The Next Single Step – 14th August 2014

Europe
it's not all boring in England

it’s not all boring in England

It’s been a weird day. I woke up thinking about how it was exactly a year ago that Fran and I returned from Namibia. We walked through the airport with no shoes on, about a stone or 2 heavier than we are now, tear strewn faces, matted hair and we both were apparently very smelly.

I spent part of my morning chatting to a lovely girl, Kirsty on Skype. We’ve never met and have only chatted a few times on Facebook; the factor that connects us is the fact that she’ll soon (2 weeks I think!) be travelling to Otjikondo in Namibia doing the same year with Project Trust that I did! She was so friendly and seems way more prepared than I was at this stage 2 years ago. I dug out my old diaries and had a few hours of reminiscing and feeling sorry for myself because I don’t know when I can next go to Namibia. Which is a horrible feeling.

Fran came to London, had such a good time

Fran came to London, had such a good time

Anyway, I’ve been a busy bee since last posting. I’m in the process of backing up my laptop so I can clear through my photos, organise my files and upload some of the photos I took whilst in Paris with Callum which was way back when in June!?! After returning from Paris I have shot a wedding, had numerous part time jobs, been to a festival of colours, been to a few mini festivals, visited family in Birmingham, had an amazing surprise visit from Fran, went to the farm, caught up with countless friends in London and Hertfordshire, turned 20, went camping, driven more miles than necessary, danced in a flashmob, spoken at schools about Project Trust, spent time with family and got a job in PARIS!

Willows farm with Mollie and some Guinea Pigs

Willows farm with Mollie and some Guinea Pigs

With Chloe on my birthday

With Chloe on my birthday

So the past 2 months have kind of gone full circle, from visiting Paris as a tourist to applying for a job as an au pair, many interviews and being selected for the job 😀 I’ll be leaving on 30th August and will be there for a year. I’m planning to write a new post tomorrow about the job and what I’m expecting from the job so I won’t go into it too much now. But I am saying I’m SOOOOO EXCITED!

‘I just want to say goodbye’ – 3rd – 4th March 2014

Africa
Hello,
On Monday the GAPs were still technically on their out weekend so Annika and I took the morning PT lessons but decided to do something a bit different to usual. As Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in Germany by Carnival (and Reiner Stommel is German so there’s always some kind of celebration in Otjikondo) we thought it would be fun to teach ‘Das Rote Pferd’ and a dance to go with it instead of PT. The older Grades enjoyed it and picked up the words really quickly but the Grades 1s and 2s preferred to just make up their own words and dances!
 
At lunch I went to The Stommels to drop something off and ended up staying for chocolate cake and ice cream whilst we listened to Luisa play the piano (result!). That afternoon I finally got all of the sponsor letters finished which was a huge relief, when I went back to see Gilly I realised that the best way for me to get to Windhoek on time for my coach home was to leave Otjikondo on Tuesday with Reiner instead of Wednesday as I’d hoped so I only had 1 more day at Otjikondo. 
 
I went to visit the girls in the hostel to almost say my goodbyes; Kelly and Tracy were sitting on floor using a bin as a drum, Susan and Pehovelo were playing cards whilst some of the older ones played with my hair (my favourite activity). I went to look for my sponsor child, Tjazupo but the girls told me she was ill with mumps in the Sick Bay, when I found her half of her face was swollen and she looked really miserable. Sister Lisetha gave her some cream and a scarf to wear around her face, Tjazupo burst into tears so I told her to go and lie down whilst I read her stories for nearly an hour. It’s obviously horrible to see any child sick and upset but it’s 100 times worse when it’s a child your so close with. Even though I should of celebrated my last evening I felt so downhearted that I had to leave so I stayed in my room to pack and write a few goodbye notes. 
 
Tuesday’s assembly was the last of my visit so Mrs Vermaak said goodbye on behalf of the staff and children at Otjikondo and they all sang ‘We say goodbye to Mary’ which is a personal favourite of mine. Some of the girls came and gave me goodbye letters which always seem to start with ‘I just want to say….’ (the boys are too cool for letter writing) and a few gave me letters to post to my mum, sister and Fran. I tried to get a million and one things done before leaving at 9am but I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew. It was Shrove Tuesday and we were celebrating German Carnival so Rebecca and Eleanor painted the Grade 2’s faces with everything from cat whiskers, beards and flags. Before I’d even got the chance to eat my pancake back home (thank you GAPs!) Reiner was waiting outside the flat beeping his horn so I jumped in the car and waved goodbye to my second home. 
 
Although I only spent a week and a half back at Otjikondo I fully settled back into the Namibian way of life and had an immense time. I made friends for life in Rebecca, Eleanor and Annika, discovered more about the children and spent time with teachers that I didn’t know too well before. I could go on for pages about happy I am when at Otjikondo but I think I proved that by visiting less than 6 months after I left! Thank you to everyone who welcomed me back, I will returning very shortly 🙂
Lots of love,
Mary 
x

‘Shine bright like your mother’ – 2nd March 2014

Africa
Hello!
 
I always enjoy going to church at Otjikondo but Sunday’s service seemed a bit strange; firstly it was Father Erasmus taking the service instead of Gilly and about a third of the children had gone home with their parents so it felt a bit empty. No one really knew what was going on with the songs/marimbas/piano and Father Erasmus even quoted a Rihanna song… He said ‘Who is the most beautiful mother? Our own mothers are the most beautiful. Beautiful like diamonds in the sky’. I tried my best not to burst out laughing. Throughout the day I heard a few children say ‘shine bright like your mother’. 
 
I went straight to the birthday cupboard afterwards to give 3 pieces of clothing to every child whose birthday was in the past week. They all were well behaved, they put the clothes back neatly and found things they liked really quickly which is not usually the case! I even got to help my sponsor child choose her clothes because she’s just turned 8, she then came to the GAP flat garden with her best friend Eengwi to open some small birthday presents that I’d brought and wrapped way back in August (I’d completely forgotten what I’d got). I gave them both presents because I didn’t want Eengwi to feel left out and they were only small things like a fairy wand, Mr Men book, keyring and a few sweets. Little did I know that Tjazupo would have a mini strop because she got 1 less sweet (I must count more thoroughly next time!), I sent them back to their hostels and Tjazupo quickly got over it because Eengwi was kind enough to share her sweets. 
 
That afternoon the GAPs (Rebecca, Eleanor, Iris and Luisa) went on a farm drive with Gilly, Katy and Reiner whilst Annika and I chilled in the garden and went for a quick swim in Gilly’s pool. I was asleep in our garden when Karina, Japs and Destiny threw a massive branch at me through the gate screaming ‘have some spinach Miss Mary! We brought you some spinach, eat it Mary!’. I kindly declined their lovely offer and guessed they wanted some entertainment. I have a great video of them using their best compliments on me as we walked around school, ‘Mary you are the only rose in the garden! Mary you are the sharpest thorn in the bush. Oh Miss Mary you are the only snake that bites, the only key to open my heart, the only Mopani worm that I’ll eat!’. When I sat down to quickly check my Facebook they saw some photos of me from when I was 14, about the same age they are, and were shocked at how different I looked. I personally just think I look a bit lankier and have nicer hair but they were screaming and shouting about how it looks like a different person. ‘Miss Mary, why aren’t you pretty anymore?!’ – ahh you have to appreciate their honesty! After googling things like ‘world’s deadliest snake’ and ‘world’s fattest man’ for a while (they love to google!) we walked over to the big girls hostel where Audrey offered to braid my hair, I chose orange, pink and grey. Meanwhile Karina dragged a big clear container out from her locker, it was filled with murky green water and about 50 tadpoles, Karina never fails to surprise me! She then showed me her photo album where she’s put photos that I’d given her last year when I’d left. As well as a photograph of her in her traditional tribal outfit and she’d captioned it ‘I’m proud of my culture’.
 
Rebecca made a huge lasagna for dinner and I contributed with fudge that didn’t quite set. I don’t like lasagna because food in layers seems very strange to me so I used the mince meat to have spaghetti bolognese. Having 6 GAPs in the flat was hectic but so nice to hear everyone’s stories.
 
Lots of love,
Mary
xxx

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

 

Filling the gaps – February 23rd-24th

Africa

Hello!

The past 2 days have been so busy that I feel like I’ve been here for weeks already (in a good way!) Sunday evening was spent watching the GAPs do their drama rehearsal. This year’s play is ‘Wind in the Willows’ and from what I’ve seen/ heard so far it will be a really good performance. The kids were so enthusiastic when they sang the songs that it reminded me of how unenthusiastic they sometimes were with us when we we rehearsing for ‘The Giant Slayer’!

Monday morning felt like the first day of a new job for me, it’s so different seeing everyone in their school uniform and attending lessons rather than on the weekends when life is a lot more relaxed. Monday morning also was the first time I saw the teachers again! Hugs and questions about England filled my morning. I spent 2 hours assisting Miss Bitz in the grade 2 classroom. We played games and used beads to teach the number ’13’. I then read ‘The Sly Fox and the Red Hen’ to the children before asking them questions on the book to help their understanding. By before 10 o’clock I was already on to the next set of jobs. Gilly had trusted me with the school car (God knows why!?) to collect the Christmas presents for children who are now at High School for me to sort out. Driving in Otjikondo is bizarre as you can only really go about 20km per hour… Later on I sorted out templates for the kids to send thank you letters to their sponsors for their Christmas presents and typed up examples for them to copy. The rest of my morning was spent in the birthday cupboard, basically a big room full of cupboards of clothes to which we give the children 3 items from when it’s their birthday. Anyway, the room was a mess because of a big pile of new clothes so I sorted them out and put them away in the relevant cupboards.

In the afternoon I played football with the grade 1 boys who are all very sweet. There’s even a boy called Frans who is ADORABLE and I know Fran (my friend, other volunteer Fran) would love. After offering 2 girls a quick dance in the hall I was greeted by almost 20 girls begging for a dance lesson. I also played table tennis with the older boys so it ended up being quite a hot and sweaty afternoon.

That evening we were invited to the Stommel’s for a music concert. We had a delicious buffet (and laughed at how small the mustard spoon was…) and then listened to Rebecca and Faustinas on the violins and Ian on the piano. They’re all so talented so we felt pretty lucky to be listening to them play. When you think about it there aren’t many people who can say they’ve listened to live professional classic music on a Monday evening on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Africa. Life is bizarre here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lots of love,

Mary xx

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

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