"Better to see something once, rather than to hear about it a thousand times"
Over the past 2 weeks, I have learnt a lot, seen a lot and done a lot. A lot more than planned, expected and ever imagined.
From our delay in London, the bad hotel, the credit card problem where pierce took on the role of a Mr Thomas Turley, the signature signed formed an image in my head of how this trip was never going to go as planned and it would be a simple matter of the conversation between us where one of us should have then followed with "This is Africa".
Although our flight had been changed from an ideal night flight to a terrible 2 o'clock in the afternoon flight that didn't stop me, Katie, Chelsea or our fellow flight mate Derrek from sleeping.
11 hours past and there it was 'welcome to the mother city', We had made it to Capetown at 3am Sunday morning. This is where I met our first connection to SA, Dedda. I could easily skip this part of the journey, for what was supposed to an 'unbelievable drive to George' became very quickly the worst. The bus was freezing and although we had all slept we were still tired. I popped out the speaker and pierce was playing just the right songs to make you sleep. But, also just the right songs to make you think about what was to come, the fear of the unknown, the high expectations of everyone back home, and the high expectations I had for myself. We made our first stop at the garage only an hour into our journey that felt like atleast 3 hours. Chelsea continued to sleep without bother, largey needed a smoke , and pierced needed a Top Deck. When he returned, my exact words were "That looks disgusting" and his reply was "Do you want a bit?" and no way I didn't. Dedda then returned after having his own smoke and I said to Sarah-Jane, "shout up there and ask him is there any heating on this bus" and his reply was short and simple "no unfortunately not, this is Africa" well... And there it was, somebody broke the nutshell, but there was many more layers to be unraveled as to when I would next hear the words.
I continued to half sleep the journey away until we had arrived at our apartments on Wellington street. However, I woke slightly before to the cold breeze and the nice sight of dominoes on York Street followed by a Christmas tree at the round about, then a McDonald's and just momentarily later the bus came to a final stop.
From the balcony we were accompanied by the beautiful outline of the Outeniqua mountain, which actually then became the sight from almost anywhere we went. We spent the day finding our feet, having a quick doze and then Whimpy! Wow, where to start, I'm the worst eater, but Whimpy was the place to go! After that we went for a shop and Ermin arrived with Geraldine and the boys.
When we woke on Monday morning we got ready and went to meet Aunt Abiel. She showed us around the scheme and let us take time to ask the people questions and allow us to see how they lived in comparison to our own life. We then headed to meet Stella and Carla up in Golden Valley. All of a sudden I realised and understood what everyone was finally talking about when they said "you won't understand it until your there" or "I can't explain it". We went to the park to play with the children and this little girl named Maxine ran so fast straight over with about 10 other kids after all playing and jumping on a used mattress. From that moment on, Maxine was stuck to me every second I was there. The highlight of that day was definitely Chelsea's reaction to a little girl she thought was Shanice, and she screamed "Katie Katie it's Shanice"... Well it wasn't Shanice, because next minute Katie started crying her eyes out "it's lolly Chelsea".
Chelsea took out a bag of sweets and every child ran to her except Maxine, and I was completely astonished. So I leant down to her and said, "do you not want another sweet?" And she said "no, one was enough, everyone else needs share". I realised that something that can mean so little to me means so much to others. A simple hand in hand, a conversation, a sweet or even the change of a purchase can make somebody's day over here. They are so appreciative of everything we are doing and have to offer.
Although what we do Monday to Friday is important to us, Blanco and Thembalethu so are our weekends. What we do with our initiative, what we see when we are here, what we make of our time and how we create memories that we will remember in years to come. As we spend hours on Outeniqua Mountain, walk along the beach in Mossle Bay, Bungee jump of a bridge, shop, present hunt, drive, get lost, climb in a rock pool and explore Africa this is then where I learnt that adventures are the best way to learn.
The R-City Blanco team are a pleasure to be around! They never fail to amuse me with their stories, their humour and then their tenderness to all of a sudden do the unexpected.
The disability créshe in Thembalethu is a pleasure to be in the company off!! The toddlers are so humerous and they know exactly what they are up to. I even gained myself an African name, Phumla from Alivé.
I'm so thankful to aunt Abiel for taking us to the local high school and also to the local after schools club. Here I got the opportunity to help the children with their maths and English. I am also thankful to her for sharing her story with us and opening our eyes in a place so beautiful that most of us tend to close our eyes too.
I am also very thankful to Cia for pulling me up from that bungy jump and coming to pull me back to ground for I told him I'd write about him in my blog, just incase one day he ever see's it.
There is so much stories to tell and so much more to explain but it's trying to find the right words that will make it a truely exceptional story, one that I will always remember and one that I hope many make their own original version off. Africa has left me speechless and then turnt me into a story teller.
With only 11 days left to go, I expect nothing less than everything we have done. I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world. But I know that wherever I go now, I will always carry a piece of Africa with me.
"The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa- for he has so much to look forward to"