I don’t know how it’s happened, but we’re already entering the volunteers’ last week on project – soon we’ll be faced with only the prospect of a small mountain of paperwork to write up, and no group trips to look forward to! They’re looking forward to going home now, but from personal experience I know that once they get back and have had a bit of time to relax, along with a fast and available Wi-Fi connection, and the freedom to walk around outside after 5.30pm, they’re going to miss what they’ve had these past seven weeks. They might not be quite as sentimental as me (I cried like a baby when I left India after 3 months on the ICS programme), but I still reckon they’re going to look back on everything they’ve done with fondness, and hopefully pride. They’ve done so well, come so far (even if they might not be able to see it yet), and will be leaving this project with so many skills and experiences that they didn’t have before they came.
It’s making me nostalgic to even write about it!
So a round-up of last week’s excitements: we’ve held a workshop on conflict management at Msogwaba library, pulled together a fantastic Community Day in the form of a talent show, run around calling NGOs and further education institutions to set up a careers exhibition for this week, thrown a party to celebrate the volunteers making it to the final stretch, given up our Sunday morning to attend a parents meeting at the primary school we work in, taken the volunteers to experience the spectacle that is Toockey’s church, made a speech in front of a packed congregation, and had dinner at Netto’s place, finally getting to meet his gorgeous one-year-old daughter! What a week!
Community day has got to be the highlight of this week: April did an incredible job getting everyone organised into a cohesive whole, arranging for auditions to be held in all the schools, invitation letters and permission forms to be sent out, certificates to be made and acts to be sorted. It was a huge job, but she managed it with comparative ease – and she should definitely consider going into events management, if banking lets her down. It was just an amazing day; lots of singing and dancing and half-naked children (that’s traditional dance for you), and kids going completely bat-shit crazy because they were so excited. It was total chaos of course, and Rachel somehow managed to get landed with the role of Ant or Dec and had to be presenter (HA), while I cleverly managed to use the fact that I had a nice camera to the wangle the role of photographer. Netto also put in an appearance at the end, just in time to be roped into helping us put all the chairs away and tidy up. What a guy.
On Friday we organised a small gathering at a local guesthouse to celebrate the volunteers’ success on project, with an eclectic mixture of people attending. The guesthouse is owned by Thembi (Tenteleni partner, straight-talker, and solo dancer extraordinaire), and she provided us with entertainment for the night, regaling us with tales of past volunteers and occasionally ordering us to ‘Shake what your mother gave you!’ A couple of students who go to the local college also joined in the fun, and we all stood by and watched in awe as the girl taught us exactly how to shake what her mother gave her, doing things with her arse that us white girls can only dream about.
It was a great night, and a great end to the week, but that was only the start to the weekend! Saturday was basically recovery day – Rachel and I took ourselves off to Nelspruit for a slap up meal in Mugg & Bean – but Sunday was fun filled and busy; back to business as usual. In the morning (aka at 6.30am) we got up to go to a parents’ meeting at Siyakhula, the primary school we’ve been working in, and sort of just sat around being looked at for a little while before heading home. Then I took all the volunteers for a special treat: a trip to church with Toockey!
I have practically been converted by living in South Africa. I mean OK, I still don’t believe in God and the Holy Spirit and all the rest of it, but I bloody love a trip to the Prophetic Ministry in KaNyamazane. There’s something for everyone: a bit of singing, a bit of dancing (or in my case awkwardly bobbing from side to side), some epic preaching, and the more than occasional fit from a member of the congregation as the spirit speaks to them. It often gets a bit violent – when you’re conversing with a spirit, he ain’t worried about you staying standing up, nor does he mind if the people around you get smacked in the head by a fervently flailing arm – but it’s all good fun. It was a particularly moving session that morning: by the time the pastor strode in, half the hall had been felled and were writhing around on the floor. It took a good few minutes for him to get everyone calm and back into their seats before the service could begin. Great fun.
Anyway, I think the volunteers were all just a bit bemused by the whole experience, and James couldn’t stop going on about how the woman behind him ‘nearly snapped my neck’ when she fell forwards… bless him, he’s a delicate flower. Luckily we had dinner at Netto and Hilda’s to look forward to or he might have gone on about it all night.
Netto picked us all up (which meant I could drink wine, hurray!) and took us to his house, where we had the best al fresco dining experience I’ve possibly ever had. Who needs a dining room when you can have a table outside with a panoramic view of KaNyamazane lit up at night? It was honestly such a lovely evening, and all the entertainment we needed was the adorable baby sat in Netto’s lap. She didn’t seem to know whether to laugh or cry at these six strangers sat round a table, absolutely enchanted by her, but she did seem to enjoy the attention, and soon discovered a great game in taking crisps from the tray and crumbling them onto the carpet. Rachel and I are definitely going to have to find some excuses to go round a few more times before we leave, and if they ever need a babysitter…
So that was a brilliant end to a brilliant (if tiring) week, and everything is now starting to come to a close. It seems no time at all since everyone was embarking on a round of firsts (first day in placement, first time they tried pap, first time they spoke SiSwati), and now all of a sudden we’re about to count down the lasts. It’s ridiculous how quickly time passes. Our own departure is also imminent, and I’m absolutely not ready to leave yet. To be honest, I don’t know if I ever will be.