friends Tanya and her sister Liesl, and Sarah and I, we all had our own little dinner party which again brought out another revelation about how similar we all are. It was nice sitting there telling stories, I guess I had always thought about being a grown-up and having dinner parties where we eat expensive cheese and drink wine, then sit down to a great home cooked meal... I always thought I would feel so grown-up. I think it was during this when I realize adults throw dinner parties to hang out with friends, laugh, and enjoy life... in essence to feel younger... it was perfect...but the weekend was not over
Tanya and Liesl invited us out to the beach with their friends, so... we went!
Breathe. Smile. Shrug.
The pictures say everything... we cooked out... played rugby (I had to teach everyone how to throw a ball properly...like a football!). After five hours of laying out on the miraculous beach front surrounded by mountains with some of the coolest people, I found my first difference in people over here... they put on a lot of sunscreen!!! The only 23-26 year olds I've ever seen re-apply after every hour... guess that's what happens when the Ozone hole is above you, and I'm glad to say I (cheep Irish skin) didn't get burnt! Sarah is actually a little upset because I am a little bit browner that she is... a first for any Stanton!
The following week was the last week of school... so basically total chaos. If you couldn't control the kids earlier there was no hope now. So our days were very mellow, filled with endless games of kickball and red-rover. Sarah went on a field trip with the 1st and 3rd graders to the IMAX Theater to see Ratatouille... only the 1st graders don't speak English and the 3rd graders just started English classes that year...There has never been a recorded moment where a group of kids goofed around so much during a cartoon movie... I think it was the thought, though, that counted most!
On the same day, I headed out with the 4th grade classes as we trekked through the townships to the pool! It was a day of swimming lessons. At the start half of the kids can't swim, some had never been to the pool which was actually a very nice Olympic swimming pool. I could have used some help from some swimmers, but in the end most of them grasped on to the basics. We started to play games... until one head went under. I saw someone from outside the pool come running at me so I turned around and pulled a girl up from under the water. Scared to death her and her twin sister clutched on to my throat as I walked them out of the pool. By that time we all had had enough of the pool and head back home. (Pictures from swimming in the previous blog)
The following Thursday was "class party day." Basically this was an excuse to play loud music, eat KCF and ice cream, while Sarah and I taught the kids how to play baseball!
Friday was the last day of school... the kids got their report cards... I brought my guitar to school as I promised, and we played kick ball for the last time.
Sadly enough the kids have 6 weeks with nothing to do
The last big thing we did was met Laurens. Obviously through Lizelle, We met him and he offered to spend the weekend on his farm and winery.
Breathe. SMILE. Shrug
Sure...so we went.... Stories of the wine farm, Dan's racing, cookie baking, wrestling with the South African Olympic team, Robben Island... to be continued! All too much for just one blog!
*~ If you would like to help us celebrate "A Nederburg Christmas" with us please feel free to use the Support My Travels icon at the top of the blog via Pay Pal or send a donation to Sarah's parents to help us give these Nederburg kids a Christmas to remember!! More information is provided in the previous blog posted on Dec. 7th! ~*