Home Is The Nicest Word There Is

Before I get into this post, I want to first thank everyone who actually reads my blog. It’s been read by people from over 60 different countries so far! I never ever expected so many. Gracias. Asanti. Danke. Thank you. (Sorry, those are the only languages I know how to say that in.)

Coming back to South Africa after being in Tanzania for so long definitely feels like I came back home. And I never realized just how much South Africa doesn’t feel like “Africa” compared to Tanzania. I sat in the Jo’burg airport waiting for my connection to Cape Town when a local came to me and asked where I’m from. I told him Michigan and he said he wishes very bad to get to America and how he hates South Africa. I told him “Consider yourself fortunate, people in Tanzania have it worse.” He laughed and bothered me some more asking a bunch of questions. I had plenty of time, so I answered them. One thing I have to quit doing though: stop speaking in Swahili. I’m so used to saying things like “mambo”(hello) and “asanti sana”(thank you very much) that I say it here when responding to a local. I’ve done it a lot already. I usually catch myself after I say it and re-respond in English.

I’m very excited to be back and more excited about whats in store for me! I’ll be doing different things this time around. I’ll be living in a homestay in Kayamandi, a community of Stellenbosch. It’s a little north of Muizenberg, just a couple short train rides away. The name of my host mom is Mama Zulu. I’ll be living with her and her husband I believe. I think she may have a kid or two as well. I’ll be teaching again but this time I’ll be at Ikaya Primary school, which I believe is walking distance from my homestay. One of the biggest advantages this time around is that many of the kids I will be teaching live in the same community as me, which means I can hang out with them after school and spoil them rotten! I will play the big brother role for sure and I cannot wait!

All of this isn’t entirely new news to me. I knew awhile ago the school I would be placed in. I requested it after reading how awesome the kids were there. Last year, another volunteer named Chris (Pennsylvania, U.S) did this exact same thing. I read his blogs about it, which you can read here O’Sullivans Travels, and thought it was an awesome experience. Take a look at his posts, they’re more detailed and insightful than mine. There’s a group of specific kids he bonded with throughout most of his time here and when he returned to the States, he made a couple of videos featuring his kids and his story while in southern Africa. He asked me if there was any chance, if I spotted his kids at Ikaya, to show them his videos he made. He never got the chance to show them. I was happy to take up that task. It was the least I could do after bombarding him with a barrage of questions about South Africa prior to me coming here. It shouldn’t be too hard to find them, right?

In addition to my new endeavors in Kayamandi, I also plan on visiting those I left behind in Muizenberg. Well…actually…all of the volunteers that I was with are gone! Monica, Becca, Andy, Tessa, the Frenchies, Chris (not the same Chris mentioned above), and everybody else! They all went back home. All except Lucy, who is staying here for 6 months. She’s still alive and kicking at my old home on Recreation Road with who knows how many new volunteers there are now. Dave, who works at the Surf Shack, is still around which means I WILL be catching some waves again soon. I also plan on visiting my old school a few times at the Christian Primary. My kids there have no idea I’m coming back. The look on their faces will be priceless!

I was picked up from the airport in Cape Town and taken to Sea Point for the next couple of days. There I would have another orientation on Monday. It was Saturday night which meant I had all of Sunday free. I stayed at a hostel and met a handful of other volunteers who would be scattered around Cape Town, also living in homestays. For the first time ever, there are zero Canadian and American volunteers. Not that there is anything wrong with that but every time I do something like this, there is usually a boatload of Canadians! Everyone I met so far here is from somewhere in Europe, Asia, or Australia. So far no one from my side of the globe.

Unlike everyone else here, I already knew my way around Cape Town. I spoke with other volunteers about all the things I did back in June and showed them pictures. They were very excited about all the excursions they could do here. On Sunday, Alissa (Frankfurt, Germany) and I walked around the city a bit. But the very first thing I did before anything else was head straight to McDonald’s for some tasty breakfast! I had the Mega McMuffin. Do those even exist in America? I have been craving Mickey D’s ever since I left South Africa the first time. There are no McDonald’s in Tanzania! Anyways, we walked to the Waterfront and the city center to explore. It felt like I was at home again and after being in the very rustic Tanzania, I appreciated Cape Town a lot more this time around. Alissa and another girl who stayed at the hostel made dinner that evening for us. Spaghetti dinner and salad, and it was quite good. I am not a good cook by any means and felt a bit spoiled having them around. It was only my first day back and I was already being catered to haha!

Just like home

Later that night, more volunteers showed up. Everyone I met so far are being placed in other communities around Cape Town. So far no one is placed in Kayamundi. No worries though. One of the volunteers I met, Mohammed, is from Baghdad, Iraq but now lives in the Netherlands. I don’t think I ever met anyone from Iraq before. He asked me where I’m from and so I told him, “Michigan. The United States.” We talked for a bit but I was careful not to reveal that my mother served in the war in Iraq for a few years. It’s still a sensitive subject and I wasn’t sure how he would react to it. I eventually told him and he told me he never met an American who had a family member serve in the war. But there was no bad blood at all and it was a bit foolish of me to think so. We had an interesting conversation about it for a while. He’s a cool dude! Tomorrow we would all go to orientation which I wasn’t really amped for. Orientation would include a walking tour around the city. I already knew my way around though! I took the rest of the night to catch up on writing my blog in which I was so far behind. I also took the time to finally relax and chat via internet with friends back home.

Just a small dose of Cape Town.

Orientation day was fairly interesting. A lot of what the SASTS team had to say about South Africa, I already knew. Then they started talking about all the excursions we could do. Been there. Done that. I found out a bit more about Kayamandi and Mama Zulu. We also introduced ourselves. I said my name and Clyde, the head of the SASTS organization, said “Oh you’re the famous Dan Sellers.” Famous? I wonder why he said that. It seemed that every member who spoke at orientation knew all about me. I was a little baffled as to why though. During orientation, Clyde had a video of a past volunteer’s experience with SASTS that he wanted to share. It just so happens that it was one of the videos Chris has made. I mentioned to Clyde that he is actually the one who suggested I come here, which he was very glad to hear. After about two hours of lecture, we broke for lunch. On my way out, Clyde stopped me and told me if I had ten minutes to spare he wanted to talk to me. I told him okay. But I thought to myself, why me specifically? What was going on?

After lunch I headed to his office. He greeted me and asked me what I did for a living. I told him, I’m studying towards my masters and on my free time I travel and work. After brief general chit-chat, he went on to say how his organization was non-profit and told me where all the money we pay goes and what he’s worked on in the past. SASTS is based in South Africa and is a very solid organization for those wanting to volunteer and experience this amazing country. Then he went into why he wanted to talk to me and why I was the talk of the town. I’ll explain exactly what it is on a later post. For now let’s just say that it brought a new light on what goes on behind the scenes with volunteer organizations, specifically my previous organization, IVHQ.

Later that day, after running around town, one of the coordinators took me and Eva (Spain) to Kayamandi. Eva would be living with me at Mama Zulu’s. We entered the Kayamandi community, which looked kinda like a shanty town.

There, my new mama and her grandson were outside waiting for our arrival at my new home.

3 thoughts on “Home Is The Nicest Word There Is”

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