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.