Tag Archives: School

The End Where I Begin

I just want to say–Vegas was incredible as usual! It was great catching up with some of my friends and hearing what’s been happening at home since I left a little over three months ago. I also got the chance to skydive again and it was just as amazing as my first time in South Africa! Speaking of Africa, I found myself constantly thinking about one of the greatest summers I have ever had. Matt, Bryan, and the others would ask me about my trip, but I had a hard time figuring out where to begin telling them; I have done and experienced so much!

I’ve been home in Michigan for a day or two now and everyone is interested about what I’ve been up to and what interesting stories I have. A lot of them kept up with me on this blog, which I was really, really glad to hear. Those times of searching aimlessly for decent internet in the middle of Africa paid off. You guys have no idea just how tedious that was. It wasn’t just internet I had to find, I had to find a place with connectable wi-fi. I wrote my blogs on my iPad, connected that to a wi-fi hotspot to upload to this WordPress site, and then from a computer I could place photos and finally publish a post for all of you to see. This explains those long gaps between publishing certain posts; it’s not because I was lazy and didn’t write anything, it’s because I had no access to the internet.

I had friends say I looked humbled and completely refreshed when I saw them again. That could be true because I was in complete bliss my entire time in Africa (even on summit day on Mount Kilimanjaro). I’ve done just about everything I wanted to do although the stuff I missed I’ll save for my return one day. However I won’t get to ride an ostrich, I weigh 15k too much haha! I do miss all the fantastic people I have met over the last few months; my Rec 13 (and Palmer) house, my Old house (and New house), my safari squadron, my LX6 Kilimanjaro family, the SASTS volunteers, my Zanzibar rafikis, the Zulu family, and some of the locals I met in SA and Tanzania, and especially all of the kids I had the pleasure to teach and spend time with. The kids in Muizenberg and Arusha were some of the happiest children I have ever met, even under their subpar living circumstances. And then there’s the kids of Kayamandi, specifically Aphiwe, Fudo, Atha, RiRi, Ski, Chester, Avele, and Mawande–I miss those guys more than I care to admit. I wonder what they’re up to right now?

I’m glad I was able to share what I experienced in Africa with you all. A lot of my friends and family never really understood exactly what I do when I travel and volunteer in other countries. Now, as you can see, I have the most absolute best time of my life! My main focus in writing this blog was to inspire everyone and show off what else is out there on this humongous planet, from the perspective of an average guy such as myself. I received lots of e-mails from strangers who read this blog asking me a bunch of questions because they want to do the things that I did too. Flattering. I am completely open to answering any questions or giving any advice with anything pertaining to any of my posts.

So keep tabs on me you guys. My stint in Africa may be done for now, but I am already in the beginning stages of planning another big trip abroad. I don’t know where (Southeast Asia?), I don’t know when (maybe next summer?) but it WILL happen soon. Also this time, maybe I won’t go alone? Maybe I can tempt a friend or two or three to come along, now that they’ve seen what I have done. I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon, it’s my drug. And of course, I will be sure to blog about it again. This isn’t the end my friends, it’s just where I begin again. Until next time, be safe folks and happy travels!
Here’s a little something extra for you guys, check it out!

The Grass is Just as Green on the Other Side

(New Adventure. New Posts. Coming May 2013!)

The Promised Land

This whole month, my kids have been talking about swimming and how much they wanted to go to the pool but unfortunately, this South African winter weather has been less than suitable for that. It’s always cold and rainy here, and if the sun is shining, it’s still never warm enough to go for a dip. But unbeknownst to them, I knew of a place where I could take them swimming in Cape Town that had a heated indoor pool. I promised them, before I left Kayamandi that I would take them, all eight of them. I had one more weekend with these boys so I wanted to make it a memorable one. So for the week prior, I have been telling Avele, Mawande, Fudo, Atha, Ski, Chester, Aphiwe, and RiRi to tell their parents that I would be taking them to Cape Town on Saturday. I planned on being there all day so I made sure to tell them everyday that they must be at my house by 7am on the dot or else they would be left behind. It was a bit early of a time, but I had a lot planned for us. I also told them to bring shorts to swim in, but besides that, they knew of nothing else I had in store for them.

Chester, Mawande, Ski, and Avele actually ended up spending the night on Friday because they were afraid of waking up late and missing out! We woke up the next morning, got ready, and Aphiwe, RiRi, and Fudo showed up. It was now 7am and there was no sign of Atha. I even waited a couple more minutes and walked slower than usual to the train station to see if he would be running to us. I felt bad, but to be fair, I did warn him numerous times. I bought everyone’s train ticket, and as we waited, we saw Atha running towards us on the train tracks. Once I spotted him, I ran and bought another ticket before the train came! He made it just in time and now I had the whole crew with me; the elite eight.

I thought this was hilarious!

After a little more than an hour, we arrived in Cape Town and the kids became excited because they didn’t know where I would be taking them in this big city. First, we walked along Long Street to the indoor pool. The pool here was very large and went up to about 10 feet deep, I wanna say. We all swam, except for Fudo and Aphiwe who forgot their shorts. Most of the time, the boys splashed around on the shallow side while I did laps back and forth across the pool. There was no lifeguard on duty but no worries, I used to be a certified lifeguard during the end of high school (even though I actually didn’t do anything with it). I’m like a fish in the water, so I felt confident if something were to happen, I could save them. At one point, I wanted to teach RiRi and Avele how to do a proper dive. RiRi got the hang of it, but after a few misfires, Avele’s nose started to bleed so I had him sit out for a while. He handled it like a trooper though. After about maybe an hour or so of swimming, I got out and dried off. As I was, a security guard came up to me and started asking me questions about the kids, and where I’m from, and what my background is and blah blah blah. He then had the courage to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about my bag being stolen while in the pool, but if it were to happen, it would be the whites that would most likely take it. Ugh…I knew where this conversation was headed. He started to get into this whole ridiculous spiel about color and race and all that junk. Next time I come to Africa, I’m going to wear a shirt everyday that reads “I don’t give a $h%# about colors!” I summoned the boys, got changed, left the pool and went to get some grub.

I love how RiRi is in the background just swimming around nonchalantly.

I didn’t want to go to McDonald’s again, but it was literally right there, right across the street. So that’s where we went and all had burgers, chips, and drinks. I made a promise to myself though, that once I get back to America, I will avoid McDonald’s for the rest of the year. While eating, the boys had no idea where we were going to next, and kept asking me for hints. “You’ll see!” is what I kept saying. I think not knowing made things a bit more entertaining for them.

We headed to the South African Museum and Planetarium. To my surprise, they were pretty excited about it. I bought tickets for all of us to the next showing of “The Sky Tonight”, which started in about 90 minutes. In the meantime, we went to explore the museum. This museum is a whole lot better than any museum I have been to back home. It’s a giant storied complex and the amount of exhibits and showcases were almost endless! Every kid wanted to take a picture with everything! My memory card is packed with pictures they took here, which I prepared for. I bought a new card pretty much for that reason.

I was really surprised the kids actually were excited about this educational part of our day.

So huge!
This thing was cool!
For some reason, a lot of people wanted to take pictures of us here. Hence why some of them aren’t looking at my camera haha!

In due time, we found our way to the planetarium and nabbed seats for the show we booked.

I haven’t been to a planetarium in ages and I forgot what it was actually like. The room became pitch-black and the faux stars sprinkled the top of the dome. A guy started lecturing about the planets, stars, and our galaxy. He lectured pretty much the whole time. Lectures lull me to sleep, and that’s what happened haha! I fell asleep maybe ten minutes into the presentation. I have to give pats on the backs to the boys, they were able to sit through quietly (well quieter than I expected) for the entire duration. The whole time they said they were waiting for a movie or something to start haha!

Next up, we went to the Aquarium at the Waterfront. We walked about 30-40 minutes to get there, as opposed to taking a taxi van because I wanted them to see the city by foot. The kids have never been to the Aquarium before and were anxious as to what exactly this kind of place was. I bought everyone tickets and we went inside. This aquarium had everything; penguins, sharks, loads of colorful fish, crustaceans, reptiles, insects, everything but whales and dolphins. I saw a sign where people could go scuba diving in one of the humongous shark tanks. I needed to know more information! I let the kids explore the aquarium on their own as long as they stayed together while I went to the information kiosk to ask about the diving. The lady there explained it all to me. It costs a lot (which I was willing to pay) but it takes three hours of training before we even went inside the shark tank. I told the lady that I already received some scuba training about a month ago in Zanzibar. “It’s different here though” she said. “You have to have a license.” I have to put that on my list of things to do: get a scuba diving license. I couldn’t go into the shark tank anyways because three hours is too long and would take up the rest of our day. The boys would grow restless! I would have to save this on the list of things I must do whenever I come back. Afterwards, I reunited with the kids who were under the shark tunnel. I thought this place was pretty neat and I’m glad they enjoyed it as well.

I tried to take a sweet jumping pic here, but the kids couldn’t time themselves properly even if their lives depended on it!

Next up, the giant ferris wheel! I don’t think any of them had ever been on one of these, let alone know what a ferris wheel even was. I bought the boys tickets, but I sat out and watched. This wheel was gigantic and revolved a lot; longer and more often than it does back in the U.S. The boys were on there for quite a while! That gave me time to watch the marimba players nearby and nab a quick ice cream cone.

These guys were jammin!

We were all hungry again and we all had a hankering for thick, juicy ribs and as luck would have it, the Waterfront occupied the kids’ favorite restaurant, Spurs. We went through the mall (which looked very nice by the way) and requested a table for nine. I let them each order whatever they wanted and they all ordered their own personal slab of ribs with chips and sodas. I ordered the same but with buffalo wings as well. “You eat buffalo!?” asked Aphiwe. I started to laugh. “You eat chicken heads!” I responded back. They all thought I was eating actual buffalo. Since when do buffalo have wings? Haha! The main attraction of Spurs that the kids love is the video games they have in the game room. They always went to the one in Stellenbosch, but never to this one. This one had different games for them to play. I couldn’t blame them for always wanting to come here. When I was a kid, I practically lived in the game areas of every child friendly restaurant I went to. Eventually, not too long, the food came and we pigged out.

Take a look at the mess on Ski’s face lol

They were finished super fast and rushed back to play more games. I asked Avele to stay behind as the others went off. Avele is going to be moving to the Eastern Cape soon, so whenever I do comeback to South Africa, I will most likely never see him again. So I bought him and I dessert as a going away gift; waffles covered with syrup, candy coated chocolates and ice cream. Not to worry though, I eventually bought the other kids ice cream cones as we made our way back to the train station.

My aim today besides it being my last Saturday with the kids, was to give them a chance to do everything they wanted to do in Cape Town without having to worry about money. I wanted them to have a glimpse of what else is out there outside of the poverty-stricken township of Kayamandi. A whole day of doing the fun stuff every kid would dream to do in this city. Maybe seeing the city freely like this would give them the motivation to get out of Kayamandi one day? To do that, I told them they have to do exceptionally well in school and I guarantee that they will go to parts of the world they never even imagined. Don’t get me wrong, Kayamandi isn’t a terrible place, it’s just hard to grow and develop fundamentally there, especially for a child. There are people who spend their whole lives there, because that’s all they know and can afford. These kids are still young enough to head on the right track in their lives and it starts with staying in school and doing well in their academics (and I will help them with that later on in upcoming posts). However, its way too easy for the kids in this township to get caught up with the wrong crowd of people and be led astray; being misguided away from their true potential. All eight of these kids are truly unique from one another and I always enjoy my time with them because with a mix of eclectic personalities like these ones, I’m always entertained! It’s rare for a kid in this area to get an opportunity to have someone from the outside world to help them positively grow, hang out with, and pretty much spoil them for a while with no worries and otherwise do what they could never do before. It’s even rarer to get a second opportunity. It started first with my friend Chris and now with myself. I just hope they don’t take all of this for granted.

If you’d like another perspective on these kids, check this out http://osullivanstravels.wordpress.com/.

Could You, Would You, With a Fox?

Lately, I have been leaving notes on my door before I left so if the kids came over, they would know where I was and when I’d be back. Before, I would feel really bad every time I came home late and some of them were there at Zulu’s just waiting for me like lost little puppy dogs, not knowing when I would show up. I should of done the notes a long time ago.

As I was hanging out at Zulu’s with some of the kids, Mohammed (Mo) came over. His home-stay is in Grassy Park, a township close by my olds digs in Muizenberg, but I invited him to stay over a night in Kayamandi because it’s much better here. There was next to nothing to do in Grassy Park and I had the whole of Stellenbosch to keep myself busy. That same night, Isaac paid a visit to chat and he asked me when I wanted to skydive so that he could take me. I had originally planned on Saturday, but the conditions weren’t in my favor. Bummer. The weather in Cape Town or in Western Cape in general can change instantly! Isaac wanted to take me to grab some dinner in Stellenbosch. I had Mo come along but had to tell the kids that I had to leave. As we made our way to Isaac’s van, as the kids were leaving, they pointed out to a group of guys at the end of the street who were kicking around MY soccer ball! They guy who stole it from Ski lived right on the corner of my block too! I wanted to go and get it but I didn’t want to keep Isaac waiting, so I told the boys that I would get the ball later on. I probably missed the perfect opportunity but oh well; food is more important to me :).

Isaac took us to a restaurant called Cubana, close by in Stellenbosch. He wouldn’t take my money for the ride there so instead I secretly bought his dinner while he was eating. He was flabbergasted at the fact, but it was the least I could do because Isaac wanted to show me places all over Western Cape that I haven’t been to yet. Unfortunately, my time in South Africa is winding down fast so I have to save a lot of those cool places he told me about for my next trip back! After a great dinner, we called it a night and Isaac took us back to Zulu’s. The next day, Mo wanted to go to Cape Town. I had nothing planned for this weekend (because skydiving was cancelled) so I came along and we explored Cape Town, ate a lot of food all day, and watched rugby. The weather in Cape Town was beautiful! The sun was out and there was not a single cloud in the sky. It would of been the perfect day for skydiving. So instead, I had the impulse to go abseiling right then and there. I called the abseiling company and unfortunately they were going to close in a few minutes but they suggested I try and come in the morning. Will do! Mo and I stayed the night in Cape Town at a hostel called Carnaval Court a.k.a the WORST hostel in Cape Town! There were cockroaches in our room and their advertised wi-fi didn’t work. Worst of all, it was next to impossible to fall asleep. You could hear everything and I mean EVERYTHING that was happening outside. All of the music from the bars and clubs, people talking in whatever languages they were, every single car, footstep, and even sound of a pin drop. This hostel was on Long Street, a place known for partying so it was loud all night. Literally, there were people and music until about 5 in the morning! I would of stayed out longer but I had to wake up early to abseil…or so I thought. That morning, the weather didn’t look so hot. I called the company and they told me it was closed today but to try again Wednesday. Ugh…

Long Street

Once again, since my plans were shot down, I went with Mo on his quest to have an encounter with a cheetah at a place called The Cheetah Outreach. It’s the one, and one of the only things he wanted to do while in South Africa. After a mishap on the train, getting lost in Somerset, and baffling locals (some locals who asked where we were from found it to be the craziest thing in the world that an American and an Iraqi were traveling together) we finally found the outreach after what seemed like forever. This place had animals like caracals, servals, meerkats, bat-eared foxes, and of course cheetahs just to name a few. I already had an encounter with a cheetah back in June so I figured I would just look at all the animals while Mo handled his cheetah. I got bored really quick haha! I asked one of the workers if I could pet any of the other animals there. She said all the animals aren’t used to human interaction but I could try with the bat-eared foxes. “I’ll do it!”

I’ve never seen foxes quite like these ones before. They had gigantic ears and they looked like little bandits from the way a strip of black laid across their triangular faces. They were feisty little suckers, but I was able to get them to come near me eventually. They were fairly small adult foxes, maybe about the size of a lion cub. It was cool because we were virtually some of the only people at the Outreach so we took our time with the encounters. Afterwards, Mo and I made our way back to the train station where we would part ways for the last time. He would be heading to the Netherlands soon. We said our goodbyes and I waited for my next train as he rode off in his. I’m starting to feel more like a local with the amount of trains I have been on here. I’m remembering all the stops and which trains go where and what times they leave and arrive. After an hour of daydreaming, my train finally arrived and I went home. Of course some of my boys were there waiting for me, so I hung out with them for the rest of the evening.

One thing I always look forward to here is what Mama Zulu whips up for dinner. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. Everything she makes is emaculate and old fashioned. It’s not just her cooking, but also her daughter Lelethu’s cooking as well. I was starving tonight and it’s been awhile since I had lunch. I could smell what was for dinner as soon as I walked into the kitchen. It smelled like fish. Please no. Maybe my sense of smell was deceiving me today? Maybe it’s chicken. I sat at the dinner table and saw my fears come to fruition. It was definitely fish.

Nooooooooooo! I hate seafood so much! Except for calamari, I can’t stand the fishy taste. It’s more of a mind game than anything; fish are ugly. Lobsters are uglier. Crabs are on the same boat. Shrimp are the absolute worst! I can’t blame Zulu. She had no idea I didn’t like seafood. If Zulu or Lelethu sat at the table, I would of forced myself to eat a piece of fish out of respect. I let the spanish girls have my share. It was hake fish by the way. Fortunately, there were mashed potatoes and sandwich meat available so I managed. I wanted to force myself to try fish back in Zanzibar but I just couldn’t do it. I could not eat them here or there; I could not eat them anywhere (Green Eggs and Ham ;). ) By far the best thing Zulu prepares is chicken. It seems like every other night we would get chicken prepared in a different way, but each time was savory. Speaking of chicken, take a look at this:

Have you had your chicken head today?

Chicken heads! The kids eat this at school during intervals. They eat the meat off the neck and eat around the chickens face. This would never, ever fly in America! Not only did they have fried, greasy chicken heads, they also sold chicken feet. The kids would suck on the insides of the talons. The women who sold these chicken parts to the learners would always laugh at me because of the looks I gave when I watched a kid suck out the insides of a chicken’s head. Haha gross!

The kids flock here during breaks in school. Notice the kid spooning up a chicken head!

The kids wanted to phone their idol, Chris on Wednesday. That still might happen, but I didn’t know how long the abseiling would take so I messaged Chris telling him I would call today just in case. I called around 6pm here, which meant it was noon where he lived. Mawande called him from my phone but he had a hard time recognizing his voice, so he passed it over to Toy Toy. Same thing. Toy Toy didn’t recognize his voice either. In South Africa, to call someone from the States, you have to first dial some weird code and then the number. I thought I may have dialed wrong. Toy Toy handed me back the phone and I had to make sure myself if it was him or some random number I dialed. It was him, I think. He literally just woke up and had that “just woke up” tone in his voice. It’s safe to say he never got my message because he was still asleep! I handed the phone back to Mawande and assured him that it was Chris. The boys talked to him for a few minutes but afterwards were still a little unsure if it really was him or not haha! I told them I would have to call again another day when he was more awake.

They did this on their own! One day boys…one day

I have one more story to tell before I end this post. After I came home on Tuesday from the library, I accidentally broke my key to the door of my shack! I just stuck it in, turned it, and the main important part of the key broke off and fell inside the door. $&#T! Mama Zulu was going to be so angry! But it was foolish of me to think so, because she’s such a sweetheart; incapable of such an emotion. She was just worried that I couldn’t get in for awhile. It was no big deal for me, I just felt like a moron that I broke her only remaining key to the shack. I had to wait for the spanish girls to get home with their key so they can let me in, and also my boys who were waiting with me like loyal soldiers. My night ended playing Monopoly that RiRi had brought over. They had some zany rules for that game I never even heard of. Soon enough, I actually fell asleep as they continued playing Monopoly and playing with my electronics.

They don’t really like me, they like my iPad.

Eventually they woke me up, gave me my gadgets and headed home. Tomorrow my drought of not doing anything extreme would end – I would be rappelling down the edge of Table Mountain!

Superman Returns

I’m pretty protective of my balls.

My football and rugby balls, you guys. I bought some in Stellenbosch awhile back and kept a keen eye on them ever since. Before I left to go to my old school in Muizenberg, Ski asked me if he could borrow the football while I was gone. I was hesitant at first but I figured I can trust him. Worst case is that if he loses it, then I would just have to buy another. Let’s just hope he doesn’t do that.

I took the Metro to Muizenberg and headed over to the Rec house. There I met up with everyone and hung out for a bit. My scab from my Masai burn finally fell off! It was a perfect ring! I have been wanting to pick at it for a while now but forced myself not to. I tried to give my scab ring to Lucy to put in her scrapbook she was making haha! She was both disgusted and amused at the same time.

Dave, the owner of the surf shack, picked up Lucy, Spencer, Larry, Sam (London, UK), and I and took us to the Eastern Bazaar in Cape Town. The food there was more than amazing; especially since they served Dan Sellers sized portions i.e. humongous! I stuffed myself with chicken tikka curry the rest of the night. By far the best curry I’ve ever had and I had a lot of it, particularly all over Africa.

Lucy looks very happy about the Bazaar!

The next day, I went with the volunteers to the Christian Primary. Today was only a half-day because the school was celebrating a christian holiday over the weekend. Which works out great for me because as soon as this school let’s out, I have to get back to Kayamandi asap. I told my kids I would be back when they got out of school. Anyhow, I arrived at the school and saw how flooded the grounds were (nothing new there). I went around the massive puddles and found my way to Miss Jacobs grade one class. The kids heads popped up once they saw me. I never seen a group of kids looked so shocked. “Superman!” Some of the kids would always call me Superman because I used to wear a shirt with the Superman emblem on it to school. Also because during break, I would have the kids pretend to fly like Superman by swinging them in the air. The kids ran up to me and gave me little hugs. Three of the ones I always played with were there too: Lawon, Michael, and Conroy. It was so cool to see them again. Miss Jacobs has been following me on my blogs and was glad I found the time out of my adventurous schedule to come and visit. Of course I would! I spent a lot of the first class session showing the kids what I have been up to lately via photos on my iPad. They were really amazed by all the safari and Zanzibar pictures.

Michael and Lawon.
Conroy and Lawon. Happy to see me!

Like old times, when it was recess, I went outside to play with them again. I got a bunch of shocked looks from the learners in the older classes too. “Dan, where have you been?” “You’re back!” I received a lot of thumbs up and fist bumps during that time. I had a crowd of kids around me but I had to make sure to tell them that I’m only visiting so they won’t expect to see me everyday. I will visit at least one more time though. Eventually I found two other members of my crew, Deano and Limbo. Deano still smells like dried up urine but I didn’t expect anything less haha!

Myself with my first grade learners: Lawon, Limbo, Angry Conroy, my second grade learner Deano.
Still floods…

Later on, there was a special assembly at the school. I have absolutely no idea what it was about since the majority of it was spoken in Afrikaans. It’s crazy how just a train ride brings me from a world where everyone speaks Xhosa to this one where everyone speaks Afrikaans. For some reason, I’m still stuck on speaking in Swahili from Tanzania. Not to mention speaking in Spanish (or at least attempting to) with the four Spanish women who also live with Mama Zulu. Needless to say, I get very confused. Anyways, the assembly lasted a little over an hour. I said my goodbyes and headed back to Muizenberg with the rest of the volunteers. I made sure to take pictures of the school as requested by IVHQ as well. The computer lab is a giant myth.

This “computer lab” was supposed to be completed back in June. Now it’s just a storage room and a place where the volunteers relax.

Once I got back to Muizenberg, I immediately took a train back to Kayamandi. I just kept imagining my boys there waiting for me outside of Zulu’s. Low and behold, they weren’t there. Instead they assumed I was coming back on a minibus and were waiting at the bus station for me. They came over once they saw me down the street. After drawing Dragon Ball Z pictures with them for a bit, I noticed Ski was unusually quiet. I knew in my head, it had to do with my football I lent him. I didn’t say anything for a while because I wanted to see if he’d bring it up on his own. He didn’t. So I asked him, “Ski, did you take care of my soccer ball?” RiRi interrupted and said that he doesn’t have it anymore. “What happened?” I asked. According to them, the story is that they were all playing with it down the street and a couple of older kids joined them and kicked the ball around. One of the older guys picked up the ball and took it with him to his house. The boys argued and shouted to give the ball back but the older kid said to them, “If you want it you have to fight me for it.” Thankfully the kids stopped after that. All they could do is watch as the older kid took MY ball with him into his house and locked the door behind him.

I told Ski not to feel bad; it was an accident and that I would get my ball back. “Do you know where this guy lives?” I asked. They knew. I plan on getting back what’s mine, even if it is just a measly object like a soccer ball. The boys were curious in how I would accomplish this daring feat. That older kid took advantage of my younger kids and stole from them. I will get back what is ours. Once I find out where he lives I’ll figure something out.

I get a weird kick out of this kind of stuff 🙂

Square One Here I Come

It’s Monday.

I woke up at 7:30 in the morning and got ready for a new week at Ikaya. It was strange though. Normally I dread Mondays, but today I didn’t mind. I was looking forward to getting to see all my kids. Buscha usually comes to my room in the morning to wake me up, but mostly he wants to play games on my iPad. I won’t let him play until he finishes his breakfast. It’s a good incentive for him.

So my days at school usually consists of two different classes. The first half before interval, I help out Pam with her English classes and after interval I help out Zuki with her math classes in the computer lab. I enjoy doing both. However, today turned out to be more frustrating than anything else. In Pam’s English class, she had me check the learner’s assignments from yesterday. It was simple; read a short story about rain forests in English and then answer a few easy questions. I was cracking up from some of the answers these kids wrote down, but the more papers I checked, the more I became floored by how these kids don’t really comprehend the concept. Take a look at this paper for example:

These answers don’t make any sense! This is grade six. This kind of work was equivalent to third or even second grade work back when I was a kid. Not a single paper I checked received a 100%. I honestly could not grasp why these kids did so terrible on something that should have been so easy. My frustration only began there though. After interval, I went over to Zuki’s grade five maths classes in the computer lab. Yes, I know I put an “s” after the word “math”; that’s how they spell it here. Their assignment was simple, for example: John has 2 knives more than Mark. Mark has 3 knives. How many knives do they have all together?. First thing, why do these kids have knives haha?! I remember at home using simple variables like apples or books. Here I noticed they use knives, cassette tapes, and other odd things. Word problems like these were the most difficult task in the world for these grade five learners. Simple subtraction or addition. Simple! Even when I tell them what two numbers they have to add, some of them still use the circle or tally method to count. I may have gotten a little tough on them “You’re not babies. Only babies count with circles and tallies. You’re big kids now, this should be easy for you.” There was one learner who had absolutely no idea what 6 minus 2 was. I tried to explain, in the most simplistic terms, how to find out what six minus two was, but he was still confused.

The computer lab.

I thought maybe these kids just don’t understand me? Maybe my accent is too thick for them. I even spoke slowly trying to get the kids to communicate. They understood me just fine. I really don’t know what the problem was. I talked to Zuki and told her a lot of these kids don’t understand basic math and she told me something very disturbing. She said most of the problem lies at home and their parents have no interest or desire in helping their kids with their homework or even ask about their day at school. The parents just whisk them off, and that’s that. They don’t get the motivation they need from home like I would get in America. Even if they did help, most of the parents don’t even know how to do the homework themselves. I shook my head. At my previous two schools, Christian Primary and Shining Star, the learners were very young so if they didn’t understand something then it was feasible. But these learners at Ikaya were entering their teenage years and couldn’t comprehend basic literacy and basic maths. The next day at the school was the same thing as yesterday: frustration. If I had more time here, I would personally tutor a handful of these kids after class. Nonetheless, I did tutor a group of people after school. Before I left one day, a group of teachers came up to me and asked if I could help them with their computer literacy assignments. These computers are a new thing for them so I was happy to help. I walked them through a guide using Microsoft Word. Tables, margins, bullets, fonts, etc – the basics. They appreciated the help for sure and were wowed by how much I knew. As a matter of fact, it’s now well-known around the school that I am handy with computers. I would be summoned to fix the broken computers in the lab almost everyday. Some weren’t connected to the school’s network, a computer would always freeze, a mouse wouldn’t work, or simply the screen wouldn’t turn on. For some reason, everyday there was a malfunctioning one. Internet wasn’t working properly one day, so the principle asked me if I knew any way to fix it. Piece of cake. Just consider me Ikaya Primary’s personal technician :).

I wondered how the kids I hang out with at Zulu’s are doing in their classes. They are in grade seven, so the only time I see them at school is during intervals. I have no idea how they are doing academically. So one day when they were following me home from school, I asked them if they had any homework. Aphiwe and Mawande did. I told them if they want, I can help them with it back at my place. Over time the boys would bring their work to me and I would go over their assignments and reinforce what they should already know into their heads.

Aphiwe doing his homework.

They were fine, some more than others. They just needed a little nudge. But I told them as long as I was here I would help them out. Last thing I would want is for any of them to have to repeat a year at the school. Toy Toy and Mawande also had a group assignment they had to turn in tomorrow. They had to make a poster about the different cultures of the world and paste pictures of different foods and people onto it. I went to the library around the corner and found an assortment of pictures they could use, so I copied and pasted them into a Word document to print. Come to find out that the library ran out of ink. Oh Africa! I asked some locals, where I can buy a poster board but I couldn’t understand anything they were saying to me haha! It was getting late. I wish I would have known ahead of time them I would have prepared for this. I asked Mawande and Toy Toy how they would get this done. They said they’ll be okay. I hope that’s the case.

Showing Mawande how to solve basic algebra equations.
After homework is finished, Mawande jumps back to my electronics haha

Well…in the meantime I’m hungry! I always am here. Mama Zulu feeds me well, it’s just that I’m a greedy pig. So after school the next day, I took the kids who were with me (Avele, Toy Toy, and Chester) and treated us to McDonald’s. On the walk there, they asked me how much longer am I staying in Kayamandi. I told them just a couple more weeks, unfortunately. But I will come back again to see them one day soon. That’s when Avele revealed some news. In a few months, he and his family would be moving to Eastern Cape. Once he completes grade seven, he will start high school in a totally different setting and will have to make all new friends. That always sucks. But who knows? It might end up being good for him. It’s nice to take the boys out to eat, often because they stay with me so long that they seem to miss out on dinner at their respective homes. I met Chester’s grandmother today by the way. On the way home from school, Chester showed me a shortcut to get to Zulu’s but first stopped at his house. “Oh you must be Chris’ friend?” she said to me. I swear everyone I meet in this town knows who he is haha! “Yup, my name is Dan.” I noticed how small and bleak Chester’s place was. It was about the size of my garage back home. He pointed to Mawande’s home which looked even more desolate. I couldn’t imagine growing up in these living conditions, but these kids make the best of it and are completely happy. I never ever heard them complain about it. I do plan on visiting most of their homes later on before I leave because I have a luggage full of stuff that they can get more use out of than I can.

I mentioned they love my camera right?

Before I came here, Chris gave me the number of a friend he met while he was here, who he suggested I contact for trips. His name is Isaac. I contacted him a few days earlier and he came over today to meet me. What a nice guy! Isaac is going to help me do the excursions that I had a hard time trying to do myself. The main one is skydiving. I have been trying to skydive in South Africa for the longest time but every time I book it, it end’s up raining or something. Winter is not a great time for that, I know that now. I’ll keep in touch with him.

I told my teachers that I won’t be at the school Thursday because I am planning on visiting my old school, the Christian Primary, in Muizenberg. The kids there have no idea I am coming back! While I’m there, IVHQ asked me to check on the progress of the computer lab that should have been completed back in June. I’ll see how that turns out, even though Lucy already told me that the computer lab became a storage room. Oh boy. But once again, I feel guilty leaving my kids here in Kayamandi. I tell them my schedule and they always want to know the precise time I will be back! Gotta love these guys.

I am planning on buying as much school supplies for these kids as possible before I leave. Friends have messaged me offering to help. So I set up a PayPal account if anyone is interested in donating. Every little bit helps.

You can send through PayPal to my email, DANIELSLLRS@att.net.

Thank you!