Why I Love South Africa

South Africa is a country which is so varied and diverse it is actually hard to imagine until you have been here. SA is called the Rainbow Nation and for good reason. It is a multicultural country which takes pride in being so diverse. Parts of South Africa have such a strong traditional African vibe whilst others parts feel very westernised and modern. Living in Cape Town is incredible as I feel there is the perfect balance of both.

I also love South Africa for a more obscure reason which I never thought would even be something that made an impact on me. This is the water. Water has become my obsession since I have been here. The beaches are beautiful. The ocean is clear. The waves come crashing into rocks. Some days here the eaves are so high and crazy. If you like surfing this is your paradise. But if you prefer calmer water the lagoons are incredible. The water is warmer, and so clear me and a few others thought it was lakewater Not to mention how diverse the marine life is. My first day at a beach ended amazingly. We were waiting for sunset when suddenly we saw a whale. It was huge! Thinking of it now I had never actually seen a whale before. You can go to aquariums but you won’t see whales there, well not in the UK at least.

If I could describe South Africa in one colour it would be blue. There is usually not a cloud in the sky. The sun is bright and strong. It gives you such a warm feeling everyday waking up to beautiful sunshine no matter where you are.

The people is South Africa are so friendly. Growing up near London and probably taken the tube hundreds of time I’ve grown up not speaking to people in public. It is the complete opposite here. Every single person acknowledges you here. Whether it is a wave, a nod, a hello. They will smile and acknowledge you. Random people will help you in the supermarket on silly things like what packet of chips to buy. It’s so heartwarming that people can be so lovely to each other. 

But what I love about South Africa most of all is that the people know who they are and are not ashamed of it. No one pretends to be something they are not. South Africa is still developing and changing for better all the time. It’s amazing to be here and witness it whilst it happens. 

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DAY ZERO

Ever since I arrived in South Africa I’ve known there was a drought in the Western Cape. As the months have gone on the dam levels have decreased rapidly. After 1 month of being here I saw a sign on the motorway saying there was 36% water in the dams left.

Now just before we go into the hottest month of the year in Cape Town we have 6% of water left. Over the last few months the government has raised the restrictions on water and constantly changed an extremely vague date of when there will be no water left. About a week ago they released a report that the date is set for Day Zero at 22nd April. Only 3 days later that date was brought forward to the 12th April. This just shows how unsure the government is and this date will most likely carry on being brought forward.

As the news of the water crisis spreads across the world I think the true panic is starting to really set in for the locals here. Today I went to the supermarket to get two 5L bottles of water for emergency. Unfortunately this is what I found at the super market.

Yvonne, our host has created a ‘Survival Kit’ of cleaning and hygiene products to reduce our water usage, which should be 50L per day from February onwards (including flushing the toilet which uses 20L every flush due to the old systems at the children’s home). The survival kit includes using baby powder rather than washing your hair, buckets to catch shower water from the drain to flush the toilets, vinegar and newspaper to wash our dishes, and the list goes on.

Every time someone goes to the beach we will be taking sea water in buckets to use for showering. Although within days I’m sure this will be stopped and police will be guarding the beaches.

I never expected to experience this is South Africa when I applied or even after doing my research and preparing to pack. I maybe could imagine going to a well and carrying water but the concept that there is no drinkable water is crazy.

There will be water stations coming from other sources where you can collect 25L per day per person from. However if one person from a family (on average 4 people per family) went to the collection points each day, there would 5,000 people waiting in queues to collect their water everyday. Unfortunately for volunteers is that we won’t be allocated this water as we are not citizens and have not yet been considered by the government on what will happen to us.

The impact of Day Zero is going to huge. People will die of dehydration. Businesses will shut down. People will lose their jobs. Unemployment rates will rise sky high. More people will be forced to live in townships. Food prices will rise. Families will starve. Elderly and children will not be able to queue for water and will have to rely on others. People will turn to crime for water. There will be riots. There will be people breaking into homes to steal water. Cape Town will suffer immensely.

All I can do is try to cut back on my water usage everyday and be thankful I have a home in a country where this is not happening. I do not have a family relying on me to get water and keep a job. After I return in August the locals will still face the aftermath of Day Zero.

The UK and every other country there isn’t a water crisis have also caused this to happen in South Africa. There has never been a water crisis here. This is the affect of Global Warming and Climate Change. EVERYONE NEEDS TO START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PLANET WE LIVE ON.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Life here is becoming a lot easier. Although just as you start to settle here something else happens that throws you back in the deep end. Whether that be a new job role, new volunteers arriving, old volunteers leaving, new children arriving, school leavers leaving the grounds to start their new lives, children coming and going for holidays or the big swap around of rooms that is coming up this month. 

December was a hectic crazy month. Looking back I feel like I was working almost all the time. Other than working the usual shifts there was so much extra work to give the children an amazing holiday. First was the Christmas party. This was on the 2nd of December. It was held early as a lot of the children go home for the holidays so we had an early christmas all together. One of the child care workers dressed up as Santa and handed presents to all the children. There was over 500 presents put under the Christmas tree and there was even more dropped off throughout the month. We must have been moving boxes of presents to the hall for atleast 2 hours. We had a dinner with all 155 children and the child care workers in the hall. At times it was chaos but it was a lovely meal. 

Only a fraction of all the presents donated

I went to 4 Christmas Concerts in total which were all brilliant. The best thing was seeing their cute faces when they spot you in the crowd. I missed out on one concert because I was too sick to go and I was so so gutted. Although the girls showed me their dances before they went and let me film them. So really I got my own private concert from them. 

One of the many Christmas Concerts

I spent a huge chunk of my time this month making bracelets for the children with their names on. I managed to get over 40 done before Christmas and I still have so many more to make. 

Bracelet 10384938th?

One week before Christmas it was announced that the outside company organising Christmas for the children had cancelled. The volunteer department held a meeting and we came to the agreement to work on Christmas and try to give the kids the best Christmas we could. There was a lot of extra work for this. Although a lot didn’t go to plan the children still had a great day. We spent a whole day organising that each child got 2 presents each aswell as a box filled with crisps and sweets. On Christmas Eve me and a few other volunteers went to each house putting the presents out ready for the morning. On Christmas morning I went to the infants at 7 and watched them open their presents. Their little faces were filled with so much happiness.

Santa’s Elves (aka international volunteers) working hard at 2am

 They then went to church while we stayed behind setting up for the day. Once they were all back we played some games with them. One was very rough and you had to tackle each other to the ground. It was really so good to see all the kids of different ages all involved in a game together. I was thrown to the ground by a herd of preteen boys. But I made a lucky escape just after. 

For lunch we had ham, salad, potato salad and believe it or not cow tongue. It was a very weird feeling eating it. I was sitting by 2 of the child care workers, one of whom said she loved cow tongue and was watching closely to see my reaction. On the inside I was screaming ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’s but on the outside I swallowed it and wincingly smiled and said it was strange but nice. Luckily one of the kids sneakily helped me finish. After the lunch I sat for hours painting as many faces as I could with their choice of character/animal. They all loved the temporary tattoos also. Days later some still had it on saying they’d washed around it trying to keep it as long as possible.

In the evening we had hung a curtain outside by the braii area and used the projector to create and open air cinema. We watched Happy Feet all wrapped up in blankets until it was too cold to bear any longer. 

Each day has a different activity for the children as it’s the school holidays. Most days it is swimming in the pool which is always fun. Other activities are have dance/lip sync battles. Recently we  went to the beach with all the children. Even the naughtiest of  children were on such good behaviour as it was such a treat. Just before it was time to leave a huge wave came in to shore. We must have been 15 meters from the tide yet this wave managed to come swooping in, soaking my towel, shorts and almost swallowed up my bag. At this very moment I was facing away from the sea taking a photo. My natural instinct was to grab my bag and get up as my camera and speaker was in my bag, by doing this I dropped my phone into the puddle of sea water in my lap. Luckily everything survived. 

I had a few days off inbetween Christmas and New year’s and I went to spend time with the other Project Trust volunteers who were visiting Cape Town. It felt so good to have a little break from the children’s home but I noticed I spoke about my kids so much I probably bored them all to death. I hadnt seen most since orientation back in September and the others since Training in July. It was crazy how much some had changed. A lot of baby faces had turned into fully matured ones in just the 4 months we’ve been abroad. I wonder how different I look to them and how different I’ll look to my family when I come home in August. 

On one of the days we room a boat trip a long the coast starting at the V&A Waterfront.

The highlight of seeing the PT vols was going up to Table Mountain. The view was insane and we had such a laugh taking ‘candid’ shots. 

I have finished work today and now ready for my scheduled leave of one week. Hopefully some great adventures will be had and if not atleast I’ll have had some much need relaxation.