Snakes and lions – 1st March 2014

Africa

Hello!

We had a music concert on Saturday morning to show the parents what the children have been working on this term with Mr Faustinus. Fran’s music concert sign stood outside of the church as the children and parents piled inside. There were so many parents there that every inch of space inside the church was used, children were sitting down the aisle, at the sides, parents were out of the door and any small children had to sit on the laps of others. I had Armando on my lap and although he’s a really well behaved little boy he found it hilarious to tickle my neck during the performances, I managed to contain my giggles and luckily he fell asleep after a while. The music was really good and even if I didn’t know the kids I’d be really impressed. Faustinus used tambourine’s and drums to make the recorder pieces more lively and even had whole percussion groups. Mrs Vermaak made a quick speech at the end and thanked Faustinus, Rebecca and Sara for their involvement before we all exited ready for the parent’s meeting.

I met Iris and Luisa, the two Project Trust GAPs at St Michaels, the school ‘down the road’ from us. We all chatted for a while, accompanied by Armando who we seemed to be babysitting for the day. The girls were all meant to go somewhere for the out weekend but couldn’t decide on anywhere worthwhile so decided to stay in Otjikondo but take time off from their usual activities.

Because the parent’s were in the meeting I went to occupy some children with tennis bats and balls, skipping ropes and hula hoops and when the parents came out Tabs and I sold Vet cakes for $3 each. I was so tired already so went to the little girls hostel to return Armando to his mum and I nearly fell asleep on a little girl’s bed. I sunbathed at lunch then went with Annika to do Bank (handing out pocket money), I don’t know why it took so long but I was sat there with the books and money for more than an hour and a half! I helped in the shop with the other GAPs afterwards before the boys greeted us with a lovely present swimming around in a bucket. A live python. We all had a look until it started sliding to the top of the bucket and looked like it was going to come out. Tabs ordered the boys to take it out of the shop and to release it outside, we tipped the bucket over and it disappeared into the grass.

Karina, Destiny and Agnola had become my sidekicks for the day, following me everywhere and when I didn’t see them for an hour or so they’d come knocking on the GAP flat door asking to do something. I was in a good mood so put my laptop on a bench and we sat outside of the GAP flat watching The Lion King, so African! There’s been news in the past few days that theres a lion wandering near St Michaels and that it’s been killing cows so we made endless scenarios of what we’d do if the lion just jumped out of the grass while we were watching the film. Soon we were joined by about 6 more children and used my duvet to keep warm as it got dark and cold outside.

Rebecca and Eleanor are so much more adventurous with their food than Fran and I ever were so we had a Mexican themed dinner which was delicious! 6 GAPs in the flat meant lots of story swapping and giving the girls advice on where to go in their holidays. Another busy day at Otjikondo meant I slept like a baby, even if I did wake up a few times worried there was a lion waiting outside…
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx

Dance, bugs and raps – 28th February 2014

Africa
Hello!
I feel like so much happened so this day deserves a whole post, sorry for my rambling!
Friday started differently to most days, I was the only one in the GAP flat as Rebecca, Eleanor and Annika had gone to Otjiwarongo with Sara to buy some essentials. This meant I was teaching PT for the morning, my favourite and easiest PT lesson is to teach dance so I spent the morning with the speaker, my laptop and the kids teaching them a dance to ‘Katatura Baby’. I think it’s good for them to do something different every so often as obviously not every GAP will want to teach dance in front of nearly 40 judgemental kids (especially if they’ve never danced before). Before the classes even began I had a scare when moving the tables to the sides of the room, a bird was just sitting on the table and I’d touched it before I saw it which really freaked me out (I thought it was a giant rat or something…). Shepherd kindly came to my rescue when I screamed and picked up the bird, opened the window ready to let it fly it, as he let it go it didn’t fly off like we expected, it fell straight to the ground and landed on it’s back… I’m not saying we killed the bird but we didn’t do the best job of trying to save it, sorry bird!
 
At lunch I went to get Vet cakes from Sister Albertina (like big balls of deep fried dough) and attempted to tidy the GAP flat and found some unusual bugs whilst doing so. You’d think after spending a year in Namibia I’d have seen all these different types of insects but apparently not, almost everyday I have to ask the GAP’s ‘what on earth is this?!’. As I started the mop the girls returned from Otjiwarongo. When I asked if they’d bought much they looked guilty, they’d bought LOADS. They showed me their purchases; lots of toiletries, pesto, more peri peri sauce, chocolate, doritos etc etc. 
 
I went to Skype Fran and was surprised that it actually connected as the internet has been playing up recently. It was so nice to ‘see’ her and chat about the gossip here, the kids that were around were really happy to hear her voice and chat to her too. I can’t wait for Fran to come and visit at some point! That evening we decided to have a talent show as the hall was being cleaned so we couldn’t have our usual TV time. I was the organiser but didn’t really organise much, the GAPs and Sister Albertina were judges, I did the music and Renico ‘presented’ it. There were some hilarious acts performing and I hope the GAPs agree that it was great entertainment for us. The kids here rarely get nervous and most are happy to just get up on stage in front of 250 others and sing or dance. The standout act for me was definitely Damian and Peterson rapping, the lyrics were hilarious even if they weren’t intended to be and we all got to dance along (put your hands in the sky, I’m guna make you fly) plus the height difference was great. The GAPs voted for the top 3 places, all of which won some sweets, crisps and some biscuits. Even though there might of been a bit of a mix up with the winner (Renico’s fault!) everyone had a wicked night, it’s fun to do something different as to not get bored of the Otjikondo routine. 
 
In the evening we saw a car pull up to the flat, we assumed it was one of the teachers but we didn’t recognise the guy when he came in. He told us he was driving to Otjiwarongo and needed food. He wanted the crisps but I refused and offered him 2 of our apples if he gave us $10. He then asked for a beer, we obviously refused and I proceeded to push him out of the flat.
 
The kids keep asking when I’m leaving and it’s just starting to dawn on me that I only have a few days left here before returning to Cape Town so I’m trying to cram in as much as possible! I’m having an amazing time and I’m so grateful for how welcoming the GAPs have been to me. That’s all for now 🙂
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx

 

‘Hello little chocolate Mary banana!’ – 25th-27th February 2014

Africa
Hello!
The aftermath of receiving presents from sponsors always means the joyous task of getting handwritten replies from the children. With 150 presents being given out Annika and I got straight on with supervising the writing of the letters. You’d think these kids would find it easy enough to write a simple letter as we’d printed a template for them to copy and they only had to fill in their names and what their favourite gifts were but apparently we were wrong. I basically spent my morning nagging them about using capital letters at the start of sentences and dotting their ‘i’s’ (apparently it’s WAY too much effort to just do it without being reminded). 
 
Helping out in kindergarten was a welcome break, there are a few new faces, a girl called Banta (amaaaaazing name by the way, well done parents) was silent all morning until I put on some music to teach dance and she completely changed. Lauda’s son Armando is a new hilarious addition to kindergarten, the children all call him Himba (which translates to ‘poor’) and he loves to just spontaneously say ‘chocolate’, ‘banana’ and ‘let’s go’, as well as ‘Hello little chocolate Mary banana!’.
 
The day brought so much rain which I’m really not used to because when I was here as a volunteer we had almost no rain for the whole year, I think it was the worst drought for 60 years. Now every time I hear the rain (which is a lot by the way!) I’m a little bit shocked and I’m not enjoying avoiding deep puddles everywhere I walk. The afternoon involved dancing in the grass hut, painting shapes for the Grade 2 classroom and chatting to some of the girls I was closest to. We sat in the grass hut for almost an hour while it rained outside, chatting about England, family and school life until Izaura burst into tears asking why I had to leave again next week. Such a horrible feeling. In the evening Annika and I visited the little girls in Weavers Nest hostel to read the girls ‘Goldilocks and the 3 Bears’, they all sat listening attentively even though I’m pretty sure most didn’t understand 90% of what I was reading. 
 
Today I woke up with a banging headache and the usual Thursday empty fridge didn’t help my mood. We ate cake in the staffroom to celebrate Mrs !Unes’ last day of covering for Mrs Brenda. I was then whisked away to cover kindergarten, we coloured in, read stories (Spot the dog, what a classic), sang ’10 green bottles’, had races, ate porridge and played in the playground. Helena cried because she fell over. Olivia cried because she was scared of being at the top of the climbing frame. Paulet cried because she thought I was ignoring her. Armando cried because he didn’t like the see-saw. Banta didn’t cry because I don’t think she knew what was going on.
 
For the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon Tabs and I went to Gilly’s house to put every sponsor letter in their corresponding envelopes, a long job but it had to be done. I then made more friendship bracelets with Lavinia, Grace and a few of the grade 1 girls. Before the children went to supper we all played duck duck goose outside of the art room and a few games of ‘Mr Lion what is the time?’ which they LOVED. The empty fridge meant I made bacon and melted cheese for dinner, the diets going well…
 
Lots of love,
Mary x

 

‘God is good’ – Back to Otjikondo – 22nd-23rd February 2014

Africa
Hello!
I’m back home! My african home of Otjikondo, Northern Namibia, The school village where I spent a year volunteering from August 2012 to 2013. It was so emotionally tough to leave 6 months ago that I was skeptical about returning, would it still be the same place that I left? This question was answered as soon as I stepped out of gillys car and  onto the now very green grass of Otjikondo. I knew that Gilly’s husband Reiner was praying in the church so i decided to quickly greet him before finding the children. At first he didn’t recognise me at all and just stared at me … after almost screaming ‘it’s Mary!!!!’ at him he jumped up and gave me a massive hug. Someone must’ve heard because as soon as I let go of Reiner I was surrounded by excitable girls. ‘Miss Mary’s back! Miss Mary’s back!’ I burst into tears after seeing all the faces of the children who I grew so close to. My sponsor child Tjazupo ran and jumped on me. 6 months ago I could pick her up with one arm, now I struggled to keep hold of her with both, she’s grown so much and looks so beautiful! I made sure to introduce myself to one of the new GAP’s, Eleanor. She was so nice and welcoming that it threw all of my fears out of the window. Stepping back into the GAP flat bought back so many memories, most of which were with Fran. It’s frustrating and upsetting that she’s not here to share all of these experiences with but I know that she’ll get an even bigger reception when she does visit. The children have bombarded me with questions as to where and how she is and I’ve only been here 2 days!
 
I later met Rebecca and Annika at Paul and Sara’s house where we had a braai (bbq) with Mrs Vermaak, Gilly, Reiner, Kate, Ian and Paul and Sara’s 3 children; Matty, Olivia and Helena. After a steak, salad and a few amarulas we called it a night and returned to the gap flat. The girls were very grateful for the percy pigs, snacks, magazines and CD’s I bought over for them. Sleeping was difficult in the GAP flat as I’m used to having Fran in the bed next to me. Another reason I found it so hard to sleep was because I’d heard some terrible news earlier that day. A student called Franzelle had been killed in a car crash 3 weeks ago. She was a grade 7 student that we taught art and PT to for a whole year, I took her for extra maths twice a week, had her for afternoon activities, spent weekends playing with her, wrote letters to her and she had a big part in the school play that we put on. Franzelle was so cheeky, talkative, confident, funny and loving to everyone she met and i can’t believe that she’s no longer with us. 
 
This morning I tried to take my mind off the terrible news by seeing the boys. Renico and Petersen ran and gave me the warmest welcomes of all the boys, hanging out with them again was so much fun and they gave me all the gossip that i’d missed. At 9:30 we went to church, the songs came flooding back to me and I felt like I’d never left. After church we gathered at the dining hall for one of my favourite activities at Otjikondo… handing out the christmas presents! Each child has a sponsor (usually from Germany or England) who sends them chrismtas presents. They take so long to arrive it was only today that we had the chance to hand them out. After singing ‘God is good’ Gilly counts down to opening the boxes. The room goes wild with paper and cardboard being thrown in every direction. The kids usually recieve toothbrushes, sweets, toy cars, dolls, clothes, colouring pencils and loads more. They are all so grateful and you realise how much of an impact a few toys can have to a child who doesn’t have much else. I loved seeing my sponsor child, Tjazupo’s face light up when she opened her box full of clothes, sweets, a pink water bottle, pink knickers, a torch and a teddy bear. Such a beautiful day in Otjikondo. 
lots of love,
Mary xxx

UK to Cape Town(ish) 1st -21st Feb 2014

Africa

Hello!

Here’s a quick round up of my time in South Africa so far, I’ve had an incredible time and it’s difficult to express in writing. I left the UK on 1st February, saying goodbye to friends and family was as horrible as ever, especially as I don’t have a definite date of return. My parents dropped me off at Gatwick airport and after i went through security I suddenly felt very alone. It was weird not having ANYONE to chat to, I’m so used to having Fran by my side that I felt a bit lost without her. After watching Bridesmaids while I waited for my delayed flight I boarded the Emirates plane to Dubai. From Dubai I waited for 4ish hours to then board the next flight to Cape Town! In total my journey was over 24 hours long but I managed to keep myself entertained and almost sane.

Stepping off the plane onto African land was amazing, I felt like I’d arrived back home again. I forgot how slow everyone is though. Everyone’s chilled out, no rushing around… Which is great most of the time but not so fun when you’re waiting 20 minutes for some fast food. I now live in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town with my boyfriend Callum and a friend Dirk. It’s a quiet town but it feels safe and I like to compare it to Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives… Just a bit more ‘urban’. Even though I’m looking to move here permanently, I spent the first week on holiday.

My first evening here was spent drinking cocktails at a bar by the beach, meeting the guys and discussing different words we use in England (apparently we call pineapple’s ‘Cosapungas’…) The week took me from the Waterfront where Callum and I spotted seals whilst on a boat tour, to go karting at Canal Walk (I crashed into the tyres and lost). One day was spent beach hopping, from Cape Town to Muizenburg to Kalk Bay to Fish Hoek, all for 30 Rand (like £1.80). Another day we went ice skating and seemed to be the only non professionals in the rink, which was daunting to say the least! The same day Callum and I played some old school games at the arcade and watched Wolf of Wall Street at the cinema (amazing film!).

I’ve managed to get 2 jobs in our local town since being here which is amazing as they’re both doing things that I love. The first is working for Camber Clubs, leading children’s parties. On my first day we travelled to Durbanville to set up a toddlers party. Setting up the slides, climbing frames, see-saws and ball pit didn’t seem like too much hard work. The house where the party was was maybe the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen. The second job is assisting in a children’s photography studio in Plattekloof, I haven’t started yet but I can’t wait to get involved.

I think I can say I’ve occupied myself well since arriving and now I’m on my next adventure, in Namibia on my way to Otjikondo, the school where Fran and I spent a year volunteering. I’m returning without Fran which feels horrible! But I’m still extremly excited and I’m looking forwards to seeing the children, Stommels and new GAPs!

Sending lots of love to everyone at home,

Mary xxx

April/May holidays – Victoria Falls

Africa

Firstly, I know I’m awful at updating my blog. WordPress has somehow logged me out and won’t let me log back in so right now I’m using my iPhone which my mum bought out with her on her visit to quickly write about our trip to Victoria Falls. Woo!
So my mum and my friend Charlie came to Namibia to visit Otjikondo and then to travel, whilst at our school they helped to entertain the kids, write thank you cards to sponsors and even helped me and Fran clean our specified rooms for the dreaded end of term cleaning days! It was very strange seeing my mum for the first time in 8 months, I felt like I was back at home and I loved introducing her to all the kids. On Friday 19th April we left otjikondo to get a bus all the way to Livingstone. Sadly Fran didn’t have a yellow fever jab so couldn’t join us but she went to Cape Town where me and mum will meet her tomorrow 🙂 being away from Fran has been very strange and I miss her even though we’ve been apart for only a few days.
Arriving in Livingstone was like stepping into a different world; it’s a lot busier than Namibia and the small villages we passed on the way showed little mud huts with grass roofs (p.s. this is actually quite strange to see in Africa…). We stayed in Fawlty Towers hostel which was nice.
On our first day after swimming we took the bus to Victoria Falls which is one of the 7 seven natural wonders of the world. As soon as you arrive you can the mist which the waterfalls produce, we walked around looking at the amazing waterfalls which drop for 111 metres. After taking countless photos we took a walk across knife edge bridge which got you SOAKING wet. We then crossed the border of Zambia to step into Zimbabwe; everyone stood there saying ‘Zim Zam Zim Zam!’. We watched people doing the bungee jump from the bridge and even saw one woman do it topless(?!). Later on we crossed the falls to swim in the river that falls into the main waterfall, standing that high up over the drop was amazing but a bit scary at the same time. The water was great and the fish even nibbled your toes, nice.
Shopping in the markets was chaos as everyone wants to sell you something. We ended up swapping our unwanted items like pens and earrings for necklaces and wood carvings. There are so many things to do in Livingstone, it took us ages to decide what to do. Me and Charlie ended up doing half a day of adrenaline activities with some German guys that we’d met at the hostel. We were taken to a huge gorge and we began with abseiling down it, we then walked up the gorge and did a a few superman zip wires. Lastly we did a tandem gorge swing. This is similar to a bungee jump but instead of bouncing back up again you swing through the gorge. Charlie and I were harnessed together and had to stand with our backs to the gorge before leaning back and free falling 50 metres through the air. It was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done! We both agreed that it was scarier than a skydive and a bungee jump.
We spent some more time with the German guys that evening as we cooked dinner together then went with some locals to a small bar. We danced to live Zambian music and listened to our friend Doc sing with the band.

Etosha! Grade 4 outing – 26th-27th October

Africa

I’ve just arrived back from an incredible 2 days at Etosha, one of Africa’s biggest game reserves. I was lucky enough to join the Grade 4s on their class outing, I was there to help but managed to have an amazing time and it felt much more like a holiday than work. We set off on Friday morning at 7am; I was in the car with Tabs and the boys sat in the back. Brenda, the grade 4 teacher drove in the schools new minibus with the girls. The drive was a few hours which is a short journey in Namibia, Tabs played her music (which I love!) loudly the whole way there until we entered the game reserve where you have to be quiet to avoid scaring the animals. The first animal we saw was a giraffe standing by the side of the road. Me and Tabs screamed ‘GEEE-RARRRFF’ for ages and took loads of photos. We did this every time we saw a giraffe until we got bored; we saw so many giraffes that we would have been stopping every 30 seconds. We arrived at the village of Okaukeujo which had lodges, camping sites, a pool and shops and was full of tourists. I climbed the watching tower with the grade 4s and we sang ‘take my hand’ at the top (this is the girls favourite song at the moment so they sing it 24/7), climbed down and got back in the car to drive to Halali, the resort where we were staying. On the way there we saw the most amazing thing; at one waterhole we stopped to see zebras and springbok, as we were about to leave we heard a thumping noise in the distance and saw a giant white object move towards us. We all thought it was a truck but as it got closer we saw it was a massive white elephant. It ran towards us as we sat silently, it then charged at the zebras and drank at the waterhole. Me and Tabs were nearly in tears at it was so close and so big. People assume that because we’re living in Africa you see elephants and lions walking around every day but it’s definitely not like that! After watching the animals drink and bathe in the water we finished the journey to Halali. The kids set up the tents and got ready to go in the pool; I swam and supervised them as I was the only teacher who could swim! We had so much fun but we had to be quiet otherwise we would ‘scare off the tourists’. In the evening we went to the Halali waterhole, a 5 minute walk from our campsite. There were rocks to sit on to watch the waterhole and wait for animals to arrive. Tabs, Brenda and I decided that all the animals must’ve been at a party as nothing came for ages. Just as we were about to leave we heard something walking, a giraffe appeared from the bushes and didn’t see us all watching. As the sun set it drank from the waterhole, it felt like a moment from a movie. As we were taking the kids back to the campsite we got a text from Festus to tell us there were 7 elephants at the waterhole. Me and Tabs ran back even though there was now thunder, lightning and rain. More elephants had come and there were now 20 elephants drinking and washing themselves. The baby ones were so cute and even though we were taking photos they didn’t know we were there watching. As we got back to the campsite we were soaking wet and had to give the kids their dinner in the dark. They quickly went to bed and we got ready to sleep in our tent. I decided I wasn’t brave enough to sleep in a tent and risk being struck by lightning so Tabs and I slept in the warm minibus and Brenda slept in the back of the car. I had an awful night’s sleep because the children were awake by 3am! By 6:30 I still hadn’t got back to sleep so I went back to the waterhole to watch the sunrise, unfortunately there weren’t any animals there but it was nice and peaceful. Saturday morning was spent packing up, going on another game drive, buying lots of chocolate from the shop and spending more time in Okaukeujo. We had some drama with 2 boys who had runny tummies and didn’t manage to hold it in until the toilet. It was disgusting but all the kids found the funny side of it, the funniest moment was when one of the boys said ‘Miss I can’t hold it in, what should I do?’. It probably didn’t help that we then gave them all ice creams and vet cakes (like giant doughnuts)! On our last game drive we managed to see more elephants, giraffes, loads and loads of zebras, springbok, wildebeest, gamesbok, jackals and 3 lions! The lions were sitting under a tree and were so well camouflaged that you couldn’t see them in photos but we watched them stand up, move around and yawn. That was another surreal moment that I definitely won’t forget for a long time. On our way home we stopped at Okeukaujo Primary school to show the grade 4s how different some schools are to Otjikondo. It was definitely a shock, the school was very basic and the complete opposite to Otjikondo. A few girls showed us around their hostel which was tiny and filled with beds. All of the girls at the school shared this one room; I couldn’t even fit in between the beds. The kids didn’t even have lockers to store their things, their clothes were just scattered on the floor or laid on their beds. The boys at the school were very different to the boys at Otjikondo, they were aggressive, rude and liked walking around playing loud music from their phones. It was disturbing seeing such a rundown school and it made me feel ten times more grateful to be living at such a good school in comparison. The grade 4s told me the Okeukaujo Primary school was untidy and all they needed to do was give it a good clean! We drove back to Otjikondo reflecting on an amazing weekend, Tabs told me she wanted to cry tears of happiness! I loved being with Brenda, Tabs and the grade 4s and I grew a lot closer to some of the kids that I didn’t get on with before the trip. It was nice to come back home to Otjikondo but I’m determined to visit Etosha again before I leave Namibia.

Weekend in Swakopmund! 4th-7th October 2012

Africa

 

On Thursday 4th October Fran and I had our first weekend off from Otjikondo so we decided to travel to the coast to a town called Swakopmund! We set off at 8am, hoping to hitchhike to Otjiwarongo or Outjo. After about 5 minutes of standing at the side of the road a man stopped and told us he was travelling straight to Otjiwarongo which was really lucky. On the 2 hour journey he told us about his wife and children which made us feel a bit more safe even though it was pretty daunting being in the car with a total stranger. He dropped us on the outskirts of Otjiwarongo so we walked in random directions for about half an hour until we found a wimpy burger, result! After a massive club sandwich (this is like my traditional ‘last meal before we go somewhere’) and muffin we tried to start the next part of our journey, from Otjiwarongo to Swakopmund. Somehow we ended up on a combi bus, paying around £10 for a 5 hour drive. Fran complained about how hot and stuffy it was but seeing other combis on the road with the double the amount of passengers piled in made ours feel like luxury… I chatted to a really nice Namibian woman who told me all about South African Idol and how they’ve just had the first black winner since the show started; I love hearing about TV stuff even I don’t even know any of the contestants! I read the South African version of Heat magazine which was strange and fell asleep and woke up about 20 times. There was nothing interesting to look at out of the window but we did manage to see 2 giraffes by the side of the road which was amazing!

Arriving in Swakopmund was a shock because of how cold it was there; it was probably warmer than England but it was different after being in constant heat for 5 weeks. We stupidly didn’t have a map or directions to our backpackers so we wondered through the industrial part of the town, walking over train lines and passing miners for over an hour. After being pointed in endless different directions we reached our backpackers and the owner knew of Gilly and Reiner, our hosts at Otjikondo! It reminds you of how small Namibia actually is in population. On our first night we went for a romantic meal (I swear me and Fran have turned into a married couple) and had an early night. On the Friday morning we treated ourselves to a well-deserved shopping trip around Swakopmund; not even stepping into a shop for 5 weeks is hard for 2 teenage girls. We found a cheap shop called Mr Price and stocked up on cheap clothes (living the high life!) then went to the pharmacy to buy boring things like oil for our hair that’s drying in the sun 😦 On Friday evening we decided to go Swakopmund’s only club, Gruniz. You can’t really compare it to anywhere in England because it was full of over 50s and German tourists but we managed to have a good time. We discovered that Namibian men can be quite possessive and think that because you’re talking to them you are now their girlfriend.. Luckily not all of them were that bad and we made friends with someone looking a lot like pitbull and his friends.

On Saturday morning Fran and I went sand boarding! We were picked up by the company and drove into the desert; after having a safety chat and meeting the others in the group we climbed up a massive sand dune to do our first run down. We realised that we were probably the only people there who weren’t in a couple, how depressing! Going down the dunes on a board was so much fun but a bit daunting as you just get a face full of sand if you do it wrong. Which me and Fran both did the first time round. I cried out the sand in my eye and we climbed the next dune. We spent a few hours there which was really fun but hard work as you have to climb back up after going down; I was knackered but the instructor seemed to think I was ridiculously athletic for some reason. Maybe because I felt like I was on a film set or something so didn’t stop running around. They measured how fast we each went and I managed 67kmph on one slope and managed to go down twice as much as Fran because she liked to ‘rest at the top’!

When we got back to the hostel we noticed the 2 beds beneath ours were taken; we spent ages trying to guess what these new guests would be like by looking at their bags and pyjamas. We guessed 50 year old travelers but a few hours later they arrived and it was George and Jamie! They’re 2 of the other Project Trust volunteers in Namibia, they’re teaching at a school in Guina. We were both so happy to see them and hear all about their projects; we decided our kids were cuter and smarter at Otjikondo but George and Jamie are treated much more like teachers than we are. They even have to wear smart shoes!? That evening we had a pizza together then me and Fran went back to Gruniz; we had a really good night, meeting a friend we’d made in Windhoek in August and watching a wet t-shirt completion (very strange!). We also met a group of stunt men who were in Swakop working on the new Mad Max film; they were all pretty cool and made us very jealous by telling us all the different countries they’ve worked in and all the celebrities they’ve met. The next morning we packed and said our goodbyes to George and Jamie and headed off to find out how we’d get back to Otjikondo! Our journey home was a lot more stressful than the way here as tour buses told us they had space for us but would then tell us they didn’t. It was a long day traveling back home but somehow between combis, hitchhiking and dodgy taxis we made it back before it got dark. It felt great to be back even though we had an amazing weekend away; it’s nice to be back ‘home’, feeling safe and knowing that the kids are around to talk to and play with. Being away for our first weekend was a totally new experience for us both and the first time I’ve felt properly independent; I kept thinking my parents were around to pay for activities and choose the restaurants. Somehow we managed without them though 🙂 Luckily me and Fran will definitely be returning to Swakopmund; for the Grade 7 outing and for music week. We can’t wait! 🙂

lots of love

Mary x

Grade 3 outing to Outjo – 24th September 2012

Africa

Today was really fun, humbling, scary and a bit strange. I managed to join the Grade 3s at the last minute for their class outing to <a class="zem_slink" title="Outjo" thref=”http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=-20.1088888889,16.1547222222&spn=0.1,0.1&q=-20.1088888889,16.1547222222%20%28Outjo%29&t=h&#8221; rel=”geolocation” target=”_blank”>Outjo (our nearest town). I went in the car with Tabs driving and 15 kids piled in the back sitting on mattresses, we drove for around an hour to our first stop in Outjo, the bakery. The bakers showed us around which was surprisingly interesting, they were making lots of sweet bread which is basically like a giant ice bun. One man told me that I was the most beautiful teacher he’d ever seen, it sounds cringey but you weirdly get used to the strange comments like these because everyone’s fascinated by foreigners. The kids sang 2 songs to the staff to say thank you and goodbye which made me emotional because I love it when they sing!

Our next place to visit was the police station, I expected a standard school visit; seeing handcuffs, fingerprints etc, but this visit was a lot different than I expected. Firstly the officer showed us the prison cells.. we walked through a door that was only locked with a small padlock then down an outdoor corridor to a cell, but it wasn’t empty. Firstly the officer took out a disturbing looking man right in front of the children and put him in the next cell that had around 5 other prisoners inside. The officer then told us that this man had murdered someone 2 weeks ago. I don’t know about anyone else but I was so shocked at how relaxed they were; letting children as young as 8 be less than a meter away from serious criminals. I just stood there in shock as the prisoners stared at us and tried to speak to us, it felt more like a zoo than a prison. We then saw the tiny cell that they kept them in, there is no electricity, just a room with a sheet on the floor and toilet in the corner. There was also a dark room with no windows where they would send the prisoners if they were ‘misbehaving’. I told the children and teacher how different prisons are in England and tried to reassure them that hopefully they’d never have to go to prison. Next we went to the room where the forbidden items were kept, they showed us all the alcohol and drugs they’ve confiscated and it seemed completely normal to the officers to show the kids packets of cocaine and tell them how people use it, how much its worth and what the effects are. I was still in shock.. I was then left in charge of occupying the 30ish kids in the police garden, this was by the corridor to the prison cells and the gate was open, as you can probably tell the security isn’t great here. The girls told me they’d seen a woman and baby in one of the cells and that the officer had told them that they’d just arrested another woman who’d tried to kill her baby; the police visit wasn’t as fun as the bakery one!

On our way through Outjo we went to the hospital which was actually really clean and modern. This visit was nearly as disturbing as the police one; the nurse showed the kids the psychiatric ward, telling them that the dark room with no windows was for the ‘crazy patients’ and that if there were windows they’d want to jump out and kill themselves.. We then saw some premature babies in incubators; their parents were in there almost in tears whilst the kids just wanted to see the cute babies. One was practically the size of my hand and you could see its heart beating through its chest, this was definitely the closest I’ve been to crying since I’ve been here. We then greeted all of the sick patients in the hospital which was really sweet and the children sang to some of them. I left the hospital feeling very grateful that I was teaching rather than doing social care because being surrounded with sick people made me feel depressed very quickly.

Our second last stop was at Outjo museum; I’m not really sure what the museum was about but the kids seemed to like it and we got to stop for lunch! The mattresses were laid on the grass and we all ate massive burgers, bread rolls, bread slices and ice cream then slept in the sun.

Lastly we drove to Retoma Taxidermy; the smell of dead animals hit us quickly (it didn’t help that it was the hottest day yet since we’ve been here). I loved seeing all the animal skins and things they made out of animal parts. A guy who worked there showed me an elephants foot which they were making into a bar stool with zebra sikn on the top; it was kind of messed up but really interesting at the same time. I found a massive stuffed giraffes neck and head, a baby rhino, cheetahs, baboons, springbok, oryx, a lion, snakes and so many more animals. I felt like I was in a fashion designer’s heaven; there were endless zebra and leopard skins and even a whole giraffe skin. I don’t know why I loved it so much but the taxidermy was definitely the highlight of my day. We went for a ‘quick stop’ at OK foods which turned into an hour of sitting in a boiling car waiting for Tabs and some of the kids to go shopping. An angry parking man shouted at me because a lorry wanted to park in our space but he didn’t seem to understand or care that I can’t speak Afrikaans and I can’t drive. I slept on the way back but woke up every time tabs had to stop for a warthog to cross the road which I find hilarious but everyone else thinks its annoying. When we arrived back to school I felt like I was coming home again, Giovanni told me that Fran had been crying all day because she was lost without me, I knew it was a massive lie but it was really strange to spend the day without her! Going to Outjo was so much fun but emotional when you realise that so much is different to England; from letting 15 kids sit in the back of a van on oan hour long drive to standing opposite murderers with just a metal gate between you. It’s only when you leave Otjikondo that you remember that you’re living in a completely different culture.

I hope everyone in England is well,

lots of love

Mary

20121009-061843.jpg