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.





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