It has now been a week since I arrived in South Africa. Yet it feels like I was saying my goodbyes at home and the airport forever a go. The 11 hour flight was much easier than I had expected and a million times easier than my 12 hour coach journey to Oban back in July. Although there was a few hours of turbulence which I would say wasn’t pleasant.
Excited and exhausted, our group of 24 all made it through immigration to be greeted by my manager at DCH, Yvonne, and our country representative, Ian. We hopped into the mini bus to a hostel in Johannesburg, The Backpackers Ritz. Which to be fair was lovely as far as hostels go. My first impression of Johanessburg was that it was dry, so very dry. I dranked at least 4 litres of water on each day we were there and yet I still felt dehydrated. Even the inside of my nose felt sore from being dry.
Our first day was spent recovering from the flight and later in the day we went into the shopping mall to get local sim cards. The second day was not as relaxed. We got into a coach at 8:30 and drove to Soweto. Our tour guide Simba was very passionate about the city and his enthusiasm definitely wore off on me. We saw different parts of the town as he called ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’. The ‘good’ being large houses with tall walls surrounding them. The ‘bad’ being houses built by the government for the miners who worked in the gold mining industry. During the tour we learnt a lot about the industry and how it had started a lot of South Africa’s issues. The ‘ugly’ Simba spoke of was the slums. It was heartbreaking to even drive past them. I was shocked when he told us we would be stopping here and going inside. The children were waving at us and desperate for us to come outside. We were shown around the washing area which is were they all got their water. This was one tap surrounded by women in buckets dancing as they washed their clothes. We then were taken into a woman called Pamela’s home. It was the same size as my room at home. She shared this with her two children. It amazed me how TV and films don’t exaggerate what the slums look like. Although it felt wrong to do, we were encouraged to take photos. Below you’ll see a photo of myself, Pamela and Alice another volunteer from Project Trust in South Africa.
I came out to see the children and a few volunteers playing catch. I eagerly joined in and was tormented by one child who kept teasing to throw the ball at me. She also made sure I didn’t catch it and then threw it at me when I wasn’t looking. Everyone found it hilarious. It was lovely to see how joyful and full of life the people here were even though they are surrounded by poverty.
After we went to the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto. This church was victim of the shootings that took place on 16th June 1976. We saw the bullet holes that still remain in the ceilings over 40 years on. We then went to the Hector Pieterson Memorial museum. Hector was a 13 year old school boy who was apart of the peaceful protest in Soweto on June 16th 1976. The protest was held by students who did not want to be solely taught in Afrikaans which was a new language made by the Europeans for the South Africans. Hector was shot dead for taking part in a peaceful protest. Hundreds of students were also killed in this protest. I walked out crying as the things that happened to these poor people was horrific. They were just kids after all. The memorial outside had a small quote from the boys mother who held Hector as he died. I thought it was beautiful and also very sad. He had not seen his family after the shooting as he fled the country to Botswana and was last seen in Nigeria.
Our next stop was the Apartheid Museum. We were only there for a few hours but I could have spent all day there. There was so much information. I became very uptight during and after the museum due to the horrific incidents i had watched in the videos and read on the musuem boards. Most my anger was towards British History lessons at school. We learnt about the Holocaust again and again, year after year but never anything about the Apartheid or other social disasters. I remember asking someone a few years ago who Nelson Mandela was, to my reply the person said ‘I think he was someone like Martin Luther King.’
The next day, myself, Lisa and Ella (my project partners) flew to Cape Town. It was the best flight I’ve ever had. The views from the plane were incredible. Since arriving at DCH I have faced many life lessons and challenges already. But im not giving up. I want to go home feeling like I am a better person for being here and to do that I must get through this year by battling every challenge I come across head on.
The younger children here call the volunteers aunty and uncle. It is so sweet. But I still haven’t gotten used to it. Children are shouting ‘Aunty can I have this?’ ‘Aunty can you push me on the swing?’ ‘Aunty what is your name?’. It takes a few seconds and I realise it’s me they are calling for.
My job role here is so undefined and my tasks are so varied. I think I will have to do a blog post explaining that another time when I have worked in a few more different shifts. For now my main jobs are day shifts (getting kids ready for school, taking them to school, picking them up, bathing them etc) and night shift ( sitting in the hallway listening for any child who is awake, waking children up to use the toilet, noting down any activity that takes place in the house and waking the children up for school).
If you’re still reading this then well done you. It’s been a long blog post and I cant imagine anyone will read to the end. But if you have, lots of love all the way from Cape Town.