Everyone woke up from all the flying from Dublin to London to Johannesburg then finally the drive from Cape Town which took 6 hours. It actually hit me and I lay in my bed for 5 minutes not saying a word thinking I'm here I've finally made it. We have reached South Africa, after all the hard work the team put in we’re here, it definitely hit home. I felt really proud of myself and the team. That moment I will always remember, it gave me the motivation when I get to the township to give it my all, I deserved it, we all as team did. There was so many thoughts running through my head at that time its hard to explain - mixed emotions even before I got out of the bed. Walking up to the main house where all the boys and girls were staying you could feel the buzz outside, and as you were walking in, the tunes were pumping, everyone all pumped up ready to get stuck in it was brilliant.
Pierre came up to the house and started doing a few activities to prepare us for what we were about to go into. Putting the team outside of their comfort zone doing stuff they weren't familiar with or not used to. It was tough but it was a good laugh and bonding moment for everyone which made everyone even more determined to go to the township and do their bit. We thought Pierre was having us on with these activities and games but he really had a method and meaning about everything we done. One thing in particular that stood out for me was when he said about our problems - get level with your problems, then rise above them so you are in control and can deal with them better, find a new path to solve it basically.
There wasn't enough room in the 2 Combies so 2 people had to stay behind and wait for Pierre to come back and get them, no one wanted to volunteer to do it because they just wanted to go to Blanco after waiting for so long. Then Ciaran and Decky said they would do it, Ciaran had to do it anyway because he had egg dripping all over him from the last activity hahaha. Pierre refers to Ciaran as a Jack-in-the-Box because he is always on the ball and wants to do everything - any activity or game he is straight up ‘I’ll do it’. I think people observed that and took it on board he was showing us different leadership techniques which gave the team more confidence and a laugh because he kept stuttering his words and mixing up sentences he was that excited. He stepped up to the plate not knowing what he was about to do but done it anyway, and this is what Pierre was trying to make us prepare for any situation we come across, because you don’t know what is going to be thrown at you. Anyways, we all jumped into the Combies and went on our way, it was brilliant everyone was talking about Blanco and give us all more hype.
As we were turning into Blanco the nerves were kicking in, I didn't know what I was about to go into. I kept an open mind about it, so anything that gets threw at me I’ll take it in my stride and give it my all. People were waving and shouting at us before we have even left the Combie or even actually stepped into the place we were all loving it waving back out the windows, tunes blasting. When we stopped at Stella’s house there were 3 kids in the garden playing a game called Marbles, they didn’t really speak, just doing there own thing, then another 3 kids sitting on the curb and right away when Ethan got out he was straight in interacting with them, and then the next thing you know they were stuck to him! Wouldn’t leave him alone chasing each other up and down the street stealing Ethan’s hat and running away, it was quality! That was the kickstart of it all, the big man Ethan led the way like a trooper. There was one shy kid that wouldn't talk to anyone, he just drew with his finger on the ground and the girls just crowed him, and give him company. He saw himself on Demi’s iPhone with the dog ears and nose on which is when he came out of his shell and it was class to see. We started walking up to the park and made a stop at the shop to get water and whatever we needed, but one of the wee kids that was in the garden playing marbles that didn't really speak walked up with us, then he got my hat when I wasn't looking, I was chasing him everywhere messing about with him, he had me busted the much running I done, then he started teasing me to get the hat because I could barely breathe hahaha. His name was Kelix and anywhere he went he made sure I knew where he was going with my hat I clicked with him immediately because it showed me that I could trust the kid and hopefully I could gain his trust throughout the experience.
Walking up to the park Kelix run back into the township somewhere, I just lost sight of him. The kids were coming out of everywhere, happy as can be to see us strangers in their area and it gives you a feeling like! I only got here and feel appreciated, it’s too hard to explain, was a different feeling I've never felt before, I didn't know what to think walking up the path to the park, loads of thoughts were going through my head like - ‘what will I do?’, ‘how will I do this?’ or ‘will these kids be really shy round us?’, but was I wrong! They were all playing, running over to everyone, that’s where all the team went back to their childhood and acted like big kids again. I cant explain it, you had to be there to see it. I was talking to someone in the team, can’t remember who it was, I was really nervous. But what I can remember is getting a nip on the back of the legs by the wee man Kelix, I knew right away it was him (i forgot to mention he was doing this to me on the way up to the park) and I was loving it. I turned round right away reflexes like a ninja and grabbed him, took my hat bolted away cross the park with him chasing me I felt like a big kid again! We were playing away then everyone was shouting mon' do the Hokey Pokey. I was in my element. Even more it was brilliant craic. Kelix done another dissapearing act on me, and I was raging but I caught something at the side of my eye was a wee fella called Anno standing outside of the crowd were everyone was playing and getting on with each other. My heart sank because he was small and couldn't get to the front to get seeing anything or any attention, he just sat out so I run over and grabbed him got him on my shoulders and started dancing, throwing a few shapes and he had such a big smile on his face which made my day without fail. He wouldn't really talk so it was hard work. We made signals like tipping our shoulders for him if he wanted up on mine or doing a dance move if he wanted to dance, we also got a wee handshake going on, again its hard to explain the feeling you get when you’re with them kids. All they have is their imagination and they put it to good use, unlike back home where all the kids are distracted by their phones or Facebook and they’re not even in secondary school, which I think is really sad because they’re missing out on a big part of their childhood. If you give these kids a few boxes they would make a fort or castle and play in it, they use anything they have or put it to good use. It’s unbelieva
ble. But if you give a few kids back home anything like that they wouldn't even know what to do with it. Just kick it to the side, and that’s what I mean by imagination. Out here it is probably one of the small minority of places in the world left with it, in my opinion. It’s great to see, and a real eye opener. I took a step back, and a break just to watch what the team was doing and it was remarkable they were amazing seeing all them running about like big kids, that was always inside them without a care in the world, everyone’s mask came off and they got to be themselves. I’m glad and proud to say I’m part of this team.
We had to leave the township after what Dynesy and Joe said was 2 hours, but I think it was a lie ‘cause it felt like half an hour. I was completely raging we had to go. I didn't want to. I put Anno down off my shoulders, he was like a tattoo to me all day, but I had to and said to him I’ll see you soon so he put his hand out for a knuckle touch which was a bonus, it added on to what I already was feeling in that place, giving me the knuckles when I usually had to put my hand out first. All the kids walked down with everyone playing away then I get nipped again, Kelix came back to give me my hat and walking back down to the Combie, we had a race, the first to the top of the street wins and gets my hat to wear and I was off to a great start until I thought, I seen a dog coming from the side so I slowed down and he bolted straight past like a whippet, I had no chance. I got to the top and went to give him it and he just gave me it back saying ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’, then I told him Monday, he said okay I’ll be up in the park. We got in the Combies, and started to drive home. Dynesy told us to play chill out songs, and listen. No Talking. Just listening and thinking ‘we done it’ just thinking about what had happened that day was brilliant!
Woke up completely wrecked from Friday carry the kids on my shoulders and what not took it out of me was completely busted couldn't sleep that night either because all i was thinking about was what we done and what went on in Blanco. I got up and got showered then headed on up the house where everyone was again you could feel the buzz in the atmosphere it was class. Pierre came up again to do more games and activities just to start us of with the day, he showed us even without all the things we need to play we could use ourselves to play if we just think about it.
After all the games and stuff he set us a few challenges to do in the town walk around this certain bit 3 times. We got split into groups of 4 and the first challenge was walk around and not say a word to each other but observe your surroundings and we found it very hard but we done it anyways. The second time we had to go talk to someone and find out their story. My group was Decky, Emma and Leah we talked more walking round we weren't the closest in the group like would talk to each other but not as much, but walking round the talking didn't stop everyone was talking away and it was good to see. When we got to the corner of the last street there was a flower stand with a woman and a man sitting at it and when we stopped to talk to them we talked for at least an hour we took so much learning and fascination from what they were saying we couldn't go. They talked about what it was like growing up in Cape Town and having to move away to George for work but they said they wouldn't change it for the world it was the best thing they done. The man Aread I think his name was he said he worked as an advocate and he's into all his politics and was fascinated with our politics back home so we had a good talk about that and what was going on here like apartheid. The wee women had a heart of gold this ties into our 3rd challenge to give 10 rand or to buy something for 10 rand and give it to them but we were gonna buy flowers from her shop and give them to her but she wanted to give us them for free from what little these people have they are still giving. We give her more than 10 rand each because of the learning and she give us her time to talk about her life and we were grateful for it she was full of happiness when we give her the money saying to us thank you and hugs about hugging us was amazing.
When we finished the the challenges we went back home and went straight up to the park up the street for like a reflection on last nights debrief and talking about people who stood out for you and it was good to hear what people were saying about each other because its really hard to just walk up to someone and give them a compliment because of where we come from we wouldn't know how to take it but thats the barrier the leaders are looking to take down also. I think that session done a lot for the group getting stuff of our chest and saying what we wanted to say instead of just keeping it in our heads just get it out there and it was just good to hear and see. I could go on all day about it and write more but i think this provides insight to my experience so far. Also most of the credit has to go to the leaders for taking us on this experience and this is only the start and they show a lot of confidence and motivation which gives us the drive to do what we do.
I came to south Africa with a quote that was stuck in my head and its my favourite learnt it from springboard.
‘If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you have always got’