Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sunday, May 12

Today I went to church in Lolli, another city 10 minutes away. Everyone was wearing heavy sweaters, while I was sweating after a while in my thin sweater. That's what it is like here, because to them, it is their winter, and it is “cold” when it is 70*F.

Church was filled with traditional music with drums, and other percussion which reminded me of Ghana. However, the service was in their language, so clearly I didn't understand the 2 ½ hours of Zulu mass, but was surprised and amused to hear them sometimes use “clicks” in the Zulu language. And, sometimes an english phrase would be said throughout the sermon, so we could get the gist of it.

After church, Magda and Anezka normally run a youth program, but due to lack of students, only Magda's program ran. We talked about respecting each other and ourselves, and then made Mother's day cards. After church I also met social worker, Esther who I will be working with, and who was very happy to meet me. I will start work with her tomorrow.

We had lunch with Sisters, and Sister Margaret talked to me more about the school, about how these children attending are the poorest of the poor, and come from very terrible living conditions.

Weirdly enough, a full page of the South African newspaper at the Sister's today was of Justin Bieber. Um, what??

Tomorrow water is off in all of my community because they are doing something to the reservoir. This should be interesting, especially at the school. Our power is running out too. Here, you pay for the power at the electric company, and then are given a code you enter into your power box in your house to get more power. So kind of like reloading minutes on a pay-as-you-go phone. And it shows up on the screen how much you have until you run out.

Monday, May 13

Well, today was the hardest day I have had since I have been here. But I will start with my fun early morning.

First of all, this morning, Magda and Anezka both said that they had never heard of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (It was when I was making my lunch for the day). In the Czech, they just have peanut butter and no jam with it. But they eat nutella, so that's great. They said that we can buy it here, and I am looking forward to that.

They also told me that they have something better than nutella, and pulled out kinder surprises!!! But, only kind of. There is a factory in South Africa that makes them, and when they aren't perfect, they donate them to the school the Sister's run. So it was just the milk chocolate and some crunchy almost “co-co puffs” in half the encasing. I tried to explain how they are illegal in the United States due to there being a toy enclosed completely inside a food, and Magda asked if Americans are not as smart as Canadians and Europeans, since anyone can see that the toy inside (which is fully encased in plastic) is not edible.

We drove to school, and saw many other children from the richer neighborhoods walking to school. The children that we have at our school come from two different slums, and would not be going to school if this school had not been built. The Sister's help all 240+ students pay for or acquire a uniform, and they must wear it every day to school. This helps them to not compare themselves to each other, though all of them are really poor. Before they blew the whistle for the students to all line up, all of the children were gathered in the front of the school (which is huge and new, by the way. They are still putting the finishing touches on it still, so there are workers everywhere still). At this time, I got to finally meet the priest from Halifax, Canada who has been very excited to meet me. He was just ordained a priest and just arrived in South Africa about 2 months ago.

When the whistle blew, the students all lined up in their grade levels (1-7) and one of the Sisters introduced me to all of the children, who all greeted me back. I just loved seeing all of them this morning, and got to talk to a lot of them. So today was very different because 3 of the 7 teachers were gone to take their teaching exams, and because the water was getting shut off. Grades 4-7 were divided from the younger ones, and while waiting for breakfast, they were singing in probably Zulu, which was really fun to hear. They sounded great, too, and were having a ton of fun moving to the music.

After breakfast, the water shut off, and so we walked some of the younger children back to their houses because you can't run a school with that many people and no usable toilets. While trying to get them to stay in 2 lines (which was completely impossible), some of the boys were teaching me how to say things in their language. Then I told them that I spoke Spanish, and they said “Spanish is what you eat”, meaning spinach. Which is just great, because of one of my favorite youtube videos:

When Sister had walked them to the railroad bridge, she let them walk the rest of the way by themselves since they were really close to all of their homes. The social worker and I continued on to the “slum” to talk to the parents of one child, and for me to see where and how most of the children lived. It was really heart-breaking, and tears formed in my eyes when I had the chance to look inside one of their “houses” made of sheets of tin nailed together. No electricity. Mostly tiny, one-room shacks, where I hear sometimes the children sleep on the floor with no bed. I've never seen poverty this bad before. Luckily, when the tears came, I was sitting with Esther talking to a parent, and had one of the girls' on my lap, and I could hide behind her. One of the houses had a little solar panel on his roof to generate a little light inside, but the light was not bright at all. Luckily, there are clean water taps around the “neighborhood” free for them to use.

Esther knew everyone in the neighborhood, and we would stop to talk to everyone we met (traditional African style), but she knew most of them. She knows more people than I do, (if that is possible). She would explain to people who I was, but in their language (she speaks all of the languages here, so about 4 plus English). So I would hear “language I can't understand...CHRISTINE... more language I can't understand... CANADA OVERSEAS... more language... Social Worker.” Everyone was so friendly and happy to meet me or just greet me while passing on the street. Africans are just so welcoming. When we walked back to the school, I found out Esther has been a social worker for 31 years, working in prisons and with delinquent youth in South Africa. The sisters asked her to come out of retirement to help them at their school. (This may be a good time to say that only half the school is grades 1-7, while the other half of the buildings are used for “Skills” programs for women and men to learn to obtain jobs. They have plumbing, electrician, carpentry, and sewing/traditional African crafts like beading, and I'm not sure what else yet.)

After school, Magda, Anezka and I went to grocery store, and it looked like a Canadian/American grocery store with food that I am used to. I found my tortilla shells and cheese (they have real cheese here unlike Ghana), so I was very happy. When the water was turned back on, the bathroom I use (we have 3 in our volunteer house) had flooded a little bit and we had to use a mop and a broom and dust pan to clean it up. The only reasonable explanation of where the water had come from was from the ceiling due to where there were water splashes around the flooded floor. The ceiling was not wet, but there is this random pipe opening, so another “I don't understand” moment. Anezka is gone for the week to another site to learn about a retreat they are running, so it's just Magda and me.

Since today was the feast day of Sister Mazarello, the founding sister of the Salesians (who the Sister's are apart of), we had mass at the Sister's house with 4 priests, 4 Sisters, and 3 20-something year olds who are living with one of the priests to see if they want to become one. They are from Swaziland, and Magda and I ended up being at the same table as them for dinner, and it was really fun to talk with them and the priest who was at the mass yesterday. One of the priests asked me if I was in Johannesburg last night. I was confused until they said that Justin Bieber was performing there last night. Why is Justin Bieber in South Africa?? Weird. So we teased the priest back asking if he was there, and he said no, that he wasn't a Bieliber. So funny!

Magda and I instantly became best friends tonight, and we are already making plans for me to come see her and Anezka in the Czech.

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