So almost 10 weeks ago I landed in Cape Town and was welcomed at DCH. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences.
I’ve really built some friendships with the children, child care workers and volunteers here. It hasn’t been easy at all and at times I have been pining to come home. Every day sees a new challenge to face leading to a new lesson learnt also. I haven’t written a blog post since my last as it’s been hard to talk about and I couldn’t find the words to put it into a post. It is still hard but I feel I owe it to all my sponsors and supporters to let them in on what life here really is like.
Living in an instution whether it’s by choice or not is extremely difficult. The fact that I live and work in the same instution makes it all even harder. On days off duty you’re never really off duty. My phone has become my enemy with messages everyday to come to different meetings or help to do extra tasks. Luckily we live so close to such an awesome city that when we have a day off and plan to go out, we’re not far from such amazing sites and great things do to.
As Christmas is drawing closer so is the summer season. The weather is starting to get hotter on the hot days. Although on the cold days it can be really cold and windy. We pray for rain and recently the prayers have been answered. Cape Town is experiencing the worst water crisis in over 100 years. Currently we’re at the highest stage of the water restriction and public toilets are beginning to be locked. There are 3 phases in which the water will be turned off. Phase 1 is in place (water restrictions aka random times with no running water) and it seems phase 2 (no running water majority of the time, have to collect water from collection points) will follow shortly. The local gym is now refusing members to use the toilets, sinks and showers. It won’t be long before there’s no drinkable water left in the dams. Although this seems extremely daunting it’s something that not many people in Europe can say they’ve had to experience and overcome.
Recently, one volunteer flew home as he couldn’t cope with living here especially due to his mental health issues arising again. A volunteer from Project Trust, Lisa, who I flew here with, lived with and worked with is also flew home a few days later. No matter how close I am to any of the volunteers it is a shame that they are flying home. The international volunteers here a bit like a big family. We are foreigners making us almost outsiders but together we come together as one. Although living, working and socialising with the same people it almost feels like we’ve been placed in the Big Brother house. But I suppose what can you expect from living in an institution.
Since I arrived I pretty much did solely dayshift. First in the youngest children’s house and then after the second youngest children’s house. For the whole of Novemeber I have been doing night shift which I am glad for. Dayshift is great for bonding with the children but it is very demanding and draining. Night shift is the perfect time to sit and reflect on my time here, write in my diary, and get odd bits and pieces done.
During my time of reflection I have noticed how much I have changed from the person I was a few years ago and even a few months ago. Since moving to Eastbourne and meeting my boyfriend I have become a better person. I have also noticed since I moved to South Africa that the world is a much bigger place than I once thought it was. British people stereotypically are very polite but also very reserved. One quality I’ve realised I don’t like about the British society is that we think we can cope by doing things alone. It is hard to find a sense of community in Britain. Whereas there is such a strong sense of community here wherever you go.
It is also optional to chose to learn another language in Britain. If you do happen to speak a second language you are seen as very intelligent and really admired. People across the world speak their own language aswell as others in order to be able to communicate to others, many learning English. The German and Dutch volunteers can all speak English to such a high standard and yet they believe their English isn’t that good. The same goes for the South Africans here. They all speak English and Afrikkans. In schools they also have to learn a 3rd language. They learn Xhosa and German for 6 months each and then chose which to study further and take an exam on in their final year of school.
Next month I have a mix of working on dayshift, night shift and working in the office which is new. Everyone is preparing for Christmas and all the decorations are already up. I’ve been to 2 school Christmas concerts and will be attending another on Thursday. I feel like such a proud mum at these concerts as these children don’t have anyone else coming to visit them except the volunteers and sometimes their child care worker. I can tell Christmas here will be nothing like one I’ve ever experienced before and one I will probably never experience again. So all I can do is enjoy every moment and embrace the South African summer festivities.