Day 1 – Blake Edwards

  • Aug 21, 2011

 

Oh my! Our two year project is finally a reality. We are all filled with excitement, every minute that we get closer to our arrival. Our journey started on August 18th at roughly 4:00am. Interactor’s feelings exhausted from the little sleep, however, as cheerful as usually. A very eventful morning took place: involving smoke detectors, singing and lost passports. We arrive at the airport wearing our colourful green group shirts and carrying our bagged lunches. As we go to check our luggage, we panic, Derek has “misplaced” his passport. We searched the hotel room, his roommates’ suitcases, his suitcases and finally the room again before Derek finds it pinned behind the chair in the hotel. We said our final goodbye before going through security. There were few problems at security except, Derek had a 1L bottle of maple syrup on him and Travis had three bags of toiletries. Waiting for our plane, we met many people who asked us many different questions: such as, Are you guys going to the Price is Right? Finally our planes had arrived and we boarded.  For some it was their first plane ride, so we took extra care of them and provided them with enough barf bags to last the trip.

After roughly three hours, we arrived in Minneapolis. Ashlee forgot her passport and Derek forgot his pillow on the plane. We toured around the terminal and had many people watching us and giving us confused faces.  Hailey, while getting a smoothie in the terminal, thought our plane had left! Fortunately it hadn’t.

Finally our fifteen hour flight had arrived and we were off to Johannesburg. This was a very eventful plane ride.  Before takeoff Blake spilt smoothie all over himself. This flight consisted of unlimited movies, family guy and laughs throughout the trip. Ashlee falling asleep on Padn’s lap, while Nadya, Jessica and Blake snuggling in their row. We were given a jambalaya for supper, a sandwich for a snack and Pizza for our breakfast (which because of the time change was actually also dinner) .  Endless coffee kept some of us going, and those who did sleep, did not sleep comfortably. Many movies and card games later, fifteen hours had past and we began our decent into South Africa.

We met the Rotarians in the arrivals and Israel met her family.  We were then loaded with our entire luggage onto the bus.  As we were on our way to the African Centre, our bus bottomed out multiple times. We were greeted once again by more Rotarians when we arrived. Upon our arrival, instead of going to bed, most of us decided to walk to the mall for an adventure and to burn energy before bed. At the mall, we found that there were many stores similar to Canada. Their mall was massive and on the top of it, there was a garden area for walking. We met some interesting people here that made us seem very gullible. They told us the walls around the houses were for keeping out the lions. On the way out, we went through the revolving door and mastered it this time! We walked back to our home for the next few nights and got ready for bed. For those who did shower, froze their butts off. Everyone got ready for bed, some people more comfortable than others. It was a long journey; however, we made it in one piece and told many people our story along the way.

– Blake

Day 2 – Chelan Padmoroff & Ashlee Martini

 

  • Aug 21, 2011

 

Everyone was awakened to the sound of Mikey whistling his imitation of a chirping bird.   We then had a wonderful breakfast which consisted of waffles, yogurt, bread, eggs and cereal.  Once everyone finished with their breakfasts, we all hopped onto our tour bus to go to downtown Johannesburg.  This was such a neat experience as we were able to see the diverse building structures and people.  During the tour of Johannesburg, we drove by the police station and learned that long ago, blacks were thrown off of the tenth story of the building as a death penalty.  This continued for quite some time until it was banned only twenty years ago. 

Later, we went to the Apartheid Museum which was located in Johannesburg. This museum allowed all of us to get a better understanding of what segregation meant between the black and white.  Upon entering the museum everyone was given a ticket that either classified you as a “white” person or a “non-white” person.  Depending on which type of ticket you were given, the two groups had separate entrances which allowed us to understand the racial inequalities that were occurring at the time.  The museum was split into two subjects; the apartheid and celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.  With the dark images, sounds, movies and atmosphere in the apartheid portion of the museum, everyone felt as though they were moved back to the era with all of the political upheavals.  The Nelson Mandela portion of the museum allowed us to gain more knowledge of the extraordinary life that he lived.  This amazing museum was filled with the rich history of Johannesburg. 

Once we left the museum, we then toured around Soweto which was a symbol of township.  We visited a local school where we were told the amazing story of how a young boy gathered many children together to protest for peace, freedom and democracy. 

Later we visited a local market which consisted of many different vendors with each vendor having something unique of its own to sell.  After everyone bought some souvenirs, we then drove to where Nelson Mandela’s and Desmond Tuetue’s houses were.  We walked around the area and upon returning to our tour bus, we met some local children who were playing soccer.  We joined in with them, despite having most of the interactors against these young boys, they still managed to win!!  After our full day of being tourists, we made our way back to the Center For Africa where we were served supper.  This delicious supper consisted of macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, meat, salad and bread.  As we reflect upon today, it was as though we had taken a step back into history and had gained knowledge about the amazing roots of South Africa!           

Day 3 – Arija, Emma and Ashley

  • Aug 21, 2011
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Today was our last full day in Johannesburg. We got up at about 7:00am and again had a great big breakfast, cereal, toast, bacon, eggs, yogurt, fruit, all the good stuff! After breakfast we had to pack up all our stuff and take it out of the big room we were in and move it to a separate room because there was a church group that uses the room every Sunday.  ( to the parents that helped your kids pack, you can imagine us re packing all our stuff back in after taking it all out…. Not all were successful.)

After packing up the church people arrived, and it wasn’t like anyone had expected the church would be. They all had loud music and clapping and dancing all around singing upbeat religious songs. The Interact group was invited to come and half the group joined in and had lots of fun! We were told by our fellow Interactors that it’s called happy clappy. “happy cause were happy, clappy cause we clap… not because were crazy!”

One of the ladies before the service was having a conversation with a few Interactors about how cold this winter has been and how they weren’t  at all equipped for it.  She thought we were crazy wearing our  t-shirts and shorts and not being cold, as she was sitting there in her jacket scarf and hat. It was just interesting to see that we would consider it equivalent to a warm day early June.

Then it was time to go so we all loaded on the bus.  The first place we went was to a lion and rhino reserve. We drove through it all on our bus and we saw many, many animals such as; antelope, wild dogs, buffalo, hyena , gizzels, vultures, lions, ostriches, wildabeasts, gemsbok, warthogs AND ZEBRAS.  It was neat to be able to see them all out roaming in their natural habitat.  Arjia and Blake claimed to have seen a two  rhino with a herd of animals on a hill.

We got into a fenced in area that had many reptiles, rodents and even a hippo and cheetah! Next we went in to an area where they have tamed lions, and we all got a chance to go in and pet and play with them, and take pictures! We had 3 choices of which lions we wanted to go play with. One habitat had 2 lions and 2 tigers. One of the habitats had 5 white lions, and the last habitat had 2 baby cub lions.  Some of the lions cuddled, but some were a little grumpier. Everyone got to touch a lion, and everyone had so much fun and definitely a memorable, once in a life time experience!

After we left the tamed lions, we got back on the bus, and it was time for us and the wild lions to eat lunch! We drove up to the area where they feed the wild lions, there were about 7 lions eating a full grown horse carcass. It was neat to watch but also kind of disturbing. We got some really good shots of that.

Our next and last stop of the day was at Sterkfontain caves, which in English means strong fountain. This is where the oldest upright human was found, which is 3.5 million years old. WOWEE!

We saw a museum display with a lot of fossils they have found there and saw what they think the oldest human looked like, which very much resembled a monkey. The Australopithecus head was about the size of a softball.

After looking at all the discoveries in there, we took a tour through the cave and saw where most of the fossils were excavated. Our tour guide told us a bunch of history of the whole area. At the end of the tour, there was a statue at the exit of the cave that was of the father of paleo-anthropology. We were told that rubbing his nose gave luck and rubbing his hand, which was holding a skull, gave wisdom. Most people picked luck.

It was an interesting tour, there was a gift shop that many people bought souvenirs from, and then we were on the bus back to Jeremy’s place. The dinner tonight was a braai, which was a sort of community barbecue, with all the Rotarians in the area. A few minutes after we got there, Jeremy called us outside saying that there was a riot outside in the street. When we went out, there was a troupe of dancers, dressed in Zulu style, who performed with us. Our group both watched and participated in the dances, which ranged from a sharing of national anthems, a work song, and even a lullaby. We also learned some words in Zulu, which were “Hello, How are you” (Sabona, khugani)  and “I’m good” (Niga phila).  The troupe was about 15 girls and the male leader, was dressed like a Zulu warrior. You should have seen the backflips he did!

The dinner, as always at this house was spectacular. The meat portion was a spit that been cooking for over 7 hours with beef, pork and lamb. There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t satisfied at the end.

After the meal, there was a little recognition ceremony for the work done by the South African Rotarians.  We were able to thank our gracious hosts and the people in the area who worked hard to ensure we had a successful experience.

The students each got a mix CD of South African music from one of the Rotarian’s sons. It truly has been a great honour to have been here and to be treated with such great hospitality. Canadians may be known for being friendly, but South Africans are a tough competition.

Day 4 – Natasha and Theresa

Our fourth day in beautiful South Africa started much earlier than the past three. We got up at 5:30AM which is when we packed up our suitcases, sleeping bags and pillows. After carrying them out to the bus we enjoyed a breakfast of cereal, toast and Dough Sisters. Once we were done breakfast we said our goodbyes and “Baie Dankies” which means “Thank You” to our wonderful host’s. We then loaded onto the bus and started through Johannesburg to the bus depot.

 When we arrived at the bus depot, we hustled to get all of our things from one bus to the next. While being assisted with some of our mattresses and other luggage, a heated argument erupted near us. The argument was over nothing more than which workers were in the right place in the bus depot. Shortly after that we got out things loaded onto the big City to City bus. After we were all on the bus, we started the six hour bus ride to Louis Trichardt.

 Well on the bus we kept ourselves entertained by sleeping, playing games and watching the scenery change. On our way we only stopped once at a gas station. Even in South Africa there’s always a line-up for the girls washroom. Once we finally reached our destination we loaded all the suitcases and all the Interactors into four trucks. Much to our delight, the Interactors got to climb into the back of the trucks, tailgating through Louis Trichardt was awesome!

Once at the campsite we unloaded and got ready to set up. The first attempt at setting up a tent left Interactors (and Mikey!) struggling for an hour until they finally figured it out. After the first tent we got four other tents together in the same amount of time as the first one. Sometime during the set-up, Brandon realized that he didn’t have one of his bags with him. The bag he lost just happened to be the one with his passport and all of his money!  Luckily, once several of us went up to the hotel to use the power and Wi-Fi, the bag found us at the front desk.

Later we will enjoy a dinner at the Hotel’s restaurant, and after that it’s early to bed so we can be ready for our first day of work tomorrow. Hope everyone’s enjoying Canada and Castlegar!

P.S. To our families we miss you so much! Love you lots! Xoxo

Day 5 – Nadya and Jessica

August 23, 2011

This morning our wakeup call was at 6 am. We all got ready and headed straight up for breakfast. We each got to order our own breakfast off the menu, which contained eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, etc. Once we finished our delicious meals we collected all our things and at 7 am got into the taxis which took us to a small village called Madombidzha.   It is a little Village on the West side of Louis Trichardt. A 25 minute drive we arrived at our first destination, a care center for the children where the kids are given food and resources to do their homework. We were greeted by many women who volunteered there; they all introduced themselves separately, as well as sung us a song of greeting! They had organized a large gathering of dignitaries and invited all the members of the Community.  A prayer was given to commence and close the meeting and there were speeches from a number of the Community leaders to welcome and thank us.   To close the welcoming we were treated to another wonderful song performed by the children themselves.   The information provided in the meeting let us know that we are in fact building a Community Centre which provides care for 189 individuals including; 30 with HIV, 15 with disabilities, 87 orphans, 17 vulnerable children, 20 youth from the community, 20 elderly and others with tuberculosis.  Afterwards we loaded back onto the taxis that took us to the work site (10 minutes away).

When we got to the work site a group of us got started setting up the two identical tents (“tunnels”) that will be used to cover the gardens we will be planting later this week.  These are to protect the vegetables from the elements and each can grow 1,000 plants.  As would be expected there was quite a bit of organization the first day and we were slow to get started.  More shovels and pick axes were needed and it took 1 ½ hours to go into town and purchase these.  Because of this late start we decided to not go and interact with the children and instead worked until 4 pm.  Other projects such as these have provided vegetables for one meal per day for several hundred children. The rest of us who were remaining were divided up into three more groups. Each group was responsible for digging a trench in a certain area on the site with only two shovels and a pick axe to do so.  It was extremely hot but thankfully there was a cool breeze once in a while to help keep us cool. Unfortunately the wind created quite a lot of dust so by to end of the day most of us returned back a few shades darker than before.  Most groups are at least half way done, some are even farther.  We made great progress today, and we are all very excited to wake up and continue on with the project tomorrow! To end off our day we got enjoy a lovely fire after yet another fantastic meal.   Jack was encouraged to use his slight British accent to make up a scary story and he did a great job.  All in all it was a very productive day; everyone worked endlessly and did an amazing job! 

Day 6 – Derek and Travis

August 24, 2011

Today was our 3rd day in Louis Trichardt, second day working and first day with the kids. This morning we woke up, and got ready to go up to the restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast we hopped into the taxis and headed to the worksite. Fortunately, it wasn’t as hot as it was yesterday and we didn’t work as late as we are now on our regular working schedule. Today was a big day, as the containers that will be used as a library and administration offices, arrived on big trucks.  It was quite a sight watching two very large trucks maneuver through the very narrow village roads.  All went well with the placement of the containers and the groups continued to work hard on their trenches. We received help from workers from the centre, they assisted us in racking, piling bushes and cleaning up the site. It was a lot of hard work but we managed to connect all the trenches by the end of the day! Jack ended up breaking a pick while working hard, as usual.  At 12:30 we finished and walked down the road through the village to acquire a better understanding of the way they live. The people here are very nice and yesterday a pastor gave a speech about how human beings are creatures fueled by love and in our experiences here so far this has really showed in their friendly nature and happiness.  We got the taxis and traveled to the centre where we met the kids. As soon as we got out we were immediately greeted by all the children. We played games that are similar to ours, had lots of fun and made many new friends. We sang some songs and taught each other dances from each country. For example, they taught us how to do local dances, and we taught them how to fist pump and line dance.

During our visit to the school Denise and Geoff were asked to talk to a group of local women, whose children attend the center, if they would talk to the group about HIV and AIDS.  The group had specifically gathered to hear some ideas about safety and risk factors.  Unfortunately, Lorraine, a nurse, was unavailable to share her expertise and the group agreed to come back on Friday afternoon to talk with her. In the meantime, Denise, with the use of many gestures and a little bit of interpretation by a few adults , told the group about Canada and BC. They asked questions such as, “how long would it take to drive to Canada?”, “Could they send their children to Canada for education?” and “Do I need a passport and visa to come to Canada?”.  Later in the afternoon, Brandon, Arija and Sera helped serve lunch to the kids. The kids lined up and some pap (similar to our cornmeal or polenta) and stewed cabbage was placed on a plate.  Soon, there were no more plates left, but there were still many, many kids who had not eaten.  But very quickly, kids returned with their finished plate, and the plate was then used for the next child in line. We are learning a lot about the needs of the children here.  We also found out that the secondary school across from the center, whose kids came over in the afternoon as well, has about 2000 kids, with about 85 students in each class. There are at least 5 classes of grade 9’s in the school. Wow! Although we didn’t want to leave the children it was quickly time to go. We said our goodbyes sadly and headed back to the campsite.

Once back at the campsite, some of the students went to the sister hotel 5km to go for a swim.  The hotel was beautiful with an amazing view, however, the pool was a little more “refreshing” than some of us may have liked. In the evening everyone was exhausted so after dinner we all pretty well went straight to bed to get ready for another day of hard work.

Day 7 – Israel and Raissa

Like every morning, we woke up, got ready and went for breakfast. The taxis arrived just after 7 to drive us to the worksite. Today at the worksite, a lot was completed. We finished all the trenches, leveled the ground for the toilets, got water flowing from the well, organized the books and clothing, and started putting the bags of soil in the gardens. All the groups worked very hard to complete their trenches and helped others to finish theirs. The way we leveled the ground was by taking extra dirt and then flattening it out by having Blake walk on it then checking with a level.

Two men came to hook the pump for the well and then connected the hoses. Everyone was very excited to have running water. All 52 suitcases we packed arrived and Denise, Lorraine, Israel and ladies from the centre organized the books, clothing and toys that will be donated. In the gardens 1000 plants will be planted in a certain type of bag filled with soil. We filled 120 bags into the two mesh green houses we constructed. We took a break for lunch and most of the group traveled to the centre via the taxis where we were happily greeted by many children and centre workers.

 Mikey, Geoff, Alexandra, Heather, Travis and Blake stayed at the worksite to do more work on the toilets. We played for a few hours with the children then went back to the campsite to shower, have quiet time (which we all enjoy) and a braai with the other Interactors and Rotarians. We are all very much enjoying our time in South Africa. The time is flying by with all the fun we’re having. 

Day 8 – Chelan Padmoroff & Ashlee Martini

The group awoke this morning at 6:ooam once again with the cold morning temperature greeting us.  We then all went to eat breakfast up at the main house.  Breakfast consisted of fruit, yogurt, cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, omelets, toast and juice.  After breakfast was done, everyone grabbed their orange lunch bags and we were all ready to go for the day.  We made a special trip to one of the local high schools where we promote and educated the teenagers about Interact.  It was great talking to other teenagers that were interested in starting their own Interact/Rotaract club.  Chelan and Derek spoke about the significance of the Interact club, what it means to them and why others should get involved with it.  Alexandra then spoke about Roteract and her experiences and lastly, Blake talked about RYLA. 

After we left the high school, we were quickly on our way back to the work site.  Today was a very productive day at the site.  The group was able to finish filling the garbage bags with soil for the garden, so that one thousand seeds of spinach could get planted.  While filling up the garbage bags with soil, Chelan and Natasha came across a huge spider in the soil that could have easily been mistaken for a tarantula!  All of the trench digging was completed today and we were also able to put in the water line.  We then had to fill the trenches with soil overtop so that vehicles could drive through the work site.  Great progress was made on finishing laying the bricks for where the toilets will be placed.  After completing a full days worth of work, the group stopped for a lunch break. 

We then got into our buses and drove to the center where we played with the children.  They were so excited to see us again that when we were driving in, they were dancing for us in the front yard.  As we drove in, the children surrounded the bus and were reaching their arms in, so that they could hold our hands.  Everyone got a chance to play with all of the children and was able to see their buddies that they made the previous days.  A soccer game was going on in the field nearby where most of the boys were playing.  Back at the center, most of the high school girls were braiding the Interactors hair.  We played many different games with the children at the center; everything from “The Macarena” and “Ring-around-the-rosy” to clapping games.  The children were then severed supper which consisted of porridge and cabbage.  The time came too quickly when we had to say our goodbyes to the energetic children.  Once we loaded our two buses, the children were sticking their hands through our opened windows to have one last touch before we left.  After we left to pick up Mike, Geoff and Alexandra at the work site, some children remained running after the bus for three minutes.  We then made our way back to the campsite, where we all took our showers and had quiet time for one hour. After dinner, and a full day of work, everyone was VERY ready for bed.  But we were all thankful that the many blisters we had gotten today were all because we were making a lasting difference in the young children’s lives!       

Day 9 – Ashley L, Arija, Emma

August 27th, 2011

It’s Day 9 here in South Africa, and we had such a treat today. Our itinerary was to try and finish the major parts of our work project. Today, we had some help.  Three girls from the Louis Trichardt Interact group came, giving up their Saturday to help us. The girls were Nicole, Ella May and Muno. We headed to the worksite where there were two things to do. We had to paint the containers that would be used as a library and an office, and also pour concrete. The concrete went around the 4 water taps to hold them vertical. We also laid a pad of concrete and all the Interactors and helpers put their hand prints in it.   Lorraine wrote “Castlegar Interact” above it and “Castlegar Canada 2011” below it.  Now it will always be there for everyone to see that we have officially left our mark to remind them of our work.   Mixing the concrete wasn’t like Canada’s cement trucks, we had to mix it all with shovels- it was definitely difficult, but we had the muscles of the group working together! (Thanks Alexandra, Jack, Derek, Padn, Heather, Geoff, And the water girl Ashley!)  We worked very hard to get the containers painted.  We painted half with the South African flag colors and half with the Canadian flag colors.   

In the morning, we were a bit upset at the thought of not being able to be with the kids from the center. But while we were working and painting, some of the local children came to the site and soon multiplied to about 30 children between the ages of 2-10 years old.  They were all there the whole day while we worked. We played lots of games with them, like ‘Ring around the Rosy’, ‘Simon Says’, and the Chicken Dance.  Ashley and Jack had speakers, so we had music playing and we had everyone dancing together and it was lots of fun! Most of the Interactors had a special relationship with at least one of the kids, and spent most of their day with them. Ashley’s new friend wouldn’t let her put her down, Emma’s fell asleep on her, Travis was teaching his friend to count in English, Jack was teaching a few kids the names of body parts, and Nadya’s little friend peed on her!

Other than Nadya’s incident having the kids there was a real honor and everyone had tons of fun! Everyone has been so blown away, and it has been a true eye opener being around the local kids and the kids at the centre. Even though some of the kids are shoeless, or their clothes have holes in them, or they can’t even afford running water, let alone toys to play with; they are always smiling, happy and having so much fun. Near the end of the day, we finished painting the first container, so we had all the local kids line up, and in between the two flags and above the rising sun on the one container we painted the children’s hands and all of them put a hand print on the container to finish it off. The kids were all so excited and it was a very fun experience for everyone! We got the first container done today, poured the last of the cement for the water taps and the concrete pad for the bathrooms and got half of the second container painted. It was hard to leave the local children, especially for those who were quite attached to a certain child. We had a few tears from a few girls when it was time to leave, but by the time we left all everyone was happy!

We got back to the camp ground at 2ish, which is the earliest we have gotten back the whole time, some played tennis, some explored the property and the area around the hotel, and some just stayed in the common room relaxing playing cards and listening to music.

Tomorrow we all get to sleep in until 7:15.. WOOOO!!!! J

Still everyone is missing their families, but no one’s been home sick! Right on!

Day 10

An easy morning really kicked off today with a bang, as all of us rose at a later time! A whole hour later in fact! However, due to heavy rain during the night our clothes and things in the mesh part of the tent were totally drenched. Nonetheless we all had breakfast and got ready for the taxis.

The objective of today’s tour was to give us a bit of the local history and culture.  This area is the historical settling area of the “Venda” tribe.  The area of Louis Tricardt is made up of largely the Venda and that is the predominant language of the area (and thus the reason for us having communication problems).  Up until 1993 this area was its own Republic with its central Government being located in Thohoyandu. 

First off, we headed north to the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels. These tunnels are part of a Trans African highway which stretches all the way to Cairo. Amidst the windy tunnels, the railing on the side of the road was quite wobbly, below which was a considerably large drop. On the surrounding mountain sides, amazing trees grew in unthinkable places, where things that grow are few in quantity. On the road, we stopped to see a river that “defied” gravity and flowed towards the mountain. Also we saw many baobab trees and stopped to get a picture by one. We also learned that the largest baobab tree is forty-three meters in diameter.  It is located approximately 80 kilometers further on and therefore we did not get to see it.

We also went to the Dzata Museum and saw a replica of the sacred drum with magical powers. Apparently the drum warned the Venda tribe that enemies were approaching. The drum was never allowed to touch the ground, or be seen by public eyes. The museum had many Venda artifacts, such as tools and weapons. Unfortunately, to the girls’ disappointment, their bathroom was out of order. So, the guys were kicked out of their bathroom and sent to the bushes.

Next up, the Sacred Forest, the journey to the forest would be disappointingly foggy and rainy the whole drive there, so we skipped it and the sacred lake, and instead went to the Phippidi falls. We paid our fare, and took the taxis down to the path to the falls. We climbed down the rocky stairs, through damp ground and over log bridges to reach the fantastic vista. Interestingly, regularly at this time of year the falls would have flooded the area we were standing in.

After a clearer drive through the windy mountains, we came to a scenic viewpoint of the Makhado village. Some took pictures, and soon after we were at the Arts and Cultural centre. Outside the cultural centre, there were two large wood carvings of Mandela. Inside there were many crafts (as expected) and a few of us bought souvenirs.  Vhutsilaavhutibi culture and arts centre was next, and here we met a seventy-five year old lady who has been a wood carver since nineteen seventy-four.  Within this centre were also many carvings and interesting works of a wide variety, ranging from animals to pots, to jewelry.

From there we went on a long car ride to visit the “Bead Lady” who has a rare disease in which she is hunched over at the waist, measuring at around two foot tall. She had many bracelets, traditional sarongs, key chains, and head bands made of beads. The theme seemed to be South African colours; lots of green and red.  After some of us purchased a few beaded things, the group got back into the taxis for our final destination: a government funded pottery house.  Here over fifty women in the community make pots, plates, cups, large bowls, even larger bowls, and other sculptures. All were made of clay, and we had the opportunity to watch the pottery making progress in a live demonstration done by one of the ladies. Many of us, if not all bought these fine clay specimens, it was a good end to a great day. 

Due to a tardy arrival at the campsite and restaurant (some would say because of the very lax taxi drivers) we bustled our way into the dining hall, and ravaged on the bread and salad. Quickly we were served with a decadently-cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu, and for the vegetarians  a delicious, crispy and creamy Mac and Cheese. Following the dinner, we devoured a luscious lemony ludicrously-tasty lemon-Morang pie. Good stuff!

Driving through the Venda area it becomes clear how important Religion plays a part to the people.  It was Sunday today and everyone that we saw was dressed in their Sunday best either heading to Church or from Church.  Some of the services were simply being held under a tree with 75-100 parishioners taking part.  Our taxi driver was hesitant to take us today because he would miss his Church.  Many of the taxi’s have stickers of their vehicle windows with a religious quote.  Most of the churches are Christian based.

Day 11 – Theresa and Tasha

Today we were scheduled to start later than in the past week.  However we are now acclimatized to our early schedule. Rather than sleeping in until seven most tents were up at around six thirty. After some early morning showers we had breakfast and then left for the worksite. Today was a big day, instead of working we had a ceremony to hand the project over from the Castlegar, Bedfordview and Louis Trichardt Rotary Clubs to the Tonda Lushaka Community. Arriving at the worksite at 9 am, we helped set-up a tent as well as putting the portable toilets on the brick pedestal we laid. While doing this, buses of students from different community schools started arriving. Completely unplanned, the “Waka Waka” by Shakira started vibrating through the ‘Party Bus’. All the Interactors and some of the teachers & students started to dance and sing. Not long after, the women from the center called the female Interactors to one of the new containers so we could put on beautiful and colourful traditional Venda costumes. A few of the Interactors and Denise participated in a procession dance to start the Ceremony.

The Ceremony started and there must have been more than 350 people.  Nearly all of the 183 children supported by Tonda Lushaka were pulled out of school to attend.  We listened to 10-15 politicians, Community leaders, Rotarians, Interactors (Heather and Blake) and students give speeches about the project and its impact on the community.  The ceremony also included beautiful singing and tribal chanting.  Once the Ceremony had finished the Interactors and the Rotarians went their separate ways, the Interactors heading to town to go shopping, and the Rotarians went to a Rotary Meeting and a luncheon hosted by the local Rotary club. On the way to get dropped off to start our mini shopping day “Lovely”, one of our taxi drivers, got pulled over for taking on his cell phone. After some cash traded hands with the police we were again on our way.  When we arrived at the beginning of the main shopping street we split in three different groups. We shopped for about an hour and a half then met up with Geoff, Denise, Mikey and Alex who had returned from the Rotary meeting.

It is only a short drive back to the Cloud’s End Inn on the outskirts of Louis Trichardt.  Because of the last two nights of rain our tents are a mess and clothes all damp and muddy.  Therefore we did laundry and cleaned up the tents.

Tomorrow we have our last day of work before Kruger Park. It’s going to be sad saying goodbye to all the kids at the center (as well as everyone else that we have met here), but the gratitude and friendship that we feel from them softens the blow a bit. Hope everyone in Castlegar is enjoying the last days of summer and everyone’s getting excited for school.

 

Ps. sending lots of love to our families!                                                                                                            

Pps. We hope Travis, Sophie, Breanna and Cole are getting excited for their first year of HIGHSCHOOL!!        

Day 12 – Seraphina & Alyssa

Today was our last day at the work site. Last night was a cold one, but thank god we had our quilts! Once at the work site we soon realized that the day was in a sharp contrast to the cold of the night. We split into four groups, two went to plant the Swiss Chard seeds, one went to fill in certain trenches and the other finished up the painting the containers. There was a little puppy there to distract us from our work. We were all sad to leave the work site that we worked so hard but won’t be able to see finished.

After we finished work, we had a choice of going to the centre straight away or going to a high school to give a small presentation, that turned into a presentation in front of 1135 students, then to a primary school to give some books. The ones who chose the schools got to see where some of kids from the centre go to school and what environment they learned in. In every classroom there would be over 50 kids packed in and there were usually 3 classes of every grade.  The principal asked us to inspire his students to value education so Denise, Blake, and Chelan all gave speeches about what we are doing in South Africa but kept a focus on the importance of education (including post secondary), as well as community involvement and volunteerism.   After the presentation we walked down the street to the primary school. We gave them our books and went on a tour of the school. Even though school was over at this time many of the children stayed following us around just to wave and say hello to us, we felt like celebrities.  When done with the tour we made our way to the centre, all the primary students (those who go to the centre and those who don’t) in tow.

Meanwhile at the centre, there weren’t very many kids yet because most were in school still. Some Interactors helped sort clothes that we brought for them.  However, once the Interactors visiting the schools came back with all of the kids we were surrounded by kids in the matter of seconds. Kids were so excited they were screaming strawberrily, running and pulling on the Interactors; it was all overwhelming and unfortunately only the beginning. Later on there were even fights we had to break up! After around 30 minutes of that the caregivers of the center ushered the kids who didn’t usually go there out so they could serve the meal which settled everyone down. While the meal was being served we gave each child a baggie of Canadian stickers, pencils and toys which had been made up which increased the children’s excitement once again. They were pulling and tugging at each other wanting each other’s gifts. Some of the Interactors also took aside their buddies and gave them special gifts. Soon we made our way to the taxi, giving hugs and saying our final goodbyes. There were definitely some tears on the ride back to the campsite.

After getting our stuff packed and hoping in the shower we made our way up to the lounge to wait for dinner. The electricity is down here so we had to eat our lasagna by candle light. It was by far our best dinner at Clouds End.  A great way to say goodbye to our time in Louis Trichardt.