Saturday, 25 August 2007

Black Saturday

I'm leaving Africa now.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

You Know You're In Africa When...


...You are in a taxi and the passenger in front of you is a goat.

...A traffic jam is caused by goats, cows or chickens not actual traffic.

...A Zebra strlls through your maths class.

...Your mode of transport stops every 3 paces to eat the surrounding, then rip it out of the ground and hand you the leftovers

...Random men ask if they can keep you

...A taxi meant for 15 crams in 20.

...Your t-shirt is covered in elephant snot.

...You cherish the times you drive on a tar road.

...Children chuck zebra poop at each other and dont see anything wrong with it

...You get a job offer every other day

...You are strolling back from the shops and 3 seperate random strangers stop and offer you a lift and then ask about your car. As the only possible reason for a white woman to be walking is that her car has broken down!

...Crickets not traffic keep you awake at night

Not happy

I had to say good bye to the team today as I'm going home on Saturday and tomorrow we are visiting children. I'll post photos of everyone later when I have downloaded them off my camera. The last week has been hectic, we had choir camp for a weekend which was so good to see all the children together again.

Nkomazi Choirs 1+2

The children had grown so much, the Nkomazi choir that I had helped train 3 years ago were now mainly all teenagers. The camp was so much fun; lots of games and singing and dancing (the kids taught me the can dance - that was hillarious. Basically you have a pop can in ether hand and you dance with them. The pop can dance is the video at the top of this post, now imagine me doing it...yeah exactly!!!)
We also had to do school work with the children as they should have been in school on the saturday. It is a shame because the teachers went on strike for 6 weeks, now the children have had their September half term cancelled and they have to go to school on a sat. WE had to go to the circuit head to get permission and he would oly give it us if we did 3 hours of school with them, so we did.

On Tuesday me, Jamie and Sharye (two Yankee volunteers) went on an elephant ride. Not only was it a ride on them but you got to play football with them and touch their trunk, ears, skin, tail etc. Anyway there we were the three of us on the elephant wandering through the bush and every 3 or 4 steps the elephant stopped to eat the bushes/trees. It started off as small bushes and whenshe had stripped them ofleaves and bark she would hand them back to us. Then the small branches got bigger and bigger until at one pont she handed us a small tree - I kid you not. It whacked us on the head and grazed our faces. I have photos and will post them later today when I have downloaded them.

Then last night we all went on a night safari in Kruger which was so good. I just saw the same animals as last time but it was just so nice and peaceful. We went in at 5pm when it was still night and went down to the water hole and as dusk fell the park fell silent. I think animals have it right and its us humans that have gotten it so worng. All they have to worry about is getting food, mating and staying alive - just think of all the stresses we have in see my point?

Any way got a meeting will post more with photos later on.

EMMA and JODIE - what did you get? And yeah one of the zebras got that close I could stroke it, it was filthy though ;-)

Thursday, 16 August 2007


You know there has been something puzzling me since I got here with the children and Ive not been able to put my finger on it until today. We work in primary schools, which in the UK means up to 11 yrs, here is is up to 13 though it can be up to any age depending on how old they started primary and if they pass the year. So I finally figured it out what it is - the kids are kids. In the Western culture it is expected and encouraged that children grow up quicker and quicker. Here, even if the children are running and heading their households they are still children. Unashamed to play games and just generally, well be children - it is so refreshing.
As I said in my last post this weekend is choir camp and we spent this morning packing the jeep full of games, crafts, sports and clothes for the kids. The age range now is 7-14 and I was saying you cant do that with the teenagers they wont do it (thinking of the 14 year olds I teach) and the chaperones just laughed at me saying you'll be surprised, and I hope I will. I am so excited about the camp, not only to see the kids I havent seen yet but also to spend some time with them, just...playing.

Me and Heather took the stuff to the camp this evening and it was the funniest experience ever. Its in a private game reserve and as we pull up on the veranda to the accomodation stood 3 Zebras munching away on the trees. And as we were un packing they just wandered around munching away completely oblivious, and there was a cute little ?foal? who was just shedding its baby fur - so cute.

The tar road just ending in Steenbok village

I had a really nice night this evening. Everything has just been hectic and I am so tired at the moment and with camp we are just going to get more tired. So me and Heather decided to take a couple of hours off this evening and go out for a meal. Our house backs on to the river boundary of the southern edge of the Kruger park, although some inconsiderate sod has built an 8ft high brick wall at the back so we cant actually see anything. Anyway, down the road is the fantastic restaurant called the Deck which is basically a deck hanging over the river boundary. So we went there for dinner and ate as the sun  was setting over the Kruger mountains and as the animals came out for their last drink. There was a hippo fight which was amazing to watch (and hear) the Springbok and Impala ran for it and I dont blame them. The crocs swam down stream away from it it was that fierce, and from the deck we just watched. I am so annoyed that my memory card was full on my camera it would have made fab pics.

Kruger river boundary from standing on top of the whopping great big wall at the end of the garden.
Just for you Sarah (add to that green look)

Anyway off for an early night - boy do I need it.


Ann L - Hiya *waves*
Lettuce - Hows the green tan coming on?
Erin - when are you back from tour?

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


I dont have much time but I thought I'd just quickly post. Things are going really well, I cant believe there is only 10 days until i get on that plane to come back (if I do).
I had a wizz trip to Johannesburg to pick up Heather 1400KM round trip in 24 hours - nice. She had been staying with some of the young Africans (ex choir) in a place called Vereeniging, bar of chocolate to anyone who gets the pronuciation correct!
I am so excited as this weekend is choir camp where the kids from the two Nkomazi choirs come together for a fun weekend. I cant wait to see all the kids as I have only seen about half of them so far. The camp is in a private game reserve on the edge of the Kruger so there is lots of animals roaming around.
Next week I am going to Mozambique with some of the guys to link up with some NGO's to see about an ACC base  and choir in Mozambique - more stamps for the passport.

Mzinti school with (some of) the musical equipment

For you mum, click on the image then right click and save the big photo

Another for you mum (are these ok?)

Anyway off to bed am very tired it is so hot here.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The man with the big gun, he say nooooooo.

I’ve had a good week now to reflect on some of the things that I posted about at the weekend and whilst I have had no blinding vision, I have had a quiet realisation. That is; I cannot do anything to help all those people out there, but I can do something to help the few we work with. The ACC have a motto 'Helping Africa's most vulnerable, one child at a time', that seems pretty good to me. I can do what I can whilst I am here.  I can’t solve it all but I can certainly help, and that has put me in a better mood.

An update for the house. Thank you to the kind couple of people who gave in a donation to finish the cement work, along with your money and some other donations the ACC got we have now bought the cement and sand for the walls. You should have seen the grandfathers face today as we drove up with the Landrover packed on top with bags and bags of it, there were tears streaming down his face with joy. Now the walls and floor can be finished its just doors and windows and then the house will be all done. I would really love to go and see the house on my last day here and find the family all moved in, miracles can happen, so I hope and pray the house gets finished.

Now on to the title, yes I did meet a big scary man with a sub-machine gun, in fact I met 5 scary men with sub-machine guns. They were the police, thank God! I pulled into the dust yard in front of the ATM to draw money and out shot 6 police men with guns from this van by it; I thought they were coming after us in our Landrover. Luckily they were just there to guard the machine while the bank guy filled it. I went to use it after he had done and this police man with a gun came at me shouting no, no, no so loud I fled into the van and locked the doors. Though what good a lock is against a bullet I do not know! I turned round and the chaperones were in stitches laughing at me. Apparently you have to leave the machine 10 mins for the bank guy to get to the bank and activate it, its a safety precaution to show he filled it and got back safely. Now honestly, I have never once felt unsafe or uneasy. (MOTHER WARNING -don’t read the next bit) I have wandered around the villages on my own and drove around the countryside on my own and generally done what I needed to do without a second thought. SA is very dangerous if you don’t have your wits about you, but so is crossing
Old Chester Road

The villagers have been so welcoming, we drive in and the children chase the van waving and shouting 'hello, how are you' the only English they know and I reply 'secona', and that cracks them up - a white person speaking Siswati. The gogo's (grandmothers) and hladla's (head of the houses) welcome us and we have a conversation neither of us understands what the other is saying but that’s fine. I jabber away in English with the odd Siswati word and they jabber away in Siswati with the odd English word and everyone is happy.

We have a long weekend this weekend, tomorrow is a bank holiday, national women’s day. I celebration the
UK should have I think *nods*. And most government buildings are not opening up Friday so 4 day weekend - whoooooooo. Off to Blyde River Canyon
on Sat which is the third deepest canyon in the world with stunning views. But before then I am spending Thurs and Fri doing school work as I have a lot to do for the new school year which is getting ever closer. I wonder what Mr Quinn would say if I rang up on the first day back and said 'Hi, I'm still in Nkomazi and don’t know when I'm coming back'.!!!! Wonder what my mother would say, and my bank manager...oh you can but dream cant you!

Ok I’m off to dream about my other life here in SA, I promised myself this post had to be a LOT shorter than the other. Sorry it’s still quite long.

Saturday, 4 August 2007


I know its been a while since I have posted anything substantial but to be perfectly honest I have been having a really hard time of it this week and couldn't really put it into words until I had time to digest it.

Poverty is disgusting. We all know that, we've all seen the pictures in the newspapers and watched the items on the news. We've all shook our heads and thought 'There by the grace of God go I'. In another life, by other parents that could be us. I've been there, watched the news, read the newspapers and got angry and upset about it. But half an hour or an hour later something else has taken up my mind and its forgotten. It hasn't been until I've experienced it that I can truly say with full meaning that POVERTY IS DISGUSTING.

This week I have been battling with Social workers and social aid agencies, builders, schools and contractors just trying to get people the basics to live off and not to die. Now that sounds very melodramatic, and yes my mum will be the first to agree that I have a melodramatic streak, but consider this case which has been my priority along with 6 others.

One of the choir kids lives with his grandmother and 8 other children in a mud 'structure' it is not even a house. Now this is a common situation in Nkomazi, the mother is dying of an AIDS related disease so their grandmother is bringing them up. Now in SA there is no such thing as the dole or social welfare, if you don't have a job - tough. Nkomazi with a population of about 800,000 people has an unemployment rate of 82%. There is however, child welfare grants and whole families live off these. A child welfare grant for one child whose parents have no jobs is R250 (£20/$40) a month, so this family was receiving  R2000 (£150/$300) a month, which is an ok amount to live off, you can do it.  There is also another grant for orphaned children which is R800 (£50/$100), this family qualify for the orphan grant due to the fact that their mother cannot look after them and their grandmother is. This would bring their income up to something comfortable for the area. So the social worker came out last July, assessed the family and recommended that they receive the orphan grant, so the child welfare grant was stopped whilst the application for the other went through. As of last week it was still being processed - A WHOLE YEAR LATER!!!. Thats a whole year with ABSOLUTELY no money coming into that family what-so-ever.

So last Thursday me and Muzi went and camped out at the social workers office until she would see us (only took us a hour of shouting and arguing). When we saw her she was perfectly pleasant and apparently the problem wasn't with them, she had passed on all the relevant paper work to the courts, a court order was obtained last October for the orphan grant and passed on to SASSA (South African Social Services Agencies) for payment. It got lost at SASSA

SASSA was our next stop so we rang for an appointment for the following day and went in. The guy who had all the answers was not in and I wanted to smack the people in the office they were so rude. They talked over our head, ignored us and laughed in our faces when we said we were not budging until we got some answers or an appointment with someone who could give us answers. Anyway they called the boss who said he would be in on Monday morning so we made them ring him back for an appointment time as we were not going to turn up to be told he was 'out'.

When we went to see him on Monday he was great - I was so surprised. Apparently he took over SASSA last year and has been spending his time uncovering corruption and incompetance ever since. We put our case forward and basically told him that without our food aid parcels every month this whole family would have been dead long before today. He there and then went into the computer system, over rode everything that had been written to deny the money for this family and they will be getting their payment on the 1st September. Along with R74000 (£4500/$9000) back pay - enough to build them a house of a decent standard.

On Wednesday I went to visit a building project we have been funding. This is a house for another choir child and her family. They had been living in two single roomed mud huts that were infected with parasites and bugs. 

We were building them a 5 roomed house, 3 bedrooms,a kitchen and a sitting room.

But we had to go with the news that they had to stop work after the kitchen as we didn't have any more money to finish off the sitting room and the exterior. How do you give that news to a grandfather who has been breaking his back trying to build a house for his grandkids to live safely in. For once I was thankful I didn't speak Siswati and therefore I wasn't the one to tell him. But I was standing right next to Johannes as he did and I saw the grandfathers face fall, and his shoulders sag. Then we got the biggest hug off him, with the widest smile. I was completely thrown by this and when I asked why apparently the man was just so thankful for all we had done, he never thought he would see his grandkids living in a brick house before he died and he feared one or more of them would die ahead of him through parasitic infection. We are now looking into the budget to try and find the extra R1000 (£100/$200) to finish the house for him.

Thursday was probably my toughest day so far. We had been asked to go into a school where two of our choir kids go to try and help them with a problem. It is a combined school, primary and high school in one, and approx 60% of their children were orphans or looked after children and about 80% of these were not getting the grants they were entitled to. Now this is due to a number of reasons. Nkomazi is right by the Mozambique and Swaziland boarder so there are lots of immigrants from there and under the old apartheid system if they applied for job or ID or benefit then they were sent back - that fear is still there so they will not apply. Despite the governments best efforts they still will not get ID's. Without ID's they cannot apply for benefits. Also without death cert they cannot claim Orphan benefits for any children living with them. The children also need birth cert which usually they do not have. All this conspires against them in getting the financial help and assistance they need. As an NGO we can help with this situation and we have access in getting them to home affairs to get the necessary docs but we need their co-operation. The school had tried many times and failed so they asked us to try.

We called a guardian meeting for Thursday of 40 families on the high at risk register, expecting about 10 to turn up, in the end there was 26 which was better than the school had ever managed. We had to take a history of who the kids lived with, what their relationship was, where the parents were, death certs, ID's, birth certs of kids etc. Basically a complete history of the child's life so that we can build up cases. It was ok, I had the principal translating for me so in a way it was if I was one step removed. But I was hearing the same story over and over again. I am the grandmother/aunt/sister, the mother is dead of AIDS related disease, she has no death cert as was buried quick due to heat/body back in Moz/Sawzi anyway. Father abandoned children. No birth certs, I don't have ID. This same story was repeated with some variation over and over again. Until I got to my last guardian.

This man had been sitting there for 3 hours waiting to speak to us, the only man in a room of women guardians. He had with him his ID, the birth cert's of the children and the death cert of the mother. And he proudly gave these over to me to document. It was all in order, he has been so meticulous in keeping them. Before I documented it all I needed the history. He was the step grandfather of 3 children, the mother had died of an AIDS related illness and the children came to live with them. He worked 2 jobs in order to feed and support the children and he stressed he always made sure the children were clean and had food in their bellies at night. The principal actually said to me they were one of the best looked after children they have at the school.

I opened the documents to check them and when I got to the mothers birth cert it was as if time stopped, I sat there staring at it - she was younger than me, born in 1980 and died in 2006 at age 26. The three children sat in front of me just looking at me, these could be my children, this could have been my life in another world and in another life.

You know we take so much for granted in our lives. When I was out three years ago teaching at the school in Cape Town the kids were asking me about my life in the UK (it was before they went on tour) and I told them about my house I had just bought and the new job I was starting and they kept asking me all these questions about it all. One of the kids piped up 'Auntie, are you as rich as the Queen then?' And I just laughed, with my student debts and a mortgage and bills etc I felt no where near as rich as the Queen. And when i told them this their answer was another question - do you have cupboards to put food in? I thought this a really odd question to ask and when I inquired why his reply was astounding.  'If you have cupboards to put food in then that means you have food to put into them'.

This isn't meant to be a preachy we have it good and there are people far worse off than us - but I have found that out to be a reality and one that I'm finding really hard to come to terms with.

There is also so much joy out here and despite of the poverty I am having a great time. We went up against the social system and won for 6 families. We are in the process of trying to get 26 families access to the benefits they deserve. The choir kids are continuing to flourish and the school programme is going well. The training of the team is really starting to pay off and they are now beginning to think and act like teachers instead of people who go in and do a bit of music and dance for 90 mins.

This week has been hard mentally, and if you have got this far in the post CONGRATULATIONS. I know its a long one, its one I have been turning over for the past few days trying to make sense of it all and I have come to the conclusion that I doubt I ever will.

So I'm just going to get on with it, do my best, help what little I can in the areas that I can.

ERIN - I am so, so sorry hon. Yahoo not working so I cant chat. *big huggs*

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

For all the teachers out there, and those that question us.

I found this on the web and whilst it has nothing to do with Africa I just had to share it with you all.

Girly weekend

Ive just had the best weekend ever, it was so good but extremely tiring. We had 7 girls and Sthembile (chaperone for choir 1) over for the weekend and it was just full of laughs and giggles. Friday night we collected them after school and brought them back to Malelane for hot dogs and a movie. Saturday we all went to kruger National Park on safari and saw 18 different animals including; hippos girraffes, monkeys, wildebeests, lions and zebras. On one occasion we saw a HUGE lion fast asleep with a carcass of something next to it. So of course the whole jeep broke out into a rendition of "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight" in fact we spent most of the 10 hours in the park in song in one language or another. Ive got loads of new songs to teach for next year now! We also saw 4 lions stalking a Springbok, luckily the Springbok escaped...this time.

The whole weekend was great, it was so good seeing the kids again. Sorry they are now getting  to teenagers, Shirley turned 13 on friday and a couple more of them were already 13.

I am in the middle of a big post about the goings on here. I am finding it really hard to cope with all the poverty and I have included in the post what the reality of the situation is here, I just need to finish it. Hopefully it will be up tomorrow.

kids and Sthembile

One for you Sam ;-)

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Work - ugh!

Oh my the weather here just keeps getting better and better (sorry to boast I know those of you in the UK are having a crap time of it). 31oC today and is going to get hotter tomorrow. Unfortunately I spend most of my time in the office, in the jeep or in school and as yet I haven’t got much of a tan :-(

We have gotten into a routine now with what we are doing. The mornings are spent training the team in teaching and delivery techniques. I am looking at the singing they have been doing so far and then will bring in all the other music teaching, didn’t want to swamp them all in one go. We then travel to the schools, some of which are easy to get to right off the tarmac'd roads. Some of them are right in the middle of the villages down the tracks which I hold by breath and bite my lip every time I drive down. We spend 2-3 hours in the schools, one team to one school and another to a near by one. Then once that has finished we take round food aid parcels to the choir kids and a few other needy households, it usually works out at 3-5 houses each day covering the 50 kids in the two choirs.

Today I didn’t get to go into school as I had to drive a food aid parcel to one of choir 2 who lives so far away from civilisation it doesn’t seem possible. It was up on a mountain on the boarder of Swazi and
Mozambique and the views over the three countries were spectacular. However, it’s really hard to reconcile the amount of poverty there is in such a beautiful setting. Poverty in the West is usually confined to the inner cities and is ugly; poverty here is wide spread with the worst out in the rural areas which are the most beautiful. Its one thing I'm finding really hard to come to terms with, we drive into the villages and all these children start waving at us and shouting out 'Hello, how are you?' It seems to be the one English phrase they know, you should see their faces when I reply in siSwati, it’s so funny. Going to the schools or visiting the houses is not getting any easier and I'm glad, for if it was then that would mean that I am getting used to the poverty and that’s not something I would be proud of nor want. 

The food aid we take for a family of 8 is 12.5kg flour, 2L oil, 2kg sugar beans, 500g soup, 500g salt and washing soap and apart from anything that they can get from the land to flavour it that’s what they have to survive on for a month. I can’t even start to think about their diet but they survive and grow somewhat. They get a hot meal in school but it generally is not great, but at least it’s something.

This weekend we have 5 of the girls coming over for a girly weekend and I asked 2 of them yesterday what they wanted to eat - apples came the answer!!! Ask our kids at home and it would be sweets, crisps, chips and all kinds of crap. These guys wanted apples...and second came pizza, they are kids after all. We are planning a joint birthday party for me and Shirley, she is 13 on Fri. and I am *cough* on Sat so we are going to have a joint celebration together - I cannot wait.

Just before I go, for those of you who asked about the crickets, no we haven’t eaten them...yet. 2 Nights ago me and Mary went on a search and destroy mission and fond 6 of the buggers living behind the cupboards so we captured and killed them. No wonder we hadn’t had been getting good sleep. For the last 2 nights it’s been blissful but as I type there is at least one of them back and its driving me up the wall. i will have to destroy it tomorrow for if I leave it till the kids are here they WILL want to cook and eat what we catch. Updates on the crickets soon.

4 of the captured (still live) crickets

Traditional dance dress

Right off to bed, early start in the morning.

ERIN - Not too many pics ;-)
PHIL - Enjoy and send me pics please.
DAWN - Hope the week went well, been thinking of you all.

Monday, 23 July 2007


I have uploaded all my photo's so far into an online album. Thy are not tagged or titled as yet but if you want to look the link is 
Off to Nelspriut now to buy clothes for the kids.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


Here are a couple of pics. I am using dial up so it is very slow at up loading them, hence why Im only posting a few. I'm also going to put them under a cut so that those of you with dial up can choose to view or note ( ;-) Erin). Click the link to see them.

Jennette's school in Drakoppies (Jennette front right)

Mangweni school
Mangweni school

Mary in Swaziland

Me and Khanysile (the one who wants to cook me crickets)

James and Muzi (two of the chaperones I'm training) on the jeep I have to drive at the dam.

Shirley, Njabulo and Peaceful (Nkomazi choir 1)


Its beautiful, totally amazing, rolling hills covered in lush green forests, it is a complete difference to SA. Crossing the boarder was ok it only took us about half an hour but it was so funny. You have to stop at a barrier and get this ticket and then drive though and park and go get the ticket stamped. then drive to another barrier to hand the ticket in. You drive through that and park again and go in to get your passport stamped, they couldn't understand why an English girl and a Ugandan were together, they wanted to know how me and Mary knew each other and when we told them what we did and had to show them the paperwork they wanted to join in our mission!!! Anyway we got the stamps to exit SA then we had to drive to the Swazi side where again we got stopped by a barrier where we got yet another ticket and the whole process was repeated. I had to pay R50 (about £4/$8) to take the car in and after a couple more barriers etc we were in.

We spent time going down the western part of the country stopping at little craft stalls on the side of the road and at a couple of them they had boys dressed in banana leaves dancing to attract the customers. We stopped at this nature reserve where we went for a walk to some waterfalls, my thighs now hate me and are letting me know about it!!!

Lunch was eaten in this village of thatched huts, it was so beautiful and idyllic and the people were so welcoming. Last stop was at a craft village which was just packing up for the day, I bought some sisle table mats and coasters and the woman was so grateful she kept bowing and saying thank you ma'am so Mary bought a couple of things and I couldn't resist a carving that she had done. The woman was nearly in tears we were her first customers of the day and it was 4pm. Our money, she said, allowed her to feed her children tonight, she had 6 and 3 of her sisters who had died. I actually believed her as her emotion was so strong and the way she had treated us and thanked us throughout our time there.

We made it back to the boarder 10 mins before it closed and started the whole shennanigan's to get back in to SA again. We managed it ok until we got to the very last barrier and the woman asked us what we had been doing in Swazi and we said it was just a visit. She wanted to know what we had in the back of the car and we told her it was just gifts. She got all serious with us and stepped out, told us to turn the engine off and show her the gifts. I thought we were in trouble, had breached some international trade law or something where you couldn't bring certain things into the country. So I opened the back door and showed her this little drum I had bought and she burst out laughing - I was really confused at this point. She told us  she thought we had gone over to mass buy gifts to sell in SA more expensively. Then she asked us where abouts we had got the drum as she wanted one for her niece's birthday - surreal, totally surreal.

Today has been a quiet, restful day, the first one I have has in the past 3 weeks with school trips and travel etc, I was totally exhausted, the last few mornings have been extremely difficult for me to get up. It was an early start again this morning as church was at 9 (thats 9 in the morning, on a Sunday). I found it quite an uncomfortable service as in their words "we're happy clappy, lets show it", and boy did they. I had met the pastor previously as he is a friend of Tamsin's and he had described it as a spirit-filled church, I just took it to mean that it was evangelical, it was but much more. Their meaning of spirit-filled means that if in the middle of a song, prayer, sermon or what, they feel the spirit filling them to say something then they will. So songs would end but people would carry on singing all different things, in all different keys. In the middle of prayer they would jump up, or fall down or sway about shouting/muttering/screaming things. All in all a very different service than ones I am used to.

It was a different experience - and thats what I've come here for, to have many different experiences. Some will be amazing, some scary, some life changing and others down right weird. And for those of you who asked, no I haven't cooked the cricket yet, thats an experience thats getting closer and closer each night it drives us up the wall.

Some of you have also asked why you cannot post replies - I have had to disable that as the address went out to all the pupils at my school so that they could keep up with what I am doing since the school has been so supportive of what I am doing here this summer. I cannot have them posting anything, you never know what might appear - sorry. Those of you who need it have my email address and I really appreciate emails (hint, hint). I do read them all and whilst I may not have time to respond right away, I will do I promise.

Right another early night I think, last night I went to bed at 8.30 pm. Ive not been to bed at that time since I was little and sent to bed for bad behaviour. But I tell you I slept right through until my alarm at 8am this morning, thats how much I needed the sleep, and I could have slept more if I didn't have to get up.

Take care, hope you're not flooded where you are.

xxnemandjodexx - log in please and read
Les - can you change the link please, it is wrong. Thanks.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Damn bloody crickets!!!

So we're sitting here trying to work and write up paper work (on a Friday night I may add) and this blasted cricket will not stop chirruping - it is driving us up the wall. Mary is threatening to catch it and cook it; apparently according to the kids the crickets are very tasty when they are roasted. When they were on tour in the UK Khanysile said that when I next came back to SA she would cook some for me. I have been praying that she has forgotten but this one tonight is driving me up the wall to the point where I may just take Mary up on her threat.

Work was amazing today, the commuter journey was slightly different and a lot longer (1hour) but boy I would never get tired of that journey it is so amazingly beautiful. It is very hard to accept that such a beautiful place could be so full of destitute poverty. It is heart breaking driving around the villages, I still have not fully comprehended their way of life and understood exactly how they cope. We were at a school today right next to the Swazi boarder called Schoemansdaal and I had done my part of the programme and really needed a drink, I was going light headed from dehydration. (It’s so hot here it’s very easy to get dehydrated). I asked James one of the chaperones to take me to get a drink. So we're walking around the back of this school out into the scrub land and I’m thinking there is not shop here nor a stand pipe to drink from, when suddenly he bends down and pulls this pipe out of the ground. It has a slow trickle of water coming out of it, but it was clean so we drank. 

An hour later and I still was no better so we walked out into the village to look for a shop and some locals directed us towards the biggest shop in the village, one that carries all the food for the whole village (thousands of people). I walked straight passed it at first and when I went in it was no bigger than my bedroom. It had sacks of rice, maize, beans and mealie meal on the floor, the shelves had soap, a few tins of things and would you believe it crisps!!! But that was it, this was the biggest shop for miles and miles around and that’s all it contained. There was a very small fridge in the corner with a few bottles of coke and fanta so I bought one of those. I found out, when my way out of the door was barred by this big bouncer dude, that I had only bought the coke in the bottle and not the bottle and it had to be drunk there and then so they could have the bottle back to clean and refill. I was glad about the cleaning thing.

I have had the scariest journey of my life today on the way to Drakoppies. We called at the Maguga Dam which has transformed the lives of the people of Nkomazi and Swazi. See for more information and pictures. We drove up to find it guarded and we were not allowed on, Muzi one of the chaperones went to ask and we were told to make an appointment. However, whilst we were there one of the managers came out in his car and asked what we were doing and Muzi played on having a white English girl wanting to see it and we were allowed to drive on the top of it. Driving on was fine, we got half way and stopped and took pictures etc and spent about 15 mins admiring the amazing view one way over Nkomazi and the other over Swazi. then we suddenly realised there was no turning point and I was going to have to reverse the HUGE Landrover all the way back along this narrow road. I thought that was scary, but nothing compared to the 'short cut' Sthembile took us down to Drakoppies. I had to engage the 4 wheel drive mode and even then we got stuck on this 'road' (and I use road in the loosest sense of the term) a couple of times. I thought at one point we wouldn’t get out and the lads had to jump out and push us.


The day finished early as it was Friday so me and Mary went to the Malelane gate of the Kruger to find out information on prices etc for next weekend. As we were going back to the car this giraffe popped up and started to saunter over towards us but then spotted a tasty tree and stopped to eat. It was so close it was amazing to see, I cant wait to see what we might find next weekend, the girls are go excited about going. We then called in at a place called Croccafellas, which is a log cabin suspended over a crocodile river, serving drinks and food. So of course we had to partake and sipped G+T as the sun set and the Cocs climbed onto their islands for the night. I could certainly get used to that at the end of a long week.


Anyway internet time nearly up and I better go before I make you all completely green with envy (not through ‘Wicked’). Tomorrow is Swaziland which means an early start, something disgusting like 7am on a Saturday. I am finally getting a bit of colour, and tomorrow promises to be 28oC – whooooooo.


I still can’t work out how to upload pic’s but you’ll see them when I do.

That’s all for now





Clare – Thanks. When do you and Sam move? Will I get to see you before you go? I'm back 26th I think.

Jan and Hannah – You’re free, go celebrate ;-)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

I'm finally here

OK, so I typed out this really long update of everything I had been doing last night and tried to post it, not only would it not post but I lost it all – I was not best pleased I can tell you. So I will try and remember everything I wrote.


I arrived safe and sound on Sunday morning; we spent the day and the night in Johannesburg catching up with friends. That’s was really good some of these people I had not seen in 2 years and it was just good to chew the cud with them. We then had a mammoth drive on Monday to Malelane in the Mpumalanga province where I am staying. And just so you know, it is a house with bricks and a roof and part of a complex with an armed guard on the gate so it is completely safe (mum). The back of the house opens up into the Kruger national park, and until some idiot built a whopping big brick wall you could walk right up to the fence of the park.


It’s so amazing to wake up to a sunrise over the park, in fact there are a few amazing sights, my commuter journey is one. It puts you in such a good mood for the day; I wish it was like this at home, everyone would arrive at work so happy. Ok so coming out of Malelane you have Kruger hills to your left, Swaziland hills in the distance to your right and Mozambique hills right in front of you. Driving into Nkomazi is stunningly beautiful; you come over some small hills and round a bend to find miles of African plains set out in front of you as far as your eye can see with mountains on the horizon. The sun is glinting off the land and it is just so green and lush it takes my breath away every morning. I have some photographs of it but they really do not do it justice at all.


On Tuesday I met the team I am working with, a few of them I knew from 2 years ago but 5 of them are new to me. They are already going into the schools doing a little singing and dancing but only African Children’s Choir repertoire songs. I have been assessing where they are up to and what they need from me. They know what they want to do but its just implementing it and getting the musical teaching skills to do it. Today we spend the morning training session looking at assessment for learning (see Mr Quinn I have learnt something in all those meetings ;-) )


I have now been to three of the primary schools we are working with and they are very different from each other but one thing they have in common is that they are in incredibly poor and destitute areas. I am so glad I am driving a jeep with 4wheel drive when I’m driving down those village tracks. The major roads are good so traveling between the villages is fine but as soon as you get into the villages the only road that has tarmac is the main one running through it and as soon as you turn off its dirt tracks at best. I thought I had gotten the jeep stuck yesterday but I managed to get it out but it was a little scary at the time.


The three villages of Managa, Mangweni and Steenbok need seeing to believe. Mangweni is near a town and so has more developed houses made out of breeze blocks and most have roofs. Managa and Steenbok are way out and mainly just have mud huts with one room for the whole family. We took a food aid parcel to a family yesterday and the woman who runs the house looked younger than me yet she was looking after 7 children 3 of whom where not her own, in a one roomed hut. Without the aid parcel of maize, oil, beans and corn they would literally starve. It was such a wake up call. However, amidst all this poverty is the most adorable children, and whilst they do not speak any English and my siSwati is, shall we say, developing, they are so keen and eager to learn. I have a class of 50 in a room with no tables and chairs but it is such a joy to teach them, their behaviour is immaculate and whilst they may not have had eaten anything all day their attention and concentration is fantastic. We provide food for 4 of the 8 schools in the poorer more rural areas and the bread and juice we give them is devoured in 2 mins flat.


The days are long and tiring but so rewarding. Tonight we came home and went to this place called The Deck, which is a restaurant and bar over looking the Kruger Park where we had drinks as the sun set behind the hills and the animals came down for a drink. As the sun went down the bats came out and for flying rats they looked so graceful fluttering around the night sky. I’d love to say I miss home but lets look at the facts if I was there I would be at work, in the cold and wet counting down to the weekend. Here its hot and sunny, yes I’m working but I’m savouring every minute of everything I’m doing. On Saturday I'm going to Swaziland for the day and next weekend I’m having some of the choir girls over for a girly sleepover. Its mine and one of theirs birthday so we are going into Kruger for the day on the Saturday. Even though they live in this areas they have never seen the animals, they barely have enough money for food let alone the entrance fee for the park. There are very few animals outside of the parks and those that there are steer clear of the villages. We are also hopefully going to have a camp for all the choir children before I leave so I can spend some time with them all. There is also a trip over to Mozambique for a couple of days scouting out aid agencies to link with. So even though I'm working for a lot of the time I am making the most of what is available here and having a little holiday too.


Thank you for all your emails, I apologise if I do not answer them all personally but internet time is limited, but I do appreciate them and it lets me know you’re thinking of me.

I hope to update more tomorrow with pictures, when I figure out how to up load them.




JAN – congratulations hon, sorry for the misunderstanding, have a drink (or 10) on me to celebrate.

BABS – sorry cant do, SAA far too expensive, will call you ASAP

DEVI – Give my love to Ivan please; tell him he will have the time of his life here next year.





Saturday, 14 July 2007


There are 2 hours left before I have to leave and I'm a little concerned - I'm all ready. Thats not like me at all. Rushing around last min, throwing things into bags, getting in a tizz in case I'm late fore the plane - now that is me. Sitting calmly at the computer with 2 hours to spare, no way is that me. It has helped that mum has come over and done what mothers do best - clean!!!! Thats let me get on with packing and sorting so Im all ready, and my cases are under the weight limit, another first. Every year I have gone over and I have had to do the begging and pleading (and one year crying) act to get them to drop the excess baggage charge. I think it was 2 years ago that the charge came to £400 (about $800) but it helped that my kids had just performed on Live8 and the manager had seen them and let me off, and told off the evil check-in lady.

Anyway I'd better go and get finished.

BEA - have a safe trip home.
ERIN - Have a great tour
DAN - Thanks
BABS - Hope to see you in a couple of weeks whoooooooooooo

I'm off to Africa yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

OMG 3 days!!!!!!!!

I really can’t believe that in 3 days I will be leaving to go back to South Africa. I cannot wait to see all my kids again, they will have grown so much in the 2 years it has been since I last saw them - most of them are now teenagers. That is going to be so strange, when I first met them they were little malnourished children who couldn’t speak any English and had little confidence. When I last saw them they had grown nearly a foot each and were fluent in English.

I have to admit I am a little apprehensive about going to Nkomazi, I have only ever seen them in the comfort of the boarding school. To see their everyday existence, where they have to live and what they have to do to survive I can see myself getting quite upset about that. I suppose you just have to be thankful that there are organisations there like the ACC who will go into these areas and make a difference.

Check out the above youtube video, the area shown in the video is Nkomazi and the children I will be working with.

I am excited and I cannot wait, it will be hard work both physically and emotionally but I just want to get there now.


Ok, so I can speak a little siSwati but I am so rusty I cannot remember anything apart from telling them how to be quite (I use that in school a little :-)) 

So I have looked up a couple of phrases to tide me over until I can get there and build a proper vocab list. See how you get on pronouncing the following.

Hlangana na - nice to meet you
Ninjani? - How are you?
Sanibona - Hello
Ngubani igama iakho? - What is your name?
Ngingakusiza ngani? - Can I help you?
Uyaphi? - Where are you going?
Ngena - Come inside

I'll post more when Im there, siSwati is such a tongue twister language with lots of clicks in it its going to be fun trying to speak it. This is from the person who got kicked out of 4th year (yr 10)French GCSE when it was compulsory and got special dispensation from the board to do another arts GCSE as I was that crap at French!!!

Monday, 2 July 2007

11 days to go - whooooooo

So, yeah, 11 days but oh my God the things I have to do in the next week and a half, I really don't know when I'm going to get all my packing and sorting done. I can see me packing on saturday morning just before I have to leave for the airport (and knowing me probably still packing an hour after I should have left!!!)

Another phone call to Heather in South Africa and things become a little clearer. I am staying in a house - with bricks and all. It's in a gated community in a place called Malelane (mah-leh-lah-nee) right near Kruger. Which is good because Ive decided that for my birthday I am going to spend the night in the Kruger on safari staying at this place (check out the sunset pictures). Its about 45 mins from the house in Malelane and should be such an amazing experience. Heather has also said she will take me to Swaziland and Mozambique on our couple of days off so more stamps in the passport-yay!

Monday, 25 June 2007


Ok so Ive just had it pointed out to me that I should probably post here and explain what it is that Im going to be doing. Well some of you may or may not know that I volunteer with the African Children's Choir, I am going out to South Africa this summer on a mission.

The African Children's Choir was set up in 1984 by Ray Barnett (Daddy Ray to the children and volunteers) in Uganda. The ACC works in 6 African countries, selecting children for its choirs, after training the children embark on an 18 month tour of the USA, Canada and the UK as well as other countries. The money that they raise from their concerts goes back directly to benefit the children in their education and their families back home. Once tour has ended the children return back to their home countries and their schooling is provided by the ACC right up through primary and secondary school and on to university or training college if they want it.
For more detailed information and to see the choir near you go to 

Anyway, I became involved with the ACC during the summer of 2004 when I went out to South Africa to do a 3 week mission in the community. After this was completed I was asked to stay on at the school to work with a new choir that had just come in for training. The nKomazi choir literally stole my heart. They went on to tour the UK performing at Live8 with Mariah Carey, BBC proms, G8 summit and for Gordon Brown. After tour they went back to South Africa and have been in their local schools whilst planning permission etc has been sought for a Music for Life Primary school. This I am pleased to say is well under way and hopes to be open next year. In the mean time there are projects going on in the choir childrens schools run by the ACC and it is one of these that I am going out for. I am going out to work with a team in delivering a music curriculum in the 10 primary schools. 

I plan to post details of what I am doing here so that you can catch up with me and know what Im doind (and also to let my mother know that I am safe and not stuck in a pot hole somewhere in the midst of nowhere!!!)

I dont really know where I am staying other than at the ACC's house, I cant tell you where it is yet apart from its in the Mpumalanga region (which is huge). I cant tell you exactly what I'm going to be doing and I cant tell you what the area is like properly. 

All this information will follow once I find it out. I will post shortly about the situation nKomazi is facing but I need sleep. Tomorrow is monday but Im off - whoooooooo.


So finally it looks like this summer is going to be a reality. My tickets arrived on Friday and I got so exited I was like a little kid - except I was in class and they were doing an exam so I couldnt exactly react. That was so hard, the emails kept arriving with the different portions of the tickets on them and I couldnt say or do anything 'cos of the kids doing the exam - I did get a few funny looks from a couple of them though!!

I had my fundraising African meal last night and whilst not loads of people turned up, those that were there had a good time. And no mum I did not give them all food poisoning with my cooking :-P I cooked 3 traditional South African dishes: Bobotie, Frikkadels and Turkey in Monkey Gland Sauce. Followed by 2 deserts laced with Amarula.

I cant wait, this time in 3 weeks I will be in South Africa. I leave on Saturday 14th July and arrive there on the Sunday and then leave to come back :-( on Saturday 25th August arriving back in the UK on Sunday 26th. That gives me one week to sort everything out for school. Hmmm I see that being an incredibly busy week!!!!