Teachers in South Africa

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These are pictures of the beautiful sun setting on our lovely good-byes to our South African family!

These are pictures of Ms. Clark and Ms. Kruithof on our journey to the farm outside Port Elizabeth. 

PE and JoBurg: Day 30

We slept like babies in our new African home and woke up early to pack up for the long journey.  We had breakfast together and saw Manda off.  We all had tears in our eyes because we hated to depart after having such an amazing experience together.  We definitely have a South African family now =)  We made it to the store and bought some South African spices and head ache remedies before Annalie and her husband, Cola, dropped us off at the airport.  Like true family, they parked the car and helped us carry our luggage into the airport.  We teared up again waving good bye.

We made it to Jo’Burg and were so happy to see Manda’s boyfriend, Peter, who we also met in Kruger and had dinner with in Pretoria.  He drove us to our hotel and we went out for our very last dinner in South Africa.  Funny enough, we had another braii with delicious steak and chicken grilled on skewers.  It was absolutely the best steak we have had in Africa.  It was so obvious that we were having so much fun that the manager came and joined us at our table and gave us going away presents of peri-peri spicy sauce to take home with us to the US.  Again, we laughed all night long and shared about our experience in South Africa.  By the end of the night, we were calling him our African papa.  We gave big teary hugs back at our hotel and said many many thanks to Peter.  He even invited us to his second home in Prague any time. 

Now, we are at our Formula 1 Hotel in Jo’Burg that we stayed in our very first night in South Africa.  We really have come full circle!  We feel so fortunate to have traveled this beautiful country and learn snippets of Afrikaans and Xhosa languages.  Through our travels, we know that most inhabitants of this country have not had the opportunity to travel their own country the way we have traveled it.  We have learned from every second of it- even when it was challenging.

It is really difficult to write this last blog post because we have had the experience of a life time here and met the most amazing people.  We hope that some day we can be as hospitable to all of our guests in America as they have been to us.  We have learned so much as teachers to incorporate into our classrooms.  We have learned about ourselves as people who will respect all other people and have empathy for them.  We care about sharing cultures and loving all people, despite their race or level of income.  We are flying away from South Africa with a vast amount of knowledge we could not have gained without Fund for Teachers.  We thank you with all of our hearts for making this life dream come true for us.  It changed our lives, those with whom we came in contact in Africa, and it will change our families, colleagues and students lives as well.  This program is one to be appreciated and loved by all. 

Port Elizabeth: Day 29

Manda, our dear friend we met in Kruger National Park, picked us up from Lungile Lounge and we went straight to the beach.  In Port Elizabeth, this is the culture.  The beaches are gorgeous and the restaurants overlook the Indian Ocean.  We had a wonderful lunch with Manda and another woman who lives on her farm, Annalie.  Then, we took a little walk on the beach and enjoyed the sunshine that we have been lacking.

We left the beach and took a long drive down the garden route to Jefferies Bay, the surfing beach.  We enjoyed ice cream on the beach and collected sea shells.  Then, we shopped for food for our braii (bar-b-que) and hopped back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Manda’s farm.  We saw the most beautiful sunset along the way and stopped at a really unique bridge to take pictures.  The drive was stunning with the layers upon layers of mountains rolling in the distance on one side of the road and the ocean lapping up on the beach on the opposite side.  We had some good laughs when Manda said, “Oh… we have to stop.  There is a farm robot!”  It was a man with a red flag letting drivers know that a herd of cattle was crossing the street, so you have to stop to let them pass.  We actually stopped at a few farm robots on our drive- haha. 

We were happy to find Manda’s farm with piggies and chickens.  We met Manda’s extended farm family- Annalie’s husband, daughter, and son.  We taught her daughter, Terran, who is 7 years old, English lessons with the months of the year and with a solitaire lesson.  We had a big braii complete with every kind of meat you can imagine along with mealie pop.  Mealie pop is powdered, cracked corn that is made into mush with homemade gravy on top.  We also had a great salad.  Along with our traditional African braii, we also had really fun make-overs for the ladies.  We felt like we became part of this family.  We laughed and shared all night long. 

These are some pictures from our favorite show at the National Arts Festival, performed by the Eastern Cape Indigenous Orchestra.  It was unbelievable!

This is a random assortment of pictures for you from our ride in the back of the truck to the township, our meeting at the library in the township, our Potjie meal, our game against Ghana, and more!

These are photos of our drama workshop with the township kids with the clay face paint =)

Grahamstown: Day 28

This was a busy final day at the National Arts Festival.  We had to shower, round all of our stuff up to store at the front desk, and eat breakfast before our first appointment with Shireen Badat.  Shireen is the wife of the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University and runs the Upstart journalism leadership program for 8th-10th graders.  She started this program as a small newspaper project and it has grown into a 300+ strong group of young people who are not only publishing newspapers, but also running radio shows, and doing workshops with college students at Rhodes.  We were able to work with some of the students on their summer project on “Health Awareness”.  Ms. Clark helped a group working on hypertension and Ms. Kruithof worked with a group on endangered species.  There were a few other groups as well such as substance abuse, endangered plants, and land conservation.  They are working on a poster project which is a contest to earn not only tickets to the festival shows, but also for an interview with the head of South Africa’s health department.  We also found out that this group has a surprise coming next week!  They have earned an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I wish I were an Upstart leader!!!!

After this time flew by, we went to a show called Washo Mollo.  It was folktale stories about women and their mothers and how these relationships are so strong because both the children and the mothers carry the burden sometimes to keep them moving on. 

Directly following the show, we met Merran back at the library so she could pick us up.  We rode out to the township in the back of her little farm truck because she was also transporting 2 other women out to the township as well.  We just laughed because we have been amazed at how many people we see traveling in the back of pick-up trucks.  We are just becoming part of the culture!  Once we made it out to the township library for our final workshop, we were met with some tension.  The only people present for the meeting about miscommunication break-downs in their organization was Merran and the two ladies she had just transported.  Ms. Kruithof and Ms. Clark made the most of their time by hand making poster paper by taping together loose-leaf paper and setting up the chairs.  We asked Merran to arrange for cookies and drinks at the meeting to welcome everyone (We really loved this touch at the board meeting in Swaziland!).  We played some music and waited patiently for people to arrive.  As the hour past, we decided that we should at least do some icebreaker activities to get the group going.  We did the human knot, the game where you sit on the lap of the person behind you in a circle, and we did the blind actor game Ms. Clark does in her directing unit in drama where the director leads the actor across an obstacle course with only their words. 

While we thought we had set the mood perfectly, one person at the meeting really seemed to dominate the meeting.  The founder, Voyer, has a messianic presence about him.  He began the organization 10 years ago and has since been homeless.  He believes he brings his spirit and his light to the community through his work with the children.  He has clearly done great work in gaining followers, but he has created a divide in his organization because he only thinks that his Rastafarian, marijuana-smoking friends in the organization understand the vision of the organization, Sacaluntu.  He recently fired his 3 strongest volunteers and threatened to beat them if they tried to take the taxi which is already paid for by Merran. 

We opened up with warm welcomes and cordial introductions.  This didn’t last long because during Voyer’s introduction of himself, he began degrading the rest of the group and blaming them for the group’s failures.  We could see the frustration and pain on the rest of the group’s faces.  Ms. Clark eventually interrupted him in order for the meeting to proceed.  His main concern was that the group didn’t understand what Sacaluntu really is.  Ms. Clark asked him to define it step-by-step.  After each step she wrote on the board, she asked the rest of the attendees if they agreed with it and felt that they were doing their best.  Every hand raised.  It was powerful to see the attendees feel like they finally had a voice.  During this definition, however, Voyer was distracted again and told the group he believed in one love.  Then, he said that he doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t want any friends.  We were confused. 

Our conclusion is that it is an unhealthy environment which we hope that we helped in some way through our communication workshop.  Post-meeting, Merran notified Ms. Clark and Ms. Kruithof that she was resigning as chair-person and taking her funds so that she could do the same work without Voyer.  We wish her and her volunteers all our best because we know she is doing such important work with the children.

We rode back to town and ate a quick dinner before Shireen picked us up for our final performance.  We watched some of the Upstart students perform their own poetry.  It was very powerful and reminded us of UT’s performance “Past, Present, Future” because it deals with their personal lives.  Shireen took us to the bus stop where we waited for over an hour…again on the bus.  We watched Grease on the bus until we arrived in Port Elizabeth (PE).  We got a taxi to our hostel, Lungile Lounge and made ourselves at home in the log-cabin room before dozing off after a long, challenging day. 

juliadpu2011 said: Hi Ashley!

As your trip comes to an end, I have a few questions for you.
What has surprised you the most about South Africa? What was your favorite experience? What challenged you most? What was the most important thing you learned? When you get back to chicago will you come visit? =)

Hello Ms. Julia!

What has surprised me most about South Africa is the amount of racism that still actually exists, despite apartheid ending almost 20 years ago.  My favorite experience was Kruger National Park because I got to explore the natural world.  It was amazing.  The most challenging aspect of the trip was the language barrier because we had many miscommunications on everything from directions, to prices, to friendly conversation.  At a couple of points, we just decided not to talk- which was clearly a challenge- haha.  The most important thing I have learned that no matter where you go in the world, children want to be loved and paid attention to.  All people desperately want respect and appreciation.  Basically, all people should be valued.  I will be in Chicago July 2-July 6 if you want to visit.  I won’t have a car, but I would love to see you if you are available! 

Grahamstown: Day 27

This morning we were able to sleep in, which was very nice, before we went to our noon performance of the Eastern Cape Indigenous Orchestra.  This performance of traditional African music, singing, and dancing in traditional clothing was a moving experience.  We loved seeing the different tribal rituals for boys becoming men, the desire for the government to be just, and for women not to be jealous of other women getting married.  We thought it was interesting because it is possible to make connections between their culture and our culture as well. 

After our show, we had a work day.  We worked on developing crew curriculum and on updating our budget for our journey for Fund for Teachers.  We really wanted to take advantage of free, high speed internet while we could.  It was a productive day. 

Our last event of the day was a performance by KRUNCH.  This is a black, summer school group from Britian ranging from ages 18-25.  They are a black identity performing group who created a professional theatre performance from their experiences and feelings about life.  Some of the highlights from the show centered on Facebook addiction, government corruption, and media/peer pressure to look and be a certain person- even if you’re not.  While the show was amazing, we were not impressed with the audience who was continually rude.  They disrespected both the audience and the performers by talking during the show.  After we made it home, we were not impressed again with a man who stomped out of his room and said to us, “I am trying to sleep here.  That’s just the way “we” do things here.”  Ms. Clark answered, “Who is we?”  We felt it was offensive because it was only about 10:00 pm and we were talking in very low voices.  Ms. K and Ms. Clark has a long discussion about “we” as a very important and dangerous term.  We want to teach our students about respecting all people and making all people feel loved and welcomed rather than excluded by the term “we”. 

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