Five flights. In order to get to Cape Town, it would take five flights through four different countries. Siem Reap, Cambodia to Shanghai, China, to Hong Kong to Mumbai, India, to Johannesburg, South Africa, and finally to Cape Town. Getting through those flights weren’t without its hiccups. A little traffic accident on the way to the Siem Reap airport almost set me back (I’ll be okay!). The people on the plane to India next to me liked to use my arm as a headrest which made for an uncomfortable 4 hour flight. And I will never forget how complex the Jo’burg airport is. I got a little lost again but refuse to ask for help after what happened last time I was here. Eventually I found my way and soon enough I landed in Cape Town! After I scooped my luggage, I quickly went to go reactivate my old South African phone so I could text Chris my whereabouts. He gave me word before I left that he and Papa Zulu were going to pick me up. As I made my way to the exit, up the escalators, there was Chris and two girls holding signs that read “Welcome back to South-Africa, Dan”! It was great to see a familiar face again! The other two girls are Mieke and Hanneke, both from the Netherlands who are also staying at Mama Zulus. We made our way outside, where Papa Zulu pulled up. It was great to see him too! I didn’t get to say goodbye to him last time, as he was gone on my last day in Kayamandi.
First thing I noticed about South Africa – it’s freaking cold! I’m talking Antarctic temperatures (not really)…Coming from Asia where it was sweaty boiling hot, to Cape Town where it’s the end of winter is a major difference in temperature which is going to take me a minute adjusting to. We rolled to the ever so familiar township of Kayamandi. The whole time we were driving, it felt very surreal. Almost as if I really wasn’t here now. Then before I knew it, we pulled up to the Zulu household. Mama Zulu heard us arrive and walked out to greet me. Mama Zulu is so amazing and it was very nice to reunite with her again. She calls me her son, along with Chris. I’m excited to try her mouthwatering meals again! Mama Zulu whips up great dinners which were reminiscent of when my own mom cooked for me and my brothers growing up. I let her know I’d be around here longer this time around, which she was really happy to hear.
My room I had last year was top notch and ideal for when the kids came over, and as much as I was hoping to get it back, Mieke and Hanneke already claimed my old space. Instead, I would be sharing rooms with Chris in his old room he had two years ago, which was also fine. As I settled in, Chris updated me on everything thats been happening the past couple of weeks, most importantly our Reaching Out 2 The World trip with the kids which would be in about a week from the time of this post! He’s been doing a great job of meeting up with some of the kids parents explaining to them our plans and having them sign permission slips. I myself was surprised I wasn’t feeling any jet-lag yet. I think I was more anxious to see everyone in Kayamandi and Stellenbosch again, rather than catching up on sleep. But first thing first, I needed to get to Stellenbosch to get some food aka McDonalds (I know, I know).
Chris, Meike, and Hanneke accompanied me to Stellenbosch mall. It still felt like I wasn’t really here yet. It hasn’t hit me. But just walking around Stellenbosch felt like I was here just yesterday, nostalgic even. We found the McDonalds I was a frequent visitor of last year, and I pigged out. Meike and Hanneke are staying with Mama Zulu for a year and have internships doing social work in Kayamandi. I wish I could stay here for a year! After McDonalds, they needed to go to Checkers to get some ingredients for a dessert they owed Chris for a bet they made prior. But before we went there, I HAD to get a Cinnabon! Hanneke has never experienced what heaven tasted like, so I bought her one to try with Meike. Unfortunately, this Cinnabon would be closing down on September 20th due to poor sales, which was heart wrenching! But afterwards, we got everything else we needed and headed back to Kayamandi.
When we got back, Chris and I walked around Kayamandi where a bunch of random kids gladly followed us around. He mentioned to me there was a BMX course near our old school (Ikaya Primary) where a lot of of the kids would go to after class was dismissed. We walked there and I was really surprised to see an actual legit BMX course where a bunch of students were painting murals for the building next to it. I guess it’s always been there but I had no idea it ever existed! We walked back to Zulu’s along with the kids who were with us and Chris and I gave them our iPads which I preloaded with tons of new games for them to play. And before I knew it, in walks Mawande! He’s only grown maybe about an inch since I’ve seen him last which still makes him the runt of the group. Later on throughout the night, the rest of the gang came over; RiRi, Chester, Ski, Atha, and Aphiwe! I was elated to find that they all remembered me and remembered everything I told them and all the things we’ve done together last year. I can see all of them have grown up a bit, especially RiRi and Chester. Their voices deepened and both have grown a lot taller. Thankfully, all of the boys are in high school now, but not at the same one. There are two different high schools in Kayamandi the boys attend. RiRi and Mawande attend one school while the others attend the other. It’s too bad Avele and Fudo don’t live in Kayamandi anymore because it would of been great to see them too. But just like old times, it was straight to the iPad to play their favorite game, Subway Surfers. I also reunited with Lelethu and Buscha who arrived a little earlier. Buscha was the king of Subway Surfers last time I was here, so I bet he was pretty happy to get to play all he wanted again!
As the boys were in our room playing around, I met the other volunteer who lived across from our room. His name is Eric and he hails from Germany. Interesting fact about Eric, he plays American football on a team back home and also plays a ukelele in his free time. That’s unheard of! He joined us in our already packed room full of kids. Chris received a book from one of his friends back home to share with the kids. He made everyone turn off the iPads and had each person, including myself, read a page from the book about a gorilla in a zoo. Even after two years of being away, I was impressed that Chris still had control over the boys. They were quiet and some were pretty eager to read out loud. We only read a bit before the boys left. I passed out almost immediately after. It seems my jet-lag finally caught up with me.
The next morning, Chris had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in the outskirts of Stellenbosch to attend. What is Ultimate Frisbee you ask? Before I met him, I had no idea what it was. Is it just throwing a frisbee back and forth to each other…with ‘ultimate’ power? Nope. (That is what I initially assumed it was). Is it an extreme version of disc golf? Not at all. It’s actually a combination of American football, basketball, and handball except with a frisbee. Mawande, Ski, and I decided to go with him and watch. He invited me to play but I had no idea what the rules were, but it also wasn’t a smart idea because my neck is still jacked up from the pre-mentioned traffic accident in Siem Reap. My friends at home would be amazed at how these guys can manipulate a frisbee to glide pretty much anywhere they wanted to. It was like magic!
After a few hours, Chris and his team were doing pretty well but the kids and I were growing antsy and hungry, so we left early and caught a ride to Stellenbosch mall where I had to pick up a few things. Afterwards, I took them out to KFC for a late lunch. We took a minibus back to Zulu’s where the boys hung out for the rest of the day with their best friend, my iPad. Two more volunteers arrived that day. Two girls, Clara and Gesa, both from Germany who actually are part of the same organization as Eric. There were seven of us total now, which was great! There was barely anyone with me when I was here last year. Another great thing was Chris brought his Settlers of Catan game with him that everyone knows how to play. Friends at home reading this, you most likely have no idea what this game is and it’s a bit complex and I also know you probably won’t like it initially but you should give it a chance. I suck at it but I still enjoy it! We decided we would let the people who never win (Hanneke, Eric, and myself) duke it out while the others watched. We let Clara in on the action too and she ended up winning. Come to find out, it’s one of her favorite games. I’m horrible at it and I know I’ll have plenty of other chances to win during my stay here. (I probably still will always lose.)
We called it a night after and went to bed. What would I do tomorrow? Well, my mission in South Africa was a bit funky. In Vietnam, I was a volunteer teaching English to students everyday. The rest of Southeast Asia I was a backpacker, where I was constantly on the go, moving from one place to another. Here, I could do whatever the heck I wanted. I wasn’t obligated to be anywhere or do anything. I could take it easy and sleep all day, go out exploring, or go visit and help out schools. Expect the next few posts to be pretty random as far as what my agenda is because I am literally taking it day by day. The only thing I knew for sure was the special trip for the students around the country that would be happening in a few days! Chris and I still had some work to do!