Saturday, August 1, 2009

Counting Down

Well family and friends the countdown begins. It's hard to write this post, because it is the last one that I will write before I leave. Truth is, I have more things to share, but not enough time to write them all on the computer or upload pictures or videos. To be honest-it just takes too long and unfortunately, I don't have the time to do it. I will however commit to finishing my book of memories that I will be glad to share with you all. I have learned so much that I want to teach you. I have met so many people that I want you to see, and I have done so many things that I want to share with you. The blog is not the end.

There are things that I hadn't thought about wanting because I knew I couldn't get it in South Africa. But now that I know I will be home a week from now, I have been craving some of the oddest things. You would think I wanted some of the big stuff like comfortable bed (well, yeah, I want that too!), or taking a bath everyday (yeah, I want that too), but really, I have been craving Maruchin noodles, ravioli, hot dogs, chicken salad, Honey Comb, and tuna fish. Go figure.

If you know me at all, you know that this adventure would not be complete without tears. Yes, I get quite teary-eyed. Some times are better than others. I think the hardest thing is that I had to spend the first few weeks building relationships that were NOT easy to build. It is not that easy learning and remembering AND pronouncing names. Picture trying to build a positive and trusting relationship with young people and teenagers especially who have people come in and out of their lives. I totally understand having that guard up. I understand not wanting to get TOO close.

Once those walls start coming down and you realize that you have a connection and you build a strong relationship- you look at the calendar and realize you're leaving. You think about all those days that were hard for you and you were out of your comfort zone and you wish you had them back again. You wish you had at least one more day to see people who you only saw once. You wish you could ask one more question or give one more hug.

But this isn't about regrets friends. It's about life. It's about a time to meet a friend, a time to greet a friend, a time to embrace a friend, and a time to kiss and say goodbye to a friend. I truly believe that God gives us the gift of each other. He puts you in someone's life and He puts them in yours. You can either appreciate His gift by making the most of your time with each other or you can choose to take it for granted. I appreciate every moment I had here.

There are two reasons that tears are warming my cheeks. I cry because I am sad. Sad because I will miss seeing the faces of each person I have met here. I will miss the children assuming I know Zulu and the women in the market trying to teach me the language. I will miss the kids playing soccer with me or trying to practice my accent. I will miss being in the classroom with 42 children learning the English songs I taught them or listening to the Zulu songs that they are teaching me. I also cry because I am happy. Happy because although I will not see some of these people again, I have been touched by their presence. I am happy because I have learned so much about the Zulu culture and I at least have a perspective on the life of a South African. I am happy because I have been around happy children. Children with a thirst for knowledge, a hunger for life, and a heart for love.

These tears sum up my life in South Africa. Nothing can take away how I feel about the teachers and learners I have worked, the staff and children at the orphanage, or the people in the communities. I have been through a lot and if you ask me would I do it again, my answer is : Yes, in a heartbeat!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Say Cheese

I have been working diligently with 2nd and 4th graders at Inkazimulo this summer (their winter though) and it has been such a rewarding experience. I have bonded really closely with my Grade 2 teacher and class and they are absolutely wonderful. Teaching me Zulu and all these wonderful songs. They love to show off what they know and it's absolutely great. I have even been teaching them a few spanish phrases. The learning just never stops, eh?

One thing they don't have are pictures to highlight their classroom or to remember classmates. I took a class picture and to crowd 40 students into a picture where you can see them was quite a difficult task.



I then printed off copies for each student in class. The best part was that I gave each child their own picture. They absolutely loved it. To actually get them what was probably their only photo meant so much to them so when I passed them out, the feeling was indescribable. Their smiles and the laughs were so great. I won't forget their faces!

Priceless!







Then...they said GRACIAS!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

5 K Walk

Today, I went to Durban to participate in a 5 K walk for women called I AM BEAUTIFUL.

I went on behalf of the Jess Foord Foundation. She started a charity called POWAR- Protect Our Women Against Rape. There are many things lined up that they want to achieve such as building a hospital for rape victims to receive counseling, medication, and police officers to help them bring the rapist to justice.

Participating in this walk on behalf of all women was very empowering and I am blessed to be here at the time this took place.




Eating Croc in the Croc Pit

If you don't believe me....Check this out!



Now, I know it's quite stupid to do something like this, but well....I can make at least ONE mistake in my life huh?!?!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

INFECTION

YES, ANOTHER ONE! WHY O WHY!!!!!

It's really bad too. I took pictures. Then I saw how bad it was, that I decided NOT to share them. It's kind of gross.

Well, apparently, I got it from one of the kids. Now, I am trying to search the hundreds of Grade R to Grade 4 students I hugged at Inkazimulu and try to help them get it treated.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sani Pass

Today, we went to Sani Pass in the Country, Lesotho (pronounced Loosootoo). It is the 3rd highest mountain pass in the world. Good thing for 4 wheel drive. It was so bumpy and the roads were slick because of the melting ice. Although, it was bumpy and so high, the sights were beautiful. It was truly something that you would expect to see on a postcard.

I was able to stand on the edge and take pictures. I was careful of course. I could have stayed up there for so long just to listen to the wind and to smile at the mountains. It was truly a place to be at one with nature.

Friday, July 17, 2009

South African Bride

We went to PheZulu and it was great. I was able to see a performance by Zulu dancers and learn about their culture through song and dance. Young people singing and dancing to help teach about their culture is a great idea.



They told us about how traditionally, in South Africa, the Zulu women would go fetch water. The men would look for his bride and try to talk to her on her way home from the river. After that, the man would tell her that he wants her and the men would have to pay 11 cows to his "father in law".

Well, I received my first South African Marriage Proposal. He looked at me and said "Oooh....I want you to be my first wife" He currently has 3 wives, but divorced his first wife so he wants me to take her place. I let him know that I was happily single and that I would help him find someone else. He was a nice guy and we shared a laugh. I don't think I can share a husband with anyone!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad and Happy Birthday Mom

I celebrated in your honor by doing karaoke. The best place to go for people who like to sing, but can't. It was great. Those South Africans didn't know what hit em. I got of lot of pats on the back saying I did a great job. I want to go again next week so I can become a regular!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Apple a Day does NOT keep the Doctor Away

After battling four weeks of an unshakeable illness, I went to Hillcrest Medical Centre for some much needed attention. I really don’t like going to the doctor in general, but I knew I had to go. I have another 3 ½ weeks to go and I CANNOT go on like this much longer. Let’s do a comparison. First, I went in and filled out 1 form. Yes, only 1 form. Not 4 or 5 like I normally have to do in the States. Secondly, I waited for less than 30 minutes. When the doctor, called me in with her soft Afrikaans accent, I was shocked! But Krystle is not a popular name in Africa; I knew she was referring to me. She talked me through my symptoms and honestly, I didn’t give much thought to the serious nature of my illness until I had to talk about it. I mean, I was in pretty bad shape.

So, she told me she had to give me a shot if I wanted one. Since this is a blog for General Audiences (Rated G), I WILL NOT share my shot information nor will I share pictures of this event. Sorry! After that, she gave me a list of the prescriptions I would need. Next comparison is about cost. So, it was $240 Rand for my doctor visit up front without insurance ($30 USD). No problem.

So I walked next door to the pharmacy. What do you know? I didn’t have to come back in 4 or 5 hours, the pharmacist just count the pills for me and put on the tags, explained how to use them and I was on my way. Now, I am no expert, but I just feel that my care and medication were not about them making money, but just for me to feel better. If only Healthcare were like this in America, maybe I wouldn’t be so apprehensive about going to the doctor at home. I was assured that I would feel better within the next 48 hours and the shot would give my immune system a boost. I just have to keep a schedule to make sure I take everything on time. So, here's the prescriptions:


I am glad that I did go to the doctor because I was miserable and there is no way I could survive another day like I had been. I want to enjoy the work I’m doing here. I need energy to play with the kids and give them my all. After all, that’s what I’m here for!

A Touch Up

After the doctor, I got in there and started prepping for painting the children’s cottages. The children live in four cottages as of now and we are going to focus on those. Since we had paint donated, we will use those for their living areas. We had to sand and clean the walls and boy were they DIRTY (pronounce it with me- DUR-TY). They don’t look spic and span, but once a fresh paint of coat is on, I bet the kids will be so excited. The tough part will be to convince the little curious ones not to touch it when we’re done.


I think that anything we can do to make sure these children know they are important and special is something that we should invest in. I remember thinking how I could do something else for the kids besides painting their cottage that would be more useful. But the moment I saw how the kids were into it and willing to help changed my mind. You should see how wide-eyed they get that we are painting for them. Now, the job won’t be done by professionals, but it will be done with love and care. Some of the children are even taking their play time to help us as well. It’s quite a large task to take on and I remember how only a few weeks ago after painting the high school, I found out that I should NOT make this my day job.
Something as small as painting a room in their house, jumping on the trampoline with them, playing card games or just studying basic math facts together builds a lifetime of memories.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This Little American Went to the Market

Today I went to Durban (city on the coast) and went to the Sunday Market. It is a huge artisan market. Anything from food, paintings, jewelry, crafts, WHATEVER people can make money with.


Unfortunately, I hit a tough spot and de-magnetized my credit card. So, if you know anything about the credit card stips....don't put it ANYWHERE near magnets. So, I of course have been using my bargaining skills as well as careful shopping to get some goodies to take home.

Again, everyone thinks I am Zulu and they are just talking away. Do they NOT see the confused look on my face. Well, I just kind of do my very best to kindly let them know that I have NO idea what they are talking about. It is good because at least they'll be honest with me on pricing. For the most part, everyone was so nice and even if they charged a lot, this is how they make money. They make these wonderful crafts and they use these talents to make money. It's great. I just wish I had even an ounce of patience they had to make these things.

I wish I had a picture, I wish I did, but I'll try to explain the best way I can: Well, they have boot stompers who perform in the street. Well, there are three guys who just dance and stomp their rubber boots and it is AMAZING. So they perform for minute or so before they freeze in place. When someone puts money in the cup, they UNFREEZE like they have been in a deep sleep for ages. They make the funniest sounds and have funny faces. It was absolutely amazing. I promise that you can stay entertained for HOURS watching them. They are so talented. It's great.

As soon as I got to the market, I made a friend. Andrew. You can ALWAYS use a friend in the market. He and his friends make these beautiful 3-D pictures of animal and wildlife. You know I HAD to look at those. Andrew told me about his life and how he got started and it is just so refreshing to talk to people who just open up and have such a zest for life. He may not be a millionaire but he wakes up happy, does what he has to do for the day by doing what he loves and goes to bed just as happy. Now how great does that sound.

He even gave me a free gift for being a nice person and after we took the picture, he told me we looked like twins. Not sure about that one, but I think I'll take it as a compliment!

Flipped Out

I did it!!!!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dancing the Night Away

Today, one of our Makaphutu kiddos had a performance for a group he is in- Mayibuye. An Australian group headed by a young guy, Dan Perkins, decided that he wanted to partner with Australia and South Africa to provide a way for the Youth to stay out of the street and away from destructive behavior through hip hop dance.

When I tell you, these kids are great. I felt like I was at a real concert with all these great dancers. They put a little hip-hop, ballet, tango, and zulu dance together to put together a great performance. It lasted for about 4 hours. Good thing I like song and dance. Everyone truly enjoyed themselves.

Now the kids are teaching me Zulu dances. Truly, I am convinced this is where step teams and dance groups get some moves. It came from somewhere. These zulu dances have been around for centuries.

What I like most about it is that everyone wants to identify with his/her Zulu culture by doing these dances. It's not about "oh no, that's for old people". The kids cheer for each other when they can kick up high and do the dances.

That's one thing I find that is interesting and a bit sad about America. It is difficult to identify with an "American Culture". There is no special food or dish, no special dance or style of clothing. In the same sense, it's great because America is a collection of all cultures, but I am a bit envious of their deep culture and sense of pride in it.

Lily in the Valley

Today we went to Lily of the Valley, another children’s home. This home is much larger and they have over 100 orphans who live there. They also have need for so many more volunteers and most of the kids here are either HIV positive or have AIDS.



Since it was the weekend, I didn't get to take a tour of all the facilities, but it was nice spending time with the kids. They just want to play and have fun. Like the kids at Makaphutu, they love the trampoline and the swings. Just to look at the smiles on their faces was enough to make me smile for a lifetime.



























NOW DOESN'T that picture make you just want to smile and never stop!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Walking the Shores

Today we went to the beach again, but with a bigger bunch of people. We had our 12 kids from Makaphutu as well as the 12 from Sitembakuye Children’s Home. We of course had about 15 adults also. This was our first time needing 3 vehicles. On the way there, I was in the bus with about 30 people. We were truly packed like sardines. But hey, what a better way to bond in my opinion. I sat with Nonhlanhla who was so very excited about her first trip to the beach. For some of these kids, this was their first time in a car or bus at all. Just to see the sights and know they were going “swimming” was just a highlight of their lives that many of us probably take for granted. They live so close to the beach, but have never gone.
I did get to go the arcade and spend time with the kids and see them swim and have fun. I wasn’t prepared of course and had my jeans and shirt without a bathing suit. But I’ll be ready next time. I did get a chance to walk on the beach and get sand between my toes. I saw all of the wonderful sand art including a man being eaten by a lion. The creativity with these sand artists is just amazing. I really enjoy the beach and I do hope I get one more chance to get my feet sandy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sitembakuye Children’s Home and Outreach

There's only so much I can say about wonderful people in the world. If you were to ask me to name someone or people who truly make a difference, I would have to tell you about Russell and Precious. They are a young couple who decided to take in other kids. They have three kids of their own as well as taking care of Russell's mother. They live in a small two bedroom house that is without water for 2-3 days at a time. They saw a need and addressed it. They now have taken in 9 other children who live on the street. During the day, they also have an outreach program and spend time with other orphans during the day. So, though there are 15 people living in the two bedroom house, they have up to 30 people in and out during the day.

They make beads and jewelry, play games, just sit and talk or play. When I am at their house, I feel so comfortable and AT HOME. Although you won't have a place to sit comfortably, I bet you would feel comfortable at their house.

When I go there, they all run up and hug you and are just so happy. Their smiles are contagious. Even if you were feeling down (which this illness gets me down sometimes), I am immediately pepped up.

The only thing is, I found out, I have no energy to keep up with them. They love to run and jump and play all these games. I am constantly begging for a time-out to catch my breath! I love all the games that they play. You all get around in a circle and just sing and dance and play clapping games. They truly include EVERYONE. The proverb "It takes a Village to Raise a Child" is truly exemplified here. Now, although I don't understand everything they say or sing, I can understand that love is here!

During this day, Russell and Precious arranged for their girls to perform traditional Zulu dancing as well and other groups to come so the kids could see. It was such a treat to see and my plan is to now learn as much as I can.




African Babies of The Wild

So, I couldn't leave without including some of my new wild friends that I met along the way the past weekend.








Now, I HAVE to tell you the story. As we are driving through dangerous territory, I'm sure you can guess.....well, probably not. So, we had a flat. YES a FLAT! 2 of them!






We were in the middle of the savannah where anything could come and gobble us up. Fortunately, all we saw were these creatures who stared us down for a LONG time. Probably wondering where our other legs were.


But it's okay...I was prepared for anything!

Flipping Out

The kids here absolutely love to turn flips. Take a step, put your hands down, lift your legs up high, and fall to the other side. Upside down, topsy turvy, whatever is daring and fun- they will do it! They are doing their best to teach me some of the “easy tricks”, but I must admit something stops me. I am not sure if I have crossed this age barrier like the idea behind The Polar Express, but there is something about watching the ground underneath me and the fact that I might fall flat on my face that keeps me from doing it.





However scary it might be, there is something extraordinary about children that I learned from watching them. They take risks. They might not know that it’s risky, but they just do it. They like the feeling, they want to do it, and they just do it, no questions asked. We can all learn from them. If only I had the energy, the will, and the strength to carry out the things I really wanted to do. The world we live in today is unpredictable and sometimes some pretty negative things happen, but if we just take a risk and try to make it a better place, then we can.
I want to do flips in my life. I want to take a risk and just do the right thing without being scared about the ground underneath. No one achieves anything if they never try. The only way these children knew they could do front and back flips was to try. I won’t know what change I can make in the world unless I try. So take a step, brace yourself and put your hands down, lift your legs high, and watch the positive outcome on the other side.