Final Thoughts

Hello everybody. I’m writing this as I’m sitting in Mthatha airport waiting for our flight to Johannesburg where we will have a leaving ceremony with lots of the other volunteers before we fly to Heathrow on Wednesday evening. 

As you know my project was Bethany Home Place of Safety in Mthatha and I was teaching grade R and looking after very small children.  

 In the mornings I taught preschool English, Maths, and Life Skills. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life as I could watch the children develop and grow, seeing them recall what I’d taught them weeks after having taught them it. The glowing pride I felt and still feel from that has confirmed that teaching is my passion in life, and finding that out was one of my key goals for this year.


Of course, it has not all been sunshine and roses. Teaching was only my morning job, in the afternoons I cared for the toddlers in dayroom. I’d love to say that caring for the little ones filled me with the same sense of pride, but when you’re singlehandedly changing the nappies of 14 two-year olds it can be hard to keep up a positive mental attitude.

 Of course, singlehandedly is how I had to do most things come February, as my partner, Chloe, unfortunately left project and South Africa altogether. This made things much harder for me, being expected to work and live without a partner. Luckily, I had the Thembelihle girls down the road who I visited often, but working alone, surrounded by people who constantly speak a different language and having nobody that shares my interests or experiences, for 6 months, was very isolating and challenging at times.


But somehow, although I had my moments I got through it. Even despite the fact that my workload seemed to further increase at Bethany. My organisational skills had been noticed and suddenly I was expected to make a syllabus for the entire year, for even after I’ve left. With absolutely no basis to work off, I used the UK National Curriculum as a guideline and came up with a theme for every week of the year and appropriate lessons for every single day, making my own worksheets as I went which I photocopied every Monday lunchtime. It was an immense amount of work, an entire curriculum for a mixed ability class all done by one person, but I’m also incredibly proud of what I achieved. Bethany Home finally had some organisation and I know that no matter what future volunteers are like they can use that syllabus, my lesson plans and worksheets to teach children for generations to come.


And from all of this I’ve learned two things that are very important to me. The first is that despite having a taste for the stress that teachers and primary educators in particular face, teaching is definitely the career for me. The second is that I learned just how far my abilities can go, that I can do amazing things with enough effort and time, but I also learned when too much was being asked of me: when deadlines were just far too short, and when requests were just unreasonable. Having been in education for so long we’re not really accustomed to really outrageous demands, but sometimes it felt as though I was expected to be superhuman in my work, which I suppose in comparison to mamas who would come into work and go to sleep on the floor instead of looking after the children, might not be such a ridiculous thing.

It’s cliche I know, but the past year really has helped me to grow as a person. To become tougher and more resilient, to confirm things that I thought about myself and occasionally learn something completely new about my own character. It has had it’s ups and it’s downs, it has definitely been the most difficult and testing time of my life and could well remain that way for some time to come, but overall I’m grateful for it, and while I might have done some things differently if I knew then what I know now, I think if I could go back in time and I was asked if I still wanted to do it, I’d definitely say yes. 

Thank you to everybody who made this year amazing. Jess and Georgia thank you for helping me through my worst days, thank you Chloe for allowing me to realise how tough I was, thank you to Rose for pushing me to my limit, thank you mama Kris for keeping the kids under control, thank you to my parents for supporting me every step of the way, thank you to all of my donors who helped get me here, thank you Dylan for being incredible and never giving up on me, and finally, thank YOU. The person reading this. Thank you for reading this blog and showing you care. 

Enkosi kakulu!

Easter ​Travel, My Birthday and Project Life – An Update

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. I’ve been so busy travelling and my project has got very intense recently. 

Easter Holiday Travels

I had one and a half weeks worth of travel over Easter and I visited Coffee Bay, Durban and I went to a music festival.

The week before I set off on my official holidays, Jess’ parents were visiting her in South Africa and they very kindly took Georgia and I to Coffee Bay for the weekend. We did the 9km hike to Hole in the Wall again and this time it was much easier. We’ve been to Coffee Bay about seven times now and it’s very much becoming my second home in South Africa. It’s such a beautiful place and a perfect place to chill out from the crazy pre-schoolers.

.                                                                 Jess’ family at her project
 

Over Easter I  travelled to Durban and  went to a music festival which was absolutely amazing. We rented a car which we picked up on the 8th April. We set off on our 5 hour journey from Mthatha to Umzumbe (an hour away from Durban) and all was going well. We had the festival music on to get us ready for Splashy Fen. However, a few hours later the sky turned black and soon the rain poured down on us. The thunder and lightening picked up and so we made the choice to stay in the nearest place we could find. We ended up staying in 3 star hotel which was a complete difference to the cheap hostels we were used to staying in. However, the view in the morning made it all worth it. 

We then drove to our original destination of Umzumbe. The crazy treehouse backpackers that had the most vicious sea waves I’ve ever seen but an incredible pool that was perfect to chill out after the previous days adventure. We then spent the night in the backpackers and exploring the place.

Umzumbe

Umzumbe beach with the sea salt pool

The next day we headed to Oribi Gorge where we did the Wild Slide. It was basically a zip line across the gorge but instead of going from one side to the other you got pulled back up to where you came from. The views were absolutely amazing from the zip line but what was scary is that you couldn’t see how far down the drop was until you were already over the edge and by then it was too late to turn back! 

Oribi George

We then drove to Durban to visit another Project Trust’s project. It was so nice to see what other people had been up to for the past 8 months and we had a lovely sunset walk across the beach to enjoy a meal next to the sea. I only spent a few days in Durban but I had a great time. We went to uShaka Marine World which is a massive park on the sea front that has a water park, aquarium, high ropes course and loads of other interesting places. We went to the water park and it was so much fun. There were rubber dingies that could fit up to 8 people in them! The next day, we moved backpackers to meet the other volunteers and it was so nice to see everyone again. I met a lot of the 8 month volunteers there and they were all so friendly. A few of us headed to Gateway to go shopping as it was our last day in Durban so souvenirs called – fingers  crossed I’ll have enough luggage space and weight available for everything I’ve bought on the way home! 

The next couple of days were spent at Splashy Fen music festival and they were honestly the best three days of my life. The artists were exactly my sort of genre and atmosphere was so friendly. There were five different stages all playing different types of music but I spent most of time at the River stage where the main music was pop/alternative. The Acoustic stage is self explanatory  and there was the main stage that acts like Temper Trap and South African super star Jeremy Loops played. Since returning back to project I’ve bought music from The Kickstands, Jackal & the Wind, Opposite the Other, Roland Albertson and Rubber Duc (incase anyone is interested). Rubber Duc are also playing at Mdumbi Festival which is spoken about later in this post. Splashy Fen was located in Underberg (the mountains) so you look up and all you can see is mountains all around. It was absolutely beautiful and I hope I can go back one day.

Temper Trap on the main stage
The river stage
Jackal & the Wind performing on the river stage

Me and Georgia at Splashy

Port St Johns and My Birthday

My birthday was conveniently on a Friday which meant I got to spend the whole weekend away. We decided to return to Port St Johns as we hadn’t been there since November for Jess’ birthday and since Georgia arrived in January she was yet to see the paradise of PSJ. We visited the beach, the gap, blowhole and airstrip on Saturday. This was probably my favourite weekend away. The gap was this cliff that you had to climb down to get to. Jess and I were brave enough to go down whilst Georgia stayed at the top and took some photos. Once you reached the bottom of the climb there was another hill with a ladder to climb to get up. I ventured on my own to see the blowhole which is a tunnel in the sea and at high tide the water goes through the tunnel and shoots up. 

For sunset we went to PSJ airstrip which is 342m high cliff and the views were amazing. We got to sit right on the edge which was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. One wrong foot and you’ll fall straight to your death. There was a car that had fallen off the edge which got pointed out to me. 

The weekend after my birthday was the best PO Box visit I’ve ever had. I received 5 birthday cards and one lovely parcel from my mum which was just incredible. She’d wrapped little presents in wrapping paper and it felt like I was at home, opening the presents with Jess and Georgia who have become my family. Thank you to everyone that’s sent me a card or letter. You have no idea how much they mean to me and every time I get one they make me smile. I’ve stuck every single letter and envelope on my walls and since September my collection has just grown and grown. 

Project Life

Life at my project has got very intense recently. I’m currently in the middle of creating a year lesson timetable which is so much work. This has really helped me to understand how organised and prepared I’ll need to be as a real teacher in the UK but once I’ve made the timetable I’ll know exactly what resources I’ll need to buy and prepare. 

In pre-school the kids are little angels when they want to be but the trick is to keep them busy. We’ve been doing some baking in pre-school as each week there is a theme and so we spent one week studying St George. The kids made English flags, role played the story, learnt about English kings and queens, learnt about Durham and on Friday the kids and I made scones together. Another week’s theme was birds and so we made chocolate nests.

A month ago we took a trip to the farm with pre-school and classroom. There was 50 kids to 8 adults – quite a handful! The kids really enjoyed the trip and every time they say an animal they knew they would shout out “cow”, “sheep” or “chicken”! 

Mdumbi Festival 

Last weekend we went to Mumbi festival, which is one of our local coastal backpackers. I saw the band Rubber Duc for the second time in South Africa (I saw them at Splashy as well) and so it feels like I have an on-going relationship with them. There were five of us going to the festival as Jess’ cousin and friend were travelling around South Africa so they decided to  join us for the weekend. When we arrived we put up our tents and headed down to see the stage. There were loads of other acts performing and one of the unique things about this festival was that there were only 500 people there and all the artists where staying at the backpackers so it was very chilled out – not like I was seeing One Direction which high levels of security. The next day we headed to Mdumbi’s beautiful beach, went swimming and had a very chilled day. 

Thank you so much for reading about my time in South Africa. I hope this has given you a useful insight into what I’ve been up to but sorry it’s taken so long to upload. 

Changes and Challenges at the Halfway Point

I’ve have had an incredibly tough few weeks at Bethany Home as my Project Trust partner, Chloe, has had to go home due to medical reasons. We’ve had the most amazing five months together and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner who became like a sister to me. Through the homesickness, crazy pre-schoolers and long hospital visits she became my best friend and I’m going to miss her dearly. She’s now back in Scotland and on the road to recovery. There are other volunteers (Jess and Georgia) who live in the compound so I go and visit them often.

Me and Chloe on Mdumbi beach
Jess, Chloe, Georgia and me at Coffee Bay

Speaking of goodbyes, I’ve had to say farewell to my older pre-schoolers as they’re all 6 years old which means they graduate from Bethany Home. It was challenge teaching them at times but I’m going to miss them all dearly. Lelethu wanting to hold my hand every morning, Imange’s smile through upsetting times, Kwanele’s big head t-shirt struggle and Sakhei’s cheeky personality are just some of the memories that I will hold onto forever. I made the decision to go with Gee (Bethany Home’s social worker) to drive 12 children and 3 adults to their new home SOS Children’s Village. When we arrived the kids immediately got separated into two groups and from then on they were divided into groups of one, two or three children, each of them assigned a house to live in. Each house can take up to 8 kids and SOS caters for children up for the age of 16. I hope my kids are safe and aren’t missing Bethany too much but I’m definitely missing them.
Until last week I was teaching the children the alphabet in what’s known as the meeting room. As the normal pre-school teacher is currently on leave, I’ve had the full responsibility of teaching 30 children two letters a day for the past three weeks. Talk about repetitive! Classroom management is still a struggle but I’m trying my hardest to get there. We divided the children into six groups, allocating them 30 minute slots each. I made up hand gestures for each letter of the alphabet, in the hope that they’d remember it better but there is still a long way to go until the children understand the difference between the letters – ‘C’ is pronounced as ‘D’ and there’s a constant struggle to get the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ the right way around. Working in the small room with a maximum of 6 children was a great way to teach them as I could provide one-to-one support to the children that needed extra help and the kids could take their time completing the writing worksheets.


We’ve had many power cuts in the lasts few months and there’s been times that we’ve had no power for a week straight. Living off cheese sandwiches was not fun to say the least. The power has sorted itself out now but for the past two weekends we’ve had water cuts. This has meant that for two days straight we’ve had no running water. In South Africa you can drink the tap water so having no water has lead to many problems including no showers, no drinking water and not being able to do the dishes which is a real problem as it leads to lovely bugs such as cockroaches and millipedes.

Time is ticking by very quickly here and I’m starting to plan my Easter travels which currently consist of travelling to Durban and going to Splashy festival. I’ve passed the half way mark and I now have 22 weeks until I return home. I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here but I’m looking forward to coming home and being able to see everyone again.


To everyone who has supported me throughout this journey, enkosi (thank you in Xhosa). It has meant the world to me to be able to help the children that I work with and they make me so happy to be around. I will continue to write about my experiences overseas and I hope to write soon.

Holiday Adventures Part 2 – Cape Town, Christmas and Returning to Bethany 

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a good start to 2017. It feels weird to think that I’m going to be in South Africa for the majority of this year but I feel like this is going to be one of the best year’s of my life. There’s so much I’m looking forward to and I know that this year will have its ups, downs and changes but every second will be worth it. 

We finished off our holiday by spending two weeks in Cape Town with 24 other Project Trust volunteers. Talk about mayhem! It was really nice to see everyone again as some of these amazing people I haven’t seen since July (on training) so it was nice to catch up with them all. 

We started off our Cape Town experience by heading to Camps Bay which is an absolute beauty of beach. Long stripes of golden sand accompanied by ice cold water is the craziest image to get your head around. It meant that no one could complain about being too hot in the 32°C heat as you could just go for a dip in the water. Whilst we were relaxing on the beach we were harassed by so many Africans trying to sell us sunglasses, ice creams, New Year’s Eve tickets and so much more – something you’d never find in the UK. 

The next day we did a sightseeing bus tour. This was a great way to see more of Cape Town and understand more about this beautiful place. Cape Town, even now, baffles me as you have a typical city with one of the world’s seven wonders sitting right in the middle of it. 

Christmas Day was a whirl. The night before everyone in the Backpackers we were staying in was busy cooking in the kitchen (including us) as we were having a buffet half way up Table Mountain inside a cave. We all woke up relatively early on Christmas day and we exchanged presents in our secret Santa. I received some traditional African designed candles which will go down a treat in the colder months. We then hiked half way up Table Mountain to Woodstock Caves and the view was absolutely amazing. We could see the whole of Cape Town from the cave and every now and again I’d have to pinch myself to check that this was actually real. We then got the meals out and it was so nice to spend Christmas with a bunch of other travellers. It really was like one big family. We hiked down the mountain at around 5pm and once we got back everyone was tired from the exciting events of the day. 

On Boxing Day, we were invited to a Project Trust’s friends house for dinner. It was so nice to visit their house as we were treated like family and it finally felt like Christmas. Due to the heat and unusual environment it hadn’t felt like Christmas but it was so nice to see a Christmas tree and the family spirit. They cooked us a braai and for once there were veggie burgers! We tucked into dinner which was shortly accompanied by a variety of ice cream flavours for dessert. Whilst we were there we took a dip in their swimming pool which rounded off a really good day. I headed off to bed quite early that night was we were climbing Table Mountain the day after so I needed to be fully energised. We hiked to the top via Platteklip Gorge and it took us two hours to get up and two hours to get down. It was a tiring hike and by the time we reached the top I was absolutely shattered. When we got to the top it was really cloudy so there wasn’t even much of a view but by the time we walked to the edge and started to hear down the fog started to clear up. Hiking Table Mountain was definitely a challenge but I’m so glad that I did it. 

The day after we got the ‘tourist train’ from Cape Town to Simon’s Town where we walked to Boulders Beach to see the African penguins. They were all so cute and very entertaining to watch. The endangered bird began from just two breeding pairs in 1982 and has grown to about 2200 in recent years. It was incredible to see so many small animals gathered in one place. The following day we went to Ratanga Junction which is a theme park in Cape Town. I had so much fun on the rollercoasters and the log flume was a great way to cool down from the hot sun. In the evening all the volunteers and I went out for dinner. We had a massive struggle trying to find an unreserved table for 24 people but after some searching we managed to find somewhere that would take us. 

The next day a few volunteers and I went to the swimming pool. It was nice to swim in reasonably warm and unsalted water but the main activity of the day was yet to come. We went tobogganing at Cool Runnings site and it was so much fun. You sit in a cart whilst you whiz down a metal slide and try to not crash into the slow rider in front of you (or in my case, go as fast as you can so that you don’t get crashed into). A few brave volunteers decided to go down on the same cart which resulted in one of their wrists getting ran over and had to be bandaged up! Luckily everyone else was okay. 

New Year’s Eve was a great. I started off the day by doing Green Point park run (which is a free, weekly 5K run for anyone who is unaware). It was my first park run in an actual park and compared to my normal park run in Durham this one was absolutely amazing. The views, the sun and the people made the experience incredible. I sadly only managed to persuade one other volunteer to come with me but I still had a really good time and I can officially say I’ve done park run on a different continent. After park run, I went to Kirstenbosch, one of South Africa’s 10 national botanical gardens. It was nice to see a clear open space that was so beautiful to walk through and it made a contrast the the busy city life of Cape Town. 

The last few days in Cape Town were spent in a chilled out way by visiting the shopping centre at the V & A Waterfront. I found a Lush (there’s a Lush in South Africa!!) and I treated myself to a bath bomb. We then had to say goodbye to all of our Project Trust friends. It was sad to leave everyone but I was ready to return home to Mthatha. We drove home in two days, only stopping overnight in Pletternberg Bay. When we arrived home it was so nice to see all the kids again and I realised just how much I missed them. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Christmas holidays and I hope to write soon.

Holiday Adventures Part 1 – The Garden Route 

I’m travelling around South Africa for just over 3 weeks and I’ve spent the first week and a half doing the Garden Route. This first post will explain all of my adventures and the next post will be about my adventures in Cape Town. I couldn’t upload any photos on this post as I don’t have strong enough wifi but you can view all of my photos in this album

We left Mthatha on 10th December and we rented a car so that Chloe and Jess could kindly drive us all the way to Cape Town. On the first day we drove to East London and we arrived at our backpackers. That night we took a nice walk along the beach and we headed to a restaurant. We bonded with Kiera who is another Project Trust volunteer but sadly her partner dropped out so she is travelling with us. The drive and car issues wore us out so we headed to bed for an early night so we could be up early for the next day. East London reminded me very much of the South African version of the seaside town of Blackpool as there were fairground rides and the distinct fish smell.

The next day, we drove to the lovely little village of Bathurst to see The Big Pineapple. It was just like a village that you’d find in Somerset. My parents visited it 18 years ago on their VSO bike ride and I wanted to see it for myself. We climbed to the top of the pineapple, learning all about pineapple history and production, but the weather wasn’t great so we couldn’t see much from the viewing point. It was nice to take a break from driving to go and see something so unique. It’s also crazy think that my parents were also in the exact same spot I was and that only time has separated us. I hope these pictures bring back some good memories and you can see how much or how little South Africa has changed.

We then drove from Bathurst to Grahamstown where we dropped off all of our bags before we headed to Addo Elephant Park for the rest of the day. We saw elephants, zebras, giraffes and antelopes. Sadly we didn’t see any lions but it was still a fantastic trip. We eventually got back to the backpackers at around 7pm and it felt like we had been driving for an eternity. Grahamstown is home to Rodes University and it’s the most westernised place I’ve seen so far on our travels. The houses look just like bungalows, which makes a change from the traditional Xhosa houses I’m used to. Each street seemed to be named after a UK university as we saw Leicester Street, Oxford Road, Worcester Road, Sheffield Street and even Durham Road! Despite being 6,000 miles away from home it feels like the UK has just moved over here. Once we arrived to the backpackers, I was on cooking duty and after cooking in the tiny outside kitchen we finally made it to bed for a good nights sleep. 

The next day we were heading to Adrenalin Addo to do a zip line and giant swing. Despite getting lost on the way there we arrived in the nic of time to start our 12 o’clock session. It was just as well we set of an hour earlier to ensure we got there on time! On the zip line you go down two at a time so it can be turned into a competition as to who can get down first. Sadly, I didn’t win but I had so much fun doing it. The giant swing was much more scary. We were hoisted up into the air by a car reversing which pulled a rope to pull us up in the air. We then swung down so quickly. It was so much fun and I wish I could do it again. Once we finished the activities we headed to Port Elizabeth to sort out the car (a very long story) and then we finally headed to our backpackers. Port Elizabeth reminded me of Manchester, with it’s tall flats, big city vibe and the motorway next to it. The next day was our rest day where we had no driving. We headed to Greenachres shopping centre for the day and we all picked up a few useful heat battling clothing. Sadly we didn’t have time to go to the beach but I still had a good day. 

The next day we were heading to Bloukrans Bungy – the world’s highest bridge bungee jump. I wasn’t brave enough to do the jump myself but Chloe did a jump in Edinburgh for her Project Trust fundraising so she knows what she’s getting herself in for, and Jess is a newbe to it but she decided to take the plunge. After half an hours effort of trying to get our car out of our parking space we set off along the N2 (South Africa’s motorway) to head to our destination. Once we arrived, we checked in and walked underneath the bridge which was terrifying as the walkway was just metal slots that you could see the river far below. When we arrived to the bridge base, one by one Jess, Kiera and Chloe jumped off the bridge, had a 6 second free-fall and then they were brought back up to explain how it went. They all really enjoyed it and maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll get the courage to do one myself. 

We then drove to Tsitsikamma which is a very small village, similar to Middleton-In-Teesdale. The village makes its income from tourism and as soon as we arrived I knew exactly why. Its geographical location makes it a perfect place to stay after doing the bungy jump as it’s nearby and in Tsitsikamma there are so many activities to do – canopy tours, waterfall zip lines, black water tubing, segway tours or visiting. We were booked in to do the segway tour and tubing the day after. The segway tour was so much fun. We were given a 1-hour guided tour around the village and into the national park. We went through streams and over speed bumps. The most interesting part of the tour was finding out more about Tsitsikamma and just how special this place really is. This has been my favourite place we’ve visited so far. There’s just something magical and enchanting about staying in a village that’s surrounded by trees and mountains whenever you look up and around you. It’s absolutely beautiful and I really hope I can go back sometime. In the afternoon we were doing black water tubing which was something we’d never tried before. You sit in a rubber dingy and go down the Stroms River. As we were doing it in December the river level was really low so we ended up walking a lot of it which was a shame as the videos made it look like you would go down whitewater waves. I still enjoyed the trip as it was really relaxing and something new to try. About three-quarters of the way through the route, we all linked up and became a giant chain whilst the instructor handed out Mars bars whilst we were still on the river! We gobbled them up quickly as we were running out of energy and we were being told to paddle. We then continued down the river a little bit further until we reached our end destination. We climbed out and drove back to the backpackers were we all got a good nights sleep after the tiresome adventures of the day.

The next day we headed to Knysna, a nice town with a scenic lagoon – similar to Keswick at home. I’m trying my best to relate the places to where I’m at so that you can get a better idea of what South Africa is like. Before anyone asks ‘where does Mthatha remind you of?’, I honestly wouldn’t know where to start. There’s no words that can explain Mthatha. It’s a different place to anywhere I’ve been before and the only way you could know what it’s like is to come and visit yourself. On the other hand, Knysna is a lovely town that has a nice balance of westernised shops to the small local markets making it a perfect place to be. In the evening, after a day of exploring the city centre, we met up with the Outward Bound (OB) volunteers to visit an amazing sand-covered bar that was right next to a beautiful beach. It was really nice to see the other Project Trust volunteers as we haven’t seen them in 3 months. The next day we drove to Sedgefield as we were heading to a township, leaving party for one OB staff member. The dress code was white so the girls wore white dresses or floral tops whilst the boys wore white shirts and smart trousers. This party was just like the township party we went to in Mthatha before we left for Cape Town. Parties here generally start in the middle of the day and go on til very late at night. South African’s really do like to party. There’s usually a braai and drinking involved which adds to the excitement. We drove to Sedgefield view point on the way back to our accommodation and the view was amazing. It was late at night but even then the town looked amazing from above and we even saw a shooting star! As there is no air pollution the stars light the sky and it’s so beautiful to look at. 

We were staying with OB for the night and so the next day we had a lovely breakfast with everyone and then we headed to the beach for the majority of the day. It was so hot that we bought ice creams to cool us down but by the time we got back to the beach base they had already melted. The temperature is really heating up now as it got to 39 degrees the other day which is just unmanageable. In the late afternoon we made tracks and we drove to Mossel Bay where we got an early night for our 5am start the next day. Chloe and Jess were doing a shark cage dive in Gansbaai so we had to set off at ridiculous hours to get there on time. The girls throughly enjoyed it and are still alive to tell us their stories. Whilst we were waiting for them we saw some penguins on the beach which for me more excited to go to Simon’s Bay in Cape Town. 

I hope you enjoyed reading the first part of my holiday. I will be updating my blog at the end of Cape Town so you can read and see what I’ve been up to. If you have any questions feel free to ask me in the comments below. 

Port St Johns, Graduation and Hospital

Over the past few weeks we’ve done even more travel which has been great but it’s inevitable that everything that’s good comes to an end; it was the pre-school’s graduation this week. This means that 19 of my 25 adorable children will be leaving Bethany Home and I will probably never see them again. However, I’m going to tell you about the positive parts of the week before we get to the heartbreaking second bit. 
Last weekend we took a trip to the paradise of Port St Johns. The outward journey was quite scary. The driver had a massive crack in his window screen, he drove double the speed limit and over took vehicles in strictly no over-taking zones but we arrived in one piece. 


We ordered the backpackers delicious homemade burgers for our dinner and met some other travellers during the first evening. Port St Johns is basically Coffee Bay but bigger and we were advised to go here through the people at Coffee Bay. 


On Saturday, we spent the morning at the beach sunbathing and we found this amazing rock pool which you could swim in. We’ve been warned to not swim in the water as there are sharks. The pool is shark-free so we made the most of the beautiful, refreshing water whilst we could. 

We then had a pretty chilled afternoon and we even had an afternoon nap that in turn made us more tired so we ended up heading to bed very early that night. We headed back to Mthatha on Sunday and thankfully the driver this time was much better.



As I said at the beginning of this post it was graduation this week and this means that, in January, 19 out of the 25 current pre-school children are leaving Bethany Home. It’s upsetting to think the kids that I’ve got to know and love are leaving the home but at the same time,they are ready to fly the nest and move on to bigger and better things. 


The day started with helping the children to get ready. We painted all the girls’ nails, brushed all their hair, put their dresses on and put the boys’ shirts and smart trousers on. They all looked so cute in their outfits and we hadn’t even put their graduation gowns on yet. 


We headed up to the graduation hall, the kids walking in pairs was just adorable. Once we arrived we put on their gowns and got ready for an amazing ceremony. There was singing, dancing, empowering speeches and most importantly the kids performed their drama that they’d been working on. Even though there were a few mic mishaps the children were so confident and just continued without it. I was so proud of all of them once they had finished and the audience enjoyed it too. 


At the end of the ceremony it was lunch time and Nando’s delivered about 50 lunches to the ceremony, which entailed a man dressed up as a chicken which the kids were absolutely terrified of. I can’t blame them as I’ve been told similar stories of what I did when I was younger. The children were then called up one by one to collect their certificate on stage and that was the end of a lovely day. 

This week also entailed two trips to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital which was an experience I’ll never forget. We took two children to get checked up on and they seemed to survive better than we did. When we first arrived we could see how busy it was. Mothers were waiting with their children, people were standing waiting to get their file and children were getting bored. The first thing we had to do was wait for the staff to give us the kids’ files which in itself took about an hours wait. We then headed to the pharmacy area which we waited for about an hour and a half to get the kids medicine. This wasn’t the end of our hospital visit. We then had to go and wait with one of the kids whilst the other one was being seen. This took about 2 and a half hours but we still weren’t done. Once the child was seen he was referred someone else so we had to then wait for him to be seen. At the end of our hospital visit we were there for a total of 7 hours and by the end we were hungry and tired. Mostly because we failed to bring enough food for that amount of time. We still hasn’t picked up one of the kids medicine but we couldn’t stay there anymore so we went back two days after and we were only there for a few hours. 
Thank you so much for reading and it’s crazy to think that I’ve now been here for 3 months. 

We’re heading off this Saturday to travel to Cape Town via the Garden Route so I’ll try to post as often as I can. I hope you have a great Christmas and a happy new year. Lots of love from sunny South Africa,

Izzy

Visiting Mdumbi (in week 6)

A few weekends ago we took a trip to Mdumbi, about 16km away from Coffee Bay. The weekend was so relaxed and the place was absolutely amazing. We left Mthatha at 4pm on Friday and so by the time we arrived at Mdumbi it was already dark so we were yet to know the beautiful views we’d see in the morning. We woke up ridiculously early for a Saturday morning but the sun was blinding us though the curtains and we were keen to get out into the sunshine. We all had a delicious cooked breakfast before Chloe and Jess decided that they wanted to go surfing for the day. I’ve never been surfing before so I chose to chill on the beach whilst I watched them surf on the Wild Coast waters. 


They lasted such a short period of time and I was very confused when I saw them walking back to me with their surf boards in their hand. It turned out they had be swept out into a current and it wasn’t safe enough for them to surf any more. We slowly made our way back to the hostel as Chloe and I struggled to carry her surf board together up the hill. 


We then had a pretty chilled evening. It was sea food night at the hostel and although I am vegetarian, I do eat fish (pescetarian as some of you may know). The meal started off with muscle soup, followed by fish and the hostel’s homemade ice cream. All absolutely delicious.  


I got an early night and it wasn’t long before we had to say goodbye to this beautiful place. We took a brief beach walk in the morning and then we headed back to the hostel to pack our things and head back to Mthatha. I thought the transport would be just like our outward journey (a spacious minibus) but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We returned in a 5 seater truck and when there’s 10 of you it becomes a problem. However, four brave souls were willing to sit in the boot whilst the rest of us squeezed into the car. After the bumpy and long three hour journey we finally arrived in Mthatha where we all headed home. 


Mdumbi is a beautiful place and I really hope we go back there in the future. It’s more relaxed, peaceful and so much quieter than Coffee Bay which makes it a perfect escape from the loud children’s home we work in. I do love it here though and everyday I’m not with the kids I miss them so much. 


Thank you for reading and I hope to post again soon. 

Daily Life at Bethany Home (it’s been 7 weeks!)

Despite this post being titled my daily life, every single day is different and it would be impossible to summarise the madness that goes on in this place in just one single blog post. With that being said, I’m going to try and explain what my ‘average’ day in pre-school looks like.
I arrive at 8am in the day room where the toddlers will spend their day and the rest of Bethany Home children shortly arrive. They then sing many songs in Xhosa and we’ve managed to pick up a few words but whether we’re actually saying the right thing is another question. It’s incredible to watch so many young voices come together with synchronised dancing. 

After watching the dancing we then head to the pre-school where I will begin to teach or the other Mama will teach the class. I teach English and Maths to 4 to 6 year olds and you can imagine the challenges I am faced with everyday. Some of the younger children are still learning how to write their name properly so whilst the rest of the class are practicing adding, they have to spend the lesson coping out their name. 

I teach for two hours before the kids have a snack. Usually a sandwich of some sort. They then practice singing their graduation song as 19 out of the 25 pre-school kids will be leaving in January and going to different homes as Bethany only looks after them til they are 6 years old. I’m dreading graduation on 23rd November as I’ve become so fond of the kids that I teach and I can’t imagine any of them leaving. I have no idea how I’m going to cope leaving next year. It’s going to be so hard. 

After about an hour the children from the classroom (aged 3) come down to pre-school to do more dancing and singing. This time we get involved. Despite being laughed at by the kids and even some of the Mamas for our awful dance moves we were keen to keep going as after all practice makes perfect!  

At around 12:30 lunch is served and all of the classroom and pre-school children go to the dining all for dinner. The babies and toddlers are fed in their rooms by the Mamas. The kids generally eat pap, potatoes, beans, vegetables and meat for lunch. I then wait til the kids have all ate and all of the tables and chairs have been put away before I can head off for lunch. I have my lunch break til 2:30pm as in this time all of the kids at Bethany have a nap so it is a perfect opportunity for us to take a break. 

When I arrive back in the classroom the children are just getting up and it’s so nice to see their smiling faces when I walk in the room. When I come in the morning they sometimes chant my name and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. You know you’ve made a difference to their lives and it’s so nice to hear an indirect thank you from them. It encourages you to keep going through the hard times and keep trying to made your lessons as good as they can be. 

The children aren’t taught in the afternoon so I’ve been filling in the 2 hours before my home time by teaching them games or hand clapping songs. I’ve taught them how to play splat, fruit salad and the key game, as well as teaching them how to do the Hokey Cokey, ‘A Sailor went to Sea Sea Sea’, 10 green bottles and Day is Done – most of them can pick up the words now and I’ll be teaching them even more games over the next few weeks. Throughout the day the kids sometimes break-out into singing ‘a sailor went to sea sea sea’ which was one of the very first things I taught them but now they know all the lyrics and they can sing it to each other. It’s so rewarding to see that your efforts have been paid off and that they can self manage a song with their friends. 

At 5pm I get to go home and relax after a tiring day of working with children. They have so much energy and it’s sometimes really hard to have so much enthusiasm for a long period of time. I spend the evenings lesson planning for the next few days (all of my photocopying has to be done at lunchtime otherwise the room gets locked and I don’t have access to photocopy worksheets, so I have to be on the ball with planning). I may go to the gym with Chloe and Jess and most importantly if it’s my night to cook I’ll make dinner for me and Chloe. I’m really enjoying cooking here compared to what I did at home and I aim to be even better than what I am when I get home. 

I hope that everyone is well back home. Let me know if you want to see any pictures of the kids and I’ll be happy to send you you some. I just can’t post them on here due to their safety. I’ll blog again as soon as I can.  

Going to a South African ‘Christmas Do’ and Teaching for the First Time (Week 4)

First of all I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already. My time has just flown by and I’m sure the rest of the year will too. It feels like I only arrived yesterday but I’ve done so much in the last four weeks. In this post I’ll be telling you about going to a ‘Christmas do’ in October and how I found my first time teaching. 

It seems weird to me that the staff at Bethany Home would have their get-together in October as it’s still 3 months away from Christmas but during November and December the orphanage gets busy with visitors from relatives of the children so I there isn’t enough time to take a break nearer Christmas. 

We were invited to their Christmas do that took place at a nature reserve next to a dam. The whole day was filled with games, food, music and dancing although there was a lot of sitting around in the cold. 

The thing that struck me the most was how much South Africa’s eat. We had 6 meals over the due course of the day and 80% of it was meat. Woo hoo! (I’m a vegetarian) I mostly survived on bread, apples and an egg sandwich that the Danish volunteers had cleverly thought of to bring just in case they didn’t like the food. 

Between meals we did some skipping (very different to how we skip at home), played a game with string were you have to jump in and out of it but only having one foot in at a time, and a stone game where you have a group of rocks inside a circle and you throw one stone in the air whilst moving a minimum of two rocks out of the circle. You then have to put all but one stone back inside the circle without pushing them outside otherwise you’re out. 

It started to get cold and that’s when we knew it was time to go home. We got picked up by a taxi with all of the other staff members and we were driven back to Bethany Home to get some rest after a long day. 

I was asked by one of the mamas if I wanted to teach and of course I said yes as I’ll be starting my Primary Education course in September 2017 and so she then said you can teach the pre-school now. I didn’t think she meant right then and I didn’t have any idea of what level the kids knew or what level they were at so I watched her teach and I started get some ideas of what I could do to make my lessons creative. 

The next day I was asked to teach them anything and so I decided to teach them the alphabet. They already knew most of it but the kids are aged 4-6 which is when they’ve just started writing so I needed to ensure that they practiced their handwriting. Once they knew that A stood for Apple, B stood for Bird etc I then wrote on the chalk board each word with a letter missing. The kids then had to write the word with the missing letter using the information they had just learnt. Some of them struggled to understand this concept and just copied things like App_e but with the mama’s help most of the kids were able to complete the answers correctly. 

I must say that from just from my first day of teaching I can see how hard and how much work it takes to be a successful teacher. I really enjoyed teaching the children and I can’t wait to get back to the classroom on Monday morning. I have a lot of lesson plans to do and fun activities to think of before then. 

I hope you had a great weekend and I will update you of my next adventure as soon as possible. Thank you for reading and feel free to comment if you have any questions.